New user? Register here:
Email Address
Password
Retype Password
First Name
Last Name
Existing user? Login here:
Email Address
Password

Features

Regulars

Reviews

Puzzles

Prayers

Opinion

Faith and belief

News

Stories by date

Back to Members page

The oldest covenant

01/12/2021

The first covenant mentioned in the Bible is called the everlasting covenant. The storyteller says that God remembered the covenant, which implies that it was not established in the time of Noah. The prophet Hosea knew of an earlier covenant with Adam, even though this is not mentioned in the biblical story of Adam. The prophet Hosea lived in the 8th century BCE, at the same time as Isaiah. He condemned the faithless lifestyle of his contemporaries and compared them to Adam who had...

Seasons of newness

01/12/2021

A birth changes everything. It makes life different by default: whether the extraordinary, fleshy reality of a baby coming into the world, or something more metaphorical taking shape in our lives. It may even be a rebirth of our very selves, a tipping point where reality shifts and, for us, will never be the same again. The seasons of the year mark the natural cycles of birth and death: of emergence, decay, and dormancy. Each season holds its own characteristics but also surprises us: with an...

Brother Walfrid's example

01/12/2021

This year's holiday involved a 'staycation'. Perhaps it was the same for you. We had two mini-breaks, one trip to visit family and friends in the south but the other was a long weekend in Glasgow. Glasgow? Edinburgh seems a more likely destination but, in truth, Glasgow is a fine city with a rich history, beautiful open spaces, excellent museums and art galleries, and wonderfully architecture. But it is one particular aspect of the Church's part in the city's history that I want to focus...

Incarcerated for the incarnation

01/12/2021

ONE of the highlights during my six years ministering as a prison chaplain was the annual carol service in the chapel. It was an ecumenical affair, shared with my Roman Catholic and Free Church colleagues, and with prison residents from various Christian traditions (and none), as well as community guests from churches near by. The format resembled many found in churches during the festive season: the customary collection of readings from the nativity accounts of St Luke's Gospel, and carols...

God? Or merely godlike?

01/12/2021

A Shepherd peers into the crib in which Jesus Christ, Son of God, lies sleeping. 'He's the spitting image of his father,' the shepherd observes. 'No,' says one of the Magi, just arrived from the East, 'he's a chip off the old block.' 'Aren't they just two ways of saying the same thing?' asks a bystander. 'By no means,' retorts the theologian in residence, 'they are totally different … ' — and so begins one of the most fiercely contested debates in the history of the Christian Church. In...

We wait expectantly — but for whom?

01/12/2021

ADVENT. Season of name-giving — and such names! Who giveth these names? Heaven only knows. Poets, saints, youths, ancient folk. What shall we call him? Adonaï — a name for God? Dayspring bright? Desire of nations? Key which opens what cannot be closed? Emmanuel, of course. In the congregation, a baby is long overdue, spinning out womb-days in order to have an Advent birth. What shall we call him or her? Something beautiful. No flowers in church, but all this namecalling. Outside, murk and...

Wordsearch: December 2021

01/12/2021

DECEMBERINNOCENTSHOLYCOVENANTBIRTHVIRGINSTEPHANNICHOLASJOHNADVENTPRISONLIGHTDARKFOOTBALLWEAKSAVE Can you find the words listed in the grid? They may be written in any direction. This wordsearch is for your own pleasure. No prize is available this month.

Thank you, soil

01/11/2021

At the start of November is a day so limpidly lovely that it could make you cry. The sky is royal blue and tiny white clouds scud across it. It's warm enough to take off my fleece. There's still plenty in the soil to keep me over the winter: purple sprouting broccoli, curly kale, spinach, chard, winter lettuce and yet more celery, should I feel able to face it. The last of the cheerful pink cosmos sway in the breeze on the herbaceous border, alongside the tithonia and asters. No frosts have...

May your angels

01/11/2021

May your angels, holy Son, guard our homes when day is done; when at peace, our sleep is best, bid them watch us while we rest. Prince of everything that is, High Priest of the mysteries, let your angels, God supreme, tell us truth dressed as a dream. May no terror and no fright spoil our slumber in the night; free from care our eyelids close; Spirit, give us prompt repose. We have laboured through the day: lift our burdens when we pray, then our souls in safety keep, that our sleep be soft...

No fear of death

01/11/2021

Today many people seem to hesitate to talk about death and dying easily and unselfconsciously — we even hesitate to use the word itself and instead say 'passed'. If death is taboo, or at least uncomfortable, in daily life and conversation, then poetry and music have no scruples: they both confront grief and loss. My own hope when it comes to the hour of my death is to be able to say: 'My roots are deep in eternity.' I take heart from those standing on the edge of death who yet speak of it...

To Cambridge, by bus

01/11/2021

Cambridge in November. I have bumped there on the country buses to celebrate our birthdays, Jane's and mine. This is an ancient custom. We are each other's oldest friends in every sense of the term, and in this instance ritualistic, going over the same ground, resuscitating those who have gone before, arguing a bit, forgiving a lot, and firing off cheerful declarations of affection. She will cook us a fine dinner; but before then we are to inspect the refurbished Fitzwilliam Museum to find out...

Hermit's Stew and Pottage

01/11/2021

Hermit's Stew, if you don't mind your nettles past their spring best, is made as follows. Collect a large bunch of mixed leaves and shoots, e.g. dandelion, wild asparagus, alexanders, wild chervil, and nettles. Clean carefully and trim off excess stalks. Aim for shoots and leaves about 4 inches in length. Heat olive oil in a wide-bottomed saucepan, and add a finely chopped onion. When this is translucent, throw in your leaves and mix them around. Then add about half a pint of water, and a...

Book Review: The Gospel According to a Sitcom Writer

01/11/2021

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO A SITCOM WRITER James Cary SPCK £10.99 JAMES CARY is a sitcom writer who has contributed to the BBC series Miranda, Bluestone 42, and Thanks a Lot, Milton Jones, among others. Cary is an accomplished comic writer. His sketches here are hilarious, clever, knowing, and beautifully crafted. Interestingly, they are hedged by Cary's own rules and creed: “I believe Paul's words in 2 Timothy 3.16 that 'Every Scripture is God breathed.'” He gives himself wriggle room for his...

Book Review: 12 Rules for Christian Activists

01/11/2021

12 RULES FOR CHRISTIAN ACTIVISTS Ellen Loudon, editor Canterbury Press £12.99 IN A world emerging from a life-changing pandemic, facing huge structural inequalities and a pressing environmental crisis, Ellen Loudon's wellcurated work is welcome and timely. She has brought together some wise words from those involved in making a difference where they are, predominantly around Liverpool, a city with a proud history of activism. Loudon's commitment to practical theology is clear, demonstrating...

I have no wit, no words, no tears

01/11/2021

I have no wit, no words, no tears; My heart within me like a stone Is numb'd too much for hopes or fears; Look right, look left, I dwell alone; I lift mine eyes, but dimm'd with grief No everlasting hills I see; My life is in the falling leaf: O Jesus, quicken me. My life is like a faded leaf, My harvest dwindled to a husk: Truly my life is void and brief And tedious in the barren dusk; My life is like a frozen thing, No bud nor greenness can I see: Yet rise it shall — the sap of Spring; O...

Wordsearch: November 2021

01/11/2021

SOILADVENT PATRICK MONASTIC HUMOUR ENRICH CELTIC DIG BUS CROSS HOME SAINT NOVEMBER Can you find the words listed in the grid? They may be written in any direction. The sender of the first correct solution to be opened after the end of the month will receive a £10 book token. Send your entries to: November Wordsearch, The Sign, 3rd Floor, Invicta House, 108–114 Golden Lane, London EC1Y 0TG. The winner of the September Wordsearch was M. Belcher.

Glass half-full?

01/10/2021

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life (Proverbs 13.12) Why is that disappointment has such a powerful influence on how we feel? In films or TV programmes we hear a character say, 'I'm not angry, I'm disappointed.' The response? 'That's worse!' Disappointment, from others or from within ourselves, can be hard to bear. Even minor disappointments, especially when they come in clusters, one after the other, can have a real impact on us. For many, the past...

A prayer for wisdom in understanding the Trinity

01/10/2021

O Lord, who can have knowledge of thy understanding and meaning, except thou give wisdom, and send thy Holy Ghost from above, to reform and redress the ways of them which are upon earth, that men may learn the things that are pleasant unto thee, and to live lovingly with one another, every man being content with his own vocation, and follow[ing] the same, be preserved through wisdom. Grant this, God, for thy Son's sake, Jesus Christ, our spokesman and advocate; to whom, with thee and the Holy...

Winter savouries

01/10/2021

Winter stir-fry: • 2 or 3 potatoes, sliced and seasoned • 1 onion, chopped • ¼ white cabbage, sliced more or less finely • 3 sticks celery, sliced • 1 cup frozen peas • 4 tomatoes, quartered • oil • ½ tsp each cumin, turmeric, and ginger • ¼ tsp chilli powder • a few inner celery leaves to garnish Method Heat the oil gently in a large pan with a cover and add the turmeric. Toss in the potatoes and let them absorb the colour and flavour as they cook for about ten minutes. Set them on one side...

