Wednesday, 29 October 2008


This evening the young people entered the talent competition. Iona and Emily played a top class performance on their violins, accompanied by Caribbean dancing by Izzy and Daniel. The host proclaimed this a first - but not a win unfortunately. We were extremely proud.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Six Foot Hamster Wheel?

A few weeks ago I posted on Facebook that I was trying to work out how to make a six foot hamster wheel. This started a train of curious comments... which I refused to answer with any real clarity...

Why would you need a six foot hamster wheel? It's easy - for a four foot hamster!

This was, of course, all Izzy's idea and her costume was a prize winner - coming joint first alongside a toilet roll rocket.

(For those who are keeping track, this is fancy dress win number five...)

The Apostrophe Police

Going on holiday is a great opportunity to moonlight for the apostrophe police.

Here are two great examples from our camp site:

Dont Forget


To Book Next Years Holiday

How many years?

And who is Dont?

Studland Bay

Apparently, it snowed in Milton Keynes today!

It was pretty cold in Dorset too, so we went to the beech and had a barbecue - somehow managing to cook and eat the sausages during the hour when it was raining...

Studland bay includes a stretch of beach open to naturists. I have to say I wasn't inclined...

Monday, 27 October 2008

Brownsea Island

We went to Brownsea Island today - coincidentally on the same day that Bill Oddie and Kate Humble started their Autumn Watch programme. We didn't see them but gilrs managed to get their autographs.

the island was crawling with BBC lighting and camera people who were rigging up everything in sight for the evening broadcaste. This included the church which had only recently had its first power point installed (they're a little behind our St Giles - which now has electric lighting and heating). The BBC however, required floodlighting, so laid out a network of heavy duty cables to light up everything in sight - nice to know that the licence fee is beeing used well...

Brownsea Island is a beautiful place - and the site of the first scout camp in 2007. We took pictures of the children doing their salutes by the memorial stone.

Althought the island will always be famous for its links with souting its had an interesting history with many twists and turns. At one point it was a hive of industry with 200 plus people working to produce clay pipes. For a while it was owned by a rich lady who removed all the islanders - who occassionally sneaked back to see how things were decaying... As with Corfe Castle, I found myself refecting on the histories that might have been: industrial zone, millionaire's hideaway, golf course, and so on...

Sunday, 26 October 2008

New Minister in Woughton Parish

Cathi Williams (nee Brereton)
New Anglican Minister in Woughton Parish

I’m currently living and working in Middlesbrough, though my family are in the south, my parents just outside the M25 in Surrey, and my brother in London. I am married to Howard who is currently a full-time Dad and musician developing a business based from home writing and producing music. Our Daughter, Seren, was born in February.

My current parish is a small church, St Chad’s, in a socially mixed part of Middlesbrough. A small stream divides the parish, to one side is deprived with all the usual associated problems, the other side is better off.

Working in a small church has been a challenge, not least in finding enough people to get everything done. Nevertheless we have moved forward, becoming more outward looking as a church and developing a relationship with the Methodists who, while their building is being renovated, are currently worshipping with us on the first Sunday and in our church hall for the rest of the month. We have also enjoyed our collaboration on NE1 (the North East’s version of Soul in the City), Hope08 and the ongoing Genesis youth work project.

My curacy was in the same deanery working in a very tough urban parish in Middlesbrough. The parish has shrunk by about half through demolition since I started work there in 2000. After my training incumbent left, I covered their interregnum for a year before moving to my current post.

I have a particular interest in Fresh Expressions / Emerging Church. I have become more and more aware of the gap between church and secular culture and I am convinced we have a responsibility to express the gospel in a way and language that people have a chance of understanding. Associated with this interest is my creative approach to ministry, both in terms of doing new things and in the sense of using music and visuals in a contemporary way.

A quick word about my life pre-ordination: I worked for USPG (Anglicans in World Mission) for five years. My work came in two halves, firstly managing the short term programmes (overseas gap years and ‘Root Groups’ doing community work in UK deprived urban areas) and secondly looking after all people coming and going through USPG from the Anglican Province of Southern Africa. I travelled about once a year on USPG’s behalf to this part of the world.

Before this I had studied Geography in Durham, spent a gap year in India and studied Land Resource Management in Silsoe.

Howard, Seren and I are very much looking forward to our move to Milton Keynes and to getting to know you all. I am excited by the opportunities and challenges this role presents.

