Great Britain

Great Britain

The news will say we’re suffering from excess immigration
That a rampant hoard of foreigners has fallen on our nation
But truthfully, there hasn’t been a native Briton here
Since people dressed in mammoth skin and hunted with a spear

Our language is a mixture of a dozen different tongues
We munch our way through poppadoms, fajitas and fu-yungs
When cheering at a football match, we’re infamously vocal
Our teams may be the finest but the players won’t be local

Genetically, a Briton is a multi-cultured stew
With Romans, Saxons, Vikings and the Celts, to name a few
Our national drink is Indian, the Germans make our beer
The TV comes from China and the table from IKEA

Potatoes from America and onions grown in Spain
A multitude of British things arrive by boat and plane
The rain that falls upon our hills has blown from over seas
And with it come migrating birds to nest in British trees

The Royal Windsor family have Greek and German genes
So think about just what it is that being British means
We’re stronger with our differences, the best of humankind
Our nation, not an island but a common state of mind

posted as a comment by Ben Jones on


Sermon: Holy Family Year A, 2013

Listen (preached at S. Mary the Virgin, Bickleigh)

Text: Matthew 2:13-15; 19-23

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

With the birth of the Christ child still fresh in our ears, we move away from the crèche and towards the reality of living in the presence of a living God. We quickly move from the crystal starlight over the stable scene to a scene of warnings, dreams and severe human suffering.

For Mary and Joseph, the consequences of caring for their small infant son, the Emmanuel – the God with us – meant further dislocation and further isolation. This faithful couple, always ready to follow God, were being led away from everything and everyone that would support them while they cared for this child. Our Gospel moves us from the gentleness of the incarnation to the harsh reality of life.

These new parents had to flee from their homeland and their people and go to a strange land that did not know them. They became aliens, immigrants forced to flee away rather than run home to their village. For the families in Bethlehem and surrounding communities the consequences were much worse. Small children were slaughtered because a ruler was tricked by some wise elders from a distant tribe. There was blood everywhere. The awful reality of the slaughter of the Holy Innocents is recalled by the Church yesterday, whilst today this genocide forces the Saviour of us all to become an Asylum Seeker. The consequence of human anger with access to absolute power is clear in our Gospel today. The word of God made flesh reminds us today of the responsibility we have to the innocent and the alien. How easily we forget this lesson. The next time we read one of those poisonous newspaper articles about Asylum Seekers we should remember the story of the Christ-Child and his experience.

The harsh reality of the genocide inherent in the slaughter of the Holy Innocents  invites us to move our gaze from the pastoral crèche scene, the wise men and sheep, to the world to which God came. We are invited to see the same broken world that is about us today. We are called to witness this same world, full of terror, in which angry and selfish political leaders even today destroy innocent lives.

Jesus came into the midst of terror and enters into our terror.

We, like Our Lady and St. Joseph, are called to move out from soft places, from warm rooms and safe havens, to the places where innocence is challenges, where faithful tender lives are at risk, and carry the God incarnate to alien places so that we might all be free.

A friend was recently in an airport waiting for a connecting flight. In the next row sat a family of six, mother, father and four small children. They were all dressed quite inappropriately for the season and the location: they huddled together, sleeping fitfully and speaking very little. When they did, it was a strange and unfamiliar language. As they boarded the plane, it was obvious that they were very confused by the seating and signs. My friend tried to help them as best she could but there was little was of communicating except by pointing.

This family of refugees were coming to a place where very little was familiar. How could they raise their children, find their way, communicate their basic needs? And yet they came with a weary willingness to protect and care for their little ones, to find a new life, despite all of the challenges and dislocation that were behind and in front of them.

This is what love does within in each of us. It gives us the courage to take on responsibility for the innocent. Love incarnate empowers us to turn away from the comforting familiar, in order to let love incarnate thrive.

Here is our call, our responsibility this Christmastide and all through the year. God with us, Emmanuel, encourages us to face the power of this world in order to protect the vulnerable and the needy.

