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I hate to say I told you so…

Cartoon courtesy of

The Church Times blog by his holiness, Dave Walker, carried a story last week that the Charities Commission has now invoked their powers to appoint an interim manager for St Stephen the Great (SSG), the charity that runs the former SPCK bookshops.

It’s been a long time since I blogged about the SPCK situation. In fact, this blog was mostly in the hiatus of a year or more, whilst the shops and SSG were falling into various states of disarray, Dave Walker was being threatened with legal action by the Brewers, bankruptcy (or not) in the USA for SSG and then the intervention of the Charities Commission in this country. It’s all been very sad to see the demise of this chain of shops.

You can find out more about the whole situation as it has unfolded and is unfolding on a special blog set up for that very task. Bishop Alan has also added his two-penneth yesterday.

Well, I hate to say that I told you so, but I did ask some very big questions back in October 2006 when all this first kicked off and SSG first acquired the chain that have proved to be oh so appropriate.

Catching up and moving forward

Illustrative image for moving forward and back

I can’t quite understand where the time goes. To not blog at all throughout April demands an apology should there be anyone out there who happens to be passing or, indeed, if anyone has me in their RSS feed of whatever kind and has wondered why the silence. I certainly know some of you have wondered because you’ve emailed me to say so.

Of course, April saw me pass through my first Easter as a clergyman and I was surprised after my first Christmas as to how busy I was. Christmas seemed, to me anyway, quite manageable. I was all set for a similar cushy number while the world assumes you’re madly busy. I was surprised. Easter was hectic.

I’ve had some time off in that mix as well, but there are no excuses and I’ve actually come to a resolution. One of the things I seem to struggle with in the whole blogging process is that when I sit down to write a post, it ends up being a mini-essay and I don’t have time regularly to write them. Therefore, each week, and most probably on Sundays, I’m going to aim to blog one of my usual ‘lengthy’ posts and then sporadically in between times, shorter, one-line even, or a few lines in the manner of an extended Facebook to cover all sorts of things that I want to mention but don’t get a chance to say more about.

As it so happens, the last few days have brought a variety of events in my own life and news stories in the wider world that have really caught my attention and I promise that in the coming days, they are going to get covered here but I’ve got to break it down into manageable chunks. In no particular order and covering a wide variety of interests, they are:

So there you go, a preview of forthcoming attractions. Watch this space and as I actually write these posts, I’ll link them back to here to prove I did do them after all!

Enjoying the uncertainty of change

Michael Nazir Ali

I was out of the house early last Saturday morning for a planning meeting and so only picked up my post about lunchtime. By that time, the news was already emerging on the Internet that the Rt Revd Michael Nazir-Ali, the Bishop of Rochester, my diocesan bishop was resigning his post. Like all the other clergy in this diocese, I then noticed that my small pile of post that morning included a letter from Bishop Michael announcing and explaining his decision.

Of course, there has been a lot of press coverage because Bishop Michael has not exactly been the shy, retiring type over the years. I think my favourite headline was from the always hilarious Mail on Sunday who originally led with ‘Church of England’s most outspoken and only black Bishop is to quit’. Firstly, last time I looked I don’t think you could class Bishop Michael as black and secondly, last time I looked the Archbishop of York is black. So wrong on two counts. Nothing like getting your facts right. Still, at least they altered the online version of the article later.

The really interesting thing for me is what happens next. Firstly, I’m interested in what’s next for the Bishop. He has said that he intends to work with the ‘Church under pressure’. I guess I’m interested to know what that means. Most commentators seem to be interpreting that as a reference to the persecuted church. I have to admit that, in my cynicism, my first reaction was to interpret ‘Church under pressure’ as referring to his association with GAFCON last year and the notion that we might see him re-emerge at the head of some GAFCON splinter group who feel ‘under pressure’ from the liberals or whatever.

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Church of England wants your help

Church of England website

I was pleased to see that the people that run the Church of England website are looking for feedback. A survey has been made available to enable users of the site to give their thoughts and opinions… presumably as a first stage of an overhaul of the current offering.

The current site, I would guess, is around five or six years old which is ancient in Internet terms. Before I am too critical, I guess I have to remember too how bad it was in the days before the current site was created and published. Certainly, this current site represented a big step forward for the Church of England and since that time, the Communications unit of the National Church Institutions have continued to move things forward through a series of initiatives and sub-websites for particular things and the ongoing tweaking that comes when you run a big website like that.

I guess sub-websites for particular projects, like the recent Advent campaign, will always be needed and will always exist but it’s indicative that some of the material on those sites weren’t incorporated into the main CofE site. I think a lot of it should have been incorporated but navigationally the main site really isn’t very good so you can see why it was kept apart.

Of course, I have to be a bit careful as to what I say because Read more

Blogger Bognor

Bognor conference

Yesterday, I returned from the four day once every three years Rochester Diocesan Conference in Bognor Regis. I am sure there are various people commenting in the blogosphere about the happenings of the last few days in that wet and windy seaside town. Certainly both Phil and Rob are worth a read and thanks Rob for the suitable photo of the stage that I’ve reproduced here (I forgot to take a camera and my phone isn’t up to snuff really). Given their initiative, I thought I would add some reflections of my own.