Corfe Castle

We spent the half term break in Dorset which is an amazing place. We've been before but are always delighted to find new places to explore.

The first trip out took us to Corfe Castle which is slowly being "restored" to an appropriate state of ruin.

It was destroyed by one side of the civil war who didn't want the other side to use it - thereby robbing the wealthy of a stately home - but providing the National Trust with a picturesque ruin.

I often wonder what would have happened had it not been blown up in the cause of peace? Could it have been a royal residence? - or Dorset's equivalent to Alton Towers?

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Probably no God?

The big subject of discussion on the Christian Blogsphere today is the bus poster campaign being organised by Richard Dawkins and friends. The buses will say: "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life".

Obviously, there's no such thing as bad publicity and the Methodist Church have offered to send them a few quid in support - and in grateful thanks for raising the profile of spiritual issues.

Peter Leeson is questioning why someone would want to spend £36,000 to announce that there is "probably" no God.

Bishop Alan is posting Atheist gospel songs...

It's all good fun of course - unless you are about to have your house repossessed and could really do with 36 grand...

Like many people I'm not that bothered about the campaign and fully expect it to start evangelistic conversations all over the country - so well done Dawkins for promoting discussions about faith.

Here are a few oblique comments of my own:

"Probably" - well, that's got to annoy the committed atheists. "Probably" implies an agnostic position which means there's something to discuss. If I was an agnostic I'd be inclined to hedge my bets, rather than stop worrying and enjoy my life. What if God's waiting to get me?

"Stop worrying and enjoy your life" - tricky advice if you're poor, sick or dying. The only people I know who are actually able to stop worrying and enjoy their life are those who have found a hope which transcends the difficulties of normal human existence. They don't embrace hedonism but life in all its fullness - in the midst of darkness and despair. Those who can dance while living through apartheid - who can sing songs of freedom while oppressors reign - who can smile in the face of their own death - these are the people who are able to project real peace. This advertising slogan suggests a shallow peace for those struggling with "religious" guilt - when real peace comes in the embrace of grace which acknowledges brokenness rather than denying it... or is that a bit deep for Dawkins?

I look forward to seeing the next slogan. I wonder what they'll come up with next:
Jesus probably didn't turn water into wine. Get yours at Odbins.

Noah probably didn't build an ark. Learn to swim.
Jesus was probably not born on December 25th in the year nought. No more Christmas presents!

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Loosing files

Something happened to Microsoft Word this afternoon and it refused to save. Not only did it refuse to save, it also deleted the original file that it was attempting to replace! Horror of horrors! Two days worth of work up in smoke!

I tried to recover the files using the usual tricks but found nothing. Imagine my feelings...

After a number of fruitless attempts, I changed the file settings to display hidden files and managed to find some interesting documents which tracked changes made to my file. I was then able to use these to recreate most of the original. After an hour of work I had rebuilt it from the various textual jigsaw pieces... Blessed relief!

Money as Debt

I found this on a blog this morning. It's a fascinating account of how money is made and how debt is both enriching and destroying human society. It's worth watching, although I'm not sure I swallow some of the conspiracy theories implied at the end...

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Deanery Tour

While tearing around Milton Keynes today, I worked out that I have been in 21.4% of the churches in the Deanery of Milton Keynes in a twenty-four hour period. How's that for being around!

That's 6 out of 28 for those who want to do the maths....

Shenley Nativity

The Shenley Nativity is an imaginative project which aims to create a lively, dramatic and contemporary retelling of the Christmas story using popular music, outdoor drama, video, lights and action - aimed at the teens and twenty somethings who sometimes get forgotten at Christmas. Those who remember the Liverpool Nativity may find the idea familiar - but there will be no Beatles songs!

The team came together tonight for a walk-through and envisioning session. It's going to be hard work but worth it! Paul is a musical genius! Mike is a mad genius! Can't wait!


At lunchtime I attended the baptism of my cousin's son, Sebastian, over in Wavendon. It was great to see David Lunn take a really engaging and thoughtful service - packed with good lines and opportunities to connect.

Thanks David and all the best for Seb and his parents!

St Frideswide's Day

After my trip to Woughton I dropped in on St Frideswide who were celebrating their patronal festival. I was there long enough to say grace for them and cook up a few new plans...

I said grace but had to leave before the eating began...


