Visionary dreamers: how Bonhoeffer warns virtual (and indeed large) churches

OK, I realise that’s somewhat anachronistic, not to say speculative. But I’m in a staff small group that’s started reading an extraordinary book: Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together. It is dense, blunt but most of all, persuasive. And even though we’ve only been going at it for a week, it has already stimulated all kinds of interesting discussions. But one of the most challenging ideas from chapter one is his analysis of what he calls ‘visionary dreaming’. (more…)

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Some stop-motion silliness in Sicily

Here was a bit of fun from our holiday in Sicily – a stop-motion jolly directed by my son Joshua, involving my parents, me and my children plus my brother! Perhaps a new movie dynasty is born…

Having failed to come up with the goods yet again last Friday, I suppose you could say that this counts as a bit of delayed Friday Fun … on Monday…

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We are not enslaved to our past: Ian Cron’s inspiring memoir

It is a rare gift indeed to be able to evoke the confusions, perceptions and wonder of childhood from the perspectives of adulthood. And it is a gift that Ian Cron clearly possesses. His recent memoir (self-deprecatingly subtitled ‘of sorts’), Jesus, My Father, The CIA and Me, is a wonderful, life-affirming account of a deeply troubled and agonised family – but it is wonderful because it demonstrates hope in some very dark places indeed.

And for that reason alone, it is a book I would thoroughly recommend. (more…)

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God, The Refugees and The Dynasty: An overview of Ruth

The book that has occupied my thoughts for much of the summer is that almost hidden gem of the OT, the Book of Ruth. It was the focus of this year’s All Souls week away, and so my talks are issued as a free podcast. What blew me away is that of all the books in the OT, it is perhaps the most unrelentingly positive and inspiring. This is despite the fact that its dark historical and literary context was the Book of Judges, and that the suffering and vulnerability of 2 of the protagonists, Naomi and Ruth, were very real. (more…)

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The Soviet Utopia and the assimilation of Biblical Imagery

I was very struck by this fascinating article (“Building Blocks” from the latest Royal Academy magazine) about post-revolution architecture and art in the Soviet Union. Never having visited Russia itself (despite having travelled fairly extensively through its former cold war satellites), my presumption was that architecture in that era was full of monolithic, brutalising and depersonalised buildings. But it seems was that this was primarily the result of Stalinist totalitarianism and did not characterise the confidence of the brand new revolutionary state that held (to some extent) its ideals intact. (more…)

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9/11 through the lens of Revelation

It just so happened that on the 10th Anniversary of 9/11, we had come to the second instalment off our romp through Revelation. And it fell to me both to do an overview of all 7 letters to the 7 churches and at the same time do some justice (impossible) to what happened on that terrible autumn day. (more…)

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Christopher Reid’s A Scattering

Christopher Reid’s 2009 anthology A Scattering won many plaudits, all entirely deserved, including the overall Costa book award (which is very unusual for a book of poetry). It is an anthology of grief – poems written in the process and aftermath of Lucinda (his wife of 30 years) dying of cancer. But it is a wonderful, if deeply poignant, book. I found myself frequently shaken up and having to pause for long periods – which is precisely what the best poetry is meant to do. It’s full of beauty, humanity and above all the wonder of life. (more…)

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The Majesty of Mount Etna

Back on Saturday from a wonderful family time in Sicily. The last week was spent at the foot of Mount Etna. It was only a few days ago that this great volcano was erupting, but during our time, we only saw her steaming. Impressive nonetheless. One day we took a cable car (only 6-seater, so not for the vertiginally challenged!) up to 2500m and walked around for an hour or two. An extraordinary, eerie lunar landscape, and if you stray from the trodden tracks, you find yourself in gravelly lava fields. Walking in them is hard work, rather like trudging through fresh deep snow. Spectacular though. (more…)

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