Archives May 2009

Sermon: Pentecost 2009

Equipment: Popcorn and Popcorn Maker

Sometimes the best way to think about something so complex and multilayered as the action of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost is to use a really, really simple analogy.

Here in my hand I have a few small corn kernals: they are closed, tight, hard. You can fit them in a small space.

They remind me of the first disciples: although they had witnessed the resurrection, encountered the risen Christ and seen first hand the power of God, they remained small, frightened, unsure and (literally) dis-spirited.

We place them in a small place, a small upper room (put them in the popper) a room where they might re-enact a meal, a ritual of when he was there.

To these small items, we add something powerful: the word of the Holy Spirit: a mighty wind (turn on the popper) and we begin to see a transformation: we cannot see the Holy Spirit herself, but we can see the action she has on the disciples.

(The corn begins to pop) An explosion of energy! A rapid expansion! Beyond the confines of the upper room and into the world, the disciples are no longer tight, hard, withdrawn, but open, fluffy, delightful!

Some are spread far and wide into the world (making a mess on the altar floor). It transforms the ritual of bread and wine from a simple memorial to a living reinactment – as the Holy Spirit brings Christ present in our midst and the body and blood of Christ feeds the dynamic, living, blown apart world of faith.

My dear friends, the Holy Spirit is here with us today, and can transform you in equally dynamic ways; the Holy Spirit can take that inner hardness, reticence, fear and doubt and help you to be open, fulfilled, released into the world to make a difference.

The Psalmist wrote “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps 34:8)

, for it is through experience, not deduction or logic that we know this to be true. Taste and see my dear friends, and you will know that by the work of the Holy Spirit, we are transformed, we are like those first disciples, we are bursting with the energy and the love of God.

(Eat popcorn) We have tasted, and we know. Come Holy Spirit. Come. Yummy. Amen.



Dear Friends

It is not my role to encourage anyone in this church to vote in one way or another, and I would never wish to.

However, I am aware that certain extremist parties: parties with a single agenda have tried to use the image of Christ in their campaigning.

They have tried to use the faith as a matter of division rather than of unity, and have created capital out of the fear of Islam and have used homophobia and xenophobia as a tool of electioneering.

As a Christian and as a pastor in this community, I feel that this must be condemned.  The advert asks “What would Jesus do?” It would certainly not be to behave like that, it would be to love and to embrace, and not to seek to marginalise or wrap himself falsely in the union flag (another claim which I find offensive as a patriot).

The encouragement I would want to give everyone is that you really should vote. I don’t personally care what you vote for, but in these days where the credibility of politics is at an all-time low, a low turn-out on election day gives greater weight to extremist politics; I know that you might think “Oh, I won’t bother, they’re all such a bunch of liars and cheats”, but apathy is the enemy of faith and of democracy. If a low turnout gives them and those like them a platform, it might serve to further fragment our already fragile democracy into selfish political opportunism, ready to exploit our Saviour for their own ends.

No matter who you vote for, please vote. And let us pray that God’s hand will be in all this.


Dynamic Reading: Matthew 18:1-5,10

First draft. I think I need to tinker a little with the Chromakeying in the middle there. Zoë’s dollies get another starring role along with the statue of the sacred heart in my study. The stopframe itself was produced with an entry-level Nikon D40 digital camera, and made into an animation with the marvellous freeware utility JPG to AVI at which is much more reliable  than using Adobe Flash which crashes all the time. The results of this were great!

Blesséd Gathering

I can’t believe that I have gone so long without uploading this video, a mainstay of Blesséd

Music: Smokebelch Images: Madonna’s Ray of Light – if you look closely, there is a split second where I missed the edit and she appears in a fade-up

Blesséd Daily Prayer – FREE daily text meditations to your phone

blessed_logoFollowing the success of the Blesséd Lenten Journey, I must admit that I had quite missed preparing and sending out those daily reflections, and so I am pleased to be able to continue them, as daily as I can manage and for free.

As before, UK mobile users can go to and subscribe, or non-UK users or those who just prefer it that way can sign up to ‘follow’ BlessedAltW on Twitter. They are sent out usually between 7am and 9am (disasters notwithstanding) by a human being (well, okay, me), and you can sign up/sign out whenever you like. Please share this with whomseoever you wish.


No charge is made, please pray for us. Donations for the ministry of Blesséd may be made on the website.

The curse of the multicoloured stole

Now one thing you can’t accuse me of being is a tat queen. The vestments at STE are simple and functional and, quite frankly, right for a small church with a moderate amount of ritual and a handful of servers, whom we are slowly moving out of albs from the 1950s and into cassocks and cottas.

However, the one thing we most definitely are is correct: the altar frontal and the legillium and the vestments (gothic chasuble for the celebrant – there might be a couple of latins in the vestry, but never worn by a priest of my (ahem) shape; no manuple just to annoy my colleague in the next parish and her cats who appear to like that sort of thing; alb and stole for the concelebrant) are the same colour and right for the season or the celebration.

There is no place therefore on God’s good earth for the multicoloured stole.


These ones, ironically come from the new pseudo-schismatics from AMiA, via the wonderfully perverse Fr. Christian Troll, a blog so worth reading. One of this readers suggested this must comemmorate “Extraordinary Time”, or rather in my view, “lack of liturgical knowledge” time. These are the people who purport to tell us what Anglicanism means, what a Covenant must include (and hence why I will be outside whatever that Covenant promises – I in’t signing nuttin – as they say down Gosport way) and who can be a part of God’s grace, and they can’t even find the right stole in the vestry!

