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10 Things You Can’t Do with an iPad January 28, 2010

Posted by Phil Groom in Frivolity, Technology.
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  1. Swat flies
  2. Mop up spilt beer
  3. Protect your bum on the bus
  4. Train the dog
  5. Hail a cab (well OK, maybe some people would…)
  6. Leave it behind on the tube (but if you do, someone else will always pick it up)
  7. Use it as an umbrella
  8. Polish your shoes
  9. Package your ebay parcels
  10. Wrap your fish & chips

Over to you now, lovely people…

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iPad iWant January 27, 2010

Posted by Phil Groom in Frivolity, Technology.
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cartoon from www.weblogcartoons.com

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons. Or head this way if you want the real thing…

Say No to Marital Unfaithfulness January 25, 2010

Posted by Phil Groom in Current Affairs, Family, News.
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Church Times Blog, 25/01/2010

Church Times Blog, 25/01/2010 - Christians mount campaign against 'marital affairs' billboards

First, my thanks to the inimitable @davewalker for highlighting this issue on the Church Times Blog today: Christians mount campaign against ‘marital affairs’ billboards.

Now, please forgive my bluntness, but what on earth is going on in the heads of the plonkers running the Advertising Standards Authority? How can anyone possibly say that advertisements promoting unfaithfulness in marriage are unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence? That such advertisements do not offend against “widely accepted moral, social or cultural standards”??

Has our society really degenerated to the point where extramarital affairs are considered normal, harmless fun? Where were the ASA when things fell apart in Northern Ireland recently because of an extramarital affair? Enough families are wrecked by marriages falling apart as it is without promoting unfaithfulness as some sort of game.

Time for action! Here’s my letter of complaint to the ASA:

This advertisement is outrageous.

Publicly promoting unfaithfulness in marriage is offensive. This isn’t about fun: it’s about encouraging people to engage in lies and deception.

Nor is this simply a matter of ‘bad taste’ – it is promoting an attitude that undermines social cohesion, that will inevitably lead to family breakdown with all the concomitant effects upon innocent children.

I understand that you have already rejected complaints about these advertisements because you say that they are unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence. You are wrong: more than 1,000 people, myself included, are already seriously offended.

You have said “We can only act if the ad, in our judgement, offends against widely accepted moral, social or cultural standards.”

Faithfulness in relationships, in marriage in particular, IS a widely accepted moral, social and cultural standard, not only here in the UK but in all civilised societies. I put it to you that if in your judgement this advertisement does not offend in this way, then your judgement is at fault.

I call upon you to immediately review and reverse that judgement before any further offence is caused.

I regard this as a matter requiring urgent attention and look forward to receiving a prompt response from you.

Thank you.

I’ll let you know what response I receive, but in the meantime, if you share my concerns, please join the facebook group Stop marital affair .co.uk advertising publicly in the UK and send in your own complaint to the ASA.

Almost Nearly Famous January 18, 2010

Posted by Phil Groom in Christian Book Trade.
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The Times, Saturday 16 Jan 2010 - The call goes out to keep Jesus on the High Street

The call goes out to keep Jesus on the High Street

It’s true: I’m almost nearly famous. Quoted in no less a paper than Saturday’s Times, p.100, in an article about the state of the UK Christian book trade, The call goes out to keep Jesus on the High Street:

Phil Groom writes a blog on the future of the Christian bookshop. He runs one himself at the London School of Theology which, despite having a guaranteed customer base, is still struggling. He believes the only future is for shops to be run in partnership with local churches as community hubs.

“Shops have got to be much more than just bookshops. They have to be destinations for community,” he says.

“We could ham up the guilt for Christians or local churches to get them to support us, but that would only work for so long. They have to realise that they need to work more closely with shops if they want to keep them.”

The article gives a good overview of the state of the trade just over two weeks into a new decade, looking back briefly at the SPCK/SSG bookshops debacle, then in more detail at the current crisis facing the branches of Wesley Owen left out in the cold when IBS-STL UK went into administration:

An online petition is hoping to save a store in Edinburgh, and in South Woodford, London, pledges of £31,000 have already been received to keep the shop open.

The manager of Wesley Owen in South Woodford, Dominic Stinchcombe, is in no doubt that even if his supporters can find the other £30,000, the trade as a whole faces a bleak future without radical action.

“If it was just keeping the bookshop going I wouldn’t bother,” he says, “but it’s the Christian ministry side of it. Many people use us as a kind of church. We are here Monday to Saturday. It might be new Christians moving into the area, or someone at the end of their tether who doesn’t know where to turn. We listen and pray with them all if they ask for it.”

