Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Still catching up ...

November ... a month of remembering.
The annual Remembrance Day Service at Saint Nicholas' was a memorable occasion when two young people took their place among the war veterans and those who have served their country in the police and prison services.

 The march past at the Cenotaph is always a moving ceremony and the television gives a good impression of the huge numbers who take part year after year.  It was good to spot my youngest sister marching with the War Widows Association.
Time moved swiftly on and the Connor Clergy Conference was next on the agenda.  As usual we were in the Slieve Russell for a refreshing retreat.

 The grounds of the hotel are beautiful in the early winter with autumn colours still clinging to the bare branches.
After the conference I took the last few days of holiday and spent an enjoyable weekend in Piltown with the opportunity to attend worship in Portlaw.  They'd just completed a fund raising effort to repair the roof so a photograph was taken of the tiles replaced and those who had sponsored the work.

 This building has some magnificent carvings.

That takes us then to the last Sunday of the liturgical year ... "Stir Up Sunday"
Now the tradition of making the Christmas Pudding in church is well established.  Out come the family scales that have weighed decades of puddings and cakes ...
 The ingredients are gathered ...
 and two young assistant chefs get stuck in to the mixing before members of the congregation have their chance to stir the pudding.

That brought us quickly to Advent ... a wonderful time of waiting and watching.

Dougal had his chance to do something for Bishops' Appeal ... every walk in Advent added £2 to a pot.  This was an idea developed by Bishop Pat Storey to raise money for shoes designed for leprosy sufferers.
During Advent Dougal sported a liturgically correct collar in purple!

So with the tree up, the advent wreath prepared, wise men on their journey and the nativity scene in place we made our way out of November and into December.

Mothers' Union in November was in the shared meeting at Saint Thomas' where we were spellbound by the story of Suzanna Wesley.

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Another year has begun ...

I'm getting back to work after a few days of rest and the transition is slow ... very slow!  So the blog is acting as a bridge this morning.  It provides an opportunity to look back over the past few days and to begin to move forward.
Where to start?  The last blog was September!
So, October first ...
We have a lot of rain ... and that can result in some very interesting pictures.
Harvest celebrations in Saint Nicholas' were at the beginning of the month ... guest preacher was Margaret McVeigh whom I've known since I was a child.
Concerts are a regular feature of life in Saint Nicholas' ...
Then, as often as possible the dog gets a walk ... and on Thursdays (usually) the outing is longer and frequently to the seaside.  We had a quick overnight stop in Piltown (near Waterford) where there's a lot of space for running around.
There is a park just round the corner from where we live and morning walks are often taken there.  Sometimes the sun comes out and creates a beautiful spotlight on the path ... not that Dougal would notice such things!  Still ... it provides a photo opportunity for me.
Meanwhile, at the Parish Halls, work was nearing completion on the Committee Room.  This was a complete transformation from brown carpet and curtains to a polished wood floor and contemporary blinds.
 Around church one of highlights of any month is a baptism ... one of the teenagers used my camera and managed to capture the moment of the pouring of water!  A most joyful occasion which was followed by a birthday party for a one year old who had been baptised last year!
And finally, at the end of October, I did a marathon ironing of clerical shirts!  That made the weeks following a delight.  The two Christmas shirts were used at some stage during Advent so it was time well spent.  Now, I'm at the stage where that ironing exercise must be tackled again!  Maybe if there's something to watch on television it can be accomplished without too much pain!
That was October ... just two more months to do and then I'm up to date with the "old year"!
Taking photographs almost every day means that there's a kind of diary that helps with reflection.
How would I sum up the month ... beauty, opportunity, and joy.  Though there were also times of sadness and grief that are not photographed but form part of every cleric's life.
In it all ... God is good and it is my privilege to be part of God's work in the world.

The Collect of the Second Sunday of Christmas

Almighty God, 

in the birth of your Son 
you have poured on us the new light of your incarnate Word, 
and shown us the fullness of your love: 
Help us to walk in this light and dwell in his love 
that we may know the fullness of his joy; 
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Sunday, 27 September 2015


