Tuesday, October 31, 2006

I am a person

Monday, October 30, 2006


There are no strangers, just friends we haven't met yet.

The main outcome of the Fellowship of Reconcilliation conference entitled 'Called to be Peacemakers - Religious Rights and Wrongs in Contemporary Conflicts' was a greater appreciation of the depth of organisations and individuals involved in the struggle towards a better world. Attendees came from Quaker Peace and Social Witness, Pax Christi, Christian Peacemaker Teams, CHIPS, Peaceschool, the Beech Grove Bruderhof community, the Corrymeela community and probably a lot of others I have forgotten. Most attendees were from the peace churches - mennonites, quakers and anabaptists, but also included catholics and anglicans, buddists and people without labels.

We were taught by Noel from Workshop, we were humbled by Salma Yaqoob, the Respect councillor in Birmingham and we were challenged by each other.

May God bless you Corwin in your journey. I am sure that you will become a fine doctor. Be assured of our prayers Salma and thank you for your openness and humour. Peace be with you Fran, and thank you for your generosity.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

This fridge is dead.

It has passed on. It is no more. It has kicked the bucket. This is an ex-fridge.

Aren't white consumer products rubbish? We have had our fridge freezer (Hotpoint, guarantee period 12 months) for a little over 2 years. It has now decided to go to visit it's maker.

I don't know about you, but I don't really consider 2 years to be a 'good' life for a fridge. OK, it was not top-of-the-range, coming in at about £250 new. BUT C'MON.

The current options appear to be:

1. Repair. Unknown cost. At least £50 callout and if it is what is thought it could be on the phone, repair could cost £100 or more. Marvellous as I'm sure you'll agree.

2. New one, another £250. Plus disposal.

3. Throw it, get another second hand one. Even if another only lasted a year, at least that would be cheaper than options 1 or 2. Might be able to get one on freecycle (unlikely but possible)

4. Forget fridges, as we don't have much in it anyway. Buy a freezer - cheaper and less likely to go wrong.

I wonder if there is an eco alternative to a fridge. Icebox or something.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

shut DESO

Yesterday, I was in London to support the shut DESO campaign. DESO is a rather pathetic little government department charged with promotion of British arms to customers abroad. It employs around 500 civil servants and has a budget of £14 million per year.

Given that the arms industry in the UK receives more than £1 billion per year in direct and indirect government funding, you'd think that they'd at least have the grace to pay for their own advertising. According to CAAT when government ministers travel abroad, they are frequently expected to represent British arms manufacturers to foreign governments. Obvious when you think about it, I know.

Anyway, we did the obligatory chain around the DESO building - a non-descript low-rise block above an army careers centre - then spent a bit of time trying to engage the public and went to lobby our MPs.

The event was organised by CAAT along with the Fellowship of Reconcilliation (we're going to their conference in a couple of weeks) and my friends in the SPEAK network. I also met Jez from the Quaker Youth Movement (amoungst various other things) and bored him stupid on various issues.

Lobbying my MP was a bit of a non-event. I had written to my MP, Geoffrey Robinson in advance, but maybe it was a bit too late as he did not reply. You can turn up and request a meeting using a system known as 'green-carding', which involves filling in a bit of paper, giving it to the old-guy in funny clothing (why do they wear such impractical and pointless clothes?) and waiting on a seat until the MP comes to see you. Or not, in my case. Barely worth the effort emptying my pockets on the way in.

There were a bunch of us there involved in the mass-lobby. Around 25-50% were not seen at all - MPs not around, not available or not interested. Of those that were seen, the responses were varied. Some MPs were generally sympathetic. Some were wildly unsympathetic (we need to promote British arms to the Canadians said one. Clearly that explains and justifies everything).

Generally came away unsatisfied. I had a fairly interesting day and spoke to various people about different stuff. But ultimately didn't really feel like we were getting anywhere quickly. When we were in the street, few people seemed to be at all bothered by the issues.

Pumpkin Sunday

Last Sunday was Pumpkin Sunday. In a deliberate act of family-tradition building, we have for the last few years bought a pumpkin to eat. I know that sounds ridiculous, but possibly less ridiculous than all the pumpkins which are sold at this time of year and not eaten.

Anyway, cooking a pumpkin requires a long slow boil to reduce it to pulp which can then be used to make a variety of things. We usually make various soups and pies, and I am hoping also going to attempt a kind of treacle pudding.

Usually, the skin is entirely chopped up. However, Bethany was feeling creative and wanted to create a pumpkin lantern, so I scooped out most of the flesh with an icecream scoop. Again, this probably sounds obvious and pathetic, but bear in mind we have never ever been involved in any kind of halloween pumpkin activities.

We decided to make a happy face and set it with a candle on the dinner table. Bethany tried wearing it as a mask, which was quite entertaining for a few minutes.

Friday, October 06, 2006

the good judge

Over at Andrew's blog the talk is of the penal substitution debate. Over at the the ship there is a discussion about the Alpha course.

I've been on the Alpha course twice and have helped with the catering on a few more. I don't really want to get into the good-and-bad aspects, partly because that is already being done elsewhere and partly because I think I've moved on. My faith is tempered by my experiences over the last few years - and pseudo-charismatic evangelicalism has limited appeal to me now.

Anyway, to cut to the chase. One thing that really annoyed me about Alpha was the use of one particular illustration regarding the atonement. It goes something like this:

One day a thief was brought before a court of law. There was strong evidence against him, so he was convicted of the sentence. Yet, when the time came for the punishment to be read out, the prisoner was astonished to find that he was free to go without paying a fine. It turned out that the judge knew him and had cancelled the punishment.

Well, I'm sure that is a pretty poor recollection, but you get the gist.

My problem in a nutshell is that this is not justice, but serious corruption. A judge is not allowed to rule on someone he knows, much less decide that the punishment should not be given.

Philip Yancey in his book "What's so amazing about Grace?" gives a much better illustration (again this is from memory as I have mislaid my copy).

In a US city, a mayor one day decided that he would take up his right to preside in the city court. He sat through various cases, and then an old lady was brought before him. She was accused of stealing bread and there was strong evidence against her.

The mayor sighed. According to the law, the punishment was a fine of $10 so he made the necessary statements and pronounced the verdict. He then took off the hat he was wearing, threw it on the floor and took out his own wallet. Throwing $10 into the hat he then said "...and I also sentence everyone else in this room 50 cents for living in a city where an old woman has to steal bread to feed her grandchildren" The money was collected from the astonished policemen, lawyers and members of the public until the hat was filled. Then the money was given to the amazed old woman who went from the court room with more money that she had when she entered.

Do we want a picture of a vengeful God who doesn't care who he punishes as long as someone somewhere is punished? Do we want a picture of a corrupt God who bends the rules to look after his friends? Or do we actually want a God of Love who sees and understands and has compassion upon those he has made?

Sunday, October 01, 2006

some holy places

These are a few places I like to go which feel particularly holy. In no particular order.

This is the Blue Chapel at Gloucester Cathedral (photo taken from dogndub's Flickr page).

It is hard to do the chapel justice in a single photo, but this does give a bit of an idea of what it is like. The chapel is filled with different shades of blue light which seem to aid prayer and reflection.

This is a picture of the grounds at Buckfast Abbey in Devon (from Kernow Cowboy's flickr website).

Perhaps a strange choice, but the place had a very calming feel together with an excellent bookshop. We spent many a sunday afternoon here when we lived in Devon.