Friday 31 December 2010

The Turn of the Year

As each year passes and a new one comes, I usually self-reflect upon just how bad things have become, and surely they can't get any worse. Last year was awful enough, but a few flukes and chances and support at least secured my housing situation. Before last year began I had engaged a solicitor about all the rest, given that my mother had died and left me reversed of the agreement she had originally set up - on the basis of fairness after my father had died and because I didn't contest his hugely uneven will. You cannot chose your relatives, but then once freed of them their fortune is an irrelevance to me and you just wipe your feet of the situation. During the year the house I then occupied continued to show signs of becoming more decrepid and then one day a joint in a pipe to a sink burst (and not the troublesome tap) and the kitchen ceiling fell in. It increased the need to get out, although, actually, it didn't alter the timetable.

Other than that, everything is flat still, including my lack of work situation. That a dole assisting scheme cannot even find me a suitable placement shows just how difficult my situation remains, and forces me into a constantly severe budget. Yes, I voted Liberal Democrat and I'm exactly the person they are attacking. My budget has had only marginal impact on my weight, if in the right direction, and I still get spasm warning shots in my lower back on a few occasions. I'm still friendly with Elena, who was very helpful regarding the solicitor, despite her remaining in Reading. Relationships-wise, we are each free to go our own ways should such come about. In the meantime I have lost, gained and lost, and gained female friends - some virtual (if real somewhere) and some actual and physical.

It is good to be living so close to friends and, indeed, one street away from where I was brought up. Instead of having to come over the Humber Bridge, picking up in Hessle and then picking up in Sutton-Ings, and the opposite for setting down, I now do do the transporting in reverse without the bridge part and the south bank. So I still stay sober while it gives my friends a time to let their hair down.

In terms of religion, I finally gave up on the Anglican Church. I was down to local contact only, over a parish boundary, although I did continue to provide its local theology group with discussion material. I would go to a communion service and leave out some 50% of its content, staying sat down and silent. I even started to struggle with Evensong and its chunks of ancient nonsense texts. And this was in an otherwise intelligent and broad church in presentation. I was again, after some years, coming across to the Unitarians.

There's no doubt that Unitarianism as a movement is in trouble, though it has been bouncing along on the bottom for decades and still retains a unique selling point. Somehow here it manages to get just enough people through the doors to survive. Whilst I took one or two services, this has stopped because over the year I have found myself in a new role for which I have readily volunteered.

Things were pretty desperate regarding the music. Some, like myself, prepared music in advance and played it on some player taken in. Other times CDs were swapped best as possible but you would wait while track numbers were found and the volume altered mid tune. The number of singable hymns was very limited, and less than the CDs bought in.

So I took over regularly and first went behind a curtain on the Sunday, only visible to the service taker. I had set volume levels and also tried to hide the equipment. For preparation I used the Internet and computer software to source music and to edit it to the right number of verses in each case. I made the choir CDs easier to use and edited the first one the denomination did with noise reduction, amplification, stereofying, low pass limiting, and anything else I could throw at it to make it better. I built up a stock of music and each week presented a CD with everything in the right order, so all that was needed was the pause button. Later on as the new hymn book arrived I acquired and used music writing software that fills any gap in sourcing: it really does work too.

In the church, trying to use some high speakers connected to a microphone and induction loop was seemingly impossible. All the while I said this would be far better than the purchased (in the previous year) but domestic equipment I took on and used. Eventually we found a workaround to use the high speakers and amplifier, and then a better workaround once we started a process to change the sound system completely. However, it was mono and not very good quality, and the induction loop was sacrificed (but unneeded at that point). People said that the music situation had been transformed by my actions and planning.

Now we will see what transformation actually means: we go into the new year with a new sound system of 4 X 65W in full stereo having its first full outing on the 2nd January. It should no longer matter whether a CD is prepared or not as there are two playing slots (though I will). I have practised with the equipment but it is a shallow learning curve; the technical task was done during the installation when I was sat there watching.

In terms of my beliefs, they are simply about being exploratory and recognising where there is wonder and awe. If I have theological heroes then they are James Martineau and Francis William Newman, but basically I am a liberal postmodernist. I continue to blog and I suppose for me the Anglican Covenant is a loose end as yet untied that I can still comment upon for how it compromises ethics and people in favour of institutional bureaucracy. In so doing I retain a place among a group of online people. In addition a story telling element to the blog (not forgotten) gave way to a parallel universe, a Church in England where the Archbishop of the North is a little more than a publicity-seeking club comedian and the Archbishop of England is a bureaucratic theologian of a kind that when you push the theology there is nothing there other than detailed story telling. I've built up a range of characters all tackling feminism and inclusion and having beliefs at variance from the promises they make (particularly clergy of course) and I intend to have some fun with this at mild expense. It is only a parallel universe, after all.

It's a form of escape, because as Monty Python has said there is bugger else down here in this universe. But at least I have a sense, tentatively, of securing some foundations that had been shifting underneath me for too long.

New Year Message

A New Year Message to the Church from John Sendmehome, Archbishop of the North.

Well here we are at that time of the year when an extra day means an extra year. The Pagan ancestors of this country would celebrate this, but as Christians we just mark the turn of the year. Nevertheless, like northerners of old, it is a time to look ahead, and this I wish to do, just as it is a time to look back and consider where we are at this moment.

Indeed the life of the Church is all about looking forward, as it is about looking back and being where we are, and there is no doubt that this Church in England is facing its greatest test since Henry VIII put skittles on his lawn in order to take Anne Boleyn. Or perhaps you are average at golf, like Catherine Parr. In facing our challenges, we must not drive ourselves out of our minds, but rather putt things right.

So, accepting that all generalisations are false, here is the issue: are we to always exclude, on some principle, or should we include everyone regardless, and not be like Leif the Viking who went home one day to find himself off the civic register, to find the council clerk of the day explaining that he must have taken Leif off his census. No, ordinarily, he should not have taken Leif off his census especially if it leaves six unhappy when seven eight nine. Yes, we want justice for all, of course: not as if the thumbs are excluded when we have just his fingers presiding.

It is natural for humans to be together, and yet they are equally divided, when in teams. You are red, and we are blue. That's good, but what we don't want when we bring them together is for anyone to become marooned. This is how I like to see our progress towards an Anglican Covenant and the challenge facing us next year.

The burning issue here is sexuality and a moral framework. When the fork asked the spoon, ''Who was that ladle I saw you with last night?" The ladle replied, "That was no ladle, that was my knife." But note that, according to some people, the knife, the fork, the spoon and the ladle fit together. If we then say, "Ah, but I want to be a garden trowel," then we have to tackle this problem, and this requires, we think, keeping these together but having arranged in different cupboards; indeed, one collection can be inside and the other a short walk away in the garden shed. That could be a problem if there is a bigamist like an old fashioned London fog.

Some say this is all so ancient, and that it's like a key in a Georgian desk that can only turn antique lock-wise, but the wise bit we see as continuous, at least until a consensus thinks otherwise and the clock can go forward. To be more direct, we don't accept as normative that Harry can marry both Kate and Edith, because if he did that would be like having his Kate and Edith too. And we wonder whether Kate will sign up and be a good girl. We are trying of course to hold this situation down, not inflate it; not like the Dutch woman who wore inflatable shoes to hear that one day she'd popped her clogs. But far better to sign up, than a situation like a man wearing a hat who could hear music, to solve the problem by removing the band.

Perhaps one day all personal relationships can be blessed, and not be a bar to ministry. But we have to get this right, not like the foreign man asking a waitress if he can have a "quickie", getting a slap, and getting a slap from the next waitress, to be told that the item on the menu is actually pronounced 'Keesh'. For once we do understand each other, perhaps that will be when we can go forward as one. But for that we need a process, and a good process. When the waitress was told that the egg was bad, she said, "Don't blame me sir, I only laid the table."

Well such are the ongoing concerns. And it is sad in again considering 'exclusion' that so many will this new year join a different Communion. It reminds me of the similarity between the Christmas tree soon to be taken down again and the ordinary Roman Catholic priest, that the balls are just for decoration.

I am acutely aware, meanwhile, of the terrible effect all this internal wrangling is having on the public's perception of the Church. People who live in glasshouses, of course, should change their clothes in the basement (and not in view); the public is like a washing machine laughing, laughing because it is taking the piss out of the undies, and we keep displaying our undies. But we must not be scared by the issues of difference: like the cow who asked another cow if he was scared of mad cow disease and he said no because he was a chicken. It is important how we look, and we have to beware of modernism: after all, who would go to a plastic surgeon whose favourite artist was Picasso? And perhaps we can moderate our language, taking our cue from my friend the other Archbishop, given that exaggeration is a billion times worse than subtle understatement.

Yes, the New Year will be challenging but we are a Church and we live in hope. We must become more like a genealogist and less like a gynaecologist, looking again at the trees of human life rather than just into the bushes.

John Northern

Thursday 30 December 2010


What do I think about dualism, seeing as the issue has arisen? I've always wanted to avoid a dualistic approach, because inevitably it involves split ethics, action and duplicity.

