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Bringing the cloud of witnesses close (cloud christianity)

A word cloud of famous Christian leaders and saints

Tomorrow is All Saints Day, a day to remember and honour all those who put their faith in Christ and have gone before us into glory.

As a result, it seems the perfect time to develop some ideas that I first put forward at the recent Christian New Media Conference. The more I think about the Communion of the Saints, the more I think that the Internet is opening up new dimensions theologically for that Communion. Check this out from Hebrews… Read more

Congratulations Nick

A photo of Nick Knisely

I was very pleased to hear of an announcement in the Twittersphere earlier this week when Nick Knisely was elected on 2 June to be the 13th bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island. Assuming all goes well in the process, he’ll be purple-ized later this year.

I wanted to cover this news here because Nick has been someone who I’ve followed at a semi-distance for some time. I first met him through his work for the Episcopal Church in the USA on communications and he was part of a ‘futures’ group that I helped to convene in Dublin a good few years ago now while I was working for Church House Publishing.

I remember sitting at breakfast with him and another American priest, Andy Thayer, while they discussing dimension theory and having not the foggiest clue what they were talking about! I decided to keep quiet and focus on my hotel English breakfast!

Nick is a physics professor, in his spare time, and a blogger. Read more

The butterfly effect

A kind friend decides to give me a Christmas present: a fifteen pound voucher for iTunes.
I purchase Ed Sheeran‘s +
I visit Israel in January, my first real chance to listen to the whole album in one go.
I listen to it again and again.
In fact I spend the entire trip listening to it.
The song that stays with me most of all is ‘small bump’.
My wife goes away for a few days and I wake up each morning surrounded by my kids.
After day one, the alarm on my phone becomes ‘small bump’.
I remember the child we lost in the summer of 2007.
My kids start to hear some of the lyrics and understand some of it.
‘You can wrap your fingers round my thumb’ (as my youngest son does just that)
I remember families in this parish whose pain is as real now as ours was then.
My kids jump on me again and I am thankful for their laughter.
I reflect on the fragility of human life
and that the eternal Word would take the risk and become a helpless infant.
I remember a snippet from Ecclesiastes ‘they have never seen the sun or known anything, yet they find rest’.

“You were just a small bump unborn for four months then torn from life.
Maybe you were needed up there but we’re still unaware as why.”


More thoughts on leading and worship

A cartoon of Homer Simpson's brain with little room for anything but sleep and donuts.

Doug Chaplin has taken up my challenge in discussing further this idea of whether one can lead and worship at the same time. He writes:

this “conundrum” seems to me to suggest an understanding of worship as a human experience of God. I wonder, say, how such an understanding might relate to the idea of priesthood as majoring on the kind of rush-hour chaos of animal slaughter which characterised the Passover in the New Testament period. I wonder also whether the way either David sets the question up depends on an assumption that worship is defined by what the worshipper experiences, rather than what the worshipper offers.

Doug has a really good point. On one level, Read more

Is blogging a bad idea for clergy?

A picture of a Bible with a computer mouse attached

David Keen is someone who has re-engaged with blogging in both a prolific and thought provoking way. Well worth following. So many of his posts recently have been bookmarked by me in order to come back to later; it’s almost getting to the point of not being able to cope!

I was struck recently by one of his posts on a subject that is close to my own heart – blogging clergy and subsequent difficulties in them finding work.

Although I think it is unfair to talk about specific people, I have come across (at least online) most of the people he mentions who have been ordained but now find themselves in secular employment.

It would be easy to make a rough and ready calculation and decide that blogging as a priest equals future difficulty in finding work. As I’ve recently discovered in firstly aiding my ‘title’ church through an interregnum and then going into a new incumbent level post myself, one of the first things that the Parish Reps did in both places was ‘google’ the applicants.

It’s not as simple as that, however. For most of the cases that David mentions, other things were going on as well. I can imagine that, for some, blogging just made globally public what was already going on locally. In other cases, other perceived difficulties alongside the blogging were probably more valid concerns. Read more

Advice for Ordinands

Fr Simon Rundell posted some interesting advice for ordinands which I found both interesting and resonant with my own experience, so I thought I’d share it here too.

