Letter from Mary – Oct/Nov 2022

Dear Friends,

The seasons come and go in the cycle of nature, now the nights are drawing in, trees are looking decidedly more autumnal, there is a nip in the air, and grass is once again green. There is much change all around, a new Prime Minister has been appointed and of course, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has died and Charles III is our new King.

Here in this parish we too are facing a time of change, we have recently said goodbye to Alastair and his family – it was wonderful that so many of us were able to share that occasion with him. Alastair, Sara and their boys have now moved to their new home in Keighley, please do remember them in prayer as they settle in and adjust to all the changes they face.

We too are facing a time of uncertainty, a time of change during which we will all hopefully grow in our faith and look within ourselves to see where our gifts lie. I would invite you to prayerfully consider what your gifts are and how you may be able to help during the interregnum. Within our parish we are undergoing a period of transition, change can be unsettling – even changes we know are coming. But the words from a hymn “O Thou who changest not, abide with me” reminds us of the constancy of God. The God who created the earth and the heavens, and loved you and me into being, is the same God today, as he was yesterday and the same God that will be in the days and weeks and years to come. God is steadfast and faithful. Our understanding of God’s nature may change, but he doesn’t. As Jesus reminds us many times in the New Testament, He will be with us unto the end of time, through the power of the Holy Spirit – a promise I am certain he will not break.

The church year has its seasons too, as I write we have just given thanks to God during our Harvest Festival celebrations. We thanked God for his overflowing generosity and goodness but we were also left wondering, why when we have so much are there so many places in our world where provision and abundance seem lacking.

As we enter November the church begins a season of remembering, we celebrate All Saints and All Souls; when we remember those who have died amongst our own families, friends and in our community. We all have our own memories and remember in different ways; it can be a difficult time or many as they remember those they have loved and lost. This year we will be having our Memorial Service a little bit earlier on Sunday 16th October at 3pm. Everyone is very welcome at that; it is a quiet service when we focus on remembering and giving thanks for those who have died. November also brings Remembrance Sunday, this year Sunday 13th November, where we remember those who have given their lives in the World Wars and all the subsequent conflicts for our freedom and for peace in the world.

As we approach the coming months with all the changes and challenges we may face, let us remember that we do so together as a church and a community, as friends and neighbours. May we also give thanks to God that we do not approach them in our own strength, but in knowing that the ever present and loving God is there beside us and walking with us as we journey together, and as we face the changes and challenges given to us.



The Vicar’s Letter – September 2022

Dear friends,

It is time to say good-bye. After just over 8 years of being the vicar of St Mary’s, Burley, it is time to move on to pastures new. It is impossible to sum up 8 years in a few lines and knowing my propensity to be verbose, I will not even try! Instead I will pick out a few important things that have characterised my time here in Burley. Probably like many of you, I find it hard to even think clearly about the period before the pandemic, so I guess that is the place to start.

The pandemic has altered our lives in so many ways that we could not have even begun to imagine three years ago. I was very keen to draw people together and to make sure that we were serving and loving our community in every way that we could. The PCC were given pastoral lists and within a couple of weeks of the lockdown we had services and coffee every week online. I loved the fact that some of our older congregation members who hadn’t managed to get to Church for a while, could sit in front of their ipad or laptop and connect with old friends. Many aspects of community life were enhanced as we sought new levels of reliance on one another. We became more creative as we sent out Christingle packs and Easter eggs, created nativity trails and gave presents to keyworkers. For me the most significant positive outcome of the pandemic was the Love Burley initiative. Becky, along with Robert and Susan Saville and Stella Fullerton, created a network of hundreds of people who looked after the most vulnerable people in our community; a project that was seen as a model for Bradford District. The Church was a beacon of light and hope at one of the darkest moments in recent history.

Back in 2018 St Mary’s celebrated its 175th birthday. The service was certainly one of my highlights as we welcomed Bishop Nick to preach. It was a beautiful day and the atmosphere afterwards as we ate together behind Church was so sweet. All sorts of other events took place from a magnificent Ceilidh at the Queens Hall, a wonderful historical exhibition in Church and an invitation for many of our school children to experience Church in new ways; some of them even got to play the organ and wear my robes!

