Rugby Sermon

I had intended to make one of my rare appearances in my village church last Sunday morning but clearly the Holy Spirit had other ideas. My old fashioned clock was running an hour slow so I got a much more interesting sermon by staying home and watching the Rugby World Cup.

There is so much more to watching sport than just sitting in front of a TV screen cheering or groaning as your favourite team wins or loses. It can be both a thought-provoking and a spiritual experience.

The game I watched was Wales v Australia in Pool D. It was an excellent match, ending on a most satisfying cliff hanger. We — I speak for Wales — were ahead by 4 points but in the last ten minutes it looked as if Australia were very likely to get another try and win by one point. There were many terrific, unrelenting struggles on the touch line. Exactly the sort of situation where tempers can fray, but they didn’t. Far from it.

At one point, a few minutes from the finish, both George North and an Aussie player leapt high into the air for the ball. It slipped through George’s fingers into the hands of his opponent, who then tripped and fell to the ground. The ball rolled into touch.

Were you watching? Did you see what happened next? George held down his hand to his fallen opponent and helped to haul him to his feet. As they walked back together George ruffled the other man’s head and they grinned at each other.

I can’t see that sort of thing happening during a meeting of the General Synod of the Church of Englalnd. It’s even less likely in the Church in Wales. From all I’ve read, and I’ve read a lot of the discussions in Synod, if I were there I would have many opponents. Anyone who supports Same Sex Marriage and all the other sex/gender shenanigans would undoubtedly consider me to be a homophobic bigot lacking any compassion. In which case, I suspect they would be more likely to push me over than give me a helping hand, and, when I staggered to my feet, would trip me up again.

That’s the difference between the Welsh Rugby Union and the Anglican Church in Britain. The former may be gentlemanly hooligans but they know there is a strict rule book which must be obeyed. Of course, the players will try what they can get away with when the Ref isn’t looking — the odd sly shove or a muttered rude word — but the players and the spectators know there are consequences for broken rules. You can get a Penalty against your whole team or you can end up in the Sin Bin.

It’s quite otherwise with the Church. For a start Anglican bishops don’t really do sin any more. Not only do the senior clergy not get penalised for disobeying the rules but they are much more likely to get promoted. It’s the traditional law-abiding Parish priests who land in the Sin Bin or act as scapegoats.

Could it be that falling church numbers have a lot to do with our competing love of sport. We admire and respect our top sports men and women for their single-minded devotion and dedication to what they love. Few of them would take time off from training to waste time on Brexit. It’s different for Bishops. Having thrown away the rule book they don’t know what else to do. Organise a fun-fair or a fashion show, perhaps.

**Computer problems, so no pictures I’m afraid though I do have a lovely one, on my screen, of George North racing for the touch line

Twisted Truth

I saw this on the blog of Rebel Priest, also known as the Revd Dr Jules Gomes. He is a wise man, full of common sense and to be trusted.

A 15-year-old Polish boy is being hailed as a Catholic “hero” after daring to block an LGBT pride march with a raised crucifix and rosary in his hand.

After reading the whole story I was reminded of these lines from Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If”. 

“If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools”

I expect it’s one of many poems that have been banned now, having been written by what must obviously be a “homophobic, racist, colonialist bigot.” Quoting Rudyard Kipling probably makes me an HRCB too.

This brave lad, Jakub Baryła, was inspired by “a similar gesture by Fr. Ignacy Skorupko during the Warsaw battle with the Bolsheviks in 1920. Father Skorupko was a Polish army chaplain who was killed on Aug. 14 1920, at the battle of Ossów during the Polish counter-attack. Standing with soldiers leading a charge on the front lines, the priest was holding a cross to encourage Polish soldiers.

Jakob was, of course, removed from the scene. He must have known that would happen and he says the police behaved “impeccably.” Since he describes himself as “Catholic, traditionalist, conservative and patriotic” on Twitter, the other side are out to get him. Here’s where the truth gets twisted. 

