The Spiritual Dark Age – @tokillaking – album review

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It’s years since I posted up a music review on my blog but I’ve felt compelled to write about this new album from underrated band To Kill A King. Full disclosure: the lead singer Ralph is a family friend I’ve known since he was a teenager so I’ve always followed his band’s work with interest. The Spiritual Dark Age is To Kill A King’s third album and was three years in the making. I saw them live on Monday at intimate Newcastle venue The Cluny – they are still on tour as I write – go and see them if you get the chance, a really energetic and entertaining band to see live.

5 Star Review: The Spiritual Dark Age – To Kill A King

I’m not sure how the band would feel about my describing this as a concept album – but I think it is and the clue is in the album name, title track ‘The Spiritual Dark Age’. The theme running through this blistering 40 minutes of anthemic, lyrical folk rock is ‘the crack in everything’. The feel of this album reminds me a little of Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible (although it doesn’t have as much a sense of dread). Ralph’s lyrics articulate a generation that is set adrift spiritually, perhaps most clearly in the title track:

And so the good man said:
“Turns out God is dead.”
They worshipin’ signs instead
Faith from books they haven’t read
They’re angry all the time
Angry at some hole inside
Welcome to the Spiritual Dark Age

Oh, don’t lose your grip
Don’t get contemplative
About this space we live
Between first breath and then the grave
No need to be saved
Just some rules on how to behave
Welcome to the Spiritual Dark Age

I’m not alone and you’re not alone in this
There’s no map and we’re all just set adrift
Just children making pictures in the sky
Arguing about who’s wrong and who’s right

Aye, there’s the rub. Other tracks include the Unspeakable Crimes of Peter Popoff – about a televangelist, and Compassion is a German Word, which contains my favourite lyric: ‘compassion is my weapon of choice’. I made this little poster (my first piece of fan art!) to illustrate it (shamelessly nicking Banksy’s image from Palestine):

Compassion is my weapon of choice.jpg

There is hope to be found too, a sense of solidarity, a sense of finding out what really makes life worth living such as the insight of Good Old Days:

There’s time to waste
There’s a golden beam lights up their face
But you never stopped to appreciate it

So tell me now how it’s possible that a single day seems so
Beautiful and you never know them till they’re gone

This is a great album. Having received it on (cool purple) vinyl has made me listen to it ‘properly’ – as in all the way through without skipping. It’s a cliche but it really is all killer, no filler.

I can’t remember the last time I heard an album that so accurately pinpointed the current spiritual zeitgeist. Have a listen!

The album’s available on Spotify or direct from the band’s website here: http://www.tokillaking.co.uk/

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My vinyl copy of the album on my record player

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Listen to an interview on BBC Newcastle about my book ‘More TV Vicar?’

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I had the exciting opportunity to go on the radio this morning at BBC Newcastle and be interviewed by Ingrid Hagemann on the breakfast show about my book ‘More TV Vicar?’

You can listen to the interview in full here:

Street scenes from Malta

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We just spent a lovely week in Malta and since we were staying in Valletta, the historic capital, I wandered around the streets quite a lot just taking in the atmosphere. Almost on every street I found a wonderful old bolted door or shop front that looked like it hadn’t changed in decades. Here is a collection of the photos I took that I hope evoke something of the faded grandeur of the place.

Happy 2014 – say ‘yes’ more, try and have more fun!

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A new year has come around again and what a year 2013 has been! I’ve been thoroughly enjoying my time at Cranmer Hall. I had some wonderful placements in the Summer:

My husband Paul graduated with a PhD from York University – I’m so proud. Then he went on to get a new job so we are moving to the North East where he will be consultant at St Benedict’s Hospice in Sunderland. I am going to be serving my curacy (I will be a curate for 4 years – that’s a trainee priest) in Houghton Le Spring at St Michael and All Angels – starting in July – I’m very excited, it’s a wonderful community. My ordination as deacon, God-willing, will be on 29th June 2014 in Durham Cathedral.

I am also going to be writing a book for DLT – here’s the blurb:

According to popular culture in Britain vicars are either bumbling (if they’re male) or simply love curlywurlies (if they’re female), Christians are old (usually), stuck in the past, obsessed with sex and always take the moral high ground. This book explores why these stereotypes exist – some are satire, some are pure nostalgia, some are just toe-curlingly accurate! The church has provided a rich seam for comedians to mine, some great characters for crime fiction and nostalgic storylines for soap operas. How do Christians feel about their portrayal in the media? What does it mean when Christians laugh along with the stereotypes or get incensed at misrepresentation?

