Wednesday, 11 October 2017

For a change this isn't my blog, but what my daughter, Beth, wrote on a day off sick from teaching her Year 4s... it's brilliant,even if I am her dad...

For a change this isn't my blog, but what my daughter, Beth, wrote on a day off sick from teaching her Year 4s... it's brilliant,even if I am her dad...

Every Monday afternoon in Oak Class we have a French lesson. I put on my best Gallic shrug, whip out the old GCSE French, say "bonjour la class" and "asseyez vous!" and we have a whole half hour of learning how we got to school ("Je vais en voiture" - literally ALL the lazy toads, they only live three doors away), learning to say "please" and "thank you" (I thought it would be funny to teach them "mange tout, mange tout, Rodney", and IT IS) and singing along to a grainy you tube video of "Jean Petit qui Danse".
They LOVE it.
And here's the thing.
There are more than 10 languages spoken in my class, and at least 55% of the children I teach speak two (and in one case THREE) languages fluently.
Not only that, but 4 of my children began their education in different countries. You would never know this, because they have all honed their Bedford accents after a few terms. The only exception is the little girl from Shanghai who I very occasionally catch looking around at the chaos of my classroom with an expression that says "what has my life become?"
But these kids, who can speak (and in most cases read and write) in exactly 100% more languages than me, look at me like I'm some kind of bi-ligual demi-god.
"Mrs. C can SPEAK FRENCH!" I heard one of them say in awe-struck tones.
No children, I really can't.
It's called google translate, a crib sheet and doing it all with a flourish - in other words, fake it till you make it.
My class knocks me out.
They are learning in one language in school and at home speaking Romanian, Albanian, Serbian, Mandarin, Malayalam, Urdu, Gujurati, Polish, Grenadian, Italian, and I'm sure I've forgotten some more. And yet they don't think anything of it. It's just how the world works, we use one language to speak to dad and grandma, and another in school.
Some people would rather that those children in my class who speak more than one language weren't here any more. They would be happier if the Mandarin speaker was back in Shanghai, keeping her staggeringly mathematical brain in China where it belongs. They would like it if the children who speak Malayalam took their NHS- doctor father back to his own country. They would like it if the young man who speaks Polish at home, and who is the kind of model student that I wish I had thirty of, took his incredible ability to learn, his kind heart and his willingness to help others back to Poland rather than being a role model to the other children in the class.
The other day the little girl who was born in Romania, started school in Italy and now reads and writes in English better than a few adults I know, came up to me in tears.
"K says I don't belong here! She says when the Brexit is here they are sending me back!"
I didn't know what to say. So I hugged her and told her that if anyone tried sending her anywhere they would have me to deal with. Miss K, who has a surname as Irish as Guiness "was only saying what my dad says". I didn't mention the irony that her family, with a name like that, was probably not originally from Bedford either...
This incident has really been playing on my mind.
The truth is, Miss K is Miss A's friend and actually she would be very sad if she was "sent back". It turns out it was said in the heat of the moment over a disagreement on whether or not either of them would get through the first round of Britain's Got Talent.
It struck me as ironic that, if we do see things through to their natural conclusion, and send anyone who isn't originally from here "back" there will be very little point in a show named "Britain's Got Talent". We will have to name it "Britain Has Talent But You Can Only Enter If You Have Parents with a Nice English Sounding Surname and if Your Family Can Be Traced Back Three Generations, Otherwise It Doesn't Matter If You've Got Talent, it is Foreign and We Don't Want It."
But that might not catch on.
P.S. Big up to Master M, who, when I asked for hands up who spoke a different language at home, told me very solemnly that his family are learning to speak American, because his uncle moved to Florida.
I'm serious. I love the Americans but, really. You know.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Priest to the Temple

The Church is a living temple to the glory of God
It is first and foremost something that looks like family
but never a family business.

It is not a process but a procession
blown by the breath of the proceeding Spirit of God

It is a procession of self emptying
or it is full only of itself

It is a procession meeting around the Holy Table
or it is consuming itself

It is procession where each and every person can be what they were made
or it is the fabricator of clones

The self Church wants success and gets it
The consumer Church wants numbers and get them
The clone Church makes people like itself in but hurts many on the way
and never notices

The Temple Church is a space in which people come and go
a place of welcome and unconditional acceptance
where 'numbers' is simply a book in the Pentateuch

and love bumbles as only love can
in the healing space of shared time

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

October 2017

October promoted by the sleight of time's hand
the key now minor as autumn falls around us
in the folding leaves
filing away the story of the year

Spring and autumn so easily confused
in the balance of equinox
storms hot and cold in sun and and wind
so much the same

