Showing posts from September, 2010

The City... of God?

“Earth hath not anything to show more fair…” The first line of a poem by the English romantic poet William Wordsworth… And what was he referring to? A beautiful seascape… A range of majestic mountains… The tree-clad, rolling hills of Cumbria… A rainbow in a leaden sky… No… As many of you will know from your schooldays (although Wordsworth probably isn’t taught in school these days), it’s from a poem entitled “Composed upon Westminster Bridge” and refers to the city of London in the light of dawn… the great heart of Victorian Britain…
Now I like London… My thoughts were drawn to this poem because I’m flying over to London today for a meeting in Westminster Central Hall tomorrow… And next month my wife and I have booked a long weekend there to do some galleries and shows… But I’ve never quite understood Wordsworth’s sense of rapture when looking at London from that bridge… especially since in his day it would have been cloaked in smoke and the river flowing sluggishly beneath his feet wo…

Economic Idolatry?

I'm not an economist... Can't even manage my own chequebook/bank account... But, as I said on Sunday in preaching on this week's gospel reading from the lectionary, the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16: 19-31), I'm forever struck by the number of times that Jesus speaks about riches and poverty. In this he was picking up a key thread through the Hebrew scriptures, particularly the prophets.. a thread which within the modern church, particularly "Bible-believing" evangelicals, have dropped, or worse, twisted, with the heresy that is the so-called "prosperity gospel."
This morning whoever, I was pointed in the direction of this piece in Market Watch (not a site I often visit) by my friend Dick Bowyer. In it, Rex Nutting suggests that a key principle of much modern government economic planning, that small business is a key factor in the health of a country's economy, is completely insubstantiated. This mantra underpins nearly all governmen…

Pope Benedict and Secular Britain

I do a monthly stint on Downtown Radio's Sunday morning religious magazine programme, "Dawn Reflections" where I take a look at the Sunday papers and then offer a reflection on the big news story/ies of the week from a Christian perspective. Normally I have to dig fairly deep in the papers to find any stories relating directly to faith in its broadest sense, but this week that was not the case, because apparently Britain has had a fairly significant state visitor this week… And, to the newspapers' delight, one that was not without controversy…
Despite the fact that Northern Ireland was not on Pope Benedict's itinerary, there has been quite a kerfuffle over here regarding whether or not the Moderator of the Presbyterian church should or should not have shaken hands with the Pope, whilst Free Presbyterians and Orangemen from here joined in a veritable kaleidoscope of people going out of their way to protest against the Pope's visit: secular humanists, those obj…

Keeping Minutes... Wasting Hours

We’re well into September now… A time of year that brings me more than its fair share of meetings… particularly committee meetings. This morning over on Facebook, a colleague, Micky Youngson, was rejoicing in the fact that she had got through a church meeting in 1 hour 15 minutes... I was pretty smug a fortnight ago when I completed one in 1 hour 30 minutes... at least until I got home and realised that I had omitted 3 important items of business, necessitating an immediate email asking a) for forgiveness and b) for permission to go ahead with the matters in hand. I think people were so pleased to escape early that I got no objections... I would not, however, recommend using this tactic on a regular basis.
Some wag once said that committee meetings keep minutes and waste hours, and there is a prevailing cynicism about such meetings, particularly in the church, a cynicism of which I myself am guilty. Again on Facebook, a friend of mine recently shared that in the 30 odd years since he …

DFCI v Donard

This Saturday come sun, rain or snow (you never know here in Northern Ireland, even in September) Sally, Owain and myself are joining together with other friends (and a couple of dogs) to take part in the Slieve Donard DFCI Team Challenge. We'll be walking up (and hopefully down) the highest mountain in Northern Ireland to raise money for Dundonald Family and Community Initiative, the social outreach programme associated with Dundonald Methodist Church. OK, I know, its hardly Everest... but I'm hardly Chris Bonnington!
This is by way of celebrating the 10th anniversary of the programmes that grew into DFCI. The previous night we'll be meeting for the AGM (a few months later than planned, but don't get me started on auditors who don't know their job!), and hearing about the work that DFCI has been doing, seeking to support children and their families in the surrounding Ballybeen estate, offering a safe and welcoming space where children and adults alike can make frie…

On this Day...

Over recent weeks I have kept my own counsel regarding the two big controversy's that are orbiting this year's anniversary of the dreadful events of 9/11/2001 (I bow to the illogical US date order of m/d/y on this day alone); the so-called "Ground Zero" mosque and the threatened Koran burning by Terry Jones (not the Monty Python member, but the Pastor of the misnamed "Dove" World Outreach Centre in Gainesville Florida). There is enough coverage out there without me having to add my ill-informed comments from thousands of miles away, and indeed I haven't even offered links to the stories, because if you haven't come across them then you probably haven't been on the planet for the past 2 months.

There is an extent to which the oxygen of sensationalist (and at times grossly innacurate) reporting has exacerbated both stories and the response of the wider world to them. On that subject I would like to flag up 2 pieces... one prompted by each story. On…


Have you ever heard of Ruth and Verena Cady? I hadn't until I read a reference to them in a Max Lucado book, and then followed up with some judicious Googling...
For those who haven't read about them previously, they were twins, born in 1984… and like many sisters and particularly twins, they shared everything… they shared the same womb before they were born and the same room afterwards… they even shared the same bed every night… they shared the same toys… even sharing one trike between them… But it went further than with most sisters or even twins, because Ruthie and Verena’s bodies were fused together from their sternum to the waist… Though they had different brains and nervous systems and distinctive personalities they were sustained by a single, three-chambered heart and the food that came from a single intestine… They were literally inseparable because one could not survive without the other… and if truth be told when they were born the doctors didn’t think they would surv…

I Will Praise You

A responsive Psalm based on Psalm 138.

I will praise you, O LORD, with all of my heart;
before the powers and idols of this world I will sing your praise.
I will bow down before your throne and your throne alone;
I will praise your name for your love and your faithfulness.
Above all things I shall glorify your Name;
Above all things I shall honour your Word.
When I called, you answered me;
You gave me courage when my heart felt weak.
May all the rulers of the earth praise you, O LORD,
May they listen to the words of your mouth.
May they walk in your ways, O LORD,
Praising the greatness of the glory of God.
Though the LORD is highly exalted, he looks lovingly upon the lowly,
He perceives the attitudes of the proud from afar.
Though I walk through the midst of trouble, you preserve my life;
you stretch out your right hand to save me from the anger of the enemy.
O LORD fulfil your purpose in me;
Your love, O LORD, lasts for ever.
from Psalm 138


The Lollipop Man

As I stood in the September sun today, waiting for my youngest son to get out of school, I spent 5 or 10 minutes watching a lollipop man at work. There were times in the past when my family suggested that the first regular job I would get was likely to be a lollipop man, given that I seemed to be reluctant to leave full time education and was in and out of more seasonal employment. That was back in the days when most lollipop persons were recently retired men... This lollipop person fitted that profile, though I am aware that there is much more variety in age these days, and probably as many women as men performing the role. For those from across the Atlantic who haven't a clue what I am talking about, a lollipop man or woman is a person who escorts children across roads close to schools immediately before and after school hours... don't know if you have the equivalent... they are called lollipop men because of the sign they carry to stop cars, which looks like a lollipop
But a…