Some verse

posted by Kaihsu Tai on June 11th, 2010

graffiti in Winchester Cathedral, likely left by parliamentary troops Becoming “British”
is not about
passing a test, saying some pledge,
getting that passport.

It is about
picking a side for yourself
in that old, drawn-out war
they call “civil”.

Then around you,
the ever-cumulous skies,
the revolting lands,
the tumultuous seas,
cannot even decide on their own names.

But oddly,
you know exactly
who you are,
where you stand.

posted by Kaihsu Tai in Green Party, Itinerant Communicant, Oxford | on June 11th, 2010 | Permanent Link to “Some verse” | Comments Off on Some verse

Sermon for Ash Wednesday

posted by Kaihsu Tai on February 17th, 2010

Ash Wednesday sermon at the chapel of Mansfield College, Oxford, based on two earlier blog posts: ‘What keeps me awake at night’ and ‘Brecht’s Galileo, or, Against Macho Science’.

Luke 15:11–32 (Prodigal Son).

May I speak in the name of God: Creator, Christ, and Comforter. Amen.

A few years ago, I went to the National Theatre in London, to see Bertolt Brecht’s play The Life of Galileo, in a version by David Hare. With 20th-century hindsight, the German playwright Brecht retold the life-story of the 17th-century scientist Galileo Galilei. Today, on this Ash Wednesday, I want to talk about the nature and motivation of scientific pursuit: this play happens to provide some hooks for my thinking. So, at the risk of substituting a theatre review in the place of a sermon, here I go.

If you recall, Galileo championed the theory of Copernicus that the Earth orbits the Sun. The Church forced him to recant this view. The famous British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking says, ‘Galileo, perhaps more than any other single person, was responsible for the birth of modern science.’ Is this modern science a good thing in the round? Was the Church right to slow Galileo down after all? Galileo’s 17th-century contemporaries did not have the benefit of hindsight and retrospection: They were riding the wave of the Renaissance, pregnant with the prospect of rationalism’s triumph in the 19th and 20th centuries. Read the rest of this entry »

A prayer for the Channel Tunnel

posted by Kaihsu Tai on January 10th, 2010

Father God, in the beginning,
you gathered the waters in one place to let dry lands appear.
In latter times,
you parted the waters to let your people pass into freedom;
you led your people with a pillar of fire in the darkness.
You said:
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you:
when you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned;
neither shall the flame kindle upon you.”
“Fear not: for I am with you.”
We thank you for all this
and commit our journey today into your mighty hands.

Lord, have mercy; Christ, prends pitié; Heer, ontferm u over ons.
Read the rest of this entry »

posted by Kaihsu Tai in Hagiography, Itinerant Communicant, Pentecost, Prayer | on January 10th, 2010 | Permanent Link to “A prayer for the Channel Tunnel” | Comments Off on A prayer for the Channel Tunnel

Praying the nitrogen cycle

posted by Kaihsu Tai on November 8th, 2009

God our Creator, we thank you for the elemental nitrogen, which forms the silent majority in the air we breathe. We thank you for the bacteria that fixate nitrogen from the air, activating the element for metabolism in the biosphere.

With John Seymour, companion of Saint Fritz Schumacher, we remember the nitrogen cycle: We recall how humanity has split this one wonderful system into the two problems of pollution and the need of artificial fertilization.

We grieve for the wasted material containing fixated nitrogen, polluting the rivers and seas rather than fertilizing the land. We commit to you our anxieties about the Haber–Bosch process, which fixates nitrogen to make fertilizers by burning large amounts of fossil fuels.

God the Holy Spirit, give us wisdom and courage to repair and complete the nitrogen cycle.

Now we join the Society of Ordained Scientists in this collect: Almighty God, Creator and Redeemer of all that is, source and foundation of time and space, matter and energy, life and consciousness: Grant us in this Society and all who study the mysteries of your creation, grace to be true witnesses to your glory and faithful stewards of your gifts.

We pray all this through Jesus Christ, who is Alpha and Omega – who completes the cycle and reconciles all things to himself. Amen.

On Remembrance

posted by Kaihsu Tai on November 8th, 2009

Oxford Friends’ Meeting House (Quakers) on Remembrance Day 2009

This week in England, we were asked to ‘Remember, remember the Fifth of November’, and this Sunday – Remembrance Sunday – to remember the soldiers. It is well that we remember these; but I wonder whether it would have served us even better to remember that there had been three Anglo-Afghan Wars, before getting ourselves into a fourth one. The Encyclopædia Britannica has them thus: ‘The first war demonstrated the ease of overrunning Afghanistan and the difficulty of holding it. The second war proved to be a Pyrrhic victory for the British.’ So remember the poppy fields in Afghanistan, as well as those in Flanders, when you see the poppies this autumn.

posted by Kaihsu Tai in Creative Resistance, Itinerant Communicant, Oxford, Weapons | on November 8th, 2009 | Permanent Link to “On Remembrance” | Comments Off on On Remembrance

Brief for Mission Education School IV

posted by Kaihsu Tai on October 4th, 2009

Brief for Council of World Mission’s Mission Education School IV ‘All Creation Groans: The Eco-crisis and Sustainable Living – Understanding the Implications for Mission’

Kaihsu Tai, United Reformed Church, United Kingdom, 2009-06-05/21

The following sketch is written from my personal impression, based on several years of non-professional but serious study, observation, and discussion of the issues. Due to time constraints, I am not supplying references to the statements I make, but with modern resources it is not difficult to verify (or disprove as the case may be) most of them. I try to be frank and fair at the same time, but some might take this account to be polemical.