The Monitoring Center on Racist and Xenophobic Behaviour, Warsaw, has issued a statement calling Baryła’s action “another example of nationalists using children for political struggle.”“Irresponsible parents have jeopardised the life and health of their 15-year-old child by sending him to a riot to intentionally hinder the police. The lost boy stood in the middle of the road clutching the cross. The child was confused and completely deprived of care by adult caregivers,” the statement said, insisting that Baryła was a child and no one had the right to send him to fight the police. “It seems that the parents have been indoctrinating their child for a long time,” the statement added, accusing Baryła of being “seen at meetings with racists and homophobes.”

The Monitoring Center on Racist and Xenophobic Behaviour said it intends to notify the prosecutor’s office of a “crime committed by parents who sent a child against police officers,” and will provide the Family Court in Płock with information “about a boy who, unaccompanied, hindered police operations.”

I’ve looked at those two pictures again and again and I can see neither ‘a lost boy’ nor a ‘confused child’. On the contrary. There has been plenty of praise for him on social media where people have remarked on his courage and his quiet confidence in his faith.

Please don’t ignore this because it happened in Poland. Think about it and about why it couldn’t happen here in Britain.

Why couldn’t it happen here?
Because the Bishops have already gone over to the other side

No. No. No! She did not abandon him.

I am an old-fashioned, elderly Anglican who struggles with a lot that is going on in the modern Anglican Communion.

I am not a theologian, nor an academic, nor a scholar. However, in an effort to retain my marbles, and my faith, I do try to keep up with modern Anglican thought. Which is how I came to be reading an essay, or possibly a polemic, in the latest instalment of the ViaMedia.News series ‘Does the Bible Really Say…?’ 

In this particular blog the topic is ‘Does the Bible Really…Advocate the “Nuclear” Family?’ and it was written by the Very Reverend Professor Martyn Percy(BA, MA, M.Ed, PhD). He is the 45th Dean of Christ Church, Oxford and he presides over both the College and the Cathedral. So I assumed he knows what he is writing about.

Professor Martyn Percy

Professor Percy gives five reasons for rejecting the idea that Christianity is “right behind the nuclear family.”

The first reason: “Jesus advocated leaving one’s parents for the sake of the Kingdom.”

Yes. Right. There’s plenty of evidence for that, but at what age? I don’t think there is any indication that Jesus suggested that children should be snatched away from their parents although there is plenty of evidence that that is what happened in the later church. Was it the Jesuits who said: “give me a child until he is seven”? And monasteries certainly took children into their care from the age of seven. Boys, anyway. 

On the other hand Jesus had something to say about widows (who, inevitably were often also single mothers) and orphans. He clearly thought they needed special care, rather than being treated as an equally satisfactory alternative to a proper household, which Archbishop Justin Welby seems to believe.

Secondly, Prof Percy argues that the Bible “contains many patterns of family life” and that the Old Testament in particular “offers us dozens – literally – of family patterns”, which “should not necessarily be honoured today.” 

That’s absolutely true. We don’t have polygamy any more, and I imagine few wives would offer the nanny or the au pair or the ‘Help’ to their husbands while they pursue their careers. Extended families have disappeared. By and large, we don’t even look after our elderly, and working ‘children’ who still live at home seem to be a bone of contention. There is also no mention in the Bible, as far as I remember, of families with two fathers, families with two mothers, of even, most recently, of a mother-cum-father family. [See my last blog – A Very Tangled Web – if you think you can cope with the intricacies of the situation.]

Now we come to the third reason.  Moses, Buddha, Mohammed, and Jesus – the founders of the worlds four great religions – were all adopted, Prof Percy tells us. If you want to learn the significance of this fact you’ll have to read the whole piece for yourself because, after reading his next statement, I gave up.

The Reverend Professor wrote:

‘Moses was abandoned by his birth mother and left to float in a small coracle in the River Nile, and had the good fortune to be picked up by the daughter of one of the Pharaohs, and nurtured as one of her own.’

I gave up because he lost my trust. He was just so wrong, on a simple, fundamental matter, that I felt I could no longer rely on him to tell the truth. 

No. No. No! Moses wasn’t abandoned. He wasn’t ‘left’. It wasn’t mere good luck. It was a carefully orchestrated plan, by a desperate mother, to try and save the life of her precious baby son. She’d already hidden him for three months from Pharaoh’s assassins. She knew exactly what she was doing. She chose the place and the time because she knew where the Princess walked, and she knew when the Princess walked. Moreover, she had contingency plans in place. The baby’s sister, Miriam, well primed with what to say, was there to make sure all went well or come to the rescue if something went wrong.

