Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Webbed feet

Now I know why the bird-bath on the patio is always half-full .... this pigeon clearly thinks he's a duck. He sat there for 15 minutes, chasing off the smaller birds that kept trying to get a drink of his bathwater!

The trouble with summer ....

... is that I get sand in my laptop ....

(No - it's not me in the photo .... Wish it was - he's got hair!)

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

That's about the size of it

This is the sort of thing that will be trundling along our narrow rural roads for the next couple of months as the harvest gets underway. They weren't built for this kind of traffic, and it makes travelling round here quite dangerous. The machine in front of this one, for which I couldn't get my camera running in time, was massive and tall. The study darkened as it went by.

And I've been immersed in my study for most of the day. The computer desk had finally reached the end of its usefulness as the sliding tray for the keyboard kept falling out onto my knees. The runners had given up and the ball-bearings had fallen out, so it was time for a change. The nearby village school was throwing out a small computer station and so I asked if I could have it. Made of sturdy metal it is ideal but it called for a re-arrangement of the whole corner. That is now done and it looks a lot less cluttered. And for the first time I can access my scanner properly and lift the lid all the way up, which is something I've never been able to do.

I have also changed my web browser. Internet Explorer 8 was getting slower and slower, pages taking 15 seconds or more to load, and crashing if too many tabs were opened. Searching the web I found numerous posts stating similar problems, and a couple of possible solutions. However, when I tried them they had no effect. So I downloaded the Opera browser, and it's superb. Fast - with more facilities, and easy to use. If anyone out there is thinking of changing I can recommend it.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Another Holy Trinity

Sorry, but I sniggered ....

The Old Testament reading for yesterday, Genesis 18: 1-10a, was the story of Abraham entertaining three travellers at his tent under the oaks of Mamre. Now I know that the tale begins with "The Lord appeared to Abraham ..." thereby implying that the visitors are either an incarnation of God or angelic messengers, hence the famous icon of the meeting painted by Rublev, and which is held to be an image of the Holy Trinity.

But the divine nature of the travellers is not repeated, and as you hear the story unfold it's very easy to forget that this is supposed to be a close encounter with the numinous, and treat it as a story about hospitality - which is precisely what the Revised Common Lectionary does by pairing it with the Gospel story of Mary and Martha welcoming Jesus to their home - Luke 10: 38-42.

So with this in mind, and the incarnate nature of the visitors in the mind, the closing words caused me to grin inanely.

They said to him, "Where is your wife Sarah?" And he said, "There, in the tent." Then one said, "I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son."

Excuse me?

Is this guy saying what he appears to be saying?

"Where's your wife, mate? Oh, that's her in the tent is it. Cor! She's a real looker. I'll come back later and giver her one if you don't object."

And Abraham says nothing - or at least Genesis tells us nothing further for the narrative then follows two of the travellers as they journey on to Sodom and an encounter with Lot.

And if these visitors are supposed to be the Holy Trinity, why has one disappeared?

Ah - maybe he's back in the tent ....

Buckles and Bows

Last week the Daily Telegraph carried this picture of Beryl Bainbridge's funeral. Black vestments! Lace!! Buckles on the priest's shoes!!!

I wonder what the reaction would be round here if I dressed like that for funerals?

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Grudge Match

Okay - it's now 1-all.

There I was, standing in the churchyard minding my own business, deciding where some cremation ashes were to be interred next week, when I was attacked by wasps! Even though I ran for cover in the Village Hall (my gym exercise coming in useful!) I was followed by a couple of persistant little swine, and I ended up being stung 5 times - the man with me twice, and his wife, safely in the Hall, once!

Maybe it's payback time for having got rid of that nest in the garden shed last week! Oh well, the pest man will deal with that one this afternoon. That'll teach 'em.


Sunday, 11 July 2010

Regarding the comment on the last post ...

The slippery slope

Dean Ray Koontz (born July 9, 1945) is an American author best known for his novels which could be described broadly as suspense thrillers. He also frequently incorporates elements of horror, science fiction, mystery, and satire. A number of his books have appeared on the New York Times Bestseller List, with ten hardcovers and fourteen paperbacks reaching the number one slot.

This quote of his I find to be sublime ....

Bunny slippers remind me of who I am. You can't get a swelled head if you wear bunny slippers. You can't lose your sense of perspective and start acting like a star or a rich lady if you keep on wearing bunny slippers. Besides, bunny slippers give me confidence because they're so jaunty. They make a statement; they say, 'Nothing the world does to me can ever get me so far down that I can't be silly and frivolous.' If I died and found myself in Hell, I could endure the place if I had bunny slippers.

