Wednesday, 31 January 2007

big turn-off ~ 1 February

The Alliance for the Planet (a group of environmental associations) is calling on all citizens to create 5 minutes of electrical rest for the planet. People all over the world should turn off their lights and electrical appliances (including those on standby) on the first of February 2007, between 10.55 and 11am in British Columbia, 1.55pm and 2.00pm in New York, 18.55 for London, and 19.55 for Paris, Bruxelles and Italy.

Five minutes of electrical down time for the planet; doesn't not take long, costs nothing, and will show all political leaders that global warming is an issue important to us (voters).

1 February is the day when the new UN report on global climate change will come out in Paris.

Saturday, 27 January 2007

Holy Ground in Oxford

From Tuesday to Friday in Oxford you can experience Paul Hobb's beautiful and stirring art installation "Holy Ground". It's in Wesley Memorial Church in Oxford this week as part of the Chaplains' Mission to the University of Oxford 2007. (Mark Berry had a very fruitful weekend last March with Paul Hobb's installation in Telford shopping centre. See below.)

Originally uploaded by Mark Berry.

If you like to have your spiritual thoughts provoked, see if you can get to Wesley Memorial Church this week. Allow yourself thirty minutes at Holy Ground to soak it up.

Margot Hodson, Chaplain at Jesus, tells me "We are gathering round it for morning prayer. It should be open all through the day and then it will be open again at 10pm after the John Sentamu meetings."

The theme of the mission week is Jesus Christ Suffering and Glory - and the keynote speaker is The Archbishop of York, John Sentamu. (The theme doesn't really seem to go with the shoes [left] does it ...)

Sunday, 21 January 2007


This looks ace!

Last year I saw the booklets on this theme that were used in Birmingham Diocese (under John Sentamu before he became AB of York). I was impressed and yes - moved - by the ideas. (The booklets were given to me by David Fletcher when I visited the Lee Abbey Household Community in Aston.)

This is the direct link for LOVE LiFE LiVE LENT. Get texting!

Preaching - love it or hate it?

The debate about sermons has spread beyond my original question about the wisdom of posting them on YouTube to reach young people. Do we love or hate sermons, and why? A quick read through Jonny Baker's chapter on preaching says very helpfully some challenging things for all 'sermon producers' - and consumers. (Preach it, Jonny!)

Jonny also points to some of Mike Riddell's writing on the topic, and here's a tiny sample from his book God's Home Page [p 122-3]:
The dominance of expositional and deductive preaching in the contemporary church calls for some alternatives, lest the faithful continue to suffer unnecessarily.
Is that a critique you'd recognise? Riddell declares that preaching the Gospel is too valuable not to be done well. As Jonny Baker reminds me in his hand grenade/fruitbowl chapter, Riddell says ‘The purpose of the sermon is to unleash the power of scripture in a way that leads to personal and corporate encounter with God.’ [p119 God’s Home Page]. And somehwere else he helpfully suggests that when you've got 'sermonizing', that's when you've got the wrong kind of preaching - the kind none of us wants whether churchgoers or not. The cultural mix is what can inhibit or enable the unleashing of the power.

We had a good sermon in our church this morning; the gifts our vicar Tony brings include a great skill in storytelling, and a reflective approach to applying Scripture in life.

Wednesday, 17 January 2007

comedy, entertainment, or pets?

Watch out YouTube users .. something odd is happening.

One of my media-savvy friends, Liz Roberts, has alerted me to the report in Sunday's Telegraph that church leaders are planning to post videos of sermons online.

To hear that "The Archbishop of Canterbury is planning to use the site to broadcast his sermons in an attempt to make the Church more relevant to the internet generation" suggests to me that his advisers don't understand either 'relevance' or 'the internet generation'. Personally I appreciate Rowan Williams' deep, informed and reflective theology, but posting sermons on YouTube seems to me, in cultural senstivity terms, like building a large Victorian church in an Indian fishing village. Or have I missed the point about the genre?

A leading missiologist and practitioner of our time, Ryan Bolger, has research showing (no surprise to many) that people love Jesus, hate the church. And Stuart Murray-Williams identifies
Alarm that we are losing from our churches many former members who are not losing their faith but find church uninspiring, disempowering, crushing and dehumanising. In post-Christendom, institutional loyalty and inertia no longer prevents this haemorrhage of disillusioned Christians.
But it seems 'the church' is not able to hear its own voice. So now, one of the very features that people associate with the church negatively - the sermon - is coming to get them just where they thought they were safe ... in the YouTube playground.

18 months ago Ryan blogged about doing church for 'them'. The sermons-on-YouTube idea looks like doing it to them when they don't want you to.

A Lambeth Palace spokesman says of YouTube "It provides limitless access to what any minister has to say. You have to preach where people are listening." I want to edit that, and suggest that instead of preaching (modelling the old paradigm), you have to allow people to hear about dignity, faith, and wholeness of mind, body and spirit, in ways and languages they can respond to, not through models they have evidently rejected. I'm with Brian McLaren who says in his book More Ready than you Realize:

Evangelism as sales pitch, conquest, warfare,
ultimatum, threat, proof, argument, entertainment,
show, monologue, as something you have to do

IN :
Disciple-making as conversation, friendship, influence,
invitation, companionship, challenge, opportunity,
conversation, dance, as something you get to do
Two questions remain for me:
to Lambeth ~ why should it be "what the minister has to say"?
and to anyone ~ do you post sermons under comedy, entertainment, or pets?


As I was working last night on possible dance motifs for the next Parish Nursing Ministries Symposium, there was a loud crashing noise and breaking glass.

