Fighting for Advent

My mum was always a keen horse rider and an equestrian image came to mind today when I thought of the losing battle that I’m fighting trying to rein in Christmas!

Of course, by the time you read this, Advent Sunday will be upon us and the countdown to Christmas properly begun. And yet, every year it seems that people’s eagerness to start gearing up for Christmas gets earlier and earlier. I noticed this year that, as soon as the clocks went back and nights started drawing in, I heard radio discussion and saw adverts on television with a Christmas theme.

We’ve also had the blessing of the Christmas lights switch-on here in West Malling which attracted hundreds, if not thousands, of people to the High Street. I even got to share a stage with the TV legend that is Philip Martin Brown (Mr Budgen from Waterloo Road)!

But I also had a few parishioners speak to me in complaint because that lights switch-on was so early. What particularly seemed to upset some was the fact that the Remembrance Sunday parade took place with those marching flanked on either side by (as yet unlit) Christmas lights. I have some sympathy for their upset and if it’s any reassurance, I have fed that back to the organisers to try and think about for next year.
Especially in a economically gloomy time, I can understand the desire of shopkeepers to maximise the Christmas period but, at the same time, there are other considerations.

St Paul once wrote that people say ‘everything is permissible’ but he countered ‘not everything is beneficial’. ‘No one should seek their own good, but the good of others’ (1 Cor 10.23-24). It’s great to see big community events happening, but sometimes we need to reign in aspects of that community to benefit and honour other parts of that community.

Christmas will be with us soon enough. Elsewhere on our website this month, you’ll find details of all the Christmas services and I’d like to draw your attention to one or two changes; especially on Christmas Eve where there will be two Christingle services this year at 3.30 p.m. and 5 p.m. to handle the increasing demand.

But in the meantime, try, please, if you can, to let Advent take its course. A pleasure deferred is a pleasure intensified after all. Until Christmas comes, there is much in Advent to value and draw from. We can tend to be cynical or distracted in our rush to Christmas, and forget that the shape love takes, if we will wait and allow it the time it needs, can often surprise and catch us off-guard.

It would seem to me a great shame if one of the greatest times of the year passes us by because we’re too distracted, too busy, or too intent on creating a minds-eye vision of what Christmas should be, to enjoy the progression in Advent and then the shape of what Christmas actually becomes.

So take your time this Advent, allow space for it to surprise you. Why not join us in church each Sunday to mark the Sundays as a rhythm and discipline for yourself and then, when Christmas does come and we celebrate God’s love made manifest among us in Jesus, may it be a very great blessing to you.

David Green

The benefits of boundaries

A photo of the High Altar at the Sint Andrey Abbey, BrugesOctober has been a very busy month with unusual activities. The Bishop of Tonbridge spent a week in the local area visiting the Malling Deanery and presided over a fantastic Confirmation Service in which 32 people of all ages from around our local area were able to proclaim their Christian faith and be confirmed, receiving Holy Communion for the first time in front of a jammed church (see p.13). With the Bishop around, the Clergy of our area gathered for a couple of days of much needed rest and social time. I learnt that one local clergyman has a thing for shoes, another local Vicar knits and another one is into Arsenal!

But in the middle of October, I was hauled over to Bruges for the second part of a leadership course that I started in the Summer (see July parish magazine). We were hosted by the Sint Andreu (St Andrew) Benedictine flemish-speaking monastery on the outskirts of Bruges. It’s a monastery that first came into being in the year 1100 and has had a long and varied history since.

At first, it took some getting used to. There was a very rigid routine that meant Prayers at certain times of day (in Flemish), meetings at certain times, meals at certain times – always conducted in silence except for one of the Brothers reading in Flemish to all present. Rest and free time was also strictly timetabled. The routine, the long periods of silence and also eating without speaking were all so different to my usual lifestyle that I struggled to adjust. It may sound like a nightmare to you.

But by the end of the week, I was benefitting. I was sleeping better and longer, despite getting up earlier than I usually do. Rather than eating on the run at crazy times of day, often standing up and shovelling something in while I rush off to something else, I ate at set times, I ate very well (the Brothers like their food) and eating in silence means you take your time and you also think. I even started to appreciate that timetabling rest and relaxation may sound daft but actually it means you do get some! On my little tablet computer, I started watching Homeland and discovered a fantastic TV series that I’d heard about but never had time to see.

