Monthly Archives: December 2009

Challenging Literal Language

The over valuing of literal ways of expressing our experience of reality needs challenging. Literal truth doesn’t help us talk about the most important things, and when you force yourself to speak literally, you end up saying some very silly things about those important things. The most obvious example of this is God talk where ‘taking the bible literally’ has become for some the same as, ‘taking it seriously’, or reading it honestly and not complicating it with ‘man made’ interpretations. 

Taking the bible literally however is absurd. It isn’t simple so you can’t pretend it is and to be serious about it and faithful, you need to know what kind of language it is using at any given point. To believe, as I do, that it is inspired by God, doesn’t let you off the hook by assuming that God used only modern ways of using language! 

So regarding literal language we need to challenge the two assumptions. One is that literal truth is ‘simple’ and without distortion. Second that other ways of talking about reality are not serious and are complicating things for the sake of it. I’m not sure I can do that here – though I’ll have a go on another day. Instead here is a way of thinking that I find helpful, I’m curious to know if you find it so!

Well I for one found it helpful. It seems Pam did too: PamBG’s Blog: Taking the Bible Seriously.

5 things I, me, myself,, love about Methodism – part 4

It has taken a while but this is a continuation of a series. The other parts are 42: 5 things I, me, myself,, love about Methodism – part 142: 5 things I, me, myself,, love about Methodism – part 2 and 42: 5 things I, me, myself,, love about Methodism – part 3.

Item 1 was "Meeting the Living God", item 2 "Theology" and item 3 "Commitment to Equality and Diversity (or Inclusion)". Now we have 

4. Methodist Ministry

There are many aspects I love about Methodist Ministry. Here are a few:

  • Ministry of all believers. There is almost nothing that any member cannot do providing they are authorised by Conference. For example preaching, baptism, presiding at Holy Communion, marriage, funerals are all open to lay people (within a local Church I think it is only confirmation that has to be done by a minister and that was the result of discussions about union with the CoE in the 1960's).
  • Lack of hierarchy. We just don't do hierarchy at all. All people in senior roles return to normal membership when the role ends (eg President, Vice President, Superintendent, Chair of District, Steward, …). Our leaders are not separated from everyone else and this is very very healthy.
  • Equality. We expect equality in ministry regardless of ordination, gender and anything else.
  • Itinerant Ministers. This supports the ministry of all believers and is a wonderful gift to the Church. It is liberating, exciting and challenging to respond to a call knowing that the Church can and will move you from place to place. Our churches are generous and full of grace in the ways they welcome and respond to the different gifts of their ministers. It gives us the flexibility to respond to mission opportunities rapidly and effectively.

That will do for now. Just to note that I know we do not and have not always lived up to our calling and tradition of ministry. But I love the way we set the bar so high and that we keep on trying.

Old Weston Christmas Eve Service

Please note that due to local weather conditions (plus a power supply failure) the 11:15pm Christmas Eve service of Holy Communion at Old Weston Methodist Chapel has been moved to Raunds Methodist Church.

The door into the ground floor on Brook Street will be open so that you do not need to use the steps up the side of the Church.

Everyone is welcome for this service and for the 10:30am service on Christmas Day which is also at Raunds Methodist Church.

I have only a few metres to walk to these services so they will be on even if there is a blizzard.

Improving the chances of snow

If you want to improve the chances of snow at your British home town during the Christmas season I have a simple solution.

Volunteer to drive people down to the Whitechapel Mission in London to cook breakfast for people who are homeless.

I think that since moving to Raunds it has now worked 3 out of 4 Christmases (we didn't book early enough to get a place one year).

Anyway I'll be leaving at 4am in the morning taking a car load of clothes, good and toiletries (and 4 volunteers squashed in) and there is still snow on the roads in Raunds.

Actually, it would probably be better for people who are homeless if I stopped volunteering at Christmas as being homeless when it snows is terrible. Fortunately the Whitechapel Mission have a policy of opening up the Church for people to sleep in when the temperature drops below freezing. A lot of extra work for the staff but infinitely better than even more of their friends dying on the streets (even though I only get to go a few times a year there are people I have known where that has happened).

Valuing the work that matters most

A very interesting report that looks at the total impact of employment that results in a comparison of cost and benefit. Some headline figures:
  • For every £1 of pay a top banker costs the country £7 social value
  • For every £1 of pay a Nursery Worker adds £7 of social value to the country 
  • For every £1 of pay a Tax Accountant costs the country £47 social value
  • For every £1 of pay a Waste Recycling Worker adds £12 of social value to the country 

I don’t imagine the methodology will be acceptable to all (understatement!!) but a very interesting look at things. Maybe the tax system should work so that in Net Pay all workers make a +ve contribution to social value beyond their actual cost. The job market might look rather different then – it looks that some currently highly paid jobs might require you to pay us to let you do them :-)

Seems to me that we need to hear more about alternatives to the greed culture that has been celebrated in recent years.

Tony Blair vs John the Baptist

Following on from 42: Is Tony Blair off his rocker?

John the Baptist:

When crowds of people came out for baptism because it was the popular thing to do, John exploded: "Brood of snakes! What do you think you're doing slithering down here to the river? Do you think a little water on your snakeskins is going to deflect God's judgment? It's your life that must change, not your skin. Luke 3:7-18 – Passage Lookup – BibleGateway.com.

Tony Blair:

Mr Blair was also asked what role his Christian faith played in the decision to go to war.

He said: "I think it is important that you take that decision, as it were, on the basis of what you think is right, because that is the only way to do it.

