Sunday, 27 December 2009

Trumpet Angels

I went to church this morning (I know, I know... but I am a minister), and there was a very beautiful 'Christmas banner' adorning the front of the church. It had three feminine angels blowing three elegant trumpets. Lovely.


... What has this to do with Christmas????

Out of sheer awkwardness I asked a few people, and they said (and I parapharase), "well... Angels... Christmas... innit?"

Well... yes, but not angels with trumpets!
When angels are happy they sing, when they are trouble, they blow trumpets.

The angels who appear to the shepherds washing their socks by night are singing:

Luke 2:13-14 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!"

Angels with trumpets come from, you guessed it - the book of Revelation!

Revelation 8:2 And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them.

Revelation 8:6-9 Now the seven angels who had the seven trumpets made ready to blow them. The first angel blew his trumpet, and there came hail and fire, mixed with blood, and they were hurled to the earth; and a third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up. The second angel blew his trumpet, and something like a great mountain, burning with fire, was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea became blood, a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.

And so on, and so on, and so on...

When I pointed this out, I was asked by those close to me to keep quiet, and stop spoiling Christmas.

Bah Humbug.

But watch out for those angels with trumpets...

Friday, 18 December 2009

Postcards from the wall #12

Here's the latest in my series of postcards from my study wall...

With thanks to Christine and Harry.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Poor Joseph...

Read more at Ekklesia

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Postcards from the Wall #11

Here's the latest in my series of postcards from my study wall...

Saturday, 12 December 2009


I popped into Crane's music store in Cardiff yesterday to buy a new guitar stand. They had this very clever folding unit reduced from £14.99 to a fiver, so I bought it.

When I got it out of the packet, I started unfolding, and trying to work out which bit went where.

After a few seconds of fumbling around, Liz said to me, 'Why don't you just read the instructions?!?'.

So I did.

It was very enlightening...

Here they are (and I quote exactly!):

  • One: The prototype of the foldaway guitar rack
  • Two: Step One Take the top of the circle head and from the top downward to the fix side
  • Three: Step two Take the middle A type horizontal pole and from the left and right sides to the fix side
  • Four: Step three Put the guitar at the rack and from ascend toward front to the fix side
  • Five: Step four Take the empress feet rack and from the front hereafter revolve to the fix side
  • Six: Step five Take the forepaw rack and from empress to front to the fix side
  • Fold then take the above steps and anti face operation.Please take the steps of the operation,in order to prevent damage the products.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

He's not the Messiah, he's a very naughty boy!

You have 7 days left to listen on iPlayer to the BBC tribute to the iconic Python film, broadcast in honour of it's 30th anniversary. The BBC blurb is as follows:

When Monty Python's Life Of Brian was released in 1979, it was denounced by many around the world as blasphemous - and was an instant box office smash. Thirty years later it is regularly voted one of the funniest films ever, topping a Radio Times poll only last month.

Comedian Sanjeev Bhaskar celebrates this anarchic British classic, looking at the film's origins, the shoot in Tunisia, and its controversial afterlife. The Python film is an absurdist take on the story of Christ, where a man called Brian (played by Graham Chapman) is mistaken for the Messiah and attempts to escape the attentions of his devoted followers. It is a deft satire on religious intolerance which brilliantly lampooned Biblical epics like Ben Hur.

George Harrison stepped in with the money, setting up Handmade films to get it made, because he wanted to see the film. And it gave us many unforgettable scenes and peerless lines: John Cleese's Roman Legionnaire correcting Brian's Latin graffiti; "What have the Romans ever done for us?", "Welease Woger" and the singalong crucifixion finale.

Contributors include the film's director Terry Jones; producer John Goldstone; Carol Cleveland; and Sonia Jones, who sang the title song. We hear Michael Palin recall the moment of inspiration in a Paris bar; Terry Gilliam talks about his fantasy space ship animation; John Cleese remembers the pain of being "crucified" in Tunisia; Carol Cleveland recalls working with Spike Milligan (he made a cameo appearance as a prophet); and Eric Idle remembers the less then enthusiastic response to Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Top ten biblical deaths

John Lyons asks for suggestions towards a 'top 10' of biblical deaths.

