Sunday, 30 September 2012

Musings on Children and God's Kingdom

Jesus took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in His arms, He said,' Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes Me.'
(Mark 9.37)

And in Matthew's version of the same story, we read,
'I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heave.'
(Matt 18.3)

What a great day for that little boy! Imagine being called out by Jesus the great Rabbi! You can just see the little chap stood there proudly, rushing back to tell Mum and Dad and Granny and Grandpa...and perhaps years later telling his own grandchildren about how Jesus, yes they one they say died on a cross and rose again, had actually called him out in front of the crowd to help with His teaching. Last week at Richmond, Archbishop Sentamu called 6 children out to help him with his talk; I overheard one of them telling his friend about it - he will remember that day for a long time!

Children feature a surprising number of times in Jesus' teaching and ministry - 12 times in the gospels. They are not just valued, they are given the highest place. We are told, unless we all become like little children, we cannot enter God's Kingdom. If we receive a child in Jesus' name, that is like receiving Jesus Himself. Why are children so important? What does Jesus mean when He says we should all be like children? I want to explore four aspects of the nature of childhood that might be relevant.


Children have that marvellous sense of curiosity and wonder, don't they? They're discovering the world for the first time, seeing it all with new eyes. They're not jaded and cynical about what they see, but excited by it. Isn't it that sense of wonder and curiosity at God's world and where He has placed us in it that leads us into God's Kingdom?.

You don't have to be a child to retain a sense of wonder. I met living proof of that recently. I gave a lady a lift home from a church variety show - it turned out she is 90 in November. She had just been on stage playing the harmonica and telling caterpillar jokes. She told me that for her 80th birthday she had been up in a hot air balloon, for her 85th she had had a ride in a small plane and for her 89th (incase she did not reach her 90th!) she had ridden pillion on the back of a motor bike. That is surely retaining a sense of the wonder of life - and, interestingly, the children at the show had clearly loved her.  Despite her rather old fashioned manners and use of language there was an immediate bond between her and the children.

Perhaps we aren't all physically fit enough to go flying at 80, but the challenge is, what we can do to recapture a sense of wonder at the world about us? A sense of gladness that God daily provides for us. An enthusiasm that we can share with others with a shining face.


Children have a deep rooted and immediate sense of what is just and fair. Try sharing  a box of chocolates between them or refereeing a game when they know they rules better than you do! 'It's not fair, Miss!' In the words of the Lord to Zechariah the prophet, 'You are required to administer justice'!

Is Jesus saying that a profound sense of what is right and fair is a prerequisite for entering the kingdom of Heaven? And, accompanying that, so deep a sense of outrage at what is wrong that we are compelled to take action. In the gospels, Jesus does not often talk about hell. But He does speak of the flames of hell at the end of at least two parables. You remember the parable of Dives, the rich man, and Lazarus, the poor man at his gate whom he refuses to lift a finger to help? And the parable of the sheep and the goats where the goats are those who have not fed the hungry or given the thirsty to drink or visited the prisoner or the sick and so on. Jesus Himself displayed a great sense of outrage at life's injustices - that some had all they could possibly want and did nothing for those who had very little. That some thought themselves better than others or always in the right and were not prepared to be moved by the plight or the words of others in very different circumstances. Children want what's fair for themselves but they generally have a well developed sense of what's fair for other children, too, and will stand up for it.

A willingness to get involved

A very big difference between children and teenagers is that children can't wait to get started on an activity, can they? But as anyone who's worked with teenagers will know, they hang back. Will they look silly? Will their friends join in? What are the risks? The older we grow, the gretaer the temptation to think,' 'Let someone else do it' or at least, 'let someone else try it out first...if it works, I may join in.'

Jesus was fully engaged with those around Him. He did not necessarily hide from awkward or threatening situations (though sometimes he took evasive action), He took risks, He responded to whoever was persistent enough to come to Him. Perhaps one of the things that marks out members of the Kingdom of God is that they don't stand on the side lines and watch. They don't marginalize themselves or other people. One of the most moving performances I've ever seen of the story of Romeo and Juliet was by pupils of the Sheppherd School in Nottingham. It was an interpretation, in movement, of Juliet's sorrow over Romeo's death. You could feel the grief, touch the tragedy. This was performed by a group of young people with learning difficulties. I was struck by the way in which their teachers had encouraged them to get fully immersed in the story, to understand it from the inside of their own experiences of love and then to communicate what was in their hearts. From this emerged as eloquent a dance as I have ever seen about human loss and grief. To enter God's Kingdom, we need the ability to engage, not to stand on the sidelines as an observer, to give the things that come our way all we've got, even in the face of discouragements.

