Recent Blogs

Chasing our tales – Richard Holloway review by  Piers Plowright in The Tablet

Chasing our tales – Richard Holloway review by Piers Plowright in The Tablet

“Making Meaning in a Meaningless Universe” - Holloway resigned his bishopric in 2000, declaring himself an “after religious”

Stories We Tell Ourselves RICHARD HOLLOWAY Reading this wise, witty and provocative book, I was haunted by a poem: seventeenth-century Welsh poet and doctor Henry Vaughan’s “Vanity of Spirit”. It begins with a hermit/philosopher, “quite spent with thoughts”, deciding to leave his cell for a bit of fresh air and lie down beside a small spring of water. Here he examines the natural world to see if he can get any of the great answers. He can’t, but “having pass’d / Through all the creatures came at last / To search myself, where I did find / Traces and sounds of a strange kind”. Richard Holloway, former Bishop of Edinburgh and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, is on the same journey in his latest book. Its subtitle is “Making Meaning in a Meaningless Universe”. And his path is shaped by examining the stories humans have told and tell themselves to find that meaning. Religious, mystical, scientific, psychological.

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PCN Newsletter 2nd July 2020

PCN Newsletter 2nd July 2020

Launch of our PCN films I am delighted to let all PCN members know that the five short films commissioned by PCN are now available for you to see! You can access the films by using this website address : https://madeofstories.uk

Alongside the films you will find questions for discussion which groups might want to use, alongside resources such as relevant websites and further reading to encourage you to explore the issues raised by the films in more depth. Thanks to the generosity of PCN members, you are the first to see these films which will be promoted more widely in the coming weeks. Please feel free to let others know of the website link. We do want the films to be viewed by a wide audience! We will shortly have a page on our own PCN website where you can discuss online the films and we would value hearing from you about further resources which you think can be added. The films will also be linked to our Facebook page for those of you who use that particular social media platform for discussion and comment. Made of Stories marks the beginning of our adventures into the film media and we hope that further films might follow. We shall also be working alongside the Student Christian Movement (SCM) in promoting the films to a young audience. We hope the films might be shown and their content discussed by our many PCN groups. Convenors can request a discussion booklet about the stories if the group intends to use the films in its meetings on Zoom or in any other way. Contact me to request a booklet. Finally, we are indebted to the people who volunteered to tell their story and to Shortform, the media company in Manchester, who have produced such professionally executed short films. Adrian Alker

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A Blessing for a Meeting on Zoom

A Blessing for a Meeting on Zoom

The waving hand, our ecstatic benediction

In the place where eye contact is impossible The silent lexicon of non-verbal cues extinct May this not be the crowd without the wisdom Despite our isolation, our social distance May we give thanks for this awkward digital blessing May we be admitted, May we not be muted May our distorted sound and scrambled words Finally align, May they catch up with our pixelated vision May travelling this unfamiliar landscape Neither lose us, nor completely exhaust us And may our bandwidth always find room For patience, gentleness and the peace that bypasses misunderstanding May every meeting open and close with a poem, A joke or a steadying moment of silence Some brief transfiguration in time, to remind us Of who we were, before all this, And who we may be again May our agenda always be kindness, The waving hand, our ecstatic benediction And may there never be any other business, For ever and ever. Amen Martin Wroe Sent in by Paul Haines, Come-to-Good Local Meeting (from An Krenner Kernewek - The Cornish Friend)
Religious, but not Spiritual

Religious, but not Spiritual

The link between Autism and progressive Christianity

If I had to encapsulate my religious outlook in one sentence, I would invert the oft-cited phrase ‘spiritual, but not religious’ and instead say I am ‘religious, but not spiritual’. I have always had a deep-seated interest in religion, and I love the traditions, community and way of life which Christianity provides. Yet I have always struggled with the supernatural aspects of the faith; I could never grasp the concept of communicating with a God ‘up there’ while humans were ‘down here’. I bounced from church to church, all over the theological spectrum, hoping to finally achieve the ‘personal relationship with Jesus’ everyone else seemed to enjoy.

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The World Post Covid – Climate Change - Adrian Alker, PCN Chair

The World Post Covid – Climate Change - Adrian Alker, PCN Chair

Environmentalists around the world are warning that we cannot afford a carbon rebound

PCN members have been sharing their hopes for our world and our society after we have come through this current pandemic. I have already highlighted two issues which have been raised – the attraction of a universal basic income and the need to value much more the key workers in our country, be it in hospitals and care homes, our supermarket staff, office cleaners, refuse collectors and many others.

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PCN Newsletter 18th June 2020

PCN Newsletter 18th June 2020

The World Post Covid PCN members have been sharing their hopes for our world and our society after we have come through this current pandemic. I have already highlighted two issues which have been raised – the attraction of a universal basic income and the need to value much more the key workers in our country, be it in hospitals and care homes, our supermarket staff, office cleaners, refuse collectors and many others.

