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Saturday, 30 March 2013

Happy Easter!

This year we searched in vain for packs of Easter cards with an icon depicting the Resurrection. There were plenty of cards to choose from with fluffy bunnies, flowers and eggs, even a few floral crosses but not what we wanted. After our initial disappointment I found myself reflecting on the part that flowers and eggs have played in our Easter celebrations. In particular I recalled the powerful fragrance of freesias and lilies which adorned the Altar of Repose, the result of many hours of work when help was taken for granted. Much has changed in the passing years. Divided congregations have become increasingly elderly. There are fewer, if any, children in many churches compared with the days when the Sunday School children, later re-named the more trendy 'Junior Church', would join the main congregation to await the vicar's usual question, "Why Easter eggs?" Back would come the eager replies of "New life!" earning the reward of a Cadbury's cream egg - and not just for the children :)

Happy Easter!
The egg also symbolises the tomb from which sprang new life. Following the installation of Pope Francis heralding a new pontificate of simplicity, the Anglican Church too witnessed a change in emphasis in the installation of Justin Welby as Archbishop of Canterbury: “I am Justin, A servant of Jesus Christ, and I come seeking the grace of God, to travel with you in his service together.” - Together as one, a new beginning?

Rachmaninoff - All-Night Vigil

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Maundy Thursday

Last week I added details of work on a mosaic by iconographer, Aidan Hart. This led me to some equally amazing singing by a relatively small church choir sampled in the video above. I find their singing all the more poignant as the noise of the altar and sanctuary being striped is accompanied by noise of every day life going on outside the church. Passers by will be ignorant of the drama taking place inside, much as it must have been when Jesus prayed, but now they will see this "All-powerful" image of Christ drawing them to Himself:

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Take up thy cross

Palm Sunday sees the start of Christ's journey to the cross. He was not alone in being crucified then and He is not alone now. A few days ago we witnessed the inaugurations of two of the most significant church leaders, Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin Welby, both of whom have taken up the cross in their own distinctive styles. Also in an 'historic firstafter nearly 1,000 years, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople attended the inauguration of Pope Francis. Few are called to be priest and bishop, fewer still to be Patriarch or Pope but all Christ's disciples are called to take up their cross.

With humility and reconciliation giving each other the space we need to live and worship according to conscience we may yet all be one.

'Take up your cross', the Saviour said,
      'If you would my disciple be;
      Deny yourself, forsake the world,
      And humbly follow after me.'

Friday, 22 March 2013

World Water Day 2013

Down in the dumps with rain, rain, rain and flood alerts or, as friends in New Zealand tell me, no rain and water restrictions? Caught between these extremes are hundreds of millions of people without access to clean water and proper sanitation, a problem for Everyone, everywhere.

Today, 22 March 2013 is World Water Day. WaterAid's goals are set out in this short film

As WaterAid says, "this is our best chance in 15 years to put water and sanitation at the heart of global efforts to tackle poverty — so please email your MP today and ask them to urge David Cameron to read WaterAid's Everyone, everywhere report". 

Our support can make a difference.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Hope and despair

Following his pilgrimage of prayer there is an interesting BBC interview with Justin Welby here as he prepares to be placed in the Anglican hot seat. As ever the headline indicates that sex is the main focus of media attention but this obsession masks a broader understanding of what it means to Abp Welby to be a Christian and an Anglican in particular. 

Less encouraging is the Archbishop's fatalistic 'conviction' that the role of Archbishop of Canterbury will eventually be held by a woman, something that his predecessor alluded to. The BBC's coverage of the inaugural Mass of Pope Francis conveyed a similar approach to religion from a secular perspective with emphasis on the role of women in the church in an age of so-called equality. This conveys a lemming-like inevitability that must be resisted if we are to avoid the example of the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church in the United States.


I was on the school run today so I missed what was described afterwards by Jane ('Um') Hill in the BBC News headlines as the first Archbishop of Canterbury to be enthroned by a woman.  I managed to catch the beginning and the end of the service. True to form 'Auntie's' guests were, in order of introduction, the retired Bishop of Manchester, the Right Reverend Nigel McCulloch KCVO, Christina Rees - introduced as a member of the Archbishops' Council - and the Rev Dr Giles Fraser, parish priest, 'Loose Canon' and former Canon Chancellor of St Paul's Cathedral, all of which was enough to make Mrs Briton retire from the room in despair. As readers will know Ms Rees is the ex-WITCH WATCH spokesmanperson who is determined to see Christianity adapt to her way of thinking. Asked for her thoughts she trotted out the usual feminist approach to Christianity, women first, Jesus Christ second as she continues to press for women bishops regardless of the occasion and Abp Welby's constant stress on reconciliation. 

