From the Rectory – August

Henry Ford’s vision of the future was one in which no-one earning a good salary would be unable to afford one of his Model T cars. Most famously, his description of the choice he would make available to customers is one of his best known quotes.

‘Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it’s black’

Ford’s belief was that it was only 5% of customers who wanted something different. The ninety-five percent would purchase a car without making a fuss or requesting an alternative colour. This, says Ford, is why you should concentrate on the 95% rather than the five. read more

Library News – August

I am reading yet another book about St. Paul, and rather to my surprise, I can scarcely put it down. It’s not an introduction (one is assumed to know his epistles pretty well) and it’s not telling me why I was all wrong about St Paul up till now, as many do (how do they know?) but instead it’s written as a narrative. It’s Tom Wright’s “Paul, a Biography”.
Saint Paul has not been one of my favourite characters. One must admire him, of course, but he seems a difficult man, all passion and contradictions, and all that stuff about having to wear a hat in church and not ask questions puts one’s back up from the start. But reading this book, I realise that I’ve never looked at the man as a whole, only at splinters of him, like scattered jigsaw bits.
We know St. Paul from two sources. One is the adventure story told by Luke in Acts, all action: disasters, triumphs, crises, friendships, betrayals, with Our Hero bravely shining through. The other is Paul’s letters, admonishments, memories, intricately argued theology, practical guidelines, administrative detail, all mixed together with passages of the deepest poetic inspiration. On the whole we look either at the one, or at the other, drawing lessons from the vivid scenes in Acts, or picking carefully at his close packed prose and his arguments from the law and the prophets.
What this book does is to bring the two together. It is a wonderfully creative approach. Tom Wright’s knowledge of the ancient world and its clashing cultures, and his deep understanding of the Old Testament, the Jewish scripture of the time, means he can show us why Paul faced the opposition that he did, and explain to us what the crises were that blew up in the newly founded Christian communities. As we follow Paul on his journey, Wright shows us how each of the letters Paul wrote came out of the time and the place he was in and the problems that had blown up around him there. And at the end he asks “What was Paul trying to do? Why was he so successful?” and makes a good stab at an answer.
I don’t think I’ve read a book before that made me rush to my Bible and read Galatians straight through. I’ve put a copy in the Library. Do read it.
Rosemary Smith read more

From the Rectory – July

There was once a common held perception among the fashion conscious that of all the sartorial sins, the greatest was mixing stripes and spots.

Although the term ‘a crime against fashion’ is often used to point out ‘interesting’ clothes choices or designs in a lighthearted way, there was a time that stripes were considered, quite literally, criminal.

In the middle ages, adorning yourself with stripes was a dangerous choice. In 1310, a cobbler in one part of Northern France was condemned to death because, according to local archives researched by author Michael Pastoureau, ‘he had been caught in striped clothes’. A rather extreme reaction, but the prevailing opinion at the time was that striped clothing was only worn by social outcasts, such as ‘prostitutes, jugglers and clowns’, and was considered ‘demeaning, pejorative or clearly diabolic’. The same underlying belief about stripes was still felt centuries later as bold stripes adorned the prison uniform of American inmates from the 1800s. read more

Library News – July

Yorkshire is a long way to go to a funeral, but we knew we had to be there. An old friend had lost his wife after a long, sad, illness and we wanted to be there with him as he said that last farewell. Just being there, the old college gang, part of the life we had shared with them, part of the farewell he was saying.
Loss and loneliness is when you need your friends. When you lose someone you love, when relationships break down, when you lose the sense of who you are, when unkindness tears you down, that’s when you need the safe place that friends are. That’s when you find that God is there, too.
It doesn’t always seem so. In his book “A Grief Observed”, C. S. Lewis describes how angry at God he was when his wife died. The psalms often cry out to a God who seems to have forgotten, or to be ignoring, our pain and distress. But God’s help comes in different shapes for different people, in different voices for different hearts. In the Library we have a shelf called “Help in Time of Trouble”. Here you’ll find books that help you see where God is in your trouble, waiting for you to reach out to him. Do use them.
“A Grief Observed” walks you with C. S. Lewis from anger to trust, but it’s a long journey, and doesn’t suit everyone. Lewis’ insights are more easily found in “C. S. Lewis on Grief” and “C.S. Lewis on Love”. Harry Read’s response to his wife’s death, his thoughts and prayers, come in “No Heart More Tender” which many people find helpful.
Gary Chapman’s “The Five Love Languages” is essential reading for building and mending relationships, and if you are feeling distraught and sorry for yourself I recommend “Chicken Soup for the (Women’s) Soul”. Dip into it anywhere, in any order, and you’ll find yourself refreshed and thoughtful.
And there’s a small book called “God’s Little Lessons on Life” with Bible verses and uplifting anecdotes for everything you can think of. It’s very American, and very dated, but it delights me.
Rosemary Smith read more

From the Rectory – June

Based on author George R R Martin’s multi-volume fantasy epic, the TV show Game of Thrones has attracted a great deal of both praise and criticism. Weaving various narratives of its large cast of fascinating characters into a grand overarching tale, it has drawn in many as the various individuals scheme and fight their way to be crowned as ruler of the mythical seven kingdoms.