Heaven knows I'm Anglican now

01/10/2021

IN THE Gospel accounts, the miracles of Jesus are rarely questioned or doubted. Even when Lazarus is raised from the dead in John 11, the reports from those who were there are assumed to be true. In fact, they worry that this will make Jesus too popular. Read the Gospels carefully and you will see that the scepticism of Jesus's enemies comes from a logical standpoint, not a faith one. But it's not the logic that you would expect. It was widely believed that God did not answer the prayers of...

Book Review: From Widows to Warriors

01/10/2021

FROM WIDOWS TO WARRIORSWomen's stories from the Old Testament Lynn Japinga WJK £20 (£16) This is a survey of all the texts involving women characters in the Old Testament/ Hebrew Bible. It includes the named and the unnamed. The stories are both retold and re-evaluated in the light of modern Christian concerns. Much of what Japinga writes about biblical women is well-known within the scholarly community, and this emphasis on drawing out what has been previously ignored reminds me of the early...

Book Review: The Rule of St Benedict

01/10/2021

THE RULE OF ST BENEDICT An inclusive translation Judith Sutera OSB Canterbury Press £12.99 (£10.39) Anglicanism owes much to the Rule of St Benedict, with its tradition of the daily Office, the prayerful reading of scripture, leadership and decision-making, and the building of community. The Rule has much that can still in­spire and teach us all today about the need to listen to God and one another, to grow in humility, and to embrace silence. It was, however, written in Latin, in the sixth...

The Spacious Firmament on high

01/10/2021

The Spacious Firmament on high, With all the blue Ethereal Sky,And spangled Heav'ns, a Shining Frame, Their great Original proclaim: Th' unwearied Sun, from day to day, Does his Creator's Pow'r display, And publishes to every Land The Work of an Almighty Hand. Soon as the Evening Shades prevail, The Moon takes up the wondrous Tale, And nightly to the list'ning Earth Repeats the Story of her Birth: Whilst all the Stars that round her burn, And all the Planets, in their turn, Confirm the Tidings...

Wordsearch: October 2021

01/10/2021

DISAPPOINT THEOLOGY MIRACLES GLASS DIVINE PENANCE CELERY ESCAPE JUDE FAITH DOG Can you find the words listed in the grid? They may be written in any direction. The sender of the first correct solution to be opened after the end of the month will receive a £10 book token. Send your entries to: October Wordsearch, The Sign, 3rd Floor, Invicta House, 108–114 Golden Lane, London EC1Y 0TG. The winner of the August Wordsearch was Carol Hunter.

I loved the badges

01/09/2021

I read something recently which dredged up a memory from childhood; sadly, childhood is a rather distant memory and so I imagine that only a few readers will recall this with me! Back in the the 1950s and 1960s, a regular feature of the autumn, from late September until the end of October, was rose hip collecting. However, this was not just a rather quirky hobby. Rural schools took part in a scheme whereby children would collect rosehips from the hedgerows, take them to school and then once a...

Worship: a meditation

01/09/2021

This is an extract from an article for The Sign written in 1949 by Michael Ramsey, who was to go to become Archbishop of Canterbury Our worship has its root in the truth that God is our Maker. It is there that we must begin if we are to realise the meaning of worship: “Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.” We belong to a created world which owes its existence to the will of God and depends upon him utterly. Without the world, God would be God: without God, the world would be nought. An old...

Finding Peace in Anxious Times

01/09/2021

We live in an age of high anxiety. So rapid are the changes of this modern era that we struggle to cope with both its pace and scope. In a globalized world we are exposed to more information than we can absorb and more distressing news than we can process. The means of human destruction now include nuclear, biological, and technological warfare. Increasingly violent natural disasters assail us, along with the prospect of cataclysmic climate change. For good measure, add in a pandemic, economic...

Faith in box and lime

01/09/2021

This year marks the 300th anniversary of the death of Grinling Gibbons. A noted master woodcarver, his name has re - cently become more than just a footnote in history, as some of his patrons were involved in the Royal Africa Company and the forcible removal of free Africans into slavery. One Cambridge college is still debating the removal of the monument designed for a former royal-household employee. The outcome of that process may determine how others feel about past commissions and the...

Sugar-free Halva

01/09/2021

Here's a recipe for Halva that uses no sugar. This recipe does not require candying honey to a “soft-ball” stage, which would give that distinctive crystalline texture of most kinds; it is easy to make and good for you. This recipe makes a comfortable-sized block with a chocolate topping (using coconut sugar, now easily available) of about 10cm x 17cm (4 in. x 7 in.). Ingredients 100g (4 oz) pitted dates 1 tablespoon tahini (sesame paste) 4 tablespoons ground sesame seeds 1 teaspoon real...

Be Generous with Yourself

01/09/2021

Kiwi writer Mike Riddell tells of how, on his conversion to Catholicism at fortytwo years old, he had to go for his first confession. He and the parish priest spoke together, but not in the familiar dusky booth—they talked in the living room of the priest's house. After telling the stories for which he sought absolution, Mike nervously awaited the priest's response. I don't know the exact words that came, but they went something like this: “Are you willing to follow the discipline of the...

Book Review: Queen Victoria

01/09/2021

QUEEN VICTORIA This thorny crownMichael Ledger-Lomas OUP £30 (£27) As a bishop, I perhaps ought to confess that Queen Victoria had a prejudice against the episcopal order. When members of Convocation came to wish her well on the occasion of the Diamond Jubilee, she described them as a “very ugly party” and frankly avowed “I do not like bishops!” Victoria was, however, alive to the connection between her authority and the vitality of the established faith. Reading her journal, however, it be...

The Pulley

01/09/2021

When God at first made man, Having a glass of blessings standing by, “Let us,” said he, “pour on him all we can. Let the world's riches, which dispersèd lie, Contract into a span.” So strength first made a way; Then beauty flowed, then wisdom, honour, pleasure. When almost all was out, God made a stay, Perceiving that, alone of all his treasure, Rest in the bottom lay. “For if I should,” said he, “Bestow this jewel also on my creature, He would adore my gifts instead of me, And rest in...

Wordsearch: September 2021

01/09/2021

TRAPEZE CARVING HALVA PULLEY VICTORIA WORSHIP ANGELS GRINLING TRINITY MATTHEW MICHAEL Can you find the words listed in the grid? They may be written in any direction. What is the common theme that unites these words? The sender of the first correct solution to be opened after the end of the month will receive a £10 book token. Send your entries to: September Wordsearch, The Sign, 3rd Floor, Invicta House, 108–114 Golden Lane, London EC1Y 0TG. The closing date for submissions is...

Searching for the shade

01/08/2021

As I write, summer has arrived with a wallop. Forgive me, dear reader, if it is lashing with rain where you are right now; here, my skies are an almost cloudless blue. The sun reigns uncontested in the sky. As an artist, I appreciate the value of light and shade; one without the other results in lack of depth. Shade is a veiling of light – a softening, so that the light we experience is not the full, relentless glare of the burning sun. As the earth turns on its daily cycle and the sun appears...

Though I stumble in my going

01/08/2021

As the rain hides the stars, as the autumn mist hides the hills, as the clouds veil the blue of the sky, so the dark happenings of my lot hide the shining of thy face from me. Yet, if I may hold thy hand in the darkness, it is enough, since I know, that though I may stumble in my going, Thou dost not fall.Amen Traditional Scottish prayer

A gift of bread

01/08/2021

What can we learn from Jesus and the early Christians about living as a community? What a challenging question - but perhaps together we can begin to answer it. To start the conversation, I believe the kind of community we are talking about is inclusive, attractive, alternative, sometimes controversial, travels light, is committed to the common good, is generous, hospitable. Community is often found where food is shared. Right now, I'm sitting at the kitchen table of fellow members of the...

Planning a walk or a mini-pilgrimage?

01/08/2021

All over the world, through the centuries, people have gone on pilgrimage to holy places, for all sorts of reasons. A pilgrimage is about walking in someone else's footsteps, making someone else's story your own, asking about the significance of a place in God's eyes, becoming aware. It is often a journey made in the company of others, sharing memories and observations, a serious enterprise, and also fun. You don't have to go to Mecca, or Jerusalem, or Canterbury. Our own localities have...

Earthquake

01/08/2021

Elegiac days. I have been given an ashplant walking stick that John Masefield cut from a hedge on the Western Front. He was a medical orderly. I lean on it in the peaceful August garden. The poplars sing in hushed voices. It has gained a polish where hands have held it, and a ferrule. I try it out on the long walk, and it sends up summer dust. 'Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you,' Jesus said. Excellent advice. In church we remember 4 August 1914, first silently, with...

Raspberry and white chocolate tiramisu

01/08/2021

For our first family reunion since lockdown, I made a raspberry and white chocolate tiramisu. Ingredients 250g (8 oz) raspberries 1 tablespoon sugar 2 tablespoons amaretto (optional) 3 eggs 90g (3 oz) caster sugar 2 × 250g tubs mascarpone 100g (4 oz) white chocolate Method 1. Warm the raspberries in a pan with a small glass of water until they start to break down. Remove from the heat, stir in the sugar and the amaretto. 2. Separate the eggs. Whisk together the yolks and sugar until light...

Book review: God is Not a White Man

01/08/2021

GOD IS NOT A WHITE MAN And other revelations Chine McDonald Hodder & Stoughton £16.99 (£15.29) After a year that has brought the publication of several works examining the current state of race relations in Britain, Chine McDonald's God is Not a White Man offers a compelling personal perspective. Its provocative title challenges its readers to examine whiteness by exploring the Black experience in a society in which privilege is based on skin colour. As a former journalist, McDonald...

