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What an atheist learnt from dating a devout Christian March 21, 2022

Posted by Pete B in Uncategorized.
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There are a lot of lapsed atheists in the world. I used to not believe in God but that was over thirty years ago. In an article from 2019, journalist Michael Burton declared:

I’m an atheist. I have been for as long as I can remember. All my closest friends are atheists. We do atheist things like fear death and worry about the meaninglessness of life. Then, about a year ago, something quite unexpected happened: I fell in love with a Christian. A proper one, too. For her, God is as certain as daybreak and nightfall.

Michael Burton, https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/atheism-date-christian-love-religion-relationships-god-a8934071.html

Back in the final days of my own atheism I didn’t specifically fear death – I figured that once you were dead you ceased to exist and consequently weren’t to bothered about being dead. Life however was another matter entirely. Life, at times, was scary. I guess Michael understands that too – in another article he talks about the time in 2010 that he spent a year going blind. That’s another story, long before he met his girlfriend, but like every other human on the planet he still has troubles…

Whenever I’m going through emotional turmoil or have a tough decision to make, she’ll say, “I’ll pray for you.” This was infuriating at first. It was like I’d cut myself and she was saying, “Don’t worry, I’ll ask my imaginary friend to get some plasters.” In time, however, I realised that, for her, praying is perhaps the most intimate and loving gesture she can undertake.

I also used to think of God as “an imaginary friend” for people who didn’t know better. Atheists can be a bit arrogant that way …but I’ve since learned that Christians (and people of other faiths), can be a bit arrogant too, secure in our own belief and convinced that everyone else is wrong or misguided. Atheists make assumptions about Christians and people of other faiths, Christians make assumptions about atheists, and people of other faiths …and also make assumptions about people in other branches of our own faith.

A final quote from Michael (you can read more in the original article:

I’ve never read it but I have to say, the Bible is full of good stuff. So much fantastic life advice in that book. There isn’t an inspirational meme or a self-help topic that hasn’t been written about and worded better in the Bible. Although I don’t buy into the metaphysical aspect of it all, my girlfriend has quoted passages from the good book to me that I love.

I’d not have gone as far as say I’d never read the Bible. I was raised at a time when you occasionally had to. I was even sent to church and Sunday school until I was 8 or 9, but I never really read it of my own choice, at least not until after I’d met some ‘devout Christians’ at university.

For me however, it wasn’t just the ‘devout Christians’ that had an impact. I assumed they’d just been brought up that way. I was more surprised when my room-mate told me that he believed in God, but wasn’t interested in church or the Bible for now. He said he’d get serious about God when he was older – he wanted to enjoy life first.

It may seem foolish to ask an “imaginary friend” for help but if you believe in a creator God who actually wants to be involved in your life, then ignoring him seems totally crazy. If God is the reason you exist, then surely he should have some impact on how you live?

I was still an atheist at that point, but perhaps a less committed one, and when my own turmoil hit later, I did open a Bible, and gradually shifted from convinced but nominal atheist, to someone who was searching, and then from someone who was searching, to someone who felt found.

I’d unsurprisingly agree that “the Bible is full of good stuff”. In my initial enthusiasm I ploughed through the New Testament in four weeks and the Old in four months, but even after 30+ years of reading it there are some bits I’m still waiting to understand.

It’s not too late to think about Christmas December 1, 2021

Posted by Pete B in Uncategorized.
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Advent has started so it’s no longer too early to be thinking about Christmas, but it’s also not too late for churches to think about how they can be a bit more multicultural and a bit more multilingual in making everyone in their church feel welcome and included.

[update Dec 29 – technically it’s still not too late to think about Christmas. The 12 days of Christmas ‘conveniently’ link the dates for the western and the eastern churches. You could also put a link to this post in your calendar so you have links to these resources ready for 2022 …oh, and one more thing – Jesus is for life, not just for Christmas, so it’s okay to tell the story at other times too, especially if people haven’t heard it before!]

A site I often recommend to raise awareness of Christmas traditions from around the world is WhyChristmas.com . This is an easy thing to share on social media or in a newsletter or Christmas card, and start a discussion on different Christmas traditions.

A couple of years ago I posted on how to say Merry Christmas in many languages.

Last year I started a youtube playlist of Christmas carols that have been translated into many different languages. I’m planning to add a few dozen more and mix them up a bit so that there is a bit more variety of song as well as language. This playlist Multilingual Christmas (translated carols), features versions of just a few songs starting with Persian, Navajo, Lotha, ASL, Telugu, German, Hindi, Russian, Arabic, Nepali, Samoan, and a few bits in English. One of my current favourites is a seven language version of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”.

[update Dec 12th] – The playlist now includes over 40 languages including additions in French, Indonesian, Portuguese, Dutch, Polish, Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa, Twi, Latin, Gaelic, Slovak, Albanian, Welsh, Kapampangan, Bengali, Malay.

