Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas spirit

Christmas Eve 24th December 2012
Loading chainsaw sculptures into horsebox
Policeman escorts Joseph
whilst other neighbours bring the crib

Mary, Joseph and the donkey admire the baby Jesus

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

All the schools

Tuesday 18th December 2012
Ringing the church bell
     I have been with all the schools in my parishes in the last week or so:  Greenhaugh First School had an Advent theme at St Aidan's Club; Otterburn First School visited St Francis' Church and decorated the outdoor Christmas tree with edible gifts for the birds; at Kielder First School I conducted a Christmas assembly; whilst at Bellingham First School and West Woodburn First School I was invited to watch their Christmas performances.  I was rewarded for taking an assembly at Bellingham Middle School by being invited to Christmas lunch, after which the readers at the forthcoming Carol Service in church came for a rehearsal.
     Today five of these schools came together for carol singing after which I went off (in my capacity as Rural Dean) to a gathering with the Bishop for retired clergy. 
     Perhaps I'll spend time with some middle-aged people soon.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Gradual thaw

Thursday 13th December 2012
Light on the horizon!  What more do I ask?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Still no pictures

Wednesday 12th December 2012
     Imagine a picture of frost or ice and you will know what photograph I might have posted if I could manage the technology  --  which is claiming at the moment that I have my full share of pictures swirling around in the blogosphere.  I don't quite know how to deal with this and I haven't got time to work it out, since Advent is a time of intensive work in the Church's year.
     Watch this space! (please)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Six years tomorrow

Thursday 29th November 2012

A fruitful day with assemblies at Bellingham First School and Bellingham Middle School where we're developing relationships and ideas.  In the evening a presentation on the Deanery Pilgrimage which has prompted us to begin planning to receive pilgrims from elsewhere!  So things have been happening since I came here six years ago tomorrow.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Still here

Saturday 24th November 2012

Not many photographs taken in the rain or the fog this week.  Life has continued with two PCC meetings on consecutive evenings, a morning with other Area Deans and the Archdeacon, a funeral, a concert by Hexham Brass under the auspices of the Friends of St Cuthbert's Bellingham, and now preparation of tomorrow's services as I wrestle with my sermon for the Feast of Christ the King.  (What kind of a "king" does this mean?  And how does that affect our lives?)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

"Early to bed and early to rise..."

Monday 19th November 2012
Can I come?
Sorry: this morning's trot to Redesmouth doesn't involve taking passengers!  

"Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise".
     Yesterday's early to bed (10.30) was unsurprising after I had  been early to rise (6.00 a.m.) to see to the horse and write the final version of my sermon before setting out for Sunday services.  
     However, it clearly didn't contribute to making me healthy (as I have a cold), wealthy (as the idea of a clergy stipend is that it's a flat rate regardless of how much work one does: it's designed to enable clergy to live unextravagantly without material worries so that they can devote their lives to their parishioners) and certainly not a man!   (But, of course, when the saying was coined, man, one of mankind, meant one of the human race.)
     Let's just hope that I may perhaps develop some wisdom.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Varied Sunday

Sunday 18th November 2012
Byrness Church memorial window to workers who died in the construction of Catcleugh Reservoir
9 o'clock Parish Communion up the Rede valley in the last church before Scotland at St Francis Byrness (from the modern service book) followed by 11 o'clock Parish Communion down the valley at St Cuthbert's Elsdon (according to the 1662 Book of Common Prayer) and then over across to the North Tyne valley for the afternoon service for the under-5's at St Cuthbert's Bellingham where we had the story of the Good Samaritan.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Friday, November 16, 2012

All day in one parish

Friday 16th November 2012
Humans advising an inexperienced sheepdog
After my morning dose of outdoor life, the Archdeacon came to talk over the lack of clergy in this area.  (If you are a cleric with a vocation to rural ministry, please contact me!!!!)  Later I dealt with e-mails, hymn choices for Sunday and other undramatic but necessary matters which are always in the background of more newsworthy activities.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Why no photographs?

