Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Life calms down on Sunday

Sunday 26th February 2012
Family afternoon off
People sometimes joke about Sundays as "your busy day, Vicar" but actually it's the least busy day of the week.  It's just that it's the public face of a parish priest's work  --  and the important focus of the week when we offer our life at the altar to be transformed. 
     After a hectic Saturday with a funeral followed by a vist to a sickbed twenty-five miles away and then preparations for services, Sunday morning was simply two services.  Since nobody had made any afternoon appointments with me (and parishioners don't really want to be disturbed on Sunday afternoon) we had a day off from lunchtime onwards.

Monday, February 20, 2012

No trick photography

Sunday 19th February 2012

If you want to make sense of this picture, see the "Thought for the day" page

Saturday, February 18, 2012


Saturday 18th February 2012
Spring light, winter cold
     I wrote letters to the headteachers of the nine schools in this deanery inviting them to our next Deanery Synod when we want to consider how the Church can better serve the schools.
     Since I was uncertain about addressing one of these letters, I rang the school secretary at home.  We enjoyed a chat about where we had each been during the week exercising our dog or horse.  (There are places where, sadly, it wouldn't be possible to make a simple enquiry like this in a friendly way on a Saturday morning.)
    Then phoned the main organiser of Messy Church about who might be coming to tomorrow's session. [See Events page.]
     E-mails flew back and forth about the school reunion service in June as well as a wide range of other topics.
     Prepared material for STARS (service for the under-5's) and then settled down to writing a sermon for the Parish Communion (which will be repeated in both churches where I go tomorrow morning).
     So, as usual, Saturday is one of the busiest days of the week.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Sorting out

Friday 17th February 2012
Serenity outside whilst indoors I try to sort out paper, files, candles, burial certificates, phone messages,robes, books, bills and all the other things  dumped in my study each time I set off again.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A good funeral

Thursday 16th February 2012
It cannot be a tragedy when someone approaching a hundred dies peacefully of natural causes.  It must be a reason for thanksgiving when someone has led a good life to the full right into old age.  It has to offer hope for the future to know that someone of a firm Christian faith draws hundreds of friends from the far-flung rural community to the funeral.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Wednesday 15th February 2012
Late afternoon:
a symbolic skyscape after I had received the coffin into church in readiness for tomorrow's funeral

     The rest of the day included vists, callers, a meeting with a  representative from a Brown Rigg School reunion society in connection with a church service here in the summer, and a congenial gathering in the evening with fellow clergy of the deanery.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

St Valentine's Day

Tuesday 14th February 2012
An early daffodil in a sheltered spot marks St Valentine's Day
It was essential that Molly got some good exercise.  So after Morning Prayer, when the phonecalls subsided, I rode for an hour to reach the house of a parishioner recovering from an operation.  After a half hour visit, we trotted home, stopping en route when a man got off his tractor to say that he wanted to ask me about the burial plot of his grandfather.  Although it's not in a churchyard, I was able to tell him that Jimmy would be the source of all information before I rode on.  It was one of those useful encounters which saved someone from having to make a fuss about contacting the Rector and which happened naturally because it's so easy to pause on horseback.   (I can't imagine people flagging down a car.)
     There followed more telephone calls and a meeting with the Reader to plan a Lent study group on various issues of modern life and how the Christian faith may help us to deal with them.
     I had to hurry to print off copies of the PCC agenda and of the Church mission action plan before stabling Molly and driving to Elsdon just in time for the 6 o'clock meeting.  It was a stimulating and constructive hour and a half.  I was home by eight for soup and fruit before a late Evening Prayer, the final stable duties of the day and then half an hour off before returning to my study at 10.30 and hoping that I'll finish my contribution for the magazine before midnight.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Always something different

Monday 13th February 2012
"Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me"
It was a day of cloud and sunshine as family and friends gathered for the Registrar's visit to officiate at a wedding held at the home of the couple.  Because of illness they couldn't travel elsewhere for the ceremony which was followed by my leading prayers and pronouncing a blessing.  The weather was clear, the celebration muted but happy. 
      This fitted with the reading "Rejoice in the Lord always...The Lord is near.  Do not worry about anything...Whatever is true...honourable...just...pure...pleasing...commendable...worthy of praise, think about these things...and the God of peace will be with you."
      My husband assumed that my latish arrival at the Rectory was because of the wedding; but he wasn't surprised at the slightly unexpected explanation "I've been helping to move sheep", as it's all in a day's work.
     On my way back to the Rectory, I had called at a farm where our cup of tea was interrupted by the need to move some sheep before it got dark.  I did a quick change from cassock to thick jumper and high viz jacket before walking along the road to open a field gate and  stand ready to  stop the traffic.  One person stationed along the road in the opposite direction stopped the other flow of traffic, whilst the farmer and his two dogs sent the forty or so sheep towards me.  I tapped with my borrowed stick at what I hoped was the right moment and was relieved to find that they all turned neatly into the correct field.  A similar operation was achieved with the other half of the flock in the other direction and we resumed our tea and conversation.
      The evening was preparing my contributions for the next issue of the church magazine (submission deadline tomorrow).

