Saturday, August 15, 2009

This senior cleric appears not to be completely up to speed with the technical innovations available to the clergy nowadays

My daughter Hannah lives in Montreal. She thought that a having a dog would be a good idea.

This is the dog. His name is Major. Major is apparently still a puppy.

This is Major looking for any whales on the lake that he could eat.

What's wrong with a Jack Russell Terrier? This is not a dog this is a pony.

Pause for Thought

I’ve just come back from a two week trip to the Holy Land – a trip pretty evenly divided between time spent on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and time spent in the old city in Jerusalem with a few side trips here and there.

The Galilee was wonderful – thrilling – magical. I can shut my eyes and I am standing on the Mount of the Beatitudes looking down at the small stretch of shoreline on the north coast of the lake where so much of the Gospel story unfolds.

I’d been warned about Bethlehem and Jerusalem; warned by well-meaning colleagues and friends not to set myself up for disappointment – that there is an industry surrounding pilgrims like myself.

“Buy this olivewood rosary – buy these postcards – genuine Jordan water – genuine holy oil!”

I’d also been warned about the palpable hostility which was engrained in the place – the walls you drive by, the barbed wire, the universal presence of rifles slung over shoulders and handguns stuffed into belts.

This hostility extends to conflicts within all three major religions, as well and not merely between them. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem seems at times like a sort of board game with different teams occupying different parts of the same space.

I do not regret that somewhere along the line I developed the ability to ‘squint’ slightly and to conceive things as they once were or as they could be. It’s a skill learned in order to hold on to a deeper order of things even in the face of misadventure and disappointment.

It’s something necessary in order to believe in people even when they fail you – necessary even in order to believe in one’s self when the person staring back from the shaving mirror has proved to be less impressive than you once thought him to be.

As you walk through an old place which has been knocked down and rebuilt many times you reflect on the fact that human beings will generally get up again when they’ve been knocked down.

They’re got a vision in their heads which doesn’t correspond completely to the rubble which surrounds them.

Audio available HERE for a limited time
Pause for Thought begins at 0:22.03 on the audio bar

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Industrial action on the part of Royal Mail employees here in the UK has prompted the folks down at The Tablet to allow free online access to the entirety of this week's edition.

I read purloined, free or week-old copies of the Tablet more than I read it when I've actually gotten up on my hind legs and subscribed. Once I've gotten my own subscription they end up staying in their little plastic pouches and my wife complains about the expense.

She's Scottish. She notices these things. It's true what they say.

Two stories in this week's free and therefore infinitely juicier-than-normal Tablet speak to the power of rumour to damage and destroy. I've lived and worked in communities where rumours circulate. The communities I live and work in right now are actually quite free of this sort of sub rosa manipulation of the many by the few - something for which I find myself very thankful.

In the Tablet this week, as their main story, is a rumour quite intentionally circulated in order to provoke outrage and violence: that two pages of the Qu'ran were allegedly destroyed at at Christian wedding in the Eastern Punjab in Pakistan.

What, as part of the liturgy? After the rings but just before the declaration?

The resulting violence has claimed the lives of 8 people (six of them burnt alive) and many more injured. Property and livelihoods were destroyed and church buildings were razed to the ground.
I remember the first time I ever fired an old Lee Enfield .303 when I was about 16, marvelling at the sort of shoulder-kicking power which could be unleased by applying a couple of pounds of pressure to the trigger. This is that sort of story. The rumour-monger knows that it takes just a word or two and he's unleashed an earthquake. It happened just as he intended.

The second story seems a bit more pedestrian. It concerns an apology printed on the front page of a newspaper in New Brunswick, Canada with reference to what they'd printed on an earlier front page: that Stephen Harper the Prime Minister of Canada had gone to a Roman Catholic funeral and had slipped a wafer from Mass into his coat pocket.

Some outrage ensued. Damage was done.

What was he doing going up for Communion in the first place since he's not a Roman Catholic? Did he just get up when everyone else did and was he then given something and then did he not know what to do with it? Did he figure he'd pocket it and then give it to his PA, Sabrina, to deal with like he passes so many of his problems on to her?

Well sir, the whole thing apparently was hooey (see the article at the bottom of page 31)
According to Canada's CTV News, members of the opposition Liberal Party told the story of the Communion host to the Newspaper's publisher, who then passed the unverified allegation on to his editor.
At least in this latter case the retraction got the same coverage as the original story and the originators of the rumour have been identified - as should always happen in families and in congregations where rumours start. One needs to slavishly follow them back to the source and make people accountable for what they've whispered in alleys.

