Monday, 31 January 2011

Catching up.

An old pal was in town tonight so we went out for a nice Italian and a wee pilgrimage to the Oxford Bar (he's a bit of a Rebus fan).  Don't panic - he had the Strongbow, I stuck to the Appletise! We both thought it was funny to see how we'd both changed since we met back in 1996.  Then, I was a Forward in Faith Curate, firmly against wifie priests and not exactly Mr Heterosexual of the Year.  He was working for the Church Union and exploring his vocation with the Anglican Franciscans.  Now - well, I'm pro wifie priests and bishops and dating a woman and he's at an RC Seminary in Spain (having left the C of E 3 years before this ordinariate thingy).  Still friends, still debating and talking, both accepting the other as they actually are.  Mind you, the cheeky beggar asked if I'd seen the latest Rab C Nesbitt.  "Yes and he's sober which is scary!" said I.  "Bit like a sober John Penman!" came the reply!  Thanks Tom!

Saturday, 29 January 2011

A Candlemass sermon.


Heb 2:16-17:”For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham. Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people.”

This brief encounter between Jesus and Simeon can be seen as a meeting of 2 priests: one, a priest of the historic line descended from Aaron; the other, the Great High Priest himself, whose sacrificial self-offering was to bring the light of salvation to every nation and race and not just to a small, localised collection of Semitic tribes in Palestine and their Diaspora descendents.  It is one of those moments which we, with hindsight, can define as one of the great crossroads of human history.  Here is the very genesis, the birth, of the great Christian mission that was to utterly define human history.  It was to trigger the rise and fall of many Empires – Roman Byzantine, ottoman, British, Spanish, Portuguese amongst others.  As we celebrate Candlemass, we celebrate a moment when the world changed forever.

Like any moment of change, it did not come out of the blue.  It was the result of a long process of preparation and revelation.  The History of Israel is one of the fulfilment of God’s promise to Abraham that his descendents would be more numerous than the grains of sand in the desert through which they had journeyed to the Promised Land.  Jesus the Christ, the child in the Temple, was and is the fulfilment of those promises.  The Light to lighten the Gentiles.  In order to truly be that light, he had to be fully, absolutely human – The Son of God, born of Mary.  He had to “become like his brothers and sisters in every respect” and experience human life in its glorious and sometimes grim entirety.  This is what Simeon prophetically alludes to in Luke’s Gospel.  Jesus is God’s salvation made ready in the sight and presence of every people.  Hence, Mary and Joseph’s journey from their home to the Temple on David’s Mount Zion.  Here, where God’s chosen people from all over the known world gathered to celebrate their special relationship with the One, True, Living God, the rites of the Law of Moses could be carried out where all could see and understand.  Only here was it possible to see through symbolic action that the Christ was for all and how terribly costly that would be. 

The rites and ceremonies Mary and Joseph brought their 1st born son to were deeply symbolic.  They involved both “Purification after Childbirth” which took place 40 days after the birth of a male child and the redeeming of the First Born.    Interestingly, Luke’s Gospel says “the time had come for THEIR purification” – Mary AND Joseph were BOTH in need of ritual purification. The full cost of that sacrifice was a lamb.  The poor, however, could offer 2 young pigeons – one of the more generous and humane provisions of the Book of Leviticus.   The redemption of the First Born simply involved a payment of 5 shekels to the priest.  The Great High Priest was here symbolically both subject to and fulfilment of the Law of Moses.  He came from the weakest and poorest section of Society. Salvation was far more generous in its scope that the High and the Mighty could ever imagine.  It was witnessed by a frail old man and an even older devout widow – not by princes and prelates.  The Good News was not to be limited by class or wealth, race or privilege.  It truly was for all.