The ability to receive

Children love presents, don't they? They love to given something small from your house to take away and treasure. They trust the people who care for them. They are not too proud to receive help when they really need it. They know they are dependent on their parents and carers. Being childlike means returning to that sense of immediate dependence on God. Receiving from God thankfully and gladly. I have a friend who was recently working in Tanzania. He was very impressed by the way that the people he was working with literally got down on their knees everyday outside their homes and gave thanks for the new day. Not only that, they received every meal, every slice of fruit by the roadside, every journey safely completed as a gift from God that was to be remarked upon and prayed about with gratitude.

Become like little children! Retain or regain a sense of wonder. Love justice. Plung in and get involved. Receive everything as gift from God. Is this what Jesus meant when He said, 'Unless you become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of God'?

Saturday, 29 September 2012

All we like sheep...: Yorkshire Diocesan Reorganisation: a view from th...

All we like sheep...: Yorkshire Diocesan Reorganisation: a view from th...: A reorganisation based on community and mission. Or is it? Three Dioceses are to be merged,  but   how will this look from the rural...

Churches - Radical or Reactionary?

I have been disturbed, as I think any Christian leader ought to be, by the number of articles I've read lately about the decline in church attendance. There has been quite a bit of moaning and groaning about churches (and especially church leaders) being too ostrich-like and burying their heads in the sand rather than facing up to the visible facts and the statistics that show that the mainstream denominations will shrink to an alarming degree by 2050 or thereabouts. The Revd Dr Patrick Richmond recently informed the Church of England's General Synod that the average age of a member is now 61. Figures put together for the Church Commissioners suggest that the number of Sunday worshippers will fall from 1.2m in 2007 to 125,000 by 2057.  The Research and Statistics Department of the Church of England has challenged these figures but, however you do the research and the interpretation, it does seem you cannot avoid the conclusion that fewer people attend services on Sundays and fewer people are involved in the life of the mainstream denominations in traditionally recognised ways. So, goes the rhetoric, churches should be trying out radically new ways of doing things - or stopping doing things altogether to concentrate on new kinds of relationship with Christ and with one another. All this is very understanable but sounds just a little bit reactive and panicky to me. A cooler-headed approach may be needed to get the statistics right in the first place, then to interpret them against the very complex backgrounds of social change and internal church politics which are exerting their influence on the shape of the twenty first century Western church. 

Firstly, then; the right kind of stats. If you look at a lot of the research, it shows the
Sunday attendance of people who could be said in some way to have identified themselves as 'core' members. In the C of E we don't even measure all the weekday services (and I don't mean weddings and funerals but times throughout the week when people get together to pray, worship, celebrate or gather round some identifyably Christian activity.) We also don't measure all the times when the community meets the church - the special services, lectures and events that lots of non-regular attenders come to. We are setting up a Church Observatory in our diocese and one of the first questions we have asked all our parishes is, 'What do you think we should be measuring?' Until we know what the important, life-giving contacts with the community are, we can't begin to resource them and plan for them properly. We need to start looking at all the after-school services, cafe church meetings, cell groups, tea-and-worship events for the elderly and so many other things that churches are doing, but not on Sundays.

