Indelible Ink

Surprising to me how many people have so many tattoos these days. I always flinch a bit when I see them.

I suppose it’s because of the one I picked up in 1986. It was a bit of a rowdy trip down into Town, too many Long Island Iced Teas – you know how it is.

Thing is, sure there’s laser removal. But I wouldn’t want a stranger to see it, even for removal.

Now I’ve learnt to ignore it, but every now and then I see it and remember what a fool I was.

“On the occasion of the wedding of Prince Adrew abd Sarah Ferguson.”

I think it’s the spelling mistake that really twists the knife. That and Andrew’s face looks more like Mr Bean.

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Expecting Better of Me

Don’t tell Burton, but I really seem to be getting into this cycling business.

Without the pressure of time involved in running a religious community – all that pastoral counselling, service planning, going to visit the allegedly housebound and dealing with schisms – I never really found the time.

But now, I’ve all this free time. And in rolling countryside – not so steep you have to be Queen of the Mountains, but not so flat that you have to make like someone from Norfolk, and pretend you really care about what the sky looks like – it’s brilliant.

To keep me from dawdling around acting all Madaleine Bassett, I use the Strava app. It lets you monitor your time and distance on a given journey, tells you how high you’ve climbed and so on.

The only problem I have is that it defaults to registering everything you do as a “run”. Which is fine,  you can correct it. It just gets me down. Do you know,  not once have I uploaded a “run” ane the phone has just said “I find that most unlikely – are you sure you weren’t cycling?

I’m Theophilus

That great unexplained issue in Luke’s writing. Who was Theophilus?

Was he a real person?  If so, why don’t we hear about him elsewhere? No Theophilus in the lists of Paul’s posse in any of the Epistles. No mention at all.  I don’t know of any Theophili in the martyrologies, although I’m sure Archimandrite Simon will, if I’m wrong, put me right. He normally does.

So, Theophilus is a real guy, he’s well-connected enough to have had two books addressed to him – and he’s the only person in history to have received a Gospel, personally-addressed, in the post.

Or, alternatively, he’s a literary conceit. He’s the Biblical equivalent of Burton Dasset’s “Dear Readers” – which is a real conceit, Burton having anyone dear or any readers.

But if that’s right, then Luke means someone quite surprising, and oddly challenging. Because if ‘Theophilus” is, literally, the “God-lover” who reads his books – well, that’s me, isn’t it? Rather cheekily,  he co-opts us all. If you read Luke or Acts, you’re a God-lover whether you mean to be or not – he’s given you a new name, and expects you to live up to it.

I hope, thinking about it, that Theophilus was a real bloke. I’m not sure I could cope with the responsibility.

The Hardworking Ant and the Grasshopper

Once in  a country garden, in that lovely but strangely little-known triangle of England that lies between Northampton, Bicester and Warwick, there was a a hardworking ant. And all day long, the ant worked – bringing in grains of grass seed, picking the ripest of berries and taking them down to the storage caves of the ants’ nest under the lawn.

And there was a grasshopper in the long grass at the back of that garden – over where the gardener let the grass grow long, to encourage the poppies. All day long, the grasshopper sat on a blade of grass, rubbing his back legs with his wings – or whatever it is grasshoppers do – and singing. All the sunny days, without any care for the future, the grasshopper would sing his chirpy song, and not much else.

And then, one day, the clouds were full of rain and the sky was black and threatening. And a woman came along and poured a kettle of boiling water down into the ants’ nest. And the hard-working ant, and all his anty friends, suddenly became a weak solution of formic acid when they least expected it. And the grasshopper carried on singing, regardless, as the expected rainstorm blew over and it was a sunny day after all.

Bloody hate ants, I do. Quite like grasshoppers, though.

Unexpected Scientific Heroes

By applying the maths that flow from the Theory of Relativity, he was the first to propose the expanding universe, and later what we call the Big Bang. He came up with  Hubble’s Law, and calculated an approximation of Hubble’s Constant. Einstein was skeptical about his theories and it was Einstein that was wrong . (Einstein, being a good scientist, changed his views in the light of the evidence).

Yet his name’s not Hubble, it’s Georges Lemaître.

Yet, for a theory that implies the Universe is billions of years old, and for developing a mathematical model of how it all happened, look at the sanctions the Church applied to Mgr Lemaître.  (The clue’s in his title-  he was made a “Monsignor”. )

He’s also a famous Belgian. Quite a bloke. He was also a Cambridge man but, let’s face it, nobody’s perfect.

An Odd Little View of the Church

I am left rather confused as to what Vikki Woods is on about in her strange little piece in the Telegraph. I don’t want to be too nasty, as she seems to have the Church’s interests at heart. I just don’t understand or recognis a lot of her article.

First some relevant facts:

PCCs and other such church governing bodies do sometimes meet in people’s front rooms. They’re comfy and warm, with coffee-making and sanitary facilities. This doesn’t imply any particular issue with the local church itself.

The item on the agenda after apologies that Vikki Woods refers to is normally something along the lines of “matters arising”. But if apologies is item one, that may be the source of one of her local church’s problems – I would argue it should probably be “opening prayers”.

The item “Finance” is normally a straight P+L report. Mostly L, admittedly. Raising the folding stuff to keep the roof on normally comes under “Fund raising” or occasionally, bizarrely,  “Outreach”.

And some questions and suggestions:

Vikki Woods’s village seems to have a thriving pub, a school, a village hall and the church. Villages with this many amenities normally have sufficient population to provide more than six churchgoers. Again, perhaps the vicar could institute prayers before PCC meetings?

Vikki Woods’s local clergy appears to be strangely absent – again, could this be why there are no prayers on the PC agenda?

I’m new to all this, but I reckon an 18 grand Parish Share for a church with a clergy shared with neighboring parishes is a bit on the high side. It should imply an average weekly attendance of 20 or so, even in a fairly posh parish. I will stand corrected, but it strikes me they’ve either been inflating their October count or they’ve got a full-time, yet invisible, vicar all to themselves? Or maybe the parishioners hide when VIkki pops in to Church? Or, since the Share depends to a degree on the socio-demographics of the parish, a thought strikes me – does Vikki Woods live in the grounds of Buckingham Palace? As I say, I could be wrong on this one. But if they really are paying 18 grand a year, I suggest they save money by letting the building fall down and moving into the school. It’s warm, as well.

And one final thought – it’s about ethics, of course it is. But it’s also about paying for the wages, homes and pensions of the clergy and others that work in every village across the country – even Vikki Woods’s thriving village with its oddly small congregation and invisible vicar. To do that, you’ve got to invest, or else to raise those Parish Shares – which are big enough, for sure. To do that without ever getting it marginally wrong is incredibly difficult. But that’s true for all of us. Buy from a supermarket and you’re propping up all the newspapers and television channels they’re advertising with – whether you approve of those or not. Drink milk as a diligent vegetarian, and you’re subsidising the price of meat pies. If you’ve every bought a Mars product, turns out you were sponsoring bear-baiting in Ukraine. We’re in this world and we do our best, but we’re still in it.

Some have Entertained Archdruids

I thought it would be interesting to see how they’re all getting on, back at the ranch. Make sure that the traditional hospitality towards strangers, the same level of care is in evidence.

So, taking note of the (apparently spurious) story of Pastor Jeremiah Steepek, I dressed up as a poor person – it hurt, I can tell you – and headed off to Husborne Crawley. I parked the jalopy in the White Horse car park, and headed across School Lane.

An odd thing. None of the leadership team were there. Oric told me they had all taken themselves off to check through company ownership records. I may have to drop an email to Charlii dissuading her from stuff like that – you never know what you may find. But there was a “meditation on the works of Lt Columbo” going on, led by Stacey Bushes in a fairly shambolic style.

So as I went in, nobody took much notice of me. As I left again afterwards, nobody spoke to me. But, as I was 10 or so yards from the Moot House door, a voice called me back. It was Marston Moretaine.

“We can’t just let you go like that,” he said. Then he gave me a Gift Aid form, a standing order mandate and a catalogue for the Beaker Bazaar, and held out the collection plate with a knowing look.

Honestly, it’s as if I was running it all the time! Charlii’s doing a good job. I still stamped on Marston’s foot, though.