Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Day

Sunday 31st March 2013
The flag flies for Easter Day at St Cuthbert's Bellingham
Despite the uninviting weather, I have enjoyed the celebrations with about 110 people across services in three churches.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Easter preparations

Holy Saturday, 30th March 2013
Some of the creators of the Easter Garden  (with a corner of their work in the foreground  --  and the felt picture to remind them of the story of Jesus' crucifixion and his greeting Mary Magdalene in front of the empty tomb)
[More detailed Easter pictures on Monday: now I must get on with my sermon after a day of intensive preparations including delivering Paschal Candles to five churches]

Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday

Friday 29th March 2013
The Papal flag flies at St Oswald's Roman Catholic church.
Meanwhile, in St Cuthbert's we observe the Third Hour, remembering Jesus's death on the Cross by hearing the reading of his "Passion" (suffering) interspersed with hymns as we keep the Third Hour of his execution by Crucifixion.
Although an extremely solemn day for Christians, much of it was spent in preparations, including delivering invitations to families to join in making the Easter Garden tomorrow morning.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Maundy Thursday

Thursday 28th March 2013
Getting the ferry ready for the new season on Kielder Water
Unfortunately I have lost my voice and was unable to participate in the various services scheduled for today.  It didn't stop me from delivering "Eternal Horizons" leaflets to various tourist outlets up the valley in preparation for Easter visitors.

Holy Week continues

Wednesday 27th March 2013
The Northumbrian flag flies outside Bellingham Town Hall
As every day this week, my activities are bounded by Morning Prayer at 8.00 a.m. in St Cuthbert's Bellingham and Compline sung to plainchant there ending at 9.30 at night.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Monday, March 25, 2013

Desperate farming

Monday 25th March 2013
More bleak than beautiful today
     Before Morning Prayer I did a quick bit of vital shopping towards the content of assembly at the Middle School just after Mattins.  I gave a run through the events of the first Palm Sunday (palm cross), Maundy Thursday (Communion wine), Good Friday (hot Cross bun) and Easter Day (Easter egg and Simnel cake), commenting on how Christians mark these occasions with symbolic food.
     A couple came to discuss the possibility of a wedding with me before I drove the lonely road to Otterburn to conduct assembly at the First School.
     After Evening prayer, I went down to Wark to meet the Northern Cross pilgrims sleeping there overnight on their arduous walk from Carlisle to Holy Island in the miserable cold wind which is causing such concern to farmers who have cows calving and ewes beginning to produce lambs in weather which they cannot easily survive.  
     We have had almost no warm or dry weather in the last twelve months.  Grass isn't growing, cereals didn't get sown or else were ruined by the wet (which means a dearth of feed and of bedding straw), the stock haven't flourished enough to be as robust as usual, there's inadequate shelter for animals that usually thrive out on the hills  --  and the shortages mean that all animal feed is more expensive.
     Let us hope that Easter brings good news of all kinds, practical as well as spiritual.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Palm Sunday

Sunday 24th March 2013
Molly seems happy enough with her little friend despite the freezing cold east wind.
     My 9 o'clock service at Horsley was fine; but the 11 o'clock at Elsdon was so bitterly cold that I cut two of the Mattins canticles and one hymn to save the faithful congregation from hypothermia. 
     At both services I read St Luke's full account of the events of Jesus' last week from the triumphal entry into Jerusalem on (the first) Palm Sunday to the Last Supper with his disciples before his betrayal, arrest and mock trial leading to his death by crucifixion.  
     After hearing the full sweep of those events, we are ready to celebrate Easter with a proper appreciation of its implications.
     Evening Prayer was at Bellingham as usual and the liturgical day ended with 9.15 Compline sung to plainchant by the four of us who turned up.

A rare Saturday

Saturday 23rd March 2013
Family exercise
I don't have to prepare a sermon for tomorrow because on Palm Sunday the Reading of the Passion of Christ takes all the time usually given to preaching in the Parish Communion services.  So there was unusual Saturday opportunity to spend time with the family, including going for a cold walk in the middle of the day.

Friday, March 22, 2013


Thursday 21st March 2013
The North Tyne on a clear morning
After the 9.30 Communion Service, I went to conduct an assembly at one of the First Schools to find an OFSTED inspector sitting in on my account of Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday follwed by his Crucifixion on Good Friday and Resurrection to new life on Easter Day.  
     I hope H.M' Inspector was impressed by the caring kindness shown by the little boy who put up his hand before I began to ask, "Rector Susan, how is you eye now?"

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

St Cuthbert's Day

Wednesday 20th March 2013
Durham Cathedral at dusk
After a meeting down the valley in connection with the Church stand at the Northumberland County Show, I continued a further twenty miles to Durham to take part in the Festal Evensong on the Feast of St Cuthbert.  
     People often comment on the irony of erecting a building of such grandeur to shelter the bones of the ascetic saint.  Today this was particularly vivid for me as I stood at the east end of the cathedral in semi darkness looking up to the feretory which houses Cuthbert's shrine whilst the choir sang John Tavener's "Ikon of St Cuthbert of Lindisfarne".
     As though obscured by a sea mist, the feretory kept blending into a remembered view of Farne Island and returned to candlelight.
     "Barren island, desolate, slate-clothed waters surge on the rock" sang the choir;  "the spirit laid you to rest in peace on the hill upon the waters".

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Out of the parishes

Tuesday 19th March 2013
The River Tyne between Gateshead and Newcastle
which I crossed on a quick visit after celebrating Holy Communion for St Joseph's Day and before returning in time for Evening Prayer at Bellingham and Corsenside PCC meeting.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Feeling feeble

Monday 18th March 2013
A rabbit braves the sleet
but I stay mainly indoors today, not having to see about the horse who is away whilst my eyes continue to heal.
I mainly worked in the study and had an hour or so with the couple whose wedding is to be the first of this year.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

"Living waters, living Church"

Sunday 17th March 2013
The River Rede from the steps of All Saints' Church
All the churches of this deanery have a "spiritual strapline" devised by local people to convey something of what is special about their church.  All Saints' Corsenside (between West and East Woodburn) couldn't be nearer to the river  --  with all its associations of baptism, of  life flowing on, of Jesus as the "water of life" and so on, making "Living waters, living Church" a good slogan for this place.
     I was here for the 11 o'clock Communion after having celebrated the 9.30 at St Cuthbert's Bellingham, where I returned in the afternoon for STARS (the under-5's service for Sunday Toddlers And RelativeS) and then on to the Rectory to meet a couple for marriage preparation.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Saturday 16th March 2013
  Another session of marriage preparation with another couple  --  and another example of how I'm not able to publicise what meetings I have with which people.

Friday, March 15, 2013

After the burial

Friday 15th March 2013
 Horsley churchyard: After the burial...
...we went on to the Methodist United Reformed Church at Bellingham for a Service of Thanksgiving.  We were glad that it was possible to find somewhere in Hexham that would welcome the sandwiches and cakes left from the after-service refreshments.  We hope that they would be enjoyed by homeless people staying in overnight accommodation; and I hope that the day ended on a positive note for the bereaved family.
     I ended the day over at Otterburn chairing a PCC meeting.

Thanks be to God

Thursday 14th March 2013
St Cuthbert's Bellingham: east window
How apt for me that below the image of Christ on the cross, this window shows Jesus healing a blind man.  (The other two figures are St Mary on the left and St John on the right.)
     [See "Thought for the..." page]
     I attended the 9.30 Eucharist as the ideal time to give thanks.  The rest of the day involved an early afternoon meeting at Falstone for planning with representatives of Churches Together in Falstone and Kielder, the 4 o'clock hour's Lent group in Bellingham led this week by the Methodist minister, and a visit to a family whose six-year-old daughter wishes to be baptised.  When I asked her why she wanted this, her face lit up as she said "I want to be part of Jesus".

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Apologies for absence

Wednesday 13th March 2013
Something on the hill  --  through the zoom lens; but I cannot see what things are in the distance.  Tomorrow everything will be different because today I have my second cataract operation and send apologies for absence from Bellingham PCC meeting to be chaired by the vice chairman.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

To the other valley

Monday 12th March 2013
Down the hill towards Otterburn on my way to do some parish visiting and enjoy more of the interesting conversations that are a frequent part of my life.

Monday, March 11, 2013

The snow is back

Monday 11th March 2013
The sight that greeted me as I set out for Mattins

Mothering Sunday

Sunday 10th March 2013
On the road from Elsdon to Otterburn
Not many people came to the Mothering Sunday service at Bellingham.  They seem to have been caught up in the commercialism of the American "Mothers' Day", not realising that the origin of Mothering Sunday was young people being given mid-Lent Sunday off to go and visit Mother Church  --  and on the way home picking wild flowers to give to their own mothers.
     So as we thank God for all the blessings of this life (including our mothers and all those people who care for us) we present posies of flowers to those who come to church.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Behind the scenes

Tuesday 5th March 2013
Late afternoon sun
People sometimes think that I don't exist except on the days when they see me in public (for instance Sundays).  But behind the scenes life goes on!  After 8 o'clock Morning Prayer in church, I prepared some worksheets for one of the schools and made posters for Mothering Sunday services; had a visit from a father about his child's next school; called on yet another school to arrange for an Easter visit and next term's activities; on to meet a couple to discuss the possibility of a church wedding; then to drop a card off for the anniversary of a death; back to Bellingham in time for Evening Prayer at a sunny 5.30 before a couple came for an hour's marriage preparation.  

Monday, March 4, 2013

How to miss a good picture

Monday 4th March 2013
Passing this field, I spotted the sweet sight of the bull resting his head across the neck of the youngster.  But by the time I had stopped the car and got my camera out, he had lifted his head and the heifer had stood up.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Sunday came together somehow

Sunday 3rd March 2013
Snowdrops at St Peter's Falstone

Chaos in the study

Saturday 2nd February 2013
A beautiful day to be out of doors before working away at the computer and printer to design and copy an order of service for tomorrow's baptism.  Filled in cards for the baby's parents and godparents.  Prepared an address for that service and for the rest of Sunday.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Not looking forward to Easter?

Friday 1st March 2013
A promise of fair weather over Kielder Water
After a conversation prompted by our observance of Lent in which someone expressed the distressing prospect of re-reading the agony of Jesus' crucifixion on Good Friday, we came up with the idea of spending Good Friday reading the whole of one of the Gospels, (perhaps the Gospel according to St Luke) to get the full sweep of the story of the "Christ Event" as a preparation for really being able to celebrate Easter.
     Kielder School thought about Lent through the story of Jesus' Temptations during forty days in the wilderness.
     St Aidan's Club after school at Greenhaugh marked St David's Day.