December 2018

As I write, I find myself bewildered. It may be just me, but Christmas seems to be a little late starting this year, in terms of commercialism. Each year there seems to be more and more pressure on people, parents in particular, to produce The Perfect Christmas. This seems to me to involve getting a new 3 piece suite in time for Christmas; a new kitchen, fully installed in time for Christmas; likewise a bathroom. The tree has to be perfect, and you can, at one supermarket ‘upgrade your Christmas’. Whatever that means! How anything can be better than celebrating God coming to live among us, I really don’t know.

But the latest wheeze, and this is what I really don’t get, is this: Christmas Eve boxes. So I did a bit of research and found that for just £32.99 you can buy a box for the child in your life with a pair of pyjamas, a packet of chocolate sweets, a sachet of hot chocolate drink and a reindeer – a soft toy reindeer, that is.

Now, it might be me, but part of the excitement of Christmas for a child is the anticipation, the waiting, the hoping and then the joy of opening presents on Christmas Day. So why give a box of stuff on Christmas Eve designed, as I understand it, to enable the excitement to abate a bit so the said child can sleep and wake up on Christmas Day to a load of presents?

Maybe I’m really becoming a boring old whatsit, or maybe I should change my middle name to Scrooge.

That aside, it seems to me that all the hype has got totally out of proportion. For many people, Christmas is, if they’re lucky, just one day now. To do all the above for one day is bonkers.

So concentrate on the simple pleasures – having the family around, but not renovating the house beforehand; buying gifts, but not breaking the bank; putting up the decorations, but not having a complete meltdown because you can’t find the right tinsel in the shop.

But above all, make time for the real celebration: God coming to earth to live among us is worth spending more than one day over. God coming to teach us how to live is worth spending more than 4 weeks of Advent Studies over.

Why not spend some time each day – maybe just a few minutes with a cuppa and your Prayer Handbook. And maybe, each day, put a coin in a jar for someone who won’t have any tinsel, or turkey, or even water at Christmas.

All We Can have got Extraordinary Gifts that can be given. If we put only 10p each per day in a jar, and put all the jars together, we can, together buy a better future for a family or community – it may be bees, or clean water; a toilet, even or a safe place to play.

10p per day won’t buy a Christmas Eve box, but it might just change someone’s life.

Wishing you every blessing this Christmas and in 2019.

Yours, Lindsay

September 2018

As I write, the World Cup has been and gone (who won, again?), Wimbledon fortnight has been and gone, the hot weather has been and gone (and the threatened hosepipe ban was never implemented), people have been on holiday and come back and others are still waiting to go.

And so we approach the start of the new Connexional year, with all that it has in store.

I think we can safely say that it will be a year of changes and challenges in many respects.

Recently our Lectionary readings have had a phrase repeated on consecutive Sundays, and this doesn’t happen very often. ‘Jesus said “I am the bread of life…” So the fact that I am preparing to preach on it for the 3rd Sunday in succession must mean that it is important.

We have looked at how Jesus said ‘I am the bread of life’, but could have said the potato, pasta or rice (in one language it has been translated into the Banana of Life because the people in that place have no concept of what bread is, banana is their staple food) and how staple foods are the one thing on the plate we always have, and which make up the bulk of the food, especially when money is short.

We have looked at how Jesus said ‘I am the bread of life’, and not the Viennese Whirl, strawberry shortcake or double chocolate chip cookie, because these are all luxury items we can’t always afford, should always eat only in moderation and can always say a polite ‘no’ to.

So Jesus is the one part of our life that is essential (we all know what happens when we get our diet out of kilter, and is the one part of our life which will leave us feeling full and will satisfy us for a long time.

But why?

When we get the ‘God’ part of our lives right – in the right proportion to the rest of our lives, we know that the rest of our lives will fall into place regardless of what else happens. We might face challenges, worries, disasters, bereavements, as well as joys and delights, but if we have taken time to be with God, taken time to read the Bible, to pray and study and worship, then we are much better resourced ‘inside’ and can cope much better with all that happens. Oh things might feel rocky or uncertain for a while, but we know what to do to be able to get back on our feet and get on with life.

And we know that, as the hymn says ‘through all the changing scenes of life’ God will be there, with us, sustaining, comforting and guiding us; in all the things we know and love, and through the changing situations we’re not sure about and the things we simply don’t like but know we have to get on with.

And so, a very Happy Methodist New Year to everyone,

Yours, Lindsay

May 2018

As I write, summer has arrived! Yay!!! It might have been winter yesterday, and it might be winter again tomorrow or by the weekend, but for now it’s warm and sunny and beautiful, and makes us feel more energetic and happy.

We have celebrated Easter once again, with all the joys it brings, and we are beginning to look ahead once more.

Last year the Circuit asked each Church to carefully consider what they were doing at that point in time, and now each Church is being asked to carefully consider what they feel God is calling them to do now.

This is an altogether trickier question. It asks more questions – what is Church? Who is Church for? What is our Mission? Are we doing things that we should stop in order to do things that God is telling us to do?

The reading for the 4th Sunday of Easter is from John’s account of the Gospel, when Jesus says ‘I am the Good Shepherd’ and goes on to say that the good Shepherd protects the sheep whereas the hired hand will run away at the first sign of trouble. And we all love that bit of the reading – the thought of God protecting us is wonderfully comforting.

However, thinking about the Shepherd/Sheep analogy makes for quite uncomfortable thoughts. The sheep go where the shepherd leads (and in Jesus’ day and place the shepherd went ahead of the sheep, rather than behind as they can in this country) and the sheep have no option but to follow or risk getting lost or falling or being eaten by something bigger, quicker and hungry. The sheep have no say in where they are going, but they have to trust the shepherd. They might not like the path they are treading but if they go a different way they don’t get to the pasture the shepherd has in mind for them, and if they sit down and refuse to move on, the same thing happens. If they go to the same piece of pasture every day, the pasture gets used up and the area becomes nothing but a mudbath.

So, in the coming weeks, it is important that we consider carefully what we are doing, and what God is calling us to. The Circuit Reps for each church have to report back to the next Circuit Meeting in June, so we haven’t got a lot of time!

What we have to be careful of is that what we do, especially if we take on something new, is sustainable and achievable! There is no point in ditching overboard a much-loved club of whatever sort in favour of something that isn’t properly thought out or resourced.

What we do know is that the world outside our doors is changing rapidly and we have to do our best to remain attractive and relevant in that changing world, whilst remaining true to the Gospel

Yours, Lindsay

April 2018

As I write, Easter is upon us. It may not feel like it as chilly winds still blow, and it may not look like it as heavy, grey clouds scud across the sky, but it is Easter weekend. And that means re-living, and re-membering once again the events of that first Easter.

They are so familiar that we may fall into the trap of thinking there can be nothing new to say to us. We may think that it is obvious what Jesus was about, and how could Judas possibly have thought otherwise. What was he thinking? Well, he might not have been squeaky-clean, but he could well have been passionate about his nation, passionate about wanting the occupying force to be out, and for Israel’s sovereignty to be restored. He hadn’t got what Jesus was about.

We may think that it is obvious what Jesus was about, and how could the disciples possibly have thought that fighting for him in the Garden of Gethsemane was the right way to go? We’d have done the same, wouldn’t we? They hadn’t got what Jesus was about, either.

We may think that we would never, ever have left Jesus to his fate and run off, like the majority of the disciples did. We would have followed him, wouldn’t we?

Would we? Really? If there were more Roman soldiers than you could shake a stick at around, arresting him, taking him from one place to another, prodding him with their spears, and jostling him, and whipping him?

This was serious stuff, and the disciples were fully cognisant of the dangers.

We may think that we would never, ever deny our Lord as Peter did in the courtyard before the cock crew, just as Jesus had said he would.

But Peter was under the spotlight. In real danger.

