Friday, 25 December 2009

We will!

9am from St Pancras on Boxing Day! Yippee.

Taxi arriving early at house (no tubes - but hey you can't have everything).

Should be in Paris just after noon. I so can't wait.

I shall wander down the Avenue des Champs-Elysees and know that life is good.

Should have lots of piccies to upload when we get back and lovely memories. So watch out for some lyrical waxing with a slight French accent.

Blessings all!

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Will we or won't we?

It serves me right for not feeling appropriately sympathetic towards BA passengers who would have lost their flights if the strike had gone ahead. I remember thinking 'I'm sad for them, but really glad we booked to go to Paris on Eurostar'. I feel the Bah Humbug angel may just have bitten me!

We are due to go to Paris on Boxing Day for two nights and three wonderful days. None of us have been to Paris before, apart from Sandy doing a mad dash between Gard Du Nord and Gard Du Eoust (whatever East is in French) so that doesn't count.

The hotel we hope to be in is just across the Seine from the Eiffel Tower and I am holding dearly to my longing to sit in a boulevard cafe, drinking hot chocolate and watching the world go by.

So I do hope the lovely people at Eurostar get it together - not just for us but for all who will otherwise not have the Christmas they hoped for.

Meanwhile, I wonder what I should include for Christmas Eve Communion and the Christmas Day services. Carols, readings, prayers and maybe a story about not being where you want to be at Christmas!

What are you hoping for this year?

Friday, 11 December 2009

Rachel gets creative again

Here's a reflective poem from the very gifted Rachel Parkinson, who says, "which is a fruit of a "Retreat in Daily Life" which we've recently run as a Circuit. It was a great experience and, despite the fact that it was a group of only 12 of us from across the Circuit, I hope that the ripples will continue to spread. Would recommend it as a Circuit initiative.
The poem came out of a reflection on John 1 which is suitably seasonal."

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him.” John 1 v.10

Did I recognise him?

When the well-spring of life

turned water into new wine

did I catch the foretaste

of a heavenly banquet yet to come?

When the hour he spoke

proved the hour of recovery

did I choose to see

healing or coincidence?

When a mat picked-up

meant a man could walk again

did I worry only

that it happened on a Sunday?

When the Bread of Life

broke bread for thousands

did I hear the echo of manna

as I ate my fill?

When he came to me

across a storm-crossed sea

did I grasp he ruled the waves

as well as walked upon them?

When the mudpack cleared

from the beggar’s eyes

did the scales fall from mine -

or did he alone see the Light?

When Lazarus

was bandage-bound

did I turn away before the

unwrapping promised new Life?

Did my eyes slide easily over his surface?

Or did every atom of my stardust-being

recognise the One

who had been there at their creation?

Based on the seven signs of the Messiah in John’s Gospel:

the wedding at Cana (2 v.1-11); the healing of the official’s son (4 v.46-53); the healing of the paralytic (5 v.2-9); the multiplication of the loaves (6 v.1-13); the walking on water (6 v.16-21) and the raising of Lazarus (11 v.17-44)

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

5 things I love about Methodism

'The Road to 'Elder' ado' has a blog about 5 things he loves about Methodism and he isn't even a Methodist! Sometimes it is good to be reminded of our value and the gift we are to God's whole Church by someone who looks in from another place.

So I'm going to suggest 5 things I love about Methodism - what's on your list?

1. The people. Okay there are a few that drive me demented but I daresay that is more about my lack of grace than it is about them. But my experience of Methodist people is that they are loving, hospitable, gracious and tolerant. It was just such people that accepted me unconditionally as a struggling young person and helped transform my life.

2. Social Holiness. If we forget this we will have lost our identity. Engaging with the world in all it's messiness is truly incarnational. So we march for climate change, hold hands to end poverty, run soup kitchens and neighbourhood care schemes, engage with the principalities and powers and buy fair trade produce. This is the out-working of the personal holiness, which we also forget at our peril.

3. Attention to detail. I know, I know we all groan about the amount of pages in CPD - but it does represent more than institutional anxiety. The way we do our work is part of who we are and is the distilled wisdom of many people over many years.

