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From the Rectory – June

The local elections in May 2017 had many fascinating moments. As neighbourhood issues came to the forefront, the partisan nature of national politics was not as pronounced. Tribal loyalties featured less heavily as is inevitably the case in a nationwide General Election.

Despite the lower turnout and relative lack of engagement, the contests were still keenly fought, and in some places extraordinarily close run.

Nowhere was this more the case than in the South Blyth ward in Northumberland. After two recounts, the number of votes stood equal, so the candidates drew straws to decide who would take the seat. For a result of an election to come to quite literally to the luck of the draw was an extraordinary piece of political theatre. read more

Library News – June

I’ve spent almost all the last six weeks being political. It’s not really a choice for me. I’ve been doing elections at one level or another for the past 40 years and I can’t seem to stop. I thought I’d retired, could sit back and be a benevolent elder in the local Party, but then came this General Election, and there I was, back in the thick of it, coloured rosette flying, organising our candidate, designing leaflets, pushing stuff through letterboxes, accosting perfect strangers, the lot. read more

From the Rectory – May

At the end of the 1970’s, in the days before multi-channel television, children’s programming was limited to two hours on a weekday evening. Alongside controversial school drama Grange Hill, adventurous space dwellers The Clangers, and magazine show Blue Peter, was Vision On. Aimed especially at children with hearing impairment, Vision On featured an assortment of segments, one of which was The Gallery. This section consisted of artwork sent in by viewers which covered every subject imaginable, and ended with one of the presenters apologising that they couldn’t return the pictures, but there was a prize for everyone whose art had been shown. read more

Library News – May

 The Lent course this year was built around the great Christian teacher C. S. Lewis, using scenes from his Narnia books for children, and scenes from “Shadowlands”, the film about Lewis’ love, marriage and widowhood. It was a thoughtful and nourishing Lent course, so I went to the Library to see what we had of C. S. Lewis and his writings.
Lewis lived from 1898 to 1963. I read him a lot when I was a student, when he was still alive and writing, and I am glad to see him still so influential, and read so much today. But I shouldn’t be surprised. He has a marvellous way of showing us how we experience God, and how God brings us to him and uses us for his purpose. He is very clear-eyed about our self-deceptions, and deals ruthlessly with woolly thinking about Christian life and thought. His writings and his insights are as vivid now as they were when he first wrote them.
We have several of Lewis’ books in the Library. We have all his children’s books, the “Chronicles of Narnia”, from “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” to “The Last Battle”. We have “Mere Christianity”, his classic introduction to the fundamental teachings of Christianity. We have two books that I find very helpful at times of loss and grief, “The Problem of Pain” and “A Grief Observed”. He wrote that last one after his wife died, and I often give it to friends who have lost their partner, to help them live through their own grief. We have “The Screwtape Letters”, very sharp on temptation and how to handle it, and “The Four Loves”.
I have also put into the Library some books about Lewis and his work. Rowan Williams wrote “The Lion’s World” about the Narnia books. Not at all what you expect – I recommend it! “Shadowlands” in book form by Brian Sibley gives you the story behind “A Grief Observed”. And I have put there the book of our Lent Course “Not a Tame Lion” by Hilary Brand.
So if you’ve never met any C. S. Lewis books, now’s the time to begin! And if you know him already, try some more…
Rosemary Smith read more

From the Rectory – April

Forty minutes for a soft boiled egg sounds like overkill. And if it’s chickens you keep in your garden, that would undoubtedly be the case. If however you’re an ostrich farmer, forty minutes seems just about right.

Decorating eggs is a practice with a long history. Sumerians and Egyptians who lived more than five thousand years ago placed embellished eggs in graves, and in parts of Africa engraved ostrich eggs that had been used as water carriers have been found which date from some 60,000 years ago. read more

Library News – April

From the Library

I’ve been re-doing the children’s’ books in the Library, and I’ve just added some new Bibles and some Bible stories that I hope children and young people will find interesting to read. Have a look and see…

There are some very good versions of the Bible nowadays for children and young people. After the last Family Service, an enthusiastic 7 year old asked if he could take one home, he’d enjoyed reading it so much. Of course he could. That’s what the Library is for. read more

Library News – March

From the Library

One of our oldest friends died in the New Year. At his funeral we were a rich mixture of friends and colleagues he’d gathered throughout his life, from university, work, the sports he played; friends from all the communities he had belonged to.

We remembered him, and celebrated him, and talked of a life not so much ended as completed. And then we drank the wine, ate the sandwiches, looked at the photographs, got into our cars and went away. Leaving his widow and his son and the grandchildren alone together in their pain and sorrow and loss. read more

Library News – February

From the Library

I sat across the table and watched the young man lie to me. It was a disciplinary hearing. He was charming, and believable, but I knew more than he thought I did, and I could see where he was lying. And with every lie that he told, he shattered further any trust I had in him. We sacked him almost more for the lies he told than for what he had done. You can’t work with people you don’t trust.

I wonder what we would have done if he hadn’t lied. If he’d said “I’ve been a stupid fool. Please forgive me. Can we start again?” He couldn’t undo the wrong thing, but we might have trusted him to learn, and to get it right next time. He didn’t, sadly, have the guts to do that. read more

From the Rectory – March

Despite the obvious issues, like a complete absence of talent, I have sometimes fancied the life of a professional sportsman. The big house, the fast cars, the expensive restaurants, the adoring fans, and for that you only have to been seen working in public for a couple of hours or so each week. It’s so close to the life of a vicar as to be uncanny.

The salary that the biggest stars of sport receive have their attractions too. From Premiership footballers, to tennis wonderkids, to the star quarterbacks in the NFL, millions of pounds are the going rate. read more

From the Rectory – February

The cultural differences of countries across the world that are exposed by studies and polling makes for fascinating reading. They also tell us a great deal about the national psyche of the country in question.

A survey on alcohol consumption sees the UK preferring beer, France opting for wine, and Russia choosing spirits. The image of British lager louts, wine quaffing French and Vodka addled Kremlin super-spies may seem clichéd, but don’t seem too far from the mark.

The variety of highly favoured US exports of TV shows paint another picture. read more