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Homily on St Andrews Day

A Homily for  St Andrews Day

Most references to Andrew in the New Testament simply include him on a list of the Twelve Apostles, or group him with his brother, Simon Peter.

But he appears acting as an individual three times in the Gospel of John.

When a number of Greeks wish to speak with Jesus, they approach Philip, who tells Andrew, and the two of them tell Jesus (Jn 12:20-22).

Before Jesus feeds the Five Thousand, it is Andrew who says, “Here is a lad with five barley loaves and two fish.” (Jn 6:8f)

And the first two disciples whom John reports as attaching themselves to Jesus (Jn 1:35-42) are Andrew and another disciple (whom John does not name, but who is commonly supposed to be John himself — John never mentions himself by name, a widespread literary convention).

Having met Jesus, Andrew then finds his brother Simon and brings him to Jesus. Thus, on each occasion when he is mentioned as an individual, it is because he is instrumental in bringing others to meet Jesus

Little is known of St. Andrew in addition to these inspired notices of him. He is said to have preached the Gospel in Scythia; and he was at length martyred in Achaia.

His death was by crucifixion and   according to the tradition the type of cross he was crucified on was a saltire cross, an X shaped cross. His symbol is thus a Cross saltire, white on a blue background.

When the Byzantium or Constantinople Bishopric was founded it claimed that St Andrew had been their first Bishop and even that as he should take precedent over his brother Peter as Jesus had called Andrew first. As Russia was evangelised from Byzantium, St Andrew also became the patron saint of Russia.

About the middle of the tenth century, Andrew became the patron saint of Scotland. Several legends state that the relics of Andrew were brought under supernatural guidance from Constantinople to the place where the modern town of St Andrews stands today (Gaelic, Cill Rìmhinn).

Another legend says that in the late eighth century, during a joint battle with the English at what is now known as Athelstaneford, King Ungus  saw a cloud shaped like a saltire, and declared Andrew was watching over them, and if they won by his grace, then he would be their patron saint.  However, there is evidence Andrew was venerated in Scotland before this.

Andrew’s connection with Scotland may have been reinforced following the Synod of Whitby, when the Celtic Church felt that Columba had been “outranked” by Peter and that Peter’s brother would make a higher ranking patron. The 1320 Declaration of Arbroath cites Scotland’s conversion to Christianity by Andrew, “the first to be an Apostle”.

Although we know little about Andrew, what we do know is full of significance. He was the first convert amongst the apostles, he was especially in our Lord’s confidence and thrice described as introducing others to Jesus, not least St Peter.

Maybe we can take from Andrew’s story two things.

Firstly, it is not always the most well known and influential Christians who carry out the most important work. St Peter one could say over the years has been much more highly  esteemed than St Andrew, yet it was Andrew who brought him to our Lord.  Quiet, unassuming followers of our Lord are just as vital – if not more so, than those who take the positions of authority.

Secondly, it was the role of Andrew to bring others to our Lord. It is said that faith is caught and not taught. There must have been something about Andrew’s persuasiveness, about the way that Jesus had changed his life so much so that it showed- that made others want what Andrew had found.

We don’t have to be clever evangelists, or know our bibles inside out or be good at theology. But we can pray to have the gift which Andrew seemed to have in abundance – of showing his friends what a difference Jesus had made to his life, thereby ensuring that they caught the faith as well.




Psalm 19 or 19:1-6
Deuteronomy 30:11-14
Romans 10:8b-18
Matthew 4:18-22
PRAYER (traditional)
Almighty God, who didst give such grace to thine apostle Andrew that he readily obeyed the call of thy Son Jesus Christ, and brought his brother with him: Give unto us, who are called by thy Word, grace to follow him without delay, and to bring those near to us into his gracious presence; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

PRAYER (contemporary)
Almighty God, who gave such grace to your apostle Andrew that he readily obeyed the call of your Son Jesus Christ, and brought his brother with him: Give unto us, who are called by your Word, grace to follow him without delay, and to bring those near to us into his gracious presence; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

A Post Communion Prayer

Blessed be you, O Christ our God,

Who revealed your wisdom to simple fishermen,

Sending upon them from above your Holy Spirit,

And thereby catching the universe as in a net.

Glory to you, O lover of human kind.


( Eastern Orhtodox)

A Blessing.

