Showing posts from September, 2008

The End of the World?

Is this, in the immortal words of REM, "The end of the world as we know it?"
As I was heading to bed last night news was trickling through of the U.S. House of Representatives rejection of the US Treasury inspired White House plan for the bail-out of the US banking sector. It was rejected by 228 to 205 votes, despite supposed bi-partisan support for it, and in the aftermath of the vote there seems to have been a "what have we done?" moment.
The rest of the world quickly worked out what they had done... and rapidly began dumping banking stocks all across global markets. This meant that banks already under threat because of the sub-prime crisis, the overall credit crunch and the recent spate of opportunistic short selling came under even greater pressure. yesterday probably saw the single greatest reorganisation of the banking system in history with many banks being nationalised or taken over. Wachovia, the fourth-largest US bank, was bought by larger rival Citigroup i…

Handle with Care

As a quick ps to my last post on how we should, and should not communicate Biblical truths to children, a salutory lesson in the difficulties of this comes in the person of a certain 7 year old called Ciaran Thomas Campton.
From he was no age he has struck terror into his mum and I when visiting speakers talk to the children in the church service, because he has never had any compulsion about speaking back. On one famous Sunday he had a stand up row with me in front of the whole congregation about what does and does not constitute a church! And his take on the Sunday school lesson is always quite interesting to listen to over Sunday lunch... Although it can lead to you choking on a hastily swallowed carrot!
Over the past few weeks the Sunday School, Bible Class and church have just started into a new common "curriculum" and we've been looking at some of Jesus' healing miracles... Last week he wasn't too impressed that Jesus used spit to heal a deaf mute... "Ye…

Teach What to Your Children?

Had a very interesting evening last night with a few old friends, one of whom is just back from New Zealand for a short time. It was probably all the more interesting after 2 hours listening to a briefing on church finance reports in the light of the new charities laws.
But during the conversation someone mentioned a former teacher and leader in Scripture Union who was involved in a low level "scandal". This triggered an explosive response from one of my friend's, who claimed that this just goes to show that everything that this man, and his fellow SU leaders, had taught us, was rubbish (he used stronger language), and that to influence young people with a black and white view of religion/spirituality in schools in wrong. It must be said that this particular teacher, whilst being very affable, had portrayed a particularly black and white picture of Christian faith that I, even in my tender teenage years, was uneasy with, and I suppose it is that which makes his "fall…

Crunch Time

Well this week the credit crunch caused some of the biggest beasts in banking to crack, with the result that the Republican administration of George Bush, champion of the free-market, was forced to intervene to nationalise AIG and prop up the US banking system.
But although that caused stock markets across the world to bounce back to a certain extent, the problem hasn’t gone away… Many financial institutions are still at risk of collapse… Investments have a long way to go to regain their lost values. There will be political ramifications… both in the US Presidential campaign and perhaps even with regard to the leadership of Gordon Brown here… But ultimately the biggest losers are those at the bottom of the pile. Taxpayers who cannot afford the accountants who will help them avoid (if not evade) taxation, those whose mortgages have been foreclosed and employees who have been laid off without million dollar golden goodbyes.
This has all led to a flurry of articles looking at who is to bla…

Singing the Faith

Methodism was born in song... Or so we are informed in the oft quoted introduction to the 1933 Methodist hymnbook... And although the dreadful publication entitled Hymns and Psalms published in 1983 might potentially have contributed to the death of Methodism, we have survived it and are now staggering into the process by which a newer anthology will be compiled. Whether many churches will opt for a paper copy of this or abandon hymnbooks entirely in favour of projecting words onto screens I don't know... Although in my own church we largely project the words, I do hope we never fully abandon hymnbooks, because whilst I am not certain that Methodism was born in song, it was certainly nourished by its sacred songs as it grew. We sing our theology... It is the hymns of Charles Wesley that should be noted as a statement of normative Methodist belief rather than John Wesley's 44 Sermons... When was the last time you heard someone whistling a sermon? The only thing that worries me …

Lord, How Many Times…?

