Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Rogation Day (Tuesday)

Over the 7 years I have been here, this tree has been progressively falling over, and this last winter I did consider having it pulled out since the root ball is so close to the surface on the side of the prevailing wind that, jumping up and down on it, the whole tree moves. However, the mass of Spring blossom shows me that it's still perfectly healthy, and so I'm going to leave it alone.

Monday, 28 April 2008

Rogation Day (Monday)

There are times when the beauty of the Creation hits you between the eyes. I've been sitting at my desk compiling the hymn lists for the Sunday services through 'til June. I got up to make a mug of coffee and looked out of the kitchen window. I had to go and get my camera, as the colours just took my breath away ...

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Rogare evening

That was better, 15 adults and 3 children at the Rogation Evensong, and prayers outside in the sunshine (and spots of rain), followed by a Sunday Tea in the Village Hall - sandwiches, rolls, cake tea/coffee. Scrummy!

Rogation Sunday

Time was, when Rogation Sunday meant long country walks and the beating of a healthy young shaver at various points. I mean, look at this image of an urban Rogation, with the congregation standing on the railway lines and the impudent tyke shimmying up a rope. Wouldn't be able to do this now. Health and Safety regulations and fast express trains have taken over.

There's also a general air of apathy about it. Attendances at this morning's services was very reduced - maybe everyone has gone on holiday. No Rogation Walk either this year (we did one last year, and I don't like repeating such events too quickly or else it becomes expected and "tradition"). The Intercessions at the two Eucharist services were said indoors, mainly because of mobility problems in both congregations, but we turned and faced the four points of the compass as we prayed God's blessing on agriculture, fishing, coal and oil production, earth resources, and manufacturing. This afternoon, if the showers hold off, we'll get outside the church door for our "rogare".

Now, I've just got time to put together a Prawn Cocktail for lunch ...

Friday, 25 April 2008

Persuasive Delegation

In a comment on the previous post it was suggested that an Italian Persuasive Delegation be sent to my churchwardenless parish. My immediate thought was to post a link to a video of Monty Python's "Spanish Inquisition" sketch, but then I found this, which I haven't heard in years. Much more appropriate.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Almost there

Another Annual Meeting tonight, and then one more tomorrow evening, and that's it for this year! I've not matched my record of 11.5 minutes set last year for both the Annual Meeting of parishioners and the Annual Parochial Church Meeting, but last night was close.

In small rural parishes such as these where so many of the few people wear several hats, and no-one from the communities attend the meetings, we can zip through the formalities with the minimum of fuss. And since it's just members of the PCC who are there, we never have any business to refer to the PCC for discussion. The Minutes of last year's AGM are now received by the PCC at the normal meeting following and agreed as accurate then, so 12 months later we simply have to adopt them rather than read them all through again and ask the stupid question, "Are they an accurate record?" - as if anyone can remember 12 months on!

I just wish I could get someone to stand as churchwarden at one of our parishes. It's been difficult without one for a year as the Diocese machinery cannot cope with such a vacancy. The AGM for that particular parish is tommorrow. Perhaps God will work a small miracle for us ....

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Who is this man?

A certain fellow Blogger living in a lengthy island near New York has pointed out the similarity between the voice of the present Pope and Von Smallhausen in "Allo! Allo!"

Judge for yourselves.

Monday, 21 April 2008

A Fistful of Lardons

Two Mexican bandits have been on the run in the desert for weeks. At death’s door they see a tree in the distance. As they get nearer they see that it's draped with rasher upon rasher of bacon - smoked bacon, crispy bacon, life giving nearly raw bacon, all sorts of bacon.

“Hey! Pepe!” says the first Mexican, "ees a bacon tree! We’re saved!”

So Pepe goes on ahead and runs up to the tree, As he gets within five feet of the tree he's gunned down in a hail of bullets from a group of soldiers hidden there. His friend drops down on the ground and calls across to the dying Pepe, "Pepe! Pepe! Que pasa, hombre?"

With his last breath Pepe calls out, "Ugh! Run, mi amigo, run! Ees not a bacon tree ,ees a ham bush!”

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Caring for your mouse

This is (supposedly !) an actual alert to IBM Field Engineers that went out to all IBM Branch Offices.

