We interrupt this series to bring you…

A picture of snow.

This is from my back window yesterday morning. I am fortunate to live with a view like this in a tiny and overcrowded country. I took it with an ipod touch that a friend gifted me 2 weeks ago just because I could. I emailed it to myself just because I could. I am thinking that my ancestors were the kind of people that stood in the street for hours watching the first traffic lights change over and over again. Just because they could.

Here is the hot news from North Yorkshire: snow is white, it comes from the sky. When it is cold it sticks to the ground. Sometimes cars can’t move. It is cold. That is basically what the local news has been saying for 3 days: spin that out for several hours, add lashings of hyperbole, the odd poorly chosen music track (‘Let it snow’ anyone?) and hey presto: local radio.

Still, this is the most snow I have known in November ever. I am just waiting for the inevitable Daily Mail articles on ‘And they call it global warming: secret left wing plot to disable Britain by those overpaid Brussels bureaucrats’ and I will know that winter has truly set in.

I never feel like working on days like this. The house is full of the laughter of children and frequent interruptions from the same. I love days like this!

Track for today when seeing a field full of snow and then running through it: Sigur Ros- Glosoli.


When churches collide:3

(there are an awful lot of cheesy images on ‘prayer’ on the net. This isn’t one of them. By the way, you don’t need me to tell you that Jesus, as a good Jewish rabbi, probably opened his hands when he prayed, not clasped them. Glad we cleared that one up).

Actually prayer would be really cool. Prayer doesn’t avoid arguments or tension, in fact a community with creative tension is often better than when all seamlessly agree (and seamless agreement may have within it elements of repression, but that is another story).

It is just that I have seen so many destructive arguments develop between churches and individuals when prayer has not been there, or it has been relegated to a ceremonial bit at the start to ‘get God out of the way’.

I’m not looking for lots of words- although sometimes one person’s heartfelt prayer may have them. Others may bring liturgy, silence or music. However it happens it involves a bit of exposure to God and to others and it is harder then to stand back and lob bricks.

So I guess I’m looking for when people from different churches meet to have a bit of prayer- maybe even a lot. Christians. They pray. It’s not exactly rocket science is it (actually, it is not rocket science, as rocket science is rocket science, but you know what I mean…)?


Words and music for Advent

It has been a while since I quoted St Bono on these pages. As a tribute to the restart of the U2 360 tour, I offer this for your Advent meditations.

This is from an old series of books, produced by Cannongate, that took parts of the Bible and invited people who were not professional god-botherers to write an introduction.

This is an extract by Bono on the Psalms.

‘Words and music did for me what solid, even rigorous, religious argument could never do, they introduced me to God, not belief in God, more an experiental sense of GOD. Over art, literature, reason, the way into my spirit was a combination of words and music’.

It is worth googling the full article.

I’m going to be using a lot of 1st Sunday of advent readings and songs in an advent carol service tonight. The readings and songs are full of big,wild imagery- I think we miss that when we try and understand them too much using ‘rigourous religious argument’…


Jesus’ blood never failed me yet.

I picked this up from http://revjph.blogspot.com/2010/11/midnight-jukebox-sunday-go-to-church.html.

I had heard of the song ‘Jesus’ blood never failed me yet’ track a number of years ago ( see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus%27_Blood_Never_Failed_Me_Yet) but had never heard it. The above blogger helped me to get it and several versions of it.

It is amazing. I played it this week, driving to and from a difficult meeting in the snow and was really moved by it. It sets most things in perspective.

Listen to it:- the juxtaposition of a cracked and broken voice, (depending on which version you hear), Tom Waits and a full orchestra/string quartet is the kind of music to make you stop and stare and keep staring…

When churches collide:2

As a humble theological student, I remember being taken by a minister to a ‘minister’s fraternal’. I had never encountered one before. After going, I never really wanted to encounter one again.

I wondered why people who were leaders of faith communities seemed to restrict their encounters to swapping dates and conversations where nothing of themselves was shared. I left the meeting feeling somehow ’empty’: was this was what full time ministry was really like? Heck: they didn’t even pray.

I have always had a go since then at trying to create environments where honest sharing of stories can take place. Sometimes that has not been possible, in some meetings it is possible to a high degree and others to a lesser degree.

What I look for is honest telling of stories: if someone opens their mouth and I hear only stories of success and none of brokenness or stories of glory without reference to the One who gave the glory, then I stop listening or have that same empty feeling.

Sometimes I think when churches collide, the best thing to do is to provide spaces for honest story telling. If you get a buzz out of the 1662 prayer book, fighting for justice, working in a soup kitchen, sharing your faith, singing in tongues or whatever, then I love hearing your story. I love it best when it is told openly and not defensively and when you don’t point out the deficiencies in my story.

Honest story telling with no thought of ‘resolution’ is often the best way to start IHMO….

When churches collide:1

I thought of heading this ‘on ecumenical relationships’, but then if I saw a post headed ‘ecumenical relationships’, I would do one of 2 things:-

(1) Fall asleep or be generally bored out of my tree.

(2) Go into ‘Father Ted’ mode where the phrase ‘that would be an ecumenical matter’ was used as shorthand for ‘it is too hard and I have no intention for doing anything about it’.

I am going to do a few posts, interspersed with random stuff, on what happens when churches collide. This is related to something that is happening locally that is is having a wearying effect on me right now. It is not right to mention that in detail, but I would like to do some thinking on it.

