Thursday, 23 June 2011

Help for Worship Leaders

Mark Earey's new guide to Common Worship (the services used by the Church of England) is well worth a look. It's called Finding Your Way Around Common Worship and is published by Church House Publishing. At the Reformation, Cranmer (the author of what became the Book of Common Prayer) objected to the fact that the services of the medieval church had become so complex that the priest needed an armful of books to celebate mass (or an exceptional memory!) He sought to put everything needed into one book. As I struggle with my order of service, my book of collects (seasonal prayers), my bible, hymn book and reading glasses, I often reflect that we seem to have returned to the situation he was trying to avoid!  

However, there is good reason!The texts that we have available today render our
worship more flexible and allow us to highlight particular occasions in the church and secular year with appropriate words and to use metaphors and images drawn from scripture and the Christian tradition that resonate with the season. The texts offer a rich encounter with the Christian story. The sacrifice is that most of us no longer have many texts we know off by heart.

Mark's book is an excellent and easily followable introduction to making sense of the the whole range of material available to us in Common Worship. The book is essentially practical and has charts outlining the key features and elements of services, tips on where to find vital information, frequently asked questions, a glossary, and useful information such as the main themes and relative lengths of the 8 eucharistic (Communion) prayers. He also points out that, returning to the 'responsible freedom' of the early church fathers, there are places in Comon Worship, under Canon B 5.3 (for those of us who like the technicalities) where you can adapt and change the words as long as they remain 'reverent and seemly' (and presmuably theologically authentic?). Hippolytus (a 2nd century priest in Rome) left us a record of the worship of the early church in his Apostolic Tradition which tells us that the first churches took precisely the same approach. These are Hippolytus' instructions for the bishop saying the eucharistic prayer at an ordination,
'It is not necessary for him to utter the same words that we said above as though reciting them from memory, when giving thanks to God; but let each pray according to his ability. If indeed he is able to pray with a sufficiently solemn prayer, that is good. But if anyone who prays recites a prayer according to a fixed form, do not prevent him. Only, he must pray what is sound and orthodox.'
Common worship does not go quite as far in the freedom it gives us, but it does require a similar kind of approach to presiding at worship in which the person leading and planning worship engages with the texts and makes them live.

Mark is Co-Director of the Centre for Ministerial Studies at Queen's Foundation, Birmingham and has also been responsible for many earlier quides to particular aspects of Common Worship 

Museum of British Folk Lore

The Museum of British Folklore (caravan-based exhibition pictured above) is looking for a new home. The team who manage the museum are looking for a new site about 7,000sq. ft in size. (This is pretty large - about half the size of Ripon cathedral nave, I would guess.) If you know of a site that the team could investigate, contact the Museum's Director, Simon Costin on  They are also inviting people to contact them if they have objects, posters, costumes of collections suitable for display in a museum of folklore.

Jonny Hannah who was responsible for creating the mueum's identity is hosting a one-man folklore-inspiried exhibition White Horses and Unguiet Graves in Ripon's Hornsey's Gallery on Kirkgate from 18th June - 18th July

To see samples of Jonny Hannah's distinctive prints and linocut go to

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Newby Hall

Newby Hall, designed by Sir Christopher Wren

A Bevy of Deer by Emma Stothard

Collavoce, Musical Director Catherine Field- Leather
We wandered over to Newby Hall for lunch, yesterday, and found ourselves in the middle of a 'Fun and Frivolity' Day, courtesy of the Musesum of British Folklore. Callavoce were singing madrigals and other summer songs and a wonderful group (whose name I didn't get) were giving displays of folk dancing which were great to watch because the dancers were so obviously thoroughly enjoying dancing! How very lucky we are to have Newby Hall nearby - barely a week passes without some interesting event or exhibition of local skills and crafts. The Compton family whose home the Hall is, have a special interest in art and sculpture. At the moment, you can see Emma Stothard's wonderful willow sculptures with evocative titles like Parliament of Hares and Quadrille of Lobsters.
 Soon to open will be a 'hands on' exhibition by Zimbabwean sculptors like Dudzai Mushawepwere and Matthew Nakawhale mounted by the Matombo company from York. The sculptors work in Sona Stone and the sculptor lives with the stone for a period before beginning work as the stone will 'tell' the sculptor what it is that it can become. Visitors can try their hand at sculpting, too.
There is also a woodland walk with other open air sculptures which the visitor can enjoy after taking in the beautiful gardens - and that's before you get to the house with its Robert Adam interiors! Delicious food is by The Yorkshire Party Company (details on the Newby Hall website.)

