Wednesday, 31 March 2010

What kind of people work for themselves?

What are the skills that you need to be self employed?  I recently read about a priest (on a retreat site) who had left the church to become self employed.  Over the years I have often wondered about becoming self employed and never done it.  I think that there are two things that I lack: unbounded confidence that everything will turn out OK (in fact I have rather the opposite - see here) and an ability not to worry (see here).  Neither of these are great attributes for a man of faith - see here and here.

This reminded me of the theory we discussed many years ago at work.  Have you noticed, like we did, that most of the big entrepreneurs don't have much in the way of formal education?  We came to the conclusion that this was not chance.  To make it as an entrepreneur you have to take risks with your life.  If you have a degree you can (at least you could then) be reasonably assured of a good life with little risk by entering one of the professions, the civil service, or management.  Why would you risk that to take up an insecure self employed role?  It could also be that to be a successful entrepreneur you need to have a clear vision of what you want to do - and that further education will rarely help take you towards it.

There are of course those who are exceptions to the rule.  Some like Stelios Haji-Ioannou have family wealth changing the risk/reward ratio somewhat.  Others like Michael Lynch turn their academic research into a product, again changing the risk/reward ratio.

And yet the irony is that technically I am now an office holder and not an employee!

Count Your Blessings - 31 March

The unemployment rate in Gaza is 45.5%. Give 40p for every treat you bought yourself yesterday.
Mmm - treat? - Holy Week.  Day off!  80p

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

The Police Again

Another example of bad behaviour by the police - this time costing them compensation - came to my attention (h/t Graham Wilson) in the video below.
I have blogged on bad police behaviour before and am doing so again at least in part because I also happened to see one of the programs where police are videoed dealing with traffic offenders - not my normal viewing.  The program made me wonder whether there is a culture within the police that makes incidents like this one, and like the others I highlighted more likely.  In the TV program - which I presume came with police approval - we saw mostly young people being stopped for driving offences, and the police were overwhelmingly sarcastic in their dealings with the offenders.  There seemed to be a lack of respect for the other person and it is this lack of respect that I find worrying.  It is perhaps a double concern as when I was stopped for speeding the policeman was very polite (I was driving a Jaguar at the time but wasn't yet ordained) - is the lack of respect based on their perception of positional power as described here?

Either way I find it worrying if the police feel that they do not have to show respect to people.

Count Your Blessings - 30 March

The Gaza Strip is one of the most densely populated places on earth, with 1.6 million Palestinians living in 365 sq km. Give 60p if there are more rooms in your home than people.
Well, that is 60p then.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Women and Women Bishops

I have recently had cause to reflect on discrimination in the Church of England and thus changed my mind about my response to Women Bishops.  It is not that I was agin them either before or after my rethink, rather that I used to think that some form of accommodation with those opposed to them was a price worth paying and now I don't.  Of course the Welsh got there a while ago and refused to vote for them, having first voted not to make any allowance for those opposed.

What changed my mind was seeing discrimination happening, and being shocked at my reaction to it.  It was roughly "well, what can you expect".  In later discussion and reflection I realised that my thinking came from the fact that we allow discrimination in certain circumstances, and whilst as a church we institutionalise discrimination we cannot be surprised when we discriminate outside the "allowed" circumstances.  Having recognised that within myself I now see the damage that institutionalised discrimination brings about and want none of it in an organisation to which I belong.

Count Your Blessings - 29 March

Ilana Rathouse is an Israeli nurse volunteering in the West Bank. ‘We are creating threads of an embroidery upon which peace can be built,’ she says. Give 10p for each time you’ve visited a local pharmacy this year.
Mmm - lucky enough not to remember - lets try 3.

Sunday, 28 March 2010


25 years ago I was told that the church would be better off without people like me.  I had just shared some of my doubts and was expecting support.  Then for the next 20 years I kept my thoughts to myself, only to find that I had a calling to the priesthood.

I have blogged indirectly before about faith development, but thought it worth looking at again.  Both Fowler and Hagberg and Guelich have 6 stages and the suggestion is that people can be at any stage, and can stay there, although often they will move to stage 3 because
Stage 4 is "the journey inward" - "a deep and very personal inward journey" that "almost always comes as an unsettling experience yet results in healing for those who continue through it". In this stage, our former views of God are radically challenged. The disruption can be so great that we feel like we are losing our faith or betraying loyalties. Hagberg/Guelich
Signs of this disruption can be seem by the creation of Spirited Exchanges
Spirited Exchanges is a network offering support, encouragement and resources for people who are experiencing challenges to and/or the unravelling of their faith paradigms with all its associated issues. Many have already left the Church. Some have felt marginalised and misunderstood, others have felt controlled and disrespected. For most it has led to considerable upheaval in their Christian understanding and practice and has often meant the loss of previously valued community. Much of what is happening for people could be described as faith transition.
 There is of course the old saying (at least I assumed it was but Google seems to attribute it to Ann Lamott)
the opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty
and this for me fits with the staged model - in the earlier stages certainty is present - but to move to other stages one has to let go of that certainty.

While I was training David Winter lecturing us said something like: as I get older I am more and more certain about less and less.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Is this Fair?

Should employers Google you?  An article in The Guardian asks this question today.  If you are on Facebook, or blog then there is information on you out there that can be accessed readily.  If you are applying for a job (very relevant for me right now) is it fair for the interviewers to search for you on the web?

At the recent training I had from 3D Coaching this was discussed and we were told to think about the contents of our blogs.  We were also told that there is a priest out there who won't get a job because of his blog (and I noticed that one of the blogs I followed suddenly disappeared) - and one person then spent a free afternoon researching how to remove their Facebook entries entirely (they found a way that appeared to do it - I think they suspended it).

So is this fair?  The Guardian article suggests that there is no difference between this and saying things in the pub - except in the latter case there is no evidence!  Is this perhaps why some people blog pseudonymously?  Although I do wonder how possible it is to be anonymous.  In my case I think it is difficult to espouse openness if you are hiding.

During the training we were also told that we should be our real ourselves - if they see the real us and don't want that then that is a good thing to discover.  But if you are in desperate need of a job (luckily not my situation) then that ideal can perhaps be compromised.

Count Your Blessings - 27 March

We believe unequal power relations are at the heart of poverty, so we campaign to change the structures that hold poverty in place, and support people to claim their rights. In Afghanistan we work to challenge the stigma and discrimination faced by people who are blind and poor, ensuring they can access education and jobs. Consider the last time you felt excluded. Lift to God those who face discrimination.
 Good question!  When did I last feel excluded?  There may have been little ones, but the one that still sticks in my mind is this one

Friday, 26 March 2010

Health and Safety

Health and Safety has become a bit of a joke - but it isn't funny.

I recently read a report (h/t Graham Wilson) which suggested that Health and Safety is becoming ‘ritual excuse’ not to do anything.  If you read the papers, and particularly the Daily Mail, you would get a sense that H&S is all about people finding ridiculous reasons not to do anything.

The reason that it isn't funny is that I used to work in industry, an industry that killed and maimed people.  When I started work there were still employees missing arms because they had lost them in the process, and during my working life I can definitely remember at least two occasions on which someone was killed.  In my later years H&S was given a higher priority and the statistics showed that the number of serious accidents at work dropped because of this.

I believe that the problem is that people have a tendency to play it safe - so if the procedure gives some latitude for personal decision people choose to err on the side of (personal) safety - hence you get risk assessments carried out for throwing some old equipment into the skip.  The problem is that if you get it wrong you are for the high jump.  For example, do you think that cutting the grass is an activity that is risky?  I remember a case with one of our competitors - an employee was cutting the grass (an activity for which a risk assessment had not been carried out) and fell down a grass bank into a river and drowned.  Because no risk assessment had been carried out they were in serious trouble - if it wasn't tragic it would be funny.

Count Your Blessings - 26 March

‘70% of the people live in rural areas, yet they have no space in the media.’ PV Satheesh, Christian Aid partner DDS, which launched India’s first rural community radio station. Give 30p for each time you caught your local news this week.
Guilty as charges - nil.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Do you pick up hitch-hikers?

I passed a hitch-hiker the other day and didn't stop.  And here I am much later still thinking about it.  It reminds me of a story from Joan Chittister's commentary on the rule of Benedict:
A Zen story tells of two monks walking down a muddy, rain-logged road on the way back to their monastery after a morning of begging who saw a beautiful young girl standing beside a large deep puddle unable to get across without ruining her clothes. The first monk, seeing the situation, offered to carry the girl to the other side, though monks had nothing whatsoever to do with women. The second monk was astonished by the act but said nothing about it for hours. Finally, at the end of the day, he said to his companion, "I want to talk to you about that girl." And the first monk said, "Dear brother, are you still carrying that girl. I put her down hours ago."
So why didn't I pick them up?  I think the main reason was that I dithered - I saw them, thought to myself "should I pick them up?" wondered about the safety, wondered about whether I would feel that I needed to go out of my way, and then I was past them with a car behind me.  Perhaps if I had thought about it ahead of time I would have been able to think it through.

I don't know about you, but it is years since I have seen a hitch-hiker, and for years before that I wasn't allowed to pick them up as I drove a company car and it was a company rule (see here for my attitude to rules), so it isn't something that I have had reason to think about.

When I was younger I hitched a little - and discovered a well worn route from Uxbridge to Cambridge (long gone thanks to the M25) - although people who didn't use it didn't realise it was there - several times when hitching people would indicate to me that I was heading the wrong way - and yet I usually managed to get a single lift all the way.  Perhaps it is time that I reciprocated.

Later Addition: For the avoidance of doubt, following a discussion about this post with a friend, I was reflecting on the rules focus that I thought was shown - whereas they thought there was something more sexual going on!  Just goes to show how you can mean one thing and people hear another!

Count Your Blessings - 25 March

Rich countries spend US$1bn a day subsidising their farmers. Much of their produce is sold to poor countries at vastly reduced prices, undercutting local traders. Give 40p for every local market you have shopped at this year.
This is another one that seems the wrong way round!  Give 40p for every local market fewer than 5 you have shopped at perhaps.  80p.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Letter to the Hebrews

I have always been wary of Hebrews.  A vicar I know (doesn't narrow it down very far!) told me that it barely made it into the New Testament and they refused to read from it because it was so confusing!

At the time that I first heard this I interpreted that as meaning that it was of dubious value.  Having been reading it again through morning prayer recently I have come to see what that vicar meant in a different light.  If you understand ancient Jewish practice then you can understand Hebrews as a masterful piece of inculturation, taking those ancient practices and explaining the importance and meaning of Jesus in terms of them.  Or to "proclaim afresh in each generation" His truth.

However I have two concerns about how we might use it today.  I recently saw a poster which said something like "We are saved by Jesus blood" - the train was travelling too fast to read it - the problem is that to anyone outside the church this is a meaningless statement unless they know about Jewish sacrifice and the comparison being made - it doesn't scratch where people are itching.  My second concern is that as a piece of inculturated writing the only way it is helpful is if we have the context explained to us first - but for me the beauty of metaphor is that it doesn't have to be explained.  And if we have to have the context explained there is less opportunity for people to own it for themselves rather than to adopt someone else's interpretation.

As a result I won't be terribly keen on public readings of it - without a sermon explaining the context - but my reasoning is very different from my previous understanding.  I have even been tempted to study it a bit more - any recommendations for a good guide?

