Turning into pumpkins

Autumn is here and pumpkins are everywhere, particularly in Ludwigsburg where they have a whole festival of pumpkins or Kürbis as they call them. This year’s theme was fairy tales and there are a range of giant pumpkins sculptures, amazing pumpkin carving, hundreds of different varieties of pumpkin on display and various pumpkin food and drink options. I was sorry to miss the Pumpkin Canoe Regatta which took place the weekend before I was there! Lots of people have been turning pumpkins into an amazing variety of other things.

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The notion of things or people turning into pumpkins may have started in fairy tales but it has spread to popular culture and common parlance. Most often I think it means running out of time at the end of the night. I could hear someone European talking about “and then we turn into pumpkins, right” in my head, and it took me a while to recall that it’s a line from one of my favourite films, Before Sunrise.

Jesse: I feel like this is some dream world we’re in, you know?

Celine: Yeah, it’s so weird. It’s like our time together is just ours. It’s our own creation. It must be like I’m in your dream and you’re in mine or something

Jesse: And what’s so cool is that this whole evening, all our time together, shouldn’t officially be happening

Celine: Yeah, I know. Maybe that’s why this feels so otherworldly. But then the morning comes and we turn into pumpkins, right

Unlike in the Cinderella story, here it’s the humans anticipating pumpkinification… an idea which seems to have also gained some popularity as a warning against eating too many sweets at Halloween. I’m not quite sure why this video has so many views:

Don’t eat too much candy, or you’ll turn into a pumpkin

Other people online are complaining that pumpkins or pumpkin spice flavour in particular has totally taken over (it’s a bit sweary).

Another trend I’ve found online which seemed to be growing in popularity in 2017 and 2018 was using face paint and glitter to turn a particular part of the human anatomy into a pumpkin (search for #pumpkinbutt at your own risk – it started off as a cute baby thing but there are definitely some larger pumpkins out there…)

Rather classier are these glass pumpkins made by my friend who creates ‘Big Red Elephant Glass’, see her Etsy shop here. While I’m not a fan of Halloween, I do like the autumnal warm orange of pumpkins, and love a bit of pumpkin soup or pumpkin pie. I did think the displays in Ludwigsburg were fabulous.

It also got me thinking about how the actual Cinderella story isn’t so much a warning of a punishment for staying out too late. Cinderella herself isn’t threatened with pumpkinification – just that the pumpkin which the fairy godmother transformed into her carriage would revert to its original pumpkin state at midnight, admittedly leaving her stranded at the ball (unless she could find someone skilled at pumpkin canoe making…). The magic or the illusion would wear off, and she’d just be left with a glorious huge orange fruit with lots of seeds and potential.

Maybe turning into a pumpkin isn’t so much about what happens when you eat too many sweets, or stay out too late. Maybe it’s about being honest about what you really are. We can all put on an act for an evening, or spend a lot of time putting on make up for a selfie. But maybe the largest fruit in the world, which grows and feeds people and offers many seeds to share – maybe that’s a good thing to be. This porcupine certainly appreciates them!

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Bearing good fruit

I don’t generally think disagreeing with Jesus is a good policy, and in fact I’ve been quite encouraged by the Red Letter Christianity movement who focus particularly on the words Jesus is recorded as saying in the Bible as opposed to a whole range of issues he says nothing about. However, the greengage tree in my garden seems to be stubbornly refuting Matthew 7 v 18 that

“A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.”

‭See, this bad tree, which disagrees with Jesus is producing some excellent fruit, which would make it a good tree. But it’s also producing some rather unpleasant, bad fruit too. Whether it’s a bad tree producing some good fruit or a good tree producing some bad fruit, it certainly seems contrary. Some of the fruit might have been good until a wasp or other insect got at it, for which I wouldn’t blame the tree. But some of the fruit has signs of brown rot, which I understand is quite common with various types of plum tree.

The tree has not been well looked after over the years although my Mum did help prune it the Autumn after I moved into the house. A lot of the branches crossed with each other and I was keen to try to get rid of the least healthy branches. Once we realised it was a greengage tree and that yellow meant ripe (purple is a sign of over-ripe or disease) we have enjoyed some good fruit from it, memorably during the prayer space we ran at the end of August last year. There have been a lot of fruit on it this year, and the main branch has bowed right over with a combination of the weight of the fruit and some storm damage. The tree seems knackered, and yet, it’s still bearing some healthy, delicious fruit.