Just think for a moment, if Judas hadn’t betrayed Jesus, how would things have worked out? If Peter hadn’t denied Jesus, but stood up and said ‘Yes, I am his friend.’, and then had got arrested and crucified with Jesus. If the disciples hadn’t run away, but had been arrested as well.

Would anyone have been left to tell the story?

And, if we’re looking long and hard at the disciples then, can we honestly say that we have never, ever betrayed Jesus in any way, or run away from the tough choices, or denied him even in small ways?

Holy Week is a time for soul-searching, for going to the foot of the cross again, admitting the times we have failed, and then receiving God’s forgiveness.

Easter Day is a day of celebration. A day to feel free of all the guilt and sorrow. A day to feel as light as a bird and encouraged to start all over again doing the things that we feel God is calling us to.

Happy Easter to everyone!

Yours, Lindsay

February 2018

As I write, the country is reeling from the shock of Carillion folding, and many thousands of supermarket staff will likewise be reeling from hearing the words ‘I’m sorry, we don’t need you anymore. You are being made redundant with effect from …’ Many of these staff will have been in the stores for some years, will have worked their way up and are now at various levels of management.

Many of the Carillion staff have no idea what the future holds for them, how they are going to put food on the table, pay their mortgages, what redundancy settlements there might be for them. Many more will be wondering if their pension cheques will be paid next month. Many, many more will be caught up in the supply chain, and will wonder if goods they have supplied will be paid for, how many staff they have to lay off.

And so it goes on.

And there are other areas of work where this sort of thing is happening too.

How do we deal with this news?

It is obvious that, as individuals, there is nothing we can do except pray for those involved. The news bulletins report and analyse, lay blame, raise hopes and dash them again. There is a certain amount of political hand-wringing, and promises that things will change so that bosses on extremely good pay scales with bonuses and benefits won’t be able to benefit at the cost of their employees and pensioners again, so we can hope and pray that measures are taken, and are not thrown out by those pressured by people with vested interests.

But what of the individuals?

That is where so much of the pain is felt. People who had jobs to go to, who had money coming in and commitments and families now have nothing but worries. How long until they are in queues at foodbanks. How long until their mortgage companies are on to them? How long until they are down struggling to find work?

God loves each person as if they were an only child. Each person is a valued individual in God’s eyes; so we could make the assumption that God is very busy right now, helping people to find the wisdom they need to carry on, encouraging them, reassuring them that they are still precious and valuable to him – and in the world.

We can assume, too, that there will be many people around us affected in one way or another.

Please, pray for them, and their families and their businesses, in the coming weeks and months. And, perhaps, pray that God will show us how we can be God’s hands, feet and heart.

Yours, Lindsay

December 2017

As I write, it seems as though Christmas is upon us. I know the run-up to Christmas seems to get earlier and earlier each year, but this year they are already talking about it on the radio, and asking if it’s ok to! Every year we prepare and plan and organise for this event which we know is coming as sure as eggs are eggs. But there always seems to me to be that last-minute panic.Everything at Christmas has to be perfect. Get this, that or the other in time for Christmas. Buy early ready for Christmas. The things you need – must have – for Christmas seems longer every year. Have you put out your ‘Santa please stop here’ sign yet?

If only the lovely warm sense of being with family and friends; of focusing on celebrating together, and doing the very best for each other, and buying nice things for each other, and going to lovely things together was spread over the whole year, rather than be concentrated in one feverish period of hyper-activity which can, if we’re not careful, leave us feeling utterly exhausted when Christmas actually comes.

Of course, as Christians, we celebrate the birth of Jesus, Emmanuel – God with us – at Christmas. And that is arguably the greatest event in the whole of the human history. So something to be celebrated indeed.But the baby born on that first Christmas grew up, and became a very challenging young man – often a rather angry young man at that, especially when he saw injustices, or God being dishonoured.The young man, who died on the first Good Friday, was raised again on the first Easter Sunday and now lives eternally, also promised his followers – starting with the first disciples, and continuing right through the ages to you and me – that he would never leave us; through his Holy Spirit he would be with us always, whatever we face.

And so we can have Christmas throughout the year – we can spread the love, and joy and peace as well as the family togetherness throughout the year (but not the excesses of food, drink and spending!!!) But we should also remember that for many people in our own country and across the world there is no Christmas celebration, perfect or otherwise. There are people who are suffering as a result of drought, as in many parts of Africa, suffering for their ethnicity, their faith, and for many reasons.We should spare a thought and a prayer and perhaps some of our generosity for people who are struggling with little or nothing.The angels sang God’s love song for all people to the shepherds; we should take up that love song in actions and prayers and words wherever we can.

Ian and I wish you a very blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Yours, Lindsay  

September 2017 

  As I write, we are enjoying a long, hot, sunny summer – at least in our minds!!  It is more like November; gardens may at times be waterlogged, flowers look soggy and crestfallen and there are times when it is raining so hard it is difficult to imagine it ever ending.

     But, hey, England won the Third Test Match with supreme style, including the first hat trick by a spin bowler since 1938!  There were wins, too, at Wimbledon, including a first quarter finals from Johanna Konta, and a win by Jamie Murray, paired in the Mixed Doubles with Martina Hingis

And now the sun has come out!

    We have just said ‘Goodbye’ to Richard at a wonderful service at Edgeley.  The food was great.  The Band leading us in worship were inspiring, and many people took part in a service that had a very warm feel to it, helped by the fact that the Church was packed.  So uplifting! 

   We’ll get another opportunity for an uplifting service like that when we welcome Ian Coverdale at Trinity in September.

   But so often, worship isn’t like that.  So often it can feel as if it is just a few people scattered over a large worship area doing their best to look like a crowd.  It can feel as if everything is very hard work, that we are trying to climb a mountain, and there are loads of things we have to do, that seem to have little to do with worship, fellowship or mission.

But they do.

    All those policies, born out of legislation, that we now have to comply with are all for the good of the charity (the Church) its members, or other people who use our premises.

   The Circuit Review (and I can almost hear you say ‘here we go again!’) is to help us to discover what it is that God wants us to do.  That might well mean change - doing different things, stopping some things so we can concentrate on the new thing we believe God is telling us to do, or changing our building, or the time we worship, or to include different styles of worship.  This can all seem scary, or irritating or unnecessary, or all of that and more besides!

    But something has to be done.  We can look around and see that we are not the same church that we were 10, 20 or 50 years ago.  The world is not the same as it was 10, 20 or 50 years ago and it might be a struggle at times, but we have to keep up!

    How can we be seen to those outside our church walls as welcoming, relevant, understanding and loving?  How can we meet today’s needs?  How can we relate to today’s generation?



December 2016

As I write, winter has arrived and we’ve already had snow and frost. I have discovered that ‘lifting dahlias after the first frost’, is a lot harder than it sounds, not least of all because of the pain of sciatica. I am getting really fed up with this, now, but I would like to take this opportunity to everyone for being so understanding and gracious, for filling hot water bottles and surrendering their place by the radiator for me!

Another visit to the Hallè has inspired me yet again. The last concert we heard was the Overture to the Flying Dutchman, Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto, and Sibelius’ Second Symphony. It was a wonderful concert, full of drama and excitement. What struck me this time, however, was the persistence of some of the instruments underneath, as it were, the great dramatic music going on over the top. Some of the musical phrases repeated and reformed and played again over and over again, and, when the drama was exhausted, and the louder instruments were stilled, these quieter, persistent phrases carried on as they had been throughout that section.

It seemed to me that these resembled God’s voice in the world. There may be dramatic goings on, and Christmas is one of them. We get so busy and loud at Christmas, what with one thing and another going on – be it social events, Christingle and Carol Services, parties, Christmas Fayres and planning to meet with families. But if we stop for a while and listen God’s voice is still there, still singing the message that is more important than any of the things we get up to; the message that God loves each one of us enough to give up everything to come and live with us and as one of us and show us the way to live.