For me, the heart of Christianity is dualistic. I don't mean a battle between evil and good, or the kind of set-up in Zoroastrianism (which still does have a supreme deity). The notion of a God-man is itself dualistic, however much the concept is fused, and it isn't entirely fused. It is also dualistic in effect to divide something into three even if also one.

Now surely all religion involves dualism somewhere, and a battle against dualism. Yin and Yang in Taoism is a perfect example of accepting the dualistic nature of life and then showing how the aspect of one is in the other on each side. So no one can ever be a purist.

Gnosticism, of which part of Christianity formed a part, is dualistic, in regarding the spirit as pure and the material as dirty. Here proto-orthodox and orthodox Christianity was at its least dualistic in intention, in affirming (including through ritual) the goodness of the material world, and indeed the dualism of the God-Man was to fight the dualism of the Gnostics. Some esoteric Christians today talk about the Christ-principle and have no interest in the historic Jesus, and of course that is a dualistic extraction - though they would argue that the purity of the Christ-principle is their form of non-dualistic unity.

I would be at the other end, but I am not. I would be, in affirming a purely human Jesus. This must mean a man who was born of two parents, grew up and learnt, made mistakes, was not successful in tackling his own ego, was not morally perfect, and died a tragic death. Whatever religious experiences his followers then had, they didn't involve the consciousness of the person who had died.

People would say how do I know, but the actual need for proof in any historical or scientific basis is on the other foot. I think we know how human beings come about, live, die and how the generations move on. People who make exceptional fantastic claims are the ones who have to make the proof, but what the fantastic claims do is undermine the chap's humanity.

Of course one way to avoid dualism of a fantastic God-Man is to simply wallow in the text, the text formed in the heat of a charismatic and culture-crossroads early Christian communities. It is then less about a man, less even about the supernatural, but just about texts and beliefs and communities: what has become known as postliberalism. That postliberalism also links to a Karl Barth who made a non-dualistic theology by having his God so high and dry and one way that such a God may as well have disappeared.

But that form of postliberalism is self-limitation, a cultural freezing, and that's not how it came about. There is far more to the inspiring, interesting, potentially transcendent religious world than the biography-like activities of one man in one place. The cult of this individual cuts off rather than expands out.

Mark Harris at Preludium recalls his trip to India a year ago, and adds the wisdom of Ganesha and other Hindu deities to his current nativity scene. But they are not aspects of wisdom to attach to an Incarnate figure in Palestine: such does violence to both religious figures. Ganesha is a God, and not only that but a God in the statue where made, displayed and blessed. The mantra of 33,000, 33, 3 and 1 Gods in Hinduism is again a dualism, but a dualism so plural and spread out it almost becomes non-dualistic, and then again there is the battle within the religion where some (but not all) say that Brahman subsumes all. And if Hinduism is pantheistic, then the non-dualism of that results in a form of atheism.

Of course if Mark Harris adds Ganesha as a deity, he is expanding out the trinitarian nature of his faith. To call it wisdom is a protection, but I suspect it is to keep on the right side of the line. In my house I too have Ganesha and I have Hanuman and Krishna and Buddha and the lot, and Jesus too.

They are just part of the tapestry of the religious outlook. So I am a religious humanist. The way I avoid dualism is to be clear: given that I would preach against the moral perfection or even superiority of Jesus of Nazareth, then it has to be that the Jesus character lessens away as any form of commitment. Yes a lived ethical life is important rather than just a set of ethics, but this is open to anyone's struggle. Each religious figure in story form indicates something of a pathway, and has parts not covered and in the end it is about our lived lives.

And also in non-dualistic terms, though highly plural, is that I assert signals of transcendence rather than just transcendence, via a whole series of different language games and potential realities, pointing towards but never quite demonstrating a quality beyond that might be transcending.

This is, of course, all very minimalist and is about questions. On the other hand, there is so much to express awe about in the natural world, in the cosmos and in what we think we know about it all. That's why I am attracted to the notion of the beauty of equations and the results of fractals. Another key for reflection is paradox at the deepest level (expressed in many a Buddhist sutra). Our cultures are rich and can be deeply mined for for our reflection as transient beings. In thinking about what points to transcendence, we can think of pain as something that is endured, but that the transcendent pointer beyond such pain is joy. If we can make and see joy in the other, and in the self, then we are making some deep progress. Reality, of course, is often so much grimmer - and that is an unavoidable dualism.

Wednesday 29 December 2010

Chalming! And Beyond

Anyone who visits my website will see that I still keep material on it about Bonskeid House. It is over ten years since I last went there. Now it is a private residence, for rich pals to go shooting. As such it denies the public access to some fantastic wooded grounds on a hillside down to a fast flowing stream. The Pass of Killiecrankie nearby is where I had my first major back spasm, in that having come up a hillside I went up a further three steps and hit the floor in agony. I then had these for six years and have had none now for four years, although the odd warning shot gets felt.

I did some work while there, with trips and paid expenses. I took my mother each time. On one occasion the Rev. Professor Robert Barbour, who sold Bonskeid to the YMCA in 1951, was a link by which my mother and I took part in a Scottish version of Songs of Praise, swelling the numbers in a chapel high in the nearby hills. Hymns were sung several times I think for the future time of Advent (not sure) so that the camera had different angles on the same people.

I only mention this because recently, when I sit on the bog, I have been re-reading a book on the history of Scottish Christianity with its brief chapters including about the Great Disruption in 1843. There was a bust of Thomas Chalmers in the Bonskeid House library and he led a removal of ministers and what became a middle class Free Kirk. The Free Kirk eventually united with other previous seceders, including the United Presbyterian Church, but it also had a history of dividing. Although evangelical, it like other main Churches shifted its position to some extent so that a literal acceptance of the Westminster Confession was not required.

At the time towards the end of my visits a woman contacted me about the early socialist John Murdoch, an ancestor of hers. I went on to have a short relationship with her. He was in the area between 1821 and 1827, until he was nine, at which time Gaelic was at its margins in that mixing area, but collapsing after the clearances and depopulation. What was oppressive was the instruction of religion. He wrote:

The catechism was at that time, as it is now, one of the instruments of education in Scotland; and I remember being kept religiously locked up in one of the big rooms at Bonskeid House so that I could not stay away from learning it. There was some feeling of dislike for the book implanted within me by the confinement. I question if any good came of it.

As you go into the hills, you go across to eventually a route to Glen Coe, and so the Jacobite influence intensifies, and so Bonskeid would have been at the crossroads between the Jacobite old ways and Scottish modernisation, of which Murdoch and Chalmers were a part, in their own ways.

The Free Kirk was middle class because the landowners and working class (in as far as they were involved) remained with the Church of Scotland; the Free Kirk needed to expand rapidly and this involved middle class new money and personnel.

The Jacobite invasion of England as far as Preston, in an attempt to restore the line of James, led the English to push back the rebels and ethnically cleanse western Scotland (destruction of the clans and the removal of much crofting); as a result Gaelic culture retreated faster into the islands. The Episcopalians, setting up separately from 1695 and clearly in 1712 for those loyal to Anne, were further marginalised because of association, and became a fringe Church in Scotland, and those days when the Church of Scotland had both presbyteries and bishops in haphazard fashion were well and truly a memory. James before his departure was pro-bishops and pro-liturgy that smacked of popery to many Presbyterians, but it is worth noting that the Presbyterians supported the restoration of Charles II because Cromwell had allowed Baptists, Independents and other seceders to exist within Scotland and they broke the monopoly of the Church as it then was, muddled as it might have been regarding its systems of authority. Fully set up by 1808, the Episcopal Church became most distanced from the Presbyterians later in the nineteenth century when it breathed in the Oxford Movement winds (though all felt the effect of the Gothic revival) and the Presbyterians hardened their identity on the basis of being anti-bishops.

The Scottishness promoted today in tourist centres and seen at various highland games etc. was that of the Royal family - seen in dress such as kilts. It was a sanitised and approved form of Scottishness from the landed and the English imported class system that then had the Scottish landed grafted on to it by subservience. However, the lowland Scots of the Enlightenment had been pro-French in sentiment but not pro-Gaels, who were seen as backwoodsmen, and these Scots found plenty in the English for modernisation.

Radical Unitarians were pro-French and pro-American in revolutions.

As for the Unitarians, there was a Unitarianism among Campbellite and Millerite movements co-inciding with the Priestleyite and even earlier outlook: they were biblical literalists and unitarian in theology, but these did not form a Unitarian movement. Each of the four Unitarian churches in Scotland has a specific history, and there is also a Unitarian retreat centre on Orkney.

The Edinburgh church has seceding origins, in 1776. The strictest Covenanters, who had seceded from the Kirk because William and Mary wouldn't sign the Scottish Covenants, split into Calvinists and Universalists in 1749, and the latter from Berwickwhire descended on Edinburgh to form a congregation but took up the Unitarian name only when it became legal in 1813.

