Preacher Envy

Hello from yet another Plymouth walk. It can get a bit relentless now this walking, can’t it? Just me then. I am bravely typing this with a (very) bad back. Embarrassingly, we have worked out that it probably happened after we watched an old Top of the Pops on glam rock. HOH and I had a not insignificant disagreement about the quality of music produced by “Sweet”. I decided to put an end to this discussion once and for all by throwing Wig-Wam Bam into the pot along with the dance that goes with it. I am too old now for that sort of carry-on. I may well have always been too old for it. If you look the dance up on The You-Tube (if you feel that you can take it) you may well realise why I am now being helped out of chairs.

Anyway, I do have something else to chat about this week but it is a bit niche so if you haven’t been to or have any interest in church – especially the modern groovy ones – you might not be too bothered about this. No probs.

I found an account on Instagram this week. (It’s a very famous account – I’m not Sherlock Holmes or anything) It’s called preachersnsneakers and it is full of photos of preachers mainly in America rocking designer clothes. They include Pastor Steven Furtick in $1000 YSL shoes, Bishop TD Jakes in $1250 Christian Laboutin spiked belt bag, Pastor Troy Grambling in a $1000 hoodie. And so it goes on. There are loads of them. I need to say that the author of the site is always (well usually) very respectful. He would describe himself as an evangelical Christian. He’s just presenting facts and I had a few thoughts.

I have no objections to pastors making a decent living. I am old enough to remember when we didn’t sort out pensions for missionaries, many of whom retired to poverty or the charity of friends. Their old clothes and hand to mouth existence were seen as a badge of honour. There was a whiff of the keep em poor and keep em keen about it and it was horrible. I don’t think anyone is advocating for a return to that nonsense.

This is also the week when Hillsong completed its report into the problems in its East Coast churches after uber-cool Pastor Carl Lentz was fired. There is a plausible school of thought that contends that to reach out to cool young people – you have to reach them where they are and show that you are just the same as them – you understand what drives them and who they are. Hence Justin Bieber rocks up at Hillsong and finds himself mentored by a young senior pastor who looks just like him – dreams the same dreams – and all that. (As an aside, if your basic troubled young man without the famous name turns up for help at a church, would he normally be given one on one mentoring – including Instagram selfies together – by a senior pastor? Just asking even though I’m pretty certain I know the answer.) It is a credible theory. I think you have to be a bit careful though that the signal you send out isn’t “You are safe with me. I understand who you are. In fact, I am the same. I am cool and groovy and love expensive leather jackets and love Jesus and you can too.” The risk is you send out “I am a Christian but also I dress like you because under it all I would quite like to BE you.”

My feeling is that some of this is about control. It’s about a leader saying “I am higher up than you. I am not to be questioned.” Some of the reaction in America post-Trump has been interesting. Leaders of big churches have either seen congregations close ranks but also a lot of questions have been asked – around leadership, discernment, accountability etc. and some leaders are not used to it. when First General Baptist Church Pastor Stewart-Allen Clark made the news with the following remarks in his sermon

I’m not saying every woman can be the epic trophy wife of all time, like Melania Trump, Maybe you’re a participation trophy. … But you don’t need to look like a butch either.

You need to know this, men have a need for their women to look like women. Sweatpants don’t cut it all the time, huh, Men want their women to look good at home and in public. Can I get an amen?

Why is it so many times that women after they get married let themselves go?

Don’t give him a reason to be looking around … I really don’t believe women understand how visual men are,” he added. “I don’t think women understand how important it is for a man to have a beautiful woman on his arm. God made men to be drawn to beautiful women. We are made this way, we can’t help ourselves.

I am including a photo of the good pastor here – without comment.

He is now “on leave” of course but, if I were a betting woman I would guess the thing that has surprised him the most about the backlash was that it happened at all. He would not be used to being questioned. He can spout this kind of nonsense because no-one ever pointed out that it was offensive claptrap.

There is an equally famous clip on YouTube where Pastor Kenneth Copeland is being questioned by a female investigative reporter on his use of private jets. Initially, he acts like he usually would with a young woman – smiling benignly etc. until it becomes clear that she isn’t going to just leave this. Then his face changes. Someone who doesn’t know who he is said “He looks deranged”. He’s not deranged – he’s bewildered – no one challenges him in his life like this.

