The Guardian:

The Institute for Policy Integrity at the New York University (NYU) School of Law recently published a report summarizing a survey of economists with climate expertise. The report was a follow-up and expansion of a similar survey conducted in 2009 by the same institute. The key finding: there’s a strong consensus among climate economics experts that we should put a price on carbon pollution to curb the expensive costs of climate change.

The survey participants included economists who have published papers related to climate change “in a highly ranked, peer-reviewed economics or environmental economics journal since 1994.” Overall, 365 participants completed the survey, which established the consensus of expert climate economists on a number of important questions.

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A new low in US Presidential campaign?

by Richard on January 5, 2016

obama wants your guns

With all the focus on Donald Trump, I’d almost missed just how deep idiocy runs among the other Republican candidates. I say idiocy, but that’s surely too kind a word for this latest bit of campaigning from Ted Cruz. Mother Jones points out the striking resemblance to a bit of WWII propaganda, which I’m sure was entirely unintentional.

obama nazi stormtrooper

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From The Independent

David Cameron has been urged to “come clean” over the role the UK Government played in voting Saudi Arabia on to the UN Human Rights Council after the kingdom’s execution of 47 people in a single day sparked outrage across the Middle East.

The leaders of the Liberal Democrat and Green parties have demanded a public inquiry into whether the UK was involved in a secret vote-trading deal in 2013 to secure both countries a place on an influential UN panel.

Diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks last year purported to show that UK initiated the secret negotiations by asking Saudi Arabia for its support.

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Hymn of the day

by Richard on January 3, 2016

The return of a connexions tradition

Come, let us anew
Our journey pursue,
Roll round with the year,
And never stand still, till the Master appear;
His adorable will
Let us gladly fulfill,
And our talents improve
By the patience of hope, and the labour of love.

Our life is a dream,
Our time, as a stream,
Glides swiftly away,
And the fugitive moment refuses to stay:
The arrow is flown,
The moment is gone,
The millennial year
Rushes on to our view, and eternity’s here;

O that each in the day
Of his coming might say,
“I have fought my way through,
I have finished the work thou didst give me to do!”
O that each from his Lord
May receive the glad word,
“Well and faithfully done,
Enter into my joy, and sit down on my throne!”

Charles Wesley

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Can these dry blogs live?

by Richard on January 2, 2016

My last attempt to re-engage with blogging didn’t go too well. But this is a new year. So let’s try again…

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Socrates and Corbyn

by Kim on October 1, 2015

Letter sent yesterday, 30 September, to the British daily the i – unpublished.

Sir:

He relentlessly asked hard questions, had a BS detector in full working order, attracted a following of young people fed up with folly, insisted on human decency and justice, lambasted the affluent and powerful, and was branded a traitor by the state because he wouldn’t parrot its anthems.

I’m thinking, of course, of Socrates.

Jeremy Corbyn is no Socrates, but then it doesn’t take a great philosopher, only a reasonably intelligent and good man, to expose the the moral and political turpitude of our regnant ruling elites, and to unite them in fearful contempt against him.

Finally, observe: just as Aristophanes mocked Socrates for his shabby dress-sense, John Curtice concludes his analysis of Corbyn by saying, “Now if only he could learn to tie a tie,” (30 September). How hilariously astute and germane of both playwright and professor.

Revd. Kim Fabricius
Swansea

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It is not whether God exists, but what kind.
– R.S. Thomas

It was beautiful as God
must be beautiful; glacial
eyes that had looked on
violence and come to terms

with it; a body too huge
and majestic for the cage in which
it had been put; up
and down in the shadow

of its own bulk it went,
lifting, as it turned,
the crumpled flower of its face
to look into my own

face without seeing me. It
was the colour of the moonlight
on snow and as quiet
as moonlight, but breathing

as you can imagine that
God breathes within the confines
of our definition of him, agonising
over immensities that will not return.

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Howard Jacobson on the university then and now

by Kim on September 12, 2015

When I think what shrinking violets we boys who went to university in the 1960s were — at least those of us who weren’t rowers or rugger-playing “hearties” — it’s hard to credit that the campus is so far declined into savagery that Sajid Javid, the Business Secretary, considers it necessary to set up a task force “to stamp out violence against women and provide a safe environment for all … students”….

Could universities be more brutal places socially than they were because it’s no longer a shared conviction that knowledge and the steps we take to acquire it can humanise? Is it even possible that we have given up on the idea of being humanised altogether? Is the very word too fancy? We mistrust whatever isn’t egalitarian and look askance at people who appear to us to live in ivory towers, though an ivory tower is precisely what a university should be — an exceptional, inspirational, above-it place, a centre of “higher” interests and pursuits.

It can’t be that men are suddenly pornographic bastards. Left to their own devices, men have always been pornographic bastards. So we must have jettisoned what once restrained them — the conviction that knowledge is virtue, that truth is beauty, that sex is better when it’s mutual and, better still, when the parties to it pause occasionally to read a book together.

