Monday, 30 August 2010


As everyone knows (if you don't, I don't know where you've been), I LOVE music. Any type of music, I'll give anything a play once and I'll buy an album because I hear an like one song. As it's been my birthday recently I had from friends and family iTunes and Amazon vouchers for the purchase of music/books. Here's a little insight into my recent purchases and some of my favourite tunes at the's not my top 5 or top 10, because to scale my musical tastes and favourites into such a short list would be doing everything else a dis-service. Instead, I listen to music depending on my mood. And at times the music I'm listening to is incredibly eclectic to even be able to try to start to categorise. As a result, I have a constantly evolving playlist on my ipod of 'current favourites'. I think it has about 200 songs on there at the moment!

And so, here are some of my purchases and favourites. Some of the special ones with videos........I hope you enjoy them.

Brooke Fraser: Albertine
Biffy Clyro: Only Revolutions
Lissie: Catching a Tiger
Marina & The Diamonds: The Family Jewels
Paramore: Brand new eyes
Wakefield Cathedral Choir: Music for Holy Communion

Paramore: Ignorance

Friday, 27 August 2010

Rugby World Cup

As a bit of an antidote to the game that is called 'football' or 'soccer', and being an ardent rugby fan (#realfootball), I've been following the Women's Rugby World Cup, the pool games for which are being held at Guildford, with the Semi-Finals and Finals being at the home of my beloved Harlequins, the Twickenham Stoop.

I haven't been able, yet, to get to any matches, although have watched what I can on television. My family and I will also be at m parents for the final; otherwise we would have gone. Instead, we have opted to go to the Semi-Finals that are being played on Wednesday (1st September) at the Twickenham Stoop, starting at 6pm. Unless there is a huge disaster, England will be one of the top seeds and playing in one of the games, as a favourite to go through to the Finals, where in all likelihood they will meet New Zealand.

Women's rugby is superb. It is a free-flowing fast moving, running game. I'm not going to compare it to the game men play as I think that would be doing the players a dis-service. I thoroughly enjoy watching it and am delighted that there have been big crowds turn out in Guildford, with, for example, this Saturday's action being a sell-out. On the opening day people had to be turned away. It is a fantastic opportunity to watch a high standard of rugby but very reasonably.

However (there is always a 'but'). I have to have a moan. In looking to purchase tickets, I visited the official site ( and rang the ticket booking line. Ticketmaster operate on behalf of the RWC the sale of tickets; advertised at £15 for adults and £5 for children - very reasonable prices. I was, however, horrified to be informed that in addition, there would be a £1.90 'service fee' on each adult ticket and £1.50 on each child ticket. In addition to this there would be a £2.50 fee for the whole transaction. What on earth is this for?
I'm also collecting tickets so I suspect there are little postage costs. Total additional 'charges' of £13.80. I feel very aggrieved at these - and whilst I could have gambled on the game not selling out, with 2 adults and 7 children, it was just not a practical option.

Hopefully, the good rugby will continue and we see a victorious England lift the trophy next weekend. Watch out for it on Sunday afternoon.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Br Roger of Taize

Five years ago today, Br. Roger of Taize was brutally murdered in the Church of the Reconciliation in Taize. I remember exactly where I was at the time; on holiday in Studland when I received an email first thing in the morning the day after and then there being a picture on the front page of The Times newspaper. I felt numb, totally numb. Taize was and still is a major part of my faith journey and life and during the 18months I was there 20 or so years ago I had a lot of contact with Br Roger. Why on earth was this holy man struck down and killed and in such a violent manner? Brother Roger was the holiest man I have met in my time on this earth. A man of reconciliation.

In the next few hours I tried to process everything, but the one thing that was important to me was to try to get to the funeral. It was the following week. I looked at my calender - I was back at work, but for some reason the day of the funeral I had nothing on, nothing at all. I booked the day off. I then booked the necessary Eurotunnel tickets - I was going to go there and back in a day. 1200 or so miles. I did it. I was at the funeral. The community had kindly made some provision for the old 'permanants'; volunteers, so I had lunch and then into the church for the service. It was a service of love, of course of great emotion, but there was no hatred, no hate for the murderer. Just prayers for her.

Taize, over the years, has shaped my life significantly. I went there as an 18 year old and returned at 20 having learnt a huge amount about me, about God and my faith. From there, it was all about exploring where God was taking me in this life. At one stage I considered the monastic life and another 'hicup' on my road to discerning my vocation, but now, the third time and with much help from Br Thomas of Taize, I am on the road to ordination and the part Taize and Brother Roger has played in that I cannot underestimate.

I spent 18months living on the hillside in the middle of Burgundy. The tiny village that Brother Roger found in 1940, where he was asked to stay and make his home because the villagers were so alone. Joined by friends who formed the community, they set about on their journey of reconciliation. A journey of absolute faith where people were not asked what denomination they were but a true celebration of what each denomination had to offer in worship and life, from the orthodox, to the catholic to the protestant. Since the 1950's the community welcomed more and more people, mainly young; all this without any publicity or desire to attract people. And today, the community welcomes, in some weeks, more than 4,000 people - still mainly the young, who pass by and are able, freely, to question. Question their faith, question who they are and their role in this life.

It is a place that I find solace. Where I am able to question. To ask God where he is leading me.....and to often begin to find answers.

I return on November 11th for a few days silent retreat. To continue to ask those questions.

To finish, a quote...

