Wednesday, 9 December 2015

TW'sV on celebrating life

A couple of generations ago home births were the norm, with midwives bombing around on bicycles. Husbands boiled the kettle and put newspaper on the floor. It was a public event.

 (c) Neal Street Productions

Then came along maternity homes, when often husbands were excluded. I was only allowed in for good behaviour, and spent some time waiting in a draughty porch. Next maternity units in hospitals made us almost think that having a child was some form of disease!?

It was a Frenchman, Dr Michel Odent, who helped us to remember that giving birth is natural! Of course the superb care in hospitals has reduced the number of deaths (child or mother) enormously, but we had lost the truth that birth is normal.

I think birth into eternity, or dying has become too private a matter. To be fair, it was highly public fifty years ago. Someone in the community almost had the right to lay out the body in the front parlour. Neighbours and family would be expected to call and pay respects. Now an 'ambulance' turns up, and few may even know a neighbour has died.

It would be helpful to notch back a bit, not too much. Although having a public role, I'm a private person by nature, and I'd hate my grief to be public property. But I would value being able to talk about death, and loved ones in a natural easy way.

Welcome to another New Year, and a natural chance to think about opportunities to relish the gifts of life, and of eternal life which is behind all our dreams. If you've made a new year's resolution you're not supposed to tell anyone. Why not?

One year I resolved to walk along the beach at least once a week, and it has kept my life in a better balance. What a fantastic part of the world we live in, and how often we waste opportunities on our doorstep.

So this year, why not share your hopes with others, and help us all recover the fact that dying is natural and we should talk about it more.

And may God bless you richly.

Monday, 9 November 2015

TW'sV on a tale of two ships

Both the Cutty Sark and the SS Great Britain are examples of fine ships restored after abandonment or fire. The first is partially hidden by a support structure while the second is seen as if floating on water.

SS Great Britain (

The true Christmas story of a refugee couple in occupied territory, facing pointless bureaucracy can so easily be masked behind tinsel and commercialism. Don't get me wrong because I love the party that is Christmas. However, it needs a heart to make sense. It needs to be about how our Creator and Sustainer shows his love towards us.

The Open Air Carol Service in Sutton Poyntz will be followed by baptisms in the Springhead pond. Here's an opportunity to remember loved ones, to give thanks for all that is wholesome, to pray for each other and particularly those for whom Christmas is a reminder of loneliness or pain. We can also give thanks for family and community life.

The carols and readings remind us of that first Christmas, and make it real in our hearts and minds. All are welcome to any of our Christmas services across our Churches. There's a great choice of venue and style, so make yourself at home.

Kings College reflected in a car roof

It's no surprise that the service heard by more people across the world than any other comes from Kings College, Cambridge. Every year it is familiar, and every year introduces us to something new. This keeps the celebration alive. It's no fossil, but a magnificent vessel which invites us on board.

A very Happy Christmas, and fulfilled New Year to you and yours.

Monday, 28 September 2015

TW'sV on revolution and recycling

• Greater London's Crossrail is the largest infrastructure project in Europe. Why is it revolutionary? Full sized trains rather than smaller tube-trains will travel at speed from outlying areas, for example Reading, under the heart of the city through large diameter tunnels. New stations are springing up which key into existing transport links, and match their environment.

Crossrail Place, Canary Wharf

The spoil from tunnelling has been moved by barge to create wetlands for the RSPB at Wallasea Island in the Thames estuary. Crossrail is a fantastic example of an imaginative project producing revolutionary ideas which include recycling material. 

 So what has it to do with my day job, as a minister in the Church of England? Towards the end of my schooling I thought and prayed about what to do. The result was a sense of calling to work in the electricity power generation industry. I served ten years across a mix of coal, oil, and nuclear fired power stations. 

Aberthaw Power Station

Then I received a call to serve in the Church of England. From my point of view it all fits together. Everything in the universe was created and is sustained by God, so I don't consider any one part of his world to be any more holy than another.

 When Jesus was asked about faith, he gave the example of moving a mountain. Today he might talk about tunnelling under a huge city. Our lives are a profound challenge; will we work under God's lead through his Spirit to find imaginative ways of building things? Or will we merely exploit nature for reasons of shear greed alone? Will we evaluate life in terms of beauty and sustainability, or just for profit?

