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  • Glimpses of Grace

    Tomorrow we have a 'difficult' funeral here in Dibley, as we say farewell to one of our younger members (in their fifties).

    As I arrived at school today to set up, the locum caretaker, with whom we have a great relationship (along with the regular one) asked me it was possible still to believe in God when this happened.  I was able to quote a conversation I'd had with this person a few weeks back in which she'd told me how even as a young person she'd appreciated that faith in God wouldn't guarantee immunity from suffering or struggle, but would give her strength to live through it.  I went on to say that the God I believe in is not like a geni in a bottle who grants our every wish.  He thought for a moment, smiled and said, I guess if it was like that, the place would be full every week.  I'm not sure he was convinced of God, but he listened and will clearly think more - and this woman's faith continues to touch others.

    A little later the next youngest person to me (she's 6 months older!  We are the babies of the church) arrived to set out the tea things.  As we talked about tomorrow's service, she asked who I had to talk to about it all, and how did I cope.  After I'd explained about hiding behind the 'dog collar' (being in role) and how I'll clear off for an hour or two after the event to unwind, she just said, well you can come to my house if you need to.  This woman is a quiet saint, never in your face with her faith, honest with her struggles and questions, yet she gets it.

    The service went off alright, if a little subdued by events; I came home with final preparation to do for tomorrow but having glimsped something of the grace of God in an agnostic caretaker and quiet disicple.

    May God grant me the grace and courage to hold God's people in my heart tomorrow.

  • The Law of Murphy...

    Why is it, when I'd proof read the leaflet twice before commencing the 250 copy print run, I only spotted the one typographical error after I'd collated and folded all 250 copies?

    For anyone who wonders, the difference between the Law of Sod and the Law of Murphy, is that the former says 'toast always lands butterside down' (i.e. if it can go wrong, it will) the latter says 'toast always lands butter side down, unless you're trying to demonstrate this fact.'  Next time I'll assume there'll be an unspotted error and see what transpires...  In the meantime, given the import of the leaflet, I am re-printing 250 middle sections and filling my recycling bin with the error-marred (double sided) copy.

  • The Noble Art of Brianing, Revisited

    Anyone who knows my former college tutor, Revd Brian Howden will know what Brianing is - the innocent delight that accompanies the discovery of connections, especially between people.

    The last couple of weeks have had a couple of Brianing moments...

    In Bodfari, a tiny Welsh hamlet, is a pub to which all walkers retire for tea/dinner (according to where they went to school!)  - cos there isn't anywhere else.  So how's this for a coincidence worthy of Brian?  As I sat in said pub, minding my own business, someone came over to me and said 'excuse me, I know this sounds daft, but are you a minister and did you train in Manchester?'  Imagine how blessed that pub was to have a Methodist minister (walking Offa's south) and a Baptist minister (walking it north) who had indeed overlapped in their time in Manchester dining at the same time!

    In Manchester I got chatting to a minister I've never met before, who asked where my church was.  Oh, you'll never have heard of it, I said, its in Leicestershire.  She probed further - and it turned out her sister teaches at the school where we meet for worship (and they are not from the local area originally).

    As I type I can picture Brian smiling in delight as the interconnectedness of all humanity is once more illustrated.  Sure there are all the six degrees of separation myths (evidently based on something an American church minister once did) but it is always quite special to discover the world is smaller than I think, and 'Brianing' remains, as ever, a special moment.

  • Thoughts from Offa's Dyke

    087958d8ff5e8fd51b5dd9137c58f3ce.jpg Three weeks ago, my friend Jean and I at the start (end?) of Offa's Dyke at Sedbury Cliffs in the Bristol Channel.  It's an odd kind of start/end to a walk because you have to walk through some very muddy fields and up a steep bank in order to get to the stone and officially start (or end) your walk.  Then you have to back track to the road as you set off for Prestatyn (starting) or to Sedbury/Chepstow (ending).  Seems a bit like life sometimes- you have to go backwards in order to go forwards.  Perhaps I should have read the sign for how much to-ing and fro-ing I'd be doing in the following weeks!



    7d808466fa903db4daf985339f7deb5d.jpgThis sign appears on the gates at either end of Disgwylfa Hill, one of the many we climbed up, over, round and down in the two weeks of walking.  I combines gentle humour with some thought provoking ideas: a reminder that we don't actually own the earth and we should respect it.

    Disgwylfa Hill is a gift from God

    Or whomever you believe in

    Please cherish it as we do

    Don't dump your scrap or tin.


    We wish to preserve the beauty

    Of this green and pleasant land

    So don't be selfish, have a heart,

    And help us make a stand.


