Showing posts from November, 2008

Wakey, Wakey

A little piece of doggerel for the beginning of Advent, inspired by the parable of the Wise Virgins in Matthew 25.

Wakey, wakey
Rise and shine
It’s Advent
The season of coming to…
Him coming to us…
Us coming to him.
Getting ready for the big day.
The time of remembering what is yet to come
And preparing for what has already arrived.
Eternity breaking into time.
Watch out…
Time ticks by
to that point when it shall be no more.
Only seconds to midnight…
Trim your wicks, not just the tree,
So you might see.
Just you wait.

David A. Campton © 2008


The BBC Bus and who "Owns" the Church

A final, wise word on the whole BBC/Brand/Ross affair came last night during Marcus Brigstock's weekly rant in the newly returned Now Show on Radio 4, quoting my friend Mitch Benn who said:
"The BBC is not a taxi, it's a bus, and paying your license fee and deciding that entitles you to dictate the output of the BBC is like buying a bus ticket and saying 'Right I've got this ticket therefore this is now my bus and it must drive me home and park outside my house and wait there until the morning when I need it again."
Now of course in saying this we're not suggesting that the BBC licence is a warrant to do anything they want... Were the Beeb to be an out of control bus, then we would have cause to wrestle the wheel out of the driver's hands... And where the service doesn't come up to standard we still have the right to complain... But the direction of the organisation should not be dictated by the loudest voices... What was it my Mum used to say about…

Donald Where's Your Solemnity?

Yesterday I promised to tell you the story of the unfortunate juxtaposition of and Andy Stewart song and a cremation. And before I begin let me assure you that it is 100% true, or if not then I have been the gullible subject of the greatest sick joke in undertaking history.
Anyway, a couple of years ago I was conducting a funeral at the crematorium as I had been doing alarmingly frequently, and I arrived there to find the undertaker giving the gentleman responsible for the crematorium a hard time. When they noticed me I asked what they were talking and laughing about, only to be told this story:
Apparently the day before there had been a funeral at which the bereaved family had handed the undertaker a home-produced CD of an old gospel standard (I think it was "The Old Rugged Cross" but I cannot be certain) recorded from an LP, to be played during the service. However, the crematorium had recently been renovated and new technology had been introduced, including a CD player that…

That's Life... Is it?

Was conducting a funeral yesterday that culminated in a short service at the local crematorium, and, as is regularly the case these days, the family decided not to have any hymns, first because time is so tight at the crematorium, and secondly because they didn't think that many of his, or their peers would actually know the words to many hymns, which is a fact of life these days. We had discussed, as I usually do, the use of recorded music; when it is and isn't advisable to play it (playing music as the coffin descends, for example, tends to heighten an already emotionally charged moment, causing an explosion of grief and loading the chosen music with associated grief forever more), and what is and is not appropriate... for example, although he was a rock and roll fan, "great Balls of Fire" would probably not be a good idea, although the deceased enjoyed a good laugh, so perhaps we should have gone with that.
But anyway, I left them the night before the funeral, thin…

WAITING, Remembering, Preparing and Readiness

This Sunday is the first Sunday in Advent. So here is the first of the Advent liturgies we will be using in Dundonald Methodist Church this year.

Voice 1: Advent is a time for waiting… [PAUSE]
Voice 2: Advent is a time for waiting;
Voice 1: for the postman; Voice 2: for the end of school;
Voice 1: for family members to come home;
Voice 2: for standing waiting in a queue; Voice 1: for waiting for santa for Santa to come and go.
Voice 2: Advent is a time for waiting for God;
Voice 1: for God who came in Jesus the Christ child,
Voice 2: for God who came unexpectedly.
Voice 1: We wait for God, who will come again in a new and surprising way.
Voice 2: We light the first candle to remind us to wait.
Voice 1: In Luke chapter 12 we read
Voice 2: "Be dressed and ready for action and keep your lamps burning, like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him.
Voice 1: It will be goo…

A Different Ministry...

