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Anglicanism and Technology: “For things to remain the same, everything must change” – Iain Little


I fear for Anglicanism, or at least the liberal, discerning version that we practice in our rainy corner of Northern Europe. Above all I fear for its relevance. More Britons play chess each week than go to church.

Though a Scots-Irish descendent of the Manse on both sides of my family, I’ve come to love Anglicanism’s delicious variety, its broad and colourful sweep from feisty Evangelism to fusty Anglo- Catholicism. But, to the outsider, the Church, once a power in the land, is tearing itself apart, lost in ancestral quarrels and incomprehensible points of principle that defy both legal reality and easy explanation. Above all, and most tragically, its charms and relevance are lost on its most important demographic, the young. More young people can name Lady Gaga’s hairdresser than name the Archbishop of Canterbury. And fewer than one million in the UK are now what my parents would have called “proper, practising Anglicans”. Yet the Church of England still claims a heroic role for itself on our national stage despite being, as in T S Eliot’s poem “The Hippopotamus”, “wrapt in the old miasmal mist”. Relevant to a 15 year old? Hardly. If our three teenage children are anything to go by, this generation’s grasp of theology is as thin as a communion wafer and every bit as nutritious. (How shocked I was when not one younger member of our church knew who Moses and Elijah were, let alone their symbolic roles –the law and the prophets- in Our Lord’s Transfiguration).

Linda Woodhead and Andrew Brown’s critique of the Church (“That Was The Church That Was: How the Church of England Lost the English People”) and the latest bums-on-seats statistics make for depressing reading for a modern Anglican. Isn’t it all now hopeless? How does Anglicanism triumph in the market place for ideas and more importantly, become relevant to its younger followers? What are the new bottles into which the old wine must now be poured?

Maybe human ingenuity brings us some good news, some “gospel”. New technology means that it’s far from hopeless.
Modern social media technology has a vital role to play in the “reincarnation” (sic) of the Church. This starts with Lambeth Palace further recognizing the vital role technology has played in the past: Gutenberg’s moveable type printing press, better social mobility via canals and railways, television etc.
But with a change in technology comes a change in behaviour. Has Mankind itself changed? Maybe not, but Mankind’s behaviour has.
More than two billion people are now online. This number will soon double. The average person has 24 apps on their smart phone, but uses only 8. That’s the trouble with technology: winner takes all. So what do modern social media offer Anglicans and –the critical question- how can a religion “app” get into the top 8? The answers to both questions are the same.

First, one must offer community, a New Community. St Paul and others criss-crossed the Mediterranean and founded the communities, the networks, from which Christianity sprang. A modern social media community has significant advantages over one from the Middle East of the first century. It’s not limited by weather forecasts in Cyprus, ship technology in the Aegean or even censorship. And it can instantly cross time zones and include demographics, from young to old. Imagine being on a train journey and joining a live prayer group composed of Anglicans in Abuja, Adelaide, Atlanta and Acton. Or, before you sleep, how about plugging in to a discussion group practising the spiritual exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola?

Second, one must offer “Bible”. “Scholarship” to the few, yes, but “Bible” to the many. And social media can break new ground here. It can transcend linguistic barriers via software packages that compare and interpret meaning. It can take ancient tongues and convert them into modern expressions. Software now exists to analyse unstructured data and use natural language processing to understand grammar and context. This is perfect for textual comparison and Bible study. This aspect –Bible- must be at the heart of the New Community (obiter dicta, can anyone tell me why most Anglican churches don’t even offer you a Bible when you enter the church? Totally dotty. And why not hand out a fun iPad instead of a noisy piece of paper for crinkling behind my ear? Just asking.)

Third, one must offer help. Help to find a church. Help to pray. Help to buy presents for others. Help to send Christmas cards. Help to discuss life’s Big Questions. Help to find a place to baptise a baby. Help to find a Christian “Au Pair”. Help to get married. Help to find like-minded people when you move. Help with depression. Help with catering. Help with finding schools. Help with booking pilgrimages. The list is as long as the human longing for help. Social media, in some of these areas, can be more helpful than a church.

Fourth, one must offer fun. Make someone smile and you win their heart. Lighten someone’s day and they’ll pay attention to what you have to say. Amongst UK politicians, Boris Johnson understands this better than anyone. Social media can make people smile; comedy, jokes, videos, games, fun occasions. To look at our 3 kids coming out of church, I don’t think they always had “fun” on their faces or joy in their hearts.

