Inside the Mind of Dave Tomlinson!

by Dave on October 10, 2014

Tomlinson Flyer


Don’t leave God in the hands of the religious

by Dave on September 12, 2014


The text of my Pause For Thought on Radio 2 in 12th September 2014. The recorded version is at

How To Be A Bad Birdwatcher by Simon Barnes is one of the most enjoyable and, as it turns out, inspiring books I have read in a very long time.

My own love of birds began when I was a small boy, when I watched a black and white TV show about the return of the swallows in spring. I was hooked immediately.

For me, it’s never been about amassing a list of rare species that I’ve spotted. And to be honest, as a birdwatcher, I’m not just bad, I’m pretty rubbish; I hardly ever remember to take my binoculars with me when I’m out for a walk. Yet the sheer delight of catching sight of a robin rummaging in the undergrowth, or hearing a blackbird’s song in a city park on a late afternoon in autumn as the sun drops…. Well, that never diminishes.

The appeal of Simon Barnes’ approach to birdwatching is that it requires no expert knowledge, no expensive equipment… no anorak! Look around you. See a bird. Enjoy it. Congratulations! You are a bad birdwatcher!

The only skill involved in birdwatching Barnes maintains is the willingness to look up… to look around… and see the magical feathered activity that surrounds us.

The ‘wow’ story at the start of his book, where he describes an overhead event witnessed on his way to catch a train, is breath-taking. He may have been the only person in Barnet that morning to look up and witness a hobby, a magnificent bird of prey, crash down into a flock of house martins like a thunderbolt to pick out its breakfast.

Basically, Simon Barnes is taking birdwatching out of the hands of geeks and twitchers, and saying that birds are part of all our lives; that, deep down, each of us is a birdwatcher. All we need do is learn to pay attention.

Reading his book, I realised that Simon Barnes approach to birdwatching is very similar to my view of religion. Just as he thinks that birdwatching should not be the preserve of twitchers and birders, I believe that God should not be left in the hands of the religious. God doesn’t belong in churches, liturgy or creeds; God is the loving, challenging, awesome presence that fills the earth and is part of all our lives.

Anyone who has ever gazed up at the sky or stared out of the window knows more than they think about birds. And in the same way, anyone who has ever felt gratitude for the gift of life, or who knows what it is to love and be loved, actually knows much more about God than they think.


You can’t find God

September 8, 2014

This is the text of my reflection on Radio 2′s Good Morning Sunday on 7th September 2014 We have a fridge magnet in the kitchen that says, ‘I’ve found Jesus! He was behind the sofa the whole time.’ It’s a reminder that after a lifetime of seeking to know God better, the most important thing [...]

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Bad Christian Party

August 31, 2014
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This week in Public House…

March 10, 2014

Lent in a bar! It’s kinda ‘Holy Joes’ Mk II – bit of input, lots of open debate, chance to explore, no pre-packed answers. Anyone welcome – ideal for non-churchgoers. Come and join in the discussion – or just listen.

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March 7, 2014

A couple of days ago on Ash Wednesday, I got to do one of the weirdest things I ever get to do as a priest. It’s an ancient ritual called ‘ashing’, which involves me making a smudged mark of the cross with ash on the forehead of every person in the congregation. And while making [...]

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Bad Christian, Good Coffee

February 5, 2014

Had a wonderful session at Shottery U3A (University of the Third Age) last night. Packed, responsive audience. Great fun. Lots of encouraging conversations afterwards – many with people who don’t go to church. One man said ‘I don’t really believe in God, but this was the best presentation on religion I’ve ever heard.’ Then with [...]

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Reinventing God

June 30, 2013

I love this poem by Edwina Gateley which I used with a recent talk entitled ‘Reinventing God’ A WARM, MOIST, SALTY GOD Deep in the forest I found my God leaping through the trees, spinning with the glancing sunlight, caressing with the breeze. There where the grasses rose and fell fanning the perfumed air, I [...]

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The Pope Talks Like a Bad Christian!

May 22, 2013

“Doing good” is a principle that unites all humanity, beyond the diversity of ideologies and religions, and creates the “culture of encounter” that is the foundation of peace: this is what Pope said at Mass this morning at the Domus Santae Martae. Wednesday’s Gospel speaks to us about the disciples who prevented a person from [...]

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Bad Christian Meets Good Atheists

April 10, 2013

Last Sunday I gave an address at the Sunday Assembly, commonly known as ‘the atheist church’ in London. I am friends with Sanderson Jones & Pippa Evans who lead the Assembly and was honoured to be invited to give a talk at their ‘Easter for Atheists’ service. The thing I like about the Assembly (I’ve [...]

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