Just too late to make my birthday wish-list – but probably 100 times too expensive for it as well – comes the TopBrewer under-the-counter coffee and drinks brewing and delivery system ...

Transient

Serious #envy!

Posted
Authorrevjgc@gmail.com
CategoriesLife
Tagscoffee

Mark Earey is in the unusual position of being one of the very few, if not only, people in the country to teach about worship full-time to trainee ministers. A member of the Liturgical Commission of the Church of England, too, he helped draft the Common Worship (CW) services used in most Anglican churches up and down the country, and has written books on how to use it well. All this means we can trust that he knows his liturgy and worship, and cares deeply for it.

Or can we? Many 'low' church Anglicans, and for many British believers in Baptist or other non-conformist traditions, may say that they don't use liturgy, and would be suspicious of any liturgist, let alone an 'official' one like Mark.

But for both groups there will be surprises when reading Mark's important new book, Beyond Common Worship: Towards a New Liturgical Paradigm. The lovers of (Anglican) liturgy might be surprised at the scale of problems with CW even within a decade of its introduction, and that he's already urging us to be work on what our future liturgical steps should be. And for those who dislike fixed liturgies will hopefully be pleased to find him arguing for a future that allows more organic response arising from the local context of worship.

The biggest problems with Anglican liturgy as it stands are outlined in chapter 1. My take-aways from this are three-fold:

  1. Authority: for Anglican ministers there's a complex skein of laws and items of guidance that surround 'authorized', 'approved' and even 'commended' liturgies, and how the different strands of authority in the Bishop, the minister him/herself, and the PCC all interact. Many ministers, not wishing to 'get it wrong' play safe, restricting their churches to a diet of just a few well-known texts. This pains Earey, who with the rest of the Liturgical Commission have spent much of the last decade focussed on trying to help people understand the greater permissions and so use a richer set of liturgies during the year. He rightly concludes that this makes for a system that feels very legal or juridicial. And from my experience of having uncomfortable debates about the letter of the liturgical law, this can so easily lead to us losing the bigger picture of 'what will build up this congregation?' Earey pertinently asks why we have this approach for our liturgies, but not for our songs and hymns? Those are just as important -- if not more so -- in in-forming our lives as disciples.
  2. Complexity: there's just too much of it! Buy all the official printed CW books, and you'll be several hundred pounds the poorer, but the richer by several thousand new pages on your bookshelves, where unfortunately they might well remain. To create a non-Eucharistic service on any given Sunday a conscientious minister might well need to be consulting 4 different books. No wonder there's a market for books on how to use CW ...
  3. Sometimes it is Hindering Mission. If true, this is the most serious charge, and one that needs the most urgent attention. Why might this be? Earey is well aware that there are a significant group of "rebels ... that are simply getting on and doing what they want. ... [perhaps] because they are planning fresh expressions, or café church, or all-age Eucharists, and they are conscious of working with the unchurched." And he rightly goes on to say that in most cases "their motives are good and often missional, but they are finding the tools the Church of England gives them are not 'bad' per se, but they are not easy to use and do not feel fit for purpose for many contexts."

In Chapter 2, he looks at and rejects some potential solutions, like making the rules clearer (not enough on its own), and expanding the boundaries of what's allowed (probably adds yet more complexity, and doesn't ultimately solve the problem of boundaries). I better like his idea of creating "Bishops' Liturgical Orders" as a parallel to the "Bishops' Mission Orders" where they can suspend the usual parochial rules to create missionary congregations. But even this feels like a sticking-plaster, not a longer-term solution, and would likely cause confusion and dis-ease within a Diocese.

Chapter 3 is the heart of the book, where he Earey proposes a way of providing a diverse-yet-common approach to Anglican worship, that will give permissions and provide safeguards in new ways. But I won't give the plot away here. Go read the book instead.

The book's subtitle Anglican Identity and Liturgical Diversity, gives us the clue for the other major theme of the book. Earey shows that "how we worship" is, for Anglicans at least, intimately connected to our denominational Identity. For these days, 'Who are we as Anglicans?'' and 'What do we do as Anglicans?'' are key questions being hotly debated around the Anglican Communion. The most powerful of these worship identities is in the founding Book of Common Prayer, which in the first few hundred years of its life (!) could did provide both meanings of 'common' (shared and simple) for English worship. But with a worldwide set of congregation, worshipping in radically different languages and environments (sometimes even within the same building or town), do we share enough in the human realm to make truly 'common' worship? This is what he explores in chapter 4.

His is a helpfully realistic voice, not being afraid to say some hard things about the "Anglican treasures". For example, "though a younger generation ... may come to love and appreciate the Prayer Book [BCP], it is more likely to be akin to the way that teenagers come to love and appreciate the taste of tea or coffee. It is a taste one can come to appreciate, but not necessarily one that appeals or connects at first encounter . And it must be first encounter issues which are a priority for the Church today."

