Thursday, 24 June 2010

oh dear, I think I'm going to use the 'F' word...

I've been thinking about the 'F' word... no, no... not that 'F' word, the other one that seems to have, over time, become almost the equivalent in offensiveness in polite society - yes, 'Feminist'.... 
Gosh, but it seems like only yesterday when I recall discovering that if I wrote the word 'people' or 'human' instead of 'man' I:
1/ clarified whether I was talking about one bloke or the human species
2/ did not subconsciously affirm that the default position for humans - the norm, as it were - was basically male [and thus affirmed subconsciously that female was 'abnormal']
3/ included the entire human species.

It was a 'light-bulb' moment in my young adulthood and, in many ways, it was not particularly rocket science.  And it was about 25 years ago - which can technically be defined as a generation ago.
All these years later, I find it slightly unreal and even downright bizarre that inclusive language is actually an issue - even in these here halls of the academy.  It astonishes me that the majority of young women - this generation of women - who are wandering through the hallowed arches of New College are quite happy to describe themselves as 'men' in their written and spoken words ... and who utter the immortal line 'I'm not a feminist... but...'. When this phrase is brought out, I find myself sighing inside a wee bit.  And then I offer up the question:
'if you're doing the same job as a chap, would you expect to be paid the same money?'  
The answer is, invariably, 'of course!'  
And then I go on to note that, at its most basic, feminism is really about women having the same opportunities that men are given: it's about being given a 'fair go'.  It is not about having to hate blokes, wear dungarees, have no sense of humour, but it can be about that if you want it to be as well!  It's about having the same freedom of choice that chaps, because of the way we have constructed our society, seem to have.
It's also about recognising that the manner in which we operate as a society can be equally oppressive to blokes as well: the list of rules concerning what it is to be a 'real' man is as much of a yoke as the rules concerning what a 'real' woman must be.  And place gender identity constructs within a consumerist societal context and humans - yup women and men - become products, objectified, dehumanised. 

Yup, I know I'm not bringing anything particularly new to the discussion, but I think this is more an expression of my ongoing puzzlement about why women are still not yet all on equal pay; why the majority of politicians are still chaps; why questions concerning what women are wearing are deemed acceptable to ask in cases of rape when this is never asked in a case of an assault of a man: 'really, don't you think you were just asking to be beaten over the head with a hammer because you were walking down the road dressed in shorts, a sleeveless t-shirt and flip-flops?' C'mon, it never gets asked, does it...!??
And of course, my ongoing puzzlement with regard to ordination/ church ministry and leadership with the attitude amongst some folk that in order to be like Jesus, you've got to pee like Jesus... 

Ah well... all this sparked off, in part, by looking at a postcard I have from the 80's which I've copied and slightly paraphrased below:

Because... women's work is never done and is underpaid or unpaid or boring or repetitious and we're the first to get fired and if we expect to be paid the same as a man doing the same job we are called unreasonable and blamed for a downturn in the economy and making tea, baking scones, arranging flowers and perhaps teaching Sunday School is apparently the only form of 'acceptable' ministry and what we look like is more important than what we do and if we get raped it's our fault and if we get beaten we must have provoked it and if we raise our voices we're nagging bitches and if we enjoy sex we're nymphos and if we don't we're frigid and if we love women it's because we can't get a "real" man and if we ask our doctor too many questions we're neurotic and/or pushy and if we expect childcare we're selfish and if we stand up for our rights we're aggressive and "unfeminine" and if we don't we're typical weak females and if we want to get married we're out to trap a man and if we don't we're unnatural and because we aren't deemed responsible enough to decide if, when and how we give birth but men can walk on the moon...
I'm a feminist.
[with a sense of humour, but without dungarees...!]

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Foxy Knoxy's word to the wise #4: the importance of humour should never be underestimated

Beloved brethren and sistren, in these image-conscious days [a plague on all images, I say!] the art of acquiring a good marketing agent is an important skill.
It is an art, alas, that those of us immune to the charms of idolatry have definitely not managed to acquire.
And so it has come to pass, in these latter days of godless frivolity, that we Reformers have been caricatured and much maligned for dourness, an earnestness of temperament, joyless zeal and even the occasional tasteless accusations that we are... shall we say... somewhat lacking in mirth and merriment.
Lies, foul lies! 
Did we not invent the
'Reformation Polka'? [one of Brother Martin's better moves, despite his dodgy theology]
Have we not laughed at the irony of Christian graffiti and quietly derided such dieting groups as 'be slim 4 Him' and 'more of Jesus, less of me'?

Why, even on my death-bed, did I not ask for a cask of wine for my guests and joke in a most jolly and japish manner: 'well, I might be finished before you are, lads!'

Trust me, brethren and sistren, when you're standing looking down the abyss into the face of the oncoming apocalypse, the importance of having cultivated a well-developed sense of humour should never be underestimated...

[Um, incidentally, not that I'm bothered about image you understand, but does this Preaching BeardTM make my bum look too big?]

Monday, 21 June 2010

oot 'n aboot in Geneva...

Girly ministers-to-be
getting into the groove
wit da Reformation boyz...
dancing the
'Reformation Polka'... at the Reformers Wall, Geneva.

Top pic is an homage to the Knoxy statue pose in New College quad

Reformation: girls givin' it large...

... meanwhile, Nik gets a little closer to her main main foxy Johny Knoxy... :)

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

that 'most perfect school of Christ'...

Wall of the Reformers, Geneva:
Farel, Calvin, Beze, Knox 

Since the last blogpost I've been on a whistle-stop tour with a group of trainee Church of Scotland ministers to Geneva which, according to my main man Knoxy, was that 'most perfect school of Christ'.  
Things have certainly changed since JK's time, but it was just fabby:
to wander around the old town;
saunter about the Reformation Museum and then later the Museum of Geneva; 
spend a day at the World Council of Churches and then a trip to the Ecumenical Institute in Bossey; 
see the astonishing Reformation wall - hadn't realised just how big it was;
worship in both the Cathedral and the English speaking 'exiles' church.

For this Early Modern historian-type, it was heaven on a plate, and there were many high points.  
Possibly the two biggest personal highs, however, were:
reading a lesson in the Auditoire during Sunday worship...
sharing a brief act of worship with friend John [no, not Knox!] in the Auditoire Calvin on the Friday night.  
Having visited the World Council of Churches that day, we placed symbols of different approaches to following Christ [rosary, icon, candle, open bible] on a small table in the middle of the group and picked up the theme of unity and diversity.  
We read from John 17 - Jesus' prayer for unity.  
We also read extracts from the very first sermon preached to the Marian exiles - by Christopher Goodman - and recently transcribed by my supervisor, who'd kindly sent it to me as she knew I'd be interested.  
Alluding to the discord and disunity in the Frankfurt church, Goodman's sermon was a call for unity.  
It was quite an awesome thing to read his words - long lost and recently discovered - in the place where he had preached them over 450 years before.
After a brief discussion on 'unity not uniformity, and diversity, not division', we rounded off with the prayer of unity, the Lord's Prayer and then stood and said the Grace.  
What made it particularly special was that there had been several odd 'coincidences' leading up to the actual worship service:
John and I had joked about 'stirring' the Reformed worship pot a little a few weeks before we went to Geneva... so I had packed a rosary and icon... and we'd already decided upon using John 17 before we arrived in Geneva.  
We didn't realise [I hadn't looked when I organised the worship rota] that we'd be on worship duty the same day as the WCC visit.  
During that visit, one of the speakers used the John 17 passage...
Worship had normally been conducted in the place we were staying and the night before, we'd decided to use the Goodman stuff... however, on the evening, we found out we'd actually be worshipping in the Auditoire where Goodman and Knox had worshipped.  Goodman's words in Goodman's church - neat.
If we had actually planned all of it, we couldn't have done it better as to effectively setting the scene.  I love it when a plan comes together in such a serendipitous way.   

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Jesus saves... why didn't I??

And so, last Thursday, it came to pass that Nik pressed an affirmative button to install updates and encountered the horror of Vista crash and burn.  
Tried many things 
[yes, I confess, even praying over the computer, oh dear...] 
but in the end faced the horrifying thought that I'd lost all my research, all my data... 
Handing in the laptop to the wondrous techie folks at New College, after some considerable and creative effort, they managed to retrieve my stuff and my computer was then rebuilt.
So, now just rejigging and getting used to the feel of the old/new computer and sorting it all out into some semblance of pre-crash normality once more.

As a trainee minister type I, along with my peers, am encouraged to become a reflective practitioner - so lots of journalling and er, finkin' aboot wot I do, innit....  What has really struck me quite forcibly has been the odd sense of dislocation that I've felt over the time without my laptop - which is my only computer.  There was the understandable anxiety over the possibility of losing my academic research and all of my church resources [journals, files, sermons and other worship resources] but beyond that I just felt not only literally disconnected but psychologically disconnected.  
It was an odd feeling.
And intermingled with that oddness were emotions that are often associated with loss and grief.  Strange.
I've realised just how much time I spend using my computer - yes, for work, where it's essential - but also as a way of passing time/ faffing about/ chilling out.... 
Over the four day period of enforced non-computing, the days seemed at first to be... long.  

Initially I fretted about not being so readily contactable, or unable to respond to something immediately.  
I wondered what to do with my time.  
I then wondered what I used to do with my time pre-pc dependence and began to think that prior to all the interweb jiggery-pokery I was a self-resourced, creative human being with lots of initiative.  It's disturbed me quite considerably to realise how much of that side of me I've allowed to atrophy.
The long days shortened as I remembered how to do 'other stuff' - the guitar was dusted off and music played... and the more I played the more my fingers remembered old tunes.  
I walked on 'my' beach, sat and ate dinner on the beach and watched sodden seagulls fly forlornly overhead - one of which helpfully decided to 'dump' on me and my meal... in novels I believe that such a thing is known as 'pathetic fallacy'... the seagull, my dinner and myself were certainly looking pretty pathetic!
I read.
I messed about in the garden.
I began to regain my perspective and my humanity.  

And the lesson this minister in training has learned? 
To be a little more 'intentional' in my non-work computer practices - take a day away from using it.
And, as to computers crashing and burning, and lack of backing up:
to remember that 
Jesus saves, go thou and do likewise....

Thursday, 3 June 2010

apostrophes: the fundamentals

This marvellous pic. courtesy of 
the blessed Shuna!  

Recently, I have been worried.
I've noticed a distinct lack of apostrophes about the place.
To paraphrase Dylan, I've been finding myself asking: 'where have all the apostrophes gone?'

I need not have feared.
The answer would seem to be: 'gone to placards, every one'.

The writer of this sign - pic.  placed deliberately on the right of screen to match world-view - is the culprit.

An initial count has so far found 31 poor little apostrophes flagrantly misused and abused.  This, without tackling spelling errors - although I am especially fond of 'high fullutent'.
Unless the signwriter was actually referring only to one of each: one Muslim, one abortionist, one racist, etc.?  But this then begs the question: the Muslim's ... what?  Sandwich? Koran? Cup of tea?
Or, 'sport's nut's' - which sport and what kind of nut?

Surely, there is a special place in hell reserved for such needless wastage of apostrophes?
Yes, today I am very much in touch with my inner pedant.