Showing posts from January, 2011

Challenging Magna Carta?

Only 3 of the 13th century Magna Carta's 63 clauses are still valid in English law.

One of these 3 is the first, which guarantees the freedom of the English Church.

The original charter was written in medieval Latin. An English translation of this clause (from the British Library) reads as follows:
"FIRST, THAT WE HAVE GRANTED TO GOD, and by this present charter have confirmed for us and our heirs in perpetuity, that the English Church shall be free, and shall have its rights undiminished, and its liberties unimpaired. That we wish this so to be observed, appears from the fact that of our own free will, before the outbreak of the present dispute between us and our barons, we granted and confirmed by charter the freedom of the Church's elections - a right reckoned to be of the greatest necessity and importance to it - and caused this to be confirmed by Pope Innocent III. This freedom we shall observe ourselves, and desire to be observed in good faith by our heirs in perpetuit…

Telling Untold Stories

Today is Holocaust Memorial Day.

In the Archbishop of Canterbury's Statement for Holocaust Memorial Day 2011 he speaks of the need to remember Holocaust stories and the many stories of people who suffered similar tragedies since. Archbishop Rowan says:
"If the stories are not told over and again, we lose the memory of those who suffered and we risk losing something that protects our humanity."The theme promoted this year by the Holocaust Memorial Trust is 'untold stories'. The focus is to remember victims and survivors of the Nazi holocaust and subsequent genocides such as in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. The idea is to encourage people to learn from history and consider what action they can take that could have a positive affect on their community.

Huge statistics of mass murder and degradation of people are hard to comprehend. Individual stories, told through art, poetry, story and memorial objects, highlight the significance of those statistics. In a blog…

Haggis and Conversion

This evening I’m looking forward to a meal out with friends, knowing the chief item on the menu will be Haggis. Tonight is Burns Night, which is celebrated even outside Scotland by some of us, in honour of the poet Robert Burns.

If you want to learn 10 things you never knew about haggis click here.

The Church of England festival today is ‘The Conversion of Paul’ when we remember his dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus and what resulted from that. In the spirit of the worst preaching techniques of making clumsy connections between what’s making news and the Good News of the Gospel here are 3 contrived connections between Haggis/Burns Night and Conversion/St Paul:
Burns called the haggis the chief of puddings. St Paul called himself the chief of sinners.Some people get drunk on whisky on Burns Night. St Paul advised “be filled with the Spirit”.Burns Night helps unite people with Scottish identity. St Paul called for “unity of mind and purpose” for those who are members of one body …

Is Happiness a Choice?

"I am H-A-P-P-Y! 
I am H-A-P-P-Y!
I know I am, I'm sure I am,
I'm H-A-P-P-Y!"

These were the words of a dreadful ditty I was taught in Sunday School. I didn't think they were dreadful then. I remember enjoying singing it, perhaps because my childhood was generally happy. There were further verses which gave reasons to be happy, such as "because I know God loves me so". I realize now that at least one of the other children singing with me was unhappy most of the time. How insensitive and damaging to require children to claim to feel an emotion that not all could share. How much extra false guilt was piled up in young minds because of the message that you ought to be happy because...?

I blame the BBC for bringing this song back into my mind today. They publicised the launch of a charity which is using the 'latest research' to tell people how to be happier. BBC Breakfast has lauched a 3-part challenge complete with downloadable workbook. If you want to …

Fair Judgement?

Mr and Mrs Bull run a private hotel in Cornwall and because of their Christian values about marriage have long operated a policy of letting their double rooms to (heterosexual) married couples only. This seems to have meant declining to accept many bookings. They did however generally allow 2 people of the same gender to share twin-bedded rooms. There's a certain inconsistency here. Is it really only possible or likely to have sex in a double bed? And did their policy encourage heterosexual (non-married) couples to lie about their status?

It was inevitable that sooner or later under the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 they would face a legal challenge. Theirs was a commercial enterprise in the hospitality industry. If you run a business you are bound by legislation that effects how that operation is run. Where we would be if most people chose to ignore laws made by a democratically elected Parliament? It has now been established that the owners of the Chymorvah P…

Alarming or helpful?

Do you notice signs? This one made me stop to giggle because of its ambiguity. Why is this roof alarmed? It's very high and very big so what could possibly have alarmed it? Low-flying aircraft? Migrating geese? Woodworm in the rafters? Bats in the belfry? Most likely the latter. The roof in question is a rural medieval church roof. On the other hand the notice probably means the roof has been fitted with an alarm system to deter lead and copper thieves - a major problem round our way. The image is just part of the notice on the board outside the church. The other part tells which security company to phone if you need to climb on the roof. Lead and copper thieves need not apply. Gutter clearers and roof restorers welcome.
Signs that warn of alarmed rooves or badgers on the road are useful.

