In the post

In the Post

These arrived in the post this morning, the CD is in my ears as I write, the cards have reminded me to put up my wall, all the cards, notes and interesting quotes that once adorned the old study, I’ll be doing that later and probably still be listening! Thanks K 😉 [ You’ve also given me another idea!! ]

Back to Egypt

I’m sure most organisations suffer from this syndrome, it’s something which seems to effect everyone from time to time, ‘nothing must change’, ‘it was far better before’, the so called ‘Back to Egypt Brigade’ have been in full force recently.  I caught the beginning of John Bell speaking at Greenbelt and reminded me of this phenomenon, that when on the verge of entering the promised land the Israelites bottled it and complained that it wasn’t nice there, even though they had seen the plentiful food and lush lands.  So God in his wisdom sent them out into the wilderness for forty years, one year for each day they had been whinging in the desert!

So what does ‘back to Egypt’ mean for us?  How far back, back to the so called ‘Golden Age’ of the Victorians who built far too many churches for their own good, and then sometimes to quite a poor standard?  The endless streetwalking and door knocking seemed to have had very little effect in getting people to go to church.  There was a lot of activity, but in reality the legacy was of redundant buildings and overly organised groups of people.

Ok, then further back, perhaps to the medieval period, no heating, cloths on the windows, confession on saturday to receive communion on sunday??

Neither of these is particularly interesting or inviting.  There is, however, a gleam of hope in this ‘back to Egypt’ malarky, it comes in the form of the style of churches and religious observance which was around in the middle-ages.  Large monasteries were dotted around the country, some wealthy towns could afford to support a Priest, but not many.  Religious observance was far less than it is today, but, when there were festivals on, most people turned out.   They would travel to the large monasteries and cathedrals for whit, lamas, harvest, christmas, easter.  These festivals were the people’s religion.  The small communities of monks and religiously minded people would organise the festivals for the people, they would also in some cases be land owners and would provide employment and food for the people in their neighbourhood.

There are many things about the middle-ages that would not be welcome today, but the principle of a smallish community providing for the surrounding area, in both spiritual and edible food is worth returning to, at least to give it some thought.  It would stop the constant bickering over bums on pews, and focus the attention on practical tasks.  It would also draw a community together rather than dispersing it, I love the idea at the end of the morning service on Iona that there is no amen.  Standing for the closing responses people are encouraged to go straight out into the common tasks for that day, to serve one another in all manner of community minded activity!

(this comes with a nod towards Graeme Smith and his book ‘A Short History of Secularism’)


I will be walking everywhere for a few weeks to make up for the carbon cost of my flying visit to the Catalyst event at Carmarthen at the weekend.  I had been invited to lead a workshop on Iona Worship, which turned into (thankfully) a worship session.  Helped by Craig, Meredith and Louise, the session went well with standing room only!!

I wrote a bit ago about ‘High Rise‘ life, well that reflection turned into a dialogue for this session.

a:    I live the High Rise life, I’ve got the calves to match! 15 floors up does wonders for fitness.

b:    I live in a world of eco-wonder, local produce heaven, fresh eggs, fresh veg, fresh farmyard smells.

a:    My view, 15 floors up? it’s a sea of grey, with the edges tinged green, the fields on the horizon tell a ‘distant’ story.
b:    My view, busy veg garden, animals, chickens, from the top floor we can see a sea of green edged with grey, the town on the horizon, high risers – a ‘distant’ story.

a:    We are the eco-warriors of this grey world, living this far up our fields of grey, tinged with green – the distant dream – know what I mean?  Away from the hustle of the street, the barking dogs, the unseen wind whistles past, this far up you can almost reach out and touch the land around.

b:    We know what it means to save the planet, the country way – slow food forever.

a:    We’re having a one box, microwave meal, tinged with green, the pre-packed salad on the side, window box tomatoes dressing the top, less packaging, less waste, less to carry down.  Less water wasted, no time used up, economical, ecological – for us.

b:    It’s all fresh our supper, takes time to organise however, wash, clean, chickens to the slaughter, veg to steamer takes time and effort to produce all that – i’ll just pop out to get the last few bits.

a:    It’s not all one way traffic up this high, what goes up, must go down, your priorities change, the necessity turns to possibility – the possibility of forgetting what you needed on the first trip out.

b:    You see it’s where you live that matters…

a:    You see it’s not where you live…

b:    …When you live out here the fields are your oysters – well artichokes, potatoes, carrots….

a:    …it’s your attitude to your Place…

b:    …What you make of what you’ve got, we’ve got…

a:    …and we haven’t, not that it makes us less aware of our surroundings, what we share, our common land, our inheritance, we all need that piece of green…

b:    …and some of us need to learn to share it.  How many floors us did you say?

a:    15, but there is a lift!  we walk it though, it reminds us of the struggle some have to get their food.