Benefice of Seaview, St Helens, Brading & Yaverland
Skip to main content
Jarge's Jottings by Year
2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018
Drawing of notepad  and pencil being used to record jottings

Jarge's Jottings 2021

An Advent to Remember

It was the end of the beginning; December 20 th, 1952 the occasion of the end of my 3 year Theological training, at “Bishops’ College” noted for its discipline, but also for its teaching.

I was leaving to be ready for my Ordination to the Diaconate, at Wells Cathedral to be an Assistant Curate at St. Andrew’s, Taunton, busy and demanding.

I left the College under a cloud, because, whilst the Principal did not approve of married curates, he had consented that Hazel and I could be engaged, nevertheless, we ought to wait until I had completed my first 3 year curacy.

Bishop William Bradfield had other ideas; the Vicar of St. Andrew’s had an empty curate’s house for which he was anxious to find an occupant as soon as possible. I needed a job for without it, I couldn’t be ordained.

Ordaining Bishops could change the rules, which William promptly did; “Yes, there was no reason why we couldn’t marry. The Vicar needed a trainee priest and having met we had decided that was the right place for me,

Incidentally, the post had been organised by none other than Archdeacon “Ted” Roberts (previously Archdeacon of the Isle of Wight) who by chance knew my prospective Vicar since College days and incidentally had been a guide and encouragement to me. He examined me for a Reader’s License enabling me to conduct occasional services, at Newchurch and Yaverland from 1949-1952 during College vacations”.

So, I left College with reasonable exam results, Hazel and I were married on September 27 th as the Bishop didn’t want us to be messing about with weddings after Ordination.

Incidentally, the Archdeacon suggested that particular College, for as he rightly remarked, ‘You need discipline, George’ and indeed I am sure he was right!

In those days, an Ordination Service was long, 2 hours at least, as Priests and Deacons were ordained in the one service instead of two.

It was at that first Ordination that I realised the enormity of what I was called to do and, more importantly, was reinforced by the Bishop’s Charge to the candidates; what we  should do and more importantly, what we clergy should be.

Having donned a clerical collar (for the first time) after the service, on entering the ‘Bus to take me to Wells, there was a happy lady ‘Bus Conductor who greeted us all cheerily, telling me to ‘Hurry along dear”. To my amusement, on the return journey, noting my collar, it was ‘Please hurry along Sir!

There was little time to settle in, for returning to Taunton on the Monday following the Ordination, I had to attend a Staff Meeting, in the afternoon the Vicar (“John”), Alfred the senior Assistant Curate, and me.  I was to be in charge of Choir and the Servers.

Particular care was taken at the College over the conduct of services, having our own Elocution Teacher (commonly referred to as "Fifi" for her many-bangled wrists and jewellery). She was good, remembering that in the 1950s even large churches like Ryde Parish Church had no microphones, meaning good diction was a “must”.

I realise this is a rather personal Jotting, but it may give some idea how Clergy were trained, and next week, “Becoming a priest”.

My first year (until I was priested) was a swift “learning curve”, finding fitting my devotional life difficult; it was a matter that far from being gently led into the pastoral ministry, I learned more from my mistakes than any “guided tours”, and believe me, there were many of those.


to be continued

12 December 2021  

Blessed are the Poor

Working in Durham as a coal miner under the Bevin Scheme that tried to recruit your men into the coal industry, I had an opportunity to explore the area and one such outing took me through the town of Jarrow.

It was a depressing journey; everything looked drab and an air of hopelessness seemed to hang over the town, shops and all/

As I passed through depressing streets. it brought back memories of a newsreel film I had seen at the cinema in the mid-1940s that had moved me, (young as I was) that portrayed what was described as “The Jarrow March” where a party of unemployed workers marched through the streets of every town en route to Westminster, pleading for jobs.   As it happened, jobs did not come from a compassionate government, but from the sudden rush of work as the nation was drawn into the War in 1939.

My memory took me back and I thought as I travelled through the town (on my bike) of those drawn faces with their despairing eyes I had seen some 10 years previously.

Being an avid cinema-goer (free entrance as we displayed their posters at our pub), I compared that with the glossy “high life” living that I had seen in American films when it seemed that everyone was rich and well-fed, with never a sign of poverty.   Yet I hadn’t realised that the under-class had no such experience, neither in Jarrow or the USA.

As Jesus said, “the poor, you will always have them with you” and indeed so they are. I never thought that I would witness homeless people, destitute, begging in the streets, often dismissed as “lazy” or “feckless.

God, from the beginning of the Bible, through the prophets, bids us to “feed the hungry, house the homeless, clothe the naked, heal the sick, and . . . the poor have the Gospel proclaimed to them”.

The great increase of church-going from 1837-1939, was partly due to the fact that from a small, committed group of priests and the people they led, as the Church of England did their best to put Jesus’ command into action.

We have chosen to build HS2 costing billions, but, we are reducing our contribution to the poorer nations who will suffer much as a result of that action, as hunger disease, homelessness, unemployment take their toll.

Jesus preached, both by word and example that this agape, has to be central to the way we look on our fellow men and women.

One thing that cannot be missing, is to show that The Church cares, because God cares.

Isn’t this, the Good News for all people, regardless of colour or social status?

We return to Advent in the next “Jottings” .


5 December 2021 

All you need is love?

So sang the Beatles, long ago, but what do you mean by “Love”? 

