Holy Week Bargain! Share a Journey with John


Journey with JohnI’ve managed to liberate some old stock of A Journey with John, a 40-page booklet based on Holy Week addresses on John’s passion narrative, written in my Carlisle days. They are laid out so that individuals or a small group can use them for daily study and prayer during the week before Easter – sharing a sort of pilgrimage together. I’ve added some sample pages to give you the idea. They’re coming to me at cost, without royalties, so I can let St Edmundsbury and Ipswich parishes (OK Ely too!) have them at only £2.50 per 5 copies including p&p. Orders and cheques (payable to “Bishop’s Training Fund”) to my office please. Half stock gone! Offer open now to readers from other dioceses… Single copies also available at 50p from St Edmundsbury Cathedral Shop. Continue reading

Art Challenge: Lakeland

Lakes Path Lakes Switching tracks Lakes Waterfall

These three were taken in the countryside south of Carlisle, when I was Rector of Cockermouth. Younger and fitter, we made the most of the amazing landscape, not realising that the time was coming soon when we would be “Switching Tracks” (the title I gave the middle shot, which was of an outdoors point-switching frame – rather quaint by today’s standards).

Art Challenge: Boats

Boat Great Yarmouth shipping

While I’ve got boats on my mind, here are two of my favourite pictures of them. The first was taken when we and our sister boat turned off the engines in the middle of the Sea of Galilee. What a silence it was! That was many years ago, but the one below it was taken earlier this year on my iPhone at Great Yarmouth – quite a difference!
Why not enter our Suffolk Show Photography Competition? http://www.stedmundsbury.anglican.org/index.cfm?page=landf.content&cmid=422

Art Challenge: Cambridge

Cambridge bikes Cambridge Boat Race on Thames Cambridge punting

No prizes for guessing where we are now; though the shot in the middle was actually taken at the CUBC boathouse on the Thames on Boat Race Day. Jean and I were guests of the club, having entertained the crew to tea in Ely (where they practice) when I was Acting Bishop before + Stephen arrived. I’ve never seen so many sandwiches and sausage rolls be eaten by so few people in so speedy a time!
Why not enter our Suffolk Show Photography Competition? http://www.stedmundsbury.anglican.org/index.cfm?page=landf.content&cmid=422

Licensing of Celia Cook as the new priest for Playford and the Bealings

1 John 4:7-12

7 Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us. 

Three cheers! Well done everyone who’s been working so hard to sustain the life of our churches during the vacancy. Well done everyone who’s been part of the search and appointment process. And well done Celia for saying yes: we couldn’t be here without you!

So is that it then. Are we all going to slip back into our usual ways, and carry on just as before? I don’t think so. A new priest inevitably brings new ideas with them. But it’s more than that. We are all acutely conscious both of how much the church and Christian people are being called to do in a world that is so full of need and so unsure of the basis for hope. And also acutely conscious of how easily the institutional church at least could be lost to our nation, with all that will mean for generations to come.

So there is work to do. And a service like this is a time not just welcome Celia into the ministry here but to reaffirm our shared commitment to that ministry and the mission that goes with it. To stand a bit taller and say yes to playing our part for God.

That mission and ministry reaches out far beyond the people who turn up for church services. I’ve been reading your parish profile. It offers a vision of warmth and welcome, spreading out you say from the personality of the priest (so no pressure then Celia) to the congregations and their churches and touching the whole of the local communities. “Many lives could be made happier and more fulfilled by the embracing of the faith and values which our churches represent.” “Whoever can bring energy to this post, engage with the wider community and enjoy being part of it, could markedly invigorate the presence of the churches in our benefice, and bring to the already present sense of neighbourliness the positivity that comes from the recognition of having God in our lives.”

Spot on.

But thank goodness for that last sentence, that reminds us that for all the expectations you have for your new priest and the obvious truth that much will depend on her, nevertheless it is the recognised presence of God in us, not we ourselves, that is at the root of the whole plant. That is what the reading Celia has chosen underlines, with a reminder that it is not so much we who have God in our lives, as God who calls us into his life. It all goes back to him.

