Friday Music


Car boot sales: manna to the average minister on a stipend. Even greater when you find a reputable stall selling half decent CDs for £1.

This was a weekend purchase; I used to like The Divine Comedy’s take on ‘normal’ and this CD is no different. I think the above song is underrated; see what you think.

How to have a less middle class half term:3

So you hit half term and you collapse (metaphorically); the sheer strain of the school run (sometimes ferrying your child past the nearest school to a ‘better’ or private one), after school activities, school trips, instrument lessons, ice skating lessons, weekend sport, extra private tuition, horse riding etc etc has taken it’s toll. But then you need to buy new school clothes, sports clothes, ferry to holiday clubs, pack for holidays, suss out summer holidays (these things don’t book themselves) etc. You are too busy.

That is ‘normal’ middle class life. And I am not judging- I am just as much a part of it.

Yet that is not truly ‘busy’; it is being exhausted by excess/choice. In some areas, and as income rises, the level of choice rises and opportunities-infinite opportunities- open up. New opportunities are good, but they are infinite.

Rising income doesn’t mean that you suddenly start being altruistic; it usually means that you spend more, do more- especially if you are in an area where everyone else is doing that. Then there is the power of advertising: after being bombarded by 1000s of adverts in an average week, most of us can’t resist hearing at least some of the ‘update your look’, ‘get your garden ready for summer’, ‘more contemporary feel’ noises…because after all ‘you are worth it’.

Everybody else is doing it- and the worst kind of spiritualities/philosophies just try and give you the resources to ‘cope’- not challenge this way of living….. but why would you want to: ‘creative tension’ is prized much lower than ‘feeling good’.

No easy answers to this, but in this half term lull, work out how much of your activity is organised around you and yours- ditto income. If you see yourself as ‘blessed’ by someone or something, move on to thinking that that ‘blessing’ ain’t just for you…..that charity you wanted to support: regular direct debit? There must be something in the community- not just something that your kids go to- that could benefit from your input…or even soomething outside your community. After all, this week you have some time to explore this. Just saying.


How to have a less middle class half term:2

I’m taking it for granted that we spend time with family and friends during breaks; it is good to catch up with people and spend long unhurried periods of time with those we are close with- even if we live in the same house- during holidays. Time without electronic media, time not doing stuff, but time just hanging around.

A ‘nice’ place- often equates to ‘people that I like’/’people that I know’. Long ago, the good book made these suggestions:-

‘You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your
enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst……..If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that’.

and it kept echoing them, on and on: don’t measure your life so much by being around who you get on with: that is a given, but by who you don’t get on with and how you treat them. I am taking this as a humanist virtue as well. Seems to me a true humanist, as opposed to someone who is passively athiest (yep….’passive christian’ is also a term), does this too. I try- and don’t always succeed- to teach my children to not just stick with those who are easy or popular but to look out and invite in others as well. It is kind of depressing to see adults just sticking with those they know.

Maybe one way of having a less middle class half term would be to plan some time around inviting in to your home those you don’t normally mix with, don’t always get on with, who aren’t like you and who can’t pay you back. Maybe you could even ‘facebrag’ about those nobody else ‘facebrags’ about as well. Just saying…..



How to have a less middle class half term:1

So I am running around the village. This is thinking time: I don’t mean to think, it just happens (and I can’t claim any particular wisdom)….something to do with disengaging the conscious mind. And I got thinking- maybe tongue in cheek- how could you have a less middle class half term?

How about one day, do something where you spend nothing? Maybe go for a walk with each other (and as a friend observed; walking existed long before Berghaus etc was invented), do some cooking with what is already in the kitchen, mess about in the garden, play silly games etc. Don’t use the car- stay where you are planted.

Maybe you don’t ‘have to’ go to a DIY store to buy yet more stuff to ‘put your stamp’ on your house, go shopping to buy more clothes or purchase an experience (Remember Douglas Coupland in Generation X: ‘Purchased experiences don’t count’). Just saying…


Monday thoughts

Yesterday I preached in a church that had ‘lost’ its building (the sudden discovery of an unsafe chimney meant the building had to be temporarily closed) so I had to preach in a front room. That is not strictly true: ‘preaching’ carries notions of grandstanding and talking at a distance so I had to alter style and content fast.

This was fantastic; suddenly distance from each other became closeness, banter happened and people began to respond instead of being passive recipients. There was however, still some reticence after years of sitting and not responding. Sometimes the ‘traditional’ Methodism people long for is a more recent creation where everything is done for them from the front and not the older traditional methodism which was a more communal, charismatic experience.

It got me wondering: will this move out of the building lead to a change in the way they worship or will it lead to the church eventually closing? It also made me think deeper things: do you need buildings or paid people to lead worship (like me)?

