Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Fabrice Muamba

Last week, Fabrice Muamba collapsed during a football game, with a cardiac arrest. He was dead for 78 minutes, but was rushed to hospital, and is now recovering well, sitting up and talking. All of which is very good for him, and clearly shown the importance of getting treatment urgently.

However, there has been, since that point, calls to Pray for Muamba, by the family initially, and others since. It shows something else, I think. There has also been criticism of this too, at the very least because there are more important things for God and prayer to do.

Surveys in this country indicate declining belief in God, declining church attendance, a general declining level of defined spirituality. But the Pray for Muamba campaign seems to have taken off and been seen on football players shirts and on the front page of the Sun.

I think this is cool. Because I think that, whatever else we believe or don't believe in this country, we still think that prayer has an effect. His incredible recovery might seem to indicate that it actually works.

Actually, prayer works, and it works in all sorts of ways. It does, I believe, encourage God to intervene. But it also encourages us to do something, to change, to act to fulfill our prayers. And real prayer is about listening to God, and hearing what he has to say too - that will change us.

We are a nation who will pray, and prayer works. But prayer works as much to change us as anything. To listen to Gods desires and priorities. To drive us to make a difference. It may be illegal to advertise that God can heal, but God answers prayers. Just not always in the way we want.

Sorry I have been slow in blogging, BTW. I have been working on getting my book ( see side menu ) published. It is called Bubbles, and is written by Schroedinger. It is currently available in e-book format, on kindle, and in good old-fashioned paper.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Responses and the ABC

I have had some interesting feedback about my posts, and my site www.boredwithchurch.info, so I think there are some responses to make. This is not intended to criticise anyone who has commented, or go back on anything I have said elsewhere or to people specifically. It is a chance to accept and understand these, and look a little bit closer at them.

Some people have expressed that I am opinionated or aggressive. Well, part of that is the nature of a blog, that I am trying to express strong views and opinions, to address one part of the argument, not presenting a completely balanced argument. That is the nature of blogging, of expressing opinions. It doesn't mean that I don't accept the existence of other views, just that I am trying to outline my views, and give perspective to those.

Others have told me that their church does not exhibit these features, their church is not like that. Excellent! But most of what I post is perceptions of the entire church, expressed in some local expressions. It does not mean that all churches are like that, but I try to take a wider view, looking at the wider church. A wider perspective is not focused on what a particular church is doing, but what is happening across the country. And individual churches will not survive the collapse of the church nationally.

Which brings me on to the announcement by Rowan Williams that he is retiring. I know that a lot of people think that Rowan has been a good Archbishop. I don't quite know how to judge him, because the church is still in turmoil, and the real challenges of women bishops, gay clergy and gay marriage are all still in the air. He has kept the church together through the last decade, but is the church actually in a better state now than it was? I have no idea. It will take some time, I think, to see whether his Archepiscopacy has been successful or not.

The real question is who will succeed him. There are all sorts of names being thrown around, but would any of them want the job? The problem is that the job is impossible. It is somewhat like the England football managers job, or even the Chelsea manager recently - very high profile, but the likelihood of being liked or considered to be doing a good job is minimal. The chances of having a disaster is extremely high.

The next Archbishop will have to tackle a shrinking - maybe even dying - church, riven by serious and important divisions. What is more,they will have to deal with the fall out of whatever the women bishops agreement is. What is more, however well the next archbishop deals with these and any other issues that come up in the next decade, there will be those who will criticse him. And maybe, his successor will be a female - that would cause even more problems.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Undermining Marriage....

There has been a lot of talk of late about allowing gay couples to get marriage, would undermine marriage.It made me think that the starting point has to be a definition of marriage.

Well the truth is that marriage has been, for most of our history, a civil agreement between two parties. At its most basic, this is two people who make a mutual agreement to be married. No religious ceremony, no witnesses, nothing. At other times, it was a civil agreement, made to some authorities, rarely a religious event. One of the more famous ones is the "jumping the broomstick" ceremony used across Europe - a ceremony in front of the community. All of these were simple commitments by two people in the community.

It is relatively recently - 250 years or so - that the idea of marriage as a religious ceremony came in. There is probably nothing that redefined marriage more than the religious involvement in the ceremony. Alongside this, civil ceremonies meant that all marriages became formal, civil or religious ceremonies. Now it seems that the biggest redefinition of marriage is this insistence of a ceremony, requirement for doing something formal. Not that I have a problem with this, but it did redefine marriage.

