I hope you all managed to see the Olympics opening Ceremony – it was truly a great spectacle and covered a lot of historical ground very quickly. There were many great memorable moments – the lighting of the cauldron, the coming together of all those individual flames to one great burning fire (a great analogy of the importance of coming together as Christians and the power of all our individual Pentecost flames when we are together- I feel a Sermon coming on… ). The moment that stands out and amazed me was the beautiful singing of Abide with Me, not just a snippet but 5 verses of that beautiful hymn!. This was a tribute to all those that lost their life in the horrific bombings of 7th July that took place just one short day after it was announced that the Olympics would be coming to London. A poignant reminder of how lives can change in the blink of an eye !
The Olympic Cauldron
Abide With Me – such a powerful and moving hymn, one I have heard many times. The opening ceremony covered many of the elements of life in the UK that we hold dear and close to our hearts , and it was simply wonderful to see that the importance of our Lord at the heart of it all, not just unmentioned but sung about with no apology and with such moving beauty and elegance. Is this a great victory for the religious over the secularist brigade? I think it’s more a victory of common sense and balance and the simple reality that deep within us is the desire and need to love our Lord and that an expression of Faith is an integral part of our society.
So as we work hard at St John’s to put our Church and Jesus our Lord at the centre of our community, I take great heart that opening ceremony had the courage and conviction to give our Lord an honoured and important mention. We may have moved forward from this rather ridiculous notion that we can’t mention or live out our religion for fear that someone may be upset. I do know that “christians” do upset people when they turn them away as they are not worthy, judging and commending them and looking down on them, but I see nothing of the Gospel in these actions. If we remember that living the Gospel is about humbly loving, caring and sharing we may start to bring people to God rather than putting them off.
I pray that our individual flames of Pentecost may unite and become the great beacon of burning heat and intensity at the heart of our community rather like the great cauldron of fire at the Olympics .
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.
Hail Thee Festival Day! Blessed Day That is Hallowed Forever.
A small group of us from St Johns made our first pilgrimage to St Albans cathedral for the St Albans Festival Pilgrimage last Saturday (23rd June). It was a wonderful day. A fantastic procession with giant puppets of Alban, Lions, Roman Soldiers and large eyeballs on sticks! – a real carnival, re-enacting St Alban’s last journey to the hill where he was martyred. It was indeed joyous to see so many people taking part. The Eucharist at Midday was wonderful, plenty of smells and bells for those who like that (We did!) And wonderful spirit lifting singing. It was a great privilege to meet Bishop Angelos from the Egyptian Coptic Church lead the Orthodox liturgy at the shrine. Arch Bishop Sentamu preached at the Eucharist and told us if we didn’t like this service, Heaven would be Hell for us!
Evensong –was just perfect, again a packed cathedral and an inspiring sermon from The Roman Catholic Arch Bishop Vincent Nichols and a wonderful welcome address from the Dean, the Very reverend Jeffery John – and despite the many differences on certain issues that divide us there was a glimpse of incredible unity and joy as we all worshipped together. It was powerful stuff and I know many in the wider church will decry it (because that’s what they do) , but I was there and it was fantastic!
We can spend so much time and energy focusing on our differences within the church, on the issues that divide us and the challenges we face, but on Saturday at St Albans I saw such joy, such wonder, such unity that many of our squabbles seem to fade into the distance. That is not to say we can just ignore the issues and the hurt and anger caused, but I know all will be well in the fullness of time. It was wonderful to see the Anglican Church at its best on Saturday and I hope this will fortify me as we go into the next General Synod with all the anger, hurt, politics and upset this event seems to cause – can we have one without the other I wonder?