Another strength is that he recognises the variety present inside the Church of England. He knows full well that at the Anglo-Catholic and Conservative Evangelical wings of the Church of England there are other reasons why ministers are likely to be rebelling against the current rules. But I would have liked to see more comment on the implications of his suggestions for relations with Roman Catholics and with the evangelical free churches: would they be helped or hindered?

He finishes by working out some of the implications of his proposals for Bishops, parish clergy, and Liturgical Commissions. He also provides some sample "worshipper-focused guidlines" to use in place of "institution-focused rules".

I would also liked to have seen a few more examples of the huge range of sub-cultures we have outside the church in the UK, and that patterns of migration are only increasing this. He does refer to non-book cultures, and that "for such people, even to be given a simple printed order of service may feel culturally alien", but what about deaf fellowships where they speak British Sign Language, or WAVE that uses Makaton for adults with learning disabilities? The same discussion about very different forms of literacy should be beneficial when working out how to better engage our children in "all-age worship". And what of the situation in the Church of England's few congregations in France that would like to reach out and have services in French as well as English, but they can't because no-one in the House of Bishops is willing to sign off on a translation as being in keeping with the doctrinal standard of the Book of Common Prayer?

But these are relatively small quibbles. I hope that this book will set the tone for future discussions: positive, forward-looking but with love for the past, desiring to be inclusive of all traditions, and with heart for mission.

So, whether you care about pre-prepared liturgies or not, do yourself and your church a favour, and read this book. And then give it to the people who decide the shape of your worship to read too. It is written for and about Anglicans, and the proposed revision of canon law is necessarily specific to that context. But most of the discussion about texts, authority, permission, local traditions and wider family membership, should prompt equally important reflection in other traditions too. For these are questions which are endemic to any church with more than one member ...

Posted
AuthorJonathan Clark
CategoriesChristian

And in the style of Blue Peter, "here's one I (Martha) made earlier ..."

Jewelled snowflake decorating our Chriwtmas tree

Jewelled snowflake decorating our Chriwtmas tree

This is an extension of my jewellery making for friends and family. The combination of red and clear beads is rather lovely, I think.

It was more tricky to make than most pieces, in particular not breaking off the arms of the wire star which the beads are strung on. Do drop us a line or Facebook one of us, if you'd like me to do some for you for next year.

Posted
AuthorMartha Clark
CategoriesCreative

I saw these in a department store near me, and thought they looked great, and probably very simple to emulate. And, thankfully, that turned out to be true. After one trial star, I made a few in the hour before my church's Christmas bazaar, and sold them easily.

I started with square patterned craft paper of about 100gsm, but any stiff paper or card would do. If you have A4 or Letter sized paper to hand, then you'll just have larger off-cuts (unless you think ahead slightly and get two smaller stars from a single sheet).

The only tools you'll need are a pencil, ruler and some scissors. And two cut out triangles for each star. Simples.

Here's the pattern that I was using:

image.jpg

To make it draw a vertical line half way across the square (line 1 in the picture). Then with the rule measure the same length as the bottom edge from the bottom right hand corner, until it crosses (1). This is (2). Mark the half way point along (2) at (3), and then measure about 1/15th in each direction, making two (4) marks. Drawn a notch (5) as shown on the opposite edge -- these are what will hold the two halves together. The precise shape and size of the notches aren't critical, but try to make them all about the same.

Repeat until you have an isosceles triangle with three notches. Cut out two such sheets.

Then fold the triangle in half, from each point to the mid-point of its opposite face. If the paper is patterned on one side, like what I was using, then you probably want to turn one of the triangles over before you do the folding. And if you're using thick card, the folding will be easier if you score lightly along the folds first.

The triangles should now look like this:

image.jpg

Then hold the two triangles facing each other, and bring together, mating the notches together.

image.jpg

Then you're almost done. Just make a small hole in the top of one star point, and add a length of brightly coloured thread or string to hang it up. Et voila! 

image.jpg

Here are the three I made in about 20 minutes:

image.jpg

On the red and green stars you can see the effect of having one of the triangles turned over before folding. It has meant that the dotty patterns are visible on both parts of the same side of the star, and on the reverse both parts will be blank. You don't have to do it this way, of course ... have fun experimenting with different colour combinations.

