Monday, August 31, 2009

A Taste of St Catherine's

Matthew Truelove shot some video footage after a morning service at St Catherine's a few weeks back; he's still working on his grand opus, but I've put some of these clips together with a few photos so that when the new church website is up and running we'll have a good taster about the church for anyone having a look.

Click on the link above and have a look for yourself now! There's some nice pictures, and some lovely answers to TL's question "what's your favourite thing about church?" - everything from "Jesus is here" to "Ian's cakes", but mostly settling on being part of God's family together.

PodCaths 2

PodCaths 2 is now "live" on iTunes. If you'd like to listen to the second edition of our Podcast then please go to iTunes and search for "PodCaths" (we are beginning to be recognised by the search engine, and not just seem to be a spelling mistake - though to be sure, type in "PodCaths Marcus Green" and there we are!).

Of course, if you press the subscribe button, I think you should get every episode... though I'm not sure we've mastered the technology yet...

Sunday, August 30, 2009

That Took Some Bottle...

Wonders will never cease: I am about to write a fan story about Arsene Wenger. A thing I can hardly credit...

But yesterday, at the end of the United v Arsenal game, which United (of course) won (albeit scarcely deservedly), the fact of Rooney netting four in four was totally overshadowed by a man I normally detest doing something that totally impressed me.

Far into injury time, his captain scored an equaliser which was (rightly) adjudged offside. Wenger, furious and impassioned and unable to contain his frustration kicked a water bottle. A decent kick, too. Hardly a crime.

Er, actually, the ref took offence. And though the match was all but over, the ref sent themanager off. Always a little pointless as a gesture, but especially at 90 minutes + several, and with the final whistle about to blow. And for what? Genuine emotion at a football match? Harmlessly expressed? Rather skilfully expressed really!

Arsene couldn't believe it! What should he do? There's nowhere to go from the team dugouts at Old Trafford. The notion of being sent "to the stands" is ridiculous - there is absolutely no access. And in a fit of pique, rather athletic pique for a chap in his fifties, M. Wenger climbed the roof of the dugout and stood aloft, arms akimbo, as in a pantomime, as if to ask - "Is this where you want me to go?" - surrounded by baying hoards of United fans loving the late, late show.

That took some bottle.

And my long-held dislike of the man is slowly disappearing. It took some class too, and was a wholly appropriate response to a small-minded official who might have being keeping the letter of the rule-book but who totally lost the spirit of the game.

I can't believe it. Arsene Wenger - popular hero at Old Trafford. I think I'd better buy a lottery ticket whilst there is still some magic in the air.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

When we were bad...

"When we were bad we were very bad, and when we were were good we managed to be good enough."

So Australia apparently scored more runs, more centuries and took more wickets. But England won the series. Andrew Strauss was Captain Fantastic, leading from the front (most runs scored by a batsman of either nation, and highest score in a single innings) as well smiling through the day and inspiring his team.

That quotation at the top was part of his victory speech. Wonderful English self-deprecation.

Purists might point out neither team are quite what they were four years ago... purists can go take a running jump. Beating Australia is the new national passtime: simple pleasures! Let's enjoy them to the full (while they last).

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The 26th Prime

Dalmatians. The total number of episodes of The Six Million Dollar Man ever made. Orwell's grand punishment room. An ill-fated airship in 1930. Uses for a dead cat.

And the number of goals scored so far for Manchester United by Wayne Rooney as of today.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Thinking about Mission

Last year I had the pleasure of meeting Ben Sternke in Fort Wayne, and I occasionally read his excellent and thought-provoking blog.

He has a great sentence there right now, and it's this: thinking about how he wants his church to be focussed on reaching out to his community, going out with the love of Jesus and genuinely promoting amongst every member of his flock the developing of a culture which touches the untouched with that love, he writes -

We want to be more serious about our sending capacity than our seating capacity.

Now. As a statement of church, it's incomplete. But as a statement of outreach for a church, it's a soundbite that beats the pants off whole books I've read. I'm playing with it in my mind and heart, loving it, swapping it around, learning from it. Have a read of Ben's site - and a good think too.


Still thinking about this. I've been chatting to a friend, who was telling me about mission in her church. A church needs a centre. I don't mean like "a church centre" a building - I mean a theological centre, a purpose. And actually, I don't think mission (as in outreach, the sending) is that centre. Because - why are we sending? To what do people return? More sending?

Worship is the centre. Or, if I can fill that out, being the worshipping family of Jesus is the centre. We need mission - the sending out of all so we may see the drawing in of many into the centre. But without the centre, what's the point.

For us, the two become very closely linked - close but not always identical.

If we are the worshipping family of Jesus, and this is our centre, our first calling, then it should also shape how our sending, our mission is expressed. I believe that drawing people into our worshipping life is a central part of the mission. (Or should the sending result in something that looks different to the centre?) I don't mind (indeed I encourage it!) if that results in re-thinking how we express our worshipping life together.

