What’s in a welcome?

A 'Summer Sunday' at St. Peter's 2010

It’s now official who our new vicar is going to be (his name was published in the Church Times last Friday). So when I was reminded I ought to write something for one of the local magazines to publish in July, this is what I came up with:

We are about to welcome some new friends to Yateley. Although we’ve only known who they are for about three months, we’ve been anticipating their arrival for nearly a year! They’re special people, with particular talents, that we know are going to bring something new and exciting to Yateley. But at the same time, it will be something very traditional too, as they will be filling a role that has existed in Yateley for centuries.

Revd Andy Edmunds and his wife Ann are moving here from Derbyshire so that Andy can take up the role of being Vicar of St. Peter’s Yateley. They will be given a formal welcome at a special service at St. Peter’s on Thursday 14th July at 7.30pm, but what is much more important is the welcome that we all give to them and their family in the months to come.

When you greet someone new, in your workplace, your leisure club or your street, what do you do? Do you ask them about themselves, firing questions at them, so you can get an idea of whether you like them or not, and whether they’ve got anything to offer? Or do you tell them about yourself, the things that you like about where you are, and the possibilities that excite you about the future for yourself and the people you spend time with? Perhaps it’s a mixture of both – possibly shared over a drink or a meal!

When Jesus met people, he told them stories about himself and his Father God (often in the form of parables like that of the lost sheep in Matthew 18:1-14 ). Jesus also listened to people’s questions and patiently explained the new perspective he was bringing on old ideas; he also heard their needs and tried, simply and directly, to meet them (Matthew 9 has a whole selection of stories about what Jesus did).

It’s easy to think that this is the sort of behaviour we might expect or anticipate from a new vicar, but instead, it would be great to welcome him by doing these things ourselves: let’s tell him about our relationship with God (whatever it is), share with him our perspective on what Jesus might mean for the people of Yateley, and ask not what he and his wife can do for us, but what we can do for them!

Turbo those tomatoes and other gardening notes

The productive corner of our little plot - it faces north so we don't bother to shade the greenhouse!

This is by way of a horticultural note to self – so you are welcome to ignore it.

Last year as we started to spin the greenhouse back into action after the build, Dad gave me three ‘turbo tomato’ plants, which were last years new thing from Suttons. The result was envy from both neighbours and the Mother-in-law (M), and a bumper crop: they do exactly what it says on their website: more trusses per plant, and more tomatoes per truss (like 20+ cherry toms per truss)!

So this year I ordered M and I some more. They came this week, and I potted up the little darlings today. I ordered Elegence (ordinary size tomato) and Conchita (cherry variety) – I’ll give M two of the Conchita and an Elegance, so we get more of the bigger ones (which I can roast down with olive oil and garlic to make a great sauce a la Hugh Fearnley-Wittingstall).

Then I had a slight lapse today in my local garden centre (Henry Street) because I discovered that they were stocking Suttons turbo tomato plants, and theirs were much further on than the little plug plants. So to develop a succession of turbo tomatoes across the range I bought a single Dasher, which is a plumb variety. This is now in it’s final 12″ pot, to give us some earlier fruit hopefully.

'Heath-Robinson' obelisk for sweat-peas - and 'Honey' the dog!

Today I also potted up three tiny Alicante tomato plants I grew from some free seed that came with my last Lakeland order. These will eventually go outside (the turbo’s will all be grown in a cold greenhouse) with the idea of generating enough green tomatoes to replenish the ‘green tomato chutney’ larder.

Other horticultural notes for today:

  • Climbing French Beans ‘Cobra’ planted out in the old bath
  • Hanging baskets planted up, but I’ll keep them in the greenhouse for a couple of weeks whilst the plants settle in
  • Sweet peas ‘True Frangrance Mix’ transplanted into a tub over which I fixed a rather heath-robinson obelisk of canes and wire (see left)
  • Courgette plants also transplanted out into the half-waterbutts (2 per butt this year) Two green ‘Yolanda’ and two yellow ‘Buckingham’. Again to see if we can increase supply, this time for the freezer after processing into ‘courgette mush’ which is a great base for doing stuff with cheese sauce and pasta (again from an H F-W recipe from his early book, I think.)
  • Oh, and I put slug pellets round most things including the lettuce seedlings that were sown about three weeks ago!

Did God design the very first flash-mob?

