Why saying No Thanks is the progressive option

Why saying No Thanks is the progressive option.

This is a golden time for democracy in Scotland. The media, the airwaves are full of political debate but more than that, the whole nation is debating what we should do next. Who wouldn’t want that new democratic passion to be spread wider than Scotland’s borders?

That’s a real question. It appears that many progressive people will be satisfied by a vote that would result in our turning our backs on much that is wrong in the UK and being thus unable to help put it right. How much more progressive to grasp the momentum and press for change in the whole of the UK.

It is good that we debate whether we are a caring society. It is good that there are people in Scotland interested in addressing the plight of the poor. However, progressive people don’t just exist on one side of this argument and those in need don’t just exist on one side of the border. There is a pressing case for staying together as a country and using the energies of this referendum debate to fuel new political movements to address all that is wrong in society. I care as much about the poor in Carlisle as I care about the poor in Carluke. I care as much about the NHS in Preston as I do about the NHS in Perth. I care as much about job creation in Sunderland as much as I care about job creation in Stirling. I want all to prosper and want my MP to fight not only for my interests but for the common good of all in the UK, forming alliances with other progressive politicians to bring about a fairer, better and more economically stable society.

But just because I’m going to vote No, that doesn’t mean I don’t want change. I long for change – real change for the whole of the UK and the only way to still be able to influence the change I hope for is to say No Thanks to separation.

I want a more federal UK. Lots of people do. The only way to be sure it will never ever happen is to say Yes to separation from the rest of the UK.

It isn’t simply more devolution that is needed for Scotland – we need something much more radical. If devolution has been good for Scotland then it will be good for England too. A federal system within a strong, united economy would bring not only the best for me but also the best for those most in need. Separation will not bring about devo-max – it is a rejection of that. Separation would bring about austerity-plus, damaging economic recovery not only in Scotland but throughout the other parts of the UK. And when austerity is the dominant theme of the economic cycle it seems to me that those who are poor and vulnerable tend to come out of things worse that those at the top of the pile, no matter who is in government.

I want a renewed democracy that is UK-wide. I want a new commitment to the vulnerable that is UK-wide. I want progressive people to be running a progressive economy that is UK-wide. And the greatest risk to what I hope for comes from those who believe it can never happen. As someone who was involved close to the beginning of the recent campaign to allow gay couples to get married, I know that the greatest trouble comes not from opponents but from those who say, “I’m on your side but it will never happen”. Real change in society is desirable and possible. The energy of the referendum campaign shows, like the energy surrounding the gay marriage campaigns, just how passionate people can become over things that they care about.

As a priest, I care about people and I care about society. For me, I can’t see those who are vulnerable anywhere in Scotland doing well in a society that has such an unstable economic beginning as that proposed by the Yes campaign who still can’t answer even the most basic questions about currency and long term debt.

Those who are arguing for a Yes vote sometimes speak as though it is the only option for political progressives. I want change in the UK and the changes I want can only be achieved by saying Thanks, but No Thanks – my ambition for reform is far greater than what is currently proposed.

Who wouldn’t want real progressive change in society to be for everyone in the UK? Who would want to turn their back on being able to bring positive influence to bear for the many and not just the Caledonian few.

For all these reasons – it is No Thanks from me.

Opera Review – Les Troyens

This review was first published by Opera Britannia

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

It was a tale of two divas. And it was the best of times and it was the worst of times. The Mariinsky Opera‘s Les Troyens was a bold attempt to bring an epic work to the Edinburgh Festival which never quite achieved what it should have done. Though there were flashes of brilliance, an all too clever set and uncertain and variable singing made the whole long evening very much a mixed bag.

The first big idea to confront the audience was an enormous mirrored backcloth at the back of the stage, leaning in over the action. Technically it offered the design team a number of interesting tricks as things could be back-projected onto it and it reflected a moving stage floor made up of two massive slabs which went to and fro carrying singers backwards and forwards.

