Paxtonvic’s Blog

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Trick or Treat

Here I am, a mature (?) person cowardly sitting in my pyjamas, needing to go out to the car to get my bag from the boot, and worrying that Trick or Treaters might appear out of the great abyss and be scared stiff at what they see….

Three called when I was in the bath, scarry looking objects with flashing ear lobes and black and white streamers descending from their personage. I know because I got out of the bath to make sure it was seasonal visitors and not someone in more distress.

Im wondering whether there might be a good sermon title in ” Trick or Treat” but that is for another day.

Actually, whilst on the subject, Im a real party pooper when it comes to Haloween – really dont like scarry stuff and would much rather focus on the Light of Christ than the darkness of the Haloween stuff.

Its time to go out and be brave and find my bag and find out what is on the menu tomorrow. If they see me… well, they will just have to run for it!

But this little chap looks quite friendly

October 31, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

An homily for All Souls

Many churches are having this week-end a special service when those who have died are remembered with prayer and sometimes the lighting of candles.

We have our service this afternoon in Little Paxton Church at 3pm and here is the homily I shall share. Its more personal than usual but hopefully it may speak to someone.


An Homily For All Souls

Sunday October 31st 2010.

Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised.  Maybe I should have been a bit more realistic.

But when I came to jot down some notes for this homily  a few days ago  I found an almighty block inside.


It’s true sometimes I find it hard to get going with any sermon. I worry that my words may be too long, wont be relevant, will be boring or wont be faithful to the passage of scripture I’m addressing. But usually I can get going and keep going with hopefully a successful outcome.


But this time it was different.  A service for All Souls. . The annual opportunity for those in our community who have lost a loved one to remember them, pray for them and continue to commend them into Gods safe keeping.

As I look around I see so many of you whom I have journeyed with for a while as you begin to make sense of what loosing your loved one means for you.

But this year for me it’s a bit different. This year is the first All Souls Service I’ve been part of since my mother  Mildred died in June. If the truth is told the block comes because in many ways I haven’t really given myself time to come to reflect on the impact of her death for me and my family. Im not sure what I will find if I do.


Mum’s passing  was expected – infact she had had far more years than I thought she would have. At the end she was so frail and poorly she didn’t have much quality of life. Often I would go into her nursing home and with a sort of wry smile she would upbraid me  “ Old Mrs So and So “ she would say “ she died last night – why couldn’t it have been me?”


She had had enough months ago and I was beginning to wonder if she was waiting for something. Maybe she waited for my son to move to St Neots which he did two weeks before she passed away. Maybe it was just her time to go.


What I do know is that I went onto automatic – and I expect many of you can recognize doing that. You pretend to the outside world it doesn’t hurt and get on with life with a smile and a joke and say it is all a bit relief now they are out of pain.

British people can be masters of not letting on how we really feel – tears and upsetness are only for private and the rest of the time it’s good to be seen to be getting on with things and putting a brave face on it. And anyway, other people don’t find it easy to see us upset.




You must forgive me for talking about myself – it’s not something I would normally do. But I do it in the hope this afternoon that it might help some of you at least  who are still missing a loved one – or several loved ones very much. And if I only get one point across in the next few minutes – I hope it’s this one.


That in the midst of the awful wrench of loosing somebody, in the bewilderment that can set in and the raw pain and anger of loss that can gnaw away day and night – the two  thing that can help are  knowing that friends are there and really do care. And that God himself is with us, sharing that pain, bearing it with us, longing to bring comfort and calm  to hearts which can beat  with so much emotion.


If anyone asked me what is at the heart of my Christian faith – it is that God is with us whatever we are going through, whatever we are struggling with, whatever we have to contend with. There’s a hymn we have sung “ And when human hearts are aching under sorrows iron rod. There they find the self-same aching deep within the heart of God”


A God who suffers with us – a God who knows and cares for us intimately in this world and the next, a God who will never forsake us. St Pauls summed it up so much better than I ever could “


For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Often when we are with someone who is very sad and upset the best thing we can do is just to be there, sometimes in silence. That presence in itself is a comfort. We don’t always have to be talking – much as we think we should be saying something. The being there is all that matters. And when I’ve been really sad in the quietness of a garden or a room with the TV and computer turned off,  I feel God is there wanting to share his peace with me.


