The Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford

Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford

The Sheldonian Theatre, located in Oxford, England, was built from 1664 to 1669 after a design by Christopher Wren for the University of Oxford. The building is named after Gilbert Sheldon, chancellor of the University at the time and the project’s main financial backer. It is used for music concerts, lectures and University ceremonies, but not for drama until 2015 when the Christ Church Dramatic Society staged a production of The Crucible by Arthur Miller. Continue reading

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Chapel Address at Evensong, St Stephen’s House, Oxford, 4 November 2019

Chapel Address at Evensong, St Stephen’s House, Oxford, 4 November 2019
Gerry Lynch

St Stephen's House Chapel, Oxford

“When you talk to God, it’s called prayer. When God talks to you, it’s called insanity.”

That bon mot came to mind as I pondered today’s readings from the first chapters of Daniel and Revelation, two of the most misunderstood and misused books of the Bible, yet also among the most transcendent.

Prophecy has always been a tricky topic in the Church – St Paul admonished the Corinthian Church about it. The soldiers who beat up the blindfolded Jesus demanded he guess which of them had struck him. They were confusing prophecy and fortune-telling. It is still a common mistake, and made as much within the Church, or at last at its fringes, as it is outside it. The YouTube fanatics who drop random texts from Revelation to confidently predict the arrival of doomsday next Wednesday have done tremendous damage to the Church.

The Belfast of my boyhood was thick with these chancers. There was even a BBC children’s TV drama of the early 1980s, set in Belfast, about one of these street corner Jeremiahs, entitled The End of the World Man. Of course the title character was nothing but a hypocrite, setting himself up in self-righteous judgement while using his political connections to facilitate a corrupt land deal to destroy a patch of urban wilderness much loved by our televisual child heroes. If you want to lampoon the Church, these self-proclaimed prophets are an easy way to do it. And they are terribly unbiblical. The end will come like a thief in the night; it is not ours to know when and how it will come; Jesus says this very directly in St Matthew’s Gospel. Continue reading

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Sermon Preached at St Mary Magdalen, Oxford, 3 November 2019

Sermon Preached at Sung Mass at St Mary Magdalen, Oxford, 3 November 2019 (All Saints’ Day transferred)                                                               Gerry Lynch

St Mary Magdalen, Oxford (C) Gerry Lynch.jpg

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. (Revelation 7:9)

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

That was a great hymn we started with this morning, wasn’t it, For All The Saints? And there’s more to come later. All the same, the hymn that I’ve always found most appropriate for this season of All Saintstide isn’t in the hymnbook used in this church, the New English Hymnal. At the moment, the New English Hymnal is being revised and I hope they might make space for my favourite All Saintstide hymn in the revision. Can you guess what it is? You’ll all know it. It’s the one that goes:

Oh, when the saints!
Oh, when the saints!
Oh, when the saints come marching in!
I want to be in that number, when the saints come marching in!
[Yes, I did break into song from the pulpit… and even had a wee dance.]

Now, the reason for that – that performance – from the trainee preacher from vicar school was to ask you all a question: do you want to be in that number when the saints come marching in? Do you think you have it in you to become a saint? Is saintliness something that we should aspire to? Or does sainthood instead represent an impossibly high standard, and the attempt to achieve it leave us doomed to failure at best, and at worst arrogantly claiming to be far better than we could possibly be, smugly looking down on the rest of humanity from a pedestal so high that it gives everyone else a clear view of our many and obvious faults? Continue reading

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Weird Travel: The German Soldiers Commemorated in A Country Where They Committed a Genocide

Swakopmund Marinedenkmal.jpgSwakopmund always feels a little odd, like a piece of Germany somehow teleported into Namibia’s remote and thinly populated Atlantic Coast. Even in that context, the presence of the Marinedenkmal in the centre of town feels utterly weird.