God the Sender, send us,

God the Sent, come with us

God the Strengthener of those who go,

Empower us,

That we may go with you

And find those who will call you

Father, Son and Holy Spirit.


November 30, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Archbishops Update on Swine ‘Flu – time to resume normal practice?

On November 27th Ely Diocesan Bishop’s Advisor for Emergency Planning issued this update based on recommendations from the Archbishop on the Swine ‘Flu situation and use of the common cup:
“Tidings of comfort and joy, ladies and gentlemen.
In the light of continuing consultation with the Department of Health, and
with updated information on the course of the Swine Flu pandemic, the


1.         The Archbishops will continue to monitor the situation closely.

2.         The pandemic alert level remains high.  It is crucial that good
hygiene continues.  Specifically –

a.         in respect of the bread –

·         communion should not be given on the tongue;

·         care should be taken to ensure that the fingers of the person
distributing the sacrament do not come into contact with the communicants’

·         high standards of hand hygiene should be maintained with soap and
water or handrubs;

b.         in respect of the wine –

·         intinction by the communicant should be discouraged, and is an
undesirable practice even by Eucharistic ministers, since the Department of
Health advise that the practice may present a greater risk factor than the
common cup;

·         the use of individual communion cups is not lawful in the Church
of England;

·         a chalice of gold, silver or other metal should be used rather
than of pottery, and especially of unglazed pottery;

·         the rim of the chalice should be firmly wiped with a purificator
after each communicant;

·         the same part of the purificator should not be used repeatedly,
nor should it be allowed to become sodden;

·         in addition to ritual ablutions, the chalice should be thoroughly
cleaned after use.

3.         Local discretion should be observed where there is continuing
concern about the incidence of swine flu in the community.

4.         Communicants should feel free to choose to receive communion in
one kind only.  While communion in both kinds is the norm in the Church of
England, in faithfulness to Christ’s institution, when it is received
faithfully only in one kind the fullness of the Sacrament is received none
the less.

It is important to remember that, while the common cup may now represent a minimal risk for healthy adults, the evidence regarding the link between a
shared chalice and transmission of disease is mixed and suggests that for
those whose immune systems have been compromised a notable hazard may still be present.  Neither the alcoholic content of wine  nor the antiseptic
qualities of noble metals provide protection against the flu virus, which
can survive for a significant period outside a host body.

Communicants who have been identified by the Department of Health as beingat increased risk from contracting the swine flu virus will need to considerwhether they should return yet to their former Eucharistic practice.
The Archbishops conclude their communiqué by thanking us for ourpatience
and cooperation during this recent challenging period.

Bishop Anthony commends the Archbishops’ advice to the Diocese and urges the importance of continued vigilance and safe practice.   He joins the
Archbishops in thanking everyone for their patience and cooperation in the
difficult months since Easter.

The Diocesan guidelines (see the Diocesan web site) will be amended.

Michael Goater

Bishop’s Adviser for Emergency Planning

The text of their letter posted  on the Church of England website is as follows:
Archbishops’ statement on swine flu

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have issued the following statement to the College of Bishops:

Dear Bishop,

In July, during the first wave of the Swine Flu pandemic we issued national advice with regard to the administration of Holy Communion.

This advice was based on information and guidance received from the Department of Health which was geared to the situation at that time and the projected levels of risk suggested by the potential course of the pandemic.  Since then the scientific understanding of the Swine Flu virus has advanced, further experience of the course of the epidemic has been gained,  and the first stage of a vaccination programme, targeted at those most at risk from the virus, is nearing completion.

Throughout this period, our advice has been driven by the interests of public health, particularly for the protection of the vulnerable.

In the light of continuing consultation with the Department of Health, and with updated information on the course of the Swine Flu pandemic, we believe that we can now advise that the normal administration of Holy Communion ought to resume.  This recommendation is subject to the guidelines issued in June which set out good hygiene practice for public worship and which allows for local discretion in the event of outbreaks of pandemic flu in particular centres of population.  We shall also continue to monitor the situation.

We wish to thank you for your patience and cooperation during this challenging period for both Church and Community. We are thankful that the pandemic has so far proved less severe than was feared.

Please pass this on to your colleagues in the diocese.