Never will I accept criticism from people who tell me that my inclusivism is contrary to the nature of the Church when these wearers-of-two-different-kinds-of-fabric put on tat like that. There are those who frequently use the word “liberal” as a term of abuse, and yet this is the worst kind of liberality with liturgy and lectionary.

There must be a special circle of hell devoted to the multicoloured stole and the “I don’t know whether it is Christmas or Easter” brigade, although that wouldn’t be so bad as both Christmas and Easter are White/Gold.

The liturgical colours are there to paint a picture for the illiterate, a signpost for the unable, and so what does the multicoloured stole suggest (apart from the sort of sexuality which would put them outside the Gafcon tribe)? That the message is confused and messed.

No, no, no, no, no.

Spare me Lord from the curse of the multicoloured (ok, for you across the pond: multicolored) stole. Spare me now!

Putting things in perspective

Thanks to GraphJam for putting it all in perspective.

Next week I am off to the Christian Resources Exhibition, an all-singing, all-dancing and all-powerful show-fest for companies that want to sell things to Churches. This isn’t bad for getting a set of bibles (hopefully cheaply) or an interesting book or two; but with it comes another more sinister subtext, the same subtext which I sense from copies of the Alpha News and anything I have seen from the Abundant Life Church and its like: that Cultural Domination is both desirable and necessary. These are the people who decry ‘modern times’ and see it all as a battle between Atheists and God-fearing folk on some spiritual and cultural battlefield.

Michael Spencer, the internetmonk reflects on this here and cites a video:

So, get out there and evangelise and have babies. Oh dear. This is not about a battle, this is not about ‘culture’.

“When I hear the word ‘culture’, I reach for my gun”

(Johst, although usually attributed to Goering)

Didn’t the man say:

“My kingdom is not of this world”

John 18:36

Those who believe in a Christian Culture have bought into a non-biblical world view, and a post-Constantine secularisation of the kingdom which brings no honour to the Gospel but is used to push a political agenda which seeks to revile, to undermine, to detract from the teachings of Christ. All of this preoccupation with sex and sexuality is really about money and power; all this posturing over women bishops is about control and influence and none of it has anything to do with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Lord and Saviour.

The man turned the tables (over) on those who sought to make faith a marketplace. Those who want to force a covenant upon us are seeking to exert power which comes not from on high but from the deep shameful recessess of avarice and greed. I don’t want to be made to sign a covenant, because I signed up to a baptism, holy orders and the creeds – anything else is man-made.

So when I wander around and come across a booth populated by a man in a gray suit and his wife with one of those distinctive headscarves or a big stand with these cheesy-American style megachurch setups and they are telling us all how ‘Christian culture is under threat’ and ‘muslims are undermining our society’, I can’t help but think that it wasn’t our society or culture in the first place and proper Christianity doesn’t need to be part of that game: the Lord told us that, but the promise of money and power just keeps coming back in to undermine that.


I thought people might like to know where we are at in our next stage of reordering, as soon some more big changes are going to happen inside St. Thomas the Apostle, Elson and I hope and pray some things might happen outside as well.

The faculty for floor levelling, heating and electrics has been granted! The Post Office lost the Faculty Certificate (along with a Common License for Marriage) but the Registrar has replaced those. We are now in the process of commissioning the work whilst we await the delivery of the Infrared Heating Chandeliers:


The heating solution is quite innovative, and I think we are the first in the UK to have this particular chandelier. They deliver 10kW of heat per chandelier, and we are going to have 3 in our small church, each mounted centrally down the Nave and Chancel. Mounting them is almost as expensive as buying them.

At the same time, we need a massive increase in power and cabling. When I arrived at S. Thomas the Apostle there was no amplification, no PA, no hearing loop or anything. Now there are microphones, audiovisual projectors, loops and all sorts of other wires all over the place, and some of them are messy. I want them to be discretely hidden, and using a floor box kindly offered without charge by the nice people at Tass Cable Management the AV supply to the altar will be safe and tidy. I can run a laptop from the altar (and it does sometimes need that) or run audio and AV to the altar (we have a small TV on the altar to see what is on the screen behind me)

The power and conduiting will need to run around the whole of the inside of the church and concentrate power at the AV desk at the back. All of this stuff needs to be slightly lowered to accomodate the new floor level.

Next comes the floor levelling, in sections, done by Tony and Dave and everyone else who is available. This is a phased activity and I hope we can work on them over the rest of this year in between weddings, starting with the Creche area in the South-West quadrant. The technique is quite straightforward and proven, it might be a long job, or it might be quite simple. We will have to see.dsc_0262

By the end of the year we will see a warm, accessible, flexible sacred space which will be something that people will want to see and visit, will find engaging and condusive to worship.

Then we have to build a new font (I am looking forward to talking to people at the CRE exhibition about this, for I have funding) and a new church hall…


Building work can on one level feel like a distraction. It brings you as Priest into spheres which are unfamiliar, complex and at a level of finance beyond my comfort zone (too many zeros!), and it would be easy to see this as not Missional, and yet, everything done in the sacred space and too the sacred space is part of the Mission: by making the building safe and accessible it sharpens the tool of mission and supports the engagement with community which is at the heart of making Christ known in this place. The Church is not the building, but the building can be a drag on the church, and if we create a place where God can be drawn close to, where faith can be supported and nurtured, then all this building, reordering, planning and messing around becomes deeply missional.