What I witnessed in St Albans was sheer delight, and I know we need to keep faithfully doing as we are commanded – to love one another, to offer the Eucharist and look after each other. When we do this with all our hearts, our minds and our souls we will glimpse Heaven on Earth. Heaven can be hard to glimpse when we are filled with resentment, gripes and moans, hurt and anger. All these emotions are in our control, after all they are our emotions. People often say I can’t help getting angry and can’t help getting mad. Imagine you are driving your car and someone cuts in dangerously in front laughing at you… Now many would sound their horn, make the odd hand gesture, shout at the top of their voice; get angry- all quite understandable but is it really uncontrollable?– if this happened in some dangerous inner city estate where gang crime and shootings were rife? I suggest that we may temper our reaction more than we would if in the centre of Watford – we would choose our reaction, we would choose our attitude. That’s not to say its easy, but with practice we can choose how we react and respond. We may not be able to easily change the many problems of world and the wider church but we can be joyous and help change our little bit of the world and we can certainly change ourselves and our reactions to the world. That’s not to say we should accept injustice but I think the world needs more love and less anger, if that’s a bit difficult for some let’s start with a bit less moaning and see where that might lead us…
O blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
All are one in Thee, for all are Thine.
A family of Bluetits feeding
I blogged a while ago about my increasing fascination with the birds in the gardens and how much I enjoy seeing them. I have continued to feed them over the months and have been rewarded with an increasing diversity of species. I know that we have both blackbirds and Robins nesting in the garden so I hope I will get to see their young soon.
My battle with the squirrels continues although they now have their own never ending supply of nuts in their very own feeder. The feeder has a small metal lid that they lift up to get at the food, so all through the day you can hear the small bash sound as the lid opens and closes. I have also discovered that when squirrels have a lot of food they take to storing some of it for a rainy day… which means digging up most of the garden to bury nuts! Bless them!
I am pleased (I think) that we have a growing number of starlings in the garden, I am pleased as I know their numbers have decreased radically in Britain, a horrifying 80% reduction! I must confess I do not think they are the most attractive of birds but they are certainly the messiest eaters- when they attach themselves to a feeder a shower of food scatters over the ground and over any of the ground feeding birds. I much prefer the plucky determination of Mrs Blackbird or the cheekiness of the Robins but I know the starlings need looking after as well. So far, I have resisted comparing the personalities of the Birds to the personalities of our congregation – but may be in another blog!
Only 1 month to go to our Diamond Jubilee celebrations at St John’s Watford. I have to say I am getting a little excited as the Queen of New Zealand celebrates 60 years as Queen. People in the UK always give me a funny look when I refer to the Queen of New Zealand and Her other Realms and Territories over the Seas – but that’s precisely who she is- and indeed one of her titles. (She is also Queen of Australia but no one is perfect )
We have a packed day for Sunday 3rd June to celebrate this great event – We start the day with the 10am Celebration of Holy Communion – as there can be nothing better we can offer.
We will then host a Party at 3pm – with party games and food for the children and cream teas for the adults. –I must confess I am hoping to win the Pass the Parcel (the Vicar must get some perks!)
At 4pm – we have “Proms of Praise” a cross between last night of the Proms and Songs of Praise, a good old sing a long of the old favourites, with some fun, flag waving, and general pomp thrown in. I am delighted that Watford Brass Band will be joining us to raise the roof and celebrate the Jubilee in style.
I hope we will see lots of people from our community come along and join in the fun. Keeping with the truly British theme we will have some cucumber sandwiches and Pimms afterwards to enjoy. Please get in contact if you have and questions or want to help out and I look forward to seeing you there.
God Save the Queen
These are exciting times as we approach our Annual Parochial Church Council (APCM) meeting – the election of Council members, church wardens and all the other vital offices that keep us running. Also it gives us a chance to reflect on the past year and look forward to what the next year has in store for us.
I often hear Clergy and parishioners grumble about the annual meetings and church meetings. My response is often “if you hate meetings you must be doing them wrong”! These meetings are for us to have our say, for us to be heard, for us to listen to others point of view, and be updated about things that matter. There are of course certain formalities and procedures to go through and this will happen on Sunday at our APCM. If the meetings aren’t giving us what we want and need – we need to come up with a new way to make them work.
I am really excited to see the nominations for our PCC elections – a few new names and some long serving members – a good mix I hope. Meetings are like so many things, you get out what you put in. I would encourage everyone to have their say at meetings, we all have such an important part to play. I know, people don’t like to speak up if they don’t agree with things or see an obvious flaw with a plan; mainly for fear that they will come across as negative or unsupportive. It’s so important that we all get to hear these views as some of us can get carried away with our enthusiasm for ideas and often miss the potential problems. A problem highlighted early can prevent a lot of wasted energy and sometimes money.
