23 February 2009

Pleasant surprise

How many people do you think we would manage to attract to a BCP Evensong service at a University Chaplaincy in 2009? 5... maybe 10... or possibly 15? Try 25 (including singers)!

In our regular Sunday evening service slot (which normally attracts 15-20), we decided we'd try a full sung evensong for a change. Some people might have anticipated a drop-off, as the regular service is more Taize/Iona in feel, and this may have appeared a bit too stuffy and conservative. 25 people, though, made the effort to come along, and the feedback was very positive! In many cases, people had never been to an evensong service before, and were pleasantly surprised. The service was so successful that we're planning to make it a semi-regular feature of our lineup.

18 February 2009

Richie Benaud to retire

I saw this news on the BBC today. Richie Benaud, my favourite cricket commentator, is set to retire for good. He stopped commentating for UK TV when Sky gained the broadcasting rights in 2005/6.

17 February 2009

Coming back to me: Another cricket post

Apologies to those of you who don't follow cricket, but as I'm listening to TMS, my mind is drifting to a book I finished a while ago. One of my Christmas presents was 'Coming back to me: The autobiography of Marcus Trescothick', and it was a very good read. As previous reviewers have noted, there's not as much about cricket as you might expect, but it more than makes up for it with its 'warts and all' window into the life of an international cricketer.

I haven't read much about mental illness; in truth, it's a subject that I find quite scary. But I found Trescothick's account of his anxiety attacks to be compelling and absolutely fascinating. I also found Trescothick's honesty about his own failings quite refreshing. He consistently points out (with the gift of hindsight) where he realises he made poor choices, and he says sorry to the people affected by those choices. Above all, I find this to be the most refreshing aspect of the book. It isn't always fashionable (especially in professional sport) to acknowledge one's failings. Conversely, sports psychologists seem to advocate a policy of ignoring failings and concentrating on past victories and successes. Whilst I can appreciate that this is a useful tactic in the heat of battle, it's hardly a sustainable way to approach your life and your work!

All in all, the book left me feeling a little sad for Trecothick. His aim in life was to play cricket at the top level, and he succeeded with some style! It's a real shame, though, that he wasn't able to continue for longer at the top level. His consolation is that he did reach the top level of the game, and that he's still capable of dominating the best bowlers, as shown by his county performance last season.

The happy ending is that Trescothick seems to have reordered his life in accordance with a new set of priorities. His choice to retire from international cricket shows he has realised the importance of the relationships in his life, and that cricket isn't everything.

Common sense!

It looks like the major mobile phone manufacturers are finally going to do what we all want them to do, and agree on a single standard for chargers. It seems that the micro USB plug/socket is the favoured technology, and that new chargers will be more energy efficient. Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, LG, T-Mobile, Orange, 3, AT&T and Vodafone have all backed the plan, so it looks like it might actually happen.

16 February 2009

Well done Andrew Strauss

After the controversey of the abandoned second test and the humiliation of the first, Andrew Strauss has done well on day one of the hastily arranged third match between England and the West Indies. It must be a massive boost for his confidence to hit form at the start of his latest stint as captain, and it's exactly what the team has been missing for so long. I thought KP did an okay job, but, like Flintoff, the team needs his focus to be completely on the main part of his game - terryfying the opposition's bowlers. I'm pleased for Strauss and I hope his form continues.

11 February 2009

Good news for LCCC

An LCCC email popped onto my phone this morning telling me the good news that Peter Moores has been hired by Lancashire as head coach. I thought he was shortchanged by the ECB during the recent kerfuffle between him and KP, and I'm glad to see him given some recognition for his undeniable abilities as a coach. I'm very pleased that Lancashire approached him - it might mean we gain some impetus for a big push this season.

10 February 2009

School report

I thought I should post an update on the whole selection thing for those who are interested. The DDO came to see me the other week to go over the selectors' report from my selection panel in November last year.

The experience was a bit like getting a good school report. The selectors gave me a really good write-up, but it was a bit strange! It felt like they had met an alternate 'me' who answered all the questions correctly.

I now have to get my college application in, and it's looking like Westcott House in Cambridge is the odds-on favourite. As I'm not planning to start until 2010, I shouldn't have any problems getting a place or finding somewhere to live.

At this stage, it is becoming to feel a little more real, and a little more scary; particularly the financial side of things. Mrs Lanky and I currently bring in a fair amount of money every month, and it will be a big change for us to go down to a modest stipend for a couple of years.

That annoying preaching voice

We all know someone who does it! In a one-to-one setting, they're completely normal. You give them a pulpit, a microphone or just a congregation, and they wheel out the preaching voice. Thanks to Maggi Dawn for drawing my attention to this post by Phil Cooke. It echoes an opinion I've held for a long time; preaching should be done in an accessible and familiar way.

I know a few ministers who suffer from this affliction, and it's not a pleasant experience from the cheap seats. There are some people who I want to give a firm shake by the shoulders! I want to ask them if they know what they actually sound like; they probably don't.

When I first started hospital radio, many years ago, one of the first things I was made to do was to listen to a recording of myself. It's a horrible but formative experience, and I think every preacher should do it too. You can, of course, go too far and become obsessive about the physical aspects of your voice that you can't change and that's not the aim of the exercise. It's useful to identify the little habits we all have, like the annoying repeated utterances such as 'um', 'er', 'like' and the ubiquitous 'ok', which you don't really notice until you're forced to listen properly.

Ultimately, sermons are a form of communication. To be successful, the mode of communication needs to suit the audience. The current audience is highly skilled in communication, and does not need/want to be talked at.

One final thought - the condition of the 'preaching voice' is often linked to CHAS (comedy hymn announcment syndrome). This is where the worship leader announces the next hymn by reading out the whole of the first 2 lines in a heartfelt and dramatic variant of the preaching voice. I have noticed that this seems to be more common in the more evangelical setting, though it does have a counterpoint in more traditional churches: 'Our next hymn is number two hundred and thirty three, TWO THREE THREE!' - sound familiar?