With every blessing,

+Rowan Cantuar               +Sentamu Ebor

So – having talked with many of my colleagues last night – it looks like things will be getting back to normal – though I do think it important to stress that if anyone would rather refrain from using the common cup it is perfectly acceptable to do so.

November 29, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Advent thoughts at a garden centre

The magic of Christmas

Have you ever been to a magical wonderland and sat in a synthetically produced grotto?    Have you ever seen Santa’s reindeers (plus sleigh) fly into a garden centre and rubbed noses with them?

When I was a kid the big Christmas annual excitement was having a photograph taken in a Bournemouth  department store. We would have a snowy background and I remember how my feet wouldn’t touch the ground as I perched on a bench beside my older sister. There weren’t any Santas in winter wonderland grottos nor reindeers flying into garden centres. ( I’m not sure garden centres had been invented in the late 50’s)

It was all pretty tame – and dear Grandad’s ginger beer and Nanny’s delicious Christmas dinner was the height of pleasure – along with a long anticipated toy if I was lucky. We would all snook together after the meal in the sitting room and watch Billy Smart’s Circus ( anyone remember that?) on the old black and white television.  Santa didn’t really get a look in although I remember putting out carrots and sherry (!) when my kids were young.

It seems that Santa really does grab the headlines now when it comes to the commercial Christmas. Adverts on TV invariably have him jollying about in front of supermarkets and chain stores and our local press gives a mid-November front page splash to his new magical wonderland Grotto that is at a garden centre not very far from here. He even arrived in the original Chitty Chitty Bang Bang ( not heard that in any rhymes before!) – maybe a first for East Anglia?

Anway, I must stop being a party pooper. I guess hundreds of kids and adults too are  enchanted by the ubiquitous Santa who can be everywhere all of the time during the festive season. He is always happy, brings us lots of goodies and is a pleasant distraction in a world which dawns each day with some story of sadness, suffering and war. Let’s loose ourselves in a magical make believe land for a while and then maybe we shall feel better able to cope with whatever life throws at us. The only trouble is, when January dawns, nothing really feels better and all the old anxieties and struggles are there.

Interesting when you think about it though.  Commerical Christmas happily uses the word Christmas ( literally the mass of Christ’s birth or nativity) ) in all of its frenetic selling tactics but completely misses out its true meaning. There is hardly a nativity scene to be spotted in any garden centre nor mention of  Jesus’ birth – it wouldn’t be “ PC”  I daresay to do so. And the trouble is, the story of Jesus’ birth to a poor couple in a dirty stable in a country thousands of miles from here at a time lost on us isn’t all that glamorous. True some schools still have a nativity play and if you try hard enough you will find Christmas cards on sale with a cheeky angel or cuddly lamb to entice you to buy. The churches still offer all sorts of traditional and not so traditional Christmas worship. But on the whole Christmas has become so secularized that it’s hard to spot the baby at the heart of it all. The people whose livelihood often depend on a profitable Christmas find a jolly figure in red sales more things than a tiny baby born two thousand years ago who so many have lost contact with – if ever they had it.

We don’t have to throw Santa out of the  Christmas hamper – but I long for Jesus Christ, The Son of God, to be given his rightful place at the heart of Christmas. He came, not in flashing glory with reindeer in attendance, but quietly in a bustling town in Palestine 2,000 years ago at a time of political unrest and poverty. So what? Another baby – one of billions ever born – what is all  the fuss about? Simply that Christians believe this child was God coming fully into our world  to bring us his presence – not presents that are quickly discarded but his presence that is with us for all time. A gift that is lasting, a gift that is so precious he was prepared to die for us to prove its truth.

Putting Jesus Christ at the heart of Christmas is what our churches are all about these coming weeks of Advent and Christmas – why not visit your local church this Christmas and experience some real Christmas magic.


And below is the first nativity scene Ive seen in a garden centre this year – shame about the position though…….

Meanwhile, the old favourites are in plentiful evidence taking centre stage

He looks pretty sozzled before he even starts his ho ho ho…

A bauble fest

Newcomers to the Christmas fest – snow owls- quite a hoot this time of year.

Gone off  Santas a bit though – there was one outside St Neots Museum this afternoon and he asked me if I had any grandchildren and would they like to come and see his grotto? Huh! Im sure I dont look grandmother age surely???

