Thursday, October 28, 2010

Antisemitism redefined

Good morning God,
A very distressing and disturbed night. I have been following and participating in a blogged debate on the Church's report on Justice for Israel Palestine and the bizarre threat of one Methodist to take the Church to court over its contents. 
There can be no doubt that the report has raised some emotive issues, but that is no excuse for the appalling lack of grace in some of the posts.When Christians slander one another, evil flourishes.

The charge being made against the Church and certain individuals is of Antisemitism.. a charge designed to raise the spectre of the Holocaust and shame us all into silence - regardless of what atrocities are currently being perpetrated. In a nutshell the argument is - Gentiles committed the holocaust therefore the Gentiles have forever forfeited the right to censor a Jew. Any and all criticism of Jews or of Israel by Gentiles is antisemitic.

This is, however,  a shallow and dishonest definition of antisemitism. It mocks and makes a lie of the past by reducing it to a vacuous insistence that it is never politically, spiritually or socially 'correct' to criticize or question anything Jewish or Israeli.

I have spoken out against some of the abuses of power in  Zimbabwe - but I am not anti-african
I have protested the Catholic Church's policy on the use of condoms - but I am not anti-catholic

It is time to put the fear of being called antisemitic into perspective:

It is not antisemitic to seek to be informed about the current plight of the ordinary Palestinian
It is not antisemitic to be offended by the wall
It is not antisemitic to question why human rights are being denied to Palestinians in Israel.
It is not antisemitic to ask what can we do to which might help Palestinians.

It IS antisemitic to not question or challenge any of these things, to hate the Jew so much that we would be prepared to stand by and watch whilst they perhaps commit crimes against You and against humanity which we know from our own bitter experience will only result in long-lasting spiritual, social and political damage.

It IS antisemitic to allow religious fundamentalism, be it Christian, Jewish or Islamic to narrowly define what it is to be Jewish based on some literal interpretation of a few verses of the Hebrew Scriptures (texts which many Jews enjoy endlessly debating!)

But more to the point - you have taught us repeatedly God that it is not right define and limit a human being by the happenstance of where they were born or to whom. It was incredibly costly to teach us that in YOU there is neither Gentile nor Jew. Our human divisions and habit of 'taking sides' is an anathema to you. It is not antisemitic to love the Palestinian, it is not an either-or situation. Not all Jews are in support of the wall, not all Palestinians are members of Hammas, but all Jews and all Palestinians are your children God.

Methodists believe that Christian conferring is a means of grace - we extend that and say all Godly dialogue is a means of grace, ie a way to grow closer to you God and to one another. Such dialogue cannot begin with accusations, but by invitations. The report 'Justice for Israel/Palestine' was produced in response to a request by Methodists for information for Methodists about the plight of the Palestinians - it therefore naturally has more to say about the Palestinian than about the Jew.  If people feel that this creates an imbalance, the solution is simple, I invite those Methodists who think that we are antisemitic to use our Church procedures to request a report on the state of Israel and the evils of antisemitism. No doubt that will not only enlighten and inform Methodists but also lead to further controversy as the Church struggles with its past, for the sake of its future. What I am confident of, however, is that such a report would be well written and would receive a warm welcome.
What isn't welcomed are the current ungracious comments, accusations and slander.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Theology first.

Good morning God,
Today promises to be a good day. A day filled with deliberation and celebration over how the Church communicates and shares its theology. Such days are rare!

I know that our Ministerial students are still required to study theology - it's there on the curriculum somewhere, along with Church History, Liturgy, Hermeneutics, Evangelism, Missiology, World Church, Old Testament, New Testament, Greek, Hebrew, Science and Religion, Philosophy of Religion, Sociology of Religion, Inter-faith studies. Pastoral Theology, Ethics,Pedagogy, Adrogogy, Christian Anthropology, Black Theology, Liberation Theology, Feminist Theology, Queer Theology, and of course Methodist Theology..

Sorry God, lost myself in a wish list there...

The sad truth is of course that some sections of the British Methodist Church have long since lost Wesley's love of theology and have managed (with Conference's consent) to reduce most of the Church's theological output to a compulsory second section in some Conference reports (and now for the theology...) oh yes.. and to a dreaded subject at seminary. (If the looks of some of our students when they come to their first theology lesson is anything to go by, theology is about as popular in our Church as a pickled onion is in an apple pie.)