In 1833 in Aberdeen a small group of liberals invited the Rev. Archibald MacDonald of Greenock to conduct Unitarian services in the city. From this a congregation was established on Sunday 13th October, 1833 and a new building was ready and called a 'Christian Unitarian Church' on 9th August, 1840.

The Dundee church was founded in 1785. A self-educated and wealthy William Christie preached at Montrose and gave Arian type Unitarian views, considering that the Trinity was a papist heresy. He was encouraged by Joseph Priestley regarding the scriptures, and Thomas Christie, William's nephew, attended the first named Unitarian chapel by ex-Anglican Theophilus lindsey in 1776 (Arian by liturgy). Thomas Fyshe Palmer, who founded the Dundee congregation, wrote to William Christie at Montrose, stating about the Anglican Church:

I consider her liturgy corrupt and anti-christian, and her articles to be not only an injurious violation of the liberty wherewith God and Christ have made us free, but a jumble of absurdity.

Palmer would not subscribe to Anglican articles, stayed with Christie for two years at Montrose, and then founded his own congregation in Dundee in 1785. Dabbling in politics he was arrested for sedition and ended up going to Botany Bay.

Christie himself was anti-establishment, and regarded establishment as the cause of evil behaviour by the Church. He went to Glasgow in 1794 and across to America after Priestley. The Montrose church didn't survive; in the 1790s it had ten worshippers.

A unitarian preaching room was opened in Glasgow in 1787 by preacher and businessman 'Jemmy' Wardrop. After various leaders and preachers, the congregation conked out around 1795 after William Christie had emigrated to the United States. Then Calvinistic Baptists who had adopted Universalist and Unitarian views, expelled from the Baptist Communion, connected up with a Paisley Society having undergone a similar ejection. The Paisley group had arranged for assistance from the Unitarian Fund and in 1808 the Rev. James Lyons of Chester came to Scotland on a Missionary tour and a Unitarian Fund was established in Glasgow. Rev. Richard Wright came in 1809 when as many as 2000 who came to hear him had to be turned away at the door. A congregation formed at the Provan's Hall split, and it was the moved group at the Trades Hall in 1810 that formally set up a Unitarian Society in Glasgow, with the remainder at Provan's Hall people coming the Trades Hall to then all move together as one to the new Union Street chapel in 1812, a year before Unitarianism became legal.

The Scottish Unitarian Association comes from 1813 and a certain George Harris was involved in its founding and its secretary for a time. In 1816 he published A Statement of the Principles of Unitarian Christianity addressed to the Inhabitants of Greenock and Port Glasgow, and to the Friends of Free Inquiry throughout Scotland, by a Unitarian. A Unitarian chapel was opened in Port Glasgow him in January 1822 but he was in Bolton (where his controversial stance around 1824 led towards the York Lady Hewley case that might have stripped Unitarianism of its trust funds; the broader liberal Christians were later to turn on and supersede his denominationalist type of Unitarian). He to Glasgow and the 'front line' in 1825. In 1841 he moved on to Edinburgh to pump some life back into that congregation but four years on went to Newcastle-on-Tyne.

Some useful references:

Pagan, Anne, Monoghan, Andrew (1988), God's Scotland: The Story of Scottish Christian Religion, Edinburgh: Radio Forth and Mainstream Publishing Company.

Andrews, Stuart (2004), 'Transatlantic Theology: How Scottish Unitarianism Was Transplanted to America', Project Star, April 2004, [Online], Available World Wide Web, URL: [Accessed: Wednesday December 29 2010, 19:21], Project Star.

Unitarians in Edinburgh (2010), Our Story, [Online], Available World Wide Web, URL:, St Marks Church.

Glasgow Unitarians (2010), News & Views Glasgow Unitarians, August 2010, [Online], Available World Wide Web, URL:, Glasgow Unitarians

Tuesday 28 December 2010

Music Impact

I spent some time in the church this afternoon practising with the sound equipment. The service on 2nd should show that our solution to the original problem may be better in result than if we'd not had a problem in the first place. The controls are such that I can be a full on DJ, but the point about preparation is to know the levels about which I will have to pay more attention to averages and not just peaks.

I spent time sitting in different places including up against the walls. It doesn't really matter where you sit, even if the centre is most balanced, and when you turn your head the stereo effect gets redelivered from the back, as well as the effect from treble and bass separation and their qualities. One effect of moving in a straight line back to front or vice versa is that the sound stays with you and retains its width.

The music originating from the 21 Hymns choir CD is pretty grotty, even after all my noise reduction and stereofying and filtering: the system exposes poor origin sound. But when the sound is good, and this includes other choir CD material, it is very good. The simpler the music source - piano, organ, voice - the better the impact, so long as it is binaural or stereo in recording.

The system is also its own corrective to wordy services. We should be more visually experimental but the sound side is at full potential. The Puritans would not have approved.

Music Task

I'm back doing the music again, with the new sound system in mind, and the service taker (from Wakefield) has sent his hymns and music for me to arrange.

These are his second and third hymns, whilst hoping that the coming improved weather will nevertheless last until January 2nd:

HL 260 'Tis Winter Now. From Samuel Longfellow. Puer Nobis Nascitur. L.M.

'Tis winter now; the fallen snow
Has left the heavens all coldly clear;
Through leafless boughs the sharp winds blow,
And all the earth lies dead and drear;

And yet God's love is not withdrawn;
For life within the keen air breathes,
A beauty paints the crimson dawn,
And clothes the boughs with glittering wreaths.

And though abroad the sharp winds blow,
And skies are chill, and frosts are keen,
Home closer draws her circle now,
And warmer glows her light within.

O God! who giv'st the winter's cold,
As well as summer's joyful rays,
Us warmly in thy love enfold,
And keep us through life's wintry days.

HL 259. The Eternal Now. John Andrew Storey. Capel. C.M.

The ceaseless flow of endless time
No one can check nor stay;
We'll view the past with no regret,
Nor future with dismay.

The present slips into the past,
And dream-like melts away:
The breaking of tomorrow's dawn
Begins a new today.

The past and future ever meet
In the eternal now:
To make each day a thing complete
Shall be our New Year vow.

The other hymns chosen are also Hymns for Living 26 and 137. I've needed to source three of the four tunes and I think I have just found Pen-Lan for the last one. I initially had just one of his pieces of music, and needed to find the rest, plus the other music for before and after a service. Meanwhile the Hymns Available webpage has been updated to add HLs 137, 259 and 260.

Monday 27 December 2010

A Small Community

I listened again to a transient radio station and a programme relating to religion and blogging. I happened to have kept the download from the time. It referred to a community of people encountered online, and this is an experience I share.

The online community consists, for me, of people I have never met (though I might have done: circumstances meant I turned down an offer for a group of people to travel to Leeds on one occasion). The online community formed via people visiting my blog and me visiting those of others, and then via hooking up to Facebook where my 'friends' are kept down in number and not infinitely expanded. Some of those friends are also other physical friends.

With a few exceptions, this online community is liberal minded. It has an Anglican ethos too, even though some of us are no longer Anglican. However, among many there is a pattern emerging, and I'm included, and it is that of being on the margins. Incidentally, one person's online group is not quite the same as another as they stretch off in different directions; so each person has a group like a venn diagram overlapping with that of another person but we find the same people repeating.

Some are gay and lesbian, and all are inclusive. For some it is a furious debate; it's not even an issue for me to even debate about because I assume inclusivity. They have felt marginal for some time, and the pressure seems to be increasing. Some have a professional religious interest, and they have really felt the heat. One who seems rather distanced from me by perspective can't get a job, and now one has been thrown out of the prospect of getting a ministry job. I myself had only a year at theological college before being shown the door - I think of the contribution I could have made over the last twenty years, and its their loss. It screwed me up, and so my religious involvement now is always on my terms.

We are not just theoreticians when opposing the Anglican Covenant. It actually is a cause that encapsulates what it is to marginalise and make second division; it puts the institution above people, and makes a crucial error of priorities. Religious institutions will form and reform, and that's the way it's always been, and only religious bureaucrats try to hold on to something they think is essential, but actually isn't. In the meantime they do damage to people.

My argument against it is because I am against all creeds and articles and the whole damned lot. I opposed the Unitarian General Assembly Object to 'uphold liberal Christianity' (whatever that is) on both the arguments that it is restrictive and useless and therefore does more damage than it is worth. Ditto the Anglican Communion Covenant. That makes me somewhat different from the rest, who assume creeds and make belief promises, but I think my argument about this 'extra set' of requirements is shared by those of the online community that overlaps with me. The impact of that Covenant on me is to be nil, but I oppose the principle of the thing as part of that online connection.

Now there is this person and he has done theological training to give his all, gets dismissed from a job in advance (in the usual worst possible way - that's how institutions work), and wonders about carrying on. I have been there, because of the puzzle as to what to do. The problem is that if you now leave completely it's as if you give them their argument. 'Look at him, he left so we were right to remove him.' This is rubbish: all relationships are reciprocal, and so your giving something to them involves them giving something to you. When they break that, when the mutual giving becomes a slap in the face, you have every right to get out.

