Stuff I’ve Given Up

October 28, 2013 § 6 Comments

There’s lots of stuff that I’ve never done. Some of it is on principle, I guess. But other stuff I have done, and have stopped doing. hand-stop-2I don’t know what this says about me, but here goes:

Watching, or indeed having anything to do with, Premiership Football.  Three years ago. The money is just obscene. How can we fuss about the ethics of banking when a bog standard striker is on £10m per annum? You get a whole C of E diocese for that. I won’t join in any more.

The Grand National. Ditto – but twenty years ago, after various horses died. In fact I just don’t get horse racing generally, and dislike the aftermath of race meetings (in York and Beverley). It’s just not pleasant.

Reading The Times. Just because it’s Murdoch. I’ve never had Sky, for the same reason. But, I confess, we do get The Sunday Times, because I’m weak and I like Style and Culture.

Watching Downton Abbey. The story, and depiction, of Anna’s rape was just plain wrong. Sorry. No more.

Anything to do with the Horror genre. That’s been a long standing thing. Just don’t like it.

Anything like farce, or the comedy of embarrassment. Just makes me feel uncomfortable.

When Typesetting: Using Comic Sans, centering hymns, using exclamation marks, justifying text, using Times Roman, using Publisher. Just because.

Reading the Daily Telegraph. I used to joke that I read the DT because at least I knew I disagreed with it. But then Damian Thomson wrote something abusive about the C of E, effectively damning every one of its clergy, and I thought ‘I don’t have to pay for the privilege of being abused like this’. I did get a very nice letter from the Letters Editor, Christopher Howse, though, and I miss his bits, including the obituaries.

Wearing any clerical shirt colour other than black. This is a complete turnaround: I vowed before ordination that I would never wear black. Just goes to show.


Things I’ve Written

September 3, 2013 § 3 Comments

books21After signing copies of Rules for Reverends at Greenbelt, I bought some volumes by Walter Breuggemann, Barbara Brown Taylor and Kenneth Bailey (respectively on grace, incarnation, and the middle eastern culture in which Jesus lived and through whose eyes his ministry takes on different meanings).  Rules is meant to be light and funny. But it was still a surprise when the person at the till said: ‘But these are serious books.’ The downside of having an amusing exterior is that people can think that’s all you have and all you do.

Later someone else asked if there was a list of anything else I’ve written – so I’m posting what I think is a definitive list here. My long term interest has been in liturgy and worship. I did a 50,000 word MA thesis at Durham in 1995 on the way words work in worship. As a member of the Liturgical Commission I was well placed to write on the new services in Common Worship. Early on I wanted to reflect on the role of the Holy Spirit in ‘liturgical’ worship, and was pleased to be able to do this with Chris Cocksworth, now Bishop of Coventry. I worked in a cathedral for seven years, and contributed an essay on cathedral worship to a volume about cathedral ministry. There’s other stuff on ritual, and my first proper book was as part of a team offering pastoral resources for crisis situations.

Perhaps the greatest privilege is in crafting prayers for use in public worship. Some prayers in Common Worship started life in my head. I’m not telling you which they are.

So here’s the list, for what it’s worth.

Rules for Reverends, (illustrated by Dave Walker), Bible Reading Fellowship, 2013

‘A Service of the Word’ in God’s Transforming Work, ed Papadopulos, SPCK, 2011

‘Liturgy at the Frontiers: Laboratories for the Soul’ in Dreaming Spires: Cathedrals in a New Age, ed. Platten and Lewis, SPCK, 2006

’Text, Authority and Ritual in the Church of England’ in The Rite Stuff, ed Ward, BRF, 2004.

Using Common Worship: Daily Prayer, CHP, 2002, with Burnham and Myers.

Common Worship Daily Prayer, An Introduction, Grove, 2001, with Chris Cocksworth.

Articles in Common Worship Today, ed Myers and Earey, Harper Collins, 2001.

Communion in Common Worship, Grove, 2001.

The Spirit and Liturgy, Grove, 1998, with Chris Cocksworth.

Pastoral Prayers, Mowbray, 1996, contributing editor with Stephen Oliver, et al.

