Friday, 25 April 2008

Hard to believe but gloriously true

I occasionally get angry. It happens mainly when people who are supposed to be providing a service for which I am paying don't give a toss. It's even worse when I am at their mercy because I know absolutely nothing about the service they are providing. Think cars, think sales, think repairs think MOT's.

So when I actually come across a competent, honest, good-hearted mechanic I become disproportionately delirious. When I have two such experiences in the space of two days it almost qualifies as a spiritual experience.

Let's hear it then for David Walker of Chorlton Auto-leisure, in fact forget the applause - just go and buy a camper van from him. Took mine in today to ask some advice about a malfunctioning water pump. Dave dropped what he was doing, spent 30 mins squirming around with a spanner chatting over his shoulder and hey-presto a working pump - all free of charge (no matter how hard I tried cross his palm with silver). I though he was a nice, trustworthy bloke when I bought the van a year ago, now I know it for a fact. His joint is anything but flash but he's a real diamond.

Let's hear it too for the guys at MES Garage in Rusholme. Needed an MOT on the car and they are just round the corner from work so thought I'd give 'em a go. Frankly their workshop looks a bit of a dive but they are convenient. They are also dead good - quick, reliable, friendly, good value and what's more they had a spare 20 minutes so they washed the car for me as well! No mean feat that, given the state I let my car get into.

I just wish this blog was a bigger deal than it is so Dave and the guys at MES could get the publicity they deserve.


Just got back from seeing Happy-Go-Lucky. I guess like many I others I was curious to see if Mike Leigh could do happy.

We know he has a gift for getting top notch performances from his cast; so no surprise that the acting was impressive, notably Sally Hawkins as the central character, Poppy, and especially Eddie Marsan as Scott, the driving instructor-cum-human volcano. We know he is adept at laying bare the aching heart of the family and sure enough there’s a top notch set piece at Poppy’s sister’s place. But can he do happy?

Well we are offered a series of convincing vignettes as happy meets angry, happy meets sad and happy meets desolate. We also get a sprinkling of funny and a consistent strand of warmth.

So yes, in the end I came away convinced, Mike Leigh can do happy. But I also came away disappointed. I can cope perfectly well with no story but character studies alone aren’t enough, not unless they have something worthwhile to say or some new insight to reveal. Happy-Go-Lucky has neither. It’s engaging and humane but its also ultimately rather trivial. So Mike Leigh can do happy, but so what? Give me Vera Drake any day of the week.

This Week's Poll 25/4/08

If you want to do more than just click, comment on this post. Just spotted the missing "y" but can't edit a poll once someone's voted.

Previous poll: Is it a good thing that the Olympics will be held in China?

7 votes yes =4, no =3. One more vote I vote yes - see Tim's comments.

Leading Women

The Baptist Union of Great Britain has as a declared element of its overall strategy the aim of increasing the number of women ministers who serve our churches. This won't happen without some major readjustment of attitudes and allocation of resources. Northern Baptist College (where I teach) has long been committed to encouraging and enabling women who wish to enter Baptist ministry, but in the last 2-3 years we have found that the number of women who even get as far as applying to College has been falling.

To this end we are hosting an event for women who want to explore the nature of God's call upon their lives. Entitled "Leading Women: Exploring Women's Ministries" it is aimed at women in Baptist churches who want to find out more about the opportunities that are available to them in ministries both ordained and lay and the possible training routes that the College provides. The event will be held on November 15th 2008 from 10.00 a.m. - 1.00 p.m. at Luther King House, and a creche will be provide for children under 5.

For those who can, we ask you to publicize this event as widely as possible.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Evangelism After Christendom

This is the book that got me blogging again. I'm probably going to do two or three posts on it. Not so much reviews as appetite-whetters. I hope. Here's the first.

I knew this was going to be one of those books that would do it for me. I got through it really quickly even though I kept re-reading bits just to make sure I’d got it right. My wife also knew it was going to be one of those books. She was doing her own reading but I kept on interrupting her saying, “This is great; this bloke knows how to write.” She’s very patient my wife.

Here's why Evangelism After Christendom does it for me
• It echoes much that I have felt and said for a while now. For instance: we need to re-imagine evangelism because it has become a dirty word, not only for those beyond the church but also for those within; we need to question the dominant strategy of translating our message into terms that will appeal to the world, paying more attention instead to cultivating the practice of hospitality so as to create space for people to learn the language of the gospel; the gospel is not primarily a product to be sold.
• It says what I would have loved to have said but with an insight, clarity and authority of which I am incapable. It is full of elegant, well turned phrases. There are passages on virtually every page that I want to read out loud to people.
• It takes evangelism seriously, practically seriously and - all too rare this - theologically seriously.
• It avoids the classic modernist accommodation of both evangelicalism and liberalism.
• It resonates with much that I have found helpful in the writings of Walter Brueggemann and others who have been influenced by postliberalism and radical orthodoxy
• It takes church seriously at a time when many serious disciples are so frustrated with the church that they are tempted to abandon it.
• When I put the book down my overwhelming feeling was not that I had learned some helpful stuff but rather that I had been challenged to live a holier life. Not so much “Do I know how to evangelise?” as “Am I really prepared to try and live like Christian?”

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Half-Hearted Retreating

Just about to head off for our annual staff student retreat. They are usually good things. We get to spend some open time together, hear from leaving students and then pray for each other. But we are also supposed to be retreating. This never quite works for me. I usually end up reading, sleeping or listening to music. I do pray a bit. But not much. Thing is I find most retreats a bit disappointing. They tend not to do it for me. I rarely feel I connect with God in any way different to when I'm at home about my usual routine. My sax teacher reckons it's cos most retreats I go on are too short. I think he has a point.

He was telling me last night that he's been in touch with a Zen master ( my sax teacher's not a Baptist) who reckons he too is due a retreat. We put the Route 66 improv on one side for a while and talked about retreats. He reckons that for him (and many others) the retreat thing only really kicks in round about the third day. Most of my retreats are done by day three.

I'm sure that's partly why holidays tend to do it more for me than retreats. I hardly ever come back from a week or two away without some new insight or fresh excitement. Even when I'm not hunting them down they tend to sneak up on me just because I've taken the trouble to stop long enough for the voices to cease babbling.

Conclusion? This God thing takes time. I for one need to give it bit more. But what to stop?

Hello Again

Easter's past and I'm back from the dead. (Inflated ego me? What do you mean?) Been silent for five weeks now. I did think of claiming it was a lent thing that was so spiritually moving that I just got carried up up and away but some people who read this actually know me. I could do the usual dreary thing and say I've been too busy. Truth is I've just not felt like it. For some reason watching Grand Designs (again) and QI (again) were more appealing.

What caused me to get back in touch with my inner geek and venture once more Neo-like (there goes the ego again) into cyber -world? All sorts of stuff but mainly the fact that I read a book that think deserves a hearty plug. Review-type post coming soon. (I am taking my time cos I want to do it justice.)

This Week's Poll 8/04/08

If you want to do more than just click, comment on this post

Last Month's (!) Poll: Are there any good ethical reasons NOT to be vegetarian 7 votes in total, 6 yes, 1 no. One more vote, I vote no. Or at least I can't think of any. I can think of lots of reasons why I am not a vegetarian, but none of them are good and none are ethical. They are more a matter of the flesh.