Recent Blogs

“poorer fifth of society, .. most at risk when an epidemic strikes” Clifford Longley, The Tablet

“poorer fifth of society, .. most at risk when an epidemic strikes” Clifford Longley, The Tablet

Covid 19 exposes the fundamental moral weaknesses in the way modern society functions

In the public debate about the coronavirus pandemic…it is being pointed out that this deadly germ seems to have the peculiar ability to expose the fundamental moral weaknesses in the way modern society functions. And to indicate the way that these weaknesses ought to be dealt with; indeed, to recall society to higher moral standards and a change of values.

For instance, to abandon the worship of Mammon, which lies at the heart of contemporary capitalism. Mammon worship is known there as maximisation of shareholder value, both by dividends and by share price, and it has become the obsessive preoccupation of the entire finance industry.

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PCN Newsletter 2nd April 2020

PCN Newsletter 2nd April 2020

This is the second of the weekly newsletters from PCN Britain.

At times of stress and anxiety, when there seems to be a multiplicity of voices offering advice, warning or explanation, I find a great deal of solace and inspiration in poetry and I know many other people do too. Recently there has been a poem read each morning on Radio 4’s Today programme and various initiatives have arisen for sharing poems on line.

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PCN Newsletter 26th March 2020

PCN Newsletter 26th March 2020

This is the first in a series of newsletters from PCN Britain.

The spread of the coronavirus has meant that we have all had to face restrictions, on our friendship gatherings, our social life, our work, our journeys, our contact with close family. For PCN, as you know, it has meant the cancellation of meetings and conferences.

HOWEVER our friendships have not been quarantined and we can communicate with each other by email, telephone, SKYPE, social media and the good old letter! And so we have decided to make a virtue out of necessity, to find that silver lining, by sending you (if you are happy to receive this) a regular email containing a rich variety of thoughts, stories, musings, even theological debate! And we hope you will contribute by responding with your comments, opinions, articles, light-hearted and serious, via the dedicated page of our website, our Facebook page and other ways. Some of the PCN trustees will regularly offer ideas, perhaps a poem here, a book review there. Let’s turn the enforced inactivity into an active exchange of ideas. And lets also support those who do contract this virus and need our love and friendship.

So……here is my little reflection on today…….

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Thoughts on online meeting for worship by Tim Gee

Thoughts on online meeting for worship by Tim Gee

Self-isolating and unable to get to a Quaker meeting in person, Tim Gee shares some thoughts on joining his first online meeting for worship.

This week I attended my first ever online meeting for worship. To my slight surprise it was a warm and spirited experience.

In line with the government’s advice for those with a cough or temperature to stay home, I’d been in self-isolation since the middle of the week. I sent my apologies to Quaker Friends saying I wouldn’t be at meeting. When it emerged that meeting in person might not work for others either, we decided to try meeting for worship online.

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Virtual Meeting for Worship - togetherness while apart

Virtual Meeting for Worship - togetherness while apart

Zoom - conferencing - options for meeting in social isolation

From the Advices and Queries used in Worship in the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)

Advices and Queries number 10:

Come regularly to meeting for worship even when you are angry, depressed, tired or spiritually cold. In the silence ask for and accept the prayerful support of others joined with you in worship. Try to find a spiritual wholeness which encompasses suffering as well as thankfulness and joy. Prayer, springing from a deep place in the heart, may bring healing and unity as nothing else can. Let meeting for worship nourish your whole life.

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Matthew Fox - “Aquinas is a teacher of how we become prophetic”

Matthew Fox - “Aquinas is a teacher of how we become prophetic”

Bultmann’s whole theological enterprise has one great mistake from which all others emanate

In the twentieth century biblical scholar Krister Stendahl criticized theologian Rudolf Bultman and the entire theological enterprise of his time for his anthropocentrism when he observed: We [Christians] happen to be more interested in ourselves than in God or in the fate of his creation….Bultmann’s whole theological enterprise has one great mistake from which all others emanate: he takes for granted that basically the centre of gravity—the centre form which all interpretations springs—is anthropology, the doctrine of man.

This narcissism in religion helps explain the climate emergency we are currently facing as well as much of the exodus from organized religion today. In contrast, Aquinas’s view of the world is cosmological and therefore prophetic for our times for it interferes with the anthropocentrism of the modern era that is so manifest in religion as well as in politics, education, economics and the rest of culture.

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The Subversive Message of the Christian Nativity

The Subversive Message of the Christian Nativity

The entire story turns the values of our modern world upside down..(by George Wolfe PCN on December 1, 2019)

This is the time of year we hear those beloved Christmas Carols. And if you come from a Christian family like me, you delight in watching children participate in re-enactments of the nativity story from the Gospel of Luke. We re-create the pastoral scene of the shepherds, “keeping watch over their flock by night” (Luke 2:8) to whom appeared a multitude of angels announcing the birth of a Savior. But these portrayals of the Nativity are highly romanticized and omit the underlying theme of struggle that is found throughout the story.

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Radical R.C.Benedictine from  USA writes “I’d be skeptical if I were you”

Radical R.C.Benedictine from USA writes “I’d be skeptical if I were you”

"we spread out our cloaks before whomever it is who feeds our fantasies with the certainty that they are about to pull our White Rabbit out of the voting machine" -

Reading Sr Jioan Chittister in the National Catholic Reporter it looks like politics in USA and Britain are on the same trajectory.

Joan writes:- George Will, veteran journalist and social analyst, intoned in his avuncular way, “The strongest continuous thread in America’s political tradition is skepticism.” While looking for virtues suitable to a country in political and social disarray, I couldn’t help but be particularly happy at the thought of nominating skepticism as the electoral foundation of the future.

Why? Because I hope he’s right. Without skepticism, democracy is dead. Then there’s nothing but monarchy, tyranny and autocracy left.

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‘The Christmas Story Re-visited’

‘The Christmas Story Re-visited’

The Nativity Story is much more than a charming tale for children at Christmas. In the words of Adrian Alker, it is a tale that reminds adults that light can overcome darkness, peace can overcome conflict, humility can overcome power, and life is best founded on love, joy and goodwill.

Everybody knows the story of the birth of Jesus - or at least they did once upon a time. See Luke, Chapter 2: vs 1-12.

Luke tells us that Joseph, who lived in Nazareth, had to go to Bethlehem. He was of the house and line of David, and Bethlehem was David’s town: a place where it was prophesied that a future ‘Messiah’ would be born.

Luke says that “Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph”, but the New Bible Commentary, 21st Century Edition says that Mary and Joseph would have already been married, and the reference to Mary being “pledged to be married” should be interpreted as indicating that the “marriage was not yet consummated”.

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Visit of Letlapa Mphahlele

Visit of Letlapa Mphahlele

“Is there an inclusive narrative, a story of our Shared Humanity, which can bring us together as human beings, beyond all our attachments of nationality, religion, language and culture? While maintaining the riches of our own identity groups is it even realistic to think there is an embracing vision we can all buy into? Or are we destined to largely engage in a multitude of ‘them and us’ agendas?”

This was the underlying theme that was explored during 26 events in three universities, six school Sixth Forms, a variety of other public events and more private occasions, by Letlapa Mphahlele and Howard Grace during the month of October 2019. Fifteen towns and cities were visited: Oxford, Faringdon, Reading, Thatcham, Coventry, Birmingham, Sheffield, Nottingham, Middlesbrough, Newcastle, Carlisle,Liverpool, Bournemouth and London. Based from my home in Newbury, we travelled about 1,600 miles in total.

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Hildegard of Bingen and Jesus on Living a Green Life  by Mark Longhurst

Hildegard of Bingen and Jesus on Living a Green Life by Mark Longhurst

Hildegard’s genius is to introduce the language of the living natural world into the often fixed corridors of religion, so that God, the world, and humanity are never unchanging, but always emerging, always sprouting seeds of new possibilities, always evolving, always greening.

There’s a concept in particular that ebbs and flows throughout Hildegard’s writings: greenness, or, in Latin, viriditas….it sums up the essence of Hildegard’s theology, because for Hildegard, the whole universe is “green.” It’s alive, ecological, more of a verb than a noun. The whole universe is, as it were, pulsing with divine essence, sustained by Spirit’s evolving life-energy. God and the universe are greening.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Spoke in Hitler’s Wheel?..Roger E. Olson

Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Spoke in Hitler’s Wheel?..Roger E. Olson

Has the Church merely to gather up those whom the wheel has crushed or has she to prevent the wheel from crushing them?”

In the chapter entitled “’Personal’ and ‘Real’ Ethos” Bonhoeffer debates another German Christian ethicist named Otto Dilschneider who, in Die evangelische Tat (1940) argued that “Protestant ethics is concerned with man’s personality alone.” (316) In contrast and contradiction Bonhoeffer responded with several rhetorical questions put to Dilschneider and those who agreed with him. (Nobody knows the exact date of this essay by Bonhoeffer but it had to be between 1940 and 1944.) Here is Bonhoeffer’s response:

“The question here is whether within the field of Christian ethics any assertions may be made with regard to worldly institutions and conditions, e.g., the state, economics or science, i.e., whether Christian ethics has an interest in worldly institutions and conditions or whether these things fall within ‘the zone of the demands of ethical imperatives.’ In other words, is it the Church’s sole task to practice love and charity within the given worldly institutions, i.e., to inspire these institutions so far as possible with a new outlook, to mitigate hardships, to care for the victims of these institutions, and to establish a new order of her own within the congregation? Or is the Church charged with a mission towards the given worldly orders themselves, a mission of correction, improvement, etc., a mission to work towards a new worldly order? Has the Church merely to gather up those whom the wheel has crushed or has she to prevent the wheel from crushing them?” (316-317) (Italics added.)

