Why do you blog?
I started during Lent 2007, I wanted to try this new media. Part of me wanted to use it for my unpaid, part time work as a local preacher, part of me needed to be up to scratch in my work as a public relations and communications manager. Blogs are growing in influence and I have been delighted with the number of hits. My main concern though is that whilst a lot of Americans access my site (and please continue), I’m really after creating a dialogue within the British Methodist Church and crucially a place where I can discuss religion with people local to me here in Birmingham and the Black Country.
What has been your best blogging experience?
Getting a lot of positive feedback and even breaking a few stories that have been taken up by the mainstream media.
It has been great to become part of a world wide network
What would be your main advice to a novice blogger?
I am still a novice myself. Be careful of the search engines. One or two are now giving me far more prominence than I expected and I am a little afraid it may interfere with my commercial work and professional life. By using sitemeter I’ve learnt a lot about the searches that lead to a landing.
Put nothing on a blog that you would not want your kids or employer to see. It may seem funny at the time, but down the line can look very silly. At first I experimented with a mythical Methodist Church that summed up all that was wrong with Methodism in the UK. It was great fun and wonderful when shared among a few well chosen friends, but not right for external consumprtion.
If you only had time to read three blogs a day, what would they be?
If time is that short I should be reading the Scriptures!
My favourite (note to editor – this is the correct spelling, don’t Americanise it!) blog has always been my local councilor www.bobpiper.co.uk . Bob started three years ago and I have seen his develop over the years. Bob is on the left of the Labour Party, a vegetarian and an atheist but has always been a great political support. One day I will get him into church.
Who are your spiritual heroes?
The people I knew fifty years ago at a tiny Brethren chapel in East London called Paragon Hall. They were the first to share the Word with me, though there have been many others since.
What are you reading at the moment?
Sadly I rarely sit down and read a book except on holiday or on retreat. Earlier this year I read A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka. From a British perspective it hits a lot of buttons about our relationship with the former communist countries, the recent influx of Eastern Europeans and the dark memories of the impact that the Second World War had, and still has on thousands of lives. I don’t know how it would go down in the USA, but it is very funny and then suddenly, very moving.
Of course regular readers of my blog will know that I recently reviewed Terry Wynn’s excellent book “Where are the Prophets?”. Terry is a local preacher and former MEP as well so we have much in common.
What is your favorite hymn and why?
And can it be? The phrase “My chains fell off, my heart was free” summarises my conversion exactly
Can you name a major moral, political, or intellectual issue on which you've changed your mind?
When I became a Christian at the age of 18 my entire universe changed. I moved to the political and moral left.
What philosophical thesis do you think is most important to combat?
Racism, in all its many forms. From the obvious and the most unpleasant to the slightly more civilized versions that blight millions of lives in practically very country on earth.
If you could effect one major change in the governing of your country, what would it be?
I’d elect a Labour government, led by a Christian Socialist. (and that leader would not be Tony Blair!)
If you could effect one major policy change in the Methodist Church, what would it be?
Mainly that we again became an active Evangelical Church. There is too much domination by “cradle Methodists” going through some sort of adolescent rebellion – terrified of being “fuddy duddy”. I’m a first generation Methodist and know just Jesus has done for me. I want our Church to tell people what a wonderful Saviour we have and I want them to have the same wonderful experience that I have had.
In the UK I would want to see us roll back our embrace of “responsible gambling”, something that I wasn’t entirely aware of until I started blogging. Across the world I would like to see us hunger for souls rather respectability.
What would be your most important piece of advice about life?
I have three teenage children so I try to give advice by example. Get on with it, there’s so much to do
What, if anything, do you worry about?
Our daily bread and I know I shouldn’t. I work hard running my own business but haven’t yet learnt to put many things into God’s hands. I sometimes don’t think the Church’s full time workers understand this pressure on working long hours.
If you were to relive your life to this point, is there anything that you'd do differently?
No problem answering that. Had I accepted my first invitation to go to City Road Methodist Church, I would have met Claire my wife ten years earlier. It was amazing how tantalizingly close we came to meeting, having many friends in common. When I finally made it Claire was on the mission field with YWAM so we had yet another delay. Just think my children could be ten years older now and I wouldn’t be running a bespoke taxi service every night of the week. I’d have more time for blogging!
Where would you most like to live (other than where you do now)?
When I retire I am hoping we can afford a narrow boat. I would spend each summer traveling round the now deserted industrial heartland of England. Each evening we’d draw up within walking distance of a canal side pub, sip a quiet pint and enjoy the peace and quiet of God’s own country at its best.
What do you like doing in your spare time?
I rarely have spare time. Its work, church, writing, politics. I enjoy the occasional walk in the countryside and I love taking my children to a motorcycle speedway match. Holidays are always spent in Plymouth on a static caravan site overlooking the Sound.
What is your most treasured possession?
I don’t think I actually have one that is tangible. My faith and my enthusiasm is what I value most. I’d hate to lose my enthusiasm.
What talent would you most like to have?
The gift of tongues. I am so bad at learning languages it is painful. Anglo Saxons (Americans are no different) seem to take pride in making the rest of the world learn English. I would love to be fluent in at least one other language.
If you could have any three guests, past or present to dinner, who would they be?
Francis Asbury must be one. He was born not far from here and I wrote a book about his mother. Also Clem Beckett the motorcycle speedway rider who was murdered by the Fascists in the Spanish Civil War when fighting for the International Brigade. I am hoping to write a book about him too, but there are quite a few gaps in my research. Finally, well I’m a great believer in always working on the basis that there should be a spare place for whoever turns up. So let’s wait and see who does.