why bring an ad into this world?

kids

There was an advertisement on before Christmas that you may or may not have seen.

It used to appear a lot on Youtube just before the video of a juggling cat on a unicycle or some trampoline going off shopping in Asda or the footage of a referee in Brazil getting tickled to death by angry footballers with a baguette after a contentious disallowed goal.

I think it was for Unilever but can’t say for sure as I never actually watched it the whole way through. I hated it.

It starts with some of that  tinkly-emotional-scene-in-a- movie-piano then the words appear ‘Why Bring a Child into this World?’

I hate/d this ad because it assumes that it is an option for the people watching, like deciding whether to buy a new lawnmower or some other consumer product.
It shows little tact for the viewer watching the video who would love nothing more than to ‘bring a child into this world’ but for whatever reason can’t.

Perhaps the single lady watching in the cinema would love nothing more than to bring a child into this world but has never met the right guy, or perhaps circumstances just didn’t work out for the couple watching in the cinema.

Life isn’t that simple for people, things don’t work out sometimes like we like. Have a look at your Facebook friend list and see how many people might struggle , will struggle, have struggled.

Thinking of a family I know I count the numbers. 11 brothers and sisters, 2 unmarried and no kids, 2 married and no kids, 7 with kids and those numbers  aren’t going to change now.

Most people would agree babies and children are wonderful, beautiful, we love to journey with them growing up. I love my nephews and nieces, the kids in the church. We celebrate the joy of families. We love friends and family. We love children.

Still, what is it like to sit through Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Children’s Day in church when you’re not one? Or if you are single  and have always wanted a family and the church is having a Family Day? Baptisms? Singing lines in songs like –

‘How sweet to hold, a new born baby, and see the pride and joy he brings’

What if you can’t hold a new born baby? Shame and despair?

Or if you continually see pictures of happy mums, families with smiling babies on Facebook, scans? You want to journey with people and see kids growing up, new babies, etc but it might be sore for people, maybe for more people than we realise because it is hard to talk about, a taboo subject.

Part of the reason I left Facebook was that I didn’t feel particularly free to say something like this.  Despite Facebook saying that it has revolutionized our social interactions over the past 10yrs it is hard to say that you might be struggling with something whether it is depression or eating or gambling.

Again, this isn’t necessarily about me/us, more about ‘us’ in the larger sense – people for who to ‘bring a child into the world‘ is more than an advertising campaign but may be a struggle and hurt or complicated, an impossibility, or who knows?

Blogging with even a small degree of anonymity helps, even though most of you reading know who I am. If you are reading this and have kids, or are expecting a child I love you and your sprog or future sprogs. I hope you know that as well!

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The Burren/

The more I think about The Burren the more fascinated I become with it.
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In  1651-52, Edmund Ludlow wrote that The Burren

“…is a country where there is not enough water to drown a man, wood enough to hang one, nor earth enough to bury him…… and yet their cattle are very fat; for the grass growing in turfs of earth, of two or three foot square, that lie between the rocks, which are of limestone, is very sweet and nourishing.

And that is the amazing thing. Despite it being a rocky place there is an incredible diversity of plant life and wildlife living between the rocks in  crevices and cracks and all over the place.
Species that would normally not  grow together grow together. Plants that are more at home in the Arctic , Alpine regions or Mediterranean call The Burren home.  Crevices provide shelter, retain moisture and the rocks act like  a giant storage heater (according to knowledge picked up from watching a little bit of Coast),

I’ll have to explore it more sometime.

Meanwhile I was thinking this morning in church  that it felt a bit like The Burren. Over on the other side of Galway Bay Arctic plants grow alongside Mediterranean plants and Alpine  plants while over here we have Malaysian, South Korean, Hungarian, Cameroonian, Zimbabwean, Tongan, Nigerian, Irish, British, American,Madagascan, Indian, Ghanian, Swiss, Congolese Brazilian, Turkish, Spanish, German, Dutch, French exotics passing through for a day and others for a few months or others living and rooted.

I was thinking that church is a bit like a crack in the rocky ground, a place of shelter, warmth and moisture where the Kingdom of God can grow even if we can’t really explain or know what is going on half the time, or most of the time.
When I stood on The Burren the other day maybe something  in me was reminded of the prophecy in Isaiah when the lion lies down with the lamb and nature is in harmony, things that don’t normally grow together in health and peace do.
And I felt the same this morning in church. People who don’t normally grow together trying to grow together despite our failings.  This week The Burren and our church seemed to be hints of the way things should really be.

five pathé-tic British vicars

I’ve been chuckling away at some archive footage from the British Pathé archive involving vicars and church. (You need to click on the pictures to get to the video archives). If you just watch one I’d recommend the milkman vicar which reminded me of the classic Father Ted episode when Dougal is on a booby trapped milk float.

A cunning trick to get people to come to church. Have it on a double decker bus…

I find the image of ex-prisoners drying their washing on a washing line inside a church beautiful…

Youth work in the late 50’s. Check out the hair..

This is my favourite. The vicar’s wife looks like she is really enjoying filling in for the village milkman..

