Lorgues with Fayence in the Var

Part of the Anglican Mission of the Diocese in Europe

I was just thinking ...

imageJack Heaslip, who lives in Irelandhas been a faithful friend and supporter of the ministry here in the Var since the vision of a new church  in the south of France first started to  become a reality in 2002. As a member of the leadership team, Jack has helped guide us through both calm and stormy waters, to the place we now find ourselves in; a new church with new challenges. Jack continues that link with us through a new weekly contribution to the website to make us simply pause for a few moments thought at the beginning of the week.

I am the Way the Truth and the Life

imageI was just thinking... recently of those great debates that seem relevant to many age groups and backgrounds. On TV I watched one such discussion. It was on the old reliable of Religion versus Science. Panellists came armed with their passions, their preconceived notions, their fixed beliefs. There seemed little or no chance for anyone to be persuaded, converted or changed. Like rutting musk oxen the studio reverberated clashing heads and rock hard opinions. Even co-religionists and immovable scientists disputed with their own sympathisers. Arguments became hotter and more discordant. The panellists were going to leave the TV Station reinforced in the opinions they brought with them. Stalemate!

I was interested to hear people on both sides of the argument starting a sentence with the words, 'I believe'. The word 'I' was pretty telling. Egos had their place in the discussion. I found myself thinking there must be a better way than reinforcing opposition. Why should religion threaten science and vice versa?

imageMaybe the words of Jesus offer an answer. Jesus said, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life.' Religion and science both search for the way and for life. The key to both their success lies in honesty. It strikes me that scientists and theologians both fall short of being honest when they merely search for whatever will support those ideas they would like to be true rather than what proves to be true. An honest search for truth will leave both sides open to the possibility that they will discover the unexpected, the unpopular, the undesirable. It is not just a matter of endorsing their pet theories at whatever cost to truth.

In our family we have a way of dealing with questions to which we have no answer. We add the words, 'I wonder' to the question. Therefore challenging - almost aggressive - topics become opportunities for shared wonder and not a matter of winners and losers.

Would it work? I wonder! Will you wonder with me?

Archbishops found in Secret Grave

Coffins containing the remains of five archbishops of Canterbury dating back to the early 17th century have been discovered in a secret tomb below a London church now used as a museum.Coffins containing the remains of five archbishops of Canterbury dating back to the early 17th century have been discovered in a secret tomb below a London church now used as a museum.

imageThe Garden Museum said the find was made more than a year ago during refurbishments.

The museum is housed in the former St Mary-at-Lambeth church and is located next to Lambeth Palace, the Archbishop of Canterbury's London residence.

Renovators had been lifting and re-laying slabs on the chancel floor when they discovered the hidden crypt.

Underneath one slab was a concrete block that was lifted to reveal a flight of steps and, at the bottom, a

Who is buried in the vault?

Garden Museum director Christopher Woodward said five archbishops were buried in the tomb, including Richard Bancroft, who died in 1610.imageBancroft became archbishop in 1604 and played a major role in the production of the King James Bible.The Garden Museum's website said 20 coffins in total had been found in the vault and four of these had been identified.

"We thought there was no crypt because it's so close to the Thames that it would have been flooded," he said.

"The Victorians cleared hundreds, if not thousands, of coffins out [of the grounds] to make this new building — nobody told us to expect to find anything."

I was just thinking...it's the small things that matter!

imageI was just thinking of a man I think of every Christmas. His name was Pat (but he wasn't a postman). With his wife he ran a small grocery store in Skerries - a seaside town outside Dublin. When a new supermarket opened in the town my wife and I decided that we would stick with Pat and buy our groceries from him. One Christmas we wanted a tree for our tiny cottage which was originally part of a street called 'Rat's Row'. We poked about in the trees outside Pat's shop. The trees were all large enough to take our whole floor space. Pat saw us and came out to see if he could help. We explained that all the trees were too big. "Oh", he said, "I have yours inside!" He showed us a tiny tree that was perfect for us. He didn't know we would buy a tree from him. We might have been going away for Christmas. I learned that he had gone through a lorry load of trees searching for one for us. Thank you Pat!

imageA and E departments in Ireland have been overwhelmed recently. It happens every year at this time. Hundreds of patients have been on trolleys instead of moving to wards. It's a mess! Some people have spent days on trolleys in corridors with all the discomforts and dangers that entails. It's a disgrace! I have listened to the complaints about the conditions, the system, the administration. I have only heard praise for the nurses, junior doctors and porters. No criticism! Just admiration for all they do in the understaffed and overcrowded section of the hospital. Words like compassion and commitment take root and flourish in such wonderful workers as these. Thank you guys!

I have a special regard for hospital porters as I have know them. These are the men who push you on a trolley to face surgery in an operation theatre. These men know when to joke, when to stay silent, when to discuss the weather or the state of the nation. They are the listeners for a fleeting moment in our lives. So important! I think of them!

So too, in Church, the quality of the institution depends not on the grandees but on the workers on the ground. Great statements impress the intellect but the loving, neighbourly acts to the person next door and to a stranger linger in everyday life. They are the real substance of the Church. There is where you find the out-working of the second great commandment : 'Love your neighbour as yourself'.

Thinking about things, I have come to appreciate the 'small' things that we all can do. Many who exercise the humbler gifts are unaware of the significance of their gift but they are the ones that put a smile on the face of God!

I was just thinking ... There's a great stretch in the evenings

imageI was just thinking - gloomy thoughts. Shadows in the days between Christmas and Little Christmas. Maybe the premature celebration of the secular festivities made the real celebration of the Festival seem dull by comparison. It is hard to see the beauty of a single candle when it is overwhelmed by the excesses of fireworks.

Maybe I am trying to exhale the stale gases of 2014 in order to be able to inhale the fresh air of 2015. The media didn't help. I can't remember a year when the obituaries were so full of people with whom I somehow identified. Tributes - sometimes lovely and glowing - were paid to politicians, comedians, actors, celebrities, local heroes, sportsmen and women who had died in 2014. There was a serious amount of 'stuff' to deal with. There were funerals of friends.....

Meanwhile the deluge of current stories continued to assault thinking processes worldwide. ( I typed and then deleted a list of the variety of disasters but I'm sure you know to what I refer. You have your own list and don't need mine!)

I write, I hope, of melancholy rather than the heavier burden of melancholia - gloom rather than blackness. A friend sent me a text to say that her favourite day was December 21st. - the shortest day. After that the sunrise gets earlier and sunset later and we can rely on the old saying, "Isn't there a great stretch in the evenings!"  Good thinking!

My wife and I have the privilege of having four granddaughters aged between fifteen and two-and-a-half. (How important 'halves' are!) All four are inspiring but the littlest is electric. Any two year old is. So much has been learned in those first years - to walk, to talk, to play, to investigate the new and fresh with passion and courage. Amazing! I wish I could be infected by her attitude.

