Friday, October 30, 2009


This week I have been blessed by two friends who have been a tower of strength to me. You know who you are. In the midst of all that life is, you are a gift from God, and I am grateful beyond words.

Your Songs

So here's the thing: last week Michael Buble released a new CD; now Harry Connick Jr has a new collection of songs out.

As a singer of these songs, I have to say that I am thrilled to be living in an age when there are men of this quality releasing albums of this quality and having them hit the pop charts.

Harry's CD is quite different to MB's, as you'd expect. The production sound is more jazz, less pop, and the voice is - well, it's a matter of taste. If I'm honest, I do think that CDs get Buble at his best. Harry is a "live" act, and on record he can be an acquired taste. It's the flaws that make him perfect, as opposed to MB, where it's the perfection that makes him so good!

The songs are a mixed bag on "Your Songs", a concept album from an idea by "legendary" Sony record producer Clive Davies. All the songs are chosen by Davies and arranged by HCJ, all are well known, with some being obvious standards Harry might sing, whilst others are pop songs from the 60s and 70s (so far so similar to Buble) but perhaps Harry's more obviosuly jazz styling does not take so simply to these tunes. I am hoping that on some, repeated listening will bring increased pleasure; an album can grow on you. I think that there are others that I will learn to skip.

The songs that Harry ought to excel at - he really does. All the Way, The Way You Look Tonight, Who Can I Turn To, Some Enchanted Evening, Smile - and then a couple of surprises in a beautiful And I Love Her and on the version I have (an American import - thanks Chris!) Killing Me Softly. The band is good, and the arrangements have a lot of Harry's astringent wit to them. If I have a couple of questions over those arrangements (and to question Harry on music is like questioning Jesus, so I feel like I'm taking my soul into my hands here) I sometimes want to shoot the violins; they noodle away pointlessly when just the rhythm section would be a cleaner backing. And why (WHY???) do so many of these arrangements end in awkward rits? If a drummer is playing to a click track (rather too obviously) when he slows down he has to do it well; this is done too often and not well enough. Songs can end in other ways than by slowing the tempo, and I am amazed that this trick is employed so often - it makes me feel a song hasn't ended so much as just run out.


Then you get the Marsalis brothers playing beautifully restrained solos (don't play jazz! just play the tune! shouts Sony producer Clive Davies from his throne in the back office) and some mature music making of the first order, and Harry singing as Harry sings on some wonderful songs. Not enough Harry piano playing (alomost none, actually - clearly that would have been too jazzy) but here's the other thing -

Clive Davies won't be on the tour.

Harry is always better on tour. He produces slightly tame CDs and then gets his audience into the tour and introduces them to jazz- quite difficult jazz - and re-imagines the songs on the CD as he would really have liked to record them. This CD is good. Occasionally very good. Always listenable. I can't wait to hear it done AMAZINGLY - which will be when I hear it "live".

Monday, October 26, 2009

Chiari Petition

A member of our church is soon to have neurosurgery to help with a Chiari Malformation from which he suffers. You may at this point be wondering what this is - and that's a reasonable question. Chiari Malformations (CMs) are structural defects in the cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls balance. And so the surgery will be serious, and we are praying for him, and look forwards to his treatment and recovery.

But he has asked that I sign a petition that asks the government to make information about the condition more readily available. The NHS websites contain little information about the condition, and sufferers not only have to face the illness but also the problems of communicating what it entails to families, friends - and of course employers, and that is once they have had the medical profession spot their symptoms and diagnose them accurately. It is not especially rare, but it does seem to lack focus, and the petition is asking that the oversight on the NHS websites is put right in order to help sufferers. I have gladly signed the online petition at the Prime Minister's Office. Here is the link - you fill the form in, then they send an email which you click onto and your name appears at the bottom of the petition.

If we can do some good for people who need help, we should. I encourage you to take two minutes now and make a difference.

Friday, October 23, 2009

When things go Right

Last Saturday my fridge started to make a terrible noise. Normally, for it to go wrong my Mum is somewhere around, but on this occasion it did it all by itself. Everytime the engine kicked in, it fair roared.

