Jess writes….

Time flies!

It’s hard to believe that I have already completed a year of ordination training. Time really has flown by. Over the past ten months I have been challenged and stretched, surprised and blessed.

Joining the family at All Hallows has been such a blessing. I have been loved, encouraged, supported and comforted at times of need. The year has had its ups and downs as we have journeyed through the restructure that was announced by St John’s College in November 2014, and as we as a community have set out as the first students on the Community Mission Pathway (CMP). As Mark, our vicar, acknowledged in last month’s article, some of the hopes for this pathway have not been realised in its first year, and this has led us to reflect and seek a way forward as a community.

Over the last six weeks I have felt led by God to consider the future of my training and it is with great sadness that I will be leaving Nottingham this summer and moving to Durham where I will join the community at Cranmer Hall. The restructure at St John’s brings with it uncertainty about the third year of my training and the academic pressures greatly impact my desire for balance and wellbeing.

It has been a really challenging time as I have sought to understand why this is happening. Why did God call me here in the first place? Why would he be calling me on now? I have prayed and asked all my questions and it was in church just two weeks ago when I felt God remind me that at times we just have to accept that there are things that we won’t understand right now.

Stepping out blind requires faith, and whilst it seems scary, I trust that God will be faithful. I very much see this as a message for All Hallows at this time as I have been so encouraged during my time here to see a congregation so committed to working through change and uncertainty.

Just this weekend, our guest speaker, Revd Andrea Russell spoke to us about journeying with God from one side to the other, as the disciples did when Jesus said ‘let’s go across to the other side’ in Matt 4:35-41, where Jesus calms the storm. Andrea spoke powerfully about the reality that we are called to journey through the storm when our desire would be to journey round it. In 1 Thessalonians 5:24 we are promised that ‘The one who calls you is faithful, and he will continue to be faithful.’

As I journey on from Nottingham to Durham, still very much in the midst of a storm, I will hold this parish in my heart and in my prayers, expectant that God in his faithfulness will honour his calling on both my life and yours as a congregation. I very much hope that I will have opportunities to visit you all in the future, and I know Mark and my fellow students will keep me posted on how you are doing.

With love,

Jess x

Some post Easter musings from Darren Howie (St John’s Student)

Another Easter has almost come and gone, sadly and virtually slipping away again into the back of our minds, only to resurface again next year as we approach another Easter. Throughout this period of the Christian calendar, we are encouraged to reflect on themes of “new life” and “resurrection.” So every year I hear words like these I do my best to understand and embrace the hope they are supposed to convey. However, do these words really mean anything? Do they point to anything significant about what actually has happened in the past, what can happen now, or what will happen in the future? Are words like “resurrection” and “new life” not just Christian buzz words that are actually little more than, perhaps, the spiritualising of everyday concepts such as ‘self-help’, ‘fresh starts’, and ‘second chances’?

I was thinking about these things the other week as a walked along the Hook towards the Water Sports Centre — and I had a little moment of clarity when I saw a sight that would have been an ordinary one any other time of the year. It was a lonely, public, garbage bin in desperate need of being emptied. The bins have been forgotten, I muttered. And to add insult to injury others who were on the path that day just seemed to be taking no notice. And I thought I had moved up in the world into a more respectable neighbourhood. In Rushcliffe, you see, garbage is collected regularly, on time, in my street (Holme Road) for example, every Thursday without fail. You rarely see overflowing refuse, anywhere. That is of course, except when there’s a statutory holiday, such as Easter. Such as the day I was enjoying my walk, and my own company, along the Hook. Statutory holidays alter the norm -almost everyone in Lady Bay knows this, except me initially.

As I continued my stroll and as it dawned on me that it was Easter, the sight of the garbage toppling over the edge of the bin it got me thinking. It sort of symbolised a culture where Easter (or at least its historical meaning) is ignored, forgotten, or trivialised and commercialised. Easter comes and goes and we barely notice. We throw our garbage away and it’s business as usual. Life carries on, as it always does. It doesn’t seem to change anything and it’s good for little more than an extra day off work.