Thursday 15th November 2012
Autumn fell
I haven't had much time to spend on the fells and it would have been inappropriate to photograph much of my activity in the last week  --  which included conducting a funeral at Falstone, taking services on Remembrance Sunday at Horsley, Otterburn and Thorneyburn, discussing a wide range of things in my study, and this evening attending a fund-raising supper organised by the Friends of Greenhaugh First School which rounded off the un-pictured week in a very enjoyable way.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Mud and money

Wednesday 14th November 2012
"I'm all right.  What's the matter with you two?"
     The dog had fun in the forest; but horse and rider were disappointed to find all the favourite tracks bulldozed so that it was no longer safe to trot or canter on them.  (Look at the loose stones that could bruise Molly's foot if she landed on one at speed.)  I was also sad at the loss of the grass, heather, bushes and other wild plants which had previously grown there.
     That was supposed to be our lunchtime exercise after I broke off  working in my study at midday.
     The evening was a challenging PCC meeting in which we heard from the Diocesan "Parish Giving Officer" on how we could present the churches' financial situation to parishioners.  Now we have to decide what we will actually do about it.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Bellingham Middle School visit St Aidan's Thorneyburn

Thursday 8th November 2012
Year 6 from Bellingham Middle School
come upon King Oswin giving St Aidan a horse  --  before Aidan gave it away to a beggar.  

St Aidan              and the beggar

The king's groom prepares the horse

After hearing of St Aidan's kindness
Year 6 enter the church of
St Aidan at Thorneyburn

and explore the churchyard

finding local surnames on the
memorial stones

Back to school
     In case you wonder, this is an important example of the generosity of  Aidan whose reaction to an earlier missionary's complaints that the Northumbrians were unresponsive to the Gospel was "You must be gentle, brother".  When Aidan came to Northumberland, he showed them the love of Jesus in practical ways.  King Oswin was offended that Aidan gave away his gift; but Aidan commented that the horse was not as precious as the beggar who was "a child of God".
     In a poetic bit of improvisation, our Greenhaugh School beggar said "Have you got anything you could give me" and our young Aidan replied "Yes, of course: you can have my horse!"

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

November chill

Wednesday 7th November 2012 
A dramatic morning sky
on a day of strong cold winds

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Day of rest

Sunday 4th November 2012
     I was trying to photograph the leaves blowing off the beech but mis-timed it. 
      It was a day of small failures, including leaving behind the sermon that I had written for St John's Church Otterburn.  This could have been the stuff of nightmares; but knowing the congregation to be kind and forgiving, I simply did my best to remember what I had planned to say to them about the saints' role of helping us to come closer to God and about St John the Evangelist, their patron saint. 
      The writer of the fourth Gospel may well be the "beloved disciple" who sat close to Jesus at the Last Supper and who raced Peter to the empty tomb, looking properly at the abandoned grave clothes, understanding their significance (that Christ had risen from the dead) and with the eye of faith "he saw and believed".  The Gospel is written "so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this faith you may have life by his name." 
      The Evangelist (St John?) wrote because he cares about you!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

All Souls' Day

Friday 2nd November 2012
Light (sun, rainbow, fire), the light of God's love being the background to the lives of the saints.  Represented here from left to right are Patrick, George, Catherine, Theresa and Francis.
This was an apt display (produced at the morning's Messy Church session) for the All Souls' Day service in the evening, when we lit candles in memory of the departed.  
     People who point towards God, who light up our path and show us the way to eternal life are called "saints".

Thursday, November 1, 2012

All Saints' Day

Thursday 1st November 2012
The North Tyne last month between Bellingham and Falstone
     The day began with my clipping the horse at 7 o'clock (before Morning Prayer at 8 o'clock). This was because with a thick coat Molly had got very hot cantering over the fells yesterday.
       After the 9.30 celebration of Holy Communion for All Saints' Day, I went up the valley towards Falstone to arrange a funeral. In the afternoon somebody came to see me at the Rectory at Bellingham about clergy covering church services in North Tyne and Redesdale.  In the evening (after Evening prayer and petrol buying!) there was a meeting in Corsenside parish concerning a grant-awarding charitable Trust. 
 (If you live in Corsenside parish, you may be eligible to apply for a grant for educational purposes from the Mission Hall Trustees.)

