Friday, 26 July 2013

Bread and Blessings

An unexpected gift arrived in the post this morning - a beautiful hand baked loaf of bread from 'Somewhere Else', the Methodist Church in Liverpool's city centre. It came with this brief but powerful message:

Bread and blessings. I have been thinking about that phrase as I have looked at the loaf of bread. 

This bread has been carefully made by a person unknown to me but part of the community that gather at Somewhere Else. Somewhere Else offers a welcoming, inclusive, quiet space where people meet together with God and bake bread. Bread-making that is a means of fellowship and an invitation to share. The making and sharing of bread, a basic and delicious source of food is at the centre of this community of faith. The bread they make sustains them and is sent out from them to sustain others.

If you want to find out more about 'Somewhere Else' their website can be found at  There is much more to find out!  I have never been to 'Somewhere Else' but they have reached out to me. What a great model of Christian mission.

Thank you, I look forward to eating the bread!

Thursday, 25 July 2013

100 on Sunday

Today I had the great privilege and joy of visiting Revd Albert Ball. Albert is one of our supernumerary ministers and he will celebrate his 100th birthday on Sunday. He gave me permission to share something of our time together.
Revd Timothy Bradshaw, Revd Albert Ball and me.

Albert has served in many circuits and also as a forces chaplain during and after the second world war. As he talked about some of his experiences his faith shone out and I glimpsed glory. He showed me some of his paintings, beautiful water-colours. Some of the paintings showed very beautiful places; others very ordinary things in which Albert had seen and shared unexpected beauty. A building contractor's skip was transformed in Albert's painting from a mundane object to a colourful and beautiful object.

Revd Timothy Bradshaw, Superintendent of the Circuit and Albert's minister, was with us and we shared communion and prayed together, especially giving thanks for Albert's life and ministry. I asked Albert to choose a passage from scripture for us to reflect on and he selected Psalm 103.
This Psalm begins with the words:
                      Bless the Lord, O my soul,
                      and all that is within me,
                      bless his holy name.

Albert talked much of God's blessing in his life and he has been, and still is, a means of blessing to many.

Thank God for Albert and for all those faithful saints who remind us of God's goodness and help us to glimpse beauty in unexpected places.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

It's a boy!

I want to celebrate and share the joy as we hear the news of the birth of a baby boy. It is a great day for his parents and we hold them in our prayers as they experience all the mixed emotions of new parenthood. It is right to be glad for them, unreservedly glad for them.

As I sat on the train this morning I read some of the reports in the morning papers. Just hours after the birth, with no more details than the weight of the baby boy and the essential fact that he and his mother are well, the papers have produced special supplements and pages of reports. They talk about the ways in which this child might be brought up. They try to guess where the mother and child will go for the first few weeks after leaving the hospital. They talk about the baby’s future role as heir to the throne. They try to imagine what Britain will be like when he is expected to become king.  They have pictures of royal babies from previous generations, in the absence of any pictures of this child.

The child’s future is being mapped out in public expectation, and he is only hours old.

I find myself reflecting on another birth. Yes, you guessed it – the birth of Jesus. What might his parents have been expecting for him? Perhaps they already knew that he was special for reasons beyond those that made him their special child but I doubt they imagined then what the future would hold. This child, born in relative obscurity was to change the world. This child was to reshape human understanding and show through his life and teaching the power of love. As Mary and Joseph cradled him in their arms, what could they have known of all this?

When a child is born, new relationships begin and new possibilities are opened up. For all of them the circumstances of their birth and childhood will affect how and if that potential is realized. Where children are born into poverty or oppression  their potential is constrained and we must do all we can to  give children everywhere the opportunity to grow up healthy and free from hunger and fear.

Today I remember and pray for the children of the world. Today I pray for all those mothers and fathers who have welcomed a new baby and for those for whom the miracle of birth is shadowed by pain, fear, anxiety or loss.

Today I pray that the Kate and William’s son will be free from the constraints of expectation and privilege, free to surprise his parents and all of us as he realizes his potential. And I pray that he will grow in a relationship with God, because it is in that relationship that he will find fulfillment, and in which his potential will be fully realized.

Friday, 19 July 2013

It's all relative

Yesterday I met with Rev Keith Albans, Director - Chaplaincy and Spirituality for MHA. We met at Hinton Court in Guisborough which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

Revd Dr Keith Albans, Lesley France and me - at Hinton Court
Conference representatives received a copy of the MHA Prayer Diary, In the Hollow of His Hand, which has been compiled for the 70th anniversary year of MHA. On the front cover is a picture of the hands of a 100 year old woman holding a small fir tree sapling. The fir tree can live for a thousand years, it reminds us that age is relative.
It's a beautiful image.

Keith told me that the woman holding the tree is now 105 years old and an MHA resident. When he visited her recently he was asked if MHA would like the sapling, still very small and it is now planted and growing in Auchlochan Retirement Village, Scotland.

I glimpse God's glory in all those who work with and volunteer for MHA.
I glimpse God's glory in the faithful and prayerful lives of older Christians.
I glimpse God's glory in the amazing truth that God loves and knows me among all the greater and longer living parts of creation.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Celebrating the Gospels on Holy Island

Holy Island or Lindisfarne is one of those 'thin places' where many people find opportunity to take time to stop and listen to God. It is divided from the mainland by the causeway which is open when the tide goes out but flooded when it comes in again. I love the natural rhythm which this gives to the day and it is a reminder of the rhythms of life which can be so easy to forget in our busyness.

Some people choose to walk across to Holy Island following the pilgrim's route which is marked by poles across the shifting sands.

On Saturday many pilgrims arrived on the island to celebrate the presence of the Lindisfarne Gospels in the North East. This beautiful gospel book was created on Lindisfarne by Eadfrith to the glory of God and in memory of St Cuthbert. It is now normally to be seen in the British Library but is currently on display in Durham where St Cuthbert has his final resting place in the Cathedral. You can read a reflection that I wrote after visiting St Cuthbert's Shrine in 'Glimpses of Glory.'  (

Preaching at the celebration

We gathered on Saturday for a celebration in the Priory ruins on the island and what a great celebration it was. Church leaders from the various Christian denominations were present and it was good for me to meet with so many of my colleagues and friends. I had the privilege and joy of preaching. Banners were carried into the priory each of them a copy of one of the beautiful pages of the manuscript. 
(The sermon I preached can be found at

The Church Leaders
The banners

 We sang and prayed together and the words and music were heard clearly by those outside the walls of the priory reminding me that the community here on Lindisfarne was established as a base for mission to the surrounding area. At the end of the service we were commissioned to be witnesses to the gospel and all those present were given a pilgrim's badge to take away with them.

Eadfrith wrote the gospels in Greek and for many years it was displayed close to Cuthbert's tomb on Lindisfarne. When the community left Lindisfarne they took Cuthbert's body and the gospel book with them on their long and winding journey which eventually ended in Durham. On the way Cuthbert's body and the gospel book remained for a while in Chester-Le Street and during that time Aldred translated the text into Anglo-Saxon and wrote the translation between the lines of the Greek text. Even then there was the recognition of the need to communicate the good news to people in ways that they would understand, no less imperative for us today.

On Sunday I was invited to preach in the Church of St Mary the Virgin. The congregation here always includes visitors to the island and people from different Christian traditions. Of course, the size of the congregation, like everything else on the island, is affected by the tides. 

Glimpses of glory were abundant for these few days: 
The rich diversity of people who visit the island 
The beauty of the island at different times of the day
Conversations with people who were finding a place of peace in the midst of challenging circumstances
The reminder of a faithful community dedicated to mission and working hard to overcome division and challenge on this island which was then at the hub of the political and social life of the North East. 
Bamburgh Castle, the centre of political power in Aidan's time, seen from the island.
Sunset on the island

Friday, 12 July 2013

Glimpses of glory at Conference

After a week of busyness, I finally have time to sit and reflect on Conference. On Monday and Tuesday evening our guests from the Methodist Church and partner churches around the world, spoke to us about the glimpses of glory they saw in Conference. So, I ask myself, where did I glimpse glory?

I glimpsed glory in the prayers, good wishes and love that surrounded Daleep and I, not least from those who looked after us behind the scenes.

I glimpsed glory in the music and singing that was so much a part of our time together. 

I glimpsed glory in the worship. I will never forget the ordinands coming into Westminster Central Hall to the sound of hundreds of voices singing in Greek and clapping a complex rhythm. In those moments months of planning came together in something even more glorious than I had imagined.
Neither will I forget the quieter moments of worship and prayer, the sharing of bread and wine and the ordination service with the resounding affirmation, 'They are worthy!' Then there were those moments when we stood together in prayer to remember or to affirm.

I glimpsed glory in signing letters written to those we thanked and letters offering sympathy and love to those whose pain we shared.

I glimpsed glory in the commitment of the three politicians who spoke to some of us in the House of Commons about faith in politics.

Monday evening with MPs John Glenn, Stella Creasey and Sarah Teather after the Beckley Lecture.

I glimpsed glory in the sights and sounds of London by day and by night.

I glimpsed glory in stirring speeches, heated debate and moving testimonies.

I glimpsed glory in the creativity of the artist, the glass-makers, the flower arrangers and the caterers.

And, when I was at my most tired, I glimpsed glory in the words of understanding, and the laughter of friends.

There were a lot of glimpses and my blogs during the year will be glimpses. They may not be long or profound but I hope that my glimpses might encourage you to expect glimpses of God's glory and to share them with others.