The psalmist is of great assistance. In the psalms we are given permission to experience the gloom but we are encouraged to search in the fog for the light of God showing us paths we may have lost sight of. The parable of the Prodigal Son tells of God keeping watch for our groping our way home - willing to run to bring us a robe and a ring before the negatives of the village-world can start hurling stones in our direction.

Oh, to remember the promises of God! Sunrise gains an earlier light and sunset delays its gloom. Sure, there's a great stretch in the evenings.

December 10th


imageImagine, if you will, reading all the way through the Bible. There are  guides to help, each book split up into chunks. Usually bits of the Old Testament are alongside excerpts from the New with verses from the psalms sandwiched in between. Three hundred and sixty five 'doses' of the good book lead to a sense of satisfaction and pride in the completion of a daunting project. It isn't easy and there will be desert times of heavy going as Leviticus seems to last for ever and Job appears comfortless.

Those who have completed the full reading will doubtless be feeling good at the thought of the feat they have achieved. I remember one man in prison who had read the entire Bible once and the New Testament no less than five times - but then he was serving a long sentence!

There may be cases where people start a year's programme but it peters out in the same way as New Year resolutions get forgotten and diaries have the first pages enthusiastically filled but later in the year hardly contain a note.

To take a step further! Imagine, if you will, translating the Bible from original sources into a modern, almost conversational English. How daunting would that be? Yet, that is something I give thanks for and celebrate on a regular basis. I greatly admire the courage and tenacity of Eugene Peterson as he translated The Message version of the Scriptures. That project, we are told, took a full ten years to complete and involved a whole team of advisory biblical scholars. The vision dawned when Eugene saw a need in his pastoral ministry in Baltimore, USA, for hIs parishioners to be able to see the Bible as the word of God that includes humanity and creation. The Bible becomes something familiar but not simplistic, available but not casual. It invites us to get involved in the purposes of God.image

I met Eugene in Texas far away from his beloved Montana where he was raised and where he lives in retirement. He gave me a copy of 'Celebrations' - a copy of The Message with the text interspersed with his own comments and understandings of what was written. I asked him to sign my copy and, after some laughter and persuasion on my part, he did. With suitable humility he was clearly reluctant to claim to be the author of a book inspired by if not actually written by GOD.

I think of him often.....

I was Just Thinking .... Final words from Jack

imageJack Heaslip  wrote for us regularly for almost a year and he did this as he struggled with MND.  All of his thoughts over that year can be found on the page, "I was Just Thinking"  and we intend to gather them all together in a little booklet in memory of him.  We have one last thought in words from him as he preached on Ephesians in a small church in America.  You can hear his talk here and apologies for the sound quality.

What if God is even greater than we think.

Lord, now let thy servant rest in peace; 

with love and thanks from us all.

Pancake Tuesday

Shrove Tuesday

imageis the day immediately preceding Ash Wednesday which is the beginning of Lent in the Christian churches in the West. It occurs between February 2 and March 9, depending on the date of Easter. Shrove, derived from “shrive,” refers to the confession of sins usual in the European Middle Ages which was part of the preparation for Lent.  Christians were expected to make a special point of self-examination, of considering what wrongs they need to repent, and what amendments of life or areas of spiritual growth they especially need to ask God's help in dealing with.

Shrove Tuesday eventually acquired the character of a carnival or festival in European countries,sometimes known as Mardi Gras, and many customs developed in connection with this day that precedes the beginning of the Lenten fast. Traditionally pancakes were eaten on Shrove Tuesday, because eggs and fat, forbidden during the Lenten fast, were used up in a last meal before the fast.

What would Jesus have done ?


Always a relevant question and the migrant situation in and around Calais challenges us all at many levels;  lifestyle  , tolerance, living out our faith to name but a few.  The very mixed reaction to Songs of Praise going to the Jungle through parts of the press, is not surprising given the fabric of British society in recent years, but Paul tells us to live in this world yet not to be of it.  As Christians we should look through a different lens, beyond the superficial to a depth worthy of our faith.  The following clip,  and I urge you to click on this link, and view it, leaves us with a stark choice, to engage history and our part in it, or to turn away and face the wall.      Peter

Nov 30th ... Christianity is like a Cornish Pasty

          Nov 30th                       I WAS JUST THINKING   .......

imageI was thinking recently that the Bible is not exactly a bundle of laughs. It made me wonder how laughter was seen in Biblical times. Sarah came to mind when laughter was present as cynical disbelief - a mocking laugh when she was told she would have a child even though she was past child-bearing age. But what about a happy laugh, some rib-tickling jokes, raucous hilari

I narrowed my focus to the New Testament and wondered if Jesus laughed much, if at all. Surely all children do laugh and giggle naturally and spontaneously. Jesus by the age of twelve is shown to be serious and intense. One of my favourite lines from the King James translation has Jesus replying to his parents' rebuke for staying too long in Jerusalem: "Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" (Could a twelve year old really have said "Wist ye not...."?) Did Jesus and Joseph swap carpenters' humour, joiners' pun

Later when Jesus and his disciples wore out sandal leather around Galilee did they tell jokes to pass the time or were they always intent on learning what Jesus had to teach them. Surely fishermen had jokes about the one that got away and others would make lurid references to tax collectors. Admittedly there wasn't much to be amused about as events unfolded in the last act of Jesus minist

Church bulletins revel in churchy jokes usually about vicars or unfortunate ladies in the choir. Even senior clergy have stacks of humour about church life. One bishop I remember told jokes about bishops which seemed a bit self centred of him. "Do you know why bishops' graves are twelve feet deep rather than six? Because deep down bishops are nice people

imageHow many sermons start with a joke - to relax the congregation and get their attention? I can't  imagine Jesus doing that somehow. So could humour be harnessed to enhance our Christian life? I think that humour must help in celebration - positive, joyful humour, not scathing nor negative. Is it not right to embrace humour in love, kindness and friendship and be a bright light in a dark enough world? The comedian Milton Jones specialises in ten second sermons to make us think.,  such as,

                                             "Christianity is like a Cornish pasty. There must be something in it but we're not quite sure what."    ...       now there's a thought!

Nov 15th ... Stop Theif ! ... you can keep it

There is a daft story with a message that set me thinking.

A man felt aggrieved at some slight he received from his neighbour. He decided to steal his neighbour's car. As he was driving down the neighbour's driveway the owner ran out of his house and shouted, "I give you a present of the car. It is yours! You are not a thief!" Disgusted and thwarted by his neighbour, the man stopped the car and walked home. The victim had defined what the outcome of the crime would be.

imageYears ago I was teaching a class of teenagers and had set them a task. They were to work in twos or threes. Each was to draw a line representing their lives. They then were each to draw peaks to represent the best things that had happened in their lives and troughs to represent the worst experiences. Then they were to share with their little group what these were and how important they were.