There was also a dark undercurrent in the proceedings: Simeon’s grim prophecy.  Here, Mary the Christ Bearer heard that her heart would be pierced as with a sword.  Salvation does not come cheap.  It does not come in a Rolls Royce.  It comes through courage, pain and suffering, as well as through joy, celebration, healing and liberation.  If it’s cheap and cheerful salvation, then it’s probably the Opium of the People, rather than the Glory of the Crucified Saviour of the World.  Yes, there was a baby and doubtless some “goo goo, ga ga” noises – but from the Crib to the Cross is but a short journey.  In a sense, Candlemass is the Christian Festival which is a concise précis of the whole narrative of Holy Scripture.  The People of God the Israelites, their history and heritage through Moses and Aaron, David and the Holy City and Mount Zion; their history of triumph and exile, their hope of deliverance and salvation through a Messiah, the birth, life, death and triumph of that Messiah – all are here.  Candlemass is the Bible in a nutshell.  For us here today at this celebration of the saving works of God, our story and our hope is told in full.  The Light of the World is in the World and the salvation of the World is in process.  Let us pause now and reflect in word and in silence on this mystery which we celebrate today.  Please make yourselves comfortable and still in your pews and in a moment or two, I’ll lead us in a meditation which will conclude this sermon.


In the beginning there was darkness. And into the darkness and the chaos, 
God brought light and order. He gave two lights, one to govern the day, 
and 1 to govern the night.
The light has come and the darkness has not overcome it.”

The Creator made many creatures, and some He made in His image, those to understand Light and Truth. But they chose darkness and hid in the shadows.
Yet “The light has come and the darkness has not overcome it.”

God sent messengers to bring the light of Truth, those who brought His word to be a lamp to their feet and a light to their path.  But they chose their own way and wandered from His.
Yet…“The light has come and the darkness has not overcome it.”

Then the One who has been Light and Truth from the beginning came into the world and lived among them. But the light of His life was too bright and exposed the darkness in theirs. So they tried to extinguish the light.  But they could not do so.
The light has come and the darkness has not overcome it.”

And those who welcomed the light into their lives shone in the darkness, but many preferred the darkness to light because their deeds were evil. So they attempted to snuff out those who exposed them.
Yet…“The light has come and the darkness has not overcome it.”

And today there is darkness; there is fear, mistrust and anxiety. There is evil, corruption of the truth and a shadow over the world. And yet, just as surely as that baby was born, “The light has come and the darkness has not overcome it.”

And the darkness will never, will never, overcome it. And at the end all will stand, will stand before the Light that has been there from the beginning….May we be given grace to carry that light within us, now and always. Amen

Friday, 28 January 2011

Darkness and Light.

Darkness is something we all encounter at some point: the daily darkness as evening falls and sometimes an inner darkness - depression, anxiety or fear.  Sometimes we can see what triggers it, sometimes not.  I have been a little grumpy this week.  Missing herself I thought.  But yesterday it descended with a fierce bang.  I was tired (3pm-11pm shift, followed by sleep over then a 7am-2pm shift), I was hungry and the Thursday night group was rather large - which always stresses my little Aspie head.  I sought to cope by busying myself dishing out soup (gaining physical space and a distracting activity).  Unfortunately, a well meaning housemate, who perhaps is less aware than the others of my problems, tried to help with delivering the soup, cramping my space, taking away my coping tool and triggering a well nigh unstoppable cycle of screaming anxiety and frustrated rage. My head wanted me to snarl "You stupid bloody twat! Get out of my way and let me cope with this using the tools I know work ."  But I didn't.  Instead I withdrew into the kitchen to try and de-escalate.  Then he came in and made a flippant comment about getting out of the hurly burly.  He got a positively terse snap in reply and I swept into the back garden to finish my soup.  Unfortunately by this stage I was way beyond cooling down or applying the brakes, and sat in the chapel for 40 minutes hugging myself desperately and resisting a raging urge to grab and neck the bottle of Scotch I knew was in the kitchen cupboard.  I could physically recollect EXACTLY what it would feel like going down my throat and into my belly.  It was a horrible feeling knowing it would instantly give desperately sought and needed temporary relief from my anxiety, but the self-loathing and emotional mayhem that would follow it would be utterly hellish. Not a pleasant experience.  I eventually got out of the building and hurtled along the road to the nearest AA meeting, recognising that I was really not coping and needed a big blast of serenity.  Which the meeting gave me.  Discussion with others after this in the house led to a recognition that the current way of doing Thursday nights simply is not working well and we need to rejig it to avoid the stress.  And I need to recognise  when I simply need to bail out of a murderously stressful situation.  Which I usually do, but was too wound up to do successfully last night.