Here's my list (NB I have omitted the death of Jesus on the grounds of cliché).
  1. Death by hailstone: Joshua 10:11 As they fled before Israel, while they were going down the slope of Beth-horon, the LORD threw down huge stones from heaven on them as far as Azekah, and they died; there were more who died because of the hailstones than the Israelites killed with the sword.
  2. Death on a campsite: Judges 4:21 Jael wife of Heber took a tent peg, and took a hammer in her hand, and went softly to him and drove the peg into his temple, until it went down into the ground -- he was lying fast asleep from weariness -- and he died.
  3. Death by sexism: Judges 9:53-54 But a certain woman threw an upper millstone on Abimelech's head, and crushed his skull. Immediately he called to the young man who carried his armor and said to him, "Draw your sword and kill me, so people will not say about me, 'A woman killed him.'" So the young man thrust him through, and he died.
  4. Death by man: Judges 20:5-6 The lords of Gibeah rose up against me, and surrounded the house at night. They intended to kill me, and they raped my concubine until she died. Then I took my concubine and cut her into pieces, and sent her throughout the whole extent of Israel's territory; for they have committed a vile outrage in Israel.
  5. Death by lack of perspective: 1 Samuel 4:17-18 The messenger replied, "Israel has fled before the Philistines, and there has also been a great slaughter among the troops; your two sons also, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the ark of God has been captured." When he mentioned the ark of God, Eli1 fell over backward from his seat by the side of the gate; and his neck was broken and he died.
  6. Death by loyalty: 1 Samuel 31:5 When his armor-bearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell upon his sword and died with him.
  7. Death by stomach upset: 2 Chronicles 21:18-19 After all this the LORD struck him in his bowels with an incurable disease. In course of time, at the end of two years, his bowels came out because of the disease, and he died in great agony.
  8. Death by idolatry: Acts 12:23 And immediately, because he had not given the glory to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.
  9. Death by environmental devastations: Revelation 16:3 The second angel poured his bowl into the sea, and it became like the blood of a corpse, and every living thing in the sea died.
  10. Death of Death: Revelation 20:14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire;

Monday, 23 November 2009

The News Quiz on Thought For The Day

As an occasional contributor to Radio 2's Pause for Thought, my ears pricked up when Radio 4's The News Quiz offered comment on the recent debate about whether Atheists should contribute to Thought For The Day.

Highlights include:
  • I hate Dawkins, he's a fundamentalist atheist. He's a Jehovah's-I-Never-Saw-Nothin'
And the wonderful cliched TFTD/PFT opening line of:
  • I was mowing the lawn, and I thought, this is just like Jesus!

Anyway, you can listen to the clip here:

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Some Good Advice from Bishop Alan

revmusings points to this great post from Bishop Alan:

30 years ordained this year, and someone asked me what I thought I’d learnt. That conversation gave birth to a few stray thoughts on the back of an envelope. It would be rather grand to call them laws of Vicaring, but here goes (in no particular order of importance):
  1. If someone says Jesus has healed their wooden leg, rejoice, but be sure to kick them in the shins first, just to make sure.

  2. If you get away with it and it works, fine. If it doesn’t and they catch you, just cough up cheerfully and enjoy all the times you got away with it

  3. Do the job you’re doing now with all your heart, not the one you used to do in your last parish, or hope to do in your next. Time flies when you’re having fun...

  4. Don't ask until you’ve worked out the question. Only ask people questions they are likely to answer in the way you want. Also, Don't ask when the baby is due until the new lady in Church has actually told you she is pregnant. Never ask a Lawyer “Can we do this?” The question is always “How can we do this?”

  5. Pick up the bloody phone! (This applies to outgoing as well as incoming calls)

  6. You do not have their P45's in your back pocket, so always explain, always apologise

  7. Make the other lot line up with their own rulebook, and have a go at doing so yourself before you propose change

  8. Be extremely loyal to your predecessors. They are your most powerful secret weapon, along with people who pray quietly at home.

  9. Schedule your free time as zealously as you would a funeral. Your family are the closest members of the body of Christ. Strive not to be toxic to them, and remember they didn't ask to have you for a parent.

  10. Beware Grand Designs, especially your own. Dolus latet in generalibus — the Devil's in the detail, along with the delight...

  11. You can't argue with whining, but you can with anger. Damaged, angry people have their own reward. Bless ’em all.

  12. Rigid faith is often brittle. In the Kingdom the first often come last and the last first. You are not God's minders, or managers, but guides who should strive to be reliable and trustworthy (I Corinthians 4)

  13. You inherited far more than you realise. Before you go buy a new tool, check the old toolbox you seldom use and nine times out of ten you've already got one. Revolution by tradition!

  14. All constructive change works from the inside out — “You can sleep in the Garage, but it don't make you an automobile” (Billy Graham?)

  15. This job is about the how and why of people’s lives, including your own. You accomlish far more long term than you think, and far less in the here and now: “I think I've far exceeded what I ever thought I could possibly do. I'm almost shocked that I'm still around after all these years . . . and always grateful that I get another turn to do something.” (Billy Crystal)
So... what extra rules for ministry would you add to Bishop Alan's list?

I'll add 'Laurie's First and Second Laws of Church Dynamics', named in honour of an elder at my former church:
  • Church members aren't stupid, you know.
  • The response you get from the deacons will mirror the response you get from the church meeting.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Mass We Pray

At last! A truly Christian game for the Wii...

The blurb says:
"The wireless CROSS controller detects movement in three dimensions. Every twist of the hand and nuance of a blessing is re-created on-screen. Then add the KNEELER accessory and get off the couch and into the action."

See the video advert here

If only I had a Wii...

Thanks to the Bellinghams for spotting this.