4. Connexionalism. Who would want to be part of a Church which is all about 'me in my small corner'? Not me - I want to live on a large map, be part of an expression of the body of Christ that helps expand my horizons, shares oversight and mission and helps me understand the world of which I am part.

5. Wide doors - metaphorically! Being part of a church which is not defined along narrow lines of theological difference is important to me. I learn by being part of a church where not everybody thinks the same, views the Bible in the same way, sings from the same hymn sheet.

So - go on then, why do you love Methodism?

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Looking for glimpses of glory

It was in the middle of summer that I was asked to write a short reflection/poem about any aspect of Christmas. Mind you not such a challenge as one might think because the shops were already filling shelves with chocolate Santas, plastic trees and nuts galore. My Mum often buys nuts early for Christmas to put away, inevitably she has to buy some more by about 20th December because she has succumbed to nutty temptation, and who can blame her?

The reflection is part of the 'Christmas in Your Pocket' booklet which has been produced by the newly formed Methodist Publishing - which is now looked after within the Connexional Team. It has been a scorching success - selling out within a couple of weeks and being reprinted to meet demand. We do need to have things to give to people - little easily offered gifts, with ideas, reflections, Bible quotes. But we also need to wrestle with the most profound questions of life and death that Advent and Christmas pose.

The Bishop of Croydon, who seems like a sensible and happy chap, has been pilloried in the press for daring to suggest we might sing Christmas songs that have some content and take us back to the Biblical origins of the story. How dare he! Well I for one am very glad he dare - please can we get past the sentimentality and look closer at the divine vulnerability and passion of Christmas. Yes sing carols devoid of meaning and enjoy doing so but don't let that be enough.

Behind the Tinsel

Within the tinsel shimmering, gift-wrapped

sentimentality a dim light catches my eye.

I follow the light to a messy shelter,

a simple coarse place where animals eat.

The stench of the beasts rises like a sour incense,

blending with sounds of struggle.

Here behind the cheery cards and artificial snow

is the hard, flesh-bound reality of love.

Here is the greatness of the small,

God’s risk-taking life-giving love.

In the weakness of a new-born child

is hope in the face of despair.

Here is the very essence of Christmas, Christ – holy,

God with us, Emmanuel.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Monday Monday

Just a hello to my friends in the blogosphere. The weather has changed - it's rather dull and matches my mood beautifully.

I spent last week mostly in bed with the flu and have just worked a ridiculously full weekend - so guess what? Yep, I feel lousy again. At some point I have to go to the music shop to buy a clarinet book for my daughter - who won't actually get her hands on a clarinet until half-term. Not sure that is a helpful way of teaching an instrument, but hey what do I know?

The weekend was okay though - Women's Network 'Quiet' Day on Saturday (not sure quiet is close to an accurate description). This was followed by meeting representatives of organisations with an interest in protecting the rights of minorities in Pakistan. This included meeting an MPA (parliamentarian) from Pakistan, who seemed open to working for change. There is a possibility I may go to the Punjab and Karachi as part of a group invited to discuss human rights, minority protection and women's rights. So I am fluctuating between excitement, anxiety and my usual sense of 'why me, what can I offer'. But lots of learning and research to do - who knows where this will lead?

Sunday was Harvest Festivals and home communion and lots of form filling for church members' school applications, visa applications etc. Did get a slight reprieve as the Pastoral Training at Kings Hall has been put back a week.

Got home to collapse in a heap and was fed marvellous roast dinner. Just about remember what the kids look like. Now it's Monday, the house is a tip and I just want to sleep. So another week begins.

Does anyone know any good resources for leading Bible Studies?

Friday, 18 September 2009

New Methodist song/hymn book

Methodist Conference 09 decided to go ahead with the idea that the church needs a new music resource to take over from Hymns and Psalms. There have been mixed views on whether this should happen, or what format it should take - but that particular boat has sailed. So I'm not looking for views on that! New groups have been set up to look at aspects of the resource and I am on the 'Content' group - we have a lot to do in a very short time.

What I am looking for are people - especially Methodist and most helpfully (but not exclusively) women - who write worship songs and hymns.

Please let me know if you are such a person or know such people.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Outstanding Oratory

Want a lesson in how to work a crowd? Want to know the actual plan behind President Obama's health care revolution (as opposed to reactionary rumours...)? Want to learn a little about the history of the labour movement in the USA? If so, watch this. It is 30 minutes of excellence.