There's a new kid on the virtual block... Only one post so far but if you go visit she may decide to do more, although a little birdie tells me that this one took about 10 days to come to fruition, so don't hold your breath.
This particular post is about Ulster Scots, a subject I could rant at length about, but without any authority whatsoever... However this author is at pains to point out their credentials before launching out into the deep dark waters of vitriol...
and incase you are wondering why I would point you in the direction of this particular novice writer, well, in a misquote of Charlotte Bronte... "reader, I married her..."
ps. If you are very nice to her she may even explain the origin of the blog's name... Or perhaps she will maintain her mystique...


I'm Going to Praiseland

A final word on the "Jesus my heavenly boyfriend" pap, that is being passed off as praise at present, owing more to Oprah than to the Song of Songs. In our discussions on this subject on Saturday night, my friend also reminded my of the line in the episode from series 12 of the Simpsons entitled "I'm Going to Praiseland," in which Ned sets up a Christian themepark.
During it he strikes up a brief relationship with gospel singer Rachel Jordan, but when he encounters her later on, he finds that she has gone solo because her band have gone secular:
Ned: So uuh, where's your band? Rachel: They switched from Christian music to regular pop. All you do is change 'Jesus' to 'baby'. Ned: Oh, how horrible. Rachel: Oh, they'll all go to hell.


Shake 'n' Vac Praise

Was discussing some of the issues raised in this week's strand on hymns and songs last night, and I remembered another entire category of praise that drives me demented, that being the short, inane songs that worship leaders insist on singing 403 times in a row. Not talking about things like the Wild Woose "Wee Songs" but those which are sung until the congrgation are in a hypnotic state... and I am not being funny about that, because often that is exactly what is induced and interpreted as "the Spirit."
But while we were discussing some of these a friend called to mind a line from a letter to the Sunday Telegraph on the subject of modern praise where the writer said:
"Most of the music we were told to sing would have disgraced a Shake 'n' Vac ad."
'nuff said...
ps. Anyone fancy taking a run at writing a praise song to the Shake 'n' Vac tune?

The End is Nigh

OK... Warning. I'm about to rant again...
This time it is due to a piece of junk mail that landed on my doorstep yesterday... The sheer amount of unsolicited mail that goes straight from letterbox to blue bin is usually enough to trigger a rant... But on this occasion it was because of a kind offer by Sarah Muggeridge to provide me with some assistance to deal with the implications of the government's "End of Life Care Strategy" published last summer.
Now I don't know whether this offer is coming to me in my role as chaplain to the local hospital, where I am actually on the multi-disciplinary palliative care education sub-group (the title is longer than the meetings), but the fact that it was sent to the church's PO Box address, suggests that the name and address was gleaned by some web-crawling bot, that has cribbed my name and address from either the local or national church website.
With that in mind... one general point... Any junk mail senders take note: I…

Heavenly Hymns

OK... I indulged my cynical side earlier in the week... And discovered an untapped reservoir of ire on the subject of hymns...
But in a spirit of contrition and in obedience to Paul in Philippians going on about "whatever is good... yada yada..." I thought I should also post a list of my twelve favourite hymns/songs... (Couldn't manage to thin it out to 10... I was actually doing it in my head while ploughing up and down a swimming pool and didn't want to waste any more time on it.) Doubtless some of these will appear on your most hated list, but that's the joy of variety... you can't all have taste (ps. have restricted my choices by a single writer to a maximum of 2):

12) Will you come and follow me (Bell and Maule): looks at discipleship as something challenging and with implications for how we deal with those in need.

