Thursday, 20 December 2012

Weather-induced Crisis for Farmers

Some farmers are facing severe problems this winter following the very poor weather we've had across the UK this year. I quote from a recent article by Andy Rylands.

'Farm Crisis Network has confirmed that casework is already double that normally experienced at this time of year. The Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution has paid out two-and-a-half times as much money in emergency grants to two-thirds more farmers than in the same period last year.'

The Prince of Wales' Countryside Fund has announced it will donate £150,000, the total amount available in its emergency fund, to help farmers who are struggling through the winter months as a result of this year's extreme weather. The Met. Office has confirmed that the summer of 2012 has been the wettest in the UK since records began. A drought across much of England during the spring was followed by this record-breaking wet weather; this has led to an exceptionally poor harvest for some farmers resulting, in turn, in higher costs for food to feed livestock and higher prices for the seed to grow next season's crops. In addition, the wet autumn has meant that it is difficult to prepare the ground for next year's crops. Around us, here in Ripon, we have witnessed some of this year's crops go to waste as they simply could not be harvested due to the impossibility of getting heavy machinery onto water-logged land. In addition to problems caused by inclement weather for growing crops and producing food, there have been health issues for livestock with very high incidences of liver fluke affecting cattle and sheep.

At a recent emergency meeting called by the Prince of Wales with the leaders of UK rural charities (the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution, Farm Crisis Network, the Addington Fund in England and Wales and RSABI in Scotland), it was agreed that £150,000 would be donated from the Prince's Fund to help farmers in crisis across the UK. The Duke of Westminster announced that he would personally match the funding. The Prince of Wales said,

'I have been growing increasingly concerned about the many difficulties which farmers from all sectors are facing - and are likely to face - this winter and so I thought it was important for us to come together, hear what we each have to report, and then I want to see what I can do to help through my Prince's Countryside Fund.'

The charities will use the money to boost the work they ordinarily do. Some supply food vouchers while volunteers have stared to carry Foodbank boxes in their cars to give immediate help when they visit farms. All the farming charities' helplines have received an increased number of calls, including calls from individuals contemplating suicide. This will be the first time that the Prince's Countryside Fund has had to use all its emergency funding and this is undoubtedly a reflection of just how difficult a time farmers are having. The worst impact is yet to come and will be felt from January/February onwards.

I wanted to bring this situation to churches' attention. As we all focus on the festivities of Christmas, please be aware and on the look out for families and individuals who are struggling, please support food banks and the various farming charities, and please pray for farmers everywhere. Be on the look out for the fact that you stop seeing someone around for a day or two. Notice when you visit someone whose house is exceptionally cold.  Once again, my thanks to Andy for much of this information.

Feeling Chilly?

Community Hubs in North Yorkshire

Andy Rylands, our rural officer, sent me this information: 

Rural Action Yorkshire has received funding from North Yorkshire County Council to undertake an project to support the development of community hubs

The funding received is to be used to provide preventative social care and early interventions through the establishment and support of 7 Community Hubs within the rural areas of North Yorkshire. The hubs will be developed within existing community buildings such as village halls, libraries and community centres, which currently act as a focal point for members of the local community and already have activities taking place.

The project aims to build on the existing services within the local area, as well as developing new services, which will offer information, resources and community development support to vulnerable individuals and those more isolated members of the community.

The project is keen to encourage new and innovative ideas and to support new services and activities identified by its users.  Examples of services that may be encouraged to develop through this project would be activities such as: community caf├ęs, allotments, drop-in centres, luncheon clubs, exercise classes, arts and crafts and other social activity groups.  It is also hoped that the hubs could provide focused support for specific groups, such as those with dementia, mobility problems or the bereaved.

As part of the project, RAY is in the process of setting up a small fund, to help hubs with some of the initial project set-up costs.  We recognize that in the early stages of a project, it is often difficult to access funds to pay for things such as promotional material, printing and meeting room hire - we hope that access to small grants will encourage and give confidence to groups to consider and explore new initiatives.

RAY has recently recruited a Community Hubs Development Officer, Tess McMahon, to work with groups and individuals and help develop and shape initiatives that meet their local needs. Tess will provide support to volunteers setting up projects within the identified community hubs as well as helping the project steering groups devise a longer term plans to safeguard their project’s sustainability and promote a social enterprising approach.

This will include assisting hub groups to make contact with local businesses, statutory organisations and both the private and public sector. To strengthen their focus on achieving sustainability, any groups who access funding from RAY will also be encouraged to repay a percentage of the initial costs. This will also have the benefit of putting money back into the pot for other groups to access in the future and extend the benefits derived.

Tess is currently in the process of making contact with community groups in North Yorkshire to identify which ones may be interested in the project and would like to establish a hub within their building. If your village hall, library, community centre or other community-based venue is interested in being part of this project, please contact Tess for more information.