Already Londoners are looking forward to Crossrail opening, and improving connections east to west through the centre. There is already talk of Crossrail 2 connecting north and south. 

I believe it's part of a revolution in which we should all play our part: beauty, respect for our world, and the imagination to make a difference.

Friday, 11 September 2015

TW'sV on making things up

Political oddities
We often hear the phrase 'It's unbelievable' when some amazing sporting achievement has been reached. Congratulations to Mo Farah for winning so many golds, in so many events, so often.

Picture from

However, I've been puzzled by unbelievable moves on the left and right of politics. Many commentators think Labour had a poor showing at the last general election because it had moved towards the left; now it is likely to move even more in that direction. The Conservative government is about value for money, yet it recently sold off tax-payers' shares in RBS without even putting them up for sale in the market place. It's unbelievable; you couldn't make it up!

Poetic oddities
Of course circumstances change, and what might be inappropriate at one time might be right at another. Ecclesiastes is a fascinating book roughly in the the middle of the Old Testament section of the Bible. It is written by someone who struggles at times with depression, but has amazing insights as well. Here's an extract from one of Eccles' poems, which Bob Dylan put to music using a 'Turn, turn, turn' refrain:

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
 a time to be born, and a time to die;
 a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
 a time to kill, and a time to heal;
 a time to break down, and a time to build up;
 a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
 a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
 a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together ...

That last idea has puzzled me for years, and I now understand it as a challenge about strategy. At one time throwing out old stones might be a good idea, but at another time gathering them is important.

Radical certainties
A few months ago I wrote about migration because many had asked me to express a view. I argued that we should see the complexity of the challenge, but always see people under any circumstance as just that: people. I have been delighted to observe a better attitude emerging in the media, triggered it seems by a picture of a drowned child washed up on a beach.

There isn't a one size fits all solution. The population in these islands has increased significantly in recent decades, while it is falling in Germany. But there is a one size fits all certainty. We should love our neighbours as we love ourselves. How we live has an impact on others. The story of the Good Samaritan makes it clear that we have responsibilities and can't just walk on by.

That story inspired the fantastic world wide organisation ready to listen (in any form) 24/7. Our local branch has been operating opposite the railway station since the 70s.

Jesus set the bar even higher, when he said that we should love others as he loved us.

Monday, 27 July 2015

TW'sV on cake while you wait

I've heard a false view of heaven from a number of different sources, so here's an attempt to set the record straight.

It's not just 'pie in the sky when you die', but 'cake on the plate while you wait!'  Or in other words those who speak of Christianity being a sop to miserable disadvantaged people are missing something.  Part of heaven should break through now.

It is true that God's love does not differentiate between gender, race, colour, skill, intelligence, class, or any other description we might choose.  And that means that the poor, or impaired, or vulnerable can find huge comfort in knowing heaven will liberate them.  And often the rich, or powerful, or articulate confess to living miserable empty lives.

We await the delights of heaven, but seek its flavour now.  We live in the light of eternity, but live life to the full now.  Jesus made it clear that his sacrificial life (which displayed amazing energy, compassion, wisdom, strategy, and charisma) also had times for merriment.  In fact his first miracle turned significant quantities of water into wine at a celebration of marriage.
picture from

The strict religious of his day told him off because it was clear he wanted fun as a companion to faith.

And while we're at it, let's nail another false idea about following Jesus.  You must have heard the quip s/he's so heavenly minded, s/he's no earthly use.  It's rubbish.

Yes, there are some scatty people who have their head in the clouds, but there are many others whose eternal perspective has driven them to make a huge difference in our world.  Here are four examples from our country's makeup:
 ● abolition of slavery
 ● setting up of law courts
 ● Oxbridge college foundations
 ● building of hospitals and training of staff

Let's get real about what an amazing amount heaven has to offer now, and echo part of that famous Lord's prayer: Thy kingdom come, on earth as in heaven!

Saturday, 11 July 2015

TW'sV on making all things new

'Data is the new pollution' says Andrew Keen who is internet friendly, but has written a book called The Internet is not the Answer.  We use over 10% of our electricity maintaining the Web.  Much of what we keep is junk.
Image from MAAG Projekt

'Sitting is the new cancer' according to Tim Cook CEO of Apple.  More welloff people may become ill through lack of exercise rather than infection.  Perhaps that is why his company has designed so many health gadgets and apps to run on their equipment!

