Friday, 30 April 2010


It's been a week or so of renewal rather than refuse (in the civic amenity site sense!) Things have required to be renewed - in order of severity, a rocking horse, a television, two pairs of black oxford shoes and my work briefcase. The rocking horse was a long-term project, put off for nearly a decade but needing work after 40 years. The shoes, not quite so long - they have only been gracing my feet for about seven years, and had just got worn out. The bag - about four years, and a simple split seam. The television? About three years old and no picture!

At this point a good consumer pops them in their car and takes them off to the rubbish dump (aka civic amenity site) to dispose of them, then goes and buys replacement models to maintain the profit margins of the companies that depend on continual growth for an economy to be considered successful. Oh dear, I'm sure there's a Christmas sermon somewhere there...

So, my response (in part fuelled by a slightly parsimonious attitude to life)? The rocking horse has been restored to its former glory for a couple of hundred pounds. The TV has been re-pictured by a man with a soldering iron for a bit less than that. Dean at the shoe bar has soled and heeled both pairs of shoes for less than a new pair, and he threw in stitching up the bag for a couple of quid! So, all has been restored, is usuable, it has cost a lot less than new, but the corporate might of Britain must weep for their lost sales of new products! All has been restored to new from old!

Sidetrack to that: two meetings this week on what churches need to do to be healthy. One was about money, the other mission. The two are very closely linked. The words that came up again and again: vision, confidence, renewal. Taking the old, which is probably quite wonderful, like all my broken things, and making it into something new, something filled with new life. That newly restored, renewed, relivened thing must have vision, and must be confident in itself. The flavour of this process can vary massively - from evangelical to catholic, from small to large, from traditional to utterly contemporary. But the answer: confidence in the gospel and a bold vision for what church should be. The result is an attractive, lively, joyful group of people. And a by-product of this is often growth, money, projects...

So, a week or two of renewal rather than refuse: thinking about renewal. And my vision? Those shoes still doing me in another seven years, the bag in another four, the television in three, Dobbin the rocking horse in 40 years. And the long as you like!

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

A blog not about narrowboats...

To avoid the risk of this blog getting a bit monochromatic about 58' long metal boats, I offer a reflection on last Sunday's worship.

The rota excluded me from services (the delights of a parish with non-stip and retired clergy, plus regular lay-lead services) - we had returned from Scotland the night before so Peter could play football on Sunday against Swindon Village Bowmen (the challenge seeming to be to score as many goals as possible, bless the poor lads of SVB), so I could choose where to worship.

In this occasional situation I have often popped the ten minute bicycle ride down to Gloucester Cathedral for the 8am BCP - but I felt frisky this week - and opted for the short run up to Tewkesbury Abbey, for the 11am Sung Eucharist!

Wonderful bells, smells, dalmatics and the rest! My pal Steve, a contemporary from college, was the deacon, and the incumbent and his wife the president and sub-deacon/preacher. To sum it up? It was unselfconsciously good anglo-catholic worship - even the slightly contentious phrasing after the offertory and the Hail Mary in the intercessions felt gentle and actually there for worshipful reasons.

My hidden agenda - to see some really polished eastwards-facing eucharistic presidency - was well addressed. They had microphones, so no real issues with sound projection, but the elevations, the pace, the delivery was all very smooth and elegant. It was good to chat with a couple from Thornbury who are regulars, and with the clergy team who I know well (except for the pres). A good day out...

I was puzzled by those hardened souls who had come especially for this service, but held handkerchiefs over their noses for the gospel to stop the incense from attacking them. To borrow from Coppola - I love the smell of incense in the morning.

Final negative thought - i would personally draw the line at chanting the entire gospel. Steve has a lovely tenor voice, but that didn't do it for me!

So, as a mock mystery worshipper - an excellent 9/10 for Tewkesbury!

Monday, 19 April 2010

Stop-press - Volcanic Ash Cloud Fails to Stop Narrowboat Movements

By Our Scottish Correspondant. The journey of NB Dalriada from Gloucestershire to Kirkintilloch has been successfully completed despite the threat of volcanic ash in the diesel air intakes of the 17.8m long inland waterways vessel. The skipper, Andrew Swift, said, 'We were rather concerned that the Icelandic ash cloud might disrupt the diesel's performance on the tidal River Carron, a critical part of the journey if a trip out to sea via the Forth Estuary was to be avoided. We ignored all specialist advice and went for it, and suffered no permanent damage other than to the whisky supplies on board.'

