September 2008


Yesterday in St Mary’s Church we celebrated the Harvest – meaningful and relevant because we are situated in a rural part of Solihull and some of our parishoners are farmers. In this global economy the production and movement of food across the world isan extraordinary feat of energy and skill.

We seem so removed from the sources of our food – and surely take so much of it forgranted? Bread, milk, potatoes, apples and cheese  – all delight us with their taste and nourishment. Harvest is a time to give thanks to God for all that is given and resolve ourselves to share the richness of God’s creation for justice and the good of all and not the few.

Here is soem historical background to the long tradition of harvest:

Before the 16th century, harvest was the term usually used to refer to the Autumn season: in fact the word comes from old English hærfest, which meant Autumn (the German word Herbst has the same origin and still means Autumn). The word is a compound word (hær + fest) and its first part has Indo-European roots in *kerp meaning to gather, pluck, harvest. Compare it with the Latin verb carpere meaning to cut, divide, pluck (Carpe diem). So hærfest indicated originally the joyful celebration of finally being possible to gather the mature crops; it extended afterwards its meaning to the all period beginning with the harvest (autumn). Recall also the expression harvest moon which is recorded since 1706 and indicates the fullmoon within a fortnight of the autumnal equinox (21 of September). However, as more people gradually moved from working the land to living in towns (especially those who were literate), the word came to refer to the actual activity of reaping, rather than the time of year, and the terms Fall and Autumn began to replace it in the former sense.

When did anyone ask you for your advice? When did you feel drawn to offer any wisdom to willing or unwilling hearers?

I am intrigued by Tony Blairs present role at Yale University and, indeed the establishment of his Faith Foundation ( see ). I suspect that history will be kinder to Blair as a person than we have been! Perhaps that applies to us all.



I read with interest his reflections to a  new class of Yale – here is an extract

So to you as individuals, what wisdom, if any, have I learnt?

First, in fact, keep learning. Always be alive to the possibilities of the next experience, of thinking, doing and being.

When Buddha was asked, near the end of his life, to describe his secret, he answered bluntly: “I’m awake”.

So be awake.

Understand conventional wisdom, but be prepared to change it.

Feel as well as analyse; use your instinct alongside your reason. Calculate too much and you will miscalculate.

Be prepared to fail as well as to succeed, and realise it is failure not success that defines character.

I spent years trying to be a politician failing at every attempt and nearly gave up. I know you’re thinking: I should have.

Sir Paul McCartney reminded me that the first record company the Beatles approached rejected them as a band no-one would want to listen to.

Be good to people on your way up because you never know if you will meet them again on your way down.

Judge someone by how they treat those below them not those above them.

Be a firm friend not a fair-weather friend. It is your friendships, including those friends you made here at Yale, at this time, that sustain and enrich the human spirit.

A good test of a person is who turns up at their funeral and with what sincerity. Try not to sit the test too early, of course.

Good advice? What words of wisdom would you like to share??

Here is another wonderful discovery!!


Henry Cliffe

Born in Scarborough, Yorkshire. 1939-46 served army, met
William Scott in Ruabon, Wales (Ordinance Section). 1946
enrolled as student BAA, studied lithography and painting
until invited to join staff (married colleague Valerie May).
Taught lithography full time, and gave technical advice to
colleagues (see exhibition Corsham Lithographs and Other
The Arts Centre, Dartington Hall, Totnes 1955);
exhibited Willis Galleries, Bath with other members of staff.
Both his and his students’ work exhibited in many
international exhibitions including
Cincinatti International
Lithography Exhibition
(1954 & 1960) and at two Venice
Biennales. 1956 first one-man exhibition Redfern Gallery
(Paintings). 1959 one-man show St George’s Gallery (prints).
1960 first purchase prize Philadelphia Print Club. 1961 Ford
Foundation Scholarship. Pratt Institute of Art. New York.
1965 wrote Lithography: A Studio Handbook Studio Vista.
1967 one-man exhibition Aubern University, USA. 1970
retrospective exhibition of prints Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol.
1977 & 1980 one-man exhibitions of paintings and drawings.
Festival Gallery, Bath. 1986 British Prints in the Post-War Years
Redfern Gallery.


My fascination with the USA continues and I was glad to come across this excellent book by Matt Frei


Matt Frei, the BBC’s Washington correspondent, goes under the skin of the nation’s capital to discover the paradox of the world’s last remaining superpower. Imagine a city so powerful that the weapons commanded from its ministries could obliterate the globe many times over and yet so vulnerable that it cannot prevent a seventeen-year-old boy from killing half a dozen of its inhabitants in a shooting spree that lasts for a whole month. A city so rich that it spends 150 million dollars a year on corporate lunches, dinners and fundraisers and yet so poor that its streets are frequently as potholed as those of any forgotten backwater in the developing world.
A city that deploys more armed officers per square mile than any other in the world but has earned the title of being its country’s murder capital. A city where 565 elected Congressmen and Senators are chased, charmed, cajoled and sometimes bribed by 35,000 registered lobbyists; where the most illustrious resident travels with a fleet of planes and a small army of body guards but where the mayor for 12 years was a convicted crack addict who believed that every law in his own country was racist, ‘including the law of gravity’.
A city that plays host to seventeen different spying agencies, employing 23,000 agents, none of whom were able to discover a plot that involved flying civilian airliners into buildings, even though the plotters had littered their path with clues.
Hard to imagine? Welcome to Washington DC: the Rome of the 21st century. It is a place that inspires awe, revulsion or analysis but rarely affection. Every newspaper editor tells his new Washington correspondent to travel outside ‘the Beltway’, to get under the skin of the real America beyond the 495 Interstate that snakes the city with its glutinous flow of traffic all day long.
But after almost four years in Washington, Matt Frei has realised that the key to understanding America lies within the walls of the diamond shaped District of Columbia.
A great read – and very illuminating as this visitor is still coming to terms with this great city.