You can contact
Tess McMahon Community Hubs Development Officer 07540 691029 Email: Tess McMahon
This project runs from 1 May 2012 – 30 April 2014

Christmas Lunch in Richmond

Each Christmas a group of local individuals and charities pool their time, resources and energy to provide lunch on Christmas Day for people who are Homeless, Lonely, or Just By Themselves.
Provided will be a full Christmas 3 course meal inculding Turkey, Christmas Pudding, pigs in blankets, candles, Christmas crackers, gifts and decorations etc.
People may just wish to walk in, but we will also use cars and minibuses to transport people to the venue.
In past years it has been a wonderful event with a lovely family atmosphere.
Would you like to be a Guest or a Helper or if you know someone who would please contact either Keith Hall - 850961, Stuart Parsons - 823456 or Linda Curran - 824626.
Supported by Kings Church Richmondshire, Richmond Town Council and Carricks

Thanks to Gillian Lunn for alerting me to this.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Space at Ripon Cathedral

Ripon Cathedral is hosting a new series of full day retreats and monthly evening meetings to explore spirituality and meditation. These will run throughout 2013/4.

SPACE will offer a day-long retreat based on a particular theme such as Wonder, Compassion, Journeying. The day will involve stillness, reflection and guided meditation.

SPACE BETWEEN will be a monthly evening meeting offering time to explore, as a group, the meanings, values and beliefs associated with the theme of the SPACE retreat days. There will also be time for stillness and meditation.

Come to some or come to all - create your own journey. 

There will be a taster session for SPACE on Saturday 19th January 2013 at Thorpe Prebend House, Ripon HG4 1QR from 10.30 - 12noon. For more information
e mail or ring the Cathedral office on 01765 603583

Monday, 26 November 2012

Flood Heroes

Please all take extra special care in this rain. I hope that no one will have to be a hero, but BBC Radio York have just issued this:
How to nominate a hero or heroine

During the floods which hit York and North Yorkshire in late September 2012, listeners told BBC Radio York about the wonderful people who went the extra mile to help them.

The BBC Radio York Flood Hero Awards give a chance to celebrate those special people in our communities, whether they’re individuals or teams.

We want to hear about the good work people did – maybe you met a person, a group or a team who went above and beyond what was expected at that time of crisis.

We also want your nominations for brave animals affected by the floods in York and North Yorkshire – what did they endure and what made them special?

Panels of judges will choose the human winners in nine categories, and shortlist the bravest animal which will be put to a text vote.

We are looking for nominations in the following categories, and you can send your entries by emailor by post. Entries close at 11.59pm on Sunday 2
nd December 2012, and the Awards will be given in March 2013.

What you need to tell us

Tell us YOUR name, postal address, email address and your daytime contact phone number.

In no more than 200 words tell us why the individual or team deserves special recognition for helping during the floods in York and North Yorkshire.

If your nominee is an individual, don’t forget to tell us his or her name and how to contact – eg address or workplace, if relevant.

If your nominee is in a group or team, don’t forget to tell us the name of the team or organisation, and how to contact them – eg workplace address.

If your nominee is younger than 16 years old you will need to provide evidence of their parent/guardian consent.

The actions for which the nomination is being made must have occurred between 24
th and 30th September 2012.

BBC Radio York will be covering some of the stories sent in while the nomination period is open.

Qualifying period and geographical area

The good deed must have happened between 24
th and 30th September 2012, within the boundaries of the City of York and the County of North Yorkshire. 2

Flood Hero Awards Categories

Most Helpful Individual

(the helpful act occurred within the York and North Yorkshire geographical area)

Most Helpful Team

(the helpful act occurred within the York and North Yorkshire geographical area)

Most Helpful Hambleton District Individual or Team

(the helpful act occurred within the Hambleton District Council geographical area)

Most Helpful Richmondshire District Individual or Team

(the helpful act occurred within the Richmondshire District Council geographical area)

Most Helpful Harrogate Borough Individual or Team

(the helpful act occurred within the Harrogate Borough Council geographical area)

Most Helpful City of York Individual or Team

(the helpful act occurred within the City of York Council geographical area)

Most Helpful Selby District Individual or Team

(the helpful act occurred within the Selby District Council geographical area)

Most Helpful Emergency Services Individual or Team

(the helpful act occurred within the York and North Yorkshire geographical area)

Most Helpful Emergency Planning Individual or Team

(the helpful act occurred within the York and North Yorkshire geographical area)

Bravest Animal

(the animal resided within the York and North Yorkshire geographical area)

Nominations close

The deadline for nominations is 11.59pm on Sunday 2
nd December 2012.

Where to send your nominations

By post: BBC Radio York Flood Hero Awards 2012, 20 Bootham Row, York, YO30 7BR.
By email:

Data Protection

The BBC will only use your personal details for the purposes of administering this award, and will not publish them or provide them to anyone not connected with the award without your permission. Your details, and those of your nominee, may be used by a researcher before awards are given, to highlight interesting stories from the floods. You will be contacted by a producer if we wish to feature you and your nominee in this way. Please visit the BBC's Privacy & Cookies Policy ( for more information.

