Thursday, October 28, 2004


A very quick one to say apologies but I've typed in the same blog entry and lost it three times now so you'll have to wait for some more, sorry.

I want to actually see some daylight! More anon.

Brick by Brick Faith

Unending thanks to my friend Ben for introducing me to The Lego Bible. I hope you love it as much as I do. I haven't explored it all yet but the Tower of Babel is pretty cool and I like the Gadarene demoniacs.

Perhaps this is the Flannelgraph for the 21st cenury?

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

I like pie...

Well today the cathedral redeemed itself slightly in my opinion because when I walked in there was an organist practising for the evensong for All Saints' day including Bainton's And I saw a New Heaven. There was also no cleaning in progress. The gift shop was open this time so I did get a cheery (though somewhat behind-the-counter-intimidating) hello on my way in and an invitation to look at the Christmas cards on the way out but there was still nothing that set it apart from a nice building in the way the welcoming ladies behaved. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't expecting my head to be bashed in with a bible or any kind of blessing [Toronto or otherwise ;oP ]

I've also had another wander round the St Lawrence market - this time with a purpose. It was wonderful fun and I found myself relishing a little extravagance as part of my "thank you" to Kerry for her kind hospitality. Rather Babette's Feast like (Alan if you're readn this - yes I did appreciate the message of the film, despite myself really!) I'm now wrapped around a Pumpkin Spiced Latte at Starbucks and yes amazingly it IS scrummy! I doubt we'll be getting that one in the UK! I think it tastes good because I treated myself to a mini pumpkin pie at the market and still had the taste left in my mouth when it came to ordering coffee.

So tonight I shall be preparing melon with twelve month old Parma Prosciuotto (that's GOOD by the way!) follwed by Beef Strogaoff with some Torontonian Mill Street organic lager for added flavour (a trick I discovered when cooking in Germany) accompanied by a light salad (Kerry doesn't realy DO cooked veg so I passed by the incredible looking asparagus and yellow courgettes which I would have served!!) all rounded off with custard tart, chocolate tart (half of each) and a chocolate dipped strawberry. Not actually much work for a three course dinner but I don't want to mess up Kerry's kitchen in my usual culinary manner.

Distilled knowledge

I forgot to mention our visit to the distillery district which was just fabulous. It reminded me of some of the rennovated parts of the London docklands. Rich dark chocolatey heritage with a fresh raspberry zing of modern art workshops and juice bars. It's a place that has been used in all kinds of films including some in which Kerry was an extra so she had all kinds of stories about two forthcoming films Samantha and the Ice Princess which features Michelle Trachtenburg aka Dawn from Buffy who was apparently useless at skating!

Housed in the old distillery lunch room [No smoking until 1215 as the sign told us!] was an amazing glass studio. Most of the pieces were upwards of $2000 and at least one was $500,000 - OUCH! but most of them were absolutely stunning especially a set using tiny squares and rectangles of multicoloured glass together with clear glass suares that reminded me of that work by Bridget Reilly. The individual squares were less than 1cm squared and some of the works were nearly a metre high - that's a lot of glass!

Time Travel in the blogosphere

Ok here's the weirdness...

I wrote some stuff down on that old fashioned paper substance last week so I could type it in here.

Do I put it in and backdate it? Or add it in here where the chronology is wrong?

Hmmm. Tough one.

I think I opt for the time travel method!!!

So if you're reading this you may want to look back at some previous posts which have snuck in!

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

a walk on the wild side

Today, Kerry and I roamed around some more wild parts of the city which would probably be eqivalent to Tottenham Court Road, Camden town and Carnaby street. China town was also fascinating and there was a REALLY cool secondhand bookshop on Queen Street. I was tempted but remembered my luggage weight allowance!

In the evening, we went to see HERO which was stunningly visually and in fact the story was fascinating as well. Much like An Instance of the Fingerpost (which I have just finisehd - superb!) it retold the story in different ways each time.

Yet more interesting than the film was Kerry's final realisation about the cinema we went to see it at. The Royal on College Street is part of the group of Festival cinemas which is a group set up to salvage old style movie theatres in the city. Kerry used to live just around the corner and didn't remember there being a cinema there when she was at the University of Toronto and yet, when we got there, the cinema was clearly a 60s building. Finally she remembered. The Royal used to be the ADULT cinema. My visit to Toronto really HAS been a series of new experiences!!!

Motherhood and... blueberry pie?

Apologies but I've not posted for a few days because I've been upstate in Ontario at Kerry's parents' house in Barrie indulging in Blueberry pie, cooked breakfasts and home baked chocolate cookies!

I saw beaver crossing the road and a buffalo in a field and even BETTER....


So blog on that forthcoming but for now I have to go as we're off to see Hero tonight.

Blog tomorrow I promise!

Monday, October 25, 2004


Over the weekend we went into Menonite country (they're like the Amish in Witness) which was really cool.

Oooh and on the drive there we saw a BEAVER crossing the road! Oh Oh, AND a chipmunk :oD

St Jacob's was a marvellous bit of rural Canada. I bought some maple syrup and we saw the Menonites in their horse-drawn buggy. All very touristy really.

Also we had a look at Barrie where Kerry's parents live. It is an intriguing place with no real town centre. There are what we would think of as big out of town shopping areas but these ARE the town. There are no offices to speak of, only retail parks. It was just weird but apparently this is normal for a "bedroom town" what we'd call a "dormitory town" I suppose.

Kerry and I also went to see Team America. It was truly crude, sick and offensive but also hilariously funny, I'm afraid! I don't think it'll go down well in the US somehow!

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Falling for somewhere

Niagara falls....

all I can say is WOW!

I mean totally WOW WOW WOW!

Words and even pictures just cannot describe how absolutely COOL Niagara Falls is.

The Horseshoe Falls at Niagara Posted by Hello

I have some pics - including one of Kerry and Joanne in yellow plastic mac things which they hand out. Somehow we didn't get one of me in one of those things.... strange!

We also went to Fort George and were taken on a tour by the rather dashing Sergeant Mackenzie Cameron.

Oh yes an I saw America from a distance... it's over-rated!!!

After all that we met Joanne's friend Aaron and Kerry's parents at a diner. Mr and Mrs Catehrs had supper but we'd already hit the service statio on the way so decided just to have dessert (I confused them all by calling it pudding which is not a generic term apparently something specific which sounds like blancmange!) Joanne had a deep-fried cheesecake and Kerry and I opted for the mile high mud pie.

What appeared was about the size of a house brick. OH MY WORD! it was ENORMOUS. It was also four layers - two of frozen solid icecream, one of extremely cold peanut butter and the last of Permafrost Oreo biscuits. It was so hard that they provided us with steak knives - I kid you not! To make it all the more difficult, I had to make inroads into mine whilst being watched closely by Aaron who finally admitted to being fascinated by the "really dainty meticulous way you use the back of your fork. It's so ENGLISH!" well I managed about a third of it which I would guess was a normal human portion! THEN Aaron made me try corn-bread because I HAD to. Yeah it was nice but I was SO full!

Me at Niagara in October 2004 Posted by Hello

End of the line

Today Kerry and I reached the end of the line... of the subway that is. Kipling, to be precise, (oh best beloved!) There Kerry's friend Joanne picked us up and drove us through the vineyards and wineries and across lake Ontario to Niagara Falls. I'm seeing far more of the typical Canadain scenery; beautiful fall colours and quaint country churches.

It reminds me that I've notcied how much there is a real dichotomy between some of the really slick shopping malls and the somewhat rundown parts of the city. I suppose London is the same really but Toronto is rundown in a Canadian way. In many ways Canada isn't as modernised as the UK. For example the bank counters look as they did in the UK in the 1980s. Apparently some of this is due to the recession resulting from the additional costs of dual language government and signposting. Perhaps that explains why Wales is more old fashioned than England???

All the World's a Stage

Yesterday evening, Kerry and I went to see Stage Beauty at one of the university cinemas. Before the film, a spotlight lit up the corner of the screen and a stand mic. Then a woman actually stepped into the light and announced the film. She reminded us of the possibility of being members of the cinema film club and then told us about the film. I half expected an organ to appear from the floor or at the very least a pythonesque John Cleese shout of "ALBATROSS!"

Friday, October 22, 2004

fluffy update

Oh I forgot to say...

Before I went into the Cathedral I did manage to get some surveillance photographs of the SAS (Squirrel Assassin Service) so anyone wishing to see the evidence will have to wait until me return!

Freaky Friday

Today I finally got to the cathedral church of St James, Toronto. It was fairly lovely in its way but it seemed rather disconnected from the city around it n a way the church of the Holy Trinity wasn't. The only invitation to visitors was to sign the guest book. No suggestion of taking some time out to think or pray. There was no explanation of what Christianity and the cathedral are about. There was an opportunity to light a candle and a card to go with it but a dollar a candle seemed rather acquisitive to me.

I did try to have a little quiet time but the woman rather noisily sweeping the pews didn't make that possible really. There were some fairly good stained gass windows; some modern, some quasi old. I suppose I just expected more. Though at least you could easily get INTO the cathedral unlike Christchurch, Oxford!

After the cathedral I headed into St Lawrence market which is JUST FANTASTIC! It makes the covered market in Oxford look small, rather pathetic and of dubious quality. I had a plate of mussels that was cooked freshly in front of me at Barney's Cove and a freshly squeezed blueberry, banana and raspberry juice ffrom the juice bar. There were at least three cheese shops, a multiplicity of charcuteries and butchers plus fishmongers wit exciting live lobsters and tiger prawns the size of my hand. The proliferation of sumptuous food made me WANT to cook - haricots jaunes, ten types of rice, myriad pulses, fresh pastas, banks of dried fruits, fresh fruits and bizarre varieties of squash. I'm going to have to persuade Kerry to drop her amazing hostess hospitality which doesn't let me do anything and let me cook her dinner!

After that I took a walk down to the quayside of Lake Ontario and watched the maple leaves dance on the water. It was wonderful.

I then schlepped back to the city centre via the Royal York hotel which looked splendidly luxurious.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

furry friends

The little fluffy guys from the Assassins guild must have been doing better today. I didn't see ANY. I will try and get some pics though for those of you who have complained at the lack of photos. With my funky new digital camera I should be able to manage that- ooooooh!

A Long time AGO...

I went to the Art Gallery of Ontario today. Wow!

An absolutely AMAZING set of pictures from the Group of Seven especially a painting by Frederick Varley called Liberation which was a six foot tall painting of the ressurected Christ entering the upper room where the disciples were hiding. It was a riot of colour and the expression on Christ's face was not smiling nor exactly sombre so it engaged the eye. The colours follow the figure into the room and creep through the darkness of the doorway. It was incredible. Annoyingly I couldn't find a picture of it in the shop or online but I'm working on it.
The gallery also had a special focus on one picture by Jackson with audio commentary that helped you meditate on the contents of the picture. Definitely something I'll be using at Xp with the young people. I just need to find a suitable picture, mayb an icon or a picture of the last supper. Sorry, sorry I am NOT thinking about work. Really.

I also got a bit of a surprise because there was some modern art that I REALLY loved by Kazuo Nakamura using number theory and especial Pascal's triangle. Fortunately there was also some really silly modern art to reassure me that I haven't changed taste entirely! What I liked about Nakamura's work was that there was clearly somethng DEEP behind it. I genuinely believe that is often lacking in other modern art

The highlight I was actually looking forward to was the Henry More gallery nd that was superb. Some small versions of his sculptures and plaster moulds that were used to cast the final bronze works tat are elsewhere. The gallery had also put out paper and pencils, challenging visitors to have a go at sketching. Of course I couldn't resist that! I will however be sticking with watercolours and acrylics I think. Sketching things like that is NOT easy!

There was also a strange exhibition by Mark Lombardi of what were essentially mind maps of the organisational and relational networks behind things like the BCCI scandal. These were fascinating... but are they art? I don't know.

Later Kerry and I checked out a PUB - yes they claim to have pubs here. Kerry admitted they're not really pubs but there was beer so I din't complain!

Tomorrow I think I'm going to check out the cathedral and maybe do a little more shopping. Then in the evening we're going to see a film, perhaps HERO which is supposed to be visually STUNNING or Shark Tale which has had some recommendations in the old blogosphere.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

The World's BIGGEST Book Store

I started my mini city tour by a pop into the World's Biggest Book Store which had some interesting things and oh yes, I DID look at religious books and YES I noted some down. Only the third day of hols so I'm still not entirely disconnected from work.

Anyway... for the benefit of my youth work colleagues... there's a teenage boy equivalent of REVOLVE (the teen girl magazine style New Testament) called REFUEL from Other things that looked good were an EVERYTHING book of Prayer and a trio of books of Labyrinth Meditations including the Labyrinth and Christian Prayer and The Labyrinth and Song of Songs (I thought the younger end of the LCSB might like that one!) but I didn't check out the precise details of those - lax off-duty chick that I am!!! I didn't actually buy any of them as it is only day three and I can't buy too much hevay stuff.

Interesting thing about the World's Biggest Book Store was the sotck balance. There was an absolute TONNE of new age religion and Wicca stuff - much more than I've ever seen in a British shop. The Christian religious section was also sizeable however, on a par with Borders in shelf space but not as extensive as Blackwells. There were a good sixteen shelves of Bibles BUT it was severely lacking in decent in depth theology. No Moltmann, no Rahner, no BARTH! What is the world coming to? Elsewhere there were some thrity different versions of Chicken Soup for the Soul such as Chicken Soup for the Single's Soul - not sure why THAT one stood out!!! So why so many self-help style books and nothing deeper? Our postmodern dumbing down world strikes again I think.

What I did buy was a pop up map of Toronto. I opted for that rather than a guide books so I might look a little less like a tourist.

I'm going to the Art Gallery of Ontario tomorrow. I want to do the Rodin exhibition justice so I didn't want to squeeze it in to the time before I meet Kerry after work for coffee. So today was shopping day... tomorrow CULTURE!

Cross cultural waves

Transatlantic classics so far today... The ladies from Newcastle trying on hats in Sears... the foursome of SAGA travellers discussing senior moments (and hectares???) but best of all... I made my first foray into POTTERY BARN - yes as in the place they always mention on programmes like Friends. I was modestly impressed I must say but I soon returned to my idiosyncratic sillyness. They had these large chrome letter sets for your mantlepiece spelling out the words PEACE and JOY. I was tempted to see what silly phrase or even... shock, horror... RUDE words I could make but the best I could do was Cape Joey! Perhaps we'd need to suggest the addition of other letter sets but anyone got any words I haven't spotted?

Fluffy espionage update

On the way into the city today I spotted another fluffy member of the Assassins Guild - it tried to become invisible by VERY suddenly becoming still but this was demonstrably unsuccessful.

If I don't move you can't see me Posted by Hello

Always get their man?

No sightings of any Mounties yet, except on postcards and apparently this is likely to be the case for my whole time here as they don't dress in red anymore really and there aren't any in Toronto because there aren't any state buildings, only provincial buildings - Darn it!

However... I have spotted an awful lot of well built jock types and the Toronto firemen's charity calendar. Anyone wanting me to bring one of these back should let me know!

All well and good in their way but the chunky kinda guy isn't really my type - which is probably for the best under present circmstances - give me a cute, quirky, smart guy any time!

Place of Meeting

Toronto means "Place of Meeting" in Huron Indian. Ok, panic not I do not have lots of dull bits of info like that - yet!

First day of going solo in Toronto and I must look at home because an American lady on vacation asked me if the food court in the Eaton Centre was "always this busy"?

I felt really guilty when Kerry left for work at 7.30 am, leaving me with instructions for the streetcar in case I forgot, especialy as I was sitting on the sofa bed in my PJs planning to go back to sleep!

After a few more Zzzzs, a yummy raisin and cinammon bagel, some blog typing and a joyous viewing of Macgyver, I set off for my first solo streetcar ride.

I'm now sitting in my "Toronto office" - Timothy's on the corner of Albert and James. I may branch out eventually but this place is pretty big and I must admit to becoming a little daunted by the sheer HEIGHT of all the buildings even though today their tops are shrouded in fog from about the 25th floor upwards. However my office is an interesting spot. It boasts the view of the local smoking office workers and, like so much of Toronto, a small group of trees in beautiful fall colours.

I also popped into Holy Trinity church which was built 150 years ago and is a small jewel of a centrepiece of tradition n the idst of the shopping temples of Eaton Place and the Atrium on the Bay. Holy Trinity has a strong community focus with a homeless centre and a community cafe which I plan on trying later. They also have a focus on prayer with a grass labyrinth in the garden outside the church.

Secret Squirrel

Ok now I've been feeling very British today...

Firstly with the whole langauge and accent deal. I've been practicing saying tomato. That aside, I think I'm going to be speaking like the queen by the time I get home.

The second Britomuppet moment was my excitement at seeing a black squirrel. Now I don't know about you but I've only ever seen grey or red squirrels. I didn't know they came in black!

Did u see something? Posted by Hello

Of course having seen one I was all excited but within ten minutes I'd seen about twenty and they were a little less novel by then! It did occur to me though.. why black? I mean the grey squirrels seem better camouflaged to me and that made me think... maybe these black squirrels are in the discworld assassins guild. Maybe there ARE some black squirrels in England but we never see them! Think on!

What was that? Posted by Hello

Well I've sat about the flat this mornign typing up the old blog but now I'm heading off to catch the streetcar - SO exciting! - then I'm hitting Timothy's, Second Cup or Tim Horton's (Canadian Coffee House chains!) for some lunch and from there... well the Art Gallery of Ontario or the BIGGEST mall I've EVER seen - the Eaton Centre. This is the shopping mall which extends up three floors and DOWN two floors. Apparently the Path extends underground for most of the centre of the city so that some people can get from home to shops to work and home again without ever going outside. How Asmovian is that? Well apparently bits of Toronto featured in I Robot and LOADS of other films. I'll be looking out for them!

More anon good reader. I hope all is well back in quaint ol' England (or in Sunny Australia, Coz!)

Comments welcome people to make me feel not QUITE so far away!

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Up in the air

This just in... we're back over land again. Just north of Comer Brook and heading south.

2 hours 10 minutes until we get there and 5 hours 13 minutes since we left and it's -56 F outside now up here at 35000 feet - hey I sound like the guy flyig the plane!

We'll soon be passing over Prince Edward Island and I don't think I'll be able to see the lake of shinign waters from here - shame!

Not surprisingly, it really IS reassuring to see the little plane symbol flyer over land again.

The video screen now promises Stan the Exerciseman - I can't wait - DVT no problem for me! Oh shocking - less than a page of the great new book and TONNES of blog and yet more distraction to come... an episode of Friends I've never seen.

Now what I couldn't ACTUALLY write about on the plane was the woman next to me who KEPT on looking over at what I was writing. I find that incredibly annoying! I knew we got off to a bad start when I turned to smile and was about to say hey when she just blanked me completely. She also spent most of the flight sighing and trying to find a comfortable position. Personally compared to the coach journey to Taize (which takes LONGER than my flight to Canada!!) I was really comfortable. She also kept rubbing the arm nearest to me as if I was too close when I was MILES away. Was my aura rubbing her aura or something??? I tried to be charitable and think that maybe she found the leg room limited but when I finally saw her stand-up she was shorter than me (and that's SHORT!) so I was a bit bemused really.

Well I arrived safely and met Kerry with her fiend Joanne who was driving us into the city through the fall colours. Beautiful

We had a traditional Canadian GREEK supper and then a night time tour of the city. Superb1

Flying High

This is the second blog from my flight...

Well The Terminal was superb and I just about avoided blubbing in the middle of a plane... well, at least I covered it well! I was pleasantly surprised by the film, although its weakness is that it has left me wanting to talk like Victor Novoroski for... much time, Not sure when it will again... be time for an eat to bite.

547 mph 31000 feet -50 F outside

and as I suspected before... the location of the plane in the middle of the Atlantic ocean really isn't the most reassuring of sights. We are just south of Angmagssalik in Greenland and a LONG way from Casablanca! Now already it seems to be time for Raising Helen. Curious. I have to say... transatlantic travel seems to be a good excuse to watch two films back to back - how fantastic! Though it is still doing nothing for my literary career but Raising Helen has John Corbett in it so that may help the old creativity with my new leading man. I must try not to base him entirely on people I know and if he looks like John Corbett in my head that's got to help!

High Society

Well clearly I can't be writng this directly into the old blognet as I'm on the plane but... thoughts so far...

Well a lovely journey through some fabulous English countryside on the way to Gatwick with my Dad which set me up perfectly for a trip away. Even the M25 was clear - how mch can a girl ask, eh?

I got checked in EXTREMELY easily and quickly but, despite me smart casual look, no upgrade - ah well I seem fairly comfortable in the not so comfortble seat so far and only 7 hrs 01 mins left (as the handy timer on the screen keeps telling us!) This would be only marginally less irritating if it weren't for the fact that we were sitting on the plane for an entire HOUR past our original departure time because of some software problem.

One very strange thing is the cute map to show us where we are. I find this quite reassuring at present (we are over Cardiff as I write, allegedly) however I imagine this might be less of a reasurance when we're over the ocean for any lenght of time!

29 mins and we've done 225 miles!

Sorry that just flashed up on the screen so I thought I'd share it with you.

I've finally found a music channel with something vaguely rock like - She's Like the Wind was TOO much!

Anyway I was telling you about this map...

It has the curious novelty of telling us not ONLY where we are but ALSO where all SORTS of other places are in relation to us. Currently there's a map of Europe including places like Baden Baden, Nice and in Italy... Bari. Not ROME or FLORENCE.... but Bari. Why Bari? Is there a syndicate of Bari businessmen who've done a deal with Transat trying to influence us. I've been reading An Instance of the Fingerpost so I'm currently awash with conspiracy theory driven ideas!

More pleasing news... my tactic of not going to the cinema in the last few weeks as paid off. I will be seeing The Terminal AND Raising Helen. Both are films I was vaguely intrigued by when I saw the trailers but wasn't sure I could quite be bothered enough to go to see. I might have managed to get Tim to The Terminal but I REALLY don't think he'd have gone for Raising Helen!

I am also displaying a small quantity of sad muppetry - I have purchased the Transat headphones for two bucks (can you tell I'm getting into this whole Canadian deal?) even though I actually have a superior pair of Sony gel earphoes. the ONLY reason I bought hem was because I wantd them with the little logo on. SAD, SAD, SAD - I know.

482 mph 32000 feet -34 F outside.

Oh how splendidly Canadian! Channel 1 has the audio for the screen in French and Channel 2 is in English. I get a language lesson AND I learn about Cuba - for some unknown reason; a deal with the cigar makers? I'm waiting for the travelogue on Bari!!!

Oh I'm giving in to subliminal suggestion... I'm listening to French commentary and I'm SURE I can taste French chocolate! And lo! the snack trolley cometh! I will be strong willed. I will drink my water and wait for the lunch.

That's enough from me for now... More anon, I'm going to try to do some serious writing. The groundbreaking nove of the new century awaits. It should be "positively Farmatousesque" - NO IDEA how to spell that, apologies Miss Jones! No seriously, I have an idea for another book (the first still only a quarter done) and I promised myself I wouldn't start a new one, I CAN'T write about sixth century France when I'm on an aeroplane - it would all go insane!

Oh and I gave in to temptation after all... a tomato juice and a gine and tonic! Damn, damn DAMN!

Ooh we're over Cork! Hey and I spotted that before the detailed map came on.

The Terminal has started. There goes my intention to undertake my literary endeavours!

Sunday, October 17, 2004

The only boy who could ever reach me...?

During the weekend course I've just been on, we had a discussion about the value of preaching.

The place of the sermon in our regular services was brought in to question. Should we keep the sermon in our service?

Well the early church, as far as we know, didn't have anything like a sermon slot. Of course they also didn't have music, dedicated Christian buildings (or indeed the Bible as we know it, in the early years, but let's not go there!!) so that's not exactly a good argument AGAINST the sermon.

What difference do sermons make?

I remember playing games during the sermons when I was younger (embarrassingly not THAT much younger in fact!) and I know there are those who time them either by clock or by mint imperials. "At least it makes people read the notices sheet" said one of my colleagues today! OUCH! So is there any point in having sermons at church?

I know that people make comments to me when I've preached but I am also very much aware that I can't remember many sermons that I've heard and surely I must have heard hundreds. However I DO remember some sermons. Not normally the WHOLE sermon but certainly the message of some. Or indeed just a section, a sentence, a word.

Today, for example, Mike Butterworth preached on the topic of prayer and asking God for things. The sermon as a whole didn't speak to me especially. HOWEVER there was one sentence which really did slap me round the face like a wet fish. Mike said that when we ask God for things, sometimes, the answer isn't "NO" but "Why are you asking for that? There is something SO much better" This is a message I really needed to hear and which I am still trying to REALLY hear. Some of you may know why but oh BOY let's not go there.

This for me is an argument in favour of the sermon.

One of the other arguments AGAINST getting rid of the sermon is... what do we do instead? This is not to say that the sermon is there merely as a result of a lack of imagination to do something else. In fact I think we all need a challenge. Although the Bible can give us a challenge we often need someone to EXPOUND on that message and make it clearer for us or relate it to our modern lives.

Indeed the sermon is the primary means of teaching in many churches. It would be brilliant if all the people in our churches could spend time in Bible study groups but this simply isn't the reality for many Christians. Therefore the sermon remains the prime focus for teaching about Christianity.

Part of our discussions focussed on the style of sermons and here my peculiar mix of an academic background and a youthwork present showed through. The first two styles we discussed were a) serious and learned b) informal, relaxed and chatty. I actually see no reason why these two can't combine. I don't believe that a relaxed sermon necessarily means one that uses only simple language. In fact I really feel it is important that preachers do use complex language sometimes. In a relaxed sermon the preacher needs not simply to use the technical theological terms but also to explain them.

Again an argument in favour of the sermon I feel.

Oh dear before this sounds too much like a poorly constructed essay I'd better stop.

I appear to have persuaded myself that we should keep on preaching. Who else has any feelings about keeping or losing the sermon from our services?

Practice what you preach

I'm just back from the SAOMC preaching weekend which was pretty cool actually. The sessions mostly reassured me that I'm doing ok with the preaching deal and also showed me how much progress I've made since we looked at preaching last year.

Aside from the sessions it was also good to meet up with all my friends and catch up before I jet off to Canada tomorrow. An added bonus was getting to meet some new people who've joined the course who are just fab and also to skive off during the freetime to have lunch with me girly mates from when I worked at Reading Uni!

Overall there was lots of laughter (I REALLY can't remember what we laughed about except for one VERY rude thing which would only embarrass Mark anyway if I told as it was his unfortunate doubl'entendre!), a viewing of Babette's Feast, late night chats and good red wine, some hearty cooked breakfasts and some lovely autumn colours.

I think the MOST frightening moment though was when I was chatting to Roger today and realised that the next time I see him I'm going to be THIRTY! Life seems to be moving SO fast at the moment. It really must be time for a holiday.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

The Good Book or a good book?

To those of you who've enjoyed the Cresspesto style I apologise that it's all got a bit heavy recently but I certainly need to do at least one more serious blog as it seems I've sent a few ripples across the calm waters with my last blog on the Bible

The reactions have varied from serious concern for the state of my faith to agreement and describing me as fab (bless u K!).

In response to Jon who commented on the site. My perspective would be that I didn't say the Bible was WRONG. I believe it reflects our humanity. The readings and psalm at Morning Prayer this morning reinforced this for me. We heard about Jonah being fed up with God for forgiving the people of Nineveh when Jonah thought he should have gone through with the retribution. Jonah goes off and SULKS in the desert and God reacts by giving him a tree for shade (Jonah chapters 3&4). The Psalm we had was Psalm 5 which includes a typically human burst of emotion: "O God declare them guilty! Let them be caught in their own traps" (Psalm 5.10). It reminded me of that bit in Psalm 139 (or 138 if you're Roman Catholic, I think) "I hate them with a perfect hatred." (Psalm 139 v.22). We may sometimes wish that people get their comeuppance but God's desire for us is always repentance and salvation.

These kinds of passages show me the very human nature of the Bible. Jon asks if this has affected my faith. Well for me the human nature of the Bible SUPPORTS my faith. It helps me remember that we are called to seek perfection in our lives but not to expect it of ourselves for no human being can achieve perfection until we are perfected in Christ in heaven. Yes God uses our mistakes and God used the mistakes of those people who wrote the books that make up the Bible to build and support the Church now and throughout history. I think sometimes we have to be brave enough to look at issues like this head on. Are we ACTUALLY doing what God wants us to be doing? There are all kinds of worthy things we COULD do but surely we all know of times when we've done things which though not WRONG essentially were not exactly God's plan for us.

As to the monks meditating carefully about things and then making the decision. Yes I'm certain that the early Christians thought and prayed earnestly before establishing the canon as we now have it. Does that stop us doing the same? Unfortunately a large number of Christians believing something is right does not make it so. The Crusades and the Inquisition must have taught us that. Of course God wants people with a true and non-heretical faith but to seek the kinds of retribution that humanity inflicted on heretics and non-Christians is surely not relfecting the desire for his people of a loving Creator?

Ian commented that he wasn't worried by what I said because he KNOWS me and has seen my faith in action as it were but that, if he DIDN'T know me, he might have been a little unnerved. Likewise Tim's reaction was that my opinions were different to his but, as he knows I've actually reflected and thought about it and "got it sorted", he valued it as an honest opinion different to his own though it may be.

Other people have questioned whether or not I value the Bible above other holy writings. YES. DEFINITELY. Does that answer the question? For those of you that DON'T know me, I have a strong devotion to daily Morning Prayer and the associated readings from the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament as well as my own personal daily prayer life which involves Biblical reflection. I have not begun reading Good as New INSTEAD of the Bible but I will read it.
I think perhaps there are some who will not be satisfied with my response. Indeed I may have left some of you still in worry for my mortal soul. Fortunately I have faith in God as an accepting God, a forgiving God, and a loving God. In reading Good as New I seek to deepen my relationship with God and I believe God honours that. I also believe that others are free to believe differently.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

So far so Good

Well I've now had another look at As Good As New (though still not exactly a comprehensive read) and I've got some idea of why some Christians, particularly those of an Evangelical theology have objections to the text. It's not simply that the book ignores the canon (the agreed structure and contents of the Bible as recorded as early as 300AD by Athanasius), and omits Revelation, Jude and other books or that it omits the Old Testament entirely. I think that the introduction to the book may well have provoked many Evangelicals to reject the book out of hand before they have even explored it as Henson describes his Evangelical upbringing as "brainwashing" through chorus singing. This is a description that is unlikely to encourage anyone designating themself as Evangelical or who values the singing of choruses to explore further. I think this is a shame.

As for my own reflections, I think it is an interesting exploration of the texts. In the introduction the translator makes it clear that his selection of books to include and exclude is not merely arbitrary but based on sound biblical scholarship. Henson argues that he has included those texts which he thinks the early Christians would have included if they had known what we know now about the true authorship of texts such as The Gospel of Thomas, Revelation, the letters to Timothy and the letters of Jude, 2 Peter and 2 & 3 John.

Personally I rather like his modified order of the Gospels in a more chronological order of composition, especially as it places the Gospel of Luke and Acts together. Ever since I knew they were written by the same person (it wasn't in my early years Sunday School curriculum as I recall!) I've found their separation by John's Gospel a little strange.

The whole question of whether this is a NEW New Testament is something else. I think whether you can even contemplate such a prospect depends on how you view the Bible itself. I've had this debate recently with a friend and for me the text of the Bible is clearly inspired by God and "breathed through by the Holy Spirit" as someone put it. HOWEVER I also believe in the fallibility of humanity and, as a former historian, I KNOW that the text we have now is NOT the exact text originally written by the first authors. Scribal errors and lost or damaged manuscripts are a part of reality as are the peculiar (in both senses of the word!) ideas of editors and indeed translators. Anyone who wants to read the New Testament as the "original canon" should be doing so in Greek because my experience as a translator ALSO tells me that NO translation can be wholly accurate as two languages are just DIFFERENT - that's the point! Muslims place such a great emphasis on the precision of the words they consider dictated to Muhammad by Allah that they do not consider a translation of those words to be valid. This is NOT how the Christian church views the Bible. Unfortunately some people seem to react to books like As Good As News as if this IS how the Christian church views the Bible

My worry is that people who depend upon every word of the translation of the Bible that they know may ground their faith too much on nuances within it rather than on a combination of that Biblical foundation with a real and dedicated relationship with God and the support of the wisdom of Christians before us and the fellowship of the other Christians who make up the modern church.

In my theology class last year, we had a debate about the words of Jesus focussing on Jesus' words on the cross. Mike, our tutor, asked us to place the words from the cross in order of importance to us as sources of inspiration. He then asked us to consider what effect it would have on our faith if it were proven that Jesus NEVER said those words. An interesting debate ensued. Words which have ALWAYS had great significance for me wre suddenly taken from me and I thought "They have taken away my words and I do not know where they have put them!" Yet after the initial shock, I realised that in fact what REALLY mattered was my faith and my relationship with God. Evenwithout those words both those were unchanged. Of course, this was taking away only a few words of the Gospel. How far could we go before there is not enough?

There is no doubt that the Bible is a fundamental part of my religious devotion, my faith and indeed my life and yes that collection of texts was mostly agreed over 1700 years ago (though edited by the protestants only 500 years ago to exclude the Apocrypha) but what if it were WRONG? What if God had wanted something a bit different and people hadn't wuite understood his inspirations or what if texts had been lost (like the Gospel of Thomas - perhaps lost until a more enlightened time as Henson suggests in his introduction)? If we are inspired NOW to see the value of some texts and to realise that other texts are not in fact as central to the church as they may have been considered, should we not perhaps be OPEN to that change?

I'm not suggesting that we should adopt this book as the NEW BIBLE but we should not reject it out of hand as a useful exploration of the real history of the composition of the texts and a challenge to our reliance on the word rather than on the Word.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

...and in other news...

Just a quick one to point you to someone else's ideas about As Good as New which I talked about last week. I've had a second flick through but still not managed a proper read of it!

I did notice the rather modified contents in terms of books. NO revelation. No really the book doesn't feature but the Gospel of Thomas does. Considering the discussion I had with one Roman Catholic friend recently I doubt it will be a favourite with him and I'm sure I shall slide even further down in his estimation!

So have a look at these thoughts for the time being:

Church totally ROCKS

Today the young people from our youth holiday led our family service which is called Worship For All. Vic gave a talk which the rest of them had helped work out at our youth holiday reunion last Saturday. We told the congregation about the way we used stones each day to remind us of our sins and how God forgives our sins through Jesus sacrifice on the cross. We gave each member of the congregation a stone and invited them to offer their stone at the foot of the cross as a symbol of offering their sins and the sins of the world to God and asking for forgiveness.

It seemed to go down fairly well with the All Saints' crowd and I was so immensely proud of all the young people. Whenever one of them gives the talk I always feel so humbled and think I should take a back seat with these things ALL the time but then I remember that I actually love preaching. It's one of the bits of my job when I really feel I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing; connecting to God and connecting people to God. It's something I get to explore more deeply next weekend as I'm joining the good people of the SAOMC on a preaching weekend.

Unfortunately I think this weekend might involve that hideous experience of seeing yourself on video whilst talking or listening to your voice on tape - ah well. We all need a little humbling now and then! No doubt I'll blog a bit about that experience anon.

I am heading off to Canada almost straight after my course so expect some Canadian blogging in a while as well! Before then I have to set the house and office in order so that youthwork can continue in my absence. It's not that I'm indispensible just that I know where everything is in my office - messy though it may appear! - and other people don't know where everything is. Well in fact at the moment they might because after youth group on Saturday EVERYTHING is filling my office and none of it is in the right place! So a week of tidying ahead - not my annointing as Dave would say!

Friday, October 08, 2004

My life is an open book

Actually it REALLY isn't but I do today have a small claim to fame in that Church House Publishing selected my suggestions list to be Affiliate List of the Month. So if you were thinkng of buying any churchy books do have a look and see what I recommend! Brother John of Taize's books really are a must buy for anyone who has never read anything by him.

I have had the privilege of hearing him speak in Taize on Paul's letter to the Philippians, on Genesis and at the Oxford University Pathways retreat on what it means to be a Christian. What has always impressed me most is John's modesty and his reluctance to receive any congratulation or commendation for his work. It makes it quite difficult to "big him up" to people as I know he would hate it. He usually gets a raucous round of applause at the last Bible introduction session each summer week at Taize and usually his response is to turn around, tell people to stop and then threaten to walk off! So apologies to John but I AM going to say good things about you and you'll just have to cope!

For me John's exegesis (his comments of the Bible) opens up the passage and relates it to life. This is what I am always seeking to do when I read the Bible. He comes from a position of great biblical knowledge and shows the deep wisdom of someone who has steeped himself in the passage and reflected deeply on it's meaning not only in terms of language but in terms of its meaning for us and for how we live our lives. His book God of the Unexpected is especially good at this as it presents the reader with short chapters focussing on the bible and on how that impacts on life. It's great for a daily study, for a short reatreat or for the occasional dip in.

So to Brother John, thank you for your work, your insight and your patience with me whilst I compliment you and to the rest of you, have a read.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Wherefore art thou.. Juliet?

A strange appearance in my letterbox today... a CARD. Always lovely to have post that does not involve the words "THIS IS NOT A CIRCULAR" It was a lovely square pink envelope. Unfortunately it wasn't addressed to me but to Mrs J Hamilton. It was a birthday card from Lara. Problem is I do not know either of these people and I feel it is such a shame that Juliet won't hear the news from Lara and that Lara will probably not hear back from Juliet as she won't even KNOW that Lara wrote to her. So... holding out hope against hope. If there is anyone out there to whom this might seem familiar, can you pass on the message!?:

"To Juliet
Happy Birthday, hope you have a great day on Sunday (3rd or 10th October) with lots of nice presents.
Hope to see you soon. Loads of Love Lara xxxx"
and on the other side:

"I moved into my uni Halls 2 weeks ago and have been enjoying my new uni Lifestyle and have made loads of new friends. Everyone on our course seams really nice, the tutors are a bit scary though! (not a patch on you)
All the other girls are enjoying it too, although we have been thrown in at the deep end getting much more work than we'd bargained for! So send the second years my Love and tell them to make the most of college they don't realise how easy they have it!
I hope everything is ok with you, and the new first years aren't giving you too much grief! Hope to catch up with you soon when we all have a day off. Speak to you soon Loads of Love xxx"

What was strange about the card is that it felt familiar. I used to teach Latin and have just had a group of our older teenagers leave and go off to uni so it somehow seemed that it COULD be to me apart fromt he fact that my name is not Juliet and I don't recall ever teaching a Lara. Laura yes, Lara, no.

However, your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to find either one of these two people. The college mentioned could by Henely College or Bucks Chiltern University College... or anywhere I suppose. It's a bit of a message in a bottle but you never know it might work!

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Word up

Today the Anglican church celebrates the life of William Tyndale. I'm fairly sure the RC church doesn't share in that with us but I could be wrong. The reason I mention this today is because I bought a new book yesterday. It is a new bible reinterpretation call Good as New: A Radical Retelling of the Scriptures which does what I've often pondered about doing which is retell the story of the New Testament with names that don't make the tongue twist. So Caiaphas becomes Guy, Cornelius is Neil and I think my favourite (Taize people and Youth holiday people may understand why!) is that Epaenetus becomes Wayne! Enjoyment of that kind aside, I haven't had much of a chance to explore it yet but I will let you know when I have delved more deeply.

Are you talking to me?

This morning at our daily Eucharist I had that curious experience of being faced with not simply ONE reading that has always spoken deeply to me but TWO. Firstly I led the congregation in a responsorial version of psalm 139 (138 if you're following the Roman numbering) O God you search me out and know me. Then I returned to my place as David read the gospel for the morning which was the story of Mary and Martha.

This passage spoke a great deal to me during the busy times of our interregnum earlier this year and I had just begun to forget my own promise to myself to hear it when God made me hear it again: for which, thanks.

I always used to think Martha's story was a CRITCISM of those who seek to show their faith by works but in the mellowing of the years and especially in the last few months I have understood that this is in fact no condemnation of those who put their faith to work but of those who work rather than seek faith. Jesus' words to Martha are not that she should NOT work but that she should be aware that only one thing is necessary; faith in God. He does not say that Martha is WRONG to serve but that she is DISTRACTED by her works from what really matters. In a world where we strive to succeed and where long hours are seen as the goal and indication of a job done well, I think many of us need to hear those words that Jesus spoke to Martha. As with so many of Jesus' most powerful speeches, he begins by calling Martha by name (twice in fact). Can we each hear that message so personally? "You are distracted by many things. There is need of only one thing." Indeed more than that, can we show that message to others? Far too often I find myself entering that most bizarre of stag contests - who has over-worked the most? "You think YOU've had a long week? I had a meeting every evening this week AND I'm working on Saturday AND Sunday and I haven't had a WHOLE day off in two WEEKS!" "I haven't had a day without some work in THREE weeks!"and the four Yorkshireman-esque discussion continues... Why do we do it? Do we really believe that we are BETTER for burning ourselves out in whatever work we do?

When I first started in youth work I was told of the great numbers of youth workers who burn out in the first two years and until this year I hadn't seen anyone burn out but recently I regret that I have seen a wonderful, caring and inspired youth worker work herself into the ground (no it's NOT me!). When there is so much GOOD work that can be done, I know that it is amazingly difficult to rest, to stop and do something totally pointless like... read a novel, watch a film, have a lie-in or just veg out... but that is exactly what we all need at times; some time for ourselves. Jesus knew this and often took time out for prayer as well as for meals with friends.

My dear friend, now taking that time out urged me that I should take note before I oush myself to far and I have certainly heard that message from her and from the readings this morning.

What work do you have that is so important today? Is it because the work is important or because YOU want to FEEL important? Another friend told me a joke tonight...

What's the difference between a youthworker and God?.....

God knows that S/He's not a youthworker


So remember when you look at that to-do list.... There is need of only one thing.

Monday, October 04, 2004


At the reunion of our youth holiday last night, I was telling the story of Dave's cress crisis and my proposed solution. There's no point me repeating it here so have a look at his blog Suffice it to say that I suggested that Dave could make some pesto with cress instead of with Basil. When describing this Cress Pesto, one of the young people suggested that Cresspesto sounded like a musical term in Italian much like allegro, crescendo etc. The group suggested that I should try the word out on those who believe themselves wise and wait to see if anyone admits that they don't know what it means. Ok this may sound a little cruel but I think it's interesting that some young people feel there are people out there that need taking down a peg or two. It reminded me of Socrates and his endeavours to show those who claimed to be wise that they were not as clever as they thought they were.

Plato describes in his "Apology" how Socrates had been told by a prophetess that "no man wiser" than he could be found. Socrates was troubled by this and resolved to find at least one man wiser than himself. So it was that he tested the wisdom of those who claimed wisdom; the politicians, the poets, the artists. Socrates found that not one of them was as wise as they believed themselves to be. In fact he felt that those who considered themselves less wise were in fact wiser than those who thought themselves wise.

So finally, Socrates defended this assertion of his wisdom by demonstrating not that he was AMAZINGLY clever but that he had attained a certain wisdom by his acknowledgement of his own lack of knowledge. One of my absolutely favourite bits from the Bible is in the book of Job. This is not the story of a very happy prophet: he curses the day that he was ever born and wallows in his misery (he did have a LOT to be sad about but it's the wallowing that God objects to!). Eventually God replies to his complaint and asks him basically: WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE??:

Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements — surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone when the morning stars sang together and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy? Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb? — when I made the clouds its garment, and thick darkness its swaddling band, and prescribed bounds for it, and set bars and doors, and said, "Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stopped" Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place, so that it might take hold of the skirts of the earth, and the wicked be shaken out of it? Job 38

This is a fairly comprehensive reminder to all of us that we may think we're clever sometimes but we are nothing compared to God. Job shows that he finally understands that we, as mere mortals have no wisdom. Job says: "I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. " Some people may find this a little threatening as those who claimed wisdom found Socrates threatening but it can in fact be the most liberating concept. All wisdom comes from God and therefore we need not exhaust ourselves in striving to prove ourselves because our loving God provides us with all we need including wisdom. So, rather than striving for wisdom, we discover that the source of wisdom is, as Socrates did indeed suggest, the acknowledgement that we know nothing and yet it is more than Socrates suggested. True wisdom is knowing that all our wisdom is from God not from ourselves.