Photo credits

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

Saturday, May 31

New doors

I think I mentioned that we had been planning to use some inheritance money to buy a flat in a beautiful holiday resort.

It fell through, because they were never able to provide an adequate lease document.  They offered an insurance policy in its place, to cover costs if some unknown landowner were to arise i the future.  But fundamentally the lease didn't clarify which parts of the building we were actually buying.  So we pulled out, and decided instead to upgrade the bathrooms in our house.

but no plan lasts long with my wife around.  She spotted a cheap flat in our own town, and today we viewed it, and put an offer in while we were still walking back down the stairs.

It will be interesting to see what happens next -  will the Lord open the door or close it?

Thursday, May 29

The seething hatreds in the office kitchen

Group A comprises those (mostly) men who only wash a cup (and only their own) at the end of the month if it has visible mould colonies growing in it.

Group B comprises those (mostly) women who will wash every cup in their team fastidiously every time and will polish every tea spoon to a dazzling shine. 

Group A hates group B.  They block up the kitchen and cause queues of thirsty men to build up while they fuss over futile OCD cleanliness.

Group B hates group A - those filthy lazy disease-ridden monsters who infect the whole office with fungal spores - Yeuch!

Of course most people are somewhere between.   I confess I am 95% of the way into group A.   I chain-smoke coffee, so I am only ever topping up my cup, quickly nipping into the kitchen between jobs, and cursing those women that have taken up residence so that I can't get to the boiler.  I trust that the regular flushes of fresh boiling water kill the germs.  Even though I know it doesn't work that way.  I know the women think I am a disgusting pig.  True.  But it's also true that they go over the top and take to long.

Dizzy and anxious

Had to attend a training course at work for a new bit of software on Wednesday.  I went along to the venue expecting someone to talk us through it all.  But after a few introductions, we were set onto doing it via an e-learning package.

Now, I have no problem with e-learning.  But when you are put in a room full of people who are all doing the same course, and who are all clearly romping ahead of you, you start to feel left behind.  You start to try to keep up.  You feel you don't have time to read the screen that the instructions relate to, so you click through the instructions but are really just going through the motions, not learning anything at all.  A feeling of panic rises inside you.  The others are all finishing and leaving, but you still have two modules to complete....   Eventually, you push your chair back and say "It's giving me a migraine".

The tutor was very helpful, and talked me through the key part.

But why did they not just do that in the first place?  If they want us to do e-learning, why not do it at our normal desks so we can go through it at our own pace?

I'm an intelligent chap and computer literate.  I just didn't have time to read each screen.  I think the others were more familiar with the topic tat the software is for than I am, so I was having to learn more than them.  But I did feel really lost, dazed and confused.

Wednesday, May 28

Off the rails

So confessed my son in an email.

He is supposed to be handing in his final project report and doing his final exams at a top university, but he has been hit by an attack of medical depression.

I am told there is a distinction between medical depression and lazy.

So over the last couple of days Mrs. and I went to visit him to give a hug.  We will fetch him home this Sunday, and after a rest period look to see what the future holds for him.

Sunday, May 25

Software licensing ethics

My daughter was about to buy a copy of Photoshop.  But of course it was a cheap version, not really legit.  I gave a lecture accordingly.

Later, having just bought a new laptop which I needed (honest(?)), I came to move my Office onto it.  It is a 'professional' version which I bought some years ago because I do small amounts of business on it and so felt I should get a proper license.  But, now that I looked at the disk again, I find that it says 'only for distribution with a new PC'.  I think that this is one of those truths that I have suppressed in my mind, that having gone to the trouble of trying to get the legitimate software I still ended up with a cheap i.e. illegal copy.

Plus, having noticed this while I was loading it onto the machine, I said "well, Lord, if you are going to forgive me for this one misdemeanour, please let it work".   It failed.

So it looks lke I am going to have to spend a further un-budgeted £213.    GRRR!

