(Emblem of the women of the Plaza de Mayo - the white headscarf)
O Lord, how long shall the wicked exult?
They pour out their arrogant words;
all the evildoers boast.
They crush your people, O Lord,
and afflict your heritage.
They kill the widow and the stranger,
they murder the orphan. ( Psalm 91.3-6)
For decades the mothers of the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires have been protesting about the disappearance and torture of their loved ones. With extraordinary persistance they have been trying to speak truth to power since just one year into the Argentine military dictatorship's so-called dirty war (1976-83). Their call has been for justice for the victims, their campaign has been against impunity.
Now finally justice is beginning to be done.
This BBC report forwarded to me by a friend who comes from Argentina states:
"Two of the worst oppressors during Argentina's military rule - known as the Dirty War - have been sentenced to life imprisonment.
Antonio Bussi, 82, and Luciano Benjamin Menendez, 81, were sent to prison for the kidnapping and disappearance of a former senator in April 1976."
So how long do we have to wait for our campaigning to have any effect? Is this really a satisfactory outcome? In our present instant society can we sustain campaigns over this length of time? If we can't what hope do we have of ever seeing justice? And do we really want justice or are we actually more interested in easy mercy and moving on, letting the past be?
I remember how angry I was at former Archbishop Carey's bizarre ethical reasoning when Augusto Pinochet was arrested in Britain - justice it seemed was less important in his reasoning than an old man's right to humane treatment and he was reported as saying that he hoped and was confident "the Government will pay attention to the personal aspects of this, and be compassionate in this situation ... But I want to say that from a Christian point of view the moral and spiritual aspect of this hopefully will be considered by the Government."
So often Christians confuse forgiveness and justice; it's sad when a church leader does this. Carey's lightweight theological reasoning put compassion for Pinochet's "personal aspects" at a higher level than compassion for the "personal apsects" of Pinochet's victims.
The women of the Plaza de Mayo were involved in a personally costly campaign to not let injustice go unchallenged. It is always hard to decide between justice and mercy but offering a Christian view of forgiveness which doesn't take justice seriously enough smacks to me not just of cheap grace but bargain basement grace.
Feeling compassion for former dictators is one thing. Putting that before justice for their many victims is another.
So what do you want, justice or mercy?
Sunday, 31 August 2008
"Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the fields, and lodge in the villages; 12let us go out early to the vineyards, and see whether the vines have budded, whether the grape blossoms have opened and the pomegranates are in bloom. There I will give you my love."
Song of Solomon 7.12
Nicolas and Susan asked for God's blessing on their life together yesterday. As a gospel reading they chose the story of the wedding at Cana where Christ turns water into wine. In Dardagny the village church is surrounded by vineyards, God's good creation turning water into wine... It was a lovely day, gentle and fun and profound - the bride and groom wrote their own vows, there were bubbles rather than confetti, some tears, lots of laughter and many different languages.
You can find some elements from the bilingual service here and the English version of the 500 word sermon entitled (after the event!) As God turns water into wine we learn to walk on water (of course as it was in French as well it became about 1200 words!).
Here is the nuptial blessing which is translated from a blessing in the new German Lutheran Gesangbuch, I must get around to translating it into English one day. Nicolas and Susan - leb wohl and thank you so much for giving me a complete life, laughter and liturgy day!
Marriage Blessing ~ Bénédiciton nuptiale
Que le Seigneur
Plein d'amour comme une mère et bon comme un père
qu'il fasse prospérer votre vie
qu'il fasse fleurir votre espérance
qu'il fasse mûrir vos fruits
que le Seigneur vous garde
qu'il vous embrasse dans votre peur
qu'il se tienne devant vous dans votre besoin
Qu'il vous accorde sa grâce
qu'il souffle sur vous
comme un regard tendre réchauffe ce qui est raide
Qu'il tourne sa face vers vous
Qu'il vous libère et vous laisse respirer
Quand la culpabilité vous accable
Qu'il regarde votre souffrance
qu'il vous offre le réconfort et la guérison
Qu'il vous donne la paix
le bien-être du corps,
le salut de votre âme,
l'avenir de vos enfants
Saturday, 30 August 2008
My friend Anne Coidan calls herself a barefoot theologian. Now she's retired she has the freedom to serve the gospel message rather than the church institution. I rather fancy trying to develop "une théologie à pieds nus" one which takes local and international concerns seriously; a theology which listens as well as teaches - mind you this is hardly a new idea.
In German Franciscan churches are often called Barfusserkirchen - Barefoot churches, because of St Francis' insistance on going barefoot. In the Bible barefootedness can be a sign of awe and respect in the presence of God - think of Moses and the burning bush; it can also be a sign of humility, repentance or poverty.
In Stanley Spencer's painting of the last supper the disciples are all pictured barefoot - a way of linking patten and chalice with the towel and the bowl; commemoration, eucharist and service are one.
Meanwhile our wonderful holiday break in Bern has put me in touch once more with the writings of Kurt Marti and his "Mein barfüssig Lob" My bearfooted praise - poetry that is simple, short and linguistically and theologically very rich.
Here's part I of his poem entitled Gegen den Strom - (against the flow)
auf wasser gegangen?
das macht ihm keiner nach
gegen den strom schwimmst
ist kein geringeres wunder.
Friday, 29 August 2008
On Monday it's back to work, but we've had great time away from it all, particularly in Bern. The wonderful cobbled streets, the extraordinary art nouveau Pauluskirche (the most over the top gold decorated Reformed church we have so far ever been in), the street cafes, great public transport, Paul Klee museum, the local beer, Gurten park and even the strange expedition to the building site which is set in six weeks time to be Daniel Libeskind's Westside shopping centre. We even attended a beautiful service in the French church - the Psalms and Bach as an invitation to reflect on the different stages of life, so good that it even made the translation of the TOB sound moving and wonderful.
And the bookshops were brilliant ... yes the suitcase came back rather heavier than it left.
It's only taken us 14 years to get to Switzerland's capital city, as is often the way it looks as if I'll be back there in just over three weeks for a meeting! C'est la vie.
Ah yes and we saw the Bärengraben but not the Röstigraben.
