Whose Rainbow is it?

This must be the ultimate confirmation of insanity in the Woke Moronochy. LGBT activists are now claiming the NHS has appropriated their rainbow!

Whose rainbow is it, anyway? 

To start with, what is a rainbow?

“A rainbow is a meteorological phenomenon caused by the reflection, refraction and dispersion of light in water droplets.” 

When this happens it results in a spectrum of light, in a great bow, appearing in the sky. It’s been doing it for millions of years, long before ancient man appeared on the earth, without any human help.

Rainbow by Met Office

It has been one of the best loved symbols throughout time. Give a group of small children a mix of crayons and some paper and it won’t be long before one or more of them will have drawn a rainbow. It seems to be instinctive. We have a big rainbow in the (defunct) children’s corner in our village church. We leave it there because we like the bright colours and hope one day the children will come back. 

It is NOT one of these rainbows. 

An LGBT+ Altar

I can’t remember when, but some years ago, perhaps many years ago, these rainbow flags and banners started appearing all over the place — outside supermarkets and petrol stations and inside churches — as a symbol of something labelled LGBT+. Without any explanation, somehow, it just seemed to happen.

Sometimes we saw rainbows in the sky.

Then along came Covid19. Suddenly there were rainbows all over the place again. Hand drawn in windows, painted outside houses, stuck on boards in hedges, and great banners in towns. And we would meet outside our houses on Thursday evenings and clap and cheer for the NHS and give thanks for all the hospital staff fighting the horrible virus on our behalf. 

Children’s Rainbows

When the weather was right, we would see a rainbow in the sky and we would smile and say a prayer of thanks for the NHS and their equivalents across the world.

“But gay rights campaigners have argued that the rainbow — a long-established LGBTQ+ symbol — has been “appropriated”.  And it’s feared it could undermine new pride badges set to identify medical staff whom gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people can feel comfortable talking to. Peter Tatchell, a gay rights campaigner, said that the LGBTQ+ community had been “robbed” and called on the health service to create its own symbol.” The Scottish Sun

I’ve not yet heard of any high ranking cleric bothering to explain what the Rainbow really is.

It is a symbol, but one that goes back thousands of years. In the Bible all the way back to Genesis and the story of Noah and the Ark. But, of course, that’s from the Old Testament and as our former Vicar told us a few months ago, “The Old Testament is irrelevant.” 

Let me tell you where the real rainbow comes from:

In Genesis 10: v13 God said:  I do set my bow in the cloud and it shall be for a token or a covenant between me and the earth.

Therefore — Stonewall, Gay Pride, Pink News, Peter Tatchell, Jayne Ozanne et al. – I think it looks as though it is you who appropriated the rainbow for your banners and badges. So stop bleating and let our children put pictures of rainbows anywhere they like.

The Ever-Widening Gap Between Them and Us

I mean, of course, the ever widening gap between them at the top and us at the bottom: specifically, those of us down in the local churches and parishes. There, we try everything we can think of to keep the doors open and the Gospel alive: at the top, the Bench of Bishops seem to be doing any quirky thing they can think of to shut us down and shut us up . . .

Just two examples of what I mean:

At the top, Paul Bayse, Bishop of Liverpool, recently opened the first meeting of MoSAIC. Have you ever heard of it? Nor had I.  The CofE loves initials. LLF – Living in Love and Faith is the current one. I think LLL would be better because there’s little Faith about it. Living in Love and Lust would be more accurate.

Anyway, Bishop Paul Bayse addressed this meeting of MoSAIC a few weeks ago. It’s taken me all this time to work out what he was trying to say and I’ve come to the conclusion it is not good news for simple lay people trying to maintain life and the Gospel in a small parish.

MoSAIC stands for Movement of Supporting Anglicans for an Inclusive Church. Clever, eh? Sadly, “supporting Anglicans” doesn’t seem to include bog standard Christian congregations in most small churches, and I think I can speak for all the other 20 to 30 people in the village church I attend. To support MoSAIC we’d have to stop believing what we’ve been believing all our lives.

Here are just two of the many things that worry me about what Paul Bayes says:

First, obviously, is what the bishop chooses to describe as a “gender neutral marriage canon”. He means, of course, same-sex marriage. Needless-to-say he can give no sound theological arguments to support this. That’s not surprising. Bishops aren’t theologians any more. 