I can’t quite work out if my general depression at the conference was because of missing my wife and three kids or whether it was because of the conference. I think, truth be told, there were elements of both in there. Certainly, I find it harder and harder to leave my family behind for such things these days; a great deal has changed since I worked in London and travelled the country and the world for my work. It’s hard to do – especially when I know my third son child crawled for the first time while I was away.

I generally thought the speakers were of a good standard – certainly Mark Russell of the Church Army was outstanding as I expected him to be with John Bell, Paula Gooder and Chris Wright not far behind. I would agree to a certain extent with Rob’s comments about a narrowness of style but actually I think I can live with that. When I think of what the quality could have been like, given previous experience of Christian conferences, the fact they were all good seemed more important to me than how representative they were. Count your blessings and all that…

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You gotta laugh

Church of England newspaper screengrab

Late last term, I did a seminar for my fellow students at Ridley Hall on how to build a good church website. Not that I’m an all-seeing, all-knowing expert in such matters but I do know a bit at least… I would hope so after nearly a decade building websites professionally and having made more than a few mistakes myself in that time.

Preparing for that seminar was one of the most harrowing experiences of my life. I randomly selected ten church websites from those listed on the CofE website’s directory of church sites using Daily Prayer online. By the end of it, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. It was that bad. I do have a personal favourite which I currently think is the worst website in the Church of England but I won’t name and shame right now. Who knows – tomorrow I might find worse.

Speaking of finding worse, Dave Walker drew my attention this morning to the Church of England Newspaper website where some bright spark has decided to sign-up to the adbrite advertising system in order, presumably, to try and ‘monetize’ (as the web industry seems to describe it) their content. They have managed to do it in such a phenomenally stupid way that I can’t let it pass by without comment.

I can’t even begin to describe how insane this is. You might imagine when you saw a word underlined on the Church of England Newspaper website, it might at least link you to another page on their own website. Alternatively, it might provide a link to another site with RELEVANT information on it.

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Transforming Worship – the aftermath

York Central Hall

So the Transforming Worship paper from the Liturgical Commission was debated on Saturday and so much for my expectation that it would just roll through on the nod.

You can listen to the Liturgical Commission’s presentation and to the debate on the Church of England website, although much like the CofE’s clunky use of RTF files, it would have been more helpful to me if they’d uploaded MP3 files so that I could have stuck it on my iPod than the streamed ‘wax’ files that they have provided. Be grateful, be grateful.

The Transforming Worship paper included a major section that drew together all of the Commission’s recommendations and addressed everyone from Dioceses and Bishops through all sorts of stakeholders down to local parish level and other such groups as educators and trainers. All were pretty much asked to do different things whilst also setting out a sort of routemap for the Commission itself.

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Lex orandi, lex credendi and the Church of England

York Central Hall

General Synod has, of course, begun in York. Unfortunately I can’t be there although I did get an invitation having been part of a small group who helped the soon to be Revved up (and ex-colleague at Ridley) Tim Lomax put together the worship for Sunday evening. I hope all you Synod-ers enjoy my hopefully visually stimulating but worshipfully unobtrusive Powerpoint tomorrow night! 🙂

No doubt over the next few days there will be even more hand wringing and comment, political maneuvering and argument on the Anglican Covenant proposals than there have been in the last few weeks. The Covenant forms a major discussion topic for this Group of Sessions. I’m afraid I am lacking stamina at the moment to keep up the pace with this ongoing debate that seems to have everyone thoroughly exercised. So I am not going to talk about that.

What I am interested in is Read more

Update on guns and Manchester Cathedral

Two brief updates in case you missed them elsewhere.

*** Update ***

Thoughtful articles on the situation from:

  • Simon Barrow on his Faith in Society blog questions the Christendom mindset in the Dean & Chapter of Manchester Cathedral’s actions and notes the ‘myth of redemptive violence’ that is being institutionalised as entertainment.
  • Mark Clapham, a friend of Simon’s, writes for about whether the greater graphics and therefore reality of games on the PS3 and XBox are accentuating these issues.

*** Further update ***

Break out the heavy weapons, it’s the Dean & Chapter of Manchester Cathedral

Image of the Cathedral from the PS3 game

It’s a rare day when my faith and my interest in gaming coincide, particularly since most so-called ‘Christian’ games that have been produced are the worst kind of cringe-inducing rubbish. I’m not even going to link to them to give you an example, they’re that bad.

Anyway, on Friday, Ruth Gledhill broke the story about the PlayStation 3 game called ‘Resistance: Fall of Man‘ which includes a gunfight situated in Manchester Cathedral. If you read Ruth’s original article, you can also check out an incredibly poor quality video clip from YouTube of the offending sequence. Suffice to say that the Dean & Chapter of Manchester Cathedral have got wind of it and are not best pleased. Ruth has reproduced the text of their letter to Sony in another of her blog posts. Interestingly, the Manchester Cathedral website doesn’t even mention the whole thing (even on their news page which I find incredulous incredible but never mind, move along, move along).

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