Peter:Eh... Jesus...?
Jesus:Yes, Peter?
Peter:How many times did you say I should forgive my brother?
Jesus:Have you and Andrew been fighting again, Peter?
Peter:Oh, you know what he’s like... I know you want us to forgive each other, but I really am ready to deck him... And I can’t remember, are we supposed to forgive others 77 times or is it 70 times 7?
Jesus:Who’s counting?
Peter:I am… Remember… I asked you how many times should I forgive him and you told me 77, or 70 times 7 before telling us that story of the servant who was forgiven a huge debt but then got banged up for throttling his friend over thrupence. Well, I’ve already forgiven Andrew 76 times so I’m wondering if the next time is his last?
Jesus:How do you know there will be a next time?
Peter:Oh, Don’t you worry… There’ll be a next time… If I haven’t drowned him or brained him first…
Jesus:That’s hardly the right attitude… I didn’t mean that you only had to forgive someone a certain number of times before hitting them with a ba…

What Kind of Story Is This?

Today was almost over before I realised it. 9-11 in my diary today meant a 9-11 am session in the hospital, followed by a series of meetings... And at nowhere today, even in meeting with one American citizen were the events of 7 years ago today even mentioned. Is it because we have seen so much horror inflicted in retribution for that day that the cruel murder of the people in the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the 4 planes that went down that day no longer has any emotional power over us? Or is it because we have simply moved on? More concerned about the credit crunch and the fuel price hike rather than the loss of so many innocent lives. For me, one of the best responses to the tragedy came in the form of a poem by Godfrey Rust released one year after it. I tried to find it on the net (or even any reference to it) but couldn't... so I rustled around my files and found a paper copy. So here it is:

Where was God
on September the 11th? He was begging
in old clothes in the subway

Move over Maggie

Regular followers of this blog over the summer (what's wrong with you... have you nothing better to do with your time!) will know of my long summer love affair with a dusky voiced American lady called Maggie. Magellan Maestro, the GPS that was kindly lend to us by Ed and Lorrie Bawden for our time in Grand Rapids.

Well, she impressed me so much that on coming home I was on the look out for a similar piece of kit at a reasonable price. And last week I spotted one... a Garmin Nuvi 300, at a third of its usual price. So it's a case of move over Maggie here's Gary... Now that's a female Gary, as this unit only offers female voices. Is there something wrong with a male voice telling you where to go? But anyway, she's not as sophisticated as Maggie... But I have simple needs. Getting me from A-B without a speeding ticket, accident or nervous breakdown will do. To see how she will work I have engaged in some Satnav cruelty I am ashamed to admit... I've programmed in …

Ring a Ring of Hadrons... We all Fall Down

If it is after 8.31am (BST) on September 10th 2008 and you are reading this, then the particle physicists at CERN on the border of France and Switzerland have avoided creating a black hole in their large hadron collider that will suck us all into oblivion. It's a salutory thought that the last sight I may get of this world is the view from the top of the Holywood Hills overlooking Belfast Lough as I do my usual dash to take Owain to school... But as final views go that's not bad. Of course it won't be my last view, at least not unless I have an apoplectic fit at the idiot reporters covering the story on radio who trot out the same old rubbish time after time without realising the immensity of what the scientists are actually doing. But immense though it is it won't create a black hole (you can say I was wrong if they do... but then we'll be dead and you'll not have read this in the first place), and it isn't recreating the big bang... But let's just use i…

Not a Day for Enjoying Yourself

Well, professional (?) football on a Sunday has at last come to Northern Ireland. And it is a little ironic that the first game would be in the heartland of Protestant East Belfast, with a match between Glentoran and Bangor at the Oval. Now, I'm a little ambivalent about strict sabbatarianism. Certainly the increased commercialism on Sundays has resulted in pressures on shopworkers to work on Sundays when they would rather be at church or at home with their families. The increasing number of amateur sports clubs running sessions on Sunday mornings has taken a toll on family attendance at church. And if Sunday football exacerbated any of that I would be deeply opposed to it. But I confess (and I appreciate that in some circles this is a serious confession as a minister of the gospel... tho' since I am Methodist, some wouldn't expect anything better of me...) I enjoy watching a game of football or rugby or many other inds of sport on TV on a Sunday afternoon. But Sunday saw a…