Lectio difficilior is the name of the European online journal for feminist exegesis. The current edition has a lead article by Hans Christoph Aurin on "Your urge shall be for your husband".
The journal publishes articles on broadly feminist exegesis in either French, German or English. I've not had time to look at the content but it's clear that there is still relatively little material in French. The journal is published in Bern.
I like calling it "difficult reading". Our own Geneva feminist theology group begins again next month and we've more or less put the whole of the past 4 years work online via a Wordpress blog and are hoping to record and make podcasts of some of this year's sessions. More about that at our launch.
Thursday, 28 August 2008
I had never thought of the genre of satirical prayers before reading the prayer below from the 18th century by Anna Laetitia Barbauld in Janet Wootton's excellent article on a Dissenter's view of Anglicanism and Disestablishment - about which more at a later date.
‘God of love, father of all the families of the earth,
we are going to tear in pieces our brethren of mankind,
but our strength is not equal to our fury,
we beseech thee to assist us in the work of slaughter . . . .
Whatever mischief we do, we shall do it in thy name;
we hope, therefore, thou wilt protect us in it.
Thou, who hast made of one blood all the dwellers upon the earth,
we trust thou wilt view us alone with partial favour,
and enable us to bring misery upon every other quarter of the globe.’
(From: An Address to the Opposers of the Repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts, 1790)
In 1811, at the height of the war with France, Barbauld paid highly for her satire, never writing again after the publication of her poem Eighteen Hundred and Eleven drew wounding and harsh criticism from Wordsworth, Coleridge and much of the literary and political establishment.
Until the advent of feminist literary criticism Barbauld was almost forgotten, or remembered as writer of books for children.
She adopted the pen name "A Dissenter" which Wootton is proud to take up again in the title to her article. As her satire shows, to dissent is not to destroy or be unconstructive, but it is to say that the cosy world view of the establishment or the established church does not represent the whole truth.
Wednesday, 27 August 2008
It is the International Year of the Potato and throughout the year some very clever artistic peeled potatoes have been gracing advertising hoardings and even coffee cream pots (this sports the fabulous noun Kaffeerahmdeckelserie!) in Switzerland. I rather like the potato as angel or saint but I'm not sure about this scarved potato who seems to be smoking a cigarette! You can find more of the designs here and you can even participate in a potato peeling game here, you can peel away the potato and click for the day's potato recipe.
The point of the year is very serious, the potato can improve nutrition and is a key crop because it can be grown fairly cheaply and easily. Some even say it may have contributed to Europe's working classes being well-nourished enough to be able to rebel and resist in the 19th century. Not only an angelic food but a revolutionary one.
Tuesday, 26 August 2008
A few weeks ago my fennel was a veritable tree, flowering and fragrant it attracted a huge variety of insects. I also love wandering out and eating some of the not yet ripe seeds.
However recent storms mean it is no longer as statuesque as it once was - less of a tree more in need of resurrection, or perhaps just of tying up to the stake! When we get back from a few days maybe I'll even get around to doing that.
Monday, 25 August 2008
This is for the day train to Bern rather than the Night Train to Lisboa but I am at long last reading Pascal Mercier's Nachtzug nach Lisbon. I began the English translation but after about 25 pages got rather cross with it - it limps along in places and obviously has not been as thoroughly revised as a literary translation should be. I imagine the pressure to publish quickly was too great which is a shame. Sorry I know that sounds prissy and snobby, maybe it's been better translated into French and Spanish. Hope so. I suspect the lack of pace in th eEnglish language version is part of what has led to the very mixed reviews of the book in English.
Anyway I think Mercier, who is the philosopher Peter Bieri is perhaps trying to be the Swiss answer to Umberto Eco, using fiction as a foil for philosophy. Anyway I'll see if I get on better with the German than the English - so far so good. The central theme of what it is like to write under an authoritarian regime makes me wonder about how well we cope with the freedoms and constraints of writing under the constraints of the so called free market.
Sunday, 24 August 2008
Over on Revise and Reform Rachel has written a good preview and an additional comment about a new book by Rosie Ward on growing women's leadership in the church. You can view the contents here and read an extract here.
I haven't yet read the book but I'm passionately interested in issues of management and leadership in the church.
The way we exercise leadership witnesses to our faith, the way women and men can lead together is for me a sign of a church's strength. The community of women and men is about taking responsibility together for the church as members in the body of Christ. Some of us are preachers, others deacons, prophets or teachers but it should not be our gender that defines our ability to exercise these gifts that the Spirit offers to us. So many churches rely on women to fill the pews, surely it is time to let the gifts of all God's people flourish so that the church can be a place where the gifts of each and of all are recognised and nutured.
Saturday, 23 August 2008
60 years ago, the World Council of Churches met for the first time in Amsterdam. The Revd Myra Blyth, Director of Humanitarian and Refugee Services of the World Council, leads an act of worship that reflects the joys, sorrows and achievements of the last six decades. With Dame Mary Tanner, WCC president from Europe, and students and staff of the Ecumenical Institute.
The service is being broadcast at 8.10 British summer time (9.10 central European summer time) on BBC Radio 4 and you should be able to find a listen again link here (this only works after the original broadcast).
Meanwhile you can also watch a programme on Netherlands 2 about the WCC. If there is a fat woman with curly hair speaking German on it while waving her hands around alot trying to get the attention of a bored group of visitors that will be be moi.
I don't think of myself as particularly nationalistic and I'm not fond of thinking of myself as an expat either (it sort of conjurs up colonial images of people talking about "blighty"). Then every four years the olympics comes around - or France plays England in the rugby ... and I don't even watch French coverage. Le Monde keeps me up to date on the latest pointless ruminations about Laure Manaudou but basically in the age of digital and satelite communication I've become more anglophone and British in what I watch and listen to. So I have to face up to the basic fact that I'm just a Brit abroad. I have become something I rather despised - soon I'll start reading stuff about off-shore bank accounts.
But amidst all this recognition of my petty nationalism I also recently realised that I was very equivocal about returning to the country I watch on TV and listen to on the radio. I'm not sure I would cope if I didn't have the oportunity to speak French and German on a daily basis. No one would need me to interpret for them at the chemists as regularly happens here.
