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Showing posts from March, 2012

Saturday Supplement

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I've written a couple of pieces on chaplaincy recently (here and here) and so it was interesting to have this piece on hospice chaplaincy brought to my attention by a former intern.
Meanwhile, reflections on Fabrice Muamba and his ongoing recovery have continued in various corners of the interweb, but the most interesting for me was Kevin Hargaden's comments on the ill-conceived challenge of a group of cross-party MPs to ASA ban on advertising faith-healing. Their particular crusade (and I use that word advisedly) is part of the developing war between conservative Christians and militant secularists... Hardly a day goes by without coming across a link concerning the "persecution" of Christians in secularist Britain, usually via the Daily Mail or the Christian Institute/Voice and featuring some quote or other by George Carey, or, on the other hand, some campaign by Dicky Dawkins and his merry band of fundamentalist atheists. Indeed I could include many of them in thi…

Foolishness

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A short monologue for the timely conjunction of April Fool's Day and Palm Sunday. Based on John 12: 12-19.
It’s foolishness I tell you… Complete foolishness… The whole world has gone mad… There is clearly something in the water… Yes he seems to have been used by God, to heal the sick… even raise that dead man… Lazarus, if he was dead in the first place that is… But how can he be the Messiah? How can the crowds go around singing “Hosanna!” “We’re saved!”? He’s only a carpenter from Nazareth, followed by a bunch of fishermen, terrorists and collaborators… and women… How could such a man save us from the Romans? He’s not even particularly holy… he eats with collaborators and other known sinners… he allows women of ill-repute to fawn all over him… Yet he describes us, Pharisees, as hypocrites… He’s got a cheek… But the people love him… of course they do… he does party tricks for them with bread and fish… And I’m told that earlier on he turned water into wine for a wedding he was at… T…

Titanic Town

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It is fast approaching the centenary of the Titanic's departure from Belfast and its all too sudden sinking, and it is all over the TV, with ITV's dreadful costume drama (dubbed "Drownton Abbey" by one friend, and "Upstairs Drownstairs" by another) and the BBC doing a documentary about it with Len Goodman from Strictly Come Dancing... Is he going to do a quickstep on Queens Island?  And everywhere you look in Belfast at the moment some Titanic-themed event is taking place, with yesterday's dedication of the "Titanica" statue, outside the Titanic Signature Building, which is due to be opened on Saturday coming (and which I am looking forward to visiting as soon as possible thereafter), and today's ludicrous renaming of "Bridge End Halt" as "Titanic Quarter" even though it's a good mile walk from the heart of that particular developers' dream... Although it remains the only direct link between the Titanic Quarter…

One Link in a Chain of Command...

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With Holy Week fast approaching many ministers and worship leaders are flailing around trying to find resources for a plethora of services. Readers of the Methodist Newsletter will find some short pieces I wrote ages ago for such an eventuality, and if you go over to twelvebaskets you will find other stuff that I've written, together with masses of material by other (better) writers. But as a wee taster, here's one of the pieces available there. Its based on a range of gospel passages including Matthew 8: 5-13; 27: 54; Mark 15: 39; Luke 7: 1-10; Luke 23: 47 and parts of it were originally included in New Irish Arts' "I Witness"  event in Belfast Waterfront about 10 years ago.
I’m just one link in a chain of command… I receive orders and I give them… My name is Marcus Antoninus Proclus, senior centurion of the Tenth Legion of the Imperial Army of Rome. Normally I would never order anyone else to do something I was not prepared to do myself… So I would usually stri…

Angels of Mersey (sic)

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Just a quickie today to point you in the direction of a short documentary I ended up watching last night instead of my usual game of 5-a-side football... My eye was drawn to it, partly off the back of my post last week on chaplaincy, because it was a look at various forms of chaplaincy in the city of Liverpool, under the appalling title of "Angels of Mersey" (whichever production assistant dreamt that one up should be soundly beaten and given a job with Hallmark...)
Anyway, it's on BBC2 on a Monday at 8pm (and will be on BBC iPlayer for about a week per episode) and doesn't just cover hospital chaplaincy, but last night also covered University chaplaincy and will be looking at sports chaplaincy with the chaplain to Liverpool's third best team, Everton (third after Liverpool and Liverpool Reserves according to Bill Shankly), street pastors, and chaplaincy with Jewish and Muslim student chaplains. Given some of the coverage recently about the anti-Christian bias o…