A photo of the entrance to Sint Andreu Abbey, BrugesFor a great number of people in this part of Kent, we could do a lot worse than learn from the wisdom of St Benedict and his monks. Don’t get me wrong, I couldn’t live their particular lifestyle over the long-term. It is a calling after all. But that sense of rhythm, of ensuring that you attend to the basic necessities of life like eating, sleeping, working and rest is a lesson that is always good to re-learn. In the Christian faith and its many and varied different expressions and traditions, there is often great practical wisdom for living that works, even when the times are very different to the ones in which such wisdom was first discovered or first taught by Jesus himself.

It’s one of the reasons why I’m looking forward to our new Emmaus course that starts in November and is intended as a ‘beginners’ course for those who are just looking to explore what Christianity is about and encounter this person Jesus, and see if he has anything to say that might benefit them. If you’re thinking of coming, do let me know. Everyone is welcome.

David Green

God in music

Polly Gibbons and James Pearson perform at Music@Malling 2013It was my great privilege to be able to attend Ridley Hall for my ordination training and to be tutored by a clergyman by the name of Jeremy Begbie. Jeremy has since gone on to work in the USA at Duke University, but he is a fabulous preacher and someone with a keen interest in the interplay between God and music.

In this month where we’ve been treated (once again) to the amazing musicians of the Music@Malling festival, I find myself thinking back to some of Jeremy’s lectures and the conversations I was able to share with him.

Most people who know something about music will quickly work out that I really don’t know anything about music! Certainly not at the level of expertise that we saw in West Malling for the festival. I know what I like, and I can appreciate something done to a high level of expertise. But is music just about what we like?

Jeremy says of himself that he will refuse to answer the question ‘what kind of music do you like’ because, in such a question, its assumed that the most important thing we can ask about music is whether we like it. Rather, he would encourage us to ask a subtler question if we wanted to engage with culture, which is: what’s going on here?

Why is this person doing this writing, performing, dancing, playing? Why are people buying it, listening to it, watching it? What’s happening? If you do that, he would say, you learn a lot more about people. We learn more about the culture we live in.

With that in mind, I’m intrigued by why the Jazz was sold out but Mozart wasn’t (it was still well-attended though). Why many people jammed the church to hear the Family Concert but were more interested to hear the James Bond themes and the Dambusters tune from the amateur brass band, than they were to hear the professionals perform Vivaldi. And why some people would speak to me as if I was being very generous in allowing this ‘kind of music’ (as they put it) to be played in church, as if there ought to be a divide between what is sacred and what is not. Answers on a postcard… I do have some thoughts of my own too.

Music taps a very deep part of us. Particular songs and pieces of music will bring to me certain memories of times, places, events that carry an association, for me, with a particular piece of music. With other pieces or songs, they evoke a feeling or even a hope that is hard to quash. Music can speak to us of God, with or without words.

As well as being a theologian, Jeremy is also a concert pianist. He’s been known to play something by Bach, tell you a bit about how it’s constructed, and then play it again. As he does so, you see beautifully ordered music. It isn’t chaotic, but it also sounds like Bach was having a lot of fun. Something open, abundant, unpredictable. It doesn’t have to be classical. Jazz strikes me as something with careful order and yet unpredictability too.

Jeremy has been known to liken that sense of order and fun to God’s presence with us in the Holy Spirit. The One who brings abundance, surprise, novelty, unpredictability into the midst of and out of the order that is in our world. So, as much as when you’re walking in the midst of creation, or sitting in prayer in quietness, or able to sense God in a myriad of other ways, don’t forget the music too. He’s there also.

David Green

Blessed are the peacemakers (Syria)

The Summer holidays have passed swiftly in the Green household and alongside a fabulous time at a Christian camp in Somerset (a bit of a busman’s holiday for me), we also had time at Chessington, a day trip to Boulogne and the use of a friend’s beach hut in sunny Bexhill. But like all the MPs suddenly recalled from their Summer holidays, such things start to pale in significance when you realise what is happening in Syria. I’m sure the children of that nation would much rather have a Summer like my children have had than the one they are enduring right now.