So it turns our seating capacity matters - not per se, but that we have a place where we gather to worship Jesus as his family (as long as the centre is never simply indulgent or a hidey-hole or selfish). Because mission and worship should not be torn apart so much.

We do love to seperate things into boxes. The older I get, the more I can't help wondering if the things of God are bigger than the boxes.

Monday, August 17, 2009

August Beginnings

I think Wayne Rooney has forgotten his big red cape & blue tights, but the pose is about spot on for a man taking off at the right time for once.

Two years ago, he waited till October 2nd before scoring in the Premiership. Last year it was September 27th.

This year - August 16th, 34 minutes into the first game of the season. And though United's defence looks pretty poor (everyone on the sick and someone's milkman called in to cover), a basic victory will do for the opener. (Liverpool should be so lucky; Spurs fans are singing a Bassong as we speak.)

So -Ronaldo is a distant memory, and Rooney, playing as a striker, with the new no.7, that famous would-be Red, Michael Owen, backing him up, has declared his intentions.

Oh good grief. Football. I love it and I hate it even when my emotions can cope.
Here we go again...

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Job Titles You Didn't Know Existed #37

The Interception of Communications Commissioner. Currently, I think, the Rt Hon Sir Paul Kennedy (previously Sir Swinton Thomas - and no, I'm not making this up). Google doesn't seem to have any pictures of him, amazingly. They seem to have been, er, intercepted.

So, if you ever have the need to say to anyone, "Hold that thought"...
Or if anyone says it to you, or uses a CCTV film of you whilst holding a thought on a late night ITV4 clip show & you need advice -

He's your man.

Random Blessings

Random blessings.

Yesterday one of my periodic depressions landed on me. Bang. If you are a sufferer, you know. If you aren't, thankfully you can't imagine. The inability to cope, to do anything, to respond humanly - it's just what it is. There's no plaster cast, no sign. And no sympathy, please no sympathy. ("Are you feeling better?" The pressure of getting better can be terrible; there's no control, and no way of doing anything about it. You sit it out and wait. And hope you don't wait and wait and wait.)

No medication. Don't like it, and besides, I manage well: there are "closed door" days - days when for everyone's sake I stay inside! And the black days. But also just the really bad ones, and then, by God's grace, I can achieve some functionality -

Like today.

Well, yesterday, when it hit, I was angry. I had too much to do. It hit in a "roadblock" kind of way. A "nothing gets past this" kind of way. So I worked out what was the least possible I needed to do (in terms of making today work, and in terms of my diary for yesterday) and then just did it, moment by moment. Working out a sermon in such conditions is far from easy, but God was kind, and both passages (morning and evening) were clear so though my thinking was not (I couldn't remember my car number plate earlier today when I visited someone in a home - still can't) it all sort of worked. I'd (mercifully) pulled the music for today together last week (unusually prescient of me) so all I had to do was pray.

God, bless people. Let there be someone today who becomes a Christian. Someone who finds you. Please.

After all, I'm thinking in basic terms here.

Depression is like thinking through treacle, and then being punched by emotion. For no good reason. And occasionally remembering to seem like a human being, cos I am the vicar.

Oh - for those of you who weren't here today, we had a huge baptism family in this morning. All outsiders. Tons of crying kids and parents talking over them at the back. Normally the kind of thing that energises me, the kind of thing I love to bits. The kind of thing I just can't handle like this. I actually asked for the noise level to come down a notch!

But someone came to me at the door, someone who has never been before, someone who was a visitor there for the occasion - and she said she was completely moved by everything, touched by the sermon, and wanted to come back next week.

Random blessings.

I'll take this every week for that result. Every week. Though Lord, if you're listening, if there was another way, I'd be up for discussing it...

Healthy Debate?

I do not think that the NHS is perfect; I have suffered it, and am also constantly blessed by it. My ongoing migraine condition is kept under control by a daily supply of wonder drugs which I receive completely free of charge; I sometimes wonder what an insurer would make of that?

But here are some figures provided by one of the UK's broadsheet newspapers today.

Remember - the UK also has some private healthcare, and that has some impact on these figures; but the vast majority of people only use the NHS. And I haven't heard of these figures figuring in American Republican TV ads.

Far more is spent per head in the US than the UK on healthcare: 16% of GDP there as opposed to 8.4% here. That's just over $7,000 per person per year in the US, as opposed to just under $3,000 per person per year in the UK.


Per 1,000 people, the US has 2.4 practising physicians, the UK has 2.5; the US has 10.6 nurses and the UK has 10.0 per 1,000 people, and for the same number of people there are 2.7 acute care beds in the US and 2.6 in the UK. It just costs more in the US to provide the same level of care.