On Tuesday I got around to ringing up the warranty people.

It took two minutes for them to arrange to come out and repair it - on Thursday. Which I thought pretty good. Often they tell you it will be a week on Wednesday. Two days seemed fine to me. The fridge was working - just at rock concert volume. They said I would be contacted early on Thursday and given a two-hour slot during which the repair man would call - again, excellent; how often have we all had to wait in all day for these people?

On Wednesday they sent me a text reminder. On Thursday at 7.55am I got another text - the chap would come between 1pm and 3pm. He actually arrived at 12.50pm, which was again excellent - right at the start of the window. He rang me just before arriving to check I was there. He took one look at the fridge, asked where the noise came from, told me he knew exactly what the problem was, checked he had the part on his van and fixed it. He had left my house by 12.55pm.

And the fridge works perfectly.

When things go right (after they've gone wrong) there is something inside you that goes - THIS IS HOW IT SHOULD ALWAYS BE! How easy was that! No problems, no awkwardness, no hanging on the end of a phone having to press "4" then "7" then "1" then being cut off and having to do it all again... No waiting and waiting, and then being told that there was nothing wrong, or that it was my fault, or that he'd have to come back in a fortnight as the part needed to be ordered from Siberia.

It was just perfect.

Thank you Indesit.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

News of PodCaths Spreads

Today I received an email from Bible Study Magazine, a magazine in the US that encourages people to engage in Bible Reading, telling me that they are running a short news item about PodCaths, our St Catherine's Podcast, in their next issue. Here's what they wrote:

Hi, my name is Adam Navarrete from Bible Study Magazine, a bi-monthly publication based in Bellingham, WA, U.S.A, that has regular circulation of nearly, 15,000.

In our forthcoming November/December 2009 issue, which will have an expanded audience of nearly 65,000 readers, we have in place a story on St. Catherine’s “PodCaths” for our In the News section.

The headline reads, “Podcast Bible Study Fields Questions from around the Globe,” with the following story:

At St. Catherine’s in Pontypridd (north of Cardiff, Wales), people from as far as Orlando, Florida are participating in biblical discussions by listening to an audio podcast and submitting questions via email. Anglican vicar Marcus Green leads Bible reading and informal, unscripted discussions that are often filled with laughter. The podcasts, or “PodCaths,” as the group refers to them, are available on the church web site under News at
Well - I have to say that I had a good look at the magazine's website & really enjoyed some of the articles, and though I don't know the people involved, and I do appreciate that in part a news story is an outreach to see if you can find new readers - from what I have read, if I found this magazine in a bookshop I would buy it. Anything that encourages good engagement with the Scriptures and gives good tools for people to help along the way has my vote.

It's good to find friends who share the journey, isn't it?

Monday, October 19, 2009

About Jazz, About Jesus, About Ten Minutes

I spent a great evening yesterday at Rugby School (it's a bit of a modern institution... you'll remember I went to the quincentenerary of my own school earlier in the year; these guys have half a century to go yet before reaching that milestone!) preaching in chapel at the invitation of the chaplain, Richard Horner. The music was provided by the school's jazz orchestra, and Richard had googled "jazz vicar" in order to find an appropriate preacher for the occasion... alas, all he could find was me!

It was, for me, a real privilege. I came to faith at school aged 12 or 13, and part of that journey was our equivalent of the kind of event I spoke at last night. I remember the headmaster speaking once, and the chaplain on a different occasion, saying things that hit my heart and opened me up to God. My prayer as I went to Rugby yesterday was that there might even be one person in that building for whom one thing I said might have the same effect. I will never know; but they will, and that is enough.

The band was excellent - and clearly the whole school enjoyed the final song (Shine Jesus Shine) in particular. Props to the lad who filled in on drums right at the last minute, even if he had to play with a stick & a recorder cos that was all he could find! I find it so encouraging to see this kind of music being enthused about in school; I had to run my own jazz band at my school! I must add that the choir was also lovely, and their arrangement of "The Day Thou Gavest" was the kind of beautiful thing that probably gets taken for granted there - and anywhere else would be rightly regarded as stunning.