We English folk, have one word for it, so that you can say “I love ice cream”, but you may then say the same word in other contexts, such as “I love God”, or “I love my wife”.

Couples talk about “making Love”; the poor word is overused and under-valued.

The ancient Greeks had no less than three words that are defined as follows: “Philia” that is,”Friendship” (used by Americans for “Philadelphia”, the city of love).

There is “Eros”, from which our word “erotic” comes; in other words, our old friend “Sex” of which, more later.

Then there is the puzzling one, which figures mainly in the New Testament, “Agape” (pronounced “Ah-ga-pay”), and this is on a different level altogether; it is the word used by Jesus when He tells us to “Love one another” and that is defined as the ultimate for it is the “unconditional love” that God has for all His Creation.

So we English use “love” to describe the relationship with Ice Cream as we do with our Divine relationships, and our relationship with each other.

When Jesus commands us to “Love one another as I have loved you” this is no vague command, for it means that we are to love with a depth and intensity as that which our Father has for us.

This is the love that Paul speaks about in 1 Corinthians 13, reminding us that “Love is the fulfilment of the Law”.

The early Christians drew the response from the pagans, “See how these Christians love one another.”  Something that attracted them when they observed how selfless their neighbours were in sharing.

We are challenged deeply by this kind of language, for it means that so much that has been seen during the past two millennia of Christian behaviour one to another has fallen short.

Looking back at seventy years of Ministry, I have been called to go into parishes to try and settle the most trivial encounters, which have grown to serious unhappiness.

Jesus calls us to be as generous towards our neighbours as we hope that God will be towards us in our failings.

If God is our Father, then it follows that we are all brothers and sisters in Him and the pettiness and selfishness that we often see around us has no part in the .life of a practicing Christian.

Delving into the Old Testament, it is clear that from the beginning, our relationship with our Father was beyond human belief.

Although so often, God seems less like a loving Father than a punishing tyrant, yet hidden beneath in books like Deuteronomy, we find an essentially practical guide, setting out how communities should learn to love one another.

Is it not significant that despite Adam and Eve disobeying God in the Garden of Eden, His response is to make clothes for the errant couple?

God figuring in that same primitive narrative, (probably oral tradition) shows the extent to which He protects the murderous Cain from those who would seek out and kill him.

Similarly, the traditional prophets’ messages make much of God’s practical concerns; feeding the hungry, welcoming “strangers” (immigrants), clothing the naked, housing the homeless, ensuring that justice is for all and not just a few.

The early chapters of St. Mark’s Gospel, where Jesus sits at a meal with all manner of undesirables, offensive to the orthodox and to the religious leaders, healing all that come, seemingly regardless of their place in Society and placing their needs before man-made religious laws.

Here is love in action, for the Good News is that God cares and doubtless sorrows over what could be so rich, generous and fulfilling, but is threatened by our loveless greed, destroying so much that could make life rich and beautiful for everyone.


28 November 2021

Half-Hearted Christianity

G. K. Chesterton was not only a writer of crime novels, but also a staunch Roman Catholic theologian, and when challenged about the failure of the Christian Church to make much growth in the 20 th century, replied “It’s not that Christianity has been tried and found wanting, but it hasn’t really been tried!”

When he was writing, The Church of England was enjoying a remarkable revival, thanks to the sudden growth of congregations brought about by the pioneering work of priests, who gave The Church a great boost in congregations, despite the opposition of the Bishops and Parliament.

There had been great strides in the presentation of worship which was shaped by the reintroduction of ceremonies, which aroused opposition from many who were suspicious of anything that smacked of Roman Catholicism (such as robed servers, incense, candles, Eucharistic vestments, etc.).

The interesting fact is that this revived style of worship seemed to chime in with a population that had experienced the national Sunday worship to be dull, colourless, served often by clergy who were encouraged to seek ordination as a cosy occupation.

However this small group had such energy and were so concerned with Evangelism, that new churches were built in their thousands, with great effect on the poorer folk, who living in slum squalor found this revitalised Church attractive.

Pastoral care was concentrated on the poor, so much energy was directed towards the social and practical needs of a strata of Society that had woefully been neglected.

The period from 1837 onward until the advent of the Great War, where unemployment, poverty followed by the Great Depression, took their toll; was probably one where the practical effect of Christianity on the general population was experienced.

It was that period that saw the Church of England turning to dealing with these social problems, with Church Schools, theological colleges for clergy training and many charitable endeavours to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, etc.

In other words, the Gospel took hold, with The Church helping to give life to its social demands.

Yet, attempts are made to picture the Early Church as a devout body, where love and justice were to abide, but a short study of the Old Testament will show the recorded teaching of Moses and the great prophets were greatly concerned with the way Society should be shaped.

Deuteronomy (circa 500 BC) contains strictures on how caring for one another was enjoined upon the Jews as part of God’s plan for humanity. It is interesting and worthy of note that strict rules on how “strangers (i.e. refugees and immigrants) were to be welcomed and accepted. Hospitality is part of this “loving and acc-epting” Gospel.

If we study the New Testament, particularly Acts and the Epistles, we soon realise that the Early Church members found it just as difficult to live the Gospel as many of us do now. 


21 November 2021

Next week we need to consider to what extent, we ought to be seeking to live the “Life of Love and my apologies for the interruption of the Jottings over the past weeks.  G

What is "Remembering"

What do you do, whilst the 2 mins. Silence is observed? As we (my mother and brothers) and a large crowd stood silently in Lind Street in 1932, what was I, a 6 yr. old boy to think about?

