and it has almost run its course...after tonight's sessions but two sessions more before this course reaches its Omega..
The course consists of about a dozen sessions of teaching, normally presented on DVD about aspects of the Christian faith. These sessions normally follow on a simple meal shared by the group and are followed by an opportunity to talk together about what has been seen and heard. Towards the end of the course three sessions are taken together, usually on a weekend and away from the usual base. These can be done on one day or spread over a weekend program though the away day rather than weekend is favoured because of financial considerations.
Tonight the focus was on telling others about our faith, including talking to others about the Alpha course...not something some of us find easy....for myself I can go a week without meeting anybody apart from those I meet at church .....makes telling others a bit difficult.
So why should we tell others...what should we tell others ...and I think the first reason has to be that Jesus told his disciples( that includes us) to go and tell....
It's Easter Bank Holiday Monday.No one in this house is going anywhere. Snow falls silently....and the whole world is going white....rooftops , hedge tops, the grass patch...I can hear my eldest pedant say "that's not the whole world"...(to be pedantic I can only imagine him say that at a distance of 100 miles plus...) The house is quiet...not silent...it is the snow that is silent....but all the electronic noise machines, television, radio, CD player are turned off and no one has chosen to intrude our quiteness with phone calls....but the word is still quiet, not silent.
At the front of the house,from time to time the tyres of a passing vehicle swish an inch of slush from their tracks though the vehicle engines are for the most part happily quiet. At the back of the house as I stand and watch the whiteness of the garden, I become aware of the beat of the kitchen clock, each tick jerking the second hand a fraction further round the dial.
This morning on the first Sunday of the new year we celebrated a service of renewal of our covenant with God, usually just called "the Covenant service". In Methodism it goes back to the time of John Wesley when he freely adopted a form of service used by Puritan Anglicans, and he decreed it should be used annually by his societies (religious sub groupings that worshipped within the Church Of England) and the practice was to do this at the beginning of a calendar year. More recently some Methodist Churches have started to hold their Covenant services at the start of the Church year, when newly appointed ministers are in place for the first time in their churches at the start of September.
For me, and for many others the covenant service is special, though sadly for some it is a service to be avoided...it was in attending a Covenant service that I first had to admit that God was calling me to full time ministry and needed to do something about it. I visited my then minister that afternoon and due process followed..... at the other end of my ministry a Covenant service was the last service I conducted before retiring somewhat unexpectedly at least on my part the next day. I was in the habit of finding a phrase from the service that I had used to base my sermon on and that year the only phrase that stood out was "laid aside" but I had nothing to put with it...
You could call it madness but if it was it was a nice madness...the family wanted to gather in the parental home because it was judged big enough to take us all and because no one, ourselves included, has any idea as to where we shall be living this time next year. When we agreed to the venture, way back we had no idea that L would be in recovery from major surgery or that I would be one consultant visit away from even more major surgery now anticipated in the new year....so two of us were both under the cosh so to speak in terms of being full of energy and ability but little by little and one step at a time a house that normally sleeps two of us, was kitted out with the necessary for nine (two grandparents three children two spouses and two grandchildren) to have room to sleep whilst not impinging on on the main rooms downstairs. The task was completed when the older son brought in a double inflatable to be used by the younger son and his wife and both sets of parents came armed with sleeping tents for their children (aged almost one and a half and almost two.) Number 10 guest cried off at the last minute so the bed settee in study number 1 was not brought into use. In all this our daughter who lives half an hour away in Manchester gave towering support, and particular help with the food for Christmas day.
I wasn't sure why anyone should want to watch a program on the blitz, but tonight's program was about London's East End and I suppose I wanted to see what understanding it might give me of my mother's accounts of fire watching,of listening for the sound of aircraft, the British and German planes sounded different having different kinds of engines, of people going into the underground to shelter. One of her brothers had three homes bombed flat....perhaps not surprising then that he would emigrate to Canada. She described how things changed with the start of the flying bomb attacks(doodlebugs), with the chug chug chug of their engines which would suddenly go silent, and the explosions that followed and then the more deadly and equally random rockets(the V2s) Her joining up with the ATS took her out of the city and so far I have not worked out the chronology of this but she worked as a map tracer dealing with landowners claims for compensation where army vehicles had wrecked hedges and fences and flattened crops and was stationed at Thetford in Norfolk where she was to meet my dad as they made sandwiches together in the Anglo American Club on a Christmas day morning. Again I'm not sure of the chronology but he was an infantryman serving with an East Yorkshire regiment in the 50th Div of the Eighth Army. He had seen service at El Alamein , and gone into Siscily and Italy before coming back to England to go into France and Germany via the Normandy landings.He spoke very little of his war but from my limited knowledge of what happened he must have had some truly horrific experiences. He survived El Alamein because he was in the turret of his Bren Carrier and was able to jump vehicles when his own was crippled. The rest of his crew were lost. He survived appendicitis after an operation in Alexandria and opted for overland repatriation...the day after he left hospital it was bombed flat and the hospital ship he would probably have been on was sunk in the Mediterranean with the loss of hundreds of lives. My parents married in Thetford with dad in battledress and mum in a borrowed wedding dress and after the war went to live in Hull where I was born in a third floor two room flat with a cooker on the landing, in a house that belonged to Marist College, a Roman Catholic establishment in North Hull . It was a case of taking what was available. Hull had lost a colossal proportion of its housing stock and large areas of the city centre were laid bare.We were fortunate to move into new council housing early in 1948. The estate I grew up on was built on platforms of bomb rubble and the roads were likewise on causeways of bomb rubble whilst not far way there was an embankment of bomb rubble put in place to carry a bridge that was never actually built ,over the Hull Scarborough line. On trips into the city Centre there were numerous signs of the blitz. I shall probably write more on that after next week's program on the Blitz which apparently focusses in on a semi detached house that was bombed on North Hull Estate not far from where I grew up.
