Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Augmented Reality

BBC Click on-line ran an item this week about a new augmented reality app called Layar. Augmented reality is basically about adding information onto live video so that you can see more detail about the world around you - or add virtual content. For example, you could view house prices, twitter feeds or street information through your phone - or navigate your way around a museum - like sat nav on foot. For techies and geeks this opens up a world of possibility - as long as you have a phone that will run the software - which does limit it to Google Android users at the moment (sigh....)

It all sounds great fun to me and I look forward to lifting up my phone and being able to see all sorts of extra information about the world around me. On the other hand, I can already hear the voices of the the techno-sceptics who once proclaimed that bicycles or the radio would kill Sunday worship - or that Facebook would turn us into sociopaths.

It occurs to me however that we already live in a world of "augmented reality" because we all view the world through our own filters of knowledge or predjudice. Unfortunately we're not always aware of these filters or the fact that other people may see the world differently. Whether you are a Christian, an athiest, a pschologist or a stamp collector - you have unique knowledge or perceptions which shape your understanding of the people and things you see around you. You have a "world view" - which makes you who you are - and the world around you what it seems to be.

Bring on the AR - but let's try to be more self-aware about what we choose to see...

At least with Layar (or another Augmented Reality Browser) you could adjust the settings and make conscious decisions about what you want to see. Perhaps we should spend some time thinking about the settings that aleady exist in our heads. Can they be changed? - and when should we change them?

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Shock and Awe

We went to Warwick Castle for Isla's birthday. This is a great place - not your usual castle experience by a long shot. In fact it's a whole day of street theatre with jesters, knights, jousting and more. (At this point I will refrain from mentioning the Princess Tower...)

The highlight of the visit was the incredible Warwick Castle Trebuchet - the world's largest siege weapon. It's truly enormous and uses a six tonne weight to hurl a large rock one hundred and fifty meters through the air. In the closing ceremony they use burning oil to create an impressive fire ball which soars through the sky like a comet!

Of course, the purpose of these impressive weapons was to terrify and impress your enemy. The medieval trebuchet was there to provide "shock and awe" to inhabitants of walled cities, much as the modern airforce attempts to impress city dwellers today.

The key to the tactic in both cases is the psychology of fear. The trebuchet could be used to hurl rocks from the sky - dropping silently like a V2 into the streets of London - or it could fire the heads of prisoners over the walls for a bit of grusome propaganda. A dead cow might provide some biological warfare - or fire could be shot into dry and claustrophobic streets.

I am struck that the concept of "shock and awe" is not new - they were doing it in medieval times with the industrial might and technological skill of their time. Today it's done with aircraft, computers and high-explosives but the effect is the same...

or not - since the human spirit is a remarkable thing. The people of London managed to survive Hitler's "vengeance weapons" and the people of Vietnam sheltered underground as the might of America bore down upon them. We still have to wait for history's judgement in Afghanistan and Iraq. "Shock and Awe" is impressive to watch and good for morale back home - but not always effective. After two thousand years of technological warfare we still have something to learn when it comes to winning the peace...

Saturday, 15 August 2009

CtS Web Site

The girls have been away today at Alton Towers - they had free tickets. I couldn't go with them because I had a wedding. I was able, however, to complete the work on the Christ the Sower web site. This has been a massive project and is now drawing to a climax. We are ready to launch...

Deborah and Rupert

Great wedding this afternoon. Deborah and Rupert.

Deborah is going to be "Mrs Clarke" at Christ the Sower in Spetember. She is the granddaughter of Ron Cramp who I've known since coming to Shenley.

Ski Camp

Iona finished a week of Ski Camp yesterday. She's done this whole five days of ski lessons and activities based at the Sno!Zone in CMK. This, of course, is one of the real treasures on MK - a huge real snow indoor ski slope...

We're really proud of Iona. She's managed to finish her level 5 now and can do parallel turns. She is in control all the way down the slope - and has even begun to tackle jumps!

The afternoons included indoor sky-diving with Airkix, a climbing wall, bowling and some wave riding at Willen Lake. Iona pointed out to me that she doesn't like school sport, but she's quite good at extreme sport... Oh dear... I begin to see the future mapped out here - my adrenelin loving ten year old with a passion for scouting and out-door activities is going to grow up into someone with fairly dangerous ideas about a good time...

If only we had the money she would be doing this kind of thing all the time! She'll just have to get a job... Good job scouting won't break the bank.

Festy Land

We have been on hoilday in Normany a number of times now. We like the sand, wind, towns, food and the scenery. Cheese, wine and religious go down well...

One place we're not so keen on is Caen - or rather - the Caen Périphérique, which is not a fun road to get lost on...

On the other hand, we keep passing this place called Festyland - a real local French theme park. This year, however, we decided to stop in and have a look...

We had a fun time. It was like Gulivor's Land in France, but in a funny kind of way, it was one of the more French experiences of our holiday. Real people doing their own thing.

The kids had great fun on the rides which were mostly themed on vikings, Normans and pirates. I enjoyed a couple of goes of bumper boats and we sheltered from the rain in a 3D cinema watching fish in the Atlantic...

The highlight of the visit was undoubtedly "Thor" Le Cinema Sensitif - which turned out to be a multi-sensory "experience" based on Thor and Vikings. The show consisted of two electric fans, some water sprays, a paddling pool and a screen. We were treated to five minutes of wave pictures while the noisy fans blew spray water at us. There was then a battle scene between women in swim-suits and hairy Viking students. This was followed by a brief piece of cgi showing the expansion of the Vikings before concluding with another five minutes of windy water spray and wave pictures - all with a deep French voice-over... Classic! We were tempted to re-create the whole thing with a video camera, a water spray and a hair drier.

All in all, a good day out and a must-see trip if you're anywhere near Caen. Good luck finding it from the Périphérique with a Sat Nav though - we ended up on the wrong side of the motorway somewhere near the back fence...

Biblothon Twitter Feed

  1. Just popped up to St Mary's. Nigel and Barbara are on to Hosea - they'll reach the New Testament this evening...
  2. Just read second half of Lamentations and first 12 chapters of Ezekial.
  3. Finished Jeremiah 19 and third stint of Biblothon. Off to a meeting...
  4. Somewhere in Jeremiah. Time for a quick sandwich before I read again.
  5. Just finished Isaiah with a flourish of righteous retribution
  6. Finished second Biblothon stint. Time to go home for breakfast.
  7. Sky beginning to get lighter... Morning all
  8. Psalms now over - finished with a triumphant "Praise the Lord!" Anne is now kicking off Proverbs...
  9. Have just read Psalm 117. Looks like Anne Jones will get 119 - lucky her...
  10. Have just read Psalms 79-89 as part of the St Mary's Biblothon...

Friday, 14 August 2009


The St Mary's Biblothon finished at 2:00pm today. All in all this was a great event. The atmosphere was fab and it was really good to be in the building as people were coming and going - listening, chating, reading or just sitting...

The evening before, I finished my own personal challenge and read the final chapter of Harry Potter to the children. Seven books in four years...

They want me to either start again(!) or read it onto tape for them... or can I persuade them to let me read something else?...

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Biblothon - day three

I've just been out at the Biblothon at St Mary's. We've just finished the Psalms and they were starting Proverbs as I left. It's proving to be a great event and the atmosphere is really good. People have been really keen to support the event and seem to be enjoying themselves. Isn't it funny how we resond to challenges like this. There's something inside us that seems to relish it.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009


Did my first reading for the Biblothon this afternoon. One hour with Janet Coldrake reading the end of 1 Samuel and the beginning of 2 Samuel. Saul and Jonathan are dead. David is king of Judah but not of Israel - and he has half a dozen wives...

At current predictions the reading will take 80 hours...

Not sure where they'll have got to when I go back to read again later...

Number Crunching

While I was away the diocese of Oxford issues its figures for 2010, including proposed deanery share increases and the cost of ministry. The overall budget is only going up by 2.5% but the share for Milton Keynes is still going up by 7.5% because we are still running at a shortfall.

In a time of recession and as people face difficult decisions - both in business and in church life - it's worth reflecting on some of these figures.

The overall cost of Anglican ministry in Milton Keynes in 2010 will be £717,044 which covers 17 full time ministers and various non-stipendiaries. It also includes a contribution to the work of the diocese from 28 churches - which covers our work with schools, mission, training and parish support. Cheap at the cost, you may say...

The diocese gives us four free posts because we have areas of deprivation. This does enable us to contribute a post to the Christian Foundation, and pay for a Development Chaplain, and (in theory) support some of the churches in less prosperous areas.

In reality we only pay a fraction of the cost of ministry in Milton Keynes. Our Deanery Share next year - which has gone up by 7.5% - will still only be £546,931 - and we are only intending to pay £462,122 - and may not even reach that target since at least one of our parishes will probably default because they think £16,000 is too much...

I n other words we will be benefiting next year from £254,923 which will need to come from other Deaneries and parishes in Oxford Diocese. A quarter of a million pounds!

And my point? It's not really very fair to complain about the diocese and say that they're not supporting us - or that they should give more. Over the past forty years they have been incredibly generous and supportive to mission in Milton Keynes. We can't ask for more! We should really be incredibly thankful.