I hope one of the legacies of the last few years has been a regular encouragement to reach out to those in need both in Burley and further afield. That is certainly not new; I am reminded of the work Peter Sutcliffe did to create Open Door over 25 years ago. However, St Mary’s, alongside the other Churches, and many Burley residents were at the forefront in creating Wharfedale Refugee Response, an organisation that over the last 7 years has done incredible things to support local refugee communities. Through our friendship with Johnney at Pizza One, we have been able to financially support a Church in Aleppo. I will never forget the time when we invited Bishop Toby and Johnney to do a special service together to pray for the dire situation in Syria (I even got Bishop Toby to play his Cello with our youth band!). In Bradford, Mary has really helped to develop empathy with some of the poorest in Manningham; before the pandemic many of our congregation stepped out to serve homeless people at St Pauls. The Church has also been involved, often behind the scenes, in supporting individuals in need in Burley itself. Jesus reminds us that it is how we treat the least that defines us.

I guess we all want to be remembered for something significant. I suppose I would want to be remembered for pushing the boundaries. I have never been one to just accept the status quo, but rather to find creative ways to move forward. When we found we had too many people coming to our Christingle service, we provided two (and last year three!) and what a joy they have been to all who have been involved. Pushing the boundaries has especially seen in my encouragement to worship together in the park during the Burley festival. We have often tried to get people together from our different Churches, but the results have been patchy at best, but to draw our congregations together in the park, often on days that looked unpromising, has been such an encouragement to me and has built friendship and trust among members of our Churches.

I will miss Burley and so will my family. But Jesus calls us to plant seeds and to faithfully water them. Often that is a very unglamorous job that requires patience and a very thick skin. Much of my work has happened under the radar. I know many of you would have preferred it if I had spent more hours crafting my sermons so that they could be short and memorable. My gifts and priorities have often been elsewhere. Jesus calls each of us to give of the gifts that he has given to us and to not compare oneself with others.

I know God has exciting plans for St Mary’s. The next vicar will be very different and he/she will bring a new and courageous dimension to what happens here. I look forward to the stories of germinating seeds and lives changed as we seek God’s presence to transform us and our community.

Bless you


July/August 2022

Dear Friends

I thought I would write a few lines about transition and growth. Most of you will have heard that I will be finishing as vicar of Burley in September and that our family will move from the village to start a new chapter of work, life and ministry in Keighley.

Summer is often a time of transition. Children finish school years and start new ones, often moving schools or going onto College or University. Summer is also a time to take stock so that the new academic year can be fresh and dynamic. However, it is often the case that the wealthier we become the more we try and control life so that we are not confronted with the challenge that change brings. Change for some is terrifying because the old ‘usual’ ways of doing things are challenged and our fragility is exposed. For many in our world that sort of change is merely ‘normal’ and other coping mechanisms are in place instead. Jesus calls his friends into a life that is far more dynamic than most of us realise or are willing to entertain. Jesus challenges us not to put our trust in earthly things, worldly systems, and even questions us about the priorities we have for our nuclear families. In Church over the last few weeks we have been delving a little deeper into the life of the fledgeling Church and reading about how they shared extravagantly, lived constantly on a limb, relying on the power and purpose of the Holy Spirit as they sought to continue to follow Jesus into the unknown.

Abraham of course is established as the exemplar for the early Church. The writer to the Hebrews wrote, “By faith Abraham made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents…For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” Hebrews 11.9-10.

The life of faith, unlike the life of control that we are seduced into yearning for in the west, is the willingness to step out and go and be different.

For my family, moving from Wharfedale to Airedale feels a big and sometimes scary step; very different multi-cultural communities and significant deprivation. We are not unfamiliar to deprivation having started ministry on the challenging urban estate of Holme Wood in Bradford. Living amongst people of other cultural background was my daily experience when working in the Middle East and South Asia. Nevertheless, life will be different and we won’t be able to rely solely on our experiences of life in Burley. We will be confronted with many whose life is anything but comfortable.