But there was another very common hope for the future and that is to treat climate change with the same urgency as tackling the coronavirus. Members have emailed about the need for sustained action, for businesses and organisations to be more environmentally focussed in their work. Working from home has reduced travel and hence car emissions. Our skies are clearer, pollution reduced. Will we, can we, learn lessons from this lockdown? Christine and I live on one of the busiest arterial roads into Sheffield, a major bus route with polluting diesel transport emitting fumes as children go along the road to their schools. For the past three months the road has been quieter and when I go into the back garden I hear the birdsong clearer than ever before. Of course life will inevitably return to normal but hopefully this experience will have built up the pressing case for hybrid/electric vehicles, for more people getting on those bikes or even walking to work. What can we do at PCN about the huge challenge of climate change? We can always plan our meetings at venues which can be accessed by public transport; we can work with other organisations in lobbying government, we can disseminate information about events and resources. Members of churches can be proactive at encouraging places of worship to be eco- churches. And we have produced a film, Holly’s Story about her passion for climate action, one of the five PCN films to be released in July. There are other issues which members have raised as we seek to build a better world and in future newsletters I hope to refer to them. But do keep sending us your thoughts and hopes for a better world for us and our children and grandchildren. Adrian Alker

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Pride, prejudice, and the global pandemic

Pride, prejudice, and the global pandemic

The Gay Elders Video Series: A Conversation with Andrew Harvey and Carolyn Baker

Carolyn Baker’s mission is to create islands of sanity in a sea of global chaos. This mission necessitates the development of a variety of emotional tools alongside commitment to spiritual transformation. Through her multi-faceted outreach via webinars, podcasts, live workshops, books, and articles, as well as one-on-one life coaching, Carolyn is touching the lives of thousands to assist them in preparing for the dire consequences of the collapse of industrial civilization and abrupt climate change. Carolyn and Andrew have co-authored three best-selling books, Return to Joy, Savage Grace, and Saving Animals from Ourselves. Visit carolynbaker.net for more details. www.andrewharvey.net/pride
Black Lives Matter and Progressive Christianity - Adrian Alker

Black Lives Matter and Progressive Christianity - Adrian Alker

‘progressive Christianity’ should be considered tautologous...how could a follower of Jesus Christ, not be considered to be progressive

The philosopher Julian Baggini, speaking at our PCN conference in 2019, suggested that the notion of ‘progressive Christianity’ should be considered tautologous. How could an advocate of Christianity, a follower of Jesus Christ, not be considered to be progressive, if by that term we mean the advancement of humankind be it in social, economic, health and welfare terms? It should be a no-brainer that Christians seek to work for a world in which each human being is as valued, loved, respected as every other. A world of equal opportunities, equal possibilities. The reason why PCN exists is that the term ‘progressive Christianity’ should, yes, be tautologous but might at times seem more like an oxymoron, which is possibly the view of many philosophers, sceptics and many sections of society. For it is doubtlessly true that over the two thousand years of Christian history, much has been done and said by the Church which diminishes rather than advances the lives of human beings. As the life and teachings of the carpenter from Galilee became subsumed under the weight of the teachings of the established church, it became more questionable whether the church and its professed Christianity was a force for good or ill.

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PCN Newsletter 4th June 2020

PCN Newsletter 4th June 2020

In our eleventh newsletter Adrian gives news of our film project.

During this pandemic, especially during the time of lockdown, most of us will have watched on our TV’s or tablets more programmes, films, box sets than ever before. 98% of all households possess a television and in some homes there will be numerous i pads, lap tops and mobiles. When I was a boy in the 1950’s there was just one TV channel, in black and white, when Watch with Mother (!) meant settling down to Muffin the Mule or the Woodentops. Contrast that to today when my 5 year old grandson has two controls in his hand, one negotiating the Amazon firestick and the other scrolling through a myriad of catch-up children's programmes.

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PCN members have told PCN Chair that we need to value all workers

PCN members have told PCN Chair that we need to value all workers

the average hourly wage for many care staff is £8.10... One in four social care workers are on zero-hours contracts

My working life as a parish priest meant that I was familiar with care and nursing homes, seeing individual residents, sharing communion services, enjoying a Christmas carol sing. But a few months ago I saw a care home in a different light – my mother at the age of 102 went into care. She is a healthy centenarian with a sound memory and a love of people and for the last six years, after giving up her own home at the age of 96 to live with us, we have looked after her needs. By last December we all decided that mum would be safer in full time care because she was too vulnerable to leave alone for any length of time- she could have fallen, there could be an unwanted visitor at the door and so on. Many readers of this newsletter will have had similar experiences in their families.