In the last few days, those MPs have rejected the Government’s move toward military action. It is obviously very difficult for anyone to know what to do about all this. There is risk in doing nothing. There is also risk in getting involved.

Whatever you think of the politics of the matter, it is worth bearing in mind the words of the new Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. Speaking about Syria in the House of Lords on Thursday he said ‘we have to learn that there are intermediate steps between being in barracks and opening fire.’

Until we are absolutely sure that every other option has been exhausted, until we are sure we know the truth of the matter as to who has been responsible, until we know that the international community is of one mind, we cannot say with 100% certainty that our cause is just. And that’s important to be sure of, because, as the Archbishop said, as soon as the West opens fire, as soon as it begins, the consequences will be totally out of our hands.

Chemical weapons are a horrible atrocity. But I find myself wondering why we were not outraged in the West when the Syrian army fired upon civilian protesters in April 2011, or why we were not outraged when the Syrian army dropped cluster blombs on rebel-held towns in September 2012 causing massive civilian casualties, or why we didn’t stand up in protest when a Syrian Christian priest was beheaded in the street with men and children looking on and taking pictures on camera phones? Those who would rush to action now because chemical weapons have been fired need to ask why we weren’t rushing to action then.

As the Archbishop went on to say, it’s also worth noting also that intervention from the West will declare ‘open season’ on Christian churches in the region, according to a very senior Christian leader there. There were two million Christians in Iraq 12 years ago. There are less than 500,000 today. Many of these churches draw their roots from the very earliest days of Christianity and they are in great peril.

Those who find themselves in the middle of such conflict fight for their lives. Those who are watching from the outside have a responsibility to fight for the best possible outcome with long-term peace and reconciliation. Doing nothing isn’t an option. These people need the world’s help. But if we take action that diminishes the chances of long-term peace, then we have will have contributed to the killing and made it all far worse than it already is. May God give our leaders and give us all great wisdom as we seek to be peacemakers.

David Green
reflecting on and reporting the remarks
of the Archbishop of Canterbury

The full text of the Archbishop’s remarks is available on his own website.
Photo from the Washington Post.

Setting a Rule of Life

During June, it was my privilege to be invited to attend the Rochester Leadership Programme. A week in the shadow of Ely Cathedral last week, a tutor group and homework lie ahead and then a further week in October in Bruges* will combine together (hopefully) to make me a better leader.

20 clergy from around our diocese came together to look at leadership but were surprised to find that the first week of the course didn’t really talk about leadership at all. Instead, we were turned inward on ourselves to look at what motivates us as both Christians and Priests and how we might shape our own lives in line with ideas borrowed from Benedictine spirituality.

The Benedictines talk about ‘Obedient Listening’, ‘Conversion of Life’ and ‘Stability’ as three disciplines to shape a ‘Rule of Life’. Such ‘Rules of Life’ have gained a fresh sense of popularity in recent years; not least through television programmes like The Monastery. Many people, Christian and otherwise, are looking for something to break the cycle and slow the relentless pace of modern life.

Having a Rule of LIfe encourages us to set attainable goals for our growth (spiritual, mental, emotional and physical) and to work steadily over time to achieve them. They are an intentional pattern by which we live our everyday life in such a way that we open ourselves up to opportunities for beauty, perceiving God’s presence and activity.

Creating such a Rule involves being aware of how we spend our time and how we might spend it more fruitfully. Becoming aware of the gap between the two can create momentum for change. Part of my homework is to think about and shape a ‘Rule of Life’ for myself in conjunction with my family.

For me, all this was a timely reminder. I’m approaching my second anniversary in this post. The pace has mostly been ‘breakneck’ and my working week is regularly around 70 to 80 hours split between the three communities of Kings Hill, Offham and West Malling. That amount of time spent working is not a good thing, it means I’m not at my best at times, not good for my family and it’s not a good model for those I am called to shepherd.

At the same time, I live with a strange dichotomy of views where some people in the parishes assume that I either have no time for them (because I must so busy) while others believe that I only work on Sundays (and therefore have all the time in the world). I am sure there must be a middle way.

Some of the problems of ministry and time will be aided when we finally ‘complete’ our Cluster with the third clergyperson who will live on Kings Hill. That will make life easier. But, like anyone struggling with work-life balance, as the saying goes ‘if you don’t take control of your diary, someone else will take control of it for you’.