I could hear from the class chatter that most were safely sharing matters of no great importance and some that were pretty frivolous. Two of the threesome in front of my desk drew modest ups and modest downs on their time lines. The third drew one enormous trough that plunged to the bottom of the page. He shared last of the three having listened happily to the minor events shared by the others. When it came time for an explanation of the trough, I was a little concerned because I knew what it was. His classmates were curious at the extreme. "What's that?" they asked. "That was when my sister was murdered." he replied.

imageAnd murder it was - of a sixteen year old girl - grisly and horrific. The murderer - a foreign student - was sentenced to seven years in prison. But how was the family to cope? The mother of the girl and of my pupil adopted a revolutionary response. Her Christian faith spoke to her about forgiveness and she decided to go the second mile. She spoke on behalf of that foreign student at his trial and became his official visitor in prison. She persevered with kindness and witnessed her forgiveness and God's love. The young man was transformed. This brave widow made representations on his behalf so that he could be released and repatriated to his family overseas. 

Her attitude and actions stunned some people, annoyed others and confused the media.


She certainly made me think.....

Oct 29th ... "JAKE" the peg


imageLast week I received an email from my country bishop (as distinct from my city archbishop). It was a friendly note replying to an email I had sent him. It began, "Thanks, Jake......"

"Jake!?" "JAKE!!??"

I have never been called "Jake" in my life. I don't even have an extra leg as immortalised by Rolf Harris singing "I'm Jake the peg."

I have always been bothered by people not calling me "Jack". That was the name my parents wanted to use and it also allowed a link to my maternal grandfather who was called "Jack".

n the days of my birth "Jack" was seen as short for "John". (The logic of this escapes me! ) So I was to be called "John William" - "William" after my paternal grandfather. The registrar got it wrong so I became "William John" and so I remain to this day but always called "Jack". If I am called in a clinic or surgery, I have to try to tune my best ear to hear "William" and not expect to hear "Jack". I book airline tickets in the name of "William" because, of course, my passport has my official name. I think at times that I am two people -  myself and a travelling companion called "William".

imageThe Bible takes names and their meanings seriously. I'm glad that "John" means "beloved of God" but I am more impressed by the account of the naming of John the Baptist. You may remember that his father, Zachariah, was told by the angel Gabriel that his wife, Elizabeth, would have a child and that he was to be named "John". Zachariah was struck dumb until the baby was born. Family wanted to call the child after his father but Elizabeth protested. Zachariah had the last word by writing,"His name is JOHN!" Immediately his voice was restored and he praised God. It seems that for God the name of the child was important!

Names talk of character and personality. Think of Isaiah's names for Jesus the Redeemer. Isaiah prophesied that a virgin would conceive and bare a son. He would be named "Wonderful Counsellor", "Mighty God", "Everlasting Father", "Prince of Peace". What an extraordinary list giving an amazing picture of the Messiah!

The thought that God knows us by name gives a wonderful warmth to the personal relationship we have with Him. We're not just a number. We're not just a mass of people but individuals who are loved unconditionally and known by name!

What a thought!

Canon Michael Bradshaw

Listen to "When I needed a neighbour were you there"

As the journeys for the refugees become increasingly difficult and tragic as winter sets in, it is encouraging to see that Canon Malcolm  Bradshaw, Chaplain of Greater Athens, who has worked tirelessly for the Anglican church in Greece has been awarded the MBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list published ton 31 December 2015

Malcolm has also been an inspirational leader in working with the flow of migrants through Greece, providing practical aid and organisation to assist them.

The formal citation reads:- Rev Can Malcolm McNeille Bradshaw. Senior chaplain, Anglican church (Greece). For services to interfaith understanding and community charities.image

From Diocese in Europe website

I am the Way the Truth and the Life


imageI was just thinking recently of those great debates that seem relevant to many age groups and backgrounds. On TV I watched one such discussion. It was on the old reliable of Religion versus Science. Panellists came armed with their passions, their preconceived notions, their fixed beliefs. There seemed little or no chance for anyone to be persuaded, converted or changed. Like rutting musk oxen the studio reverberated clashing heads and rock hard opinions. Even co-religionists and immovable scientists disputed with their own sympathisers. Arguments became hotter and more discordant. The panellists were going to leave the TV Station reinforced in the opinions they brought with them. Stalemate!

I was interested to hear people on both sides of the argument starting a sentence with the words, 'I believe'. The word 'I' was pretty telling. Egos had their place in the discussion. I found myself thinking there must be a better way than reinforcing opposition. Why should religion threaten science and vice versa?   Read more


October 11th ... Healing Hands

imageHave you ever said, "it doesn't matter...." when it did? I have in mind when someone hurt you physically or emotionally and their apology prompted you to say that what they had done and the wound you had received didn't matter. The danger is that in such situations you hide the hurt rather than deal with it. So the hurt goes on hurting and proper healing may be delayed or never achieved at all. It is safer to own the hurt, the anger, the offence so that they can be fully forgiven, healed, dealt with. Often you feel that you should turn the other cheek, not hold a grudge, forgive and forget but that may not be the healthy option.

I have a reminder of this at the back of my neck. I was thirty something when I developed a cyst which became inflamed, infected or whatever the medical term is. Sore!

My doctor sent me to A and E where a brave young doctor chose to excise the offending growth. A course of antibiotics might have been wise but I feel he was keen to practise his skills. And I certainly felt it and learned a lesson on the limitations of local anaesthetics. When he had finished his excavations, I waited with dread the insertion of sutures. But not so. "This was infected," he said with great wisdom after the fact. "We've got to keep the wound open!"

imageHe then knelt in front of me so that I could painfully see what he was doing. He put his hands together as if in prayer but then opened his hands from the wrist with palms and fingers forming a 'V'. This was the open wound. He then bent his fingers until just the tips touched. This was the wound with stitches. "If we close the wound," he said, "it will all fester and we will be back at square one. If we keep the wound open and clean it will heal from the inside out and will heal perfectly." He showed me his hands coming together perfectly from the wrist to the palms and on to the fingers. I just had to attend the community nurse to plug the wound until it gradually closed without festering.

You may decide that the Christian thing to do would be to mutter with as much conviction as you can muster, "It doesn't matter!". But in all honesty it does matter and needs to be dealt with. A calm friend, a good counsellor, a benign pastor could be doctor and nurse to your hurts wielding scalpel and wads of cotton until the wound is healed from the inside out and not allowed to fester.

That's what I think and I have a scar to remind me

Our Christmas Creed


I believe in Jesus Christ and in the beauty of the gospel begun in Bethlehem.

I believe in the one whose spirit glorified a little town; and whose spirit still brings music to

persons all over the world, in towns both large and small.

I believe in the one for whom the crowded inn could find no room, and I confess that my heart

still sometimes wants to exclude Christ from my life today.