Mouse Balls Available as FRU (Field Replacement Unit)

Mouse Balls are now available as FRU. Therefore, if a mouse fails to operate or should it perform erratically, it may need a ball replacement. Because of the delicate nature of this procedure, replacement of mouse balls should only be attempted by properly trained personnel.

Before proceeding, determine the type of mouse balls by examining the underside of the mouse.

Domestic balls will be harder and larger than foreign balls.

Ball removal procedures differ depending on the manufacturer of the mouse. Foreign balls can be replaced using the pop-off method. Domestic balls are replaced using the twist off method.

Mouse Balls are usually not static sensitive. However, excessive handling can result in sudden discharge.

Upon completion of ball replacement, the mouse may be used immediately.

It is recommended that each replacer have a pair of spare balls for maintaining optimum customer satisfaction, and that any customer missing his balls should suspect local personnel of removing these necessary items.

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Don't blame me ...

... blame Hong Kong Floozy for this one (and the Sick Leave one as well!)

A young Chinese couple gets married. She's a virgin. Truth be told, he is a virgin too, but she doesn't know that. On their wedding night, she cowers naked under the sheets as her husband undresses in the darkness.

He climbs into bed next to her and tries to be reassuring. "My darring", he whispers, "I know dis your firss time and you berry frighten. I pomise you, I give you anyting you want, I do anyting - juss anyting you want. You juss ask... so... whatchu want?" he says, trying to sound experienced and worldly, which he hopes will impress her.

A thoughtful silence follows and he waits patiently (and eagerly) for her request. She eventually shyly whispers back, "I want to try someting I have heard about from other girls... Numbaa 69."

More thoughtful silence, this time from him. Eventually, in a puzzled tone he asks her... "You want...

... Garlic Chicken with steam vegable?"

Friday, 18 April 2008

Chinese Sick Leave

In the absence of Mad Priest over this weekend, I suppose someone has to keep putting up the bad jokes, so here's one that was sent to me this evening:


Hung Chow calls into work and says, 'Hey, I no come work today, I really sick. Got headache, stomach ache and legs hurt, I no come work.'

The boss says, 'You know something, Hung Chow, I really need you today. When I feel like this, I go to my wife and tell her to give me sex. That makes everything better and I go to work. You try that.'

Two hours later Hung Chow calls again. 'I do what you say and I feel great. I be at work soon......... You got nice house.'

Annual exhaustion

Well, after tonight, that will be 7 Annual Meetings down and 5 more to go. I haven't yet broken last year's record of 11.5 minutes for the Annual Meeting of Parishioners AND the Annual Parochial Church Meeting, but that occasion was rather exceptional. At least I've tried to cut down on the report reading this year, with three reports printed out and just being distributed. It's very different out here in the rural wilds where the only people who attend are the PCC anyway. That certainly cuts down discussion as everything has already been debated and decided upon in the normal regular PCC meeetings.

Onward .... folders in hand ....

Thursday, 17 April 2008

One or the other

If you're a dog-person, then you won't appreciate this, but if you're a cat-person, as I am, then you'll know that this is exactly how it is ....

Saturday, 12 April 2008

He sends forth his lightnings

A fine day, until late afternoon when a large thunderstorm and accompanying hail moved in from the west.

On with the motley

The best-known wearers of motley were jesters of harlequins and the patchwork costume became their standard style of stage dress. The first recorded use of 'on with the motley' is in Pagliacci, an opera by Ruggiero Leoncavallo, 1892. The text was translated into English in 1893 by F. E. Weatherly:

Thou art not a man, thou’rt but a jester!
On with the motley, and the paint, and the powder!
The people pay thee, and want their laugh, you know!
If Harlequin thy Columbine has stolen, laugh Punchinello!
The world will cry, "Bravo!"

Nowadays the phrase is used to mean "Let's continue", and so we do. One of the villages is holding a Coffee Morning, and so I shall traipse along to that, and then return home to start putting together my annual Tax Return.

Friday was a good day however. Two friends came down from Stoke-on-Trent and took me out to lunch at a nearby hostelry. Very nice to be on the receiving end for once.

