July 2008




In the end I think that I find people who believe themselves to be very clever rather boring.  Why?  Not because I do not admire intelligence and strive for it – no! – but because I cannot comprehend how you get to a point where you are not aware of how much more there is to know and learn.  Knowledge gives you a humbling sense of how little one understands in the wider scheme of things.  This awareness surely humbles the brash self confidence of cleverness?


So – what would you like to discover more about?  The history of farming?  Your family genealogy? Mediaeval religion? Italian painting?  Your faith, even?


Here is a random list of ten things I simply don’t understand ……

1.      Why money accumulates interests in a bank.

2.      What the purpose of dreams is.

3.      What the secret of learning languages might be.

4.      Why so many people are anti European.

5.      How one would go about composing a piece of music for a full orchestra.

6.      How to stop feeling anxious.

7.      How to play Sudoku.

8.      Understand why the Reformation happened.

9.      Knowing more about Islam and Hinduism.

10.   How to make everybody happy all of the time.


And the list could go on and on and on.  I wonder what your list might look like – and having confessed these ‘gaps’ – will it make any difference – will we act upon it?


Knowing the limitations of our knowledge is a good starting point for learning.




The final party goers have left – having enjoyed a refreshing choice ( I hope ) of drinks. Pimms – of course – and a little mixture of of my own.

Here are the ingredients:



and plenty of –


Here goes: take a bottle of Gin and pour it over lots of crushed ice. Cut up four lemons and squeeze them into the Gin. Add a good helping of elderflower cordial and top up with soda water.

Serve in a very large tumbler with a slice of ice.

And Enjoy!!

Temple Balsall has no village situated as it is between larger villages and towns. This means that we are tucked away providing protection and privacy but we want people to know something of our life and work.

Yesterday saw Temple at its best – bathed in glorious sunshine.The main pathway down the middle of the site (called the Breadwalk) enjoyed a variety of visitors. As the congregation gathered for worship a small group of ramblers passed by looking slightly bemused at the noise of laughter from the building. I caught a quick lunch before travelling to Rowington to conduct a wedding. On return I joined a crowd taking tea and eating cake – it was good to tease a couple of parishioners including one who confessed to doing some shopping on a Sunday! I was struck by the sheer variety of people of colour and age. The sun smiled on us and the sheer beauty of our buildings. Good to see the tea drinkers dropping into Church – I was glad to say hello and thank people for coming.

On the outside tables were some postcards promoting our Heritage Weekend on the 13th and 14th of September. Well 15 000 have arrived from the printers and Cliff Morrey has the enviable task of distributing them. He has a willing team and they are bound to be pretty fit by the time they are delivered…. any help would be very enthusiastically welcomed.

But for yesterday – what a glorious day – and a pleasure to live and work in such a heavenly place.

I am having a very satisfactory time clearing an assorted collection of ‘stuff’ from my house – odd chairs, mugs that are no longer used, and an accumulation of CDs and books. I am always surprised at how much material goods we surround ourselves with – the cathedral of the shopping centre lures us into the promise of happiness.

The reason for the filling of bags and boxes? Our Heritage Weekend in Temple Balsall  on the 13th and 14th of September (see www.templebalsall.org.uk ) – where on the Saturday we have a fair on my lawn. Local readers would do well to put it into your dairies and get ready for a busy and stimulating day!

Amidst this dusting down  – my attentions turn to those wonderful parables of the Kingdom in Matthew Chapter 13 which we shall read at St Marys later this morning.

‘the kingdom of heaven is like  treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid’ (13:44)

So –

What do you treasure?

Where is your treasure?

What might we do to safeguard our treasure?

Let us open our hearts and minds to the wonder of the secrets of his treasure

  It is a long drive but worth every pound of petrol! The town of several million books – heaven and that is no exageration.

The trip requires some discipline – there are so many shops and stacks of books that soem comcentration in certain areas is necessary for focus and satisfaction. Yesterday was literary criticism with a serious search for books about biography and autobiography. Some rest was found in theology and politics!

The town is also blessed with plenty of other therapuetic distractions – like coffee shops with cakes and cafes with healthy food.  A wonderful day out. Which section would you go to ? Have you a list of books that you are looking for? How about a day out In Hay?? ( small hint to Cliff Morrey..)

My friend Pauline Smith has introduced me to an artist whose work is very evocative. Alas I have only had the chance to see them via his web page – but look at these :



I love the energy and movement and perspective – who would have thought that black was such a versatile and dynamic colour?

Now my challenge is to find a place where I can see this work at first hand. Have a look at his web page and judge for yourself:





Most of us prefer the relative comfort of denial when it comes to older age. This is a serious state for it is always better to anticipate and so prepare ourselves for ageing so we can unlock its rich potential. In the words of Antonio Pierro – Getting Older is an Adventure not a Problem. What might our churches look, like if we really acted from within that conviction?


MacKinlay has established herself as a leading advocate for older people and their pastoral needs. Her work is based in Australia where the health and social care provision is of a higher quality that the UK. In this book, she turns her attention to the some of the issues that surround frailer older people and the challenges of maintaining well being. The seventeen chapters take as their particular focus how ageing affects people who have mental and developmental disabilities.


Many of the writers are practitioners who express their aspiration to develop more effective and creative relationships between carers and older people. More people whose main focus is everyday engagement with age should be encouraged to write – the best essays here convey the wisdom that comes from this earthed experience. The spiritual dimension, both implicit and explicit, is examined as part of a commitment to compassionate engagement where there is much to learn from people who age.


Subject areas covered include reminiscence, depression, music therapy, art, ritual, humour, memory, community and other faith perspectives. There is an inevitable unevenness to the range of writing and a firmer editorial hand may have helped provide more guidance for the reader. The book has a comprehensive index and bibliography. Some of the references cited are not easily available and this should be considered when compiling such volumes.


It is impossible to give account for the sheer diversity of ways in which people age but we can learn about the pastoral challenges that face those who live in that strange land between remembering and forgetting. This book succeeds in challenging the reader to see dementia in a different framework where there is profound wisdom about personhood and our values. We need an approach to care that can celebrate personhood in all people and thereby build communities where spiritual well being is part of our vision. To do this we must deal with our denial and exclusion of age and older people. Dementia and its treatment show all the signs of being responded to as cancer was before the Hospice Movement enabled transformative practice. Will the Churches and its theological wisdom lead in responding or seek refuge in the shadow lands of denial?



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