I suspect that the root of the problem lies in our having lost the 'groundwork' of theology - the pew theology that fed and nurtured the love of theology, of searching the Scriptures and studying God's world in some of our members and local preachers. From Wesley's time on, the Methodist people were fed theologically by the works of popular theologians and - in particular - by the published books and reports of the Church. Wesley even rewrote and abridged a few works in order to make them more accessible. The Agenda's of earlier conferences up to the 1990's are an amazing collection of theological works. Embedded in the reports from each division of the Church is clear evidence of the Church as church, wrestling with scripture and faith, not just its necessary order.
It would be hard to say the same today. Although there are some good reports being produced, on the whole, the paucity of religious language in any of our Church's official paperwork is now well past scary.

Current council papers, for example, are now prefaced with neat little tick boxes and columns which summarize the report's expected impact on :-
  • Standing Orders
  • Faith and Order 
  • Financial 
  • Personnel 
  • Legal
  • Wider Connexional
  • External (e.g.ecumenical)
  • Risk

It's all very business like and official - and I guess it's important for us to be able to see at a glance what the impact of any piece of the Church's work will be on these areas.

And it's good to see that we have our priorities right - there's faith and order - way up there - next to rules and regulations!  But this faith and order tick box isn't quite the same as asking whether or not something is theologically sound or in keeping with our faith and order. It can't be - otherwise surely there would be some input from faith and order required on - say the report  MC1089 Selection Criteria for Candidates for presbyteral and diaconal ministry After all, I can't imagine Wesley thinking that selection criteria for ministers would have no impact on the faith and order of the Church!

Bottom line - it ALL impacts on our faith and order!

This is an old drum of mine - but it still beats to the same tune.

As a Church we should start with the theology - not with the business. Good business practice does not always mean good theology or good ministry. Church reports and papers are a part of our public proclamation as well as our internal business. I really believe we are drowning out our proclamation of God's grace with official, business management language instead of God language. We have good news to share which is lost amidst the jargon of impact and risk assessment!


Luckily - for people like me - theology is actually compulsory for a Church - no matter how business like and professional it wants to be (or thinks it has to be!). It can't be tidied up or pigeon holed or reduced to a column or section because You delight in turning us upside down and inside out - you want to know we are talking with to and about you, not just ordering your affairs!

The simple fact is that it's just not possible to be either a good and effective minister, or even a good Christian Disciple without doing theology. The hard part is discovering how we as a Church, learn how to do it so that it is profitable for the whole people of God.. not just so that we get another report adopted by Conference. Wesley insisted that Searching the Scriptures is a means of Grace, as is Christian Conferring (which doesn't just mean conferring with Christians but conferring as Christians).
Conferring and searching can be done in community - in a seminary or college or church or house group, or in private - with a book, or as part of a distance learning course. (See in particular the European Methodist eAcademy's brilliant courses on Methodist Theology)

And that's where the joy of today comes in for me.
Today I will be exploring with others in the Connexional team and in Circuit ministry how the Church can help to make the means of grace available, through the books that we publish. And then - I will travel to Durham to celebrate the Church's continuing investment in theological education as I attend the welcome service for the new Director of the Wesley Study Centre in Durham.
A good day to beat a drum for theology first..

Monday, October 18, 2010

un-Natural Selection?

Good morning God,
I've just been learning about the charity Project Prevention and their plan to offer money to drug addicts and alcoholics if they will agree to sterilisation (referred to as long term birth control).

I appreciate the concern for the children.
No... that's an understatement.
I am appalled at the damage that can be done to children born to parents suffering from alcohol or drug addiction. I know from first hand experience how life-shattering and soul destroying it can be for the child AND the parent.
To knowingly offer one more binge or fix in return for a life-time of sterility?
How sick and manipulative is that?

It's called Eugenics.. the deliberate attempt to manipulate the gene pool of society - human intervention in the whole process of natural selection. We've done it before,  in America in some states there were programs to sterilize those with mental illness, Indirah Gandhi tried mass sterilization in India, In Czechoslovakia Roma women were forcibly sterilized..
Forced Sterilization is recognised as a crime against humanity - but coerced sterilization?
Can you coerce someone who lacks the emotional and mental capacity to fully understand what they are signing up to - or is that just abuse?