A number of parishioners have asked, “do you have to move house?” Few professionals working in deprived areas choose to live in the area they work in, but for the Christian Church it is an important aspect of mission to have her clergy in the place they serve. It is the incarnation principle that seeks to imitate Jesus. As Paul succinctly puts it, “For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8.9). We are very fortunate to be moving to a very nice house overlooking Keighley, just down the road from our good friend from Burley, Gail Boole!

As we step out in faith as a family I know we will be met with Jesus, who says to each of us, ‘my grace is sufficient for you.’ That doesn’t mean we won’t have turbulent times ahead; moving always has stressful aspects and it pushes our love and patience to the limit. However, I have a firm conviction that when God makes it clear that it is time to move on, then he opens the door to the next chapter of life. God is no one’s debtor, a missionary couple once said to me. God uses the challenges of life to grow us up and to help us to rely on his daily bread rather than our superficial abundance. Do pray for me, Sara, Barnaby, Benji and Charlie, that God will protect our hearts and give us courage as we embrace the transition that is ahead.

God bless you, especially if you are also encountering change and transformation.


Letter from Mary – June 2022

Dear Friends,

We will be celebrating the coming of the holy spirit at Pentecost next weekend – it follows ten days after Ascension. In Luke’s gospel we read that just before His Ascension Jesus said to his disciples “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” After the very first Ascension Day the disciples were gathered with others in Jerusalem. There they were devoting themselves to prayer while they waited for the promised outpouring of the Holy Spirit, before they carried out Jesus’ instructions to spread the gospel throughout the world. They recognised their reliance on the gift of the Holy Spirit.

During the time between Ascension and Pentecost the Archbishops ask us to join the global wave of prayer ‘Thy Kingdom Come‘ calling all Christians to pray for more people to come to know the love and peace of Jesus Christ. Just as the disciples were reliant on the Holy Spirit so too are we – we are powerless in our own strength, but John reminds us in his gospel (John 14:16) “the Father…will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever – the Spirit of truth”

On the 5th June we will also be celebrating the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee at a service in church followed by a BBQ and party afterwards, giving thanks for her 70 years of faithful service. Like the disciples, God is calling us to open our hearts and open our doors and to spread the gospel. We all have lots of opportunities to do this in our lives and by our prayers. The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations offer us another opportunity to extend a radical invitation to everyone in our village and beyond to join us that morning. It gives us the chance to build relationships and be bold in our faith-sharing.

Though the Queen does not frequently publically refer to her faith in many of her Christmas messages she does talk of her personal relationship with Jesus and its importance in her life. Two such examples are: ‘Billions of people now follow Christ’s teaching and find in him the guiding light for their lives. I am one of them because Christ’s example helps me see the value of doing small things with great love, whoever does them and whatever they themselves believe.’ and “For me, the life of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace…is an inspiration and an anchor in my life. A role model of reconciliation and forgiveness, he stretched out his hands in love, acceptance and healing. Christ’s example has taught me to seek to respect and value all people of whatever faith or none.”

The Queen is an example to us all, she has led a life of faithful service in this country and beyond. Let us pray that our faith is reflected in our lives of service, love and care for others and for our world.

We also have the chance to get involved later this month in refugee week (20th-26th June)- Refugee Week’s vision is “for refugees and asylum seekers to be able to live safely within inclusive and resilient communities, where they can continue to make a valuable contribution.”

The theme being explored this year is ‘Healing’. “Healing means recovering from a painful experience or situation, so that we can continue to live. No-one understands this better than those who have lost their homes and had to build new lives from scratch. We have much to learn from refugees about holding onto hope when going on seems impossible…Those going through the asylum system also know that healing is an ongoing process, made harder by poverty, housing difficulties and the threat of being detained or deported.

There are many ways we can get involved, there are local organisations we can support. The new Nationality and Borders Bill is cruel legislation that will undoubtedly cause harm. Most of us want an asylum system that is fair, orderly and humane – there has been an outpouring of welcome shown to people fleeing Ukraine and Afghanistan. We can advocate for changes, that show refugees they can truly feel safe in our country. We need to act with care and compassion – as Christians we are reminded in the Letter to the Hebrews (13:1-3) to “Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.