Friday, 11 September 2009

A busy hiatus

The non-blogging between 1st July and today is not because I've had nothing to talk about - rather that there has just been too much!

So for anyone who wants to know what I've been up to - here is a thumbnail sketch of the Summer of 2009

Early July - Methodist Conference. I helped with the organising of worship - The Sunday service went particularly well and I am thrilled with the feedback. The Thursday Communion would have been fine if business had not over-run and a number of people had to leave for trains - this needs looking at for next year. As I'm now both on the Ministerial Business Committee and also going to co-ordinate all the worship at next year's Conference, it might be possible to smooth things a little.

What a great thing to be part of! I was privileged to lead the morning prayers each day (had to get up early but it does me good from time to time!). Sandy was able to come for part of the week long event and the kids came for all of it. The highlights for me where Inderjit Bhogal leading the week, a great poet, Michael Symmons Roberts, and the Psalm Drummers. The drummers had all 170 of us, from a few months old to people in their 90s, drumming in time. The sound was amazing and the laughter and unity in the room was very special.

August - Holiday in North Devon.
Sun, sand, wind, sea, rain, sea-views, great cottage in Appledore overlooking the estuary, kite boarding, body boarding, folk jam nights in local pubs, food, Sky TV, West Wing series 2 and 3, Hockings ice cream, walks, sleep....

- Quick trip to Greenbelt.
Rob was dropped off on our way back from Devon and stayed for the weekend with friends he met at the School of Fellowship. Sandy, Tamsin and I went back to London, I preached on the Sunday - then we drove to Tewkesbury, stayed in a Premier Inn, went to Greenbelt for the day, stayed in the Inn again, back to work Tuesday.

Highlight of Greenbelt for me was seeing Applecart. If you get the chance to see them DO DO DO!

Early September
Spent time with Jennifer, new colleague. Circuit Policy, Conference Business Committee, Meal out with lovely people at the Loch Fyne, Pastoral visits, trip to Chesterfield to scatter Sandy's Mum's ashes, Church 50th Anniversary evening, 3 services and a training session on Sunday 6th - lost voice and exhausted Monday 7th!

Jen's welcome service was wonderful, local ecumenical and civic guests, a variety of music including the choir and musicians from King's Hall Urdu speaking congregation, good preacher and very welcoming.

So now, it's September with a vengeance and I'm ready for a holiday!

A very important apology

Gordon Brown has made a statement, following lobbying and petitioning, rightly apologising to Alan Turing for the inhumane and appalling way he was treated because of his sexuality. Read the article here.

A much less important apology is mine to those of you who wander by here and have not seen anything change since July. I'm back!

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Extract from latest Church Magazine

Simply Spectacular

On a very stuffy evening at the end of June we went as a family to Wembley Arena. The treats in store were John Mayal and BB King, each with their own groups – and being entertained by the royalty of Blues music proved to be a spectacular evening. What made it spectacular? Was there lots of well choreographed dancing and acrobatics? No. Was it a fancy back drop and huge screens – no, none of these were present. What made it a special evening? Each of the musicians was very talented, knew their instruments really well, the singing was great and the joy they found in performing was infectious.

I reflected afterwards about this simplicity of performance – the music was allowed to speak for itself and the skill of the performers needed no gimmicks. The story at the heart of the show was the music, the soulful and energetic sound born out of poverty and slavery which went on to influence rock and roll, soul, pop and all other modern music.

I wonder sometimes if we ‘over-produce’ the Christian message. We use gimmicks and programmes and assume that if we can’t offer ‘all singing, all dancing’ worship that somehow we are not good enough, or that we will be ignored. I wonder if we hide behind this idea and lose the essence of the story that we are called to tell. At the heart of all we do as Christians is the simplest, and yet most profound, story. The Gospel of creation, salvation and inspiration is what is truly spectacular and needs no glitter or gloss to disguise it or make it more interesting. Perhaps, like those wonderful musicians we need to relax and be confident about what it is we have to offer. To share the joy we have in Christ will be infectious – telling the story of God’s love with passion and simple delight will be irresistible.