Looking forward to our  Benefice Advent service tomorrow at 10.30am at Great Paxton – and my favourite hymn: Come Thou Long Expected Jesus.

Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.

November 28, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | | 1 Comment

A homily for St Clement’s Day and memories of St Clements School in Boscombe

November 23 rd is day on which  the church honours St Clement – and he has a special significance for me….

Here is a short homily for St Clement:

On  November 23rd The Church honours St Clement,Bishop of Rome and Martyr. My first school in Boscombe,  Bournemouth was St Clements Primary School – a church school closely associated with St Clements Church – one of Bournemouth’s  Anglo-Catholic havens. It is  a Grade 1 listed Victorian Gothic building by the architect Sedding.   When I was a youngster at the school in the 1960’s  whenever it was St Clements Day we all had to go to church for a service and then had the day off – which was very pleasing to a  little girl who  found school rather daunting to start with.

I don’t think we were ever told who St Clement was – and in case you aren’t too sure here a few facts about him.

He was Born ca. 91 – 100 AD

St. Clement, according to tradition, was ordained by St Peter himself. Some early writers, indeed, thought that Clement was Peter’s immediate successor, but modern scholars agree that he is Peter’s third successor.

St. Clement has been identified with the Clement mentioned by St. Paul in his Epistle to the Philippians; but that Clement seems to have been a Philippian.

Others have thought he was a cousin of the Roman Emperors Titus and Domitian, but early writers make no mention of this fact, so it is unlikely.

Modern scholars think that St. Clement was a freedman or the son of a freedman of the imperial household. It is doubtful whether he was of Jewish or Gentile origin. Some would argue for Jewish descent because his famous epistle is so steeped in the Old Testament.

St. Clement was a Roman; he was martyred–at some place away from Rome. This is about all that is known for certain of Clement’s death. The Greek “Acts of the Martyrs” (written in the fourth century) gives many and interesting details.

St. Clement was exiled by the Emperor Trajan to the modern Crimea. There the holy Pope worked with such zeal among the prisoners labouring in the mines that he was condemned to death. He was thrown into the sea with an anchor tied around his neck. This is probable enough, but the story goes on to say that the sea flowed back a mile or so to reveal the body of the saint resting in a beautiful marble shrine.

In the ninth century, St. Cyril, the Apostle of the Slavs, discovered some bones and an anchor in a Crimean mound. He translated these bones to Rome, where Pope Hadrian II placed them in the altar of St. Clement’s Basilica.

Whether or not these bones are authentic, St. Clement left us a real relic of the highest value in his famous letter to the Corinthians.

This epistle ( 75-80AD)  which modern scholars agree is authentic, rebukes the Corinthians for a schism which had broken out in their church. Written while one of the apostles was still alive, this letter of Clement is a fascinating  Christian document. It is interesting indeed that it shows the fourth pope interfering to put another apostolic church in order.

It is also interesting that there is evidence that the early Christian church in Egypt and Alexandria regarded Clement’s epistle to Corinth as part of the New Testament.

The feast of St. Clement is celebrated on November 23.

Well, I knew nothing about this great man when I was little – but I have learnt one thing – I know now why our school badge had an anchor on it. Taken me all these years  to find that out!

The thought I would leave with you today hasn’t got anything to do directly with St Clement himself. It is about my early memories of being in St Clements Church, Boscombe. Built in 1876 after a late Gothic style, it was a huge barn of a place with a priest, Father Henry who used to feel remote and scarry. He would disappear up into the sanctuary, clouded in incense, and mumble words which I couldn’t understand. My Mum used to tell me off for fidgeting, and it was all very different from the Salvation Army worship which the family used to go to sometimes as well.

Church was a frightening, dark place and for many years after we left Boscombe, I didn’t like going into them.

So, my early experience has made me very sensitive about what sort of image of God’s love we offer to small children now when they come through the doors of our churches.  Of course there has to be reverence and respect and proper behaviour. But there also has to be human warmth and comfort and a message that God is not a remote stern being but in Jesus is love and welcome and warmth incarnate.

May we all play our part in being part of God’s welcoming committee as it were and make sure that children who are with us especially over this Christmas period feel safe, accepted and valued.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you and with all men in all places who have been called by God and through Him, through whom is glory and honour, power and greatness and eternal dominion, unto Him, from the ages past and for ever and ever. Amen.” (64-5.)