A wrestling vicar. Who is also a wrestling referee.

a famine vs cutting the grass

DSCN9993I’m reading through a  little book that tells the story of Methodists and Presbyterians here in Galway. There is a little portion of the book that disturbs me.

‘1846 was the year in which the Great Irish Famine reached its height. The potato crop partially failed in 1845, but in 1846 its failure was total, and the country did not begin to recover until 1849. Surprisingly the Minutes of the General Assembly make no reference whatever to this major disaster in either 1846 or 1847, and in 1848 it was the Munster Presbytery which brought it to the Assembly’s agenda, and then only in conjunction with political events on the European continent….there is no mention of the Famine in the Minute Book of the Galway Committee, whose business seems to have been limited to the maintenance of worship and the pastoral care of the people. Whatever Presbyterian  individuals or families were doing for the stricken people of the area passed by unremarked in official records’

Methodists and Presbyterians in Galway, Dudley Levistone Cooney

I know that is a long time ago (maybe not as long as we think?)but that shocked me. I’ve never thought about how PCI responded to the potato famine before. I know that many Presbyterians suffered during The Famine but did the PCI generally treat it as an evangelical opportunity?

The book does make mention of special meeting being held in 1840:-

‘to enquire as to who had cut the grass in the church grounds on a Sunday. Dr. Gray explained to the Committee that he had told his servant that the grass needed cutting, but had never thought that the man would do it on a Sunday. The Committee allowed the matter to pass with the understanding that it would never happen on a Sunday again’

So there you go. It seems that someone cutting grass on the Sabbath was a more pressing concern and worthy of calling a meeting than a major famine a few years later. In a way that doesn’t shock me because we still do things like that.

marriage, marriage,marriage, marriage, marriage

As far as we know Jesus, who Christians believe was perfect love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control was not a married man.

I’ve been thinking about this the past couple of days as I’ve  been reading a bit  about the National Day of Prayer for Marriage that Christians are planning for next Sunday. Some evangelicals seem to be quite obsessed with marriage at the moment, to the point that if David Cameron actually does allow a gay couple to get married then we are living in the darkest days of history and might as well just give up.

Strangely though considering that Jesus was celibate there seems to be no obsession with the equally God pleasing celibacy option, which seemed to have been the preference Paul as well. Would we ever hear of a National Day of Prayer for Celibacy? If not, why not? Can someone who is celibate not live as fulfilled a life as someone who is married or do the married have access to extra happiness?

I don’t remember ever being at a wedding  where celibacy was affirmed as an equally God honouring option. Instead the whole day is geared towards the celebration of bride and groom and the God given gift of marriage. Everybody is beaming in happiness at this special happy occasion. Nothing is said about the gift of celibacy and does that mean the single people are excluded from church worship? Is it right for people to feel excluded in church worship or is there good news for everyone?

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Why, indeed.

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The €3 I spent in Galway on an old Penguin copy of ‘How Green was My Valley‘ a few weeks back was probably the best bargain of the year so far. I normally find it hard to get through longer novels but eventually got through this one, and thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s got themes I feel I can relate to (unlike The Great Gatsby to pick a current example).

One of the themes that crops up throughout the book is the theme of religion, especially in relation to the local chapel, deacons and minister Mr Gruffydd.  Although my experience of church going  in Co Tyrone was much less severe, I could relate to certain exchanges in the book such as this one between the narrator of the story, Huw Morgan and Mr Gruffydd. Still to this day I find it hard to shake the  image of people wearing suits or the smell of fear and Hell.

‘You have done much,’ I said, with a loud voice, to try and make up for wants of words just before. ‘Chapel, and sick, and everything, sir.’
‘And everything,’ he said, and laughed. ‘Thank you, Huw. Eh, dear. I thought when I was a young man that I would conquer the world with truth. I thought I would lead an army greater than Alexander ever dreamed of, not to conquer nations, but to liberate mankind. With truth. With the golden sound of the Word. But only a few of them heard the trumpet. Only a few understood. The rest of them put on black and sat in Chapel.’
‘Is it wrong to do that, then, Mr Gruffydd?’ I asked him, and surprised out of voice.
‘Why do you go to Chapel, Huw?’ he asked me, still going on with his work.
‘Because,’ I said, and then I stopped. Why, indeed.
‘Yes,’ he said, and smiling. ‘Because you want to come? Because you like coming? Because your mother and father come? Because your friends are there? Because it is proper to do on a Sunday? Because there is nothing else to do? Because you like the singing? To hear me preach? Or because you would fear a visitation of fire during the week if you stayed away? Are you brought by fear or love?’
‘I am a but surprised, sir,’ I said, and indeed I was dry with it.
‘The questioning of habit is fruitful of surprise, ‘Mr Gruffydd said. Would you fear a bolt of fire on your head, or some  other dire punishment if you stayed away from Chapel without permission?
‘I would a bit, sir, I think,’ I said.
‘So would most of them,’ Mr Gruffydd said. ‘So they are brought to dress in black and flock to Chapel through fear. Horrible, superstitious fear. The vengeance of the Lord. The justice of God. They forget the love of Jesus Christ. They disregard his sacrifice. Death, fear, flames, horror, and black clothes’