Monthly Archives: May 2014

Thoughts of a Christian Aid Collector

Christian Aid Week 2014

Christian Aid Week 2014

We have just come to the end of the annual Christian Aid week, and all over the country collectors will be tearing open red envelopes, spilling out coins and plucking out paper money, counting it and sending off their collections to Christian Aid. Those same people will have been tramping the streets in all kinds of weather, opening and closing millions of front gates and greeting their neighbours and mostly strangers with the oft repeated greeting “I’m here to collect the Christian Aid envelope” all the while flashing their collectors badge just to show that they really are official volunteers. I love being a Christian Aid collector, but this year, for various reasons, I was unable to do so… and I’ve missed it.

 What I haven’t missed is the variety of postures you have to adopt to initially post the envelope through people’s letterboxes; or the people who swear that they never received an envelope when you both know darn well that (a) you put one through their door two days ago and (b) that they’ve probably recycled it into the waste bin…still smile! Or others who tell you to hold on, fetch the envelope and then hand it back to you… empty….. keep smiling!

I quite happily accept the “No thank yous” or “We already give to other charities” because I never feel that anyone should be under any compulsion to give to any charity they don’t or can’t support or to feel obliged to just because you’re standing there expectantly right in front of them on their threshold with your bright red collectors bag.

However, it’s great when their donation is there, ready and waiting to be dropped into the bag. or they pick up the envelope with profuse apologies for not having prepared it, then dash off to find their purses and wallets, while you often have to try and make small talk with their young children or pets on the doorstep; till they return with the envelope, which they are desperately trying to seal (I believe that the sealing of a Christian Aid envelope is one of the harder challenges in life) before handing it over with a huge smile. After all, God loves a cheerful giver!

Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7)

I even like the bulging envelopes, which you know are filled with pennies emptied out from various jars and pots, handed over apologetically because they think that it’s not very much but that you know will still make a difference; despite the fact that by the end of your collection round you know you’re going to need muscles like Channing Tatum!

But best of all, I love the fact that at least once a year Christians get out there, around the streets and homes in their neighbourhood, and become the human face of the Church. Door to door collections are very rare nowadays in an age when it’s probably easier and more economic to let your fundraising be done through the internet. An impersonal click of a button and an automatic email to acknowledge your donation is still valuable but showing people that you care enough about the work that is being done by Christian Aid to spend a few hours doing the legwork can be even more valuable.

So well done to all of you who did just that this year, your efforts will be greatly appreciated by the charity and by all of the projects that it supports – and well done to everyone who donated generously. I only hope that I can be part of it again next year.

In the meantime if you want to find out more about the work that your money and efforts could be involved in have a look on the Christian Aid website 

Donate to Christian Aid

Donate to Christian Aid

Freedom of the Morning

Bluebells, Cuddesdon

Bluebells, Cuddesdon

There are not many occasions when you are literally stopped in your tracks by something that catches your eye. This stopping is even harder when you are driving your car; but over the last couple of weeks there have been two sights that did just that.  Luckily they occurred on country lanes that meant that with a quick glance in the rear view mirror I was able to pull over to investigate a bit further

Hare study by Nolan Stacey

Hare Study*

The first happened early in the morning as I drove past an open field of spring wheat. A movement caught my eye, which I mistook at first for a fox or rabbit breaking cover, but as I halted I realised it was a large male hare. This buck was paused, motionless; raised up on his hind legs as if checking out the terrain, before bounding away, too fast for me to grab my camera to capture the moment.

The second occasion was a few days later on my way home from college. This time it was blur of intense blue that made me step on the brakes. The woodland on my right seemed impenetrable with nettles and brambles, but by slowly reversing I could see a gap where the grass looked trodden down. It seemed a natural footpath led beneath the trees and I picked my way carefully over it to be met by a vista of bluebells in patchy sunlight under the newly budded green trees. Ahead of me stretched a path, made not by humans but an animal track, perfect as a byway for the resident woodland creatures and a perfect stimulus to imagination.

The following poem is a result of both encounters

Freedom of the Morning

Into the field of rippling wheat
bounds a wild creature of the wood.
Stopping abruptly; briefly silhouetted
against the emergent morning sun,
the buck raises himself on his hind legs,
his large ears attuned to nature’s rhythm.
Sensing no danger, he punches the air,
as if boxing the breeze; then lopes away,
quickly disappearing into the green sea

Above the hare’s wake, a lone gull
lazily flaps across the dark trees.
Disturbed, the rookery rises
in a dark chorus of harsh condemnation;
‘kaah-kaah-kaah’ echoes into the valley,
answered by mist muffled church bells
sounding the hour, and whose spire
stands sentinel over the slumbering town,
undisturbed by either fleeting interruption

Deep in the woodland, snuffling sounds;
as a black snout emerges from the ground,
followed by myopic eyes in monochrome skull.
The earlier rain has showered the undergrowth,
leaving the air cool and fresh, its sweetness
appreciated after a night underground.
Hunger draws the brock out further from his sett,
as he moves with assured gait along a trail,
his silvery-grey pelt camouflaged by twisting birch

This confidence is justified within his coppice kingdom,
There will be no challengers this morning;
His canine adversaries are confined to kennel;
Their baying silenced for lack of scent.
Yet, as he tramples a track through
the cerulean carpet of bluebells
a heady perfume sweetens his path,
and dappled sunlight dances for joy
as creation rejoices in the freedom of the morning

A path through the bluebells, Cuddesdon

A path through the bluebells, Cuddesdon

Brock = This is a descriptive noun for a badger and comes from Old English and Middle English. Its origins lie in an Irish-Gaelic word ‘broc’ which means badger

