Of Course, I Could be Wrong

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The Middle Class Is The Real Enemy Of The Poor

The middle class is the problem and it could, if it actually practiced what so many of its members preach, be the solution.

In England, doctors and teachers, for example, are always taking industrial action for one thing or another of concern to themselves and they usually win. Of course, their win means that their low paid support staff (cleaners, staffroom assistants etc) have to stay on low wages longer because all the spare money has been given to the middle class "professionals" even though, compared to the low waged, they are already on a decent enough whack. The rich may be heartless bastards but at least they are not hypocrites. 

To be part of the solution the professions should stop asking for more for themselves and start using their clout and skills to ask for more for the poor. Only after the poor are no longer poor should the reasonably well off return to trying to increase their own standard of living.

Holy Communion For The Nineteenth Sunday After Pentecost
( The Eighteenth Sunday After Trinity )

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God calls us to the everlasting love feast of his kingdom and invites us to sit in the presence of his son. In the sacrament of holy communion we eat and drink together because we are one body, the body of Christ.

At Saint Laika's everyone is welcome to take communion and be in communion, with each other and with God. There are no exceptions. So, come, join us.

If you want to physically partake of communion you will require a small piece of bread and a small amount of drink (preferably made from grapes and containing alcohol). How you view the nature of this part of the service is completely up to you.

CLICK HERE to access the podcast via iTunes.

To stream the service direct from this page without having to use the iTunes' facility, click on the arrow on the left of the player below.

Join in with us as we worship God by CLICKING HERE for the order of service, credits and details of the music featured. The words in bold type are the ones we say together.

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Your Name’s Not Down, You’re Not Coming In:
The Deliberate Exclusion Of The Mentally Ill

One of the most common symptoms experienced by people suffering from depression, one that causes them an enormous amount of anguish, is the belief that they are unlikeable. We do not like ourselves so we can see no reason why anybody else would like us. Unfortunately, this is a symptom that cannot be treated with cognitive behaviour therapy because it is impossible to persuade somebody that something is not true if the experience of their lives indicates that it is true. Because of the stigma of mental illness and the fact that those of us who suffer from it can be "hard work" at times, we are avoided like the plague and not included in social events. This exclusion increases when people believe that association with somebody who is, in essence, a social leper, would effect their own social and/or workplace standing.

It hurts.

It hurts far more, to the point of wanting to end it all, when you are shunned by one of the few people in the world you had trusted. It takes a heck of a lot for a clinically depressed person to reach out to make social connections. If an attempt to make friends is refused or (as is more often the case) deliberately ignored, we feel so embarrassed (how could I have been so stupid) that we just want to hide away from the world completely so that we don't have to go through the pain of further rejection. Or we get out of the world completely which is what we believe people want us to do anyway. Why shouldn't we believe that? What people really think about us is not revealed by their words but by their actions and we are depressed, not blind.

Serving God Or Mammon

Luke, chapter sixteen, verses one to thirteen:

Then Jesus said to the disciples, "There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property.

"So he summoned him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.’

"Then the manager said to himself, ‘What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.’

"So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’

"He answered, ‘A hundred jugs of olive oil.’

"He said to him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.’

"Then he asked another, ‘And how much do you owe?’

"He replied, ‘A hundred containers of wheat.’

"He said to him, ‘Take your bill and make it eighty.’

"And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.

"Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”

When I read today's gospel to prepare for this service I was immediately struck by the idea that Jesus might well have been talking about British politicians, especially those of high office such as prime ministers and chancellors of the Exchequer. Politicians from all the major parties, I would hasten to add, although, I must admit, a certain, particular globetrotting former prime minister did stick out in my mind as being most like the manager who ingratiated himself with influential people whilst he was in his post so that he could profit greatly from his connections after he had left it.

I do not think I am being particularly cynical in making this link. In fact, I think Jesus wanted his listeners to come to a similar conclusion. Of course, he was not referring specifically to English members of parliament, there was no such thing back in the first century A.D., but there were politicians within the systems of the day, both in secular and religious administrations, and there would have been, most definitely, officials, of all levels of authority, who used their positions to get in with the right people.

My second reaction to today's gospel was one of confusion. It appears that Jesus is recommending that his followers behave in a way that is immoral according to his own teaching. He seems to be telling people to play the system for all it is worth, even when this means being dishonest to the point of thievery. We know that Jesus does not approve of such corrupt activity. For example, he does not call tax-collectors sinners because they collect taxes but because they were renowned for skimming off the top, for charging people more than they owed and keeping the difference for themselves. Could Jesus really be telling his disciples that the unscrupulous ways of the world are also the ways of the kingdom of God?

