With Abject, Grovelling Apologies

The night before the Blogathon, I went out for a pint or two with the very distinguished, Rob Taylor.

During the evening, he requested a topic. I said that he’d need to text or e-mail it to me lest I forgot. He duly sent me a text later that evening. I went to bed and promptly forgot all about it. Below is the topic and what I (probably) would have written.

How Does the Unique Person of Jesus Square with Red Papal Shoes?
i.e., what’s the connect between the life of Jesus and some current Christian rituals?

Some current Christian rituals were instituted (or at least highly recommended) by Jesus himself – for example, Holy Communion and baptism. Although, in many churches, the ritual of Holy Communion seems to bear slim resemblance to the reported Last Supper.

I have been in a church service where the presiding priest (or maybe he was a bishop – it was a long time ago) explained that when he was wearing his hat he was addressing the congregation on behalf of God – the hat representing the authority to do so, and that when he removed the hat (and usually faced in the other direction) he was addressing God on behalf of the congregation. Jesus certainly didn’t dress up in fancy clothes (by choice) that we know of and he refused to answer questions about the provenance of his authority but he certainly spoke on behalf of God to the people (Your sins are forgiven) and on behalf of the people to God (Father, forgive them). I think that anything that helps people work out what’s going on during a service is probably something Jesus would approve of.

Of course, the whole point of any ritual should be to point people towards God and to make clear the Gospel (that God loves us and sent Jesus to sort things out). Some of these are linked very clearly and directly to the gospel narratives (foot-washing on Maundy Thursday, drinking bread and wine in memory of Jesus, baptism) others less so. Communion and baptism were commanded by Jesus, any further ritual and religious practice has come at least partly from man (albeit, some of it through scripture – confession from James 5) and as such need to be weighed up against the need for love and mercy which time and time again throughout the Bible are given as evidence of a truly Godly person.

Delightful Decades, Dubious Decimal Dozens, Dear, Oh Dear, Oh Dear

What Joanna actually wrote: Pah–pa-paaah! I should be very glad if you’d write an alliterative fanfare, on the theme of 10s, to welcome the dawning of a 2nd decade of bloggery:)
(subject courtesy of Joanna Clark)

Tim tried
Tim’s tired
Not expired
Quite a success
Twenty’s next.

Trivial, tremendous,
Silly and stupendous,
Hope this verse appropriate
And that no-one chokes on it
Think I’ll lie down for a bit

A huge thank you to everybody who has contributed to the Event!

All my sponsors, subject suggesters, sustenance sourcers, singers of praises, and silliness stooges – it wouldn’t have been even a tiny fraction of the fun it was without you all. Currently the donations satnd at 97% of the re-re-re-re-re-revised grand target of £700 – pretty much double 2007’s effort, which, even allowing for inflation, is pretty damned good going.

Thanks again!

What are the indicators of success in a church?

(subject courtesy of Mark Elder)

First and foremost, I would say if people could work out that we were followers and friends of Jesus because of our love for one another, then that would be a fairly good indicator that we were ‘getting it right’.

Any church where the gospel is preached (and my definition of ‘gospel’ has broadened a whole hell of a lot over the years) is a church where the Spirit has a chance to live and breath and act and is therefore, to some extent a success.

I am wary of any attempts to measure a church in terms of success – these tend to be very quantitative tests – how many bums are we getting on pews, how heavy are the offering bags, and all of these things need measuring and responding to – but not as what makes the church successful.

It’s much harder to measure the qualitative things that show a church where God is allowed to be working – are people demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit, are people growing as disciples, are new friends being brought in (rather than do lots of people come because we have loud music), how welcoming is the church to outsiders, what sort of attitude does the surrounding community have towards the church, how about the authorities around the church?

I don’t believe in a Victorious Christian Lifestyle ™, any success is purely God’s but we can certainly stand in the way or help him along as he does what he does.

The Big Picture/ The Meta-Narrative

(subject courtesy of Ali Dorey and Andy Carlisle)

This is yet another post that will draw upon something that has already been written in the past twenty four hours.

In the Uncomplicated Happiness entry and the discussion that followed, the idea arose that, in order to experience an ongoing sense of joy/peace/contentment it helped if you had at least some idea of your place in “the grand scheme of things”. And, in the Me, Timbo post, I talked about the idea that one of the things that defines me as a person is that I am part of a much larger story – Being aware of this larger story, the bigger picture, the meta-narrative is, an essential part of self awareness, “no man is an island” and all that jazz.

Of course, some meta-narratives are more comfortable than others and this will depend largely on your personality – for example, the idea that the physical universe is all there is and that we can only know anything through our senses and emergent capabilities like reason doesn’t sit well with me mostly because I’m a bit of a romantic and that sounds all very dull and worthy. Of course, it’s not just a matter of comfort – convictions of the truth of the matter are extremely important too.

So, what is my World View, which Big Picture do I consider myself a small, yet carefully formed part? I’m sure you can have a pretty good guess, but that would be a post for another day…

My Best Advice to Young People

Currently in Their Teens and Twenties, a la Baz Lurhmann’s Sunscreen
(subject courtesy of Rachel Edge)

I’m afraid that this request for timeless wisdom has reached the top of the bag too late to catch any stirling advice from yours truly.

All I can offer is the idea that they should find something that moves them and makes them glad to be alive. Then do that thing (as much as they possibly can whilst attempting to not-sell-out.

Most people are nice but there are some right stinkers out there, sorting out which is which and loving the stinkers anyway can be a bit of a challenge.

Try and find a church that will welcome you and not try to bend you to its will or force you into its clone-mould. I’d recommend this even to non-Christians, there are people in most churches who are willing to go out of their way to provide care and support for young people like yourselves – there no shame at all in accepting this and if you’re willing to take the small risk that you may be seen as a heathen head to be hunted, then you’ll be grand.

