Bluemini.comBluemini.com

Maggi Dawn

Allison Janney, Happy Birthday!

posted: 19 Nov 2009

read here

update

posted: 16 Nov 2009

My blog moved house at the weekend! It was almost seamless, thanks to a friend who knows more about technological gubbins than I do. And certainly less stressful than moving house in real life. Change your links, RSS etc! and visit the new site here

Happy Monday

posted: 16 Nov 2009

read here

New Blog Site - maggidawn.com

posted: 14 Nov 2009

To celebrate my new book coming out, I have a new blog: maggidawn.com change your feeds, follow me on twitter, send me messages, all that stuff! All my posts from this site are now over there, so go on over and give me a housewarming comment!

Women bishops - the latest from the revision commi

posted: 14 Nov 2009

Bishop Alan reports: The latest from the rather dry and technical sounding Revision Committee on women in the Episcopate which met yesterday contains one ecclesiologically significant discovery: After much discussion, the members of the Committee were unable to identify a basis for specifying particular functions for vesting which commanded sufficient support both from those in favour of the ordination of women as bishops and those unable to support that development. As a result all of the proposals for vesting particular functions by statute were defeated. The effect of the Committee’s decision is therefore that such arrangements as are made for those unable to receive the episcopal ministry of women will need to be by way of delegation from the diocesan bishop rather than vesting. Which I think means, if I understand correctly, that something can't be two things at the same time. Unless we call in Dr Who, maybe.

ministry and vocation

posted: 13 Nov 2009

I've had several deep conversations this week about vocation - some listening to others while they figure out what they are about, and a couple about my own future - what might I do when my time at my current college eventually comes to an end (nearly two years away yet). I was reflecting again as I was tidying up the Chapel at lunchtime what a curiously wide-ranging task it is - everything from choreographing grand, life-changing ritual, writing speeches and sermons and books that thousands will read or hear, to photocopying the service sheets and just picking up the trash (for no matter how much help other people put in I spend several hours every week picking up little bits of paper, dismantling dead flower arrangements and washing the skungy vases, and all sorts of odd little jobs that don't really belong to anyone else.) Ministry is sometimes intense...

Blog Roundup

posted: 12 Nov 2009

It's been a mad, mad week here... all sorts of stuff going on, and not much time to write. But there are a few things I've noticed that, for one reason or another, have touched a nerve for me. Here they are: Sudden Death - it's an awful, tragic thing when a young person dies suddenly and unexpectedly. Here's an article about it. Autism and Employment - a heartening story Church website design. I'm in the middle of having my site completely redesigned by a fab young genius I met recently. But who knew the whole world of Church websites was so interesting... Examiners (human ones that is) may become redundant if this new computer examination stuff passes muster. Not sure whether to be happy or sad about that. I'm not convinced a computer is a good judge (it might be more accurate in some respects, but can a computer...

Autism and employment

posted: 11 Nov 2009

Someone sent me the link to this brilliant story about a Danish man, Thorkill Sonne, who set up a company to make use of the particular skills of people with Autism. The father of a son with Aspergers syndrome, he found that too many of the things he read talked about what people with ASD's can't do. He wanted to make something of what they can do. Imagine a job testing Lego and robots. In a quiet, peaceful and well structured environment, where someone who can concentrate for long periods on some tricky little task is appreciated as a uniquely wonderful person. Asperger heaven. I hope such environments will be commonplace by the time my own remarkable, clever and talented son grows up.

Music

posted: 10 Nov 2009

A while back I was asked to join the AdvisoryBoard of the Royal School of Church Music. It's an institution with a long pedigree, but if you think it's exculsively for robed choirs and church organs, look again - it's actually a pretty wide ranging organisation, promoting all kinds of music. In particular, if you are planning your Carols, there are lots of resources there - new and traditional carols, and ideas about how and when to use them to best effect.