Three days before Christmas, a Tory MP, Mr Mark Pritchard tweeted:

MPritchard MP - More Gospel, Less Politics

He’s probably right: The Church should preach a little more gospel and a little less politics. We should be focussing on Jesus, after all – not involving ourselves in the grubbiness of the world. For one thing, church people are hopeless at claiming expenses.  And so I go to the Gospel. And I read…

From the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter  25

“the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

Now the thing is, if you feed the hungry – that is a political act. If you set up a food bank (and the churches have, quite a lot), that’s a political act. If you wonder why there’s so many people needing food banks, that’s a political thing to think.

If you see someone who needs clothing, and you sort them out with some clothes, that’s a political act as well. I’m sure David Cameron would think that was part of his “Big Society”. After all, now he’s dropped the term, there’s a lot of Big Society, on a small scale, about. There has to be.

If someone is sick – and you don’t even necessarily know them – but you’re there for them anyway, that’s a political act. You’re saying you won’t allow them to lie there in hospital on their own, if you can do anything about it. And if someone is in prison, and you visit them, then that’s a political statement. You’re saying that it’s not good enough just to stick people in chokey and throw away the key. You’re making the walls porous – keeping people in society that others would want to keep locked out.

Jesus’s birth, in the first place, is a political act – God siding with the poor, the dispossessed, the homeless. And the belief that he will come back and judge the nations is not a piece of apocalyptic wish-fulfilment – it’s saying that the ones who rule, the ones who abuse, the ones who push down, will one day be judged. More fairly than they have judged, as well. Which might or might not be good news. Apocalyptic is always political.

The incarnation is political – Christ taking on human flesh in this grubby world. Not standing, shining, off in glory but arguing with priests, politicians, taking on kings and local rulers. Walking through the middle of all the mess, that people can choose to follow his way, or not. Demanding justice – isn’t that a political concept? Being the Prince of Peace – isn’t peace a political idea?

Consider the Magnificat “the mighty being cast down from their thrones and the lowly lifted up” – each Evensong – each night – this radical call to action is heard.

And then – all the people that Jesus knocked about with, and who followed on from him. I mean, clearly Churches shouldn’t get involved in equal opportunities – after all, just ask St Paul:

Gal 3:28: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”

So I did what Mr Pritchard wanted. I’ve looked straight at the Gospel. And do you know what, it’s full of politics? I guess he’s going to be disappointed, and it calls us to something far more. It challenges us in the not-very-fluffy reality of the Incarnation

This Love made Flesh challenges us to see the face of God in each refugee, each alien, each immigrant, every stranger, every sick person, every hungry person, every prisoner, every one.

The Prince of Peace calls us to look away from the comfortable and the pastoral to see the stark reality of suffering and terror in our world. We are called to see with the eyes of the Word of God – eyes which see everyone as relatives, tribal members, kin, family, equally welcomed at God’s table.

May these days of Christmas be times of looking outward, seeking the family which has been left outside, bringing home those who have been refugees, aliens and strangers.

As later in his ministry, Matthew recalls this fleshy-God saying “whenever to visited or welcomed or cared for one such as these, then you did the same to me”. The Refugee, the Asylum-Seeker, the Poor, sick, frightened or destitute remain, and it is our Christian duty to shelter the next Holy Family which flees for survival to our land.


with credit to the Archdruid for reminding me what this is all about and the Twitter-troll who accused me of being a communist this week when I mentioned library closures. I pulled these things together with him in mind.

If you want a laugh…

Peter Ould inhabits a very different part of the Church of England, and we differ hugely on issues of sexuality, gender and the process by which Christ’s salvation works, but we both proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord and have a great mutual respect for each other. He is a true brother in Christ as we both seek to build the Kingdom.

It was therefore very flattering to see him list me in a one to watch list for 2013. Utterly undeserved, of course, but that a colleague with whom I occasionally disagree yet respect hugely should say this is affirming. Thank you, Peter.