It gets more interesting. In a society supported by the UK's nationalised health service, a system that has a million flaws and which no-one thinks is perfect -

Life expectancy is two years greater in the UK than in the US (80 as opposed to 78). And infant mortality is lower (at a rate of 0.48% as opposed to 0.67%).

The Americans must decide what is best for them; but before some of them denounce us, something here is working. Not everything. There are real problems. Ask my Dad how long he has had to wait for an op on his shoulder. But it's not just the rich who can afford to be sick, and I for one am profoundly grateful. I see a little girl regularly who needs an awful lot of care who would get nothing if insurance premiums were the only way she would be able to pay for her care; and I am glad she has wonderful doctors helping her freely. I am glad she lives in Wales.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Too Little Time

It looked at first glance like a band call from across the Midlands. There were trombonists of too many generations swapping stories in a car park, all in their dark suits and ties. But then you could also spot Syd Lawrence Orchestra heroes of days gone by amongst the crowd: Sue Greenway, Tony Jacobs, Terry Reaney – is that Derek Southcott? Someone said they saw Andy Taylor. There were rumours of Ellie. Tony Jacobs’ smile was everywhere. Andre, Ollie, Tony Dixon. Matt Ford’s tears were a giveaway.

And then the piper.

Nearly six years ago, he had heralded a wedding. This was a very different occasion. His lament led the hearse into the crematorium as we gathered to say our fond farewells to Roger Rae, trombonist, gentleman (first class), friend.

Sarah looked immaculate, her parents and Roger’s family gathered around her. A trombone was placed upon the coffin, and a jazz band led the gathered throng (and a very goodly sized crowd it was too) into the chapel. The local minister led us through the dignified service, till it was time for us to take our leave of Roger and then for the band to bring us back outside to the ongoing day.

Friends stood by friends. Catching up. Consoling. Remembering. Smiling, sometimes through tears and gritted teeth, and sometimes with real pleasure at a story that was very Roger. He was a stuntman in films. Some say he was in the Foreign Legion. He had a fondness for…

Ah yes, some things are best left at the graveside.

Then back to the wake. Nick Ross had brought his band, which lifted everyone with Basie & Herman & Ellington. Then there were more personal tributes: Norman Brown played Body and Soul; & Derek played Memories. But there was Too Little Time for everything, and eventually friends began to take their leave again, but not before Sarah had stood to thank everyone for being there, which had simply been our privilege.

Sarah, you are in all our thoughts and prayers. Roger, we miss you; and thank you. Rest peacefully.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Clocking On

So GTFM (very local radio) called last week and wanted to do a piece about the clock being repaired. A lovely girl came and recorded the interview. Then the BBC website called yesterday: today this piece is up there.

I'm typing this really fast - in five minutes it's Radio Wales coming to interview and to record the midday chimes, and then Premier Christian Radio (who just rang) are calling back for an interview over the phone...

Just imagine if we did something really important!

And here is Matt from BBC Wales TV interviewing me this afternoon. Tuesday August 11th 6.30 BBC 1 Wales - watch it and see! (Please note: the sunny weather is entirely typical of this summer in Pontypridd; I hope the Lord has also been blessing you!) Honestly, I have a face for radio, and I relax much more in front of the mike than the camera. But there we go...

The BBC Website article now carries the TV piece, and for those who can't access iPlayer, here is the BBC Radio Wales piece in full, with added pictures!

Friday, August 07, 2009

Roger Rae

Roger Rae is the featured trombone soloist here in this video clip of "Yes Indeed", from the 2005 launch concert of our Every Breath CD. He passed away earlier this week.

I got to know Roger through his work with the Syd Lawrence Orchestra, but he was more than a trombonist: composer, arranger and bandleader were also on his CV. And that doesn't begin to describe his gentle Scots wit, his quite love of a smoke or a drink, or his warm humanity. He was a friend to many, and his visits here to St Catherine's were special times.

I hope to be at his funeral next week. There will be many tales told... and much love in those smiles, and tears. Sarah, his wife, was with him at the sudden and unexpected end. She is also a lovely person, and my prayers are now with her. It is typical of her that as I spoke to her this evening she should ask after my mother.

A true gentleman, who will be sadly missed by many people. Rest peacefully, Roger.

PS - Someone left a note on another of my Youtube videos with Roger on it. I'll add that clip here too, but there are so many I could put up for you. Roger was a lot of fun, and his smile, his quirky sense of humour, his quick eyes - I see them all in these few minutes of music.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

PodCaths - a new Podcast from St Catherine's!

PodCaths, our brand new Podcast, is now 'live'! Just click and listen. We think it's the first regular podcast from any Church in Wales church, and this is its very first edition.