Moreover, and perhaps more significantly, the lonely and full garbage bin reminded me that life will inevitably go back to normal but that the ‘normal’ always contains its fair share of ‘garbage’. Taking the garbage metaphor to the extreme, you could say that those of us who celebrate Easter do so in the full knowledge that the coming year will contain a reasonable amount of struggles and trials. None of our lives are ‘garbage-free’.

There are few times of the Christian year more enjoyable to speak at than Easter. But I’m painfully aware that a large portion of the people in our community, those who might be reading this reflection, for instance, might find it difficult to find the joy, because it’s not true to their situation. Perhaps, like me, you have been listening to words about resurrection and new life, yet at the same time have been through, or are at present slap bang in the middle of varying forms and degrees of garbage. For example, we live in world ravaged by cancer and other diseases, families struggling with the fallout of addiction, mental illness, and suicide, lives touched by the economic downturn… And those are just the stories we happen to be aware of. How does ‘resurrection talk’ sound when you’re surrounded by garbage?

Of course, there’s nothing new about this question. The hope of resurrection has always been located in a world where suffering was the norm, where garbage is to be expected. The promise of newness has always been spoken to people more familiar with tragedy than to those who are adamant that they are in no need. The Easter message is that there is more to the story than we see, but this message has never been proclaimed into a context where newness and hope were self-evident realities.

Even when life goes back to normal. Even when it is the middle of June or September or November, and Easter is memory, and it seems like we’re up to ears in garbage and pain—when the flowers of spring are replaced by the scorching heat of summer or the wind and the rain of winter. Even when we’re surrounded by garbage, the memory of Easter, of new life, of resurrection, no matter how vague or distant, lives on, and it reminds us that hope always has the last word – that summer and winter will pass – that spring will arrive – that garbage will be collected and life will go on, even beyond death.


The Revd Mark’s Easter notes

Dear friends

 Some years back, a friend of mine wrote a comic Christmas play called, ‘Scrub that Manger!’ Underneath the laughter, he was making a serious point about how the toughness of the story gets lost underneath layers of sentimentality. We like to focus on fluffy lambs and pretty stable scenes rather than teenage pregnancy, family disgrace, despotic rulers and state-sponsored mass murder.

 It’s understandable. Christmas is a time when we have an opportunity to help children especially connect with the Christian story. It’s sensible and proper to downplay the harsher aspects. It’s a family show after all.

 It’s much harder to do that with Holy Week and Easter. That’s not to say there isn’t sentimentality at this time of year, but bunnies, eggs and chicks have far more to do with pagan sensibilities than the Christian story. It is possible, if we’re just Sunday Christians, to go from Palm Sunday to Easter Day without anything in between.

 I think there’s another, more subtle thing that we do, though, with the most important events in the Christian year and in the Christian story. We rush to the end, or at the very least we tell the whole story from the perspective of the end.

 I find it interesting that the day we most gloss over is Holy Saturday. It often feels like just the gap between the shock of Crucifixion and the joy of the Resurrection. But I think there’s more to it than that.

 Sometimes we cannot help telling even Good Friday from the perspective of Easter Day. On the other hand our liturgies and ways of approaching the story do draw us into an experience of its power. Real tears are often shed on Good Friday.

 Holy Saturday liturgies on the other hand are infrequently observed. If we do take part we find they rush us on to the Resurrection. The Vigil either begins with or ends with the ‘Service of Light’. That mitigates against us being able to enter into the desolation of the first generation of disciples in that first Holy Week.

 They hadn’t really been paying attention when Jesus spoke, as he sometimes did, about his death and Resurrection. They ere confused and shattered by his humiliation and death. They were sceptical and perhaps even hurt and angered by the first reports of his empty tomb. And those first witnesses wondered who had desecrated his grave rather than recalling his talk of being raised. Imagine how they felt on that first Holy Saturday.

They didn’t understand or know that Jesus would be raised. They were just left with each other to mourn and ponder all their shattered hopes. It was over. Jesus was dead. Dead and buried.

 We are Easter people. The Resurrection is fundamentally the Gospel to which we bear witness. Jesus is Risen. This is the Good News. But without the desolation of Holy Saturday, we are in danger of cheapening the grace of God. This isn’t a plea to turn up to a service. This is an encouragement to spend some time in your own way this Holy Week and in your own Christian discipleship more generally, imagining your way into the desolation of Holy Saturday.

 That’s not because I think it’s good for us to be miserable in some masochistic way. It’s because before we can offer people the hope of Resurrection, we need to understand the depth of their loss, their sadness, their grief. If we cannot stand with them in those experiences, we demean them by rushing to offer hope. Our faith doesn’t leave us in our desolation but, by God, it does meet us there. And that’s the other point. It’s not just other people’s loss, sadness and desolation. It’s our own too. It’s damaging, I think, to our emotional well-being to rush ourselves on, to deny even, the depth of those experiences in our own lives. In the cold, dark, deathly places, where God is absent, dead even, even there God is with us. God stays with us, waiting. Only when we attend to those experiences in our own lives and find God  here, and experience Resurrection there, can we offer people Good News with real compassion.

 I pray that this Holy Week, this Easter, we may all have a deeper experience of God’s presence with us in the darkness and so be enabled to celebrate the dawn with deeper joy.

 With love from Mark.

The Revd Howard’s Easter thoughts….

Easter thoughts….

Easter is a moveable feast… its date each year being dependent upon the full moon after the Spring Equinox… a glance at the opening pages of a Book of Common Prayer will give instructions as to its determination. The church calendar and the celebration of other festivals depends very heavily upon the date of Easter but that is not all and certainly that is not the most significant feature of that celebration… Easter, and all that it stands for, changes our understanding of God and His relationship with His creation and us as a part of it. Can you for one moment imagine our faith without the event of Easter? … the historic events of Passion Week, the trial and cruel execution of the Man from Galilee would have ended everything… just another well intentioned man overcome by the opposition of those who felt threatened.

But we are aware that this is not the case… there was the miracle of Resurrection and the Easter dawned as a beacon of hope and promise to a world shrouded in the blackness of sin and death… Easter changed it all ushering in the possibility of Peace in place of anger, Hope for despair and Forgiveness of our transgressions… the world then 2000 years ago was in need of such a transformation and who would argue that our 21st century world is not still in the same need??

As we walk our path through the torment and sadness of the way to Gethsemane let us remember the vision that is Easter… the beacon of hope and light leading us onward to the promise of eternal life secured for each of us by the sacrifice of our Saviour Christ .

Perhaps some words of Cardinal Basil Hume [former Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster] place Easter in its right context:

‘’The great gift of Easter is hope – Christian hope which makes us have that confidence in God, in his ultimate triumph, and in his goodness and love, which nothing can shake‘’.

There is nothing wrong with the image of fluffy chicks, gambolling lambs and foil-wrapped chocolate eggs to enhance your enjoyment of this season that has indeed changed all things!!

A joyous, hope-filled and happy Easter to you all …


Revd Mark’s Notes for March

Dear friends

This month we are in the season of Lent. It always catches me off guard that the Gospel for Ash Wednesday — a day when our penitence is marked on our foreheads for all to see — is all about praying, fasting and giving in secret.

 One of the options for the Old Testament reading, Joel 2, also has the line: ‘rend your hearts, not your garments’

(Joel 2:13).

 It all suggests that outward signs are not important. But the bigger picture across the whole Bible is that there is a place for outward signs (bread and wine being the obvious example) as long as those outward signs match what’s going on in our hearts. So it’s not enough to turn up to church on Ash Wednesday, get a cross marked on our heads and then give up chocolate or alcohol for Lent. This season invites us to enter into 40 days of serious self-examination. Just as our confession invites us to the same Sunday by Sunday.

 At this time of year, I am often tempted to make this season all about my individual piety. This is a time of year when I can be a proper Christian because I’m feeling what it means, in the Prayer Book’s language, to be a ‘miserable offender’. But that misses the point of Lent. First, it misses the point because this is a season of grace, not of condemnation. As the same reading from Joel assures us: God ‘is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from

punishing’ (Joel 2:13). The context for this season is God’s mercy. Jesus’s time in the desert and the struggles he went through there were in the light of the assurance and affirmation he’d received at his baptism: you are my beloved child, in whom I am well-pleased (Matthew 3:17, Mark 1:11, Luke 3:22).

 The dismissal Gospel on Ash Wednesday assures us that God’s response to our self-examination is not condemnation but joyful celebration. ‘There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who need no repentance.’ (Luke 15:7)

Second, it misses the point because this is not just a season for individual repentance. We come together on Ash Wednesday.

 Blow the trumpet in Zion;

sanctify a fast;

call a solemn assembly;

gather the people.

Sanctify the congregation;

assemble the aged;

gather the children,

even infants at the breast.

Let the bridegroom leave his room,

and the bride her canopy.

                                             (Joel 2:15-16)

 In the face of a plague of locusts, and facing their own demise, the people come together and seek God. This is a source of hope — you can only turn to God because you discern God’s presence among you. God is in the midst of God’s people. We don’t face locusts, but we do face the reality of our demise. For those of us involved in more traditional forms of church, we cannot escape the reality in front of us, we are dying out. Our congregations are shrinking and ageing. But in the face of this plague of apathy, we should not despair. Rather we do as God invites us through the prophet: ‘return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful’ (Joel 2:13).

 Lent prepares us for Holy Week and Easter. The central story of our faith makes it plain that even  though we may not escape death as individuals or communities, it is not the last word. So let us come together with joy and honesty in this season of Lent, able to face the truth of who we are. There may be sorrow in that, but never despair, because in our journey through our individual and corporate deserts we draw close to the One who says: Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living one. I was dead, and see, I am alive for ever and ever (Revelation 1:17-18)

 Love from Mark.

Mark’s Notes for February

On 14th February in 1929, 6 mob associates and a mechanic were murdered at a warehouse in Chicago, most likely on the orders of Al Capone. It has become known as the St Valentine’s Day massacre. We find deaths on days such as these especially tragic as it’s supposed to be a time of celebration and life. It reminds us that violence and death are never far away, however we might wish to cosset ourselves in warm emotion. The irony is that the real St Valentine (if there was such a person — legends and history get very muddled with these ancient saints) was a martyr who himself died a violent death during the reign of Claudius II in about 270 CE.

It should remind us that the Christian view of love is no soppy thing. Love is courageous, long-suffering and self-sacrificing. Chocolates, flowers and love-hearts don’t take us anywhere near the Christian idea of love. It may be that so many marriages founder because people were expecting the initial rush of romantic feeling to be lifelong. Real love, as the Bible’s greatest poet reminds us, ‘is strong as death, passion fierce as the grave’ (Song of Songs 8:6b). When we read that great ode to love in 1 Corinthians 13, we may well find ourselves discomfited at our lack of love as much as moved at love’s beauty.

For Christians, all love ultimately finds its source in God. The writer of epistles known as John put it in characteristically simple, yet profound terms: ‘God is love’ (1 John 4:8b). The depth of love transcends our human emotion. It is love that sends Christ to earth for us. In this month we are between his Incarnation and his Passion. It is a good time to reflect on love. Love modelled in the care

 Jesus received from his mother, and love modelled in Jesus being ready to give up his life for his friends. This is love as commitment, action and self-sacrifice. Ultimately love places the needs of the other above our own. Loving even our enemies in that way seems a very tall order indeed. Yet this is what is asked of us. How can we achieve this impossible standard?

In discussion of the Holy Trinity, some have put it this way: the Father is the Lover, the Son is the Beloved, the Spirit is the Love that is shared between them. Like all metaphors for the Trinity, it is inadequate, faltering and flawed. And yet it conveys something profound. It is this same Holy Spirit whom Christ breathes on his followers. The 1 Corinthians 13 type of love is made possible by the indwelling of the Spirit in each of us. It is our openness to the Spirit that enables us to be ready to lay aside what we desire in favour of those whom God calls us to love.

It’s a good time to be reminded of that as this month, the very next day after St Valentine’s Day, the All Hallows’ PCC meets to consider, in the light of all that we have uncovered through our looking and listening in the first year of the Partnership for Missional Church, to whom is God sending us, and how is God sending us? And at St Edmund’s too, though we are not going through the same process, the same question pertains. We might ask it another way: who are we for? If just for ourselves, or even for each other, we are not all that Christ calls his Church to be. We are for; we are with, the people of peace in our community who will open us up to new ways of being for and with that same community. As Archbishop William Temple put it

  ‘the Church is the only institution that exists primarily for the benefit of those who are not its members.’

How are we to be sustained as a place of love if we are to exist for others? Will not the well run dry very quickly? I think that’s a big risk as well as a big ask. I don’t know entirely what the answer is, but the question brings me back to Valentine’s Day itself. Romance as a substitute for love is no love at all, but romance alongside real love helps us to recognise, uphold and sustain it. There is an element of decision and will in the deep and real love I’ve been discussing above, but that doesn’t mean that feelings are not involved. As Solomon (or whoever it was that wrote the famous song) goes on to say:

Passion [is] fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire,

a raging flame. Many waters cannot quench love,

neither can floods drown it.

(Song of Songs 8:6b-7a)

So as we consider even more deeply how we might love those who are not yet members of our Christian communities; as we think about who we might be with and for, let’s remember to ‘romance’ one another. Let’s take the trouble to do the sweet, little things that show that we care and that we feel for one another. Some of that will be practical acts of help; some of it will be simple, unwarranted acts of generosity to one another: gifts left on a doorstep, cards expressing appreciation, inviting each other for a meal, a phone call for no other reason than to say ‘hello, how are you?’.

Whatever you’re doing and whomever you’re sharing it with – friends, family or a partner, have a happy St Valentine’s Day. May this month be one wherein you know yourself to be loved!


 Love from Mark.

A Christmas message from the Revd Mark, our Vicar.

A Christmas message

As I reflect back on the past couple of years and prepare to celebrate our third Christmas here in Lady Bay, I’m struck by how much change there has been. It was a big change coming here in the first place, but this year has been characterised by change too.

Some of those changes are really welcome. I’m thrilled that after two years of preparation, a group of six ‘ordinands’ (trainee vicars) have moved to the area and are sharing with me in ministry in All Hallows Church and in Lady Bay. They’ve all received a warm welcome and are really pleased to be here.

Some of those changes introduce more uncertainty about the future. The Church of England ordination training college that I work for, St John’s College in Bramcote, is now entering a period of significant change as we look to develop more sustainable patterns of training for the future.

Much as we may dislike it – because it’s rarely painless – change is inevitable in life. In the sixth century BC, Heraclitus, the great Greek philosopher of change put it very neatly when he said that we never step into the same river twice. Everything flows. Nothing stands still.

In all the changing scenes and seasons of our life, we look for the anchors that might hold us firm – family, friends and, perhaps for some, faith. The Bible speaks of a God who is the same, yesterday, today and forever. But the message of Christmas is that the eternal God steps into the flowing river of our human experience and shares birth, growth, life and death with us.

In the manger in Bethlehem, we encounter a great mystery, the eternal, unchanging God, present to us, as one of us, breathing, growing, learning, changing.

Finally we face the truth that we ourselves also are a flowing river. We do not stand still. We change. In the gaze of the Christmas child, though, we meet the One whose love is the one constant, unchanging, fixed point in the Universe. If we share that recognition, we can trust that whatever change may come, we are not lost and we are not alone.

Have a blessed Christmas. Mark.


The Revd Howard’s thoughts for December…

As we come to the beginning of the Advent season, the season of waiting and expectation, our thoughts turn quite naturally to the Christmas that’s lies just ahead…a season symbolising a vision of hope not only for ourselves and those close to us but of hope for the world at large. For the majority of people no matter what faith [or none] that they profess,  this is seen as a time to embrace a vision of peace, harmony and justice for all in our world.