Perhaps now I've been away from "home" quite a long time the pull gets stronger. Perhaps as one gets older - and this is certainly happening! - then the cultural references and roots put down in childhood and youth come out more strongly and I yearn for a home that of course no longer exists. As Christa Wolf says - the past is another country. Meanwhile my younger brother is celebrating 20 years of living in France by making trifle and scones for a picnic in the park in Paris with friends this weekend!
I am sneakingly pleased that the UK is ahead of France in the Olympic medal tables (I think this may be the first time that has happened in the 17 years I've lived here!). But I like it when France wins the football because then we can have an all night noisy street party - but Zinedine Zidane wrecked that last time around.
There are lots of useful reources on the Fédération Protestante de France website (I'm not sold on the layout but you can't have everything). I've been discovering the resources available from the service biblique: the upcoming courses; the competition they're running at the moment to encourage new Bible study leaders; the link to the great Point KT site.
There's also a link to an excellent biblical blog that ERF colleagues in the Paris region have been writing for a while. Interesting articles with good pictures and I like the idea behind the quick discovery of the Bible. It makes me smile is that the blog is run by a group called CRAB - Celllule Régionale d'Animation Biblique - I love the French obsession with acronyms. They call their writings on the blog "Miettes de CRAB" which I suppose translates as Crab crumbs. They've only been online for two years and it's great to know that this online resource in French is being built up.
It's also good to be on holiday and have time to surf and read, there's just too much to find out about. And you can discover more about the reading the Bible in six years project which has brought all of the member churches of the Fédération together with the same daily Bible readings.
Friday, 22 August 2008
Holiday means a bit of time to catch up and look back. Here's a photo from just outside to front door of the lovely Reformed Church centre in Sornetan
where I was earlier in the month for a day's interpreting. It was a perfect, gentle early Sunday morning and the group met in the lovely old Reformed Church. (If I can get my head around the French instructions maybe I'll even post my first photo gallery.)
In the car back to Neuchatel at the end of the session I listened to how the six vilages we were travelling through had only two people between them willing to serve on the church council. Beautiful and well kept as the churches in this part of the world are it would seem that their way of sharing the gospel message no longer resonates much with the local population. Something is dying, is something new being born? Across western Europe the church map is changing dramatically, have we really noticed the seismic shift, what are we doing about it, are we just hoping things will get a bit better if we cross our fingers and hope for the best? Institutions so often take such a long time to learn, to change, to grow, to dare, to manage and take hard decisions.
Anyway let's see if I can indeed embed a slide show.
To lose hope
means losing a bit of one's freedom,
losing a bit of what one is.
Publié par Jane à l'adresse 12:52
On August 22nd (today!) the creation of the WCC is to be commemorated by a select gathering at the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam, Netherlands. At the church where the opening service of the WCC's founding assembly took place exactly 60 years earlier, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands will receive the first copy of the jubilee book "The Ecumenical Movement at a Crossroads". Both the book, a collection of essays by personalities connected to the ecumenical movement, including Nelson Mandela, and the anniversary event focus on the role of the churches in today's world, particularly in the field of international relations. With gratitude to the "Dutch churches and ecumenical friends" that have sponsored and planned the Amsterdam event, Kobia stated: "Today the challenges of seeking visible unity appear to be even stronger but we, nevertheless, look to the next sixty years with hope and confidence as we are inspired by the spirit of our ecumenical ancestors who made Amsterdam 1948 possible." A documentary about the WCC to be aired by the Dutch national TV channel Nederland 2 on Sunday, 24 August, is one of the broadcasts in different countries covering the anniversary.
A radio service, led by the former director of the WCC's humanitarian and refugee services Rev. Myra Blyth, will be broadcast by the BBC's Radio 4, on 24 August. The programme, with contributions from the WCC president from Europe, Dame Mary Tanner as well as WCC staff and students of the Council's Ecumenical Institute in Bossey, Switzerland, will also be made available on the BBC website.
Thursday, 21 August 2008
There's a good but sobering article about Georgia and Russia by Misha Glenny in last week's New Statesman and some follow up this week from Matt Siegel and some eyewitness accounts reported by Svetlana Graudt of the conflict and its aftermath - if it is indeed over.
Glenny starts his piece with these questions:
"What Russia and America are really doing in Georgia and who set the trap? Vladimir Putin and his thuggish FSB pals or Dick Cheney and his equally unflappable neocon friends? Georgia's decision to seize large parts of Tskhinvali, the capital of the breakaway region of South Ossetia, on the evening of 7 August was a disastrous political miscalculation, even in an era that is increasingly defined by spectacularly poor judgement."
Holidaying at home here in Ferney is rather fun. My bronchitus is receding fast and last night we went out to our friend Jean-Jacques - who had invited a large group over to eat the food he was rescuing from his broken down freezer!
Today we went to the Hotel de France for lunch in their glorious garden - it is such hard work when you have a choice of seven restaurants within two minutes of your front door.
The Hotel de France is the antithesis to fast food and eating out at lunchtime is a really relaxing holiday treat. The food was delicious and perfect. My starter sported this wonderfully pretentious description:
Grosse tranche d'aubergine rôtie comme une tartine à l'ail rose, Viande de boeuf séchée, roquette et crème fouettée de chèvre frais au cresson.
Now because I'm on holiday I don't even have to translate that ... Ahh, I could get used to life at this pace.
When I arrived in France as a young minister the regional president heard me preach and instructed the congregation to buy me a more modern French translation of the Bible than the one my English church had given me at my ordination. I realise now that it must have been a little bit like listening to someone struggle through a public reading of the King James version of the Bible. (The archaic translation my president took exception to was "De leurs glaives ils forgeront des hoyaux" Micah 4.3 - the word hoyaux is pretty unpronouncable even for native speakers and not a word in everyday speech.)
I was immediately given a copy of La Bible en Français Courant and found it quite a bit easier to get my tongue around (not quite as many subjunctives or archaic words) but I did encounter a major problem - I could not find my way around the old testament. I began to have nightmares of standing up in front of the congregation and hopelessly turning pages for minutes on end muttering madly "I know it's in here somewhere ..."!