Strangely, I knew a great deal about the sufferings and brutality that we were “remembering”, for my Aunt Rose had a collection of copies of the “Illustrated London News” that contained graphic illustrations of the cruelty, depicting the Germans as “inhuman” monsters.

Sometimes now, when taking part in this “remembering”, I am carried back in imagination to those days; the spectacle, the trumpet sounding, and breaking the silence, the sound of weeping for those who will never return.

“Poor old chap” you may say, “He’s going back”, but that’s not what remembering is. Namely as I stand there in the silence, by memory I am bringing those events of years past into the present and they are as real as when I first experienced them.

I am bringing the past into the present and I experience the same feelings in 2021 as I did in 1932 and are as real as when I first experienced them.

It may be that I am more sensitive whenever I “remember”; for life’s passing has left its mark. Some of them have left scars on my memory, but also the countless joys that life has offered me.

Jesus commanded “Do this in remembrance of me”, so what does that mean for us? Some 2,000 years have passed since that farewell Supper in the upper room home of St. Mark’s mother’s  home.

Is the Eucharist just a fleeting remembrance of something that is “in the past”, or as real as the present moment?

I must confess that when we are told “The Lord is here” and we reply that “His Spirit is with us” I believe we are bringing the Upper Room into the place wherever the  Eucharist is offered and Jesus is the Host to whose banquet we are privileged to be invited.

This must mean a tremendous difference in our weekly approach to the altar; we need to do so in humility, for Jesus is here.

Over the years I have witnessed a huge decline in our reverence, not only for the Eucharist, but in our approach to the building itself.

Time was that we obeyed Church Canon Law and entering and leaving the church, bowed to the altar, which represents the presence of Christ Himself, and the same Laws said that “at the Name of Jesus, every knee should bend” and use of that Name was to be always thoughtful, certainly not used casually.

John Newton in a hymn wrote: ”Thou art coming to a King, large petitions with thee bring; for His grace and power are such, none can ever ask too much” or  an ancient Communion hymn, “Let all mortal flesh keep silence, and with fear and trembling stand, Ponder nothing earthly minded, for with blessing in His hand, Christ, our God descendeth, our full homage to demand”.

Perhaps the practise of our faith in worship might enable that worship to come alive, if we remember that “ The Lord is here, His Spirit is with us”.


7 November 2011

Teaching God's (Young & Old) Children

Jesus was referred to in the Gospels as “Teacher” and He had one message only, summed up in the words, “God has visited and redeemed His People” or, as Jesu’s own words to St. Philip, “I and the Father are One” and “He that has seen me has seen the Father”.

Our hearing is dulled by its theme continually repeated with the enormity of the idea that the Creator of all things had been born and lived among His Creation as the Carpenter’s Son from Nazareth. Even more tremendous and difficult to grasp is that the man who was spat upon, mocked and tortured on that dark Friday afternoon was (and IS) the Creator Himself  as the Son of Mary, but also the Son of God.

 For the early Methodists, “Teaching” was the name of the game and we saw this in Wells Diocese in the 1950s, when we took on board the need for systematic teaching on the meaning of the Gospel. Our Methodist friends took “Mission” more seriously.

Charles Wesley was inspired to press home this numbing truth that this life and death was an expression, not of man’s depravity but of God’s forgiving love.

It is significant that whenever the Methodists built a chapel, it also included a ”School Room” where systematic instruction was given to all ages, often in small Groups (Classes) whom the Class Leaders taught, but also acted as pastors.

When seeking a new approach to Church Teaching to all ages, in many Methodist Chapels, there were graded tests to check that the message was being understood, and hopefully, acted upon.

So, in the mid-1950s Bath & Wells Diocese adopted a new approach to Children’s participation. A sound syllabus, covering all aspects of the Faith was drawn up, graded into years.

Instruction, apart from the Sunday worship could be delivered at any time or day and at Holy Trinity, we adopted Wednesday at 6.30, whilst encouraging the children to come, with their parents to the regular Sunday Eucharist.

Titled “The Guild of St. Michael” it was highly successful; those who completed the Course each year attended Wells Cathedral to receive their certificates which was an acknowledgement that they had also attended the Sunday Eucharist.

Imagine that great cathedral full of children with their families from all over Somerset, and whilst there was muttering about the Sunday School (in the afternoon) being closed down, it transformed our Children’s Work. Sunday was needing change to make provision for a changing Society. Remember that the Summer Sundays were now being dealt a blow with the advent of the family car, when on a Sunday afternoon, Taunton could be deserted.

While at Wootton, we ran the “Marksmen” based at St. Mark’s on a Friday evening when we mixed Teaching, fun and refreshments.

Methodists welcome young children (8+) to receive Communion with their families (strange to have an Anglican “Family Communion” where the children are barred from receiving). The General Synod agreed that Baptism gave full Christian membership, without Confirmation, but only if the Bishop and PCC agree!

In Somerset, the Bishop didn’t agree, and so closed off a channel through which the young could have been helped to take a full part in the worship.

In our post-Christian age, we need as much sound teaching as can be offered and systematically delivered.