So too are the springs and autumns of the Church's rhythm in history
This is the autumn of the Church
that some desperately want to call spring

Calling out the warms and chills as signs of a Lent
when in truth we watch
the end

A Church which cannot celebrate endings has no gospel worthy of the name

Death and resurrection stubbornly in that order
are the bread and wine of our stock in trade

Christ drinks the new vintage
only after the harvest
the cropping
the pressing
fermenting of death

The people of God
the Body of Christ
must learn to rejoice in endings
so that the New
can rise up

Autumn is calling and winter responds

And we must fall with the leaves and find the goodness of God
in the very dark of days
in the damp chill of our hibernation

The long wait that is the gestation of the Spirit

There will be spring

But not yet

Friday, 8 September 2017

Exiles and Beachcombers

During this summer I have the huge privilege of taking three months Sabbatical study leave. I have been "Reading the Letter to the Ephesians as a Mystical Text". Should you interested you can see something of what I've been about at the web site in which I have recorded the way it has developed. It is now a "tidy" web site but in no sense finished. It can't be. But if you want to Read how The Blessed Virgin Mary might have inspired the Pauline school at Ephesus to write the Letter to (or from) the Ephesians - take a look

Meanwhile this is my September Blog ...........

It's clear
when someone points it out to you
and you wonder why you never saw it for yourself
it's time for a new diaspora
a new exile
a time for the Church to fragment its institutions
to regroup
to fall apart in human terms and find death
and so
the one Way

Our leaders
(declare a blessing, yes, speak well, of each one of them)
want to save us, shore up the leaks, turn things around
go for growth
and there will be small victories here and there
to egg them on
but the real task is to look to the End
from which today is resourced
that daily bread which is just that
bread for the morrow
but not the afternoon
living by faith

the Church wants a longer term settlement
and will do a million things, shout, wave, be involved in many activities
and people will benefit
no mistake
- each a starfish that matters -

but the tide will still go out and
the long term is a dry beach
where the beachcombers will know
how to wait
in the sand blown breath
and the salt filled air
and be content with now

the tide will come in

it’s the neaps of the Spirit
brooding between the tide marks
and it may seem long
flow tide is for another long day
not this one, nor many tomorrows to come
on this wide beach the beachcombers
pick a living
amongst the flotsam and jetsam
the daily promise of bread for breakfast
which is all the promise we ever had

smile with  sadness and joy which is the freedom of lament
and warm the disillusioned with a cloak of friendship
and the ring of acceptance
and feast, as always
we beachcombers
with the Fire Maker
on the fish of the resurrection beach

Sunday, 6 August 2017

August - 12th and last of a monthly series meditating on the Anglican Calendar

August, summer transfiguring into autumn: begins with a celebration of the loaf mass (now forgotten) and a feast of extraordinary people. A tumble of men and women who changed the world. A feminine month pregnant with harvests, Our Lady holds the ring, with all the femininity of care, centredness; and all the masculinity of pushing the boundaries. Accepting the final cost is here too: ask the son of Tolomey.
The downing sun cools as the four weeks slide away and the summer ends, sudden as rooks, cool as jackdaws. The detonation of hideous revenge eclipses in the secular mind the infinite glow of the light no fuller’s bleach can match. This is a high risk area, but no one takes notice.

 Schools are at rest, their dozing buildings are peaceful in the drizzling sun. Their warm doors closed to the clatter of learning feet. Children and teachers strain to re-create the space to learn. The empty classrooms long to hum again with children’s voices, and the unnatural quiet of the playgrounds make us think the Piper has taken all away for ever. Maybe there will be some painting, some building, some new thing for the new year. But nothing substitutes for the call of children.

 Then, from the prison camps of summer heat, incinerating our freedoms, we confess, with mothers and the lesser saints the diaconal life, the pilgrim’s way, the songs of the first-born, the pain of conversion. We rejoice in teaching and preaching, so long as others do it; the month is set for us by sitting before the one with who we have to do and, like Bartholomew, losing the rough skin of our deceit. We slough, as reptiles, the month away. Should he be Nathaniel we would barely care, even if anything good should come from Nazareth. We are on holiday and life will not start again until the month is out.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Reflections on General Synod July 2017 York