No, that cannot be the case. Either this is a fiction that has been invented by somebody other than Jesus which has somehow ended up in the "Gospel of Luke" in error or we are not meant to take the words of Christ here on face value. Personally, I believe that it is the latter that is true.

We are always in danger of having so much reverence for the divine Jesus that we forget that it is absolutely crucial to our faith that Jesus was also the God who became human. This means that we are prone to read the Bible with Christ's voice in our head being very serious and proclamatory, like the voices of BBC newsreaders used to be back in the days of the Queen's English and appropriate behaviour. But Jesus was simply not like that. He was a human being who spoke just the same as the ordinary people he walked among, who used the same idioms of speech that they did, who was serious sometimes and flippant at other times like they were, who laughed and who cried just the same as everyone else.

Bearing this truth in mind let me suggest to you that Jesus is being sarcastic and satirical here, that he is using humour to lessen the offence of what he has to say so that his listeners listen to him and remember what he has to say to them.

I think that Jesus is using satire to have a dig at two groups of people. Firstly, rather than applauding their behaviour, Jesus is actually condemning the book fiddling, ingratiating officials. Their actions show clearly that they serve wealth, primarily their own and, as Jesus says at the very end of today's reading, "You cannot serve God and wealth." If you are not serving God then you are serving a false idol and that, as we all know, is a big "Do not do!" on the list of God's primary commandments.

Secondly and more specifically, Jesus is having a dig at his own followers. I believe Jesus is telling his disciples that not only are they persisting in the practice of the corrupt ways of the world but they are, in fact, no good at it. They are pathetic. They cannot even get being bad right so how on earth do they expect to be able to achieve the much more difficult goal of being good? At least the pocket-lining managers are proficient in their dishonesty. They, his disciples are just rubbish at everything and it is time that they either stop procrastinating and commit full time to his teaching or walk away and put their lot in with those who care only for this world and their prosperity within it.

You cannot serve two masters. You cannot serve God and wealth. It is God or Mammon, it cannot be both.

Now, as Shakespeare used to say, here is the rub and you all know what I am going to say.

Those of us here today who profess to be Christians are disciples of Jesus Christ so, ipso facto, when Jesus addresses his disciples back in the year 29 AD he is also addressing us now in the year 2016. To be brutally honest with ourselves I think we have to adit that the shoe fits better today then it did back then. I suggest that we are far more tempted by the wealth of the world today than Christ's disciples were during their lives for the simple reason that there is a lot more wealth around to tempt us. Even within our own lives we have seen an incredible growth in the number of things that are available for us to possess. When I was young there was far less available for me to absolutely must have than there is nowadays and I'm getting old and set in my ways. What it must be like for young people who are bombarded with advertisements for all the new technology day in day out I just cannot imagine.

Worse still, those who wish to sell us luxuries, have managed to persuade our societies that a person who does not have everything is a failure or a weirdo. This has led to the primary concern of most people becoming that of making money. Society places the accumulation of wealth above all else. Above happiness, above human rights, above a place to live for everybody, above fair pay for everybody, above justice, far above the love of neighbour. Our government is judged on its economic performance not its social or cultural achievements. We consider ourselves bad parents, failing parents, if we cannot afford to buy our children the latest must have gadget when they demand it of us.

The temptation to scratch and claw our way to more and more wealth, not caring too much, if at all, about the morality of how we achieve our ambitions, is very great nowadays. To make it easier for us to buy into the zeitgeist of our modern times those who would profit from it have pretty much persuaded those who are even slightly well off that there is no God so making the choice between God and wealth very easy indeed.

This means that the decision to become or remain a Christian is a tough one to make. Okay, it is easy enough to be a weekend Christian, fitting in with the ways of the world during the week, and then popping into church for a sing song and a cup of tea on Sunday morning. Easy, that is, if we can reconcile ourselves to the blatant hypocrisy of our lives. But if we believe that a real Christian is someone who at least tries their best to live their lives according to the teachings of Jesus Christ then we are going to find serving God in what is now the household of mammon very difficult indeed.

No wonder we are tempted to put off choosing which master to serve, to pretend, even, that choosing one or the other is not necessary.

But it is necessary. It is necessary for our very salvation and, beyond us, for the salvation of the generations that will follow us.

If we have truly and honestly decided to follow Jesus then it is time for us to stop being rubbish at being good and for us to step up to the mark. We need to be wise in the ways of the world only so that we can rise way, way above them. May the wisdom of God help us to do the right thing, follow the right path and, more than anything else, serve the right master.