From the Independent, Saturday September 12th

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Seventy years on August 6th, a Monday, at 8:15 am, the first atomic bomb, cutely called Little Boy, was dropped from a B-29, sweetly named the Enola Gay (after the pilot’s mom), into a lovely azure sky above the city of Hiroshima. It detonated less than a minute later above Shima Hospital. About a mile from ground zero, fourteen year-old Hiromu Morishita was in school. A split second, a splitting second: Before and After.

Watch dutifully
with your eyes.

Here, something happened that shouldn’t have.
Here now, something irreparable continues.
Here tomorrow, signs of everyone’s destruction
may appear.

Don’t watch with one eye.
Don’t watch with your arm or with your head.
With the heart of one who endures despair.

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Kibagora

by Richard on July 27, 2015

A photo posted by Richard Hall (@connexions) on

Yesterday I preached to a congregation of about 600 at Kibagora Free Methodit Church. The worship had all the liveliness I’ve come to expect, but I was less able to join in the singing because I couldn’t see the screen.

The realities of life here were brought home during the notices - my interpreter explained that one lengthy announcement was about vigilence with personal hygeine. Apparently several people from the community have been hospitalised with diarrhoea, and one has died.

http://richardthemethodist.tumblr.com/post/125105236309/sunset-at-the-ishara-beach-motel

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Blogging woe #1stWorldProblems

by Richard on July 24, 2015

So updating my blog just from a phone turns out to be more difficult than I expected. I’ll keep trying, but if you want pictures, I’m putting a few up to Instagram — x-posted to Twitter, so they’ll appear over tgere on the right — and to a Tumblr set up for the purpose.

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Sunday in Rwanda

by Richard on July 20, 2015

https://instagram.com/p/5UlFSBhw0N/

Wish I could write something substantial about my first experjence of preaching in Rwanda, but it will have to keep. There’s an early start tomorrow. A couple of photos will have to suffice for now.

https://instagram.com/p/5UZp9vhw65/

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First full day in Kigali

by Richard on July 17, 2015

Went into the city this morning. Found the MTN shop, so blogging can resume. It would be too much of a cliche to describe Kigali as a city of contrasts but, well — it is a city of huge contrasts. You don’t travel far from the centre before metalled roads give way to mud tracks. The traffic is a riotous mixture of motorbike taxis, fancy 4×4s, elderly trucks packed to the gunnels, every kind of vehicle but with few discernible rules of the road. There’s a huge amount of new building going on, alongside many structures that have clearly seen better days. Suited business types stride purposefully alonside women in traditional dress balancing large loads on their heads. There’s a chilled, partyish atmosphere — and an awful lot of internal security. Private guards with big guns are commonplace and even going for lunch in a restaurant involves the sort of screening you might normally expect only at an airport. There’s life and joy here, but an occasional and disconcerting sense of menace too.

Mobile technology is clearly having a major impact here, and the costs of connecting are modest compared to the UK. Obviously I don’t know yet how far beyind the city the mobile network reaches. We’ll see.

Our group was in fairly sombre mood after visiting the Genocide Memorial. This is the site of an effective and rather understated museum of the harrowing events of 20 years ago, but also the grave of some 259000 people murdered in those terrible 100 days as the world did nothing. This is not the time to write more, but it is inevitable that I’ll be returning to the subject.

We left the memorial to return to our lodging as sunset rapidly approached. Black kites wheeled and cried overhead, soon drowned out by the roars and hoots of the traffic. Life goes on.

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Blogging Rwanda

by Richard on July 14, 2015

I won’t be the only one blogging on our Rwanda trip. Here’s the ‘official’ district site. And one of our young people will be keeping up his Tumblr site.

All this, assuming we can get the interweb to work of course.

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Stiperstones

by Richard on July 14, 2015

Shropshire hills from Stiperstones chapel car park: just testing how well Instagram does at photo sharing…

A photo posted by Richard Hall (@connexions) on

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Time to be blogging again?

by Richard on July 13, 2015

I’ve been a blogger fora good few years, although it is fair to say that I haven’t exactly been very active recently. There are all sorts of reasons for that, but I needn’t bore you with them. I’ll admit that I’ve wondered in the last few months if it isn’t time to let this little blog fade away as many of the blogs which share its vintage have done. There’s work to be done on a nice redesign and sorting out all those links on the right hand side there that have become broken over the years. Maybe I’ll finally get to that over the summer.

But what I most need is something to inspire a bit of writing and reflection. I remember that it was a trip to the USA in the summer of 2002 that really got me going in the first place. I wonder if another big trip might have the same effect?

In the early hours of Thursday morning I’ll be travelling with a few young people from around this Methodist District to Kigali in Rwanda and then on to Kibogora, Shara and Gikondo. I’m expecting to be doing a bit of preaching for the Free Methodist Church, visiting some schools and hospitals and helping to run a number of children’s holiday schemes.

Mostly I’ll be there to learn. And if it gives me the chance to blog again, that will be a fringe benefit.

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A family address given today, June 28h, at Uniting Church Sketty (Methodist/United Reformed), Swansea.

Happy Birthday, Jackie!

Let me ask you a few questions.

