Photo credits

The Embalse de Riano in northern Spain. The picture was taken by .... me!

Wednesday, November 29

End of Placement

Tonight I attended Evensong for the last [official] time.

I was supposed to be doing the prayers, but had forgotten and not prepared anything. So surprise surprise I ended up doing the readings again. {Which I did quite well for once}.

Afterwards I overheard a Lady complaining that on Sunday the collect for 'Stir up Sunday' had not been used. I was also told that someone else had complained that we had talked about it being "Christ the King" Sunday, but had not said that it was the first Sunday of Advent next week.

I can see the benefit of a church calander, but these episodes make me worry that sometimes the tail is wagging the dog.

So, that is it. I have finished my placement.

It was with a tinge of sadness that I took off my vestments for the last time, and walked out of that building.

Key learing points have been:

1) Always go to the toilet BEFORE you put the vestments on
2) People who do things differently form yourself are not ALL superstitious and ignorant of the Scriptures and the true path of salvation. Some of them are quite intelligent people who do these things for a reason, and find that it helps them, without compromising their faith in the work of Christ on the cross. God's church is diverse, and needs to be to fully express his glory. As well as this meaning that the traditional churches I have objected to are OK, it also means that the non-conformist churches they object to are OK.
3) God made the psalms to be sung. Hence they work better sung by a high church choir than read by a low church semi-literate unrehearsed reader.
4) It is not a sin to cross yourself.

What next?

Umm.... read the training manual and check...! I think I have to do a written report on the placement, and then a presentation at the next year group meeting sometime in January.

Tuesday, November 28


Well, I preached my sermon on Obedience. Any sermon with this topic is destined to result in hypocrisy, and I really should start paying attention to the traffic speed limit before I lecture other people about obeying Christ. However, the actual sermon seemed to go down well. I was panicking at the last minute because when the Vicar vetted my sermon beforehand (I voluntarily gave him this opportunity - it is his parish after all) he said it was nicely interwoven but he wanted me to leave out one potentially sensitive paragraph. If my sermons were modular in their structure it would be easy to miss a bit out, but my sermons are, well, nicely intewoven, and so if you take a bit out it wrecks the whole thing. It was really hard to re-do it during Sunday afternoon without the offending paragraph but still nicely interwoven. But we have a gracious God who rescued me and it all came together in the end. In the morning service they announced that I would be preaching in the evening, so it's nice that the congregation tripled in size with extras coming to hear me. (That means there was twelve instead of the normal 4)

Tomorrow's evensong is my last offical attendance at the Church, and then I will be back to normal in my own church.

On Thursday the Vicar is coming round to develop a 'Working agreement', required by the diocese for all readers, to make sure that there is a good balance between domestic and church duties. Please pray that suitable functions will be identified for me, and that these will also uplift my family rather then just making them put up with ME being in the limelight.

Saturday, November 25

Heaven was never like this!

I had a dream last night. In it, I had died and gone to heaven, and was walking with the apostles. In fact, we were walking on water. The trouble is, in my dream, heaven was a sewage works - not the best place for walking on water! [I work as a civil engineer designing sewage works]

More seriously, I'm still perplexed by the contents of my previous post. Mrs was very dismissive, just laughing at me for taking it seriously at all. But if it was truly God and this was my Samuel in the temple moment, I can't dismiss it. Nor should I take any rash action, in case it was just a bizarre brain storm. Thinking theologically, I really couldn't make such an action now, there is just too much distance between me and Rome. I have read "Rome sweet Home" by Scott Hahn, and found it very challenging, but he still had fundamental flaws in his exegesis. (generally in the form of taking isolated scriptures and interpreting them without depth in a way suited to Rome rather than the rest of the Scriptures). I am a Sola Scriptura person: Tradition and Reason can help us (and hinder us) in the interpretation of Scripture and prevent "Judas went and hanged himself"..."Go and do thou likewise" episodes, but at the end of the day if there is any genuine conflict between the Scripture and the Tradition and the Reason, the Scripture has to win. Most of my formerly catholic friends cite discrepancies between scripture and RC tradition as being reasons why they reluctantly left.

And yet, theological perfection is unachievable. My church has errors. So if God told me to move from my original 'perfect' church to this flawed one, can he not also tell me to move to one that is even more flawed? Can I not be his messenger in that context? Can I remain true to my neo-anabaptist heart and say "I am a Roman Catholic?" Can I with integrity join a Roman Catholic church and subvert it with Sola Fides teaching?

Can I say to God "No, Lord, my theology prevents me from obeying you"?

I am in a mess on this one - the road is one I really don't want to travel, but if I am convinced it is comanded by God, what choice do I have?

I shall have to lay many fleeces, and take one step at a time.

Wednesday, November 22


I went to the toilet in the middle of the night, and when I got back to bed, I prayed "OK God, why have you woken me up?"

The words that drifted through my mind in the inky blackness of the night were "I'm calling you to be a [Roman] Catholic"

WHAT !!???!!!


Option 1 - it was genuinely God. I am about to preach a sermon on the topic of obedience, and how it will lead us into very surprising places, so this may be so.

Option 2 - it was just a fantasy of my own mind, stirred up by my worst fears that God might call me in this direction.

Option3 - It was the Devil trying to tempt me with 'Babylon the great Harlot'

So I didn't get back to sleep for a while. For a start, I am hardly ready to become a Roman Catholic. I am a strongly Protestant person - I reject transubstantiation, penances, purgatory, the confessional, their almost-Pelagian idea that you have to supplement God's grace with good works to be saved, prayers to Mary and the saints, images, infant baptism etc etc etc. It would be daft for me to just go and join the nearst RC church - I would not fit in. If it was indeed a call of God, I see it more as a description of a milestone or destination along the road, the long road, that I am already on.

When I got up in the morning and did my normal Bible Reading, the passage was Jesus speaking - "In my father's house there are many rooms". In the context of the day I read this as "In my father's house there are many denominations. You can move from one to another. There are people there that never meet each other and think wildy different things, but are all in the one house."

So we shall see where God leads me.

It will be interesting to come back to this post in 20 years time, and see if i think "Ha, that was a stupid idea, what was I thinking?" or "Wow, that was the start of this wonderful journey".

Monday, November 20

Sunday 19th November

Morning - at my own church on deputy warden duty, and being accosted by angry fathers (see previous post!)

Evening - observed a Healing sevrice at my placement church.

There was very minimal Liturgy. There were long periods of silence. There were also times when the Vicar played choral music (Bach and Chopin) - very beautiful but you couldn't hear the wrods. It did create a good 'mood' though. (Isn't it the wild charismatics who are accused of manipulating the mood of the congregation with music?) After two short and very good adresses, there were prayers for all members of the church (and a few others) who were sick. Then there was an invitation for those present requiring healing to come to the altar rail (I thought this was the preserve of wild evangelicals?) where the Vicar and Reader layed hands on them and prayed.

In fact, I felt very comfortable and at home with the whole thing. and have no doubt taht God was present.

I can't say anyone threw their crutches away.

But then, I've never seen that at a wild charismatic healing meeting either. (Even though I have seen some very interesting 'before-' and 'after-' MRI scans, and known a guy who had to abandon his successful claim for compensation for asbestosis becasue he had been healed, but i wasn't present to witness it.)

In trouble again

Some time ago, my daughter told me that her 12 year-old school and church friend had been invited to join the church band that leads the worship in the 11 o/clock service on Sunday mornings.

Her Dad is already a member of the group. Smelling nepotism, and having never really noticed any spark of faith in the girl, I grunted words to my daughter about how people in the band should be strong Christians (i.e. fit to lead worship).

Later I grumbled similarly to my wife. She, being wiser than me, reminded me that the girl in question had been baptised (believer’s immersion baptism) in the session after my own daughters. Realising that it was just a case of me being clueless and oblivious to the world around me, I spoke to my daughter, saying basically I was wrong; her friend would be fine in the band.

I thought that was the end of it. How wrong! Unfortunately, my daughter had already told the girl, who had told her family, who (being one of the more touchy families in the church at the best of times) all became very offended and upset. Well I would be if someone had said that about my kids.

The first I knew of this was when her Dad approached me on Sunday morning before Church. To give credit where it is due, he handled the situation very well and in full accordance with the scriptures for this kind of thing – a textbook case. He asked if he could have a word with me, and said that I had said his daughter couldn’t join the band because she wasn’t a Christian. [That’s not actually what I said]. I replied it had been a misunderstanding, and took him into a side room for a proper talk. I explained that I had blurted out of turn, and that I had already been told off by my wife, and had already spoken to my daughter to set the record straight. I apologised and grovelled as much as I could, and as far as I can tell, he accepted my explanation and apology, and we shook hands.

However, knowing the family, and knowing that being reconciled to the man of the household is very different to being reconciled to the girl and her mother, I felt something more would be needed. I went round to their house in the afternoon, with a box of chocolates and a card with a hand written apology. I was hoping they would be out…. but went in and apologised in person to both of them. They were both still clearly hurt by it all, and said so, repeatedly, but seemed to appreciate the fact that I had been round to apologise.

As David found after his fling with Bathsheba, we can be reconciled but we may still have to suffer the consequences of our actions. And though they may say we are reconciled, in truth, if I was in their position I would still be feeling miffed, and you can’t undo the fact that I did think and say those things.

We shall see what turns out.


Don't tell anyone yet, but there were two thick blue lines on the preganancy test on Sunday......

Thanks for all your prayers! Glory to God!

Please pray for the pregnancy to be sustained.

Friday, November 17

Christ takes responsibility

This is an idea that has been cooking in my brain for a while, and I'd appreciate your thoughts as to whether it is a well known idea, a slightly different take on a well known idea, or something more novel.

We talk about what Jesus was actually doing on the cross, and we can get into Christus Victor and substitutionary redemption and all those different theological ideas - which I should be able to list by now but I'm not that clever.

The image that I want to look at is more of a politician. In the UK and no doubt similar hings happen elsewhere, we are used to the press, media, and opposition MPs calling for Government ministers to resign becasue something has gone wrong in their department. And of course usually the minister in question denies it all vigorously, and the afair drags on for weeks while he hopes it will all die down, and of course it doesn't and in the end he is forced to resign after all. And it would have been better if he had resigned right a the very beginning.

This initial resignation would not mean that he himself has done wrong, only that the error has happened within the department for which he is repsonsible. It is on his patch. His watch. Therefore it is his responsibility, even if he didn't actually do it. And that is why he should resign anyway, as a matter of course.

And so we come back to the crucifixion.

In my illustration, God is the government, and Jesus is the minister.

The world says:
What about suffering?
What about natural disasters?
What about wars?
What about disease?
What about children taht die?

Jesus says:
I didn't do it
It's not my 'fault'
But it is my responsibility - it happened on my patch, my watch, so i am responsible.

His response is to 'resign', willingly, not waiting to be forced out of office. But the extent of the problem is such that a simple resignation, or abdication, is insufficient. In accepting responsibility, he takes on board the full consequences, and that means that he, the innocent and infinite God, takes on limited mortal flesh and dies, taking on himself - accepting responibility for - the sins of the world.

What about suffering? --- Jesus accepts responsibility and dies
What about natural disasters? ---
Jesus accepts responsibility and dies
What about wars? --
Jesus accepts responsibility and dies
What about disease? ---
Jesus accepts responsibility and dies
What about children that die? ---
Jesus accepts responsibility and dies

So, am I a genius, a heretic, or just regurgitating stuff others have already thought of?

The long hours of waiting

I had to take my son to Hospital last night.

I got home from work at 7:30 to find him curled up on the sofa with a big headache. He said it had come ono suddenly, almost as if hit on the head, and was getting worse. As he moved his head around, the pain seemd to move. He was also nauseous, shaking, and had blurred vision.

A couple of years ago a friend's daughter had a sudden headache and was sent home from school. That evening she lapsed into a coma, and a week later she had died from waht proved to be a brain hemorrage. And now, here was my son, complaining of a sudden headache.

The National Health Service has closed down the children's emergency service at my loal hospital 10 minutes away, and so I had to negotiate the tail end of the rush hour to get him to the replacement children's emergency placement in the next town, 20 minutes away. 20 minutes is an eternity when you think your son is dying! I could have called an ambulance, but that would have probably taken even longer to arrive at our house.

On the way he started to vomit.

I drove as quick as possible, while trying to be reassuring to him ("I always drive like this when I'm alone")

The triage nurse could see that he was in abad way and moved him quickly into the emergency ward. He was still vomitting.

It's at times like this that you notice silly things - his ear was full of soil from the football pitch. His girlfriend had drawn love hearts in biro on his arm. He didn't look very well kept - would they blame me if it turned out to be serious?

THe doctor - a young guy - was very good, very thorough, and with careful questioning established that the headache had not started instantaneously, but over about 30 seconds. i started to relax. I was soon convinced that it was just a migraine - twice as abad as any he had before, but just a migraine. (Well, actually my sister-in-law died of a migraine, so its not 'just' a migraine, but a lot better than a brain hemorage). ThHe doctor also eliminated meningitis - my other worry.

My son was now actually starting to feel better. I hoped they would soon let us go home, but intead they referred us to the peadiatric ward to get a proper diagnosis of migraine rather than just my say-so. I phoned my wife to tell her not to worry, and to say we would still be about 3 hours.