I've slowly been getting to know the people of Woughton over the past eight years. I did a few away days for them six or seven years ago. I've taken a wedding in Simpson, various services in Woolstones and attended worship in Fishermead - as part of Duncan's review - but this was the first time I have been able to lead worship at St Mary's Woughton.

I did the 8:30 service (which was communion with one hymn) and then preached at the 9:45 service (which was not). They were very encouraging and supportive and said some nice things afterwards, so I think they'll have me back.

They had three guitars at the 9:45 service!

Here they all are sending their blessings to you:

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Jayne and Simon

Jayne and Simon were married at St Mary's today. It was a super wedding with great readings by Mandy and Emma. We were reminded that "a chord of three strands is not easily broken" - so may God be with them as they continue their journey...

This was the first wedding that Liz has been involved with in Watling Valley. She's been part of a few wedding prep sessions but today she observed and led the intercessions. I'm looking forward to her first wedding in February.

After the service I popped into Stantonbury where a new baptist minister, Chris Howden, was being inducted. The sermon was by Brother Graeme, and Elder from the Holy Transfiguration Monastry - apparatnly one of only two baptist monasterys in the world (see Mr Jones and Me) I'm afraid I wasn't there long enough to get any good pictures, but anyone who asks a baptist monk to preach at their induction service should be a fairly interesting person!

P.S. Geoff Colmer has also mentioned this on his blog entry: Baptist Monk

String Trio

Izzy has been learning the cello for four weeks. Iona has been learning violin for eighteen months. Isla bought her own violin from Netto - and has been trying to keep up. Here they all are in their first string trio:

Friday, 17 October 2008


We had a good day off today. We popped into Borders to buy a baptism present for Sunday and bumped into one of our relatives and had a good chat - then we popped into Shenley to post a parcel (the post office was closed) and bumped into Janet Nelsey - who was trying to get rid of an old bike - which was perfect for Iona - recycling and happiness all round.

The day finished with a quiz night at which we came third - if only we had not confused Nick Clegg with Daniel O'Donnel - and could recognise Jo Biden on a dark night! I was pleased, however, that I remembered the Pinta!

Thursday, 16 October 2008

"Better than Church?"

During the past few weeks I've been reflecting on the link between blogging and church. This has partly been sparked off by conversations with people in churches that I've visited who were asking for new ways to create networks and share information. I've also been monitoring my visitor numbers and was struck that the daily chart of unique visitors looks remarkable similar to the attendance record at St Laurence in Slough - the church I looked after for eighteen months as a curate. The only difference is that the visitors are daily rather than weekly, but there is the same pattern of community - roughly 20 to 40 each "event" with occasional spikes of 60 0r 70 on special occassions....

A friend of mine (who is probably reading this) also commented that reading the blog was "better than going to church" - which I do take as a compliment, but it does raise some interesting questions. To what extent can the blogsphere provide opportunities to "be" church?

A few years ago, I was quite interested in the idea of on-line church and a few of us began to think about how to do it. We started with cell church methodology and looked at ways to do this. I even bought the "cybercell" url (and still own it). When the diocese put money into cutting edge ministries and launched iChurch I was seriously tempted to apply for the job (which unfortunatley was part-time). It's been interesting to watch iChurch develop in similar directions to CyberCell - which never got off the ground because I didn't have enough time to invest in it...

In the meantime the web has moved on and we now have (through various web 2.0 innovations) the joy of Facebook, blogging, wikis and ediatble sites like Webjammer. Facebook (and other social networking sites) have been brilliant for creating a sense of community with people who you don't see every day - and with people you see a lot too! Blogging has proven a really interesting tool for people like me who have lots of people they want to communicate with - but may only see every few months or so... It's also had important spin offs in terms of accountability, deeper discussion and every-extending community. I began this blog in June 2007 as an attempt to record what I did workwise as an attempt to monitor and assess my working patterns. It's now a valuable tool for personal reflection, conversation and community. I may only give it a few minutes each day but these are never wasted minutes...

In the meantime I do have some questions about blogging and "being church". Is blogging a personal project - emerging out of what a person is? Is blogging a mission project - a conscious attempt to achieve something? Is Christian blogging is a fresh expression - a way of being church which is accesible to those who don't currently attend trad church? Is it ever simply a way of being church - a way of exercising our call to be Christian community?