New technology can ally new experience to old ideas; we’re forming “Ananas” to do just that. “Ananas”, “Pineapple” in English, is one of the most frequently recurring words in all languages, nearly 30, from Hebrew and Arabic to Icelandic and Esperanto. It’s a verbal image of what we want to achieve, a cradle to grave app for all ages and all shades of belief, customized to the user, non-judgmental… other words, very Anglican. Ideas to make religion relevant are sprouting like fruit in due season. We now need partners to help us grow our pineapple. They can speak any language they like as long as they share our mission and our sense of fun. Young and old can now find both reverence and relevance.



  1. Iain Little, Chairman of Ananas (Chairman) / email address and +41 79 359 2720
  2. Bio.  “Iain Little studied Russian at Cambridge and became a banker and investment manager, living first in Japan and Asia and, for the last 16 years, Zurich.  His day job for 36 years has been looking after other peoples’ money.  His current night jobs include helping people better connect with their religion, “Ananas”, and a venture growing furniture directly from trees which he hopes will revolutionize the way people all over the world connect with their environment.  He has a wife and 3 university age children.”.




Westminster Faith Debates, Unity and Diversity: by Erika Baker





A purely subjective account


I had been really looking forward to the Westminster Faith Debate “Diversity – what kind of unity is appropriate nationally and internationally, how can diversity become a strength?”, the penultimate one in this year’s series organised by Professor Linda Woodhead from Lancaster University.


The format of the debates is a 5 minute talk by each of the panellists followed by a brief moderated discussion between them, which is really more a question and answer format than a genuine conversation between the speakers. There is then a period for contributions from the floor and slightly longer contributions from the designated provocateurs.


I won’t summarise all the contributions here, they can shortly be listened to here, and Colin Coward published a very good summary of them here  .


Laura has asked me for a “smell of the greasepaint and the roar of the crowd” contribution… well, the first thing to say is that there was indeed a full crowd, plenty of spontaneous applause (as well as the customary “end of speech” version) and that there were many interesting questions raised by various people in the audience.


The first speaker was Bishop Trevor Mwamba from Botswana, now Assistant Bishop in Chelmsford. I must confess, I had not heard of Bishop Trevor before and my initial suspicion was “an African bishop, well, we can guess where this is going”. I was delighted when Bishop Trevor spoke warmly about embracing diversity, and I also felt hugely ashamed of my completely unfounded original prejudice. SUCH a dangerous thing, suspicion and prejudice, and although I try so hard to be genuinely open to everyone, I still catch myself out every now and then.


It made me think that much of our debates around women bishops and about lgbt inclusion is characterised by mutual suspicion.


That perception was reinforced when the discussion was opened up to the floor and the first question was for a show of hands about whether the audience believed that the vote on women bishops had been a success and that it would provide stability and unity in difference. The vast majority voted “yes”, but I sensed with great hesitation, and if we had known that there would be a third option “we don’t know yet”, many of us would probably have voted for that. Talking to people afterwards, it was clear that traditionalists weren’t sure that the promises given to them would be kept indefinitely, whereas the women were still shocked by the complete lack of joy and celebration in General Synod after the final vote in favour and felt that there was still a very long way to go before the church truly celebrated women’s ministry.


One of the key comments for me came from Miranda Threlfall-Holmes who said that when she had first been one of those who came up with the idea of “mutual flourishing” it had been intended to be not a legalistic but a relational concept whereby we are each committed to the flourishing of the other. Since then, the term had morphed to mean “my right” to “my own flourishing”.

It is not clear to me why we can’t have both, why a focus on someone else’s flourishing is seen as threatening my own rights and place. And for me our inability to say not “either/or” but “both” will remain one of the great mysteries of our church debates. But if we could do what Miranda proposes, if we could focus on relationships and on the flourishing of the other, we would be a good deal further on than we are.


The actual debate was incredibly polite and measured, to the point that Simon Sarmiento criticised the panellists for being too nice to each other.


Someone from the floor commented that people tend to be nice when they meet face to face but that they can be quite vicious online.


