On reading the New Testament in Lent

As part of my Lenten discipline this year, I decided to read the New Testament again. Lots of reasons: it was reading the New Testament, in 1970, that first made the innate faith of my childhood and teenage really come alive for me; it’s a long time since I read it from cover to cover in a short space of time; I feel put to shame by the common practice of our Muslim neighbours, who read their holy book during Ramadan…

259 chapters in the New Testament. 40 days of Lent. That means you can do it by reading 7 chapters a day, with a day or two to spare in case you’ve fallen behind. (And likewise Sundays, as a ‘day off’ to either catch up, or because you want to spend more time in church…)

It’s proving interesting. So far I’m still working through Gospels, and the familiar tales are so familiar that I sometimes feel I’ve been reading on auto-pilot, hardly even taking them in. Then sometimes you stumble over something and stop: something you’ve never noticed before, or maybe knew a long time ago and have forgotten, or that speaks to you as if for the first time.

Today I was reading Mark chapter 10 and suddenly asked myself, Why were the religious teachers asking Jesus about divorce? Was it a theological and ethical hot potato of the time, like same-sex marriage is for us today1? Did they genuinely want to know where he stood on a current divisive issue? Had they heard his teaching – such as Matthew records in the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ – forbidding divorce? Whatever the reason, they would be asking the question to try and hear something they could use against Jesus.

Then, in the story of blind Bartimaeus receiving his sight. When Jesus asks him, What do you want me to do for you? he answers Rabbouni, let me see again. Only, the NRSV2 says My teacher, let me see again; and relegates to the margin the little note Aramaic: Rabbouni. It’s so unusual for Aramaic words to be preserved in the original Koine Greek of the New Testament, that you’d think it would be worth leaving it in the text, rather than the margin. The only other time this Aramaic word appears in the NT is in John 20, when Mary Magdalene, grieving and weeping at the empty tomb, sees the risen Jesus, fails to recognise him, mistakes him for the gardener, and he calls her by name: Mary. She answers Rabbouni, which (John explains) means My teacher. It’s extraordinary to me that this blind beggar, sitting by the roadside, who for all we know has never encountered Jesus before, uses the same form of address to Jesus as one of Jesus’ closest friends, who has spent a lot of time around Jesus, listening to him, learning from him. What does it mean, that Bartimaeus calls Jesus Rabbouni, my teacher? I don’t know. But isn’t it a great question!

Written with StackEdit.


  1. It seems it was. There were some rabbis who taught that divorce was definitely a last-resort strategy; while others were saying a man (of course) was within his rights to divorce his wife for quite trivial misdemeanours that displeased him. ↩︎

  2. New Revised Standard Version ↩︎

Exceeding righteousness

Exceeding Righteousness

Sermon first preached, and posted on my blog, 16 February 2014

Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount has quite a good press really. Lots of people who are very far from being practising Christians regard it as being evidence for the belief that Jesus was a great moral teacher. Sadly, that doesn’t always (often?) lead them to follow these teachings. It’s easy to see that if more people did actually live by them, most of the world’s problems would simply go away. But I don’t know whether Christians have been all that much better at following these teachings. In fact I seem to remember that the Scofield Reference Bible (a very influential study bible among evangelicals even today) has a note explaining that since the Sermon on the Mount is impossible to actually put into practice, it must be Jesus’ teaching about how people will live after the Second Coming has taken place and he has established his kingdom. If this is actually what it says (and I haven’t just imagined it) it’s a disastrous example of how Christians misread and misunderstand even the most important of scriptures.

It’s true that we struggle with the Sermon on the Mount — but so we should, and we’re going to struggle with it a bit more this morning.

It seems to me that the passage we have for this morning’s Gospel (Matthew 5.21-37) can be read as a kind of exposition or unpacking of what Jesus tells his disciples in v.20: For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Now, his disciples will have felt crushed at this point. Oh! whoa! what chance have we got then? Because the scribes and the Pharisees were the. most. righteous. people. ever. They were the ones everyone looked up to, regarded as an example of godly living, were sure they could never aspire to. Well, the scribes and the Pharisees thought that as well, and had succeeded in getting everyone else to think it. And that, probably, was the problem.

