Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Holidays!

Whey! Off to the sunny Greek Island of Lesbos later this evening for two weeks of total relaxation. It's been a while since the RW and I have had a two week holiday on our own, and Gambia doesn't count cos that can be hard work!

We love Rhodes, and have been told that if we love Rhodes we'll love Lesbos, so it's with great expectation that we travel! Those who want to see where we are staying can view a wee film clip here. Wouldn't Archie just love it?

The pets are all ready to go, as the Rectory-keeper doesn't want the responsibility of looking after all the family!

Now, it's a case of running about like a blue-bummed fly to get all the loose ends tied up!

See you all in a fortnight!

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Just in Time!

Google Street View cars banned from Greece -http://tinyurl.com/phwe8g

Pinched from MadPriest

AND THE "UNDERSTATEMENT
OF THE YEAR AWARD" GOES TO...

"Archbishop Williams said that Anglican provinces are “a bit reluctant” to engage the proposed Anglican Communion Covenant in greater detail..."

A very good summary of the Archbishop of Caterbury's little chat, yesterday, to the delegates in Gaidethia, can be found at ANGLICAN JOURNAL.

Personally, I've pretty much lost all interest in what the primates, their spin doctors and talking heads have to say about gay people and transsexuals. The game is over. It has been over since it became obvious that the US legal system was not going to hand TEC's property and pastoral responsibilities to the schismatics. The only thing left now is for the Anglican Communion to sort out what this means for individual provinces, individual dioceses and, above all, individuals. The only way that this process can go smoothly and with the minimum of damage to the credibility and pastoral effectiveness Anglicanism is if the AB of C and the ACC let go of the Covenant and their desire to control the situation. At the moment the ACC is a dam holding back the waters. If they continue to stop the natural flow, when the dam breaks the exploding torrent will cause all sorts of damage. It is always better to let water find its own level and shape.

Optical Illusion!

Click on the pic to make this work! If your eyes follow the movement of the rotating pink dot, the dots will remain only one color, pink.  However if you stare at the black '+'  in the center, the moving dot turns to green.

Now, concentrate on the black ' + ' in the center of the picture. After a short period, all the pink dots will slowly disappear, and you will only see only a single green dot rotating. 

It's amazing how our brain works. There really is no green dot, and the pink ones really
don't disappear

Why we should Abstain from Drinking Newcastle Brown

Monday, 11 May 2009

Clergy in Newcastle - a Colourful Bunch!




This is brilliant, although the singin' isn't up to much! It may be tribalism, but it's what the Beautiful Game is all about!

Personally, I'm gutted that they don't do clergy shirts in red and yellow hoops, but if Carlsberg made clergy shirts, they probably would.

Good luck to The Magpies in their fight to avoid the dreaded "R" word. The Premiership would be poorer without them!

Solar-powered baptisms at church - from the BBC

Heaton Baptist Church
Donations paid for Heaton Baptist Church's new Life Centre

A church in Newcastle is to offer solar-powered baptisms.

Heaton Baptist Church's Life Centre has had solar panels installed on the roof, which will be used to warm the water for people being baptised.

The panels will also be able to provide heating for the baptistry of the adjoining church.

Most of the £1m cost of the new centre, which has two halls, rooms for small groups, a crèche, and offices for church staff, came from donations.

Heaton Baptist Church baptizes dozens of people each year, including an annual summer baptism in the rather cooler waters of the North Sea at Whitley Bay.

Mark Elder, Heaton Baptist Church's senior pastor, said: "I love it when ordinary people meet with our amazing God, and nowhere is this more evident than in the life-changing waters of baptism."




Comment: I think I'd opt for a winter date for my baptism!

Rangers and Celtic

Religious bigotry is still rife in the West of Scotland and beyond, and in this part of the world it tends to personify itself with an allegiance to one part of the Old Firm or another. Celtic are the "Catholic" team, and Rangers are the "Protestant" one.

Their supporters still sing of the IRA and glorify it, or the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 and being up to their knees in fenian blood.