Sunday I am celebrating but not preaching. Very occasionally I double-up with one of our Readers, and she is preaching for me at both morning Communions. So, no sermon to prepare this week, which has been a bonus.

I've also had a go at booking some holiday time in the diary. It's fine putting lines through the weeks, but I still have to find cover for the Sunday services, and that is not at all easy. Still, there's time to sort that out.

Wonderful April showers pelted us with hail through the afternoon, and I followed a rainbow all the way back from the Evening Office. That, and 3 episodes from the 2nd series of "Battlestar Galactica" as the evening's entertainment, and I retire quite relaxed.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

The morning after

Having slept on it, I think what bugs me most about last night is that the person who raised the question whether or not this was trying to get them to agree to the homosexual agenda "by the back door" has so little belief in my integrity that they think I would try and sneak it past them in this way.

But then, the issue is not about my personal feelings - it's far greater than that. As I said to someone over our informal breakfast after this morning's mid-week Eucharist, if the Church of England does go down the path of rejecting difference and signs up for a Covenant that demands conformity in belief and practice, then I shall have to carefully consider if I can stay within it. I've sat on the fence over this issue for over 20 years, and it's starting to get uncomfortable.

Quite an appropriate day for such thoughts - the Lesser festival of William Law, the author of "A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life" and non-Juror.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Unity in Diversity

I took details of the Inclusive Church's campaign "Gift of Communion" to our Joint Benefice Council meeting this evening and asked if the parishes would like to support it. This is a document that states that all who agree with it are of the opinion that the Anglican expression of faith is best found in diversity rather than a single expression of belief and practice, with the idea that the document will be presented to the Bishops at the Lambeth Conference later this year, showing that many churches feel that the Communion is best expressed in loving acceptance of and working with those with whom we disagree. It is a statement that schism is not the way forward for the Communion, and nor is it being true to our historical nature.

I should have given more background, for the question was immediately asked, "What is this group, Inclusive Church?" A swift look at the group's web pages clearly states that it was set up following the Jeffrey John debacle, and that part of its aim is the full inclusion of all people in the life and ministry of the Anglican church irrespective of their sexual orientation. This is set out very clearly in their Declaration of Belief:

We affirm that the Church's mission, in obedience to Holy Scripture, is to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ in every generation.

We acknowledge that this is Good News for people regardless of their sex, race or sexual orientation.

We believe that, in order to strengthen the Gospel's proclamation of justice to the world, and for the greater glory of God, the Church's own common life must be justly ordered.

To that end, we call on our Church to live out the promise of the Gospel; to celebrate the diverse gifts of all members of the body of Christ; and in the ordering of our common life to open the ministries of deacon, priest and bishop to those so called to serve by God, regardless of their sex, race or sexual orientation

The comment was made, and quite rightly so, that any agreement to this campaign should not be seen as assent to the inclusion of gays and lesbians in the ministry. I agreed that each PCC should discuss the issue rather than the Benefice Council making the decision for them.

The background to Inclusive Church's foundation is clearly going to antagonise some people, and make them very unwilling to agree to the Communion document. It will be seen as trying to get agreement to the homosexual lobby "via the back door". However, I don't read this campaign in those terms. The "Gift of Communion" statement is very clear in that it relates solely to unity in diversity as being the best way forward, without being biased one way or the other in the debate. Unfortunately, I don't think it will be seen that way.

I believe that the truth is the truth whoever speaks it. If I believe that the Anglican Communion is a body comprised of difference, that whoever says it, or whatever organisation speaks it, it remains the case.

I wonder if I'm being naive?

Monday, 7 April 2008

More ice and snow

Found another picture of Ben lawers on the web which shows how it was the day I climbed it back in the days when I was more fit and less fat! Slippery underfoot, but the view from the top was worth it.

But then the roads round here were somewhat icy last night, and this morning this was the evidence less than half a mile down the narrow road from the village. No idea yet as to the owner of the car, nor the reason for the accident, though the tyre tracks across the grass seem to indicate that they didn't manage the turn and just went straight off the edge. And the ditches round here are rather deep!