Book Review: Women of the Catacombs

01/08/2021

WOMEN OF THE CATACOMBS Memoirs of the underground Orthodox Church in Stalin's Russia Wallace L. Daniel, editor and translator Cornell University Press £18.99 (£17.09) Soviet propaganda claimed that religion would fade away in its vaunted “brave new world” where Marxism-Leninism held sway. But it did not. Why this was so, why Christianity survived persecution in the Soviet Union, is to a great extent explained by the lives and religious faith of those presented to us in Women of the Catacombs...

Book Review: Learning to Pray

01/08/2021

LEARNING TO PRAY A guide for everyone James Martin Harper Collins £16.99 (£15.29) Learning to Pray offers a basic guide to what prayer is, how to set about it, and what it feels like. “I'll assume that you know next to nothing about prayer. That way I'll be able to include everyone, beginners through those with years of experience. But I will also assume that you can come up to speed quickly.” Martin starts by affirming how much implicit prayer we may have already experience of without...

The Ebb and Flow

01/08/2021

When first thou on me, Lord, wrought'st thy sweet print, My heart was made thy tinder box. My 'ffections were thy tinder in't: Where fell thy sparks by drops. Those holy sparks of heavenly fire that came Did ever catch and often out would flame. But now my heart is made thy censer trim, Full of thy golden altar's fire, To offer up sweet incense in Unto thyself entire: I find my tinder scarce thy sparks can feel That drop out from thy holy flint and steel. Hence doubts out bud for fear thy...

Wordsearch: Pasta

01/08/2021

FARFALLE FETTUCCINE FUSILLI ORZO PAPPARDELLE PENNE ROUTE TAGLIATELLE Can you find the words listed in the grid? They may be written in any direction. The sender of the first correct solution to be opened after the end of the month will receive a £10 book token. Send your entries to: August Wordsearch, The Sign, 3rd Floor, Invicta House, 108– 114 Golden Lane, London EC1Y 0TG. The closing date for submissions is 16th September

What a Story!

01/07/2021

This month's offering is a little different! Rather than a reflection, I want to tell you the story of a 'saint' alongside an anniversary which could well go unnoticed because it is so unusual. It is 50 years since the first woman priest was 'acknowledged' in the Anglican Communion; a strange way of putting it, but all will become clear. The anniversary is that of the Revd Florence Li Tim-Oi (1907-1992) who was recognised as a priest in Hong Kong in 1971.  Li was born in a fishing village...

Prayer for the Summertime

01/07/2021

Prayer for the Summertime Loving God, Creator of all times and places,we thank you for the gift of summertime,the days of light, warmth and leisure. Thank you for the beauty that surrounds us everywhere we look:the multi-coloured flowers,the deep blue of the sky,the tranquil surface of lakes,the laughter of children at play,people strolling in park,families gathered around picnic tables andthe increased time to spend with family and friends. As we open our eyes and ears to the landscape of...

The Day We Walked to Stoke-by-Nayland

01/07/2021

Michael and I sit at the kitchen table allocating harvest festivals in a lordly way. The three congregations will as ever be divided up between those who knew what it was like to bring in the harvest and those who have never clapped eyes on them – the real harvests, that is. The back-breaking, triumphant cutting and stacking of the corn, the brutal clubbing or shooting of the rabbits and hares as they fled from the ever decreasing shelter, the great annual accomplishment of beating the weather,...

The Bible cannot be silenced

01/07/2021

An interview with Sir David Suchet “John's Gospel has been with me most of lockdown,” Sir David Suchet says. “I don't make any apology for it.” On Easter Day, a virtual audience around the world watched him read the whole of it in the Jerusalem Chamber in Westminster Abbey. The recording has since been viewed more than 74,000 times. He has engaged with scripture in detail over the years, recording the entire Bible for Hodder & Stoughton's NIV Audio Bible — which necessitated many hours of...

Recipe: Wilfra Tarts

01/07/2021

Food writier Jacqueline Bellefontaine has written about Ripon's Wilfra cakes for the city's Wilfra Week at the beginning of August. The festival began in 1108 for the return of St Wilfrid's relics to the city, and the granting of a royal charter for an annual fair. The cakes were baked and placed on doorsteps and win­dow ledges along the route of the procession of the saint's effigy from the Town Hall to the saint's own cathedral. I wonder whether the people of Ripon will be able to celebrate...

Book Review: Inmates

01/07/2021

InmatesSean BorodaleCape £10 (£9) Sean Borodale pays microscopic attention to insects in Inmates. His poems are fragmentary, bordering on the abstract. His concentrated writing reflects close observations from a miniature world in which the human is peripheral. He sets out his writer's role in Tick Hatchery: “To examine, / to more closely microscope the waiting”. This immediately introduces an example of such waiting: “incubating light refracted over clusters / of eggs unhatched, still.” From...

Book Review: Art and Faith

01/07/2021

Art and FaithA theology of makingMakoto FujimuraYale £20 (18) Born in Boston, Massachusetts, the American artist Makoto Fujimura spent his childhood in Japan before returning to the United States as a teenager. In this book of reflective theology, Fujimura, who returned to Tokyo to study the ancient Japanese method of painting, looks both east and west. The method of painting which he learned there (nihonga) is one in which the materials (often rare and valuable) are more highly prized than...

Book Review: Superstition

01/07/2021

SuperstitionA very short introductionStuart VyseOUP £8.99 (£8.10) Although Stevie Wonder's 1972 music hit “Superstition” goes unquoted in the work reviewed here, the spirit of the two coheres very closely. Professor Vyse, a behavioural psychologist, flags the dangers presented by fretting too much over black cats and “ladders 'bout to fall”, while offering much else besides. Vyse reminds us that, like beauty, superstition is in the eye of the beholder. It is always a comparative designation,...

Poetry: Psalm 1: I Beatus vir qui non abiit

01/07/2021

Psalm 1: I Beatus vir qui non abiit Come to the place where every breath is praise,And God is breathing through each passing breeze.Be planted by the waterside and raiseYour arms with Christ beneath these rooted trees,Who lift their breathing leaves up to the skies.Be rooted too, as still and strong as these,Open alike to sun and rain. AriseFrom meditation by these waters. BearThe fruit of that deep rootedness. Be wiseIn the trees' long wisdom. Learn to shareThe secret of their patience. Pass...

Wordsearch: Bread

01/07/2021

BRIOCHE  CHALLAH  CIABATTA  MUFFIN  NAAN PITTA  PUMPERNICKLE  SODA Can you find the words listed in the grid? They may be written in any direction

Thieves

01/06/2021

Do not be anxious about any­­thing, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanks­giving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV) Comparison is indeed a thief of joy, but it's not the only thief out there. For some of us, anxiety has always been a threat. We get tangled in its tendrils. What we repeat gets reinforced and becomes a default setting. We...

Prayer: Jesus of the Table

01/06/2021

Jesus of the Table Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house; and there was a large crowd of tax collectors and others sitting at the table with them.Luke 5.29 Jesus of the table,You gathered unexpected people aroundhearths of hospitality.You stretched out your handfor grapes and bread, for wine and welcome.May we populate our tableswith all kinds of people.Because at the tableour hearts can be gladfor a while.Amen. From Daily Prayer with the Corrymeela Community by Pádraig Ó Tuama...

Can I ask you something?

01/06/2021

From the book of Genesis onward, God talks with rather than at his creation. And while God's spoken work reveals his ultimate authority and control (“Let there be...”), surprisingly often, it is also about his willingness to give up control (“Let the earth bring forth...”). God lets us name the animals. And when we sinned, this all-knowing all-seeing God did not simply make our embarrassment worse by revealing us, but rather spoke, asking (asking!) “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9) In pagan...

Remembering Evelyn Underhill

01/06/2021

Summer rain – the first summer rain. It drenches the small Suffolk market-town and polishes it up. The dentist talks of the Algarve. His drill hisses painlessly. What a blessing he has been to me. I would tell him so if his fingers were not in my mouth. The Algarve – has he read my favourite book about Portugal, Rose Macaulay's Fabled Shore? Did he know that the newly-wed Gainsboroughs lived just opposite his surgery, Tom beginning to make a living from painting the squires? I wander on but the...

Recipe: Summer Pudding

01/06/2021

Summer PuddingSummer fruits seem to be abun­d­ant. Get some strawberries, black­currants, rasp­berries, blueberries, even cherries, and make a Summer pudding. This does need making in advance; Crème de cassis is op­­tional. Ingredients900g (2 lb) red berry fruits150ml (¼ pt) water150g (5 oz) sugar1-2 tablespoons Crème de cassis (optional)8 slices white bread or brioche loafhandful of mint leaves Method1 Wash the fruit, hulling if required, and place in a saucepan with the water and sugar. 2...

Book Review: David's Crown

01/06/2021

David's Crown Sounding the PsalmsMalcolm GuiteCanterbury Press £12.99 (£11.69) There is so much to admire in this book: the introductions, the conceit of the project itself, and its execution. Malcolm Guite, among other things, is the Church Times poet-in-residence and with this collection he has set himself a noble task that he accomplishes with aplomb. Guite's verse, mainly in simple language, follows the wide range of issues covered in the original. It is personal, universal, specific, and...