The journey of this six-year old Pinder-built barge required a fully-integrated transportation strategy, with water, crane, lorry, car, bicycle & train all being used for different phases of the movements. Whilst swinging the 16 tonne vessel in the air near a yacht on blocks, crane operator Barry was heard to say, '@#%X me, that was close! I'm glad my insurance is paid up.'

NB Dalriada will now remain in newly completed Southbank Marina in the up-and-coming area of Kirkintilloch. This base is in close proximity to Glasgow, the Clyde coast, Falkirk and the Union Canal to Edinburgh. Crew and visitors alike can enjoy the local flora and fauna and rides on the extraordinary Falkirk Wheel.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Dalriada on the cusp...

Two bright yellow packing crates, a pack of packing tissue and a roll of bubble wrap - enough for the movement of a nearly 60' narrowboat from the south-west of England to central Scotland? It seems slightly sparse packing materials, but all we are packing is china and glass inside Dalriada as she goes northwards.

Plans maturing - two boats (I hear this morning) and coming out of the water on Wednesday morning first thing, at Sharpness Marine (that would be Paul). Nice and early, so Tuckey's have a good day to drive (that would be Barry). The next morning, assuming all has gone well on the way up the road, weeds and greenery waving in the M6 slipstream, Dalriada will arrive at Forth & Clyde services at Grangemouth, to be craned onto blocks (that would be Stevie).

When the tide is right (and what that might be remains a bit of an arcane mystery, best known to the local British Waterways RIB drivers and licence issuers (that would be Donald and Sandy)), we will go in off the blocks and be ready to head up the Carron.

Now, doing that is a little exciting - the Carron is less scary than the Severn, but the Severn can be very scary! A running river with the tide running too, a shallow bit with a low bridge, and turn into some pontoons at the mouth of the sea lock with wind and water playing with the rather underpowered narrowboat (that has no bowthruster, of course). Now the experienced if slight mad chap from the previous post (that would be Tim) and his sidekick (that would be Ron) aren't able to help us, so we will be a bit on our own and in the hands of the standby BW chap that day (that would be Iain).

Oh - and the whole thing has been arranged by the nice lady from Tuckey's (that would be Monica).

We seem to be in a lot of other people's hands on this one...

Friday, 2 April 2010

Good Friday thoughts...

Such a mixture of things at this point in Holy Week.

Lots of trying to pull things together, trying to work out if the services and activities are working for other people, if the visiting archdeacon and bishop will be happy with their visits, whether the congregations will be happy with their visits, what people will turn up that we haven't seen before, running off the service sheets, the children suddenly being on holiday, the funeral suddenly coming in over the Easter weekend, the other funeral going a little high maintenance.

In the middle of it all - a still, small space to reflect on the cross, on the death of the God-made-man. On the willing sacrifice - 'hands that flung stars into space, to cruel nails surrendered' - an echo from the Maunday Thursday eucharist in Gloucester cathedral. Is it hard to find time to be a follower when leading a church? Not really - that feels too precious a place to take, a place that makes it all about 'me', not all about 'us'.

To keep Holy Week holy? I've enjoyed one or two blogposts about the difficulty of 'doing Holy Week' when all about us don't care that anything is different. The empty space of forlorn church buildings after the Maunday Thursday stripping, the sparse, minor key starkness of Good Friday worship. The deadness of Holy Saturday (or Easter Eve, or the Saturday of Holy Week - whatever urge you feel to call it!). That stays with me from childhood - Roman Catholic crocodiles through Dunblane, to and from the church, dusty streets, God being dead, for that little while.

It is Holy - even though I felt a little qualm at putting up the slightly cheesy banner (both text and yellow colour) after the Good Friday congregation had departed in silence - the banner inviting people to church on Easter Day - come and hunt your Easter Eggs! It is all muddled - life goes on. But surely it went on below the empty, bloodstained crosses? The disciples were empty and bereft - but not Jerusalem. The process goes around and around, every year, every two thousand years.