I’m delighted to let you know Relatable: Exploring God, Love and Connection in the Age of Choice is nearly here!
You can pre-order it this very minute from Waterstones, Wordery, Eden, Amazon in the US to be one of the first to read it when it appears in May. Here’s what the book is about: relationships are changing, and the church is struggling to keep up. Many Christians are adrift, faced with a faith culture far removed from their experiences and a faith that finds itself in interesting times: diverging theologies, reports of a shrinking church, and unequal numbers of women and men. Technology is changing how people meet and match, loneliness is increasing, and norms of dating, family, sex, marriage, work, and life are evolving. What is the future for relationships between men and women? What will singleness and marriage look like? Relatable hopes to provide answers and start conversations.
Exploring science, sociology, history, theology, and the many, many messages circulating in society and church culture about men, women and relationships (spoiler: some of them are pretty wild…), Relatable looks at the history of marriage (spoiler: even wilder), and why Christians are prone to promote coupling up as the ultimate achievement. From Old Testament polygamy to Samantha the sex robot, changing perceptions of singleness, sexual hang ups and celibacy, why dating looks different when it happens through a screen, whether women and men really are so different, who doesn’t go to church and why, and whether churches can be part of the answer in creating supportive communities.
If you’re one of the almost 1500 people who contributed to the early stages of the book, sharing experiences and opinions with the Real Life Love survey, huge thanks. I’m honoured you’ve trusted me with your stories and shared your wisdom.
Please do get in touch if you’re interested in hosting an event or conversation about modern relationships or with any media enquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org
A sneaky little reminder popped up today letting me know this blog is six years old today! My posts have become almost an annual event, thanks to being busy with other things but here’s a little update on what I have been spending time on…
Mostly the Real Life Love project! Yes, it turns out opening a window into the world of how Christians talk about men and women and love and God is a large and complex subject. Who knew? Thanks to almost 1500 lovely people sharing their experiences and opinions, and a lot of research into history, sociology, faith around the world, sex, marriage, living patterns and much more the book is taking shape. I’m planning for it to make. its way into the world early next year. I would love to let you know more as the book develops and plans unfold, so for occasional updates you can sign up here and I won’t bother you too often. If you’d like to add a comment to the project, you can do so here.
Last week I presented the Daily Service on Radio 4, and it’s available to listen to for a few weeks here (don’t click the picture; that’s just for fun). I talked about Acts of Generosity, as part of the Lent programming and there’s some nice choral singing too (it’s not me, don’t worry). I have other bits of talking (this time with moving pictures!) on my website, if you decide you want to hear / watch more. Click here if you want to see me interview author Michael Morpurgo – now a Sir – or watch a talk I gave about – can you guess – Christians and marriage and dating and singleness or listen to a few other talks, including a panel discussion about online dating. No wonder I ended up writing a book about it all…
In other news, a long term project to help women’s voices be heard finally went live on March 8th, International Women’s Day. Project 3:28, a collective working towards gender balance in the church, has launched a database for women to sign up to so event organisers and media outlets can contact them and invite them to speak at conferences, festivals, churches, on radio and TV, and anywhere else women’s varied and brilliant contributions should be represented, but often aren’t. It has taken several years to get to this stage, and we – the small team behind it – are delighted it finally exists. If you are a UK-based woman interested in signing up, or a producer or event organiser working in this area, please do visit the site! You can FIND THE DATABASE HERE. Yes, all caps. It’s that good. We have nearly 200 women already signed up, with specialisms including theology, mission, youth work, the arts, leadership, charity, business, entrepreneurship and lots, lots more. Please do encourage women you know to sign up too – we’d love to reflect the breadth of knowledge, skills and experience we know women have to offer.
OK, time to celebrate the blog-birthday with the traditional cake and cheer 😀 Catch you again soon
Let’s face it – I’m a terrible blogger. It’s a good job I didn’t set out to be one. Months pass and I get one of those ever-so-slightly needy prompts (from WordPress, not from sad, wannabe readers) that I haven’t broadcast my thoughts to the world. But actually I have. If you’re interested here’s where you can find them all. My scattered thoughts, for your consumption, some with voices and moving pictures too. It’s like Christmas come very, very early / slightly late. With that in mind, if it’s snowing or about to, you’re allowed to pretend the festive season is right here…
The festive special of The Gallery was all about ‘The New Christmas Storytellers’. It’s an hour of conversation, music, performance and more from artists interested in new ways of looking at Christmas. Legendary writer Michael Morpurgo joined me for an extensive, exclusive interview, and you can watch a clip of that here.
The rest of the show has a splendid array of talented people from around the world including Over the Rhine, A Capella wonders The Swingles and lots more. You can listen to it here, and there’s a whole page of extended interviews if you want to hear more from War Horse author Michael Morpurgo, or any of the other artists featured.