Quite a number of modern French Bible translations have editions which follow the order of the Hebrew scriptures rather than the order of the Christian old testament.
This began with the ecumenical Traduction Oecuménique de la Bible (TOB) published in the 1970s, other French Bible translations of Protestant origin tend to offer versions following both the Hebrew order and the Christian order. Generally French Protestant Bibles which also include the deutero canonical books or apocrypha are more likely to follow the Hebrew order. Using the Hebrew order was perhaps something of an ecumenical compromise - a way too of bringing the apocrypha to a Protestant audience for (almost) the first time.
I'm not always terribly fond of the TOB translation - nor do I always agree with the explanations given in the amazing footnotes, but I love using my TOB concordance which is a mine of glorious translation, linguistic information and trivia. It has information about how often a word in French has been used to translate particular Hebrew and Greek words - a wonderful time waster - it's also so large it doubles nicely as a small coffee table! (OK yes of course you can get a CD version if you really want but I like turning paper pages.)
However, over the years I've found it both interesting and challenging to think about what the different ordering of the Hebrew books of the Bible does to the meaning Christian preachers, teachers and believers make of the beginning and end of the story. Traditionally the Christian ordering of the Hebrew scriptures ends with the book of Malachi and the promise of the Messiah and the coming of the Sun of righteousness. The traditional Jewish ordering of the Hebrew scriptures ends with II Chronicles and the call to the people in exile to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem.
If I change the order of contents of a book - in particular the end - does this mean it tells a different story? As you can tell I haven't got an answer to this, and perhaps in post modernist times it doesn't mattter so much - the story is what you make of it and each of us perhaps creates our own canon, our own Bible or way of telling the story. For me it highlights just how little of the Bible we actually read in church - apart from the Psalms the lectionaries tend to concentrate on deutero Isaiah and parts of Genesis, Exodus and Jeremiah as readings from the Hebrew scriptures.
And in case you're wondering, now of course I can't find my way around either the French or the English old testaments, the nightmares have however thankfully receded.
Wednesday, 20 August 2008
You can find an interview with human rights activist Marlon Zakeyo on World Radio Switzerland. Marlon is currently working with WSCF on Zimbabwe advocacy issues and describes how the impact of the violence is still fresh for many in Zimbabwe.
I have also posted a summary of a report by Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) to the docs section. You can download the whole report here.
"The research explored two broad categories of trauma:
●“displacement” experiences - a concept first developed first in relation to the psychological and emotional plight of refugees fleeing war zones. It details events such as loss of home, failing to access food and medical care, being lost, being caught up in fighting and similar experiences.
● The second source of trauma is “organized violence and torture” (OVT), including events of torture per se as well as assaults, cruel inhuman and degrading treatment, and verbal threats, insults and taunts."
There is also and ENI story here about Zimbabwe bishops calling for settlement not to be rushed.
"The Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops' Conference has called on negotiating parties in their country not to rush into a government of national Unity, but to urgently dismantle instruments of violence, reject impunity and usher in a new political culture in which accountability, inclusiveness, transparency, healing and reconciliation are paramount.
"The crisis in Zimbabwe is one that was caused by exclusion from power and from the people's right to participate in the processes that affect their lives and from the benefits of growth and development," said the bishops, in a statement made available on 15 August.
"We therefore think that the negotiators should not rush into establishing a government
of national unity," said the bishops. Rather, they should agree on a transitional arrangement, which in 18 months or so, will lead to the construction of a new Constitution which will then be the basis for fresh elections that are free and fair. "
Special hat tip to Maggi Dawn who both raised the issue of lack of fairly traded clergy shirts some time ago and has now pointed to the introduction of Butler and Butler's male and female fairly traded shirts.
Now I have never (yet) worn a clerical collar or shirt, though sometimes working in ecumenical circles I do occasionally yearn for the visibility wearing a collar might give. OK I admit it I also rather like the pink cassocks priests from the Kerala Orthodox churches wear - a welcome relief from black.
Anyway those of you who want to wear these fairly traded badges of office need to get going quickly, stocks are limited.
So what next? I did once hear of a bishop who knitted his own mitres and there are wonderful stoles available from the Kopanang Trust . Given how much clergy and churches in some traditions spend on liturgical garments maybe a campaign for sourcing them ethically would be good - perhaps that already exists?
Tuesday, 19 August 2008
It's holiday time so inbetween slurping antibiotics and hoping that my bronchitus will subside I'm actually doing some reading. Dr B brought Diarmaid Macculloch's excellent book on the Reformation back from the Lambeth conference and now it's holiday time we're fighting each other as to who is allowed to read it. Both of us are learning lots, but woe betide us if we lose the other's page marker!
You can read an extract from the book here and I'll post the blurb below - and yes in case you're wondering I am of course also doing some rather less serious holiday reading but more of that some other time - meanwhile all suggestions for good reads gratefully received.
"At a time when men and women were prepared to kill – and be killed – for their faith, the reformation tore the western world apart. Acclaimed as the definitive account of these epochal events, Diarmaid MacCulloch’s history brilliantly re-creates the religious battles of priests, monarchs, scholars and politicians, from the zealous Luther to the radical Loyola, from the tortured Cranmer to the ambitious Philip II.Weaving together the many strands of reformation and counter-reformation, ranging widely across Europe and even to the New World, MacCulloch also reveals as never before how these upheavals affected everyday lives – overturning ideas of love, sex, death and the supernatural, and shaping the modern age."
Monday, 18 August 2008
I learnt last week of the death of Jack Dobbs. I was blessed to know Jack when he began his retirement by studying for a doctorate on the history of the Religious Society of Friends at Mansfield College at the same time as I was training for the ministry. It was through Jack that I began to understand a little more of my own denomination's links with the Quaker tradition.
Jack worked with the Erik Routley on hymn tunes for Congregational Praise. As we students began to research Jack's work we would occasionally sing Thomas Binney's Eternal Light to the tune Jack had written for it called Teilo Sant - whenever I sing that hymn to other melodies it just doesn't feel the same. Jack also encouraged a hymn-writer amongst us and wrote music for his hymns.