You can still support the principle of what took you there, but bugger the institution that distorts it all. If you are sure they have made up inadequate and distorted reasons for removal, or that they cut across your integrity, then they should lose out and you keep yours. They lose the personnel: if they carry on like this (and they often do) then they lose their most creative people. They keep the quiet jobbers, of course, but the institution simply underlines its own conserving bureaucracy. If it goes on to die, hard luck.

It may be, of course, that having cut the rope you realise there were certain principles or beliefs you didn't actually support, but you were before doing the reciprocal bureaucratic duty - as indeed we do. But this is why, I think, that when an institution shits on you that you should clean the mess off, create a space and work out what you really think and want.

When I left Unitarian College in 1990 I said to myself this could take ten years to sort out and I am now twenty years on and all I've done is enjoyed nothing, some Western Buddhism and floated between local Anglican and Unitarian settings. I won't join the local congregation and that means I can't properly be on any committees or vote. I do things to help but a day can come when they are just dropped. I cannot remember when I last wrote a letter to The Inquirer about anything: to some extent I don't care any more about what the denomination does, nor about its structural inner decline. If it fell to pieces it would not matter. Quietly and alone, and as I please, I work out my own historical and theological connections to the past, and I articulate what the denomination has perhaps forgotten.

It doesn't follow that we have to be martyrs. I am not a member of the become a martyr club, and I also have serious questions even about the biggest martyr of them all and his situational motivations. You should avoid being a martyr. For example, it is quite clear now that the Sea of Faith Network stance is outside Anglicanism as it has become, but there are people still in ordained jobs. I don't know how they do it, but they are better carrying on if they can square the circle (or even cynically) rather than being kicked out. Of course they may, as Don Cupitt himself has done, move out progressively and effectively go elsewhere.

The Anglican and other so-called mainstream Church boundaries have moved in considerably, and what happens now is that there are institutional-political touchstones that find you out quicker than others.

What blogging does is make your opinions known, so that you do the job of an Inquisition for the institution. An institution is constantly busy maintaining its boundaries, of who is in and who is out, and blogging simply makes the job easier. This extends to others like the Methodists and even politics. I remember some years ago Rowan Williams at a General Synod saying in effect pray for people marginalised but pray especially for the Anglican Communion.

So please continue to pray for the Lambeth Conference – pray that it may find new ways forward that will restore and deepen confidence in our Communion and trust between us, and that it may help to open up reconciliation for those who have felt injured or marginalised in any setting; but pray even more that it will be a context where, by thinking and speaking together in the presence of God, all of us may be set free to be more fully the Church God calls us to be wherever we may find ourselves...

Conversely, you can blog to make sure you are within the institution, and the Inquisition will occasionally visit and note the means by which you maintain good behaviour.

Recently this online group stretched out its hand to Bishop Pete Broadbent, who isn't exactly a card carrying member, given his views in general and in particular, but he made his own institutional error and got a nasty chop for it, and whose boss has told the rest of the world to like it or lump it all wrapped up in the crap that, 'We had a conversation and we agreed...' So empathy can stretch a hand across to him too.

Institutions come in all shapes and sizes. I am pleased that I contacted a friend and in so doing put the mockers on a bunch of, on that occasion, religious bullies and fantasists, who have since gone off elsewhere and created something yet more in their own image. That put me at some distance from them. I didn't seek that, and was since refused an attempt at reconciliation. It pleases me that their leaving has refreshed what they left behind, and we are talking tiny handfuls of people here. And I bet there are no more than about twenty people in this online grouping of which I speak at present, but the point is that every single individual matters whereas the institutions are always here today and gone tomorrow, even if tomorrow is far off.

Saturday 25 December 2010

Christmas Greetings from the Archbishop

Christmas is a time when the question of direction, direction for us as individuals and as a people, comes to the fore. It is also a time of transition for the Church.

If we think about it, the narrative of the Christmas period is about direction. To see the Incarnation, it is to look upon people in travel to a point of breaking out: not only people, of course, but the whole earth and even the heavens. A star travels, the stars look down upon the birth scene.

Movement often means a direction from where we are quite comfortable to where we are least comfortable. Much movement is forced: and that is in the infancy story too.

The nativity story, so often presented with glitter and gold, is instead disturbing, and it should be disturbing. It gives us new words to talk about the whole environment, the entire context in which you're living and in this case the disturbance involved in starting again.

The birth narratives are, as such, a pre-echo of the resurrection event: that something has started again, and has really challenged the categories available.

Of course birth is itself a struggle; pregnancy is its own Advent, and the transition from the whole as Advent into Christmas is a period of movement in profound uncertainty and then a joyful burst into the birth moment, in all its inherent messiness.

In a similar way we have had a lot of Advent already when it comes to the pregnancy of the Anglican Communion Covenant. Perhaps the recent General Synod vote can be seen as the start of its birth, with the document to bind us together emerging from in between the raised thighs of mother Church. The birth itself will, so to speak, take place in several hospitals, and this is just regarding our own local Church, as the un-ill patient moves between the maternity hospitals of the General Synod to the diocesan synods and back to the General Synod again. The recent vote suggests that the baby will not be born kicking and screaming. Perhaps we will rather say 'Ah' and learn to love the Anglican Communion Covenant as we would a new born baby.

And, of course, to take this analogy further, the Covenant is really a set of the birth of more than sextuplets even: I cannot imagine what 38 twins are called, and all coming from related mothers, but all with the same father, namely myself. Each mother is going through that transition, that movement, from the old to the new, with legs held high or, according to different cultures, perhaps a better squat into something like a birthing pool in the more progressive centres.

In general, then, we have had our travels. This is the new season. This is the beginning. This is what Christmas surely means and I would like to wish believers and otherwise a very Merry Christmas.

Rowanov Treetri

Friday 24 December 2010

The Liberal Catholic Apostolic Church Lives!

I wonder about the future of my website. It needs an overhaul: it has just been too easy to use Facebook as a place to put photographs, drawings and some paintings. I have put some long blogs here that will probably migrate to the website, like the Radio Chadderbox material and then that story that still has the final episode to go. Sometimes it feels like the blog is coming to an end, and then it gets a lot of activity again.

Nevertheless three pages of the website get constant updating. One is the jobs I look for, making my obligation efficient, the second is the hymns available for home and visiting preachers to the Hull church (though I now say, with sufficient notice I can write the tune and produce the music) and the third one is the Liberal and Old Catholics list that relates to all the history. The independent ministers keep contacting me and I keep changing it.

I am very pleased to find that the Liberal Catholic and Apostolic Church has continued since it divided. I was interested in its predecessor, the Liberal Rite, because it did have in mind the Free Catholicism of the early twentieth century and which was a Unitarian and other Free Church development. Indeed a semi-detached Unitarian minister, Rev. Stephen Callander, was, for a time, part of the stream that set all of it going. But when the titles of Nicholson's defunct Ancient Catholic Church passed into the hands of John Kersey, he scrapped The Liberal Rite and went up the candle a little further, joined by Alistair Bate (who was a pastor of Glasgow Unitarian Church). When Bishops Kersey, Linley and Bate then got itchy feet again and formed their Ecclesia Apostolica Divinorum Mysteriorum, it looked as if the Liberal Catholic Apostolic Church was done for, except I wondered what had happened to the newly made Bishop Adrian Glover.

It turns out he is still running it, with others and new people, and I have looked across the somewhat the same and somewhat adjusted website, and it has now restored the liberalism and, given his Cross Denominational Mission idea, the ecumenical outlook, including towards Protestants.

I have nothing against small, even tiny, denominations. After all, I function in one myself. I fell out with Kersey and Bate myself over the manner in which they approached a friend I'd known at Sea of Faith, and because I'd had my own contact with this friend and, knowing her, asked her questions before she might become some sort of nun for them. Indeed she didn't, and she has just sent me a Christmas card despite knowing (and writing so) that I don't send cards out. In tiny denominations personality clashes are all the more dangerous.

I still disagree with the statement within the LCAC that they have some connection with the central European form of Unitarianism. They do not. There is no actual connection, to start with. Secondly, the central European form of Unitarianism has a catechism and its bishops are expressly non-apostolic, as demonstrated by the Superintendent ordaining Knut Heidelberg when he tapped into this tradition in order to relaunch Unitarianism in Norway as a Superintendent. The Free Catholics were a development out of the creedless Anglo-American tradition which might be called post-Protestant. I think Lloyd Thomas did adopt the Apostles' Creed, but this might have been liturgical only and he'd have understood it in its not quite trinitarian understanding. When the Free Catholics broke up, he just wandered off into education. If we then think about Ulric Vernon Herford, the Unitarian minister who became Bishop of Mercia and Middlesex, Administrator of the Metropolitan See of India, Ceylon, Milapur, etc., of the Syro-Chaldean Church and of the Patriarchate of Babylon and the East, and founder of the Evangelical Catholic Communion, he probably never changed his theology from a basic Unitarianism and the best that can be said is that he misunderstood his consecrator and his consecrator misunderstood him.