1 Identify the major climate change concerns and challenges for your region.

Primarily, for the United Kingdom (UK), climate change is less a physical hazard than a moral one. The UK is usually categorized as a ‘developed’ country, as measured in indices such as gross domestic product per capita. For the next decade or so, it is not difficult for those well-off (perhaps around half of the population) to adapt to the physical effects of climate change. However, the moral implications are more dire: as the first country to spark off the fossil-fueled Industrial Revolution in the 18th century, and one of the first to have the scientific and political capacity to realize the consequences of climate change since the 1980s (during the premiership of Margaret Thatcher), it cannot escape the moral responsibility about climate change. To complicate the matter, the intention to protect the competitiveness of London’s status as a major financial centre in a globalized world – the rump of an imperial past – hinders the political will to face down this moral hazard. Read the rest of this entry »

posted by Kaihsu Tai in Creative Resistance, Environment, Green Party, Itinerant Communicant, Oxford | on October 4th, 2009 | Permanent Link to “Brief for Mission Education School IV” | Comments Off on Brief for Mission Education School IV

Prayers for Zimbabwe and Israel/Palestine

posted by Kaihsu Tai on February 15th, 2009

Commitment for Life is a network within the United Reformed Church committed to praying, giving, and campaigning for better lives all over the world. My church, Saint Columba’s, is a Commitment for Life congregation. As part of this network, we take action, pray, and give for people across the world. Particularly, we support partners in four countries: Bangladesh, Israel/Palestine, Jamaica, and Zimbabwe.

Seventy-five percent of the money we raise through Commitment for Life goes to Christian Aid. In this way, the United Reformed Church raised more than half a million pounds for Christian Aid last year. A tenth of the money goes to World Development Movement, a radical campaigning organization tackling the underlying causes of poverty. There is more information on the Commitment for Life website.


The United Reformed Church, through the Commitment for Life programme, supports partners in four countries: Bangladesh, Israel/Palestine, Jamaica, and Zimbabwe. Today we pray for two of these, Israel/Palestine and Zimbabwe. Will you pray with me. Read the rest of this entry »

posted by Kaihsu Tai in Creative Resistance, Itinerant Communicant, Oxford, Prayer | on February 15th, 2009 | Permanent Link to “Prayers for Zimbabwe and Israel/Palestine” | Comments Off on Prayers for Zimbabwe and Israel/Palestine

A Litany for Transport

posted by Kaihsu Tai on January 4th, 2009

God our Father, we remember that in ancient times, you guided the people of Israel with pillars of cloud and fire.

God in Christ, we remember that after your Resurrection, you appeared to the two travellers on the Emmaus Road, and later to Apostle Paul on the Damascus Road.

God the Holy Spirit, we remember that in more recent times you accompanied storytelling pilgrims and spiritual-singing refugees.

We pray now for all who travel; may your guidance and protection be with them as in those former times. Read the rest of this entry »

posted by Kaihsu Tai in Creative Resistance, Environment, Itinerant Communicant, Prayer | on January 4th, 2009 | Permanent Link to “A Litany for Transport” | Comments Off on A Litany for Transport

Couplet for Å“cumenism

posted by Kaihsu Tai on December 30th, 2008

Since the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity this year will coincide with the Lunar New Year season, I have this New Year couplet (春貼) to offer:

同舟共濟百又壹冬祈和好
天下為公兩千玖春更合壹

Tóngzhōu gòngjì, bǎiyòuyī dōng qí héhǎo;
tiānxià wéigōng, liǎngqiājiǔ chūn gèng héyī.

All in the same boat and helping each other, we have prayed for reconciliation for 101 winters;
the whole world but a single commonwealth, in spring 2009 we shall become more at one.

It surely does not follow the meter, and especially in bad form as the first four syllables of each singlet are a cliché.

Well, what is the line going across on the top doorframe (橫批)? Of course, it has to be the four Greek syllables οἰ-κου-μέ-νη, written à la sini Arabic or quốc ngữ.

(Image of Saint Peter to the left.) (Image of Saint Paul to the right.) And instead of the pair of mythical door guards, certainly Peter and Paul should have the honour of place, upholding the church.

If you implement this at your church, I would appreciate that you taking a photograph and leaving a message here to let me know. I might make a mock up image when I have time.

Happy new year!

posted by Kaihsu Tai in China, Creative Resistance, Itinerant Communicant, Prayer | on December 30th, 2008 | Permanent Link to “Couplet for Å“cumenism” | Comments Off on Couplet for Å“cumenism

Communion with the People

posted by Kaihsu Tai on October 24th, 2008

So they scorn: “The Left has been predicting for decades the recession that never came.” Alas, now the recession has finally come, where is the Left? The Right will steal and fight (indeed, are already stealing and fighting) to keep the status quo. See earlier kairos (καιρός).

I have been reading Saint Paulo Freire’s classic Pedagogy of the Oppressed, and not before time! It is steeped in Gospel (though without annoying prooftexts) and in every turn corroborating with the insights of Herman Dooyeweerd. He articulated about “praxis” better than I did in my muddle about shopping as prayer. And it remains relevant: to start, it is a devastating predictive analysis of the British phenomenon called New Labour.

Are you in communion with this church? Iglesia Cristiana Reformada Paraíso, Barahona, República Dominica:
Iglesia Cristiana Reformada Paraíso, Barahona, República Dominica.

Verso published earlier this month a collection of Toussaint Louverture’s writings, introduced by Jean-Bertrand Aristide. That’s the next book on my reading list.

posted by Kaihsu Tai in Books, Green Party, Hagiography, Itinerant Communicant, Prayer | on October 24th, 2008 | Permanent Link to “Communion with the People” | Comments Off on Communion with the People