Today, in the lectionary, the Old Testament reading was from the book Esther.  So, since it was All Age Worship we had the entire narrative as the sermon; the emphasis being that God is at work even when the name of God is not actually mentioned.  The power of prayer, referred to in the James reading, is seen very clearly in the story of Esther.
As far as we could the congregation participated ... stamping feet when Haman was mentioned and cheering Mordecai.
It is a story worth reading in its entirety, not a long book and full of drama, intrigue, plots and salvation.  At one point it looks as if the entire Jewish population will be exterminated.  How often in history has that been so very true.
The hymns fitted with the theme to perfection.  O God our help in ages past, our hope for years to come ... and Amazing grace ...
It was a time of encouragement and praise as we remembered how God has been our guide, even in the days when we were unaware of God's presence.
Today was also the day when Saint Nicholas' received the supplement to the Church Hymnal, Thanks and Praise.  There's some good stuff in it and we look forward to using it alongside the hymnal in the months/years to come.
Meanwhile all is quiet in the household.  Dougal is snoring ... quite a relief from last night when he was annoyed by a bluebottle ... when the pesky insect landed on the curtains and, I'm convinced sat mocking the dog, Dougal stared at it for a full ten minutes.
 Last night the moon was clear and bright ... and tonight will be the lunar eclipse ... when the moon turns red!  In practice I took a few pictures late last evening so that I'd be ready for tonight's phenomena.  Whether I'll be up at 03.11 am is quite another question!
 Before the orb had risen high enough to take picture this was what happened as the camera focussed on the tree outside the rectory rather than on the moon itself!
There are very few daisies in the lawn here ... but these three cheerful heads have popped up among the moss and clover ... there is grass too!
 And, finally, another shot of Dougal ... every day he checks through the gate and makes sure that we're safe from all intruders.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Another hat

I have the great good fortune of belonging to a group that presents a festival in Belfast every January/February.  It is the 4 Corners Festival. 

Our aim: 4 Corners Festival seeks to inspire people from across the city of Belfast, to transform it for the peace and well-being of all. It consists of innovative and imaginative events designed to entice people out of their own ‘corners’ of the city and into places where they will encounter alternative perspectives, transformative ideas and new people.

As part of the preparation for 2016 we've organised an art competition.  This is for the senior school pupils (Key Stage 4 and the Sixth Form).  Information will arrive in schools, libraries and community centres over the next week ... but ... here are the details if you know anyone who might like to enter.  They should be living in the Belfast area in order to qualify.
 Just find a way to illustrate what it is like to live where you do ... drawing or painting ... and send in the entry!  This second page gives the details of where to send it.  During the  4 Corners Festival   we plan to have as many of the entries as possible on display.
So ... pass on the information to others and get drawing (or painting) ... if you're not in ...etc.!

Friday, 25 September 2015

TFTD ... last one for this month.

This may be listened to on iPlayer just before 25 minutes into the programme and again at one hour and 25 minutes
Today, leaders from around the world will announce how they intend to meet some extra-ordinary targets in the next 15 years.
They want to end extreme poverty, fight inequality and injustice and fix climate change.
They could fail in every target... but, even in trying, great things can be achieved.
When we look at the three areas targeted, these goals seem to be impossible. What difference can any one of us make?
The Dalai Lama XIV said, “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito!”  Everyone can play a part.
Some years ago when I was a school teacher my Year Group decided to collect pennies for charity.  During the weeks leading up to Christmas we stuck them to the classroom wall … and each day some new coins were added as class by class they brought in a few pence.  A penny on its own is of little value but by the end of the term we had a considerable sum collected, as together they made a difference.
It doesn’t take much from each person to make a difference. 
That makes me think of yesterday’s porridge.  For some reason I was interrupted during the cooking process – probably to let Dougal out into the garden.  Anyhow, when it came to eating it there was clearly something wrong.  I’d forgotten to add the salt!  Just a tiny pinch of sodium chloride makes all the difference to the taste. 
Jesus told his followers that they are to be like salt in the world … we are to make the world a better place.  So, on a day when the world leaders are signing up to the United Nations targets maybe we need to set individual goals too.
What can I do to make a difference?
Even a small financial contribution will work towards ending extreme poverty and help those who have lost everything they owned.
I can speak out against inequality and injustice; and am able to challenge the government on policies that make life more difficult for the vulnerable.
My attitude to recycling, reducing waste, and to using renewable resources will work towards fixing climate change.  I can protect the environment where I live.
Desmond Tutu wrote, “Do a little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”        

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Time passes quickly

It seems no time at all since last TFTD on Friday ... and, if I'm not careful, another one will happen before the blog is updated.
What's to update?
Well ... the dog I suppose!
But nothing much changes there.  He studies the neighbours, looks for squirrels and then sleeps!

So ... that's Dougal!  Very happy, very active, very affectionate!  And he gets me out of the house for long walks.
What else has happened since last Friday ... well ... there's been church ... and now we are beginning preparations for Harvest at the beginning of October.
This banner will be on the church railings over the next ten days ... maybe folk will see it and feel welcome to come in.  The evening service will be readings and music ... no sermon!
And now, today ... the big clear up from the Mothers' Union/Ladies' Guild sale ... all that remains unsold is to be packed away for another year!  We made £336 ... a good sum for two Saturday mornings.
Now ... to write this week's TFTD and get going with all the other stuff that needs to be done!