Likewise it’s important to speak up if we think something is a good idea, even if some of the detail is yet to be worked through. It can be disheartening when presenting an idea and getting no response either good or bad!
I am still loving our new look Website – and we have received many positive comments from people, and some ideas for further development and changes. If you have any comments please do get in touch we would love to hear your views.
I have some great and ambitious ideas for our next year in the Parish, which I will share at the APCM. I hope they will be well received with a nice stabilising balance of caution from some as well. I will share our ideas via this blog as they develop – so what this space.
On a slightly different note, if you are in and around Watford on the 3rd June the Queens Diamond Jubilee Weekend – come along and join us for our special Jubilee Celebration Party and “Proms of Praise” concert, it will be lovely to see you.
Alleluia Christ is Risen! & a new look website…
Lent has been a time of preparation and lots of hard work – one piece of the hard work has been our new look website. I have to say I am really delighted with our new look– the content has had a complete overhaul and we are trying to make ourselves a bit more outwards facing. We now have lots of helpful information on Baptisms, Weddings, and Funerals; those great services that we can offer to all who live in our community. We also have pages on our weekly Sunday school and information about whom and what we are. We even have a contact form, so please use it and do get in touch.
Easter is a time for rebirth, for new growth and for us to become reenergised. As I ponder what to blog about I feel I should be drawing on the great accounts of our Lords Passion and resurrection, but rather strangely I find myself drawn to the famous parable of the 5 barley loaves and 2 fish. A Sunday school favourite where Jesus is surrounded by crowds, wanting to see what all the fuss was about and then evening was drawing in and the crowd was hungry.
So it seems that, one rather organised boy had a picnic for him and his family and friends – just 5 loaves and 2 fish. Certainly not enough to feed the hungry crowd, but never the less Jesus instructed the disciples to share the food amongst the crowd. What seems to really sing out to me in this story is the boy with his picnic. Despite the seemly impossible situation of over 5000 people and only 5 small barley loaves and 2 fish, the boy still offered what he had. The boy had the courage to share, to believe that his offering was good enough to share and was going to satisfy the people who ate with him. I wonder what the boy was thinking: Was he embarrassed it wasn’t enough food? That the food wasn’t good enough to share? Or was he worried he might end up hungry and going without?
Do we have the same worries as Christians’ and members of St John’s Watford? – is what we have not good enough for others? Do we want to keep it for ourselves? Are we worried we will miss out?
We need to be more like the little boy with the 5 loaves and 2 fish, we must have faith that we have enough, we must believe that things are worth sharing and we must be brave to let others have some. What we have is too good not to share.
Our new website, our Mission Action Plan, us living our lives, is all about us sharing what we have. I hope this will be the start of a chapter in our lives were we start to look outwards and joyously share what we have. I sometimes hear people grumble about those that only come to “our Church” to get married or have their children baptised. I think, how wonderful it is that we can be part of their lives at this most special and glorious time and they have chosen to share this with God and with us. We must rejoice in all that we have, welcome all visitors as if they were Christ himself and have the faith to share. Please do let us have your comments on the new website - I am so very grateful to Simon our webmaster who has put in countless hours planning, writing, designing and building our website and to all those who have contributed.
As we enter this Joyous Easter Season, do we need to be more like the boy in the parable and have the faith and courage to share what we have?
It is hard to believe that Lent is upon us. I do rather enjoy Lent – that time of taking stock, clearing out & taking on extra things. It has been fashionable of late to talk of taking up positive things rather than focusing too much on denial and going without. Denial is what Lent is about. I have nothing against taking up some worthwhile cause or activity. I do however think there are some definite benefits in denying ourselves something – not as some kind of punishment but giving up something that will remind us again and again that we are in Lent and the amazing sacrifice of Good Friday. By stripping away some of the niceties in life we may find the space and time to go deeper into Gods Love, to have space to reflect, to pray and to take up some new activity. Denial helps remind us how weak we are. How can it really be such a struggle not to have a chocolate biscuit for 40 days?