Monday, 22 June 2009


It was very odd that almost exactly a year after submitting my dissertation I finally received my certificate of graduation. It was also a bit odd that it was half in Welsh because of being accredited through Lampetter - having only ever travelled to Salisbury to attend modules and tuition. Apparently I've been entitled to use the letters after my name since receiving the letter in December but I'm not sure that, apart from in Minutes, I shall use them. Should I?

I'm really grateful to have had the chance to study, with a lot of financial support and time support from the Church - I'm also very very grateful that now I've returned to Circuit work I got the MA out of the way!

My twin sister and kid brother and I both left school without A levels and have all gone on to do second degrees. When I remember that I think it is okay to feel proud of myself and my siblings - we have all worked and studied and dealt with family life. At home doing a degree was never talked about - University was for posh people who lived in private (non-council) houses and no-one else in the family had gone on to higher education. So I should feel pretty pleased with myself - but I can't get away from the fact I'm still not sure I'm really an 'academic', just someone who can get a few ideas down on paper and back them up with the wisdom of other people. So I don't know how much impact adding the letters MA to the end of my name will have in terms of my own self image and confidence - but I know it could open a few doors even though I'm not planning to go through them!

Monday, 8 June 2009

Shame and faint comfort

I realise that the blogosphere will be chocca with despair about the European elections, so I won't say much other than:

Shame on those who did not vote.
Shame on women who did not vote - other women were imprisoned, tortured and gave their lives so that we can exercise our rights.
Shame on men who did not vote - do millennia of patriarchal rule not give you any sense of responsibility?
Shame on our politicians who have allowed politics to become a dirty word.
Shame on the media who no longer describe the world, but shape it and order it according to the whim of editors, owners and shareholders.
Shame on me for not saying and doing more to cast light on truth.

There may be some comfort in these words:

Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is he who sits above the circle of the earth and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to live in; who brings princes to naught, and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing. Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth, when he blows upon them, and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble. (Isaiah 40.21-24)

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Jury is out about the Jury Party

Did anyone see the Jury Party political broadcast? Was it me or was there not one single policy? I listened really hard but couldn't spot one.

I've always had a soft spot for independents (not enough to vote for one though!) But this is not about independents - how can they operate as a party? 

I want to know what a party's policy is on Education, Defense, Health Care, Europe, Human Rights, Environment.... etc.

Most importantly I want to encourage people to vote for one of the big 3 so that BNP, UKIP and other parties that promote hate, fear and have no track record in any form of leadership, don't get seats.

I was in Burnley when BNP councillors got in and they were pathetic, never turned up to meetings, did no work and wondered why they didn't get in again. I hope and pray that people will not take revenge on the MPs by voting for people who are clearly unfit to govern and who base their policies on hate, fear and bigotry.

Study of delight

There is nothing quite like a tidy study! It is a thing of wonder and delight - possibly because it is such a rare thing. I feel much more like getting things done when I can see the wood that my desk is made of and I'm not tripping over piles of unresolved paperwork. (Just don't look in any cupboards or drawers unless you want the fantasy of neat, orderly bliss to end.)

There are down sides to spending a whole day of your holiday tidying up - firstly not really an appropriate thing to do on holiday. Secondly I am reminded of all those little jobs that I've been ignoring for sooooo long. Mind you some of them are now past their sell by date - yippee. Thirdly - and this is a mixed blessing - I have seen again all the books that I have bought in the last few months. They look up at me expectantly, smiling a warm invitation and yet, again and again I let them down. My lack of time and ability to prioritise it means I neglect these literary wonders - to the detriment of my preaching, humour, intelligence.... Do I have to wait another 3 years for a sabbatical before I get to some serious (or frivolous reading)? 

Perhaps a tidy desk will create space in my head and diary as well - or am I really dreaming?

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Rachel Writing Again



The nurse draws the stiff white sheet

over the face

as the doctor clips her pen to the clipboard.


“A classic case” she says. 

“The damage was


over many years.”


“A hardening of the oughteries

led to reduced circulation of

spontaneity and laughter

around the body. 


This allowed a build up of


in the internal organs with pooling of

stress and anxiety

at the extremities.” 


“There was also evidence of crushing to the vertebrae;

the last straw,


having never been reached.”


“The irony is”, said the doctor

“that she had the medication in her pocket. 

