Friday, 30 April 2010

The Moon Also Rises

It's possible some may be interested.  But if you are, I'm happy to point you to the first part of a Beaker Folk e-novella.  Moonrise over Crawley Crossing (Part 1).  Hope you enjoy.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Border Country

I have a lovely drive to work.  If I ignore the temptations of the A14 I'm effectively driving through rolling countryside the whole way - the gently rolling, lovely countryside of Northamptonshire and Leicestershire.
There are a few nearby battlefields - Naseby, of course, where the nasty roundheads beat the useless Charles, while the gallant and equally nasty and useless Prince Rupert rode around at random, and then atrocities were committed on the innocent wives of the Welsh archers.  And then the Bosworth Field is just the other side of Leicester.
But the countryside holds the memories of a much older series of conflicts.  And the place names give it away.  Because 1200 years ago, this was border country.  Round Wellingborough, the placenames are mostly English - Irthlingborough, (Earls) Barton, Harrowden, Orlingbury.  But even here there's the odd Norse name such as Wilby or Thorpe Malsor.  And as you head into Leicestershire the Norse names gradually become increasingly prevalent - Beeby, Barkby Thorpe, and the lovely Scraptoft. But even here the Angles never quite gave up their place names - Keyham, Hungarton, Syston.  Who knows how many minor scraps established that the Angles kept Nosely while the Danes named Goadby?  It's a fascinating history of the area laid out in the language of the places - place names we never normally give a second thought to.

A propos nothing, really, but it's a thought that 1200 years ago the Saxons were probably saying to each other "All those Danes - where are they all coming from?"

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Proportional Desperation

Poor Mac has a problem.
He's been reading up on Tactical Voting.

He lives in a Conservative-Labour marginal.  And he's always voted Lib Dem.
But now he's unsure.

If he votes Lib Dem it's going to be a wasted vote.

And he's strongly into "Anyone but Gordon."  Whatever else happens, he doesn't want Gordon to win.  So he thinks that maybe he should vote Tory.

But if all the Lib Dems in marginals do that across the country,  and the Tories get a majority.... that's not going to be good.

So maybe he'd be better off voting Labour.  As then if Labour don't get too many seats then there's going to be a coalition.  And it might be that if Labour's not too strong then they get rid of Gordon.  And a Lib Dem - Labour coalition with - say - Alan Johnson might not be too bad.

But if Labour get in here, they could end up with a coalition where Labour's quite a strong partner.  And then Gordon could stay - at least for quite a while.  And he doesn't want that.

Mac's got a headache now.

So he's going to vote Green.  At least he knows that won't do anything.

Friday, 23 April 2010


I'm spending two days in a store, finding out how my new company "works".
Being it was a bit of a quiet day, I spent a while wandering around in my suit, trying to sell a product that frankly I would never buy myself to customers.  I was very polite, very informative, and managed to give away one leaflet in an hour and a half.
To be fair to the customers, some were more embarrassed than I was.  Some saw me coming and ran down a side-aisle.  And one stopped and chatted to me because I'm the curate at her church.  But I suspect if I'd understood the thing I was trying to sell better, or if I'd tried it myself and liked it, I would have been a lot keener on trying to sell it.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

The rules of Retail IT

In 23 years of employment I've only done one kind of job.  Retail IT.  That's computers, in and for Retail (and Wholesale) companies.
And there's a rule.  Whenever you start a new job in Retail IT, you get to go to the stores to work for a couple of days to see what it's like.
Which is why I'm going to spend the next couple of days selling curtains, rugs and cushions.
I wouldn't want it any other way.  But it's not really "incarnational".  Because in 2 days I'll know what it's all about and will go back to my life of living on the shop floor.  But the 5 days I spent in the China Department at John Lewis were some of the most fun I've ever worked.
But I still wouldn't want to do it for a living.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010