Given that I was asked to speak for a short period of time, I actually did that very unusual thing of having a full text. If you are interested - Here it is:

About Jazz, About Jesus, About Ten Minutes

I’ve been asked to speak today about jazz, about Jesus & about ten minutes. Let’s see if I make all three.

I don’t know what your attitude is to making mistakes? Joe Venuti, a jazz violinist of the first half of the 20th century said: “If you’re going to make a mistake, make it loud so everyone else sounds wrong.” Does that work for you?

Miles Davies, on the other hand, the great jazz trumpeter of the generation later than Venuti, had a slightly different take. How about this: he said “Do not fear mistakes. There are none.” Or, again, more simply & perhaps more bravely for a musician, he added, “there are no wrong notes.”

I guess you can imagine what he means. In the flow of jazz, the note following note, the freefall of creativity where a musician just plays and plays… and plays… (incidentally – do you know the difference between a bottomless pit and a long jazz solo? Even a bottomless pit eventually comes to an end…) you can imagine in the flow of jazz he means that you can play anything. There are no wrong notes.

But there’s a problem with that.

The problem is there are wrong notes.

I’ve heard enough bad jazz to have heard too many bad notes, and some of them played very loud, and all that did was make everything sound wrong. There were mistakes. There are mistakes. In jazz, in music generally, in life, of course.

Bill Evans, pianist, who died in 1980, actually not long after I was first getting into jazz, not that my getting into jazz and his death were connected you understand, put a slightly different spin on things. He said:
“There are no wrong notes – only wrong resolutions.”

George Gershwin, the great American composer, pointed out that “Life is a lot like jazz – it’s best when you improvise”, but the problem with improvising is that we do sometimes mess up. We hit a wall. We make mistakes. We get to places we’d rather we hadn’t got, and we get to places we are thrilled to have reached but now we are here we have no idea what to do next. Bill Evans’ point is – it’s the resolution that matters at these points. Not the mistakes, not the wrong notes, not the problems. Everyone has the problems. Mistakes are a reality of life – if you don’t make them you aren’t making music. You aren’t living.

The question is – how do you resolve them? What note will you play next? “There are no wrong notes – only wrong resolutions.”

The Bible is full of occasions where Jesus meets people in precisely this situation. A woman who has had 5 husbands and the bloke she’s with now she’s not married to and the community has spurned her; a man who’s supposed to be a priest but has either been thrown out or who has walked away (we don’t know) but who is now reduced to taking tax money for the occupying forces from his own kin; a woman caught in adultery with a crowd around her ready to stone her to death; a thief on a cross, dying. People in the midst of the wrong note.

But life is not about the wrong note – there are no wrong notes, only wrong resolutions – and Jesus offers them a next note, shows them how the song might carry on, how the melody can play on and become something beautiful if they’ll listen to him and trust him. They have a choice; and so do we.

Some of you have made mistakes today. Some of you yesterday, some will do it tomorrow. But bad notes are not what life is about. Jesus offers songs of life that are more than one bad note – and his resolutions can become something wonderful, if we will trust him.

Of course, it’s easy in the Bible – there he is, standing before you. Speaking. Showing you what to do.

D’you know, Jesus promises to be with us always? And if one person can be trusted to keep a promise it’s Jesus? There are times we simply have to realise it’s time to ask for help? I guess you might call it prayer – though religious words (prayer) can make him seem far away. He’s not far away.

So here’s another jazz principal that should help.

Charlie Parker, a truly influential saxophonist who died very young in the mid 1950s, is reputed to have said: “know the changes, forget the changes.”

In jazz, the “changes” aren’t when things are suddenly different – like, how many bishops does it take to change a light bulb? – “Change???
The changes are the bedrock of all music – the harmonic pattern, the chord structure, the base on which the melody and the rhythm and the improvisation that jazz is seemingly all about are anchored and from which all these things grow and live.