So are signs that point the way you might want to go.
But who would want to go here?

Some signposts are just confusing, giving no clear direction at all, like this one below. D…

Shooting people


I've never understood why the right to bear arms, includinghand guns designed for shooting people, is considered relevant in a democratic society like the USA. But what do I know? I'm a UK citizen, where not even police routinely carry guns. And that's a freedom I want to preserve.

Since last Saturday I've thought about the tragic shooting in Arizona of Gabrielle Gifford and others. One was a 9 year old girl whose face features in a book about children born on 11 September 2001 called 'Faces of Hope'. She died. Her family must be wondering, 'what hope?'

Commander Kelly, brother-in-law of Ms Gifford (the congresswoman shot in the head) made this comment from his viewpoint in the International Space Station,
"As I look out of the window, I see a very beautiful planet that seems very inviting and peaceful. Unfortunately it is not." It's too soon to know what led the perpetrator of this hideous crime to do what he did. Some people have linked …

Washing and new beginnings

What do you do when you're dirty and sweaty? You wash. 

What do you do when you're tired and stressed? You relax in a bath or pool.

What do you do when you need a kick start in the morning? You wake yourself up with a shower.

Wonderful gifts for those of us with the privilege of easy access to fresh, clean water. After a bath, shower or swim, one can feel like a new person, ready to face whatever comes next. Tomorrow is the Sunday when Christians remember the baptism of Christ in the river Jordan by his cousin John. It marked the beginning of his public ministry. Jesus didn't need to undergo John's baptism of repentance, but he wanted to be alongside those who did, fully immersed in being human.

Without water we couldn't live, so it's not surprising that most of the world's religions use water in a variety of symbolic ways. This is certainly true in the Jewish religion in which Jesus was brought up. One of the blogs I follow is that of Velveteen Rabbi, written …

Punching Holes in the Darkness

Have you heard the story about the Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson? As a young boy he used to watch the lamplighter lighting the village street lights below his house. He would say to his mother,
"here comes the man who punches holes in the darkness".This is one of the best pictures of epiphany that I know. Epiphanies are when we experience a hole punched in darkness so we see something or someone in a new light. What we didn't or couldn't see before is suddenly revealed to us. We all have those moments from time to time. Sometimes such moments are life-changing.

For Christians, today 6 January is the Feast of the Epiphany, a celebration of God punching a hole in the darkness. The story of the wise men from the east who were led by a star to find and worship a baby in Bethlehem is well-known. They represent all of us who were not there when Jesus was born but are drawn to him by whatever light we are given. For those who find him life can never be the same again…

More haste, less speed?

3 former 'flying bishops' in the Church of England were received (as lay members) into the Roman Catholic Church on 1 January 2011. They will be ordained deacons on 13 January and priests on 15 January. 2 weeks as lay members before ordination and 2 days as deacon before priesting! 

Is this a record? I served 12 months as a deacon before priestly ordination. Many of my sister clergy who felt called to be priests served as deacons for 6 years (1988 to 1994) before being allowed to be ordained priest. By then the male colleagues with whom they had trained had been priests for 5 years. I can't help making the comparison, though I have to acknowledge that the 3 men to be ordained deacon (again) and priest (again) in Westminster Cathedral have considerable experience. I feel sad that Andrew Burnham, John Broadhurst and Keith Newton felt they must leave the Church of England. I hope they will find joy in their new calling and be a blessing to others. But I do wonder if this is a …

The Archers and having a 3rd nipple

Are you an Archers fan? If you are, you belong to a special species of listeners to BBC Radio who can't get by without a daily fix of this everyday story of countryfolk. If you suffer from this addiction, don't worry. According to The Times columnist David Aaronavitch (BBC radio 4 interview today) liking the Archers is no worse than a mild congenital abnormality, like
"having a third nipple".The Archers has now passed its 60th birthday and is the longest running BBC radio soap. I grew up with the Archers and for years later was a loyal listener. I'm pleased it's still going, even if I've stopped listening regularly. I've fond memories of the programme and if I catch it by chance on the car radio I enjoy a catch up. I had intended to tune in to the 60th birthday edition to discover what the event was that would shake Ambridge to its core, but I forgot. I heard a rumour that Nigel fell off a roof, but why or with what consequence I don't know and fra…