Yes…. but no. It’s not the tone of the debate that’s the problem but its content. Anger and insults are as counterproductive as this appalling ice cold, dismissive politeness that so often characterises our conversations. Last night’s debate was perfectly polite but also, at some level, perfectly bland. I suspect it’s partly the format of the moderated panel discussion that does not allow a robust debate to develop. All anyone can do is to disagree politely and there is no mechanism and no time for teasing out the root of disagreement and of engaging with that passionately.


For me, coming from the lgbt sector, there is the added frustration of this huge imbalance of power, because my views about my own life still count for nothing in the church. We are still not formally included in the next round of discussions, which feels like yet again others talking passionately about us behind closed doors, reserving the right to make decisions on our behalf.

Having heard David Porter speak, I do believe that if anyone can make a go of guiding the conversations in the church, it is him. He has a sense of urgency and an appreciation of the difficulties on all sides. And yet, suspicion remains my overriding emotion.


This was encapsulated perfectly by a passionate contribution from the floor from a woman who had the courage to make the debate personal and who started by saying that God clearly had a sense of humour, making her female, gay and evangelical! She asked about the reality of lgtb suffering in the church and at the hand of church. And while there was passionate applause for her and some very heart-felt comments from the panellists, especially from Alan Wilson and Miranda, Andrew Symes from Anglican Mainstream acknowledged that Christian demands weren’t always easy for people and that one had to have compassion, but that one nevertheless had to draw lines…and we were back in the “head space”, the territory of supposedly purely theological and rational debate about us, where people take ownership of their ideas but no responsibility for the impact these ideas have on real people’s lives. And we just have to sit back and trust these people to decide our future in the church… not easy!


Fascinating also how we all hear each other’s contributions in our own way, reinforcing our own thoughts.

Miranda spoke very clearly about the problems presented by the bible, about how the historical texts get many things wrong, about the various theologies and the diversity within its many books.

Andrew, in his final summing up, commented that one of the things he had heard that evening was that people had problems with the bible. He stressed that he didn’t have any, his church didn’t have any.

And it was clear that had heard what Miranda had said as a liberal admission of confusion rather than complexity, and of not taking the bible seriously.

We have this inability to truly hear what the other is saying and we only ever seem to reinforce our own stereotype of their views.


How can one break through this?

For a possible approach we could turn to the women bishops debate and the almost hopeless situation after the first vote was lost in General Synod. There seemed no way out, everything had been said, people were talking at each other rather than with each other, there was a sense of fatigue, and one could almost believe that it would be impossible to break the deadlock.

Yesterday, David Porter talked about that moment and about the facilitated conversations that followed.

At the start of the subsequent facilitated conversations he asked everyone to take half an hour to think about how the debate so far had impacted on them.

And everyone replied that it had damaged their souls.

With that common experience, that shared admission at the heart of the issue, it became possible to find a new way forward.

Of course, women were eventually an official part of the debate about women bishops in the House of Bishops as well as in the House of Clergy and the House of Laity, whereas lgbt people are still not properly represented in the official process. It matters, because until you can hear everyone’s voices you cannot reach a stable solution. And it matters, because while we are not included, we remain on the outside, firmly and increasingly suspicious.


But we are where we are and this is the point from which we must move forward.

So maybe it’s time to do the same in the lgbt debate. It’s time for all of us accept not only our own hurt but that we are all damaged by this discussion, and that we must find a way forward. For our sakes, for the sake of those who oppose us and for the sake of the whole church. And if official church won’t include us in its conversations, we have to continue to shout loudly from the sidelines.


The diversity is already there. We don’t need to talk about whether we can have it or not. We need to recognise it honestly and find an honest and open way of living with it.

How could that be possible? Maybe we have discussed the morality of same sex relationships to death. We won’t agree and it’s time to shift the focus. It’s time to recognise that all sides in this debate hold their views with sincerity, integrity and great faith. If we could learn to respect each other and to recognise each other’s integrity, we could follow Alan Wilson’s practical and thoroughly scriptural proposal and recognise that Romans 14 requires us to live with diversity and that it provides a blueprint for how this is possible.


Can we do that?

Yesterday’s debate didn’t offer an answer, but it did offer some small measure of hope.