Gays To Be Pardoned For Doing Nothing Wrong

From THE BBC:

Proposals to introduce new legislation which would pardon gay men convicted under historical gross indecency laws will be brought forward "in due course", the government has said. The so-called Alan Turing law could see thousands of men pardoned for crimes of which they would be innocent today.

Personally, I think historical pardons are of no use whatsoever unless those who are alive today (especially those in influential institutions such as the Church of England) believe that those being pardoned were innocent of any offence.

JD And The Sunshine Band

JD and the Sunshine Band from Winnipeg was born out of the music recording module of the Sunshine House Solvent User’s Recreation Project (SURP). It is a collaboration between musicians and street-involved folks who participate in Sunshine House programming. Their second album, "Soaking Up the Rays" has just been released and very good it is too.

Canterbury Cathedral To Be Given Armed Guard

From THE BBC:

Police armed with guns are to patrol routinely in Kent, in locations including Canterbury Cathedral, Dover port and the Bluewater shopping centre. The move follows recent terrorist attacks in Europe, but is not in response to specific intelligence.

The armed presence is intended as a deterrent and to allow an immediate response in an emergency. Armed officers will be carrying tasers as well as firearms.

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Dot Cellini

screen-shot-2016-09-19-at-23-05-48I have some extremely sad news. I have just been told by a longtime, and very trustworthy friend of many of us round these parts, that another of our friends, Dot Cellini ( Whiteycat ) "passed away unexpectedly a few hours ago."

This is very sad indeed. Dot has been my friend since I first started blogging over ten years ago and some of you will have known her even longer.

May this lovely lady rest in peace until we all meet again in the peaceable kingdom.

Holy Communion For The Eighteenth Sunday After Pentecost
( The Seventeenth Sunday After Trinity )

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It is one of the many paradoxes of our faith that although we cannot serve two masters it is our duty, as it was the way with Christ, to be the servant of all. By being steadfast servants of the gospel of Christ in this world we will surely share in his glory in the world to come. In the sacrament of holy communion all are made equal as we bow before our Lord, Jesus Christ, who bows down to us to demonstrate his Father's love for his people.

At Saint Laika's everyone is welcome to take communion and be in communion, with each other and with God. There are no exceptions. So, come, join us.

If you want to physically partake of communion you will require a small piece of bread and a small amount of drink (preferably made from grapes and containing alcohol). How you view the nature of this part of the service is completely up to you.

CLICK HERE to access the podcast via iTunes.

To stream the service direct from this page without having to use the iTunes' facility, click on the arrow on the left of the player below.

Join in with us as we worship God by CLICKING HERE for the order of service, credits and details of the music featured. The words in bold type are the ones we say together.

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That We May Turn From Our Wickedness And Live

Then Jesus drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him.

And the pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, "This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them."

And he spake this parable unto them, saying, "What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, 'Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.' I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.

"Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it? And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, 'Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost.' Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth."

I am no hater of change and I am more than happy to use whatever order of service the congregations I visit are used to. But the 1662, "Book of Common Prayer" has a special place in my heart. It has become a part of my very being in a way that no other form of worship has ever achieved. I am familiar with it and I have been for as long as I can remember. I am cosy with it. It's like slipping into my favourite armchair after being on my feet all day. The language is beautiful. It is poetic far beyond anything any committee of liturgists have ever come up with. But there is something else. It is my opinion that it teaches the Christian faith in a way that sticks in the mind far more effectively than any of the more modern books of church prayer.

One of my favourite sentences from the "Book of Common Prayer," a sentence that reflects very well the teaching of Jesus Christ in today's gospel reading, can be found at the beginning of the absolution pronounced after the general confession at evening prayer.

"Almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who desireth not the death of a sinner, but rather that he may turn from his wickedness, and live..."

Our God "DESIRETH not the death of a sinner, but rather that he may turn from his wickedness, and live..."

I live with my wife and three border collies, Delphi, Quiz and Edric. I have shared my life with border collies since before I was six months old and I started training them for obedience competitions when I was just fourteen. To be honest, I am not a very competitive person and I rarely compete nowadays but I do take on the occasional judging appointment.

There seems to be two main ways that judges go about designing their course and assessing the dogs that come before them. Some, and I really hope I am in this category, design the course to get the best out of the dogs, allowing them to shine and then judging the dogs and their handlers based on what they get right. Other judges go for courses that are designed to trick the dog into making mistakes and they judge the competitors based very much on what they get wrong.