I believe in the one who the rulers of the earth ignored and the proud could never understand;

whose life was among common people, whose welcome came from persons of hungry hearts.

I believe in the one who proclaimed the love of God to be invincible:

I believe in the one whose cradle was a mother's arms, whose modest home in Nazareth had love

for its only wealth, who looked at persons and made them see what God's love saw in them, who

by love brought sinners back to purity, and lifted human weakness up to meet the strength of


I confess my ever-lasting need of God: The need of forgiveness for our selfishness and greed, the

need of new life for empty souls, the need of love for hearts grown cold.

I believe in God who gives us the best of himself and I believe in Jesus, the son of the living God,

born in Bethlehem this night, for me and for the world. Amen

Thank You Guys

I WAS JUST THINKING  ...   with Jack

imageA and E departments in Ireland have been overwhelmed recently. It happens every year at this time. Hundreds of patients have been on trolleys instead of moving to wards. It's a mess! Some people have spent days on trolleys in corridors with all the discomforts and dangers that entails. It's a disgrace! I have listened to the complaints about the conditions, the system, the administration. I have only heard praise for the nurses, junior doctors and porters. No criticism! Just admiration for all they do in the understaffed and overcrowded section of the hospital. Words like compassion and commitment take root and flourish in such wonderful workers as these. Thank you guys!

I have a special regard for hospital porters as I have know them. These are the men who push you on a trolley to face surgery in an operation theatre. These men know when to joke, when to stay silent, when to discuss the weather or the state of the nation. They are the listeners for a fleeting moment in our lives. So important! I think of them!   Read more here

October 2nd ...Be a permission giver!


imageI don't know what the weather is like where you are but here in Ireland we are enjoying a splendid Indian summer. It is still warm and sunny. As I sit in the apartment I can look out at the sea through an open door. It is always fascinating to watch the lobster boats hauling in their pots to reap the harvest of the sea before returning the pots to the depths baited with whatever lobsters find attractive. The harvest is abundant this year.

I am reminded of a year when our children were small enough to enjoy a holiday in a mobile home. Our spot overlooked a large barley field. The month of August was hot and the corn ripened early and we all watched the wonders of the combine harvester. In September I met the farmer at the local Harvest Thanksgiving Service and congratulated him on the quality of his crop. To my surprise he confided that he had made a six figure profit from his barley that year. He added that he didn't know how many years that might have to be spread over owing to the vagaries of the Irish weather. The following year we stayed in the same mobile home and sat watching through rain spattered windows as the corn crop was destroyed by the wind and storm, the heads of barley threshed on the stalk. That year profit was replaced by loss and I recalled the farmer's wisdom of the previous year. I also thought of the story of Joseph - seven fat years followed by seven lean years.

Last week I was going on about plums and the glut of them on our bowed-down tree. With a little imagination, we can think of ways of preserving an abundant offering from nature's bounty. But it is not that simple any more. The challenge of harvest is a worldwide one. Our television screens rob us of any smug satisfaction we might have in being 'all right Jack' in our small corner. There is a frightening responsibility in being given an abundance as we see and hear of the savagery of starvation in so many other areas of the world. I cannot run out to bring plums to starving children. The answers have to be on a massive scale, with governments and aid agencies working on a vast scale to share the world's resources. We can only insist that as much as possible of our taxes goes to the needs of the world's poor and starving. We can contribute to the aid agencies and support their work.

imageSomething struck me as relevant as I was thinking about all this, something we can do and maybe need to do. We can give permission, our permission, prayerfully and powerfully, for our abundance to be shared with those who have nothing. It is as if we can release what is in the spiritual realm, supernaturally and super-powerfully! The effect of that can change what is happening in the material world and surprise us in the richness of God's provision.

What do you think?

"Who would have ever called me by name?" By CMS mission partners Kate and Tim Lee, who helped pioneer Jigsaw Kids Ministries in Manila,

Setember 2nd ... For better for Worse, For Richer for Poorer

imageI think I recommend marriage. In fact, I am sure I do. I still think it the best way for a loving couple to live together and to commit their lives to one another. I like to celebrate marriage and despite some services being tedious and some receptions boring I am enthusiastic about what couples are doing.

Just now is a good time for such enthusiasm as I will be able to join in the celebration of two marriages within eight days. The weddings will, however, be separated by fifty years! Yesterday a young couple exchanged their vows and partied with their family and friends. Next week a considerably older pair will also be partying but celebrating fifty years of marriage. They will be surrounded by family and friends as they recall how they plighted their troths all those years ago.

Tradition insists on the trappings and trimmings of marriage changing little in that half century. The core of the ceremony remain largely the same though the reasons for marriage given in the Prayer Book have reversed their order. The love and support the couple have for each other have taken precedence over the avoidance of sin. The emphasis is now on the couple's relationship rather than procreation. Small but significant changes have taken place but the overall effect is of stability, tradition and trustworthiness.

The golden pair have shown great love and commitment and have stayed close over the years, enjoying the trials and tribulations of family life, children and grandchildren. Not everything has been perfectly smooth but rather reflected the reality of the ups and downs of life. But marry’? Marriage was a rock which was their foundation and source of strength. I think they did very well.

The youngsters have all those year ahead of them - hopefully. They are starting seriously and strongly. They laugh a lot, have good friends, enjoy their families. It's looking good! Good but precious and there is a sense of fragility and vulnerability that needs our care and prayers. 

What will happen in the next fifty years? Will marriage continue as guarded by restriction and definition as it is currently? Will rules and regulations be changed to allow a greater diversity of people seek God's blessing on relationships currently excluded from sacramental rites? !

Time will tell but will not affect the present week of celebration I am happy to enjoy.

Dear People of the Var

imageJohn Simmons, Vicar of Chaddington, visited the church council at the beginning of May to lead an " Away Day " for the church council. It was an opportunity to reflect together on the values and opportunities we have as a church to offer people and we did this through looking at the Good News of the Gospel as written by Mark. Firstly though John asked us to write a short letter to the people of the Var explaining who we were and why they might like to join us. Many different letters were written and then shared, reflecting our different characters. It was a fascinating exercise and some of the contents of the letters are listed below.

The day started with a short communion service which was held at Arc-en-Povence in Lorgues and was an opportunity to "road test" the newly roofed shaded area attached to the chalet. ( photo below)image

Sep 23rd Fruit that will Last


imageWe have a plum tree in our garden. At the moment it is looking a bit sorry for itself, a bit out of shape. It was overburdened this year - with plums! We had a glut. Hundreds of beautiful red fruits. All over the tree. We've had a harvest of plums before but nothing on this scale. The poor tree was bowed down with the weight of the crop and the branches developed a disheveled appearance. We had plums to eat, to stew, to freeze, to turn into jam, to give to neighbours, to bring up to family and relatives, to leave for the birds. A welcome plague of plums!

imageIt all started with blossom. The tree was covered in white in the spring. The weather was good, the bees got busy, and the fruit set. We had nothing to do but watch. We did nothing to ensure a bumper yield. It just happened. It was a SURPRISE.

