Did Billy Graham break the Church?

Billy Graham came to England in 1954 and again in the Eighties and had a huge impact. He offered a new deal, a contract that was simple to understand and act upon. Believe in Jesus, accept Him as your personal saviour and you will be forgiven, your life will be transformed. The old ways of faith through tradition, culture and community were no longer enough. But the trouble with offering people a new deal is that if – or in this case, when – they eventually find it wanting, or if the thrill doesn’t last, they give up and walk away, losing trust in the people who sold it to them. For a while it looked as if Billy Graham was saving the Church in this country, but maybe he should take some of the blame for its demise. Here’s an extract from my book looking at the changes in British culture and spirituality since the Eighties, ‘Is God Still An Englishman? How Britain lost its faith (but found new soul)’ Continue reading “Did Billy Graham break the Church?”

Waiting: a thought for Advent

The old book is full of silence. Full of people waiting. Before the earth began, there was silence. Before the birth of Adam and Eve there was only the sound of the animals, of the wind and the birds in the trees. Before Moses could speak, he waited for God.

Before the Christ was born, in a desert town a long time ago, the world was waiting. Unaware. The shepherds were doing their jobs, living their lives, sleeping round a campfire and watching the flocks, without any idea that they were about to meet armies of angels and be pitched, witless, into the dazzling heart of a very big story indeed.

The people of Bethlehem were working, eating, sleeping under their broad sky, unaware of God weaving his magic among them. The wise men had started a journey across their world, unsure of what they would find at the end of it.

No-one was preparing for the birth except the parents. Joseph and Mary were waiting: he not knowing what to think about the unborn child but anxious to find a place for his young wife to lay down and gather her strength; she hoping that the angel had been no delusion, and that the life inside her was as it had promised. Much later, they called her ‘most highly favoured lady’. I don’t suppose it felt like that as she lay among the cows. Continue reading “Waiting: a thought for Advent”

Greenbelt has found its way – and I’ve never been more proud to be part of it

Image by Drew McLellan for Greenbelt Festivals

Has Greenbelt lost its way? Some of my friends think so. After this weekend, I want to say loudly and surely, no. Greenbelt has found its way again and I have never been more proud to be part of it.

This weekend at the festival of arts, faith and justice I saw an attempt to act on the audacious gospel notion that all are loved and valued equally in the sight of God, regardless of colour, religion, gender, age, sexuality and physicality. The most dramatic example was the communion. It was truly breathtaking in its ambition and achievement.

I was moved to tears, as others were. And I was so glad my kids were there to see this: so that they could know that this is who we are, this is what we do, this is how we see things and act upon them; this is the way our faith overturns the so-called wisdom of the world, with radical love and outrageous grace. Continue reading “Greenbelt has found its way – and I’ve never been more proud to be part of it”

Dancing the sun up at Holywell with Hunters Moon Morris

Years ago my friend Tom Pilston (one of the great news photographers) and I came down to Holywell to see Hunters Moon Morris dance up the sun on May Day. We made a cover story for the Independent on Sunday Review and that experience was also part of what got me thinking about the way spirituality was changing in Britain, which led in the end to the book Is God Still An Englishman? This morning we did it again, for old time’s sake and because I’m glad to count Hunters Moon as friends these days and because it’s May Day and because Tom wanted to! Glad we did.

Good luck and good rhythm to all dancing at Jack in the Green today, Beltane blessings to all who would receive them, happy May Day if you prefer. I’m going back to bed now. Continue reading “Dancing the sun up at Holywell with Hunters Moon Morris”

The Elephant in the Dark

Well, that was fun. Appeared on The Big Questions this morning, attempting to say a couple of things. One is that if God does exist then it stands to reason that She/He must be a reality (whether acknowledged or not) for people of every creed from Atheists to Zoroastrians. Hence what is known as The Matter of The Blind Men and the Elephant, a very old story from the Indus Valley, nicely represented here in a visual version of a piece of writing by Rumi, The Elephant in the Dark. The elephant is real. The things they say about the elephant are true. They are not however the sum of the elephant, no matter how fierce the arguments. (Science reasonably collects all the available data about the elephant as well as the people and the space around the animal, the floor, the quality of the air and so on, all of which is enormously valuable in better understanding what is happening, but that is not the sum of the situation either.) I’m not saying God is an elephant, by the way. This is a story that contains the truth, it’s not the whole truth. If there is one. I don’t know, I’m just trying to figure my way.