The words of Psalm 130 often come to mind:


1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD;

2 O Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy.

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
and in his word I put my hope.




There is no panacea for grief. Nothing we can take or book we can read which instantly takes away the reality that our loved simply isn’t with us any more in the way we have been so used to.

Maybe with time the raw pain does lessen and life gets back to some sort of normality. The bills have to be paid, the garden tended and the washing done. Maybe in time we make some sense of suffering and the pain that we see a loved one endure.

Maybe out of endings which are so painfully endured there comes new beginnings like spring follows after winter. For some those springs to be honest are slow in coming. Clever people have written about the different stages of grief that we have to go through before there is some sort of resolution and life feels worth living again. But many will say they take one step forward and two steps back.

But through it all – where ever you are on the journey through bereavement, I truly believe that God is with us every inch of the way and will pick us up and carry us – as the famous poem footprints has it – when we feel like falling altogether.

Jesus was in no doubt when he spoke to his disciples towards the end of his life – my peace I give to you, my peace I leave with you. Trust in me as the way, the truth and the life”

They must have had some hesitation when they first heard those words. But all that was dispelled when he rose from the dead after a cruel crucifixion and appeared to them in a spiritual body, death transcended, hope for ever etched into the human condition.

May his peace be with all of you this day and every day as you remember and honour the life of all those you still love dearly. Each of us matters dearly to God whether we are on earth or in heaven – and to remember our loved ones daily and to give thanks for the ways they shaped our lives is as important as the love we gave them when they were with us.

And so, as I come towards the end of writing this homily – I think I feel something has lifted a bit. Maybe because I have admitted publicly that I’m no different to anyone else and actually find death very difficult, frightening and confusing.  That I really miss my mother and wish I could say just once more how special she has been to me. But that in the middle of it all I’m even more sure of Jesus’ promise to be with us always and show us the way to eternal life. And that often we are called to be alongside one another in grief as well as sharing in all the good and happy times.


Thank you to all of you for sharing much with me in the past months and years, thank you for letting me share a little of what loosing my mum has meant to me. Thank you for the opportunity to commend once again the great hope that God has given us in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus from the dead and pray that he may be a great comfort to you all in the coming days.Amen.


(For my dear mother Mildred- although to be sure she wouldn’t have wanted any fuss or mention made of her!)



October 31, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Church Bells

Been thinking around why I find ringing bells so marvellous. Well, I dont ring them myself – but I like to hear other people do so.

There is a line which goes ” Bells keep alive the rumour of God”.

I tried to find out who wrote  that by typing it in Google – but all it came up with was….. nettie vic the twitterer who had put that quote on twitter recently!

So, I dont know is the answer. But when I hear bells being rung I feel deeply moved and excited and the noises ringing out into the air seem to cry out that God is in our midst. Then again I suppsoe some people just find the sound annoying!

But I am genuinely excited to hear that our bells may soon ring out at Little Paxton again – its not just another tick on the things achieved. Its a gift to future generations to help them keep the rumour of God alive!




October 29, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Big Silence

Is a three part series on BBC 2 which follows five ordinary people who volunteer to go on a silent  retreat at St Beuno’s in North Wales. Benedictine  Fr Christopher Jamison, who took part in  ‘The Monastery’ series filmed at Worth Abbey two years ago, also leads this group.

Well, to be honest, I was transfixed by episode two which was on tonight. I was moved by how the days of silence effected the men and women and each in their own way caught a glimpse of God.

So  when I read this review just now from a web-site which dished it, I wondered what planet they were on….or which planet Im on….

Lacking the philosophical depth of far superior Peter Owen Jones vehicles, The Big Silence is both torturously boring and utterly deficient in providing any insight into the debatable merits of taking a vow of silence. Quite what producers saw in the concept will remain as big a mystery as the nature of God Himself.

Citing periods of self-enforced silence as “the core of the Christian tradition”, The Big Silence seeks to explore the concept that, by adhering to these principles, you somehow open the “gateway to knowing God and to knowing oneself”. It is evident from episode two of this three part series that there is still a great deal of work to be done if the likes of “successful entrepreneur” John are to suddenly erupt into a state of enlightenment.

