Friday, 8 December 2017

Good News or fake news?

Same old challenges?
Every Christmas a mega-bucket-load of new data flies around as we connect up new devices, and keep in touch. It's amazing how the internet copes! Apparently keeping the bitcoin currency going is using more electricity than is used by some entire countries. So you might be surprised if I hold the view that we don't really face new challenges.


Rubbish in leads to rubbish out, and Good News in will always produce Good News output. As Jesus put it, 'a good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit [Matthew chapter 7, verse 18]. How we pass the information around might be new, but messaging isn't. What we have to do is check things out, so we don't get conned by fake news.

Someone told me he received a letter informing him that his confidential information had been shared, and inviting him to send all his personal details so they could be kept secure!! You couldn't make it up could you. Thousand have received the same scam.

Check clothing
'Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves', said Jesus [verse 15 in this intriguing chapter].  The fable of Little Red Riding-hood tells the same. Having just eaten up your Granny, you'll be quite safe with me. I know I've got big sharp teeth, but ...

Then there are those who want their cake, and want to eat it. The Brexit negotiations constantly flag up that there are still some who think we can exit the European Union, and keep all the benefits. There's so much fake news or promises. Could get you down, couldn't it.

And now for the real story
There's far more Good News about: new beginnings through forgiveness; the gifts of love, laughter, beauty, adventure, and so many other delights in the little details of life. I remember enjoying the privilege of talking about a funeral with a frail man who knew that life's energy was ebbing. 'I don't want someone burbling on about things I've done. No, just say a huge thank you for the gift of life. I like that!

So as we head into another Spring, at whatever speed, may we enjoy the abundance of Good News that shout out with shear joy: Thank you for life, and the Life of this world. Gail Ricciuti's prayer expresses it far better than I can.

For all things bright and beautiful,
 for all things dark and mysterious and lovely,
 for all things green and growing and strong,
 for all things weak and struggling to push life up through rocky earth
 for all human faces, hearts, minds, and hands which surround us,
 and for all nonhuman minds and hearts, paws and claws, fins and wings,
 for this Life, and the Life of this world,
 for all that you have laid before us, O God,
 we lay our thankful hearts before you.
In Christ's name. Amen

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Knowing what it feels like

A doctor friend of mine told me that one of his most important experiences was being a patient, in fact he recommends it as part of a medics training. Suddenly you're looking at ceilings, while everybody else looks down on/at you. Personal items are confined to a small cupboard, and you're largely isolated among strangers.

Then there's coping with acute pain, the fuzziness when recovering from a general anaesthetic, and a sense of helplessness. It could be all routine observations for a doctor, nurse, or any one of many whose skills are essential in our health care services. But it's not routine if you're a patient. Being there for people means understanding what it's like for them.

That's exactly why Christmas is so important. God didn't remain, as if watching from a distance, but got involved in the life of our planet by being born just like all of us. In the short journey from the comfort of Mary's womb, Jesus had to adjust to cold, light, air, milk, smell, with very different senses of touch and sound ~ as we did.

What this means is that we can relate to God, because he related to us. If we know anguish, so did Jesus. We might feel trapped inside our body because of a stroke or frailty. He was trapped by nails driven through him and into the rough wood of a Roman gallows. In virtually every experience we can connect to something Jesus Christ knew.

Jesus loved life, and enjoyed the company of a huge range of characters. His first miracle turned large quantities of water into wine, a sign of how important wedding parties are. He told many a story to illustrate the truth, and often used humour. Camels feature, and something about them clearly amused him. He would certainly join these two in having a good laugh.

So this Christmas, whatever our circumstances, I pray we all make a fresh connection with the Creator of the Universe. Thank God he got involved in our story.

Have a fantastic celebration.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Robots now, and in the future

Usually the first thing that is turned off is the voice. I don't know how you get on, but I find checkout robots impatient. Why do they have to rush me, when surely I should be determining the pace? Robots 1, humans 0.

daily mail

On the other hand, car handling is superb as mini robots temper my steering, braking, or acceleration. And if I'm on completely new territory, a satnav is fantastic! Robots 1, humans 1.

