Hymn of the day

by Richard on September 28, 2014

Our earth we now lament to see
With floods of wickedness overflowed,
With violence, wrong, and cruelty,
one wide-extended field of blood,
where men like fiends each other tear,
In all the hellish rage of war.

As listed on Abaddon’s side,
They mangle their own flesh, and slay;
Tophet is moved, and opens wide
Its mouth for its enormous prey;
And myriads sink beneath the grave,
And plunge into the flaming wave.

O might the universal Friend
This havoc of His creatures see!
Bid our unnatural discord end;
Declare us reconciled in thee!
Write kindness on our inward parts,
And chase the murderer from our hearts!

Who now against each other rise,
the nations of the earth, constrain
to follow after peace, and prize
the blessings of thy righteous reign,
the joys of unity to prove,
the paradise of perfect love!

Charles Wesley


Hymn of the day

by Richard on September 21, 2014

THIS, this is the God we adore,
Our faithful, unchangeable Friend;
Whose love is as great as his power,
And neither knows measure nor end.

‘Tis Jesus, the First and the Last,
Whose Spirit shall guide us safe home;
We’ll praise him for all that is past,
And trust him for all that’s to come.


Japanese Maple, by Clive James

by Richard on September 18, 2014

Normally I leave poetry to Kim, but I was very moved by this poem from Clive James (who is terminally ill) when I read it in yesterday’s Guardian

Japanese Maple

Your death, near now, is of an easy sort.
So slow a fading out brings no real pain.
Breath growing short
Is just uncomfortable. You feel the drain
Of energy, but thought and sight remain:

Enhanced, in fact. When did you ever see
So much sweet beauty as when fine rain falls
On that small tree
And saturates your brick back garden walls,
So many Amber Rooms and mirror halls?

Ever more lavish as the dusk descends
This glistening illuminates the air.
It never ends.
Whenever the rain comes it will be there,
Beyond my time, but now I take my share.

My daughter’s choice, the maple tree is new.
Come autumn and its leaves will turn to flame.
What I must do
Is live to see that. That will end the game
For me, though life continues all the same:

Filling the double doors to bathe my eyes,
A final flood of colors will live on
As my mind dies,
Burned by my vision of a world that shone
So brightly at the last, and then was gone.

‘Japanese Maple’ by Clive James, first published in the New Yorker, © Clive James, 2014

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Railway Station as sacred space

by Richard on September 14, 2014

An 800 year old Icelandic hymn, sung in a German railway station…

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Hymn of the day

by Richard on September 14, 2014

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


Esther “Etty” Hillesum (15 January 1914 – 30 November 1943) was a Jewish woman whose letters and diaries, kept between 1941 and 1943, describe life in Amsterdam during the German occupation [Wikipedia]. She perished in Auschwitz.

One moment it is Hitler, the next it is Ivan the Terrible; one moment it is the Inquisition and the next war, pestilence, earthquake or famine. Ultimately what matters is to bear the pain, to cope with it, and to keep a small corner of one’s soul unsullied, come what may.

Yes, we carry everything within us, God and Heaven and Hell and Earth and Life and Death and all of history. The externals are simply so many props; everything we need is within us. And we have to take everything that comes: the bad with the good which does not mean we cannot devote our life to curing the bad.

To sum up, this is what I really want to say: Nazi barbarism evokes the same kind of barbarism in ourselves … We have to reject that barbarism within us, we must not fan the hatred within us, because if we do, the world will not be able to pull itself one inch further out of the mire.

Dear God, these are anxious times. Tonight … I lay in the dark with burning eyes as scene after scene of human suffering passed before me…. I shall try to help You, God, to stop my strength ebbing away, though I cannot vouch for it in advance…. Alas, there doesn’t seem to be much You Yourself can do about our circumstances, about our lives. Neither do I hold You responsible. You cannot help us, but we must help You and defend Your dwelling place inside us to the last.

… today’s real experience was the magnolia in the corner of Tide’s room, whose mysterious beauty almost scared me stiff. I stood open-mouthed for nearly five minutes as if nailed to the floor … I couldn’t believe there is so much beauty, couldn’t take it all in. I could hardly tear myself away from the flowers, stroked the leaves very gently with the tips of my fingers and almost asked Tide, “Please may I pay a visit to your magnolias every day?”

