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This may be fake news, sadly, but I do enjoy the mental image, so...

A pastor in Nigeria has come to a sad end. He attempted to walk on water across the Crocodile River (should have been a tip-off, that name) and ended up sinking and then becoming dinner for three crocodiles.

His parishioners could not understand it, as the pastor had fasted and prayed all week before attempting this feat.

Read it right here.
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The language is a bit raw for some, but Martin has the right idea. Using religion to camouflage prejudice isn't a very good idea.

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However, opportunities occasionally present themselves.

I am currently in the church office, where I volunteer on Tuesdays to answer the phones (which don't ring very often). I bring my lunch, which is usually a sandwich. Today I brought two egg salad sandwiches, which were on the small side. In the event, I only ate one (unusual for me), and saved the second one for lunch tomorrow at home.

A woman walked up to the church door and came in. I left the office and asked whether I could help her. She gave me a story (with which I will not bore you), but asked for a cup of tea and a sandwich. My first thought is always to find out whether there is a social services difficulty that we can help them with by referring them to an agency. However, then I remembered the extra sandwich. So I gave her the sandwich, which was wrapped in plastic wrap, but no tea, as I didn't have a take-away cup here.

I will say that she said she was displaced when the council housing across the New Kent Road was demolished and sold to developers. This would not surprise me one bit. We are selling our birthright for a mess of pottage.

Obviously (to me) I made two sandwiches, brought two sandwiches, and only ate one—all out of the ordinary—because this lady would be dropping by. No one can tell me differently.
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Lots of gay men (and others) watch Davey Wavey on YouTube. He normally posts shirtless videos talking about various items of interest to gay men in particular. His first video talked about his neighbour, who he observed pleasuring himself at his window. He's gone upward, outward, and sometimes downward since then.

His latest video has to do with his experience of attending a Metropolitan Community Church service in Toronto. He is not religious, for the very good reasons that many of our gay, lesbian, bi, trans, and queer share of rejection, condemnation, and disdain. Let him explain what it did to him.



I have always felt myself to be religious in spite of all the dreck that organised religion throws at me and people like me. But to hear Davey's testimony of ending up as a "hot mess" at the end of the service tells me one thing: those of us who are the People of God need to stop condemning and judging our brothers and sisters, and just love them. Unconditional love works wonders. Being wanted, and loved for who we are is what religious community is all about. Who knows how it will affect Davey over the years. I have discovered that, for some reason, YouTube served up a two-year old video, but I'm sure that the message is still as fresh as it was then.

Here is the service he attended.

---------------


I am constantly surprised by the reaction to my sermons at St. John's Larcom St. I am not a Lay Reader; this surprised the Archdeacon, who had assumed that I was. I never went for training because I would had had to be trained under the aegis of my Rector, for whom I have a limited amount of respect. However, I have had a theological education around 2/3rds of the way toward the Roman Catholic priesthood before I thought better of that. So I am confident in the pulpit now.

I try to approach each homily in a prayerful way. I look at the readings appointed and say a silent prayer that I can draw out at least one thought and present it to the congregation to think about. On Saturday morning, as HWMBO goes to table tennis practice, I sit at the computer, set up the template, and type. I try to start with a story or joke that will ultimately support the idea I want to present. I type up to five pages, which will take around 8 or 10 minutes to deliver.

Some preachers go on the "Tell them what you are going to tell them, then tell it to them, then tell them what you told them." idea. This is a tried and true method, but I dislike it. It can get long winded and repetitive.

Others go on the "Three points" principle. After the introduction, tell the congregation that you have three points to speak about, then enumerate them: "First", "Second", "Third". Sum up, and you're done. However, this becomes a parody the tenth, twentieth, and fiftieth time that the preacher does it. A clergyperson of my acquaintance does it so often that he himself makes fun of it. This stands in the way of actually delivering a message that people will want to take away with them.

When I'm delivering a sermon, I don't gesticulate. Before the service, I spread the five pages across the lectern in the pulpit and as I come to the end of each page, I simply grasp the page and drop it unobtrusively to the floor of the pulpit. Otherwise, I lean on the sides and make sure that I make eye contact with everyone. I am a fairly good speaker, and enunciate clearly. I write as if I were speaking directly to people, not as if I were writing a report.

Now comes the kicker. Most gatherings of people sitting listening to someone talk are restless. People shift from cheek to cheek, rustle papers, whisper to their neighbours, and generally only pay half attention to what the preacher is saying. When you've hit that sweet spot where people actually are listening raptly and a silence descends on the church, THAT is what the preacher is looking for. It really grips the preacher and the congregation. It is what makes it all worthwhile.

