A new series begins tonight which I've managed to see already on the Sci-Fi channel.
Heroes (BBC 2 @ 9-10.30pm tonight) tells the stories of ordinary people who discover they have extraordinary gifts. There is the Japanese geek wannabe hero who can teleport. The indestructible cheerleader. The flying politician. The mindreading cop. The split personality mom. The gadget-manipulating little boy. The heroes who can steal or absorb others' gifts.
Then there are the ungifted people caught up in the story, for good and ill. Amongst them is the adoptive father who is assigned to supervise a gifted child. There is also the son of a dead scientist, who tracks down the heroes.
It's a story about goodness, sacrifice, guilt and fear.
The first series is twenty three episodes long, so it will keep your midweek viewing going until Christmas. It's a bit slow to get going, but it begins to bite after a few episodes, and you'll want to know what happens next.
For the second time in 18 months an attempt has been made on the life of Bishop Benjamin Kwashi, the Bishop of Jos.
Early on the morning of Tuesday July 24 at 2.15 a.m. a gang of men, more than five in number bound the two security guards at the gates of his compound and locked up the four domestic staff.
Armed with guns and knives, they then battered through the doors of the house, went upstairs and marched Bishop Ben Kwashi downstairs and outside.
They told Bishop Ben, they were going to kill him. Then, inexplicably the men changed their minds, gave up that plan, took him back inside and ransacked the house for valuables. They beat up his teenage son Rinji. Help came after about half an hour.
“I have seen a miracle”, Bishop Kwashi said to me this morning. “Join me in thanking God that my life has been spared again. This is the second time in 18 months that an attempt has been made on my life.” (In February 2006 a gang came in search of him to the house, but he was away. They beat up his wife Gloria and left her blinded for a while. Read here).
“This is now the second time that Gloria has seen all this. It is worse for her. Please pray for her.”
Rinji was taken for x-ray and no bones have been broken.
“We have been able to mend the broken door temporarily but new doors are being made.”
The intruders stole a lap top, mobile phones, money and jewellery. With the cost of repairs the total cost of replacements and repairs is £3000.
Anglican Mainstream will receive funds through Paypal, or by cheque to Anglican Mainstream, 21 High Street, Eynsham, OX29 4HE which will be forwarded to Bishop Kwashi.
Bishop Kwashi was a main speaker on Interchange in World Mission at the Wycliffe Hall / Anglican Communion Institute conference on The Anglican Communion in early July (read his paper here) and the speaker on The Anglican Communion, an African Perspective at the Anglican Mainstream meeting at General Synod on July 9th, attended by a quarter of the members of Synod present at the sessions. Read here.
At the Wycliife Conference Bishop Kwashi said:
“People will laugh at us, call us names, abuse us, but that is nothing new. The gospel is worth living for; it is also worth dying for. Persecution has never, and will never, kill the church. Conditions may be difficult or dangerous for a time; but the seed is in the ground and at the right time it will burst out.”
I returned from Sweden late yesterday afternoon after three busy days of teaching on the Gospel of Mark (six talks), plus three other preaching opportunities. The people were delightful and welcoming. Fika was frequent. Though the weather was fine over the weekend, there has been much rain and not much sun through the summer.
Tranemo Church itself is an hexagonal and beautiful building which dates from 1882.
What have I learned over the last few days?
The Church of Sweden has permanent deacons. In the Scottish Episcopal Church, we pay lip service to three-fold order of bishops, priests and deacons, but the diaconate in reality is little more than a probationary year before ministers get priested (and many people don't seem to really value their ordination as a deacon, as they tend to remember the ordination as priest as somehow being more significant). In Sweden however, the office of deacon is a hallowed and esteemed calling, with loads of people carrying out the role. Something for us to recover here?
Though the church is very liturgical and feels very similar to the Anglican way of doing things, they also seem to be a little more laid back about it. It might simply have been because this was a more rural congregation, but there was a definite relaxed air about everything. They also seemed to really enjoy using the liturgy in a flexible and joyful way in which one sensed the Lord's presence. I also liked the way that clergy and laity processed in together, but with the acolytes dressed in civvies. There was a simple sense of being in this together.
Swedes have a great sense of humour. We laughed together a lot. They can be very cheeky (in a nice way). They are especially fond of Monty Python. One great thing from my perspective was that funny stories got double laughs: those who got it in English laughed first, followed by those who got it later when my colleague, Daniel, interpreted in Swedish. Result!
Outside the church, I noticed this sign which made me chuckle. I am so juvenile!
