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Showing posts from October, 2012

Speaking Truth to Power

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Last night I had the privilege of being at an event in the Waterfront Studio which was part of the Belfast Festival, but unlike other events I usually go to in this and other festivals it wasn't primarily an artistic one. There was a short, superb set by the FĂ©ile Women's Choir at the beginning, but despite the fact that my wife sings with them, that wasn't my main reason for going, rather it was to hear Professor Phil Scraton, one of the members of the Hillsborough Independent Panel, speak about the work of that panel, the tragedy that unfolded on 15th April 1989 and its aftermath, under the title of "Hillsborough: Speaking Truth to Power."
This was an event not just for Liverpool fans or football fans, but for anyone interested in politics, power and the dignity of people in the face of injustice.  Whilst I was quite familiar with most of the material presented, to hear it all over the course of 90 minutes from a person intimately involved with the whole proce…

Learning from our Teacher

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Just finished a service at my church that was both our Education Sunday Service, where we pray for the schools in our area (including the pupils who are about to embark on the iniquitous and seemingly unending 11+ tests in the month ahead) and a baptism service...  It seemed like a good combination at the time, but as it turned out I had some difficult things to say, off the back of today's lectionary reading from Mark 10: 46-52 where Bartimaeus (whose name means Son of the Unclean one) encounters this Rabbi from Nazareth... Anyway, I won't go into the details of what I had to say except that it was largely around our reluctance to move on, to truly follow Jesus, and learn from him as our teacher or rabbi. But then I came home to find this piece by Kim Fabricius over on Connexions, where he concludes... Over 25 years ago I bought a book. I revisit it so often that the pages are falling out. It’s called "What Prevents Christian Adults from Learning." There is, the aut…

A Genetic Marker of God's Family

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Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ He is the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, He comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort others in trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. From 2 Corinthians 1:2-4  It's with those words that we begin our morning worship today, where we'll be exploring the prayer that Jesus taught us - a prayer where we are encouraged to call the almighty God "Our Father." In these couple of verses from Paul's first letter to the Corinthian church, we are reminded what sort of a father he is... not a stiff and distant Victorian father, but "the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort." This past couple of weeks I have, sadly been astounded by the lack of compassion exhibited by some of my brothers and sisters in Christ... and have also, with certain justification, been accused of lack of c…

The Games People Play... and Watch

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I've just finished reading the Hunger Games Trilogy of books, and, if you are interested you can read my views on them over at Goodreads, (here, here and here). There is a slight case of the law of diminishing returns with them... but I was so impressed with the first one that the second and third instalments had an extremely hard act to follow. Some reviewers have been a little condescending about the central premise of the first book, which has the children of conquered districts of a post-apocalyptic America (or Panem) taking part in what is effectively televised gladiatorial combat. This is not a novel idea... But it well textured and well told, especially given that it is essentially a piece of teen fiction, with appropriate parallels to contemporary TV "talent/reality" shows as well as to ancient Rome. It may be centred around the violence of the eponymous "Hunger Games" but nowhere does it buy into the myth of redemptive violence that is so all-pervadin…

Traces and Tears

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OK... You've probably worked out by now that I love Karine Polwart's new album "Traces". I'm with others who believe that she is one of Britain's finest songwriters, and in this album she has produced some of her very best work... It has taken a number of years gestation so I'm glad the wait was worth it. She weaves personal memories with political protest through powerful poetic lyrics delivered in her unashamedly Stirlingshire accent.
The album begins with evocations of childhood games on the coastal dunes of Aberdeenshire, in "Cover Your Eyes", a protest against Donald Trump's redevelopment of the Aberdeenshire dunes of the Menie Estate to produce his International Golf Links. This has current local echoes in the controversy around the proposed Runkerry Golf Course on the Causeway coast, as does the poignant last song, "Half a Mile" that I referred to yesterday. It reflects on the abduction and murder in 1982 of Susan Maxwell b…