Noel Coward at Kirkby Overblow

Kirkby Overblow Dramatic Society will be performing two one-act plays entitled Still Life and Red Peppers, both from Noel Coward's Tonight at 8.30, a collection of ten short plays Coward wrote in 1935.  Still Life was one of the most influential plays from the collection and follows the lives of a suburban housewife and a successful doctor who meet by chance at a railway station. Their paths accidentally cross again the following week and without realising it they fall in love.  Many people will know Brief Encounter, the film that was made of the play in 1945 starring Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson.  Red Peppers is Coward's affectionate take on life in the music-halls of the 1930s.  George and Lily Pepper form a music-hall act which has been touring the provinces for years, still using the same routine that George's parents used before him.  Needless to say, the Peppers are slipping further and further down the bill.  The play involves two musical numbers from this routine, the last number going spectacularly wrong!

Performances from Thursday 29th  November to Saturday 1 December.
The link to their site seems to be broken this morning, but if anyone wants further information or tickets, email me and I'll put you in touch.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

'A Poor Do,' my Grandfather Would Have Said

Over thirty years ago now, my introduction to nursing was as a nursing auxilliary on a psycho-geriatric ward. We used to work 13 hour night shifts and I grew to love the patients - we spent more time with them than with our own families. Many were such characters that I remember them to this day. There was one who had owned a pub and who used to call 'time gentlemen please' whenever he wanted to get rid of unwelcome nurses or visitors at his bedside. Then there was one who had fled from Russia in the wake of the 1917 revolution and who used to enthrall us with tales of life in St Petersburg - some of which, I suspect, were grossly exaggerated but nevertheless gave a wonderful flavour of a long-lost culture. Many of our patients had physical and mental frailties that they coped with bravely - more bravely than I think I could. Some hardly ever had visitors.

I think the saddest article I have read this week (in The Times) was one that drew attention to the fact that many over 75's in Britain say they feel intensely lonely. Jeremy Hunt, the health minister, has launched a project to help councils, health services and social care agencies map isolation among the very elderly and  improve services so that people do not suffer from 'social disconnection' - a rather grand title for feeling abandoned and very lonely.

It is often said that you can judge how civilized a society is by its attitude to its oldest members. While I am sure that the majority of people respect and love their older relatives and friends, do we in fact do enough for them in our ever busier lives? What most older people need is time. Even carers now have such tight schedules that it is difficult for them to spend time 'just talking'. Apparently more than half of those over 75 live alone and about a tenth of them report very profound levels of isolation. One in five have contact with family or neighbours less than once a week. Loneliness effects a person's physical as well as mental health and the research suggests that not having any company can lead to higher levels of heart disease, stroke and dementia. It also leads to loss of confidence so that a person can spiral into a state of mind where they just can't motivate themselves to go out and meet people.

The article, by Rosemary Bennett, the Times' Social Affairs Correspondent, with its picture of an elderly lady looking absolutely desolate, frankly made me feel like crying. I can't imagine many things worse than simply not having anyone to go to with your problems and successes, no one to off-load to after an upsetting experience, no one to laugh with or to make you feel that you are understood and appreciated. One elderly person I talked to recently said how difficult she found clinic appointments. She would look forward to having a morning out with people to talk to but then find that although she was asked a lot of questions she came away feeling that there had been no real two-way comminucation which made her feel even more alone. 

What can we do? I know that many churches have teas and events for older people. One church runs 'holidays at home' for people who need a summer holiday but can't go very far. I know that here in my own village, people do look out for neighbours who live alone or need help. Apparently there is now a Campaign to End Loneliness and it is good that the government is drawing attention to the problem. However, I suspect the real answer is that we need to reveiw our attitude to older people. They are the members of our society who have the long-term narrative, they are often the ones who have learned to live with paradox and disappointment and yet somehow make sense of life. They have a perspective we can ill afford to ignore. Time spent with an older person is probably one of the most important things you can do. And even when communication may be difficult because of deafness or confusion it still matters that the gift of time has been given. 

When Winston Churchill had his 75th birthday a photographer said to him, 'Sir, I hope that I will also take your picture on your 100th birthday.' Churchill answered, 'I don't see why you shouldn't, young man. You look reasonably fit and healthy!'  Many of us are living into our 90's and 100's these days. The final 25 years of life should not be lived in loneliness. These years can be a time to cultivate a sense of fun and, in the best possible way, to help others not to take themselves too seriously! They can be a time to share wisdom and memories and to make new friends too. We had a lady in my last parish who, at 92, used to tell catarpillar jokes and play the mouth organ at church events. The children absolutely loved her. Another lady used to come to everything and just sit and smile at everybody. She never said much, even in a discussion group, but everybody missed her when she wasn't there.