These are interesting questions and I'd like to look at them using the criteria I often use with churches and groups - based on Acts 2:

Opportunity to engage with the word: I don't think I often use my blog to quote scripture or attempt to do bible teaching (it wouldn't feel hugely appropriate), but I am aware that I (and many other Christian bloggers) do use blogging to comment on contemporary issues. In many ways I feel that public blogging encourages us to conect real life with faith and scriptures - in a way that may not always seem appropriate in a church service. Blogging is the 21st century equivalent of discussing life with a newspaper in one hand and the bible in the other. And it is a discussion with opportunity for comments and continuing discussion - unlike traditional "preaching".

Mutually Supportive Relationships: These do seem to be developing and growing through things like Facebook and I love following some of the strands of conversation and comment that follow updates and photos. It's also been great to continue to feel connected to some of our young people as they head off on their university adventures. Bloggong does provide some opportunity for this and I loved one of Tim Leeson's recent entries about his Dad. The problem is that blogging can be more of a spectator sport - although mutual reading of blogs can be a powerful tool for community. I have wondered from time to time if we could create a group of "covenanted bloggers" who would commit to read each others blogs on a regular basis and comment - this would be one way of creating an on-line cell group. The blogs could be password protected if people wanted to keep their thoughts to themself. Church should be a mutually supportive, learning community - this is very hard on Sunday morning, but easy to do on-line.

Breaking Bread together: Hard to do on-line but iChurch and others do manage online worship. On the other hand there is something in the concept of the Christian Eucharist which is about taking the ordinary things of life and allowing God to transform them in the context of our community. Our online lives may not involve a litoral process of breaking bread and pouring out wine but they can provide us with opportunities to link ordinary life with God's reality - our online lives can have a sacramental element in some way...

Time and Space for prayer: Prayer usually begins with knowledge. Only when I am expossed to issues or needs am I driven to pray. Only when I begin to see things from God's point of view do I know what to pray for. The joy of reading other people's blogs, or reading facebook updates, is that I have a new mechanism for this. I am also able to post information on my blog that (I hope) will be picked up by other people who will join me in prayer. In fact, I think I often finish a blog entry by inviting people to pray for particular individuals or situations. Observant readers will have spotted a "please pray for" widget in the side bar. I'm not sure if anyone every notices it, but it seems like the right thing to do. Scripture Union also has a prayer application - which is very clever but I've never really got into it.

Helping one another to see God at work in the world: This is another joy of blogging and Facebook, Not only can I tell people what God's been doing in my life, I can also see it in others. I've never been a great fan of formal "testimonies" since I think they can become formulaic or self-obsesed, but I love reading some of the things that people write about their lives or churches. These have been some of the most moving experiences I've had over the past year and I'm thankful for those who've had the courage to psot their stories, images and experiences. They have enriched my journey and have been sources of real wisdom and wonder.

Members share who they have and what they are with one another: As I've already said, I think this does happen through blogs and facebook updates in a way that is very challenging in a Sunday morning "seeker sensitive" service. Many of us know it can happen well through cells or small groups, but it's proven really hard to help people set aside time for this. Online community, however, happens in its own time and seems more sustainable - in today's frantic world.

Chruch members have an opportunity to give to those in need: Mission is the purpose of church but I am aware that this is not neccesarily a priority in blogging - although many of us do use up megabytes of personal space talking about it. On the other hand it is possible to give to good causes on-line, although this can feel like an impersonal financial transaction. I'm more impressed by some of the Facebook innovations which I would love to promote. Superbadger is a fab idea that Tearfund have set up. It's basically a mechanism for co-ordinating online campaigns equivalent to the postcards that many of us send. Only last night I received a Superbadger request to "badger" the government not to give up their commitment to dealing with climate change even though the economy is in crisis. I was able to send off a quick message in seconds that the relevant minister will have received before his meeting today. I think this is absolutely brilliant and I really recomend that you check this application out if you use Facebook. There are a few other clever devices that people have cooked up - including Lil Green Patch which generates money from sponsors to buy up acres of amazonian rain forest for conservation. OUr on-line endevours can actually make a difference in the real world!

Meeting together for worship, prayer and celebration: Well... possibly... certainly there are around twent repeat visitors on my blog each day and Facebook speaks for itself...

Experiencing Growth as a result of God's grace: This is a fairly subjective thing although I do feel that I have been growing as a result of my blogging experiment. It's been a great way of creating a personal journal which has helped me to reflect on my life and connect my thoughts with others. In a more objective way I think it would be correct to say that our collective expereiments with blogging, Facebook, etc... have mushroomed and become steadily more significant. Is this a sign of God at work?