It was an astonishingly clever thing to do on the stage. There were constantly changing tableaux made all the more interesting because the mirror brought an almost cinematographic perspective to what was going on. Whilst aware of what the company was doing in front of the audience, it was also possible to see what they were doing from above and beyond. It was also conceptually interesting. Les Troyens is often said to be two operas; the first two acts representing the action in Troy and the final three telling a remarkably similar tale in Carthage. The two cities end up being destroyed after foreigners arrive in their territory. Each has a dominant female royal figure who kills herself in the end. The stories of the two cities are mirror images of one another and the presence of this enormous mirror showed that someone was trying to make sense of a story which does not always sit easily within the audience’s grasp. Unfortunately though, no-one had thought through the consequences of such a large mirror and various technical problems were later to unravel much that was good on the stage itself.

So, let us first consider the goings on in Troy.

The first puzzle of the evening was why the chorus were sounding so tired. Had they perhaps been told to hold it back because of the long sing ahead? Whatever the reason, this was not a particularly sparkling beginning to the evening. Whilst being Trojans, the chorus were dressed as extras from Les Misérables. The presence of a few rifles confirmed that we were certainly not in ancient Troy and the waving of a flag centre stage made one rather suspect that we were in Paris and about to climb the barricades.

The first two acts of Les Troyens depend utterly on the figure of Cassandre. If we don’t enter into her passion then we are going to care little about what’s going on in front of us. The role was sung by Mlada Khudoley, a late substitution for another singer. She had been due to sing the part on the following night so it wasn’t as if she had had to learn things at the last minute. She was a bit lacklustre though. There was a beauty to her voice but not really enough power. Much better was Alexy Markov as Chorèbe, her true love. His French sounded a little more secure and the bold power of his voice was much more able to deal with the tricky acoustic of the Festival Theatre. Ms Khudoley tried her best to persuade Chorèbe to leave Troy due to her premonitions of disaster to come, but he wasn’t having it. My sympathies lay with him too – I wasn’t convinced by her either.

Valery Gergiev was doing great work in the pit. Apart from a very brief wobble towards the end of Act I when it wasn’t obvious that the whirling and burling chorus and on-stage band were entirely in time with the orchestra below, all was well. Particularly noteworthy were the lower strings and brass which were simply lush throughout.

It is my view that the best music in Les Troyens is reserved in each act for duets. However, whilst Cassandre and Chorèbe were fighting it out, there was something of a distraction away from the action. Over to the left of the stage, it appeared that someone was checking a mobile phone. First one, then another, then another. Little bursts of light took the eye far away from Troy. It turned out that it was the chorus getting ready to come on stage bearing fake candles in their hands. They were obviously electrically powered and they were glaringly obvious and in the way, whilst they were waiting to come on from the wings. It was clear that a far from perfect blackout was hindering a poor stage design and this was to dog proceedings for the rest of the evening. The fake candles were to prefigure fake lillies later on too. We’ll come back to the technical problems yet again presently.

But first we must consider the goings on in Carthage.

After a long supper break, the audience reassembled to find the cast now transposed across the Mediterranean to Carthage. Instead of the neo-Parisian grunge of the first two acts, now all was Mediterranean blue and white. The costumes now no longer reminiscent of the French Revolution but long flowing white suits somewhat akin to what a well-dressed Mormon might wear to a Latter Day Saints’ Temple Ceremony in the 1970s. It was all visually very rich, wherever we were.

Now, no matter what they were wearing, things were certainly warming up in the singing department. The audience were treated to a surprising post-prandial boost at just the right moment. The chorus were obviously enjoying themselves a little more and the stage had a strong presence dominating it in the form of Ekaterina Smenchuk as Dido. She had everything which Mlada Khudoley had been lacking back in Troy. A glorious sense of determination marked her singing throughout. I overheard someone describe her in the next interval as being a ‘mezzo-soprano profundo’ which captured perfectly the strength of her singing. At last there was something emotional to grasp hold of too. Suddenly one caught a glimpse of how overpowering the whole piece might have been if it had been consistent. Ms Smenchuk blazed whereas Ms Mlada had merely been attempting to fan glowing coals into flame. In this diva-off there was no real competition. Carthage won.