Bayes tells us, plainly, “people grow up and fall in love and their mysterious bodies lead them to love as they love, and they will love whom they love, and no amount of harrumphing is going to change that.”

He’s right. No amount of harrumphing ever changed anything. In affirming the truth of the mystery of love, and loving whom they will love is he including pædophilia and incest, polygamy and child marriage? As a Bishop I think +Liverpool should be much more careful in his use of words. Fortunately we have Jesus in the Gospels to guide us through the mysteries of sexual attractions and support us in the Way of Truth.

Secondly, he quotes, without understanding, something the World Council of Churches said way back in the 1960s. “Let the world set the agenda for the Church of England”.

Which world would that be, Bishop? The world of Sharia Law? The world of dictatorships? The world of tribal and/or religious warfare? Surely, if I remember correctly, St Paul has something to say about this world’s agenda in Romans xii. 2.

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

So much for the view from the top.

Meanwhile, down in deepest Dorset, a simple parish priest is in trouble. His Archdeacon is threatening him with a CDM (Clergy Discipline Measure) — something to strike terror into the most innocent of lowly clegy.

The Reverend Charlie Boyle broke three Covid rules in his church in Poole. One, he hugged someone! Two, he sang in church on Easter Sunday. Third, he put Bibles back in the pews.

In the first instance he hugged a woman, not in lust but in sympathy as she grieved at the funeral of a loved one. On Easter Sunday, as he carried the cross down the nave, he sang a verse of the hymn ‘Thine be the glory.’ He didn’t need to wear a mask because he’s an asthmatic and I don’t know anyone who can stand and merely listen to that wonderful hymn to Handel’s ‘conquering hero’ tune. Lastly, after a year in storage, he replaced the Bibles in the pews. It’s a small church, there were only 15 people there and I’m betting that they were all fairly old and had all been double vaccinated. Nevertheless, those Covid laws must be obeyed to the letter.

As far as ‘Them Up There’ are concerned breaking Covid laws is far worse than breaking the laws of God.

An Old Lady says the Lord’s Prayer.

“Our Father, who art in Heaven.”

Well, Lord, it certainly looks like Heaven this morning. Here I am sitting up in bed, lifting my eyes to the hills — and there is nothing to see! Just an impenetrable mist rising up from the valley. That’s what it must have been like, I suppose, in the beginning when Your Spirit moved upon the face of the waters. 

“Hallowed be Thy Name.”

Help me to keep Your name and that of Jesus Christ, in my mind and holy all through this day.

“Thy Kingdom Come.” 

Oh, please, God. Here, in Britain, we seem to be sleepwalking out of your Kingdom and into a weird wokedom where things that I have believed all my life are no longer believed to be the Truth any more.

“Thy Will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.”

Well, I try Lord. I went to church on Sunday. Inside, the building is still festooned with black and yellow tape to make sure we keep our distance, just like a crime scene. And absolutely no singing, although it’s allowed in pubs. Despite everything, I have enough faith in the people of this land not to allow churches to become crime scenes, even though that is happening in some parts of your world. Even here we’ve had the police called in from time to time for Covid infringements. Thankfully, You are always with the persecuted and martyrs and that brings me comfort and hope.

“Give us this day our daily bread.”

You do that God —  at the moment with abundance. My veg patch had a difficult Spring – I could have done without the hailstones that flattened the early peas and beans. On the other hand the flowerbeds are more colourful and scented than I ever remember. Despite Brexit fears we can still buy salads aplenty and punnets of gorgeous strawberries.

“Forgive us our Trespasses.”

You’d think, Father, that after 84 years, my trespasses should be getting fewer. Instead, it seems to be the reverse. I still have all my old faults – anger, irritation, frustration, lack of compassion – and now my long memory reminds me of many sins in the past that I would wish I could forget. Forgetting and regretting is hard, even though I know I am forgiven.

“As we Forgive those that Trespass against us.”

And now we’ve come to my biggest problem. It’s a new problem. In the old days the people who I thought were trespassers against me were normal evil doers; murderers and corrupt politicians. And really not that many. Nowadays, the people who I feel are trespassing against me in legions seem to be mean-spirited tyrants who want to dominate the way I speak; even the very words I may and may not use. 

You gave me a love of words, Lord; you taught me their strength and power and showed me how to use them truthfully and to honour them. Now I am frightened that all this, even Freedom of Speech, is threatened.

