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On Sunday, July 29, 2018, Geraint Thomas made history as the first Welshman to win the Tour de France.

Once again, Team Sky triumphed. They have now won six out of the past seven Tours de France!

Meanwhile, no Frenchman has won since 1985: the legendary Bernard Hinault.

The love-hate attitude towards Team Sky and Chris Froome

The French have been angry with Team Sky ever since Chris Froome began winning.

Odd that they fawned all over Team Sky’s Bradley Wiggins — without the ‘Sir’ — when he won in 2012. Back then, I wrote (emphases mine below):

The Telegraph had a roundup of media reactions, beginning with a front-page splash on France’s L’Equipe, which also devoted pages 2 to 11 to Wiggins.  Christian Prudhomme, race director, told the sports daily that cycling has truly taken root in English-speaking countries, which are taking their place alongside Continental countries as victors of the world’s great races.

L’Equipe was not alone. Le Monde also had multiple photo spreads and articles on Wiggins’s sartorial style and tastes in music: ‘so British!’

When Froome raced to victory the following year — he had been Wiggins’s domestique (helper) in 2012 — no one in French media liked him.

Chris Froome did all the right things: readily granted interviews, was polite to the media, represented Team Sky well and showed grace under pressure on and off the road. This year, people actually booed him. Why?

Similarly, the French saw Team Sky as a phenomenon in 2012. Now they hate the team. Even Thomas was booed on the penultimate time trial stage this year, when it was clear he would win the Tour. It was an anti-Sky gesture.

Team Sky has done everything correctly. They train throughout the year, not just part of it. They have a phalanx of trainers and nutritionists who fine tune each rider to deliver the best for the team in a low-key, professional way. There was one stage in the 2018 Tour where one of the ITV4 commentators said that the team’s nutritionist and trainer were regulating Froome’s food and water intake every two hours so that he would deliver his best performance. No doubt, they did the same thing with Geraint Thomas, who performed brilliantly.

In any event …

Chris Froome is the Donald Trump of cycling.

Team Sky is the Donald Trump of cycling.

On RMC’s Les Grandes Gueules, the mid-morning political talk show, Team Sky came in for a lot of criticism. In the last half of the Tour, the panellists moaned about Team Sky winning a sixth Tour, calling it a mockery of cycling. Today, the day after Thomas won, the panel complained that Sky has a budget of €40m, substantially more than any other Tour de France team. What they forget is that money can be frittered away. Sky, led by Sir Dave Brailsford, knows how to use that big budget to produce big results.

The Independent gave an insight from a French newspaper along the same lines:

An article in Le Parisien this weekend compared the Tour de France to an episode of Columbo, “where the killer was known from the first minutes. In this edition, the killer was English,” the paper wrote, perhaps not aware that Thomas is Welsh. It has been a theme throughout the Tour: that Sky are suffocating the peloton, and that no one wants to watch its slow death.

The writer suggested a list of measures to tackle the problem. Cap wages, because Team Sky are like Paris Saint-Germain; unplug earpieces, because they undermine the advantage of instinctive riders like Philippe Gilbert and favour meticulous planners like Sky; invent new routes, because the team time trial played into Sky’s hands. They are desperate measures for what is becoming a desperate cause.

Well, in response to those suggested measures: a) every team has had earpieces for the past few years and b) there were new — punishing — routes this year.

Sky wins because Sky is meticulous.

Why aren’t other teams analysing how Sky does it and emulate them?

This is Team Sky today. From The Independent:

It is now six wins in seven Tours for Team Sky, four grand tour victories in a row, and there is a growing fear that they might never lose a three-week race again, slowly disbanding the idea of competition in favour of 21 days sipping champagne on an elaborate vineyard tour. They are the richest team with the strongest riders and the shrewdest management, the giant at the front of the peloton, and one that is still evolving.

How Thomas won

Another article from The Independent explains Geraint Thomas’s victory:

Geraint Thomas – who now joins the fabled list of Tour de France winners – did it with unabating pressure. He snatched every available second, each a small but significant psychological blow, never taking his foot off the throttle. He took time from his closest rival Tom Dumoulin on seven separate stages, and that gradual accumulation of wealth also helped him to seamlessly usurp Chris Froome as Team Sky’s de facto leader, not by bloody coup but instead by a gentle undermining of power.

The end result was so effective that you wondered whether a team as meticulous as Sky might have planned it all along. Was Froome the Trojan Horse from which the unassuming Thomas sprang? Perhaps that’s reading a little too deeply into what can be such a chaotic and unpredictable sport, but there is no doubt Dave Brailsford and his management team thought the Welsh rider could win this Tour from the beginning.

His victory will go down as a surprise to many, but there were plenty of signs. He showed pedigree in recent Tours, challenging in the top 10 and wearing yellow during last year’s race, and in June he won the Dauphiné, always a strong indicator of who will challenge in July.

Tom Dumoulin, who finished in second place, said it wasn’t about Sky’s vast coffers of money as much as it was Thomas’s riding skill:

Asked to reflect on whether he had been beaten by Team Sky’s riches, Dumoulin was clear. “Of course having more money to spend makes life easier, but in this tour it didn’t really make a difference. We couldn’t control the race like Sky, but they had the strongest guy in the bunch. It’s too easy to say that Geraint Thomas had a big advantage with his team. He was the absolute strongest rider over the last three weeks.”

Thomas won the stage at Alpe d’Huez:

The Independent described how gruelling the stage was for him:

“Alpe d’Huez was probably the most I suffered,” Thomas said. “To win there in the yellow jersey was just insane. I didn’t expect it. That day was just about following the guys in front. That will always stay with me, it was incredible.”

The win on the Alpe was stylish, capped by the image of Thomas throwing his head back and roaring into the sky, the photo he’ll probably have framed at the top of the stairs.

Then there was the Col de Portet, when it became clear a Froome victory this year was no longer a possibility:

… his third-place on the Portet was even grittier and more definitive, the moment any lingering notion of Thomas as a rider who cannot stand three hard weeks on the front line of a grand tour was extinguished.

There, on one of the hardest climbs you could possibly dream up, Froome cracked and suddenly Thomas was exposed, both in the sense that he was now without question the team’s leader and that he was out on the mountain without his Sky brigade. He coped brilliantly, shaking off furious attacks of Dumoulin and Roglic before escaping at the finish to extend his lead.

Thomas has had his share of upsets in cycling, but his time has come:

Thomas’s nod to his own run of bad luck was qualified by an insistence that he has worked “super hard” for this triumph, meticulously preparing his season to peak in the Alps and the Pyrénées, where this Tour was ultimately won. “I’m glad it’s finally paid off,” he said with a sense of palpable relief. It really has, culminating in his relentless pursuit of the yellow jersey, and on the ride to the Champs-Élysées he finally took his foot off the throttle.

Thomas’s demeanour is similar to that of Sir Bradley Wiggins: self-effacing. He speaks like Wiggins, like ‘a regular bloke’, some might say. The Independent covered his victory speech on the Champs Elysées in Paris:

I’ve not got a good track record with speeches so I’ll keep it short,” Thomas said on the podium. “I just want to say thanks to the team, they’ve just been incredible for the whole three weeks. Big respect to Froomey, obviously it could have got awkward, there could have been tension, but you’ve been a great champion and I’ll always have respect for you.

“I’m pretty tired. The whole team was incredible, the staff as well. I got into cycling because of this race. I remember running home from school to watch it. The dream was always just to be a part of it. Now I’m here in the yellow jersey it’s just insane. I just want to say a final thanks to the crowd, you’ve just been amazing. Oh, and my wife.