I have often blogged, in the old blogstead, about my disdain for that sort of lunacy, and even said, quite publicly that I have no time for either camp, and that's why I've always followed Partick Thistle Nil, the great Glasgow footballing alternative. Some Rangers supporters have never forgiven me! (Some even think I'm a Catholic priest!)

Again, at the weekend, they met and Rangers triumphed 1-0. I waited for the abuse to appear on my blog and I was not disappointed. One of the Neanderthals wrote, "F*** you priest and all your mumbo jumbo superstition. Now thats an accusation the Vatican can't handle."

Eh? I just want to go and watch football! These people simply show the world what we have to deal with under the surface of the most beautiful, trendy, vibrant and incredible city in the world. God help us!

Dumbarton/London Corner School. The Gambia

video

Some film from our trip to The Gambia in January has just come my way. This is a short clip of the kids in our school out there on their annual trip. Dancing at school was never like this in my day! More information about the school and our commitment to it can be found HERE.

On the trip, the kids were being shown all the different musical instruments of their country, and as soon as the music started there was no stopping them!

Dumbarton/London Corner School has been "on the go"  for around seven years, and we now provide free schooling, a free feeding programme and free medical care for 90 students, and employ 5 teachers, two cooks, and two watchmen. It requires around £1200 per month to keep it all going, but with donations from folk like you we keep it financed - just!

One-off donations can be made HERE.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Partick Thistle Nil

Not to be disappointed, we finished up our season yesterday with Nil. Dundee got four. However, Dumbarton won 3-1 and took the Third Division Championship with a bit of style. Great rejoicing in the town yesterday. Sadly, most of it was because Rangers beat Celtic.

Why align ourselves with these two waste of time teams, interested only in bigotry? Local football, and smaller clubs are desperate for local support!

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Diocesan Council

Off to Diocesan Council today, and the beginning of the process for electing a new bishop for our Diocese. +Idris retires at the end of July.

Concert


Brilliant concert last night in Dumbarton's Denny Civic Theatre, featuring and organised by lots of very talented folk from St Augustine's and their pals. Half of the proceeds went to the Children's Hospice Association, and half towards the building of St Aug's new Community Hall. The total raised was probably not too short of £2k, before one or two expenses.

This was a fantastic effort! Take a bow Ghislaine & Ricky!

Friday, 8 May 2009

Then He Goes and Spoils it All....

Awwww!


Archie shows his compassion for the injured Silent Assassin, and even lets her get first pick of the space in front of the fire!

Seen outside a Glasgow Restaurant Yesterday....

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Human Beings

Tension builds in the Kirk, (The Church of Scotland), over the whole problem of ministers who may be in gay relationships. The General Assembly meets while I'll be on the Greek Island of Lesbos, from where the term "lesbian" comes.  Most of my regular readers will be aware of the main media interest, that is the right of a minister, who is in a same-sex relationship, to take up his calling to an Aberdeen congregation. Details can be found elsewhere on the internet.

An internet petition is on the go, and many worthies have already signed, declaring their view that ministers cannot be gay, basically, and certainly cannot be in a relationship. It's interesting to note that most ministers who have signed up are retired, or have signed more than once! Or both! There are even signatures from people of other Churches! How dare they meddle?

Some signatories upset me. I thought they had more compassion in their souls!

The Anglican Church can look at this situation and empathise. We have the same problems, but in world terms, the Kirk is pretty small and schism would be unthinkable. We have enough division in Scotland among the presbyterian style of Christianity.

In my experience, once we put human faces on to the the labels, eg gay, lesbo, queer, sinner, then attitudes change. Jimmy next door may be gay, but we can't condemn Jimmy for he is leading an extremely godly life!

And all this stuff about loving the sinner and hating the sin is nonsense. I'm still looking in the Gospels for the bit that Jesus condemns homosexuals although the practice was rife in his time. I can't find the reference for tripping over condemnation of the pharisees!

Pass me my phylactery!

While We're on the Star Trek Theme...

Why men don't write advice columns!

Dear John,

I hope you can help me.

The other day I set off for work leaving my husband in the house watching TV. I hadn't gone more than a mile down the road when my engine conked out and the car stopped. I walked back home to get my husband's help.. When I got home I couldn't believe my eyes. He was in the bedroom with a lady neighbour. I am 32, my husband is 34 and we have been married for 12 years. When I confronted him, he broke down and admitted that he'd been having an affair for the past six months.
I told him to stop or I would leave him.

