Thursday, 24 March 2005
Church Times articles
Over the last few years I have written a number of pieces which have been published in the Church Times. These have appeared on their monthly computing / internet pages, and have included reviews and surveys of web sites on various topics.
The most recent of these articles is now available on the Church Times website: a preview of Apple’s new Mac mini computer. You can read the article here
[Footnote, 12 April 2005: Apple today announced that the next version of Mac OS, Mac OS X 10.4, code-named ‘Tiger’, will be available from 29 April. So, now is the time to go and buy that Mac mini, safe in the knowledge that you will get the latest version of the OS. I placed my order for a Mac mini this afternoon!]
Some of the earlier pieces can be found in this list
Sunday, 13 February 2005
the tree of knowledge of good and evil
This Sunday’s readings include part of chapter 3 of the book of Genesis, the central story of the fall, in which Adam and Eve are tempted to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, planted in the centre of the Garden of Eden, and which God has forbidden them to eat.
The consequence of this is that the couple are expelled from Eden, and they will die.
What are we to make of this?
The key to our understanding this today is perhaps in the words ‘knowledge of good and evil’. Our human ancestors, at some point in their evolution, developed enough consciousness to become self-aware. This is a fundamental human trait — to be aware of yourself, and to be aware of other people and realize that they too are self-aware. Perhaps this realization, this consciousness, went hand in hand with the development of language, the development of communication with fellow humans. And consciousness and the recognition of others leads to conscience — the recognition of good and evil, as the writers of the Genesis story put it. Humans had eaten of the fruit of the tree, and there was no going back.
And along with this self-awareness must have come the realization that things die: that other creatures die, that other humans die; and eventually the realization that each of us will die too — the realization of our own mortality.
Like the writer of Genesis chapter 3 we can understand the link between this high level of consciousness, or self-awareness, and death. The writer of Genesis puts the story in mythic language, language that all can understand. He (most probably it was a ‘he’ or several ‘he’s) starts from the innocence in which we assume the non-conscious to live: the innocence where one does not have to make moral choices and the innocence in which one’s own life is the centre of the world, indeed the only thing that makes the world, the innocence in which one has no idea that one’s life is finite. And he points out that self-awareness leads inevitably to a loss of that innocence which culminates in the knowledge of our own impending death.
And in this mythic language we too can grasp at the truth, that in our self-awareness we do things that we know to be wrong, and in our knowledge of our own mortality, we live in darkness and fear, failing to reach the great heights of creativity and light of which we should be capable.
What then of Jesus? Jesus proclaims to us the kingdom of God in which is life in all its abundance. In this kingdom we are freed from fear of death to live life, a life in which we can make moral choices, a life in which we are not consumed with jealousy or with bitterness towards others, but a life in the light, a life of creativity. The apostle Paul wrote, ‘As in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive.’ (1 Corinthians 15.22.)
Friday, 14 January 2005
body, mind ... and soul
Another fascinating programme in Melvyn Bragg’s almost-always enlightening In Our Time — the last of the current series. This one considered ‘the mind/body problem’, starting with Descartes’ famous quotation, cogito ergo sum, and then tracing the history of this philosphical and theological question from Ancient Greece, through Thomas Aquinas, Bishop Berkeley, Spinoza, Huxley and through to the modern day (though I missed the very end — I’ll have to listen again.)
Thursday, 23 September 2004
Y Cymun Bendigaid
A package containing a new book landed through my letter box a couple of days ago. It was a copy of the newly-authorized version of the Eucharist of the Church in Wales, published just in time for a meeting of the Church’s Governing Body in September.
(The Archbishop of Wales, the Most Revd Barry Morgan, can be seen at the meeting using what looks like a copy of the altar edition of the book in this picture.)
The arrival of this book was a significant moment for me — because I had designed and typeset it. Having laboured long and hard over the text and layout, over page breaks and line breaks, vertical and horizontal spacing, typeface, kerns and ligatures, page numbers and goodness knows what else, here at last was the finished product.
This is always an exciting event: to hold in your hands the result of your own craftsmanship, your own hard work, and to be able to see for the first time whether it has actually worked, whether you have achieved the effect that you wanted — in this case clarity and beauty combining tradition and modernity.
