Monday, 8 December 2008

a blog post about those for whom jesus really weeps

I emailed my letter of membership resignation to the church of Place of Former Employment yesterday. After over a decade, a real cutting of apron strings, kite strings, exhilaration, aloneness. I'm both relieved and devastated.

I think I have come to the belief that, irrespective of the question of whether or not the church is something Christ intended to found, the Church is an ideal. Certainly, the Church has incredible potential for truly functioning as the Body of Christ on earth, full of a transforming love, grace and truth with the capacity to bring the world right back to how it was before sin entered the world. However, each individual local church is limited by each one of its members being a product of the world which it seeks to transform. And each us as humans possess the capacity for love, grace and truth but also ignorance, prejudice and unkindness, so also does each local church. To put it another way, humans aren't perfect so the church and Church will never be.

So maybe when the Church rises above its own propensities and limitations, maybe that's the true miracle of the incarnation and of grace. I saw it happen many times at Place of Former Employment, and I saw also the devastation of when it failed to happen. I don't want to imply that, by leaving, I've come to consider them inadequate. It's simply that I'd rather Jesus were allowed to concentrate his weeping over the community which Place of Former Employment aims to transform rather than the intricacies of their response to one ex-employee's marital choices. I still long for the miracles to happen.

If such a miracles are to take place within the community which Place of Former Employment aims to transform, though will have to take place from within the neighbourhoods and families and children who actually live and work and suffer and play there. Grass roots stuff. Bottom up. Groudn level. Rhizomatic. Radical. Could Place of Former Employment enable or allow such a miracle to erupt from beneath or underneath itself? Yes. Would they? I hope so. The people living in those streets are some of the ones over whom Jesus really weeps.

I think it's time that I enabled Jesus to concentrate his weeping on them. I'm going to make this, then, is the final post of Jesus Wept.

This blog, I have decided, has run its course. I no longer feel as though I'm fighting the world for the right to love. I'm now married to Beloved, and have a wonderful new job as well. Sometimes the demons still come screeching and clattering in through my ear, but sometimes they make Jesus and I laugh, too. I'll continue fighting for faith and for a place within Christianity. But whereas a year or so ago I felt so alienated as to believe that God to be the only reality in the universe, I've now come to realise that my husband and family and friends are real, too. Whereas I've come to struggle with the simplicity and harshness of much that the evangelicals proclaim, I still believe that at their essence they're right in insisting that it all must begin with love and with relationships.

I've met some wonderful people, both online and offline, through this blog. I don't think it'll be long, then, before I'm back blogging again elsewhere. Anyone who would like to keep in touch or would like to know when and where my next blog emerges from, do please drop me an email at

And please, keep praying for them...

Love to you all

Saturday, 29 November 2008

a blog post in which Grace doesn't know what to write

Before I begin, thanks to all of you who were so nice about my last post. I've decided simply to put it all down to the priest in question having allowed the sub-zero temperature to freeze over his repository for tact. It happens to us all sometimes. Or to me, anyway.

Which is why, at 4pm on a Sunday afternoon, I'm sat in bed piled into three fleeces. The heating has chosen the coldest day so far this winter to pack in and as darkness descends, icicles are beginning to crystallise on the insides of the window panes and a thin film of frost is beginning to harden over the dregs of my lastest cup of tea. I'm exaggerating, of course. But I'm not warm enough. Neither, though, are many people around the world. I'm simply spoiled by having lived my whole life either in warmer climes or with central heating.

I've reached yet another point of being unsure where to take this blog. I began Jesus Wept as an anonymous place to think and write about things one wasn't allowed to think or write about in my then job. Its original title was going to be The Secret Life of a Church Administrator (which I changed my mind about as a bit too revealing) and my original pseudonym was going to be the ironic Eulalia (in New Testament Greek, loosely translated as she who says the right thing, which I can't remember why I changed to Grace). Now, however, that I'd left Place of Former Employment and am free to believe, consider, discuss and write about anything, I can no longer maintain the frisson of intrigue and suspense of what might happen if I were to be Outed. By now, I suspect, Place of Former Employment have better things to worry about.