Because what follows is Jesus explaining the Law and its teachings in such a way (remember, he’s said that he hasn’t come to abolish the Law; not a stroke of a letter will pass from the Law until all is accomplished) that he completely undermines much (most?) of what the religious teachers stood for, and shows that their so-called righteousness is really nothing of the kind, it’s not what God has in mind at all. This is the thing about so much of what religious people mean by righteousness: it’s based on a very legalistic kind of religion, which puts external conformity way ahead of the heart of the matter.

Here’s what I mean. Legalistic religion is all about knowing, and telling other people, how to be righteous. You must do this; you must not do that. And perhaps even more importantly: you don’t need to do that; doing this will suffice for you to make the grade. So, if the Law says Thou shalt not kill, it will be sufficient if you haven’t actually terminated someone’s life. If it says Thou shalt not bear false witness, it will be OK to lie anywhere else, as long as you don’t lie in court.

But Jesus isn’t having any of this dishonesty, this cheating with God — which is what it actually is. The Sermon on the Mount undermines these pretences by going to the heart of what God really desires. Jesus wants to talk not just about what the Law is, what it says, but what it’s for. And I would say the whole purpose, aim of the Law, is to enable human flourishing. It is all about shalom, the total peace and well-being and common-wealth that is God’s will for humanity, in fact for the whole creation. So, it’s not enough not to have murdered anyone. We also need to deal with the root cause in the human heart: which is anger, despising your neighbour, thinking that they are of so little worth that you can call them fool, or spit on them, or abuse them, or discriminate against them, or mistreat them in some way. It’s not enough not to have actually committed adultery: we must deal with the lust in our hearts which looks at another person not as a person at all, but as an object for our physical pleasure or gratification. It’s not enough to observe all the proper legal forms when you want to divorce your wife (and in those days men could do that, on pretty trivial pretexts): you shouldn’t even be there in the first place. Don’t even think about it, I think Jesus is saying — remember what marriage is, what it’s for. It’s not enough not to swear falsely: you shouldn’t need to be swearing at all, your speech should be so true, so transparently honest, that it doesn’t need any So help me Gods, or whatever. So all the time, when Jesus is saying, You’ve heard that it was said … but I say to you … he’s not undermining or revising the Law. He is saying: The teachers of the Law have misrepresented what it means; and what I’m telling you, is what it’s really for.

So. How may we relate any of this to the moral issues that concern us in our day? With the Church we love tearing itself to pieces in arguments about gay marriage, and women bishops, and looking more and more stupid and irrelevant to people outside — wouldn’t it be nice if Jesus had said something about these things? Sadly he didn’t. So I don’t know what the answer to that question is: How may we relate any of this to the moral issues that concern us in our day? I don’t know, and I’m getting too tired of the argument, and the people who are doing it. Because so many of them seem to want to portray themselves as the righteous ones, and their opponents as the opposite. It reminds me of a novella that I had to study at university, Michael Kohlhaas, by Heinrich von Kleist. I’ve forgotten nearly everything about it, except for the description of this central character, in the very first sentence: On the banks of the River Havel there lived, about the middle of the 16th century, a horse-dealer by the name of Michael Kohlhaas, who was at the same time one of the most righteous, and one of the most entsetzlich [= terrible, dreadful, horrific, inhuman] men of his time. His passion for justice, righteousness, was so overwhelmingly huge, that it led him to commit the most terrible atrocities, causing death, destruction and mayhem to the whole country.

It’s not a bad description of people who adhere to any extreme form of religion or morality, whether it’s bombing abortion clinics and killing people who work there in the name of the right to life; or killing women for sexual transgressions, even if the transgression in question is having been raped. Of course, the squabbles about gay marriage and women bishops aren’t exactly in the same league, but there’s a tang of the same tendency. We are right, and we know we are right, and we don’t care how much damage our rightness causes to those who disagree with us.

Let’s step back and say, It’s time to stop looking at what we think the rules are and what they say, and think about what they are for. If they contribute to shalom, the flourishing of human beings and creation, then OK. If they prevent that flourishing, perhaps it’s time to let go of our interpretation of the rules, and change it, or the rules. I haven’t been keen on the idea of gay marriage. In fact when I was first ordained I would have taken the evangelical line that the Bible says homosexuality is wrong, and that’s it. As if we could say to a gay person: You may think you are attracted to someone of the same sex, and your life will be enriched by being with them, but you’re mistaken. What you need is to marry a nice girl (or boy) instead. But what I’ve been hearing for years from the gay people I listen to (and how brave are they, to speak about it at all!) is that their sexual orientation is a deep part of their identity, it’s how they experience that God has created them — not a wilful choice, not any kind of choice. And a permanent, faithful, stable union with a partner — what we call marriage if it is between a man and a woman — will save them from loneliness and desperate promiscuity. In other words, help them to flourish. Why shouldn’t they have the same opportunities to flourish, as men and women who want to share their lives?