May we who know the blessings God pours upon us, seek to be a blessing in the lives of others through love and service.


Letter from Barry – May 2022

Room with a View. Not.

Now here’s an absurd story that I recently came across.

Two men were long-term patients in the same hospital ward. The ward had only one window. One of the men was fit enough to prop himself up, so the nurses gave him the bed next to the window. The other man was mostly flat on his back all day. He therefore had to ask his neighbour what could be seen out of the window. The propped up patient described a park with a lake on which were ducks and a couple of swans. One day he described children playing football and on another the Spring flowers beginning to show through the borders of the lawns.

At first the bed-ridden patient was grateful for his friend’s vivid description of life outside the window. But as the weeks went by his gratitude gave place to jealousy. Why couldn’t the nurses swap the beds round once in a while to give him the chance to see the park, the birds, the kiddies and the flowers? After all, with help, he was capable of sitting up for a few minutes most days.

One night there was a kerfuffle on the ward. Doctors and nurses were scurrying to and fro. The curtains around the bed by the window were being opened and closed at regular intervals. By morning the bed was empty. The body removed. With almost indecent haste the other man asked if now he could be switched to the bed by the window. Somewhat reluctantly the nurses agreed to move him. The minute they left the ward the man painfully pushed himself up on one elbow and looked out of the window on to a blank wall.

On one level the story is, as I suggested at the outset, absurd. Taken literally it presents us with one rational and resentful man, and another man delightfully deluded. But that’s to miss the point. The story, of course, is really a parable about contrasting attitudes to life. Optimistic or pessimistic.
Half full or half empty. Sunny or sullen. There are those who look on the bright side and those whoseemostly doom and gloom.

They say life is what you make it. I don’t altogether go along with that. It seems to me that some people don’t get much of a chance to make much of life. Even so, there’s enough truth in the saying for us to know what it means. So may be that ‘absurd’ story is not so silly after all.

Barry Overend

Letter from Alastair – May 2022

Dear friends,

Our journey to Easter this year has been profoundly shaped by the war in Ukraine and so this year I want to think about how we view the story of Easter with conflict as our backdrop. The first Easter took place in the arena of occupation; separatist fighters were crucified either side of Jesus while the Jewish authorities were caught up with the realpolitik of first century Palestine.

The Easter story reminds us that life, death and redemption are always set in the midst of war. The Cross and resurrection of Jesus are the crucial plays in the most important cosmic battle in the whole of history; between good and evil, love and hate. Because of the cross, love and goodness will always win in the end, but it is a huge battle for them to gain the upper hand. We live in the in-between times when victory has been assured, but fighting is fierce and on-going. Jesus tells his disciples that at the end of time as we know it, he will usher in a new Kingdom, but until then the fight is on. As Christians we are called to dare to believe that hope is possible; that we have the wherewithal to pray and pronounce the healing and gracious resurrection presence of the Kingdom here and now, in enemy territory. That is the challenging adventure that Christians live in, wherever they live in the world. War and conflict are like volcanoes of hatred and evil erupting on the surface. In the face of such aggression, whether in Ukraine, Yemen, Sudan or Ethiopia, acts of kindness, of sacrificial love might seem as pointless as the saviour dying on the cross. We may want to yell at Jesus and tell him to ask for his legions of angels to swoop down and banish the evil. We might feel a better solution is to follow in the footsteps of Peter who severs the ear of the temple guard, but Jesus tells us as he told Peter – that is not the way to true peace and reconciliation.

Oscar Romero, the Archbishop of San Salvador who was assassinated for speaking up for the poor against a corrupt regime wrote “The violence we preach is not the violence of the sword, the violence of hatred. It is the violence of love, of brotherhood, the violence that wills to beat weapons into farming tools.” Love is neither theoretical nor weak. According to Romero there is a violence to love. Not a violence that hurts others, but a violence that resists all that hurts people and stands up to the powers that exploit and destroy God’s beloved children. It is a violent passion that shouts, “No more! In the name of Christ, no more!”

