Saturday, March 31, 2012

An unusually light Saturday

Saturday 31st March 2012
Dog learning to work sheep
No sermon to write for tomorrow, no wedding, no funeral to prepare, nobody asking to see me, no appointments!  I took the morning off to ride and later made preparations for tomorrow's baptism, dealt with phone calls, e-mails and the delivering of the last few April church magazines.  One call was on a parishioner who was training a collie, seen here being told to lie down as the sheep are running on.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Many magazines

Friday 30th March
Wood anemones beside the River Rede which I noticed on going to collect spare church magazines for delivery to a parishioner who will distribute them to neighbours.  We hope that more people may keep in touch with events by taking "The Meeting of the Waters" regularly.  (The title alludes to the area of the North Tyne and Rede valleys which we cover and where I have responsibility as Anglican parish priest.)

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Faith and the future of the countryside

Thursday 29th March 202
A peaceful mooring
It doesn't look as if there are any issues relating to the water supply near Kielder; but there are questions about the future of forestry, about fuel in remote places, about the loss of the single shop or pub in a community, about unemployment for some and overwork for others, about the struggle for hill farmers whose land can only support hardy livestock (with no option of growing arable crops)...   So the Deanery's forthcoming event  (Friday 27th - Saturday 28th April) on "Faith and the Future of the Countryside" is taking up important planning time at the moment.
       The morning included Holy Communion and a short ride, the afternoon a meeting with the licensed Reader and a Lent discussion group on "a good death?", whilst the evening was a long but stimulating PCC about future events in Corsenside parish, most notably celebrations for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Wednesday 28th March 2012
Preparations for the new season
In a few days everything will be opening for the Easter holiday visitors.  Meanwhile there are final refurbishments and signs of preparation in the car park near the ferry landing stage at Leaplish, where I went to deliver a batch of "Eternal Horizons" leaflets for the information points and for the room packs in the lodges.  In between various other visits, I also dropped some off at Kielder Castle and one or two hotels in the benefice, hearing how things are going in the economic recession.  For some there are redundancies, for others the taking on of extra part-time work to make ends meet.   A very quiet winter for visitor numbers is being replaced by a quickening pace of expectation, encouraged by unseasonably warm weather.
     My fixed points in the day were school assemblies in two schools thirty miles apart, one with ten pupils, one with nearer fifty.  Both schools, though, heard of Jesus's triumphal entry into Jerusalem followed by the swift change of mood as welcome was replaced by hostlity and his execution on the Cross.  All the chldren who wished to have one received a palm cross to remind them of the welcome on Palm Sunday, the death on the Cross  --  and the rising to new life implicit in the fact that it is an empty cross, the resurrection which we will celebrate at Easter.
     I had a meeting with a churchwarden in connection with  sending out invitations for the six annual parochial church meetings.  As she left, we heard a shout from next door, which necessitated calling an ambulance for a neighbour who had had a fall.  There were a few other things to be done before I ground to a halt  --  before midnight.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

"Living waters, living church"

Tuesday 27th March 2012
River Rede running low during dry weather
When the river is roaring over the rocks and I'm a few yards away inside All Saints' Church, I often think that I can hear heavy rain.  It was a regular worshipper who thought up the phrase quoted in today's title: "Living waters, living church" for the Deanery leaflet in which every church in Bellingham Deanery is characterised by a "spiritual strapline" .
    I called into All Saints (between West and East Woodburn) to collect the baptism register on my way to a Lent discussion group at Otterburn.  En route I had planned to deliver six parish magazines to parishioners on the borders of Woodburn and Elsdon; but I managed only two in three quarters of an hour because I found myself engaged in interesting conversations about hermits, religious communities and living under vows at the first house and then about lambing, wedding catering and other practical matters at the second.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Annunciation transferred

