Sunday, 2 November 2014

Jesus n Jazz

Last week I had the privilege of speaking at Catalyst Live the rather splendid theological lovechild of Ted and BMS World Mission.  A number of people asked for the text of my talk so I've done the usual and stuck it up on Scribd.  If you are interested please help yourself.

Quite a lot of material was left on the cutting room floor this time round so I'm thinking I might sweep up some of the best bits and turn 'em into posts on this 'ere blog.  So dig out your breath bate and watch this space.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Why I Am Glad My Wife and Daughter Are On Strike

My wife and my daughter are both teachers. They are on strike.

They are striking because:
  1. The current secretary of state for education utterly disregards the professional opinion of frontline teachers.
  2. The current secretary of state is introducing ill-informed ideologically motivated changes that have succeeded in alienating the vast majority of the profession to an unprecedented extent.
  3. They have not had a pay rise in three years.
  4. They are due just 1% pay rise this year.
  5. The government says they will not receive a real terms increase until 2016 at the earliest.
  6. Their pensions are being severely cut back.
  7. The prime minister whose party failed to get a majority vote four years ago is threatening to introduce minimum turnout ballots for strike action.
Both my wife and my daughter are dedicated, caring and skilful professionals doing arguably one the most important jobs there is. They typically work 10 to 11 hour days. They also work at weekends and during their holidays. Every week they buy resources for classroom teaching out of their own pockets without being able to claim expenses. It is a regular occurrence for my wife (who specialises in teaching children with autism) to be physically attacked.

If we value our country and our future as a society we must value our children. If we value our children we must value their education. If we value their education we must value the most important contributors to that education. This government patently does not.

I know that some in the private sector have also seen a deterioration in their remuneration and working conditions. This is no reason to criticise teachers for their action unless of course we want to encourage a race to the bottom for everyone other than the powerful and further widen the shameful and damaging gap between rich and poor. Yes I know teachers are not poor but many who will be striking today alongside them are.

The Labour Party is pathetically sitting on the fence. Teachers and others are left with little option but to strike. If they don’t no one will notice, nothing will be done, our education system and public service in general will continue to suffer and our country will have to face serious consequences.

Not only do I support the action that my wife and my daughter are taking. I am proud of them.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Two Sermons on The Wedding at Cana

As is my custom, if someone asks for copies of my sermon notes I stick em up on my Scribd page, just in case anyone else might want to go get 'em.  This weekend I preached two different sermons from the same passage.  Yesterday was the ordination service of one of our students, John Thompson, at Princes Drive Baptist Church in Colwyn Bay.  We read John 2:1-11, the wedding at Cana, and I used the the story to highlight lessons about the nature of ministry.  This morning I was preaching at my own church, Chorlton Central in Manchester and read a scripted imaginative retelling of the same story, from the perspective of watching angels.  Anyhow, as I said, if you want the notes pop across to Scribd and help yourself.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Kitsch Jesus in the Smelly City

Back in the day I posted a blog about meeting God on Market Street in Manchester. That encounter prompted me to develop some material on Urban Spirituality for our MA course on Spirituality in Contemporary Culture.  This in turn spawned a framework for a half-day city centre retreat which has been taken up by friends and students for use in Prague, Stockholm and Birmingham.

This week here at Luther King House we've been teaching the Spirituality module on our MA Summer School.  We ran the city centre retreat again.  It got lots of positive feedback from the students.  It also gifted me with another unexpected encounter with Jesus.

I wasn't actually doing the retreat myself this time but I was in the city, buying bread and wine for the communion on the street that would round off the day.  I was making my way through the Northern Quarter on my way to Methodist Central Hall for our retreat debrief when God's Spirit beckoned me into a seedy night club back entrance.  I like to use back streets whenever I can.  It makes walking more of an adventure.  I'm not sure what The Spirit used to grab my attention, in fact I haven't a clue, but I found myself walking over to take a peek.

And there, in a stinking, piss-soaked door-well was Jesus.  (Apologies if the word piss upsets you, I don't mean to offend, it's just that neither wee nor urine are quite up to the job.)

I realise this is a rather kitsch Jesus, but I was in the Northern Quarter where they do kitsch rather well.  So it sort of fit.  It also fit because it seems to me it's just the kind of place you'd expect to see Jesus.  Or at least the kind of place where you ought to expect him.   How fitting too that he'd been defaced.  They'd scrubbed out the word love.  Or at least they'd tried to.  True the letters had been erased but the word's still there don't you think?  Again, it's the only word that really fits.

... he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account.
Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.
Lord, we pray for all who use that door-way.  And we pray for ourselves. Please beckon us into uninviting places.  Meet us there and open our eyes.  And if need be our nostrils.  Amen

Sunday, 16 June 2013

In Memory of my Dad on Fathers Day

Kick Off

September fresh we start anew, by early autumn nipped to ruddy life.
New season’s paint has reddened smooth my fragrant iron resting place.
The terrace choir’s achant, brown baritone and tenor bright
as holy Bruno climbs from briar censers and Bovril salts my tongue.

And there you stand,
Brylcream slick and shiny shoed,
your china blues ablaze,
your Woodbine-yellowed fingers, shoveled thick and calloused kind
holding me.

And I, thrilled by bigness smalling me, otherness calling me,
Gifted, belonging and beckoned on, I know
from you I will not run for fancied wealth to slops
nor break my bonds for freedom-false but rest
and thrill at what will one day be.

Then as pigeons flap from floodlight frame and haloed, hover,  
echoes down the years:
“This is my beloved
in whom I am,
in whom I am well,
in whom I am, well, pleased.”

Just in case you are interested there's an annotated version on my Scribd page.  You know, like the ones you can buy for Shakespeare, Plath and Hopkins ;-)

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Exploring Contemporary Spirituality - Theology Summer School at Luther King House

This is coming up soon.  Places are filling up quickly.  Still a few slots left.  To book by email click here

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Dave Egerton Band 30th Anniversay Concert

Wow!  This is bound to be good.  Look!  It's in neon and everything!