Some more reviews of my book

A couple of reviews of my Revelation book have come my way in recent weeks; so here they are for posterity:

The Epworth Review, July 2009
Revelation is a passionate book, which over the centuries has evoked a passionate, and sometimes dangerously unbalanced, enthusiasm in its readers. Simon Woodman is a self-confessed enthusiast about Revelation, but his enthusiasm is informed by a meticulous scholarship and a clear wish to allow his readers to draw their own conclusions. Woodman is a skilled teacher (he is a tutor at a Baptist theological college), and he is an excellent guide to what remains for many readers of the Bible unexplored territory.
The Book of Revelation has been written with second- and third-year university students in mind, and has a wealth of footnotes as well as diagrams and tables, but its lively and accessible style, and its concern with today’s context, makes it an engaging read also for the non-specialist reader.
After three relatively short introductory chapters, the book’s central section is entitled ‘Meeting the Characters’, in which the dramatic character of Revelation and the interplay between heaven and earth as the scene of action, is well presented. A final section, ‘Engaging the Imagery’, takes the reader through the whole of Revelation; its thematic headings (‘Heaven’s perspective on . . . the church, prayer, history’ and so on ) do not do justice to Revelation’s very complex structure, but the text contains a wealth of useful commentary material.
Woodman is aware that not everyone shares his enthusiasm for Revelation, and though his usual method is to present the evidence and leave his readers to assess it for themselves, he does seek to defend Revelation against those who have found its lurid descriptions of judgement offensive. His argument that these passages represent a cry for deliverance rather than for vengeance is largely convincing, although some readers will not be wholly convinced that Woodman has dealt adequately with the difficult idea of ‘the wrath of the Lamb’ or Revelation’s apparent delight in retribution when oppressors are ‘given . . . blood to drink. It is their due!’
Overall, however, this book is to be warmly commended. It is well written. It is a mine of information for preachers and for students. And it consistently encourages us to decide how we respond to Revelation’s vision.
Christina Le Moignan.

Regent's Reviews, October 2009
The Apocalypse of John is not the kind of text that gives the impression of being in need of protection. The work’s rhetorical mode is quite clearly one of confident assertion in relation to ‘what must take place’ (4.1). Letter and vision, prophecy and apocalypse, image and metaphor all combine in this work by ‘pounding its audience with image after image, special effect after special effect. And in so doing, it seeks to transform the way they look at the world in which they live.’
But Revelation does need some interpretative protection, and Simon Woodman, who understands this text so well, whether as an ancient apocalypse, formative influence on subsequent church history or ongoing resource for theological reflection, is an excellent guide to its use and misuse. In short, in this volume he provides an excellent, accessible guide to anyone who wishes to engage in detailed study of this complex text.
The book is divided into three sections. The first part offers an orientation to Revelation as a whole. Woodman skilfully and with enviable brevity steers the reader through the basic terrain of scholarship: what kind of text is Revelation? What are the most appropriate ways if interpreting it? How do we make sense of its main structural features? For those who need it, there is a clear account of the possible relationship of Revelation to human history. The following chapter, turns into an excellent summary of the whole work in which Woodman helps us to discern the role of the narrator in the text.
Section 2 is perhaps the most creative part of the work. Woodman suggests that greater attention to the main characters in the heavenly drama portrayed in Revelation will help us discern its central themes. In this he largely succeeds, and anyone looking for a structure around which they might develop four sermons on Revelation, could do a lot worse than work with the material in these chapters. The chapter on the ‘Forces of Evil’ should be required reading by anyone who claims to understand the identity of the beast!
Section 3 picks up themes from Revelation that Woodman believes are relevant to issues of contemporary discipleship. The counter-imperial identity of the Church, perspectives on economic and environmental questions, and the challenge of martyrdom are all explored sensitively and with one eye on the present challenges facing the church. If I have a criticism, it is that Woodman does not directly address the issue of violence in Revelation, although there are comments that implicitly suggest potential ways of treating that thorny issue hermeneutically.
In that as in other areas that are discussed in his lively, helpful treatment, Revelation does need some protection. Too often it has been used to prop up notions of divine action, prophetic activity, historical description and Christian mission that take no account of its contextual location in the fraught world of the earliest Christian movement, and in the fascinating genre of literature that we call apocalyptic. Through a mixture of careful scholarship and engagement with contemporary culture Woodman manages to offer the reader an invaluable guide, and to offset in the text much of the interpretative protection that it needs.
Sean Winter, Uniting Church Theological, College, Melbourne

Regent's Reviews, October 2009
We are fortunate indeed that Baptist scholars are in the forefront of recent writing on the Book of Revelation. Alongside Simon Woodman’s fine SCM ‘Core Text’ volume, we now have Stephen Finamore’s book based on his doctoral thesis on Girard and the Apocalypse. . .
Rob Ellis, Regent's Park College