From Patrick Woodhouse, Etty Hillesum: A Life Transformed (London, New York: Continuum, 2009).


Hymn of the day

by Richard on September 7, 2014

I sing the almighty power of God,
That made the mountains rise,
That spread the flowing seas abroad,
And built the lofty skies.

I sing the wisdom that ordained
The sun to rule the day;
The moon shines full at His command,
And all the stars obey.

I sing the goodness of the Lord,
That filled the earth with food;
He formed the creatures with His Word,
And then pronounced them good.

Lord, how Thy wonders are displayed
Where’er I turn mine eye!
If I survey the ground I tread,
Or gaze upon the sky!

God’s hand is my perpetual guard,
He guides me with his eye;
Why should I then forget the Lord,
Whose love is ever nigh?

Isaac Watts


End of the day at Greenbelt #gb14

by Richard on August 22, 2014

I’m sitting in an improvised dining shelter, preparing to get into my tent at Greenbelt. Listened to a talk by Brian McLaren (”Bible 3.0″), which was ok, followed by a pint in the site pub “The Jesus Arms”. Now enjoying the darkness and relative peace with a cup of coffee breed cowboy style on my trangia, but the warmth of my sleeping bag has an increasing appeal. Night all!


Saying goodbye

by Richard on August 21, 2014

It’s the time of year when Methodist ministers up and down Britain are swapping manses. All (almost) appointments begin on September 1st, so the weeks of August are filled with endings and beginnings. My colleague Paul Weary, who is going through this process himself, reflects on the importance of a good farewell.

As I move on I am acutely aware of things left incomplete, problems unresolved, loose ends left untied. Many of the hopes and dreams I had coming to the circuit nine years ago were unfulfilled. Of course this is not my responsibility alone, though sometimes I have thought it was, and for this sin too I need to say sorry; ministry is shared by minister and people. To recognise this and offer mutual confession and forgiveness is part of the process of saying goodbye and moving on.


Greenland ice loss continues to increase

by Richard on August 20, 2014

From the BBC

A new assessment from Europe’s CryoSat spacecraft shows Greenland to be losing about 375 cu km of ice each year.

Added to the discharges coming from Antarctica, it means Earth’s two big ice sheets are now dumping roughly 500 cu km of ice in the oceans annually.

“The contribution of both ice sheets together to sea level rise has doubled since 2009,” said Angelika Humbert from Germany’s Alfred Wegener Institute.

“To us, that’s an incredible number,” she told BBC News.

In its report to The Cryosphere journal, the AWI team does not actually calculate a sea-level rise equivalent number, but if this volume is considered to be all ice (a small part will be snow) then the contribution is likely to be on the order of just over a millimetre per year.

This is the latest study to use the precision altimetry data being gathered by the European Space Agency’s CryoSat platform.

Cryosat uses a radar instrument to measure the shape of polar ice surfaces
The satellite was launched in 2010 with a sophisticated radar instrument specifically designed to measure the shape of the polar ice sheets.

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How did we get the gospels?

by Richard on August 20, 2014

With thanks to the Seedbed Blog (via the Methoblog)


How to do it - some Antipodean wisdom

by Richard on August 19, 2014

With thanks to Jason Goroncy for posting and to Michael Leunig for creating this


Ignore No More: more fuel for parental anxiety

by Richard on August 19, 2014

I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry when I read yesterday about Ignore No More

Getting the silent treatment from your kids? A new app lets you lock their phone until they respond.

The “Ignore No More” app was created by Sharon Standifird, a Houston mom who describes herself as a school teacher turned entrepreneur.

“Few things are more frustrating than your children refusing to answer your calls or respond to your text messages,” her website explains. So the app lets parents remotely lock their kids’ phones until they get in touch.

“(Now) your child has only two options — he or she can call you back, or call for an emergency responder. No calls to friends, no text, no games, not until they call you back. When they do, you can unlock their phone if you choose to do so. How’s that for parental control?”

Here’s how it works: Parents install “Ignore No More” on their phones and set up a list of contacts the child can call when their phone is locked.

