Monday, 25 February 2008

"Is this really what Jesus told you guys to do?"

I went along to a North Belfast Presbytery service in Carnmoney Presbyterian last night. An eye-shaped building, combining a large (possibly a thousand-seater?) auditorium with the intimacy of a much smaller venue, by virtue of curved rows of seats, and curved, tiered balcony.
I arrived late, and they were already singing. Singing well, actually. The music was not too glitzy, but lively and enticing. I saw a ten-year-old-ish girl dancing along spontaneously.
Isn't this how church should be?
Well, maybe not, actually, though it is far, far better than many less enthusiastic, and unenthusing alternatives. Which leads me to the subject of my recent reading:

Jim & Casper Go To Church: Casper the Atheist is hired by Jim Henderson the White Male American Pastor, to come visit some different churches and receive $25 per visit, in return for his thoughts and impressions. It's an interesting cross-section of church experiences, and should be on the reading list for any seminary. But really the back of the fly-leaf tells the main point: "Is this really what Jesus told you guys to do?"

Now, if that line were to become the test by which church leadership meetings guided their decisions, I wonder what difference it would make...

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Of Women, and children first

Juno. Loved this film. And hated it. Or rather, hated the fact that I cried my way through, in between the comedy. It's a fairy tale, really. You can tell by the artificially clever dialogue. These aren't characters, they are representatives. A teenage pregnant superhero, more together than the adults around her. Screwed up... gutsy, witty, unrealistically controlled and calculating in her sexuality, though her vulnerability shows through in the end.

It's a film about women and their bodies. Wanting babies and not having them. Not wanting them and having them. And hapless males with nothing of value to say on the subject. For all that can be said about the positive modelling of choosing life and choosing to give the child up for adoption, the real challenge would be a film which explored other options, which include choosing to save sex for a stable, committed (even married?) relationship. Now THAT would be radical.

Or, what about a film which shows MEN dealing with the desire for children, and their desire and proactive search for intimate relationship which isn't just about reproductive organs? Is this just too far beyond a filmmaker's imagination? Or beyond the imagination of the financial backers, perhaps? Fairy Tales shape our imagination - and thereby, our future.

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Truth Commissioner

For reasons too complex to explain here, I found myself alone at David Park's book launch tonight, in Belfast's Linen Hall Library. (I love that venue! The glassy strip of staircase rising four, five stories high between Victorian shops).

I haven't read The Truth Commissioner. It arrived on my bedside table just before I fell asleep last night. So I was not only alone; I was ignorant. I've never read any of David Park's books. Criminally negligent-ly Ignorant.

I came home with an armful. All written out of the Troubles, it seems. What else is there, if you come from here? Well... I guess to write from here and not find the Troubles on the sleeve is to have neglected one permeating factor in all our lives.

Odd then, that so much preaching, sermon-writing, modern praise music emanating from the Northern part of this Island seems to ignore that claustrophobic elephant. The one we hope will go away if we don't talk about it. What sort of Truth is this, that castigates only our enemies, condemns only Others, and fails to empower Protestants to stay in an area when Roman Catholics move in?

Truth has been substantially decommissioned; laid aside in a dark space, out of sight, while we quietly go out of our minds. Fill them with makeovers, holidays, new kitchens and plasma tellies - and despise anyone who chooses greener, more neighbourly tv-free lifestyles. While sneering and superficiality are in vogue, what philanthropist will commission new works?

Artists of the World Unite. You have nothing to lose but your audience.

Going, Going...

Gone? Can anyone tell me, are Comfort Adefowoju and her children still in the UK? Or were they sent back to Nigeria?

Friday, 8 February 2008

Leaving on a Jet Plane?

Unbelievable. If Sinn Fein's website is correct, there are still plans to deport Comfort Adefowoju and her children tomorrow.
What will it take for the Home Office to realise that these are not the people to be removing from the UK!?

Speechless. And disgusted.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Changing airports

Instead of concerned bystanders watching weary parents tussling with three-year olds, we have oohs and aahs, as Littlun merrily rolls along astride her Trunki. The airport's atmosphere changes as we pass. I'm putting time in waiting for our flight. Normally at this stage, I'm torn between boredom with the millionth sedentary reread of Dora the Explorer, and the unpalatable attempt to trail a hefty Littlun and her entertainment bag (books, toys, crayons) around the airport. Today I'm walking about comfortably, with Trunki rolling easily (if a little erratically) behind.
He's not capacious, as suitcases go. But for travelling light, in both kilos and humour, our Green TowGo hit the spot.

All went well till my precious charge fell asleep unexpectedly on the return journey, just as we were arriving at the airport, and I wished I had brought my pushchair after all. But when she awoke, going through the security portal, one sight of Trunki was enough to dispel the grumbles.

The verdict: a pushchair/stroller kept until reaching the doors of the plane is the practical option for a smaller child (so long as the airline aren't charging it as extra baggage.) But Trunki certainly brightened and shortened the waiting.

Confession time: I have even used it as hand baggage when travelling without a child, as it is just the right size for the tiny hand baggage allowances on Aer Arann. It was a real squeeze to get my stuff in, but still trundled along like a puppy behind me! And no waiting for bags on arrival.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

It's a wet Sunday afternoon. Too cold to be out and about. Perfect weather for reading this deceptively simple, profound, hopeful and disturbing ... what? novel? story?
more than that.

I can't spoil it by telling anyone more than that you must read it.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. John Boyne.

It won't take long.

It isn't difficult.

It's compelling.

As irritating as a nine-year-old boy can be.

And as deserving of attention.

Read it!