Revolution in Childhood?

June 5, 2008

BBC 4 has just shown an excellent exploration and discussion of childhood as part of the Child of Our Time series which is following a cohort of children from birth until age 20. Tonight’s discussion topics ranged from ‘play’ and ‘risk’ to ‘communication’ between adults and children and between children and ‘how time is spent’ and ‘consumerism’. Well worth watching when it appears on the BBC iPlayer if you’re in the UK.

UPDATE: It didn’t appear on iPlayer.  Very disappointing!


another glorious failure? not this time!

November 17, 2007

Well, Scotland didn’t qualify for the European Championships next summer after losing in the last minute to Italy.  This all sounds just like Scotland.  On the brink of success only to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.  But to be honest it wasn’t quite like that tonight.

Scotland were in the depths before this qualifying campaign.  We were ranked 86th in the world and to be honest that was probably generous.  Scotland were dire.

But that’s all changed.  Walter Smith took over.  He brought in Tommy Burns and Ally McCoist and some organisation and pride.  Suddenly Scotland started winning.  We were in the group of death.  3 of the 4 semi-finalists from the last World Cup were in our group, France, Italy and Ukraine.  We weren’t supposed to do well in that kind of group.  But we did.  We beat France, twice, Ukraine and but for a last minute goal would have taken a well deserved draw from Italy.  Scotland got 21 points in a group we would have done well to get 18 in.

Today was a hopeful day.  We were all really excited about the game.  The whole country seems to be on a high and today was perhaps just one more step on the ladder of national confidence that we seem to be climbing.  Italy, the world champions were at Hampden.  They needed at least a draw.  We really needed a win.

Italy scored in the first minute.  But Scotland never gave up and came back from the shock and equalised in the second half.  The Tartan Army were going crazy.  But it wasn’t to be.  That we even had a chance was amazing.

It looks looks like we have some good young players coming through although we are still short if any of the starting 11 are out.  The draw for the World Cup qualifiers is next week.  Our rise to 13th in the World Rankings means we will be in pot 2, meaning we should avoid having 3 of the top 4 sides in the world in our group.  I think we might even qualify this time… but then eternal optimism seems to be part of a Scotland fan’s make up.  The Famous Tartan Army seem able to treat victory and defeat in the same way.  Never too high, never too low.  The DJ’s choice of song at the final whistle… Que Sara, Sara.  We should maybe adopt it as our national anthem… but then I’m starting to think that we might actually believe the future is in our own hands.  And it looks bright.

Kant you tell it’s different in church now?

November 13, 2007

I had Ethics class today at Uni.  A quick spin through feminist and postmodern ethics.  It was hard work but fascinating.  One of the many thoughts that struck me was that these ethical theories explain clearly the differences in Traditional Church and Emerging Church.  I’ll try to explain.  For me the main differences in the two forms of church would seem to be something like this:

Traditional Church
Meta narrative, justice, generalisation, rules, preaching, structure, right and wrong, telling, creeds, liturgy

Emerging Church
personalisation, discovery, engagement, how does that work for me?, collective decisions, creative.

I wondered if it was about taste, preference, what you are used to.  People say that old people like church as it is because they are comfortable with it.  I don’t disagree, but why do they engage more easily with traditional church and why are there exceptions?

I think it’s all about ethics.  Traditional church was born out of the Enlightenment.  It is big on Reason and Knowledge.  On experts and rules that apply to everyone (10 commandments and stuff).  It is all based on the ethics of Kant.  His ethics of Justice that apparently us men like.  Rules, fair play and justice.

The thing is our postmodern society with its feminist critique would suggest that we have moved away from Kant’s rigid ethical framework to a world which is much more willing to say that knowledge is contextual, rules are not universal but depend on the place and circumstances of their application.  There are no experts, at least none that know more than me about my life.  Perhaps an Ethic of Care is where we find ourselves with more consideration given to how our decissions and actions affect people around us and around the world.

So, back to where I started this ramble, the church.  Is the church for telling us how it is?  Enforcing the rules?  Telling us what to believe and how to believe it?  Or is it about giving us the tools to make good decisions?  To share our stories, our experiences of God in our lives and to make a difference to the lives of others?  I know which I’m more comfortable with, but I think I maybe understand a little better why other people might want the other kind of church, and that’s ok.

For another illustration of what I’m talking about click HERE to read Jonny Baker’s comparison of traditional church concerns and his emergent community.

Small Rituals

September 17, 2007

Danah Boyd has written a thought provoking piece about social scripts and the place of ritual following her experience at her friend and mentor’s recent memorial service.  It’s a great exploration of how ritual is so important to us and it resonated deeply.

