22 December 2011

Moved by the music

I love music. Of many different kinds. I hate musical snobbery. I'm not a purist. But I love music.

I love being moved by the power of music. It's one of the things I love about the church. In some places, we have remembered the power of music to move people, and have continued to use it appropriately in church.

Anyway, that's not the point of this post. Thanks to a Facebook post by Maggi Dawn earlier in the week, I came across this song by Sheffield band, Native and the Name. I was stunned. Stopped in my tracks. For me, the experience was reminiscent of the first time I heard Allegri's Miserere sung live, or Saint-Saens organ symphony performed at the Bridgewater in Manchester. It was like discovering the angelic voice of Kate Rusby earlier in the year, or wandering past the Greenbelt Mainstage in the summer and wondering who was making the superb music this time.

With Plain Song, I can't quite work out why I haven't already come across it before. Nick Park's video is beautiful, and it's creation to mark the release of the band's new album, is why it's come to my attention now. Anyway, I've discovered it now, and have followed the various twitter streams and Facebook pages to keep me up to date with the band. I will probably buy the album once we've got past the financial pinch-point of Christmas.

I know musical taste is a subjective thing, and my recommendation doesn't count for much. All I can say is that I like it a lot, so maybe you should give it a listen.

So that's it for procrastination. Back to the books.

18 December 2011

Most highly flavoured gravy

The title of the post says something about my irreverent sense of humour! In church this morning, we heard 'Gabriel's Message', one of my favourite advent carols. When we were in Lancaster, we sang it lots, partly because the celebration of Christmas in academic institutions tends to be a little premature for the rousing 'Yea Lord we greet thee...' type carols. So Gabriel's Message became a familiar friend; partly because it's quite easy to sing, even for a thrown-together choir. Most highly flavoured gravy' was the deliberate corruption thrown by a devious director into practices to try and raise a smile from a flagging choir. The risk was always that it might come out in the service we were rehearsing for.

The Church of England captures a range of views about the position of Mary in our religious life as Christians. I've never been persuaded beyond a 'dabble' with the rosary, and I've always been in church settings where Marian devotion is viewed with suspicion. That said, today's readings remind us of the important place of Mary in God's plan, and of her unimaginable trust in God, beautifully rendered later in the first chapter of Luke's gospel.

I don't suppose I'll ever be much more enthusiastic for Marian devotion in my own prayer life, but I'm reminded today of the richness and breadth of our tradition in the C of E.

17 December 2011

Christmas is coming, and I have time to write a blog post

Well it's been a while since my last post here. Its been a hectic end to the term at Westcott, and there has been little time to engage with anything apart from essays, reading and trying to keep sane. As always (regular readers will note the theme), the difficulty I find is in balancing the different aspects of life which seem to compete for the same time. I won't rehearse those particular issues again.

The Christmas vacation has truly started now, and I see, on various social media sources, that many of my colleagues have been hard at work with essays. I, on the other hand, have not. I've been winding down, and doing enjoyable things like visiting friends in Newent near Gloucester - seeing their new house, and visiting Gloucester Cathedral. And now North Norfolk, though we arrived to find that my Father-in-law had been cruelly attacked by a Christmas tree (long story), and had broken his left leg in 3 places. An efficient dose of NHS emergency care, and he's home now. Next week is a work week for me. My target is 10,000 words for the vacation, and I know that most of these need to be churned out next week.

Anyway, I thought I should write a post, as there are many things I want to say to the world. Here are my headlines, in brief:

Gareth Malone has upset the X Factor apple-cart by producing a worthy song for a Christmas number one. Let's hope the military wives choir last the distance! As I have said on this blog before (and here), I really rate Gareth Malone. His work is completely inspiring, and his TV shows are uplifting without being escapist. So if you haven't already bought the single, do it now and keep the production-line dross away from the top spot this Christmas.

Rev. has just come to an end again. I wish UK comedy seasons ran for more than half a dozen episodes, but even with only a handful of slots, Hollander, Wood et al have done it again. I loved the end of season scene, and the twists and turns in the plot. I loved the fact that they examined the peculiar notion of vocation from a number of different angles. Nigel's experiences will have been hauntingly familiar to large numbers of applicants to the priesthood. The archdeacon's character-shift will have been painfully close to the bone for a number of clerics, whilst twanging a nerve for the many ordinands who know that, as it stands, they are unlikely to be in the running for senior posts in their impending careers in the church. What Rev does best is to deal respectfully with the big issues in the church. Yes, it's comedy, but it's not simple victim comedy. It's thoughtful and situational comedy at its best. Like the first series, a slow burn, but of exceptional quality.

David Camoron has been spouting some opinions about the Christian-ness of Britain, and the mission of the church. Given his self confessed status as a "committed" but only "vaguely practising" Christian, I'm not sure anyone should pay attention to him. I'm not saying the church always gets it right, but I know that politicians rarely do. ++Rowan's Radio 2 pause for thought is where the church is, and where it ought to be. Alongside ordinary people in the mess of life. Of course, Dave has a right to say what he likes about the church, but I have a right not to listen.

UPDATE - For a more thorough and thoughtful analysis, see +Nick Baines' post here.

I think that's all for now. As I'm meant to be reading and writing next week, I predict there may be a few more posts on the way before Christmas.