Monthly Archives: October 2012

I’ve just had a lovely day with the College of Preachers at Methodist Central Hall.

Speakers included Stephen Cottrell, Bishop of Chelmsford, Malcolm Guite, Chaplain of Girton College, Cambridge, and Lucy Winkett, Rector of St James, Piccadilly.



Bishop Steven, urged us to not to listen to those that say that in the modern age concentration span is only a few minutes, and reminded that Stand Up Comedians can hold an audience for up to 2 hours without a single visual aid. Comedians tell stories, and show you how absurd life is, and people laugh. As preachers we need to tell stories, and show people how beautiful and mysterious life is, we do this so people can worship. Steven reminded us that someone else was quite famous in telling stories.

Malcolm Guite reminded us, we need to use our poetic imagination, to get anwhere near to loving God with all our minds and all our hearts. He went on to show us how we could use poems in our preaching, such as “The Rain Stick” by Seamus Heaney, or Prayer by George Herbert

Prayer the Churches banquet, Angels age,
Gods breath in man returning to his birth,
The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav’n and earth;

Engine against th’Almightie, sinners towre,
Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
The six-daies world-transposing in an houre,
A kinde of tune, which all things heare and fear;

Softnesse, and peace, and joy, and love, and blisse,
Exalted Manna, gladnesse of the best,
Heaven in ordinarie, man well drest,
The milkie way, the bird of Paradise,

Church-bels beyond the starres heard, the souls bloud,
The land of spices; something understood.

Lucy Winkett talked about keeping our preaching fresh. By this she meant that it should be like the living water that Jesus offered the woman at the well, that always quenches the thirst. We need to recognise the thirst and feed it with the water and breathe of life. Remember Jesus saying “come to me all you who are hungry”. She offered that we should be “expressing the eternal through everyday stories”.While keeping it fresh, we should avoid the clichés in the bible stories, and try to see the stories from the perspectives of others in the stories. What we need to be interested in is “God’s relationship with the congregation – remember that God Loves You, and cannot bear to be parted from you.” Lucy continued to tell us to “Speak Human – avoid clichés, jargon, churchy talk, speak in plain English. Adopt the Phyllis Trebble model of Bible study, we grasp the bible firmly and shout at it, “what do you have to say to us” as if we were wrestling with the angel. But don’t be surprised if we come away with our hip broken! Speak with passion and enthusiasm “come look at this, I can’t believe what I’ve read, come let’s look at this together” – there is an irresistible invitation to live and be fulfilled. Preaching should be a collective act of cultivating wisdom.

In his closing remarks Bishop Steven left us with a few thoughts –

  1. For each of us as Preachers – Where is our place of replenishment? (We should have a thirsting heart).
  2. Do we need to re-negotiate the Sunday Contract – there appears to be a contract for a 1hr service on a Sunday morning, and we are failing now to get congregations back for a second 1hr in the evening. What would church look like if we changed the contract to 1.5 or 2hrs, maybe even only once a month, how much more learning and teaching we could do.
  3. Review what you do? Is your preaching stuck in a rut? If we want to change the way we preach, then perhaps we need to change how we prepare.

A good day, perhaps I need to attend more……..


On Saturday, after the Coffee Morning at Rayleigh, we thought we’d better get some fresh air, so we put waterproofs and our walking boots and set off for Hadleigh Country Park and the castle.

Hadleigh you will remember was the location for the Mountain Biking from the Olympics. The farm that it was built on is owned by the Salvation Army, and was land purchased by William Booth in his plan to bring young men out of the slums of London to train them to become farmers. The site is now used to train people with learning difficulties.

(It does make me think, why can’t we as Methodists have some imagination for re-using our buildings and facilities, for the good of the Kingdom, instead of selling off our assets cheaply).

The Mountain Biking track is currently closed off, it needs fencing in and other safety features before opening to the public. (Hopefully they will put some road infrastructure in as well; otherwise it will be quite difficult to get to.

The country park is huge and it was a 45 minute walk to the castle. Even on a dull autumn day, the views were spectacular.


