Where can you find Michael Jackson Moonwalking?

Now maybe I could understand not being able to pull the printed version of the summer arts guide that was published yesterday. But I do think the Independent could have shown a little tact and diplomacy in rewriting the online version, which currently is highlighted on their front page right alongside a report about the ongoing aftermath of the death.

Since I assume that at some time they will sort it out, below is a capture of the page.

Where can you find Michael Jackson Moonwalking?

Shocking?

With the change in broadcast date, and a busy week last week, I’m only now getting around to sitting down to write about the final of the Apprentice.

First off – and nobody is more surprised about this than me – after correctly predicting the final two, I also successfully predicted the winner as well. Not only that, Sir Alan went with the person I thought should win as well, in that he gave the £100,000 job to Yasmina, leaving Kate as runner up.

Having said that, it certainly wasn’t the show where the winner was clear all the way through, indeed at the beginning of the episode it was pretty clear that Kate had the advantage, and from her grin and the scowl on the face of Yasmina they both knew it.

The source of the grin and scowl was following on from the traditional final task team pick. Kate chose Ben, Debra, Kimberly and Rocky and Yasmina chose Howard, Lorraine, James and Phillip. Even before the task was revealed, I thought that the picks that Kate had made provided the stronger team, but then the task was revealed – put together a new brand of chocolates, complete with a marketing campaign including a TV advertisement. On the previous marketing task Kate had been complimented on the best overall campaign, and Kimberly had produced by far the best commercial. With that having been revealed it’s not surprising that Kate was confident.

As the two teams discussed ideas, things even more seemed to be swinging in the direction of Kate. Her team came up with the concept of having a three layer chocolate box, on layer aimed at men, the next layer at women, and the final layer to share. Over with Yasmina they decided initially to target men, but when they researched the market found that the idea wasn’t popular amongst their focus groups, and Yasmina took the brave decision to change direction, opting for shocking and radical flavours as a unique selling point. As the final presentation approached about the only noticeable hiccup over on team Kate when they had a last minute name change on the chocolates – the original name being considered more suitable for something in the feminine hygiene department than the chocolate aisle.

On team Yasmina they had problems with the flavours, thanks in part to the limited budget that Yasmina imposed, and also the need for shocking flavours. The TV advert was okay, but a bit cheesy, the main radical part being the very bold simple poster that the team came up with. Yasmina got increasingly nervous about the final presentation, and in what I’m sure was a moment of madness, trusted Phillip with the dancers.

Team Kate motored on with Kate herself confident and comfortable in making the presentation, and with chocolate flavours that everybody seemed to like.

The mistake that it seems cost Kate the job seemed like a minor one. Whereas Yasmina, much as she had with the sandwich task, kept everything to strict budget, Kate and the team went to Waitrose a high class food retailer, and then trusted Debra to pick flavours. Debra phoned and said that with her choice of flavours the costs would be high, and Kate effectively went with her decision, and pitched at absolutely the lowest price possible – which was still twice the price of the box that Yasmina produced.

In the boardroom Yasmina was pulled up on the problematic flavours, to which she responded that the flavours could be tweaked before market, but the basic brand identity and price point were sound. Over with Kate she had little answer when she was told that her box price had pitched her chocolates into a price point dominated by established brands, and one that a new name would have difficulty breaking into.

Of course, as we know, the final decision isn’t only on the final task. Both candidates work for Sir Alan for a period of time, and much as with some of the surprise decisions in previous years we can only assume that Yasmina fitted in better than Kate. Whatever had happened, it certainly seemed to be a difficult decision at the end, and whereas I though Yasmina was the better candidate, I really wouldn’t have minded were he to have chosen Kate as I thought she was a similarly strong candidate.

Here is Sir Alan explaining his choice after the event:

But here is the actual moment that Sir Alan got his next apprentice, and for once I’d predicted it right!

Are the Only Growing Churches Evangelical?

Last weekend was the second Affirming Liberalism Day Conference in a rather wet Oxford. As with the first conference I went along both as an interested participant, and also with a technical hat on to record the two sessions.

I uploaded both sessions to the website earlier in the week, and thanks to Dave Walker we got some promotion for them on the Church Times Blog, and I’ve even managed to get them set up in the iTunes Podcast directory!