Unlike the inaugural Mass of Pope Francis commentators could not complain of the absence of women. First, looking very pleased with herself, was the new Archbishop's Chaplain, the Rev Dr Jo Bailey Wells, as was the Archdeacon of Canterbury who, in the Mail Online picture caption is described as "Presiding: Sheila Watson, Archdeacon of Canterbury, enthroned Mr Welby as a bishop". I didn't see the Presiding Bishop in the throng but I glimpsed her disciple the Archbishop of Wales behind the throne, a position no doubt he regards as his being one of the CNC selectors.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Christ Pantocrator

News yesterday of an important new work by Aidan Hart whose work will be familiar to many but not in mosaic form. This image shows 'work in progress' giving an idea of scale of the mosaic which has been installed above the entrance porch of the church of St Martin in Roath, Cardiff. This is one of the churches which featured in an entry twelve months ago after being targeted by Muslims who have been going around the country trying to convince people that Jesus was a Muslim! What a magnificent response.

A link from the church website gives access to some superb singing by their liturgical choir. For anyone in  the Cardiff area on Palm Sunday (24th March 2013) the liturgical choir sings the St John Passion with an icon based devotional presentation starting at 7.30pm. The best of both worlds AMDG.

Monday, 18 March 2013

You're free!

Actor Frank Thornton whose death was announced today, aged 92, was one of last two survivors of the BBC hit sitcom Are You Being Served? which ran from 1972 to 1985. Its humour relied heavily on sexual innuendo and double entendres which were liberally employed. Recently my wife and I have been watching a re-run of another sitcom of the period 'Allo 'Allo!. We have frequently looked at each other in disbelief at some of the double entendres. I doubt that they would be allowed today which is ironic since the actuality is now constantly thrust in our faces. The picture above is taken from a clip which well illustrates the tensions but free acceptance of difference at that time without all the baggage that we are now expected to carry at the behest of the gay lobby pushing unwelcome legislation through Parliament and rubbishing the Christian faith. 

As floor walker Capt Peacock symbolised the standards of yesteryear when the customer was paramount giving rise to the catch phrase "Are you being served?" followed by "Are you free? directed at one of the sales assistants, often the camp Mr Humphries. Perhaps there was a naive innocence in those days which others in their PC hats will now regard as hypocrisy but at least we had a good laugh compared with the misery constantly pumped out today. 

Capt Peacock, you're free! RIP

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Francis: Assisi and Xavier; the Ignatius link

Pope Francis has ended the speculation about his choice of name. He said that he chose the name Francis to remember the poor after the example of St. Francis of Assisi who represented "poverty and peace". But there remains a link with St. Francis Xavier.

Francis Xavier was a student of St.Ignatius Loyola with whom he was a founder of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits). Ignatius was noted for following the example of Francis of Assisi. He and a few followers bound themselves by vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. He was also responsible for the prayer I remember from my Sunday School days in line with the Jesuit motto, "Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man":

Teach us, good Lord, to serve thee as thou deservest;
To give, and not to count the cost,
to fight, and not to heed the wounds,
to toil, and not to seek for rest,
to labor, and not to ask for any reward,
save that of knowing that we do thy will. 
St Ignatius Loyola

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

The Mission

A Jesuit from South America, Pope Francis, is to lead the world's 1.2 billion Catholics. God grant him the strength to complete His mission on earth in the steps of the beloved Benedict XVI.


Having recently received a Jury Summons it was the one occasion when Mrs Briton was happy to be classed as elderly. Others will not escape this civic duty so easily. Rather thoughtfully Her Majesty's Courts Service includes in the contents of their buff envelope texts in a variety of unintelligible languages for the benefit of those unable to speak the mother tongue. Using Google Translate the opening sentence of the only readily identifiable language was translated thus: 
Wezwanie do lawy przysieglych
Zostal(a) Pan(i) wezwany/-a do stawienia sie w sadzie w charakterze czlonka lawy przysieglych.  
"The call to jury. Was(a) you(i) requested/-a to appear in court as a member of the jury" so inability to understand the lingo is no impediment to attend for jury service although a judge may decide otherwise at a later date.

