Thursday, February 28, 2013

Seasonal weather

Thursday 28th February 2013
Not a cloud in the sky
though that's not true of  life for some of my parishioners;
and the zoom lens shows traces of snow still on the Cheviot;
but today after a little while outside, I'm indoors at my desk and at the computer before going out for the ecumenical Lent group, led today by a guest exploring with us prayer in the Benedictine tradition.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The sun brings us all out

Wednesday 27th February 2013
When is the evening feed coming?
Poor Dougall has to wait for his owners to have a cup of coffee with me before they finish dealing with him.  As you will gather, it was a lovely day to be out and about visiting after the morning frost.  
     The evening included a committee meeting at the Rectory to plan forthcoming events organised by the Friends of St Cuthbert's Bellingham.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Meet whatever comes

Tuesday 26th February 2013
I can wait patiently if I have to!
Zeb prefers going round the parish with me to staying at home, even if he's not allowed inside everywhere.
     The  evening meeting for marriage preparation was the only part of the day that went entirely according to plan  --  but that's life.

Monday, February 25, 2013

What have we managed today?

Monday 25th February 2013
Looking down to Bellingham
The work that I had planned for the morning was postponed to the afternoon, the morning being taken up with receiving phone calls and making one long one regarding insurance.  Made a quick visit down the valley to Hexham fora a dental checkup   --  there and back in two hours  --  and finally finished the legal paperwork for a Faculty application (the Church's equivalent of planning permission).  The evening included the first meeting with a couple who wish to have the baptism of their baby within their wedding service.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

A gentle Sunday

Sunday 24th February 2013
Keeping an eye on me
I did very little travelling today.  Walked along the road to St Cuthbert's to preside and preach at the Parish Communion; was given a lift by the organist to St Aidan's Thorneyburn where the congregation was augmented by a good turnout of family coming to hear the reading of wedding banns; back home before visiting on foot in Bellingham in the afternoon and stopping to talk with some of the local Army Cadets on the return from a few days at Otterburn Training Camp.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Jumble sale and sermon preparation

Saturday 23rd February 2013
Spot who's working!
The answer is the person driving the tractor and trailer, muck spreading in the brown field in the middle distance behind the leafless tree.
     After walking the dog (which is when I took this picture), my day was largely a matter of spending time (chatting and buying)  at the jumble sale in aid of Bellingham Town Hall in the early afternoon and preparing my Sunday sermon for the rest of the day.  [The theory is that a preacher should do one hour's work for every minute that (s)he is going to speak.]

Friday, February 22, 2013


Friday 22nd February 2013
Roof slabs from St Cuthbert's
I called on some parishioners in connection with the Friends of St Cuthbert's Bellingham, whose interest in the continuing presence of the church here means that they will support activities to maintain the fabric of the building.
     The four parish priests of the Deanery met to think about contingency planning for the future.
     In the evening it was telephone calls planning different aspects of different weddings.


Thursday 21st February 2013
"O Lord, thou knowest how busy I must be this day: if I forget thee, do not thou forget me." was the prayer of Sir Jacob Astley before the Battle of Edgehill in 1642.
     We called this to mind during the afternoon's Lent group on prayer, which was attended by eighteen people (though not by Midge).  Somebody came to see me in the evening for an interesting discussion on prayer.  As ever, we said Morning prayer in church at 8.00 a.m. and Evening Prayer at 5.30 p.m.  It being Thursday, there was a Communion service at 9.30 (which this week including the laying-on of hands with brief prayer for health and wholeness).  This was followed by a morning meeting with other clergy to agree arrangements for church services in the next two months, the only administrative part of today  --  which made today far more concerned with the central matter of priesthood.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Parish visiting

Wednesday 20th February 2013
Young Midge (and his older friend) who is new to the parish and whom I met when inviting people to join in the Lent Group which will meet on Thursdays to explore prayer [Details on Events page]

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Down to the valley of the River Tyne

Monday 18th - Tuesday 19th February  2013
Morning frost down in the tamed country
where I went for a 24-hour residential conference with fellow Area Deans and the Archdeacon for a useful discussion of many important topical issues including rural schools and farming.
     We were well looked after, including me (as a late arrival after Monday's funeral) enjoying an elaborate tray of lunch during the first session.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The fulcrum of the week

Sunday 17th February 2013
The storyboard for STARS (Sunday Toddlers And RelativeS)

Sunday is the pivot of the week when we bring all the concerns, people and activities of the last week to offer to God and receive the strength or inspiration to tackle the next week.
     After the two morning services with adult congregations, I went to St Cuthbert's Bellingham to prepare for STARS.  At 2.51 having set up the story board in the empty church, I realised that I had left something at the Rectory.  I walked quickly home, collected the visual aid and returned to church.  As I entered at 2.59 I was delighted to find nearly twenty children and parents sitting quietly on cushions on the floor waiting for the story.  
     Nobody has ever told the children to be quiet.  They simply catch the peaceful atmosphere and feel at home.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Memorial Service

Saturday 16th February 2013
St Cuthbert's church, Elsdon

There was standing room only in Elsdon church where 228 people gathered for a Memorial Service.  [Behind the scenes, it is someone's task to count congregations for the records.]     As we gave thanks for someone who was much loved, we reflected that there is more to life than we see on the surface, that death is not the end and that love is stronger than death, as is shown by the Resurrection of Christ.   [See "Thought for the day" page.]

Friday, February 15, 2013

Getting ready for the next intensive activity

Friday 15th February 2013
Zebedee enjoys the sun
After three or four days in a row when I don't have a moment to myself from morning to night, the pace slows and I have time to clear space to walk across the study, make phonecalls and begin to focus my mind on tomorrow's Memorial Service

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ash Wednesday

Wednesday 13th February 2013
Producing the ash for Ash Wednesday is  quite time-consuming.  The palm crosses from last year have been handed in so that they can be soaked in water to remove the flame retardant.  After drying them in the oven (whilst Tuesday's supper was cooking), I applied a match and oversaw their burning.  Before grinding them to a powder, I noticed a beauty in the fragile remnants of the palm leaves.
      At this morning's assembly at Bellingham First School I told the story of Jesus' forty days of prayer in the wilderness as he prepared for his ministry.  He needed to discern the right way to follow his vocation [not that I used those words!] and in Lent we, too, try to get our lives going in the right direction.  One child (chosen from many volunteers) came to receive the sign of the cross in ash on his forehead.  The Christian sign reminds us of all this as we try to make life happier for ourselves and other people this Lent.
We had the grown-up version of this in church in the evening.  Meanwhile, I continued with funeral preparation, writing my contribution for the parish magazine and responding to innumerable messages.  After the few days' respite...

...the promised snow did materialise.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Snow holding off

Tuesday 12th February 2013
Deer near East Woodburn
The stars of the show: traditional clog-dancing at Corsenside yesterday evening

Monday, February 11, 2013

Everything happens at once

Monday 11th February 2013
Overlooking Bellingham
We're relieved to find that the expected snow has not yet arrived.  I'm able to travel down the valley south of Hexham for a meeting (previously postponed because of snow) to plan for the Church's stand at the Northumberland County Show.
     The clouds on the way home are still merely threatening and I'm able to field phone calls about a funeral, a baptism (of a child who turns out not to be born yet) and some building repairs before going early to church to meet a visiting priest before Evening Prayer.  Afterwards took her to meet a parishioner and then made my way to Corsenside parish hall for the launch of the churches "Raise the roof" campaign.  About sixty people came for an enjoyable evening of music (two local fiddlers), clog dancing (by three boys who live in the parish accompanied by their father playing the accordian) and an excellent supper  --  along with a few brief words by myself as Rector, a Churchwarden and the church Treasurer.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

"The Weekend"

Saturday 9th February 2013
Riding through a farmyard

Yesterday I simply thanked a woman in a shop who hoped I was going to have "good weekend".  For me Saturday is normally a busy day of preparation for Sunday as well as a day when Monday-Friday workers make appointments to see me.  But as I travel around my parishes, I see other people enjoying some free time riding or hiking or cycling, their recreations taking place on the farmland which for other people is their workplace.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Is this really work?

Friday 8th February 2013
Beside the road to Falstone
With every bend in the road I enjoy a new sight as I make my way up the valley.
Kielder Water on a quiet morning
Is this really work, driving through the kind of countryside that is the holiday destination for other people?
Deadwater Fell in sight
I'll be in good time for Kielder School assembly and can stop for one last photograph on the way.
The North Tyne, looking upstream from Butteryhaugh bridge
The children and headteacher give me a friendly welcome  and I tell the Bible story that was postponed from my last visit when we tackled intereting questions raised by the children.
     After a chat with the School Secretary and the Cook, a visit to the Librarian on duty on Kielder Library Day (Friday) and a quick circuit of the village, I return the nearly twenty miles down the valley to Bellingham to get on with the rest of the day's activities. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Monday, February 4, 2013

Gentle Monday

Monday 4th February 2013
Thank you for all the good wishes following my eye operation.
Today is a day of easy work, arranging wedding banns, meeting another Area Dean to talk over matters that affect both of us in our work, sorting out a backlog of papers, travel expenses and other routine things.  Then a stimulating evening meeting with a couple coming for marriage preparation.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

View from the pew

Sunday 3rd February 2013
St Cuthbert's Bellingham where I joined the congregation for my post-Christmas Sunday off duty whilst the service was conducted by the Archdeacon, which gave me a break from responsibility and a chance to benefit from listening to his sermon.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

A clear day

Friday 1st February 2013
Snow cleared, clear February light, and clearer sight after my first cataract operation.  I can  see the snowdrops on the Rectory glebe.