The world needs to hear this message now as much as at any time in the world’s history. We struggle, on occasions, to hear it. How much more difficult does the world find it when they may not have any idea of what God’s voice sounds like?

We, along with our brothers and sisters in the Church across the world have to be that persistent melody, continuing regardless of whatever else is going on. We have to sing God’s message so that, on those occasions when there are moments of calm and stillness, God’s voice, through us, continues.

May I take this opportunity of wishing everyone a very Happy Christmas and every Blessing in the New Year?



November 2016

As I write, autumn has arrived.  The weather is colder but there are still some beautiful days, the colours on the trees are glorious and in the garden the summer planting is beginning to look, well, a bit ragged. 

The new Hallè season is underway now, too.  In September we heard 3 pieces; Tchaikovsky’s Fantasy Overture: Hamlet, Liszt ‘s Piano Concerto No.1 and Beethoven’s Symphony No.6, ‘Pastoral’ conducted by Sir Mark Elder.  It was good to be back, in the same seats overlooking the orchestra and with the same person sitting beside me (on the other side to Ian).  I usually take some sweets to share, but on one occasion had to give up as the tin I was struggling to open was particularly stubborn, and I could have ended up showering the orchestra and the immaculate shiny black piano with white powdery sugar!  Could have been difficult to explain!!

Beethoven’s Pastoral symphony was familiar: haunting and beautiful.  I became aware of sections of the music repeating and echoing and it seemed as though they were going back to the beginning, but then would move on in a different phrasing or key, and musically go somewhere else. 

It occurred to me that life can be like that.  This time of year is one of memories and traditions.  Schools go back after the summer holidays and routines start up again.  Church activities start up again – Bible Studies and Prayer Groups reform and start again.  Our beloved meetings start up again.  And then there are the events – Bonfire Night, Remembrance Sunday, Advent and then into Christmas and beyond with all the smaller markers along the way.  It can seem as though each year is the same, as the last, but it isn’t. 

Not quite.

The Bible Studies look at different parts of the Bible, or different themes.  Meetings might well have the same Agenda items, but alongside the usual reports come new ideas, new suggestions of how to adapt, how to reach out and how to meet the needs of today’s world.

In all the new, we can still see echoes and phrases from the past given new life, new meaning, new flight for today, if we look.  It can be tempting to want to go back to the first, familiar movement of the piece of music, as it were; where we felt safe and comfortable, knew what was coming next and how it all workedbut the development in the composer’s mind can take us to new and unexplored places where we can learn and understand and develop ourselves, where we can be challenged and stretched, whilst not forgetting the beauty and foundation of what has gone before.  

I hope you enjoy these last days of autumn, before all the Christmas razzamatazz starts in earnest!

 Yours, Lindsay

September 2016

As I write, we are halfway through August, and the weather is beautiful.  At least, this week it is.  At least so far!  (I am writing on a Wednesday)   And a new Methodist Year is just around the corner. 

We’ve been enjoying a wonderful season of sport – the Test matches were a triumph for the sport of cricket, although, ending in a draw, perhaps a bit if a disappointment for both teams.  But there were many individual performances on both sides that were outstanding, entertaining and inspiring.  Andy Murray won the Mens’ singles’ title at Wimbledon in great style, and Heather Watson and her partner won the Mixed Doubles.  

And then there were the Olympics.  Wow!  Thrills and spills, excitement and tears, surprises and disappointments for some; truly something there for everyone, whether it was the dressage or diving, cycling or gymnastics.  

Paul wrote about sport several times in his letters, as we well know.  He wrote about striving for the prize, he wrote about the work needed to go into the training and the joy and the pain.  He would have been well acquainted with the spectacle of sport and the entertainment it affords.  But he was using sport as an analogy for our Christian journey. 

No-one wins a sporting discipline at this level – then or now - without total dedication; strict self-discipline in everything from diet to training regimes to practice; a team of people who will support and encourage and also say the tough things when necessary, but who will work out tactics and strategies; and the commitment of family and friends who have to get used to their sporting family member being away a lot, and basing their lives around their goals. 

In Paul’s day, at the great sporting events, only a first place was good enough, anything less would be a huge disappointment and even bring shame on the family, so Paul knew all about the pressures. 

If we were to measure our attitudes to living our Christian lives against our sportsmen and women’s attitudes to their sport, how would we measure up in any area?  Are we committed, disciplined, willing to adapt when necessary, single minded in pursuing those goals that God has set before each one of us?  Do we view the prize with longing and joy? 

Well, we all have many things we have to do – duties, responsibilities, work and so on, and there are so many hobbies and activities, places, friends and family around which make our lives so wonderful – and it’s right and proper that we have a place for all of these things. 

But, as we approach the new Methodist Year – a good time to reflect and review - we must remember that to be called to be disciples of Jesus is to be called to a life of commitment, dedication and discipline in our faith and our spiritual lives.

Yours, Lindsay

July 2016

As I write, summer is well and truly here.  We keep hearing about how we have to get our Beach bodies ready, but I saw the other day that someone was working on getting their kagoule body ready, and that seems more apt, somehow.

We are living in changing times.  Probably that has been said ever since Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden but somehow the pace of change seems to have speeded up recently.

Or maybe we in Churches are asking more questions, about ourselves, about our worship, about how we go about our Mission. 

Revd. Rod Hill, our District Mission Enabler has started to do some work in our Circuit, and that will involve asking some pretty sharp questions.  But, if we’re being honest, we probably know what they are anyway; at least some of them.

In April people across the Circuit met at Heaton Mersey to begin the process of looking at some of the issues we face.  Our societal life has changed enormously in the last 50 years, and in Church, if we don’t acknowledge some of the changes and adapt we will be rather like King Canute trying to hold back the tide.

The big question for me is ‘How can we adapt and reach out to people while keeping our worship at a high standard?’  For me it is more vital that our worship is good quality than that we worship on a Sunday morning.  It is more important that we take into account the different needs of people for whom going to Church on a Sunday morning is not an option

than bemoaning the fact that Sundays aren’t what they were.  They’re not, and they’re never going to be again.

I have to be honest at this point and say that I believe that what we affectionately call the ‘Five Hymn Sandwich’, led well, is the best form of worship taking into account all the things we do in worship.  (Praise and adoration, confession, hearing and receiving the Word of God, bringing before God the needs of the world, and being sent out into the world to take God’s love to others.)  However, I love singing (I’m not saying I’m good at it, I just love it), I’m not afraid of silence, I’m used to hearing and delivering sermons and being read to.  Others may not be happy or comfortable with some of those activities.

It’s time to take a look at the things we do, the way we do them, the spaces we use or create, the times we do things.  Our mission is not to ourselves, but to those outside of the Church, especially those who are vulnerable.  William Temple famously said “The Church is the only organisation that does not exist for itself but for those who live outside of it”, and John Wesley said, as famously for us Methodists, “Go not to those who need you, but to those who need you most”.

To do this, to reach out, we need to think ‘outside of the box’.  Yes, it will be difficult, controversial, painful even.  But what choice do we have?

Whatever you are doing over the summer, wherever you are going, I hope you have a lovely sun-bathed summer!

Yours, Lindsay

June 2016

As I write, we are into late May, and it is Trinity Sunday.  The Easter Season has now passed and summer beckons … we hope!  What does it hold for you?  I am hearing of people going away on holiday, and Ian and I will be going to Lake Garda again.  I know we have been there, to the same place, for the last 13 years, but it is just so beautiful, and restful, with enough opportunities to do as much or as little as we want.

The monthly concerts we go to have come to an end for this season, and we must wait until September for the next one.  The last concert was exhilarating, and was three pieces by Dvorák - Slavonic Dances, Cello Concerto and Symphony No.9, ‘From the New World’.  The last two pieces were over half an hour in length, but it certainly didn’t seem like it!