 Note by editor:

-Thank-you Erika – you have brilliantly filled the gap that I was feeling. Like many people, I have been avidly listening to the podcasts and reading the Facebook discussions arising from the debates in this series. What I was really missing was the camaraderie, the human exchanges and this piece really transports me and our readers to the debating chamber

-Attempting to find a copyright-free illustration to this post, I have taken a snapshot of the blog page on the Westminster Faith Debates website, which I think and hope does not transgress copyright law. But if anyone objects, I will of course remove it.



‘Favourite Heroes and Holy People’ edited by Deborah Cassidi

Heroes 001

We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken away from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. Viktor Frankl, from Man’s Search for Meaning

Extract chosen by Lord Sacks, former Chief Rabbi, who explains his reason for choosing this passage:

‘For me, one of the heroes of the human spirit was Viktor Frankl, who survived Auschwitz, Dachau and other concentration camps, and helped others to survive. On the basis of his experiences he founded a new school of psychotherapy – he called it Logotherapy – the central idea of which is summed up in the title of his most famous book, Man’s Search for Meaning.

Frankl rescued people from despair by helping them find a reason to live: a task not yet completed, work still to be done. That sense of a mission not yet fulfilled gave people the strength to carry on. In the quotation I chose he bore witness to the courage of others. He also wrote of how, exhausted, starved and on the brink of death, he brought himself back to life by thinking of his beloved, his wife:

Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: the salvation of man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world may still know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. For the first time in my life I was able to understand the meaning of the words,’The angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory.

I am lost in admiration for a man who saved the lives of others by giving them hope, and who found a path to heaven at the very gates of hell.’

And I am as lost in admiration for Lord Sacks as many of his other Christian admirers. He broadcasts frequently, and there are many pieces I could offer you from You Tube. Perhaps this one?

The Bible As Story

If I were to say to you these days, ‘Of course the Bible is just a story’, you would probably be highly offended, thinking that I was claiming that it is untrue. ‘Don’t tell stories’, we say to a child, meaning ‘Don’t tell lies’.

But imagine yourself back in childhood for a moment. And let us assume (at least for the purposes of this post) that it was at that age, at your mother’s (or father’s!) knee,  you first learnt of God. It was also at that age you would have learnt about Father Christmas, nursery rhymes and stories of dungeons and dragons. All mythical – except the story that isn’t. And somehow over the next few years you (fairly easily) learned to distinguish between the two. But you still (again for the purposes of this post) continued to read stories, only now you called it fiction.

Why is that so? Why do people read fiction (or watch films) which they know not to be a real depiction of events? Isn’t the answer that fiction very often is true, even if it isn’t real. If you want to understand the human heart, read the novels of Dickens. Or Balzac. Or Trollope. Or…

The Bible is full of stories, in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. I expect you know the hymn, ‘Tell Me the Old Old Story’, which  was written by a member of the Clapham Sect, born just before Queen Victoria came to the throne. And now I will tell you a story about that:

This ex­cel­lent hymn by Miss Hank­ey, of Lon­don, has been trans­lat­ed in­to ma­ny lang­uage­s, and has been set to sev­er­al tunes. Dr. Doane has this to say re­gard­ing the mu­sic by which it has be­come pop­u­lar, and the oc­ca­sion on which he com­posed it: “In 1867 I was at­tend­ing the In­ter­na­tion­al Con­ven­tion of the Young Men’s Christ­ian As­so­ci­a­tion, in Mont­re­al. Among those pre­sent was Ma­jor-Gen­er­al Rus­sell, then in com­mand of the Eng­lish force dur­ing the Fen­i­an ex­cite­ment. He arose in the meet­ing and re­cit­ed the words of this song from a sheet of fools­cap pa­per—tears stream­ing down his bronzed cheeks as he read. I wrote the mu­sic for the song one hot af­ter­noon while on the stage-coach be­tween the Glen Falls House and the Craw­ford House in the White Mount­ains. That even­ing we sung it in the par­lors of the ho­tel. We thought it pret­ty, al­though we scarce­ly an­ti­ci­pat­ed the pop­u­lar­i­ty which was sub­se­quent­ly ac­cord­ed it.” Sankey, pp. 256-7

Human beings love stories. Mark seems in no doubt in his gospel that he is telling us a story. He gets off to a cracking start, not with the birth of Jesus, but his baptism by John. John, as it were, is the warm-up act for Jesus, who appears in verse 9. He is baptised (v9); the Spirit descends on him like a dove (v10); a voice from heaven says ‘thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased(v11); the Spirit drives him into the wilderness (v12); he is tempted by Satan during 40 days in the wilderness (v13); he comes into Galilee and begins to preach (v14). How’s that for narrative pace!

