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  • Quarter of a century of www...

    Apparently the world wide web is 25 years old today.

    Back in 1991, when it was all very new, we had something at work called a "kilostream" link to the company for which we were an outsource.  We had some software called "teamlinks" that allowed us to send what would now call emails to each other... and we used to take turns to get onto a computer to use it!  Within a few months the "kilostream" had to be upgraded to a "megastream", still a kind of glorified dial-up modem, that was left on all the time, and we had our own "personal computers" set up to control precisely what we could, and could not, access!

    I remember setting up my first email account in 1999 - and which I used until last year when, after two takeovers, Dialstart finally vanished off the face of the earth.  The squeaks and whistles of the modem, the need to log out when not needing to be online, because it was an expensive business, and the wonder of internet where it was possible to discover all sorts of new things, quickly.

    From there to DSL and later ADSL broadband in my manse in Dibley - as computer power grew and faster downloads became possible.  Emails flying so swiftly that it was almost impossible to keep up.  Spam and junkmail and scams and viruses, the emergence of blogs and social media.

    Now, whilst at church I am still on ADSL, and it is more than adequate, I've been on fibre optic broadband at home for several years.  Although I never take advantage of all the data available, I can download video clips, music, stream television programmes and films.  I can read decent (and dodgy) Bible commentaries, check the spellings of words, book travel and holdays, pay bills, upload files to "clouds" and have video-calls with people on the far side of the  planet.

    Twenty five years since the first www links were made (modems had, of course, been around a lot longer, connecting people over smaller networks).  Whether or not that's progress, is open to debate, but for me, it has definitely been a boon - rather than summoning up the courage to speak to people I can just type a few words and up pops my answer!  For shy people and introverts, the www has opened the way to stress free connectivity!!

  • I'd forgotten that I'd forgotten..

    Yesterday afternoon I did something I last did in December 2004!  I went into church to get ready to lead the evening service knowing that I had at least an hour to myself before anyone else arrived.

    I'd forgotten that I used to do that.

    And I'd forgotten how precious that time could be...

    I realsied I'd forgotten that I'd forgotten

    Even in summer, when it's still light, the atmosphere shifts as day draws on, a stillness seeps into (or is it out of?) the corners, the air seems to change its quality, I am more aware of the thousands of prayers the last vestiages of which still hang in the air.  The smell of old (often damp) books, the creak of old pews or the squeak of chairs, the sound of a building at rest - or maybe, if it's not too heretical (and after all Jesus said stones could shout...) a building at prayer.

    To sit quietly and savour the stillness.  To slow down.  To create a space for others to do the same.  To pray for others.  To enjoy the mysterious presence of God's absence.  To be.

    I recalled sitting in churches in Dibley, in Bolton, in Manchester where I had done the same in times past.  I felt the interconnectedness that transcends geography and temporality.  I stilled my soul in the presence of God. 

    I remembered, and I was glad.


    (photo taken after the service)

  • The Power of Remembering

    You mention a date - as I did this morning - that is significant for you, and discover that it has different significance for someone else.  26th April 2009 - the first time I preached at the Gathering Place, turned out fo coincide with the birthday of someone who joined us a couple of years ago.

    A few weeks back, I was involved in facilitating some training for peer support volunteers with a cancer charity, and one of the women, in sharing her story recalled the date of her diagnosis - which coincided with my birthday.

    On my thirtieth birthday, my then car broke down at Keele services, and the teenage daughter of someone I knew gave birth to a son... I wondered then how his life would pan out (he'll now be 23!) and each birthdya I still do.

    Some dates etch themselves onto our memories for one reason or another, and we can be taken by surprise when our "happy" day is someone else's "sad" day, or vice versa.

    Perhaps somewhere in this the "rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep" attitude is important - recognising and holding the tension between what this means for me, and what it means for you; understanding that no one experience or significance is "superior", rather that they are just different.

    Many years ago, when I was training for ministry, two couple in the church had sons and daughters-in-law who were waiting the arrival of babies.  J arrived first, technically non-viable, but defying predictions and living for a few short hours on a lovely, sunny July day.  K arrived a few weeks later, full term, healthy and thriving.  The two sets of grandparents shared joy and sorrow, each mindful not to allow their own emotions to dominate or overwhelm the other.  I learned a lot from them.  I don't recall the birth-and-death date of J, but whenever there is a bright sunny day on July, and I see purple flowers in gardens, I remember, and am grateful.

  • Hmmmm....

    Life has been very busy for the last several months, and I have been growing increasingly tired and tetchy (I'm allowed to say this, even if other people are too polite to comment).  So it was a bit of a "hmm" moment this morning when the choir sang the "gathering song" (introit by any other name), and in my mind I was transported back to the first time I crossed the threshold of The Gathering Place, when I felt a deep sense of "home-coming".  It was good to reminded of that, reassuring, affirming and, I believe anyway, of God.

  • Golden Moments

    This evening I will joining many others to share in celebration of a Golden Wedding.

    Fifty years married is an incredible achievement, and it is a great privilege to be invited to be there.

    Way back in 2009, I first got to know this couple when I came to visit the Gathering Place for either for a "squint" or to "preach with a view/as sole nominee" (memory fail; but probably the latter).  After morning worship there was spare time before my flight back to East Midlands, and this couple kindly took me home for a meal and one of them showed me round the Botanic Gardens, including "behind the scenes," as they volunteer there.

    Since then, I have enjoyed their generosity and friendship - and I have probably driven them to despair at times - as well as valuing their tireless service to the church.

    They have made it very clear that there are to be no gifts this evening, and I, being a girlie swat, will do as I'm told.  Truth is, the greater gift is what they give to others, modelling commitment and stability, hospitality, humour and, above all, love, in a world where all of these sometimes seem to be in short supply.

    God bless you B&K  (and thank you for the chicken dinner you rustled up for me at zero notice all those years ago!)