So I am now on the LCAC email list, and I also keep a distant watch on the Liberal Catholic Church International, which is incredibly tiny but does have Elizabeth Stuart the non-categorising gay and lesbian theologian as its Archbishop. Alistair Bate was in that, as a priest, before moving on.

The fact that these groups are tiny, and that there are transient clergy and fleeting congregations (if one can call them that) is the potential for organised religion these days. Unitarians will have to become regionalised based around centres, and I can see the Methodists and URC etc. collapsing in a few generations with no unique selling point. That there are a few hundred thousands left with them is irrelevant if they are all roughly the same age and basically all die at once (or as good as). This is what is happening now, and those who are younger are having to rationalise their meeting places.

Tuesday 21 December 2010

Music System

This morning I was at the church as a new music system was installed. It is absolutely fantastic. I watched as an expert and his worker set it up, and had the company of Chester the dog as a member came in and out and also a chap who cleans and does odd jobs. When back, Chester's owner remarked how the music sort of follows you around in the room space (because of the way it mixes) and before that the odd job man at first thought an actual piano was being played. I happened to put on a piece by Arnold Bax that swirled around, and then Jerusalem with a choir was on that CD. Because of its grand ending, Jerusalem is quite 'soft' most of the time, but here it was like being in the choir and the organ giving incredible power as if we have one. The better choir CD tracks make you feel like you are in the choir; I can imagine people thinking their own voices hardly add to the whole.
There is only a slight learning curve only regarding use because of how it is all arranged. I intended to sit for a time and fiddle with the controls, but what I actually did was sit down with Chester for company and listen to a CD with the variety of music played.
Each speaker has 65W at the 8 ohms setting used, and there are four of them, but the point is that the sound is sweet and balanced. I am asking service takers to exploit the system with their choices of music. The church member remarked that Wagner would sound good and indeed Wagner will be on. Now I can even write hymn music so we can have anything from Hymns for Living and Sing Your Faith but do consult my webpage for what exists.

All praises to Geoff Sedman of Hull who has thought through the equipment, the positioning and everything including my use. He has been at the church three times in all to make his expert decisions. I've enjoyed going to his shop too with conversations that sometimes went on for some time. Everything he said is true and for a good price. He left with our latest magazine and he also knew when the previous church was constructed.

Radio Chadderbox Christmas Gathering

Peter Levite: We are in the William Thomas Ford room of the Radio Chadderbox Complex here in Wykkyfish and our presenters and I are moving around a Christmas gathering of many of our Justify Fullguests to the Religion Slot this past year. Don't forget: we've got the microphones and we're transmitting!

Lara Crofter: Yes, they've braved the snow to get here and we are all together in the warmth including even our weatherman George Hudson, for once not on a railway station. Let's hear what people are saying.

George Hudson: The points are frozen, you might say, and anyway Lisa Thin is doing my forecasts. I think we'd better split up and meet the people, all here in the WTF room, and see what they're feeling and talking about. So hello Rowanov Treetri, the Archbishop of England, how are you...

Lara Crofter: Archbishop John Sendmehome, Archbishop of the North, is having a drink here and talking to Bishop Ken Beans, no doubt anticipating his move that we mentioned last time. Archbishop, we have relaxed your ban for this occasion after your swearing on air. You are going to behave yourself! Are you relaxing over Christmas?

Archbishop John Sendmehome: What, relaxing? What do you think? I'm a member of the clergy.

Lara Crofter: Oh yeah, I suppose so. But, like, you like a bit of publicity and put yourself about on the radio.

John Sendmehome: Yes. I will behave myself be assured. Well I've signed up to go on a television programme you know: me and my auntie as a team on a daytime programme.

Lara Crofter: Oh. What's that one then?

John Sendmehome: Antique Hunt.

Lara Crofter: Sorry. Is that the programme or your auntie's name?

John Sendmehome: They are both antiques.

Lara Crofter: What else? Like I heard you were doing your own like a Fresh Expressions Tour, going around the clubs, telling jokes like a good flat-capped Yorkshireman.

Rachel Marsovenus: Did I hear Fresh Expressions?

Lara Crofter: Hello love. It's Rachel Marsovenus, isn't it. Come closer. Where do you get your lipstick?

John Sendmehome: Madam, here is our future, one of our great prospects. I think I might propose a new TV programme where we have prospective blogging ordinands and each week I say, 'You're fired'. But to you, my sweet, I'd say, 'You're hired.'

Lara Crofter: Tell you what, love. That dress. I mean, do clergy wear dresses like that? There's less plunge in the Victoria Falls, love.

Kenneth Beans: Who's your friend? You're a delectable pair both of you and that's one loud dress.

Rachel Marsovenus: Can I introduce Jade Stowaway? We're really really excited because Jade has got her first job in church and it's you know called Open Evangelical and that means vital doesn't it Bishop Beans.

Lara Crofter: What it stays open, doesn't shut early on Sunday?

Jade Stowaway: It's not big scale consumerism. No, it means we have core evangelical sources but are aware of the anthropological issues that overlap with issues of Church order. I mean, we cyberphiliacs are discussing with some urgency whether, sort of... Well, are we evangelical or post-Evangelical?

Rachel Marsovenus: Fantastic question, Jade. Something for my Christmas essay: fancy having to do an essay at Christmas! But it allows me to engage with the issue, like what is Christmas and how we can spread the message and perhaps look at that winter solstice moment as a post-Evangelical.

Jade Stowaway: It's a liberating question. These issues of gender and anthropology interact with the cycle of time and the institution of the Church and create problems that run back into source intepretation for some of...

Cudden Careyless: [Taps on his glass of beer with a teaspoon] Anyone introducing this event?

Rowanov Treetri: [Moves to the two women, Ken Beans moves away] Hello young women, it is wonderful to see our future before us. Would you like some nuts? There are some Big D there I think.

Rachel Marsovenus: An Archbishop asking me if I want some nuts. Is that cool or what? And, Archbishop, these are Big D and our world is 3D and Jesus is infinitum D. It just blows your mind. We only see 3D with our 5 senses but there's Big D and then Infinite D. Think of nuts and then think of the Holy Spirit. So it's really pretty cool being a Christian, isn't it Archbishop? God speaks the word and the Word is a person. Jesus is the ultimate nut eater and there are no allergies with him. He is the nut, the kernel, the skin. Crumbs I'm, er, beside myself.

Jade Stowaway: I can hardly speak. Give me some nuts. Rachel, oh Rachel the loos are outside next to the Leonard Oliver Leyland room. I'll come with you. Sorry Archbishop.

Rowanov Treetri: Before you go, just to say quickly, if you want to follow the line of the perfection of nuts in a platonic sense then do contact John Milbank. You may know that I do feel some sense of involvement in the history of Radical Orthodoxy; and it has given me both an enormous stimulus and constant mental stretching listening and wondering what John Milbank actually means in any real sense, like my own narrative theology of course. Bye. Quickly now. I didn't know I had this effect on people.

George Hudson: Archbishop Treetri, welcome.

Rowanov Treetri: It is not unpleasant to be here for this social occasion of meeting so many colleagues and I would venture to suggest that...

Cudden Careyless: Ladies and Gentlemen. I think someone should introduce this session and as your former Archbishop of Anglicanism and someone of national authority this may well fall to me. Although I have never appeared on this programme on this channel before, I am grateful to my son for arranging me to come here. I'm afraid he cannot be here or pass a press release to the media around us because of the weather, but my decision to give some formal introduction to this event - otherwise missing - brings to mind my many achievements and reminds me of my time with the Decade of Evangelism and the opportunity that gave, as this does, for outreach, as well as the advancement we made, since stalled and likely to be I think regrettably, regarding unity and moral standards for the Anglican Communion, as well as the place of the Church in our nation which is under so much threat today from the type of equality legislation that marginalises the Church. And not to mention the Royal Family. So let us at least rejoice in little opportunities gained by small events such as these. And I would like to thank my son, should anyone be recording this for posterity. Thank you all very much and I give a toast to the place of Christianity in the life of the nation. Please do join in in your own time.

Peter Levite: I don't know you. You are?

Stephen Preson: I'm Stephen Preson, a Unitarian: Harry Tickpaper invited a few of us along and Sammy Kwava from Bradford, the music maestro of the denomination. Well, there are only a few of us to invite along, though good to have C. Shore and Celia with us. I've come with my little boy here and this is Melanie Pritstick with me, and over there is Cornelius Istreeman, in the bow tie, also from Wakefield.

Melanie Pritstick: What a beautiful room for sharing our stories.

Peter Levite: Stephen Preston, Wakefield's the place that is taking over Bradford.

Stephen Preson: No my name is like Preston, but there is no T. And I'm a Unitarian not C in E so Wakefield stays just the same, as does Bradford. So we are quite as we were.