If you want to do something to help (or do it through your church) or if you are feeling lonely, visit

Or speak to your local Vicar or minister - lurk at the church door or give them a call.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Biblical Hope

  St John's College, Durham - Invitation
Come and join us on Saturday 1st December, 10am for 10.30am start

Rich Wyld (CODEC PhD student) will be speaking at St John’s College on

‘Reading the Bible Hopefully’, drawing upon 1 Corinthians 13:12.

The session will finish at 12noon.  Lunch is available at St John’s College. 

Please contact Theresa in advance  if you wish to stay for lunch.

The event will also be livestreamed online.

For more information visit:

Theresa Phillips
Administrative Assistant
Faith & Order Secretary / CODEC
St John’s College
3 South Bailey

Tel:  0191 334 3855


Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Halve Poverty by 2015

Last night, dozens of women joined MPs in the House of Commons to launch a new network to empower women. Woman to Woman, an initiative of Micah Challenge, aims to empower girls and women to be change makers to help the poor by prompting action, prayer and campaigns. You can read about the aims of the Micah Challenge (a global network of Christians) on

MPs Caroline Spelman, Dianne Abbott and Stephen Timms joined a full Committee Room to hear about plans to help the almost 1 billion women and girls in extreme poverty worldwide.

Amanda Jackson, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Micah Challenge, said,

"Whatever the formal stance on women in leadership within the UK Anglicans, the whole church needs to support the value and worth of women - all made in God's image - with dreams and hopes, talents and intelligence.
"Woman to Woman is one initiative that seeks to encourage women who believe in God's transforming hope to speak out and take action against injustices suffered by women and girls - like trafficking, sexual violence, maternal deaths, poverty and low status.
"It wants to highlight the wonderful work already being done quietly by women and encourage more women to see the possibilities for advocacy.
"A deeper and bigger debate is one that is not so widely discussed - the status and security of tens of millions of women who still live in extreme poverty and have little power in their homes or in public life."

The Woman to Woman organisers hope to remind world leaders of their promises made in 2000 to meet the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, one of which is to halve world poverty levels. 

For more information see or follow the initiative on Twitter @w2wglobal

Sunday, 11 November 2012

We Shall Remember Them

As Acts of Remembrance go on all over the country today, I find myself reflecting on the fact that it is even more important to remember the truth about the effects of war on ordinary people as we move further and further away from the two world wars and direct experience of war becomes somthing that few British people possess. When I was a child, most people's grandparents and parents had not only lived through at least one major war but had also lost friends, family members, fiances. The effect of war was visible everywhere. My grandfather who was in the trenches, I think between 1915 and 1917 including fighting at Passchendaele, had a slightly mysterious 'war wound' which caused him some pain. He never ever spoke about what he had experienced and even as an old man he would often spend long hours lost in absolute silence, gazing out to sea or drumming his fingers on the table. My father was a navigator in the Fleet Air Arm during the second world war and, similarly, he hardly ever spoke of his experiences - tales had to be dragged out of him. What he had observed of war made him a pacifist for the rest of his life. He would attend remembrance parades but he avoided anything that tended to glorify the exploits of war in any way. All his life he, too, would lapse into half days of total silence from which he would suddenly recover as if nothing had happened. My mother (who was in the WRNS during WW2, spending some time at Greenwich where she witnessed the terrible effects of the bombing of London) could never say goodbye in less that 10 minutes (even if you were just going to stay with a friend for a night). She never wasted a morsel of food - as an elderly lady she would struggle to eat over-large restaurant portions because you just didn't refuse food. She saved everything from string to twice-used dress material and even darned tights a number of times over before consigning them to the bin. I can see how some of my parents' and grandparents' wartime preoccupations and their ways of coping have affected my life and others of my generation in our family. I can recall my mother telling me how utterly tranfixed and horrified she had been at the end of the war when the stories of the liberation of the concentration camps began to emerge. She gave me Anne Frank's diary to read when I was about 9, 'Lest we forget', and the possibility of living in a society where you could abruptly have your freedom taken away was something that haunted my childhood.

I cannot begin to comprehend the courage of soldiers and civilians caught up in war. It is surely our duty to remember those who have given their lives in the Armed Forces and their families and to pray for and support them. It is important to hear the voices and the stories of those who have been and are experiencing war, civilians and refugees as well as military personnel. As my father used to remind us every year, it is no good just regretting the fact that war has happened and still does. His life-long belief was that we must do something to work to prevent it and to support those who are unwittingly and unwillingly caught up in its horrors, bearing the consequential mental, physical  and social scars for the rest of their lives. He used to say that the best kind of remembrance was for everyone to do some small thing to make their own contibution to goodwill between people. Dad's way of 'doing something' was to volunteer as a Samaritan and to get involved with local politics classes over many years. He and Mum never missed an opportunity to vote and took their responsibilities to the democratic system and to international aid very seriously indeed. 