Yesterday morning I read in the news about a woman called Milli Hill. She is an “Antenatal Guru”; that seems to mean that she offers online advice and encouragement to pregnant women. During lockdown that must have been an enormous help to many women expecting a baby. She was supported by the charity, Birthright, who have just sacked her. 

Why? Simple. She used the word “women”. 

You know, God, all my life I’ve assumed that all the world’s population was made up of men and women; male and female, as I believe you had created them. Now, suddenly, calling a woman a ‘woman’ is a hate crime. We, women, must become ‘birthing people’ in order not to offend transgender people.

I’m sorry, Lord but just at the moment I am finding it impossible to forgive that charity. And not just that charity but the so-called ‘trolls’ who have condemned Mrs Hill, vilified her and threatened her. For what? She has never written about transgender people and she has never objected to a transgender person being described as a ‘birthing person.’ So, I am raging with anger. I’m truly sorry but there is no way I can repent, at the moment, of my fury at their trespasses against me, against Milli Hill and the millions like me who believe we are women. With Your help I hope that I have calmed down enough to be able to pray for forgiveness by the time I say my evening prayers. So help me, God.

“Lead us not into Temptation, and deliver us from Evil”

This is what my friend, Eileen, keeps saying. She tells me to resist the temptation of reading all these examples of wokedom and getting so worked up. ‘What about the threat to free speech?’ I ask her. ‘Someone has to speak up and fight that evil.’ ‘It doesn’t have to be you,’ she says. ‘Not at your age. Do your knitting and smell the roses.’ 

But speech is powerful and precious and we need to be careful. And if you’ve given me a gift with words, Lord, then, even if I’m old and grey, I feel I still ought to keep on keeping on — praying for compassion as I rant!

“For thine is the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory, for ever and ever. Amen” 

A Letter to the Uxbridge Three or Four

Dear Uxbridge Three or Four, 

I am sorry I can’t address you personally but I have not been able to find your names in the reports of the incident which occurred outside Uxbridge Tube Station at 1.35 pm on Friday, 23rd April.  That was when you were caused such “alarm and distress” by homophobic comments that you all felt you had to call the police.

The man who caused you so much upset was a John Sherwood, who is the Pastor of a local church.  Actually, I have to tell you that Mr Sherwood was not breaking the law.  People are allowed to preach in the open air if they wish, even if it tends to upset people.  

Way back in tne the summer of 2018 a London bus driver, called Allan Coote, was stopped from preaching outside St Paul’s Cathedral in London, but on that occasion it was the Dean and Chapter who complained**.

Paster John Sherwood and Mr Allan Coote. Both fomenters of alarm and distress.

At the moment, there is no law in England that prevents a person from quoting from the Bible either.  I gather, from the reports, that Mr Sherwood had been reading from Genesis, Chapter 1 v27:

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female created he them.”

(I’m sorry if this offends you but it is a very short verse.)

I can understand if you find those words truly shocking but you must remember they are words that people have believed for several thousand years.  New, liberal ideas are often hard for people to adopt overnight. 

Here’s another point that may make it easier for you to understand where bigoted homophobes are coming from.  Mr Sherwood and his partner, Mr Peter Simpson, had been preaching about the value of family, and the benefits to children who are brought up in a stable family with committed parents, one of each sex.  They were not lying when they made these statements.  A wide range of independent studies have proved this over many years and so, inevitably, there are hundreds and thousands of people around today who still believe this to be true.

Thanks to you, Mr Sherwood, who is 71, was pulled down from his ‘soapbox’, hand cuffed after some manhandling by three or four police officers, and taken off to the local police station where he was kept overnight.  A file on this ‘hate crime’ has, of course, been passed to the Crown Prosecution Service.  I am sure you will receive many congratulations from Stonewall, Pink News, Jayne Ozanne and many LGBTQUI+ members, who will be encouraged by your brave actions.  However, I think I should also warn you that, with people like Messrs Sherwood and Simpson, you may not have shut them up for good.  Despite the offence and pain they have caused you I suspect that they will go on preaching and quoting from the Holy Bible until the law definitely forbids it. 

I am sure that time may come, and perhaps fairly quickly; then such examples of free speech will be banned.  In fact, I think you can look forward to a time, in the not too distant future, when ‘Woke law’ will have managed to close all Christian churches and “My Truth” rather than “God’s Truth” will be all that matters.  Though, I think I should point out that Muslim congregations will put up a far harder fight than the rather spineless CoE.

