Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Beyond the fairy tale nativity.

This Christmas I have been challenged by going beyond the "fairy tale" nativity and considering what was going on some 2000 years ago. The Victorians did a "good" job at giving us a Christmas card story, but as you dig deeper you realise that the real story is far from meek and mild.

Mary, a teenager is pregnant out of wedlock and risks being stoned to death as a result. She has to make a long journey throughout probably one of the most volatile areas of the world to a town which remains as volatile today as ever. "O Little town of Bethlehem, How still we see thee lie" - Yeah right!
And then we get the somewhat romantic mills and boon picture of Jesus being born in a stable (resembling a flat pack shed from B & Q) with a nice wooden manger filled with golden hay, and "Little Lord Jesus, No crying he makes" - Whatever! The reality is Jesus was probably born in a cellar or cave below the house or hotel and others who couldn't afford to stay in the main rooms would likely be down there too. This means that Jesus would not have been born round the corner in a shed occupied only by his family and a few "lowing" cows, but amongst the everyday people (and their animals). Immanuel - God with us!

But then comes the bit that we don't see on Christmas cards. The mass slaughter of thousands of boy babies. Funny we also don't see on cards, Mary and Joseph fleeing for there lives and more significantly for the life of their son and seeking asylum in Egypt.

Then there are the visitors to consider - Shepherds, tough but low paid workers and Astrologers looking for the future in the stars! - This just doesn't fit too well with Western Christianity so how about we sanitise it by calling them Kings or Wise Men?

The Christmas story was I suggest very different to the nativity crib scene story we often get today, but at Christmas people don't want to hear of teenage mums at risk of being stoned, dangerous journeys through volatile lands, Jesus being born in a crowded cellar or cave, God revealing himself to minimum wage shepherds and those seeking the future in the stars. They don't want to hear about the mass slaughter of baby boys and the young holy family fleeing for their lives and becoming asylum seekers in foreign lands. Or do they? Maybe the real story would be more compelling, encouraging and understanding to our world but we may just need to ditch a few carols in the process!

Monday, 28 December 2009

A brilliant church?

While web surfing the other day I noticed a google ad on the right hand side of my screen which made me sigh. The ad was for a large (numerically speaking) church in Manchester who we'll refer to here as "Holly Church Manchester". So what narked me? The heading! "A Brilliant Church". Since when was church called to be "brilliant"? This stinks of show language. Churches surely should be diverse, fragile and journeying people who are community together. I don't think we are called to be brilliant but real!

Sunday, 20 September 2009

"You Got it!"

Last week I was speaking to someone in Levenshulme who is part of our community groups. She wouldn't say she was a person of faith but our conversation showed that faith is so much wider than the limited boundaries we Christians often place upon it.

I spoke of our desire to be an inclusive and non-judgemental church. The response came: "Well yes that's kinda the Jesus model". And I thought, "You got it!" - Shame so many of us self labelling "Christians" seem to miss that one!

May we learn more and more what it means to be inclusive church valuing all as people lovingly made in the image of God's self.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Stakes are high

BBC news says today: "The UK may have to cut emissions of greenhouse gases by 90% by 2050 so the aviation sector can continue to grow". Am I missing something, surely the idea is that the aviation sector shouldn't grow? The report continues, "The failure of aviation to play its full part could mean that the rest of the economy has to reduce its emissions by 90% instead of 80%". A higher target for household and industry carbon reduction can only be good, but the aviation industry can not be allowed to fail on their target - The stakes are too high and we know that air travel contributes highly to the issue of global warming. As someone blogging who likes flying and admittably does fly, I wonder whether the time has come to re-think our attitude to flying, particularly on short distance cheap flights? If the demand isn't there then maybe the airlines will need to rethink. Off now to turn a few lights and items on standby off!!!!!!

Saturday, 5 September 2009


"A new style of liberal Christianity is slowly emerging. Because it is not a coherent movement with a bullet-point agenda it gets ignored, but it could almost be seen as a new wing of the church. It is most simply summed up in a pejorative way: trendy-arty-liberal. To put it more positively, this new style of Christianity is defined by a confidence that contemporary culture is a resource rather than a threat". Theo Hobson, reporting in the Guardian newspaper, reflecting on Greenbelt Festival.

Some call it Post-Evangelical, some call it progressive theology, some don't like to box it. The Guardian refer to it as trendy-arty-liberal. A growing number of Christians it seems to me are uncomfortable with both the Evangelical and the Liberal classic theological viewpoints and seek a third way (or may be several ways). Sadly many still find little support or understanding from churches in their neighbourhood and rely on Greenbelt as an annual fix. I wonder what a network of Greenbelt value churches might look like and how they might be significant to so many disillusioned by the still growing judgemental beliefs held in the name of Christianity, or is that me just being judgemental too?

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Godly Bishop

Greenbelt is already proving good this year. Interesting conversation, comedy and music. The festival has received a fair amount of criticism from the conservative wing of the church this year over the invite to Bishop Gene Robinson. Sometimes you can really just sense the presence of God in people. Having heard him speak at Greenbelt today, I can say that Gene is a very humble, thoughtful, Godly man. As a Christian I believe in a God whose love is inclusive and accepting of all. I thank Greenbelt for bringing this God ordained Bishop to Cheltenham.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

The Politics of "na na na na na nah!"

I am fed up of politicians and political parties putting each other down. Do you know what I mean? Your party hasn't done this... Your party has done na na na na nah! It's particularly come up recently over the NHS put downs. I am as cross by our politicians seeing it as an opportunity to dig at another party as I am by the right wing Americans who are too naive to know better anyway. If my children acted in this way to each other I'd have them standing against a wall to a count of ten or sending them to their room to consider their attitude. While I'm at it... Does anyone else hate it when local political party fliers constantly put down other parties... "The conservatives haven't achieved this", "The Lib Dems have made a mess of that", "Labour has ignored the other" etc etc. I'm waiting to vote for the party that just tells me (truthfully) what they plan to do without putting other parties down. I'm ready to vote for the party whose flyer says "x party has done the best they were able and if elected this is how we would build upon it". Anyone else ready to vote for them too?

Tuesday, 11 August 2009


Thinking of fairtrade. It's interesting.... I remember being involved in fairtrade promotion events as a teenager when fairtrade was little known about and family and friends thought I was being extreme in my thinking. I remember how one relative gave me a jar of coffee every Christmas - They were very proud of themselves as they said "We know you don't approve of Nescafe because its not fairly traded so we bought you Kenco!" I think they had somewhat missed the point! I never had the heart to tell them and so I kept getting Kenco for Christmas. Even funnier was the fact that I don't actually like or drink coffee at all! In those days fairtrade was expensive and to be honest didn't taste that great... 25 years on, fairtrade is in the mainstream and comparable in price to other similar brands and in most cases tastes better.

Does anyone else remember being involved in early fairtrade events? Anyone else remember Crackerterias and Radio Cracker stations? I'm proud that the church took a strong lead on fairtrade and stuck with it in the early days so that today fairtrade is vogue and mainstream. I wonder if there are any lines of thought, radical campaigning, ways of thinking today that in twenty or thirty years time we can look back and be pleased with our early response. What might these be, or do we need to be more proactive and radical? Thoughts welcomed.

Fairtrade Cadbury

Yesterday I bought my first fairtrade Cadbury bar. I am particularly pleased about this as I can now consume even more of my favourite chocolate guilt free!?!?! Well done to Cadbury for being the first main brand to go fairtrade (on dairy milk at least). But the question for you to join in with is this... How much of Cadbury's fairtrade decision is to do with ethics and how much is to score sales over Galaxy? Maybe it's both and does the motive matter anyway? Over to you!

Saturday, 8 August 2009

re-establish a signal?

Considering starting this blog again - Difficult though to get the balance between being edgy and not upsetting people in the process. We'll see.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009


The Re-tuning blog is ironical now de-tuned!

Thank you for those who fed back positive feedback regarding this blog.