11) Beauty for Brokenness (Graham Kendrick): one of the few songs to come out of the 1980s house church movement that genuinely wrestles with t…

Telling a Different Story

A lot of ink and its virtual equivalent has been expended the credit crunch recently... and, from a Christian perspective, what the church's response should be... I've been reflecting on it myself recently with my own congregation as we have encountered pertinent passages in the lectionary... It is remarkable how this liturgical tool provides us with appropriate resources for contextual preaching if we are willing to work with it... For example in its recent meander through Matthew's Gospel we have had:
The parable of the workers in the vineyard... which we often see as a parable of the one-size fits all grace of God, but which involves a situation where the employers employment practice involved promising and paying everyone a living wage regardless of the work they had done. The justice was not in paying proportional to work done, but according to need. (Matthew 20: 1-16)
The passage where Jesus instructs us to give to Caesar what is Caesar's, but to God what is Gods..…

Hated Hymns... the Countdown

Following on from my blog yesterday, I should also have said that there is a whole category of Christmas Carols that cause me to twitch uncontrollably... But I will return to them in due course:
But now praise-pickers here's my top ten hated hymns and praise songs (amazed that I kept it to 10):
10) One More Step along the World I Go: One more time I have to sing this song... I just don't like it because it has been sung to death. 9) Come ye thankful people come: Actually a superb harvest hymn, that actually does justice to the Biblical use of the harvest metaphor in the context of divine judgement... just have problems with us joyfully singing of the angels being given charge (at last) "in the fire the tares (i.e. sinful fellow human beings) to cast..."
8) I am the bread of life: Writers who can't be bothered getting their work to scan should not be encouraged!
7) Wind, Wind Blow on Me!: A mindless, trite little chorus with a jaunty tune that doesn't really go wit…

Hated Hymns

A colleague in Grand Rapids, Michigan sends out a weekly email to all the ministers in her jurisdiction, and one of my friends there is kind enough to forward it too me every Monday. It is one of the regular emails I really look forward to. This week was no exception as she confessed that her least favorite (sic) hymn is "How Great Thou art." In response I sent her this YouTube link to Eddi Reader's fabulous rendition of this old standard (I should warn you that she employs some weird hand movements but it is beautiful all the same).

Anyway... her confession set me off thinking about my least favourite hymns... after all, how could I possibly restrict myself to just one, given that I could rant at length on any number of them... To help me restrict my list I first decided on some broad categories of the hymns and worship songs that cause me to inwardly (and sometimes audibly) groan: 1) The gore-fest "washed in the blood" stuff of the 19th and early 20th century revi…

Dr. Why?

On Friday night I did what I usually do on Children in Need night... I get offside and avoid watching anything that goes out on the Beeb in the name of entertainment. I would pay money to Children Need simply to prevent them churning out the load of half-baked humourless tosh that they usually do. (For those outside of the UK Children in Need is a charity established by the BBC for working with socially disadvantaged young people, and they have an annual telethon on the BBC which raises enormous amounts of money).
Now don't get me wrong... I am among one of the Beebs staunchest supporters generally. And Children in Need is a wonderful organisation, but then I would have to say that as they have been paying my wife's wages for the past 5 years...
But on Friday night a great injustice was done in the name of Children in Need on the BBC.
For weeks they had been trailing the fact that they were going to show the first 2 minutes of the Dr Who Christmas special on Children in Need nigh…

Birds of a Feather

Last night I caught sight of something that took me back to my childhood.
As I was coming back over the Albert Bridge into east Belfast, ahead of me, in the dusky sky was a flock of starlings twisting and turning, sweeping and soaring. I would love to have got a photo of it but I might have caused a major traffic incident, so I will have to make do with the attached photo, which, sadly doesn't quite catch the integrated nature of the flock... It leaves each of the birds looking like individuals... But it is better than nothing.
It reminded me of the huge flocks of old that would have filled the skies in autumn over the three main bridges in Belfast, before the birds settled down to roost for the night. The flocks then were so large that, depending on the orientation of the flock at any one time, the sky seemed to pulse with light and shade. This one was tiny by comparison... but it was a welcome reminder of times gone by. Saying that, when I used to cycle under those huge flocks I …

