Sunday, April 28, 2013

Daffodil tea

Sunday 28th April 2013
A view from the "daffodil tea"
A 9.30 Parish Communion at Bellingham, another at 11 o'clock at Thorneyburn and a 2 o'clock wedding interview before I went off to visit an open garden with tea served in aid of the Corsenside "Raise the roof" campaign.  Then on to Woodburn to extract statistics from church registers in order to comply with official requests.  The last service of the day was Evensong at St Cuthbert's Elsdon in beautiful evening light.


Saturday 27th April 2013
In the shelter of the rushes

     Away from the windswept fields of home for a meeting in the city with the Bishop and representatives from other Deaneries.  We heard about a number of very important issues from regional poverty to overseas suffering as a result of HIV/AIDS and considered our responsibility to take action in various ways.
     Whilst in Newcastle I took the opportunity to make a brief visit to a parishioner in hospital.
     After eight hours away from home, it was quite an effort to start the preparations for three Sunday services and get to bed before midnight.

Friday, April 26, 2013

April showers

Friday 26th April 2013
Spring means calves as well as lambs

St Mark's Day

Thursday 25th April 2013
Between the April showers
     I went from the St Mark's Day Communion service to take Holy Communion two housebound parishioners.  
     After lunch I conducted a "wedding" between two of the pupils of the First School with the various other roles taken by other seven- or eight-year olds (bride's father, best man, bridesmaids, official photographers, ushers).  Amongst the "guests" were some adult members of the Church including a couple who have been married for 59 years, setting an encouraging example to the children.
     In the evening I chaired a meeting of the Team Council comprising one representative from each of the eight church congregations in the Team and two clergy.   We exchanged views and ideas on the concerns that we all share.  The issues (and suggestions) are to be taken back to each parish for action.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Monday, April 22, 2013

A project for the Cadets

Monday 22nd April 2013
The path from the river to St Cuthbert's needs clearing;

Bellingham Cadets' Training Sergeant looks down the path.  He agrees with me that this will be a worthwhile project!

After this recce, I spent time preparing for this evening's Annual Parochial Church Meeting at Byrness  --  and on to the last tow APCM's

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Halfway through the annual meetings

Sunday 21st April 2013
A day of seasonal April showers
It was a real struggle to get up when the alarm went at six o'clock, but I still had some preparation to finish before the 9.30 service at Bellingham.  On to 11 o'clock at West Woodburn.  Back for 3 o'clock STARS for young families.  A quick sorting out of agenda and reports before driving up the valley to Falstone for the APCM of Falstone and Thorneyburn churches with election of Churchwardens and all the statutory business before discussing what most concerned and interested us in connection with the Church's work in the coming year.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Frustrating communications

Saturday 20th April 2013
Winter trees and Spring lambs above the North Tyne
The strong wind earlier in the week has put my telephone answering system out of action.  Trying to find a suitable replacement instrument was quite a problem as the computer isn't working properly either.

Spring at last

Friday 19th April 2013
Our friends wait for us to catch up: a bit of a fuzzy picture as Molly wouldn't keep still for me to take it.
But how nice it is to have her home, since I've been given the all-clear by the ophthalmic surgeon to resume the strenuous tasks of looking after a horse.  They take time morning and evening but they're a routine part of my normal life.
     Not conducting a funeral also takes time.  A request was made for a funeral to be held in Otterburn where there is no Methodist church.  So the Funeral Director arranged with me for the service to be conducted in St John's by a visiting Methodist minister.  Most of our local preparations were carried out by the Churchwardens (consulting me by telephone); but today I went over to Otterburn an hour before the funeral to organise some details and prepare the service register there and the register for Horsley where the burial was to take place.
     In the evening Bellingham APCM faced the practical problems of roof repair and finance before finishing the statutory meeting with more cheerful conversation about church life over a drink and crisps.

"Following after"

Thursday 18th April 2013
Ewes and lambs at Greenhaugh
To prepare the children at Greenhaugh First School for the idea of Jesus as the "Good Shepherd", I asked them which of them had sheep at home.  "So," I said to a six-year-old, "when your dad calls the sheep, what happens?"  I couldn't hear the whole of her description but it certainly ended "...and they all follow after."
     Children brought up in this environment can understand the Biblical pictures that were designed to explain things but which have become obscure to many non-rural people.  Here, we exclaim "Oh, I see: that's how we might follow Jesus if we recognise that his call is leading us to something in life that will feed our needs."

Friday, April 19, 2013

One down, five to go

Wednesday 17th April 2013
Non-identical twins!
I covered quite a lot of mileage from Morning Prayer in Bellingham to Otterburn to talk over something before going on to celebrate the 10 o'clock Communion service.  Then down nearly to Hexham to the southern end of the Deanery for a meeting and back to Bellingham for the afternoon (at my desk) before going over to Elsdon for the Annual Parochial Church Meeting, the first of my six APCM's.   There's a lot of statutory business that has to be done; but we also had a sense of anticipation as we began to plan for hosting the display of the official facsimile of the Lindisfarne Gospels during the Elsdon Flower Festival in July.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Off to the Calvert Trust at Kielder Water

Tuesday 16th April 2013
Wind so strong as to make waves on the reservoir
     Winds so strong as to interrupt the power supply and my use of the computer.
     A gust of wind so strong that the horse staggered sideways as I rode her home down off the fell.
     Wind not strong enough to prevent my driving up the valley to the Calvert Trust.
I was shown something of the facilities and activities available for anyone to enjoy on a visit: climbing wall and king swing and lasar guns for shooting clay targets and adventure course and nature trails and sailing, all available whether you run or use a wheelchair or something in between. 
     The Calvert Trust need to raise great sums of money to provide further facilities.      
     They're not the only ones!  In the evening the committee of the "Friends of St Cuthbert's Bellingham shook our heads over the thousands of pounds shortfall to repair the unique stone roof of the ancient listed church. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

A fine day for the wedding

Saturday 13th April 2013
Bridegroom and friends at Thorneyburn in good time

Guests are greeted on arrival at St Aidan's
The relative chaos of the rehearsal pays off when everyone appears in the right time in the right place and speaks up confidently.
     Bride and groom are properly married and everyone is happy  -- especially the children who opened the churchyard gates only after the locally traditional "hoy oot" of money from the newly weds.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Wedding rehearsal day

Friday 12th April 2013
Buds opening in the Easter Garden
Someone tried to persuade me to attend an interesting meeting this evening, but a wedding tomorrow means that today was very busy behind the scenes.  It's a matter of checking through the whole service to make sure that my book is correctly marked with all the couple's choices, driving to the right church and walking the participants (bride, groom, bridesmaids, best man, readers, parents, ushers...) through the service.  Then I fill in the marriage registers in duplicate with a marriage certificate and a further copy to send off to the county registrar.  (This is taking a risk with a very important legal document which will be validated by tomorrow's multiple signatures; but I will not be able to write everything in during the ceremony at which I am officiating.)  I re-read the hymns and Bible passages that they have chosen so as to be able to write a brief address that will be pertinent to this particular couple, whom I know quite well after our months of meeting to prepare them for marriage.
     The rest of the day was occupied with longish telephone conversations on all kinds of matters ranging from agricultural show to Lindisfarne Gospels display to pilgrimage.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Out to supper

Thursday 11th April 2013
Lingering snow on Blackmoor
as I drive past, visiting various farms to see how they're coping with the wintry lambing.
     In the evening we go to a fund-raising supper held to enable the running of a "Community Fair" in late May.  The small turnout looked disappointing, but the meal and the company were excellent, enabling us all to talk together about local life in a way that would have been impossible in a large impersonal gathering.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


"I'd have a word with that Bishop if I was you and tell him he's not selling the job very well over in the Rede area, you'd think there'd be someone willing to head into the wilds and minister to the needy, send him a thesaurus and some photos of the area, then he'd mebbes do a better job of writing the job description and all the assets it has to offer!"
Otterburn Vicarage

I received this unsolicited testimonial from a shepherd who is not a church-goer but who would like to see a colleague appointed for me as Team Vicar in the North Tyne and Redesdale Team.  I certainly look forward to the day when the right applicant emerges to live in the Vicarage at Otterburn

Every rite of pasage

Wednesday 10th April 2013
     Attending a funeral, talking about our experience of God with two Confirmation candidates, discussing the possibilities (or otherwise) of having weddings in Lent and advising young parents on the choice of godparents for their baby's baptism  --  and driving fifty or sixty miles to participate in these important affairs.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Sheep are not stupid

Tuesday 9th April 2013
A lamb keeps warm in the hay that the ewes are eating
Meanwhile I leave my flock for a while to visit the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle where I'm allowed to see one of my parishioners outside visiting hours.  Back home in time to see a future colleague who will be joining the Team in June.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Parish visiting

Monday 8th April 2013
North Tyne sheep  --  and still no grass growing
I travelled around taking Easter greetings to farmers as they soldier on with their  lambing in bitter east winds with little shelter.  "Where are the signs of spring"?
I spent some time with another priest agreeing how to dovetail a wedding and a christening into a single service.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Church on Sunday

Sunday 7th April 2013
St Cuthbert's Bellingham from the south east
I conducted a variety of services, an informal Family Eucharist, Parish Communion at Falstone and then Evensong.  In the afternoon I had quite a long final session with a couple preparing for marriage.  The next time I see them will be at the wedding rehearsal.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Time to myself

Friday 5th April 2013
The North Tyne near Wark
It's an unnerving relief to have a day with no appointments,  no urgent e-mails,  no unexpected callers and only a couple of phonecalls  --  unnerving because the rarity of a day like this makes it feel as though I must be missing something important and a relief because at last I have a chance to catch up on matters that were quite important and fairly urgent but which got pushed out by matters of great importance and extreme urgency.

The lambs are appearing

Thursday 4th April 2013
Ewe with one black and one white lamb at Otterburn
The appointments of the day were widely spaced: the morning celebration of Holy Communion, an afternoon meeting with the person who organises readers for the services at St Cuthbert's Bellingham, and an evening Standing Committee for St John's Otterburn to work out a plan of action for maintenance of the church building after its quinquennial inspection.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Spring sunlight

Wednesday 3rd April 2013
Wark bridge under repair
As well as continuing to get on with paperwork allowed by some time free of appointments, I went to talk over the possibility of preparing for Confirmation with two children/teenagers.  Immediately after Evening Prayer I was privileged to attend the Installation of the new High Sheriff of Northumberland.  Then home to sort out one or two things, respond to e-mails and so on.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

April Fool

1st April 2013
A hint of crucifixion, empty tomb and Resurrection
Inside the church is a more elaborate Easter Garden, representing the crosses above a dead brown landscape and a pathway leading to  the flowering of new life in front of  a drystone tomb where the stone has been rolled away to reveal the discarded grave clothes:
The "April Fool" is me for thinking that I might manage to produce a fuller blog entry in the aftermath of the Easter weekend!