So some changes are afoot for me and, if you are struggling with similar issues, I’d encourage you think about whether a Rule of Life might work for you too.

Now… just need to find some time to start preparing mine.

David Green

* The reason that we’re being taken to Bruges for the second week is that the Diocese have worked out that it’s cheaper to host the course there and pay our travel costs than to host it at any similar retreat centre in the UK!

Asking questions of Woolwich

There are a few sayings of Jesus that continue to mystify and baffle me. I take heart from the knowledge that I’m not the only one baffled; scholars tend to spill disproportionate amounts of ink on such passages too. In the last fortnight, I’ve been thinking about this one in particular:

“From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.” (Matthew 11:12, NRSV)

The death of Drummer Lee Rigby of the Royal Fusiliers has brought to our doorstep, once again, matters of faith and violence, culture and war. I am sure our hearts go out to his family at this inexpressibly dark time for them.

The perpetrators of his murder were only too keen to be seen and photographed; only too keen to layer their violence with a veneer of Muslim faith. Quite apart from the sadness I feel because the world is as it is, whenever something like this happens there’s always a deep sigh in me because I know I’m going to hear some hoary old chestnuts once again about religion and violence.

There are those who will delight to try and say that without religion, there would be no war. They do so while conveniently ignoring the 20th Century, the bloodiest century in the history of humanity; the Century in which humanity turned its collective back on God and embraced a series of atheistic ideologies. It seems without faith, human beings are even worse than they are with faith. That tells me faith is not the issue.

I was embarrassed to see some of the things that friends and family put on Facebook in the couple of days after the murder of Lee Rigby. Muslim-bashing and anti-immigration rants are not only distasteful but they do nothing to inform the reality of the situation.

Let’s see this attack for what it wasn’t. This wasn’t an act of a devout Muslim, following God’s instructions. The very word Islam means submission, surrender and peace. It was my privilege a few years ago to attend a lecture by the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo when he was visiting this country. Afterwards I asked him, as a Christian how I could relate to Muslim neighbours in my community. He responded ‘if you follow the teachings of Jesus, you will do well.’ That is the voice of mainstream Islam, not young men like Adebowale and Adebolajo.

Let’s also ask questions of what it was. What makes disaffected young black men, born and raised in the UK as British nationals, easy prey for extremism? What is it about our globalised world that means such men, taken in by such extremism, are able to feel a sense of affinity for a far-off nation and a culture not their own? What is it about the march of Western secular values into very different cultures, and our arrogance in assuming their superiority, that so angers and threatens people in other nations? And what is it about the actions of the USA and the UK in Afghanistan and the Middle East that is leaving people in those countries with a sense they have no voice in their own destiny, which for some desperate souls leads to a willingness to embrace extremism?

Adebowale and Adebolajo will go to prison for a very long time. Rightly so. However, recalling another one of Jesus’ sayings, we will do no honour to Lee Rigby’s memory if before we start trying to take splinters out of other people’s eyes, we do nothing to consider the planks in our own.

Rev David Green

A different kind of peace

I read last week that we have ‘the UK Peace Index’ and the news was that peace was up, and violent crime was down. Obviously good news for everyone! However, their definition of ‘peace’ felt off. ‘Peace’ was defined as ‘the absence of violence or fear of violence’.

Is that really all ‘peace’ is? Is it simply an absence of nastiness? Can peace only be defined by what it isn’t?

An ancient Roman historian, Tacitus, once criticised his countrymen saying ‘to ravage, to slaughter, … they call Empire; and where they make a desert, they call it peace’. Making something empty, creating a desert where once there was violence, isn’t real peace.

In the Bible, the Hebrew word for peace is Shalom; a word still used as a greeting in Israel today. But it means a huge amount more than just the absence of violence. Shalom means completeness, soundness, wholeness, well-being, harmony and concord with others. It is a ‘filled in’ word that is defined by what it is, not a ‘vacuum’ word that takes its definition from what it isn’t.

Divine peace has a filling effect. It has been my privilege to sit a number of people who have faced tragedy, disaster or even impending death and yet some have managed to do so calm, ready, and full of peace. God’s peace. The peace they know is, as the Bible puts it, ‘a peace that passes all understanding’. A peace that doesn’t make sense.