If you want to be a jazz player, you have to know the changes. Cos you’ll roll into a bar one day with your sax under your arm ready to play, and the pianist will look at you and say, “Do you know ‘I only have eyes for you’?”, and in the jazz world normally that’s not a terrible chat up line, it’s an enquiry as to whether you can play a particular song. Normally.

And if you don’t know the changes, you ain’t got the gig.

Now there are thousands of songs – and you have to learn them all. You have to - if you’re serious. It takes an awful lot of practice to make it up as you go along. But there’s an extra level. Cos there’s no pleasure in dancing with someone who never looks at you or listens to you cos they’re always looking at their own feet, and there’s no point in listening to someone who’s always thinking, “Eb – Cm – Fm7 – Bb7(b9)”. You have to learn these things so well they become instinctive. Know the changes – forget the changes.

It’s all very well for me to say, there are no wrong notes, only wrong resolutions, trust Jesus to help you play the right next note in life when today you’ve made a mistake. But what IS the next note? What do you do when you’ve made a mistake? Where do you go? What are the changes? What are the parameters that will get you through and make music out of the mess?

Jesus was asked, during the last week of his life, what is the greatest commandment? The Jews had 613 commandments in the Old Testament, and their scribes and rabbis added a ton on top of that. He was being asked this question. What are the changes of life, the structure, on what are we supposed to base everything else? He replied:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your strength; and love your neighbour as yourself.

God loves you more than you can ever know. Trust him. Believe him. Receive him. And love back as you are loved. When things go wrong – whether it’s your fault or done to you – don’t get defensive, don’t fight back, remember that you are loved and carry on loving. The person in front of you is a person too.

Love God, love people. Know this so well you can forget it. Not because you no longer know it or care, but because it becomes instinctive. A part of you. Know the changes, forget the changes.

You see, it’s not the wrong notes – it’s what you do with them. And if you have this as the changes, the structure, the harmonic pattern of life – Love God, love people – you will make mistakes, play wrong notes, you too are human, but you will go on to resolve those bad notes into some kind of wonderful music and to improvise a life that people around you near and far will love to see and hear.

About jazz. Tick. About Jesus. Tick. About ten minutes. (Look at watch) Not bad. May we pray?

Crazy Love

This morning I bought the latest CD by Michael Buble. You can click here to have a listen to it. There's a lot less big band than on previous recordings - though the vocal version of Basie's All of Me is well done - and the opening Cry Me a River is the definition of "overdone"... I began to wonder if Mr B was auditioning to make a Bond movie title track.

But I will forgive a lot of things for this: the man can sing. He has a simply great voice that effortlessly encompasses emotions and notes and words, and does what a singer should do. I will never forget the concert in Cardiff a few years back where I heard him give the greatest singing performance I think I will ever hear from this kind of artist (though sadly neither will I forget other times when he has been decidedly average). This recording put mne in mind of that great evening: Buble is some kind of singer, even if his material is distinctly variable.

There's a lot of sixties and seventies influenced motown stuff here, and it's not bad; his pop side gets a decent outing, and I'm warming to it. It's a very middle of the road CD... BUT he can sing!

(Though listen carefully - apparently the word "that" has two syllables; almost invariably he sings "a-that"!)

£9.85 well spent. I will keep listening. And enjoying.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Ooh Aah

I have just watched Looking for Eric, a warm and engaging film about a postman with problems and a hero-complex about Eric Cantona.

Right at the end it includes the above clip, after referring to it early in the film ("I'm still trying to get over the seagulls") and there were several times I laughed out loud: Cantona picking up a trumpet and fluffing his way through the Marseillaise, which to all United fans is simply the Cantona chant, was a wonderfully funny moment.

It also deals with the problems of mental illness, and after hearing an interview with cricketer Marcus Trescothick on the radio at lunchtime I was again struck by the silent ordinariness of such problems. The unspeakable burden and the crippling weight they place on average human beings, who bravely live on anyway.