Is it possible to be filthy rich and be the sort of Christian Jesus was? I’m thinking it probably is – although this does carry a very high level of difficulty (See Jesus’ story re camels, eyes of needles etc etc). What is even more difficult I think is to be someone in a position of such power that makes them unaccountable. Knowing that you may well never have to say you are sorry, for anything, is not the quickest road to gaining a humble spirit. And that there is the target – the humble spirit – not the Armani suit (no matter how lovely). Because that’s how the boss of us saw it.

Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion. (Phil 2)

A Year On

It is the Spring equinox. Hurrah. I am not entirely sure what that means to be honest. I tell you what it doesn’t mean, it doesn’t mean that it is any warmer – even though the equinox is attached to the word “Spring”. Also, is it supposed to get lighter at night? That’s good I think although I will miss the night walks that we do these days. We could go out later in the evening I suppose but, as our local newspaper has just printed a lovely photo of someone getting “bottled” outside Aldi yesterday, I will probably err on the side of caution and when the darkness falls later, make sure I am the other side of a locked door. Anyway, it’s also one year since we closed down and we found out that we could adapt to almost everything – to a point.

I’m sorry I didn’t write last week. I actually forgot. It was Mother’s Day and the kids were around and we ate Macdonalds. (Is that allowed? Oh well – too late now). We have all had our first vaccination – both my offspring have asthma. FOW1 had the Astra Zenica which has variously been described in Europe as “borderline useless”, “ineffective on over 65s” and “downright dangerous.” This does not seem to have got through to anyone I know fortunately and FOW1 danced to the vaccination centre like Julie Andrews running through Vienna with her guitar in the Sound of Music.

I’m not exactly signed up for all the science worship that is around at the moment. If anyone makes any kind of statement – people just say “You know – science”. Sometimes life is a bit more nuanced than that I feel. Science surely has to be attached to some kind of moral code. It’s what we do with the science that makes the difference. Also, I get a bit fed up with people on Twitter who have read an article in Smash Hits magazine about how someone on Love Island used to sweep out the chemistry lab in school and he is, therefore, a scientist and he’s not sure if you go to heaven when you die and ergo there is no God. Everyone is an expert – or not.

(By the way – giving up Twitter for Lent. It’s going ok. I don’t miss the toxicity at all but I do miss the films of animals being rescued from drainpipes and I also missed a course I was interested in signing up for so I don’t know really. Giving up crisps has been something else altogether. It’s especially annoying because I haven’t lost an ounce of weight. I know, I know that’s not what it’s for – don’t write in but all I’ll say is who among you who gave up chocolate hasn’t sneaked onto the scales at one point? Quite.)

I am very happy to take science’s word on vaccinations though. Mainly because they seem to know what they are doing. Also because none of them looks like Dennis Quaid in the film, The Day After Tomorrow who was supposedly a scientist but spent a lot of the film staring meaningfully into the snow-covered abyss whilst fluttering his baby blues at as many people as possible. I have more faith in a scientist that looks like Chris Whitty because it obviously means a lot more to him than washing his shirt and I appreciate that.

Also, I am near to the point where I would take a vaccination from Dr Strangelove if it got me out of the house more often! I am so blessed because I get to go to work every day BUT THAT’S THE ONLY PLACE I GO. (Apart from Aldi to watch the locals play Gladiator with broken bottles). Last Friday marked a year since I sent everyone at work home with no clue as to when we would return – if ever. I spoke to someone last week who said that people who were involved in planning the way forward expected it to be a couple of months at most. And here we are. I am ready to go to the pictures, a shop to browse, a church. Do you think we will ever take those things for granted again? We probably will I suppose. I’m also aware that, as we possibly are coming near to the end of this thing – a bit – that some things will never be the same for those that have lost people they love. We have no idea at this point how all this is going to affect us in the long term – thinking about mental health, jobs, education etc. There isn’t any way to know. And yet, in the main, we continue.

I’m not sure what science thinks about the future. And I am certainly grateful for all that has been achieved but also this…

I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. Jeremiah 29.

Because I think I am looking for more than a return to normal. I am looking for a change, a new future, something good, beauty for ashes. And I’m hoping it won’t be much longer before we can all get on with it.

Sorting Out

This week’s visit to Aged Parent began with her informing us that she had woken up in the middle of the night to find a man standing over her bed. Did she find out who he was? How did he get in? Did she lock the door? Aged Parent is actually quite good at locking her door – to the point that people delivering her meals from the kitchen downstairs can find that it has been locked between courses – which is no fun when you have an armful of sweet and sour chicken and a fruit cocktail trifle to follow. So I am really quite alarmed – who is this man who has got into her room – using keys – in the middle of the night?