Fr Simon clearly comes from somewhere higher up the candle from me in some of his perspectives (I guess the Fr gives it away), but it’s still good stuff for those lower down. Food for thought.

I liked the ‘don’t try to say everything in one sermon’ tip which as I look ahead now to a role as Priest-in-Charge with no fixed end date feels a lot more do-able than it does when you’re a Curate.

I was also reassured to hear him say ‘if you don’t feel “one day they’ll work out I’m a fraud” that is the day to stop’. I often feel like that and was glad to find I’m not the only one! Curiously something that most clergy don’t admit to each other… even though we probably all feel it.

Great advice not least the last line: ‘Love God, even when ministry feels the loneliest place in the world’.

Blown away

A photo of a girl blowing bubbles

It’s been exactly a month since I last posted and the main reason for that has been our move of house, the inevitable break in broadband connection and the equally inevitable unpacking, cupboard-building, hole-drilling reality of shifting a family of five to a new residence.

We’re settling in.

One of the things that has interested me in the last month arose out of our final Sunday with Pip & Jims. The last service was, for us, a lovely occasion in which we said goodbye, people were very generous towards us in their kindness and love. At the end of the day, I saw down with my phone for five minutes, checked Facebook and simply updated my status as ‘blown away’.

We had been ‘blown away’ by our day, by the kindness and love of the people we were leaving behind, their kind gifts to us and just all the things we could give thanks for that have taken place over the last three years.

However, having spoken with a friend, ‘blown away’ has taken on new interpretations.

When this person read my Facebook status, they interpreted it as if I was saying that it was time to leave and the Holy Spirit was now gently blowing my family and I away to pastures new. We arrived in Walderslade knowing that God was with us in this move and this call, and now in the gentle but firm way that God moves amongst us, we were being blown on again once again to somewhere new.

So may the wind of the Spirit of God
blow firm in your heart
and upon your life,
may He raise you to new heights,
and open new vistas,
and may His breath always bring warmth to your soul.

You get by with a little help from your friends…

A painting of St Teresa of Avila

With apologies for recent silence, this post marks an attempt to get back into the blogosphere. In the month of February, I had some study leave which was both good and fruitful although it proved to be cut short because of domestic problems whereby my good lady wife fell quite seriously ill.

She is, thankfully, on a road to recovery although what has happened will mean we probably have to make some lifestyle changes for her long-term. However, in the midst of all, the love of God was very present to us both.

There were no warm fuzzy feelings or ‘mountain stream’ moments to be found, but just the love and care of the Christian community around us who have been brilliant in both caring for my good lady wife and also helping me as I spent a few weeks as a quasi-single parent (for whom I have a new found respect).

Anyway, this picture is not my wife (thankfully). It’s St Teresa of Avila who famously said something that has echoed long and loud for me in these last few weeks as we have relied on God’s people for help. In so doing, through the Body of Christ, we have experienced the love of Christ to us. Their hands and feet have been, to us, His hands and feet:

“Christ has no body now on earth but yours,
No hands but yours,
No feet but yours,
Yours are the eyes through which is to look out Christ’s compassion to the world;
Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good;
Yours are the hands with which he is to bless men now.”

Thamus and Theuth and the digital age

Statue of an Egyptian scribe, ca. 2500 BC

In the midst of my MA study leave, I am pondering this famous old parable and its implications for the digital age.

“Now the king of all Egypt at that time was Thamus… To him came Theuth to show his inventions, saying that they ought to be imparted to the other Egyptians… When it came to writing, Theuth declared: “… I have discovered a sure receipt for memory and for wisdom.” To this, Thamus replied, “O most expert Theuth, one man can give birth to the elements of an art, but only another can judge how they can benefit or harm those who will use them. And now, since you are the father of writing, your affection for it has made you describe its effects as the opposite of what they really are. Those who acquire it will cease to exercise their memory and become forgetful… What you have discovered is a receipt for recollection, not for memory. And as for wisdom, you provide your students with the appearance of wisdom, not with its reality: they will receive a quantity of information without being properly taught, and they will imagine that they have come to know much while for the most part they will know nothing… And because they are filled with the conceit of wisdom instead of real wisdom they will be a burden to society.”

Phaedrus and the Seventh and Eighth Letters