Saturday, January 27, 2007

Whenever you reach for me.....

I am normally so proud to be a Canadian! I'll fly the flag and pour maple syrup over anything at all. I could even make a cogent case for why a rodent is a fitting national symbol for a country. Celine Dion may not be our greatest ambassador at the best of times. When people say 'Oh, you're a Canadian - so is Celine Dion" I wonder why they couldn't have mentioned Lester B. Pearson, Pierre Trudeau, Donald Sutherland or somebody else. A recent recording of Celine Dion favourites in a 'Gregorian' style really hits the nerve, though. Who are these people? Are they serious? Are they taking the piss?

There's really no question but that I have to order this from Amazon simply to say that I own my own copy - that something which so typified the empty and vacuous nature of the age I live in did not pass me unnoticed and unacquired.

Besides - she's a Canadian. So am I.

When you go to the Amazon site, check out the sound clips at the bottom of the page. My favourite is the first one - "The Power of Love" - all those long nights at the monastery with nothing but other monks, a roaring fire and a Muzak machine.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Wot, no schism?

Who let the Lutherans off the hook?

Mollie, over at 'Get Religion' asks why the disciplinary hearing. of an ECLA pastor is making such a tiny footpring in the press.

"I’m surprised the story hasn’t gotten more coverage, considering how obsessed the media are over the Episcopal Church’s significant issues with homosexuality and how to interpret Scripture."

"Michael" comments later and suggests that a comparison between the two denominations should be made.

"I think it would be interesting because the stories are actually so dissimilar. There is no significant insurgency in the ECLA, no mysterious Third World bishops, no larger questions about the global community, no angst over female priests. Instead, the dispute in the ELCA is largely about homosexualty with questions about scriptural interpretation as a faint overlay".

There is almost no reason at all for the ECLA to have avoided the 'righteous' hammering that has been dished out to the Episcopal Church in the USA. It has always surprised me. Back in my home country, the Anglican Church of Canada maintains excellent relations with the Lutherans. They've overtaken the United Church of Canada as 'partners of choice'. We exchange pastors. The Lutherans in Canada and the U.S. have high and low. They have evangelicals, charismatics and woolly liberals within the same denomination - often within the same Synods and I assume that this is the case as well in the U.S.A. So why no public schisms? Why no Lutheran Bishops with bushy eyebrows threatening to be parachuted in as the Great White Hope by the Larger Lutheran World? Why no Lutheran version of Peter Toon rising from his coffin on a nightly basis to bite necks? Why is no one nailing an extra thesis to the door of the Lutheran Church? Doesn't seem fair somehow.

I do note, however, that the big money which is available to finance schism, opprobrium and liberal/moderate bashing has not been made available to the Lutherans. If you go to the Institute for Religion and Democracy you'll see little action tabs marked 'Methodist, Presbyterian and Anglican'. Either the Lutherans were neglected because the 'L' box was inadvertently left in the car by somebody who'd rushed home to see if the oven was still on or because those wishing to foment True Religion in the Lutheran church forgot to apply for funding.

This happens in a lot of organizations - failure to apply for relevent funding is a legitimate grounds for dismissal of a chief executive or a development director. Somebody's head should clearly roll.

What an opportunity missed! There are world-wide fellowships there for the splitting. Lawyers and lobbyists aren't being paid their retainers. Lutheran bloggers are standing at the fringes of the Episcopal dispute red-cheeked with shame like boys who haven't been picked for the team. Look at these people - sitting at the same table! By default they seem to be saying that the question is manageable, a subject of discussion and a "dispute largely about homosexualty with questions (of) scriptural interpretation as a faint overlay".

Can you imagine!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Yes, I know the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan is dire and Iran is not far behind. I know Fidel Castro is ill and might not live. I know, I know. But my Sloe Gin is ready to drink! I've been looking at it steeping, mellowing and improving in great big sealer jars and it is delicious! Epiphany was the day. I cracked open the first sealer and it's just right. There were mockers who said it was going to be too sweet. They said I'd picked too early. Nah - It's just right. Less sugar and everybody would have had Deaconess faces.

It begins with Sloes. Sloes are in the same family as plums. They are the fruit of the Blackthorn bush - a hedging shrub here in the UK. Little white flowers are followed by blueberry sized fruits with single stones in them. They are practically inedible off the bush. Bite into one periodically just to remind yourself of that. Very sour. Not nice.

You pick yourself a few quarts of these and then you sit down in front of the fire with a wooden toothpick and you poke each and every one a couple of times. You get to the point eventually where you can pick up three sloes at a time. You fill a big (1.5 litre) sealer jar just a smidge over half full and then you pour the berries back out into a scale and weigh them. You add half that much sugar by weight, pour the berries back into the jar and then fill it with gin. This year I used Tesco Value gin at about 37% alcohol because it was cheapest (I filled six big sealer jars with sloe gin so I've got some to give away). Rumour has it that you should not scrimp on gin but should get the stronger variety at about 43% alcohol but I don't intend to be that picky or that spendthrift.

The gin will begin to colour after a day or two. You twirl the jam sealer a couple of times a day for the first three weeks and then every two or three days after that. Normally you pick your sloes in early October. You can't touch the stuff until Epiphany! Some people leave it sitting with berries in for six months or more. You can then decant it out into bottles and leave it for as long as you like. The colour will go if it's exposed to the light. It will taste great but look fairly dull and brown. As for me and my household, we will drink it .....right now.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Please leave your snake in the pew
at the end of the service!

