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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.”

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Npp7ZFOgpyM[/youtube]

Like this really helps the debate

Screengrab from Guardian website, 05 March 2012

Tonight I had to really think. As a priest, is it okay to swear on my own blog? Do I have a rule against swearing? Have I ever sworn before on this blog?

I have no idea, to be honest, to any of those questions but I find myself sorely tempted to start swearing this evening after reading a big pile of garbage being served up like cold school dinner over on the Guardian website today.

Apparently, they say, church schools shun the poorest pupils. No doubt, there will be more weeping and gnashing of teeth by secularists (or perhaps just triumphal cries) while the middle classes tut knowingly. But before you absorb too much of this headline, let’s drill down a bit into the article.

First off, there is the fact that the journalists seem not to know the difference between a ‘faith school’ (set-up to educate kids and propagate that particular faith) and a ‘church school’. Clearly, these journalists hadn’t read (or had forgotten) Read more

Hands-free worship

A book jacket image for Hands-free worship

If you have been following this blog, you will know that (for what seems like an eternity), I’ve been trying to finish a Masters degree in Pastoral Theology by writing a dissertation about the implications of using digital projection in worship. Because of ill-health at college and then the demands of ministry (particularly covering an Interregnum) it just never got done.

Well, at long last, it got done.

The dissertation is handed in, finito, complete and over.

Furthermore, various people have expressed interest along the way in the subject matter and so it has long been in my mind to re-hash the content into a book form and self-publish with Print-on-Demand.

At the present time, I am in negotiations with the university to make sure that I am free to do this without any problems and so I can’t promise at this stage if it will see the light of day soon (if at all), but I hope to tell you more in due course including (if you’re interested) where you can get hold of a copy.

I couldn’t resist showing you the mocked-up jacket though! I know it’s vanity publishing in one sense but its done with a purpose since the material has intrigued a good few friends in discussion and I’d like to share my research and ideas with others if they are interested to read the work. There’s far too much poor use of projection in church to sit on this and not share it, I think.

What’s it about? Well, my basic premise is that using digital projection in church worship changes more than just the practical dynamics. Subtly, I think it shifts aspects of pastoral care, theology (both in terms of how we speak of God and think about human beings) and also how we do mission. I am a supporter of projection but I advocate judicious and wise use and sometimes being willing to switch it off and not use projection when its not appropriate to do so. Ultimately, what I try to promote is a ‘harder way’ that asks leaders and computer operators to think a bit more carefully in pursuit of use of the technology that seeks God’s glory and the encouragement of the faith community.

Hurrah for the Archbishops’ Council

From the Church of England website

Regular readers will know how I’ve sometimes argued that the national Church could be doing much more to enable mission in this country by doing things that realistically can only be done nationally (examples here and here).

Last year, I went along to the Weddings Project launch (at that time serving in a church that conducts very few weddings) and was hugely encouraged to see such an excellent project come to fruition. Nationally, the church had engaged with engaged couples, married couples, churches and vicars, listened carefully and produced good resources that would enable clergy to do their jobs much, much better and create a far greater sense of connection to the couples coming to us to marry.

Now that I’m in a situation with significantly more weddings to handle, I am very glad of the work they did and I continue to use it gladly.

I thought at the time that they really ought to do the same with baptisms and funerals, so imagine my delight recently when I read they are going to do just that.

“The Archbishops’ Council has invested in two projects which will enhance the Church of England’s national ministry at the moments of birth and death. Like the successful Weddings Project, another idea of the Archbishops’ Council, the new team will commission independent research to find out what people in England really want from a church service after a baby is born or when someone they love dies. The twin projects will run concurrently until 2016.”

It seems to me that, particularly with baptisms, there is often a huge disconnect between what the families think they are doing when they come to have a baptism/christening and what the church thinks is going on. At the moment, we are frequently missing each other. In spite of all my best efforts to bridge the gap, for many families it simply isn’t working or (in perhaps more often) it isn’t working for me. I can’t wait to see what they can come up with to try and help.

However, I think the Church ought to be prepared for some radical news which could even impact on some of the very essence of what the Church of England considers itself to be and what Canon Law says. Of the three (marriages, funerals and baptisms), baptism is the one that has huge import theologically and where that theology is so disconnected to the world around us something has surely got to give?

2016 can’t come soon enough. If you need any guinea pigs, project team, I’m here and ready to help!!!

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.

Why use five words when you can use five hundred?

Bishop of London portrait

There’s some interesting liturgical development afoot for the Roman Catholic church. The publication of the new Roman Missal takes me back about ten years to my days at Church House Publishing and the publication of Common Worship. No doubt, around the country right now, there are Catholic priests and congregations either trying to weigh up whether to buy new books, manage their own booklets or see how long they can get away with doing nothing; just as Anglican Vicars did ten years ago.

Anyway, I’ve been struck by sheer verbosity this weekend as I’ve followed this news.

The thing that really got my attention was the Bishop of London’s pastoral letter to his clergy in which he takes 2,500 words to say the following:

  • Dear Clergy, when you were ordained and again when you were licensed to your current post, you promised to use ‘only the forms of service which are authorised or allowed by Canon’;
  • The Roman Missal is not an authorised text in the Church of England (neither the old one or the new one);
  • So, my more Catholic friends, don’t be thinking this new book gives you a license to play games with the liturgy. Read more

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

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

Are leading and worshipping compatible?

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

In the summer, I came across a post from The Vernacular Vicar which essentially described a difficulty in being a Priest as he (Fr David Cloake) saw it. Namely that its really hard to both worship and lead others in worship at the same time.

At the time, there was a mixture of reaction in me as I read. There was part of me that feels and expects that it should be possible to both worship and lead others in worship at the same time. Indeed, one might argue, that to truly lead others in worship one must also be worshipping. On the other hand, I knew precisely what he was talking about. The elephant in the room for many leaders of worship (whether ordained or otherwise) is that when you are planning and then trying to lead your people through the journey of the worship, conscious of newcomers and guests, let alone children, keeping one eye on the clock, and another on whether dear ol’ Flo has pocketed her wafer rather than consuming it again, it’s very hard to retain a sense in your heart of worship and the presence of God. Read more