The middle piece – the Cello Concerto was wonderful and got me thinking.  Whether or not it was a result of where we sit, or the way the piece was written or played, I’m not sure; but there came a point in the performance when everyone was playing their hearts out and I realised that the insistent music I’d heard over several minutes was actually the soloist – the cellist – and I hadn’t heard him distinctly.  It made me reflect that, in Church life, there are times when we are all working our socks off doing this or that, and it may be that we are doing it all very well.  But there is someone working away supporting what all the rest of us are doing.  Do we appreciate them?  Do we recognise the beauty of what they are producing?  Do we realise that, without them, our collective work might still be there, might still be vibrant and active and good, but not nearly as good as it is with that unsung soloist?

So who are those ‘soloists’ in our Churches.  If you are one of them, then Thank You – you make what the rest of us do into something extra special.  If not, if you stop and think for a while, you might just hear the low, beautiful notes being played by someone else.  Take time to thank them.  I think it’s more realistic, however, that we are all, at some time or other, the soloist, and without each of us, the music, or work, is poorer!

Yours, Lindsay

May 2016

As I write, Ian and I have just returned from a wonderful cruise in Norway.  We have never been on a cruise before, and it was a wonderful surprise – a gift from various members of our family.

The scenery we saw in Norway was stunningly beautiful.  We are used to Lake Garda and the wonderful scenery there, but this was just as spectacular.  We also saw some amazing feats of engineering – a very long suspension bridge over one fjord; a spiral road within a tunnel, and, of course, the world famous Flam railway, the steepest railway on normal rails in Northern Europe.  

Looking around at the mountains and the fjords branching off on either side, it was possible to think of these natural features as having always been there, permanent, unchanging, and to think that they always will be there.  

Many of our hymns and the psalms speak of hills and mountains as fixtures, and as being created once and for always by God.  But this isn’t quite true.  Things change over time, as we saw recently in our news with the earthquakes in Japan and Ecuador.  We know from our geography that mountains sometimes blow their tops causing islands in the sea where once there had been one huge volcanic mountain.  We know, or at least we are told, that whisky from Scotland tastes so good because the water is filtered through volcanic rocks and that Scotland was once joined to part of the East Coast of America.  We know (from the shark and shell fossils) that what we now know as the Peak District was once the ocean floor and that the mountains in Snowdonia were once higher than the Himalayas.

What can seem to be permanent and unchanging is often not so, but we can’t always perceive the changes even if we stand still looking for a long time.

It can be like that in our society and Church life.  How many people look back to a time when shops closed at 5.30 pm, each day apart from Wednesdays, when they closed at lunchtime?  (Just as an example)

Patterns for living, working, families and leisure change constantly.  We might not perceive those changes until we look back and compare, and see how different things are now.

In our Churches, should we be looking at what we are doing, and see if it still makes sense in the world we live in today.  For example, we have always looked on Sundays as being the Sabbath, the day for corporate worship.  But in a world where many people work on Sundays, or have other commitments, we might have to consider adding a Tuesday evening, or Saturday afternoon into the mix, and we can’t necessarily do both regularly.  We might need to look at all sorts of things and assess whether they are still answering the questions that are being asked, or whether modern life means that in order to reach people, we need to adapt.

Not easy, not comfortable, but necessary nonetheless, and, actually very exciting!

Yours, Lindsay

February 2016

As I write, we have had our first real taste of winter with a short-lived snowfall – not much, just enough to remind us of the sort of weather we might expect in January and February.

Christmas is now (largely) past, although in our house we still celebrate Christmas, albeit in a minor way, until Candlemas on 2nd February.  This is when we celebrate the presentation of the Christ-Child in the temple, and we encounter Simeon and the prophet Anna.  Both of these remarkable people are worthy of a bit of thought.  Simeon gave us the Nunc Dimittis – a beautiful prayer often used in evening prayer or at the close of a life.  And Anna was a woman who literally lived in the Temple, praying and praising all the time. 

Did they just happen to be at the right place at the right time, or had their hours and hours spent in prayer given them insights and sensitivities that enabled them to see beyond the obvious?

What might we see and hear and understand if we gave more time to listening for God’s voice and studying God’s word?

As we take down our decorations, we often notice that it’s time to do a more thorough clean, and when we struggle to get the decorations back into the boxes and spaces they came from, we might notice that it’s time to have a bit of a clear-out.

But what to throw away and what to keep?  Not always a simple question to answer.  Much of the clutter we have might well look like so much junk or rubbish to the untrained eye, but this item here brings back memories of …., and this item, though falling apart, or faded, was a gift from ….., and that card was received after a difficult time/ a celebration/ an illness and represents a kindness, an appreciation, an understanding, sympathy or sensitivity.

Sometimes we need to put stuff back into the box, and wait for a time when we are better equipped to deal with memories; and then again there are times when we need to be a bit ruthless and chuck the lot out!!!

Either way, we should spare a prayer and a thought for our brothers and sisters in areas of repeated flooding, who haven’t had the luxury of making a decision about such things, because the floodwater has taken the lot!

But, in a way, this is what we do as we prepare for our Covenant Services – we look at what we have, and decide, based on what we believe God is telling us now, what we should keep of our work, what we should change, what we should pass on and what to ditch altogether.

I know it is a little late, but I wish you all the best for the remainder of 2016!  It’s going to be an exciting year, for sure.

Yours, Lindsay

December 2015

As I write, after a long, mild and beautiful autumn, winter has arrived, and we have had our first frosts. 

However, what is probably uppermost on most people’s minds is the current situation in the Middle East.  The terrorist attacks in Paris are now almost 2 weeks ago, but Belgium is still very much on the alert and in fear of another attack there.  The United Nations Security Council passed a motion last week sanctioning the use of all means to stop ISIS/ISIL, and we await the day when David Cameron goes to the Commons to put his case to start air raids in Syria on ISIS/ISIL. (not on Syria!)

We live in worrying times, not least of all because it seems as though we’ve been here before!

This all comes at a time when much of our thinking is already centred on historical events in the Middle East; the events of the first Christmas.  Right through the Hebrew Scriptures, or Old Testament, we read of people fighting each other, invading, taking into exile, demanding that people convert or conform to traditions, laws and religions that are very different from their own, and so it can seem while thousands of years have passed, we still haven’t learnt the lessons.

Jesus was born away from home, into an occupied and troubled country, to parents who were betrothed but not formally married, had to flee danger soon afterwards, travel to safety in a foreign country, and had to wait for some time before they could return to their home town.  Many people today would be able to relate to some or all of that!

But Jesus came to show us how to live; how to love each other and treat each other with respect, giving dignity to all, and showing God’s love for all by caring for all in need near and far. 

A tall order indeed, especially as our world is now much smaller and we know about situations of need as soon as they have happened or become known.

We can’t possibly respond to all the demands that are made on us, but at this time of year in particular, when many of us spend so much money, it doesn’t hurt to look around us and perhaps cut down a little on unnecessary spending so that we have something left over for those in real need.

We can’t possibly change the world or even know what the answers to some of the big questions of our day are, but we can perhaps set aside a little of our time to pray for those who are tasked with finding solutions to very challenging and diverse situations.

May I take this opportunity to wish you God’s blessing this Christmas, and a very Happy New Year.

Yours, Lindsay

November 2015

       As I write, the beautiful late summer has continued into the start of autumn and the trees are glowing with beautiful hues.        

       Many of you will know that Ian and I go to the Hallè once a month and the new season has just begun.  These concerts are always wonderful, exciting and beautiful.   In September we went and I heard just a few bars played by just two instruments – a French Horn and an oboe that were absolutely exquisite.  I don’t remember what the piece was, and that is not the point anyway.  I don’t know enough about music to know whether it was the way the music had been written, or whether it was those two specific instruments, or whether it was those two specific soloists or a combination of all of those.  In a way it doesn’t matter.  Those bars were so hauntingly beautiful that they brought tears to my eyes and have stayed with me ever since.  And they’ve got me thinking.

       In our Church life, we are a bit like an orchestra, and in our services, the Preacher or Minister is like the conductor.  The audience is God himself, not the congregation, and it is God we have to please with our worship.

