“Please de-baptise me”

“Please de-baptize me,” she said.
The priest’s face crumpled.
“My parents tell me you did it,” she said.
“But I was not consulted. So
Now, undo it.”
The priest’s eyes asked why.
“If it were just about belonging to
This religion and being forgiven,
Then I would stay. If it were just
About believing
This list of doctrines and upholding
This list of rituals,
I’d be OK. But
Your sermon Sunday made
It clear it’s
About more. More
Than I bargained for. So, please,
De-baptize me.”
The priest looked down, said
Nothing. She continued:
“You said baptism sends
Me into the
World to
Love enemies. I don’t. Nor
Do I plan to. You said it means
Being willing to stand
Against the flow. I like the flow.
You described it like rethinking
Everything, like joining a
Movement. But
I’m not rethinking or moving anywhere.
So un-baptize me. Please.”
The priest began to weep. Soon
Great sobs rose from his deepest heart.
He took off his glasses, blew his nose, took
Three tissues to dry his eyes.
“These are tears of joy,” he said.
“I think you
Are the first person who ever
Truly listened or understood.”
“So,” she said,
“Will you? Please?”

Brian McLaren

“The six most important decisions you will ever make, for yourself or on behalf of a little one” I tell them. I mean it. The baptism of my own son was my conversion. “Blimey, I believe this” I thought, and you can’t just ignore that revelation. Now look, see how much of a sense of humour He has…

Remember Me

To the living, I am gone.
To the sorrowful, I will never return.
To the angry, I was cheated.
But to the happy, I am at peace.
And to the faithful, I have never left.
I cannot speak, but I can listen.
I cannot be seen, but I can be heard.
So as you stand upon the shore,
gazing at the beautiful sea, remember me.

As you look in awe at a mighty forest
and in its grand majesty, remember me.
Remember me in your hearts,
in your thoughts, and the memories of the
times we loved, the times we cried,
the battle we fought and the times we laughed.
For if you always think of me,
I will never have gone.


Maximilian Kolbe

Maximilian Kolbe’s martyrdom is the least important thing about him. We are none of us likely to find ourselves in a position to emulate his sacrifice, and speculation as to the heroic way in which we would have behaved in his place is a pernicious waste of time. What is important is that he acted the way he did because of who he was – or, rather, because of who he had become.

It is because of who he had become that we revere him as a saint: he would have been a saint (though perhaps not canonized) even if he had not been martyred. And that process of becoming is something we can all emulate. We can all become people for whom doing the right thing is obvious, natural, and easy. It requires no heroism, no special gifts: just perseverance, and prayer.

From the Universalis commentary.

Amen and Amen.

Legillium Mass Book – the toolkit you will need to say the Mass (beautifully)

Front PageIt’s good to know that you have everything you need – or might possibly need – to hand.

Based on the book that was on the legillium in my title parish (Holy Spirit, Southsea), this is key texts for the Mass: a rock for every low mass and a godsend when visiting unfamiliar places. If I have this in my bag, then I know I can get through it. I have added to it over the years, borrowing a good introduction to confession, absorbing an offertory prayer, ensuring that I have the MU prayer at the back for those times when you need it and so it represents an ongoing toolkit for my ministry and a swiss-army knife for the everyday offering of the sacrifice.

So why don’t I let you have a copy?

You can download it (from Dropbox) from hereThis is the original, in Microsoft Publisher format in A5. I also have a version for use on my Tablet in Microsoft Word format which is available from here. The latter is pretty unformatted because it’s easy to scroll down in that way, whereas the Publisher version is designed to be printed out and folded into  (fold on the right-hand-side) one of those A5 document books.

Of course, it is highly idiosyncratic, but it works for me and my particular spirituality. The point of sharing of course is that you will be able to use it as a basis for your own toolkit. So, by all means use this as a start and make it your own: take out and add as you need. After all, unless you are in the Diocese of Exeter, you’ll need to change the names of the Bishops and the patron saints that your Churches are dedicated to…

So if (like some) you resent the amount of Roman material in it, and refuse to pray for the Bishop of Rome, the Ecumenical Patriarch and the leaders of the reformed churches, then replace them. If you really want to use Prayer H  – although I have no idea why you might want to :-) – then put it in. I won’t judge you.

Adopt. Adapt & Improve.

If, as a part of using this you would like to offer a prayer for me and our ministry here in NE Plymouth, then we would be most appreciative: call it prayerware if you like!

I’m always willing to be sent additional bits, so let me know if you find something you think I should have in my book as well as yours. May it help you to celebrate the Mass to his honour and glory beautifully.


Many clergy will at sometime have experienced a… challenging baptism.

