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  • Putting a 'WoW' in my Step!

    Part of my holiday last week was spent with a friend with whom I will be walking the Trans Pennine Trail in the fortnight that bridges July into August.  It's a mere 200 miles or so, 5 OS maps wide and 2 high, around 2000m of climbs and is probably sheer madness.  But it achieves two purposes: firstly a long standing ambition to complete a long distance walk and secondly a means of raising money for a good cause.

    Over the last year, two former colleagues, a student 2 years below me at college and one of my tutors, died.  Each had wrestled with cancer or 'as near as makes no difference cancer' affecting their reproductive systems and I felt that I wanted to do something to honour their memory and maybe help other women facing similar difficulties.

    I stumbled across a charity called Wellbeing of Women which funds research into 'all aspects of women's reproductive health'.  Although perhaps best known for its work on ovarian cancer, it also funds work in such diverse areas as fertility, endemetriosis and menopause.  I guess if it's female, below the waist and causes people to feel uncomfortable when they mention it, they work on it.  Whilst the big 'C' is the obvious focus, they take a fairly holistic approach.

    So, gentle reader (a quaint phrase I've often wanted to use!) what I will be seeking (if you happen to know me, if you don't please ignore this request) is sponsorship and possibly the odd overnight stay to keep costs down.  My fellow walker and I know quite a lot of people along the first 40 miles of the route but once we enter Yorkshire not so many.

    Please check out the WOW website to find out more and feel free to wonder at the insanity of this endeavour whilst at the same time realising that we will be remembering Rachel and Gillian.

  • "Holiday" Reading

    Last week's holiday never really stood a chance!  Between the car being off the road getting a new water pump and the relentless phone calls from local press (who eventually quoted only one totally innocuous sentence from what I'd said!) I didn't get away until Wednesday afternoon and spent more time travelling than actually holidaying.  Ah well.

    I did manage to read a couple of novels though: The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffeneger and The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom.  The former at 500 pages is probably not meant to be read in one day whilst waiting for your car to be fixed, because if you do, you spot the holes in the logic and the ending becomes predictable; but it was an interesting take on the age old conundrum of the impact on history of being able to travel backward or forward in time.  The latter was a quick read but with some hidden depths, the idea being that once you die you encounter five people who help you understand how your own life influenced and was influenced by those of others and to uncover the answers to some big questions you may never have asked.

    What struck me overall was the sense that both of these novels were trying to make some kind of sense of life, of suffering, of pain and of 'why am I here?' in a world where the age-old faith-based answers have been lost or usurped.  The need for an individual's life to count, to matter in the 'grand scheme of things,' to make some kind of sense and even for everything eventually to come good, these questions are no less real than they ever have been, and without the framework of organsied religion, I guess people need to find their own ways of exploring them.

    Looking around other Blogs, it seems that there is currently a fair bit of interest in preaching on Ecclesiastes, with its Eeeyore-a-like writer who poses and explores questions on the meaning of life.  Maybe there is a hint of resonance, or maybe I just notice it because recently I've had passages Ecclesiastes requested for a funeral (a couple of months back) and a wedding (taking place next week!), plus a lot of what's been going on around here recently inevitably provokes questions of this type.  Either that or maybe I just need another holiday to get over the last one with nothing more significant to 'read' than a book of Su Doku puzzles.

  • Close to Home

    The latest soldiers to die in Iraq include a 19 year old who lived on my patch.  He was not known to us, but it certainly brings it home.

    I found out when a reporter from the local paper rang me for a comment (and was caught well and trully off guard!)  I stand by what I said, and hope that it does not get too badly distorted in print....

    Firstly, my thoughts and prayers are with the family of this young man at this time of tragic loss.

    I have tremendous admiration for the courage and bravery of the young men and women who serve in our armed forces and who are prepared to lay down their lives in this way.

    However, I do not believe the war in Iraq was justified and do not understand why, with an elected government operating, there is no end date in sight for the withdrawal of British military personnel from that nation.  It feels to me that these young men and women are pawns in a political game.

    Anyone who reads my stuff knows that I make no claims to be a pacifist and anyone who knows me of old knows that I have worked on defence contracts.  Having studied the "just war" theories as part of my ethics course in theology, I guess I still believe that there may be occasions when recourse to military might is justified - but this was clearly not the case in Iraq, which I believe to have been an illegal war.  It grieves me greatly that a young man who loved life and longed to serve his country should lose his life in this way.  In so far as it is in my gift, I commend him to the grace and mercy of Almighty God, and pray for peace in the nation that is Iraq.  And, as I reflect upon our corporate guilt, in the words of Graham Kendrick 'upon our nation, have mercy Lord'

  • Winding Down? Or Up?!

    Ostensibly, with the exception of Sunday, this is my last working day before a week's holiday. Yeah, right!  Tomorrow has to be 'free' because I've arranged to go out for the day but Saturday is a manic mixture of a church social (joy!) for which I still have to prepare a variation on 'Pictionary' and a long awaited meeting with the couple whose wedding I'm due to conduct in Warrington in 3 weeks' time.

    Last night I watched the final episode of 'The Apprentice' and, apart from the predictable outcome ( I felt Michelle was far more 'trainable' than Ruth, and Ruth would succeed anyway) I marvelled at the simplicity of the final task.  I mean come on, stage an event with all that clout behind you?  Easy peasy!  Now I could set a task or two... how about disposing of a delapidated Victorian building subject to both charitable and planning restrictions whilst negotiating the possible merger of two small voluntary societies and simultaneously planning a free community event with a budget of 50p .  I think that should be quite achieveable - well it's what we are doing here in Dibley with no prior experience and a group of volunteers.

    No wonder I'm not winding down yet - as I type both my printers churn away producing publicity material - and that some of my poor people are getting a bit wound up.  Still, we are making progress and have a sense of God's leading.

    I am greatly looking forward to my week in the North West enjoying the Lancashire coastlands and south lakes before a "non-Baptist" preach near Warrington.  I am also looking forward to the weekend of the Warrington wedding and Dibley Pentecost Party and Open Air Service, though it promises to be an exhausting and demanding 72 hours.

    Maybe then I'll find time to wind down - and maybe a flock of Gloucester Old Spots just performed aerobatics outside my window!  Anyway, no posts for a week or so but, as Arnie would say, 'I'll be back'

  • "Are you holding hands yet?"

    When I mentioned at NAM reflection day that our two churches were having our fourth 'date' this Sunday, that's what I was asked.  It's a good question - how far has the relationship developed?  Will we remain as 'just good friends' or are things starting to move to the 'next level'?

    The service - at our end this time - was again well attended and there was a lovely warm atmosphere (even though the heating was definitely switched OFF!) with a lot more inter-congregational mixing both in seating patterns and in chatter.  One couple from Dibley + 1 even commented as they arrived 'we're always last, you can start now' - that felt positive.

    I enjoyed leading the service and had had a great time during the week playing around with the twin images of 'God as light' and 'God as father' found in 1 John (on which we are just starting a series).  A great excuse to sing the old classic 'Immortal, Invisible' and then 'God is our Father', complete with sound effects and 'dancing feet.'   Even singing these two songs shows the contrast between the two images.  The act of thinking about the God who is at once mysterious/accessible, transcendent/immanent, abstract/concrete seemed a good approach to sharing communion where common/sacred memorial/presence comprehensible/incomprehensible also co-exist (even somehow in the mind of this ordinance theologian!).

    So are we holding hands yet?  Modesty forbids disclosure, but let's just say it's looking more that way, although it's far too early to leap to any conclusions about the way things will develop (and the ecclesiastical equivalent to Joyce Hugget can rest easy knowing we are heeding their counsel ;o)).