• Do you like it when someone is a bossy-boots?
• Do you like a cup of tea? What would you say if someone told you that drinking tea is a bad idea? That he’s a bit of a bossy-boots?!
• Do you like a good joke, a good laugh?
• Do you like pop or rock music, the songs Badger and Emma play on The Wave? Do you like opera?
• Do you think that it’s right to copy another person’s work without giving them credit for it? Do you know what that’s called? [Plagiarism]
• Are you superstitious? Are you scared of black cats? Do you get nervous on Friday the 13th? Do you think a rabbit’s foot brings good luck? I mean really?
• Finally, does anyone have a birthday today? …

Someone very famous has a birthday today, someone we all know, and someone very dear to us. Any guesses?… Here’s a hint: he’s 312 years old! John Wesley, the founder of Methodism.

John Wesley was born on this day in 1703, in Epworth, Lincolnshire. His father’s name was Samuel, and his mother’s name was …? [Susannah] Guess how many children Susannah had altogether … [19!] Do you know what she called John?… [Jackie]

I guess most Methodists can tell you that in 1709 a fire burned the Wesley home to the ground, and that 5-year-old Jackie was pulled to safety just before the roof collapsed. Susanna said he was “like a brand plucked from the burning”, and Jackie himself, when he grew up, liked to use that phrase as a picture of his – and our – salvation. And, of course, when Jackie grew up, as “John” Wesley he became a “great” man, a “great” Christian, and did “great” things, and we could spend hours and hours talking about them. But for me, the greatest thing he did was … – well, I can tell you that only after I tell you what many people don’t know about John Wesley, or if they know, don’t like to mention.

For example:
• He could be a bit of a bossy-boots: even his own preachers called him “Pope John”.
• He said that drinking tea was a waste of time and money – though, as we heard at the Launch Service of Uniting Church Sketty a month ago, he did have a cuppa while passing through Swansea. But did you know that he liked a glass of wine or beer?
• He didn’t much approve of joking and laughing.
• He didn’t like the modern music of his day, and he was even suspicious of opera.
• He did indeed sometimes pass off other people’s writing as his own.
• And superstitious: would you believe that he made the decision to get married by pulling bits of paper out of a hat? He married a widow called Molly. The marriage was a complete disaster. Molly was known to insult him, even strike him – in public! Eventually they separated. What a mess!

Now I can tell you why I think John Wesley was such a great man, a great
Christian, a great saint. An immense admirer of John Wesley, the former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, once said of Wesley’s life that it contained lots of “muddle and silliness”. And that’s true, because let’s be honest, whose life doesn’t? But what John Wesley understood, that very few people do, is that even in his “muddle and silliness” God still loved him and indeed used him to bring precisely that good news to the people of Britain at a time when they desperately needed to hear it: that God loves each of us, even in our “muddle and silliness” – and a lot worse too! – and that God wants to use us to share this wonderful news – this wonderful love – with others.

When he was dying, do you know what John Wesley said? He said, “The best of all, God is with us!” The best of all, God is with us! Absolutely! So happy birthday, Jackie! And thank you, God, for John Wesley, your gift to us, to the church, to the whole world.

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A truly transcendent experience

by Kim on May 30, 2015

Sir:

Focussing on Ray Foulk’s coup in getting Dylan to play the 1969 Isle of Wight festival (29 May), Simon Hardeman fails to mention what made the climax of the gig so truly transcendent: that Dylan’s collaborative mates, the Band, one of the most sublime rock groups of all time, preceded him with a set of their own before continuing on stage as his backup. Indeed just how heavenly the experience was — well, even though I was there, I still remember it!

Revd. Kim Fabricius
Swansea

Letter published in today’s i, the UK’s “National Newspaper of the Year”.

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Hymn of the day

by Richard on May 24, 2015

Where shall my wondering soul begin?
How shall I all to heaven aspire?
A slave redeemed from death and sin,
A brand plucked from eternal fire,
How shall I equal triumphs raise,
Or sing my great Deliverer’s praise?

O how shall I the goodness tell,
Father, which thou to me hast showed?
That I, a child of wrath and hell,
I should be called a child of God,
Should know, should feel my sins forgiven,
Blest with this antepast of heaven!

And shall I slight my Father’s love?
Or basely fear his gifts to own?
Unmindful of his favours prove?
Shall I, the hallowed cross to shun,
Refuse his righteousness to impart,
By hiding it within my heart?

No! though the ancient dragon rage,
And call forth all his host to war,
Though earth’s self-righteous sons engage
Them and their god alike I dare;
Jesus, the sinner’s friend, proclaim;
Jesus, to sinners still the same.

Outcasts of men, to you I call,
Harlots, and publicans, and thieves!
He spreads his arms to embrace you all;
Sinners alone his grace receives;
No need of him the righteous have;
He came the lost to seek and save.

Come, O my guilty brethren, come,
Groaning beneath your load of sin,
His bleeding heart shall make you room,
His open side shall take you in;
He calls you now, invites you home;
Come, O my guilty brethren, come!

Charles Wesley

This is probably the hymn sung by John Wesley on the night of his conversion experience, May 24 1738.

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Hymn of the day

by Richard on May 17, 2015

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

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