Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Excitement & Meaning of Christmas

The above picture was taken on Christmas eve, it was wet (thus the spots on the camera) and shows St Johns with its brilliant christmas statue. The statue is a wicker 3D construction of a woman holding aloft a baby, with a hole where each breast should be and a large hole where the "bump" of a preganant woman should be. I always love the statue, it is so earthy yet the way the baby is held aloft implies so much excitment and anticipation as well as joy - and the holes show from where it all stems. Just thought I would share it with you. Take Care Y'all John

A True Epic Of Our Times

Today's wee video comes from an American publicity campaign aiming to get people purchasing Organic goods. It is a very fine and cutting film which deserves much publicity. It clearly goes through the case for organic food in a fun, amusing way but this only works if you know the star wars series (not to geeky level so don't panic!) If you aren't satisfied with the quality of the youtube film version then click here to view it from the official website. Take Care Y'All John

Is This What Democracy Looks Like?

Today all that can be considered is the execution of Saddam Hussein. This man, who enslaved a country through ideology, subsequently keeping hold through force, is now dead. This is the re-birth of Iraq - through the execution of the old leader the new Iraq can take shape. Well, that would be the tale if the spinmiesters are to be believed. Instead there is something more questionable going on here. Earlier on in Dec a news story was circulated about Prince Charles raising the issue of a Brit of death row in Pakistan (see here. It appeared the UK was up in arms that a UK Citizen could be executed somewhere else in the world and this time pressure was exerted to ensure his sentence be commuted. Whilst diplomatic eyebrows were raised about this possible interference in another legal system it was resolved with the man not being executed. The bottom line was, wherever in the world you are the death sentence is not a solution. Therefore it is a rum state of affairs where the “allies” had Saddam Hussein over to the Iraqi state in full knowledge of his execution, even though the UK Government has stated (before and after) that it doesn’t support the idea of a death penalty. Yet it is willing (as both those links demonstrate) to allow "Iraqi Justice" to take place. Therefore posing the question, has the UK government acted in a morally questionable way? If the UK is in control of sections of Iraq, albeit prior to handing full control back to the Iraqis then I think it should be upholding its laws on human rights etc within that area as well. Instead we are seeing a double-edged sword being wielded. On the one hand the US/UK going into the war to liberate the people from a system of terror and death that the governments wished to see changed, indeed they saw the whole system as corrupt therefore brought down not just the leaders but the state apparatus to ensure real rebuilding. Yet the moment something of questionable nature, i.e. the sentencing to death, is to be committed a blind eye is turned claiming that it is time for the Iraqi system to take course. Almost as though we’ll turn our backs for some negative aspects to continue – how much nation building is really going on? Therefore I shall end by referring you to the picture at the top of this entry. The picture currently sits on the front page of the BBC News website. It rather summed up the situation for me, it reminded me of the IRA or Unionist kidnapping and murder tapes from the 1990s. Papers have later been released illustrating that throughout the “troubles” in Northern Ireland the UK Government (this statement doesn’t cover the 1990s as no papers are out from there yet) has had some knowledge of gang warfare and what could be about to happen(a few examples of this are contained within this report about the murder of defense lawyers). Yet some claim that the government (of whatever political colour) didn’t do enough to stop them because it was politically expedient. Ultimately – all governments sometimes place other values above the cost of a human life and I just wonder if that is the right way round. Take Care Y'All John

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

St John's Day!

Today's bible reading comes from 1 John 1 v1-9
John 1 1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2The same was in the beginning with God. 3All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4In him was life; and the life was the light of men. 5And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. 6There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. 8He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. 9That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.
(Fine replace "all men" with people and you get the idea) This is today's reading and falls on the celebration of St John. Already the excitement of Christmas is wearing off and so this build-up to the birth is over - where next? Well a good place to start is with children. One of the most exciting and enjoyable things about being in a room, with a child, is the perception that the child has of everything. Often things have to be explained, explained and explained again because alot of what is seen and experienced starts from fresh... therefore we are almost then in the position of moulding their outlook. Why share this nuggets of known information? Because today is my birthday and also St Johns day so a reading about creation was most enjoyable and worth sharing... Take Care Y'All John

Friday, December 22, 2006

Postcard from Edinburgh

Just an idea of what I'm seeing around me at the moment... *apologies: The picture browser doesn't seem to fit my browser windom right within the frames of the blog, I am looking for a solution but till then live with it! ;) * Take care Y'All John

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Santa's A Scotsman!

I am now back in the Motherland, relaxing in Edinburgh after a wonderful two days in Mancs (It was all rather manic in London so it has was an even more wonderful journey home by having to stop there). Anyway, more about journeys another time instead I want to draw your attention to a quality* tune has been pumping out accross the nation this last week or two. Entitled "Santas a Scotsman" it is all about how; "Too many pies, not enough exercise That is why he is one of us!" Few words are needed so just click here and enjoy it! *note by quality I mean Christmas quality, therefore adding the suitable caviat required about the questionable nature of the overly cheesy music. Take Care Y'All John

Monday, December 18, 2006

Peace in Your Pocket

Methodist Church has distributed over 70,000 wee "Peace in Your Pocket" booklets to pubs, clubs and gyms accross the country. It looks brilliant and I have around 50 on my desk, so leave a comment if you'd like one. The whole scheme is summated by the press release so I'll let do the talking *Note: John Cooper was not President of the Methodist Youth Executive for two reasons i) I was elected as Secretary of the Methodist Youth Executive ii) the President would be of the Methodist Youth Conference not executive! * (I wasn't going to note this but the mistake has just appeared in the Methodist Church eNews as well... so cant have too much disinformation about)
The Methodist Church has launched an innovative booklet in health clubs, play centres and bars. Peace in Your Pocket is a thought provoking 16-page booklet the size of a postcard, and 75,000 copies are available in hundreds of venues nationwide until early January. The booklet contains poems, pictures and thought-provoking points as it explores the issue of peace, and what it means today. It contains brief meditations for busy people, as well as pointers for those who wish to look further into the topic. “At Christmas we speak of ‘goodwill and peace to all,’” says Anthea Cox of the Methodist Church, “but what does peace really mean today? It used to be that peace was an absence of war, but today terrorism makes it hard for us to feel at peace. And worldwide millions of people are suffering and dying from the effects of war, even when their countries are not at war. So what does peace mean in our lives, our homes, our neighbourhoods and in the world? This booklet is for anyone who is asking these questions, particularly people who would not normally go to church but who feel the need to think reflectively about peace.” The booklet contains quotations from Desmond Tutu, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Satish Kumar, amongst others. It aims to provide readers with a few moments of calm, as well as challenging them to take further action to promote peace. John Cooper, former president of the Methodist Youth Executive, said “Pub chat often ends up on issues of the day, many of which concern violence and warfare. I'd love this book to help stimulate talk on the solutions rather than just dwelling on the problems.” The booklet has an accompanying website, There is also a text messaging service, whereby anyone can sign up to receive free occasional peaceful thoughts on their mobile phone. Users can also post messages that appear on the website as peace flags.
Go to the website and please ensure that you sign up for the text message service - cause it is free! Also click here and download the Methodist Church Podcast for December which has a devastating crituqe of the church in general, from the mouth of kids back home in Edinburgh... as ever the Scots are telling it like it is (with one or two remarkably practicle kids as well presenting a nice mix). Take Care Y'All john