It is that letting go of ourselves into the love of God which is both what meets us as human beings in our deepest needs and transforms us most fully, and what is one of our greatest challenges, because we are deeply implicated in building the towers of Babel of today, basing our lives and our futures on our own abilities even when we also see them to be deeply flawed. The impulse to follow Frank Sinatra and Do It My Way is almost the gospel of our times. And yet the real Gospel is utterly honest about the mess we get into when we do it our own way – all we like sheep have gone astray – and deeply committed to calling us back into His way, the way of the one who would hardly have needed to go to the cross if actually everything was just OK.

Letting ourselves go into the love of God. Some of us slip away from it through fifty shades of grey, as adolescence and adulthood strip away the enchantment of childhood. Grown up, we find ourselves lonely and exposed, anxious and cynical. We have lost our innocence and with it any sense of a deep and abiding acceptance of us. We are not so much beloved as benighted, remembering how things could be, but powerless to restore them for ourselves, Some of us choose to rebel, fearing perhaps that this offer of love is just more domination in disguise, Christian by name but not by nature. We might like real love to be true, but we cannot believe that it can be, and we choose to live in the bleak world of the atheist, without God and without hope. C’est la vie. C’est la guerre.

St John picks up this predicament and goes back beyond it, beyond both our sense of powerlessness and our fear of power. Love, he says, comes from God. God takes the initiative. He loves us long before we even consider loving him. But God also subverts our fearful narrative of domination by showing that love in costly self-sacrifice, in the life and death of Christ.

John’s further thesis is a strong one, and it comes in two halves, both of which represent challenges to a local church. First, he says that it is only by receiving God’s love that we are able to really love for ourselves. This rings true. We are increasingly aware of how in purely human terms a whole variety of mechanisms behavioural and biological mean that a lack of love in, if I can put in crudely, can lead to a lack of love out. We can overcome that to some extent, and we applaud it when we see it, but it is hard going. And how much harder then for us to love if at the very deepest root of our being the belovedness that should be there is replaced by bleakness or benightedness. And yet, because that love is completely genuine when it comes from God, the offer of it still stands, still remains. If we can use what limited resources we have to help one another accept that love, the living water of love can flow again. And when that happens not just for an individual but for a church, it can indeed transform a whole community.

There are plenty of real-life stories of it happening. One that encourages me is about the Eden Project. No not the one with the big domes, but one on some rough housing estates in Manchester. The daughter of some friends of ours, members of one of my congregations in my own vicaring days, was one of a group of young adults who first visited and then relocated there with the simple aim of starting to do helpful stuff in the community to try and break the downward spiral. And little lass that she was, she did it while also working as a bouncer in the local clubs. And it worked. Crime rates plummeted according to the police. And it’s really not so different from a hundred local projects run by churches and church people here in Suffolk, just a bit more dramatic. Research by the Church Urban Fund published last month found that 76 per cent of churches run activities in local schools, 66 per cent help to run food banks, 60 per cent offer parent and toddler groups, 53 per cent organise lunch clubs or drop-ins, and 20% are also involved in helping credit unions in some way. It’s not a choice between saving souls and seeking the transformation of society as recent debate seemed to imply. One leads to the other, it’s there in your own profile, and it’s there in your own lives. You can make a difference, and for heaven’s sake, do.

That’s a bit of a challenge. The second leg of John’s thesis is even more so. If, he says, you are not seeing love flow like this, if your life as a church is no more marked by love than that of the world around you and offers it no hope, not only is that a crying shame but it asks the question, did you know God and his love in the first place? It’s a tough question. It’s one we may well resent, and in some cases it will be unfair. But beware. Our annoyance at it may also betray our inner knowledge that we all like sheep, even we, have also gone astray – what a surprise – and the Good Shepherd is wanting to call us, even us, back into the fold.

