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Christmas letter 2016

Dear Everyone,
I hope that the last year has gone well for you. It has certainly had plenty of variety in it from my point of view!
In January, there was a rights-of-way dispute with a property owner who had extended his fencing to include land which had been considered by local people for a long period to have public rights of way. As someone who used this path everyday to get my newspaper, I attended rather reluctantly, a public enquiry where I found myself a key witness into its public use. Our appeal was successful.
Early in the summer, I was involved in my role as chaplain to the city division, Nottinghamshire police, in the closure of the old central police station-a large building of ‘art deco’ style. In its day,it has been a prestigious building, with a large Command suite. It was unique for all kinds of reasons. Nottingham city police were the first force in the country to have radio telephones in their police cars.In pre-war police days men and men only were recruited who were over six foot tall into the force. Even today there are still many retired officers around, who are unusually tall-noticeable particularly at retired police officer’s funerals! How much however policing has changed in recent years, and the new police station inside is an extremely attractive, efficiently heated, and ‘well-planned- out’ building.(see http://www.nottinghampost.com/8216-memories-nottingham-central-police-station/story-28835995-detail/story.html )
Simon and I had a great holiday in Spain in Andalusia visiting Seville, Cordoba, and many other places like the Alhambra and Alcatraz. The architecture was fascinating, and I couldn’t help thinking how much Pauline would have enjoyed this visit, with its Moorish history, bits about Isabella of Spain, Christopher Columbus, and all the wonderful gardens, and I know how much Pauline was in the back of our minds, as we went down to Anna and Jeff’s a few days later to celebrate Anna’s fiftieth birthday. We Also celebrated one of Berwyn’s ‘lesser significant’ birthdays at the same time- and for our main meal a Chinese takeaway. (By special requests from the grandchildren, but enjoyed by all.) And a birthday cake made by Elizabeth.
On the church front, we have a new minister who is settling in very well . His name is The Revd. Moses Agyam, together with his wife, Diana, and their young daughter Philothea. He has lived in this country since he was 16, and the family are making themselves very much at home with us all.
At the end of November, I had to go into hospital to have a small growth removed from my right lung , this was successfully done by keyhole surgery. I seem to be making good progress but I shall have to be taking things quite slowly for the next few weeks and months. This applies especially to visiting three dementia care homes- we’ve had to curtail quite a bit of what we’re doing for the time being. It has also meant the curtailing of many things that for me are all part of Christmas !
Simon, Anna and Jeff, and Elizabeth and Berwyn are getting on fine. They have all been extremely supportive during the last few weeks-and the grandchildren Osian, Elin and Iwan are all continuing to explore many sports and new activities. Just now, Iwan is now in the exams stage.
I would like to wish you all:

A Happy Christmas, and a peaceful New Year,
David

December letter.

Dear everyone

This time last year, little did I expect that I would find myself just coming out of hospital after an operation. Fortunately all seems to have gone well, it’s surprising what can be done with keyhole surgery!

The first thing that has hit me, has been the way medical teams carry out their extremely skilled tasks.

The work of the surgeons and doctors is central, but a whole team of people are necessary for success. The anaesthetists, the clerks who take great care in recording details, administrators, nursing teams, the assistants who weigh you, take your temperature, your pulse rate, and give the tablets you need, physio and speech therapists, dietitians, those who clean, dust and make beds, chaplains, volunteers who serve drinks, sell papers direct visitors, Hospital visitors, relations and friends. All these roles and many others equally worthy of mention have real purpose. There are many who find great satisfaction and happiness in reaching out towards healing and wholeness for others.

Many today feel we are living in a sick world, and we all need to be sharing in a healing work that needs be done. Although our National Health Service is going through difficult days our hospitals provide inspiring models of how human beings should be working together in the world. Teamwork is needed everywhere where all kinds of people are genuinely valued.

As the Christmas season of goodwill approaches, team work for the common good needs to be embraced globally. May we all be willing to accept it.

With all good wishes and every blessing,

David

November letter

Dear everyone.
A book that I enjoyed reading earlier in my retirement studies, is titled ‘From ageing to Sage-ing.’ It is written by a Jewish rabbi, Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, and in it he ‘gives ways to use our life experiences to nurture, heal, and perhaps save both the younger generation and this world.’
This ambitious book reminds us that in many former generations and civilisations, older people were valued for the wisdom that they could teach to the young. At the present time, there have been such rapid advances in science, technology, and particularly communication, that many older people feel that they have lost their role in society, and we need to recover ways of listening to what older people have to say.
This could be true, but one thing is certain: when older people start laying down the law as to how younger people should act, they are not listened to, and it soon becomes obvious that they have a lot to learn about present-day life themselves!
Last Christmas, my family bought me a ‘tablet’. It’s really great at sending and taking photographs, watching programmes on television that I’ve missed, and sending messages by email and such things as twitter: but there is one snag for many older people.If you have a problem in using it, who is going to help you to sort it out? It is more than likely to be a youngster who has been brought up in the computing age.
Scripture tells us that even ‘out of the mouths of babes’ as it were, wisdom and ‘know how.’ can come. Jesus himself recognised that children have very significant place in providing examples for older people of good living.
May all of us learn to be good ‘sages’, by remembering that we all have to continue learning-even and perhaps especially, from those much younger than ourselves.
All good wishes and,

Every blessing,David.

October letter

Dear everyone
When I became a supernumerary (a sort of ‘retired’!) Minister, I wrote in my diary that I would try to strengthen an additional kind of prayer that has meant a great deal to me over most of my lifetime-‘Prayer at 12.’
I have tried whenever I can to spend a few moments at mid-day to remember a few people in urgent need of prayer, the needs of some urgent situation-personally, locally, or in the wider world; and also to give thanks to God for all that has been received by myself and others.
Prayer can be a great venture in faith and it is a ‘ministry’ that everyone can share in; but the way we pray can vary as much as our faces do.
When someone goes to hospital, for example, we might say ‘I wish you well,’ ‘I’ll be thinking about you’, ‘I will remember you in my prayers’, or simply, ‘I will pray for you.’ Our word of encouragement will reflect the way in which we, or the people we are remembering, think about prayer.
Prayer can be a very positive experience. It can take the form of meditation, ‘entering into silence,’ or attempting to put our prayer requests into words. For some it takes a very private form at all times, for others the frequent sharing of prayer together corporately inspires them on their way.
When we believe in God, we are by faith entering into a new dimension towards life and existence, especially through prayer. The prophet Isaiah, speaking of God’s relationship to us, says. ‘my thoughts are not your thoughts. Neither are my ways your ways.’ There are times when we all need lifting out of our own thoughts, in order to discover that which is beyond our present understanding!
I would like to encourage all who would find this form of prayer helpful to join in- even just from time to time, and as circumstances permit. All are welcome!
With all good wishes, sincerely,
David

September letter

Dear everyone

In the Methodist Church  our new year begins in September when ministers who are moving, begin work in their new appointments
It also marks the beginning of the President of the Methodist Conference’s year of office. The Revd.Dr.Roger Walton, who is this year’s president has asked us as a church to consider the importance of living out a ‘holy’ life.
What does this really mean?
First of all, we have to remember what it doesn’t mean!
It isn’t about what we look like from ‘the outside,’ but what we are like from the inside. Jesus had some of his strongest words of condemnation against those who outwardly made a great show of religious observances, but inwardly they were full of deceit. He described such people as whitened sepulchres!
Holiness is about becoming better people
In order to improve, we have to take care that ‘our left hand does not know what our right hand is doing.’ In other words, we should do nothing for effect, but rather we should desire to do all things for the right reasons.
This is not easy. We cannot do it in isolation. John Wesley once said ‘The gospel of Christ knows of no religion, but social; no holiness but social holiness’. In order to become better people we have to listen to and work with those round about us. From a Christian viewpoint we also have to be dependent upon the grace of God, learn from holy Scripture, and the good examples of others.
Holiness, in practical terms for all of us, I believe, is about seeking integrity in our lives. It is an important ingredient for the well-being of society. May we all seek after holiness: it is an extremely important factor in making the world a far happier place, in which we play our part.
With all good wishes,
Sincerely, David

August Letter

August letter
Dear Everyone.
There is a famous saying of John Wesley that says: ‘Lord, may I not live to be useless.’
John Wesley was a very industrious person as well as being someone who stirred people into a genuine, healthy and enthusiastic sense of serving God in the world by encouraging them to follow Jesus, and serving his fellow men and women.
I think however it is also important to recognise that he did not pray. ‘May I always be busy!’
It is valuable, of course, that we do live our lives in as fruitful a way as possible; but just think of the consequences of being busy without any real thought of why we’re busy!
There are sometimes when we just have to take stock, rest, and reflect. One ancient philosopher once said, ‘beware of the barrenness of a busy life.’
Busyness can easily become a kind of ego trip. It can sometimes ruin other people’s work. By our talking about what we can do, we can easily lose our sense of working as a team. Teamwork is extremely important in every kind of activity that is working for the common good.
I strongly believe that everyone of us have some kind of calling in life. It may be a particular attitude that we possess in being able to do things quietly, and supporting others in doing their tasks. The role that we have to fulfil may not necessarily spring from a highly specialised professional role. Others may not even be aware of the particular calling that we have.
From a Christian point of view, from many other aspects of faith, and attempting to be fully human, we take on a ‘servant role’ which can give us a tremendous sense of freedom, because when we discover what our real identity is, we will keep well clear of trying to be imitators of so-called successful people. What is important for us all is that we should be working out in our own unique way through prayer, meditation, and careful reflection, what our Creator wants us to be.
May we all discover what our ‘useful role’ really is alongside those pleasures and activities that we enjoy as leisure, and find fulfillment in them.
The way of discovery, I believe is an ongoing process-from now unto eternity!
Every blessing,
David

July Letter

Dear everyone,
There are times when we can all feel ‘under the weather.’
It might be created by the actual state of the weather-long periods of rain, coldness, or simply cloudy skies. I suspect that as we get older we are more easily affected in this way.
For others, it might be trends in national life, and contemporary political emphases which we feel are going in the wrong direction. Or it might be changes in personal health, relationships and circumstances. All these things and many others may make us feel low spirited at times, and lacking in motivation.
Prayer and our faith can help us along the way, and at some point, often does, but it is not always as simple as that. We often have to act positively even if we do not feel’ rock sure’ of the direction which we are going.
In difficult times it is important to plant ‘seeds of hope.’
We may not always see the results of what we plant immediately, but we are called upon to go adventurously forward- believing that as Paul reminds us in his letter to the Galatians ‘as we sow, so we will reap.’
At the Methodist conference held last week, those of us present were given a wristband to wear, with these words on it. ‘Do justice, love, kindness, walk humbly’ with our God. These are words which we could well take to heart as we sow ‘seeds of hope. ‘
Right attitudes of mind are so important for us all if we are to take an active, useful, part in the communities, the world in which we live, and caring for our neighbours too.
With all good wishes,
Sincerely,
David