Now reading the short obituary in the Guardian I realise that there was much, much more that I could have learnt from him. Sometimes education really is wasted on the young, I wish I had know then of his wide international involvement and commitment to music education. There are further obituaries here from the International Society for Music Education and from the Times.
"In 1956 Jack became director of the Malayan Teachers Training College, Wolverhampton - developing a lifelong connection with Malaysia and Malayan music. In 1960, he joined London University's Institute of Education, building his interest in Indian music and encouraging his students to look beyond the western classical tradition.
In 1967 he became director of music (and later deputy principal) at Dartington College of Arts, Devon. There he developed a music degree that focused on a practical understanding of Indian music and later the Indonesian gamelan - the first such course in the country. The course's sitar teacher was the great Imrat Khan, then on his first visit to the West.
Jack published many influential books on music in education (some with Roger Fiske) in the 1950s and 1960s, including a history of music written to accompany records made by Yehudi Menuhin, and The Slow Learner and Music (1966). In 1960 he chaired the newly formed British Society for Music Therapy, and that interest led to a pioneering music therapy programme at the Guildhall School of Music in 1967 and to his becoming a governor of the Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Centre."
And here's the first verse of Eternal Light:
Eternal Light! eternal Light!
How pure that soul must be,
when, placed within thy searching sight,
it shrinks not, but with calm delight
can live, and look on thee.
Wednesday, 13 August 2008
Today marks the 47th anniversary of the building of the Berlin wall. I showed a large group of young people from German-speaking Switzerland around the ecumenical centre today and ended as often by showing them the large piece of the wall which is in the garden a few metres away from my office. As I was talking about it I realised that not a single one of them was born at the time the wall came down in 1989 - a key event in my life as I was living in East Germany at the time.
The picture above is of part of the wall which is now protected and still standing as a reminder in Berlin.
As we were looking at the remains of the wall today the group's pastor said that he hoped that other walls and divisions would be similarly overcome some day - in Israel, in Korea ... and many other places.
Monday, 11 August 2008
Faautu Talapusi one of our colleagues from the Pacific put together a wonderful liturgy for this morning as we pray for Australia and Aotearoa/New Zealand it also offered prayers for our suffering environment and planet.
We heard part of the story of creation from the beginning of Genesis read in Samoan where the word "fanua" is used for the word land. Interestingly in most Polynesian languages including Maori (whanua), fanua signifies not only land but also placenta.
Inspired by this wonderful word Faautu wrote a poem for our meditation this morning. Below is just an extract but you can read the full version here.
"I am the fanua
The placenta buried in my ancestral land after childbirth
I am the pute
The umbilical cord buried and my link to my fanua
I am the fanua
The land which holds my history, my life, my death
I am the fanua
The land of my people, my ancestors, my descendents
I am the fanua
That which bonds me to the air, the earth, the sea
I am the fanua
That which binds me to the plants, the animals, the fish
I am the fanua
My mother's pain and joy in giving life
I am the fanua
Mother earth's pain and joy in giving life
I am the fanua
God's beautiful and unparalleled creation
I am the fanua
God's undying and steadfast love".
Sunday, 10 August 2008
Today marks the 40th anniversary of the last regular passenger steam journey in Britain, whichn left Liverpool Lime Street station, and to mark the date, which fortuitously falls within Liverpool's period as a European Cultural Capital, a steam train is taking the same journey to Carlisle in northern England. The author of this Blog is pleased to have only travelled by train for almost two years when taking long journeys, the furthest being Sibiu in Romania. Sadly, the run is likely to come to an end when she travels to Cyprus in September, but in the meantime, here are a few journeys that she could still do:
The 22.55 to Teheran
Istanbul to Aleppo
Berlin to Astana (Kazakhstan)
Cardiff to Taiwan (OK, some of that is by boat)
and, if the author of this blog was to travel to Cyprus overland and oversea, this would be the route.
Publié par Jane à l'adresse 10:28
Saturday, 9 August 2008
On Friday evening I set off for Neufchatel a part of Switzerland I've only ever travelled through before. It is such a beautiful country and I realised I know almost nothing about it - I just look out of the train or car window and drink in all the scenery: lakes, mountains, pretty villages, beautiful towns ...
The person in charge of in-service training for ministers in the Bern and Neufchatel churches met me and took me off into the countryside. Before setting off for our destination proper she decided to show me the small church where she used to be minister. It dates back to the 12th century - inside are extraordinary wall frescoes from the 13th and 14th centuries and I suddenly realised that I was in a very different place to what I'm used to. This is a francophone area where the churches even the very old ones are predominantly Protestant - hence the dissonance for me, I'm not used to being in a place which speaks French and is Protestant. It's a little bit destabilising to talk to ministerial colleagues in French and realise they are dealing with a completely different reality to the ecclesial reality I know. It also makes me realise that Geneva really was a late comer to the Swiss confederation. I still have a lot to learn about the country I work in but do not live in.
Georgina has been putting up some good links to Climate Camp and also to 100 months to save the world. I love the Climate Camp alternative Swiss army knife - maybe they already make one which is solar powered.
Reading what Georgina has been writing made me realise once more how difficult it is sometimes to voice the things we care about most.
How to find our voice for campaigns, beliefs, values is a real challenge in our times when people are plugged into their ipods.
Sometimes when we speak about what we really care about we can turn others off - perhaps because we are too
But in the end daring to find even approximate words and language that can translate our deepest beliefs into something that can be communicated is the only ways forwards. We have to dare to be misunderstood - perhaps that's an interpreter's creed!
Marlon Zakeyo a lawyer working on human rights issues in Zimbabwe with WSCF has written a very good piece you can read on the Change Zimbabwe site. There's also a link here to a video made by the Zimbabwe solidarity peace trust. the essential thing at themoment if to campaign for real change for the people of Zimbabwe and not to accept total impunity for the sake of political power.
Marlon has written this:
But as rumours of an imminent announcement of a deal between the rival parties mount, one cannot help but imagine that Gift Tandare’s widow and thousands of other survivors and families of murdered and disappeared activists must be feeling really lonely, isolated and betrayed right now.
