Bitterns,Kites and Ash

Just a quick updating from my accidental birding exploits:

Friday 20th on return to New Forest from Great-Nanny visiting in Bournemouth stopped for first quick visit at Blashford Lakes near Ringwood: fantastic views of two Bittern among the reeds on Ivy Lake. Anyone wanting to take young or old on a nature reserve trip, this looks a great place with easy access.

Today, returning from Reader Training Placement visit to Basingstoke, spotted, stopped and had fantastic views of two Red Kites next to A30 at Nateley Scures, between Old Basing and Hook. Low over the tiny St Swithun’s church there.

My placement is proving very interesting and such a high church atmosphere, with much to learn and consider, which is why I have left the hosting dust to settle for a couple of days. I have spent a lot of time with my placement vicar and celebrated Ash Wednesday by being ‘ashed’ for the first time last night: this was a very intimate service (for which read ‘poorly attended’) but I did find being reminded of the mess we make of so much, and the grace with which God has dealt with that through the marking of an ash cross on my forehead, surprisingly poignant… I’m not sure that’s the right word… thought provoking at a deep level somewhere. The story of the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11) is always a powerful tool for teaching …

Tomorrow I really must phone Zen… and perhaps blog about my placement a bit more.

Hosting progress given ethical pause

Todays main job was to set up an hosting account with Zen Internet and start the process of porting the regional Mothers’ Union website I want to re-write to them. The idea is then to re-write using a format similar to the one here.

Then BBC News at 8am briefly touched on this item seeming to suggest that Zen were refusing to block child porn sites. I started asking myself about the ethics of proceeding with my plan: Mothers’ Union is a Christian charity supporting family life worldwide; should we as a regional group use a host who appears to condone the activities of pornographers (of any sort but especially regarding kids)?

Breakfasted I was delighted to find Alec had noted the relevant news item on Facebook for me (thanks), so I briefly commented and then read it.  I then had an interesting conversation with a friend which pointed out several things:

It appears that Zen are very concerned about the way the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) behave by just blocking the websites but not appearing to act. Zen are much more pro the european system that can’t now be acted on in Britain because it gets sent straight back to the IWF.

In the European system apparently works such that if you report a site you get indemnity for reporting it – something that the IWF don’t guarantee. Then they block it but also make best efforts to investigate it.

IWF have also gone slightly ott recently by blocking not just an image but the whole text on wikipedia entry:

There are several issues here firstly related to being a regional Charity Trustee for a Christian charity:

  • I need to use a host whose ethical policy reflects the charity’s aims, i.e. to promote family life;
  • we also need to use a host who offers the facility we want to use at a price that the charity sees as being reasonable relate to the market place of other hosts (so we won’t be staying with Claranet whatever happens);
  • we also need to improve our web presence as fast as possible and dramatically and I have Trustees Standing Committee approval to proceed with Zen as host.

However there are other considerations:

  • Zen Internet are being talked about as ‘happy’ to allow their customers to access these images using very emotive language, which does not appear to reflect the real reason why Zen are not signed up to the IWF code of practice;
  • Why have Zen and any other firms facing the same issues, not got the freedom to apply the European system if they think it is better?
  • If Zen were really against the hosting of such (lucrative?) sites could they not simply make a business decision not to do so, making themselves more attractive to prospective users who do not wish to be associated (even vaguely) with such behaviour?

There is probably more to it than even this, but this is as far as my brain has got right now. I suspect I won’t take any further action for 24 hours on this, especially since family comes first and my son is on an INSET day today.

I also await further comment from you!

The Ascension

Here’s another sermon, this time dated from 13th May 2007, back in the first year of my Reader Training.

This one is an audio file, which usefully comes including the Bible reading that preceeded it: Acts 1:1-14 Ascension – waiting and being transformed

In case it’s of any relevance it was a Communion Service at the 9am Congregation of St.Peter’s Church, Yateley. It was also the first sermon for which I wore trousers – daft I know but previously I’d always felt I had to wear a skirt!

It has taken me a little while to get this upload to work.
Firstly I had to subscribe to WordPress in such a way that I could upload audio files ($15 for a year was OK to see if it was worthwhile – I shall know in a years time whether to repeat the subscription that allows audio/video files) .
Secondly my first upload attempt hung during the ‘crunching’ stage, since when life has been busy. This attempt worked easily and I managed to hang the washing in the process!

I shall be interested to see how this comes out and whether anyone listens to it.

