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There is a lot of fuss/hype around the re-release of a repackaged version of the ‘Rolling Stones: Exile on Main Street’ right now. We do this in the west- repackage stuff in different formats with accompanying Press- to persuade the core demographic of late 30s- mid 50s to part with more cash.

I’m very tempted- I’m in the target demographic- I already have a few Stones, but not this one. Is it the greatest/one of the greatest rock records of all time or marketing hype? I’d love to research that. Soon.

Even though I had not been in school much more than a year when it was released, I have, over the years heard much about the legend of this record and the circumstances of it’s recording in a French chateau. So I know about the drug-taking, drink, casual sex etc or at least the larger than life tales about it.

The Observer had a full several page feature on this album last weekend (good marketing- for a campaigning paper, the Observer loves it’s consumerism). Alongside the usual embellished tales of excess, I read this quote from Bill Wyman (who as any fule kno was the bass player) who detailed his experience of making the album in France:-

‘You had to import Bird’s custard, Branston pickle and piccalilli… you had to buy PG Tips and then deal with the French milk’.

Is it just me, but doesn’t this give you tremendous faith in being British? You know, drugs, casual sex, louche abandon and rock history being made and the bass player more concerned about a good cup of tea.

They used to say about Methodism that it was born in song and drowned in tea; I never realised until reading this Bill Wyman quote just how close the relationship was between the Rolling Stones and British Methodism…… wonder if he drank it out of chipped green cups though?







Much talk of ‘vision’ in my church nationally regionally and locally. Some of it I like: a lot of it leaves me cold.

Sometimes, if we are not careful, our vision talk is like someone driving a Mini car wishing, dreaming and planning that it was a Rolls Royce. And all the time they are doing that the reality of being a Mini is ignored, neglected even.

Wonder sometimes if God is saying something to ministers in this process like enjoy the Mini, keep it maintained, maybe even make sure it has 4 doors so that people find it easier to get into, but never forget it is a Mini; stop dreaming of your next car…..

Of course that is just another variation on the maxim that an old spiritual director gave me: ‘God never asked us to be succesful, but faithful’

It’s all got too religious…

Too much religion on this blog. Time to turn to that other great source of spiritual truth: Q magazine. Fascinating interview this month with Richard Ashcroft (ex lead singer of the Verve). If I ever feel I suffer from ‘Messiah complex’, then I will turn to this interview to remind myself that it is but mild compared to his dose of it (sample quote ‘I’m one of the greatest frontmen ever. People don’t realise’)

Good quote from him on how Christians can sometimes be perceived by outsiders.

‘When I was in America I saw 58 channels dedicated to religion. Fifty-Eight channels! And the only thing they had in common was the bit where they say, ‘Have your credit card details ready’.’

Honestly, that quote used to make me want to point accusing fingers- now it just makes me weep.

The Wright Stuff part 2

(now that is a serious library: my sudy could fit on one of those shelves)

Tom Wright bequeathed this story to preachers. I’m one, so I’m using it.

He was in a taxi in London. The taxi driver asked him if he was a vicar. He replied that he was a sort of vicar, he was an Anglican bishop. The taxi driver said he was a Roman Catholic and then said, using the type of quote that only London cabbies can:-

‘What I always say; if God raised Jesus from the dead, all the rest is rock and roll’

I know there is slightly more to it than that- but I think he has a very good point…

The Wright Stuff part 1

I went to Methodist Synod on Saturday. In a previous area I was convinced that we had synods in Methodism as we lacked a doctrine of Purgatory: I had never encountered anything that was quite such a mindnumbing waste of time.

Where I live now they have been much better and it is almost (almost) worth losing a hot Saturday for.

This Saturday was different: it was brilliant. We had Tom Wright (Bishop of Durham among many other things aka N.T.Wright) for 90 minutes. He spoke for 60 minutes and it was not long enough. He made my mind explode with possibility and new direction. Biblical without being dry and boring and with an incredible gift for putting across the complex without using long words or jargon.

Stuff about the resurrection that I guess was apologetics but not a dry and stuffy way. Stuff about the non dualistic approach of Luke/Acts (late Western modernity has made much of the approach to theology/life/faith dualistic viz soul/body , spritual/reality , faith/public life etc etc etc). Sample quote ‘If Luke made up his resurrection stories to explain where Jesus was then he did a very bad job’.