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Power to Shape the Future?

Kevin Maney, Steve Hamm, Jeffrey M. O'Brien
IBM Press Pearson plc, New Jersey

IBM celebrates its centenary this year. In 1911 Charles Flint merged three small companies making tabulating machines, time recording punch card machines and computing scales. CTR (the Computing, Tabulating, Recording Company) became International Business Machines in 1924 and the company we know today was born. In a book published to mark 100 years of shaping the corporate world and influencing the way we communicate and do business, Kevin Maney, Steve Hamm and Jeffrey M. O'Brien examine the six pillars of Information Technology which support the computing environment
  • Sensing - mechanisms for obtaining information and getting it into computers
  • Memory - methods of storing and accessing information
  • Processing - the core speed and capabilities of computers
  • Logic - the languages and software which computers use to do their work
  • Connectivity - the methods by which computers talk to each other and to people
  • Architecture - the evolving ways we think about information and the nature of computing .
They also look at how the modern corporation and thinking about corporate life are changing in a global environment and affecting economic systems, influencing how they impact the different regions of the world. The final section of the book examines
methods by which we master complex systems to achieve and deliver those things which we believe will improve our world - seeing, mapping, understanding, believing and acting to bring about change for the better. IT literally changes the way we think and our concept of what is possible - and it does this more than we realise. 

The Book is called Making the World Better; the Ideas that Shaped a Century and a Company and is a really fascinating read, full of memorable stories that make you rethink something you thought you understood - one of IBM's watch words, introduced by one of its founders, Thomas Watson Sr., has always been think. Another concept that has shaped IBM is belief. This, of course interests a theologian but, in fact, this is a different kind of belief - the belief of the scientist or technologist who lights on an idea and then sees it painstakingly through the long, protracted stages of research, staying with is until it is realised, often in the face of opposition, incredulity or mockery.  The authors tell the story of Julio Palmaz who created the world's first coronary stent and who persevered with his innovation in the face of what he called 'rational negativism'.
 'Such perseverance is the result of truly believing. There are many forms of belief, of course, including imagination, curiosity, hypotheses and intuition and each has an important role in life....In the hard work of making the world work better, believing is about establishing and standing on evidence because that's what is takes to support and pursue an idea until it's fully realised. This uniquely human capability is common among history's heroes - people who possess singular vision, drive and charisma. But it can be fostered.'
 This is the belief of the innovator not the belief that is synonymous with faith. It is the same quality but focused on evidence-based knowledge as opposed to those things which cannot be directly evidenced such as quality of moral or personal relationship, divine revelation, ontological meaning. It is a belief that speculates within the boundaries of what might be or become provable. But, of course, the two kinds of belief are linked and IBM has been a company which makes some of these connections; just one of many examples given by the book's authors,
'By learning how to halt the spread of H1N1 we gain insight into more than just pandemic behaviour. Discouraging disease transmission may reveal the keys to encouraging the spread of ideas of tolerance.'
The potential to treat disease, made possible by Information Technology, throws up questions about attitudes to disease and perceptions around the cause of disease which belong much more in the realm of the ethicist, philospher or theologian. This relationship between IT and the human condition is replicated over and over in every area of life and the book makes the reader aware of how this very complex dialogue is played out locally and globally.    

