Ploughing and scattering

Hello again. I stopped doing daily blogs back in July with the anticipation that I would go down to one or two a week. But having stopped I realised that I was very tired and dry and didn’t really have a lot to say. To use the language of harvest the field needed to be fallow for a bit

Traditional harvest loaf at St Nicholas Woodrising

Well we have had a summer of services, some hybrid, some more straightforward. All have been risk assessed and so far we don’t seem to have been the source of infection. it’s been good to be back though who knows what the next weeks and months will hold.

Harvest reminds me that there are seasons, something that the consumer culture of the supermarket and instant availability hasn’t yet been able to undermine.

Can I also suggest that there are other seasons, longer ones, that may take place over longer than a portion of a year. More normally they are lived by individuals or families, through particular tough times, a bereavement, an illness, a redundancy, the failure of a relationship.

Collectively we are going through the season of Covid, it’s taking longer than we wanted or like. We are enduring it, and like the hymn title we may well feel, ploughed, dug into, damaged even; and scattered, imperfectly connected with those we love. Yet love is possible, as Gabriel Garcia Marquez puts it, even in a time of Cholera.*

We had another harvest loaf on Sunday, done by the same baker it depicts the five loaves and two fishes of the feeding of the five thousand. It’s not much, many people confronted with that in a restaurant would think of it as a starter for them alone. Well love only needs a small starter, a seed, from which all sorts of things may grow, a seed which can hide in the ground in the winter ready for the spring.

I am going to re-start this blog, I have missed it and was touched when others said they had as well, but it seems to me that our journey through these times is not yet done. Good night and God bless.

* I should confess that I have never read this book, just a synopsis of it so I am hoping that the literary minded of you (Deborah M I’m thinking of you) will come to my rescue if I have misappropriated it’s purpose.


Well it is done. We had a service of communion and then a combined zoom/church service. I am exhausted so I can’t say too much about it.

At one point in the combined service we had some technical problems with the sound, producing a nasty snarl of feedback. Fortunately the real feedback; from the people who came either virtually or in person, was far more positive.

I wrote in the service register, the first entry since 15th March. I’ve always been a bit cavalier about filling in the service register, but no more. Where next I don’t really know, but we have made a real step forward today and it was good to see people in the church, as I am sure people in pubs, shops, restaurants and salons will also feel.

I began this blog because the churches had been shut to public worship and as that is a major part of my job and role that left me feeling disorientated, struggling to find an anchor. This blog been a very good anchor, sometimes motivating me to get up and do something because I knew I would have to write something at the end of the day.

As I said a couple of weeks ago, I’m going to keep going but I no longer feel committed to producing an entry every evening. We, along with others have crossed a major hurdle, but the journey is far from over. Goodnight and God Bless.

Les Gilets jaune

This is Fridays post but a combination of extreme tiredness (I had a completely sleepless night on Thursday) and poor internet meant I didn’t get to post last night.

This is not insurrectionary Hingham (French style), but rather the launching of the road safety campaign. The idea is that we walk around in the filets to encourage people to keep to the speed limit. Situated on a busy road people do tend to speed through and there are some very dangerous junctions so it’s needed.

It’s also the first public gathering of any kind I have been to for a long time. But tomorrow I have another public gathering, church, our first service since early March.

Cables have been laid, areas roped off, risk assessments completed, linking the virtual and corporal congregation practised. It just remains to see how it all goes. But this morning as we discussed it I could sense the excitement among the team that we are going to start again something that is integral to being a church, coming together on a Sunday morning. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Making Movies in Berlin

I was 24 yesterday; 24 years ago I was ordained as a priest in the Church of England in a parish church in Leigh on Sea along with three others. One of my co-ordinands, Jen, has now sadly died and I have so lost contact with the other two that I can’t even remember their names.