Advent, how to make a candle

posted: 10 Nov 2009

Around this time of year people start to get ready for Christmas - stir the pudding, buy the presents, write the cards (unless you're me). But it's also worth taking a little time to get ready for Advent. Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas - this year it falls on Sunday 29th November, or the evening of the 28th if you start with the vigil. The Advent calendars and candles you can buy in shops always start on 1st December. But if you want a candle that actually lasts right through advent, you'll need to make your own. Take a tall, slender candle - a 12" dinner candle is ideal. The symbolic colours are purple for Advent, symbolising fasting and preparation, or white for the revelation of Christ. (You can get red ones too,but I think that's just because it's christmassy) Then take a ruler and felt tip...

Married Bishops in Rome?

posted: 10 Nov 2009

The precise detail of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coebitus has been published. (In case you were asleep, this is the opening made by the Catholic Church for Anglicans to become part of the Catholic communion) Reactions have been offered all over the place. Ruth Gledhill at the Times notices that former Anglican Bishops, even though they are married, may become "Bishops in all but name"; Graham Kings, though, notes the particular differences between Anglicanorum Coebitus and existing arrangements that have been in place for some time in the USA - pointing out that this new arrangement has required a change in Roman canon law. Graham Kings wonders whether the propsect of re-confirmation and re-ordination (implying a non-recognition of Anglican rites) may actually put many people off. But his most interesting comment is this: The debates in the Church of England in the 1940s concerning the validity of orders of the...

Creation at Worship

posted: 09 Nov 2009

Chris Voke is Deputy Principal at Spurgeon's College in London, and his new book is a very readable and well argued account of why we need a good doctrine of creation. He starts out by showing how protestant worship in some places tends to separate spiritual concerns from physical ones, implying (in almost a gnostic way) that Jesus saves us FROM the world. But he goes on to show that a properly Christian view of the world is one that embraces all of it as God's concern. The word "creation" is a somewhat fraught term in some ways, because it launches discussions too easily into an argument about the scientific origins of the world. But Mr Voke isn't arguing about how the word came into being; he's simply starting from the assumption that God is involved in the world as we know it, and challenging the way Christianity negotiates that...

Thought for the Day (again)

posted: 07 Nov 2009

Further to my previous post, which picked up a brief news item by Ekklesia and a response by Nick Baines, here's a much longer and informative paper about Thought for the Day that lay behind the Ekklesia news item. Written by Lizzie Clifford, a graduate of the University of Cambridge, it covers the history and origins of Thought for the Day, recent changes and suggestions, current debate, other similar programmes on local or other networks. She lists the current regular contributors to Thought for the day, which break down something like this: Anglican - 9, Christian (non specific denomination) 6, Jewish 3, Roman Catholic 3, Christian Evangelical 3, Methodist 2, Muslim 2, hindu 1, Church of Scotland 1, Baptist 1, Sikh 1, Buddhist 1 Or, you could read the figures as Christian - 25, other religions 8 Obviously this doesn't include one-off presentations such as the one by the Atheist...

Thought for the Day

posted: 06 Nov 2009

Ekklesia writers (mainly, I think, Simon Barrow and Jonathan Bartley) are all wound up about religious broadcasting - in particular Thought for the Day. Nick Baines comes up with an interesting response. I would like to see better religious broadcasting, but I would envisage that as being more red-blooded coverage of actual religion. Ironing out the creases to a please-everyone offend-no-one is partly why religious broadcasting falls so often into tedium. Real live religion is far more interesting than its Radio presentation. The first few times I presented on the BBC I got plenty of response - positive and negative - and was worried and upset about the negative. My editor, though, was ecstatic. "Excellent!" she said, with a broad smile. "If some people love it and some people hate it you've said something worth hearing. If no-one hates it it's too bland to bother putting on the airwaves." If...

The Devil is behind the NIV

posted: 06 Nov 2009

A couple of weeks ago I posted on a Bible-burning event - the AmazingGrace church were planning to burn any translation of the Bible except the King James Version. Rain, protesters and local law enforcement apparently led to the event being adapted - it sounds like they cut up the bibles at a small private party instead of burning them. Nevertheless, the comically mis-named AmazingGrace church was pleased with the result which they have reported here, along with a call to a 2010 Bible Burning, all to a fabulous track called the "bogus Bible Blues". You couldn't make this stuff up.

changing denomination on principle

posted: 06 Nov 2009

Some time back I blogged about Blackburn Cathedral's well intentioned but not very successful attempt to please everyone. They have subsequently changed that decision, and are trying alternative ways to please everyone. Meantime more angst and attempts to find ways to protect everyone's integrity led to the announcement from Rome last week, and the decision by the Revision Committee to take two steps back on the synod recommendations about women bishops (which in my view, despite being legally allowable was unethical - either that or half the committee was asleep when they made the decision) . This is highly complex stuff. It is a mistake to think that decisions can be made and detractors will simply have to like it or lump it (although that is, in effect, what is consistently demanded of women clergy). But how is it actually possible to meet the intricacies of all integrities? And how...

Genesis: nothing left to the imagination

posted: 06 Nov 2009

Robert Crumb talks about his new comic-strip Genesis, saying that it is a multi-layered text, full of imaginative possibilities. Nick Baines, Bishop of Croydon says on the piece that it teases the imagination. I'm not sure that Crumb's work teases so much as leaves nothing to the imagination, but I like Baines's other comment - that in Church congregations listen to these outrageous stories, followed by the words "This is the word of the Lord". The scripted response, which congregations usually trot out obediently, is "Thanks be to God", but like Mr Bains, I'm often left thinking that a more appropriate reaction would be "WHAAAAT???"Hell fire and brimstone, incest and rape, women and children treated worse than animals... "THis is the Word of the Lord" should most certainly be replaced in many instances by - "this is an outrageous story to our ears - what does the ancient text have...

Green beliefs - more status than religion?

posted: 06 Nov 2009

Tim Nicholson has won his case against his employer, and the result is that environmentalist beliefs may now be given the same status as a religion. It's been predicted that the results will be dramatic: Legal expert Mr Mooney, who is head of consultancy at Employment Law Advisory Services, said: "The ramifications of Tim Nicholson winning this test case are massive. In essence victory will put employees who hold strong environmental beliefs in the same category - and with the same protection - as workers who hold strong religious beliefs. "Consequently he could be in line for unlimited damages. This would open the floodgates for others who believe their employers have victimised them simply because of their views on the environment and how business deals with pressing environmental issues such as climate change and reducing our carbon emissions. "The government would then be forced to re-look at employment legislation and...

Music, Conversion and God

posted: 05 Nov 2009

Here's an article about eight musicians who left their career to work/live/sing for God, and then later came back to music. Go on, guess who they are before you look...

TweetPsych

posted: 05 Nov 2009

Everyone knows it costs and arm and a let to get a shrink. But getting your Tweets analysed is absolutely free! TweetPsych asks for nothing more than your Twitter name, and then tells you - based on linguistic analysis algorithms - what's the main content of your Tweets. Me? No surprises here, given that I am a Chaplain in a University. I'm told that I write mostly about God and spirituality, and Education. Curiously, though, among the list of tweeters that "mostly think like me" include a music tweeter and a Celebrity news, rumor and gossip service.

Bible reading

posted: 04 Nov 2009

"...we should be trying to work out how to read the bible well rather than reading the text right." Paula Gooder

Christmas, debt and recession

posted: 04 Nov 2009

It's November, and Advent is still four weeks away, but the pressure is already on to spend, spend, spend for Christmas. THe BBC has a piece on how to "cope" with Christmas and not get into debt. "Make a budget and stick to it," it says, which is of course a smart idea. But here's an even more radical idea: cut down your idea of what's required. The expectations we place on ourselves for Christmas, weddings and all sorts of other celebrations are completely out of hand: sure, if you are minted, enjoy it, but you do not have to spend seventeen grand on a wedding, or two grand on Christmas. If you're on a tight budget, call your family and friends and tell them you're not doing presents this year, or only doing £5 presents, or whatever you can afford and invite them to do the same. (I just...

Paris in winter

posted: 04 Nov 2009

I love Paris! If only I could afford it I would jump on the Eurostar as often as possible. Even when I can't afford it, there is something rather delicious about the knowledge that it's only a four-hour train ride from home. When my son was seven, I took him on his first trip to Paris. The first day we climbed a bit of the Eiffel Tower, and when we got back to ground level we stopped for a ride on the carousel. At that point in his life, he loved carousels more than anything. Each of the following three days, wherever we went in Paris we had to return via the Eiffel Tower so he could have another ride on the carousel. and a chocolate crepe from the van. Today Eric posted this lovely picture of the carousel by night. Happy memories.

seth godin is my hero

posted: 03 Nov 2009

I was trying to persuade some people today that if you can't work out why the stuff you are trying to promote just isn't drawing the crowds, then Seth Godin is the man to listen to. I related all kinds of stuff about purple cows, and how the promotion-publicity-pricing cycle is long since out of date. I got some snorts of derision, some blank looks, and some kindly but dismissive comments, and not a whole lot of kudos. But I got home to find that Seth has sold his entire Limited Edition book-box today, selling at a rate of one every three minutes. Seth is my hero.

a true prophet?

posted: 03 Nov 2009

Tall Skinny Kiwi appears to do well at predicting what might happen next. A prophet, of course, in the biblical sense, was not so much a person who received spooky messages from beyond, but someone who was able to read the signs of the times. Much more my kind of prophet, really. And AJ (AKA Tall Skinny Kiwi) is predicting a few things for the decade 2010 - 2020. It's beginning to look like it might be an interesting decade for me. Aslan seems to be on the move in all kinds of ways. How about you, readers? What do you hope or dream for? And what do you think are the signs of the times?

Women in the church, again!

posted: 03 Nov 2009

The subject of women bishops has been in the news again. I've been sent the links below - if you feel strongly that you want to see this happen, you can sign a letter at one of these locations: (You may have to do Ctrl + click to access them instead of the usual double click. Please sign up and share them with your own networks and as many people as you can.) For women clergy at http://www.gopetition.co.uk/online/31823.html For men clergy at http://www.gopetition.co.uk/online/31836.html For the laity at http://www.gopetition.co.uk/online/31837.html

New Atheism and political stupidity

posted: 03 Nov 2009

This article is a good read. An article by an atheist who claims to be "modest in his unbelief" on why Dawkins et al are not helping the cause of secular atheism. Go read.

Giving it Up

posted: 03 Nov 2009

My new book is about to be released. It's a book of 47 short chapters, so you can read one every day through Lent, or just read it any other time (it works as a stand-alone book as well). The theme is this: the idea of Lent is that you give something up - usually beer or coffee or chocolate. But if you really want to understand and know what the whole "God" thing is about, what you have to give up is much harder - it's your current ideas about God. People in the Bible had to do it (like Moses, for instance). All kinds of early Christians had to do it (like Gregory of Nyssa, St Augustine, Ignatius of Loyola, for instance). Various characters in the history of the Church have recorded how they had to give up the idea of the God they didn't believe in in...

spirit, pneumatology

posted: 02 Nov 2009

I read somewhere recently that the "emerging" scene doesn't have much christology, pneumatology, ecclesiology, etc etc. It's certianly good when any new forms of church produce interesting theology. Two books I came across recently that address the idea of the Holy Spirit in a post-charismatic, post-whatever culture, are these, both worth a look, although I think the Conniry is the better of the two:

Woman is a misbegotten male

posted: 02 Nov 2009

There's been a good deal of discussion over the last few weeks about the "trouble" caused by the idea of women becoming bishops. Why is this such a troublesome idea? Why is the church so slow to get hold of the idea that women are a gift, not a problem? Rachel gives a bit of the history behind the church's attitude to women, quoted from Radford Reuther. If you read it in terms of how much progress we've made you might find it hopeful. On the other hand, it's sobering to realise just how deep negativity towards women has been, and how much damage there is to undo. “You are the Devil’s Gateway. It is you who plucked the fruit of the forbidden tree. You are the first who deserted the divine law. You are the one who persuaded him whom even the Devil was not strong enough to attack....

Why I'm not Emergent

posted: 01 Nov 2009

A while ago, I read a book called "Why we're not emergent (by two guys who should be)".(see below) It's an interesting read, by two young ministers who identify (to some degree) with the cultural issues that the Emerging/Emergent church have highlighted, but who don't go along with the Emerging/Emergent narrative. I've kept meaning to write a bit more about it in response, and never quite got round to it. But now Tall Skinny Kiwi has replied in a post, "Why I'm not a New Calvinist (by one guy who should be)". Both are well worth a read, if you are wanting to sort out these issues in your own mind - especially because the arguments are set up thoughtfully, and not with the kind of exaggerated and aggressive polemic of some other pro-anti emergent church discussions.

Scapegoats, shambles and shibboleths

posted: 01 Nov 2009

I like finding out about the origins of words and phrases - someone noted the other day that I rarely preach a sermon without mentioning the etymology of at least one word. One of the most entertaining sidelines of my research on S T Coleridge was discovering how many of the words and phrases in the English language had been coined by him. A recent book called Scapegoats, Shambles and Shibboleths is an alphabetical account of words and phrases that come from the King James bible. It's great fun, and would make a good Christmas present.

Halloween, Luther and Reformation Day

posted: 01 Nov 2009

Steve Taylor posted yesterday about the 31st October being the day that Luther nailed his 95 theses to the Wittenburg Door. Steve then mused on what theses for the reformation of the Church might be needed today. Luther chose the Castle church in Wittenburg because it was a centre for selling indulgences - a place that symbolised the worst of self-obsessed, money-making, soul-enslaving religion, and had lost its grip on the fresh air of true, liberating spirituality. Steve preached today about his own theses for the church: here is what I eventually “banged on the Opawa door”/ ie preached on Sunday morning. For reforming Opawa as a church in transition today Choose a new pastor based on the needs of the whole church, not your own individual desires. For reforming the church in general Recent arrivals to the church are as important as longer term inhabitants. And just as important...

Halloween, All saints, and a poppy for remembrance

posted: 01 Nov 2009

Today is All Saints Day, also known as All Hallows, when the Church remembers the saints who have gone before - not just the canonised or "official" saints, but all those who have died in faith. It was from All Hallows day that Halloween got it's name - "All Hallow's Eve" became Hallow E'en. By tradition, the idea was that as the souls of the saints were celebrated and liberated, they might become available to be snatched away by the powers of darkness. So all the witches and elves flew on the Eve of All Hallows to capture the ghostly souls of the departed. Nowadays, of course, Halloween is for the most part an excuse to dress up and have fun, although when trick-or-treat turns particularly nasty it's almost tempting to recover a supserstitious belief in the power of evil. All Saints is followed on the 2nd November by All...

green monasticism

posted: 30 Oct 2009

There's quite a lot of chit chat in the blogosphere about Urban Monasticism (which is, in fact, something of an oxymoron, but more of that another time) but today I read this article about eco-friendly monasticism at the newly built Stanbrook Abbey. I like the clean design.

women, church and Rome in the Guardian

posted: 30 Oct 2009

I have a piece in the Guardian's Comment is Free section The question of the week is about what the impact will be of the Pope's invitation to Anglican priests to come under the umbrella of Rome, an invitation largely offered, it seems, in response to priests who don't like women or gay people doing anything more than sit in a pew in CHurch. I took the line that it's one thing to move somewhere just because you feel more at home there, but if your move is motivated by anger, you'll probably just take your discontent and unresolved attitudes with you. I see that Church Mouse also has a piece in there.

Advent Calendar (with Beach Huts!)

posted: 29 Oct 2009

Regular readers may remember me enthusing about last year's Advent Beach Hut Calendar, a live event that took place in Beach huts along the sea front at Brighton and Hove. The live event is scheduled to take place for a second time this year, but in addition, you can also buy a traditional Advent Calendar to hang on your frige, opening a (beach hut) door every day of December. The calendars are for sale on the BEYOND website, (click on the shop section)

Halloween, and Tales of Terror

posted: 28 Oct 2009

I've been talking through mentoring issues with a couple of people today - how to get a grip on what they do and make it better. One of the topics of conversation was how to present preching better. There's a whole lot of ways you can use a five minute preaching slot; you can teach a concept, analyse a word or phrase, make a connection between readings or liturgical themes, draw out the meaning of the season. Or you can tell stories. Becoming a good story teller is an invaluable skill for someone who presents ideas in Church (or anywhere else for that matter). People engage with stories - the heart and soul get touched as well as the mind, and it's a combination that makes people more likely to remember the material, and more likely to internalise it. How do you learn to be a story teller? (I'll teach...

how to be happy

posted: 27 Oct 2009

from Dawson Did you know that you are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with? One of my mentor’s said this to me at the start of the year and it really stuck in my head. I’ve heard much the same thing said in other ways by other great people, and let’s face it – it just makes sense. The people you surround yourself with, the books you read, the courses you participate in, the shows you watch – all of these are a sure predictor of where you’re going to be 5 years from now.

E.S.T. Retrospective

posted: 27 Oct 2009

I've just been reading the reviews of Retrospective; I think I have most of these tracks, but I may just get the album anyway (or tell my son to speak to Santa) as they will sound different in a new compilation. I think my own favourite is still Viaticum - I saw them play at the Barbican four years back, and oh-so-briefly said hello to the band in the midst of the crowds. SO sad there will be no more.

Bible and English literature - Cross-Reference

posted: 27 Oct 2009

I've been in contact with various agencies over the last year or so on the issue of the realtionship between the Bible and various streams of Western culture. I have an abiding interest in how the Bible - its compilation and translation, and how it has been understood and nuanced at different stages in history - completely affects Western culture. The Bible is often neglected by people who think it's only relevant to religious people, but without knowing something about the main themes and stories of the Bible, you'll have a limited understanding of English literature (and art, music, law, and language). One place where the connections are being made is Cross-Reference, a website devoted to joining up the dots between the Bible and English literature. It's aimed at A-level students, although if you're feeling a tad clueless about the BIble at degree level, it's not a bad place to...

How long does Advent last?

posted: 26 Oct 2009

I've been asked (as I often am this time of year) when Advent begins, and how long it lasts. Advent candles, and the calendars that have bits of chocolate, always start on the 1st December and last 24 days. But that's a pretty recent development of a much older tradition. Way back (around the 6th century) Advent was 6 weeks long, it was shortened over time, and in the 21st century Church, Advent begins on fourth Sunday before Christmas. To find that you have to count back four Sundays from Christmas Day. So, if the 25th December falls on a Saturday, Advent will be almost four weekslong, but if Christmas Day is a Monday, it's only just over three. Speaking of Advent candles, every year my son and I make an Advent candle by marking 24 notches into a tall white candle, and writing the numbers 1-24 in the segments,...

TED, inspiration, sermons, and shining eyes

posted: 26 Oct 2009

One of the things I try to instill in people I supervise is that if, when, you have the opportunity to address a group of people, they will be far more likely to engage with what you say if they feel you are talking to them, not reading a script. The relationship between the speaker and the script is not a simple one - it's better to use a script than to waffle on spontaneously and end up being boring. But you have to know how to write a script that isn't an essay. TED talks are a huge inspiration. The brief is that the speaker has a maximum of 20 minutes to talk, no notes, and they have to say something informative and inspirational. Beyond that, they can say pretty much anything. This one is fascinating - it's about music, it's about quite a few other things, and it's...

critics and trolls

posted: 26 Oct 2009

Seth is my thought for the day today. "Can't please everyone," isn't just an aphorism, it's the secret of being remarkable.on a post about dealing with trolls and critics.

science museum and politics

posted: 26 Oct 2009

The Science Museum is a national institution. I love it. It's a great place to learn things, and accessible for kids and adults alike. Now, any intelligent person knows that it's impossible to present facts without also presenting some kind of ideology or narrative or belief. But the Science Museum doesn't usually stick its nose directly into politics. The current exhibition on climate change, though, is directly linked to Copenhagen. What do you think? Should a museum be running a political campaign?

Nick Griffin, Question Time and Robots

posted: 26 Oct 2009

Clayboy reports that after blogging about Nick Griffin's appearance on Question Time last week, he and other bloggers have been getting comments that appear to be generated by a robot. The substance of the comment argues against the view that the BNP is racist, and uses the Bible to "prove" the argument.

Cross: wear it with pride

posted: 26 Oct 2009

The Bishop of Lichfield urges people to wear a cross, to demonstrate that they are Christians. (At least, that's the story according to the BBC. I'm pretty suspicious of what the papers say, knowing how royally they can misquote someone's words, or just pick a sentence out of context to give a whole new meaning to what someone says. ) I own a small gold cross that some friends gave me on my 18th birthday, which I wearfrom time to time, although not that often. But I'm not convinced that anyone thinks that wearing a cross is a religious declaration. My guess is that most people just think it's jewellery. Views, anyone? EDIT: The Bishop's views are on Lichfield Diocesan website, and Jonathan Bartley's comments on Ekklesia

Soul music for the Black Dog

posted: 24 Oct 2009

I am picking myself up by the bootstraps lately. As the comedian said, if it's not one thing it's your mother. Good in Parts, as so often, comes to the rescue with words from an unlikely source. Much though I respect his ideas, I never think of Luther as a cheery chap. But he said this: "I have no use for cranks who despise music, because it is a gift of God. Music drives away the Devil and makes people gay; they forget thereby all wrath, unchastity, arrogance, and the like. Next after theology, I give to music the highest place and the greatest honor." Music for the Black Dog: sometimes extreme beauty, like Elgar or Bach or Allegri or Mozart. And sometimes in-your-face, fighting back music, like Paul Simon, Tina Turner (whatever Ed Tomlinson may think), or Gloria Gaynor. I met Gloria once. Fantastic woman. I will survive.

Songs of Praise

posted: 24 Oct 2009

Songs of Praise is being recorded today and tomorrow in Great St Mary's, in the middle of Cambridge. Conducted by the lovely John Rutter. A good time will be had by all. But, alas, it seems that there has been serious difficulty in raising a congregation (unusually so for Songs of Praise, which, despite its cardigan-and-slippers image, is usually packed to the rafters.) I'm not altogether surprised, since any and every event in Cambridge struggles against a proliferation of events to raise an audience. There is just SO MUCH going on here, and only so many people to go round. On any given day or evening in this fine city, should you be looking to go to something, you would find two or three events to choose from that would appeal to you. All the same, if you are shouting distance from Cambridge and free at any of the times...

Biblical Illiteracy

posted: 23 Oct 2009

Beth Twiston Davies comments on a subject close to my own heart. People often assume that you would only read the Bible if you were interested in religion. But without a degree of biblical knowlege, you can't understand Western art, from the earliest known artefacts right through to Banksy and Damien Hirst; you don't get Shakespeare or Chaucer or Milton or Donne, you'll miss all sorts of inferences in contemporary authors like John Stenbeck, Patrick Gale, Salley Vickers... Amazing amounts of English idiom were coined by the bible translators of the 16th and 17th centuries. Go read. It's worth it.