Sunday, 29 May 2016

Green Card Game ~ Twenty More Questions (and answers)

Green Card Game ~ Twenty More Questions

21. What did I call my grandparents?

Grandad, Nan, Pop, Irene. Nan and Pop were still alive when we married.

22. What was the first place I went to by plane, as an adult?

New York.

23. Where was I ordained priest, and how long ago?

S. Edward the Confessor Church, Romford, 23rd of June 1996.

24. Which items do I like to have in every room (two main contenders)?

A clock and a radio. You could have a point for a dictionary.

25. Which was my Cambridge college, and what was I (meant to be) doing there?

Trinity College. I was allegedly a chaplain.

26. Which two members of the royal family have I met?

HRH Diana, Princess of Wales, and HRH, the Duchess of Gloucester.

27. Who was my favourite 20th century Prime Minister?

Harold Macmillan (1894-1986), OM, 1st earl of Stockton, Chancellor of the University of Oxford.

28. Which election (not referendum) have I only had the chance to vote in once?

Chancellor of the University of Oxford, in 2003 (voted for Lord Bingham; Lord Patten won).

29. What was my favourite 45th birthday present (it lives near my desk)?

Gracie, my aspidistra, from Ricardo.

30. What creatures did I start keeping in 1982?

Seven geese. We later ate two.

31. Which is my favourite tea?

Orange Pekoe, from Cardew's in the Covered Market, Oxford.

32. Burial or cremation?

Cremation.

33. Name three writers I admire.

Somerset Maugham, Jane Austen, P G Wodehouse, but many others would get points.

34. What’s the proper name of the nuns for whom I say mass from time to time?

The Sisters of the Love of God, Convent of the Incarnation, Fairacres, Oxford.

35. Where did I train to be a priest?

Lincoln Theological College. It was decided to close it down while I was there. Not my fault.

36. Who gave me my desk, and where did it come from?

My parents. My father found it in a shed at his scrapyard, originally bought by my Grandad to chop up for the wood (oak and yew).

37. Which is my favourite British bird?

Kingfisher. But I'd have accepted wren.

38. Milk in first, or milk in after?

First for tea, after for coffee.

39. What’s the title of my (unpublished) book, and where does it come from?

"O Taste And See", Psalm 34:8.

40. What dreadful things happened to my ancestors in Newcastle in the 1870s?

Alexander Bonner killed his wife, Ellen Robson, in a drunken fight on the 4th of July 1873, and then threw himself in the Tyne on the 6th of July 1875. They were my great-great-great-grandparents. My birthday is the 5th of July.

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Green Card Game ~ Twenty More Questions

Green Card Game ~ Twenty More Questions

21. What did I call my grandparents?
22. What was the first place I went to by plane, as an adult?
23. Where was I ordained priest, and how long ago?
24. Which items do I like to have in every room (two main contenders)?
25. Which was my Cambridge college, and what was I (meant to be) doing there?
26. Which two members of the royal family have I met?
27. Who was my favourite 20th century Prime Minister?
28. Which election (not referendum) have I only had the chance to vote in once?
29. What was my favourite 45th birthday present (it lives near my desk)?
30. What creatures did I start keeping in 1982?
31. Which is my favourite tea?
32. Burial or cremation?
33. Name three writers I admire.
34. What’s the proper name of the nuns for whom I say mass from time to time?
35. Where did I train to be a priest?
36. Who gave me my desk, and where did it come from?
37. Which is my favourite British bird?
38. Milk in first, or milk in after?
39. What’s the title of my (unpublished) book, and where does it come from?
40. What dreadful things happened to my ancestors in Newcastle in the 1870s?

Monday, 16 May 2016

Green Card Game ~ Twenty Question ~ The (Or Some) Answers

Green Card Game ~ Twenty Questions ~ The (Or Some) Answers

1. When is my birthday? And what day of the week was I born on?

5th of July, Tuesday

2. What are my parents’ names?

Ingrid & Gordon

3. When are our anniversaries?

19th April, 16th June, 15th December

4. Name three of my favourite composers.

Tallis, Bach, Britten

5. Name three of my favourite films/TV series.

Six Feet Under, The Godfather, The West Wing

6. How will I vote in the EU referendum?

In

7. Name three of the best things I have seen abroad.

The World Trade Centre, the Sea of Galilee, the falls at Foz do Iguacu

8. What will I call my macaw? And why?

Percy. My great-uncle's nose.

9. Who is my favourite Queen?

Mary, consort of George V, the Queen's grandmother.

10. Name three things I cook well.

Fish pie, farting soup, roast potatoes

11. Which two radio channels do I listen to?

Radio 4 & the World Service

12. If I could have a peerage, which rank would I choose?

Marquess. Like Lord Marchmain, and George Nathaniel Curzon, that most superior person.