Police at the lectern in church for the Good Friday Mass

Until that time comes may I suggest you take some precautions so that you avoid the hurt and misery you suffered in Uxbridge?  For a start, make sure you avoid any people who are standing on ‘soapboxes’.  As well as quoting from the Scriptures they might be telling you there’s no such thing as climate change, for example, or assuring you that you must or must not get vaccinated.  People have such weird ideas these days, and you wouldn’t want to put yourself in danger of hearing anything offensive unawares.  Make sure you are always listening to something on your smart phone so that you can’t hear any conversations going on around you.  Toxic white males and institutional racists are about everywhere, as well, and you can have no idea of the sort of things they might say. 

Perhaps you could be kind enough to pass on this advice to your like-minded friends who get so easily offended and warn them, above all, to steer well clear of St. Paul.

** Blog entitled ‘How (not) to spend £10 million’. August 1st, 2018

What is Truth?

It wasn’t clear when Pilate asked that question more than two thousand years ago.  It’s even less easy to answer it today when we can all have our own ‘truth’ if we wish.  We’ve seen for a long time how feelings trump facts.  This can make for confusion and in some cases lead to roaring farce.  More worryingly, it has lead to people losing their jobs, Jordan Peterson for one, because what they might say could offend the feelings of people who believe a different truth.

The trouble with believing ‘my’ truth is that sooner or later I will come up with people who are convinced by a different truth and then all hell can break lose.

The Duchess of Sussex illustrated this beautifully during her interview with Oprah Winfrey.  She told Oprah she and Harry had been married three days before the official wedding, by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

She wasn’t lying.  That was ‘her’ truth and she sincerely believed it.  She is a shy, private person and she couldn’t bear the thought of exchanging her marriage vows in front of millions throughout the world on TV.  So she asked Archbishop Welby if she and Harry could have a private ceremony, in the garden of their home, away from even the prying eyes of the staff.

The trouble was, that statement, like the official wedding, was made in front of a global audience. Many of the people watching knew that, at the very simplest, an Anglican wedding needs five people — the couple, the priest and two witnesses.  The witnesses can be anyone, unknown but willing people passing in the street, but they must be in attendance, to sign the register and legalise the ceremony.  Oh, and it has to be on licensedpremises!

The statement wasn’t really a lie; she just mis-spoke.  That is bound to happen often when ‘my’ truth gets muddled up with ‘your’ truth.  The important thing is that Meghan and Harry were legally married in a sacred place by a properly ordained minister before two witnesses, the bride’s mother and the Prince of Wales.

Pilate would probably have been perfectly satisfied with that outcome.  No need for any hand washing.

Tomorrow is Good Friday.  Many Christians will spend at least an hour in church, meditating, reflecting and praying.  That will be a golden opportunity to ponder on how closely our own truths correspond with God’s eternal truths.

Have a very happy Easter.

It Makes You Think

Sometimes a simple story appears in the newspapers that stops you in your tracks

This is a photo of six year old Siddak Singh Jhamat of Walsall, who was given a fossil hunting kit for Christmas. He was digging for worms and bits of pottery last week when he dug up something that looked like a piece of horn. The fossil markings showed that it was a Rugosa coral that existed between 251 to 488 million years in the Paleozoic Era. 

That means it could be as much as 268 million years older than the dinosaur footprint found in January by a four year old girl called Lily Wilder, in Barry, South Wales.

A 220 million year old footprint

488 million years! That is really, truly old. Certainly makes my 83 years less than the blink of an eye. There’s no way I can get my head round that. How does anyone even begin to count in such numbers? However, it is a very helpful subject for Christians in Holy Week. At least, it is if you think about it in relation to God. God Almighty, the Creator of Heaven and Earth, and also of dinosaurs and rugosa corals. 

I’ve thought for a long time that over the last 60 years we’ve been cutting God down to size. Just as quietly and plausibly, we’ve been turning His Son, Jesus Christ, into more of a human and less a God. Worse than that, into something closer to a universal social worker. 

There are many reasons for this but two trends stand out. We — human beings — are getting cleverer and cleverer. Forget the Moon; we’re now considering the possibility of package tours of space and colonies on Mars. That may not be a good idea, given the bad press ‘colonialisation’ has been getting, for all the harm it’s done in the past. I don’t think it’s a very good idea at all, until we learn to take our rubbish home with us! 