I still felt lousy today.  The sheer stress had utterly drained me.  I got through my shift and left a little early (TOIL - Time Off In Lieu comes in handy some days).  I had a relaxing shower, managed to avoid sitting directly next to the Problem Housemate at dinner  and snuck out quietly to a meeting to build up my depleted reserves of sanity and sobriety.  The beauty was that ,whereas last night I grabbed the coat tails of others serenity and sobriety, tonight I heard:the following useful messages: Our perceptions are often disordered because of our condition (the alky heid), you actually aren't the centre of everyone else's Universe and they probably aren't out to get you (Ego) and you can't change others (it'll only make you crazy trying) but you can change your reaction to them.  Sigh!! I find that really difficult!  Ora pro nobis!

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Abscence make the heart grow... grumpy!

For the last week or so, I have been a bit of a GCB (that's Grumpy Crabbit B**ger, not Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath- just to clarify!).  For why, I asked myself?  Well, I was blaming it on adjusting to having a new community member in da hoose whose style grates on me - I find it intensely irritating to have 3 out of 4 "contributions" to group intercessions (i.e. open prayer time) at the Office from the same person, who being "Low Church" (I refuse utterly to cede the title "evangelical" to the liturgically challenged, as I see myself as an Evangelical Catholic) doesn't really do brevity.  That and the "sincere" (or pious) voice they use when praying.  Having listened once to a recording of myself preaching and been appalled at the cold distant tone I had, I am sure this is entirely unintentional (given that he was an actor once, I certainly hope so - if it's put on pious that would really drive me batty!  Especially as it's bad acting, if acting it is!).  However, I realised this morning that there is another factor at play here.  Our divergent work schedules mean that it will be a total of nearly 3 weeks between meeting up with Rachel.  Being a Fifer, I don't "do" love-lorn moping and pining - I just get seriously grumpy!  It must be love!

Saturday, 22 January 2011

The King's Speech

Having delayed a cinema trip 24 hours so that we could go as a group from the house, off we toddled to the Odeon to see "The King's Speech".  Excellent it was too (apart from having crowds outside the Palace in 1939 (it was 1945 actually) and Winston Churchill agin Edward and Mrs Simpson (tripe - he warbled on about forming a King's Party at the time and was very wonky and odd about Indian Independence in the 1930's - still, he was right about Adolf.  And Stanley Baldwin didn't resign apologising for getting it wrong about Hitler - how they got that wrong given that Abp Lang was superbly played by Derek Jacobi who played Baldwin opposite Albert Finney in "Churchill - The Wilderness Years") - couldn't they have asked him?).  It was difficult to decide whose performance was best: Colin Firth deserves an Oscar for being as good a King as a Queen (Mamma Mia, A Single Man), Helena Bonham Carter got the late Queen Mum's wave absolutely perfect - although this now means she is Helen Mirren's mother cinematically!!!  And Geoffrey Rush was superb as usual.  If that damn Yankee Academy doesn't give it several Oscars, then they are inward looking, overpaid botox junkies!  Go see - it nearly made me a Royalist!

Thursday, 20 January 2011

St Agnes Day

Today being a day on which I am actually saying mass, I thought it worth posting a little bit (nicked gratefully from Wikipedia) on the Saint whose festival it is: 

Agnes of Rome (c. 291 – c.304) is a virgin–martyr, venerated by the Roman Catholic, Eastern Catholics, the Anglican Communion and in Eastern Orthodoxy. She is one of 7 women, excluding the Blessed Virgin, commemorated by name in the Canon of the Mass. She is the patron saint of chastity, gardeners, girls, engaged couples, rape victims, and virgins.  Agnes is depicted in art with a lamb, as her name resembles the Latin word for "lamb", agnus. The name "Agnes" is actually derived from the feminine Greek adjective "hagnē" (ἁγνή) meaning "chaste, pure, sacred".