I’ve been involved in raising awareness of the on-going issue of domestic violence, and you can read the full piece here about what the church could do to become a safe place for women being abused: “I became friends with Linah in a church, and since her murder I’ve become aware of how many relationships that seem happy and healthy on a Sunday mask terror and pain the rest of the week. There’s something about hearing someone else’s story that makes those who are suffering dare to speak out. I, and many who work with women abused by partners, discovered that quickly. I wonder how many churches are ready for that. Society tends to stand back, bought into the myth of the ‘abusive relationship’ that holds both parties responsible for the dynamic, rather than the reality that one person chooses to abuse the other.”
I’m also quoted in this piece about the murder of Sian Blake and her children. While the risk is still there, I will keep talking about this. I realise how alien it can seem if you haven’t been personally affected, and how much people like me can seem to go on about it. It’s likely you do know people going through this, or who have been affected during their lives. It’s on us all to become aware and to act. I try to add this at the end of every piece, so the abused know where they can find help, and abusers know change is possible:
The National Domestic Violence Helpline (0808 2000 247) is a 24-hour freephone service for women experiencing or concerned about domestic violence, their family, friends, colleagues or others calling on their behalf: nationaldomesticviolencehelpline.org.uk. Respect works with domestic violence perpetrators, male victims and young people. If you are concerned about your own behaviour, or the behaviour of someone you know, it can be contacted on 0808 802 40 FREE, by email at email@example.com, or through its website, respect.uk.net
And just to prove I’m down with the so-called kidz, here’s something about Adele and the brilliant sketch where she infiltrated a group of Adele impersonators and passed herself off as ‘Jenny’: ‘Why Adele was like Jesus for ten minutes last week’. “The Adeles are supportive of each other. Despite taking up the same space, and offering the world the same marketable skill, they are kind to each other. They operate as a team. When ‘Jenny’ misses her cue on stage one of the Adeles breathes deeply in empathy. When she fakes nerves and leaves the room, they share sympathetic glances and one whispers “Bless her…” They feel each other’s pain and joy. Rather than competing, they share their big moment and celebrate their time with their hero.”
If you’ve ever dreamed of the perfect proposal – a wonderful, heart-stopping thrill ride of romance, imagination, daring and flash mobs, well, you probably won’t like this: ‘Indecent Proposal’, for Funny Women, on the rather cynical proposal industry. “Lovebirds, take note: a betrothal Cinderella would envy is now compulsory. A whole industry is forming around the bestowal of such trinkets, before the wedding roller-coaster even sets off. A simple tale of love shared with a close few is no longer enough; this filtered, curated world requires fireworks (literal, if possible).”
It’s been a busy couple of months so here are a few links to things I’ve been doing, on the off-chance you’re interested. It’s rare that I’d describe anything I do as Important-with-a-capital-I but I believe this first thing is. If you missed it, I wrote last month about the death of my lovely friend Linah for The Independent. Linah’s former partner, a man I also knew, killed her in front of their young daughter in July last year. Domestic violence is shockingly common and yet still seems distant and hard to imagine unless it affects us directly. As a society we seem to be unwilling or unable to act to change what we believe to be private matters. So many things went wrong in Linah’s situation and sadly many people are experiencing very similar situations today. If you want to read about my friendship with Linah, the Independent piece is here, and there are a number of links at the bottom of it that provide further information. If you want to do something, charity Refuge are campaigning for a public enquiry into responses to domestic violence and you can read more and join here.
In more trivial matters, I also dispensed a few opinions on the romance front for Christian Connection. Inspired by the question “What does it take to be a good man?” I shared a few thoughts here. As usual, I don’t think whether you’re a man or woman is a determining factor in whether you treat others well but tell me what you think (though do play nicely – that’s kind of the point).
For Threads, I wrote about the light-hearted topics of power and dissent in a piece called ‘Shouting over the music’ and how easy it is to shut out valid challenge or even criticism because the source isn’t friendly or regarded as an ally.
And if it’s not enough for you to read my priceless pearls of wisdom – or you need help dropping off – there are a couple of unexpected opportunities to hear me ramble and see my actual face talking. At last year’s Greenbelt festival I did an unexpectedly sarcastic-sounding talk as part of the ‘By the time I’m 40 I don’t want to be…’ series on defying social expectations. My topic was ‘not being defined by marital status’ and you can watch it here (particularly recommended if there are ten minutes of your life you urgently need to fill with an eye-rolling woman sounding caustic about Christian marriage culture).
And finally for Premier Radio, a whole half hour of me talking (note: this can not be taken as proof there isn’t a God) on ‘The Leadership File’ interviewed by the very nice Andy Peck. You can listen here if you’re falling short of your required levels of exposure to mild and unintentional heresy today (only from me; Andy’s spiritual credentials are im-peck-able).
And that’s all. Over and out.