For some reason, although it seems unscriptural on the surface at least, I am finding this quite encouraging. I guess some days I relate to a tree, maybe even one that is bowed over, trying to do too much, a bit self-conflicted and in parts, not that healthy. But I still want to be bearing good fruit and this tree makes me see how there is a precedent in nature. I guess I think most of us aren’t perfect and that some of our deeds glorify God rather more than others. I don’t want to be complacent about bad fruit, and I’m happy to see pruning as a healthy process which Jesus describes elsewhere in the gospels. Indeed, removing the fruit which shows signs of brown rot is part of the advice for helping reduce the impact of the fungus.
While some of the fruit looks great, and some of it looks decidedly dodgy, there are also greengages which seem to have more minor flaws.

Cutting into the fruit can reveal that this is superficial or more serious, and by discarding the bad portions some sweet and good fruit can still be salvaged.

 

 

 

It reminds me of a line from one of my comfort-movies, Sweet Home Alabama (apparently ripe for a sequel!) where Melanie is worried that she’s messed everything up. Her mum, Pearl shares some of her Alabama homemaker wisdom:

Anyway, spoiled’s in the eye of the beholder, like these plums here. Some people might call them “spoiled”, but I think that, um, these almost-ruined ones… sometimes make the sweetest jam.

The fruit I take to our shared church lunch tomorrow will be the most perfect looking, ripe and yellow greengages I can find. I want to reduce the chances of someone biting in to find a wasp larvae or brown rot or even just a sour taste. Perhaps if people knew about the rotten ones they wouldn’t want to take a chance at all. But maybe if I dealt with the more patchy, flawed ones, and then made a crumble or jam, I guess that would be welcome too. We need to be encouraging one another to bear good fruit, but maybe being honest about the rot is also helpful. James wrote:

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” ‭‭James‬ ‭5:16‬ ‭NIV

‬‬It’s perhaps easier to expose the flaws of my greengage tree than my own, and to deal with the bad fruit by throwing it away and pruning the tree. It’s not healed but even though some rot continues, I’m not getting rid of the tree. The good fruit are worth it.

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Optimising My Shot

I felt like I waited a long time to see the musical Hamilton. Late to discover the writer and star Lin-Manuel Miranda via a James Corden musical themed Carpool Karaoke I then binged on YouTube clips including this one of the cast performing My Shot at the White House. Only recently have I found out that LMM spent over a year writing My Shot as he explains on this chat show. In fact the whole show has a real depth to the lyrics and references to all sorts of other music as well as some of Hamilton’s own speeches.

There are clear parallels between Miranda’s prodigious writing talent and that of the ‘Ten-Dollar Founding Father without a father’ he has immortalised. Still not forty years old, he has created and starred in two Broadway musicals (the other In The Heights in 2008 when he was just 28). He now has a Pulitzer Prize, Tony Awards, Grammy Awards and an Emmy as well as nominations for Golden Globes and an Oscar for his song ‘How far I’ll go’ from Moana. He’s a phenomenon and clearly works amazingly hard such that even researching his career is a bit overwhelming and makes you wonder what you’ve been doing with your life.

Hamilton himself wrote with such a passion and productivity, even while wishing he was taking a more active role on the battle lines. He also seemed to have a depressive side which made me wonder if others have linked his emotional states with Bipolar disorder (they have, see Dr Drama here). I wonder how much time he can have spent finessing his work when he was churning it out at such a rate (he wrote 51 of the 85 essays known as the Federalist Papers in six months).

I’ve been thinking about how rarely I put in the time and effort to do my best work these days. Although my PhD involved a lot of drafting and redrafting, most of my blogging or other writing is closer to my first draft (I’m wondering how soon I will publish this as I am writing it). I’ve been working on a second edition of a book chapter over the summer and am unwilling or perhaps don’t have the time I need to polish it completely. I haven’t spent so long writing lectures or sermons recently, instead valuing skills of managing to wing it or improvise when time is tight (or that time when I’d totally forgotten to prepare a sermon until the night before… Eek!)

