Thursday, December 06, 2012

2012 - A Feeble Birthday for the Methodist Church

Happy Birthday Methodist Church! It's been 80 years since the Weslyean, Primative and United Connexion's came together and it's a sad reflection on the state of the church that no-one has seen fit to mark it. But why does this matter?
The first reason a lack of celebration matters is the fact this highlights what can only be described as a lack of confidence in ourselves to have a story worth telling. Looking at my bookshelves I find a mirriad of political and social stories covering 1932 - around 198something and then a flurry of books around the turn of the millenium revisiting some key questions facing the church. It is clear that we have spent time looking at our place in the world, but not really promoting the people
This year could never be considered a tickertape year for the Methodist Church. The ongoing challenges of declining membership and undertaking a significant culture shift within the church to meet the society of today has lead to some very hard decisions. It just saddens me that, for an institution so often mocked for being stuck in the past, we don't have the fundraising or movement building nous to celebrate that past and  80 years of changing lives around the connexion. It can only lead me to a simple question: Is our movement's story that uninspiring?

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Sunday Song: A Very Modern Methodist (with apologies to Gilbert and Sullivan)

A wee treat for you that was originally posted in the UK Methodist Group. With Methodist Conference 2013 being hosted by Westminster Central Hall we would have the perfect setting for a performance of this fine ditty....

(Reproduced here with the author's permission to enable wider sharing)

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I am the very model of a modern mainstream Methodist,
I find myself under attack both by the fundamentalist,
And the growing number who are all completely secular,
And claim that the whole universe is solely molecular,
The one lot think I’m stupid and the rest that I’m a heretic,
Despite my finest reasoning and arguments so very quick
And so I play the middle line against the pull of each extreme
Whilst they all think that I am on the evil and opposing team!

We still think Wesley’s sermons are the pinnacle rhetorical
And our Eucharistic wine is still non-alcoholical,
But at least our bread is bread unlike the Ordinariate,
Who can keep their rotten wafers, even when they transubstantiate!

I am the very model of a modern mainstream Methodist,
We tend to be quite open and aren’t really over-prejudiced
We’ve got female ministers and have a preaching laity
And think that they are equal in the sight of our deity,
We are still debating on the issue homosexual,
Is it that immoral; is it socially contextual?
But you’ll never find us being a little bit disparaging,
And we give them blessing services as we discuss gay marriaging.

People think I’m properly supposed to shun the demon drink,
But I enjoy a pint or four and I must say I really think
That all God’s gifts are good for you when used in moderation,
After all ‘twas God Himself invented fermentation!

In fact when I know off by heart ‘And Can It Be’ and ‘Love Divine’
And don’t believe you’re justified ahead of time by pre-design,
And when I think God tends towards being fairly lenient,
By making sure His grace is free and totally prevenient.
When we arrange our churches in an order circuituitous,
And know that to be Methodist is really most fortuitous.
It means we know that we are right when holding forth doctrinally,
Though our congregation sizes tend to trend declinally.

And when I know of what you speak by Wesleyan and Primitive,
And think that my theology is totally definitive,
And when I’m really rather rude about the poor old Calvinist,
You'll say I am the model of a modern mainstream Methodist!




Written by Thomas Jones 2012 (with apologies to Gilbert and Sullivan)



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Monday, August 06, 2012

The lib dems are in trouble - bring on real 3rd party politics

The failure of the Liberal Democrats to secure Lords Reform is a key political moment of this parliament. This ideological carrot, offered at a the end of a very long political stick of issues many in the party were unhappy to support, has gone rotten before the party got to taste it. If their use of power means they cannot get core legislation passed then it is highly likely their upcoming elections won’t prove enjoyable viewing for the yellow birds of politics.

However, we shouldn’t toast their impending political implosion without realising the consequences. The collapse of a small, yet relatively successful, political party could risk turning the beginnings of a multi-party state, back into a more dull and difficult two-party state.

For if the lib-dems collapse it is an imperative for any third party to step up and fill that gap. The continuing decline in voter turnout makes clear that the general population do not view any of the main political parties as ‘talking their language’, and as consensus breaks over solutions to the economic crisis there is a clear gap for a third party to step up.