Does it have legs?

My vicar is an engineer and likes to operate electronically to the extent I knew he read various Christian blogs. I also know he wants to update our parish website when the webmaster isn’t doing Reader Training like myself, and wanted some thoughts on what we might do – I wanted him to look at the WordPress concept as an idea.

So I sent him the url for this place, explaining the two reasons for it (a dummy attempt for a new MU one, and my own contribution to Christian blogging) to see if he thought the concept “had legs” as I referred to it – in other words was it worth keeping going or was I wasting my time? His response by email, was as follows (I think it is positive, and I’ve put on the widget for RSS feeds – the other things I really want to look at, but not today, as I have a tutorial tonight!):

yes, the last couple of years would suggest that i’m more likely to read a blog and occasionally post a comment
than generate my own online “extroverted thinking” (tho’ i’d love to shift my time-priorities to alter that)

i do think a community of blog-based theological reflection is a good thing
– tho’ i’m not sure if we can educate “our lot” to the discipline of engaging in it regularly
(i’d love something like this to be a forum in which to feed back and further reflect on one another’s sermons / teaching / seminars etc

the two that i follow regularly are

and both have – as you do – a combination of their humanity and their ministry/role-based reflections
howard is a rural vicar and maggi a college chaplain

how it fits into parish / mu based stuff – not sure
– it lends itself well to reflecting on news and fast-moving events etc
but requires a discipline (and/or a newsfeed reader) to keep up to date with the conversation threads

as for design of sites – tho’ it’s busy, i like the st barnabas one
– i like the “click here for more” links to “soundbites” – esp the “mike says ….” bits
– which might have read-across to mu?

….. more of a ramble than a help, i fear ? ……

UK Wild deer populations are booming

This is just the sort of thing that my Dad worked with for 30 years, so it will interesting to get his comments on this report on the impact of changing deer populations. Road casualties were always a problem in the New Forest – Dad would have to go and collect them, or try and find and put down those that had been injured but run on. That is where I developed a taste for venison – the dogs ate the nasty bits and the humans ate the rest!

The photograph at the top of the Wildlife Extra coverage is almost certainly taken at Boldrewood where I used to help him feed the deer.

UK Wild deer populations are booming – Problems and benefits

Full report

Mind you – I could have told them numbers were up. Graham and I have both seen Muntjac round our bit of NE Hants in the last few months – and when I was a kid they were largely regarded as rumours about something non-existant.

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Why do they do it, and where is my compassion?

We have been connected with an SOS Children’s Villages for many years, specifically the one in Mthatha in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. A college friend of ours actually set the village up for SOS, and was it’s first Director. In 2006 we were fortunate enough to visit, and in fact were privileged to stay in the Guest House within the village complex.

We were therefore appalled this evening when our friend phoned from Johannesburg, with news that one of the houses in the village had been attacked, the ‘house mother’ robbed and beaten, and the eldest of the children in her care, gang-raped. We were later able to find coverage of the attack on the web – I’m sorry it doesn’t make for pleasant reading.

Daily Dispatch Online

Two things strike me about this news:

Firstly, what can possibly motivate people to commit crimes like this? Surely, poverty can not be the only motivation, when burglary ends in these sorts of crimes? This is the sort of action that I can only regard as evil.

The second thing was my own reaction; having visited, I can visualise the village, the layout of the houses both inside the rooms and as a community of buildings. I see the guard at the gate, the holes in the fence at the rear (where cattle had got in when we visited), the presence of the health facility on site, which is not only for the village, but vital for the whole community on that side of Mthatha. I can even ‘see’ some of the house mothers and children we met. Were these among them?

And yet, I’m not in tears. Appalled as I am, I don’t hurt inside, as perhaps I should, and as I know some of you may be when you read this. Does that make me callous, or simply hardened to the images painted by them being similar to those we see on our TV screens weekly, if not daily?

I offer these people into God’s care, because I believe he knows them, loves them and will comfort them. Practically I wish I could mend the fence that I guess the men got through, replace the weekly groceries, and offer my arms in a hug. But why am I devoid of a more emotional response?

As a friend and I discussed earlier this evening, yes, perhaps my compassion has been numbed, and perhaps also our western characters don’t have the emotions that other cultures have. By not sharing in trauma and grief with more physical signs of compassion, have we in fact lost part of what makes us fully human? I am reminded of Desmond Tutu’s teaching about ‘ubuntu’, the African sense that as people we can only be fully human, by our connections (physical and emotional) with other people. I feel in this instance, that I am less than human, by not being able to share more fully in other people’s pain, and ask God to inspire in me a more compassionate heart.