Read it for yourself — Exodus, Chapter Two, vv 1-10.

The writer spells the story out very clearly for those who have eyes to see. 

Much of the Bible is not easy to interpret which is good for theologians. I just hope Prof Percy isn’t often as careless or misguided with his real theology as he appears to be with this simple bit of exegesis for the masses.

I love curry . . .

There’s nothing like a good takeaway curry on a Friday night for rounding off the week and giving a spicy start to the weekend. I also love reading and knitting and a good straight malt.

And I “love” God. For that reason I think the English word love is one of the weakest, niggardly, most pathetic words in the English language.

However, over in America there’s a Curry that doesn’t love Love and a Love that doesn’t love Curry! Which is awkward because both Curry and Love are Bishops in the Episcopal (i.e. Anglican) church.

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“Love” says Bishop Michael Curry

Over here in Britain millions more people now know about the Right Reverend Michael B Curry, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal church thanks to the impassioned sermon he preached at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, all about love. Not at all the sort of sermon we’re used to in your usual society wedding but certainly memorable.

This same Bishop Curry is now at odds with one American bishop – ironically with the name of “love”! The problem is simple. Bishop William Love is the only bishop in the Episcopal Church who believes, deeply and sincerely, that marriage is between a man and a woman. (There may be other bishops who don’t much like SSM but Bishop Love is the only one who is prepared to stand up and be counted.)

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Bishop William Love of Albany, USA

Bishop Love cannot support something called resolution BO12, which basically says if you won’t allow same-sex marriages in your diocese nor allow other bishops to come in and oversee them for you then you have to go. So much for good disagreement and embracing diversity.

Type ‘love’ into the thesaurus and you get dozens of synonyms, from ‘affection’ and ‘adoration’ to ‘mad for’ and ‘soft spot’! ‘Lust’ is also included but it’s interesting that the word ‘charity’ doesn’t appear. Perhaps wisely. Charity doesn’t always show itself in the best light these days. There have been too many charity workers who have clearly mistaken lust for love.

The Greeks had six words for genuine love, but Christians are usually happy with three. When we use love, and we don’t just mean “I very much like . . .” we mean eros, romantic love; passionate, over the moon love.

Romantic love is wonderful. Even thinking about it sends shivers up my spine! But, it has its limitations.

Imagine five years down the romantic line and you and your wife have three children. The youngest has a stinking cold, which she has given to you, a stuffed up nose so she can’t breathe and it’s three in the morning. Number one son has an ear infection and is screaming with pain.  Your wife has fallen and sprained her wrist. Half way through a full wash load yesterday evening the washing machine died.

I know, from long experience, that memories of candle light dinners, watching fireworks while drifting along on a boat on the Seine or tumbling abandoned in the hay, will be no help whatsoever in that scenario. If all you’ve got is Eros one or other of you will walk out at first light.

What you need – what we all need all through life – are masses of Agape and Philia.

Agape was a word we used to hear often in church years ago although Bishop Curry didn’t mention it and I never hear it in the church I now attend.

Agape is selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love. After five years of marriage and three children, don’t forget Eros, but Agape is the love that will get you all through. Marriages thrive on romantic moments but only Agape will get you through the inevitable grim bits.

Then there’s Philia. This describes brotherly love and true friendship and in family life you need a lot of this—shown by loving friends and neighbours who will rally around in a crisis.

However, the addition of Agape and Philia will more than see you through. Because by now your love will have deepened to such an extent that you have compassion and tolerance and generosity which has not only enriched your own lives but those of your friends and neighbours. You are no longer alone living in an exciting erotic bubble.

This is why I thought Bishop Curry’s wedding sermon was inadequate. This is why I don’t trust Jayne Osanne and her Just Love slogan. That’s why I think love is the most inadequate word unless it’s attached to Bishop William Love who is a brave man.

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And I just love Milly!

We still live in interesting times.

I more or less gave up blogging last Autumn. I had a little flurry of activity in August when I posted four blogs in quick succession, and a re-post. Then nothing.

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The first of the August blogs recorded my difficulties in trying to spend some of the £10 million that the Church in Wales was giving to us for evangelism.

