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Sad to see at any time, let alone Christmas

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5RnVfXFd5MU[/youtube]

In previous years, I have wished everyone a Merry Christmas with a bit of art (usually graffiti) and perhaps a poem. This year, I’m afraid my Christmas mood has been very definitely spoilt by news of a (near) riot at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem between different denominations who both have rights within the space.

This church, traditionally held to be built upon the site of the place where Jesus was born, ought to be one of the most holiest sites in the world. To some it is. To most this Christmas, it’s another testimony of Christians seeming inability to love one another. Lord, have mercy.

Revving down?

A still image from the first episode of Rev

One of the great pleasures of televisual entertainment in the last twelve months was the BBC sitcom ‘Rev’. Regular readers will know how much I enjoyed the last series.

As of last night, we are two episodes into the much anticipated (at least in this house) series two.

I find myself trying to comment on the episodes so far and feeling a bit like Solomon stuck between his two warring women.

On the one hand, the series has continued to do its excellent homework and provide a contemporary portrait of life as a clergyman in the 21st century with considerable accuracy and no small degree of humour.

On the other hand, I find myself a bit cheesed off at opportunities missed and a bit of laziness in the laughs. Read more

Synod, wedding fees and the other side of the story

A photo of a pretty church building and a pretty wedding!

In my previous post on this blog, I had a go at Synod for rejecting the proposals for wedding fees since it allows some churches, some not too far from me, to continue taking advantage of couples with exorbitant prices.

Since then, I’ve not had any public comments but I’ve had a few private emails from clergy colleagues who have been wise to give me another side to the story. They have made me think further and I want to share some of that thinking here.

As with all things, there are always (and at least) two ways to look at a situation and I guess much of people’s engagement with this particular debate depends on where you stand. I currently work in a fairly non-descript, sixties church building that is relatively easy to heat, isn’t falling down, but also does few weddings. One of the reasons we do very few is because a very pretty medieval church nearby absorbs them all (with some hefty fees to match).

However, if you are working in a very old church, or one that is very large in size (either of which could make it difficult to heat) you might read this debate differently Read more

Synod, wedding fees and allowing some churches to rake it in

A photo of a pretty church building and a pretty wedding!

In other news from General Synod, I hear they have decided to reject the call to raise the fees for weddings and funerals.

A good thing too, you might think. However, it’s not quite as simple as it seems.

So what are the positives? Well, the proposed move was to make some pretty sharp hikes in the basic costs of a funeral (£102 to £150) and weddings (£284 to £425) as part of a larger body of work sorting out the way in which the church charges for occasional offices.

However, in anyone’s book, those price rises are pretty steep and, naturally, many clergy, church congregations and Synod members were concerned about what that might mean for mission and ministry at local level. It may not be much of the overall bill for a wedding or a funeral, but it’s still a hefty increase and it doesn’t really look good.

And herein lies the problem. Read more

Ding, dong, the witch is dead.

Wicked Witch is dead, Image from Flickr
Image from Flickr

On Monday morning, I awoke to the news that Osama Bin Laden had been killed. Interesting that I found out via Facebook than through any traditional media outlet but that’s not my main concern today. I also find it interesting in myself that I’m not sure I really believe it until they produce a photograph of the corpse. Maybe I am a doubting Thomas after all. But again, that’s not my main concern today.

I find myself slightly peturbed, although not surprised, by the actions of those in the USA who decided to gather and celebrate as the news began to circulate, chanting “USA” etc as if this was some high-profile (american) football or basketball game that once again proves how wonderful it is to be an American.

While President Obama was very careful in his words as he made the announcement, some of our other political leaders have not been. Read more

Wedding reflections: what role mission in a Royal event?

Kate Middleton and Prince William are married by the Archbishop of Canterbury at Westminster Abbey, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday April 29 2011. Photo credit: Devlin/PA Wire
PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday April 29 2011. Photo credit: Devlin/PA Wire

With a six year old daughter who was just so excited about the concept of an ordinary girl being made into a real-life Princess, it was inevitable that I would be watching the Royal Wedding on Friday.

Quite apart from daddy duties, I was interested both as a British subject and as a minister of the church. As a priest and minister, I was intrigued to see what form and shape the service would take and what the 24 million, mostly non-churchgoing, Brits would make of it whilst watching on television.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience but if I have may have a moan or two, can I have a moan at the Church of England and a mission opportunity missed?

Now, with any couple that I marry, I do give them the choice of which words we are going to use. For the uninitiated, there are several options – The Book of Common Prayer from 1662, the 1928 liturgy which eventually saw the light of day in the sixties as Series One and then the contemporary Common Worship (which most of my couples choose).

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A fuss over plastic

A photo of a clerical collar on the desk.

Amidst all the preparations for Easter (we tend to have a foreshortened Holy Week that doesn’t do much until Maundy Thursday), I’ve been reading The Faith of Generation Y. I’m sure I’ll try to write more about it in due course when I’ve finished it. However, I read a little bit today that caught my eye and got me thinking about this little piece of white plastic I wear around my neck.

“The elder end of Generation X, now in positions of church leadership, were likely to have been brought up by wartime parents. This meant a tight parenting structure with a need to step away from the family in order to create their own social spaces. When they became parents they were determined to ensure that there was not the same distance between them and their children. … Young people do not need to rebel against their parents because generally they can achieve what they want without having to do so. (Mayo et al, The Faith of Generation Y, 2010: 103-4)”

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The hunt for the smoking gun

A photo of a smoking gun

In January, I was interested to read an article on the BBC News website about whether geniuses are born not made. Essentially the article is a promotional piece for a new book called The Genius in all of us by David Shenk. I found that interesting in itself since I thought the BBC is not usually one for advertising but perhaps I’m being naive.

Anyway, the basic gist of the article and of Shenk’s book seems to be that the genes we are born with are not ‘robot actors’ always doing the same thing in exactly the same way, but rather that heredity, our genes, and who they make us to be interact with their surroundings. There is a far more interesting and developmental process in play.

“They now know that genes interact with their surroundings, getting turned on and off all the time. In effect, the same genes have different effects depending on who they are talking to” (quote from the BBC article).

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