* If anyone who went to St Clements school c 1959-1963 stumbles upon this – get in touch!!!!

November 23, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

As the week closes…. royalty and flooding

Well, it was  week of royal themed things in my radar at least. The folk who went from our Benefice to see HRH The Queen and Prince Philip were very pleased they made the journey to Ely for the short service at the cathedral on Thursday last.

( photo from Bishop David’s blog)

Here is the Queen meeting our bishops and archdeacons as she arrives at the cathedral.

One thing I realised pretending to be Queen Victoria is just how much hard work it is talking to a lot of people dressed as a queen. Quite how HRH does it I dont know – daily attending functions and events at which she has to be in a queen-like mode. I truly think she and Prince Philip are amazing people – and not forgetting that they are well into their eighties.

Victoria victorious after meeting the genteel folk of Little Paxton.

Well, it was the only outfit that would fit from the fancy dress hire place. So, we must assume that Victoria has not yet been widowed( she always wore black post 1841)  and must have left Albert behind for the day.

Thats more like it!

Today has been ” Christ The King” Sunday – which brings to a close these royal themes in my mind.

Ive been watching on the various news programmes the dreadful scenes of devastation in Cumbria caused by the flooding – not least the danger of more bridges giving way  cutting these cumbria communities off from one another. So many people have had to evacuate their homes and so much damage done.  I really do feel sorry for these families and it makes me feel even more grateful to be safe and snug  tonight. We do have flooding in this part of the world being near to the Great River Ouse  and sometimes the road between Little Paxton and St Neots gets cuts off with plenty of  grumbling  that goes on because of it. But its nothing compared to what the folk of Cumbria have to put up with.  Is it all due to global warming???

PS – to answer my question – a comment from the daily telegraph online:

Meanwhile David Balmforth, a flooding expert at the Institution of Civil Engineers, said deluges on a similar scale will become more frequent as a result of climate change.

He said: “Climate change means that is only going to get worse. We cannot hope to defend ourselves from flooding on this scale.

“Instead we need to make our communities much more resilient to flooding and this must be placed at the heart of the way we plan, design and build our towns and villages.”

November 22, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A sermon for Christ The King Sunday

A sermon for Christ The King Sunday.

Next week believe it or not is Advent Sunday heralding the four weeks of preparation  for the feast of Christ’s nativity.

There are several hymns to choose from for our advent worship – and one is by Charley Wesley with music by his brother John. “Lo, he comes with clouds descending”.

It is a hymn which I have always had a problem with – not the tune, but the words.  Mr Wesley must have had the text of today’s epistle in front of him when he wrote the hymn.

“Revelation 1:7 Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail. So it is to be.”

Hence in the hymn: Every eye shall now behold him, robed in dreadful majesty, we who set at naught and sold him, pierced and nailed him to the tree, deeply wailing, shall the true messiah see.

The Revelation text is a vision of the time when Christ would return to earth, all the nations of the earth, kings and princes would worship him, all worldly powers would be subject to him.  Wesley embellishes it  and says that when Jesus comes again, his ransomed worshippers would endlessly be worshipping his crucifixion scars, the whole world would be adoring him  on his eternal throne.

There is a lot of language here about power, about glory, about claiming the kingdom, about thrones, about people, nations  being under subjection to Jesus the King. It is very triumphalistic language from which I do not find much spiritual nourishment.

Even Victorian hymns which describe the risen Lord Jesus in heaven talk much about glory. “Lord, enthroned in heavenly splendour” talks of all of heaven and earth with loud hosanna worshipping the lamb who died – risen, ascended, glorified.

Another Victorian writer, Caroline Noel, wrote  the hymn:  “At the name of Jesus” :

“At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, every tongue confess him King of Glory now. Truly this Lord Jesus, shall return again, with his Father’s glory, with his angel train. For all wreaths of empire meet upon his brow and our hearts confess him King of Glory now”

There are many, many images of God in the bible, and many images of Jesus both in the bible, in Christian theology and in our worship material and hymns.  I wonder how comfortably you sit with the image of Jesus as the King of Glory, with the vision of a whole world worshipping him, all powers in subjugation under him?