When you decide to lock your child’s phone, he or she can only call the contacts on the special list you’ve set up. Those contacts can provide a password to unlock the phone. The child can also still always call 911. Standifird promises that it is “virtually impossible” for kids to remove the app from their phones.

This is just another symptom of an increasing parental anxiety that bears no relationship to the real level of risk faced by children and young people today. While this is nothing new, my sense is that it is getting worse. Parents seem to be finding it ever more difficult to allow their children any genuine freedom or responsibility and my fear is that, while this is being done in the name of safety, it will actually increase the risk to individuals and society in the future. Children need to learn to assess risk and danger for themselves, and the truth is there’s really only one way they can do that. They have to do it. For themselves.

Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett in the Guardian, puts it well

Having a phone on you can sometimes make you feel invulnerable, but, ultimately, being safety conscious is much more important – technology shouldn’t make us complacent. As a generally anxious person, I do worry that something bad has happened to my family with alarming regularity. The instinct is to call for reassurance, and when that call goes unanswered, it can send you into a tailspin of worst-case scenarios.


Scout website

by Richard on August 18, 2014

My scout troop needed a website, so I’ve had a bit of a play with wix: here’s the result: 23rd Shrewsbury Scouts.


Psychological responses to Climate Change

by Richard on August 18, 2014

Our response to climate change is uncannily similar to an even more universal disavowal: unwillingness to face our own mortality, says neuroscientist Janis Dickinson of Cornell University in New York. She argues that overt images of death and decay along with the deeper implications of societal decline and collapse are powerful triggers for denial of mortality.

There is a great deal of research showing that people respond to reminders of death with aggressive assertion of their own group identity. Dickinson argues that political polarisation and angry denial found around climate change is consistent with this “terror management theory”. Again, there is a complex relationship between our psychology and the narratives that we construct to make sense of climate change.

George Marshall | New Scientist


Hymn of the day (a bloggers return)

by Richard on August 17, 2014

My apologies for dropping out, and my thanks to Kim for stepping in to the breach. Here’s a bit of Wesley to begin to put my blogging back on track.

JESUS, in whom the weary find
Their late, but permanent repose,
Physician of the sin-sick mind,
Relieve my wants, assuage my woes;
And let my soul on thee be cast,
Till life’s fierce tyranny be past.

Loosed from my God, and far removed,
Long have I wandered to and fro,
O’er earth in endless circles roved,
Nor found whereon to rest below:
Back to my God at last I fly,
For O, the waters still are high!

Selfish pursuits, and nature’s maze,
The things of earth, for thee I leave;
Put forth thy hand, thy hand of grace,
Into the ark of love receive,
Take this poor fluttering soul to rest,
And lodge it, Saviour, in thy breast.

Fill with inviolable peace,
Stablish and keep my settled heart;
In thee may all my wanderings cease,
From thee no more may I depart;
Thy utmost goodness called to prove,
Loved with an everlasting love!

Charles Wesley


Transfiguration Day - c. 30 and 1945

by Kim on August 6, 2014

“He was completely changed right before their eyes, his face brilliantly lit, like the sun, his clothes flashing with light.”
– Matthew 17:2 (my translation)

“The hour was early; the morning still, warm, and beautiful. Shimmering leaves, reflecting sunlight from a cloudless sky … Suddenly, a strong flash of light startled me — and then another. So well does one recall little things that I remember vividly how a stone lantern in the garden became brilliantly lit and I debated whether this light was caused by a magnesium flare or sparks from a passing trolley.”
– Dr. Michihiko Hachiya, Hiroshima survivor


Sam is a pimp, but he’s my Uncle

by Kim on August 2, 2014

This is not the first time that I have been embarrassed – no, ashamed – to be an American because of the US’s malign foreign policy, silently sinister or thunderously overt. Travelling around Europe in the summer of 1969 – Vietnam; living in Oxford during the onset of the Reagan presidency – Nicaragua and Chile; ministering in Swansea throughout the Bushwhacking years – Afghanistan and Iraq. But this – THIS – Gaza – the US’s steadfast support for Israel as it lays waste to a region, a people – the mealy-mouthed admonitions of restraint, the stonewalling at the UN, the steady supply of arms to the IDF – a neologism is needed, “ashamed” is too token, hackneyed, morally feeble (I guess it’s the decades of moral attrition). I feel like I am observing a political version of The Invasion of the Body Snatchers in which the leadership of a nation has had its collective conscience replaced by a cold, calculating, and cowardly heart, supported by junk-food journalism voraciously devoured by a popcorn populace, not to mention a Christian right that suffers from terminal TDD (Theological Deficit Disorder).

