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January letter

Dear everyone.
A model making shop in Nottingham is closing down, not due to lack of trade, but simply changed circumstances. It has been very busy over the last few weeks, especially with model train enthusiasts who have found all kinds of bargains there as a result of the clearance sale.
Many of the customers are middle-aged and older men for whom model railways is a fascinating hobby. It’s all tied up with the earlier age of steam, trainspotting, steam locomotives thundering through our local stations, and the excitement of a steam train taking some of us on our holidays.
Steam locomotives are to be found in railway museums, and many men especially give a great deal of their leisure time in restoring them, and yet others enjoy being engine drivers for steam preservation railways and fulfilling other roles.
The age of steam also reminds many of us of a time when it was still a way for people to travel out of their local communities and explore new ground. Cars coaches, aircraft and holiday cruisers have taken over much of this role since.
Model steam railway engines and preservation societies have created a healthy kind of looking back, but there are many other forms of looking back that are simply a kind of nostalgia where there is an unwillingness to change. Such attitudes can have a negative effect on our personalities.
My prayer is that we may all appreciate things from past, live in the present and move forward into the future, because life is like a journey or even a pilgrimage where we have to move on, striving to achieve good objectives with a good end in view. Sydney Carter’s Hymn ‘One more step along the world I go,’ reminds us of this when he writes.
‘It’s from the Old I travel to the New, keep me travelling along with You.’
We all need to keep on moving and preparing for new experiences whatever age we may be.
My wish is that 2019 may be a progressive and happy year for us all.
Sincerely, David.

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December letter

Dear everyone.
In a book recently I came across these words ‘We can never underestimate the value of friends.’ This I believe is important at every level of society and in many different kinds of friendships-some lifelong and others that sometimes drift in and out of our life experience.
Never has there been a greater need for human beings to develop the gifts of friendship, they are gifts which will serve us well throughout our lives. Those of us who have lost our partners or people who are desperately lonely for many other reasons find many friends a source of great blessing, and we can reciprocate by listening to what their needs are too. It requires trust, and a willingness on our part to really listen.
One of the most fascinating and helpful things that can happen to any of us is to have a conversation on a train,bus or plane where we find ourselves talking with someone we have never met before and unlikely to meet again. This happened to me recently on a long train journey where a woman shared with me her life story of relationships, and how she was hoping that in the future she would meet someone with whom she would build up a permanent relationship.
She wanted to hear what my story was, and I related to her my own sense of loss, and how I had been held tremendously by a great variety of friends. In many ways for me as a clergyman the experience of bereavement has helped me in my understanding of other people’s sense of loss too and in a strange way had enriched my pastoral ministry.
As we celebrate Christmas whatever our outlook may be, can I suggest we especially give thanks for our friends. It may be appropriate to do this in our prayers, or even add others whom we ought to befriend especially because of their special needs.
The Christmas season of Goodwill is also the season of Good Intention to every kind of person. This was the message of the Angels on the first Christmas Day, that there should be peace on earth. We should have an attitude of friendship towards all people we meet, perhaps especially in political situations where it is very easy for attitudes of hatred and ill will to flourish.
Let us pray for a CULTURE OF FRIENDSHIP to be strengthened throughout this Christmas season and also be thankful to God for all who have shown us friendship and support in our times of need.
Blessings be yours during this coming Christmas Tide,
Sincerely -David

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November letter

Dear Everyone.

The first time I went to Berlin was during the Cold War in 1955. I travelled in the Berlin corridor at night and I only saw the inside of a very overcrowded train.

This October I saw a vibrant city. The first night we went on a short river cruise and viewed many of the historic buildings of Berlin.On the second day we travelled on a sightseeing bus. We were told that 70% of Berlin was destroyed during the war, but as a result, many unique and imaginative buildings have been built.

World tourists were there in large numbers, and much that we saw was very emotional: remains of the Berlin Wall, individual memorials to men and women who had tried to swim across the River Spree to escape from East Germany, only to be shot in the process,the Holocaust Memorial, a memory garden to Jews and Romany’s who had been murdered during the Nazi regime. Near some remains of the Berlin Wall there was a photographic display of politicians, creative thinkers, Jews, gypsies, disabled people and those classed as imbecile’s who ‘stood in the way’ of a programme of ethnic cleansing. A sober reminder of what can happen in any part of the world when democracy gets seriously damaged by oppressive leaders.

This regime began amongst those who perpetrated hate crimes and threatened all who resisted their policies. Great bravery was needed to stand up to these pressures by anyone who wanted to see ‘right prevail.’

The day on which I started to compile this letter is known in the Christian calendar as ‘All Saints Day’ when we remember all kinds of people who have stood up for what is right, and sometimes had to pay heavily for the consequences.’ Blessed are the peacemakers’ says Jesus in the Beatitudes ‘for they shall be called the sons of God.’

Let us at this remember all people have shown great bravery,and suffered much when true law and order in society are being damaged, especially this year as we remember the centenary of the ending of the First World War.

It is important however that we all learn the art of speaking the truth in the face of evil in the world .May we all be willing to follow the good examples of all those who have gone before us.

With all good wishes and every blessing,

Sincerely,

David.

