Happy New Year 2018

Happy New Year everyone.

A collection of photos to wish you all well in 2018

This is actually one of y favourite photos from my album. It was taken in the Holy Land in 2014 when we stopped in a restaurant for some food. Each table was given a pitcher of this horrible looking green ‘stuff’. No one was quite sure what to do, or try it, until someone plucked up the courage to have a go. Turned out to be delicious home made lemonade (very lemony and very sugary). It was delicious. 

My prayer for everyone of my family and friends is that this year they may find that those dubious things which look worrying or anxiety filled, may turn out to be hidden sources of refreshment; that our fears may actually be moments of growth because of the beauty of the moment.

Again, one of my favourite pictures, taken whilst walking somewhere (cant remember where !). It reminds me that moving on in life involves putting one foot in front of the other, even if we don’t know where its leading us. Its risk-taking but its full of wonderful surprises.

My prayer is that each one of us will be able to grasp life as a pilgrimage, exciting at times, fearsome at others, full of joy and full of sorrow, but always moving forward and walking with our Lord Jesus Christ as we do so. I love the poem “footprints in the sand” but several years ago came across another verse which speaks of the footprints being all mixed up with the words “thats when I danced with you”. May 2018 be the year when we truly dance with Jesus.

And on the subject of taking risks, this was a photo taken during our holiday on Orkney (must go back one day). We’d had a day visiting the Tomb of the Eagles, otherwise known as Isbister Chambered Cairn.

The only entry and exit to the tomb was to lie on a small wooden trolley and pull yourself in and out. Both scary and comical this was a picture of me exiting the tomb, in a most undignified way with everyone laughing at me. The scary bit was in case I got stuck part way in or out, as I couldn’t see them wanting to dismantle a 5000 year old tomb just to get me out !

I pray that this year will see us (and the Church) not getting stuck in a rut of “we’ve always done it that way, but be truly prepared to try something new. The experience of the tomb of the eagles was fabulous and Im so glad I took the risk of getting stuck (!). May this year be full of more fabulous and memorable experiences for each one of us, but it will only happen as long as we stop saying”but I’ve (we’ve) always done it that way”

 A year of work; may 2018 be an active and productive year. Maybe this is a hope for me because its not for me to speak on behalf of others. However this is a photograph of myself during a visit to Romania. As many of you know Alison and I travel over each year to try and offer a little bit of help to our friends Alex and Heather in the village of Poiana Constanta. Ive come to love this place (although health and finance may prevent us from going much longer) and I always consider it a privilege to be engaged in helping other peoples lives.

In a similar way I try to help the local YMCA each year in their work amongst the homeless of this area.

I think that my prayer is that I will have further opportunities in 2018 to help improve the lives of others, as I’m convinced God has improved mine.

So that you have a few random thoughts on my hopes for 2018 but quite how random are they actually ?

I don’t think that hopes for ongoing refreshment, dancing, being undignified and being helpful are actually all that unconnected, because they all speak of being constantly renewed, reinvigorated, rechallenged as we journey on.

My thoughts turn to the pilgrims on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24:13-35 where the disciples sought spiritual refreshment from the stranger in their midst and found the most beautiful of encounters. In that encounter their hearts danced with joy, running all the way back to Jerusalem in an undignified haste late at night and helping the other disciples to move on themselves in the Lord.

God is always moving us forward when we let him; may 2018 be our year of moving on.


Happy New Year












a “me, me, me” Christmas or a “more, more, more” Christmas ?

Well, here we are having arrived at the end of Boxing Day 2017, and we’ve survived another year !

or have we ?

Many of us will tell of how good and wonderful it has been but I wonder “at what cost ?”

Don’t get me wrong Alison and I have had the most wonderful of times, sharing with our daughter and her family and now looking forward to the visit of our other daughter and her partner at the weekend. Combined with the coming and goings of good friends, Church worship and each other it has been a marvellous couple of days, but sadly I think that society pays a cost for Christmas often.

Firstly the cost of an increase in the “me, me, me” mentality as often expressed through many in the Brexit camp; that sense of I want what I want irrespective of the consequences and, like a child, some folk rarely stop to think of the consequences as long as they can return to their idealised view of the British Empire. This happens in so many other ways as well, in Church with its constant harking back to halcyon days of packed buildings (!), in music recalling the heady days of our youth (glam rock et al), and so on. So often we all, in some way, hold a mentality which is about getting what we want and we say its human nature, but I don’t think it can be what God intended for us.