What is interesting is that on the day, most people I spoke to seemed to prefer the first session – Why the Scientific World View Confirms Liberal Christian Faith, whereas the session that has generated more interest (and hits) online, and has generated discussion, is the second session – Why Liberal Churches are Growing, indeed it was the title of that talk which Dave Walker used to caption his posting.

Not surprisingly, the talk, which was provocatively named given the prevailing wisdom on the subject has produced an inevitable response in the comments on the Church Times Blog:

Liberal churches aren’t growing, they’re dying a slow painful death.

It’s the evangelical churches remaining faithful to the Bible preaching the Gospel of repentance and the coming judgement and hell which are growing.

Certainly the idea that it is only the conservative Evangelical Churches that are growing is a favourite line with the mainstream media. Indeed just this last week we had an interesting example doing the rounds, and highlighted by Church Mouse,  Chris Moyles talking about seeing a service from Kingsgate Community Church.

 

 

 

 

If you listen to what is said, traditional Churches are equated with being boring and irrelevant and out of date, whereas what is going on at Kingsgate Community Church is much more attractive with modern music and presentation.

The key thing to note though is that nowhere is theology mentioned – certainly the assumption is not made that Kingsgate is growing because it is “remaining faithful to the Bible preaching the Gospel of repentance and the coming judgement and hell”.

If you listen to the whole of the Martyn Percy lecture part way through he looks at evidence of what was important to Churches in the past, and his conclusion is that much as today, the primary interest of the average Church member is the state of the building, and whether they will get a priest. Whilst there are people for whom theology is important, it is way down the list behind the environment, the services (generally whether they go on too long), and the kind of welcome, as this article from Christianity Today highlights:

A Christian author, Rob Parsons has said to The Times newspaper, “It is not big doctrinal issues. Typical arguments take place over types of buildings, styles of worship, youth work. If not that, then they argue over the flower rota.”

If you look at a church like St James’ it is precisely the kind of church the comment on the Church Times Blog believes is “dying a slow and painful death” – but we’re not. In fact we are one of the fastest growing Churches in our Deanery, outstripping the growth of the nearby Conservative Evangelical church. Our electoral roll numbers over the past few years have on two occasions shown a 15% growth, and we regularly fill our building to capacity twice on a Sunday. As I have mentioned on this blog previously, at Christmas we now have to run one service four times on Christmas Eve to accommodate everybody who wants to come. When you look at our family roll, whilst there are now more people coming in from outside the parish, most people aren’t coming very far, generally only from the next door villages.

When you turn up at our Church, you won’t find a worship band, no glitzy presentation (our sound system is well and truly on our last legs), and you certainly won’t find anybody preaching about the coming judgement and hell. Having said that, when you look at some of the members of our congregation, you will find Christians who are from that tradition. Equally you will also find people who have come from strong anglo-catholic backgrounds and all points in between. What we have at St James’ is almost a representation of the classic definition of the Church of England in that we have evangelicals and anglo-catholics held together in a broad liberal Church that accommodates both.

So is St James’ an exception, growing despite the underlying theology? The Martyn Percy argument is that it isn’t. So in that case, what are we, and the other growing Churches doing?

I can only speak for St James’. Firstly we are not overtly trying to recruit people. We make sure our events are well publicised, and we deliver a newsletter to everybody in the parish twice a year, but we aren’t doing anything that could be described as evangelistic events, events that are specifically targeted to bring people in. Essentially we tell people what we’re doing, and invite them along, but we’re not preaching at people – what we do can easily be ignored.

Most people who join the congregation come to us either at random, having moved into the area, or via occasional offices such as baptisms, weddings and funerals, or through one of our associated organisations such as our babies and toddlers group, or the church school. We also have picked up people on personal recommendations – existing members bringing along friends or family.

By virtue of our small building, we can’t offer a one size fits all type service, so although our main Parish Communion is pretty middle of the road, we also have a very traditional BCP Matins that is well attended twice monthly, and on alternate weeks an informal service of the word targeted at young families. Whatever the service we try to ensure that everybody gets a warm welcome from the sidespeople, and to guide new attendees through the service. Most major services are also followed by traditional coffee and biscuits in the Parish Centre.