Of course, many people had contributed to this volume, in ways significantly more important than I had. Liturgists had worked on drafts, revision committees and the Governing Body had considered it, and altered it to produce the final authorized text; others had created the cover (by Leigh Hurlock) and the calligraphy (by Shirley Norman); and the printer (Biddles) had produced the printed and bound books. But I shall remember the time spent designing a layout that works, selecting typefaces, playing with type size, and different combinations of bold and italic and roman, caps and small caps, creating custom ligatures (Welsh requires an ‘fh’ ligature which did not exist in the selected face, so I had to design one myself in roman, italic, bold and bold italic), and of course proofreading the text over and over again. Proofreading, especially of the parallel Welsh text, was also done by people at the provincial office of the Church in Wales. All in all, the result is a book to be very pleased with, I think.
And then after all that, despite all the care that has gone into its production, you begin to notice the mistakes. Here and there, dotted around, are little glitches that have escaped the proofreading. It’s amazing that you can proofread a text so many times, both on screen and on paper proofs, and yet the minute you pick up the finished product you find a few more mistakes.
I suppose life is like that — you cannot produce the perfect work, there are always a few little things wrong. At least with a book there is a chance to correct any errors at the next printing! Mistakes in life, on the other hand, very often have to be lived with.
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And we get a training day on it this Monday in the diocese of St David’s.
thanks Diolch etc
Posted by rhys at November 20, 2004 2:51 PM
If you are using the Welsh text, then there are a number of misprints in the Welsh. These (and a handful of glitches in the English) will be corrected in a second impression, which should be out sh
If you are using the Welsh text, then there are a number of misprints in the Welsh. These (and a handful of glitches in the English) will be corrected in a second impression, which should be out shortly, the first impression having sold out in just a few weeks. As I type this comment I am burning a CD ready for press.
Posted by Simon Kershaw at November 22, 2004 10:02 PM
Blessings prayed for the book you labored to design. As an American Episcopalian, I will likely have little occasion to use the book, but as a bookseller, I know the pleasure of
Blessings prayed for the book you labored to design. As an American Episcopalian, I will likely have little occasion to use the book, but as a bookseller, I know the pleasure of a book well made (and in this case, one that serves the greater glory of God). Intrigued as I am by Celtic languages, I am happy that it is a dual text.
I knew that you put together this website, but I had not followed any of the threads before. I am impressed, so far, with the civil quality of the discourse here.
I will check in from time to time. Thanks for this effort.
Harpers Ferry, WV
Posted by Georgia DuBose at December 10, 2004 2:33 PM
Friday, 27 August 2004
connecting with culture
If you’re not familiar with the London Institute of Contemporary Christianity then I suggest you take a look. Amongst other things they have a weekly comment column entitled Connecting with Culture which is always worth a read.
This week Nick Spencer writes about an infamous advertising slogan and the marketing of a fashion chain, with important lessons about the limits of self-expression in a free society.
Monday, 16 August 2004
I have moved the saga of my learning to ring bells out of this blog and into A Bellringer’s Progress. I don’t suppose anyone really cares, but although bellringing requires quite a bit of thinking and it is almost entirely practised in Anglican churches, it probably doesn’t really belong here on Thinking Anglicans.
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Hi. I started reading your blog and have found it so warming - I took up bellringing a month ago and am loving it and just wanted to tell you how much I’m enjoying reading about your progress
Hi. I started reading your blog and have found it so warming - I took up bellringing a month ago and am loving it and just wanted to tell you how much I’m enjoying reading about your progress. All the best, Lorna.
Posted by Lorna at September 13, 2004 12:45 PM
Oh, and the pink bit on the left of A Bellringer’s Progress obscures some of the text on my screen - not sure if it’s my resolution. Thanks
Posted by Lorna at September 13, 2004 12:50 PM
Tuesday, 16 March 2004
Today’s Telegraph carries the obituary of Sydney Carter, best known as the writer of The Lord of the Dance — written in 1963 and described in the obituary as ‘the most celebrated religious song of the 20th century’.
Carter, who died on Saturday 13 March, was much more than the writer of this song — he was a poet, and he wrote folk songs, as well as other religious songs and hymns such as One More Step and When I Needed a Neighbour.
Thursday, 11 March 2004
bestselling artist of all time?
The BBC website reports that this accolade is claimed (by the publisher) for Annie Vallotton.
Who’s Annie Vallotton you might ask?
She is the Swiss woman who illustrated the Good News Bible in the 1970s.
One of the most memorable examples is of the crucifixion in Luke’s gospel. The thorn-crowned head hangs forward, below the single line of the shoulder. Above it, two right-angles are the cross.
