July 2008

I have just listened to a Press conference from the Lambeth Conference in Canterbury where the Archbishop of Canterbury was exposed to a barrage of questions about the future of the Anglican Communion. His voice is clear, coherant, moderate, political and intelligent. It is hard to feel for him and the impossibility of the holding together the strains and imperfections of strongly held opinion.


I like this picture of Rowan where he physically is attempting to appeal to our better nature! See in those eyes a careful attention to his audience. See in his brow the strain of holding together so much! See the lips expressing with care a perspective that might embrace and contain.





I am reminded of a story of a man who went in search of the perfect Church! At each place he found all kinds of problems. At one Church he found himself sitting in someone else’s seat ! At another he couldn’t sing the hymns! At another he didn’t really like the look of the congregation. In all of them the Vicar didn’t live up to his high expectations.

In the midst of this search soemone was bold enough to say to him : I feel sorry for that perfect Church if you ever find it, for in that moment that you join it, it will not be perfect anymore!

Were that we were perfect! were that all our Churches full of perfect people, free of divisions and discord. Oh for the hope that we priests could meet every ones expectations. Of course we could all do better – we all aim for perfection – but we also have to live with life as it is – praying that God might Bless the Mess!!

A perfect theology? A complete moral code? A Church without imperfections? No – simply not possible. Unless you know something that I am missing??


Here is a portrait of a very remarkable man with huge talent for shape, colour and representation.  His art is quite profound:


John Egerton Christmas Piper was a 20th century English painter and printmaker who lived for many years at Fawley Bottom near Henley-on-Thames. By the late 1930’s he became less found of abstracts and moved on in art work. He died in 1992 at the age of 89.

He was born in Epsom, the son of a solicitor, educated at Epsom College and trained at the Richmond School of Artfollowed by the Royal College of Art in London.

He was a painter, but collaborated with many others including the poet and author John Betjeman (on the Shell Guides series of guidebooks on the British Isles), the potter Geoffrey Eastopand the artist Ben Nicholson.

His work focused mainly on the British landscape especially churches, and he spent much of his life studying the buildings he depicted. He designed the stained glass windows for the new Coventry Cathedral with Patrick Reyntiens, as well as those for many smaller churches and created tapestries for Chichester Cathedral and Hereford Cathedral. 

He largely withdrew from abstraction early in his career and concentrated on a more naturalistic but very distinctive approach. In his later years he produced many limited edition prints. He has had major exhibitions at the Tate Gallery in 1983–1984 and more recently (and posthumously), the Dulwich Picture Gallery (covering the 1930s), the Imperial War Museum(covering the 1940s) and, closer to his place of residence, the River and Rowing Museum and the Museum of Reading. He was appointed an official war artistin 1940. Here are a couple of his reflections about abstarction –

Abstraction is a luxury that has been left to the present day to exploit.
Abstraction is the way to the heart — it is not the heart itself.




I realize that folks experience pain in different ways – I try not to give into it and complain but I am going to tell you my woes……

About a week or so ago I drove home to catch up with my father and experienced some shooting pains in my legs. It was a long and slow journey and so I decided that lack of movement in my car was the problem! I returned home and the pains persisted. Consluting the internet was not a good idea – I was told that I had the symptoms of some dengenerative disease! A walk across the fields cleared my head and I had an early night. The next day a curious lots of spots appeared at the base of my spine making sitting in one place a problem. I gave in ordered an appointment at my GPs to be told that it was shingles!! No treatment – a claer explanation that

a.   its a common affliction

b.   it doesn’t just affect older people

c.    it isn’t caused by stress ( just as well as I have had a three month sabbatical )

d.   no one can catch it from me!

Well – for those of you who know – it is very painful indeed. Its official – I am suffering! Woe is me! The sun today has helped as has a number of carefully placed cushions. I can recommend a large hot water bath to sooth and comfort too.

I had never quite realised the pain of this viral infection – I do now – what a way to learn symapthy for others!  Now – back to work….. ouch!!

Do you like yourself? If you could change something about little old you what would it be? What bits of you do you find it hard to accept? Do we understand why we feel unhappy, angry, discontented? Look into that famous mirror and what looks back?

We are fearfully and wonderfully made










The Psalm today should be pondered more often. God knows us and loves us. God knows us so that God can save us. God doesn’t have an intimate knowledge of every fibre of our being so that he can take note of all our sins, but so that God can heal it.

We are fearfully and wonderfully made

Instead of beating ourselves up for our flaws and failings and weaknesses look at yourself and know would a work of art you are – God’s work of art- full of goodness and possibility for life.

We are fearfully and wonderfully made

A grand piano has 240 strings by which the most soul churning melody’s can be played. The human ear that enables that music to be heard had 240 thousand strings.

We are fearfully and wonderfully made

A TV camera has 60 000 photoelectric elements which capture an image. The human eye, functioning in any weather, has more that 137 million elements.

We are fearfully and wonderfully made

 A computer can handle the equivalent of one neuron of information at a time. Your brain has as many as 200 communicating pathways meeting in a single cell or neuron. This means that in your brain there are 10,000 million neurons, each one serving as a mini computer.


We are fearfully and wonderfully made

The psalmist reminds us that we will never grow beyond giving God glory – there is endless depth and newness to discover within His Kingdom – ever more goodness and meaning to break open – food for our soul and journey. We will never get so good, our actions so routine, our abilities so refined, that there is nothing more we can do to lift the eternal wonder of Gods life up.

We are fearfully and wonderfully made


Let us delight in ourselves as beautiful creations of God fearfully and wonderfully made. Let that conviction spill over into our love of others and this extraordinary world we live in.


We are fearfully and wonderfully made





Can you ever get too much sleep? How much sleep do you need? What is your bed like ( rather forward question I know …) When did you linger there – curled up under the duvet and drifting in and out of sleep?

I like lots of pillows and surrounded by books there is nothing better than a large jug of coffee tucked in under the sheets and ignoring the world outside. Retreat and escape away from the noise and demnds of the world.

A long lie in – we all need and deserve one!!

I have just come home after an evening where our Church School has gathered to celebrate the achievements of our chlidren. It was a wonderful evening with a tremendous atmosphere of excitement and laughter.

The small children treated us to country dancing and the older children sang Bridge Over Troubled Water– with some brilliant solos and melodies. It was good to see how much children had grown and developed with the help of all who work in the community.

It really drew in the crowds and the School Hall was soon overflowing so we had to have the event in Church. I loved the noise and sense of fun and expectation. We should try and use the Church more often for community events like these.

So – well done every child of the Lady Katherine Leveson Primary School! All best wishes for those children who leave for secondary school – and may Temple Balsall always be a place where children are valued and celebrated. We have so much to learn from them.

Into week three I am beginning to settle back into a routine of work with all the usual joys and problems of working with people. Nothing ever quite goes to plan and life is full of wonderful surprises. It is a priviledge to be here – a part of the community that does so much for others.

At the moment we are preparing for heritage weekend. I am amazed at how much efforts go into all this. Publicity, cakes to be cooked for over 1500 tea drinkers. Gathering odd ends together to make a fair that has something to offer all. I think that we have the best book stall this side of Hay on Wye! There is jam making, stewards getting ready to guide the visitor around our historic buildings. The School is preparing to greet families and show something of their work. Capturing interest in the Church and talking about history in a way that is attractive.  Here are some glimpses of this wonderful event:

 If you want to find out more about this place take a visit to our web page:  www.templebalsall.org.uk

Remember our preparations for the weekend and lets hope for reasonable weather!!

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