In my experience, the quality of the welcome, and the feeling of community is something that the growing Evangelical churches are accomplishing also, and also leaving the members feeling happy that they can invite friends. This is what we’re trying to do at St James’ as well. It seems to me that the churches that are growing are the churches that get this right, it’s not about theology, or the nitty-gritty of the message, it’s about the basics, basics that anybody can sort out. The whole church needs to learn how to evangelise in the modern world, and whilst some are successful, sadly large numbers of them are struggling to get it right.

Interview Technique

It comes up every year in the Apprentice at the interview stage. Every year without fail, the interviewers take up the references, they check out the CV’s, and as Yasmina discovered tonight, if you’ve got your own business they’ll pull a copy of the published company reports and accounts.

Perhaps the grilling that Lee McQueen got over the lies on his CV last year might have given a clue, but still we had candidates who tripped up over lies and untrue statements at the interview stage.

Lorraine managed to “accidentally” add twelve months to one of the jobs on her CV, whilst James confirmed his joker status with the answers he gave to the application form questions giving Claude Litner plenty of ammunition with which to take him to pieces. Debra hit problems with her choices of personal references, all of which described her as aggressive and a pain to work with – whilst she seemed to regard those as compliments the interviewers like I suspect most business people really weren’t impressed.

Yasmina probably had the biggest shock, and again it was Claude who pulled her up. On her application she had quoted various figures relating to the turnover and the profit of her restaurant, Mya Lacarte in Reading. Like any other company, the restaurant has to submit it’s annual accounts, and like any company these can be retrieved by anybody for a small fee, which is precisely what Claude had done. The problem for Yasmina was that her accounts did not say the same thing as her CV. As Claude dug further she certainly seemed thrown off balance, floundering over the difference between gross and net profit, and struggling to explain what turnover was. Luckily for her the other interviews went significantly better, indeed several of the other interviewers disagreed with the assessment Claude had made – a rare disagreement in a programme where there seemed to be broad agreement over the candidates amongst the interviewers.

I have to say that I’m quite chuffed that for once I my prediction last week was spot on, in that I thought the final two would be Kate and Yasmina.

James was first to go, although not because he was a joker – Sir Alan said that he thought James was much more of a corporate man than he was looking for. To be frank James appeared to have an absolutely abysmal time with the interviews, and could be seen visibly sweating by the end of it. The impression I got, especially having seen his CV picture was that he never expected to get this far, and crafted the application to ensure a place on the show as the joker.

Lorraine was next. Her disagreements with other candidates were highlighted, and again she said that she had found it difficult working in a team where other members are competing rather than cooperating. Sir Alan said that he didn’t think she was the right fit for his organisation.

Before making his next choice, Sir Alan told Kate that she was through. She seemed to have sailed through the interviews, the main criticism being that she was just too perfect, and questions over whether there was personality underneath. Certainly on the basis of the programme tonight I thought she was certain to be a finalist.

The third and final departure was someone I thought should have gone a lot earlier – Debra. We did finally get a bit of an insight as to why she has lasted so long in that Sir Alan has seen potential. However her attitude has always been a problem, and the general opinion seemed to be that over the ten weeks she had learned to give the right answers, but questions over whether she had actually learned to change her character. Whilst that might have been a sure fire route to the exit, there were questions over Yasmina as well.

Aside from the concerns Claude had raised, the real issue with Yasmina was why she wanted the job in the first place. Running her own business, the question raised by Sir Alan was as to why she wanted to give up that freedom to work for him. Sir Alan himself had batted down some of the concerns Claude had raised, but he asked Yasmina directly, and her answer, that she wanted some time to learn before she would again step out on her own seemed to swing it, and Debra was shown the door – but not without a request to “keep in touch”.

Having got my expected final, who is going to win? On paper Yasmina seems the stronger candidate. She has already proved herself as an entrepreneur in the real world, and has an unequalled record of having won all three of the tasks she project managed. Kate is good, but had some serious wobbles midway through when she failed to sell anything. However, based on some of the previous boardroom comments Sir Alan has made about wanting a risk taker, I think Yasmina is my tip for the winner. She gambled with strategy and won on her tasks, and in real life gambled with her mothers house in launching her restaurant. If a business talent who is willing to take risks is what he wants, Yasmina seems to fit the bill.