In the final episode, Tyrion Lannister, who has somehow managed to survive throughout the entire series, speaks to a council of peers as they discuss who should become the new ruler of the fictional continent of Westeros. He suggests that Bran Stark, crippled by a fall several years earlier, is an unlikely choice, but the best choice. For one particular reason read more

Library News – June

The Moot Hall was full of charity workers. Volunteers, paid staff, CEOs, administrators, twenty or thirty charities were there. Up on the dais the Lord Lieutenant of Essex was giving a speech. In the front row sat the Mayor of Colchester, the Chairman of Essex County Council, the Chairman of Tendring Council.
It was the 30th Anniversary celebration of a big local charity – Colchester Catalyst. They are splendid people. They help and support other charities, anywhere in the CO postcode, in any field related to health. They give grants for capital projects and grants for revenue needs. They bring small charities together to meet other grant donors who might help. Over the last 30 years they’ve given away £10 million.
Everyone they’ve helped, and everyone they’ve worked with was invited to the party. It was like a huge re-union. But there was, for me, one aching gap, one vital missing guest. There was no-one from the church. Up there with the civic dignitaries, with the Mayor and the Lord Lieutenant, shouldn’t there have been Bishop Roger? Shouldn’t the hall have had a good sprinkling of clergy?
What is the church’s job? I thought, but to do what these charities do. Look after the poor, the sick, the helpless. Why aren’t we here? I know that we support many of these charities, but don’t we take the initiative, do our own work? Where is our witness to God’s love in action? In that gathering, so far as the organisers were concerned, the church was irrelevant. That worried me.
Does it help that many of the people in the Moot Hall were Christians? That many in the church work for charities because that’s where they are called to do God’s work? The church is not its administrative framework, its formal paid structure. The church is God’s people, and they do God’s work, show His love, shine with His light day in and day out in the places where they live and where they work. Read Mark Greene’s “Thank God it’s Monday” or the booklet “Setting God’s people Free for…Monday to Saturday”. Both in the Library.
Yes, the church was there. And yet… and yet…..
Rosemary Smith read more

From the Rectory – May

Of all the weird and wonderful names that have are used for newspapers around the word, the Arran Banner has to be one the most bizarre. Published every Saturday on the Isle of Arran, the weekly publication gets the inspiration for its name from a variety of potato developed in the early twentieth century by a local man on the island. With subscribers from all round the world, the Arran Banner is known for the feisty discussion that takes place on the letters page, covering subjects as diverse as climate change to local traffic and ferry services. read more

Library News – May

As I was sticking shelf labels back on the Library’s bookcase the other day, I wondered to myself what use is it to have a library in the church.

It helps to make the tower space look friendly and welcoming, and that’s one perfectly good reason. A tried and tested interior décor trick in fact, but I rather hope it achieves more than that. I hope that people actually read the books.

I know there’s one book that gets borrowed. “The Bible for Minecrafters” is a favourite with 7-year olds. And “The Encyclopedia of Jewish Humour” was off the shelf for a week or two. People browse amongst the “Prayer and Meditation” section, which I’m very glad of, but the books that don’t seem to be borrowed are the ones I think really should be off the shelves and in peoples’ homes. I mean the Bible Study section. read more

From the Rectory – April

Cornerstone, Stone Age, Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone, Gallstones, Stonehenge and The Rolling Stones.  If you’re asked to think of a stone it’s far more likely that one of these will spring to mind rather than the much duller dictionary definition of ‘a hard solid non-metallic mineral matter of which rock is made’.

More than fifty years after it’s first broadcast, the Hanna-Barbera animated sitcom The Flintstones still regularly tops polls among viewers asked about their favourite cartoons. The juxtaposition of primitive technology into mid-twentieth century American suburbs was a ratings winner, although how stone tires on a stone car could get a puncture was never satisfactorily explained! read more

Library News – April

Well now, Brexit or no Brexit? I have no more idea than you have. What’s clear, though, is that the Brexit arguments have given us a huge shake-up in how we see ourselves as a country and a society, and how we see our relationships both with other countries and within our own communities.
Maybe there’s an opportunity here to re-shape the way we all live together. Is this a chance to put God’s values nearer to the heart of our society?

I’ve put three books in the library that may help us see whether there’s anything we can do to make that happen, by ourselves or together as a church. Two are by Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, “Dethroning Mammon” and “Reimagining Britain” and one by John Sentamu, Archbishop of York “On Rock or Sand?” read more