How did it happen, that the General Election finished as it did...? it seems to me that two things happened...... Labour suddenly offered something radically different from the Tories and radically different from "New Labour" the main consequence of which was that votes for the minority parties all but disappeared and it became a straight Conservative/Labour vote in most places.
The second thing that happened was that Jeremy Corbyn said he was going to throw money at the Health Service and at Education and abolish University Fees.....people might call it bribery .....it was enough to buy quite a lot of votes and there was some success in persuading young people who had never registered before , to register....and vote.....people might call it corruption...
Not so cold this morning (9C) but the visibility is awful.The whole world seems dark and gloomy and when I look beyond the garden it is shrouded in mist. Within the garden, attempting to watch the birds, I can see the washing line resonantly vibrating- something has landed but can I see what? I can hear songs and calls-wood pigeon and great tit are prominent and the rest make an anonymous chorus. There is enough light to see movements and dim shapes and their behaviour and I identify a robin and a blue tit. Another shape glides down and out of sight beyond the end of the house . I expect a blackbird to come hopping back and am not disappointed. It hops around and then dissolves into the darkness under the edge of the shrubbery. A little later I am amused by the whiteness of an apple core dancing in that same darkness, and realise the blackbird is there using the same trick that puppeteers use on stage. After some on line comments from my son about his bird feeders in his Newcastle garden I decide it is time to check mine. The peanuts do not seem to have moved for days. Sure enough they are rigidly moulded together, solidified futility like so many fillings of peanut feeders before...I don't know what it is with my peanut feeders but the birds do not seem to want to take to them. I've bought the nuts from various sources, it doesn't seem to make any difference. The only way to get them eaten is to scatter them on the ground and the pigeons then come, but that is not the intention...they are far too expensive for pigeon feed. There was a time when a scattering attracted jays, and I thought that was well worth the pigeon risk...but then the jays moved on. The peanut cage is now emptied washed and drying and will be ready to refill shortly. I musn't grumble...I do have a regular clientele that keeps me royally entertained on the other feeders...more on that perhaps on another day.
Its four fifteen .It's more or less daylight and beyond the window nothing stirs.... but that's not quite true to say "nothing stirs." There is a light breeze and the towering Silver Birch that dominates the view is doing a lazy dance- just swaying a little- feet transfixed somewhere out of view amongst the bungalows.The other smaller trees around it are swaying too. The sky, not quite uniformly grey awaits the coming of the sun and the world sleeps, no sign of life- no lit window- no wisps of smoke or steam - cars sleep silent by the kerbs and wheely bins four mornings after the Monday collections are yellow stickered with promised penalties if they are not returned to home ground. At 4.34 a corvid silhouetted against the eastern sky skims roof top levels but the ranked stacks of the terrace are void of avian life. A gull drifts across the sky with a hurrying jackdaw pair signalling the awakening of the day and I decide it is time to return to bed for a few more hours of sleep.
Don't know how long it will last but Hull City went top of the championship this afternoon. Blackburn's manager commented that the team included a number of Premiership players.... not so: all Hull's players play in the Championship at the moment.
The other club I supported in my youth are also doing OK. Hull RL have won both their opening games of the Superleague season and are currently top of the table with a huge points difference.
Doubly good for the KC stadium, home to both clubs.
Watched David Attenborough's latest offering on Australia's Great Barrier Reef. What an absolute pleasure it was to watch.
Three things stood out, apart from the glories of modern technology which made the rest of the program possible.
I'm not sure I knew that coral polyps were nocturnal before but to see them all emerging from their coral pits was a wonder to behold.
Then not all the scientific reasoning was given but apparently there has been a re dating of the reef's origin which matches oral tradition about the reef's origins that has been passed on by word of mouth and the enactment of ritual dances for thousands of years, much more recently than thought.
Finally there was the simultaneous spawning of all the reefs corals on a single night...just amazing footage of this.
Well done Sir David....one of the research ship crew said you negotiated the entry to the submarine like a twenty five year old.. and you heading on for ninety....not bad going at all.