Stinchcombe’s campaign has been lifted by direct support from the pulpit of local churches. The Rev Steve Clark, vicar of St Andrew’s with All Saints, issued a rallying cry during his Sunday sermon for people to support the “ministry” of the South Woodford shop near by.

“It’s not just a shop,” says Clark. “Often you can walk in and find staff praying with somebody. I wasn’t asking people to feel guilty about not using the bookshop, just asking them if they would like to support the vision. And the next day the first person walked in and laid down £1,000.”

People in the trade talk a lot about their shops as a ministry and a Christian presence on the high street. But the hard facts are that, like every other bookshop, Christian booksellers have been hit by the power of Amazon.

Stinchcombe insists that Christians will soon realise what they are missing: “You might be able to buy your books on the internet, but you can’t buy ministry on the internet.”

What we can find on the internet, of course, is an ability to campaign, connect and co-operate via blogs, facebook and twitter: Amazon might have cornered the online marketplace, but they haven’t captured the human spirit; and it’s that spirit — together with God’s Spirit — that drives us on.

You’ll find the petition to save the Edinburgh branch here: Save Wesley Owen Edinburgh; go on, sign it; and keep an eye on their facebook page for latest news.

More reflections on the trade’s future over on t’other blog: A Future and a Hope for the UK’s Christian Bookshops and The Future Shape of Christian Bookselling.

Christian Bookshops Blog: Wesley Owen Pages

Christian Marketplace January 9, 2010

Posted by Phil Groom in Christian Book Trade.
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Figured it was about time I profiled some of my articles in Christian Marketplace magazine, but rather than a one-off post, I’ve given them a dedicated page: hit the Christian Marketplace tab above if you want to be bored more than usual. I’ll update the page as and when more of my articles find their way online…

If you’re in the UK and you run a church bookstall or are in church leadership, you can sign up for a year’s free postal subscription; anyone can sign up to the digital edition free of charge. So what are you waiting for? Get over there and sign up today!

Christian Marketplace - Subscribe Today!

Christian Marketplace - Subscribe Today!

Henlow in the Snow January 7, 2010

Posted by Phil Groom in Photos.
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Having posted Langford in the Snow, figured I’d better post Henlow too, before I get accused of favouritism…

St Mary's, Henlow

St Mary's, Henlow - January 2010

Epiphany? Ask the Camel January 3, 2010

Posted by Phil Groom in Advent and Christmas, Short Story.
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I wrote this story a few years ago, and it’s appeared in a couple of church magazines since. I think there’s still a bit a mileage left in it so I offer it afresh to you, my friends here in the blogosphere. It occurred to me that the word epiphany sounds rather like the noise I guess a camel makes when it spits. Maybe that’s where the word comes from? Or maybe you know better?

Camel in the snowWe were Tired. And when I spell a word with a capital letter, I mean it: this was a T bigger than Nero’s Nose. Okay, okay, so Nero wasn’t around then – but you’ve got to realise that we camels don’t necessarily look at things the way you humans do. Future? Past? It’s all the same to us – we remember both ways, and a lot of your lives have been saved because of that, because we know where the next oasis is as well as where the last one was. In the desert, it’s a question of survival – and we survive.

But as I said, we were Tired. Almost as tired as God was when He invented the Sabbath. And now we were running scared, tripping over ourselves, nearly breaking our legs on the rough ground in the dark. I don’t know what scared my master most, the angel that warned us, or the warning he brought. But that mad king – Herod “the Great”, he styled himself – was after our blood. Because of the Child.

We’d been on the road for two years. It would have been a much shorter journey if our masters had let us find the way, but they were Magi – Magicians, or Astrologers as you’d call them. So-called ‘Wise Men’ without the wisdom to know that camels don’t make mistakes. My master had cursed me for most of the journey because I’d kept pulling in different directions. Phtui! In the end I just spat in disgust and let him have his way. He’d regret it later. And now, as we ran, he did. Sometimes I almost feel sorry for you humans – until I think of the Child. But you still haven’t understood, have you?

So after travelling more than twice the distance we needed to, we’d arrived. At the wrong place: Jerusalem. I spat angrily and snapped at the stable hand who came out to meet us. And after meeting with His Royal Bloodthirstiness, our masters had been redirected to Bethlehem – we were on the right road at last.

Camel in the snowThe star reappeared, right on cue, above the house. His mother brought Him out to see us and, ignoring my master completely, He looked me in the eye and winked. Only two years old, but He Knew. I knelt in front of Him and for the first time in my life, I swallowed my spit. And for the first time my master didn’t shout a warning about me – he was too busy kneeling himself.

It was going to take a long, long time and an awful lot of pain, but Things were going to Change. And I’m not talking about me stopping spitting.

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