Showing posts from June, 2011

Terry Pratchett on dying

By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return." To be human is to die. The story of Adam tells us both of death's inevitability and of the age-old quest to find the way back to Eden, our innate yearning to believe that our return to the clay does not have to be the final word.  But there have always been those stoics who turn their back on hope and embrace the finality without delay.  Socrates drank hemlock, Cleopatra clasped the asp to her breast, Van Gogh shot himself, and those who see the end approaching sometimes prefer to jump across the gap instead of waiting for it to close. No doubt, too, there have always been those who have been willing to help them on their way, quietly, without drawing attention to the fact.  But in the twenty-first century, ethical and medical changes are combining to bring this process out into the open as never before.  On Monday th

Rowan Williams in the New Statesman

One of the curious things about being a specialised kind of blogger is that occasionally you get a perfect storm in your feed reader, caused by the kind of event which is irresistibly fascinating to your fellow bloggers.  "Archbishop gets political" seems to be about as good as it gets for Church of England bloggers.  When I read the Telegraph headline this morning, my first, ignoble, thought was "oo, must dash off a blog post and grab some attention", a strategy that has been effective in the past, even if the quality of the writing was unlikely to stand detailed scrutiny.  Then I realised that something like thirty other people had had the same thought, except slightly before me.  So this post comes to you with the benefit of several hours sober reflection, and after reading everybody else's posts first.  Let's start with some of the best reactions on the blogs today: The Church Mouse does his usual "calm down, everybody" to great effect.  T

Justin Welby new Bishop of Durham

So, Rowan Williams didn't step sideways to Durham, as I hoped he would. Instead the lately-maligned Crown Nominations Commission has made the very interesting choice of Justin Welby , Dean of Liverpool.  I don't know him personally (I did meet him once, when he was an ordinand at Cranmer Hall and I was just a stripling, but it's just possible he won't remember that), but his biography , read carefully, reveals the following: 1. He forged a career in the oil industry before ordination. This is unusual among Bishops, who are mostly cradle clergy. While that too has its advantages, it means they have little direct experience of leadership and management outside the church. 2. He has risen through the ranks of the clergy, as we might expect, but his ministry has been of the hands-on leadership type, not in the backroom bureaucracy or the corridors of power.  His time as the director of Coventry's ministry of reconciliation is a particular highlight in a CV which is is

Ascension Day

Today we celebrate Ascension Day, "celebrate", for the majority of churchgoers, being a concept rather than something they will actually take part in.  This day is a strong candidate for the least-observed of the church's principal feasts, suffering partly from its close proximity to Pentecost, but mostly from being forever fixed on a Thursday.  I read a piece once (sadly I can't remember where) by the son of a clergyman, who traced his father's journey of many years before to take an Ascension Day service in some remote country church. There, in the register, he found his dad's own handwriting, saying "nobody came".  The Ascension also suffers a bit in the doctrinal arena, too, mostly from people who think it's clever to point out that if Jesus really ascended, he would have gone into orbit.  They say this because they have no poetry or biblical literacy.  The Ascension is important because it marks the final point of the arc of Jesus's 

Boris to welcome Noah?

On a lighter note:  The creator of a full-scale replica of the biblical Ark has written to Boris Johnson to ask permission to moor the vessel in London during the 2012 Olympics. Read the story, and see the pictures, here .  (Warning: links to Mail Online!) Without wishing to quibble, Always Hope has some doubts about the veracity of Johan Huibers' claim to be a "biblical literalist".  This is not a text-critical comment, you understand, but a question of whether he has bent the rules a little.  I can't find a mention of the two 1,500 seater conference rooms anywhere in Genesis, and Mr Huibers' conviction that the biblical "resin wood" was Swedish Pine reveals, at the very least, a shaky grasp of context. Still, who would grumble at such a prospect?  Some may see this is as an eccentric and perplexing sideshow, but that should go down well with Boris.