The second way is by far, the most common way. It seems to be the way of human nature. A high proportion of us have a tendency to look for what is wrong rather than what is right. Not only are we a glass half full people, the beer in the glass is not cold enough for us and it doesn't taste as nice as the one we had yesterday.

The way that some Christians go on you would be forgiven for coming to the conclusion that God has set up the course of all our lives in a similar, negative way and that he is watching us hoping that we slip up so that he can note our mistakes down in his notebook and so separate the few winners from the many losers. That's the way the bad judges at dog shows go about their task and they do so because it is the easiest way. In fact, such judges want most of the dogs working in their class to get it wrong so that they only have a very few dogs left at the end of the day to choose the winner from.

God is a judge, but he is, most certainly, not of the same mind as such bad human judges. God will separate the wheat from the chaff but only after he has spent the growing season looking after the crop with such care that the harvest is as near to being one hundred percent wheat as possible. Human farmers take it for granted that they will lose some of their annual crop to misfortune of one kind or another but Farmer God does not. He cares for every single stem of wheat individually. God will not be satisfied unless, come harvest time all is safely gathered in.

God does not want us to die. God wants eternal life for every single one of us, even the most wicked of us.

He "desireth not the death of a sinner, but rather that he may turn from his wickedness, and live..."

In a dog obedience competition the handler and the dog get just one chance to get it right. At the end of the round they don't get to have another go because they didn't quite get it right the first time. However, in the "obedience" competition of our lives God does allow us to keep trying.

We are allowed to say to our judge, "Whoops, sorry, I got that wrong, can I try again?"

God will surely reply, "Of course, go ahead. In fact, let my son help you this time."

God is a perfectionist but he is a perfectionist in a good way. God's idea of perfection is not one where all the imperfect has been ejected and only the perfect remains. No. God's idea of perfection is one where nothing has been thrown out because everything has been made perfect.

God is totally inclined to inclusivity. God is committed to not losing one of us. If just one of us wanders off from his presence like the wayward sheep in today's gospel reading he will come and find us even if it takes him all the metaphorical day.

And we have all, like sheep, gone astray, probably many times during our life. And, outside of the parable, in the real world, it is not a story time shepherd who comes out to find us, but the very real, son of God, Jesus Christ, who came down from heaven to lead us all to the safety of the fold that is the kingdom of God.

"John," chapter seventeen, verse twelve.

"While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled."

So, like the woman who rejoiced with her friends when she found the coin she had lost let us rejoice with Jesus Christ who has found us, who has rescued us, who, even now, is leading us home.

Holy Communion For The Seventeenth Sunday After Pentecost
( The Sixteenth Sunday After Trinity )

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Jesus is the shepherd and we are his flock. We are in communion with Christ and with each other.

At Saint Laika's everyone is welcome to take communion and be in communion, with each other and with God. There are no exceptions. So, come, join us.

If you want to physically partake of communion you will require a small piece of bread and a small amount of drink (preferably made from grapes and containing alcohol). How you view the nature of this part of the service is completely up to you.

CLICK HERE to access the podcast via iTunes.

To stream the service direct from this page without having to use the iTunes' facility, click on the arrow on the left of the player below.

Join in with us as we worship God by CLICKING HERE for the order of service, credits and details of the music featured. The words in bold type are the ones we say together.

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Ray Charles And Billy Preston

I was watching the PBS satellite channel earlier today whilst I was eating my lunch and this amazing video came on. The Billy Preston I know is the afro-topped hippy who played on Rolling Stones' albums and gave the Jesus People the anthemic "That's the Way God Planned It." Honestly, as he was always sitting on a piano stool, I didn't know he even had legs let alone that he was such a cool mover.

And that suit! It's almost louder than Ray Charles' piano playing.

The Absurdity Of Claiming God Does Not Exist

Surely, if you believe that the universe is absurd and pointless, claiming that belief in God is absurd is about as absurd as you could possibly get. If we are truly free because there is no God then we are free to believe in God. If we are free to choose then we are free to choose to believe in God.

Just as there are a lot of Christians in the world who act as if God does not exist, there are, also, a lot of atheists who act as if God does exist.

Reformation, What Reformation?

I have just watched a "Father Brown" episode for the first time (from the 2013 BBC series). I was intrigued by how the supposedly Roman Catholic church had gravestones outside obviously dating from well before the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829 and walls that looked suspiciously medieval and not in a gothic revival way. You would have thought that the British Broadcasting Company would have checked up on the history first.