'You are searching for God: are you aware that what matters is the welcome you extend to Christ, the Risen Lord? By his presence, always offered to each person, by his forgiveness, he brings you to life. By placing you confidence in him and by forgiving, you will break out of your inner prisons to dare to commit yourself as a pilgrim of reconciliation, even in the divisions of the Christian family and even in those which tear apart the human family.' Br Roger of Taize

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Holiday Blues

I haven't blogged for a while and that's because I haven't really had much to say. Not publicly, anyway. And I sort of don't have a huge amount to say now. I'm on holiday in Dorset with the family and my in-laws. This should ordinarily be a great holiday, a nice one week's break, food; literally on a plate and the children with lots of things to entertain themselves.

However. I'm tired. Worn out. Both physically and emotionally. I need more than a week off. This time last year we were in our first week of three. The sun was shining in Dorset and we then had two weeks in a very hot South of France. This year, due to my placement taking up a month of my holiday, I have precious little left and so it's being used sparingly.

As I finish my second year at STETS, I think I'm not alone. My largest piece of work, my placement report, is the culmination of three or so weeks full time placement, a lot of reflection (and also naval gazing as well as procrastination) and then a concentrated period of trying to get my thoughts and observations adequately on paper. It's done, submitted and in - there is nothing I can do now other than hope that the marker is kind to me. How does one put, adequately, into 5000 words what I have experienced almost 24 hours a day for 3 weeks? Living and breathing parish life, full time? I don't know that I have done it justice.

And so to today. Sat in this no-man's land between year two and three of college. Time off from work. A short time off from my everyday job, but at the same time staying in touch through my Blackberry. I know I should switch off from this, but I just can't. Simple as that. I would be hell if I had to.

I've already printed off and looked at the first module for the next academic year. Studied the calender, looked at the weekends away. The clock is on the downward slope. 5 academic modules, 5 assignments, three mini-placements, three sermons, an assignment, 6 weekends and one Easter School. All this then leads to Ordination. Ordination in less than a year's time. In fact in just over 10 month's time. The reality is biting big time. I am constantly reflecting as to what ordained life will mean. I have waited so long for it. The call is on the verge of becoming a reality. And whilst this will be just the start. I stand back and look to the future. The future scares me. Is that a bad thing? Should I only live for today? So many questions, with so few immediate answers.

Back to August 2010. It doesn't matter if I am ready or not. I believe that God has called me. He is ready for me. I owe it to him, to my family, to the church, to all those who have, in the past and are now supporting me, to do my best. To fulfil that vocation. To answer it and to pursue where I think God is taking me. I must do this to the best of my ability and know, that in my heart of hearts, God will feed my heart and soul, guide and direct me through and lead me into the future as long as I trust in him. And trust I do.

Monday, 12 July 2010


I was at college a couple of weekends ago. The theme of the weekend was 'Ministry to the Dying and Bereaved'....or as I put it 'Death and Dying'. I wasn't particularly looking forward to the weekend. Not for any particular reason. I hadn't had a bereavement recently and so there wasn't, as far as I was aware, anything that could 'come out'. The only reason for emotion would be that it was the last weekend of the year for my year group, and the last weekend before we next meet in October. A long time to be away from friends.

I flew in a little late, having been in France on a course, so I missed much of the opening worship. The weekend was good. It was led with particular sensitivity and my fellow students were given space to think and pray and wander off if so desired. A friend and I had also decided to organise a party, being our last weekend and the last weekend of one of our dear tutors as he set off on the road to retirement - we had a small gift for him that we wanted to present.

The party was a corker. We let our hair down and danced. It wasn't especially late, but as friends we talked, partied and danced. Being a warm evening we even took the music outside onto the quad and danced on the grass, ipods being examined for tracks to continue dancing to. A truly wonderful evening to end our second year.   And special as everyone mucked in to make it what it was. A big thank you to my co-conspirator, Angi with whom it wouldn't have morphed into what it did!

Back to the reason for this blog....and the weekend. On Sunday morning our worship took the form of a 'Wordless Eucharist'. A number of us had heard of its reputation. This was going to be emotional. But no one really knew what to expect. I went with an open mind. Being a contemplative sort of chap, I thought it would be good and also knowing the celebrant, I had high expectations.

We entered to the music of the film Amelie. It was carnival like. Not really what I would call meditative. However, it was right, just right. we sat in the room in a circle and waited......I knelt on the floor for a moment to gather my thoughts, with good friends either side of me. It was going to be a good end to the weekend.

What happened next, I really can't explain. I started to think of my (maternal) grandfather. He was a parish priest whose life was cut short by a brain tumour. His last parish was just outside Norwich in Thorpe St Andrew. He died when I was 2 or 3. However, I have always felt close to him, an affinity with him. I just can't explain it, but I can imagine him and picture him. I am very fond of my grandfather.

I started to cry. Properly cry. It was OK. I was in a 'safe' place. Amongst friends who cared. And I didn't really stop. In my prayers I questioned why he was taken away at, what is today, such a young age. Why was the church deprived of him? Why was I deprived of him? Why couldn't he be around today to see where I was going and be proud of me?

After 38 or so years I was grieving the death of my grandfather.

I can't do justice to the worship in words so I won't even try. It was wonderful and fulfilling. During the service tissues were shared, hands placed on shoulders, hugs exchanged and it was good. At the end we joined together via our little fingers and were led out into the sunshine.

The story continues on the day after the weekend. I was speaking with my mother who had been at her aunt's birthday celebrations (my grandfather's sister). She had visited the grave of my grandfather and grandmother. Fresh roses lay on his grave. And then on the Sunday had worshiped at Thorpe at a similar time I was worshipping. I think knowing this bought a tear to both my and my mother's eyes.