This is Allan Coote, a London bus driver, reading the Bible outside St Paul’s Cathedral last summer. But only for half an hour a week. The Dean and Chapter can’t cope with more than that.

 

In the second blog, among other things, I was expressing amused disbelief that the Freemasons had voted to include women—but only if they had first joined as men! The third blog, entitled ‘The Absurdity Goes On’ and posted on the same day, was inspired by a row over a wall plaque in York. It was to honour somebody called Anne Lister who was apparently the first famous English lesbian. The row erupted because the word lesbian did not appear on the plaque for fear of causing offence.

The fourth one, Storm in a Teacup appeared on August 11. It concerned the furore caused by Boris Johnson’s comment that a woman in a burqa looks like a letterbox. Actually he wasn’t completely correct. He meant the niqab – the burqa doesn’t have a slit in it.

Well, it was the silly season. So I decided to enjoy the summer and write again when I felt inspired. I re-posted one more blog – Tommy Tubby Again – on 28thSeptemeber as a tribute to my father. On September 28, 1918 he won the DSO. It was also his 25th birthday. After that nothing inspired me at all.

Three things have brought me back.

The first was checking my blog site for the first time in three months and discovering that people were still reading me. December 21st was the only day when I didn’t have a single visitor. Sometimes, someone obviously settled down to read many blogs one after the other. And when I counted I discovered I have readers far from the boundaries of Wales—in 28 different countries, in fact.

Well, I thought, perhaps I have still got something worth saying.

Secondly, serendipity. Several times in the last couple of weeks I have come across words and phrases, especially in the psalms, that seem to be nudging me to stand up and be counted.

And thirdly, the nudges and winks from my dear friends in Cardiff.

However, to be honest, I have nothing new to say. I still have just three things that I think are of fundamental importance.

The love of God as revealed in the Scriptures

The Anglican Church as it used to be but is no longer

Traditional marriage between a man and woman for the sake of family life which is the bedrock of a civilised society.

So while I’m wondering where to begin I am going to re-post my most read blog by far, from April 9th 2016. If I knew what there was about this particular blog that made it so popular I would do the same thing again and again. I suppose it must strike a chord with all the old Anglicans still sitting listening to meaningless words through empty services.

In any case, I suspect I shan’t be short of subject matter. Welby’s representative in Rome doesn’t believe in the Resurrection. Welby doesn’t want a lorry park in his Kent back yard. Curry is trying to silence Love. I’m sure I’ll find something to say.

Empty boxes, empty gestures, empty words

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“You Cubes” in a Welsh Cathedral-November 2014

When you leave something, whether it’s the Front Bench, a job, a marriage or a church, it may seem to onlookers that you have left after a row. When it becomes clear that it was a relatively small straw that broke the camel’s back, it may be thought that you left in a fit of pique, or on a whim, and that you’re too stubborn or too proud to apologise and return.

In fact, in almost every case, the small straw comes along after months, or years. In my case I came to the conclusion that I must sadly cut my ties to the Church of Wales after a couple of years of increasing frustration, irritation and hopelessness. After a Diocesan Conference in October 2014 which had left me feeling utterly disillusioned, the scales began to fall from my eyes the following month. That’s when I became convinced that the C in W was bumbling along a road I didn’t want to take, to a place I didn’t want to go.

Do you remember these boxes? The trendily labelled You Cubes.

For many years, in our village church, we used to fill old shoe boxes—at Christmas, or for Water Aid, or in response to a disaster like an earthquake. Some boxes were filled with baby clothes, others with small toys, games and crayons, and still others with toiletries—toothbrushes and toothpaste, scented soap, face cream and after shave. (In a crisis it’s important to restore self esteem and nothing does that better than a bit of luxury.)

The boxes in these photos are different. They are empty. Covered with shiny paper and all sorts of bits and bobs, they are supposed to tell the story of individual spiritual journeys. They seemed to me to be a perfect illustration of the saying “Fur coat and no knickers;” the complete antithesis of what our Lord Jesus Christ is all about. The more I looked at them the more I felt shock, puzzlement and finally outrage. Could no one, from Bishops, through Archdeacons, down to Area Deans, see the symbolism of the empty boxes, particularly just a few weeks before Christmas? Did no one in a lowly post in a Diocesan office dare say, what many must have thought, “this is a daft idea”?

