Happy Talk that is to be published by Kevin Mayhew this September.

During Lent, I’ve been leading a Bible Study Course in a small Suffolk village. Despite a less than warm village hall and freezing weather, a faithful group of around 14 people have met each week. We’ve been looking at the Beatitudes as found in Matthew but exploring why Luke had a different version and what different translations and other Biblical texts can teach us of their meaning.

It has always struck me as slightly odd that any number of people I have met who have little interest in the theological intricacies of Christianity and are very sceptical of the possibility that Jesus could be the Son of God, nevertheless feel that in the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes in particular, Jesus was saying things they think are good common sense. It seems to me that whatever else the Beatitudes are, they are not common sense – they are radical counter-intuitive challenges to the way we normally think. Why should the poor, those who mourn, or the persecuted be considered blessed or happy or, as Nicholas King has in his translation,* should be congratulated. There’s a shock to these sayings when you look at them seriously.

It’s the NEB and the Good News Bible, among others, that have ‘Happy are . . .’ And I find that interesting, not simply in trying to understand what Jesus was saying but in exploring what we think happiness is. I’ve been thinking quite a lot about this recently and have written a little book called Happy Talk that is to be published by Kevin Mayhew this September.

Over the centuries and in different cultures and religions, the idea of what makes us happy, and what happiness is, has taken quite a number of different forms. To an ancient Greek it was only the gods who could be really happy – living beyond this world of work and trouble, of disease and death. It was only when you were dead, sharing the realm of the gods that a human being could be really happy. However, as in other religions, including the Jewish, it came to be felt that if you were wealthy, had fertile lands, and big herds, a position of power and lots of children you could count yourself happy. Lots of people see it the same way today – have the latest model of car, the biggest, smartest TV you can fit on your wall, all the gadgets you can think of and you will be happy. At least that’s what the adverts tell you. That’s what the consumer society and capitalist economics urge us to believe. It keeps the wheels turning.

But increasingly people are realising, as many of the ancients had already realised, that it’s a mirage, a con. Stuff, more and more stuff just doesn’t ensure happiness. Happiness is relationships, happiness is experience. And for the Christian believer, true happiness is ultimately not something we achieve but something we are offered as a gift – from others and from God.

If you want to know what else I think about happiness, how about getting my book when it comes out? That’ll make me happy!

* The Bible, A study Bible freshly translated by Nicholas King, Kevin Mayhew 2013

Written by John Cox March 2018

The dangers of social media

The dangers of social media have been highlighted by any number of recent items in the news. And as usual, there are plenty of people ready to blame someone, anyone, for what happens. The government should do more. The platform companies should produce more effective algorithms to filter out the grooming, the bullying, the abuse. It’s the schools. It’s parents.

New technologies have always produced their abusers as well as their users. Consequences are not always thought through or even imagined. People who are afraid of change have always been prepared to exaggerate what awful things will happen if you have cars, or railways or travel faster than sound. Those who embrace change don’t always take enough care to protect themselves and others from the dangers.

One of the problems with very rapid change, the kind of change we see in the world of digital communication, is that our common and moral sense sometimes takes time to catch up. Teenagers post a saucy photo of themselves, click the button and just haven’t thought it through that this will now go out to the world with all the potential for embarrassment and worse.

But there is something currently happening in one area of technological advance that is very interesting. While I am well behind when it comes to streaming the latest pop song I did get rid of my old tapes and replace them with CDs and I have gone so far as to download specific tracks both of popular and classical music. I’m almost ‘with it.’ But now I find that I should have kept all my old vinyl records. Technology has gone into reverse! The old turntable, amplifier and speakers hiding in a corner of my study gathering dust could be worth something after all. The music world is enjoying ‘retro’.

My daughter suggested the other day that perhaps the same will happen with social media – that it will decline and the older ‘face to face’ communication make a return. But I wonder. It would take more than a move to the ‘retro’. It would mean considerable changes in our social activity and social patterns. As a society, we are more’ instant’, more individualistic, less willing to take time in our relationships, more anxious about being liked – and the social media feed this.

Changes too in the world of publishing. More online. E-books. Volumes of encyclopedias have given way to Wikipedia. With an iPad, you have whole libraries available without moving from your seat. Bookshops have closed, not least Christian bookshops. But I’d like to bet that just as vinyl has had a resurgence (at least for the time being) so too will good old paper books. In the meantime, publishers have to look for the signs of the times, keep up, even try to get ahead of the latest trend. And Kevin Mayhew Ltd is no different.


Written by John Cox 2018

It’s a family affair!

Critical friend by John CoxMore Sermons on Difficult SubjectsA Day Away by Paul Cox

Identical twins John and Paul Cox have more in common than it would initially seem. The retired duo, both of whom worked in parish ministry, have had titles published by Kevin Mayhew on the exact same day- a first ever (we think!)

Twins - John Cox and Paul Cox

John’s Critical Friend, which provides information and guidance to help school governors fulfil their important, demanding and worthwhile role and A Day Away, in which Paul Cox contributes his valuable experience in planning parish away days and study groups, were published on the same day last month.

While John has been writing for Kevin Mayhew for many years and is also a commissioning editor for the company, it is only recently that Paul began writing. From their contributions to pastoral care handbooks to their very own titles that range from study courses and joining the Anglican Church to retreat days and the important work of church schools, the Cox brothers have covered a wide spectrum and their list of titles have been well received critically.

Other recent publications include their esteemed contributions to the important new title More sermons on Difficult Subjects. Elsewhere, John offers a fresh and exciting resource for those leading and speaking during this season of Lent in the aptly titled The Week that Changed the World.

The Week that Changed the World by John CoxJoining the Anglican Church by Paul CoxMore Than Caring and Sharing by John Cox

More information about the twins plus further titles by the pair are available at www.kevinmayhew.com. You can ‘like’ Critical Friend on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Critical-Friend-The-Work-of-Governors-in-Church-Schools/549242891776459

Posted by Sarah