Of course, he is utterly wrong on the purple issue – to be one of those you need discretion, political nous, skills in oratory and flattery and as all of my friends know, that ain’t me.

The other names are of course much more deserving interesting and significant. Watch them, and pray for me: parish priesthood is my calling, mission is my life. Let us meet with Christ together in his holy and blessed sacraments…

On the accepting of resignations, mass or otherwise…

The Guardian reports that up to 150 clergy might walk out of the Church of Scotland because they are unable to accept the bidding of the Holy Spirit. Now, Newspapers love this kind of reporting because it appears to be such a disaster – we are constantly reading about how the Church of England is about to fracture (usually over sex, ’twas ever thus); but the Church of Scotland should stand firm in the face of such (usually idle) threats.

I have learnt the hard way to accept that not everyone travels in the same direction and at the same speed and sometimes the Holy Spirit can be a relentless taskmistress. This means that some parting of the ways are inevitable and the unity which Christ himself prayed for was unity of purpose, not of the means. We are all individuals after all, and we group together as the people of God in common purpose and by different means. Paul and his companions set off in different directions after they disagreed, and the Gospel was further proclaimed…

This means that if someone is unable to deal with the issue at hand: the sexuality of their priests, the gender of their bishops, the morality of money, the style and substance of their Vicar; then they should be allowed with grace to move onto wherever God calls them.

I have learnt that the best thing is to always accept a resignation if it is tendered or threatened – especially if it is threatened. Nothing I can say or do will change the reason why the threat was made in the first place; and I believe that once one has done this, then it is an irrevocable position.

No-one: not me, or the Churchwardens or the Treasurer or the Organist, or Mrs Jones in the middle pew is irreplacable to a parish. It may change (and, praise God, it will usually change for the better) as a result of the leaving of an individual or group or faction, but if people are unhappy now, they will be unhappy in the future and history moves us forward, not backwards.

We were threatened that the Ordinariate would be an avalanche of schism, but it turned out to be a very light snowfall. We waved goodbye and blessed the few (usually difficult individuals) who crossed the Tiber. We made comparatively little fuss when the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament gave most of our Anglican money to pay their Stipends for a while (when we here could have done with a new Monstrance as well…), and we will quietly receive them back when they have had enough of playing Roman. In the same way, when the Southern Cone threatens to take its ball home, we should bless them and allow them to move on, and allow the majority of the Church of England, Canada and USA follow where the Holy Spirit leads us. We have voted overwhelmingly for Women Bishops; if we were brave enough to actually ask the Dioceses or even more importantly the Parishes what they thought of their gay clergy, gay congregation or gay anything really then they would not be anti, just quietly affirming, gently supportive and frankly not really fussed by it. The Church of England is liberal with a small ‘l’ and we should celebrate that.

So, my dear friends north of the border, do what your conscience dictates and the Holy Spirit suggests; if that relaxes your view of sexuality then let it, and pray that the Church of England soon realises the same thing. Ignore those who threaten to resign and bless them on their way if they do (but don’t let them take their buildings or their Charitable funds with them), and let us concentrate on the real task at hand – to proclaim the Resurrection.



“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.



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!

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.

Whither Unity?

Today Fr Marcus Stock, General Secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales has announced that sometime soon (have you noticed that everyone waits on the Vatican to do something and it never puts itself out to do anything except in its own good time) the Personal Ordinariate will be established for the few Anglicans who can’t wait to cross the Tiber, or at least dip a toe into Tiberian waters. It begins with three former Anglican Bishops who by Saturday will be Roman(ish) Priests and then it will be (depending upon who you listen to) the fracture and dissolution of the Church of England, or a trickle of already embittered Priests and a bit of their congregation who will have to uproot to the area RC church (there is one priest and four churches between Fareham and Gosport, I believe) and be treated with contempt by  “cradle catholics” until the Parousia.

I asked a colleague whom I respect utterly but who has a different perspective to mine if he was going to join the Ordinariate, he laughed and said “Oh no, if I was going to go to Rome, I’d become a proper Roman, not one of these plastic catholics“.

When one looks at the background information on the Ordinariate, and the arguments put forward by others unknown (but I have my suspicions) clearly intending to jump asap, what one sees coming up time and time again is the striving for unity: “entering into full communion” with the subtext of  “rejoining the one true church”. It shows up the ARCIC dialogues for what they truely have been: a process of sublimating all other discussions until Rome gets its own way: you can have Unity, but only if it is on Rome’s terms.

If Unity has all along therefore been about being subject to Rome, submitting to a dubious claim to Primacy (based more upon politics than the intention of Our Lord himself), then I’m personally glad that the decision of the Church of England to listen for once to the Holy Spirit and to discern that God was calling women to Ordained Ministry as Bishops, Priests and Deacons. This, the detractors claim, is the final nail in the unity coffin, because from here we can never go back… but wait… go back, what? To reunification?

That isn’t what one strives for when one prays for Unity.

We are not called to homogenity, but to recognise our diversity. Rome was not Antioch, was not Corinth and certainly was not Jerusalem, and therefore it should not be Canterbury. What joins us should be our proclamation of Jesus Christ as Lord, a recognition of the sacramental action of God in our world and a love of tat. I believe this returns us to the Anglopapalist arguments of the late Oxford Movement and the 1930s, and takes us no further. Rome demands today in Anglicanorum coetibus what it demanded of Newman: cross the Tiber, renounce your Anglicanism and become Roman.

It amused me no end that the initial thinking of the Ordinariate was that it would want to use “Anglican” liturgy, perhaps BCP or Common Worship, but by now they have realised that all those who intend to cross have never used those liturgies anyway and are almost wholly Roman Rite anyway. It says much about how much interest the Vatican had in them beforehand. Now, I notice that it says

“In addition to the Roman Rite, some of the liturgical rites of the Anglican tradition which have been adapted and approved by the Holy See may be used by the members of the Ordinariate.

It is expected that in due course, suitable rituals (Sacramentary, Divine Office, etc.) will be promulgated for Ordinariates across the world. However, as it will be fully a part of the Latin Catholic Church (as distinct from the Byzantine, Maronite, Chaldean Catholic Church, etc.) the Ordinariate will always be able to use the Roman Rite.”

So, Father doesn’t have to put away his Breviary when he crosses the Tiber…

In the meantime, as the few dedicated ones transfer, leaving more dates available for Pilgrimage to the Anglican Shrine at Walsingham, I wonder how quickly they will be asked to vacate their Vicarages, and who will be keeping body and soul together when their stipends cease. Have the ex-Anglican Bishops who were received into the Roman Church on 1st January 2011 moved into their own accommodation? Or because the Church of England is so inefficient, I expect a “period of grace” has been afforded them: if a Roman Priest expressed any desire for crossing the Thames then they would be out on their ear before sundown, I would predict.

I don’t want this post to come across as crowing because some people whom I love dearly (and a number whom I don’t like at all, but Christ calls me to love) will be leaving the Church that I feel still has a place for those opposed to the ordination of women and the LGBT – I think we are better and stronger because of that, and I lament their defection. I also fear for them that the grass is not necessarily greener on the other side of the Tiber and the flexibility and autonomy that they loved in the Anglican Communion (until we have a Covenant) will not translate to the autocratic, inflexible and opaque Roman Church. My message to them is certainly not “sod off”, no one has “won” an argument, and whilst LGBT people are denied ordination there is still much listening to the Holy Spirit that our Church has to do, but if a relationship is broken, and if they feel that the Roman Church is right for them, then I wish them well and pray for them, praying that my fears for them are not realised and that they continue to flourish in God’s grace.

What I do hope is that from their exalted position in Peter’s bosom, they stop looking down upon those of us who think differently, and start to work for proper Unity, which is based upon mutual respect and a recognition that there is more than one Church focused upon the one true Christ, the son of the living God.