Living in God’s Time: a day exploring prayer at Ely Cathedral


23 July 2016 10am – 3:30pm

Guest Speaker: Canon Anna Matthews, St Bene’t’s, Cambridge, Diocesan Director of Ordinands

Enter into God’s time in the awesome surroundings of Ely Cathedral and it’s rich monastic heritage.
Explore different ways of praying and reflect on the ancient Christian practice of developing a Rule of Life.

For further details contact:

Just One Reader’s Story …

Roger Cresswell steps down shortly as Chair of the Reader’s Association Board here in the Diocese of Ely (where we call these wonderful people Licensed Lay Ministers, which is what they are – carefully trained lay members of our congregations who preach, lead worship and study groups, give pastoral care and generally “bring God into the conversation”.)

We are recruiting a whole new generation of LLMs – our intake has doubled this year – and although they come in all shapes and sizes, they all have a story to tell of how God has met with them on the road of life and called them into a new and exciting future.

To encourage you to join their company (and not at all to put him on a pedestal) I asked Roger if he would tell his story “out loud” on my blog – and here it is.

zWing vortexThe past eight years has flown by, leaving vortices which have disturbed and shaped the air around me. Brought up in and at one with a church-going Christian life, like everyone around me then. In the turmoil of life I found I had turned away, my mind full of awkward questions I was not finding answers to. However, Easter speaks of the power of God to transform situations and although we cannot predict what the future, God’s future, will bring, God will and does surprise us.

So it was that, as I crept back to church and sat at the back, that annoying still small voice kept nagging at me. Like a horse when the loving and experienced rider says “walk on” he steps out in faith, not then knowing where that will lead. At first they were little steps, read the Gospel, prayers on Sunday, take Remembrance Day prayers, you used to be in the RAF so why don’t you do the Remembrance Day sermon. Step by step, I came to realise that my life, light and dark, had been a preparation for work I knew I had to do and when, so late in the day, I heard the words “Who shall I send” there was no other answer but “Here I am, send me”. So to Reader Selection and, by God’s good grace, three years of challenging theological training, testing yourself against those who really did know, proving what you thought, fighting new ideas in a justifiably tough but supportive environment.

The release from the behavioural cage we are born with, that reluctance to speak of conviction with conviction but rather with apologetic avoidance, was like some firework exploding into a dark night sky. It used to be a rule that at dinner it was impolite to talk about politics or religion, thus we perfected small talk. Now it is possible to talk about God, about what you feel and what you believe and you go forward to be accepted for Licensing.

PA180012aThere is a quiet morning and you ask yourself if you are good enough, if you have the strength, if you have enough knowledge and if you are fit for the huge step you are taking. Of course, the answer to all is no. So what you are doing here? Like a marriage and as joyous as that day, Bishop David leads you into the place where, before God and your to-be Reader colleagues, you make your promises. Like a ball of fire, the Spirit burns into you the realisation that you are not alone and your concept of power and ability is so narrow as to exclude the reality of the way you will be led into and fitted for the work a surprising God has lined up.

Next day, Sunday, my own parish church welcomes me as their Licensed Lay Minister and the journey begins. How I love thinking about what the Lectionary has decreed is my subject matter. How blessed and privileged to assist an incumbent at the Eucharist. So why am I at Hinchingbrooke Hospital where my wife nurses, asking what the Chaplaincy does? Who knows why? It is true though, that every week under the Lead Chaplain’s gaze, I am allowed to be with the joyous recoverers, the accident victims, the desperate, the helpless, the terminally ill and the dying. I am hugely honoured to be part of that Christian heartbeat at the centre of the hospital that cares for all, of any religion or none, the sick, the dying, the relatives, carers and staff although only on my wife’s ward when she is not there!

My new incumbent of unending energy and talent thought I was making a fair fist of parish work and of hospital chaplaincy and suggested the Cathedral needed occasional Day Chaplains and I thought I should see what that meant. Surprising God shows you the poor and emotionally needy amongst the tourists and amongst those seeking an explanation of the Bible, suffering and war within the 15 minutes they have, and a few come to remember, to mourn, to ask God, to hear God, to pray under the towering mark of human faith created in wood, glass and stone but inhabited by prayer and worship offered by generations before. You find, in this beautiful place, a different call from the same surprising God who is going ahead so fast it takes away your breath.

I suppose I had been around long enough to end up standing in the way of someone at a Reader AGM who asked me if I would mind my name going forward as there was a vacancy on the Ely Reader Board. Actually, I suppose I know that it is God who puts these things in our way although we are always encouraged to make the choice freely. Perhaps that was enough and I did say yes.

ATC 75 entryBetween whiles, my youngest son joined the Huntingdon Air Cadets, the first of five to think the Forces had anything to offer despite the RAF supporting dad for 34 years. I thought I should help out the parent committee. Someone asked if I could teach, having actually flown in my own patch of sky. Then the lovely Padre claimed his 80+ years made life tricky and he really wanted to retire. My parish, my Bishop and the Air Training Corps believed that would be a good idea and oh what joy to be amongst these keen, dedicated, bright young people, mostly unchurched and many atheist or of other beliefs. To hear them debate the rights and wrongs of public and local issues, to solve ethical issues in game play, to turn up at school with short hair, clean shoes, pressed clothing and a willingness to learn, to be useful members of our society will tell you that was a good choice. I go to annual camps and, twice now, have been to the International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford where 800 cadets, 14 to 18, build themselves a tented camp, work shifts from early o’clock when their friends are snatching another couple of hours in bed, to late at night preparing for the next day. All this happens with little interference and supervision. One essential is the Padre contingent, a spiritual presence and a solution to those little things that go wrong between people. So, one Wing Field Weekend, I stood-in to take prayers and a thought for the day at the Parade. It rained, I was wet and about to go home when the Wing Commander asked if I would mind being Wing Padre. You get the idea. God never stops but why should we expect it? God asks, do you not see where I want you yet? Suddenly, I was designing a liturgy for a church parade to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the founding of Air Cadets, dedicating a new banner, preaching and leading for 1200 people including Lord Lieutenants, High Sheriffs, Mayors ATC_Sunday_75th_BM_09smalland military brass, 30 Squadrons of fresh-faced youngsters who will never forget their day at Ely Cathedral. I have never asked for the destination but it does seem the map has been in other, stronger hands. The truth is it is not all you, the Jesus reality is you are never alone in his work, that the unimaginable enabling of the Spirit and unlimited grace of God combine to strengthen the sinews, clear the vision and set the first foot fall of a journey you will never regret.

I am about to leave the Reader Board, having been given the opportunity and privilege of Chairing it for a little while. That will free up some time to follow where an impatient God wants me to be, to be there to talk about God in the Cathedral, the Parish, the Hospital and amongst some astonishing young air-minded people who will be our future. Eight years ago I wrote a couple of reflections during the quiet morning prior to my Licensing service, the Apple Fair was full of noise, the Morris dancers danced. I offer one as a marker of where this began and in grateful recognition that a caring Bishop sealed God’s call which I had the temerity to answer “Here am I, send me”.

“The Lord of the dance, God of music, Creator of the intensity of colour this autumn day, its variety and shape, the Master of the breeze and hurricane, of the lapping waves and the force of a tsunami, fruitful as grain and grape, red in tooth and claw, one in all, the beginning and the end, a voice in silence and a steady presence in the ebb and flow of events, strengthen me as I set out in ministry, to hear You amidst the noise, to follow Your will and to give what I have to serving Your people wherever that may be”.

Eight years later I can say “To the glory of God. Amen”.

Cambridge centre makes film about responding to refugee crisis

The Jubilee Centre has just made a 6 minute film, ‘Safe Haven? – responding to Europe’s refugee/migration crisis’ to inform and challenge Christians to engage with the ongoing refugee crisis, in the context of existing controversy around levels of immigration. It suggests responses at the personal, church and public policy levels. The video would be a great resource for local churches to use during Refugee Week next month. The film and supporting resources can be found at You can also access the film directly from YouTube here.Many thanks,

Jonathan Tame
Executive Director

 St Andrews House, 59 St Andrews Street,

Cambridge CB2 3BZ

Tel. 01223 566319

Direct line: 01223 755144

Registered Charity number 1142076

Guest Post: Messy Science

Guest Post: Messy Science

Science and Belief

IMGA0939 crop © D Gregory

My earliest scientific memory is from when I was about five, in the mid-1960s. At school we watched a black and white TV broadcast of what must have been a Gemini rocket launch – the precursor of the Apollo moon landing programme. These events of my pre-teen years got me firmly interested in science, firstly space and astronomy and then a wider range of fields that continues today. Maybe it was my own journey that enabled me to listen to the voice of a six year old whom I was about to take around the Easter Labyrinth at the Baptist church where I serve as a minister: “You’re Dr Dave. I can’t wait until I am old enough to come to Messy Science.”

image 2 © D Gregory

The six year old had been coming along to our after school Messy Church for a while, where the Messy Science…

View original post 548 more words

"Understanding Christianity” new resource for schools


Press release today:

Teaching of Christianity in schools is set to be transformed by a new resource from the Church of England, launched today. Understanding Christianity is a set of comprehensive materials and training which will enable pupils from age 4 to 14 to develop their understanding of Christianity, as a contribution to making sense of the world and their own experience within it.

Available to all schools across the country the resource was written by a team of RE advisers from RE Today Services, in collaboration with more than 30 expert teachers and academics, and has been trialled in over 50 schools.

Understanding Christianity was commissioned by the Church of England Education Office with the generous support of Culham St Gabriels, The Sir Halley Stewart Trust, the Jerusalem Trust and an anonymous donor.

The Revd Nigel Genders, Chief Education Officer for The Church of England, said: ’RE is primarily about teaching religious literacy. The ability for young people to have informed conversation and dialogue about belief and faith is key to building a peaceful society and helps combat ignorance and extremism. We recognise that within the rich Christian heritage of Britain, a particular responsibility of the Church of England is to ensure Christianity is well taught in our schools. This large-scale resource promotes theological literacy and a deep understanding of the whole Christian narrative for children and young people.’

Understanding Christianity will not be available in the shops. Accredited trainers will train teachers to use the resource in their own setting. The project also comes with up to 15 hours of professional development support.

Over 800 teachers and staff have signed up for training in Understanding Christianity in one diocese alone. Jane Chipperton, Adviser for RE and Worship at the Diocese of St Albans which covers Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and part of north London said: ‘Our teachers are hugely excited about this resource. Over 100 schools have signed up for training, mostly on inset days. Some schools have sent their whole staff to be trained. I have never had such a positive response to one initiative.’

David Ford, Regius Professor of Divinity Emeritus at Cambridge University and consultant on the project said: ”This resource manages to interconnect the text of the Bible, the beliefs and practices of Christians, and the world of the pupils – a remarkable achievement. It is demanding on teachers and pupils, yet both are also given rich materials to resource them, with pointers to much more. The promise is of a richer, deeper, wiser understanding of Christianity for both Christians and non-Christians, and an attractive mode of exploration and learning for both pupils and teachers.’

Diocesan Education Officer for Exeter Diocese, Tatiana Wilson, who trialled the resource in four schools said: ‘As an RE specialist I am convinced that this resource will have a significant impact on the quality of RE taught in church and community schools. We are working in partnership with Learn Teach Lead RE to help roll the resource out across our region in the coming year in collaboration with our other partners.’

Stephen Pett, RE Today Adviser and editor of Understanding Christianity, said: ‘The intention of these resources is to support and equip teachers of RE in their lessons. The resources offer an approach that can be applied in any RE classroom, with a wide range of classroom ideas and materials to help develop pupils’ understanding of Christian belief and practice, as part of their wider studies in RE.’


Notes for Editors

The aims of the resource are:

• To enable pupils to know about and understand Christianity as a living world faith, by exploring core theological concepts.

• To enable pupils to develop knowledge and skills in making sense of biblical texts and understanding their impact in the lives of Christians.

• To develop pupils’ abilities to connect, critically reflect upon, evaluate and apply their learning to their own growing understanding of Christianity, of religion and belief more widely, of themselves, the world and human experience.

The resource comprises:

• Understanding Christianity teaching resources and training including a teacher’s handbook, 29 units of work from Foundation Stage 2 to Year 9, the ‘Big Frieze’ illustration and guide book (artwork by Emma Yarlett).

• Understanding Christianity website:


The National Society’s 2014 report,‘Making a difference? A review of RE in Church of England Schools’ recommended a more intellectual coherent and challenging resource for teaching Christianity; that develops pupils’ ability to think theologically and engage in theological enquiry.

About Church of England schools:

• There are 4700 Church of England Schools in England, educating at any one time 1 million pupils. Church of England schools are established primarily for the communities they are located in. They are inclusive and serve those who are of the Christian faith, those of other faiths and those with no faith.

The Sunday Sermon Seminar

Are you preaching on the lectionary readings next Sunday? I’m just looking at them now and thought we might get a bit of discussion going.

Elijah in the OT reading makes a robust challenge to the Israelites (he will later go on to speculate whether Baal is not answering prayer because he has wandered off to the loo…): 21Elijah then came near to all the people, and said, ‘How long will you go limping with two different opinions? 

So that’s my starting point, and the question is this: how do we differentiate between consistent faithfulness, which I presume we agree is a virtue, and extremism, which I presume we do not.

Cue a reference to the martyr Perpetua who featured in the last episode of Mary Beard’s series on Rome. A young mum, she refused to obey the new edict to sacrifice to the Emperor, and insisted on being thrown to the lions, causing shock and debate even then. Faithful sincerity or foolish stubbornness?

Well, I have the glimmerings of a way to start to answer my question, based on the other readings for the day. But what do you think?