Thursday, 28 April 2011


The hype surrounding the Royal Wedding tomorrow is unbelievable. Every time you look at the television or open a newspaper it is there. Graham Smith, head of Republic is quoted in the Financial Times saying: “You’d have thought it was the second coming,” lamenting the wall-to-wall media coverage of the event.

Weddings always have an appeal but I, for one, would most certainly not set up camp outside Westminster Abbey as it seems many are doing. Neither will I be buying any of the trashy junk being sold in so many shops as “a souvenir” of the occasion.

One wonders, when the average person is being penalised financially, when thousands are unemployed and when whole communities are having local services cut or curtailed, due to the greed of the bankers and to the profligacy of the previous Government how can the expense of such an occasion ever be justified? It is estimated that the cost to the tax payer for this extravaganza will be in excess of £20 million plus the cost of the party being provided by the Foreign Office for those foreign dignitaries who haven't been invited to the main celebrations. This is in addition to the actual cost of the ceremony being paid for by the Royal family and the Middleton family.

Monday, 25 April 2011


In many ways Holy Week and Easter have been different this year. Father Martin and I and some of the congregation of St. Augustine’s went to the Chrism Mass at Chelmsford Cathedral on Monday. This was well-supported both by clergy and laity and the congregation practically filled the Cathedral. But there was something different – something missing. Many familiar faces were not there as they have left the Church of England, moved to the Ordinariate and, during this week, into full membership of the Catholic Church. The Blogs have been full with reports of the various groups being received into full membership.

I played the organ at St. Augustine for the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Thursday and for the Solemn Liturgy on Good Friday.



Then on Saturday evening I was Celebrant & Preacher at the Easter Vigil at St. Barnabas, Woodford Green which was a well-attended service. The choir of St. Barnabas under the direction of Ray Chandler really excelled themselves. The servers play a vital role in the Easter Vigil and the St. Barnabas servers were really good; I believe they had all been to church for a rehearsal. It was a real pleasure to be the Celebrant at that service.

Then, just a few hours later, it was time to go to St. Augustine’s to play the organ for their Easter Vigil which is held at 5.30 a.m. As compensation for having to be up and alert so early in the morning on Easter Day a super breakfast follows with cereals, fruit juice, eggs, sausages, toast and marmalade, tea and coffee which really set us up for the next service: the Solemn Mass of the Day. The church was pretty well full and a wonderful and joyful service it was too. I concluded it by playing Widor’s Toccata. Then after a super lunch cooked by our daughter and son-in-law and a bit of a nap, and an Easter Egg Hunt with our granddaughter, it was back to St. Augustine for Solemn Evensong & Benediction.

Friday, 22 April 2011


When I heard the Bishop of Oxford, the Chairman of the Church of England’s Board of Education on BBC Radio 4 this morning I couldn’t believe what he was advocating for church schools. His views first appeared in an interview for the Times Education Supplement. In the future he wants only 10% of places in Church Schools to be reserved for practising Anglicans: "What I would be saying is that number ought to be minimised because our primary function and our privilege is to serve the wider community. Ultimately I hope we can get the number of reserved places right down to 10 percent. It goes back to what we see the mission of the church as being. I don't think the mission generally is about collecting nice Christians into safe places." He said policies which favour practising Anglicans should be changed even if it affects a school's exam results.

I have no problem with Church Schools admitting children who are not Christians but I do have a problem when it comes to denying places to children of practising Christians. And that is what will inevitably happen if the 10% target which the Bishop of Oxford suggests is ever implemented. The whole point of “faith” schools is to be places of excellent education for the children of people of faith, open to others if there are places available.

Muslims, Sikhs and Jews have their own schools. Would the Bishop, even in his wildest dreams, suggest that a Muslim, Sikh or Jewish school should admit only 10% of their particular faith and allocate the remaining 90% to non-believers? Of course not and neither would they do so.

I know from practical experience the lengths that some parents will go to to get their children into a Church School.

It is only the Church of England that could come up with such a crackpot scheme. The problem is, the Bishop of Oxford may be taken seriously.

Thursday, 21 April 2011


I have only just discovered that the Glastonbury Pilgrimage has been cancelled. Details were contained in a letter from the Bishop of Plymouth date March 2011 which I never received. As far as I can discover this is the first time that the Pilgrimage has been cancelled except during the 2nd World War. On the Glastonbury Pilgrimage website is says: It is with deep regret that the Council has announced the cancellation of the 2011 pilgrimage.

According to the Bishop’s letter: When the Pilgrimage Council met last week, it needed to consider the viability of this year's pilgrimage in the light of the Association's financial position and the factors which will affect the number of pilgrims likely to attend the pilgrimage this year. We were conscious of the Walsingham Festival in Exeter Cathedral in May, and of the further rise in fuel costs which makes a day out for families yet more expensive. The Council decided, therefore, to cancel the pilgrimage for this year, and to consider our future plans at the Annual General Meeting which will be held at Holy Nativity Church, Knowle in Bristol at 7. o'clock on Saturday 1st October 2011.