What are the miracles if not stories? At this point I want to persuade you to read, if you have not already done so, Jeffrey John’s book ‘The Meaning in the Miracles‘, published 10 years ago. Poignantly, it was chosen as Archbishop Rowan Williams’ Lent book for 2002, when he was still in Wales.

Jeffrey John brilliantly explains the layers of meaning in the miracles in a highly readable way, a page-turner in itself. He enables us to peel off the layers, as in an onion. But a special sort of onion, as described by the faun, Mr Tumnus, in ‘The Last Battle’: “like an onion: except that as you continue to go in and in, each circle is larger than the last.”

C S Lewis ends ‘The Last Battle’ with his idea about the story that we are all caught up in:

“And as He spoke, He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”


This post is based on a contribution as a digidisciple to the Big Bible website dated 5 October 2012, ‘Tell Me The Old Old Story’.

The main, Magritte-like, illustration is by Bruce Rolff, via Shutterstock. I chose it because of its mystery, and hint at hidden worlds yet to discover.

A New Study Bible

Translating the Bible

Those whose mother tongue is Arabic sometimes say rather smugly that no one else can truly understand the Koran, for they have to read it in translation. Those who say that the Bible is the literal word of God need perhaps also to take this into consideration: unless they can read and understand the Bible in its original Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic and Syriac, they are having to rely on the translations and interpretations of others. The Italians say ‘traduttore=traditore‘, in other words ‘a translator is a traitor‘. This is perhaps an overly dramatic way of expressing the problem, but problem there is.


Choosing a Bible

Just in my lifetime there have been an enormous number of new translations of the bible. Arguably the main Protestant ones have been:

  • RSV Revised Standard Version (1952)
  • NEB New English Bible (1961-NT)
  • GNT Good News Bible (1976)
  • NIV New International Version (1978)
  • NRSV New Revised Standard Version (1989)
  • CEV Contemporary English Version (1995)
  • MSG The Message (2002)


Why do you read the bible? When do you read the bible? And when do you hear the bible?

Depending on how you answer these questions, there will be a bible version to suit you.  To take my choices as an example – (though others will obviously choose differently): why do I read the bible? Well, why did Popeye eat his spinach? I don’t mean to be facetious, but for me the bible is meat, drink and spiritual sustenance.

Whether I am listening to the bible being read in church, or whether I am alone reading it for the inspiration of its message and beauty of its language, I very much prefer the Revised Standard Version or, for the best-loved passages, the King James version itself.


Study Bibles

However, many of us also read the bible together in a house group, or study it on our own, teasing out the meaning. This is when some of the newer versions come into their own. Particularly in the Old Testament, but also occasionally in the New, it is all too easy to get hung up on a particular phrase whose meaning is obscure and spend a long time pondering its meaning. Instead, I suggest you take a leap. A leap of faith, if you like, in the translators who have laboured long to bring you the meaning of the text.

There is always ‘The Message‘, by Eugene Peterson. A previous reviewer of ‘The Voice’ compares the two:

It makes me think a little of The Message, and I like The Message… The Message was never intended to be read as The Word of God but as something to get people excited about God’s word and help them to think about it in today’s language. Eugene Peterson was quoted as saying, “When I’m in a congregation where somebody uses [The Message] in the Scripture reading, it makes me a little uneasy. I would never recommend it be used as saying, “Hear the Word of God from The Message.” But it surprises me how many do!” On the cover of The Voice it says, STEP INTO THE STORY OF SCRIPTURE. See it as just that, and I like it, see it as the STORY of Scripture. Use it to inspire you to dig deeper into The Word, but don’t use it as your only source for God’s Word.

What ‘The Voice’ translation of the New Testament offers, and the reason I am now adopting it as my own study bible, is that it is so readable. Although there is a reading plan at the beginning, allowing you to complete it in a set period, you could just as easily settle down to read it like any other book. The reason for its readability is that, whereas most translations attempt to even out the styles of the different authors in sentence structure and vocabulary, The Voice leaves the individual ‘voice’ to come through. And its narrative carries you on.