Maybe this should be incorporated into the Standing Orders of our General Synod as a requirement for everyone who stands up to speak.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

The Buzz word

Yesterday morning, as there was dampness in the air, I saw one of the youngsters who wait for the School bus at the end of my drive move towards the shed that acts as a shelter for them and tentatively open the door. Taking a swift look inside he closed the door and went back to where he had been, sitting under a tree. I decided that I ought to check that the "shelter" was okay inside - I look at it every couple of months or so and sweep out dead insects, remove spiders and pull up the ivy tendrils that climbs across the panels. I opened the door and ducked as several wasps flew past my head. Hanging from the ceiling was the reason why he didn't go inside to get out of drizzle.

The local Council Pest Control man is arriving this afternoon!

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Monday, 5 July 2010

The proposed Anglican Covenant

A Paper by Jonathan Clatworthy, General Secretary of MCU (Modern Churchpeople's Union), about the proposed Covenant, and why it should be opposed by General Synod.

The Church of England’s General Synod will soon be asked to give away an important part of its freedom in the proposed new Anglican Covenant. We hope you will vote against it.

Each province in the Anglican Communion is being asked to sign the Covenant. By signing it, they will undertake not to embark on any new development which is opposed by another Anglican province anywhere in the world, unless granted prior permission from a new international body of just 15 people, the ‘Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion’.

Who wants it?

It was first proposed in the Windsor Report of 2004, after the consecration of an openly gay bishop in the USA and the approval of a same-sex blessing service in Canada. Many wanted the provinces to be threatened with expulsion from the Anglican Communion if they did not revoke these actions and undertake never to repeat them. However, what the North Americans did was in keeping with their provincial autonomy. It would have been blatantly unjust to create new legislation forbidding these actions and then apply it retrospectively.

With expulsion impossible, the Anglican Covenant is designed to achieve a similar purpose by other means. It offers a formal structure dividing the Anglican Communion into two. Provinces which sign the Covenant would thereby make new commitments to each other. Provinces which do not sign would be treated as ‘second track’. In 2006 the Archbishop of Canterbury suggested that the relationship between the two sets of provinces would be ‘not unlike that between the Church of England and the Methodist Church’, which seems to imply that those not signing would not be considered Anglicans at all! In May 2010 he proposed that they should neither be represented in ecumenical dialogues nor be full members of the relevant committee.

Many commentators have wondered why the Archbishop of Canterbury supports the Covenant. From the day his appointment to Canterbury was announced he was the target of intense personal hostility, focusing on his perceived support for gays and lesbians. Some have speculated that his Anglo-Catholic commitments make him more concerned for the unity of the Church than for ethical matters, some that few would have resisted the ferocity of the attacks, some that any archbishop would pay a high price to resist schism. Whatever may be the case, there is now a danger that those most aware of the Covenant’s shortcomings may vote in favour of it simply in order to express solidarity with him. However, he will retire one day; but the Covenant, once signed, will remain.

Is it all about gays and lesbians?

Not any more. It was the original presenting issue, most of the rhetoric about ‘disciplining’ the North American churches has focused on it, and most of the Covenant’s supporters are primarily concerned to demote to ‘second track’ status all provinces which refuse to condemn gay and lesbian sexuality. However the wording of the Covenant does not mention the issue. Instead it proposes giving new powers to the Standing Committee to judge any new development in one province whenever another province disapproves.

This makes it a major, wide-ranging change to the Anglican Communion. We cannot foresee what changes will be needed in the next ten years, let alone the long term future, but we can be sure that new issues will indeed arise and will require new responses. Since we do not know what they will be, would it really be wise to hand an effective power of veto to opponents in the case of every new development?

How would it affect the Church of England?

If the Church signs the Covenant, every new development will be open to objection from other provinces. The objecting province (which in some cases could just be a single archbishop) will appeal to the Standing Committee. Our proposed action will then be delayed until the Standing Committee gives its verdict. The Standing Committee will have considerable freedom of judgement, but the Covenant does lay down some criteria for it. Every proposal will have to be justified by appeal to the past. The criteria will be ‘the Scriptures, the common standards of faith, and the canon laws of our churches’, rather than the traditional Anglican balance of scripture, reason and tradition which allows due place for new developments. Local needs, like the wishes of the dioceses or the British context, will be subordinated to international Anglicanism. The Communion will become more centralised and clerical, with a great deal of power vested in the Standing Committee.