So, following these basic criteria, there is something "church-like" going on in the blogsphere, but what kind of church is it?

Liquid Church: Pete Ward coined the phrase "liquid church" a few years ago to refer to forms of church which were fluid and not contained within traditional buildings or structures. Church happens, he says, whenever people come together and do/be it. Church on the blogspehere is a bit like this...

Fresh Expressions: Fresh expressions are forms of church created for those who are not currently members and take on forms which are appropriate to the culture of those people. I think (in a very liquid way) this happens through blogs and social networks. Those of us who "do" church in a public way on-line are continually inviting others to share the journey with us, whether they belong to a specific church or not.

Bishops of the blogsphere: Like many people I love reading bishop Alan's blog. It strikes me that this has given him a new mechanism to be a bishop. His blog entries enable him to speak out on issues that are important to the Church. He also builds links and connections, enabling us to see what's going on in the wider world/church. In a funny way, I feel more connected to my bishop now than I ever have before - and I know he reads my blog so it's a two way thing... This may not be significant to all people reading this blog, but as an anglican minister, it's fairly imporatant to me.

In conclussion, is blogging a way of being church? Well, yes, sort of... But not in the way we're used to thinking about church.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Iona's walking girl...

Iona decided she was going to produce an animation this evening. She came into my study with a book and some bit of paper. Here's the finished video:


Today was one of those days with multiple appointments and seconds to spare as I moved from one event to the next - but they were all good!

I started the day with a bit of a rush as I rushed around photocopying things while Izzy practised her cello at home for the first time! I was then delayed at school where a new teacher was trying to work out which door to open...

After a final stop at home to finish the photocopying I finally got the Well by 9:15 - fifteen minutes late. I wasn't the last to arrive however, since Colin had helpfully guided Steven Mosedale off to a completely different room. This was eventually discovered and the WVEP team come together for some very interesting discussions. Fresh expressions were on the agenda and some story telling and reflection took place...

After team space, I had a supervision session with Liz, who is doing really well as curate in the Watling Valley. Her next challange is to make a more definite link with St Mary's as a home church. I look forward to seeing how she tackles this.

At 12 I had to woosh off to Fishermead to join the Woughton Team for their weekly team lunch. They're a great bunch of people and it was good to see them getting on well and working together. We discussed weddings and the interviews for the new team vicar on Wednesday.

Unfortunatley I only had an hour for this aswell and had to rush home to pick up Paul and head off to Aylesbury for the Archdeaconry Pastoral Committee. This committee is one of those neccessary mechanisms through which significant decisions need to be passed, but there were some exciting plans in the pipeline so it felt worthwhile. It also provided me with an opportunity to ask some questions of my own after the meeting - giving me two very interesting answers concerning two very different MK issues... I was also asked to kick off the discussions about a Team Rector in Watling Valley - since the suspension is due to be lifted in February.

Finally back home with jobs to do. I finally collapsed into the bath - only to get up again for a late night readings and themes session - January to March 2010 would you bnelieve!

Monday, 13 October 2008


Appurtenances (from late Latin appertinentia, from appertinere, "to appertain") is a legal term for what belongs to and goes with something else, the accessories or things usually conjoined with the substantive matter in question.

So know I know what we said to Mike Archer last night - "it's all yours!"

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Mike the Rector!

This evening I had the great privilege of inducting Mike Archer as Rector of St Mary's Bletchley. It was great to spend the evening with the people of St Mary's since I have many old and new friends in the congregation - the music was good too!

Mike was keen to make this a low key occasion but we did give him a bit of attention and encouragement - since we all need some of that from time to time.

We did stop short of bowing and scraping, but I believe the band have written a song... and there was cake afterwards - having already attended one service this evening, I skipped the cake and headed home.

Many good wishes and blessings to Mike and all the people of Bletchley!

Liz Baker at the Altar

This evening Liz Baker, from the Well and Watling Valley, presided at communion for the first time. She took a five O'clock service at the Church of the Servant King in Furzton, ans preached about food and faith...

Her sermon prop was an oven glove that she won at a harvest raffle the night before. It was covered with pictures of food and the appropriate biblical references.

At the end of the service, Mike, Team Leader of the Watling Valley, presented her with a pretend red stole - to stand in for the real one when it arrives.

