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Dear Internet

Mr Grenville-Stubbs here again. Did you miss me? I have been busy trying to make a positive difference in cyberspace. I had an idea for a search engine that I have been trying to get off the ground with what is known as ‘crowd funding’ – where lots of people offer small amounts of money to help make something a reality.

My idea was to create a Christian internet search engine. I did think of calling it ‘Ask Mr Grenville-Stubbs’ but my friends suggested that this might be a bit of a long name for people to type in. They suggested something easier to remember, too. So I came up with ‘Goddle’.

searchGoddle works like any other search engine you can think of: you type in a question, a word or something that you want to find out about and click ‘pray’. (I think ‘pray’ is better than ‘search’ for a Christian search engine).

After you have clicked ‘pray’ the clever software will go to work and find a Bible verse that relates to that question / word / thing you want to find out about. So, if you wanted to search pray for information about ‘wrestling’, for example, Goddle would provide you with Psalm 13 verse 2: “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?”

I put this idea on a website for crowd funding ideas and have been waiting for donations to flood in. I think there must be a bug in that website because even though my idea has been available for the past month so far nobody has offered anything.

I am sorry to have to say that my Minister, Revd Philip Inneck-Tucker was not much help at first, either. I mentioned the idea to him on a Sunday after church but he had one of his mysterious coughing fits and had to rush off to get a glass of water. I tried to talk to him several times later that day but he always seemed to rush away just as I got close to him. In the end I managed to talk to him by waiting outside the church until he had locked up and was unlocking his car in the dimly lit car park.

I came up behind him: “So what do you think of Goddle?” I asked.

He uttered something unintelligible (or it may have been ancient Hebrew) as he clutched his chest. “What are you doing sneaking around in the shadows? You almost gave me a coronary!”

I apologised for surprising him, but insisted he gave me his opinion.

“Why would anyone want to use Goddle?” he asked. “If I want to find a recipe for chili con carne I don’t want to be given some obscure verse from Leviticus about regulations for food preparation.”

“But the Bible has answers for everything,” I said.

He gave me one of his funny looks and that’s when he gave me a brilliant idea. He suggested that if that was my attitude to the Bible I could save myself a lot of time and money by making the answer to every question: “Jesus.”

Why didn’t I think of that?

Yours faithfully

Mr QR Grenville-Stubbs

 

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Dear Internet

Mr Grenville-Stubbs here. I imagine that you thought I had forgotten all about you, didn’t you? But no, I have simply been rather too busy to put fingers to keyboard and muse in your direction. However, I have something rather significant to tell you.

Revd Philip Inneck-Tucker, our Minister, told me a story before Christmas and said that I was one of the characters, but I can’t work out which one so I will tell you the story and let you decide. First of all I need to tell you the context:

We had a young lady come to our church recently for a concert to raise funds for the refurbishment of the thermometer at the front of the church that indicates how we are doing with our fundraising to replace the church roof. She was one of a number of performers, many of whom were from our church. My friend, Mr Capel, gave an enthusiastic performance on the spoons. Mr Baumgarten surprised us all with a performance of Nessun Dorma that led to a standing ovation until the CD jumped and we realised he was miming to a recording of Pavarotti. Mrs Barnard raised a few eyebrows with her Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. And I gave a stirring recitation of the “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more” speech from Shakespeare’s Henry V (although our safeguarding designated person did suggest that covering myself in stage blood was a bit much for a family event).

The young lady in question was a schoolfriend of one of the young people from our church. She doesn’t normally come to our church but she wanted to perform and played her violin for us. She played ‘Spring’ from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. I commend her ambition but unfortunately her ability did not match it. It was rather painful to listen to and I felt embarrassed for her as she battled her way through (repeats and all). After the concert over a cup of tea in the church hall I talked about her performance to Mr Capel, Mr Baumgarten and Mrs Barnard and I expressed my opinion with my usual thoroughness.

I thought nothing more of this until Revd Phil told me this story:

“Thomas Edison did not invent the electric lightbulb, even though many people believe he did. What he managed to do was invent a commercially viable, practical and durable electric lightbulb. The problem with previous versions of the electric lightbulb was that the filaments would burn out quickly so the bulbs did not last long.

light bulb“Edison tried 6,000 different materials for his filament. Each time it didn’t work he decided that he had excluded one more non-working alternative, narrowing down the options until he found one that worked and was cheap enough to be financially viable. Finally he tried carbonized bamboo and found that it worked.

“But imagine, for a moment, if Mr Edison had been working in his laboratory and he had overheard a conversation outside the door. ‘I can’t believe he’s still going. He’s tried almost 6,000 different materials and it just doesn’t work. He’s not going to succeed. He just isn’t up to it and he should give up now.’