I remember at one parish, I was approached by a member of the congregation who said, “We don’t want Teaching sermons, I learned all I need when at Sunday School”. The truth is that the Christian Faith is simple but it has deep strands of thought running through it to transform our manner of living, so that we may be indeed “fellow workers with Christ” to His glory.


31 October 2021

Being Methodical

We have a lot to learn from our Wesleyan freinds

It may be surprising to think that I, a “High Church” priest should suddenly realise that we have a great deal to learn from the Wesley movement,

They were so frustrated by the lack of missionary zeal in their Mother Church that they would need to separate, forming a new Christian community, firmly faithful to the founding principles of the Reformation and to the Liturgy and Traditions enshrined in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.

At that time in the Church of England, the preaching was lengthy and dull and it was considered that one had to avoid anything that suggested “enthusiasm” and so services were dull, pastoral care sadly neglected..

On Easter Day, 1837, at St. Paul’s, London, apart from Cathedral clergy and staff, the congregation numbered just eight peoples!

Methodist clergy and congregations, had to find places where they could preach and worship unhindered, and when they finally began to build their chapels, the buildings were simply plain “preaching rooms”.

As noted previously, there could not be any income from Glebe which paid all of the Anglican stipends, (many very handsomely too).

The cost of the ordained Methodist clergy had to be borne by the local congregations.

To assist the work, “Local preachers”, whilst unable to conduct Communion services, were able, not only to preach, but lead and pastor the members committed to their charge.

The “Class System” providing group teaching was an essential part of the Methodist system, lasting into the early 19 th century, the first “House Groups”.

If you thought that “House Groups were a 20 th century invention, this was the reason parish churches remained virtually empty, apart from the better classes.

However, soon differences in doctrine and teaching produced what one might call “Evangelical”, with emphasis on worship which mirrored the changes taking place in the Church of England. Hence the duplication of chapels in opposition in towns and villages.

The Gospel was preached to the masses in the open air whilst the parish churches remained empty, until 1837 when a new Anglican (High Church) Movemnt sprang up and eventually triumphed despite the vigorous opposition of Bishops and Parliament.


10 October 2021

The Rise of Methodism and are there lessons for us?

In the post-Reformation years, as the Church of England was struggling to find its own path through the ecclesiastical maze that ensued, drifting between Protestantism and Catholicism, two Anglican priests, Charles and John Wesley were having their own spiritual struggles.

They, in company with other clergy were anxious that The CofE was making little or no attempt to proclaim the Gospel, and to act in conformity to the new post-1662 problems.

Trainee priests were slack in their devotions and so a small but vociferous group, were determined, making the new Common Prayer Book their “yardstick”, which emphasised the importance of the Eucharist.

For years, the Eucharist (the “Mass”) had been the primary service of worship, but the Reformation swept that away, so that it became neglected (although a reading of the Prayer  Book instructions make you realise that it was intended to be the primary service of the day).

As a result, this small, but enthusiastic group decided that they would obey the Prayer Book, receiving the Communion every Sunday, and not just as little as 3 times per year which had become the custom.

They were “Methodical” in their spiritual life and so they were identified as a “splinter group”, viewed with suspicion by the CofE hierarchy.

Once priested, the Wesley brothers were intent on fulfilling Jesus’ command “to preach the Gospel and Baptise” and seeing the need in the fast-growing colonies in North America, set sail for these foreign lands.

Frustration grew as they discovered that the Bishops in England refused to Confirm their converts, unless they travelled to England for the ceremony and admission to the Communion.

With this frustration, the Wesleys decided that they had spiritual authority (if not legal) to ordain lay ministers, priests. This was the last straw, leafing to separation from their Mother Church..

John Wesley was not so prominent in the average mind unlike his brother Charles who preached widely and wrote, literally, hundreds of hymns. However John remained an Anglican priest until his death.

He had tried to reform the CofE from within, but vested interests mainly the Anglican bishops and clergy were against such “enthusiasm”. It was under his leadership, that the Methodist “Class” system grew up (more about this next week), providing both Missionary and practical application of the Faith to social relationships with concern for the deprived and neglected poor.

This is the moment when an identifiable group (organised greatly by John Wesley) was being formed, promulgating their ideas, and attracting numbers as gradually, the divisions were becoming apparent.

“Methodists” who wished to reach out to the unconverted were forbidden to use the parish churches for their ministry, so originally, their preaching took place in open public spaces. Charles Wesley‘s preaching attracted huge crowds, (one such was in St. James’ Square in Newport).

Literally, under John’s guidance Methodism became a force to be reckoned with, but its influence diminished from the 1850s as Anglican clergy set about trying to transform the worship of the 18 th century CofE.

Are there lessons to be learned?

Let’s see next week.


26 September 2021

Things the Methodists taught me

Retired, but mercifully still able to be useful, my ’phone rang and was surprised to find it was the local Methodist Superintendent.

He told me that with a shortage of “ordained” ministers (most of the services, except Communion were conducted by lay ministers), could I possibly take a few for him for a while?

Rather surprised (I preferred worship with smells, candles and bells), being intrigued, I sought more details.

Despite my pedigree, we and the Anglican members were accustomed to join in Methodist worship at Wootton. We had together with them, held an “Outreach” Mission which, with the help of a couple of delightful nuns and the full cooperation of the High Street Methodists had brought the two congregations together. So much so, that on alternate months we joined each other’s normal evening services.

We had the normal Prayer Book Evensong, they their customary hymn/prayer/readings & sermon.

