Archives May 2011

Easily one of the top 5 pirate stores I have been to recently…

This site is a perfect example of what happens when you leave the lid off the jar for too long: is in reality a front for a US writing project for young people called 826Valencia, but for now it is a Pirate Store, for all things Pirate-y: an awesome collection of silliness which you should wander around; and as it claims, it’s much better than Capt Rick’s.

On their front page, there is a top quote from David Byrne “Easily one of the top five pirate shops I have been to recently” – brilliant!

Further more, they also are the genius behind The Boring Store which emphatically denies having anything to do with Secret Agents, oh no.

I particularly like the ability to print out disguises and send coded messages to other Secret Agents people. Bravo for such unadulterated fun, creativity and silliness.

(apologies for the poor screenshots: I’m having to use my Mac, and as you well know, you can’t really do anything useful with them!)


Pentecost – Dynamic Scripture

A retelling of the Pentecost Story in words and images. Feel free to use as a resource, or as the first reading on Pentecost Sunday

The production video (mpg1 format) can be downloaded from here and select “Acts 2 Pentecost” from the list.

And DID those feet? Why I love the hymn Jerusalem

I personally love the hymn Jerusalem: we sang it at my wedding, and I certainly do not discourage couples from having it at their weddings. Those who do object to it  really havn’t thought about the lyrics. Those who bellow it out over the rugby field or at the Last Night of the Proms have completely missed the plot. Those who believe it is jingoistic simply aren’t listening.

I love Jerusalem because it is the most radical, subversive, challenging and iconoclastic hymn of all, written by a true radical with a Christian Social Conscience. It completely challenges the establishment which believes Jerusalem is their theme tune. Let’s look at the text…

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England’s mountain green?

er… no. Jesus was not an Englishman. The presence of the question mark is the key pointer that it’s not going to be plain sailing in this hymn and it begins with an uncomfortable question, not a statement.

And was the holy Lamb of God
On England’s pleasant pastures seen?

er… no, again. The question further emphasises the first one. Two negatives in a row seems to be emphatic. The alliteration of ‘pleasant pastures’ is particularly pleasing and I believe used in an ironic context, especially when considered in the light of the end of this verse

And did the countenance divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?

Guess what? No. Again. Even the clouded hills have been a little countenance-starved of recent years. This is an allusion to the appearance of YHWH on the mountains of Sinai to Moses (Exodus 34:5; Exodus 40:34). But it happened there, and not in England. Blake is pushing his point now.

And was Jerusalem builded here
Among those dark satanic mills?

Most definitely not. Clearly dark satanic mills are nothing to be celebrated. They are in complete contrast to clouded hills and pleasant pastures and yet so much a part of the (then, before Thatcherism) English landscape. This first verse is therefore not a jingoistic celebration of all-things-English but a critique of that attitude and an indictment of the state of the nation. So things are rotten, what can we do about it…?

Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!

You need the right equipment if you’re going to battle the evil in this world. As a sensualist, Blake clearly felt that passion was important. It’s a God-given grace to be passionate about things, and right to battle against the insipid and the bland.

I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,

The conversion of England is both a spiritual and a practical quest. It is a mental fight, but requires action and possibly even revolution if the denouement of the hymn is to take place. Is Blake calling for fighting in the streets like the Rolling Stones?

Till we have built Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land.

It’s a challenge. It’s not here yet. It looks to a future, with a radical edge.

And, that, my dear friends is why Chris Bryant is completely wrong, both factually and spiritually: Jerusalem is sung often in Church but not for the reasons he thinks, and not for the reasons that many are thinking they are singing. It is a call to radical action, to social change, to Christian revolution and I will continue to have it sung in my Church.

Wikipedia Entry on the Hymn:

Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi – think about what you are singing!