All religions lead to God ... ?

Such is the teaching of the church I an currently attending as a refugee from my own.

I don't think I will make it my permanent place of worship!

Saturday, May 24

May notice: nativity.

We have just booked to go to Bethlehem this Christmas, as our silver wedding anniversary celebration.

Diocesan response

They are offering my wife the choice to use a conciliation facility to resolve her differences with our vicar.

We will of course look bad and ungrateful and unchristian if we decline. 

But the truth is; this offer is derisory.  If she had been sexually abused, they would clearly not offer conciliation.  It's not the sort of thing where you can just day sorry, there has to be a reckoning.  Similarly, for a woman who has been psychologically abused for ten years, it is demeaning, a further insult, to suggest that it can be fixed by conciliation.  Conciliation will not restore what she has lost.  And even if through the process he comes to allow her more recognition in the church, she will always know that he does this under compulsion not because he talky believes in her.

The offer of conciliation shows that they have not understood the depth of the damage inflicted on her.  But furthermore it holds the subtle but really cruel suggestion that this is not a perpetrator and a victim but a battle of equals, and it implies that she has wronged him as much as he has wronged her and that she has to give ground to him. 

So we shall decline the inappropriate suggestion of conciliation.

The options available to them were:
1) no further action
2) let the case rest on file
3) conciliation
4) apply a penalty with the consent of the defendant
5) full tribunal.

We are pleased that they have not tried to get away with 1or 2.  We are not accepting of the 3 they have selected.  The vicar does not seem to be the penitent type who would accept 4.  So we will press for 5.

Vicar is only 18 months off retirement, so he may try to stri
ng it out until he can leave the organisation and escape it's disciplinary procedures.

Please pray for this process to ultimately bring justice.

Friday, May 23

Feeling a little better theologically. But not much!

Had a conversation with Mrs last night. Quite tense at times.

She reassured me to some degree that it is only little parts of thhe Bible that she challenges, she still respects it overall. And she emphasised quite strongly that she LIVES the gospel, and so takes issue with my suggestion that she is undermining it. But I can't really agree that it is 'little parts'.

She says:
Daniel is a myth
John's gospel was severely editted and added to by others - so for example the bit about being 'born again' was a later addition
Many of Paul's letters were not by him.
The parts that were written by Paul include his [sinful] prejudices

So basically, what is left?

As Paul says, "He who has broken one part of the law has broken all of it".

New grief

For once not related to my wife.

I found out today that a colleague died last saturday.

He was a really nice guy, with a gentle personality. A pleasure to work with. He was only in his late thrities. It's very sad to see him go.

I suppose death must come to everyone one day and so the only issue remaining is the timing. No matter whether we live 1 day or 100 years, we still live the whole of our life.

But it has been hard to focus on work today.

Thursday, May 22

Sitting at home feeling morose

I have not gone to work today.

The car is in for a service, and I'm waiting for some guys to come and install our new oven.

I'm also supposed to be catching up on loads of letters that I have been procrastinating for months, and some more urgent tax matters. So you are very privileged that I am writing to you, instead!

I have a strange life these days, in a complete limbo.  I really don't know where I am heading.  I have fallen off the conveyor belt of life and am now trash on the factory floor.  My calling to be a Vicar seems to have been totally destroyed by my wife's situation.  I would hate to go for it alone without her also going for it.  And to be honest, her theology has largely destroyed my faith.  My faith has always been grounded on the Scriptures, and I have always poo-pooed those "godless theologians" that have to scrutinise every scripture to find a reason why it is not valid.  Yet she tells me form her MA studies that in fact they are largely right. And of course given her situation as the victim of bullying and sexism from her Bible-bashing vicar, it is easy for her to agree with those who say that the Bible was written by men for men at the expense of women, and that scriptures showing a more egalitarian approach to women were suppressed by a male-dominated church and culture.