I’d say the case for women bishops is even clearer. Not that I welcomed the thought of women bishops either, at first — but then I’m not all that keen on male bishops (don’t tell Bishop John). The supposed arguments against, from scripture and tradition, are frankly unconvincing, while the effect of not having women in leadership positions serves to perpetuate the subjection of women to the rank of second-class human beings, which has so often been the way not just in the church (actually, I think the Church can point to some shining exceptions) but in so many societies to this day. Giving proper scope for the wonderful gifts of women in ministry, releasing those gifts in the church, not only helps those women to flourish, but helps the whole church to flourish.

You might disagree with how I’ve applied what I think Jesus’ approach to the Law in the Sermon on the Mount is. I’d have to accept that, because it’s part of what I described as our continuing struggle with understanding, and living out, these teachings. But what I would encourage us all to do is keep on with that questioning and struggling. The heart of the Sermon on the Mount is the idea that we are called to live as children of God, our heavenly Father, and that relationship undermines, or trumps, all other human loyalties or obediences.

Let us pray.

Written with StackEdit.

Tapu tapu tapu

That little wooden church in Russell, which is said to be the oldest church in New Zealand, was one of the special holy places, for me, of our visit to New Zealand.

Of course it can’t compare in age, with the medieval churches and cathedrals of England, where God has been worshipped for so many centuries more. But this little building has been a place of Christian worship since the 1830s. It enjoys the beautiful setting of that little township on the shore of the Bay of Islands. The churchyard and the building convey an atmosphere of simplicity and peace, even with many visiting tourists in and around the place.

It was a place where Alison and I could sit and enjoy a moment of reflection. Where we found a copy of the New Zealand Prayer Book, and like the liturgy nerds that we are, pored over some of its pages to compare it with the prayers and liturgy we know. Like the liturgy of the Church in Wales, the prayer book of Aotearoa is partly bilingual, so we were able to spot some Maori words and work out what they mean.

The names of the three Persons of the Trinity, painted on weathered boards (which had been the kauri wood roof shingles of the church, before its restoration) on the wall of the church: Atua, Tama, Wairua Tapu. Father (the word also used for God, I think), Son, Holy Spirit.

Tapu is the same word as ‘taboo’, which we often take to mean something forbidden. But here it simply translates ‘holy’. In Christ the awesome Mystery of God, so alarming and terrifying apart from Jesus, becomes accessible, beautiful, adorable, ours. Yet still fills the whole universe with glory.

Tapu, tapu, he tapu te Ariki
Te Atua o te mana me te kaha,
kī tonu te rangi me te whenua i tōu korōria.
Ōhana i runga rawa.

Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.

The first churches in my life, part 2

I ‘graduated’ from the Methodist primary Sunday School at the age of 11, with memories I’ll share in another post. The next step would have been to move on to their secondary school age section, but this met at the church in Palmerston Road, which was more than a mile away (more than a mile away!) and would have involved crossing some major roads to get there. So instead I tried the group at our parish church, which turned out to be St John the Baptist & St James the Great, Tottenham.

This was only half a mile away, and involved crossing an even more major road, but for some reason was felt to be preferable. This extraordinary building – like no other church I’ve ever known – was built in 1939 and designed by Seeley and Paget. We knew it as St John the Baptist: again, I don’t know any other church with a paired dedication to St James the Great. Where does this come from, I wonder?

My experience of Sunday School here was disappointing and short-lived. I was 11 years old, a shy and wimpy kid, in a small group where I was the only boy together with six girls. This did not appeal at the time. The curate (of course!) who led the group was probably one of those young clergy who, like me much later, thought working with children, pre-teens and youth generally was “not his special gift”. At any rate, he didn’t inspire me with enthusiasm. With hindsight I can see the aim of the group must have been to prepare us for Confirmation, since we were being encouraged to learn the Apostles’ Creed by heart, and read St John’s Gospel. I didn’t succeed with either of these at the time. And incidentally, I’ve never been sure about the predilection for encouraging religious seekers to read John. It’s such an odd book. Long before you get on to any of the stories you know about Jesus already (of which, frankly, there are precious few in the whole thing, anyway) you have to wade through verses and verses of mystical Greek philosophy and metaphysics. (OK, I like John better now, but I still think Mark would be a better gospel to give to people wanting to know what Jesus was about.)

