SEPTEMBER 8TH 2022
In November I shall be 84 years old. When I was 48 years old back in 1982 I didn't expect to reach such an age, and to have spent twenty years in retirement from parochial ministry enabling me to achieve one or two of the musical goals I have been able to set myself when leaving the Vicarage in Chadderton to come to Rochdale.
The musical goals have included the founding of the Rochdale Light Orchestra in 2008. In response to a public invitation to local musicians to come along to a meeting to see if there was enough interest in such a project, a sufficient number of enthusiastic instrumentalists came along and agreed to get together on a regular basis to rehearse and perform music of a mainly light-hearted nature.
We met in the upper room at St. Martin's Church, Castleton Moor, at the invitation of the Vicar, the Revd. Ian Butterworth, and the blessing of the Parochial Church Council. There were about a dozen of us then, including some young players who inevitably moved away to various colleges of further education within a few years. Some older players are still with us, and the whole group of regular players now numbers sixteen, with three or four others joining us from time to time to make for a reasonably balanced ensemble for concert purposes.
I make the bulk of the arrangements myself with an eye and ear to producing the most satisfying overall sound. This can be very challenging, since we play music from the seventeenth to the twenty-first centuries - "Bach to Boogie and Beyond". The players we have prove themselves to be very adaptable, I'm delighted to say!
We are looking forward to our next concert, which will be on Wednesday, October 5th, in St. Michael's church, Bamford, where we have now been rehearsing and performing since we could no longer do so in Castleton. Details can be found on the orchestra's website: www.rochdalelightorchestra.org .
I'll be adding to this very shortly.......
JULY 3rd 2021
THANK GOODNESS IT'S RAINING TODAY! The moisture is needed to refresh the earth and help swell the summer and autumn fruits.
has affected the surface of this planet drastically numerous times over the miilions of years it's been sweeping us effortlessly round our sun. No thanks to us. Purely by the forces of nature as overseen by the Creator, whom I shall continue to call God (the Trinitarian God of Christianity - just ONE God). He is always creasting and recreating as his imagination and will determine.
NOW in 2021
we have been made aware that climate changes taking place in our time are due, at least in part, to the careless way in which human beings have been treating our little planet for several centuries. And dealing with the prospect of disaster for our descendents needs immediate and combined drastic response by people of every nation.
IS THERE THE WILL TO DO THIS? Maybe there's enough widespread intention, though there remain those unconvinced of the need and who seem to want us to continue in carelessness.
HOW MEEK AM I?
"Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth", said Jesus.
So, what I'm asking myself is a Good Question! It reminds me of the cartoon in The times many, many years ago, where we see a gardener being complimented by his Vicar for the beautifully tidey state of his garden. The Vicar says something along the lines of , "You see what you can achieve when you work together with God" The man replies, "Yes, but you should have seen it when he had it to himelf!"
The earth is a garden given to mankind to tend and care for..... Unlike the meek, who can at least cry out to their careless exploiters for justice, the earth itself, although a creation far, far more powerfula dn dn during than human lifge and society, cannot. It needs human voices to plead its cause by submitting to its demands for justice.
"Treat me properly!"
"My prayer for this Easter season is that we do not, in returning to our gathering places, seek to lock God, or So the practice of our faith, back out of our homes. Can we continue to join, as lay people and clergy, to pray together daily from the comfort of our living rooms?"
When Bishop David writes this towards the end of his message, I find myself wondering why it is that we Christians today do seem to have locked God out of our homes. Are we really more comfortable living without him with us than with him discernibly present like the latest Wifi - in every room of the house?
My answer to this is 'yes', in a country like ours. Because we have come to enjoy the treasures we lay up for ourselves on earth, and have lost sight of the treasures in heaven. It does not matter that such treasures as we have are enervating, fragile and only momentarily satisfying. Family and friendship relationships are all too often soured by lack of consideration for others. The forces of the context in which we are living out our lives - western capitalism, - are such as to suck us into its vortex of spiritual confusion. We have neither the heart nor stomach for the intense struggle against its entropy we must engage in if we are to avoid being dragged into a black hole of despair.