Picnic weather

Coming to the last few pages of Bill Bryson’s “Notes from a Small Island” last night, it was fun to read of his experience of sitting out in a snowstorm just as members of this scattered Benefice had done yesterday lunchtime at the Daffodil Day.
With two friends he was walking up to the 2,960 ft summit of Bow Fell, the sixth highest Lakeland peak, and the weather had turned increasingly wintry.

“We made it to the top without incident. I counted thirty-three people there ahead of us, huddled among the fog-whitened boulders with sandwiches, flasks and madly fluttering maps, and tried to imagine how I would explain this to a foreign onlooker – the idea of three dozen English people having a picnic on a mountain top in an ice storm – and realized there was no way you could explain it. We trudged over to a rock, where a couple kindly moved their rucksacks and shrank their picnic space to make room for us. We sat and delved among our brown bags in the piercing wind, cracking open hard-boiled eggs with numbed fingers, sipping warm pop, eating floppy cheese-and-pickle sandwiches, and staring into an impenetrable murk that we had spent three hours climbing through to get here, and I thought, I seriously thought: God, I love this country.”

I have had one similar experience when on January 2nd, in the mid-1970’s, some friends and I clambered our way up to the top of the 3982.89 ft Ben Lawers in the Scottish southern Highlands. It was snowing and blowing a gale, and after traversing a knife-edge saddleback with heart-stopping drops to either side, we got to the summit of the Munro and sheltered in the lee of the cairn.

It was there that I discovered that one item of food you do not take to the top of a mountain in winter is a Mars bar. The caramel had gone solid in the cold, and was virtually inedible. On the other had, the coconut in the Bounty bars we had were still soft and moist, and they were a very welcome boost of energy.

No problems like that yesterday. The two slices of quiche that I had – tomato and bacon, and mushroom – were delicious, and there was something primitive and comforting about sitting in shelter as the snow swirled around us, the cold flakes settling on our knees.

Now it’s Monday morning, and outside the study window the white stuff is coming down again. I think I’d better see if I have any Bounty bars in the cupboard!

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Daffodil Sunday

Every year one of our churchwardens opens her large garden at daffodil time to raise funds for the local church. In the last few years the Sunday chosen has either been too early for the flowers, or too late. This year, it was just right ..... except it was snowing! Add to this the fact that her Jacob sheep started lambing this morning, and it was a fairly hectic day. Still, we sat out in the snow and enjoyed hot soup and quiche, cakes and tea or coffee.

We're all slightly mad here in Suffolk .....

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Busy doing nothing ...

One of the random books listed in "My Library" in the sidebar is "The Tao of Pooh". The final chapter is about the value of doing nothing, which is a wonderful antidote to the Protestant Work Ethic we labour under, especially in this month of Parochial Church Council Annual Meetings (of which there are 11 in this Benefice!).

"In the forty-eighth chapter of the Tao Te Ching, Lao-tse wrote, "To attain knowledge, add things every day. To attain wisdom, remove things every day." Chuang-tse described the principle in his own humourous way:

"I am learning," Yen Hui said.
"How?" the Master asked.
"I forgot the rules of Righteousness and the levels of Benevolence," he replied.
"Good, but could be better," the Master said.

A few days later, Yen Hui remarked, "I am making progress."
"How?" the Master asked.
"I forgot the Rituals and the Music," he answered.
"Better, but not perfect," the Master said.

Some time later, Yen Hui told the Master, "Now I sit down and forget everything."
The Master looked up, startled. "What do you mean, you forget everything?" he asked.
"I forget my body and senses, and leave all appearance and information behind," answered Yen Hui. "I am in the middle of Nothing, I join the Source of All Things."
The Master bowed. "You have transcended the limitations of time and knowledge. I am far behind you. You have found the Way!"

As the book says, "An Empty sort of mind is valuable for finding things because it can see what's in front of it. An Overstuffed mind is unable to. While the Clear mind listens to a bird singing, the Stuffed-Full-of-Knowledge-and-Cleverness mind wonders what kind of bird is singing. The more Stuffed Up it is, the less it can hear through its own ears and see through its own eyes."

The sun is shining - I've written the Sunday sermon, sorted out the music, and there's a clear page in the Diary (until this evening). It's a beautiful Spring day - time to wander out into the garden and listen to the birdsong ......