Now gay couples have, throughout history, had personal agreements to stay together. For much of the history in the west, this is the essence of marriage. Gay couples have been married for centuries, should they wish to be, and it is only the formalisation of marriage that has disallowed this.

One thing that has changed in the last 2 centuries is the status of women. Up to a century ago, women were treated as possessions of their husbands - and their fathers before that. If you want events that have changed the definition of marriage recently, then the rights of women to own property and be their own legal entities must be the biggest redefinition ever. Related to this, the establishment of a married couple as a separate entity, and the legal benefits of a married couple changed the institution of marriage fundamentally. This has fundamentally and critically changed the nature of marriage in our society.

And of late, there has been a tendency for couples not to marry at all, or not until they have saved up for a big do. Marriage today seems to be far more about a big celebration than anything else. This has also redefined marriage - for far more people, it is a celebration of a partnership that is already happening and is already committed to - the civil agreement has been made previously, and the wedding ceremony itself is about a big event, a family occasion.

So redefining marriage? Redefining it from what? And why not, as we have redefined it repeatedly throughout our history. Allowing gay couples to marry will permit them to make their personal commitment to each other into a public statement, and enable them to benefit from the legal entitlements. All of which seems perfectly reasonable to me.

Monday, 5 March 2012

I am just bitter...

I was reading a post by Naked Pastor, and it got me thinking. You see, if you go through the process of trying to become a vicar, and are rejected, then everything negative you ever say about the church again, is considered to be a reaction against this, coming out of bitterness, and so can be disregarded.

Which is odd, because to get anywhere along the process, there has to be something that indicates that you are someone with something valuable to give to the church. In fact, they make that clear at the selection process in the Anglican church - "if you are not recommended, it does not mean that you are rejected, just that this is not the right ministry for you at this time". But there is a strong sense that you are rejected, and your views are no longer considered.

Of course, I am only saying this because I am bitter about the church. So I would suggest that you ignore it.

Now it might be true that many such people do talk out of their pain and bitterness. But the truth is that so many people are hurt by the church in some form that these people might be the ones who speak the truth more clearly. Yes, they might be bitter, but they might also not see the church with rose-tinted glasses, and actually have some realistic but harsh things to say. It may be that they are the ones who see - and can discuss - the church through and through with a true sense of realism.

As it is, the people who are listened to in the churches are primarily the ministers or clergy. These are the people for whom the system has worked, and so they are liable to be well disposed about it. And so the cycle goes on - those for whom the system does not work are ignored, those for whom it does work are listened to, and so everything in the garden is, apparently, rosy.

In reality, there is a bit of both. Yes, some of what I say comes out of hurts received, and the pain of my experience. So some of it is undoubtedly rubbish. But some of it is also, I believe, from taking a different view and perspective of the church and the world. If nothing else, it comes from an assumption that the church might actually be wrong and broken. That is a perspective that is worth listening to.

Of course, I am only saying this because I am a bitter twisted person. If I were you, I wouldn't listen to a word of it.

Friday, 2 March 2012


Some 20 years ago, a few people in the church started saying "Have you noticed that there is a gap in the under 30s in our churches?" "Well, that's the younger generation for you," others said, "never staying still, never making the commitment to a local church. They will come back when they get older and settle down".

And most of the church carried on as it always had.

Some 10 years ago, a few more people in the church started saying "Have you noticed that we seem to have very few under 40s in our churches these days?" "That's true. I wonder how that happened? But we mainly used them for looking after the children's work, and we don't seem to have much of that either, do we?" And the people who always did things continued to always do them.

And most of the church carried on as it always had. Although some parts did try doing different things to attract younger people into church.

Today, quite a few people are saying "Have you noticed that the under 50s are unrepresented in our churches today?" This becomes very worrying now, so the churches respond by doing the same things they have always done, only more so. And wearing jeans.

And more and more parts of the church have to give up doing what they have always done, because they are now too old.

And some people have noticed that, with the church population aging, the church income follows the same sort of pattern as peoples income. It starts low, and is supported by the previous generation. It rises so that the previous generations help is needed less and less. Then it plateaus. And finally, at retirement - whenever that is - it drops sharply.

But the real tragedy is that the churches have had 20 years to make changes, to address the problems, to prepare for a new form of society. And most of that time, they have done nothing about it - ignored the problem I the hope that it will go away. There has always been that assumption that people will come back to the church at some point. But they don't. Not because people today are any less spiritual than previous generations - far from it. But because they don't see the church as having a place in their personal spiritual development.

I wonder why that is?