Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The night is past............

I had a bad night, not quite as bad as those the Psalmist used to endure. I wasn't watering my couch with tears but it was'nt getting better soon either! Joy did not come in the morning. None the less, something was dawning!

Floods in Cumbria, war in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, millions of refugees on the move, Church of England going through difficult changes etc.. Dark enough without adding the usual problems, difficulties and challenges that come one's way.

Morning Prayer - "The night is past the day lies open before us."  You must be joking!
But no!  I was saying morning prayer, awaiting the sunrise and looking straight at Venus, The Morning Star,  low in the eastern sky.

St Peter came to mind - 
"For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honour and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’ We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven, while we were with him on the holy mountain.
So we have the prophetic message more fully confirmed. You will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. "

2 Peter 1.16 ff 

The hope of light in the darkness?!  That's what I have bought in for! That is something more profound than a Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Outdoor Spirituality

This morning's New Testament reading has Jesus withdrawing from the hustle  "in a boat to a deserted place by himself." (Matthew 14.13)" and climbing a hill by himself to pray. 
My prayers of thanks and  concern for today are for all those who enable today's busy people get away from it all and encounter the Creator in his/her Creation.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Hope for the Post-Digital Church

I really admire Archbishop Justine's PR machine and greatly value having a feed from his Facebook Page! So I was upset to hear criticism of him and other church leaders for not "speaking out"!
In response, I mentioned Archbishop Justine's Facebook Page.  Bad move!! I had not been aware of of the degree of antipathy towards digital communications among churchgoers! I think it both sad and disappointing!

I was at a benefice meeting of a rural group of parishes in Norwich Diocese where the diocese's digital communications are improving year by year. Google Graham James Bishop of Norwich and you get 355,000 links. Bishop Graham, like Archbishop Justine, has a strong communications team supporting him.

The church in the countryside has been going through profound changes. No longer do people live, work, shop and take their recreation in the same community. No longer are communications limited to snail mail and newspapers and no longer does each village have its own vicar!

For centuries people with get up and go have been getting up and going from our rural communities. That's so much easier now the majority of people have cars. This means that if the village church is boring, or irrelevant, has a different style to the one we favour,  we just get in our vehicles and go elsewhere. And there are so many things other than church on offer on a Sunday morning!  I think its amazing anyone attends the local church!

Except, of course, there are some of us who are deeply committed to the idea that God calls us to be Christians where we are and, if that means enduring a church that is sometimes irrelevant, boring or displaying a style we are not comfortable with,  so be it.   For such as us the internet, the world wide web, great radio programmes and occasional journeys to Christian meetings, teachings and services elsewhere are life lines. They put us in touch with lively Christianity, ways we can  be  inspired and become inspiring!

Without intending to be sycophantic, Archbishop Justine and Bishop Graham on the internet,  on the radio are all part of  the network that sustains me

The complaint, "Why don't church leaders speak out!"and the anger at the mention of Facebook suggest to me there's  a battle line in the rural church!  Honestly brothers and sisters in Christ digital communications are not the problem for  rural church.  They are part of the solution! 

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Broads Images and Stories

 Passing Death and Glory at Belaugh I fell to thinking about Arthur Ransom's Coot Club.
The Hulabaloos are still around on the Broads. Big cruisers power their way up the narrow River Ant, a bit late for their handover at Stalham.
Other do not make it: 

There is always a danger that tourism can destroy the ecosystem on which it  depends.
Too many big high powered cruisers charging from pub to pub will degrade Britains Magical Waterland.

Observe holiday makers on the Broads  - there are a lot who are identifying with our British seafaring heritage - OK maybe pirates do not quite fit the bill - but there are lots of them.

How strange to find a Mississippi stern wheeler..

Steam boats, traditional sailing boats and the deep England churches and thatched cottages in the landscape don't seem to clash in the same way.

What bells might they ring with the Black Asian and Minority Ethnic  (BLAME) communities?

What stories might we tell ?

Churches as Houses of Prayer for all Nations? 
Smugglers - 
Five and twenty ponies, 
Trotting through the dark - 

Brandy for the Parson, 

'Baccy for the Clerk.
Them that asks no questions isn't told a lie - 

Watch the wall my darling while the Gentlemen go by ! 