The Wesley brothers John and Charles were insistent that they did not intend to supplant the Church of England, but exhorted their members to continue to attend the CofE Communion services in their parish church.

The division of the Methodists from the CofE was caused by the inability of the Anglican Bishops to concentrate on Mission, and there is little doubt that this was (and still is) the failure of our Church.

I found a greater sense of “belonging” once I had worked with them and as I was the ordained minister that was needed, I undertook to help supply small rural (and urban) parishes with The Sacrament, with my supportive Bishop’s consent.

The service was basically one of the earlier modern services that our Church had instituted so that was no problem and when I asked the Superintendent “What robes should I wear?” and the answer was “Whatever you usually do for that service”. I wondered how the Faithful would accept full vestments, so that prior to a service I would explain their meaning.

As a result this proved no problem and I served them frequently for over two years until I was asked to take on the rural “Six Pilgrims” parishes, meaning that my Sundays were fully booked, plus a weekday service at the Cathedral, and occasional visits to other Anglican rural parishes.

Strangely, that time with the Methodists was a time of “re-thinking”; I had had to retire prematurely, suffering from depression, attributed to the way I had worked.

I found myself undertaking tasks that didn’t need an ordained priest but I (like many other clergy) was reluctant  to share my ministry.

Looking at the “Pilgims” I resolved to avoid the mistakes of years of ministry; learning from my Methodist friends, I would need to delegate a great deal to the lay folk. Meeting the 12 churchwardens, we agreed that I would do only those tasks that needed a priest. If there was anything to be done and I was asked “Would I do . . .  whatever it was”, my reply to that was,   “No thank you for asking; you don’t need a priest to do that; so please do it yourself or find someone to do so”.

As a result they realised that they were being considered as part of a great enterprise, to which they could apply themselves. In its early years Methodism grew rapidly, mainly due to the establishment of the “Class” system that provided something similar to modern House Groups.

Yet, by 1850 Methodism had begun to decline and has continued to do so from this time when the Class system ceased.

No, I am not trying to convert you to Methodism, but there are lessons to be learned there, particularly about pastoral care, sound teaching and commitment.

More next week.


19 September 2021

Where has all the money gone?

Nearing my Ordination in 1952, the Vicar of St. Andrew’s, Taunton, wrote to me formally inviting me to become his “Trainee Curate”, with a view to my staying there for the next four years. Regarding my pay he wrote thus: ”The stipend is £350 p.a., out of which will be deducted Income Tax, Pension Contribution, Rent and rates (yes, no free house!) of £6 per month, All expenses of ‘phone, postages, etc.”, which is affordable and sufficient to have bread and jam; but if you take your jam in the form of a wife, then that’s up to you!”

Hazel and I were only able to survive, in that we were engaged in making and selling Church robes!

In those days, if you wanted a curate, the parish had to raise the £350, and with 2 assistants, that meant raising £700 p.a.

Nowadays, the Diocese pays all the clergy from the “Parish Share” and the parish any extra expenses, both for the parish priest and any Assistant Curates.

Looking back, in 1956, leading my first parish, the initial stipend was £550 p.a. (plus the Vicarage), but within a year, having brought in the Accountants, it was discovered that many sources of income, such as rents for property and land, had not been increased sufficientlyand when this was remedied, there was a huge increase in Income, so that my £550 increased to £1,000 p.a.

In the 1970s, the Church Commissioners decided that the existing pay system should be stream-lined and whereas any property of Glebe land money put in trust by (usually) wealthy landowners had led to inequalities.

When the Bishop insisted in 1968 that I should move from St. John’s, Sandown (which I was enjoying) to Wootton, of all the priests available, I was the only one who didn’t want to move, although, due to the sale of Glebe land in Wootton the present stipend was £1800 compared to the £1000 p.a. that was the going rate for those parishes that had no such endowment.

With the sale of the last Glebe (in Chale) belonging to Wootton (from the deLisle family in 1087) to create a social housing project at that time, the stipend rose to £2,000 p.a., not much less than the Bishop!  Obviously, totally unfair.

From then on, the clergy pay was standardised, from £1,000 p.a. (plus house) now to a sum twenty times as much, but even so, compared with modern wages that might be considered about right.

T hat meant that the clergy wages bill had to be raised by parishes contributing to them through the often hated “Parish Share”.

Think, until the late 1950s the parish contribution to the cost of their priest was usually Nil!

Holy Trinity (Taunton) Quota in 1956 was only £80 p.a. and parish expenses of the clergy were rarely paid by the PCC. I received financial support for the first time (car repair) in 1958!

To add to the burden, a voluntary Pension Scheme to which the clergy contributed was ended, requiring no more from the clergy. The Church Commissioners decided that the pension rate should be “two-thirds of the going rate”, which in 1976 was £660, but that has increased with inflation and has also added to the parish burden.

T hat meant that with a total population of 675 souls my tiny Somerset group had to find (in 2001) no less than £13,000 for their Parish Share, despite the fact that I received no pay, my decision (only expenses) for my 10 years there.

We have to face the fact, that without income from the congregations, we cannot maintain clergy numbers, and with each clerical “cut-back” the Church of England faces a very dodgy financial position, with more amalgamations and less pastoral care.



12 September 2021

Could this be the right way?

It was a glorious summer’s day in the 1950s and I was making the return journey home to Taunton from a meeting at Wells.

