Thinking allowed

Br Michael SSF

Last Friday, the death was announced of Br Michael SSF. In his retirement he had been an assistant bishop n the diocese of Ely, and I had seen him regularly at diocesan synods and at confirmation services, including one in St Ives, pre-1994. When he had first joined the Society of St Francis, he became the secretary to the Order’s ‘Father Guardian’, Fr Algy Robertson. Fr Algy had been the vicar of St Ives before being one of the founders of the SSF, and with the death of Br Michael another link with that time is gone.

Obituaries have appeared in the national press: the Daily Telegraph on Monday.

The requiem and funeral will be at St Bene’t’s Church in Cambridge on Monday 15 December.

May he rest in peace!


martyrdom in the Solomon Islands

ACNS reports that the funerals have taken place of the seven members of the Melanesian Brotherhood who met their deaths earlier this year in Guadalcanal (see reports here and here).

Post mortems indicate that Brother Nathaniel Sado was tortured and died from the wounds inflicted over several days. Of the six Brothers who went to investigate his disappearance, three were shot and killed upon arrival, and the other three were beaten and tortured and then shot the next day.

The report describes the funeral of Br Robin Lindsay, attended by the families of the murdered Brothers, as well as the Governor General, the Prime Minister, and also the Archbishop and hundreds of others.

May they rest in peace!


bobbing along

After a few more weeks practising ringing the no 2 bell at Bob Doubles, I have for the last couple of Mondays been trying to ring a different bell. Tonight I was ringing the number 5 bell, which has the advantage of only having to look one way (except when leading off the tenor cover). Then after a couple of plain courses a bob was called, and I had to cope with this alteration to the pattern. First time was easy, because I knew what to do — instead of making 2nd’s place, continue plain hunting up to the back, down to the front, and make 2nd’s next time. Then a bob was called when I was dodging 3/4 up, and I was lost completely. Apparently I should have made 4th’s, then plain hunted back to the lead and dodged 3/4 up next time. I’ll have to check this — I fancy I might get asked to do something similar on Wednesday! [Correction: after making 4th’s, I should have hunted down to the lead, and next time lain four blows in 5th place; that is, by making 4th’s place you become the bell that is dodging 3/4 down, and that bell’s next variation from plain hunting is four blows at the back. Got that?]

In other bellringing news, our captain has indicated his intention to stand down, which means I get to be captain. Gulp.

[Update: at a ringers’ meeting held before practice on 8 December, I was elected tower captain, and Chris Armes as new vice-captain.]


The Great Schism

This morning I listened to another programme in the BBC Radio 4 series, In Our Time. This must be the best programme on the radio, and this week it looked at the Great Schism between the eastern and western Church, concentrated in the mutual excommunication in 1054.

What is even more remarkable is the relevance of much of what they were talking about to the current goings-on at Lambeth. Here we had a dispute primarily about authority, and about a shift in the balance of power, from the ‘old church’ in the Greek-speaking east, towards the Latin-speaking west, culiminating a determination by the up-and-coming west and its patriarch at Rome to concentrate authority in its hands, rather than sharing it in a more democratic ‘first among equals’ basis.

My only caveat would be to wonder about the authority of an ‘expert’ who thinks that communion in one kind, increasingly practised in the West, meant that the laity were limited to receiving only the chalice, and not the bread — a statement which no one corrected.

Anyway, the broadcast is worth listening to, whether or not you see any parallels, or whether you agree with my suggested parallels (perhaps it’s like a good sermon, which every listener thinks is directed solely at them). Then, if you haven’t done so before, enjoy youself browsing through the archives listening to previous broadcasts over the last couple of years.


ordination of bishops

Today I went to Westminster Abbey for the ordination or consecration of two bishops. This would also have been the service at which Jeffrey John would have been ordained bishop had he not stood down.

The service was led by Archbishop Rowan Williams, and around forty other bishops also took part. A picture of the moment when they all laid hands on Canon John Inge can be seen here — Alan Wilson is the figure clad in black chimere in the foreground. More pictures can be seen on the Ely diocesan website

Apparently there was a small demonstration by members of Outrage! (details here) but I can honestly say that I neither saw nor heard this, nor heard any rumour of it — there was no sign that I could see of any protest at the treatment of Canon Jeffrey John. I did think there might be some protest, and I had my camera ready to capture any thing that happened.



spiritual hunger

In an article ‘Spiritual spending’ costs women £670m a year in today’s Daily Telegraph (free registration required, fake details okay!), a number of ‘alternative’ forms of spirituality are listed, including reflexology, acupuncture, massage, reiki, and so on. Apparently women are spending a lot of time and money on these ‘to combat the stress of modern life’. Christianity and other religions don’t even get a mention.

As has been suggested by others, there does seem to be a hunger for spirituality that the modern world doesn’t otherwise supply. I wonder what it is that these new age techniques provide that is lacking in Christianity? Or, contrariwise, what is it about Christianity that is unwelcome? Commitment perhaps? An accompanying social message? Or is it ‘post-imperialism’ — Christianity having ruled the roost in the west for so long, many people would rather look elsewhere, or perhaps don’t see anything particularly spiritual about the faithful few at their local church? Perhaps they want to associate with people of a similar age and don’t find that (or think they won’t) at the church either?


Church ‘faces gay hunger strike’

The BBC carries a report suggesting the possibility of ‘civil disobedience’ if the Church does not become more tolerant of gay men and lesbians. The claim is made by Richard Kirker, of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement. The report specifically mentions ‘hunger strikes’.


Homophobia in the Name of God

Homophobia in the Name of God is an article, notionally about same-sex marriage in Canada, but which contains some interesting criticism of the stance of conservative religious groups. The author, George Dvorsky of Toronto, suggests that the criticisms made by such groups are in fact counter-productive to their own cause, a view that I am inclined to agree with.

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Life’s Solution

Life’s Solution is the title of a new book by Simon Conway Morris, Professor of Evolutionary Palaeobiology at Cambridge University. The subtitle Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe encapsulates what seems to be the book’s central thesis: that on an earthlike planet, the patterns of evolution are such that they will eventually bring intelligent life into being, but that there are precious few earthlike planets in the universe.

I plan to make further comments as I read the book; meanwhile you can buy it here — it looks well worth a read, though it’s a fairly demanding work.



martyrdom in the Solomon Islands

ACNS reports a service of thanksgiving for the lives of the Melanesian Brothers recently murdered in the Solomon Islands.

A Service of Thanksgiving for the lives of Brother Robin Lindsay and his companions — the seven Melanesian Brothers murdered in the Solomon Islands – will take place at St Philip’s Church, Earls Court Road, London W8, on Thursday 18 September at 5pm. The service will be followed by a reception from 6pm – 7pm, during which an ecumenical announcement will be made.

Archbishop James Ayong, Primate of the Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea, and the Rt Revd Roger Jupp, Bishop of Popondota, will be present.

Further information, and details of some other services (including services at Chester Cathedral and Little St Mary’s Cambridge), may be found at the PNGCP web site.