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.