We had been discussing the problems of staffing rural parishes in the future.

The situation was brought into focus when, having time to spare, I decided to drop in and see Joe Stewart, the Vicar of Burrowbridge and found him in the sunlit garden doing the “Times” crossword.  He bid me to sit down and join him, which I did.

“Joe” I asked, “How can you have time to sit here amusing yourself; shouldn’t you be visiting or something?”

“Look George!” he replied, “You know how few houses there are in the parish; there’s a limit to how much I can visit before they greet me with ‘What, you again?’”

I could see his point, for Somerset was full of tiny (often remote) parishes, most of them with their own parish priest; for instance, the six parishes that I served for ten years, with a TOTAL population of 675, before a previous “reorganisation”, had had THREE parish priests serving them.

The problem was that to make a viable group in some cases, one would have needed to put together more than twelve parishes. Bath and Wells Diocese had nearly 600 parishes, stretching from the Bristol boundary as far South as Yeovil.

My solution, when asked by the Bishop to see what could be done with the “Troublesome Six” was to create a completely integrated community, keeping their little medieval churches, and with two Sunday services moving around, sharing in their worship and activities.

This was a gigantic leap of faith, but you cannot translate what works in one place to be possible in another.

The problem with the Church of England has been the resistance to change, particularly among the stipendiary clergy and the Bishops.

In the latest report on the matter, it was proposed, and passed that suitable people acceptable to the worshipping community might be licensed as “Local Ordained Ministers” (LOMs), with authority to  celebrate the Holy Communion, provided that such ministry should only take place in one particular venue. Not the wide-ranging License that we retired clergy enjoy and subject to certain conditions.

Not wishing to diminish the dignity of the priesthood, we have seen similar relaxations.

For instance, an assistant minister administering the chalice, had to be at least an ordained Deacon, not just a licensed Reader.

The priest conducting a Eucharist cannot err in ways of theological matters; he/she has to follow the words set and unable to deviate.

Yet, as a Licensed Reader at the tender age of 23, I mounted the pulpit at All Saints, Ryde to deliver the sermon at Evensong in March, 1944, and subsequently conducted (and preached) at Mattins in the Chapel of St. Matthew at Ashey (after a rather inadequate examination) with no complaints (as far as I know).

Yet. In my first parish we had reached the level of some 130 communicants at the Parish Mass to whom I had to communicate them in both kinds. This despite the fact that the then Church Assembly had approved, but the Bishop also had to approve. My Bishop didn’t and I needed to seek an assistant curate to prevent the service lasting too long.

Who then, led the Eucharist at the House Meetings that were the first Church gatherings, when there was as yet no central provision for leaders? Was it the host at the house where they met? There is no indication in Acts to guide us.

Years ago an ex Colonel said to me “Why doesn't the Church make good use of the human resources that it already has and seek ways of extending Ministry wherever reasonably and theologically acceptable?”

He had a point. 


5 September 2021

"C" is for "Communication"

The moment I was ordained as a young curate I, together with the senior curate, were sent out afternoon after afternoon to visit specific roads in the parish, knocking on doors to talk to the inhabitants about the parish and what we could offer them.   It was soul-destroying; very often the door-knock was ignored, or swiftly the door was opened, seeing my dog-collar with the brief message of “Not today, thank you”!

It has been my lot as a priest to have spent most of my time, both in stipendiary ministry and voluntary (retired) ministry taking responsibility for parishes with problems.

The first was Holy Trinity, Taunton (Gosh” that was a problem indeed) and my final “Swansong” at St. Michael’s, Swanmore from 2011-2013..

With a population of 3,000 people, but welcoming only 12 on a Sunday morning, there was an air of neglect and little or no pastoral care for most of the years between 1944 and becoming vacant in 2011, Archdeacon Caroline asked me to “have a go” to change things for the better, if we could.

St. Michael’s had a reputation for extreme High Church worship, and neglect by the clergy of the parishioners’ needs, hence the decline of what had once been a lively family-type parish.

My recipe for renewal at several parishes over the years was to try and illustrate, by means of a Newsletter distributed to every house, free of charge, a vision of what the parish COULD be, if people were to think what St. Michael’s might have to offer, with a new regime.

This had worked previously and over just 2 years, the parish attitude had softened and apart from Sunday worship it seemed that the message was getting home,

I called this “My silent visitor”, for it could get past the front door and take a message with it, and to make it more friendly was rather like a tabloid newspaper, with a large striking headline

My favourite regular critic shot off a letter to the Bishop, complaining how the Rector was vulgarising The Church (but so was Jesus).

A headline “Idol worship in Taunton” with a picture of a man bending and anointing the bonnet of his car reached the very heart of the Somerset County Gazette.

Yes it was slightly vulgar, but it worked, because people talked about it.

The report “Towards the Conversion of England” set out the needs of The Church to use modern methods of communication. Some 50 years later, we have progressed little in that direction.

“How shall they know unless they have a preacher?” asked St. Paul? The truth is that very little knowledge of the Gospel and its implications regarding daily life can be found in the majority of the population.

Children grow up, and even if they attend a Church School, as I was an Inspector of such, with rare exceptions I could not but see, that the teaching they experienced was having little effect on their lives (and that of their parents}.

If people won’t come to church to learn about the Faith, then a “Silent Visitor”, written with imagination can start people thinking (and talking), and that’s how the first preaching was so effective.

