Tuesday, 30 September 2008


School - Jean wants a Taste and See on November 5th
Team Space - Nick helped us reflect on the parable of the Vineyard
Oakhill - Meeting to discuss chaplain's post
Home - paperwork - yawn...
Shopping - Morrisons - where prices are falling...

Monday, 29 September 2008

The Bishop and the Quaker

This evening I had to drive all the way to High Wycombe to take part in the rehearsal for the ordination on Sunday. For the first part of the service I was required to play the part of Liz (who was in the air somewhere over Africa).

Her husband, Robin, arrived in time to give the bishop a head to practice on. Here is the moment of (pseudo) ordination itself...As a good Quaker, Robin wondered how much he would have to pay me to keep this image to myself. Apparently, my price was too high...

All in all, it was a good evening and it was great to catch up with a few people. The ordination promises to be a great event, so please pray for Liz, Dave and all the others as they prepare for the big day.


Have a cold, so didn't run today.
Spent a productive morning sending emails - yawn...
Had lunch with Ernesto.
Bought a new watch.
Took a funeral.
Went to High Wycombe...

I needed to buy a new watch because my latest (cheap) market watch beeps every hour and drives Isla mad! It must die! It's also rubbish.

I used some birthday money to buy a watch from an actual shop. I was torn between one that records multiple lap times (ideal for running) and one that receives an acurate time signal from a transmitter in Rugby (ideal for services and meetings - work in other words). The sports watch was too fiddly and wouldn't have been practical on the move, so I opted for the work model - so at least I will now know if services really start on time - or meetings go on too long!

I had one of these watches before and got quite addicted to knowing the exact time down to the closest millisecond. In a funny kind of way it makes you feel in control, although, of course, you're simply going along with what the Rugby transmitter claims the correct time to be...

If I was the kind of person who likes to make create sermons out of cans of peaches(!) this would be an opportunity to create a Gospel message about God as your spiritual Rugby. You need to keep tuning in on a regular basis and keep yourself on step with him... but since I don't go in for that sort of thing, you've nicely avoided a sermon...

Discovering Priesthood in Rubbish

When I was a student I used to spend the summer holidays with my parents in Milton Keynes. Lacking transport, and needing some exercise, I would often walk into town along the red ways - the cycle paths which criss-cross the city.

On one occasion I was walking along consciously trying to listen to God. I felt that he was telling me to pick up a piece of litter. I resisted for a while, thinking this was just my mind distracting me from the task in hand, but eventually I decided to do what I was told. I reached down and picked up a small chewing gum wrapper.

Holding this in my hand I sensed that God wanted me to pray, and so I prayed for those who produced the materials, those who manufactured the paper, wrapped the gum, transported it to the shop, sold it, unwrapped it, chewed it and then dropped it on the ground. This one tiny wrapper was linking me with a whole host of people that I had never met, and yet I knew that my prayers were meaningful. I didn't know anything about these people, but God did.

And so I spent an extremely valuable and productive afternoon, walking along the path, picking up litter and praying. Putting my pile of prayer-rubbish in a bin eventually had to be done with a certain amount of love and respect.

Looking back, I realise that this "prayer walk" was a form of priestly ministry. Each piece of litter provided a sacramental opportunity to connect heaven and earth, to do business with God and to bless a wide range of human beings. Priesthood is realised in the connections we make with the ordinary stuff of human existence, just as it is in the grandest of cathedrals. Whether we break bread and pour out wine, or lift up the crumbs of everyday life, we take what is normal and offer it to God, receiving it back transformed and enlivening.

Opportunities for genuine priesthood are strewn at our feet each day of our lives. The trick is to hear God's voice and to allow him to transform the lowliest of moments into the kingdom of heaven.

Sunday, 28 September 2008


We took the girls for a walk this afternoon and ended up in our local park up in Grange Farm. As always, we were annoyed by the vast quantities of litter strewn over the path and the grass.

Finding an abandoned Budgens bag(!) I quickly filled it with litter, including drink bottles, sweet papers, sandwich boxes, chip wrappers and so on...

The only problem was what to do with it! - There is, of course, no bin near the park.

Although some of the litter had clearly come from Sams (the chip shop) I was convinced that most of it was Budgens' snack wrappings. It therefore seemed sensible to take it round to them - and they have a bin.

Unfortunately, my little bag wouldn't fit in the narrow slot. I debated whether I should offer it to the assistants but decided they had enough to cope with. In the end I left it on the bin.

I know I've only removed a few items of litter, but it did make the play park look a bit friendlier and less like a public tip. There's still plenty of rubbish up there if anyone else wants a go...

There used to be a poster showing a picture of someone dropping litter as they said, "This one won't make any difference."

The message of course was that each piece of litter dropped may not matter on its own, but combined with all the others produces a horrible mess.

Perhaps the same applies to picking litter up.

How many times do I walk past a piece of litter and think, "Should I pick it up?" and then fail to do so because one piece of litter wouldn't make any difference...

If we all did it, of course, there wouldn't be any left!

I am reminded of an experience I had a few years ago when I felt God calling me to pick up a piece of litter from the path. I picked it up and found myself praying for the people who had produced it, carried it, sold it and dumped it. One piece of litter becoming a moment of intercessory prayer...

I wonder if it would be good to try this again: pick it up and pray - one a day - or something like that. If I was an entrepreneurial evangelist, I'd start a campaign!