“What if he had taken that to heart and given up just before he tried carbonized bamboo?”

I don’t think I am that much like Thomas Edison although I do consider the comparison to be flattering.

Yours faithfully

Mr QR Grenville-Stubbs

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Dear Internet

Harrumph. That’s how I felt last week. My long-running late night radio show on Radio Upson Downs, “Hymns on my Organ” has been cancelled. Apparently it was not mainstream enough for a community radio station that only has a maximum audience of 4000 listeners and apparently they could not sell any advertising time during it even though it was only on once a month on a Sunday evening.

organThe format of the show was very simple: people would write in and request a favourite hymn and then I would play it on my electric organ live on the radio. The postbag for the show never actually bulged, but there were usually enough hymns requested for me to fill half an hour and if there weren’t enough then I would augment the list with some of my own favourites – some of which don’t get sung at all at our church now.

In addition to the requests for hymns I did sometimes get other requests of an impolite nature: it took me a while to realise that there wasn’t a hymn called, “For heaven’s sake, stop!” Other letters questioned my ability to play anything beyond ‘chopsticks’ and some seem to have confused me with some sort of medical show.

I took this up with our Minister, Revd Philip Inneck-Tucker, in the hope that he might organise a petition of support to hand in to Radio Upson Downs to get my show reinstated. I must admit that I half-expected him to smirk and pretend to have a coughing fit again (yes, I have worked out what he was doing – the cheek of it!!) but he surprised me by saying that he was sorry that my radio career had come to an end as he used to enjoy listening to me at the end of a busy Sunday.

I didn’t expect that and waited for him to crack a joke. But he didn’t.

He listened to me as I explained how much time I spend preparing for each show. He nodded sympathetically as I bemoaned the radio station’s lack of community spirit. He said how good it was that I was using my hobby to try to bless other people. He even made a few positive suggestions about what I could do in my last show (they have given me one last show to say goodbye to my listeners).

When I told him that I was surprised that he was taking the situation so seriously he floored me with his comment: “I may not agree with you on everything but I know that you are a man who has sincerely held beliefs and seek to live by your convictions. I can see that you are upset about this and as your Pastor I want to listen to you, support you and pray for you.”

Well, I would have skipped home if it wasn’t for my bad hip. Who’d have thought it? When I got home started to prepare for my last show. I looked at my card index of all of the hymns that have been requested (including the frequency of requests, by whom they were requested and hymn book reference number) and then at all of the letters I have received over the years. It was then that I noticed that some of the handwriting looked familiar. Then I realised whose it was – our Minister had written some of the requests!

I was flabbergasted. I hadn’t expected that he would be so supportive. Perhaps I misjudged him. My ‘harrumph’ has turned to a ‘hallelujah’ and I am going to dedicate my last hymn to him: ‘Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love’.

Yours faithfully

Mr QR Grenville-Stubbs

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Dear Internet

My writing seems to be more sporadic at the moment, for which I can only apologise as I know that there are many of you who look forward to my thoughts (or bloggages as Nick insists on calling them). I have been rather busy trying to make sense some events that have happened recently. I can’t see how they are linked except that Revd Philip Inneck-Tucker, our Minister, has been involved a lot. Let me tell you what has happened most recently and work backwards.

This Sunday morning Revd Phil (he insists we call him ‘Phil’ rather than Pastor or Reverend) gave me a large envelope. When I got it home it was a holiday brochure for Egypt. I don’t know whether he was suggesting that I need a holiday or that he is trying to get rid of me. When I asked him about it at the Sunday evening service he just smiled and said, “Have a think back over recent weeks…” I hate it when he goes all cryptic.

egypt

The previous Thursday we had our monthly prayer meeting. I attended, as I always do, and in my prayer I thanked God for all of the people who had played a part in me being a Christian – from my Sunday School Teachers, through Christian friends at University, previous Ministers, Deacons and others who I could remember. I thanked God for them all by name, which took some time. Then I thanked God for how full the Sunday School used to be (standing room only) when I was a boy and prayed that we would have the same experience again today and that we would return to the good old days of Bible exams. People said a loud ‘Amen!!’ at the end of my prayer, which I take to mean that they wholeheartedly agreed with my prayer not, as Mr Capel suggested, that they were expressing gratitude that I had finished.

So far I can’t see why that would lead Revd Phil to give me a holiday brochure for Egypt.