Medically we work daily miracles compared with what we could achieve even 20 or 30 years ago. It’s taken a global pandemic to show us that we’re not quite as all conquering as we were beginning to think. You will be able to think of many other examples of human brilliance.

Psychologically, we have also cut God down to size because we have convinced ourselves that we, you and I as individual human beings, are getting pretty god-like all on our own.

We used to have two sexes but now you can claim to be one of up to 100 different genders. If you don’t like being a woman become a man instead. Anything is possible. What you feel is what you are. 

As a child I used to have it dinned into me by my parents that things were either right or wrong and I had to learn to accept responsibility for my own actions. Now my own truth can prove – at least to my satisfaction – that nothing is my fault. I am a victim.

Consequently, just as I become more and more god-like, God has inevitably shrunk down to a manageable size. These days we think He is only too happy to go along with what we want and the Bishops are happily re-writing the rule book.

Then along comes a bit of coral which is estimated to be 488 million years old. That rather puts the Almighty Creator God into perspective, don’t you think. He hasn’t changed in all those years. He has said so and we really ought to believe him.

Psalm 8.v4 What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?

Tomorrow is Maundy Thursday, followed by Good Friday; both days for meditation and contemplation and a perfect time to reflect on How Great Thou Art, my God.

Lent, Blue Peter Style

For readers outside the United Kingdom, I should explain about “Blue Peter”. The Blue Peter is a flag. It was flown from a ship in harbour to show that it was about to leave port and sail away. In 1958 it became the name of what has become the longest running children’s TV programme in the world. 

It was a well-chosen name. The programme aimed to sail the children watching it into other worlds outside the often severe limits of their own sitting rooms. It offered not only more exotic adventures, exiting everyday situations and an amazing number of things to do and make out of any oddments you might have cluttering up the house. Re-cycling, then in its infancy, took over where the “make do and mend” of the wartime years left off”

Animals, particularly cats and dogs joined the TV family to such an extent that John Noakes and Shep became household names. All sorts of animals made regular visits or became part of the family as pet-less children learned the ins and outs of animal care, and coped with mourning when well-loved characters died. There were all sorts of animals as well, including a turtle who joined the show regularly for 14 years. Then there was the visit of a baby elephant. That was the time the programme “went viral” in today’s parlance, when – to put it politely – if the elephant had been wearing a nappy/diaper he would have filled it!

A Blue Peter badge worn by proud watchers of the programme

What has Blue Peter to do with Lent? Several things. Like Lent it opened windows to new thoughts and ideas and shone light into hitherto dark, even frightening, places and situations. On a much lighter level it introduced a time honoured phrase that has entered the language. After cutting up plastic bottles, sticking yoghurt pots together, winding string or ribbon around this and that, one or other of the presenters would produce the finished item, securely glued, standing firm and true, and proudly announce, “Here’s one I made earlier.”

An Aloe Vera leaf and a sprig of a jade tree

I wonder how many “Here’s one (of whatever it may be) I made earlier,” there will be as a result of the Dean of Canterbury’s Lent Project? Poems, prayers, paintings, crafty items or even a Fairy Liquid rocket! Above is my latest effort. A leaf of aloe vera and a sprig of a jade tree.

And here are two I made earlier! Just look at the way the Aloe Vera is sprouting new plants all around the original leaf.

Silence, Study, Service

I did think of calling this blog “Shush”. It’s a word I use a lot because, even when sitting side by side, my granddaughters, aged 7 and 9, speak to each other in modified roars, as if still trying to communicate across a crowded classroom.

Three word slogans are popular at the moment. Did Archbishop Justin Welby start it with his wish that the Anglican church should be ‘Simpler, Humbler, Bolder”? Last Sunday, the last Sunday before Lent, Canon Philip Ursell, in an open church in Cardiff, St Martin’s in Roath, in his sermon, suggested the three words of the title — Silence, Study, Service — as a good guide for Lent.

Silence is perhaps the last thing people want to hear at the moment when so many are living in lonely isolation, listening to the radio, watching TV and talking to the wall. However, it caught my attention because I have been watching three programmes late evening on BBC Channel 4. ‘Retreat: Meditations from a Monastery’. These programmes seemed to take silence to another level; not just lack of sound but something positive.

” A servant with this clause  Makes drudgery divine: Who sweeps a room as for Thy laws,  Makes that and th’ action fine.” George Herbert. 

