Recent Blogs

The church has to get out of its head and get into its heart

The church has to get out of its head and get into its heart

A churchwarden's thoughts on a deanery plan - the Christian Church must rediscover its mystic, contemplative heart

What follows is the response of a rural churchwarden to a deanery plan about ministry and the push, yet again, for more giving for the “quota” (MMF / Parish Share or whatever it is named). These thoughts were sent not only to deanery members but to the diocesan bishop.

First the Plan. We are invited to discover what is the ‘unique selling point’ of our church. There is much about how to attract more people into church and there is, unhappily I feel, a conflation between ‘rejoicing in the generosity of God’ and canvassing the congregation to put more into the collection plate. This is a marketing plan really, overlaid by biblical quotes employed as straplines. The bishop is quoted as saying ‘’ business as usual could well be the death of us’’. He is quite right and yet this is business as usual, the same preoccupation with targets, fundraising and congregational footfall!

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Christian fight for Tax Justice

Christian fight for Tax Justice

We should really be asking ourselves is whether pre-COVID life was ever really normal at all? asks Bryn Lauder of the ECCR https://www.eccr.org.uk/

On the 28th of August 2020, the BBC’s medical editor Fergus Walsh published an article asking the public whether it was “time to move on and get back to normal life?” Now, as I write this blog on the 19th of January 2021, having not left the house for more than an essential shopping trip for a number of weeks, I think it’s safe to say the answer was no.

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Angela Tilby: Fulfilment, or faith and fortitude?

Angela Tilby: Fulfilment, or faith and fortitude?

Most of us are glad to see the back of 2020. It has been a terrible year.

I ONCE heard a college chaplain talking to students about the word “salvation”. He went for a humanistic definition. Salvation, he said, was really a word for fulfilment. It meant that our personal journey of self-discovery was destined to arrive in a good place. Such a definition tuned well with what were then current expectations about the inevitability of personal and social progress. Life is a journey. Things get better. It even echoed the “inalienable rights” enshrined in the American Declaration of Independence: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

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How can  Church of England historic buildings survive?  asks Simon Jenkins as Bishop warns of closures

How can Church of England historic buildings survive? asks Simon Jenkins as Bishop warns of closures

Congregations have shown great adaptability in the pandemic, and churches could again be at the heart of British life

We all know the future. It is online, home delivery, click and collect, view on demand. It is goodbye high street; farewell butcher, baker and Bricklayer’s Arms. But is it also goodbye church?

Normally Christmas is bumper season, not just for toyshops and turkey farmers. Three times more Britons – 2.3 million – go to church on Christmas Day than on any normal Sunday. Families who never attend parish church all year don their Sunday best and troop to a carol service. Teenagers party before midnight mass. It is churchgoing’s Black Friday.

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Justice around the world: building back better for all

Justice around the world: building back better for all

Tatiana Garavito explains why collective action during the pandemic demonstrates how we can build back better for all.

This year, our movements and communities demonstrated that we can and will do things differently.

“To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness." ― Howard Zinn, A Power Governments Cannot Suppress, 2007

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Standing Still, Moving the World: Richard Rohr

Standing Still, Moving the World: Richard Rohr

many of us don’t have a fixed place to stand

Give me a place to stand, and I will move the whole earth with a lever. —Archimedes

Archimedes (c. 287–c. 212 BCE), a Greek philosopher and mathematician, noticed that if a lever was balanced in the correct place, on the correct fulcrum, it could move proportionally much greater weights than the force actually applied. He calculated that if the lever stretched far enough and the fulcrum point remained fixed close to Earth, even a small weight at one end would be able to move the world at the other.

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O come, all ye faithless: Boyd Tonkin (UnHerd)

O come, all ye faithless: Boyd Tonkin (UnHerd)

“friend, fellow traveller, and agnostic supporter of the Christian faith” (Rutter) - The drive to create sacred music isn't always born of unswerving belief

“I owe Christianity a huge debt,” the best-loved living composer of Christmas music said. “And it is rather ungrateful of me not to believe in it more.” John Rutter’s sweetly singable modern carols, anthems and large-scale choral works have filled churches and halls around the world since the late 1970s. The New York Times even dubbed him, a little impiously, “the composer who owns Christmas”.

Yet the choirs’, and congregations’, favourite describes himself only as “friend, fellow traveller, and agnostic supporter of the Christian faith”. He has problems with God as a controlling deity: “a bit like a Mafia don who is capable of doing good and charitable things, but also almost takes pleasure in doing malicious and harmful things”. Covid-19 might surely count as one of those mafioso stunts. Undaunted, the tireless and selfless Rutter has just written a new seasonal piece, Joseph’s Carol, in honour of the scientists who worked on the Oxford vaccine. It premiered in Oxford’s Sheldonian Theatre last Friday.

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What Shall We Give Birth to this Christmas? - a Meditation by Matthew Fox

What Shall We Give Birth to this Christmas? - a Meditation by Matthew Fox

I would like to see us give birth to a new normal.

Our recent meditations have considered meanings of advent and Christmas. How Advent can be our awakening more fully, our becoming more present to the deepest parts of ourselves, our values and our silence, our hopes and our fears, our joy and our passion for making justice, healing and compassion happen. To love therefore.

We have also considered how not only are we re-born on Christmas more fully as “other Christs,” but we are ourselves are called to be birthers of the Christ (or Buddha Nature or Image of God) in a special way in this season. We are called to do what Mary did in our time, culture and historical moment.

So it seems right to ask the question: What is this Christ (Buddha, Image of God) we are choosing to birth into our hurting world at this time of solstice, darkness and silence? I invite the reader to ask yourself that question.

