Monthly Archives: June 2005

Why I’ve Been Offline For Two Days

Never, never buy Norton Internet Security. The firewall had given me problems a few months ago, resulting in a switch to ZoneAlarm and subsequently Sygate, but on Thursday I made a grave error: I paid twenty-six of our finest British pounds to upgrade to the latest version of Norton, which includes anti-spyware and anti-adware. To cut a very long story short, I was still able to email but any program that wanted to access the web was prohibited, even if the software said it was allowed. For techies, it appears that port 80 was being blocked, but there was nowhere to change it.

So I’ve uninstalled it today. For anti-virus I’ve replaced it with a package that is free for home and non-commercial use called Avast, for anti-spam I’m trying Qurb (I didn’t like Mailwasher since you have to disable your email client from regularly performing an automatic send/receive), and I’m sticking with Sygate for the firewall.

Norton, you are never coming near my PC again. And I mean that in Christian love.

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Why I’ve Been Offline For Two Days

Never, never buy Norton Internet Security. The firewall had given me problems a few months ago, resulting in a switch to ZoneAlarm and subsequently Sygate, but on Thursday I made a grave error: I paid twenty-six of our finest British pounds to upgrade to the latest version of Norton, which includes anti-spyware and anti-adware. To cut a very long story short, I was still able to email but any program that wanted to access the web was prohibited, even if the software said it was allowed. For techies, it appears that port 80 was being blocked, but there was nowhere to change it.

So I’ve uninstalled it today. For anti-virus I’ve replaced it with a package that is free for home and non-commercial use called Avast, for anti-spam I’m trying Qurb (I didn’t like Mailwasher since you have to disable your email client from regularly performing an automatic send/receive), and I’m sticking with Sygate for the firewall.

Norton, you are never coming near my PC again. And I mean that in Christian love.

Moving To Essex

I spent some of this morning tracking down recommended removal companies and phoning them to arrange for quotes prior to our move.

Yesterday I did some research by looking at the website of the local paper. However I needn’t have worried, because Dave Walker at the Cartoon Blog has performed some invaluable research on life in Essex. I am so enriched.

Father’s Day Was Naff

The kids hardly saw me on Father’s Day. 9 am said communion at one church, straight on to 10:30 am at a second, back to the first for 12 noon to approve a document, 4 pm had to obey a three-line whip to be at a service to mark the closure of another church, 6:30 pm take a service at yet another church. Every time I went out my daughter said, “Daddy come back”. I notice since then I’ve stopped saying, “I’m going to church,” because I don’t want her to think that church is what takes Daddy away from her. I’ve been saying, “I’m going to see some people and try to help them.” But the fact is, that on days like Father’s Day, the church does take me away from my children. Some of you will remember that old Daily Mail headline where they attacked the Moonies: ‘The church that splits up families’. The Moonies sued, and lost. But maybe the headline could be applied to mainstream Christianity sometimes?

Father’s Day Was Naff

The kids hardly saw me on Father’s Day. 9 am said communion at one church, straight on to 10:30 am at a second, back to the first for 12 noon to approve a document, 4 pm had to obey a three-line whip to be at a service to mark the closure of another church, 6:30 pm take a service at yet another church. Every time I went out my daughter said, “Daddy come back”. I notice since then I’ve stopped saying, “I’m going to church,” because I don’t want her to think that church is what takes Daddy away from her. I’ve been saying, “I’m going to see some people and try to help them.” But the fact is, that on days like Father’s Day, the church does take me away from my children. Some of you will remember that old Daily Mail headline where they attacked the Moonies: ‘The church that splits up families’. The Moonies sued, and lost. But maybe the headline could be applied to mainstream Christianity sometimes?

Church Ahead Of Trends In Web Browser Wars

According to a piece of research on eChurch Active, use of the Firefox browser is at 8.06% and rising in the wider world, but among church users it’s up to 27%. Nice for the church to be ahead of the trends rather than behind them and just copying; also nice it’s not so simple as the received wisdom that the porn industry drives all innovation on the Internet.

Sentamu To Be Archbishop Of York

Maggi Dawn has a beautiful post about the appointment of her former vicar as Archbishop of York. Read in particular her account of his ‘enthronement’ service as Bishop for (not ‘of’) Birmingham. This man is good news.

Keeping It In The Family

Here’s a quote I found in on page 166 of Walsh and Keesmaat’s ‘Colossians Remixed’. It comes from David Glass, CEO and president of Wal-Mart, and dates from about five years ago:

“Our priorities are that we want to dominate North America first, then South America, then Asia and then Europe.” [Quoted from Adbusters: Journal of the Mental Environment 31 (August/September 2000): 2.]

