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  • Strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow...

    Recalling my valediction from college is always a little bit bittersweet.

    The lovely event (midweek that year) coincided with the day a church was voting on whether or not to call me.  At the end of happy evening the phone call came and it was a 'no'.

    Everyone who knows me already knows I remain utterly convinced God called me to that church.  That doesn't mean God didn't call me to Dibley or to the Gathering Place, I am equally convinced that God did.  God's 'Plan B' is never second best.

    The good bits of ministry are so much better, and the bad bits so much worse, than I ever think possible.  And that day, seventeen years ago, that was profoundly illustrated.

    The day after that decision I led prayers in college chapel - and was commended for being courageous.  A fellow student sent me some beautiful flowers.  My tutors and peers came alongside in ways that were gentle and supportive.  I was offered - and declined - an opt out from the wider Partnership valedictory.  Seventeen years on, some of my peers and tutors have died.  Some have moved into new forms of ministry, and some have left ministry. But they remain 'my' people.

    The old hymn, 'Great is thy Faithfulness' remains a favourite, with its determined faith in adversity, of a God who always gives me - and us - strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.

    So now I call to mind Stephen, Nick, Gary, Andy and Diane, my peers at that time, and Richard, Rachel, Sean, Brian and Anne, my tutors, and I thank God for them all.

  • Unexpected Blessings

    Every year, my ministerial alma mater invites me to attend their valedictory event - usually a Saturday, with a barbecue and a service - and every year I can't get there, either the logistics are too complicated or local commitments rightly take priority.  This year lockdown means it is taking place online, so I can take part, and that is a real joy, an unexpected blessing.

    One tradition of the college, at least in my day, was to give you a book token and a book plate so that you could choose your own gift - they reckoned we had enough Bibles, and would almost certainly be presented with one at ordination, so it was over to us.  As it happened, I chose a Bible, now seventeen years old and very battered.  I am glad I made that choice, because the Bible has been with me in some of my saddest and darkest times as well as gladdest and brightest. 

    I don't always use it, there are newer translations and paraphrases, but it is always on my desk, never the bookcase, and goes with me to courses, conferences, care homes, hospitals and holidays.  And every time I open it, I am reminded not of a date (unusually this one has never fixed in my brain) but of a community of people who I love, and who love me.

    Today a new cohort of NBC-formed ministers will be unleashed on an unsuspecting Baptist world - I pray they may know the joy of God, the inspiration of Sophia Spirit-Wisdom and the accompaniment of Brother-Christ in all they do.


    (PS: Seventeen years? How did that happen?!)

  • Just for fun... (be careful what you pray for!)

    Thank you, B, for this hilarious cartoon inspired by one of my favourite celtic blessings...

    May the road rise up to meet you.

    May the wind be always at your back.

    May the sun shine warm upon your face;

    the rains fall soft upon your fields

    and, until we meet again,

    may God hold you in the palm of His hand.


  • For the Beauty of the Earth

    When lockdown began, the days were still short and the nights were long.  On my walks I sought out daffodils and crocuses (croci?) to brighten my day.  As time passed and the days lengthened, there were tulips and hyacinths, then pansies, azaleas, rhodedendrons and azaleas.  Now the roses are in full bloom, sweet peas, wallflowers, geraniums and hydrangeas, clematis and honeysuckle all add colour and even heavy scent to the air.

    The earth is full of 'pied beauty' as Gerard Manely Hopkins would have expressed it.

    This riot of colour sits on the steps of a pentecostal church not too far from where I live.  Each time I pass by it lifts my spirits, seeming to be, in and of itself, an expression of praise directed heavenward.


    Here is the poem...

    Glory be to God for dappled things –
       For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
          For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
    Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
       Landscape plotted and pierced – fold, fallow, and plough;
          And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.
    All things counter, original, spare, strange;
       Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
          With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
    He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
                                    Praise him.