 

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October letter

Dear everyone,
Many people are beginning to say;’let’s replace the ‘blame culture’ with an ‘encouragement culture.’.
A blame culture is negative and destructive. Innocent and often hard pressed people become very unhappy when society criticises them when they are not to really to blame.
An ‘encouragement culture’ is proactive-not just saying nothing evil but actively thinking and saying things that are good and encouraging to others: especially that they may explore new things for themselves. There is so much good advice in the words of Scripture that say ‘do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.’
Culture starts in our earliest days. Good culture starts in families I believe teaching children to say thank you to those around them , but it has to go out into every avenue of life, and every part of the world. We are never too old to learn to say thank you. Thankfulness and gratitude are deeply embedded in the culture of encouragement. Where these virtues exist, and we allow them to be firmly embedded in our personalities, it is likely that we may well become happier people in ourselves
At this time of the year in the Western world there are still many who celebrate harvest time when we thank God for the harvest, but alongside the fact that we always need to remember the needy,we also say thank you to the millions of people who have been responsible for the way in which our daily supplies of food have been met. It is an extremely good practice.
A blame culture fails to recognise the simple fact that human beings are human, and when under pressure especially can fall short of the best that they would like to do and be. As we encourage others we also find the true meaning of community for everybody, for we all need to be ‘lifted up ’in the environment in which we live.
May all of us become sensitive to the ways in which we can help build an encouragement culture. We all have a part to play in it. It can be infectious and grow. We can all feel emotionally healthier as a result. The older we are the more we ought to show gratitude and thankfulness when we receive it.
May we all seek to discover ways in which we can help in the well-being of all around us. Our response toward creating positive attitudes towards those around us can be our small contribution to the well-being of our nation and even the well-being of the world.
Every blessing,
sincerely David
PS. Thanks to all who were able to support our harvest and arts and crafts festival. It all went extremely well.

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September letter

September letter.
Dear everyone.
This summer we’ve had some wonderful weather. Long periods of hot sunshine and very little rain, but many people have found the weather rather trying. Most of us obeyed instructions and kept watering gardens to a minimum. The result was that lawns went very brow, in parts looking completely dead. Many were wondering whether they would ever come back to life again.
Then after a long delay it started to rain, and now my lawn is back to three quarters of its natural greenness although it still has some way to go.
I find however that the exceptionally warm weather earlier in August has brought to light some problems that are very common in society today -frequently summed up as part of the ‘blame culture’. Intensely warm conditions have tended to make dementia care patients for instance particularly restless and requiring more help. When there happens to be more than one person requiring help at a time, caring staff cannot be in two places at once; and if there is some mishap how quickly blame can be attached to harassed workers without the complete picture being seen.
Doctors nurses and medical staff, police officers. teachers, social workers and all the caring professions have similar problems. Mentally, physically and emotionally workers can easily become exhausted with their tasks and sometimes even dread having to face up to what lies in front of them because there is too much to cope with at a time.
There are situations of course where there is neglect, but it can be due to the fact that people feel discouraged by the difficulties that they have to face. Jesus said ‘Judge not that you be not judged’ and he reminds us that as we judge other people will be judged ourselves because many judgements have not looked fairly at the whole picture that is faced by those caring for others.
We all have to be extremely careful in any assessment that we make in any situation. There is always a tremendous amount that we do not know. I believe that we all have a ministry towards other people, and it is basically a ministry of encouragement.
Society will be a much happier place when we replace a ‘blame culture’ with an ‘encouragement culture!’
Let us remember in our prayers at this time all who are under great pressure because of their work as well as those who need all the care they can get.
Every blessing,
Sincerely, David

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August Letter

Dear everyone,
Quite often I lunch at dementia care homes where I act as chaplain. This is very convenient, for whilst being on one’s own I do not have to get quite so many meals myself. I was invited in both cases by the staff to go and have lunch with the residents regularly, and I have found it a very rewarding experience as well as convenient one.
One must bear in mind that many residents in these homes do not get many visitors and even those that have very little verbal ability or are in a rather confused state of mind, are pleased to have someone sitting at the same table as themselves who is not a resident. The conversations, brief and confusing as they often are to follow, usually have some grain of thought on which one can build a basic conversation. For many of them it can make their day.
There is another factor however that is very important in these visits. It is the role of the caring staff who have so many things to look after as they look after the needs of the residents. The hot weather of this summer season here has been particularly stressful for these carers who do such a wonderful work. To look after people with dementia makes considerable demands on the inner resilience of these carers. Many of them do it as a calling in life, although they would not describe their role in this way.
I have found myself really enriched by visiting the homes in this way, by both residents and the caring staff. There is a real challenge however for people to go in and spend time with those who need our support and interest whether they are related to us or not. Residents need friendship. Many miss the wider contact with human beings. The question is ‘Are we able to is sharpen their quality of life by our interest and support?
This letter may possibly need a response from someone who is reading it. Even a visit regularly for a few moments might surprise us how effective it can be, but we may also find that some residents have patches of memory which are far sharper than our own!
With all good wishes,
sincerely,
David

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July letter

Dear everyone,

Waiting to see your name to appear on the screen in a doctors waiting room can be a daunting experience but also an intriguing one. Many names, both surnames and forenames may be strange to us, often reflecting the age, and the ancestral nationality. We might also ask ourselves the question, ‘I wonder how a person with that name came to live here.’
Some names originate from various parts of the British Isles, but the scope now however is worldwide. How intriguing this is. Some might even find it frightening.
But the other day a rather unusual European name came up on the screen. To my surprise a woman I know quite well responded. I often have a chat with her. She lives nearby. I have always known her by her first name, but never known her surname .
It made me suddenly start to think quite differently about all the unusual names I had seen that morning. When we know people personally what a difference it makes!
Although there are some times difficult and puzzling issues we have to face when people come to live amongst us from other parts of the world, the hand of friendship and getting to know them as people and taking an interest in their welfare can make a tremendous difference to us all.
We all have a responsibility to create strong community life. It has to be a two-way process of course but we all have a part to play in it. Strong cultures are created by inclusiveness, and as Jesus would remind us from the Commandments and the story of the good Samaritan. ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’
Are we prepared to live up to this great ideal? The well-being of the world depends on this.
Every blessing, David.

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