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Welcome Mary & Joseph

Today I would like to welcome Mary & Joseph to my blog. They are on an iJourney to Bethlehem using a Blogposada. Therefore lets start with an explanation of what a Posoda is: A posada is a journey undertaken by a representation of the holy couple in the run up to Christmas. This usualy is a journey undertaken by figurines but this is the internet so a picture it shall be! Having recieved the couple into the online home a reflection is given and then they are passed to the next house. The couple were with the cartoon blog"> yesterday and shall depart off for Sue Wallace As I write this I am awaiting news from a pregnant friend of mine, waiting to find out if she has given birth and if so to check all is well with them all. This, of course, is an exciting time and each day now brings a renewed sense of anticipation, will today be the moment when a new life comes into the world. Yet for all the joy this brings there is a darker side to this advent. 3 people close to me have all heard of a death of a friend. 3 different people, 3 different deaths, all the same pain. Whilst the circumstances of each death is different is has brought a cloud over this advent. How can I get excited about the beginning of new life when all I seem to see is the effects of others ending. The darkness within the picture presents a challenge to the more clean, clinical pictures of Christmas we are presented with. This couple is long into pregnancy and tired, yet still they are heading onward because they have no choice as the laws of biology and the land were dictating where they had to go. So then, how do we plough on through the hard , searching, questioning times to reach that moment of joy, excitement, realisation or even just internal contentment. To be honest, I can't give the answer because not only have I not got it but its different for each and everyone one of us. This is what makes Christmas quiet so unique, the birth of this child has a different meaning for each and every one of us - the impact of our personal faith as we continue to travel and explore the message we get will always change, alter and challenge us. Enough thinking, a wee prayer now ------------------------------- Father God Questioning, Challenging Uplifting, Hurting Crying, Laughing Close, Far Ups, Downs Whatever our Journey Stay With Us Amen ------------------------------- (For those with an interest in art, this is a good time to flag up the Methodist Art Collection which has a brilliant collection of classical and modern art, the pictures travel the country, are owened by the Methodist Church (therefore by all Methodist People) and have really enhanced recent books as the pictures are integrated. For those of you who have read "Called By Name" look at the pictures and you'll see most are reference to the collection. Take Care Y'All John * Sun 3rd Dec Andii * Mon 04 Dec Chris Munroe aka Desert Pastor * Tue 05 Dec Jem Clines * Wed 06 Dec Alistair * Thu 07 Dec Lydia * Fri 08 Dec Jennie Swanson * Sat 09 Dec Psalmist * Sun 10 Dec Dr Platypus * Mon 11 Dec Sally Coleman * Tue 12 Dec Jim Palmer * Wed 13 Dec Anne Gogh * Thu 14 Dec Weekend Fisher * Fri 15 Dec Dave Walker * Sat 16 Dec John Cooper - That is here! * Sun 17 Dec Sue Wallace at Abbess of Visions * Mon 18 Dec Lucas * Tue 19 Dec Joanna at Keeping Feet * Wed 20 Dec Adrian at Emerging Church info * Thu 21 Dec Ian Mobsy at Mootblog * Fri 22 Dec Bob Carlton * Sat 23 Dec Chelley at Chelley’s Teapot * Sun 24 Dec Abbey Nous

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Prayers for Ipswich

This last week, in the Uk, has seen a rather grusome story hit the headlines. The murder of 5 prostitutes in the Ipswich area has shocked and appaled most people. For once the shock was not that there are prostitutes but that someone was out killing. Beneath is a prayer for the situation that was posted on the Methodist Church website and worth reproducing
"My eyes will flow unceasingly, without relief, until the Lord looks down from the heaven and sees. What I see brings grief to my soul because of all the women of my city" (Lamentations 3:49-51) LORD, we pray for the families of all the young women who have been murdered in Ipswich.. We pray that you would hold them in the palm of your hand. We pray that they would know your comfort in the midst of their agony and grief. LORD, we pray for the streets of Ipswich that your peace will surround the women there. We pray for the community that they would know your comfort in the midst of this. " Written by the National Christian Alliance on Prostitution
Take Care Y'All John

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Return of UNCLE

At every family celebration there is one stereotype, the embarrassing uncle. Often this takes the form of some embarrassingly funky dancing. This year it appears that Britain's embarrassing uncle award has to go to Cliff Richard for his chronic "Christmas" single. Why is it chronic? I reproduce the lyrics beneath and all I'll say is looks great on paper but in reality would be sh*te. The underlying point is about how Christians connect with the world around, in particular on an institutional or organised level. Lets just say popping a whole load of buzzwords together doesn't help. Seriously, to prove my point (and for those who can't stomach watching him sing);
The satellite’s trackin’ Santa We text our Christmas list And leave our mobile numbers To help out ole’ Saint Nick. Sometimes we stop and a-wonder Has that ole’ bubble burst? Or will this Christmas morning be like the first? And tonight we still thank Bethlehem And bless the Lord for love again Bring peace on earth goodwill to men It’s the future not the past We’ll have a: First night Star bright Child of light So right 21st century Christmas Magic morn Tree adorn (?) Child is born Safe and warm 21st century Christmas Yeah….wow….. We'll microwave some popcorn Put on a DVD (??) Tim a thank you For blessing you and me Sometimes we watch and wonder Has Christmas lost its touch? Can a world beyond the money Be worth that much? But tonight as we thank Bethlehem And bless the Lord for love again Bring peace on earth, goodwill to men The future is the past Let’s have a: First night Star bright Child of light So right 21st century Christmas We got a: Magic morn Tree adorn (?) Child is born Safe and warm 21st century Christmas Yeah….yeah….oh…oh…… The satellite’s trackin’ Santa He’s got our Christmas list We left our mobile numbers To help out ole’ Saint Nick Sometimes we stop and (a-) wonder, Has that ole’ bubble burst? Or will this Christmas morning be like the first? And tonight as we thank Bethlehem And bless the Lord for love again Bring peace on earth goodwill to men The future is the past Let’s have a: First night Star bright Child of light So right 21st century Christmas We got a: Magic morn Tree adorn (?) Child is born Safe and warm 21st century Christmas Wait for snow Mistletoe Eyes aglow Ho, ho, ho, ho… Special wish Loving list (?) Hug and kiss All of this 21st century Christmas The satellite’s trackin’ Santa Got him for you and me I hope his flight is right on time He’s got my Christmas tree The microwave’s (full) of popcorn Put on a DVD And pray for peace on earth tonight It’s all we really need It’s all we really need It’s all we really need…3x and fade.... (Lyrics taken from
To celebrate surving this overdose of dross I shall give you two wee amusing nuggets. Looking at Methodist Church reports one often ends up using shortened versions of the title, either words or initials... and I dare to tell you that satire is dead after reading these! Nature of Oversight ( a monolith of a tome that explains the nature of episcopacy, how it could feature within the current UK Methodist setup as well as all the practical, theological and historical background to the current setup) It's shortened name becomes, as it features in papers, "Noo" Future Use and Configuration of Training Institutes (A paper which re-wrote the support (withdrawing much financial support in its current form for studens) and style of pre-ordination and leadership training within the Methodist church - it includes the withdrawral of central support for some insitutions(which some claim could lead to the death of those instutions)) Its shortened name becomes, go on say it, "Fucti" Take Care Y'All John

Monday, December 11, 2006

Who Satires What?

Tonight I have been working hard to try and finish some essays. I have been editing and taking some time of to do some ironing. When ironing I have tuned into the 30 greatest political comedies on More4. It has been truly cronic so far, with "Chas (Charlie Kennedy) and Mike (Michael Howard), the self styled Ant and Dec of More4" hosting using some abysmaly scripted "comedy" moments. That said the comedies they have been are great fun and the shocking thing is how ripe the tories appear for satire compared to any other party. Anyone I thought I'd post a clip of somethign I'd forgotten about - a rather close to the bone satire on election night, courtesy of Monty Python. Take Care Y'all John

One Bladdered Bishop!

Today a surf around the news sites brings up the story of the Bishop who was mugged last week. Only the police are saying a differing story- did a Bladdered Bishop take a tumble? I couldn't possibly speculate... (the below is the news story from the BBC News Website)
Bishop incident was 'not mugging' Police have said they are not treating an incident involving the Bishop of Southwark as a mugging. The Right Reverend Tom Butler suffered head injuries and lost his mobile phone and briefcase after a drinks reception at the Irish embassy on 5 December. He reported the matter to police thinking he been robbed near his home in Streatham, south London. A Metropolitan Police spokesman said it was not being treated as a mugging but as a case of missing property. In The Guardian newspaper the bishop is reported as saying: "The problem is, I don't remember anything. This has been a difficulty from the start. A supposition "I told the police I arrived home without my briefcase and with bruising on my face and a gash on the back of my head. "I went to the doctor the next day and was told my injuries were consistent with a blow to the head, so I assumed I had been mugged, but that's a supposition. I am hoping the police will be able to be clearer." Last week, a spokesman for the bishop said the prelate was so bruised in the attack he was not able to wear his mitre the following day. On Monday, a spokesman for Mr Butler said: "The Bishop of Southwark attended a reception in Belgravia on Tuesday evening. He left the reception to travel home by public transport. "When he arrived home he was without his briefcase and mobile phone and had several fresh head wounds. He reported the matter to the police and sought medical attention." The police spokesman said: "Our inquiries are continuing into the incident, which is not being treated as a street robbery but as a case of missing property."
So watch out after your Christmas parties! Take Care Y'All John

