29 September 2010

I'm still here (a different here)

For those of you who may have thought I had expired in the tumult of removals and starting theological college, fear not! We landed safely in Cambridge and are starting to settle in. Moving house was hard, and since arriving in Cambridge, I have barely had a minute to spare. First with house decoration, and then the start of the Westcott induction programme; it's been a bit of a roller-coaster. Things are starting to settle now, and I will have some more time over the next few days, so yo may hear a little more from me. The only complication is that Sky are still working on connecting our house to the information superhighway, so my only internet access is in my study in Westcott.

That's all for now. Come back soon if you're interested in a more detailed analysis of the last couple of weeks. I'll try to get something up tomorrow.

10 September 2010

Last day

It's my last day at work today. I graduated from Lancaster in the summer of 2001, and apart from a short spell between jobs at St Martin's and at the University, I've been gainfully employed for all of that time. It feels very weird to be bringing such a significant phase of my life to a close.

There's one pile on my desk that needs to be sorted, and a spreadsheet I'd promised to finish, but apart from that, I'm done! Very, very odd!

9 September 2010

Quote of the day!

Archbishop Vincent Nichols 

In response to the critics of a Mass in Soho which is aimed at welcoming gay Catholics, Archbishop Nichols has issued a proper dressing down. He said:

"Anybody who is trying to cast a judgement on the people who come forward for communion really ought to hold their tongue.”

Hear hear, Archbishop. Though it's a shame a special Mass is required to make gay Catholics feel able to attend.

Packers' Progress

No, I'm not referring to Green Bay's American Football team, I'm referring to Dr Lanky and myself. The last few evenings have been busy, with social engagements every night. We don't want to miss out on the last few social opportunities in Lancaster, but we also know that we need to get moving with the packing process, so we've been aiming to clear a bookcase per day by doing a late night packing flurry. Isn't it amazing how many boxes you need to pack up the contents of a bookcase!?

The good news is that just about all the books are packed now. Tonight's job is to clear the DVDs, videos and CDs, and at that point the remaining task starts to look managable.

The house is starting to look less like our home as it is gradually stripped of all our 'things'; it's sad and exciting at the same time. Though there's not much time for reflection when so much needs to be done in so short a timespan.

6 days (only 2 at work)

7 September 2010

A busy weekend

Last weekend was completely insane! We had five house guests, a meal with friends from the chaplaincy on Saturday, a farewell service at the Chaplaincy and a bring and share barbecue on the Sunday, finished off with Reflect. I meant to post about it yesterday, but I spent most of Monday trying to stay awake!

It's been a while since we had a weekend with lots of friends from the past visiting us, and it was great to do it again. It was notable, though, that life has changed in a massive way for some of us. The addition of small children puts a different emphasis on life, and bedtimes are a little more sensible than they used to be on similar weekends.

Another highlight of the weekend was our farewell service, which was the regular Chaplaincy (non-term-time) service with a liberal scattering of old faces who came back to wave us off. Since LittleLanky arrived, I've had a bit less to do with music in the morning services at Chaplaincy, and it was really good to team up with an old chaplaincy friend to plan and lead the music (with the accompaniment of RevKev on the guitar).

At this point I need to issue a **Blog Etiquette Warning**. I'm not usually one for posting the lyrics of songs and hymns on the blog, but I will do so shortly. Please turn away from the screen if you are offended by such things.

In worship, I find I am readily 'affected' by good music, and although Sunday wasn't necessarily a virtuoso performance, the final hymn was an emotional roller-coaster for me. We sang 'The Summons' by John Bell and Graham Maule from the Iona community. It's a hymn that I've always liked, despite the mauling (pardon the pun) it often gets by English organists and choirs, but on Sunday the words spoke to me in a spine tingling way that made it hard to sing - let alone lead.  If you don't know it, or need a reminder, here are the words:

Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don't know and never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown? Will you let my name be known,
will you let my life be grown in you and you in me?

Will you leave yourself behind if I but call your name?
Will you care for cruel and kind and never be the same?
Will you risk the hostile stare should your life attract or scare?
Will you let me answer prayer in you and you in me?

Will you let the blinded see if I but call your name?
Will you set the prisoners free and never be the same?
Will you kiss the leper clean and do such as this unseen,
and admit to what I mean in you and you in me?

Will you love the "you" you hide if I but call your name?
Will you quell the fear inside and never be the same?
Will you use the faith you've found to reshape the world around,
through my sight and touch and sound in you and you in me?

Lord your summons echoes true when you but call my name.
Let me turn and follow you and never be the same.
In Your company I'll go where Your love and footsteps show.
Thus I'll move and live and grow in you and you in me.
It was one of those situations when the writer speaks so clearly and poignantly that it feels as though the words could have been commissioned for that particular service, and for me personally. I certainly felt that God was speaking through the words of Bell and Maule, directly to my family and me as we prepare to take a massive step into the unknown. The words reminded me that although we don't know the details of how the next few years will pan out, we're being sent as God's people, under God's care, and that the journey will be one of growth and incredible change. It might be scary, but it's good-scary!

The other high point of the weekend was the barbecue after the service. We were joined by friends and family, and the weather was great! We had a wonderful time in each other's company, and I'm very grateful to all the people who pitched in to help with setting up and cleaning away. It always seems to be the same selfless individuals who disappear into the kitchen, without a sound, to do the washing up. You know who you are, and so do we! We notice your service to others, and we appreciate it.