Further investigation by HOH revealed that the man in question was a carer, he had visited her before, had come to bring her evening tablets and “the middle of the night” was about 6.30 pm.

“Well I was having a nap. It felt later.”

Dementia can be really cruel. Usually to me.

We decided to sort out her dressing table drawers this week. I have been putting it off for a while but was aware that the amount of dust was approaching levels that were going to get my photo on the Neglectful Children notice-board – again. This job would not be so overwhelming if AP didn’t insist on keeping every piece of jewellery she has ever owned or I have ever owned. This includes love beads bought in 1972 (mine), a solid ivory rose (hers), a keyring bought on a day trip to Paignton and Christmas earrings that she would never wear because she doesn’t like anything like that.

All tidying is done under careful supervision because AP doesn’t trust me as far as she can shot put me when it comes to promising not to throw anything away. (She is correct though). It also slows things down quite a lot because lots of things are wrapped in bits of newspaper to keep them clean. At one point I came across my grandad’s enamel badge from his factory. He was a wire drawer – in the days when many factories were only on nodding terms with Health and Safety.

Me…Is that where Grandad lost his eye?

AP…Yes, when he was ill I used to clean it for him.

Me…Really? You were a very dutiful daughter. (Feeling vaguely guilty for some reason)

AP…Yes. In fact I still have his eye.

Me…(A bit warily) Oh really? Is it here…somewhere?

AP…I expect so…somewhere. (Losing interest at break net speed). Did you bring any pineapple cakes?

Me…Yep. I’ll get them for you. (Closes all drawers in the dressing table and leaves the room)

After that, we spent a pleasant hour going through old photos and apart from a dodgy moment when she placed her son at her wedding when it was really my Uncle Phil – it was really nice. We left her with a cup of tea and The Inn of the Sixth Happiness.

“It’s about Ingrid Bergman. She stops feet binding and leads hundreds of orphans over the hill away from the Vietnam War.”


On an entirely different note, this week was the funeral of Dr Bex Lewis. She died of metastatic breast cancer. I didn’t know her but she was once very kind to me about an online thing which is above and beyond for a busy online expert type of person. She seemed to be very lovely and a lot of people are broken about her death. And I hate cancer so much. I just wanted to add my condolences – “May she rest in peace and rise in glory.”

All you need is…

And, in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.

Lennon and McCartney

I have stumbled into Lent – in a non-conformist, struggles with altars kind of way. I understand that I have no business being airy-fairy about altars. I am quite accomodating of the idea that they are (at the very least) an aid to worship – which is good of me I know. Also, I watched the BBC4 programme on monks last week and spent a good proportion of it in tears at the humility and simplicity of it all. There were, as you would imagine, quite a lot of altars in that and it didn’t bother me.

However, after a brief detour into the Church of England when we moved, I continued to find myself quite bothered by kneeling at gold altars when it came to Communion. I think a lifetime of non-conformism which involved meeting in tin huts, prefabs and buildings that were notable for their plainness (and not in a good way) has taken its toll on me and I will struggle to be the sort of person who is spiritually comfortable with too much gold leaf and priests kissing their neckerchiefs or whatever goes on there. However, there are plenty of things I love about the Church of England

  1. The Vicar of Dibley
  2. The Reverend Richard Coles
  3. Stained Glass Windows
  4. The Archbishop of Canterbury
  5. Rev Kate Bottley
  6. Frances Spufford’s chapter on Jesus
  7. CS Lewis (Irish but you know what I mean)
  8. How much they annoy the government
  9. Women Priests
  10. The cool of ancient floor stones on your feet when you slip them out of your sandals on a summer evening.

I haven’t even got to the Book of Common Prayer and “When a Knight Won his Spurs” and the Church of England Vicar who told me when I was a child that Children of God had no limits. Pah! I may be in the wrong church! I obviously secretly love the Church of England.

Anyway – to return to Lent. I have given up two things. Twitter and crisps. I am missing one of them a lot more than the other one. (Especially Cheese and Onion). I was finding Twitter terrifying – despite only trying to follow positive people – I kept watching people shout at each other and found it all deeply depressing. I do miss the little films of dogs being rescued and old ladies in scarlet lipstick and wrinkly tights dancing the Macarena in their care homes but, on balance, I am probably better off without it.