Instead of aspiring to the excellence which I tell myself (perhaps deludedly) could still be in reach if I made the effort, I’m generally settling for the concept of ‘good enough’ in a wide range of areas. I spread myself too thinly to be a great preacher or a great guitarist or a great singer, not having taken the time to study theology or have guitar or singing lessons. I’m still performing lots of roles in my local church which perhaps means I’m not deepening my skills enough in any one area to be employable in a church setting. I am trying to look sideways for a possible career change and I feel like I have some transferable skills but probably need to put more effort into job applications if I really want to give it my best shot.

My other current enthusiasm is photography, having replaced the camera I lost in Canada last year with a nice LUMIX model in February. I am still only scratching the surface of what it can do, and I’m wondering about doing some sort of photography course to learn more (as well as that theology course and singing lessons and guitar lessons…). I’m not sure how much getting the best shots depends on practice, technique, framing, good equipment or sheer good luck – and reckon it’s probably some combination of all of these.

I’m still wanting to invest in a better zoom lens (I’ve currently got 14-42mm, F3.5-5.6 Ii HD) but I’ve been continuing my interest in waterbirds since my blog about Catching the Wind and have used the burst function to capture a few images I’m proud of.

I rarely have the patience or stamina to wait for the best shots and I don’t have the technique to always get the best focus or lighting, although you can do so much editing post-shot these days. Sometimes I resort to the auto functions but other times I get into brightness and contrast etcetera to try to get the best results.

Mainly I take quite a lot of photos, and then look for the good ones. I know if I wrote more songs, did more painting or crochet then I’d get more good ones of those too. But I’m not sure if doing more lectures or sermons has necessarily improved the quality of them. Quality or quantity. Part of being a university lecturer is being aware of how much more there is to learn on any chosen subject, and while I can research a new topic with more ease than my students, some of them are getting better marks than I ever did as an undergraduate. I know where the academic goal posts are so much more clearly than I did, and I am trying to share this with those I teach. Putting the work in, lining it up, she shoots, she scores. I am not throwing away my shot.

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Charting some success

As evidenced by some pub quizzes lately, I am generally very out of touch with recent chart music. One quiz has two music rounds, one more recent and one for older music. Although this reaches more people, frustratingly I seemed to fit squarely between the two rounds, not knowing much about pop music since 2000 or before the 1980s. We’ve still managed about 4th or 5th place out of 20 or so teams which seems a good result, but this seems to be our level.

With this background it may be surprising that I’ve actually found that two artists I enjoy have had some chart success this last week. Karine Polwart, a Scottish folk singer I greatly admire has covered some songs I remember from the 1980s, but brought a very original slant to them. Her fab versions of The Waterboys’ ‘The Whole of the Moon’ and Deacon Blue’s Dignity have got some radio play and at one point the album was number 6 in the album chart. The cover of Women of the World by Jim O’Rourke also seemed to resonate unexpectedly with the news of Caroline Lucas’ proposal for a national unity government led by women.

Amy Wadge is another singer songwriter whose work I’ve enjoyed since I went to a gig where Emily Baker was her support artist. Amy has had some attention for her work with Ed Sheeran including co-writing Thinking Out Loud which she joked at a gig has paid her mortgage. She was also in the download chart this last week for her new EP of music from the TV show Keeping Faith. Thinking Out Loud stayed in the singles chart for over a year and broke many other milestones as well.

Most of the music I listen to doesn’t make it anywhere in the pop charts, but I don’t see that as an indication of quality at all. Part of the impact of new music technology means that artists don’t need a record label to be able to record and release music online, and this independence has advantages as well as challenges if you want to earn a living from music. Plays on Spotify earn almost nothing for the artist unless they’re in the millions, but other platforms such as Bandcamp are more artist friendly, and various Kickstarter/Pledge schemes can help raise money for producing music in advance.

Given how little respect I have for many of the more formulaic and commercial tracks which dominate the pop charts, it’s probably a bit incongruous to then be so pleased for artists I like when they do get chart recognition. I’ve been wondering about this, and I guess mostly I’m pleased that they are being seen and heard. Even when their main priority is not writing a catchy hook which will get radio play and make the big money, their originality, talent and musical integrity is achieving some success in this forum as well.