Count Your Blessings - 24 March

855 million people in the world are illiterate. 70% of them are female. Give 2p for each item in the room that has text printed on it.
I really wish I weren't in my study at this moment!  I am not going to count - but that must be at least a tenner.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Risk v Reward & Sin

One of the perils of having a strong Belbin Monitor Evaluator is that I can see all the pitfalls of an action - including the most obscure and threatening ones.  As a result of this I have tended to be risk averse and have blogged a little on this in the past (here and here).

When I was challenged by a friend on what rules I had broken I was struggling to come up with much.  I have the points to prove that I have sped in the past J; I left uni for a weekend without having permission; I occasionally left my classroom through the window; I might not have had all the mandatory elements in some of my services (though that was more likely to have been oversight L); I once went down the pub for lunch having told the kitchen I was staying in, and as a kid I nicked the odd bar of chocolate.  Not really much to talk about over 50 odd years.  Perhaps others will remind me of other things but I doubt there is much more.

So what you may say?  Well, it left me with a view of sin as keeping the rules, and as I was good at keeping the rules I was left with an odd view of sin.  As I have changed through my priestly formation I have come to understand sin much more as those things which damage me or others: the times that I have not done things for fear of what others think, when I have built masks to hide the real me.  None of these things are against the "rules" and yet I think that they are more damaging in my attempt to live "life in all its fullness" (John 10:10 - Good News Bible) and they help me understand Jesus attack on the Pharisees.  Joan Chittister writes:
It is so easy to make up rules and keep them so that we can feel good about doing something measurable in the spiritual life. (changes daily - quote not there now).
Now however I am struggling because sometimes my new understanding of sin means that I "have" to break the rules.  But for someone who has no real experience of breaking rules this is a scary place to be, and my ME side tells me that it is dangerous as I haven't developed many skills in this space.

And if my Bishop is reading this, in the immortal words of the Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy:
I've got my towel with me!

Count Your Blessings - 23 March

Tax-dodging multinationals cheat the developing world out of at least US$160bn each year, nine times the amount needed to educate all children globally. Visit to demand tax justice.
 Mmm - not convinced by the case for the Robin Hood tax - see here.  Though I support most of the tax issues that Christian Aid are talking about.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Models of Church - which one for me?

What size of church do I want to work in?  Or more particularly, what model of church?  I am reaching the point in my ministry when it is time to move on, and at present I have been thinking about what I am called to.

A couple of weeks ago the Diocese sent all the 3rd year curates on a course from 3D Coaching teaching us how to fill in CVs and be interviewed, but also helping us figure out what it was that we felt called to (keep nearly writing "what we want to do next" J).

When I got back I remembered "Ministry in 3 Dimensions" and the different models of church in the appendix, and on Googling found this which goes into the ideas in a little more detail. An article in the Guardian saying that you cannot have more than150 friends also caught my attention as it dovetails nicely with the first article.

I first read this book several years ago, but on rereading it realised that I was drawn to the Pastoral Church.  I wondered whether I might be being called to a Program Church (though leaping straight to such a large church is probably a tad ambitious) as I believe that I have the skills that are required, but I know that I would also want to know the people - and the article warns against trying to do both.  In my previous job I knew everyone in our Head Office (about 100) and one of my concerns in my previous curacy was how difficult it was to get to know the congregations.

On the course we were told the story of someone who was in a Program Church but who realised that they wanted to be in a Pastoral one and surprised people by moving to a smaller church.  We were shown a model in the form of a Venn Diagram (fun examples can be found here) which looked at our capabilities, the needs of the job and our passion and I realised the importance of having some passion in the job rather than just doing something which was needed and which I could do.  So now I have a better idea of what I am looking for Church Times here I come!

Count Your Blessings - 22 March

Fair trade helps 7 million worldwide. Next time you visit the supermarket, buy a fairly traded item you haven’t yet tried.
OK - lets try that one - not sure when it will be - or what!

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Blogging and Personality

I have analysed my blog using Typealyser (h/t SueM) and it says that it is ISTP - the mechanic:
The independent and problem-solving type. They are especially attuned to the demands of the moment and are highly skilled at seeing and fixing what needs to be fixed. They generally prefer to think things out for themselves and often avoid inter-personal conflicts.

The Mechanics enjoy working together with other independent and highly skilled people and often like seek fun and action both in their work and personal life. They enjoy adventure and risk such as in driving race cars or working as policemen and firefighters.
Now that is all  very well, but in real life I am ENFJ and I hate risk (thoughts for a later blog come to mind!)  I have already written about how blogging perhaps brings out a different side and this provides further evidence.

When I first saw my result I was surprised at it and looked into the analysis and discovered that a good part of the text analysed came from my blogroll - so immediately thought that it was those "others" who were giving the rogue result - but I changed the source to exclude those and it still gave the same answer L

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Work - Again!

From, with some other workplace jokes.  It was a real trip down memory lane!

Nothing is really work unless you would rather be doing something else.  James M. Barrie
It is a while since I blogged on this here, in fact much longer than I thought!  And then the above quote came into my inbox on the day that I saw my spiritual director and he challenged my definition - where is time for me - what hobbies do I have?

Life used to be busy.  I had a full time job and was studying part time and doing things in the local church.  Work was the job and study and ministry was my "hobby".  Then I was made redundant and was able to become full time in the church.  Suddenly my "hobby" had become my job.  That was 2 years ago, and I haven't found a hobby yet.  Perhaps blogging counts, although it falls into the same category of a lot of other things that I do - it could be considered part of the job.  Similarly with reading - I enjoy reading without a purpose!  We were told that when we started studying that it would ruin reading for us and for a while it did, but I seem to have made it back again.  Perhaps because I struggled to study.  We were told that study was answering a question and to use the index - I prefer to read and be surprised by what I find and by the connections that appear between the strangest things.  But most of my reading is theology of some kind.  I also like chatting with friends - but most of the chat could in some way or other could be called work.  Hence the reason that I came up with the definition that I did.

The best that I could come up with was that I am hoping to play some cricket this summer - if selected.  Except that it is for a team of vicars!

Count Your Blessings - 20 March

In 10,000 schools across India, after-school clubs set up by our partner SEEDS are tackling both the causes and symptoms of climate change. Here children learn to conserve energy and respond to increasing floods, cyclones and drought. Give 30p for every electronic device you own that provides entertainment.
OK - TV, DVD, Freeview box, mobile, computer, radio, record player, tape (yep still got those - hardly ever use it them though) - so 2.70.

Not sad enough to watch the washing going round and round  or there would be another J

Friday, 19 March 2010

Population Concerns

We're seeing super lower fertility rates in southern Europe and eastern Europe where birth rates are 1.2 or 1.3 babies per family - which is way below replacement levels.
The Big Issue for March 1st had an article on the reducing population in western societies because of the shrinking birth rate.  The article went on to say that the solution was greater immigration, but without discussing what I see as a significant issue which is that of pension support (You knew I was over 50 didn't you? J).
The percentage of the total population who are over 65 is predicted to rise from 16% to nearly 20% in 2031 and 26.6% in 2071 Help the Aged
 The State Pension is paid from current income, and private pensions are currently invested in stocks and shares and other places.  As the proportion of retired people increases then a greater proportion of GNP will have to go on pensions, or pensions will have to be reduced.  Similarly the money currently invested will have to be disinvested to payout peoples pensions as the inflow into pension funds will be less than the outflow.  What will be the impact of this on the economy?  Supply and demand would suggest a reduction in the value of the assets as there would be less money chasing the investments, leading perhaps to a crash of pension schemes.

What can we do?  As the article suggested encouraging immigration would rebalance the proportion of people in the different age groups - alternatively start breeding!  Some without children have argued about supporting schools etc through taxation - no children = no future.

Count Your Blessings - 19 March

Most plastic bags are only used once. Many take 1,000 years to degrade. Give 5p for every plastic bag in your home.
Mmm - not got any new ones for a while - but there are too many to count - lets call it a fiver.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Fear and protection

All of us have developed a front stage- a version of ourselves that we present to the world. ... Now, of course, in order to do this, we have to hide lots of things about ourselves away. ... All these things that I cannot risk bringing out onto my front stage I have to put somewhere- so I put them in my back stage. My back stage is the place I learn to put things that I do not want people to see.
I may be preempting what Simon Walker is going to say, but I think the problem comes when we put things back stage (which he writes more about in the Undefended Leader) because of irrational fear.  And of course if we never bring them out then the fear of bringing them out grows and we are even less inclined to do so.  How do we crack this problem?  Of course one option is to "Feel the fear and do it anyway" (I haven't got round to reading the book, but it is a great title!), but what if we do that and it goes wrong?  Is there a gentle toe in the water approach to this or do we have to dive in, because there has to be a certain degree of fear to overcome to be of value?

I was talking with a friend who said that whenever they saw a rule they broke it to see what happened, whereas my approach is to keep it unless I have a reason not to.  Acclimatisation to dealing with things like this mean that we have different attitudes towards fear - I do not know what it is to break the small rules - so the big ones carry greater fear.  Perhaps I need to dip my toe in the water more and walk on the not to be walked upon grass!

Count Your Blessings - 18 March

£7.50 could buy enough drought resistant millet seed to feed four people for a year in Burkina Faso. Give 75p for every pair of wellington boots in your home.
No wellingtons either L

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

What about the sermon?

homilies should be brief to cater for people with short attention spans
So says the Roman Catholic Church in the Guardian.  It would appear that not all denominations agree however (see this blog).  This set me thinking about sermons and what I am trying to achieve.  As set out here:
There are people there of different ages, different experiences, different cultures, some who have been on the Christian journey for much longer than me and others who have only just become interested. How can anything be meaningful to everyone?
and when it comes to attention span there are varying thoughts about lectures here.  However I am not trying to lecture.  My aim is to encourage people to work out for themselves what the Bible (usually Gospel) reading means to them.  I have been thanked too often for saying helpful things that to my knowledge I never said to believe that what I say matters - it is what people hear (if I said nothing I wonder what they would hear?).

By using this approach it does mean that I am not trying to teach facts in the traditional sense - 10 minutes plus or minus hardly gives any space for that.  Certainly I will give some historical background if appropriate - but I won't explain what that means the passage means - that is up to the congregation.  I much prefer story as a way of explaining (or not), after all there is a precedent for the use of unexplained story - and it is also more entertaining - something that the survey said that Anglicans wanted!

There is also the question of where I stand.  I went on a course a long time ago where the leader said that congregations who insist that the preacher use the pulpit are insisting on a parent child relationship (a la Transactional Analysis and here) - the infamous 6 feet above contradiction - wanting the answers handed down to them.  You will have seen from above that that is not my style of preaching and I try to stand level with the congregation to encourage a more adult-adult interaction.  However, there are issues with visibility and audibility - though as I use a microphone I can only assume it is some form of lip reading that can't be seen - and for this reason I will occasionally use a pulpit if I am in a strange church.

Count Your Blessings - 17 March

Christian Aid gets £4 for every recycled phone and £1 for every recyclable ink cartridge you donate. Call 0845 130 2010 or visit and quote ‘Christian Aid’ to order a recycling envelope today.
You need to check the web site, and my cartridges don't appear on the list L

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Has TV changed our children?

I was asked this question after a recent home communion.  It took me some while to answer, and so I thought it worthwhile recording here!  There are two alternatives, television reflects reality or it doesn't.  If it reflects reality then of itself it doesn't impact behaviour - if it does not reflect reality then its impact depends on the fiction that it displays.  At the time I answered this question I tended towards the first answer - that it reflects reality, but after further thought I think that the place where it really doesn't reflect reality is in the adverts.  Adverts are designed to change our behaviour - if they didn't why would so much be spent on them?

If we look at adverts again there are two effects - the intended effect, under which I would put turning us into consumers, wanting more and more stuff, wanting ever newer things; and the means that they use to persuade us.  For example I would put the greater sexualisation in adverts into the latter category - that is something that they are using - not something that they want to encourage.

The odd thing is that I suspect that most people object to those things on TV which reflect society and which the advertisers use to achieve their ends.  But to my thinking these are less likely influence people than the messages that the advertisers are trying to spread.  Perhaps it is too late and most people take the advertisers messages as real.  But the materialism that they encourage doesn't deliver - perhaps it is inevitable - if it did people would stop buying when they had enough - and perhaps that gives the game away - the advertisers tell us we can never have enough.  Davina McCall was recently quoted saying:
Asked if fame was a trial to put herself through, Davina said: "I wanted to be famous to prove I was worth something. "But the day I got my own show on MTV I cried all night because it didn't bloody validate me and I'd spent years thinking it would. "Fulfilment's an inside job. I just try to give more than is expected. That little bit extra takes you so far."
I don't know whether this is a message that used to be known, but has been lost, or whether TV is to blame.  But it worries me far more than anything else on our screens.

Count Your Blessings - 16 March

Predicted changes in climate could put an additional 400 million people at greater risk of malaria. Give 40p for every flight that you took last year.
Well that will be £0 then. Not a great one for flying, I think I have flown only once (whoops - twice - I came back!) on my own account and a handful more times on business.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Robin Hood Tax - A Good thing?

It is also clear that such taxes could raise significant additional revenues of the order of $200bn - $400bn with minimal impact on the real economy or retail consumers.  The tax will have a highly progressive final incidence that falls mainly on the top income earners and wealth holders in society.  Report on Robin Hood Web site
When I first heard about the Robin Hood tax I was suspicious.  It sounds such a good idea and recently the Archbishop of Canterbury has written in support of it.  However, my concern was that if you raise that amount of money it has to come from somewhere - and the people it comes from aren't going to like it!  I decided to do a little research and found that the report from which the first quote came also contained:
The world’s top 1000 commercial banks have reported profits of between $700 billion and close to $1 trillion in recent years with the exception of last year when the financial crisis cut deep into these profits
So what is being proposed is to reduce banking profits by half - and we think that the banks aren't going to do anything about it?  And I'm not the only one to have thought of this: Ed West in the Telegraph and Church Mouse have raised similar concerns.

My other concern is that the motivation for this seems wrong to me.  Bankers are making so much money that most of us just gasp and someone suggests lets take some of it off them...  Well why not take some off Premiership footballers, or film stars, or business leaders?  There is a second issue behind this which to my mind may well have more merit, but seems to be getting less attention, and that is the impact that it might have in reducing the number of high turnover trades taking place in the financial markets.

Yesterday at Diocesan Synod we had a presentation on Giving for Life - the CofEs new stewardship approach.  This is rooted in a generous response to God's generosity to us, rather than, as have previous approaches, the fact that we are skint!  What is the motivation behind the Robin Hood Tax?

If it would be a good idea to reduce the short term trading in city institutions then let us debate that rather than implementing it on the back of an emotive marketing campaign about what we could do with the money raised, without looking too closely at the other impacts that it will have.  I have searched the web and failed to find anything looking at this - it is probably there - but doesn't seem to be very prominent in the current campaign.

Count Your Blessings - 15 March

The UN estimates that there are now as many as 50 million refugees worldwide as a result of the effects of environmental deterioration. Give £1 if you own your own home and £3 if you own more than one.
So that is a quid then.

I'm still reading Lucy Winkett's book, but finding it impossible to blog - despite hearing her speak in person, covering much of the same ground, in Chesham last week.  As a non musician I find her use of musical metaphor passes me by, so there is good stuff, but to me it doesn't seem to cohere.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Mothering Sunday

Over the years I have heard some interesting Mothering Sunday sermons, including rants about how non inclusive they are.  This year our monthly all age service was Saturday a week ago and we used the strap line "Mothers and Others" as many of the children who come to our midweek service are brought by grandparents or other carers.  Does anyone have the right balance for this?  Too motherly and we risk offending those who are childless, to general and we upset those who are mothers.  Ignore it altogether, or stick to the "Mother Church" angle and those who might just come for a one off service will not get what they are expecting.  I'm just glad that this year it isn't my decision!  Though if it were I would lean towards the motherly - though perhaps bringing in motherly qualities - and perhaps even picking up on the feminine images of God of a couple of Sundays ago (not that any other vicar has told me what they are going to say tomorrow J).

Count Your Blessings - 14 March

At 16 months, baby Cassim was diagnosed as malnourished and had stopped eating. Fearing for his life, Cassim’s mother turned to our partner the Baptist Clinic, Malawi, for treatment and help with feeding. Nutritionist Kingless Chilembwe tracked his journey back to health every day for 11 months. Cassim is now a fit and healthy two-year-old. This Sunday is Mothering Sunday. Give 30p for every healthy child in your extended family.
 Mmm - who is a child?  If I go for 18 then I think it is 6.  1.80

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Evolution and Faith - Dawkins Dilemma

The theory of evolution suggests that natural selection favours traits that aid survival.  So how has religion survived for so long?  It would appear that perhaps it aids survival - although the fact that religious belief aids survival does not prove that it is true.

However, what I want to look at is more the change in religious belief, something which Richard Dawkins seems to want to deny, suggesting that only fundamentalist views of faith are "true".  For example his suggestion in the Times that:
Loathsome as Robertson’s views undoubtedly are, he is the Christian who stands squarely in the Christian tradition.
when commenting on Robertson's comments on the Haitian earthquake.