Have you ever been in an anechoic chamber? That’s the place to experience an utter and complete absence of sound. Alone in one, in the dark, I found it a terrifying experience. I ended up feeling my pulse and concentrating on my breath to reassure myself I was still alive!

Silence, in these monasteries, is the reverse. Apart from praying and singing in chapel and readings from The Rule of St Benedict during meals no one spoke. But it wasn’t just the lack of talk. I found myself listening to every other sound. The flip flop of sandaled feet in the long tiled corridors, the rattle of plates, the thump of kneading dough. Even a dripping tap and the slurp of honey filling a jar.

I now know why an iconographer was taking eggs from the kitchen

Study is a part of a monk’s daily life as is service. All kinds of service from the most humdrum tasks like cooking and cleaning to the beautiful work of an iconographer and a rosary maker. Some monks make their own clothes, others use carpentry, both creatively and DIY. One nice touch — the baker monk walked out into a wood to pick wild garlic, which he took back to the kitchen, pounded to a paste in a pestle and mortar, and created garlic butter.

I found myself more and more drawn in to this Silence. No radio, no TV, no chitchat.  Every task provided an opportunity for mindfulness and prayerfulness. The value of concentration was palpable. So much so, that as I watched a young monk filling the thurible with charcoal tablets sprinkled with frankincense I thought I could smell the incense.

I wouldn’t want to be without my hearing aids. I would miss the chatter around the supper table as we catch up on the day; I can still remember getting my first aid and suddenly hearing bird song. When noise gets too much I can cheat and take them out. Then it goes quieter. But it doesn’t come close to the profound and potent silence of the monastery.

Ash Wednesday, 2021 Style

“One is nearer God’s heart in a garden than anywhere else on earth,” said Dorothy Frances Gurney.  That’s an encouraging thought for people who love gardens but, actually, it isn’t strictly true.  It’s one of those sweet, sentimental fallacies that can creep too easily into sweet, sentimental ‘gentle Jesus, meek and mild’ type Christianity, as opposed to the ‘Jesus shaped’ Anglicanism that Archbishop Welby is now advocating.  That is something much tougher and more honest, and truly joyful rather than merely happy. 

Something else that isn’t true, though the bishops have been emphasising it during Lockdown, is the fact that we don’t need our churches, nor our cathedrals.  I beg your pardon, bishops; you are wrong!  I know perfectly well that God, being everywhere, doesn’t need man-made buildings — but we do. I certainly do. 

Today, 17th Feb. 2021, Ash Wednesday, the first day of what looks like being a churchless Lent. This is the closest I can get.

I can say my prayers at the kitchen table, just as Justin Welby offered the Eucharist in his kitchen last Easter.  I don’t need a Vicar and I don’t need to be ‘ashed’.  I don’t need pews, an altar, a lectern or a pulpit.  But I do appreciate being able to sit in a Sacred Space where quiet souls have been praying and repeating the psalms and meditating at least weekly for several centuries.  I don’t see visions and I don’t hear voices but I can sense an atmosphere of holy peace in the silence. 

Another thing that many of us are missing keenly is the singing.  In our Welsh church we have several members of various local choirs in the congregation so the singing is pretty special.  But it’s not just the music.  The words matter mightily.  With simple words and memorable tunes we repeat the words of Scripture until they are engraved on our hearts.

This morning was a case in point.  As one of the Dean of Canterbury’s “garden congregation” I listened to Psalm 87 v3. and 1 Timothy 6 v 12 and knew what they had inspired.  Even just reading these hymns and singing them in your head, in the church porch or at the kitchen sink, you learn a lot of the Gospels by heart without even realising it.  Which is a very good way to begin Lent.

Simpler, Humbler, Bolder

Taken from an advert for Premier Chrisian Radio, February 3rd 2021

The Most Reverend Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury was on Premier Christian Radio today.  During the interview he announced his new Jesus-shaped vision for the church in 2021.  (I presume he was talking about the Church of England.)  In the light of all he has learned since the start of the pandemic he has come up with the slogan “Simpler, Humbler, Bolder.”

Thank God for that, say I!  It’s been a long time coming but simplicity, humility and boldness in the Anglican church will be warmly welcomed by many, if not most congregations

I will particularly welcome simplicity for a start because I have just been struggling with some more of the “Living in Love and Faith” document, produced by an assortment of bishops and others.  When it came out at the beginning of November last year I tried to read the summary and then wrote an unpublished blog called ‘Loads and loads of flannel’.  That tells you what I thought of it at the time. 