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

The future of academic diversity

Letter sent to: Paul Bowler ( and Patricia Broadfoot (

Dear Sir,
This letter is triggered by the news that Lloyd Pietersen, Senior Lecturer and Research Coordinator in New Testament Studies in the Department of Humanities, has been made redundant.
The University of Gloucestershire has a strong tradition of research in the field of Biblical Studies and Theology, and a strategic reduction of this facility in the interests of short term financial gain is in my opinion a retrograde step which will only serve to harm the national and international standing of your University in the long term.
The decision to dismiss Dr Pietersen sends a signal far beyond the immediate discipline of Theology, as it indicates that the University of Gloucestershire is now an institution which is prepared to lose world-class scholars regardless of their contribution in terms of research, teaching and supervision. This instability will inevitably cause those who might consider studying with yourselves to reconsider that decision and go elsewhere. It may appear that a minority department such as Theology and Biblical Studies is an obvious 'soft target' for cost saving, but the reduction of academic diversity which this entails is a decision which will be detrimental to the University as a whole.
With this in mind, I would strongly urge you to reconsider your decision, and to follow the recent example of Sheffield University and instead recommit yourselves to once again positioning the University of Gloucestershire as a class-leading centre for study and research in Theology and Biblical Studies.
Yours faithfully,

The Sean Winter Memorial Malt

Caption Competition (a glass of Winter Ardbeg to the winner!)

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Literal or Metaphorical?

Click for full-size picture

HT John Lyons

Thursday, 5 November 2009


I know I've posted this before, but I am ridiculously pleased with it...

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Check out South Wales Baptists

Nick Bradshaw (Team Leader, South Wales Baptist Association) is blogging regularly over at South Wales Baptists.
Worth a visit.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Postcards from the wall #9

Here's the ninth in my series of postcards from my study wall:

Sunday, 25 October 2009

What's your superpower?

A discussion with our God-daughter over the weekend led to a 'What's your superpower?' conversation.

I decided mine was
  • Sarcasm: I have the ability to crush people with a single sentence.
My auxiliary superpower?
  • Cynicism: I can see straight through you.
However, none of this comes close to the superpower I covet the most (courtesy of ASBO Jesus)

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Another Result!

Thursday, 15 October 2009

A Result!

Some fantastic news...

Following my post last week about the bleak future of Sheffield University's Biblical Studies Department, the University have done a complete U-Turn. This is just great news.

The following statement is from the University:

"University of Sheffield Statement on the Department of Biblical Studies

The University of Sheffield has today confirmed its position with regard to the future of the Department of Biblical Studies. In the light of concerns regarding inadequate consultation, as well as feedback from staff and students, the Department of Biblical Studies is no longer under review and a proposal that it should be reconfigured as a Postgraduate Centre has been withdrawn.

Instead the University has asked the Faculty of Arts and Humanities to consider, as a matter of urgency, a short, medium and longer term plan for the Department. With regard to the undergraduate intake for 2010, the University can confirm that it will recruit students for this year onto single and dual honours degrees in Biblical Studies. The Faculty of Arts and Humanities are working with colleagues to ensure that these students are appropriately supported, including through the recruitment of additional staff.

Looking to the future, the University recognises the outstanding reputation of the Department of Biblical Studies in Sheffield for scholarship and a superb student experience, and has confidence that all concerned will work together to enhance this for future students.

Professor Mike Braddick
Pro-Vice-Chancellor for the Faculty of Arts and Humanities"

Friday, 9 October 2009

Mitchell and Webb on Door to Door Evangelism

This is a great clip from That Mitchell and Webb Sound...
Door to door evangelism the way it should be done!

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Sheffield 'Bibs' Department Under Threat

As reported by Jim West, the Sheffield University Biblical Studies Department is under threat.
Here is the letter I have sent to the Vice Chancellor.
You can email him too at

Prof. Keith Burnett

The University of Sheffield

Dear Prof. Burnett,

I am writing to express my dismay at the news that the Sheffield Biblical Studies Department is facing the threat of closure, either total or partial. I owe many things to the 'Bibs' department, ranging from meeting my wife there, to the superb education which I received at the hands of the first class teaching staff.

My three years in the department as an undergraduate fixed the trajectory for my professional career, and I am deeply troubled that young adults may now be denied the unique opportunities that a dedicated Biblical Studies department such as yours offers.

Sheffield University is to be congratulated on its historic innovation in founding and fostering such a department, a decision which has been vindicated innumerable times. The reputation of the department has been consistently high, both in terms of undergraduate teaching and postgraduate research. The field of Biblical Studies, and the wider discipline of theology, owes a debt of gratitude to Sheffield University for this.

With this in mind, I would strongly urge you not to lose this vital and unique department, which continues to offer so much to the worldwide academic community.

Yours sincerely,

Wednesday, 7 October 2009


Some MBTI thoughts:
  • Is IJST the theological journal for ISTJs?
  • Was Moses a JEDP?
  • Was Jesus an NRSV?

Conservativising the Bible

A Wikipedia-style group editing project has been proposed to 'conservativise' the Bible...

