Monday, April 30, 2012

Welcoming the unexpected

Monday 30th April 2011
Looking down the valley over Kielder Water
Nothing unexpected about Kielder Water except that the changes in the effects of the light are always unpredictable. 
     At Kielder School, though, we were trying to understand what pilgrimage means  --  and a large part of pilgrimage is exploration and discovery.  We may know roughly the route that we're taking beut we don't know exactly what we will find, who we will meet or how we will fee.
     We started outside near the garden shed where we thought about Jesus' birth in a stable.  What would it be like for him in that sort of place?  One little boy said  "Everything would be strange.  He wouldn't know what to expect because he had only just been born."  Hence the train of thought that led to my picture caption.
Kielder First School consider rivers
     Across the playground their teacher poured a bucket of water which flowed away remarkably like a river and helped us to remember Jesus' baptism in the River Jordan.
     After a reminder of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem on a donkey (by singing "We have a king who rides a donkey") we went into the garden area and told the story of Peter and John racing to the tomb and Mary Magdalen encountering the Risen Christ, at first mistaking him for the gardener.  The supremely welcome and unexpected esperience.

     The rest of the day degenerated somewhat in that I shut myself out of the house when the door slammed whilst I was at the shed.  In my pocket were the shed key and two pony nuts.  Husband away for the afternoon, neighbour with key nowhere to be found, neighbour with ladder unable to hear doorbell.  With the help of two other neighbours, I borrowed a long ladder and climbed through an upstairs window.   At the moment when we realised that the ladder didn't quite reach, one of the men said "You'll have to stand on the window sill" (about two inches deep) and I replied "Did I mention that I don't like heights?"  However, when I was a Churchwarden in the 1980's a resident of the local prison taught me how to climb a ladder onto the church roof.  If he happens to read this, he'll know his training came in useful!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

"Sabbath" rest

Sunday 29th April 2012
Up the valley to Falstone
After a slow start to the morning and the 9.30 Parish Communion at Bellingham, I had a baptism within the 11 o'clock Eucharist at St Peter's and enjoyed joining the family and friends for  lunch afterwards.
     Back to the Rectory in time for a three o'clock appointment and then the rest of the day (apart from Evening Prayer and supper) was available for dealing with the aftermath of the many recent meetings which had produced avalanches of papers in my study.
     Sunday can often provide a bit of respite from a hectic schedule  --  though it's not strictly "sabbath" rest because the seventh day of the week in the Jewish calendar is Saturday.  Then "On the first day of the week" the disciples came early to the tomb... and discoved that the body of Jesus was no longer there because Christ was risen to new life.  So the "first day of the week" is Sunday which Christians treat as a weekly celebration of the Resurrection.  Anyway, whatever one's beliefs, it's part of the natural rhythm of life to punctuate all the activity.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

"Faith and the Future of the Countryside"

Friday - Saturday 27th - 28th April 2012
It will be a day or two before the Deanery event of the last twenty four hours is written up ("Watch this space").  We have done quite a lot of interesting and constuctive work on how the Church can serve the needs of people who live in or visit our deeply rural area.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Deanery and Team

Thursday 26th April 2012
The Easter Garden flourishing at St Peter's Falstone
"Time spent in reconnaissance is never wasted" and it turned out to be true when I drove up the valley to check opening times of the Tower Knowe Visitor Centre and the Falstone Tearoom, as well as details of the multimedia presentation at the former.  These will be two of the places to be visited by participants in the deanery weekend event, this particular visit being relevant to the topic of responsible stewardship  of natural resources.
     The evening saw the first meeting of the newly constituted Team Council for the Church of England parishes of North Tyne and Redesdale  --  a contructive meeting which enabled us to plan for better communications and relationships among people from the different parts of the Team.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The last APCM of this year

Wednesday 25th April 2012
Skies clearing
Heavy showers all day.  Couple enquiring about marriage didn't come for their midday appointment.  (They can't be very keen!)  Visited the community shop run by volunteers down the valley at the southern end of the deanery to check some details about our forthcoming weekend event.  [See Events page.]  The sixth and final APCM of the year was a sunny-tempered one at Otterburn, the last parish to approve the new constitution for the Team Council  --  which will now meet tomorrow.  (Must prepare for that.)

Typical April

Tuesday 24th April 2012
Not quite typical lambs
After a meeting with the Archdeacon and a Churchwarden trying to sort out a problem, I prepared for the afternoon's funeral at Elsdon which took place between April showers.  There was one light shower during the burial and then a sociable tea in the village hall.  The rest of the day was sorting out many and varied things   --  and writing my report for the final Annual Meeting of the year, tomorrow's at Otterburn.

Monday, April 23, 2012

A full range!

Monday 23rd April 2012
Blackthorn flowering on one side of the road; hawthorn coming into leaf on the other
Every stage of life came up today:  9 o'clock was a call from a young mother bringing the form relating to a baby's baptism (christneing).  At 11.00 a.m. I took a funeral at Otterburn followed by burial in the churchyard.  There was time for lunch at the Rectory before a couple came at 2 o'clock for wedding preparation.  After a little while at my desk I set off for Rochester to prepare a young girl for Confirmation.  Then it was Evening Prayer in Bellingham church and away to chair the Annual Parochial Church Meeting of the parish of Falstone with Greystead and Thorneyburn, which was a constructive meeting that ended with a sociable light supper.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Wedding Day

Saturday 21st April 2012
St Aidan's Thorneyburn ready for the wedding
There are some details to be finalised before the first guests arrive.
An agile "volunteer" finds himself lighting candles

Friday, April 20, 2012

Wedding rehearsal

Friday 20th April 2012
Resurrection window at St Cuthbert's Bellingham
The wedding is to be in St Aidan's Thorneyburn where the east window is of Jesus, the Good Shepherd  but Resurrection is suitable for an Eastertide post and I'm having technical problems.  Let's hope that after a thorough rehearsal the wedding won't have any of those!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

APCM number 3

Thursday 19th April 2012
Not as sunny as yesterday
The first event of the morning was the celebration of  Holy Communion with the offer of the laying-on of hands with prayer for health and wholeness.  The next two hours were taken up with responding to messages from two funeral directors, three Churchwardens, a PCC secretary, the Archdeacon and various other people who had contacted me in various ways.  In the afternoon there was collating of papers and gathering of information before writing my report for the Annual Parochial Church Meeting of the parish of Horsley and Byrness which (as the title of the parish may imply) was a more complex matter than the single-congregation parishes.


Wednesday 18th April 2012
Corsenside on the horizon
I went to Otterburn to arrange a funeral but cancelled a Confirmation class because I didn't want to sneeze all over them.  The Annual Parochial Church Meeting at Corsenside had to put up with my infirmity, as they cheerfully re-elected the Churchwardens and dealt with all the other statutory business before moving on to discussing the parish celebrations of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and the major church repairs which will need to be planned later in the year.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tuesday 17th April 2012
The River Jordan in 2000 AD
I spent some time in the morning scanning photographs from my album and burning a CD to show the children of Greenhaugh First School pictures of th Holy Land from a parish pilgrimage in 2000.
     I've promised to report back to them on the pilgrimae to Canterbury this September which is shaping up in a very imaginative way.  [See Events page and contact me for further details.]
     The rest of the day was planning for a funeral and meeting a couple for their seixth session of marriage preparation before their wedding in a few weeks.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Less travelling

Monday 16th April 2012
Proper spring primroses
There was only one firm appointment in my diary which was an afternoon assembly at Otterburn First School.  It occurred to me that a housebound 94-year-old nearby might appreciate receiving Holy Communion afterwards, which turned out to be very convenient and led me on to make a visit to a family to arrange a funeral in Otterburn.  So it turned out to be a full afternoon of visits without having to travel far between them.
     Much of the rest of the day was a matter of juggling preparations for the Deanery Spring event on Faith and the Future of the Countryside [see Events page for details and book quickly!], for the Deanery Pilgrimage to Canterbury [ditto], for a baptism, confirmation preparation and Annual Parochial Church Meetings, another funeral and day to day responses to telephone, doorbell, post and e-mails.

Sunday, April 15, 2012


Sunday 15th April 2012

The Cross shows new life at St Francis Byrness
After the nine o'clock service there, I travelled down the Rede valley to Otterburn for the 11 o'clock and later over to Elsdon to take Communion to a lady who has lived in the parish for 92 years.  Next time I see her I must ask her to tell me more about Elsdon School where she was a pupil.
     Amongst  other outings in the afternoon, I took four storage boxes of fair trade goods to the Roman Catholic church.  It's their turn in the rota to sell the goods next time.  As I handed over a rather heavy load to the priest, he commented "It's funny the things that we do in the name of religion" and we both remembered moments early in our ministry when we learned that a parish priest must never duck out of things by saying "I wasn't ordained to do this".

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Off to Elsdon

Saturday 14th April 2012
St Cuthbert's Elsdon between the showers
Parishioners gathered in church for an Eastertide Coffee Morning which helped to raise funds for the church.  Contrary to popular belief, there is no maintenance grant for a mediaeval building like this.  It is an important part of our national heritage but its upkeep depends entirely on local people, in this case a total population of
fewer than two hundred  --  a good number of whom turned out in support, as can be seen in this picture:

Friday, April 13, 2012

No need to be superstitious

Friday 13th April 2012
Spot the new leaf!
Spring is breaking with some leaves coming out, a warmth in the sun  --  and a chilly breeze.  But overall a lovely day and no need to be superstitious about Friday 13th.  I wonder how the idea came about.  Perhaps when people had misfortune on a Friday 13th they might say "No wonder!  After all,  Jesus died on a Friday and he was betrayed by one of the Twelve   --  which meant that thirteen were sitting round that table at the Last Supper.  Thirteen must be an unlucky number."  The when there were misfortunes on other days, nobody could think of any associations with the date.  It's like having a bad experience and saying "What have I done to deserve this?" but not thinking of asking the same question when things go well.

Messy Church

Thursday 12th April 2012

All ages engrossed in adding to the collage
Nineteen children and twelve adults sang enthusiastically in church during the celebration of Jesus' resurrection before we returned to a nearby hall for craftwork illustrating the new life and hope of Easter.  We ended the morning with a great shared picnic (indoors rather than outside in the rain).
        My day continued with a two-hour meeting to finalise the shape of the Deanery event (Friday 27th - Saturday 28th April) on "Faith and the Future of the Countryside".  [See Events page]  The an evening PCC to approve accounts before the Annual Parochial Church Meeting next week

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

April showers

Wednesday 11th April 2012
The North Tyne near Falstone
Much of the day was spent preparing for the Annual Parochial Church Meeting of St Cuthbert's Bellingham which took place in the evening.  There was a break in the afternoon for a drive to Falstone to prepare for a baby's baptism, talking it all over with the parents.  They are giving their son the opportunity to make an informed choice when he's old enough.  I'm glad that they will allow him to experience religion as well as sport and music and other activities, so that he has a chance to develop spiritually  as well as in other ways.  In the years to come he will be able to decide for himself whether he wants to continue with swimming or playing the clarinet or being confirmed as an adult Christian  --  which he couldn't easily understand without some background.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Day off

Tuesday 10th April 2012
Zeb adores Molly
He has been very respectful towards her ever since the day when he ran in front of her and sat down a stride or two ahead of her.  She walked on (presumably expecting him to move) and bowled him over.  He sprawled between her front legs and tumbled out to the left in front of her hind leg.  Amazingly he was unhurt.  Somebody suggested that it was his way of testing whether he was the alpha male of the pack...and Molly had clearly shown him that she was much too dominant to walk round him!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter!

Sunday 8th April 2012

The Cross is left behind.  Love is stronger than death; and new life begins to flower.
This is one of many Easter Gardens around the churches.  My first service of Easter Day was in
St Cuthbert's Bellingham

Saturday, April 7, 2012


Saturday 7th April 2012
The churchyard at St Aidan's Thorneyburn comes alive for Easter
I arrived here to deliver the new Paschal Candle after members of the regular congregation had finished decorating the church with flowers.  I had already taken the 2012 candle to Elsdon before the flower arrangers had started (and whilst the organist was practising).  After taking one  --  they are 24 inches high  and fit into four-foot tall stands  --   to Woodburn, I returned to Bellingham where the creation of an Easter Garden is quite ambitious.
An area is marked out, bark chippings go down and the hill of crucifxion is made

Then the stone-waller builds the tomb
Finally the rest of the garden is designed and the clothes representing the graveclothes are put into the tomb with the stone rolled away from the entrance.  But wait till tomorrow to see it!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Good Friday

Friday 6th April 2012
Hot Cross buns, not be be eaten until Good Friday remembering Jesus' death on the Cross
(But because we like them, we will continute to eat some after Good Friday.  No Easter Eggs till Sunday, though.  What's the point of having symbolic food if we don't reserve it for the symbolic occasions?)
     Today is really the most solemn day in the Christian calendar.  Jesus' execution on a cross shows God's total involvement with humanity: divine love willing to share every aspect of our lives, including suffering and death.  So we can be encouraged by realising that God understands what we go through.
     Celebrating Resurrection on Easter Day will be all the more joyful for the people who attended meditations in the various churches between 12 noon and 3 o'clock (commemorating the three hours that Jesus hung on the Cross).

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Maundy Thursday

Thursday 5th April 2012
Spring returns
The oscillating weather begins to give me ideas for my Easter sermon with the mood from Palm Sunday swinging backwards and forwards. 
     Today was travel and worship: away from Bellingham for five and a half hours for a service (of just over an hour) in the Cathedral in Newcastle, the traditional gathering of all clergy of the diocese for a renewal of commitment to ministry and the Bishop's blessing of the oils (for baptism, chrism and the infirm) which we bring home to use in the coming year.
     After a bereavement visit, I was back in church for Evening Prayer, the evening Eucharist and Compline.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


Wednesday 4th April 2012
Towards Cheviot in the wind
This picture was taken on Saturday, the only moment that Molly stood still long enough for me to manage the camera; but like today, it was dry and bright with a cold wind  --  and with the lovely cool scent of the flowering broom.  Today's three-quarters of an hour ride was nearer to home and the scent was the richer sweetness of the honey-balm poplar.  Otherwise much of my day was spent sorting things out, calling on a stone-waller to ask him to build the tomb in a church Easter Garden as he has for the last few years and other practical preparations for Easter.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

"...out like a lion"

Tuesday 3rd April 2012

March, true to form, "in like a lamb and out [3 days late] like a lion"
Ewes show the benefit of a traditional drystone wall for shelter
Driving to Woodburn, I worried for the farmers and their lambs born in unseasonably warm weather last week.  I also felt sorry for the Northern Cross pilgrims on the Carlisle leg of the Holy Week pilgrimage to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne.  Last night they slept in Wark Town Hall.  Today they arrived cold and wet at All Saints for soup and sandwiches.
Round the same font as for the baptism two days ago
After refreshments and a short service, they set out again to walk on to Otterburn.
Leaving All Saints, Woodburn
They should reach Lindisfarne in time to celebrate Easter there.
Pilgrims on their way
Next year Easter is earlier and they start on 22nd March [see]  Perhaps the weather will be warmer!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Hospital visits

Monday 2nd April 2012
A ewe's priorites
Sheep and lambs kept catching my attention but I resisted spending all day in photography.  I went to visit the coach firm to finalise details of the Deanery Pilgrimage to Canterbury in September.  (We needed to know vehicle dimensions to arrange access to mediaeval sites.)  [See Canterbury Pilgrimage page for further information.]
     I went on to Hexham hospital knowing of three parishioners who were patients there.  Unfortunately the Data Protection Act prevents clergy from getting information from the hospital.  It would be so useful to be able to find out if anyone from my parishes was on the list of in-patients.  Sometimes I've visited one person not knowing that another parishioner was in the next ward.
      As it is, I ask the whereabouts of the three and am directed to three different wards.  Number one was discharged this morning at 11.20, numbers two and three seemed pleased to see me  --  and I was glad to see them.  I had rightly thought that if I tried to see three patients, there was a good  chance  that at least one would be available.
     Home in time for Evening Prayer, stable duties and the making of a quiche to be shared between our supper and my contribution towards tomorrow's lunch at Woodburn for visiting pilgrims.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Fools for Christ

Palm Sunday 1st April 2012
There was a baptism at All Saints' West Woodburn during the morning Parish Communion.  (This picture was taken after the service, as we don't take photographs during a holy Sacrament.)
We didn't play practical jokes on each other even though it was before noon on 1st April, All Fools Day!  However, we did think of St Paul's phrase about Christians being "Fools for Christ".  We should be deeply involved in the life of the world, as Christ himself was; but we shouldn't be "worldly" in the sense of aiming our lives at wealth, power, status, celebrity.  People may think we're foolish, but what we really need  in life is food, clothing, shelter and love.  We need thankful hearts to appreciate our God-given gifts; and we need to come closer to God (the source of all goodness) and to share his love with other people.  This is the vocation of the baby in the picture as, through baptism, he becomes a Christian.

Before the service at All Saints, we had had a full Palm Sunday Parish Eucharist at St Cuthbert's Bellingham where the congregation received palm crosses and read in a dramatised version the account of Jesus' betrayal, arrest, trial and crucifixion.  Without this lead up to Easter, celebrating Christ's Resurrection makes less clear sense.
     After the baptism, we visited gardens open to raise money towards repairing the disintegrating roof of All Saints.
      Evensong was at Bellingham at 6 o'clock, followed at 9.15 by the first of our special Holy Week services, compline sung to plainchant in the quiet candlelit church.