This Synod was in many ways a Worcester Synod. Bishop John spoke ( and might have made a decisive contribution to the debate on the welcoming of transgender people), and Sue Adney and Sarah Brush made their maiden speeches - and good they both were too! Robin Lunn and I spoke in debates as well. So with Archdeacon’s Nikki’s game changing contribution to the February debate Worcester is certainly making its voice heard!
Synod “hit the ground running” from the word go with a robust debate about the state of the nation after the inconclusive general election.
Whilst many contributors had passionate feelings about the political situation it is the business of the Church of England to rise above party and try to provide a prophetic voice.
The motion by the Archbishops has been well reported in the press and many considered it to be thin and innocuous. And perhaps it was. But it clearly gave the government the message that the CofE was not fooled by the government’s spin and that it was patently obvious that the nation is confused and uncertain.
The afternoon had started with a very important speech from the Bishop of Tampere in Finland. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, together with those in Norway and Sweden and other Baltic/Scandinavian nations are in communion with the Anglican Communion thanks to the Porvoo Agreement. I believe that there should always, not just occasionally, be a member of the Porvoo Communion present with speaking rights. In fact I feel a Private Members Motion coming on! Bishop Matti Reppo spoke of the fact that “the Church does the Work of God through Liturgy”. As an Anglican I rejoiced and cheered (to myself of course… decorum, please!)
I had met Bishop Matti (when he Executive Secretary for Theology) way back in my first Sabbatical leave in August 2002. It was odd that I should be him again when I am on my second Sabbatical! He is a theological “heavyweight” and, since Finland is more socially conservative than Sweden or Norway, has much to share with England over issues of Christian anthropology. I think he should be invited to be part of the Episcopal Teaching Document on Human Sexuality process. The links with Finland go deep. And we have no theologians of weight on General Synod, much to our disadvantage.
It was also appropriate that we had a Scottish Bishop - John Armes of Edinburgh. The Scottish Episcopal Church - our sister Church - has just agreed that same sex marriages can be performed. It was this Bishop who had proposed the motion. Considering our agenda this was timely.
So the truly momentous votes to ban conversion therapy and to actively and positively welcome those who have undergone gender transition are set against slow return of the Anglican voice long shouted down by anger/fear-led theologies from catholic, evangelical and liberal (oh yes!)  wings of the CofE. These are exciting times!
So what did we achieve?
  • agreed that Conversion Therapy (using counselling techniques to try and change someone’s sexual orientation) should be banned as wrong and, indeed, potentially abusing.
  • those who had changed gender should be unambiguously welcomed and the House of Bishops was asked to give consideration to providing appropriate liturgical material to mark and celebrate transition.
  • Took time to explore by a presentation and in group work how the national church institutions can help local churches in parish, chaplaincies, schools, workplaces etc. This is a very important piece of work and looked at
    • a) Thy Kingdom Come b) Life Events c) Digital Evangelism d) National events as opportunities for community witness e) Inclusion and Outreach to the marginalised f) Crossing the Generations.
    • Noted the importance of the Presence and Engagement interfaith programme for the many parishes who has significant numbers of folk of other religions making up their populations. This was a very positive and heartening discussion as much good work is going on.
    • We provided a sensible canon to allow clergy - after due consultation and agreement - to dispense with traditional vestments at services if this furthers the mission of the Church. It is NOT permission for clergy to wear what they like and I shall be glad to continue wearing vestments!
    • We also regularised two situations that have been fact for many decades. It is a very long time indeed that the CofE refused the burial of the unbaptised or of those who commit suicide. The rules have now been amended to reflect the pastoral reality. Please do not think that this is some change … it’s been the case for probably 2 if not 3 generations!
  • There was a report on the progress of the House of Clergy Covenant for Clergy Wellbeing. This is something we will be returning to over the next Synods
  • We heard about appointments to the Crown Nominations Commission which recommends the new Bishop when a diocese is vacant. After the Sheffield debacle this was important. There is a real desire to see a wide range of views represented whilst acknowledging that there are always limits to how that might be successful
  • We also looked at how General Synod reps are elected and after a presentation of the options we filled in a survey of possibilities. We shall see what emerges. The introduction of online voting is now well advanced and will be the methods used for the next Synod. Alternative arrangements will be in place for those without internet access.
  • We passed a Private Members Motion asking government to give those who live in tied accommodation like clergy and farm workers the ability to get a place in the queue for school places for their children before they have taken up residence because they cannot choose where they live in order to fulfill their work. This was not giving an unfair advantage - simply an even playing field across the country.
  • Synod approved without any votes against or abstentions to urge the government to reduce the charges on those eligible to live in the UK who want to become British citizens. In can cost thousands of pounds. In Belgium it’s less than £200. The poorest are hit worst, as always and causes real harm to vulnerable people.
  • We were given an explanation of the Archbishops’ Council Budget for 2018. Here are the headline figures:
Table 2: Gross Expenditure 2017-2020
Budget     Forecast
Illustrative Forecast
2019              2020
Training for Ministry
14.7                     14.3
Clergy Retirement Housing
4.6                      4.6
National Church Responsibilities
18.4                   19.2
Grand Total
37.7                    38
Increase on previous year