Quoting Bill Leonard, Dean of the Divinity School of Wake Forest South Carolina, Terry Mattingly writes in a very old article which I came across by accident:

"What the serpent handlers keep saying to us -- whether we want to listen or not -- is that we all tend to emphasize the parts of the Bible that make us feel comfortable," said Leonard. "We try to make it a tame book. Whatever the serpent handlers teach us, they can teach us that the Bible cannot be domesticated."

Well this is true - it was Schweitzer's task in The Quest for the Historical Jesus, wasn't it - to emphasize the strangeness of the New Testament witness over against its domestication by 19th Century Liberalism. Look at the mess that has gotten us into! So maybe a little domestication is okay? No need to transfer absolutely everything over between the world of the text and our world as if there were absolutely no difference.

If you're not convinced - then book yourself off a Sunday morning - bone up on Mark 16:17-18 - replenish your stock of anti-venin and go see for yourself. Wikipedia give you a list of churches where snake handling is still practised.

Please note the Canadian entries on the list. British Columbia and Alberta frequently complain that Western Canada is under-represented in appointments to the Canadian Senate. Having each more snake-handling churches than South Carolina or Alabama is probably not helping the cause.

Rock House Holiness Church on Sand Mountain in the rural northeast
Alberta, Canada
True Holiness Believers Gathering (Lethbridge)
Holiness Fire Church Of Lord Jesus With Signs Following (Edmonton)
British Columbia, Canada
The Right Hand Of Jesus With Signs Following Church (Kamloops)
Small Believers Of Light Church With Signs Following (Revelstoke)
The Jesus Name Believers Holiness Church (Canton)
Holiness Church of God in Jesus' Name (Kingston)
Holiness Church Of Lord Jesus (Roopville)
Hiway Holiness Church of God (Fort Wayne)
Crockett Church (Fields)
East London Holiness Church (London)
Apostolic Church (Warren)
Full Gospel Jesus Church (Cleveland)
Full Gospel Jesus Church (Columbus)
South Carolina
Holiness Church of God in Jesus Name (Greenville)
Holiness Church of God in Jesus Name (Carson Springs)
Sand Hill Church (Del Rio)
House of Prayer in Jesus Name (Morristown)
West Virginia
Church Of The Lord Jesus With Signs Following (Jolo)
Full Gospel Jesus Church (Micco)
Full Gospel Jesus Church (Kistler)

Don't know if I'm prepared to answer the inevitable question which is how somebody encounters an article on 'Snake Handling' by accident.

Quite struck today by headlines in my 'newspaper of choice'- the Times - which stated quite boldly 'Anglicans Block Gay Adoption'.

This is not what the letter from Canterbury and York to the Prime Minister was saying. It suggested, rather, that Church and voluntary organizations involved in the process of adoption should not be forced, under pain of falling afoul of antidiscrimination laws, to be agents of 'gay adoption' where issues of conscience and/or Church teaching were involved.

I'm wondering what goes on in the minds of headline writers when they write headlines in this manner:

1) Are they just rushed and needing to meet their mates at the pub and therefore any old thing will do.

2) Does the one headline motivate people in the newsstand to choose the Times over the Telegraph with its (slightly) more accurate headline of Churches unite against gay laws

3) Is there an actual motivation to make things look worse or more sinister than they are with respect to the meddling of bishops in social affairs? One would expect that of the Guardian but not the Times.

On a related note, the article by Mark Harris at Preludium had some excellent points about the role of press (and quasi-press - bloggers and pundits) in attempting to create realities rather than to merely describe them. Different media and a different angle, perhaps, but much of the same thing.

Monday, January 22, 2007

I find obituaries, in the main, to be terribly written. They are generally composed by a junior member of the newspaper staff according to a set formula. I have been suggesting to families, for some time now, that they try to write their own obituaries for departed family members. I tell them to use the cadences and rhythms which come most naturally to them. Our families have certainly risen to the challenge:

My husband's no longer alive.
He insisted that he could still drive.
In lieu of carnations
our church needs donations.
His funeral's on Tuesday at five.

Dear Mummy has gone off to heaven.
She died yesterday at eleven.
The funeral's not private
so try to arrive at
the funeral parlour at seven.

Did anyone know Alvin Fetter
the inveterate drunkard and debtor?
His family's bereft
but a few things are left.
If he owed you please send us a letter.

We're all feeling sorry for Ed,
especially now that he's dead.
We sure find it odd
and wonder why God
didn't go and take Grandma instead.

Getting right with Zeus

It appears that the Cult of Zeus is making a comeback in Greece. An organization called Ellinais has recently won a court battle to be established as an official religion. The right to celebrate weddings and other official acts will not be far off.

There has been huge hesitation on the part of the government to allow the group to repossess its ancient temples since these are all in a fairly broken-down state. Members of the Altar Guild are long dead or languishing in low-budget nursing homes. Rising damp is a ongoing concern and the recommendations of the last Quinquennial Review (117 B.C.) have not been acted on.

Nothing motivates religious bodies quite as much as the disposition of property, however, and the group appears quite adamant:

"We are Greeks and we demand from the government the right to use our temples," said high priestess Doreta Peppa.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

A word from the Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks about the 'recovery of civility' and its preservation in the midst of conflict.

"Verbal violence, the Bible suggests, is a prelude to physical violence. Those who cannot sustain a civil conversation will eventually find it impossible to sustain a civilisation. The sooner we recover civility, the better"

Is there some alternative to fighting fire with fire? The chief Rabbi thinks so and feels that there is an art of extending friendship across lines of dispute and in spite of profound differences of opinion.