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HONEST TO GOD It's always someone's anniversary. We've had the 400th year of the King James Version of the Bible, the 350th year of the Book of Common Prayer and 100 years of the Ancient and Modern Hymn Book.

Now it's time for the 50th anniversary of Honest to God! In its day (1963) this small book opened up a S S passionatSe debate about God. This was most surprising because the author, John Robinson, was a bishop and an academic scholar. Such people rarely make headlines. He never intended to destroy people's faith but to shift them away from believing that God was "up there" or "out there". Was it simply a bad time to make his feelings known? Others were also exploring the nature of God. CS Lewis and Dorothy Sayers had a large following. Billy Graham was drawing the crowds and Honest to God appeared to be ignoring the fact that churches were growing. Robinson drew widely on the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his thoughts from Nazi prison during the war. Here was the most talked-about book of his day. A man with severe back trouble himself, the author aimed his writing at those who had difficulty with their faith. It produced a media storm. He only asked that people should be honest, but he was portrayed as a bishop who did not believe in God. He reworked Christianity to make it more palatable to what he thought of as the taste of his day. He is still having an effect and the book is again available.

FORTY DAYS Have you noticed how important are 40 days in the Church? Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness to prepare for his ministry. Soon we shall spend 40 days in Lent to prepare us for Easter. Then, after Easter will come the Great 40 Days before Jesus ascended to the Father on Ascension Day. Today is Candlemas Day, that is, 40 days after Christmas. Surely we haven't forgotten all the messages we learned at Christmas already? Now we can stop wishing each other a Merry Christmas and get on with the rest of the year.

Farmers have an old saying that, "If the sun shines on Candlemas Day, the worst of the winter is still on the way." Even the weathermen tell us that this bit of weather lore is often true. A spell of fine weather at this time of year can lead to bad weather ahead. In fact, today wasn't too bad, but you have been warned.

SURPRISE WELCOME! Never jump to conclusions. The Bishop of Bradford, Nick Baines, has been visiting his twinned overseas diocese in South Sudan.

He himself comes from Liverpool. Driving carefully near Khartoum, he was stopped at a road block. "Passport," came the challenge when a policeman with a big red stick poked his head into the car. "Where you come from?" "Liverpool," replied the bishop. This produced a frown and sucking of teeth. The policeman handed the passport back with, "Go ahead then. You'll never walk alone!" DIARY DATES TOMORROW: Jesmond United Reformed Church. Alison Shiel plays the Hymn Book (800 tunes). From 1pm.

FRIDAY: Windsor Hotel, Whitley Bay. What is the Question? - with David Lennox. 7.30pm. NEXT SATURDAY: Haydon Bridge Methodist Church. Bite Back at Hunger. 7.30pm Please send news items for CHURCH MATTERS to Francis Wood, 52 Albemarle Avenue, Newcastle, NE2 3NQ or tel: 0191 284 5338.
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Feb 2, 2013
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