Saturday, 25 July 2020


For the past thirty six hours, we have have been looking after Blake, our son's dog. Another thirty six hours to go. It's been an occasion to be welcoming, to put him at his ease when he might well need some reassurance as to the whereabouts of his master. For us, this has been a time therefore, to put some of our routines to one side, to make space for his needs, to play, to look to his needs. To say 'well come'.

There's more to welcome than the word, spoken, or written on the door mat. It involves making space, putting oneself aside, making connection, thinking oneself into the other's shoes- or in this case, paws. Well come; we recognise the journey you have made, and will accommodate ourselves to that. We have done a number of things we would not have done if Blake were not with us. 

And all this feeds into what I do, or don't do, when I welcome Christ every day, and it feeds into what God has done to welcome me every day. There is no sense of parity here. My welcome of him is more the equivalent of the words on the doormat, with little beyond that. By contrast, his welcome to me meant becoming human, suffering, death. 

End of term report; 'must do better'. Ironically, this 'better' cannot be brought about without being more open to his welcome of me- recognising the journey made for me. Perhaps the end of term report should be 'must discover more of God's welcome to me'.   

Saturday, 18 July 2020

In both kinds

The news that our churches could open up again for public worship- with suitable precautions- was greeted by this church member with mixed reactions. Did I want church to open again after exposure to the best our parish,  and wider, the best the C of E, could bring into my home via YouTube channels? And before I take a service again, all those regulations to internalise and remember.....

Fortunately as a retired clergyman, I don't have to do all the risk assessments, think through all the issues; I can leave that to the young, the fit, the PCC- and I thank them for all their work. But it's strange that at our parish church, (with three aisles, and room for several hundred people in the nave and the two side chapels ) as we open again for public worship, only twenty eight people will be allowed in. 

As I begin to think about taking services again, it will need not only mental preparation to think through all the issues (distance, cleaning, hand gel, contact lists of whom came, which pews cannot be used, a list of do's and dont's to read out at the beginning of the service.....and the rest) but spiritual preparation too. It will be a new experience to be in church in these conditions. I shall be more nervous than normal. 

But at heart, I shall be glad to be there, serving the people what they have come for, even though it will be communion 'in one kind only' ; it will be for me only to take the wine. But as I have in solidarity with the laity not taken communion since the beginning of the outbreak, I know it will be for me something deep, perhaps unique. I hope it will not be long before we can all be in that privileged place of unique depth- communion in both kinds.      

Saturday, 11 July 2020

Garden scents

Mmmmmm.... every time I walked into the garden in mid-June, the scent of the rambling rose which fills the south-facing fence greeted me, made me smile, made me thankful. Honey-rich, musky, it filled the air. Now it's over for another year (it doesn't repeat flower), but it's been replaced by the first sweet peas. And by other roses, and the lavender by the cabin. Other times, other places have their aroma too; the jasmine by the gate at Katafiyo, the retreat centre in Cyprus; the first scent of indoor hyacinths just after Christmas. The list goes on, as do more unwelcome aromas- the mornings we go outside and realise, from what I shall call 'the agricultural smells' that we live close to farms; the pungency of fish, or rotting vegetation.  

Am I right in thinking that under normal circumstances, the sense of smell is the last to desert us? Aromas take us quickly back to the land of memories- think madeleines, and what poured forth from the aroma of those biscuits in the hands, or more properly the pen, of Marcel Proust.....

St Paul writes that 'we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ' perhaps reflecting the ancient hope of the prophet Hosea that 'Israel shall be fragrant like the cedars of Lebanon;.- it's quite a thought, quite a responsibility. To bring a smile to the face of God, as it were. And to leave a lingering memory of sweetness, richness; something which makes one stop and dwell in the moment, thankful- is this our legacy to those around us?Mmmmmmm........

Saturday, 4 July 2020

with friends like these.....

The book of Job- one to steer clear of if you like soft-sprung faith! Little or no comfort from his friends in the face of the severest adversity- in fact, rather than comfort they pile guilt onto him. And when Job demands to know from God himself what sin he has committed to be brought so low, he gets no direct answer at all- just a big splurge of mega-nature stuff, like a deep view of stars being born as seen from the Hubble telescope. 

St. Teresa of Avila comments 'If this is how you treat your friends, it's no wonder you have so few'. Ouch! It's a reminder that we deal, in the end, with mystery. We know some stuff about God, and experience over the millennia has taught us that sometimes he has friends- it was Abraham who was called the 'friend of God'; and experience also teaches us that sometimes we don't get answers. Living as we do in a stable and dependable universe has taught us enough to believe in his goodness, but any thought that we can know more than the barest minimum is laughable. 

Nevertheless, that barest minimum is a solid foundation of goodness and love, and these are not to be sneezed at in a world which loves the cynical, seems to thrive on conflict, and human badness is brought to our attention all the time. The world of goodness and love -exemplified for instance in the beatitudes of Jesus- is one worth praying for, striving to be a citizen of, in spite of the mystery, maybe because of the mystery. I think goodness, love, stability, love and friendship would be a good place to start the 'new normal'.