I got that today. I don't get it every time I preach. But when I do I am humbled that my words are getting through.

Today I preached my 98th sermon. Yes, I'm that obsessive. I am thinking that when I get to 100 sermons I may actually go back, look at them, and put them all online. Not that I am any Phillips Brooks, or Billy Graham. But, I want to leave something that people might find valuable. Watch this space.

---------------


Last Thursday I announced to Deanery Synod that I would not stand again for the post of Lay Chair. I have been Lay Chair of Southwark and Newington Deanery for ten years. That is quite long enough. I wanted to leave when people said, "I'm so sorry you're leaving!" rather than "What took you so long?" I am proud of having kept the laity together during the last ten years, and helping the Diocese to celebrate the ministry of Lay Chairs both publicly, in the Cathedral, and privately, by ensuring that the Lay Chairs of Deaneries are involved in managing the affairs of the Diocese. I pushed until the Archdeacons commissioned us yearly in our ministries. I have done enough and it's time to let someone else do more than I have been able to do.

In the next three years, if I am spared, I intend to stand down from Bishop's Council and Diocesan Synod.
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Not all churches can subscribe to the sentiments in the video embedded below. But the ones that do are worth thinking about attending. They take nearly every reason for not going to church and turn it around. The only one I've heard that they don't address is "The church would burn down if I went into it."

At their best, churches can be like this collection of people—a collection of seekers after light and fellowship. At their worst, they're something else.

Watch the video.

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Betty Bowers fills in those blanks for you...she's so close to Jesus that he warns her when his mother is about to show up…in her food.

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Some of the non-religious among us will snicker at this article, which tells of a student's birthday tweet that turned into tragedy.

I can only say "Matthew 25:13". May she rest in peace and rise in glory.
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A very interesting article came to my attention this evening. It describes the industry of making Communion wafers in the United States. You might think that it has been saintly nuns toiling over waffle irons making your hosts, but these days, you'd mostly be wrong.
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A CNN journalist heard about a very old Jewish man who had been going to the Western Wall to pray, twice a day, every day, for a long, long time. So she went to check it out. She went to the Western Wall and there he was, walking slowly up to the holy site.

She watched him pray and after about 45 minutes, when he turned to leave, using a cane and moving very slowly, she approached him for an interview.

"Pardon me, sir, I'm Rebecca Smith from CNN. What's your name?

"Morris Feinberg," he replied.

"Sir, how long have you been coming to the Western Wall and praying?"

"For about 60 years."

"60 years! That's amazing! What do you pray for?"

"I pray for peace between the Christians, Jews and the Muslims. I pray for all the wars and all the hatred to stop. I pray for all our children to grow up safely as responsible adults and to love their fellow man. I pray that politicians tell us the truth and put the interests of the people ahead of their own interests."

"How do you feel after doing this for 60 years?"

"Like I'm talking to a wall."


Thanks to Grandmère Mimi for this one...
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When your son comes home from college and says that he's "found Jesus", beware.

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…is taken from a friend's blog in Singapore.

Me: Who was that on the phone?

Mum: (Sigh) A very religious lady.

Me: OMG these religious Jesus nuts! They are just too much! They are at it at every given opportunity! Force feeding the bible down your throat, do they stop to think or ask if you want to listen to their gospel? No! They just go on and on disregarding not to mention disrespecting other beliefs and support systems! There really should be a law preventing this from happening! By the way how did she get your number? This is an outrage I think we should…

Mum: You done?

Me: No I am not! We need to do something about this…

Mum: (cutting me off) It is not the church lah.

Me: Oh?

Mum: It’s the lady from the Buddhist temple downstairs.

Me: Oh I see…err So how is church these days?
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Normally when you sack someone, you do it in private, and get the person escorted off the premises with a bin bag after changing their computer passwords.

Well, the New Welcome Baptist Church does it differently.

Suffice it to say that a Tazer and a knife were involved.

See how they love one another!

Thanks to Ron's Log for the heads-up.
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It is a well-known fact that of the three Abrahamic faiths, Judaism and Islam are not (in strict sects) very favourable towards man's best friend, the dog. However, what a rabbinical court in Jerusalem has decreed to happen to this dog is pretty gruesome. I do hope that the dog has escaped.
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When asked why he had appointed William Temple Archbishop of Canterbury in 1942, even though Temple was a Socialist, Winston Churchill said "Because he was the only half-crown article in a sixpenny-ha'penny market."