St. Paul talked about fruit - the fruit of the Spirit. In Galatians 5 we can find a list of fruits - one of the few pieces I feel confident of knowing off by heart.  Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

These are the fruits which the Holy Spirit produces in our lives. They are what people see in us - sometimes more clearly than we can see in ourselves. They are what we see and trust in others. They are an invaluable tool in discerning what is of God and what is not. They are practical, useful and down to earth.

image As fruits they are produced in our lives. The Holy Spirit does the work, gives the harvest. He fertilises the blossom, he swells the fruit. He decides what fruit to give and when. It is not a matter of our grunting fruit into existence but rather of our allowing the Holy Spirit to work. (I'm sure it is helpful if we do not spray our lives with insecticides or other nasties!)

When the fruit comes it is a SURPRISE.

Thank you C.S.Lewis for the title "Surprised by Joy". If we want joy in our lives it is not a matter of beating up ourselves to get it. I think it is best to ask God for the fruit and prepare for a surprise.

That's what I think.......

September 9th ... Family Matters

imageI was just thinking how family gatherings are extraordinary occasions. Whether the gathering is a wedding, an anniversary, a baptism, a funeral, we really enter the realm of the unknown when we open that door and walk into the party. Nothing can be certain, no assumptions can be made. People - even those we think we know well - are so diverse, so unpredictable, that we must remember we can't take them for granted. That is the charm, that is the challenge!

The past carries so many differences. Events may have been observed and interpreted in varied ways. Agreements and disagreements of yesteryear may have blossomed or grown distorted and warped. Wrongs done may have been forgiven or festered. Good deeds may be lovingly remembered and appreciated or overlooked and forgotten. Frank Sinatra's song, "Ah, yes, I remember it well" may speak truth. (I know it wasn't Frank Sinatra but can we recall just whose song it was?).

The celebrations are the dangerous times, we're told. Especially so the season of peace and good will. Lubricated with more than a modicum of alcohol, Christmas is risky as people who see one another only rarely spend time in cluttered closeness for three or more days. Visitors are like fish, it is said. After three days they begin to go off!

But is that OK? Do we expect too much from the diverse group of fellow beings we call family and friends. Why should we all find folk easy just because we share ancestors? Instead we could relish the diversity, admire the contrariness, encourage the uniqueness and originality, celebrate the individuality. Couldn't we?

imageHave you been wondering if I have been thinking about "church"? Church as family? The pressure is considerable. We are told that the world will know we are disciples by the love we have for one another. If we don't love one another.....! Hmm!

How good can we be at respecting difference - even radical difference - allowing variety, cultural and social variations within "family"? Do we welcome the others or keep what is ours for ourselves alone? As I think about that, I remember a colleague who famously said, "Let's compromise! We'll do it my way!"

Wasn't that a Sinatra song?


There's a great Stretch in the Evenings

                  New Year Thoughts from Jack


I write, I hope, of melancholy rather than the heavier burden of melancholia - gloom rather than blackness. A friend sent me a text to say that her favourite day was December 21st. - the shortest day. After that the sunrise gets earlier and sunset later and we can rely on the old saying, "Isn't there a great stretch in the evenings!"  Good thinking! read on...

August 26th ... That would be an Ecumenical Matter


imageSteve Chalke is well known as a pastor, teacher, speaker and writer. During last week he tweeted the following (I bet you didn't know that I am into tweets!) - "looking forward to speaking @greenbelt. My brief: A humorous, but thought-provoking take on 'How To Be An Evangelical Christian Today'.

Wind on a few days. A friend who lives locally visited our home. As usual (always) our conversation turned to things of faith. I wasn't surprised when he said firmly, "I'm first and foremost an Evangelical!" I didn't reply but I wanted to say, "What's wrong with being a Christian?"

There are other adjectives that can be chosen as defining what we may mean as Christians. We may term ourselves as Charismatic Christians, Liberal Christians, Catholic (in the sense of universal or worldwide) Christians. I much prefer just 'Christian'. The adjectives seem to limit our Christianity and create clubs of thought which can be quite exclusive of other believers.

At an interview before I was appointed to a parish here in Ireland the bishop drew my attention to items in my CV which puzzled him. He asked how it came about that I had worshipped and ministered for a time as a lay reader in a 'High Anglican' church and also had been happy to go on an outreach to a diocese in Nigeria with a charismatic/ evangelical  team. The bishop wondered if there might be a contradiction there. I was a bit taken aback and rather glibly answered that I had a 'mongrel' theology and saw no contradiction. Thankfully that seemed to satisfy.I have preached about my liking for mongrels. It seems to me that 'pure-breds' are often yappy and snappy whereas mongrels can wag their tails at everyone and offer to lick their faces!I want to be Evangelical and Charismatic and Catholic and Liberal. There is a wonderful richness in that position even when some believers would consider me weak and confused. As you know, I favour freedom over straitjackets in the Christian expression of faith in Jesus!

imageAs for the denominations. I thought of them recently as the outward and visible signs of the disgraceful divisions in the Body of Christ. I will gracefully refrain from going further than that. I will check to see if Steve Chalke managed to give Greenbelt a laugh!

Listen to Robin Mark, We'll break dividing walls.

Aug 19th ... I was just thinking

imageWell, 'wondering' might be nearer the mark. I was just wondering about two words and what differences there might be between them. The words are 'DISCIPLE' and 'DISCIPLINE'. I promise to avoid thinking about subtle shades of meaning. It is easy to get caught up in playing around with words and miss the wood for the trees. But these two words have been going round in my head and won't rest until I let them out.

We are probably familiar with the Great Commission given by Jesus to his disciples - Matthew 28:18-20. He instructs them to 'go and make disciples of all nations .......' . We are to be disciples and followers of Jesus and to encourage others to be disciples. The purpose of 'discipling' is to bring people into a relationship with Jesus so that they know Jesus, can talk and share with him and hear his word. The promise in the Gospel is that Jesus wants his disciples to live life to the full and experience freedom in their walk with him. The relationship is personal and individual but will probably lead the disciple into fellowship with other disciples. This will allow great diversity between believers whose relationship with God and his word will allow them to check that they stay true to Jesus' teaching and example. The fellowship of followers is rich and generous as the disciples revel in God's blessings. This is certainly what excites me when I find it in the Church.

imageAs I ponder and wonder about 'discipline' and 'disciplining' I worry about where this activity can go wrong - and sometimes seriously wrong - in fellowships and churches. There are throughout history examples of where the human dimension of the Christian life takes over from Jesus' role. Fellowships can be afraid that their members aren't smart enough, well enough educated in theology and Scripture, or capable of hearing from God to enable them to live a good Christian life. The leaders step in with disciplines which are to keep their members on the right path. The leader becomes the focus and his or her decisions are seen as the only right ones and binding on the members. The danger is - and I'm sure you can think of examples of this - that far from leading the fellowship into the richness and generosity of God's blessing, the leaders insist on obedience to  rules and regulations. These can be controlling, restrictive, narrow, negative and demand submission and subjugation rather than freedom and fullness of life.