Look out for it in 2015.

I’m not one for making New Year’s Resolutions but the last couple of years I have resolved to try and have more fun – a good way to start a new year I think!

Here’s wishing you a very Happy New Year!

happy 2014

New Year Prayer

Here’s a prayer for the new year taken from the Loyola Press:

God, thank you for a new year. May we all be willing to begin anew with a clean slate. We know that you are always ready to forgive us. Help us to be willing to forgive ourselves and to forgive one another.

As we begin a new year, remind us of our truest values and our deepest desires. Help us to live in the goodness that comes from doing what you want us to do. Help us to put aside anxiety about the future and the past, so that we might live in peace with you now, one day at a time.

Amen.

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Finally, thank you for reading my blog, it wouldn’t be the same without you!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for my blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 23,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 9 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Book Review: The Social Media Gospel by Meredith Gould

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This review first appeared at the Big Bible Project.

 

Some of you will know that I am currently studying for a BA in Theology and Ministry at Cranmer Hall, Durham. For my dissertation I am exploring social media and evangelism. So instead of writing my usual digidisciple posts for the next few months, I am going to kill two birds with one stone and review some of the books I am reading in my research. The first one is a book new out this year by the wonderful Meredith Gould.

Bryony Taylor with Meredith Gould's book
Bryony Taylor with Meredith Gould’s book

The Social Media Gospel – Meredith Gould (Liturgical Press, 2013)

This is a book designed for busy people who are involved in any form of ministry and who want to learn how and why they should use social media. It’s a slim volume – each chapter (appropriately) has the immediacy of a short blog post. This meant that I read it comfortably in one sitting (over about an hour). There is a good combination of some theological reflection alongside practical application in the book. What I enjoyed the most was Meredith’s comical style and pithy statements that contain much truth, such as:

‘Online tools provide us with the means to teach with a previously unimaginable reach.’ p.11

Meredith sees it as part of our calling as Christians to use social media, and I agree with her:

‘The cloud of witnesses takes on new meaning as we use social media to live out our baptismal call’ p.11

This is, I think, what we are trying to do here at the Big Bible Project. She goes on to describe community:

‘Social media has opened up yet another portal for seeing and being seen, for knowing and being known, for being in and belonging to community.’

I can say that this is personally true from my own experience of being involved with Big Bible and the community of digital disciples (including you!)

The book is a clarion call to the naysayers, opening the eyes of the sceptical in a gentle way to the opportunities that are available to us through social media to share the love of Christ with the world.

I disagreed with Meredith’s views on looking at age cohorts (such categories as ‘Baby Boomers’ and ‘Millennials’) to decide which social media tools to use. I just don’t think those labels really work – I often find myself behaving like people in all those ‘age’ categories. But having said that, her advice is practical and grounded and also realistic – she acknowledges how fast moving the world of social media is.

I would definitely buy this book for a church leader who was wanting to get into social media but not sure where to start.

I’ll leave you with Meredith’s wonderful adaptation of the famous prayer of Teresa of Avila:

Christ has no online presence but yours,

No blog, no Facebook page but yours,

Yours are the tweets through which love touches this world,

Yours are the posts through which the Gospel is shared,

Yours are the updates through which hope is revealed.

Christ has no online presence but yours,

No blog, no Facebook page but yours.

 

Women bishops – @maggidawn book review and some personal reflections

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I haven’t yet shared any personal perspective on the women bishops debate in the Church of England. Having now read Maggi Dawn’s excellent short book on her reflections – both theological and personal – it feels a good time to share some of my own thoughts. What follows is a review of the book with my own reflections. Click on the image below to buy the book direct from the publisher (don’t give your money to nasty Amazon!)

Like the wideness of the sea. Women Bishops and the Church of England by Maggi DawnHow did we get here?

The first part of the book is a great description and analysis of the history of the ordination of women in the Church of England. I, like Maggi, felt a sense of call to the priesthood before women were able to be priested in the Church of England. When I was 10 years old I used to imagine running my own church – I’ve only since, after going through the selection process realised that this is quite unusual! Then, I remember the euphoria in the early nineties when women were admitted to the priesthood and I showed an interest by interviewing Sheila in my home parish who was one of the first women priests for a school project at the age of 15/16. Apparently I said to my mother at the time ‘this could be a career option for me now’.

Maggi refers to the excellent article by Sarah Coakley entitled ‘Has the Church of England lost its reason?’ which I think is one of the best theological analyses of the situation you can read. By way of an update, here is the consultation document published yesterday on the next steps in the women bishops process following the ‘no’ vote in November 2012.

Theological analysis

I think Maggi’s book is unique in approaching the theological issues involved in this impasse in the church by focusing on the theology of waiting. She highlights, very helpfully, that encouraging people to ‘wait on God’ can be used as a way of silencing opponents:

‘Calling on the church to wait, if that is simply a means of buying time and pacifying justifiable anger, is a mistaken and even destructive use of a spiritual discipline.’ p.37

The book then goes on to explore biblical examples which show that sometimes it is more that God is waiting for us than us waiting for Him to act.

I was relieved to read the section about anger. It is hard for British people, I think, to express anger – particularly in a Christian context. We just don’t know how to do it. The Church of England has been paralysed by a culture of niceness these last few years. Maggi draws on the work of Beckford and writes:

‘A polite and patient spirituality will create a church that waits for heaven, but only a spirituality that dares to get angry and overthrow some moneylenders’ tables will be able to inaugurate the Kingdom of God on earth.’ p.37

Personal response

I was horrified to read of the sexism Maggi experienced when she was first ordained and indeed throughout her ministry here in England. I want to take the opportunity to thank all the women clergy in the Church of England for being pioneers and being the ones to put up with so much over the last 20 years – without you I wouldn’t be where I am now, training to be a priest.

I always thought that by the time I was ordained deacon (which, God willing, will be in 2014) that women would be able to be consecrated as bishops. So when the measure didn’t pass in November 2012 it hit me very hard. I cried quite a lot when I heard and I couldn’t quite figure out why. I was telling myself that everything really was fine, I have felt called to the priesthood and the way to that is open for me, and the joy that has brought me has been immeasurable. So why was I so devastated? Is it because I’m ambitious? I don’t think so, I suppose it just feels like, at the moment, for women in the church, our wings are clipped at ordination: you can ‘come this far and no further’. What is really sad is that there is still quite a lot of misogyny and sexism in the church I love. That that I’ve experienced is minor compared to some of the stories Maggi shares (such as being spat on – yes really), but it is still a source of sorrow that this attitude still exists. I’ve heard comments such as ‘women make poor preachers because they have high pitched voices’ (as if no men ever had annoying preaching voices) or ‘that woman in X country is a really bad bishop so we should consider ourselves lucky we haven’t got them’ (as if we’ve never had a male bishop that’s not been very good).

The fact that women cannot be bishops at the moment is hiding an awful lot – it’s giving implicit permission for sexist attitudes to continue and it is holding women clergy back from having a fuller ministry for the benefit of the whole church. Maggi shares that since being in America, in a church context where women are fully included that she has never felt so free to exercise her ministry. So when people say that introducing women bishops will ‘transform the church’ they really are speaking the truth – it really would do that, it would begin to remove the implicit ‘permission’ to make sexist comments and release more blessings for the church than we could possibly imagine.

Final thoughts

I commend this book to you, it is frank, not polemical (an opponent of women’s ministry would be comfortable reading it), honest and theologically rigorous. It’s short – I read it in a single sitting and should bring encouragement to all in the church who wish to see her flourishing to her full potential. Thanks Maggi!

2012 in review

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2012 has been a very significant year for me and my family. I got recommended for training for ministry in the Church of England in May and started my training this October. My brother got married in Provincetown and we had a fab week there whale watching and celebrating. My husband also achieved his PhD in Medical Sciences. So a not insignificant year!

I’m so grateful to God for all his many blessings.

I merged my professional blog with my personal one this year – which is what you’re reading now. I also launched a new satirical/comedy site about the Church of England called Tea and Cake or Death. Head over there now to see a very funny article (not written by me but by our chief satirist ‘unshaun sheep’)
Anglicans to stay up till Midnight to witness The Doctor’s regeneration. This site has proved the most popular site I’ve ever created!

Thank you so much for reading and following this blog this year. I wish you every blessing for 2013.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 13,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 3 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.