I loved the question a swordfish (top class name) lad asked me when we were in the middle of a discussion about robots. Will they make us lazy? The choice is here. Sometimes we talk as if robots are a thing of the future, but already they challenge us. The TV remote makes us lazy. Washing machines are a fantastic time saver. Every new invention presents us with choice. When I get an electric buggy will I always sit in it, or only for the journeys I can't manage? Do I use a car for short distances when I could easily walk or cycle? Am I lazy?

Then there's the ghastly debate about automatic weapons that allow mad men (few women) to spray an innocent crowd with bullets. The simple robot that changes empties to live has much to answer for! It boils down to whether we control them, or they us.

In my prayers I find myself imaging an ordinary Japanese family, and wondering how they feel when North Korean missiles fly overhead. The rhetoric and sabre rattling are intensifying, so some disaster seems more likely. Who's in charge of these war robots?


Deterrence works at a domestic level, so we have locks on our doors as a proportionate response to the perceived threats. It would be crazy to have machine guns, or booby traps that could blow up half our neighbours. A balance makes sense. Better still that there's so much trust that we don't need locks.

We are constantly being challenged at domestic, community, and international levels to make wise choices. And of course that gift is part of what makes us human, it's the gift given by God in the garden of Eden. So instead of laziness, let's choose peace. This prayer has been used in our Churches for 550 years:

O God, from whom all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works do proceed: Give unto thy servants that peace which the world cannot give; that both, our hearts may be set to obey thy commandments, and also that by thee we being defended from the fear of our enemies may pass our time in rest and quietness; through the merits of Jesus Christ our Saviour.

Amen to that.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Teddy was not much use on the turbine floor

Most of us have sources of comfort: late Dad's tatty old jumper, shoes that are nearly worn out, a chair that fits without fighting cushions, and so on. As a child teddy often reigns supreme, perhaps an eye missing, and rather moth-eaten but loved.

Imagine though taking teddy to your work place. I certainly craved comfort when leaving school to work at Poole Power Station. I loved it, but felt like a little boy in an adult world ~ experience takes time, and I had only been there five minutes. Cuddling teddy would have been childish, acutely embarrassing, and belittling. I needed to stand on my own two feet, and wink at teddy when I got back to the privacy of home.

Having a teddy bear faith can express the importance of comfort, but if that's all then we're stuck in childhood. Our faith needs to constantly evolve. It may be that there's some experience we've never known; how will faith cope with this new challenge? If we have a take it or leave it attitude to beliefs, we might be forced to give things up.

If on the other hands we enjoy the idea of modelling faith, then questions and challenges are welcome because they stimulate growth. Christianity does not shy away from trauma. At its heart is a symbol where love and suffering intertwine. Love always costs us, and the scars we bare are a privilege. The cross is a simple logo based on a Roman gallows, and it is also a symbol of amazing love.

cross in Church Rooms' foyer

That's why wearing a cross at work, in the pub, anywhere is entirely appropriate. It's not to be forced on others, as if beating them over the head. No, it should gently speak of God's love which is far stronger than death.

Some fun symbols appeal to the child in us, and express deep truths. For example, confetti showered over a newly married couple is part of the celebration, and it can be a picture of prayer that the marriage is also showered with God's blessing.

Many things are beyond words, and need music, art, symbols to help convey their power. Jesus blessed a marriage, asked us to use water to baptise followers, and to remember his costly gift of love by holy communion using bread and wine.

May God give us his comfort and his peace, his light and his joy, in this world and the next.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Being here for people

Your Dorset for who?
It's great to be kept in touch with what Dorset County Council is doing for us, both through the free newspaper delivered to every household, and the excellent website. However the last paper's centre page spread was misleading because it made no reference to Church weddings.

I take many weddings, and already have several bookings in for 2019. No two celebrations are the same, because every couple is unique and we craft what is appropriate. Alongside several appointments talking over things, we use the excellent website. It gives couples space to think about all the detail. We also use fliers which focus on individual areas.

Marriage in a local Church means so much for the reason that it is at the heart of the community. That's not all because ministers and others involved running weddings are part of that community. Over the years I've kept in touch with many couples, and been there for them as they mark occasions or seek advice. We're not just there for a ceremony, but for life's adventures too.