Book Review: The Parables

01/06/2021

The ParablesPaula GooderCanterbury Press £16.99 (£15.29) Of all recent books on the parables, this un­­pretentious volume is the best. The author seems to have read everything, but every piece of knowledge produced con­­tributes to the under­­standing of the message of Jesus and the Evangelists. It is all simply explained in a way that shows the author's respectful love both for her readers and for all the characters who appear in her narrative. We meet all the characters on friendly terms...

Book Review: Dear England

01/06/2021

Dear EnglandFinding hope, taking heart and changing the worldStephen CottrellHodder & Stoughton £12.99 (£11.69) England is a conundrum for Anglicans. As the Archbishop of York acknowledges in this winsome, accessible book, English Anglicans are generally more at home with Britain, Europe, or the wider world than with their Church's trouble­­some surname. And yet, like others in this divided kingdom, we must discover how to love England again and find forms of identity or allegiance which...

Poetry: A Red, Red Rose

01/06/2021

A Red, Red Rose O my Luve is like a red, red rose That's newly sprung in June;O my Luve is like the melody That's sweetly played in tune. So fair art thou, my bonnie lass, So deep in luve am I;And I will luve thee still, my dear, Till a' the seas gang dry. Till a' the seas gang dry, my dear, And the rocks melt wi' the sun;I will love thee still, my dear, While the sands o' life shall run. And fare thee weel, my only luve! And fare thee weel awhile!And I will come again, my luve, Though it...

Wordsearch: Flowers

01/06/2021

BLUEBELL CARNATION CORNFLOWER DAFFODIL IRIS LILY POPPY ROSE TULIP Can you find the words listed in the grid? They may be written in any direction. What is the common theme that unites these words?

Behind those masks!

01/05/2021

I want to begin by telling you about something that happened yesterday at church – by the way, I am writing this on Monday March 8th. We are still having services each Sunday but they are live streamed and so in theory the only folk attending are those without the facility to watch on-line. It was the organist's birthday – a significant one at that – and at the end of the service, in came a member of the choir with her 16-month-old son, who handed over a gift and hand made card. Add to...

Vigil Prayer

01/05/2021

Vigil Prayer Like nuns and monks at prayer, we can listen in the stillness ofthe night to hear God's call. O my strength, I will watch for you; for you,O God, are my stronghold. Psalm 59:9 Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, orwatch, or weep this night, and give your angelscharge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, LordChrist; give rest to the weary, bless the dying,soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield thejoyous; and all for your love's sake. Amen. Be present with me,...

The wisdom of the garden

01/05/2021

Angela Harper guides us through the seasons in a reflection on coping with long-term difficulties There are many spiritual seasons in our lives. Through them all, we may carry heavy situations that we've prayed about, but can't find our way through. Our prayers might not be answered in the way we desire, but we walk through our lives with God the creative gardener. There's the hope of spring – the lighter days, a fresh breeze and gentle sun on our faces. We welcome new shoots, and spend time...

Discover your thankfulness

01/05/2021

A blur of dark blue, white and a splash of red. A pair of swallows swoop low over the Aune estuary, flying through the wooden posts that mark the route of the road when it's covered at high tide, diving for insects low over the water. Their undulating flight is one of the quiet summer wonders of this part of the natural world. Following the movement through binoculars is almost impossible. Better just to see with the naked eye, to marvel, and to laugh along with the joyful nature of their...

Recipe: Honey and Lavender Blancmange

01/05/2021

An excess of milk led me to create Honey and Lavender Blancmange (if you have no lavender, then orange zest or whisky are also good). Think of this with a rhubarb compote. Ingredients 1.5 pts (850ml) fresh milk2 teaspoons dried lavender3 tablespoons (45g) cornflour2 tablespoons (30ml) honey2 oz (60g) unsalted butter1 teaspoon vanilla essence Method1 Place the milk and lavender in a pan. Slowly bring it to the “scald” point (not boil) and set aside to infuse for 30 minutes, then strain. 2 Mix a...

Book Review: Candles in the Dark

01/05/2021

Candles in the Dark Faith, hope and love in a time of pandemicRowan WilliamsSPCK £9.99 As soon as the first lockdown started, I was dreading the moment when the usual suspects would go into print with an attempt at a “theology of Covid”. And then along came Rowan Williams. Last September, the former Archbishop of Canterbury assisted at St Clement's Church. Candles in the Dark is the result. Each week from April to September 2020, the author was invited to contribute a short reflection, and...

Book Review: Light Perpetual

01/05/2021

Light PerpetualFrancis SpuffordFaber & Faber £16.99 This is such an intoxicating piece of writing that I had to take it in small doses until I got two-thirds of the way through, when I gave up and raced to the end — and then pondered the end, again and again. It is a novel, a story of London, and a set of human stories. The interwoven stories are of five south-London children, Jo, Valerie, Alec, Vernon, and Ben. They were among those who were pulverised in a V2 rocket attack in November...

Book Review: Everything is Spiritual

01/05/2021

Everything is Spiritual A brief guide to who we are and what we're doing hereRob BellHodder & Stoughton £14.99 Few people can make spirituality as exciting, engaging, and challenging as Rob Bell. Whether speaking to large crowds, teaching on his popular RobCast podcasts, or writing books that take the reader on journeys of discovery, Bell communicates with insight, passion, and empathy. His latest book, Everything is Spiritual, is a breathless exploration over more than 300 pages of...

Poetry: Easter

01/05/2021

Easter Most glorious Lord of Lyfe! that, on this day,Didst make Thy triumph over death and sin;And, having harrowd hell, didst bring awayCaptivity thence captive, us to win:This joyous day, deare Lord, with joy begin;And grant that we, for whom thou diddest dye,Being with Thy deare blood clene washt from sin,May live for ever in felicity! And that Thy love we weighing worthily,May likewise love Thee for the same againe;And for Thy sake, that all lyke deare didst buy,With love may one another...

Wordsearch: British Islands

01/05/2021

ALDERNEY ARRAN BROWNSEA IONA JERSEY LUNDY MAN MULL SKYE TRESCO WIGHT Can you find the words listed in the grid? They may be written in any direction. What is the common theme that unites these words?

Outside the lines

01/04/2021

It can't be done. These are words we often hear, both from the world around us and inside our heads. I can't. It is just… impossible. Some things are hard to compute. There are too many lines drawn inside our minds, too many hurdles between A and B. Sometimes we see no way through at all. It can't be done. As we celebrate Easter, we come face to face with impossible things. It can't be done. Nonetheless, it turns out that God colours outside the lines. The way through is the most audacious one...

Prayer: Promoting thy glory

01/04/2021

Promoting thy glory Almighty God, the giver of all good things,without whose help all labour is ineffectual,and without whose grace all wisdom is folly:grant, I beseech Thee, that in this my undertaking,thy Holy Spirit may not be withheld from me,but that I may promote Thy glory,and the salvation both of myself and others.Grant this, O Lord, for the sake of Jesus Christ.Amen. Lord bless me. So be it. Samuel Johnson (1709–84) In this prayer by Dr Johnson, who could better the way in which the...

Mark's Parable

01/04/2021

And the rain it raineth every day. The white cat is writing to the RSPCA to complain about my cruelty at allowing this to happen. To have to be dried out on a radiator every morning. It is intolerable. But the horses are animated by the mighty showers, and careen over the hill, their happy sloping bodies showering the grass. Sepia skies are streaked with gold. Things are coming up in the beds with all their might. One might be in Wales. On Sunday, I preached on St Mark, a fast favourite. What...

More than just a language class

01/04/2021

“You become a TEFL teacher when your life has gone wrong.”– Alain de Botton, Philosopher As someone who disagrees with Mr de Botton wholeheartedly, let me reveal a few things about the profession, in order that you may (respectfully) disagree with him too. It doesn't always involve jet-setting to lands afar. I have only ever taught ESOL in an FE college in the South West of England. It's not exotic. I do not have a tan. It's not limited to evening classes. Contrary to common assumption, my...

A very hasty Chocolate Cake

01/04/2021

As I was packing for self-isolation last week, I wanted to make a birthday cake for someone. No shopping possible. Here is my recipe for a hasty chocolate cake without eggs or butter, with milk made up from dried milk powder: Ingredients235g plain flour200g sugar (I use coconut sugar)50g cocoa1 teaspoon baking powder1½ teaspoons salt225g/8 fl. oz milk115g vegetable oil1½ teaspoons vanilla Method1 Set the oven to Gas 5/190ºC/375ºF. 2 Line an 8-inch tin with baking parchment. 3 Beat everything...

Book Review: Zen Wisdom for Christians

01/04/2021

Zen Wisdom for ChristiansChristopher CollingwoodJKP £13.99 (£12.59) In this beautifully written book, Christopher Collingwood, a Christian priest who has also received “Dharma transmission”, gently introduces the Christian reader to Zen practice. Collingwood is a Christian priest as well as a Zen teacher. He recognises the parallels between Zen practice and contemplative prayer. He also looks at some passages of the New Testament from a Zen perspective. For example, the Prodigal Son's return...