She loves all this new theology: to her it makes sense and boosts her faith, restoring her confidence in God.  But for me it is like finding out that the man you have always called Dad is not your father.  I feel utterly betrayed and lied to by God and the church.  And if I were to be ordained, I no longer know what gospel I would preach.

This is compounded by her belief in a spiritual rather than physical resurrection, which seems rather pointless to me. I have no desire for that.  It is also compounded by our curate's rejection of a hell of eternal suffering - he preaches that eternal damnation, the second death, etc. all refer to annihilation.  Which, contrary to my wife's vision of heaven, I find quite appealing.  Isn't that what a suicide wants?  Just an end of everything?  So if I were to try to persuade a potential suicide not to do it, the message would be "Choose between a life of constant self sacrifice as a Christian and annihilation".  I think he would jump!

But that is the position that I am in.  I have very little pleasure in life.  The truth is, if I spend time on my own pursuits I feel guilty that I should be doing something for the poor, or for the church, or for the family - these are all so much more important than setting up a train set in the attic.  I spend all my time doing stuff for other people.  I have ceased to exist as a person in my own right.  This may be very Christian, but it also destroys you.  And I do often lean towards suicidal thoughts, wondering about the various techniques to kill oneself, etc.   But I never would, because I would feel sorry for the person that finds the body and for the family as they struggle without me.  So I only live for other people.  And since I believe in a physical resurrection - after Tom Wright's view that God wants to reconcile the whole of creation to himself, not get rid of it - then the things we have learned as Christians in this life must have a purpose in the life to come, i.e. the resurrection is also a life of constant total self sacrifice.  Do I really want that?  Bring on that annihilation!  The only reason I live on and serve God is that I am afraid of a hell of eternal suffering.   (eternal suffering in hell v eternal self-sacrifice in heaven - is that a real choice?  Are they not the same?)

So, now that I am feeling very morose, perhaps its time to look at those tax letters ...... !

Tuesday, May 20

God's last laugh?

Mrs was in the Cathedral cafe yesterday when she had her purse stolen.

Surely they pay the Bishop enough to not have to resort to such things?

She suspects the cafe waitress that was lurking, because she was in an out-of-the-way corner of the cafe where most passers-by would not have seen she was there.

The reason that she was there was that she had just dropped off another package of evidence for her complaint against the vicar. This meant that she had in her purse the memory card with photos of some of that evidence. So there is now a small risk that the thief will realise that there is a scandal brewing in the Church of England and sell it to the papers. This would be embarrassing. It would also spoil Mrs' thunder, as 'going to the papers' is one option open to her if the case is not handled appropriately (I have not encouraged his option). But Maybe the Lord knows it is not going to go well, and has therefore done this so that the story gets out without it being our fault? (Yes, i know I am publishing it on line but that has a small degree of anonymity as it could be in any diocese, and then there's also only about ten of you who actually read this blog so it's hardly mass media, is it?)

May sun shine

Monday was one of those glorious days so rare in this country, where I was paid to stand around in the sunshine on a Peninne hillside surrounded by Hawthorne blossom. OK, I also had to chat with 13 men in yellow coats about how to close a service reservoir for cleaning without affecting the water supply pressure to the ten houses on the hill, and wehre we would locate the booster pumps for this purpose, etc. But since most of the technical stuff that I could have been involved in was already well covered by the mechanical engineer and the network modeller who were present, I was largely redundent (apart from pointing out that a surge analysis would be required in case the VSD pumps tripped). So I had to take photos of the beautiful scenery around us. Yeah!

Friday, May 16


In addition to being sad etc as per my previous post, I also find that I am now without a purpose and a future.

I used to be a mediocre engineer (with every younger engineer being promoted over me) making it through the day with the knowledge that this is not my true calling, just a stop-gap until I get ordained. Now my chances of ordination are rock bottom, and I don't know if I would want it even if it were available.

I don't fancy living out my days as a mediocre engineer.