I want to write more about what he said, but I can’t fully- it was so rich. I’ve got lots of notes and I am poring over them right now; trying to integrate them and assimilate them (which probably makes me sound like a Borg from Star Trek……. also that is a kind of theological joke as the guy has written a book with Marcus Borg…….ok- I’ll get my coat- the moment is lost). Passing the bookstall and not buying was a level of resisting temptation equivalent to passing a CD shop without popping in.

I never thought I’d say this about a Synod, but it was almost life changing. Note to self: Buy ‘Simply Christian’ sometime…

True Spirituality

‘Spirituality’: I’m growing to hate that word as, badly used it seems to mean anything. Worst of all, when badly used it seems to imply a divorce from real life and becomes a sprinkling of fairy dust over a consumerist life and has little to say about justice, poverty etc.

Read this a few days ago which reminded me of what ‘sprituality’ could mean.

“The spiritual life

                        does not remove us

                                from the world

                                        but leads us

                                                deeper into it.”

                                                                 …Henri Nouwen     


One step closer to knowing


I went to see a man in a rest home a couple of days ago. Over 90 and with life fast ebbing away but still able to speak and think.

Pictures in his room of someone who was him: young and full of life and older and full of pride. This person who lies there does not look much like him, but his life and who he was (is) and what he has done can still be glimpsed through broken speech.

An understated working class man dying in a place far from home. A life lived faithfully and with integrity and with wartime moments of understated bravery: these are some of the things I will be able to say at his funeral when it comes.

As I was about to leave this week he suddenly said ‘I’m frightened of the dark’.

After the Lord’s Prayer, I went back to the car, turned the music off and sat unable to speak: the world seemed both incredibly small and incredibly big at the same time…

Damn/blast/mildly rebuke you i tunes….

Continuing on the theme of no theme at all this week (the level of utter randomness on this blog is bewildering even to me)….

The weekend bought a desire to do a bit of spring cleaning and indulge my anally retentive nature (I love lists, alphabetically ordering stuff, emptying dishwashers……come back please….it’s ok). I had to sort out the gathering pile of CD’s in my study and put them on my spreadsheet, then file them downstairs (I’ve just re-read that- it sounds faintly disturbing, doesn’t it?).

The growth of i-tunes etc has led to a collapse in the cd market, meaning that e-bay etc is awash with plenty of cds that I have on my wishlist and which I can now get for between £2-£5. For someone that is musically obsessed and on a stipend (ie me) this is a godsend (and I’m not sure of my use of that term in this context...)- materialism and so cheap…… worship in the temple of mammon without bankruptcy….

Mildly disturbed to find that all the cds I had bought/aqquired since July last year were so many that I could barely carry them downstairs. With humour (but underlying panic) I announced to my wife that all the spare capacity in the CD rack (specially built and a present from my last church) had now gone and we ‘need’ another one.

I will continue to preach against our love of technology (i-pads, i-pods, kindles, i-phones) and how the money we spend on ourselves and all the goods the market tells us that we ‘need’ stops us relating to each other and the poor……….. whilst at the same time rubbing my hands and cackling endlessly at the crumbs that fall off the table and trying to persuade myself that I am consistent….

Now Graham…repeat after me ‘There is no need to keep looking for cheap copies of ‘The Gaslight Anthem’ or trying to complete your ‘Boards of Canada’ collection’…..I have to go now…ebay calls…… Bible commentaries don’t you know……….D’oh

One of the best things I’ve heard for weeks….

Walking home two days ago, one of my son’s friends (aged 8 or 9) stopped me in the street, in the presence of his mum and said:-

‘That was a wicked assembly today’

And I loved that so much. I would much prefer that from someone outside the church than inside; I treasure connections with ‘ordinary’ life so much.

What he said opened up a space for his mum to talk about faith, life, church etc. On days like this, I love so much what I do….

It has arrived!

By a delivery van, yesterday lunchtime, eventually. When I have finished reading ‘The New Conspirators’ (Tom Sine), I will be plunging into this book and blogging through it.

I took this challenge through Matthew at http://www.narrowseventhirteen.blogspot.com/ and Glenn at http://glennchristopherson.blogspot.com/. They have both visited this blog and we have had some interesting debates. It is fair to say that we disagree on a lot, particularly on Brian McLaren!

I bought the book as I wanted to come to my own point of view but also to hear what you all had to say. So here is notice: wait about two weeks and get ready to hover those fingers over the keyboard…

….this book has proved controversial in some quarters, viz: