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May letter

The Windrush Experience
Dear Everyone.
My First Appointment as a Minister was in Coventry when large numbers of immigrants were coming to this country from the West Indies via Empire Windrush.
They came full of enthusiasm, inspired strangely enough by posters in the West Indies with Enoch Powell’s face on it encouraging them as citizens of the Commonwealth to help us in this country in our time of need.
It was an opportunity that many of them keenly seized. They came full of excitement. Some of them brought their guitars with them and they would gladly strike up a calypso tune to entertain others anywhere.
They took on many menial jobs. Provision had not been made for housing them. Rachman-ism exploited them terribly, and in looking around for accommodation they found notices saying ‘no Blacks, Irish or dog owners’. Exploiters of all kinds even some from amongst their own islanders had a field day. In our local churches we set up a ‘West Indian welfare Association’.
Unfortunately, there were churches who failed miserably in looking after their new worshippers who came from very different cultural situations, and many new kinds of churches arose as the result of situations of neglect. However many did support their traditional churches in spite of the insularity in some instances that they had to face.
In my last appointment in St Albans I had the privilege of ministering to quite large numbers of West Indian friends again, of spending a sabbatical in St.Vincent and St. Kitts; and over most of the years of my ministry , baptising, marrying, conducting funeral services, receiving many into the membership of our churches and ministering to their spiritual needs.
How much we valued, and I still value the friendship of Afro-Caribbean friends, incomers from African countries, other parts of the world, and also people from many other parts of the British Isles as well.
My prayer just now is that all things that bring about social cohesion should be encouraged, the dignity of all people’s respected, and no one treated shabbily. The thoughts and aspirations of John Wesley also come to my mind. He considered that ‘The Whole World was His Parish.’
With all good wishes,
Sincerely,
David.

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April letter

Dear Everyone.
An elderly person waiting for a bus said to me recently, ‘I can’t spend all day sitting in my house on my own with nobody to talk to.’
He then told me that he was going into Nottingham to the Victoria shopping centre where it is warm, some comfortable seating available, and chance to chat with other people.
Loneliness can be very hard to cope with. The strange thing is that the more inhabitants there are in a town or city the easier it is to feel lonely. ‘Wanting to get out of the house’ is common amongst those who have been bereaved, and often the longer they have been together with their partners, the more intense their loneliness feels. Many do not live near their families due to the work they do, and one’s neighbours may also be out working all day.
We may be fortunate and have good neighbours around us or keep an eye on us, and help when needed. They are’ worth their weight in gold’ as the saying goes.
Speech is a God given gift. Sometimes we can say too much and bore people, but we can all have a role where we are proactive in meeting the needs others by sharing conversations with them and an important part of that role is simply listening. Even just saying ‘ good morning’ can sometimes be a splendid opening for conversation. It can make others feel wanted, and as we get to know people we may be able to invite them in our homes to have coffee or more. What a great role shop assistants can have chatting while serving their customers. Likewise medical staff while meeting the needs of their patients.
We can all play our part in the battle against loneliness. We can help to make others feel unique simply by a few words of encouragement. Sometimes of course we do need to be on our own in order to think quietly, carefully and prayerfully; but basically human beings are social creatures, and even if they are suffering from illnesses preventing them from talking rationally or not even at all, they all need words from other human beings to help them along their way.
We are now in the season of Easter where Christians proclaim the message that Christ is ‘alive’. Part of the Easter message is that in moments of loneliness we can be aware of ‘another’ who is travelling along with us on life’s journey and beyond. Human company means a lot, but there is a sense in which the risen Christ waits to be our companion on the whole of our pilgrimage.
Prayer can help us tremendously along the way. May we play our part in helping the lonely.
With all good wishes for a very happy Easter,
Every blessing,
David.