Recently, being housebound, I have been making another attempt to get to grips with ‘Living in Love and Faith.’ That is until I got to the following sentence:

“Secure in its roots, the Christian understanding of marriage has been sufficiently supple to respond to changing cultures, and suitably rich in meaning to allow God’s gift to be received in different ages, even if its purposes have been lived out with greater clarity at some times more than others.”

Apart from being 50 words long it’s also overloaded with too many polysyllabic words.  You don’t find many 50 word sentences in the Gospels. I would suggest the Archbishop begins, immediately (eufous), re-reading St Mark.

I’m still not quite sure what, exactly, the writers were trying to say.  Perhaps that was the whole point.  In fact, I think the whole of ‘LLF’ is a skilful mixture of gobbledegook and flannel, continuing the softening-up process until we all accept Same Sex Marriage as part of God’s new plan.

At least the six bishops in the Church in Wales, always ready to jump on any passing band wagon, seem to have taken up two bits of Justin Welby’s slogan even before he announced it. In the past I have often found them too lily-livered, slightly pompous and skilled in the art of obfuscation. Just before Christmas, simply and boldly they announced: A Bill to Authorise Experimental Use of Proposed Revisions of the Book of Common Prayer.

Headline from the Church Times

They blithely acknowledge that Scripture and Christian tradition have previously believed marriage to be between a man and a woman. 

“However,” they say, “with new social, scientific and psychological understandings of sexuality in the last one and a half centuries, we believe that same-sex relationships can be understood in a radically different way, and that the teaching of Scripture should therefore be re-interrogated.”

On second thoughts, with a sentence of 42 words, nine of which have three or more syllables, perhaps they are not expressing themselves as simply as all that. It is a bold sentence at any rate.

I’d welcome humble, too.  As many readers of my blog will know I am opposed to Same Sex marriage in church.  I’m afraid to say I have met with no humility on that subject.  Far from finding “good disagreement” the LGBT+ Chaplain of this diocese takes the attitude ‘like it or lump it.’  Regretfully, I have had to lump it because no one even wants to engage in any sort of discussion with me; nor wish to find out why I think the way I do.

Lastly, Bolder.  Oh, please!  At least allow the bold ones amongst us to go into Church during Lent to pray (behind masks) and praise (internally) and meditate together if we promise to sanitise our hands and stay two metres apart.  Well, distancing won’t be difficult, given the size of our church and the tiny number in the congregation.

Since some cathedrals have been open for vaccinations, complete with organ recitals, there shouldn’t be any reason to prevent spiritual vaccination as well.  I, for one, definitely benefit from a god-shot occasionally.

At last, Justin Welby has spoken out in praise of the wonderful Dean of Canterbury. Dr Robert Willis now has 40,000 tuning in to his on-line services of Morning Prayer, which he has been holding in his garden every single morning since lockdown began. 

I hope his Grace watches the programme; he’d learn a lot. However, he made one mistake.  He mentions the Dean’s cats and other animals who “kept on making un-invited appearances.”  Nonsense.  The cats all come and go as they please — they are in their own home, after all.  Tiger, the three legged cat (he lost a leg to cancer a few months ago) is the only cat especially invited by the Dean to accompany him when he takes shelter from the rain in a greenhouse.  All the other birds and animals are invited in and often given breakfast. 

You have to be pretty bold to preach in front of a congregation like this!

Most actors will tell you never to work with children or animals.  There’s certainly no room for pomposity or arrogance when you’re surrounded by Winston, Clemmie and their seven little pigs.  It was an incredibly bold idea to think of sitting in a garden, surrounded by a menagerie, and simply preach the Gospel, straight to camera with barely a note.  His message is delivered with simplicity.  And the Dean, no mean musician and hymn writer himself, frequently emphasises the joy of simple songs and poems.  Gospel stories and psalms, translated into simple songs and poems, are easy to learn by heart and remain forever in your memory. The amount of interesting information the Dean slips in is impressive. He was the one who taught me (and I bet many others) the word eufous and thanks to him I now know the correct way to pronounce ‘pericope’. (I’d been saying perry-cope.)

Simpler, humbler, bolder.  Yes, Archbishop.  We’re with you, and the dear Dean, every step of the way.