'Losing something irreplaceable and of great value to all'

‘To proclaim the need for new ideas has served, in some measure, as a substitute for them’ wrote the economist and diplomat, J.K. Galbraith. If his words were to be transcribed into the church language of today, they might read something like ‘To proclaim the need for newness and innovation, ostensibly for the sake of the many, at the expense of what is known and loved by the few, is to lose something irreplaceable and of great value to all.’

Something like this is about to happen in regard to St. Teilo’s Anglican church in Cardiff. St. Teilo’s is to become a resource church.

Designating a church as a ‘resource’ is a managerial decision. Whatever the reasons given for such a decision, they amount to takeover. In this case, it is the takeover, without consultation with its people, of what was deemed to be a failing church. A ‘failing’ church is one which does not attract enough people on a Sunday for it to be considered worth supporting, irrespective of the inherent reverence of its worship or of its care for the community it serves, despite the fact that reverent worship and care for the community are two aspects of biblical holiness.

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On responding to tragedy

This is my sermon for this coming Sunday, in case anyone wants to pinch it – or bits from it.

It’s based on the Gospel reading Luke 13:1-9. Jesus responds to a couple of tragedies with some pertinent comments and a story about a fig tree.

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Mass shootings: how to respond?

Yet another mass shooting. We used to think they were unique to the USA. Now they can happen anywhere. Why?

And how should we respond? Do our public responses only make things worse?

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Are we civilised? Should we be?

There should be no snot on the nostrils… A peasant wipes his nose on his cap and coat, a sausage maker on his arm and elbow. It does not show much more propriety to use one’s hand and then wipe it on one’s clothing. It is more decent to take up the snot in a cloth, preferably while turning away. If when blowing the nose with two fingers something falls to the ground, it must be immediately trodden away with the foot. The same applies to spittle.

Thus Norbert Elias’ The Civilizing Process summarises some instructions in Erasmus’ 1530 publication On Civility in Boys. This post compares The Civilizing Process with Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature to ask: are we civilised, and is civilisation what we want?

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The Healing of a Madness: Brexit and Trump

According to one of the Oxford dictionaries, there is a possible link between madness and creativity, a truth born out by a few great artists but also by the political despots that history throws up from time to time. It seems that in leadership and art, there is a stark choice to be made when it comes to creativity, whatever form it takes.

The creator, like God, can make ‘weal or woe’. (Is.45:7) At the same time, life itself is seldom defined by these extremes. Most of it goes on in the middle ground. So it is the middle ground that we are ultimately returned to when crises subside, and it is in the middle ground that we have to re-shape and make sense of the everyday, having learned what we can from the immediate past.

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