It was a great service (although numbers were not high) and we all enjoyed seeing Liz begin this new ministry.

From her point of view this is time for relief. She's done it now! Next time won't be quite so frightening...

Dave's First Communion

Dave Bell presided at Communion for the first time at St James New Bradwell.

Saturday, 11 October 2008


We had a great afternoon today with our friends, Jane, Duncan, Emily and Daniel.
The main plan was to give the kids some time to plan some fancy dress costumes, but this slid into a walk and a game of "Settlers of Catan" - Here are the rules for those who haven't experienced this particular pleasure yet...

The instructions say you can finish it in 90 minutes. It always seems to take longer. Here's how it should be played - in three minutes flat!:

Friday, 10 October 2008

Harvest at CtS

What do ministers do on their day off? They watch other ministers at work...

Today we attended the Harvest festival assembly at Christ the Sower Schools (why are all their events on Friday?) Nick was heavily involved in the organisation and we were treated to a brief talked based on his dog (puppet) Scrap who helped him demonstrate that we all need someone's hand in us in order to live...

One of the parents sang a gospel song about God's peace and the children read prayers and the parable of the sower. They also sang all the school harvest faves: Cabbages fluffy, the Lord of the Harvest and there's a song to sing. (Slightly older readers will not recognise these hymns, but in return, the children wouldn't recognise Come, ye thankfull people come - so this works both ways...)

The centrepiece of the assembly was the shoe-boxes for Link Romania. Nick played a video which showed how the boxes were delivered and received. I think this was more effective than words could have been.

All in all, this was a great harvest assembly. Nick did well, the kids did well. It was slick and professional and moving. Well done all!

Thursday, 9 October 2008


The BBC subtitle system this morning referred to the Department of Children, Schools and Lies. I know this department has been renamed many times, but this seems the most worrying...

Wednesday, 8 October 2008


Saw Alastair Wood this morning.
Spent the rest of the morning preparing for Kilkenny Harvest.
Went to Partnership Office to photocopy sheets.
Walked out of house without my music...
I therefore had to lead singing of Harvest Hymns for a large group of older people without music! (One of them was 100!) The music didn't go particularly well since my voice wasn't up to it and I forgot the tune to Come, ye thankful people come... Good session though (as always) and it was great to spend the afternoon with some old(er) friends...

Yvonne Yates

Yvonne Yates, Chaplain of Oakhill STC finished work today and headed north for her new appointment. Her friends and colleagues in MK will miss her but we are also gratefull for the work she has done with the staff and students at Oakhill.

In the meantime I've been working hard this week to pull together a job description for a new chaplain. We need to make some changes on the basis of Yvonne's feedback and our discussions. With any luck an advert will be placed in the next couple of weeks...

Four years anniversary

I note that today marks the fourth anniversary of our first 10K run. We did two laps of Willen lake, coming in at an hour 10 minutes - which was not fast but our main goal was to finish! I've re-posted some 2004 entries to mark our times and runs back then...

Tuesday, 7 October 2008


Brief Summary:
Sainsburys opening
Work with Yvonne Yates at Oakhill to review her time here and talk about a new job description
Lunch with Phil Wason to catch up
Local Shared Ministry Project Group - looking at priorities, professionalism and promotion...
Ecumenical Pastoral and Sponsoring Body with discussions about the Mission Partnership Review, ecumenical confirmations, and more...
Up late trying to write a new job description for an Oakhill chaplain...

Not much time for blogging - sorry



I had a few minutes to spare between dropping off the kids and my first meeting this morning so I decided to pop into town for the grand opening of the new Sainsburys store.

Unfortunately I missed the opening ceremony by minutes but I'm told the ribbon was cut by a woman who has worked for Sainsburys (in MK?) for 35 years. I don't think the current store was open 35 years ago, so maybe she worked in Bletchley when I was little...

Although I missed the opening, I did get to see Paul Samme from All Saints' Loughton make the first sale in the electricals department. There was much excitement about this and Paul politely escourted the lady from the store - service with a smile!

It's a huge store and a bold move. I wish them all well and hope this new shop will be a real community hub in the expanding centre of Milton Keynes.