*This beautiful pencil sketch of a hare is taken from a greeting card I recently purchased. The artist, Nolon Stacey, is self-taught, specialising in drawings of British wildlife, rural scenery, and farm animals. He currently lives in the Yorkshire Dales and gains inspiration from the picturesque surroundings and varied wildlife. More examples of his work, including items for sale can be found  at

Changing Doubts Into Hope

Baptism with water and the Holy Spirit

Baptised with water and the Holy Spirit

It’s not often that you start a talk in church with a piece of music. However last Sunday, the second of Easter (yes we are still celebrating Easter long after the chocolate eggs have been eaten and the hot-cross buns finally toasted) I decided to see if the congregation were up for a bit of ‘Name that Tune’ The piece in question was the theme tune from Star Wars, Episode 4, ‘A New Hope’

We were celebrating a Eucharist, made all the more special because it was to include a baptism. Our readings included the story of Thomas meeting the resurrected Jesus and it was, looking to the future we are being offered, that we hopefully were to discover that morning

First though I want to ask you a question… Is it just me?? Or do we all have moments of doubts? Doubts about whether we are capable of doing something – if we have the ability or the strength? Doubts about whether we can trust others to carry out the things they have promised to do. Doubts about what the right thing to do is? Doubts about what our purpose in life is? Doubts about where God is in our lives? Is it just me??

Everyone doubted that Noah could build an ark – and yet he went on to achieve this incredible feat of engineering; Sarah doubted that she would ever have children and even laughed in God’s face and yet she went on to be the co-founder of a great nation Moses doubted that he had the articulate skills to face up to Pharaoh, yet with the help of his brother Aaron he went on to bring the Israelites out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. Elijah doubted that God was with him when he fled in fear for his life to Mount Horeb and yet it was there that he encountered him in that ‘still, small, voice’ guiding him as to what to do; Peter doubted when he walked on the water and yet there he was at Pentecost speaking out boldly and clearly, and of course the eponymous Thomas

So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’ John 20:25

So it certainly seems that God has no problem with us having doubts from time to time, after all we’re only human and we’re very often not in a position to see the bigger picture or what the future holds for each of us. What is it that we need to turn those doubts into belief I wonder? What proof will be good enough? For Thomas it was physical proof that the man he had been following and believed in had truly risen from the dead and was very much alive and standing in front of him. Maybe the only proof we’ll accept is when something we’ve doubted would happen has actually happened then we’ll believe it, or maybe if something didn’t happen when we feared it might. Good concrete evidence is often what we seek to allay our doubts and fears

Doubt often comes about because of a fear of failure; fear that we will let people down; fear that what we desire won’t come about. And maybe it won’t – not in the way we think or hope it will… and that I think is the key. The need to change our outlook from negative to positive, changing our doubts into hopes, putting our faith in God not in ourselves. All the while we hold on to our doubts then we are stopping ourselves from believing that things are possible.

Psalm 16 is sometimes translated with the subtitle ‘the hope of the faithful, a prayer of trust and security in God’ and it’s a beautiful lament from David which contains the following lines,

I praise you, Lord, for being my guide. Even in the darkest night, your teachings fill my mind. I will always look to you, as you stand beside me and protect me from fear. With all my heart, I will celebrate, and I can safely rest. I am your chosen one. You won’t leave me in the grave or let my body decay. You have shown me the path to life, and you make me glad by being near to me.’

Appropriate words as we celebrate Christ’s resurrection, but also appropriate for our own lives, as Peter in his first letter tells us, ‘By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead’ – a living, breathing hope that has been placed in all of us.

Font blog

The waters of baptism in the font at St John the Evangelist, Hedge End

And this morning we witnessed that hope being placed into a young child, Noah; whose baptism symbolised a new birth, not of water but of the Spirit. A hope that will be new and vibrant, a hope that will be reflected in the love and example that he receives from his parents, grandparents and godparents; a hope that Noah will need to have reaffirmed from time to time not only by his family, but by the whole family of Christ.

Because it’s all our responsibility to look to the hope that has already been placed in our own lives and to remain steadfast in trusting that God knows what he’s doing and all will be well.

Regrettably, as we’ve already seen, there may still be creeping moments of doubt. Again as Peter puts it, ‘even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials.’ And let’s be honest, all of us have and may be having to face various trials, some more than others, some harder to bear than others. Maybe our faith has been tested to the limits, but, if through it all, we don’t lose hope and believe that we will be given the strength to endure it, then just like metal that when it is tempered by fire is made stronger, so our faith will emerge with genuine hope for whatever the future may bring; and just like Thomas we will be able to declare, ‘My Lord and my King

Jesus tells his disciples, standing there right next to him, that they are blessed because they have seen for themselves with their own eyes and have no reason to doubt only to believe. How foolish we must seem to others to believe in something we’ve never seen, yet we have all come to or are coming to faith in so many different ways. What is it that convinces us that we should believe? Is it a personal encounter with Jesus; is it the love shown to us by those around us; is it an example of a friend, or was it that we just couldn’t believe that our lives are nothing more that this brief span of time. Whatever it was that started you on your journey of faith, be hopeful and hold on to it and remember how blessed you are.

The promises we make to the newly baptised, to support them in prayer, example and teaching we should also make to each other. We should push all of our doubts to one side as we are welcomed into the fellowship of faith and remember instead the one hope to which we are all called

Let’s celebrate that hope, and as always, may Christ’s peace rest in you…Amen

Expect the unexpected in our font!

Always expect the unexpected in our font!