On a few days away (from home and kids) before the new job starts, we went to stay in Hunstanton, and I went down to Walsingham for a few hours.
Being someone who likes my peace 'n' quiet, I found it disconcerting that the cleaner seemed to have made it her personal mission to follow me around the shrine wherever I went, armed with a hoover.  So I went up to the Orthodox chapel - up the stairs, past a rather anomalous statue of what I guess must be Charles I.  Normally I get up there and enjoy the quiet, because it's off the tourists' beaten track, and I love the icons.  I've only attended Orthodox worship once (in a church in Dorset populated entirely by disaffected Anglicans - but that's another story) but, like the Archdruid, I do like icons. I like the Orthodox concept that they are effectively focuses - or gateways, I guess - means of grace to come close to God.  So, in my terms, I guess I'd see them as sacramental.  Still, my peace was shattered fairly quickly by the chainsaw that someone seemed to be wielding in the grounds.
The ceremony of "sprinkling" is an oddly named concept, and slightly odd to a prod sensibility, but it is very symbolic, with strong echoes of baptism of course.  You go down the steps to where the spring is, then receive the spring water to drink, on your forehead, and in your hands.  Then you climb back up again.  It's given me some ideas for what a baptistry should be like, if I ever get to build one.  But it's always the most moving part of a visit, for me.
Then back to the coast, and another brilliant view of the Wash.  By this morning, the weather had cleared enough that you could see the wind turbines out to sea - and last night had a view of the lights of Skeggy.  A lovely part of the world.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Priest-Bound and Exclusive?

Yesterday I went for a guest appearance at a church who have been in interregnum for 12 months or so.  Despite this they are making stalwart efforts to keep their pattern of services going - which means Mass at 8 and 10am every Sunday and Weds lunchtimes.
I admire their spirit, of course.  But it leaves me wondering about the extent to which we have made churches priest-bound.   Of course Holy Communion is the normative act of Christian worship.  But that doesn't mean that other forms are not valid.  Communion is an excluding form of worship; defining who is "in" and who is "out" in a way that other services don't.  And it leaves the church dependent upon the presence of a priest.  I should say that while I can accept reserving sacrament for home visits I don't agree with communion by extension as I don't find it has integrity.  It's a strange ceremony that seems to be saying "you should have been somewhere else, but this will do".

For once in my life I don't blame the Victorians for this situation.  Well OK, yes I do, indirectly through a link to the Oxford Movement.  But I mostly blame the Liturgical Renewal.  It seems to me that what happened was that the churches put the present experience and expectation of their existing members, above that of any future members.  I don't see Mass, Eucharist or whatever you want to call it as a very good form of service for people who don't know much about church.  And 25 years when I attended a service of Communion for the first time it scared the wits out of me.  Just a very odd thing.

It reminds me of a debate on banksyboy's and Sam Norton's blogs a few weeks ago regarding music and worship.  If the service is meeting the expectations of regular and commited worshippers - what effect is it having on those who are not committed, or finding their way, or looking at what church-going is about?  I wonder if sometimes communion has an effect similar to this:
So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and some who do not understand or some unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind? 1 Cor 14:23
So on the whole what I think would be a good idea for the church is less frequent communion.  It will mean the church is more friendly to those who are searching, to those who are uncommited - makes communion more special.  And means it can get on better, with fewer priests.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Installation of Donald Allister, Bishop of Peterborough

Just back from our new bishop's installation.  The first Bishop's Installation I've attended and since it was the sad loss of Ian Cundy that caused our new need for a new bishop, I don't ever want to go to another for the same reason.

Traditional Anglican occasion of course.  +Donald's appointment has caused waves in various places (eg the Guardian).  And we were short of one planned participant.  +George of Bungoma didn't make it due to being marooned at Nairobi Airport due to Icelandic geological conditions.

+Donald's sermon was clear, not too long, and covered Jesus's restoration of Peter, and the command to feed Jesus' sheep.  He stressed that the sheep are Jesus's, not his or ours (as clergy) and I wondered about the bishop's emphasis when they stressed they weren't "Peter's".  But the rest of the sermon was extremely inclusive - stressing men and women , clergy and laity, catholic, liberal, evangelical and charismatic.  And respect in inter-faith relationships (very important in the City of Peterborough in particular).  But also stressing that Jesus is uniquely the Son of God.  And he was upbeat on church attendance and the future.