Life is not about the disorders that afflict us; we cannot help the hand we are dealt. We can choose how we play that hand - and a little humour and a determination to live on as best as we can, sometimes feeling like we are pretending to be human, but always living on - these are good choices. I am inspired and encouraged in my walk by tales like these.

And by heroes who speak such twaddle as Cantona's seagulls and bring such joy by so doing.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

New PodCaths!

We have some new PodCaths episodes now available online at the St Catherine's website, and at iTunes (where you should search for "Podcaths Marcus Green")! They were recorded at the end of September and beginning of October, and feature the regular bunch working their way through readings from St Mark's Gospel. If you use the St Catherine's link, do give QuickTime chance to download - it may take a minute or so - and if you use iTunes, why not subscibe? Hopefully there will be more in November!


I'm never sure whether to be impressed or saddened when I come across perfect people.

I mean, fancy not needing Jesus. It must be very lonely. Not being loved. It's all very well being able to look St Paul in the eye and saying, "Rip out Romans 2.1 from the Bible, it doesn't apply to me, boyo," but the follow on is that you lose Romans 5.8 too.

I'm afraid that I am totally fed up of the utter twaddle that is being spouted about MPs expenses AGAIN. Amazingly, everyone and his wife AGAIN are perfect. They have never fiddled the tax man, claimed something that wasn't theirs, taken more change from Tesco than they should have. (Well, it's not the same, is it?) These lousy MPs should just pay for everything from their wages.

And when they bring investors from abroad to their homes, to entertain them so that they will bring in hundreds of thousands of pounds' worth of investment into their constituencies - NO! NO expenses. The home is not the job.

Twaddle. Bunkum. Self-righteous hypocrisy.

I posted a comment on someone's facebook (you'd think I'd learn) with an apology. I said:
I know it's not a popular opinion, but clergy realise that the home is needed as a part of the job. Seems to me that if an MP is entertaining people in the constituency in order to bring in jobs and investment, as I hope mine does, then some upkeep on his house and entertainment costs are entirely appropriate from the public purse. Sorry.
I'll give you one guess how many agreed with me. Two irate females spouted nonsense against me - quoting moats and porn movies.

That's right - all MPS spent a fortune on moats and porn. If it were true, I think I might be tempted to change careers.

Goodness me. I do not for a moment think all MPs got everything right, but nor do I think that the mistakes of the few give the mob a right to the kind of sanctimonious witchunt of the public spirited that we have seen over the past months. It is sickening. As Christians, we should stand up for those who serve us in Parliament, especially those who have sinned badly, and not lounge around pointing fingers and bad-mouthing men and women who need support not brick-bats.

Or is this the new evangelicalism? Love your neighbour - unless he's gay or an MP? God preserve us from ourselves and grant us more of Jesus than a heart like that.

Oh - the rose at the top? Something beautiful on a day when people are being ugly. The last rose of October in my garden. Red and lovely and rather wonderful, isn't it?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

QI Fact of the Day

(The following - including the St Augustine quotation - is on the BBC Website homepage today... I found it interesting, and thought you might too.)

The Christian congregation in Africa has grown by more than 4,300% since 1900 - a rate of expansion unknown since the earliest years of the Church. There are about 390 million practising Christians in Africa today, more than three times as many as in 1970. Over the next 20 years, this figure is expected to grow by a further 200 million.

The good Christian should beware the mathematician and all those who make empty prophecies. The danger already exists that the mathematicians have made a covenant with the devil to darken the spirit and to confine man in the bonds of hell. ST AUGUSTINE (354-430)

Sunday, October 11, 2009


So after a long day (four services) - a long but really fun day, with loads of people around and a real sense of God blessing people - I decided to catch up onsome unnecessary stuff. I clicked onto Facebook.

The line at the top of my homepage read "72 new posts". It's been a day or two.