Melanie Pritstick: Yeah we've given up on telling old stories like all that Jesus stuff, and we like the more Pagan thing don't we as that's more up to date. So Bradford is safe with us and my doctorate is all about Christians and Muslims so I was sort of in the middle twixt cross and crescent and they have their faith-packages and I have my own.

Peter Levite: What? Your own?

Melanie Pritstick: It's like facilitating one another, isn't it; telling stories and sharing experiences. Like Stephen and the sadness over his dead hamster. That's a unique experience, although hamsters die a lot. Does anyone know where Harry is? Sammy Kwava - he's our music man, there with the beard that matches his hair - have you seen Harry?

Samuel Kwava: Pardon? Can you be a bit more forte?

Melanie Pritstick: We haven't seen Harry Tickpaper. Have you?

Samuel Kwava: No, no, but he only really lives a short concerto away, so he should be here soon, depending on whether he is presto or not.

Arthur Francis: I've not seen him either; thought I would have by now. Hey I bet Cornelius Istreeman and Janet Treetri are having an interesting chat.

Lara Crofter: We have Reverend Professor Animal Lindsey, who has now joined Bishop Harold Wilson. Both of you are sat down puffing pipes. I'm not sure this is legal.

Animal Lindsey: [Puffs his pipe]

Lara Crofter: Harold Wilson?

Harold Wilson: [Puffs his pipe]

Lara Crofter: Either of you. Would you like a chicken sandwich, Professor Lindsey?

Animal Lindsey: [Chokes and coughs]

Harold Wilson: [Puffs his pipe] We were having a conversation.

Lara Crofter: You weren't saying anything.

Animal Lindsey: I was giving my opinion through the medium of theology about the condition of theology today.

Lara Crofter: But you weren't saying anything.

Harold Wilson: I understood him perfectly.

Lara Crofter: Bishop Lindsey, perhaps you can say what you are doing over Christmas.

Animal Lindsey: I can assure you that I am, fortunately or unfortunately, no bishop, with absolutely no pwospect whatsoever of so becoming; indeed the question has become where to find a decent Church or denomination, whilst remaining where I can best advance the cause of all cweaturely rights of course.

Lara Crofter: Sorry. Why not?

Animal Lindsey: [Puffs his pipe]

Lara Crofter: Why not?

Animal Lindsey: Well, in addition to my pursuit of theos rights for all cweatures, I was an editor of a book with a certain Dick Churcher about Gays and Anglicanism and that most dweaded Covenant - and it is all his policy - and once you put your head above the twenches like that you are forever a marked man. [Puffs his pipe]

Harold Wilson: I would question this, Animal.

Animal Lindsey: Well, yes, we can question so much, but occasionally we have to say something. Humm. We just, you know, sometimes, have to do something. [Puffs his pipe] Good job I don't have say it directly, but can use the medium of theology. By the way, why are there no decent nibbles when you try to avoid all this filthy meat? Oh hello, that's er my good correspondent from these parts Reverend Lynn Shea-Doyle and who's with you?

Lynn Shea-Doyle: Over the river like. Harry Tickpaper told us this was happening. So this is Rev. Eric Clapton, my temporary boss, now Vicar of Chad.

Eric Clapton: Where's the drinks? What? I've got freehold now, so there. Blimey there are people here that I don't want to - that is not his Lordship Cudden Careyless over there?

Lara Crofter: Shall I bring him over? He gave an interesting opening speech we weren't expecting.

Eric Clapton: You can pass on that idea.

Lynn Shea-Doyle: No no, heck, leave him there. By the way, this is Flora Faunamor, a good veggie like me.

Animal Lindsey: Excellent, excellent. You know we few people marching at the head of the little band must stick together.

Harold Wilson: I think we can possibly manage a little chicken and perhaps fish, if I was to compromise.

Animal Lindsey: You see, these so called questioning liberals, they just do so often let the side down. They just turn into blue rinse Conservatives.

Lynn Shea-Doyle: And this is Reverend Carrie Rabbit and her husband, a fantastic organist, Hugh Jorgan Rabbit.

Samuel Kwava: Did I hear that someone has got a huge organ?

Carrie Rabbit: My husband, and I love beards. I am the happiest curate in the world. Ooh, there is Rowanov Treetri, I wonder if he'll let me have a feel?

Samuel Kwava: You are?

Hugh Jorgan Rabbit: Hugh Jorgan Rabbit. Organist, composer, smiler of the Bible reading.

Samuel Kwava: Can we swap notes? I do a lot of composing, playing, innovating for the Unitarians.

Hugh Jorgan Rabbit: Oh, you are one of them. Yes, I used to know one of them. I saw your hymnbook and noted: pages for the Judeao-Christian tradition. That's just not good enough, but, well, let's not get too cynical about these things.

Samuel Kwava: There's Janet and Cornelius in animated conversation. Yes let's withdraw from some topic that's bound to be too controversial.

Flora Faunamor: Can someone get Eric back here? He is getting too close to Lord Cudden Careyless.

Peter Levite: Bishop Bigg, it is good to see you here again. How is it going?

Anthony Wedgewood Bigg: [Sat down alone] Well I am concerned about the absence of many of our people here.

Peter Levite: Who are your people?

Anthony Wedgewood Bigg: [Speaking slowly with possibly a sense of menace] Well loved presbyters of Bible-believing parishes. Yes. I am looking around for some actual evangelicals. I've even overheard that we even have some heretics here.

Peter Levite: Actually, a local blogger and he's not here but some of his associates have come.

Anthony Wedgewood Bigg: No, I am just talking about people who are misusing the evangelical name, people who are stretching it to a point of meaninglessness and then those who even misuse the Christian name. Goodness me, there's a woman coming. Oh dear there are two.

Jade Stowaway: Bishop Bigg, can we engage? I am Jade soon to be a deacon and this is Rachel an ordinand.

Anthony Wedgewood Bigg: No, I am married to a loyal wife who knows that I am head of the household, just as Christ is head of the Church.

Rachel Marsovenus: This is the vital debate of the century, Bishop Bigg. [She bends to shake his hand]

Anthony Wedgewood Bigg: Goodness me, whatever is happening? Where is my blackcurrent juice? Are you intending to be a clergywoman?

Rachel Marsovenus: We both are; Jade has got a fantastic job in London. She is so excited.

Anthony Wedgewood Bigg: Have you heard about what once happened to even dissenting clergy in the streets of London? But consider when they were acceptable. I mean, you would not even have passed the essential tests during the period when the Lord Protector was in power, you see, and that was a very tolerant period in between the Stuarts. Not the 1940s but the 1640s I'm talking about. Now let me be clear - no, no, there is no debate - that your mortal souls are in great danger. First of all, both of you, cover up; second, you threaten the godly Kingdom by your disobedience. I need to report you to the nearest presbyter who's reliable in each case and your attendance will be required, and I mean only in a Bible believing church with a presbyter all can love and a curate all can like.

Jade Stowaway: Come on Rachel, let's talk to someone else.

Anthony Wedgewood Bigg: It is a first order issue this, you know. Ah, come across Bishop Broadarse - or are you still a bishop?

Barry Broadarse: Well, yes, it is bye bye to the fascists and such a sense of coming home.

Anthony Wedgewood Bigg: Do we still agree on the core doctrines?

Barry Broadarse: Anglicanism is nothing if it is not attached now to the one true Church. The generosity of the Holy Father knows no bounds, and by this historic gesture the future of the Anglican can only be within the Catholic Church. This here would be good communion wine: what is it?

Anthony Wedgewood Bigg: I'm sorry, I'm drinking Ribena. Well, the future of Anglicanism can only be with properly confessing, reliable Presbyters, and that means men ordained alongside men only, and men in charge of fully doctrinal churches going out and creating godly parishes.

Eric Clapton: Mr Broadarse, for your information, I'm a Catholic and I'm staying. Just tell you that. And as for your kind, Bigg, not a foot inside my parish.

Barry Broadarse: Faux, faux; so, so. Where is my colleague Stanley Urwin?

Stanley Urwin: I'm overloady over hereyfold. Come and join me; I'm feeling lonely now I'm even less ordinariate than I wazzy was not. Fuzzy Wuzzy had a bear.

Anthony Wedgewood Bigg: Not me. Just a second. You see, this is why we need our Society, our Fellowship. We know about Chad, from our people who come over the river here to Duckpond church, you see, and we just have to provide something for our people. Is there no one from Duckpond church here?

George Hudson: Rowanov Treetri, I see that your wife Janet has now joined you.

Janet Treetri: I was just saying to that Wakefield historian that the steam age tells us that we are connected like pipes, that God clearly designed us to be plumbed in together and feel warm with one another.

George Hudson: I work with digital graphics in this day and age and I only see steam trains between Grosmont and Pickering. This is the age of the train.

Rowanov Treetri: My wife was, I think, alluding to the fact that we have available several levels of historically grounded stories that indicate, from the Bible especially, and onward, and including whatever historical interest we might have, that there is not a little potential to extract the theological meaning inherent in these and show a continuous purpose for the human project. There is a philosophical extraction to be made from history, and one cannot be naive in the manner of Richard Dawkins and his lack of philosophical extraction from biology. Perhaps he should read Ayer.