I've recently been reading Kate Adie's autobiography and reflecting on the number of conflicts there have been since the second world war. Huge numbers of people suffer the ravages of wars we scarcely hear about or give a second thought to every year. Medics spend their energy coming up with the most astonishing life-saving techniques for a small number of individuals while other great swathes of population die from diesease, starvation and violence.  In the quiet of the evening, let us pray

Have mercy, O God, on this distracted and suffering world,
on nations perplexed and divided.
Give to us and to all people a spirit 
of repentance and ammendment;
direct the counsels of all who work
for the removal of the causes of strife 
and for the promotion of goodwill;
and hasten the coming of Your kingdom of peace and love. 
                                                                                                   Frank Colquhoun

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Rural Connectivity

Reading DEFRA's Rural Statement 2012 (produced in September), I was interested to learn that the government has made a commitment to ensuring that the UK has the most efficient superfast broadband network in Europe by 2015 and that DEFRA will work to make sure that this will include rural areas. To this end they have introduced three investment programmes
  • The Rural Broadband Programme - £530m dedicated to delivering 2Mbp broadband to all rural premises and superfast broadband in 90% of cases.
  • The Rural Community Broadband Fund - A £20m fund to help 'hard to reach' communities receive the same services. This fund works by financing 50% of the cost of local initiatives to develop broadband in an area.
  • The Mobile Infrastructure Project - £150m in capital expenditure to improve mobile phone coverage (welcome news - we have to hang out of a window or climb up the back garden to hold a mobile conversation!)
There is also support for Local Enterprise Partnerships in the form of research and 
information to help them in their development of local intiatives to get more businesses connected to superfast broadband. There is an organisation called Go On UK working to improve digital skills across the rural population.

All this got me thinking about churches. We still have three churches that do not have electricity in this archdeaconry and several that do not have water. We all know how difficult that makes it to use and maintain the building, romantic candle-lit carol services apart. We are the generation that needs to make sure that our churches don't end up with the same scenario as reagrds broadband. In twenty years time (probably a lot sooner) public buildings which are not connected to broadband will become limited in their potential usefulness and attractiveness as places to gather for community and arts events, worship, education, even for meetings.

The Go ON UK website has information about getting involved and making a difference locally - click on 'Act Now' and go to Organisations. It also tells you how to become a 'Digital Champion' in order to use your skills to help others. I've lifted the UK Digital Skills Charter from their site.

'In 2012, an estimated 16 million adults still do not have the Basic Online Skills to fully benefit from the internet - including 4.6 million people in the workforce. At Go ON UK, we believe that:
  • Everyone in the UK should have the Basic Online Skills to enjoy the full benefits of the web
  • Everyone deserves world-class digital services that meet their needs and are useable by all
  • Communities that don't have the skills to fully enjoy the benefits of the internet should not be left behind
  • Every organisation - in the private, public and voluntary sector - has a role to play in building our nation's digital capability.'
This is something that, with our track record of educational opportunity for all and, most importantly, our understanding of God as a God who communicates through word and interpretation, the churches can and should be engaging in. I'd like to see churches encouraging members to become involved in projects to bring broadband and digital skills to the homes and businesses of their area, in using social media themselves as a primary means of communication (among others), and in working to make sure church buildings are included in the communty's plans for broadband.

For more information go to or  and click on 'site map' then ' Rural Community Broadband Funding.'

Friday, 9 November 2012

Archbishop 105

Delighted to hear the news of the next Archbishop of Canterbury this morning. I think we all need to keep Justin Welby, his wife Caroline and their family in our prayers - and also the people of the Durham Diocese for whom this is probably not such good news. I am somewhat startled to realise that he trained at the same college (St John's/Cranmer Hall, Durham) where I did my training, but a year after me! Now that's old, isn't it, when the Archbishop of Canterbury was at college after you were?! I think he brings a geat deal of experience and wisdom from both within and without the church and, together with his ability to express himself carefully and in a manner which is straightforward to understand, this all seems to bode well - a useful blend in an Archbishop. Added to that, he has a reputation for being able to handle conflict and bring a measure of reconciliation in difficult circumstances. Praise God for someone brave enough to take up the role.  Here is the press release.  

Announcement of the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury
Friday 9th November 2012
The Queen has approved the nomination of the Right Reverend Justin Welby for election as the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury. He will succeed Dr Rowan Williams who is retiring at the end of December after ten years as Archbishop. The Right Reverend Justin Welby, aged 56, is currently Bishop of Durham. He will be enthroned as Archbishop of Canterbury in Canterbury Cathedral on 21st March 2013.

He said today: "I don't think anyone could be more surprised than me at the outcome of this process. It has been an experience, reading more about me than I knew myself. To be nominated to Canterbury is at the same time overwhelming and astonishing. It is overwhelming because of those I follow, and the responsibility it has. It is astonishing because it is something I never expected to happen.
“One of the hardest things will be to leave Durham. I work with a group of wonderful senior colleagues and remarkable clergy and lay people. It is an astonishing part of the country, one which as a family we were greatly looking forward to living in for many years. The people are direct, inspiring and wonderfully friendly. In many ways it has been the ancient cradle of British Christianity. It is a place of opportunity and an even greater future than its past.”

