“The accurate articulation of unhappiness was his trademark, and the wretchedness of life was his inspiration.”
– Simon Parke

The difficult part of love
Is being selfish enough,
Is having the blind persistence
To upset an existence
Just for your own sake.
What cheek it must take.

And then the unselfish side –
How can you be satisfied,
Putting someone else first
So that you come off worst?
My life is for me.
As well ignore gravity.

Still, vicious or virtuous,
Love suits most of us.
Only the bleeder found
Selfish this wrong way round
Is ever wholly rebuffed,
And he can get stuffed.


Hymn of the day

by Richard on July 10, 2016

FATHER, Son, and Holy Ghost,
One in Three, and Three in One,
As by the celestial host,
Let thy will on earth be done;
Praise by all to thee be given,
Glorious Lord of earth and heaven!

Vilest of the sinful race,
Lo! I answer to thy call;
Meanest vessel of thy grace,
Grace divinely free for all,
Lo! I come to do thy will,
All thy counsel to fulfil.

If so poor a worm as I
May to thy great glory live,
All my actions sanctify,
All my words and thoughts receive;
Claim me for thy service, claim
All I have, and all I am.

Take my soul and body’s powers;
Take my memory, mind, and will,
All my goods, and all my hours,
All I know, and all I feel,
All I think, or speak, or do;
Take my heart; - but make it new!

Now, O God, thine own I am,
Now I give thee back thine own;
Freedom, friends, and health, and fame,
Consecrate to thee alone:
Thine I live, thrice happy I!
Happier still if thine I die.

Charles Wesley


Conference today passed a resolution containing this text:

The Methodist Conference believes that the British Isles are enriched by diversity and celebrates the contribution made by those who have come from other parts of the world.

The Christian tradition calls for respect, tolerance, love of neighbour and hospitality to the stranger. All bear the responsibility of speaking and acting for healing, reconciliation, and mutual respect.

The Methodist Conference abhors and deeply regrets those actions and words which incite hatred and lead to the victimisation of groups within society and notes with concern that such actions and words have been normalised in recent public discourse. Believing that racism is a denial of the gospel and that to stay silent when others are abused is to collude with those who seek to promote hatred and division, the Methodist Conference calls:

  • on the Methodist people to challenge racism and discrimination.
  • for a political debate which neither demonises any nor leaves the vulnerable (the foreigner, the immigrant and refugee) in danger of victimisation.
  • on political leaders to work together for the good of the whole community putting the needs of the nation before party politics.
  • on all those in positions of power and authority to hear the voices of those who have been marginalised and alienated and to respond to them in ways which offer real hope for the future.

The Conference now urges all Methodists to contact their MPs. Ask them to support these aims, and ask how Christians within your constituency can help them in this important task.


Brexit: How Britain voted

by Richard on July 6, 2016

OK, so everyone knows that Britain voted to leave the EU. The ‘headline’ is that 52% of those voting chose leave, 48% to remain. But as you might expect, the picture is more complicated than that. Lord Ashcroft Polls has some fascinating data, and though I’m naturally suspicious of pollsters, this has the ring of truth about it.

According to Lord Ashcroft:

  • 58% of those identifying as Christian voted Leave
  • 57% of graduates, and 64% of those with a higher degree, voted Remain
  • 67% of Asian voters, and 75% of Black voters, voted remain
  • 58% of those claiming little or no political engagement, voted Leave.

Since the vote, there has been a disturbing increase in incidents of racial hatred. Here’s the Archbishop of Canterbury speaking in the House of Lords:


A task group established to consider whether the Methodist Church’s understanding of marriage and relationships should be revisited has reported back to this year’s Methodist Conference.

Following a decision at the Conference in 2014, people from across the Methodist Connexion have been considering marriage and relationships as part of a process overseen by the task group. The discussions show that there is a broad range of opinions held by Methodists on these matters.

The Church is to reconsider how its understanding of marriage should be expressed. This does not necessarily mean that there will be a change of definition, but that the Church wishes to re-examine the definition through a period of theological and scriptural reflection.

The task group prepared guidance and other resources to help members of the Methodist Church in their discussions on marriage and relationships.

The task group was established at the Methodist Conference in 2014 to consider whether or not the Methodist Church should revisit its definition of marriage and its understanding of family life, marriage and the single person. Its report, received by the Methodist Conference earlier today, 5 July 2016, is the result of two years consideration by the task group, along with reflection and conversation within the Methodist Church. So far, at least 8,000 members have taken the opportunity to participate in conversations across the Methodist Church, where a wide range of views were expressed.

The Church’s definition of marriage was one of those subjects discussed. The task group considered the existing 1992 “Statement on Christian Understanding of Family Life, The Single Person and Marriage”. In the Statement the Methodist Church reiterates its view that marriage is “the lifelong union of one man and one woman”. However, whilst many Methodists support this definition as it stands, there is a range of reasons to revisit it. For example, some people feel the Church’s definition should be extended to include the marriage of same sex couples. Some people feel that the definition only describes the status of marriage, not its purpose and responsibilities and revisiting the definition is important part of the process even if it remains unchanged. The Conference directed that a new Statement on marriage and relationships should now be prepared and that, as part of that process, the definition of marriage should be revisited.

The Methodist Children’s Youth and Assembly, 3Generate, also considered marriage and relationships at the request of the young people themselves. 3Generate recommended that youth workers and ministers should be trained to create safe spaces to talk about all interpretations of relationships to encourage discussions about same sex marriage.

The Revd Graham Carter, Chair of the Marriage and Relationships Task Group commented; “It is essential to take time over this issue because the process of finding a way forward is as important as reaching a decision. Enabling people in the church to talk openly about their differing convictions and value their common commitment to Jesus Christ is key to what it means to be a Christian community.

“The decision of the Conference to establish a working party on the matters of marriage and relationships is an important step which comes from a widespread conversation in which people have listened, respected each other’s position and engaged in deep reflection together. The conversations will continue and we will go on responding to the challenges of interpreting God’s love for today’s society.


Marilynne Robinson’s universalism

by Kim on April 16, 2016

“Is it conceivable that the God of the Bible would shackle himself to the worst consequences of our behavior? Reverence forbids… I know the refutation. If salvation is universal, what about Hitler, Stalin? Well, hard cases make bad law. I am not willing to open an abyss, conceptually speaking, just to accommodate Hitler and Stalin. It is surely perverse to construct a whole cosmology around them. Thus begins the casuistry, as it used to be called, that provides hell with so many other tenants. My thoughts on the ultimate disposition of the great villains and monsters of history might incline me to curtail my conception of grace. The cost would be too high.”

Marilynne Robinson, from “Theology”, in The Givenness of Things (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015), pp. 216-17.


Death, thou wast once an uncouth hideous thing,
Nothing but bones,
The sad effect of sadder groans:
Thy mouth was open, but thou couldst not sing.

For we considered thee as at some six
Or ten years hence,
After the loss of life and sense,
Flesh being turned to dust, and bones to sticks.

We looked on this side of thee, shooting short;
Where we did find
The shells of fledg’d souls left behind,
Dry dust, which sheds no tears, but may extort.

But since our Saviour’s death did put some blood
Into thy face;
Thou hast grown fair and full of grace,
Much in request, much sought for as a good.

For we do now behold thee gay and glad,
As at doom’s-day;
When souls shall wear their new array,
And all thy bones with beauty shall be clad.

Therefore we can go die as sleep, and trust
Half that we have
Unto an honest faithful grave;
Making our pillows either down, or dust.

Apologies for my techno-inability to reproduce Herbert’s formatting!


Hymn of the day

by Richard on February 21, 2016

A change from Wesley today…

Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.

O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and blessed peace to cheer us;
And keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed;
And free us from all ills, in this world and the next!

All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given;
The Son and him who reigns with them in highest heaven;
The one eternal God, whom earth and heaven adore;
For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.

Martin Rinkart, tr. Catherine Winkworth


For us like any other fugitive,
Like the numberless flowers that cannot number
And all the beasts that need not remember,
It is to-day in which we live.

So many try to say Not Now,
So many have forgotten how
To say I Am, and would be
Lost, if they could, in history.

Bowing, for instance, with such old-world grace
To a proper flag in a proper place,
Muttering like ancients as they stump upstairs
Of Mine and His or Ours and Theirs.

Just as if time were what they used to will
When it was gifted with possession still,
Just as if they were wrong
In no more wishing to belong.

No wonder then so many die of grief,
So many are so lonely as they die;
No one has yet believed or liked a lie:
Another time has other lives to live.

October 1939


Hymn of the Day

by Richard on February 14, 2016

Jesus! the name high over all,
in hell, or earth, or sky!
Angels and men before it fall,
and devils fear and fly.

Jesus! the name to sinners dear,
the name to sinners given!
It scatters all their guilty fear,
it turns their hell to heaven.

Jesus! the prisoner’s fetters breaks,
and bruises Satan’s head;
Power into strengthless souls it speaks,
and life into the dead.

O that the world might taste and see
the riches of his grace!
The arms of love that compass me
would all mankind embrace.

His only righteousness I show,
his saving grace proclaim;
‘Tis all my business here below
to cry: ‘Behold the Lamb!’

Happy if with my latest breath
I might but gasp his name;
preach him to all, and cry in death:
‘Behold, behold the Lamb!’

Charles Wesley


Gravity waves and theology

by Richard on February 12, 2016

I’m still not finding the space for blogging that I’d hoped for. But here’s a good piece on the announcement that gravity waves have finally been observed.

Mind you, I have to say that gravity waves seemed like old news to me. I saw them years ago on Star Trek.


Hymn of the day

by Richard on February 7, 2016

What shall I do my God to love?
My loving God to praise?
The length, and breadth, and height to prove
And depth of sovereign grace?

Thy sovereign grace to all extends,
Immense and unconfined;
From age to age it never ends;
It reaches all mankind.

Throughout the world its breadth is known,
Wide as infinity;
So wide, it never passed by one,
Or it had passed by me.

My trespass was grown up to heaven;
But far above the skies,
In Christ abundantly forgiven,
I see thy mercies rise.

The depth of all-redeeming love
What angel-tongue can tell?
O may I to the utmost prove
The gift unspeakable!

Come quickly, gracious Lord, and take
Possession of thine own;
My longing heart vouchsafe to make
Thine everlasting throne!

Charles Wesley


Hymn of the day

by Richard on January 24, 2016

Christ, from whom all blessings flow,
Perfecting the saints below,
Hear us, who Thy nature share,
Who Thy mystic body are.

Join us, in one spirit join,
Let us still receive of Thine;
Still for more on Thee we call,
Thou Who fillest all in all.

Move and actuate and guide,
Diverse gifts to each divide;
Placed according to Thy will,
Let us all our work fulfill.

Sweetly may we all agree,
Touched with loving sympathy,
Kindly for each other care;
Every member feel its share.

Never from Thy service move,
Needful to each other prove;
Use the grace on each bestowed,
Tempered by the art of God.

Many are we now, and one,
We who Jesus have put on;
There is neither bond nor free,
Male nor female, Lord, in Thee.

Love, like death, hath all destroyed,
Rendered all distinctions void;
Names and sects and parties fall;
Thou, O Christ, art all in all!

Charles Wesley

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Who is Christ

by Richard on January 21, 2016

Rowan Williams gives the second in a series of lectures. You’ll need to listen attentively, but your effort will be repaid.


Hymn of the day

by Richard on January 17, 2016

Thou God of truth and love,
We seek thy perfect way,
Ready thy choice to approve,
Thy providence to obey:
Enter into thy wise design,
And sweetly lose our will in thine.

Why hast thou cast our lot
In the same age and place?
And why together brought
To see each other’s face?
To join with softest sympathy,
And mix our friendly souls in thee?

Didst thou not make us one,
That we might one remain,
Together travel on,
And bear each other’s pain;
Till all thy utmost goodness prove,
And rise renewed in perfect love?

Surely thou didst unite
Our kindred spirits here,
That all hereafter might
Before thy throne appear;
Meet at the marriage of the Lamb,
And all thy glorious love proclaim.

Then let us ever bear
The blessed end in view,
And join, with mutual care,
To fight our passage through;
And kindly help each other on,
Till all receive the starry crown.

O may thy Spirit seal
Our souls unto that day,
With all thy fulness fill,
And then transport away!
Away to our eternal rest,
Away to our Redeemer’s breast!

Charles Wesley


Bedroom tax fears confirmed

by Richard on January 14, 2016

From the Joint Public Issues Team

Announced quietly, on the last day of Parliament in 2015, the findings from the Government-ordered evaluation of the bedroom tax make disturbing reading. 75% of those affected are cutting back on food.

The bedroom tax was one of the most controversial and widely condemned policies included within the Welfare Reform and Work Bill 2012. When the policy was announced in January 2013, the Government stated that the bedroom tax could be changed if it had unforeseen impacts. Baptist, Methodist and United Reformed Churches later created this briefing explaining why the bedroom tax, alongside other changes to housing, posed a serious risk of increasing inequality and poverty.

The new research, conducted by Ipsos MORI and the Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning, has confirmed campaigners’ fears. Among other findings:

  • 78% regularly run out of money by the end of the month
    for the control group not affected by the bedroom tax, the figure of those who cut back on food was the lesser figure of 56% proving the direct link between the bedroom tax and lack of food
  • 46% have cut back on heating
  • Only one in nine found alternative accommodation – this cuts against the stated purpose of the bedroom tax to compel tenants to downsize to smaller properties

A government spokeswoman was quoted as saying “It is wrong that under the previous system taxpayers had to subsidise benefit claimants to live in houses that are larger than they require”. Yet the research supports previous claims that smaller properties are simply not available in the needed quantities.

With affected individuals having to do without food and heating, the bedroom tax is a recipe for ill-health. We have also blogged on how the Prime Minister’s previous claim that disabled people are exempt from the bedroom tax is simply untrue.

The Government’s preferred term for the bedroom tax is the spare room subsidy – with the implication that tenants with one or more ‘spare rooms’ are enjoying more space than they deserve. To encourage claimants to move, the bedroom tax comprises an ‘under-occupancy penalty’ of 14% of housing benefit for one extra room and 25% for two or more extra rooms. Among all the policies introduced in the last round of welfare reform, the punitive nature of the bedroom tax was particularly marked.

In short, the bedroom tax is a risk to people’s health and is mean spirited and punitive. The Government should honour its commitment of January 2013 and review it – or better, scrap it.



by Richard on January 11, 2016


Hymn of the day

by Richard on January 10, 2016

Jesus, lover of my soul, let me to Thy bosom fly,
While the nearer waters roll, while the tempest still is high.
Hide me, O my Saviour, hide, till the storm of life is past;
Safe into the haven guide; O receive my soul at last.

Other refuge have I none, hangs my helpless soul on Thee;
Leave, ah! leave me not alone, still support and comfort me.
All my trust on Thee is stayed, all my help from Thee I bring;
Cover my defenseless head with the shadow of Thy wing.

Thou, O Christ, art all I want, more than all in Thee I find;
Raise the fallen, cheer the faint, heal the sick, and lead the blind.
Just and holy is Thy Name, I am all unrighteousness;
False and full of sin I am; Thou art full of truth and grace.

Plenteous grace with Thee is found, grace to cover all my sin;
Let the healing streams abound; make and keep me pure within.
Thou of life the fountain art, freely let me take of Thee;
Spring Thou up within my heart; rise to all eternity.

Charles Wesley


View post on imgur.com

From The Washington Post (via Facebook)


“Normal weather is a thing of the past”

by Richard on January 6, 2016

So says Professor Myles Allen, who leads the climate research programme at Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute. Given that I had to mow my grass just after Christmas, and had cherry blossom alongside my Christmas lights, I’m inclined to believe him.

Here’s the interview, on yesterday’s BBC R4 Today programme