Jean and I came across an example of this recently in her family history, which she’s researching. She decided to a be a bit feminist and follow the line back of her mother, her mother’s mother and so on. And she was struck how many of women were married to clergy or missionaries in their own right, passing on the faith and putting into action. Where did that come from? Well where it came from turned out to be the Clapham Sect, the group of which William Wilberforce was part at the beginning of the Victorian era that led to the abolition of slavery and child labour and much more. The suburb of Clapham was just being built with some rather fine mansions, one of which Jean’s ancestor bought, and right by it was the church of Holy Trinity where the Claphamites worshipped. Until their move there is no evidence that the family did much about their faith. After it, things were different. And the turning point was the revival at Holy Trinity that both re-inspired faith amongst those Victorian worthies, and led them to put that faith into action for the benefit of those much less well off than themselves.

Revival then. It’s a big and bold word. But if you mean what you say in your profile, which I’m sure you do, and if we take St John at his word, which I am sure we must, then the campaign starts now: to know the love of God, and to share that love with others. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.


Weekend media coverage

Here are the C of E’s media digest reports for this Saturday and Sunday. They make for fascinating reading, with an encouraging sense that the BIshops’ Letter has done its job in helping the debate about our values as a society to get going. To subscribe see the link at the very end – and apologies for a long post.

News from the Archbishop of Canterbury

Archbishop Justin on a Good Lent
Archbishop of Canterbury to visit Birmingham

News from the Church of England

Secretary General to step down


“No politician needs to feel under personal attack” Bishop of Leicester explains @c_of_e‘s letter for the General Election:

InReview and In Focus

The latest editions of newsletters InReview (A3 format suitable for church noticeboards) and In Focus (A5 for parish magazines insert) are available now. This month features the church’s rural report on mission and ministry, and more: 
March’s InReview is also available in an e-reader format, ideal for sharing on social media and online, which is available at:

Today’s Media Coverage

Article headlined that the Archbishop of Canterbury is the nation’s conscience. It says Justin Welby leads a church that is once again making headlines for its willingness to stand up and be counted in the public square. The launch of the book On Rock or Sand? and the 52-page pastoral letter are both cited as examples of how the church is speaking out. It also looks at the Archbishop’s background and experience and says he is helping make the church relevant.
Reports that metal thefts have fallen by a third in England and Wales since a new law to tackle the trade in stolen metal came into force.They state thefts fell from about 60,000 a year to 40,680 in 2013/14 following the introduction of the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013, according to the Local Government Association (LGA).The new law requires dealers to hold a licence to trade and bans cash payments to mobile scrap collectors. An estimated £770m a year is lost in the country through that metal thefts – of materials including electricity cables, railway lines, war memorials, and church roofs.
Various views on the bishops’ pastoral letter ahead of the General Election. Guardian columnist, Zoe Williams, talks to voters and lobbyists about the content of the letter, columnist Amanda Platell complains about how “left-wing” bishops in the Church of England may lead her to convert to Catholicism, and Jeremy Clarkson mentions the letter in his column.
Article by William Taylor, a Church of England vicar in the London borough of Hackney and the first Labour councilman in the City of London. He welcomes the intervention of the bishops in the run up to the General Election and says the Pastoral letter shows the importance of the parish as the point where the global and the local meet and where people learn what it means to belong to a “community of communities”.
Report that the Bishop of Dover, Trevor Willmott, will chair a hustings in South Thanet where the Ukip leader, Nigel Farage is standing. The event will be organised by local Anglican churches on April 24. Candidates from the main seven political parties have been invited to attend. Refers to the bishops’ pastoral letter on the General Election.
Article on Nadine Dorries MPs comments about “left wing” bishops and says she might be wise to write and publish her own version of The Bible – one that redresses the political balance by promoting free markets and wealth creation, and cuts out all the “very definite Left-leaning” stuff about driving the money-changers from the temple and excluding the rich from heaven. It includes spoof bible verses.
Article on the Archbishop’s comments on the anniversary of the Dresden bombings, includes comments from veteran member of Bomber Command.
Article looking at blasphemy, asks if the statue of Pete Doherty posing as Christ on the cross should be classed as blasphemous.
Report that despite violently beheading their brothers and sisters in Libya, the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Melbourne says their followers should forgive and love the terrorists involved. At a memorial service for those killed was held in Melbourne’s southeast, Bishop Suriel said people needed to pray for those lost and their families and also for the terrorists, who they needed to forgive.
Foootballer and philosophy student, Joey Barton, writes that if he were Prime Minister he would “privatise” religion.
Report that the moderator of the Church of Scotland has issued a warning to the Kirk following the debate over the appointment of gay ministers, which he said has led to “cheap labelling” and sinful criticism of fellow believers. John Chalmers said members of congregations should learn to “speak well of each other”.
Report that Christian schools in Britain are under investigation by the European Commission for allegedly ‘discriminating’ against non-religious teachers.
Report that the future of Rose Castle is now uncertain as it’s to be put on the open market.
Item that graffiti uncovered in a Cambridgeshire church has revealed how three sisters from one family died in a plague outbreak in 1515. The Maddyngley graffiti was hidden under limewash near the door in All Saints’ and St Andrew’s church and was found by Norfolk and Suffolk Medieval Graffiti Survey volunteers.
Items on Lent include an article by Lucy Winkett, rector of St James’s, Piccadilly, saying Lent is not a time to be miserably self-obsessed, and an entry in Times Diary.
Letter from Arun Arora, Director of Communications for the CofE, refers to (leading article, February 18) suggesting that the Church of England should refrain from entering into the political fray. He argues that the pastoral letter from the House of Bishops does not indicate preference for any single political party or programme. It encourages Christians to vote and to value hard-won democratic freedom.


