Monday, 30 November 2009

What If Jesus Meant All That Stuff?

Now this made me sit up and take notice! How amazing (and, I would venture to suggest, how Christlike?) that regular Greenbelt speaker and author Shane Claiborne has this hard hitting article in the mainstream blokey magazine 'Esquire'? It starts with a challenging apology:
To all my nonbelieving, sort-of-believing, and used-to-be-believing friends: I feel like I should begin with a confession. I am sorry that so often the biggest obstacle to God has been Christians. Christians who have had so much to say with our mouths and so little to show with our lives. I am sorry that so often we have forgotten the Christ of our Christianity.

Forgive us. Forgive us for the embarrassing things we have done in the name of God.

As we accelerate towards Christmas it pains me to sing some of the choral stuff we do, gorgeous tunes and harmonies, yet words that bear no resemblance to the real thing. Shane doesn't miss making this point either:

It is this Jesus who was born in a stank manger in the middle of a genocide. That is the God that we are just as likely to find in the streets as in the sanctuary, who can redeem revolutionaries and tax collectors, the oppressed and the oppressors... a God who is saving some of us from the ghettos of poverty, and some of us from the ghettos of wealth.
Go read the full article!

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Love will always make you cry...

A wonderful piece of artwork drawn at our gig last night in The Cut Theatre, Halesworth, Suffolk by the delightful Katie (yes, we do have a younger audience too!). I definitely see an album cover here?

After The Fire are now on the last leg of our 2009 mini Autumn tour, up in Cambridge tonight and finish next weekend, Saturday in Godalming and our End of Tour (free entry!) gig in Billericay on Sunday Afternoon 5pm... we'd love to see you!
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Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Living by numbers...

Honoured to have been Tagged by Archdruid Eileen of the Beaker Folk of Husborne Crawley megablog - here are the instructions:
Summarise the Bible in five statements, the first one word long, the second two, the third three, the fourth four and the last five words long. Or possibly you could do this in descending order. Tag five people.
Here's my attempt:
  1. One
  2. Killing Field
  3. The future revealed
  4. The World changes forever
  5. and not by faith alone
I hereby Tag: Rev Sam, Canon Phil, Pastor Joe, Youth Champion Tim and Entrepreneur Jim.

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Monday, 23 November 2009

I don't understand your love...

On Sunday 22nd we welcomed Lily Hope ....... into the church family through the sacrament of Holy Baptism. So why do I choose to impart this to Blogworld you may ask...? I'm very glad you did!

It was special! Not the service itself, certainly the all too well used phrase 'the worship did nothing for me' could justifiably be applied as it was relative chaos with musical mistakes aplenty (aka Jazz!) and the usual undercurrents that happen in churches all going on....

So why was it special? We started with the blockbuster 'Crown Him with many Crowns' (celebrating 'Christ The King') blasted out on the organ and I was delighted to see the Baptism family guests enthusiastically singing along for starters. As the service moved along we sang 'The River', with its provenance of inspiration from tragedy and forgiveness. The sermon was a familiar message (albeit with theology that makes me squirm somewhat) then the ceremony was lovely, kids running around, a 'Happy Christening Day' balloon floating aloft and the Junior Church singing.

For the last hymn we brought on a late sub, swapping a trad hymn for a song the baptism parents had sung at their wedding, 'Give me oil in my lamp'. Again, that was belted out with obvious joy and exuberance despite, in many quarters, being thought of as naff and passé.

Even though this family have only been coming to church relatively recently as part of their Baptism preparation they had laid on abundant munchies and cake, choosing to celebrate with our worshipping community in the church hall during our regular coffeetime... what a spread! It was during this that I was completely floored by a comment from the mum... 'this (as in 'coming to church') is my constant at the moment'... wow, suddenly that little phrase made everything worthwhile. And, unsurprisingly, it also made everything else a total nonsense, all the other church crap we worry and obsess about. Through our flawed efforts and imperfections this had become Holy!

I was recently reminded, when listening to a talk Frank Schaeffer gave at Greenbelt 2008, about how we attempt to rationalise the sacraments. Therefore we assume, in human terms, that it is not 'right' for a child to receive Holy Baptism until they can make up their own minds yet we acknowledge a mother whispering to her newly born 'I love you' is fine despite knowing the babe is unable to actually understand what is being said. It came home to me so powerfully to allow God to act in a 'mysterious way' we need to forsake our human rationality.

And God saw (to it) that it was good!
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Saturday, 21 November 2009

Every breath you take...

Another one of those weeks... and still going on in Rome between Archbish and Mr Pope. Time will tell on this one, funny how it has caught the 'imagination' of the mainstream news?

Few of us can failed to have been enchanted by this story this week, hats off to Tobias and his family:

Tobias Jones: why I am setting up a woodland commune

and, of course, the quote Tobias makes which made everyone think was by William Vanstone:

The Church is like a swimming pool: all the noise is at the shallow end. We felt called to the deep end, to the place where it's more quiet, more dangerous
maybe, more radical.

And Finally...

It seems the inspirational thoughts on 'Traditional Cockney Spirituality' from The Beaker Folk of Husborne Crawley this week didn't really get the attention they deserved. So here is part of the dictionary, which I adored:

Annoying bleeder = Worship Leader (this one works either way round)

Awful Catarrh = Acoustic Guitar

Chicken Coop = Music Group

Hampstead Heath = Nothing worn beneath (of traditionalist parishes where not only the thuribles are swinging)

Lizzie Borden = Church Warden

Total Wassock = Bloke in a cassock

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Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Memorable Musical Moments Meme...

Think of eight memorable musical moments, not necessarily all time favourites, but those when, for example, you felt compelled to wait in the car when listening to this amazing song on the radio because you just had to know who it was by. Or the piece you heard on the tv in a drama that drove you straight onto iTunes to download... (remember once we spent the princely sum of 6s 8d on a vinyl single?!). Optional details for each song give where, why and Spotify or youtube links...

I hereby tag: Maggi Dawn, +Nick Baines, Richard Hall, Jonathan Evens, Tim Chesterton

The Promise You Made – Cockrobin (view)
Inside of you - Alice Martineau (view)
Hide and Seek - Imogen Heap (wow!)
Quanta Qualia - Patrick Hawes (listen)
Mmmm, Mmmm, Mmmm - Crash Test Dummies (view)
Don't Give Up – Peter Gabriel and Paula Cole (view)
While You See a Chance – Steve Winwood (view)
Belief - John Mayer (listen)
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Friday, 13 November 2009

Can you face it?!

Anyone who is proud of their Scottish heritage cannot fail to love this! The wonderful Michael McIntyre taking on a sensitive subject...


Thursday, 12 November 2009

5 Deeply De-Christian Doctrines meme...

Thanks to Joe H for tagging me with 'List 5 doctrines that are taught within the Christian church that you believe to be deeply de-Christian'... I know only have a loose grasp of what the context of the word doctrine should be here ;-)

I think most folk have completed this so forgive repeats: Alice, Richard, Maggi and would love to know what Bishop Nick would write but Liverpool still have injury issues...!

Here are mine and must say it has taken me ages, have had to work so hard to get down to just 5(ish)!

  1. That Worship is more (or less!) important than Mission and justice and, even more dangerous, that by solely worshipping you are being missional by default.

  2. Judgementalism - seems we are trained to be experts! At a local home group when the question was posed 'why are Christians so judgemental?' a good mate piped up: 'practice'!

  3. Consumerism - this claim that the church teaches consumerism should not be a surprise! The first definition of consumerism I found when googling is: 'the theory that an increasing consumption of goods is economically beneficial'. How many times do we hear that by buying this CD, book, service that we support the ministry of this individual or organisation? What happened to tentmaking?!

  4. Sentimentality - includes the dumming down of art and music to wellmeaningless bibledygook (new words warning!) which we are told is fine because it has the word God/Jesus (but it looks like a squirrel) somewhere on/in it... (or something about setting captives free, exalting, lifting names up high, putting tongues in... sorry, I cannot go on, it is TOO upsetting!). Check out this entry from Stan the Man again which includes some language of the immortal bard!

  5. Discrimination - anyone in the public sector, business or society would be in serious trouble and not get away with with what the wider church teaches about women, gays and minority groups including the physically disabled. The current stuff about flying bishops (still only male) to serve twitchy C of E communion celebrants so they can receive from a man is highly de-Christian.

Oh, and something extra: Apostolic Succession - well, that's all a bit Dan Brown DaVinci Bollocks stuff isn't it?!

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Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Prog Rock - a definition...!

Progressive Rock is an attempt to musically orgasm as many times as possible during a 15-minute song...'s brilliant entry all about the genre! (scroll down their page for full benefit)

Can't stand the stuff now, despite murky past, have put away childish things (except trainset)!

h/t Rupert Loydell.


Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Suffer(ing) the children...

Browsing Blogs (as you do!) I came across this uncomfortable tale from comedian Dave Gorman recounting an experience on the London Underground (subway). Here are some quotes:

The woman sat down and instantly started reading a very well thumbed copy of the bible. Her two daughters tugged at her sleeves a couple of times and tried to engage "Mummy" in conversation but she didn't look up from her book. So the kids decided to entertain themselves. They achieved this by taking a pile of leaflets from their Mum and walking up and down the carriage handing them to the other passengers.

The leaflets were advertising a church and looked to be full of quotations from the bible. I really don't know how I feel about this sort of thing. Actually, that's not true. I do know. I don't like it. I don't really think a parent should sit back and tacitly encourage their kids to engage in that kind of activity.

Faith - like politics - is contentious. People are entitled to their opinions and those opinions are often strongly felt. A grown up handing out such leaflets is, presumably, prepared for either rejection or debate - in a way an eight year old girl simply isn't.


So now I'm sitting there, hearing two young girls tell each other that I - and a third of the other passengers on the train - are bad people. It got worse. They continued by deciding that we were all going to go to hell. Proper hell. With lots of flames and things because the devil was going to punish us because we weren't interested in the good message that God wanted them to share with the world.

Along with a few other people I was being loudly condemned to hell by a pair of sisters, a few years shy of their tenth birthday... and their mother was sat there hearing them say it and doing nothing about it.


I know I probably should have done nothing. I know I should have just got off the train and gone about my business, dismissing it as just another bit of eccentricity in the world, but I figured I had as much right to hand out literature expressing my point of view as they did. So I did.

We were approaching my stop so I hastily scribbled a few words on a scrap of paper and then, trying to do so in a way that her kids wouldn't notice, I handed it to the mother. I know it will have achieved nothing. I know the chances of that woman seeing any fault in her behaviour or that of her offspring is zero... but it still made me feel better to have done something. At least I didn't sit by and give their behaviour my tacit approval.

The words on my note were: "I find being condemned to hell by your children upsetting. They are learning to hate."
So... how does that make you feel?! Read the full article here: Blessed Are The Children

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Sunday, 8 November 2009

We remember them...


In 1944 Major John Pott was shot on the battlefield in woods near Arnhem. Struggling to write what he imagined was a final letter to his new wife he was discovered nearly 20 hours later by German troops and subsequently incarcerated for the rest of World War Two in a Prisoner of War camp until released by American in 1945. His grandson, Joel Pott, lead singer of rock band Athlete has penned Black Swan Song which the band will be performing at the Royal British Legion Silence in the Square event on the 11th Nov 2009.

I saw Athlete perform at this year's Greenbelt Festival 2009 and when they performed this song it was one of those special moments when, despite the conflict of emotions the song deals with, you are lifted up to another place. This morning I read the lyrics as a form of Intercession in our Family Service which preceded our main Remembrance Day service.


Friday, 6 November 2009

It's High Fashion...


A gentle video which so ably articulates many of the fears and concerns I have about church and worship... Stan's the man!


Monday, 2 November 2009

Uncommon Sense

One of my regular reads is former BT futurologist Peter Cochrane's Blog on the technology news website A recent posting of his provides food for thought on the current economic crisis, some sections I quote here:

Where do these times of monetary and market instability come from? There appears to be a limited number of fundamental mechanisms over and above human ignorance, greed and stupidity.

First, I would cite the fundamental tenets and assumptions of economic theory that are obviously wrong:

1) Infinite resources - Not true for the atoms on this finite planet.
2) Infinite markets - Not true for a finite population and ecosystem.
3) Linear channels - Nothing to do with markets is wholly linear.
4) Continuous growth - Was never, and never will be, possible
5) Known behaviours - People and markets are increasingly unpredictable.
6) Understandable - Probably beyond the grasp of humankind.

Second, I think we can identify a set of new and progressively growing factors of increasing influence:

1) Complexity - Managers and people no longer understand products.
2) Connectedness - Everything is now related and not isolated or standalone.
3) Scale - Everything is now huge and networked globally.
4) Machines - They perform more trades than people.
5) Fundamentally non-linear - Chaotic and probably beyond human control.
6) Short-termism - The focus is on the immediate and making money now.
7) Speed - ICT has improved speed and removed latency.

The first set of factors set the scene for beliefs and the illusion of understanding, while the second present ideal components for the occurrence of one economic crisis after another. Perhaps the most critical, given (5) and (6), is the reduction of latency (7) as a prime factor in a world of non-linearity, chaos and strange attractors.

Read the full article here: Peter Cochrane's Uncommon Sense