'I am making all things new' is the shout that springs out of the pages of Revelation, a fantastic book bursting with images describing heaven.  It is the last book in the Bible.  Heaven is a completely new experience.

As we evolve we face [and create] new challenges.  The same is true as we grow out of childhood into being young adults.  Most of the time we relish the new, but the ultimate adventure is realising the newness of heaven.  How do we get a handle on that?
Image from 

I've often been asked what heaven is like, and for that matter what's hell?  One answer is to pick up on the language we use.  A fantastic day might be heavenly, and I think it has been a taste of heaven.  We describe ghastly experiences as going through hell, and again I think they are a hint of what it's like.

There's a bit of a thread linking these thoughts together, because we are increasingly invited to store our data in the cloud.  The picture above comes from a company offering steps to cloud storage.  What is certain is that digital media can't capture the essence of heaven, that's stored in our hearts!

When we work with nature we create beauty and she glows.  Pollution greys the skies and water flows, and introduces hellish environments that choke our breath.  So it's a fantastic encouragement that since 2013 the world had invested more in clean energy than in coal, natural gas, and oil combined.  That's something new, a little aroma of heaven!

Thursday, 11 June 2015

TW'sV on migration

Having briskly walked up a hill, my thermos of tea was welcomed.  As I lent back to take a sip, a curious beautiful lady approached and I couldn't resist taking her picture.  Apart from her mandatory numerical identity, she was named Drumbeat Rachel.

That's a sure sign she is being treated with the respect she deserves, not locked away in a factory 'farm'.

An optician was out sailing on his small yacht with his mates, when he heard screams and found himself surrounded by drowning people whose boat had just sunk.  He managed to rescue almost fifty, but had to leave hundreds behind to perish.  

His story reminds us that the people being trafficked across the Mediterranean are just that, people not things.  The encounter has left a scar on the optician's life, and he now campaigns for European action.  This leads me to my first view on a complex matter.

Any talk of migrants being less than human is obscene.  We should respect all life, from that of a calf to that of our fellow human beings.

Apparently our islands have taken a lower proportion of migrants than most other European nations.  During the election migration was a major issue [and responsibility for climate change largely ignored!?].  Many feel their jobs are threatened by migrants.  This is a people story too, because the ability to find work of dignity and reward is immensely empowering.  In this beautiful part of Dorset the gap between average incomes and average housing costs is one of the largest in the country.

Having a completely open door would be foolish because our islands are becoming increasingly crowded.

As I understand it much of Bristol's historical wealth derived from the slave trade, so we are not squeaky clean when we point fingers at others.  Chains were used to anchor ships; they were also used to anchor slaves to those ships.

Picture from Fast Company
As brave Christians stood with William Wilberforce and others to abolish slavery, so we should stand against human traffickers, or any form of slavery.  The picture above comes from a site encouraging companies to make sure they don't inadvertently employ slaves.

But how?  Well it took Wilberforce many attempts before legislation was passed by Parliament, so it might take us time to find the right solution.  His stance was urgent and powerful; we need to follow in the same path.

Politically, and in our daily conversation we must:

  • talk about the people involved
  • balance resources for all on the planet we share 
  • root out traffickers and any who treat others as lesser people.

Finally and positively, we should be thankful for and relish the freedom and peace we enjoy.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

TW'sV on energy

I sent my postal votes in as soon I could, so the last fortnight of the election campaigning was a bit lost on me: a pledge 'tombstone'; a pledge to legislate against altering taxes (surely a key responsibility of government); riding a merry-go-round horse; pints, kisses, and smiles; and to cap it all, whether a princess was blue or red!
image from Wikipedia

Frantic energy use, which made little difference but did exhaust key participants before they entered into coalition conversation.  I know Nigel dipped out early in the campaign for an afternoon or two, but a mature statesman would have taken a well publicised break before election night.  S/he could argue rightly that energy was required for careful consideration and decisions after the election.

Over the years kindly folk have wondered what is my greatest challenge, and I think it is finding and using energy.  Some see power from an electrical socket as an energy quite different from the power of love, yet both enable us to do things which otherwise would be impossible.  It might be coping with sleepless nights, endless questions, and all the myriad challenges of nurturing children.  Or it could be getting through a mountain of washing.

The privilege of being alongside people experiencing amazing joy, the heart-ache of acute grief, the discovery of liberation in worship, and so many other deeply spiritual encounters, all these take energy from me.  It's a huge honour, but keeping energised is vital for all of us.