Broken Open

Found on Lesley’s blog, a wonderful poem by Jude Simpson

If your heart yearns for a more it doesn’t know,
if you’ve suffered blow after blow
and can barely dare to lift your head,
if you’ve ever wished you’d rather been –
if you’ve bled, or tried to bind a wound
if you’ve cried then tied a knot to choke
the flow of hope before it can open up
a way to disappoint again
and leave you broken
then this is for you.
If you’ve longed, if you’ve wronged,
if you choke on the words to your favourite song,
if you need a Doctor,
or you’re beyond
medical help
then come.
If you’re cracked, if you’re splintered,
if your Winter is just too long,
if this Winter is just too long,
(but the thought of Spring is terrifying,)
then come.
Because Jesus came
for the broken brother and sister,
the ache, the pain and the blister,
the wrong decision,
the open wound
the blurred vision
the won’t-ever-hope-again.
Jesus came
for the insane, the unfulfilled, the searching
the street child, the tramp and the urchin,
the poor little rich girl snorting coke and
cursing, and the man who sold it to her.
Jesus came for those nursing a need,
nursing a drink
out of control,
on the blink,
on the brink,
falling overboard, and about to –
sobbing at the kitchen sink.
Jesus came for those the world drives mad,
for the bad, yes the bad,
Jesus came for the bad,
so if that’s never been you,
then fine, just go, because
Jesus didn’t come for the well, the swell,
“the hell – I’ve got everything I need”
the nothing’s-lacking, the non-cracking up.
He’s not interested in courting the sorted
he came to fill the cup of the thirsty,
the worst, the broken, the burst open,
Jesus came for the sick.
the packed-up, the cracked-up,
the smashed, hopes dashed, and the picked-on,
the meek, the weak, the stuttering,
those who blush when they speak
and the walked-out-on.
Jesus came for the left behind,
for the cheats and the cheated,
the ones who crossed the line
and the ones who still don’t know where to begin.
Jesus came for the people who know how it feels
when you say “sin”
for the broken to open,
to break for those who choke,
for the people who don’t have everything we need,
for the ones who know we need hope.

© Jude Simpson 2007

There is a place for this poem in some form at the next Blessed…

A short reflection on the #superinjunction

I see that these terrible superinjunctions are now being issued because the news being gagged is ‘defamatory’

Surely, the allegations are only defamatory if they are untrue. If they have even a scintilla of truth in them (and they are usually about extra-marital affairs, poor employment practices and the like, the nature of which is simply black and white) then they cannot be defamatory, because the truth is paramount.

I take no delight in reading about who these people are shagging, but when a superinjunction is raised because someone stole, cheated, lied, betrayed or acted improperly, then I am being denied the truth, and no judicial process should be permitted to prevent the exploration and dissemination of the truth. Today it’s about shagging, tomorrow it might be about the very nature of democracy – let us not allow Judges to create privacy for the rich and famous and leave the rest of us in the dark and helpless.

I have been a long-time subscriber to Private Eye, and only recently had to cancel my subscription as part of an economy drive, which I deeply regret. Reading about injustice stirred me into action. My problem is that I prefer the truth to anything else, and I prefer to say the truth rather than play the political game. Maybe that’s why I shall remain here for a long time.

A year and a bit of Washing Machine woe (aka The Candyman Can't)

Candy knows how poor Customer Service can be

I have tried my utmost to avoid breaking my silence and sharing my story about possibly the worst, most unhelpful customer service department in the history of White Goods, but I have now reached an all time low, and I just need to tell the world exactly how awful Hoover/Candy Service really is.

My tale involves a malfunctioning Washing Machine which started misbehaving within 3 months of purchase. It got stuck on a 90 minute cycle and just stayed washing… and washing… and washing my clerical shirts until they were a light grey in colour and my daughter’s clothes were ruined. It took a little while to really notice it (because you don’t always go out of the house and return 4 hours later to find it still washing) and it wasn’t until a number of members of the family all agreed that something wasn’t right that  I first called the Service Department which deals with both Hoover and Candy appliances (I wonder if they’re the same company with different badges on: I know that Candy is predominantly a US brand).