It is vital for Christians to hold on to the fact that God’s way, his sacrificial way of love, will win out in the end. For Ukrainian Christians, as they pray fervently for peace, they understand that they are in the situation for the long haul. We may want to ask the question, why does God allow this to happen? I find people of little or no faith often want to ask that question precisely because they don’t believe in the God who seems to allow it to happen. We certainly want to ask God, where are you? But to think that the God who empties himself of power to come among us in the person of Jesus is inoculated to the suffering of his people is completely wrong. Jesus models that he is the absolute opposite to President Putin. He doesn’t force himself on the world in strength. He allows hatred to bubble up precisely because he gives us free will to take the right path or to make our own path. His reaction is an offensive of love. He sits with the child who has lost her parents, he inspires incredible acts of kindness from strangers, he is like the father who covers the body of his child as a shell lands on the house. He gives strength and courage to the weary so that they can keep going.

When we dare to hope, it is not a naïve optimism. The hope that Jesus’ friends are called to inhabit is the sure and certain hope of the resurrection. In God’s economy, death is never the end, goodness and light are never defeated. At times it looks as though it has been, but Jesus draws us deeper and closer to him so that our hope builds. Christians are called to be hope-filled even when the superficial signs are not promising. Christians are called to be agents of hope, praying and acting for the Kingdom. When we follow God he leads us in his mission to be alongside the broken-hearted, to give sacrificially, to show kindness and generosity to the stranger. It rarely has a victorious look to it, but then neither does the man hanging limp on a cross. But ultimately the love of God wins and we are called to be the signs of that victory shining in the darkness and fractured nature of our world as we live as people of the resurrection.

Grace and Peace


Letter from Ros – March 2022

Dear friends,

It is a privilege to be writing to you again as we approach Lent. What is your focus for the Lenten season? How will you prepare for celebrating Easter?

When I was a child I was aware that one of our neighbours always used to stop smoking during Lent. It was a practice that then stood him in good stead when later in life he developed heart disease and had to quit smoking for ever. This neighbour cultivated year on year self-discipline and managed to break, for a few weeks at least, the habit of smoking.

As we start into Lent what do you have mind?

One model for Lent is Jesus’ own experience of going into the wilderness after he was baptised by John the Baptist, his cousin, in the River Jordan. The gospels all record Jesus baptism but only the first three gospels record Jesus being led or driven into the wilderness where Jesus fasted for 40 days and 40 nights and was tempted by the devil. The gospels then record how after this wilderness experience Jesus then began his public ministry. John’s gospel for some reason skips the 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness.

Jim Crace wrote about Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness in his book ‘Quarantine’. Quarantine means 40 days. Crace’s book is not written from a Christian perspective so helps us look from a different perspective on Jesus’ wilderness sojourn. Remember too that Jesus frequently returned to the wilderness, away from people to pray and to meet with His Father. After Christianity was accepted by the Roman Empire women and men moved from their comfortable urban homes to live in the desert, to experience the challenge of a hostile environment as they had experienced before the official adoption of Christianity in the 4th century.

Desert fathers and mothers lived in caves, remote places away from creature comforts. They would encourage those looking for knowledge of God and themselves to ‘go to your cell and your cell will teach you’. Do we have a wilderness, a cell, a place of aloneness where we can go and meet with the Lord, where we can leave the comfort of home behind us, even for an hour or two and come back refreshed because we have met with the Lord, or wrestled with our demons. A cursory reading of the bible shows us the many experiences of God that happened in the desert. During Lent let us impose on ourselves some desert boundaries to our lives in order to make space in our lives to experience afresh the living God.

The gospels of Matthew and Luke give similar accounts of the three temptations experienced by Jesus. Satan was trying to get Jesus to follow his way, to turn from being his father’s son, God incarnate. We are similarly tempted to trust in ourselves or others rather than the Lord, to follow our own inclinations rather than God’s and to worship success, and other good things in life (even church!) rather than to worship the Lord from the very core of our being. The apostle Paul talks about ‘Jesus being tempted as we are tempted’ – the three temptations recorded in the gospel mirror the temptations what we as Christians face as we seek to follow the Lord in the context of our everyday lives.

