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  • The Power of Perseverance (or is it Cussedness?)

    Since I stopped eating meat a couple of years ago, most of my protein has come from porrige, cheese, eggs, milk, yogurt, mushrooms and hummus.  I do cook with pulses, but have to admit that often I'm a bit lazy and will do a mushroom or cheese omelette for quickness.  I like glamorgan sausages, mushroom burgers and other similar products too.

    I have a 'thing' about fake meat, so I don't eat (sic) meat free chicken or bacon, and I am not allowed to use soy products due to a drugs interaction, which together limit my choices more than somewhat.

    However, I have perservered with Quorn things, and now (fanfare) have three 'ready meal' things I am happy to eat, even quite enjoy, and (even bigger fanfare) have discovered that the Quorn 'chunks' can indeed be made into perfectly acceptable meals.

    So, the three things I buy ready made are:

    Quorn mozarella and pesto escallopes (sort of kievs)

    Quorn wild garlic and herb sausages

    Quorn sausage roll - probably has almost as much meat in it as a regular one!

    My two recipes I'm calling 'Qurry' and 'Quasserole'!

    The Qurry isn't quite a curry, due to my many and varied food intolerances, but has a base of onion, garlic, fresh ginger, grated carrot, chopped tomatoes and fresh corriander.  Next time I'm going to try adding curry leaves to see how that works out.  Really quick and easy to make the 'sauce' and the Quorn lumps go in for ten minutes at the end.  Serve with rice or naans.

    The Quasserole is probably more a hotpot or stew but they don't work spelled with 'Qu'!  Onions, carrots, chopped potatoes cooked in a veggie stock (or, in my case, marmite and water, when I discovered Knorr stock cubes contain red pepper) with your favourite selection of dried or fresh herbs.  Again, chuck in the Quorn for the last ten minutes.


    OK, so this isn't a theological or spiritual blog, it's just about me refusing to be defeated by what I still think are unpleasant attempts at fake meat!

  • Connections, connections...

    I love this painting of a group of Baptists from the English midlands (primarily Northamptonshire, Buckinghamshire and Nottinghamshire). 

    There are many reasons I love it. 

    I love it because it reminds me of old photographs that many churches have of their diaconates, mostly all male, and all very worthy, with Bibles and pipes (for tobacco, not bagpipes!) and sat in similar fashion. 

    I love it because it has echoes of Last Supper paintings, and is a reminder that the story is our story, a continuing story through history.

    Most of all, and this is shamelessly self-indulgent, I love it because I can trace connections from myself to some of these men, which is something that intrigues and delights me.

    William Carey is sitting, on the left hand end of the front row.  Born and brought up in Northamptonshire, he was Baptised in the River Nene, near to what is now the location of the Northampton Railway Station.  Nothing that surprising there.  The connection comes via the minister who Baptised him, John Ryland (third from the left in the front row) minister of College Lane (later Street) Baptist Church.  Among the plants from College Street was a Sunday School in a nearby village called Duston, from which a church emerged, choosing to become Congregational when it gained independence.  It was this church, now a URC, where I came to a place of owned Christian faith, at around the age of 15.  And it was in this church that I got to know one of my GB leaders, now a  friend, whose great grandparents were married in the chapel attended by Mari Jones of Bible Society fame.

    In the centre of the back row is a man wearing a white wig.  He is, so far as I can ascertain, the odd man out, because he was not a Particluar Baptist but a General Baptist, influenced by the Wesleys, and founder of the New Connexion, at the delightfully named Barton-in-the-Beans in Leicestershire.  From there, one of the many plants was in 'Dibley', established in 1749, more than a decade before Carey's birth, and becoming an independent church in 1798.  As a former minister of Dibley Baptist Church, I can claim a connection to Dan Taylor.

    Other links I may claim are undoubtedly more tenuous, places I've visited/studied such as the John Ryland University Library in Manchester (oodles of Baptist archives in the main John Ryland library), hymns I've sung written by John Rippon, and so on.

    When I think of the 'Communion of Saints' or the 'Great Cloud of Witnesses', it is in the light of connections such as these.  As someone who is not convinced that heaven is where we reconnect with our nearest and dearest, it is reassuring and comforting to contemplate that the interconnectedness will ensure a shared history, if measured only over centuries rather than years.


  • Mental Health Matters

    Last night's evening service was a very cursory look at one or two aspects of mental health and Christian faith.  As part of it, I shared four true stories, which I'm sharing here:

    Liz comes from a well-off family, her father is a banker and the family enjoy a good standard of living.  Despite this, even as a young child Liz suffered from anxiety, being terrified of the dark, afraid of drowning and worried lest any of her family should die.  Her fears were justified when her mother died when she was just fourteen years old, by which time she had begun to experience bouts of depression and struggled to believe there could be a loving God. In her late teens she had a dramatic conversion experience and became very involved in her local church.  Liz married young and has a large family; sadly almost every pregnancy brought with post-natal depression, and she finds motherhood very difficult.  She undertakes high profile work in areas of women’s justice which means she travels extensively in the UK and Europe.  She tries to keep her mental health private, and fears being found out.


    Dot comes from a decent working-class home, where money has always quite tight, but she knew she was well loved by her parents and siblings.  She has been a regular churchgoer since childhood.  Her husband has worked incredibly hard to improve his education, learn new skills and is well respected; although he clearly loves Dot, she feels inferior and, when his work meant travelling overseas, she was very reluctant to move so far from everyone and everything she knows.  Initially, the family was quite cut off from other Britons, but they now live in a small ex-pat community.  However, Dot’s mental health has suffered hugely, and she experiences delusional psychoses in which she is convinced her husband is having affairs.  Being on her own with him is dangerous for both of them, as she becomes violent and has threatened him with a knife on more than one occasion. She remains in her own home, where she has to be supervised at all times.  Her husband is bewildered and fears for their children.  He has some, limited, support from the few church folk who are aware of the situation.


    Mary was born in South Africa, where her parents are missionaries.  She fell in love with a young missionary who had recently arrived there and, to the obvious disapproval of her parents, married him.  The young couple travelled quite extensively together but once a family arrived, it was agreed that Mary would take the children back to his homeland where his family could care for them.  This proved disastrous.  The culture shock alone was huge, but Mary and her in-laws did not get on at all, indeed, so catastrophic was the endeavour that she took the children hundreds of miles away to live.  Mary was by now at a very low ebb, possibly with mild to moderate depression.  Lonely and isolated, she sought solace in the odd glass of wine, which soon led her to a degree alcohol dependency.  Eventually she and the in-laws were reconciled, her health recovered and she has returned to Africa to spend time travelling with her husband.


    If you met Charlie, you would almost certainly be struck by his confident demeanour, hearty laugh and mischievous sense of humour.  This father of two is a hardworking Baptist minister who combines pastoral responsibilities with serving a children’s charity in a very deprived area of London.  But appearances can be deceptive.  If you were to ask the deacons of his church, you would discover that Charlie is a bag of nerves on a Sunday morning, so much so that he sometimes feels quite unwell before the service starts.  Since his mid-thirties, he has suffered from chronic pain which is tiring and debilitating.  He also suffers from recurrent bouts of depression so bad that he has to take time off from church in order to recover.  His workaholic tendencies and physical condition combined with his nervous temperament contribute to the pressure he puts on himself and almost certainly trigger his depressive episodes.


    Four people living with mental health issues. 

    Do you recognise any of them?

    They, or their partners, are well-known Christian figures. 

    Liz – Elizabeth Fry, Quaker evangelist and prison reformer

    Dot – Dorothy (Dolly) Carey, wife of William Carery, pioneer missionary in India

    Mary – Mary Moffatt Livingston, wife of missionary explorer, David Livingston

    Charlie – Charles Haddon Spurgeon