Twittering and Discipling

January 15, 2012 § 3 Comments

A Sermon preached at Beverley Minster 15 Jan 2012. On John 1. 43 – end

As far as I can tell I last preached on this passage twenty years ago, give or take 5 days. A lot has happened since a reasonably slim chap in his early thirties with two small sons and quite a lot of hair last spoke about Nathanael and Philip and good things coming from Nazareth. Think back to what life was like for you in 1992, and what you have now that you didn’t have then. I’m thinking particularly of the way that our means of communication have changed. Some people had mobile phones which you needed a sherpa to carry for you. Your computer stood alone, and there were disks and they were floppy. Few people beyond computer science departments had the internet and world wide web.

 So there is no reference in my last sermon on this topic (which as it happens was written with a ‘pen’ on ‘paper’ and placed in a ‘Filofax’) to the image which first struck me as I looked at John 1 again. John the Baptist speaks about the Messiah. The next day he sees Jesus and says ‘Here is the Lamb of God’. The next day two of John’s disciples, perhaps encouraged by John, start to follow Jesus. One of them is Andrew, and he rushes to tell his brother, Simon. Immediately Jesus gives him a new name. The next day Jesus ups sticks and goes toGalileein the north. He finds Philip, who follows him. Philip finds Nathanael, and he follows Jesus too. It’s breathless stuff. According to John the Evangelist it’s taken three days only for Jesus to be publicly revealed as the Messiah, and to gather followers in the south and the north. And the image I thought of as I read this? That if Jesus was on Twitter he would be said to be ‘trending’ – one of the most talked about subjects on the internet.

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English Baccalaureate

January 12, 2011 § 18 Comments

Am cross cross cross about the English Bac. Its a way of arranging the data about Schools to show how many pupils get 5 A*-C passes in ‘rigorous’ subjects – strictly defined (no RE in humanities, no music etc).

1. I’ve argued before that a league table only tells you one thing about a school, and the data is so vulnerable that it generally tells you the wrong thing.
2. Michael Gove, the Secretary of State, decided to manipulate the data in this way without reasonable warning. As Christine Blower from the NUT said:  “You can’t have schools judged against things that didn’t exist before.” A previous decision had allowed pupils to drop a modern foreign language. Why should schools now be marked down without warning for the number of pupils who failed to attain one?
If this Government believes in fairness it should have flagged up that it would require the data to be presented in this way in time for schools to do something about it (ie with at least 3 years warning so that option choices can be made with all the inormation to hand).
What Gove has done is to declare that something which wasn’t an offence now is, send someone to prison for doing it while it was legal, and justify it on the basis that the punishment will make everyone buck their ideas up.

3.  The list of ‘rigorous’ subjects not only has some glaring and offensive omissions – isn’t RE a humanity? – but it devalues all the others as well. My two sons want to pursue careers in music and the expressive arts/design. One of them was earning a wage in that field while still at school, and is supporting himself in his gap year doing the same. Well thanks a lot Mr Gove. Not rigorous?

The English Bac is an act of contempt for a teaching profession which was asked to do one thing and has now been attacked for it. It makes a spurious, elitist and dangerous distinction between ‘proper’ and ‘improper’ subjects. Its imposition is duplicitous from a government which is supposedly giving more power to schools: the EB  tells schools what they should do while saying that of course they can choose to do something else if they want to be at the bottom of the league.

I am all for rigour in teaching and learning. I have 13 O levels and did all the sciences, three languages and 2 lots of maths as well as the English I went on to teach. I am all for attainment, the measuring of ability, the stretching of potential. But this is offensive, gimmicky and unworthy of someone who is supposed to hold education and teachers in the highest regard. After the sport debacle it’s the last thing schools need.

This chap clearly agrees!

Photos for the 12 Days – XI

January 4, 2011 § 2 Comments

Total vanity. But it’s been a busy day, and I’ve never given a blessing on national telly before. And emails are flooding in, from all over the place, saying that people liked the prog.