Realising audiences would be unwilling to endure an hour of five people laying about a Jesuit retreat looking vacant whilst they attempt to stay mum, the participants are permitted to record their experiences via the staple video diary format and the occasional one-on-one interview where they confess inanities such as “the food is horrible” and “I’m really bored”. Quite what they were expecting is beyond us..

Picking a wide demographic ranging from a former Human Resources director to a restaurant owner, the only notable character of interest is Trisha, a mother of two children, who having lost her Catholic faith when her father died, is now enveloped in a personal crisis. Travelling to the retreat to try and rediscover her religious roots, Trisha does at least have an incentive in being there in the first place whereas, in everyone else’s case, the exercise functions as nothing more than a bizarre endurance test or, perhaps, the opportunity to be on the television.

The Big Silence seeks to explore the human condition but, despite all of its admirable aspirations, ends up sending you to sleep instead. However, the programme must have had some effect on me as, having watched it in stupefied silence, I did find myself praying to God that there will be never be another series of this dross. Amen.


Somehow I dont think that reviewer got it at all.





October 29, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

No rest for the wicked

Not that I think clergy are wicked of course.

I was reading today a letter that I expect many of our clergy have received saying that we now need to work to 68 years to receive our maximum entitlement to our pension. Having been talking to an old school friend who is the same age as me and who hopes to retire at 60 and enjoy some quality retirement time – I was thinking how working  to 68 feels like quite a long stint. I wonder if I will have any energy left for an energetic retirement at 68?

Many folk are still very fit in their late 60’s but I do think that thought needs to be given as to how older clergy can keep going at the pace we are expected to work at until quite late in their sixties. There  is no such thing now as an easy parish – and there arent curates to go round to help us when we slow down.

So, we shall have to pace ourselves and only work 60 hours a week so that we can still go running round our parishes at 68 with some conviction…..

Having said all that, it was quite the norm in past days for old boy clergy to go on till their eighties and die in post. Maybe thats what we should all do!

So, its another 14 Christmas sermons for me at least.



October 28, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Little Paxton Church has Bell Appeal!

Great news today as we heard that we have got through to the finals of the PEOPLES MILLIONS competition – which is Lottery Funded.

We are competing for a grant of £50K towards the rehanging of our bells and refurbishment of an ancient clock – and if we were to secure that funding work would definately begin next spring.

This means in practice that on Wednesday November 24th we shall feature on Anglia ITV – two minutes of video about the project and the appeal – as yet we havent got a date when the television crew will come out to film but it will be soon.

On the day we shall find out what the phone number is that we can ring to vote for our project. We shall be up against one other heritage project – and the project which secures most votes on the day will win£50K.

Other projects will be competing against each other on other days that week – and the runner up with the highest votes will also receive 50K.

Its all very exciting. We know so many people are interested in what we are doing and support our project – we just need to encourage them to vote on the day. 10 calls ( the max you can ring) costs just  £1.00

This is community action at its best!

The bells havent been rung properly for 100 years – and until now there hasnt been the opportunity or funding to repair them. We are adding a couple more bells as well to make a peal of 6.


As soon as we have the number on the day – we shall make sure all our friends know what it is!

You can read more about it – and register to the Peoples Millions web-site   and show your support by going to:

AND at



October 27, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Arriving in nostalgic style at a wedding









Why do I love this old bus so much?

What memories does it tap into from a distant childhood? Though Im not sure these buses were driving along the streets of Bournemouth when I was little. Its the trolley buses I remember….

October 24, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector

Good Evening to anyone  that reads my blog tonight.

Ive been a tad  too busyto blog,  but here is my little offering based on todays gospel reading about a Pharisee and a tax collector.

It comes from various sources including the useful commentary by Martin Warner in this weeks Church Times on the parable. It also comes from my heart felt belief that its so important to welcome into our churches anyone and everyone who seeks to find faith and comfort and blessing on their lives – at whatever stage they may be at. And what they might like to experience may not be quite what we are used to.

The Pharisee and the tax collector.

Luke 18:9-14

Comparisons are odious – comparisons are hateful – is a very old saying in the English language which goes back to literature in the 15th century.  Aware of the phrase, Shakespeare  includes it in his play Much Ado about nothing – only he tweaked it a bit and had his character Dogberry say  “ comparisons are oderous” – ie  stink – a deliberate misuse  of the well known phrase.

Whether we say odious or oderous – the massage is the same. To make comparisons especially when people are making judgements about other people can be hurtful and cause a lot ill feeling. Its true we cant help but make comparisons in our every day life – whether we  “ Go Compare” when looking for car insurance or trying to weigh up which shop to go to for the best bargain. But when comparing ourselves to other people – that can be another matter which isn’t always helpful.

Here is a little story about making comparisons – before we take a look at what is one of Jesus’ most challenging parables that of the Pharisee and the tax collector – a story where certainly a comparison is being made.

This is a story about two brothers.

They were known all around town for being as crooked in their business dealings as they could possibly be.

They grew wealthy together but unexpectedly, one of the brothers died.

The surviving brother found himself in search of a minister who would be willing to put the finishing touches to the funeral service that he had planned for his brother.

Given the reputation of the deceased, it was not easy to find someone.

He finally made an offer to a minister that was too hard  to refuse.

“I’ll pay you a large sum of money if you will just do me one favor. In the tribute to my brother, I want you to call him a ‘saint’ and if you do, I will give you the money.”

The minister, who  always looking for money for church funds agreed.

When the funeral service began, all the important  people a who had been swindled

Through the years by these two brothers filled the church.

Unaware of the deal that had been made for the tribute,  they were expecting to be vindicated by the public exposure of the man’s character.

“Surely,” they thought, “a minister would finally tell the truth.” At last, the much-awaited moment arrived, and the minister spoke.

He said: “The man you see before you in a coffin was a vile and debauched character. He was a liar, a thief, a deceiver, a manipulator, a reprobate, and a hedonist. He destroyed the fortunes, careers, and lives of countless people in this city, some of whom are here today. This man did just about every bad thing you can think of.  But compared to his brother who is here, he was a saint.”

Todays gospel features the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector – and at first glance it seems as if Jesus is making a very big comparison between two characters who would have been very well known to those listening. Let’s not forget that his primary audience on this occasion  was a group of Jewish Pharisees.

Depending on which biblical commentator you might care to read when studying this passage you will get various takes on just how good or bad the Pharisees were, Some have  sympathy for these leaders of  Judiasm  who showed great devotion to the practices of their faith even if they were very legalistic and obsessive.

Martin Warner writing in Church Times this week says “ Familiarity with the gospel stories and the regular run-ins that Jesus has with the Pharisees makes it easy for us to imagine that all Pharisees were bad. But they were generally close to the people and respected for their sincerity and discipline. It is possible that there were some like Nicodemus who were genuinely searching for the Kingdom of Heaven and could see that it was evident in Jesus.  The Pharisee in our story today shows his great commitment to fasting and charitable giving”

Jesus, surrounded by Pharisees hanging on his every word  tells a confrontational parable about two men, a Pharisee and a tax collector. The Pharisee symbolizes a person with a set of unattractive attitudes and behaviors. The  “tax collector,” symbolizes   a person with a  set of positive attitudes and behaviors.

In Jesus’ parable this Pharisee has become a symbol of a person who thinks to himself,

“I thank God that I am not like those thieves, rogues, adulterers and even that tax collector here. Let’s face it. I am good.  I am a lot better than these other riff raff. I go to church every week. I give ten percent of my income. I say my prayers daily. I am not like that riff raff of society who I choose not to mix with.

But on the other hand, there was this tax collector, standing far off in the distance. Tax collectors were much hated people seen as agents for the oppressive Roman government who extracted unfair taxes from people not to mend roads or help needy people but to advance their Roman armies and conquer the world. But often men became tax collectors as a way of earning money to feed their families and keep their heads above water. And we must not forget that Matthew was a tax collector – and that didn’t stop Jesus calling him to follow his way.

“God, please, be merciful to me” the tax collector cries out in the story.  I am such a lousy human being. I am such a sinner. God, please, be merciful to me, a sinner.”

The self-righteous Pharisee went home after his prayers, feeling justified and good in his own eyes. The other poor soul was still down on his knees, still begging, still pleading with God for mercy towards his sinful life.

Jesus said, “The person who exalts himself will be humbled. The person who humbles himself  will be exalted.”