More waiting. More waiting.

Eventually we were seen by the pediatric doctor. More thorough tests - more examination of his grubby ears! She also concluded that it ws probably migraine. "You can go home..(HOPE!).. but I'll just check with the Registrar (GLOOM!). I had a bet with my son - who was now much better and very chatty - that we would still be there at 12:30. I won! Finally a nurse popped her head in and said we could go. We got home, much more quickly on the now empty roads, at 1am.

His all goes to show that when it matters, you re-discover how much you love your kids. I had a great time for one-to-one conversation with him.

We are thankful to God that it was not something worse. Christians are not exempt from the troubles of this world. (The girl mentioned above was the daughter of a Baptist pastor).

We are thankful to have a national health service, free at the point of need, and although I moan about the trip to the next town, if i lived in Africa that would be 3 days.

Thursday, November 16

Officiated at Evensong

I officiated at Evensong for my placement church last night.

It seemed to go well - the only minor error was a pause while I waited for people to stand up, then realised that the reason they were still sitting was that they were waiting for me to announce the hymn number.

Since this is a short post, I will take this opportunity to mention one thing that i do really like about the liturgical approach, and that is when the choir sings the psalm. It brings the psalm to life in a way that does not happen when the psalm is simply read, as it would be in my normal church. Obviously the psalms were written to be sung, and they work best that way.

Possible pregancy still holding - we will see if the morning sickness starts on cue next week before we tell anyone. So you readers are very privilidged!

Monday, November 13

Last Year's Christmas

Sunday was a little different this week - I had to go to a rememberance service in the next town becasue my son had to put on his cadet uniform and march about as part of it. Last year I found this dreadfully dull. This year was better, so either:

1 It was better than last year
2 Anything seems good compared to my parish placement
3 I have become more aware of what is going on through my training.

I hope 3, but suspect 2.

In the evening I went to the evening prayer at the placement. I had no formal role and sat in tye congregation. That is to say i was 20% of the congregation. The service was lead by their ordinand. She did very well, making a similar number of mistakes to me, which I found comforting. I tip I will pick up from er is to make pencil notes in the service book rather han relying on a separate list which is never n your feild of vision.

I still can't really come to terms with liturgy as a form of worship. I undertsand that congregational participation is good. Iunderstand that shared liturgy keeps you in communion with other churches in the present, past and future. But fundamentally it is like giving to my wife the same Christmas Card that I gave her last year. In fact, imagine the scene....

I invite my wife into the lounge, where I have arranged my children in rows.
They are kneeling on the floor, trying to think of all the things they have done wrong this week.
After a while, when I think they are sufficiently penitent and feel 'right with mother', I reach out and pick up the Offical Christmas Card 1661.

Solemnly, slowly and quietly with many pauses for reflection, I intone the words:

"Dear Mother, We thank you for coming to us tonight."

The children respond flatly in unison -
"And blessing us with your presence"
Me -
"We bring you our thanks for your kindness this year"

Children -

"And for feeding us at each meal"....

eventually, after more of this, I get to -
"We wish thee a Merry Christmas"

Children -

"And a Happy New Year"

We sit for a long pause. Then I get up, blow out the candles, and walk out. A little while later, the children walk out too, shaking my hand on the way.

OK, yes, I am being a bit ridiculous here, and am probably guilty of excessive sarcasm and am probably spoiling my point. But I just don't really buy the idea that ancient words rattled off (or occasionally spoken with a bit more thought) are a better way of worhipping than telling God how much i love him TODAY and how grateful I am for his love to me TODAY. The Israelites had to collect manna each day - yesterday's had gone mouldy.

Changing the subject: I still haven't been paid under the new work arrangements. Perhaps I shold have given them the correct bank account number.......

Also, there is just the slimmest of possibilities that we might be pregnant.

Monday, November 6

Carol Service Prayer Request

My small workplace christian fellowship has organised a carol service.

We have invited the company Chief Executive (we think he is a Christian) to do one of the readings - he accepted.

Based on this high-profile person being there, we invited our Bishop to do the sermon - he accepted.

So we have a potentially high-profile, potentially well atended, potentialy significant evangelistic carol service. But we have just heard he room we booked is being refurbished. Alternative venues are offered, but none are appropriate for an open carol service with Bishop and Chief Executive.

Please pray for the cancellation/postponement of the building work or for a suitable alternaitve venue, so that this can go ahead as planned.

Every one has to comment on Ted Haggard

There but for the grace of God go I.