You can join the fun at

Here's the groundrules:
1. Framework against Liberal Bias: providing a strong framework that enables a thought-for-thought translation without corruption by liberal bias
2. Not Emasculated: avoiding unisex, "gender inclusive" language, and other modern emasculation of Christianity
3. Not Dumbed Down: not dumbing down the reading level, or diluting the intellectual force and logic of Christianity; the NIV is written at only the 7th grade level[3]
4. Utilize Powerful Conservative Terms: using powerful new conservative terms as they develop;[4] defective translations use the word "comrade" three times as often as "volunteer"; similarly, updating words which have a change in meaning, such as "word", "peace", and "miracle".
5. Combat Harmful Addiction: combating addiction by using modern terms for it, such as "gamble" rather than "cast lots";[5] using modern political terms, such as "register" rather than "enroll" for the census
6. Accept the Logic of Hell: applying logic with its full force and effect, as in not denying or downplaying the very real existence of Hell or the Devil.
7. Express Free Market Parables; explaining the numerous economic parables with their full free-market meaning
8. Exclude Later-Inserted Liberal Passages: excluding the later-inserted liberal passages that are not authentic, such as the adulteress story
9. Credit Open-Mindedness of Disciples: crediting open-mindedness, often found in youngsters like the eyewitnesses Mark and John, the authors of two of the Gospels
10. Prefer Conciseness over Liberal Wordiness: preferring conciseness to the liberal style of high word-to-substance ratio; avoid compound negatives and unnecessary ambiguities; prefer concise, consistent use of the word "Lord" rather than "Jehovah" or "Yahweh" or "Lord God."

In true Wikipedia style, you can track back additions and deletions.

For some reason, the following proposed translation of Genesis 1 was fairly quickly scheduled for deletion:

Genesis 1.1 In the beginning, God did a cost/benefit analysis and decided that social collectivism was the only sustainable economic paradigm and that the only people that actually go to hell are sinister, self-absorbed, greedy myopic fascists such as those that created Conservapedia.

Go Deep

A great cartoon courtesy of Polly. Click it for a better quality image.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009


Meet Crystal and Annie, our two new pet rats.
We bought them for each other to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary, hence the names.
They are the latest in a line of rats who we have cared for over the years.
It all began with Ara Rat, then we had Rattle and Hum, and most recently Revel and Rolo.

p.s. I did also buy Liz a necklace!

Friday, 2 October 2009

Postcards from the wall #8

Here's the eighth in my series of postcards from my study wall:

Thursday, 24 September 2009

A Square Peg in a Round Hole

A square peg in a round hole
A spiritual misfit
Never fully belonging
Never quite at home

Always one step ahead
or one step behind

The cynical edge
The questioning glance

Is this what it means
to be a prophet?
Is this what it means
to be a disciple of the Son of Man
who had nowhere to lay his head?
Is this what it means
to be a follower of the mendicant misfit
who said: 'A prophet has no honour at home'...?

a prophet with honour is never at home...
the call is to never settle
the call is to journey, to run, to hide, to escape

To forever be
the square peg in the round hole.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Cautiously Optimistic

I've just spent the last three days at The Hayes Conference Centre in Swanwick, attending my quinquennial (look it up!) 'Ministry Refresher Conference'.

As is usually the case for me, the high point is the people - catching up with old friends, and making new ones. That said, the Bible studies by Steve Finamore were excellent, and Rachel Haig gave a great opening address.

I have deliberately not spent the whole time with existing friends, and have made a conscious decision at mealtimes to sit on tables with people I don't know. The opening gambits of such conversations follow a pattern as regular and predictable as the opening moves of a game of chess:

1. e2-e4, e7-e5. Where are you from?

2. Ng1-f3, Nb8-c6. South Wales Baptist College.

3. Nb1-c3, Bf8-c5. Oh right... erm... how long have you been there?

4. Bf1-c4, Nc6-d4. I'm just starting my sixth year.

5. Nf3xe5, Qd8-g5. Oh right... erm... that's a long time! Gosh! How many years do you have to do?

6. Ne5xf7, Qg5xg2. Well it depends how long the Lord wants me to be there.

7. Rh1-f1, d7-d6. Oh right... erm... is that how it works at College these days?

8. Nf7xh8, Bc8-g4! Well it does if you're a tutor!

9. Bc8-g4. Oh right... erm... So, you're a tutor! Gosh, they get younger don't they! What do you teach?

10. Nc3-e2. Biblical Studies, mainly New Testament, and my research interest is the Book of Revelation.

11. Nd4-f3. Oh right... erm... Gosh! That's an interesting topic. I once preached through Revelation, well, the letters at the beginning and the end bit, not all that stuff in the middle!


And so on, and so on, and so on.....

But after this fairly standard execution of Pratt's trap (look it up!), things start to get interesting.

And what I have discovered through my unscientific random sample is, to my delight, that my colleagues in ministry are generally sensitive, intelligent, informed people, who think deeply about their faith and take their own spiritual development seriously. This, I think, is a cause for optimism...

The gathering was predominantly male, but with a good smattering of female ministers. It could be more, it should be more, but it's a good start.

I am pleased to be part of a Union which takes the care of its ministers seriously, by providing a conference such as this.

I am also left with a sense of renewed responsibility regarding my own role - as I have been reminded once again of the impact that those three short years in College have on the ministry of those who come to us for ministerial formation. Sometimes it can feel like I'm banging my head against the wall of students, but the evidence of the last three days is that the College years are incredibly formative. I have always felt my call to College was actually a call to the church, and the evidence is that this is so.

