Monday, October 31, 2011

Monday 31st October 2011
          All that I have to show for today is the beginning of the report on the Deanery Day at Simonburn (See separate page).

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Clocks go back to GMT tonight: Hurray!

Saturday 29th October 2011
A beautiful sunrise   --  but it's 8.00 o'clock.
It will be a relief to have some daylight earlier tomorrow.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Thought for the month!

Friday 28th October 2011

Following a clear track for once
See "Thought for the..." page

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Fund-raising can be fun

Thursday 27th October 2011
     After celebrating Holy Communion we had a visit from the Colonel and Major from the Ranges to help finalise arrangements for the Remembrance Sunday service at Otterburn which is to be conducted by the Canon.  Luckily we're  on Christian name terms, though the Major tended to call my husband "Sir" and me "lass".  (I'm quite happy to be called "lass" or "hinny"   --  which don't sound patronising like "dear" in the south of England.). 
      The next meeting was at the Methodist United Reformed Church along with Roman Catholic representatives to finish planning Remembrance Sunday at Bellingham and agree some dates for joint activities in 2012.
       In the evening in aid of the Church parishioners of Corsenside parish put on an excellent fund-raising evening in the village hall at West Woodburn with music provided by our local "Woodburners".

Northumbrian folk musicians don't need a conductor!

Amongst other things they played "Under the hammer" which had been composed to celebrate 50 years at Hexham Mart by the auctioneer Maurice Reed.  In the first half of the evening before a buffet supper, he did an "Antiques Road Show" for us.
Worthless rather than priceless! 
 (This was meant to describe the cup and saucer  --  not Maurice Reed, who was wonderfully succinct, an informative and excellent speaker.)
I didn't mind that my Royal Albert cup and saucer would fetch nothing if I tried to sell them: I hadn't paid anything for them.  Many years ago when I was extremely hard up, a friend gave them to me after rescuing them from a skip outside a house that was being cleared.
       Fascinating valuations of a wide range of objects, a first-class supper, music that belongs to a live tradition (rather than a revival) and a sociable gathering of local friends  --  altogether a thoroughly enjoyable evening, the result of much generosity in terms of time, skill and donations from everyone who participated and attended.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Wednesday 26th October 2011

       A beautiful autumn day, cool and clear:
I enjoyed being out of doors, though not so overjoyed at having to clear up after the builder when he had finished the roof repairs.  The rest of the day was equally aimless, attempting to return telephone calls and receiving no replies, hurrying to attend a community AGM that turned out to have  been postponed and so on.   However, as so often happens, there were several unexpected encounters that were useful, as well as some spare time to tidy my study  --  not that anyone else will notice the difference.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Struggling to get up in the dark at seven o'clock and with the days still drawing in rapidly, we're really looking forward to the clocks going back and giving us some light in the morning.
   Met two of my neighbouring clergy to chat about things over lunch.  They may be waiting avidly to see what I have written about them   --   but I doubt it.
   On the way back, I stopped in Hexham to buy camera batteries and prayer cards (thus saving a n extravagant return jounrey of 34 miles) and bumped into a parishioner with whom I had a useful conversation about access over an open churchyard to a building which is no longer in use as a church (thus saving another journey, up the valley this time).

Monday, October 24, 2011

Messy Church

Monday 24th October 2011
     We try to hold a "Messy Church" morning once in each holiday.  Today's session was publicised as "harvest" but it was rather different from all the school and church thanksgivings.
A young participant adds to the fruit tree
(as the unproductive tree gets another chance according to Jesus' parable)
We had the story of the Feeding of the Five Thousand, remembering that there is plenty for everyone on earth if we share.  We mentioned that Jesus is called "the Bread of Life" and "the True Vine", supplying us with the essentials for spiritual growth (as food and drink provide for physical life and growth). 
So the craft activies included producing frosted grapes (and eating them), countryside background and grapevine collages, playdough fruits and vegetables  --  and potato people:

A popular part of the day was EATING, sharing (of course) what we had brought.