Back to Church for Harvest

Motorcycling bishops on breakfast TV? Helium balloons outside church? It can only be Back to Church Sunday!

As last year in the Watling Valley, BTCS is combined with harvest - which means that there is something definite to invite people back to. This is a good occasion to make contact those who have been involved through Christmas, baptisms or weddings - or who have just expressed an interest.

At All Saints, Derek and Ruth produced an extremely competent and professional service which demonstrated how a service can be both welcoming and meaningful. The children produced a fairtrade logo banner and dry/canned goods were donated for the food bank.

All in all it was a good event, and a few people did come back to church and hopefully had a worthwhile time. (All Saints' is frequently 80% full anyway, so further congregational growth is challenging...)

I note, however, that the real challenge of Back to Church Sunday is to listen to those who would like to come but for a wide range of reasons find it difficult. Some of these people simply need to be asked (and I wonder how many of the personal invitations were actually given out?) but others find the Sunday slot difficult, unhelpful or inconvenient - no matter how welcoming it becomes...

As Bishop Alan has been reminding us lately, a huge proportion of the population would like to come to church - but not necessarily when we are in it!

I've been thinking a lot about fresh expressions lately. These are forms of church which are created primarily for those who don't yet come. To a certain extent, our "seeker" focussed services already do this for some - but what about the rest? What forms of church do they need?


I was free this morning so decided to pop down to Christ the Cornerstone in town. It cost me 50p to park but I noticed a few ladies arriving in taxis, so this maybe the way to do it...

Terry Oakley, the URC moderator was visiting and preached about authority. Some authority is derived from above, some from below, but Jesus' authority is based on love - if that's a reasonable summary.

It was interesting to take part in a service which was liturgically formal, but also inherently ecumenical - like a mixture of St Machar's Cathedral and Iona Abbey... I was pleased to see that my sight-reading was up to scratch, enabling me to sing along with the responses.

I'd like to see what the second service is like...

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Dunstable Downs

Went for a walk this afternoon on the Downs.

Friday, 26 September 2008


I've been thinking quite a lot recently about the "relevance" of what we do and say in Christian communities. Having read Tim Leeson's "Angry Rant" I feel the need to blog... or have my own rant...

At Greenbelt I was struck by the comment that we need to deal with the questions that people are actually asking - and these questions often appear through mass media. Hence, some of the more interesting Greenbelt seminars (at least for me) dealt with film and television: Lost, Doctor Who, etc... I came away with a new sense that my interest in popular culture should find a place in my "professional" communications...

During my sabbatical I was struck a number of times by the discord between church life and daily life. Churches should support their members in ordinary life, rather than draw them out from reality. After the welcome for some new ministers in Milton Keynes, a colleague and I reflected on the way our public focus on clergy effectively devalues the ministry of all members. I am feeling the need to find ways of reversing this process...

As I continue to reflect on the global economic situation I am concerned that a sensible and realistic but visionary voice needs to be heard. The social order we have constructed since the industrial revolution is slowly destroying the planet and we are facing a major change of direction. Big businesses and politicians find it easier to talk about "business as usual" but it would be more sensible to take a long cold look at reality and put in place policies for significant but steady change...

...and that's before we take account of some of the other issues of justice, peace and the integrity of creation...

Oddly enough, the Local Shared Ministry Project and the difficulties posed by deanery finance and deployment give me huge reasons for hope. The unsustainable models of church and ministry which were set up when Milton Keynes was founded have been on the rocks for a while now and a number of us have set out to develop more collaborative and sustainable approaches. This may sound like moving deckchairs on the Titanic or a desperate attempt to find ways to survive, but I think our attempts to build sustainable Christian community will help us develop ways to encourage sustainable human community. A genuine local shared ministry community could be a sign of hope for the whole world...

When I said I had a vision for a sustainable, growing church, I was criticised by a good friend for using the word "sustainable" - but I increasingly believe that this word "sustainable" is central to what the Church could offer to a commercially dependent, consumerist society - such as we find in MK.

This has not been an "angry rant". I recognised long ago that the Gospel is not just about the "spiritual" world, but is for all creation. Hence, we are called to proclaim freedom to prisoners and good news to the poor, to be good stewards in creation and to continually expand the circle of hope.

But how do we do this? Can Sunday Church, such as we have it in MK, create space for deep reflection and engagement on these issues? If we have "seeker" sensitive services, can we also debate homosexuality, economic theory or community development? And if we can't what do we actualy have to contribute to this world?

I don't think I've got an answer here. As a pneumatological democrat and a believer in collective decision-making, I'm extremely warry of standing up in church and expressing a personal opinion, since I'm not sure I actually have the right - particulalry if there is no room for debate. Traditional forms of church encourage a didactic approach, but challenging issues are better dealt with by communities. Which brings me back to Rolland Allen's "tell it to the church" and the reflection that leaders can only impose short term "truth".

In order to deal with some of these tricky issues we need forms of church that create space for debate, and enable us to engage with real life. For many of us, traditional church just can't do this. On Thursday night I met with some of our worship leaders for a time of reflection. On these occasions, we often find ourselves saying that we don't give ourselves time for deep reflection, but get bogged down in commities and activities which often drain our energies. Oh for a church where this is not the case!

I agree with Tim Leeson's rant and would happily have written it myself, but I think the answer is closely related to the issue of how we do church. Can the "emerging church" do better?