He was let go from his job six months ago and he says he has been feeling increasingly depressed and worthless. I love him very much, but ever since I gave him the ultimatum he has become increasingly distant.
I don't feel I can get through to him anymore.

Can you please help?

Sincerely,
Stella


Answer:

Dear Stella ,

A car stalling after being driven a short distance can be caused by a
variety of faults with the engine. Start by checking that there is no
dirt in the fuel line. If it is clear, check the jubilee clips
holding the vacuum pipes on to the inlet manifold. If none of these
approaches solves the problem, it could be that the fuel pump itself
is faulty, causing low delivery pressure to the carburettor float
chamber.

I hope this helps,
John 

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Birthday Card

Best birthday card in the RW's collection...

Birthday Proverb: Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day.
Teach him to use the internet, and he won't bother you for weeks.

Star Trek Cupcakes


Probably available at the best coffee mornings this weekend....


From Two Friars and a Fool

The following rang so many bells with me, and worthy enough to share with other sufferers:


A Sudden Flash of Light

For the past two months, possibly more, I've been struggling with a resurgence of clinical depression. Calling it "clinical" makes it sound more 'official', doesn't it? Part of that is to ameliorate the effect of breaking taboos around talking about mental health. Particularly for a person seeking to be a pastor. Everyone knows that pastors never experience depression, right? Because they are...I don't know...special in some way.

I've made opportunities to contend with this problem in my life, and I've also been offered a number of opportunities in my CPE program. I've also started on medication a few weeks ago. The reason for this was that I saw, and got a lot of feedback from other people around me, that my depression was having a lot of impact on the quality of my work and of my life.

Its been really interesting working with the inpatient and outpatient behavioral health groups at the hospital during this ongoing struggle in my own life and heart/mind. The obvious questions come up, like why am I in the position I'm in while they are labeled "patient" and in many cases they are in the hospital by court mandate.

What I've noticed in the past couple of days is that I'm feeling a bit better. 

If you haven't experienced depression, I've found it hard to explain it so that I feel like its understood. It might just be one of those things. It feels like grief sometimes, except you're not grieving anything specific. But it has that crushing sensation in the chest, the sinking feeling in the stomach, the lack of energy and motivation, morbid thinking, flashes of anger - the things I associate with grief. Its also very individual. I don't want to out anyone, but I know a number of people who also struggle with depression, and we're all unique snowflakes as it were.

I've taken it as a sort of spiritual discipline, in the category of becoming more genuine and honest and direct, and in also being first in putting my neck out there when I feel strongly about something. I've been talking to my family (even the ones I don't like, or don't know that well) and friends and coworkers about what's going on with me. It has led me to reflect a lot about honesty, and I had a couple of things to share:

The experience this time, compared to the last time years ago when I went on meds for depression, has been more positive in every way - and you can perhaps imagine the irony there. I've found that either people are pretty accepting of what's going on with me because they care about me, or they aren't supportive, and that reveals to me how much they care. I have found people around me to be supportive in ways I hadn't even thought of.

I have found that this kind of sometimes-radical-seeming honesty has changed me. Its exciting and strange to find that I'm changing something about myself. I have consistently gotten feedback that I have never been more present and engaged with my colleagues and I have noticed that my interactions with patients and staff have suddenly changed in quality. I've said things I'd have hesitated to say in the past, and I trust my instincts more than I have. 

Really, I trust myself more. Perhaps this is becomes I am working hard to be more honest, and an honest person is more trustworthy.

There's a lot here that is far beyond the scope of this blog post. But in feeling better, I feel like I have a little energy to do things beyond barely getting through day after day, which is how I've felt for a while now. And I suppose that this post counts as part of my spiritual practice of honesty.

What I've experienced, in theological terms, is grace. Not the sometimes-contrived grace of reading a prayer of confession from a bulletin and receiving a pre-prepared assurance of pardon, or the self-absorbed grace of silently confessing and pretending that is all that is needed. I've been forced by this practice to own up to things I realized I was doing that were damaging, and I examine my life a little differently now.

I've connected this with my love of Good Friday. Without Good Friday, the God of Easter has nothing to say to me. I have come to know God most fully through God's wounds, and my experiments in demonstrating this in my own life, by being more open about my wounds, has been like a sudden flash of light. By his stripes we are healed. Now I have a much better sense of what this means in my own life.

If this is what I was meant to learn here, then amen. Keep it coming.

But I don't think I'll drop the meds just yet.

Star Trek Coffin - Just the Job!


In this time of gloom and doom, why not cheer yourself up by pre-buying that coffin or casket you've always promised yourself? Many of the most prudent saints of old kept a casket in their house, just to remind them of what lay ahead... so why not follow their inspiring example? You may live long and prosper – but you're just as likely to die soon and wither.

May we recommend the new Star Trek Casket (or indeed, the Urn, pictured above) for that final, "Beam me up, Lord" moment? The casket, which will debut later in 2009, is styled on the warp-capable photon torpedoes first used by the Klingons and as seen in
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. What better way to enter eternity than in an antimatter weapon? Dick Cheney has his ordered already.

Look great even when you're dead. Find out more about Star Trek deathware here – price to be confirmed.

Both this and the comment below are pinched from Ship of Fools. (Link on rhs)

Church Unveils New Swine Flu Vestments


The Church of England has announced that following its introduction of special swine flu prayers, new clergy vestments are now available in case of a further outbreak of the deadly virus.

The discreet vestments (see left) make it possible for church life to go on absolutely as normal. Each clergy suit is hermetically sealed to provide 8 hours of total biological protection from parishioners, visitors, Alpha group leaders, the organist, fellow clergy and other noxious hazards.

"I don't know why the Archbishop hasn't issued them before now – they would have been a life saver during after-church coffee," said Revd Ian Fluenza, who donned his new vestments as soon as he received them, and is said to be sleeping in them.

The vestments, which are in liturgical orange, are intended for use at the Service of Commemoration for the Loss of a Mexican Holiday, and other new Church of England liturgies.

Cat Fight

The Silent Assassin has been hobbling about on three legs since the weekend. At first we thought she may have been hit by a car, or had something nasty embedded in her paw, but the vet confirmed last night, after lightening our holiday fund of £25, that she'd been in a cat-fight, which she'd obviously won. (God help the other cat). I'm not sure whether to be proud or displeased!

Meanwhile night-time clubbing has been suspended and she's sleeping a lot, although in the day she's still desperate to get out and inspect her territory.

Archie, the Special One, has taken to try to bully her, but she's not that badly injured, and even just three sets of claws down his nose is enough to deter him. The other two dogs don't care. They're too busy trying to wolf down their food before Archie gets it.

Life in The Rectory is never boring!

I Can't Wait!

Swine Flu

Officials in Texas report the first swine flu death of a US resident - the second confirmed death outside Mexico.. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news

My God!!!!! Let's run for cover! Is there anyone else out there that's appalled by the level of scaremongering going on? I heard the Sun ran a headline last week that suggested the whole of humanity could be wiped out!

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Swine Flu v Man Flu

I have always maintained than Man Flu is much more life threatening than Swine Flu. This seems to be acknowledged by those 'in the know'...

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The swine flu virus that has sparked fear and precautions worldwide appears to be no more dangerous than the regular flu virus that makes its rounds each year, U.S. officials said Monday.

"What the epidemiologists are seeing now with this particular strain of U.N. is that the severity of the disease, the severity of the flu -- how sick you get -- is not stronger than regular seasonal flu," Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Monday as the worldwide number of confirmed cases of swine flu -- technically known as 2009 H1N1 virus -- topped 1,080.

The flu has been blamed for 26 deaths: 25 in Mexico and one in the United States, according to the World Health Organization.

Still, Napolitano noted, the seasonal flu results in "hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations" and roughly 35,000 fatalities each year in the United States. There are still concerns that the virus could return in the fall, in the typical flu season, as a stronger strain.

"We are cautiously optimistic that this particular strain will not be more severe than a normal seasonal flu outbreak," Napolitano said. 