Somehow this plain sketch conveys the desolation of Jesus far more powerfully than two hours of Mel Gibson’s blood-spattered film, The Passion of the Christ.
Thursday, 22 January 2004
from the shrine of St Peter
If this is Thursday, this must be the Vatican! Today we visited the Vatican Museum, the Sistine Chapel, and the Basilica of St Peter. Jonathan Boardman, chaplain of All Saints, the Anglican church in Rome, gave us a tour of some of the principal works in the museum, and talked about the paintings in the Sistine Chapel. Although I have been in the Chapel twice before, this was the first time since the major restoration of the Michelangelo frescoes. It was also the first time I had really considered the overall scheme of the decoration: the ceiling depicting scenes from the Creation to the Flood; the pairs of pictures on the side walls by a number of earlier artists (Old and New Testament scenes in pairs, where the OT scene is in some way a ‘type’ for the NT one opposite it); and, of course, the Last Judgement on the ‘east’ wall. Here we see Peter and Paul as the strong men of Christ, sporting their perfect, resurrected, bodies (or at least, as Jonathan later noted, perfect in the eyes of Michelangelo; we might not all envisage our perfected bodies as those of East German athletes!).
And then to the Basilica of St Peter. The vastness of this building never ceases to amaze. I remember visiting as a schoolboy in 1973. Our guide asked a fellow pupil to walk over to one of the columns and touch the carving of a dove that seemed a few feet off the floor. As he got nearer we realized that far from having to reach down to it, he could not in fact reach it by stretching up. The perfect scale of the building had confused our senses. On the other hand, you do have to wonder what the fisherman from the Sea of Galilee might have made of all this splendour and pomp.
This is a place where the claims of the bishops of Rome are most evident, from the ‘Tu es Petrus’ mosaic in massive letters written around the base of the dome, to the monuments recalling papal declarations such as the ‘immaculate conception’, and above all the grandiose memorials to a swathe of popes in the main basilica. These explicitly proclaim the primacy and universal immediate jurisdiction of the see of Rome. As an Anglican, I find it very easy to challenge the show of pride and opulance, and the claims to power that these buildings and memorials present (whilst not forgetting that my own church has its own grand buildings, monuments and claims).
As a contrast to all the show it is a welcome change to descend to the crypt. Here you stand more or less at the level of the basilica built in the time of Constantine in the first half of the fourth century. Immediately beneath the dome and the high altar (with its great baldachino designed by Bernini, and forged from bronze taken from the Pantheon of ancient Rome) stands the tomb of St Peter. Not his actual tomb, I think, which lies another level down, not accessible to the general public, but a shrine to the saint, nonetheless. This is the place to stand and give thanks for the life of Simon son of Jonah, to whom Christ gave the nickname ‘Cephas’ or ‘rock’ (‘petros’ in Greek), and to pray — especially at this time, in the middle of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity — for the unity of the Church, union amongst Anglicans and union with our other separated brothers and sisters, and especially in this place, union with the see of Rome, with the successors of St Peter.
When you stand before, or over, the tomb of the leader of the Apostles, you are taken back to New Testament times, to the days 2000 years ago when Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee and called Simon, son of Jonah, to follow him, to the days when Simon Peter acclaimed Jesus as the Messiah, the Christ, disowned him, and was forgiven, to the days when he preached the resurrection of Christ in Jerusalem, and then through the eastern Roman Empire, before ending up in Rome, to suffer and die as a witness to the kingdom of God proclaimed by the Jesus he had known. Here, in the crypt of the basilica, the pomp of the main church is forgotten — the roof is low, the walls are plain. Here are the simple tombs of many of the popes, placed close to where they believed Peter was buried. Here it is possible to forget the grandeur that is just a few feet over your head, and to recover a simple spirituality, and the simple message at the heart of what Christians believe, and to which Christians down the ages have borne witness.
It is easy to say that the claims of Rome are misconceived and misunderstood, but even so I find myself not unwilling to allow a primacy of honour to this ancient see, effectively the only one remaining of the ancient patriarchates of Jerusalem (the see of James, the brother of Jesus), of Alexandria, and of Antioch, all three long since having lost their Christian hinterland. This primacy would not be the primacy of the main basilica, a primacy of marble and costly show, a primacy of universal jurisdiction or of infallible pronouncements; rather it would be like the crypt, plain and simple, unadorned, the servant of all, exhibiting moral strength, uncorrupted personal character, and the love of God the Father and of the created world, preached by the carpenter of Nazareth.