‘One of the liturgical jewels that methodism brings to the ecumenical table’.

Don’t you wish that there was a church version of ‘Pseuds corner?’ (for non British readers, that is a column in ‘Private Eye’ for overblown, stuck up your bottom, language). What for instance is a ‘liturgical jewel’- is it more or less valuable than a small diamond/piece of gold/ruby/zirconite/beach glass? And what, pray tell, is an ecumenical table? Is it stored in a cupboard at a church HQ somewhere to be bought out for ecumenical discussions: ‘Sorry lads- that is the ‘Real Presence’ table; please could you get the Ecumenical Table in; you know the one that doesn’t quite balance and is a bit battered and embarrasing. Whilst you are at it; phone Security- we have an ecumenical jewel coming in today’.

I like the Covenant Service- it is a kind of health check, a reminder at the start of the year. I don’t like the service fully from the service book. It can become too po-faced and stern (and why do we often think that that is good in a church setting?). It can confuse seriousness with plain boring and tends to shut all ages out IMHO.

See this from the excellent Dave Walker:-
However- this morning I will use one of the versions of ‘the prayer’ in its entireity. I always do. I/we face many big possible life changes in the next few weeks. I haven’t a clue what to pray. Sometimes written stuff helps. This prayer, said in a community with others, stops my prayers becoming ‘Me Me’:-

‘I am no longer my own but yours.
Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will;
put me to doing, put me to suffering;
let me be employed for you, or laid aside for you, exalted for you, or brought low for you;
let me be full, let me be empty,
let me have all things, let me have nothing:
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to your pleasure and disposal.
And now, glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
you are mine and I am yours.’

(check out:

That will be one of several moments of stillness in an ‘all age’ service this morning (I like ‘all age’- lots of opps for light and shade, stillness and movement and formality and informality- ie a life-filled occasion).

I did google ‘comedy vicar’ for a picture for this post and it only came up with this, which I like immensely (see asbojesus in links):-

nb: Middlesbrough v Barrow yesterday was not like watching Brazil, but it was exciting (and very cold).

Thank you

I’m sat here designing ‘thank you’ cards for my children to send. I used to have to write them myself and they always followed the same formula:-

Dear Uncle Saddam,
Thank you for the weapon of mass destruction that you sent me for Christmas. I liked it a lot and I keep destroying my enemies with it. I hope you had a nice Christmas. Give my love to George.

love Graham

… seemed I had to do it over and over and over again. It was a sign that the fun part of Christmas was over. And now they feel the same way.


What is it that makes playing a joy and writing ‘thanks’ a pain? How do we manage to seperate the two so that we get ‘pleasure’ and then ‘duty’—- could they both be intermingled?

I don’t know- I hope so this year- if I have a hope for this year, it would be to live more in gratitude and thanks…

Anyway…here I am blogging when I could actually be writing ‘thank you’ cards…history is repeating itself….. back to ‘work’……

Hey— some pleasure to look forward to this afternoon- Middlesbrough v Barrow in the FA Cup. It will be just like watching Brazil. Not

Wearing badges is not enough in days like these….

Red Wedge, Newcastle 1985 (it could have been 1986). I saw the Smiths there! But I also saw the wonderful Billy Bragg. I can rememember Morrisey’s gladioli, I can remember the Style council and I can also remember Jimmy Somerville singing with a woman who seemed at least 5 times his height. My strongest memory, however, is hearing Billy Bragg talking about the Labour Party (remember, these were the dark days of Thatcher) and talking about how it was so great that the concert was a sell out, but that meant nothing unless the ‘real work’ continued and grew after the concert. I can remember leaving, singing his closing song ‘Wearing badges is not enough in days like these’. I can remember thinking that I was a Labour Party member in badges only…
I have often thought on those words. I’m thinking on them now as I start a year with soul searching (as ever). I am a Christian, I am a minister- but I’m wondering if these have just become badges. Soon, our income will increase. It will be possible to buy clothes, food, heating, even treats without wondering how we are going to afford it. After 7 years, I can’t tell you what that feels like. Maybe I will feel less like an outsider in this village; I don’t know
Thing is, I’m already plotting how to spend it….. and a few days in, I’m wondering ‘where is God in all this?’ See- I have the new(er) car planned, ideas of holidays etc and it seems like God/Christian living has got pushed to the edge of my actions- what about giving/living generously and not just trying to reflect the values of my (over) affluent community? I have no answers at the moment….. but I keep hearing those words- ‘wearing badges is not enough in days like these.’
And now, a continuity link leap that even someone in local radio would wince at…….I found this yesterday about the badge ‘missional’ that has been at the centre of my thinking for I guess, 5 or more years. It made me wince and think ‘wearing badges is not enough in days like these.’
Where to now, O Lord?!
‘But an idea that has been brewing in my head is that part of the misgiving some have over the word missional comes from the fact that some (many?) who use it are misusing it. I’d like to suggest that there are a lot of churches/individuals out there that are Mino (or Missional In Name Only). And before I continue – I not claming the higher ground on this one because that would just make me a hypocrite. I’m defiantly still trying to overcome my own Minoness.So without further ado – Are you Mino?
+If all the talk is all about ‘going’ and no one goes anywhere – you might be Mino.
+If the majority of your money, your leaders time and your buildings are still used to meet your needs – you might be Mino.
+If your idea of church is still just one hour out of your life each week – you might be Mino.
+If I can come to your church, be anonymous and just blend in – you might be Mino.
+If you spend any significant amount of time perfecting the show – you might be Mino.
+If your worship is little more than an act of spiritual masturbation – you might be Mino.
+If church always has to feel good – you might be Mino.
+If you like to talk about being missional because you think it might help grow ‘your church’ – you might be Mino.
+If you have added a ‘missional program’ – you might be Mino.
+If you bare no resemblance to your surrounding community – you might be Mino.
+If you bare too much resemblance to your surrounding community – you might be Mino.
+If your church sold its building, cancelled all services and programs, fired all staff and gave all its money to the poor but then the church didn’t exist anymore – you might be Mino.