This kind of peace isn’t about an absence; about taking away the situation or taking away any of their feelings. Rather such people speak of something else, something brighter, something more weighty that fills the space and leaves no room for fear or anxiety.

At base level, it is a peace we can all relate to because it is peace built on love. When we know the love of another person in a relationship, or the love of a mother or father or son or daughter, there is great confidence in such unconditional acceptance. Perhaps it shouldn’t surprise us when people sense God’s unconditional acceptance, that it leads to a ‘filling-up’, a shalom kind of peace.

Elsewhere, in his writings, Tacitus made mention of Jesus and the disciples in his histories. It is one of the few non-Christian historical references to Jesus that help to verify him as a factual, historical individual. One of the disciples to whom Tacitus refers gave this advice to those wrestling for a sense of peace:

“Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4.5-9 (NRSV)

David Green

Easter thoughts

A photo of a chalkboard that reads 'Resurrection is making a comeback' While it doesn’t work in every part of the world, the Seasons (as
we experience them in the UK) and the Christian year do tend to
work quite nicely at this time of year. The journey through Lent, a
time of preparation, denial, fasting, and discipline has been made
in days of long nights and short days, cold weather and rain. Then
as Easter begins to move into view, snowdrops are followed by
daffodils. The death of winter gives way to the new life of the Spring. Spirits lift. Without the rain, eyes rise from the pavement to one another’s faces; heavy coats that protect and hide us away from each other are discarded once again.

I suspect I love the Spring as much as I do because of those wintry months. The appreciation of these heights is all the more acute because we went down to the depths first and spent that time longing for the new day to dawn and the sun to shine.

Spring brings joy, in part, because of winter. Easter Sunday brings joy, in part, because of Good Friday. It makes no sense without both. I love the hope of resurrection because I know something of the frailty of the depths that exist in our own human fragility. I take too many funerals and sit with too many families in their own depths to not have a sense of appreciation for hope renewed and recast in new ways in the midst of the pain.

As the Psalmist put it, nearly three thousand years ago,

“Weeping may linger for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.” Psalm 30.5

I take heart knowing that Jesus, my God with human face, experienced all that we experience. I can pray because I know that in the Garden of Gethsemane, he prayed honestly about the most painful of all depths that he was about to experience.

In this last fortnight, Pope Francis I has signalled a change of perspective for my Roman Catholic friends and, continuing that thought about prayer, in this country Archbishop Justin Welby began work saying “let us provoke each other to heed the call of Christ… committed in prayer to Christ, and we will see a world transformed” (my emphasis).

A recent ICM survey noted that four in every five British adults believe in the power of prayer. Do you? I’m not surprised, given that many people, regardless of whether I ever see them in church worshipping, often will say, ‘Pray one for me’. Indeed, there’s a Church of England website where people can make prayer requests and know that Clergy, Monks and Nuns will pray on their behalf. You may like to check it out.

When I’m asked, it is always my privilege to pray such prayers, of course. But the message of Easter is that no other intermediary is necessary. In the events of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, a way is made and our prayers can be heard. There are all sorts of methods of prayer but the key thing is always that those who wish to do so, have that Easter confidence and faith about them to lift their eyes, look for a new day to dawn and welcome the sun, asking it to shine.

David Green

Exploding wedding myths

A photo of Bluewater's events areaIt was with some trepidation that I rolled up in my car to Bluewater recently to help man a Church of England stand at the (extremely large and glitzy) Bluewater Wedding Fair. Talking to strangers at a display stand doesn’t phase me, I used to do that for a living at one point. The trepidation was whether I, as a Vicar in my clerical collar, would be welcome. To read the newspapers at the moment is to be told a story that the world has moved on, that the church is being slow to get with the times, that Christians aren’t welcome. I didn’t know what I would find and I didn’t know how people would react to being asked if they would like a church wedding and so I was ‘trepid’ (yep, it’s a word).

I needn’t have worried. At Bluewater and also at Beltring Hop Farm, in the last month I’ve helped staff the Church of England stands and talked to lots of couples who were genuinely interested in a church wedding. They were delighted to see us there, ready and able to help, and delighted to hear they could get married in church.

