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Showing posts from December, 2010

Yearsend thoughts on blogging

It seems to be the thing for bloggers to mark the year's end by looking back over the last 12 months of their own output. And why not? For Always Hope this is a significant new year, in fact the only one this blog has seen, marking (more or less) the first six months of its life. It's been fun and quite surprising, so now seems a good time to share some of my first impressions of the world of blogging. My first concern was that I wouldn't be able to think of anything to say. I should really have known myself better - as a preacher, and former teacher, I find it far too easy to share my opinions, which makes me a natural blogger. Not that this is necessarily a good thing. The temptation to sound off on anything and everything is very strong - especially as making a lot of noise tends to get more attention online. But as a reader, I don't enjoy blogs that are constantly whingeing and grumbling. So, although I allow myself regular rants about the Terrible State of Things,

Happy Christmas

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God rest you, merry gentlefolk, Let nothing you dismay Remember Christ our Saviour Was born on Christmas Day To save us all from Satan's power When we were gone astray. O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy; O tidings of comfort and joy!

Review - The Nativity

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The BBC's Nativity has gone down a storm, with everyone from Christian twitterati to hard-bitten journalists queueing up to heap tributes on it. And why not? This blog joins the chorus, with a big thumbs up. It would be tempting to say that the success lies in the power of the story, which would be true only up to a point. There is power there, but The Nativity allowed the story to speak, when it could very easily have strangled it at birth. In different hands this could have been a complete disaster. That it wasn't is due to some fairly basic values. Firstly, the casting and direction. This was essentially a character-driven TV drama in four parts, and such programmes stand or fall on the quality of the acting, which in this case, was strong across the board, with very few weak links. Pride of place must go to Tatiana Maslany , who was flawless as Mary. She carried the whole thing from start to finish with a perfect combination of vulnerability and steel, a Mary far

Delia Knox - Miracles and healing, cynicism or wonder?

Today the story of Delia Knox has jumped out of Christian subculture into the mainstream UK media, with this story on the Daily Mail website. Knox is filmed leaving her wheelchair after being prayed for at the Bay of the Holy Spirit Revival in Mobile, Alabama. Watch the 13 minute video embedded there, if you can. Most people will have one of two reactions to this: either you will be deeply moved, or you will find yourself overwhelmingly cynical about the whole thing. The second of the two seems to be the reaction of choice for Mail Online readers, who queue in droves in the comments section to pour scorn on the whole thing. Why are people sceptical about spiritual and miraculous healing? Mostly because they simply don't believe it. The prevailing secular atheist worldview has no slot available for this kind of thing - it simply doesn't happen (although a more thoughtful and informed atheist might allow for some kind of psychosomatic factor in healing). But even among those w

Blogging bishops might be getting somewhere

Belated congratulations to Nick Baines , who was last week announced as the next Bishop of Bradford . In the world of Bishops this counts as an upgrade, since when he moves from Croydon to Bradford he will be in charge of a Diocese for the first time. Nick is one of the Bishops of choice for Anglican bloggers , being a blogger himself and a regular on Twitter. I'm aware that what I'm about to say may look hugely hubristic , but I'm going to say it anyway. I think that the appointment of a blogging Bishop to a senior post can only be a good thing. Nick is one of the very few Bishops who have a) shown any interest whatsoever in web-based media, b) had anything of interest to say once online, and c) successfully engaged with the digital world without saying anything inept enough to earn himself unflattering news headlines. Most of his colleagues haven't even got to a), and those who have, generally fell down at b) or c). That isn't to say that he hasn't

Wikileaks - even the Church of England is not safe

As the Wikileaks US cables affair continues to rock international relations, today's headlines reveal that even the secretive and highly controlled organisation known as the Church of England is not safe from the shocking secrets revealed. Following last week's astonishing news that Prince Andrew is sometimes quite rude, and that not everyone trusts Iran, we now know that the US applies the same high level of intelligence to the world of religion. Today Wikileaks reveals that the Vatican often attempts to influence the policy of nation states and, most amazingly, that Pope Benedict and Archbishop Rowan Williams don't always see eye to eye. Church officials must surely be worried about what secrets might be exposed next. Rumours have long circulated, for example, that the Archbishop does not enjoy universal support within the Anglican Communion, and even that some members of the Church of England may be in favour of women as bishops. But readers of Always Hope need w