Maybe the Victorians liked it. Maybe to people from earlier generations when life was often very tough and there wasn’t much to rejoice about –  having a vision of heaven, of hope of a glorious second coming where the redeemed would be caught up in glory was very appealing. Hope always needs to be at the heart of Christian theology, and maybe for those in dire straights, under pressure and living on constant fear this vision of a glorious future gives comfort. So maybe I shouldn’t be too critical of type of theology

Christians are exposed to a variety of images that have been used to describe Jesus. For example, in various places in Scripture, Jesus is described as: the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Son of Man, the Son of David, the Son of God, the Bridegroom, the Door, the Vine, the Lamb of God, the Mediator, the Great High Priest, the Lord, the Resurrection and the Life, the Alpha and the Omega, the Word. In addition to all this, in today’s reading from Colossians, Paul describes Jesus as “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation,” as “the head of the body, the church,” as “the beginning, the firstborn from the dead,” and as “the fullness of God.” And, if all this weren’t enough, on this last Sunday after Pentecost, we are confronted with yet another image of Jesus: Jesus is a King. Today is “Christ the King Sunday.”

But essentially, what type of King do we have in Jesus?

These words from Philippians  can set the scene:

“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave” (5:5-7a).

Jesus was a king who was different from the moment he was born. He never did conform to the pictures usually associated with kingship, with earthly glory and power.

He wasn’t born in a royal palace, or even into a royal family, but was born  to parents who were virtually peasants. But he didn’t even fit in with his family, for he did things which even they found difficult or embarrassing. At the age of twelve he remained behind in the temple in Jerusalem chatting to the rabbis, while his parents set off on the long journey home, assuming he was with them. And at one point in his ministry his family were so concerned about him that they besieged the house where he was staying in order to bring him home (Matt.12:46-50).

He was regarded as dangerously odd by the religious authorities. Jewish law had always taken into account the needs of the poor, and paid particular attention to widows and orphans. But Jesus took that much further than it had ever been taken before, and actually preached to poor people that the kingdom of God was for them, rather than for the rich.

This was not a kingdom that anybody recognised. Human beings recognise pomp and ceremony and wealth, with all the trappings that wealth can bring. Although we may grumble about the cost of the civil list, we still like to see our royals sumptuously dressed and sparkling with jewels. On the whole, we enjoy royal occasions with all the pageantry they offer. Even today, a royal kingdom which contains only the poor doesn’t sound like a particularly attractive place. It certainly wouldn’t appeal to the tourist industry.

And of course, the sort of preaching that constantly affirmed poor people and outcasts was likely to inflame the passions of the ordinary people, with the danger that they might rise up and attempt to bring in “their” kingdom by force. Hence the arrest of Jesus the leader.

The powers that be, both Jews and Romans, were utterly confused. They had heard Jesus referred to as a king, and they were anxious that he himself might attempt to usurp their own authority, just as all those years ago at the first Christmas, Herod had been terrified that a baby prince had been born who might threaten his own position and that of his family.

And so at Jesus’ trial, Pilate asked Jesus outright, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

By his reply, in which he talked about his kingdom, Jesus implicitly acknowledged that he was indeed a king, although he didn’t use those actual words. Only kings have kingdoms. At any event, Pilate was sufficiently convinced to allow the title, “King of the Jews” to be nailed at the head of the cross, even if it was intended to be ironic.

What are we to make of this strange kingdom where wealth in human terms is unknown and the king is a servant of all? It sounds very much like a contradiction in terms as after all “King” is opposite to “servant”,

How is possible to have a king who washes feet and who cares nothing for earthly power? And how is it possible to follow him?

Perhaps the secret lies in the crucifixion. For Jesus, only one thing mattered – to remain in the most intimate and perfect relationship with God. Against that, nothing else was important. He was prepared to give up his life, to die, rather than move apart from God. But it was through that death that Jesus really came into his  own. He discovered a new and different and glorious life, a kingdom life.

And that’s what he promised again and again for us, his followers. “Don’t worry about earthly power or wealth or anything else,” he urged. “Do as I have done. Be prepared to die, to let your safe and comfortable and secure life go, in order to stay close to me. Take up your cross and follow me, for those who lose their life will find it, while those who try to cling onto wealth and power and comfort and security and all those other very human things, will lose the only thing that matters – the kingdom.”