Making the World Better caused me ponder two things in particular.  People of faith tend to see the community of faith and their own scriptures and creeds as the locus of the root of morality. Yet there is much that is going on beyond us that is throwing up both moral perspective and practical ways of tackling moral issues that may challenge us but may also help us to discharge our moral responsibilities and indeed become more nearly the people of God, living in ways that are true to God's purposes for the world. Candidly, sometimes the world beyond the religious community is setting an example. And secondly, the book is very much the story of community - corporate, organisational, national, global - the future is being shaped by forms of IT which are evolving through processes of participation and democratisation previously unthought of. The IT revolution is not primarily about individualism but about community - community is its oxygen - and the revolution is shaping our future in ways we find it hard to imagine.  

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Too much required of you?

My husband has been listening to the speeches of Winston Churchill during long drives, just recently. (Perhaps it's a hint - the cadences of my preaching are becoming jaded!) So I was amused to discover one of the few sayings attributed to Clementine Churchill. Just as her husband's words resonated so powerfully with the people of his time and yet still chime with us today, it would appear that she had the same knack. She said, apparently, that she wanted her tombstone to read

'Here lies a woman who was always tired,
Because she lived in a world in which too much was required.'

This week, I've had several conversations of the, 'There-just-aren't-enough-hours-in-the day' variety. There's a novel (I can't remember its title or author - another sign of having too much in my head!) which begins with a woman standing in her kitchen in the wee small hours, distressing shop-bought mince pies with a rolling pin so that they look home-made for her daughter's school concert. She is subject not just to the pressures of trying to work and look after a family with complex needs, but also to the voices in her head from previous generations, 'If you were a proper mother, you'd have baked these yourself...' In the last few days, I've also talked to people who are travelling hundreds of miles a week to care for relatives...and people who have wasted hours trying to get their computers to talk to each other. On Friday, I went to London with a pile of work to do and ended up on a train with no wyfi and no phone signal; I found myself remembering with nostalia the days when just a pen, notebook and phone box were all you needed and, on a train journey, you could simply rest and read! Add to that the fact that I had just come from a conference where we were talking about space to reflect and grand concepts such as 'radical unavailability' and you will appreciate that I felt internally conflicted!

Clementine's words speak to me from across the generation gap - she was about the same age as my grandmother. They are honest and brave and show that she had the capacity to laugh at herself and her calling. When you think of all that she and Winston saw the nation through, all the loss and success and worry they experienced and all that they accomplished in their lives, perhaps being a bit tired isn't as negative as it sounds. It may be a human necessity, accompanying a fully lived life! Yes, life is stretching, challenging, perplexing, tiring, but it's also interesting, varied, full of new things to discover and inhabited by wonderful people. Being a bit weary is a natural human state for those who are engaged in the world around them. I infinitely prefer being tired to being bored!

However, it is essential to know and acknowledge when you are tired and to be able to stop. (For parents of small children, this may be a very long time ahead!) For several years now I have found that the best way to recharge batteries is to go on a retreat. This usually has to be planned and put into the diary months, if not a year, in advance, so that arrangments can be made. Without this forward planning, it doesn't happen. The first thing I do when I get to the retreat house is always to sleep (a lot), to make sure I eat healthy food regularly and to walk. Silence, time spent with God and with scripture and joining the community's daily worship then fall into place. Somehow (and I never know how) all this puts life back into proper balance and, though it's difficult to leave the place of retreat, I always return energised. The place I go to is Roman Catholic and usually there are other retreatants, often lay people with very busy and demanding lives and, although we don't talk, we give each other that wordless support which says 'I'm on a journey too.' My 'haven' is St Beuno's, a Jesuit community near St Asaph's in North Wales; they offer Ignatian retreats of varying lengths and good sipirtual direction. The Centre looks up into Snowdonia and out across Llandudno bay - it is the place where the poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins trained for the priesthood.

How did Clementine keep going through 6 years of the kinds of stress and strain the second world war imposed? Reading her biography, she comes across as incredibly loyal and committed and yet very much her own person - able to seek the refreshment she needed and to go away, to seek out friends, to travel and to step back from even those she loved from time to time to give both herself and them space to gather strength. I'm grateful to her that she could be honest about the cost of the demands of her life.   


Celebrate Summer at Kirkby Overblow!