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Wrong number

Wednesday 31st October 2012
Autumn on the fells
I answered the telephone in my usual way: "Hello...Bellingham Rectory".  The voice said "Do you do red-eyed tree frogs?"  After repeating himself once, the caller realised that I was puzzled.  So he asked "Do you sell amphibians?"  In the current weather we are all amphibians and I was reluctant to say he had the wrong number as I like to think that the Church will try to give any help that people request.  But this time I had to admit myself beaten.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Giving a talk

Tuesday 30th October 2012 
I was invited to give a talk to the Hexham West End Methodist Church ladies' group  --  and, being topical, I spoke about some of our experiences on the pilgrimage to Canterbury.
  A day when we heard about (and prayed for) people caught up in the hurricane in New York state.

Monday, October 29, 2012


Monday 29th October 2012

North Lambeth
The pilgrims who had been on the Deanery Pilgrimage to Canterbury held a day's workshop discussing what we had learned, watching the film The Way, recommended by the Dean of Canterbury, and planning our presentation and future ideas for Bellingham Deanery.  [Watch "this space".  Or see separate page "Deanery Pilgrimage to Canterbury".]

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Snow in October

Saturday 27th October 2012
Molly caught between autumn and winter
Instead of exercising her immediately after Mattins, I avoided the dangers of ice and spent much of the morning in my study, with an interval for coffee with a caller who described herself as "the Mug Lady".  Actually she was the Chairman of a Parish Council who was bringing me a commemorative mug which I had ordered for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.
     During the lunchtime ride I was able to take a number of photographs for the Deanery DVD.
Molly kept still for this one.
     The rest of the day was mostly preparation for tomorrow's services.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Remember this?

Friday 26th October 2012
The year of the Queen's Diamond Jubiliee is not yet over.  There was a wine and cheese evening in Corsenside when we saw some of the photographs taken during the June holiday weekend and were reminded that there will be a ceremonial burial of a Time Capsule at St Cuthbert's Corsenside at 12.30 on Sunday 9th December.  Do come!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Deanery Chapter

Thursday 25th October 2012
"Look downe, thou spiest out Crosses in small things;
Look up, thou seest birds raised on crossed wings..."
John Donne was writing before the invention of aircraft...

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Tuesday 23rd October 2012
The view from Greenhaugh School
I phoned the Head Teacher to ask for some children to help me with a little project.  [If it comes off, read about it on the blog for 8th November.]  In fact, I didn't go anywhere very far afield but had some discussions about pastoral matters with two parishioners, a meeting for financial planning with a diocesan advisor who came to see me, and far-ranging discussions with other parishioners about marriage and what we might understand of the divine in life.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Days drawing in

Monday 22nd October 2012
The stable at dusk

After I have been out and about (telling a story at the Sure Start children's centre, parish visiting and so on), it's time to stable the horse for the night.  Seeing the lights in the old building makes me feel a closeness to the grooms who have worked here over the centuries.  It's one of the shared experiences that transcend distance, reminding me of the close connection between human beings in different times and places.  It's one of the hints of the way that all our lives are embraced within eternity.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Autumn colours and harvest celebrations

Sunday 21st October 2012
St Peter's Falstone
Falstone harvest lunch
After a shortened Communion service in church, we adjourned to the village hall where we sang some more harvest hymns and displayed symbols of the harvest: soil and water without which nothing would grow, bread representing the staple food and also a reminder of Christ as the "Bread of Life" need to help us grow spiritually, milk, eggs and knitted woollen garments (which we have made to send to the homeless in 
Newcastle this winter), the products of cows, hens and sheep, fruits and vegetables from our gardens. 
 Despite the very difficult year
 on our farms, we thank God for what we have, and we enjoyed 
sharing our harvest lunch

Later in the afternoon the under-5's had their harvest service.  The children heard the Bible story of Jesus' feeding the crowd of 5.000.  They each brought a fruit or vegetable and we agreed to send the gifts to one granny who is in a care home.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

New artist in residence

Saturday 20th October 2012
On the way to High Green to meet the new Artist-in-residence.

Imagine the amazing contrast to find oneself living here for a year under the VARC scheme (Visual Arts in Rural Communities) after spending a long time in London.

