News from Theos

Some snippets from the Theos September newsletter. See the whole thing here.

Who wants a Christian Coronation?

Should the next coronation be Christian, or multifaith, or secular? That is the question tackled in the forthcoming Theos report, which has commissioned ComRes to find out precisely what the British public wants. Click here for more details.

Capital in the 21st Century

Thomas Piketty’s macroeconomic tome took the world by surprise and storm in 2014, making a powerful case about growing inequality and the need for redistributive taxes. Read Nick Spencer’s review.


The Problem of Proselytism

Can religious groups combine proselytism and public service? Watch out for Paul Bickley’s report to be published this autumn.



Event: Faith, Wisdom and Science

What’s wrong with the present “science and religion” debate? Come along to Theos on 26th November where Tom McLeish will be speaking. General admission £7. Register here.

Helping our Hiddenness

Henri Nouwen Society - Daily Meditation

The Henri Nouwen Society send out daily snippets from his work each day, which often scratch where I itch. Perhaps as a paid-up introvert this one was always going to do that – but in fact, surely we all have our hiddennesses that need to be nurtured. And clergy especially, who spend so much time in the public eye and share so much of themselves, need to take especial care. Help and encouragement to do that (by e.g. giving permission and support to take a retreat) can be very special. I remember one time when I was totally shattered and the churchwardens ganged up with Jean to do just that. A life-saver. Here’s the Henri Nouwen piece:

Protecting Our Hiddenness – from Henri Nouwen’s Bread for the Journey
If indeed the spiritual life is essentially a hidden life, how do we protect this hiddenness in the midst of a very public life?   The two most important ways to protect our hiddenness are solitude and poverty.  Solitude allows us to be alone with God.  There we experience that we belong not to people, not even to those who love us and care for us, but to God and God alone.  Poverty is where we experience our own and other people’s weakness, limitations, and need for support.  To be poor is to be without success, without fame, and without power.  But there God chooses to show us God’s love.
Both solitude and poverty protect the hiddenness of our lives.
- Henri J. M. Nouwen
For further reflection…
“One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.  When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them…” – Luke 6: 12,13 (NIV)


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Text excerpts taken from Bread for the Journey, by Henri J.M. Nouwen, ©1997 HarperSanFrancisco. All Scripture from The Jerusalem Bible ©1966, 1967, and 1968 Darton, Longman & Todd and Doubleday & Co. Inc. Photo by V. Dobson. Scripture chosen by L. Yeskoo.

It’s a Wrap …

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… or so Paul (Hollywood not Saint) says in his recipe book. Somehow I think my rolling-out skills still need to be perfected, though the mix/knead/prove/bake was fine, and wound round Mrs T’s chicken and salsa filling the flatbreads formerly known as wraps certainly filled the spot.

Kneading like pressure washing takes the time it does, and I like the rhythm – I don’t get bored easily, but find that tasks like these set all sorts of ideas running in my mind. So watch out for the sermon illustrations – this time yeast is a biblical cert, and maybe the mis-shapes and (tasty) burnt bits will be in there too.

Being the best you can be

Paula VennellsFascinating interview in the Indie with Paula Vennells, CEO of the Post Office and C of E minister in Bedfordshire. What she has to say about her day job is very interesting – things to learn here about the “business” side of the church too – as are her thoughts on how her faith and work fit together:

“My faith does not write the strategy. What my faith does is motivate me around how I deliver it. There is something around Christianity about being the best you can possibly be. If you can get everyone to work in that way you are bound to do your best for the organisation. It doesn’t mean to say you don’t take tough decisions.”

Nearer my God to Thee

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Now here’s a triple-decker pulpit in all its glory! It’s in the parish church at St Martin’s near Chirk (but in Shropshire), which we visited while ancestor hunting during our summer holiday). I just love the children’s toys jostling at the pulpit’s feet; and when we called in we were not only shown in but welcomed at their coffee morning too. Well done that church – and no, I wasn’t in bishop kit so it was pure hospitality.

PS for those unfamiliar with these fine objects: the parish clerk read the service from the bottom desk, the scripture readings were given from the middle one, and the sermon preached from the top.

What do Bishops do on Bank Holiday Weekends then?


The same as everyone else, of course: in my case, Cleaning the Patio. Except in my case, this being a Bishop’s House and all that, the patio has about 800 paving slabs. And for some reason I forget we weren’t around for the last two years to clean it. Ouch.

The before-and-after is pretty striking. We’re getting back into the entertaining groove, and guests are advised to bring sunglasses until the natural flora and fauna take over again.

You can’t hurry a pressure washer when it needs to be applied on max 6 inches from the surface to shift the slime, so it gives you plenty of time think. Or write a sermon or two in your head if you’re a bish. Like how you, like everyone else I expect, need a pretty thorough power wash by the Almighty to shift the accumulation of muck, mould and debris. We call it baptism.

Perhaps next time I process down the Cathedral reminding people of their baptism I should take the pressure washer instead of a bowl of water …

An Open Door


“Behold I set before you an open door,” says the Risen Christ in Revelation 3:8. I was in the British Museum on Wednesday en route for an Education meeting at Church House, and took another look at this remarkable little ivory panel, probably made in Rome in the early years of the 5th century. It is one of a set of four, possibly made to adorn a casket, and together they are some of the earliest Christian art we have – the earlier centuries being very hesitant about both representational and public art.

This panel represents the Empty Tomb, with the two Maries and sleeping soldiers as we might expect. But what are they grouped around? It’s the tomb of Christ – but depicted as it was when the ivory was made, excavated and encased to form the “Aedicule” that is in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. And if you look very carefully you will see the Raising of Lazarus carved on one of its doors. The tomb of course had been famously discovered by the Empress Helena in the preceding century, and was now a major tourist/pilgrim destination, and it appears in Western Art from this time more often than you might have thought.

Going in and coming out; being open to God in our inner selves, looking deeper; and being open to God in our outer lives, looking wider. It’s a perpetual dynamic, a sort of oscillation, in the Christian life. Go wide – and you’ll soon need to come back deep.Go deep, and you’ll soon feel the breath of God blowing you wide. Where are you on the journey?