I really don’t think that people are going to travel the extra distance to go to Exeter Cathedral. I think what this really tells us is that with the folk who have left the CofE for the Ordinariate and those who are preparing to go in the future, there are now insufficient numbers to make this viable any more and that is indeed, very sad.


When the disciples approached Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday and they were greeted with crowds waving palm branches and proclaiming “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest” they must have thought that Jesus would be acclaimed as King. A few days later when he was being executed that hope had turned to despair as they viewed their beloved Master tried, condemned and then executed in one of the most barbarous methods known, crucifixion.

It is hard to imagine how they would have felt: disappointment, despair, bereavement, anger, terror, depression, rejection: so many different emotions! They had faithfully followed Jesus for three years and shared so many different moments with him as he went about the country, healing, teaching and working miracles. And now this man on whom they had pinned all their hopes is hanging, bleeding and mocked and dying on a cross, executed by the hated foreign invaders after rejection by his own people.

Yet little less than three days later, they realize that what they thought was the end was in fact only the beginning as the experienced the sheer joy of the Resurrection. From that moment on they will form a pivotal part of God’s plan to bring salvation to the world. And we, as their successors, are also a pivotal part of that divine plan to bring the good news of the Gospel to people who have not heard it.

Friday, 15 April 2011


First I must sWOSMtart by saying I have a great interest in both the Scout Association and the Guide Association. Following several years as a member of a Scout Troop, in my early adult life I became a Scouter, first running a Troop and then the Group, serving on the District Training Team, writing and producing a Gang Show, and serving on the District and County Executive until my work life became so busy I couldn’t give the time needed. I then transferred to the Guide Association becoming County Music Advisor for 10 years prior to going to Theological College. I’ve acted as Sponsoring Authority for several Scout Groups and Guides Companies and am now Vice President of a local Scout District. So this morning’s report on the radio was of great interest to me.

More girls than boys joined the Scouts in the year January 2010 to January 2011, according to a report on BBC Radio 4. 4,330 girls and 3,796 boys joined during this period. In 2005 1 in 9 members were girls but that has now risen to 1 in 5. Total membership of the Scout Association is now 507,867, a rise of 14% since 2005, of which 66,576 are girls.

In might be thought that with this increase in the membership of girls that the Girl Guides would have suffered but the converse is truOldGG-outlinee and Guiding continues to flourish with half a million members of which 100.000 are Leaders.

Both the Scout Association and the Guide Association are in need of additional leaders to enable more boys and girls to enjoy the fun of Scouting or Guiding and the great benefits which derive from membership. For example the Scouts have a total waiting list of 33,500. If every person who benefited from their membership of the Scouts or Guides could volunteer to help these worthwhile organisations there would be no problem and then every child who wanted to join, could do so.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Love Is In The Air?

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Spring used to be the season when weddings took place somewhat unromantically to get the extra tax allowance that was available for many years. The deadline was the 5th April. At one church I was at we often had four weddings on each Saturday around Easter. Those days are gone and now people marry at any time during the year with no tax incentive. Church weddings have steadily decreased over the years as more and more secular venues have been given licences to conduct marriages,

A growing problem for clergy in the last few years has been the people who want to marry solely to obtain a visa for one of the participants. In the year or so before I retired I had a number of people call at the Vicarage asking to get married in what I can only describe as suspicious circumstances. The one consistent fact was that they all wanted to get married quickly with very short notice; sometimes only a matter of days and at the most 2 weeks and all of them said that cost would be no problem and - all of them I refused.

I remember one very well. The man and his potential wife called in one Friday evening asking to get married – the following Saturday week. I had many doubts about this couple, their body language possibly, and their demeanour. After talking to them for a time, I decided that there was nothing I could or would do and referred them to the Registrar’s Office. They declined on the basis that they wanted a church wedding and it was crucial that they had their wedding no later than the following Saturday. The man became more and more vociferous and produced his passport which was of little help to his cause as it just proved he was a citizen of Uganda whilst his visa showed his was a time limited student. The potential wife was black but British born and appeared very vague about everything. I obviously wasn’t going to get anywhere so I again suggested they visited the local Registrar’s Office and asked them to leave. It took me some time to get them out of the vicarage protesting that they didn’t want to go to the Registrar’s office and that I should conduct a wedding for them. I had grave doubts that they both even lived in the parish. I was convinced that this was a potential fake or sham marriage.