Monday 26th March 2012
"Good: here comes my hay"
Molly had to wait for exercise until after we had celebrated Holy Communion for Lady Day, the celebration of the Annunciation (announcing to Mary the birth of Jesus) which should be on 25th March, nine months before Christmas, but which was displaced by Sunday and so postponed till today. 
     The early frost gave way to a very warm middle of the day and a hot afternoon.  I had a meeting in Morpeth followed by a confirmation class which I just reached in time on my return to the benefice.
     As ever, there is  a lot of organisation behind every event and the pace of deskwork is hotting up as we move towards Easter.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sunny Sunday

Sunday 25th March 2012
Molly's path to the paddock
Sunday is the culmination of the week when we offer up to God all the people, concerns, joys and sorrows of the last few days and in Communion offer ourselves to be transformed for the better.  Meanwhile Molly stands in the paddock enjoying the view of the river, watching people walking the public footpath through the bottom of the Rectory glebeland and feeling the sun on her back during the afternoon when I took off her rug for a few hours.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Towards hope

Friday 23rd March 2012
After the funeral at St Cuthbert's Corsenside
With no electricity, the church is lit entirely by candles and the sun coming through the south windows.  (Churches on exposed hills don't have windows in the north wall.)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

More organising

Thursday 22nd March 2012
Another day of phone calls and e-mails, organising all kinds of things, most notably finalising the itinerary for the Deanery Pilgrimage to Canterbury in September.  [See Events page.]

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

St Cuthbert's Day

Tuesday 20th March 2012

Since Cuthbert was a shepherd in the Northumbrian hills, I hoped for a picture of sheep.  But lambing has scarcely started in these parts; so I didn't come across any photogenic lambs.  Instead: the glebe orchard.
     Since 20th March always falls during Lent, we keep St Cuthbert's Festival around the official alternative date of 4th September.  [See pictures of 2011 on the Events page.]

Monday, March 19, 2012

Not a day off after all

Monday 19th March 2012

     Since it was St Joseph's Day, we had a celebration of Holy Communion at 9.30   --  which gave time for an unhurried breakfast between Morning Prayer at 8 o'clock and our return to church.  I had thought that I might then have a day with no appointments.  But in one parish there was a site visit in connection with providing permissive access for vehilces across church land; two parishioners came for a marriage preparation session before their forthcoming wedding in a parish of the other valley; and I went to see a young parishioner in a third parish who hopes to be confirmed in the summer. 
     I was impressed by the couple who say that they don't argue because when they disagree, they write down the points they want to make.  One writes and passes the paper over.  Then it's the other's turn; and so on, backwards and forwards.  So they never interrupt and they both express what they want to say.
     I was also impressed by the young girl bubbling over with enthusiasm, very articulate and responsive.  (What do you think John Piper's window in Coverntry Cathedral says about the nature of God?  For this girl, the central golden light expresses happiness.  God is mainly happy, though occasionally sad from bearing responsibility for the world.  The closer our realationship with God, the happier we become.)

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Mothering Sunday

Sunday 18th March 2012

Five o'clock on a beautiful Spring day
after the last of several varied services to mark Mothering Sunday
The ancients used to say that God was to be found concealed by cloud: his glory was too great for humans to bear and so it had to be veiled.  The metaphor still makes sense.  [Look out for my "thought for the month" on a separate page in April.]
     Some of the less formal of today's services involved everyone eating Simnel cake and children receiving flowers that had been blessed to present to their mothers  --  or to anyone else who looks after them and shows them love.  Mothering Sunday originated with Christians visiting "Mother Church".  In the days when young people went "into service" (as footmen and housemaids), they were given mid-Lent Sunday off so that they could make the journey home.  On the way they picked flowers which they gave to their mothers.  Sometimes their mothers had made Simnel cake ready for Easter (This traditionally has eleven marzipan balls on top representing the eleven disciples who remained loyal to Jesus.  After betraying Jesus, Judas Iscariot was not there to celebrate his resurrection.)  The mothers shared the Simnel cake with the children who had come home for Mothering Sunday.  So in quite a lot of churches we eat Simnel cake today  --  on mid-Lent Sunday, which is also called "Refreshment Sunday" when we can have one day off from our Lenten fast.  It resumes tomorrow  --  so no more eating of whatever we have given up for Lent.  Roll on Easter!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Saturday 17th March 2012

Station Yard Bellingham: waiting for the train...
But it will be a long wait because the Border Counties line closed over half a century ago.  However, its livery has been painted on to these two coaches at the Heritage Centre and today was the opening of the education carriage and the restaurant carriage!

The Archbishop of Canterbury to move!

Friday 16th March 2012

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Another funeral

Tuesday 13th March 2012
St Peter's Falstone
It  was standing room only for today's funeral. He loved visting churches, fascinated by their history.  But, of course, they're not just places of the past.  They're also places of the future and, on a day like this, places of the present when we focus on a life which we offer to God in thanksgiving in this "place where prayer has been valid" (to use T.S.Eliot's phrase)  --  our real prayers, our conversations with God, our reaching out to the divine, our recognising God's love in our lives.

Thursday, March 8, 2012


Thursday 8th March 2012
Sweethope Lough across the Wannies
The threatened rain didn't materialise as I drove after Morning Prayer to a meeting of Area Deans with the Archdeacon at which we discussed many matters ranging from the proposed (worldwide) Anglican Covenant to the filling in of marriage registers.  Back to Corsenside in time for a meeting about how we support families who have had children baptised in our churches.  On to Bellingham for a Lent discussion group (attended by about a dozen) on poverty and the question of whether "charity begins at home".  A quick turn round for Evening Prayer and to the Rectory to stable the horse and photocpy PCC minutes before the next meeting to review and plan Falstone and Thorneyburn church life and our responsibilities in the communities covered by that parish.  Home to some funeral preparations, producing of Messy Church publicity, confirming an organists' choice of Sunday hymns...   and perhaps I'll manage bed at midnight.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

An ageing population

Tuesday 6th March 2012
After the frost
On the phone in connection with funerals and the deanery pilgrimage.  Over to Otterburn for an hour's Lent group talking about issues raised by the prospect of an ageing population.  As Christians, we have a particular responsibility to offer people hope throughout their lives and to encourage every individual to flourish at every stage.  I remember a bedridden old lady who had led an active life as a tomato grower.  When I suggested that she might be missing the outdoor life, she contentedly replied "I've had the outdoor part of my life, and now I'm having the indoor part."

Monday, March 5, 2012

Finding the way

Monday 5th March 2012
Molly knows where to go (I'm glad to say)
The view gives an idea of why we call our guide to the local Deanery "Eternal Horizons"  --  which is an ongoing project.  (Now working on the DVD: more information soon)

Sunday, March 4, 2012

A full Sunday

Sunday 4th March 2012
The days are drawing out
Only two services in the morning, then to the Rectory for lunch, then off to a two-hour meeting followed by a drive home still in daylight to stable the horse for the night and finally a visit to a bereaved family to prepare a funeral.  Home for supper at about 8.30 after driving 90 miles today within the home parishes.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

St David's day

Thursday 1st March 2012
Perfect timing for St David's Day

Spring showers

Wednesday 29th February
Molly enjoying her private pond
I had wondered why Molly wasn't drinking much from the bucket of water that I provided for her at the top of the paddock.  Rainwater tastes much better and she's making the most of this natural dewpond while it lasts.
     The Rectory glebe is a project in progress.  Glebeland used to provide rectors with what they needed for a bit of subsistence farming, hence the expression "a good Living".  The Rector of Bellingham used to have the glebeland all the way along the river North Tyne from the church to the Rectory and there is an old post
card of cattle grazing on it.  Now there's only about one steeply sloping acre, not enought to keep a horse on permanently but adequate for turning out a stabled horse who gets reasonable exercise.
     I managed to produce this little paddock by having the deep bog professionally drained and then watching the water gushing from the ditches into the river for several months.  The field was then seeded and I have spent two years picking up not only the horse droppings but also the rocks and stones.
     Wild flowers are beginning to emerge, including bog species.  So the next part of the project is to photograph them all and provide an information board for all the people who walk along the public footpath through the glebe paddock beside the river.
     Any help with identification, photography and signboards would be gratefully received.


Tuesday 28th February 2012