Secondly, not all the evidence does show decline. David Goodhew, who is on the staff at Cranmer Hall in Durham, has edited Church Growth in Britain 1980 - Present (published as part of the Ashgate Contemporary Ecclesiology Series.) This volume paints a somewhat wider and different picture in which diversity appears to be one key to church growth. David and his colleagues' work has been endorsed by a range of theologians and leaders from across the denominations and it shows that there has been substantial church growth in the UK since 1980. The growth pattern is complex, multi-ethnic and can be seen across many different social and geographical contexts. It provides an experiential critique of the media and academy-driven notion that secularisation has effectively killed off all but the dregs of Christianity. The book powerfully demonstrates that, while there is decline in some parts of the church, this is balanced by the vitality of other parts. Undertsnading this requires a radical change in our way of assessing Christianity in the UK. I have to say this entirely backs up my own impression of what is happening which is earthed in 25 years' ministry in inner city, suburban and rural parishes. I have seen really ordinary churches change and grow, I have seen Christians from some of the newer and some of the ethnic minority churches become the catalyst for Christian growth in an area and I have seen churches 'revived'  by the most unlikely people from the young man with Downs Syndrome to the deeply faithful elderly lady who surprises everyone by 'doing change' better than people half her age. God's rainbow people!

Thirdly, I think the shape of churches is changing. A higher percentage of those who do get involved in church life are active and take on responsibility than was the case 30 years ago. There are far more cell groups, study groups and groups meeting for prayer and discussion. The concept that some of these groups hold themselves accountable to one another in quite a deep way over their Christian discipleship is growing - this was not something you heard much about in my parents' generation. Movements like third order oblates, the Northumbrian Community, Cursillo and the Rejesus - 'back to basics' movement are having a significant impact alongside the large Christian festivals like New Wine and many others I could mention. In this area of Yorkshire, I see signs that Christians are reconnecting with the deep roots of British Christian spirituality. At grass roots level, we have moved perhaps not so much beyond as around the divisions that stemmed from the Reformation in the sense that we no longer see them as 'life-giving' to the different denominations but more as historical stories which are signs of how deeply people once cared and still do care about their faith and its expression.  The communion of saints who have gone before us and the places that were significant to them are increasingly giving inspiration to today's pilgrims and we are beginning to dig the history out more creatively.

Fourthly, I do think we should be very, very concerned about two groups within the church. Young people need to be respected, listened to, given their voice and also discipled - taught the Christian story and encouraged to 'try living it out' for themselves. The Church of South India decided to allocate 30% of its resources to work with people under 30 and this has apparently changed the demography of the church beyond recognition (is that what we are afraid of?) I do think that the statistics (and the attitudes found in some churches) indicate that we are seriously failing the next generation - but even there, there is plenty of work going on on the periphery of church life and sometimes in the centre that is bearing fruit. How do we re-prioritize exploring the faith with young people? We identify those usually, but not always, younger Christians who can inspire younger people and we support them, encourage them, join in where we can. Or put more simply, we take at face value what Jesus said - that the key to the Kingdom of Heaven is a child-like disposition (see 'Children and God's Kingdom' blogpost 30th September.) Perhaps we should also require all clergy to get involved in supporting work with young people - no excuses! With training,  we can all learn to help, be it as background supporters (Trustees etc) or frontline youth and children's leaders.  And also, we need to have a good look at how we are supporting ministry among older people who, all the research shows, are at that stage of life where spirituality and ultimate questions about life and meaning make it much more likely that they will want to discover more about what it means to live through faith.

Fifthly, if you think about it, you have to be pretty radical to be a committed Christian of any kind in the UK today. You have to be strong enough to withstand the onslaughts from secularisation, materialism and 'own goals' like the disgraceful behaviour revealed in the Chichester report and the endless vacillation over women bishops. Frankly, belonging to a small church, faithfully worshipping and carrying out the tasks needed to make the church 'live' and serving your community and your colleagues because you believe that Christ is asking you to do this is not exactly mainstream behaviour in our society and often calls for sacrificial decisions. To keep doing it over many years takes a deep, personal faith, persistance, discipline and humility of a counter-cultural sort. Yes, Christians are radical people - or at least they follow a radical Saviour into demanding places. To be a Christian is countercultural and wise church leaders recognise the cost of this in everyday life before berating people who find it hard to change; churches should be, and often are, places of mutual support and it is usually through God's grace experienced in fellowship with one another that we grow in spiritual depth and the church grows in numbers.  