The criteria for formal objections are so vague as to encourage interference by one province in another’s affairs. In effect, objectors to a proposal need only claim that they cannot in all conscience stay in the same church with it. We have already seen this claim extensively used as a negotiating tactic by opponents of the North American churches, with little sign that it does more good than harm.

Would it affect women priests and bishops?

The Covenant would not have powers to turn the clock back, and it would be difficult for objectors to block an innovation in one province which has already happened in another; so it is unlikely to hinder the introduction of women bishops. However this is only the case because some provinces already have them before the Covenant has been established. If it had been in place in 1944, the wording of the Covenant would have made it almost impossible for the Standing Committee to approve the ordination of the first woman, and the whole Anglican Communion would to this day have a male-only priesthood.

In addition many supporters of women’s ministry believe that over and above permitting women priests and bishops there is much else to be done to make the church less patriarchal and more balanced, some of which could well be liable to objections under the Covenant arrangements.

How should the Church respond to controversy?

The proposed Anglican Covenant is the product of an intolerant mindset, seeking power to veto actions it disapproves of even if they are only happening thousands of miles away.

It is not new. Reformation Puritans believed Christians should submit to the supreme authority of the Bible and therefore agree with each other on all matters of doctrine and ethics. As a matter of principle, they believed, there should be no scope for differences of opinion on doctrine and ethics. Their disagreements often provoked schism with each side accusing the other of not being true Christians. The current high profile campaigning represents a revival of this tradition.

Until now Anglicans have been better at staying united because, with our stronger emphasis on the role of reason, we accept differences of opinion as normal and expect to learn from each other. We do not expect our bishops and clergy to agree with our opinions; instead we worship together with people we disagree with, and debate our disagreements openly within the Church, rather than seeking to expel each other.

We think this more open, tolerant and inclusive theology of the Church has served Anglicanism well in the past, now needs defending against the strident tones of those who think everybody should agree with them.

To find out more

Visit http://www.modchurchunion.org/anglicancovenant/ or contact covenant@modchurchunion.org. Alternatively you can write to Covenant Debate, 9 Westward View, Liverpool L17 7EE

Jonathan Clatworthy

Sunday, 4 July 2010

My text today is taken from ....

All good sermons (and bad ones!) have traditionally started with a scriptural text, often from the readings for that day. This Sunday, the 5th after Trinity and Proper 9 (Year C) offered a couple of beauties ..... (ahem)

"be satisfied at her comforting breasts",(Isaiah 66: 11 NIV), and "drink deeply with delight from her glorious bosom." (Isaiah 66: 12 NRSV)

However, I thought better of it ....

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Different altar, same purpose

What a difference 25 years makes. Back in 1985 when I presided at my first Eucharist I used the ASB Rite A Order. There were Servers and incense. The Epistle was read by the person on the Reading rota. I genuflected at the right moments. The Bible was processed for the Gospel reading. There was a large congregation there to see that this new priest did things correctly and in order. Hymns were sung.

Today I celebrated Common Worship Order 1, shortened and with the traditional language Lord's Prayer. There were no Servers - I did everything myself. There was no incense. There was an Epistle reader though. I didn't genuflect - if I had I would have disappeared behind the altar! The Gospel was read from the altar steps, but not processed. There was the regular congregation of 10 adults and a German Shepherd dog. There were no hymns.

I cannot recall if back in 85 if we commemmorated John and Henry Venn, but we did today, their theme of "pastors" feeling very appropriate at this season of ordinations.

Two new deacons have arrived in our Deanery, and I saw them for the first time at the Synod last night. Fresh-faced and enthusiastic from Theological College, they will soon find that their preferences and ideals have to be tempered by the reality of parish life. No-one told us that when we go forward for ordination we say goodbye to the style of worship that has nurtured us up to that point in our walk of faith. Never again will we find it, for the parish in which we serve our Title will have its own format and style, and we have to adapt to that if we are to serve the people effectively. This doesn't mean we forget our inspiration that we have gained, but it will only be possible to express it in fragments. And we never regain that old comfortable worship we once knew, for in our absence from that "home" church, it too will have moved on and changed, and we are not part of that movement. So if and when we go back we find that we no longer belong there.

So as I stood at the altar this morning images from that first priestly Eucharist moved through my mind's eye. But I wouldn't go back. I am not the same person I was then. Better or worse? That I can't say. But at least some of the parishioners from then still come and visit me, so I can't have been that awful an experience for them!