Parents stand looking chilly at the late October picnic

The Morning ended with the fruits of our labours being placed in church, grateful for all that we have, remembering that if we've had an unfruitful year there'll be another chance, and resolving to keep in touch with other branches of the True Vine.  The families who took part live in different parishes and came to Bellingham which is conveniently accessible.  So it was St Cuthbert's church here that received the craftwork:

How satisfying it is that the parish church belongs to the community and becomes the place for whatever the community is sharing at any given moment.  (Contrast the atmosphere of this occasion with 4th September in the same church.)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The last Harvest

Sunday 23rd October 2011
     The morning services at Bellingham and Thorneyburn were both Parish Communion services, but the afternoon was Harvest Thanksgiving at Holy Trinity, Horsley (Rochester in the upper Rede valley).  Children in the congregation brought baskets of locally grown potatoes, beans, tomatoes and apples to  the altar, following the traditon of thousands of years as the firstfruits of each harvest are offered in thanksgiving to God.  They also displyed symbolic items: soil and water on which we depend;  grain, flour and bread as the staples of life (and a reminder of Jesus, metaphrically "the Bread of Life");  wine and oil representing the riches of the harvest;  milk and eggs, the products of our creatures (perhaps honey next year when the bee-keeping has developed);  and flowers, fruit and vegetables, the best of our labours.
    But this is not primarity a fruit-growing or arable area.  The main agriculture is hill farming.  So the picture shows a ?sheep? to represent our livestock.
      And "the last Harvest"?  Well, it was the last Harvest Festival service of this season in North Tyne and Redesdale.  But the hymn reminded us that finally we hope to "be gathered from sorrow, free from sin."

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The long-awaited Deanery Day

Saturday 22nd October 2011
The walkers arrive at Simonburn
Twenty-four hours after they set out, the walkers arrived on the Green at Simonburn having learned something about companionship.  The nine year old had never walked thirteen miles before.  They had all needed a sense of purpose as they trusted their guide and persevered with a sense of purpose.  They enjoyed reaching the destination as they were welcomed by the other particpants of the Deanery Day.
Welcome to St Mungo's church
Al of us gathered together inside the church for a short act of worship before lunch and workshops in the village hall.

[Read more in a day or two.]

Friday, October 21, 2011

Pilgrims travel to the Deanery Day

Friday 21st October 2011
Remains of mediaeval cross beside ancient drove road
Some of the participants in tomorrow's Deanery Day set out to walk to Simonburn.  We tramped almost eight miles which was quite a challenge for those who hadn't walked far before.

Being revived with the offer of dried apricots

Nearly to Wark to stay overnight

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Out and about

Thursday 20th October 2011
 After Morning Prayer, the Communion service and a staff meeting, I was out and about for the rest of the day.
A modern shepherd

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Otterburn School Harvest

Preparations in St John's Otterburn
Wednesday 19th October 2011
    We were blessed with lovely autumn weather for more school harvest celebrations.  The first was in Bellingham First School, the second of the day in the church of St John the Evangelist was presemted by Otterburn First School who had walked three-quarters of a mile to get there.  It was a cold bright clear day  --  as can be seen from the quality of the light in this picture.  Four children (with their teacher) on guitars accompanied the singing and others played recorders.  Non-perishable gifts were given to be used at the People's Kitchen (for the homeless) in Newcastle.
The rest of the day was taken up with co-ordinating all the details of the programme for the Deanery event which has spread to the whole of Friday (as well as the originally-planned "Deanery Day" on Saturday)  See Events page.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Autumn is back

Tuesday 18th October 2011
       Apart from the celebration of Communion for St Luke's Day, it was an unremarkable day.  Gave Molly an hour's exercise in strong wind.  Otherwise worked on the detailed programme for the Deanery Day on Saturday (See details on Events page.)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Middle School visit