Dr Rowan Williams issued the following statement:
"I am delighted at the appointment of the Right Reverend Justin Welby to Canterbury. I have had the privilege of working closely with him on various occasions and have always been enriched and encouraged by the experience. He has an extraordinary range of skills and is a person of grace, patience, wisdom and humour. He will bring to this office both a rich pastoral experience and a keen sense of international priorities, for Church and world. I wish him - with Caroline and the family - every blessing, and hope that the Church of England and the Anglican Communion will share my pleasure at this appointment and support him with prayer and love."

There is a good biography of him which goes beyond the usual platitudes at

Thursday, 8 November 2012

A Walk Around Holy Island

Lindisfarne Castle and Harbour

Holy Island is one of those 'thin' places. In the words of Josiah Conder's famous hymn, 'Alike pervaded by His eye, all parts of God's dominion lie, this world of ours and worlds unseen and thin the boundary in between.' On Holy Island I am always so aware of the Communion of Saints. I recently led a retreat on Lindisfarne for Ripon Cathedral and several of us commented that, as we worshipped in St Mary's Church, we found ourselves praying about the living and the departed as though there were no difference - there was a deep sense that we were surrounded, joined and led by all who have in the past and do now follow the journey of faith.  

St Cuthbert's Island

St Mary's Church

Services take place each morning and evening at St Mary's Church, led by local Christians who make visitors very welcome. There are also Celtic Prayers at Open Gate Retreat House (run by the Community of Aidan and  Hilda) at midday and in the late evening. One of the pleasures of going to the island for a retreat or holiday is that you can dip into the daily worship of these two communities and you are unobtrusively but warmly welcomed - perhaps not so much welcomed as surrounded by those who draw alongside you, for a time, in prayer. On Tuesdays and Thursdays there are commemorations of St Aidan and St Cuthbert - in the summer months this involves a procession from the church to sites overlooking Cuthbert's cell and Aidan's statue. Lindisfarne is a very holy place and it is obvious not only that prayer has been continuously offered there in the past, but that there is still a constant stream of prayer being offered daily by God's diverse people - pilgrims and tourists, natives of the island, of the mainland and people from all parts of the world, Christians and people of other faiths and none. 

St Aidan

Holy Island is a wonderful place to go for a day's pilgrimage, a retreat or a holiday. I have benefitted enormously from going on my own or with family for holidays or with church and student groups for retreats. The history of the island both sacred and secular is varied and interesting, there is space to walk and explore quietly to your heart's content, expecially when the tide is in and most of the visitors depart. Last week we stayed for a few days and saw and heard seals and a great variety of birds. The Lindisfarne Scriptorium and the Christian Centre run by St Mary's Retreat House offer the visitor sources of inspirational artwork and Celtic texts.   and  

Cross and Monastery
From Adnabod (Knowing) by Waldo Williams, transl. Noel Davies
You are our breath. You are the flight
Of our longing to the depths of Heaven.
You are the water which flees from
 The wilderness of our anxiety and fear.
You are the salt which purifies.
You are the piercing wind of our pomposity.
You are the traveller who knocks.
You are the prince who dwells within us.
I always enjoy this poem which, like so many Celtic prayers, surrounds us with the mystery God, without and within. This is the God who is infinitely great and beyond us, to whom our soul reaches out and the same God whose Spirit dwells within us, as close to us as our own breath and more understanding of us than our own minds.
Beyond the Harbour and out to the Farne Islands

Monday, 5 November 2012

Plans for New Yorkshire Diocese Released

Dioceses Commission announces details of draft scheme

The Dioceses Commission has released details of its finalised draft scheme for the reorganisation of Church of England diocesan structures in West Yorkshire and the Dales. In short, the proposal now is to replace the existing three dioceses of Ripon and leeds, Bradford and Wakefield and create a new single diocese. The report explains in more detail than was previously the case how, if  the scheme is approved by the three Diocesan Synods and the general Synod, the three dioceses will come together. There is also an accompanying document that tells us why, in the Commission's opinion this will be better for mission across this part of Yorkshire. The Commission has concluded  that a new single diocese would be the best way to meet the challenges and opportunities of the region.