I get it that there is merit to the “Why single out Israel?” argument when it comes to nation-state horror shows; that the Arab nations have perversely pitched their tents in the moral lowlands and continue to pose a threat to the existence of Israel; that Hamas is a contemptible and corrupt organisation, and diplomatic poison for the Palestinian people. I also understand that for historical, religious, and cultural reasons, the US and Israel have a “special relationship”. But that is precisely why the US is in a position to tell its brother, “Enough is enough!”, and not just by mouth but with political and economic teeth.

Indeed, so indefensible, according to Just War criteria, is Israel’s depredations in Gaza – particularly, though not solely, the ius in bello criteria of proportionality and discrimination – and so visibly and viscerally repugnant (“Today I saw a picture of a weeping Palestinian man holding a plastic carrier bag of meat. It was his son” – Brian Eno), that if not for pity for the Palestinians, then for concern not only for Israel – this war will make it less, not more secure – but also for the Jewish diaspora, the US must radically repent. For the tragic-ironic fact is that Israel’s overkill is now generating an upsurge in European anti-Semitism – and I mean the real and loathsome kind of anti-Semitism, not the shut-down smear that is indiscriminately lobbed at critics of Israeli actions in the West Bank and Gaza (some of which – another tragic irony – are themselves no doubt racist). There is even a case for realpolitik: if it continues its unconditional support for Israel, the US will surely lose much of the global good will that it has been re-earning in the wake of its insane interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Not, I acknowledge, that most homeland Americans give a toss.

I am, of course, aware that this polemic will fall overwhelmingly on deaf ears at best, and raise a shitstorm in a teacup at worst. The thing is, if I’m now uberashamed to be an American, I’d be more so were I to be a quiet uberashamed American. To riff on Augustine, Sam is a pimp, but he’s my Uncle, and when I see him screwing people, I’ve got to tell him to stop.


Lamech was a wimp

by Kim on July 30, 2014

At least 1,200 Palestinians and 55 Israelis have been killed since Israel launched its offensive on 8 July.
Most of the Palestinian deaths have been civilians.
Some 53 Israeli soldiers have been killed along with two civilians.
– BBC, 30 July

That’s a ratio of 22 Palestinian dead for 1 Israeli dead.

Let’s ridiculously err on the side of Israeli military accuracy and say 600 of the Palestinian dead have been civilians, compared to 2 Israeli civilian deaths. Then the ratio becomes 300 to 1.

As for children - well, never mind. Not least because a child should only count as half a person, shouldn’t he, she - it?

According to Genesis 4:24 (GNB), Lamech said, “If seven lives are taken to pay for killing Cain, seventy-seven will be taken if anyone kills me.” That’s a ratio of 11 to 1.

Clearly Lamech was a softie, Lamech was a wimp.


Hymn of the day

by Richard on May 25, 2014

GOD of all power, and truth, and grace,
Which shall from age to age endure,
Whose word, when heaven and earth shall pass,
Remains and stands for ever sure;

That I thy mercy may proclaim,
That all mankind thy truth may see,
Hallow thy great and glorious name,
And perfect holiness in me.

Thy sanctifying Spirit pour,
To quench my thirst, and make me clean;
Now, Father, let the gracious shower
Descend, and make me pure from sin.

Purge me from every sinful blot;
My idols all be cast aside;
Cleanse me from every sinful thought,
From all the filth of self and pride.

Give me a new, a perfect heart,
From doubt, and fear, and sorrow free;
The mind which was in Christ impart,
And let my spirit cleave to thee.

O take this heart of stone away!
Thy sway it doth not, cannot own;
In me no longer let it stay,
O take away this heart of stone!

O that I now, from sin released,
Thy word may to the utmost prove,
Enter into the promised rest,
The Canaan of thy perfect love!

Now let me gain perfection’s height,
Now let me in to nothing fall,
Be less than nothing in thy sight,
And feel that Christ is all in all.

Charles Wesley