Lastly, I have kept to the very end my observations about structures and formulas. They have some responsibility for not always being helpful but they are not, in my opinion, the main reason for decline. Clinging on to outdated structures is a symptom of a community in decline, not the cause. We, in the Church of England need to simplify our ways of relating and working and some of our legal and synodical processes, and we need to do this quite urgently and quite quickly. However, we need to do it on the basis of the actual evidence about what it happening across the country, not on the basis of anecodtal evidence, not on the basis of saying that 'because a thing is happening here, it will automatically happen there' and not on the basis of assuming that the structures are the answer. I very much hope that the opportunity to create a new diocese in West and North Yorkshire will allow us to ensure that we have people with expertise and ways of working that will support what the churches actually need.

Friday, 28 September 2012

A Hauxwell Heroine

St Oswald's Church, Hauxwell

Norman Arch, Hauwell Church
Today, I visited St Oswald's, Hauxwell, surely one of our more remote churches. There has been a place of worship on this site since at least the seventh century and possibly longer. St Paulinus is associated with the Christianization of the area and the site has Saxon remains. As you walk up the path to this gem of a building, an Anglo-Danish Preaching Cross in the churchyard reminds you of the fusion of Anglian and Dane, as invader and invaded came to acknowledge that they had a common Christian faith. There is a wonderful Norman arch, a font which has mediaeval and Elizabethan features and an unusually long chancel with several interesting memorials including one to Sir John Dalton who was killed accompanying Queen Henrietta Maria (Charles I's consort) from Bridlington to Oxford shortly before the Commonwealth and her husband's arrest, trial and execution. Reading all the memorials gives you a wonderful insight into the variety of life, rich and poor, short and long-lived, in a Yorkshire country village.

I was also intrigued by the story of a local girl, Dorothy Wyndlow Pattison, the daughter of the Rector of the parish. She was born in 1832, the tenth daughter of the Revd James Pattison and his wife Jane Winn, whose father had been Mayor of Richmond. From all accounts she had a fairly difficult childhood as her father suffered from mental illness and severely constrained the lives of his unmarried daughters. (Apparently he used to rebuke his unfortunate family from the pulpit!) In 1861, following the death of her mother, she broke away from home and, to begin with, took a teaching post. She then fell ill and went to Marske near Redcar to recuperate. Here she worked with the Christ Church Sisterhood, an Anglican Order  which was devoted to prayer and caring for the poor and the sick. The Order was inspired by the Oxford Movement and so this further alienated her from her father who was a strict Evangelical. Dora (as she was now known) was trained in nursing at the Cottage Hospital in Cleveland and the Order's convalescent home. This was the era of Florence Nightingale and the beginning of systematic training for nurses who were badly needed to tend the burgeoning populations of the industrial cities.  Owing to the fact that another of the Sisters fell ill, Dora was sent to Walsall in Staffordshire to help set up a hospital.       
By all accounts, this became a flourishing enterprise with facilities for surgery, men's and women's wards and a large out-patients clinic which Dora mostly ran herself, seeing almost 15,000 patients in one year. Dr Judith Gowland, in her 'Brief Life ' of Sister Dora, quotes from a pupil nurse who describes a typical day. At 6.30am Sister Dora came onto the wards, made beds, gave the patients their breakfast, led prayers and then dressed wounds. From 11am she supervised ward rounds and lunches, sometimes missing lunch herself if there were emergencies. From 2pm she ran the out-patients' clinics often seeing as many as 60-100 people. She dressed wounds (asepsis was in its infancy), set bones and extracted teeth - all pretty physically demanding work! From 5pm she would come onto the wards and 'there would be talk and laughter, hymn singing and stories' followed by supper and prayers. She carried this routine on for 13 years and, despite the odd physical collapse, made a huge impression on the local community by her dedicated care for those who had suffered as a result of colliery and ironworks disasters and during a smallpox epidemic. When she died in 1878, 18 railway men carried her coffin into a packed church.  The townspeople erected a statue for her and a stained glass window in her honour was placed in Walsall parish church. This daughter of Yorkshire had made a great contribution to healthcare in Staffordshire, bringing techniques forged on the battle fields to civilian hospitals at the height of the industrial revolution. She nursed in an age when nurses risked their own lives to care for patients with infections and contagious diseases.
On the walls of the peaceful church at Hauxwell and in the churchyard you can read the stories of those who died young and one wonders if these stories had their place in shaping the vocation of the young Dora as she sat, trying to ignore her father's frequent tirades against his own family. Today the church is well cared-for and welcoming with a beatuiful millenium banner made by villagers, a small exhibition and information for visitors. Next week is the harvest festival when the church will be full.

