This is now my HOME page. Click the link for my continuing work as a
until my retirement after Easter 2019
My current writing project to begin my retirement is to prepare sample sermons and discussion notes for each Sunday's Old and New Testament readings in the Common Lectionary. These will be available as a FREE DOWNLOAD every 3 months for you to print and use, starting at PENTECOST 2019 (9th June: Year C). These are the 'virtual' sermons I would have preached if anyone asked me to!
Click HERE for an Easter Day sample, available in March, and the first 3 months download available from after Easter.
Offering an unconventional perspective on the set lessons for the Christian year and aimed especially at those looking for new angles and ideas, whether you are preaching yourself or just interested in 'hearing' something new. Intended to give encouragement to those who do not believe in the traditional interventionist God or evangelical certainties, but who are still drawn to the 'Way' of Jesus and want to approach the Bible passages with an enquiring, creative and C21st mind.
Click below for a more detailed Introduction.
'Know then thyself, presume not God to scan;
The proper study of mankind is Man'
(Alexander Pope 1678-1744)
Christianity has tended to put 'God' into a box, all neatly tied up with Trinitarian string. 'There you are. That's God. Almighty. All-powerful. All male. Tick. Sorted'. I blame Michaelangelo! That just doesn't work anymore. Most people are now non-Theists as traditionally understood even if they recognise a sense of mystery in the Universe. Other traditions talk more of a 'breath' or a 'spirit' of life in all things or of God as 'being-itself' not 'a' Being (Tillich). Images that are open-ended not closed or patriarchcal may now be more helpful: an eternal flow or a spiral (from Heraclitis to Richard Rohr).
'I still count myself in Jesus’ family (just!) because, like him, I am human too. But I often find it hard to see him in the ‘Christ’ of the church. We don’t need all these complex metaphysical ideas any more. But we can seek to be like him, walk in his Way and turn the idea of wholeness into reality; the Word made into flesh, now, in us, not just in him'.
(From 'The Apostate's Creed'- see FREE DOWNLOADS)
Many of us feel we are 'in exile' or 'on the boundary'; not wanting to abandon the church altogether but unconvinced by its historic doctrines, patriarchal language and sometimes outdated values. Since the Bible books were written and the doctrines of Christianity were created, we have discovered science and the rest of the Universe. Many of the assumptions made centuries ago no longer apply. It's not always easy to keep going and some of my fellow-travellers will think I am way off course. But once you turn 'God' into a thing, an object, an idol that we have made, I believe you get lost - especially if you are sure that your way is the only way. That was not, for me, the Way of Jesus.
All our statements about God are metaphors and similes. They do not describe such a deeper reality 'literally'. We have to go 'beyond Theism' (Spong) if we are to find any deeper understanding of 'God'. The religious systems we have created cannot contain this idea of a ground beyond our being. It's those who claim to know all about God 'personally' or to speak directly on his behalf who worry me. Those who effectively worship the Bible, or any other human idea, as if it were God. Then religions can become dangerous, authoritarian and oppressive; the very opposite of what is good for us.
The focus for me is the human Jesus: what he taught and how his death helps us to deal with suffering. This is the new icon above the nave of Lichfield Cathedral, made by the Bethlehem Icon Centre as part of the centenary of the end of WW1. I use it as a source of personal meditation and as a statement of solidarity with oppressed communities and those experiencing injustice. Jesus invites us to look around to see evidence of the 'kingdom'. A 'Godlike', inclusive, spirit-filled way to live; but all about this life, not a supposed next one.
I recently visited the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. The centrepiece is a massive circular war memorial with two group sculptures. Each of them shows muddied and frightened figures gently bearing away a dead and naked man from the battlefield. A school party was there and one of the children asked her teacher, 'Is that Jesus'? The answer, of course, is 'Yes'. Indeed that was in the mind of the sculptor. That human Jesus is where I have to focus. The rest is commentary and speculation.
OTHER PEOPLE'S BOOKS:
'God in Us: A Case for Christian Humanism' by Anthony Freeman, (SCM 1993, Imprint Academic 2001). A short, clear and no doubt still controversial summary of the idea that 'God' does not have to mean what it usually means for Christianity to still have value. Let go of the old God and you may find a new language that actually makes sense in the modern world. Unless we find new ways to tell the Christian story it will simply be ignored by those who cannot believe its claims anymore.
‘Biblical Literalism: A Gentile Heresy’ by John Shelby Spong, (Harper Collins 2016). This book is a magnificent reinterpretation of Matthew’s Gospel. Spong asks us to get back to the original context, steeped in Jewish liturgical life. Much of Christian orthodoxy has to go if there is to be any chance of finding a faith about Jesus that is compatible with what we now know to be true about the world and about ourselves. The gospels are each a response to the life of Jesus, not just a tape recording of what he 'actually said'. That makes a huge difference to how we can approach them today.
'Through Mud and Barbed Wire' by Mel Thompson, (see also his website: http://www.mel-thompson.co.uk/index.html). Timed to coincide wth the 100 years anniversary of the ending of WW1. The stories of Teilhard de Chardin and Paul Tillich. On opposite sides in the same bloody battle and both later huge theological thinkers. Interwoven with the author's own story and, at many points, with mine. Not always easy reading but well worth the effort.
Make a loan. Change a life. Click the link above to find out how you can get involved in supporting small businesses in developing countries with microloans that repay themselves so you can lend the same money again!
I am retiring during the summer term after almost 30 years working in education welfare. Read more about why at RETIREMENT. The attendance content of this website will then be closed down once the final round of FORUM Training Attendance Officer courses have taken place, (see link below).
Until then I am still committed to promoting a welfare-based and strategic approach to ATTENDANCE, not only a focus on improving the figures. I will offer you an informed and independent voice that gives you real practical help in carrying out your statutory duties and which seeks to promote more effective solutions for those children and young people who most need them.
But there is more to life than work so my HOME page now reflects my other main interest. Can Christianity and its central figure mean anything to those who are not convinced that conventional ideas of 'God' take us where we need to go as modern, thoughtful, rational human beings? This will be the continuing subject of my website once I have retired.
FEEDBACK AND COMMENT are always very welcome.
ALL INFORMATION AND ADVICE PROVIDED ON THIS WEBSITE, AND IN RELATED RESOURCES AND EVENTS, IS GIVEN IN GOOD FAITH AND IS TRUE AND ACCURATE TO THE BEST OF MY KNOWLEDGE AND BELIEF. HOWEVER NO LIABILTY IS ACCEPTED FOR ANY ADVERSE CONSEQUENCES ARISING THEREFROM OR FOR ANY IMPLICATIONS OF UNINTENDED ERRORS. I HAVE BOTH PUBLIC LIABILITY AND PROFESSIONAL INDEMNITY INSURANCE.