Thursday, June 25, 2015

St.Ninian, Whithorn and the Ruthwell Cross

When Ted (Ted Heasley RIP) and I visited the Isle of Whithorn back in 2000 AD the Cairn of Witness was new. We liked the idea but we hadn't known about it, otherwise we would have brought a piece of East Anglian flint to place on the pile!
In 20015 it was still on my to do list.

So last month when I returned, a piece of Norfolk flint was added and I had a minute or two remembering Ted.

Back then we were on our way to Headford in County Galway  - a pilgrimage made in honour of St. Fursey - it all seemed cut and dried. But now scholars find it hard to agree on where St. Fursey had his monastic formation. It may have been just a short hop across the Irish Sea in Ulster.

Ted and I had called in at Whithorn where we visited the site of St. Ninian's , Candida Casa (White Shining perhaps? House ) the pilgrimage chapel at the Isle of Whithorn and Ninian's Cave. In my mind it had been a detour but now I see differently.

Most of what we know about Ninian is from the Ven. Bede who probably gave him a good press because that part of Scotland was, in his day, part of the Kingdom Northumberland.  Scholars struggle to link Ninian with saints found in Irish sources.  Its possible that Bede's Ninian, around whom a hagiography was written in the Middle Ages, is none other than Finnian of Moville. Finnian it is who taught St. Columba. In which case, Whithorn before Iona works really well.

From the mouth of Ninian's cave one can view both the Isle of Man and the Lake District. From Kyle of Galloway the Ulster coast is clear. So whatever success the scholars achieve or fail to achieve this whole area full of echoes of the Christian past. Patrick, Ninian/Finnian, Columba and Fursey (perhaps?) .  The archaeology confirms a  sea route, what amounts to a 5th century motorway, linking Gaul, Cornwall, Wales, western Britain and the Irish east coast.

So perhaps it is not so far fetched to imagine Fursey and his companions passing through Whithorn on their way to evangelise Norfolk. Did their path lead cross country to  the Northumberland coast and then down by boats to Norfolk? Oswald became king in in 634 so he may have provided safe passage! Or did they come via Irish monasteries on the European Continent? St. Felix who began the evangelisation of East Anglia had come from Francia!

Whatever, it was good to reach out my hand and touch a 5th memorial stone in the Whithorn Museum and to wonder at the 7th century Ruthwell Cross. There's something very tangible about stones.

Don't let anyone sell the Ruthwell Cross to you as Celtic. Ruthwell may, in deed, be in Scotland today then it was in the Anglian Kingdom Of Northhumberland.

I'm sure if we had a bit more useful stone we'd have lots of these crosses in Norfolk. As it is we have flint!

I placed a piece of flint on the Cairn of Witness both a marker of an act of witness completed and a pledge for more to come.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Parable of the Mustard Seed

I particularly like this photo taken in the Spring of 2008 in Cyprus.
It illustrates the Parable of the Mustard Seed (Mark 4.31) and the Allegory of the Vine (John 15).
The brilliant yellow of the mustard flower is every where in the spring - 
on field edges, in gardens, on little bits of waste land
in Cyprus and Galilee.

The mustard seed does not grow into a great tree where the birds of the tree make their nests. Everyone knows that! 

It is a pernicious weed that spreads everywhere!
Look in the photo at the yellow all around the edge of the vineyard where the vines are pruned and ready! 
A different sort of power and a different sort of kingdom to those of Egypt or Assyria 
(See Ezekiel 17.22 ff and 36.66ff)

Friday, June 12, 2015

St. Cuthbert - Something understood

It was too windy to go out to the Farne Islands on Wednesday last week so I walked from Bamburgh around the coast to Budle Bay then back by way of the Spindle Stone. I could not help looking back at the castle and realising how close it was to the Inner Farnes . It was then I got cross with Cuthbert! He had his hermitage on the Inner Farnes. The king lived at Bamburgh Castle. It is one thing feeling you have a vocation to be a hermit. Its another to go grand standing about it. "Look at me I'm a holy hermit living on next to nothing in the middle of the sea?"

By the time I'd walked the circuit I'd come to terms with what he had done. I realised I thought nothing in mounting the steps of a pulpit and preaching in the name of Father, Son  and Holy Spirit. Cuthbert's  enacted example was far more costly and communicated deep and uncomfortable truths that are still resonate.

Life is precarious, it mattered little if you were a fighting king or a hermit. Oswiu had come to power on the death of his brother Oswald   at the Battle of Maresfield in 642 , their father Aelfrith had also died in battle. And even though 21st century man lives much longer death cannot be avoided anymore  than a sandcastle's collapse at the advance of the in-coming tide! 

"Draw near to God and he will draw near to you..." are encouraging words but yet each of us must do so on our own. No one can do it for you. "Come apart and rest a while!"  says the Lord. "Consider the birds and the flowers of the field." And in following the path he trod we must go out into the wilderness. It is not an option to stay in the warm drinking, ale and feasting.

The next day the wind had dropped and I was able to go out and wander among nesting sea birds - Puffins, Guilemots, Razor Bill, Kittiwakes, Shags and Terns. It was wonderful

I thought there were not as many Eider Duck as last time I visited. St. Cuthbert  had banned the killing of Eider Ducks, the first species to be protected by law! As I came ashore onto the Inner Farne and the Arctic Terns started attacking my fellow visitors I formed the opinion that the terns did not appreciate being disturbed by visitors. Nor yet did Cuthbert

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Caring for God's Acre Conference

Brilliant Day

Inspirational Speakers

Great Workshops

Great Partnership between
Norfolk Wildlife Trust,
Caring for God's Acre
Diocese of Norwich

Thoughtful kind and intelligent chairing
Thanks you Canon Dr. Jeremy Haselock

Ace food
Thank you Luke (the Griddler) Blackburn

Church and Churchyard Open and welcoming                                           Thanks churchwardens Richard and Sylvia 
and Horstead PCC

Last but not least

Lets hear it for the washers up

Thanks Margaret, Sue, Jacqueline and Bridget

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Hail Mary of Raymond Llull

Hail Mary! 
Your servant salutes you on behalf of the angels,
And the patriarchs, of the prophets and the martyrs,
Of the confessors and the virgins. 
I greet you on behalf of all the saints of Heaven. 

Hail Mary!        
You greetings from the Christians,         
The faithful and the sinners.         
From the faithful             
because you are worthy of their praise           
And because you are the hope for our salvation; 
The sinners salute you        
and beg for your forgiveness.    
Hail Mary!    
bring you greetings from Muslims and Jews,    
From Greeks, Mongols and Tartars.        
I am the channel through which they,           
And many other unbelievers, greet you.    
I salute you for them
So that your Son will remember them.           
Hail Mary!          
For you are worthy to be known,              
Loved, served and honoured by all the peoples 
And all the nations on Earth.    
They all salute you     
And beg for your glory and forgiveness.  

Thursday, April 30, 2015

A Sacred Grove in the Mountains

Come to the shrine
“Walk towards splendour
Your God walks with you”

Prepare your heart
and leave
with trust and joy,
Alone, or with your brothers,
but Come.

Walk in the footsteps of your ancestors

Whoever you may be,
In God’s house there is a place for you,
You have brothers to meet,
Saints to follow,
Mary to listen to
And the mysteries of the Church to live.

If you thirst for joy, peace and justice,
If you thirst for love and forgiveness,
Come and drink the Living water
From the fountain of salvation,

You who are young and full of enthusiasm
You who are ill and wretchedly suffering,
You who are feeling marginalised,
As well as you who are blessed
With a pleasant family life,
Come and be illuminated by the light of the Gospel.

And come back reconciled  

Proclaim the Good News to your brothers:
God loves us
And awaits us.

“Walk towards splendour:

Your God walks with you.”

In Roman times there was a sacred grove - Lucus. The Arabs Al-Luc, then after the reconquest the Majorcans called the place Luc and then Lluc. 
A foundation story tells of a shepherd boy finding the statue.
This may or may not be the one displayed in the church today 

None-the-less, we pilgrims come and take away with us pearls of great price.