Had a picture fallen off the wall? No - the sound of impact was too distinct - it was definitely the front door ...

.. an unexpected visitor had done a remodelling job.

The baseball bat (the likely cause of damage) sculpted a passable dove shape.

Thank God for the police who came round - though there was little they could do about catching anyone - and for my kind neighbour David, who gave me a large board to fill the gap and gave his time to fix it.

Glamorous it isn't ... But thanks David!

Sunday, 7 January 2007

net search systems "broken"

Seeing Jonny Baker's reference to TallSkinnyKiwi writing on Blogging tips for 2007, reminded me that I'd seen something interesting about search engine optimization in a recent BBC web news story.

In his blog Andrew (TallSkinnyKiwi) Jones says
God bless them all and deliver us from the monolithic power
that Google is coming to exert in this new Cyber-Babylon of ours
Maybe Jimmy Wales (founder of Wikimedia) has already stepped up to the line to provide that deliverance.

According to the BBC story, Jimmy Wales says existing search systems for the net are "broken" ~ broken because they lack freedom, community, accountability and transparency ...
At the moment the results returned to those using keywords on sites such as Google are generated by computers which analyse webpages to work out what they are about and how useful they are.

Webpage owners use all kinds of tricks to outsmart the computer indexing systems and ensure their pages appear high up in results - even if they are not relevant to particular keywords.

By contrast the relevance of results returned by the Search Wikia will be decided by the site's community of users. Those searching will also be able to edit the list of results they get.
In Jimmy's Search Wikia project, results generated will be decided and edited by humans.

Thursday, 4 January 2007

behind the orchestra

Sitting in amongst an orchestra as they perform music is a wonderful experience. This evening I enjoyed this privilege at the final rehearsal of Benjamin Britten's War Requiem, to be performed this weekend by the National Youth Orchestra under guest conductor Richard Hickox. They're with Susan Bullock soprano, Philip Langridge tenor, Neal Davies baritone, the London Symphony Chorus and Tiffin Boys' Choir. Friday they are in St Paul's Cathedral, and Sunday they're at the Symphony Hall, Birmingham.

The first time I heard Britten's War Requiem was in Coventry Cathedral in 1962 - its premier. It had been commissioned by Coventry Cathedral - apt because of the wartime destruction of the original Coventry Cathedral and it was performed in the year of the new Cathedral's consecration. Much of the libretto comprises the powerful war poetry of Wilfred Owen. Britten conducted that first performance.

The joy this evening was to be among the people making the music - sensing their concentration, being stirred as bodies made ready to create the next flow of sound. I was able to be there because my brother is one of the NYO professors - and the New Year NYO course is in Radley College - and their full rehearsals today were in Oxfordshire County Music Service premises at Barton, just up the road from me.

The logistics at the end of researsal are impressive, getting scores of young musicians and their instruments from the rehearsal venue into their lorry, van and coaches, in the right sequence, so that tomorrow the harps and percussion can head off earlier for St Paul's to be set up first, and everyone and everything else to follow on slightly later.

And at 9.30pm, after a long day, the young musicians get to stack all the chairs before heading off to Radley. Not all glamour, but it's better than the trenches.

Tuesday, 2 January 2007

super-nurse Sue Evans ~ MBE

I'm involved with Parish Nursing Ministries UK as a Trustee and it's great to hear that Sue Evans, Parish Nurse in Burwell (Cambs) has been made an MBE in the Queen's New Year's Honours List.

Cambridge Evening News Online reports ...

District nurse Sue Evans has been made an MBE - but says her job gives her all the rewards she needs.

Mrs Evans was named on the list in recognition of her services to healthcare and the community in Burwell.

She has been a district nurse in Burwell for 16 years, has set up a village help scheme and also serves as a volunteer nurse for the parish church.

She said: "I think the award is totally undeserved! It's a lovely job - we get our reward all the time when we are thanked by people. It wasn't something I was expecting when I went into nursing."
Congratulations Sue!

Monday, 1 January 2007

are we listening?

This last year I've been working my way through all the teachings of Jesus [365 bite-size bits of pithy teaching]. Today's portion is words of the Spirit of Christ "If you have ears, listen to what the Spirit says to the churches" - and when you think about it there's little to suggest that we (the church) take this teaching very seriously.

I say this because I've just come across notes my mother made at a lecture in 1939. The lecture was "Christianity in War" given at Balliol College Hall in Oxford by Dr J. H. Oldham, a leading thinker, activist and author on ecumenism and mission.

In her musings, my mother outlines Oldham's three core points:

first that never before had any country of Christian Europe openly turned their back on Christianity – they might have failed to live up to the Christian ideal but had never rejected it; second that organized religion was failing to hold the young people of today; and thirdly that our crying need was a social and political philosophy – and if this wasn’t built up we might easily stray into ... mere disruption and decay. ... He said that this social philosophy could not be called Christian, as it would have to command the allegiance of the majority of people many of whom were not Christian, and so, while Christians should work to mould it to their pattern, they should be realists and not confound their absolute principles of a future order with the necessities of the present system.

In answer to a question on Christianity and politics he said that while every man should take his decisions as a Christian yet he had no right to assert that his was the Christian attitude for his grasp on "realities" might be different from the next man’s, who, also as a Christian, comes to another decision.

If in essence Oldham (not uniquely) was commenting two thirds of a century ago on some of the church's failures to model Christian life appropriately, there's generally not much to show now that Christians/the church listened at the time. At least the torch is being carried today by such as Brian McLaren; and in Grace Davie's Europe: The Exceptional Case; and in the diversity of constructively disturbing practitioners and writers of the emergent church.

What is the Spirit saying today - and are we listening and responding?