Kids, just dream big. If people tell you it can’t be done, keep going and believe in yourself. With hard work, everything pays off in the end. Thank you very much and vive le Tour.”

Here are a few tweets from Team Sky:

And from the Tour de France:

Next year’s Tour will begin in Brussels:

Thanks to ITV4 and ITV1

In closing, many Tour de France fans in the UK will have appreciated the even longer coverage ITV4 was able to broadcast — entire stages, start to finish. That was a welcome televisual first!

Also, this was the first time that the ITV1 showed final, iconic stage, from 3 to 7 p.m.

Long may both broadcasts continue. Many thanks, ITV!

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Sadiq Khan.jpgOn Thursday, May 5, 2016, England, Wales and Scotland held local elections.

(Photo credits: Wikipedia)

New London mayor

London now has a Labour mayor who is also a Muslim, Sadiq Khan. As French radio station RMC put it in their newscasts that day (translated):

London, Europe’s most cosmopolitan city, is on course to elect its first Muslim mayor.

The next day, one of RMC’s talk shows took a listener’s poll asking if they could envisage French voters doing the same. One woman rang in to complain that the question was ‘racist’. In any event, 78% voted ‘yes’ and 22% ‘no’.

Khan, the son of a bus driver and born in Tooting (South London), won largely on the housing issue. London property is frightfully expensive and many people are forced out of the market, either as buyers or renters. Although I did not follow the campaign closely, when I did pick up a copy of the London Evening Standard, the Khan soundbites of the day were about affordable and available housing. And ‘son of a bus driver’ was in every article.

It is unlikely that anything will change in a significant way immediately, however, over time, who knows? It is possible that we will see a certain amount of vocal social polarisation popping up in the coming weeks with a mayor whom a significant percentage of London’s population sees as one of their own.

Zac Goldsmith MP at 'A New Conversation with the Centre-Right about Climate Change'.jpgKhan’s opponent was Zac Goldsmith, the highly popular Conservative MP for Richmond Park. Goldsmith’s sister Jemima was married for several years to the cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan. During that time she lived in Pakistan and still holds dual nationality with that country and the UK. One of their sons helped Goldsmith campaign in Muslim neighbourhoods. Imran Khan’s name still has a lot of pull and meeting his son went down well but, in the end, not quite well enough. Nor did questions about some of Sadiq Khan’s associations.

Jemima Goldsmith tweeted her congratulations to the new mayor and, in a separate tweet, wrote:

When Khan’s predecessor Boris Johnson won re-election as Mayor of London in 2012, pundits predicted that it was highly unlikely that another Conservative would be elected to that post in 2016. And so it happened. One reason is the natural political cycles from right to left and back again. Another is demographic; the city has many more Labour voters who are diluting what used to be the doughnut of outer boroughs which voted overwhelmingly Conservative.

Scotland

A dramatic reversal of fortune for Labour took place in Scotland. For the first time in years, the Conservatives have become the second most prominent party, knocking Labour off that spot. The SNP, representing independence, also no longer has an overall majority in the Scottish Parliament.

Incidentally, it is interesting that these three political parties are headed by women.

Wales

Incredibly, UKIP — the UK Independence Party — won seven seats in the Welsh Assembly.

One of the newly elected UKIP Assembly Members has blamed Cardiff’s increased litter on Eastern European immigrants, although he was unable to back up his assertions with any data.

Labour still hold the majority of seats (29), and Plaid Cymru (pron. ‘Plied Come-ree’) have 12, nudging the Conservatives into third with 11.

England

Despite doubts over Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party, their mayoral and council losses were not as dramatic as some pundits predicted.

That said, UKIP managed to win six council seats in Thurrock, Essex (east of London), sapping the Labour vote. This puts them on level pegging with the Conservatives. Each party has 17 seats. Labour have 14 seats and an Independent councillor has one.

Our next national election will be on June 23, as we vote whether to leave or remain in the European Union.

Whilst the Great War raged on in 1915, on the home front, Britain’s first Women’s Institute was founded in Anglesey, Wales, in an attempt to keep families better fed.

Inspired by Canada

Our Women’s Institutes (WI) took their inspiration and organisational structure from Canada, where Adelaide Hoodless had founded that nation’s WI in 1897 as a way for wives of Farmers Institute members to share domestic science skills and foster friendship. By 1905, Ontario alone had 130 WI branches.

A Canadian lady and enthusiastic WI member, Madge Watt, moved to Wales in 1913. Two years later, she met John Nugent Harris. Harris was Secretary of the AOS — Agricultural Organisations Society. The Development Commission, a government body, funded the AOS, the purpose of which was to create farmers’ co-operatives for wartime food production.

Watt told Harris about the WI in Canada. Harris, aware that the AOS needed more people, asked her to establish the WI in Britain. Watt’s first meeting took place in Anglesey in September 2015. However, despite her enthusiasm and persuasion beforehand, only a handful of women attended. Those who were reluctant to take part felt uncomfortable being around others of different social classes.

The Great War years

Before long, however, Watt’s organisational and persuasive skills attracted more women. At the time, it was unusual for women to leave the house other than to run errands. Housework, cooking and tending a garden or part of the farm took up most of the day. Those who attended Watt’s meetings enjoyed the friendships they were forming with other housewives. One woman told another and a movement was born: one that not only helped the individual, but also the nation at a time when food was essential.

By the end of 2015, Wales had several chapters of the WI — and Watt had already branched out into England, where the organisation was established in Dorset, Sussex and Kent. Watt had taken the WI from one coast to another — Wales to Kent — within three months!

In October 2016, the WI chapters were so numerous that the AOS set up a subcommittee to oversee them. The AOS appointed Lady Gertrude Denman as head of this subcommittee. In September 2017, the Treasury decided that funding for the the growing WI movement should be transferred from the AOS to the Women’s Branch of the Food Production Department of the Board of Agriculture (which also organised the Women’s Land Army). At that point, Lady Denman, not wishing for the WIs to come under government control, was able to negotiate an agreement with the Board of Agriculture whereby the Board would fund the establishment of new chapters which would then become self-financing via members’ dues.

On October 16, 1917, delegates from 137 WI chapters and Lady Denman set up a central committee of management and created a constitution as well as set of rules. She was elected to head the WI.

The WI stipulated from the beginning that it was not to be politically or religiously aligned. That meant — and still means — that every woman can join. The objectives are to:

a) Study home economics; b) Provide a centre for educational and social intercourse and for all local activities; c) Encourage home and local industries; d) Develop co-operative enterprises; e) Stimulate interest in the agriculture industry.

A Scottish WI was established in 1917, known as the Scottish Women’s Rural Institute. Catherine Blair had a harder time there than Madge Watt in Wales. Women in East Lothian (outside Edinburgh) only met up with other ladies once a year at the local fête.

Although home economics has always been central to the WI, other topics discussed at early meetings varied by region. In England and Wales, lessons and tips on resoling boots from old tyres were popular. In Scotland, women were more interested in learning how to butcher pig’s carcasses.

During the Great War, the WI helped to bring new methods of food conservation to British housewives. Incredible as it might seem, conserving fruit at home was virtually unknown in 1916. The WI was able to get new American sterilising equipment shipped across the Atlantic. All 199 chapters expressed an interest in receiving and giving lessons on this new preserving technique.

The WI promoted the notion of foraging, although that was not what it was called then. Women understood the value of fruits growing in the wild and how they could be used for food. Some of this produce was conserved in the new American style. Other fruits were made into jam.