The preceding week had been our Church Meeting. I had asked for an item to go on the agenda for me to give a vote of thanks to everyone who had been helping with our children’s Holiday Club in the summer. When it came to that moment I pointed out how faithful those people had been in preparation and helping out each day so that all of the 27 children who attended enjoyed themselves. I also said that it was a shame that there were not more children – not like the 150 we used to have when I ran a Holiday Bible School when I was one of the church youth leaders in my twenties. In those days we used all of the modern technology available – flannelgraphs, film strips and reel-to-reel tape recordings of sermons. As I remembered these things I may have remarked that it’s a shame we don’t do those things now and perhaps if we did there may be more children coming along. I thought I was offering some helpful advice and being gracious (which is one of the things Revd PI-T keeps banging on about).

Still can’t work out what the Egypt holiday is about.

The Sunday before the Church Meeting I was asked to read the Bible passage in the morning service. I used my Grandfather’s old Bible – a proper King James Version – and read Numbers chapter 14.

14 And all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night. And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, “Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness! And wherefore hath the Lord brought us unto this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey? were it not better for us to return into Egypt?”

And they said one to another, “Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt.”

Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the children of Israel. And Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, which were of them that searched the land, rent their clothes: And they spake unto all the company of the children of Israel, saying, “The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land. If the Lord delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey. Only rebel not ye against the Lord, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defence is departed from them, and the Lord is with us: fear them not.”

10 But all the congregation bade stone them with stones. And the glory of the Lord appeared in the tabernacle of the congregation before all the children of Israel. 11 And the Lord said unto Moses, “How long will this people provoke me? and how long will it be ere they believe me, for all the signs which I have shewed among them? 12 I will smite them with the pestilence, and disinherit them, and will make of thee a greater nation and mightier than they.”

13 And Moses said unto the Lord, “Then the Egyptians shall hear it, (for thou broughtest up this people in thy might from among them;) 14 And they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land: for they have heard that thou Lord art among this people, that thou Lord art seen face to face, and that thy cloud standeth over them, and that thou goest before them, by day time in a pillar of a cloud, and in a pillar of fire by night. 15 Now if thou shalt kill all this people as one man, then the nations which have heard the fame of thee will speak, saying, ‘16 Because the Lord was not able to bring this people into the land which he sware unto them, therefore he hath slain them in the wilderness.’ 

17 “And now, I beseech thee, let the power of my lord be great, according as thou hast spoken, saying, 18 ‘The Lord is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.’ 19 Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people according unto the greatness of thy mercy, and as thou hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.”

20 And the Lord said, “I have pardoned according to thy word: 21 But as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord.”

When I finished Revd Phil did give me a very funny look and said, “Thank ye Mr Grenville-Stubbs.” I was pleased that he was getting into the spirit of the reading. Later on Mr Capel asked me where I rent my clothes and I told him that I bought them from the local gentleman’s outfitters. Revd Phil did seem to look at me a lot when he preached about the Israelites grumbling, I don’t know why.

And I still don’t see the link with a brochure for a holiday to Egypt. Do you?

Yours faithfully

Mr QR Grenville-Stubbs.

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Dear Internet

At a recent Church Meeting I was forced to raise three points of order and it seems that I have upset Mr Davenport.

It all began when Revd Philip Inneck-Tucker, our Minister, decided that in one of our all-age services he would pretend to be the Old Testament Prophet Jonah. He came into the service drenched from head to toe, covered in seaweed and wearing clothes that looked Robinson Crusoe had discarded them. He began by saying, “You’ll never guess what happened to me on the way here,” and proceeded to tell the story of Jonah as if he was Jonah and as if we were the people of Nineveh. (If you don’t know what happened you can read it here (there are four chapters).

footMr Davenport, who has been a Member at the church almost as long as I have, objected to this because Revd P I-T was not wearing shoes in church and he thought it was disrespectful. In the next Church Meeting Mr Davenport raised an ‘Any Other Business’ item at the end of the meeting asking for a resolution to be passed that shoes should be worn in church at all times.

It was at this point that I raised my first point of order: did ‘shoes’ represent a generic term for all footwear or did we needed to list all different types of permissible footwear? Before Mr Davenport could respond I raised my second point of order: what about Believer’s Baptisms where the candidates often go into the pool barefoot?

I thought that these were legitimate points of order but before the meeting could address them just at that moment Revd Phil had another of his coughing fits and we had to wait for him to recover before the meeting could resume. When he had regained his composure he asked if anyone else had an opinion about this.

I was very surprised when Mrs Thurston put up her hand. She never says anything in Church Meetings (I assume she leaves it to those of us who know what we are doing and how to raise points of order). But she stood up and said, “I don’t know about whether or not it’s disrespectful that our Minister was barefoot, but what I do know is that my daughter Alice went home after the service and spoke to my husband, Robert, who never comes to church. She told him that there was a man at the church who had been swallowed by a fish and Robert was so interested that he said he would come with us to the next service to see what might happen next.”

With that she sat down to a round of applause from most of the Members. Revd Phil didn’t say anything. Mr Davenport didn’t say anything. And while I was tempted to ask about my points of order for once I decided not to say anything.

