I was talking with the people from Department for International Development (DfID) at Greenbelt, and listened to their concerns that the myth that "Aid doesn't work" is still prevalent and it is part of their job to dispel it. I was largely sympathetic, as I find the statistics showing how effective Aid can be irresistible.
Last night I was listening to 'The Hecklers' a Radio 4 programme that explores a controversial topic by lining up a guest speaker against a panel of 'hecklers' who attempt to challenge the speaker. It was the final part of the series and they had Andrew Mwenda (above) a journalist from Uganda arguing that Aid, far from the solution to developing countries, is part of the problem.
His arguments, backed up by recent evidence, witness accounts and statistics make compelling listening – even the panel had to concede ground to some of Andrew’s points. You can listen to the whole programme here (you then need to navigate to the "Listen again" section) if you're interested in listening to this challenging and alternative view on Aid.
You can find Andrew's Wikipedia's entry here.
We've been busy preparing for our next art exhibition at Nexus. We've got some really exciting pieces that reflect the changing nature of Manchester's Northern Quarter.
The launch is on Wednesday 6 September, 6pm-8pm. If you can't make that then see the opening times below.
Northern Quarter 4eva
An exhibition looking at the colourful past and vibrant future of Manchester’s most quirky and exciting district, exploring the grime and the glamour, sleaze and saintly, old and new alongside the community and ambience which makes the northern quarter so unique and irresistible.
6 September to 4 November
Tues 4pm – 7pm
Thurs 11am – 4pm
Sat Midnight – 3am
Greenbelt was superb this year - tiring but superb. My favourite moment was the Sanctus1 closing service that we had at our tents. We used three randomly chosen numbers from the grace service 'communion by numbers' and added a Eucharistic element as that wasn't a number we'd selected. It was good to just be with Sanctus1 people worshiping together as a community.
They're involved with leading Rock On, a "casual alternative worship experience" working a lot with recovering addicts, and were using a trip to Edinburgh (Ann is the MD of a high school show that was playing at the Fringe) to also stop off with a couple of emerging churches if they could.
They maybe didn't have the best of introductions to our fair city (their car window was smashed, and their satnav got nicked...). But it was great to hook up with them and chat more later in the evening, as well as have them join us for the 8pm session (the last of the series on The Street - Billy's story since you ask...).
So it should be of little surprise that we’re thinking about restarting our perennial Sanctus1 film night – a chance to watch a film together and spend time afterwards mulling over its themes, ideas, characters, challenges and questions.
Ikon do something similar but have the esteemed (and published) Gareth Higgins to consult.
We just have you, the readers of our humble blog. So suggestions please! We’re thinking of a film a month from October till Easter. I would really like to see I Heart Huckabees on the list, but the question is what would you want to watch or recommend?
We can all sleep safely now. Armor Of God seemed to have bypassed Dragon's Den and dived headlong into a huge financial gamble.
It was divine inspiration that hit its creator as, one night, she was reading Ephesians 6 to her daughter. She says: "At that moment, God gave me the idea how wonderful if would be if all children could have the opportunity to put on a pair of pyjamas that symbolized the armour of God."
Blam! And that's how God works, my fellow Sanctimonians. One moment, you're searching for God's guidance, and the next moment, you have a cracking idea about children's pyjamas.
Still, I've learnt one thing. According to the flag design, the Ephesians were English. The Daily Mail would be proud.
I’ve been a fan of Newsnight for a decade or more. As politics students it was essential viewing. Yes, at times, it’s overly opinionated, predictable, knowing, (un)intentionally funny – but I think it’s still one of Auntie’s best uses of the licence fee. And IMHO Newsnight Review will always beat Big Brother in the Friday night TV stakes…
Last night’s programme showed an interview piece with Archbishop John Sentamu about his week living in York Minster, praying and fasting for peace in the Middle East. He was erudite, politically-aware and quietly outraged.
Then, cutting to the studio, Martha Kearney proceeded to question her two guests on the matter – John Gladwin, the Bishop of Chelmsford and chair of Christian Aid, and Jonathan Miller, a Jewish atheist theatre and opera director.
She began by suggesting that the clergy should steer clear of making political statements, and that it was only because this was the Holy Land that the Archbishop was making a stand in the first place. What about the people dying in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Chechnya, she cried? She tried repeatedly to get a rise out of the Bishop with this sort of easy line. She also tried to goad Jonathan Miller into saying that religious people, esp. clergy, had no right to express political views. And thus for once, it was only Martha (and me at her) who was getting hot under the collar as she tried to pit the guests against each other and thankfully they declined to take the bait.
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At the weekend, I experienced a brilliant example of one of Kester’s most memorable points – the local maximum. Using the analogy of a mountain range, the local maximum is the highest peak you’ve climbed thus far. When we’re at a local maximum, it feels like the be-all-and-end-all – and as Christians and churches we quite often get stuck where we think we are the ‘highest’ we can be. The point is that to really progress onwards and upwards, we need to retreat to the valleys and strike out for another higher peak. (Read the book – honestly he’s so much better at explaining it, and of course it gets more than a cursory sentence or two.)
And I don’t think you get much better example of a local maximum in hill-walking than approaching Scafell Pike, the highest point in England.** Giving a pint of blood 48 hours before is not a recommended preparation strategy however, and at a couple of points, I thought I’d give up, let M do the rest solo, and be happy with the climb I had done – over Rossett Pike from the valley of Great Langdale. From the relative valley of Esk Hause after Rossett Pike, Great End looks pretty blooming big too – which is why it was an easy mistake to make in my bloodless euphoria to think that I was close to Scafell Pike. How far (wrong) I was.
The point is that it’s so closely surrounded by other high peaks, it’s practically invisible from anywhere in the locality. It was a simultaneously wonderful, humbling and truly awful moment to only be able to glimpse the real summit of Scafell Pike from as little as a few hundred metres away… right – up – there. A perfect example of ascending the local maximum of Rossett Pike at the end of the Langdale valley, heading down again into the valley of Esk Hause, and striking out again (not once, but twice) for Scafell Pike itself.
Thanks again for the book and your thoughts, Kester. And here’s to the rest of the journey - onwards and upwards…
[*TANGENT 1. In fact, I can count the number of ‘Christian’/ theological/ faith-related books that I have read on two hands, so it’s either that this one is so good I’ve stuck with it, or that I’ve read nothing better to compare it to ;-) …or that generally Douglas Coupland, David Mitchell, and John Irving have as much, if not more, to say to me about faith/ life/ stuff. Having said that, I’ve recently revelled in reading Donovan’s 'Christianity Rediscovered' and am hoping to attempt Farrar Capon’s 'Kingdom, Judgment, Grace' pretty soon too…]
[** TANGENT 2. One of the main ways that it beats Snowdon is that there’s no crappy café at the top. I’ve not yet climbed Ben Nevis so can’t comment on it – but we're hoping to try it in a fortnight when we’re on hols in Glen Coe before heading Skye-wards.]
Hang on - aren't we all supposed to hate the supermarkets for taking over, homogenising the market, and putting local shops out of business?
And yet here are the residents of Gipsy Hill, London getting excited about Sainbury's opening a new local store, ten months after the closure of their Safeway during the Morrison's take-over.
Apparently local shops campaigned succesfully for the new store, believing it will increase footfall in the area, produce a trickle-down effect for other businesses and provide genuine choice in the locality, within walking distance and especially later at night and on weekends.
Good luck to them - here's hoping that this is a success story for the community, local businesses and, for once, for Sainsbury's too...
You get all the (un)usual ones: a wing of aircraft, a batch of bread, a vagary of impediments, a parliament of owls, a cog of robots, a blessing of unicorns…
But what about collective nouns for faith stuff?
A hallelujah of worship services? A roost of archdeacons? A meme of macs?
"Visual Liturgy services are based on templates, which are service frameworks that have intelligent links to the lectionary. These can be customized, so that you can easily create a service template for your own church that will be automatically up-to-date every time you use it.
There is a large hymn and song database of over 5,000 songs to choose from. Full text is available where copyright allows."
Your response to this will be somewhere from "This is news?" to "Ah: that's clever", possibly by way of "I'm outraged! Shouldn't all services be lead by the Holy Spirit?"
The answer to this last point may have come last week, when an overzealous team at Symantec released an update to its anti virus software that identified a key component of Visual Liturgy as being malware .This has apparently caused many users to delete the offending file, forcing them to produce their services the old fashioned way.
Or maybe they were being directed by the Holy Spirit...
James Cameron, who froze Leonardo DiCaprio to death and therefore demands your respect, has a theory on the Red Sea.
In a documentary due to be made by the director, he puts forward a claim that a volcano caused a tsunami and 'parted' the sea. It even triggered the ten plagues that were smited upon Egypt.
I'm not sure I really trust Cameron. He ended up ruining the Terminator franchise and he used to drive a truck, and we know how much trouble truck drivers can cause.
More on Cameron's documentary here.
Lots of Miffy pictures, miffy products, and best of all, miffy outfits that you can dress up in. Admittedly, you have to be very small to be able to fit into the outfits, but it's always worth a try, I feel. You can also draw Miffy, or send Miffy a postcard: the best ones are put on display!
It's also a Celebration of the othe works of Dick Bruna, so be amazed at the other stuff he's done too.