In order to qualify for jury service a person must be between the ages of 18 and 70 years old, registered to vote on the government electoral register and be a registered citizen in the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man for at least 5 years since their thirteenth birthday. A judge has the ability to discharge a person from jury service if he believes the person cannot sufficiently understand English and is therefore unable to understand any evidence given so lacking the capacity to cope with the information needed for the trial. - Presumably in those circumstances a translator will be needed to tell them that they are excused and assist in completing a claim for attendance!

One wonders why anyone on the electoral register who has been a registered citizen in the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man for at least 5 years since their thirteenth birthday is unable to understand English. Clearly the Communities and Local Government secretary Eric Pickles was thinking along the same lines when he argued that publishing papers in English would encourage migrants to integrate. He singled out Crawley council in Sussex for spending £600 on translating its glossy 12-page in-house magazine into Urdu after a single resident complained they couldn't read English. Other examples are freely available. A quick 'Google' shows the facilities available form Haringey Council: You can ask a council officer who is dealing with your enquiry for a translation of council letters or other council documents. Most council documents have a language panel on the back cover. You can ask for a translation of that particular document by completing your details on the form given and returning to the freepost address shown. You do not have to pay for translations.

The absurdity of this situation was highlighted in 2010 when a Mail Online reporter disclosed that there was a school in Birmingham where 60 per cent of pupils spoke English as a second language and computer translators were used so that the children could communicate with teachersInterpreters are used in the health service and to enable people to avail themselves of the services provided by the Department of Works and Pensions. As Mr Pickles told MPs,"Stopping the automatic use of translation and interpretation services into foreign languages will provide further incentive for all migrant communities to learn English, which is the basis for an individual's ability to progress in British society. It will promote cohesion and better community relations. And it will help councils make sensible savings at a time when every bit of the public sector needs to do its bit to pay off the deficit." 

Hear, hear!

Monday, 11 March 2013

Slavery and trafficking includes British citizens

Today sees the publication of It Happens Here by the Centre for Social Justice, a study of "collated evidence of exploitation of foreign adults and children as well as British citizens, in factories, fields, construction sites, brothels and houses. It identified more than 1,000 cases, but cautioned that official figures remain "a pale reflection of the true size of the problem". Christian Guy, managing director of the centre, said it was appalling that many of those who fall into modern-day slavery were themselves considered criminals." 

Two trailer reports here and here suggest a degree of complacency on behalf of the government which enables this trade to continue. Others take the problem more seriously. The Salvation Army has launched the "first ever app" that helps people spot the key signs someone may be being trafficked. Details here

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Mothering Sunday

Mother and Child

two mothers and child

no mother and child

Happy Mother's Day!

it's Mothering Sunday

Pray for all mothers, especially those separated from their children.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Judith Iscariot: the second coming

In March 2009 the people of Aberystwyth awaited their first screening of Monty Python's The Life of Brian thanks to Judith Iscariot, AKA Sue Jones-Davies who played Brian's girlfriend.

Given the changes in attitudes to religion it is hard now to understand the furore that this film caused at the time resulting in the 30 year ban in Aberystwyth. Hate it or loath it the film carried many messages. Based on mistaken identity my view has always been on the side of humour rather than blasphemy but the essential point is that one should be able to take a view for an honest belief without condemnation as frequently happens today. Initially the film was not shown on TV for fear of offending Christians, now anything goes but one thing has not changed. Neatly explained here,  Brian becomes infatuated with an attractive young rebel, Judith. His desire for her and hatred for the Romans lead him to join the People's Front of Judea (PFJ), one of many fractious and bickering independence movements, who spend more time fighting each other than the Romans, rather like Christians squabbling among themselves today while ignoring the threats to their religion.

A generation later religion plays little if any part in most people's lives while others re-interpret or even re-write scripture as the whim takes them. Of course if Jesus had foreseen the current need for parity of the sexes when appointing His Apostles, Judas may well have been Judith but best not go down that road! 

Monday, 4 March 2013

NHS privatisation plot (2)

From 38 Degrees:

It’s being called backdoor NHS privatisation. And if we want to stop it, what happens in Parliament this week is crucial. Some Labour, Lib Dem and Green MPs have tabled a motion demanding the NHS privatisation plan be immediately withdrawn. [1] So far only 72 MPs have signed up. [2] We need to make that number grow, and quickly.

In the last few hours, the legal advice paid for by thousands of 38 Degrees members’ donations has come in. The verdict seems clear. If the government forces through these new NHS privatisation rules, it will mean ministers breaking promises they made last year when they said doctors wouldn't be forced to privatise everything. [3]

We’ve got the proof we need to show MPs that the government is breaking the promises made when the NHS law was forced through. Now we need to make sure every MP reads it, to convince them to sign the motion demanding these new privatisation rules are stopped.

If MPs hear from thousands of us we can make sure that they sign up to block backdoor privatisation. Can you click here to send an email asking them read our legal advice and oppose the plans?

The government says their ‘modernised’ NHS is supposed to be about giving more control to local doctors and communities. But under Jeremy Hunt’s new regulations, the government will force GPs to open up every part of local health services to private companies – whether or not it’s what they or local people want.

And it’s not just us saying this. On Sunday, the Observer newspaper reported an explosive letter from the head of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges to the health minister, outlining concerns that “healthcare will be disrupted and hospital services damaged as a result of time-consuming, disruptive and unnecessary tendering processes,” and that these new regulations are “at odds” with reassurances previously given to doctors. [6]

These are hardly the voices of radicals or political opportunists – so what’s it going to take for MPs to sit up, take notice and admit that something’s not right here? Let’s seize this moment and ask our MPs to listen to doctors, patients, legal experts and concerned constituents, before they make a big mistake:

We can stop this now, if we try. In the past week we've grown our rapid-response petition to over 230,000 signatures. We’ve chipped in to pay for expert legal advice. Now let’s make the talk in the halls of Parliament on Monday be about how many voters are getting in touch about these broken promises. Together, we can help those wavering MPs to find some backbone, and help even the diehard supporters of privatisation to realise the game is up.

Thanks for using your voice,

David, James, Hannah and the 38 Degrees team

[1] The motion was originally tabled by Green MP Caroline Lucas, but then re-tabled co-sponsored by Lib Dem Andrew George and Labour leader Ed Miliband.
[2] You can see the motion, and the latest signatures, here:
[3] For example, Andrew Lansley sent a letter to prospective CCGs on 16th February 2012, during the height of the battle to get the Bill through parliament, in which he assured them, “I know many of you may have read that you will be forced to fragment services, or to put services out to tender. This is absolutely not the case." See
[5] Telegraph: Scrap NHS competition rules say 1000 in letter to Telegraph
[6] Guardian: Doctors bemoan NHS privatisation by stealth

Postscript [05/03/13]
NHS private sector climbdown. Read about it here.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Episcopal kindness

Readers will do doubt recall the letter sent by 50 clergy to the Archbishop of York demanding that the next Bishop of Blackburn must be prepared to ordain women. Their demands have been satisfied with the appointment of the Venerable Julian Henderson. Full details here. This has prompted one reader to comment: "This means that there will now be not a single diocesan in the Northern Province who does not ordain women. We can draw our own conclusions."

Commenting on his appointment Archdeacon Henderson said: "I am aware of different deeply held convictions around the diocese on the ordination of women to the priesthood and to the episcopate. Let me be clear, I am in favour of women serving as Bishops and will want to introduce a change in the current diocesan pattern by ordaining women as deacons and priests. But I hope my vote at General Synod last November will be a reassurance to those opposed to this development, that I want to be a figure of unity on this matter and will ensure there is an honoured place for both positions within the mainstream of the Church of England. Might Blackburn be a model for the rest of the Church of England!"

Welcome words with the best of intentions but if 'Blackburn is to be a model for the rest of the Church of England' that undermines the principle that "there will be no discrimination against candidates either for ordination or for appointment to senior office in the Church of England on the grounds of their views about the ordination of women to the priesthood". The reality is that if appointments are to be made only from candidates who are prepared to ordain women, no matter how well intentioned we can look forward to extinction by kindness.