Not sure what I look like in HD though…

Photos for the 12 Days – X

January 3, 2011 § 2 Comments

The BBC did us proud on Songs of Praise last night. The filming was so long ago that I’d forgotten just how much we were taken over by the demands of television.  It wasn’t just for the week of filming, nor for the large number of planning meetings about practicalities and logistics. Songs of Praise especially do a shed load of research – one person spent a week in Beverley just collecting stories.

A local journalist rang me this morning to ask why the programme had been so good (she’d loved it so much she watched it twice). It certainly captured both the beauty of the Minster and the life of the congregation (apart from the performers everyone who was interviewed is a regular part of our life here).  Perhaps it was because the programme’s makers had spent such a long time in Beverley getting to know us. They had certainly been received warmly, and it might just be that the warmth they received made its way into the programme they made.

When someone is with you for a while, you can’t keep an act up. They get to see you as you are. Both Songs of Praise and the Antiques Roadshow enjoyed being with us, and found a quality here which they reflected in their programmes. There’s no way you can instantly generate such an atmosphere of hospitality, welcome and love out of nothing. You inherit it, and then do all in your power to keep it growing. That’s certainly what I’ve found here over these last 18 months. And it it’s not there to start with, you get there is small stages I guess.

So, a photo of the Minster, taken this afternoon as the sun was setting. It’s from a distance and close up, if you get my drift. Overview and detail. My mission for January…

I believe. You ‘avin a larf?

December 18, 2010 § Leave a comment

Interesting article in the Daily Telegraph today. (Yes I read it. No, I don’t inhale). Irritatingly I can’t find a direct weblink to the interview, so my link is to a blog article…

Tony Jordan, streetwise writer of East Enders, Life on Mars, Hustle, etc, has scripted the BBC’s Nativity, to be broadcast this week.

I would guess that lots of sermons this Christmas will talk about this – and may well use his story of a journey to belief through the making of the programme. Jordan says that he didn’t have a religious background, left school at 14, was nobody’s fool, and had ‘discounted’ the nativity, until he started to work on the script three years ago. Like many, when he gave the subject some serious thought, it all began to make sense. “I didn’t believe it…But now I do.” Here’s the killer quote:

“The only thing I know for sure is that the words I read as coming from Jesus Christ are the most truthful thing I have ever heard. As a blueprint for mankind it is so smart that it couldn’t even have come from a clever philosopher.”

Excellent fuel for our annual attempt to convince our infrequent worshippers to come to church a bit more often, and I’m thrilled that such a writer has come to this view. But not all the news is good. He has no time for the church whose central message this is. “I have a distaste for organised religions” – apparently because they mess with the stories to suit their own ends. Couldn’t agree more. And then this about church services:

“I have a distaste for people who say to me, if you come through these doors, walk down this aisle, sit on that wooden bench and sing these hymns in this order, I have got God in a little bottle under my pulpit and I’ll let you have a look. I don’t think that was God’s intention”

Hmmm. On one hand, a man who has made his living telling us to sit down in front of our TV’s at a particular time each week to watch a programme which he has scripted in withering detail to create an effect only he knows about can’t have it both ways. When the church worships it does it in a way which has been thought about and planned. If it was ‘unscripted’ it wouldn’t be any good. The difference between my services and his scripts is that the church’s worship is a public offering, planned by more people than me, with agreed elements coming together in a public offering to which all contribute. If anyone has something “in a bottle” it’s the scriptwriter of East Enders, who has to pull a surprise out of a hat several times a week. Our stuff is everybody’s property.

But: if we give the impression that we are the jealous protectors of this amazing truth, then we are getting it wrong somehow, and we need to enable our services, and our conversation about God, to be open and inclusive. I despise the notion that I as the priest have “God in a bottle”. I want to be the orchestrator of a public celebration of a truth none of us can encapsulate, but within which all of us are included.I have to be able to receive much more than I give, to be affected much more than I affect in worship.

Note to self then this Christmas: be amazed at the wonder of the incarnation. Don’t claim to know it all. Let everyone have a go. Success will be when everyone says, as Tony Jordan does about Jesus: “Wow! That’s pretty cool.”

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