I realise this is Jarge promoting himself, but if something works, then I feel that it must be shared, even if others think it impractical or undesirable.


29 August 2021   

Healing is Part of the Good News

Being part of the post-war intake of ordination candidates, obviously I was an enthusiastic supporter of new ideas that were floating around theological colleges in the 1950s, which, to some extent, were mirroring tthe immediate priorities of the Early Church.

“Heal the sick” was a priority in the “Outreach” of those whom Jesus had commissioned in the Upper Room (John 20) and in the whole of Jesus’ Ministry.

From the beginning “Good News” was the entry point for the preaching that “making people “whole” was a priority (as a study of Acts will demonstrate) just as it had been for Jesus as the early chapters of Mark will show.

There is a failure in much of what has been said about Healing within the Church’s Ministry over the years, where prayers often include the words “if it is your will, O God” implying that God may will the patient to die. Jesus shows us this is a nonsense.

It gives the lie to the idea that illness is a punishment for sins committed; if it were, why was it the bedrock for all the post-Whitsun activities described in the Gospels and Acts?

Healing is part of the “Good News”, so it would be surprising if it were not part of the “Outreach” and The Church needs to have it as a priority Ministry today. All of a sudden, Mental Health has become a topic for great discussion and people in high places draw attention to how it has affected their lives for ill.

It should be no surprise that Mark in his Gospel lays emphasis on the relationship between our mental state and our physical. Dr. Iken an American doctor in the 1950s in her book “New concepts of healing” wrote that in her long experience, 50% of patients in mental care could go home cured tomorrow if they could be sure that their sins could be forgiven.

She drew attention to the relationship between Italians and Americans, that the former (mainly Roman Catholics) were less likely to suffer serious mental ills than the latter. The reason? Because the RCs were accustomed to making their confession and receiving, not only solemn absolution, but also advice as to how to deal with their problems. Americans, where the Evangelical nature of its religion shies away from the idea of Confession in this manner, missed out on this that gave the priest an opportunity to provide “tailor-made” advice under conditions of complete privacy.

It is interesting that with all the Protestant pressures of the age, the 1662 Prayer Book makes provision for auricular confession in the presence of a priest and believe me, from my own experience I have witnessed healing through this Sacrament, giving both priest and penitent the opportunity to examine their feelings in a unique way.

I remember a particular case where one parishioner who had endured every type of medical approach to her mental problems with no positive result, went home after her confession a transformed person to her and her family’s delight.

For a while after the war there was a revival of Healing Services and various societies formed to accentuate this physical/mental approach, but now (when it seems most needed) this seems to have disappeared. We’re poorer as a result

We’ll talk about this next week if you can bear it


22 August 2021

How Together We Turned a Parish Around

My ‘phone rang: “This is the Bishop’s Secretary; the Rural Dean has sent to the Bishop to ask what should be done as Mr. Rayner (Vicar of Holy Trinity, Taunton) is holding services that are not in conformity with his Induction promise, “That all services must be in conformity with The Book of Common Prayer of 1662”.

What was the problem? Only a parish of 10,000 people of which only 35 were seen regularly in church on a Sunday, and something drastic had to be done.

I explained to the Secretary that these were limited “Outreach” services, “Family Services” that would be teaching families what the Eucharist is all about, with the intention that they would last for a limited period with the hope that families would transfer to the regular Sunday Eucharist

Remember, we are talking about 1957, unlike the present day when the one thing you will rarely find is a service that bears any resemblance to the only legal book of 1662.

I waited anxiously for the Bishop’s reply, which said that he would allow this divergence for a limited period (i.e. a year) and would not supersede the regular worship forms.

So it was, “Outreach” was viewed with some doubt in high places and it was decades before we reached the stage where we could tailor our services for a “missionary” purpose.

Other clergy were reluctant to break the rules, and so such services were a rarity, until the new worship forms came too late to have much impact.

The lack of suitable worship forms was a hindrance to Evangelism, although I do not believe that it was language that kept people away but the very limited approach to necessary changes in the presentation of worship and its aftermath.

We had the same response from the Bishop’s Palace, when it was made known that we had begun to serve coffee in the adjacent church hall after the service.

An angry parishioner had written to the Bishop that their Vicar (me) was turning their church into a Coffee Bar! Fortunately this was ignored by the Bishop (had it been served in the church itself, I suspect it might have had a different response).

However, the “Parish Outing” became the next bone of contention.

The Feast of the Holy Trinity is usually celebrated in the summer and I (and the PCC) thought it might be a good idea if we held the Eucharist at 10 a.m. and then took a coach to Sidmouth, for a picnic lunch en-route, an afternoon enjoying the seaside, and gathering for a “High Tea” before returning home.

It was a lovely day in every way!

It brought headlines in the local paper, and a lively correspondence *both supportive and condemning”, but it signified that something different was happening in a local church, providing good publicity.

Much of this had been suggested in the Report ”Towards the Conversion of England” instigated by Archbishop William Temple, who died before it could be put into action.

As a result, Temple’s successor, Geoffrey Fisher ignored it and much that was good and desirable within its pages failed to receive the support and attention it deserved.

Holy Trinity was a problem parish and in the main our unorthodox approach was supported by the authorities, for as the Bishop had told me after the Induction, “One thing is certain, if you can’t make it any better, you certainly cannot make it any worse”.