And being in a brainless mood, I read through them. This status update, from Rachel, a good friend from Oxford days, caught my eye:

Sermon, sermon, sermon... concentrate, concentrate, concentrate...
It amused me. We've all felt like that! It was followed by a great comment from someone I don't know called Mark:

Sermon ... MERLIN .... Sermon .... STRICTLY COME DANCING .... Sermon .... CASUALY ..... Sermon ..... the BBC are deliberately making it hard for us. And of couse Satrurday is the only evening available for sermon prep!! I've tried concentrating, studying and even using the force...but on the upside, there's still 12 hours before we have to actually preach.
I was so amused, I posted a reply:

I'm impressed by Mark. My version: 6.30pm: Oh God I have a sermon to think about... MERLIN... was there something I should be doing? STRICTLY... Feeling guilty... XFACTOR (on Sky+)... bed.
6.30am: Oh God - I have a sermon to think about...
Now. This was OBVIOUSLY a humorous comment. I mean, it didn't have a little drum kit cymbal sound effect going with it or a clown logo, but I would have thought that you'd have to be pretty brain dead not to get that there was a typical Facebook lightness of touch going on here.

And if you didn't know, you might grant a person you didn't know the benefit of the doubt given the medium of the message. You'd think.

So, for the benefit of Dan C, another person I don't know, who then wrote:

Well concentrate then and stop looking at Facebook. Just remner how much they pay you, that'll help
I'll add 2 things.

First - I preached four times today, two different sermons, with countless hours preparation going into them. A bit of self-deprecation goes a long way, and is enjoyed by very many people, but hard work doesn't enjoy being belittled by ignorance.

Second - Father moaned over lunch that the sermon was too long. Mother nodded, and wished that Sunday School seemed a bit more - well - prepared. James (13) added that the guitarist was out of tune. All morning. Helen (6 and a half) said she didn't think it was at all bad for 50p.

And I think Guinevere is too good for that wimpy Arthur, Ricky Whittle was seriously undermarked, and the twins ARE annoying but not as bad as everyone says; Danni Minogue on the other hand...


The St Catherine's Website has just hit its third incarnation. Go to to see what's new - absolutely everything!

Thanks to Geraint & TL for all their work alongside me on this, they have been fantastic - TL on designing the thing, and Geraint on making it happen. There are some really great features - and lots more to come on pages that as yet are just gateways to all the features that will appear over the months ahead.

But 3.0 is alive and well! Have a look and tell me what you think of the new look!

Monday, October 05, 2009

Give Thanks

Harvest weekend at St Catherine's. Always time to stop and work out what there is to give thanks for - and there's always lots.

Personally, I took a couple of days away last week as my Dad had an op on his shoulder following a fall he had last December. He'll be fine now, though the recuperation will take a while. Technically he's not supposed to drive again till Christmas Eve... can't see that happening... But I am grateful he's had the op, and grateful for seeing him.

My mum had news last week that she has a small tumor in her bladder, but strangely this too is something to be grateful for. It could have been so much worse. This is an easily operated on form of cancer, and caught early (as it seems to have been) really straightforward. Of course it's a worry, but there's so much to be thankful for, and we pray on and wait to see what happens.

We had a lovely family gathering for Harvest, a super meal, with loads of people and great food, and again MGQ providing the music. Chris, Dan, George & Evan joined me this week - Tom was moonlighting in another band, and this was the first time Evan has played with MGQ, though of course he's been with the big band before. It was great fun. So good to enjoy the music as we brought the family of the church together.

And on Sunday, we brought our harvest offerings for Support for Romania, as they prepare to go to help orphanages, hospitals, doctors, prisons and schools next month. In the midst of all our stuff, it's good to give thanks and just to give. To give to those who need. To share. Freely we have received, freely we give.

We had a lovely family in for a blessing of their baby in the service, and again, it's a joy to share with such a family the love of Jesus and to tell them of his great love for them. No-one came up afterwards and told me they'd come to faith. But who knows what God is doing? Maybe I'll hear next week. Lord, grow the church and bless your people. And thank you for another harvest here - for seed sown and lives of righteousness being raised and reaped.