George Hudson: Someone is nearby with a notebook.

Rachel Marsovenus: I'm just writing that down, that's all. It's just the wisdom of his words, his utter leadership in every sense. Fantastic. No Jade I'm all right this time. Hey, there's Bishop Monarch. It's getting better and better.

Jade Stowaway: He's like a God to me. Oh no, I have to control myself, he's not only - not only - with Bishop New Testament Wrong. Ooh ooh.

Rachel Marsovenus: What, gosh! This is like God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit rolled into one!

Rowanov Treetri: That is not the least uninteresting way to address the matter, but they cannot be rolled into one if divided in an already non-divided manner; and as for those bishops, they would be binitarian.

Janet Treetri: I'm an Evangelical but before I might go on about that, let me ask where you get that lipstick from.

Jade Stowaway: Sorry, we've got to go; we've got to see them now. Come on Rachel.

Graham Monarch: Hello my wonderful prodigies. Kiss kiss. Kiss kiss. What antidotes to the boring clergy impact in terms of world wide wearing don't you think? From little butterflies world spanning changes can be made.

Stanley Urwin: I heard that, pardon. Not if you wearyout the kind of clobbergear I like to holdyhold wear-e-well too as well yes oh a deary dear out it bit of lace on a like yum.

New Testament Wrong: Ignore him, he's the past. Student life, and so refreshing after all that diocesan drudgery. Hello Jade, and your friend. Yes, I can travel all over now and get my books sold. It's so good now that I can tell the Americans what I really think, to maximise my sales.

Jade Stowaway: You're not even in England now, oh it is so sad.

New Testament Wrong: Well you have to take a balanced view. Graham here, he's still potentially on the up. In the sticks, but; and then there's me. That was it really, especially with him over there.

Rachel Marsovenus: Jones James, but he might be called post-Evangelical too - isn't he like us Jade?

Graham Monarch: Er no, not really. You keep the faith. But we might have to take directions from Jones James, yes. I tried my Worldwide Anglican Wargame with Jones James in charge; and quite interesting outcomes. See, the driving wheel is in his sights and this could emphasise the need for modelling fellowship over communion but factor in that we had an overwhelming majority, my friends, for that Covenant vote, and we put the liberals right; yet, what did he do? He abstained. Quietly, quietly distanced himself. Perhaps we enter him into the modelling strategy of the game as a wildcard.

Lara Crofter: I do believe that is the local blogger Harry Tickpaper arriving and, someone leaning on his shoulder, hanging on for what her dear life? Hey she was that interesting woman, here last time. Peter - you're the nearest.

Peter Levite: We think this is Harry Tickpaper and his friend, looking a bit bleary-eyed I must say, is...

Harry Tickpaper: I am and this is Lesley Bloke.

Peter Levite: Looks like she's well inebriated! How is she? Who's behind you?

Lesley Bloke: Oy I'm not disabled you know, I can speak for myself. And I am not drunk.

Harry Tickpaper: Behind me are two Unitarian ministers, C. Shore from Sheffield and Celia Dunham-Skipton now retired. Oh they've gone over to the Wakefield lot. See you later and thanks.

Colin Shore: What a good opportunity to meet!

Melanie Pritstick: Building? Building?

Colin Shore: It's building.

Stephen Preson: What, historical-thingy or future-peoply?

Anthony Wedgewood Bigg: [From a distance, looking at Lesley and Harry] No wonder we have to rely on godly men, it's really quite scandalous.

Kenneth Beans: [One of a number approaching Lesley and Harry] I'm Bishop Ken Beans: how is this person?

Lesley Bloke: I am worn out: what a day so far; what an evening into last night; what a day travelling.

Harry Tickpaper: She's very tired, and definitely not drunk. Have you tried to travel in the snow - like arriving last night after a long day on the train and then people to see?

Peter Levite: Well, get yourselves a drink and speak to you soon. And a welcome to your associates over there.

Harry Tickpaper: They are actually staying in one of the rooms upstairs. Any soft drinks by the way as I'm driving. [Suddenly there is the sound of someone falling, and eyes looking at Harry turn around.]

George Hudson: It's Lord Cudden Careyless on the ground. Did he fall or was he pushed? Em, we have Rowanov Treetri nearby, Rev. Eric Clapton, some more folks from Chad...

Cudden Careyless: I swear I was hit from behind on the back of my head.

George Hudson: Did anyone see anything?

Rachel Marsovenus and Jade Stowaway: [Approaching quickly and saying together] Lord Careyless, Lord Careyless, are you not well?

Cudden Careyless: If my son was here!

Rowanov Treetri: I have to say that if I saw anything I perceived nothing in that it is most unusual to see and understand anything like this actually happening. The narrative lacks coherent plausibility.

George Hudson: Anyone else see anything?

Eric Clapton: I had my eyes closed.

Cudden Careyless: [Getting up] Perhaps I should call the police. At least these two women have their hearts in the right place but please move away.

Flora Faunamor: No one perceived anything, and what no one can back up means there's no evidence. Hey that lipstick - I wouldn't mind using that.

Rachel Marsovenus: Look it's this, in my bag.

Cudden Careyless: It just shows the lack of moral standards today and here are people hiding their honesty. I'd expect this behaviour of certain Americans but not here.

Animal Lindsey: [From a distance] Well, situations are ethical, and ethics are situational, and I'm sure where his good Lordship is concerned it is very difficult to make a mowal judgement in his favour.

Cudden Careyless: Perhaps if I can find someone to talk to, I might be more protected. At least he or she would see behind me.

Rachel Marsovenus: It's really really exciting to meet you Lord Careyless. Perhaps we can talk about your theological outlook?

Cudden Careyless: No I really can't be bothered. Who else is there?

George Hudson: Sure you were hit? You cudden have had a fit or something?

Cudden Careyless: I am quite sure. The only fit I'll have is the one following the contempt shown to figures of authority like myself when we are only standing up for traditional values. Ken Beans, there, can we talk? You are probably more my kind of man. How will you manage the loss of Bradford after your appointment?

Peter Levite: I think everyone is here now. Are you all right?

Lesley Bloke: I'm fine. I've hardly slept. I've had travel and different kinds of meetings.

Peter Levite: Well it's great that you have come up to these parts again.

Lesley Bloke: Harry showed me his chapel yesterday evening and then a bunch of us came back here. Very modern, very new, warm. New sound system, though we put that off.

Harry Tickpaper: Well we'll go back again today because I'll show Stephen Preson, Mel Pritstick, Cornelius Istreeman and Arthur Francis the sound, and Sammy Kwava should be impressed I reckon.

Lesley Bloke: He's a proper church DJ, he is, and definitely knows when to open the drawers of his double CD player. You put your stuff in and you've got the plugs and it's sweet music all around.

Arthur Francis: Did I hear my name?

Harry Tickpaper: Yeah, how's the old gardening going on?

Arthur Francis: Pretty cold this time of year.

Harry Tickpaper: Lesley, he's the gardener I told you about, who was on telly.

Lesley Bloke: You've got your clothes on now I seem to notice. I can tell the difference.

Arthur Francis: Yeah, most of the time.

John Sendmehome: Hello. A new survey said women are more comfortable undressing in front of other men than in front of other women. They say that women are too judgemental whereas men are just grateful.

Lesley Bloke: OK, yeah. Different people, your associates.

Harry Tickpaper: I like Arthur; it was stupid the way people reacted after that programme was aired. This is what I meant; supposed to be progressive but what happens. You may as well know.

Lesley Bloke: Prejudice must be everywhere.

Eric Clapton: Have a word?

Harry Tickpaper: Yes, meet my one time pastor.

John Sendmehome: Before you do. Two intellectual nudists were talking and one asks the other, 'Have you read Marx? And the other replies, 'Yes it's the wicker chairs.'

Lesley Bloke: Why do men and women go to nudist resorts? To air their differences.

John Sendmehome: Oh I'll leave you to it. No I won't. A little girl at the nudist beach says, 'Mummy, why have some ladies got bigger boobies than you?' And she says, 'Because they are more stupid.' 'And mummy,' the girl went on, 'why have some men people got bigger thingies than daddy?' So mummy said, 'Because they are more stupid too.' So the girl said, 'Well mummy, daddy is over there talking to the most stupidest person on the beach and now he is getting ever so more stupid.' Yeah? Bye. See if any one else laughs at my jokes.

Eric Clapton: Come over here Harry a second and tell us what's going on. Just me you know. [Lesley Bloke stands on her own].

Peter Levite: Ladies and gentlemen, and listeners, and the little boy. I do thank you for all coming. Just to say that Nicky Okoh down in Pokey Poko Nigeria sends his apologies as his plane cannot land in the snow.

Anthony Wedgewood Bigg: Most regrettable. What a waste of my time coming here. I was going to ask him to start ordaining some of our people from our theological colleges.

