Thursday, 31 December 2009


2009 has not been the best for me. I guess it all started with the gable end of a tenement building coming through the roof of the church, demolishing my office in the process. However, that was sorted before the big hassles of the year started. It became apparent that dad could no longer live alone after hospitalisation in early April. We nearly lost him then, but he eventually pulled through. Then to find a Care Home. It's been a dreadful process, but at least he is happier now, having moved into a new place just before Christmas. He has been so unhappy and extremely difficult since May, but we have high hopes that 2010 will be better for him.

It was a year, too, when I publicly expressed my fears over sectarian marches of any variety, and I paid the price for that in many ways. I would be disinclined to mention the subject publicly again, and that's a shame. The reaction, and the pain and aggro that followed just wasn't worth it.

However, we managed to build a new Community Hall beside the church, and that was an achievement. The new place is all ready to take off in the New Year, and we'll be moving to a new Rectory at the end of January too.

Archie, the Special One, arrived to be part of the family and sometimes I wonder if he is a blessing or a weight around our necks. Then he looks at me as only a Golden Retriever can and my heart melts!

So we go into the new year with high hopes and lots of expectation! Looking back I can see that "Emmanuel", the Christmas message, is very true. God has indeed been with us, and for that I'm grateful!

Good Luck Gerry Britton

As a PTN supporter, I'm wishing one of my heroes well today. Gerry was far too bright to be a footballer and is a qualified lawyer. He leaves wonderful memories!

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Wonderful Sights

There has been some awesome pics from all over Scotland during this cold snap, but my favourite today is from Big Rab who gives us this one of Dumbarton Rock and the River Leven this morning!

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Dad on Christmas Day.

New bunnet, and a happy attitude! Freedom!

Monday, 28 December 2009

A Sermon a la Madpriest

I do not know from where this sermon has come from, except to say that very few people have actually seen MadPriest, and he never publishes photos of himself! Could this be him????

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Poppy makes a Christmas Day Debut..

Poppy came for Christmas Dinner and Archie almost made her Christmas Dinner! She just loved the RW and of course, Peanut was very interested in something smaller than her!

All is Well

Christmas Day and Christmas dinner, with dad, passed as well as we could have hoped for. There were no scenes, no tears, no tantrums or angry outbursts, and at the end he went back home like a lamb. Despite our fears it was a fairly pleasant day!

It was "cherry on top" time, too, when one of the senior workers from the home phoned at 9pm to say that she thought I could do with a bit of reaasurance, and that since the horrible assessment meeting, dad has calmed down greatly and looks as if he is going to settle and be kept on after the four week trial period. This is an outcome beyond my wildest dreams, and it was really thoughtful of her to phone. She just said that she had felt so sorry for me after the assessment meeting and wanted to pass on good news rather than me just hearing all the negatives.

There will be a psychiatric assessment early in the New Year, and his medication will be reviewed then. Anything that will lessen the horrendous mood swings will be accepted gratefully by all the family.

Thanks, good folk, for your prayers through this time. Greatly appreciated!

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Dad at Christmas

After a lot of thought and a wee bit of prayer too, it's been decided to have dad for dinner tomorrow. Just dinner, without too much alcohol. The thought of leaving him in the home on Christmas Day was too much for us, and we'll take the consequences, and just hope that he'll go back quietly!

Happy Christmas to you all!

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

What Every Rectory Dog Wants

In case you are stuck for ideas, Archie, Toastie and Peanut suggest you look here.

Blackberry Blues

Only weeks into being a committed Blackberry user the phone part of it has "broken" and O2 are telling me the handset has a fault. It's not under any guarantee, so it's back to the old Motorola today. Feeling really cheesed off with that!

Still haven't written lots of my Christmas cards yet. Must do this afternoon, in the midst of the RW trying to bath three dogs and a cat.... and the snow is tumbling down!

Continuing Saga

Dad moved into his new Retirement Home on Friday, but has been causing lots of problems since. Today, at a Social work assessment I was made aware that this was a four-week trial and things were not looking good. He's been aggressive, insulting and downright nasty to staff and clients, although at times his good side is still shining through. It really is the dementia. My dad was never like this, and I'm close to total despair at the moment.

Where he goes from here I don't know, although he's made it very clear that I should be having him to stay at the Rectory and I should be looking after him. We just couldn't cope.

Staff are saying that he will become more unsettled if we take him to the Rectory for Christmas dinner, but I don't know if I could live with myself if he wasn't here.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Moving On

Dad has been in a Care Home for about six months now, and in a place which he hated with a vengeance. In his mind he should still be allowed the freedom to come and go as he pleases and live independently, although these days are long gone now. However, the place he has been living is more than a tad depressing for someone like him who, for a good part of the time, is active on his feet and is able to have a reasonably sensible conversation. The good times are really good, but the bad times are dreadful for everyone.

Social Services had to intervene when he became quite suicidal at times and his frustration was being expressed with some fairly violent outbursts. He had high hopes of moving into the ex-servicemen's place at Erskine, but they eventually decided he wouldn't fit in there and we had to look elsewhere. After weeks of  messing around Social Work have finally found him a new place in a Council run home in Dalmuir. I move him in tomorrow, and wonder how long it will be before he is desperately unhappy again. He's basically been so angry since my mum died ten years ago. That wasn't how it was supposed to be, and really, he's been wanting to die for all that time. However, some better stimulation may lift him out of the pit for a wee while at least.

So, prayers please, that he'll be happier and more content in this new setting. It would be the greatest Christmas Blessing that our family could wish for.

If Jesus Came today

A Real Letter - Honest!


Rt Hon David Miliband MP
Secretary of State.
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA),
Nobel House
17 Smith Square

16 July 2009

Dear Secretary of State,

My friend, who is in farming at the moment, recently received a cheque for £3,000 from the Rural Payments Agency for not rearing pigs.. I would now like to join the "not rearing pigs" business.

In your opinion, what is the best kind of farm not to rear pigs on, and which is the best breed of pigs not to rear? I want to be sure I approach this endeavour in keeping with all government policies, as dictated by the EU under the Common Agricultural Policy.

I would prefer not to rear bacon pigs, but if this is not the type you want not rearing, I will just as gladly not rear porkers. Are there any advantages in not rearing rare breeds such as Saddlebacks or Gloucester Old Spots, or are there too many people already not rearing these?

As I see it, the hardest part of this programme will be keeping an accurate record of how many pigs I haven't reared. Are there any Government or Local Authority courses on this?

My friend is very satisfied with this business. He has been rearing pigs for forty years or so, and the best he ever made on them was £1,422 in 1968. That is - until this year, when he received a cheque for not rearing any.