Matthew 7:9-10 “Or which of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?”

These empty boxes summed up what I thought of the Church in Wales. Empty boxes, empty gestures, empty words.

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An altar of empty boxes. This says it all.

Get the L out of here.

 

 

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I’ve always been grateful to God for giving me a sense of humour. It has been my salvation so many times. Recently, I have begun to appreciate even more my sense of the absurd. In fact, I am coming to the conclusion that it is through a sense of the absurd that God is going to show us the dire straits we’ve got ourselves into. Some people have made the fatal error of taking themselves and their perceived needs too seriously. What is worse, they have done infinite damage by convincing those in places of power and influence that they must also have due respect for all this nonsense.

Remember when the Archbishop of Canterbury, no less, stood up and assured us that any sort of coupling, between any sort of gender, to create any sort of “family” unit, was as good as any other because that was the way the world is now. Untold studies and statistics have proved that children brought up by a man married to a woman in a long term relationship do better than any other arrangement. That is just a simple truth but very few people thought the Archbishop was being absurd.

Here are two pieces of news that have helped to convince me of God’s sense of the absurd.

Stonewall, the gay rights organisation, explain why they exist.

“We’re here to let all lesbian, gay, bi and trans people, here and abroad, know they’re not alone. We believe we’re stronger united, so we partner with organisations that help us create real change for the better. We have laid deep foundations across Britain – in some of our greatest institutions – so our communities can continue to find ways to flourish, and individuals can reach their full potential. We’re here to support those who can’t yet be themselves.”

Unfortunately, yesterday’s Times explained how the organisation has managed to upset the Lesbians.

“Lesbians have accused Stonewall, the gay rights organisation, of erasing biological women by saying that ‘male-bodied persons with penises’ can be lesbians.
The Lesbian Rights Alliance (LRA) has sent an open letter to Stonewall demanding that it take the L out of LGBTQ because it makes ‘lesbians invisible and erases lesbians through its promotion of the Trans Agenda’.
“The 135 signatories say that Stonewall supports the absurd idea that male-bodied persons with penises can be lesbians’.”

Well, it is absurd. But there’s so much that’s absurd about LGBTQAI brigade statements. Those 7 letters could have another 64 initials added to them to include the 71 different genders that are supposed to exist at the moment. Once one gender, such as the Lesbians, break away that will be the start of chaos. I foresee a time when there will  be a ‘Pride’ march every week to cater for every category. There’ll be a Bi-gender march, not to be confused with the Non-Binary march, and a Trans-sexual female march which is not the same as a Trans-gender female march. In addition, Agenders, and Androgynes appear to be quite separate from the Androgynous, to say nothing of the Two-spirits or the simply Other.

What worries me is that this nonsense isn’t limited to the 2% of the population who claim to belong to one or other of the 71 different genders. If you don’t believe me look at this from yesterday’s Guardian. Even the most respectable and dignified of organisations can’t seem to see the absurdity of what they are doing.

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‘“A Freemason who after initiation ceases to be a man does not cease to be a Freemason,” says new guidance issued by the Freemasons’ governing body, the United Grand Lodge of England. Those who have transitioned from female to male can also apply, the guidance makes clear.’

How can any journalist write that and not question the logic? Why would anyone who had loaded his body with hormones and had his penis chopped off, in order to become a woman want to join a men only organisation. Doesn’t that strike you as really, truly mad?

What am I Missing Here?

Please can someone tell me what is going on here.

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Darth Vader I know but who are the rest of the front row?

 

And who are these?

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I know I’m old but I am not senile. Yesterday I went to church. I have enough long term memory to say much of the service by heart and I have enough short term memory to remember the sermon. It was very good and with a fresh slant* on the gospel reading – Mark 5. (Two wonderful stories of the woman with the haemorrhage and the raising of Jairius’s daughter.)

I think, in this ordination photoshoot, the things that aren’t clergy are from Star Wars but I don’t understand why? There’s something in Star Wars about the Force being with you but if you’ve just been ordained shouldn’t a very different kind of Force have just been bestowed on you.

This sort of thing makes me feel that I’m mis-fitting more than usual. If anyone can explain the significance of all this I will be most grateful and will publish the comments to aid other old-timers who grew up believing ordination was a very serious, spiritual commitment.