Secondly the cost in the rise of the “more, more, more” generation as consumer spending increases to disproportionate levels in comparison to income. The news has shown today that although Boxing Day footfall has been down in many places internet sales have risen, and all this on the first day after many households have gone into debt in order to ‘enjoy’ Christmas. The big multi-nationals have conned us into always wanting something more, something new, something supposedly better, and we all fall into their trap, myself included.

And somewhere in the midst of all this is the true cost; that is the cost of losing the true meaning of Christmas.

Christmas has become for many little more than a round of buying more, thinking of what we’re going to get and somewhere in the midst is an empty manger for Christ has been removed and replaced by consumerism.

Now this makes me seem like a “Bah, Humbug” Ebeneezer Scrooge type of character: trust me, I’m not for it actually gives me hope. You see I think that buying more and more is often about wanting what we don’t have and the power we think it might give us, over family, friends, neighbours etc. and I think that when we think of “me, me, me” we’re actually putting ourselves at the centre of the world.

The shepherds, with their simple lifestyles would probably have dreamt of palaces etc but knew it was beyond them and so when the angels appeared they didn’t think of themselves, nor did they laud it over others as the special ones, but they simply did all the angels asked of them. They went to Bethlehem and worshipped, the child in the centre of the nativity.

Their adoration was on Him, not themselves, nor the latest e-type sheep pen, but on the one who truly mattered. The loss of the chid from the manger has become the real cost of our modern Christmas’s, for its the loss of presence of the one who came from Heaven seeking a relationship with those He had created.

Thankfully, we can get a refund on that cost, simply by saying “YES” to Jesus I our lives and following Him to the best of our abilities.

Do YOU want a refund ?



Scrooge is in the house

       Scrooge is in the house !!

Warning:- a simple blog tonight.

Its been an interesting couple of days. Silhouette Theatre are good friends of Alison and I, and each year (for many years) they come to whichever circuit I’m in, to offer to do two shows in local schools and also to offer one further show (ostensibly to raise funds to pay for the other two).

They were due to give me a show on Monday afternoon and another one on Monday evening and Tuesday morning. After that they were going into Alisons Deanery to offer similar to schools over there as part of Churches Together.

However, the weather arrived !

As they were due to travel from London to Manchester for a Sunday show, but didn’t know whether the show would be cancelled because of the snow they came to us on Saturday evening with a view to being closer to Manchester and travelling over this morning and back this evening.

Trouble is the weather made it impossible to travel; I received a succession of messages cancelling Church services today, and our three friends have been stuck all day in our Manse; long day for them.

I managed to walk into Burton for a Rotary Carol Service at the Parish Church which broke my day up and was largely lovely with Rotary friends, but Karen, Alf and Malcolm were in a strange house with little to do but watch telly and twiddle their thumbs.

We’ve now received word that a variety of schools are closed tomorrow, so tomorrow afternoon is now cancelled !

The good news is that tomorrow night at St. Thomas’s is still going ahead (7.00 pm Belvedere Road, Burton). This will be free but a retiring collection will be taken for ‘Action for Children’, the Methodist childrens charity.

We are hoping many will come along despite the weather, so please spread the word.


So what does this teach us ?

1} that the future is unknown to us, despite our planning and preparation.

best laid plans of mice and men” and all that comes to mind.


2} that no matter how well you know folk its always good to spend time with them and get to

know them better. Good relationships can always be built upon to be even better.


3) although we’ve met Alf (Scrooge) before, we don’t know him as well as the others but its

been very enjoyable chatting and learning about him and his life.


4} that simple things can be so enjoyable. Even as I write this the other four are doing a Christmas word quiz and Ive had the time to telephone Dad.


5} that sometimes when the storms of life are raging around us, we simply have to accept theres nothing we can do about it, relax and simply  life, until the storm passes


6} The most serious thing Ive learnt today is that no matter what happens God will bring good things from it when we look, because he wants to give love and see love shared between folk.


What about the old wineskins ?

“but what do we do with the old wineskins ?” was a question I was asked yast week at the end of an act of worship. To put it into context this took place at a small country Chapel where the youngest in attendance was in his sixties and then the next was 78+ (by his own admission).

