Holy Spirit Church: Arranging the Furniture

The way we arrange the furniture in our lives (both the literal and the non-literal) communicates so much about who we are and who we aspire to be. And it sets the background scenery to our story. If the arrangement of the furniture is at odds with our goals, this can frustrate or even prevent us attaining our goals. One cannot physically relax in a living room without comfortable chairs. Equally, an untidy desk can be an impediment to work. Less literally, a cluttered calendar has no space for a new departure in life (e.g. deciding to pray regularly) – something has to move out to make space.

So it interests me immensely how we arrange the furniture in our church buildings. We should sometimes stop and ask what our furniture says about our understanding of who we are and who God is calling us to be.

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Parish Rule of Life Proposal

As vicar of Greenside Parish, I have been exploring with my church the idea of adopting a church rule of life. Recently, we began to look at some potential wording for such a rule as a way of exploring the idea. Whether we will ever adopt this wording or even something similar to it remains to be seen. For now, it is just an exploration.

The words we have been considering are below. Continue reading


It's passing strange...
    - although why I think it strange, I can not penetrate -
    - maybe all my "normal" is but surface shadow, dim reflection -
    - perhaps what I call "strange" is ocean deep -

It's passing strange - and ocean deep - that vast conceits...
    ...can only be expressed in drops of salted water.

Hot, large and urgent
    or slow, gentle caress.
Falling and bursting on hard ground
    or flung in myriad spray from blinking lashes
    or rivulets upon the face.

If I say words out loud, say "This creation astounds",
    my barren sounds congeal into flat, dull, tasteless mass
    (tofu words)
But if I weep the words,
    the cataracts of worlds pour forth
    in delirium of rapturous delight

If I say "This creation is broken",
    the dull monotone tugs at mired feet, sinking in ennui
    (damp words)
But if I weep the words,
    my running heart is torn from heaving breast
    and I strain in passioned yearning for the resolution of ages

If I say "The Lord is risen",
    not much rises above my bleating
    (spent words)
But if I weep the words,
    a fresh cosmos burst forth
    and the founding stars laugh and dance

If I say "My friend is dead",
    I convey, in open prose, a matter of fact about molecules at rest
    (inert words)
But, if I weep the words,
    each glittering tear cradles within its liquid shell
        the world of worlds
        the tale of tales
    Teaming abundance.
    Desolate despair.
    Highest praise.

And today I weep.


“No place for terrorists to hide”

Home Secretary Amber Rudd is reported today to be in favour of giving intelligence services access to encrypted communications so there will be “no place for terrorists to hide”. This proposal demonstrates deep ignorance both about how modern encryption algorithms work and about how best to respond to terrorism. One would expect an MP to be better informed. That, at least, is the charitable interpretation of Ms Rudd’s comments. The uncharitable interpretation is rather dark and sinister.

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Keep Calm and Carry On

My heart goes out to the family and friends of those killed yesterday in London and to those injured. And when I think, especially, that my own son was right there in Westminster just last week on a school trip, the depth and awfulness of the tragic, meaningless, senseless loss of life is simply too much to bear. By any reckoning, the personal situation here is just too bad for words and even our prayers can be nothing other than groans deeper than words.

The personal situation is awful. But I want to comment, also, on the national situation. Nationally, tragedy happens all the time. Tragedy happens so often that the vast majority of it is not reported in the press – it is just too normal. Car accidents, heart attacks, suicides and, even, silly-seeming things like falling down the stairs claim thousands of people every year (just the latter claiming an average of almost 2 a day in 2011, according the the Guardian).

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The language of Christian giving

I wish to register a complaint. It’s about how we, the church, talk about giving1The word “giving” in this context can be ambiguous. I am using it in this article to refer specifically the contributions made by church members to the common funds of the church.. I don’t mean them, the big stage TV millionaire prosperity doctrine teachers or the shady con men who ride on the back of honest Christianity. I mean us, the well-meaning local church which never has quite enough funds or willing hands for the work before us. The church which loves God, loves its members, loves its community, loves the wider world. The church which is not looking for a quick buck and will use well the money people offer. We, this church, are rubbish at talking about giving. Continue reading

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1. The word “giving” in this context can be ambiguous. I am using it in this article to refer specifically the contributions made by church members to the common funds of the church.