Fasting from voices like mine

My Lenten discipline this year will be fasting, as far as I can, from voices like mine (white, male, Western, straight, able-bodied, cisgendered). The idea came talking to a colleague about the problem of gender imbalance on our reading lists. She (rightly, of course) stressed intentionality, which got me thinking about process. If I am writing an entire new module, I will think intentionally about reading lists, but I’ve done that once in the last three years. Far more often—like, more weeks than not—I give ad hoc advice. A student or colleague asks ‘what’s good on X?’; I reply with stuff that’s in my head. Most of the time, the authors I mention are all white, male, Western, straight, able-bodied, cisgendered (Can I offend against all aesthetic...

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On the surprising origins of the advent wreath

Sunday night we had our church carol service, with considerably more candles than any Scottish Baptist of a previous generation would have approved of outside of a power cut. Front and centre was our advent wreath, four red candles now of differing heights burning, a central larger candle waiting until Christmas morning to be lit. It was a good service; later that evening, whilst certain other members of the family were watching The Apprentice final, I noticed some tweets about the origins of advent wreaths. The Anglican mission society US (once USPG) had tweeted a picture of a pink candle alight, and linked it with the theme of remembering Mary on the fourth Sunday of advent; others had responded querying the link and suggesting that the pink (sic, ‘rose’)...

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‘Forgive me Lord, for I pray in paragraphs’

I think it is Peter Wimsey who somewhere apologises for the fact that he speaks in paragraphs; his thoughts are so ordered, he seems to suggest, his mind so clear, that whole chunks of connected logic fall from his mouth when he opens it; he realises that this might be irritating to those less blessed with intellectual clarity, and so he says sorry. It struck me with force last week during a church leaders’ meeting that I pray in paragraphs. Not because my relationship with God is so ordered, but because I have become professional about praying, at least in public; I wish that were not so. One of our pastors introduced an issue that was on his heart, asked us to pray; it was something I cared about deeply in the life of our church, and I began; I managed a...

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The consolations of faith: on leading on non-religious funeral

Today I led a funeral service for my grandmother; in accordance with her views, and the wishes of her children, the service was devoid of any ‘religious’ content. I found this odd. Not difficult, but odd. Obviously, when asked to do it, I said yes; it did not take any thought to decide to help family members at such a time, and I rapidly worked out that, whilst I could not lead a ceremony speaking words I did not believe, I have no problem (indeed, a fair amount of experience, one way or another) in acting with integrity in public whilst not saying certain things that I do believe. What difficultly there was lay in working out what the service was for, in order to construct an appropriate form of words (I keep saying ‘liturgy’ in my head,...

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‘A love I seemed to lose with my lost saints’: Mission and evangelical identity

This weekend passed was our church mission weekend; it was excellent. It was led by Eddie Arthur of Wycliffe Bible Translators, ably supported by Sue Arthur, Judy and Iska, two of our members who spent seventeen years in Papua New Guinea working with Wycliffe, and continue to be involved in Bible translation from their present home in Fife, and Hilary and Peter, who worked with Wycliffe in South Asia and now work in the UK office, and with whom we also have long-standing links. I have, I think, three reflections as a result that I would like to blog about: one on the place of mission in evangelical identity; one on conversion; and one on the Bible. One of the wonderful things about the weekend was the connections: these are our people; we know them and love them;...

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