There are two things I would like to share with you and the world at this time. One is, that the Church of England, like the other institutionalised churches, has shot itself in the foot over and over again ever since it came up in the with the idea of territorial boundaries for its ministerial and pastoral provisions. These, with all the regulatory provisions that have piled up to service them, have led to us today's completely unworkable system. It needs to scrapped, if there is to be any chance of groups of Christians getting together in future for worship in their local areas without the insane burden of maintaining expensive and fundamentally unnecessary buildings. A burden which the centralised church has saddled itself with like a virus that is always going to have to be faced up to like a pandemic. One that is likely to be financially ruinous.
Has the hierarchy any Christian motivation to do this? I see that there are many good, though short term, financial reasons for keeping on with the tinkering that is happening. Systematic financially motivated tweaks are one of the major weapons in the armoury of those who have inherited the purse strings and wish to continue to hold them. But what is needed is a resurrection of Christian faith and commitment. This will not happen until a death and burial have taken place. And what the resurrection world will look like has to remain to be seen. No attempt on our part to plan it will succeed. God alone will do the new thing that needs to be done. Meanwhile, there is one thing I think we can do to tweak the system to its great financial benefit.
The second thing is this. hierarchy should encourage us all to let our kitchens and living rooms become the shrines where two or three gather together in the name of Jesus. One of us can lead the rest in thanksgiving for his death and resurrection of Jesus while taking bread and wine we can all then share. Holy Communion DIY. Why not?
I reckon that will liven things up enormously, and motivate ordinary people to do extraordinary things as the Holy Spirit goes about the business of renewing the face of the earth and turning human society the right side up.
JANUARY 26th 2021
We are now in the situation where there have been over 100,000 deaths in the UK from Covid19.
There could have been more. There could have been less.
The virus is making a terrible mess
of a world that is seemingly heading for disaster
of a sort that you cannot stop by using just a plaster..
OCTOBER 8TH 2020
I've just ordered a home delivery meal for my birthday next month from Cóte Brasserie (sorry I couldn't make the accent a circumflex). We have enjoyed several such meals during the 'lockdown' restrictions, and I'm looking forward to this next one.
Meanwhile, tomorrow is our Stephen's Birthday, the next day it will be our Joe's 21st! Then there's our nephew, Paul, and Eleanor's penfriend Renée. They have their birthdays the following days.... and very soon (before the month's ned) it will be Diane's birthday - she's Eleanor's sister.
What's the point of observing our birthdays?
I suppose it is an inevitable feature of the lives of human beings, whose self-awareness of existing in a world of space and time needs to have a framework of some sort to plot life's progress towards decay and death. Milestones fulfilling a number of purposes, some pleasantly reassuring, some quite daunting. The former are not necessarily restricted to our younger years. I myself find it pleasantly reassuring, for instance, that I shall not have to face up to all the necessary further restrictions on our freedom to please ourselves that are going to be imposed by the planet we inhabit in the next generation. As someone who has lived through the global turmoil of the last eighty years in what I have to say has been comparative physical comfort I'm glad that I can leave the future of human life and society here on earth in other people's hands knowing that I've tried as best I could to promote peace and shared prosperity throughout God's world. I cannot contribute anything more to the future. How far my contribution has been what it should have been, I just don't know. I can easily recognise that there have been many, many men and women whose contribution to the welfare and well-being of the planet and its creatures has been so far greater than mine as to render mine almost negligible. And, certainly, I have had an easy enough ride through life, though not without periods of intense spiritual anguish which left me relying completely on the psalmist's assurance that "underneath are the everlasting arms".
I am not going to apologise for my comfortable existence. I know only too well that it has been at the expense of other people's distress. Mea culpa.
SEPTEMBER 24TH 2020
It was around this time in 1965 that I was made a Deacon of the Church of England in Backburn Cathedral and began my ministry in the parish of St. Michael and All Angels, Ashton on Ribble, Preston. A year later I was ordained Priest and continued to minister in Ashton until I was called to be Senior Curate of Lancaster Priory Church and Priest-in-charge of St. George, Marsh, in 1967.
Looking back to those early years of ministry I have to say that parochial ministry in the Church of England in 2020 seems to have changed considerably, almost beyond recognition. Back in 1965 the 'church' still had the aura of a religious powerhouse generating spiritual truths and prescriptions for healthy living which, whether people tapped into them or not, were widely accepted as wholesome. Those of us who acted as Gospel showroom salesmen and aftersales service engineers were generally welcome in the community at large and in the homes of individual families at times of joy and sorrow alike. I could feel reasonably comfortable walking about wearing my still quite shining white dog collar. I felt I would be at least smiled at, nodded to and even shaken hands with by most people.
I might even be approached as the possible source of information, advice, consolation or congratulation by people whom I'd never spoken with before. And when it came to preparing couples for marriage - weddings were still a main feature of parish church life - not only did they live at separate addresses but some of them were grateful for a little sex education....... What a different world it is today!
In many ways the life we live today is much more real. There is certainly little pretence on most people's part at being 'religious'. Churchgoing has declined to such an extent that all the major branded Christian belief systems - 'denominations' - are beginning to recognise that their hierarchical institutions are as unChristian in their spiritually capitalistic ways as is the market economy of the Western world is ungenerous to the disadvantaged poor it relies on to make money for the wealthy investors.
That life is, for most of the world's population, a struggle for survival in the face of insuperable odds is only too obvious. People like me are so very. very privileged. I have been unbelievably blessed by the fortune in a world that I reckon should be a source of blessing to everyone but isn't because of a uncaring, greedy minority.
It's May 9th 2020.
Yesterday we celebrated the 75th anniversary of VE Day. On May 8th 1945 I was six and a half years old. Having lived through the war on the Pheasey Estate at the northernmost edge of the city of Birmingham conurbation I have some clear visual and aural memories of those terrible years.
Birmingham was one of the most visited targets for the German air force bombardments. I have to say, however, that I do not recall being 'afraid', even when we would scramble to get down into the Anderson shelters in our gardens or simple huddle together in that space under the stairs we thought would protect us from harm!
Such is the inexperience of childhood! Innocence? Yes, but only in the sense of being unprepared for harsh reality, and protected for a while from the anguish of expectation.
Things are very different now! Experience brings the prospect of things to come based on the reminders of things already witnessed. I fear for the future of this generation if our children and grandchildren do not recognise and rise to the challenges of nature which our good old planet earth is signalling.
I say to them:
"Take them as the occasion to demonstrate that you accept the opportunity they offer to show that you can work together as all equally children of the God who will give you the insights and mental strengths you need to respond to what you are being called to be and do.
Abandon the greed and envy, fueled by the selfishness of pride, which have driven us all over the last two hundred years to build the modern towers of Babel which, with their Grenfell cladding of easy option contentment, could well enfold the episode that is human history in the unloving embrace of the planet's firey fury. "
On November 10th 2018 I reached my 80th birthday!. Born 10.11.1938 in the Perry Beeches district of Birmingham and now living in Rochdale I have spent most of my parochial ministry in the North West of England. Ordained in Blackburn cathedral in September 1965, I served curacies in Preston and Lancaster before becoming Rector of Church Eaton (Staffordshire), then Precentor of Manchester Cathedral and subsequently Rector of St. Elisabeth, Reddish (Stockport) and finishing full time parochial ministry as Vicar of St. Luke, Chadderton (Oldham).
Since retiring in 2002 I have found time to compose music of various kinds for soloists and instrumental groups, choirs and orchestras. I am under no illusion as to the significance of these in the scale of things. But I'd like to think that they could be regarded as having at least a fair degree of competence in their artistic achievement. Most of the have been performed by amateur musicians. Some have been given fully professional performances, and I am delighted to have recording of them to listen to from time to time.
HERE is a photographe taken on October 24th 2018 in the Music Room on Palace Green, Durham. The people you see are (from left to right) Me, Eleanor, Anne Cleves, Derek McCulloch, Anne Hedley, David Hedley - all Durham alumni. Derek was introducing a Concert given by the group CAFE MOZART, which he founded years ago. You can read about it by visiting
This was an occasion of great and joyful sentiment, one that I shall treasure.