The castle dates from 1200s but was not built on stable land, and so was out of use by the end of the 1200s.

Following our long walk we had a lovely lunch at the Salvation Army Tea Rooms in Hadleigh.

It was a wonderful time of refreshment to walk in the countryside. More walking soon as we’ve got a week away in the Caravan to Cromer in East Anglia.

We’ve spoken to Jessica a number of times, and what made me laugh (bearing in mind how much she hates going away in the caravan!) she wants us to go to the Lake District for a holiday so she can do some walking in the English Countryside. Perhaps we can take, Theresa, Gordon and the dog too.

Well, I’ve survived so far, had both my church councils now, and all was well.

It has been an interesting challenge preaching twice each Sunday (apart from one week), and I am looking forward to the next plan so I can take more services in “my” churches rather than wandering the circuit like a lost minstrel!

Nearly 2 months in now, and all is well, beginning now to plan the shape of my ministry with my stewards.

Thanking everyone for your love and prayers.

I’ve sort of resisted writing about funerals on my blog, as I’ve felt it may not be fair to the families.

However, I hope if I write a generic comment, then it will hopefully not cause any hurt to any family.

I’ve had the privilege now, since I’ve been here to conduct 3 separate funerals, all for church members and adherents. I say privilege, as I’ve really felt that it is a real privilege to be able to help people at their lowest moment to come to terms with a loved one’s death, and to help them through the organisation of a fitting funeral, and to provide God’s word of comfort.

The 3 funerals have all been quite different, only one of them including a church element. Last week the funeral had over 200 people present, it was very difficult to keep my eyes dry, as he had been such a lovely man, and the love and loss of the family was tangible. But it is so important in ministry to be the one that holds it all together.

I have another funeral in a weeks time.

Dear Lord, give me the strength, and love to serve

On Sunday evening, for the first time since we got here, I didn’t have an evening service. So we thought we’d go and worship somewhere else. BUT! It seems that Evening Worship is not in vogue in Southend. We were looking for something different, but there was nothing on offer.

So we took a drive down to the front, and walked along, the pier was still open, so we bought our tickets and went for a ride on the train. There was this most beautiful sunset, not captured very well on my phone, but it was lovely. Caroline did not have her camera, but somehow she got a better photo on her phone.

There was only the one café open at the end of the pier, and they only had the one cake, so 2 cups of tea and one cake. Look how it was served.

I must admit, these last few weeks have been difficult in a different way.

Theresa moved out into a flat last year, but at least when we were in Bristol I saw her most weeks, but now since we’ve moved to Essex, I only see her on Facebook or Skype. It does feel very odd, though seeing her and Gordon on skype, with the Dog, in our old house in Bristol.

Theresa is now 2 weeks into her new job at Frenchay Hospital. She is working on a stroke ward, as a HCA and is on a programme to give her experience towards working as a Behavioural Psychologist.

Theresa in her uniform, looking really happy as she has escaped from Subway!


Jessica is in the Philippines as a volunteer on the ICS programme for VSO. She is in Guindelman, on Bohol Island. We have been able to catch up with her on Skype a few times, as she has got an internet café very close to where she is staying. She is living with a Baptist family, who also run a house church and a kindergarten. You can read Jessica’s Blog on —-

I’m really proud of my girls, but I’m missing them, and looking forward to the next time we will all be together – probably Christmas!


As for me, well things are going well in the new “Job”. 2 Funerals done, 2 more on the way, one baptism coming before Christmas, and 5 weddings next year. Taken lots of services, and still excited that I can serve both communities. One Church council done, one more to go. I’ve helped re-launch the older youth group at Hockley, and have 7 boys aged 12-14. (Can I sneakily change this into a BB Company, or do you think they might notice?)

Starting to think now, what will my focus be, what vision do I need to share with the churches. What do we need to do to move people closer to the kingdom.

The anchor – the logo of The Boys’ Brigade (Taken from Hebrews 6:19 – “which hope we have as an Anchor of the soul, both Sure & Stedfast”. 129 years ago, in Glasgow, William Alexander Smith started the Boys’ Brigade.