Christmas. Christmas week. Lots and lots of sweets.

That is one of my abiding memories of childhood. We hardly had sweets. Or at least sweets freely available. Except for Christmas week, when plastic pots of Quality Street and Licorice Allsorts would appear. And then…it was sweets before breakfast, in between meals and in between sweets….

Someone bought my children some marshmallows. They don’t like them. I do. To be more exact, I like anything sweet. Particularly sweets composed entirely of e numbers and the remnants of the colouring used in biological warfare, like these.
I know it’s Christmas as I eat sweets a lot. I eat them when I want to and when I don’t want to. I eat them if I have to go into the kitchen. I eat them if I have something difficult to do- in order to put it off. They become comfort- kind of a la recherche du temps perdu I guess……
I think at this time we all do stuff that casts us back & helps us recall childhood or imagined childhood.
Back to the present……. is it just me or is this a common experience(?)- I have such a comedown contemplating my first official day ‘back to work’ in January (a bit of work 2moro, a service on Sunday- so Monday 5th…. In fact its getting me so much that I have to go to the kitchen to do some jobs and eat some sweets…..
How do you do that ‘imagined childhood’/ ‘Christmas warmth’ bit? And no- you can’t have any of these sweets. They are all mine. Besides, there soon won’t be any left….

I remember the excitement of being allowed to stay up until the new year when I was a lot younger… well it is nearly 2009 & I’m excited (and my 7 year old nearly managed it).
I leave you with this from the amazing If you have not read it, you should.
Happy new year/ blwyddyn newydd dda!

…I’m not dead yet…

Being of a certain age…you may remember the title from Monty Python somewhere or another (I have just had to explain to my 7 year old as to who they were)..

Here are 2 boring Woolies pictures.

I went yesterday when I was in Oldham (Oldham is that kind of place)- it was like raking over the belongings of a dying, loved friend.

Did I really need to spend £5.98 on a DVD of ‘There will be blood’ or Neil Diamond ‘Twelve songs’ ( Rick Rubin is the producer- that is my excuse & I’m sticking to it)? No—-but they were cheap. Here is a thought- the demise of Woolies has been mourned and lamented, but give us a chance and we are ripping the fittings off the walls to try and get a bargain. I am no better- I picked up a copy of ‘Seasick Steve- I was born with nothing and I still have most of it left’- the assistant said it was only £5.98. I said ‘No thank you’….thinking that I could get it cheaper from Amazon….

Such is the loyalty of the British (or this British) consumer.

What is there left to believe in, now that we know that shopping won’t sustain? Hmmm….still have a feeling we are like junkies and if more retail fixes are offered, we will take them. We can’t, with the help of others, or Another, go cold turkey and try something different.

I’m back…2 (late night) thoughts….

Back from the frozen north to the even more frozen north…

(1) I could watch a junky movie over and over and over again. Negligible character development, wooden dialogue, gratutious bloodshed and ahigh bodycount and I’m ‘in the zone’ (I haven’t got a clue what that phrase means but it is used a lot).

Late at night, knackered, something like Jurassic Park ‘ticks all the boxes’ (I’m being paid per cliche). To my befuddled and resting mind, most of the Freeview channels are repeating various Jurassic Parks ad nauseum at the moment. One of the beauties of this series of movies is that you cannot tell which is which…it is pure mindless entertainment.

Watching one a day or 2 back hit me—it suddenly got serious. The Jeff Goldblum character said something like:-

‘You have been too busy working out that you could, without thinking whether you should’.

And just before we returned to the wooden dialogue, blood etc, I’m thinking ‘Wow….. and therein lies my weakness and the whole of my western culture’s weakness…. and right in the middle of a pulpy film.’

(2) Passing an ergonomically designed M&S lorry on the way down to Manchester. On the side of the lorry was some helpful blurb about the design of the lorry and M&S’s green credentials (I find it incredibly helpful seeing lots of interesting writing on the side of a lorry. Particularly when you are passing it at speeds of between 69.5 and 70.5 mph (and if you’ll believe that…) in tricky road conditions and you are programmed to read anything….).

