28 February 2006

Julian of Norwich, Moi?

Here's a bit of fun.

You are Julian of Norwich! It's all about God, to
you. You're convinced that the world has a
happy ending. Everyone else is convinced that
you're a closet hippie, but you love them

Which Saint Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

27 February 2006

Blog Tag - Four Things

Apparently, people are playing blog-tag and I’ve been tagged by Dave

Four Jobs I've had (in no particular order)
• Filing clerk
• Hotel front desk assistant
• European equity manager
• Pensions consultant

Four movies I can watch over and over
• The Wizard of Oz
• It’s a Wonderful Life
• Nemo
• Any Harry Potter film

Four TV shows I love to watch
• The Simpsons
• Family Guy
• Charmed
• Have I got news for you

Four places I’ve been on vacation
• San Francisco
• Northern Michigan
• Delhi
• Lanzarote

Four favourite dishes
• Pasta Pomodoro
• Pizza Margarita
• Asparagus Rizotto
• Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

Four Web sites I visit daily
• Ship of Fools
• Beliefnet
• Connexion.net
• Google

Four places I’d rather be
• I think I’m where I’m supposed to be at the moment.

Four bloggers I am tagging
Lutheran Chick
Rev Rad

26 February 2006

Thirst for Life

On a somewhat lighter note, the organisation Thirst For Life is asking people give up drinking alcohol for Lent.

I was teasing a friend about signing up a few weeks ago, since my friend is teetotal. I'm not a teetotal Methodist, but I drink so little alcohol (probably less than 20 units / year), that I might as well be. But, as I thought about it, I realised that binge drinking is a huge issue in our society and that giving up alcohol might very well be a witness to some people.

I used to work in the City of London, and drinking after work was a way of life for many people there. Yet, several of my colleagues 'gave up alcohol for Lent' although they were not Christians. Christians might think it odd that non-Christians know about Lent, but I say let's use all the witnessing tools at our disposal. I think that witnessing by our actions is far more effective than anything we can say. I believe in St. Francis' old chestnut: 'Preach the Gospel as often as possible. If necessary, use words.'

The knowledge that they can get through 40 days without alcohol may well be Good News for someone you know.

How Far for a Cause?

Today's edition of The Washington Post carries this article which got me thinking - to say the least. Archbishop Peter J. Akinola, primate of the Anglican Church of Nigeria, is supporting a law in Nigeria that criminalises same-sex unions and denies homosexuals the right of assembly. He is supported by a number of conservative Christian groups in the US as well as by a number of socially-conservative private US enterprises.

How far does one go for the sake of a cause? Whether one is 'pro-tradition' or 'pro-gay', how can anyone condone restricting the civil rights of another human being? Most of the pro-tradition Americans and British people I know would claim that they do not promote the restriction of gay people's civil rights, but aren't we all complicit in their restriction if we tolerate this sort of action or turn a blind eye to it for the sake of a cause? At least they think homosexual acts are sinful, which is the most important thing. Or is it?

It seems to me that whenever I point out to people that Jesus did not call down punishment or damnation on the sinners he encountered in his ministry, someone chimes in with something like 'Yes, but he did tell the woman caught in adultery to "go and sin no more"'. Yes, indeed, he did. But that doesn't excuse us from picking up the stones and stoning her ourselves.

It seems to me that criminalising gay people is picking up the stones to stone them. I don't see how the Christian communion can turn a blind eye to this.

25 February 2006

Collect for Justice

I've been using Common Worship Daily Prayer for my private devotions for a few years now. (You can find a free daily feed here.) Each Psalm in Daily Prayer ends with a Collect.

Today's Collect for Psalm 76 really moved me, especially in this period of fear and violence that we seem to be living through:

Majestic and gracious God,
more awesome than the agents of war,
more powerful than the wrath of nations,
restrain the violence of the peoples
and draw the despised of the earth
into the joyful life of your kingdom,
where you live and reign for ever and ever.
© The Archbishops' Council of the Church of England, 2002-2003.

24 February 2006

Fresh Expressions / Changing Church?

At college the other night, we were privileged to have a presentation by Steve Croft of Fresh Expressions.

None of this is new to a
fellow student who works as an evangelist to New Agers, but for an old fogey like me, some of the "Fresh Expressions" that we heard about were gratifyingly fresh. When I hear the term 'new ways of being church', it usually seems to be connected with old ways of being church with a few Graham Kendrick songs and a guitar. None of what I saw before looked to me to be the kind of thing that the unchurched would connect with.

Whilst this might be old hat to people like my colleague Sally, old fogeys like me need to see what real 'fresh expressions' look like. And some of this stuff doesn't fit easily into our old categories of 'church'. For example, there was a community skateboarding project with an intentional youth church at the centre; most of the attendees of the skateboarding centre do not attend the intentional worship, but some do (we did not see what their worship looked like).

There was some talk amongst students after Steve left that these Fresh Expressions are quite threatening to ministers who are engaged in ministry in the traditional mode. I think the Fresh Expressions are threatening to the tradtional-minded and not just to ministers/priests/presbyters. It seems to me that the reason that most Christians these days want to reach out to the unchurched is so that more people will join our club and we'll be able to fill our buildings.

It was quite clear to me the other night that the Fresh Expressions are inherently fragile in that they are likely to change with time and fashion - will the world still want coffee shops in 50 years' time? It also seemed clear to me that the church is simply going to have to learn to deal with this situation instead of whining about post-modern culture. We seem to think that because God is unchanging (and that's a whole separate discussion!) that the church should be unchanging as well. Sometimes I think the church worships Inertia instead of the Living Trinity.

17 February 2006

Global Warming Project

The BBC is conducting a project on global warming and is asking PC owners to participate by downloading a program that acts as a screen-saver, but which also harnesses your PC's processing power.

This is a simple way of helping and the process is explained on the the BBC's website.

12 February 2006

A Lack of Civility

The Church Times carries this article by Archbishop Rowan Williams regarding the current brou-ha-ha over 'freedom of speech'.

The Archbishop characterises the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad (PUBH) by the Western media as 'a lack of civility'. As is often the case, the Archbishop speaks wisely, in my view.

I appreciate that many Westerners and many Christians will likely disagree with me, but I believe that - at least from the point of view Christian theology - scripture itself is quite clear that the Godly use of 'freedom' is 'freedom for' not 'freedom from' (See Paul's first letter to the Corinthians).

As Christians, we are set free from sin in order to love; we are set free from selfishness in order to give service to God's Kingdom.

When a society sees 'freedom' as 'freedom to say things we know are inherently insulting to another culture, just because we can', then society is acting like a petulant teenager. This is not a responsible use of freedom, it is a gratuitous and pointless use of freedom to tear down rather than to build up.

I cherish the freedom of speech that we have in the West. There are certainly instances where, as Christians, it is legitimate to speak out against an extreme form of Islam that nurtures and engages in terrorism. But it is only a responsible use of our freedom of speech when we stand up for what we believe to be the Truth. 'Freedom to be offensive' is not, in my view, a Christian way to utilise free speech.