Evolutionary Economics

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There is a basic principle that underpins the theory of evolution by means of natural selection, and that is the survival of the fittest. The theory suggests that this is most potent at times of environmental stress such as an ice age or other global catastrophe.
We are currently in the midst of an economic ice age, a global economic catastrophe. And nature, red in tooth and claw, will out. The big predators on the financial markets have been bringing down the slower moving beasts, be they banks or entire countries, while our esteemed political leaders seem to be applying evolutionary principles to their policies and exercise of power.
The recently passed Welfare Reforms, allied with cost-cutting measures that disproportionately affect the poorer members of society, has produced a situation where people will be perfectly fine so long as they don't lose their jobs, get ill or grow old. It is, effectively survival of the financially fittest out there. Unless you make personal provi…

The Right Time...

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In our service this morning, in honour of the change to BST last night, our intern, Patrick Harley is leading our All Age Service on the theme of "Time." I'll be continuing that theme tonight at our Cafe Church when we'll be sharing in this adaptation of the famous passage from  Ecclesiastes:
There is a right time for everything, and a season for everything that happens on the earth: A right time to be born and a right time to die, A right time to plant and a right time to reap, A right time to kill and a right time to heal, A right time to demolish and a right time to construct, A right time to weep and a right time to laugh, A right time to mourn and a right time to dance, A right time to break down walls and a right time to build them up, A right time to make love and a right time to abstain, A right time to search and a right time to count your losses, A right time to hold on and a right time to let go, A right time to tear up and a right time to mend, A right time to shut up…

Saturday Supplement

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At the moment the ConDem Coalition are pushing for a change in the legal definition of marriage in the UK to include same-sex partnerships, which has produced a number of high profile objections by the church and has led a number of individuals and organisations, both from a faith perspective and not, to form a Coalition for Marriage arguing for the more traditional definition... Those coming from a Christian perspective on this tend to talk a lot about a "Biblical model of marriage" but as this contribution from John Byron's "Biblical World" reminds us, a Biblical perspective on marriage is a lot more complex than we might like to admit. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury has not been as vocal on this issue as his counterpart in York, but any suspicions that he might go quietly into his recently announced, and widely lamented, retirement were roundly refuted with a very bullish statement on the wrong-headedness of the government and secularists in relat…

What's the point of chaplains in hospitals?

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"B£##$y ministers! What's the f*?%!^g point of them around here!?"

This was the profound question posed by one of the porters outside the chaplaincy office yesterday not realising that I could hear every word from inside, and could recognise his voice. If I hadn't been on the phone at the time I might have invited him in for a chat about his reservations on the role of chaplains in hospitals... I assume that is what he was referring to... Either that or the efficacy of our Health Minister Edwin Poots and his colleagues, and I'm not going to make any public comment on them here!

It's not just porters who are asking that question however... The Humanist and Secular societies and their fellow travellers have understandably been asking it in various forms for some time. There was also a recent Freedom of Information Request concerning the amount of money spent on chaplains throughout the NHS in Northern Ireland by by MLA Conall McDevitt, which prompted a lot of c…

Kyrie Eleison

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No post yesterday as I spent most of it sitting in my doctor's surgery and then at the Ulster Hospital, before going to Sullivan Upper School's excellent Spring Concert in the Ulster Hall last night... But the title of this post is not me asking forgiveness for missing a blog, but inspired by one of the pieces last night, namely the Kyrie from Bob Chilcott's "Little Jazz Mass" as performed by the girls of the Sullivan Singers. The slight incongruity between the sobre words and upbeat setting prompted the following thoughts... (I posted this earlier via Blogger for Android while I was sitting in another waiting room... but it seems to have got caught in the ether somewhere... So if another versionn appears please forgive me...) Kyrie eleison. Christe eleison. Does it matter what setting we sing this to? Does it matter the tempo of the tune? Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Does it matter the language of our liturgy? Does it matter if it's said or sung, rea…