Talk about “in your face.” Jesus was “in the face” of the Pharisees. Jesus was calling them  hypocrites.  No wonder they wanted to kill him. The animosity between Jesus and the Pharisees  had been there from the beginning of his ministry and built up to a great crescendo at the end. We only have to read some vivid passage from chapters towards the end of Matthews gospel:

“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! because you shut the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither enter yourselves, nor allow those who would enter to go in. Mt 23:13

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! for you traverse sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. Mt 23:15

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! for you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Mt 23:27

No wonder, faced with this kind of language, the Pharisees set out to kill Jesus.

So, what does all of this mean for our lives today as Christians? What is Jesus trying to teach us today? What are we to make of the strong comparison he makes between the Pharisee of his day and the tax collector? And who would we most identify with? The devout Pharisee who says their prayers and observes all the rules and regulations of his church – or the tax collector perhaps making a dishonest living but  aware of his deep shortcomings before God?

What does this parable mean for you and me?

Jesus does not want us to be like the Pharisees, to have hearts that are hard towards God, to have hearts that are hard towards other people whom the world considers “obvious sinners,” or  appear to lead lives very different to ours.

Jesus was angry at the Pharisees because their hearts were hard. Their hearts were not soft. Their hearts were not full of the compassion of God. Jesus’ heart was full of compassion for the lepers, the poor, the maimed, the blind, the lame and those regarded as outcasts.  The hearts of the Pharisees were not. This was the problem. This is the problem if our hearts are hard and not compassionate to the “so-called” sinners of society.

And the Pharisees thought that they were better than the other more obviously sinful folk like the lepers, the poor, maimed, blind and lame. The Pharisees were proud of their uprightness and moral rectitude and did not perceive that they were lost. The Pharisees were like the older brother in the parable of the Prodigal Son who stayed home with the father and did not realize that he was lost.

None of us are attracted to people who are conceited and full of themselves like the Pharisees were.  When we think of a person who is conceited and puffed up and putting themselves above others, do you like such people? Are you attracted to them personally?  Probably not.  I doubt that any of us are attracted to spiritually conceited people.

Jesus wants us to have the heart and attitudes of the tax collector. Jesus wants us to be humble, to be honest in our self assessment of our sinfulness. Jesus wants us to come to him on a daily basis and ask for his forgiveness for the mistakes we make.

. At the heart of the parable today is the tax collector and his deep seated awareness that he was a flawed person in need of the mercy of God. We never outgrow that need for Gods mercy as gift.

And because of we this deep seated awareness that we are  flawed human beings, Jesus counsels us not to  look down our spiritual noses at other people and secretly confess, “I thank God that I am not like them.

Jesus taught at the beginning of his ministry: “Those who are well have no need of a physician. Those who know they are sick know that they need a doctor.” We Christians never outgrow our need for a physician to heal our inner selves from all manner of hurts and prejudices and shortcomings.

A question is always asked of us after we have heard one of Jesus’ parables: “Who are we in the parable?” Are we like  the self righteous Pharisee who thinks that he/she is better than the other poor sinner  whose life are not as good as ours?  Or are we like the tax collector who never gets off their  knees as he/she begs for mercy? Who are you in this story? Where would you fit in?

And where does our church community fit in?

Let us pray to God that our hearts are open and welcoming to all those who seek to find God in our midst and that we may never think we are better than those we long to serve in Jesus’ name. Amen

So, after a very ong day at the coalface of ministry I shall put my feet up and watch the X Factor results and then the splendid Downton Abbey on ITV.

Sleep well everyone.

October 24, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A prayer by William Temple

O God of love, we pray thee to give us love:
Love in our thinking, love in our speaking,
Love in our doing, and love in the hidden places of our souls;
Love of our neighbours near and far;
Love of our friends, old and new;
Love of those with whom we find it hard to bear,
And love of those who find it hard to bear with us;
Love of those with whom we work,
And love of those with whom we take our ease;
Love in Joy, love in sorrow;
Love in life and love in death;
That so at length we may be worthy to dwell with thee,
Who art eternal love.
William Temple 1881-1944



October 10, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

A Prayer of St Columba

Alone with none but thee, my God
I journey on my way.
What need I fear, when thou art near
O king of night and day?
More safe am I within thy hand
Than if an host didst round me stand.
St Columba (c.521-597)


October 9, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment