Showing posts from June, 2014

Reflections on Evensong at Kings College

Last night, Emma and I went to Evensong at King’s College, Cambridge. King’s College is a grand place, full of lush green fields, fantastic stone buildings, and a glorious chapel. We joined the throng of tourists and went in. We sat in very individual booths facing one another. The service was completely ordered including the Nunc Dimittis and Magnifat from Luke’s Gospel. The choir was made up of men and boys accompanied by the organ. Apparently they have mixed and women’s choirs on other occasions. The singing was extraordinarily good, well practiced, full of harmonies and musical overlay. With the organ, if felt appropriate to the setting.

The readings were from the good old King James; entirely appropriate for Kings. The readers’ accents were wonderfully English, and with the old English of the KJV, it was classic; kind of a like being in a time warp. As I listened to the reading from Luke 14, I wondered why the ancient translators had changed the Greek Zeus into Jupiter, and Herm…

British Values at Stake

One of the big news stories here in the UK at the mo is the supposed attempt by Muslims to impose Muslim values in Birmingham schools. This is supposedly being achieved by stealth through a so-called Trojan Horse approach – a careful plan to “take over” schools.

The BBC has reported that Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills, see has bought out a report on 21 schools in which it is claimed that in five of these schools there has been an organised campaign to impose a “narrow, faith-based ideology,” i.e. extremist Islam. This has purportedly led to the removal of some programs (e.g. music), faith based changes to culture and ethos, gender discrimination, biased employment practices, and a narrowing of the curriculum. City Councils are criticized for failing to act. This of course has led to fierce rebuttals and debates (see Michael Gove, the head of Ofsted …

Cambridge – Some reflections

At the moment, Emma and I are nearing the end of a two month sabbatical at Westminster College, Cambridge ( It is a centre for training URC ministers, the URC (United Reformed Church) being a union of UK Presbyterian, Congregational, and Church of Christ churches ( It is one of the privileges of being Presbyterian to spend time here, enjoying free board in a little cottage, eating and worshiping with the college community, and writing. We also get to experience Cambridge.
Cambridge is an interesting place. Compared to home in Auckland, although there are a range of students from around the world, it feels quite monocultural and well to do. It is full of amazing colleges where many greats like Wilberforce were educated. The river Cam is delightful as a place to have a punt, for walking and riding. It is full of tourists and has a really great feel. I love the names of the parks, like Jesus Green or Christ’s Piece.
Everyone h…

The Cathedrals of Europe – Questions, questions, questions

In recent weeks I have experienced one of the joys of visiting Europe – trips to visit cathedrals and churches in England, Barcelona, and Venice. These churches are amazing. The Cathedral in Ely dates back to the 7th century and is phenomenal. The La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona is a more recent church building designed by the amazing Gaudi, begun in 1882 and still under construction, and likely to be finished in another couple of decades. The story of the Gospel is inscribed in its facades. It is a truly astonishing building. The stand out in Venice was Saint Marco’s Basilica, the spiritual centre of Venetian culture developed since the 9th century AD. These places and other churches across Europe are full of elaborate architecture, art, sculpture, and laden with the stories of the gospel.
Yet as I wander through them I am always full of burning questions. First, there is the very fact that in many of the churches tourists are charged to visit them, and these places are not cheap to…