If I get £3,000 for not rearing 50 pigs, will I get £6,000 for not rearing 100? I plan to operate on a small scale at first, holding myself down to about 4,000 pigs not raised, which will mean about £240,000 for the first year. As I become more expert in not rearing pigs, I plan to be more ambitious, perhaps increasing to, say, 40,000 pigs not reared in my second year, for which I should expect about £2.4 million from your department. Incidentally, I wonder if I would be eligible to receive tradable carbon credits for all these pigs not producing harmful and polluting methane gases?

Another point: These pigs that I plan not to rear will not eat 2,000 tonnes of cereals. I understand that you also pay farmers for not growing crops. Will I qualify for payments for not growing cereals to not feed the pigs I don't rear?

I am also considering the "not milking cows" business, so please send any information you have on that too. Please could you also include the current Defra advice on set aside fields? Can this be done on an e-commerce basis with virtual fields (of which I seem to have several thousand hectares)?

In view of the above you will realise that I will be totally unemployed, and will therefore qualify for unemployment benefits. I shall of course be voting for your party at the next general election.

Yours faithfully,

Nigel Johnson-Hill

We Were Most Amused

Blethers pointed this blog to this clip which, for those who teach in Scotland, may hold special interest!

Monday, 14 December 2009

Well, well, well!

Visit to the cardiologist this afternoon saw me being discharged from his clinic. Although my heart is still in AF, so is ten percent of the population, and at least I'm down to a normal rate, ie about 60bpm. So, I'm happy about that, although not so happy to be told to cut out the caffeine! At 10 mugs per day that's a lot of cutting down, but I know it makes sense.

The old smoking issue was not discussed in any depth except to acknowledge that I was still smoking. It's something I will need to cut down or cut out. Financially, at least, it's fair crippling me these days! Maybe after the house move in January.................?

Early Christmas Pressie

Just thought I'd mention the phrase "Partick Thistle Five". It sounds so good, especially when you put "Airdrie Two" just before it!!

New Family Addition

My son has just got himself a King Charles/Cavalier puppy, a relative for Toastie and Peanut, and she's a beauty. Meet Poppy....

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Candidates for the Glasgow & Galloway Election

It has been an honour, and extremely hard work, to be part of the Preparatory Committee tasked with finding suitable candidates for the Electoral Synod of the Diocese to choose from. Canon 4, in practice, gives this Committee a huge burden, but a humbling one, and it is with a feeling of deep gratitude that the job is done, and I was a small part of it.

The candidates can be seen here.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

If Only the Vicar were Here

I remember my folk singing days well! Give me a guitar, and I'd have a three chord bash at anything! This was a long time ago, as those who have listened to me trying to play recently will testify to, but I was passable, and with a now infamous Canon of the SEC, sang in a duo for a month in England for free drinks!

One song which was a favourite of mine I remember as being rather funny, with a catalogue of disasters visiting the average congregation. However, the chorus was full of hope:

"If only the Vicar were here,
If only the Vicar were here,
He'd know what to do,
Yes, he'd pull us through,
If only the Vicar were here!"

(These were days long before the ordination of women!)

The concept was basic. Whatever befell the parish, the Vicar would sort it. The ordained would settle arguments, clear drains, organise a rota, or form a committee.

In many ways these days are gone, and folk now in our congregations assume responsibility. After all, it's their parish, and they will be left long after the clergyperson has departed from their midst. In fact, many congregations have to take the responsibility because they only "own" a little bit of the stipendiary priest, sharing that priest with other congregations, or have a non-stipendiary who has a full-time job too.

However, when things go wrong, it's nice to have someone through whom grumbles can be channelled!

We're short of a Property Convenor at the moment, in St Aug's, which means that I'm taking this stuff on board at a bad time too! The New Hall is one major headache. Moving into a newly completed, or nearly completed building is always a headache with snagging to be done. Snagging is the big list of little things that are not "quite right" and need to be sorted. I think I can handle the snagging! The issues aren't big and are soon sorted out, usually.

However, there are a handful of issues in the New Hall that go far beyond the "snagging", and the builders are being incredibly slow, or incredibly unhelpful, in sorting them out. A kitchen window, the mechanism of which is clearly broken has been on the list for nearly 6 weeks now. The dishwasher can't drain because of the way the plumbing has been put in. (6 weeks for this, too) The wooden cladding has still to be bolted on to the exterior. This was started just yesterday and is a rather big and important job.

Meanwhile, yes I can't believe it either, the final bill has come in from the builders now we have completion!

However, I've left the best until last! The roof is leaking like a sieve and the joiner has sorted this by drilling two holes in the ceiling to let the water through. The roofers blame the builders and vice-versa.

If only the Vicar were here.......

Monday, 30 November 2009

Moving Home

It's a long tale really, but the Rectory here has never been up to Provincial or Diocesan standards for a Rectory, and is hopeless and hellish for a priest to work from, having no really practical study space. It would be hopeless, too, for a family to live in.

Last week this property came on the market and we cheekily put in an offer for £175k. It was accepted, and the Estate Agent has valued the current house to be much on a par, if not slightly more expensive than the 
repossession we are buying! So..... moving house at the end of January! And I get a study too!

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Just a Thought

I paraphrase a little from a quote from Lay Clerk as I ponder the building of our new hall:

Ninety Percent Rule of Project Schedules:
The first ninety percent of the task takes ten percent of the time, and the last ten percent takes the other ninety percent.

Elfin Safety

Thanks to Lay Clerk, we can provide the following comment as we go into the Season anticipating Christmas!

The Rocking Song

Little Jesus, sweetly sleep, do not stir;
We will lend a coat of fur,
We will rock you, rock you, rock you,
We will rock you, rock you, rock you:

Fur is no longer appropriate wear for small infants, both due to risk of allergy to animal fur, and for ethical reasons. Therefore faux fur, a nice cellular blanket or perhaps micro-fleece material should be considered a suitable alternative.

Please note, only persons who have been subject to a Criminal Records Bureau check and have enhanced clearance will be permitted to rock baby Jesus. Persons must carry their CRB disclosure with them at all times and be prepared to provide three forms of identification before rocking commences.

Jingle Bells

Dashing through the snow
In a one horse open sleigh
O'er the fields we go
Laughing all the way

A risk assessment must be submitted before an open sleigh is considered safe for members of the public to travel on. The risk assessment must also consider whether it is appropriate to use only one horse for such a venture, particularly if passengers are of larger proportions. Please note, permission must be gained from landowners before entering their fields. To avoid offending those not participating in celebrations, we would request that laughter is moderate only and not loud enough to be considered a noise nuisance.