So all in all a careful sermon, well-balanced, a pastoral sermon (promising to be down "our" end of the diocese at least once a week - it's a funny-shaped place).  Not a personal sermon in any way, but then probably not surprising.

And a good afternoon all round.  I look forward to what lays ahead, and we will all of course pray for our new diocesan Bishop.

Plugging in the Bishop

It's all very exciting, we're off to the installation of the new Bishop.
I've never been to a bishop's installation before.  In fact I don't even know if he's gas, electric or book-burning.

Friday, 16 April 2010

The last day at work / Self-supporting Ministry

The odd person (odd in the sense of a few, not the other kind of odd, although one or two were) thought I was giving up this secular job which I am leaving in an hour and ten minutes* to be a full-time clergyperson.  No.  I'm off to do another secular job.

And in the same line of work, as well.  Admittedly with my experience my alternatives are IT or (if there are any stipends left) the church.  But it's not just another job in IT, but I'm still going to be in Retail.  That's all I've ever done, and it's what I do, and I love it.  I don't think I could work anywhere else.  I've always said that the day I go into full-time ministry is the day that I wake up and think "I don't want to do retail anymore".  No sign of it happening yet.

It has been tempting at times over the last four or five year to think that I could drift into a working backwater - stop worrying about developing my career and just do as much as I need to, to get paid and then concentrate on the "more important" stuff of being a priest.  But if I did that, I might as well be a full-time minister.  So I'm not gonna do that.  I still want to progress my career, still want to learn new stuff, still make people's lives better (and sometimes worse) with new and improved and more innovative systems.  Still want to be the best I can in my day job - and in my self-supporting post - and also in that shady nightmare half-world where Eileen lurks and broods and my "alternative" creative side can creep out.

It's a four-way stretch, doing what I do.  I have a wife and kids, a job and a ministry in the parish.  The ministry in the parish always comes last - sorry to spoil dreamy-eyed views but, it has to.  If I didn't put my energies into my time with my wife and kids, and do my job as best I could - what kind of priest would I be?  One who gives the message that it's OK to duck your responsibilities for the Kingdom of God.  Too many people (priests and others) can put too much time into their Church as a way of running from their other responsibilities.  I try, as best I can, not to be one of them.  And if you think, "he spends a lot of time blogging for someone with no spare time" - yes, true.  But it's something I can do with the family around and while I'm talking to them or they're watching the Simpsons or whatever.  I'm old-fashioned.  I think plenty of time with the children is more important that "quality" time with them.  (And I type and think pretty fast, as well).

By the way - I said a four-way stretch and only listed three.  I never noticed the other one for a while in my ministry and then one day I did and it made me jump.  See if you can work it out.  And it's not "God".  I've assumed that he works in everything I do anyway - even when I do it badly.  He's not part of the stretch because "in him we live and move and have our being" - at work, at home, and even in the church.

So when I spend my time at church, it's precious.  And when I'm refusing to attend somebody's latest dearest project, it's not because I'm nasty and don't care - it's because I am restricted in the time I can offer (and I'm fierce in restricting it).  And the thing I've really found is this - I hate meetings.  Meetings sap time and energy and the chance for ministry.  Meetings are the cancer that eats away at church.  I was at a meeting where they were asking - practically bullying - for volunteers to go to county-level ecumenical meetings, and I just wanted to say "Stop! Nobody needs to attend this!  Nobody needs these meetings!  The walls will not fall down if nobody goes!  If nobody wants to go, then scrap them!  Go and see your wives and husbands, or read a book, or work at the Daylight Centre or walk round  a lake - but stop multiplying unnecessary meetings just because you think you ought to have them!" Stipendiary people probably hate them as well, but their time, although it's eaten into, doesn't seem to be eaten into in the same way.  Maybe they have more flexible lives the rest of the time, but possibly it's because many of them don't seem to be any good at time management.  If my diary is clogged up with meetings, the taxi meter in my head that shows my time availability for other stuff is running.

But I love doing baptism visits.  Because I have something in common with the people I visit for baptism visits - working in a typical job for our part of the world (retail and distribution) I am where many of our baptism visiting people are.  I took reduced hours because we were in a recession.  I was made redundant (the day before my Selection Conference, as it happens).  We have common ground.

Other people say of me "well he has a ministry at his work."  Nobody's ever spelt out to me exactly how they understand that ministry as operating.  I'm not the chaplain - I'm a project manager.  Unlike the guy at Sainsbury's (see below), for whom I have the utmost respect, I would get thrown out if I wore a dog collar to work.  I have to measure projects against timescales, and against money constraints, just like any other project manager.  I bring Christ into the workplace just like any other Christian - which normally means badly.

And there's a gap here - the bit I'm still trying to work out - which is what they're is that's special about being a Priest at work in the secular, non-public sector, non-caring-sector world.  And sometimes I think the answer is that there's nothing special about it - I really am just another Christian in a secular job.  But there's a dilemma in that

But when I come to the Mass I bring that whole world that I know - the world of IT and Retail, of shops and Distribution Centres and lorries - and offer all that up.  When the Credit Crunch hit, and the jobs were going, I was bringing all that to the Mass.

But I am aware that, in some respects, people like Mike and myself may well be a large part of the future of Christian ministry in this country.  If I were looking at it from a worldly perspective, I'd be thinking - "SSMs - they're cheap, some of them are blokes, they earn a decent wage they can tithe from and once they're retired we'll have a nice supply of ministers with more time on their hands and we won't need to pay their pensions either."  I can see a cathedral-style ministry model creeping in where the full-time vicars are managing fairly large teams of young retired pastoral assistants doing the pastoral stuff, while most of the non-retired priests are working at secular jobs.

If you're interested in the concept of Self-Supporting Ministry, there's a book called "Tentmaking - Perspectives on Self-Supporting Ministry".  Well worth a read, and I wish I'd read it before Ordination - in fact, before selection.  There's this Church Times article - but although it asks the question "how are Christians in special ministry being supported" - I don't think it answers it very well. And I notice that the SSM in the article is a judge, not a web-designer or a shelf stacker..

And next time you meet a young-ish SSM please don't smile at them and say "it's a shame - maybe they'll let you have your own parish one day".  Maybe, just maybe, we don't want one.

*It's alright, they know I've got nothing to do today.

A City Mourns

The exciting news breaks that Messrs Hicks and Gillette are putting Liverpool up for sale.  I offer this simultaneous translation.

"Owning Liverpool Football Club over these past three years has been a rewarding and exciting experience for us and our families."

We still don't understand why your so-called footballers don't wear helmets and shoulder pads.  But we're definitely hoping that selling the club will be a rewarding and exciting experience for us and our families

"Having grown the club this far..."

Having saddled the club with debt, and taken a team that had just been European Champions when we took over to the point where it will be lucky to make the Europa League, where it has only one decent striker (who's always injured), and having spent £20 million pounds on a midfielder specially so the striker has someone to talk to in the treatment room...

"...we have now decided together to look to sell the club to owners committed to take the club through its next level of growth and development."

...we have realised it was a misjudged acquisition and a bad time to take on so much debt, and we'd like to get out.  Sorry about the stadium project, and all that.  If you're really lucky we might sell to someone who has an interest in Liverpool or football.  But at least we're talking, so that's the upside.

Tweet the Election

Being out at a church meeting I missed the Leaders' debate last night.  Doesn't particularly bother me as I made up my mind a while ago who I'm voting for.  Basically any party that will stop telling other people what to do and what not to do gets my vote.  And that's in politics and religion.

I was intrigued (or should that be intwuiged?) by the twittering going on when I got back.  A lot of which seemed to be knee-jerk pro-Labour and even more so anti-Tory.  I'd not realised I was following so many left-wing people.  And then realised that is probably because so many of them are vicars.

But for incisive remarks, whether you agree with them or not, you can't beat @clayboy (who you can also find here on the web). Watching QT after the debate, he picked up very rapidly on something Shami Chakrabarti said.  I normally have a lot of time for Liberty, and for anyone who tries to stop Government running rough-shod over people.  But she said that we can't allow people to vote for local police "chiefs" (I use the word loosely) because we might not get the right kind of police chiefs.  I though the whole point of democracy was that we get who we vote for, regardless of whether Liberty thinks they're the right kind of people or not.  But maybe I'm missing something here.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

This goes up to 11!