The statue memorialises the German marines who died in the suppression of the uprising of the Herero and Nama peoples in what was then German South West Africa in 1904-5. Although the plaque states that they “Mit Gott für Kaiser und Reich Kämpften” (fought with God for Kaiser and Empire), it is widely accepted that the German suppression of the rebellion was the 20th Century’s first major genocide. German troops killed not only indigenous fighters, but non-combatant men, women and children in intentional acts of collective punishment. Others were driven into the desert to die of thirst and exposure, or simply allowed to die of exhaustion. Survivors of the massacre were put into forced labour camps. Around 50% of Nama and 80% of Herero died in the revolt and the three years of collective punishment which followed. Continue reading

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Sermon at Christ the King, Johannesburg, 8 September 2019

Sermon Preached at Christ the King Anglican Church, Mondeor, Johannesburg (Diocese of Christ the King) on Sunday 8 September 2019 (Twelfth Sunday After Trinity)

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes, even his own life – he cannot be my disciple”. (Lk 6.26)

May I speak in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Sometimes even the most Bible-based of Christians encounter a passage of Scripture that offends much of what they take as given about the Christian faith. Often it is a saying of Jesus Christ Himself. When that happens, there are two natural reactions: one is to try to minimise the importance of that passage; the other is to try and rationalise away the obvious meaning of the words, to somehow force them to fit a more conventional understanding.

This morning’s Gospel reading contains just such a phrase, and I ask you to avoid either of those temptations, and to allow for the possibility that Jesus Christ will have known exactly how disturbing and uncomfortable these words will have been. They will have been disturbing to the devoted and strong families of both the Jewish and Roman Imperial cultures of his day. Beyond that local context, this passage is offensive and disturbing to people across the vast chasms that separate us from the world that Jesus Christ walked, for these words strike at the heart of the closest human relationships that are most treasured by people in every place and time. God can only have inspired these words as Holy Scripture knowing them to be offensive.

In early 21st Century Christianity, family values have come to be seen as being at the very heart of the faith. I do not for a moment wish to decry strong family values. Those of you who live in homes shaped by them are truly blessed – give thanks to God for your fortune and pray that he will guide you so that this will continue. But there is a strong warning here that we must not make an idol of our families and, indeed, that we must not make an idol of any of our preconceptions of what living as a Christian means. None of us can ever perfectly and completely understand the message of the Christian Gospel – that perfect knowledge belongs to God alone. We Christians are not perfect, and there is a great temptation to pick out the parts of Scripture that are comfortable for ourselves. It is a natural temptation to pretend that we already at least very close to what God wants us to be. Instead, cherish these difficult parts of Scripture, and allow God to provoke you out of your comfort zone, driving you forwards to become ever more like the people he has made you to become. Continue reading

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The Mosque of Bohoniki

The Mosque of Bohoniki, South West ElevationThe mosque at Bohoniki is one of the last places of worship of the Lipka Tatar community which still survives as it has since the late 14th Century in what are now the borderlands Poland, Lithuania, and Belarus.

The mosque was built at the turn of the 19th and the 20th centuries, probably in 1873 to replace an earlier mosque destroyed in a fire. During World War II, the mosque was destroyed by the Nazis, who organised a field hospital on the site. After 1945, the mosque underwent several renovations several times. In 2003, the roof was renovated; the tin roof was changed to shingle roof. In 2005 a general renovation was carried out.

It is a simple wooden building built on a rectangular plan with dimensions of 11.49 m × 8.03 m. It has been restored with the help of the Polish and Turkish governments and the European Union.

Bohoniki Mosque - Minbar

This is the minbar, a pulpit in any mosque, where the imam stands to deliver sermons, as well as delivering a wider range of readings and prayers. Continue reading

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Cathedral of the Theotokos, Vilnius

Cathedral of the Theotokos, Vilnius, South-West ElevationThe Orthodox Cathedral of the Theotokos in Vilnius. Originally built by architects from Kievan Rus’ in 1346-8, commissioned by Grand Duke Algirdas for his Orthodox wife, Uliana of Tver. From 1609, it was used by Eastern Rite Catholics until it was abandoned after a major fire in 1748. It was reconstructed in 1785 only be wrecked nine years later by the Russian army in the Kościuszko Uprising.

In 1808, a local prelate sold the neglected building to the Vilnius University. After that, the building hosted an anatomical theatre, library and other university facilities for half a century.

Cathedral of the Theotokos, Vilnius, South Elevation

The old cathedral was confiscated and transferred to the Russian Orthodox Church during the mid-19th Century Russification campaign in Poland and Lithuania. The Russian architect Nikolai Chagin was responsible for its reconstruction from 1865 until 1868 in a style imitating medieval Georgian architecture. The cathedral was damaged during the Second World War but was restored in 1948-57. Today the cathedral belongs to the Russian Orthodox Church and was once again renovated in 1998. Its services are attended mostly by members of the ethnic Russian and Belarusian communities of Vilnius.

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