Whenever he felt the audience were beginning to lose interest in the action, director Yannis Kokkos brought out a troop of nubile half-naked male ballet dancers to tumble and wrestle about on stage. The fact that they achieved one of only two smatterings of applause in the whole five hours, shows how appreciative at least some members of the audience were of their lovely homoerotic antics.

There were a couple of notable male singing roles and one further standout female contribution. Yury Vorobiev as Narbal, Dido’s minister of state was doing as well as any amongst the supporting cast, bringing a delicious gravelly tone to bear on his part and Dmitry Voropaev had a lovely pastoral song to sing, though he didn’t play the large concert harp that had apparently been brought onto stage simply for him to stand next to. All was going well for him until an odd intake of breath made him seem to lose all confidence in the upper register. Dido’s love interest Aeneas was played by Sergey Semishkur. His voice was as good as his looks – polished, refined and rather stately singing.

Rather late in the day, I realised that Lyudmila Dudinova was playing a trouser role as Aeneas’s son Ascagnius. It is a fair bet that if you can get three hours into a five hour opera without discerning the gender of all participants then the storytelling is not entirely working.

Ekaterina Krapivina was a knockout as Anna, Dido’s sister. Whereas others on the stage had powerful voices, hers had a clarity that shone out beyond the rather Slavic sound that might generously be regarded as a Mariinsky trademark sound.

Oh but all was not well around the singers.

The mirror reappeared in the final act, having been absent whilst we were first in Carthage. The trouble with a mirror across the back of a large wide stage is that it will not simply reflect what’s going on in front of you. It will also reflect what’s going on to both sides of you too. Thus, even from a good seat in the centre stalls, it provided a clear view of stagehands flapping about in the wings.

The odd glimpse of a fake candle being switched on is one thing but the mirror revealed far more than was good for any production. I did wonder during some of the more static choruses (and a lot of the action did seem to consist of the chorus simply standing around singing) whether the action in the wings was some kind of postmodern ironic commentary on what was going on centre-stage. Whilst someone on stage was singing in a kind of nautical crow’s nest contraption that floated 15 feet in the air for no discernible reason, a burly stagehand waited close by to grasp it and fling black drapes around it in a vain hope that it would make the contraption disappear when it floated within grabbing distance. He was wearing the helpful word CREW emblazoned across his back – reversed in the mirror, of course. At one point whilst Dido was singing about the joys of love under the gentle rays of bright Phoebus, there was the sight of the buttock cleavage of a stagehand, clearly mooning out at us from between his ill-fitting T shirt and scruffy jeans in the wings. During the moments leading up to Dido’s emotional suicide there was a billowing of drapes and the word EXIT appeared on a green sign at the back of the stage. I was unsure whether this should be seen as a deep and rather meaningful meditation on the passion of the dying Carthaginian Queen or the desperation of someone stage-right who wanted us all to leave the theatre as he’d had more than enough and wanted to get home.

The nonsense in the wings was considerably better lit than the action on the stage, where the principals often found their faces obscured in deep shade. Heaven knows what Vinicio Cheli the lighting designer was up to.

Notwithstanding all this, during the final act, I have to admit that I was starting to care about Dido and Aeneas. It took a long time to get there but the passions did billow up from below in the end. Their love duet in the final act was all that it should have been – ravishing and enveloping.

However, the technical and design problems spoiled a rather grand vision. There simply doesn’t seem any excuse for these in such a mammoth and much anticipated Edinburgh Festival Production.

There are many who will view Berlioz’s great work as intriguing but ultimately deeply flawed. The Mariinsky managed to stage a production that lived right up to such an analysis.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Pictures to think about #2

There I was last week standing in the Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna, staring up (as you do) at the stunning mosaics high up on the walls. The pictures are astonishing and I may get round to posting some of them online later.

My attention was distracted though by a small boy rushing backwards and forwards in front of the altar. Whilst everyone’s eyes were up towards the ceiling, he was staring intently down at the floor.

image

Backwards and forwards he went – to and fro. It took me a few moments to realise that there was a pattern to his movements. He alone in the place had realised that there was an old labyrinth laid into the floor right in front of the altar. He was following in the pathway right into the middle, at which point he ran off to find some other entertainment.