If rumours filtering in from Pretoria are to be believed, Robert Mugabe will be allowed a gradual and honourable exit and a blanket amnesty for all pre-election violence will be declared, presumably by Prime Minister Tsvangirai.
The chiefs of the Joint Operational Command are also reportedly trying to cut immunity deals for themselves in Pretoria. So are we turning full circle here? All the way back to 1980, 1987 and 2002. Collective amnesia. Turning the other cheek, allowing impunity and moving on for the sake of ‘peace’?
Read the full article here.
Friday, 8 August 2008
Yesterday epd reported that Bishop Margot Kässmann's initiative to keep human rights on the agenda during the olympic games in China has had much wider support than expected - even people outside Germany people are now ordering the black armbands. The campaign has already raised more than 30,000euros for the Asian Human Rights Commission which is an independent NGO.
The black armbands have a verse from Psalm 85 on them "that justice and peace may kiss" (read more here).
The Protestant chaplain to the German Olympic team has also taken armbands with him to China.
You can order armbands by writing to the address here - and I'm sure they'll understand English.
You can also find out more about Amnesty International's campaign on Human rights in China here.
Photos Jens Schulze epd and Stephen Brown eni
Thursday, 7 August 2008
One of the things I was surprised to learn in my youth when I started travelling to other countries was that they don't all have an equivalent for Radio 4. Although France has good radio there isn't really an equivalent blend of news, comedy, drama and information. Anyway according to this week's Le Monde it would seem there's an attempt afoot to have a joint Franco/British drama broadcast on Radio 4 and on a small new internet radio called Arteradio.com.
Apparently Arteradio specialises in outside broadcasts and this led to the drama being recorded in Paris and London and it will be in French and English. It's called Déjà Vu and will be broadcast in February next year.
And here's a taste of the dialogue (I'm sure the real thing will be better than this taster which ratehr reminds of the late, great Miles Kington's Parlez vous franglais) - the plot involves the male French/Morrocan character being retained under prevention of terrorism legislation., but the dialogue quoted in Le Monde is
Lui : Quoi ?
Elle : On your forehead. Here... just by your eyebrow.
Lui : Une cicatrice.
Elle : Scar.
Lui : Tu en as une sur la joue.
Elle : Oh, God, can you see it ?
Lui : It's very small.
Elle : I forgot I had that.
Lui : Elle est toute petite."
A year ago today I started blogging at a meeting on conversion in Toulouse. That blog was much more focused than my current effort and it was quite liberating to have something specific to blog about.
Nevertheless, I am for the moment hooked on this jotting way of communicating random thoughts to noone in particular and it's been good for me to actually write something other than sermons and letters of complaint in French (to our bank, gas company, internet provider ... you get the picture!).
Anyway, thanks to all my readers for their patience and forebearing. So far I'm still enjoying doing this.
Wednesday, 6 August 2008
And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light (Matt 17)
Dr B writes: "Today, 6 August, is the feast of the transfiguration. It is also the 63rd anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. A quarter of a century ago, the feast of the transfiguration fell within the WCC assembly in Vancouver, and on the eve of the feast (which in the Orthodox church is called the proeortia (service of preparation)) the assembly held a "vigil for peace and justice". Archbishop Olof Sundby of Sweden opened the vigil with a reminder of that "we sense the dark clouds of war that creep over us; we sit in the shadow of death". It heard an eye witness account of the Hiroshima bombing. Philip Potter, then WCC general secretary offered a meditation:
On 6 August 1945, I was participating, with other students, in a work camp in a poor area in Jamaica. In our devotions we had read this passage [of the
transfiguration of Jesus]. We hardly understood its meaning, and in our youthful questioning minds it eeme a very strange improbable story. When we had stopped working, we came back to our camp and listened to the evening news on the radio. We could hardly believe what we heard. On that very day, a bomb carrying a nuclear warhead had been dropped on the Japanese cuty of Hiroshima. It came as a blinding flash of light which created a huge cloud. But what resulted was wholesale destruction, the full extent of which we only read about later. Suddenly a connection came in my mind between the destructive shining light and clouds in Hiroshima, and the story of Jesus with his three disciples on the mountain ... Ever since, I have been haunted by it, This Transfiguration story has acquired, over the years, a new meaning for me and a challenge to my ministry.
Potter concluded by saying:
Our vigil tonight is a preparation for us to allow ourselves to be transfigured into the true image of God in christ that we may be his messenegrs of liberation, justice and peace in the world ... The vision of the transfigured Christ is our transfiguration that we may with clarity and courage listen to him and be obedient to his call to the blessedness of hungering and thirsting for justice and of beaing peacemakers.
At midnight, as the day of the feast of transfiguration began, Desmond Tutu, who had only at the last minute received permission from the South African authorities to travel to Vancouver, spoke to the vigil as he brandished his passport:
If you do not belive in the power of prayer, take it from me that the age of
miracles has not ceased. Otherwise, why am I here? We in South Africam who have had a few problems to handle have been upheld wonderfully by your tremendous prayers. When the power of eveil seems to be rampant, we have experienced God in your prayers like a wall of fire keeping away evil.
The nuclear bomb and apartheid in South Africa. These were the challenges to peace and justice in 1983. Though the Cold War and apartheid have ended, the world is still faced by the need for the transfiguration to life. The vigil spoke this affirmation on peace and justice, adapted from a creed in Indonesia:
I do not believe that suffering need be in vain, that death is the end, that the disfigurment of our world is what God intended. But I dare to believe, always and in spite of everything, in God's power to transform and transfigure, fulflling his promise of a new heaven and a new earth where justice and peace will flourish."
Publié par Jane à l'adresse 18:00
Tuesday, 5 August 2008
I first came across the lovely German word Besonnenheit in the German version of 2 Timothy1.7. Sich besinnen has something about taking time out, about coming to oneself, controlling oneself, thinking before acting, perhaps even praying before acting.
The same biblical Greek σωφρονισμου is rendered variously into English as self-discipline, good judgement, sobriety, sound mind and rather surprisingly but beautifully and intriguingly in the Darby translation as wise discretion. Perhaps because I am naturally neither wise nor discreet I particularly like that.
So may God's Spirit truly blow a hurricane of wise discretion on those who this day feel impelled to mindless, undisciplined and ill-judged violence against their fellow human beings. I think of the Protestant sister from Rwanda I interpreted for last week, of women in Liberia struggling to bring up families after having limbs hacked off, of the terrible "domestic" violence our churches and societies so easily cover up.
International Standard Version (©2008)
For God did not give us a spirit of timidity but one of power, love, and self-discipline.
New American Standard Bible (©1995)
For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.
GOD'S WORD® Translation (©1995)
God didn't give us a cowardly spirit but a spirit of power, love, and good judgment.
American Standard Version
For God gave us not a spirit of fearfulness; but of power and love and discipline.
Bible in Basic English
For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of self-control.
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear: but of power, and of love, and of sobriety.
Darby Bible Translation
For God has not given us a spirit of cowardice, but of power, and of love, and of wise discretion.
English Revised Version
For God gave us not a spirit of fearfulness; but of power and love and discipline.
Webster's Bible Translation
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
Weymouth New Testament
For the Spirit which God has given us is not a spirit of cowardice, but one of power and of love and of sound judgement.
World English Bible
For God didn't give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self-control.
Young's Literal Translation
for God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind;
Monday, 4 August 2008
Through the Ecumenical Prayer Cycle this week we're praying for Canada and the United States. Our wonderful colleague Suzanne Tomaiuoli from Canada who leads our choir and music put together worship based on texts and practices from the people of the first nations. We began our time of prayer with her retelling the peacemaker legend of the white roots of peace.
One of the many things shared by Canada and the United States, is the history of our native peoples – the First Nations – which joined us as one land mass before borders existed and before the arrival of Europeans and other peoples of the world. Today, as these peoples of the world, we gather to remember our respective roots and pray for peace. The legend of the White Roots of Peace illustrates this desire.
The Peacemaker Legend is a central tale of Iroquois history – describing a people mired in violent bloody feuds who, guided by a spiritual teacher, set aside war to adopt a Path of Peace. It’s a mythic tale of struggle between good and evil, order and chaos, and the triumph of reason. It’s a morality play depicting the transformation of humans rising above suffering and tragedy to establish a higher order of human relations. It’s also a practical guide to establishing unity and balance amongst diverse human communities. It’s a successful model of how to distribute power in a democratic society to assure individual liberty.
According to Seneca traditionalist, writer and lecturer John Mohawk, The Peacemaker used as a metaphor the great white pine tree whose branches spread out to shelter all nations who commit themselves to Peace. Beneath the tree, the Five Nations buried their weapons of war. On top of the tree is the Eagle that Sees Far. And four long roots stretch out in the four sacred directions – the ‘white roots of peace’. The Peacemaker proclaimed, ‘If any man or nation shows a desire to obey the Law of the Great Peace, they may trace the roots to their source, and be welcomed to take shelter beneath the Tree.’
According to the legend, hundreds of years ago in North America, a spiritual Teacher appeared in the Finger Lakes region to communities of the red race who guarded the eastern gate into the continent’s interior. This messenger from the Creator transmitted an instruction to these people of how to live together in honour, dignity and peace.
The Peacemaker spoke his Words of Law to only a few villages, but his message and vision is the legacy and heritage of all human beings, of all five races of humanity. So long ago, it is said, a man proposed that peace was a possibility. It was a radical idea at the time, as it is now. He proposed justice could be achieved, that there would be no true peace until justice is achieved. He proposed because human beings are rational and have a potential to use their heads, these things are possible. His vision contained many principles, and what nearly amount to a faith based on the process of thinking.
The ownership of the thinking which took place then, and the generation of thinking which needs to take place now – those are OUR jobs. That’s what we’ll find when we follow the roots to their source. The White Roots continue to represent a tradition of thinking about ourselves as a species, and the responsibility to use our minds so that we continue to survive and create a good world for our children seven generations into the future.
Please join in our opening hymn. It is over 50 years old, but it could have been written this morning. We can resonate with what it says: we'll be recognised as Christians -- true disciples of Jesus -- not by our mistakes or rhetoric, or our politics or even the soundness of our theology, but by our LOVE.
A decade before his death the German journalist and theologian Heinz Zahrnt wrote a book called Leben als ob es Gott gibt - Living as if God existed: in place of a catechism.
It's dedicated to his grandchildren and begins with a quote from Rabbi Levi Jizchak of Berditschew
"The great masters of the Torah, who you have argued with, have not been able to dish up to you at table God and his kingdom, and I cannot do that either. But just think, maybe it is true."
The book looks at four key texts - the creation story, the ten commandments, the Lord's prayer and the sermon on the mount and develops a catechism and theology of experience. It's second ending or "afterword" is perhaps a parable.
"A father had two sons. When they became adults he shared out the inheritance between them and set out - and it would seem that the sons were not unhappy to see the father leave.
Abandoned by their father the sons lived henceforth alone. They did so as best as their means allowed - and their means were considerable. Their country suffered wars, there were catastrophes, hunger, scarcity and suffering. But they bravely withstood everything together - in itself a miracle.
In the end they began to tear down the old buildings and to reorganise everything about their life. Everything would be different and better than in their father's time. At the outset the two sons used to speak alot about their father. Gradually though they'd got used to their father no longer being around. The story teller doesn't know whether they had completely forgotten their father or occasionally silently thought of him, nor whether the father one day came home. For you see the story is not yet finished.
I could think of the following ending:
One day the younger of the two sons sets off to look for their lost father. After a long journey he came to an inhospitable region and unexpectedly came across someone who had been left for dead on the wayside by robbers. He bent over to help him up. As he did he saw that it was his older brother who like him had left to find their missing father.
It was at the moment that the two brothers recognised one another, that their father's presence was once more with them."
Sunday, 3 August 2008
Le Monde 2 has an article this week cleverly titled "Une croix sur leur baptême" - (this is a play on words faire une croix means to give up on or to stop, and when you are baptised this often takes place with the sign of the cross being made in water on the baptisee's forehead). The article is all about people who have asked to have their baptism in the Catholic Church revoked. All those interviewed who have taken this step were baptised when infants, often more for reasons of social conformism than because their parents were particularly religious. No Protestants were quoted as having taken such a step, but that says alot about France's religious landscape.