Is it just me….. or would the biggest contribution to the environment be to stop making lorries full stop… and to stop making so much stuff to sell to people whose houses are so full of stuff in the first place (ie people just like me…..)?

…oh no it’s not…oh yes it is…

It shouldn’t work- bad jokes, iffy acting (in fact brilliant acting does not work), dancing, the leading man is a woman and the comedy woman is a man. It shouldn’t work but it does. Welcome to the world of panto…..

It is one of the best things about being British (alongside rain, rain, rain, talking about what the weather will do next (rain) and oh…rain). It has to be northern to be best as well. So, last night; that is where I was- in Middlesbrough watching panto- and it was glorious. Probably a lot better than the panto taking place at the Riverside ( they lost 1-0; they teeter just above the relegation zone and have the easy task of Man Utd at Old Trafford…oh dear)…

Sat there, amidst the laughs, I got thinking about the parallels of that other Great British institution- the church.

Cynically (never a good idea—- I keep thinking Psalm 1— ‘sitting in the seat of scoffers’— it is great to scoff, very satisfying, but it becomes an addiction that eventually destroys…); arcane ritual accesible only to an in crowd (in this case the British), funny costumes, jargon (‘oh no it isn’t….. oh yes it is…… he’s behind you) and things, for some reason that just have to be done for it to be ‘proper’…although no-one quite knows why…

Hopefully– a disparate group of people having fun, making sense of the world, celebrating, laughing and interacting with each other (ok- we are all facing the front, but I know of no other theatre experience where you talk to the person next to you), all ages engaged and enjoying it….

Ok- that breaks down in lots of ways and maybe I should just watch stuff and not think- wish I could. I do love a good panto, but it has to be at Christmas…. My next big experience is next Saturday in the FA cup- Middlesbrough v Barrow. I suspect it will not be like watching Brazil… and it may be like panto, but without many laughs…

Ok- the fellow on the right was in it….bringing all the acting skills of an ex joiner who won a reality TV show (the first Big Brother)- actually he was quite good. I am just jealous- I’d love to be on stage as a performer…telling jokes, riffing…getting a reaction. Hmmm…I think I do that most Sundays…

After a world beating series of successive blogs I am taking a few days off….Manchester…my in laws… a few days of watching TV…being fed and half-arsed parenting (think ‘The Royle Family’) whilst I am spoilt rotten. Chance now to quote one of my many favourite Smith’s lyrics:-

‘Manchester, Manchester: such a lot to answer for’.

..which I think says it all…

Happy Christmas part 17

It has been done elsewhere on the blogosphere, but check this out:-

Click on U2 (where else!) and see how a familiar song is recast: ‘but I believe in the Israelite..’ It is a frequent U2 thing- reworking something (often their own songs) to twist the meaning. Lots to think about here in (subtle) evangelism.

Have to go- house full of presents, chocolate and unwashed kids…

I’m still excited (part 2)

Random things that have made me excited since yesterday:-

(1) My Q magazine arrived this morning….. ‘they’ are on the front page (see yesterday) and there is an ‘in depth’ interview (well as in depth as a magazine that has taken the corporate dollar can be… there is Gen X irony for you- I’m ironic, detached, but I still read the thing)…

(2) Fractious wife and children yesterday, so I moved stuff around and went to see ‘Madagascar 2’ with Matthew and Benjamin- not as good as the original, but plenty of wry laughs. Watching films, eating junk food and it is called ‘child minding’. That for me is a result every time (my summer version of this is walking across the fields at the back of our house with Matthew and Benjamin, watching cricket, filling them full of lemonade and crisps and me drinking beer). We also repeatedly played ‘Hallelujah’: the Jeff Buckley and Leonard Cohen versions. The voting from a 7 year old and a 4 year old was for the ‘old man’s version’….

(3) This:-
(see image at the top- I couldn’t get it to embed)

It has been seen in loads of places on the web and I’m just repeating myself- but I like it. I have a soft spot for what this organisation do and a friend of a friend produces this clip. Note: Justin Hawkins (ex Darkness) as the singer.

I won my only preaching bet ever through the Darkness. A few years ago at Ben’s dedication, I told a friend who rarely came to church that I was going to preach about ‘I believe in a thing called love; just listen to the rhythm of my heart’. He could not believe that I would (why do people persist in thinking that church is alien and unrelated to culture…and why do large parts of the church persist in living up to that belief?) and bet me £5. I forgot this until after the service, when he came up to me, laughed and produced £5. Wonder what I could get if I tried a similar thing on Babyshambles’ ‘F*** Forever’? Maybe not…. If you google, check out Justin Hawkins new band ‘Hot Legs’ and their new download ‘I’ve found Jesus’…

(4) Check out this thoughtful upload…..

(5)My favourite hymn line of this season- rendered here in all it’s 18th century glory:-

‘Our God contracted to a span, incomprehensibly made man’

Nadolig Llawen i bawb……