Monthly Archives: December 2013

This year, every time I have got up to speak at the various services, carol services, bible studies, advent and Christmas services, my reflections have come back to “What sort of gift?” What sort of gift do we receive at Christmas?

Time – There has been a gift of time. Time to reflect through advent, as to the coming of the king, time to reflect on what this means to us. Time to share with people, time to visit (less meetings!), time to catch up with home communions, and receive a wonderful welcome in people’s homes. Time to share with others, to celebrate together. Time to catch up with families and friends. Time to go back to Bristol and see our house. Now, there is even time between Christmas and New year to come away for a retreat.

Presence – There has been some time to be! Some moments just to be me for a while, to catch up with myself, without having to be something or someone for everyone else. But there has also been times to reflect on the presence of The Lord, some moments in the eyes of the children as we reflected on the light of the Christingle, or some puppets singing, some moments of being able to pray with those that wept as we lit candles for lost loved ones, some wonderful moments of community as we shared in bread and wine, and even in tea and mince pies.

Presents – There has also been some lovely presents given and received this christmas. Quite touching to hear of the presents given out by the Street Pastors, or those that remembered that one of our congregation received no gift last year, so made sure she got one this year. Practical presents, such as a set of new front tyres for my car, and a new battery for Caroline’s car! A sewing machine for Jessica so she can in her ethical mode sew her own clothes.

Service – In the run up to Christmas, I felt really blessed in being able to serve as a minister, to be able to lead others in a huge variety of worship, share in prayers, communion, carol services and even a sing-along-a-christmas with the tiny ones in the pre-school. It has also been a privilege to serve and share meals with the elderly in our community, and also spend time with the rough sleepers at the Night Shelter. I’d been too busy to go out with the Street Pastors in December, but i have kept them in mind, and prayed for them. I look forward to being able to serve with them again in the new year.

So in reflecting on gift, what did I come up with?

This Christmas, and indeed all christmases, all year, we celebrate receiving from God, a gift of Love, Hope, Joy, Light and salvation, and i have loved preaching on this from the first Sunday in Advent to Christmas Day.

I do hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, and I look forward to wishing you a Blessed New Year.

How terrible am I? Fully intended to keep writing a blog…..then a whole year goes by….never mind, let’s start again…

Here is our Christmas 2013 letter…..

Dear friends,

We are approaching our second Christmas in Essex, surrounded by Christmas Jumpers, fake tans and glittery nails.

Last Christmas we had a bit of a shock, we were getting ready to go off to Hockley, for Phillip to take the Christmas morning service, when we had a call from Theresa. She’d only had one present from Gordon, which was a Mickey Mouse, upon which he had written “Will you marry me?” As you can imagine she was quite excited, but not as excited as Jessica, who danced around the room in her onesie, singing, “My sister’s getting married, I’m going to be a bridesmaid.” The wedding is set for 5th April at Hanham in Bristol. Rev Andrew Prout is taking the service, so Phillip can be Father of the bride. Jessica indeed will be chief bridesmaid, and is organising the Hen do, and Caroline has been very busy making invites, orders of service etc. In the summer we went over with Theresa, and Gordon to visit Gordon’s parents in France, to get to know them, and we got on with them very well. We are very much looking forward to the wedding.

Theresa is still at Frenchay hospital and is doing well in her training to be a Health Care Practitioner. Theresa, Gordon and Dany the dog are happily living in our house in Bristol. Dany is still as energetic as ever.

Jessica returned from the Philippines after we wrote our letter last year, and has been pleased to hear from the family she was adopted by, that they are safe (following the recent typhoon). In January she got a job at the new Sainsbury’s that opened 9 doors up the road from us, and enjoyed working there till something else came along. At the end of May, she took up a post working as a Holiday Courier for Spring Harvest Holidays, in Le Pas Opton in the west of France. She had a wonderful time there, and made lots of friends. We picked Jessica up from the station on her return from France whilst we were at Greenbelt Christian Arts Festival in Cheltenham in August. She went straight to the Christian Aid tent, as she began a new role as an Intern. She is now living in Nottingham and working from the Loughborough office, speaking at churches and youth groups. In early October she spent 2 weeks in Columbia for Christian Aid. So if you need anyone to speak at any of your Church services, speak to Jessica, and she’ll find someone for you.

We haven’t seen so much of the girls this year, but Theresa was able to join us at Greenbelt for a day. We all had a lovely weekend in Nottingham in October. We were due to take the caravan, but that was the weekend of the “big storm”, so we chickened out and found a cheap hotel. (Of course we had to find one that took Dogs. The manager of the hotel had a dog too, so on one afternoon, we had 2 dogs chasing round the hotel lounge like mad things). Phillip was indulged as we spent the day at the Tramway museum at Crich.

Caroline is being very greedy, in that she now has 3 jobs, all part time. In January she started as a relief librarian, and since they have opened the new forum library, she can find herself being at work up to 10pm at night! She is still working 1.5 days in St Andrews school. In October she began work as a Church Administrator for her friend Den in Cheshire, which may seem a bit distant, but in these days of cloud working, seems to work well. Caroline sings in a Choir that is performing at one of Phillip’s churches on Friday, and has had a number of successful concerts throughout the year. Caroline also does their website, and all their programmes (on Phillip’s copier!). She is still enjoying her Photography and has had a “Highly Commended”, and a “2nd Place” in the digital competition. This year, she has had a keyboard as an early Christmas present, and is beginning to learn again.

Phillip has been quite busy, and is now 15 months into his ministry at Rayleigh and Hockley Methodist Churches. In that time, he’s introduced them to Messy Church, Café Style Worship, Puppets, Stalls at the Christmas Lights, Vision day, a 5 year plan, and a few other things. His churches are exhausted! At the Carol Service the Beverly Sisters sang Little Donkey; well the puppet Beverly Sisters did. Phillip has wound up his Engineering Consultancy and has completed his theological studies; and in September was awarded a Bachelor Of Arts with Honours in Theology For Christian Ministry And Mission Upper Second Class from Winchester University. Caroline was present when Phillip Graduated at the ceremony held in Salisbury Methodist Church. Phillip is now on his second year of what the Methodist Church call “probation” (sort of on the job training, as decreed by Mr Wesley), and is due to be ordained on June 29th in Birmingham. He has also launched a monthly Worship Academy for the circuit. Phillip has also had an early Christmas present in the form of an Electro Acoustic Guitar. He is hoping to play for worship.

Since moving, we find we spend more time together, and often manage to coincide our days off. We’ve gone into London, Houses of Parliament, Chatham Docks, Duxford. We’ve also spent some time with Den in Cheshire after Easter, and we popped up to see Jonathan Pye in Kendal. In May, Phillip celebrated his 50th Birthday, and both churches were involved in a deceit which ended with over 50 people in the manse for a Birthday celebration. We also had a lovely weekend away paid for by the family, when we also went to the Bletchley Park Code Breaking place, and Caroline had an “exciting” time at the Museum of Computing (Not!). If Phillip lived closer he would love to volunteer there. What was worrying was how many exhibits he recognised. In the summer we also had a lovely holiday in the Lake District (via a very expensive new clutch for the car. Caroline said it was an interesting experience being towed with a caravan on the back). We were able to meet up with Andrew and Julie, who were also staying up there at the time. We were able to do another guided walk, which we very much enjoy. Next year, we will be celebrating our 25th Wedding Anniversary, and we are looking forward to a few days in Barcelona and a week near the Fjords in Norway. We will be going to Greenbelt in August, hope to see some of you there!

We wish you all a Merry Christmas, and every blessing for a Happy New Year. Phillip & Caroline