Saturday Supplement

It has been good to be back on the virtual horse again this week- an appropriate metaphor for a Virtual Methodist given our founder's horse-riding prowess - I suppose had he lived today he may well have read his kindle on horseback, or had a special bracket made so that he could read his iPad while behind the wheel of his car, leading to his arrest for dangerous driving... But I digress... This current seam of productivity may not last with my upcoming move and frustrations in attempting to arrange for a transition of internet provision... But, in order to keep you, my recaptured audience, entertained and informed for today, while I try to pack more boxes (and watch the Lions match), here are a few of the miscellaneous bits and bobs that have caught my eye this week, grouped in my own idiosyncratic fashion.

PEWS etc
On yesterday's Methoblog site I came across this piece "In Praise of Pews". I suppose I was interested, first because I am moving from a modern (1960s) church building with pews, to a brand new one without, but also because it appeals to my contrarian approach to things, and a belief I have that any debate about church furniture/music/liturgy/vestments is an exercise in missing the point... It also brought to mind another piece that I read whilst on sabbatical, with a photo of abandoned pews and a caption "Pews: Stop filling them." Its title was 'I'm done "Growing the Church"' and it expressed perfectly my frustration with the programmatic approach to "church growth" that is all about quantity and rarely about real quality of relationships between people and with God... if it were then perhaps the concerns expressed in Lisa Robinson's piece in praise of "pew-sitting" would be addressed... 

A lot of fb/twitter/blog feeds this week has been taken up by, first the apology of Exodus International Director Alan Chambers for the hurt that Exodus affiliated "ex-gay" or "reparative therapy" ministries caused for people in the LGBT community, and the subsequent announcement that the organisation itself is shutting down. There has been much comment on this (eg. Kathy Vestal on Tony Campolo's Red Letter Christians site and on Huffington Post, with many skeptical of motivations and asking whether an apology is enough, but the shutting down of this organisation is not even close to the end of the debate on issues of faith and sexuality, particularly in more conservative corners of the church such as here in Ireland. 

I doubt that Westboro Baptist will change its approach in the wake of Exodus International folding - indeed Exodus was probably too liberal for them. Some time ago Equality House was established across the road from WBC as a deliberate counter-measure to their "gospel of hate", but this week I enjoyed reading about the initiative of five-year-old Jayden Sink, who held her first "Pink Lemonade for Peace" event on the lawn of Equality House last weekend. WBC apparently responded with obscenities... Just the way Jesus would!(?)
A friend also sent me a link for an encounter between Russell Brand and representatives of WBC on his American cable talkshow... Now I am not a bit Brand fan, but in 90% of what takes place on this video I'm with him (although not necessarily the way he says it)... Like the representatives of WBC I am not a fan of "Hallmark" Christianity but while there is a modicum of truth in what they are saying regarding the importance of warning people you love if you think that they are doing things that are self-destructive, their judgemental demeanour, their narrow definition of sin (they didn't respond to Brand's justified concerns regarding the environment) and their understanding of God's judgement and hell is not a "brand" of Christianity that I, or indeed many people would buy. Russell Brand, by contrast is, on the whole, gracious in his handling of these guys who clearly hate him and all that he represents to them... 
But that, again, is another example of why Alyssa Rosenberg suggests that we should stop being surprised by how smart Brand is. I, and many others noted it a number of months ago with his powerful but nuanced response to the death of Margaret Thatcher, and his gentle evisceration of the shallow and rude media hacks on Morning Joe was truly deserved... but they probably didn't understand what he was saying, not because of his accent, but because he is clearly speaking from a depth that is way beyond them. I wonder what he would make of the coven that gathers together on ITV's "Loose Women" or the right-wing hacks on FoxNews?  
If only contemporary Christian commentators were as charismatic, compelling, perceptive and gracious.

I'm not a great fan of grafitti art, but was gutted yesterday when it came to light that the DSD, in a feat of uber-irony, given that this year has seen the release of the Terri Hooley/Undertones film "Good Vibrations", and on the very day that the second city and home of the Undertones was celebrating being "Music City", had unilaterally decided to delete the lyrics of the Undertones' greatest hit that had been painted onto the Sydenham flyover at the bottom of the Newtownards Road. As Duke Special said on Twitter:
"The one slogan that makes you smile as you are entering east Belfast and they paint over it."
They're not in a great hurry to paint over the murals of balaclava clad thugs armed with semi-automatics further up the road... I suppose that's because music fans aren't likely to come out and threaten the workmen...
Maybe this is another job for my friend Chuck Hoffman and his merry band of helpers from Genesis Arts Studio... 

Meanwhile, come on the Lions...



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