1912, A Hundred Years On

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I said in a post at the turn of the year that we needed more pieces of theatre to make us think being performed in venues that are not sterile black boxes... And last night I saw the very epitome of that: 1912, A Hundred Years On - a dramatic exploration of the year that saw the signing of the Ulster Covenant, written by Philip Orr and Alan McGuckian, produced by Contemporary Christianity and performed by Ciaran Nolan and Neil Wilson in Knock Presbyterian Church as part of a whistlestop 2 week tour of Northern Ireland.
Knock was NOT one of the Presbyterian Churches which acted as venues for signing the covenant, despite it's relative proximity to Craigavon House which was James Craig's base of operations... Some of my own family signed it, some simply marking it with an X because they were illiterate, and some signing it with their own blood, and they did so in the porches of two different Presbyterian Churches in Co Tyrone. It would be interesting to see this performed in on…

A Word on the Happenings at White Hart Lane

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My post today is not in any way unique... Similar comments are all over the front, back and editorial pages of most UK newspapers, it has been the subject of at least 3 "Pause for Thought"-type meditations on radio that I have heard, including one by my Methodist colleague George Loane on Radio Ulster (24 and 84 minutes in to todays Good Morning Ulster), and will doubtless feature on many blogs over the next few days... Saturday was a day I had been looking forward to for a while... It was St. Patrick's Day and the culmination of the 6 Nations Rugby when Ireland were going to put England in their place... I had to juggle a lot of work to carve out time to watch the matches... And frankly, at the end of it all I wondered why I had bothered. Scotland were abject in the wooden spoon clash with Italy (putting my Scottish wife in a really good mood for the day ahead). The Wales/France showdown was dull as dishwater... with Wales claiming the championship and grand slam... th…

A Short Psalm for Mothering Sunday

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You have been my hope, My God and King, my source of confidence since my youth. From birth I have relied on you; Since you brought me out of my mother's womb. I will praise you forever. You are my secure support. My mouth overflows with your praise, Singing of your splendour all day long. Psalms 71:5-8
Selah

It's in the Air

No Saturday Supplement this morning, largely because there wasn't a whole lot that caught my eye on t'internet this week... But also because this is St. Patrick's Day... and I couldn't let it go without dipping my toe in the emerald-tinted water... I could have gone down the Celtic spirituality route... but one item that I did come across yesterday on the net thanks to my colleague Robin, was this wonderful rendition of "Danny Boy..."


That's certainly my favourite version of the song... as it treats it with the lack of respect it deserves... It's a dreadful piece of sentimental oirishness origninally written by an English lawyer...

The tune at least is authentically Irish, supposedly being one of many folk tunes collected by Jane Ross from Limavady in County Londonderry in the mid 19th century, although she never recorded the title leading to its ascription as A Londonderry or Derry Air - only in Northern Ireland could the name of a tune be political…

Who's to Blame?

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Hillsborough means different things to different people. To many in Northern Ireland it represents the seat of British power in the 6 counties: Hillsborough Castle... the site of a number of significant agreements and declarations between the British and Irish governments over the past 30 years... But to Liverpool fans such as myself it is a football stadium that is etched on their hearts and minds. I grew up following Liverpool through the glory days of the 70's and 80's - The latter years of the 80's however, were overshadowed by 2 huge disasters... In the 1985 European Cup Final at the Heysel Stadium where 39 of the opposition Juventus fans were killed, and the 1989 Hillsborough Stadium Disaster where 96 Liverpool fans were crushed to death at an FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest. In the former case the blame initially fell exclusively (and understandably) on Liverpool fans, but later investigations also blamed UEFA for failing to heed warnings re the poor re…

Finding Something Good in Synod...

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This week has tried my "whatever is good" resolution to the limit... partly because I'm in pain, partly because I'm under pressure at the moment, and partly because of the joys of Methodist Synod. Now, at this point I will get all sorts of people berating me for my studied cynicism and negativity re Synod/conference and the like, and telling me that the freedom to engage in such meetings is a blessing that many of my brothers and sisters around the world would be glad of... And I hear that... however, I believe that there is a serious problem with how we address church business currently... It has become mechanistic and administrative rather than spirit-filled and creative. I don't blame any one person for that... All participants (and deliberate non-participants) are complicit... We both waste time on agenda points that have no relevance, whilst squeezing out room for genuine informed discussion, debate and decisions that might actually make a difference to the …