According to tradition, Saint Agnes was a member of the Roman nobility born c. 291 and raised in a Christian family. She suffered martyrdom at the age of 12 or 13 during the reign ofDiocletian, on January 21 304.  

The Prefect Sempronius wished Agnes to marry his son, and on Agnes' refusal he condemned her to death. As Roman law did not permit the execution of virgins, Sempronius had a naked Agnes dragged through the streets to a brothel. Various versions of the legend give different methods of her escape from this predicament. In one, as she prayed, her hair grew and covered her body. It was also said that all of the men who attempted to rape her were immediately struck blind. In another the son of the Prefect is struck dead, but revived after Agnes prayed for him, causing her release. There is then a trial from which Sempronius excuses himself, and another figure presides, sentencing her to death. When led out to die she was tied to a stake, but the bundle of wood would not burn, or the flames parted away from her, whereupon the officer in charge of the troops drew his sword and beheaded her, or, in some other texts, stabbed her in the throat. It is also said that the blood of Agnes poured to the stadium floor where other Christians soaked up the blood with cloths.

Agnes' bones are conserved in the church of Sant'Agnese fuori le mura in Rome, built over the catacomb that housed Agnes' tomb. Her skull is preserved in a side chapel in the church of Sant'Agnese in Agone in Rome's Piazza Navona.

An interesting custom is observed on her feast day. Two lambs are brought from the Trappist abbey of Tre Fontane in Rome to the Pope to be blessed. On Holy Thursday they are shorn, and from the wool is woven the pallium which the pope gives to a newly consecrated metropolitan archbishop as a sign of his jurisdiction and his union with the pope.  Saint Agnes is the patron saint of young girls; folk custom called for them to practice rituals on Saint Agnes' Eve (20–21 January) with a view to discovering their future husbands. This superstition has been immortalized in John Keats's poem, "The Eve of Saint Agnes".

The factual veracity of all this can not be guaranteed - but I certainly intend to remember the groups she is patron of at the altar today.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Equality and the Law.

It was a perfectly reasonable day at work (if you exclude the vehicle malfunction) and I had a wee catch up on the news.  An English judge has decided that a Christian couple who run a hotel in Cornwall were acting agin the Law in refusing a double bed to a gay couple - see

The moral of the story is: no one is above the Law.  When it has gone through Parliament and received the Royal Assent, it is the Law and no amount of pious sincerity exempts you from it.  The Christian Institute and their ilk may lament it, but what was the acceptable viewpoint of 50 years ago may no longer be acceptable in the public domain.  And the hoteliers forgot that their "private home" was in the eyes of the law a public establishment from which they made money and was therefore required to operate under a different set of rules.  The Churches have too often sidled out from under the requirements of equality legislation by claiming special privilege on the grounds of religious conviction.  Perhaps now the tide of public opinion is turning against this dubious exemption.

One of the strongest advocates of this state of affairs is the former Primate of All England ,George Carey.  I do not agree with him and have been critical of his attitude in other posts.  However, I was saddened to hear that his grandson who had struggled with addiction had died at the young age of 24.  I may strongly disagree with the man, but cannot but sympathise with him and his family in their grief, shock and loss.  And  of course remember them in my prayers.  This the only Christian response.  It is our duty indeed but also our (I hope instinctive) God inspired compassionate default response.  Charity and compassion are easy enough to offer to the lovable and those whom we like or agree with - which makes it all the more important that we offer it in equal measure to to we dislike or disagree with and those who would disagree with or dislike us or even hate and despise us.  Compassion is for export as well as for internal use.