I have talked about this experience with college friends. And aside from anything else, after two years on STETS, I can say with certainty that I thank God for my friends at college, the support they have given and continue to give. They have much to give in their ministries. The church will be a richer place.

Saturday, 19 June 2010


I consider myself to be an armchair sports fan. In reality I'll watch most things - and often get accused of watching the most inane 'rubbish'; although that is just a matter of opinion; and usually it's my wife's (and so often, I guess, in the cold light of day, she's right - just don't tell her!). It comes with the 'benefit' of having Sky and paying a ridiculous amount of money every month to Mr Murdoch. Now we even have HD, so we can throw even more money his way.

There appears to be a world cup on at the moment. I must admit, that I was bored of it even before a ball was kicked in anger. I entertained some clients for the first game of the tournament and actually quite enjoyed it. Perhaps that was due to the wine consumed, company and lack of emotional attachment to any of the team. It also seemed to be quite a good game.

As friends will know, rugby is my first game. You see, I know a little bit about it and played it (to a very poor level) some years ago. As I've got a bit fitter of late, I still see myself playing, but in reality that would be a very bad idea, a bad idea indeed! At my age the body just takes so much longer to recover and I really don't fancy bruised ribs, black eyes etc etc.....

I'm also patriotic, so when the football game was on last night (England vs Algeria), I settled down in front of the television with the family to watch it. Home cinema system blasting the sound, making it feel a little more 'real' and in glorious HD...large glass of wine poured ready to see England show the Algerians how to play football.

As we know, the goals never came and what was served up was, apparently, dross. I say apparently, as I lost interest before half time. So much so that I retreated to the study, with another glass of wine to try to do some studying. I got distracted with music and other stuff, but I had absolutely no interest in the football. Does this reflect badly on me? When my home nation is playing, should I be watching or at least showing an interest?

Today, was a very different kettle of fish. RUGBY....First thing there was New Zealand vs Wales and then Australia vs England. Later on, and after I post this, I will have a little bit of a dilemma; it's Argentina vs Scotland and England vs Canada, the latter in the Churchill Cup Final. I have Scottish roots, in the distant past (grandmother) and have always supported England. However, I suspect that game will be an absolute corker. I will have to record one and watch the other.

I sat captivated watching the rugby of earlier. Now this week, England put in a great performance, much to my surprise. But even last week, when the performance was dire, I watched it all. Watched it, criticised, got involved, emotionally attached, had a go at the referee, the whole nine yards. You see, when it comes to rugby, I will watch the dullest of draws and still find something beautiful about the game, something technical in it that makes it all worthwhile. I just don't get that with football.

So, as long as there is rugby on, my mind will be somewhere else, other than the round-ball antics going on in South Africa. I get chastised at work for not knowing what's going on in the football and strange looks when I say I'm bored with it and really can't be bothered. However, come next year, when the Rugby World Cup is on in New Zealand, I will be excited, be emotionally attached, watch as many games as possible.....and become even more of a rugby bore....

Rugby; proper sport. At it's best.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Exile II

I'm still in placement exile from my home parish and while being so, seem to be getting a bit more organised in respect or Sunday services to attend. However, last Sunday's was a little last minute! We were staying at my parents-in-law and planning to go, on the Sunday, to the 'bigchurchdayout' (see; However, I discovered that this didn't kick off, so to speak until slightly later in the day.

So, we chose to go to Chichester Cathedral for their 11am Eucharist. I took two children with me. It was also a bit of a reccie as a college friend is being ordained there at the end of June and I wanted to check out some of the practical stuff. It was, as expected, a wonderful service both liturgically and musically; the incense was swung liberally and the choir were on top form. But, as with all these sorts of services,  it was one that lacked congregational 'participation'. It was only during the sermon that I actually sat up.

Now, for those not necessary in the know, Chichester Diocese hasn't been known to fully 'embrace' the ordination of Women to the Priesthood. I wasn't going for any debate or discussion on the subject, but, when during the sermon, the Dean talked of listening to the Spirit, and quoted the following from (Benedictine scholar) Sebastian Moore about how the Church's leaders (and those whom they led) were unable..

‘to cope with the scientific revolution when it came, dithered when Darwin discovered
Evolution, and Freud the unconscious, and now resists the feminist movement and the rethinking
of sexuality. It all goes back to a church that understood God and his Son in
legal terms – God authorising the Son and the Son authorising the Church, rather than in
the Spirit, that got relegated to the role of someone you pray to before taking an exam.’

I just didn't expect these things to be said within Chichester Cathedral, but it rang so true that time and time again we seem to get so worked up in what appears to be the language and legality of theology without looking behind it and praying and working through where we believe the Holy Spirit is taking us on our ever changing faith journey. Christianity is now over 2000 years old and, much like we expect children to mature as they grow, so surely God expects and guides the church in change and maturity. There are of course deep rooted questions that do need to be answered and worked through, and there are issues that are guided particularly strongly by scripture. However, we must not forget that when we are considering such matters, first and foremost we do this within a prayerful environment. If we don't, then where is God in our decisions? He is not.

After Eucharist, I took the boys onto thebigchurchdayout ( I wasn't sure what to make of it and must admit to feeling somewhat apprehensive. I wasn't meeting anyone there and the 'tone' of the event was very much evangelical - at the other end of the tradition spectrum to mine. There was a main stage, marquee for the children (with very well organised children's activities), a smaller stage and a tea-tent away from the noise for those who wanted to escape. 