Received an email to let me know that a friend's company's new website is live.

Nice to see that they go up to 11!

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

The People the Internet was Made For

I read this blog.  It is nothing like I have ever written.  And yet it speaks deeply to the Archdruid Eileen in my soul.  Don't know why (apart from the plug for the Beaker Folk).
Apart from the latest Starkadder episode this is the blog that has spoken most deeply to me in a while.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Beyond the Woodshed

In the absence of Archdruid Eileen, someone's got to plug Beyond the Woodshed.
And this is the funniest blog post I've read in weeks.  But it may be that only Judith and I share this sense of humour.  I hope not.  For if 'twere true, there would be sadly little humour in this world.

St Mark's Blog

We're trying a new venture.
Inspired by the Filey Church blog, which gave me the idea of a blog run by the people of the parish, this is the St Mark's Wellingborough blog.  I hope and pray we can make it work and show some of the church.  And if you think it's a bit sparse yet - well, it's only just started.


Nipped out to Holdenby church at lunchtime.  One of these days I'll get organised and see if I can borrow the key.

But still.  Interesting piece of social history.  All Saints stands fairly isolated, far closer to Holdenby House than the modern village. And that's because of the Wellingborough connection, in that it was Wellingborough boy-made-good Sir Christopher Hatton who built the original Holdenby Hall. He demolished the old manor house and the old village (you can see the mounds and fish ponds round about) and moved all the peasants over the other side of the hall, to the new village.  Thus turning the church into a kind of family chapel.

Unfortunately poor old Chris broke the family finances building the place in order to impress the Virgin Queen.  The House went to the Crown, and Charles I was held a prisoner here during the Civil War.  One of the ghastly Roundheads then knocked the place down to sell the stone - so the current House is mostly modern.

There's also a bit of a family connection in that the rector of Holdenby in the 19th century was Frederick Cecil Alderson, also Canon of Peterborough Cathedral (and with a monument in the treasury there).  No real relation, of course.  And I hope it's not because an Alderson was rector that the church is now redundant.

St George's Day

I've been having a discussion with @goodinparts on the subject of St George's Day services.

Now despite having spent approximately half my life in church-going, mostly to the C of E and Methodist churches, I have only ever once been to a service that was a "St George's Day" service.  It came in that very short period in which I was a member of the cubs, and they made us all go to St Peter's Church Dunstable for a parade service.  Unusually, it was a sermon that I remember something of.

The vicar preached a very well-meaning sermon, but what I remember is his reference to death.  He talked about a young girl who was dying, and how she was happy in her dying because she was going to be with Jesus.

I didn't know much about Jesus.  I didn't know that much, frankly, about what I now regard as Christianity.  I did know that  I had been dragged into the church - which I freely confess I assumed was haunted, anyway - to hear a bloke in a dress tell me about dying.

11 years I think it was, before I went to church of my own free will again.

But what do you preach on St George's Day?  And why?  How can you extol the virtues of St George without saying that, actually, there clearly was no dragon and dragons are only in legends?  There's no theological value in St George that I can see, and obviously he's not in the Bible.  And although there's a dragon in the Bible he's definitely mythologized - and just as well, as we couldn't face the reality of what it stands for. 
So far I'm relieved  that I've never had to lead a St George's Day parade service - and wondering what I will do if I ever have to.  And wondering why we can't have a proper saint we can talk about like grown-ups: St Edmund the Confessor, for example - as our patron saint.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Wedding Fees and the Open Market

I'm quite new to this vicar business.  Indeed, although I have now led 30 or 40 communion services, baptised a couple of dozen or so babies and conducted two funerals (a while ago) I've never taken a wedding service myself.

Now our church is lovely, but modern and brick-built.  And other churches are chocolate-box-lovely and all mellow stone etc.  And my question is this (and I hope somebody reading this may have an idea):

Why does the Church of England set rates for weddings centrally?  Why can't we price a wedding to compete with the Registry Office (because we know people go to the Registry to save money), and St Martin's in the Fields' charge the going rate for a prime central London location with all the trimmings?  If we can charge a sensible rate for a wedding, then we can allow more people to marry in church - and with that goes all the pastoral support we can offer and more meaning to those being married.