Who is this?
Monday 17th October 2011
      Years 5 and 6 of Bellingham Middle School came to St Cuthbert's church as part of their cross-curricular programme.  I had been asked if I could explain something of the origin of the Church of England, the history of St Cuthbert's church and the charactieristics of different parts of the building  --  in a little over half an hour!  Though neither an artist nor a geographer, I drew a map to show where missionaries (beginning with St Paul and other contemporaries of Jesus) travelled from the Holy Land to Athens, Rome, Ireland, Scotland and England, arriving in Northumberland from the south and from the north.  They came to bring the Good News ("Gospel" in Old English) of God's love for everyone as we have been shown it through Jesus's life, death and resurrection.  I'm not sure that this is what the teachers expected when they mentioned the origin of the Church of England, but I think it sets all the developments in their proper historical and geographical perspective (though that's not exactly what I said to the ten-year-olds).
      St Cuthbert, of course, was one of the missionaries who in a later century came here.  He followed the example of St Aidan,  who in turn had been appointed bishop by the king, St Oswald.  All these real people of our own area!  The church building reflects some of this history. If anyone can help me by identifying the figure in he stained glass window (to be pictured above), I'd be grateful.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sunday in church

Sunday 16th October 2011
     Got up late for a Sunday, at nearly seven o'clock. My first outing was to collect the Fair Trade goods from the Methodist/United Reformed Church who had been selling them last week.    It was an easy day with the first service at 9.30 just along the road and the second at 11 o'clock only four or so miles away.  The afternoon service was for the under five's and their parents, known as STARS (Sunday Toddlers And RelativeS).

Jesus compares himself to a Good Shepherd

When we had finished the story, the song and the prayers,  two visitors came in to look round the church.  They declined juice and a biscuit which the congregation were having, but showed interest in the story picture.  I handed a sheep figure to a little girl and asked her to show what the sheep did in the story.  You can just see it at the extreme right of the picture trotting off on the way to getting lost.  "Then what happened?" I asked.  "Jesus went and found it" answered the four-year-old whose mother was delighted with the child's grasp of the parable. ( I had not said that explicitly.  My story telling went something like "Jesus said he cares about people like a good shepherd looking after his sheep...What do the sheep need?...How does the shepherd call them?..." and so on.)
     After Evening Prayer, I transported the goods from the Fair Trade stall back to the Rectory to await collection by the Roman Catholics whose turn it is to have them on sale next week.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Saturday 15th October 2011
     A beautiful autumn day starting cool and misty with warm sun later.  What more should I say?  (There was quite a lot to do by way of meeting the deadline for my monthly parish magazine article, checking the November diary and preparing for Sunday services.)

Friday, October 14, 2011

Bright images of God

Friday 14th October 2011
       We returned home after reading our stories to each other, sharing in the bread and wine of the Eucharist together and enjoying the final lunch of what had been a very unusual retreat for me (keeping silence only from after Compline, the last worship of the day, until Morning Prayer each day).

Exploring and writing

Thursday 13th October 2011
       The dozen of us participating in this retreat have greatly enjoyed hearing our tutor's stories, stories full of humour and insight which enabled us to discern divine love at work in the world where it might be overlooked, stories that peeped between the gaps in the Bible narratives, stories that offered a chance of unexpected intimacy with God.   Now it's our turn.  How am I going to manage to use my imagination without my customary mind-clearing activity?  Since my horse isn't here, I'll have to go for a long walk.

March Burn near Riding Mill
   I had considerable difficulty following what I believed to be a public footpath. There was a lot of scrambling up and down through dense undergrowth and finding myself the wrong side of barbed wire fences.  Obscure signage didn't help.
Which way?
Eventually in desperation I scrambled uphill from the burn and climbed over a barbed wire fence!

 Through a few fields and over a few stiles, I found myself in what I think may have been Hollister Forest where I hoped in vain to see red squirrels.  However, I did see two large birds soaring silently up from the tree canopy before giving some distinctive calls which enabled someone later to identify them for me as buzzards.  After quite a lot of wandering on the wrong paths, I ended up going in the right direction and suddenly finding it quite easy to follow the route that would take me home.

How could I have missed this clear track?
Now it was downhill to find a way through a farm to a tarmac lane
My destination, Shepherds Dene, in the very centre of this picture
Nothing else impeded me progress apart from a friendly cat weaving to and fro ahead of me to compel me to accept its company.