Thinking of that put me in mind of my actual 24th birthday in 1982. I was working as a sales agent between a wholesaler and shops in the early days of the VHS video boom. I remember taking the day off, and going to one of my regular customers who also ran a record shop and buying myself the two albums below by Barclay James Harvest and Dire Straits. I had recently brought a decent turntable amp and speaker (my first record player was one with a lid which if you shut it carelessly would crop any LP on the deck), and I wanted some new music.

Coming from a low church, Protestant background being priested (I am still uncomfortable with the word even now) wasn’t something that I thought would be particularly significant; the previous years ordination as a deacon seemed much more important at the time. After all that was when I started to wear a dog collar, began working full time for the church, had to preach every week rather than when I felt like it. But as I got closer to it the significance of the day crept up on me, and the moment of ordination itself, when others who were already ordained crowded round to lay hands on me, felt…. well I just don’t have the words to describe the feeling.

The other thing I remember from that day was the party back at the church, St Johns Grays North. I had had a year to get to know the congregations and they felt a part of the celebrations. They also gave me a home communion set and an oil stock, where you keep oil for anointing.

St. John’s Grays, I visited on my sabbatical last September.

I am still using the home communion set and the oil stock in contrast to the records which now stand unplayed on the bookshelves* and the hi fi system long superseded. But rather than things the strongest memory of that day was the love and support, both from those who had helped me along that journey and also from those who had become a part of it as part of my church family.

These two days represent two very different parts of my life, my journey, one where I was very unsure of who I was or where I was going, the other where I was excitedly and certainly embarking on a defined role and position. But if I were making a movie of it, those days would just represent different locations in a journey that makes more sense when looked back on from a distance. After all movies are made pretty well anywhere.

*I’m sure I am not the only one who has a large but largely useless collection of old Vinyl. It’s largely useless because many of the records are scratched as I was always very cackhanded in putting the needle on. But at the same time they are things of beauty and I am very reluctant to let them go.

Driven and distraction

I made three trips to the same church just down the road today. The first was scheduled, the second because I needed some extra posters and the third because I’d left my iPad there ( leastways I was hoping I had, a hope thankfully fulfilled). We all do this but I seem to do it more than most and right now when I have lots of competing things on my mind I’m doing it a lot.

Sometimes distraction works well. On a repeat journey the other day I bumped into a new parishioner, who turned out to have a really interesting story. An English member of the Russian Orthodox Church, he’d gone in that direction because of family arguments between Roman Catholics and Anglicans; one to ponder there!

Today it didn’t it was just a waste of time and petrol. Except when I got back I read about a serious hit and run accident on one of our local main roads, a cyclist injured, the car driver nowhere to be seen. I called it an accident but incident would be a better word, distraction and inattention are not accidental. So on Friday I plan to turn out for the Hingham Road Safety Campaign, if only to remind myself of the importance of concentration when driving. Goodnight and God bless.

There’s a hedgehog in the kitchen

This post is a tribute to our daughters commitment to baking. Commissioned to create a hedgehog cake for a friends birthday they set too with gusto.

Division of labour and unity of purpose was achieved (even if some aspects of kitchen tidyness were put on the back burner).

And the result was extremely impressive and very well received. The thing is, such skills have not been acquired overnight and have involved much investment in ingredients, utensils, cleansing, let alone hours and hours of TGBBO*. It’s also involved investment in people and relationships and negotiating the sharing of space and time. Reader it was worth it.

* TGBBO, The Great British Bake Off, a superb, kindly, gently competitive show on BBC, until it was poached and downgraded by channel 4. As one daughter says, Hollywood handshakes are just not worth what they used to be. This is all a point of view and you are welcome to disagree.


Norwich Cathedral during an all night youth event

I’m not an adaptor, well not an early one anyway. When Apple bring out a new operating system, I will delay installation for many months on the (often well founded) fear that the upgrade will effectively be a downgrade as all sorts of useful bits and pieces on the computer will stop working.

But adaptors of all sorts are essential. Yesterday, while trying to sort out how a hybrid, zoom/in church service might go a small (and inordinately expensive) plastic adaptor, connecting one cable with a different port, was the key bit in the jigsaw that made the whole thing work.