If there is one thing Britons identify the WI with is jam making. The WI demonstrated how to increase the yield of jam:

… for those women who had access to a ‘copper’, the quantities that could be made were enormous. Mrs Dunstan, writing in the WI’s own magazine, Home and Country in July 1919, recalled ‘We could make nearly one hundred pounds of jam in it at a time, and as the fire would burn anything such as rubbish, peels etc. our fuel bill for making six and a half tons of jam was less than two pounds.’

Also:

War time also brought out the best of women’s craftwork skills and ability to ‘make do and mend’.

In the summer of 1917, the WI opened a crafts stall at the National Economy Exhibition in Hyde Park, London. The public saw how experienced and creative members were in making rugs, toys, baskets as well as fur and leather accessories.

Today, the WI is Britain’s largest voluntary women’s organisation with 212,000 members in 6,600 local groups. Men are also welcome to attend. Although the focus is very much on domestic science, a number of chapters are also career-oriented, as many members work outside the home.

Centenary banquet

On October 10, 2015, a centenary banquet at the Drapers’ Hall in London was held to honour the WI.

Chefs, some of them Michelin-starred, competed to prepare winning dishes for the four-course meal. The competition was shown from start to finish on the BBC’s Great British Menu, which started in August with weekly regional heats around the country.

We watched every episode. What surprised us is that so many of the chefs attempted to reproduce WI recipes. Time and time again, the chefs judging their efforts warned them about trying to do something the WI members are all expert at — jams, cakes and bread! Friday’s episodes, which determined a regional winner, were judged by three other notables in the food world — as well as a WI member.

This is an indicative comment from one of the WI judges when it came time to select the chefs cooking at the banquet:

… guest judge Mary Quinn turned up and said that the WI has no time for drizzles or smears.

If I had been competing, I would have taken more of a classic approach and prepare dishes outside of the WI’s purview, rather than cheap cuts of meat and Scotch eggs. It was a banquet, not Sunday lunch. Yet, on the day, every dish looked breathtaking! The WI members and supporters attending loved every bite.

Best wishes to the WI for their continuing work in promoting British produce, especially dairy, as well as their campaigns for wildlife, particularly bees.

During the tenth month of the year, the NHS runs an anti-smoking campaign called Stoptober.

For the past few years the smoking community in the UK has written essays against the demonisation of tobacco under the hashtag #octabber, ‘tab’ being British slang for ‘cigarette’.

Although Octabber might not be running this year — I am using the tag for my own reference — plenty of us are unhappy with the endless denormalisation and demonisation of smokers in Britain and elsewhere.

Tactics

Non-smokers are probably unaware of all the anti-smoking campaigns that take place under the banner of ‘public health’ — financed by smokers through sin tax on their pack of 18 (no longer 20 for many manufacturers). Never mind that only a fifth of Britons smoke today. The fight here for Tobacco Control, as elsewhere in the West, must continue until no one smokes.

Dick Puddlecote succinctly described how it worked in 2014 — ‘How Stoptober Really Views Smokers’:

The UK’s first state-funded anti-smoking organisation ASH (motto: “denormalising you with your money since 1972”) claim that they “do not attack smokers or condemn smoking”. It’s a debatable point, but the huge tax sponging industry they have spawned don’t seem to share the same mission statement, it appears.

https://churchmousec.files.wordpress.com/2015/10/174a6-stoptober.png

My three aunts — two nurses and one personal assistant (executive secretary, for my US readers) — smoked 20 a day. All stopped when they retired. Two are still alive and one died a few years ago, a great grandmother who outlived her non-smoking husband. They all had children. All the children are healthy. Half of them are grandparents. All have led responsible lives.

More from Dick Puddlecote:

I’m sure you’re very reassured that {cough} highly-respected politicians believe ‘professionals’ who post like this on Twitter are model citizens and should be shovelled skiploads of your hard-earned cash.

He ended his post with another 2014 tweet from the NHS’s #Stoptober:

Remember, if you’re doing Stoptober, everyone is behind you! And this time it isn’t because your breath smells like Fireman Sam’s jockstrap.

Rather crude, wouldn’t you say?

However, people will always smoke.

Attack on vaping

Countless numbers of ex-smokers around the world have taken up vaping.

Some of these people wanted to stop smoking cigarettes. Vaping gives them the same inhaling experience and they can often enjoy a few puffs in places where tobacco smoking is prohibited.

Not surprisingly, vaping has been gaining in popularity.

However, vaping has been under attack by health ministries around the world. A China Daily Hong Kong article from October 13, 2015 states that Brazil banned e-cigarettes in 2009, although they are still readily available on the black market. Canada followed suit in the same year but restricted the ban to e-cigarettes containing nicotine. In 2013, Spain banned vaping devices from public places.

The China Daily article describes the popularity of e-cigarettes among young people. In the United States, vaping among high school students increased exponentially between 2013 and 2014. The US National Youth Tobacco Survey data showed that, in 2013, approximately 660,000 secondary school students vaped. In 2014, their number increased to 2 million. Among middle school students a similar increase occurred; there were 450,000 young vapers in 2014 versus 120,000 in 2013.

In Britain — as in France — health ministries wish to minimise vaping altogether and not just for young people. Never mind that thousands of adults have been able to stop or switch from cigarettes to vaping, which, as the name implies, involves vapour not smoke.

In the UK, the government is openly against vaping. For their efforts, vapers are under attack, as Christopher Snowdon wrote recently in The Spectator. With an indoor ban to come in Wales, he writes (emphases mine):

Banning vaping indoors is such a criminally stupid and negligent idea that even the prohibitionists at Action on Smoking and Health are opposed to it. The unintended consequences are utterly predictable. Once people who have switched from smoking to vaping are thrown outside, they may come to the conclusion that they might as well smoke. Meanwhile, smokers who might switch to vaping have one less incentive to do so. The negative effect on health is plain to see, even if we ignore the glaring fact that none of this is the government’s business.

Also:

Vapers have every right to be outraged by this evidence-free attack on a habit that is not only harmless to bystanders but positively beneficial to them personally as erstwhile smokers. This is the important point to remember about so-called ‘e-cigarette campaigners’. They used to be smokers. You know how some ex-smokers can seem a little self-righteous and pleased with themselves? Vapers have taken that sense of triumph and channelled it into promoting – or, at least, protecting – the product that helped them quit.

Vapers did the notionally correct thing, obeying Public Health, only to find themselves on the wrong side now:

As smokers, vapers spent years being taxed, demonised and kicked into the street. Anti-smoking campaigners would never put it in such blunt terms, but their objective is to make smokers’ lives so miserable that they decide to quit smoking. Vapers did quit smoking, often to their own surprise. They did exactly what was asked of them, but instead of being embraced by their old tormentors, they found themselves with another battle to fight.

Our media and medical communities are full of warnings about the ‘dangers’ of e-cigarettes. Whilst Britain’s ASH might side with vapers, however, the daddy of Tobacco Control, Stanton Glantz

has helped bring about the banning of not only the use, but also the possession, of e-cigarettes on his campus in San Francisco.

Many smokers and vapers predicted this backlash a few years ago. It was only a matter of time.

It’s odd that ex-smokers inhaling vapour can cause such ill feeling. Under such restrictions, we should not be surprised if they take up tobacco again.

Bible ancient-futurenetMy thanks to cyberfriend Lleweton for this news item.

On May 14, 2015, the Daily Express reported that Aberystwyth University will no longer place Gideon Bibles in student accommodation because they are

inappropriate in a multicultural university …

Those words did not come from a university spokesperson, however, but from Aberystwyth student John David Morgan.

He and another student, Daniel Brothers, are behind the move.

The Students’ Union conducted a poll to gauge support for the Bible restriction. Aberystwyth University has 10,000 students, but only five per cent of them turned up to participate. Although 63 per cent approved of the restriction, that was only 300 students.