For the Christian, the Christmas festival proclaims a message that is more powerful than the traditional imagery. The cosy nativity scenes are in contrast to and a reminder of the poverty of many folk at this time, the visiting and socially outcast shepherds mirror the continuing plight of millions trapped in  economic slavery in contrast to the opulence of the wise men. It’s not that I have anything against these images they are all integral to our remembering and celebrating and should be promoted…but it is not inappropriate to recall that the real celebration has to do with  Emmanuel…‘God is with us’.

In that expressive Hebrew name, known to us in English in those four words, resides a profound truth and message …as the poet Christopher Smart [1] puts it

 God all-bounteous, all creative,

Whom no ills from good dissuade,

Is incarnate and a native

Of the very world he made

[from The Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ]


This is the great under-pinning faith statement of our belief…we have an omnipresent God alongside and with us in all our circumstances and conditions and one who experienced our humanity for himself.

In a world where there are so many problems and difficulties which seem to be beyond the ability of humankind to solve, we need to be reminded of the presence of the God who wishes to be alongside and is constantly there for us

Christmas surely ought not to fail to remind us of that truth although its true observance and meaning is under constant attack from a world that becomes more and more materialistic with the passing of the days. Black Friday, just passed, seemed to illustrate that trend only too clearly!

The opening stanza of a poem by John Dryden [2] expresses prayerfully what our true conception of the season should be

Creator Spirit by whose aid

The world’s foundations first were laid,

Come visit every pious mind;

Come pour thy joys on humankind;

From sin and sorrow set us free

And make thy temples worthy thee.

[from Veni Creator Spiritus]


I pray that your celebration of Christmas, with family and friends, will be full of joy and peace in the knowledge that it is shared around the world not only with all people but that Emmanuel is indeed sharing it with us …everyone of us!!


God bless and a Happy Christmas from Jeanette and Howard



[1]   Christopher Smart [1722-1771]

[2]  John Dryden [1631-1700]


A Student’s View – from Jess

I am with you always…

I still have vivid memories of the first time that I entered the deep end of a swimming pool. I stood on the side and listened intently to the clear instructions that I was being given by my swimming instructor. However upon entering the pool those clear instructions went out of the window as I gulped down what felt like half the swimming pool whilst flapping my arms and legs all over the place. I felt out of control, scared and if I’m honest, extremely embarrassed as the rest of my swimming class watched on!

Sometimes life takes us into seasons where we feel like we have entered the deep end.

Let me introduce myself. My name is Jess McLaren and I have recently joined the Lady Bay parish family as a student on the Community Mission Pathway. I will be living and serving in the area for the next three years as I also study as part of my ordination training at St John’s College in Bramcote.

So what got me thinking about my first experience of the deep end? Nine weeks ago I packed all my belongings into my car and having received encouragement and support from many I set off in the direction of the Midlands.

So in reality what was I doing? I was moving north (I had never lived north of London in my life!), I was moving house, I was moving church and I was returning to academic study. I was excited and full of anticipation as I stepped out on this next chapter in my life.

In Matthew 14:22-33 we read the account of Jesus walking on water. In this passage the disciples are scared as they see Jesus approaching them, as on first sight they think he is a ghost. Peter, one of the disciples says to Jesus, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” Jesus simply says “Come”. Can you imagine for a second how Peter may have felt in that moment. I suspect that he may have felt anxious that he might be about to plunge straight