Reflecting on that has led me to add the following line to my webpage on baptism:

However, if you aren’t sure about being able to make these promises, if you simply don’t believe in all this, if you are just having “the baby done” for the sake of a nice party and some lovely photographs, then I’m afraid baptism isn’t for you. We don’t routinely offer the Thanksgiving for the Birth of a Child unless your child was (for example) baptised in an emergency when they were born, as this is the chance to thank God for that already baptised child; but we don’t offer it as “baptism-lite”: these promises are serious.

It’s a shame that a few experiences from the past have to make this worth saying, but many will understand why…

Homily: Ordinary 14, Year A

 Text: Matthew 11.16–19, 25–end

In the name of the +Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

“What can I say about the people who live today? What are they like? The people today are like children sitting in the marketplace. One group of children calls to the other group,

‘We played flute music for you, but you did not dance;
we sang a funeral song, but you were not sad.’”

(Matthew 11)

Why will Jesus not jump to their tune? Why does he not act like they want? He eats with “sinners”. He lets a “sinful woman” anoint him. He’s a friend with rich and poor, with prostitutes and traitors and trouble-makers.

Jesus doesn’t mention the Pharisees in here – it seems like a rant against just about everybody! But they were a great example. Jesus is – in most of what he seems to say and do – in broad agreement with the Pharisees. He shares their views on the Resurrection and, mostly, on the Law. But he won’t quite be one, will he?

It’s so easy to find people dragging Jesus in on their side.  It’s as though, having taken on board the idea that we are made in God’s image, that God is also made in our image.

For example, there are those on the far right who believe that Jesus is a capitalist – quoting the Parable of the Talents to prove it.

Whereas others could find plenty of examples of people proving Jesus is a socialist: because he told people to give their money away.

But Christ’s earthly ministry predates both socialism and capitalism. Christ left the money stuff to earthly powers… Render unto Caesar what is caesar’s… and focused on the relationship with God. But, no, we want the words of Christ to be those of our chosen political philosophy.

Similarly, Elton John’s comments about Jesus also echo this deep desire. Elton John looks at Jesus, sees the epitome of compassion, and decides that therefore Jesus would agree with him.

“”He was all about love and compassion and forgiveness and trying to bring people together and that is what the church should be about.”

That’s the Jesus Elton John has decided he wants, and that’s the Jesus he invokes on his side. But he doesn’t mention the Jesus who called a Phoenician woman a “dog” because that’s not inclusive. He doesn’t mention the passage where Jesus says

“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.

For I have come to turn
“ ‘a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—
man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’”

No, that’s a different Jesus, that is. A scary, divisive Jesus. Likewise when he starts burning up tares but saving good wheat. Or sending goats one way and leading sheep the other. This is a non-inclusive Jesus – if inclusive is meant to be of everybody. Which it isn’t. Inclusivity recognises that we all can be formed into the likeness of Christ, not Christ formed into our own likeness.

It’s a kind of narcissism, deciding that whatever I believe, that’s what Jesus was like.

But it’s natural, and it’s always happened. There was a body a few years ago called the Jesus Seminar. It decided that by voting, and examination of the texts concerning Jesus, they would decide which bits of the stories of Jesus were true, historic, and which were fables and legends. By the end they’d decided Jesus was a wandering wise man, a social revolutionary, who was not born to a virgin mother, didn’t do miracles and wasn’t resurrected. Which was, of course, what they’d thought beforehand or they’d never have started the exercise. They got exactly the Jesus they wanted.

But it’s what people have always done. They’ve looked at Jesus and seen a socialist, a Buddhist, a Victorian gentleman, a druid, a freedom fighter, a nice Tory, a dreamer, a spaceman, an Egyptian mystic, a Greek Philosopher, a bunny-hugging environmentalist. They’ve found, in Jesus, exactly what they’ve put in there.

It’s the danger of the whole “What Would Jesus Do” concept as well. Quite apart from the obvious issue that it can’t be applied to whole areas of human experience. As the kids in the programme Outnumbered knew when they asked the vicar, “What would Jesus do if he met a polar bear?”

Tricky question. He’d probably start off by wondering what on earth this creature was – as it wouldn’t be anything you could expect he’d heard about. Then I guess he’d have either run, or charmed the beast…. Or zapped it…

But this doesn’t really help me if I met one.

If you’re thinking of getting married, but not sure – the question “What Would Jesus Do” is not helpful. Unless you’re really really looking for the answer “stay single”.

No. Jesus is not there to reassure us in our certainties. He is not there to confirm what we already thought. He is not there to put the seal of approval on who we are. He is not supposed to dance to our tune. He’s much more Jewish than most of of us can consider. He was, in his earthly life, probably rather smellier than we’re really approve of. His feet and hands would have been calloused. He was almost certainly not blond.