There are good leaders whose joy is to see disciples set free in the glorious love of God. My wariness concerns bad leaders who dominate their followers. These may even develop into cult figures who are keen to make themselves rather than Jesus the centre of their church or fellowship.

There now! That's off my chest and I will be able to think of something else. Phew!


August 4th...I was just thinking


I was thinking recently about the fairly familiar description of someone "coming out of the closet". I used the term with a friend and got a strange quizzical look. To him the words meant openly acknowledging one's sexuality. I meant something quite different - though I do confess enjoying leading him on a bit. I was saying to him that I had a decision to make about how much to talk freely about a particular health problem that I not shared with many people.

So what are the meaning and nuances associated with "coming out" and "the closet"? So much has to do with personality! Some friends of mine are up front and communicate happily on Facebook and Twitter about all sorts of personal details. Others, and this I confess is the camp I am happy in, are reserved, private or even secretive about their lives.

"Coming out" can be a wonderful escape - a prisoner released from captivity. But it can also be risky, nerve-wracking or dangerous. In some ways it can be both. Coming out about illness, for example, is an opportunity to share the burden of sickness. However, the response and reaction of others can be a serious additional burden to the sick person. I touched on this when thinking about sympathy and empathy.

"Closets" are imprisoning, confining, punishing. On the other hand they can be secretive, secure, safe. We can be pushed into closets and we can create closets for ourselves. There are so many negatives involved - fear and guilt are probably at the core of most closets. It is interesting to see where churches and individual Christians stand in relation to enclosing their fellow men - believers and non-believers. Attitudes can revolve around judgement, disapproval, punishment rather than acceptance, forgiveness, love. The Gospel tells us that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead and called him out of the grave. Then he told the disciples to unwrap Lazarus and let him go. There is a great ministry for Christians in unwrapping those who are bound and setting them free. It is sad when Christians choose to bind and constrict those who Jesus would set free.

As I say, I was just thinking. You may have it all sorted. If you have, can I urge you to think again and then again


July 29th ... I was just thinking... with Jack


because I've been asked to speak at a church which is made up of mostly young people - students, twenties, young marrieds. That preparation is taking a fair amount of thinking! And not a little prayer!!

What would be the cool illustrations, the current terminology, the attention grabbing comment?

But then I thought of going minimalist. Maybe I shouldn't compete with theological whiz kids and ecclesiastical jargon designed to impress. I wouldn't say I would promote a homeopathic theology (I am not sure what I think of homeopathy anyway). Simple, though, wouldn't go astray.

I thought I could follow the example of Jesus (now there's a novel notion!) and tell a story. It will be a personal story even if it doesn't reach the heights of a parable.

When I was about fifteen years old I attended a conference organised by the Student Christian Movement in Dublin. The speaker at one session was a Roman Catholic priest (my first experience of listening to a minister of the 'other church'). I can't remember what he looked like (but he didn't wear a collar - a fact that meant something to me even then). I can't remember his name or the title of his talk but I do recall one point he made. He told us that Christians do not believe in LIFE AFTER DEATH! My reaction was certainly bristle if not shock-horror. I fervently believed in life after death! Wasn't that the whole point of believing?

Thankfully I listened on. The priest said that Christians believe in ETERNAL LIFE and that has already started! We are on it! Wow! I saw that eternal life is a gift from God and not interrupted by our physical dying. Somehow I got a picture that helped. I saw the speedometer of a car which was like a red strip rather than a dial. That was eternal life and events could occur along this strip which described the happenings of our earthly experience but did not affect the eternal strip!

imageIt made sense of Jesus saying that those who believe in him have eternal, everlasting life. It tackled tragic and thorny problems like those expressed on the gravestone of a twenty eight day old child - 'If I was so early done for, what on earth was I begun for?'

There is such hope in eternal life - and so little room for fear. The purposes of God are seen as positives and not as some stiff examination filled with trick questions. Love and hope join together to offer a life of confidence and assurance.

I'm still grateful to Fr. What's-his-name. I wish that I had told him so!

August 12th ...I was just thinking

imageI was just thinking that I know too much. I see too much. I hear too much. I read too much. I suspect we all do. It is all to easy to be overwhelmed by the information that deluges into our homes through the multi-faceted media that we sign up for. By now you might be wanting to say that I think too much as well!

The question is how do we cope. We know about what is happening locally and what is making the news worldwide. Disasters are the favourite diet of a sensationalist media. A radio beside the bed can ensure that disasters are in our heads as we go to sleep and when we wake up. We learn of natural disasters and man-made ones, we almost disappear under piles of death and destruction, hatred and evil, murder and mayhem. We hear from China when there is an earthquake, Gaza when children are killed playing football on a beach, Malaysian airlines lost or shot out of the sky. I could go on. I'm sure you could too.

What can we do? It cannot be healthy to be inundated with such negative information without the ability to respond. Most of us would prefer a response other than the ostrich approach of blindfolds and ear plugs. So, a few suggestions that you can probably improve on...

Give a little! We may not be financial eagles with enormous resources. But there are more sparrows than eagles and sparrows can make a difference. Be satisfied with what you do so that guilt does not become a further burden. The TV ads, the mail shoot through the letter box are quite insatiable. image

Especially with children, pick something, however small that they can own and complete as their offering to people's needs. Some years ago a small primary school next to our rectory was concerned that children needed to be involved in the distress of the day in Bangladesh. Someone found a project which involved raising 100 pounds to build a metal roof over a house to keep the rain off. If floods invaded the house the family could retreat on to the roof to stay above the water level. It was cheap, simple, made sense and you could buy just one. The children themselves raised the money, sent it off and enjoyed the feeling of being involved in the possible.

We need God's help in this if we are to avoid being overwhelmed by the state of the world. The conversation can be simple:

'God, I can do so little. The problems are so great, I give them to you, Oh Lord, because you are God and can carry them. Thank you!'

We need to share our concerns and to have our burdens lifted. Only God can do this! Dare I say that is his job.

I think......

July 21st..."I was just thinking"...with Jack

imageFour o'clock in the morning is a good hour for thinking. Recently I found myself rehearsing some lines from the gravelly voice of Bob Dylan:

"Most of the time

 love the idea of being halfway content. It seems to hit the right amount of contentment - not euphoric nor jumping with delight but OK and able to cope most of the time. On the other hand a programme on RTE claimed to answer the question as how to be happy. A psychiatrist for whom I have a high regard suggested an answer that smacked of an updated version of the power of positive thinking. She argued that it takes five positive thoughts to overcome one negative one. Therefore we should exercise in positive thinking, do press ups in happy thinking until our negative leanings are overcome.