The editorial team included established writers, as well as biblical scholars, and together they have achieved a fluent whole. Where a dialogue is being described, the text appears as a playlet (allowing study groups easily to replicate the events as they must have occurred in real life, rather than as part of the narrative of a story.)

I recommend strongly that you try it.


The publishers, Thomas Nelson and the Ecclesia Bible Society, say:


The Voice™  Bible translation is a faithful dynamic translation of the Scriptures done as a collage of compelling narratives, poetry, song, truth, and wisdom. The Voice calls the reader to step into the whole story of Scripture and experience the joy and wonder of God’s revelation. Created for and by a church in great transition, The Voice uniquely represents collaboration among scholars, pastors, writers, musicians, poets, and other artists, giving great attention to the beauty of the narrative. The heart of The Voice is retelling the story of the Bible in a form as fluid as modern literary works yet remaining painstakingly true to the original manuscripts. This translation promotes the public reading of longer sections of Scripture—followed by thoughtful engagement with the biblical narrative in its richness and fullness and dramatic flow…

Features include:

  • Italicized information added to help contemporary readers understand what the original readers would have known intuitively
  • In-text commentary notes include cultural, historical, theological, or devotional thoughts
  • Screenplay format, ideal for public readings and group studies
  • Book introductions

A House Group for the Global Village? (Join Lay Anglicana for Lent)

We are social animals

It is a truism to say that we live in a global village – my twitterverse and blogosphere (and I  imagine yours as well) include residents of Australia, Canada, Guatemala, New Zealand and the USA. These ‘groups’ are permeable, transitory and fluid.  Because my major interest is in Christianity, and I am guessing that if you read this website yours is too, it seems likely that many of the people in our separate groups overlap. This is truly a ‘Big Society’!

‘Genesis…tells us of the provenance of human society in a world in which it is not good to be alone. Adam and Eve’s togetherness is fundamental to who they are; it is the state in which they exist, not chosen but given…our social state is just as real and …there is no way of escaping it; we are social creatures whether we like it or not…Hooker…reasoned that…rich forms of being together were necessary if people were to be true to their human nature. ..Four centuries later William Temple said much the same thing…[they] contend that alone none of us can live the life we aspire to: we need other people to make up for what we lack. A life lived in profound relationship with others is a successful life.’

So say Malcolm Turnbull and Donald McFadyen in ‘The state of the Church and the Church of the State‘.


A house group for Lent

If you accept this, it is understandable that when we study the Bible, many of us like to exchange ideas with others about the interpretation of texts that are nearly two thousand years old, and almost no one is reading in the original language. Hence, in part, the Big Bible Project and the Big Read 2012.

This year, we at Lay Anglicana thought that we would try to form a permeable, transitory and fluid house group on our forum to join the Big Read 2012 in studying Mark’s gospel and Tom Wright’s book. There is something rather special about joining in with people from all over the world to discuss the same gospel extract on the same day: we will really set the ether buzzing!

The idea is to use the existing Lay Anglicana Forum. One or two people have suggested possibly more exciting ideas such as Skype, MSN and Google+. It is true that forums (OK, fora!) are “so five years ago” as someone said, but they have the advantage of offering the time for considered assessment and still seem to work well for the Ship of Fools, who have been discussing John’s gospel since 2006 and have only just reached Chapter 6 they have so much to say to each other! Their discussion is on the Kerygmania  board, and is extremely erudite. I hope that we will take our ‘Goldilocks theology’ line from Tom Wright so that any erudite theologians amongst us will temper their exegetic wind to the shorn lambs in the group!


Please join us

If you would like to join us, I am afraid you will need to register as a member of the forum here. I am sorry that it is necessary to ask you to do this, but spam members and comments have made it necessary. (This is not an ulterior way of recruiting you as permanent members – I will cheerfully cancel your membership after Lent if you would like me to do so!). You may find it helpful to get a copy of Tom Wright’s book on Mark, but it is not essential as we will be putting up the relevant extract for each day, together with Professor Wright’s translation of the relevant verses.