Dad

Visits are depressing just now. Any humour seems to have gone, and what's there is wallowing in a decent, or indecent, bout of depression. His mind has accepted that there is no 'going home' now, although he can't really remember where home is. Now there are lots of tears and despair.

Getting him a place in a Care Home doesn't happen overnight, yet his hospital ward is a depressing place and those around him are similarly beset by dementia to one degree or another, although neither fellow patients in his 'room' even talk! He wants us just to take him home, which, obviously, we can't. It's all very sad.

Although I promise him I'll find somewhere for him to go soon, he's convinced that they'll carry him out of there in a box.

As I said, visits are depressing just now.

Welcoming Strangers as Citizens

From Ekklesia:

Backing the 4 May 2009 'day of action' calling for undocumented migrants in the UK to have the opportunity to become citizens, Simon Barrow, co-director of the religion and society think-tank Ekklesia, commented:

"We need to understand that people movements are a fact of modern life. The problems around migration are caused by injustice and prejudice, not people. Poverty, violence, racism, human rights abuses, economic dislocation and environmental destruction uproot the vulnerable and enable criminality to prosper. These are what we should be targeting, not the vulnerable themselves."

Barrow says the Strangers into Citizens campaign - backed by senior church leaders and others - represents a "vital step in the right direction" toward a just migration policy. He adds that "welcome for the stranger, hospitality for the oppressed and justice for all regardless of nationality or ethnicity are moral imperatives deeply rooted in the Christian tradition, alongside those of other faiths and good faith."

More on Strangers into Citizens: http://www.strangersintocitizens.org.uk/

Birthday Girl

The RW has a birthday today. If I tell you that next year will be a very big one and will effect her employment status, perhaps you may guess the number!

However, we were talking about age yesterday, and probably both agree with Gambians who perpetually tell us that 'age is just a number'. I was saying that I still consider myself one of the youngest priests in the Diocese, although I'm certainly not, being ordained over 30 years! The RW dresses, looks and has the attitude of one far less that the number which has been bestowed on her today!

It is an attitude thing, really, isn't it? There are many people just like us who have decided to 'act their age'! How boring! I go with the premiss that if you are not embarrassing your children then you are missing out on a lot in life!

So it's a 'Happy Birthday' to a 59 year-old today, to whom I dedicate the Frank Sinatra song, "You make me feel so Young"!

Monday, 4 May 2009

Star Wars Day

Today is called 'Star Wars Day' due to the pun "MAY the 4TH be with you" - right...great...

Vatican 'hampered new Hanks film'

From the BBC......



Tom Hanks, Dan Brown and Ron Howard
Hanks, Dan Brown and Ron Howard were in Rome to promote the film

Director Ron Howard has accused the Vatican of trying to hamper the filming of his new movie, Angels & Demons, starring Tom Hanks.

The movie sequel to author Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code features symbolist Robert Langdon helping to rescue four kidnapped cardinals.

But Howard said the Vatican exerted its influence "through back channels" to prevent filming near certain churches.

A Vatican spokesman said the director's claims were purely a publicity stunt.

Howard told a news conference: "When you come to film in Rome, the official statement to you is that the Vatican has no influence.

Filming barred

"Everything progressed very smoothly, but unofficially a couple of days before we were to start filming in several of our locations, it was explained to us that through back channels and so forth that the Vatican had exerted some influence."

Last summer, Rome's diocese confirmed it had barred producers from filming inside two churches because the movie did not conform to the church's views.

Angels & Demons
Ewan McGregor also stars in Angels & Demons

The director also claimed the Vatican got an event related to the film's premiere in Rome cancelled.

"There was supposed to be a reception or screening here in Rome that had been approved and I suppose that the Vatican had some influence over that," he said.

Speaking to the Associated Press the Vatican spokesman, the Reverend Federico Lombardi, refused to comment on Howard's allegations about church interference, saying his charges were purely designed to drum up publicity for the film.

Science vs religion

Catholic critics were unhappy with The Da Vinci Code which suggests that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had children, creating a royal bloodline that Church officials kept secret for centuries.

But Howard challenged them to see the new movie before condemning it.

"My only frustration as a film-maker is that we actually reached out a couple of times, to sort of offer opportunities for bishops and others just to see the film. And those opportunities have all been declined," he said.

"So far all the criticism, all of the complaints about the film have been coming from people who haven't seen it."

Over the weekend, a 102-year-old Italian bishop was quoted in the Italian media calling the film "highly denigrating, defamatory and offensive to Church values".

However, the storyline of Angels & Demons does not raise questions about Jesus Christ - it is billed as a "science vs religion" thriller that deals with an attempt to hijack a papal election.

Howard's adaptation of The Da Vinci Code, which was panned by critics, earned more than $750m (£505m) at the box office worldwide.

Angels & Demons will be released in the UK on 19 May.

Aberdeen Listening Day

The Bishop of St Andrew's has made available his words to the Diocese of Aberdeen on their Listening Day on human sexuality. They are downloadable from here, and excellent! Well worth a read!

Cunning Ploy

As MadPriest says - "RIGHT WING POLITICIANS FOLLOW RIGHT WING ANGLICANS TO NIGERIA. IF ONLY THEY WOULD ALL STAY THERE."

Last week, leader of The Christian Party (TCP) in the United Kingdom, Rev George Hargreaves led delegation of his party to Nigeria to flag off its campaign ahead of European Elections coming up in UK on the 4th of June 2009. The aim of the campaign was to give Nigerians with British passport an opportunity to vote by proxy in the European Union parliamentary elections.

The party converged in Lagos to unfold its agenda to Nigerians who had lived (legally) in Britain for 10 years that they are eligible to vote, provided he or she have registered with the Electoral Commission before May 10. The party as part of its campaign has set up registration centres in Lagos, Abuja, and Port Harcourt, where electorates would be able to fill necessary forms and be sent down to the UK electoral commission ahead of the election.

Hargreaves while addressing newsmen in Lagos said the party decided to launch its campaign in Nigeria because Nigeria has the largest number of Africans in the UK, as he called on prospective voters to support the party as part of its efforts to put wrongs in the British society right.

He said it was time for Africans to vote in the country’s election for better bargaining power in its politics, saying that if the party is elected it would fight against the British culture that denies parents the right to discipline their wards and empowers the social service workers to take possession of such children

Although, the party is a minor Christian Rights political organisation in Britain but Hargreaves said it has a chance at winning seats in the European elections, saying that “the method used in the European election is a proportional representation that has been introduced so that the major parties will not dominate the seats”.

Extortion

Evolution

Click on the pic!

Music

Organist on holiday? Has s/he resigned over the choice of hymns? Problem solved here! Lead the congregation in the rendition of good old Scottish Style psalm singing. Nobody will know s/he's gone!

Birthday Looms

It's the RW's birthday tomorrow, (Rectory Wife), and being the chaotic person I am, I certainly didn't make provision for the fact that today is a Bank Holiday and everywhere is closed, locally at least. The RW has a day off, too, which makes it difficult to sneak away and buy the necessary!

Some of the clergy in this part of the world are having lunch today in a Glasgow pub. If I take her along, and tell her that's her birthday present, a magnificent lunch with magnificent company, do you think that will suffice?

Police Today

My thanks to Mrs Blethers for giving me this.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Dad

Thank you all so much for your prayers over the past weeks. An update is long overdue! Due to the incredibly tender and brilliant nursing care at the Vale of Leven Hospital, dad is making a half decent recovery, physically. When I look at him now, compared to Easter Day, I find it hard to believe.

However, his mind is really away now, and that's sad, although if you learn to laugh at the things he says, the pain is not so dreadful after all. At last it's become apparent, and not just to me, that he is totally incapable of looking after himself, and he'll not return home now.

We need to put him into care, and as we cannot afford private care, it will be in a place where there is a spare room! That process could take weeks or months. I get worried, too, because Care Homes can be a bit of a lottery, and I know from my ministry that some places are far superior to others. 

At the moment he can fluctuate from being quite accepting of the situation to being extremely unsettled and wanting home asap! The spark is still in there, and yesterday he was trying to kiss nurses!

The next wee while is not going to be easy, but with your thoughts and continuing prayers, we will get there in the end!