The BB was founded in Glasgow, in 1883, by William Alexander Smith. Smith was a Sunday School teacher at North Woodside Free Church College, he was also a North Lanarkshire Rifles volunteer. “Lieutenant Smith was a disciplinarian, a good drill and stickler for correctness and smartness of uniform…..he understood that as slovenliness destroys self-respect, so smartness, correctness and cleanliness not only stimulate the right sort of pride in the individual, but also discipline, emulation and spirit de corps….The men of his company worshipped him” (Gibbon 1961:21)

Smith’s problem was unruly twelve year old Boys in his class. “The boys attended because they were sent there by parents, and their lack of interest was obvious…most of the boy’s classes in the school declined to be controlled, and had not even a nodding acquaintance with discipline” (Gibbon 1961:32). How was it that Smith could command great respect and drill hundreds of men on a Saturday, and yet be run ragged by small boys on a Sunday? “Can’t you make use of your volunteer methods in the Sunday School?” was the question asked by one of his friends, it was this that sparked the idea that started the Boys Brigade. “Discipline and espirit de corps” was the answer. (Gibbon 1961:32) With 2 of his friends from the volunteers, Smith launched the BB on 4th October, 1883, with a crew of 3 officers and 28 Boys.

William Alexander Smith

From the outset, Smith established that the “object of the Brigade shall be the advancement of Christ’s Kingdom among Boys, and the promotion of habits of Reverence, Discipline, Self-Respect and all that tends towards a true Christian Manliness” (Gibbon 1961:60). Note the capitalisation of the words Smith saw as important, including the word BOY, to remind officers that the Boys’ Brigade was about the Boys!

By 1886 there were 44 companies, 136 officers, 1999 Boys. 4 of these companies were in England, in Manchester, London and Penzance. In 1888 Smith had to give up his occupation and become full time secretary of the BB. Smith wanted to transform lives; his passion is seen clearly in a lecture (quoted beloew) where he describes Christ – “Christ is the ideal Man; Christ was the ideal boy; and if men and boys are not won for Christ there is surely something wrong in the way in which we present Him to them”

In the Sunday School Chronicle of the 11th May, 1888, there is a report of a speech he [William Alexander Smith] made at a Sunday School Union Conference, presided over my Mr Quintin Hogg, founder of the Polytechnic. After describing the beginning and growth of the Brigade, it’s object, aims and methods, Smith said:-

Christ is the ideal Man; Christ was the ideal boy; and if men and boys are not won for Christ there is surely something wrong in the way in which we present Him to them. It may be we have gone too much on the lines of seeking to commend Christianity to them by showing the boy only that side of it that would commend it to the gentler nature of the girl. All a boy’s aspirations are towards manliness, however mistaken his ideas may be as to what true manliness means. Our boys are full of earnest desire to be brave, true men, and if we want to make them brave, true Christian men we must direct this desire into the right channel, and show them that in the service of Christ they will find the truest, bravest life that a man can live. We laid the foundation of the B.B. on this idea, and determined to win the boys for Christ by presenting to them a view of Christianity to which we know their natures will most readily respond. It also seemed to us that by associating Christianity with all that is most noble and manly in a boy’s eyes, we might do much to disabuse his mind of the idea that there is anything weak or effeminate about Christianity—an idea that is far too widespread among boys. Our aim was to band the boys together and create an esprit de corps that would make them proud of their company, jealous of its honour, ashamed to do anything to disgrace it, and prepared to make any sacrifice rather than be dismissed from it. In the Brigade we try to realise not only that boys will be boys, but that boys ought to be boys, and it would be a thousand pities if they were anything else.”

“Through games, camps, clubrooms, ambulances, bands, and so on, we take the boy on every side of his nature, and surround him with a continual influence for good at that critical period of his life when his character is taking a mould that will affect his whole future. The Brigade gives the officer endless opportunities of coming into contact with his boys; and there is no better way of doing this than to ask them to spend an evening at his home—six or eight at a time—when the touch between the boys themselves gets very close, and they are drawn together as in no other way.”