Miranda Threlfall-Holmes: The Essential History of Christianity: Christologi...

Miranda Threlfall-Holmes: The Essential History of Christianity: Christologi...: I've just received the first pre-publication copy of my new book, 'The Essential History of Christianity'. It summarises the key develo...

Announcement by the Dioceses Commission

Dioceses Commission Announces Draft Scheme to Be Published in the Next Month

'At its meeting on 26 September the Commission was able to complete its consideration of all the submissions made to it on the draft Reorganisation Scheme for the dioceses of Bradford, Ripon & Leeds and Wakefield. It carefully considered the representations made to it, both at this stage and earlier, and has unanimously decided to proceed with a draft scheme bringing all three dioceses together.
The Commission firmly believes that the scheme represents a once-in-a generation opportunity for reinvigorating mission which should be grasped. It intends to issue a revised scheme embracing all three dioceses by the end of October, together with a fresh report which will both address concerns that have been put to the Commission, and set out the benefits to mission that it believes will come from a new single diocese.
The current diocesan map in the region owes more to history than the way these communities are now shaped. The Commission received overwhelming evidence that the Church’s structures no longer reflect current social, economic and demographic realities on the ground, and that the Church needs a single diocese to engage effectively in mission with the people and communities of West Yorkshire and the Dales.
The Commission believes that the benefits to the Church’s mission and ministry in West Yorkshire and the Dales will only be fully realised by a scheme embracing all three dioceses. They each have their own distinctive contribution to make, and have a part to play in creating something new, rather than recreating an older model.
Chair of the Commission, Professor Michael Clarke, said: “On behalf of the Commission I would like personally to thank everyone who has made representations to us. A revised scheme will be published next month, and all three dioceses will then have a chance to decide whether they share our vision, which has been drawn from our discussions in Yorkshire over the past two years, that the proposals will better enable them to advance their mission to the communities which they serve. The Commission is clear that this represents a remarkable and unique opportunity for the Church of England.”'


1. The Dioceses Commission published a draft scheme to amalgamate the West Yorkshire dioceses of Bradford, Ripon & Leeds and Wakefield on 1 November 2010. This followed extensive consultation within the dioceses involved prior to that stage. The statutory six month consultation period on the draft scheme ended on 30 April 2012. Full details of the proposals can be found at
2. In June 2012 the Commission decided to proceed with a scheme on the basis that the details would be worked out over the summer.
3. Having decided that there would be a scheme, the Commission, under the Dioceses, Pastoral and Mission Measure 2007, needed formally to decide whether or not to amend it in the light of the representations made. It plans to issue the details of its revised scheme – together with supporting documentation – by the end of October. It is the Commission’s intention that its papers would be accompanied by an executive summary with a pastoral letter from its Chair to parishes. It will inevitably take a little while to finalise the documentation following the Commission’s meeting on 26 September, hence the short delay before it can all be issued.
4. The Commission’s scheme and its report on it will be submitted to members of the Diocesan Synods of the dioceses affected, so that the Synods can then decide whether or not to support the Commission’s proposals. That decision needs to be made by the end of March next year, with the intention that the General Synod would be invited to debate the scheme in July. The earliest any of the proposals could be implemented would be in the autumn of 2013.'


Bishop John Packer says he welcomes the announcement: "I am pleased that the Dioceses Commission have decided to proceed with their proposals for a new diocese based on the three dioceses of Bradford, Ripon and Leeds and Wakefield after taking into account the large number of submissions they have received. I look forward to the publication of the revised scheme at the end of October, and to exploring the mission opportunities it offers for the Synods to consider in March."

I will post an outline of the new proposals as soon as I receive them.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Water, Water Everywhere

The water meadows between Hutton Conyers
 and Nunwick at lunch time today

As the floods subside a little in the upper Dales our thoughts are with the people of Boroughbridge, York and Durham as the water rushes seawards tonight. Our sympathy and prayers are also with everyone who has suffered flooding in Teesdale, Swaledale, Wensleydale, Nidderdale, Wharfedale, at Catterick and all over the area yesterday and today - farmers, homeowners and businesses.