Book Review: British Gods

01/04/2021

British GodsReligion in modern BritainSteve BruceOUP £25 (£22.50) This is a fun, fascinating book, highly recommended for non-academic readers who want a detailed, but accessible, overview of an eminent scholar's narrative of Christianity's decline during the past 200 years or so. The greatest strength of this book is its location in historical and cultural contexts, giving readers a fascinating glimpse into lives, beliefs, and practices long lost. For example, Bruce describes the important...

Book Review: The Future of Brexit Britain

01/04/2021

The Future of Brexit Britain:Anglican reflections on national identity and European solidarityJonathan Chaplin and Andrew Bradstock, eds.SPCK £12.99 (£11.69) Optimists beware: with 19 essays, six responses, a foreword, and the editors' introduction and conclusion, most readers will find their own views reflected somewhere, while other essays will arouse their irritation, even fury. The uncomfortable read that the editors promise, however, comes not so much from meeting views that you disagree...

Poetry: Easter Wings

01/04/2021

Easter Wings Lord, who createdst man in wealth and store, Though foolishly he lost the same,Decaying more and more,Till he became Most poore: With theeO let me riseAs larks, harmoniously,And sing this day thy victories:Then shall the fall further the flight in me. My tender age in sorrow did beginneAnd still with sicknesses and shame. Thou didst so punish sinne,That I became Most thinne. With theeLet me combine,And feel thy victorie:For, if I imp my wing on thine,Affliction shall advance the...

Wordsearch: Chickens

01/04/2021

BANTAM CAMPINE COCHIN FAYOUMI LAKENVELDERLEGBAR LEGHORN PLYMOUTH SILKIE SUSSEX Can you find the words listed in the grid? They may be written in any direction. What is the theme that unites these words?

Halcyon Days

16/03/2021

The dictionary definition of the word 'halcyon' refers to an ancient legend that the bird of that name, usually identified with a species of kingfisher, was able to charm the wind and waves at the time of the winter solstice so that the sea was calm enough for her nest to float on the water; hence the use of the word to mean 'calm', as in 'halcyon days'. (Most kingfishers actually nest in holes in river banks.) If the author of the story of Job had written about the kingfisher (see Job 38), he...

140 Years and still counting!

01/03/2021

On my bookshelves I have a collection of bound copies of the village church magazine and as I write this, I am looking at the 1881 album, open at the March edition. One hundred and forty years ago! The collection of the twelve issues is bound in a beautiful blue and gold cover with the title Home Words for Heart and Hearth. Part of my reason for writing about this is that Home Words merged with The Sign in 2009 and so we have a link stretching back all those years and more. The church was built...

A prayer of shelter and shadow

01/03/2021

A prayer of shelter and shadowAr scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine. ~ It is in the shelter of each other that the people live.~ It is in the shadow of each other that the people live.We know that sometimes we are alone,and sometimes we are in community.Sometimes we are in shadow,and sometimes we are surrounded by shelter.Sometimes we feel like exiles −in our land, in our languages and in our bodies.And sometimes we feel surrounded by welcome.As we seek to be human together,may we share the...

Where is Home?

01/03/2021

I've arrived a little late and the room is already heaving. I'm going to do better with the small talk on a full stomach, so I make a beeline for the buffet. Standing there balancing my plate, glass and napkin I'm about to look for somewhere to settle when I'm nobbled by an elderly chap I've not met before. “Where's home for you then?” is his opener. It is a common enough question in this type of setting, and not his fault he has inadvertently stepped on my rawest nerve. I have no idea where...

At St Edmundsbury

01/03/2021

Notions of heaven play around in our heads as half a mile of choir and clergy come in singing, 'We love the place, O God, wherein thine honour dwells'. What an afternoon, and everybody able to tell their grandchildren how they found a parking place in Bury on a Sunday. Geoffrey, Deidre and I are to be installed as canons in the ancient pilgrim church of St James, now the cathedral. Here come our Bishops, Ipswich and St Edmundsbury, Thetford and Dunwich, here comes the tall Dean, here come all...

Recipe: Tuna-stuffed Tomatoes

01/03/2021

Lent rightly feels like a time for plainer food and simpler cooking. It is, after all, intended to be a season of fasting before we erupt into the joyful feasting of Eastertide. A visit to the Spanish coast north of Barcelona reminded me how delicious tuna can be. For these Tuna-stuffed Tomatoes, use strongly flavoured onions, such as red or shal­lots, and get the best tuna you can. It makes for a good starter, or a simple supper with crusty bread and a green salad. Ingredients300g (10 oz)...

Book Review: Ploughshares and First Fruits

01/03/2021

Ploughshares and First Fruits A year of festivals for the rural church Chris ThorpeCanterbury Press, £16.99 (£15.30) Thorpe starts with Plough Sunday (the first after the Twelfth Day) and makes use of the hymn “O Christ who holds the open gate”, extracted from Masefield's once popular long poem The Everlasting Mercy. He suggests special services for other festivals with rural traditions — such as Rogation, Lammas, and Harvest; but also offers ideas for Candlemas (lantern festival), Mothering...

Book Review: Three Vicars Talking

01/03/2021

Three Vicars TalkingRichard Coles, Kate Bottley and Giles FraserSPCK £12.99 (£11.70) The book Three Vicars Talking is a meditation on priesthood. Based on transcripts of the Radio 4 series, the meaning of death, marriage, birth, Christmas, and Easter is refracted through the clerical lenses of Richard Coles, Kate Bottley, and Giles Fraser. Anecdotes are enjoyably cranked up to 11, and come in rapid fire about baptism by Super Soaker, why Newsnight viewers forswear funeral selfies, and the...

Book Review: The Godless Gospel

01/03/2021

The Godless GospelWas Jesus a great moral teacher?Julian BagginiGranta £16.99 (£15.30) Surprisingly, the answer to the question raised in the subtitle of this fascinating book is “Yes”. This is surprising because the journalist and philosopher Julian Baggini is a vocal advocate of secular humanism. I feared that this might be another rant from the New Atheists. But it is not. It is a nicely written and mostly affectionate account of Jesus's moral teaching gleaned from the Gospels, shorn,...

Poetry: That Music Always Round Me

01/03/2021

That Music Always Round Me That music always round me, unceasing, unbeginning, yet long untaught I did not hear,But now the chorus I hear and am elated,A tenor, strong, ascending with power and health, with glad notes of daybreak I hear,A soprano at intervals sailing buoyantly over the tops of immense waves,A transparent base shuddering lusciously under and through the universe,The triumphant tutti, the funeral wailings with sweet flutes and violins, all these I fill myself with,I hear not the...

Wordsearch: Rivers

01/03/2021

AMAZON  DANUBE  GANGES  MEKONG  MISSISSIPPI  NILE  SEINE  THAMES  YANGTZE Can you find the words listed in the grid? They may be written in any direction.

The view from underground

01/02/2021

It's always hard to picture a new season while you are stuck inside another. Especially if your current situation has felt like one long slog, one miserable moment after moment. To imagine a different future can be a challenge, but most stories revolve around this theme – looking forward to an ending that overturns the challenge faced by the characters, of life triumphing over death, of something 'other' than where we are now. This too shall pass – it is often said. Sometimes this is...

Prayer for Wisdom

01/02/2021

Prayer for Wisdom We can all please God. We must only choose well. Many go abroad to study, pursuing knowledge far from home, but the kingdom of God is always here and now, wherever you are, within you. Precisely because the kingdom is within, and God is our friend, our salvation only requires that we be willing. Athanasius of Alexandria In what ways are we willing to accept the wisdom of God's guidance today? God of heaven and earth, your wisdom stretchesaround the world, ordering all...

A Journey into Lent

01/02/2021

Nearly everyone tries at some time or other a new diet programme, a self-help book, or a new form of therapy that seems to guarantee success. The market for such products has been flourishing since the 1950s. It may have started with Charles Atlas, but in the last twenty years there has been a huge proliferation of self-help books and makeover programmes. Even the Church has jumped on the bandwagon, with a plethora of programmes promising quick results from easy-to-follow formulae. The promise...

The Word and The Worm

01/02/2021

he Shrove Tuesday sun spun up between the ash tree and Duncan's generator, as bright as a button. It gilded my tea mug, and glorified the white cat who, as usual, was glaring through the window at the blackbirds. The window contains an ancient IHS stained-glass medallion that Ian found in Framlingham. It is fixed to the pane with Uno glue. The morning sun, being as bright as it can be, burns through it. Henry, the Vicar, will be walking to our minute school – 13 pupils – to toss...

Recipe: Ratatouille

01/02/2021

Ratatouille vegetables can be made into a satisfying supper dish with a tin of chickpeas, Harissa spices, and some good bread.  Method1 large onion, chopped2 cloves garlic, crushed2 carrots, sliced1 aubergine, cubed2 peppers, chopped1 courgette, diced400g tin chickpeas, rinsed and drained400g passata or tinned tomatoesolive oilHarissa pastefresh basil, parsley, or coriander leaves 1 Fry the vegetables gently in a gener­ous slug of olive oil, in the given order, leaving the courgette on one...

Book Review: Russian Roulette

01/02/2021

Russian RouletteThe life and times of Graham GreeneRichard GreeneLittle, Brown £25 To describe this biography of Graham Greene as straightforward may indicate a certain dullness, given what is known of its subject's extraordinary life. Far from it. The life itself ensures the contrary, which makes this work compulsive reading. One of the strengths of this biography is the author's ability to sum up succinctly the political situation in the hotspots that Greene sought out, excitement and risk...

