Sunday, 31 May 2009

Royal Bath & West Show

Over the weekend Liz and I went to the Royal Bath & West Show.

It was brilliant, with everything from prize-winning Alpacas to steam-driven tractors.

Oh, and a sky-diving team, and a human cannonball.

We also found ourselves in a tent with HRHPC.
Here's a picture from the BBC to prove it:

And here's my photo of the heir...

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Baptist Times #4

This week sees the final instalment of my series in the Baptist Times.

I originally came up with the title "From New York to New Jerusalem" for the sermon I preached the Sunday after 9/11. Not sure if the sermon was any good, but it's a great title.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Fossil of an angel?

I've just been watching the David-Attenborough-narrated documentary on 'Ida' the 47 million year old fossil of an early primate.

All interesting stuff, and it reminded me of this photo which I took a few years ago in the Pitt Rivers museum in Oxford...

Thursday, 21 May 2009


Well, it seems I'm one of James Karrans'
"Five Favourite People in the Baptist Union".

The question is...
Who will the other four be?

Any suggestions?...

Bl**dy PCUTL

When I started teaching at Cardiff University, one of the conditions of my appointment was that I should enrol on the Postgraduate Certificate in University Teaching and Learning.

Well, thought I, that'll be useful - somebody actually teaching me how to teach!

But, thought I also, I hope it's worth doing... It looks like a lot of hours and a lot of work...

Well, as those who knew me over the two years it took to complete the course, I had a hate-love relationship with PCUTL.

There were moments, particularly towards the start, where my natural cynicism asserted itself, and my reply to 'where are you off to today?' was, typically, 'Bl**dy PCUTL'.

However, as the course progressed, I became more and more convinced of the value of (most of) what I was learning.

And so I converted.

Here, I'll say it: PCUTL is thoroughly worthwhile. I'm a better teacher as a result. There, I said it, and it didn't hurt! I'm proud to be a PCUTL graduate and a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

So a big thank you to Clare Kell and the team at PCUTL.

Here's a PCUTL publicity video featuring me being interviewed by Caroline, in which I explain a bit about why I found the module valuable.

Baptist Times #3

I bet that got your attention!

It's a postcard which I have on my noticeboard at work (one of many, for those of you who don't know my study).

Anyway, today's the day for part 3 of my 'Faith Matters' series in the Baptist Times, and the theme is, as you can see below, 'The Great Whore'.

Either that or it's a description of me...

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Deus ex machina

ROM. 3:86 - 4:86
Friends, I urge you to Excel in all things, becoming proficient in the holy Word, for by this means you will gain Access to the knowledge which surpasses understanding. I would have you study the Works of the Lord to such an extent that you become Word Perfect. Ensure that you do not lack the Saving power, which is your Help, and Restores your lost labour. Be patient with one another, and take care that your actions do not put another’s Backup. Do not worship Icons, for these are to be shunned as being linked with pagan Cursors. Neither should you associate yourself with those who dabble in Fonts. Remember how Abraham sacrificed a RAM in place of his own son, remaining Open to your Word even in his distress. In this way Abraham was Justified by faith, not by Works. Above all, be Bold in your faith. By following this advice you will avoid being cast aside like Abraham’s son E-mail. Praise to the Lord, our gracious ISProvider, who rescues us from everlasting Doom and opens before us the glorious Vista of life eternal.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

An Anagrammatic Haiku

Light shines in darkness,
Hope rips through an icy veil:
The moon amid snow.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Baptist Times #2

The second of my 'Faith Matters' series in the Baptist Times is now out - on the theme of 'Judgement and Hope'.

I said last week that I was expecting 'letters' and, true to expectation, the first one has arrived. Thankfully it's a nice one! Cheers, Iain, I owe you a drink...

They've also started using the photo taken hurriedly at the Baptist Assembly. As someone who suffers from "Chandler-Photo" syndrome, I actually don't think it's a bad photo...

But JW's comment this morning when he saw it was "Well, at least you don't look drunk. But still, it's not the best photo: you don't normally look mad"!

For those of you who aren't sure what I'm talking about, here's the relevant clip from Friends:

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

The Way The World Ends?