Today we celebrate the feast day of Christ the King. But during our celebrations, let’s not forget what sort of a king we’re celebrating.

Some hymn words might want us to focus on Jesus the King and ruler o all  sitting in heaven attended by angels and about to return to earth in power and glory.

Far better, I would humbly suggest, to focus on Jesus the servant of all, humble, yet hugely powerful in his humility and servant role.

We do well to remember that the King we follow is very much a servant king – a king with no wealth, no possessions, no human power. A King whose life on earth was lived in the love of his father God,who gave everything for us. A risen Lord Jesus whose spirit is everywhere, within us, around us, always there to nourish, guide and forgive us. He has royal authority over our hearts.

A king who came to earth with nothing born in a stable among animals. A king who died on a  cross. A  king who longs to reign in our hearts and bless us with his presence.


November 21, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Queen Victoria to open Little Paxton Christmas Fayre

I can bring you exclusive news that Queen Victoria herself is to open Little Paxton Christmas Fayre tomorrow at c 11.10am.

This comes soon after the visit of H.M Queen Elizabeth to Ely yesterday to mark the 900 celebrations of the Diocese of Ely.

Her majesty Queen Victoria,  known to be a fan of seances during her reign, is intending to travel in her  TARDIS – Time and Royal Dalliance In Space – and hopes to arrive in good time to open the proceedings in  style.

The Fayre will be held in Little Paxton Village Hall and will host a constellation of stalls and Victorian amusements – not to be missed by those who like the finer things of life.

” We might be amused – we shall see!” *

* Remarkable likeness ! ( editor)

November 20, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Open Gates

I love the imagery of an open gate.

And here are some lovely words by David Adam from his book ” Open Gate”:

In Celtic folk tales a curse that could happen to a person was to get stuck in a field and not be able to get back out of it, to be stuck in that place for ever. It was seen as a definite curse to be unable to venture or to change. Yet we all know this experience in some small way; we all get ourselves stuck in routines and habits that act like shackles. We all refuse to open our eyes to the vision that is before us; too often we select what we hear and what we respond to.

The open gate is the opposite of this. It is the invitation to adventure and to grow, the call to be among the living and vital elements of the world. The open gate is the call to explore new areas of yourself and the world around you. It is a challenge to come and discover that the world and ourselves are filled with mystery and with the glory of God. It is the ever-present call to become pilgrims for the love of God, to take part in a romance that will enrich our hearts and our lives.

The open gate is the choice that God is always placing before us. It is a sign of the opportunity that is ours.

David Adam ‘The Open Gate’

And here’s another great web-site :

about the  world-wide c0mmunity of St Aidan and Hilda with a base at Lindisfarne.

November 19, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Hilda of Whitby and Caedmon

St Hilda of Whitby.

Remembered in the church lectionary on November 19th

A few years ago one late summer I found myself on the top of Whitby’s east cliff early in the evening. It was my first visit to Whitby and I knew there was an abbey and I knew there were connections with Dracula – though I wasn’t too sure about that bit. I was on my way to stay at a retreat house called Wydale – the Diocese of York’s retreat centre – but I thought I’d stop off at Whitby on the way.

Let’s deal with Dracula first – and I’m not going to dwell on this bit. I was right about the connection with Whitby though.

Dracula was  an 1897 novel by Irish author Bram Stoker, featuring as its primary antagonist the vampire Count Dracula.

Between 1879 and 1898, Stoker was a business manager for the world-famous Lyceum Theatre in London. But he supplemented his income by writing a large number of sensational novels, his most famous being the vampire tale Dracula . Parts of it are set around the town of Whitby, where he spent summer vacations. Whether or not the churchyard around St Mary’s Church which is on the top of the cliff inspired Mr Stoker, I don’t know. But I wouldn’t choose to hang around up there on my own too much after dark.

But the cliff top is full of ancient and very important Christian history.

Whitby was founded under its Old English name of Streonshal in 656, when Oswy, the Christian king of Northumbria, founded Whitby Abbey, under its first abbess Hilda.

The Synod of Whitby was held here at the abbey in     664  and students of  early church history will know that  the synod  established the Roman date of Easter in Northumbria at the expense of the Celtic one, an important and influential decision.

But the monastery was destroyed by Viking raiders, and was only refounded in 1078. It was in this period that the town gained its current name, Whitby, (from “white settlement” in Old Norse).