It is a fairly small labyrinth – about 12 feet wide and made more for small feet than my own feet. (Labyrinths – Young Church, hmmm…)

All the same, I started to walk it and soon found myself thinking about those whom I had brought with me on my travels in my mind. As a priest it is a kindness to your congregation to forget about most of them when you go away on holiday. Everyone needs time off and you can serve better when you get home if you have a rest for a while. All the same, some people linger in your mind and I found some of them with me as I travelled the circles in front of the altar. And those whom I think about from my own life too – the people I carry in my heart wherever I go, some of whom do the same for me and some of whom would be astonished to know they were being prayed for in a sixth century basilica in modern day Italy.

Pictures to think about #1

I’ve been away from St Mary’s for the last week or so travelling, so no time to write much. However, I did take a lot of photographs and thought I would post one or two things here which made me think. As usual, comments welcome. image

Well-meaning but homophobic

A week has now passed since the Guardian published the following snippet commenting on the twitter exchange that I had with the Director of Communications for the Church of England after Vicky Beeching came out.

The Church of England’s director of communications communicated himself into a corner last week, after a well-meaning but homophobic tweet about Vicky Beeching, the gospel singer who’s just come out as gay. The Rev Arun Arora tweeted that Vicky was welcome in church because “we are all broken”. In a cringe-inducing exchange with Kelvin Holdsworth, provost of St Mary’s Cathedral in Glasgow, @RevArun defended his comparison of Vicky’s sexuality to the brokenness of humanity. Holdsworth tweeted: “It would be racist to say that black people are welcome in church because all are broken. It is homophobic to suggest same re LGBT.” The the reverend went strangely quiet.

Now that the dust has settled a little bit it seems to me to be worthwhile just reflecting on what happened.

It strikes me first of all that the phrase “well-meaning but homophobic” is perfectly judged. I’ve always said that I knew that Arun Arora had no intention of causing the offense that he caused. The trouble is, that lack of awareness seems these days to be rather culpable for anyone, never mind someone who is in charge of communications for a large and supposedly caring institution. Not knowing how offensive it was is worse in a way than being fully aware.

“Well-meaning but homophobic” – doesn’t just capture last week’s unfortunate tweet though. It perfectly captures the way that the Church of England in particular and the churches in general might be viewed by the general public. Well, actually, many people think that the churches are not even well-meaning these days but there’s still many in society who would acknowledge Christianity as a force for good. Many of those people are bewildered at how the churches seem to find themselves so badly led on this issue. “Well-meaning but homophobic” seems to me to describe something that is more complex than a simple lack of awareness of what can be said by an individual in polite society these days. It seems to me to describe something more systemic – more institutional than merely personal.

I was trying to explain the complexity of the situation in the church to someone the other night. After listening to me talk for some time about why some churches are progressive on the issue and some positively harmful, after listening to theological explanations, after listening to sociological explanations he simply shrugged and said, “Yes, but it is still us who get queerbashed in the end”.

And he was right.

Let’s just focus on the piece from the Guardian for a moment again. The Guardian reports that I compared a particular situation involving someone coming out as gay to a situation dealing with race.

Let me just do that again.  What do you think would have happened if the Church of England had been reported by a national newspaper as having a Director of Communications who was tweeting things that were “well meaning but racist”?

I hope that a week later there would have been clear statements that such behaviour was unacceptable. I hope that there would have been an apology. I might also hope that there would be an advert for a new Director of Communications being hastily written for the Church Times. I hope that it would have been completely unacceptable.

I ask these questions fully aware that things are not all sweetness and light for those who do happen to be black and in the church.

But I ask, respectfully and persistently why things are different when the issue is sexuality to when the issue is race? I don’t forget that people have used the bible plenty of times to justify racist behaviour, so I know it isn’t just that the bible says it should be so.

Well-meaning and homophobic.

The Director of Communications of the Church of England was described last week in a national newspaper as tweeting something that was well-meaning and homophobic and of course, nothing has happened since.

There has been no statement from the Archbishop of Canterbury. None from the Archbishops’ Council. Nothing from those who run the national institutions of the Church of England. Nothing at all.

And what’s more, most people wouldn’t expect there to be any reaction at all.

And that’s why I find myself wondering whether another analogy between race and LGBT issues might continue to be helpful.

Very many gay people would say that “well-meaning but homophobic” behaviour from individuals and corporate bodies contributes to getting people dead.

Remember when the Metropolitan Police accepted that their behaviour over Stephen Lawrence amounted to “institutional racism”.

Why do I find myself thinking that “well-meaning but homophobic” behaviour on the part of whole denominations amounts to nothing less than institutional homophobia?

 

 

I nominate these guys

baptismal candidates

Can you change the world by pouring water over someone?

Well, we had a go yesterday in St Mary’s with two lovely baptisms in a great service yesterday morning.

In the course of the service, we were reminded of Moses being scooped from the water of the River Nile and going on to set a whole people free from slavery. Then we heard a bit of St Paul which reminded us that transformation of the heart was connected with accepting that we all have gifts that differ. (What a fabulous reading for a baptism). Then we had a reading from the gospels which told us that in trying to work out who Jesus was, Peter the apostle actually found himself named and commissioned for service.

What will these children do in their lives?

There is so much trouble in the world at the moment that it is important to be reminded of the hope and the joy that isn’t just part of what happens when new life comes into a family with the birth of a child but also the new life  and hope which is intrinsic to our faith.

Yesterday morning was a little Easter for us at St Mary’s. And a packed church was buzzing with the ideas that new life, hope and love are real and for sharing.

I don’t know who is going to sort the world out and allow the kingdom of love to be seen for real. But I nominate these guys, freshly baptized, and all like them who are entering the world anew. May they be a generation that brings faith, hope and love to bear on a world that needs to be baptised with every drop of goodness it can get.

Slow Eucharist – Teaching Mass – Lord’s Supper with FAQ

I’m doing something a bit different on Monday. It happens to be the Feast of St Bartholomew and normally we would have a celebratory Eucharist in the morning instead of morning prayer. Now, I’m the master of having all the works in less than half an hour.  Clouds of smoke, a simple sung plainsong setting a wee homily and some prayers and off we go into the world refreshed by being inspired by the saint of the day. It all has to be sharp and to the point but it is fun none the less.

However on Monday I’ve shifted the Eucharist to the evening and instead of it being over before you can blink, I’ve advertised it as a slow eucharist.

The idea is that we’ll take time over it and I welcome questions throughout the service. I’ll probably have some questions to think about too.

I’ve done a few services like this in my time.

When I’ve done this before, it has been enjoyed by a range of people. It is particularly suitable for anyone who comes to the Eucharist and has been wondering about how the service hangs together. What do the individual bit mean? Why do we do it this way? I’ve also known parents who believe (in the face of the church telling them otherwise) that children should “understand” communion before receiving it enjoy bringing their kids. (My experience is that kids do understand it and adults have the questions, but that’s OK). It is particularly suitable for anyone of any age who wants to begin receiving communion but who hasn’t received so far because they don’t quite get it or have wondered whether or not they should.

The kinds of questions that have come up in the past have included…

  • Why do you wear that colour on that day and how do you know?
  • Why do we have wafers when other people have bread?
  • Why do you do that with your hands?
  • Why do we sometimes have three people at the altar – what are they all doing there?
  • How do you know who is who by what they are wearing?
  • What really happens to the bread and wine?
  • What do all Anglicans believe about this
  • What are the secret prayers that the priest says?
  • What do you mean secret prayers?!!!
  • Why do people have different names for the service – Eucharist, Lord’s Supper, Mass, which is it?
  • Can you receive communion if you’ve arrived at the last minute?
  • If Jesus only gave communion to men then why do we give it to women too?
  • Did Jesus know he was starting something that would go on and on through the centuries?
  • What’s that called?
  • Who is allowed to receive communion? Is there anyone you would refuse communion to?
  • Can you be excommunicated from the Scottish Episcopal Church?
  • Why did I have to be confirmed to receive communion and now people don’t?
  • Why? Just why?
  • Why do we do this, when we used to do that?

I’ll give plenty of time for questions and answers. Don’t presume I have all the answers. My hunch is that the best answers will come from the community that gathers.

It will be fun. It will be informal. It will be holy.

No question too silly.

All welcome on Monday at 6.30 pm. Depending on numbers, we may start with a sacristy safari to gether all the bits and pieces together. If there are too many of us, we’ll reschedule that bit for another day. We should be all out of the building by 8.30 pm so slow but not interminable. (Length depends on the number of questions).

Comments and questions welcome on here too.

 

On turning down Big Brother

This morning could have been so very different. I could have been waking in a room of sleeping pseudo-clebs and instead of writing a blog post I could have been called to the diary room.

The funniest telephone call I’ve taken in the last year was from an agent looking for candidates for the Big Brother House who was ringing to ask whether I would be interested in auditioning for Celebrity Big Brother. I didn’t stop laughing for days. It didn’t need a moment’s thought to know that the BB House was not the place for me.

I have to say that my first thought was that I wasn’t a celebrity but then looking down the list of those who have actually made it into the house, I’m not sure that should have been a worry.

I was never entirely sure why I got that call. The only thing I can think of is that they were going down the Pink List that the Independent kindly publish every year and asking everyone on it whether they might be interested. (The fact that they got to me would indicate that rather a lot of people turned them down before I got the chance to say no). Maybe this blog was a plus point in their minds too.

But how our lives have changed over the years that Big Brother has been in existence on our television screens. The blurring of the public and the private is one of the major themes of modern Western life and one that I think we still don’t quite understand. And the profusion of cameras in our lives is something that I didn’t see coming. I have a little one on top of my computer screen waiting for any moment when I want to make a video call or for when online evening prayer starts up again. As I walk to work, I’ve no idea how many cameras will record my movements nor who will look at the images.

And the idea of confessional diaries that all the world can read – well, blogging has become unremarkable now.

My hunch is that many of the people who started blogs have fallen by the wayside. Perhaps they’ve got bored, perhaps they have been bitten on the behind as things they have written have come back to haunt them and perhaps they just didn’t get the celebrity that they were hoping for. How painful to be a celebrity in your heart that no-one pays any attention to at all.

There’s still mileage in blogging but it is changing. We are seeing fewer bloggers stick it out but I think many of those who are keeping going for the long-term are learning how to do it successfully. The increasing ubiquity of social media means that it is hard to be a successful blogger without knowing one’s way around some of those platforms too.

But people still read blogs. The thousands of people who read my post last week about the offense caused to many by the Director of Communications of the Church of England in one little tweet, were clearly interested in a perspective that they wouldn’t find in the mainstream media.

Very happy to have turned down Big Brother. Very happy to still be on here.

Why Travelodge got it right in removing Gideon Bibles

I gather that the Travelodge hotel chain has decided to remove Gideon bibles from their hotel rooms.

I remember the last time I stayed in a Travelodge room being surprised that there was still a bible provided. It seemed something of an anachronism.

It is hard not to admire the tenacity and the determination by which the Gideons exercise their ministry. They give a lot of money and time into providing bibles in hotel rooms, schools and to other people and other places. However, as a Christian charity they’ve not really kept up with the times.

Here are the reasons that I think that Christians have nothing to fear in Travelodge removing the bibles.