Working alongside others
Churches are delighted to be part of the community team: doctors' surgery, funeral directors, neighbourhood volunteers, event organisers, decorators and caterers. It might be that a woodland burial is required, and ministers are pleased to make arrangements through local funeral directors. I have shared occasions with secular celebrants, and join in Weymouth Crematorium's annual thanksgiving for loved ones who have died.

It's important to remember that the Church is here for the long term. Grieving takes more than many think. Yes, on the surface we can bounce back, but it takes years to find a second wind. Losing a child is particularly challenging, and we may grieve as much for what could have been, as for the past.

Again, I've had many a conversation helping someone work through grief. Love always costs us. I have also travelled with those whose faith has been shattered by tragedy, and I've been humbled by those who have grown by moving through difficulty.

So do remember when you make decisions about who you ask to lead important ceremonies in your life, that the Church is part of your community and will be there for you, and not just for an event.

Happy celebrations. 

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Un FairTrade

It made me really angry to hear that bully boy supermarkets are bypassing FairTrade to set up their own watered down version. Shame on you Sainsbury's, Tesco, and any others who want to be unfair!

I immediately emailed the two key people involved telling them they would lose me if they lose FairTrade, and that I would do all in my power to take as many with me as possible. I'll give you their contact details at the end. To be fair to Sainsbury's I had a reply informing me they sell more FairTrade than any other outlet, and that their pilot Fairly Traded tea scheme "aims to boost tea farmers' resilience and ability to adapt".

So what are the facts about FairTrade being challenged? It should thrive, because that's its purpose! The foundation exists to "denounce the deceit and corruption of evil" to quote from our baptism promises.

It only has credibility because it demands that producers receive fair dues for their work, and that greed is curtailed. Not only that, it does this in the market place of ideas, as well as through competitive products. 

On the other hand blind market forces are "good at creating wealth, but poor at distributing wealth" to quote Lord Sacks. Or as Rutger Bregman pithily put it "Wealth isn’t created at the top. It is merely devoured there".

If the Sainsbury's scheme is such an improvement, why is it being imposed on producers? Surely that is in itself unfair. There is no detail in the claim that the pilot will improve resilience and adaptability; why not? By being greedy, it could so easily lose its fine reputation for Faitrade. What a waste.

We can challenge the ethics of Tesco, or Sainsbury's as shareholders [if we are], as consumers, and in the market place of ideas. Let's stand up for justice. That's what is required of us, "Do justice, love kindness, and walk humble with your God", to quote Micah chapter 6, verse 8. These words are beautifully carved on
 St Osmund's chancel screen.

You and I can make a huge difference, and might pick up the whiff of fingers burned. I invite you to get in touch with these two:

Fair must remain fair.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Radicalisation or empowerment?

France, and now Britain
There have been three recent terrorist attacks: Westminster, Manchester, and London Bridge with Borough Market. As far as we know all perpetrators were home grown, so the government is encouraging leaders to take part in online Prevent training. I've completed mine, as shown in this certificate.

The training pitches at the level you choose, includes graphics, multiple choices, and video clips. It encourages us to notice any unusual behaviour, check respectfully with others, and put in place groups and conversations that encourage reflection. It does not seek to introduce another layer of 'monitoring', but trusts existing relationships.

Why not look at the material yourself? It's on

An exciting election
I've never known an election campaign significantly change poll forecasts like the one last month. The movement in the final weeks was dramatic, and by all accounts due to the large numbers of young people becoming 'radicalised' enough to vote. Social media and personal contacts made a huge difference, and few saw the swing coming.

A good turnout should be measured by quality as well as quantity. The overall number was up, and represented a more balanced cross-section of the electorate. That was good for democracy.

It just goes to show that we can empower others to take positive action. This must balance an understandable focus on those who callously kill or maim. Funnily enough, if we're really radical it means taking our roots seriously. Terrorism can't be justified by the Koran, and nor could the Crusades be justified by the Bible.

Making a difference
Why do you want this job? And the answer made sense: I want to make a difference in the local community. You and I can influence and encourage all that is good, and prevent evil. It takes honest respectful debate, humour, and care with the truth. And it makes things change.