So what am I giving up? My plan is to give up Alcohol for the full 6 weeks of Lent. I have to admit I do really enjoy a nice cold bottle of beer on a Friday evening, a nice pint on a Sunday evening when the great celebration of Sunday is coming to a close and maybe even a pint or two in the pub in the week with a good natter and a catch up. It hurts to give it up, I really notice it and I look forward to Easter day and a nice cold beer. I miss going to the pub, I miss relaxing and chatting over a beer, but I know its good for me to give up, good physically in that I consume less alcohol, its good spiritually, good to know that I can resist and good to know I still have some will power.
Will I fail – yes I probably will, but then an even greater show of will power is required to start the giving up all over again. So what has giving things up got to do with anything? How will be not having a beer change the world or help people in need?
Understanding ourselves, proving we are in control and removing clutter allows us to make space in our lives to look inwards. It is only when we know ourselves that we can truly shine & radiate Gods love into our world. Looking honestly at ourselves is a very hard thing to do, looking at all our weakness, failings and shortcomings. Its rather humbling to remember this rather unpleasant view is what God sees, and despite all this he still loves us and wants us to do his work. Doing God’s work is what makes the difference.
Let us look forward with excitement and joy to what Easter will bring – the celebration, the chocolate, the cold beer and the knowledge we have some will power and a better understanding of ourselves. We need to have seen winter to really enjoy the spring and we need Lent to relish in the glory of our risen Lord as we remember and celebrate the greatest feast of all…..[ insert the ‘A’word here on Easter day]
Go on give up something up that will hurt a bit, you will be richer for it, even richer if you fail and give up a second time. Deo Gratias
And so the Christmas Season has been rounded off with our celebration of Candlemas and we are now rapidly approaching Lent. The Crib scene is now safely packed away for another year – Our celebration of Candlemas at St Johns a couple of weeks ago was simply wonderful – filled with joy and beauty, it was especially lovely to be joined in Church by our Sunday school to process round with our candles.
Getting ready for our services takes a surprising amount of time, especially when we celebrate one of the great feasts of the church. There is so much to sort out, – thinking through the Liturgy, where are we going to stand, what route for the procession, what hymns, when do we relight our candles. Of course there are lots of short cuts we could have taken, miss bits out, do what we did last year (if anyone can remember), or wing it and see what happens. However, I know when we rehearse and put some effort into preparing; things are less stressful, things work better and we can focus on the meaning of what we are doing instead of wondering what might happen next or what might go wrong.
I think there is something in the human disposition that means we always want to jump into the doing, the action, the good bit. I hate preparing to decorate a room – all that washing of walls, sanding, stripping off of old paper, before I can get on with the “fun bit” of sloshing the paint around. Mission Action Planning feels a bit the same- its tempting to want to jump straight to the end and do the doing, the changing, making a difference but we need to get it right, discern what is needed and prepare the way. We need to be strict with ourselves and really discern, hold our selves in the preparation phase before we can then get on with the doing. Following the process means we are more likely to get it right, our changes more likely to work and hold.
I am full of excitement and enthusiasm as our Mission Action Plan groups meets and begins to map out the process, generate ideas and make changes. It’s tempting to assume that we must all be excited and positive. Given that we are a diverse group, all of us agreeing is very unlikely – and that’s a good thing. We need to hear the cautious voice, the cynics those that take a bit more convincing of an idea – its not being negative its being a balance, a stabiliser. Listening to these voices is vital, they offer fresh insights, observe risks and challenges that those of us with a more enthusiastic disposition might have over looked in our excitement and desire to get on and do. We all want to get this right, we must get this right, our generation and future generations need us to.
Let us enjoy the first phase of our Mission Action Planning the discussing, the gathering of views, the discerning, lets listen to all the voices – but lets communicate, we must share our ideas, enthusiasm, doubts and worries with each other – everyone of us has part of the picture and we need all the bits to make the one great glorious picture.
For my next blog I might think about how do we jump straight to Easter – do we really need all that preparation of Lent? Let’s crack on and slosh the paint around and eat our Easter Eggs!
Before setting off to Rome for a short break (retreat) with some Priest Colleagues I joked “That’s it I am off to Rome” with an imaginary flounce and door slam to boot. I sent a tweet to such effect and was surprised that a couple of people took me seriously thinking I had enough of the Church of England and was off. Nothing could be further from the truth. Every Sunday I am renewed with excitement and joy being with my Parish Family – I know they don’t all agree with everything I do all of the time, but they humour me and for that I am grateful.