This was a good tempered but robust General Synod which achieved a lot and I came home with renewed hope and enthusiasm!  It  appears from the media  that the very conservative minority are very unhappy with the output of this Synod but my experience was of a positive, faith affirming Synod that wants to move forward on as broad a front as possible. Whether those of the various pressure groups of the  ‘Reform’, ‘Mainstream’ ‘Forward in Faith’ and ‘Gafcon’ flavours will be happy remains to be seen. Outputs are clear. Outcomes take longer!

Wyn Beynon   

July 2017

Thursday, 29 June 2017

JULY - a meditation on the Anglican calendar 11 of 12

This peripatetic month is full of martyrs, of women, the wet and the dry saints from India to Sweden. Here summer shifts into fifth gear and cruises. Slavery is exposed. Such freedoms as we know tanned in the dilating sun. Exposed, like Thomas, to the doubt of all seasons. Such doubting is no sin but rather the necessary bite of one who would be fully alive.

Children, weary with the weeks of learning, and who are now way past the skills of smiling, push and shove their way to the term's end. As the month ripens like strawberries and school's out. The month soon drifts away, its meaning lost in the vacuum of vacation.

Heat may come, or rain... July is not fussed about living up to expectations and we too, enjoying the long evenings, the hopeful weekends, forgetful of our own obligations, cannot be fussed either.

This is the month of hopeful Barbecues and we grill the call to work, to faith, to achieve, on the charcoal of ideas and decide we’ll leave it ‘til autumn. Now is for spritzers, beef burgers and too many rolls.

We grab the break, hive off on holidays, fill the space with the clutter of doing, wishing we need not. But we do it anyway. Soon we have lost those eternal days and the month, short changed, as always, gives way to the next.

We have walked the summer and found it not nearly as warm as we would like, yet too hot for us to be content. It passes all too soon.

James thunders his way to Agrippa’s sword. The Magdalene, reputation soiled as always, together with Margaret, remind us that women, too, are fit to slay dragons. And in the balmy evening of a Bethany or a Winchester, the rain stops and Lazarus comes forth, and Jesus’ women, the Marys and Martha, hug with joy. Only Benedict reminds us of the orderliness of faith. Those dominical saints are too busy celebrating the man truly for all seasons, all places. But July is too sleepy to notice. It yawns once or twice and slips away.

Monday, 29 May 2017

JUNE - a meditation on the Anglican calendar 10 of 12

June runs headlong with a fickle sun and a faithfulness warm to vocation's call, the ordination of those whose lives will be founded or founder on the rock of faith, keyed with responsibility, binding and loosing the graceful people with the ties of life, the bonds of love and the freedom of forgiveness. Deacons and Priests will emerge like butterflies, caterpillared through their formation, their exams, their agonies of soul searching. We hope.

The abbess of Ely, Etheldreda, rises the tide of our summer expectations that life will be full, adventurous, and the chase of chastity will pursue us past the longed for consummations of our desires. Her faithfulness a complete contradiction to the impetuous month in which we live.

For us to survive, succeed, we shall need the encouragement of a Barnabas, resolute against the anger of the humourless Paul bent on pushing Peter off his day, and the resolution of a beheaded rough man, the wild honey like Samson's lion, succoured in the body of his giving, like his cousin's.

Barnabas grimly holds a compassionate line for John Mark as Paul rocks the boat, confusing failure with damnation. Barnabas, unflinching, teaches Paul what faith is all about and abandons him to his cleverness.

Cousin John, looking for a kingdom he cannot enter but in which he is the greatest, sits waiting for death as the last of the Old and perhaps the first of the New. This true Pontifex, building a bridge between two covenants, between Man made God and God made Man declines the verb to be and is not.

The month ends as Peter patiently shares his single day with Paul, who never understood him, and who, in any case, has his own day five months before. Such it means to be vicarious, Christ's little rock built on the greater. To be overshadowed by those whose brilliance and passion confuse desire with holiness. Peter's hand slips to the keys and the kingdom unlocks before him. Peter, keeper of the gate, turns it wide and lets Paul through, as only he can.