Millstones and Lynchmob Mindsets

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The current news story concerning the abduction of April Jones from Machynlleth, in Wales is the nightmare of every right-thinking parent, and indeed upsetting to any right-thinking human being whether or not they have children. But the tsunami of emotions around this, and similar stories in the past, unsettles me almost as much as the event itself.
In response to the murder of 8 year old Sarah Payne back in July 2000 her mother pressed for the introduction of "Sarah's Law" (a variation on the controversial "Megan's Laws" in the USA) backed by a name and shame campaign by that late unlamented arbiter of social rectitude "The News of the World", which seems to have contributed to a lynchmob mindset, resulting in innocent people being injured and a paediatrician's home being attacked.
That same lynchmob mentality seems to be swinging into gear again. I've had friends on facebook calling for the man suspected of abducting and perhaps murder…

A Grain of Wheat (partial reblog)

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I posted this monologue based on John 12: 20-28 earlier in the year as part of our Holy Week reflections, but I'm posting it again as we head into Harvest Season - we'll be using it this morning as we meet for communion in the light of some difficult news I have to share with the congregation -  more on that in due course...


I’ve followed him from the day when John the Baptizer pointed him out to us… Following him has never been straightforward… But things recently have just been plain confusing… When we entered into Jerusalem it seemed as if everything was coming together… Some said it seemed as if the whole world was at his feet… though that was probably stretching it a bit… But then some Greek speaking Jews asked to meet with him and we realized that this was now bigger than we had ever imagined…
But he didn’t seem to see it that way… yes he seemed to think it was important… But he started to talk sowing seeds and reaping more… I suppose with it being the harvest season it …

The King of Birds

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My post in honour of national poetry day this year is actually a song from the album I mentioned yesterday, "Traces" by Karine Polwart. It is entitled "The King of Birds" and draws together allusions to the Celtic legend, the Battle of the Birds, the Occupy Movement camp at St. Paul's Cathedral in London, its architect Sir Christopher Wren, the Great fire of London that necessitated his great creation, the blitz, and the current economic crisis... all that encapsulated in a beautiful piece of poetry, set to a haunting melody... go buy...
At Ludgate Hill On the cracked and blackened cobbles of the town the ashes fall to rest as the tiny King of Birds he flutters down to build a citadel to light glory in the dark and from hell to breathe hope in every heart
At Ludgate Hill Through the siren screams the heavens burn again the city holds its breath as the tiny little king in slumber bed arises from the dust to light glory in the dark and through the frost to breath…

The Fixer

I'm a fixer. So this song has resonated with me since I first heard it... But I post it as a slight counterbalance to the piece of doggerel I have written below. It is a bit ironic in the light of my previous post where I referred to hope in the here and now rather than hope deferred, but thinking about the actual shape of that hope in the light of experiences in the last couple of weeks and having Karine Polwart's new album "Traces" on in the background (beautiful but poignant - my review will follow in due course but here's one to go on with) have produced this - 

When the fixer cannot fix it When the coper cannot cope When the purveyor of hope Has nothing left for himself
When every day brings more heartache When each night brings more despair When the world seems so unfair And darkness is triumphant
When the storm sends you spiralling When the earth quakes beneath your feet When enemies plot your defeat And others sigh at your demise
When you are way beyond…

Surprised by Hope

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The title of this post could have been used to describe the happenings on a Chicago golf course last night, but it actually refers to the book by former Bishop of Durham, N.T. (Tom) Wright. I apologise in advance to facebook friends and fellow Goodreads members as this is substantially the same review that I posted via Goodreads this morning... But I thought it was worth taking a slightly more leisurely look at some of the issues raised there. I first read this book about four years ago on the recommendation of Glenn Jordan. It took me about four months to get through it the first time, as it is not an easy read... I actually finished it whilst on exchange in Grand Rapids, so it was a pleasant accident that our exchange partners, Geoff and Pam Hayes were with us yesterday evening for our "Good Book Group" who had chosen this book to read way back in March. So, whilst Europe and America were slugging it out in Medinah, a group of Irish and Americans (including some golf addi…