A Payer as Night Falls
As the water gathers force and travels with awesome speed,
Be swift to protect life and limb, O Lord.
As the water engulfs, unwelcomed, our land and dwellings,
Invade our hearts and spirits to keep us uplifted.
Shaken, yet hopeful, may we know there is an end
To flooding and a new beginning as the torrent subsides.
Emerging in the cold silence that follows the spate
May we see not just devastation, silt and tears,
But courage, resourcefulness and true grit.
Grant us to know, in full measure, pressed down
 And running over, Your sustaining, warming presence
This night, in the morning, at noon and always.
You can follow the expected progress of the flood water on the Environmental Agency's website. The graphs for each river give the anticipated height of the water at specific times throughout the next 12 hours.

Archbishop of York Visits Us

Prayers for Peace during the FunKey Service
Friday 24th September
The Archbishop of York releases doves 
 as symbols of peace, St Mary's Richmond

St Mary's Richmond hums with activity

Bishop James adds his prayers
for all who work for peace
The Archbishop of York was out and about in the Archdeaconry on Friday, visiting Richmond, Bedale and Harrogate during the course of the day. St Mary's Richmond welcomed him to their FunKey service where, it being World Peace Day, the theme was Peace. The Archbishop helped a full church of children, parents, teachers and members of the wider community, including the Mayor, to think about the contribution we can all make to peace and fairness by being ready to pull together in directions that make for a just sharing of the resources we have. Some have much, others have very little - the question is what can I share with my neighbour? After prayers for peace led by the Revd John Chambers, Archbishop Sentamu released four doves, symbolizing our heartfelt desire for peace between people and nations. The FunKey team, led by Gillian Lunn, has achieved so much in a short space of months. After the service, helpers and church members met the Archbishop over coffee and cakes (from the Clow Beck Bakery in Darlington) to discuss what the service means for regular worshippers - new and old, young and not-so-young. The Methodist and Church of England Primary schools were well represented by their head teachers, staff and pupils and we are grateful to the schools for making it possible for the Archbishop to meet and worship with the FunKey children on a Friday morning. A day none of them will forget! 

The Archbishop then went on to a meeting with members of Hope Debt Advice at Bedale including Steve Laugher (Chair of Directors), Charlie Hart (Centre Manager) and Lynn Cornu (Volunteer). He heard about the way in which the churches of the area have pulled together to establish a debt counselling service. It covers Hambleton and Richmond districts and parts of Harrogate and offers free, professional advice with no strings attached to anyone suffering anxiety and sleepless nights because of unpaid bills and mounting debt. Getting into debt can happen to anyone if their circumstances change unexpectedly and the service is confidential, non judgemental and completely free. Archbishop Sentamu heard the story of two people who had literally had their lives changed by being able to work with skilled members of the organisation. They spoke of the feeling of lightness and hope in their home after the first visit of an advisor.  Hope Debt Advice Is a Christian charitable trust which is affiliated with Community Money Advice and licensed by the Office of Fair Trading to help people with financial problems. You can contact it today on 07582204338.

After lunch, Archbishop Sentamu went on to Harroagte where he met members of Kairos Church, a new network church which has established small groups of Christians who meet for worship, mutual support and Christian study across the Harrogate Area. Each group has a slightly different focus. We heard stories of work and worship with people who are getting themselves settled after a period of homelessness, people who are self-harming, elderly people in nursing homes and children and young families. There is also an intern scheme for people who would like to give a year working with Kairos in some way and a group who go out on the streets to meet people and talk about their faith or just befriend. The Kairos communities are very all-age from 0-90! You can find out more about Kairos on


With thanks to the Archbishop of York's
Communication Officer for the photo

Archbishop Sentamu has a wonderful gift for listening, encouraging and responding to people in ways that naturally make them ask, 'What is God saying in this situation?' Whether you are long in the tooth as a Christian believer or someone who has never thought much about Christianity, he has that knack of challenging you to look at the basics of how and why you are doing what you do and to ask what it might be that God is drawing out of you and your particular situation.