Seeing so many friends from past and present made me reflect on the fact that although we are moving from Lancaster, the friends we have will support us wherever we go. We've offered the use of our spare room in Cambridge to many people now, and we really hope that at least some of them take up the offer. Our house in Lancaster has been a happy house with a sometimes revolving door, and although it can be hard work to keep on top of sheet washing and furniture re-arrangements, I'd like that to continue as we move to Cambridge. We need to start with a housewarming party, perhaps to coincide with LittleLanky's first birthday in October.

8 days!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

3 September 2010

A Friday roundup

I don't think there's a law about the number of roundup posts one should post per week, but I felt the urge to do another one today.

Unbelievable Church - I've been thinking and reading a lot about the way our church culture and architecture affect our missional ability, and Bishop Nick Baines' post about the Expowal has got me thinking even more. He's discovered a remarkable community which meets in an odd building on a retail park: 
The church’s strapline is: “Eine unglaubliche Kirche” (“An unbelievable church”). Given that 5-600 people drive out there each Sunday (two services) or on a Wednesday evening, it seems to be scratching where these people are itching. They simply want to enable people to find, in a  community with others, that God can be encountered and life enjoyed. The realities of life are faced and people of all sorts welcomed. And nothing happens without food, drink and hospitality.
I want to believe - not in God (I'm reasonably sorted on that one) but in the latest attempt at a peace process for the Middle East. I'm by no means an expert on the politics of this part of the world, but what I do know is that the current situation is unsatisfactory to all parties. You'd think this would be a good reason to be optimistic about some improvement coming from the process, but I really can't see it. I hope and pray that I'm wrong.

An apple by any other name - I saw Rory Cellan-Jones' package on the 10 o'clock news last night, and I was underwhelmed by the so-called iPad killers. I've used an iPad at work and I've been impressed. It's quick, well designed and very tactile. As usual, Apple have thought long and hard about their materials and the ways in which the product will be used. In fact, it seems to me that Apple are one of few companies who do justice to their designers. They start with the users' needs and they build a product to fit these needs. From what I saw of the competition, the same is not true in their R&D departments. Either that, or the good design features get value-engineered out to ensure the price is lower than the iPad. Either way, the iPad is still on my wish list.

Last week at work - After today, I have 5 working days left at the university. Yay and Arrgh at the same time.

2 September 2010

A new colleague

A friend from school recently sent a message to me and to another of her friends. Both of us are due to start theological training in Cambridge in the coming weeks, and she thought that an introduction was due. Having chatted briefly on Facebook, I now see that a blog has appeared, and I thought it my duty to post about it here so you can check the accuracy of any of my Cambridge related posts with a third party. He and I are actually studying the same programme of study with the Cambridge Theological Federation - it's a small world.

The Mendip Nomad is his blogging identity, and you can find his blog here. As he's training for ministry in the Methodist church, it will be interesting to see the way our experiences compare.

Physics Genius Stephen Hawking has restated his previously stated position about the need for God in the process of creation in slightly different words, but with precisely the same conclusion

I posted last week about why I think one can defend the creation of a BBC religion editor, and the fuss about Stephen Hawking's 'u-turn' over the possible existence of God makes the point nicely.

Otherwise intelligent journalists (like John Humphreys on Radio 4 this morning) seem to turn into gibbering, incoherent numpties when they get near a religious news story*. The whole idea that Hawking has had a major turnaround in his beliefs is something with which the Church Mouse takes issue, and I'm inclined to agree with him:

What I have done is to show that it is possible for the way the universe began to be determined by the laws of science. In that case, it would not be necessary to appeal to God to decide how the universe began. This doesn't prove that there is no God, only that God is not necessary. [Stephen W. Hawking, Der Spiegel, 1989]
Compare the quote from 1989 with the one which has caused the headlines today:
"Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going."
If anyone can spot a difference, please let Mouse know.

It occurs to me that a good religion editor in the BBC would have been called in here to make some sort of analysis, and they would hopefully have removed the spin and hyperbole from the BBC's coverage. They may even have offered some more incisive research into Hawking's position, and given a balanced and accurate rendering to the fact that 'Physics Genius Stephen Hawking has restated his previously stated position about the need for God in the process of creation in slightly different words, but with precisely the same conclusion'. Not such a snappy headline is it?

*I accept that's not entirley true - I enjoyed Humphreys' series of interviews about his own beliefs, but we can all use a bit of hyperbole occasionally

Update - Mark Vernon has a different angle on the issue here.

13 days

1 September 2010

Two weeks and counting

The consequence of having been in Lancaster for a relatively long time is that there are many people to whom we need to say 'farewell'. This week sees the kick-off of a succession of visits, meals and gatherings to mark our departure, and we're looking forward to seeing all the people - even though we're sad about leaving Lancaster. I suppose it's made slightly easier because many of the people who are coming to say goodbye have already left Lancaster or were never in Lancaster - so our relationships with them will not be changing when we move. Being part of the Chaplaincy has meant that many of our best friends have long since moved on, having completed their studies. Of course, there are a few who have hung around like we have too, and it will be sad to say goodbye to the Postgrad Group and Reflect regulars.

The difficult thing is that this flurry of social activity is, by necessity, at the time when we are preparing to leave. This is also the time when we need to be packing our things into boxes, so we hope our house-guests won't mind assisting us in this task when they arrive later today.

We also need to reduce the amount of food and drink that we have to transport in two weeks time, so they might have to help us with a small oversupply of beer and other beverages which have been taking up space in our spare room since a party in February.

14 days