Apart from this, most of what we were ‘exploring’ in our sessions was St Paul’s Missionary Journeys, from the Acts of the Apostles. Perhaps they were in vogue at the time, or part of some curriculum for 11-year olds, because later that year we were covering the same ground in RE lessons at school. And both were equally boring. It has remained one of life’s great mysteries to me, how anyone telling these stories, surely some of the greatest and most exciting adventures in history, can make them dull? Was it something to do with the maps?

I mean, I love maps, always have. But somehow these particular tiny maps, always out of context and always in black and white, did little to impart the excitement or stir the imagination. They looked like they were only about pouring facts into jug-shaped heads, rather than firing God-shaped hearts with excitement, and passion for God.

So within a very few weeks I became a Sunday School drop-out. I think I have a memory of the curate coming round to visit and “follow me up”, an occasion of acute embarrassment for all the family. It was no use. I was gone from formal church for the next decade.

Except for… Yes, there is one other church which features in these memories, and that is the old parish church of All Saints’, Edmonton, which I attended every Ascension Day for the next seven years.

The secondary school I joined in September 1960 was the Latymer School: the local grammar school, but bearing the same name as the more prestigious (and fee-paying) Latymer Upper School in Hammersmith. The founding benefactor of both was a London city merchant named Edward Latymer, who on his death in 1624 left a bequest for education. Most of this bequest went to the people of Hammersmith, but a part of it was designated, according to Wikipedia, ‘to fund the education and livelihoods of “eight poore boys of Edmonton” with a doublet, a pair of breeches, a shirt, a pair of woolen stockings and shoes distributed biannually on Ascension Day and All Saints’ Day.’ It was widely believed in Edmonton that the twice-yearly handout included half a pint of ale for each boy, as well as the clothing; but both had lapsed by the time I was a scholar there. What remained was Founder’s Day on Ascension Day, when the whole school walked to the parish church for a morning service of thanksgiving, and then were granted a half day’s holiday. Long before I became a regular churchgoer, or knew what the Ascension was, I acquired a lasting affection for the day. Ale or no ale.

Apart from these church encounters, and the uniformly boring RE lessons (not helped by the fact that our regular teacher was off sick for most of the first two years), my main experience of the Christian faith for seven years was daily school assembly. Our headmaster was an ordained man, the Reverend Dr Leonard Jones. The school’s daily act of worship consisted of a hymn, a Bible reading, and a prayer, often one of the Collects for Morning Prayer from the Book of Common Prayer. No attempt to preach, or convert, or interest, or entertain; no suggestion that you might not believe what you were hearing and singing. In other words, probably the best of all possible ways to present the Anglican version of the Christian faith.

I’m still convinced that the plain words of the Bible, good traditional hymns, and the words of the liturgy, are the most powerful ways we have of communicating the faith, and teaching what it is. That seems an unfashionable idea these days. But it’s a part of my own life and faith journey that I am forever grateful for.

Cynophobia

This post comes with a confession, and an apology to all my pet-loving friends. Please do not hate me, or unfriend me, after what you are about to read.

The fact is, I have never liked dogs. It would be truer to say, I have always disliked dogs. It is only with the most concentrated effort that I can even imagine how anyone can bear to share their space with a dog, let alone love one. I know this makes me a seriously defective human being (see Genesis chapter 1). But it’s just the way I am. I would like to say, it’s the way God made me (if it’s even possible for God to make seriously defective human beings?) … but I don’t think I’m going to change at this point in my life. Sorry, and all.

So, one of the stories of my cynophobia goes like this.


The Methodist Sunday School was an extension and outreach work, run from what used to be Bowes Road Methodist Church. There’s still a church on that site, but it’s now something that looks like an imaginative contemporary community church called Trinity at Bowes. Since that main church building was a couple of miles from the neighbourhood where I lived, the church leaders had decided to run this Sunday School annexe in a small meeting room above the Co-op Shop at the end of Chequers Way. There was always a strong link between the Methodist Church and the Co-operative Movement, so it seems fitting.