Notwithstanding a number of official apologies from governmental officials in Pakistan one assumes that the originator of the rumours there which have now cost lives and livelihoods will never be properly identified.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

From the Herald today:

OUR story of the woman described as "East Ham" as she was "one stop short of Barking" reminds a Stirling reader of when a friend said his trousers were "a bit Cowdenbeath".

When he asked for elucidation, he was told: "There's no ballroom in Cowdenbeath."

Thank you Kenny

George Monbiot writes how difficult it is to fight against the establishment of a Superstore in a tiny community.

Last month Tesco submitted an application to...... build a store of 27,000 square feet on the edge of the town centre. This is twice the size of all our grocery stores put together, and bigger than our tiny settlement – 2,100 souls – can support. Tesco will prosper here only if other shops close and customers come from miles away.

More than 300 people – roughly one fifth of the adult population – have sent letters of objection. The case against the store and the strength of local feeling is so strong here that if we can't beat Tesco, no one can. But, being deficient in magic potion, we have precious little chance of stopping it.

Even if you've got an inherant prejudice against the NIMBYism of posh city folks who move to small communities and then object to development you've got to hand it to George: the cards are stacked in the favour of large corporations and their legal teams.

Read the entire article HERE.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The language is foreign
........but the sentiments are universal!

As I understand it, anyway: an Altar Guild president receives her copy of the letter from the chairman of the Select Vestry saying that Fr Wilson has accepted the Bishop's offer of appointment to St John's. She is overjoyed at the news, having endured nearly ten years under the previous Incumbent with whom she didn't see eye to eye.

Other members of the Select Vestry and heads of parish guilds gather to plan a welcome evening for the new incumbent. In the midst of these plans, Fr Wilson arrives.

Somewhat taken aback by the early arrival of their new Incumbent, everyone is nonetheless delighted that he has arrived with a complete set of vestments.

The welcome evening goes very well. There is much singing and dancing.

Several former members of the Parish who left when the previous Incumbent cancelled the monthly Evensong are in attendance although their enthusiasm is muted.

The new incumbent and the Altar Guild president spend a few moments at the statue of St Joseph the Carpenter and a bas-relief near the Lady Chapel representing the Visitation of Our Lady to her Cousin Elizabeth before wandering down to Council headquarters to see the Engineer about the old lead water service in the Parish Hall.

The future looks very rosy indeed.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Pause for Thought
Sunday August 9th, 2009

We’d been cutting wood for a few days down at our logging camp which was ten miles down the lake by canoe. It was Autumn. The nights were turning cold. The snow on the hilltops would creep a little lower each morning.

We didn’t have more than a week before we’d have to stop cutting for the year. Mid-morning the two of us downed tools to have a smoke – both of us with the impression that we were being watched. We turned around and there was a fellow standing behind us dressed in Moose hide from head to toe, with a Winchester rifle slung over his shoulder and a knife in his belt. His hair was in two braids and his eyes were bright blue.

We stood there in stunned silence.

“My name is Ice” the man said, and that was about all he said for three days.

Now understand that this was all in the Yukon Territory in northwest Canada. We’d canoed ten miles down the lake to get to our camp – there was at least some sort of settlement in the direction from which we’d come. This ‘Ice’ had wandered into camp from the other direction where there was nothing.

Now the Yukon in the mid seventies was filled with characters like this. Ice stayed with us for a couple of days. He was good with a chainsaw and his basic bush-craft was in order – consistent with a man wandering around the wilderness dressed in Moose hide. Still, it took us a good day before we’d turn our backs on him.

Our canoe was big enough for three and later we took Ice with us back to the village where some of our friends met him. Opinions were pretty evenly divided. Had Ice survived a plane crash when he was a child and was he then raised by wolves or was he a high school English teacher from Toronto who had taken too much dodgy LSD in the late sixties and gone to live with the bears?

The stories we concoct to make sense of characters like this. either build them up fantastically or reduce them to something wounded and pathetic.

And we are, let’s face it, curious.

We find ourselves yearning for something beyond mere explanation. Mystery. Possibility. Extending the horizons of those whose lives have become uncomfortably predictable.

The audio is available HERE for a limited time.
Pause for Thought begins at 1:10.18 which is two thirds of the
way along the audio bar.