Enough thinking: it is a British Bank holiday- time to get outside and enjoy the horizontal rain, plagues of locusts & frogs etc

(The picture is of an old hinge- the house was the village blacksmith’s at one point. He was called ‘Peacock’ and two of his descendents became Methodist Ministers. Neither of those is me)


‘Relationships show us what’s truly happening in our life, if we have the courage to face it. They reveal this separate, unreal self of ours who wants to isolate us from the rest of the human race…. If we come to church on Sunday with the notion, “I’m here to be alone with God, I’m here to do my private devotion,” we’re living in a dream world. There is no such thing as a solitary Christian’.

(Terence Grant: ‘The silence of unknowing’)

It’s a bit ‘quote city’ around these parts at the moment: I apologise. I remember  a guy from the Iona community saying something similar, to wit: if you wish to seek God alone and pray in the stillness, Jesus said that there is a place for that: in your closet- not in church.

Today, I guess, is a day for stepping into all the joy and mess that relationship entails….and being aware that ‘community’ may not aways be the perfect dream we have of it. Conversely, ‘community’/ relationship may be the only way people have of grasping what God is like. In the first couple of centuries of the church, an outside commentator said ‘see how these christians love one another’; and that- if you read all the later NT- was not always pretty or easy.

A bit of MLK for Saturday…

‘We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools. We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the way God’s universe is made; this is the way it is structured’.

Martin Luther King ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail’ (source

..and somehow I think that means more than individual households in the same village consuming all they are able to and practising live and let live….

Friday Music

Someone gave me some old vinyl last week. It is years since I bought or was given vinyl. I like the fact that music is not just ‘there’ in easy, bite size pieces. I have enjoyed sitting down and listening and taking time with music. Music goes back to being a sacrament.

One of the LPs I was given was ‘In the Court of the Crimson King’ by King Crimson. I don’t claim to have ‘got’ this yet: I think it takes several plays before you can even begin to sketch the contours of great music. I fact, I doubt that you ever ‘get’ it.

This is something I am growing to like:-



My 9 year old son who is part of the 50% of this household who ‘feels’ music says that this is ‘quite good’. Indeed it is…and so much more…

Wrestling with Romans…

Here is where I am grateful not to be an employee. I am not paid a wage or a salary (and if you are ordained, ignore the occasional siren voice that says ‘we pay your wages’) but rather a stipend. I think a stipend is defined as enough money to live on so that you have space to pray, to study and ‘to be’. And yes- we do confuse availability with activity; one reason why the great Eugene Peterson says that a ‘busy minister’ is an oxymoron like an ‘unfaithful husband’.

Sometimes, like this week I get presented with something to preach on whose meaning is not immediately apparent. Actually, most stuff in the Bible is not immediately apparent; you have to wait, listen, pray and wrestle. I honestly do despair of people who consistently get up early on Sunday to prepare worship from scratch: if it means so little to you- how do you expact anyone else to engage with what you are saying?

So I have spent a lot of time this week wrestling with the book of Romans. It is not easy to understand. It is like someone has been so captivated by an idea (Jesus is alive, Jesus has changed things) that he throws the kitchen sink at it- he uses prose, poetry, Jewish scripture, hits a point, rounds it, goes off at a tangent and comes back later, much later. I would love more time with this book as it blows apart the GCSE lite definition of Christian as a nice person who is kind and believes strange things: a ‘christian’ becomes a weak anaemic word that no sane adult would want anything to do with.

But then again I have heard so much bad preaching on Romans- dull, dry, word heavy & if the sermon could be personified it would be like a grey man in a dull suit who just looks angry most of the time. The passionate word of life becoming angry words to beat people around the head with. And don’t get me started on the heavy use of ‘the language of Zion’ whenever someone preaches on this….

I am still wrestling- but even at this stage, I don’t think I am going to win…


‘I’m fine….honest…’

OK, there has been a bit of doom and gloom about these parts recently. That is because there is a lot of doom and gloom about these parts. Or at least the way that I perceive things has led me to interpret things in a ‘doom and gloom’ manner.

I suppose I could have blogged differently. I have been around people long enough to know that some never see things in this way. Although I often think many sometimes see things in this way but can never admit to doing so in public. I read a really helpful post on this yesterday which talked about perfectionism:-

‘We all know this is a hard habit to break once it starts. When you make your life look perfect, the pressure to maintain the illusion grows. No one sees what’s really happening, and no one knows about the exhausting cycle taking over your life’.

The article continued with 3 incisive paragraphs that were to me like water in a parched land:-

‘Breaking the cycle takes a few brave acts. It starts with admitting we’re not perfect, and taking the huge step of letting others see our flawed selves. It can start with small things, like inviting people over to an imperfect house, or showing an imperfect smile during a picture, or letting imperfect kids run a little wild sometimes. And no, it’s not about setting low standards, but about living real, honest lives.

Perhaps, an easy way to fight against our own perfectionism is to allow others to be imperfect. That means having patience, showing grace, and not judging others for their glaring flaws and weaknesses. It means cutting people some slack and realizing that they are probably doing the best that they can with what they got.

It’s important to remember that you aren’t a machine, or a project, or a problem. You don’t need fixing, and you don’t need to be perfect in order to grow. Our imperfections are what make us human, and they help us to relate to each other. So let’s show them off’.

And those words have encouraged me so much….