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Sweet Revenge

This week has had a unique sense of Deja-Vue about it. Norman Kember (dude who was held hostage in Iraq) was joined by his two other (surviving) hostages for a press conference (click (here for the subsequent press release containing their statement). In it the "reason for the season" was mooted and it has provided some exciting exploration. Their key message was that of forgiveness, as they were out there to bring peace to start with. This idea of being peacemakers was coupled with their approach to This may all sound like liberal namby-pambyism but it fits will with a piece of Radio 4 radio this week. Off the Page (click here to listen again)explored concepts and experiences of revenge and not only what is revenge but it explores differing levels of revenge and both violent and non-violent forms of it. I though that it provides a good balance and provocation to the grey matter. This is because the underlying message from it is that revenge is not only good but needed but you shouldn't always consider violent revenge. This was illustrated by a brilliant tale within where the child of a person killed in the Israel/Palestine conflict lived incognito with her father's killers and only revealed her true identity after a year and a half. The reaction of the people showed a true indentification of the human impact of the story, this was a version of the Impact statement now being used in the UK courts. Both these examples have provided a form of release and non-violent confrontation/revenge for those who feel wronged by what has gone on. This interlinked with the Norman Kember story as much revoltion to, or suggestion of , revenge to their captors was based upon the implication of the need for violence (even if it is legal violence through a possible death penalty) and so what would our thoughts be if it wasn't violent revenge. Therefore if non-violent revenge can sometimes seem more palatable then does that make it any better? Of course not, revenge is revenge but it can take many forms and take us all by surprise by either the lust for it or when we fall for it. Happy Thinking! Take Care Y'All John

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Jonny Did The Missionary Position

Tonight has been an interesting night. As a student union we were given a large quantity (ie a thousand) condoms that were needing distributed. They were given with the idea that we hand them out. The univeristy runs a weekly club night, entitled Half Time, that attracts around 400+ people therefore could be seen as a place willing to distribute them. That said I had a small quam about this. I don't belive sexual promiscuity is right (ie sleeping around) and I also don't think it should be encouraged. Half Time is a drunken night out and is often the starting point for many peoples (first) sexual leasons. Therefore a challenge, for me as a person on the union, I could go and hand out the condoms and ensure that everyone had a safe time. That said by handing out condoms at a drunken event (though I wasn't drinking tonight so the folks handing out wern't drunk) then are we (as a union) condoning druken sex? Well this conundrum was never quiet going to be solved really. That said the image is the front page of the leaflet which I felt was a nice half way house between my own personal morals and what we, as a union should be doing. By that i mean that I cannot ignore the needs of others, druken sex between a couple and drunken sex between strangers happens. The much greater risk is ignorance, unconsensual sex and sexual transmitted infections and we are combatting that by passing out information (STOP : THINK : ENJOY) with the condoms. *Note over a thousand condoms were handed out to around 500 people in twenty minutes!* I wasn't going to blog about this but I just thought it was a nice re-awakening of the battle of mission and quiet what it means. For alot of mission is just about our own personal comfort zones (eg giving money) and yet rarely does one go out and actualy face the problems we talk about (eg homelessness) face to face. Whilst this doesn't devalue anyone as a christian (cause who am I to judge.. I could be on a complete loosing track with my own outlook)it does devalue collective action. Sometimes we do need to go beyond and then find within ourselves inner strength. As an example of this I thought I'd flag up the work done in Manchester, where they now run a Night Angles scheme aiding clubbers return home after a night out. This service will be invaluable yet the pragmatic may have at first raised questions about the personal safety of the angles and other such issues. Yet sometimes people like myself can be too pragmatic and not trust enough in others and also what good can come out of it... and lets face it after a night out how many of us have neaded a hand after a few too many ? Take Care Y'All John

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Christmas isn't Christmas Without...

Many say that Christmas isn't Christmas until the Coca-Cola advert for the year is shown. That said coca cola have some very very dodgy ethical goings on therefore I wanted an alternative to enjoy. I believe the people of Barr and Irn Bru have won through yet again... Take care Y'All John

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Light in the Darkness

Advent is a rather special time of you. It is a time in the christian year in which we are meant to be in joyful anticipation. Joyfully anticipating the birth of the "prince of peace" and the idea of hope in the darkness (this is rather backed up in the UK by Christmas falling in the middle of winter when darkness is literally all around us). The way this period is followed is generally through reflective services (tinged with excitment) and advent calenders. The calenders are generaly morphing into some form of chocolate based countdown, though the better ones have an ethical kick to them as well. Therefore no matter where we look we are meant to light a candle and get excited for the oncoming fun! Yet this year the onset of advent has been tinged by great sadness, in two differing peoples lives, as they recieved some particularily devistating news. Whilst not knowing (face to face) either of the people I haven't been struck as deeply as they have by the tradgedies. Both the losses were marvelous, inspirational people who have left a deep impact on the people they leave behind. All this death goes into distinct contrast with the excitment. Afterall, how can one sing of the oncoming prince of peace, saviour of mankind (sorry but most of the hymns I sing tend to be gender specific...)who brings joy to the world when all around suffering, of the most human kind, is prevalent. Therefore how to appraoch advent? Well i can't really answer that one as it is all rather odd, half distant yet a reality and ultimatly (like so much) comes back to this all as an act of faith. In order to glipse that light in the real darkness then sometimes one has to use this God thing, all the glib hymns such as "what a friend we have in Jesus" assure us of His presence at all times. When one is surrounded by the very lowest moments then how can one even comprehend God being all around, let along revealing himself through the people around. Yet in the darkest times, the immense depths of love and compassion that these people aroused and also the love, compassion and support shown even by those most deeply affected to others mourning gives us a glimmer of this god. Maybe not, maybe all this is just human nature. By this time you need to see what conclusion I have reached, the only problem is I haven't reached one. This is bringing whole new aspects to Advent... Take Care Y'All John

Friday, December 01, 2006

On the first day of advent...

Today is the first day of advent. A time of anticipation and excitment for many Christians. We have but 24 days left until we get ready to celebrate the "prince of peace",born in an 'umble shed to parents not of ruling but people class. By coincidence(?) today is also World Aids Day. In terms of global pandemics and diseases Hiv/Aids gets all the headlines. In its deadly form (Aids) it slowly breaks down the immune system of the person leaving them unable to resist any virus. The World Health organisation estimated (in January 2006) that between December 1981 and Jan 06 more than 25million people had been killed by the disease. The number may not seem that huge but consider that the numbers killed has been rising each year therefore the numbers are now at frighteningly high levels (2005 saw 2.4-3.3 million lives, of which more than 570,000 were children, die of the disease). Therefore many people have rightly bought a ribbon today to support the work that is going on. Yet I would urge everyone to consider those who are on the ground doing the work. We in the global north are very good at donating (often blindly - ie without following through our donation and expecting reports back) but few of us ever go out to countries affected and do on the ground work. From Street Children to HIV/Aids, the world is a much less pleaseant place then we imagine it to be - or than we experience in our lives around us. Whilst we must always do our best to do what we can we must never forget to remeber those who are around the world, where the need is often more exagerated and the differences more startling, living out what they believe. I am never sure quiet how I would cope out "in the field" (as some Development people phrase it). I have been to India, Kenya and South Africa and seen both remarkable people and extreme poverty. Often living side by side and people by people. The world has a remarkable way of uniting extremes together, often by soci-geographical measures and changing all around. As a Christian ( sorry it'll make sense in a moment) I have also been challenged by the way the bible inspires many people to drop everything and go. Indeed I have quiet admiration and wish I would be more willing to do it sometimes. For though you may not go out to "proclaim the gospel" people go out to live out the gospel, as they percieve it, which I think is one of the most exciting concepts ever. To go and live out what you belive, change those around you by doing so (not evangelism or conversion but values and quality of life wise) leaves me to just take my hat off in utmost respect. Take Care y'All John