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Sharing study material

During my training I have had to produce various study materials which now aren’t being used. So this seemed like a suitable place to share them people. For full details, and additional material as I can sort out the various file attachments, please look at the ‘Study Material’ tab (above).


These three Bible Studies were my New Testament assignment. They are for use with adults meeting in home groups, and include teaching and group material (with a small amount of space for participants to make notes) and some reflective material to aid worship.

Since then the two groups that have used them, have found there to be too much material (especially “interesting questions”) for a group to get through in one evening, so you have been warned. My tutor was a little over enthusiastic about them according to the moderator! Perhaps one day I’ll have the time to review and edit them myself based on your comments?!

The material comes in four documents for you to download: and Introduction or ‘overview’ (which is designed for all group members to read) and which gives group members some things today before attending the first study. There are then the three sessions of study material, concentrating on three specific passages in Acts, but drawing out some of themes from whole of Acts. The final one of these, completes the “story” so that participants aren’t left anticipating more.

Please download the pdf files by clicking on the relevant list below:

Acts In A Nutshell – Introduction

Acts In A Nutshell – Study One – Acts4:5-35

Acts In A Nutshell – Study Two – Acts10:9-48 and Acts 11:17-18

Acts In A Nutshell – Study Three – Acts20:17-38

Why embarassment but no prayer?

Yesterday things started to thaw, but not enough for an elderly gentleman I saw lying semi-conscious on an icy footpath in the village. He’d obviously slipped on the inch thick compacted ice/snow and banged his head badly as he went down. I spent time assisting (called 999, helped paramedic) and talking to the strangers who also came to help.

It’s funny how we can analyse our reactions to situations like this afterwards. I did some of what needed doing, but felt embarrassed afterwards that I’d not done more: I called 999, and since others had come to help by then, walked away to wait and wave in the paramedic nearer the road (as instructed by ambulance control). I didn’t think to put my coat over him, or something under his head, but others had done that when I came back. Later I did give my coat to a lass who’d given hers up, as she had only a t-shirt on and was shivering, whilst I had two warm jumpers under my coat. I never thought of the cleanish dog blanket in the car 50 yards away. I could have done more, and afterwards felt embarrassed that others might have thought I should have done. Yet, no one had started to help till I did (despite there being others around) so why be embarrassed for something no-one condemned  me for?

And what is embarrassment when no-one is there inside your head hearing your thought? Except God.

Which brings me to the other afterthought I had as I drove home. During the whole incident, which lasted just over an hour, it never once occurred to me to pray (not even ‘inside my head’). So much for delusions of being a “minister” it seems – aren’t they the ones who think of things like praying for people in distress?! Never once did I think “God, please take control.” It was just me ‘doing’ or standing there holding blankets, holding the chair we sat him on, keeping a hand on the mans shoulder so he wasn’t alone with the paramedic.

It was only afterwards that the “prayer” button kicked in, and the little grey cells registered that I should try and visit the couple (his wife was brought from his house in time to go in the Ambulance with him) next week.

So, did I fail God and my ‘calling’ in that situation, or just perhaps, (I’ve suddenly thought this) was God working through me to help someone in distress, and a lot more “in control” than I gave him credit for last night?

Where was God in this? (That will be me thinking theologically then!)

Snow holiday delays reading

Four inches of snow and I found myself unexpectedly on ‘holiday’: it’s not that I work, but when both Graham (a teacher) and Chris found themselves home with their schools closed, and the best snow in Chris’s lifetime, all possibility of work or study went out the window. Instead we have entertained Chris’s friends, laughed at the dog playing in the snow, built a headless snowman on the local fields, and then tried to dry out and warm up.

The bird feeder has been busy, particularly with Greenfinches. The Greater Spotted didn’t visit to my knowledge but I did see it over the road from the kitchen window. Interestingly no Siskins or Long-tails today (at least not when I was watching!)

So I’ve not started the new issue of ‘Archway’ for Mothers’ Union, and I’ve not read any more ‘Called or Collared’, nor have I read a Grove booklet to support my placement, which I started yesterday (well I attended their morning service and talked to several people). It’s now 9pm and Graham’s just asked me what I want to do: my answer was ‘turn all the computers off, wash up, talk to him, and read the Bible’. I wonder if I can manage to be a woman of my word.