Friday, June 29, 2007

the bahai lady who runs the launderette

I was just having a chat to the nice (and very attractive) Iranian lady who runs our local launderette. She is an Iranian Bah'ai who fled her native country when the religion was persecuted during the Iranian Cultural revolution.

We had a bit of a chat about her visit to Mount Carmel, Israel . I bet you didn't know that Israel is a centre for the Bahai religion also.

She very proudly showed me her persian and english bibles. How many Christians do you know who could show a visiting Bahai their religious book (and do you even know what it is called)?

Also, for those who continually say that they never hear from moderate Muslims and therefore they don't exist, this is a conference next week to mark 7/7.

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Thursday, June 28, 2007


Rollerblading is just an extended period of not-falling-over.

So. The fact that I am so stiff I can hardly move and my arm has swollen up is of no consequence. I managed to score the equalising point in skating races with my daughter (6 years) 2-2. RESULT!!!!!!!!!!



Genius Dave does it again.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007


We now have the full set of white household goods, the first time since last october when the fridge-freezer broke down. Time to celebrate.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

on hope

Hope is a curious thing. Whilst it is possible to feel hope (or hopeless) about a given situation, hope is more than just a feeling. Sometimes it is possible to be floundering about in the dark - holding onto the hope that something is happening even though you are not entirely sure you really believe it.

I think hope needs to be an active thing - I don't really buy that you're doing much hoping that your car will start when you turn the key. Mostly we don't think about that kind of thing - we just expect things to work and are a bit surprised when they don't.

You might 'hope' there is a space when you need to park the car, but this is rarely more than slightly urgent as is usually a very temporary feeling.

No, hope that things can get better is something that grips you from the insides, something that when everything else is lost you still have. When that kind of hope is truly lost, all is lost.


Monday, June 25, 2007

curious about the curate

Our new Curate, Marc Catley, starts next week.

Mark appears to be an interesting and yet strangely familiar chap.

I looks like we might have another greenbelter amongst us...

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On Saturday, we bought a very cheap DVD. It was a boxset of three nature DVDs about life in the savannahs and deserts of Africa. Hardly Attenborough quality.

We watched one of the DVDs, which is about gazelles. There are all kinds of different kinds of Gazelle.

There are little fellas called Dik-diks who act as an early warning by making a loud noise in the face of danger, and then hiding in the long grass. There are the stately oryx with their beautiful markings and long straight pointy horns. There are the springbuck with their characteristic leap. The giraffe antelope with their extra long neck. Then there are those who are particularly prized by species of the big cats. Like the Thompson gazelle which is a favourite dinner of the leopard.

Then after all these beautiful animals, there is the gnu. The ungainly gnu. The gnu which looks like it has been cobbled together from all the off-cuts. The stupid gnu. The gnu which has only seconds after birth to learn to walk, otherwise it is left behind. The gnu which has no protection against preditors. The gnu which represents the great african 'walking larder'.

I'm sure there is a spiritual lesson there.

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Friday, June 22, 2007

on monasticism

Yesterday, I had a very slow day.

In the morning, having heard about the fire at the Simple Way from my friends at Justice and Compassion, my first thought was for Shane - who is a remarkable and sweet and lovely guy - and his friends in the community who have lost everything they own.

I also heard that my friend Tiffer, who is also a sweet guy - currently in training to be an Anglican (Episcopalian) Priest - is going to be going to a monastic community this Summer for a placement. I'd not heard of Pilsden before. It is an Anglican foundation and characterised by the fact that it is primarily for families and singles (as opposed to traditional Monastics).

So I spent a fair proportion of the day thinking and daydreaming about monasticism and how it might fit within our family and community life where we are. As you might or might not know, there are currently various groups experimenting with forms of 'nu monasticism' in the UK, including Andrew Jones, Mark Berry and his gang, MayBe, hOME not to mention the existing communities such as the Iona community, the Northumbria community, and the communities formerly known as Bruderhof communities.

These are clearly at various stages of development - ranging from thinking about how they might build a community, through to a full-on intentional community living in a particular place.

Not wishing to put anyone down, it strikes me that there is a pronounced differential between what the communities are trying to do. Some are simply 'new forms' of church, finding new names to call people and new ways to run worship services. Some appear to me to be efforts to run from the world.

Take my friends at the communities fka Bruderhof, for example (don't worry, I've said this to their face so I know they can take it). These communities exist functioning as fully enclosed villages - with the only connection with the outside world being the businesses they run to make money, the private schools they own, etc. Members become absorbed into a community mindset which has difficulty understanding how others think or even dress (they tend to wear the same clothing because they buy a 'joblot' from the same supplier). Being in community tends to take away all your individual identity - even down to the strange mid-atlantic non-specific twang that members all have. Leaving the community is very difficult and very traumatic.

That said, they are beautiful people and think wonderful thoughts of peace and justice. The world would be a far better place with more like them.

In a way, I suspect these relatively modern (well actually the Bruderhof have a history going back several hundred years, but never mind) expressions are mirror reflections of traditional monastic communities and their priorities, so it is probably nothing new.

Personally, they don't grab me. If I was forced to chose, I would want to be in a community more like Catholic Worker or Simple Way, living in the wider community and attempting to change it from the inside out. More like the Friar model, I suppose.

And it strikes me that living together in community in order to be committed to social change has a lot of advantages. If everyone takes part time jobs, but the fincances are shared with the community, this clearly creates a lot of space for social action. Of course there are also disadvantages - for example, what happens if you want/have to leave? But then, how much change could we actually be if more of us chose to live in this way?

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Hamas - created by us

Interesting comment on the current situation in Gaza here and here


names I've been called

Terrorist supporter, appeaser, abuser, cynical businessman, zionist, racist, anti-semite, blind islamophile, liar, propagandist

Fun here innit?


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

fridges, choirs and GIRLcotting

This week, we will be receiving a fridge and hopefully also a freezer. We have been without said electrical appliances since last October. For those wondering, it is possible to live without them, but it is quite difficult and annoying.

We recently went to a concert put on by the The African Children's Choir. Working on the basis that a child lifted out of poverty makes a big difference to them and their community, this Christian organisation auditions children from several African countries, then takes them around the world for a year. The children then return to school. Ex-choir members are now in a range of professional jobs. Which is pretty remarkable considering that they came from the slums.

The choir we saw (they have several on the go at once) was a bunch of very small 10-11 year olds, but with bags and bags of energy. It was quite a sight to see a performance of such joy and enthusiasm.

It is all pretty silly - taking kids away from their parents for a year, in order to earn their crust to pay for their education. Literally singing for their supper.

But then, it actually makes a difference to their future lives, and that should not be overlooked.

As part of a series of local events under the banner of Positive Images, last night I attended an event at the Coventry Peace House. We met a couple of Palestinian peace activists - one from Gaza and one from East Jerusalem studying at the Coventry University Centre for Peace and Reconciliation Studies. The guy from Gaza had been involved in various Palestinian-Israeli activities, most notably the Geneva Accord. This is a peace negotiation undertaken by non-governmental academics, activists, artists and ex-politicians from both communities. It is said that the agreement was accepted by the Palestinian side, but rejected by the Israeli government so never got further than the paper it was written on.

The guy from East Jerusalem was also interesting. I asked him about boycotts and the economic situation, and he said what was needed in contrast to a boycott was a GIRLcott of Palestinian products. Which is an interesting turn of phrase...

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Monday, June 18, 2007

A tale of two churches

In a particular part of Coventry, there are two churches along a short section of road in an area with a high percentage of ethnic minorities.

Church A decided a few years ago that it wanted to buy a new building. Somewhere along the line a difficult decision was taken. This was that in order to build money would need to be obtained from various development grants.

The result is that the church has a shared building. In the lobby is a cafe. There is a community nursery, two classrooms for teaching English to people who need to improve. A computer classroom. The body of the church is regularly hired out to community groups for various events, classes, talks, social activities and the like.

On the wall is a quote from Shawshank Redemption. Yes, you heard me correctly. A quote from Mr S King - the famous horror writer - sits comfortably alongside similarly painted bible verses.

The church, of which the congregation amounts to around 100 people, is closely involved in the organisation which runs the building - and members regularly volunteer and run low key outreach events in the community in different ways. A staggering 38 people work for this organisation. An organisation that would never have existed if a church had not decided to stick its' neck out and force itself to be involved in the community and face the consequences.

As if to underline the difficulties, I was told that there is some conflict between the church and other groups who want to use the building.

But the main impression is of light and hope. The building projects the idea that church is in community, is involved, is open and ready to serve.

Church B has a large privet hedge around 75% of the circumference of the building, shielding the windows from prying eyes. A 6 foot gate barrs the entrance with an obvious coil of barbed wire around the top of it. The overall impression is of a community under siege.

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007


B: Daddy, who does the cooking when you're not here?

Me: Mummy I think....

H: I can cook you know, B!

B: Ah yes, but you're not FAMOUS for cooking are you?

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Friday, June 01, 2007

half term

It has been half-term this week and B has been having a bit of a holiday with the Grandparents.

Our computer died, but we fixed it by buying some new bits.

We ate some broad beans from the allotment, which is overrun with weeds following the recent rains.

We've been sorting out T-shirts for the Enough! rally in London, 9 June.

We went ten-pin bowling. I got a strike and a couple of spares with my first few goes, then it went disasterously downhill from then onwards.

We went out for dinner with some friends and spent a long time talking about their historical reenactment society. I like being around people who are passionate about something, even if it is completely mad.

Our council started the trial for its plastic recycling scheme, but it seems unlikely that it will be effective.

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