I have a thing about flash-mobs. I’ve never taken part in one, may never take part in one. I’ve never seen one happen ‘in the flesh’, possibly because I don’t tend to go to the sort of big shopping/tourist/event centres where they usually happen, but I think as spectacle that generates emotion, even at the level of a YouTube video, they are amazing.

Two have been brought to my attention this week, and both made this rather unemotional person, very emotional. They had completely different aims, but watching them has led me to thing two things.

My husband drew my attention to the BBC news story about the Head Teacher (Rector) of a Scottish School who was game enough to give his students a leaving present they are unlikely to ever forget:

This is up to 208,000 views and counting at the time of posting having been uploaded on 8th May 2011.

This afternoon I read Charlie Peer’s post about a flash-mob by professional dancers and singers in April in London which sought to raise awareness of child sex slavery and exploitation on behalf of Love146. Filmed in April and uploaded on 9th May 2011 it has 17,800 views at the time of posting.

The one filmed in a Scottish School seems to be simply aimed at making a bunch of people feel good. The Love146 flashmob seems to have sought to tell a story, make a point, and raise money.

The figures I’ve quoted suggest to me that all people really want is to be made to feel good, and that despite all the effort and professionalism (and presumably expense) that went into the one designed to make a point, it won’t (to the same extent), because people don’t want to be made to think – especially about something that is as difficult to eradicate as child exploitation. But perhaps I’m being too pessimistic about human nature?

And yet, my heart hopes, and lifts with excitement at the idea of the impact which can be made with this sort of ‘in-direct action’. Which led to my second thought:

Whilst watching these I developed an irrational urge to create a spectacular Pentecost flash-mob one year somewhere really noticable, because for me, the concept of a flash mob reminds me of what Pentecost must have been like.

Think about it: tongues of flame, wind, the spectacle of dozens of people all talking at once about God (possibly even singing and dancing – they were Jews after all)  in languages that all those in the multi-lingual hub that was (and is) Jerusalem could understand. Surely then, through the power of the Holy Spirit, it was in fact God who created the very first flash-mob, and all it needs now, is for the message he included to be the one to ‘goes viral’:

“Repent and be baptised… in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”(Acts 2:38)

When is a phonebox not a phonebox? When it’s an information exchange!

The Information Exchange at Emery Down, New Forest

I remember student competitions to see how many people you can get in a phonebox, but this is something quite different!

Since I re-tweeted a couple of weeks ago a BBC News story about the new use that locals in Emery Down in the New Forest have found for their dis-used telephone box, I have had repeated hits searching for the “Emery Down Phonebox”.

So I thought, on a trip ‘home’ that I’d view this new phenomenon, and give it a post all of it’s own – because I think it’s a fantastic idea that other communities could copy!

The project to save, and use, a disused phone kiosk has involved the parish council (who bought it for £1 from BT) and National Park Authority. It is now stacked full of information, books to borrow and all sorts of things, and boasts it’s own website!

Alongside the tourist information maps, today we found a great selection of books to suit most tastes, some tomato chutney, duck eggs, fudge and tomato plants (swap or pay for in the honesty box), and I particularly liked the emergency box of plasters for passing walkers with blisters!

Just one suggestion for the organisers (and they’ve possibly already thought of this though I didn’t notice one), since the ‘phonebox’ is set slightly off the main route through the village, put a sign up on the junction at the top end of the lane, so people know there is information there to help them.

If you are visiting the New Forest, perhaps stuck in a traffic jam on the A35 from Christchurch to Lyndhurst, take a break, step aside, and find the phone box in Silver Street, Emery Down (on the back road to Minstead) – and praise the community spirit that made it happen, because I do!

Minstead Past and Present – this weekend!

The churchyard, All Saints' Minstead, Christmas morning 2009 - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's grave is the tall cross on the left

Over the last 12 months or so, I have been helping my father put together his part of an exhibition about the history of the village I grew up in: Minstead.

Minstead is famous for several things, including famous past residents like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and as the place in which William Rufus (King William II) was killed by an arrow. Indeed there are members of the Purkis family helping with the exhibition and of course it was a Purkis who took King William’s body to Winchester on his cart!