1st principle/thought: ‘you can’t legislate relationships’. A couple of perceptive comments on the anglican covenant, one from an insider:-


and one from an outsider


… where he says on written covenants:-

  • They can….. intensify fellowship and trust. This is the case when covenanting with someone in marriage. However, this function of covenant only works when the covenant is a symbol of, and natural outflow of, a relationship of love and trust that already exists. Covenants affirm and strengthen love, they don’t create it. The covenant in itself doesn’t produce that trust any more than a forced marriage automatically creates love between the partners
  • They can create an environment for limited mutual agreements and a framework for discussing differences. But this only works where all parties wish to do so. Covenants are constructive when they are created between those who are willing. They don’t work when they are imposed on those who think that signing up is, de facto, agreeing to unity discussions with those with whom unity is, at the present time, doctrinally impossible. 

So if relationships have soured, don’t get into ‘he said’ or ‘she said’ or point to legislation/agreements as a first response. Neither try and spend ages drafting an agreement to stop it happening again or to erect high fences around your church/point of view.

From my experience, the approach of trying to stop churches colliding by drafting covenants… Just.Does.Not.Work. Forget it. That way usually leads to a head full of words, long meetings and acres of grief. Do something else more useful with your time.

Just another quote and a prayer


(image from http://gapingvoid.com/2008/09/25/the-complexity-war-a-ka-success-is-more-complex-than-failure/)

It is- but again something that sums up a lot of what I think…..

‘If God is already at work in our world then the most effective evangelism will take place when we recognize what God is already doing and place ourselves alongside that’.

[John Drane]

A prayer for Ashes Eve: the battle begins midnight British time. A prayer from the book of cricket worship for Ashes Eve (year A):-

‘Lord, we pray that thou would smitest the Australian from his lofty perch. Raise up thy downtrodden servants the English. May their bats hit true, their bowling swing and spin judiciously and their hands be as capacious as buckets (but a good deal more mobile than that). Rememberest thou as well that Thou art an Englishman.’

…we’ll see if that works…

Less fragmentary posting from tomorrow. I want to do some out loud thinking about something that is really bugging me right now and I have a mind to do a series over a few days…



I read this yesterday:-

At first I read it differently- God carries our baggage so we don’t have to. I still like that interpretation, although it is not what the cartoon is really on about.

Then as I looked at it again, I ‘got’ it and I find it quite profound…. maybe God doesn’t come with so much baggage after all.

Then I thought: what baggage do you surround your God with?

(From: http://www.nakedpastor.com/2010/11/17/cartoon-lugging-baggage/ who has a book out….see


Family stuff

I never really post family stuff here- there are blogs that do that better without getting into the teeth-grinding ‘oh look at my incredibly gifted and lovely family’.

However, today I am making an exception. The above is a picture taken from my ipod (oh the novelty- new 4th generation which was a kind and unexpected gift from a friend last Thursday) of my wife receiving her PGSE from York St John’s last week. I don’t do degree ceremonies- I only went to one of my three (true- but also a slightly arrogant phrase there). This one was different- she put in a heck of a lot of work, but as the Archbishop of York said at the start of the ceremony- for most of you, this has been a shared journey. And it was (towards the end when she worked up to 100 hourspw and I was juggling work and childcare, things became ‘interesting’). But I am so proud of her.

The whole thing got me thinking of large religious buildings. I’m increasingly becoming hostile to ‘christendom’ and thinking that the place we were meant to be was on the margins and not in places of power. However, that day made me think question this assumption a little:-

-the Archbishop of York is a top bloke on occasions like this; he does the formality but then the personality and humour break through. He did not speak at a distance, but he engaged. After the ceremony I got talking to a shopkeeper- there was keen awareness of who he was and he was viewed as ‘one of us’ by people in York. I can see how an ‘establishment’ figure can subvert that establishment.

-the building is spectacular, but it seemed warm (not literally- large medieval buildings on a damp, Northern day are not) and welcoming , at ease with itself and able to offer hospitality without people there feeling that they had trespassed in an alien space.

– the very light Christian ethos in the ceremony seemed to give people a framework to their celebrations and perhaps an added depth that a purely ‘secular’ (I dislike that word almost as much as I dislike ‘spiritual’) ceremony would not.

…and I began to think of the parish church in this village which is mostly always open and where I know people go to pray who would not go anywhere else…and the civic stuff that goes on there which is good……..even though on occasion I can still find Anglican churches stuffy and the sense of ‘well, we are the established church’ rearing its head sometimes…

A good day nonetheless…


A hymn for today: well a good bit of my theology.

Last Sunday I blogged about my shrinking choice of hymns. This Sunday I use another of my favourites in worship.

From heaven you came,

Helpless babe,

Entered our world,

Your glory veiled;

Not to be served

But to serve,

And give Your life

That we might live.


This is our God,

The Servant King,

He calls us now

To follow Him,

To bring our lives

As a daily offering

Of worship to

The Servant King.


There in the garden

Of tears,

My heavy load

He chose to bear;

His heart with sorrow

Was torn,

‘Yet not My will

But Yours,’ He said.


Come see His hands

And His feet,

The scars that speak

Of sacrifice;

Hands that flung stars

Into space

To cruel nails



So let us learn

How to serve,

And in our lives

Enthrone Him;

Each other’s needs

To prefer,

For it is Christ

We’re serving.

This one generally says it all for me. I can still remember the initial impact that verse 3 had on me when I was 18/19- wow.