We are all adaptors, it’s a key evolutionary trait, one that might well ensure our survival. We adapt to changing circumstances and we have all been doing a lot of it of late. And that adaptation , has kept us going, kept us connected, kept us sane and functioning, and at times has also kept us safe.

The unchangeability of God is one of the theological concepts I have most trouble with these days. I’m not sure it’s biblical (there are numerous stories of God changing his mind); and it doesn’t mesh with the ability of individuals, and the church to undergo radical and fundamental change from time to time.

If you don’t believe in God this may feel irrelevant, but if you do I invite you to consider that adaption is a divine attribute reflected in human behaviour, especially at crisis points. Goodnight and God bless

Under the edge

One of my favourite bits of the Lord of the Rings comes as a Frodo and Sam are trudging towards Mordor. The war that has been threatening for most of the book has burst forth and a foul dark brown cloud has covered the land turning the day into darkness. At the end of a hard days walking the sun peeks beneath the edge of the cloud and a shaft of light catches an old statue, leading Frodo to comment, “they cannot Conquer forever”

There have been dramatic clouds as well as thunder and lightning the last few days, breaking up a heat which had become oppressive. But why are we so surprised by change, why do we often assume that whatever we experiencing, whether it be light or dark will go on forever.

On friend of mine has a philosophy of “this will pass”, I guess it’s sort of stoical, but also Christian in that it retains a hope even if putting it in a weary negative format. But then if you are feeling weary and negative that’s probably the only way you can express hope.

I took the above photo of Bardsey island in 2017. I had driven for nearly three hours from the English edge of Wales to the end of the Llyn peninsula only to encounter thick fog. The only reason I knew I had arrived was because the sat nav map had turned blue. But I knew it was Wales so I got my book out and sure enough over the next 30 minutes the island slowly appeared.

Edges are helpful, marking as they do beginnings and endings and also change. Change is not a comfortable word, and many of us have been pushed far out of our comfort zone of late. Being on edge ( something I have heard as a negative self description recently) is not about comfort, but may be the necessary precursor for real change. Just make sure you let the sun/son peek through, especially at the end of a long day.

The washer/dryer model.

“Never buy a washer/dryer”. This piece of advice, dispensed I think from my father or some other elder authoritative adult as I took the first steps to independence was based on the assumption that if you created a hybrid piece of machinery that tried to do two different things, ie wash clothes and then dry them, that one of them was bound to be better than the other and you would end up with an unsatisfactory appliance. So I never did, I’ve always kept fridge and freezer separate and look on hybrid (electric and petrol) cars with suspicion as well.

But I am still contemplating a hybrid church service on Sunday week. We are able to now begin public worship in church again. This is significant, for me it was the starting point of this blog when I sat in a hotel room contemplating the fact that when I wasn’t looking my churches had suddenly been shut. Now we can begin to open, but like so many things not as we were.

First of all there is to be no singing. I am still unclear what happens about communion, and I have no idea of how many people we will be allowed. (The concept of turning people away from a church service is deeply counter cultural). Alongside that many of the congregation are either still shielding or may well not be ready to come out to an occasion where others are present in numbers.

So its likely that we will begin with a hybrid service which melds both the online zoom service and a more traditional in church service. Just thinking about how this is going to work is giving me a serious headache, and I began to recall the washer-dryer advice. But hey, maybe it will work, and maybe people will be forgiving if its clunky and difficult, they have been so far with other things. Also coming to church is essentially a multi-faceted activity, a mixture of spirituality, religion, sociability, ethics, politics, architecture, archaeology, hospitality, art and craft, music, history, social engineering, human dynamics and (when it will be allowed again) tea and cake.

Church is not an appliance, you don’t expect it to deliver the same thing every time, there is room for experimentation and error. As I explore this option over the coming week I will probably bore you with my thoughts, concerns and worries, but hopefully also with a degree of hope and anticipation for what is to come. Because, and its a word missing from the above list and a word all too easily omitted, coming to church is about God.