I am also quite taken with the chart above (thanks to Ang at Tracing Rainbows) which is encouraging self-love this Lent. I think it’s very useful and will be giving it a go I think. (Although I think I may be overdoing the bit about taking a nap). If you want to print it – it’s at I’m usually a bit allergic to the term “self-love” but, in the current circumstances – where we all seem to be beating ourselves up all the time because of the number of things we are failing at, I don’t think that doing a couple of nice things for ourselves can do any harm.

I started this rambly thing with one of my favourite Beatles lines. Like a lot of things they wrote after all that unfortunate carry on with the drugs, I don’t suppose its meaning is crystal clear. I usually think of it though as saying that to get love out you put love in and thinking about it even more – maybe that also goes for loving ourselves as well.

Have a good week

And on it goes…

In the words of the Aged Parent… “How long will Boris be locking us in?” Well, in the case of the Aged Parent – absolutely no time at all (a) because she is completely ignoring it and visiting chums in the neighbouring flats at will and (b) because she has had the first vaccination!! Hurrah! And they said it couldn’t be done. Well, to be completely honest, I was the one who said it couldn’t be done.

Her vaccination was at Home Park – home of the mighty Plymouth Argyle. We were a bit concerned because the day before there had been queues of over an hour to get in and more snow than a Russian Gulag movie. We decided that the best way forward would be a wheelchair – not for me – although the thought was strangely comforting – but we thought it was the best way to get her through the whole process.

On the day we arrived bang on time. Opened her front door and there she was – or wasn’t – no sign of her. We are now panicking ever so slightly and shouting her name with a teeny tiny hysterical edge into the corridor. Then she appeared, moseying out of her friend’s flat (see above re minimal regard for lockdown rules).

Me. What are you doing in there? You know the rules. Also, you haven’t forgotten about the vaccination?

AP. Well obviously not. I have my black jumper on and my pink scarf…


AP. I got distracted. Anyway – plenty of time. (There was not plenty of time)

For the next fifteen minutes, I am giving putting her trousers on everything I have. To help you understand more about this, I have to explain that she was insisting on one certain pair of trousers. For those of us knocking on a bit, I can accurately describe the trousers by saying the words “Max” and “Wall”. These trousers are not easy to get on, I can tell you.

However, despite all the odds, we managed to get her into the car and into a line of people ready to get their vaccination. Again, the organisation was excellent and we were undercover within five minutes of arriving. People were lovely with her and if they may have secretly suspected that she wasn’t entirely understanding all their explanations of possible side effects, they were too polite to say so and when they pressed the needle into her arm, she was so busy telling anyone who would listen how much she prefers it up north that she didn’t even notice it happening. Obviously, as expected, she developed all the side effects anyway but otherwise, all was well. So we continue.

I am telling Aged Parent that it is not long now until she can go out and I kind of think we all think that, all being well, we are on the home stretch now. We were even looking at booking staff leave at work for the rest of the year. See above – me, Office Manager and holiday list. Yay! (Sorry it’s a bit blurry. No excuses, I am just rubbish at photos etc.). Obviously, there are worries around the UK variant that is sweeping the world. (Who said we couldn’t be world leaders anymore). But, I don’t know, what do you think? Are we on the home stretch of this horrible thing now?

We have watched the advice about holidays with a bit of confusion. We, like most people, are not thinking we can go abroad this year. Normally, I could live with that quite easily but this year was supposed to be a big deal for us – I’m 60 (I know – I could hardly believe it myself) and we have been married for 30 years so the joy was to be unconfined. So, what to do? I saw one lady online who is already booking a UK tour sort of thing to see places she has always thought about visiting but usually fallen back on a cheap plane to Torremolinos. What to do? Any ideas gratefully considered.

Before I go, can I just recommend “The Investigation” on BBC iPlayer? It’s a true story about the police in Denmark looking into the murder of a journalist. So far so Scandi Noir. However, the makers have managed to produce it without, the murder onscreen, anyone playing the murderer and no-one actually naming him. This somehow makes it even more devastating. It’s quite an achievement. It’s not fun obviously. I think it is worth your time though. Other than that, there’s Wanda Vision on Disney which has achieved cult status in our house but if you are not a Marvel kind of person – why would you?

Have a good week.