Donald Trump's response to the London Bridge atrocities was to attack the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. What crass cowardice. I for one am delighted that Trump has postponed his trip to London because he is worried about protest. I signed the petition to Parliament which called for the invitation to be withdrawn. Khan has been working hard on security, and consulted Jewish authorities among others. We can make a difference for good!

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Surprise, surprise!

Nobody saw it coming [we had fixed 5 year terms] when Theresa May decided we needed an election. The unexpected happens. Whether it's fake news or lazy journalism, there are allegations that Russia is hacking democracy in order to have the right people 'elected'. Trump sacks the head of the FBI.

Jesus was good at surprises. Nobody thought he would come alive again, and he appeared among his followers when they had locked themselves behind doors for safety. Then he commanded them to be at peace. What was he doing?

It wasn't a panto routine: now you see me, now you don't. But it was helping them understand that the spiritual world is as real as the physical. Just because we can't see something doesn't mean it's not there. We can't see the wind, radio waves, or magnetic radiation ~ but we can know their effects: a cooling breeze, my favourite show, or the miracle of a scan that can see the inside story of my body.

Love, trust, hope, vision, and many other dimensions can't be seen or bought ~ but they're real, and vital. Without them we exist; with them we thrive.

If I unplug a kettle then I can't draw electrical power to boil. If I'm unable to draw on the power of love then there are many things I can't do. The former power is only available from a fixed connection, whereas the latter may be received from a child, a stranger, loved ones, and can often surprise us.

How we respond to the unexpected says much about our character. If we know a fulfilled life of purpose and loving relationships, then things that knock us down will be temporary because we will soon spring back to normal. Jesus once described his mission as enabling us to live life to the full.

This is not being naive about pain, frailty, or illness. Jesus Christ went through pain and death, so his coming to life afterwards is a powerful signal that heaven's truth frames our temporary earthly existence. We can't see heaven, but we can know it.

May we continue to be surprised by God.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Generosity is incredibly attactive

Over the years it's been a real pleasure to meet so many generous people. Their character has spoken volumes. They may have few possessions, can be of any age or background, and come from the whole spectrum of personality. What they have in common is a warm attractive spirit that notices, cares for, and responds to those around them. They are not self-centred.

One example springs to mind. A new widow stood alone by the votive candle stand; should she be left in private rather than crowded? Was she desperate for company? Someone got up and joined her at a slight distance, not imposing but caring. The generosity was acknowledged by a kiss on the hands. It's a gift that often flows in two directions, and sometimes its language is through important little actions.

Being generous does not mean we become a doormat for others to walk all over. That doesn't do us or them any good. It is being prepared to go the extra mile, to look out for others. But it's not about being exploited.

Some international business leaders have set an example of greed over others' need. I hope Philip Green pays the full amount back into the employees' pension pot he raided to buy himself another yacht. Bill Gates on the other hand is using his vast wealth, from his Microsoft empire, to find new cures and make a positive difference to millions lives.

Thanks for donating to and running foodbanks, but it's not the best form of generosity. There's not much dignity in receiving bare necessities without being able to give something back. Generosity needs to work through local business and infrastructure so it empowers people with real worthwhile jobs and incentives.

So where are we? Generosity notices, is hugely attractive, flows in many directions, is not to be exploited but makes a difference on every scale. Jesus showed all these traits: realistic, open to inconvenient demands especially from the marginalised.

He gave his life so that we can find the vital gift of forgiveness. He rose from the dead to prove that love is stronger than death. In his new life is ours. You can't get more generous than that.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Oil a squeaky wheel?

I don't know how many telly channels there are. Add on radio, mobile, and Internet to bring up thousands ~ all screaming for attention. Politics is in on the game. How do we cope? Sometimes it's the noisiest that win, but is that wise?

I create more noise than I hear. These Views are written in Blogger, printed, and exported to Google+, Facebook, and Twitter; so that's five noises for one squeak! However, at the same time, I send out the minimum of emails. I only respond to an email if I feel it is necessary, and only when it's clear how to answer. Most people I know are overloaded ~ I certainly am.

If we only pay attention to the loudest, we might be feeding their egos at the expense of encouraging others who are quietly getting on with things. We need to trust that real conversations last. When becoming rural dean, I had to free up space in my diary. Having supported All Saints' School for 15 years, I thought they might like a rest! Four years later I've picked up dialogue where I left it.