Posted
AuthorJonathan Clark
CategoriesCreative
VRP_icon.PNG

Sometimes it's a big help to be able to record lectures or seminars, for either absent friends, or because you know you may want to review it later, to go over tricky points, or just slow down the lecturer. Dictaphones still have their place, but in these smartphone days, recording audio is almost what a phone is designed to do. And, for iPhone or iPad owners, there's no better options than Voice Record Pro, which despite the 'Pro' label, has recently become free. What sets it apart from Apple's own voice memo app for the iPhone, is that you can do anything you need with the audio after it's captured. You can trim it, convert it into an MP3 (from its native M4A/MP4), or share it by email, or via cloud services including Dropbox, Google Drive, and Microsoft SkyDrive. It also looks rather cool. You can also take notes directly into the app, and add a photo, both of which will be embedded into the exported file.

Available on the iTunes store.

Screenshot, showing some of the many actions you can do with the recorded material

Screenshot, showing some of the many actions you can do with the recorded material

Posted
AuthorJonathan Clark
CategoriesTech
Tagsapps
TextGrabber_icon.PNG

Libraries. Not places I ever went to before becoming a student again. Strange places, with people apologetically whispering, or wandering around bored but trying not to show it. Places where you can't eat or drink, or (quite often) actually take out the books you want to read. Those biggest and most expensive reference works, that often provide the way in to a subject or essay, mostly have "FOR REFERENCE ONLY" stamped on the spine. Or you just can't work well in the place because some of your friends are in there, and it's too tempting to chat with them. Or you just plain work better in a place with no other people that distract you just by walking around, or sitting there on their laptop checking Facebook, which just reminds you how little you're enjoying the current page you're reading and re-reading.

So, take a photocopy, right? Well, yes, in theory. But in practice, most Cambridge Uni libraries have their own unique photocopying card, which come in £5 increments, and can't be used in any other library. So you don't want to get a card unless you know you're going to use it a lot. Or some libraries don't have a photocopier, or it's too near a librarian and you worry you might be incur their wrath by copying too many pages from a single book. But even if you do manage to photocopy some pages, you've then got no way of getting those important words from the paper into your essay, or into a searchable form. It's like they're still locked into the book.

If only you could bring in your laptop and a flatbed scanner, and afford £200 for good enough OCR software. And even if you could carry all that around and find sockets to power it all, it's a very slow process, taking 3 to 5 minutes per page to get some useful text.

Well, this is now possible on your iPad, iPhone, or Android device, and for just a measly £4.99. You take a picture with the phone's camera, select the part you want to 'read', and you get the recognised text in only 20-30 seconds. (And for those Biblical scholars amongst you, more remarkably still, it gets words and passages of koine Greek done too.) This amazing app is called TextGrabber, and is written by ABBYY, the same people that made the expensive OCR software I bought a decade ago, where you needed to train on every letter in the alphabet. Thankfully computing power, and their algorithms, has improved significantly since then. As long as the photo is a good quality one to start with, it will normally cope with full reference footnotes too, despite the funny mixtures of abbreviations, numbers and proper names.

Each 'page' of text gets saved in the app, and can be edited in place. (It currently adds more line breaks than it needs to, which I tend to edit out at this stage.) And then with two taps it can be share out to email, Evernote, Facebook, Twitter, or the clipboard so that other apps can pick it up. I mainly later copy to the clipboard and then beam it (using the previously mentioned BeamApp) to my laptop when I'm back in my study working on the notes or essay.

It really seems like magic the first time you use it --and doesn't even need an internet connection, unlike some other OCR services out there. Available from the iTunes Store.

TextGrabber reading some text

TextGrabber reading some text

Posted
AuthorJonathan Clark
CategoriesTech
BeamApp_icon.PNG

It's time I wrote up some recommendations of new apps I've been enjoying or getting good value from. Some are improvements on existing apps, and others, like the first two I'm going to mention, are really new concepts.

It is truly a first-world problem when you find you have an iPhone or an iPad, and you want to read or look at something on it from your Mac laptop or desktop, or vice versa. Or even if you want to send something between iPhone and iPad. For example, looking up map directions on the laptop, and then wanting to send the map or start the turn-by-turn directions to the phone to actually get you from A to B. Or you're reading something on one and you want to finish it when out and about (move it to the device) or on a larger screen when you get home (move to the laptop). Or you've looked up a phone number in an email on the desktop, and you want to just start calling the number from your, err, phone. (That thing I just occasionally do youth my phone.)

These are exactly the problems that BeamApp solves. Running as an app on your iOS device, and a always-running application on the Mac, simply copy the web page URL, or address, or piece of text, select Beam, and the name of the other device you want to send it to, and hey presto! a or two second later its opening the same web page, or starting the map directions, dialling the number, or has dropped text into the clipboard ready to use.

It's still pretty much a first version, and I've made some suggestions and bug reports to the developers, but I still use it most days. The iOS app is free, and the Mac app is £1.99 or so. For more details, including a video demo, see the BeamApp website.

Posted
AuthorJonathan Clark
CategoriesTech