One day perhaps I will put up the story that I wrote on returning from this walk.

A "storytelling" retreat at Shepherds Dene

Wednesday 12th October 2011

         During some free time between the sessions, I took a short walk down to the stream.
One of the welcoming things about a Christian Retreat House is the sense that not only the staff but also past and future guests try to help each other.  This sometimes involves making the bed for your successor.  On this occasion I was aware of co-operation as I borrowed the sturdy stick left beside the gatepost in this picture.  It would clearly be a useful support down a path that became increasingly steep and slippery.
Perched on the stones
The zoom lens shows that the bird that appears to be preening itself is simply the top stone of this creation.  Lots of potential for storytelling here, though.
        Before long it's time to meet for the next session.  So I leave the drizzly wood with its damp trees and return up the hill to put the walking stick back where I found it.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Greenhaugh School Harvest

All 43 children walk the half hour from school
Tuesday 11th October 2011

Why stare at the orange juice carton?  Because it says "Concentrate!"  More thoughts on fruit and vegatables and School Harvest later this week

Parents in the churchyard afterwards

A mad meeting

Monday 10th October 2011

     The only way to finalise arrangements for the Deanery Day with its preliminary walk/pilgrimage/journey/adventure was for the planners to home in on Hexham station, two of us coming from the Upper North Tyne but one coming from the Welsh border by train and rendezvousing over a picnic lunch in the waiting room before I hurried on to go into retreat.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Thank you!

Sunday 9th October 2011     
           Thank you to the soup-and-sandwich makers of Byrness who provided a Harvest lunch in the village hall, partly created from the vegetables that had decorated St Francis church for Harvest Festival.
 Thank you to the congregation at Thorneyburn who later provided my supper in the informal Harvest Thanksgiving service which ended with our St Aidan's soup swap: bring a flask of soup and drink other people's creations, accompanied by bread made by the Churchwarden and innumerable cheeses chosen by his wife

   Decorations in church ranged from traditional flower arrangements

to play-dough vegetables made by the children at St Aidan's Club

Thank you to the photographers!  Not only was I fed four different kinds of harvest soup during the day, but when I left my camera in the car at Byrness and then found that the battery had gone at Thorneyburn, other people took photographs for me or lent me a camera.
Thank you next to Greenhaugh School for changing the time of the impending Harvest Service, to the Team clergy and reader for postponing the staff meeting and to the friend who volunteered (during the Thorneyburn soup swap) to look after my horse this week.  Together they have made it possible for me to go into retreat tomorrow.  No more blogging until I emerge.
P.S.  Thank you to God  --  to whom Harvest Thanksgiving is generally addressed!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

To the Cathedral

Saturday 8th October 2011
      Today's journey was considerably longer: seventeen miles to Hexham to catch the train to Newcastle for the licensing of four new Readers including one from one of my parishes who was my Churchwarden for a time.  Having spent the last three years training, he was licensed in today's service by the Bishop of Newcastle and will now be able to contribute to the teaching and preaching in these parishes.  ("Reader" may be a misleading term.  The equivalent ministry in the Methodist Churche would, I think, be that of a  "Lay Preacher".)
      Not much of the day left for preparing Sunday's services.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Friday 7th October 2011
        Back up the valley the eighteen miles to Kielder village for a harvest assembly at Kielder First School.  It's a good thing that I'm the one to make the journey rather than children aged four to eight.  If there were no school at Kielder, Bellingham would be the nearest to their homes.
The whole school admire fruits of the harvest
        There is always a great family atmosphere in this very small school.  All ten pupils were present today.   Assembly is held in the Community Room and afterwards I had conversations with a teacher, with the school secretary and with someone using the village libray and with the  librarian who comes in every Friday morning to provide the local library service.  So what felt like a long journey for a short assembly turned out to be a sensible drive for two hours of meeting parishioners.
         On to Greenhaugh School for St Aidan's after-school club.  I'm heading for the next valley in the distant sunlight.

       Here we're thinking about harvest in a rather different way.  There is some energetic play out of doors before the fifteen children (a third of the school staying voluntarily for the equivalent of "Sunday School") come in for the Bible story.  We illustrate Jesus' Feeding of the Five Thousand with the felt figures as we retell the story, which the older ones remember quite well.  Harvest Thanksgiving offers an occasion to express our appreciation of all that we have.  Guided by the team of five parents, the children make fruit and vegetables out of play dough.  We enjoy mugs of vegetable soup made by one of the parents.  The play dough creations will be taken to St Aidan's Church for the Harvest service on Sunday, as will the prayers which the children are writing and illustrating on apple-shaped card to hang on branches in church.
       Let's see what the farmers' contributions to the service will be.....

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Up the valley towards Kielder
Thursday 6th October 2011
      After the morning Communion service in Bellingham I drove up the valley to take Holy Communion to a semi-housebound parishioner.  On a dull showery day the roadside trees seem to go on for ever.  As the rain poured down during my visit, the candlelight acentuated the focus of our devotions.
Table prepared for home Communion

There were several other visits taking harvest gifts of fruit and vegetables to people who have had a hard year.   Produce removed from the church after Harvest Festival was given where there had been a recent death or where a member of the family had been seriously ill, for instance.  These visits were interspersed between a meeting at the Sure Start family centre, Evening Prayer, putting the horse to bed and seeing a couple for marriage preparation.  Now to my desk for a while before bed.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Wednesday 5th October 2011 
    Another planning day after a morning of letters, e-mails, telephone calls and a visit to Tarset Village Hall for a cup of coffee with parishioners where I collected the 2012 Tarset calendar that I had ordered.  (The photograph that I had submitted for possible inclusion wasn't up to their standard.)
Tarset Burn
          The planning was for the Deanery Day on Saturday 22nd October.   Journeys...pilgrimage...exploring: I hope there wil be representation from all the parishes of the Deanery and that a good group of youngsters will enjoy the Friday afternoon walk to prepare for the day.  It will be a purposeful but thoughtful walk to a halfway overnight stop before being joined on the Saturday morning by any adults who want to complete the journey to Simonburn  --  where the activities will develop ways of welcoming visitors to our area and help them to explore our parishes and churches.  [See Events page to book in.]

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Celebrating Harvest, preparing for marriage

Symbols of life and harvest
Tuesday 4th October 2011
      Just in time I remembered to rush into the damp garden to lift some potatoes, pull a stalk of rhubarb and pick two runner beans and an apple.  Anyone who has ever conducted a school assembly for under 10's will recognise the visual aids for Harvest Festival.
      So we considered the fruits of our labours and the soil, water and sunlight that are needed for successful growth.  We thanked God for  life and growth as we thought of our own potential and development.  The story of Jesus' feeding the five thousand reminded us to share what we have.  So I took the harvest loaf  from the altar, broke it in large pieces and handed these to  the children to share.  The whole school ate with delight before we said the Lord's Prayer ("Give us this day our daily bread") and set out with a Blessing.  At the door one boy said "I really liked that bread."  "Well remember to tell Jason's father [the village baker]."
      Afterwards I bumped into one of my Churchwardens from twenty miles up the valley, which gave us a good opportunity to go into the cafe for a cup of coffee and a chat.  Returning to the church to tidy up, I found two visitors from Scotland who were appreciating the calm, warm and friendly atmosphere of the lived-in church.  (Perhaps it was the breadcrumbs.)  They politely accepted my offer of a mouthful of left-over harvest loaf!
         In the afternoon and evening I met different couples preparing for marriage.  As always these were very enjoyable discussions of a vast range of topics relating to what we hope will be their next fifty years together, their launching  on married life all being focused on their respective wedding days.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Day off

Zeb hunts the titbit whilst Molly grazes
Monday 3rd October was mostly a day off.  This gave me a chance to go to the dentist and have the farrier to Molly.  Molly, Zeb and I spent nearly two hours in the forest.  I wish a picture could convey the experience, but I can't ride and photograph at the same time.

Zeb viewed from between my sleeve and Molly's shoulder
In the evening I visited the Bellingham Cadets to see how they were getting on and to make some arrangements for Remembrance Sunday.