Bless my Boy

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I suppose I've been thinking a lot about the story of women bringing their children to Jesus recently because of a "glut" of births and baptisms around our congregation at present (a nice problem to have - given the demographics of our congregation and community dispatches have been more common than hatches in recent years)... It is a powerful, if brief story with little need for further comment or dramatisation, but with Mothering Sunday coming up (even though it actually has nothing to do with Mothers - but Mother church) I thought I would offer this wee monologue looking at the event from the perspective of one of the mums. 
My boy, Joshua had just turned one… And like every other mother I wanted him blessed by a holy man… a rabbi… There's nothing wrong with him... at least not that I know, God-forbid, but it’s a tradition… Don’t know how it started, but in this world you need all the help you can get… so I was on the look out for someone to do the business for hi…

A (Late) Prayer for Commonwealth Day

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Yesterday was Commonwealth Day... That won't mean a lot to most of you. For my American readers, it isn't a reference to the State which has Boston as it's capital, but to that loose affiliation of nations that (generally) experienced the "benevolent" experience of British Imperial rule... As such the Queen of the United Kingdom is the head of the Commonwealth, although this is slightly ironic given that it is actually a fairly literal translation of the Latin term "res publica," from which we get the term republic, and its first application in Britain was to the political institution which owed its existence to the enforced reduction in height of one of the Queen's ancestors... the Commonwealth of England under Oliver Cromwell and his son Richard. To most people, however it is simply the banner under which a second-rate Olympic Games is organised half way between Olympiads. They won't even recognise the flag at the top of this post is the flag of…

Psalm for Sunday

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I know I've been pilfering my back-catalogue a lot this week, but here's another reblog, this time it's a responsive reading of Psalm 19 which is one of the lectionary readings for today...

The law of the Lord is perfect, strengthening the soul. The promises of the Lord are trustworthy, offering insight to all. The signposts of the Lord are straightforward, bringing joy to life. The commands of the Lord are clear, giving light to walk by. The fear of the Lord is right and good, enduring for ever. The decisions of the Lord are sure and altogether unquestionable. His word is more precious than gold, than a bank vault full of gold; His word is sweeter than strawberries in summer, Tastier than ripe red strawberries God’s word warns us when we’re on dangerous ground And directs us to hidden treasures. What man can spot his own mistakes? What woman can tell when she is fooling herself? Father, forgive my hidden faults. Lord, keep your servant from deliberate error. May my sins not rule …

Saturday Supplement

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As most of you know, I've been trying to stick to a Lenten discipline of "thinking on what is good" which isn't always easy when reading the news or picking up stuff on the internet. However, the a series of photographs and quotes on Steve McCurry's blog, put a definite smile on my face... especially the photo of the guy in Afghanistan carrying the 2 icecreams... Certainly a different image of that land than we usually get... including the devastating loss of 6 British soldiers this week. Thanks to Fred Vincent for posting it via facebook in the first place.
Carrying on a theme from last week's "supplement", Richard Dawkins' crusade against Christianity (lets face it, that could be a theme every week), Zoomtard wrote an excellent piece on the engagement between Dawkins and Rowan Williams last weekend.
This next story also emanates from Oxford and concerns an ill-conceived election campaign by one female student to become Union Librarian, whose …

I'm Gonna Do it All...

Oops... Missed International Women's Day yesterday... (Or Innernashnul Hen's Day as Prof. Billy McWilliams put it yesterday in his inimitable Ulster-Scots), so to make up for that I thought I would post a wee video by one of my favourite female artists, Karine Polwart... looking forward to a world where young women and men are not limited in their aspirations by man (or woman) made boundaries, in any sphere of life... particularly the church...




Cheers

Risky Trees

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A couple of weeks ago I read of a decision by Croydon council to cut down three 30 yearold Rowan trees outside some sheltered accommodation for the elderly, because they had received one complaint suggesting that the berries from the trees might cause a risk of slipping. I had a short rant in my last Just a Moment for Downtown Radio last Friday about what seems to be the current, (I believe undesirable) attempt to eliminate all possible risk from life… There is no such thing as a risk free existence. Even if we were to encase ourselves in bubble wrap and not move from the safety of our own home, we would be at risk because of not getting enough exercise… The Bible begins with God taking a risk with a tree in a garden… Why didn't he simply not plant that fateful tree in Eden? And why did he allow his son to come to earth and risk death on that mockery of a tree we call the cross?
In the light of that, I thought I would post another of my monologues... This one is actually an adaptati…