Talking before the service began a lady shared with me the concern of what would happen in the future as their catchment area, their age profile and their weariness seemed to mitigate against drawing younger folk in; yet this Chapel has stood faithfully for many years at the edge of its village and with a good relationship with the local Parish Church.

I shared with her that despite my involvement in Fresh Expressions of worship/Church I constantly come back to the Biblical injunction of Jesus about wineskins…… “no one puts new wine into old wineskins, otherwise the wine will burst the skins and the wine is out, and so are the skins” Mark 2:21-22 (but also Matthew 9:14-17 and Luke 5:33-39) and this is when she said, not in a nasty or blocking way, “but what do we do with the old wineskins ?”

(Apparently when wineskins get older they become less pliable and settle into a more definite shape; consequently fresh wine stretches the old skin until bursting point when all may be lost.)

It felt like a genuine willingness to change and move forward but also a realisation that something has to affirm all the faithfulness of the generation which has kept faith in evidence but for whom its hard to let go.

This has dominated my thinking for a while now but increasingly so in this last week.

Change is a difficult thing to pursue and it always feels as though someone somewhere is going to het hurt, but need it actually be that way ?  On a recommendation Ive been reading a fascinating book called “Our iceberg is melting” by John Kotter and I have found it both challenging and encouraging. Basically its about how to bring about change. The story is about a penguin colony living happily on its iceberg when one relatively unimportant penguin, Fred (!), realises that their iceberg is. beginning to melt. Whats to be done ? It involves a variety of characters such as Louis the head penguin, Alice the impulsive penguin who wants to get on with it, Fred, Buddy and No-No.

Without giving away the ending to the story I will share that it shows how to navigate change, slowly (yet with an appropriate degree of urgency), thoughtfully, respectfully towards others without giving in to the No-No’s of the colony, listening and acting collectively. Something, in our passion to see Jesus lift4d high, we can forget applies to Church life also. Thats not to say we simply drift along while the iceberg we call Cjurcj slowly melts and disintegrates beneath our feet, but it is to say that we must treat all people with dignity and respect. Where it genuinely isn’t possible to change then we have to either let go or allow Churches to die with dignity believing in the resurrection which Jesus promises will follow.

The Methodist President of Conference, Rev Loraine Mellor, spoke in her Presidential address of the need for some causes (churches, meetings, activities) to die before resurrection can take place. How that resurrection may look Im not sure as it may involve a new shape to the Church, new activities, and above all else new people, but it will be different, just as the Bible promises us our bodies will be changed in Heavenly glory.

BUT, what about the old wineskins ?

In many ways in the book it is Penguin No-No who represents the old wineskins. Comfortable and unable to see the need for change, possibly through weariness or cynicism, but he puts up a spirited fight to keep things as they are. Sadly for the penguin colony that isn’t really a viable option and its the same today for our Churches. And yet we have changed over the centuries; nowadays we have pipe organs whereas one time they were frowned upon (try switching to a guitar now !!); one time the ordinary folk would have to stand throughout and only the gentry had pews (try getting rid of pews now !!); one time the Bible was read in latin (and we still frown on any other translation but the King James !!). Indeed a friend of mine thought it was remarkably novel that he’d found a modern translation (The Message Bible first published in 1993, with an earlier version of Galatians in 1988 !) at least 24 years ago but still thought of as modern.

It is the desire of No-No which has to be met and yet met without a spirit of crushing but with a spirit of love, without a spirit of dominance but with a spirit of inviting him onto the journey; however ultimately if the journey is to continue it cannot be held back or the iceberg (church) will melt beneath our feet.

The old wineskins/no-no’s, with their legitimate fears and concerns are to be encouraged on the journey, thanked for their faithfulness and invited in a Kindly, sensitive way to move forward and to allow room for new wineskins and new wine. Within Methodism that also, I believe, involves the need to look afresh at what it expects of its Presbyters, Deacons and leaders. No longer can we simply visit in the way it was 50 years ago and at the same time meet, greet and encourage new life; no longer can we maintain the current preaching plan in the way its always been and at the same time find space for that which will attract new folk to the cause of Christ and no longer can we expect the Presbyter/Deacon simply to serve the existing flock and at the same time seek out a new flock simply to repopulate the current one.

I don’t know the answer as I don’t want to discard those faithful few but I passionately want the time to introduce new folk to my friend Jesus. It is this issue that has kept me awake at night most of this last week and for the foreseeable future.