But the lid was adult-proof

and the child inside her, that might have opened it,

had long since gone away.”



Rachel Parkinson.  Whitby.  May 2009

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Body of Christ doing our job properly!

There are occasions when one wonders why we bother with evening services in many churches. Numbers are low, sometimes only those with jobs to do turn up and a lot of heat, light, service planning, etc goes into the event.

Not tonight though. Five minutes before the service was due to start two women came into church, both in tears and asked if they could light a candle. The steward made a stirling effort and found some tea-lights and holders and even matches (non of these being out for the casual visitor's use).

The younger woman's sister's baby had just died, only a few days old, following a very difficult labour and birth. The older woman was her mother-in-law and had come along to support her in praying. 

They stayed for the service, surrounded by church members who had never met them before but who quickly put flowers into a vase next to the candles (and gave flowers afterwards), who sensitively offered support without being overwhelming. 

The prayers and hymns I had prepared were worryingly appropriate! To the point where at times my heart sank as we sang another hymn that talked about God's children, life out of death, joy out of grief - all perfectly standard hymns but suddenly much more pointed and meaningful.

My own niece was still born at 39 weeks gestation and, though some years ago, there was no escaping the pain that washed over me in the face of this desperately sad story. I struggled to preach and singing 'abide with me' as the planned last hymn was almost too much - but somehow facing the pain was better than changing at the last minute to choose something less meaningful.

I was so proud that the church was open and able to support these two women. We may never see them again (they may associate us with this painful incident too strongly - as well as with care and compassion). The Kingdom of God broke through in the welcome, the hospitality and even in the 'too appropriate' liturgy and hymns. 

Who knows how many people walk to locked churches looking for a comfort or space that is not there?

Friday, 8 May 2009

Church Magazine Articles

I seem to have to write a lot of them and my problem is I'm not sure what they are for. Is it a chance for me to share with folk what I've been up to (boring!), some vision for the church, some news (there are others who do that better)? Should it be a spiritual pondering or something to inspire action (both?). One Church steward thinks I should do them because I'm clearly 'too busy to see people, so it's a way of keeping in touch' - please I don't even keep in touch with friends and family by writing a monthly article!!

There are times when I feel inspired to offer some witty story - but quite a lot of the time I sit down and think 'what on earth shall I put this time?'. What worries me about all this is (apart from a sense of being a bit useless) that I am a writer - I have books published for goodness sake. I guess they came out of a process of living, learning and reflecting and maybe that's not what I'm doing enough of to produce the newsletter articles.

So - why do we do them? Who are we aiming at and... got any ideas?

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Women In Theology

The Church needs more WIT

It's been buzzing like an irritating fly for some time - the realisation that I can't wait around for the church (whoever that might be) to provide me with everything I want and need in order to grow as a Christian, a woman, a minister, a human being.... I perhaps have to be a tiny bit proactive!

I've finally worked out that one of the unsettling, constant inner naggings (which some might call the Holy Spirit and others indigestion) is to do with how to help women feel confident in discussing things of a theological nature. I perceive barriers that prevent women from describing themselves as 'theologians' - these include:

1. the idea that such things can only be discussed in the 'academy' and despite significant steps - academia is still a male dominated environment 
2. a resistance to ask 'silly questions' in case we look silly - whilst those who appear to be in the 'know' are making it up as they go along
3. the multi-tasking and ball-juggling lifestyle of many women connected to Church does not make it easy to pause for breath, let alone attend conferences, talks, take up study, etc, etc.

Please suggest further barriers!

There are so many areas in which women and the church and, dare I say, the world are poorer because of these barriers - mainstream theology remains schewed to the male as 'normative'. Christian publishing, academic and non-academic, remains dominated by male authors. The bodies in church life which act as filters to 'orthodoxy' and 'heresy' (i.e. what's allowed and what's not) remain largely male. 

Please suggest further consequences of these barriers!

SO I'm being proactive! Yes, really! Via Facebook - but not limited to it I am beginning a group called 'Women In Theology'. Open to women of any tradition who want to talk about, think about, learn about, write about God, the Church and life.