Don't jump!

This is the cover of a piece of serious academic research...
(although weirdly this picture from Amazon is a bit off-centre)

I've just been round to John Lyons' to have a look at the first copy hot of the press, and it looks fantastic.

Here's the blurb and contents: (My own chapter is about half way down...)

The richly varied collection of 15 essays in this volume showcase the afterlife of the Book of Revelation. It is a biblical book that has left its mark in many fields of intellectual endeavour: literature, film, music, philosophy, political theology, and religious ideology. It is perhaps paradoxical that this book, which promises God’s punishment upon anyone expanding on its contents, has nevertheless accumulated to itself over two millennia vast amounts of commentary, exposition, and appropriation.

Offered at the close of the ‘Blair/Bush years’, this volume also exposes and highlights the often deeply ironic resonances generated while studying the reception history of Revelation during a period when the book has both significant public currency and a potentially terrifying global impact.
  • Setting the Scene: The End of the Bible, the End of the World (Jorunn Økland)
  • Decoding, Reception History, Poetry: Three Hermeneutical Approaches to the Apocalypse (Jonathan Roberts)
  • Laying Hold of Divine Riches: Self-Authorization in Christina Rossetti’s The Face of the Deep (1892) (Jo Carruthers)
  • Revelation, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde: R.L. Stevenson’s Strange Case (Alison Jack)
  • ‘Every eye shall see him’: Revelation and Film (Melanie J. Wright)
  • The Apocalypse according to Johnny Cash: Examining the ‘Effect’ of the Book of Revelation on a Contemporary Apocalyptic Writer (William John Lyons)
  • The Johannine Apocalypse and the Risk of Knowledge (James E. Harding)
  • Revelation, Violence, and War: Glimpses of a Dark Side (Heikki Räisänen)
  • Observations on the Reception of Revelation, c. 1250–1700: Apocalyptic Prophecy as Refractory Lens (Anke Holdenried)
  • The Plain and Literal Meaning of the Text: A Seventeenth-Century Particular Baptist Perspective on Revelation 20.1-7 (Simon Woodman)
  • ‘Be thou faithful unto death’ (cf. Rev. 2.10): The Book of Revelation, the Branch Davidians and Apocalyptic (Self-)Destruction? (Kenneth Newport)
  • Earth Left Behind? Ecological Readings of the Apocalypse of John in Contemporary America (Michael S. Northcott)
  • Feminists in Search for a Usable Future: Feminist Reception of the Book of Revelation (Hanna Stenström)
  • The Spectre Revealed and Made Manifest: The Book of Revelation in the Writings of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels (Jorunn Økland)
  • The Interdisciplinary Colloquium on the Book of Revelation and Effective History (Christopher Rowland)

Baptist T-Shirts

Thanks to Lev for spotting the range of 'Baptist T-Shirts' available online.
Here's my favourite.

[Edit: Polly's right - this one does have to be seen! So here it is...]
p.s. Has anyone else noticed her flies are undone?

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Inspection Copies

'Inspection Copies' are one of the wonders of the academic world. Until I started teaching, I had to buy books. Now, publishers give them to me for free if I put them on the bibliography for the students.
This is great, as long as the books are good!
Today I received an email from our local SCM Press rep which caused a smile.
Here's a quote:

Please excuse the informal approach. My name is ... and I am the area representative for SCM Press on campus.
I'm currently academic calling for the new season with titles for the above publishers and wondered if the following titles would be suitable for your course? If so, would you like a free inspection copy? The main ones are:

Smith SCM Core Text: Christian Spirituality

Boxall SCM Study Guide: Books of the New Testament

Woodman SCM Core Text: The Book of Revelation

Cooke SCM Core Text New Testament

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Baptist Times

Today sees the first of a series of four Baptist Times 'Faith Matters' articles which I've written on the book of Revelation.
I'm looking forward to the letters, which I'm guessing will come...!
If you don't already subscribe to the Baptist Times, you can get the electronic version for the bargain price of £30 per year by clicking here. For this price, you get not only the latest edition to read online, but also a complete back catalogue to 2006, all searchable and printable. There's also a 30 day money back satisfaction guarantee, so you could subscribe, read my series, and then cancel - all for free!

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Baptists in Bournemouth

Well, buzzwords aside, it's time for some Bournemouth highlights (me and everyone else!)
  • Calcot, one of the Fashionable Friends of Finsbury (pictured above), joined the Russian Baptists one evening over a Chorizo and Stilton Salad to the accompaniment of lots of 80s music in Sixty Million Postcards
  • John Weaver concluded a significant but exhausting presidential year, which has seen him travel the length and breadth of the UK on a weekly basis. It's been an inspiration to have seen his selfless giving to the Union over the last 12 months, and I like to think that the early-morning coffee we share most days is what has kept him going!
  • It's great to see Kingsley take up the mantle for a year. I hope he finds it a stimulating and fruitful time of service.
  • The seminar on God and the Art of Seeing, led by Graham Sparkes and Richard Kidd, offered a welcome oasis of spiritual reflection. I was reminded how much I like Rothko, with the energetic, vibrant and alive red of the dominant panel unable to completely quell the darkness which lies beneath it. I've mentioned MBTI and spirituality before, and this session brought home to me that my dominant iNtuitive nature leads me into the more abstract and metaphorical, while I find it harder to engage with the more literal. I'm reminded of Sandi Toksvig who commented recently: "I don't know a lot about art, but I know what I like... ... ...Books!"
  • It's always great to catch up with lots of friends, and the random coffee moments are some of the most precious, and it was brought home to me what a fantastic family I am part of.
  • Pat Took's Bible Study was another highlight: scholarly, insighful and challenging. But I'm still not convinced by the exegesis of Matt 25's Sheep and Goats which seeks to identify the 'least of these who are members of my family' with the generic poor, hungry and naked of the world: I think it makes a lot more sense to see this as a parable not of social justice but of the cost of discipleship. By this reading, the challenge is to so identify with Christ that we might actually become poor, hungry and naked for the sake of the gospel, as we live as disciples of the mendicant Christ. It seems to me that this reading better expresses the radical nature of discipleship than the more traditional reading. I might post more on this later.
  • Like Craig, I balked a bit at the suggestion that unless we offer for missionary service, we are 'frittering our lives away on things of no eternal value', but was pleased to see both David and Jonathan (I still can't stop smiling over that one) either consciously or unconsciously retrieiving the situation in their addresses where they stressed the importance of calling for all Christians, whether engaged in missionary service, pastoral ministry, secular employment, caring for family or elderly, or indeed College Tutoring!
  • I remain impressed by Jonathan's repeated reiteration that we are a Union of Churches, Associations and Colleges. Thank you Jonathan.
  • I was particularly grateful for Neville Callum's excellent trinitatian exposition of a theology of mission. I think this was timely and I hope his words aren't lost. I have also been reading the BMS Strategy Document and am impressed with their Theology of Mission as well. Should BUGB perhaps have a similar document?
  • I didn't go to Sally Nelson's Whitley Lecture, having heard it in Bristol, but I had a great conversation sparked by it, over Peri-Peri Chicken in the Harvester: Are disabilities made whole in heaven? I think the conclusion I've come to on this one is that 'disability' is a social response to a physcial impairment, so for example in the land of the blind, inability to see is not a disability. Similarly, in some cultures a birthmark disables someone from playing a part in society, but not in ours. So the tears and wounds of disability are dried and healed in God's eternity, but the physicality of our beings, complete with all our physical imperfections, remain a part of our eternal existence also. Just as the wounds of Christ remain in eternity: glorified, transfigured and beautified, so also all our own causes of pain are themselves transfigured, beautified and glorified through our identification with Christ's resurrection. And regarding those whose bodies degerate (i.e. all of us) I remain grateful that eternal life is not a final salary pension scheme.
  • It was moving and heartening to see the missionaries and ministers presented on stage - and a privilege to now start seeing those trained during my time at SWBC completing their NAM period and entering onto the accredited list.
  • A final highlight: 'Ali's Story' and the subsequent affirmation of women in pastoral ministry. As I head off in a few minutes to Birmingham for a meeting of the BUGB Task Group of Women in Leadership, all I can say is: Amen.