The scheme provides a legal framework which would enable the following to happen:
  • The creation of one new diocese of Leeds, also to be known as the Diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales.
  • The appointment of a Bishop of Leeds in overall charge of the new diocese (the bishop will also be area bishop for Leeds)
  • Bishops in each of the five areas (Bradford, Huddersfield, Leeds, Ripon and Wakefield), dedicated to the parishes in their area and therefore more closely in touch.
  • Five archdeaconries, of which the most northerly will be Richmond and Craven.
  • Parishes on the Durham and York borders to remain within the newly created diocese.
  • The Retention of the cathedrals in Wakefiled, Ripon and Bradford on a co-equal basis. Any possible future changes in staffing at the discretion of the diocesan bishop.
  • The possibilty of the creation of a new pro-cathedral (Leeds Minster) in Leeds at some point inthe future at the discretion of the new Bishop of leeds.
  • Providing a framework for the new diocese to decide its own organisational structure and ways of working. The Commission anticipates that this will allow the new diocese to make savings that it can reinvest in mission.
You can read the full Scheme and the accompanying commentaries here

I shall comment further when I have had time to digest the implications but I welcome the fact that the Commission has recommended one new diocese, I think the Episcopal Areas and archdeaconries are workable, and I am glad that we are now much clearer about what the future holds. The bishops and senior staff are very willing to come to Deanery Synods and PCCs with a presentation about the Scheme and to speak to Diocesan Synod Members to answer questions and discuss anxieties between now and March 2nd when the Diocesan Synod has to vote on whether or not to adopt the Scheme. If you would like to take advantage of this please contact the Diocesan office or my office as soon as possible to book a date. Don't leave it until February!!

Safe Messaging

Our Safeguarding Officer, Sue Booth, has just produced a little card with advice for how to safeguard yourself when using Social Media. I thought it was very helpful and so I have reproduced a summary here

Questions to Ask Yourself When Using Social Media

Who is the audience?
Nothing is really private in the Social Media world, even if you think it is.
When I'm going for my next job, would I want my potential employer to see this?
Employers often check on social media sites for comments, posts and photos posted by potential employees. This can include material that is quite 'old'. It is very difficult to completely erase material - even if you have deleted or double deleted a message or post, it still exists in digital space.
What impression do I give of myself and my group?
If you are a baptised member of the church, you are also a respresentative of Christ and of His body. What does your message say to others about the faith and the church?
Would anyone find my message offensive or discriminatory?
Some degree of self-restraint and self-monitoring is necessary. You are subject to the law of the land with regard to anything that could be thought to be inciting others to violence, hatred or discrimination. It is also important to remember that messages are potentially read across many cultures and by people who think very differently from ourselves.
Is what I am saying defamatory? Does it bring me, my group or any other person into disrepute?
Facts need to be correct. Opinions should not show you, your group or others in a dishonest or unwarrantedly unflattering light.
Is there a conflict between what I am saying and my public roles and responsibilities?
This might be especially important when tempted to make jokes or to express irony! 
Also - it's very important to think about the use of photographs and only to use photos of children or vulnerable adults with the permission of their parents, guardians or the person him or herself in the case of adults. I don't use identifyable pictures of children on my blog and I only use photos without expressly asking permission if the people in them were part of what could be defined as a public occasion.
Finally - if there is a smidgen of doubt in your mind, sleep on it and consult a friend before you click on 'publish'!  

Inspiring Churches

 This looks like a really stimulating and informative training day for churches who want to think about the use of their building in the widest sense - from maintenance to social welfare projects, from heritage to environmental issues, from funding to asset management. Make sure you send someone (or perhaps a couple of people) from your PCC if you are engaged in a building project already or if you feel your building could be made better use of or if you think that your church could be more of a resource for local social action. The day is a joint venture with Bradford and Wakefield Dioceses and will, I hope, be a taster of the kind of training resources utilizing both national and regional expretise that we will be able to offer through the three dioceses working together. The Key-note speaker is author and church development consultant Maggie Durran; our own Kathryn Fitzsimons (Urban Officer, Ripon and Leeds) will be contributing one of the workshops. There is a great line up of other experts too. Don't miss this opportunity to think about how you can develop your church building ansd tyo obtain some very practical advice! BOOK NOW online at

Latest on Ash Dieback Disease

The Forestry Commission has issued some useful information about Ash Dieback Disease (Chalaria Fraxinea) which may be of help to those of you who manage churchyards. The disease has so far mainly been reported in urban areas, parks and gardens not hasd yet been widely identified in the natural environment in Britain and so it is really important that we keep a watch out for any signs of it in our churchyards and take the appropriate action. You should report any suspected cases to

The Forestry Commission Research Disease Diagnostic Advisory Service 01420 23000

Ash Dieback Disease is caused by a fungus. The symptoms are leaf loss and obvious crown dieback and the disease will probably lead to the death of a tree. The features to watch out for are wilting and blackish-brown discolouration of the leaves, small lens-shaped legions or necrotic spots on the bark which enlarge to form canckers and then the wilting and death of shoots and branches, especially in the upper crown of the tree. The disease is probably spread by insects, rain splash and by the movement of leaves, twigs and branches from diseased trees. Frost can cause some of the same early stage symptoms.

Ash is a prevelant species in the broadleaf woodlands of the the limestone upalnds in the Yorkshire Dales, so we should be extra vigilant in order to try to stop it spreading. If you have ash trees in your churchyard, please inspect them regularly and please clean boots, equipment and tyres that have been in the churchyard well. It is recommended that you do not take equipment used in one place where there are ash trees into another woodland within 24 hours. You should also clean dogs who have walked near ash trees carefully.