Set this against the following: in the UK a few years ago Wal-Mart bought the supermarket chain Asda. How is the relationship described? Slogans say that Asda is ‘part of the Wal-Mart family’.

So Wal-Mart is a family bent on world domination. Exactly what kind of family would that be? The Borgias? Or maybe you can suggest a more contemporary example? Over to you …

The Media: Public Interest and Common Good

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s speech yesterday of the above title has certainly put the cat among the pigeons. Here are one or two thoughts I had on it:

The Archbishop (or henceforth the ABC) probes the issue of journalism and secrecy. He quotes the question that has sometimes been attributed rightly or wrongly to Jeremy Paxman, “Why is this bastard lying to me?”. But he points out that not all secrecy is sinister. We wouldn’t want certain things about ourselves that are rightly kept private made public. So he wants a more sensitive approach to the old ‘public interest’ defence that journalists employ.

Well, quite right, too, and as a minister I know only too well the issue of confidences that must be kept. I only wish that Rowan Williams had at this point applied his ‘brain the size of a planet’ to the question of why we have got into this situation. What about examining the postmodern ‘hermeneutic of suspicion’ at this point, the whole difficulty in pomo thinking about truth and power? That would have illuminated a very worthwhile speech.

Also suffering too much from brevity is the section on weblogs. He notes the positive use of blogs to provide quick and necessary rebuttals but sees them as purely ephemeral with no notion of posterity, and often full of wild, unchecked comments and bigotry. Well, there is some truth in this, of course. But the issue of the ephemeral is contentious: are not we bloggers typing our online journals? The Christian spiritual tradition knows much about ‘journalling’, and it is often a very positive reflective process. Granted, in the blogosphere we have to contend with ‘information overload’, but blogging could be the place where the reflective approach begins in our media.

Which neatly brings me on to something else the ABC says. He has a very useful section in the speech where he bewails the contemporary media emphasis on ‘urgency’ with its concomitant features of ‘breaking news’ and ‘instant comments’. He notes how this can marginalise religion, which does not always display ‘urgent’ qualities. So it was difficult for 24-hour news channels to cope with the last days of Pope John Paul II’s life. I would just add that ‘urgency’ has other dangers, too, not least with the phenomenon of ‘instant comments’. Do we not more often need considered reflection? In which case we come back to my argument above about the reflective use of blogs, but it is not limited to blogging.

Having said all that, go read the speech. It’s excellent. In summary I think I’m just saying I wish he had taken his thoughts further and deeper.

You Can Never Go Back Home

Well, it’s been a full six days since I’ve blogged. Life has been manic. We are busy selling possessions bit by bit on eBay (if you want to see what we’re currently selling, I pasted some code into the home page of my main website). Then there is all the protracted negotiations over work to the manse where we shall be moving in August. I might do some real minister’s work some day soon.

But last Sunday was a highlight. I had been invited back to the church where I grew up to take their Church Anniversary. It has changed so much, and for the better. Only the ‘old guard’ remember me from thirteen years ago. It was great to catch up with them, embarrassing when I’d forgotten someone’s name or didn’t recognise them, of course, but also thrilling that there were so many people there who didn’t know me from Adam. A church that had between sixty and eighty adults on a Sunday morning when I left now has about one hundred and seventy, plus fifty to sixty children and teenagers.

The most heartening change was this, though: even by the time I left the majority of the congregation had become majority African-Caribbean (and woe betide you if you mixed up the Ghanaians with the Nigerians, or assumed that somebody from Montserrat was Jamaican!). However it was still in many ways a ‘white’ church. I remember when the first West Indian became a church steward. All the usual comments came out about not understanding what he said when he gave out the notices in a service. But now all the stewards are black and it was apparent that the lady on duty on Sunday morning could comfortably do her duties in the vestry and in the worship gathering in a way appropriate to her culture, and it was now the norm. Her greeting was very West Indian in style, the choir sang a few pieces before the service that would have been known back home in the islands, and so on. No longer were they marginalised, now their culture was at last central to the way the church functioned.

So you can never go back home and find it just as you remembered it, and my sermon took up that theme, with reference to postmodern culture. Too many churches behave like that: a yearning for ‘how it used to be’ when we actually have to live in a different world. Even the West Indians and Africans at my old church, although they bring their customs into worship now and do not suffer the stigma of the past, cannot simply recreate how it once was back home. And for the younger generations, ‘back home’ never was their home: this place is.

It would be interesting to see what shape that church takes if Methodism ever sends them a black minister. That hasn’t happened yet, although I’d hate that to be read in any way as casting an aspersion on the current minister, because he was wonderful in facilitating things for me, and he seems to be regarded very warmly. I just hope he isn’t treated with the old colonial-style deference.

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