Thursday, 25 September 2008


Members of the Ecumenical Oversight Group looked at the Mission Partnership Review this morning. This was a good opportunity to flesh out some of the details...

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Getting the word out...

Today has been a day about communications and organisation.

I finished editing this month's Voices this morning. This will be my last, so I'm sorry to say I won't be going out on a bang with my best edition - too much else going on to give it proper time.

I dropped off the memory stick before heading over to the Team Leaders' meeting where I was supposed to be selling LSM. Unfortunately four members of this group were LSM project group members, which left Mike M, Mary C and Alan. I did, however, plug the Fresh Expressions Vision Day as well, so the word is getting round...

In the afternoon we had a Fresh Expressions MK projetc group meeting and sorted out most of the details for the Vision Day. Tim C suggested I do a workshop on LSM and Fresh Expressions - which should be interesting...

Christ the Sower Governors meeting in the evening, followed (!) by the Holy Cross Church Council - how I like to bilocate!

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

The Exec and the Review

This evening the Mission Partnership Exec received the Review Report. This recommends some fairly major changes to the way the Mission Partnership is run, which may sound quite scary but may actually be really good news:

1. The Mission Partnership is going to become a partnership of diverse groups who are working together in mission - rather than an attempt to build an alternative ecclesiastical structure. This may sound like "deconvergence" and on some level it will be, but it's fundamentally about widening the circle so that more partners can join in.

2. The LEPs will continue and there will be some form of "sponsoring body" but decisions will be made by those who are legally empowered to do so, rather than by big MK wide committees. There will be a new "trustees" group which will include the presidents and will have defined powers.

3. There will be a new "mission strategy" which will consist of those ecumenical projects that we agree to support together. There will be some form of coordinating group which will make sure that things happen.

4. The Assembly will become an annual event rather than a burdensome converged council. This will be an opportunity to come together, celebrate, learn, tell stories, etc...

5. The denominations will need to take more responsibility for their own affairs. This means that there will need to be a revamped deanery synod (meeting more than once a year) and the URC/Methodist joint district will be formalised.

I think this is a brief summary of the salient points - we had a large document to look through. There will be more presentations over the next few months and a lot of tidying up to do.

Basically the exec thought that the thrust of this proposal was good, but more work would need to be done.


What an evening...
after a bowl of soup with Tim, I had a session with Anne H at CtS and a funeral visit before Isla headed out to work. I had an hour to spend with the kids which they grabbed onto with enthusiasm. This gave me five minutes to do the dishes before heading out the door... I had cancelled a wedding interview which gave me time to eat...

The kids made me play Zelda again after a long gap. The secret with the Reekfish, apparently, is not to try picking it up, but to turn into a wolf and smell it... Well why didn't I think of that before!?

Fresh Expressions at World Vision

After weeks of negotiation and discussion we finally have a venue for the Fresh Expressions Vision Day on the 15th November. We've booked the World Vision building. Tim Clapton and I had a wonderful tour and were introduced to some of the work they do. We were particularly impressed with the way they attempt to link projects with donors so that genuinely transformational relationships are established. All good stuff!

Anyway, we now have the Fresh Expressions Vision Day to organise. The venue will be great with a super space and four large break-out rooms. Just what we need! We decided that we would need a "venue manager" and I immediately though of John RJ after his Greenbelt adventures - and he has agreed to join us. Hooray!

We also have a web site (thanks to Tim) - www.freshexpressionmk.org.uk and can take bookings through an on-line form. I've produced a very quick flier which we're going to circulate...

Lots to do, but it all begins to look achievable and is going to be really exciting....

Monday, 22 September 2008

I'm back

After a few fairly pathetic runs, I set out on an eight mile after school today, finishing in 78 minutes - which isn't too bad.


Had a visit from Norman Critchell (ALW - formerly of the Salem Project) who is now working as a free-lance evangelist. He wants to make himself available to deaneries and parishes.

Had some good time with a few other people who are wanting to develop their ministry.

Spent the evening at Alastair Wood's support group.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Pitching the Tent

I took services at Holy Cross and St Mary's this morning. In both churches I put up a tent and talked about the challenge of dismantling our camp-sites (in this world) so that we can set off in the direction of the kingdom. This worked well with the baptisms...

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Power Walking...

Now that summer is here (!) it seemed like a good idea to get out in the sun and enjoy the great outdoors a bit. With our friends, the Solloways, we decided to go for an adventurous circular walk. Our chosen walk (see guide) took us on a 4 1/2 mile circuit from the medieval Thornborough Bridge across the fields and back again.

It is interesting to note how different these walks are in different parts of the country. In tourist country (Dorset, etc...) you can usually expect fairly good paths and often encounter other walkers. Even in South Bucks you feel that there is a path to follow. When we go for a walk up here in North Bucks we often suspect we are the only people to do the route this year.

This walk had such a feel. The paths were overgrown. The fields had bulls in them. We passed some anglers on a river who looked suprised to see us.

Having said this, the path was well marked, so we headed off into the wilds of North Bucks (about five miles from where we live) to explore...

It struck me that energy use could be seen throughout our walk. Twice we passed beneath huge pylons which hummed with the electrical energy now feeding Milton Keynes. This energy is, of course, largely dependent on our oil based economy, but we saw signes of earlier ages...

The Buckingham Branch of the Grand Union Canal cuts through this land and we spent some time walking along its former route. The greatest monument to this is the remains of an old lock which is being restored - although presumably not for actual use.

