Weekend joys

Able to blog again but only on a borrowed computer ! My computer has gone tot he great silicon chip burial ground, as it expired gently on me on Sunday afternoon. While I was taken a short nap it slipped away into oblivion; actually that sounds rather a romantic way of saying the video card has gone and that I may need a new computer. For the time being I’m borrowing Rebecca’s; she has kindly set up a guest account for me.

Anyway, to the weekend. What a fabulous send off we had. On Saturday many from the circuit turned up for a final celebration service to bring to a close the life of the Ripley Methodist Circuit before we divide into the Amber Valley and the Borders Mission Circuits. In an act of worship we managed to include items from every circuit church, including sketches, songs, hymns, video, a rock group and a whole lot of laughter. Some pics can be found on Facebook. It was a very emotional day.

However Sunday saw my farewell at Ripley and it was quite magnificent. Many of the youngsters turned up in crocs and waistcoats with t-shirts which spelt out my name on the back; we laughed, cried, and  praised God for all he’s done during my time in the Church.

To the right are some of the members of `Surrender` who played during the service, including a piece they`d written about me. Look them up on Facebook or YOu tube. Notice the t-shirts; can’t quite see but they spell MIKE.

I was very moved by the whole morning. Gifts were given ranging from the moving such as a hand painted picture, to a Newcastle United mug filled with Mint Imperials; from a phone holder in the shape of a croc (shoes) to a Derby County shirt; from a lovely key ring to a hand knitted Newcastle scarf, hat and waistcoat.

I don’t think that any of the presents are financially valuable but to me they are worth everything simply because I felt the love and warmth contained within the giving of them.

It is proving to be a real wrench to move on and I will miss these people badly; for 6 years they have been family to me, I have seen the youngsters grow (indeed I’ve baptised some of them) and blossom; I’ve sat with the older folk in good times and troublesome times and sadly some of them couldn’t be there because of age and infirmity. These are my family just as other churches and circuits have also been family. As I get older both in years and in Ministry it gets harder and harder to move on because you never lose that love you have for your people.

This is what people who claim to have a faith but who don’t belong to a Church or attend worship miss out on; yes, they may have faith and yes they can worship God anywhere, BUT they mis out on the love and fellowship of other Christians and that for me is so precious.

And so I move on to pastures new (almost new, as I’m taking 5 churches with me), with new people to meet, new areas to explore and a new house to live in. Its going to be tough but I’m sure that God is waiting for Alison and I when we get there. Jesus promised at the end of Matthews Gospel, “and lo, I will be with you to the close of the age”.

We believe that promise to be true.


Relay for Life

I’ve taken part in an amazing event this weekend. The annual Relay for Life event held at Swanwick helps to raise awareness and funds for cancer research UK. Although I supported it last year this was the first time I was able to take part and be on the team (TEAM HOPE).

The day was packed with themed walks (to my eternal shame I enjoyed the Village People theme !), fun, laughter, dog walking and good companionship across the community. Although I knew the folk from the Chapel this was an opportunity to be involved in the Swanwick community as people from all walks of life were united in the venture. The common uniting feature was that everyone knew someone with or had been touched by cancer. I found myself remembering my Mum who survived cancer and also remembering others who are facing cancer treatment at this time.

As we were part of a team it meant that you didn’t have to be walking for the full 24 hours, but there was always at least one team member walking around the circuit at any given time. Having said that I totalled the day up and managed just over 5 miles ! Sasha the dog walked for two of them and then slept right through till Sunday ! Five miles were nothing compared to those team members who walked much further and to those who even stayed and walked through the night. All credit to them.

I don`t know what the final figure was that was raised but team hope had made over £1000 by the time I left, and then there were the other teams.

The day began with a survivors lap; those folk who had suffered cancer and had survived. What an inspiring sight that was, as they walked in their pink t-shirts and led the way being cheered and clapped along. After that we all joined in and began our own team laps.

At the close of the Saturday we had a short moving ceremony, listening to music whilst all lights on the site were extinguished. A poem was read and we watched chinese lanterns being lit and let loose into the air. Then at the close of the ceremony the word HOPE was spelt out on the hillside in candles. See the picture above. I`m told that during the night the wording would be changed, as new candles were added and others removed, into the word CURE. What a marvellous hope in itself and what we felt we were striving towards.

DSC_0289.jpg image by richs_1991

After the ceremony we were invited to complete a lap in the dark and as we did so we passed bags lining the side of the track. Each bag had been decorated in memory of someone who had suffered cancer and survived or had not survived and as I walked you saw people kneeling or sitting quietly beside their bag; obviously remembering someone. I really wish I had understood that this would be happening and so I would have decorated a bag for those I know facing surgery next week.

This is one of the lit bags. I don’t know if you can read the writing on it but it speaks of someone and that is what we remembered all day long, the fact that this fun enjoyable event was in memory of those who had passed away, in support of those who had survived and to raise money in the fight against cancer.

This is a day I’ll remember for a very long time.


Every now and then something happens which reminds me of the value of friendship. Today I`ve been reflecting on the colleagueship of Lesley who has shared my office for over three years now, on three mornings every week as the Circuit Administrator. When the new Circuit begins she will move to Clay Cross and although I will “have my office back”, I will miss her companionship, wisdom and good listening ear. Lesley has (and I know will continue to be) been a good friend; many mornings it has been her listening ear which has kept me sane. Such is friendship.

I encourage us all to relect on our friends and remember to let them know how valued they are to us.

Thought for the Day

Interesting thought for the day this morning on Radio 2 (I know it’s not the intellectual giant of Radio 4, but I think that it speaks to the ordinary person i.e. ME !).