Monday, 17 January 2011

St Antony of Egypt

From the Life of Saint Anthony by Saint Athanasius.
Saint Antony receives his vocation
When Antony was about eighteen or twenty years old, his parents died, leaving him with an only sister. He cared for her as she was very young, and also looked after their home.
  Not six months after his parents’ death, as he was on his way to church for his usual visit, he began to think of how the apostles had left everything and followed the Saviour, and also of those mentioned in the book of Acts who had sold their possessions and brought the apostles the money for distribution to the needy. He reflected too on the great hope stored up in heaven for such as these. This was all in his mind when, entering the church just as the Gospel was being read, he heard the Lord’s words to the rich man: If you want to be perfect, go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor – you will have riches in heaven. Then come and follow me.
  It seemed to Antony that it was God who had brought the saints to his mind and that the words of the Gospel had been spoken directly to him. Immediately he left the church and gave away to the villagers all the property he had inherited, about 200 acres of very beautiful and fertile land, so that it would cause no distraction to his sister and himself. He sold all his other possessions as well, giving to the poor the considerable sum of money he collected. However, to care for his sister he retained a few things. 
  The next time he went to church he heard the Lord say in the Gospel: Do not be anxious about tomorrow. Without a moment’s hesitation he went out and gave the poor all that he had left. He placed his sister in the care of some well-known and trustworthy virgins and arranged for her to be brought up in the convent. Then he gave himself up to the ascetic life, not far from his own home. He kept a careful watch over himself and practised great austerity. He did manual work because he had heard the words: If anyone will not work, do not let him eat. He spent some of his earnings on bread and the rest he gave to the poor.
  Having learned that we should always be praying, even when we are by ourselves, he prayed without ceasing. Indeed, he was so attentive when Scripture was read that nothing escaped him and because he retained all he heard, his memory served him in place of books. 
  Seeing the kind of life he lived, the villagers and all the good men he knew called him the friend of God, and they loved him as both son and brother.
Abba Antony, pray for us and with us, today and always.  AMEN.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Living in Community.

I recently published an article on my experiences of living in community in the Pisky Provincial magazine "Inspires" (or "Despairs" to the congenitally cynical!).  Evidently a fair number of peeps have asked for copies of it (flattering) and m'learned friends in da House are fed up photocopying and posting the darn thing out to the punters!  So after a wee consult with his Very Reverence the Convener of the (Dis)Information & Communications Committee (aka the Ministry of Black Propaganda), I have decided to put it on the blog so the Universe can access it via a link if necessary.  Enjoy!

“Living Together – reflections on living in a Christian community”
by John Penman

Being part of a Christian Community living and praying together has been a recurrent part of my journey of faith. When a student in Aberdeen, I encountered the Sisters of the Society of St Margaret in their beautiful (and now sadly defunct) Comper Convent on the Spital.  And noted a mystery explicable only to God – why do nuns sing the Office at a pitch audible only to bats and other nuns?  Before Theological College, I spent a year living in community in London.  That community (the Community of St Mark) only existed for a year and we worked with the Homeless. Interestingly, we lived in the Vicarage where Fr James Adderly started the Society of the Divine Compassion which became SSF (our story is told in “The No Nonsense Vicar” by Fr Derek White – complete with photos of a young Penman in the habit of the “Acid House Monks”!)  I was also in the resident community at Iona Abbey, with it’s ministry of worship and hospitality to some wonderfully diverse pilgrims (I’ll never forget the New Agers who greeted the Sun on Whitsunday with nude dancing on the beach – they fair flustered the Children’s Worker at the MacLeod Centre!).

My next experience of Community living and praying was both more traumatic and more significant.  I am one of the last Scottish clergy formed through lengthy residence in the quasi-monastic setting of Coates Hall.  In some ways it was very unsatisfactory, especially for students who were married with families. They had to work out the tension between their commitment to community living and praying and the legitimate needs and demands of their domestic faith community.  Living together with different levels of commitment to shared life bred resentments – the “live in” single students were not happy at being required to attend both Morning and Evening prayer when the marrieds got let off with attending one or other of the services.  And the Chapel could be far from a place of spiritual unity when the diversity of theological perspectives took liturgical flesh.  I clearly recall some fierce clashes over inclusive language – although it totally depended on who was doing it and how they presented it as to how fierce the rows were!  But the enforced living together (the Colditz experience!) certainly made you try to understand what made you and others ‘tick’ in relation to God and self.  Which is very monastic!

