Perhaps what you need to consider is if your calling is to the wider Church of God or if it is specifically to the Anglican corner of the vineyard?
Not long after chatting to my old boss Don Witts, he got back to me about the possibility of pursuing a Bishop’s certificate with Southwark Diocese.
I had a positive conversation on the telephone where he clarified “Let’s be frank, the return trip to Bangkok is impractical, not least because of the increasing COVID restrictions, and I suggest you pursue any options closer to you.”
“Let’s meet at the Hawaiian Bar. It’s nearby where I live, and we can meet without masks because it’s outside-ish. It’s on the ground floor of a defunct car park. Do you know it?” This is Thailand, so it is neither the first nor last time I have met somewhere, which might generally sound weird.
So began a period where I was ricocheting about, getting advice, pursuing leads and slowly, sometimes imperceptively feeling a way forward. It was a difficult time, with lots of dead ends and lots of ideas. It was knowing that the journey had begun but not knowing the shape or length of the journey to come.
Looking up at the grey of the sky over Kent, England, I have been thinking lots about religious prejudice, cultural ignorance and questions related to Britain in today’s multi-faith society. Most importantly I have been thinking about how Muslims are represented in our society.
Earlier in the year Prime Minister Brown was universally heckled for calling a woman who asked a question about immigration, a bigot. Maybe the word he chose was wrong or maybe she was and he was right (To confess, I didn’t hear what she asked him, so I can’t comment). My thoughts are that he made a school boy political gaff by leaving his microphone on and it neither matters looking back whether she was or was not a bigot or indeed if the word he chose when he thought he was speaking in private (whilst his mic was on) was appropriate. We are where we are, as they say.
In any event, I think that the reaction of the media to his response was the most interesting thing. His words spoken in private were an opinion and I think should have kick started a wider debate on faith, society and even though it sounds a little passé the idea of celebrating difference or recognising common truths.
Over the past ten years or so, we have been bombarded with a duel and sometimes conflicting messages through the media and popular press.
Since 9/11 in New York and 7/7 in London most people have had seared on their minds what an extremist Muslim looks like, a caricature of terrorism, if you like. This picture has been reinforced; I suppose, with the coinciding war in Afghanistan and echoed by programmes like Spooks on the BBC.
At the same time a general repression feels to have been drawn across most of out society when it comes to talking about, thinking about or discussing people of other cultures, races, or faiths; Islam in particular. I say repression because I have been guilty in the past of curtailing conversations which are talking about our society if there is any risk of ignorance or exploration being mistaken for racism or prejudice.
I suppose now I am asking, “How else do we learn?”
Maybe the expression of ignorant opinion if and when we do hear it, is at least opinion and the opening of, or the beginning of, a conversation where ideas and common truths can be explored.
I think that there needs to be a rebalance in messages sent out in the media and by government to better engage the portrayal of, and opportunities for, average Muslims to have conversations with the rest of society; and vice-versa.
To this end also, I think we can all do our bit, simply by talking more, relaxing a little bit more and not immediately assuming that thinking and talking about faith and Muslims in particular in British society is a preeminent position only to be held by racists and bigots.
I urge you all to go out to your community and maybe go further afield specifically with the intention of striking up conversation with Muslims (and people from other faiths) to learn a little about them exploring their day to day experience. Essentially get out their and be friendly, to make new friends.
Muslims are apparently not well represented on the BBC where I heard recently even the actors who play the Muslim family on the square are not Muslim, why not?
I watched a TV programme this morning where a good point was made which I would like to echo, why can’t we see a TV programme demonstrating the work Muslims are doing to curtail extremism?
I had a number of great conversations when I was in Egypt last week during Eid. I ate food with a group of friends and chatted about a number of concerns they had including drugs, health, environmental concerns, development in their country, justice and politics.
All talked about their life experience and the journey their lives were taking them on. Most talked about their hope for married life and a family. All talked about their work, concerns for their friends and financial hopes for the future. They were all average guys who happened to have a love for the Koran and their faith.
It was a pleasure meeting the taxi drivers, hotel staff and shop keepers and they made me think how all the world over, although our cultures and histories are so different, we are all just human beings with the same trials, troubles and dreams in this modern changing world.
I thought you might like this. Very interesting.
A while ago I witnessed a conversation between two maths dudes about the existence of God.
The conversation went something like this:
A: The question of what exists beyond what we know is a pointless or redundant question.
B: How do you mean?
A: Well we know more or less when the big bang happened and before that we know there was nothing.
B: I am interested to know what existed before the big bang.
B: That can't be right.
A: Of course it is. For the sake of argument lets just look at your reason. Are you dealing with it as a closed or open set?
B: It's an open set, if the period between the big bang and now is considered as between 0 and 1.
A: It's a closed set, it has to be a closed set, since if the big bang is zero, you never reach it.
B: Now it has to be an open set in order to investigate what came before.
A: That's the point the set is closed. We know when the big bang happened but we will never get there. However close we get there are always an infinate number of calculations between the amount you have and zero, since you can always divide the amount by two.
B: I can see what your saying but I would still like to know what comes after we die.
I wrote to the best of recollection to A&B and B responded with the following:
"A's main point was that it is non-sensical to even begin to try to comprehend what happened before the big bang/the beginning of time, because by definition it is the beginning of anything or a boundary of a bounded closed set. So any information/breakthroughs we have will only limit us towards the beginning of time.
A spoke about time being a closed set [0,1], which is all we know exists. It is therefore foolish to think about the number -2 because in our continuum we can never access it.
Another analogy might be an ameoba in a 2d world having any comprehension of "up". You just can't do it.
Or for example it's like us having any understanding of the second half of our air tanks when we are diving with A. We just don't get chance to get close to it before he starts suckin on his last bar, hahaha!!
We agreed on my arguement that to say that you can't try and think about a creator but that's not to say it doesn't exist. And it may even be intersecting with our own dimension but appearing as something different. Much like a sphere intersecting with a 2D world would appear as a circle. Also, any set Or universe can be extended given an operation so that's not to say that we aren't contained within something much bigger.
For example a set can be extended to a hyperfinite set, given an ultrafilter (I refer you to my dissertation :-p).
Now that I think about it, a nice explanation for the big bang could be the intersection of a hyperspherical universe with an infinite 3D space. In the same way a sphere intersecting with a plane would initially appear as a dot upon intersection (big bang) it would then grow into a circle increasing in size as the sphere passes through, and eventually reach it's maximum size before it begins to shrink again. The way our universe formed could simply be a form of hyperdiffusion along the intersection.
Hope this helps."
I leave it to you to decide how this argument and reasoning might influence your faith.
I also suggest (at Mr B's request) that Messers A and B are not complete losers, but again leave that to your better judgement.
I do know that they were great fun to dive with and decent people to be with.
The other day I went to friends for dinner. They live about
25 minutes drive from Faversham in a place close to the middle of nowhere
occupying an old water mill. The setting
is idyllic and their family beautiful, with three generations sitting around the
table eating wholesome food (including an apple and blackberry pie that tasted
like my grandmother used to make it).
The family share a strong faith bond as Jehovah
Witnesses (JW). Although prayer was said
before dinner, at no time was I, as a non-Witness coerced or evangelised
Sure, reference was made to faith and religion in regard to
conversation we had, but only insofar as when I made explicit reference to me
not knowing something or when discussing issues of relevance to the common
place conversations that take place over lots of tables up and down the country
whether about current affairs, the economy, or global politics or modern
For my part, I feel privileged to have been invited into
this family’s home as a non-Witness and been so wholeheartedly welcomed and
included in spite of any contamination my non-believing status might otherwise
imply to some parts of the Witness community.
I suppose I have laboured this point because I really do
want to stress that in ignorance and based on prejudice, I have heard things
about JW’s which might make one initially steer clear.
The actions of this family have made me question any shadow of prejudices existing in my mind and
confront my ignorance head-on. They are good
people in spite of or because of their faith.
If it is because of their faith, then they are ambassadors for it. Ultimately what matters to me is that they
are just good and my life is richer for knowing them.
Anyhow back to the point of this article.
I am not sure about you but our family used to play a lot of
Monopoly when I was a child. We used to
play to our own rules and games used to go on for weeks as a result. I used to cheat and when very young cry if I
was not enabled to poses Mayfair and Park Lane from the word go.
In fact in the most recent game I played with my sister and
little nephew last year much consternation was achieved when (without knowing the rules
regarding jail), I sold my nephew a get out of jail free card for £350. Later in the same game, I was sent to jail
and after reading the rules, I paid £50 to come out.
Again, back to the point.
As I arrived at my friend’s house a game of Monopoly was in
hand. It was too late for me to play in
my own name, so I partnered with one of the players.
The man of the house sat in the armchair, not playing but
engaged in the game nonetheless. He effectively
acted as referee and knew the rules of monopoly backwards. The game observed the rules unwaveringly
until, in the end, there was only one winner.
On reflection, playing the game to the rules means a more
dynamic game. It was fast and tough. I want to play the swift way from here on.
From now on as a result of the visit I will endeavour to
play to the rules, as far as Monopoly is concerned.