Perhaps the Anglicans didn't want as much as the Catholics to film on their property.

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Passing Thoughts Of A Mad Priest

It says no end about the hypocrisy of the Church of England that it is not the fact that one of its male bishops is doing the wild thing with his equally male partner that is news but the fact that he has admitted it.

Justin Welby is fine with it.

If the bishop of Grantham had been caught suffering from depression - now that would have been a different matter.

No Future For Depressed Priest In Church Of England

It is six years, to the day, since I was sacked from my vocation and then evicted from my home by the then bishop of Newcastle because, basically, he believed that someone who had suffered from depression was not fit to be a parish priest. I remain unemployed.
 
During the last six years not one person in the Church of England who could help me has offered to help me and all those I have asked to help me have refused. This includes those my friends consider "good" people as well as those career clerics who view the church and its servants in the same way that an owner of British Home Stores (for example) may view his company and its staff. I have, in the past, attributed this lack of compassion (from the bishops, at least) on a fear of breaking collegiality but, to be honest, I did this to try and provoke certain, possibly sympathetic, bishops into holding out a helping hand. The real reason that so many “good” people in the church have not done anything to restore me to priestly employment is because they do not believe I should be a priest every bit as strongly as the career clerics. These people know the teachings of Jesus Christ but they have not got to the elevated positions in the Church of England that they occupy by putting them before pragmatic and earthly concerns. Jesus may have come to save sinners, dine with tax-collectors, chat with prostitutes and make disciples of women he had cured of mental illness, but these are not the sort of people the leaders of the national church want in their congregations let alone working in their church (and, boy, do they believe it is their church).
 
The present bishop of Glasgow summed it up when he explained to me that he would not allow me to be a priest in his diocese because I would bring too much “baggage” with me (his words, not mine). I do not think he was right to use this as an excuse not to employ me but he was right in as much as I do come complete with “baggage.” My illness makes me different, as any illness makes anybody different, and I would not be a square peg fitting neatly into a square hole. I may well be an embarrassment. I was chosen by God to be a priest in the Church, but I was also chosen by God to be a prophet to God’s people, in particular to those in the Church. To help me in this task I am fortunate to possess a complete lack of respect for those in authority above me (unless, of course, they actually deserve respect). My worst sin is that I relate to and talk to everybody as if they are just people like me and everybody else. Young children love it when you do this but bishops do not.
 
In deciding that I am not the right sort of person to be a priest, the bishops, archdeacons and area deans of the Church of England who have either refused to help me when asked or who have decided not to volunteer to help me, have behaved in a base and earthly way and not in a heavenly way. They have put their “commonsense” before the radical risk taking of Jesus Christ. They have put this world before the Kingdom of God.
 
I am fully aware that they will never change their minds and that I will remain an unemployed priest until the day I die. However, I do not and I never will accept it. If I was to do so I would be contradicting the one who called me and I am not of high enough rank in the Church of England to overrule God.

Bojana Nikolic

Half an hour of Serbian folk music featuring the excellent Bojana Nikolic and a man blowing into what I would guess is a dead goat. Great stuff. Check out Bojana's album from last year, "Oj, Gore" for more of this sort of thing.

Brother ( Or Sister ) Can You Spare A Dime?

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Financially, things are a bit hard for me at the moment. They won't be so bad in a few days but at this precise moment I do not even have enough cash to buy a jar of instant coffee and the lack of caffeine in my system is making me just a little bit tetchy. Therefore, if you are thinking about making a small donation to keep me going this month then now would be a very good time to do it. I would be ever so grateful.





Holy Communion For The Fourteenth Sunday After Pentecost
( The Thirteenth Sunday After Trinity )

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God came down to earth to mend that which was broken and to free us from the chains of our own making that were keeping us from becoming citizens of the kingdom of God. When we come together, as brothers and sisters in Christ, as a new humanity, to enjoy the sacrament of holy communion, we are celebrating our emancipation in the very presence of the God who set us free.

At Saint Laika's everyone is welcome to take communion and be in communion, with each other and with God. There are no exceptions. So, come, join us.

If you want to physically partake of communion you will require a small piece of bread and a small amount of drink (preferably made from grapes and containing alcohol). How you view the nature of this part of the service is completely up to you.

CLICK HERE to access the podcast via iTunes.

To stream the service direct from this page without having to use the iTunes' facility, click on the arrow on the left of the player below.

Join in with us as we worship God by CLICKING HERE for the order of service, credits and details of the music featured. The words in bold type are the ones we say together.

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