      There are times in our Church life when we are all playing together, like the full Orchestra, coming in as directed by the Preacher/Minister.  At other times only a few of us are playing for a while, but the rest of us have to remain ready, listening, preparing for our turn.  And sometimes, if we are lucky enough, there are times when the sound of those playing is so wonderful we can only listen in wonder.

      We all have those opportunities to be the beautiful soloists.  Those times when it can only be us who is to play the next few bars, either alone or with one or two others.  If we don’t play our part, there will be a gap;  If we aren’t ready, the piece will be spoilt.  And we must remember that the rest of the orchestra are relying on us doing our bit so they can do theirs.

      So, how do we make ourselves ready?  By listening;  by watching;  by studying;  by being in tune, by knowing the music; and playing exactly the right notes at the right pitch and the right volume at the right time.

      As a Church, there are a lot of similarities between us and orchestras, and as Christians there are a lot of similarities between us and the individual members of orchestras.  Hard work, patience, study and preparation will produce beautiful music that will bring a smile to the lips of Our Conductor.



October 2015

As I write, we’ve been enjoying a bit of an Indian summer – enough to make the colours of leaves stunningly beautiful, and to remind us that the sun is still there!  But it hasn’t been the best summer, by any manner of means.

We are now into September, and our Connexional New Year is underway with all the joys that brings – meetings to discuss the business of the Church and also plans for the coming year.

As we do so, it seems to me that the world has undergone quite a shift in the last year.  We have become increasingly and alarmingly aware of the So-Called Islamic State, and the horrors they perpetrate; and not only them, but Boko Haram, El Shabab and others.  And the civil war in Syria – an area we read about so often in the Bible – is causing people to leave in their thousands to seek a life of safety.

How are the countries to which they travel to cope?  That is a question being discussed by Europe’s leaders as I write.  To ignore the situation would be inhumane, but how to accommodate people in ways which are sustainable …

At the same time, more cuts in the name of austerity are being made and are being felt.  Services which were once deemed to be essential are now slashed and the workload is falling on fewer and fewer shoulders, and the pressure to maintain standards, targets and results is growing.  What are we to do?

Well, what we can do is limited.  But that doesn’t mean to say that there is nothing we can do.  On October 10th – October 11th the District is holding a Prayer Day.  24 hours of prayer seeking God’s will, listening for God’s voice, trying to discern where we should be going and what we should be doing. 

In the Methodist Church we are called to worship, to continued learning, to caring and serving and mission and evangelism.  It’s an on-going call, a persistent voice that never stops.  Just when we think we have completed one task, God lays another on our hearts, and it is our duty and our delight and privilege to be a part of God’s work.

In this country we are free to worship in any way we choose.  We are free to worship in a Christian Church, or a Synagogue, a Mosque or a Gurdwara, at home, on the beach or anywhere we choose.   Many of our brothers and sisters across the world do not enjoy that freedom, many are discriminated against, persecuted, tortured or even killed for their faith – whichever faith they belong to. 

Let us not take the freedom and privilege we have for granted.

Yours, Lindsay

September 2015

As I write, I’m beginning to wonder whether summer has given us a miss this year.  Sure, we’ve had some good days, but, overall it hasn’t happened.  I have flowers in my garden that still haven’t bloomed and just look a bit hopeful every time the sun comes out.  Oh dear.  Maybe in September …

The summer seems to have been dominated by the issue of the people wishing to get to Europe, and risking their lives crossing the Mediterranean, and in particular those who try desperate measures to try to get into this country. 

Some will be coming because they want an easier, more affluent life, it is true. 

But many, perhaps the majority, will be fleeing from utter poverty, slavery of one sort or another, situations of persecution and terror.  Some of the voices we have heard on the radio tell us of the on-going fear of bombing, shelling, shooting, through which people have to conduct their lives – caring for their families, shopping, attending schools and colleges, sleeping at nights.  Other voices tell us of the plight of some of the groups who have been attacked by so-called IS; we hear of women and girls captured and sold into marriage even from the age of 9.  We hear of the difficulties and sometimes horrors of being Christian in countries like North Korea, Eritrea and Pakistan. 

Some of the newspapers would have us believe that we are the only country to which people want to come, but that is not so.  Countries across Europe are taking in people – some places are even welcoming them because their populations are decreasing.

This is not a simple matter, to be solved by putting up fences and notices saying Keep Out.  Nor should we turn our backs on people who have suffered traumas we can only imagine.  I have just read the book The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas set in Germany, to start with, during WW2.  It is written from the point of view of a 9 year old boy whose father moves the family because of his job.  The boy can’t say the name of the place properly – he calls it Out With.  Out of his window he sees a lot of people all dressed the same behind a fence, and asks his father about them.  His father replies ‘Don’t worry about them, they’re not really people’.  I cried over that line.

Some of the language I have heard on the television, radio and have seen in the papers is beginning to come dangerously close to that line of thinking. 

Terrible things might have happened in the past, both in this country, but more so abroad.  We must learn the lessons from the past. 

Each person is a child of God, made in God’s image and we must respect them as such, and love them as God loves them.

It is for the politicians to solve these questions, and to do that, they must all work together, for it is a very, very complex issue.

Yours, Lindsay

July/August 2015

As I write, it does finally seem as though summer has arrived – even the roses are beginning to bloom!  Let’s hope it lasts for at least a few weeks.

It seems to me that we are living in times of great uncertainty.  The issue of the migrants arriving in Europe is continuing, and for many of them, arriving in Italy, or Malta or Greece is a huge relief after a great deal of suffering, hardship, poverty, persecution and fear.  But the countries of Europe will have to work together to find ways in which we can accommodate people and find them work and homes and schools in ways that are sustainable and fair all round.

This week we have heard two news stories which are particularly disturbing.  In the first, a young man from Dewsbury, Yorkshire, blew himself up in Iraq, fighting for ISIS, having been radicalised.  In the second story, three women took their children to Syria, leaving their husbands distraught. In this country, as in others, we are going to have to look long and hard at why some people feel that life in Syria, Libya, Iraq or other countries with active militant Islamists is such a better option than living in the West.  The research, when it is done, might well make uncomfortable reading.

The Pope is making a big statement (200 pages) on many things, including Climate Change and a criticism of today’s ‘throwaway’ society.  I’m not sure he’s saying much that’s new; but he is putting a lot of material together in the one document and saying that we just can’t continue our lifestyles where we help ourselves to whatever we want, never mind the cost to others; where we put financial profit above the well-being of people; where we disregard those who are vulnerable, those who are ill or elderly, those who are weak or poor as if they didn’t matter.

This document, too will be very uncomfortable for many of us who have come to expect certain ways of life as our right, and we may well have to face the some unpalatable changes – we can’t keep using the earth’s resources – taking, taking, taking, without putting back, and many of these changes may well cost us.  We also have to make sure that the greater burden doesn’t always fall on those who are least able to pay it.

And then there is the Referendum on whether or not we should stay in the EU, discussions over devolving more power to Scotland, corruption in FIFA, and across many countries, and so on, and so on.

What can we, as Christians, do?  Well it might seem as though there is little we can do.  But we’re not entirely helpless.  Those of us who have been looking at Amos might well see some parallels with what went on in his day and what goes on now in some circles.  Way back then there were plenty of people who wanted whatever they could get without putting in the hard graft, and those who wanted to make a fast buck.

What did Amos say?  I’ll leave you to look that up.  Start with Amos 5: 14, 15 and 24.

Hope you enjoy the summer days, the long evenings and all the beauty and fun activities the season affords!
Yours, Lindsay

June 2015

As I write, I find people all around full of hope.  Hope that summer might come sometime (we have had wind, rain and cold nights of late!); hope that England might regain the Ashes – today is the first day of the first Test at Lords against New Zealand, but the Australians are coming …! Hope that Andy Murray might win the French Open and Wimbledon; and before all that, we have all the razzamatazz of the Eurovision Song Contest, and the hope that our entry might get on to the left side of the scoreboard this year.  Deep Joy! 

There are also those people who hope against hope that the work that they have done to date will be sufficient to see them through the next set of exams and on to where they want to go next, and those who hope that the students they have taught over the past years have taken in enough to pass their exams.  We could spare some thoughts and prayers for them in the coming weeks!

There are those who are hoping that the new Government will be able to steer us through the next five years without too many broken promises, and lead our country to a place where all, not just the few, feel that they are benefitting from an improved economy.

An then there are those who have hopes that make ordinary hopes pale by comparison.  We could think of those migrants who have left the place where they lived because there is no hope of a safe life, or of a secure life.  We could think of the ordinary people of Syria, some of whom face bombs from those who are supposed to protect them; or people who flee in the path of terrorists, especially the so-called Islamic state.  And we could think of those people who, after years of being silent now feel able to speak out about the abuse they suffered at the hands of people in positions in which they should have been trustworthy and weren’t.

Sometimes we may feel daunted by all the needs around us, and we can feel that there is nothing we can do.  But if we believe that God can bring hope to those who need it most, we have to realise that that hope is going to come through the work of ordinary people – people who will listen when necessary, people who will offer shelter and food when necessary and so on.  And sometimes our task is to support, through our giving and our praying, those who are at the front line of helping others. 

So as we enjoy the rollercoaster ride that is the British sporting summer, and the British summer weather, let’s not forget our brothers and sisters across the world who have hopes that are much more basic and urgent than will England win at cricket!

Yours, Lindsay

May 2015

As I write, we are in the middle of a wonderful spell of weather that has given us higher than normal temperatures, some beautiful sunshine, cold nights and, as a result, the blossom this year is stunning.

By contrast some of the news stories we have been hearing are very dark and tragic.  We heard a couple of days ago of 800 migrants who lost their lives in just one incident in the Mediterranean, in a week when over 1000 migrants from various places in the Middle East and Africa have lost their lives.

We can only just begin to understand the terrible circumstances, the fear, human tragedies and traumas that force them to put their lives at risk in such a way, and while we sometimes think that life here is tough, it is worth remembering that by comparison with other people in different parts of the world, we have so much!  Surely, the action Europe takes in response to these migrants has to be undertaken with compassion and understanding.

We have recently celebrated Easter, and are now well into that wonderful season, which still has several weeks to run, in which we are still delighting in the life and joy that Jesus’ resurrection brings.  In this season we also remember some of the post resurrection appearances of Jesus, and his words, and some of the things he said to his disciples shortly before his death.  One of the things he said most frequently was ‘Peace be with you.’  We can take a lot from that.  It is sometimes difficult to be peaceful when external circumstances such as we are reading about  are going on.  But Christ can give us peace from the turmoil within us, peace from raging doubts, peace from conflicting emotions, peace from uncertainty.  But for us to realise that promise, we have to allow Christ to work in us, we have to listen for his voice, and we have to stay close to him.

It’s not always easy, especially when there is a lot going on around us.  But remember the joy of the disciples when they realised that Jesus had returned, and that in some wonderful way, he was always going to be with them. 

We, too, can have that joy for ourselves, if we are obedient to Christ’s call and follow him.

It won’t always be easy. 

We might not always like it.

We might not always understand.

But, like those early disciples, the more we trust God, and are obedient to what he tells us to do, and stay close to him, the more we shall feel at peace within; that deep peace which only God can give us.

Yours, Lindsay

April 2015

As I write, we are still having pretty cold weather, but the signs that Spring is not far away are there – snowdrops have put on their show, crocuses and daffodils are in bloom and some trees have blossom on them. 


There is something very special about these beautiful sights that bring hope when so much around seems grey and the news even darker!


We are now half-way through Lent.  Mothering Sunday is upon us, and that marks a change in atmosphere in our Church life.  For the first few weeks in Lent, we think about Jesus in the Desert, and the temptations, about our discipleship and Jesus Cleansing the Temple. 


As we approach Passion Sunday, Holy Week and Good Friday, there is a definite heaviness, but there is also a solemn and deep joy.  Yes, we remember the suffering of Jesus, and our part in that, but we also remember the generous self-giving love of God, in the whole redemptive process.  We remember that God, in Christ, gave everything he was and everything he had to set us free.  That is utterly amazing!  Surely it also demands a response from us.


We can never love like God loved and loves.  We can never give as God gives,  but we can jolly well give the best we can and love the best we can.


It’s not always easy – sometimes following Christ is demanding and puts us out of our comfort zone, and makes demands of us that we sometimes feel are too difficult and challenging.  We’re not alone!  The early disciples had their struggles, dilemmas, disagreements and difficulties too, so we’re in good company.


We know, with the benefit of hindsight, that the Cross and the grave were not the end, and we know that we only have to wait for another couple of days to experience the massive joy that Easter Sunday brings. 


So we can go forward with the assurance that whatever God calls us to, he will equip us for and will walk with us as we carry it out!  Things might well seem grey, hard and cold at times, but when we remember Christ’s victories, and God’s promises, they can seem as bright as the brightest daffodil and as fragrant as the most sweet-smelling blossom on the darkest day!


Yours, Lindsay

December 2014

As I write, we are approaching the end of November, and a frost is forecast for tonight.  We have been very lucky with the temperature so far, so we mustn’t grumble!

Next Sunday is Advent Sunday.  Advent is a season of preparation and fasting, during which we look forward to looking back to when Jesus was born in Bethlehem.  That is the theme we all know about!  But we also look forward to the time when Christ will return in glory – and the readings we had today, on the Last Sunday before Advent reflect this theme very much – with themes of Judgement, Christ’s Kingship and so on.  The third theme we think of in Advent is the continual coming of the Holy Spirit to us in Word and Sacrament.  So there’s a great deal to think of!

If we race ahead, skip Advent and look only to Christmas, we miss out on the other great themes and the messages they have to tell us.  Yes, as the hymn-writer put it ‘Love came down at Christmas, Love all lovely, Love Divine’, - love offered freely to all people; but a response from us is required.  Otherwise is it a bit like looking at all our presents sitting, wrapped and be-ribboned under the tree, but without opening them to find out what is inside.  And we need to give ourselves time to prepare ourselves to make that response.

The message of Christmas doesn’t end with a baby in a manger.  The baby grew up to be an adult man with a very powerful message, and a challenge to each one of us to respond. 

God himself was born as a tiny scrap of humanity to show us how much God loves us, and to show us a pattern for living.  Through the Holy Spirit, God is always available to help us and guide us, to strengthen and encourage us.  If we listen, not only during Advent and Christmas, but always, to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, we will find that we can share in the task of displaying and sharing God’s love for all not just in our Churches, but in the communities around us.

May you and those you love know the blessing that the presence of God surrounding you brings; during the season of Advent, the season of Christmas and on and on into the New Year.

Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!
Yours, Lindsay

October 2014

As I write, we are well into a beautiful Indian Summer!  There are stunningly beautiful coloured leaves on the trees, but I refuse to acknowledge that we are on the brink of Autumn!

I recently went to a concert in Manchester by the Halle Orchestra.  Where we sat wasn’t ideal, acoustically, but visually it was wonderful.  We had a birds’ eye view of what was going on, and we could see just who was playing what, and hear them, sometimes individually.

So I was reflecting on this and reached some conclusions which, to many of you, might be blindingly obvious, but, here goes.

Each instrument has its part to play.  It may only be one bar, or a few notes, but without the contribution of that instrument, the piece of music is diminished.  In other words, each individual instrument enhances the work of all the others.

Secondly, each musician has to do exactly the right thing at exactly the right time.  It looks to the untrained eye as though playing some of the percussion instruments is easy – child’s play, even, - but if the instrument is not struck at exactly the right time, and in combination with the others that are included at the same time, musically, the piece can become woolly or even a downright mess.

Thirdly, discipline is needed.  Sometimes it looks all too easy to doze off!  But miss the cue, and, again, the music is diminished.  The musicians have to practise, train and rehearse together, and accept the authority of the conductor, who might have a different interpretation of the music.

Why am I writing all this?

Because, quite simply, I think there are many similarities between the work of an orchestra, and the work of the church.  Each need the discipline of all its members, and in the church, as in the orchestra, each instrument has a vital role to play that may be large or small, loud or quite quiet, in unison with many others or a lone melody.

So, with news from the Conference that the Methodist Church has lost one third of its membership in the last 10 years, it is more important than ever before that each person plays the instrument that God has given them to play.  It may be that your part is similar to that of one of the violins – difficult to play, but a beautiful sound that so often carries the melody; or one of the violas that give a wonderful rich sound in support; or maybe your task is like that of the kettledrums – crucial to building a crescendo or adding atmosphere to a piece, but needing to be checked regularly for tuning.  Or maybe your part is like that of a lesser used percussion instrument – a triangle, tambourine, or even a wooden box.

For the work of the church to continue, whatever your part is, it is vital, and the music that we, the church can make in today’s world will be diminished without your input!
Yours, Lindsay

September 2014

        As I write, the summer is just beginning to draw to a close; the evenings are drawing in and are a little chillier and we have had more rain than we would normally expect in August, even in Britain!  The last Test Match (Cricket) is currently being played, the FA season has just started and the US Tennis Open beckons.  However, there are many warm and mellow days still to look forward to and enjoy.  (I hope!!)

       Away from sport, the news is very troubling.  The Eastern Ukraine continues to be an area of violence and uncertainty, with concerns about Russian intentions; Boko Haram is still holding the schoolgirls kidnapped in Nigeria and many more kidnappings have taken place since then; IS have committed appalling atrocities in Iraq in the name of religion and many people have been driven from their homes; problems in Syria continue.  Many of these situations have slipped out of our headlines, but for the people involved, they are still heart-breaking, tragic and insolvable.  And these are but a few of the instances of injustice, violence and oppression taking place at any one time in our world.

        Many of you will, by now, have gathered that I have found John Farnham’s song ‘You’re the Voice’ poignant, challenging and illuminating, which he sings with passion, urgency and feeling.  It contains the following words:

We have the chance to turn the pages over
We can write what we want to write
We gotta make ends meet, before we get much older
We're all someone's daughter; we're all someone's son
How long can we look at each other down the barrel of a gun?
You're the voice, try and understand it
Make the noise and make it clear,
We're not gonna sit in silence; we're not gonna live with fear,
This time, we know we all can stand together
With the power to be powerful believing we can make it better.

       As Christians, as Methodists, we cannot but acknowledge the truth of these words.  As we stand on the brink of another Connexional year, we can remind ourselves that one of the four points of Our Calling is Service: “As a member of the Methodist Church I am called to service, by being a good neighbour in the community, challenging injustice …”

If only everyone treated each other as an equal, beloved of God, and to be loved by each of us regardless of ethnicity, culture, social background, faith, gender or age, the world would be a much better place for all to live in. But we have been called to do all in our power as individuals and as Faith Communities to make that ideal a reality. 

So, as we enter a new Connexional year, we should be asking ourselves whether or not we are doing enough; if what we are doing is being done in the right ways or if we need to re-think.  We have to continue Christ’s work in this place and time to be very best of our ability.



May 2014 

As I write, spring is very much in evidence, although it still seems jolly cold and grey sometimes.

No matter,  next Sunday is Easter Day – the most joyful day of the Christian Year!  A day to celebrate, or, to be more accurate, a day to start celebrating the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ!  After the long weeks of Lent, and the heaviness of Holy Week, we can breathe again and not heave a sigh of relief, but jump for joy!

Easter is not just a time for cute bunnies and chicks; not just a time for painting eggs and hot cross buns, not just a time for daffodils and chocolate.  It is far more important than all those things, and is far more wonderful.

On the first Good Friday, Jesus of Nazareth, whose existence is well documented, was crucified agonizingly on the cross.  And there is evidence of that event happening too, not just what we read in the Bible.  He wasn’t the only one.  In those days, many, many people were crucified in the same way.

But Christians believe that Jesus was unique.  Why?  Because although he was declared dead, and was buried in a tomb, he rose up from the dead on that first Easter Day.  How do we know?  Because several independent witnesses saw him, and some spoke to him.  What are the implications of this unique and wonderful event?

Well, unlike others – Jairus’ daughter, Lazarus and the Widow of Nain’s son for example, Jesus came back to life in a different way.  They grew old and died in the normal way when their time came.  But Jesus rose from the dead and didn’t die again.  Through Jesus, God had somehow and miraculously broken the power of death and sin, so that, if we believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, we can live eternally with God in heaven.  Of course, we do still come to the end of our earthly lives, but Christians believe that, once we have believed in Jesus Christ, after our earthly bodies have died, we will live for ever with God.  We believe that Jesus has promised this!

This is absolutely amazing and wonderful news for everyone who turns to God.  And that is why, on this, and every Easter Day and right through Eastertide, up to Pentecost, Christians are celebrating.

So, may I wish you a very Happy Easter!

Last time I wrote, I gave you news of our new granddaughter.  Aeryn and her family are very well, and Aeryn is developing into quite a personality!  Our daughter-in-law, who has been very ill, is now well on the way to full recovery – thanks to everyone for all your thoughts, prayers, support and cards.



April 2014

As I write, the weather has calmed down a lot, and we’ve even had some hints that spring might just be on its way.  We can hope, whilst still protecting our tender plants! 

We are now well into Lent.  At Tiviot Dale, short services have been held during the Coffee Mornings on Fridays (starting at 10.30 am) and at Trinity and Davenport Lent Studies have been held weekly.  Before Lent, we completed our study of the Lord’s Prayer, and we had all been very challenged by what we were really praying for week by week.  We all thought that this very special prayer forms a very important part of our services, but now look at it with fresh eyes, as it were, and approach the prayer with a lot more thought.

The Lord’s Prayer is found in Matthew’s account of the Gospel, and comes in what is known as The Sermon on the Mount, a collection of Jesus’ teaching that contains the essence of his message.  These three chapters repay close study, but be warned, they are very challenging!  The teaching in them is certainly not for the faint-hearted, and really requires self-examination of each of us!

Lent is a season in the Church Calendar that is for preparation, self-denial and self-examination.  It can be a very rewarding time, and not only in that we might lose a bit of weight!  But it’s not just about giving up chocolate. 

We start Lent with the familiar reading of Jesus in the wilderness being tempted, and resisting.  On the face of it the temptations Jesus faced are not the same as the ones that we more usually face.  The temptations he faced were concerned with his ministry.  Should he feed the poor in one huge, dramatic gesture? Should he go for the spectacular, and grab people’s attention?  Should he take the easy route?    Actually,  when we think about it deeply, the temptations we face are pretty similar, even if the details differ, or we don’t always recognise them as being such!                                                                                                                                          

We need a discipline of prayer and studying God’s word if we are to resist temptation.  We need time to listen to God’s voice, and the knowledge of God’s word to be able to discern what we are being told.

Last time I wrote, we were anxiously awaiting the birth of our first grandchild.  Aeryn Miral was born on 21st February, and all the family are well.  And, yes, she is gorgeous!




March 2013

As I write, the wind is howling outside in a way that is quite alarming, and rain is lashing at the windows.  The weather we’ve been experiencing over the last few weeks is like nothing I’ve ever known.  And it makes me wonder.  Is this a one-off, once in decades event; or is this sort of weather something we have got to start getting used to?  Is it something that is part of the earth’s natural cycles, as some people claim; or are we all, somehow, involved in bringing this weather to our shores by our actions affecting the planet’s climate?  While we are experiencing wind and rain, other places are experiencing a lack of rain that is causing them problems – drought, bush fires and so on.

Well, the science now seems to be leaning towards human involvement in climate change.  How much we are to blame will be seen by future generations.  However, even if it’s only a small part that we have played, it’s too much.  We need to care for our planet, to mind what we are doing, and not to take too much of its resources.  We need to be mindful of the needs of our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world, and to ensure that, wherever possible, our actions or inactions don’t harm them or their environment.  A tall order!

We are now fast approaching Lent.  This is something of a rollercoaster season in the Church’s calendar.  It starts during the week after the Sunday on which the Gospel reading recounts the Transfiguration, with all its mystery and euphoria and symbolism, takes us through the temptations, through several major events in Jesus’ ministry, and on to Passiontide, with Palm Sunday and then Holy Week.

This is familiar territory to all of us, but we shouldn’t let that familiarity stop us from looking for insights we had missed before.  Try to approach these familiar readings, as they crop up in Sunday Services, with fresh ears, try to picture the scenes in your mind, try to really listen to what God is saying to you this Lent.  You may well find that you are surprised!

During Lent, Bible Study groups will be looking each week at the Beatitudes in some depth, to see what they have to say to us today, and you will be very welcome at one of these groups – or both if you like!  I have found that even if I start of the session with the same material to cover, we never end up in the same place!

In the meantime, Ian and I are eagerly awaiting the birth of our first grandchild.  This should be in the next week or so, and I never thought I would be so excited!  Watch this space …!



January/February 2013

As I write, the Christmas Season is drawing to a close.  We have, once again, reflected on the wonder of God’s self-giving love, as he came to live among us; we have reflected on the surprise of the shepherds who were startled by the angels and couldn’t wait to get down to Bethlehem to find out for themselves, who knelt in worship before the infant; and we have journeyed with the wise men who had been watching and waiting for a long time before they saw the sign that the new king had been born, followed it, and who offered costly gifts as they knelt in worship of the infant. The lives of these people, and those around them, was never the same after those momentous events.

But now we move on.  We will soon be looking again at the adult man, Jesus, as he begins his ministry.  We will be looking at the call of the disciples, and this is asking for a very different response from that of the shepherds and the wise men.

At this stage in his life, Jesus doesn’t need worship such as the shepherds and the wise men gave.  Nor does he need costly gifts such as the wise men brought.  Jesus is asking for gifts from his disciples that are far more demanding than anything that can be bought.  Jesus is asking men – who probably knew him – to trust him, to support him, to work with him, to learn from him, to travel with him, to be his friend, and all this through thick and thin.

The Gospels don’t account for each day of three years, there are gaps in between, so I think there were times when the disciples did go out fishing again, or carried on their other work.  We know that Peter, at least, had a wife and a mother-in-law to support.  The big change in their lives was that from now on, Jesus was their top priority, and when he said ‘I need you to come with me’, they went.

We, too are called to be Jesus’ disciples.  Not necessarily to leave the life we were leading before we were called – though some are called to do that – but to make Jesus our top priority.  In our Covenant Services recently, we have once again willingly made our commitment to go wherever God wants us to go, and do whatever God wants us to do.  This is this is the most costly gift of all.  It involves our whole lives, and isn’t easy at all.

But as we look at the year ahead and what it might hold for us, both as individuals and faith communities, we know that however demanding, however challenging, however much we are out of our comfort zones, God is there to help and encourage us, and to give us the strength we need.

Happy New Year!




           As I write, Christmas still seems a long way off, but it'll come round very quickly, I'm sure, and I daresay with those little panics that we all have in the run-up top the big day. But that shouldn't stop us pausing from time to time to reflect what Christmas is all about, really.  


           The birth of Christ has many messages for us, and goodness knows we need to hear them today, but I will touch on just one big message in this newsletter.  But we should  be listening for God's voice in all the readings, prayers, activities and carols for His message to each one of us at this time.  If we sing new carols - and there are many new ones around, look for the message within them, even if it means that your particular favourite isn't included in the service you attend!


           The Gospel-writer Luke tells us that on the night Jesus was born in Bethlehem, angels appeared to shepherds telling them of the birth and singing ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’


           We all like a peaceful life, don’t we?  But what is peace?  Well, the full meaning of the Hebrew word for peace, Shalom, means everything that goes to make up a person’s well-being.  It is much more than mere peace and quiet, precious though that is. Jesus said ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God’.  But how can this be achieved in our world today?


           Clearly, peace is something that is not just going to happen.  We all have to work at it, to be ‘peacemakers’, whether it is across the living room, across the garden fence, across the street, the community or the world.  And until the world is a fairer, more just world where people care for the needs of others, where no-one goes hungry, where no-one lives in fear, peace is not going to become a reality.


           Peace is what God wants for our world; it is up to each of us, with God’s help, to make that happen, not just at Christmas time, but throughout the year.

And so I wish you a Merry Christmas, and a very Happy and Peaceful New Year. 





Watching and Waiting - November 2013

As I write, it seems as though, in some people's minds at least, Christmas is here already.  In fact, the other day I saw one advert for a store that proclaimed 'Christmas has arrived'

It hasn't.

Let's get this straight.  Christmas starts at midnight on 24th December, but then continues until 2nd February, when we have the feast of Candlemas.  That is the season of Christmas - it doesn't end on Christmas Day as many of the leading stores would have us believe!.  And for most of us, Christmas is a wonderful time of year.

But before that, we have other things to get involved in.  I agree that we need to prepare for Christmas, and that includes making arrangements with family and friends, shopping, preparing food, decorating our houses and all of that, and it is all fun and exciting.

But more important than all of that is to prepare ourselves for this great season.  To do that, we need to get things in perspective, to get our priorities right.  

We need to watch, and wait, and hope, and reflect.

This year, Advent reflections will be run in all three Churches - just 3 sessions,   Please  try to make this a priority, and choose the time slot that suits you best, rather than go to your local church.

The sessions will be on:

            Tuesday mornings, 12th, 19th and 26th November at Davenport, 10.30 am

            Wednesday evenings,  13th, 20th and 27th November at Tiviot Dale, 7.30 pm

            Thursday afternoons, 14th, 21st and 28th November at Trinity, 2.00 pm.

These sessions will be fun, thought-provoking and  maybe a lttle challenging,

Celebrating Christmas without preparing ourselves throughout Advent and the weeks before is a bit like having our pudding without eating our main course first.  We like the pudding, but on its own, it isn't very good for us, and gets a bit too sweet after a while.  What we need is the goodness of the first course.

Hope to see you there!






NEW BEGINNINGS - October 2013 

As I write, everything is still feeling very new - including having Internet Access!!  The area I drive around is new.  The places I shop in are new, the people I see each day are new to me as I am to you. 

A new beginning can be daunting, exciting, a bit scary, a bit unsettling; they can be opportunities to re-assess, to start something new, to stop doing something that is past its sell-by date.

It can all depend on how each person or group feels and approaches the new beginning.  Some will be dreading change, others will embrace it.  Some will seize new opportunities and new ways of doing things, and others won't.

That is all natural, and applies to all of us, depending on the situation.  It will take time for us to get to know each other, our ways of working, our hopes and fears, our expectations and our longings, what we enjoy doing, and what works well, and what we don't enjoy and what doesn't work well.

And as in any new relationship, the "getting to know" should be fun and exciting, whether it is a couple growing together, or parents and a new child, or new neighbours, colleagues or friends.  

In Church, we are always looking forward, looking outward into the communities we are in and serve, to see what God's will is for us in the next stage of our pilgrimage, and  we could remember some of the things that Jesus said that will help us.

Jesus said that we should be Salt and Light in the world around us. 

He said that we should follow him, be obedient to him and that he would never leave us.

He said that we should have faith, and trust in him.

He said that the Holy Spirit would help us.

He said that love our neighbour.

If in all we do we seek to do these things together, we will not go far wrong, and we will have a lot of fun serving God together.