If Project Prevention was really concerned for what happens to the Children of addicts, it would spend its money on providing care for them - not making sure that they dont exist!
I think this is just a very nasty way of dealing with what we dont want to face.  It allows us to ignore the plight of the addicts because we wont have to worry that their children will be a drain on our emotions or finances or the social services of the state.  It is easier to make sure that children aren't born, than care for them when they are, after all, what sort of life will they have? A life worth living?

Who knows - except you God. and of course, the children of alcoholic and drug addicts
I wonder how many of them seriously wish they had never been born..

The problem is NOT the child - but the parent and the society that fails to address the problems of addiction. The best way of resolving the 'problem' of these children is to fix society, not  manipulate the gene pool. We need to invest in putting an end to the sort of suffering, social deprivation and injustices which almost inevitably leads to addiction in the first place.

It highlights the real difference between a secular and a Christian society. YOU cared enough to come as one of the least of us - a back-street bastard not a middle-class do-gooder. You cared enough to find a way to work with natural selection, to change behaviour, to transform society, to save the lost, not to destroy us or 'prevent' us from even being born. You take the risk with free will, and, even though you do know better, you believe in our future, in the possibility of our redemption, enough to work with us...

Its important that we see this 'project' for what it is - Project prevention is just a nasty ungodly way of stopping the problem of OUR pain, distress and discomfort at the lives that are damaged by abuse..
It does nothing for the addict to rehabilitate them, for society to make it better, and even less for the Children who might have been.
Its certainly not Christian
Its a cop out.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Pastoral Possession

Good morning God,
There are a significant number of stories in Scripture about possession which are hard to explain or relate to in a world that doesn't believe in either demons or possession. But that doesn't mean that such demons don't exist, or that possession isn't real.

Possession is very real - we try and possess people all the time, at one time we even made it legal! We speak unthinkingly of MY Husband, MY Wife, MY Children... But, if you really want to see a demon at work, you need look no further than at the sort of possession that ministers sometimes fall victim to... MY ministry, MY church, MY people. The harm that this can do is truly demonic ie divisive. ( The etymology of the Greek word for demon is from the verb daiesthai "to divide, distribute.")

I was asked this week if I was really able to take my sabbatical, to leave the Church in the care of others. Thankfully I believe that the answer is yes.. We have such well blessed Churches here that I genuinely have no fear or worries. The worship will be wonderful, the pastoral care second to none and the Churches will continue to grow in grace and holiness through this opportunity to explore ministry without me being there to tell people what to do.

I have seen the other side to this coin however.. I have seen a church divided and hurt by ministers who were so possessive that they simply could not let Your people go.

Ministerial possession really can divide and harm a Church. Whether through love, grace, guilt, insecurity or fear, ministers are the world's best at trying to 'own' the people that they are sent to share in the pastoral oversight of. They can get upset at the very idea that a member might prefer to be cared for by another minister, another Church, another preacher.. As though it is a competition, as though popularity is a valid measure of ministry... As though a minister has somehow failed if someone doesn't want the individual ministry being offered them.

Pastoral possession is ugly - and like all forms of possession it robs us of grace, love and reason.
Worse.. it works its mischief on the very people ministers are called to minister to. That same love, grace, guilt, insecurity or fear and sense of failure, begins to overshadow the pastoral relationship with the person needing care. Instead of being able to respond in grace to the pastoral need which provoked the possession, the minister takes on the role of the aggrieved one, the hurt and inconsolable one, in need of your love and support.. It's not that pastoral needs are neglected, but they often lack the fullest extent of the grace and love which would mark it as Christian.

This is in spite of the fact that time and time again, scripture teaches that your ministers are seldom  popular - or loved when they are with your people. Look at Paul, or Timothy, Paul in particular wrestled with pastoral possession! But if ministers are true to their calling to follow you, then they will be ignored and slighted as well as loved and appreciated for their ministry. Ministry is both the best, and the worst calling that there is. Ministry is not about the ownership of souls but the cure of souls - an old odd expression, which means the nurture and care of souls through admonishment as well as teaching and sacrament. So Ministers are called to be offensive and challenging as well as supportive and comforting.
All of which means...
some of our members will like us and appreciate what we are trying to do
some never will.
Some of our members will always prefer the last minister they had.. even after we have left!

Of course this hurts because  ministers care for the people they share in pastoral care for. One of the most amazing gifts of your grace has always been the bond that you establish between a people and those you send to minister to them in your name.  But I have always found it a worthy hurt to offer back to you God, a token of my love.