If you accept that there is an interventionist God then given the plethora of interpretations of faith out there you would expect the "right" one to come out on top.  If you do not accept that there is an interventionist God then the one that was most likely to aid survival would "triumph", whether it was true or not!

So if Dawkins wants to take fundamentalist religion as the only true faith he has to accept an interventionist God.  If he doesn't like an interventionist God but wants to claim that fundamentalist faith is most predominant then he has to accept that it is because it aids survival.  Horns of a dilemma or what J

Friday, 12 March 2010

Trust=possibility of being hurt

I was discussing trust with someone the other day and it suddenly came to me that if you can't face the possibility of being hurt then you can't trust.  Reflecting on my time my previous career I now recognise that although I thought that I trusted the people I worked with (although it took me years to reach that point - ever heard "I can do it better myself"?) I only trusted them with things which wouldn't hurt me if they went wrong, and I suspect that some would argue that I didn't trust them anyway.

Even as I write this I am not sure that it is true, after all if the network went down badly then that could have hurt me professionally - even though I still know nothing about networks.  However, perhaps the key is in that little word "professionally".  If the network went down would it change my opinion of myself?  I don't think so.

And how does this fit in with trusting God?  If we trust in God will we not get hurt?  Afraid not - as last Sundays reading told us our faith makes no difference to the suffering we undergo - or as it was put by the Beaker Folk of Husborne Crawley (thanks Archdruid - had to preach an emergency sermon and this post came in handy):
Bad stuff happens to good people. 
Good things happen to good people. 
Bad stuff happens to bad people. 
Good things happen to bad people.
And Richard Rohr, in his daily meditation, adds:
If there is nothing in your life to cry about, if there is nothing in your life to yell about, you must be out of touch.
I have spent many years avoiding pain, and the echo of that is still within me to the extent that occasionally I need to be reminded.  With thanks to my mates who do remind me!

Count Your Blessings - 12 March

Children in the UK receive an average of £4.80 per week in pocket money. Give 48p if you’ve ever received pocket money.
Well yes... 48p

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Are church "traditions" nearer the edge?

I recently saw a blog on the value of traditions in the church and some of the comments reminded me of the model (above) I developed for one of my essays when I was training.  The Anglican church is based on Scripture, Tradition and Reason (Richard Hooker) with the Evangelical, Anglo Catholic and Liberal traditions respectively being more drawn to each.  The Lambeth Quadrilateral sits somewhere in the centre of this.  Around each is an inner circle of those who would be accepted to be of that particular tradition, and a wider circle of those who would be accepted as having a faith, but not of that tradition.  Unfortunately there are areas where one wing would accept people and others would not.

If you accept that Anglicanism is based on Scripture, Tradition and Reason then almost by definition those who subscribe wholly to one of those are in some sense on the edge.  There are of course other denominations which do not accept that basis, and hence which would not see, for example, a sola scriptura approach as being on the edge - but then I would argue that it is not Anglican!

Count Your Blessings - 11 March

‘I think and hope that the babies I help to deliver will live in a better world.’ Evalina Wandi Prata, midwife, Christian Aid partner IECA, Angola. Give 5p for every educational book in your home.
Mmm - aren't all books educational?  I didn't buy that many books whilst training, but there still seem to be a lot on my shelf!  Call it a fiver.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Pacifism and the Church

[Some say,] "But pacifism is so impractical!" As if Christian ethics were utilitarian, as if there were a calculus for shalom! ... In any case, it is not as if the whole church has tried pacifism and found it wanting, the fact is that the whole church has not tried pacifism at all.
- Kim Fabricius, from his book, Propositions on Christian Theology: A Pilgrim Walks the Plank
I am not only a pacifist but a militant pacifist. I am willing to fight for peace. Nothing will end war unless the people themselves refuse to go to war.  Einstein
Another great quote sent by Sojourners.  And it fits with the stories of Christians, among others, protesting at the upgrading of Trident

They say that the early church was pacifist and it was only when Constantine adopted it as the state religion that the need for the theory of a just war was needed and created.

I will state now that I am nearly a pacifist.  Although I am not sure under what circumstances I would fight!

If you look at the requirements of a just war it is difficult to see in this day and age how "All other ways of resolving the problem should have been tried first." allows for the use of force as there are so many approaches possible.  Also, with the state of current weaponry "Innocent people and non-combatants should not be harmed." seems impossible to keep to - any one for collateral damage?

The most obvious example of a war that might have been just is the Second World War, but that falls foul of "There must be a reasonable chance of success.", and I sometimes wonder whether fewer people would have been killed if Germany had been allowed to proceed.  Look at what happened in the USSR, in my lifetime the bad things that happened there ended through politics rather than force.

We can see that war doesn't always solve things - the 1st World War led onto the second and the first Gulf war to the second.  There needs to be a political solution to prevent further war, so why have the first war before the politics?

Count Your Blessings - 10 March

Fewer than half of all pregnant women in developing countries have access to adequate prenatal care. Give 40p for each baby you know born with the aid of a midwife in the last year.
None in the immediate family - my generation past it and the next one down not quite there yet.  But there have been a few in the church - Lets go for 4.  1.60.  Bit unfair this one if you are a midwife!

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

But the implications are... ?

Divine intervention may have played a part in the change in fortune for Grimsby Town FC – after the club received the blessing of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
 Do you think he looks worried that praying for Grimsby to win was frivolous?

Fascinating story.  Now what I want to know is has he been praying for the future of the Anglican Communion and God hasn't been giving the answer he wanted, or has he not been praying for it?