We followed a home liturgy over Easter this year and it was really moving and great to have something to do each day of Holy Week which would tell the easter story and involve the whole family.

We have a friend, Fyona, who has been drawn to Judaism and part of the attraction in that is the structure and ritual.  I often feel that is one of Christianity’s weaknesses.  We can do liturgy well, particularly in the Anglican tradition I think, but we miss so many opportunities to engage in stories and actions, rituals if you like.  I think we should take a leaf from the faith of Jesus and think about how we pass our stories from generation to generation through symbol and word and action.

Christian Art?

September 11, 2007

I met with an old friend (as in someone I’ve been friends with for ages not that he is old) I haven’t seen in years today.  Clive was a student of mine, then a colleague for a while, then someone who’s band I booked and told people about and then we lost touch.  Facebook to the rescue!

We met, interestingly, at Edinburgh’s National Gallery of Modern Art.  I say interestingly because Clive now works for UCCF working with students around issues of art and theology and culture.  We got talking about the Christian artistic ghetto and the oddity that is contemporary christian music (CCM).

I have to say I’ve never understood CCM.  It is a niche marketing ploy as far as I’m concerned, usually by people who aren’t good enough to cut it in the real music business.  Harsh?  I don’t think so.

Why do ‘Christian’ artists, not just musicians but lots of artists too, feel the need to explain their work?  Surely as soon as you start to explain art it looses some of it’s transcendent quality.  Surely if art is too obvious it becomes bland and less than engaging.

There are some great artists out there who have faith and live in the world and write, sing and paint their world without sticking a fish or a cross on everything so people know it is ok to buy it.  I like to think.  I like to be drawn in, challenged, moved and engaged by art.  That is what art is for.  If it does any of those things then surely that is good art and it will speak to me of God because God is in the world that art depicts.

And Edinburgh… when will you stop charging for entry to galleries?  Art is for everyone and we have paid for it already through our taxes!  Follow Glasgow and London and make entry FREE!

smacking kids

June 21, 2007


I spent yesterday at a conference organised by the Scottish Commissioner for Children and Young People, Dr Kathleen Marshall on the topic of non-violent childhood.  The day was pretty interesting but to be honest the speakers were preaching to the choir.  The most interesting part of the day was the chance to have a chat with the people at our table and kick around some of the barriers to a non-violent childhood, or put simply banning smacking children.  We wondered why parents get loads of anti-natal information but very little support beyond that unless things reach crisis point.  We talked about how messages and help are advertised.  ‘Come to a course on non-violent parenting’ translates to ‘Do you beat up your kids but want to stop?’.  No-one will go to that course.  But they might go to ‘How to play with your kids’ or ‘getting along with your teenager’.

The statistics are overwhelming.  Only 6% of adults support smacking children.  Most parents who have smacked their kids are ashamed of doing so (I’m on that list) and would rather learn how to deal with their kids without resorting to violence.

The masks above were made by a group of children and were all round the room.  They were sets of alternatives and were are great illustration of how easily we resort to negatives when dealing with children when there are very viable positive responses we could use.

If you hit an adult you would be charged with assault.  If you hit your own child then that’s ok.  That can’t be right can it?

Culture Carriers?

June 6, 2007

I’ve been thinking a bit about how much I re-enforce church as it is and how much I bring a new culture.

In lots of ways I’m sure I do quite a bit of re-enforcing.  When I go somewhere new to lead worship I tend to ask them what they usually do and probably don’t stray too far from that.  I do that consciously because I know that I’m not going to be there with that community to catch any fall-out or to discuss the differences.  I’m also aware how much people struggle with change and for many congregations too much change all at once on a Sunday morning would be counter productive.

It’s also easier for me.  I know where I am and what I’m doing.  I know what comes next and I get to be a little creative when writing a sermon.

A big part of me worries about that.  Am I supporting the status quo by doing this?  I could justify it as building trusting relationships with communities so that I can then challenge them but is there time for that?

The other part of me is culture carrying.  I’m 35.  I’m still in and around the church.  That in itself if counter cultural for the church.  There ain’t many of us about!

My job is to support and develop children’s and youth work.  There are some hugely encouraging things happening.  People are talking about new forms of church, using technology and being creative.  They want me to be part of that.

So how do you do it?  How do you carry a new culture effectively?  Is it possible or is it a case of just starting something entirely new?

I worry that by involving young people in the existing structures we create fodder for the pews and the committees, but then if we don’t involve new people in these places change will be even slower to come.

Any thoughts?