Once I'd orientated myself and felt a little more comfortable, I had a truly wonderful day out. It was a 'big church day out'. The sun shone, there were lots of people and it was a glorious celebration of everything good that is our faith. I experienced some new worship music and was particularly moved by the music of Trent and Tim Hughes. 

The boys had a great time - and the children's activities (organised in to age groups) were fantastic and well organised. An hour of entertainment for them; with some adult participation as well. We weren't able to stay until the end, but left after seeing Tobymac - unfortunately, my desire to be in the main crowd wasn't the boys idea of fun (sound of the speakers resonating on our chests; taking me back to my youth and pop & rock concerts!). 

At the end of the long day, I reflected on what a diversity of worship I had had the privilege of being part of. I was able to worship in both contexts and whilst on one hand I loved the formal liturgy of the cathedral, and still love this form of worship, I was able to worship in an equally later in the day in a much more relaxed, free flowing way. There is a place for all forms of worship as well as a place for a combining of older, traditional liturgy with modern themes, songs, instruments etc etc. We need to take courage in both hands and (as mentioned earlier) in a prayerful environment, take worship out of our (and the established church's) 'comfort' zones and ensure that we enable people today to adequately connect with God. 


Just while I try to gather some inspiration for a slightly longer blog on my experiences a couple of weekends ago, I thought I'd share this song that I heard at bigchurchdayout. Since I've bought Tim Hughes' album. But at the time, the words, simple though they are, hit me.

God in my living 
There in my breathing 
God in my waking 
God in my sleeping 

God in my resting 
There in my working 
God in my thinking 
God in my speaking 

Be my everything 
Be my everything 
Be my everything 
Be my everything 

God in my hoping 
There in my dreaming 
God in my watching 
God in my waiting 

God in my laughing 
There in my weeping 
God in my hurting 
God in my healing 

Christ in me 
Christ in me 
Christ in me the hope of glory 
You are everything 

Christ in me 
Christ in me 
Christ in me the hope of glory 
Be my everything

Monday, 31 May 2010

Book of Common Prayer

Salisbury Cathedral

It's been a strange 10 days - one of highs and lows. Plunging the emotional depths as well as rising to as far as I can guess is heaven on earth. Most of which, I can't write about here and in the public domain (nothing sinister, trust me). Those close to me have been part of that and I praise God that I have such supportive family and friends.

Last weekend I was with my friends at STETS in Salisbury where, in the wonderful setting of the Cathedral Close, we had the most beautiful weather. The focus of the weekend was on the youth and young and my group was on the rota to lead evening worship, based on the Book of Common Prayer (BCP). Initially, we thought that actually leading BCP evening prayer would be 'easy'; straight from the book, lifted off the page stuff, not really requiring too much thought. However, as we reflected, exchanged emails and unpacked it, it wasn't going to be so easy. How could we reflect something of the theme of the weekend in Evening Worship which used the rich language of the 17th Century; and language that the young of today certainly don't use.

Lots of people talk of the language of the BCP having it's place - but this talk being used negatively. However, I bet these are the same people that enjoy Shakespeare and the other rich traditions we have that date back. Why on earth shouldn't worship just be about the language of today? So (and I have to come clean here), I turned, as I so often do, to music. What could we do to enjoy the richness of the language but mix it with where we are today? That great juxtaposition of ancient and modern - and ensuring that people were able to reach God in this short act of worship.

I suggested a number of pieces of music to my group. We went through some stuff on my ipod. Listening carefully to words, music and the whole 'ambience' of songs. And these were secular songs, not religious. We then also decided that the place for the hymn would be taken by playing a piece of music. These were the pieces we chose:

1. Before the prayer

2. In place of a hymn

3. After the prayer

I think it worked well. And I hope those there were able, through both the music and the words to connect with God. The feedback was good. The only negative was that people couldn't make out the words - a bit of a downside, but I don't know how important that is in this context.

My conclusion? I've banked this one - and would very much like to try it with a group of young people and see what we can come up with at some time in the future.

and as a PS: next time I do this, I would also show the videos - they all connect and, in my view, having just watched them make the lyrics even more powerful.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010


I'm in exile. Exile that is from my 'home' parish church. During this term, when those in the second year of my course are focusing on their placements, we are required to effectively stay away from our usual parish churches to focus on our placements and not be distracted by duties in our home parishes.

Ever since Easter and Easter School I have been at various churches and as a result haven't had to think about where I was going to worship on a Sunday. For three Sunday's I was in my placement parish, two in my In-Laws Parish and one Sunday at Easter School, so last weekend was the first time I had to put some thought into where we, as a family were going to worship. It actually surprised my as to how difficult it was to find a 'suitable' church.

Naturally, my first stop was the internet and a Google search for 'churches in Hampshire'. It returned a number of options but what generally disappointed me was the lack of general information; the Church of England website and their 'find a church' section wasn't up to much - a bit like a National Trust search in that there were very nice symbols to indicate whether the church had stained glass, parking, loos etc etc......but didn't give me an awful lot more. Those with a website link often didn't go through to a website at all......obviously the link needed updating.

Anyway, our aim was to go to the Garrison Church in Aldershot. However, I (or someone...perhaps their website) made a mistake (probably me) and we arrived to find that communion had been at 9am and that there was a veteran's service at 11am. We were stood outside at 9.45am. Bundling everyone back in the car and thinking on my feet (or seat more accurately), I headed for the new-ish estate on the other side of Fleet to worship there at their 10am service. I knew that it wouldn't be communion and that it was at one end of the tradition 'spectrum' to mine, but I wanted to go to church and got to church I would.

