Archives October 2011

My Pride and Joy… for only a little while longer.

For the past few years I have kept in my shed a guilty secret. Other men go into their sheds to play with railway trains, or to build model aircraft or even whole boats, my fantasy world revolves around the making of good coffee.

eBay provided me with this wonderful vintage full size toy, which was sold by a Whole Food Shop in Canterbury and after a day trip with a parishioner, we brought it back in triumph. Serviced by a professional whose wedding I conducted, I used to go into my shed and turn on this beast of a machine and knock out a few quality espressos. No bean-to-cup, no crema-making Portafilter, just me and my barrista skills at filling, tamping and pulling. Occasionally, I get others to sample with me, and on a number of occasions during Parish events, I have been able to go into full swing, making Lattes and Cappuccinos for the ladies and gentlemen of the parish as they sat in our back garden for a parish Strawberry Tea or Barbecue. It would appear to be from the 1960’s, but if anyone else can identify the history of such a beast, then could they please let me know. I have included above the plate on the front. It must be old, it was still made in Italy… when was the last time that happened?

However, it can’t come with me. There simply isn’t space for it; or to be more accurate, there isn’t space for it with water and power, so effectively there is no room at the new vicarage and the new parish will have to forgo the pleasure of my coffee-making skills. Therefore, with some sadness, I have to put it on eBay to pass onto another coffee lover who wants the challenge of making real coffee with a real machine with a real (if unknown) history. The link to the auction is here. It ends on Friday 4th November 2011 at 3.20pm GMT


I wonder if my new Churchwardens read this blog, and whether they are already planning the installation fresh coffee after Mass at each of the four Churches in our team. Here’s a hint. I certainly hope so. There’s no excuse for rubbish coffee (or Tea – mine’s an Earl Grey with milk, if you’re making)  in Church: it is an abomination against both God and Society.



Why are Young People staying away from Church?

The excellent Brian Kirk reports on some research which looks at the disconnection of young people from Church. This is clearly US-focused work, and so operates in a different culture from the UK, which is much more advanced in its disconnection from Church (hey, we’ve been losing young people for decades and yet still we persevere!)

The core issues are these my comments in red:

1) Churches seems overprotective (e.g. resist, demonize, and ignore real-world issues and problems). What young people hate most is inauthenticity. They recognise and respect the role of doubt and the post-modern incredulity of the metanarrative is their normal mindset. “It’s like this because I say so” isn’t going to work.
2) Youth experience Christianity in the Church as shallow (e.g. not relevant or connected to an experience of God.) There is a genuine yearning for God by people of all ages, and it goes beyond entertainment and spectacle. This is as much of a critique of the super-Catholic Mass show as it is the Soul Survivor gig: unless young people actually engage with God, usually in small encounters, shallowness pervades. Trouble is, we still tend to think about the big event.
3) Churches appear antagonistic to science. Who created the science then? The wonder of creation is the most awesome thing ever, and we should celebrate science as God’s work, not run away from it. Thankfully, only a peripheral problem in the UK, but these types of people make my work that much harder.
4) Churches take an overly-simplistic or judgmental view of sexuality. Bingo! Some of the most popular courses at the moment encourage discussion on ethical issues, and young people do not need to be filled with prejudice and hate to see issues as black and white. Biblical sexuality is not about cherry picking individual verses of the Torah, but a much more complex multilayered and grey area of human existence. God seeks to empower not curtail humanity.
5) Youth struggle with exclusive claims of some Christian churches. Metanarratives again. When someone says definitively “The Bible says…” or worse “God says…” we should instantly be on our guard (including what I say) and apply our own exegesis and interpretation to that of others. The Holy Spirit works through all of us to seek God’s will.
6) Youth sees the Church as unfriendly to those who doubt. …and yet is the only body created for the benefit of it’s non-members. Mission means engaging with those who doubt. Outreach means serving those who struggle. The Gospel means walking with everybody, and letting Christ in to do the converting.
For those of us whose mindset is mission, and who believe that young people deserve to hear the authentic Gospel, these are salutary challenges. It is easy to assume that our message is the only message that God will bring to young people, and that what we do is the only way; but I have been hearing a different story recently: understanding that some methods are inappropriate, and that many tools of evangelism of the distant past cast by the wayside have value and benefit. The real work lies ahead: it is organic, small, unspectacular, individual and authentic. It connects to the tradition of the Church and shies away from the entertainment industry and the megachurch.



“If the picture on the left shocks you more than the one on the right, you need to revise your views on immorality”

Source: Annski via MadPriest

There are some things which are genuinely obscene: the apparently homophobic murder of a young scottish man this week, the continued injustice of unfair trade which leads to worldwide famine and deprivation, the growth of poverty in this country. Suddenly, the closure of S. Paul’s in London isn’t such a big deal, but we are seemingly inured to it all: more concerned about who rebelled against the Government in a vote they were bound to win anyway, rather than what steps we are taking to alleviate the loss of manufacturing whilst the banks continue to rake it in. Christ spoke much more about money than he did about sex, stood out against injustice more than for the status quo, challenged prejudice against women and the stranger and yet we continue to miss the point.

Time for a reality check. Time for a return to prayer and to social action. Time to get righteously angry about the injustices of the world.

Lord, we praise you for what you have given us and for what you have promised us.
Give us the courage to come out from all our churches into the world,
that our lives may proclaim your glory,
and your whole creation may reveal your love.

We give ourselves to you and ask that our daily work may be part of the life of your Kingdom,
and that our love may be your love reaching out in the life of the world.

Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.



Release of 2011-12 Electronic Ordo: the Church Calendar and Mass Readings on your Smartphone

As you may know, each year I knock up an Ordo for my own personal use and make it available to others if they find it useful. With the preparations for moving in the new year, things have been a little behind schedule but I have now completed it.
The version for next year can be downloaded from
This is an iCalendar format file which can be imported into Google Calendar and then synchronised with your Smartphone etc. I am only supporting this format because I can only spare so much time on the project, and let’s face it, Google Calendar works with all our Smartphones and Tablets: you should have stopped using Microsoft Outlook years ago. It works in my Google Calendar.
It contains daily information on the cycle of prayer, Roman and Common Worship Mass readings and sometimes useful information about the day. It might be a little too Roman for you, or a little to Anglican for you, but I am sure you will find something in it that will be of use. Any errors or mistakes in it are my fault.
I hope you will find it useful. I make it free for your use and only ask that you pray for us as our family makes the move to Plymouth, our new parish and the Mission Community of the Holy Family which the Roborough Team Ministry will be a part of. Please let anyone who might find it useful of its existence and share the file or the link.

Sermon: Ordinary 29, Year A: Render unto Caesar…

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

You know you are in trouble when your enemies begin to flatter you: Kind words and Very Unkind Intentions. “Now, tell us, Jesus,” they continued, “is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”

By “lawful,” of course they meant “according to Torah.” Any of Our Lord’s responses could have got him into trouble with one faction or another.

If Jesus said that a good Jew should support the Roman state, then he would have allied himself with a power that was occupying Israel and killing Jews. That would have alienated the Jews and given implicit approval to a state that regarded its ruler as a god. It would have been idolatry. But to say that Jews should not pay taxes to Rome would have been treason. The question was a perfect trap for Jesus.

“Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar?” It was a good question then, and it is as difficult to answer today as it was two thousand years ago.

There is much to say in favour of Jewish or Christian support of the state. The state maintains order; it keeps the roads paved; and it operates schools. Even the Romans, for all their brutality, created a system of roads that ran the length of Europe. It took less time to send a letter from Athens to Rome in the first century when Rome was at the pinnacle of its power than it did in the 11th century when Europe was divided into hundreds of small kingdoms. Under Roman rule, we and the whole of Europe enjoyed a standard of living that fell drastically after the Roman state disintegrated and was not recovered until the late 19th century.

Yet, the Roman state was brutal. Persons found guilty of treason were hung or nailed to a cross and left to bleed to death and asphyxiate; it was the cruellest form of capital punishment ever devised. Men and women flocked to the circuses or amphitheatres to watch convicted criminals fight wild beasts.

“Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar?”

The question seems easier to answer today. Compared to Rome, we live under a humane and beneficent power: a state-funded National Health Service, and as you all know I have only last week witnessed that at first hand as I had my frozen shoulder operated on at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore, There, as I witnessed their marvellous, leading edge Orthopaedic work there, I was drawn to thank God for the NHS, and vowed to be ever grateful for the life and the care it has given me. However,

“Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar?”

One of the interesting things about the story of Jesus’ encounter with the Pharisees and the Herodians is that he never answers their question.

“Show me the money for the tax,” Jesus demanded. And they produced a Roman coin. As Jesus held it up, it glinted in the sunlight, and Jesus asked, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” The coin would have borne the image of Caesar, much as our coins display the profile of our Queen. Finally, Jesus said, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

Well, that settles the question, doesn’t it? There are things that belong to Caesar, like the money with which we pay our taxes, and there are things that belong to God. Such as…? Well, what? There’s the problem.

Jesus threw the question back at the Pharisees and Herodians. His statement just raises some questions. How and where do you draw the line between the things that belong to Caesar and the things that belong to God? What are the things of Caesar and what are the things of God?

Jesus was a faithful Jew who every Sabbath of his adult life had recited the Shema: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all you soul, and with all your might.”

A whole God demands the service of whole human beings. The God of Jesus has a claim on all of life. So if God demands all of life, what is left to render unto Caesar?

The question Jesus threw back at the Pharisees and Herodians echoes Genesis. Holding up the coin, he asked, “Whose likeness or image is this?” The image of Caesar was imprinted only upon coins; but the image of God is upon every human life. The fingerprints of God are on us all.

“The things that are Caesar’s.” What are they? Caesar seems to have a claim on much of our lives, but in fact, nothing belongs to him. Everything belongs to God; the things that Caesar claims are merely on loan.

“The things that are God’s.” The way most of us behave suggests that we believe that God has a claim on about one hour per week and a small percentage of our income. But God’s mark is upon every particle of our being.

Many parishes today will hear sermons on stewardship today, many parish priests will ask people to consider how much they should pledge to the church. But the real question is not how much we should give to God or the church or how much belongs to Caesar, but how much belongs to God? And if we ask that question, then the real issue of stewardship is not “How much should we pledge?” but “How much should we keep for ourselves?”. Suddenly the 5% of spare money left over (residual income) that the Church of England embarrasingly advocates appears paltry, even the complete tithes demanded (and received) by our rich Evangelical bretheren (and maybe that’s why they are rich because they aren’t mealy-mouthed about their vision for the Kingdom…) even these tithes fall along way short of recognising our obligations not to this church, this institution, but to God.

All that we are and all that we have belongs to God. But we belong to God not as slaves but as children and if children then heirs. Rendering to God what God has a claim on is not burdensome; it is liberation. We cannot divide our lives between God and Caesar. Realizing that life is whole and not fragmented is an insight that brings us freedom. It teaches us that our first and foremost priority is the service of God.

If you, like many people, feel many claims upon your time and finances and energy, then it is freeing to realize that in reality is that there is only one claim upon our lives: to serve God in joyful freedom.

Yes, my dear friends, there are Standing Order forms out in the Narthex, and yes, there are Gift Aid Envelopes and as you all know, there is a whole host of mission and outreach which needs to be underwritten in this parish, but we gather to give ourselves, and through that we bear fruit for the Mission of God in this place. Your prayer, your activism, your community engagement with the young, the disaffected, the old and the isolated, and yes, quite importantly, your money is a response to Him who gave it to us in the first place.

“Render to God the things that are God’s.”

That’s you.



Sacramental Fresh Expressions Study Day – London November 5th 2011

This is very exciting – a study day at which I am the keynote speaker, and where I will be setting out my vision for creative sacramentally focused mission. I am simply fizzing with ideas for it, and hope you will consider it worthwhile to come on into the City (right by Waterloo Station) to hear and think and play with his holy sacraments.

A booking form can be downloaded from here. I hope to see you there – let’s make some liturgy!

Halloween – how many Churches have lost the plot

As I subscribe to a number of blogs associated with Youth and Children’s Ministry, this time of year is filled with these usually evangelicals getting all hot under the collar about Halloween.

Brian Kirk’s usually excellent Rethinking Youth Ministry speaks of an organization based in Calgary is inviting churches to participate this month in “Jesus-ween,” an evangelistic alternative to Halloween.  This is a new twist on the old practice of giving out those creepy (and scripturally inaccurate) Jack Chick tracts, intended to scare kids in an entirely different way on Halloween night when they start reading the little comic somebody dropped in their goodie bag:

I was invited a few years ago to speak on Halloween at a Youth Event which was just desperate to avoid the H-word, and a local Pentecostal Church goes all out to find attractive alternatives to Halloween. It’s all so binary, so fearful, so messed up and humourless and so far from the Gospel, even when dressed up in the language and attitudes of Spiritual Warfare – which it isn’t because believe me, real Spiritual Warfare is nothing like this play acting.

Have these Churches all missed the point? The point of Halloween? Hallow’s – E’en – the night before All Hallows or All Saints

I suppose the Churches who see demons under every bed and the Deceiver behind the casual cadging of sweets have lost the plot because they don’t want to have anything to do with the traditions of the Church, and yet didn’t the early church want to celebrate the Saints, and recognise the possibility of Sainthood (hagios) within us all (Ephesians 1:1). This is a classic indication of how we abandon Mother Church at our peril, for we forget what many many better Christians than ourselves have known, that the Saints in Glory (Revelation 7:13) are witnesses to the light which defeats any pretence at darkness and darkness is no threat to us, because of the Victory of Christ. It’s a no-brainer.

When the kids come knocking at my door and demanding “Trick or Treat”, I’m not going to turn them away, condemn them for their “satanic practices” (perish the thought, how twisted can these hot prots be?) or be any other form of killjoy (because the world seems to think that Christians can’t have a good time, which is precisely the opposite of what Christ taught us) but I will happily and gladly hand out the sweets and tell them that it is a gift in honour of All the Saints, whose feast comes in the morning: Taste and See that the Lord is good! (Psalm 34:8) and share the sweetness of the Lord with joy and not with fear, suspicion or seeing a harmless bit of fun as a manifestation of evil. Reclaim the night for the day of the Saints and show how light always defeats the dark with a little lightness in our tppuch,

National Youth Pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham

I hope this video, a slightly extended documentary type segment on the National Youth Pilgrimage  might be of some use to you if you are considering bringing a group or if as a young person, you are considering going,

[vimeo 29637321

Please feel free to distribute it freely to anyone who might like to see it.

This documentary was made at the request of Bishop Lindsay Urwin, the Shrine Administrator

Another review of my book on Sacramental Worship with Children

Another short review by Fr Jonathan Clark, Chair of Affirming Catholicism

It’s always a relief for a parish priest to find that someone else has done all the hard work and sorted out those tricky problems – like finding a fresh idea for a Christingle service. Simon Rundell’s book does all of that, but it should come with a bit of a health warning – ‘This book may provoke creativity’. Far more than just a book of handy tips, the commentary and reflection which surrounds the practical examples should provoke anyone leading worship with children to let their own imagination off the rein. Fr Simon is well entrenched in the Catholic tradition, but is not defensive of it, nor afraid to play with it, and so he provides us with an invitation into a living tradition, a place where we can discover the Holy Spirit at work for today’s church.