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PCN Newsletter 28th May

PCN Newsletter 28th May

In our tenth newsletter we hear from Adrian Alker about the need to value all key workers.

My working life as a parish priest meant that I was familiar with care and nursing homes, seeing individual residents, sharing communion services, enjoying a Christmas carol sing. But a few months ago I saw a care home in a different light – my mother at the age of 102 went into care. She is a healthy centenarian with a sound memory and a love of people and for the last six years, after giving up her own home at the age of 96 to live with us, we have looked after her needs. By last December we all decided that mum would be safer in full time care because she was too vulnerable to leave alone for any length of time- she could have fallen, there could be an unwanted visitor at the door and so on. Many readers of this newsletter will have had similar experiences in their families.

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PCN Newsletter 21st May

PCN Newsletter 21st May

This is the ninth is our series of lockdown newsletters

Marcus Borg Memorial Conference – Postponement to 2021 PCN members and friends will know that we had planned our fifth conference in honour of Marcus Borg to be held in Birmingham in October in association wit the Church at Carrs Lane. We had invited Revd Deshna Shine to lead our day and plans were well in hand. Deshna is the Executive Director of the Progressive Christian movement in the USA. It is now clear that it will be some considerable time before we all feel safe to attend conferences and Deshna has agreed to lead the conference in the autumn of 2021, when we do hope a vaccine will have been discovered and be universally available.

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A call to discover divine mystery by Dostoyevsky

A call to discover divine mystery by Dostoyevsky

You will perceive The divine mystery in things

The whole of it and every grain of sand Love every leaf Every ray of God's light Love the animals Love the plants Love everything If you love everything You will perceive The divine mystery in things And once you have perceived it You will begin to comprehend it ceaselessly More and more everyday And you will at last come to love the whole world With an abiding universal love - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Did God send Covid-19 and should we even ask that question? by John Wijngaards

Did God send Covid-19 and should we even ask that question? by John Wijngaards

Most Christians I am sure will reject this image of the Tyrant God - John Wijngaards - professor (emeritus)

John Wijngaards writing in The Tablet says: This reflection of mine will not dwell on the coronavirus – though my thoughts were sparked by a sermon on the pandemic by a Pentecostal preacher I watched on TV. Thumping the pulpit he shouted: “You ask why? Why indeed! God is chastising us for our sins! Don’t we read in Genesis 6,5 that God sent the Deluge because ‘the Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become’?!” Most Christians I am sure will reject this image of the Tyrant God, the difficult-to-please Disciplinarian, the all-seeing Eye, the strict Master who expects perfection from everyone and unleashes disaster to punish us. But is the Testing God much better? He allowed Job to endure crippling hardships, including the death of all his children and grandchildren. He inflicts pain and suffering on people to give them a chance to gain merit, as the apostle of the devotion to the Sacred Heart, Sister Margaret Mary Alacoque, believed. Or what about the Partisan God, the God who spares us if we know how to invoke his/her pity, if we plead with tears in our eyes? It reminds me of a college student I knew whose father died of cancer in his forties. “I begged God”, she told me. “I spent hours in church on bare knees. I cried. I implored God to save my dad, for the sake of mum and my four brothers and sisters. No use. He is dead.” And then she added. “I will never go to church again.”

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Universal Basic Income? - Chair Adrian Alker invites your views on post Covid society

Universal Basic Income? - Chair Adrian Alker invites your views on post Covid society

What changes do we want to see in our country as a result of this awful experience of the coronavirus?

This was the invitation I gave to PCN members in the fifth of our weekly newsletters, back on April 23rd. Already we have received nineteen emails in response and we hope others may wish to take up the invitation to reflect upon what we are learning about our economy, our workforce, our environment, our priorities as a nation. I thought I would try to highlight in the coming weeks some of the wished-for changes which members have written about. So here is one possible change!

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Of the value of life

Of the value of life

I May Be Dead, But I Will Not Have Gone

My last breath will have been given to the air around me, So look for me in the still air of morning, And in the rushing winds of the afternoon. My body will have returned its borrowed substance to the world around us, So look for me in the growing grass And the swaying of the woodland trees. My genes are only borrowed from the generations before me, So look for me in the countenances of my children, And the happy smiles of my grandchildren. The waters of my body will have been returned to the atmosphere, So look for me in the magnificent clouds of the day-time And in the radiant skies of the sunset. My love was given to me by my parents, So look for me in the love I have given you And in the love you give to your children. My thoughts I have always shared with those who cared to listen, So look for me where other folk now run their courses And may change the world just a little. From the stuff of stars came the atoms that made me, To the stuff of stars they will eventually return. I may be dead, But I will not have gone. Patrick Coleman* Now a Member of Truro Meeting, Patrick was for many years a Member at Liskeard and the original editor of The Fountain.

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