I don't fancy retiring just so I can get my house in order and do my garden. What kind of selfish and empty life is that?

I don't want to get old and have a life that is wracked by pain and senility, with my children resentfully changing my soiled pants.

I don't want to go and join another church and gradually have to work my way up through the ranks again. What an exercise in futility!

O do want to get back into railway modelling and create a fantastic 1930's landscape in my attic with multiple layers of railway intersecting seamlessly with each other as trains travel around them in a perfect and accident-free timetable. But that would be a very selfish way to live. (see gardening, above)

But the trouble with not being selfish is that you live all the time for others and end up feeling squashed.

Basically, I don't know why I bother getting out of bed in the morning. The only reason I keep on with life is that it would be unfair on the wife and kids for me to give up on the practicalities of daily life.

So I have no future.

I have no hope.

I know that the scripture says: "For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11 - the verse the Lord gave me once when I hospitalised my boss by accidentally stabbing him in the buttock with a pair of scissors). But I am still looking, with sore eyes, for that scripture to be fulfilled.

Thursday, May 15

In shock. Churchless.

So, my wife has submitted her complaint against the Vicar, and the procedural wheels are turning. Who knows how he will respond, but we suspect he will not take the opportunity for repentance and reconciliation, and will instead take the route of self-justification. The one true judge in heaven sees all.

But in the meantime, we are without a church. Our names are still on the roll at his church, but we can't envisage ever being able to go back. I have a pre-arranged meeting with the archdeacon regarding my working agreement for the readership, and it will be very hard to know what top say to him.

We don't feel able to go to another church in the town, because its only a small town and everyone in all the churches know each other. we have no escape to a fresh start. And its impractical to go to a church outside the town. We've tried it before, and you just can't get into it unless you live locally. And we are stuck denominationally, too. I am still basically Anglican at heart, but Mrs' view of the Church of England is currently very negative. And we are stuck in terms of locality unless I can get a job somewhere else. i do keep applying, but nothing comes of it. i suspect that the Lord would not have us move until the case is determined.

Basically, we are broken. We are ruined. In a state of shock. In emotional trauma. We have not lost faith - just about - but have lost everything else. Our life is a complete wreck.

I suppose we have to recognise that the way we feel in the future may not be the same as the way we feel now. If we win the case - not that there can be winners in a case like this - maybe some of her faith in the institution will be revived. But I think she has basically decided that she is to be a lone wolf. I'm not sure that suits me. I can go to a church on my own, but it will always seem empty and wrong without her at my side. Also, since her liberal theology has largely trashed my faith, I don't really know where to go anyway.

I had not expected to feel so sad.

Tuesday, May 13


What a big difference tehre is between a "bean tin" and a "teen bin".

Monday, May 12

The BIG thing. The formal complaint.

Well, it’s time that I stated some hard facts. My wife has submitted a formal complaint to the diocese against our vicar, for psychological bullying, sex discrimination against her personally, marginalisation of women in general, etc.

One is reminded of the phrase about manure impacting upon a rotational ventilator.

Basically, we have been in the church since 2003, and since 2004 he has seemed to oppose everything that she has tried to do. She is generally a better Christian than me; she prays more, studies more, and more importantly she actually walks the talk. She is the one that helps out at soup kitchens, works at the food bank, visits the sick, pastors the healthy, builds relationships with non-church families, etc. I can preach a good sermon, but that’s about it.

I did well in the church, being asked to join the PCC, being made Deputy Warden, and appointed as a licenced Reader. Mrs on the other hand was never given that warm sunshine of approval and encouragement, and it seemed that everything she tried to do in the church languished for lack of support and approval for the Vicar. He just didn’t seem to acknowledge her gifts at all.

In 2010 things seemed to change for the better. On her own she had built a fantastic work based on the church crèche but with a range of related groups for families and mothers. During this period several new families joined the church. We felt (with some justification) that our church had the best church crèche in the town.