It got me thinking about other charts and league tables which I might have mixed feelings about. University league tables tend to prioritise academic prowess, graduate earning potential and similar metrics which mean my workplace rarely scores that highly. Finding the table which reflects your own priorities might be useful for students trying to find the right course for them, perhaps especially this week when some of them may not have found themselves ranked as highly as they hoped on the A level results scale.

I was also thinking about star charts which can record a child’s progress in an area of desired behaviour. Designed to be achievable and using stickers which appeal to the child, I think these can be a helpful way to motivate and recognise progress. The child and parent can see in a simple visual form little milestones and achievements, and this can give some hope and encouragement.

It’s nice to celebrate an achievement, even if moving up certain league tables on certain metrics may be of dubious value. Maybe being first in your city in a particular area or being recognised for good student support does reflect well on efforts by particular staff. Maybe entering the pop charts with a particular release does say something, although perhaps more about the buying public and their appetite for nostalgia or TV programmes than about the inherent quality in the work. I think other original albums by Karine Polwart and Amy Wadge deserve just as much attention, and other areas of colleagues’ work deserves more recognition as well. But perhaps the chart news will get more people finding out more about other worthwhile work done… I can hope.  

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Catching the wind

malvern birdIt’s been a long time since I blogged, but a couple of weekends back I returned to the Malverns which inspired my first post on this blog 8 years ago. It was a glorious sunny day and from the top I observed many birds hovering and gliding on the fairly brisk wind, at times almost motionless above me. It made me think of how the wind isn’t just something to fight and hide away from, but that if we face the right direction and reach out, maybe we can soar.

I was reminded of a favourite passage in Isaiah 40:

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no-one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah‬ ‭40:28-31‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬

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I think the birds I saw at the Malverns were kites and kestrels, but over the summer I did see plenty of bald eagles in the area around Tofino on Vancouver Island. I managed to catch a few pictures there and back in Vancouver (see below) but for truly great pictures check out some of the amazing work of the Tofino photographer we met on our travels.

eagle-2.jpg        eagle 3        eagle 4 Some of the eagles there tend to stay near the harbour, enjoying the easy pickings of cast off fish scraps but typically Canadian eagles will travel further south for the winter, flying up to 225 miles per day. This site details how if there is no wind, eagles can’t soar but will just stay put or travel locally.

seabirds crySome versions of the Isaiah passage talk about waiting on the Lord to renew our strength. Perhaps after a long journey the birds will need to rest, feed and renew their strength but they also need to wait until the wind is right to travel any significant distance. On my way back down from Worcestershire Beacon I stopped in to the Malvern Book Cooperative and bought a copy of Adam Nicolson’s wonderful book, The Seabird’s Cry. The first chapter after the introduction focuses on the fulmar, white and grey dove-like birds found in the Hebrides. Nicolson quotes James Fisher who studied fulmars for many years:

Rough weather is as necessary to the fulmar as the Trade Winds were to the human conquest of the New World. Rough weather is the fulmar’s passport, its transport to the mid-ocean.  (p30)

Scientists from Aberdeen fitted GPS loggers to 22 fulmar birds in 2012, and Nicolson describes how they followed the journey of one bird (identified as 1568) in particular amazement. Once his partner returned to look after their egg, 1568 flew out to sea but waited two days afloat on the ocean near Orkney. When the winds blew he travelled north west for eleven hours up to the channel between Shetland and the Faeroes where he fed on the rich plankton there, before surprising the scientists by picking up new winds further west south west and flying a thousand miles in fifty five hours to the Mid Atlantic Ridge, two thirds of the way to Canada. This even richer fishing ground was his banquet for three days before he headed home via south west Ireland and arrived back at his nest after travelling nearly 3900 miles in sixteen days.

