CHURCH SERVICES IN SEPTEMBER
|Holy Communion Service at Austwick every Wednesday at 10.30.
Visitors to our villages are most welcome at our Church services. Do come along and join us.
Sunday 2nd September 9.30am Holy Communion in Austwick & Eldroth – 11.00am Clapham & Keasden Holy Communion & Baptism
|Sunday 9th September 9.30am Morning Prayer in Austwick – 11.00am Holy Communion in Clapham – 2.00pm Holy Communion in Keasden and 6.30pm Holy Communion in Austwick|
|Sunday 16th September 9.30am Holy Communion in Austwick – 11.00am Holy Communion in Clapham – 6.45pm Harvest Festival in Keasden – 7.00pm Evensong in Eldroth|
|Sunday 23rd September 10.30am United Holy Communion Service in Eldroth – 7.00pm Clapham Church in the Pub “New Inn”|
|CHURCH EVENTS FOR SEPTEMBER|
|Saturday 8th September Plant Stall & Morning Coffee Austwick 10.00am-12.00|
|Saturday 8th September Eldroth Church Ceilidh 7.00pm Tickets £8.00 including “Buttered Peas” and a caller Supper including with family tickets available.|
|Saturday 15th September Keasden Harvest Supper & Domino Drive 7.00pm in Hammond Head Farm|
|Saturday 23rd September Austwick Harvest Supper 6.30pm in the village hall|
John’s Notes: Blasphemy has its Day
September 30th is International Blasphemy Day – is that something for Christians to celebrate? Established a decade ago, “International Blasphemy Day encourages individuals and groups to openly express criticism of religion and blasphemy laws.” Organiser Ronald Lindsay says, “We think religious beliefs should be subject to examination and criticism just as political beliefs are, but we have a taboo on religion.”
There are a few good reasons why criticising religion is a fair and sensible thing to do: the tendency of religions to get caught up in sanctioning violence and oppressive actions of all kinds; the very noticeable gap between some religious people’s stated beliefs and actual practice when it comes to promoting peace and reconciliation, care for the planet, for the poorest and most vulnerable, and in practicing loving one’s enemy.
Some may disagree but I’d say that the examination and criticism of religion is at the heart of Christianity, as practiced by its founder. In the gospels we find Jesus repeatedly challenging the complaints and weasel-words of the leaders of a repressive religious system. He’s our Blasphemer-in-Chief: blasphemy was, after all, the charge they devised for his execution.
Self-examination is at the heart of Christian practice: that’s why church services include a confession, a chance to spill out all that troubles our hearts and by God’s grace, start again. And if we’re following Jesus faithfully then we’ll find ourselves in the business of pushing at the edges of our religion to let the light in (as he did, breaking the rules by healing on the Sabbath, breaking taboos by touching lepers).
But there is a world of difference between open-handed “examination and criticism” and hate speech. Some countries’ blasphemy laws do not criminalise “speech that expresses critique,” but do sanction “speech that insults.” International Blasphemy Day promotes scepticism: “a healthy habit of mind that welcomes and analyses new ideas” as part of “the quest for a more reasonable world.” But problems arise when people – religious and secular alike – become closed to anything or anyone new or different, and will literally fight to ‘defend’ the world as they want it to be. So, it may be reasonable to question the clothes worn by certain religious groups (why is the vicar wearing a dress? I often wonder); it’s quite another thing to aggressively rip the veil off a young woman on a Yorkshire street. There’s a fine line between being objectively critical and being disparaging, and it is an unavoidable truth that whenever a public figure crosses it, bullying and violence results.
In a recent sermon on how we should speak ‘Christianly’ I quoted Barack Obama: “My faith is one that admits some doubt, that says that I believe in Jesus Christ and I believe in God, but I also recognise I may not always be right, that God doesn’t speak to me alone, and that the only way that I could live effectively with people who have different beliefs and different faiths is if we have a civil society that is, in fact, civil.”
What Jesus brings to “the quest for a more reasonable world” are the starting points of humility: “Judge not, so you will not be judged;” and self-examination: “He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone at her.” If you’re spoiling for a fight, these are blasphemous words.
Revd John Davies, Priest in Charge
More from John at bit.ly/johndavies-talks