Our challenge is still to put our own house in order. We need to keep increasing our contributions until they are more appropriate to the ministry we deploy. We need to think more carefully about the way we use our full-time clergy - and we need to give ourselves a bit more flexibility so that we can deploy extra ministry into situations of particular need or opportunity.

I believe that we need to adopt an attitude of generous sustainability. We need to be generous, because this isn't about us or our needs, it's about God and his mission. We need to be sustainable, because that is the only way we can witness to a world of consumerism, consumption and greed. At a time of recession, ecological crisis and debt, the Church needs to show the way forward into a different world...

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Hymn Choosing

Good session with Margaret and Veronica this morning choosing hymns for St Mary's - we got as far as All Saints Day...


The St Mary's Biblothon started this evening at 7:30pm with a short service led by Anne Jones, Kike Kahn and Mike Morris. Anne told us about the project and how it had been inspired by Pam who was interviewed on the radio about it. Mike Morris listed some of his favourite passages from the Bible and thanked the team for some positive PR.

The actual reading got underway with Mike Morris reading Genesis Chapter 1: "In the beginning..."

This sponsored read of the Bible will now continue for 72 hours (ish) non-stop. Feel free to pop in an listen for a while, sponsor a reader or volunteer to join in...

St Mary's Biblothon

St Mary's Shenley are reading the Bible today - the whole thing from Genesis to Revelation. They start this evening at 7:30 - and hope to finish before Saturday - certainly before the wedding I'm due to take on Saturday afternoon. Should be fun!

Travellers Cheques

Here's my second holiday gripe. I went to the post office to change some money before going to France and they pressurised me to take most of my euros in travellers cheques. The woman behind the desk assured me that they could be changed in all post offices, banks and holiday resorts. Feeling tired, I believed her and took them. I still have most of them now...

In fact neither camp site would change them - and the the local post offices wouldn't touch them - and the banks didn't want them either. We managed to change one - relatively late in the holiday in a bank while on a day trip - but didn't bother with the rest because we didn't think we'd need them - only to arrive in Houlgate where the campsite insisted on taking 60 euros from us in deposits for wrist bands - thereby leaving us with no money for food. We had two hours to rush into the town before the shops shut - and neither the bank nor the post office would touch our last remaining travellers cheques...

My guess is that the Post Office like to issue the cheques because my money will sit in their accounts for a while - earning money for them. In my case, they still have it!

Monday, 10 August 2009

Growing with Christ

I've been toying with the idea of a rolling discipleship course for some time. We've run a variety of nurture courses which have always been good, and there are a number of functional small groups. We have access to high quality training and can provide local training as well... On the other hand, I feel that nurturing disciples should be a higher priority than it is at the moment.

At the last team meeting before the summer we thrashed out five sessions dates on a Sunday Evening - all focussed on basic Christian nurture - so that we can meet the Confirmation deadline in November...
God is there and we need him
6th September at Servant King

Jesus: his life, death and resurrection
20th September at Servant King

The Holy Spirit and the Church
4th October at Servant King

Prayer and the Bible
18th October at Servant King

Belonging to the Church / Breaking Bread
1st November at Servant King

All Sessions will be at 6:00pm and will finish by 7:30pm
All of these sessions will be at the Church of the Servant King,
Dulverton Drive, Furzton.
What I'd be really interested in doing would be to continue into other themes, for example:
  • Spiritual Gifts - using Viewpoints or Network
  • The Five Marks of Mission - using the CMS course
  • Being a Welcoming Church - using the new course, and so on...
We could do short courses or one-offs... What I would also like to do, is keep a register and give people attendance certificates. This would give some affirmation and also help raise the profile a bit... What do you think? Good idea? What sort of subjects could we cover?


We've just returned from a holiday in France which was a genuine rest. It seems as shame to get back to work, but my inbox is full and my to-do list seems to expand on a continuous basis...

France was fun and I will need to share some experiences - but I'll feed them to you slowly over the next few days...

Today's comment is about swimming pools... French camp-site swimming pools seem to be fairly lawless environments. There are huge signs in various languages that say "No Diving!" but this doesn't stop hoards of teenagers leaping in and out of the water. At one point two huge teenagers jumped into the deep-end where Izzy was swimming and left her shouting for help. The lifeguard was feet away, but only laughed - I had to hook her out myself!

On the other hand, there is one rule that is strictly enforced - the speedo rule. Apparently it's perfectly fine for people to run, jump, dive and trample small children underfoot - as long as they don't wear shorts. I'm still not sure whether this is a fashion statement or a health risk. People go swimming in the UK wearing shorts all the time - and it's very rarely fatal - as far as I know - but this seems to be different in France...

I feel the need to gripe about this because I have just spent two weeks wearing extremely skimpy and unflattering speedos - much to the amusement of my two daughters!

There are no pictures - thank the Lord!