Peter Levite: Radio Chadderbox has not being going for long. Named after one of our regional saints and consequently one of our towns, we try to bring you some diverse programming and this includes the religion slot. We are criticised for being Anglican biased but that's the media for you and who knows what happens in the Methodists or URC.

Lynn Shea-Doyle: Well I was a Methodist once. They are now mired in anti-Israeli controversy, and also about a President and Vice-President once talking as if the whole denomination was about to throw in the towel.

Rowanov Treetri: Well I do believe that we heard a quite generous ecumenical offer in that Synod, whatever the practical difficulties of following such a process through, and we ought to respond with full Christian charity to the potential closure notice on the Methodist Church in Great Britain, even if that comes at the risk of small breakaways, and, after all, we have not learnt only a little about Covenants from the experience that the Methodist Church has maintained each year and actively renews, unless of course they do decide to make a full and comprehensive offer one day to the Church in England.

Carrie Rabbit: Except more of us are ignoring the invitation to attend the Covenant Service, even as an ecumenical gesture. Where's the ritual?

Peter Levite: Well I just want to say thanks to everyone gathered for supporting the station and here we have the best wishes for the season. In turn we do try to throw some light on the issues concerning you people.

Graham Monarch: Could I suggest, given that this is a gathering largely speaking of Christians, that I say a prayer? Well I will anyway. Yes I know there are Unitarians present so I'll be generous and open. Father God, most precious Trinity of you, your Son and the Spirit, with angels descending, with only hints of subordination of your divine Son to yourself: you have sung to us creation's story and sent your Messiah to be among us. Shepherds, the lowest among us, were your witnesses as we are all your witnesses still to this day of this breaking through into history. Let our brighter visions beam afar, in witness of he that was born, and died, and resurrected, and ascended, and let us be guided by the Spirit that you and the Son sent. We say all this through Jesus Christ Our Lord, Amen. There we are: N. T., I thought it was right to do that. I'm a bishop now and this is what I should do.

New Testament Wrong: Good one.

Cudden Careyless: I think you should have asked me to lead such worship.

Harry Tickpaper: [Nearby] Sounds like divine congestion to me.

Eric Clapton: Could do with a spot of real absence.

New Testament Wrong: It might not be strictly biblical but it is justified biblically: your so-called divine congestion is properly proto-orthodox and can surely be found through the techniques of apologetic biblical criticism.

Anthony Wedgewood Bigg: I hear increasing revisionism from too close a distance.

Lesley Bloke: I'd rather pray as you go.

John Sackme: I'm sorry I'm late everyone but I've just come in from providing air cover in the sense of doing prayer outdoors. People have had fewer accidents in recent years, and some years back I thought I'd bless some gritting vehicles for the region. How essential this is this year! I am a bishop for a little longer and this is what I do.

Anthony Wedgewood Bigg: It gets worse.

Harry Tickpaper: [Just returned from Eric Clapton] Lesley, come and meet Animal Lindsey. Hello Animal, this is Lesley Bloke.

Animal Lindsey: Oh dear oh dear. What passes for liturgy today. Did you hear those! Harry indeed, and your friend. Yes, we have never met, Lesley, but I feel I know so much about you already. [Lighting his pipe] You see, yes, my friend here: First an agnostic, then an Anglican, then a Unitarian, then an Anglican, then a Unitarian.

Harry Tickpaper: You're missing out the Western Buddhism and much nothingism.

Animal Lindsey: Oh, I can't keep up. Did you ever find a decent denomination, Harry? That's what I want to know.

Harry Tickpaper: I float. But what about your friend at Winchester?

Animal Lindsey: Well, humm. [Puffs his pipe] You are such a free spirit, and you Lesley too from what I read but, you notice, I never comment.

Harry Tickpaper: About your friend, and where you get some of your books published. An Archbishop, no less. I'm talking about you and your contacts.

Animal Lindsey: Well I know. A woman Archbishop too: amazing isn't it.

Rachel Marsovenus: Did I hear someone mention a woman Archbishop? Jade, over here, this is electric.

Harry Tickpaper: There's also a woman bishop in Yorkshire in the recently revived Liberal Catholic Apostolic Church, and there's that woman bishop in Wales and in the south of England in the Open Episcopal Church.

Animal Lindsey: And I thought, well, just as Liz doesn't talk any more about lesbian and gay wights, I should stop talking about animal wights, and say instead cweaturely theos wights, for that's what we all are, human and beast.

Rachel Marsovenus: Jade, give me my notebook.

Lesley Bloke: My, my head; and my bones are aching. But, er, you could then combine her holism for people and yours for creatures: really holistic and really inclusive.

Animal Lindsey: Absolutely. You see, Lesley Bloke, reading all about you, we just have to say of the utter tagedy that people who we thought were minor bumps on the Christian landscape are now in the driving seat. And this Archbishop - no, not the comedian - he is just with his foot on the bloody accelerator all the time and heading stwaight for the wall.

Peter Levite: Please, we are transmitting these conversations - can you not swear.

Animal Lindsey: Goodness me, Big Brother at the party. Are you not well Lesley?

Lesley Bloke: Just shagged out from yesterday.

Harry Tickpaper: You don't fancy joining Liz Leadbeater, Animal? After all, you pay your own way.

Animal Lindsey: On what little I have. But then would one still be able to convince the largest Church in the country to change its ways if one has moved to one side?

Lesley Bloke: That's the issue isn't it.

Harry Tickpaper: What about the legacy of Theosophy and all that, a different culture even among a tiny handful. Some have that, some don't.

Jade Stowaway: Rachel, put the notebook away. It's Episcopi Vagantes.

Peter Levite: Can I ask you all to mind your language?

Lesley Bloke: Harry and Animal, listen, that is the issue. Even if you become priest in Little Piddle cum Pisswater you can at least address the wider constituency.

Peter Levite: Can I remind you yet again?

Harry Tickpaper: Doesn't make any difference any more. All the ponds are small.

Lesley Bloke: So then you move to a very tiny pond, hardly even a puddle.

Harry Tickpaper: But we address the wider world still; same World Wide Web.

Animal Lindsey: Well I wish you both the best and to you Lesley my newly discovered friend.

Lesley Bloke: [Both moving from Animal Lindsey] Isn't he profound?

Harry Tickpaper: Yeah, made a stance. Anti-Covenant, like you.

John Sendmehome: I heard someone was using bad language. A man was fed up with his neighbour's young cat soiling his garden and went to see his unbelieving neighbour who said, 'Don't push it.'

George Hudson: Ladies and gentlemen our broadcast is coming to an end. You can still mill around a bit in the William Thomas Ford, but thanks for coming. I am the weatherman around here and I ought to suggest you leave earlier than later and leave plenty of time for your travels. It is snowing quite heavily out there and I've a train to catch myself. So bye everyone!

Harry Tickpaper: Unitarians from Wakefield and Bradford. Can we all go to see the new sound system at the Wykkyfish chapel?

Lesley Bloke: Harry, after you've done that can we go off?

Harry Tickpaper: That's the idea.

Lara Crofter: You're an interesting lady, Lesley Bloke.

Peter Levite: Lara, we've stopped broadcasting.

Anthony Wedgewood Bigg: [Approaching and putting himself in front of Lesley Bloke] Ah, you are the well known Lesley Bloke. [Speaking slowly] Can I ask you to read your Bible please and then ask, after you have absorbed every relevant sentence, whether there is any headship at all regarding the teaching ministry of a woman other than to other women and children?

Harry Tickpaper: [From the side] Oy. You. Fuck off. See that chair over there? Go back and sit in it and keep your entryism to yourself. Now. Hia, Mel, and Stephen and his boy, and Arthur and Cornelius and Sammy - you all coming?

Lesley Bloke: Harry, just move aside a minute. Let's get something straight, Harry. I fight my own battles. OK. We might think Bishop Bigg is a bigot, but I'll tell him if I think it.

Harry Tickpaper: Yes, understood.

Celia Dunham-Skipton: Er we'll be off. Nice to meet you Lesley Bloke, and perhaps hear from you again.

Colin Shaw: You're well progressive and you'll make advances.

Samuel Kwava: Thank you Hugh, most most interesting. Pity time wasn't more andante.

Cornelius Istreeman: And a most enjoyable occasion I must say. The Archbishop's wife was most articulate.

Lesley Bloke: And then after this second chapel visit I need to relax.

Harry Tickpaper: Understood.

Lesley Bloke: Good. Keep it sweet and you won't go wrong.

Harry Tickpaper: No.

Rachel Marsovenus: Jade, do you think we won anyone over to the Gospel today? It would be so great if we did.

Jade Stowaway: It was a very strange gathering. I think I'll be better off in London.

Rachel Marsovenus: I'm so jealous.

Lara Crofter: Are you sure we're not recording, Peter? It's only just now coming up to the hour. That other clock, that's fast. It's not like we're in the studio is it?

Peter Levite: I think we ought to have that clock... [Radio Chadderbox jingle]