The creation of the canal network enabled more ecomomical transport of goods and fuel across Britain, powering the industrial revelution and driving the development of modern society.

The Buckingham Branch was opened in 1801 but was already in decline by the 1850s as the railways began to take over. The last comercial traffic was in 1932 and it was abandoned in 1964.

Here in a little-known corner of Buckinghamsire stands a monument to our industrial past. Canals were superseded by railways, which were superseded by roads as we become more effecient in the way we used our fossil fuels...

But this walk also gave us a chance to see relics of an even earlier age.

Long before the canals and the railways helped kick-start the industrial revolution the country was littered with windmills. There were thousands of them, pumping water or grinding grain - using the "free" power of wind.

We saw at least one old windmill on this walk, but there would probably have been many more at one point - not that long ago. It seems strange that there are so many objections to the "view pollution" caused by modern windmills given how common they once were...

The reality, of course, is that we are rapidly coming full circle as the cheap energy of the industrial revolution rapidly disappears. It will not be long before we are forced to depend on sustainable sources of power whether we like it or not - and this will cause a change in our society as dramatic as the industrial revolution was in the nineteenth century.

So it was good to see that Thornborough Mill (mentioned in the Doomesday Book) is slowly being brought back into service. It's now turning nicely and the owners hope to use it to power four local properties.

Although this walk seemed to take us off the beaten track it actually took us through the development of western society over the past two centuries. We could see human resourcefulness and our use of energy past, present and future. I wonder what relics people will spot in fifty years time...

And here's a couple of photos to show that our walk also involved the history of transport:

New Run

Tipped off by my friend Nigel, I went for a run around Caldecotte Lake while the kids were at their activities. Good run - with too many jumping dogs...

Friday, 19 September 2008

Fresh Expressions

I had to go to Oxford today for a Fresh Expressions meeting. Yes, I know this is my day off, but this dosn't happen very often. I took Isla with me and she had a shopping trip in town.

This was a good meeting and we discussed Cutting Edge Ministries, the new plans for MK, and I shared some of my sabbatical experiences. It feels like the whole Fresh Expressions thing is coming together very nicely...

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Weddings at the Hammer House of Horror

What a day!

Today I was supposed to go to a day about weddings with Ross - who was going to drive. Unfortunately, Ross was ill, so couldn't come. He did, however, give me some vague instructions... so I set off with a vague idea, a partially printed map and a great deal of hope. I did not, however, have either a map or a satnav since these were both in Isla's car - somewhere in Wales...

I got to roughly the right place in fairly good time. I was a little late, but not two badly. Unfortunately, knowing roughly where I was going was not really enough! I drove back and forth, round in circles, between Princes Risbrough, Great Missenden and the Hampdens. I discovered some amazing narrow lanes and idyllic back streets of south bucks. No-one I spoke to could offer me any advice and my phone refused to function.

After an hour or so of this, I was about ready to give up, but, as a loyal diocesan boy, I decided to have one more try... so I found myself in Wendover in the public library. The nice lady didn't know where I was going either but she did find me a map - which to my great delight had "Hampden House" marked on it. Hooray!

So back in the car I got and drove on the most dirrect route - which turned out to be a single track road through some interesting farms, woods and rural corners - and eventually found the spot on the map where my location was meant to be.

Alas - I still couldn't see it! After driving backwards and forwards a couple of times, I decided to have a closer look at a farm gate with a vague sign on it. To my delight, the sign said "Hampden House" although it looked strangely closed. As I drove closer, however, it opened up magically itself - was this place twinned with Hogwarts?

And so, finally, I arrived at my location. The amazing Hampden House - as used in the Hammer Horror movies... just in time for lunch...

Great place - and a really interesting event.

The day was put on by the Wedding project, a Church of England group looking at how we might develop our work with couples. We were introduced to some of the new rules, and some wonderful new resources.

The key theme to the day seems to have been "Yes we can!" - an appeal to us as Anglican clergy to be more positive and welcoming in our approach to weddings.

In fact, statistics show that we are already really good at first contact and in the way we perform weddings. Couples generally give us ten out of ten for the way we help them through the process, which is really good news! It seems, however, that we could do better on our follow up and it was suggested that we could improve this by sending out first anniversary cards - which I think is a really good idea.

The other suggestion of note was that couples (who have generally been together for a few years) don't want "marriage preparation" or lengthy courses - but do want a wedding seminar ("a space to think") with other couples and their vicar - focussed on the service and the meaning of this, rather than on conflict resolution and relationships. This was interesting because it confirms the suspicion that Mike and I have had over the past couple of years which we have used to develop our own wedding prep afternoons. In fact it would suggest that we should focus these more on the service and less on communications - I suspect the island map may need to go...

We were given a rough outline of a wedding event based on this model, but I think it could be improved. All good stuff though and much to learn from...

I had to leave early - to get back to a wedding rehearsal - but couldn't resist asking a question.

"Can I go now?" I asked from the back.

"Yes you can" the crowd replied.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Bishop Alan

Bishop Alan was in Milton Keynes today for one of his 'deanery days'. He was able to meet a few people and spend some time with deanery chapter. He told chapter about his valuable experiences at the Lambeth Conference - see Bishop Alan's Blog for more...

The Party's Over

Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies by Richard Heinberg

We all know that there's a problem with fossil fuels, but do we really know how bad this problem is going to be? In this comprehensive and enormous book (300 pages of analysis) Richard Heinberg takes a long and careful look at the issue.