The moment of greatest pathos and irony was when, at the meeting directly following my appointment to New Job, I was informed that my alleged evangelical credentials had made them slightly uneasy about inviting me to interview.

It's proving hard to blog anonymously about New Job as it's all a bit, well, specific to what it is. And my concern is not them finding out about what I might or might not believe (which they ask me, I've told them, they're fine with) but them discovering the more emo laden bits of content here. At New Job, I'd prefer to keep my personal dramas separate from my working life. (If I manage that, it'll be a first...)

So what, then, for the future of this blog? I could de-anonymise myself and try and make it into something all academic and deep exploring the spirituality and theology of my new area of work. Or I could remain anonymous but ensure that I never write about work but concentrate on random faith questions and the general chaos clattering through my mind. Or else I blog about something totally, entirely different. Either way, I'm not entirely sure of how a blog readership might respond...

Any ideas, anyone?

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Church Search 666. Grace causes offence and doesn't want to apologise

They're very nice, those gloves of mine. They were given to me by a friend of my mother's who, as well as also being nice, is very much a respected, respectable and respectful member of a high Anglo-Catholic church. And so, given how cold it has been here recently, I wore these gloves to the church we attended this morning. I greatly admire those for whom being cold is a spiritually enriching experience, but for me it isn't. And I was told at the communion rail that, until/unless I removed these gloves, I would not be permitted to partake of the eucharistic host. And I was not told this politely, either.

I mean, WTF?

If a veto or taboo or prohibition on hand coverings were well known throughout certain echelons of the Church of England, I'd have been aware of it by now. It'd have been liturgicalised as follows

"Draw near with faith and remove your gloves.
Receive the body of our Lord Jesus which He gave for you
and the blood which he shed for you.
Eat and drink with bare hands in the remembrance that he died for you.
And feed on him, in your hearts - which though your hands by now may be stinging with cold, will be warm - by faith, with thanksgiving..."

Wouldn't it come across as rather, somewhat... legalistic? Pharisaical?

I mean, I had purple nail varnish underneath my gloves. I've been in African Indigenous Pentecostal churches with such a veto or taboo on painted nails that I'd have been instructed to don gloves in order to take communion. And if I were ever to have made First Communion in a Roman Catholic church, I'd have to have worn gloves. And it goes without saying (I hope) that Jesus has nothing to do with this. It took a few years after Jesus for the Church to consider its theological bases for sharing bread and wine and a few centuries for the Church to develop this into such fixed rituals.

So essentially, they were offended that I wore gloves. And they thought that I should have known that they'd be offended.

And that, for me, is the nub of the question. Should one, when visiting a place of worship, approach in fear and trepidation of how one might offend, be seen as inappropriate, not fit in? Or should one approach with openness, warmth and a readiness to engage with the people and their g/God/s?

And should one, when welcoming a newcomer into one's place of worship, scrutinise the finest points of the way s/he is dressed or behaving? Or should one just take them as they are for the time being, and leave the finer questions of their hand coverings as a matter of secondary importance to the gospel of Christ?

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

If Barack Obama is really the Revelation Antichrist (and a Muslim), what will it be like to be governed by him?

Nothing has generated page hits to this blog to the same extent as my semi-considered attempt at being historically analytic and slightly michael taking posts considering whether Barack Obama might be the Muslim Antichrist prophesied in Revelation Chapter 13. A week after his election several dozen people each day are still reaching my blog through googling "obama revelation muslim antichrist".

I know that some people do genuinely, fervently believe that Barack Obama is foretold here in the Bible. People believe things, and some people believe more unusual things than others. For those who believe the Bible is to be read in such a way as to foretell an Antichrist, the Antichrist will destroy and bring an end to the world. And what, then, will be like for those in the US who believe Obama to be the Antichrist to stand up for the flag and the pledge of allegiance and submit to being governed by him? Terrifying, I would have thought.

Would anyone out there like to explain, contribute, comment...?

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Armistice, Remembrance. 11am, November 11th 2008

The young, young soldier is reading from the Bible. Someone standing behind Grace whispers, did you know he saw them two he joined up wiv die out in Iraq?

The two minute silence. The minister breaks in with and Lord, God, Father in heaven we thank you for the election of your great and appointed man, Barack Obama, who will save us all from war. There's crying in the congregation.

(This is Britain. Sometimes we cry about dead teenage soldiers and the dreadful things happening in the Middle East. But crying about the promises made by a politician, that's all very new.)

Monday, 3 November 2008

If Barack Obama's really the Revelation 13 Antichrist, surely we should feel compelled to vote for him....

I mean, given that the Bible (allegedly) says that the Antichrist will come, surely we should not presume ourselves able to stop him. And surely, if we were to try and stop him, we'd be guilty of attempting to re-write the book of Revelation, and liable to all the dire consequences of that. So surely, then, the only available option is to vote for Obama.

He he he *Grace cackles merrily and wishes all those enfranchised to vote a happy polling day*

Sunday, 2 November 2008

'Would you mind explaining for us the gaps in your CV?' Part Two

It’s not that I’m not still loving New Job, but the workload is overwhelming. And at seven o’clock on a Sunday night I’m still worried about arriving at the office tomorrow looking horizontal with exhaustion...

Prior to my interview for New Job, I was having the usual what-will-I-say-if-they-ask-me-to-elaborate-more-specifically-upon-the-gaps-in-my-CV panic. In the event, they didn’t ask, which is of course why I got the job. So I’ve told New Job as much as they’re legally entitled to know and New Job has asked me no more than they’re legally permitted to ask. Perfect. But that’s only in relation to the management.

Colleagues, however, are being all friendly and interested. And one would never want one’s colleagues not to initiate friendship and take interest in one another. And it’s not that I have a principled objection to them knowing all about how all my youthful education and career plans were shot to pieces by the years in a loony bin. It’s just that many people either;

a) will lack the maturity to understand such things and will therefore be forever terrified to come near me in case I interfere with their kiddies behind the bike shed


b) will feel such pity for and a need to help me as to preclude any real friendship developing between me and anyone there anyway

with both a) and b) risking

c) all sorts of conflated, irrational, totally unnecessary and possibly even malicious rumours, panic and allegations

This is why I struggle, then, to know how to respond to genial yet inquisitive questions. Maybe I should worry less. But maybe I should also take heed of the way in which a) and/or b) led to c) no less than three times in the last five years.

My initial tactic was to be as vague as possible. This worked until a few of them found me on Facebook and realised me to be significantly older than they’d assumed me to be. (Flattering, that, nevertheless...) Since then, it seems, a sense of intrigue and mystique has begun to coalesce around me. One or two people are enjoying being increasingly assertive in asking me to detail everything I’ve been doing for the last ten years of my life. And then, last week, I heard that someone had told someone that the reason Grace talks a bit posh like that is because I was born in Botswana (don’t they believe my Lambeth-issued birth certificate I provided to verify my identity?) and is here in Britain because she escaped Mugabe (who was doing what to drive people out of Botswana??). So, it seems that Precious Rambotswe may have a franchise agreement with the Rumour Department at New Job.

Whatever, however, I may have fled to get here, I’m very glad it wasn’t Robert Mugabe. From Botswana, Lambeth, Zimbabwe or anywhere else ...

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

in which Grace is shortly to become the next great subject of internet ridicule

The moral of the story being, if there's a camera around, insist upon them waiting for you to change. But they'd all so earnestly and gently requested a gigabyte apiece of digital photos of themselves with an Indigenous Person. The photos are already plastered across the internet. And whereas everyone else is neatly, appropriately dressed, Indigenous Person is still in her cycling attire and desperately requiring of the services of a hairbrush.

So, if you read anywhere online that the traditional folkloric robes of Grace's City of Residence are reflective, slightly muddy and worn with grotty trainers... it was me wot started it. And you heard it here first.

Ah well. At least I wasn't naked. Small mercies...

Monday, 27 October 2008

Yet another post about Obama's alleged Revelation 13 Antichrist status

The whole saga of it all made it into the UK Guardian today. Given that the Guardian is a vaguely leftie paper still adhering to a tradition of considering itself too grown-up for God stuff, this is quite an acheivement.

Really, though, who is the Antichrist? Nobody you’ll find in the Bible, certainly. Revelation chapter 13 simply puts it as follows;
And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. He had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on his horns, and on each head a blasphemous name. The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority ... The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for forty-two months. He opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven. He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world...

So, leaving Obama aside for now, how do we get from that to the fundamentalist concept of the Antichrist as a person? The reasoning goes that, since God is all big and powerful, and since (according both to Newton in physical science terms and to Huntington in geopolitical terms) no force can exist without being opposed by an equal and opposite force. And since no force can exist without being opposed by an equal and opposite force, and since God is all big and powerful, the one who opposes God must be all macho and testosterone-laden too. And since the beastie of Revelation chapter 13 is the machoest, scariest non-God figure in the entire Bible, then he must be drafted into the Antichrist post.

There's a problem with this already, though: fundamentalists aren't supposed to do reasoning. With fundamentalism, the myth and metaphor of texts such as Revelation, as Karen Armstrong explains far better than me, are mean to be read like science textbooks. So, as a fundamentalist wanting to assert a doctrine of the Antichrist, one can only fall back on revelation: the Antichrist is how he is because God told me. And in our cosy postmodern world which has become very comfortable with the idea of people hearing all sorts of mutually contradictory things from various higher powers, it's a hard thing to refute.

So far be it for me to deny the existence for you of the Antichrist.

But how does Obama come into it? Well, in very much the same sort of way that Charles I of England came into it when people didn't want him in charge either. In both cases, God appears to have very specifically to have likened the Antichrist to the unwanted leader. And many, many times in between.

Maybe, though, God or those to whom he prophesied made some mistakes. After all, I have no grounds upon which to pronounce Obama not to be this mythically-constructed figure which some might attach the name of "Antichrist". After all, it's all convincing stuff;
According to The Book of Revelations: The Anti-Christ will be a man, in his 40s, of MUSLIM descent, who will deceive the nations with persuasive language, and have a MASSIVE Christ-like appeal....the prophecy says that people will flock to him and he will promise false hope and world peace, and when he is in power, he will destroy everything. And Now: For the award winning Act of Stupidity Of all times the People of America want to elect, to the most Powerful position on the face of the Planet -- The Presidency of the United states of America .. A Male of Muslim descent who is the most extremely liberal Senator in Congress (in other words an extremist) and in his 40s.
Whatever. But what I still don't get and can't get my head around is how one can reconcile all the obsessing about evil and all the hate-mongering, scapegoating and bile that seems to accompany all such Antichrist searching. Where does the love which Jesus kept going on and on and on about, where does that come into it? Where's it all gone...?

Sunday, 26 October 2008

a very silly blog post

I tried to create the as-suggested-by-lampbus Box Z. And yet, the more I read and re-read the blurb attached to the question, the more I realised that adding another box would not pass me the assignment. And so, I asked the parrots, and, as Steve predicted, they know exactgly what box to fit me into. And they told me to take option C.

So the assignment's all dusted away. Now, let's see if I pass...

Friday, 24 October 2008

the problem of studying something which doesn't involve God

One of the most delightful things about academic study involving anything to do with God, theology or faith, is that one can never be wrong. This is because you're dealing with a Being or beings or concepts which, whether they exist or not, exist beyond the limits of human language or understanding. Therefore, one can never be proved to be factually incorrect. One is assesssed purely on one's capacity to reason or argue the point, regardless of the utter crap one may be spouting. This is why, of course, so many Religious Studies graduates apply for advertising internships and end up at law school when they're turned down. Nothing is wrong, everything is possible and most people have the potential to be persuaded of absolutely anything.

By contrast, I'm now sitting here utterly infuriated by the assignment for this course I'm currently doing. The question is clearly phrased, offering one of five possible answers A-E to be explained in only 300 words. And I don't know which of A, B, C, D or E it is because I don't understand B, C or E. And I'm not used to not being able to get away with not understanding by simply justifying why I've written something else instead. And I'm not used to the way in which I've read endless reams about the subject matter won't necessarily help. If I don't pick the "correct" answer I will fail the course, and if I fail the course I will have to keep retaking it until I pass and if I don't pass eventually I will lose my job. Not everything is possible, and eveything other than what's right is wrong.

I'm sure that, with some more thorough reading of the textbooks and a few phone calls to people who can help me understand B, C and E, I will get there. But I'm really, really not used to this...

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

something Grace could never have made up

Before I begin, this is not one of those posts-in-which-Grace-takes-liberty-with-the-facts-to-tell-a-good-story. This happened. This actually took place.

The scene is set in GRACE's office. GRACE is deep in concentration on the computer. Her mobile rings (ringtone: Hallelujah Chorus) and GRACE fumbles in her pocket to answer.

GRACE: Hello?



FLMFPOFE: Grace, we've heard you're now working in research!

GRACE: Er, yes.. sort of. How are you? How's the family? How's everything?

FLMFPOFE: Fine. But listen love, we've got something to ask you.

GRACE: Er, go on...

FLMFPOFE: We need some research done.

GRACE: Um, OK...

FLMFPOFE: Research into, you know, how to reach the community, extend the Kingdom.

GRACE: Great.

FLMFPOFE: Could you help us?

GRACE: Er, yes, of course. But... what sort of research are you wanting.

FLMFPOFE: It's about parrots....

GRACE: Right...

FLMFPOFE: ...and about their potential in evangelism.

GRACE: What an, um, interesting, er, different idea.

FLMFPOFE: We'd be wanting you to interview the parrots.

GRACE: Er (pauses) yesssss.

FLMFPOFE: So would you do it for us? As a piece of research? Now?

GRACE: Wh-what sort of timescale are you wanting when you say, like, when you say 'now'?

FLMFPOFE: Really, really soon as possible. It's an urgent thing. We need to reach the communit here for Christ. There are young, young mums dying, you know how it is...

GRACE: Well, sometimes these things take a while to work out. We might want to sit down together to put a proposal together. Given that we're talking about interviewing, we'll have to run it through a research ethics committee.

FLMFPOFE: Oh no. I've looked it up online. The guidelines say that if you're using between 38 and 1008 parrots you don't need ethical approval.

BELOVED: (shaking GRACE awake) Graceeeeeeeeey? Darling? It's raining ... I'm not due in till 10 this morning ... would you like a lift ... shall I have a shower first...?

GRACE: (yawning) Urghm... yesss... what-what time is it?

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

could anyone spare some prayer?

A Very Dear Friend of mine has a Significant Deadline in 17 1/2 hours and an overwhelming amount of it all to write in the meantime. A long, long story.. but well, if it all had happened to you, you'd be equally as frantic at 17 1/2 hours before deadline. So please, prayers would be most, most appreciated. Thanks.

Even with the Lord on your side, a bit of sex appeal still helps

The scene is set in the lobby of GRACE's department. Four MALE MAINTENANCE/SECURITY STAFF are crowded round the widescreen television, which they have switched from BBC News 24 to FOX News. Sarah Palin is speaking and they are watching, breathless.

GRACE, having just locked herself out of her office, enters quietly from stage left.

GRACE: Um, excuse me...


GRACE: (raising her voice slightly) Er, sorry to disturb you, but...

All four MALE MAINTENANCE/SECURITY STAFF slowly turn around, cringeing and all red-faced, looking as though they'd been caught reading Page 3 of The Sun .

Monday, 20 October 2008

Grace sees her old job advertised and starts thinking

Before I left Place of Former Employment, I'd written, upon their request, a few bullet points suggesting how the structure of the role could be improved. So now that they're advertising, I'm aching to read their job description and person spec. Not in a voyeurisic, titilating way... but because, with the role properly set up and managed, so much more could be achieved.

Each time I've been back to the neighbourhood - and it has only been a few times - I see people I knew, lived alongside, worked with. When I was cycling back through there earlier this week, it was the little, little boy whose Mam's funeral was in my last week who stopped me to say hello. I still didn't know what to say to him, even now.

Could Place of Former Employment have prevented Mam's death? I still can't decide. It's a question, essentially, of how much we believe the c/Church can do, of how much influence and/or impact the c/Church can, could, should have over one or an Other's life, a question set against that of free will versus determinism and/or personal, social, state responsibility... and really, I don't know any more. All I know is that now all I seem able to do is pray for that family, and from my cozy new abode three miles yet half a world away, that seems so... well, inadequate...

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Happy Birthday Dear Blo-ogletttttttttt

Yes, today is the first birthday of my blog. What a difference a year makes. What a difference. And God has been very, very good. I'm saving my readers from me going all slushy and introspective by the embarrassment of having been utterly AWOL in an intense love triangle with both New Job and Beloved for the past three weeks... and to those to whom I owe phone calls, emails, wine or coffee, I'm very very sorry.

Maybe on the second birthday of my blog I'll reveal the never-yet-told-online story of why I really started it up. But in the meantime, here's a birthday cake. Do grab a plate and all help yourselves to a slice...

Monday, 29 September 2008

What has Prince Charles suddenly done to deserve becoming the Antichrist?

Seriously, can anyone explain? All of a sudden, this weekend I've had 11 hits to this page from people googling "prince charles antichrist" or similar. And I'd thought it had all been resolved that Barack Obama was definitely the man...

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Grace and Beloved's Church Search Week 15: Catholic Mass

Whenever I'm in a Catholic church, it always strikes me to wonder quite what the Church of England and Rome have had to argue about*; the liturgies and their underlying theology being so startlingly similar to one another**. My suspicion is that, given that the Anglican communion service has used English since 1549 whereas the Catholic mass has used the vernacular only since 1964, there has been over four hundred years of people not realising this.

The mass we went to proceeded something like this.

CONGREGATION: Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world: have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world: have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world: grant us peace.

PRIEST: This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those who are called to his supper.

CONGREGATION: Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.

PRIEST: Right, so let me to inject in here for a minute. This is a Catholic mass, in which we as Catholics celebrate the giving of Christ's body for us as the Catholic church. All Catholics are welcome to receive and we ask that all non-Catholics here do not come to receive unless they have made their Holy Communion as Catholics and that if they aren't Catholics that they indicate clearly that they aren't Catholics to allow me to know that they're not Catholics...

That's a first, far from Catholicism as I've ever yet experienced it. I mean, I understand the Catholic position of the papally-suceeded Church of Rome being the only True Church. And I understand that certain Catholic bishops can give priests quite a bollocking for offering the elements to non-Catholics. And I'd be open to the possibility that there may have been someone for some reasons keeping an eye on this particular priest in such a way as made him feel he needed to labour the pont as he did.

But why, why is Holy Communion [the Eucharist, the Lord's Supper] only for those the Church or church has pre-vetted as Christians? And why is the church or Church often so uptight about ensuring it is?

I mean, who was it that transformed religion, faith and society by making a point of repeatedly eating with those deemed unclean, unworthy and undesirable? How might he feel about us restricting access to his Body and Blood?

*that is, of course, aside from questions of Henry VIII's wives, the Battle of the Boyne and Bloody Sunday...
**well, apart from the Pope...

Is 'lived allegory' a workable definition of prophecy?

Steve Lancaster said... Oh, you have to watch allegory! Or before long you find you've written Dante's Inferno ;).

What you've written here is more than allegory, because it has been lived. (Question: is 'lived allegory' a workable definition of prophecy?

Is 'lived allegory' a workable definition of prophecy? This is the question which has preoccupied me all week. I was hoping to get a response post written, but I still can't make up my mind.

Does anyone else have any ideas, thoughts, perspectives, views to contribute? Or would Steve like to explain further...?

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Grace and Beloved's ChurchSearch Week 14: Grace gets lost and makes an unexpected discovery

I was looking for a path. Potentially all very allegorical. I'd heard several rumours of an unmapped footpath through some woodland, which would, if it were where it were claimed to be, enable me to avoid a particularly scary roundabout whilst cycling to New Job. The trouble with that being that, whereas several rumours claimed the path to be there, none could agree its precise location. So I set off into the broad afternoon daylight to try and find it. And I got lost.

I found myself on a bright, leafy, newly-developed estate. I kept cycling through, hoping eventually to run into a main road or at least a road sign pointing to somewhere I recognised. What I finally recognised was the church. An immensely forlorn and dilapidated hut-like little building, right at the centre of the estate. I stood there, blinking, trying to account for this inexplicable sense of remembering. And then I realised. It was, I realised, a church I'd been to few times, years back when it had been temporarily hired for a few evangelistic-type meeting.

Back then, it had been a grim, dire, adjectly miserable-looking estate. The grotty little church had been very much in keeping with its overall character. Now, though, it seemed as though the entire estate, with the exception of the church, had been flattened, re-designed and rebuilt into somewhere fresher and more livable-feeling. The church, though, had remained entirely as it had been prior to the redevelopment. It stood as a centrepiece to the estate, a reminder of what a grim place the area had been.

Why, when the estate and its housing blocks, shopping precinct, pubs and verges were all redeveloped, why was the church left untouched? At first I wondered whether the church was simply a decommissioned, abandoned shell of a building, but then I saw a sign advertising its service times, toddler groups, luncheon clubs and youth activites for the estate. It's still (and its website also confirms this) very much a living, active congregation.

Perhaps the church reveals what the rest of the development doesn't, which is that new frontages and flower beds can be deceptive and that maybe many of the underlying social problems of the estate have not been solved by its redevelopment. Nevertheless, as the final building to retain vestiges of a crumbling, miserable-looking past, the church seems to carry such a backwardly-focused, hope-devoid image of its message. Very, very sad, I think. If I had a few hundred thousand pounds to donate, I'd love to build the church and the community an attractive, cosy, welcoming-looking new building for the centre of the estate...

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Grace and Beloved's ChurchSearch Week 13: Somewhere else About Which Cannot be Blogged

So let's just call it SEAWCBB for now. I feel as though I'm treadng on ice thinner than eggshells in even mentioning that I daren't blog about them. It's not that there's anything controversial, dodgy or risky about SEAWCBB, and no suggestion they'd take particular offense if they knew that I was blogging about them. It's simply that

a) they're so distinctive a faith group that I cannot yet work out a way to blog about them without revealing their precise identity and location and thus my own


b) a significant cohort of their congregation apparently work for New Employer, and I'd currently like to keep my working life disentangled from my religious dramas, especially as New Employer admits to almost not have shortlisted me for my post on account of their fear that I'd Bible bash them


c) I'm probably being paranoid about it all, I'm aware

But God was there and they were friendly so I think we'll be back to SEAWCBB. Watch this space and be intrigued. We're returning tomorrow to Exceptionally Friendly Church. Looking forward to that, too...

Friday, 19 September 2008

And what happened to Michael Guglielmucci?

I was going to try and update on him, too. But then I realised that MadPriest got there first and there's a good discussion going. Like MadPriest, all of Guglielmucci's protestations that he's a helpless victim of his own mentalness has seriously eroded my sympathy...

What happened to Todd Bentley?

Despite my reprehensible lack of blogging over the past week, I've still sustained upwards of fifteen visitors each day who have found me by googling to try and find out what happened to Todd Bentley. I'm still wondering, too. And it may well be no bad thing that there's barely any news. Todd has had his public vilification and I'd rather he now spent some time with God and his family to reflect on the mess he's made of it all. There's just this piece, for which Todd's wife Shonnah seemingly declined to be interviewed yet denies knowledge of where her husband even is. Horrible. How does she explain that to the kids? If it's true that Todd's just sodded off, is he ever planning to come back to sort out custody or access arrangements?

Despite all this, there have been some interesting commentaries around the blogosphere.

Lakeland Closure. A bit late perhaps has some very calm and thoughtful points to make. And Rupert's Lakeland and Toronto Part 1 and Part 2 does a subtle not-throwing-the-baby-out-with-the-bathwater job.

I'm still worrying, though, about his kids...

Monday, 15 September 2008

first impressions

A cluster of early 80s municipally-architectured low-rise buildings hidden in a crop of giant bushes in an expansive, waterlogged field half-way to the beach. Unusually peaceful, almost rural, even. Friendly people, too. They've set me up all registered on the postgrad course which accompanies or even characterises it all and suddenly I'm a student again. I've never studied in the middle of a field before. All my previous academic efforts have been in town centre or inner-city surroundings. I wonder whether all this green space will filter into my thinking. I wonder whether there's ever been any research done to determine how population or building density affects academic output. And now, rather than simply wondering, I could get onto Athens and look it up.

Thank you to everyone who sent their good wishes for today.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

what makes an australian bottle tree weep?

I don't know. I wonder, did the person who entered "what+makes+an+australian+bottle+tree+weep+?" into google and then found my blog, did he or she get an answer?

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Oh no not another post on Sarah Palin's daughter

I’d thought that, whilst I was away, the relentless furore surrounding Sarah Palin’s daughter might have abated. It hasn’t. Both Bristol’s pregnancy and her supposedly impending wedding to her boyfriend Levi Johnson are still being exploited to make every conceivable (no pun intended) political, social and religious point about sex education, abstinence-based or otherwise, about teenage pregnancy, about shotgun marriage, about working mothers, about everything conceivably (oops) related to the Family Values agenda. What seems to be missing are the questions of context, of what it means to be 17, unmarried and pregnant as the daughter of the governor of a cold, distant, right-wing US state. What it means, as the daughter of an Alaskan governor, to be 17 and unmarried or 17 and pregnant or unmarried and pregnant is question enough. I can only speak from British experience in observing that, in many educated, middle-class areas, the whole thing would be totally inconceivable, in some minority communities most girls are married the minute they turn 16 anyway and in many marginalised inner-city communities, the idea of marriage is entirely beyond conception at age 27 or 37 let alone 17. So whatever one believes Uncle Sam or indeed God himself to believe, context is everything.

Essentially, though, there are really only two people who know the circumstances of the conception of Junior Johnson-Palin. There are therefore only two can speak honestly about the extent to which the baby and the marriage were planned or wanted (though Levi’s MySpace ‘I don’t want kids’ assertion is a bit of a giveaway) and only two families who know how the Palins and the Johnsons responded to the news.

And aside from questions of context and the relevance of it all to any form of political or moral campaign... I mean, please, Bristol’s 17. 17. Think back to when you and/or your sister or daughter was 17. Would you and/or she have been able to handle the world’s media in your/her face? Could the world’s media therefore please leave Bristol Palin alone?

Grace returns from her travels

I’m back. Back to a letter inviting me to start New Job. Back to a letter inviting me to start New Job on Monday. This coming Monday. Like, in less than 48 hours. Eeek. Deep breath. The bike ride there is terrifying and I don’t know what to wear and I can’t remember which of the panel that interviewed me is the person I’m meant to report to and I can’t remember what it was I said in the interview which caused them to give me the job and I haven’t got time for a haircut beforehand and I’m petrified I will fall out with my supervisor in the first ten minutes and I’ve heard the coffee is dreadful. Deep breath. I can’t believe that it has been 12 weeks since I left Place of Former employment and 8 weeks since I was offered New Job. Most of how I have spent these last 12 weeks has entirely unbloggable but utterly exhausting, exhilarating, limit-stretching and probably impossible had I either been at Place of Former Employment or looking for another job. So given what a blessing it’s all been, maybe I was right in somehow thinking that Him Up There really did want me to leave Place of Former Employment. Deep breath. It’s exciting. And for the final 48 hours of my 12 week holiday, I’m sitting in my mum’s garden scanning all her baby photos into my laptop. Life is good, surely...

Friday, 5 September 2008

Normal service will shortly be resumed...

... but in the meantime, I'm off to an undisclosed European capital with family. And praying for all those left behind in Britain and the USA in the rain and midst of election coverage.

I'll be back!

Call upon the Lord or The Cat who thinks he's God

The scene is set at home. BELOVED is out for the evening and a crowd of 70-odd teenagers have descended for a night of merrymaking and revelry. GRACE has retreated to the bedroom with her proverbial cup of cocoa and the laptop. The cat, AMOS, is wandering bemused and disorientated outside. GRACE creeps downstairs to call AMOS in.

GRACE: Amos! Aaaaaaaaaa-mos!


TEENAGER 2: It's her cat. He's called Amos. You know, as in from the Bible...

TEENAGER 3: Let's help her out!

TEENAGERS 1-70: Amos! Aaaaaaaaaa-mos! Come here! Good boy!

AMOS does not respond.

TEENAGER 3: I know. Let's all call Jesus and see what happens!


AMOS comes running through the door and bounds in amongst the partygoers. TEENAGERS 1-70 applaud. TEENAGER 3 offers AMOS a swig from his pint glass of red wine, which AMOS takes by his front paws and drinks...