Saturday, June 25, 2005

I've moved!

OK, I've tried this blogging thing for several weeks now and admit to being totally hooked. I haven't posted since Thursday, because all spare time has been given over updating the server which hosts alternativeworship.org. Well, it's now up and running, and it's much faster than the old one.

Old Server: Pentium P75, Memory 16MB, Hard Disk 1GB, aged 12 years.

New Server: Pentium 4, Memory 512MB, Hard Disk 40GB (RAID2/Mirrored), aged 0 years.

Given the age of the hardware, it's a testimony to Linux and God that the whole thing ran for the past 5 years with only two downtime periods - in each case it involved other network hardware.

The net effect of all this is my blog has moved! I won't be blogging any longer at this address, but at http://alternativeworship.org/paulsblog . The reason for this is that I can run my own blogging software on that machine - and I've decided on WordPress. It's much more configurable than anything that Blogger can offer, it's free (so is Moveable Type, but only for single blogs), and it's under my control.

So, please update any link or blog-reader you may have for this blog, and if you haven't linked me, now's a good time. (BTW, I've copied all archives across from this blog to the new one.)

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Prayer focus for G8 meeting

Micah Challenge have issued this prayer resource sheet (PDF) for the G8 summit.

With evangelists like these...

A London street evangelist, Philip Howard, who ended up in court for shouting at passers-by about their eternal destination was cleared today. Full story here.

As a born-again libertarian, I'm profoundly glad that Bro Philip was not imprisoned for this, as it would have been a major loss to free-speech (and Bro Philip's activities probably will be illegal in the future if the present UK government's bill on incitement to religious hatred gets through parliament).

However, I really wish the Lord could arrange to rapture Bro Philip early. With 'evangelists' like this, I think I might investigate whether there's more mileage in preaching Bad News.

My theology - scientifically evaluated

Thanks to Andrew Jones for the link to this 100% accurate Theological World View Tester.

I came out as "neo-orthodox", which is reassuring, isn't it? I'm a bit worried that "Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan" comes up as my second highest score. Need to work on that...

My detailed results were as follows:

Neo orthodox


86%

Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan


75%

Emergent/Postmodern


71%

Roman Catholic


61%

Classical Liberal


46%

Charismatic/Pentecostal


46%

Reformed Evangelical


43%

Modern Liberal


18%

Fundamentalist


11%


Wednesday, June 15, 2005

How long can you stand this?

The BBC have put up what is probably one of the more unpleasant web experiences on the internet. You need to visit it with the sound turned up LOUD... Make your adjustment, then click here. Bet you'll be clicking the back button very soon!

Monday, June 13, 2005

Staring at the light

Rachelle has posted a lovely meditation on light here.

Blog from the island (delayed)

L’Île St Honorat, Thursday 9th June 2005

Three days of meetings finished this morning with a communion service in the Abbey church. The island it reached by a little ferry from Cannes, which runs up to 5.30pm. After the final ferry leaves, the only sounds on the island are birdsong and the chant emerging from the church. I now have ahead of me two days of silence and solitude. There’s no wireless internet, so this blogging will have three days’ time delay at least.

The community is very welcoming and hospitable. The brothers were very interested in our work. We were joined by Mgr Robert Le Gal OSB the Bishop of Mende who is the head of the Episcopal Commission for Liturgy in the Roman Catholic Church in France, with him was Brother Patrick Prétot who heads up L’Institut Superieur de la Liturgie in Paris. We were also joined by several of the brothers, including the Abbot, Dom Marie Vladimir Gaudrat. During the meeting we had session discussing Emerging Church that was based on a paper written by Peter Craig-Wild, which featured a visit to Contemplative Fire in Great Missenden. Our French counterparts were particularly interested in this, especially to hear about the way worship and church are engaging the challenges and opportunities of postmodern culture. Afterwards, I had an interesting conversation with Abbot Vladimir, who is very clear that there has been a massive culture-shift affecting the background of younger novices who enter the community over the past 20 years.

The Rule of St Benedict stresses that stability is key to the development of the spiritual life. For this reason, monks who follow the Rule rarely move away from the community that they first joined. This contrasts sharply with the increasing mobility of the surrounding culture – where relationships can be made and loosened with equal rapidity. It also entails a voluntary reduction of choice, that quality which has become the supreme fetish of postmodern culture. Of course, advanced communication offsets some of the negative aspects of this (we can stay in touch), but it also alters our experience of one another in quite drastic ways. All our relationships are based more on transitory choice than voluntary covenanting – of self-binding. I wonder whether this also alters our understanding of what it means ‘to have faith’. If one essential aspect of faith is a self-binding (eg. St Patrick’s breastplate: I bind unto myself today the strong Name of the Trinity…), then this can only happen when we discover that we are truly free to do this. But how can we come to such freedom? Only with sufficient self-respect, and in a full realisation of our dignity as made in the image of God, can we realise our true freedom to take this step of self-binding and consequent self-limiting. The sad part about the clinging onto choice, which I think we all suffer from to some degree, is that for the most part it is borne of a deep insecurity, lack of self-respect and lack of genuine freedom. But the greatest act of freedom is to limit oneself freely (Phil 2:5-7).

As for me, I am enjoying these few days of isolation (Italian: Isola = Island). It is possible to walk around the island in about forty minutes, and there are eleven chapels to visit. I had a ‘Franciscan moment’ on the first day: as the evening office ended, a bird just outside the Abbey church started to sing, almost as if it had been waiting for the end of the liturgy to begin its own praise to God. Perhaps the local birds know the office well enough from hearing the monks sing it day after day. The acoustics of the abbey church mean that the sound of the chant is amplified by the building and waft outside across the island. There are, of course, seven offices per day. I’ve decided that I’m not going to the night office (it begins just after 4am) but the bell rings loudly so I am always woken by it – but I drift off again very rapidly.

L’Île St Honorat, Friday, 10th June 2005

A strange day for the island. The monks have been away on their one day away per year (at least together). So there have been few offices, although there was a mass at the usual time. After a stormy night, today was sunny again, so I set off after breakfast to a lonely beach on the west of the island, and spent a lot of the day reading Steve Taylor’s The out of bounds Church? Steve sold me a signed copy in Pasadena. It’s a very economic book, getting adequate description in and then cutting to the key theological discussion. Well worth a read, and now funding my own thinking in regard to the need to make quarterly alternative worship services lead into something to which people can belong beyond the basic encounter. (Postcard/Chapter 7 is particularly helpful in this regard.) Steve, if you’re reading this, I reckon I get the prize for having read your book in the most idyllic location, sitting on a rock next to the sea, occasionally dipping in for a lovely swim.

Poor St Augustine. He stopped off in 596 at the monastery here in St Honorat after he’d been asked by Pope Gregory to evangelise the English pagan tribes. He had to be ejected from the island in the end at the command of the Pope because he didn’t want to leave. Just as well for England that he did in the end. Well, I know how he felt, because tomorrow I will be getting back on the little ferry boat which I’ve been watching all afternoon as it went back and forth to the mainland. I will leave St Honorat on the 10.30 ferry and watch this lovely, holy island slowly get smaller as I move back to Cannes, then take the bus to Nice airport, and arrive back in Bristol by late afternoon.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

It's work, honestly...

I've just returned home from a few days' holiday with my parents in Swansea - which meant a few days walking and lying on some of the most beautiful beaches that I know. Tomorrow is journey time: flight to Nice, then bus to Cannes, then boat to l'Isle St Honorat to the monastery of Lerins. There's been a monastic community there since the beginning of the 5th century. It adopted the Rule of St Benedict in the 7th century, and presently is part of the Cistercian Congregation of the Immaculate Conception. Over Christian history it has been home to the following: St Patrick, St Cassian, Sts Hilary and Caesarius of Arles, and Sts Maximus and Faustus of Rietz. The most famous long-term resident was Vincent of Lerins, whose famous dictum quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus (to describe orthodox Christian belief: that which has been believed everywhere, always, by everyone) was drilled into me when I first did Christian doctrine as part of my theology degree more years ago than I now care to remember.

The list of famous former residents is a long one and sounds like a name-check for some of the key western theologians of the early middle ages. As for me, I'm going for a meeting of the Liturgical Commission, when we'll spend most of the time locked up in a room, pouring over papers. (Lest you think I'll be having even a slightly nice time!) However, I've booked myself in for an extra night, just to spend time wandering around the island, dipping my toes in the Mediterranean and soaking up the atmosphere. I'm still wondering how many of the seven daily offices I'm likely to get myself along to.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Gordon Brown moves on world poverty

... and guess which head of state is likely to oppose! I guess relief of poverty isn't biblical enough. Story here.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Greenbelt website

I had an enquiry via alternativeworship.org this morning from someone from North Carolina coming to UK for some sabbatical research. I wanted to direct her to the Greenbelt festival website, so I had a visit - as a GB regular, I go to Greenbelt 'anyway', so rarely look at the site. However, this time I did.

It took me 10 minutes of looking before I found any reference to worship on the newly-designed website. Now I'm quite prepared to admit that this was an accident of my own stupidity, but I was trying, I really was! For a more casual viewer, or a first-time viewer, I'm sure they could easily assume it was not that kind of festival. Maybe it's because I'm a non-linear thinker (I like diagrams, not bullet-point hierarchies), but I normally randomly hit links on the first page to get an idea of a site. The GB site is strictly linear and hierarchical.

OK, you do the test: How long did it take you? How many clicks from the front page? What do you think of the information when you eventually found it?

Maybe it will turn out that I'm stupid after all.

Postscript: I've just tried the test on Sharon, my highly-linear-thinking spouse: Time to find worship=5 minutes; score of content usefulness once found=1/10.

Post-postscript: Whether you find what you're looking for on the website or not, Greenbelt is BRILLIANT! Heaven struggles to surpass it. Be there.

Post-post-postscript: Stephen posted the following comment (but I've had to cut it because part of it gives the game away...): Stephen said...

About 5 minutes too and I'm normally pretty good at finding stuff on web sites. The site map didn't help and in the end found [here's the bit I've edited out: PR]

I kept going because you'd hinted there was something there. If I didn't know then I'd have given up and just emailed someone. Their statement on the contact page "It's often quickest to just send us an email in order to make an enquiry or a suggestion." seems apt.

I can't believe they don't have a search option either.

(Note to future commenters: don't give away the answer in your response, it spoils the test!)