I had a bit of a shock on arrival. We were welcomed very warmly. However, in the main body of this wonderfully modern building people were sat around tables. I had a nervous twitch that went back to some worship I had experienced and had found very uncomfortable with last year. However, it wasn't anything untoward, but that the church, having been on the site for four years was re-examining it's mission and strategy and the best way of doing this was on a Sunday morning with the regular congregation. We participated as best we could, but I have to say it worked particularly well with prayers, a talk and songs wrapped around short group discussions. Hats off to them for that. I came away feeling well and truly refreshed from the worship.

We will return to the Church on the Heath. Probably for their communion service. But I would recommend it. It is in a lovely modern light and airy building. The congregation were welcoming and there was a true sense of community with worship involving young and old. Here's their website: It is also clear that the church is very involved in the community and it is refreshing to see.

Just as an aside, I was delighted when we sung one of my favourites...that always has an effect on me. Stuart Townend writes some great music and lyrics.....

So, a simple choice this weekend - down in Salisbury with my STETs friends for a residential weekend. No need to choose where to worship on Sunday. Week after at with the boys...looks as if I'm just postponing choosing another church!

Angel flying too close to the ground

This is a song that I have recently downloaded onto my iPod. I love the lyrics, Beth Rowley's voice, the additional male voice and tune. It's a wonderful song and I wouldn't want to spoil it by adding anything further.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Back to Work

Well, I've been back at work now for just over a week. It was a shock. I deliberately went back on a Friday to ease myself in; apart from anything else, we had had an office move during my absence and as a result I had a new desk. I wanted to unpack in a leisurely fashion and get everything organised and sorted before getting into the week. Going back on a Friday enabled me to do that.

Reflecting back, my prior four weeks have been incredibly rich. A week of Easter School where some incredible friendships emerged and blossomed. It was where, as a year group, I think we discovered who might be within our support group in the year and indeed years to come. For some, this meant some very late nights drinking and putting the world (as well as the church) to rights. Was I one of these.....I wouldn't like to comment on that....!

The following three weeks on placement were rich and varied and I've blogged on those weeks. It all ended with a visit to HMP Belmarsh which rounded off my placement very nicely. It was especially nice as I was let out as well!

All wasn't over, though. I felt it important that I return for a Sunday to say my farewells to the congregation of St Augustine's. I also had the opportunity to preach. Once last chance to sit in the chancel with Fr Clive, MC and be part of the richness of worship at the church. I preached on the uncertainty of our future and how, whilst we try to create certainty we live in an uncertain world and that we need to trust in God more. It was a lovely Mass and chatting after to the congregation, many of whom had offered me their hospitality was a wonderful way to finish and say a temporary farewell.

Work has been difficult. I have gone from living in the vicarage, with a daily routine of prayer and worship (and time allowed in the day for this) to life once again as a commuter; the 12 hour day of almost 3 hours travel, sitting  at a desk staring at a screen, internal and external meetings, strategising, planning etc etc......I love my job, but I did feel a certain sense of bereavement being away from parish life. The time flew by and now actually seems like a long time ago.

This last week there's been a lot happening in the public eye. We've had an election (in case you hadn't noticed) and a government, as I type, hasn't yet been formed. I guess I'm not the only one who just wants the politicians to get on with it and decide who's going to run the country.

Then there is the publishing, by the Church of England, of the draft measure for the admitting of women to the episcopate. I've printed off the 142 page document and intend to read it. It's not going to change my view. I'm fully in favour of the move. However, what I dearly hope and pray for is that both sides of the debate can discuss, debate and pray over the move in a manner that befits us as Christians and that some of the hate and vitriol that we have seen up until now doesn't reappear. I know of some who seem to have a personal mission against ++Rowan and the Church of England as a whole (but are ordained within the CofE). This is a significant move for the church and it is my hope that there can be some very adult discussions about this.

Finally, I would like to share this video with you. It is a short interview with Brother Roger of Taize. In a little time, it speaks to me greatly.

Peter, do you love me? from Taizé on Vimeo.

Saturday, 1 May 2010


I've been using MSN Messenger to 'chat' with a good friend of mine. We were chatting away the other night, it was getting late and I was feeling tired after a long day in placement. My Placement Supervisor and I had said evening prayer, but I was actually, before turning in,wanting to pray. I wasn't sure about asking or how it would work but I asked...'shall we close the day with prayer'.....would it work via MSN?

We set some very basic groundrules.....that, for example, we wouldn't worry about spelling mistakes or bothering to correct them and just go with the flow. I chose some appropriate background music:

What came was a wonderful flowing of spontaneous prayer. Prayer for the day, our situations, families. I felt that it was a wonderful end to a busy day; also a new way of prayer. Prayer with someone else but on my own, in my own space, sharing that space in prayer. Simple, short, prayer, with music gently playing in the background.

I guess this is what would be called a 'Fresh Expression'? (not a big fan of the term myself - will blog on it one day)..........

It's something that was an important part of the day and I hope to be able to pray like this again. It's to be recommended.


I spent all day Thursday in prison. HMP Belmarsh to be precise. I've never been in a prison before and at 8.10am wasn't sure that I would be spending the day there. My Placement Supervisor had got in touch with the Chaplain and, as instructed, I turned up at 8am with Passport, Driving Licence and CRB to be told that 'I wasn't on the list'. On arriving, the Chaplain had forgotten to complete the paperwork. All was well, though, when he re-appeared 15 or so minutes later with the necessary forms. After completing the necessary (finger print scans, photos) I was going to be allowed in.

First impressions were that it was very quite once inside. We walked through the yard where prisoners first arrive allow a walkway and into the Chaplaincy building. This all appeared very civilised. The Chaplaincy is made up of a few faiths - Muslim, Hindu and then a number of Christian denominations.

I met the team. A missionary who spends much of his time in Africa, and a couple of volunteers who live relatively nearby. The morning was going to be taken up with a bible study for beginners. They expected just over 30 prisoners to attend. The atmosphere was very calm and relaxed as we chatted and laid out the beautiful chapel for the session and to welcome the prisoners.

Prisoners wandered in. Some were dressed in their own clothes, some in the prison's regulation red-ish tracksuits and trainers. A whole mix of people, black and white, young and old. I wasn't told what I should or shouldn't say and as they all walked in, I received a handshake, friendly 'hello' and in some cases a little chat.

When everyone was in, worship began. New people were welcomed and introduced; as was I. For which I received a round of applause! Worship was very evangelical affair, with a number of rousing songs sung, and sung with great feeling and gusto. It was strange in many respects. I didn't at any stage at this point or in the afternoon feel threatened, in fact I felt very comfortable in amongst the prisoners. They all appeared to be very 'regular' people. At the end of worship, there was the opportunity for newcomers to give a commitment to Christ and a number ventured forward. At this point, I did feel uncomfortable. I was taken outside my comfort zone with the praying and summoning of the Holy Spirit to be upon these people. There was the speaking in tongues. As an Anglo-Catholic by tradition, I really didn't know what to think of this; and as I say, it made me feel uncomfortable. I'm not sure what it was, I couldn't pinpoint why I was uncomfortable. I sensed in some respects there was pressure, a pushing sense of something that 'had' to happen. I struggled with this.

After worship we had small group discussions and they were very open and I enjoyed them immensely and was able to provide some input. Just before midday the warders came in and finished the session. I was asked by a prisoner to pray with and for him. I wasn't expecting this, but did what I could and hope that he felt, through my prayers, God's love. All prisoners were searched before they returned to their cells.

The afternoon session was quite different. This was for those who were committed in their faith and had some biblical knowledge and would be a bible introduction looking at the story of David and Bathsheba. First, again, we had worship led by a couple of the prisoners. A prayer, a psalm and then into song.....I have to say I was very moved by this. The freedom of expression in their worship and prayer. Unaccompanied singing....lots of songs....but not watching the time. Again, I felt very comfortable in their presence. There was the sharing of a testimony. It was a good bible study with contributions from a good number (about 20 in total attended). One recited a passage from Romans - not just a short passage, but almost a chapter, with great feeling.

We were hurried to finish and this time I was asked to finish the session with prayer. I had to be quick and thinking on my feet prayed; it was a moment that, because I was asked with no warning hadn't time to think about it, but felt humbled that I had been asked.

I had spoken, during the two sessions with one young man, the individual who had recited the verse. I was struck by his faith, but also his peace; peace with the fact that he was in prison, that he had been there for 18months and was waiting to be sentenced; a sentence that was likely to be a long one.....but he acknowledged that he had to take what the court gave him, but he was at peace that he would have company if the form of his faith. I actually felt it quite a privilege to meet and talk with him.

The eye opener of the day was a wander onto one of the wings. The wing where prisoners were 'welcomed' to the prison. The cells, that housed up to three, were tiny. Smoking was allowed in the cells so with many there was a fog of cigarette smoke. The chaplain had a number of visits to make to prisoners who had asked to see her or there was concern about. The sights and sounds were something that I would struggle to describe; and I did feel vulnerable surrounded by these people. This provided more of the image of prison and prisoners that I had expected.

On reflecting on the day, it was one that I had no preconceived ideas about. I didn't know what to expect. Talking to the volunteers, they get used to waiting. Waiting at the gate for someone to come and get them to go to the chaplaincy. I don't 'do' waiting! So it was uncomfortable for me! Inside, but in the yards and in the chaplaincy, it felt quiet and peaceful. It was only on the wing were there was considerable noise. One of the strangest things for me was the lack of communication with the outside world. Mobile phones are not allowed inside the prison. So mine was left in the car. I had absolutely no contact with the outside. This slightly unnerved me and I felt as if I was missing something! Popping out at lunchtime, for 15 minutes I was able to catch up with friends/family. But time was limited. A quick text and that was it.

Here is a place where God is truly at work. The people I met were inside serving their time. I didn't feel at all like judging them. I felt welcomed by all and very warmly so. I enjoyed meeting them and in a couple instances truly humbled.

I am so glad I was able to see the inside of a prison. I thank my placement supervisor for arranging it and the Chaplaincy Team for a very warm welcome and putting up with me for the day.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010


 I haven't really posted about my experiences of Easter School. I was, however, thinking earlier today of a conversation I was having with one of my fellow students at STETS about music within worship and how it is used. I'm a big music fan, with around 12,000 songs on my ipod which vary in genre greatly, from rock and pop to Orthodox chants.

During Easter School, the theme of which was 'Christian Anthropology: being human and a 'new creation''. The second year group shared responsibility for worship throughout the week which, it was stressed should be simple and based upon the five senses. There was a rich tapestry of worship, all quite brief, but for which a lot of thought and care had been taken in compiling. My group was to lead worship on Saturday and we had planned to use some music with it. Originally, the plan had been to use some classical music - some Easter Orthodox. Being the person with the ipod, it was left to me to choose something suitable.

As the week went on, I had in my head a particular song that I had desperately wanted to play, seemingly appropriate for the theme of the week. It was only, however, a few minutes before worship that I asked my group whether it was something that could be used during our worship. Potential to plunge plans into chaos!!!

Anyway, the group very kindly agreed. This is the track.....

We played it on a loop. However, this then begged the question as to what was 'right' to play during worship itself. Again, prior to my spanner in the works, we had chosen a classical piece. I didn't think it would be right. I suggested another option:

People entered the hall for worship with a spring in their step and moving into worship, I sensed that the right choice had been made. I believe people were able to engage with God within the music.

It does lead on to the question of whether Christians in liturgy should use secular music. I say "why not?" There are some caveats, however and those leading or constructing worship (would that be a liturgist?) do need to take into account a number of factors;

  •  one of the most important being the lyrics contained within the song (if there are lyrics). What do (or do they not) they say? There are plenty songs with sexist, anti-Christian lyrics or those that might just plain offend. That should be the first port of call before anything else is considered. 
  • where and when is the music being used? If there is more than one piece of music, do they blend in together are they are the same style? If not, ensure there is sufficient space between tracks
  • volume; if music is used in a meditative environment, ensure that it is loud enough but not so loud that it drowns out people's thoughts. Some music is great as people are entering church or the worship space - but consider what atmosphere that is being created; and what the worship is. 

I have always found music a way to connect with God in both quiet prayer but also in corporate worship. It doesn't suit everyone and I appreciate that it isn't too everyone's taste, but it can enrich our liturgy if used correctly. I would always say that enough thought and prayer has gone into selecting the 'right' music, try it!

Here's some more music that I have used in worship:

Monday, 26 April 2010

Placement: Final Week

Here I am, starting my final week on placement, the practical part. Once finished here I will have to start about to think about putting my thoughts in some sort of order for the written piece of work that I have to produce.

It's a very busy week, although I have some 'down' time today. It's nice to be back and continuing the routine of morning and evening prayer. The church was quiet again this morning with Fr Clive and I saying prayer together. We lit candles and prayed for those near and dear and in particular, Lawrence, who is at his BAP this week. May this part of his discernment lead him and those advising to a 'right' decision over his ministry. May God be with him over the next couple of days.

Yesterday was a great day. There were 15 Confirmation candidates with an additional number of baptisms for those either getting confirmed or their sibblings. The Bishop of Fulham, +John was presiding and it was interesting being his chaplain during the service and seeing the confirmation from a different angle! He was very good pastorally, seeking people out to talk to before the service, to reassure the candidates and then again after the service. He preached very well and it was a joy to watch so many being baptised and confirmed; of all ages.

Again, in the church hall, I had the chance to speak to a few people; those who were only here in support of a family member being confirmed, but also some of the regulars and in particular a couple who had only been to St Augustine's the week previously but were looking for a regular church to attend. Hopefully, they'll become regular members of St Augustine's.

As we headed back to the Vicarage after tidying up and putting various things away (I've learnt that the role of the Vicar covers many many tasks, including sweeping of floors and stacking of chairs), we relaxed and barbequeued, the food helped down with some very pleasant Bombadier. It was a mentally draining day, having to concentrate; not as much for me, though as for Fr Clive who had been planning the service for sometime and had the candidates to look after and watch over.

This week brings some pastoral visits, a tour of the local funeral director's behind the scenes workings, school masses, visit from the youth worker, lunch/dinner with parishioners and finally a visit to prison. I will continue to blog on my week.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Placement: Week Two

It was a very different week last week. Not as much 'impact' as I settled into parish life and the routine in Belvedere. Sunday was a great day mixing and socialising with the parish, as well as sampling some of the various dishes provided by people from different nationalities for the 'bring and share' lunch.

Monday's funeral visit was very different from the one a week before. Little had been prepared by the deceased family so the conversation was a test of Fr Clive's abilities to tease out snippets of information from the family. He did this particularly well and with sympathy. I'll be attending the funeral service at the crematorium this coming week. With the different dynamics of these visits, Fr Clive is particularly sensitive to each 'occasion' and seems very natural at his pastoral care. I guess that comes with years of practice, but he does seemed skilled at it. I have much to learn.

The visit to the local Church Secondary School was a particular highlight of the week. Taken on by the church after two schools were failing miserably and put into special measures, there was a merger and today, a number of years later there is a thriving, friendly school that produces good results and children. I think it was the first time I'd been in a secondary school since leaving mine (which at the time I was pleased to see the back of). Here was a school with its own chaplain, chapel and Christianity at the heart of the daily life. Why do we, as a society, seem to run away from 'public' Christianity and faith rather than embracing it? I don't have any answers here and now but the church must be doing something right when they can rescue a school from a dire state and develop it into one that people fight to get into. As many will know, I'm not a natural academic, but the gut feel I got from the school was one that was very proud of itself and achievements and that so much was driven by it being a church school. Good luck to them.

The biggest challenge of the week was the youth group. A new initiative. We had prepared for a game that looked very interesting and would help the children understand the importance of fair trade and ethical trade. However, we didn't have enough people - just 6 teenage lads who were full of energy and being typical teenagers! We took them for a runaround outside, but even so there didn't seem to be a diminishing of energy and I felt particularly sorry for Fr Clive as he tried to have a sensible conversation with them in church about the future of the youth group. Whether the group has a future, only time will tell.

Finally, this morning I learnt of the death of a friend of mine who was in Taize at the same time as me, many years ago - late 1980's. Mariusz, a Polish Permanant. I can't say that I've had any/much contact with Mariusz since we last saw each other in Taize, but I remember with great fondness of our time together, his wonderful humour, warm smile and warmth of friendship. Those were tough times for those from Eastern Europe, but there was a great communion of spirit and friendship. They had little material to to share, but this was not important in the sharing of themselves.

Whilst I can't, in 2010, claim to have known Mariusz. I have my memories and the commonality of our time together and therein lies my mourning for his passing. If, in the last 20 years, he was anything like he was in the time I knew him, he would have brought a great deal of joy, love, humour and friendship to those he knew.

I've posted this link on Facebook, but someone with a much better way with words and someone who knew Mariusz better than me has written the following........

Monday, 19 April 2010


I follow a number of marketing blogs; that being my 'day job'. I am fascinated at how and what the church can learn from methods and theory from secular society. We must not be closed to this and must move in taking the church of today forward and evangelising to a wider group. If secular theory and practise can help the church in its Mission, we must not be afraid of using it.

Seth Godin's is one I follow with interest. He's a leading exponent of 'Permission Marketing' and someone I really enjoy reading. Have a look at this.....a favourite marketing book of mine - can the church learn from this?

Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers into Friends and Friends into Customers 

He takes away some of the mystique of marketing and writes in a very engaging way. His blog is worth a read and taken in a church context might provoke some discussion/ideas!

Reflections on a week of placement

It's been a week of placement now and important to reflect back on it.

Belvedere is a foreign place to me. It's a strange context, one that I'm not familiar with. Out of my comfort zone. Part of the reason I chose it for my placement. A parish of about 6,000 which 'stretches' about a mile and a half of South-Thames urban sprawl. It's an interesting mix of run-down looking council flats to 20th Century semi-detached housing as well as having a good amount of green, open space.. The census of 2001 doesn't really reflect accurately the population today as there has been a significant immigrant population taking residence since. But it is a multi-ethnic parish. A richness of diversity. 

Looking back on my week, there has been a wide variety of experiences, from the Churches Together meeting, Wednesday experience of a home visit that shocked me (prior blog), a tour of the crematorium, a funeral visit, number of masses and morning and evening prayer.

I have enjoyed immensely the formality of morning and evening prayer in the church. Being next-door to the Vicarage has meant we have popped into the church and said prayer in the Lady Chapel, just the two of us and that has been powerful and important to me - very different from my private devotions that are said at home or work.......also a different format, taking the Catholic rite of prayer. I haven't quite got the hang of where what comes where, but I am sure by the end of next week I'll get the hang of it! 

Yesterday's Sunday Mass was a highlight. I acted as Master of Ceremonies and sat beside Fr. Clive. It's a very different view of the church from behind the altar! It took me back to my days growing up in my parent's parish in Essex. A wonderful cloud of incense filled the church and the ceremony really did move me. I can't comment on my preaching, but this again was a new experience. Not the 15 minutes I am used to, but 6. Adapting for this was difficult and I had a moment of having a re-think on Saturday afternoon. not a good time to think about re-thinking a sermon. I preached on Jesus' commission to Peter and his question of Peter loving him. A very moving that I could picture happening quite clearly in my mind. People commented very positively after, so I was pleased with that. 

What I reflected on most and talked over with Fr Clive was how I felt the first time I attended Sunday Mass at St Augustine’s. I came here with the family and found the service and connecting with God difficult due to the nature of the liturgy – it went from one thing to another with nothing announced and as a result found it difficult to see how anyone new to the church would be able to connect as well. However, this last Sunday was different. I could see people connecting and entering into the mass with all their heart and soul and the importance of it to them. It was also the first time I had worn my new alb (photos next week)and felt strangely comfortable in it. The first time I had a sense of getting closer to ordination and being ready for it. The waiting is coming to an end.

The congregation is a mix of people from the area - a rich diversity represented. About 130 for mass, so a full church. I know that in speaking with Fr Clive and a few long standing members of his congregation the congregation has grown significantly from when he first came and there is clearly love for both the church and Fr Clive. There is a broad mix of black and white, young and old.....and it is encouraging. The church is certainly not dead in this neck of the woods! Although it has it's challenges, the main one being one of the mix of cultures and how the church 'is' in serving and providing service for the diversity of its congregation. This was discussed at the APCM that followed Mass.

After the APCM there was a bring and share lunch and a chance for me to get to know some of the parishioners better. They were wonderfully welcoming and I enjoyed chatting to a number of people. One conversation struck me of a young family who had been attending for only a couple of years. What was interesting was the articulation of their faith and what it was they liked about St Augustine's; their connection with God there and that in talking about his faith, people assumed he was evangelical.......but St Augustine's couldn't be more Catholic, really! In talking with the people from the church I was humbled as to what had been done here. As well as sampling an interesting mix of food.....including being told, quite firmly that I was to sample a Caribbean speciality of banana fritters........something I had never had before, along with some very spicy rice! I look forward to the goat curry this week (although I suspect the goat won't be as enthusiastic!). 

There was a true community spirit at the lunch and I look forward to continuing to get to know people within the parish over the next couple of weeks.

The rest of Sunday was spent relaxing and reflecting. So....onto another week.