A vote of confidence

Who can comment with any certainty on the current state of British politics? In the surge of the present media maelstrom, so many words and phrases have bubbled briefly to the surface before sinking again out of sight. Chaos reigns. But in the chaos, I think some things can clearly be said and, indeed, need to be said to call our leaders to account. Indeed, it is the very chaos which most excites comment.

Where does this chaos originate? Why could calm not have followed in the wake of last week’s referendum? Indeed, would a period of calm reflection not have been exactly the thing that was needed in the circumstances? Do we not, in emergency situations, praise the people who are able to keep their heads and help everyone else to respond calmly? What airline would want the crew to ran about screaming and inciting chaos in an emergency? Or to begin fighting each other? Indeed, cabin and flight crew are trained to do exactly the opposite: to keep their cool and to help everyone else to respond in a calm and ordered manner.

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Gaggia boiler specs

So, you’re obsessed with implementing the perfect temperature controller for your Gaggia Baby Class (or Classic or any other derived model)1Oh, you’re not: is it just me then?. You’ve realised that you really need to know the values of some important parameters and the only easy way to get those is to take the boiler apart. And you don’t want to do that2Are you sure you don’t? If you do, you can take the opportunity to improve the brew head temperature.. The good news is I’ve done it for you3Where I also took the opportunity to improve the brew head temperature.. Here is everything you need to know4At least, I hope so: I don’t want to take it apart again.: Continue reading

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1. Oh, you’re not: is it just me then?
2. Are you sure you don’t? If you do, you can take the opportunity to improve the brew head temperature.
3. Where I also took the opportunity to improve the brew head temperature.
4. At least, I hope so: I don’t want to take it apart again.

Improving Gaggia brew head temperature

Over recent weeks, I have wasted invested a lot of time investigating the Gaggia boiler thermodynamics. (All part of my master plan to have the entire machine at a stable temperature inside 2 minutes from power on.) A major obstacle to getting a stable temperature quickly is that the brew head takes for ever to warm up. Whilst thinking about this, I hit on an idea for improving the heat transfer from the aluminium boiler shell to the brew head: put heat-sink compound in the join between the shell and the brew head. Continue reading

Scary promises

Yesterday for morning prayer, we had the story of Caleb and Joshua and the spying out of the promised land from Numbers 14. I was struck by how the Israelites were so fearful of entering the promised land, full of God’s bounty and, instead, wanted to go back to slavery in Egypt. I think we are often like this: God’s generosity is an unknown quantity and feels scary. Egypt is unpleasant but it is a known quantity and that feels safe.

Isn’t this true? Do we not all sometimes think “Better the Egypt you know than the promised land you don’t”?

What is so sad about the Numbers 14 story is that the promises were lost to the people. That entire generation had to pass away. Forty years had to pass by before God’s promises could, finally, be fulfilled.

Oh Lord, help us to trust you and not to rob ourselves of the bounty you have laid up for us.

Covenant parish community

Having previously set out some of my thoughts about what we were calling “parish monasticism”1We’re now calling it “new monasticism in the parish context” because that’s what we really mean – even if this name is a little bit of a mouthful. The emphasis here is on new monasticism to be clear that “parish monasticism” is not a different thing to “new monasticism”, but, rather, an expression of new monasticism in a particular context., the next question is how to proceed practically. It’s all very well to talk about doing this – but how do we actually begin?

This week, I began a foray into new monasticism with my church at our annual parochial church meeting. My thinking was aided by discussions held around an upcoming New Monasticism conference in October in which we pondered what “new monasticism” actually is. Like most movements of the Holy Spirit, this one proves difficult to pin down. However there was broad agreement around one thing: having a common rule or rhythm of life. This set me wondering as to whether this is a good place to begin.

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1. We’re now calling it “new monasticism in the parish context” because that’s what we really mean – even if this name is a little bit of a mouthful. The emphasis here is on new monasticism to be clear that “parish monasticism” is not a different thing to “new monasticism”, but, rather, an expression of new monasticism in a particular context.

The great wonky veg debacle

Wonky veg has been all over social media recently since ASDA began selling their Wonky Veg boxes. ASDA is now promising to roll these out nationwide. I first became aware of the great wonky veg waste problem through Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and the BBC show Hugh’s War on Waste. The problem has been that supermarkets will only sell the most regular-shaped vegetables, whilst nature stubbornly insists on producing vegetables of all shapes. This results in farmers having to destroy large parts of their crops because they simply cannot get the supermarkets to sell the “wonky” vegetables. Bad news for the farmers and bad news for a planet in which there are people starving.

So, everyone is excited to see the supermarkets beginning to move on this issue. However, at this point I want to sound the alarm bells. This latest move could prove disastrous. The trouble with demanding that supermarkets sell wonky veg is that we fail to see the real problem, which is more about overproduction than about wonky vegetables. The real problem is that people in the UK eat far less veg than the farmers produce. So a lot of veg has to be destroyed regardless. That it happens to be the wonky veg which is destroyed is almost a side-issue.

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Parish Monasticism

For some years now, I have been increasingly convinced that God is calling us to ways of being parish church which will take us into a much deeper form of community. Over the past year, I have discovered that many other clergy (and some laity) are thinking along similar lines and that a movement appears to be beginning around what we have come, tentatively, to call “Parish Monasticism”.

In this, my first post on the subject, I am beginning a journey of exploring how parish monasticism might work out practically in a Church of England parish context. I will be using this and future posts to help organise my thoughts on the subject, so what I say is tentative and feedback is welcome.

For other thinking on the subject, you might like to read Ned Lunn’s detailed exploration through the lens of St Benedict’s Rule. Holy Trinity Salcombe’s mon2sat and Walk the Extra Mile websites are also very relevant. If you wish to find other people interested in Parish Monasticism, you’d be very welcome to join the facebook group.

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The lion and the monkey king: a parable

It was the monkey king that started it. And by the time it was all over, half the jungle was wrecked and everyone was sorry, even the lion. Of course, it’s easy to say that with hindsight, but at the time everyone was so sure of themselves.

I say “the monkey king”. In truth, this was a self-styled title and there was never a time when anything like a majority of the simians recognised his legitimacy. Indeed, if it weren’t for those which flocked to his banner from out of every corner of the jungle, he’d never have had any power at all.

The monkey king hated the lion. Hated the lion’s strength. Hated the lion’s casual rule over the whole jungle. Hated the lion’s arrogant self-interest. And this was part of the monkey king’s allure, for there was no part of the jungle in which there weren’t a few who were disenchanted with the lion’s rule. So, whilst many found the pax leonis convenient, there were always the hotheads who would sacrifice all for a different world. Tinder, just waiting for the burning brand to set them alight with ardent zeal – a zeal with more than its fair share of delusion, but nonetheless a zeal fired by the truth that the price of the lion’s peace was that the lion would occasionally eat people.

And so they came, and the monkey king established his hold over one already-unstable corner of the jungle, using, through his converts, a combination of brutality and intimidation: the usual tools of any dictator, lacking in imagination but very effective.

It was easy to subjugate that one part of the jungle. And the monkey king dreamed of expanding his borders further and further. Neighbouring areas become worried. But far and away more important to the monkey king was beating the lion. He was sure he could. If only he could lure the lion into his one part of the jungle.

As it happens, the lion was already keenly aware of what the monkey king was doing. What ruler wouldn’t be? Especially as many animals, fleeing the monkey king’s reign of terror, kept approaching the lion, suing for sanctuary. But, then, the lion had plenty of other concerns, too. Not least, his pride and all the business of policing the jungle as a whole. And, whilst the lion very much enjoyed his meals, he did not enjoy wholesale slaughter. Large body counts were untidy and always left him feeling an unpleasant compunction. Best not to take too direct action too often.

So the monkey king, whilst never at the bottom of the list of the lion’s concerns, was never at the top of the list either. The monkey king needed to be at the top of that list, for it would be quite something for the lion to fully rouse himself and charge across the jungle to the monkey king’s patch.

Here, at the crux of the story, was the monkey king’s genius (evil genius, but genius nonetheless). The lion’s teeth and claws were ferocious and powerful. No one could withstand them. But the monkey king very astutely guessed that the lions flanks and tail were more vulnerable. Indeed, here was the lion’s weakness: he lived in constant fear of the slightest injury to his flanks and side. And so even the slightest harm got his complete attention.

The monkey king resolved to exploit this weakness. He sent his zealots, one by one, to sting the lion’s flank. Most of these ended up at the wrong end of the lion’s pointy claws and teeth. But one cannot defend every direction at once, and the occasional raider hit his mark. And with every successful hit, the lion’s fear increased until one day, the monkey king, who would once never have rated a second glance from the lion, filled the lion’s entire vision: the great terror waiting to descend upon him and destroy him. And with fear came anger. White hot passion, crying for the utter destruction of this “fascist” ruler (as the lion called him) who held in contempt everything the lion held dear. And so that great strength was finally roused to its fullest fury and the lion charged.

No one can tell how many animals were trampled under foot or flung violently aside in the path of the lion, bodies crushed and broken. Nor can one count how many the monkey king’s zealots killed. All anyone recalls is the sheer terror of the melee and the countless live lost. And no one can say whether the lion’s actions were for the best – after all, the monkey king’s rule was brutal and needed to be stopped. But one thing all agree is this: never again! Never! (Although just a few of the oldest animals, with the longest memories, keep trying to remember where they’ve heard that phrase before).