23 September 2009

Gareth Malone, and my telly face

I really enjoyed the final episode of 'The Choir' on BBC2 last night. It was one of those occasions where MrsLanky and I break out what we call our 'telly faces'. This is where there's something on TV which is really captivating and inspiring, and it causes an inane open-mouthed smile to appear on each of our faces. We know we're doing it, but we just can't help ourselves.

Last effect night this was exaggerated further by the compelling nature of the programme. MrsLanky and I both sing, and we both believe in the value of singing in churches and communities. So you might say this was a match made in heaven even before the opening titles finished.

On last night's show, Gareth Malone showed again how a little bit of vision, and a huge amount of energy and enthusiasm, can bring together even the most hopeless (and I don't mean that in a pejorative sense) groups of people. He also showed the value of caring and compassionate leadership, and I think that's what the people of South Oxhey were really craving; the music was an excellent vehicle which was, in a sense, incidental.

In an age where the church has faded into the background for many people, it's not surprising that there are places and people in need of this type of leadership. We just need to clone Gareth Malone, or maybe get him to lead a module at theological colleges, on the subject of leadership in communities.

UPDATE - It looks like someone else agrees with me

22 September 2009

Happy engagement

The midwife we saw on Friday went through the usual routine of feeling around for the position of LittleLanky, and she wasn't sure which way round it was. She thought it might have been breach, so she sent us for a scan at the hospital. After a nervous wait, we were squeezed in for a scan which confirmed that the baby is actually nearly fully engaged. Needless to say, we were relieved at this outcome. It does mean, though, that labour could start at any time! Scary.

So scary, in fact, that yesterday was my most productive day at work in a long time! I'm desperately trying to work through my to do list so I don't disappear on paternity leave leaving disaster in my wake!

18 September 2009

Singing in the emerging church

Maggi Dawn has posted about the role of live singing in an emerging church setting, and I agree with her. Live singing is a wonderfully adaptive aspect of worship, and I'd add that you don't need to be restricted to the model of a choir. I've been working for ages with the music of the Iona and Taize communities, and if you want to get people engaged in part singing really quickly, then this is the way to do it. One strong and confident leader and a roomful of people who think they can't sing can do some amazing things with an african chant or a simple Taize canon.

Maggi also mentions Gareth Malone, star of the BBC series The Choir. If you haven't already seen the programme, you can catch the final episode on Tuesday next week. From watching the programme, I recognise the joyful feeling when a roomful of people really click with a piece of music.

The final thing I want to do is to encourage anyone who can hold a tune that they can actually lead people in singing. I only have an average singing voice; I'm certainly not a soloist. I do, however, have a loud voice and I can sing in tune. Along with a good knowledge of the piece you're teaching, this is all you need!

Having said all of this, I also accept that there are people for whom participating in singing doesn't 'float the boat', and I think as leaders and teachers, we need to respect that. This is why I always try to make it a relaxed affair with as little pressure as possible.

15 September 2009

Paternal perks

I've long held the view that the Scandinavian approach to maternity and paternity leave is one we should emulate, so when I saw this news story about prospective changes to UK paternity leave, I was most impressed. The proposal is to allow fathers to take 6 months of paternity leave compared to the current 2 weeks.

The only problem is that I don't see much support for a policy like this in the middle of a recession.

14 September 2009

Common sense prevails over Blackburn's 'tainted' eucharist

I doubt this news will make the same splash as the original story did! The Chapter at Blackburn Cathedral have decided to remove the facility, at services with a female president, for people to receive elements consecrated by a male priest. There is also an acknowledgement that the decision to do this in the first place was regrettable.

Of course, it would be better if this kerfuffle had never happened, but this seems to be the best outcome.

11 September 2009

Turing apology

I've long been a fan of Alan Turing and his work. I was first introduced to Turing's ideas during a philosophy module called 'Knowledge, Mind and Language' whilst at university. We looked at the 'Turing Test', which is a test for detecting artificial intelligence.