As I said, cautiously optimistic...

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

A busy month

My last month:
  • 1 day in Birmingham for a 'Women in Ministry Day' (184 miles by car)
  • 5 days in Cheltenham for Greenbelt (88 miles by car)
  • 4 days in Aberdeen for the British New Testament Conference (1,100 miles by plane)
  • 2 days in Manchester for a Baptist Colleges' Staff Conference (356 miles by train)
  • 4 days in Felixstowe for Liz's sister's wedding (436 miles by car)
  • 1 day in mid-Wales on a 'quiet day' finishing off with a Church meeting in Cardiff in the evening (147 miles by car)
  • 4 days in Cornwall as a holiday to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary (316 miles by car)
  • 3 days in Derbyshire on a Baptist Ministry Refresher Conference (306 miles by car)
  • 3 days in Felixstowe (again!) for Liz's sister's wedding reception (436 miles by car)
  • 5 days in Cardiff for work (360 miles by car - the normal commute!)

A Greenbelt Poem

Thanks to Helen for spotting this:

'Welcome to Greenbelt, Heidi and Chris' by Pádraig Ó Tuama from Greenbelt Festival on Vimeo.

Postcards from the wall #7

Here's the seventh in my series of postcards from my study wall:

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

A review of my book in The Expository Times

I've just discovered a great review of my book in the Expository Times.

Here it is:

Students of the New Testament will find an excellent and stimulating guide to the Apocalypse in Woodman’s SCM Core Text: The Book of Revelation. Woodman’s enthusiasm for Revelation shines through on every page. He skilfully engages aspects of recent culture: the capacity to re-imagine the world we inhabit, as in The Matrix, or the demand of impressionist art for us to stand back and not allow the larger picture to be obscured by the details. Failure to employ either strategy accounts for widespread misreadings of Revelation.

Woodman introduces us to differing reading strategies in a non-technical way, highlighting the merits and weaknesses of each. His sympathy for Brueggemann’s notion of ‘imaginative submission’ to the text is particularly suggestive. This does not mean that he fails to engage with the difficulties a text such as this raises.

A substantial section of his book introduces the various ‘characters’ of the Apocalypse ‘drama’, and their varying relationships to heaven and earth, the Lamb and Satan. Especially illuminating is his discussion of the bride of the Lamb. He reminds us of the promise inherent in the language of marriage: weddings normally herald beginnings rather than endings. One wonders how often interpreters of Revelation take this to heart!

Woodman is perhaps at his most interesting in his final chapters – Engaging the Imagery. Here he explores the difference that reading Revelation in a context of worship makes. He also builds on the work of scholars who have seen the potential of the Apocalypse for political and economic critique. Nor are environmental concerns lacking: though often read as a script for cosmic destruction, the Apocalypse might articulate an alternative theological view. God may be envisioned, not as a God of destruction, but of restoration and re-creation.

St Stephen’s House, Oxford

Monday, 7 September 2009

Postcards from the wall #6

Here's the sixth in my series of postcards from my study wall:

Finally - Prayer explained!

Mrs Betty Bowers, 'America's Best Christian', looks into a phenomenon sweeping the nation -- asking invisible people for all the stuff you're too lazy or cheap to get for yourself!

Some highlights to whet your appetite:
  • Amy Grant Topless
  • 3 homes = 3 x things to pray for
  • Jesus DOES play favourites
  • Baptist research confirms: Poor people must be doing something to piss God off
  • God is my ATM, Prayer is my PIN
  • I don't ask 'Why?' I just ask often!
  • Never forget to say 'Amen'. It's like 'Abracadabra'
Enjoy the video here:

HT: Ben.

Charity Commissioners definition of religion

I'm chair of a small charity (Friends of Radosc, if you're interested - check us out on the charity commission website), and I've been doing a bit of reading about 'Public Benefit' - apparently to exist as a charity, we have to be able to demonstrate that we fulfil the requirement to provide Public Benefit.

The Charity Commission website indicates that one of the criteria for Public Benefit is 'The Advancement of Religion'. So we're OK.

It then goes on to define Religion:

The advancement of religion

20. For the purposes of charity law, a religion is a system of belief that has certain characteristics that have been identified in case law and clarified in the Charities Act 2006. Section 2(3) of the Charities Act states that:

"religion includes:

  • a religion which involves a belief in more than one god, and
  • a religion which does not involve a belief in a god"
So... my question is...

What about belief in just one God?

Does this definition tacitly exclude all the great monotheistic faiths?

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Back from Greenbelt

A couple of years ago, my spiritual director asked me where I truly belonged, spiritually...
  • Was it my church? Kinda...
  • Was it the College? Also, Kinda...
  • Was it my housegroup? Sometimes...
  • Was it sharing a meal and fellowship with friends? Often...
And then it hit me, and brought a tear to my eye (which doesn't happen often)...
  • The place I truly belong, spiritually, is Greenbelt.
So, once again, we've been to Greenbelt...

At a session he presented with the (wonderful) poet Stuart Henderson, Martyn Joseph was asked what makes Greenbelt special for him - and he answered that it's a place for spiritual refugees. And I thought, yes, that's right. And also, yes, that's me.

Now it might seem strange for one as embedded in a denomination as I am to appropriate the label of spiritual refugee, but honestly, it's true: my favourite songs (which I want played at my funeral) (which I'm planning for 2082 in case you're wondering) are U2 'I still haven't found what I'm looking for' and Martyn Joseph 'Treasure the questions'.

Questioning everything and dissatisfaction with the status quo run deep within me, and hence I find myself drawn not just to Baptist ecclesiology, but also to Anabaptism and, of course, Greenbelt. This year was my 22nd (in 24 years), which if you add it up means I've spent nearly 3 months of my life at Greenbelt. Time well spent, I feel.

Highlights this year for me included:
  • A talk by Bishop Gene Robinson on human sexuality.

  • He (rightly in my view) suggested that if the church wants to properly address the issue of homosexuality, it must be done in the context of a much broader debate about sexuality in general, and that perhaps a good starting point might be to get all the heterosexuals in the church to have an honest conversation about their own experience of sexuality, before then turning to the 'problem' of the homosexuals in their midst.
  • A lecture by Paula Gooder:entitled Taking a very long view: the end of the world in the Bible at which she said pretty much what I'd have said if they'd asked me to do it instead!
  • A performance by Ockham's Razor, which was visually stunning and thought provoking.

  • And a high-energy concert by the wonderful Duke Special:

Thursday, 27 August 2009

A New Species at Bristol Zoo

I've mentioned before that Liz and I are members of Bristol Zoo.
Well, it seems there is a new species: Homo Sapiens...
There is a new sign outside the Coral Cafe, detailing the nesting, mating and feeding habits of Homo Sapiens.
Here's a video of the cafe, the new species, and the sign:

Sunday, 23 August 2009

The Church of the Claw

Changing the world 60,000 people at a time:

Upon reflection, I think I went to church on Saturday night...

Well, actually I went to the U2 360 concert at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, but I'm sure I met God there, heard a sermon (from none other than Desmond Tutu), sung a psalm, experienced community, listened to a prophet and encountered the embodied and lived gospel of Jesus Christ. As I said, upon reflection, I think I went to church on Saturday night...

Others have posted on the theology of the latest U2 tour, and Craig has his own reflections on our night out in Cardiff (having taken Liz's ticket which she had to give up due to a bad back).

It was a truly 'magnificent' night out.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Barth's most horrible sentence

I have recently acquired an (almost) complete set of Barth's dogmatics. I ordered a copy of the latest edition for the University Library, and in the process managed to inherit the ex-libris set... If anyone out there has a spare copy of IV.1, let me know please!

Anyway, one of the joys of ex-libris copies is all the scribblings in the margins, representing the accumulated wisdom (?) of 50 years worth of university students.

Scribbled in the front cover of I.1 is the phrase: 'Barth's most horrible sentence', and a reference to p. 385. Thinking this is a bold claim (Barth has some particularly horrible sentences) I turned to the page, to find the offending paragraph marked with an exclamation mark. So here it is. Is it his most horrible? I'm not sure, but it's in the running:

'And then the last question could hardly be omitted, whether the vestigia in question, upon which in that case the doctrine of the Trinity would really be grounded, were really to be regarded at all as the vestigia of a Creator-God transcending the world and not rather as a determinations of the cosmos now to be regarded as strictly immanent; and, because the cosmos is man’s cosmos, as determinations of human existence; whether therefore the concept of natural as well as that of Biblical revelation might not have to be struck out and the doctrine of the Trinity adjudged to be the bold attempt of man’s understanding of the world and, in the last resort, of self, i.e. adjudged to be myth.'

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Recycling is an offering to the gods to offset global warming

Another sketch from Mitchell and Webb, this time about recycling as an offering to appease the gods of Mount Vesuvius.

That is one angry atmosphere out there!
Look at the sky... it looks like a smashed cake!
The gods are hopping bonkers!
We need to dedicate some of our precious time to a futile time consuming ritual...
You know gods, they love all that shit.

Divine Watermelon

A great sketch from Mitchell and Webb about the discovery of a miraculous message in a watermelon.

Interviewer: 'Is God done for?'
Vicar: 'No, obviously, there is a God, and he's fine. This is just typical silly atheists getting carried away. They look at a random pattern in a piece of fruit and think they've found some message in it.'

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Postcards from the wall #5

Here's the fifth in my series of postcards from my study wall:

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Youth Ministarz

I've got nothing against Youth Ministers or Worship Leaders, I promise.

But, following on from my previous posts 'What does it take to be a youth pastor' and 'Worship Star', here's another song, this time about Youth Ministarz. (HT Lev)

"Wonderful, Ravishing Starbridge!"