Jesus gave Peter an instruction and Peter stepped out of the boat with his eyes fixed on Jesus and he walked towards him. However Peter soon took his eyes off Jesus as his attention was diverted to the wind and in that moment he began to sink.
In all honesty over these last nine weeks I often felt like I have been plunged into the deep end as I have grappled with the change of everything in this new environment. The reality is in the midst of the deep end I seemed to have temporarily forgotten a promise that Jesus makes to us, and like Peter I had taken my eyes off him as my attention was diverted to all that was going on around me. In the final words of Matthews gospel Jesus makes a promise which we can take comfort from. He says ‘And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age’. Life is a journey and there will ultimately be times where my attention is diverted again, however as Jesus did not let Peter sink, we can be assured that if we reach out for him he will stretch out his hand and take hold of us.
I would not change the experiences that I have had since arriving here. I have been charmed by the Midlands, I have been blessed by moving into a beautiful house, I have been welcomed by a loving church family, and I have just about got my head around the academic study. Jesus has been faithful and when I have felt like I’m sinking he has stretched out his hand and affirmed his promise that he will be with me always.
A wonderful friend of mine recently sent me a little card in the post with a short prayer on it. It says ‘Lord help me remember that nothing is going to happen to me today, that you and I can’t handle together’
My prayer is that you may be able to take encouragement from this during the moments where you experience life in the deep end. Jesus is ready with his hand stretched out; we simply have to ask him to save us.
With love,


A Student’s Message……

Here is a message from Hils, one of the students from St John’s College, who has been working with Revd Mark at All Hallows.


Dear Friends,

 This is usually the bit in the Heron where our Vicar, Mark, writes a letter to the Parish. This month, however, he has invited me, Hils, your placement student to write to you. I have had the privilege of spending the month of September in the Parish of Lady Bay in a more concentrated form, following Mark around and seeing what he does in his role of Vicar. I have also had fun gate crashing the Open House Communion service, Coffee Shop, and some of the small groups, as well as a fun lunch at the Lady Bay pub, where I was treated to a Knickerbocker glory with a sparkler in it!

 Throughout the month, so far I have really enjoyed getting to know the fine folk of All Hallows’ church a bit better. I have really enjoyed being a guest of the church and receiving hospitality.

 This whole topic of hospitality is something that I feel God has been speaking to me about recently. In Luke 10, which some of us have been looking at as part of “Dwelling in the Word”, Jesus taught His disciples to go into people’s homes. He tells us to “eat what is set before us” and be good guests! And so I have been thinking about what it means to be a good guest, and receive the hospitality ofothers. Often, I think, we associate mission with offering hospitality, rather than just receiving it. Sometimes it is difficult to receive hospitality.

 Today as part of following Mark around, I joined him at a meeting with other mission leaders in the centre of Birmingham. When the meeting had finished we were walking back to the station and we passed a young man selling the Big Issue. Mark had donned his dog collar for the occasion, and the man saw it and called after him. We started chatting to him and he gave us a badge each, advertising an event that was happening in Birmingham at the weekend. He then told us his story of addiction and rehabilitation, but that he had since become very ill and his future was uncertain. At no point, though, did he ask us to buy a Big Issue.

 After we had spoken to him, we were humbled. This young man had given us hospitality in the form of a badge, and his story. He expected nothing of us in return. We prayed for him whilst standing onthe streets of Birmingham.

 One thing that I have learned from my time so far at “vicar school” is that someone’s story is a treasure. Today we received a treasure that is precious to that young man, to us, and to God. Hospitality can come in many forms and it is a real pleasure to have heard some of your stories whilst on placement at All Hallows’ this month. We all have a story, and that story is precious.

 There is a lot happening at All Hallows’ at the moment. The Partnership for Missional Church continues as we experiment with practices such as “Dwelling in the Word”, enabling us to listen to God and to each other as he speaks to us through Scripture. This has not been easy, especially in the context of the 9.30 service, and we have realised that the 9.30 service is probably not the best setting to do this We will continue to Dwell in the Word at other times, and everybody is invited to participate in this … I love listening to people sharing with me what they have learnt, puzzled over or wrestled with whilst doing this. We also look forward to welcoming the Community Mission Pathway students and their families as they arrive in Lady Bay. Here is a perfect opportunity to give and receive hospitality and share our stories, our treasure, with one another. We continue to pray for all the new students as they arrive and are welcomed to All Hallows’. And so this concludes my message to you today.

 Just a few questions for you to ponder:

What is your story? How does it feel to hear that your story is a treasure? How can you celebrate your story and those of others around you?

How have you given and received hospitality this week? Which for you is more difficult – giving or receiving?

 With love from