Monday, 6 October 2008

New Priests for Milton Keynes

On the evening of Sunday 5th October David Bell and Liz Baker were ordained priest at All Saints' High Wycombe. Bishop Alan led the service and his chaplain, Rosie Harper, preached, comparing ordination to the experience of opening a big pot of Marmite, only to be drenched in beetroot juice - a true story apparently.

Dave Bell: I originate from Liverpool but spent most of my earlier years in Cardiff. After a few years in Weston-Super-Mare I went to Bishop Otter College in Chichester where I trained as a PE teacher. I taught in various schools in the South East as Head of PE and Games and teacher of Geography. After selection I trained on the Oxford Ministry Course and enjoyed placements at Woodhill Prison and St Mary and St Giles in Stony Stratford.

I am now an NSM curate at St James Church, New Bradwell in Milton Keynes. I am married to Kath and have three children, Saskia (18), Lydia (16) and Tim (13). My full time job is that of a teacher at Chesham Prep School, who have been very supportive over my ministry during my three years of training and beyond.

I love sport and my son and I have season tickets for the MK Dons but I also like rugby, hockey and many other team games. I enjoy going to the gym and cycling.

St James is a great church to work in and I have been made very welcome there by the congregation and the local community. Chris Collinge is my incumbent and she has been a great source of energy and humour over this last year. I look forward to continuing my Curacy there and furthering my experience.

(Dave Bell was previously a member of St Mary's Shenley in the Watling Valley)

Liz Baker: I am serving my title in the Ecumenical Parish of Watling Valley where I work as a part time Assistant Curate. This is a parish with five churches with very different characters, expectations and congregations, and during the past year I have been working with all five, getting to know the people and the area. It has been a challenging and exciting year and I am looking forward to new responsibilities and challenges ahead.

I live at the Well Community where I work ad Director of the Well Project. 'The Well' (a work of the Society of the Sacred Mission (SSM) ) is and Ecumenical and Interfaith Community. Our name is taken from the story of Christ and the woman of Samaria and informs community life along with our five core values of Spirituality, Hospitality, Inclusivity, Peace and Justice and Sustainability. We offer retreats, an annual programme, a healing ministry, and we welcome guests and volunteers. We have a substantial Theological and Spiritual Library. Our focus 'creating community... making for encounter' emphasises bringing people together for hospitality, worship, support and to work for social justice. Life within the community, both stimulating and challenging, has enabled me to fulfil my calling to ministry.

I am married to Robin (who works part time as a Quaker Prison Chaplain at Woodhill) and we have 4 children, James 28, Iain 26, Catriona (Catie) 18 and Taran 17. We have lived in Milton Keynes since 1986 and have both been part of the Ecumenical movement and members of Milton Keynes Quaker Meeting for most of that time. We are both Associates of SSM.

My other interests include drama and movement, history and archaeology, writing and time permitting, long distance walking.

Please pray for Dave, Liz and all those ordained for ministry in our deanery, archdeaconry and diocese.

Anne Stainsby

I took the funeral service today for Anne Stainsby, one of the stalwarts of All Saints' Loughton.

The church was predictably packed with family and friends from the various aspects of her life.

This evening the bell ringers plan to ring quarter peals at both Shenley and Loughton in tribute - but not in time with each other...

LSM in Water Eaton

Andrew Gear and I met with the people of St Frideswide, Water Eaton, this morning for a six month review of their LSM project. We were delighted that around twenty people turned up and there was a great deal of excitement and buzz. We spent some time reflecting on what has gone well and on what challenges the congregation still faces. We then attempted to set some priorities for the coming year.

It was a very encouraging morning. It's clear that St Frideswide has grown in depth and in numbers during the past eighteen months as it has transitioned from a "priest led" parish to a "ministering community". There is a lot of energy and confidence in the community which is wonderful to see. Peter and Wendy, the asociate priests, are also keen to say that they feel welcomed and relaxed and free to be priests rather than burdened by heavy expectations.

This is the first review of one of our LSM pilots and it confirms what I have come to believe - that local ministry flourishes when space is created.

Well done St Frideswide's!

Sunday, 5 October 2008


This evening there were ordinations in High Wycombe.

Before the service (by Mikal Nelsey)

Bishop Alan led the service.

Liz Baker from the Well and Watling Valley.

Liz with her husband Robin.

Dave Bell (formerly Watling Valley) with his training incumbent Chris Collinge.

Dave Bell - now ordained priest.

Dave and friends...