Hang in there, even in the bad, nasty bits – accept help from your parents, but not too much – don’t run home at the first sign of trouble.

Oh and, given that this is Newcastle, you might not reckon that sunscreen is worth wearing but I’ve burnt at the coast on a cloudy day…

International Students in Newcastle

(subject courtesy of Chris Middleton)

Newcastle upon Tyne, being the thriving metropolis that it is and having two universities, tends to attract an awful lot of international students. Some of whom will arrive at the airport with very little grasp of the language, a long way from home and with nobody they can really call a friend.

Newcastle University runs a welcome service (details of which can be found here), arranging for all international students to be met at the airport to be taken to orientation week. When I was a student, this was mostly staffed by volunteers from the Christian Union – I’m not sure how much that is still true.

I do know that my ‘university dad’, a guy called Ramzi, got involved with helping out with international students back then and is still one of the key players in something called The Globe Cafe which, on Monday nights, provides a space to drop in and get fed for the ultra-low charge of £2.50. The Globe also offers (or can set up) English classes and set up students with families who will be prepared to support them with food and a space to drop into.

I would imagine that the Globe offers its support to students from both universities and I have one final link to Northumbria University’s International Student’s page.

Another Celebratory Decade

(subject courtesy of Erica Jaques)

July this year will mark the tenth anniversary of the very first UK meet-up of the denizens of a leafy suburb of the internet known as wilwheaton.net.

More specifically, of the message board attached to that site.

WWDN was a blog site run by the then “didn’t you used to be famous” geek, Wil Wheaton (as the name of the site would very much suggest) and the attached message board was there for anybody who turned up to look at the blog and wanted to hang about and discuss anything, anything at all. It went through various incarnations but tends to be remembered as The (or Teh) Soapbox. The Soapbox had several, very distinct forums (fora?) to separate out crap jokes from film spoilers from speculation about sports from in depth (and angry-sounding) discussion of Religion and Politics – there was even a forum for general random discussion that didn’t fit anywhere else, and naturally I gravitated towards this particular space.

And, in July 2003, a bunch of us living in the UK travelled down to London, slept in a hostel, drank and hung out “in real life”. Real friendships were made that weekend, that last to this day, despite pretty much all of us having moved away from the ‘Box as jobs and other such inconvenient demands on our time started creeping in around the edges.

Since that time, Wil has gone on to become a pretty big name in geek entertainment, and I’ve gone onto become the man/muppet/monkey sitting here today, typing away into the wild blue yonder to raise money to help people with problems I used to have – we’re currently eighteen quid short of the £700 target and it would be amazing if we could have hit that target when I call time on the Blogathon at ten of the Britsih Summer Time’s a.m.

Just a few posts to go, thanks for reading so far.

Current Men’s Fashion Trends

(subject courtesy of Karen Richardson)

Following on from the Socks post towards the start of the Blogathon, I have been asked to write a little bit more about current men’s fashion trends.

The main fashion that I’ve noticed recently is to be wrapped up warm, but it has been unseasonably cold of late.

I for one, have a stock pile of summery clothes in bright colours and flimsy materials just waiting for the weather to turn and I’m sure that I can’t be the only one. The same goes for my sandles with ankle socks – a very fetching look, or so I’m told.

If I hadn’t somewhat overused the phrase ‘are cool’ in my previous post I would now be extolling the virtues of bow ties and fezzes – essential items of any real man’s wardrobe. Cufflinks too.

I think men don’t tend to follow trends in fashion so much as just wear what there is to wear – in youth, we find a look that suits us and rarely change our style that much from our late teens onwards with the exception that new clothes tend be of higher quality than last time around. Although, I still have (and wear) some t-shirts from my teenage years.

Memento Mori

(subject courtesy of Natalie Teasdale)

Skulls are cool. Skeletons are cool. White face clowns are cool. Zombies are cool. Ash Wednesday is cool.

I’m not planning on it any time soon but I will be returning to the dust at some point in the future and every day takes me twenty-four closer to my final breath. It’s good to be reminded of that sometimes.

I’m tempted to say that some of us revel in ugly, uncomfortable truths but that’s not entirely accurate.

We, all of us, revel in different aspects of the truth “in the midst of life we are in death”. For most of us, the joy of life is to be sought almost at all costs, and for others the death is, not what we’re after but what we see, and if not celebrate, take a somewhat perverse delight in. Neither extreme is healthy and whilst the Ash of Wednesday is an important reminder to the life-centred, the Memento Vitae of Easter is an equally important sign for the rest of us.

Shiny Things

(subject courtesy of Billie Quillis)

Hi Billie, long time – how’s it going?

First up, a word of explanation – the reason the target seems so very random is simply that I’m working in Pounds Sterling and I’d upped the target to £700 (the equivalent of the $1071.43 you mentioned).

Now, onto Shiny Things.

My shiniest new thing is all the lovely moolah that everybody has donated through the Blogathon and the small (yet important) sense of achievement for having been part of that.

Shiny things rock – I would call my rusty old car a shiny thing, I would call my friends shiny things (possibly the shiniest things of all – and not in a ridiculous fake-vampire way), my i-pod, laptop and phone are all very much shiny things.

However (I’m pretty good with the old howevers), and this links right back to the Me, Timbo post from earlier – where there were lists of several different levels of “facts about me” – all the shiny stuff in the world, although it has a massive effect on me and shapes the person I am, must not be allowed to become the thing that ultimately define me. I am Tim. I am not Tim the ipod owner.

I’m older and more settled now than in my young-youth (as opposed to my current old-youth) and my shiny things mean more to me now than they ever have in the past but I like to think (and maybe pride is an even shinier thing than my friends) that, if necessary, I could give them up in a flash.