PodCaths is a mixture of Bible study and conversation about God, taking place around the Vicarage kitchen table during our Wednesday lunchtime homegroup. Regular members are Joyce, Stewart, Yvonne, Julie and Bert, and on this occasion they were joined by Esther; I cook lunch and host the chat. Matt listens in! Actually, we didn't have a full lunch this time, just coffee cake, as this was a trial run.

It's not GodPod - we don't have all the answers! But we enjoy looking at the Scriptures together, and we thought that maybe our musings might encourage others in our church, and perhaps elsewhere too.

As I say, this was a kind of trial run, just to see if we could do it... Thanks to Geraint, who somehow has made it ping across the ether!!

We'll be hoping to record a new edition each month, or maybe more often if we have special guests visiting. So - watch this space! The PodCaths email is up and running as well, so we can have questions sent in & all the details will be on the re-vamped St Catherine's website when TL, Geraint & I have got that sorted. Write in to when you've listened, or leave a comment on the stcatherinesnews.blogspot site.

Unfortunately, if you are just listening in, rather than being there in the room with us, the coffee cake remains only a sound effect. Though for best listening pleasure, you could always buy your own in order to have the full experience...

Up and Down

We needed some money for repairs and upgrades to our church sound system. It's been a rough few months on our church finances, and we have nothing in the pot to do this. Had nothing in the pot.

First, our mission congregation in Glyncoch, All Saints, gave a chunk of money. Then we had a surprising cheque from RCT after the Mayor's civic service. One or two individuals heard what we were planning and put something in. And this weekend I told the church what we needed.

Within the day, people had pledged everything we think we need. Of course, costs sometimes exceed expectation, but so does generosity. I was blown away by this lovely example of my church's spirit.

And actually, I guess the timing was good.

Last week I heard that one of the major grants we had applied for over the renovations on our church hall had turned us down (the figure is the sound system figure times two, plus two zeros). I was particularly knocked back by this. I guess I had really banked on this coming through for us; so all sorts of questions piled into my head.

Have I got it all wrong?
Is the project misguided or misfiring?
Am I leading everyone down a blind alley?
Is there a reason why God can't bless us - and am I in some way that reason?

Eventually I realised that it was not the money, not the project and not the doubts that mattered - it was coming back to Jesus. So I worshipped and prayed and tried to listen again as I did so.

One friend asked me to help her understand something God was saying that she was struggling with; I told her I was not great in hearing God right now - but as I prayed it seemed pretty obvious to me, so I apologised and was blunt with her. Lucky for both of us, either I got it fairly right, or the Lord helped her hear something useful anyway, and that encouraged me that I wasn't totally useless.

Then I saw this provision over the sound system happen before me - and the way it happened was really unexpected. One dear lady, someone who comes when she can, but not often, did most of it herself. She has made it possible for us to have the work done; the giving from others is making it possible for us to have not just the bare minimum, but a slightly better upgrade as well.

Esther then met with a couple who succeeded in this round of funding from the grant body we applied to. They are from a church maybe ten miles away. But as she listened, she realised that what they have had to do is something we never would do. They have divorced the church from their project in order to secure funding. Listening to what has been described to me, it seems like the church is a minor player in a community programme that uses their former hall. If that's what's needed (and I am not at all convinced of it) then we will walk away from this funder - walk away head held high, and walk away quite quickly.

Our project is about us caring for our community. Reaching out to young and old with the love of Jesus. Making people's lives better. It doesn't exist beyond the life of our church, and God is our provider. We are doing the right thing and it will happen.

Yes, I am still a bit down. Yes, disappointed our bank balance hasn't just enabled us to start working in a whole new way on what we are doing.

But I am clearer than ever that what we are doing is right. That God cares for people and asks us to share in that work. That God will provide for the work he calls us to do. And so we will work to change people's lives for good. And somehow the Lord will provide for us to make our facilities the best they should be.

I'm hoping he'll do it soon; but I know he'll do it.

As I turn back to the practicalities of raising the money we need, we will go back to this funder. They have invited us to re-apply. We will discuss points about our application they raised. We will ask head-on about being a church providing for the community. If they are fine with that, great.

If not - I don't know what. But I know to whom I turn, even if I don't know where.

Monday, August 03, 2009


Just a short note, thanks to Clare Hayns Facebook update, which has amused me all day...

Clare Hayns is still chuckling every time she thinks about the service on Sunday where the reader read Leviticus 15 1-18 instead of Leviticus 25.1-18 by mistake!

Can you imagine? We had a family service yesterday! A baptism!
Talk about challenging issues...

Sunday, August 02, 2009


Day four of a sadly rain affected Test. Best crowd chant of the day, aimed at the Australians as England powered past their first innings total, Andrew Flintoff hitting fours for fun -

"Are you Scotland in disguise?"

If England win this, it will be amazing, simply because the Aussies will do their level best to preserve the draw, and time is on their side. But with the crowd playing their part, who knows?