Well, anyway, it caused me to think how much more important contentment is than happiness. I have met people in prison who were not happy to be there but who had reached a state of contentment and peace with their lives. I find it hard to imagine someone being happy to be sick (that would be a sickness in itself!) but I can understand reaching contentment whilst enduring illness. Most of the time!

imageContentment and peace seem to go together and grow together. They deepen in their intensity and gain a power beyond the superficials of happiness. Some survivors of death camps in concentration camps reveal amazing contentment and peace. The kind of peace, I suppose, that passes all understanding?

Another Dylan - the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas - wrote these famous lines:

"Do not go gentle into that good night.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light."

I've seen them used, a bit out of context, to spur us into battling with finality and death. Giving in is not to be countenanced. Fight to the last!

I go with Bob! Most of the time I want to be content and at peace - maybe even embracing those things that rob us of happiness but can't shatter genuine contentment.

Serious stuff at four in the morning!

July 14th ... "I was just thinking"...with Jack


imageOur garden in the west of Ireland is a haven for blackbirds. Everything they could want is laid on. At the moment they are feasting on red currants and black currants. They are eyeing a magnificent crop on the plum tree and making plans for reaping a rich harvest there in August. Chicks are everywhere in the garden and growing cheekier by the day. They don't see us as threats but rather as benevolent proprietors of the best deli in town.                                                                    

But a day is coming when their own parents will drive these well-fed offspring out of the territory and over the rose hedges to the big outside world. There they will establish territories of their own and expand the blackbird empire into new hedgerows and fruit bushes.                                                                                                                                             

I found myself thinking of biblical examples of people being sent out. The Bible describes a vocation rather than an expulsion. God calling! I have frequently thought of the bravery and obedience of Abram. Genesis 12 begins, "God told Abram: 'Leave your country, your family, and your father's home for a land that I will show you.'" And Abram went.    The Great Commission at the end of Matthew 28 has Jesus saying,  "Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life...."  Called and sent!                                                                                                                                      

imageIn Church circles we have thought of missionaries as those sent out to convert people in far off lands. In recent years we have experienced people being called BACK into the established church. So we have fresh expressions of faith bringing new life alongside areas of tradition. New styles of community and communication, Messy Church for the children, informal worship and music. Psalm 96 begins, "Sing God a brand-new song"!                                                                                                                                                                                            

I am thinking especially about this because my son, his wife and three daughters are TODAY arriving back to Ireland to initiate an network community church in the Dublin Diocese.                                                                                                    

I may not understand all that is involved but I am excited!!!

July 7th ... "Three score years and ten"


imagethat since I last wrote some thoughts in the weekly blog I have passed a milestone which would seem to give more justification for "just thinking". I am now a proud 70 year old and pleased to be at the start of a new decade of my life. It seems a long time since I entered the world as a "war baby". I know that for some of you 70 makes me a mere slip of a lad but I sense that reaching "three score years and ten" is an achievement and in accord with Biblical guidelines. Anything else is a bonus....

So, more thinking can be done in a leisurely fashion. There is an exercise that I do find very rewarding. It is simply to think of the individuals who have been instrumental in my development as a person, a Christian, a believer. The aim is then to give thanks for that person and honour them - or maybe their memory - and to credit their influence in my life.

I have been very blessed by the characters I stumbled across at various stages of my existence who have greatly enriched my life and faith. They are a motley crew and I thank God for them. Maybe I will share them with you now and again.

imageRuth was a housebound lady in the parish - a "shut-in" as the Americans might say. She suffered from that all too familiar ailment of the damp West of Ireland climate. Arthritis kept her humped up and bent over, seated in her chair next to the solid fuel cooker, only able to move with the help of crutches. Pain was her constant companion as grimaces alternated with smiles. Her faith had been bestowed on her many years before I met her when a Mission came to her area of Mayo and introduced her to a simple, loving Jesus.

Ruth retreated to bed each evening at about 7 o'clock in search of ease and to politely and sensitively get out of the way of the family she lived with. But this was her special time! She prayed for four hours each evening. I learned that every night she held up my family and me for God's blessing on our life and ministry. She became my prayer warrior. I asked to pray for all sorts of situations - knowing that she would do so faithfully and confidentially.  Her hermit hours were powerful indeed! I enjoy remembering her as I enjoyed visiting and sharing Communion with her.

With all the talk these days of proclaiming saints, I can say for sure that Ruth is on my list....

Happy birthday Jack from all your followers in France and beyond...keep thinking!   LwithF

June 30th "How are you?"...

I was just thinking ...

imagewhat an art there is in caring for others in the church, in saying the right thing at the right time, in giving the right response to a question about our well being. For example, what do you say when someone asks, "How are you?"

That can be just a greeting and needs no reply but how do we usually respond? How often do we just say, "Fine." or "Grand." feeling perhaps that the questioner has already moved on? We may be feeling wretched and ill but we still say, "Fine." That can protect our privacy, show a lack of energy to get into long-winded explanations, or reveal our suspicion that the question had no real depth. I recently asked an elderly fellow parishioner how she was and got a great reply - "Do you want the two minute or the two hour version?" That showed me how inappropriate it was to expect an answer just as the service was about to start. "Nice to see you." might have been better.

I remember one of my teachers trying to sort out the difference between sympathy and empathy. Sympathy, we were told, is feeling or experiencing what another is feeling. Empathy is understanding what another is feeling. The illustration was of a patient explaining to their doctor that they had a headache only for the medic to say, "That's funny. I have one too." That is sympathy. Empathy is when the doctor understands the feelings of the patient with the headache but doesn't experience the headache themselves. Which description of the doctor is most likely to be of help to the patient with the headache?

imageI have witnessed interactions between people who were really competing to see who had the best heart bypass story or the most damaging cancer narrative. I think such conversations show the real need for those who have been ill to be heard and listened to by an empathetic friend or counsellor. Sharing (or is it offloading?) with other sufferers may not be the best.

Now there's an idea for an Advent or Lent course! Training in listening. We try so hard to get people to share their ideas and feelings but do we do much to equip folk to listen and hear what others are communicating - verbally and non-verbally?

Worth thinking about?

June 23rd Hard Times


I was just thinking ...

of a friend who went through a hard time financially a while ago. I visited her and found her in tears. Sympathetically I thought of various cliches I could use to somehow make her feel better. Instead of using any of them I found myself avoiding "the ways of God are strange" irritants and simply saying, "God loves you!" Maybe I was sounding a bit superior and her response was  a delightful rebuke. "I have never thought otherwise!" she said. I found that a wonderful ministry - for me!