We laughed a lot too. At Lunch time he sat down to a slap-up lunch at Bedale Rectory with the Area Deans and Lay Chairs of the archdeaconry and we discussed the proposals for a new diocese for West Yorkshire and the Dales. There are many  questions about how it will work but Archbishop Sentamu listened, probed and encouraged in ways that helped us to catch the vision for renewed mission across the communities and churches of this area. There will undoubtedly be many opportunities to rethink how we support mission and ministry more effectively and he gave us some examples. More of this in a few days time as there will be an anouncement about these plans for a new diocese this week, from the Dioceses Commission, to be followed by their full report in about three weeks' time.

A very big thank you to everyone who took part in the day and especially to Archbsihop Sentamu for his encouragement to us and his prayer for us and with us.

Monday, 24 September 2012


Recently, while on Lindisfarne, I came across the story of Caedmon which was new to me. Perhaps he should be the patron saint of those who think that life has passed them by. Or maybe those who have unfulfilled dreams. Caedmon was a cowherd who was illiterate and, by all accounts, not in the least bit musical. He was probably one of that unfortunate group whom primary school music teachers call 'growlers'. Certainly, legend has it, if, after a day's work, the villagers were relaxing by singing songs around the harp, Caedmon was so embarrassed by his inability to sing in tune that he would slip away, back to his cows.

One night, he had a dream in which an unknown visitor came to him and encouraged him to sing. Refusing to take 'no' for an answer, this stranger commanded him to sing about the creation of the world. (Do you remember the passage in the Narnia Chronicles where Aslan sings the world into being?) Eventually, Caedmon began to sing and a local farmer heard him and was so impressed that he took him to meet Hilda, the Abbess at Whitby. She must have seen (or heard) something exceptional in this poor, illiterate cowherd. She instructed him in some passages of scripture and invited him to set them to music. Before long, Caedmon returned to the monastery with a haunting melody to which he had set the scripture Hilda had given him. Hilda encouraged him to join the brothers at the monastery and pursue his new-found talent for music. Over time, Caedmon became well known as a poet and composer whose music was said by all who heard it to point the soul to God.

An inspiring story of untapped potential - and thank God for the Hildas of this world who can discern giftedness where no one else can and then follow it up by believing in the person and encouraging them to begin a new journey!


Monday, 17 September 2012

Metal Theft Prevention

I have received information about a Sheffield-based charity called People Against Crime. It is part-funded by Yorkshire and Humber Police Forces and the European Union. It provides free crime prevention surveys to Faith and Heritage sites including churches. The reports take the form of a written assessment with recommendations about the security of the building and how it can be improved. This is particularly relevant to lead theft from the roof.

Recommendations are cost-effective and suitable for the site surveyed. There is no cost for the service. You can read about the partnership on their website. Contact my office if you would like more details about how to get in touch with the local representative.


Yorkshire and Humber People United Against Crime
A partnership of Yorkshire and Humber people, companies and agencies working together to develop strategies for dealing with crime and its effects on individuals and the community as a whole. Company limited by guarantee no 3144166 and a registered charity.

Floor 4
Castle Market Building
Exchange Street
South Yorkshire
S1 2AH
Disabled Access Details: Wheelchair Accessible; Wheelchair Accessible Toilet


Monday, 10 September 2012

Time Wisdom

I am indebted to Bishop John for drawing my attention to an excellent little book called Beyond Busyness; Time Wisdom for Ministry.  It's by Stephen Cherry and it's the best thing I've read on dealing with the busyness, complexity and irregularity of ministry. What's more, it's not one of those time management books which add to your stress levels by requiring an extra three study days to read them! Each section is short and easily readable but the value of the book comes in thinking about the content and putting it into practice - or at least trying some quite simple things out to see if they make a difference.

If, like me, you have read books on time management and even been on courses, yet have felt that they don't quite get to the heart of the issue, this may be for you! Ministry is very complex and there is no such thing as a normal week. It has to be, at times, reactive and, at others, measured and well planned. Cherry's thesis is that living with all this in a creative way that encourages and enables others (rather than accrues all the work and all the glory or failure to oneself) takes 'time wisdom' and a certain sort of strength of character which is, itself, developed over time. I particularly liked the chapter in which he debunks 'White Rabbit' behaviour, 'I'm late, I'm late!' and asks  what 'not busy' looks like. How can we adopt 'not busy' behaviours which slowly begin to change us? Chapter headings like 'Stop the Clock', 'Don't Do it', 'Make Haste Slowly', 'Let Less be More' have all stayed in my mind. He gives many hints about how we can get the most out of our energy and the time available.

Before you start thinking all this sounds unattainable, this is in fact one of the most theological and practical books I have read on the question of how to understand and work with time. He tackles the fundamental questions like 'what is time anyway?' He uses metaphors like music to get us to the heart of a contemplative approach to life. And he gives the extraordinary example of a clock (at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge) which challenges the concept of objective time because the hands only show the correct time once every five minutes....think about it! He also deals with some of the old chestnuts. When is procrastination creative and useful and when is it destructive? How can we ensure that we get the big projects that take deep concentraton and forward planning done while also responding to the little things we know make all the difference to pastoral ministry?

If you are struggling with feeling a bit overwhelmed by the demands of ministry, this is the book for you. It's published by Sacristy Press 2012. Parts of it are applicable to any kind of slightly irregular life style - ministry, parenting, 'portfolios' of work, researching, writing and teaching, some kinds of business also come to mind.

The Revd Canon Dr Stephen Cherry is a residentiary canon of Durham cathedral and Director of Ministerial Development and Parish Support in the Diocese of Durham.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

New Minster for Leeds

The Revd Canon Tony Bundock, Rector of Leeds
welcomes representatives of the city, the diocese and Yorkshire
The Leeds Waits, Director Alan Radford
Mr Richard Strudwick reads the proclamation
The church of St Peter at Leeds stands on a site where Christian worship has been offered for over 1200 years. A Saxon Minster pre-dated the mediaeval church which was demolished in 1838 when the present church was built at the instigation of Dean Hook. This church was consecrated in 1841 in the presence of a congregation that included Florence Nightingale. On Sunday 2nd September 2012, the parish church was re-dedicated as Leeds Minster and the congregation, led by the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, the staff and PCC of St Peter's renewed their commitment to serve the city of Leeds.
Candles from Dewsbury, Beverley, Halifax, Ripon and York Minsters are lit and the Leeds Minster candle is presented
The flames representing all the Minsters of Yorkshire are united
Leeds Minster Choir and St Peter's Singers, director Dr Simon Lindley

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Ripon & the Dales Social Media Surgery

Graham Richards, our archdeaconry children's worker, alerted me to this:

The first Social Media Surgery for local voluntary organisations will take place in Ripon this Monday 10th Sept at Ripon CVS' offices, Community House in Allhallowsgate from 6-8pm.

People need to book a place via email:

This is a free service to all voluntary organisations needing help to learn how to use Facebook, Twitter, blogs, Pinterest, etc for their work.

Graham is a real wizz at all these things and also good on how and why we should use them. It's really important to choose the media that you feel comfortable with and that will work well for you, so do book into this session (or subsequent ones) if you would like help either for your church or another group.

'And the Word became flesh' - Jesus came among us to show what God is like in a form that puts words and communication using words very much at the heart of God's relationship with us. I think that, had He been around today,  Jesus would certainly have used social media and IT to help Him communicate. On Friday morning we had the 'old wineskins and new patches' reading from the Gospels. Our very wise priest said that the old can have much that is of value and the new can have much to teach us - we need to discern the appropriate use of each. That is relevent to this - we need to participate in the ways people are communicating now and this does not alter the fact older methods of communicvation still have great power. I will be ever grateful to my father who, in 1987, gave me some money and said, 'go out and buy a computer and teach youself to use it - that is where the future lies.' I bought an Amstraad (you remember the ones with white on black type and a daisy wheel printer - even before the green on black screens?) I'm of the generation who have always had to teach ourselves to use computers and new media - we didn't have them at school or university - and so we are a bit nervous! If you feel like this about facebook, twitter, blogs, websites then this is probably the surgery for you! It's not difficult to get started, honest!