He tells the story of how coal, oil and other energy sources enabled industrial societies to bloom and flourish over a relatively short period of time. He also explains how access to "cheap energy" had an impact on agriculture, technology, population growth and war. It is interesting to note how many of the world's conflicts have ultimately been about energy.

Having explained why fossil fuels are so crucial, he then explains why the good years may soon be over. The key researcher here is a man called Marrion King Hubbert who first calculated the date of peak oil production in 1949. "Hubbert's Peak" is an extremely significant point in world history, since it marks the beginning of a steady decline in the availabilty of oil and consequent price rises. According to Heinberg, this date is somewhere between 2003 and 2010 - although he does point out that it will only be possible to see when it was in retrospect...
This may sound like a peice of abstract geological theory, but it has huge consequences. The price of oil affects transportation, electric power, industrial production and the economy. If there are problems with these basic issues, there will be consequent effects on healthcare, social welfare, food production, and so on...

To add insult to injury, Heinberg points out that none of the "alternative" sources of energy are quite as "cheap" as oil and many of them are dependent on cheep fuel to make them available.

As Heinberg says, the party will soon be over. We have been used to an economic bubble of continuous growth and development, but this has been dependent on a readily available fuel source that is about to run out. The concequences will be ecomonic decline, conflict and de-population.

There's very little we can do to reverse this inevitable decline, but we can choose to face it in a number of different ways. Inevitably some will choose conflict or self-interest, but they may only hasten more dramatic problems. Heinberg suggests that we raddically conserve energy use, look for alternative enegy sources ASAP, adopt less energy dependent technology, grow our own food, and cut back on transport use. He also suggests that nations need to pre-empt the inevitable issues by remodelling food and financial systems and act quickly to create a global strategy.

Is this time to panic?

If you're a pessimist, go ahead!
If you're an optimist, you may have your head in the sand anyway, so don't worry...

If you're willing to face reality, then this is a book for you. There are challenging times ahead, but there are things we can do to make this a really significant time of change. If we handle the next two centuries with a bit of wisdom then we should finish up with quite a comfortable planet.

Alaister Darling was recently criticised for saying that the Credit Crunch would be more serious than people expected. It was felt more ecomonically prudent to say that things were fine.

A society should not be judged by how it acts when things are going well, but how it responds when there are challenges ahead. If we have a time of scarcity to face, then we must ensure that we are up to the task. History will judge us by how we seek justice, equality and peace - even when easier and simpler solutions are at hand.

Let's face the music and dance!

Here's a video that explains the problem in depth:

Or an interview with Richard Heinberg himself:

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Deanery Synod

Tonight we had our annual meeting of the Deanery Synod. Synod only meets once a year because the Mission Partnership Assembly is regarded as a Synod meeting - since the denominations chose "convergence" a few years ago.

Although this is fine in principle, there are some issues about representation - as this evening showed. Many Deanery Synod members only find out what's going on once a year - if they attend the meeting. A number of churches don't feel that they have anyone to represent them at all and some people miss the opportunity to be Anglican.

We spent most of the evening explaining how the deanery works, which I think was really important for new members. It also enabled more established members to reflect on things a bit...

I don't think I could be accused of being non-ecumenical but it does strike me that the principle of convergence has some weaknesses. It obscures very real distinctions and requires people to deny part of their own identity. It makes it difficult for people to have real relationships since relationships are dependent on their being more than one party involved. It also encourages us to downplay representative decision-making bodies like Deanery Synod and emphasise converged bodies where only brief reports are possible.

We are still waiting for the final draft of the Mission Partnership review, but I hope that this will address some of these issues...

Ecumenism is good, but it's a journey of pilgrims drawing ever closer to one another as they follow Christ. When it becomes an obsession with structural unity, it is very easy to loose valuable Spirit filled life in order to gain very little.

The LEPs are, on the whole, functional Christian communities with multiple allegiances. Tearing them apart would be a denial of authentic Christian community, but the way forward is not (necessarily) the creation of one pseudo-denomination in Milton Keynes. The reality is that new expressions of Christian community will continue to evolve and spring up with whom we must learn to live and work. We are one - whether we like it or not. Structures don't create that unity, although they sometimes facilitate it...

And the future for the Deanery of Milton Keynes? Watch this space...

Busy Day

Team Meeting - briefly
Ecumenical Oversight Group
Voices Editorial Meeting
Meet the Teacher
Deanery Synod

Monday, 15 September 2008

The Shenley Nativity

You've heard of the Manchester Passion and the Liverpool Nativity - this year we'll be having a Shenley Nativity. I met with LIz Baker and Mike Geaney this evening to pull our thoughts together. Mike has produced a song list and the beginnings of a script. All we need is a team!

We're having a get together on Sunday 19th October in the evening to see who might be willing to get involved. We need cast, crew and some good technical people. This should be fun!

We're planning to target our invitations at teens and twenty somethings rather than do mass advertising. If it works well this year, we might suggest moving the project to a larger location, perhaps elsewhere in the city - MK Nativity 2009?

The Gospel According to Star Wars

Faith, Hope and the Force
I bought this book at Greenbelt thinking it would be a light read and a bit of fun. It turned out to be a fairly meaty piece of systematic theology using the Star Wars saga as a jumping off point. I felt I was back at university again...

It is a good book and certainly makes you think. John McDowell reflects on the underlying theological and philosophical issues that can be found in the Star Wars movies and explores issues of evil, politics, salvation and redemption in an original and thought-provoking way.

A must if you're a closet jedi with theological tendencies - but McDowell has some serious things to say about Christian discipleship which are worth hearing.

MK Environment Group Conference

The MK Environment Group is advertising this conference at the moment. I hope to go if I can.
The theme is "Transport - A Journey to a Fairer Future" which is a fairly relevant issue in Milton Keynes. I would be interested to hear what the speakers have to say about our grid roads, which look green but are probably a major contributor to our carbon footprint!

I've just been reading a wonderful book called "The Party's Over" (review on the way) which has a lot to say about the issue of transport. This is a really serious issue and one we need to think about very carefully.


Transport – A Journey to a Fairer Future

This event takes place on Saturday 22nd November at the Church of Christ the Cornerstone. It will be preceded by the Annual Members Meeting of Christian Ecology Link, to whom our group is affiliated. The main programme will start just after 11.00am, with coffee and registration from 10.30 onwards.

Stephen Potter, Professor of Transport Strategy at the Open University, will give one talk entitled Let’s Stop Fuelling Ourselves in which he will consider what we have to do to cut transport emissions to a sustainable level, and another entitled Are Roads Evil? in which he will explore the ethics of transport and land use planning - looking at urban design issues generally, but with some MK examples included.

Michael Northcott, Professor of Ethics at the University of Edinburgh, will give two talks, one called The Desire for Speed and the other The Rhythm of the Earth. He will challenge us to think about our own travel habits, the reasons why we value our cars so highly, and how Christians could lead the way in adopting an approach to travel in the future which is more environmentally sustainable, and doesn’t disadvantage the poor.

There will be a time for discussion in small groups, when we can all consider some of the difficult questions the subject of transport generates, and a plenary session towards the end when questions arising from the day can be posed to a panel of experts. The day will conclude with a time of devotions, finishing at around 4.30pm.

This is a great opportunity for Christians in MK to be involved in the debate about future transport challenges. Please support this event by booking your place now! Cost £10 including lunch if booked before October 22nd. Contact David Miller on 01908 377376 or by email at david@millersofmk.co.uk. Alternatively, download a pdf version of the booking form here - conference-booking-form-final-version.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Going Greek

The last Anglican service took place at St Mary's Church in Stony Stratford on Palm Sunday 1969. For many years the building was used as a community centre, but now, the Greek Orthodox Community of Milton Keynes is putting it back into service as a church.

Although they don't own the building yet, this evening was a wonderful opportunity to celebrate with them. There was a service of Vespers for Holy Cross Day, with a team of chanters from London. This was followed by speeches, including a wonderful talk by their Archbishop.

The evening finished with a splendid "bring and share" with lots of wonderful Greek food!

There were of course, some local dignitaries, including a number of my colleagues.

It was great to spend the evening with the Watling Valley's own "Greek community". Tony and his boys are regulars at All Saints but also attend the Orthodox congregation. The Nelseys gave me a lift and Janet was able to translate a few phrases for me...
All in all, this was a wonderful occasion and it was really great to be part of. I did enjoy it, but am sadly not tempted to dust off my old Greek textbooks... but good luck to the boys as they get stuck into Greek school!

The fruit of the earth

We're slowly getting better at growing our own food. This has been the year of rhubarb and raspberries so far, but our apple trees are finally producing the goods!

We had a lovely apple crumble today - with apples from our own garden! Hooray - and yum, yum!

The girls also made blackberry jam from MK blackberries.

We're not quite up to sustainable living yet, but at least we're having a go.

I wonder what other people have produced this year...


This is an All Saints' day for me! Three baptisms this afternoon with our splendid (and growing) baptism team. This project has been amazing! It's wonderful that baptisms (once a source of frustration) have become such a key part of this church's mission!

One piece of feedback for the morning congregation is that families feel that they get a really warm welcome when they come for their "welcome" before the baptism. Well done ASL!

The Passion of the Christ

Martha at All Saints' is off to university this week but decided to leave the church with a splendid gift - this wonderful picture entitled "The Passion of the Christ". Apparently, she wanted a picture of Christ laughing but couldn't find many examples. This powerful image will put that right!

I think it's an incredible painting and will give us a lot to think about. I love its energy! This is real passionate and exuberant joy! A potent image and one that does say a great deal about Christ and the people who are called to follow him...

Looking forward

While the rest of the world was celebrating Holy Cross Day (!) or the Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity, All Saints' was following the readings for Proper 21, 2009!

This was primarily to allow me to test run some SU material, but it was also a good opportunity to talk about pastoral care.

This was a good Sunday. For the first time, we sent the children out before the first hymn - rather than before the service - which gave me the opportunity to pray with them and do a bit of input with my new sunglasses (modelled here by Rozi).

During the service we also prayed for our new authorised preachers and gave them their "letters". Rozi, John, Sue and Phil have all shown that they have gifts in this area and have therefore been made authorised preachers on the understanding that they will all complete three portfolio competencies during the next three years - or produce evidence of previous work. There are six other preachers in the Watling Valley who will also receive their letters in the next few weeks... This is an exciting development!

Shenley and Loughton

I caught this wonderful view of St Mary's Shenley this morning, looking over from All Saints' Loughton. I enjoy the views of Shenley you get from Loughton, since they remind me of the long history that these two communities share - set on either side of Watling Street.

The distance is tiny, but it wasn't that long ago that the villages regarded each other as "foreign parts". I used to know a lady from Loughton who married a Shenley boy. Even after sixty odd years she found it hard to think of herself as a local.

Actually there's been a lot of to-ing and fro-ing over the years and I'm constantly discovering new family links across the villages or hearing how people were born in one and moved to the other.

These days the two churches are pretty good partners and there are some really warm friendships across that Watling Street divide. I wonder if you could send a semaphore message between the towers...

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Berrys in the wood

Now that summer is here(!) we decided to go for a walk in the woods. There are masses of berries in Shenley wood. We spotted a few elderberries, slows and blackberries. The girls are planning a return visit tomorrow to make some jam.

But it wasn't just berries in the wood this afternoon, we also spotted a deer on the foot path. If you look very carefully you might spot it too...

Our walk in the wood was followed by a major tidying blitz. The garden is a no-go zone still. You would need a swimming trunks to cross the lawn. It looks a bit like the Somme. Perhaps a few days of summer will dry it out...

Rebecca and Marc

Summer finally arrived today, just in time for Becky and Marc's big day. This was a lovely event. Marc was very nervous but Becky was keen - arriving ten minutes early. Unfortunately, some guests needed to be rounded up because they were waiting by the wrong gate!

At the rehearsal Marc had promised to be her husband "for sickness and in health" - fortunately it all came right on the day!

Best wishes to them both for many happy years to come!

Friday, 12 September 2008


Lunch with Rozi.
Izzy returns from her first residential...

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Area Deans and Lay Chairs

I spent most of the day at Green Park at the Area Deans and Lay Chairs meeting. We discussed a number of things, including a paper from Andrew Bunch about the future development of deaneries.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Joint Councils

I've been in the house all day today while the painters have been painting the window frames and the ADT man has been servicing the alarm system. This gave me an opportunity to finally get going on some writing I need to finish by Friday... I've managed to do most of it although I still need to come up with an all-age talk...

One of the problems with today's plan was that all the windows and doors needed to be left open, so the house was cold and there was a howling gale blowing through. It was good to shut everything up once they'd gone.

This evening I attended my first All Saints' and St Mary's council meetings post-sabbatical. For those who don't know we set up a very nice arrangement between the churches which basically means that we meet together for ministerial and parish business and then share coffee before splitting into separate groups. Each church has me for half the evening before we join together at the end for final prayers and "circle time". This final time of sharing is often valuable as each person is asked to mention one thing that they will take away from the evening. This has enormous value to people from both churches as learning is shared and they inspire each other.

This arrangement was originally planned as a way of saving time but it has interesting consequences in terms of cross-pollination and seems to generate a great deal of energy.

This was a good evening, as always. The St Mary's people are looking at ways to open up their building for prayer and turn fund-raising into positive community mobilisation. The All Saints' team had a good conversation about pastoral care and the need to encourage more people to be consciously caring.

There was also a discussion about worship leaders taking on "padwan learners" - who they would nurture as intercessors. All good stuff!

A good evening but an odd one for me since I'm not sure where I fit into all this...

The days other highlight was the arrival in to post of my sabbatical notes, all nicely bound. It's nice to see this as a finished product.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Water Eaton and their mission to the seaside

Back in June I told you about the good people of Water Eaton and their wonderful trip to the seaside to deliver balaclavas to sailors. Here are some of the pictures:

Here they all are with their chosen mode of transport: the Dons tour bus!

Here's our Development Chaplain demonstrating how clergy motivate their congregations for mission!

The people of Water Eaton are "on a Mission". I'm not sure why they needed the stretched limo...

The Sailors Church - where they worshipped together.

All in all a good day!

The Apostrophe Police and "The Sportsmens Rest"

Last night Isla set up a Facebook Group called "The Apostrophe Police". This was largely inspired by the (now legendary) "Sportsmens Rest" - the name chosen for the relaunched "Clock Inn".

Even as I type this I can see a red line underneath "Sportsmens" which is refusing to go away. Should I ask Firefox to add it to its dictionary?

As Isla says, "Sportsmens Rest" is wrong on so many levels. Yes, it's gramatically incorrect, and hardly a good use of inclusive language - although I note that two of the three "sportsmens" on the poster are female...

We all make mistakes in grammar, spelling, punctuation and language, but rarely spend a lot of money on signage to spread the word. Well done Isla - and best wishes to the Apostrophe Police!

Monday, 8 September 2008

Half Marathon Sponsorship

I think I now have all the sponsorship money (or pledges) for the NSPCC half marathon in June. I've added them up and we have raised £333 which is not a bad haul! Well done to everyone who supported us and many thanks! - and to those who have promised money - I'll be seeing you soon...

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Wedding Prep

We had one of our regular wedding prep sessions this afternoon. It's late in the season so we only had two couples - but four vicars - not a bad ratio!

Human Face or Personallity Cult

The news has been dominated over the past few weeks by public figures for whom their personality has become a significant issue:
Gordon Brown: Has he got what it takes to be prime minister - or is he too depressing?
David Cameron: Has he got any substance to offer behind that style?
Vladimir Putin: Is the ability to shoot tigers useful in a Russian President?
Sarah Palin: Is the ability to shoot moose useful for an American VP?

We have also had some high profile Anglican personallities who have decided to voice their opinion about homosexuality:
Cliff Richard: Who has declared that gay marriage would be a good thing... and
Desmond Tutu: Who is appealing for the Church to talk about something else...

Is this emphasis on personality a good thing?
It certainly has a negative side, allowing those in power to cultivate an aura of invincibility and competence. It can also enable a leader to cover up for a lack of good ideas, or convince their population that all is well... In America, Sarah Palin and John McCain have, against the odds, convinced the many people that they, as Republicans, are the party of change, in spite of the fact that Republicans have been in the white house for the past eight years...
But personallity can also have a positive side. Desmond Tutu has spent much of his life with limitations on his power. Even when he was Archbishop he served against the backdrop of an apartied regime that sought to limit his human rights. Now in retirement he speaks without actual power - but with the authority he has earned because of his life and experience. His personallity is what we see and his personaility still communicates. He may not dance when he preaches these days - but he is still part of the message.
We need to relate to one another as human beings. Today through blogs, facebook and social networking this is possible in a whole new way. But like all human abilities, or ability to relate as people is open to abuse, just as it empowers us to discover truth together...

Holy Trinity Wolverton

I took the communion service at Holy Trinity Wolverton today. It was great to be with them. They were very welcoming and sang wonderfully - as I said to them, the whole congregation were like one big choir! Here they are sharing a greeting - God be with you!

At the bottom of the hill they have acquired a lake which is now sitting where the foot path used to run. We have a bit of flooding in Milton Keynes, but we're not suffering as much as some parts of the country.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Record breaking wedding

The girls are away visiting Grandma in Kent. I have the house to myself - but plenty to do. I've made a start on some writing for Scripture Union - which needs to be in by Friday - and I've also been thinking about my sermon at Holy Trinity Wolverton for tomorrow.
The big job of the day, however, was a wedding at St Mary's in Shenley which had to start at 12 but finish in time for a reception at Horwood House at 1 - while still being a meaningful and legal event... In order to achieve this we had only one hymn and processed up to the altar during the music for signing the register. The real key was to be calm but disciplined - and to ensure that everyone else did what they needed to do on time.
I think, all things considered, we succeeded and this was, in the end, a very enjoyable and positive event. We even managed to miss the rain! So congratulations to Russell and Natasha and may all their endeavours go as smoothly!

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Running Again

Another three mile run - with Isla this time.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Team Meeting

We had a Watling Valley Ministry Team meeting tonight. We spent a lot of time discussing pastoral care and the meeting planned for the 18th. We also had a very brief 5 minute update on LSM and discussed Jeff's placements. This was Nick's first meeting.

Playing Churches

Liz and I spent an hour in St Mary's practising for communion. We got out all the "stuff" and she ran through the words and actions of the Anglican communion service. We decided to leave BCP for another day...
I'm looking forward to her first communion next month at Servant King.

Keith Lambdin

I was stunned to see a notice on Bishop Alan's Blog this morning: Small Earthquake in Oxford - all OK. Apparently, Keith Lambdin has just been appointed as principal of Sarum College in Salisbury. This is no small earthquake! Keith has been contributing to the development of ministry in Oxford Diocese and beyond for 25 years and will be greatly missed. I have personally valued his wisdom and always enjoyed batting ideas around with him. He was kind enough to give me a couple of hours during my sabbatical and we talked about collaborative ministry, deanery development and more.
Best wishes to him on this new appointment but we'll miss him.


It's been a morning of wedding admin. I went to Christ the Vine, Coffee Hall, to help them with their returns. I also received a letter from the diocesan registrar in answer to a query I sent to him last week. There are still a few points that I need to clarify before I can give a clear answer about free church registers and anglican clergy, but I will kepp working on it.

Sutton House

Went to Sutton House and spent some time with Audrey. Her neighbour has just died, so please pray for the family and the Sutton House community.

Running Again

Walked children to school this morning, where I saw Nick lurking at the gate doing the Chaplain thing - good stuff...
Ran home. Three ten minute miles. This marks the start of my new training regime. My aim is to extend some of my longer runs so that I've got the stamina for a faster half marathon next year.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Brenda and Stephen

Today we welcomed Brenda and Stephen Mosedale, who are taking up a shared position as superintendent ministers for the Milton Keynes Methodist Circuit.

Brenda is a doctor and wants to find part-time work in her specialist area - which includes drug abuse and issues of exclusion. Stephen is busy finishing off a PhD.

As part of this appointment process, the circuit has noted that Watling Valley and Cornerstone have not had a historic input of Methodist ministry. The Mosedales will therefore be providing a proportion of their time to these two communities - which will need to be paid for in the 2009 budget...

While this is a good idea, it has implications for the organisational life of local partnerships. The methodist circuit (and probably increasingly the URC in MK) think in terms of the city/borough/area as a whole. The Anglican deanery has also begun to contemplate half/quarter posts as a way of providing small pockets of mission investment. I suspect that this appointment (from a Watling Valley point of view at least) represents part of a shift from entirely local teams to ministry teams made up of a range of partial/non-stipendiary posts. This will have implications for planning, strategy and team-building - although it may take a while for consequences to become clear - and many of them will be positive - just different - prepare for change... (For those who have read "Joining the Rainbow" could I refer you to my chapter on non-local ministry - "The Big Picture")

Anyway, putting such thoughts to one side for a moment, I wish Brenda and Stephen well for the next period of their Christian ministry and look forward to working with them.