New Guide Lines should help clergy decide the best course of action to take when this situation arises. The BBC reports that: The Church of England is to issue new guidance to clergy in an attempt to reduce the number of sham marriages. In future, couples will have to apply for a licence if either the bride or groom is from a non-European country. Members of the clergy are also being urged to report any suspicions they have that the marriage is not genuine. Over the past nine months, 155 people have been arrested in the UK as a result of investigations into both church and civil ceremonies. The new guidance advises clergy not to publish banns - where a couple's intention to marry is read out in church - for marriages involving a man or a woman from a non-European country. Instead, it says couples should apply for a "common licence", which involves the swearing of affidavits and classes. The guidance issued by the House of Bishops - one of three houses in the General Synod - has UK Border Agency agreement. It says if a member of the clergy is not satisfied that the marriage is genuine, he or she must make that clear to the person responsible for granting the licence. Clergy should "immediately" report a couple to diocesan legal officers if they insist on having banns read rather than applying for a common licence under the guidance.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

The de Zurbarán Paintings

There was some very good news in yesterday’s edition of the Church of England Newspaper: a philanthropist, Jonathan Ruffer, has provided £15 million, the amount sought by the Church Commissioners, for the purchase of the de Zurbarán paintings. A further £1million has been provided by Lord Rothschild which will enable them to stay at Auckland Castle where they have hung since 1756. Auckland Castle will continue to be the home of the Bishops of Durham.

I could not believe it when I read that the Church Commissioners intended to sell these priceless works of art. Without the generosity of Jonathan Ruffer they could have be sold to a foreign art collector or gallery and a priceless heritage could have been lost for ever. Now with the involvement of Durham County Council and the National Trust, Auckland Castle will become heritage site with a trust to be established to care for the paintings.

In today’s Daily Telegraph reporting on this magnificent gift Gordon Rayner says: Zurbarán, a contemporary of El Greco and Velázquez, completed 12 paintings of Jacob and his sons between 1640 and 1645. They were bought by Bishop Richard Trevor in 1756 for £124. The 13th painting, of Jacob’s youngest son, Benjamin, is the work of the 18th century copyist Arthur Pond. Each of the paintings stands 8ft tall and hangs in the Long Dining Room at the Castle, which has been the home of successive Bishops of Durham for more than 800 years and is open to the public during the summer. More than 3,000 people had signed a petition demanding the sale of the paintings be stopped, and last week Jeremy Hunt, the Culture Secretary, urged the Commissioners to ensure the pictures could continue to be “enjoyed by the public”.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Bert Wright 1930-2011



Today Ann and I went to the funeral of Bert Wright, a man in his eighties who was murdered in Hainault in February. The church was packed with a large number of his neighbours and many members of his family. Until retirement Bert worked on the Underground. During his retirement, with great devotion, he looked after his wife Pat who died last year after many years of a debilitating illness.

I’ve known Bert for 17 years, his garden backed on to the church grounds and I used to see him most days walking his dog. Bert always had a smile. He was highly regarded by his neighbours who described him as friendly helpful person. The police have caught and charged a man with his murder and he will make another appearance in Court later this year.

May he Rest in Peace.

Monday, 4 April 2011


Pastor Terry Jones who runs a small inconsequential fundamentalist evangelical chapel in Florida decided, in March, to burn the Koran after putting it on “trial”. He then featured this act of bigotry on YouTube with the result that seven United Nations workers have been brutally murdered in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan when thousands of protestors mobbed the United Nations building. A further 17 people have been murdered following the protests which began last Friday.

The United Nations workers were in Afghanistan to help the Afghan people and they suffered martyrdom because of the crass stupidity of Terry Jones in taking the action he took and in the consequent barbaric action taken by totally ruthless Afghan extremists.

For a long time I have questioned why we, the British, are in Afghanistan and what we can ever hope to achieve by our military action there. Please keep Afghanistan in your prayers.


Today I received a letter from Bishop Lindsay Urwin which related that the two Franciscans attached to the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham have left to join the Friars Minor of the RC Church. They will be sadly missed at the Shrine where, in the short time they have been there, they have made a big impression. I wish them every blessing in their new community.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Mothering Sunday–yes! Mother’s Day–No!!!

One thing which really annoys me is the way Mothering Sunday has been transformed into Mother’s Day. Mother’s Day is an American occasion kept on the 2nd Sunday in May and formalised by an American called Anna Jarvis in 1912. Mothering Sunday in the Church Calendar is kept on the 4th Sunday in Lent and is known by several different titles: Laetare Sunday, Mid-Lent Sunday, Refreshment Sunday and Mothering Sunday. It is a day when we are reminded to honour Mother Church, to honour Mary, Mother of Jesus and Mother of us all, and to honour our own mothers.

Wikipedia gives the following information: Most historians believe that it originated from the 16th century Christian practice of visiting one's mother church annually on Laetere Sunday which meant that most mothers would be reunited with their children on this day when young apprentices and young women in servitude were released by their masters that weekend. As a result of secularization, it was then principally used to show appreciation to one's mother, although it is still recognized in the historical sense by some churches, with attention paid to Mary the mother of Jesus Christ as well as the traditional concept 'Mother Church'.

It is quite frustrating trying to find a card for “Mothering Sunday” rather than just Mother’s Day; it is possible but the choice is minimal