Book Review: Sylvia Pankhurst

01/02/2021

Sylvia PankhurstNatural Born RebelRachel HolmesBloomsbury £35 Holmes has written a vivid and compelling account of a compelling woman, Sylvia Pankhurt: she had great intelligence; gifts as an orator, artist, and writer; and was fiercely brave. She was the suffragette who was most frequently tortured with force-feeding during her numerous prison hunger strikes. Her jailings followed arrests after outlawed demonstrations and vandalism, but she drew the line at her sister Christabel's demand that...

Book Review: Jack

01/02/2021

JackMarilynne RobinsonVirago £18.99 The millions of admirers of Marilynne Robinson's novels will be both delighted and surprised by the appearance of a new one. We had supposed that Gilead, Home, and Lila formed a trilogy. But this new one makes it a quartet. We learned about Jack in Home. Brought up in a loving, thoroughly decent home, from an early age he had been difficult. He stole and lied and seemed to have a propensity to damage anything good. He knew this about himself and hated it,...

Wordsearch: Birds 2

01/02/2021

CHAFFINCH COOT CORMORANT DOVE GOSHAWKGUILLEMOT PLOVER SWAN WAXWING Can you find the words listed in the grid? They may be written in any direction.

Poetry: Prayer/Walk

01/02/2021

Prayer/Walk A hidden path that starts at a dead end,Old ways, renewed by walking with a friend,And crossing places taken hand in hand,The passages where nothing need be said,With bruised and scented sweetness underfootAnd unexpected birdsong overhead,The sleeping life beneath a dark-mouthed burrow,The rooted secrets rustling in a hedgerow,The land's long memory in ridge and furrow,A track once beaten and now overgrownWith complex textures, every kind of green,Land- and cloud-scape melting into...

What's in a name?

01/01/2021

An aspect of church life that I know many of us have missed over the last nine months is being able to sing as part of our worship. It is a very communal activity and indeed a very physical thing. You will have your favourite hymns – some perhaps very traditional, others more modern or even a contemporary so called “Praise Song”. I have favourites from all genres. The words of our hymns are much loved and, in some cases, very familiar, but very often, what people recall first is the tune. No...

Prayer: Epiphany

01/01/2021

Epiphany is a Greek word meaning “manifestation, showing forth, revelation.” This feast proclaims our faith that in Jesus, God is revealed to all people — not just to an inner circle or a chosen few, but to all people, in all places, and throughout all time. Christians believe that in the person of Jesus we see who God is, and in the words and actions of Jesus we see God at work in the world. Epiphany marks a series of occasions at which Jesus was revealed to be God's Son Jesus, you are the...

Children of the Epiphany

01/01/2021

Possibly the frozen fields put me in mind of him, but I find myself immersed in Chekhov's short stories, a paperback that the bookseller found for me in his storeroom. He apologized that it should be such a flimsy edition. But it is perfect. There is a painting of an onion-domed village church on the cover, below which two women chat in the snow. It is 1944, and millions were perishing on the Eastern Front. Should it happen to be the Epiphany, the Magi would have been forbidden entrance to the...

Remembering those who are in prison

01/01/2021

Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them” (Hebrews 13:3, NRSV). We may be quite good at remembering men and women whom we feel are victims of injustice. We pray, send letters and campaign when people have been wrongly held, silenced and made to suffer as courageous followers of Jesus Christ. It is right that we continue to remember them. But here's the challenge – when Jesus says (in Matthew 25), “I was in prison and you visited me”, he is identifying with...

Recipe: 'Leftover Vegetable' Soup

01/01/2021

I am not sure whether this comes under the heading of “using up Christmas leftovers” or “Veganu­ary”, but, either way, a new soup never comes amiss. Ingredients1 large onion, diced2 large sticks of celery, sliced1-2 large cloves garlic, peeled and sliced1 tablespoon butter (if you are not vegan)1 tablespoon rapeseed oil (or 2 if you are not using butter)1 teaspoon mixed spice2 medium-sized parsnips, peeled and diced2 medium-sized cooking apples, peeled, cored, and sliced roughly1 cup of cooked...

Book Review: Through a Glass Darkly

01/01/2021

Through a Glass Darkly: Journeys through science, faith and doubt — a memoirAlister McGrathHodder & Stoughton £14.99 From teenage atheist to bestselling advocate for Christianity: Alister McGrath provides a very accessible and compelling account of “journeys through science, faith and doubt”. This is essentially an intellectual autobiography describing how “my ideas and my history interact and overlap.” Those who want to know where he holidays, what hobbies he might pursue, or which...

Book Review: After Prayer

01/01/2021

After Prayer: New sonnets and other poemsMalcolm GuiteCanterbury Press £10.99 Malcolm Guite's latest poetry collection, After Prayer, illustrates the difficulty of transposing the historical into the contemporary. Guite takes as his central text George Herbert's sonnet “Prayer”, published in 1633, and re-employs the 27 metaphors that Herbert listed for sonnets of his own. These follow the “trajectory” that Guite discerns in Herbert's poem to “tell something of my own story too”. This should...

Book Review: Hamlet's Choice

01/01/2021

Hamlet's Choice: Religion and resistance in Shakespeare's revenge tragediesPeter LakeYale £35 Religious breakdown, spiritual crises, conspiracies, and uncertainty about the nation's future: Hamlet's Choice illuminates afresh two of the most popular plays of Shakespeare's own time: the bloody revenge tragedy Titus Andronicus, and that peerless exploration of existential self-questioning, Hamlet. When asked to address a cast of actors, Peter Lake had to confess that he was more interested in...

Poetry: Ozymandias

01/01/2021

Ozymandias I met a traveller from an antique land,Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stoneStand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,Tell that its sculptor well those passions readWhich yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;And on the pedestal, these words appear:My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and...

Wordsearch: Lord of the Rings

01/01/2021

BARADDUR BREE DOLAMROTH EDORAS EREBOR HOBBITONISENGARD MINASTIRITH OSGILIATH It's a trickier start to the year to wake up the brain cells! Can you find the words listed in the grid? Do you also know what links these words together?

Brushstrokes of Joy

01/12/2020

It was often unexpected: the places his feet wandered, those whom he came to save, those he hung out with, those who got to witness the wonders up close. The shepherds were sitting there, idly watching the sheep, shuffling, exchanging the odd risqué joke, swearing at the weather (possibly? I wasn't there). Then mayhem erupted in the sky, her darkness broken by shining angels, singing about peace on earth. They were announcing the impact of incarnation. God made flesh. Immanuel, God with us....

Prayer: Blessed Joseph

01/12/2020

Blessed Joseph O blessed Joseph, happy among men,in that it was given unto thee not only to see and hearthe God whom many kings desired to see and saw not,to hear and heard not,but also to carry and embrace him, to clothe and protect him!O God, who hast given unto us a royal priesthood:vouchsafe, we pray thee,that as blessed Joseph was found worthy reverently to holdand carry in his arms thine only-begotten Son,born of the Virgin Mary,so thou wouldest make us in purity of heart and innocenceof...

Becoming Reverend

01/12/2020

Monday 6 DecemberEcclesiastes 3.1–2 articulates this day better than I could. It's midnight. We've been in a room at York Hospital all day waiting for the babies to be born. Anna is in agony, moving back and forth on top of a giant birth ball. It actually looks quite comical but I daren't tell her that. Aunty Lynne has finally succumbed to her cancer. She died at 4.30 a.m.: 'There is a time for everything … A time to be born, and a time to die.' Mum broke the news to me at 7 a.m. I briefly...

Making room at the inn

01/12/2020

Las Posadas, the Mexican tradition of reenacting Mary and Joseph's search for shelter The word posada means 'inn' or 'shelter' in Spanish. Posadas are an important Mexican Christmas tradition and feature prominently in the festivities. These community celebrations take place on each of the nine nights leading up to Christmas, from 16th – 24th December. In this tradition, the Bible story of Mary and Joseph's journey to Bethlehem and their search for a place to stay is reenacted. The tradition...

Recipe: Beery Apple Pie

01/12/2020

I'm intrigued to learn that in some places apple pies were “indispensable” at Christmas. I think the ritual of the pudding — the last-minute hunt for a sixpence (and the family row ensuing on the youngest person's discovery of it on his plate; the dash out to the garden for the forgotten sprig of holly; setting fire to the rum before it's poured over the pudding), and not forgetting the Stir-up Sunday rites and prayers — define the Christmas feast.  Ingredientsgood cooking apples, peeled,...

Poetry: The Oxen

01/12/2020

Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.“Now they are all on their knees,”An elder said as we sat in a flockBy the embers in hearthside ease. We pictured the meek mild creatures whereThey dwelt in their strawy pen,Nor did it occur to one of us thereTo doubt they were kneeling then.So fair a fancy few would weaveIn these years! Yet, I feel,If someone said on Christmas Eve,“Come; see the oxen kneel, “In the lonely barton by yonder coombOur childhood used to know,”I should go with him in the...