Not So Old Church Square

Just spent a morning trying to get our domestic finances sorted out at our bank... I needed a strong coffee after it... Or perhaps a strong something else , but I have to function for the rest of the day. Anyway, one of the things we were discussing with them was the pros and cons about investing in property at present... An issue which we have not yet resolved. Any advice out there gratefully received... But if we do decide to invest, one development we will not be buying into is one being marketed by BTW Cairns, an upmarket estate agent (realtor for my American friends), just around the corner from my current church. It's called Old Church Square. The whole thing is based around what looks like a converted church building... all tall gothic windows, exposed stone walls and tall gables... The thing is, that this has no more connection with a church than centrepiece of Walt Disney World has with a real castle. It is brand-spanking, from the foundations to the ridge-tiles, new. It i…

Mind your Step

It's over a week now since I told you of my first ever reading in church as an 8 year old cub scout... Obadobadiah 1-11.
Well it's a complete miracle that I ever wanted to be found in a pulpit again after that experience, because I made a complete buffoon of myself that morning. Not by mispronouncing the name of the book... No, my Mum had beat that out of me during rehearsals at home.
What happened was that after I finished I turned round and went to descend from the pulpit only to find the minister mouthing something at me in an exagerated fashion. "Argh!" I thought, "I've forgotten to say, 'Amen!'"
You see, during my rehearsals at home I kept forgetting to say "Amen!" as I had been told to, after the reading, because it wasn't there on the page...
So, having seen the minister mouthing this correction to me, I turned on my heel, went back to the lectern and leant into the microphone to say "Amen!" The only amen in history…

Garden Guests

Just a quickie to note two new regular visitors to our back garden.
Bought a new birdtable recently after the last one finally gave up the ghost last winter. And were looking forward to the usual array of interesting small birds as well as the annoying magpies and assorted crows, pigeons etc.
But one of the first visitors this year has been the gentleman (or perhaps lady... haven't got close enough to work out which) pictured here. He was followed a few days later by a jay, who has been too fast moving to get a decent photo, but is a truly beautiful beastie. Being a member of the crow family he's fairly smart as well, so between our two new guests they are making fairly short work of the food we had left out for the smaller birds.
I post this today because I read a news story today from the RSPB recommending that you dust your nuts with chilli powder(!?) to keep squirrels at bay. Apparently this has no effect on small birds but really annoys the squirrels. Don't know whether…


On this day any words by me seem trivial.
Instead I post the words of "Woodbine Willie", the Rev. G.A. Studdert Kennedy, a padre in the Great War. He published many poems, most of which were deeply influenced by his experiences on the Western Front. Some are profoundly anti-war. Some seem anti-church, or at least anti-the hypocrisy that seems endemic in churches.

But here's a short one for the day the guns fell silent... for a short while at least.

Waste of Muscle, waste of Brain, Waste of Patience, waste of Pain, Waste of Manhood, waste of Health, Waste of Beauty, waste of Wealth, Waste of blood, and waste of Tears, Waste of Youth's most precious years, Waste of ways the Saints have trod, Waste of Glory, waste of God, - War!


See How These Christians Love One Another...

Did you see the big fight?
Not the Joe Calzaghe v Roy Jones Jnr bout from Madison Square Gardens, but the Armenian Orthodox Monks v Greek Orthodox Monks from the Holy Sepulchre. If you haven't seen it, you can find footage of it here. But you're probably better not watching it.
For once it was not Northern Ireland dragging the name of Christ through the dirt.
But it brought to mind this piece written by Arthur Leonard Griffith:
"At the centre of the old city [Jerusalem] stands the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, reputedly on the site of the original Calvary and the original Garden of the Resurrection. It stands, but only because ugly steel scaffolding permanently supports the walls inside and out. This church is one of the dirtiest, most depressing buildings in all Christendom. It should be torn down and rebuilt. This is not possible, however, because the Church of the Holy Sepulchre belongs jointly to the Abyssinians, Armenians, Copts, Greeks, Syrians and Roman Catholics, and …

What Colour is your Poppy?