How it works

I am hoping the mechanics need not be too complicated. We will ask you to begin by reading the chosen extract from Mark each day, either from your own Bibles or from Professor Wright’s translation.  The relevant Wright text for the day will be posted on the forum (in maroon typeface to distinguish it from our comments) There will be podcasts. We will then discuss. Let’s hope it works!


The illustration is ‘The Word’ by Tim Coleman via 12Baskets. He says:

The image is about the Bible. It rests on the earth; Scroll = old testament; pages = new testament; dove = inspiration of the Holy Spirit; Tree = root of Jesse; Pathway = Highway of holiness; Signpost = John the Baptist; path way leads to the cross the tomb and the Heavenly city; God the creator speaks (top RH corner)


This post was originally written for the Big Bible Project, for whom I write as a digidisciple.


I wish to record our thanks to SPCK, the publishers, and 12Baskets for enabling us to post the extracts from Tom Wright’s book on the forum.

We All Dance To The Music Of Time

The Sardana

In Barcelona’s Plaça de Sant Jaume, there is always a group of people dancing the Sardana. According to wikipedia, this dance was banned during the Franco régime as a Catalan nationalist symbol, but in this at least they are wrong, for in 1965  I was among a group of students who went to the square and joined in the dance for a few minutes. It is not as easy as it looks, and we soon dropped out in favour of watching instead. I am tempted to say, looking at the age of the participants in this youtube video, that some of them look as if they have themselves been dancing continuously since 1965 but, generally speaking, the dance goes on while the dancers come and go to the music of time.

The River that is Twitter

This is how I think about social media, twitter in particular. You can decide to while away the afternoon in the twittersphere but you cannot predict what turn the conversation will take. Beyond the rule about 140 characters, every twitter session is different. Sometimes it is like watching one of those complicated opera arias, with perhaps four different people singing their hearts out about completely different topics simultaneously. It is exhilarating -and sometimes surreal- to try and participate in four conversations at once, with subjects ranging from the sublime to the mundane. Sometimes there are a dozen or more taking part in or looking in on the same conversation. But there are also conversations which take place in different time zones. If someone in the USA tells a joke at tea time, you may be asleep and unable to LOL or even ROFL until the following morning, perhaps ten hours later, by which time any repartee you can offer has rather lost its point. My twitter stream may be more homogenous than some people’s, because I choose to follow chiefly those involved in the Church or politics. I like the fact that most of the people I follow are also followed by the people who follow me (still with me?), in other words I enjoy being part of a network, which others in the network also seem to enjoy.


You Cannot Step into the Same River Twice

But, as Heraclitus  almost pointed out, you cannot step into the same twitter session twice. If you have a conversation over breakfast with a group of congenial people, you cannot pick up the conversation over dinner. This is partly because the twittersphere, like the river, has moved on. But it is also because you have moved on. You are a different person at dinner from the one you were at breakfast, albeit infinitesimally so. The cells in your body have changed and the world has changed with you. Wait a week, a month or a year and the differences are more marked.


What Has All This to do with the Christian Life?

In case you are wondering whether I am ever going to get to the point – whether indeed there is a point to this post –  here it is: we have just begun what is for me my 63rd church year. On the face of it, when it is the sixty-third time you have been told a story, you might think it is difficult to pay attention, let alone get excited. BUT I am not the same person – I have been a different person every year for the last sixty-three years. And it is not the same story. The story changes every year because I see different things in it.

Brother Charles, an American Franciscan priest, expresses this better than I possibly can, and will I hope not mind my quoting him:

…we exist in time, but God is eternal. So there is no before or after with God; there is nothing that God is doing tomorrow that he is not doing now. With God there is only a Now, a nunc stans¸ as the scholastic theologians liked to say… This is why the presence of God  always seems new and fresh, and is refreshing for the soul, because God is always Now. This arriving presence in our hearts is the real desire of our souls—a desire we so often squander on things that are less than God and will not satisfy…   Let’s begin again, for the first time, to wait for the God who wants to speak the Word of his own self from within each of us.



This post was written for The Big Bible Project as a Digidisciple on 5 December 2011.

The photograph of a Sardana was taken at La Verema in September 2010 by  Natursports /

The picture is by Nicolas Poussin, A Dance to the Music of Time, which formed the title and  backdrop to the Anthony Powell series of the same name about a group of people over a period of years, and is made available by wikimedia under a creative commons licence.

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