CAN’T SLEEP. Watched Rev which helped the winding down process after the Annual Parochial Church Meeting. Ate pizza with friends – for which oh so many thanks. But can’t sleep – again – and the diary’s full tomorrow, and pretty much for the rest of the week. And actually it’s not the church meeting itself that’s keeping me awake – not this particular one, anyway! But I’ve been haunted all weekend by a photo-piece under “World” in the Times.

The full horror of nature: A heavily pregnant zebra shows dignity in her final moments as she is eaten alive by spotted hyenas in Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya … she remained stoic and dignified to the end – photographer Marc Mol

I cried. Her beautiful eyes looking straight ahead – as though directly into mine – whilst being savaged to death. Oh, dear God, I cried. And I cannot erase the photograph from my mind. And the trouble is that the mind’s eye picture is a flickering one. Sometimes the eyes are those of a beautiful, beautiful zebra. Sometimes the stoic dignity is to be seen in the eyes of a young Syrian mother in a hospital bed – recovering (?) from having set herself alight, a living beacon of human distress at her enforced inability to provide for the children who stood by her whilst she burned – being savaged. Sometimes they’re the eyes of beautiful people, deeply in love – being savaged by an institution that preaches about love like there’s no tomorrow.

How’re ya doin’ Vicarage?

Well: wide awake actually. Again. And wondering how on earth I find myself spending hour after hour listening to debates about hymn books and service papers when we live in a world that’s crying out – looking me dead in the eye, whilst being savaged – stoically crying out for mercy.

I cannot bear to share these pictures here. Better to share a raindrop, a tear, if you like, reflecting a whole wide world. And I don’t want to hear that it’s not a vicar’s job to keep innocent zebras free from the threat of hyenas. They taught me that in the seminary a long, long time ago. But it is the vicar’s job, and everybody’s job, to keep persons protected from savagery – and at any rate I’ll never stop longing for the day when “the lion shall lie down with the lamb”.

Pray, pray, pray. Let’s leave the hymn book on the shelf for a day or two. No more beating people over the head with the Bible (anyone’s Bible) – lest some sad day we ourselves be knocked dead by our own crude and blunt weapons. Couldn’t we have a few days off spouting badly-understood creeds and misused sacred scriptures? – Reflect a bit upon our terrifyingly destructive ignorance? – Try to get a handle on the richness, the unity in diversity, the poetry of life?

And ACT. Gird up our loins. Speak up. Speak out for an end to each and every act of human savagery and self-centred, self-satisfied, religious obsequiousness. In God’s “dispensation” either everyone’s in or everyone’s out. And anyone reading this is called to be human and humane – and not a spotted hyena.

LORD OF LIFE, help me never to stop reflecting upon the grace with which zebras – and you alone know how many beautiful humans – “remained stoic and dignified to the end.”

Kyrie eleison. Lord have mercy. And thank you. Thank you that Jesus wept. And for that resounding and tomb-shattering clarion call – LAZARUS! COME OUT!


TWO LOVELY HOUSE CALLS in the late afternoon sunlight today, and interestingly I’ve come away from both reflecting upon conversations about “Reverend” tv characters, including, most recently, Tom Hollander‘s version of a harassed London vicar who, my companions said, “within the space of five minutes can come across as both a hapless and a hopeless case and just what the doctor ordered – you know, he just seems to have a knack for saying the right thing at the right time, doesn’t he? He’s both funny and poignant” …

Funny and poignant. How fascinating. Who was it used to sing about The Fool On The HillĀ ?

Perhaps I’ve spent nearly thirty ordained years being funny and poignant. Or is it longer than that? – perhaps all 53? Does “funny and poignant” actually describe all human life, for all of us, pretty much all of the time? Poignantly Reverend …


IT’S HEARTENING that the BBC want to air a programme about a parish priest let alone a series. And an absolute delight tonight to see little Adam Smallbone (Tom Hollander) – with a spot of help from the (horrendously smooth) archdeacon – see off the take-over bid of the tall and swaggering, wealthy “evangelical” Darren. There’s a touch of the prophet in old Auntie yet to be celebrated. Remember the camel and the eye of a needle?

“More show than sacrament”, the vicar said of Darren’s having “given” a service. Smoothies and sofas and large screen tv’s in this context give me the creeps to put it politely. And “Growing Churches” that are intent on seeing off anything that doesn’t quite come up to scratch are the very antithesis of the good news entrusted to the truly “evangelical”.

So the empty pews and the discordant singing of Adam’s core congregation were, oddly enough, welcome sight and sound by the end of tonight’s episode. Joy in heaven, I like to think, that “nobody loves me” Colin’s contribution is still being valued and welcomed, because somebody does.

The “weak liberal” Rev, the present writer, hoping and praying for a really Christ-like outcome to the kerfuffle of the past couple of days over the Southwark appointment, is altogether more cheerful after a half hour in front of the telly than he was at the beginning of the day. For I find myself thanking God that sometimes it’s the little guy who wins, that sometimes the struggles with finances, and bums in pews, really do give way to the invigorating good news of real gospel, and that the “cost” turns out to be worth the candle.

God bless the little guys (not such a bad translation of Adam Smallbone) ; God bless those who laugh and cry whilst watching Rev. And may God bless the Diocese of Southwark, again, with the gift of another gifted, holy, teaching, welcoming and inclusive pastor. May we dare to hope that “his name shall be John”? The much vaunted “cost” would surely turn out to be worth it – for the the ensuing illumination.

“Your church is ours now” said the confident and ghastly Darren. Not so, Goliath. Not so. My church belongs to God.