Monday, November 27, 2006

A Giant Pink Q

Christian group nominated as 'most gay-friendly organisation' -27/11/06 A religious body rooted in Christian history has been nominated for an award as the most gay-friendly organisation in Britain. The Quakers, also known as The Religious Society of Friends, have been proposed by readers of the Pink Paper. Quakers are the only religious group in the award category, which also includes Amnesty International, Unison, Metropolitan Police and Age Concern. Readers can vote via the paper and online over the next three weeks. The winner will be announced on January 11. Neil Lazaroo of the Pink Paper said that the gay community responded to the stated Quaker belief that "to reject people on the grounds of sexual orientation is a denial of God's creation". Quaker general secretary Michael Hutchinson said: "We are honoured by this nomination, and recognise and encourage the efforts of all the groups nominated. "We hope the Pink Paper awards will stimulate others to recognise the humanity and potential in all people without pre-judgement." The Religious Society of Friends began in England in the 17th century by people who were dissatisfied with the existing denominations and sects of Christianity. Traditionally George Fox has been credited as the founder or the most important early figure. Quakers are counted among the historic peace churches. In Britain not all Friends see themselves as mainly or exclusively Christian, and many Quakers draw on a variety of spiritual sources. In this respect British Quakerism is distinct from many of its international manifestations
I need say no more than, how wonderful. Thanks to Ekklesia for the news release. Take Care Y'All john

What A Friend We Have in Jesus

It's Christmas time and, like Easter, this brings with it a major advertising campaign from the Churches Advertising Network. This year the mildly satirical posters feature a beer glass with what could be said to be a vision of Jesus in it. The idea behind it is summated in the stapline "Where will you find him" and is about the challenge of a media obsessed with "visions" of Jesus from sandwiches to beer glasses. But also there is something good about this being the Christmas series of posters. The point of Christmas ,and why the story is so exciting, is because it is only the beginning. Therefore as everyone will happily have "Peace this Christmas" cards on their mantelpiece, how many of us shall live that out throughout the year? Also it appears that Jesus (as part of this campaign) now has a MySpace page, which can be found here. Take Care Y'All John

You've gotta pick a subject or two

In light of the Christian Union discussions around the Equal Oppertunities Statement at SUs and how they "automaticaly" discriminate against religious discussions on issues of gender, race, sexuality etc I would like to reprint this ruling from the Broadcasting Obudsman OFCOM which gets to the nub of how rules and regulations definining if something is offensive etc can be truly implemented. Take care Y'all John
Not in Breach Bremner, Bird & Fortune Channel 4, 25 March 2006, 20:10 Introduction The final sketch in this edition of the satirical comedy series explored the allegations relating to the ‘loans for peerages’ row. The sketch featured one of the central characters in the controversy, the Labour Party’s chief fundraiser Lord Levy. He was portrayed by Rory Bremner, as Charles Dicken’s Fagin. In a grey suit, wearing a prosthetic hook nose, Lord Levy, as Fagin, sang You’ve Got to Pick a Pocket or Two..’. from the musical ‘Oliver!’, changing some of the lyrics from the verse and chorus. In summary, eleven viewers complained that connecting the character of Fagin with Lord Levy (a prominent member of the Jewish community) was an incitement to racial hatred; a stereotypical portrayal that was offensive, anti-semitic and/or racist; and was not relevant to the story. Response In Channel 4’s statement, it said that the character, Fagin, was an easily identifiable caricature of a cunning ringleader of an enterprise which had the sole aim of getting money out of people. The broadcaster said that the allegations of secretive and questionable financial dealings were at the heart of the claims made in loans-for-peerages controversy. Although it would have been absurd to claim that Lord Levy was literally involved in leading a child pickpocketing gang (and indeed the revised lyrics made clear that he had done nothing criminal) the satirical comparison was, in the Ch ann el’s opinion, perfectly proper in the context of the week’s news. In Channel 4’s view, some of the lyrics from the song used from the musical, Oliver!, particularly lent themselves to the loans-for-peerages story, not least the opening lines: “In this life, one thing counts, in the bank large amounts, I’m afraid these don’t grow on trees, You’ve got to pick a pocket or two”. However, “In campaigns” replaced “In this life” thereby making it clear that this was a reference to Lord Levy’s role as a party campaign fundraiser and not to him personally. Further, after the first verse and until the end of the song, Lord Levy did not sing “you’ve got to pick a pocket or two” but “You’ve got to give a peerage or two”. Later references in the song were not to Lord Levy at all but to Tony Blair; “When he sees, Someone rich, Tony’s thumbs, Start to Itch … They’ve got to pay a mortgage or two, So, You better give a peerage or two …”. Having drawn the comedic parallel between the Fagin character and Lord Levy, Ch ann el 4 said that it was legitimate to draw on identifiable characteristics of the fictional character. Fagin, it said, was an established part of Britain ’s cultural heritage. The characterisation with which the public were most likely to be familiar was that made famous by Ron Moody in the musical, released as a film in 1968. This characterisation of Fagin, included, famously, a prosthetic hooked nose, which had become a defining part of the character’s identity. It was not the general style of Bremner, Bird & Fortune to dress its subjects in anything other than what they might be expected to wear normally, according to Channel 4. The use of the hooked nose along with the “Fagin-esque” manner of Lord Levy’s dancing, the presence of the two street urchins and the theatrical setting were considered sufficient to make the satirical connection between the fictional character and Lord Levy. The use of a suit instead of rags further represented and reinforced the fact that this was not some nineteenth century fictional character but a modern-day member of the House of Lords. It was entirely irrelevant to the programme-makers that Lord Levy was Jewish. Had the person at the centre of the controversy been some other senior Labour party figure, he too would have been portrayed as the Fagin character. Rory Bremner has often performed for Jewish charities, including Jewish Care, one of the UK ’s biggest charities and of which Lord Levy was Chairman. Channel 4 believed that there was nothing either in the characterisation or the lyrics which could be construed as anti-semitic and/or racist. In its view, this was quite clearly a sketch about Lord Levy, Tony Blair and Labour’s fundraising. The lines were very specific and reflected the news that week. Fagin was an indelible part of British culture and familiar enough not to provoke anti-semitism, certainly among a Bremner, Bird & Fortune audience. His metaphorical depiction, in a clearly satirical context, was entirely legitimate. Decision Comedy, and political satire in particular, has a strong tradition of challenging the viewer’s concept of generally accepted standards. Broadcasters have the right to explore ideas and the viewer has the right to receive them as long as broadcasters comply with the law and Ofcom’s Broadcasting Code. The legislation requires Ofcom to balance the necessary protection of members of the public from offensive and harmful material with an appropriate level of freedom of expression The complaints from viewers focussed on two Sections of the Code: Section Two concerning generally accepted standards and matters related to potentially harmful and offensive material, and Section Three concerning material likely to encourage or incite the commission of crime or to lead to disorder. In relation to offence we considered rule 2.3: Rule 2.3 In applying generally accepted standards broadcasters must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context… such material may include… discriminatory treatment… on the grounds of race [and/or] religion … Guidance to the Broadcasting Code notes that: “ Broadcasters should take particular care in their portrayal of culturally diverse matters and should avoid stereotyping unless editorially justified. When considering such matters, broadcasters should take into account the possible effects programmes may have on particular sections of the community. ”. We note that Channel 4 had no intention to cause offence or focus the sketch on Lord Levy’s Jewish background. We also acknowledge that, for some, the connection made by the programme between Lord Levy and Fagin, for whatever reason, was offensive. However, overall, Ofcom must judge whether, taking into account freedom of expression and the context (such as the programme’s editorial content, the service it was broadcast on and the likely expectation of the audience), whether any offence that was caused breached the Broadcasting Code. Specifically, we considered therefore whether the sensitivity caused by the apparent linking of Lord Levy’s Jewish background, with aspects of the character of a fictional criminal of Jewish descent, had led to a breach of Rule 2.3. We noted that the decision to allude to the character of Fagin by using a prosthetic nose summoned up the well known Fagin character, but could also be seen to relate to the historical stereotypes of Jewish people. We considered that Bremner, Bird and Fortune is a well-established satirical show with a reputation for being inclusive and supportive of individuals who may belong to a minority ethnic or religious community. It is broadcast at a time and on a channel that is unlikely to attract people who might take its characterisations literally, or fail to understand its satirical point. It is consistent in targeting those in positions of trust and/or power and seeking to ridicule their shortcomings. It often juxtaposes two concepts such as a well-known song and an exaggerated caricature of a political figure. Bearing this context in mind, we considered that the thrust of this sketch was to satirise the controversy over the allegations of Labour’s method of fundraising and not to satirise the cultural antecedents of Lord Levy. The use of Fagin dwelt on a perception of him as a figure obsessed by gaining money by whatever means and did not refer to his faith. We therefore concluded that the programme did not breach generally accepted standards. Rule 3.1Material likely to encourage or incite the commission of crime or to lead to disorder must not be included in television or radio services. In our view, this was not an attack on a minority ethnic community. The depiction of Lord Levy as Fagin was clearly a satirical device used in order to highlight what had been alleged to be anomalies in political behaviour. One of satire’s principal purposes, in a democracy, is to ridicule those in positions of trust or power. While it may have the effect of bringing a viewer or listener to change their mind about any given situation, it was not in this case seeking to elicit a radical response from the audience - resulting in criminal or violent acts against the subjects they scrutinise. The programme did not encourage or incite the commission of crime or lead to disorder. Not in breach