Well, the exhibition is this weekend, in Minstead Village Hall, running from 2-4.30pm tomorrow (Saturday 7th May) and on Sunday 8th May from 10am – 4pm. For anyone with an interest in, or connection with, Minstead, the New Forest, Commoning, the Compton family (local “Lords of the Manor”), or fans of Conan Doyle, it will be fascinating. There will be plenty of recent history as well – the May Pole Dancing and celebrations for the Queen’s Silver Wedding, the re-hanging and expansion of the church’s bell peel, Carnival attractions from years gone by, plenty more familiar faces from generations of locals (including mine!), and features about the famous Minstead Pantomimes.

The Compton Memorial window in the South Transcept of All Saints' Minstead

The exhibition is organised by Minstead’s Local History Group. My father’s particular specialisms have been to provide lots of background into parts of the history of the village church, All Saints, and he has done extensive research into the history of the Compton family, trying to outline how the history of the family in Minstead Manor has been affected by interesting marriages and connections since Medieval times.

So, if you live in Hampshire, or have a particular connection or interest in Minstead, spare a couple of hours to visit the exhibition this weekend, and I might even see you there!

Terrorism hasn’t died, so let us pray

When my husband and I heard the news yesterday morning, our immediate thoughts were that Bin Ladin’s death puts a lot of people in a lot of places, at greater risk.

Then yesterday afternoon we received this message from Canon Andrew White in Baghdad (we receive his email updates and he also posted this on Facebook):

“So, Osama Bin Laden is dead! A day that has been longed for many years. Today is just the beginning of the fight against al-Qaida. Terror is not over, the reality is that that we are now all in a very dangerous time. Al Qaida will try and show the world that they can and will still commit terror, so we all need to be on our guard.”

After I’d posted the quote on some Christian blogs I follow (LLM Calling, Bishop NickBaines and The Churchmouse), I realised I’d better log my thoughts here too.

I think that Canon Andrew’s many American supporters, and the rest of us, need to pray hard, because Bin Ladin’s death, and now the frankly appalling behaviour of some American’s, is putting more lives at risk.

One man may have been killed, but I am quite sure that militant Islamist terrorism hasn’t died.

My prayer this morning:

a small part of one of the Forest Stations, at Lincoln Cathedral

Father God
in this violent world,
where so often it seems only possible to meet acts of terrorism,
with yet more killing,
grant us the wisdom and strength to stand up for peace,
and a stop to retribution.
We remember those who,
as the political situations of the world shift dramatically,
are placed in even greater danger,
asking you Lord, to protect them.
Shine the true light of your love in the darkest corners of your world,
and through the power of your Holy Spirit,
change the hearts of those who seek what is evil.
We ask this through the name of your risen Son,
Jesus Christ our Lord.


How to be a hero – Genesis 6:9-22 (Where’s the ridicule?)

Rainbow over Yateley 19th July 2009

Here at St Peter’s, Yateley we’re looking forward to our new vicar, Revd Andy Edmunds, arriving with his family in July. It will have been twelve months since our previous vicar left and during that time we’ve worked hard to heal differences, develop our values work and bind ourselves together as a community that may worship in different ways, but has a focus on life in unity and community.

We had an excellent Easter with great services on Good Friday and Easter Day which attracted numbers that were significantly up on the last couple of years. Theologically though, dropping straight from Easter celebrations into a summer sermon series on Heroes of Faith in the Old Testament, seemed a bit jarring.

Then, as I prepared to preach about the obedience of Noah, I realised that of course there are several links between the story of God’s judgement through the flood and his faithfulness to Noah and his family, and the story of the new covenant brought about by the resurrection of our Lord.

However, I did struggle with one thing. The brief from those that set the sermon series was to talk about the obedience of Noah ‘in the face of ridicule’. Now I’m quite happy to use the imagination to bring Bible stories alive, and develop teaching ideas, so I’m not sure why I got so hung up on this, but I don’t see the ridicule as Biblical – I can’t find it in the scripture (not even by inference). Yes, there’s much mention of violence and corruption, but not ridicule.

Also, if you take the story of Noah in some some sort of ‘historic’ and scientific context (there were massive floods during the early history of man and some reputable people have done research on this) then populations were sparse, and communities small. There may not have many folk around to ridicule Noah.

So, in this instance I felt I had to set that teaching idea aside, and instead I went for the idea that we are all called by God to be heroes, and in fact to build an ark for each of our communities – a place of safety in which we welcome people, and from which we release people back into the world to live out God’s new covenant through Christ.

For what it’s worth, the sermon (which also uses Hebrews 11) is here: Sermon Genesis 6v9-22 and Hebs 11v1-7

I’d welcome your thoughts on the ridicule issue please.