13. Which two universities do I have degrees from?

Oxford & Nottingham

14. In the store cupboard, what never runs out?

Lavatory paper, catfood, and canned tomatoes.

15. What do I always do the week before going to Sussex to see Mother?

Get a hair cut.

16. What do I use to shave with?

Somerset's Shaving Oil, and disposable razors from Wilkinson's.

17. What is my favourite church?

S. Giles-in-the-Fields.

18. Which London club did I belong to (and will re-join when the good times come)?

The Savile Club.

19. Where was I born?

Wimbledon, London.

20. I’ve only had one operation as an adult, what was it for?

Peritonitis & exploded appendix.

Richard Haggis
Barton-upon-Bayswater, Oxford
May 2016

Belief & Unbelief

Thoughts from a Homily for Holy Communion on
Monday , 16th of May, 2016, 9 a.m.

for the Sisters of the Love of God
Fairacres Priory, Oxford

Mark 9:14-29

14 As they were rejoining the disciples they saw a large crowd round them and some scribes arguing with them.

15 At once, when they saw him, the whole crowd were struck with amazement and ran to greet him.

16 And he asked them, 'What are you arguing about with them?'

17 A man answered him from the crowd, 'Master, I have brought my son to you; there is a spirit of dumbness in him,

18 and when it takes hold of him it throws him to the ground, and he foams at the mouth and grinds his teeth and goes rigid. And I asked your disciples to drive it out and they were unable to.'

19 In reply he said to them, 'Faithless generation, how much longer must I be among you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him to me.'

20 They brought the boy to him, and at once the spirit of dumbness threw the boy into convulsions, and he fell to the ground and lay writhing there, foaming at the mouth.

21 Jesus asked the father, 'How long has this been happening to him?' 'From childhood,' he said,

22 'and it has often thrown him into fire and into water, in order to destroy him.

23 But if you can do anything, have pity on us and help us.'

24 'If you can?' retorted Jesus. 'Everything is possible for one who has faith.' At once the father of the boy cried out, 'I have faith. Help my lack of faith!'

25 And when Jesus saw that a crowd was gathering, he rebuked the unclean spirit. 'Deaf and dumb spirit,' he said, 'I command you: come out of him and never enter him again.'

26 Then it threw the boy into violent convulsions and came out shouting, and the boy lay there so like a corpse that most of them said, 'He is dead.'

27 But Jesus took him by the hand and helped him up, and he was able to stand.

28 When he had gone indoors, his disciples asked him when they were by themselves, 'Why were we unable to drive it out?'

29 He answered, 'This is the kind that can be driven out only by prayer.'



Belief & Unbelief

+ May I speak in the name of the Divine Trinity, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, Amen.


Mindful of the stern admonition in yesterday’s Sunday programme on Radio 4 that the faithful do not want to hear sermons with jokes and personal anecdotes, and thus consigning 95% of my homiletic output to the bin, I shall confine myself to the Gospel. I shall not be telling you what happened on this day in 1942, for which a certain person was lastingly thankful; nor the amusing story of the man who spoke Latin with a German accent; nor even about the cuckoo I heard on Saturday morning, in Barton. No indeed. No monkeying about. We’re having the Gospel, plain and simple.

Turning to this morning’s reading was a rather amusing contrast after yesterday’s Pentecost (or Whitsun, in the old money) fun and games. Then, we were being assured that Jesus loved us so much he’d send his best friend, the Advocate, the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to look after us, and keep as safe, and lead us into all truth. Today’s Gospel strongly implies that Jesus doesn’t really like us very much at all. Mark’s Gospel, and the Jesus he portrays, is often like that, if we put ourselves in the role of the disciples, “how long must I put up with you?”.

Consider how he berates their lack of faith, and the reading ends with “this kind can only be cast out by prayer”. It’s hard not to imagine the disciples scratching their heads at that point and thinking “isn’t that what we were doing?” But no, it wasn’t, or if it was, they were doing it wrong.

The only real love in this story is between the father and his son, and even there we find compromise. He challenges Jesus with “IF you can do anything …” and gets challenged back, evincing the plaintive response “I do have faith, help the little faith I have” (Jerusalem Bible, from the Daily Missal of the English Roman Catholic Church). This got me thinking, because I am more familiar with the older, Authorized Version rendering “Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief”, so I did a rare thing and went to my Greek New Testament, scrubbing the dust off it, and had a look. The word is – not sure how to pronounce it (see how the amusing anecdote about Latin with a German accent would have fitted?) – “apistia”. It’s unbelief. Not little belief. So our translation misses something rather important, which is that we believe, and we don’t believe. Contrary to the spirit of the present age, we live in a world not of fifty shades of grey, but of black AND white. Spiritual – and perhaps emotional and all other kinds of – maturity is to be found in understanding and accepting this, that there is light, and shade.