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Friday, February 10, 2012


Thursday 9th February
         How did these posts get in the wrong order?  Scroll down a little way for 10th February!

Deanery co-ordination
        The computer seemed to get stuck and I couldn't oil the wheels to post a record of today's meeting with the other local Churches and the later one with the Deanery Committee co-ordinating contacts with the other Anglican Churches of Bellingham Deanery. 
         The morning ecumenical meeting involved  was much planning of contacts with the cadets and the cemetery chapel, of Bellingham Show and the Harvest Supper, of Lent study groups and work with the homeless.  In the evening we were on to work with schools and prepartions for the next Deanery event concerned with "Faith and the Future of the Countryside" in late April, as well as the Deanery pilgrimage to Canterbury in September.

On our travels

Friday 10th February 2012
    I drove up the valley of the River North Tyne to Kielder School where I had promised to show them a picture of the River Jordan.  [See below.]

River Jordan (in May 2000)
      When I last took assembly at Kielder First School I spoke of Jesus' being baptised in the River Jordan and was asked whether it was a real place.  Yes it is, and what's more I've been there.  So today I went (complete with suitcase, passport and straw hat) to tell the children a little about what we saw in the Holy Land and to show them a few photographs of Bethlehem, Nazareth and the River Jordan  --  where some of my fellow pilgrims had filled plastic bottles with water to bring back to England.  I have one of these bottles with Hebrew lettering on the side, which we compared with the writing in the Hebrew Bible.

       Then it was back down the valley, through Bellingham and on south to a meeting over lunch in Corbridge and planning for some summer events.  Up again to Wark to another meeting there, this time on the developing of the Deanery DVD.  So on up to Bellingham, to Evening Prayer in church and then a call from a future PCC secretary who came to collect the necessary papers.
        I must return to my desk and check the draft of the funeral order of service.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Did I do anything today?

Wednesday 8th February 2012
So many phone calls that I didn't finish the last mouthful of breakfast till about 10.30. Topics ranged from the Deanery pilgrimage stage at Rochester (Kent) to a burial of ashes locally and attempts at rescheduling a meeting at the nursery school.  Continued with preparations for the next funeral.   Managed to fit in some toast and an apple at 3 o'clock and returned to hotel bookings for the pilgrims on the internet.  The church director of music led a congregational music practice at which I couldn't sing since my voice isn't yet recovered but I was able to join in the refreshments afterwards!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Winter sun

Tuesday 7th February 2012
Near the top of Dunterley Fell
As the warm winter sun thawed the ice on the road and the horse behaved soberly despite having been confined for a week to the frozen paddock during the daytime, suddenly it felt like a lovely day.  A few minutes earlier I had wondered whether I had the strength and resolution to get out and exercise her. Now life was relaxed and enjoyable and we even had the unexpected pleasure of falling in with a friend for a quick canter along the top.
   Back to everything that I had abandoned for forty minutes: the phone calls, the funeral visit, the timetables for reading banns in all the right churches for the forthcoming seven weddings, the PCC draft minutes, the final marriage preparation session with the couple whose wedding comes first this spring.

Monday, February 6, 2012

60th anniversary of the Queen's Accession

Monday 6th February 2012

Mist in the valley
As yesterday (the Sunday nearest to the anniversary of the Queen's Accession) we had prayers of thanksgiving for her long devotion and faithfulness.  I don't remember the weather sixty years ago.  (My father had gone to work abroad, taking the family with him to tropical climes where I started my schooling as a four-year-old.)  Perhaps in England it was a frosty day like today with the cloud hanging cold below the fell.
    It occurred to me that for most of us, our idea of the Queen is based on the glimpses of her public life that we catch.  It's not unlike people's picture of the clergy:  they think that Sunday is my "busy day" because it's the public face of the week's work.  Today, for instnace, there was almost nothing in my diary by way of appointments.  But it's been one of those very busy behind-the-scenes days, with much liasing over funerals and an impending wedding with scattered families, funeral directors, doctors, people on hilltops out of mobile phone signal range, district nurses, farmers, publicans and Registrars.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

A bleak day

Saturday 4th February 2012
Skittering Linn not yet totally frozen as the snow begins to settle
Having received a message from a hospital chaplain that a parishioner wanted to see me, I made an unsceduled journey and called on various others on the way home.

Thursday, February 2, 2012


2nd February 2012
       The Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple is also known as "Candlemas"
"Mary's tapers"
If you look closely at a fully open snowdrop, you can see how it bends over like the flaming end of a candle lighting taper.  On the Feast of Candlemas some churches bless the candles that will be used in worship in the next twelve months, thinking of new light, Jesus "the Light of the World", of dawn, of new beginnings.
     It seemed a good day to have a funeral with the new start of life beyond death, the mystery which we cannot understand whilst we're limited to this life, mysteries of fulfilment beyond our imagination.
     Last week, before today's 95-year-old died, there were five generations of that family living in Bellingham.
     We began to think about the life of future generations in the evening's marriage preparation session.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Thought for the month

Wednesday 1st Febuary 2012

My slow-working mind has at last had another thought.  See the separate "Thought for the ..." page.