The failure of the Liberal Democrats to secure Lords Reform is a key political moment of this parliament. This ideological carrot, offered at a the end of a very long political stick of issues many in the party were unhappy to support, has gone rotten before the party got to taste it. If their use of power means they cannot get core legislation passed then it is highly likely their upcoming elections won’t prove enjoyable viewing for the yellow birds of politics.

However, we shouldn’t toast their impending political implosion without realising the consequences. The collapse of a small, yet relatively successful, political party could risk turning the beginnings of a multi-party state, back into a more dull and difficult two-party state.

For if the lib-dems collapse it is an imperative for any third party to step up and fill that gap. The continuing decline in voter turnout makes clear that the general population do not view any of the main political parties as ‘talking their language’, and as consensus breaks over solutions to the economic crisis there is a clear gap for a third party to step up.

The ability of a third party to set up is difficult. The two main contenders, the Green Party and UKIP have both have very different levels of success and both continue to poll around 5% in public opinion polls. This distance, from less than 5% to electoral success is made even more difficult by the fact that when either of the main two parties get out and campaign they inevitably focus on a variation of that well worn lib dem phrase, only ONE OR OTHER PARTY NAME will win here, deligitmising any other political debate.

This is a dangerous taste of what could come. Throughout history all political parties have contributed to shaping the nation we have today. However the problems of tomorrow are not solved by the solutions of yesterday.  If this is true then we also need some new thinking. However without realising that the time to take alternative arguments is now, then the chance of a lifetime to radically shift political thinking will be missed.

This is a dangerous taste of what could come. Throughout history all political parties have contributed to shaping the nation we have today. The two main political parties have much to offer the situations faced by the country today. However the problems of tomorrow are not solved by a reliance on those who provided the solutions of yesterday.  We still need some new thinking. However without realising that the time to take alternative arguments is now, then the chance of a lifetime to radically shift political thinking will be missed.



PS - Of course it isn't just a 3rd party that is needed, its a 4th, a 5th etc and a wide an active civil society...

Friday, May 18, 2012

reviews #wingsofdesire from Birmingham

For the past week there has been a small technological feast growing in central Birmingham. Victoria Square has been slowly taken over by flight cases, spotlights and portable staging. On paper, a 9.30pm piece of outdoor theatre might not sound good - yet having walked through the square for three days curiosity took the better of me. Last night I fought through exhaustion to experience "Wings of Desire".

The performance starts with Goldie (he of Celebrity Big Brother fame) welcoming us and explaining that 'angels only see the world in black and white'. After a few more heavily laden, scene setting words, the real action starts as the circus troup take to the stage and begin to dance (something!) out.

What evolves, through a mixture of dance, film and visuals is a representation of a personal struggle and strife to move from the angels world to that of the human. Why? because the angel had tasted love and wanted that again.
Overall the story was a simple one. Man meets girl and falls in love. What makes the piece come alive is the constant rotating of viewing opportunities and some outstanding physical moves.

The dancing and gymnastics was stunning. A highlight of the evening is a beautiful single piece where an individual in bright red does some stunning rope work suspended in-between the pillars of the old town hall. The same pillars later explode with some stunning visuals that show off technologies ability to create amazing mirages.

The let-down of the evening had to be the majority of the dialogue. Both on film and also on stage, the spoken words were too heavily laden and too sparse to be anything other than a distraction and interruption. While they helped shape an understanding of what was going on, they were too well crafted to be believable. A low light was a cracking video being spoilt by a spoken word track that kept repeating words (to the effective of) birmingham's a dump but I like it. This wasn't enjoyable and left a lot of the dialogue feeling like an overly earnest arts-council funded project desperately trying to be 'in touch' with its location. More relaxed, discursive dialogue would have worked much better.

Today the Olympic flame touches down in the UK and the nation of Cornwall will eat cream teas to celebrate. The flame, an addition to the 1933 Olympic Games, was meant to link one empire with another. Now it serves as a moral booster ahead of the games. For me, I'd instead suggest you take yourself down to Victoria Square and enjoy the (free) show tonight. This show, like the Olympics, is at its best when all is silent and we get the opportunity to marvel at the strength, beauty and delicacy of the human body.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Welcome @scm_britain members

Hello

Welcome to my blog - especially if you come across it after reading an excerpt from it in the latest 'Movement' magazine of the Student Christian Movement.

Click this link to read my interview with Hattie in Full