Vatican at Sunset
Papal Archbasilica of St. John Lateran
My time is Rome was simply wonderful, lots of sightseeing , Churches and Pasta. Lots of discussion with my friends and lots of ideas for the future and only a small amount of “essential” shopping . One incredible moment came one evening when I found myself stood in front of St Peters Basilica without another person to be seen. I was completely on my own in front of this amazing building, the centre of Roman Catholicism for a bezillion Roman Catholics, the site of the Great Pontifical Masses and it was just me. David from Christchurch New Zealand, standing on his own in St Peter’s Square all alone, just incredible. It was the most humbling experience and reminded me how I am only a very small cog in the great eternal machine of Christ’s Church. The worry about what to preach next Sunday or what Hymns to choose seemed so far away and small in the grand scheme of things.
It is that same sense of awe and wonderment that I want us to share on a Sunday Morning when we come to the Altar and celebrate Gods love for us in the Eucharist. For us to see ourselves in that long procession of faith, standing on the shoulders of those who have gone before us, doing the best we can as we serve God, Serve our Community and Serve each other. Humility is so difficult and so very counter cultural in our world, but sensing the Power & Love of our Lord, understanding that we are a small but vital cog in a great machine is simply wonderful. Getting the small things right is critical, the right hymns, a reasonable sermon, a smile for our brothers and sisters and a helping hand when needed is all part of us making sure we do what we do as best as we can. All the small actions, deeds and thoughts go to make up the bigger picture, building to the great crescendo of our Eucharist.
I have returned from Rome, re-energised and excited to be continuing our journey together over the bumps and rocks and along our winding road. One thing that I am discovering is no matter what my thoughts are some clever person has always managed to capture them beautifully in a hymn or carol and I can think of no better way to sum up that with the words of the first verse of My Song is love unknown,
My song is love unknown,
My Saviour’s love to me;
Love to the loveless shown,
That they might lovely be.
O who am I, that for my sake
My Lord should take, frail flesh and die?
I have rather surprised myself of late with a new and interesting hobby. For my birthday someone brought me a bird feeder and the requisite nuts. On opening the present its fair to say I was slightly underwhelmed but I duly hung feeder on a small tree in the garden and have been completely fascinated by the variety of birds that come to feed. Growing up in New Zealand, land of the Birds I think I rather took all the birds for granted and of course our national bird the Kiwi is flightless. I still smile at the New Zealand’s RAF logo - the usual concentric red, white and blue RAF circles with the addition of a silhouette of the flightless nearly extinct Kiwi at its centre. Who thought a flightless bird was good emblem for the national air force?!
New Zealand RAFLogo
The Squirrel Feeder
I have now purchased a bird book so I can start to identify the various feather chaps that pitch up at the Vicarage- if only a similar book was available for parishioners – the lesser spotted cassock chaser, the waxy billed sacristan but maybe that’s another blog? Anyway, I have now relented and purchased a couple more feeders and different variety of seeds and fat balls to feed the increasing number of visitors. I do however have mixed emotions about the Grey Squirrels –their cute face, white tummies and tree acrobatics are just wonderful but their persistence at eating the bird seed is definitely an annoyance.
I have now taken pity and purchased the squirrels their very own squirrel feeder – a small flip top house contraptions which is filled with Maize –The resident squirrels do seem to go a bit crazy for the maize but still they venture to munch on the sunflower seeds of the birds. I fear I might become slightly obsessive in guarding the bird seed, creating ever more complex and bizarre mechanisms of keeping the squirrels from the bird seed. The thought of camouflaging myself as a bush and sitting in wait to ambush the squirrels with a waterpistol has crossed my mind. Feeling rather like a slightly eccentric 18th Century vicar – I venture into the vicarage garden each morning to scatter seed, replenish the nuts and feed the squirrels.
I am certainly no St Francis but the joy of living side by side with nature is really wonderful and makes me double my efforts to make sure we look after this planet we have been entrusted with. Feeding the small number of birds and getting annoyed with the cheeky squirrels isn’t going to change the world but it reminds me of what a fantastic world we have. Deo Gratias (still not sure about the Squirrels!)
St Francis keeping watch over the Garden