The thought for the day was given by Rabbi Pete Tobias. He quoted a Jewish Rabbi of 200 + years ago who had said that “You should repent the day before you die.” to which came the statement, “But we don’t know on what day we shall die”. The Rabbi then replied “Then you should repent every day”. (I believe I`ve got that right.)

“Repent every day”………………….. what a powerful and demanding thought that is. The trouble is that many of us associate repentance with two things: firstly, with major sins such as murder, theft etc and secondly, with attitudes such as thoughtlessness, selfishness, and so on. Hopefully none of us will be in a position to need to repent of the former and if we spent every day repenting of the so-called smaller things contained in our attitude then we wouldn`t have time for anything else !

No, I believe it goes beyond itemizing every single thing that we get wrong (in my case I wouldn`t have time to list them all), but it is about being sorry for what is collectively wrong in our lives and that is largely our attitude towards God and his standards. We spend much of the day not even considering our relationship with God or caring about how many of his standards we are falling below; we spend little time considering our relationships with others or how we treat them, especially the stranger in the street or shop. Our hearts have become so hardened that we are only fleetingly concerned with what we see on the news about Pakistan and other places of suffering. Now I`m not suggesting that we should all nip off to the sack-cloths and ashes shop (S & A Ltd.) but our repentance should be about a desire to put right wrong relationships, wrong attitudes, prejudices and the like. Repentance isn`t about a visible outward show of austerity or suffering, but it is about an inner desire for justice, peace and a closer walk with God. It’s not about simply saying “sorry” and then carrying on as if nothing has happened, but repentance is about making a difference to our lives and others

So from that perspective I can go with that anonymous Rabbi and in my daily prayer say “I`m sorry Lord, help me to get it right.” and then spend my day in trying to fulfill the prayer that I`ve made, with Gods help.


I`ve just finished watching the last episode of the current season of the comedy programme, Rev (BBC2). I am aware that it has divided opinion but I personally think it is a brilliantly outstanding piece of writing captivating the humanness of being a Vicar (or in my case a Methodist Minister).

tonight’s episode especially dealt with the burden of `always being a Vicar` and `always being at everyone’s beck and call`. When Rev Smallbone has a spiritual crisis it shocks the people around him, “Vicars aren`t allowed to have a crisis !” Well, the reality is that we do get tired of always being nice, always having to say the right thing, always having to avoid saying what we really think and not being allowed the so-called vices that other people have such as smoking or drinking.

This can really be a lonely path and unless one has worn the dog collar then no-one can really understand it, but far from being a halo or a ring or confidence there are many times when the dog collar can feel like a noose around the neck.  These are the times when you get so frustrated with the petty triviality of Church life and you long for the meaty stuff of saving souls. Times when you want to tell people what you really think of their pettiness and attention to trivial, meaningless detail; times when you want to shout and rant and rave; times when you want to tell the world to `go away` but you feel (and do sometimes) use much stronger language than that ! 

The wonderful grittiness in the programme Rev, is shown in the way in which Rev Smallbone gradually descends into a rather pitiful character, but then it is turned around when the police (using an actor who used to be in the Bill) compel him to visit a dying parishioner who wants some comfort in her last hours. He does this and prays with her to the end. The final scene shot on the balcony of her flat shows him refusing alcohol and saying he`s alright, and you know in your heart of hearts that he is. His faith is restored by carrying out the very thing he was called to do by God.

I`m reminded of the story about John Wesley losing faith and the advice he was given……… “Preach faith and preach faith until you HAVE faith and when you have faith, preach faith” (very much paraphrased). As a Minister there are times when I feel just like that and the only thing that brings me through is by clinging to the certainty of my calling and simply keeping on at it, until the time comes when it is a joy again.

I`m so grateful to God for bestowing on my this wonderful calling, and that is genuine however, I`m not going to be naive or lie, and I recognise the fact that there are times when I`d rather be doing something else which allowed me to be a normal person. BUT by virtue of the calling I`m not nor ever will be a normal calling, and over the years I`ve learnt to move my moods of despair into a recognition that at some point I`ll come through the darkness and enjoy my calling again.

Just in case any of my readers are worried, I`m thoroughly enjoying life at the moment, so don`t worry. Rejoice instead !


Just got back from what was possibly one of the best holidays I`ve ever had. Alison and I, with our friends Alison and Stuart, went to stay at Denholm (near Hawick) on the Scottish borders. This was an area that I`ve never explored properly but found fascinating.

We managed to visit Melrose Abbey, Jedburgh Abbey, Kelso Abbey, Floors Castle (at Kelso), Edinburgh and a whole host of others places. We saw seals being fed in the sea at Eyemouth, walked the cliff edge at St. Abbs and I even preached at Hawick Congregational Church as their preacher was hospitalised. 

The people were very friendly; in the whole fortnight we only met three people who could be described as surly or downright miserable (one we dubbed “the beast of the borders”) and out of a fortnight’s stay that was good going. The people of Denholm especially were warm and welcoming, the food in the local pub was good especially on the night that someones napkin (left on another table) caught fire and we alerted the waitress to it ! I`ve never met such a village where it felt as though everyone wanted to say “Good morning” to you. Needless to say the beast of the borders didn`t live in Denholm.

And now its back to a mountain of e~mails, four services today (including baptism), and the countdown to the new circuit on Sept 1st with all of its accompanying preparation. Life is good and I praise the Lord for it all.

There may well be more reflection on the holiday over the next few days.

The picture is of Jedburgh Abbey.