For more information about Dave and Liz, see the Deanery Blog.
See also Bishop Alan's Blog

Friday, 3 October 2008

Moggerhanger Clanger

A couple of years ago, Isla and the girls went to the Bedford River Festival where they encountered a stall selling a sort of lamb stew they called a 'Moggerhanger Clanger'. It turned out that the chefs came from Moggerhanger Park and that Bedfordshire Clangers are a kind of rolled suet dish - a cross between a lamb stew, a cornish pasty and a swiss roll. Apparently the name 'clanger' may come from a Northamptonshire dialect word ‘clang’, meaning ‘to eat voraciously’.

Like pasties, clangers were orriginally designed for working men, providing a complete packed lunch with eddible wrapping. While Cornish pasties were eaten by miners, clangers were 'clanged' (if that's the right grammar) by farmers.

I often find it intriguing that some of the world's favortite dishes began as convenience food for ordinary people. Hence pizzas were created by Roman soldiers with stale bread, and so on...

Anyway... Isla has been raving about Moggerhager clangers ever since, so we decided to go over to Moggerhanger park so I could have a taste...

Moggerhanger Park is a fasinating place. It's only a few miles from Bedford and is well worth a visit. Apparently it was rebuilt by John Soane who also did the bank of England. William Wilberforce was related to the resident Thornton family and there is now an exhibition about slavery on site. It's now a Christian conference centre and has a wonderful restaurant and tea room - where you can buy Moggerhanger clangers...

We had a great day out, some good food, a short walk, and interesting time.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Taste and See

Christ the Sower School want some more Taste and See events this term. For those who can't remember, Taste and See is a non-linear worship event with simultaneous refreshments - or to put it more graphically, there are lots of activities going on at the same time and we call it worship.

Taste and See was a valuable fresh expression project last year which drew in a really interesting collection of people. The big issue was making it happen and we were largely dependent on people from within the school. I was also perhaps a little fx-fundamentalist and hoped to quickly develop a team from the non-church community, which was probably too ambitious. If T&S is to fly again it may need a group of church member supporters who will take the lead, particularly in setting up...

Anyway, there will be a Taste and See on November 5th, so we need to get planning... [or not. Apparently Nick's not free so they may be looking for another date...]

A Movie Mystery: The descendents of Jesus

I finally sat down and watched the last half of the Da Vinci Code last night. It wasn't as good as the book - predictably - and the final reveals were a little lifeless. The highlight was probably Ian McKellan's portrayal of the Teacher as a kind of rabid Dawkins obsessed with pulling apart the evil structures of the Christian Church. Jean Reno also produced a compelling perfomance as the manipulated French cop.

What the movie lacks in drama it makes up for in dodgy historiography, although Robert Langdon, played by Tom Hanks, is often used to provide a counterargument when the film wanders off into more questionable territory.

The key to the plot, of course, is for the protagonists to discover the tomb of Mary Magdelene, thereby proving a genetic link between Sophie and her great, great... grandad, Jesus. It's not clear to me, from the film, why Langdon chooses not to reveal the location of her grave - but there you go...

Watching this movie put me in mind of the vastly superior Kevin Smith flick, Dogma, which focusses on Bethany, an embittered worker in an abortion clinic who turns out to be the great, great... grand niece of Jesus. Smith is himself a catholic and dedicates all his films to God. He's also read his Bible so knows that Jesus probably had brothers and sisters, so would therefore have living relatives - of some form. This film also deals with issues of faith, corruption and the abuse of power, but does so with a sense of mystery and a genuine respect for what may be.

I find myself wondering about this concern for the descendants of Jesus, in these movies, both Sophie and Bethany are referred to as "the Princess" and great things are expected of them. On many levels this seems strange. In terms of the humanity of Christ, a genetic link surely means nothing - human is human and Christ is therefore linked to us all. In terms of divinity, a genetic link is equally meaningless, since there is presumably no "God Gene" that can be passed on...

Does this concern have something to do with the very human concept of royalty - hence the "princess" theme. We somehow want to believe that some people have divine right to special status. I'm really not sure why? Do we find it comforting? Or does is confirm our own sense of personal destiny? Do these films imply that fate plays a significant role in our lives?

Not sure what's going on here, but I am intrigued with what these two films might tell us about human beings. I'm also wondering what other theories will pop out of the box. Perhaps someone will produce a film in which a major politician or star turns out to be a descendent of Jesus? Or maybe we all are, in our own way...