At the Service of Baptism the one being baptised is signed with the cross on their forehead. They are encouraged to:

Fight valiantly as a disciple of Christ
against sin, the world and the devil,
and remain faithful to Christ to the end of your life.

Are we ready to carry on this fight during Lent, to take a hard look at ourselves and God and to meet afresh with the Lord. Lent not only helps us to refresh and refocus but to be renewed, ready to experience afresh the Easter narrative of death, resurrection and new life. The Lent groups are about stepping out of the boat and walking with Christ. Let us pray for each other as we travel through Lent towards Easter.

May you know the goodness of God during this season,

Letter from Mary – February 2022

Dear Friends,

Despite the cold, wet and windy weather we have had lately, it is lovely to see that signs of spring are beginning to emerge. There are already signs in the garden of new growth: early snowdrops and crocuses are appearing, daffodil shoots are rising boldly up into the cold air, hopefully about to add a splash of colour to the ground. I’m sure they will be welcome sight for many, as they bring hope of the spring to come, of new beginnings, rebirth and better warmer weather.

On February 2nd the church celebrates the festival of Candlemas which is considered to be one of the oldest Christian festivals, it celebrates the light that comes to banish the darkness. Candlemas is half-way between the shortest day and the spring equinox, (so hopefully lighter nights are not far away)!! Some people also believe it can predict the weather for the rest of winter.

If Candlemas Day be fair and bright
Winter will have another fight.
If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain,
Winter won’t come again.

Candlemas was the day when people brought all the candles to be used throughout the year to church to be blessed. They were asking God’s protection on their homes and families for the coming year. The lights of Candlemas were a reminder of the light of Christ shining in the darkness, bringing hope in the midst of uncertain times.

We are reminded at the beginning of John’s Gospel that Jesus came to be a light in the darkness of this world and to shine out as a sign of God’s presence among us. ‘ The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.’ (John 1: 9)

At Candlemas we reflect upon the presentation of Christ in the Temple in Jerusalem, and the recognition by the elderly Simeon and Anna of Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah. When Simeon encounters Jesus he declares: ‘Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.’ (Luke 2:29-32)

Candlemas offers us the opportunity to look back over these past weeks of Christmastide, giving thanks to God for the gift of his son. Simeon sees that the child is the light to enlighten the nations, his words reveal that Jesus is the Messiah of all of God’s people.

Later in February on Racial Justice Sunday we are called to engage in the righteous struggle for racial justice for all. The Bible has a lot to say about justice because as God’s Word, it reflects God’s heart for justice. It can be argued that we should love justice because God does! Racism and racial discrimination are justice issues because they deny basic human dignity to women and men who are made in the image of God. They assume all are not equal before God and are not part of God’s family. Paul reminds us in Colossians “there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.” Showing us very clearly that we are all equal before God.

This year Racial Justice Sunday is focussing on the three ‘R’s’ remembering the importance of racial justice; reflecting on human diversity and thanking God for it; responding by working to end injustice, racism and ignorance through prayer and action.

The coming of spring brings with it hope and the promise of new opportunities. So in February, think about your hopes for the future and the new life and joys that may come.

May you be filled with Christ’s grace and blessings in the coming month,


Letter from Ros – Autumn 2021

Boldly go where no one has gone before….

The actor William Shatner who spoke these words as Captain James T Kirk in the Star Trek TV series has himself boldly gone where very few have one before by making a trip up into Space in Blue Origin sub-orbital capsule courtesy of Jeff Bezos.

Very few of us will have that some opportunity to go up into space but day by day, week by week we have opportunities to boldly go where no one has gone before. As Christians we are called into relationship with God and invited to be part of the Kingdom of God, to incarnate the presence of God in the communities we inhabit.