“The Brigade makes a point of acknowledging God in everything, of putting Christ at the head of everything, and tries to do it in such a way that a boy will feel that the religious element in the work is a pleasure and not a bore. It breaks down the notion in a boy’s mind that religion is a thing for Sunday and Sunday School, and has nothing to do with his daily life during the rest of the week. We try to make him feel that there is no part of his life that is beyond the range of God’s love, and that everything he does should be done in God’s sight.”

The BB was the first organisation to take Boys away on residential holidays, with Smith taking the 1st Glasgow to Tighnabruaich in 1886. Smith being an innovator in many ways came across the reluctance of parents to take their Boys camping. Smith wrote to the parents assuring them that “every precaution will be taken to ensure health and safety“. (Gibbon 1961:66–67) Camp was not to be seen as an opportunity to “convert” the Boys, “officers should do their work thoroughly, earnestly and devotedly, and leave the issue in God’s hands. He insisted that officers and Boys should share in all the adventure, weather, sports, hardships and fun of camp, and that they must be together at meals.” (McFarlan 1982:44)

The BB still has a tremendous amount to offer and I am very proud to have been an officer for 26 years. This week, please pray for the BB, that we can find more adults to volunteer, so that more BB companies can be started.

Gibbon, F. (1961) William A. Smith of The Boys’ Brigade1961st ed., London: Wm. Collins Sons & Co.

McFarlan, D.M. (1982) First for boys : the story of the Boys’ Brigade, 1883-1983, Glasgow: Collins.

Here is this month’s article for the Rayleigh Church Magazine………..



At synod we were presented with a number of seminars we could go to, and yet more programmes on how to try and attract people into our churches. I went to the seminar by Christian Vision for Men, and Pat Norman went to the seminar on attracting young people.


There are so many programmes available for bringing people to church, and some of you will also have seen “Back to Church Sunday” advertised around some of the churches in Rayleigh and wondered why we did not take part. There are Fresh Expressions of Church, there are activities such as Men’s Breakfasts, Café Church, “Who let the Dad’s out?”, Alpha Courses, Emmaus, Disciple…….I could fill up this whole article with programmes that are available, and wear us all out before we even thought of doing anything at all! One does have to raise the question, if there are all these programmes, and they all say they are successful, why are we not already doing them, and why are our churches not all full? One of the speakers did indeed suggest that, all we need to do is to make friends and bring them to church. Perhaps we’ve made ourselves too busy with church busyness that we haven’t got time to be in the real world and make friends anymore.


I’ve been reflecting, as part of my studies on the reluctance we have developed in our post-modern and post-christendom church to “give an account of the hope we have” (See 1 Peter 3:15). We seem somehow to be drowning in the rampant secularisation of the age, and have become too timid to tell people that they are loved. Reflect on this too, and let me know what you think.


How do we redress this, what do we as a church need to do? Well, that’s a good question, and something I want to address with the church in the next few months. I don’t want to launch into anything new, or suggest any changes, till we discern together where we as a church want and need to go. So folks, put on your thinking caps, and take a look at us as a church, let’s take our temperature, let’s do a health check, let’s look in the cupboards, in the dark spaces, behind the meetings, under our services, and see what we already do that is good, or what we can and need to do.


As we journey on towards the kingdom, there are things that need to stay the same, there will be things that need to be tweaked, but there may also be new things that we want to try (but not all at once, and not to stretch us beyond our capabilities and resources). Let me know what you find, let me know what you hear as together we discern what is the Lord’s plan for us.


For those of you who may not have read my article in Hockley & Hawkwell’s Link, I want to re-print one quote, from David Bosch – “”Evangelism is only possible when the community that evangelises…is a radiant manifestation of the Christian Faith and exhibits an attractive lifestyle….If the church is to impart to the world a message of hope and love, of faith, justice and peace, something of this should become visible, audible and tangible in the church itself.” Let’s keep that in mind when we take the temperature of our church.