Book Review: Rewilding the Church

01/12/2020

Rewilding the ChurchSteve AisthorpeSaint Andrew Press £16.99 What an intriguing idea: to write a book about re-connecting with God and reinvigorating the Church using an extended metaphor drawn from environmental conservation! There are rather too many definitions of rewilding, but, in this context, something along the lines of the following will give you a sense of what is meant: “a progressive approach to conservation, letting nature take care of itself, enabling natural processes to shape...

Wordsearch December Christmas 2020

01/12/2020

ANGELS EARTH GLORY HARK HERALD KINGMERCY MILD NEWBORN PEACE SING Can you find the words listed in the grid? They may be written in any direction.

Book Review: Bread of Life in Broken Britain

01/12/2020

Bread of Life in Broken Britain: Food banks, faith and NeoliberalismCharles Roding PembertonSCM £19.99 For many of us, buying something extra for the foodbank that our church either supports or organises is a routine part of the weekly shop. It is an instinctive response to an obvious need, a way of loving a distant neighbour in contemporary Britain. This book by Charles Pemberton, a tutor at St Chad's College, Durham, is designed to make us think again about what it is that we are doing. The...

Book Review: Wrestling With My Thoughts

01/12/2020

Wrestling With My Thoughts:A doctor with severe mental illness discovers strengthSharon HastingsIVP £9.99 The number of books written by Christians about their experiences of mental illness continues to grow; this is a worthy addition. Sharon Hastings is a qualified doctor, but she has never been able to practise medicine because of her illness. This is a very personal book, written with honesty and without shying away from the expression of raw emotion. I found myself unable to read more...

Jesus was real!

01/11/2020

The last of my cousins died recently and since she had no children, I find myself custodian of a box full of family photographs, letters and other memorabilia. Of course, this is in addition to the even bigger box that I already have containing even more material from relatives long gone! But, despite the sadness of loss, these boxes are often full of delights and one of the fascinating finds in this latest box brings back childhood memories. I wonder how many rather more senior readers of...

Prayer: Praying for the Sick

01/11/2020

[People recognized Jesus], and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the market-places, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.Mark 6.55,56 How do you pray for those who are ill? In the Gospels people brought their friends to Jesus. Some of them once made a hole in the roof of a house where Jesus...

Becoming Reverend

01/11/2020

Saturday 27 NovemberAunty Lynne can't face any visitors except Ally and the girls so a few of us gathered at Mum's. We shared our feelings over copious amounts of tea and Rocky bars. It's frustrating not being able to do anything to help. Grandma went round to see Aunty Lynne briefly. She described her as frail and thin but alert. 'Lynne wanted me to stay and have a sandwich like I always do,' she said. Anna and I gathered in the nursery in the early hours. We couldn't sleep. We watched the...

Siegfried Sassoon

01/11/2020

With the clock going back, and All Souls' looming, I always sense a moody suspension of time. An hour is lost in order to gain an hour; the dead yet living briefly retake their vacated seats in the ancient church. It is unutterably sad, say what you will. Neither spooky nor made endurable by tomfoolery, but just sad. The commemoration of All Souls' came from Cluny, as did so many extraordinary things. I like to imagine that St Odilo, who invented it, noted that certain faces, often young,...

Oat Biscuits

01/11/2020

My grandmother used to tell us about a formidable examiner who failed her friend in her domestic-science certificate because she made square biscuits instead of round ones, but no one will fail you for offering them a home-made biscuit. They are quick to make and bake, and they don't have to rise or conform to any give texture, size, or shape. You can bake them in batches, because they need, on average, only about ten minutes in the oven, but it does speed things up to have a few large baking...

Poetry: The Soldier

01/11/2020

The Soldier If I should die, think only this of me: That there's some corner of a foreign fieldThat is for ever England. There shall be In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware, Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam;A body of England's, breathing English air, Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home. And think, this heart, all evil shed away, A pulse in the eternal mind, no less Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England...

Wordsearch: War Poets

01/11/2020

ROOKE DURRELL GRASS OWEN PRINCERILKE SASSOON SINCLAIR Can you find the words listed in the grid? They may be written in any direction.

Book Review: The Journey to the Mayflower

01/11/2020

The Journey to the Mayflower: God's outlaws and the invention of freedomStephen TomkinsHodder & Stoughton £20 Tomkins's vivid, fast-paced prose tells the story of the men and women who struggled against what they saw as the popish pollution still infecting the English Church. What they wanted was purity, but when this seemed impossible they began instead to demand freedom: the freedom to worship God correctly. The story is told with verve and panache, and Tomkins has an excellent eye for...

Book Review: Ghost Ship

01/11/2020

Ghost Ship: Institutional racism and the Church of EnglandA. D. A. France-WilliamsSCM Press £19.99 Writing Ghost Ship, A. D. A. France-Williams could not have predicted the deeply distressing killing in May of an African American, George Floyd, while in the custody of the Minneapolis police, let alone the subsequent global outpouring — from unprecedented numbers of white people, among others — of demands for the demise of racism. Ghost Ship is not angry, but unbelievably courageous and...

Book Review: Keeping Watch for Kingfishers

01/11/2020

Keeping Watch for Kingfishers: God's storiesJenny WilsonSacristy Press £12.99 The photographer who captured the kingfisher on the cover of this slim volume of sermons by Jenny Wilson, Canon Precentor of St Peter's Cathedral, Adelaide, hid for five days in pouring rain to get the shot as the bird darted to and fro in a determined display of love, hunting for prey to feed its young. This image not only inspires Wilson's sermon on prayer and the title of the book, Keeping Watch for Kingfishers,...

Prayer: Home at last

01/10/2020

Home at last When God takes us home from our exile,we shall wake from this nightmare and live again.Bars of iron will be shattered: we shall walk freefrom gulag and ghetto, from dungeon and tower.We shall sing and laugh for joy,echoed by birdsong and breeze of the spring. The land itself will rejoice in God,the whole world give praise for the wonders we have seen.Lead us home, renew our hope, bring us to life,like impossible rivers in the cursed and barren desert.We go on our way sadly, with...

Recovery Road

01/10/2020

People often talk about the 'road to recovery'. The phrase implies that recovery is the destination, the end point. However, as with so many things, reality is more subtle and more complex than the words we use to describe it. I prefer to use the phrase 'road of recovery' – or why not just call it 'Recovery Road'? Life can dissemble us, disenchant us, disillusion us. It can squash us, snap us, scar us in so many different ways. Recovery Road is a road we need to take often. Sometimes we only...

Becoming Reverend

01/10/2020

Wednesday 17 NovemberI knelt at the tomb of St Cuthbert in Durham Cathedral with Mum and Grandma to pray for Aunty Lynne. It was a holy moment. We each lit a candle for her. Later on Mum bought me a cheap shirt from Oxfam Boutique and the new Take That CD for herself. 'I want to support them,' she said. 'Support them? Mum, they're millionaire pop stars!' I said. 'But they're such nice lads, Matt.' Nutter. Friday 19 NovemberSleep is so fleeting. I keep imagining Anna screaming out that her...

Working to stop Hate Crime in the UK

01/10/2020

In July 1997, the McPherson Enquiry, commissioned to look into the death of Stephen Lawrence, published recommendations for the police and other authorities dealing with reports of crimes committed with a motivation of hostility towards a person's racial background. Since then, further identity characteristics have been added to reports that are monitored by the police, and currently the national strategy is to monitor incidents and crimes which are motivated by hostility towards race,...

Recipe: Pumpkin Peanut Curry

01/10/2020

Pumpkin Peanut Curry If you do have a handy pumpkin, here is a warming pumpkin peanut curry which is good with rice. Ingredients1 onion, chopped3 or 4 cloves of garlic, chopped2 tablespoons coconut oilcurry powder, to taste450g (1 lb) pumpkin, peeled and diced fairly small, 225g (8 oz) sweet potato, peeled and diced fairly small400g (1 can) coconut milk100g (4 oz) mushrooms, diced100g (4 oz) peanut butter1 tablespoon soy sauce1-2 handfuls pumpkin seeds, toastedfresh parsley or coriander leaves...

Book Review: The Well Gardened Mind

01/10/2020

The Well Gardened Mind: Rediscovering nature in the modern worldSue Stuart-SmithWilliam Collins £20 Months of confinement in a time of stress have been confirmation, if any were needed, of the restorative power of a garden. Sue Stuart-Smith uses her clinical knowledge and experience as a psychiatrist and psychotherapist to examine what it is that makes gardening so transformative, and why it is so crucial to mental health and the environment that we live in. It is one of those beautiful books...

Book Review: The Lost Lights of St Kilda

01/10/2020

The Lost Lights of St KildaElisabeth GiffordCorvus £14.99 This archipelago of St Kilda — the westernmost islands of the Outer Hebrides — lies about 100 miles west of mainland Scotland in the Atlantic Ocean. At the mercy of the wildest wind and weather imaginable, and entirely isolated for six months of the year, St Kilda was, none the less, home to a small and tightly knit group of islanders for the best part of two millennia. The loss of their young men in the First World War, together with...

Book Review: The Bell in the Lake

01/10/2020

The Bell in the LakeLars MyttingMaclehose Press £16.99 Lars Mytting made his name a few years ago by publishing a bestseller, Norwegian Wood, on how to fell trees and store logs. It was part of the worldwide eco-therapeutic library that was, and still is, increasing by the day. In it, he discerns “wood age” in retired men: the inordinately long periods of time that Norwegians can spend with their axe preparing for the coming winter. Mytting doesn't seem to have reached this point yet, as he is...