A few of the older songs started out in Latin and German, and in another list I hoped to include some of my favourite Christmas songs from around the world that aren’t (yet) so international but others have perhaps already done this quite well. Songs to Serve has created a great and growing playlist Christmas Songs from Different Cultures. Another Global Christmas Songs 2021 has an accompanying reading guide compiled by ethnodoxoligist, Paul Neeley, with a separate post for each song.

Traditional carols may offer good outreach possibilities as the tunes are recognisable by communities worldwide that have at least been exposed to western forms of Christianity and can actually be played and sung in shopping centres not just in churches. (Glory to God in the High st). Again individual songs or the link to the playlist can also be shared on social media.

And just in case you were wondering….

While the most translated modern Christian song is The Blessing, the most translated Christmas carol is probably Silent Night which has apparently been translated into over 140 languages. A comprehensive list with lyrics is at silentnight.web.za .

Reblogs: Share the Awesome January 6, 2021

Posted by Pete B in Uncategorized.
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A useful seven year old post about reblogging with 52 comments!
Found while thinking about the etiquette of reusing other people’s material (and of other people reusing mine). In short if you want to reuse any of my posts (without even asking) these are some useful guidelines – share a sample and point people back to the original post.

The Daily Post

My last post was about pingbacks and trackbacks, and some of you had questions about how that relates to reblogs. Both features help you share the work of other bloggers on your own site, but whereas a pingback simply notifies the original blogger that you’ve linked to their site, a reblog captures an excerpt of another blogger’s post and automatically links back to their content. 

View original post 486 more words

Abstract October 7, 2020

Posted by Pete B in Uncategorized.
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No explanation for why I’m posting this (yet)

Definitions of the words and a video of someone pronouncing it in one of the many British accents is at: https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/abstract

Happy Birthday Canada (Celebrate in 200+ Languages) July 1, 2020

Posted by Pete B in Uncategorized.
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Happy Canada Day!

July 1st is often celebrated as Canada’s birthday.
Rather than inviting you to sing Happy Birthday or the Canadian National Anthem, here is “a virtual collaboration of 70 Toronto Gospel Artists, Worship Leaders, Music Directors & Pastors from across the city proclaiming a blessing over Toronto and cities around the world”

You’ll hear a few different languages in the recording but only a fraction of the 200+ known to be used by people living in Toronto.

An earlier version of the same song is also great but a bit less multilingual despite having contributions from over 200 people across the country and declaring that “The Church in Canada is beautiful, broad and diverse and it is a nearly impossible task to accurately represent the full breadth of true diversity within the church in Canada from coast to coast to coast.”

To be more multilingual you could try saying Happy Birthday or a cultural equivalent in any of 250 languages listed at https://www.omniglot.com/language/phrases/birthday.htm

Or you could find versions of the Blessing in many of the languages spoken in Canada from my Blessing playlist – which now includes about 140 languages (I need to do a recount soon)

Giraffes & Elephants June 26, 2020

Posted by Pete B in Uncategorized.
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There’s a great story about a Giraffe and and Elephant that I heard about from a pastor in Virginia, which you can read more at https://onevoicefellowship.org/love-is-flexible/ or find the original fable in a 20 year old management book, “Building a house for Diversity” by R Roosevelt Thomas.

Building a House for Diversity

It’s a rather American sounding giraffe but it’s a story that seems to have resonated a lot with people who deliver diversity training …and with people who recognise that we might sometimes need to ‘do church’ differently, or better still, ‘be church’ in some new ways in which the people who’ve traditionally been in charge, don’t insist that outsiders conform in order to be accepted.

I’ve only read the parable, not the book, but know that there are many challenges. It’s not as simple as giraffes and elephants, because sometimes the real differences are not so apparent.

More thoughts to come. Meanwhile, like many of us, I’ve a lot of listening and learning to do.

Though we are one we are many March 23, 2020

Posted by Pete B in Uncategorized.
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This particular church building is where 25 years ago I attended both the smallest and largest communion service. The physically present congregation was just me but the Anglican priest presiding over the service stuck to the liturgy and so I read out loud, “Though we are many we are one body”.

It was of significance for me then, and again in these strange times of social distancing and virtual church. After appreciating the irony for a moment it dawned on me that I was not alone. Though I was one, I was part of the many. Countless millions were gathering that day around the world and sharing in variations of the same practice. Some doing so in large crowds, others in buildings no bigger than the one I was in, some in secrecy, some in solitude, but we were, and are all one body – the church.

You may have heard it before, the church is the people not the building. This particular building like many others will be empty now. The small chapel, despite it’s Mediterranean look, is in in England, at a Butlin’s holiday centre in Minehead, that at this time of year usually hosts Spring Harvest, an annual gathering of thousands of Christians packed together for a mix of singing, sermons, and seminars.

After Easter it would normally switch into full holiday mode, with up to 10,000 holiday makers at a time. (I worked at Butlin’s as a student, and for several years after, and it was there I became a Christian).