I will attempt my partial answer to the question here.

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Why Britain can only blame itself for Boris's Brexit disaster: by Clifford Longley

Why Britain can only blame itself for Boris's Brexit disaster: by Clifford Longley

Brexit Anglo-Saxon free market philosophy V E.U. Catholic Social Teaching

There is the view on the right of Anglo-Saxon politics that market forces are the only real engine of economic growth /the EU single market. It may be “single” but it is also heavily regulated. Indeed, there is more than a trace of Catholic Social Teaching in this philosophy

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In the footsteps of the people’s Pope:  by Angus Ritchie

In the footsteps of the people’s Pope: by Angus Ritchie

An Anglican priest working in London’s East End reflects on the vision Francis sketches out in Let Us Dream

THERE IS only a Westminster because there was once also an Eastminster. The Abbey of St Mary Graces was founded by Edward III in 1350. Dissolved in 1539, its shrine has been restored inside the local Catholic Church of the English Martyrs, in the parish of Tower Hill.

The streets around this church in east London contain stark contrasts of wealth and status. At the height of the pandemic, Pope Francis spoke of the “ordinary people – often forgotten people” who were “in these very days writing the decisive events of our time”. Coronavirus was revealing how our common life was sustained by “doctors, nurses, supermarket employees, cleaners, care givers, providers of transport, law and order forces …”. These are all well represented in Eastminster today.

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Independent academic research of Clergy Discipline Measure

Independent academic research of Clergy Discipline Measure

Independent academic research of Clergy Discipline Measure commissioned by Sheldon and conducted by Aston University in collaboration with Sheldon

This paper prepared by Dr Sarah Horsman MB ChB, Warden of Sheldon, July 2020 in collaboration with Aston University Research Team including Dr Carl Senior FBPsP and Dr Alena Nash.

This is the first ever empirical analysis of the lived experience of the Clergy Discipline Measure.

Read report here:

Emerging research findings on cdm

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Richard Holloway, 'Stories We Tell Ourselves', Canongate Books, (2020) - a review by Ben Whitney

Richard Holloway, 'Stories We Tell Ourselves', Canongate Books, (2020) - a review by Ben Whitney

in many churches it is considered too risky to encourage people to think about what they believe

‘Christianity’ is clearly a spectrum, and we might always be better to speak of ‘Christianities’. On a scale from literalist/evangelical to radical/humanist, the former Bishop of Edinburgh and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church is just slightly more orthodox than I am, but not much! He is ‘a Christian without God’, as he says at the end of this thrilling book. But he has not yet ‘returned the ticket’. Mine is sitting on the mantelpiece and might yet end up in the fire! Apart from his earliest work, which he now recants, anything by Holloway is always well worth a read and I still return to ‘Doubts and Loves’ (2001) on a regular basis. It’s a brilliant exploration of how to hold onto some kind of faith when so much makes me want to abandon it entirely.

His ‘mission’ is to make the Jesus story believable in the modern world. It is an urgent task, far more important than fancy flow diagrams and lists of allegedly innovative strategies. Dare I say, even more important than the endless sexuality debate. It’s the message, not the medium, which needs to be addressed.

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Living in Love and Faith, a reflection by Adrian Thatcher

Living in Love and Faith, a reflection by Adrian Thatcher

The final text tries hard to maintain a balance when discussing the many difficult questions.

LLF is framed in such a way as to offer the possibility of, and hope for, greater agreement between the sharply divided factions within the Church of England, based on the six Pastoral Principles for Living Well Together (4-5). The prior question is whether the framework provided in and by the book can do this. Unfortunately, I don’t think it can, for at least three broad reasons.

Read full article here:

Living in Love and Faith review Adrian Thatcher

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How Quakers are championing democracy

How Quakers are championing democracy

Recent government initiatives are making it more difficult for campaigning voices from faith and other groups to be heard.

Recent government initiatives are making it more difficult for campaigning voices from faith and other groups to be heard. Grace Da Costa explores the impact of this chilling effect on civil society, and shares what Quakers are doing to counteract it.

Quakers are known for their witness: living out their faith through action. Sometimes this action takes the form of campaigning and protesting. Our freedom to do these things is being threatened, but Quakers in Britain and other concerned groups are working together to do something about it.

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We don’t need more spreadsheet vicars - by Giles Fraser writing in UnHerd

We don’t need more spreadsheet vicars - by Giles Fraser writing in UnHerd

If the Church of England is going to die, I wish it would prepare to do so with a bit more Christian dignity

“It is only through enforced standardization of methods, enforced adoption of the best implements and working conditions, and enforced cooperation that this faster work can be assured. And the duty of enforcing the adoption of standards and enforcing this cooperation rests with the management alone.”

With these words from Frederick Winslow Taylor, the so-called science of management consultancy came into being. And an era of misery began for those on the receiving end. In time, the language softened, the management gurus discovered technology and a smarter bedside manner, but the principles remained roughly the same.

Perhaps it is my inner Marxist struggling to get out – Gramsci said Taylorism inevitably gave rise to thoughts of revolution – but I was reminded of Taylor’s guiding principles as I looked through the recent directive from head office, outlining the new thinking on the organisational structures of the Church of England. The report is a series of impenetrable soul-sapping flow charts and space-ship style infographics that make those graphic medieval explanations of the trinity look like child’s play. It’s a powerpoint friendly “Vision of the Church of England in the 2020’s”. It seems the bishops have had the management consultants in. And the result is thoroughly depressing.

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