Smiles and congratulations sound round many a cathedral close and the newly exposed infant clergy take the limelight as parents, spouses, children, laugh and wonder at whatever happened to the people they knew. June is no longer in the frame. Her work done she retires to a warmer climate.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

MAY - a meditation on the Anglican calendar 9 of 12


This is the dancing month where Philip, sharing his day, as is his nature, brings the request of Greeks, and discovers the emptiness of chasing celebrity. James, emerging head shoulders above Peter and Paul, brings the people together, perhaps the greatest of all vocations, befitting a brother of the Lord; showing Peter and Paul how to do their jobs. Peter will not mind. Paul will ignore it.

Usually this month we hail the day and long for the Spirit to do this work, provided, of course, he leaves us well out of it, for we would all be a Matthias, called, but never, apparently, greatly used. Doubtless he was, but we watch him slip into obscurity and wish we could do the same. Like Prufrock he was content to start a scene or two. Are we?

Nearer home three greats of Canterbury, Archbishops all, who began (Augustine),reformed (Dunstan) and reshaped (Lanfranc) a work that can never be completed, for it is always demanding, like the punch line of a joke, a poise, a skill and a timing that few can manage.

In the light of the Ascension we can rejoice in the knowledge that Jesus is now theChrist of time and space. In the fire of Pentecost we can shudder at the truth of what we have to do, at the truth of the One with whom we have to do.

This May is no country for old literary men, for the scent of days must draw us out and away from desks and pens. But Alcuin reminds us that the Word and the words are never far apart, and that poetry, liturgy, performance and praise are bound to the sparkling sun that wrests the thoughtful from the drudgery of computer screens and DVDs.

But this is a fabulous month full of every age from Jarrow to Julian, from Joan to Josephine – such men! such women! This fertile month of the darling buds of Pentecost, The Spirit could blow us to new living, new desires, new growing. If only.

Whoever will this month, whoever will, can sing the methodical songs, and though Calvin reminds us of the limits of our nature, nature itself is erupting all around, dancing from pole to pole like the leaping child in the visited womb: with a hey! and a ho! and a hey! The Lover loves the spring.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Bide Your Time - an Easter Blog

An incumbency is begun and prayers are prayed...
"cleanse us from unbelief and sloth,
and fill us with hope and zeal,
that we may do your work,
and bear your cross,
and bide your time,
and see your glory....

We are, it seems, passionate about zeal and cross carrying, we love to do work for God (never God's work, of course, God does God's work, not us) and to radiate hope. But biding God's time is a bit of a downer, isn't it? After all we need to get on with it.

Whatever IT is.

Time was when time biding was something I couldn't abide... I mean it was a waste of time, time lost and slipped like clutches and wheels spinning for nothing, sand for the fingers.

Time. We can keep it and lose it, find it and make it, we can pass it and waste it, we can watch it and use it, we can be on it or after it, even before it or miss it . We think we'll know the time when it comes. But do we?

In truth we can do none of those things. For we are simply in it, and it will do to us but we can do nothing in return: we simply ride the stream until it turns us out into the sea of eternity. Time and chance happen to us all. We do not happen to them.

We can no more swim against time than against a rip tide in spate.

So, to bide God's time.

That's a life's work the Church has forgotten with its plans, and renewals and reforms. It was ever thus. There was always too much to do. We'd be still, let time happen to us once we got this done, that done, things rearranged and reordered. Then, in the fulness of time we'd be ready to bide God's time.

Bide God's time? And we said, "No, but we must flee upon horses, there is growth to be gone for and intentional everything.". 
For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength. But you refused and said, "No! We will flee upon horses"—therefore you shall flee! and, "We will ride upon swift steeds"—therefore your pursuers shall be swift!
We are pursued by the Egyptians with their material comforts and the Babylonians with their clever ideas... all of which we must ape in order to compete.

For our God is a business and our merchandise is salvation, and we must corner the market before the competition crowds us out. Time is of the essence, time well used, wrung out and dry in the desiccated conversations of our avoidance of nothing.

Imagine how we would waste time if Church was a space, a waiting, a pregnant pause that folk might conceive as being an opening for them? No, that's for when we've filled the pews and the coffers too. Not for now.

Turn us again, O God of hosts; look down from heaven, and see; have regard for this vine, the stock that your right hand planted. They have burned it with fire, they have cut it down; may they perish at the rebuke of your countenance. But let your hand be upon the one at your right hand, the one whom you made strong for yourself. Then we will never turn back from you; quicken us, and we will call on your name. Turn us again, O LORD God of hosts; let your face shine, and we shall be saved.

Turn us again, O God our saviour, help us to bide your time.

Help us learn to bide you time. 

The three days tomb alone brings Resurrection.

Scripture references: Ecclesiastes 9:11; Isaiah 30:15-16; Psalm 80:14-19