March letter

Dear everyone.
Just now the roads and pavements here are very slippy . A doctor friend said to me ‘you ought to get a stick. As you get older it is so easy to fall. A stick is like another leg. It makes it so much easier to keep your balance.’
I have resisted having a stick for a long time mainly I suspect for vain reasons. I don’t like people to think that I’m getting old, but someone recently gave me a stick. It’s appropriate to my height, and two days ago, rather self-consciously, I went out using it for the first time.
Straightaway I started to feel the benefits.
As human beings we can all act stupidly, and not use the extra help we need. Sometimes we underestimate our abilities to do things, but at other times we think we can go on as we have always done-failing to adjust to changing circumstances, and sometimes stubbornly refusing to accept help and advice that we are given.
We all need support in many aspects of our lives whatever age we are, and whatever our abilities may be. We may need the support of friends, spiritual support, the organisations to which we belong, our families, medical care and the facilities our local authorities provide. Likewise we will want to give support to others; but there is something else I believe we need deep down in our being.
My mind goes back to the 23rd Psalm, where the Psalmist says ‘the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want’… And even in the darkest moments of the shadow of death, he says ‘I will fear no evil, for you are with me, your rod and your staff they comfort me.’
The Psalmist puts his trust in God as the One who was supporting him-spiritually helping him along his way through life’s struggles and anxieties.
We all need support, and often we have the privilege of helping others in their needs, but there is also the way of faith to which we are all invited to find another kind of support, and in our better moments, many of us try our best to follow.
We could well imagine the words of the psalmist when speaking of God’s help and support saying ‘your staff acts as my walking stick, and helps me along life’s way.’
It’s a thought that might help many of us, especially in our times of special need!
With all good wishes in this season of Lent.
Sincerely, David.

February letter

February letter.
Dear everyone,
There was a fire recently at Nottingham station. I thought nothing about it until a fortnight afterwards I was travelling to North Wales for a family funeral,There was still considerable inconvenience. Some lifts were out of action or difficult to find, and it was not easy to see directions to the platforms that one needed to go to. For the senior citizens it was necessary to carry cases downstairs to the platforms, and there were many passengers with anxious looks on their faces, hoping that they would get to their trains in time.
It is believed that the fire was arson. What a lot of havoc that people with evil intentions of this kind can cause..
But recently, at the other end of the county in the Mansfield area an experience of a very different kind to place. A 93-year-old was robbed. A Police Community Support Officer was sent to see how he was getting on. Discovering that the elderly gentleman was fond of music, the police officer sat down at his piano, and played one of Chopin’s Nocturnes for him. It made the pensioners day and the story of the pleasure it gave him went viral.
Human beings are capable of doing very destructive things on one hand and showing kind gestures on the other. We should never forget this, and certainly aim to show gestures of kindness to all kinds of people. Evil actions can create great havoc, but on the other hand we never know the extent that any gesture of goodwill or concern can have too.
We also have to remember that any religious or secular belief that doesn’t have the element of kindness in it, is seriously deficient because kindness in any for of concern for others is a glue that ultimately holds society together. It is up to us all to practice kindness wherever we can.
With all good wishes and every blessing
David.

January letter

‘Come let us anew our journey pursue.’
Dear everyone,
These opening words of a Charles Wesley hymn are deeply embedded in my mind. I was a teenager when I first sang these words, and they have come to mean a lot more since then.
Life is like a journey, and from a religious point of view life is often looked upon as a pilgrimage. At the beginning of a New Year it is a common experience to go through what has happened over the last 12 months, and we soon discover things that we didn’t do very well. Sometimes we feel we did the very opposite of what we intended. We should be thankful and positive about all that, but it would be strange if we were happy with everything we did in the previous year!
It is a good thing for us all to give ourselves time for reflection, where we will learn how to ‘think slowly’ as Edward De Bono, the advocate of lateral thinking, would say. We are all people who need to take action to make the best out of our lives but at the same time carefully go through the issues that we have to face first, and we are all different. We cannot just copy anybody else, although good role models can certainly help us on our way.
It is a time of year when we ought to say ‘we will make a new beginning, a new start’, but it’s quite a good idea to think carefully what the word ‘anew’ really this means. It doesn’t only mean ‘making a fresh start’ although that is important. It is also about allowing our lives to be filled up again with new things that we require to continue progressively on life’s journey.
All of us are called upon to treasure our lives and use them to the best of our ability. It is certainly essential to live according to our faith values; but all who desire to seek the ‘greater good’ will want to live life in the best way they can.
As we wish each other ‘a happy New Year’ and encourage each other on our journey, may we also express this as a desire or prayer which embraces the needs of others. May we give our New Year greetings to every kind of person around us-the stranger, the needy both emotionally and materially-especially including those whose life-style is very different from our own.
Wishing everyone a happy New Year!
‘Come let us anew, our journey pursue! ‘
David.