I've just finished re-reading the double-trilogy of the Starbridge Chronicles by Susan Howatch. It's hard to know how to describe these books. Perhaps 'Theology meets Mills and Boon' comes close, but in no way does them justice. They follow the goings-on in and around Starbridge (for which read 'Salisbury') Cathedral from 1937 to 1967. The books are each themed around the writings of a particular theologian, and and the stories all represent a narrative outworking of the theology behind each book. They are also an easy read, with quite a lot of sex to keep the interest going. I'm a huge fan of fiction - and read a lot of it - not just religious fiction, but sci-fi, thrillers, etc etc etc... It greatly worries me that ministers so often don't read unless it's 'for work'. Well, these books bridge the gap - they're both 'for fun' and 'for work'. I think everyone going into ministry should read these books (along with Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible!)

In order (because it can be hard to work it out) they are:
  1. Glittering Images
  2. Glamorous Powers
  3. Ultimate Prizes
  4. Scandalous Risks
  5. Mystical Paths
  6. Absolute Truths
At the risk of spoiling things, here's a paragraph from near the end of the sixth book:

[His instructions for his funeral included] 'let's raise the Cathedral roof with Zadok the Priest!' . . .

The note exploded in our midst, and at that moment I knew our creator had touched not only me but all of us. . . and in that touch I sensed the indestructible fidelity, the indescribable devotion and the inexhaustible energy of the creator as he shaped his creation, bringing life out of dead matter, wresting form continually from chaos. Nothing was ever lost... and nothing was ever wasted because always, when the work was finally completed, every particle of the created process, seen or unseen, kept or discarded, broken or mended - everything was justified, glorified and redeemed. Then I thought, as I looked around the Cathedral, of the pattern our creator had made of us as he had toiled to shape the dark with the light in such a way that our suffering was given meaning, the meaning which gave value to our lives. . .

'and we know that ALL THINGS INTERMINGLE FOR GOOD . . .'

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Star over Bristol

(Matthew 2:10 )

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Bristol Balloon Fiesta

Here's one of the reasons I love living in Bristol (click the image for a better quality version)

This morning Liz and I made it to the sunrise mass ascent of the Bristol Balloon Fiesta. One balloon I always look out for is the distinctive yellow and blue of the 'Bristol' Balloon - I was fortunate enough to have a ride in this balloon a few years ago, and we went to 6,000 feet as well as touching down on water. It always flies with panache and daring. Today, it ascended higher than all the others, and a skydiver tumbled out. Here is an unusual view of this balloon:

And here's another classic Bristol Balloon picture

Friday, 7 August 2009


OK so I'm slightly obsessive...
At just after twelve thirty today I phoned my Dad (who likes this kind of thing) to point out the time and date... 12.34:56 7/8/9
And then I took a screen grab of my computer clock to prove it...

All of which brings back fond memories of the effort I put into acquiring the following photo of my old Astra's mileometer a couple of years ago:

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Jesus vs. Terminator

Thanks to Martyn for pointing out this very funny video of Jesus vs. Terminator.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Outnumbered Theology

The BBC have brought back their brilliant series Outnumbered, the semi-improvised sit-com about family life, with the funniest, cutest kids you've ever seen...
Unafraid to tackle theological issues, here's some clips:
This is where the kids let rip on a vicar at a wedding reception:

And here the daughter encounters Satan at school:

And here she buries a mouse caught in a trap:

Thursday, 23 July 2009


And another great one from PHD Comics

Postcards from the Wall #4

Here's the fourth in my series of postcards from my study wall:


Too true...

HT: Michael Bird

Friday, 17 July 2009

Another review of my book

The Society for Old Testament Society Book List 2009 has just published a review of my book by John R. Bartlett, who is the former Principal of the Church of Ireland Theological College, and Emeritus Fellow of Trinity College Dublin. He writes:

Woodman eases the reader gently into his complex subject via brief but enlightening comments about genres and apocalyptic content, and different ways (historicist, preterist, futurist, idealist) of reading Revelation. Here his account of millennialism, amillennialism, post- and pre-millennialism is vital preliminary reading. There follows a useful summary of the book 'as seen through the eyes of the author'. The central section introduces us to the main players in the drama-Jesus, God and the Spirit; the People of God; the Inhabitants of Heaven and Earth; the Forces of Evil. The various images and their antecedents are closely examined and identified, for example the beast from the sea symbolizes Babylon/Rome, and the beast from the earth 'depicts Nero as the blasphemous mythology of Rome personified' (p. 168; for the gematria of Nero see pp. 170-71). The final section interprets the imagery of Revelation as 'a metaphor for the destructive effects of human idolatry' (p. 195), Rome being the manifestation of evil, the purveyor of violence, destined for judgment, the Church faithfully witnessing the way to creation's redemption. Revelation's author provides 'an alternative perspective on the life of suffering and death' (p. 229) awaiting his contemporary faithful, witnessing church. Woodman draws fully on modem critical scholarship, expounds clearly the scriptural and other background to John's imagery, invites readers (second-third year university students are in mind) 'to draw their own conclusions' at the end of each chapter, and includes a bibliography and indexes of references and subjects. This impressive exposition of a difficult book invites a second reading.