*It was a bi-lingual service – English and Welsh – and the preacher brought in the fact that Jesus was probably tri-lingual and that Mark very deliberately used the Aramaic for Jesus’ command to the child.

Golly, what a lot of Jolly Lolly!

There’s a lot of lolly floating around the church in Wales these days. Of course, there’s been a lot of comment, too, about the spending sprees and the jaunts and about those who know the right pockets to pick. These comments have been going on for a long time. Too long. I  wish the Bench of Bishops had reacted sooner and also been a bit more effective in their support of the needy people in the pews.

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Back in March these six Welsh bishops went to Rome for the week of Christian Unity

Bishop Joanna of St Davids and Bishop June of Llandaff also flew to the United States, apparently, for some mentoring by Bishop Katharine Jefforts Schori.

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I presume +June and +Joanna were seeking instruction in how NOT to do things

+Katharine, you remember, was the Presiding Bishop in the Episcopal Church of America before +Michael Curry. She certainly knows all about spending money, having used up $30 million in legal fees suing any Bishop or church congregation that dared to challenge her definitely dodgy theology.

The senior clergy from Llandaff, pictured below, went to Devon for a retreat in May.  Later, +June announced her first Clergy School — a five day “pilgrimage” to Santiago de Compostela in May, 2019.  This will be for any clergy from the diocese who wish to take part (possibly 100) but, instead of walking, the pilgrims will be flown out on a chartered plane.

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Senior Llandaff clergy enjoying spiritual refreshment.

The Diocesan Secretary of St Asaph, the Youth Officer and one of the Archdeacons went to Helsinki recently. Helsinki, in Finland? Yes, indeed. It’s supposed to be a fascinating city in the midst of most beautiful scenery.

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Helsinki, capital of Finland

The Church of Finland isn’t actually Anglican; it’s Evangelical Lutheran, but it’s undeniably successful.  More than 80% of Finns, some 4.4 million people, are members of the Church of Finland. Those numbers must have made Bishop Gregory’s eyes water!

There’s also plenty of money sloshing around for new appointments, like several more Archdeacons and, most recently, an Education Director. Mrs Elizabeth Thomas, formerly head of Bassaleg School in Newport, will have 150 schools and 26,000 pupils, though it wasn’t clear from the notice of this appointment whether it was the schools, the children or the Bishops she was educating.

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Finally, and most wonderfully, the Bishops have announced an Evangelism Fund of £10 million for Mission. Ten million pounds to “grow” Christians across Wales “in vibrant and exciting ways”. +Andy was given the job of announcing the news at Pentecost. No wonder he is smiling.

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Andy John, Bishop of Bangor

Recently, a gentleman called John Pocket wrote a letter to the “Western Mail” complaining, as I have been doing, about all the jolly jaunts and other expenditure. It must have struck a raw nerve because a spokeswoman for the Church in Wales issued a statement. First she gives a short paraphrase of what she says are Mr Pocket’s views.

“Mr Pocket’s complaint seems to be: We shouldn’t be spending more on organisation. We shouldn’t invest in the resourcing and development of our leaders. We shouldn’t treat our people well. Failing to invest in our people and facilities would be an indication that we have no expectation for the Church in Wales.”

I’ve read the whole letter and I don’t think that’s quite the right tone; he certainly never suggested that long suffering clergy should be treated badly. And the “our people” she talks about are “them” not “us”, the pew sitters. She goes on to explain why the CiW is spending all this money.

“We believe in effective support for hard-working clergy. We believe that effective Christian leadership is resourced by times of spiritual refreshment — hence the retreats. We want to attract and retain exceptional staff, work efficiently and effectively and gain all the team-working benefits that an open-plan office brings. We are organising ourselves with an expectation of growth.”

The fund will provide grants of between £250,000 and £3 million, for diocesan projects that “will focus on people rather than buildings,” the Church in Wales said.

It’s time I confessed to something. I haven’t been blogging for over three months. It’s hard to blog positively when you are indulging the vices of envy and greed and the truth is I just hadn’t appreciated the worth of all these jollies and other initiatives.