Just wondered...

On counting out time

Doing my best to help out here. But.

The desk is (already) nearly cleared. Team handed over. Nothing in my diary. So I'll do what testing I can to help but it's all very quiet.

If there's one thing I like as much as taking on responsibility, it's giving responsibility up.

Friday, 9 April 2010

The lark is on the wing

A lovely day. Up on the heath the cars aren't currently being burnt, although locals on scramble motor bikes are tearing up the place.
It's never really been a very nice heath, in my three years working here. But if you persevere across the heath to the Firs, it's much nicer. Albeit still plagued by the moto-cross brigade.
"Where every prospect pleases..." - the hymn writer may have been thinking of Greenland's ice mountains etc, but he should have gone to Northampton instead.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Cafe In Finedon

More on Mackworth's Diner, the Cafe in Finedon, because we've been there now.
Took the kids there Saturday for 2 veggie breakfasts (still Lenten regulations), a small breakfast and something for George.
Good, well-cooked, traditional English cafe grub. Every ounce eaten and enjoyed. If you're after taking the young lady out for a sophisticated evening of music, champagne and truffles don't bother. If you want a really good breakfast and you're somewhere near Finedon, go for it.

Closing Husborne Crawley

Funny thing, I feel very refreshed and released by this.

No pressure to think of something funny, even though I know it's only self-imposed pressure. No blog stats to look at, no responses to deal with.

Eileen and Hnaef will, I hope, be back sometime June-ish. But not in Husborne Crawley. I've wrecked the place's Google searches for years to come and it needs a break. And I feel like I've done pebbles and tea lights. But I've a lot of research to do. Something I can enjoy. And a new job to start. Which might need some time of its own.

So maybe I can blog here for a bit and just get the odd response from the occasional mate.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Easter Day

Now recovering from a rather busy Easter period for an otherwise-employed SSM.
Thursday morning - Cathedral for Chrism Mass. An excellent sermon from +John Flack.
Friday morning - Good Friday workshop. I just played guitar and bimbled about in a dog collar, but there was excellent preparation by the people running the different activities and I was stopped in Tesco on Saturday by one of the mothers who wanted to tell me how good it all was. Which was great.
Friday afternoon - practising for Stainer's Crucifixion.
Friday evening - act of worship of Stainer - whole-deanery choir, and I don't care what Mike says, it was very powerful and great to meet with a bunch of other singers from across the area.
Saturday 9pm - combined Easter vigil, baptism and confirmation - getting on for ten of our people, of all ages, colours and levels of (dis)ability. A great occasion, and very powerful with the lighting of the New Fire out in the churchyard, next to the police station, as the Saturday night people went past and the traffic roared down the Midland Road. Got bed half past midnight....
....which was a shock when I got up at 5 am and went out to lead the dawn Easter Eucharist at our church. And despite the tiredness, couldn't stop grinning. Jesus is Risen!
And then the 11am service as a visitor at a new church. Again, great to be there. And good to preach a very unstructured, non-3-point sermon. And met lots of new people, dedicatedly getting on with being their church and trying to construct a vision in a small, old-fashioned (to me eyes) village.
And then I caught an egg thrown over the pub (ever tried that? It's not easy. You mostly get covered with egg....) and then won the quiz.
So - three days off. That'll do for now.

And He has Risen! Or did I mention that already?

Friday, 2 April 2010

Sophie's Cooking

Just noticed a trailer for a cookery programme featuring Sophie Dahl.
As far as I can tell, she's a posh girl pouting at a camera in a suggestive kind of way.
But in a cunning twist, she's a lot blonder than Nigella.

(I don't use "blonder" in any kind of demeaning way. Simply to denote hair colour, original or otherwise.)

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Mackworths Cafe in Finedon

Just a little link to my friend Liz's cafe, Mackworths, in Finedon. Named after the first name of one of the Dolben family, of worldwide renown in Finedon and even as far afield as Little Harrowden and Irthlingborough.
But it's a very nice cafe and I'm hoping if this drives traffic her way I might get a free bacon roll...