A friend sent me a white poppy on Friday… although I don't think he expected me to wear it.
Incase you haven't come across one before they are produced by the Peace Pledge Union… You can read a little about their history here.
My first encounter with such a thing was on the lapel of a member of the church we attended in Edinburgh, a bearded, sandal wearing gentleman who was a member of CND, Amnesty International, and took part in every peace protest going. But I never asked him where he got one for fear that he might sign me up for something.
There are many Christians who do not wear the red poppy because they believe it celebrates militarism and glorifies war… And certainly some of the military trappings of Remembrance Sunday tend towards that... Although talking to many serving soldiers they are the last to glorify war…
And for that reason some wear a white poppy instead of a red one…
In some places (including Canada) that has produced a backlash from those selling the red popp…

The Week That Was...

In a truly momentous week, what has tickled my fancy in the blogosphere?
Regarding the big news story (something about a new President of the USA incase you missed it) the blog that summed up the momentous nature of it all was Crookedshore's identification of the quote of the night. McCain's gracious concession speech and the inspiring words of Obama's acceptance, also caught the imagination of Crookedshore and others. William Crawley has posted the full text and visuals of the latter here.
This is also the first week of NaBloPoMo 2008, or National Blog Posting Month, for the uninitiated, and a lot of the posting has been to do with the presidential campaign, but Marramgrass, who introduced me to the whole NaBloPoMo thang has to get the prize for one of the most feeble first posts.... But at least he admits it!
Of course we're now rapidly heading towards season of Winterval, or whatever the loony leftwing halfwits want to call it this year, and the resultant waves of indi…

Into the Valley

Found this gem while searching for material for our Sunday morning Remembrance Service. It's not appropriate for that but thought it was worth re-posting here. The story behind it's creation can be found here (I know... posting something from the Sunday Mail... I'll be struck off the pinko-liberal Christmas-card list).

Having been created in the run-up to Remembrance Sunday it depicts the 169 British servicemen and women killed in Iraq up until that point. an additional 7 have died since then... Lance Corporal Sarah Holmes, Sergeant John Battersby, Trooper Lee Fitzsimmons, Guardsman Stephen Ferguson, Sergeant Duane Barwood, Nicholas Brown. Add to this the 122 casualties in Afghanistan, over 4000 US and other coalition servicemen in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and innumerable Afghan and Iraqi deaths. Will we remember them?

I Should Have Realised

I missed this cracker in the run-up to this week's momentous events... But given his gift of the gab it's obvious. Everyone join in now: O'Leary, O'Reilly, O'Hare and O'Hara There's no-one as Irish as Barack O'Bama

Thanks to a friend in Florida for sending me this one. And thank you Florida for not messing things up this time!

The Power of Democracy

Well the race is over and is only the analysis left to pick over. Then we've got about 6 months before things start gearing up for the mid-terms and about 2 years before the Presidential roundabout begins again. When do they ever get time to actually govern?
Anyway, I've made no secret of it in recent days in that I have been wanting Obama to win, and my boy gone done it! It's not just that his politics fit mine better than McCain and his co-pilot, but he's been a genuinely inspiring candidate, unlike Kerry and Gore, who really never got the pulse racing... did either of them actually have a pulse themselves? In both cases I was not so much pro-them as anti-Bush. This time it genuinely was different.
Obama personifies change... politically, racially, socially, intellectually and generationally. He seems to have a good sense of how America is percieved in the eyes of the wider world and how it might function better as an agent of the common good.
I've mentioned the qu…

America, Bless God

A song to be sung in response to the Annunciation... whether the coming one is McCain, anointed by the religious right, or the quasi-Messianic Obama, let's get our priorities right and our loyalties straight:

Hail to the Chief of Chiefs! Glorify God alone, with all that you have and are.
Rejoice in God, for he alone is our salvation. He remembers the humble when others forget, Bringing blessing for a single mother When others only offer shame. Doing great things for and through the accursed. That’s why he is different from others. That’s why his name is in a class of its own. Holy. He is merciful to all who truly bow before him… Who recognise his power and authority… Pouring out blessings on their children and their children’s children. He never stops performing miracles; He still scatters the arrogant like the men of Babel of old. He looks behind worn out words of faith to see thriving thoughts of pride. He topples thrones and casts kings down into the dust from which they came. But he lifts up t…

Hail to the West Wing

Young non-White senator wins democratic nomination against the odds, and picks old Washington insider with lots of foreign policy experience and campaign nous as running mate.
They run against a veteran moderate Republican, who is disapproved of by the conservative evangelical powerbrokers and so he picks a known conservative evangelical as a VP nominee.
They are running neck and neck until a crisis fatally wounds the republican campaign.

Not the the political soap opera which reaches its denouement today... But the storyline of the last few seasons of the West Wing. The only things they got wrong was the gender of the Republican VP and the nature of the crisis that proved crucial inthe campaign. In the West Wing it was the meltdown of a nuclear powerplant. In reality it was the meltdown of the economy.

But the similarities are striking... And actually some of the speechmaking on the Obama side has been of almost West-Wing standard... There are some who say that there was quite a bit of c…


Just the other week it was the Service at which our Scout Group all reaffirm their promises... So members of all the various sections were taking part, from the Squirrels to the Scouts. My youngest son, who is a Beaver, was asked to read the Old Testament reading... which was exactly what happened to me around the same age...

I actually remember what it was to this day. Obadobadiah 1-11. Actually, it was Obadiah verses 1-11, but when I reahearsed it with my mum the night before I added in a couple of syllables. But my main problem wasn't the title, it was the content with all its talk of pillage and ransacking... I hadn't a clue what it was about. Have you ever read the book of Obadiah... No... didn't think so... Go read it... it will only take you 5 minutes... But it would take you to then read a commentary of 4 times the length to understand it. So what chance had I, as an eight year old child, got when it came to understanding what I was reading?

Mind you, why should I b…

Things Can Only Get Better (?)

Well there's 2 days to go, and I know that thousands, if not millions of people out there have been waiting for me to virtually express my opinion on the US electoral process... But I thought it unfair for a person in another jurisdiction to have unfair influence in the electoral process.
But then again... whatever happens on Tuesday is going to radically affect the whole world and most of us don't get a vote... Mind you given some of the voting registration scandals in the US that is true of many citizens there too... But selfishly most of what I will say is based upon an international perspective (let the citizens of the US look after their own backs!)In the run up to the election most of my thinking was of the "Things can only get better"-type. 8 years of world government by the Shrub and his cabal of Big-Oil Representatives and Neo-Cons, has made the world an infinitely more dangerous place, largely due to their unwillingness to use diplomacy where a Cruise missil…

All Saints

O blest communion, fellowship divine! We feebly struggle, they in glory shine; All are one in Thee, for all are Thine. Alleluia, Alleluia!
Not too many saints revered in Methodism… with the possible exception of John and Chuck… And it only takes a news story about some recently demised Catholic being put on the “fast-track to sainthood” brings out the ultra-protestant in me, foaming at the mouth about scripture regarding all followers of Christ as "saints..."
Saints aren't a special category of Christian, with a backstage pass for heaven. We're all that curious mixture of saint and sinner... Struggling (feebly) with our sinfulness, but hopefully with the "Holy" Spirit, at work within and through us, perfecting us...
In the early church each local church had its own list of deceased saints who were celebrated at certain times of year. The reason for the development of a "canonisation" process was an attempt to standardise those saints revered and used a…