An Engineer is sent. Nice man. He replaces something.

It doesn’t fix it.

I call again.

The Engineer is sent again. He replaces something else.

It doesn’t fix it.

I call again.

The Engineer is sent again. He replaces something else.

It doesn’t fix it.

I call again. Now by this time the machine is over 12 months old and this is when it starts to get interesting/annoying/silly. I am told that they would charge me for the call out and for any parts because it is out of warranty and I have not purchased an extended warranty. They would only not charge if the faulty parts turned out to be the ones already replaced.

“Hang on,” I said, “We know they’re not the problem parts because what ever is causing the problem started BEFORE THE WARRANTY EXPIRED”

They make their point quite rudely, but I stick to my guns. There is, I believe a moral imperative at stake here and they should fix it under the terms of the warranty, because it was clearly faulty before the warranty expired. It takes an email sent via the website to kick them into action and they say that of course the machine will be dealt with as though it is under warranty because the pre-expiry problem still hasn’t been fixed. This sounds promising.

The Engineer is sent again. He replaces something else.

It doesn’t fix it.

I call again.

The Engineer is sent again. He replaces something else.

It doesn’t fix it.

I call again.

What I love now is that on the day of each visit the Customer Disservices Department call me and try and flog me that Extended Warranty. I politely decline each time and emphasise that they have a moral duty to fix it. I try and up the ante and start describing the machine as a lemon which by now ought to be replaced. After all, what else is there to replace? They say “Oh well, if you bought the extended warranty you could have a new one”, I decline to do that, so my favourite Engineer is once again booked. At some point I escalate the call and I am assured that a note will be put on my file to stop trying to sell me an extended warranty. I get at least two more of these calls because they actually notice this. I wonder how big my file is by now.

The Engineer now knows the way to my house without recourse to his SatNav. We are on good terms. He knows my dog, Ruby well by now and she just accepts him as a part of the extended Church family that is always around our House. Lou suggests that I have started having an affair with someone on 08444 995599  – the Customer Services Dept number as I call it so often.

I have lost count by now how many times the Engineer has called. He has replaced almost everything. I keep asking for a replacement. They refuse. I demand they fix it (nicely, of course) but the Script doesn’t cover that and some of the people on the end of the phone are really, really rude about it. There is one nice lady, and a young man who seemed to be the only one who actually cared about us, but one in particular is just horrible. I don’t know what part of Wales they are based in, but when she answers I just know that we are going to go round in circles once more. At one point when I said that I had already spoken to a supervisor, this particular customer services person denied that such a person actually existed and that “there was only one supervisor and she has never spoken to you before”. One supervisor? For each and every shift? Surely not? Was I actually being called a liar there or was I imagining it? When I actually spoke to this Supervisor (I waited all day for her return call, but she didn’t contact me until the following day) but she sounded lovely, and appeared to be helpful, but these things can be quite deceptive.

A Senior Engineer is despatched. He fiddles with the wiring. It works!


I call again. My familiar Engineer comes. We are all at our wit’s end now. He puts in for a replacement machine as there is no other alternative.

Candy go into hibernation. I call them. They send out my favourite Engineer. Something is changed. It still doesn’t work.

This happens a few more times: frankly I have forgotten how many times now. I wonder how many mornings and afternoons I have spent awaiting the Engineer to come. He’s a nice lad. I like him. I feel that we have a relationship, at least based on duration.

I keep asking for a replacement. The Engineer keeps asking for a replacement. Customer Services keep booking the Engineer to visit.

Finally, a process is found: the Engineer is booked and for the first time doesn’t show (which is quite annoying as he didn’t tell me this is what was going to happen) but when I call, there is a note on the system which says he has got sign off from his Senior Engineer to authorise a replacement. It just needs the sign off from a lady in Customer Services. “Could I speak with her then, please” “Ah, no, she’s off sick” “And no-one else can sign this off?” “Err.. no” came the reply with at least a small degree of shame in the lady’s voice.