But he went on: "I think people sometimes think my religious faith played a direct part in some of those decisions, it really didn't." BBC News – Removal of Saddam Hussein 'right', says Tony Blair.

So what is Tony going to be thinking on Sunday when he listens to that Lectionary reading?

Oop's!

Is Tony Blair off his rocker?

From the BBC Removal of Saddam Hussein 'right', says Tony Blair.

A few very scary Blair quotes:

It would have been "right to remove" Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein even without evidence that he had weapons of mass destruction, Tony Blair has said.

But you did not argue that at the time. You told us it was because of WMD. Yet you knew they did not exist. In other words you lied to us.

"That's why I sympathise with the people who were against [the war] for perfectly good reasons and are against it now, but for me, you know, in the end I had to take the decision."

So you now admit there were good reasons even when we did not know you were lying to us. Now everyone knows you lied. So the "perfectly good reasons" look even more perfect. Despite that you would not listen to anyone.

But he went on: "I think people sometimes think my religious faith played a direct part in some of those decisions, it really didn't."

Well bang goes the idea that it is a Christian faith. If Christian faith dos not play a direct part in decisions you make then it is not Christian faith. Completely off his rocker! How can you claim to have role to play in the world because of your Christian faith and then also claim it had no impact on the moral decisions you made! Duh. No wonder you don't worry about lying.

Results from installing Google ChromeUbuntu Chromium browser (Google Chrome for Linux on Ubuntu

It was only 6 days ago that I wrote 42: Install Ubuntu Chromium browser (Google Chrome for Linux) about how easy it was to install a pre-beta version of Google Chrome (the Web Browser from Google) on Ubuntu (both 9.10 and 8.04).

Well I have upgraded to the beta version. Installation is even easier (download, open, click install). get it from Google Chrome – Download a new browser.

The performance is wonderful, extensions are now appearing (eg I have installed xmarks so my bookmarks are in sync across all machines and browsers). I have stopped using Firefox entirely after many years of use.

So far totally stable and very quick (some of the benchmarks I tried were over 10x the speed of Firefox 3.1 for javascript, others did not even complete on Firefox [it reported that the script had stalled]).

I have not compared it to Windows Explorer as I have stopped booting into Windows now that I have Datasoul (Free Open Source Church Presentation Software) to use for worship services.

I'll finish with a summary of software recommendations just as a reminder if you are also thinking about leaving windows now that Google Chrome is available for other Operating Systems. For the main applications used by Churches & Ministers my recommendations would be:

Operating System: Ubuntu 9.10 (I use Ubuntu on netbooks, old laptops, new laptops, and a Sun Server with 5 thin clients). Very easy to install, very easy to use, looks great, extremely stable, fast, free and with huge amounts of easy to install software.

Office Software: OpenOffice (over 100,000,000 downloads of version 3 in just over a year!!!). I come across MS Office on other machines all the time and keep coming away wondering why anyone is using it. The huge changes in user interface that require learning each release so put me off! This is a no brainer way to save a lot of money (and yes Ubuntu installs it for you) while gaining something that works so well.

Web Browser: Now got to be Google Chrome for speed, looks and speed. Only negative at the moment is support for pdf's (at least on Linux, have not tried Windows).

Worship Presentations: Datasoul Not just because it works so well on Linux and is free but because it is so fast to prepare worship and is getting better all the time and the price plus freedom is just what is needed for Churches.

5 things I, me, myself,, love about Methodism – part 3

A continuation from 42: 5 things I, me, myself,, love about Methodism – part 1 and 42: 5 things I, me, myself,, love about Methodism – part 2.

Item 1 was "Meeting the Living God" and item 2 "Theology"

So we move onto item 3:

3. Commitment to Equality and Diversity (or Inclusion)

I guess nobody who reads 42 will be surprised by this.  There are probably some who think I do nothing but pick arguments with them on this issue :-)

My inclusion (sorry very weak pun) of this here in no way means that I think that Methodism has this licked. You can see how we are currently working on this at The Methodist Church of Great Britain | The Equalities & Diversity Project, we are still lacking good policies, procedures and monitoring (and that is not good enough, we should be doing better). My grateful thanks to those in our Church who are working on improving our position. Plus my sincere thanks and respect to other churches that have led the way and who are still ahead of us.

Anyway, I believe that this is an area that reflects the heart of Methodists today and I love the outcomes when we do well at this.

I have had such a great time learning, growing, sharing, worshipping, eating (etc etc etc) with so many diverse people that I am continually amazed that people choose the poverty that comes with no diversity and no equality. Given that God, in his wisdom, did not make everyone else like me it is utterly incomprehensible to me that others think that it could be God's will to not welcome with open arms the full range of human diversity created by God. I want to be clear that IMHO any claims to welcome diversity that do not recognise, celebrate and support equality are bogus.

Here I want to celebrate that Methodism does not support inequality on the basis of ethnicity, gender, sexuality etc etc. That makes the 3rd thing I love about Methodism.

Interview with a Wiccan

Interview with a Wiccan « Purging my soul…one blog at a time ends with (worth reading it all though):

I’ve said this before: people don’t care about your correct doctrine until they know for certain that you care about them as people. Only when that trust has been established are they willing to entertain the possiblity of your beliefs. People who evangelize others like they are a point on a scorecard or a notch on a belt really misrepresent the heart of the Father. People don’t care what you know until they know that you care.

This neatly puts part of what I was trying to express in 42: 5 things I, me, myself,, love about Methodism – part 2.