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  • Ready for Advent?

    Advent calendars and Advent books all begin tomorrow, even if Advent doesn't formally start until Sunday.

    This year I have chosen to read a slim volume by Walter Brueggeman, entitled 'Celebrating Abundance'. Only a couple of pages a day, so very manageable amidst the mayhem of stuff to be done.

    I will also be using an ALTERnativity 'festive family box' each day as a prompt for action/inaction

    In between times I will be enjoying preparing services, and playing my small part in making Christmas happen this year.

    I will also try to do a post each day in Advent, as I know some of my most loyal readers value it as their own 'advent calendar'.

  • Kindness Advent Calendar

    I saw this on social media - and I think it's great.  I plan to print it off and use it myself, alongside reading Walter Brueggeman's 'Devotions for Advent: Celebrating Abundance'.

  • Memory Lane

    It was with a mixture of anticipation and apprehension that I set off last Friday to visit dear old Dibley, and to preach at the Sunday service of the Dibley Community Church (Baptists and Methodists). In the end it was a joyful and relaxed time, catching up with old friends, visiting new things (church and otherwise) and seeing how God works in us, through us, and beyond us.

    When I went to Dibley at the start of 2004, the membership role for the Baptist Church was 46, plus maybe four or five 'adherents'.  Now the membership role is 18, and I wasn't aware of any non-members.  The Methodists are similar in number.  Despite the reduction in numbers, and the fact that I'd still be one of the youngest, if not the youngest, this little church is in good heart and growing in gentleness and grace.

    It was a curious thing to wander around the village, seeing what is new (lots of in-fill housing and a new housing estate finally being built 15-20 years after it was mooted!) and what hasn't changed at all.

    One of the most interesting, and incredibly moving, things was an installation called 'The Famous Fifty' which comemorated the centenary of fifty young men, mostly miners, sent off to dig trenches during the first world war.  Of fifty who went, only twenty-two returned, many traumatised and with their health permanently affected.  Apparently for some time, there had been poppies displayed in the windows of the cottages in which these young men had lived - a striking reminder of just how significant the impact of conscription was on this, as indeed all, communities.

    A visit to the church's cafe (in what used to be a chemist's shop) was really positive - it's a proper cafe, serving good food at affordable prices.  The tally of available suspended coffees and meals showed the huge difference from city-centre enterprises, and the stories of the various groups who meet there - some church, others not - very encouraging.

    I was always proud of Dibley, of their risk-taking in calling me, of their courage in leaving their building and trying new things, of their gritty tenacity and grounded, forthright expression of opinions.  Returning for a visit, it seems to me that these strengths remain, tempered by age, shaped by grace and lived in love... so I continue to be proud of them.

    For all that, after a long delay at East Midlands airport, I was glad to be home, back to another place and another congregation that I love and of whom I am equally proud.  Dibley and the Gathering Place share more than real-world initials and having me as minister - the Gatherers are courageous, gracious, accommodating, risk-taking, resilient, politely-middle-class forthright in opinion, learning and growing.

    As the preparations for Advent begin in earnest, I feel encouraged and energised (if physically still exhausted!) to journey onwards towards the eschatological hope that inspires my faith.

  • A week in the life... and a bit of reflection...

    It's hard to believe that I've only been back at work a month since my retreat/holiday in Wales, because it's been a very busy - enjoyably so - and exhausting month.  I'm not sorry that I have a long weekend 'off' which will include a guest preach in Dibley on Sunday.

    So, my week...

    Monday, with help from N-and-M clear kitchen, get vinyl fitted, alter and reinstall kickboards, put furniture back in kitchen, sweep new flooring how many times?!!

    Tuesday, took kitties to the vet for their annual check up, admin, service prep, house group

    Wednesday, Coffee Club, mentoring, supervision, sent apologies to meeting which would have been three back-to-back

    Thursday, admin, pastoral, important meeting

    Twice yesterday the conversation turned to the reality that chaplains have contracted hours, whilst pastoral ministers don't; twice I commented that chaplains are paid for their contracted hours whilst ministers are paid an overall stipend, but both are in ministry 24/7/365 because you can't just switch off.

    It's been a manic week, a manic month, a manic year, but, overall it feels good.


    This time last year, I was dog tired, irritable and not a nice person to know. 

    This year I am dog tired, happy, energised, enthused and looking forward to Advent.

    Whether I was clinically depressed this time last year, or whether it was a mix of life-experiences and surgically induced hormone changes, I can never prove; quite possibly it was a bit of all of them.  What I do know is that once I found a drug that suited me, I felt hugely better (and the monster has only reared it's ugly head once since).  A doctor friend wisely said that it was evident that I had 'depleted serotonin levels, even if it expressed itself in unsual ways' (well it is me, after all) which is a great way of expressing it... if iron levels are low, we take iron tablets, so if serotonin levels are low we take drugs to address that.

    So, a busy day today and then a slow weekend as I mentally and spiritually prepare for Advent 2017.  Bring it on!

  • Juxtaposition

    Last week, a painting attributed to Leonardo da Vinci was sold for $450,000,000

    Last Sunday, our Sunday School went to visit a painting called 'Our Last Supper' featuring men associated with Glasgow City Mission (GCM), which offers support for diasadvantaged and homeless people.  As a church, we took up our annual appeal collection for GCM, raising enough money to pay for a Christmas Dinner for fifty people.  We also collected 52 bags of chocolate coins to be distributed via the charity's family centre.

    At the moment, the Dali painting is on loan overseas - sometimes it seems to be away more often than it's at home! 

    In our prayers on Sunday, we used these three paintings, and some quotes from the gospels, to focus out thoughts...


    One evening, a woman took a very expensive bottle of perfume and poured the lot over Jesus' feet, drawing criticism from those who saw her, one even going to far as to say it was a waste, the perfume could have been sold and the money given to the poor.  Jesus' reply was this: the poor will always be with you.


    Jesus said, 'foxes have holes, birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.'

    On another occasion, a devout young man with great wealth had come to Jesus asking what he should do to inherit eternal life.  He left upset when Jesus told him to sell all his possessions and give the proceeds to the poor.


    Seven sayings of Jesus from the cross have been preserved...

    Father forgive them, they don’t know what it is they are doing

    Today you will be with me in paradise

    Behold your son… your mother… your new family…

    Have you abandoned me? Why have you abandoned me? 

    I am thirsty…

    It is accomplished

    Father, into you hands I commend my spirit.


    I wonder what emerges for you, gentle reader, as you explore the juxtaposition of these images (or the texts, or both)?

    What prayer would you pray?