Two weeks go by. Royal Weddings and May Bank Holidays. Enough is enough. I call and it is, oh dear, the problematic lady. The Supervisor who was going to sign it off can’t do so because – wait for it – I haven’t got an extended warranty, and so I’ll have to pay 20% of the cost…

Hold on. She knows the story. They must understand the moral obligation. They must see the solution.

I have to hear from the nice Supervisor who failed to get back in contact with me. She’s on another call, but she’ll call you back today.

Guess what? She didn’t call.

UPDATE: 12th May – I call the nice Supervisor back, and she tells me it’s not her call – Aaargghh!! She has spoken to another Department and they have ‘been through the log’ and don’t believe a Senior Engineer has yet been to visit – BUT HE HAS! I can’t believe that they are still stalling, and it’s yet another department, and yet another anonymous manager and yet another delay. When will they face up to it? I now wait a call back from that department. I won’t hold my breath…

If companies cared at all for their reputation they wouldn’t treat customers like this. They wouldn’t let their Customer Services Dept string along their customers like this, and they would face up to their moral accountability. I am sorry that I have had to document this here, where it will be read by potential customers of Candy and in a small way, may damage their reputation. However, they have brought it upon themselves and the Customer Services Dept of Candy are the root cause of this.  Therefore, my dear friends, I implore you DO NOT BUY A CANDY WASHING MACHINE FOR THEIR SERVICE IS TERRIBLE. I hope someone there monitors the social media because I hope someone senior in Candy reads this and is embarrassed. I would be.

I just want a washing machine that works reliably. I want clean black clerical shirts that haven’t been washed to oblivion. I want reasonable customer service.

I would appreciate it if you would retweet a link to this post in the hope that it shames them into action. Maybe the following might help:

Let’s get @frsimon a working washing machine! Until then #hoovercandysucks

Homophobic Christians

From Is it just me or is everything shit? (2006) by Steve Lowe and Alan McArthur, p124

 Casting around for the one true path in life, Christians often ask” themselves: ‘WWJD?’ – ‘What would Jesus do?’ Apparently, he wouldn’t ‘make some stuff out of wood’ or ‘cure the sick’, but would walk up and down the high street with a big placard reading ‘GOD HATES FAGS’.

The ‘Jesus as uptight, bigoted sociopath’ reading of the Bible is proving incredibly popular with the world’s rising band of evangelicals. Even the born-again movement’s pre-eminent marketing arm The Alpha Course (which has seen over 1.5 mil­lion Brits pass through its doors) has raised heckles after Blairish founder Nicky Gumbel claimed the Bible ‘makes it clear’ that gays and lesbians need to be ‘healed’. ‘Although I strongly advise you not to say the word “healed” to them,’ he once warned. ‘They hate that word!’ Sound advice.

Normal people flicking through The Good Book will find anti-gay sentiments quite tricky to unearth. The New Testament’s supposed ‘No To Homos’ message basically boils down to Paul the Apostle’s comments in Romans 1: 26-27 on the sins of the Gentiles – ‘God gave them up unto shameful affections’ – and depends on the translation of the mysterious Ancient Greek word ‘arsenokoites‘ (and I promise that’s actu­ally true) which might mean ‘special gay friend’ or possibly ‘male temple prostitute’ or even ‘gigolo for rich women’. Now there’s a solid bedrock for bigotry if ever we saw one.

For others, though, the Bible is just one big old book about hating queers; they’re constantly finding startling new chap­ters like when Jesus, after healing the sick and helping the poor, draws together his disciples and tells them how God’s vision embraces everyone – prostitutes, paupers, lepers, even tree-climbing tax inspectors … ‘.

On hearing this, his disciples pauseth for a moment and said unto him, What about the gays, Lord? Jesus flincheth and spat, Oh no, not the gays. I don’t like them, he ranteth. I don’t like their white vests or their love of gaudy music. And I have it on the highest author­ity of a man down the tavern that there’s a gay mafia running theRoman Empire. A man with another man? No way! Anyway, the lepers …’

In fact, the Big Bad Son Of God never mentions bum sex or any other gay-related issue even once, not even mutual mas­turbation. It’s possible he planned on making his Big Speech Against The Gays right after Easter. We’ll never know.

This is how the outside world views all Christians. This is what we have to work against.

Prayers for Benediction – Easter 3

Blesséd, Praised, Hallowed and Adored, be Our Lord Jesus Christ on his throne of Glory

and in the most Holy Sacrament of the Altar

Hail to thee, true body born
From Virgin Mary’s womb!
The same that on the cross was nailed
And bore for man the bitter doom.

Thou, whose side was pierced and flowed
Both with water and with blood;
Suffer us to taste of thee,
In our life’s last agony.

O kind, O loving one!
O sweet Jesus, Mary’s Son!

Lord Jesus Christ, present before us in this Blessed Sacrament,

Stay with us today, and stay from now on, every day, according
to the desire of my heart, which accepts the appeal of so many hearts
from various parts, sometimes far away… Stay that we may meet You in
prayers of adoration and thanksgiving, in prayers of expiation and
petition to which all those who visit this place are invited…

May all those of us who take part in the adoration of Your Eucharistic Presence attest with every visit and make ring out again the truth contained in the Apostle’s words: ‘Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.’ Amen

Blessed Pope John Paul II

O Jesus, Divine Prisoner of Love, when I consider Your love and how You emptied Yourself for me, my senses deaden. You hide Your inconceivable majesty and lower Yourself to miserable me. O king of Glory, though You hide Your beauty, yet the eye of my soul rends the veil. I see the angelic choirs giving You honour without cease, and all the heavenly Powers praising You without cease, and without cease they are saying: Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory, hosanna in the highest.

St. Faustina

 Divine Praises…

Sermon Notes: Easter 3 – Emmaus

Text: Luke 24:13-35

In the name of the +Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

  • I have not had the opportunity, quite regrettably really, to travel the world extensively, to visit exotic places and encounter strange cultures.
  • In a strange reversal of how things really ought to be, rather than it being me who took off to foreign parts, it has been my Mother who has been to the Caribbean, to the Far East and to India – blowing what remains of my inheritance no doubt
  • And yet, whether we have a passport filled to the brim with customs stamps or whether we have remained in Elson all our lives,
  • we are still engaged on a journey
  • a journey travelling in hope and prayer to a destination beyond compare.
  • This morning’s Gospel is the metaphorical journey of life expressed in the post-resurrection narrative.
    • It has much to teach us about our own spiritual journeys and the ways in which the risen Christ is revealed to us.
  • St. Luke places his narratives within the realm of the known: we are told of the exact journey: Jerusalem to Emmaus which would be as recognisable to early hearers as a journey from Fareham to Gosport.
  • We are told the name of one of the travellers: Cleopas;
    • not an apostle, but perhaps one the 72, one of the many who stood on the periphery of the early Christian Church.
    • One of us, perhaps?
  • The two travellers fail to recognise the risen Christ.
    • Was it because it was just so unexpected?
    • Were they so wrapped up in their grief?
    • But Christ is always alongside us would we but know it?
    • How often do we think we are travelling a lonely road, abandoned by all; and yet Christ has been there all along, beside us, guiding us, comforting us and leading us to green pastures.
  • When Cleopas and friend are asked to explain the top news story of the last few days, they show their appreciation of Christ, but not his true nature: they describe him as “a great prophet”, but fail to spot his Divinity.
  • By ourselves, through our own intellect, our own philosophy, our own science, we cannot truly grasp Jesus Christ: God is beyond us.
    • We need him to reveal himself to us: just as Jesus explains the Scriptures to his comrades.
  • Which texts does Jesus explain for his companions?
    • We are not told, but Luke suggests that it does not matter.
  • Later, Jesus Christ reveals himself as he breaks the bread with his friends: a mirror of the last supper and a reminder of the Mass.
    • Which text does he use?
    • What Eucharistic Prayer does he employ, and does he use inclusive language?
    • It does not matter. These are trivial, human-scale issues compared to the glorious self-revelation completed in the inn at Emmaus.
  • Jesus Christ is revealed to us this morning in two complimentary ways: in the exploration of Scripture and in the breaking of the bread:
    • without these two there can be no Mass this morning – Common Worship comprises of the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Sacrament, each balanced and linked by the sharing of the peace.
  • The story of the Road to Emmaus is therefore one of the models for our thanksgiving this morning.
    • As Jesus Christ reveals himself in the Holy Scriptures, he reveals himself in the Holy Sacrament. As he walks and explains the foretelling of Christ’s passion in the scriptures and then reveals the glory of the resurrection in broken bread and wine outpoured.
  • The Eucharistic feast is therefore central to our lives as Christians, and we all come to this place to witness the living Christ made known on this altar in, to paraphrase St Francis of Assisi, the hands of a priest, hiding under and ordinary piece of bread.
  • The crucial importance of the mass in our Christian journey (further than Jerusalem to Emmaus) leads me to think of those who are preparing to enter into this mystical relationship through the sacrament of Confirmation.
  • Confirmation is a true sacrament: the laying on of hands by the Bishop is an outward visible sign of the inward spiritual grace which is manifested by the Holy Spirit, and which was revealed on the road to Emmaus.
  • Confirmation is an important step to make, and is not something just for the children of the church – it is an essential sacrament for all in this Church so if you come to this altar rail with any frequency, and receive a blessing, then come and talk to myself and we can speak of confirmation; we can speak of a full and complete welcome into the body of Christ which is the Church.
  • It isn’t hard, there isn’t an exam, nothing to write up.
    • Do not simply sit there and not participate in one of the most important sacraments of our salvation: get confirmed, receive the Holy Spirit, receive the Bread of Life.
  • Some journeys in life may appear a little daunting: Oh it’s such a long way down the road to Emmaus, I’m a little too tired or otherwise busy, I’ve left it too late to set off now, or I’m a little self-conscious about what others might think of me when they see me on the road.
  • Some journeys in life may have been halted or diverted at some point, or things in your life may have happened which make you think you’ll never get to the Emmaus Arms.
  • The journey down the Emmaus Road is the journey to the sacramental encounter with Christ.
  • It is a journey we all continue to travel down, and Christ walks alongside us, every step, revealing the scriptures to us, making our hearts burn within us, giving us a glimpse of resurrection joy.
  • So I ask you to hold in your prayers the Christian journey of all to be confirmed: for Lorraine from our parish, and for those from across the diocese who will be Confirmed alongside her
    • and pray also for yourselves.
    • For her Confirmation takes each and every one of us back to our own Confirmation – our own personal declaration of faith, and entry into this sacramental union with Christ.
  • We all travel down the highway of life, passing through points which are unfamiliar, sometimes even a little threatening, we often take detours which are can be difficult or arduous;
  • but with Christ walking alongside us, walking as he walked alongside Cleopas and his companion, our ultimate destination, at least, is known; and we will know him, at our journeys end, in the breaking of the bread.
  • Amen.

    Google Chrome Advert tells the inspirational story of "It Gets Better"

    It has been some time since I first noticed the “It Gets Better” campaign to tell harassed gay young people that it really does get better. Now Google’s latest advert for their browser Chrome makes little reference to the speed, flexibility and ease of use (probably because you knew that anyway) and points insted to what web-based movements can do. This is a great example of that. The tools we use are secondary to the work we achieve with them. Sometimes a tool (browser, video editing suite, camera lens) can make that a little easier but it is not the tool which matters, but the creativity which we employ to produce art, theology or worship. Forming community and building up networks strikes me as the key point of the social networks, not “how fast is my browser”. Well done, Google.