The access to this meeting room was through a gate at the back of the store, after which you had to climb a metal staircase with those kinds of grille-like stairs, through the gaps in which you could look down and see the ground hundreds of feet below. So it seemed to 9 or 10-year old me. The secret, of course, was Don’t Look Down. This was maybe the first lesson you had to learn from the Sunday School.

But there was an even greater terror involved in getting there, and it was compounded by the fact that I was responsible for taking my sister Sally to Sunday School, and bringing her safely home. We would turn left out of our front garden gate, walk to the end of Empire Avenue, cross Pasteur Gardens and on down Chequers Way. The first part of this was just the same familiar way we walked to school each day, between the ages of 5 and 11. Then we’d cross over Tile Kiln Lane, and continue past Jack’s the grocer and the Post Office, over Pymmes Brook, and past the Metal Box Factory that always seemed so huge.

It was on the first part of Chequers Way, the hill going down to Tile Kiln Lane, that the danger lay. On a quiet Sunday afternoon, when there was little traffic and no people about, you were bound to encounter the Cerberus who was set there to guard the way, and prevent anyone from passing. There a little alleyway ran between two houses, leading to the gardens and garages behind. As we walked past it, on the other side of the road, this monstrous small dog would see us, and run out barking. It was obvious that it was out for our blood, would pursue us, bear us to the ground and tear our throats out.

My Cunning Plan to avoid this fate was about as successful as you would expect. Instead of walking down on the opposite side of the road to the dog, which gave it a wider field of vision in which to spot us, we would cross over to the same side. When we reached the alley we would peep round the wall to see if the dog was in sight, and dart across before it could see us. But the dog did see us. It ran out barking and chased after us. We ran, terrified, down the rest of the hill, hoping that when we crossed the lane, it would give up its pursuit.

I was nearly four years older than Sally, and could run faster, especially with a dog behind me. I reached the edge of the pavement, didn’t stop to look or listen, leaped into the road, heedless of anything but canine homicide, and crossed to the other side. There I stopped and looked back. My little sister, much more obedient to the Highway Code (Stop. Look right. Look left. Look right again.) was standing at the kerb. With the dog at her side, attempting to lick her knees.

“COME ON! COME ON!” I yelled. But she wouldn’t come on. She had been commanded not to cross the road unless her big brother was holding her hand to keep her safe. It was clearly not going to be possible to leave her standing there while I went on to Sunday School, in the hope she would still be there, uneaten, when I returned. In what felt like one of the bravest things I had ever done, I crossed the road again, took Sally’s hand, and dragged her back with me to safety. The dog, I suppose, shook its head and went back home.

We never tried that Cunning Plan again, and it’s more than likely I resorted to the alternative strategy of always thinking of a new excuse for Not Going to Sunday School Today. But I promised in my last post that this is a story of something I learned about myself. I suppose what I learned was Shame. I learned that I was really a coward who would sacrifice others, even those who looked to me for protection, to save myself. Nearly sixty years later I would like to hope that, even if and when I’m still afraid, I would now try to help and save other people in danger. But I’m not too confident about that, and am rather grateful that I’ve never been in a situation of having to find out.

The first churches in my life

One of the most influential teachers in my life used to tell the story of how and why he was a firm believer in infant baptism. Both of his parents were somewhere along the agnostic – unbeliever spectrum, one nominally Jewish, one nominally Christian, but neither of them practising their faith with any great conviction. He was born, however, in a time when some infant rite of passage was expected. So they decided that, if their child was a girl they would bring her up as a Jew, and if a boy, they would bring him up as a Christian. So when M was born, he was duly baptized. He always claimed it worked, in spite of his parents’ relatively low level of commitment to the enterprise, because when he was an undergraduate he came to fully-fledged Christian faith, and ended up being ordained and teaching me liturgy and much else besides.

It only goes to show. Though I’m not sure what.

But the story makes me often reflect on my own childhood, and the mysterious and unknown influences of what was done for me or to me. My parents were both of the generation who had enough of religion in their childhood. Dad sang in the choir at St Bartholomew the Great. He enjoyed the singing and the pocket money he earned him, and being able to get the autograph of film stars who occasionally showed up in the congregation, but he never told us much else about the experience. Mum had a pretty difficult childhood and teenage years, much of them spent as a weekday boarder in a children’s home. I don’t remember her ever mentioning church from those years.

