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Showing posts from July, 2013

Pontificating, Praying and Practical Action in Pursuit of Peace

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And another thing...
There was a distinct dearth of posts on this site last week... First because I had a backlog of boxes to empty following our house-move and I had a lot to wrap up before knocking off for a bit of a break... But just because I wasn't posting stuff, doesn't mean there wasn't a lot going on in the rice pudding that passes for my brain... So now that I am "off" and before I head away for a few days I thought I would catch up with a few of the issues that had been dominating the media over the past 10 days or so... With the notable exception of the Royal baby... My approach to that is best summed up in Andrea Mann's piece in the Huffington Post "BREAKING NEWS: Woman Gives Birth To Baby".
I began yesterday by offering some of my thoughts prompted by Justin Welby's approach to the whole Wonga-world episode. But one of the things I didn't say was that what impressed me most about his approach was that it wasn't just about …

Money and Mouths

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For a few months there has been a story bubbling away concerning Papisse Cisse the Senegalese striker who was refusing to wear his club Newcastle's strip with the name of its sponsor Wonga emblazoned on it because of his Muslim beliefs, which strictly forbid the charging of interest. Not all Muslims take such a strict approach, and indeed Cisse's Muslim team-mates Cheick Tiote, Moussa Sissoko, Massaido Haidara and Hatem Ben Arfa didn't seem to have a problem with wearing the shirt (although early reports did suggest that Tiote had some reservations). Cisse received a lot of unsavoury abuse for his stand... although many suggested that it was more to do with engineering a lucrative transfer away from Tyneside than any religious scruples. This seemed even more the case when photographs appeared of Cisse gambling in a casino (also against strict Islamic law), and in the wake of the exposure of such seeming hypocrisy, it was predictable that he came to an agreement with Newca…

Saturday Supplement

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On this Saturday when the Orange Order has proposed another parade along the contentious Crumlin Road in North Belfast... a proposal which, in my mind, as recklessly provocative and rightly restricted by the Parades Commission, most of the internet snippets that have caught my eye this week relate to last week's Twelfth Parade and it's aftermath...
First was a piece by Alan in Belfast, posted on the Slugger O'Toole site last month, but which I only saw this week, critiquing the BBC coverage of the Twelfth Parades in the wake of the corporation's assessment that its coverage in  2012 had complied with its own impartiality guidelines... I have to say that I agree with Alan's analysis, not suggesting that the BBC's coverage should be reduced, but should be more imaginative and informative. However, this year's coverage was just more of the same, suggesting that the Beeb has a lot to learn... But nothing like as much to learn as the Orange Order. Again, Alan i…

A Psalm for the Sunday after the 12th of July

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This week has seen Belfast explode in one of its all-too frequent episodes of self-destructive violence. The reasons are many and complicated... Bad political and policing decisions, poor leadership, ill-chosen rabble-rousing words...  it isn't sufficient to point the finger at those actually involved in the violence, predominantly working class or unemployed young people from both sides... they, in many ways were just the kindling waiting for the spark... 
It is too easy to blame others... anyone else... and not take a good long hard look at ourselves and ask what difference we have tried to make for the better. While we may not be guilty of sins of commission, there may be much that we have omitted to do...
There are times when I wonder whether I am wise continuing to live in this province and condemning my children to grow up in the toxic political atmosphere of this place. But part of my sense of call was about coming back here in order to try to make a difference... 
Today I sta…

A Psalm for Sunday

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Today is my last day as pastor to the congregation of Dundonald Methodist... In our communion service this morning we will be reflecting on a couple of stories about vineyards, one in the Old Testament and another told by Jesus, asking "Who Owns the Vineyard?"  This responsive psalm (which I used the last time we looked at Jesus' story reminds us who owns and cares for the vineyard... it may be referring to Israel after the the exile, but it could equally apply to the church in the wake of Christendom, and many local congregations who think that their best days are behind them:
Restore us, O God Almighty; make your face shine upon us, so that we may be saved. You transplanted a vine from Egypt; You cleared the ground for it and planted it. It took root and filled the land; The mountains were covered with its shade. But now you have broken down the walls of the vineyard so that all who pass by pick its grapes. Return to us, O God Almighty! Look down from heaven and see our…

Saturday Supplement

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Another quick linkdump without much comment, due to packing and unpacking boxes being a priority this week.
The big issue in Ireland this week has been Warren Gatland not only not giving Brian O'Driscoll the captaincy for the final showdown with the Aussies this morning, but not actually picking him for the matchday squad... Now the thing is BoD did have a bit of a shocker last week, with a couple of wayward passes, but he is still the most creative player out there, and arguably the only leader they have left... I really don't understand why you wouldn't even have him on the bench as a game-changer... Instead Gatland has gone for blunt force... With Manu Tuilagi on the bench incase Jamie Roberts crock's himself again... No plan B, despite the fact that this approach has never served Wales well against Australia in the past... But never mind, I said I wasn't going to comment much, and, that said, let me encourage you to read BoD's response to being dropped, il…

Final Curtain

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And now, the end is nearAnd so I face the final curtain... I won't go any further, because, I'm not a big Sinatra fan at the best of times, and I particularly loathe, hate and detest that song, which is the perfect anthem to contemporary individualism... But having got that rant out of my system, this is just a short placeholder-post, given I am moving today and I'm not too sure whether the phone/internet will be up and running in my new gaff... So I may be offline for another day or two... I've been too preoccupied with boxes this week to post anything... The image of "final curtain" is an appropriate one however given my theatre background and the fact that when I started in Dundonald 9 years ago, I began by warning them that I was a "hypocrite", the Greek word for mask-wearer or actor... But I promised that I wouldn't be "playing a part" as their minister... that what they saw would be the real me, and for the most part I've kep…

Jesus' Apprentices

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Yesterday was a day for confession in church... First I confessed that I had actually managed to turn up without the full text for my sermon, through uploading the wrong file to my Kindle, then I confessed that watching The Apprentice is one of my guilty secrets... It is, as someone with a better turn of phrase than me, merely Big Brother with an MBA but I do enjoy watching Lord Sugar choose which of what is always an unlikely bunch of misfits, will partner with him in a new business venture… It has to be said that I wouldn’t partner with many of them in running a sweetshop… but maybe Lord Sugar sees something in them that I don’t…
But reflecting on the gospel reading yesterday morning the same could also be said of those the Lord Jesus chose to partner with him in the proclamation of the Gospel as his apostles... Those who were to carry on the family "business" after he was gone. Thankfully he didn’t and doesn’t choose his apprentices using the same criteria or methods t…