Archbishop Cranmer: #pastoralletter (1): the patronising episcopal should
Financial Times
William Taylor: A piece of Lenten reflection reminds us how provisional political parties are.
Law and Religion UK: Face veils and citizenship oaths: Ishaw v Canada
Trinity Bristol: 4 things young leaders bring to the Church
Setting the Thames on Fire
Huff Post
British Values and Politics

News from the Archbishop of Canterbury

Archbishop Justin’s speech at think, pray, vote conference

News from the Church of England

In the news podcast
No politician needs to feel under personal attack” Bishop of Leicester explains @c_of_e‘s letter for the General Election:

Today’s Media Coverage

Article on how the vision of “active service” mentioned in the bishops’ pastoral letter works out in practice. It looks at the city centre café, run by St Stephen’s church,Norwich, where 10 per cent of its users have mental health and drug issues. It says they are drawn in by the guarantee of a warm welcome and by the cafe’s “only-pay-what-you-can” policy. The other 90%, in effect, cover the cost of their free lunch, often their only hot meal of the day. It quotes priest-in-charge, the Rev Madeline Light and the Bishop of Norwich, Graham James.
Observ/Sun/Sun Tel/Sun Times
Further articles referring to the bishop’s pastoral letter. Comedian David Mitchell says the letter is brave, based on the conviction that society is better if our first instinct is compassion, not anger. Another columnist says don’t condemn the Church as the bishops are compelled by faith to spell out the need for politics to recover the language of serving the common good. Sun says there is a Labour bias in the Archbishop of Canterbury’s office which employs with former Labour spin doctors and staffers and Justin Welby’s son Peter, works for Tony Blair. Christopher Howse’s column looks at Henry Smith Charity in the light of the letter and considering the poor. Times columnist says under Justin Welby, the church is developing an increasingly powerful description of what is wrong with society.
Article on the working costs of the office of the Bishop of Leicester, Tim Stevens, in the light of the bishop’s pastoral letter, listing his salary and allowances. A spokesman for the church commissioners is quoted saying: “Working costs and expenses relate mostly to running an office staffed by four people. The work of a diocesan bishop is comparable to that of a chairman of a medium-sized regional enterprise combined with national responsibilities.”
Report on modern slavery bill saying the government is blocking attempts to abolish the system that ties domestic workers to their employers by not supporting an amendment and leaving them vulnerable to exploitation. The Bishop of Carlisle, James Newcome, a supporter of the bill, said the amendment will provide necessary protection for domestic workers from overseas and restore some flexibility with regard to their employment.
Sun Times
Article on a clash between bishops and Mrs Thatcher, from God and Mrs Thatcher: The Battle for Britain’s Soul, to be published by Biteback. It says she told Richard Harries, then Bishop of Oxford: “I listen to you on the radio. Sometimes I agree with you and sometimes you make me mad.”  Article says the details of Thatcher’s clashes with the bishops come only days after a pastoral letter — or manifesto — from the Church of England in advance of this May’s general election angered the Tories.
Sun Exp