But – and I have told this story on this blog before – she arrived one Sunday to find that she had been sacked for the role. Not that anybody had bothered to tell her, or even to hint to her in advance that there was any concern about the children’s work. Her posters had been taken off the walls. Her teaching materials – laid out the night before for the teacher on the rota – had been swept off the table. The rota had been supplanted by a new one, and a new curriculum had been introduced. All without any hint to her. So on that occasion I did my nut completely, and left the church swearing at the curate in the foyer on the way out. Why on earth should I bless this church with my family when they treat my wife worse than a piece of wind-blown litter? I instantly resigned as deputy warden, PCC secretary and Reader. And we left the church. Our older children were allowed to make their own choice, but we took the two youngest.

After nearly two years, God sent us back to the church. He does that kind of thing. We felt that there had been a genuine reconciliation, and threw ourselves into the roles that we were allocated, and did our best to make the changes that we needed to to show we had earned lessons from the history. This was all because we both felt the Lord calling us to ordination.

We had no trouble in getting the Vicar to endorse my application – it was originally his idea after all – but we were a lot more apprehensive about hers. After the first meeting, he asked to see more evidence of her ‘initiating things’ (this had been a diocesan criticism of his previous ordinand, so we were not too offended). Mrs sent him a long long list of all the things she had initiated over the years, and he actually seemed quite impressed. We felt that at last he was beginning to warm to her and see her in her true light. He passed her on to the next phase of the process.

The next interaction was that he had to write references for both of us. He wrote hers and sent it off. Then he had a meeting with me to quiz me on various items before sending mine. I wondered why he had to do this with me but not her, but then he had met her several times recently anyway so I thought maybe he felt that was enough.

Next, Mrs went forwards for her interview with the diocesan director of ordinands (DDO). She went in full of enthusiasm, but had a really torrid time where she felt that the decision had been made before she went in and that there was nothing she could do to show her true abilities – she was just fire-fighting inappropriate questions all the time. So at the end she asked the DDO if her vicar had given her a bad reference. He nodded.

We obtained copies of both her reference and mine from the diocese. Mine was wonderful – “The church needs men of this calibre” etc. And a good many comments were almost word for word what I had said at the meeting, as if I written my own reference. Excessive praise for my good points, and glossing smoothly over my weaknesses. Mrs’ was a stark contrast. It majored with very strong language on her alleged weaknesses, and barely mentioned any positives at all. I think her only quality was being a good mother. Other than that she was ‘dominating’, ‘stubborn’, ‘uncooperative’, ‘lacking respect for authority structures’, etc. (And strangely, the only significant negative on my reference was that I need to control my wife more. Correct me if I am wrong, but I think that reveals that he has a very sexist view of women!)

Now, even if those things were true about her (and which of us does not fall into those categories form time to time):

1) No normal person would write words like that in a reference for their worst enemy. The accepted way to give a bad reference is for your praise to be rather thin. Writing explicit negatives in a reference is a cultural ‘no no’.

2) Even if those things were true:
2a) they should be areas for focus during her training not reasons to stop her from being trained for the ministry
2b) they are actually a very concise and accurate description of the Vicar himself – as if he held up a mirror to his own soul while writing. He is widely regarded as autocratic. But he has still been a successful vicar for 40 years.

The imbalance in the way we had been treated was stark. These were not professional objective comments; he was just indulging his usual tactic of smiling to her face and then libelling her behind her back so that he can blame other people for blocking her progress.

Well, we feel that we have caught him red-handed.

His suppression of my wife has caused untold damage. You may have seen all the posts in this blog “Mrs midlife crisis continues” etc. We tried fostering. We tried adoption. We had a vasectomy reversal to gain our seventh child. She tried a number of unsuccessful secular jobs. All because she was not allowed to flourish and find her identity in the church. Our family has been split up with our children worshipping at different churches. Mrs and I not at church at all (see below). Now we know why Mrs can’t even get a secular job - she would still need to get a reference from the same man. Our life appears to be a complete ruin, because of him.