While Shepherds Watched

While shepherds watched their flocks by night
All seated on the ground
The angel of the Lord came down
And glory shone around

The union of Shepherds has complained that it breaches health and safety regulations to insist that shepherds watch their flocks without appropriate seating arrangements being provided, therefore benches, stools and orthopaedic chairs are now available. Shepherds have also requested that due to the inclement weather conditions at this time of year that they should watch their flocks via cctv cameras from centrally heated shepherd observation huts. Please note, the angel of the lord is reminded that before shining his / her glory all around she / he must ascertain that all shepherds have been issued with glasses capable of filtering out the harmful effects of UVA, UVB and Glory.

Little Donkey

Little donkey, little donkey on the dusty road
Got to keep on plodding onwards with your precious load

The RSPCA have issued strict guidelines with regard to how heavy a load that a donkey of small stature is permitted to carry, also included in the guidelines is guidance regarding how often to feed the donkey and how many rest breaks are required over a four hour plodding period. Please note that due to the increased risk of pollution from the dusty road, Mary and Joseph are required to wear face masks to prevent inhalation of any airborne particles. The donkey has expressed his discomfort at being labelled 'little' and would prefer just to be simply referred to as Mr. Donkey. To comment upon his height or lack thereof may be considered an infringement of his equine rights.

We Three Kings

We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar
Field and fountain, moor and mountain
Following yonder star

Whilst the gift of gold is still considered acceptable - as it may be redeemed at a later date through such organisations as 'cash for gold' etc, gifts of frankincense and myrrh are not appropriate due to the potential risk of oils and fragrances causing allergic reactions. A suggested gift alternative would be to make a donation to a worthy cause in the recipients name or perhaps give a gift voucher. We would not advise that the traversing kings rely on navigation by stars in order to reach their destinations and suggest the use of RAC routefinder or satellite navigation, which will provide the quickest route and advice regarding fuel consumption. Please note as per the guidelines from the RSPCA for Mr Donkey, the camels carrying the three kings of Orient will require regular food and rest breaks. Facemasks for the three kings are also advisable due to the likelihood of dust from the camels hooves.

Rudolph the red nosed reindeer

Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer
had a very shiny nose.
And if you ever saw him,
you would even say it glows.

You are advised that under the Equal Opportunities For All policy, it is inappropriate for persons to make comment with regard to the redness of any part of Mr. R. Reindeer. Further to this, exclusion of Mr R Reindeer from the Reindeer Games will be considered discriminatory and disciplinary action will be taken against those found guilty of this offence. A full investigation will be implemented and sanctions - including suspension on full pay - will be considered whilst this investigation takes place.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Partick Thistle Won Again!

A wonderful victory over the teuchters from up Inverness way this afternoon.

The Real Thistle 2  The Kid-on Thistle 1!

Friday, 27 November 2009

Latest Magazine from St Augustine's

The December/January Magazine can be downloaded from HERE.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Being Anti-PC This Christmas!

Fed up with "Winter-tide Festival" or "Don't mention the 'C' word!"??  Here is your option!

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Happy Family

Marcus made his debut at Sunday morning service on Sunday with mum and dad! Gorgeous eh? Tim and Margot spent some of the weekend with Marcus and that eminent theologian from Ekklesia, Simon Barrow. It was difficult to know who made more sense! (Sorry Simon!)

Photos of the Scottish Night

The pics from our St Andrewstide Party tell the tale of a good wee night with over £200 profit too! These are now up in the Parish Site.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Feelin' Better!

Yes!! Victory! Managed to stave off the "black dog" and back to best form! I even got carried away yesterday and a ten minute sermon turned into a 15 minute one! (I need to curb my enthusiasm sometimes!)

It's all to do with this power of positive thinking lark, which I'm getting used to. The RW is so annoying when she sees positives where I have tended to continually dwell on the negatives. She's been good for me, although she's had to suffer through some major dark times.

We had a good old fashioned Scottish Night in our new hall last night, anticipating St Andrew's Day. Haggis, neeps and chappit tatties for 80, and a brilliant sing-a-long which ended up with the fittest standing on our new chairs and "giving it laldy"! Some new folk drawn into the Friends' event, and they went away thinking St Auggie's was wonderful! It is!

A major drama had to be part of it, and the heat sensors in the kitchen, as we were serving the meal, set off the fire alarm. Problem... we had no instruction booklet. After about 20 minutes we managed to silence the klaxons, and nobody seemed too bothered.

And we made a few bob for church funds into the bargain!

Sunday, 22 November 2009

World Record at Partick Thistle Nil Next Saturday

IT'LL be Fur-hill for Mo Bros next Saturday when The Scottish Sun and Partick Bristle team up to set a world record for the largest gathering of moustachioed men.
Thousands of big-hearted blokes across Scotland have sacrificed their top lips for our Movember men's health crusade.
The fun campaign - launched by cancer-stricken ex-Celtic hero John Hartson - has got the nation talking about men's health issues like testicular and prostate cancer.
Now we want to reward fellas for putting up with a month of itchy and scratchy face fuzz by giving you a chance to be a world record breaker.
We're calling on Mo Bros around the country to get together at Partick Thistle's famous Firhill stadium to earn a place in the Guinness Book of Records.
Guinness Book of Records editor Craig Glenday will be in Glasgow to verify our record attempt.
We aim to get hundreds of Mo Bros together for an iconic photo of a sea of moustaches in the Firhill stand.
It's never been simpler to be a record breaker.
You don't have to perform some death defying stunt or be able to run as fast as Usain Bolt.
You don't have to eat something horrible like pickled eggs or lemons.
All you need is a hairy ‘tache to join the fun and help us set a new world record for the largest gathering of moustachioed men.
And as if earning your place in the Guinness Book of Records isn't enough - everyone taking part will be rewarded with sexy Scottish Sun girls giving out sensational goodie bags to thank you for your Mo-growing efforts.
If you want to dress up as your favourite moustachioed character for the photo then there's also a prize for the best costume.
Partick Thistle's full squad of players have grown mousers to support Movember and are looking forward to earning a place in the Guinness Book of Records.
Defender Ian Maxwell said: "It's been a long itchy month but it's been for an amazing cause and the chance to be in the Guinness Book of Records is just the icing on the cake.
"I've never had a moustache before and I'm sure I'm not the only guy doing this who has found it pretty annoying.
"And it's been a frustrating month too because my wife Nicola won't go anywhere near me with it. She says it's no wonder I play for the Jags.
"It's too prickly for her and I've been counting down the days till I can shave it off on December 1.
"It's great that guys all over Scotland have been joining in and on top of raising awareness and money for men's health issues, getting the chance to be a record breaker is a great reward."
Many of the famous faces who have given their backing to The Scottish Sun's Movember crusade will be at Firhill for the hairiest event of the year.
Airport hero John Smeaton said: "This is brilliant. I've always wanted to be in the Guinness Book of Records and this is our chance.
"I think I'm the same as every guy in the country doing this in that I canny wait to shave it off.
"It's really itchy and I can't get used to seeing myself in the mirror.
"But I met big John Hartson earlier this month and it really brought home why we're all doing this.
"If even just one guy checks himself because of this and it saves his life then it makes it all worthwhile.
"And to be able to say that you are a world record holder is an great added bonus."
Real Radio breakfast DJ Robin Galloway is excited about the chance to be a record breaker.
Scottish Sun columnist Robin said: "I hate my moustache… and my wife hates it even more.
"But I've always wanted to get my mug in the Guinness Book of Records so this event will encourage me to keep it for at least another week."
Celtic legend Billy McNeill said: "I think this is a great idea. We've all suffered to support this cracking cause so this world record thing is a good reward."
The big world record attempt kicks off at 12.30pm at Firhill on Saturday November 28 and will only take an hour.
Anyone with a moustache - even if you've had your's for years - is welcome to come along.
It really is a case of the Mo-re the merrier!
COMMENT: It's one way to try to boost the crowd I guess!

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Friday, 20 November 2009

Partick Thistle Nil

Sometimes you just have to emphasise the positives!

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Despite the Positives...

The Black Dog of depression is never far away. Maybe it's the rain, or the lack of good sunshine? The last few months of ministry, and life in general, have been good and positive months, but as I sense the dark clouds looming on the horizon, I fear that I'll be burdened with them again, or will the brilliantly resurrected "me" be able to fight them off and stay sane and bright?

A couple of blows to my ministry and its effectiveness this past few days hasn't helped, but it's how I perceive them that makes the difference. The Study Group on Tuesday was not good for me. On the one hand I have to be the Man of Faith who knows all the answers, yet a "Seeker of Truth" who will express doubts and wish to explore them! Somehow I felt caught in the headlights and torn apart by differing expectations. Yet it was "me" who laid myself bare, and that was disturbing for some. Whose side am I on? God's side, I hope, and a God who wants to lead us into all truth, however unsettling that may be to our traditional ways of thinking.

I think, too, there is a sense of anti-climax within me on the completion of the new hall. Now, tired after all the exertions, I'm called to lead this little faith group at St Auggie's into an exciting future where mission and ministry will be discussed and developed. That can be a daunting task, but as I read through completed questionnaires from prospective bishops, I know what I want and need in a bishop at the moment!

It is in reading through these answers, these questionnaires, that I feel very humbled and particularly inadequate as a priest. How do I measure up to these extremely holy and insightful people? Perhaps currently reading John Pritchard's book, "The life and Work of a Priest!" has not helped much! It, too, has challenged and found me feeling "wanting" in so many respects.

So, it's on to working on the positivity, in the hope that the dark clouds are kept at bay!

Wednesday, 18 November 2009


It's good to have people from the Diocese visit, and today AT came to have blethers with folk and lunch at Rigos. Good, too, when your work is affirmed and your little flock make a good impression. I was left with the feeling that we should publicise ourselves and our achievements a bit more out there in the Scottish Episcopal Church. There are some really good parishes around, and we are one of them. We simply hide our light under a bushel most of the time!

It was also good to have the ego stroked for a wee bit! Perhaps I should invite AT more often!

Stolen, but Brilliant!

Found on Big Rab's Blog:


Commonwealth/Olympic Games Short of Budget
(Insert name of currently unemployed football manager) Flattered to be Linked With Scotland Job
Smith Linked With Scotland Job
Colin and Justin/Jordan/Samantha Fox say “(Insert vacuous rubbish here)”
Jedward (that’s enough headlines – ed.)
On other pages:
Bears Defecating Habits Continue to Centre on Wooded Areas
Pope Confirms He Is Roman Catholic
One Legged Man Swims in a Circle"

I would add  .....  Celtic/Rangers Awarded Penalty in Tight Match

High Rain Levels in Dumbarton

Tony Blair Gets New Job

Oh! The possibilities are endless. 5,000 years off purgatory for the best "Headline"!! Off you go...

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Banking Catastrophe

It's not nice to wake up to a text from the bank telling you that you are horribly overdrawn, especially when you know you are not! Panic! Panic! After an hour of stomach churning, the bank eventually opens and we get an answer after another hour. A three figure sum that had been lodged had been put through as a two figure sum. End of panic, and I was told nicely that I wouldn't be charged for being overdrawn. Isn't that kind of them?

Banks - Your bestest friends - and so generous in the way they look after your interests!

What bugs me is that this happened on Friday. It's Tuesday, and they still hadn't found the discrepancy. Does nobody balance at the end of the day? When I worked in banking, 37 years ago, we weren't allowed out of the branch at night unless we had balanced the cash!

Monday, 16 November 2009

Charter for Compassion

Picked up from Ekklesia....

The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves.

Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.

It is also necessary in both public and private life to refrain consistently and empathically from inflicting pain. To act or speak violently out of spite, chauvinism, or self-interest, to impoverish, exploit or deny basic rights to anybody, and to incite hatred by denigrating others – even our enemies – is a denial of our common humanity.

We acknowledge that we have failed to live compassionately and that some have even increased the sum of human misery in the name of religion.

We therefore call upon all men and women:
* to restore compassion to the centre of morality and religion
* to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate
* to ensure that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions and cultures
* to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity
* to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings - even those regarded as enemies.

We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarised world. Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries.

Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensible to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.

Affirm the Charter here:

The Dynamic Duo!

Peanut and Toastie pose for a rare photograph!

St Andrew's Day Approacheth!

Any ladies out there looking for a husband? If German folklore is to be believed single women who wish to marry should ask for St Andrew's help. The night before the 30th, if they sleep naked, they will see their future husbands in their dreams. Young women should also note the location of barking dogs on St Andrew's Eve, as their future husbands will come from that direction. 

Bad Weekend

I probably sum things up if I say that the Congregational AGM was the highlight of my weekend. It was a good and positive meeting, and St Augustine's is now in a super position. We are "financially viable", have a new hall complex which surpasses our wildest dreams, and the church building is in excellent nick after the restoration five years ago. The church is even warm now after the installation of new boilers!

The rest of the weekend is best forgotten, not least because of the terrible football results that came my way. (I know, I'm shallow!"

So, a new week and a new beginning, and I'm starting it with having a proper "day off", the first in quite some time. The dogs are looking at me longingly, and I know where their priorities lie. I'll eventually cede and put on the thermals and the waterproof clothing in readiness for the P.A.R.K.

Aye. It's a dog's life!

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Bad Day for This Football Fan!

Yesterday was not good. The RW was absolutely brilliant, and didn't rub my nose in the fact that Wales humiliated Scotland 3-0. She did casually mention something about how her brother-in -law would just love to get a "shot" at me last night, but I think she meant "gloat".

Meanwhile Partick Thistle Nil were going down 3-1 at Dunfermline, losing a last minute killer goal. By all accounts Thistle played well, but like Scotland, have trouble turning pressure into goals sometimes. The Nil result I can take. We'll hammer them back at Firhill. The Scotland one is harder to stomach.

There was little real commitment yesterday, despite the fact we had a half-decent team out there. I was a great Burley supporter at the end of the World Cup Qualifiers, but a man can change his mind, and mine was yesterday. He must go, and go now.

I awaited news that my Gambian Team had lost too, but then I realised they play today.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Brilliant Tale

From one of my favourite Bloggers today, comes THIS little gem!

Friday, 13 November 2009


Some of our "Resident Music Group", and a couple of others who come to play with them in church on occasion, joined together to form their own Praise Band. It's called Rocksalt, and they are exceptionally good! It's not only praise stuff that they play, and the range of stuff they do well includes Country & Western and Blues. Here's a taster of the talent we have on tap!

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Goodbye George

I presided over the funeral of a dear friend, and someone I greatly loved and admired, this afternoon.

Rest in peace, George. You deserve everything that heaven will bring you. And, yes, I was so proud to be your priest..... even though you thought I was a rascal!

A Grand-Daughter At Last!

My son emailed some new yesterday which got me going. We were to become grandparents for the first time. We never thought it was going to happen!

Alas it is not with human-child, but with dog-child. He had been to see King Charles Cavalier pups with Angela, and had chosen a pup from the litter. It will be nice to see Toastie and Peanut embrace one of their own! So, "Poppy" will make her appearance publicly in about 3 weeks time, and we look forward to a new member of the family menagerie!

Here she is.....

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

The Joys..

The joys of walking the dogs in the early morning mists! Dumbarton Rock in all its glory!

And who enjoys it most???

Sad Time

Most of the time, ministry is great, and there is a lot to be said for joining in with laughter, happiness and joy, both with families and with the congregational family. Giving folk a wee hand to cope with obstacles is also extremely fulfilling, and helping congregations to achieve goals is the best, but life is not always all about good bits.

One of the most deeply loved members of St Aug's, George Matheson, died on Saturday, and this morning we need to start planning his funeral which will be on Thursday. It will be a full house, I'm sure, and one of these times when I'll need to keep my emotions in check and go into "professional" mode for an hour or so. Sometimes that's not so easy with someone you loved so much.

George was a pillar, and had a faith as deep and true as anyone I've ever known in 30 odd years of ministry. An Aberlour boy with an incredible singing voice, he grew from being a scrawny choirboy into a respected Choir and Vestry Member for many years, but was probably quite forbidding in his prime. By the time I got to know him, he was simply a big pussy-cat, full of wisdom, knowledge and love. Our Lord shone from his, rather dim, eyes! He was probably the person who saved St Aug's when the Diocese threatened closure about 15 years ago, taking on the Convener of the Administration Board in an infamous showdown which has its place in St Aug's folklore! Just one of those folk that it was a joy to minister to, receiving from him more than I ever gave.

Yes, there will be tears in my heart if not on my face on Thursday.

Once and only once did I ever break down in tears at the reception of the body into church of someone I loved deeply, and was scolded by the family because I should be strong and know better! However, we clergy are human, and we feel grief and pain as much as anyone. Sometimes it's easier to mask than others.

Monday, 9 November 2009

The Babes of St Aug's!

Two recent additions to the congregation, Hannah and Lauren, show what they think of my sermons.....

and the usual crowd have their regular gossip..  Gavin counts the cash after doing a huge 7 mile walk with Anne over "at least seven Munros!"

Meanwhile the RW gets "broody"!


One of the chores of winter means that I'm responsible for the daily "walkies"! Today I'll cope, but the Clyde Shore on a freezing wet windy day is not for the faint-hearted.

Bring on the lighter nights when the RW takes over the responsibility again. Meanwhile, I suppose, I'll have to get fit again!

A Day Off - Maybe?

Monday is my official day off, but I don't seem to have had one for quite some time. Today is also the Clergy Fraternal, where the local Pisckie clergy lunch and share gossip and pain, and lots of laughter too. Is this work? The RW and I mused on this yesterday evening!

In lots of ways I guess it is, but then again, I'm not paid a salary with a set amount of hours each week. I'm given a stipend, a living allowance, which allows me the freedom to live out my priesthood. So, everything is "work" really, but then again it's not! I actually enjoy greatly, and am deeply blessed to be able to, live out priesthood, although at times I'm not very good at it! It's a way of living. I get really uncomfortable with clergy who count up the hours they have "worked" in a week!

It gives me time to blog, to read, to keep up with current news and current theological thinking, and it gives me time to myself, and time for prayer and reflection. (As well as all the other stuff like pastoral care and supporting Partick Thistle Nil)

It means, sometimes, that if I have my sermon written, I can sit down and watch Saturday evening TV. It's at times like these that I am glad that I subscribe to Sky +. The choice between the X-Factor and Strictly fills me with dread, and I'm glad to catch up with NCIS or something like it rather than watch the nonsense on offer.

I caught a glimpse of two brothers on Saturday who were really terrible on this X-Factor thingy. They looked like adverts for Harmony hair spray, and as a fellow blogger wrote, seemed to have been sent out by mum with Ghost Buster suits on. I was glad to catch up with a Star Trek episode instead.

Meanwhile, I'll enjoy my lunch with fellow clergy today. Work or not, it's part of the brilliant things I'm allowed to do, having been given the means to do it!

PS Half-stipend is an abomination. You get full-time priests for half the money. Ministry on the cheap! How can you be a part-time priest?

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Partick Thistle Won!

Two goals in two minutes early in the first half was enough to earn Thistle maximum points against Morton. For the first time I can remember, this league is not as tight as it once was. There is a very obvious division between the bigger boys and the dross at the bottom. (Sing - Let's all laugh at Airdrie!)

I'm just glad that we'll be there or thereabouts at prizegiving day!

Friday, 6 November 2009

Bad Theology Kills

The man I blogged about some days ago, who was sentenced to death because a jury found some convenient dodgy passages in the Old Testament was executed last night in Texas. Full Story ......

Thursday, 5 November 2009


Just got a Blackberry because the Primus uses one and it looked really cool. Now he's gone and changed it! I feel betrayed!

Transexual Jesus Anyone?

Jesus, Queen of Heaven

Glasgow is certainly putting itself on the map these days! Have a look here!

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Solution For Dad?

Social work seem to be working at last and today I signed application forms for Erskine Hospital, which is a huge care facility for war veterans. There are a couple of spare rooms, a waiting list of two years, but dad is considered an emergency and he could maybe get in.

It seems like an ideal solution, and if he's not happy there, then he'll be miserable anywhere. So prayers seem to be working, but keep praying until he is actually given a place. It's far from certain!

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Madeleine McCann

A new film has been released by the UK’s police organisation for child protection - the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre - aimed at anyone close to the person who was involved in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. That person could be a relative, friend, work colleague or neighbour. Whoever they are, they have a secret that could reveal what happened to Madeleine.

In order to reach that person, CEOP are asking for the public’s help to share this message virally, via the internet, so that the message is so widespread it becomes one click away to the person who knows something about Madeleine’s disappearance.  The message is then a constant reminder that it is never too late to do the right thing, to stop keeping this secret  and pass this vital information to their local police.

Hope for Now?

Difficult meeting this morning over dad, but at last it seems that something may get done. Social Work now see him as a danger to himself, after a couple of attempts at throwing himself over the bannister, and they will now actively seek to place him in a more appropriate setting. He is just so miserable and distressed where he is, and, of course it's all my fault!

We need mega-prayers now that we can find him a place in a home where he will be as happy as possible, and safe too. My hopes are not too high.

Church History in 4 minutes!

Let Down

The poor RW took a day off today, one of her precious holidays, hoping that we might get some time together. Firstly, All Souls Day got in the way today with two services, a meeting tonight, a funeral tomorrow which I had to prepare for, and several discussions with builders who are now attending to the snagging in our new hall. (Yes, Blethers, snagging with an "n"!!)

The dogs got a decent walk, though, in the rain, so they were happy.

Tomorrow is the dreaded "Assessment Meeting" in my dad's Care Home. He is so unhappy, but nobody seems to be coming up with any options, except some numpty in Social Work who is thinking he could maybe be ok back in the community with mega support. We've tried this so many times with disastrous consequences.

So, say a little prayer for us tomorrow! Every little helps!

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Hellish Hallowe'en

There are good days in football and there are bad days in football. This afternoon it was very much the case of the latter for Partick Thistle Nil. Defending an unbeaten home record without a goal conceded Thistle went down to a 2-1 defeat against Raith Rovers.
It was terrible to watch, but yet again we had a team coming to Firhill with ten men constantly behind the ball punting it up to a lone striker in the hope of getting a break. Atrocious defending meant they got a couple of breaks today!
 The Jags manager had this to say.... "Over the piece this season the players have done well and there have been very few occasions when we would say that they have let the supporters down. I thought though that today was a day when we let the supporters down."
You sure did guys!!
He went on to say.....  "Raith Rovers had a clear game plan and they stuck to it and did really well. The thing that troubled me the most was the fact that they were more up for the game than we were." They were, they were, Iain, but why was that? He goes on....
"If we have perhaps learnt one lesson from today is that it's not all about playing attractive football to win games. Sometimes you have to battle to win a game of football and that is something that we didn't manage to do this afternoon. If you want to compete at the top end of the league and win titles then you need to win when you don't play well. Dundee by all accounts haven't been playing that well but they have been grinding out wins and draws."  So they have. Why don't we do that?
Raith Rovers certainly had a game plan, a la Walter Smith in Europe, which was called anti-football. I guess it's hard to break down and why Rovers have won so many points this season. I wondered, though, why their gates were so low? Now I know.
This is not a bitter and twisted response to a home defeat..... well maybe it is.... a little bit!

November Magazine 2009

This can be accessed here at present.

New Toy

There comes a time in everyone's life, I suppose, when they just know that they're getting old. I'm at that point tonight having got delivery of a new Blackberry today.

Maybe I've just got to the point of technology overload and there's no more can be taken in? Maybe this is just a step too far for me? I look at the instructions and I think they may as well be in Double Dutch. The RW frightens me by suggesting that I may be constantly switched to the internet and we'll get a bill for about a thousand pounds next month if I'm not careful. She knows people who have these things!

I know people, too, like the Primus of the SEC who gaily flicks through his Blackberry putting in appointments, reading out emails and even phoning and texting too. I believe he has a technological wizard back at the Diocesan Office who sets these things up for him! I don't!!

Will this technological leap be a step too far for me, or will I manage to connect to Facebook and Twitter? Will I give up and crawl back to my trusty Motorola? Watch this space!

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Cursillo Evening

Off to the wilds of East Kilbride tonight, leaving the soggy-doggies behind, for a Cursillo Ultreya. It was good to see Bishop Idris and Alison again, with Idris looking very relaxed in his retirement. It obviously is taking time to adjust after so many years in active priesthood, and as bishop and latterly primus, but he will grow into it, I'm sure. Alison expressed the hope of one day seeing Arran from their home in Largs!

Good to get home, though. It's been a busy day, with another death in the parish, and moving the kitchen stuff from the church into our new accommodation!

Altar Pic of St Aug's This Week

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Stolen From Big Rab....


Gee! Dumbarton going to Greenock Morton in the 3rd Round of the Scottish Cup. How easy is that? Might as well get a bye!

Joy of Joys!!!

The Local Cooncil have had a look around the New Hall (at last) and passed us fit for human habitation! So we're up and running!

Just What I Need

Every Partick Thistle Nil supporter should have one of these!
Tears are our first words. The first way we have of communicating is through tears. Is there anything that gets a baby more attention than tears? Is there anything that can command complete, immediate devotion more than a torrent of tears. 
In earlier cultures, before PTNFC,  the tears of mourners were gathered into something called a lachrymatory, or “tear-catcher,” a specially created container for human tears of grief or sometimes of joy. In fact, a company is now bringing them back and selling them online. Tear Catcher

Jesus Comes to Glasgow - Shock

It's not often that I believe The Sun, but today I want to! And here's some more evidence that The Rapture will soon be upon us in the West of Scotland!

Choosing Hymns & Music

Oh No! That dreadful time again when I sit down with the Music Group and work out music up until Christmas. As the evening wears on, in true St Auggie's style, wine is consumed, and the suggestions become more and more erratic. That's why I go! Not for the vino, of course, but to lend a balance when "Jesus wants me as a Sunbeam" is suggested for Advent 3.

Actually, it's a great laugh, and everyone enjoys themselves, knowing that, in the end, you can please some of the congregation some of the time.......

Don't Blame Me - I only pass it on!

Boy's Confession

'Bless me Father, for I have sinned. I have been with a loose girl'.
 The priest asks, 'Is that you, Dicky?'
 'Yes, Father, it is.'
 'And who was the girl you were with?'
 'I can't tell you, Father, I don't want to ruin her reputation.'
 'Well, Dicky, I'm sure to find out her name sooner or later, so you may as well tell me now. Was it Mary Walsh?'
 'I cannot say.' 'Was it Teresa Brown?'
 'I'll never tell.'
 'Was it Margaret Doyle?'
 'I'm sorry, but I cannot name her.'
 'Was it Anne O' Neil?'
 'My lips are sealed.'
 Was it Catherine O' Tool, then?'
 'Please, Father, I cannot tell you.'
 The priest sighs in frustration. 'You're very tight lipped Dicky, and I admire that. But you've sinned and have to atone. You cannot be an altar boy now for 4 months. Now you go and behave yourself.'
 Dicky walks back to his pew, and his friend Tommy slides over and whispers,  'What'd you get?'
 '4 Months holiday and five good leads'.

So confession is not just good for the soul!!!!

Monday, 26 October 2009

C'mon The Jags!

As part of our community engagement programme, Partick Thistle and the Jags Trust were represented at Sunday’s “The Andrew Watson Homecoming Day” football event at the Toryglen Football Centre.
The tournament organised by Afroscots United Football Club and the African and Caribbean Network formed part of the 2009 Show Racism the Red card fortnight of action and the UK’s Black History Month celebrations. The event was staged over a five hour period and took the form of a five a side tournament with teams drawn form a variety of ethnic backgrounds.
The aim of the tournament was to raise awareness of Andrew Watson, the world's first black association footballer to play at international level, and his achievements as Scotland captain in the 1890’s. Watson was the first black player ever to win a major competition winning several Scottish Cups with Queens Park. He also won three international caps for Scotland: his first cap was a 6 - 1 victory against England, his second a 5 - 1 triumph over Wales and his third was another win over England, the score this time an equally emphatic 5 - 1.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

The Aftermath

Police seek murder bid witnesses

A 38-year-old man has been seriously injured in a fight outside Dumbarton's Masonic Hall, prompting police to treat the incident as attempted murder.

Detectives said at least four men were involved in the incident in Church Street at 2115 BST on Saturday. The man was taken to Paisley's Royal Alexandria hospital and transferred to Glasgow's Southern General where his condition is described as "serious".

Police have appealed for any witnesses to get in touch. Detective Inspector Stevie Primrose said: "The incident happened in a busy area and I would appeal to anyone who may have witnessed a disturbance or who can help us identify the men responsible to come forward."

I would ask your prayers for this man. The last thing we need in all this is someone to have died as a result of sectarian madness.

Here I was thinking that the day of the Orange Walk had passed peaceably in Dumbarton and I was hoping we would get back to normal.

Alas, someone was close to being murdered last night, it seems, and the result of some "people" throwing fireworks into the pub area of the Hall itself, where the "Protestant" people are known to drink. There are some really good people who socialise there.

A night of shame for this lovely town, and my heart goes out to those sitting beside a hospital bed today, praying fervently.

Partick Thistle Two - The Others Two Too!

The last meeting between these two teams was a sterile 0-0 draw. This was everything but sterile. Four goals, some of the highest quality, one sending off and bags of goalmouth action made for a highly entertaining 2-2 draw.

The first half belonged to Thistle but it was the home side that led at the interval thanks to Michael Gardyne’s 40th minute strike from the edge of the box that went in off the inside of the post.

County were enjoying a rare period on top in the early stages of the second half when they were reduced to ten men in the 57th minute. Martin Scott, who had been lucky not to have been booked in the first half, picking up two yellow cards inside 9 minutes.

When sub Jim Hamilton set up other sub Chris Erskine to tie the scores in the 62nd minute the game looked to be turning Thistle’s way.

It was Ross County though that would score the game’s next goal when Paul Lawson sent a magnificent shot past Tuffey and into the net.

This time Thistle were level inside 3 minutes when Liam Buchanan collected the ball inside the box before firing powerfully past McGovern in the County goal.

There was little doubt that Thistle were looking to win this match in the closing stages and plenty of men were pushed forward in the search of what proved to be an elusive winning goal.

Partick Thistle Nil Win an Award!

The 1971 Hall of Fame inauguration dinner dance was well under way at the Thistle Hotel last night, when a cheer rang out from the crowd. Chairman Allan Cowan had just announced Partick Thistle and Greaves Sports have received the silver award, in the best use of media relations category, at the CIPR Awards 2009 held at the Radisson Hotel on the same evening for the publicity generated during the 2008/2009 "Think Pink" away strip press launch. With around 400 of the best PR people in Scotland at the awards, Ami Small and BIGs Brian Welsh were over the moon the accept the award.

The media campaign generated significant coverage in UK regional and national press and was coordinated by Ami Small, the club Press Officer and the Greaves PR Team.
Although The club and Greaves Sports are delighted to pick up the silver award, we are aiming to win Gold next year.

Saturday, 24 October 2009


Today's latest Orange Walk passed without incident this morning, although, again, there was a massive police presence. I am grateful. Grateful, too, that one band struck up with "The Sash" right outside St Augustine's, and another assured me they were still guarding Derry's walls.

I appreciate, very much, that there seems to have been little trouble, although I felt for those playing in the heavy rain. Someone even gave us £3 for the use of our toilet!

Friday, 23 October 2009

A Reminder......

Christians and the BNP

Really good stuff to be found HERE.

Don't Blame Me - Blame MadPriest!

On the eve of another big Orange Walk in Dumbarton, I cosy up to those who will share the streets of my town with me tomorrow!

On the Road

Partick Thistle Nil take the long hike up to Dingwall tomorrow to face a Ross County team which have punched above their weight in the first quarter of the season. It could well be that an away vistory will see us top the league tomorrow, but with the current standard of Scottish Football that's not saying much! (Celtic were beaten in Europe last night as I predicted)

However, The Nil have produced some very attractive and entertaining stuff this season! See for yourself, ye doubters!