There is information at (put ash dieback into the search box) (put 'ash dieback' into the search box)

Our Diocescan Property Office has issued the following advice:
What should we do about Ash Dieback Disease?
If you find signs of the disease please take photographs and contact the Property Team at the Diocesan Office immediately (0113 2000 549).
 If you find no signs of infection this does not mean that your trees will remain
unaffected in the long term. Monthly inspections are recommended until further
guidance is received from the government.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

The Prayer of the Church of England

I was delighted to discover this new offering from the Liturgical Commision of the Church of England (the people who write the texts used in services.) It would make a very good Christmas present.
Church House Publishing 2012

The book's compilers have collected into one volume some of the most popular and enduring prayers of the Church of England, both old, traditional ones ( from The Book of Common Prayer and other sources) and the more recent prayers from Common Worship that have captured our imagination and are already loved by worshippers up and down the country. Many of these prayers express in a few words thoughts that are too deep for spontaneous utterance - you know the feeling 'I couldn't have put it into words myself, but that's exactly it!'  Many of the texts also make me think and challenge me - can I really mean that? I think this is the heuristic use of prayer - to pray something that is a bit more than you can manage but to feel that you would like to be drawn to that place of grace and understanding. This is prayer that stretches the imagination. A Roman catholic priest who taught me theology once said that the glory of the Anglican tradition is its Collects (short prayers which collect into a brief space complex and profound thoughts.) I predict that this will become one of the Anglican classics of the first part of the twenty first century providing, as it does, an insight into Church of England identity and spirituality. The prayers each have a short introduction to their historical context which helps the worshipper to dig deeper into their meaning.

 I'm sure we've all got our favourite prayers that chime with something very deep within us. One of mine is

Bring us, O Lord, at our last awkening 
Into the house and gate of heaven,
To enter into that gate and dwell in that house
where there shall be no darkness nor dazzling, but one equal light,
no noise nor silence, but one equal music,
no fears nor hopes but one equal possession,
no ends nor beginnings, but one equal eternity
in the habitations of Thy glory and dominion,
world without end.
John Donne 1572-1631
I also love, for it's wonderful Kingdom theology, the post communion prayer which I think first came in with the Alternative Service Book 1980
Father of all, we give you thanks and praise,
that when we were still far off,
You met us in Your Son and brought us home.
Dying and living, He declared Your love,
gave us grace and opened the gate of glory.
May we who share Christ's body live His risen life,
we who drink His cup bring life to others,
we whom the Spirit lights give light to the world.
Keep us firm in the hope you have set before us,
so we and all Your children shall be free
and the whole earth live to praise Your name,
thought Jesus Christ our Lord.
The culmination of the prayer sweeps the whole world up into the praise of God and this reminds me of Cranmer's placing of the Gloria at this point of the service, after the distribution of the bread and wine - it seems the right place to locate a peon of praise on behalf of all peoples.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

The Fourth Age - Life Long Learning

We are used to hearing about the Third Age but lately we are beginning to hear about Four Stages of life. People are living to be much older and many are active into their 60's and 70's in ways they were not previously - I was speaking to one man on Sunday who is still working aged 78. It's also true that many people are progressing into their 80's and 
90's and looking for ways to find friendship and to go on engaging in the adventure of life, even where physical health, sight, hearing or mobility has deteriorated to some degree. The writer Ann Morisy puts it like this, 'For the first time in human history, our map of life consists of not three stages, but four. The suddenness with which this new shape to our lives has come about makes it unsurprising that we fumble for ways of making sense of this apparent gift of extra years.'  

Apparently anyone reaching 65 (which, for most people, used to represent the age of retirement or beyond) can expect an average of 15 years' further active life. This general expectation of a greatly extended period at the end of life is a relatively new phenomenon. I can remember my grandparents commenting on every obituary they read in the Times where the deceased had had more than his or her 'three score years and ten' - it was unusual.

So what are the distinctive qualities and tasks of the Fourth Stage of life? Carl Jung lived to be 87. His psychological theory placed great emphasis on the need for a person to pass through the process of individuation which often occurs in later life, certainly after mid-life. By means of this process, poeple work through earlier internal conflicts and losses to become more themselves. James Fowler noted that, in the final stage of life, people often discover how to become more comfortable living with paradox, recognising that two truths that appear to conflict can be accepted and 'lived' together so they make a larger picture of what truth is - 'I loved my parent/my parent was sometimes unkind to me'  can come to be understood in the wider context, 'My parent had a difficult life/my life has been valuable despite the wounds/I can both love my parent and acknowledge that they were unkind'. Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross both portray the spiritual life as a succession of stages or 'rooms' through which we move, coming to stages where there is much perplexity, stages of comparative peace and stages where there is a deep yearning to discover more or to plumb the depths of our own psyche in order to look at the hidden places.

What are the implications of this for the churches?