So how do we work out what to do with our energy? Early radios were evaluated by their signal to noise ratio. Could you hear clearly, or did interference squash the output? One obvious question to ask in the noise jungle is what can I hear? And the next question might be is it worthwhile listening?
Some are getting thousands of hits on their internet sites exporting fake news. No harm done if it's a bit of banter, but when claims being made are gross distortions we need to be careful. The freedom to speak out as we wish can erode the truth we all need to treasure. Jesus had fake stories thrown at him, and at one point in his trial chose to remain silent.

He also refused to waste effort on those who were self-righteous, or hypocritical, or just time wasters. In fact he put it pithily: 'Don't cast your pearls before swine!'.

Easter is a reminder that the power of love will always triumph over lies, or anything else that belittles. It beat death. But it needs all of us to be reminded of that true power.

Happy Easter, and may we bathe in the sunshine of its awesome potency.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Yes, we are!

Are what? Responsible for your actions! Whether we are part of a rural community or live in an urban environment, whether we have local or international responsibilities ~ that's what they are, responsibilities.

The Old Testament part of the Bible includes material from pre-history until about 2,200 years ago. The earliest stories were passed on from one generation to the next by word of mouth. It's a fantastic collection of literature, and around a third of it is poetry.

This span of time sets out the basics of human relationships with our Creator, with nature, and with each other. One of the fundamentals made absolutely clear is that we are accountable for our actions. What does this mean in practice?

I signed the e-petition to Parliament which understands President Trump's visit, but asks that it should not include undue pomp. May I encourage you to sign it too, as part of our democratic freedom? []. I agree with Speaker Bercow that Trump should not be invited to address political leaders because of the wild claims he has made, and the dangerous disrespectful language he has used.

Jesus became embroiled with the politics of his day, and pointed out that it is by their fruits that you shall know them. So let's see what Trump's tenure brings. Some have argued that he does 'what it says on the tin' rather than vacillating. I'm not one who would have bought that tin in the first place.

As always, for every finger we point far more point back at us. Jesus also said, we shouldn't worry about the speck in someone else's eye if we have a plank in ours. But that's doesn't mean turning a blind eye!? We should challenge lies, and anything that demeans people or faith or gender. Avoiding hypocrisy is vital. We should never be self-righteous.

In short, we are all accountable for our actions, words, and manner.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Why Church is good for you

Getting cold
A kindly minister noticed one of his regular members hadn't been at Church for a few weeks, so he called for a cup of tea. In front of a cosy fire they chatted about football, his family, you name it. Five minutes into the conversation, the minister took the tongues and removed a burning coal and placed it safely on the hearth by itself.

As they talked it cooled down and went out. Just before leaving, the minister put the lump back into the fire. From then on his host regularly joined worship in Church. We need each other.

Does God need our worship?
Of course not! He would be rather pathetic if he wanted us to praise him in order to boost his self-esteem. How patronising to even imagine that the creator and sustainer of the universe could not manage without us. So why does he command us to worship him with our heart, mind, spirit, and strength?

We need to keep ourselves, and what we do in perspective. It has been my privilege to be alongside many who have been told they have a terminal illness [and to some extent we all do!]. Surprisingly they often said that after the shock of diagnosis, they really began to live. Why? Because all the secondary things in life didn't matter any more.

I love this simple image. Thank God for our NHS, and all who care for us. Do pray that our government make the right commitments for the long term. Thanks too to care homes, and volunteers like Community Angels. Our hats off to all of you!

OK, perhaps terminal illness is a bit drastic, but getting a true view of values is empowering. It's one reason God calls us to worship. In the 'chances and changes of this fleeting world' [to quote an old prayer], he never changes. It's why Psalm 121 is so popular; it speaks of the permanence of hills as a picture of God always being there for us. Aren't we fortunate to leave by the sea, and beneath the hills.

Research shows benefits
We are at peace this century, an awesome gift when compared to last century. However peace in our hearts is important too. Even the Daily Mail has published evidence, based on 30 years of research, which shows that regular Church attendance is good for our health; see

St Andrew's Church has been designated a gym in the mobile phone game Pokemon-Go. It turns out that's exactly what it is, however the exercises are for minds and spirits.