…jazz continued..

Ok, it wasn’t quite like this…… but the assembly certainly was ‘interesting/vocal/participative’ and did stray into rabble territory.
Ministers have a very high opinion of what they say (‘I am good at preaching’ ‘I am annointed by God’ etc etc)….recipients less so….
I thought it was good/ok- but it was noisy.
And then I got to thinking…if that is what you do…jazz/improvisation/participation etc….. then there are going to be times when there are bum notes, things that don’t quite work. Then (he said, moving further into the territory of self-justification), shouldn’t worship reflect life and be messy….isn’t there something artificial about ‘dignified and reverent’?

school’s back for winter….

School starts today. And it starts for me with an assembly.

I love assemblies and work in schools. Often I come out of a school class/assembly and think ‘Wow, I get paid for this!’

It can be any age: 2-18 and it is fantastic (in fact, a group of 13-18s that don’t want to listen feels like gladiatorial conflict- in a good way ie without the casual murder and ritual disembowling).

Today it is a primary school- lots of people that I have a link with. I read some assembly websites and the assemblies come across a bit didactic and ‘Dear children- let me get you to learn something drippy.’ I think a good assembly is like jazz.

I don’t do jazz (think Spinal Tap and ‘free form jazz’)- hence my dated jazz picture here……

What I mean- you go in with something- you listen to God and the kids and suddenly what you have got starts riffing and changing. It becomes alive and creative and pregnant with possibilities.

It’s 8.15am and I’m raring to go!

Quote of the Day

From the Observer Sport section yesterday p6. An article about Middlesbrough v Barrow:-

‘How ironic, then, that Barrow’s big day should be played out in another northern coastal town only too familiar with the ups and downs that come with being built on the sweat of heavy industry.’

Mr Spencer Vignes ( for he was the journalist); please look at a map before writing a ‘it’s grim oop north article’. Last time I was in Middlesbrough (Saturday) I did not notice groups of people queueing up to buy candy floss, buckets and spades, and ‘kiss me quick hats’. And there is a simple reason for this (apart from the temperature currently being about -1 centigrade); there is no coast in Middlesbrough- we are inland.

Also ‘another northern coastal town’ is like writing that Penzance and Brighton are ‘southern coastal towns’….. grrrrrrrrr………. why is the media so southern?

I’m just off now to have tripe butties for my lunch, feed the whippets, put some more coal in the bathtub and find my flat cap. ‘appen lad- there’s trouble at t’pit’

grrrr grrrr grrrrrr

The first day of the year….

Well it’s not…..it is the 5th and the 11th day of Christmas (and my 100th post……wahey….woohoo and other sounds of merriment)….. but this day always feels like the first day of the year: the first Monday ‘back at work’ proper. It used to be the day when I had a ‘proper job’ that I would sit at my desk, head in hands, drinking coffee (hmm….. have you ever tried holding your head in your hands and drinking coffee at the same time? It is not easy) and thinking ‘when can I have another day off?’

(‘Addictive to Coffee’ cartoon from littlefunny.com)

But- that was then, this is now and I’m always full of beans (mainly coffee) and the joy of the Lord and raring to go (well my study is next to the toilet, so that helps…)….hmmm- maybe a ‘hint’ of irony there….

3 quotes/ideas that are going round my head at the moment and helping- only one is original; I ‘magpie’ constantly:-

(1) Something that I picked up from Maggi Dawn’s blog a year ago (see links section):-

‘The danger of seeing our present actions as only steps to some future goal is that we will find ourselves waiting to start living, postponing present possibilities in the vain hope of some future state of bliss. The secret of happiness is to make peace with the present.’

(2) I was reading a blog on new year’s day about action/seeking God and thinking about a baptism/leaving service I am doing for friends who are emigrating (this Sunday- Huddersfield- be there or don’t be there). I was also thinking about what it means to ‘Go’ and this thought came to me…

‘There is no point in a restless adventure without a still centre’.

(3) This is off Jonny Baker’s blog (see links) a day or so ago. I used it yesterday and plan to use it on Sunday. I like it!

May we be blessed.
As we look to the year ahead, and the year gone by.
As we return to our schools and workplaces and find New rocks and New brambles.
May you be blessed as you engage with others,
as you find the time to participate and give others the chance to do the same.
May you have the courage to create and take risks,
and may you find your rest in God.
May you be blessed,
as you show your weaknesses and accept God’s Grace.
May others see that you are fragile that they might join in your fragility.
May our broken edges fit together to become one body.
As Christ kept the holes in his hands and feet having rose from the dead,
may we keep our wounds even after we have healed.
May you be blessed as you are healed by Christ’s own wounds.
May you become broken in order to become whole.
May you become whole by knowing you are broken.
May you remember your wounds and embrace your hurt.
May you go into the places that scare you.
May you deal with anger and with sadness
And may God be with you all the way.
May you be blessed, that you are perfect in your imperfections –
as you are forgiven, but never forgotten.
May you be blessed, as you are accepted as you are.
As you are broken.
As you are wounded.
As you are hurt.
As you are loved.


‘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:-http://www.cartoonchurch.com/blog/
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: http://www.methodist.org.uk/index.cfm?fuseaction=opentogod.content&cmid=1499)

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

…..it 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 http://nakedpastor.com/. 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.