Neither, Spring Harvest not the holiday season is happening this year. When the Covid crisis has passed, many who are used to meeting in churches will have learned some new lessons about worshipping without walls, and many others will have encountered God through through conversations with neighbours at a distance of 2 metres (or latest advice), and via online communities where distance is less important.

However distant you feel from others today, you are not alone.

Photos in this post have been adapted from https://davedoeshistory.wordpress.com/2019/08/12/butlins-minehead-the-smallest-cutest-little-chapel-in-england/

The phrase “though we are many” comes from the Church of England Communion service, and in turn from St Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians 1Cor17:10

All   Though we are many, we are one body, because we all share in one bread.

How do you say “Wash your hands” in enough languages? March 16, 2020

Posted by Pete B in Uncategorized.
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(Updated March 25)
There are over 7000 languages in use on the planet, and probably more than you thought spoken in your own community. Despite the pandemic it might not be necessary to say “wash your hands” in every single one of them. The aim would be to say it in a language that people understand regardless of whether it is the one they most identify with. But, it might also help to personalise and drive home the message if you do use people’s first language, so here are a few translations, links to a few more, and then some comments as to why even this simple phrase isn’t as easy to translate as you might think!

  • English – Wash your hands
  • French – Lavez-vous les mains
  • Polish – myć ręce
  • Welsh – Glanhewch eich dwylo
  • Dutch – handen wassen
  • Czech – Umyjte si ruce
  • Malay – Basuh tangan anda
  • Russian – Помойте Ваши Руки
  • Tok Pisin – Wasim han bilong yu

I’ve taken these from a few trusted sources and where possible have checked them by seeing how Google translates them back into English. (Google often does quite a good job between an increasing number of languages). Please do add other languages in the comments section on this blog or when shared on social media).

The Minisota department of health has a poster created in 2010, which says wash your hands in 24 languages (English, Amharic, Arabic, Burmese, Chinese (Mandarin), French, German, Hebrew, Hindi, Hmong, Karen, Khmer, Korean, Laotian, Nepali, Oromo, Ojibwe, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Swahili, Thai, and Vietnamese).

PDF poster available at https://www.health.state.mn.us/people/handhygiene/wash/languages.html

I’m hoping that having been around for ten years that any errors have been found and corrected. It replaces an older version in just 18 languages.

Once I’d found that list Google decided I’d also be interested in this list with 80 different languages. I hope they are all accurate but I can’t be sure. https://www.indifferentlanguages.com/words/wash_hands

Meanwhile, http://bible.com/ and http://www.bible.is/ might have the phrase in up to 1600 languages between them as part of a Bible verse.

Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.

James 4:8 NLT

As so many people are being told to keep their distance from others I like that this starts off by reminding us that God doesn’t want us to keep our distance from him. Even the bit where the writer is calling people sinners, comes across as harsh it’s worth noting that this was written to people who already considered themselves to be Christians. The writer is urging them to recognise their problem and do something not condemning them.

The much older King James version phrases it as:

Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.

James 4:8

However the Contemporary English version translates it as:

Come near to God, and he will come near to you. Clean up your lives, you sinners. Purify your hearts, you people who can’t make up your mind.

James 4:8 CEV

All are valid translations providing you recognise that the original meaning wasn’t about hand hygiene and reducing the spread of a virus.

In the Éwé language the verse is translated as:

Mite ɖe Mawu ŋu kpokploe eye eya hã atsɔ ɖe mia gbɔ. Mi nu vɔ̃ wɔlawo miklɔ miaƒe asiwo, eye mi ame siwo nye dzime eve susulawo la miklɔ miaƒe dziwo me.


I did’t know which bit is about hand washing so I thought I’d see if Google could help by translating it back into English. Sadly Éwé isn’t one of the languages Google recognises and suggested the text might be in Igbo or Yoruba, offering me a translation of the phrase from those languages as “Mite Threatened Birds are very popular. If you have heard me say it, my eye will give it to my dzime eve.

Getting the best translation involves understanding the meaning of the message in the language you are translating from and understanding the language and culture of the person you are trying to communicate to.

If you don’t speak the language then just pulling the verse off the web and making a best guess as to which bit of it might say “wash your hands” won’t always give you the results you want.

That “best guess” gets better and the process can be quickly repeated with the aid of sophisticated machine learning that runs multiple checks to identify and compare the use of words in a larger body of text. This, together with collaborative input from people around the world has enabled the phrase to be quickly translated or identified in 273 languages (as of March 25) with many more on their way and an invitation for people to submit the phrase in missing languages.

“Wash your hands” in Éwé, is apparently “mi klɔ asi”.

As Ethnologue’s article highlights, “Wash your hands”, while a vital and key message, isn’t enough on it’s own to combat the pandemic but in making that one phrase available they are both highlighting the need for yet more information and promoting new resources that are already being translated.

explore the map, share the list, and help spread the message

Find out more and as the article concludes, “Spread the word, not the virus.”

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