read full Pathos article at

Prison reformer Sr. Helen Prejean’s book - ‘River of Fire’ - review by Daniel P. Horan

Prison reformer Sr. Helen Prejean’s book - ‘River of Fire’ - review by Daniel P. Horan

Sr. Helen Prejean is known the world over for her commitment to social justice, particularly for her ministry to and advocacy on behalf of those incarcerated and sentenced to die. Her ministry has garnered attention and has helped to shape public sentiment about the injustice of the death penalty, especially among Catholics. But how did she become filled with that prophetic fire and righteous passion for which she is known today?

Her new memoir, River of Fire: My Spiritual Journey, chronicles the path from pre-conciliar nun to modern-day voice of conscience. This book (her third) ends where her first, Dead Man Walking, begins. It is the story behind the story — how the devout schoolteacher and aspiring mystic grew into her vocation, which took her behind bars and into the world of America’s inhumane pseudo-justice system in order to bring the compassionate face of Christ to those least sympathetic in our society.

Reading the book, I was reminded of the famous passage in the Letter of James, which tells us starkly that: “faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17). I believe this is the constant refrain of Sister Helen’s story.

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Interspiritual Mysticism - Richard Rohr - Center for Action and Contemplation - reflects on the work of Dom Bede Griffiths

Interspiritual Mysticism - Richard Rohr - Center for Action and Contemplation - reflects on the work of Dom Bede Griffiths

A meditation for the Feast of the Transfiguration - Tuesday, August 6, 2019 Anniversary of the Bombing of Hiroshima

Dom Bede Griffiths (1906–1993) was born in Britain and lived the latter decades of his life in India. Some of our Living School students have been deeply moved by studying his work which sought to make connections between Christianity and Hinduism. It has not diminished but rather expanded their faith. Robert Ellsberg describes Griffiths’ journey to God through both Western and Eastern spirituality:

In his old age [Griffiths] looked every bit the part of an Indian holy man—with long beard, flowing white hair, and saffron robe. But while he felt equally at home in the [Hindu] Vedas and Upanishads as in the Christian Scriptures, he remained thoroughly rooted in the church. He had come to the point where all religions, indeed all creation, spoke to him of Christ. . . . [A theme I explore in my book The Universal Christ.]

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Maggie Fergusson writing in The Tablet comments on Richard Holloway’s loss of faith

Maggie Fergusson writing in The Tablet comments on Richard Holloway’s loss of faith

Missing God: the former bishop who lost his faith still hears the faint whisper of the transcendent

Missing God: the former bishop who lost his faith still hears the faint whisper of the transcendent

If you are married to a book dealer, you try to keep your shelves as clear as ­possible, holding on only to those ­volumes you feel you can hardly live without. One such, for me, has been Richard Holloway’s Leaving Alexandria, published in 2012, and tracing his development from a boy who hoped to devote his life to God, to his disenchantment with a Church whose rules seemed to him not just wrong-headed but cruel, and his consequent resignation as Bishop of Edinburgh and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church in 2000.

What Holloway conveys is not a progression from faith to triumphal, Dawkins-style ­atheism, but a painful sense of failure and regret: he no longer believes in God, yet he misses him, and has let him down. This is the most plangent and thought-provoking memoir I have ever read.

Holloway is now 85, tall, courteous and warm, his mind still sharp. He is working on a book called Stories We Tell Ourselves, “propelled by a kind of fatigue at the way religion and politics are constantly just shouting at each other, and a failure to admit that our ideas are intrinsically varied and ­unsettlable – so why can’t we live with that gorgeous variety? Unless our stories make us cruel and violent, why can’t we just tell them?” He’s due to deliver to his publisher, Canongate, next April, and in the meantime he’s happy to look back and chat about Leaving Alexandria.

I’ve never, I tell him, seen a book get more rapturous reviews. But, for Holloway, what were most poignant were the 500-odd letters he received from priests – some Catholics, some bishops – telling him that this was “their story. That’s the most moving thing about being a writer – getting letters from people who feel less lonely for having read you.” He has, he says, “a strong affection for broken priests”.

“An autobiography,” Holloway says, “can be quite self-serving. Whereas a memoir is a piece of self-discovery – a piece of personal archaeology, self-examination, confession if you like. It’s a kind of delving into one’s own story to try to make sense of it, because I think – and maybe this is more true of men than women – a lot of us don’t really know ourselves. And it would be a tragedy to die not knowing who you are.”

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