The Jesus of the Gospels is so much richer than that. So much wilder. So much stranger.  The One who walks on water, who tells the storm to be quiet, who lays hands on lepers, who has no human father – he’s pointing us to something so much deeper, so much more important, than whether you’re nice to people, what your politics are, whether you think the way you behave is right.

When we look into the face of Jesus, what we are not to find is ourselves looking back, generally speaking. Not if we are comfortable, happy with our own situation, a bit smug. What we are to find is the face of those we are called to love. A challenge to our attitudes.

But for the ones who are struggling – the ones who feel judged – the ones needing God’s love – the ones who are told they don’t matter – there’s something else to be seen. The face of the one who doesn’t judge. The free love of the God who cares – the one who counts every sparrow on the earth, and knows every hair on our heads, and loves us to bits. The one who says to the one who is tired, come and rest. To the one broken down, I will lay down with you. The one whose yoke is easy, and whose burdens are light.

When you look into the face of Jesus, what do you see?


With thanks to the Archdruid Eileen

Teaching on Marriage – the Marriage of Barnaby and Bernadette (Bear)

This is the outline of the session for KS1 aged children (Infants Year R,1 & 2)

  • We gather the Children in Church
  • Important things:
    • Many people mark important events in their lives by coming to Church
      • The birth of a baby – baptism
      • The passing of a loved one – funeral
      • The love of one person for another – a marriage
    • It’s more than just a day to dress up pretty and have a party
    • It begins something more important: two people sharing their lives together and making important promises to each other
    • The wedding day enables us to mark this beginning and to pray that the couple enjoy a life-long loving time together
  • Places everyone!
    • Sides of the Church – where the congregation sit
    • Groom and Best Man
    • Bride outside
  • Text:

In the name of the +Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

God is love, and those who live in love live in God
and God lives in them. 1 John 4.16

God of wonder and of joy:
grace comes from you,
and you alone are the source of life and love.
Without you, we cannot please you;
without your love, our deeds are worth nothing.
Send your Holy Spirit,
and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of love,
that we may worship you now
with thankful hearts
and serve you always with willing minds;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

In the presence of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
we have come together
to witness the marriage of Barnaby and Bernadette,
to pray for God’s blessing on them,
to share their joy
and to celebrate their love.

Barnaby and Bernadette are now to enter this way of life.
They will each give their consent to the other
and make solemn vows,
and in token of this they will [each] give and receive a ring.
We pray with them that the Holy Spirit will guide and strengthen them,
that they may fulfil God’s purposes
for the whole of their earthly life together.

Barnaby will you take Bernadette to be your wife?
Will you love her, comfort her, honour and protect her,
and, forsaking all others,
be faithful to her as long as you both shall live?

He will probably whisper in the ear of Fr Simon like Sweep used to do

Bernadette, will you take Barnaby to be your husband?
Will you love him, comfort him, honour and protect him,
and, forsaking all others,
be faithful to him as long as you both shall live?

She will probably whisper in the ear of Fr Simon like Sweep used to do

The Priest says to the congregation

Will you, the families and friends of Barnaby and Bernadette,
support and uphold them in their marriage
now and in the years to come?
We will!

These are the promises they make to each other:

I take you,
to be my bear,
to have and to hold
from this day forward;
for better, for worse,
for richer, for poorer,
in sickness and in health,
to love and to cherish,
till death us do part;
according to God’s holy law.
In the presence of God I make this vow.

Heavenly Father, by your blessing
let these rings be to Barnby and Bernadette
a symbol of unending love and faithfulness,
to remind them of the vow and covenant
which they have made this day
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Priest addresses the people

In the presence of God, and before this congregation,
Barnby and Bernadette have given their consent
and made their marriage vows to each other.
They have declared their marriage by the joining of hands
and by the giving and receiving of rings.
I therefore proclaim that they are husband and wife.

The Priest joins their right hands together and says

Those whom God has joined together let no one put asunder.

The Priest says to the couple

God the Father,
God the Son,
God the Holy Spirit,
bless, preserve and keep you;
the Lord mercifully grant you the riches of his grace,
that you may please him both in body and soul,
and, living together in faith and love,
may receive the blessings of eternal life.

The prayers conclude with the Lord’s Prayer.

As our Saviour taught us, so we pray

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.

The Priest says

Barnby and Bernadette,
May God the Holy Trinity make you strong in faith and love,
defend you on every side, and guide you in truth and peace;
and the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be among you and remain with you always.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you the new Mr and Mrs Bear

  • Pictures outside as per tradition