Article looking at the forgiveness and peace of Coptic Christians in the face of violence. It says such healing is indeed a long and difficult road but it is our only hope of dealing with such appalling violence and its roots. It is the road of the People of the Cross who, as St Paul writes, are not “overcome by evil but overcome evil with good”.
Mail on Sun
Former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey writes on his support of the Commons Bill passed earlier this month to allow a third person’s DNA to be used to create an embryo in order to prevent potentially fatal genetic disorders. He says the idea of ‘three-parent babies’ is a distraction because the mitochondria are a mere fraction of what makes us human and the procedure is much more like an organ transplant.
Sun Times
Article on extremism and radicalization of young people in light of two schoolgirls leaving UK for Syria to join IS fighters. It mentions John Cass’s Foundation and Redcoat Church of England School, where Ofsted inspectors found children had been exposed to the extremist teachings via an online page set up by the school’s Islamic society. Ofsted placed John Cass in special measures and is continuing to monitor the school.
Report that a Church of England judge has approved the exhumation of the remains of a mother and daughter are to be exhumed after the younger woman’s coffin started to resurface from their shared grave at St Nicholas churchyard at Codsall, near Wolverhampton. It stated the mother’s coffin had not been buried deeply enough.
Sun Times
Article on 10 greenest communities lists the Whittington and Fisherwick Environment Group (WFEG) which helped to fit solar panels on the roof of the hall at St Giles’ Church in Whittington, Staffordshire.
Sun Exp
Report that a depiction of a red haired Jesus in a 19th century stained glass window was released by the Churches Conservation Trust to coincide with National Ginger Awareness Day tomorrow. The east window of Holy Trinity Church in Sunderland is believed to be the only image of Jesus Christ with red hair in the UK.
Ind on Sun
Further report of bubonic plague survivors’ graffiti uncovered at Norfolk church.
Sun Tel
Advice not to take too much notice of web visit stats in response to question from member of small Anglican Church in Leicestershire, who fears the church website is under surveillance.
Eve Standard
Report that the Rev Simon Harvey, the vicar of St Mary’s Church, in Upper Street, Islington, alerted the council to a botched road sign job, and tweeted: “When you cross Provost St at jn with City Rd in Islington please LOOK RLIEGFHTT.”
Sun Tel
Letters on the church and community engagement and the bishops’ pastoral letter.


Archbishop Cranmer: #pastoralletter (1): the patronising episcopal should
Financial Times
William Taylor: A piece of Lenten reflection reminds us how provisional political parties are.
Law and Religion UK: Face veils and citizenship oaths: Ishaw v Canada
Trinity Bristol: 4 things young leaders bring to the Church
The future of faith schools: a continuing story








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Art Challenge: Carlisle

Carlisle Cloisters Carlisle Flags

We were living in Carlisle at the time of the Iona/Mull sabbatical, in a wonderful old house right by the Cathedral. It’s not the most picturesque of cathedrals, but over time certain views stood out, and these were two of them.

Why not enter our Suffolk Show Photography Competition? http://www.stedmundsbury.anglican.org/index.cfm?page=landf.content&cmid=422