December letter.

Dear everyone.
During this last week I have been for a scan, a follow-up after surgery that I received this time last year. I suspect that we all get apprehensive when it comes to medical checkups. There is a state of suspense while we wait for results which may take several weeks.
We all hope that the results will be good. Whatever is found is simply a report on what is there already! It still remains that we all tend to get rather nervous about any kind of examination, yet how valuable examinations are. The same is often true of educational examinations, although it does seem that some people have more natural ability in passing them!
Aristotle at his trial is reported to have said that ‘the unexamined life is not worth living,’ and I believe that this is true. In the Christian year, this season is known as Advent. Originally it was a period of self-examination before God so that we might be ready and better equipped for the coming of the kingdom of God which Jesus promises.
I also believe that times of examination are necessary for everybody, whatever their outlook may be. We all need to spend time looking carefully at the way that we live- that we may not be caught unawares. We all need times of testing, and none of us have a ‘clean slate’ as the saying goes, there is always something that can be done better. How disappointing it is when leading figures in society are ‘caught out’ because they have failed to respect important rules that are good and desirable for a truly healthy society. We all have to ‘watch and pray’ that we do not fall into temptation.
There is a positive side to all this however. After any kind of examination we go forward with a clearer picture of what we need to do in our lives and will be better equipped to do it. I believe that every human being has a purpose, a ‘calling’ if you like, and we should all be aiming to fulfil it.
May we all spend some time carefully working out our calling- in whatever stage of life we are. It will be well worth our while to do this, and make us more useful in the tasks that lie before us.

With all Good Wishes for the Christmas Season,followed by a Happy and Peaceful New Year.
Sincerely,
David

November letter

Dear everyone.
We all have limitations.
Older people feel they do not have the capacity or the energy to do as much as they used to do and have to slow down. Others have disabilities and illnesses requiring lots of rest. Those who have limited incomes may feel unable to do the things they ought to do. Others in the heyday of their working experience may feel there are not enough hours in the day to do all that needs to be done.
We may have limits to the ways in which we help families and friends who live a distance away. Some may have a worrying and heavy workload, the responsibilities of caring for others may be onerous and without a break.
Limitations of all kinds can create a sense of despondency and stress. We all need ‘faith’ that help us with these times, in addition to help we require from other sources.
We have to try and avoid anxiety, but also remember that no two people’s ‘bests’ are the same. I’m reminded of this in the true story that Jesus told.
When he was sitting opposite the temple treasury in Jerusalem, people were putting money into the treasury chest. Rich people were giving large amounts. Then there came a poor widow who dropped in two tiny coins together worth a penny. He called his disciples to him and said ‘truly I tell you, this poor widow has given more than all the others. They had more than enough to live on, but she who has less than enough has given all that she had.’
In giving these two ‘widows mites’ she was giving her best according to her means, but we also have to remember that the limited amount that we can give is often of a far greater significance in our Creator’s sight than we may imagine. We are all unique, we cannot compare what we are able to do with what others do.
My hope is that all of us will find contentment when we have done best and when sometimes we feel it is very small, we must ask ourselves, who are we to judge its value?
Needless to say, we do need to examine ourselves and always seek to be doing our best. May we never tire of ‘having a go.’ If we venture in faith, somewhere along the line it is quite possible that we might come up with some pleasant surprises!
With all good wishes for the month of November.
Every blessing,
Sincerely
David.