Whilst at university, I also developed an interest in logic and crypotgraphy (though I have no skill in either!), and I read a lot about the work of Station X. It's clear to me, from what I've read, that the work of Turing, and his lesser-known colleagues, was instrumental in shortening the war. It also paved the way for the birth of computing as we know it.

I'm pleased that Gordon Brown has offered an official apology for the apalling 'treatment' Turing received:
Turing was a quite brilliant mathematician, most famous for his work on breaking the German Enigma codes. It is no exaggeration to say that, without his outstanding contribution, the history of the Second World War could have been very different. He truly was one of those individuals we can point to whose unique contribution helped to turn the tide of war. The debt of gratitude he is owed makes it all the more horrifying, therefore, that he was treated so inhumanely.

In 1952, he was convicted of "gross indecency" – in effect, tried for being gay. His sentence – and he was faced with the miserable choice of this or prison – was chemical castration by a series of injections of female hormones. He took his own life just two years later.

I'm pleased about the apology, but it doesn't reduce the sorrow I feel about his plight. It makes me angry that anyone could be treated in this way, and sad that we missed out on his academic brilliance. The only comfort I take is that we don't treat people in this way any more - at least not on an institutional level.

10 September 2009

How to wash baby

Our third antenatal class was last night, and it was very useful. We were very lucky to meet a baby girl who was only born 12 hours earlier. We were shown how one cleans one's baby without breaking it. She was very cooperative; hopefully LittleLanky will share this characteristic.

MrsLanky and I were a little unsure about the value of antenatal classes. We have both read a lot, and have been around young babies in the family. We thought we were quite clued-up. There is, however, significant value in being taken through the issues by an experienced midwife. Add to this the value of demonstration and the ability to ask random questions, and we're very glad to have taken the opportunity.

Only one more class to go now, plus a breastfeeding workshop and a massage for labour session!

Technical Support problems

Maggi Dawn posted this flow diagram which rings bells with me. Most of my visits to parents and parents in law turn into technical troubleshooting sessions.

9 September 2009

Plane wrong

I heard this story on the radio this morning, and wondered whether I was hearing things. It seems to be the case that, in order to maintain our obsession with cheap air travel, the Government's Climate Change Committee are recommending a cut of 90% on other greehouse gas emissions.

Now don't get me wrong; if we can reduce our emissions by this amount by 2050 we should get on with it, but surely we should also be looking to reduce our emissions from aviation by the same kind of amount. Why on earth would we want to give preference to the air travel industry?

7 September 2009

The final countdown

I thought I should record the fact that Mrs Lanky has just started her last week of work before her maternity leave commences. It will be nice for her not to have to drag herself out of bed for a 9am start, though we're both aware that there's plenty of hard graft to come when the baby arrives.

On an unrelated note, students are starting to migrate back to Lancaster. The medical students are already working and there are plenty of postgrads around. It won't be long until Freshers' week, though I think we'll opt out of this year's festivities given the impending arrival of LittleLanky. It's amazing how quickly the summer comes and goes!

2 September 2009

Fresh expressions of cricket

Jim Cumbes hit the nail on the head last night:
"We have got to rethink how we treat our public in cricket," added Cumbes, acutely aware that some of those now trudging into the night behind him, caterwauling as they went, might never return.
We were in a similar rain-hit situation at a Lancashire game earlier in the 'summer', and Jim knows what he's talking about. He knows (moreso than the pundits) that the game dies if people don't come to watch. Twenty20 was meant to be the 'fresh expression' of cricket; still cricket, but made more accessible and understandable for people who were previously agnostic toward the sport. It was meant to be a friendly format with less formality and stuffiness; we were told that the players would play in a wider range of weather conditions, and that play would be much more likely even if it was raining a bit.

So much for that!

David Keen's post about the unwritten rules of worship struck a chord with me, and got me thinking about the parallels between cricket and the church. Seasoned cricket fans will have been able to read the signs at Old Trafford last night long before the succinct announcement was made over the PA and big screens. Newcomers will have left more confused and frustrated than when they arrived, and many of them won't go back! Spooky.