Nicolson writes:

If it were calm and the bird had to flap its wings to move all day… they would have to expend 2000 calories, thirteen times what they would consume sitting or sleeping or doing nothing. As the wind increases, life becomes more viable so that when it is blowing at about 20 miles an hour… they can glide most of the time… but when the wind notches up a little further, to about 25 miles an hour, or Force 5 to 6, flying costs them nothing. It is the magic horizon. In those winds, fulmars almost never beat their wings at all, but drink in the energy they need from the wind around them. That, and more, was the wind on which 1568 drove more than halfway to Canada. (p35-6)

I tried to share some of this in church this morning, but what strikes me most now is the futility of flapping away in our own strength when we can wait for the wind to soar. Bethel Music have a powerful song called Catch The Wind which includes some of these ideas. But the song that came to mind when I was finding the title for this blog was the old Donovan track which seems much less hopeful about finding the love he is looking for, and how trying to catch the wind (and keep it captured) is a metaphor for trying to pin down some flighty lover.

My friend who was leading worship this morning picked up the ideas about how jumping off a cliff to start flying is pretty scary. Even trying to wait for the wind, we never quite know if we’re going to soar for ages or whether the wind may drop and we will simply glide down. As I contemplate venturing back into dating I can’t know whether a bit of flapping will lead me back to the ocean with a bit of a splash or whether I might catch a current more like soaring. But if I never leave the cliff, I’ll never know.

And with God, sometimes we soar more than others, but we can trust the way He has made us. If we feel like we’re just flapping and getting nowhere, maybe it’s better to rest, feed and wait for the wind. But when that wind comes, we still have the choice to sit in our nests, wings tightly wrapped around us and going nowhere. Or we can soar on eagle’s wings.

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Being a tree

“I want to be, a tree” said the man on the Prudential advert back in 1989.  A few years earlier Tim Pope made a cult video to his song of the same title, in between producing videos for The Cure.  Pretending to be a tree is such a drama class cliché that when I wrote my promotional material for my dramatherapy service, I emphatically stated that this was not required. As a concession I added that it could be arranged by special request.

The blessed but rather late arrival of Spring this year means that I have been paying more attention to the trees around me. I always enjoy a beautiful cherry tree in blossom, and the lush green fresh leaves definitely brighten up my journeys to and from work. I took some pictures for sermon illustrations as my topic the weekend before last drew in lots of idea about trees.

I started with the notion of trees in distress, and talked about Alexandre Ponomarenko and his team of researchers in Grenoble University who have been listening to trees. Ultrasonic microphones pick up the sound of xylem breakage in trees which are stressed by drought and struggling to draw up the water they need. The team could then provide emergency watering.

The distress theme was a key one in my passage, Psalm 55 which has David in anguish, wishing he had the wings of a dove so he could fly away. After talking about how God can cope with our difficult emotions, and how expressing pain can help, I then looked into the way David prays – he calls out to God for help. He says God will sustain us and that he will never let the righteous be shaken (verse 22). Some versions of the Bible use the word ‘moved’ rather than ‘shaken’, and I talked about maybe how like a tree, we may be shaken by the wind but are not moved because of our strong sustaining roots.

I was encouraged that God really was speaking about this to us because earlier in the service, before I preached, a friend of mine who is nearly nine had shared a few verses from Psalm 1:

“Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither – whatever they do prospers.”  Psalm‬ ‭1:1-3‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬

It sounds like God wants us to be like a tree, drawing ongoing refreshment from his word and presence and bearing fruit. He never runs dry– as we’d been reminded in one of the songs that had been led by my housemate during our time of worship that morning. Part of the way we bear fruit is by praying and seeing God answer. Jesus picks up some of these ideas when he says in John 15:

“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”  ‭‭John‬ ‭15:7-8‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬

I was telling some friends about a recent more mundane answer to prayer, when I wanted to make guacamole. Please Lord, I prayed, let there be some just ripe avocados in the reduced section of Co-op, and there were. Exactly what I needed. It makes me think I should raise my sights a bit higher and pray for more major things, but actually praying for small things is also good (see Pete Greig’s “Nice tree, Lord” story in this first Prayer Course video 9:14-10:24)

Prayer trees have been popular in various prayer rooms and chaplaincies around the world (see these in Sandwell hospitals overseen by Rev Ann Stevenson). People visiting the hospital are invited to write prayers for loved ones on leaves which are attached to the tree, reminding me of the verse in Revelation:

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.”  ‭‭Revelation‬ ‭22:1-2‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬

Perhaps I should be praying more for healing than for avocados…

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Hearing from Huldah

Maybe you think Huldah sounds like the latest Avengers villain, or a mysterious place in the Middle East which is probably subject to ceaseless violence but somehow undeserving of media attention. Chances are that you haven’t heard of Huldah as a significant Bible character because until recently I had somehow completely overlooked this Old Testament prophet who was very influential in the time of the King Josiah. Josiah, you may remember, became King at the age of eight, and has certainly been the subject of some Bible teaching I recall even for children. But Huldah I fear has been sidelined, not just because of the relative obscurity of the passages in 2 Chronicles and 2 Kings, but because she was a woman.