Poetry: I Am a Parcel of Vain Strivings Tied

01/10/2020

I Am a Parcel of Vain Strivings Tied I am a parcel of vain strivings tiedBy a chance bond together,Dangling this way and that, their linksWere made so loose and wide,Methinks,For milder weather. A bunch of violets without their roots,And sorrel intermixed,Encircled by a wisp of strawOnce coiled about their shoots,The lawBy which I'm fixed. A nosegay which Time clutched from outThose fair Elysian fields,With weeds and broken stems, in haste,Doth make the rabble routThat wasteThe day he...

Wordsearch: Autumn

01/10/2020

APPLES AUTUMN CHESTNUTS FALL GHOSTHARVEST LEAVES PIE PUMPKIN Can you find the words listed in the grid? They may be written in any direction.

Where words leave off, music begins.

01/09/2020

I am fairly sure that there are very few people for whom music does not play a significant part in their lives; it may be Rap or Rhythm and Blues or Rachmaninov – someone, somewhere will enjoy or even love it. For many people music forms a sort of the backdrop to the day whether it be BBC Radio 1 or Classic FM. But there are deeper significances. First, we are told that a recognition of music is deep within us, even to the extent that babies in the womb can be affected by it – there is an NHS...

Prayer: Lay me down

01/09/2020

Lay me down Lord, lay me down like a stone, and raise me up like fresh bread. Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace, Book XII, chapter 13 Good things come in small packets. These 14 words are the nightly prayer of Platon Karataev, a Russian peasant soldier in Tolstoy's War and Peace. In this novel with a cast of thousands, Karataev is the archetypal peasant. Pierre, his fellow prisoner of war, is overwhelmed by Karataev's simplicity, courage and ability to cope with hardship, danger and loss. Karataev...

Becoming Reverend

01/09/2020

Thursday 11 NovemberI'm inspired afresh to live fuller and deeper after reading this cracking extract from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar: Cowards die many times before their deaths; The valiant never taste of death but once. Of all the wonders that I have yet heard,It seems to me most strange that men should fear;Seeing that death, a necessary end,Will come when it will come. The promise of eternity with Christ should inform every part of my life now. So why am I so full of restlessness, fear...

How are you?

01/09/2020

“Humankind,” wrote T S Eliot in the first of his Four Quartets, “cannot bear very much reality”. No, we can't. There are many reasons why we pretend we are fine when we're not. Good reasons. The truth is complicated. I know I'm not fine but it is hard to say how I do feel. My confusion changes shape from moment to moment. It cannot be packaged. The truth is unpleasant. There may be nothing anyone can say or do. Describing the problem resolves nothing and may even reinforce my helplessness....

Recipe: Fruit Brûlée

01/09/2020

Fruit Brûlée September may be here but there are still many tasty summer fruits to be had, and they are delicious in a fruit brûlée. I use soft fruits here, but more autumnal flavours are also good (apples, plums, etc.). Stew any hard fruits gently in advance. Do the first part of this recipe a few hours before you need to serve. Ingredients2 punnets of strawberries1 punnet of raspberries8 kiwi fruits8 peaches/nectarines1 bunch green grapes (seedless)2 bananas200g (7 oz) ground almonds900ml...

Poetry: On Virtue

01/09/2020

On Virtue O thou bright jewel in my aim I striveTo comprehend thee. Thine own words declareWisdom is higher than a fool can reach.I cease to wonder, and no more attemptThine height t'explore, or fathom thy profound.But, O my soul, sink not into despair,Virtue is near thee, and with gentle handWould now embrace thee, hovers o'er thine head.Fain would the heaven-born soul with her converse,Then seek, then court her for her promised bliss. Auspicious queen, thine heavenly pinions spread,And lead...

Book Review: A Theory of Everything (that Matters)

01/09/2020

A Theory of Everything (that Matters):A short guide to Einstein, relativity and the future of faithAlister McGrathHodder & Stoughton £14.99 Distinguished in science as well as theology, Alister McGrath has done much to facilitate a sensible understanding of the relationship between the two. This book, written in his characteristically clear and accessible style, is a welcome addition to his writings. Everyone has heard of Einstein — he's a cult figure — though few have engaged with his...

Book Review: Sleeping Letters

01/09/2020

Sleeping LettersMarie-Elsa R. BraggChatto & Windus £12.99 Sleeping Letters defies conventional literary classification. It is — at one and the same time — prayer, contemplation, poetry, confession, and memoir. Marie-Elsa Bragg recalls the death by suicide of her mother when she, herself, was just six years old. Bragg is an Anglican priest, Ignatian spiritual director, and therapist, and — over the course of two silent, mountain retreats — found herself reflecting on the death of her...

Book Review: Giving Up Without Giving Up

01/09/2020

Giving Up Without Giving Up: Meditation and depressionsJim GreenBloomsbury £12.99 Depression, alongside other inner struggles, is endemic. Here is the figure that seems to capture the magnitude of it: roughly one in four individuals suffers in these ways. That is a psychological poverty of life far more widespread than material poverty in developed countries. And yet, for all that prominent figures talk about it and the stigma around it may have somewhat reduced, there are no signs of its...

Wordsearch: Pirates

01/09/2020

AVERY BELLAMY BLACKBEARD BONNY CRITCHETT DRAKEHORNIGOLD KIDD MOODY READ ROBERTS Can you find the link between these names? Can you find the words listed in the grid? They may be written in any direction.

Broken is beautiful

01/08/2020

In the world of antiques and collectables, a chip or a flaw is seriously detrimental to an item's value. People say such things as, “it's such a shame it's damaged.” Broken toys are discarded. A broken object is a useless object; our loyalties move on to an unblemished version. What good is a glass when it is smashed to smithereens? People can be treated as less valuable because of their flaws and their scars. A broken person can be seen as a difficult person. When employers are recruiting,...

Prayer for Creation

01/08/2020

Lord God, we praise you for those riches ofour creationthat we will never see:For stars whose light will never reach the earth;For species of living things that were born,that flourished and perishedbefore humankind appeared in the world;For patterns and colours in the flowers,which only insect eyes are able to see;For strange, high musicthat humans can never hear.Lord God, you see everything that you have madeand behold that it is very good. Amen By Anonymous

Becoming Reverend

01/08/2020

Monday 1 NovemberBeing on the verge of fatherhood is doing funny things to me. I'm plagued with vivid dreams. Last night I found myself in a town being invaded by grotesque pirates. It was chaos as people tried to get away from them. I was frantically looking for my two children – a girl and a boy. It may only have been a dream, but the sense of paternal love flowing through me when I found and held them was so intense. I woke up in tears. Is this what being a dad is like? For the first time...

Maggie's Funeral

01/08/2020

Maggie's funeral: the sun hot, the crowding cars burning. She was my most stately friend, tall, ancient, beautiful. She used to read for me when I took retreats. I read for her W. B. Yeats's 'The Wild Swans at Coole', and the poet's nine-and-fifty-swans, 'wheeling in great broken wings', bell-beat their way through the Perp aisles. Maggie herself had flown into Suffolk from New Zealand, but long ago. Afterwards, in her garden. White wine and gossip, her August flowers nodding. They were...

Recipe: Chocolate Fudge Cake

01/08/2020

Here is a quick and delicious chocolate cake to lift the spirits. The addition of yoghurt and vegetable oil instead of butter makes a rich cake, but one with a light and moist texture. The chocolate fudge icing which accompanies this treat is also the easiest, most economical, and delicious that I've yet discovered, and doesn't require much butter, icing sugar, or much sieving. Ingredients for the sponge:280g (10 oz) plain flour1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda2 tablespoons cocoa powder2 eggs400g...

Poetry: T h e w o r d b e c a m e s t r e t c h e d a n d c r e p t a m o n g u s

01/08/2020

It is the tense vocation of languageto contain and constrain meaning.Some words are better than others −'alas' sounds nothing like keening.Some words deepen another −to be troubled is to be found bereaving.It is the tense vocation of languageto contain and constrain meaning. Pádraig ó Tuama, from Sorry for Your Troubles (Canterbury Press).

Book Review: Trump and the Puritans

01/08/2020

Trump and the PuritansJames Roberts and Martyn WhittockBiteback Publishing £20 (£18) Donald Trump won the United States presidency in 2016 with the support of more than 80 per cent of Americans who self-identified as Evangelical Christians and who have remained his most enthusiastic supporters. Since his election, historians, pundits, and the general public have scrambled to explain why Evangelicals adopted President Trump, a thrice-married serial adulterer with no discernible religious...

Book Review: The Mirror and the Light

01/08/2020

The Mirror and the LightHilary MantelFourth Estate £25 (£22.50) We have been with Thomas Cromwell for a long time, in the three Wolf Hall novels: more than a decade, nearly 2000 pages. The intimacy is such that you feel like one of the ghosts who crowd in upon him by the end, although few us of have ever had such diamond-sharp conversations. Hilary Mantel has been having those conversations with his ghost all these years, and it is our privilege to eavesdrop. It begins as we know it will end:...

Wordsearch: African American Authors

01/08/2020

BELOVED COLORPURPLE GIOVANNI INVISIBLEMAN RAILROAD SELLOUT SULA WATCHINGGOD Can you find the words listed in the grid? They may be written in any direction