Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Discrimination against Celibacy

When Civil partnerships were introduced as an idea, I initially supported them, but by the time they came into law, I objected, not on the ground of the rights they gave to gay couples, but because friends and siblings who were long term cohabitees (though not bed-partners) were specifically excluded.

And here's the upshot. An elderly sister will be slapped with 40% inheritance tax on their shared property once her sister dies. And in order to pay, she'll have to sell the home they have shared all their lives. All this whilst coming to terms in her 80s or 90s, with the death of a lifelong friend, sister and live-in companion.

If this isn't discrimination against celibacy, I don't know what is.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008


On Sunday night I witnessed a single human being narrate and enact the whole of the Gospel of John. Word for word. Powerfully.

I could find out his name. (He was mentioned on Sunday Sequence, which is how I knew to go along to Bloomfield Presbyterian at 7pm. ) But I don't want to. I want to remember the Gospel he came to tell us. And the main thrust of Jesus' teaching which remains in my memory - the Single Command to love, to love one another, to serve each other and treat others as more important than oneself.

If I never learn another thing, I will have a lifetime's work learning to love.

Taizé prayer in Belfast

Is there anyone you wouldn't pray with?

Living in sectarian Northern Ireland, and having beeen raised in the kind of Protestantism which balks at "worshipping with Catholics", I remain somewhat baffled. We worship every Sunday with people whose ideas are different from ours. We're even allowed to disagree with the minister or preacher, because, at least within Presbyterianism, there is a responsibility on everyone to "come to their own mind" on the meaning of Scripture. But I know that when I encourage folk to come to the Taizé prayer at St Anne's Cathedral on 26th April at 7pm, some will stay away, for fear that the presence of Roman Catholics will somehow make their own presence and prayer "idolatry".

Taizé prayer centres on scripture meditation, read, sung (repetitively, but not mindlessly) and pondered in silence. The Taizé community lives out, in its own idiosyncratic way, the church's vocation to be a community of reconciliation by the grace of Jesus Christ.

Can Presbyterians in Ireland ever embrace, or even dare to explore, this expression of spiritual unity and diversity? I hope so. Maybe it feels like parachuting in, Franklin-style, for the Taizé brothers to have organised this event, but it is one more opportunity -with a very different style- to move beyond factions toward the unity of the Church of Jesus.

After that, there's Transformations-ireland and the Global Day of Prayer on 11th May...

Personally, I find these big "events" can be a massive drain of energy - but they can also energise and invigorate - particularly if the organisers have kept the longer term objective of empowering the Church in view.

In between events, there's the rest of our lives, to be turned towards the character and love of Jesus; serving our fellow-creatures. Probably enough to be getting on with...

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Hmm...Colin Murphy's Great Unanswered Questions

It must be a sign of my growing apostasy, that instead of accompanying young people to Franklin Graham's parachuting Hope, I accepted tickets to the making of an episode of Colin Murphy's half-hour rip-off of QI. Let's be honest, it bought me a few hours shared experience next to my husband.

Murphy has charisma. Gives the sense that he'd be good company in the pub for an evening. And he's generous with his guests. Doesn't hog the microphone.

Probably not prime listening. But pleasantly light relief.

For myself, I'll stick to Radio 4's The Now Show for more topical comedy (when I can catch it, between feeding Littlun and her bathtime). A particularly beautiful piece was Marcus Brigstocke on the closing of Post Offices. "I rarely use Iraq, but that seems to be quite well-funded..."

The Truth Commissioner (2)

David Park has excelled himself. When I saw him at his booklaunch, he was rather more Penfold-looking (remember DangerMouse?)than the shrewd prophet of hope amidst realpolitik, revealing the same kind of "everyone is just trying to do their best in a bad world" perceptions as in The Passion on BBC in the week before Easter.

I loved this book. Immediately started re-reading it when I'd finished. If I had more time, I'd want to write an essay on it, like the good old A levels! If I were a film-maker, I'd be working on this one. It's full of colour, and aspiring to white light so that even the flames of destruction hold warmth of hope and a new future.

For anyone thinking of dealing with the misdeeds of the past, - seeking revenge, atonement, forgiveness, cleansing - there is a hope of freedom, but you can only find it in the chaos.

That's the Easter story too. There's no redemption without the spilling of innocent blood.

Ordinary life takes over

Riots in Tibet.

Elections fought & won (and lost) and results still not published in Zimbabwe. Bertie Ahern resigning. Tony Blair speaks about the possibilities for faith as a constructive rather than negative force in the Global Village. Franklin Graham preaching to thousands in the Odyssey Arena. Queen Elizabeth visits East Belfast. And I haven't blogged since before Easter.

You'd think I didn't care.

But while the world has been engaged in being the world, I've been getting on with it. Mopping up sick. training a toddler to use the toilet. Insisting on her trying a piece of potato before she can have any more cheese. Is my life embroiled in trivia? Or is it that these things are what give one more child a chance to be loved and loving, rather than inconsiderate and ungrateful? Is there any hope that her life may be more significantly peace-and-justice-building, less trivial, than mine?

Today, the Olympic Torch was carried and jostled through the streets of London, amidst a storm of debate over whether the Olympics, or at least symbolic representations of China's influence in the world, should be boycotted, in protest against China's human rights abuses. For my part, it was right for the procession to go ahead. Otherwise the protest would have had little opportunity for gaining public awareness. But the real hit is whether any of us is willing to boycott China's flooding of our markets with cheap goods. I can make a real, though insignificant protest alone, amidst the choices of a mother busy making daily purchases of unnecessary plastic objects. Is someone out there going to harness the willingness of all the people too busy surviving the daily grind, and make a coalition of rather more significant complaint against the dehumanisation of underpaid workers and violated dissidents?

Time to look at Amnesty again, methinks. To try the little I can do.