All Saints, Kirkby Overblow Church, by R. Henderson

 The Kirkby Overblow Summer Arts Festival is now half way through - ends 26th June (Apologies for not blogging sooner!) If you are in that part of Yorkshire this week end or next, why not have a look at their programme on
I like the snappy titles - Proms Without Pews (presumably to show off their newly and rather splendidly re-ordered church!), and a BCP Service ('Burger Coke and Prayer with a horticultral theme' - sounds intriguing!)

But it's not all churchy - there's A Question of Sport, Kirkby Overblow Has Talent, A Night at the Opera as well as a tennis tournament, sacrecrow trails and a garden fete.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Word on the Wind

Interested in Renewal?

Sunday 26th |June
1.30pm - 4pm

St Luke's Church,
Malvern Road, Holbeck, Leeds LS11 8PD

Word on the Wind
Renewing Confidence in the Gospel
and Living for God

Martin Cavender

For details ring the Revd Alistair Kaye on 07881 804104.
A ReSource Event

Inspiring Hope; Ripon and Leeds Diocesan Conference

The conference for all the clergy the diocese was held at the Hayes Conference Centre, Swanwick this week (ah, so that's why no one could find a vicar!) and was, as it's title sugested, inspirational. More about it another day, but if you are interested in seeing the talks given by Elaine Storkey or Stephen Cottrell go to

Elaine is an academic, broadcaster and President of Tear Fund and Stephen is Bishop of Chelmsford and an author of a number of books about sharing faith. Their subject - what is hope and how can we live and minister hopefully?

You can read the sermon from the final eucharist on my Sermons page.

Monday, 6 June 2011


I have just returned from a few days in Aberystwyth where we held my mother's funeral. Mum was in her late 80's and had not lived in Aber since 2004 yet there were over 50 people at her funeral, all with memories to share. I have been so touched by the number of people who have sent messages with memories of both my parents. It was very consoling to return to the place where I grew up and to find that Mum and Dad are remembered and indeed talked about. It set me thinking about the gift of friendship. Mum made friends throughout her life (even in her 80's  she made friends in Nottingham who continued to write to her when we moved up to Yorkshire) and she was still in touch with people from almost every period of her life, going right back to school days.

I was struck by the importance of friendship in old age. So many very elderly people become isolated by circumstance or by loss of hearing, sight, mobility or mental powers. There is often that difficult decision - do you move to be near your children or do you stay where your friends are? And when there is perhaps more time than ever to write and e mail, failing sight or poor memory intrude. Others have no family, no-one with whom they share the memories of youth and middle age.

It was her chapel and friends from church who enabled Mum to stay in her own home in Aber as long as she did - visiting, sharing meals, offering lifts, gardening, taking her to concerts and services, helping with reading and, when she finally did move away, faithfully keeping in touch. Some were older than she was, others much younger. I wonder, do we take enough time to give both the moral and the practical support that elderly members of our communities need? And do we expect to find friendship with those who are much older than us?  


Peter Brook, Pennine Artist

Recently, on a day out in Swaledale, we visited a small gallery in Muker where my eye was caught by one of the works of the Pennine landscape painter, Peter Brook. In the painting, Peter and his dog walk down a snowy, woodland track into the fading sunset. They have just passed through the pool of light thrown by a street lamp as it splutters into life and there is a strange quality of light about the picture as the street lamp takes over from the glow cast by the sunset, with the figures caught between. Probably painted somewhere in his beloved Pennine country, the scene could be almost anywhere so, again, it has a strangely haunting quality of universality. Well, you can no doubt guess, I bought it as it reminded me of my grandfather and father and a particular path near my childhood home in Wales!

Peter Brook (who died in 2009) was a Pennine artist whose works capture the vastness and variety of the Yorkshire landscape and also record for us a passing culture - the life of the countryside and small villages and towns in the hills of Yorkshire which are gradually changing from tight-knit, self-reliant farming communities into more mixed social units. The countryside, however, changes less quickly and Brook captures the fields, barns, woodlands, farms, homesteads and roadsides in a way that is instantly recognisable yet slightly nostalgic, slightly wry.