Sometimes I wonder whether that particular market has ever gone decimal.
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When I lived in San Francisco I attended Trinity Episcopal Church, the second oldest Episcopal congregation in the West and the oldest in California. The Rev'd Robert Warren Cromey was Rector, and while he was controversial, he was on the side of the angels most of the time and kept an inclusive and warm church going.

The parish has fallen on hard times later, with some staff difficulties and the discovery that the church building, which survived the 1906 and 1989 earthquakes, might not be structurally safe in the next one.

But their website contains this sentence (note the phrase in RED):

TRINITY EPISCOPAL CHURCH was established in 1849 and is the oldest Episcopal church on the Pacific Coast. It is the second oldest congregation in the City of San Francisco. Known for its outspoken and progressive action on controversial topics (Add some here) Trinity lives on the edge of "then and now" constantly evolving and finding new life in its mission to bring the lords love, to any and all looking for the "peoples" church.

I hope and pray that this is a very recent first draft, but, sadly, I doubt it. I hope that the congregation grows and thrives; they deserve to after the upheavals of the past several years. But with a website as uninviting as this, the website won't contribute much to its success.
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There was a little old cleaning woman that went to the local church. When the altar call was given at the end of the service, she went forward wanting to become a member. The pastor listened as she told him how she had accepted Jesus and wanted to be baptized and become a member of the church.

The pastor thought to himself, "Oh my, she is so unkempt, even smells a little, and her fingernails are not clean. She picks up garbage, cleans toilets—what would the members think of her." He told her that she needed to go home and pray about it and then decide.

The following week, here she came again. She told the pastor that she had prayed about it and still wanted to be baptized. "I have passed this church for so long. It is so beautiful, and I truly want to become a member."

Again the pastor told her to go home and pray some more. A few weeks later while out eating at a restaurant, the pastor saw the little old lady. He did not want her to think that he was ignoring her so he approached her and said, "I have not seen you for a while. Is everything all right?"

"Oh, yes," she said. "I talked with Jesus, and he told me not to worry about becoming a member of your church."

"He did?" said the pastor.

"Oh, yes" she replied. "He said even He hasn't been able to get into your church yet, and He's been trying for years."

------------------------------------

Too many churches are like the one in this story. The next time someone unkempt or a bit odd drops in on Sunday morning, welcome him or her. We all fall short of this sometimes, and perhaps it's a large part of the reason why churches are emptier these days.
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I just finished watching a TV program on Channel 4 called Fr Ray Comes Out. In it the Rev'd Ray Andrews, Priest in Charge of St. George the Martyr with St. Alphege & St. Jude at the Borough, just up the road from me, agonises about coming out to his parishioners in a Sunday sermon during Advent.

Ray is a truly nice guy, a good priest, loved by his parishioners, and very effective in what is a mixture of deprived council estates and luxury housing for stockbrokers in the City.

There is no official reaction from the Diocese shown in the film: Archdeacon Michael and Bishop Christopher weren't interviewed. It was a very personal journey for Ray.

Now you couldn't show something like this that didn't have a happy ending. He comes out of it a bit nervously, but the parishioners who were interviewed seemed to be positive, even though many of them had difficulties with the notion of homosexuality from a theological standpoint. It's always different when you know a gay person.

My networks in the deanery must be deficient, or else the news was kept very quiet. I shall have to ask Ethel, my friend who goes to weekday services over there, about it. (She got a cameo role for a moment or two.)

I'm having lunch with the Archdeacon on Tuesday so will ask about it. I know that Michael is comfortable with gay clergy, and the Diocese in general is comfortable with them. But will look for any fallout from the program and report.
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The people I normally see at the Foot Clinic are podiatrists who specialise in diabetic foot treatment. They are all very nice and professional (although they do tend to raise their voices when they talk to patients, assuming we're all deaf—and many are, of course, but that's just an aside).

If I lived in Peterborough, I might have been treated by this guy, who seems to have let his Christianity get in the way of his professionalism. Of course, it doesn't seem to have gotten in the way of his taking on private patients without informing the National Health Service. Funny, that.
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The vicar may be camp, and not attired in the proper vestments for preaching, but the message, surprisingly, is valid no matter how camp he is.



This Christmas think about not what you want, but what you need. And chillax.
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Don't blame me, blame [livejournal.com profile] spwebdesign, with whom HWMBO, I, and [livejournal.com profile] fj had dinner.

Q. How do we know that Jesus wasn't a Rastafarian?

Answer under the cut… )

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