As we learn to listen to the Spirit of God, we will get an inkling of the life that we are called to live, the ‘good works that are prepared beforehand for us to do’ (Ephesians 2: 10). There are unique ways that we can demonstrate to those around us the presence of God. Not just by sharing our faith but by doing things that demonstrate our trust in God, our love for God.

There will be times when we have the sense that God is calling us to boldly go – not necessarily with a big fanfare as the Space Ship enterprise but in a quiet unassuming way to see a need and to have the courage to fulfil what we believe God is calling us to do.

When I was younger, we used to sing a chorus with the following words:
Be bold, be strong,
For the Lord your God is with you,
I am not afraid,
I am not dismayed,
Because I’m walking in faith and victory,
For the Lord your God is with you.

This was a song I and other young Christians sang to each other to encourage ourselves to trust in the Lord and to take that step into the unknown in our walk with the Lord. There are many examples in the Bible of men and women who boldly went during their daily lives. When I sing this chorus the Old Testament character Joshua comes to mind and the way he was encouraged to be strong and courageous (or brave) as he took over from Moses and lead the Children of Israel into the Promised Land.

Our opportunities to ‘boldly go’ can be such things as reaching out to others – to offer help, ask for help, to encourage, to sit down and get to know them. We can feel daunted and unequal to making the first move, but God wants to enable us and equip us to open our hearts to others, to listen to them, to help, to be a friend, to show God’s love in a difficult situation or to try and right a wrong. Whatever it is – a large or small matter – God wants to enable us to ‘boldly go’ and be his emissary, his presence in the mess and busyness of our daily lives.

Let’s ask the Lord where he wants us to ‘boldly go’ and believe that he will give us the words to speak, the courage to act in a way that brings life and light to the lives of those around us. Little things count and remember that we are often called to do small acts rather than big dramatic things. Small acts that demonstrate the presence of God to our communities.

May the Lord bless and direct us as we ‘boldly go’ in the days and weeks ahead.


Letter from Alastair – September 2021

More tea vicar?

In the final weeks of August we have entertained well over 150 people in the vicarage garden, hosting teas, community leaders and even a triple 18th birthday celebration and we still have a youth BBQ to come in early September. We have been regularly asking, more tea? Or more beer? I am not writing this to blow our own trumpet, but rather to celebrate the fact that we can finally meet up, especially in our gardens. It has been a tough 18 months but getting people together has done us all a world of good. Some folks have hardly been outside for months and even the Parish councillors commented that this was the first time they were meeting without the interface of a screen.

As we begin the road to normality it is important to give thanks for all we have managed to do in these last months. We have started singing in Church, we have been able to have refreshments outside after our services and weddings and baptisms have begun again. A great step towards normality occurred last Sunday when we were able to meet for worship in the park. Many members of our Church congregations met together, sang hymns and listened to some lovely tributes. It felt all the more special because we had not been able to meet for so long.

However, we are not just going back to the normality of before. To carry on the analogy, we will be offering some Earl Grey and maybe even some peppermint tea into the mix. Our worship will have many of the same ingredients but also have a fresh look as we move into September. If we have learnt anything over successive lockdowns, it is that we are just as much Church even when we cannot be in the building!

The 8 o’clock service will continue to offer worship for those wanting something quiet, reflective and traditional, although sometimes with a hint of spice! Then at 9.30 each Sunday, apart from the first Sunday of each month, there will be a new, informal multi-generational service called CONNECT which will be held at the Parish Centre. The time together will allow us all to experience God together focusing on our own preferred learning style. At 10.30 there will be a more traditional communion service in the Church building followed by coffee. On the first Sunday of each month there will be a 10 o’clock All-age service at St Mary’s called CONNECT TOGETHER which will combine modern and traditional styles of worship. In addition to the morning services, there will be a couple of evening services; a monthly healing service and a monthly modern worship service. And finally the mid-week communion service will move back to Thursday mornings, but at the slightly later time of 10.30.

I hope many of you will try one of our new services. There will be plenty of tea, but I hope you enjoy the new flavours. As always our services will be characterised by a warm welcome, supportive friendship, great hospitality and an opportunity to encounter God and one another. I hope to see you soon – you would be most welcome.