Showing posts from November, 2007

Going to the Dogs

I've finally come the the conclusion that either the world has gone barking mad or I have... Today on the radio I heard someone announcing the "Pet a Porter" Fashion Show for four-legged fashionistas at Harrods in London. The catwalk has become a dogwalk for what is apparently the fifth year, with the theme this year being "Diamond Dogs" where leading designers, including Vivienne Westwood, Issa and Ben de Lisi have created canine fashion items incorporating pearls, sapphires, rubies and,of course, lots of a girls best friend on mans best friend. They are even launching a new dog perfume called (wait for it) "Sexy Beast."
Now many who know me will know that this man is not a dog's best friend at the best of times... but surely the most dedicated dogophile must think that this is beyond the pale... It is only a bit of fun you may cry... But it is a ludicrously expensive and pointless bit of fun. The fashion world is bad enough with the obscenity of …

Heavy Metal and the Church

When I was young (which wasn't yesterday) I liked heavy metal music. But with some of my Christian contemporaries and elders it was frowned on. The Satanic overtones of some groups never particularly endeared them to the Christian community... And personally I was never a great fan of groups like Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath and KISS (who I was reliably informed at the time were actually Knights, or Kids, depending on who you talked to, in Satanic Service). But some people tried to tell me that even the acts I did like recorded strange messages on their tracks that you picked up subliminally via back-tracks i.e. messages recorded in such a way that you could only hear them when you played a vinyl record (remember them) backwards... But in all honestly I could never hear these backwards messages until someone told me exactly what I was listening for... A bit like that dog on "That's Life" that said "Sausages!"

You don't know what I'm talking about now, …


Recently had a bizarre and very full week. From Saturday 10th November through to Sunday 18th my church, Dundonald Methodist, worked with the other 2 main churches in Ballybeen, namely St. Mary's Church of Ireland and Christ Church Presbyterian, on an evangelistic outreach programme, which we called "Connect". It was underpinned by the idea of the 3 churches 'connecting' together, to 'connect' with the wider community and encourage people to 'connect' with God. You get the picture.

We were supported in this by 3 evangelists: Roger Murphy, from Through Faith Missions, Paul Hoey of CPAS and Paul Woodman, an illusionist who is also a pastor in City Life Church in Southampton.

There were a range of events in different venues around the estate all week, reaching out to all ages and interests, a men's health event, a seniors' tea dance, an evening of salsa aerobics for women, a beach party for teens (which is a novel idea for Ballybeen in the mid…

A Healing Touch…

Pharisee: Although he insisted on associating with undesirables, we Pharisees didn’t wash our hands of him entirely… Various friends of mine invited him to their homes… But the rabble even followed their rabbi there… On one occasion a whore came into the banqueting room after the meal and knelt down at the bottom of his couch… She was bawling her eyes out… and with her kisses and her tears she washed his feet, before drying them with her hair and pouring perfume on them… It was disgusting… She was as good as offering herself to him as desert…
Woman 1: It was all I could offer to him… I had used my body to bring relief to men in the past… Some of them were round that table. But then they had paid me… bought me… used and abused me… But he didn’t. He knew what I was… But he said “Her many sins have been forgiven – for she loved much.” Until that day I had never known the meaning of love…
Pharisee: How he could let such a woman even touch him was disgusting… But such things happened all the…


Channel 4 aired Penny Woolcock's film "Exodus" on Monday night past (19th November 2007). It was a, that dreaded word, "reworking" of the second book of the Old Testament, and like many Channel 4 Films, and films with a religious/Biblical dimension, it was both interesting and frustrating at the same time.
The director, Penny Woolcock, has a history of making films in avant garde ways, and are usually imbued with a strong sense of social conscience, from her first film When the Dog Bites to Shakespeare on the Estate and the drama trilogy Tina Goes Shopping, Tina Takes a Break and the controversial 2006 release, Mischief Night. She often uses "real" people rather than actors (as a former actor I am not sure about that contrast!), and that was very much the case here, with a number of the set pieces being filmed at a special Exodus Day Festival in Margate, a somewhat run-down seaside resort on the Isle of Thanet in Kent.
The broad gist of the plot is th…

That's My King

For those who read the poem by Steve Stockman in my earlier post, you maybe interested in the amazing sermon/prayer by Dr. Shadrach Meshach (S.M.) Lockridge which can be found in various editted audio, transcript and a/v forms littered around the internet.
Even after many hearings/readings I cannot help but be inspired by it (although some of the a/v renderings of it are excorable!)

What God has Promised

I came across this poem in preparing for a recent service for families that have been recently bereaved in our area. It actually exists in a few forms, all attributed to the same author. I've posted the one I like best, with apologies if it was not as the author originally intended.

God has not promised skies always blue,
Flower-strewn pathways all our lives through;
God has not promised sun without rain,
Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.

God has not promised we shall not know
Toil and temptation, trouble and woe;
He has not told us we shall not bear
Many a burden, many a care.

But God has promised strength for the day,
Rest for the laborer, light for the way,
Grace for the trials, help from above,
Unfailing sympathy, undying love.

Annie Johnson Flint

The Loving Da

Jesus: There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father,

Son 2: Hey Da!, Since it seems like you’re ne’er gonna die, gi’es my slice of the inheritance now, would ye!?'