But wasn’t the whole point of Easter that the light has won? Yes, it’s true, the Paschal Light shines for all eternity – in eternity – but we’re not there yet. We live in time. And time has light and shade. It’s why a sun dial works. “Lord I believe, help thou my unbelief”.

Whilst not for a moment wishing to discount the challenge to our faith, and to our prayers, that this story poses, might I suggest for a moment that we make a mistake if we place ourselves in the position of the disciples. It’s a weakness we have, to identify with the heroes of the faith – and that’s what the disciples became, the apostles on whose heroic words and deeds the church was built. But maybe we’re not heroes. Rowan Williams observes in “The Wound of Knowledge”, summing up the theology of Saint Augustine, that God wants “not heroes, but lovers”. It’s the sort of thing he could say back then, and now can again, having laid down the burden of Canterbury. And he’s right, not heroes, but lovers.

So let’s cast ourselves in the story not in the role of the hopeless disciples, who have no faith, and can’t pray, and are a bit rubbish, but of the harmless, helpless, child who needs to be cared for, to be loved. We don’t much like being harmless, because we like to be thought of as people with a bit of an edge, and we don’t want to be helpless, because we’d much rather be the people doing the helping. But let that go. And then we become the people, the afflicted child, that Jesus unconditionally helps and heals and restores to a live more abundant.

Belief, or unbelief, light or shade, he loves us anyway, and always. And that is the Good News. Amen.


Richard Haggis
Barton-upon-Bayswater, Oxford
May 2016






Saturday, 14 May 2016

For New Road Baptist Church magazine

For the New Road Baptist Church Magazine

A Word of Introduction:

Genealogy is one of my great pleasures; the way it makes history come alive delights me, so faced with the uncomfortable challenge of telling you about myself, that’s how I’ll start:

By birth I’m a Londoner, born to parents who were also Londoners. Further back, my roots extend to Kent, Norfolk, Lancashire, and the Black Country; more widely, to Ireland, north and south, Italy, and there’s even an American in there. My partner is Brasilian, of Spanish, Amazonian Tupi, and African heritage.

My acquaintance with Oxford started on a visit with my father and sister on Good Friday 1984, followed by application for a place at the university (there was only one in those days!) and coming up to Christ Church in 1985. I was the first member of my family to go to university. I arrived to read PPE, and left with a degree in Theology. After that I drifted a bit, picking up tutorial work and organising lectures for an outfit at St James’s, Piccadilly, before eventually being sent to train for the Church of England ministry at Lincoln in 1993. Ordained deacon in 1995 (still am – in the C of E, it’s for life not just for meetings) and priest in 1996, I served in Romford in Essex, Trinity College, Cambridge, St Giles-in-the-Fields in the West End of London, and finally Holy Trinity, Sloane Square. The greatest blessing has been making friends in all those places, of all sorts and conditions, and having the chance to learn so much about life.

Coming back from four months in Brasil in 2006, we had nowhere to live, but a friend in Oxford had a spare room, so I re-made my acquaintance with my adopted city, moving a year later from Cowley Road to Littlemore, and three years ago to Barton, where I live with two small black cats, an aspidistra, and, pending victory in visa wars with the Home Office, once more with my husband of nine years. I walk to work – it’s a 40-mile week, and very good for the soul.

Coming to New Road has been a new experience in many ways, with so much to learn about another way of being church, and new responsibilities for things which once I assumed other people would be taking care of. Everyone has been immensely welcoming, and working with Kat, I sometimes think she plays Tigger to my Eeyore. I have especially appreciated David Stevens’s wisdom, generosity of spirit, and elephantine memory, in helping me to learn how to do the job he did himself, faithfully and well, for so many years.

It amuses me to tell my friends I am a “non-conformist administrator”, which has an air of anarchy about it. Coming here has definitely been Good News for me, and I hope it will prove to be true that even admin can be done for the Gospel!

Richard Haggis of Barton-upon-Bayswater & the Office

Green Card Game ~ Twenty Questions

Just thought this would be a bit of fun.

Green Card Game ~ Twenty Questions

1. When is my birthday? And what day of the week was I born on?
2. What are my parents’ names?
3. When are our anniversaries?
4. Name three of my favourite composers.
5. Name three of my favourite films/TV series.
6. How will I vote in the EU referendum?
7. Name three of the best things I have seen abroad.
8. What will I call my macaw? And why?
9. Who is my favourite Queen?
10. Name three things I cook well.
11. Which two radio channels do I listen to?
12. If I could have a peerage, which rank would I choose?
13. Which two universities do I have degrees from?
14. In the store cupboard, what never runs out?
15. What do I always do the week before going to Sussex to see Mother?
16. What do I use to shave with?
17. What is my favourite church?
18. Which London club did I belong to (and will re-join when the good times come)?
19. Where was I born?
20. I’ve only had one operation as an adult, what was it for?

Richard Haggis
Barton-upon-Bayswater, Oxford
May 2016