I knew about Queen Esther and the elderly prophet Anna who announced Jesus as the redemption of Israel, and have been talking more recently with friends about the example of Deborah who was one of the early Judges of Israel. Depending on someone’s church tradition they may be quite used to having women preaching, but I was reminded recently by one more conservative friend that there are still people who believe that women shouldn’t preach, lead or have any authority over men. I quite liked the meme I saw on Facebook really that stated that “Without women preachers, we would have no knowledge of the resurrection”. I’m not sure this is totally true, but I do like the reminder that the first people to see the resurrected Jesus and spread the word were Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Mary the mother of James, even though they weren’t believed.

I had the conversation with this conservative guy who seemed to think that women preachers were very much a second choice, only really acceptable when no men are available. I tried to be reasonable about it and asked what he thought about Deborah but he hadn’t heard of her so the conversation got a bit difficult. In truth I took it a bit personally as I had been due to be preaching that Sunday but it had been snowed off. But the night before I preached instead on Palm Sunday my scheduled Bible reading included 2 Chronicles 34 which covers the early life of King Josiah.

He began seeking God at a young age and got rid of many altars to idols as well as repairing the temple. When the priest Hilkiah discovered the Book of the Law, the secretary Shaphan took it to the King. Shaphan read it aloud and King Josiah was distraught at how far they had strayed from the Law. He ordered Hilkiah and Shaphan and three others to go and inquire of the Lord for him, to find out what the consequences would be and what they should do next, and all five men trooped out to speak to the prophet Huldah who is recorded as being the wife of Shallum whose grandfather was keeper of the wardrobe. She lived in the New Quarter of Jerusalem, which sounds quite trendy to me.

She speaks in a way that sounds unintimidated by the King, but with clear authority from God. She speaks of coming disaster on the people of Judah because of their disobedience, but she also knows that Josiah has had a responsive heart and humbled himself before God. She declares how God has heard him and would gather him to be buried in peace before the disaster happened. We go on to hear how Josiah continues to return to God’s ways, reinstalling the priests in the temple and celebrating the Passover in accordance with God’s directions as had not been done since the days of Samuel. Only after Josiah dies is Judah attacked by the kings of Egypt and Babylon, with all of them and Jerusalem eventually falling to Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.

The same account appears in 2 Kings 22, but otherwise the Bible doesn’t mention Huldah further. I guess the church fathers didn’t make much of her contribution as they were happy to go with the apparently straightforward direction from Paul in 1 Corinthians 14 that women should be silent in church. I did hear someone recently argue that the translation of silent should be ‘peaceable’, which gives a very different impression. I’m not sure that the rest of the passage bears this out, but I quite like how the new NIV verse 39 encourages both brothers and sisters to be eager to prophesy. Some have argued that prophesying is different to preaching, but the example of Huldah seems to have authority and direction as well as prophetic gifting.

The other passage from 1 Corinthians which seems particularly pertinent is a couple of chapters earlier, when Paul is encouraging the brothers and sisters to be aware that there are people with a wide range of gifts and that all are needed for the church body to be built up. While I have not received very much training in the area of preaching, I do feel it is an area which uses some of the gifts God has given me. I do get paid to teach others in my day job, in a way that would probably have been unheard of for a woman in Bible times. I would generally make the point that better education of women and more opportunities have meant that there are more fantastic women preaching than ever before. I was delighted to hear that the new Bishop of London is a woman and imagine that the Church of England would now struggle to function without women priests, as I heard a feature suggesting that robot priests might be a solution for some rural parishes, especially at busy times like Easter. (30 mins in). While I am impressed by the work of fellow academics at the University of Sheffield, the thought that some people might rather receive communion from a robot than a woman seems utterly preposterous.

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