Richard Holloway on BBC HARDTalk

First broadcast on Tuesday 27 August 2013 this is a remarkably moving and honest interview with the former Bishop of Edinburgh, Richard Holloway.

I’ve always loved +Richard. As my bishop I found him compassionate, loving, and intellectually challenging: he always encouraged me to keep searching for the truth, to keep asking questions.

Is it just me or are dog collars getting longer these days?

My two new clergy shirt collars compared with my older, and significantly shorter one.

Two new clergy shirt collars (top) compared with an older, and significantly shorter, one.

On Sunday 18 August I ordered a new clerical shirt online from J Wippell and Co Ltd. My current three shirts are getting a bit faded and past their best so it was time to order a new one. A black one, of course (is there any other colour, other than for a bishop?), in the formal ‘tonsure’ style.

I received a very polite email a couple of days later:

Reverend Dear Sir

Thank you for your order for a shirt.

This item is not in stock and is therefore being specially made, we anticipate dispatch to be around the 2nd September 2013.

We apologize for the delay and we will email you when we dispatch your order.

Ah, not ideal. I have an institution in St Andrews to attend on Wednesday 4 September, and if there are any delays in the mail then it may not arrive in time. I emailed them back:

I actually ordered the shirt primarily for an institution in St Andrews on Wednesday 4 September, as the dog collars on my current tonsure shirts have all but one disintegrated! Do you think that the shirt may have arrived by then? I’m happy to pay extra for faster delivery if so.

And as a company that understands exemplary customer service I was assured by a return email that schedule had been revised and the shirt would now leave the factory on Thursday 29 August.

It didn’t. It arrived at my house on Thursday 29 August. What tremendous service.

But just take a look at how long the new ‘dog’ collars are!

“Talking faith” article in local newspaper by my Mum

talking-faith

Every week my Mum faithfully sends me the local newspaper, the Selkirk Weekend Advertiser.

This week, on page two, was a short “Talking faith” article by “A member of St John’s” (the Scottish Episcopal Church in Selkirk). That member was my Mum, and her thought for the day ‘column’ was inspired by two of my beautiful children, Reuben and Joshua.

“Just you and me!”, said one of my three-year-old twin grandsons, contentedly trotting off to play tennis with his Mummy.

“Just you and me!” said the other twin going to the shops with his Daddy. They were experiencing individual quality time… attention… being loved. Let’s enjoy ‘just you and me’ quality time with God.

Come to me with your ears open, and you will find life. I will give you all the unfailing love I promised. Isaiah 55:3 NLT

The cup goes to the garden

lsupper

On Thursday night at All Saints’, St Andrews we celebrated The Solemn Eucharist of the Lord’s Supper.

This service on Maundy Thursday is the Eucharist of the Eucharist, the Mass of the Mass. We remember the origin of the Eucharist: Jesus’s last supper with his disciples before he retired to the Garden of Olives and was handed over to the Romans by Judas Iscariot.

Maundy Thursday always reminds me of someone I knew during my curacy at St Andrew’s Cathedral, Inverness. His name was Cathal and he was a member of the L’Arche community in Inverness.

Every Sunday after the service Cathal would process solemnly up the aisle to the west door, holding his prayer book above his head as though carrying the gospel, where he would look you in the eye and would say quite sincerely “the cup goes to the garden. The cup goes to the garden.”

“That’s right, Cathal,” I’d say, to reassure him that I’d understood what he was saying, “the cup goes to the garden”.

And it was about this service, the Solemn Eucharist of the Lord’s Supper, to which he was referring. Because after the Eucharist the priest, deacon and sub-deacon take consecrated bread and wine to the “altar of repose” (which is an altar usually in a side chapel decorated with flowers) to remind us of Jesus moving from the Last Supper to the Garden of Olives.

It showed to me how important the liturgy is. It showed me how these dramatic, choreographed parts of the service can speak to people at different levels and to people of different abilities. It showed to me how liturgy is more than just the words, and that by acting something out it can go deeper than just understanding it with the mind.

(It’s taken me three days to finish this blog post… off now to the Easter Vigil where I’m singing the Exsultet, the Easter Proclamation.)

Giving up Twitter and Facebook for Lent

20110308-beginningoflent

For the last few weeks as we have been approaching Lent (which begins tomorrow, Ash Wednesday) I’ve been considering what to take up this year as my Lenten discipline.

Those forty days before Easter are traditionally a time of preparation for Christians to observe and celebrate the death and resurrection of the crucified Christ, Jesus of Nazareth. It is a time for prayer, penitence, almsgiving and self-denial.

Most years I give up chocolate; I want to do that again this year. Some years I choose to take up something rather than give something up, such as more reading or exercise.

Giving up social media

These last few weeks I’ve been considering giving up social media for Lent: namely Twitter and Facebook, and instead blogging more and getting in touch in person with friends more. (I mentioned this at the other place last week.)

I’m still in two minds about it, the evening before Ash Wednesday, but I have already uninstalled the Facebook and moTweets apps from my phone and started to remove Twitter clients from my PC.

I’ve decided that whatever I decide I will continue to send tweets from my work account during office hours, where appropriate, because that is a part of my job but I won’t keep my Twitter client open unless I’m making and update or checking for @mentions.

The reasons against giving it up

I guess the most compelling reason for me not to give up social media during Lent is to share with the world what I am doing: how my Lenten disciplines are affecting me, something about Christian witness.

…but then again, that’s all about me and not entirely in the spirit of self-denial.

The reasons for giving it up

When I first joined Facebook a few people greeted me with something along the lines of “welcome to the greatest time-waster in the world!” How many hours have I wasted browsing through page upon page of status updates and notifications that Bob has been gifted a new sheep from Colin?

These last few months I’ve found myself struggling with Twitter and Facebook for all sorts of reasons.

Twitter

With Twitter the main problem is that the message stream updates so quickly, especially when using a client such as TweetDeck that updates in real time. There is then a certain anxiety about missing ‘something important’: that life-changing URL announcing an exciting new Web service, that critical status update from a friend (or ‘friend’), the latest news headline from the BBC. Which is, of course, nonsense!

The other thing is that 140 characters really isn’t long enough to express yourself adequately. Twitter is often referred to as a ‘micro-blogging’ service, but it has made me lazy. It’s the fast-food of blogging: quick and instantly gratifying. But it doesn’t last: have you tried searching for posts you made 4 months ago?

Facebook

With Facebook the problem is voyeurism: it’s easy to watch people, their status updates and photo uploads and think that you are somehow involved in their lives. I’ve felt frustrated these last few months that I’ve not been able to interact with friends more in real life and I suppose I’ve used Facebook, and to a lesser extent Twitter, as a substitute.

Which is not to say that either Twitter or Facebook are bad in themselves, I guess they have simply helped foster the laziness that is already in me to withdraw into myself and not engage with others more.

I heard someone joking recently that Facebook is for connecting with people you have met in real life but to whom you don’t speak now, while Twitter is for connecting with people you’ve never met but to whom you chat all the time.

What others are saying

There’s an interesting article on Silicon Republic today about giving up Facebook for Lent:

Dan Hues, associate pastor at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Fresno, California, told The Fresno Bee that the point of Lent is a time in which to grow closer to God.

“The point is to leave selfish behaviour behind you, to put off the ‘self.’ Facebook is almost a shrine to yourself, with pictures, status updates, seeing if people ‘like’ you. It’s all about you,” Hues said.

I have to admit that I don’t see my Facebook account like that at all. I see it more as offering to other people, whether it’s sharing photos of my family with friends, or silly comments in the hope that it may make them smile.

JD Walt on his blog wrote an article last Thursday entitled “Why giving up social media for Lent misses the point…part 2” in which he argues:

“After fasting forty days and forty nights, [Jesus] was hungry.” Matthew 4:2

“He was hungry.” Something about giving up Facebook for Lent doesn’t exactly make me hungry. In my understanding, fasting in the biblical tradition involves two seemingly polarized realities: fasting and feasting. At the heart of both is food, not Facebook.

[…] With respect to social media, (which admittedly can create a lot of distraction) I think the better approach is to ask how social media can cultivate attentiveness to God and others.

But surely Lent is about more than fasting, it’s also about self-denial and discipline. It’s about consciously making more space for your relationship with God and if something is acting as a distraction, as I have certainly allowed Twitter and Facebook to become at times, then surely the most responsible action is to step away from it for a while.

See you after the resurrection

Now this could all go fabulously well and on Sunday 24 April I’ll be in some kind of cleansed, Zen-like state of tranquility. Or I’ll be addicted to Bebo, LinkedIn and My Space!

I’ll see you at @gareth after the resurrection.

Considering giving up social media for Lent

A friend of mine—who on Twitter goes by the name of @gedrobinson and in real life goes by the name of Ged Robinson— tweeted this earlier today:

One week left on Twitter, deciding giving Twitter, Facebook and alcohol up for Lent. (St Pats excepted of course)

One week left on Twitter, deciding giving Twitter, Facebook and alcohol up for Lent. (St Pats excepted of course)

and he got me thinking: what a great idea!

I’m going to give it some thought over the next few days and try to write more about it at the other place.

I certainly would like to spend more time blogging: writing longer, more considered posts rather than the fast-food, 140 character offerings that I spit out daily on Twitter and occasionally Facebook. (Hence the three posts in rapid succession this evening.)

Lots of good stuff to consider.

New SEC calendar and lectionary in Outlook website

Screenshot of SEC calendar and lectionary in Outlook website

Screenshot of SEC calendar and lectionary in Outlook website

Over the last few months I’ve been working on a new website to support the Scottish Episcopal Church calendar and lectionary files that I create every year. To support the files, today I launched:

I had intended to get this site launched over the Christmas and New Year break but… well, something about having toddler twin boys and a pregnant wife changed those plans.

What it’s all about

The CSV files allow you to import or subscribe to details of the Scottish Episcopal Church saints’ days, festivals and readings in your Outlook or Google calendar.

I also recently started adding an iCalendar feed, which enables you to subscribe to the calendar. The idea there is that if any of the details change then they get updated automatically.

I created the first file in 2005, for my own use both in Outlook and on my Psion PDA, I mentioned it to a few folks who were interested in it and have made it available on my blog ever since. But I felt that it deserved more than just a blog page, so I created this new website for it.

Features

The homepage of the new website (www.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/secoutlook) updates every day to show you what today is in the liturgical calendar. It changes colour too to reflect the current feast day: gold, green, red or violet.

View the calendar shows an embedded Google calendar. It’s available to view in Week, Month or Agenda layouts. Click on any feast day information to show the readings for that day. (I’ve found this useful already.)

There are three pages showing instructions on how to import or subscribe to the files:

The Outlook 2010 page also includes screencast videos, recorded using the excellent Camtasia Studio.

The archive has links to every file that I’ve created.  Well, not every file… just the files to do with this.