In parish ministry, I encountered the religious life occasionally.  Retreats at Mirfield, the Franciscan House at Glasshampton, Pluscarden Abbey and the Kelham fathers Priory in Durham taught me that male religious do pray but can’t cook! (At Mirfield this is dealt with by the sensible employment of decent cooks!).  The Parish I was curate of in London had a week’s mission led by CR and I went for quiet days to the Benedictines at Elmore Abbey.  Regular trips to Walsingham meant renewed encounters with the St Margaret’s Sisterhood and SSF.  When a Rector, I always had (by chance, not design) Carmelite nuns in the district who were always delightful and hospitable, even lending us a cottage in the convent grounds for Vestry away days (though like  Anglican nuns, they sing the office way too high for mere mortals to join in!).  So Christian Religious communities have part of my life for a long time.

This partly explains why I am where I am today.  After 16 years of parish life, I moved to live in a Community in Central Edinburgh.  Personally, I realised that I functioned best as a human being in a community.  Living alone was not good for me.  And praying alone was an utter disaster.  For me, praying alone = not praying much.  In the spring of 2009 I joined the Community at Emmaus House.  Based in a Georgian former B&B in Tollcross, the Community was established in 2008 by Andrew Bain and Janet Matthews.  Both had an idea that they wanted to run some sort of retreat/hospitality centre.  Their shared vision was underpinned by a mutual interest in Benedictine spirituality.  However, other influences have been felt too.  Whilst there are links with the Diocesan Lectio Divina network, the Daily Office used is that of SSF, a close and friendly relationship has developed between Emmaus House and the Community of the Transfiguration at Roslin (Franciscan/Cistercian ethos) and also with a small RC Augustinian community in Fife. Whilst the Core Community are Anglican, long term residents have included Lutherans and Roman Catholics and many of the guests who come to the House are Roman Catholic or Quaker.

Most religious communities have as part of their “Charism”, some sort of “work” to do.  At Emmaus, this consists primarily of Hospitality in the City.  The house was a B&B and is run in part as a guest house.    But Hospitality extends to a wider community through Open House sessions: on Tuesdays Midday Prayer is offered, followed by a simple lunch of soup, bread and cheese.  On Thursday evenings, there is a simple meal, some study of a topic of spiritual interest (we spent some months reading Joan Chittister commentary on the Rule of St Benedict) and Night Prayer.  In part, we fill a gap left by the departure of SSF from the city in the 1990’s.  We also host gatherings of local Church groups and have accommodated a rich tapestry of visitors –including Finnish Lutherans and clergy from our companion diocese of Cape Coast.  Plus an Afghan family (who set the lunch table so we could go to Church on Palm Sunday), an Iranian school group (part of a United Nations Youth Assembly) and a group from a Boys Home in Palestine visiting the UK. A second part of our charism would be Prayer.  Morning Prayer and Night Prayer are celebrated daily in our chapel (“The Holy Hut”) in the back garden.  The Sacrament is reserved and the interior decorated with a Franciscan crucifix and some icons.  No pews though – IKEA do lovely benches!  Community members and associates, joined by guests join in the rhythm of the Church’s prayer to build a sense of sacred space in the midst of a busy city.

Emmaus House has proved to be (for me) a haven and a place of profound transformation – even Transfiguration.  That is the power and genius of community life.  There has been a decline in vocations to traditional expressions of the Religious Life in most Christian denominations in the West but there has also been a rediscovery of the need for new expressions of that life.  This New Monasticism has taken diverse forms – the Lay Community of St Benedict under the aegis of Worth Abbey for example.  Emmaus House fits somewhere into that spectrum as the SEC’s particular contribution to this Fresh Expression.  Rooted in prayer and hospitality, set in the midst of a vibrant capital and with an open attitude to the human and spiritual condition, it is a resource for all of God’s people.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

And still it goes on.

The Coptic Church world wide seems to be the special focus of the more vicious Islamicist elements just now. See
In a sense there is a horrid logic to this.  They are relatively easy targets and, if you can draw "the West" into a pseudo-crusade (as it could be spun), you have a sort of twisted victory.  The Islamicist fringe can only be defeated ultimately by cutting they off from their money ("It's the economy stupid") and that means hammering their fiscal backers in sunny Saudi Arabia.  It is a war of intelligence and electronics rather than one involving tanks etc.  But still prayer for protection of the vulnerable and the conversion of the twisted and misguided remains an options for those of us who ain't spooks or soldiers.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Bolshevik Priest!

Not exactly good news this link, but the threat to Coptic Christians hasn't lessened overnight:

Less worryingly (or maybe not), I have forgotten to admit to having been elected Shop Steward at work.  That blooming Bolshevik hat of mine is to blame I am sure!  if nothing else it commits me to occasional attendance at Staff/Management forums.  It was really a case of "We need Union representation - who's in it? (Moi and 2 others admitted to it) Who's willing (or not up for promotion in other words)? - Er, me. Will you do it? (Oh, OK).  Seems to happen to Worker Priests - I know a nice monk who is an Old Etonian and a Baronet to boot who was an NUM Shop Steward:-).  Come the revolution, they'll still probably shoot me - wrong sort of Revolutionary!

Monday, 3 January 2011

Real persecution.


It is a recurring bleat of the conservative Christian that they are being "persecuted" by nasty liberals in the Church or by our increasingly secularised society.  Then you hear of suicide bombers blowing up Coptic Churches in Egypt and threats to Coptic communities in Europe

I declare a slight interest here: when I was Priest in Charge of Kirkcaldy there was a Coptic congregation there.  They had bought the old Inverteil parish Church from the Kirk and used it for their worship.  Their community was drawn from East Central Scotland (Dundee and Edinburgh) and they enriched the local ecumenical scene greatly by their presence.  The difference between their experience of persecution and the persecution allegedly faced by the likes of (Lord) George Carey, Michael Scott-Joynt and those Anglicans not in favour of wifie priests is stark: the purple shirted "victims" sit in the House of Lords, can write letters to the Times and get yelping space in the Torygraph.  In Egypt, the Copts get blown up.  The whingers in purple might like to reflect on this before their next public girn.

A section from the Coptic Prayer of the Veil (roughly equivalent to the Anglican General Thanksgiving) may be worth our using as we pray for truly persecuted Christians:

"All envy, all temptation, all the influence of Satan, the intrigue of wicked people, the rising up of enemies, hidden and manifest, take away for us, and from all thy people and from this thy holy place.  But as for those things which are useful and good, provide us with them.  For thou art the holy one, who gave us the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions and every power of the enemy."

(As translated by Richard Marsh in "Prayers from the East" SPCK 2004)

Sunday, 2 January 2011

The New Year's here!

And a very happy one to all of youse out there.  Last year I wrote: "Looking back, 2009 was (to quote our Sovereign Lady Queen Elizabeth) an Annus Horriblis indeed, breakdown, sick leave, therapy, quitting parish ministry, unemployment and owning up to alcohol problems. 2010 can only be better (if it ain't, then it's find a coffin year). Funnily enough, I feel I now know myself better and am slightly more comfortable in my own skin. So moving on is more of a possibility."  Looking back "moving on" happened big time for me - a new job and getting a girlfriend!!!! Oh yes and I am still sober. Surely there can't be any more radical a set of changes for me in 2011 - can there?  I don'treally care, as so far it all seems to have worked very well.  Suppose it'll be a case of "watch this space"!  Mind you I failed to kick the weed - so we try that again (48 hrs into it and ain't smoked yet, so...)

I am now almost snuffle free (Vapour Rub rules!) and work is a fairly easy-ish run tomorrow.  So it's onwards and upwards.