November 2008


The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is even beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.

No programme accomplishes the Church’s mission,
no set goals and objectives include everything.

This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted,
knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay the foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects far beyond our capabilities.



Do not brood over your past mistakes and failures

as this will only fill your mind with grief, regret and depression

Swami Sivananda




After celebrating Christ the King  and the end of the Church’s liturgical year I was fortunate again to be able to travel into Birmingham on Sunday afternoon for an excellent 3.00 pm concert.  A packed house enjoyed the chamber orchestra of Europe play some Stravinsky.  But the highlight of the concert was two extraordinary pieces of Mozart played and directed by Mitsuko Uchida.  We were enthralled by two piano concertos (No. 23 in A major) and (No. 24 in C minor).


The power, passion and intelligence with which Uchida directed the orchestra then produced almost unbelievable feeling from the piano were really breathtaking.  It was also really great to see the orchestra enjoying the music so much and down to the last man and woman dressed impeccably in their white tie and black dresses.


Unless you have a very good memory – or more likely know much more about music than I do – you might need reminding about these two piano concertos.  The slow movement to the first piano concerto (No.24) is perhaps one of Mozart’s most recognisable.  It has an amazing ability to combine tragic feeling with dramatic strife.  It touches the soul as Mozart builds on each note to reach an emotional peak.  There is something haunting and sad and poignant about it which gives it a sacred power.





What a genius and what music.  What a gift and how wonderful that the human race has such spirit and intelligence to continue to open up this powerful world for the nourishment for those who participate and listen.

Here is a the homily for Alwyn that was preached today in St Marys Temple Balsall.


Alwyn was a star.At a Children’s workshop while singing all things bright and beautiful when we got to the line ‘the purple headed mountain’ Alwyn changed the words to ‘the purple haired monster’ and nodded his head toward Kathy! The children loved him. His artificial leg while the cause of some frustration became an endless source of laughter. Alwyn helped us not to take ourselves too seriously.



We all loved Alwyn. With his Equity Card and frequent references to his appearances in the ITV soap Cross Roads he was quite a celebrity. Alwyn made a difference to those he loved, to the places where he worked. In this spiritual community he found his place and was loved by all – he had the ability to engage with anybody and everybody. He contributed to a sense of care and belonging. Not least through his rather off beat humour. What a star!


Some African peoples say that when a person dies, a star falls from the sky to go and tell everywhere that something significant has happened.  It announces that an individual who was once upright has fallen down. It is a beautiful image.  It says that at death something tremendous happens, something which is irreversible, and which causes reverberations in heaven as well as on earth.


It also says that each person matters in the overall scheme of things.  This is what all of us want to know.  We want our lives to mean something.  We want to be valued for ourselves. We do not want to die and disappear without a trace, like a stone that sinks to the bottom of a pond without causing as much as a bubble to rise to the surface.


Again, it shows that at death a person’s uniqueness is clearly revealed.  This is why we treasure last words and last memories so much.  We know that this individual will never again take shape in the world.  That exact note of expression, that distinctive intonation of speech, will never again be heard.


His faith was deep and straightforward – part of who he was. He cared about drawing others into this life. He spoke to those sitting alone; he smile and welcomed folks; he supported Kathy in her vocation and ministry. For all this and so much more we give God our thanks and praise.


Alwyn mattered very much in life, and his death also means a great deal.  A star has fallen from the firmament, a star that will never shine on any of us again, and even though there are no signs in the heaven to prove it, we know that his death makes a difference to God as well. 


 God visits us here today in this Funeral Service, as we prepare to take our Alwyn’s body to the cemetery.  The Lord of life and death has compassion on us who grieve for him. 


And so we affirm and hope in the words written above Bede’s tomb in Durham Cathedral:

Christ is the morning star who, when the night of this world is past, brings to his saints the promise of the light of life and opens everlasting day.

Amen. Amen.






Last week in the parish which we have entitled ‘Food for Thought’ had its second event.  The formula for this is quite simple – we meet for a simple supper at 7.00 pm, followed by a talk – with a sort break for a hot drink followed by an hour’s conversation and home by 9.00 pm.  Everyone is welcome but there is condition attached – that a parishioner should bring someone who is not connected with the church.


If I went into some of the complications of this formula and how people have responded this blog would be many hundreds of words long!  I have to say I have been rather surprised by the strength of the response and indeed by those parishioners who seem to wish to believe that they are an exception…..  While attempting to exercise some gentle understanding I clearly have a long way to go to demonstrate the importance out-reach and mission!  Let’s leave it at that for the time being….



Well last Tuesday, after my visit to Sheffield, I got back just in time to welcome Toby Howarth, the Bishop of Birmingham’s Interfaith adviser to Temple Balsall.  He spoke about his life and work as a Christian, and a Christian priest engaging with the world and culture and communities of Islam.  He told a number of stories from his life narrative.  These included his engagement with Muslims as a student in this country and abroad and then his work in Springfield Church which stands alongside the Mosque.  Toby has exercised a pioneering ministry of standing alongside his Muslim neighbours in living together differently.  He made a passionate plea for us to be confident about our faith and to offer friendship and hospitality.  He also challenged those of us living here in Solihull about the on-going difficulties in relation to the building of a Mosque in this area – and asked up think about how we share our faith with other people.


The conversation that followed was fascinating.  Parishioners shared their stories of encounters with neighbours and friends.  We reflected on the nature of Birmingham and how cohesive it was given the sheer range of cultures that it houses.  We reflected about the relative truth claims of Islam and Christianity.  We acknowledged the grip that extremists have on all religion and accepted that both Christianity and Islam contain within them a great deal of difference and diversity.


It was an enlivening and enriching conversation n and a conversation that must continue to develop in what ever way we can manage.  I was delighted to be able to hand over to Toby nearly £200 for the work of the Springfield nursery amongst the children there and hope that the link might strengthen itself in the days ahead.



So, our warmest best wishes, admiration and support for Toby and his work.


This book is desperately needed. James Woodward’s study is masterful,informed, compassionate, theologically articulate and pastorally compelling.
We will all grow older; we should allread this book. It is a compelling visionof a Church in which older people really are valued and served.’

The Very Revd Ian Markham PhD,
Dean and President of VirginiaTheological Seminary
‘This scholarly and accessible book isborn out of the experience of apriest/pastoral theologian working in acommunity of older people. “Befriendthe elder stranger within ourselves” reflects exactly the point of view in thisbook, which criticizes ageism as a systematic and societal exclusion of older adults. This book is a must read not only for those working with seniors, but for all of us to better understand the
third stage of life.’

The Revd Professor Abigail Rian Evans,
Princeton Theological Seminary,
Princeton, NJ
‘James Woodward has spent the lastten years lecturing, writing and bringing to the fore the needs of older people. This book is a profound challengeto both Church and society. How do werespond to an older population? Howdoes the Church think about outreach mission and evangelization amongstolder people? This book is a wake-upcall that we must all take seriously.’

The Rt Revd David Urquhart,
Bishop of Birmingham, UK

For further information visit:


What kind of KIng?


In Majesty


A Servant King?


A suffering King


  • A King for us
  • A King who knows and loves us
  • A King that offers us hope and new life
  • A King that turns things upside down
  • A King that surprises

What kind of King is Christ for you?


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