The article refers to a ban, but it is a call for the routine placement of Bibles in every room to be stopped.

An earlier vote took place on campus last year, garnering a similar small participation with a huge negative result:

A survey of students at Pentre Jane Morgan halls of residence, conducted by Aberystwyth Students’ Union in 2014, found almost half felt the compulsory inclusion of the holy book placed in rooms by Christian evangelists Gideon International was “uncomfortable” or “unacceptable”.

It also reportedly found only four per cent stated their inclusion in rooms were a “good idea”.

But the Students’ Union has been blasted for passing a motion that gathered so few votes in its favour.

On its website, the Students’ Union said the 475 votes cast was “almost double the minimum requirement” as set out in their “democratic structure”.

A spokesperson added: “475 students voting is a higher number than any attendance at a democratic meeting and so we are delighted that we have managed to open up democratically to this extent.”

According to John David Morgan, students will still be able to request a Bible.

How long, though, before being seen reading one will be taboo?

As for Aberystwyth’s administration, the Huffington Post says:

The university said it would review the situation, pending on the SU vote.

Let’s hope they overturn the proposal, approved by such a small number of students.

Yesterday’s post explored the origins of pietism, which originated in the Lutheran Church in Germany as a reaction to a doctrinal, established church of the state which many regarded as lacking in moral and religious fervour.

From Germany, the movement spread throughout Scandinavia, particularly Norway, and to Prussia. It also extended beyond Lutheranism, bringing about a Moravian revival. Lutheran and Moravian immigrants took their pietism to North America. Pietism, however, also influenced the practices of some Calvinists, particularly Anglicans attracted to the preaching of John Wesley and George Whitefield. This, too, was due directly to a Moravian influence which had come to England and Wales.

Wesley’s Methodist movement would eventually inspire further pietism in other churches, mainly those under the Holiness and Pentecostal banners.

John Wesley and the Moravians

At Oxford in 1729, John Wesley’s brother Charles, George Whitefield and other students formed a society called the Holy Club. John Wesley, older and by then ordained in the Anglican Church, had already begun devoting his life to the pursuit of holiness.

The Wesleys, together with the members of the Holy Club, developed a methodical way to achieve what they saw as a sanctified, obedient life. This rigid system of holiness would become known as Methodism.  The word ‘pietist’ was initially used by those critical of the movement; and so it was with the word ‘Methodist’, used against the Holy Club by its critics at Oxford.

The Wikipedia entry on pietism describes the German influence on Wesley as coming from both the Lutherans and the Moravians:

Moravians (e.g., Zinzendorf, Peter Bohler) and Pietists connected to Francke and Halle Pietism.

However, Wesley’s first encounter with their pietism initially occurred not in Germany but on his journey to North America with Charles in 1735.

A storm broke one of the ship’s masts en route to the American colonies. The story has it that, whilst the English (Anglicans and/or Calvinists) panicked, the Moravians on board remained calm by praying and singing hymns.  Their reaction impressed John Wesley, and he befriended them.

Yet, the pietists’ way of life dovetailed with Wesley’s own and that of the Holy Club in Oxford. Therefore, it was natural that he would have been attracted to it.

Once Wesley arrived in the southern colony of Georgia at the invitation of Governor James Oglethorpe to head a new congregation in the city of Savannah, he maintained his connections with Moravian pastors which affected his ministry there adversely.

Common pietist problems: women and the law

Reading biographical details of pietist pastors reveals two common themes: legal and women  troubles.

Wherever a dominant doctrinal and state-established church is in place, pietist pastors have run afoul of the law. As we saw yesterday, the Norwegian Hans Nielsen Hauge spent a number of years in prison for opposing the state church (Lutheran).

We will also see another Lutheran example — involving women — in a few days’ time.  Further on in this post is a Welsh example.

Wesley also experienced problems in Georgia. Many settlers were Anglicans and, as such, opposed to his Methodism. However, he also became romantically involved with Sophia Hopkey, a woman who sailed from England on the same ship as the Wesley brothers. A Moravian pastor advised Wesley against further involvement.

Hopkey maintained that Wesley promised that he would marry her. However, she went on to marry another — William Williamson — and, attending Wesley’s church with her new husband, presented herself at the Lord’s Table for Communion. Wesley refused to give Mrs Williamson the Sacrament.  This was an act which had grave overtones for a congregant’s or guest’s personal character.

The couple filed a lawsuit against Wesley, who stood trial, although the case was dismissed.  Mr Williamson filed another suit against Wesley in an attempt to forbid his leaving Georgia. However, a shaken and debilitated Wesley managed to return to England, escaping the law.

Wesley’s return to England — more Moravian influence

Upon his return to England, John Wesley continued his Moravian associations.

Moravians in London worshipped in Aldersgate Street, then at the Fetter Lane Society, which Peter Böhler established in 1738. Both Wesleys and George Whitefield, as well as other Anglican clergy and laypeople, began attending Moravian services.

Although technically Anglican, John Wesley and George Whitefield were no longer allowed to preach in certain Church of England parishes. They had strayed too far from the established Church.

It was in Aldersgate Street that Wesley had a profound religious experience whilst listening to a reading of a Martin Luther sermon introducing St Paul’s letter to the Romans. He travelled to Germany to study at the Moravian headquarters in Herrnhut.

Upon his return, Wesley would go on to help to devise the polity of the Fetter Lane Society and publish a hymnal for them.

Eventually, however, Wesley and the Moravians broke their association over disagreements about assurance and faith. Some at the Fetter Lane Society believed in a type of quietism — a ‘let go and let God’ philosophy — of doing nothing until they felt they had the full assurance of salvation.  Wesley rightly pointed out that this was heretical, which it is. He tried to impress upon the group the importance of nurturing a relationship with God through prayer, worship and study.

Pietistic worship style and revivalism

The Moravian worship style at the Fetter Lane Society was typically pietistic, inducing meaningful religious experiences, surges in emotion and a subjective notion of the presence of God.

This emotionally- and self-absorbed style of worship would become part of the First and Second Great Awakenings, which adopted an enthusiastic and revivalistic preaching style. It is one of the reasons that some Anglicans and social critics made fun of it.

As mentioned earlier, Wesley and Whitefield were restricted in what Anglican parishes they could preach. In 1739, Whitefield began preaching in the open air near Bristol to miners and encouraged Wesley to join him. Initially reluctant, Wesley went along two months later to preach outdoors in the same location.

Both men were powerful preachers, stirring the soul to give that characteristically pietistic sensation of an inner stirring — a notional religious experience which makes the listener feel a divine presence.

In pietism — then as now — doctrine matters little. Sermons are intended to be sensational and  personal in order to encourage repentence and to goad one into a manmade pursuit of holiness.

The Second Great Awakening of the 19th century would bring revivals and their enthusiasm to full fruition. Preachers like Charles Finney in the United States would capitalise on this, lending a Pelagian flavour to certain independent Evangelical and Bible churches springing up throughout America.

Lay and itinerant preachers with little to no formal training would travel from town to town spreading their message, collecting money from the crowds to finance their ministries and sometimes dupe followers in the process.

Methodist polity and popularity in western England and in Wales

After joining Whitefield in Bristol in 1739, Wesley noted that he lacked preachers. Nonetheless, he opened Methodist chapels in the area and would later return to London to do so there.

In order to have enough preachers to serve the chapels, and as he (as an Anglican priest) was under no authority to ordain any, Wesley decided that laymen were the answer. Indeed, the Methodist movement expanded rapidly as a result. The Methodist Church relies heavily on lay preachers to this day.  They preach and do pastoral work. For many Methodists lay preachers are the pastors in most respects.

