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Blood and fire - or unity in diversity? November 2006

At this time of year, loud bangs come out of nowhere, A&E departments become more crowded than usual, and pets try in vain to hide under the bed. Yes, it's that time again to celebrate terrorism, judicial murder and a total lack of inter-religious dialogue - Bonfire Night, the night when we remember Guy Fawkes' unsuccessful plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament, and its grim conclusion.

What's our vision? October 2006

Just now my mind is preoccupied by visions - not of the oneness-with-God variety that mystics experience, or the psychedelic sort induced by illegal substances, but the kind of vision which the book of Proverbs (in the King James translation!) sees as crucial for a faith community: Where there is no vision, the people perish.

A good harvest: September 2006

I always think of September as the beginning of autumn - though now, I suppose, with the seasons changing around us, it may turn out to be the end of summer, or (God forbid!) the beginning of winter. But to me September means hips and haws and ripe blackberries in the hedges, a glut of apples in the orchard, marrows and sweetcorn in the allotment - Keats' season of ‘mellow fruitfulness'.

Holidays and holy days: July 2006

Just now, the second topic on everyone's lips seems to be, Are you going anywhere on holiday this summer? (The first topic, as you'll have guessed, is the weather.) Establishing presence or absence is very important to the smooth running of our social calendar, especially in a congregation like St Andrew's, where everyone's diary is well exercised. And not only to the social calendar!

Who should do it? June 2006

When you have a whole pile of things to be done, how do you decide what to do first? My first reaction is to make a comprehensive to-do list, preferably including a few things I have already done, so I can tick them off. Next, I look at everything there is to do, panic, and seize on some displacement activity; though this can take quite constructive forms, when I finally get back to my list it's no shorter...

The Perfect Minister: May 2006

I find it almost incredible that, by the time you read this letter, I will be starting my second year as your minister. This first year has sped past: starting to get to know you; finding my way around; beginning to discover what being a minister is all about. They don't really prepare you for that in college - but then again, they can't. Until you're actually in post, it's impossible to tell, and the answer is different for everyone anyway. So what's the story according to Sarah: what is it like being a minister, now I'm finding out in practice, not in theory?

In the real world... April 2006

It's the beginning of April - and still no Easter. How are you doing with your Lent challenges, I wonder, whether it's ideas from that little book given out at church on the first Sunday of Lent, or your own programme? Myself, I find that it takes determination to keep on after the first flush of enthusiasm wears off. Wouldn't life be so much easier,
I wonder to myself, if I gave up on my hope of changing things with the rueful words, ‘That's all very well in theory, but in the real world...'?

Time to prepare: March 2006

This year the first of March is Ash Wednesday - so there's no way I can get out of writing about Lent for this month's Messenger! But why should I want to get out of it, anyway? Maybe the whole idea has a tinge of gloom and doom - giving up something you like to strengthen your spiritual muscle or, more practically, in order to give the money you have saved to some good cause. It may be worthy, but it's not really something you look forward to doing, except for thinking longingly about when it's going to be over.

Where did the time go? February 2006

February's the shortest month. And from what I hear about the weather we may expect, we might well be thankful for its fewer days than the other months of the year. But time doesn't seem to work that way, does it? If we're enjoying ourselves, or if we've too much to do, it goes fast; but if we're not, it drags, whatever the weather.

What's the point? January 2006

The presents have been unwrapped, the tree is starting to shed its needles, Christmas is over and the New Year is upon us. Are you looking forward to 2006 hopefully, I wonder, or is it more a question of keeping on keeping on?

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