Sanctify a party

Hey, what?! – perfection! Did the second chalice this Sunday without tripping and without spilling! Had my lessons in Genuflecting. Crossed myself for the first time ever. Did the reading at the right time form the version requested.

At evening prayers, lead the liturgy with only two, unimportant, mistakes.

I might be beginning to look like an Anglo-Catholic. Except for the theology of course.

After the very formal, quiet and solemn morning communion I went back to my own church to collect the kids. The service hadn’t finished so I waited in the foyer. It was a packed family service. The whole congregation was dancing and singing. Flags were waving, and balloons were going up to the ceiling. As a continuation of the Light Party held to provide an alternative to Halloween trick or treating on 31st October, there had been an election to decide whether the Vicar or the Children’s Church leader should get gunged (for those of you who are sane/not British, gunging is when you pour brightly coloured [if you’re lucky] or smelly and slimy fluids over your victim). The Vicar was chosen, but at the very last minute someone else, dressed up as ‘Jesus’ came and took his place in the gunging booth.

Formal Liturgical Ceremony v Wild Party.

Which was the true reflection of God’s Glory? Which was true worship?

The party bunch look down on the ‘dead’ ceremony.

The ceremonialists look down on the irreverent antics of the party.

I am convinced that BOTH are essential.

God is so magnificent and infinite that unity cannot hold him. He expresses himself as trinity. When he makes man in his own image, he makes THEM, male AND female (and kids). When he made dogs, he did Alsatians, Chihuahuas, Beagles, Rottweilers, and everything in between. Can solemnity on its own communicate what He is? Can a party on its own express what He is?

“Sanctify a fast – call a solemn assembly” say the same scriptures that record how David danced before the Lord and how a wide variety of musical instruments were used in the temple.

Wednesday, November 1


I thought arriving late at evensong would get me off the hook of having to do anything. No luck, I was asked to do the OT reading. I agreed. I was given a reading from Wisdom 3. No time to object to being asked to read an Apocryphal book as if it were part of the OT. I have no objection to the Apocrypha as contemporary literature offering insights and some good stuff, as per the 39 Articles, but I don't like the way it was given the same presence as canonical books. I didn't like the way I was cornered into it, but that is my own fault. Anyway, I also think that sometimes God has to resort to these methods becasue if he asked me upfront I would say no. Can't have God's will getting in the way of my theology, can we?

Incidentally the 39 Articles also condemn the invocation of saints. So the score is

Cranmer with SaintSimon 2, Placement Church 0.

God is working his purpose out

Today’s main news is the fulfilment of God’s purposes.

Followers of my blog will know that in answer to my prayers for an increased income, God showed me the path of working as an independent contractor, rather than as an employee.

Well here I am, in my new working arrangements. I should say new job, except that I am sting at the same desk doing the same thing, its just that instead of a multinational engineering consultancy getting the profit, I do! This has to be a gift from God!!

I have not yet reported on Sunday’s Church. This is because I have been spending the time (far too much time) participating in the vestments debate on Vindicated. Reading the debate you probably don’t appreciate just how much my views have changed as they are influenced by my placement church and by Kyle Potter’s Vindicated blog. I salute you, Kyle!

Sunday’s church was, well, different. The sound system failed, and instead of processing up the aisle to organ music with dignity, we processed up the aisle to the terrifying, deafening, horror science fiction feeeeeeedback!!!. The only thing whiter than the vestments was the silently panicked Vicar’s face.

Fortunately things came under control in time for the service to start properly shortly after we arrived at the end. In his sermon introduction the Vicar invoked the patron saint of PA systems, praying to him/her to keep the gremlins out, amen. So now all you Anglo-Catholics can set up blog debates as to why displacing our prayers to God onto the saints is not idolatrous. I can just about accommodate the idea that asking a saint to INTERCEDE for us is just like asking a living friend to pray for you, but I can’t stretch to praying directly to the saint for the saint to do something for you. That is to treat him/her as a god, and breaches the first commandment.

My own prayers, [after much editing-out of my favourite bits by the Vicar so that only the bland bits remained] seemed to go down well. People commented on how clearly they could hear – I think this was a polite way of saying I was too loud. But I have been trained to project my voice and there was also a microphone, and it takes practice to get the volume right.

I must spend less time blogging and commenting on blogs, and my resolution for today is to only check them once a day, and that must be during lunch break not working hours. It has been becoming too much of a compulsive addiction lately. Time for some self control

Mrs is keeping quiet about whether she feels pregnant or not. We have had too many disappointments before, and it is not implantation time yet. We can but wait and see.