Swedes also love music, which played a crucial part in the series of conferences they had organised for these last few weeks. Jenny Berggren (of Ace of Base) had taken part in a concert there last week. We had a scratch choir doing workshops then performing on Saturday night and Sunday morning. They did a superb job.
Sweden has lots of wildlife, including moose (which are prevented from straying on to roads by miles and miles of high fences) and hares (which quite frankly are the size of small kangaroos). I was terrified when I saw one of the latter.
I still do not like pickled herring.
I travelled with Ryanair. Are their staff trained to avoid contact with customers when their aircraft are late, so as no-one finds out what on earth (or in the sky) is happening? Also, never get on board any aircraft which contains dozens of teenage football players who are quite clearly high on 'e' numbers and food colourings. They might whistle (very badly) 'The Sash My Father Wore' or 'Flower of Scotland' for much of the journey and make the job of the poor cabin staff miserable.
Lastly, after almost a year of not travelling overseas, I've been reminded what a privilege such speaking engagements can be. Though it was a busy few days, it was very invigorating and encouraging to be with another branch of God's family tree. I hope we'll get to know one another even better.
Here's a timely article for my imminent visit to Sweden:
From Saturday's Wall Street Journal
In Europe, God Is (Not) Dead
Christian groups are growing, faith is more public.
Is supply-side economics the explanation?
By ANDREW HIGGINS
July 14, 2007; Page A1
Late last year, a Swedish hotel guest named Stefan
Jansson grew upset when he found a Bible in his room. He fired off an
email to the hotel chain, saying the presence of the Christian
scriptures was "boring and stupefying." This spring, the Scandic chain,
Scandinavia's biggest, ordered the New Testaments removed.In a country where barely 3% of the population goes to
church each week, the affair seemed just another step in Christian
Europe's long march toward secularism. Then something odd happened: A
national furor erupted. A conservative bishop announced a boycott. A
leftist radical who became a devout Christian and talk-show host
denounced the biblical purge in newspaper columns and on television. A
young evangelical Christian organized an electronic letter-writing
campaign, asking Scandic: Why are you removing Bibles but not pay-porn
on your TVs?
Scandic, which had started keeping its Bibles behind the front desk, put the New Testament back in guest rooms.
"Sweden is not as secular as we thought," says
Christer Sturmark, head of Sweden's Humanist Association, a noisy
assembly of nonbelievers to which the Bible-protesting hotel guest
After decades of secularization, religion in Europe
has slowed its slide toward what had seemed inevitable oblivion. There
are even nascent signs of a modest comeback. Most church pews are still
empty. But belief in heaven, hell and concepts such as the soul has
risen in parts of Europe, especially among the young, according to
surveys. Religion, once a dead issue, now figures prominently in public
We waited nervously this morning to see if a congregation would show up. This time of year tends to be very quiet with many away at Clan Gathering, Scripture Union Camps or holidays. We were short of musicians and welcome team - we ended up having what for us was a low key and more traditional service of Morning Prayer. I got to choose some more traditional hymns! As did Ruth, our pianist.
As it turned out there were lots of visitors present, and when the St. Silasites eventually turned up, the place was a lot busier than we'd anticipated.
And outside, the sun was shining, though it looks like it won't be for long.
I popped into Mr Rajou's this morning in the hope of picking up a copy of the Mail on Sunday (for the new Prince album, not the news), but they didn't have any. I've enjoyed his work ever since his early days (Prince that is, not Mr Rajou, though he does do a fine line in groceries).
I heard some good news this afternoon of someone who has hit upon some hard times, but has become a follower of Jesus. A wonderful encouragement, and I hope the start of something more beautiful.
Then later this afternoon, a lady called from Oldham, who is trying to track down some members of the McCarthy clan. Sadly, I couldn't help her (wrong branch, I guess), and probably added to the confusion by mentioning two others with the same name as me.
Tonight, The Flaming Lips are playing down the road from the rectory in Victoria Park as part of Indian Summer. I'll be able to hear them (sort of) from our bedroom window. It looks like rain..............
Amongst other things, I've been busy this week preparing talks for a Bible School in Tranemo, Sweden, that I'm taking part in next weekend. It will mean nine talks over the course of three days (six on the Gospel of Mark, two more at evangelistic-style events, and a preach on Sunday morning). It's been uplifting over the last month to be reading through a Gospel, something I've not done for a while. Part of the aim of the course is to take the participants through the whole of Mark, so that they have a thorough grasp of how to handle it, and how God might speak through it.