Like Walsingham this shrine was originally in the care of Augustinian brothers

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Last Fish ( for a time at least)

 "They toiled all night and caugh nothing!" 
Did you catch anything? people ask. But somehow they miss the point. I hadn'nt been up all night, but  I did get up and go out before breakfast to have an hour and a half on the river bank, on the last day of the fishing season! 
Considering the birds, I didn't fancy my chances. All winter long cormorants have been working this stretch of river. Now they have gone. I expect they have followed  the shoals of roach etc. they have been feeding on. It is only to be expected that the pike and perch that feed off the smaller fish will have moved away too! 
So what was the point of getting up early? The river bank is a great place to say one's prayers. As the cold began to creep in, my heart turned towards those families with small children in refugee camps and among the bombed out buildings of Gaza. I wondered at the way the Prince of Glory shed everything to be a refugee child in the Middle East!
One amazed, wondering moment followed another. "Consider the birds...." Did I hear that, or remember it? Kingfishers went to and fro. A heron flapped by. Pied wagtails flitted. Somewhere a thrush was singing. My mind went back to disappointed fishermen on a Galilee beach and the one who called them. " Follow me!" He said. Did I hear that, or remember it?
Just before I reeled my line in there was a massive pike take on the surface no more than 6 feet from my float. It turned out that although I had caught nothing, I hadn't been wasting my time! Perhaps that's a lesson I can apply to my evangelistic efforts. "There's no hope of catching anything unless you put in the time, make the effort, have the right kit and the right bait etc." Funny that! Did I hear it or remember it? 
There's a strong possibility that the Carpenter of Nazareth still speaks to fishermen on the waterside.  Hmnnnnnn...........

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Lent Tool Kit

A Lent Sermon preached at Belaugh, St. Peter

Children are feeding Spring lambs at Wroxham Barns

Lent – it is the Old English word for Spring.  
Please when you hear the word Lent think Spring. Spring and the connotations of Spring – New Life, Spring Cleaning and Springing Forward
My prayer this Lent is for a new Spring time for the Church.

On this first Sunday of Lent I propose a Lent Toolkit. It contains 5 items:

1) Readiness to Change
The only person I can legitimately change is me. It would be so much nicer if only our loved ones, friends, neighbours, fellow Christians, all those others were nicer, kinder, more honest, more helpful... etc... Yes, that maybe true, but the only person you can change is you! The bride who at her church wedding vowed Aisle, Altar, Hymn was well out of order! We will do well if we try not follow her example!

2)  Mindfulness.
Mindfulness is a concept that is all the rage these days. The word is borrowed from Buddhist practice describing a state of mind that stands back from one’s self and observes what is going on – your thought patterns, your attitudes, how you behave. Mindfulness is the trendy word, but we have its equivalent in the Christian Tradition where it has been called Self-Examination. I prefer to use Mindfulness rather than Self- Examination because the word examination suggests passing and failing. Mindfulness is a tool to helps us get better at being Christians

3) A Handbook.
Its always good to have some written instructions and I think the handbook in your Tool Kit for Lent should set out some of the sources of help:
                        a) List of helpful books -  from the Bible to books like Bishop Graham’s the Lent Factor and, of course, do include novels. One can learn so much from novels. Maybe you will add some films and plays too!
                        b) The handbook should have a chapter about Serendipity. Many people who take Lent seriously speak about the Serendipity of books, how they seem to read the right thing at the right time, something unexpected that takes their understanding forward by leaps and bounds.
                        c) At the centre the handbook must have a section on the crucial importance of giving time and attention.  Without sufficient time and attention nothing at all will happen!  If and when you do you will notice that
                        d) God does and will provide
                        c) Finally, the handbook should remind you that you are not on your own. Others tread and have trod the same path. Lent groups can help, so to can formal arrangements with spiritual directors or a soul friend, then there’s chatting with friends on the way and, even, listening to sermons can help!

4) Help with Diagnosis
Consideration of 7 Deadly Sins  provide a way self diagnosis of the disease that afflicts the soul. Highlighting  what needs to be changed and how to make an honest confession.  Lastly, ,

5) Medication for the Ills of the Soul
Practice of the 7 Virtues can be an appropriate penance and a prescription to be used against the disease of the 7 Deadly Sins

So here is the proposed toolkit. It contains mindfulness, a willingness to change one’s self, a handbook, something for both self diagnosis and self medication.

Finally,  a thought about the Good Shepherd and Wroxham Barns. As I speak there will be a shed full of children and orphaned lambs to be fed. Ian Russell and his team are brilliant at what they do every one of the children in that shed will get to feed a lamb.  Think of those lambs and their enthusiasm to drink deep of  all that goodness and grow!  So it must be with you in Lent if there is to be a Springtime of the church. Holy Communion is an outward and visible sign of inward and spiritual grace. Let us drink in all that goodness and grow.