So, what of Hilda, who is remembered in the church’s lectionary on 19th November?

( Note that many sources give her day of death as November 17th)

The source of information about Hilda is The Ecclesiastical History of the English by the Venerable Bede in 731, who was born approximately eight years before her death.

Hilda (known in her own century as “Hild”) was the grandniece of King Edwin of Northumbria, a kingdom of the Angles. She was born in 614 and baptized in 627 when the king and his household became Christians.

In 647 she decided to become a nun, and under the direction of Aidan, Bishop of Lindisfarne she  established several monasteries. Her last foundation was at Whitby. It was a double house: a community of men and another of women, with the chapel in between, and Hilda was governor of both.

It became great center of English learning, one which produced several bishops. By the time of Hilda both Roman and Celtic Christianity had formed their traditions in Britain and they differed not so much in doctrine but on such questions as the proper way of calculating the date of Easter, and the proper style of haircut and dress for a monk.

It was, in particular, highly desirable that Christians, at least in the same area, should celebrate Easter at the same time; and it became clear that the English Church would have to choose between the old Celtic customs which it had inherited from before 300, and the customs of continental Europe and in particular of Rome that missionaries from there had brought with them. In 664 the Synod of Whitby met at that monastery to consider the matter, and it was decided to follow Roman usage.

Hilda herself greatly preferred the Celtic customs in which she had been reared, but once the decision had been made she used her moderating influence in favor of its peaceful acceptance. Her influence was considerable; kings and commoners alike came to her for advice. She was urgent in promoting the study of the Scriptures and the thorough education of the clergy.

Bede describes Hilda as a woman of great energy, who was a skilled administrator and teacher. She  had a concern too  for ordinary folk too such as Cædmon. He was a herder at the monastery, who was inspired in a dream to sing verses in praise of God in the Anglo-Saxon tongue.  Hilda recognized his gift and encouraged him to develop it.

Although Hilda must have had a strong character she inspired affection. As Bede writes, “All who knew her called her mother because of her outstanding devotion and grace”.

Hilda suffered from fever for the last six years of her life, but she continued to work until her death on November 17, 680, at what was then thought to be the advanced age of sixty-six. In her last year she set up another monastery, fourteen miles from Whitby, at Hackness.  Her legend holds that at the moment of her passing the bells of the monastery of Hackness tolled. A nun named Begu also claimed to have witnessed Hilda’s soul being borne to heaven by angels.

From the late nineteenth century until the present day, there has been a revival of interest in and devotion to, St. Hilda. With the development of education for modern women she has become the patron of many schools and colleges all over the world. College of St Hild and St Bede, Durham, St Hilda’s College, Oxford and St Hilda’s College (University of Melbourne) are named after Saint Hilda. Hilda is considered one of the patron saints of learning and culture, including poetry, due to her patronage of Cædmon.

The good works of Hilda live on as well  at the priory of St. Hilda at Sneaton Castle in Whitby run by the Sisters of the Holy Paraclete, an Anglican Religious Community. The following web-site :

has more information about Hilda’s life and shows wonderful paintings in the conference room at Sneaton Castle by  local artist Juliet MacMichael showing different facets of Hilda’s life.

Contemporary collect for St Hilda.

O God of peace, by whose grace the abbess Hilda was endowed with Gifts of justice, prudence, and strength to rule as a wise mother over the nuns and monks of her household, and to become a trusted and reconciling friend to leaders of the Church: Give us the grace to respect and love our fellow Christians with whom we disagree, that our common life may be enriched and your gracious will be done, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

  • A modern translation of Caedmon’s hymn:

Now let me praise the keeper of Heaven’s kingdom,

the might of the Creator, and his thought,

the work of the Father of glory, how each of wonders

the Eternal Lord established in the beginning.

He first created for the sons of men

Heaven as a roof, the holy Creator,

then Middle-earth the keeper of mankind,

the Eternal Lord, afterwards made,

the earth for men, the Almighty Lord.

In the beginning Cædmon sang this poem.]

To read more about Caedmon, go to: its a fascinating read!

“The religious for whom Caedmon performed his song later attributed his singing as a gift by God’s grace.”

November 17, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Diddington in the autumn


November 16, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment