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Showing posts from November, 2011

Mediation and St Andrew

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Whatever you think about today's one-day strike of public sector employees in the UK, you'll probably agree that a useful person in a dispute is a good mediator - who brings people together, gets to know the issues and those involved well enough to help them find common ground, listen to one another and  negotiate. 


Today is St Andrew's Day. The apostle Andrew, one of the first disciples Jesus chose, is remembered for bringing people together. Specifically, the gospels record that Andrew

told his brother Peter about Jesus (John 1: 35 - 42)brought a boy with a few loaves and fishes to Jesus(John 6: 1 - 15)told Jesus about foreigners wanting to meet Jesus (John 12: 20 - 26)Andrew didn't do anything extraordinary, just what all Christians are called to do. He passed on to others what he had seen, heard and experienced of Jesus. He brought people to Jesus and he told Jesus about people who wanted to meet him. In the end, tradition has it that it cost Andrew his life, crucifi…

Barking Dogs on Eve of St Andrew's Day

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This handsome creature is Argiope, a spider who spins silver webs starting with a diagonal cruciform shape, against which it aligns its legs.


It is sometimes known as the St Andrew's Cross spider.


Tomorrow is St Andrew's Day - more of that tomorrow.


There are some odd superstitions associated with the eve of St Andrew's Day, mostly connected with finding a mate.




I don't believe any of them, but it's fun to speculate how these traditions started.

ARE YOU A SINGLE WOMAN? Do you want to marry?Then today is the time to listen out for barking dogs and note where they are. Why? Because your future husband will come from that direction - so they say.NOT HEARING ANY BARKING DOGS? Never mind. Ask St Andrew's help. Sleep naked tonight and your future husband will visit your dreams - so they say.TOO COLD TO SLEEP NAKED IN NOVEMBER? Then wrap up warm and sit up to midnight. At midnight look for a sign that you will have a husband - this might be difficult to identify.YOU HAVEN&…

A Time to Remember

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I don't usually post sermons, but if you are recently bereaved what follows may be of help.


Here is (more or less) the short address I gave yesterday, Advent Sunday afternoon, at a "service of thanksgiving and remembrance for loved ones". It immediately followed a time of quiet prayer.


The Bible reading was Psalm 130






Whether our bereavement is recent or longer ago, learning to live with the death of someone we love is hard and often very lonely. In this ‘time to remember’ I invite you to do 3 things: 
look backlook uplook forward.
Look back to remember. Memory is such a precious gift. For some, the person you love, but see no longer, has left you with wonderful memories to cherish. You are grateful for who they were, the love they gave you. Some may also have painful, hurtful memories. But each person we remember today left their mark on our lives. So we honor them, by acknowledging honestly what they were and still are to us. The memories may bring smiles or tears, make us …

Advent Waiting

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I love this Advent meditation by Christine Sine, encouraging waiting for the coming of Christ. The music is Christ Child Lullaby played by Jeff Johnson. On this 1st Sunday of Advent that's all I want to post.

Nothing Impossible: Elizabeth's Story

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Do you know Elizabeth's story? This post was first published on 14 November 2011 on the Big Bible Project as the 2nd of my monthly series 'Blogging Women of the Gospels. Here is what I wrote:
Watch outWatch out for Elizabeth’s story on the Twitter Nativity, starting soon. You can follow ‘Natwivity’ on Twitter or be a fan on Facebook. If Elizabeth’s voice seems absent from this year’s ‘Natwivity’, what’s stopping you tweeting for her? Elizabeth’s story sometimes gets forgotten in telling of Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus. But without Elizabeth’s encouragement and insight, who knows what might have happened to her young relative Mary? Elizabeth’s pregnancy was as unexpected and seemingly impossible as Mary’s. Disgrace and DisappointmentElizabeth was a good woman, from an elite family. She was married to a priest – Zechariah – for too many years not to have produced the expected children. Zechariah and Elizabeth were a faithful but childless couple. In the 1st century people assumed in…

Forbidden Word: Nice

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I loved Mrs P when I was 9-10 years old. She was one of the most engaging and creative teachers I had at school. Things she said stayed with me.


Mrs P  forbade the reading (in and out of school) of a well-known children's author Enid Blyton. She gave 2 reasons: her pupils were far too intelligent to waste time with such simplistic drivel; Enid Blyton only ever used one adjective and this was 'nice'. 


'Nice' was a word Mrs P. would not allow her pupils to use. She considered this lazy because, as she told us, her pupils were capable of finding adjectives that more precisely and creatively said what we meant. I can only imagine how she might have responded to the American phrase, 'have a nice day' - she would have challenged this this with some edgy questions.


We couldn't say 'nice' at school. At the same time there was a clearly understood code of conduct that we "gels" were expected to "be nice". Not that the forbidden word '…

Why I've stopped sitting on fence about Anglican Covenant

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I have followed arguments for and against the proposed Anglican Covenant.


The more I read and heard the more confused I got. I'm the sort of person who likes to see all sides of a question before I make up my mind. Other people can see this as indecisive or negative. When someone suggests a good idea I will think about what's bad about it and vice versa. This leads to uncomfortable fence sitting.


Today I've jumped off a fence and come down against the Anglican Covenant. In some ways I am sad about this as I have great admiration for the Archbishop of Canterbury and it was his proposal.


What is it that has decided me? It's the speech given by Perran Gay to the Truro Diocesan Synod which is helpfully quoted in full on Lesley's Blog today. Have a look. It doesn't take long to read (unlike the Anglican Covenant itself.)


The Revd Canon Perran Gay presented a well-argued case against the covenant. It's got me off the fence, so somewhat late in the campaign I've j…

Music for Cecilia

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What better than Handel's Ode to St Cecilia for today's commemoration of Cecilia, a Christian martyr who died at Rome about 230 A.D. Handel's music is beautiful. The manner of Cecilia's death was not.
The reason she became the patron saint of music and musicians is based on a romantic legend that she continued to praise God after her incomplete beheading. There are some truly ghastly descriptions of this but the Wikipedia article about Cecilia glosses over some of the more horrendous fantasies about her death. Ignore those and enjoy the music.

Friday Five

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I've read some excellent blog posts this week and I want to share five with you: 

Best autumn picture on Penelope Episcopal's Wordless Wednesday post on her 'You Cannot Have Too Large a Party' blog.. Only 4 words in the post with a stunning picture illustrating 'fall' (well she is in the USA).Best sermon idea for Christmas season by David Keen on his 'Opinionated Vicar' blog.Most moving post 'Where Stories are found' by Anita Matthias on her 'Dreaming Beneath the Spires' blog.Most heart-warming story in Retailer Gets Christmas on David Cloake's 'The Vernacular Vicar' blog.Best preparation for the weekend, including advice to "expect miracles at parties" in Vacare Deo by Digitalnun on her 'iBenedictines' blog.
All of these have lightened up my week. Thank you.


Image: Compound of 5 tetrahedra from Wikipedia by Robert Webb of Great Stellar Software

Sick people, shoemakers and swans

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What have sick children, sick adults, shoemakers and swans got in common? Hugh of Avalon, Bishop of Lincoln is seen by some as patron saint of all these. Images of him often include his pet swan who was said to be grief-stricken by his death. 


I don't really go for the idea of 'patron saints'. It's never occurred to me to invoke St Hugh's aid for swans in trouble, not even for the strangulated swan of Buckinghamshire's emblems. (Sorry, it's really a royal swan with a royal chain round its neck.) But then I'm a Protestant. All the same I think Hugh is worth commemorating today, even though he died in 1200. Hugh is buried in Lincoln Cathedral, England. His funeral was attended by King John of England (who helped carry his coffin) and the King of Scotland as well as archbishops and bishops. He had earned huge respect.


During his time as Bishop he spearheaded many reforms and was not afraid to stand up against the most powerful in the land, including the King…

St Margaret of Scotland

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Last month I enjoyed revisiting the oldest building still surviving in Edinburgh. This is a 12th Century chapel within Edinburgh castle dedicated to St Margaret and built by her son King David 1 of Scotland.


Today is her commemorative day as she died on 16 November 1093.



Margaret was only 47 years old when she died of ill-health, a few days after her husband and one of her sons died (fighting the English - King Malcolm did a lot of that.)


In her lifetime and since she acquired a reputation for holy living, faithfulness to the Roman Catholic church, religious reform and charitable works. She is said to have had a civilising influence on her husband and the Scottish royal court.











Turgot, Bishop of St Andrews was commissioned by Margaret's daughter to write an account of Margaret's life. You can read it on-line in a beautifully illustrated English translation with 19th century editorial footnotes here. (The original was in Latin.) I also enjoyed reading a later historical essay by Dav…

We Will Remember Them

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The last 4 minutes of the 1968 film 'Oh What a Lovely War' brings home in a particularly poignant way the tragic loss of life in World War 1.  




We will remember them. We will remember them. And may our remembering be such as makes for peace.


Will You Virtually Outlive Yourself?

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It's the classic desert island castaway story from the days before modern communications make it harder to be cut off anywhere. The castaway writes a message, seals it in a bottle and throws it out to sea. The hope is that one day the ocean currents will take it where it will be washed up on some distant shore. Someone will read it, understand and send a rescue boat.


Even if rescue comes too late, at least someone will know the castaway was there. It's an act of faith that someone somewhere will take an interest. Rather like burying a time capsule under a church floor, as has been done recently in a church where I serve. Is it buried for ever? Or will it one day be found by future restorers, stone masons or archaeologists? If it's found, what will the finder make of the contents? Will they understand the language or will English usage have changed out of all recognition?


It was a really interesting post a month ago by Vicky Beeching about 'How do we handle death online?&…

All Saints Day at St Paul's or anywhere

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If you were stuck in St Paul's Cathedral, London, today (All Saints Day) and could choose a saint to be with you there, who would you choose? There are some I wouldn't want, like St Simon Stylites who sat for years on top of a pole saying nothing. I’d prefer St John the Baptist who might find locusts and wild honey to eat. On the other hand what he had to say could be too uncomfortable. 


In St Paul's Cathedral, St Paul would be the obvious (but not comfortable) choice. I like the way Paul used the word 'saints' to mean something very different from unusually special people who end up with a halo in a stained glass window. Whenever St Paul wrote to a church he wrote "to the saints...", all the Christians in that place. His letter to the Romans begins, "To all God's beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints...". It's a calling most of we Christians don't live up to at all well. We "called-to-be-saints" are saints-in-the-mak…