Managing Meetings Effectively - On Reflection

A CMD Day for Stipendiary Clergy (19th October 2009)

It has to be admitted that I attended this day at St John’s Greenock reluctantly, and only through the gentle cajoling of Anne Tomlinson! After all, what would a busy clergyperson whose diary is backed up by a plethora of meetings, want to go to another meeting to talk about.... meetings!

I have to say that I was more than pleasantly surprised, and indeed stimulated and encouraged by what was on offer! Some really helpful suggestions, tips, and plenty of affirmation was on offer to clergy who probably considered themselves fairly expert in running meetings effectively anyway!

In Alison Clark, from the Diocese of Argyll and the Isles, we had a tremendous facilitator, and I would hope that the Diocese uses her skills more often in the future. She pulled the group together expertly, and created an atmosphere where people were open to new ways of thinking, and felt secure enough to share in a deep, honest and constructive manner. It was wonderful to share some important and stimulating material with brother and sister clergy, pool our experience, and express our frustrations and successes.

We covered areas such as preparation, setting ground rules, and the theory and practice in the art of chairing. We looked in depth at the handling of tension and conflict, and explored tools and techniques in that area as well as understanding the “double agenda”. Traps that we can constantly fall into are the inappropriate use of “matters arising and AOCB! Meetings have a tendency to run out of control if we aren’t firm in handling these two items in any agenda.

There is certainly an art of keeping time, affirming contributions, guiding the discussion and the decision making process, and plenty of practical tips were shared and offered. We even looked at the bad practice of simply having meetings for the sake of having a meeting! Time was spent on our listening skills as well as our ability of including everyone in discussions and dealing with individuals, often bullies really, who constantly hog the agenda to themselves or have a tendency to interrupt when someone needs the space to say something which is important to them.

Servant leadership was explored as an option, having the capacity to display ministerial leadership as founded on Christ-like servanthood, enabling the skills of all.

This was my first CMD (Continuing Ministerial Development) event, and it certainly encouraged me to attend others in the future. I came away feeling affirmed, my head swimming with new insights, reminded of my need to listen more effectively, and becoming more aware of the individual in a Vestry situation!

Will my meetings be run more effectively in future? Probably, but if nothing else, they will be run more sensitively!

From Ekklesia - Nick Griffin and our "Christian Country"

Whatever their views about the rights and wrongs of Nick Griffin’s appearance on Question Time last night, church leaders will now have to think long and hard about some of the arguments they employ.

Last night, the leader of BNP used the words “Christian country” three times in setting out what he believed about what it means to be British - which many in the churches should find a little close for comfort.

To their credit, some churches seemed to anticipate that this is what the racist leader of the Far Right party would do. Joint statements were issued by a number of church leaders distancing themselves from the BNP, and the Evangelical Alliance pre-empted Griffin's appearance on Question Time with a press release saying that the BNP 'does not speak for British Christians.'

But the fact that they felt the need to do this suggests that churches should also now think long and hard about the language they use and the arguments that they mount with regard to national identity. In particular, it is time to drop the ideology of ‘Christian Britain’ which so many employ.

This does not mean that the churches have to deny the huge historic religious influence of Christianity on this country. (And nor does it mean that we should forget the huge mistakes that Christianity has made). What it does mean, is relinquishing the desire to describe what it means to be British in the terms of one religion.

The churches have long found themselves in a strange situation. When they want to appear important and influential, they tend to draw attention to the 72 per cent of the population who identified themselves as 'Christian' at the last census. But when they want to plead they are a minority and need special protections, they will usually focus more on the 5-10 per cent of the population who regularly attend church services.

The BNP has employed a strategy which fits a little too neatly with such an approach. Over the last five years it has been making a play for the Christian vote, and seeking to portray itself as a ‘Christian’ party, particularly when playing on fears over Islam.

Like many in the churches, on the one hand it appeals to the majority of the population who see their cultural identity in religious terms. On the other, it also seeks to win support from those who feel that they are now a persecuted minority, facing threats from ‘the Muslims’ to ‘secularists’ and the ‘politically correct’ to name just a few of the groups which some Christians and the BNP have caricatured as the 'enemy'.

And those who might be tempted to think that this is all pretty inconsequential should take a long hard look at what has been going on over the last few years. In the run up to the European Elections, the BNP produced posters featuring a picture of Jesus Christ on the cross and quoted part of a verse from John's Gospel (John 15:20) in which Jesus says: "If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you". A few years earlier, they also facilitated the establishment of a body called the Christian Council of Britain.

Ekklesia’s analysis of the leaked BNP membership list showed that such tactics seemed to be having an effect. Some BNP members were listed as a Pentecostal Christians attending an Assemblies of God church. Another was called a Quaker. Still another a "practising Catholic". Others are said to be Cathedral tour guides, members of the Anglican Society, and supporters of the Evangelical Open Doors charity which works with persecuted Christians around the world - many in predominantly Muslim countries. Another was listed as someone who preaches regularly in Baptist, United Reformed and Presbyterian churches. One was described as a "committed Evangelical Christian" who attended bible studies and prayer meetings, others as "born again" Christians. Another had an email address linked to a Christian bookshop.

The overwhelming majority of the records had no comments on them. The number of self-identifying 'Christians' in the BNP's ranks is therefore likely to be still higher.

It is also likely that these problems will cause further discomfort for the churches. The BNP now has several dozen councillors in the UK and church schools could face BNP representatives appointed to their governing bodies. Local authorities, after all, have a duty to nominate some governors from different local political parties. If this happens, they may find BNP governors advancing a strategy of social division by vigorously endorsing the admissions policy - run by many church schools - of favouring Christians over others in the local community.

This is tough news for a Church that wants to rely on 'cultural capital'. The churches can pass all the bans that they like on BNP membership, but this will not tackle the underlying problem of the shared rhetoric and, for some, the shared perspective on preserving a Christian identity for Britain.
But there is another way. Instead of adopting a defensive stance which pleases those seeking to make political capital out of civic 'de-Christianisation', the Church has an opportunity to refocus its message. In an increasingly plural society, it will be the quality of contemporary political witness, not appeals to a bygone age, which will sort the sheep from the old goats. The churches are in a prime position to do this. They are the main providers of election hustings and have a presence in communities up and down the country. They work in some of the most deprived areas, as well as some of the most middle class ones. And they have a long track record of advocacy for migrants and refugees.

It is time for the churches to ditch the rhetoric of 'Christian Britain' and religious identity and to replace it with a new discourse based on a Christian vision of justice and equality, rather the hankering after a bygone age which will do nothing but fuel the BNP’s racist ideology.