Alternatively of course it might just be a fluke that Grimsby won J

Count Your Blessings - 9 March

£1.75 could buy a school bag for a child in Zambia. Give this sum if you’ve ever had the privilege of wearing a school uniform. 
Privilege?  But yes - 1.75

Monday, 8 March 2010

Less is More

Recently I read an article quoting a priest saying that the less he did the better things were (of course I paraphrase) and frustratingly I can't find it to pass on.  I remembered it when I was talking about how if we take on something new we have to drop something to make space for it and was then reminded of my experience at work.

Obviously if your job is to make things or physically do something then less is not more!  Although perhaps the better athletes can achieve more with less - they always said that Teddy Sheringham beat people in his head.  However, I was latterly a manager and my job was to achieve things through other people.  When I discovered my vocation and starting training for the priesthood (whilst working full time) I found that I cut back the hours that I did (still exceeding my contracted hours), and yet I also felt that I was more effective than when I had been busier myself.  Similarly whilst I was working my notice, having been made redundant, I found that by doing less myself, as I handed over my responsibilities to others, and empowering those who worked for me, I got complimented for the work that I was doing.

As a priest it can be tempting to do too much - after all I am the one who doesn't have another job to do.  But, as at work, where I realised that doing the right thing was so much easier than forcing through the wrong thing, so in the church - if it is worth doing then others will chip in, and if they don't then perhaps it is the wrong thing to be doing!

Count Your Blessings - 8 March

More children die because they aren’t properly weaned than because of famine. Reflect on your favourite childhood memory. Pray for all children whose daily lives are a struggle for survival.
Favourite childhood memory?  Interesting question - probably racing model yachts and listening to the cricket with my grandfather.

And amen to that.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

What is marriage?

"I don't believe in divorce, that's why none of the women in my family are married."
When I first saw this quote I thought that it had great potential for some fun: I don't believe in losing so I won't support a football team; I don't believe in failing, so I won't try; and so on...

But then I found myself reading the source article and questioning what has happened to the churches teaching on forgiveness when attitudes like that expressed above take hold?  Of course it is disappointing when marriages come to an end, but to not enter into them because of fear that they will not last?

The source article continues:
"They want to get married eventually, but they want to wait until they’re sure the marriage will last. And eventually, about 70 percent of women who ever give birth outside of marriage will indeed wed."
 So perhaps this is not about a fear of commitment, but an impatience in waiting for the right person.  This is perhaps more difficult today as I suspect that, just as one copy of the New York Times contains more information than people had in a lifetime in years gone by, people have so much wider a choice of partner than they ever used to have.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Men in Church

Last Sunday the priest told us to drop the handshaking element to show our solidarity with Wayne Bridge.
 Great article in the Times by Frank Skinner arguing (tongue firmly in cheek) Christians should be doormats.  Just don't read it if you have had an irony by pass :).

Arguing the other side of the coin is Mark Driscoll

I started off intending this to be a fun piece for the weekend, but as I wrote it the two pieces seemed to me to be arguing about whether Christianity should embrace culture or stand against it (which of course reminded me of Niebuhr  I am concerned about Mark Driscoll's approach as I believe that we are called to be more ourselves, and the business culture that he describes is not (at least from my experience) a place where you can be yourself.  How many people have to put on masks to allow themselves to inhabit this space?  

At work I did a personality profile from Insights - one of the good things about this profile is that it acknowledges that we are different at work and at home and it has a way of recording both styles and comparing them.  What was obvious was that many people were very different at work than they were at home - is this really what we want to encourage?

Count Your Blessings - 6 March

‘I’ve collected water for my family for nine years. It used to take me 40 minutes but now it takes five,’ says Ketemash Takle, who likes numbers. Her favourite subject is maths – and next year, thanks to time saved by a local water point funded by Christian Aid, she’ll start at secondary school. Give 10p for each step from where you’re reading this to the nearest tap.
Surely that is the wrong way round?  Surely I should be giving more money the closer I am.  Still, 90p.

Chocolate gone again :(  And this time I knew what I was doing.  I was wiped out after a great residential and just couldn't resist!

Friday, 5 March 2010

£200,000 to bring up a child?

What rot - I have 4 grown up children and over the course of their lifetime I doubt that I have earned £800,000 - OK there might be some inflation effects in there, but even if I had earned that much I have also housed fed and clothed myself and ended up with most of a house worth a lot of money.  I thought the comment that said:
I'd like to see another piece of research showing how *little* you can spend on raising a child. Surely that would be more helpful in the current economic climate?
was brilliant.

Count Your Blessings - 5 March

‘Most of all I pray for clean water.’ Everlyne Kithuku, slum inhabitant, Nairobi, Kenya. Today is World Women’s Day of Prayer. Pray for all women who must cook and care for their families without access to safe water.

Lord hear our prayer - and let our cry come unto you.

Thursday, 4 March 2010


I am off on a course to learn how to write CVs and be interviewed in preparation for my next job.  This seemed a little odd to me as coming from industry I am more than used to doing these kind of things, and even had some outplacement help as part of my redundancy.  Of course not all clergy have this background - I was talking to one who used to be a singer - auditions yes, interviews no.  That and this article set me thinking about recruitment techniques.

In my previous career we used Competency Based Interviewing, and we used it at all levels - we believed that the detailed technical stuff was more easily taught that the competencies that we were after.  For me a competency based interview is based around the person spec, and I was horrified to hear of a company who purported to carry out a competency based interview on behalf of another company without seeing the person spec!  However, having interviewed with the church I am aware that they do not necessarily use this approach - discovered when I was told to stop asking about the past and ask what they would do in the future - a big no no in competency based interviewing.

So how does this work for auditions?  What it says to me is that there are times when the performance is everything, and others when teamwork, or organisational skills or what ever are key.  If it is about performance of a specific task then use an audition, but if you want the person to get on with others consider other approaches.  It isn't always obvious which is which though!  Something like football might be expected to be about skill, but Sir Alex Ferguson has sold players because of their attitude and the impact that it might have on others.