Thankfully in Methodism we are encouraged to remember that no matter how many Churches are in a section, we never have sole pastoral responsibility, rather each minister is 'charged' to share in the pastoral care of your people with all of God's people. At local level we share with the pastoral committee and the stewards. At Circuit level we share with the circuit staff and Circuit officers, ditto for District level, and so on to Connexional level. The Connexion is an ecclesial expression of practical pastoral care. For Methodists, Pastoral care belongs to the priesthood of ALL believers, it is never one persons sole responsibility. Ministers might forget it sometimes, in their desire to serve your people well, but Church members seldom do.
They cure us of possession by reminding us - You call all of us to care - in your name.

And that's the glorious truth isn't it, the truth that sets us free to enjoy sabbaticals, to move stations, to minister to more than one congregation:
You didn't say to Peter 'Tend YOUR sheep, or feed YOUR lambs.. you made it perfectly clear - the sheep are not ours..

Tend my flock.. feed my sheep..

Your people are ours to love, feed and tend, not own.

Your people remain YOURS forever. (even when I'm on sabbatical!)
My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.
No one can take them out of my hand.
John 10: 27 & 28

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Good morning God,
Should ordained ministers wear clerical collars?
At one time of course, the question wouldn't even be asked - after all - what sort of ordained minister doesn't wear a clerical collar? Are they ashamed of the gospel, of their calling, of the Church?
Nowadays it is said that the collar 'gets in the way' of ordinary conversation - that it inhibits evangelism because people wont talk to ministers in collars.
Apparently it's not 'fresh' or "cool' or even sensible to wear a clerical collar at a family service or youth service, school assembly, cafe church, messy church etc etc...
Collars have come to be associated with all things stuffy, high-brow, liturgical, and - well - clerical!

It's starting to boarder on the predictable, isn't it.
Could the fact that the minister has started to wear light chinos and a polo shirt with a sweatshirt tied loosely around the neck or waist, be the first hint that congregation has that a fresh expression of Church may be in the offing?
Is the ministers preference for jeans to be understood as a preference for youth ministry?

Does it automatically follow that a cassock and collar means bells and smells in the service?

Isn't this all rather a shallow view of ordained ministry?

I made a deliberate choice to wear a clerical collar as a reminder to both myself and those that I meet that You are not absent from this world, and that my life cannot be lived without You God.
I choose to be marked out as different by what I wear because I own that by your grace and the Church's acceptance of your calling, I AM different - I am ordained.
It wasn't getting ordained that made me different, ordination is, in that respect,  just the confirmation of difference. You called me to dare to be different, to be set-apart to proclaim your gospel in word and deed with all that I am. Your calling was not just to minister to the saved, or to those it was safe to minister to, but to be a light on a hill, a public unashamed, in-your-face statement that YOU are here for whoever needs you.

I cannot tell how many conversations have not happened because I was wearing a clerical collar - but I can testify to the number of amazing conversations I have had. Conversations in hospital waiting rooms, airport lounges, on trains and on buses, in the hairdressers and cinema! I haven't had to do anything but be accessible. The collar has provided the prompt, given the permission, begged the question, created the link..acted as a means of your prevenient grace.
From my experience, I think I would want to say to those who insist that the collar 'puts people off' that perhaps what is off-putting' may have more to do with the person than with the collar!

As our Western world grows increasingly more secular, surely it becomes ever more important for the Gospel to be seen as a life-choice not just a private Sunday habit?  Whatever else can be said about it, the fact remains that when it is worn in the pub or the car park, the supermarket or the cinema, the train or the restaurant, the clerical collar does serve as a reminder that there are some who believe, who commit their whole life to that belief, and who choose not to hide that fact.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Justice for Israel/Palestine

God - can we talk for a while?
It's about justice, and compassion and about identity and belonging.
I'm genuinely confused. To my way of thinking, the gospel has little to offer anyone in the Western world unless they are able to own the truth of St Paul's statement that in Christ there is now neither Jew nor Gentile. You chose not to send a Jewish Messiah AND a Gentile Messiah, and yet you offer grace and salvation for all.  So at the very core of Western Christianity, whether we acknowledge it or not,  is a deliberate choice by the Church to no longer see old divisions, especially not hereditary divisions, those fostered upon us unwittingly by accident of birth.
Which made me genuinely puzzled as to why any Christian here in the UK might insist on putting politics before people - or categories before compassion no matter how 'complex' or 'contrary' a situation might seem to be.

Until I read the Methodist report entitled Justice for Israel/Palestine.

Let me make it clear, I am not interested in getting into a debate about Jews vs Palestinians, neither am I interested in discussing whether or not the report is balanced or biased (that is already taking place at local Church and Circuit level here) What I am interested in, is finding out how Western Christians ever managed to lose sight of the fact that what is at stake in Israel Palestine is not who owns a piece of land but the answer to the question 'who is my neighbour..'

The answer surely should be - every single soul there. The only identity that should matter is the one that you give to each of us - and to every Jew and Palestinian - we are all your people. The parable makes it clear that our neighbour is the person in need, not the person of a particular politics or race or religion.

That we have lost sight of this is evidenced both by the report itself and by the debates currently taking place about it on the Methodist Blogosphere and elsewhere. 

It is astonishing how much energy this report has generated. 

I had some sympathy with Israelis who insist that they have been misrepresented in the report - not because I think that they have been (I dont) but because the report refuses to play the old games of trying to offer a classic 'say nothing but sigh plenty' approach on the grounds that this is just too complex a socio-political religious problem to get involved in.  

This means that the report is not about what Palestinian's have been doing to Israelis or Israelis to Palestinians, it is about the heartache and grief of not loving our neighbour as ourselves. The report works hard to present the core religious and political issues whilst stating clearly that they have been allowed to play too big a part in excusing the inexcusable and blinding the Church and the world to the obvious - people are suffering and dying needlessly and it is time that it stopped

What little sympathy I had is however being slowly but steadily eroded by the lobbying by those who disagree with the recommendations of the report - not least, the recommendation that the Church be encouraged to read and reflect on it.

As a minister, I have received a variety of emails and letters over this mater. Sadly, not one of them could be considered courteous for all of them began with the presumption that I am anti-Semitic. Many have referred to the Holocaust and several have made direct accusations about a hate campaign against the state of Israel. Some of those who sent the mail have also sent copies of the Jewish Board of Deputies response,. others have written their own responses, and in one case, I was provided with over 40 pages of additional information which it has been suggested I must allow my congregation to read in conjunction with the report in order to offset the presumed bias implicit within it. 
All have insulted my Church and presumed that behind the report there is an institutional 'it' to blame. None have taken the trouble to ask me what I personally think of the report and what I might be inclined to do as a result.

I suspect the same degree of lobbying (which is beginning to feel like religious bullying) has been happening elsewhere. What  else would persuade one Methodist local preacher and blogger to throw away his better judgement and threaten to sue the Methodist Church over the report? It would be very interesting to know whether or not he intends to finance the action from his own personal funds only. My suspicion, given the amount of lobbying going on by a few activists, is that he has allowed himself to act as a foil for a fight, rather than a light for a Gospel cause.

I can't help but wonder what he/they  really hope to achieve by the action..
It wont further the work of the Gospel
It wont strengthen the witness of the Church to your love and unity
And it wont enable us to recognise all our brothers and sisters in Israel Palestine as our Neighbours 

All it will do is hide the loss of life and suffering in Israel/Palestine behind the same old ancient hereditary prejudices that Christ died to end.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Comedic Grace

Sir Norman Wisdom 1915-2010

Good morning God,
Today is a day for discovering grace - that peculiar heart-lifting, grin making, peace affording, pain stilling energy which permeates this world and provides us with a glimpse of your love.

Finding grace is not like counting blessings, its far more comedic than that. It's far more 'Norman Wisdom'; like playing peek-a-boo with your infant self.  It's packed full of giggles and moments of wonder that something so simple can give rise to so much joy and contentment - even if there were a million tears just thirty seconds earlier.
There are, of course, proven 'means of grace'... Wesley wrote enough about them (come to think of it, so have I!) but there are also the more spontaneous and less religious means which we too often forget about, but which God chooses to remind us of - if we go looking.

Great comedians like Norman Wisdom had that rare gift of being able to remind us of that fact. It was impossible to take yourself seriously when watching one of his films.. and who can see his face without wanting to smile?

Yet in his films he often played the most vulnerable, love-lorn, helpless characters - 'real' people, not 'clever' people. The ones that did fall down, get pushed around, live in a daze, and yet make the whole world laugh through their childlike innocence and generosity of Spirit. His films frequently turned on a moment of grace, when his character was helped to see that he was loved, just as he was. 

In his real life he epitomized the bizarre comedic nature of grace - after all who would have thought that someone born so poverty stricken could rise to become such a star - ending up a cult figure in communist Albania no less! - and all by making the world laugh!

In memory of Norman who died today aged 95 - I shall try to enjoy it when I fall down today. Instead of complaining or resenting the inevitable embarrassment of looking an idiot in public,  I shall try and find some way to pick myself back up, dust myself down, and look around in surprise for whatever tripped me up.

In his honour, and for my own benefit - I shall spend today looking for the unexpected, for the comedic, for the moment of grace that teaches me to not only 'get a life' but to live it laughing for as long as I can.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Problem with prayer...

Pneuma: Breath of God Gwen Meharg
Good morning God,
It's been a long and painful night recovering from yesterday's surgery. My guess is that I would not have minded the pain and discomfort so much if I had known that there had been some gain as a result of it. But if you don't mind me saying God, to go through the whole process only to be told in the recovery room that it had not been possible to achieve the desired objective was bitterly disappointing, and not just for me. I wanted to be able to breathe without effort again... was that too much to ask?

So I have spent the night reflecting on yesterday's prayers..
And on the answers to those prayers.

The problem with prayer is that it is a relationship not a miracle machine, and whilst prayers are answered as relationships are deepened and the world changes, it is not a magic solution or some sort of heavenly qwiki-mart where needs and desirables can be bought and paid for by the weight of words or intent of the faithful.

In times of need however, it is easy to forget that. It is easy to succumb to the idea that being in a good (or even great!)  relationship with you means that I have some sort of discount at this store of salvation. That there is shelf somewhere with my name on it, which has my health and wealth and happiness waiting to be bought, if only I have enough faith or grace to pay for it or enough friends to make up the shortfall if I dont.  There are, I know many Christians who think this is what Christ came for - to pay for those things on our personal shelves which we could never otherwise afford - but I'm not one of them - thank you God.

I think we tend to slip into this sort of understanding of prayer whenever life threatens our relationships with you, with ourselves and with one another. But whilst miracles can and do happen, and whilst I believe prayer is the most powerful force in the universe - I do not believe that it is as a result of any credit or debit balance of faith or grace. You are not so cruel or so crass as to deny life, health or happiness based on how many people have prayed, or how much they meant the prayers they offered.

So when I start to reflect on yesterday's prayers, I have to begin with the small but frequent prayers  of thanks we shared throughout the day for the number of wonderful supportive friends and Church family who were holding me in their prayers - especially for the fact that so many were able to let me know by facebook, email and twitter - it was wonderful throughout the time of waiting for surgery and in the recovery room afterwards to receive that steady stream of grace.. just a word, often a joke or something to make me smile - to quell fear, and to remind me that I am not alone in all this, I am with you and I am in the minds and hearts of those we both love.

I prayed as I let go of consciousness. to be safe in your keeping.
And that prayer stayed with me until you woke me with it's answer.
 I am with you Always.

And it will always be thus.

So, OK, I am denied the quick-fix..In my case, at this moment in time, the combination of constriction of the bronchial tubes and the cancer which is in the glands surrounding them made fitting a stent more dangerous than not fitting a stent.

But there are other, albeit slower, ways of gaining the air that I crave.

I am going to have to learn to breathe properly again, to work at it and not just take it for granted - its not rocket science but it will take time and effort. I have to practice breathing deeply and fully all the time, and resist the bad habits of just snatching at breath as and when I want it without care for how my body will supply it!

A bit like prayer really..
Never a quick fix

But surely well worth the effort to live fully.

So, a new verse to my favourate hymn:

Give me air in my lungs keep me praying
Give me air in my lungs this day
Give me air in my lungs keep me praying
Keep me praying til the break of day.

all together now...
Sing Hosanna, Sing Hosanna, Sing Hosanna to the King of Kings
Sing Hosanna, Sing Hosanna, Sing hosanna to the King

p.s. cant help but notice the glorious wry humour in all this God - given my passionate dislike of those who insist in introducing a hushed 'breathy' note into their voice when they are trying to be 'Christian' and caring.