The Methodist Church has itself realised that “Evangelism” is a word that increasingly Methodists are becoming uncomfortable with. It’s what it has come to mean, not it’s simple original meaning of “spreading the good news”. If you want to take part in the debate, have a look at …. or just go to the Methodist Church website and enter the search phrase – evangelism survey. A recent video made by the Methodist Church is also available – . If you do not have access to the internet, let me know and we will try and run something in church to allow people to engage.


The photo I have sent in with this article was taken at Tabgha near Gallilee, and it reminds us that we wait upon the Lord for his command to us. So let us pray for discernment.

Time, I need a time machine, one of those things that slows everything down so that you can catch up!

The last 2 weeks have disappeared fast, and we found ourselves this morning on tenterhooks waiting for a text or a call to say that Jessica had safely arrived in the Philippines. She has arrived, and was a little tearful, but that was down to her being very tired after a very long flight. We look forward to having some updates soon.

Jessica wearing her backpack ready to Go

Anyway, working backwards in time………

We’d taken Jessica to the train station on Tuesday morning, and thinking she was all set, we then discovered that she did not even know where she was meant to go! So having put her on the train, we raced back to check her emails and text here where to get off the train and then how to get to the YHA she and her group were staying the night before their flight. In the morning the VSO people had put on a bus to take them to Heathrow, and off they went.

Monday had also been a panic in getting her ready. The DEET she’d ordered and memory cards for her camera had gone to Bristol, so off we went to find more. Her backpack did not fit, so off we went to Go Outdoors to have it fitted professionally. (Far, far toom many straps and adjustments!) We did though manage, the three of us to have a “Last Supper” a good steak at the Basildon Beefeater (Haywain).

Jessica had also had an email to say thank you for all the money she’d raised. So I need to say thanks to all our friends and family for sending Jessica money via Justgiving.

We’d had a good Sunday, Back to Church Sunday at Hockley was brilliant, lots of people were brought back to church, and we had an excellent time. We had “Cecil the Lost Sheep”, and one of Doug Horley’s wonderful songs “Nothing’s too big”. With the colouring, the children’s percussion, and cake, it was almost Messy Church!

Sunday lunch was at Rayleigh, where we discovered how good the catering team are. (I’ve never had a 4 course harvest lunch before!)

Pate with asparagus and chutney.
Salmon with Mushroom Sauce
Lemon Meringue Pie
Cheese & Biscuits
Coffee & Mints.

Well done the catering team!

Saturday started with a quick trip into central London to go to the Amos Day. (It’s amazing, I can be in Liverpool st Station in 40 minutes by train from Rayleigh – the church was a 10 minute walk away). Amos Day was excellent, good to catch up with friends (Headley & Hiliary, Nive, John & Marie from our trip in May 2011) and to have an update on the issues and projects. (See ) There was a performance poet from Gaza who moved us with her poems, many were in tears, I was very close. The street child world cup project for 2014 looks good, and I hope to be able to get my churches involved. (See ), Garth sang as usual, perhaps I can get Garth to come and sing in Rayleigh.

I was back from London in just under an hour, and back in time to help set up the sound for Hockley’s “One Man Show”, and they raised over £400 to share between Amnesty International and the Church funds. (Oh and more food!)

Friday was a day of rushing around, my Worship Development Group meeting and a visit to the rehearsals for Saturdays show.

Thursday was a good study day, got lots found and written up, did some “research” on the evening, with a visit to the Bar’N’bus. More about that in another blog.

Wednesday was a funeral day. A lovely lady, much loved by her family, we gave her a fitting send off. It was quite moving actually. I came close to tears myself, when one of the family broke down in tears doing a reading.

Tuesday, more rushing around.

Monday was meant to be my day off, but Jessica broke down in Lakeside, so there was no rest, we raced over to Lakeside to rescue her, and arrived just before the breakdown truck. In the end all was well, but we ended up changing the brake pads just in case!

The previous Sunday was good, first proper communion at Rayleigh, which went well, nothing spilt, nothing dropped. Phew! We even san the “Custard Cream Song”. (I did forget the collection though).

Anyway, I think that is enough for now……….