How do we do that?  I find it varies enormously.  For example, I had to attend a residential for rural deans.  We did some important work on environmental issues; I travelled there and back by cycle and train ~ no problem.  However the frustrations of being part of an institution largely absorbed by itself (whether that's entirely fair or not!) got to me.  When back home I needed to burn off some of that hassle by borrowing one of our son's fancy road bikes and cycling up the Relief Road, along the Ridgeway, and down Plaisters Lane.

At other times sitting by the beach lost in thoughtful prayers, listening to rousing music, or reading familiar passages from the Bible recharge the batteries.  It often needs both rhyme and reason.

So, now that electioneering is over, what energises you?  The Ridgeway Churches, and our Sister Churches across the area offer a huge resource.  It may be that playing a part in worship is just what you need.  You will always be welcomed at a healthy range of different places and times.  You can also enjoy very different styles.

The Ridgeway website has local details, or you can turn to page 20 in a copy of the Register magazine. 

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

TW'sV on baptism, votes and choices

'It's Anna here from BBC Songs of Praise.  Is it true you have your own River Jordan and baptise people there?'  We chatted and I assured her it was no gimmick; it has became a local tradition since the first in 2003.  Arrangements were made with all those concerned and a first class crew respectful filmed the occasion. 

Over the years tabloids have heard about these baptisms but I find it very difficult getting them to report what actually goes on.  In one case they reduced the age of a candidate and a local rumour started that baptism in the Jordan washes the years off you!!

Songs of Praise is one of the longest running programmes and has an excellent reputation for respecting and celebrating the Christian faith.   You can see the clip on

Baptism is choosing the best for a child, knowing that when they are ready to stand on their own two feet they can make the baptism promises themselves and be confirmed in their faith.  But there are other choices too; this month those of us eighteen or above can vote for a variety of candidates.
Graphic by The Independent
After the baptism people commented on how respectful the camera crew were, on a perfect baby boy well supported by family and friends, and on the prayers I led.  The Springhead is a chocolate box scene but for young people in the borough trying to find jobs locally is not easy, so I prayed that those patronised by 0 hour contracts should have honouring employment that brought out their greatest skills.  The words were chosen carefully because a few choose 0 hour contracts which give them freedom to work or not.

Our choices make a difference.  In some cases those at the top are paid obscenely more than those at the bottom, and sometimes we as tax payers underwrite their risk.  The John Lewis Partnership shows what can be done in rewarding all for performance, and in having a significant but just reward for those who carry the heavy responsibility of leadership.

May we choose wisely.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

TW'sV on being between a rock and a hard place

It could hardly have been more humiliating or excruciating being hammered onto a Roman gallows and displayed for all to see.  Jesus had been tortured, mocked, and made a scapegoat.  The site had a nickname The Skull because of the mound's shape.  It stood near the city's rubbish dump and was most certainly a hard place.  He was surrounded by some hard hearted characters.
A recent picture of The Skull by Mendoza

After his death some of Jesus' followers took his body, placed it in a tomb carved out of rock, and sealed it with a huge stone.  Good Friday is called such because it turned out to be the start of something rather than the end.  It's where all the ghastly failure in this world was redeemed, and where you and I can find forgiveness.  What is important is that we don't stay between a rock and a hard place.

Forgiveness deals with the past but it's about the future.  As we remember the horrific events unfolding in Europe a century ago so we should also be incredibly grateful for all forgiveness and healing that has taken place since; it has given us the peace we enjoy today.  Forgiveness brings peace between nations.

We could stay between a rock and a hard place but that would be to waste the Easter story which is about making moves forward.  Easter is not the end of the story but its beginning.  As we relive the events it offers us all an opportunity to let its truths soak into our beings so that faith blossoms.

I once met a proud angry man who, in colourful language, told me just where to put my faith.  A few week's later I was summoned to his bedside after he had been paralysed by a massive stroke and was trapped inside himself.  I simply told him that Jesus was trapped on the cross so would have known what it felt like; and I invited the proud man who had been mightily humbled to make a connection with Jesus' suffering.

He did just that but didn't stop there because for many years he had been estranged from his son.  I was asked to write to him and was able to help them forgive each other.  That forgiveness brought peace between individuals, a new beginning for both.  They hadn't stayed between a rock and a hard place but had moved forward.

If you would like to join me in reliving the Good Friday story why not meet me 10.00am at St Francis' Church, Littlemoor on 6 April?

Friday, 13 February 2015

TW'sV on being less hateful, more hopeful; and broadcasting

Bath Rugby are doing really well this season and had an outstanding away game against a formidable rich French club.  Bath players scored all the English points against Wales in the Six Nations' opening match.

My father grew up regularly supporting the club which is 150 years old this year.  As a long term supporter I'm delighted to be on the winning side but at the end of the day rugby is just a game.

Islamic State (IS) is quite another matter.  Can we win?  I don't believe it helps to talk about a war on terror because it's no conventional war.  It is now worryingly clear that most terrorists carrying out atrocities in these islands are home grown.  We need to look carefully at our attitudes; are we inadvertently encouraging radicalisation?

Can Muslims learn from the terrible errors within the Christian Church?  Five hundred years ago Protestant and Catholic were at each others' throats but now different Christian traditions delight in variation and tease each other.  It is painfully slow as a Guardian picture taken three years ago in Northern Ireland reminds us.

At the height of Christian sectarianism there were those in the Muslim faith who appealed to different factions to make peace.  Now Sunni and Shia are locked into horrific feuds, can we as Christians invite them to make peace through conversation and forgiveness?  We have some authority because in our time we have done just that.

Whatever the answer it will need the gift of forgiveness, and the nouse to be less hateful and more hopeful.

Love him or loathe him Sir Andrew Lloyd-Webber has argued that all church building should provide wifi for visitors.  Our Archbishop of Canterbury has also spoken of using social media to communicate.  After all when printing transformed communications many in the Church embraced the opportunity.

Later this year a significant upgrade of St Andrew's church building will begin with a capacity to broadcast worship being one of the aims.  A pilot exercise will take place during Café Church. 

Saturday, 3 January 2015

TW'sV on bridges and love-locks

Dramas crossing the Severn
What fantastic fun it was crossing the river Severn by car ferry.  Depending on the strength of tidal flow you would sail a mile upstream (or down) before eventually crawling back in the quieter waters by the bank to reach the slipway.  Thick mud everywhere!  Brilliant.

Then an amazing suspension bridge was built; towers and cables first; deck sections were floated out at slack high tide to be pulled up into place after all the mud had been washed off them.  Not such an adventure but still quite impressive.
Wikipedia's picture of sections being added
Next came a second crossing of awesome size, three lanes each way not two, but less exciting except occasionally when strong winds blow frozen shards of ice off the superstructure.  It's as if the Severn has been domesticated and we take the connection for granted.

Bridging ideas
Sermons ought to be like bridges linking two ideas together.  Some form an amazing construct in biblical times but don't link it to anything useful.  Others relate passionately to a contemporary issue but find nothing to say about it.  The best sermons link biblical times to today's world and tomorrow's challenges in a way that encourages traffic to flow.

It doesn't mean answering all the questions because that's patronising and dis-empowering.  It does mean linking two ideas and inviting listeners on a journey of discovery.  It is powerful because God's Spirit brings alive the unchanging truths of God's loving purposes for us all.

These bridges between our mortal lives and the span of eternity are never to be taken for granted.  They should be treasured above all else.

It started on a bridge in Paris
Lovers wrote a message onto a padlock, fixed it to the bridge, and threw the keys into the river Seine.  After a while the weight grew so much that the locks had to be cut off to preserve the bridge.  The trend has appeared in London, especially on footbridges with convenient wires.
Lover's locks on the Millennium 'wobbly' Bridge
These symbols of hearts locked together by the gift of love can be powerful, although if you look at the bottom left lock it doesn't look like it might be for longer than three years!  God is locked in his covenant of love for us.  After all he probably made the universe to share his love.  God is love.

As we make our way through 2015 with its excitements, joys, tedious moments, and all the other strands that make up our lives, it might be worth engaging with the extraordinary gift of God's love for each of us.  Through Jesus Christ he offers us a bridge to eternity, fresh beginnings through forgiveness, and a sense of fun alongside a sense of faith.

Any questions?
A significant number have been in touch about last month's View and commented how it helped them understand something of the privilege of grieving well.  If you have any questions or areas you would like me to consider in one of my Views do get in touch.  Contact details are included on the Ridgeway website and in The Register Magazine.