Thanks to xkcd via Timbo


Tom Wright on Hell and Rob Bell

Thanks to Matthew Paul Turner for pointing me towards this video via twitter.

I highly recommend Wright’s book Surprised by Hope.

Preparing For The Rapture

Experimental Monotheism


XKCD Guy does it again!!  I love his quirky combination of maths, physics and philosophy.

I can’t believe I just added Rapture as a category on my blog!!

Hadrian’s Wall

Hadrian’s Wall

Originally uploaded by The Muffin Man

One of the shots I took in the week after Easter. This was an interlude in the song writing camping fest!  It is taken with an ND 110 filter so it was about a minute of exposure on a tripod.  Just over the ridge is that tree from Robin Hood Prince of Thieves.  You know…. just out of shot….

Accessibility, The Church and Apple

As soon as I clicked ‘publish’ with my last blog post the cogs started turning in my mind.  I have an iPhone (sorry @duttyo, it’s relevant to what I’m saying).  One of the first things my wife said about the whole Apple experience is “where are the instructions”?  There are two postage stamp pieces of paper that come with an iPhone telling you to “put the sim card in” and “plug it in to iTunes”.  That’s your lot.

There is nothing to tell you how to make a call.  There are no little booklets explaining how to setup the device.  I was amazed when I discovered caps lock by ‘accident’ one day.  I was mystified the day I mistakenly took a screen grab by pressing two buttons simultaneously.  There are little huddles of iPhone users gathered throughout the land passing on the secrets of eternal app usage: 

“Have you seen the pulse reader?  It’s awesome”. 

“No but I’ve got RedLaser!”

The religious fervor that Apple commands is bolstered by an almost Gnostic sense of hidden secrets.  “Perhaps if I continue to worship at the Apple temple for a little longer I will gain access to the next level of geekery”.

Compare this if you will to the church.  In some churches there is no explanation whatsoever of what is going on.  Entering through the door for the uninitiated can be as baffling as an alien life form encountering humanity for the first time through Monty Python’s Flying Circus.  Banana.  In other churches there is a level of explanation that describes the minutia of each and every impending  act. 

“We’re now going to pray a prayer that will offer up to God the things that we have done wrong in our lives.  The weeks…. years…. eons…. passage of time…. deep sorrow…. so that….. if we…. can you….. not because…. but if we…. zzzzzzzz…. so let’s bow our heads….. or not…. comfortable…. prayer is…. so now we say together…. ‘God we’re sorry, Amen‘”. 

So what can we learn from Apple?  Apple have managed to create a mystique and yet maintain their accessibility.  They have hit upon a formula where there is just the right level of instruction to make things work but not so much that the sense of mystery is lost.  I wonder if we can appoint Steve Jobs as the next Archbishop.

[Cue an Apple hater in the comments]

The New Religious Movement – Apple

There is a programme on BBC3 tonight that the little anthropologist inside my head finds fascinating.  “BBC Three looks into ‘evangelical frenzy’ over Apple“.  I can’t work out whether this is tongue-in-cheek or whether the comparison is a startling revelation about the inner desire within society for religiosity.  Have Apple tapped into a marketing tool that the church has long forgotten – how to give a religious experience?

Check it out at 9pm on BBC3.

Fresh Expressions and The Sacraments

The May edition of e-expressions has an interesting piece from Bishop Graham Cray about the place of communion within a Fresh Expression of Church.  He highlights the defining characteristics of a church as:

One of the ways by which we can recognize whether something is church, is whether ‘the Word and the Sacraments’ are present. Scripture is studied, so that disciples can understand what Jesus wants them to know and do, and act accordingly. Communion is celebrated to rehearse what Jesus has accomplished and set our eyes, minds and hearts on his coming kingdom. If a fresh expression is really church it will develop to a stage where Holy Communion (under whatever name a tradition uses) is part of its regular pattern of worship and discipleship. This is for the most basic of reasons. Jesus told us to share bread and wine in this way in remembrance of him. It’s that simple!

This has been an area that has caused concern for any form of innovative worship within a church that is catholic in nature like the Church of England.  It seems that whenever the Anglican church tries to engage with new groups of people one of the first things that is removed from an act of corporate worship is the sacrament.  This can be seen historically in the Family Service movement throughout the last century or more recently in the alt worship scene.  It is an area that I looked into as part of my MA dissertation as I explored the way in which the Church of England is engaging with alt. worship.  At the time there was little in the way of sacrament within most Fresh Expressions of Church and the question of presidency is a sticking point for many in a variety of traditions.

Many denominations are involved in planting fresh expressions and not all of them require an ordained minister to preside, but many do.

Previously there has been no truly satisfactory solution postulated.  Bishop Graham suggests some ideas.

The leader or leaders of a fresh expression are not necessarily the ones who should preside. Leading the mission and the mission community are not the same thing as leading worship. An ordained minister can relate to a fresh expression, attend when they can without having to take responsibility and then act as a key link to the wider church when they preside. There needs to be a real connection between fresh expressions and the rest of the Church and this could strengthen it. When a fresh expression is linked in to a more traditional local church or group of churches it is possible to have a celebration of communion at one church, including, in its turn, the fresh expression and then each of the others has representatives who take the bread and wine to the other churches in the team. Churches in a more catholic tradition would be happy to use the reserved sacrament.

I suggest that we are at the beginning of the journey into fresh expressions.  This is a starting place will have to look at the theological implications of the movement as it develops.  We look towards christian unity and as we do this it is important that we foster links between the church historic and fresh expressions.  At the last supper Jesus instituted a meal that was a sign of the inclusive nature of God who invites humanity to eat with him.  It is a tragedy that many church structures turn this meal into a sign of division.  With that in mind it is good that the issue is being explored as we move forward as a mixed economy church.

Each fresh expression needs to find a way forward that is appropriate to its own cultural and denominational tradition and it is the responsibility of the leaders of each denomination to address real issues being raised by innovative mission. This is not a time for breaking the rules, but it time to ensure that new Christian communities can be fed by both Word and Sacrament!

The Mountain

Shot by TSO Photography   H/T AAvey

This is amazing and really puts my time-lapse star trails effort last week to shame!

O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.

Yonder is the sea, great and wide, creeping things innumerable are there, living things both small and great.

There go the ships, and Leviathan that you formed to sport in it.

These all look to you to give them their food in due season;

when you give to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.

When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust.

When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground.

May the glory of the Lord endure forever; may the Lord rejoice in his works—

who looks on the earth and it trembles, who touches the mountains and they smoke.

I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being.

May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the Lord.

Let sinners be consumed from the earth, and let the wicked be no more. Bless the Lord, O my soul. Praise the Lord!

Psalm 104:24ff

Prayers For Peace

H/T Mr Catolick

There has been much discussion over the death of Osama Bin Laden.  For many it has opened the issue of war and raised questions about the appropriate Christian response to it.  For many there is a sense of vitriolic fervour surrounding the dispensation of justice to a known terrorist.  For others there is mourning at the death of judicial process.  One of the more thought-provoking commentaries has come from Hayley Matthews as she finds herself living publicly through these issues.  I highly recommend it.

For many in our churches this is an issue that we are wary of discussing.  Lots of people feel disempowered by the discussion of violence and death as it instinctively feels incompatible with faith.  The whole world is talking about it and yet many of us feel helpless when asked to engage.  This is an issue that cannot be sidestepped by our churches and we must explore the issues together.  I hope the video can be a good way of opening the subject up for discussion in our communities.

I continue to pray for peace.