Jesus: Surprisingly, the man divided all he owned between his 2 sons. But not long after that, the younger son packed his gear, and headed off across the sheugh and blew the lot on having a high old time. But just when he had spent his very last penny, a recession set in, so that the whole country was looking for work to put food on the table... So, in desperation he went and got himself a job with a local yokel who sent him out to look after his pigs. A great job for a good Jewish boy. But there he was sitting in the slurry with the pigs… Looking at the pigswill with longing in his eyes and a rumbling in his stomach. At last he woke up and realized how stupid he had been:
Son 2: What on earth am I doing? How many people of the people who work for my Da have more food than they can eat, yet here I a…


While preparing some material for a Bible Study on the nature of God, I remembered this old poem by Steve Stockman. The book it is in is no longer on sale, and he hasn't posted it on his own website, so here it is (with his permission)...

Come come away
Onto holy ground
And in the silence
Without a sound
We tasted life
Of a supernatural fashion
Increasing our vision
And holy passion
Souls in awe and wonder
The eternal now
We beheld the power and glory
The mighty spectacular wow.

Come come away
To the upper room
With mouths wide open
And hearts consumed
There we celebrated
With hands all raised
Heirs of the Father
On whom we gazed
Souls in awe and wonder
The eternal now
We beheld his holiness and love
The mighty spectacular wow.
Steve Stockman © 1990 Youth Dept., PCI.

Manchester Disunited

A few weeks ago I went to Old Trafford to watch the Scum (sorry, Manchester Utd) annihilate Middlesborough. The football played by Ronaldo, Tevez, Nani and Shrek etc was (and this is difficult for a Liverpool fan to admit) awesome, but the atmosphere around the so-called "Theatre of Dreams" was curiously flat. The banter for which British football crowds are rightly famous was muted, and there were only 3 chants of real note. The first related to Solskjaer, a player who has retired (maybe the Man. Utd fans are so slow-witted they haven't noticed that yet!). The second was an affectionate tribute Nemanja Vidic, their Serbian defender suggesting that being from Serbia he's likely to "f*****g murder ya!" The final one was directed at the small knot of Middlesborough fans in the corner of the ground below where I was sitting. In it the Man. Utd fans suggested that their opponents were from "the worst place in Britain."
Now I wouldn't have expected…

With Open Eyes

Having finished one book earlier this week that encourages us to have open hands, I've now just finished another that encourages us to have open eyes.
Jim Lynch's "The Highest Tide" is the story of 13 year old Miles O'Malley, who lives on Skookumchuck Bay in Washington State, and makes a habit of finding extraordinary creatures whilst exploring the bay at low tide. It is essentially a coming of age tale, but the key element is the fact that this child, who is vertically challenged and facing the divorce of his parents,comes to be hailed as a prophetic figure by a religious cult following his naive assertion to a journalist that perhaps the earth is trying to tell them something. "God is within you," the cult leader portentously states.
But the only really unique thing about Miles is his interest in the life of the bay... an interest that causes him to be ready and willing to see what is there... Things that anyone could see if only they could be bother…

From One Tree to Another

A monologue from the perspective of Zacchaeus, the tax collector, based on the story in Luke 19 v 1-10 and a bit of dramatic license on my part. It is largely based on some material I wrote for a show entitled "I Witness" performed in the Waterfront Hall in Belfast in 2003 by New Irish Arts.

I almost didn’t meet him… First because as you’ve probably noticed, I’m not the biggest person around, and there were so many others trying to get a glimpse of him… But also because he was on his last journey south… Even though we didn’t know it at the time…
But I had heard so much about him… Stories told about him and by him... Right from the time he actually invited one of my sort, Levi the son of Alphaeus, to be one of his followers… Word of that quickly got out and about. Apparently the holy rollers didn’t like it and complained about him mixing with Levi and his friends… You see, people look down on me not just because I’m short… you get used to that… But people look down on me and my…

Eye of the Needle

Just listening again to some Divine Comedy stuff this morning while working on Sunday's sermon on Zacchaeus, and came upon this gem. For the uninitiated Divine Comedy's Neil Hannon's father was an Anglican clergyman in Northern Ireland. He certainly knows a thing or two about church given the following lyrics:

They say that you’ll hear him if you’re really listening
And pray for that feeling of grace.
But that’s what I’m doing, why doesn’t he answer?
I’ve prayed ‘til I’m blue in the face.

The cars in the churchyard are shiny and German
Distinctly at odds with the theme of the sermon
And during communion I study the people
Threading themselves through the eye of the needle.

I know that its wrong for the faithful to seek it
But sometimes I long for a sign, anything.
Something to wake up the whole congregation
And finally make up my mind.

The cars in the churchyard are shiny and German
Completely at odds with the theme of the sermon
And during communion I stare at the people
Squeezing themse…

With Open Hands

Once upon a time I was a minister to a congregation which had suffered much in the little local difficulties referred to more generally as "The Troubles." Their once thriving congregation had dwindled to a mere handful meeting behind locked doors on a Sunday; their youth organisations had long since stopped meeting for fear of what might happen on dark winter nights; their premises had been fire-bombed and vandalised in many ways, and had fallen further into disrepair as income shrank with the numbers attending worship; and the local area had changed from one which was inhabited by both Roman Catholic and Protestant, to one where some of both communities had been driven out of their houses and there now existed a large wall that ran straight through the church premises themselves. The only problem was that the front door to the church building was on the "Catholic" side of the wall, and most of the congregation now lived on the other side.
But despite these adverse …