Friday, October 19, 2012

All-parish social evening

Friday 19th October 2012
A wide range of home-grown entertainment from Northumbrian fiddlers to poems and Flanders and Swan songs with a pooled supper provided a social event to enable people from all the churches of the North Tyne and Redesdale Team to enjoy an evening together and get to know each other a bit better.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

St Luke's Day

Thursday 18th October 2012
St Luke represented in a window of Bellingham parish church
The book and quill pen above his head are a reminder that he was one of the Gospel writers.  Each of the four evangelists has a traditional symbol, Luke's being the ox.  This may be because it is Luke's Gospel that tells of the sacrifice in the temple at the beginning of Jesus' life.
  At the morning celebration of Holy Communion, we remembered not only his role as evengelist but also his life as a doctor.  We offered laying-on of hands with prayer for health and wholeness, as well as praying for all the people mentioned in the requests fixed to the church "prayer tree".
     I had a meeting with the licensed Reader after the service and in the evening talked various things over with a parishioner who came to see me.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Less travelling

Wednesday 17th October 2012
Lovely when the rain stops
A meeting of representatives from the three Churches in Bellingham reviewed the Bellingham Show and the Harvest Supper before planning the joint Remembrance Sunday service and co-ordinating Christmas publicity and village carol service.
     In the evening I went to West Woodburn for a meeting of Corsenside PCC.  Apart from strictly church matters (such as replacing the collapsing church roof), we discussed our concerns for  the many people whose livelihood and day-to-day life have been seriously affected by the continuing poor weather.  We continue to pray for them and hope that they know we are available to offer any support that we can.  Meanwhile we're trying to work out how else we can help.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A wet harvest thanksgiving day

Tuesday 16th October 2012 
Greenhaugh School in St Aidan's Thorneyburn
For small children it's nearly half an hour's walk from school to church.  Being country children, they're not put off by the rain.
They simply wear their wellies.
After the service I visited a parishioner, took some requested information to the Sure Start ("North Tynies"), arranged for a forthcoming assembly at Bellingham First School, had a quick chat with the Head of the Middle School about a future project and called on the Adult Education officer.  Then home to lunch and to change my hat from Team Rector of North Tyne and Redesdale to that of Rural Dean of the area.  Went down to Wark to admire and comment on the latest draft version of the Deanery DVD :

More pictures needed of activities around all your churches and of nearby countryside!

After (stabling the horse and) Evening Prayer, it was up the North Tyne to a meeting about Greystead churchyard and finally to deliver some music to Falstone.  Home for a late supper and bed.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Preparing for winter

Monday 15th October 2012
After variations on frost, mist, wind and sometimes sun, I have been organising straw and hay for Molly; and in tidying the shed, have found carpet offcuts which I decided to put in my sunless, north-facing study with its three outside walls, hoping to raise the temperature a bit this year.  (It's fine at the moment, somewhere around 56 F/ 13 C.)  
     In between I managed to make room for the Colonel from Otterburn Camp to sit on a chair when he came to discuss arrangements for Remembrance Sunday.  Before re-arranging the furniture again, I went out parish visiting until Evening Prayer.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sunday harvests

Sunday 14th October 2012
Morning sun (on my way to Horsley for the 9 o'clock service)
Beautiful, but I look forward to the clocks going back to "proper" GMT.
     After Horsley, it was down the valley to Elsdon for the Harvest Thanksgiving, then up to the top of Redesdale to Byrness Village Hall for the harvest lunch of sandwiches and cakes  --  and soup made from the vegetables offered in last Sunday's harvest service.
Across to the North Tyne valley to sort myself out before Thorneyburn's Harvest Thanksgiving, the third or fourth year that we are holding our "Soup Swap Service":  bring a flask of soup and drink someone else's brew after the hymns, readings and prayers.
Jesus' teaching "Consider the lilies...", (God cares for every wild flower and you are infinitely more precious) reminds us not to worry about things that we cannot influence.  Only selfish or proud people think that they should be in control all the time. 
     People involved in farming know that they aren't in control: they're at the "mercy" of the elements, of market forces, of political bias...and they  (and all of us) need to throw ourselves on God's mercy  --  which can save us from destructive anxiety, despair or  resentment, and which can bolster our generosity and our gratitude for what we do have.
     At Harvest Festival we express our gratitude to God for what he provides for us, not only directly in nature but also through other people.  We all have our part to play, starting with sharing what we have  --  hence the great soup swap!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Bright and chilly

Saturday 12th October 2012
A day of riding, delivering harvest gifts to people who have had a hard year, answering messages or e-mails, and preparing for tomorrow's services.

Friday, October 12, 2012

St Aidan's Club

Friday 12th October 2012
Making the harvest loaf
before I tell the story of
Jesus' feeding 5,000

The fruit of the after-school club
ready for the oven