At last the Church engages with something other than sex!!  Both of these articles bear much further thought and reflection.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has written in the Spectator Face it: Marx was partly right about capitalism.

The Archbishop of York gave a speech to the Institute of Worshipful Company of International Bankers Archbishop Labels HBOS short sellers as “Bank Robbers”.

Read on…..

Listening to Gordon Brown and other political orators has got me thinking about public speech and the way we talk to one another.

What about the sermon? Is it really any way to talk to people these days? What makes for a good sermon?

Lets remind ourselves about some of the history and theory……..

Sermons are usually, but not always, delivered in a house of worship. A sermon is also known as a homily within the Catholic Church. The word “sermon” comes from a Middle English word which was derived from an Old French term, which in turn came from the Latin word sermō; (“discourse”). The word can mean “conversation”, which could mean that early sermons were delivered in the form of question and answer, and that only later did it come to mean a monologue. In contrast to this, is the examples from the Bible, where sermons are speeches without interlocution: Moses’s sermon in Deuteronomy 1-33; Jesus’s sermon on the mount in Matthew 5-7; Peter’s sermon after Pentecost in Acts 2.

In modern language, the word “sermon” can also be used pejoratively in secular terms to describe a lengthy or tedious speech delivered with great passion, by any person, to an uninterested audience. 


 Diverse tradition

In traditional Indian philosophy, a teacher or guru delivers a talk known as a satsang.

In rabbinic Judaism, homiletical literature is found primarily in various forms of Biblical exegesis, known as midrash.

In Islam, the Khutba  is a sermon delivered before Friday prayers and after Eid prayers. There is also a khutba delivered during Hajj in the plains of Arafat, just outside Mecca. This khutba addresses the entire Muslim nation, as its message is carried back by pilgrims to their respective homelands.

 Sermons in the Christian tradition

In Christianity, the most famous sermon is the Sermon on the Mount by Jesus of Nazareth. This sermon was probably preached around 30 A.D. and is recounted in the Gospel of Matthew (5:1 – 7:29, including introductory and concluding material) as being delivered on a mount on the north end of the Sea of Galilee, near Capernaum. The Sermon on the Mount lays out many of the core principles of Christianity.

Many sermons have been written down, collected and published. Such sermons include John Wesley’s 53 Standard Sermons, John Chrysostom’s Homily on the Resurrection (preached every Easter in Orthodox churches) and Gregory Nazianzus’ homily “On the Theophany, or Birthday of Christ” (preached every Christmas in Orthodox churches). Martin Luther began a tradition of publishing sermons (Hauspostille) on the Sunday lessons for the edification of readers.

The Reformation led to Protestant sermons, many of which defended the schism with the Roman Catholic Church and explained beliefs about scripture, theology and devotion. Since the distinctive doctrines of Protestantism held that salvation was by faith alone, and convincing people to believe the Gospel and place trust in God for their salvation through Jesus Christ was the decisive step in salvation, in Protestantism the sermon and hymn came to replace the Eucharist as the central act of Christian worship. To rouse deeper faith in the churchgoers, rather than have them partake in a ritual, was the goal of Protestant worship conditioned by these beliefs.

Types of Sermon

There are a number of different types of preaching, that differ both by their subject matter and by their intended audience. and accordingly not every preacher is well-versed in each type. The types of preaching are:

  • Topical preaching – concerned with a particular subject of current concern;
  • Biographical preaching – tracing the story of a particular biblical character through a number of parts of the Bible.
  • Evangelistic preaching – seeking to convert the congregation or bring them back to their previous faith through a recounting of the Good News.
  • Expository preaching – exegesis, or preaching from a text and seeking to expound the text to the congregation.
  • Redemptive-Historical Preaching – Preaching that takes into consideration the context of any given text within the broader history of salvation as recorded in the canon of the bi

 Delivery methods

Sermons also differ on the amount of time and effort used to prepare them.

  • Scriptedpreaching – preaching with a previous preparation, it can be with help of notes or a script, or rely on the memory of the preacher.
  • Extemporaneous preaching- preaching without overly detailed notes and sometimes without preparation. Usually a basic outline and scriptural references are listed as notes.
  • Impromptu preaching – preaching without previous preparation.



There can be fewer places of peace and space and sheer beauty than the Northumberland Coast.  A short car journey north of Newcastle and the road opens up to miles of golden sand and the magic of castles and churches and the raw energy of the North Sea. 

If you havn’t experienced this part of the world then you are missing out! Take another look –

I love the way that the grass so easily gives way to the sand and the sheer size of the canvas of creation. And the opportunity to walk without many folks sharing the miles of sand!

Look it on the map and add to your places to visit! 

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