Note - the above owes much to Kenneth Bailey and in particular his book "The Good Shepherd" IVP 2014. It is in the form of a chiasm that goes:

Lent/Spring /lambs
         1) Readiness to change
         2) Mindfullnes/How am I behaving (inside and out)?/Diagnosis
                                                             b)  serendipity
                HANDBOOK                           Central Point - Make time/give attention
                                                              b) God will provide/serendipity
                                                              a) resources/others/not on our own
        2)Diagnosis/7 Deadly Sins
        1) Help to change

Lent/Spring /lambs

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Another Simeon Moment

Anna and I were at the Big God Shop on Sunday. It was a week after Candlemass so I wasn't expecting lights to enlighten anyone really! 

Back in the day Simeon had argued passionately for the ordination of women. Twenty years ago he had participated in the first ordination service at Norwich Cathedral.  From time to time he had wondered if he had got it wrong.

The readings and teaching focused on God as Creator and the involvement of, the feminine, Wisdom. Oh and then he saw what was plainly before his eyes:
Jane, the Dean was presiding, beside her his friend Angela was acting as sub-deacon. There were two lady servers and his former religious, fiddle-playing, friend Janet was an acolyte. 
There was not a completely female cast among the ministers. The preacher was male, as was the deacon as were some of the readers and the intercessor. It was just  that things were balanced female and male ordained and lay.
That is the way he'd imagined it would be. The way it will be in God's future 

He's not quite ready to go in peace but he did catch a glimpse of glory!

Friday, February 06, 2015

A Food Pilgrimage - Norwich

Do your praying where ever!  You choose -  the great out doors, a church, cathedral! Is there a mosque or a synagogue?
Then head north up Magdalene Street. Half way up on the left hand side you will find Ruth's Kitchen.

The tag line is "Jerusalem Street Food"!
Jerusalem means City of Peace
There is little difference in the Hebrew Shalom and the Arabic Salam.

How we need peace

There's a warm welcome in Ruth's Kitchen  and I have never tasted better falafal north of the Mediterranean.

Religion can divide food unites!

Jew, Christian, Muslim, Agnostic, Atheist all need to eat, all appreciate a warm welcome. You'll find it here!

As I ate falafel and mezze I found my mind straying to Isaiah a prophet of all three Abrahamic religions 
In my heart I sang as I ate

 A Song of the New Jerusalem

1Arise, shine out, for your light has come, 
the glory of the Lord is rising upon you.
2Though night still covers the earth, 
and darkness the peoples;
3Above you the Holy One arises, 
and above you God's glory appears.
4The nations will come to your light, 
and kings to your dawning brightness.
5Your gates will lie open continually, 
shut neither by day nor by night.
6The sound of violence shall be heard no longer in your land, 
or ruin and devastation within your borders.
7You will call your walls, Salvation, 
and your gates, Praise.
8No more will the sun give you daylight, 
nor moonlight shine upon you;
9But the Lord will be your everlasting light, 
your God will be your splendour.
10For you shall be called the city of God, 
the dwelling of the Holy One of Israel.
Isaiah 60.1-3, 11a, 18, 19, 14b

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

A Candlemass Simeon Moment

Truth to tell the Family Service was a little long. There had been a baptism. It was great to welcome Ruben into the Family of the Church. My role was working the CD player for the songs!

When it was all over I needed to loosen up so I thought I'd teach some of the children the Butterfly Song with actions. It was fun!

It was only afterwards, when I reflected about it, I realised I had recreated the Simeon in the Temple thing engaging with and rejoicing in and with a new generation of the Servants of God who were going to make a difference.

Me? I'm a white beard but still a child of God,  not quite ready for my Nunc Dimitis, and trusting in the next generation to take things forward. What a lucky old man I am - "And I just thank you father for making me me!"

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Way..............

Its a privilege to walk to church across the meadows

On the Way time to prepare my soul to preside at the eucharist - time to consider birds and flowers. The wild goose Celtic symbol for the Holy Spirit. The first of the  snowdrops - Candle Mass bells! 
Mole hills remind me that a lot of stuff goes on under ground, so to speak. And an anti-dog poo notice reminds me that we can foul up whatever is good and beautiful when we don't think of others.