I have been much more aware of how desperately the Faithful Few of pewsitters need money. I had equated the bishops and the senior clergy, who have been benefitting from all this largesse, with the Pharisees. There they were, I thought, self importantly going on retreats to learn how to do church better, seeking to appoint more and more people as directors of this and that while tiny congregations struggled on apparently disregarded.

The village church to which I have recently returned has 19 people on the electoral roll, only two of whom are in paid employment. Those 19 people have to fund a Parish  Mission Share of £15,000 per annum. That’s before we can begin any repairs or maintenance on our listed building.

Our Vicar is on indefinite leave. The Mission Area has the task of organising substitutes, but, for all their committees and organograms  that doesn’t always work out well.

Sometimes we have a Priest and Communion and sometimes we have a Lay Reader and Morning Prayer. Sometimes we prepare for Communion and only a Lay Reader turns up, and sometimes a Priest turns up unexpectedly and then we have to rush around preparing for a Eucharist. Sometimes we get a Priest and a Lay Reader, which is overkill, and sometimes no one turns up at all.

Actually, when that happens it’s fine. We organise an excellent Matins left to ourselves. In place of the sermon we have plenty to talk about; mainly how on earth are we going to raise enough money to pay our Share, let alone find anything extra for outreach, or attracting teenagers, or restarting something for children; to say nothing of funding a loo. The loo in the car park of the pub across the road is rather too far away.

So, it seems that all this effort and the £10 million is actually for us.

Or is it?

The announcement sounds more like management speak than Holy Spirit. Once again the bishops  are in danger of letting advisers and “experts” decide how the money should be spent — on expensive projects that will sound good and make great photos for the same old snouts. I hope I’m wrong.

Our village church doesn’t need anything like £250,000, let alone up to £3 million at one go. We need modest amounts of funding and some informed enthusiasm, advice and support.

Then we and the Holy Spirit can work miracles.

 

At Last. Common Sense from a Bishop!

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The Bishop of David’s celebrates St David’s Day

Every year on St David’s Day, the Bishop of St David’s sends a message to members of the Senedd. [For overseas readers: the Senedd is the Welsh Assembly of politicians who make decisions (frequently daft) about matters specific to Wales.] Here, in italics, is the text of the Bishop’s message.

“Like St David, we live in difficult times”.

Too right, particularly in the Church in Wales. As Bishop Joanne will know only too well, out of a population of 2.1 million fewer than 30,000 attend church regularly.

“In Wales, we are facing an uncertain future over which even our politicians in the Senedd and local government have a limited amount of control.”

Perhaps it’s no bad thing the Welsh politicians have limited control.  I’m worried about their interference in family life and education. Too often it seems politicians, not teachers, decide what children must learn. Even more worrying, parents find they have little say when they are unhappy about some adverse effect on an individual child. It seems impossible to ‘opt out’ any more. 

“As ever, it is the voices of suspicion and bigotry that shout the loudest.”

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At times like these, it is important that we hold onto our core Welsh values of community, common sense and honesty.”

 At last, a bishop calling for common sense—a value that I have elevated in frequent years almost into a virtue. Surely honesty should be a core value everywhere and always?  Community! That’s the best bit. I sincerely hope the Bishop intends to do everything in her power to rescue the whole community of the Church in Wales from further decline.

“On his death bed, St David called his community to a renewed commitment to “the little things”.

Those words remind me of the poem, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” by Robert Fulghum.

Among those ‘little’ things he tells us: Share everything. Play fair. Don’t hit people. Clean up your own mess. Don’t take things that aren’t yours. Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody. Wash your hands before you eat. Flush. Watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together. Be aware of wonder.

Very little things but what a difference if we all lived by them every single day.

“We may not be able to have much control over Westminster politics or the mainstream media but St David reminds us that the control we can exercise over our own words and actions are vital. Whether we are politicians, journalists or members of the public, it is our words and actions that form the Wales of today and tomorrow.”

Only ‘politicians, journalists or members of the public…’ ? What about the words and actions of Church of Wales clergy? Or has the bishop omitted the clergy because she knows so many of them don’t count for much these days.

 “On this St David’s day, let us renew our commitment to honesty, kindness and generosity and, at least on this side of Offa’s dyke, nurture communities of welcome and hope.”  

