Thursday, 27 May 2010

"Unholier than thou"

Friends are getting married in a Registry Office, but have asked for a Christian service of blessing as part of the ceremony. The law forbids any religious input into a secular ceremony, so I'm having to devise a service that starts with the 'legal bits' done "godlessly" by the Registrar, who then leaves, and then continues with promises, exchange of rings, blessing etc. But we didn't want the legal promises to be completely sparse. So we suggested that the following was said :

"I XX take you XX to be my lawful wedded X (i.e. the legally required words)
to have and to hold
from this day forward
for better for worse
for richer for poorer
in sickness and in health
till death parts us"

No reference to God, and nothing religious in that, but the Registrar deems it unacceptable. The reason? It's a quotation from the Book of Common Prayer (which it sort of is, albeit with the line "in accordance with God's holy will" removed. Actually these lines are found in the wedding services of most Christian churches in the UK, I'd imagine.)

Wednesday, 12 May 2010


. . . just off for the city centre where I'll be busking for Christian Aid all day. Owing to some unimaginative attempts by a city council officer to get more control over such things, the only covered public space in town (which isn't owned by the City Council anyway) has been decreed out of bounds, so I've had to go through the hoops getting charitable collection licence and (separate) busking licence, and have to keep moving from place to place every hour. Ugh.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

an auspicious encounter

A strangely auspicious event this (Sunday) afternoon : two days after being elected to Oxford City Council as a Green Party member, my wife Karen and I were cycling back from a party in Iffley along the Isis towpath. We got separated when I stopped to take a picture for two foreign visitors and after finding each other again ended up taking an unintended route back across the grassy Port Meadow.

As we approached the Trap Grounds allotments we encountered a group of twenty or so parishioners and choirboys from St Margarets Church processing in their cassocks and choir vestments behind a large silver crucifix, swinging incense as they went.

We stayed with them as they blessed the vegetable allotments and prayed for their fruitfulness, then the meadow and river, then back over to the canal, blessing the railway en route to the children's playground next door to the school where Karen teaches. It was very moving to hear the famous Gospel passage "Jesus said . . let the little children come to me" in the context of a playground, and to see the swings and climbing frames censed.

Somehow everything about it reflected the spiritual heart of the Green vision; the simple liturgy and ritual with its completely serious intent was the 'carrier' for a light-hearted and inclusive social occasion. The bizarre nature of the encounter and the amazing coincidence of the timing seemed to augur well for the ministry ahead.