What struck me reading the article is how strongly anchored a certain rage against the perceived power of the church is. These are people asking to leave the church for reasons of personal conviciton. Amongst the reasons they give are public pronouncements on contraception and abortion, and scandals about sexual abuse by Catholic clergy. Quite a number asking to have the words "baptised against their will" written into the baptismal register next to their names are converting to another religion - Islam or Buddhism, but most are taking this step so that they no longer be counted amongst the church's believers.
Father Angelo Sommacal the French Catholic Church's head of pastoral and sacramental affairs says that these people are "Asking to renounce their baptism" and adds, "Baptism is an act of God, it can't be undone, at best it can be renounced. But that's as if you refused to be considered to be the child of your parents."
It really is an article for the French context, where even committed Christians can be anti-clerical and where enormous value is placed on "laicité" (the supposed secularity of the state). The numbers mentioned in the article are really very low. An anarchist site has apparently created a "débaptisator" which about 3,500 people have used over three years. That's hardly a huge wave of convicted atheists but it makes a good story in Catholic France.
One interesting aspect is that according to some French diocesan sources quite a high proportion of the requests come from French people now living in Germany. In Germany leaving the Church - either Protestant or Catholic - is financially advantageous as you no longer have to pay church tax or "Kirchensteuer" on your salary. There can be a financial advantage but if you are not a member of the church you cannot usually be employed in church run institutions - and in Germany the churches are the second employer after the state. Statistics available here show that there are high numbers of people officially leaving both the Protestant and Catholic churches in Germany.
So what is the importance and meaning of baptism in secularised western societies and the churches in them? Is our theology of baptism completely outdated? When I was training for the ministry I can remember one of our lecturers (Rev. Dr Jonathan Draper who is now a Canon of the chapter at York Minister) saying that he felt the mainstream church had got its theology back to front on baptism and the eucharist - we tend to baptise all comers often as children but then tend to set conditions for access to the eucharist. Perhaps we should set higher criteria for baptism and invite all to Christ's table for the holy meal?
In the French Reformed Church local churches often live with the reality that the most committed families don't baptise their children as infants but the social Protestants do. Sometimes it's hard to hold the very small confessing, believing congregation together with the "visiting" hatch, match and dispatch congregation. You baptise trusting that God's grace abounds and hoping that the parents will actually give the children the opportunity to learn about and experience the faith they have asked they be part of.
I believe in radical openness as a congregational model; in somehow imperfectly trying to bear witness to the welcome I believe God wants to give to each and every person - so many people have internalised centuries of feeling judged by religious institutions and by God. Yet how does integrity of belief and conviction still speak through that kind of openness? I'm left thinking about the one marriage and the one baptism I said no to in 12 years of local ministry - did my attitude mean that those people felt closer or further away from God? After three meetings with the couple about the marriage I encouraged them to write their own secular wedding service and find a beautiful place to celebrate it; The baptism I said no to ended up becoming a marriage and presentation of the child. Did I bear witness to Christ through that or through saying yes so many other times? I wonder.
I also reflected on the deeper meaning of Christian baptism this week when interpretting for a Presbyterian sister from Rwanda who spoke about the deep questioning of the existence of a God of love which has been part of the aftermath to the 1994 genocide. What does it mean to be baptised if you go out and kill your brother or sister baptised into the same faith? Through religious, national, civil and other wars Christians have been doing that for centuries.
Saturday, 2 August 2008
TheInternational Aids Conference begins tomorrow in Mexico and has been preceded by Faith in Action Now! - an ecumenical conference on Aids.
Colleagues from the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance are in Mexico and their website has a useful guide to the conference and a word of welcome from the local church host committee.
There is an interfaith chaplains' programme and also an exhibition.
The faith-based response to HIV and AIDS has become more visible and integrated because of the increased engagement and coordination of faith-based representatives over the past three International AIDS Conferences. The Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance, with many partners, spearheads planning for faith-based participation at the International AIDS Conferences. All are invited to join in these activities.
On the Ecumenical Water Network summer school blog Kim and Dave have been reflecting on globalisation and posted this cartoon by Australian artist Michael Leunig.
In case you can't read it this is what it says:
"What is GLOBALISATION?
That's when a woman in New York,
a man in Hobart,
a child in Oslo,
a canary in Milan,
an old lady in Peru, a dolphin off the coast of Madagascar ... all share the same anxiety and the same dispair for the same reason at the same time." You can find more Leunig cartoons here.
Meanwhile news from my special envoy to Lambeth is that a campaigning black armband has been delivered to Dave Walker, the conference's official cartoonist. Dave removed posts from his blog after receiving a cease and desist order from Mark Brewer and the St Stephen the Great trust which has taken over the SPCK bookshop chain in the UK. Dave had been campaigning for the shops and their workers. You can read more about this on Sam Norton's excellent blog, Sam also recieved a Cease and desist notice from Brewer. There are also further links offering support to Dave including cartoons here and here. The best so far has to be Jon Birch's brilliant offering over at The ongoing adventures of ASBO Jesus.
It's great to see people getting over globalised despair by cartooning.
I've been re-reading Jean Giono's "Lhomme qui plantait des arbres" in a lovely junior edition illustrated by Willi Glasauer, a Czech artist who divides his time between the Pyrennees and Berlin.
The story of The man who planted trees tells of a young man meeting and observing the widowed shepherd Elzéard Bouffier over several decades. On his solitary shepherd wanderings Bouffier plants acorns, beech nuts, chestnuts. Where he has wandered forests grow and change the arid landscape. He stops shepherding and takes up beekeeping because he fears the sheep may eat the young saplings.
Forty years on the trees completely change the ecosytem, people resettle the area.
It's a beautiful, romantic story, speaking of tenacity, simplicity and of the spirit of resistance. Bouffier goes on planting trees even when part of the forest is wiped out because of disease.
It's sad to read it at a time in human history when we are so intent on tearing trees down. But perhaps it offers hope that with gentle persistance we can change things for the better.