I'm hoping to have a day's gathering in the Autumn for those who want to shape this group. If you would like to be part of this, have ideas about what we might share together and who it would be good to invite, do get in touch - via comments here, the Facebook Group, or by emailing me at

This is a beginning, a germ of a seed of an idea. The question that is at the heart of this is 'how can women be given confidence in talking about and writing about theology?'.

Looking forward to hearing from you and seeing what you think!

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Wonderful Day

I've just spent the afternoon and evening at a very special celebration. This was a service/concert at Kings Hall Methodist Church Southall. It was a Calvary service - nearest English equivalent would be a Christmas Carol service but for Lent not Advent. Asian Christians from Oxford, Nottingham, High Wycombe and closer to Southall gathered and shared poems, songs, readings and prayers. Some of the elements were in English, most were in Urdu/Hindi.

Songs ranged from children singing 'Father Abraham', a soloist doing a great version of Robbie Williams 'Angels', and wonderful, haunting Asian songs. With eyes closed I could see the cross on the hill top and feel the hot, dry wind taking the moisture from my skin. 

The atmosphere was warm, friendly - at times very reverent, such as when Christ walked to the front carrying a huge cross and stumbling. 

The service laster about 2 hours longer than planned yet I didn't feel anxious or bored, people were clearly having a good time. 

I went not having a clue what to expect and having prepared a tight order of service (not needed at all). Those who had invited contributors did a fantastic job and the food afterwards was delicious.

All in all a good afternoon. 

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Fruitful Birds

We have now had enough eggs for our own use for a week and given 8 away today! Hurray. We are now a source of protein for friends and folk at church. It is hugely satisfying to give eggs away and know that they are produced by happy little hens. There is so little of what we eat and consume that we have any real connection with.

So time to get the seeds out and plant the veggie patch - which is being well fertilised by other products of our hens - less fun than the eggs!

Lent is moving on apace and I may be ready for Holy Week by Pentecost. I've just remembered I need to write 3 Pause For Thoughts by the end of tomorrow - so any inspiration would be gratefully received! Hopefully I can use one for the Church magazine editors' who are both chasing me for my next moving pearl of wisdom. Do people read these things? Why? I never did - straight to dates for your diary for me when I get church newsletters, and lots of avoiding twee, humourless stories and ridiculously easy crosswords.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Hello Girls

The long awaited day has arrived and our 6 young hens have been delivered. Three are 'Miss Pepperpots' - mostly black with some lovely ginger details, and three are 'Gingernut Rangers' - you can guess what colour they are! 

They should begin laying within a couple of weeks, so if you need eggs we'll have a few to spare (especially to anyone willing to help feed them if we are away!). We wanted to get them in time to lay for Easter - it seems kind of appropriate. The home they live in is provided by a company called 'Omlet' and is really well designed. Fox proof, easily cleaned, lots of space... The very nice man, Darren, who delivered them put the Omlet Cube together and showed us how to handle them and clip their wings. He had just been to Richmond to deliver to Jerry Hall, this confirms me in my view that we are turning unto urban yuppies - but hey, what's sauce for the goose... (not sure that's an appropriate metaphor!).

So it's 'chucks away' at our house, where Tamsin is eggstatic, Rob is eggcited, Sandy is eggcellent and I am prone to very bad puns!

In the photos you will see Audrey (Hepburn), CJ (as in West Wing), Maya (Angelou), Rosa (Parks), Dibley (indeed), Ellen (McArthur). Say hi to these inspiring women (ok I know they are chickens really).

Friday, 27 February 2009

Help with a technical question

Why if I want to paste text into my posting 'box' in Blogger does the text drop onto the screen below the box and then not appear in my post? Please will someone help me work out how to add large sections of text (such as Rachel's hymn) and then I won't need to type them out?

Thanks dear bloggers wat is brighter than I is...

A new Hymn for Lent from Rachel Parkinson

Something you might want to use or reflect on.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Ash Wednesday Poem

By Michaela Youngson

I feel the gritty reality of ash
beneath my thumb
ready to be placed
with care upon the head of
person, after person,
standing before me.

Each made in God's image.
Each made from dust.
Each with their own understanding, 
view, perspective
on what is taking place.

Eye to eye, soul to soul
words capture a universe breadth 
of creedal wondering
and experience.

I offer the priestly words
content to challenge lifestyle,
affirm mortality, 
offer absolution.

Only when an ash laden thumb
is placed on my head
does the meaning for myself
become clear.

I am limited by linear time,
death will come,
yet caught up also
in the eternal pattern 
of God's creating.

For more poems and reflections on Ash Wednesday visit Abbey of the Arts.

Post Holiday Blues

The difficulty with going away - even when going away has been fun and exciting and given opportunities to fly kites, walk on beaches, watch very rude and hilarious stand up comedians on videos, spend time with relatives and friends - is that one really needs a rest when you get back.

My virtual in-tray (emails, phone messages, mental list of people to visit...) and the mountainous heap on my desk are screaming for attention and all I want to do is sleep. People keep asking me what I'm giving up for Lent - I'm tempted to point them to Jesus word's in Matthew's Gospel about not making a public display of one's abstemious piety - but mostly my glib answer is 'I'm giving up free time'. The workload was full already and now it is somehow meant to absorb the Lenten study needs of three different congregations, my own personal (with help from Christian Aid) 'Journey to Jerusalem' and (with help from the Methodist Church) 'Still Time'.

I know, I know, stop moaning and get on with it - I am trying to give up being grumpy for Lent! So I am not giving up chocolate or wine and this year I'm not giving up shopping - what I need help with is to give up the guilt of never being on top of the workload - any ideas?

Friday, 6 February 2009

Make up your own fab bus ad!

You can join in the fun! You can certainly come up with something funnier than my feeble attempt (above) by visiting Faith and Theology and join in the caption competition there!

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Crumpets and Hot Chocolate

Having just got butter all over my keyboard due to eating a crumpet in close proximity to it, I realise that this is not the best approach to making life go smoothly. I am actually hiding from my daughter who wants me to play a really tedious Dr Who board game with her. I love Dr Who, when watching it, but moving miniature David Tenants around a plastic board is not my idea of saving the universe. Mind you, if David Tenant offered to play I might reconsider.

So, armed with crumpets and hot chocolate - the only breakfast possible on the second day of snowbound, school's closed, wooly socks excitement - I sit and think of all the things I ought to be doing.

The trouble is, sitting and thinking of all the things I ought to be doing makes me feel edgy and suddenly the Dr Who game becomes more attractive. Perhaps I'm caught in a fold in the space time continuum, or am I stuck in a mysterious anomaly - a 'procrastination enigma' into which all good intentions are sucked into an alternative dimension?

Oh heck, now I've run out of hot chocolate. Oh well I'll just have to make another before I write my 'to do' list.

How's your day going?

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

John Updike

Ben Myers offers an obituary of John Updike that is so beautifully written I will be taking Updike novels and Barth's commentary on the Romans on holiday with me.

Richard over at Connexions pointed Ben's article out - thanks Richard.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Auntie Beeb's knickers in a twist

I wonder if the clever people at the BBC have deliberately got themselves into their current pickle because they know that the DEC appeal for funds to provide aid in Gaza will get a lot more attention if there is an almighty row attached to it?

Time and again the DEC have issued appeals with one aim in mind, to aid humanity and reduce suffering. The very point of the DEC is that it is a group of highly respected agencies who work together to meet extreme need. 

See today's Ekklesia Bulletin report for more on Mark Thompson's apparent need to dig an ever bigger hole underneath himself.

For details of how to donate to the appeal visit the DEC's website.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Lent Courses

In just a few weeks time we will be making that very difficult decision - will it be savoury (e.g. Tuna and Cheese), traditional (Lemon and Sugar) or wickedly indulgent (tinned pairs, rich dark chocolate sauce and very good vanilla ice cream)? Or perhaps one of each! Yes Lent is just around the corner - at least it is for those of us who have to plan 2 or 3 courses in our own churches or ecumenical groups.

So for me a prior decision to what to have in my pancake on Shrove Tuesday, is 'what Lent course/resource' should I use?

An appeal.... any ideas folks? What have you used and in what context?

Looking forward to your responses (and any off-the-wall pancake filling ideas also acceptable!).

Monday, 12 January 2009

Thinking about stuff

Well Sunday came and went - it was great to be doing my 3rd Covenant service, I'd almost got the sermon crafted by the final time of delivery! Of course the atheist bus ad was a gift to any preacher considering what God might require of us. I might tentatively suggest that enjoying ourselves is something we can do because God probably (or certainly...) does exist. So considering 'What shall I render to my God' in terms of Covenant renewal was okay.

I managed via Iplayer to catch up with the last episode of Ann Frank. I knew where it was going of course but that did not make it less moving. It was good to see how involved my kids became in the story - another generation will know something of the struggle and horror that is born of hatred and insane prejudice. It was also interesting to watch the series in the context of what is going on in Palestine/Israel.

For me though the best thing about the adaptation was that Ann was portrayed as a rounded person - a teenager with all the questions, idealism, anger, love, romanticism that should be in a 13 - 14 year old - especially one as intelligent as she was. She was not a saint - I felt I knew her better than in previous portrayals and felt so much for her mother, played wonderfully by Tamsin Greig.

Friday, 9 January 2009

Post Chrimble Slump

Not a comment on the financial state of the world, but a reflection of the kind of week I've had! There are a quantity of Christmas baubles and tinsel on the lounge floor waiting for the tallest person in the house (not me - I have two strapping guys at 6'3" and 5'11" to fit that bill - and one is still growing) to get the boxes down from the loft. My bedroom looks like a disaster in a clothing factory, the kitchen floor.... well it's best to wear shoes in there if you want to get across it without sticking and so it goes on. The pile of good intentions that sits upon my desk has grown in an inverse proportion to the amount of enthusiasm I have for tackling any of it.

I attended a meeting last night where the most energetic part of the whole thing was around whether the carols in the Carol Service had been traditional enough (not one was less than 100 years old - ye gads). Apparently, people 'come a long way to sing their favourite carols' and there's me thinking that we gathered to worship God and re-tell the story of the incarnation of Christ. I think I'm probably being a bit prickly about this because I was so very ill before Christmas and had to plan and deliver services when I just wanted to curl up and die in a blaze of Night Nurse and hot toddy glory. In a moment of inspired democracy I suggested that people list their favourite carols for me, so that we might form a group and work together to plan next Christmas's services. I think I may have gone too far when someone said we hadn't sung enough carols in early  December and I pointed out that 'Advent is not Christmas' .

Is church about comfort and 'our favourite things'? I think there is a place for the familiar (there was a lot of it at Christmas - nothing at all radical I'm ashamed to confess) but what about mission, about change, growth....? The incarnation is hardly comfortable.

What do you think?

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Gadgets for God

I love the Ship of Fools 'Gadgets for God' pages. If you need to have a side splitting belly laugh at how low Christian taste can sink (if the price is right...) visit this site. If you find something in the list you like, don't tell anyone they will not want to be your friend anymore. Mmmm Footballing Jesus - I'm sure it would look nice on our mantelpiece.... HELP.

Take Action

Christian Aid are providing a way of joining in a petition to urge the UK Government to call for a ceasefire in Gaza. As the message says, 'Military action is no solution to this crisis. Only dialogue between all parties can achieve lasting peace and a viable solution for Israelis and Palestinians alike.' 

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Rachel Weeps For Her Children

Preaching at a Methodist Covenant service is an interesting and painful challenge this year - to use the Jeremiah passages about good news for people in exile should be a helpful strand, but the readings about the old covenant talk again and again about peace for Isreal and how she will overcome her enemies. As the world watches Israel again sends tanks and bombs against communities that are struggling for water, food, decent hospital care and where people cannot work because their jobs are on the other side of the walls and blockades built (as throughout history) in the 'name of peace and security'. Hamas is not right in the way it is striving for what it wants, there are other more appropriate groups in Palestine. But as the British Government did on Bloody Sunday in Ireland, the Israeli Government is creating a whole new generation of 'freedom fighters' and suicide bombers. And in Gaza Rachel cries for her children, because they are no more.

Blogging Again

I'm back in the world of blogging! My old blog 'Singing colours' sits sadly in the blogosphere - unloved and unattended. Why? Cos the email address that allowed me to alter it died when my old job did!

So here, for the world to see (or the one or two folk who visit) is my new blog!!! Hurray. I don't promise to add something every day but look forward to endless hours of making a fuss about things most people don't give a fig about.

Visit again soon for exciting meanderings.