After a pause Revd P I-T started to close the meeting. This was when I raised my third point of order.

“Technically, Minister, we need to ask whether there is a seconder for Mr Davenport’s resolution or he needs to withdraw it.”

Revd Phil looked at me and rolled his eyes. He sighed and then he looked at Mr Davenport who went bright red in the face and mumbled that he would withdraw the resolution.

Revd Phil then looked back to me and asked if he could close the meeting now and I nodded happily – procedures had been followed properly and that’s very important to me. You can imagine my surprise when Mr Davenport (who normally shares my love of procedure) gave me a withering look after the meeting.

The next day I spoke to Revd Phil about his failure to follow the correct procedure and he sighed again (is he getting enough sleep?) and said, “Sometimes it’s better to be gracious than correct.”

What did he mean by that?

Yours sincerely

Mr QR Grenville-Stubbs

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Dear Internet

I wish to register a complaint. Some people can’t make up their minds.

At a recent church service I sat in my usual pew, in the row behind Mrs Higginbotham. When she got up to sing in the first song I noticed that the poor lady had got her skirt tucked into her undergarments. In order not to draw attention to this I leaned forwards and very gently tugged her skirt free.

As I did she turned around and slapped me hard on the left hand side of my face!

slapAfter the service Revd Phil asked me why I had a red hand-mark on my face and I explained what had happened. He looked like he was going to have another of his seizures (see my previous article).

The following Sunday I was sat in my pew and once again, when we stood up to sing, I noticed that Mrs Higginbotham had her skirt tucked into her undergarments. Mr Capel, who was stood next to me, also noticed and he leaned forwards and very gently tugged her skirt free.

“No,” I whispered to him, “She likes it tucked in!” And I leaned forwards and tucked her skirt back in.slap

After the service Revd Phil asked my why I now had a red hand mark on my right cheek and when I explained and said that I was only doing what Mrs Higginbotham wanted he rushed off to the vestry. I assume he was going to pray for Mrs Higginbotham’s inability to make up her mind which way she wanted her skirt.

Yours faithfully

Mr QR Grenville Stubbs

(Be blessed, be a blessing)

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Dear Internet

Welcome to another of the musings of Mr Grenville-Stubbs. (I don’t think we know each other well enough to be on first-name terms).

I have not written anything for a while because I have been trying to work out which way I will be voting on Thursday in the EU Referendum. I consider it to be more than my democratic right, it is my duty to vote. That is why I have not missed a Church Meeting for the past 37 years. I have witnessed many changes in our church over the years (and have opposed most of them).

Our Minister, Revd Philip Inneck-Tucker keeps telling us that a Church Meeting is not a business meeting, nor is it a democracy, but it is an attempt to discern God’s will together by listening to each other and seeking to see what is right. He says that we are not voting to see who is in the majority but as a way of working out how well we have discerned what God wants.

I think I know what he is saying, but I prefer the cut and thrust of debate, the clinical nature of points of order, and the complexity of proposals and counter-proposals. I vote to express my firmly held opinions and convictions, and no amount of discussion is going to change my mind.

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That is one of the things I have enjoyed in the count down to the EU Referendum in the UK. There has been a lot of heat generated by both sides. But it has also left me feeling a bit confused: one side will make an exaggerated, headline-grabbing claim and then the other side will refute that (but the headline has done its job). Then the other side will do the same.

I had a leaflet arrive through my letterbox this week from the ‘Leave’ campaign that was full of promises about how much better the country will be if we leave the EU, but those promises are surely empty because they are not from any particular party but a coalition of people from across the political landscape. I was completely turned off by some of the racist rhetoric that I have seen, so I will not be voting ‘Leave’ on that basis.

However, I had another leaflet through my letterbox from the ‘Remain’ campaign that was full of warnings about the danger to our economy from a vote to leave, and about how much better off we are at the moment. How can they predict the future like that? And the rhetoric I have heard against those who want to leave has been rather unpleasant too, so I will not be voting ‘Remain’ on that basis.

I told Revd PI-T that I did not know which way to vote and he suggested that I read the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) and see if that helped me. He said that this was Jesus’ manifesto of what the world could be like if we lived in the way that God intends. That did seem a bit heavy but I did as he suggested and it helped. I decided that I will not be basing my decision on the negativity and lies that have characterised both campaigns. I am going to see if I can find any traces of what Jesus was talking about and vote for whichever one offers us the best opportunity to be more like that.

When I told Revd Phil this he was speechless for the first time since I have known him. The look on his face was priceless!

Yours faithfully

Q.R.Grenville Stubbs

Be blessed, be a blessing (as Nick likes to write)