On preaching

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 The Guardian (online) is running a series on preaching , trying to measure the health of the medium, and debating whether it has a future. Simon Jenkins of the Ship of Fools comments on the lease of life that sermons have received from digital media , not least from YouTube. But what's also interesting is his passing comment that "preaching remains a significant event in churches", in other words, not just online but in the hard reality of church-bound worship. This rather belies the assertion in the opener from the Guardian, that "the one form of preaching that seems to have died in the West is the traditional delivery from a pulpit".  I think this captures one of the strange things about modern church culture. There is a received wisdom that says that preaching is dead and belongs to the past, yet Sunday by Sunday thousands of sermons are preached without excessive objection from the listeners (we'll come back to that later). This is a

get a life

Let's examine this sour exchange from last week's Church Times (which seems to be my source of choice at the moment): [background for non-CT readers {difficult to imagine, I know, but not everybody reads the Trumpet } : each week readers are invited to submit their tricky and esoteric questions on little-known aspects of church life. Other readers then reply with the benefit of their wisdom for the unenlightened.] question: "Where, in the rules and terms of employment, does it state that the clergy are allowed only one day off per week, when the rest of the working world has a full weekend?" answer: "I am astonished at just how out of touch the with the modern workplace the questioner is. Very few people working, as I have, on the minimum wage enjoy the luxury of two days off in seven. Stipendiary clergy have the luxury of predictable time off, if they choose to take it, and level of control over their working life which many other workers do not enjoy..&quo

Sherif Hassan free, Asia Bibi faces execution

An update on two cases that I have been following, in case you didn't see this elsewhere. Sherif Hassan , the UK-based Egyptian imprisoned in Egypt, has been released. Sherif was arrested because he is a former Muslim, but eventually released. The website set up to highlight his case must take some of the credit for this - visit to find out what else you can do to help the plight of Egypt's harassed Christians. However Asia Bibi, an ordinary Pakistani woman, still faces the death penalty under that country's draconian blasphemy laws. This relatively recent law, a symptom of rising militancy, has been regularly used to justify the abuse of Christians in Pakistan. It was good to see this on the BBC news last night - hopefully this kind of international scrutiny will help Asia in her desperate situation.

Churches may not be so big on society after all

This really interesting piece from last week's Guardian deserves some close reading. "The Big Society" remains a nebulous concept but as it slowly takes shape, some Christian groups have been joining the conversation. The Church of England in particular has started to put some flesh on the bones of what this might look like .  But is this driven by the motives that Riazat Butt suggests? Christian leaders have welcomed David Cameron's concept of a big society, seeing it as a way to re-establish their place in society. I can well believe that there are people who think exactly this: a chance for the church to regain its lost status as lynchpin of British society and doorkeeper of the way to social assistance. Part of me even warms to the idea, thinking that perhaps this might help to reverse the trend of secularisation and the marginalisation of Christianity in public debate. But to "re-establish our place in society" is not a noble goal. The only possi

Welcome to our church. Insert card here.

St Bride's, Fleet Street, in the City of London, has installed a " Donorpoint " machine. [source: Church Times] This device is exactly what you're thinking: a reverse cashpoint, stick your card in and it takes money off you. No more fobbing off your loose change on the collection: credit cards please (although I don't know if there's a minimum amount). It would very easy to satirise this, and Always Hope will rise above the temptation (on this occasion), apart from noting in passing that it is our Cathedrals that have led the way in pioneering the Donorpoint , and registering some curiosity that the MD of the company that makes the things is also a parish priest (I suppose he must be non-stipendiary). In fact the Donorpoint raises a serious issue: how the parish churches are to be funded. To the many who will fume about how disgraceful it is that a church should take money in this way, the obvious response is: "how would you go about funding the mainte

Not *that* Hallelujah video...

... but this one. There's a video of the Hallelujah chorus doing the rounds of the blogs, an Advent sign of joy breaking into the world. It's nice. But I rather prefer this one, courtesy of The Vernacular Curate , and who knows who else. Fun.