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Devinely Inspired Political Action

Here is the link to the page where you can find out about the Faslane 365 Demonstration (365 day non violent direct action based protest outside the Faslane Nuclear Weapons Base)on the 48 hrs that were nominated for Clergy & Laity to take a stand. There is something very inspirational reading their press release about it, and something quietly moving about the pictures. That said, we don't all need to wear a dog collar to stand firm in our beliefs. This leads me nicely into a discovery about the man behind the desk, the president that never was, Mr Martin Sheen who played President Bartlett in the West Wing. The character of President Bartlett had always been a very religious character, and been from catholic extraction. What hasn't been clear is that this is a mirror of Martin Sheen, the actor who plays him. The actor has often been involved in protests against nuclear weapons, in favour of workers rights etc... Beneath is an article from Los Almost National Laboratory News Bulletin about an action he was involved in
Several hundred march to the Lab Several hundred demonstrators organized by Peace Action -- an activist group based in Washington, D.C. -- marched from Ashley Pond in the town site to the Laboratory's main technical area Monday to express their opinion about nuclear weapons and weapons-related activities. The march coincided with the 54th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, Japan. In news releases issued by the group, Peace Action stated that the purpose of their demonstration was to protest the planned manufacture of plutonium pits for the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile at Los Alamos. The Lab's limited manufacturing role is scheduled to begin with an initial stockpile unit by late 2002 and up to 20 pits a year by 2007. In addition to chanting slogans and waving banners, several members of the group came to the Lab to engage in nonviolent civil disobedience. The group had been granted permission to gather for a limited period of time in the parking lot east of the Otowi Building, but group organizers were warned that any members of the group who exited the pre-assigned gathering area could face arrest on trespassing charges. Actor and activist Martin Sheen was the first to be taken into custody for crossing the boundary. Sheen walked to the edge, stepped over quietly, knelt and recited the Lord's Prayer, and walked quietly toward the detention area under escort by security officers from Protection Technology Los Alamos. More than 70 other demonstrators crossed the line and were detained. They were taken back to Ashley Pond and released. The marchers at times were vigorously outspoken, as illustrated by the photo, which shows a member of the group attempting to engage Gene Tucker, deputy director of the Lab's Safeguards and Security (S) Division, into a debate on the value of work at Los Alamos.
Upon a bit of further investigation I turned up this profound interview with him which nails him on his faith and what he believes it inspires him to do. I would recommend you read it all - but I wish to leave you with the following quote from it:
I have a conscience. And I feel moved to be present at various sites to call attention to peace and justice issues. And so I kind of blame it on the Holy Spirit for the route I've taken to these places and asked to just stand to be a presence to the marginal and a voice to the voiceless. And sometimes it's very costly. But it's also very freeing because in every one of the arrests I've been involved in, I have been satisfied in my conscience that I did everything I possibly could, and I did it nonviolently, and I tried to do it humanely and even joyfully. So that's the major criteria I use for involvement.
Take Care Y'All John

Friday, November 24, 2006

Fame At Last

One of my great indulgences is the PM programme on Radio 4. It manages to bring a serious irreverence to the days news, mainly due to the presenter (Eddie Mair) style. They have been playing with a Blog and Newsletter recently and asked for tag lines. I duly submitted mine and can gladly say that if you click here you will find the blog, unfortunatly the day has now passed so it is some elses' quote but click on the graphic at the top of this post and you can view when it was mine. All that now needs to happen is for me to appear on Radio 4 in a news capacity... Take Care Y'All John

Seeing the Whole Picture

Simple post to say that those, like me, who dip into BBC Parliament on Freeview can at last enjoy it in full screen! Retune those boxes now...

State of the (christian) Union

cartoon from

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

This is a good summation of the latest twists and turns in the ongoing saga between Christian Unions and their respective Student Unions. I must admit that the more I read about it the more I am thinking that the CUs are suffering from a case of "the lady doth protest too much". If they were open to all to take part and stand in a democratic election it wouldn't matter. Yet by limiting who can do what it goes against the idea of Jesus loving everyone really - or did I just miss the passage in the bible where he got people to sign a doctrinal statement before they could speak about him? Oh and here is a particularily uninspiring comment from the NUS President on it take care y'all john

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Missing Pressumed Squashed

Well today is an interesting day but fustrating day: 1) I have a stinking cold which was no doubt brought on by speaking at Youth Conference.. fine well repeatadly speaking at Youth Conference throughout the w/end. I tried to take some pills this morning but really could swallow at all - hmm all rather grim! 2) My hat has gone awol today and is missing pressumed lost in my room somewhere. Hope your all doing well Take care Y'all John

Monday, November 20, 2006


Just a wee message to say hello to everyone who is looking at this website after the Methodist Youth Conference 2006. Please keep checking over the year to find out what is going on, especialy since you also chose for me to attend Methodist Conference as well! If you prefer, you can (by going to the option on the bottom of the right hand side) sign up for email updates else an RSS feed. Please feel free to leave comments on anything as the comments are open to all, not just registered blogger users. Enjoy Take Care Y'All john If you run a blog/have a myspace blog and wish it to be added to a list i am creating of youth Conference people then please email me the address!

A Whole New World....

Methodist Youth Conference 2006 has potentially re-written youth work within the Methodist Church! This year saw an exciting debate, well as exciting as you can get when issues are raised which don't deal with fundementals, culminating in a near unanimous vote. At the end of the session I was asked, by the Methodist Youth Executive, to read a Prayer. This was one chosen by Gary "the Goat" and somehow, and I supect, by pure chance it fitted perfectly with what we had just been through as a group. It is all about giving a loving birth and the pains associated with it....
In the beginning was God In the beginning, the source of all that is. In the beginning, God yearning, God moaning, God labouring, God giving birth. God rejoicing! And God loved what she made. And God said, 'it is good!' Then God, knwing that all that is good is shared, held the earth tenderly in her arms. God yearned for relationships, God longed to share the good earth. And humanity was born in the yearning of God. We were born to share the earth. Amen Writen by Rosemary Well (Europe area President of World Federation of Methodist and Uniting Methodist Church Women)

Friday, November 17, 2006

you thought council was dull....

Hello all Just a wee plug for a funky wiblog that has been going a while, which I was reminded of this week. The Dullest Blog in the World is possibley a high point in low end humour but it works oh so well. Warm Regards John

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Joy of Text

There is nothing I enjoy more, when communicating then writing a letter. Whilst I am notoriously bad at consistently writing I feel so much more involved when writing then when texting/emailing. The reason this is is because I do try to write with a "real" pen. I have always been a fan of the fountain pen. There is something magical about the way it just glides across the page, winking slightly with the wet ink. Whereas the 'umble biro allows all forms of writing to be got it just seems to stick into the page when writing. The words and thoughts flow with a fountain pen and it improved my handwriting no end! It appears that one of the main private schools in Edinburgh also had the same thought....
From BBC Online Fountain pens boost 'self-esteem' Pupil writing Exam markers require neat handwriting in exam papers. The headmaster of an Edinburgh school where pupils have gone back to using fountain pens said they helped to raise academic performance. The writing policy at Mary Erskine and Stewart's Melville Junior School in Edinburgh means children a young as seven are using the pens. Bryan Lewis, the school's head teacher, said the practice helped boost youngsters' self-esteem. It is thought the pens make pupils write neatly, which helps exam markers. Fountain pens have been used for many years by older pupils. The move comes after the Scottish Qualifications Agency said markers had difficulties with poor handwriting on exam papers. Mr Lewis said in the past four to five years the use of fountain pens has been extended, with seven and eight-year-olds using them 80-90% of the time. He said: "We believe if you write in fountain pen you must write neatly, but if you use pencil or ballpoint pen you can mask bad handwriting. "We have a particular writing style and we have developed it very carefully and found a way that allows left and right handed people to write without smudging. "We think children deserve to be able to show their work neatly. We think children need to be literate and numerate and the way society is now we have to work harder. "The role modelling is not always there, so they need it in school." Reaped benefits Mr Lewis said developing neat handwriting was something pupils could then show to their family, who in turn could take it on board. He claimed being praised for good handwriting reaped benefits later and was one of the skills that has suffered as a result of progressive teaching approaches which meant less emphasis was put on basics such as grammar. A large number of pupils join the school aged 10, and have varying standards of handwriting. But within a matter of months they are able to get to grips with the fountains pens and a cursive, or joined-up, handwriting style, the head teacher added. The Headteachers' Association of Scotland believes handwriting basic skills should be taught as a "priority" as soon as children begin primary school.
That said, as regular recipients of my letters know, it is unfortunately not always possible to write in a fountain pen. This is usually because I have lost the thing- I easily get through for or five pens a year and a £8 a pop that aint cheap! Even so, like the eternal snob I can sometimes be I am rather specific about my ink colour. It has to be black, blue ink just doesn't work. I find something deeply enhancing to the eye about black ink... I don't have any such opinion of people who send things to me though, i more enjoy the fact that i have received something handwritten in the post. Indeed I try to live this out where possible by, if typing a letter always signing it by hand. Right better stop procrastinating as have some letters to write but a pen to find first.... Take Care Y'All John

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Rememberance Sunday

At Wesleys Chapel we have a variety of memorials around the building. One that I always appreciate is the one erected to the Wesleyans who fell in the first, and then re-dedicated to the Methodists (as we had unified) who fell in the second world war. The reason I appreciate this one is it has numbers on it. 285,000 Wesleyan Methodists went to the first world war and around 28,000 died. That number (285,000) is likely to be the result of the annual returns of Methodist Church membership around the country. Therefore it is like mobilising every current card-carrying Methodist but knowing that one in ten will be killed. Imagine what that would do to your congregation... This is a sobering thought and today's service was never going to be easy. The minister does a grand job of trying to placate pacifists like myself with those who are proud of the military past and choose the more "traditional" approach to remembrance. That said I did feel rather excluded from some of todays service and had to stop singing a particular hymn. The hymn in question I can't find reference to bar our handout so shall reproduce the first verse.Though we were informed that it was the official Boys Brigade Hymn and is riddled with the militant Christianity that Victorian hymn-writers had!
O God of Love our prayer we raise For Unity and peace, That all mankind may give Thee praise. And war for ever cease
Nothing too controversial there (bar the "all mankind may give" line... but then we go to such classics as...
"Lord, grant us peace, but also give A great and holy pride In men who showed us how to live. And, as their Master, died
It then goes through a hero-worship style description of "hero brothers" who should "make us worthy" to also claim to be Brothers The finishing finale (V6!) is
Lord, from our hearts, to Thee we give Thanks for their life-blood shed: We pray for grace that we may live True to our glorious dead
Besides repelling and annoying me greatly it really got me thinking about my underlying anger at the Christian services which "celebrate" remembrance Sunday and the whole imagery thing that comes with it. I think that alot of it is a generational thing, but through this we are allowing previous generations perceptions and styles hold back and prevent our new way of looking at things. During the run up to the second Iraq war I was heavily involved in Edinburgh Youth Against War. We managed to mobilise around 3,000 young people out onto the streets to argue for a peaceful solution rather than warfare. I think that , due to our upbringings and also our attitude to violence has changed over the intervening generations between the second world war and now. This attitude does not take away from the respect and awe for the experiences that those in previous generations went through. Awe and horror at things such as gassing and trenches but also knowing that we shouldn't allow this situations to start in the first place. Therefore I look forward to this years' debate beginning to move the nation forward to new ways of remembering those who died, whilst remembering we are part of a global world where millions died for the whim of politicians and that "never again" is possible if only we let it. Indeed I would have to herald a quality sermon being delivered in Swansea recently, click here to see what Revd Richard Hall preached (wish I'd heard it as it reads wonderfully). Take care y'all john

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Taken as Red

This sunday is solumn one in the Church year. It is the time when churches of many differing denominations partake in a civic duty . This duty being to mark the sunday closest to the 11th November as a time to remember all those who have died in warfare. The setup is useualy thus 1) A war poem along "we shall never forget" is read 2) A bugle/tape of bugle/ young person from local band plays the "last post" 3) A minutes silence at 11am during which... i) Some of the congregation look rather bored ii) Some of the congregation fiddle with the order of service/nearest child iii) Said child crys/ phone goes off iv) One or two people look dewy eyed into the distance v) The minister looks at their sermon notes for later vi) A small number go into deep contemplation and reflection on the moment So why bother? well because the United Kingdom has a thing for "remeberance sunday". It stems from a want, nay lust to remember the mass slaughter of the first world war. Afterall part of the act of rememberance was the idea of "the war to end all wars"... yet it didn't work as less than twenty years later the world was plunged back into turmoil and yet again there were more names to remember. Fast forward to the modern day and it is a day in which "the fallen" are remembered from all countries (though mainly the ones of the winning side) and all wars. This day has it's own symbol, that of the Red poppy. The Red Poppy is a matter of contention this year, as many years, as the debate between Red and White Poppy and (more fundementaly the day)what they are about. I must admit that I do not wear a red poppy. I find it associated with a glorification of warfare that I can never endourse. Therefore if I sport anything then it is the white poppy. I see that as a suitable way to remember those who have died but also a want for peace. Whereas the red poppy doesn't advocate peace as part of its being. Therefore I struggle to support the idea of remebering without proactivly doing anything to prevent future wars. But heck, I'm a namby pamby liberal guardian reader so what do I know.... For those who wish intelligent debtate then listen to this from radio 4's Today programme but also leave your comments here as well. If you wear one why , if you don't why not and if you are planning a service what do you intend to mark and "remeber" this coming sunday? Take care y'all john

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Methodist Council - Meeting 1 - Day One

Note : This is a personal review of the meeting, aiming to show how I participated and also what end decisions were reached. As part of Council I am bound by the end results of Methodist Council votes and I will stand by the decision of council, even if I disagreed with it! The Meeting was held at High Leigh Conference Centre which offers (and thanks to their website for the text) High Leigh is set in the heart of the Hertfordshire countryside within 40 acres of lawns, parkland and woodland. These tranquil surroundings aid both concentration and relaxation for delegates. This was only my second visit there but it is a delightful venue with much wide open space to allow a true appreciation of the beauty of creation... bit of a shame this was mainly viewed from the windows lining the room we met in. This was the first year of changes. No longer is council to be chaired by the current President or Vice President. Instead, in light of a paper passed last year, a past president or vice president has been elected (Revd William Morray) and he is the full time chair for a few years. This change has also seen Revd Morray bring his expertise and experience in chairing meetings and this was noticeable. We saw a meeting in which consensus was reached and not just cut 'n thrust yes or no decisions. We also had the Policy and Research Unit come and guide us through all the reshaping of the connexional team and give us the big picture and small picture guidance using a sharp compere and nifty powerpoint presentaions.. as for content... we'll come to that. Session One We opened in Prayer (lead by our Chaplain) where we looked at a Cornish potter. We then went through the usual meeting guff of minute acceptance/apologies etc. First to be discussed and accepted was the Work Outline for the Methodist Council Year. This was passed without comment. Up second was a look at what Methodist Council was in What Sort of Body are We this should be read in conjunction with the Expectations document which between them spell out, in this year of institutional change, what is to be expected from the governing (council), changing (Connexional Team), managing (Connexional Leadership Team) and a variety of other groups. I think it was a good clear document that set down in stone who expects what and means that (in principle!) Council doesn't worry over micro manging but also has a clearer idea over when it needs to step in and when it shouldn't. These were both passed. We also discussed a paper on "Substitutes" and the use/abuse of them and how to ensure that the correct level of democratic accountability is in palace. We then had a presentation from the Strategy & Resources Committee outlining all we needed to know and to begin to explain some complicated processes. This was followed by outlining of our "ways of working" (in large group discussion and small group discussion) before we got onto... Team Focus : Project 8 (Property and Money) But I'll leave you with that teaser... as I need to get back to my essay work. warm regards John

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Archbishop of Canterbury on God

I have made it back from Council, survived it just! That said I have been rather ill so unable to provide the relevant preview so many apologies. Tonight I have been listening to an amazing programme, Humphrys in Search of God, on the listen again facility after I missed it's initial broadcast on Radio 4. The programme, as the name suggest, is an exploration of what it means to believe in a God, lead by John Humphrys (of Today programme fame). He is an ex-Christian but wants to know what it means to believe in a religious God and is exploring this by interviewing faith leaders from the Christian,Muslim and Jewish religions. Tonight was the turn of Christianity and the interviewee was Archbishop Rowan Williams, a man for whom I have the greatest respect. It provides a fascinating intellectual battle as John and Rowan spar (in an exploratory sense) what it means to believe in God and also what do you do if you don't believe but want to. To hear the Archbishop so eloquent and intelligently explore and define his belief. The idea that you either believe in God or you don't was under severe challenge through the programme. Through the variety of examples offered you got a true sense of blind christian belief coupled with an understanding and humanity for the common man (in the people sense). The end result of the programme was the understanding that neither had shifted their initial starting points, Rowan wasn't about to become a atheist and John wasn't about to return to the Christianity he left. That didn't matter though, what did happen was real intellectual radio that grappled with the issues of faith in both a hypothetical and real manner. If you wish to listen to the show then I suggest you click... here. or you can listen to an hour long interview, rather than polished programme by clicking here. Take Care Y'All John

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Apologies for lack of Service

Methodist Council paperwork is a hefty booklet this time and taking me a long time to fully digest. Within it are many important issues relating to Team Focus (reviewing all areas of Methodist Connexional Level work and support) as well as what leadership is required from the Church. There are some issues within which I am going to have to phrase "delicatly" but I want to get the discussion going. Therefore I shall start posting up tonight, that said I do need to re-find the booklet which appears to have gone awol. UPDATE: Booklet has been located.. seems it was hidden until I managed to get all the other work needing done completed!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Methodist Council Outline

Here we have the planned "policy" timetable for the year at Methodist Council. In order to understand the outlines then I think I need to outline what the role of Methodist Council is. Methodist Council is seen as the body that provides oversight to the whole connexional (nationwide) church. This is, in my view, often passing policy and programmes of work in principle before the true authority (annual conference) can act. Also once policy has been passed then it appears council sometimes has to provide thoughts and guidance around how to carry it out. So here we have the timetable (provisional - We (the council) are to discuss at our first meeting).
October 2006
Debated then Voted on... ‘Expectations’ paper The Team and TMCP (from Project 8) The Shape of the Team – leadership and senior management Grant-making processes & Criteria (from Project 12) Training Institutions: the process ‘Our discipline’ Consultation processes for reconsideration of Derby Resolutions Review Methodist Leadership – establish the process En bloc (ie Voted without debate) Appointment of Conf Business Cttee Wales Chairs Ministerial extensions of appointment Audit contract Appoint group to review responses to What Sort of Bishops?, with terms of reference Nature of Oversight – proposal to defer to at least 08, in the light of: this year’s heavy workload; the review of Methodist Leadership; the debate about Bishops Discussion item - So we have to look through and discuss the issues rather than just scrutinising the contents of the paper Faithful Cities, with Methodist responses and reflection on Methodist urban mission strategy
For those of you who can't wait for my digest then click here and start to look through... Take Care Y'All John

Friday, October 20, 2006

100 Posts and Methodist Council Year Two

So then, I have made it to 100 posts! I am dissapointed that I wasn't awoken by a telegram from the Queen, instead it was the thud of the first book of Methodist Council papers for the year. I shall aim to have a wee guide to what we shall be discussing onto this blog on monday giving a good week, afore council meets, for some hearty discussion and disemination of information to you - my electorate! Therefore to keep you interested till then I thought I would post this news story as a reminder to everyone to ensure their church work reflects the needs of those that are being served as well as a moment of thanks that this minister aint as shy as father ted when faced with a similar problem! Take Care Y'All John

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

What in the World Are You Upto?

Today is nominated as a celebration of the mundane. In a unique piece of social history recording the National Trust is asking everyone to "blog" (ie write an online journal) on what they have done today and to submitt in on their site - - - - > click here for the webpage. This is a day picked as a nothing day but through the mundane we find out so much and this will be the most amazing record for years to come. I have been recently re-reading the Mass Observation diaries from the second world war and creation of the welfare state. They are exactly the same as this mass blog and record the mundane, yet because I have no concept of what it was like to live then (even though it is only 60 years ago) and these diaries have given me a true insight into what it was really like, rather than just what propaganda tells it was like! So go on, go on, go on, record your day for prosperity - from getting up to have a cup of tea to running the country we all have something import to add to the history of this nation. Take Care Y'All John

Sunday, October 15, 2006

About time too....

This is taken from the news syndicate running on the right of my blog but was worth reproducing here....
Evangelical students fail in bid to be called 'Christian Union' -14/10/06 Evangelical students at Exeter university have failed in their bid to call themselves the "Christian Union" and have had their accounts frozen pending a full review into the society's Equal Opportunities policy. A referendum was held at the university this week about whether the 'Evangelical Christian Union' should be able to change its name to the 'Christian Union'. For more than 50 years, students at the Devon university have organised evangelistic events under the name of the Exeter University Christian Union. However in May a complaint was made against them that the group was too exclusive. The student Guild subsequently changed the name to "Evangelical Christian Union." Opposition has been growing in universities up and down the country to many Christian Unions over their approaches to gay and lesbian people. They have also been accused of operating discriminatory policies over appointments to their executives. Other Christian groups also operate in universities, holding different positions to traditional Christian Unions which tend to be evangelical in character. This calls into question say critics, the right of Evangelicals with conservative views, to have a monopoly on the name 'Christian'. Voting in the referendum at Exeter University, about whether the Evangelical Christian Union should be able to change its name to the 'Christian Union', finished on Friday. The “No” campaign won the referendum with a 55% majority. Of the 582 votes, 317 were in favour of keeping the existing name, reports Kathryn Nott for the Exeter Students website X-net. According to the website, the result of the referendum will still need to be ratified at the university Guild Council. Tim Paulden, leader of the “No” campaign told X-Net News, “The referendum result is a significant victory for democracy and human rights, and a hammerblow against religious bigotry and intolerance. For years, this society has deceptively marketed itself as the 'Christian Union' while systematically silencing and discriminating against Christians who are not evangelical.” "Today, this cynical ruse has finally come to an end. The result of the referendum and the GSA motion passed yesterday represent the first two steps towards a future in which every Exeter student will have their beliefs accepted and welcomed. We sincerely hope that all religious societies –including the ECU – will be willing to work together to achieve this goal." ECU President James Harding said, "To be honest, I'm just glad it's all over". However a meeting of the Guild Societies Association (GSA) on Friday also saw the Evangelical Christian Union's accounts temporarily frozen, and their privileges as a Guild society removed pending a full review into the society's Equal Opportunities policy, following a vote by society presidents.
I like the fact that everyone had a say on how the felt the society acted etc and am pleased to see they rejected some groups small minded outlook as the opposite to being a Christian Union... long may these forms of Union rebellin continue against small minded beurocrats in CUs. Let us be honest the message of someone who died for everyone or a god that loves everyone really shouldn't be an exclusive or discriminatory message yet so many people manage to swing it round to that it's embarressing and really leaves one to wonder how anyone can be attracted to such groups (this goes for all evengelical religious groups with closed doctrinal statements of belief). Take Care Y'All John

'Appiness is Rainbow Shaped!

I thought I wasn't going to blog about this but somehow I just can't stop myself. All I can say is Rainbows make me very happy and it just get better every day! It has left me pondering on the concept of giving thanks to god and quiet how we go about it - and indeed what is good thanks and what isn't. But yeah all I am doing is grinning like a maniac. Take Care Y'All John

Saturday, October 14, 2006

We are marching in the name of peace

In Scotland at the moment there is a wonderful movement afoot. This is the Scotland 4 Peace campaign that have it's aims as:
1. For a majority of Scottish MPs, MSPs, Councillors and MEPs to speak out publicly against the replacement of Trident 2. The Scottish Executive to establish a Scottish Centre for Peace and Justice 3. Establish an annual Scottish Peace Day 4. The Scottish Executive to establish an effective Defence Diversification Agency to plan the replacement of defence jobs
This shows true spirit and is supported by church groups (though I fail to find a listing of which ones) and with the Scottish Parliament elections coming up next May it looks like the churches will once again be helping shape the issues that get the nation talking - just what needs to be happening! EDITED : It seems turbulent cleric has been having similar thoughts and posted the following film about our United Methodist cousins...

I Blah therefore I shall blog (2)

There was an academic, a minister and a dude living it... no this isn't a joke just a jokey intro into my review of today. I went to a Blah day which Jonny Baker has been plugging featuring (amongst others) John Drane. This day was supported by the emerging church community moot (for a review of their community read this report which met in the venue we used, the beautiful St Matthews, Westminster Spiritual Formation with John Drane, Andrew Roberts and Ben Edson. The day opened with the usual coffee/tea set-up and mild polite conversation. This is noted for the reason that it is really the most odd moments as if you don't know anyone it is rather lonely. I was in luck as I was approached by one of the speakers and we got chatting. That said this did rather set me thinking about how we, as a church can be a truly welcoming body prior to services. After all at that point there is little or no link to anyone else and left me realising that the effort church puts into being welcoming at the start of the service needs to have more work put into the end... but more on that another time. John Drane First up to speak was Mr John Drane. You may have come across two of his books, The McDonaldization of the Church and the more recent Do Christians Know How to Be Spiritual?: The Rise of New Spirituality and the Mission of the Church. Both of these books were the running themes through the talk he gave. The main aim of his talk was to explain about how each time society has changed, from agrarian to industrial to beyond, the church has responded. The nature of what church was and did (ie liturgy focused on) was shaped by outside factors to keep the message of God relevant to the modern day. In order to be able to reflect the different times of humanity it has had to profile the people and ensure that what it taught did so. The idea of teaching though needs to be rethought, the previous generations and styles were always that people were taught rather than assessing what they needed to know first. What now happens is that humans have changed, they look for the big picture now and yet somehow the teaching method focuses on the small. This is then reflected (the need for the big picture) in what they look for the church to be talking about when (and now we go into my thinking), in reality, we are still (on an institutional) level looking at issues that don't concern the public any more. Discussions on human sexuality and the role of women are discussions that our society had over fifty years ago and they have now moved on. Yet with the church obsessing about out of date issues it looses the edge it had on the society it works with. (Back to JD's views now) In both the books I mentioned when introducing him he identifies styles of people and styles of the church reacting (eg Traditionalist, Conceptual etc). The Church is very good at reaching out to those for whom a Traditionalist or Apathetic approach works. Yet the other groups are not represented. Therefore by realising that we are all on a journey and we all have differing starting points therefore we need to ensure that we open our eyes and ears to everyones starting points and get ready to reflect that. This was summed up by the idea that we should "imagine church to be a Jazz band, different leaders at different times" and ensure that "we must ensure the questions we (the church) struggle with are new & not just a rehash of what faces old cultures"

I Blah therefore I shall Blog....

Revd Andrew Roberts Up next was the Revd Andrew Roberts. He is a Methodist minister and works for the joint Anglican/Methodist Fresh Expressions project. He set out by explaining that many people view either fresh expressions or emerging church and rarely are the two seen as the same thing, an important way of seeing how different people view things which others see as the same (this idea of one being different from other was later challenged by a questioner who saw both intertwining). The main jist of what he was saying was that all successful projects have 3 key parts to them... 1) Prayer and Support 2) Listening and Following of Gods call* 3) Connexion *This is a listening and following of Gods call in that locality and not just a personal one The starting point for any new piece of work is to get out and to really know the place you are serving, whilst we bring many talents we do not bring the answer to the area - the only thing that provides those answers are the people that you meet. This was exemplified by the Liverpool Project called "somewhere else". This was one where the Methodist Central Hall was shut and the minister spent a year walking the streets to discern what the new need was and she felt called to produce bread with people within the centre of the city. "This is not a church, this is a house of God" Homeless dude in the film We then moved onto the idea that emerging church was the step after church planting. This is because church planting provided the answers (ie Worship) without allowing the community to decide on their need and end up as a worshiping community by naturally evolving into it. He finished with us examining some disciple causes and there was some interesting critiques of them from the attendees. But with all this hard work done it was off to lunch and that when we all got to know each other. Ben Edson Back after lunch for less lecture and more group discussion. Ben gave many real life examples, from the project he is linked to, Sanctus1,and was challenging all of us. We had to look at the way new media talks to us and how to integrate that into our worship. Also to look at how we ferment and grow as communities and what the key idea of community is and what it represents. After all this there was a short panel discussion and all then we all went home. I felt the need to blog at reasonable length about it because they are important things that are being covered. The work by John Drane, in particular, presents not only a challenge but also a way forward for me. He doesn't present that answers but he manages to solidify much of modern day thinking into ways of looking at what the church presents and leaving us to come up with the answers. Next month at Blah there is a talk on New Monasticism and I shall defiantly be there.... Take Care Y'all John

Monday, October 09, 2006

It tastes so good

I am not the worlds greatest Football fan, but I am following (with a keen eye) the success of the Scotland football team of late.... But for a more interesting viewpoint then i would suggest clicking here where you can watch a wee film shot by someone in the stands. Take care Y'all John

Some cutting satire...

Today I thought, in light of this news that a musical interlude was in order. Step forward the marvelous Tom Lehrer who wrote this prophetic song in the 60s....
First we got the bomb, and that was good, 'Cause we love peace and motherhood. Then Russia got the bomb, but that's okay, 'Cause the balance of power's maintained that way. Who's next? France got the bomb, but don't you grieve, 'Cause they're on our side (I believe). China got the bomb, but have no fears, They can't wipe us out for at least five years. Who's next? Then Indonesia claimed that they Were gonna get one any day. South Africa wants two, that's right: One for the black and one for the white. Who's next? Egypt's gonna get one too, Just to use on you know who. So Israel's getting tense. Wants one in self defense. "The Lord's our shepherd," says the psalm, But just in case, we better get a bomb. Who's next? Luxembourg is next to go, And (who knows?) maybe Monaco. We'll try to stay serene and calm When Alabama gets the bomb. Who's next? Who's next? Who's next? Who's next?
Yeah, we all know I ain't a fan of nuclear. That is neither weapons or power. It isn't right and for the money involved we could invest in much more meaningful ways to generate power and to create peace rather than prevent war. That said, this government will never have a nuclear leg to stand on as long as it continues to lambast the world for going nuclear whilst almost committing to nuclear weapons and also nuclear power within the life of this current parliament. So then, the next train to come into Hypocracy central? Take Care Y'All John

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Whos Harvest Is It Anyway

This sunday, at Wesleys Chapel, we had our annual Harvest festival. Like all churches this is a once a year extravaganza that has hymns you can depend on, such as we plough the fields and scatter and whole variety of others. All of which seem set to build up a mental image of us all ploughing and reaping our way through the rest of the year. Yet we do not do that - we are remarkably disconnected from our food production process. Does this instead mean therefore that all our harvests should be a guilt fest. After all, there are very worthy agenices such as MRDF (the Methodist Relief and Development Fund) who bring out many resources as a way of reminding us who produces the food we do eat and the harsh conditions in which they work for our cheap food. But there is, as ever a third way. One where we realise that not only are we a vital part in a global system of food sales, by looking to ensure we always purchase fairtrade (guaranteeing a fair price for farmers)but that we also stand up for farmers within our own country. We should be grasping the fact that this idea of ripping off food production does not only happen outside this country. Even more than that though we must use Harvest as a way to reconnect with Mother Nature. We are not growing any of our own food yet we should be. We have the resources, both space and time, to ensure that we can add to our own table. This year, coupled with last year, has brought these two issues together. The "Make Poverty History" campaign made the general public aware of poverty and the ways we can tackle it. This year the Stop Climate Chaos campaign is making us face our responsibility as citizens, or even stewards, of this planet. By realising how fragile the earth is we shouldn't be allowing our food to be flown half way round the world to our door. So, I started with the all time classic of ploughing and scattering. Instead I think we need to move on. We need to accept our global place but not neglect our local place. So then, what do we think the new Harvest Hymn of choice should be... over to you kids! Take Care Y'All John