+ Joanna Tyddewi

Welcome and hope. Oh, yes, please. Do everything you can, Bishop Joanne, to persuade your fellow bishops, not only in Wales, but throughout the UK, to offer a welcome and give hope to all true Anglicans, even those who believe that marriage is between a man and a woman.

Post Script

Only as I was previewing this blog before posting did I notice something that should have been staring me in the face. This message was to celebrate St David’s Day—St David, our Patron Saint, brought Christianity to Wales. Joanna Pemberthy is his 128th successor. But there is no mention of God, no mention of religion; I suppose I should be glad there is no mention of sex. This could have been written by a worthy social worker or a politician seeking re-election. Just out of interest I checked on the Bishop of Llandaff’s last Christmas message. In over 500 words this was her only sentence with a reference to Christianity. “As Christians recall how God gave His own son, born as a baby and sharing in human experience, we are invited to remember the power of gifts.” I wonder what they’ll find to talk about at Easter? Cadbury’s eggs, perhaps.

Weasel Words and Nonsense

Once upon a time, long ago when I was young, Bishops were wise men of learning and Vicars and Rectors knew a fair bit of Theology. Even when they weren’t quite so clever nor so well educated they still had an abundance of common sense. If you went to them with a problem they could talk it through with you to a sensible solution.

Obviously times change, standards change, ideas change, but is it only my age that makes me think bishops these days have gone bonkers?

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“Celtic” bishops vainly hoping for Unity with the Vatican

Certainly, when I saw the above photo it seemed to me that the Welsh bishops—all six of them—had, collectively, lost their marbles. They had all toddled off to Rome with the excuse that they were there to aid Christian Unity. This jolly was despite the fact they all support—fairly agressively—women priests, women bishops, and same sex marriage. They must be stupidly naive if they thought there was any chance that Rome would adopt their views just like that.

Perhaps they got the idea from +Gregory, the bishop up here in St Asaph. He had a jolly to Ireland recently in the interest of Christian Unity with various Orthodox bishops, none of whom will have anything to do with women priests or same sex marriage. (These bishops should not be confused with the great Russian and Eastern Orthodox churches, which is presumably why the meeting was held in Dublin.)

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The Bishop of St Asaph is in Unity with them but not with me.

Of course, any initiative which can bring about Christian Unity must be a good thing but the so-called Celtic bishops had a fat chance of achieving anything with the Vatican. I can’t help feeling they could have spent their time much more effectively, though not so exotically, closer to home.

Where is all this “good disagreement” we hear so much about? Where are the forums where differing views can be discussed and debated quietly and intelligently? Not in Synod, I’m afraid. Where is the “diversity” the clergy are bending over backwards to embrace. I wouldn’t be welcome by the Vicar in my “parish” church because I can’t support SSM. Worse than that,  as an advocate for marriage between a man and a woman, preferably for life, the inference is that I must be homophobic. So far, the vaunted advantages and benefits of Mission Areas haven’t provided even one church in my Area which will give me a “safe, sacred space” where I can feel at home.

A year ago—was it really only 12 months ago? It seems like another age—the Bishop of St. Asaph appointed an LGBT chaplain. At the time, when asked what she would say to people who couldn’t support her, the Revd Hildreth-Osborn replied: “To those who aren’t supportive, I’d say, ‘If you’re judging people, you have no time to love them!”

If you take the time to think about those words you realise they’re a typical ‘soundbite.’ Sound good: mean nothing. What does she think Jesus meant when He said, to the woman taken in adultery, for example. (John:8) over, “Go, and sin no more”?He realised she had done something wrong, had told her so, but had not stopped loving her.

The ridiculous phrase, “Radical new Christian inclusion” used by Paul Baynes, Bishop of Liverpool, in his endorsement of the Jayne Ozanne Foundation, seems to mean kicking out the Gospel of Jesus while supporting “Just love for all”, whatever that means.

Jayne Ozane says she believes people can believe what they like.  Good, In introducing her new Foundation she also said that people like me have “A simplistic and ill-informed view of the Bible.” That’s exactly what she has.

Sadly, the Celtic Bishops would rather jaunt off to Rome than potter round their dioceses trying to establish any sort of unity with those of us who have been pushed out of our churches in the name of new radical LGBTQUIA+ inclusion.