I don't know how many times I have preached at the Church in the Garden in Peter and Shirley's house but most times I probably used a quotation from 1John 4. This wouldn't have been a matter of laziness but rather a proclamation of simple faith: "God is Love". Somehow this says it all and is the complete basis for the Good News of the Gospel.

imageAn acquaintance of mine who is a priest in the US frequently emails me. Recently he began, "you can draw a large crowd preaching a God of wrath. This is the God our fallen imaginations expect." That made me think!

Why do so many preachers burden their listeners with God's judgement and wrath? And there are many who do. That is when a hearing aid with an Off switch is a real blessing. But his second sentence is extraordinary. Is it true that we have been brought up to fear God and to see him as an agent of wrath? Have we never met the God who is love? How sad that is if it is our experience. It is enough to send us scurrying to 1 John 4 to recharge our batteries and pick up the power that is in the God of love.

imageI'm thinking that we could benefit from borrowing Dickens' title, "Great Expectations"!    

What do you think?

June 9th... Happy Churching !

imageI was just thinking

of a time a few years ago. It was a Sunday morning and a friend of mine and his family were passing through Paris en route to the town where they hoped to continue their holiday. I was in Paris just for a few hours that morning. We were anxious to meet up so it had to that morning. My friend is an avid coffee addict so we happily agreed that we would meet at a cafe on the Champs Elyssees.

All went well but I noticed an unease in my friend as he realised that the time for Service in the local church had passed. He is an Anglican priest and a more disciplined churchman than I could claim to be. He wasn't happy at his habit being broken. We talked it through and got into a good discussion about church, worship, fellowship, commitment and the dreaded "D" word.

I then suggested a view of church which has greatly liberated and enriched my faith and my practice as a Christian.

"Why not use 'Church' as a verb and not as a noun?"

imageIt is wonderful to have consistency in worship - the same fellowship, the same place, the same time. But I have found in my work that such consistency is just not possible. I no longer feel I have to 'go to church' on a particular day, in a particular tradition, in a particular fellowship. I 'church' wherever I am with whomever I meet who shares my interest in the things of God. That morning in Paris I was having a great time of closeness with my friend and with God. The weather was only fair, the coffee and croissants were brilliant, the company was rich and fruitful. The churching was inspired and Sunday morning was not lost nor was God ignored or avoided.

I think it is worth trying. In fact 'churching' is often the missing ingredient in our Services. We pay great attention to form, structure, content and performance but may not manage to 'church' at all.


Happy 'Churching'!

June 2nd ... Sunday Lunch


"You are invited to lunch on Sunday! We will be having a time of prayer before that and you will be most welcome!"

"We will be having a time of prayer in the garden on Sunday. Coffee at 11.00. Lunch will be after the service. Contributions of food will be welcome."

I was just thinking of the early days of the Church in Peter and Shirley's house in Lorgues. It was, as you can see, a church planted by an horticulturist and fed and nourished with a gardener's skill over subsequent years.

The essential ingredients of this plant were people. This was a vision in the style of the New Testament Letters. "To the Church at Corinth". These letters were not shoved in the letter box of some building but circulated amongst groups of people. People were the essence of Church.

image I certainly experienced love, acceptance and welcome. These are qualities that cannot be taken for granted. I am minded of a man who decided to attend and join a church in the west of Ireland. He arrived a little late and discovered a large number of empty pews before he reached the sparse congregation seated near the front. Members of the congregation turned and looked at him as he entered and then turned back and faced the front. No one greeted him. No one offered a hymn book. He had to decide whether to persevere or cut and run. He decide to stay but said afterwards that the walk up the aisle was the toughest he ever had to make. He became an excellent greeter in the years that followed!

Rejoice in the signs of loving people who know God's love and pass it on generously.

June 16th... Sometimes I just sits and thinks

I was just thinking...

I was asked recently to fill out a questionnaire about how I was feeling about life and my life in particular. One of the questions asked if I am able to "sit and do nothing". My first reaction was delight at having found a skill at which I could excel. I can do that! Very well indeed!

The world tells me that "doing" is the all important skill. Activity - even hyperactivity - is the admired trait. But I remember the well known poem by W.H.Davies:

"What is this life if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare......."

I also think of lines attributed to A.A. Milne in Winnie the Pooh:image

"Sometimes I sits and thinks

And sometimes I just sits......."

I suppose that is why I was happy to choose the title I did for these offerings to Lorgues/Fayence. "I was just thinking!"

Bear with me if I offend your energetic personality. I might even challenge you a bit about this.

Do you dare to think?

About life? About faith? image

It is quite a risk! As you sit and think, you may confirm all the positives in your life. That is where we find the comforts we need - the assurances, the certainties of God's love and acceptance. And that is good.

But thinking can bring us in other directions too. We may find ourselves removed from certainties. We can run into areas of doubt - even doubting the very existence of God. Not very comfortable but it is OK. We will be tempted to borrow a faith or pretend we believe, but a more truthful reaction might be to admit the doubt and be honest in our questions. And that is good too.

There is a great deal to think about!

May 26th... Sticks and Stones



The early part of my life was spent in the beautiful city of Kilkenny in Ireland. The name "Kilkenny" means "The Church of Canice" and the cathedral named in honour of Canice is central to the city. ( click on picture) I was thinking of the role that cathedral played in my upbringing. For me it was playground, exciting place for exploring, and a scary place to be in dark winter nights when there were only lights on in the choir stalls. There was the challenge of spiral stone stairways hidden in the wall and leading to the cobwebs of the belfry above the ringing chamber with its ropes and coloured sallies. A particular friend was a bat which roosted behind a picture on the wall of the choir's robing room.

The cathedral was a place of mystery. Was this really where God lived? A house good enough for God? The worship was pretty much a mystery too. The chanting of the choir allied to the archaic language added to the atmosphere of an incomprehensible God. I was steeped in that building and infected by church buildings. Even now I find it hard to pass by a church without looking in.

image France is so rich in churches. Every village seems to have a church, and probably associate chapels, remembering an age when religion was such a powerful force in the country. I am invariably tempted to open the door and savour the atmosphere. In the summer it is probably darkness and coolness that I am seeking. The quiet is welcome and a chair even more so! As eyes adjust to the interior the building reveals its charms and woes. Some are beautiful and may have been graced by stain glass windows. I love the modern ones which use strong colours and give hope to the cause of the current spiritual life in the parish. Other churches are gloomy and grim where windows and pictures portray a theology of a wrathful, punishing God far from the good news of the Gospels. I search the notice boards in hope of discovering signs of renewed spiritual life and growth - Life in the Spirit seminars, courses for Confirmation with a visit from the Bishop, outings to such amazing atmospheric sites as Le Thoronet. Notice boards can tell a lot as a finger on the parochial pulse.

Churches are significant but there is more to CHURCH than sticks and stones.......                  May 26  2014

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