But they had me christened, on 23rd October 1949, at our parish church of St Aldhelm in Edmonton. I wasn’t paying much attention at the time. Or at least, don’t remember anything of the experience. But that doesn’t stop me being grateful, and believing like my teacher M that it must have worked.

St Aldhelm’s Church, Edmonton

For some years Mum and Dad sent me and my sister to Sunday School, because that was the way your parents got you out of the house on a Sunday afternoon in the 1950s. There is another story about going to Sunday School and what I learned about myself in the going (rather than the being there). But I’m grateful for what I got from it, too.

And then the other church of my earliest years was St Cuthbert’s Wood Green.

 

St Cuthbert’s Church, Wood Green

This was my earliest experience of public worship, from the days of Church Parade with the Cubs. When I couldn’t think of an excuse for not going, I had to go there once a month, especially after I got to be a Sixer. There was no such thing as Family Service in those days. We got Prayer Book Matins, like it or not. There was, yes, some concession to the fact that children were present in the form of what I suppose was intended to be a child-friendly talk. But we still had the psalms and canticles and the language of the Book of Common Prayer.

How accurate, ever, are memories of when you were 9 or 10 years old, 60 years ago? What I think I remember, is puzzling over the language of those words, and feeling that I was beginning to get some sense of what they were about. And of being aware that what we were doing when we sang and prayed was Serious Stuff, so that I was impatient with my peers who kicked and scuffled under the pews, when we were expected to be somehow reverent about doing that Serious Stuff. I wouldn’t say I have loved Prayer Book Matins ever since. But I love it now, and still think there’s more solid meat and nourishment in it, than there is in most contemporary Services of the Word.

Yes, I am grateful for the first churches in my life. One ‘High’, one ‘Low’, both still seemingly alive and active, describing themselves as vibrant, friendly, inclusive, ethnically diverse, engaged with the local community: all the boxes that churches are supposed to tick.

I pray for them, their priests and congregations, that they may above all still be places where God meets people, and where children, women and men meet God. Even if they’re not paying attention at the time, or not fully understanding what it’s about. Who of us ever is?

What Else I Miss

This morning a happy collection of accidents led us to a very special service at the Cathedral. Our parish church decided not to hold a mid-morning service because they have their Christmas Eve extravaganza of Christingles this afternoon: three sittings, and every one of them packed. Apparently there were other churches in and around Oxford that made similar decisions, so those who wanted to celebrate the Fourth Sunday in Advent, and receive Communion, had to go elsewhere.

As it happened, the Cathedral’s Choral Eucharist was also the first celebration of the Eucharist by Canon Sarah Foot, the Regius Professor of Ecclesiastical History, who was ordained priest last Thursday by the Bishop of Dorchester. The Cathedral clearly love her, because they pulled out all the stops to make it a cracking good service.

And incidentally it reminded me of What Else I Miss. Because my last post was chiefly about quiet, often almost private prayer in a holy place. I realised this morning that a great deal of what I miss in priestly retirement is also about public worship. I realise that it is quite a while since I have felt I have really ‘met with God’ (whatever that means!) in corporate, public worship. And the things that helped me to have that sense of worship and presence and communion this morning included

  • the beauty of architecture in Christ Church Cathedral (though of course this can’t be essential, as you don’t get quite this quality in most places)
  • really excellent music – by Victoria, Palestrina and Buxtehude (ditto)

but then also some things which you might more reasonably expect in other places, even parish churches, as well:

  • real Anglican liturgy, as decently and reverently done as circumstances allow
  • Bible readings thoughtfully and well read
  • sincere, intelligent and godly preaching
  • hymns you can sing that actually mean something, that express worship and prayer, that teach the faith and give you something to think about, and aren’t the kind of candy floss piffle in the wind that so many modern worship songs are.

We love our parish church where the people have welcomed us so warmly, and we know God has called us to belong here, not least to support and encourage the clergy in their ministry. But I’m thinking that, for my own spiritual health and well-being, I need to plan in regular times when I can get away to the Cathedral or elsewhere to be ‘blessed up’, and to get the sustenance I need for the desert walking in between times.