  • The Gideons have remained fixed in their view that the New International Version is the most appropriate book to leave around for people. It is a determinedly Evangelical translation of the bible. (See this recent post for reasons I might have reservations about that: 10 Things Evangelicals Don’t Tell You at First). But not only that, the Gideons seem, so far as I can tell to remain wedded to an old version of the NIV which has the distinction of using language which makes the least attempt to treat men and women equally.
  • I wonder just how successful their ministry is. In all my years working in the church, I’ve never ever met anyone who talked about coming to faith as a result of reading a Gideon bible. Indeed, I’ve never encountered anyone who talked about ever reading a Gideon bible. Maybe I’m wrong but perhaps there might be strategies to get people reading the bible that might be more successful than simply leaving old fashioned bibles around.
  • It seems to me that the world is becoming a more secular place and less something that we can recognise as Christendom. That means that it can’t be assumed that Christianity is going to be privileged in particular ways in the future in ways that it has been in the past. I don’t think this is a bad thing. I also think that Christianity might stand more of a chance of thriving if it got on with telling people that God loves them rather than always seeming to be defending those privileges of old. Moaning about Gideon bibles being removed is not a strategy that is going to be successful or worthwhile and nor does it spread any kind of message that is going to leave anyone feeling better disposed towards Christianity.
  • Increasingly people who stay in hotel rooms are going to be unfamiliar with the idea of reading anything in a book.
  • If you do accept bibles as a hotel chain then you are really going to have to accept anything else offered. Does it really do the Christian message any use to have a New International Version of the Bible sitting there with Buddhist scriptures, Hindu Vedas and whatever the atheists are going to want to slip into the mix?
  • I think part of the point of most modern hotel chains is that the rooms are functional, comfortable and neutral. It is easy to see how having a bible changes that.

Whilst we are on the topic of the Gideons, did you know that you can’t become a Gideon if you are a woman? Or that you can’t become a Gideon if you are a Roman Catholic?  See here for details – http://www.gideons.org/FAQ/FAQ.aspx

I like to encourage people to read the bible. That’s why I published my Where to Get Started with the Bible post recently which a lot of people have seemed to find helpful.

However, I don’t feel inclined to lament Travelodge’s decision. Indeed, I’m surprised it has taken them so long. I think they’ve probably made a choice that was inevitable.

I’d rather stay in a hotel room unadorned by the beliefs of the hotel’s owners.

Travelodge have indicated that they’d be happy to supply bibles from their front desk. And anyway, anyone with a smartphone can access the bible.

Christians should be encouraging new ways of engaging with the text.

Christianity doesn’t depend on having bibles in hotel rooms. Bibles in hotel rooms depended on Christendom, but that is now gone.

I don’t think faith has much to fear.

 

A wee homily for Derek and Nelson

Derek and Nelson – you have come here to St Mary’s today to declare your love for one another and so that we can share your joy and give thanks with you.

Today is a feast day in the church. It is the Feast of St Mary – and here we all are in a church dedicated to her, St Mary’s Cathedral. And on a feast day we share in joy….and in thanksgiving.

Now, on this day the church remembers different events that happened in the Mary’s life. We remember her at the beginning of Jesus’s life sharing the joy of his birth and we remember her at the end of his life sharing her sorrows with others. And on this day, you’ve chosen a gospel reading all about another event in her life. You’ve chosen the reading about the wedding at Cana of Galilee.

As we’ve just heard, Mary was the guest at a wedding and at a given point in the proceedings, she nudged her son and declared that there needed to be more wine and that he should do something about it.

And sure enough, water was brought out and it was changed into wine and the party went on. No doubt there was joy, and considerable thanksgiving.

Looking around at all of you gathered here, I don’t know whether you believe in miracles or what you make of stories like that. I also don’t know how you all feel today – beyond being sure that you come here with a sense of joy and of thanksgiving and of love for Derek and Nelson. My guess is that many of you are sitting here surprised to find yourselves here – still surprised that such a ceremony like this is possible.

The truth is, for a lot of us who grew up as gay people, this was completely outside our expectations. We never expected to be able to celebrate a partnership in this way. It just wasn’t conceivable.

Yet here we all are.

I don’t know whether you believe in miracles. But for some of us here today, we have watched things change over the last few years. They have changed in ways that once we could never have believed. Those of us who are gay have watched water change into wine in front of our very eyes. And we have begun to drink. And the wine tastes absolutely wonderful.

Joy. And thanksgiving. And wonder.

Those are the things we celebrate here today.

Mary clearly wanted all the cups at the feast to be full, absolutely full to the brim. And running over.

And so it shall be.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Amen