Rowing the eels to Ely from Whittington – in style

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Christ Church Whittington and All Saints Wretton up in West Norfolk have raised nearly £1000 for church funds by rowing to Ely, delivering a pot of eels to the Bishop as is their just and (l)awful due (as they put it in their card!). They undertook the 27 mile row in stages with thirteen oarsmen and women taking turns, with the honour of the last leg going to licensed lay minister Keith MacLeod who graced the occasion with his robes! I in return had the honour in the Bishop of Ely’s absence of receiving the eels (and buying the ice creams Smile ). The “Five Parishes” as they call themselves in this quite remote corner of Norfolk never cease to surprise me with their initiative, and it’s great to see the numbers of folk involved with church rising again as a result.

Genesta Harris: 100 not out!

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Bishopping brings its blessings, and one of them was being able to join the family friends of Genesta Harris, still active as a licensed lay minister in the diocese, at her 100th birthday party yesterday in Steeple Morden. She looked fabulous, addressed us with aplomb, and left all of us feeling that we wished we had half her energy even when we are (well some of the others) half her age. The Telegram had duly arrived along with a little note too from the Department of Work and Pensions which brought a smile to our faces. We’re glad she’s getting her money’s worth. But this was all about quality and not just quantity: what a great lady, and what an encouragement to us in our faith.

On the trail: Cambridgeshire Historic Churches Trust visit Ickleton and Duxford

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Back in mid-August the CHCT made it’s last summer outing to some wonderful churches south of Cambridge, this time focussing on the Romanesque period. The pictures show us at St Mary Magdalene, Ickleton,  where the early Norman arcade has the remarkable and rare survival of painted scenes from the passions of Christ and the apostles done in fresco. Those in the St Edmund chapel at the cathedral, for instance, which have some similarities, were done into dry plaster, and the colour does not survive half as well. From there we went on to the closed church of St John the Baptist, Duxford (in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust) where Romanesque architecture and wall paintings again survive, although it was the quaint porch that caught my eye. The tour went on to St Mary, Sawston for tea and evensong but other duties called me away. The location near Cambridge, perhaps, meant that we had a very good attendance: watch out for the tours next year!

"For Christians, the earth does not belong to us – it belongs to God, and therefore deserves our respect and care.”

Canon Vicky Johnson of Ely Cathedral (quoted above) has curated a new set of liturgical resources  to help churches to take part in a Creationtide season, running from 1 September until 4 October every year, and celebrate and cherish God’s gift to humanity in creation. 

Creationtide is originally an Eastern Orthodox initiative, but has now spread widely among Anglican, Roman Catholic and Protestant congregations, bringing Christians together to pray and work for the protection of the environment that sustains everyone.

Pope Francis gave a major boost to the profile of Creationtide when, speaking before nearly 2 million people at the World Youth Day in Krakow, he declared 1 September an annual ‘World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation’.

The Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam, Bishop of Salisbury and the Church of England’s lead bishop on the environment, said:

“These liturgical resources provide richly for churches celebrating Creationtide.

“Celebrating Creationtide marks a shift in the Christian understanding of our relationship to creation under God. The consequences of teaching over recent centuries that humanity has been given domination over creation are clear in the complex environmental crisis we now face. It is important that Christians rediscover older traditions of a godly relationship of humanity to the wider created order.

“Creationtide is important ecumenically too. The concept was introduced by the Ecumenical Patriarch in 1989, and is spreading widely in Western Christianity. The Pope’s declaration of an annual day of prayer on 1 September will give the profile of Creationtide a significant boost. Creationtide therefore represents an important Orthodox contribution to the deepening of common Christian values across historic denominational divisions.”

Canon Vicky Johnson, Residentiary Canon at Ely Cathedral, added:

“For Christians, the earth does not belong to us – it belongs to God, and therefore deserves our respect and care. This is an ancient understanding – reading Psalm 24, for example, it is clear that it goes right back to the worship in the Temple in Jerusalem almost 3000 years ago.

“The growing concern about creation and the environment has made the Church aware that it needs to garner its liturgical resources to give full expression to this in worship and prayer. The care of our environment, and attentiveness to the created order, are central to the Church’s mission, which calls us to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.

“The resources include material that works in the context of both traditional Anglican liturgy and more informal worship, as well as material for all-age worship, and more general material for prayer, biblical study and reflection.”


The worship resources include:

•  Material for Seasons and Festivals of the Agricultural Year from Common Worship: Times and Seasons, commended by the House of Bishops for use at the discretion of the minister

•  Resources for worship and prayer produced by the Environment Task Group

•  A series of liturgical resources, including collects, post-communion prayers, forms of intercession and additional material for the Eucharistic Prayer, produced for trial use by the Diocese of Guildford

•  A liturgy for All-Age Worship, produced by Canon Johnson while an incumbent in the Diocese of Manchester

Status of Liturgies

The material for Creation in Common Worship: Times and Seasons (2006), produced by the Liturgical Commission of the Church of England, has been commended for use by the House of Bishops. The Commission writes, in Times and Seasons, that “these services offer an opportunity to come with ‘proper humility before God as source of all things, [to offer] gratitude for his goodness, and [pray for] responsibility in stewarding the resources of the earth”. (Times and Seasons, p.596).

The Liturgical Commission expressed renewed support for services reflecting on Creation in 2014.’

Background to Creationtide

Creationtide is a concept introduced by the late Ecumenical Patriarch, Demetrios I, 1989.

Since then, September 1 (chosen because it is first day of the Orthodox ecclesiastical year) has been adopted as the start of Creationtide. This is the season, running to St Francis day on October 4, when churches and congregations are called to pay special attention to the responsibility of humanity for the Earth and for all that lives upon it. Its start and end dates reflect that it is a shared idea between Western and Eastern Christianity.

Churches Together in Britain and Ireland adopted the concept in 2008. In 2016, Pope Francis declared 1 September an annual World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creationtide.

While its adoption was in part driven by the complex environmental crises the human race faces, Creationtide draws on much deeper roots in Scripture and in older Christian traditions of the relationship between God, humanity and the created order.

The timing of Creationtide means it is an excellent way of rooting traditional harvest festivals in wider issues and firm theological ground.

Creationtide at Ely Cathedral

Ely Cathedral is in the heart of rural Cambridgeshire and is preparing to celebrate Creationtide with a variety of events relating to the environment. There will be a special evening service on 18 September praying for the environment, in song, silence and reflection, with prayer stations around the Cathedral.

On 25 September the annual ‘Animal Service’ welcomes all creatures great and small into the cathedral, and after St Francis, literally encourages all creation to sing together in praise of God.

The traditional Harvest Festival follows on 9 October, with a Harvest Supper and Festival Eucharist to appeal to all ages. Worshippers will be encouraged to think about food and sustainability, whilst supporting the local food bank. For Harvest, the Cathedral is always decked with wonderful displays giving insights into the reality of farming today and celebrating the wonder of creation.

Canon Vicky Johnson, said ‘in this part of the country we feel very close to the earth, surrounded by farm and fenland. It’s so important to help people connect with the environment, and bring creation into our worshipping life, it is an issue which Christians cannot ignore’.

Space and Place: Ordered Universe Symposium

Space and Place: Ordered Universe Symposium

The next step on this fascinating journey. The Middle English text, which is my pigeon, is now established and I and others are pulling ideas on the introduction and notes together ready for discussion when we meet. How to lay out some very rich material to help a very wide span of readership for the OUP volumes…?

The Ordered Universe Project

The next Ordered Universe symposium takes place at the beginning of September. From 1-3 various members of the research team will meet at Durham University, at St John’s College, to continue the programme of collaborative reading. The symposium will see the second reading of the treatise De sphera – On the Sphere, the first of the next text in our roster, the De diferentiis localibus – On Local Differences, and revision of earlier work with the treatise De liberalibus artibus – On the Liberal Arts and its Middle English translation. A full programme – complete with a public lecture by Professor Clive Siviour, Department of Engineering and Pembroke College, University of Oxford on his research into High-Speed Photography, and Grossetestes’s treatise De generatione sonorum – On the Generation of Sounds. This takes place in the Cassidy Atrium at St Chad’s College, from 5.30 and is followed by an…

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Calling all Scientists in Congregations

The second round of the innovative ‘Scientists in Congregations’ scheme is now open, with a deadline for applications of November 11th 2016.  The awards are part of the programme ‘Equipping Christian Leadership in an Age of Science”, hosted by Durham University. They are inviting churches across England to apply for grants of up to £10,000 to fund projects fostering a better understanding of the interrelationship of science and religion.

If you are a scientist (broadly understood) in a congregation looking to build up your partnership with local clergy – or vice versa – and seed some good thinking into your local situation, this scheme could be ideal for you.

This scheme is designed to bring the conversation about science and theology into the learning and worshipping lives of congregations. It is looking for creative and context-friendly proposals that could be valuable for large or small congregations, all-age or for specific groups, in rural as well as urban areas as well as groups of churches.

Nigel Cooper reminds us that projects with a focus on climate change, ecology or biodiversity, energy, carbon footprinting, engagement with congregations on lifestyles could fit well here alongside many other ideas.

For more details of the criteria and application process, see:

Engage Award Winners are announced


Engage Awards of £100 are being given to ten Cambridgeshire churches who have completed recent projects to help them engage with their communities. This is great news: when churches open their doors they not only meet real local need, they are also doing the best thing they can to keep the historic fabric in good shape: putting it to use!

The awards go to

Buckden – Easy access is something we should all take for granted. Thanks to the skill of retired members of the congregation, for a relatively small outlay access to the church building has been made easier for all with increased use of the building a result.

Burwell – The ‘Building to Serve’ project is inspirational. The PCC at Burwell has undertaken significant changes to the church building for the benefit of the wider community and remain undaunted as they plan the next phase.

Godmanchester – PCCs should not fear experimenting with their building. Moving pews from a traditional layout can free up space for a range of other activities as demonstrated so well at Godmanchester.

Hildersham – The longevity of church buildings is often down to the quality of the original materials and the craftsmen who built them. It’s heartening to read that this tradition lives on at Hildersham with the quality of the north porch, WC and kitchen. But a WC and kitchen is not just about quality of workmanship – for, as the PCC say in their application, they allow the church to be a building ‘fit for many purposes’.   

Horseheath – To hear the bells ring out after 30 years of silence as a change-ring would have been a marvellous moment. Bells have the ability to unite the generations and the visit by the Sunday and Brownie Group to the bell foundry would stay in the memories of many for years.

Horningsea – The PCC’s statement that ‘ St Peter’s Church has already been buzzing with Community activity since the work was completed at the end of April 2016’ sums it all up. I never cease to be amazed by the benefits a WC and simple kitchen can bring to both worshippers and the wider community. Well done Horningsea!

Gt Eversden – A church in need of repair can be dispiriting both for the onlooker and those responsible for its maintenance. Hats off to Gt Eversden PCC who recognised that wider community involvement was key to success. Undaunted by phase 1, further repairs are planned as well as the addition of a WC, kitchen and artwork. Amazing.

Somersham – A dark, poorly lit church can be detrimental to worship as well as making the building unattractive for wider-community use. The new scheme at Somersham brings alive the architecture of the church building and makes it far more practical for the wide range of activities attracted to this marvellous church.

Southoe – Tackling a church heating system is daunting but with support from the community and energetic fundraising Southoe have done it. The benefits are realised immediately – a warm church is a welcoming church – and its inspiring to read of the groups using the building.

Toseland is only allowed one award then my vote is for the loo. A simple and cheap solution constructed with self-help – they should go into business selling the design to other churches!

When I became Chair of the Cambridgeshire Historic Churches Trust, I wanted to do something straight away to celebrate the committed and imaginative care that so many congregations – often very small – are showing for their historic churches buildings. In the Diocese of Ely we are encouraging our churches to engage fully and courageously with the needs of our communities”, and our places of worship can be a tremendous asset in doing that if we can re-imagine them and make the necessary adaptations to throw them open again to community use. “Again” because that is how they were used in days gone by, and history is coming alive when community celebrations fill our naves once more.

So I invented the idea of “Engage Awards”: small in monetary terms but trumpeting the huge worth of our local Cambridgeshire initiatives. Ten sponsors (grateful thanks to them!)soon came forward to gift the money for the awards and ten churches wrote in with news of some great local projects, well worthy of being winners. So on this year’s Ride and Stride Day, 10th September, when lots of us will be sponsored to visit our ancient churches and raise money for their care, I will be making a Grand Tour of our winners to present the Awards in person and enjoy the work first-hand.

You can sponsor my Tour and raise funds for CHCT by visiting, and of course we’d be delighted if you’d join the Trust too: you’ll find our details at, where there is also information about the Ride and Stride day.

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