What did strike me, though, is how many people think they wouldn’t be allowed to have a church wedding. I was shocked as to how many myths there are in wider society about church weddings. It was genuinely a pleasure to blow away those myths and confirm for couples that yes, they could have the church wedding they had wanted but thought wasn’t available to them. What fabulous good news to be able to share.

So just in case anyone that reads this is also labouring under the belief that they can’t have a church wedding, let me blow away some myths for you now. If you aren’t getting married yourself but you happen to be talking to someone who says something like this, correct them and tell them to contact their local Vicar to find out more!

  • You don’t have to be christened to get married in church.
  • You don’t have to have attended regularly to get married in church.
  • If you think its hypocritical to get married in church because you don’t worship there, just remember that the Church of England is the established church. In other words, you have a legal right to get married in the parish church of the place where you live. We are here for everyone, not just those who come on a Sunday.
  • If you have been married before, it doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t get married a second time in church. Vicars can choose to conduct such marriages if they wish. While all circumstances are different, I try to find a way forward if we can. It’s been my pleasure to marry several divorcees since I’ve been in West Malling & Offham and it’s been a privilege to help give them a second chance at happiness.
  • If you used to live here, but don’t live here anymore, you can still get married here.
  • If you were christened here, or your mum and dad got married here, or your grandparents got married here, then you can get married here; regardless of where you now live.
  • A church wedding doesn’t have to be expensive. It’s actually cheaper for a basic wedding in church than in a civil ceremony.

By the time you read this article, our next Marriage Preparation Course will have begun as we spend some time with a number of couples who plan to marry at West Malling or Offham either this year or next. It’s a fabulous honour and privilege that I get to work with such couples as part of my role here and I hope to continue to do that for many years to come.

So if you are thinking of walking down the aisle or you know someone who is, please let me know. I’d love to help.

David Green

Using light to pray

This January has been something of a funny month in ministry. As a benefice, it has been our enormous privilege to serve at twelve funerals. Seven have already taken place, another five will take place in the next couple of weeks. Christmas and New Year is never a good time to lose a loved one, so please do remember those families in prayer.

It has certainly given me reason to make regular use of the latest addition to the fabric of St Mary’s Church. Just before Christmas, St Mary’s took delivery of a ‘Votive Candle Stand’. Given in memory of Geoffrey Charlton, a congregation member at St Mary’s for over 70 years, it nestles against the wall of the south side aisle and waits expectantly to provide a home to our prayers.

I am sure many will have seen such candle stands in cathedrals. The idea is that you pop into church, say a prayer and light a candle which then sits on the stand after you leave.

The symbolism is not only about praying for God’s light to overcome darkness, but as you leave the candle in the church, it continues to burn. In that sense, it continues to offer that person or situation or worry into God’s hands and invite his loving grace in. Finally, when the candle expires and the smoke rises, it is as if that prayer finally rises into God’s hands where the Book of Revelation says they are gathered together like bowls of sweet-smelling incense before the Throne of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God.

You don’t have to use a candle to pray but many people find it a useful visual symbol of what is going on in our hearts.

The church is always open during daylight hours and you are always welcome to pop in for five minutes or as long as you wish to pray your prayer and light a candle. It may be that you want to remember someone who has died, as I have been doing with these twelve funerals. It may be that you want to pray for someone who is sick, or for a situation going on in your life, a worry or anxiety, a job request. You name it, all our prayers are welcome before our God of love.

As St Paul wrote:

‘Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.’ (Philippians 4.6, NRSV)

In other news, I mentioned last month that the PCC of St Michael’s, Offham was meeting this month to decide on their priorities in moving forward. Their priorities fell into two broad categories. Firstly, what we can do to help children and families, then secondly, how we can help our church building work better for us. In regard to children and families, we need to think further about such things as how Sunday School operates, when they meet and what resources we can provide. We also need to think and develop further our gently growing Family Service once a month.

In regard to buildings, we’ve experimented with tea and coffee after the Family Service and that is going well but such experiments have highlighted our lack of space in the church for such things and also our lack of loo facilities (toilets emerging as a priority here too). John Marshall passed away recently and, in his days as Churchwarden, he looked at designs for such things but for a number of reasons it wasn’t possible to move forward then. There are things we can improvise in the short-term, not least with the good graces of Church Farm. However, we are going to be exploring our options for other more long-term provision as well.

David Green