By 1744, the Methodist movement had grown to such a size that a formal organisation and doctrine needed to be arrived at. However, 18 months prior to Wesley’s first conference to decide such matters, the Welsh — under the chairmanship of George Whitefield — organised their first Methodist Association. They would organise the movement in Wales into districts.

The Welsh also had Anglican preachers — some of whom had also studied at Oxford — who subscribed to a Methodist way of life. As such, they, too, preached at outdoor revivals. Whitefield would encourage and mentor the Welsh movement, which had its beginnings in 1735.

It was that year when Howell Harris had an awakening during an Easter church service and decided to begin holding services in his own house.  He had wanted to pursue ordination as an Anglican priest but was refused because his approach was too Methodist. Like Wesley and Whitefield, Harris found pietism the pathway to holiness.

Harris ran into much difficulty, even physical danger, because of his religious views but he continued to travel around Wales preaching in a deeply moving style which attracted many people.

However, he, like a number of other pietist pastors, experienced problems with the opposite sex. Harris had developed a close friendship with a wife and mother, Sydney ‘Madam’ Griffith.  Mrs Griffith’s marriage was an unhappy one. Already a devotee of Methodism, hearing Harris’s preaching in 1748 further moved her emotionally.  She made Harris’s acquaintance as well as that of his Methodist associate, Daniel Rowland, another prominent preacher of the day.

Wikipedia states:

For a short time, Madam Griffith was Harris’s constant companion. Although she had made considerable financial contributions to the Methodist cause, she was left without any income following her separation from her husband. Soon her health deteriorated, and Harris took her to London, where she died (her husband having died three months earlier).

Before she died, however, their association had become quite public and scandalous. As a result, Harris had returned to his home in Treveca in 1752.  Following the Moravian example, he established a religious community there called Teulu Treveca (‘The Treveca Family’), where he presided as ‘father’.

However, in 1763, Harris resumed public preaching and is considered the founder of the Presbyterian Church of Wales, also known as the Calvinistic Methodist Church.  To many, this name will appear an oxymoron.  It combines Calvinist doctrine with Methodist polity and practice.  I cannot but help wonder whether the influence of this church on the Welsh is one of the reasons they clamour so loudly for Government controls on tobacco and alcohol.

Back now to Wesley’s first conference in 1744. Whereas the Welsh Methodists had organised districts, Wesley organised circuits, which exist to this day in the Methodist Church. In fact, the first men to make the rounds of regional congregations rode on horseback — as did Wesley — and were called circuit riders.

Wesley wanted his lay preachers to move to a new circuit every two years, making them ‘itinerant’. Even today, many orthodox Christians disparage ‘itinerant preachers’ for this reason, asking, ‘What formal theological training do they have? What is their history? Where are they from?’

As for the possibility of ordained ministers, the Wesleys knew that the chasm between them and the Church of England was growing ever wider and deeper. The brothers both stayed in the Church of England and were loth to leave it or to cause too much offence. When John Wesley laid hands on an Anglican priest, Thomas Coke, in order to appoint him Superintendent of Methodists in the United States, he also ordained two presbyters to accompany him across the Atlantic. Afterward, Charles begged John to stop:

before he had “quite broken down the bridge” and not embitter his [Charles’] last moments on earth, nor “leave an indelible blot on our memory.”

Wesley and Whitefield part ways theologically

It is sometimes unclear to the casual reader exactly where Whitefield ended up on the theological spectrum. As he was part of the First Great Awakening and was an emotive, charismatic preacher, not to mention connected with Wesley, some might think that Whitefield stayed within Methodism.

However, he never really left his Calvinistic roots and eventually separated theologically from Wesley — as did his proteges in the Calvinistic Methodist Presbyterian Church of Wales. That said, the two ministers remained good friends. Whitefield’s patron was Selina, Countess of Huntingdon.

Sanctification and holiness

Wikpedia’s entry on John Wesley states:

Wesley taught that sanctification was obtainable after justification by faith, between justification and death. He did not contend for “sinless perfection”; rather, he contended that a Christian could be made “perfect in love”. (Wesley studied Eastern Orthodoxy and particularly the doctrine of Theosis). This love would mean, first of all, that a believer’s motives, rather than being self-centred, would be guided by the deep desire to please God. One would be able to keep from committing what Wesley called, “sin rightly so-called.” By this he meant a conscious or intentional breach of God’s will or laws. A person could still be able to sin, but intentional or wilful sin could be avoided.

Secondly, to be made perfect in love meant, for Wesley, that a Christian could live with a primary guiding regard for others and their welfare. He based this on Christ’s quote that the second great command is “to love your neighbour as you love yourself.” In his view, this orientation would cause a person to avoid any number of sins against his neighbour. This love, plus the love for God that could be the central focus of a person’s faith, would be what Wesley referred to as “a fulfilment of the law of Christ.”

Wesley believed that this doctrine should be constantly preached, especially among the people called Methodists. In fact, he contended that the purpose of the Methodist movement was to “spread scriptural holiness across England.”

However, it would seem that his subsequent followers — including some Methodists I knew in the United States — had a different notion of holiness. Alcohol was often eschewed and even actively discouraged for non-Methodists, to be covered in the next post which concerns the 19th century temperance  movement, also associated with Wesleyanism.

Wesley Covenant Prayer and pietism

Early each January, Methodist churches in Britain and the Commonwealth hold a Covenant service, open to all. I have attended three and recommend that those who are interested go at least once.  This is at least one service during the year where more traditional hymns and liturgy are used.

The purpose is to affirm aloud one’s covenant with God. To this end, everyone recites in unison a special prayer known as the Wesley Covenant Prayer, said to be influenced by pietism.

The traditional form of the prayer is as follows:

I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

thou art mine, and I am thine.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven.
Amen.

Next week: The Holiness movement, temperance and Pentecostalism

No doubt all of us can think of aspects of society which we would like to change. I have a short list which I sometimes need to get off my chest whilst trying to remind myself that it concerns personal behaviour of adults, people of and over majority age.

That said, a whole industry has popped up in the West and is spreading rapidly to Asia and South America thanks to the World Health Organisation and health-related charities.  All of these people are secular pietists: anything more than an ice cream social can harm one’s health. Wait, make that a skimmed-milk, transfat-free ice cream social.

Some people don’t like smoking or drinking, regardless of the fact that many of their mothers and grandmothers did both, even whilst pregnant.  But smokers and drinkers generally mind their own business.  Yes, a few drinkers get out of hand.  They’re the ones who come to the attention of police and mainstream media.  However, by and large, people do what they enjoy in a quiet, law-abiding way.

When my generation was growing up, we were told, ‘You’ll have plenty of time for that once you’re of legal age’.  We accepted that drinking (and, for some, smoking) would have to wait.  Then we grew up only to find that we were suddenly obliged by law to wear seatbelts (US, 1980s) — where the rot started.  Then smokers couldn’t have a quiet puff on flights under two hours (1980s): ‘That’s all were asking’, said the secular pietists.  After that, things got a bit slippery. Not only were there laws, there was also an element of social conditioning which has now become, sadly, part and parcel of modern thought.  In the 1990s, we were told that pregnant women couldn’t drink.  Barmen refused to serve them even a glass of wine.  Bottles of beer, wine and spirits began sporting warnings and health advice.  Tobacco Control (numerous organisations) advanced their own agenda, gaining a bit on drink.  Various bans on tobacco — even snus — have been brought in worldwide. (If you would like to see this reviewed in the UK, sign the petition.)  Smokers need special websites now in order to find hotel rooms where smoking is allowed — a ‘home away from home’, which is what a hotel is supposed to be.

Secular pietists all say the same thing: ‘There is no safe amount.  Think of the children.  You are an irresponsible adult.’

As far as secular pietists are concerned, there are no adults, only wayward children of varying ages.  Children who work for a living, own homes, drive cars, pay tax, plan for their retirement and have families of their own.  Some of these children are grandparents.  Other grown-up children give generously of their time to community or church organisations. But secular pietists say that these children cannot be trusted to smoke or drink responsibly.  And secular pietists don’t necessarily need to be members of an organisation in order to stick their noses in where they shouldn’t be.

On August 21, 2011, Dick Puddlecote highlighted an article from the Telegraph involving two mothers on a day out in London with their children.  David Barrett writes:

It was meant to be a refreshing pit-stop during a hectic family outing.

But when friends Ali Ineson and Emma Rutherford popped into a central London pub to buy their children soft drinks and themselves an alcoholic drink, they were shocked to find their order refused.

Although happy to sell the soft drinks, the barman would not allow them to have a white wine spritzer and a vodka and Coke because it would be “inappropriate” for them to drink in front of their children.

The mothers left after their children finished their soft drinks.

The Britannia is run by Stonegate Pub Company, which operates 560 pubs and bars across the country, including the Yates’s and Slug and Lettuce chains.

A company spokesman said: … “We are therefore now going to investigate this complaint and we would request that the responsible adults concerned contact us directly in order that we can ascertain the facts of the situation.”

The Pub Curmudgeon says:

It’s a more extreme version of the refusal to serve a pregnant woman even a single drink. The view is becoming increasingly common than any quantity of alcohol is incompatible with any responsible activity (see my recent poll about lunchtime drinking at work) and we are heading towards a situation where drinking becomes an activity that has to be ringfenced from the rest of society.

Meanwhile, in non-believing Wales — prone to secular pietism because of its roots in the Wesleyan holiness doctrine — alcohol is creating a ‘health time-bomb’.  In ‘The alcohol Jihad’ at Orphans of Liberty, Quiet Man notes:

We have laws to deal with drunk and disorderly behaviour, if they were properly enforced then the situation of public drunkenness  that gets the righteous so up in arms wouldn’t be an issue. As it is, the police are either doing paperwork to justify their existence or chasing motorists, a far easier target.

He refers to an article from This is South Wales, ‘Calls made for booze rationing in Carmarthen’ (emphases mine):

Latest figures show there are 105 licenses across the town and 90 of those are in the south ward of the town.

Town and county councillor Arwel Lloyd who represents the ward said the licenses are made up of pubs, restaurants and off licenses and takeaways.

He added: “We are looking to stop the number of problems stemming from the sale of alcohol,” he said. “We have allowed 105 licences to sell alcohol. To me that doesn’t make too much sense.

“In a town this size, when we are trying to sort out issues of antisocial behaviour, we have all these alcohol licenses making the situation worse …”

There has also been a call for alcohol rationing on a county wide level to tackle the problem …

A few days before a full meeting of the county council, Councillor Huw Lewis had suggested rationing alcohol should be seriously considered, saying: “By rationing no one would be able to have more than what is considered suitable by medical officials.”

And, at full council, he said: “We will have to regard alcohol as we do any other drug to ensure that no one is able to provide more than is permitted by the experts …

Alun Lenny, secretary of the Association of Independent Chapels for Carmarthen said …

The amount of shops, not just in Carmarthen but across the county, selling alcohol is a concern, often at cheap prices due to the competition between outlets.”

Is there a problem?  It’s hard to say, because no one has commented on the article.  Secular pietists are just upset about alcohol in general.  They don’t like it, so no one else should, either.  You’re never an adult when secular pietists are around.  A reader from elsewhere in Europe observes the UK from afar and has this to say in response to Quiet Man’s post:

Your whole country appears to have become a nursery school in the hands of some besandled weirdo, crochet knicker wearing, poetry reading, lentil eating renegade … hippy from the teacher training school of the class of 1968, as the headmaster.

 … one word comes to mind to describe Britain of today.

JUVENILE.

Juvenile in word, thought, deed, attitude, ideas, emotion, and leadership.

Yep, and that’s, sadly, how not only the secular pietists — but also a growing number of overage children (AKA ‘adults’) in Britain like it.

And it gets worse. In Scotland, a new American device might be brought in as part of drink-related crime sentencing.  Subrosa tells us:

The ‘booze bracelet’ is the latest import which Scotland’s Violence Reduction Unit hopes will cut drink-related violet crime.  An asbo with a difference, because it monitors an offender’s alcohol consumption.  Data from the tag is sent remotely to a computer and if alcohol is detected the system alerts the authorities.

The tags, costing £850 each, are currently used in the US for drunk drivers who are repeat offenders and shortly US representatives will bring the first batch of bracelets to Glasgow for testing.  The bracelet already has the approval of the Scottish government, the courts, the Crown Office and even defence and human rights lawyers.

Those who say, ‘What’s the problem?’ haven’t seen the propensity for potential scope creep:

While I would welcome a reduction in alcohol-fueled violent crime, how long will it be before this technology is used to monitor smokers and those who eat themselves into obesity?

On smoking — here is what Philippe Even, a retired French civil servant and dean of the Necker Research Institute, France’s largest medical faculty told Le Parisien in 2010. First, he reveals why he didn’t speak up before now about the spurious science behind tobacco bans:

I was held to confidentiality. If I had deviated from official positions, I would have had to pay the consequences. Today, I am a free man.

Dr Even spent his career in public health research.  On the purported — and often reported — 3000 – 6000 deaths in France from passive smoking:

I am curious to know their sources. No study has ever produced such a result.

On passive smoking being responsible for cardiovascular disease and asthma:

Take the case of cardiovascular diseases: the four main causes are obesity, high cholesterol, hypertension and diabetes. To determine whether passive smoking is an aggravating factor, there should be a study on people who have none of these four symptoms. But this was never done. Regarding chronic bronchitis, although the role of active smoking is undeniable, that of passive smoking is yet to be proven. For asthma, it is indeed a contributing factor … but not greater than pollen!

On public smoking bans based on nothing:

The psychosis began with the publication of a report by the IARC, International Agency for Research on Cancer, which depends on the WHO [World Health Organisation]. The report released in 2002 says it is now proven that passive smoking carries serious health risks, but without showing the evidence. Where are the data? What was the methodology? It’s everything but a scientific approach. It was creating fear that is not based on anything.

For those reading this who disapprove of tobacco and alcohol: they are legal products for adult consumption.  We have also seen that prohibition and high taxation on these ‘sins’ — past and present — drive the market underground.

Ultimately, the danger — and perhaps this is what secular pietists want — is that adults become infantilised.  And those who drink or smoke are also stigmatised as well as infantalised.  It’s a sad, mad and bad situation for anyone of majority age.

Think you’re an adult?  Not in the eyes of the State or health movements.  Back to the mothers at the London pub, where I shall leave the final word here to Angry Exile of Orphans for Liberty, who writes:

Seriously, what … was the barman thinking? That one thing would lead to another and they’d start feeding the kids grog under the table? Because there’s a solution if that happens – you tell them to drink up and leave …

Or was he thinking that they were his kids? Not literally his kids, but kind of his in that he shared some kind of collective responsibility for them and their upbringing. Worryingly, not to mention creepily, it sounds like it

Back in those not far off days I mentioned earlier it would not be ‘appropriate’ for a barman or landlord to concern himself with what’s appropriate for other people’s children if the parents are clearly perfectly sober and the kids seem healthy and normal. Certainly nobody thought to tell my parents not to drink in front of their kids, and for the record my brother is probably a low to average drinker, my sister drinks quite sparingly and I’m teetotal by choice. Getting all concerned for the kids is a bit premature when the adults haven’t actually had a … drink yet, and since I’ve never heard of anyone ever being refused alcohol or being told by a publican not to drink it in front of their children, coupled with the fact that alcohol consumption in the UK has been falling for some years, I’d say that it is not and never has been a problem anyway. However, what is a problem is the ever increasing influence of the nanny state, its propaganda department, and their constant drip-drip-drip messages that any vice, no matter how socially acceptable and how harmless in moderation, is a dangerous and corrupting influence on impressionable minds.

The irony is that that line of thinking is a dangerous, corrupting influence, and sadly the impressionable minds are those of people who should be old enough to know better. The state is mother. The state is father. And if it’s not possible to parent your kids directly it’s as happy to have its brainwashed drones – supermarket staff who refuse to sell alcohol to adults, and now it seems bar staff as well – do it by proxy

And people wonder why the pub trade is dying. It was always about being somewhere to go where you could enjoy yourself, and the enjoyment is being sucked out of it. You can’t smoke in the pub, you can’t buy booze as cheaply as you can for home consumption, and now it seems that if you have a child with you it might not be possible to buy booze at all. So what’s the point in going in at all?

The pub trade is dying, and if it’s about to switch sides to become the pawns of the Strength Through Joy neo-puritans I’d say it’s better off dead.

None of us has a problem with people who subscribe to secular pietism or the holiness doctrine … as long as they keep it to themselves.  Secular pietists shouldn’t be working in pubs or anywhere near alcohol or tobacco — being 21st century Carrie Nations.  I haven’t mentioned those subscribing to the holiness doctrine in the same vein, because they have better sense in most cases, although ‘dry counties’ in the United States are an exception.

This just in: the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales tells the faithful to have ‘purpose’.

Regular readers, particularly from the United States, will recognise that word from Rick Warren’s Church Growth Movement (CGM), which requires non-confessional Baptist ‘deeds over creeds’.  Apparently, that’s the way to build an increased congregation.  People love it when they have ‘purpose’.  My posts on the subject give clear evidence that this is an error.  Warren devised his methods from business management techniques, particularly those of Peter Drucker, who predicted and proposed that the Church could work with the State to bring about socially-engineered change.

That’s not dominionism, although it could be used as such.  Instead, Drucker saw the Church as becoming involved as a change agent in a secular world.  This is not unlike David Cameron’s Big Society, which was rolled out in certain Anglican dioceses last autumn.  Some parish churches had half-day workshops to recruit volunteers from their congregations to play their part and work for a better society.  It is a form of communitarianism.

The following message from the Home Mission Desk of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.  As it was with the Anglicans, the message is the same.  This is also true of many ecumenical Churches Together affiliations up and down the country.  If you have found a big push to ‘get involved’, this is why.

Here is an excerpt from the Home Mission Desk’s message, which I could not find online, so this mention in a Catholic church’s announcements will suffice (emphases mine throughout):

Scripture teaches us that without service and love of the poor, Christians are but clashing symbols [sic], their words are empty … Pope Benedict repeatedly emphasised solidarity with and service of the poor, that the Church exists to serve.

Life is busy and if you’ve a family, a mortgage and a job, it can be very hard to find time for anything or anyone else.  The Gospel invites and the Holy Spirit motivates us to be attentive to those in most need.  The Holy Father spoke about this clearly and similar sentiments were shared by the Prime Minister, David Cameron, at the departure airport: The Pope’s message ‘… is a challenge to us all … For many, faith is a spur to action.  It shapes their beliefs and behaviour and it gives them a sense of purpose …’ So it must be in our lives

Meanwhile, many younger Catholics are leaving the Church because they do not understand what the Church teaches or they take the Catholic social gospel to heart and disregard the holiness required of the faithful as put forward in the Bible, including the Gospels and Epistles of the New Testament.  I covered this subject in Sunday’s ‘Forbidden Bible Verses: 1 Peter 1:10-16’, ironically not part of the standard  Sunday Mass (or mainstream Protestant service) readings.

When you have a demanding job — let’s face it, few office workers have done a straight 9-to-5 day for the past 20 years — you need to spend time with your spouse and your family during the precious time you have on the weekends or in the evenings.  Therefore, after God, your first obligation is to them — not to church activities.  Make sure your marriage is built on the New Testament love and respect as Jesus commands.  Train your children in love and awe of the Lord as well as in Church doctrine.

One of my Lutheran readers who is acquainted with the pitfalls of the CGM wrote in last autumn on the subject of volunteerism in the Church, which I highlighted in ‘Church Growth and our true “purpose”‘. Randall Schultz had this to say:

My own experiences and observations are that it is very easy to burn out lay members with leadership, done in the name of getting members involved. I have seen how the lay leaders are constantly being told about the joys of doing “the Lord’s Work”. Meanwhile, they are neglecting their families and down time by constantly attending board and committee meetings. Remember, that many of these men work full time in the secular world.

Also, there is what is known as opportunity cost. What could they be doing with their time if they were not so occupied with hand-wringing while looking at statistical giving data at Stewardship Committee meetings, for example? Family time was already mentioned. How about serious doctrinal study? There is much available, even in the English language. Yes, the “business of the church” is important. There are books to be balanced, property to be maintained, and the many serious membership problems which often arise at Elders’ meetings.

Pardon my rambling, but it is easy to see why so many frivolous activities occur in congregations when pastors are trained in methods and motivation at the seminary. What ever happened to changed hearts as the Holy Spirit works through the Means of Grace?

Service to Christ is evangelising and showing mercy to other church members.  Evangelising is making sure that you and yours keep a Christian home, which includes personal behaviour.  It also includes being a responsible employee and a peaceful citizen.  It’s about showing a good example to others.

Showing mercy and providing charity may be contributing to a Church fund to help other members in need.  It might be a private act in which you run an errand or pop round with a meal for someone who is ill or infirm.  It does not mean doing the State’s work ‘voluntarily’ or getting involved in parish, ecumenical or interfaith activities to that end! If you wish to do that, fine, but it is not a mandate of the New Testament.

Tomorrow: When the social Gospel overshadows Church teachings

Have you ever had one of those days where you read three different things in quick succession which are so startling and disparate?

This is what I read last Thursday, just casually surfing.  Emphases in main text mine throughout.

Item 1 – ‘8 Most Terrifying Cases of ‘Food Rage’ (Yahoo! Lifestyle UK)

This shocked me to the core, especially the video that accompanies No. 6 below.  What is wrong with people?  Is it psychotropic medication, food additives or just plain lack of control that causes the following incidents?

1) Cupcake rage in Cardiff

Police are examining CCTV footage to trace a woman who physically assaulted a shop owner after they ran out of her favourite cupcake. According to reports, the owner of Sugarswirlz in Cardiff told the woman the Sweet Tooth cake, costing £2.20 each, had sold out. Owner Sally Dodd then said the woman went “ballistic”, throwing herself on the floor, smashing glass cabinets and pulling the shop owner’s hair. She left the shop, causing around £400 worth of damage. Sally explained “she didn’t even wait for us to tell her that if she waited we could bake some fresh cupcakes for her”

4) Customer tasers restaurant staff over mustard and mayonnaise

In 2010, staff at a Wendy’s restaurant in Florida got a shock of a different kind when they encountered an angry customer, who reportedly objected to the amount of mustard and mayonnaise she received with her order. Twenty-year-old Melanese (?!!) Reid allegedly chased staff around the kitchen with a taser gun and fled with her companion when staff threatened to call police. The women were later pulled over by police, who found a pink taser in their possession. According to reports, Melanese claimed she had acted in self-defence

6) Woman at US McDonald’s trashes restaurant because of an “inferior burger” – complaining AFTER she ate it


CCTV footage from a McDonald’s restaurant in Kansas City shows a woman who reacted badly when she complained about an “inferior” burger – after she had eaten it. Video footage shows the woman throwing a bucket of water at staff, along with a “wet floor” sign and various other items. Even the cash registers weren’t spared.

7) UK businesswoman attacks fellow customer over “who was more hungry” in Exeter

In 2011 Linda Aggett admitted getting aggressive in a McDonald’s restaurant in Exeter. Eyewitnesses said a dispute arose with another customer and “words were exchanged about who was more hungry”. Aggett then attacked the other customer, reportedly grabbing her face and scratching her. The incident was captured on CCTV. Aggett, a successful local businesswoman, later revealed that she had been to a funeral the day before, accounting for her emotional state

This reminds me of a saying I occasionally run across: ‘The world would be a much better place if more people stayed at home’.

If these folks had read the Bible when they were youngsters, they wouldn’t be in this state.  Learning how to cook their own meals would also help!

Item 2 – ‘A Working Life’ (Children of the Andes (COTA) charity)

Clarisa’s situation is a complete contrast to the fast-food rage above.  Now a young woman, she started work as a small child to help put food and money on the table.  Here is part of her moving life story:

Clarisa can’t remember when she started working, she was so young. Every day she would get up at 5am to start the long walk to the market place, and spend the day carrying heavy boxes of fruit. It didn’t seem strange to her that she didn’t have any friends of her own age, she’d never known any different.

Then, at the age of 11, Clarisa joined a street school set up by COTA partner ACJ [part of the YMCA in Cali] in the corner of the market place. Thanks to ACJ’s support, she has now completed primary and secondary education and is looking forward to a career in tourism

There are an estimated 2.5 million Colombian children like Clarisa who work. These children often work long hours in dangerous conditions, denied their right to play or to go to school. Deprived of a childhood and an education, they face an adult life of unskilled work and poverty.

Page 2 has more on Clarisa and her mother, initially uneasy with her daughter’s schooling:

After a while, one of the teachers asked if I would like to go along to the ACJ Children’s Centre. At first my mum wasn’t happy, she said I needed to work, but somehow the teacher convinced her and now my mum is glad I went

Eventually I went on to secondary school and graduated with honours! … Now I’m 21 and studying for a Diploma in Tourism, which I’ve almost finished. Soon I’ll be starting work experience at a hotel.

Through all of this, I’ve realised that there are opportunities in life and that it’s up to you to seize them. Sometimes things are tough, but you just have to keep going. Without the teachers from ACJ – who challenged, pushed and inspired me – I’d probably still be back in the market-place.

Wow — what a pleasant change to read about a young person who really wanted to study and improve herself.  In the West, she would have been made to feel a victim of society.  She might even have gone on to trash a fast-food restaurant.  It just goes to show the importance of a decent education, dedicated teachers — and self-discipline!

Item 3: The World’s Billionaires (Forbes.com and Journal du Net)

This piece is a world away from child labourers and fast-food rage.  I read these three articles in order within the space of an hour and when I finished reading this, my head was well and truly spinning.  I guess everything is relative.  There seems to be more in common between Clarisa and these billionaires than the fast-food ragers, even though they are in a similar social class.

I did find it easier navigating the Journal du Net pages.  In case you didn’t know, Bill Gates has been knocked out of first place for the second year running.  Highlights from a truly global grouping of 1,210 billionaires:

1/ Carlos Slim Helu (Mexico) – $74bn.  Slim’s Telmex has 90% of the Mexican telephone market.

2/ Bill Gates (US) – $56bn.

3/ Warren Buffett (US) – $50 bn.

4/ Bernard Arnault (France) – $41bn. Although an industrialist from the start of his career, he formed LVMH (Louis Vuitton – Moët-Hennessy) in 1987 and the rest is history.

6/ Lakshmi Mittal (India) -$31.1 bn. Heads Mittal Steel Company, which acquired the European company Arcelor in 2006. The entity is called ArcelorMittal and is the number one steel producer in the world.

7/ Amancio Ortega (Spain) – $31bn.  Owns the Zara ready-to-wear chain, well-known throughout Europe.

8/ Eike Batista (Brazil) – $30 bn. Fortune in mining and utilities companies.

11/ Li Ka-Shing (Hong Kong) – $26bn. Heads two conglomerates, Cheung Kong et Hutchison Whampoa, which encompass diverse sectors from maritime freight to perfumes.

12/ Karl Albrecht (Germany) – $25.5bn. Founder of Aldi (Albrecht Discount) grocery chain.

13/ Stefan Persson (Sweden) – $24.5.  Heir to and head of his father’s ready-to-wear chain Hennes (‘for her’ in Swedish).

14/ Vladimir Lissine (Russia) – $24bn. Owns 85% of Novolipetsk, the main steel company in Russia.

17/ David Thomson (Canada) – $23bn. Head of ThomsonReuters; his grandfather founded  media giant Thomson Corp.

20/ Jim Walton (US) – $21.3bn.  His fortune comes from the family’s Wal-Mart stores; he is also president of Arvest Bank.

Highs and lows — what the world is about, it seems.  Education and hard work are the keys to success.  We can do our children a big favour by starting them off with the Book of Proverbs, which lists life’s truths in an easily understandable way.

The fear of the Lord [is] the beginning of wisdom and the knowledge of the holy [is] understanding. (Proverbs 9:10)

Happy St David’s Day to my Welsh readers!

At left is a detail of a Streetmap (click for a view of the surrounding area)  showing the only church dedicated to the bishop who baptised the patron saint of Wales, St Elvis.  Rory Sutherland of The Spectator tells us that his name in Welsh is Aelfyw (Quote Unquote adds that it is Ailbe of Emly in Gaelic and Albeus in Latin). He came from Munster, in the southwest of Ireland.

St David was born into the royal house of Ceredigion.  He devoted his life to God as a teacher and ascetic.  As an abbot, he founded a monastery in the west of Wales at the Vale of Roses (Glyn Rhosin).  The monastery was the most important Christian site of its day for both religious and intellectual reasons, and David’s reputation was known throughout the Celtic world.

Today’s visitors to the site will find St David’s Cathedral, consecrated in 1131.  The town itself is named after him — St David’s, or in Welsh, Tyddewi.  Dewi is Welsh for David.

Records indicate that St David died on March 1, although the year is less clear — possibly 588 AD.  His final words to the sorrowful monks around his deathbed were as follows:

Brothers be ye constant. The yoke which with single mind ye have taken, bear ye to the end; and whatsoever ye have seen with me and heard, keep and fulfil.

After his death, a cult of sainthood developed, reaching as far as Rome, where Pope Callixtus declared in 1123:

Two pilgrimages to St David’s is equal to one to Rome, and three pilgrimages to one to Jerusalem!

This is how the eponymous cathedral came to be built.

Whilst March 1 in Wales is a national festival, it is not yet an official public holiday, despite strong public support and a petition to then Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2007.  However, festivals take place throughout the country, and it is not unusual for children to have time off from school.

When I first moved here, the Welsh still used the leek — St David’s personal emblem — in their celebrations.  Sometime in the mid-1990s, this evolved into the daffodil, which is in season around Britain at that time.  The names for both are rooted in the Welsh word cenhinen (‘leek’), with cenhinen Pedr (‘Peter’s leek’) denoting ‘daffodil’.

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