I fly out from Prestwick at 6.30am on Thursday and get back on Sunday afternoon.
Meanwhile, GadgetVicar Boy left this morning (with quite possibly the majority of the church - I think we'll be small in number tomorrow) for Clan Gathering. He's helping out with the Kidz team. He's camping. He has no wellies (someone told me there is a national wellie shortage?).
I'm praying for fair weather for the week:
ALMIGHTY God, our heavenly Father, who art the author and giver of all good things; Look, we beseech thee, in thy loving-kindness upon us: thine unworthy servants, and grant to us at this time such fair weather that we may receive the fruits of the earth in their season, to our comfort and the glory of thy holy Name;
through Jesus Christ, our Mediator and Advocate. Amen.
I have now played two games on our new computer. War Rock (Thanks Ali C. for that!) and Supreme Commander. Both involve destruction and killing (admittedly only of robots and other bits of technology in the latter). I also stayed up 'fragging' way too late the other night.
She doesn't look a day over sixteen, which is the age she was when we met in January 1981 (you do the math). We met at a youth leaders' training weekend here (that bloke on the front page was the minister even then!), and though we spent time together, we didn't swap phone numbers. I tracked her down through an intermediary and asked her out, spending all the money I had on a movie, Stardust Memories (which we didn't enjoy much) and a meal (which went largely uneaten). All-in-all it wasn't an auspicious start. But we did talk and talk and talk.
We got married aged twenty-one, a year after I began training for ordained ministry. Those first three years were hard. We lived in an institution that catered for single men and that tolerated married people, and was just beginning to tolerate women. In terms of its ethos, I somehow imagine it was aiming for a mixture of an Edwardian boarding school and a medieval monastery. The idea was to strip away everything that had gone before in order to rebuild a person in something that was known as priestly formation ('We can rebuild you. Make you better than you were.').
We found it tough, and there really wasn't much support for, or understanding of, married life. Little wonder that a number of those who were married at that time are no longer. The strains of ministry on couples are great. I believe that it is most helpful if both married partners are called to ministry together, not just the one with the dog collar.
Anyway, the prophetic utterance of the principal on my first day, "God knows where I'll find a curacy for you", proved to be correct, as we were called to a thriving city centre church in Edinburgh, where we were truly rebuilt. Curacies need to be positive experiences, as they set people up for the rest of their ministries. If they are bad, ministers can take years to recover, if at all.
We had a whale of a time, having all of the fun, and none of the responsibility. We also had more money to holiday together. Our first summer in ministry together, we took off around Scotland.
Then it came to moving to a first charge. The Bishop of Edinburgh let us take a small group from our curacy to another church in South Queensferry, with the idea of transplanting some younger folk. This was a tough gig, but again we loved it. Despite the fact that, for the second time in our marriage, we took a job, with nowhere ready for us to live. Both in South Queensferry and in Edinburgh, we had to live with members of the congregation for several months. In South Queensferry, it was awkward because we cleverly managed to move house, start a new job and have a baby, all in the same week (in all the excitement, GV Boy chose to arrive three weeks early).
We learned a lot in those four years. Like, we'd rather be poor but happy. We learned this when Ms GV went back to work after our son's birth, and we couldn't figure out why he/we were so unhappy. Turned out that he wanted to be with us, she wanted to be with him, and none of us was coping with the multitasking required. She stopped working, and things changed for the better. We had the luxury of not paying a mortgage, which helped.
We loved that job and place. It was a slower pace of life, where I was able to learn how to lead with others. My in-laws still bemoan the fact that we left the seaside to come back to the city.
Coming to Glasgow meant that there was a (much too big) house to move into (yay!). In a 'posh' community, where getting to know people seemed harder. Very different from where we had come from. It also meant harder work, longer hours and more pressure generally. It has not always been easy, but we have grown older and wiser together.
Ms GV has worn better than I have. I reckon this is because I have been taking on some of her years, Dorian Gray-like (though as she is such a pillar of virtue, I've not had to take on any of her vices).
We are still in the process of living with three growing young people. Now there's a learning curve. We've had our ups and downs, as most couples do. In two weeks time, we'll celebrate twenty two years of marriage. Our next stage together will be working out how to do life with our children becoming increasingly independent.
I can honestly say that Ms GV is my best friend. She listens to me at the end of those long days. She puts up with my moaning (and, of late, coughing). She is a remarkable person. She is forthright, gregarious and totally caring.
I think I might be in love with her.