For me the interesting thing about the article was that the recruiter wasn't only interested in technical skill, but also in networking skills and personal interest in the form of personal projects.  Fair enough, but he then found a way to measure these attributes objectively using information in the public domain.  However, as the article points out - now that people know can this be faked?

Count Your Blessings - 4 March

Toilet-flushing accounts for about a third of household water usage. You probably flush away as much water in a day as you drink in a whole month. Place a brick in your cistern today to save water.
Checked on the web - my cistern is quite new - or at least my landlord's is - and the advice is not to put bricks in those - so no!

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Our Sound is Our Wound - Part 2

"In the beginning was the Word" - and I would imagine... a big man with a grey beard  and a booming voice ...shouting WORD to kick-start creation.  p11
The above are Lucy's childhood memories.  In this chapter (1) what caught my eye was the reminder that for hundreds of years people heard the Bible in community rather than reading it in isolation.  Yesterday I posted on the value of community, and in this idea of hearing scripture in community there is a difference not only in what is read, but in how it is interpreted.  There will be a community interpretation (assuming that the vicar doesn't encourage everyone to play "guess what is in my head") and a community living out of what is there.  People will often talk about the Holy Spirit inspiring new understandings - I think that the Holy Spirit works best in groups, rather than just individuals.
The score only becomes music when the players or singers take it up and give it life by playing it.  So it is with scripture. p18

Count Your Blessings - 3 March

Inadequate access to clean water means 1 in 10 people worldwide consumes foods irrigated by waste-water, often containing dangerous chemicals or bacteria. Give 30p for each kind of fruit or veg you ate yesterday.
This week is really giving away my unhealthy lifestyle!  Still, I had an apple, a banana and there was some pineapple on my pizza (I don't just live on a diet of junk food - some days I eat veg) - so 90p.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Ubuntu - Think Corporate not individual

Descartes was in a pub having a drink, and the barman came up to him to ask him if he would like another drink. He refused. The barman pressed him, and Descartes paused and then said, “I think not”. . . at which point he disappeared.
 Great quote from an article in the Church Times by Paula Gooder on how first century people wouldn't have understood the current focus on individual identity, linking it to Desmond Tutu's use of Ubuntu:
I am because you are
 I have also heard Ossie Schwartz preach on this and it seems to come from South African society where people could not survive without each other.  In the modern first world we seem to have this illusion that we are in control and can survive as individuals.

When I was in Marlow we had the choir from our link church St James, Galeshewe to visit, and when they were asked how they were going to get home from the airport one of them said he had a credit card - there was no sense that each should pay their own way - they were in this together.

Joan Chittister comments in "Insights for the Ages" (which you all know is a commentary on the Rule of Benedict that I love):
Common ownership and personal dependence are the foundations of mutual respect. If I know that I literally cannot exist without you, without your work, without your support, without your efforts in our behalf, without your help, as is true in any community life, then I can not bury myself away where you and your life are unimportant to me. I cannot fail to meet your needs, as you have met my needs, when the dearth in you appeals for the gifts in me.
Paula Gooder says:
I am not arguing that we should give up individualism and attempt to embrace corporate identity again; I am not sure that that would be either possible or desirable. What I am suggesting is that there are insights from the corporate way of viewing the world which are vital for our comprehension of some pieces of the New Testament, and resurrection is one of them.
 and I would add that I think that it is not just comprehension of NT texts that would benefit from viewing things corporately!

Count Your Blessings - 2 March

A dripping tap can waste as much as 5,500 litres of water a year – enough to fill a paddling pool every week of the summer. Give 55p if you can swim and 10p for each time you used a pool this year.
Asking what I did last year again?  Certainly 55p, but I don't think I went swimming last year.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Masks and Love

Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within. I use the word "love" here not merely in the personal sense but as a state of being, or a state of grace -- not in the infantile ... sense of being made happy but in the tough and universal sense of quest and daring and growth.
- James Baldwin, from his book The Fire Next Time
This wonderful quote came from Sojourners, and although I have blogged on this before (and here) I couldn't resist having another go!

For much of my life I have been codependent, so perhaps the church was an obvious turn to take (see blogs here and here).  However, the formation (much discussed, but when I Googled little CofE description appears to be out there) element of my training seems to have been gradually knocking it out of me, although I recognise that that is not the case for everyone.  It has required some tough choices and has been hard, but having been through it I am grateful for the changes that it wrought in me.

It can perhaps best be described as going over an abyss - there is no certainty of what lies beyond, but there is some inner compulsion to go over it anyway.  Almost an abandonment.  And you do not go over it once - there is a continual going over it - issue after issue after issue.  It did get easier - even if some of the later abysses appeared deeper than the earlier ones - easier because I learnt to trust that God knew what he was doing, even if I didn't.

I remember at one point wondering with a friend what I would do now that I had been down all the abysses - only to discover that the ones that were to come were even nastier.  It was almost as though I could not even recognise the really bad ones until I had developed sufficient trust in the process that they would not terrify me.  Perhaps an example of God will not test you more than you can bear (though I generally don't like that argument as I believe I see people who have more than they can bear, and I don't like the idea of God testing us - see the book of Job).

If you find yourself on the edge of such an abyss, all I can do is to say that I have found it life giving to go down, and back up again - but to come back out I have had to give up all pretence at being in control and needing to know what the outcome will be.

All this reminds me of the politician, and I can't remember who, and I doubt it was original, who said "the last government have brought us to the edge of an abyss.  Under our government we will take a giant step forwards".  I tried Googling and found modern references, but I heard it before the 1979 change of government.

Count Your Blessings - 1 March

Every 20 seconds, a child dies from a disease associated with dirty water. Give 20p for each time you washed the car last year.
Mmm - well I don't remember washing it - not one of my strong points - washing it or remembering.  Lets call it a quid - but I am probably being generous!


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