So we try various other churches, mostly the ‘everybody welcome’ liberal church in the city. Except that their concept of ‘welcome’ doesn’t seem to include actually talking to visitors and making them feel at home. So we don’t feel at home there. Plus it’s a long drive. We could try other churches in our own town, but of course the good thing about our town is that all the churches are linked through ‘churches together’, so we can’t escape his influence. Wherever we go he has whispered ‘watch out for Mrs …. ‘. So our spiritual life and secular life and family life are all blighted by what he has done.

Moreover, talking to the friends that we do have, we find he is increasingly marginalising women in general. He used to have them preaching frequently on Sunday mornings, but has now restricted them to the informal evening service. We found out that when discussing bringing in a trainee from a youth evangelism organisation he has stipulated that it must be a male. He has put men in charge of the Sunday school, including the crèche. And so on. So his comment on my reference – ‘the church needs MEN of this calibre’ – starts to take on a more sinister meaning. The woman that instigated the last similar arrangement when a team came was not invited to any of the associated gatherings, meals etc. My daughter and the curate’s son went on a trip to our missionary in Africa. It was her idea, but the trip never seemed to get off the ground until the boy joined and all of a sudden it was a church priority. And then when they returned, it was all about what the boy had done (which was not much) and nothing about everything that my daughter had done. So the church is a bleak place for its women. Of course he does manage to endorse some for the sake of decency, but these are drawn from the same three cliquey (conservative) families.

So watch this space – see what comes of it. The initial response from the diocese is that if proven it will amount to serious misconduct, but that there is at present insufficient evidence. Which I find astonishing – the reference alone should blow him out of the water and my wife actually sent in a whole box of documents. So what more does he have to do to be found guilty of misconduct – rape her naked on the altar during main communion?

Thursday, May 1

Created in his image

In Genesis we are told that God created mankind in his own image.

In the New Testament we told that Jesus is the image of of the invisible God.

I have never really put these two concepts together, except maybe in that Jesus is a particularly fine example of a man in the image of God.

What I have now started thinking, is that that if we are created in his image, and Jesus is that image, then there is some logic to say that we are created in Jesus .

The New Testament also says that 'If any man is in Christ he is a new creation'. So this again links the idea of creation with the idea of being in Jesus.

What implications does this thinking have? Does the Genesis story tell of the creation of a spiritual mankind, as distinct from unspiritual mankind created as an animal on the previous 'day' of creation? Are there two kinds of human, one spiritual and the other unspiritual? Did God take an unspiritual man and breath His Spirit into his nostrils to make him a spiritual man in the image of God? How then does he relate to Jesus the second Adam, take 2 in the project to make man in God's image? And are both races of men, spiritual and unspiritual, eligible to join the new creation? Or is it only spiritual (albeit marred) descendants of the spiritual man that can join while the descendants of the other race have no spirit and hence no ability to relate to God and no eternal soul to consider the destiny of? Were the races mixed in that weird verse from Genesis "The sons of God saw that the daughter's of men were fair and married them"? (or was that the mixing of the righteous sons of Seth and the unrighteous sons of Cain?)

Anyway, I like the idea that I was created 'In Christ', and so was 'In Christ' on the cross, not that I died for anyone but that I died to my sins in him on that day. And so I will also be 'In Christ' on the final day of his Glorification.

Kid's talk 3

It's my five-year-old again.

I had just pulled the plug out of her bath, where she was fiddling with a toy. I waited for her on the landing, but she called me "Hey, Dad, come and look at this!" So I plodded back in and looked into the emptying bath to see what she wanted to show me.

She was lying stretched out to full length with not a stitch of clothing on, and she said "Hmmmm, sexxxyyyyy!"

Now on a scale from 1 to 10 of 'How disturbing is that?', I think it scores at least 11 or 12.