    This is a heartfelt message

    To all you lazy dumpees

    Take away your rubbish and litter

    Don't leave it here, PLEASE


    For those of you who do not care

    And ignore our message too

    Just remember that these hills have eyes

    And they are watching YOU


    Doggerel it may be, but doggerel I approve of!

    5d8f6f8bf07be385a0190b03b8abad09.jpgSt Mary's, Newchurch, is an old Anglican church with no loos and no running water, but who gave grasped something of Matthew 25.  The church is open all the time for walkers and visitors to help themselves to tea, coffee, soft drinks and biscuits.  Someone makes sure there is fresh water, someone supplies the milk, someone washes the cups... and it's all given for FREE.

    It was amazing how many other walkers asked us 'did you find the church that was giving away drinks AND biscuits?' I was inspired and humbled by these folk, in a church with some brass that could get nicked, a building that could get vandalised, but hearts after the Lord's own heart.  "I was thirsty and you gave me to drink, I was hungry and you fed me"

     Great mission, witness, gospel, whatever (and the tea was good too!)


     "The earth is charged with the grandeur of God"e16bf6b7dfcb80875162399ca0d12a6e.jpg

    Perhaps surprisingly these words were quoted in my walk guide - but it was certainly our experience as we were repeatedly struck by the wonder of what we saw - yellow gorse, purple heather, wild ponies, grouse, butterflies, patchwork fields, ribbon roads, distant coastline - and heard - bleating sheep, lowing cattle, birdsong - and felt - blustery wind, scorching sun, drenching rain.  Claims that Britain is full up seemed bizarre in the face of so much empty countryside and all those nature hymns/psalms took on fresh meaning along the way.



    aa851f7af098a7c7b90336890151c4ad.jpgWe had a lot of fun along the way, but there were moments when it was plain old fashioned slog, and times when it hurt (a sprained ankle apiece and some 200m+ steep climbs to boot, have their impact!). Yet, each time we finally topped a hill/mountain the pain was forgotten as we enjoyed the views.  But if you are reading this, and know Jean, beware her saying 'it goes up to start with' as this probably prefaces a 300m continuous steep climb with almost no footholds in the grass!


    I wouldn't want anyone reading this to think the walk was a serious, theological enterprise -if you could have seen your tame Baptist minister person doubled up in hysterical giggles (with her legs crossed of necessity!) as her friend joked about health and saftey as we walked back from the pub (having drunk only lime and soda, honestly) to Hyacinth Bucket's B&B you would certainly know otherwise!  Nonetheless, theology - or spirituality anyway - has/have a habit of breaking into anything and everything.  Not that this should surprise us, afterall God's Spirit blows where it will, God's wisdom fills creation and heaven is closer than our own breathing.

    baee84b13ffec0b2b90368c819fa9c0f.jpg So, to end, here I am looking out over miles and miles of countryside towards the sea, towards jouney's end at Prestatyn - which of course is but the beginning of another journey, more adventures, laughter, pain, highs and lows.


  • Theology and the A50

    This has been my week - Warrington to Dibley on Sunday, Dibley to Manchester Tuesday, Manchester to Dibley Wednesday, Dibley to Manchester Thursday, Manchester to Dibley Friday.  I have seen an awful lot of the A50 (also the A34, A500 and M1 - the latter because it is faster than the A511).  In between times, I have enjoyed some wonderful papers on theology in relation to sport, poetry, 24/7 news reporting, the novel/film 'Atonement', the significance of Biblical cosmology to hymnody in a post Copernican world, church meeting in the light of relational trinity, girls in the Bible and other things I have already forgotten the titles of!  My own paper was very generously received - depsite my being horrendously nervous!  It was a good time - even allowing for all the travelling associated with funeral arrangements for next week.


    I'm not quite sure what you'd call what follows, which is a bit stream of conscious, and is a kind of prayer/poem type thingy. All I do know is I am gateful to God who has allowed and enabled me to do what I have done this week - finding joy and encouragement, offering support and care, being the mad woman from Dibley and a flawed disciple of Christ.


    God of the A50

    Tarmac, concrete, white lines

    Cars, lorries, vans - even a bike



    Derby to Stoke

    God of the A50, I travel with you


    Race course, prison, JCB

    Services, churches, stadium



    Journey of life

    God of the A50, travel with me


    Now faster, now slower

    Roundabouts, lanes

    Traffic lights


    Directions and signs

    God of the A50, accompanying me

    Entry slips, exits slips

    Strangely names towns

    People whose lives

    Momentarily cross mine

    God of the A50, travel with them


    In joy and in sorrow

    Beginning and end








    God of the A50, forever, Amen.