Next week, we shall examine initiatives that followed, part of which has been discussed previously, thinking of what could now be done towards the “Conversion of England”.


15 August 2021

Betrayal by the Church Of England

Looking around the Public Bar of my father’s pub (the 'Brewers’ Arms at the top of Ryde High Street, now demolished) surveying the customers, I thought to myself, “Can I imagine many of them would be comfortable in the average parish church, except for the occasional wedding or funeral?”

Class is (and can be still) a barrier. This was certainly a barrier in mining districts, even in the 1940s.

The miners, (if they worshipped at all), would gravitate either to the Methodists, or were (mainly) ex-Irish immigrants who attended the local RC church.

The local Anglican parish church was (even then) sparsely attended, and whilst there was a Sunday School, few were confirmed, to become regular worshippers.

The miners were (and always had been) considered to be rabid Socialists and when you study how they and workers like them were viewed, it was understandable if they were.

Social conditions were changing, with people leaving the rural areas of Britain, finding work during the 19 th century in the fast-growing factories and the rise of a “slum culture”.

The Government, viewing the post-revolution agonies in France, fearful of matching uprisings in the 1830s, paid for the building of new churches in the fast-growing cities in the hope that this would help to create new attitudes, hence, more acceptable behaviour among the working classes.

What had the Church of England been doing in those post-Reformation years?

Actually, fighting between factions that sought to make the Church more Evangelical and those who wished to retain some of the Pre-Reformation ceremonies and doctrines.

There was a period of cruel persecution of those who were on opposite sides of the divide.

Under the Commonwealth of Cromwell, much associated with Catholicism was forbidden, such as Christmas, celebrations, and England became a dull place and no longer could one find the “Joy” in religion.

Catholic priests were executed, some burnt alive and there was much unhappiness among the ordinary folk, for most, their social life revolved around the parish church.

The Church of England abandoned the round of Festivals, for congregations had been accustomed to celebrating their  favourite Saints, particularly those associated with their daily work.

The Church services were dull, and sadly, many of the clergy did little pastoral work and not until the 1830s, was there any attempt to bring back those alienated by the inaction of the clergy.

Horrified at the state of Christianity in England, a small band of rebellious priests sought to reform the Church of England, but they were ill-treated by the hierarchy of Bishops and some were imprisoned for breaking the rules.

They started a movement to bring back many of the pre-Reformation services, but the damage had been done and generations have grown up unaware of the Gospel and why it is “Good News”.

Studying the state of the CofE in the post-Reformation period, shows that there was a complete absence of “Outreach” in the minds of the hierarchy. They were more concerned with upholding the Church’s discipline regarding the conduct of public worship, than making changes that might make worship more relevant to the fast-changing age.

This was particularly evident, when some attempts were made to make changes to embrace the non-churchgoers and so we were guilty of “betraying” Jesus” and His command to “Go into the world and proclaim the “Good News”.


8 August 2021

The Great Betrayal

“Betrayeth the Son of man with a kiss?” Jesus asked Judas Iscariot, and for thirty pieces of silver, that is exactly what the traitor did, without which the authorities would have been unable to arrest Our Saviour to be executed the next day.

True, that same traitor, having realised the enormity of his actions died, either by some sort of haemorrage (Acts 1, vv15-20), or another tells us that Judas hung himself in despair at what he had done.

However, before we condemn Judas, should we not also call Peter a “betrayer”?

He had denied any association with his Master in fear lest he also might be arrested as a fellow conspirator and suffer a similar grisly death.  Words are easy, fulfilling them are less so.

Jesus’ conversation with Peter (John 21, vv15-end) shows that the shameful denial was forgiven, and as a token, Peter was given a status he certainly could not have expected.

The suggestion is that the activities surrounding the arrest and execution of Jesus were part of the mind of God the Father; that in fact in Jesus, God was offering Himself and the horror is that humanity (whom He had come to save) crucified God, the God Who is Love.

Other betrayals: but the Old Testament is a sad commentary on those whom He had chosen to be His holy nation; prophet after prophet over the centuries had to warn of the dangers of the rebellious Hebrews turning to false gods and idols, forsaking the One who had selected them from all the people on earth.

There were times when the people heeded the prophets’ warnings, returning to serve and worship God, and with that return came a period of peace and prosperity.

But it didn’t last, as a perusal of the prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, but beginning with Moses and lesser prophets will show.

There is this constant theme of the need to pursue the right way, which is God’s way that brought Plenty and Peace, or put their trust in false gods and values that brought nothing but hunger and conflict.

The truth is that in order for mankind to flourish, we need (in modern jargon) to have a “Road Map” enabling us to chart our way, and the Father and Creator’s way which can lead us to those same gifts of peace and plenty.

The prophets showed generations that road map that was finally given through God the Son, summed up in Old Testament teachings.

Along the long line of religious history the pattern of betrayal can be found and it is clear that the high aspirations set out in Jesus’ teaching were not met by action.

 A perusal of the Epistle of James, where he shows that from Faith there must be matching actions, and this teaching has been ignored at various stages in the life of the Christian Church.

The horrors of religious persecutions of the Reformation go clean contrary to the love and reconciliation which is God’s will as taught through the early history of the Church.

Persecutions continued on a lesser scale, particularly during the post-Reformation times, where the Church of England strayed far from the ideal.

The great betrayal is apparent in the history of the various sections of the Christian Church and continues with its disunity and lack of missionary zeal as we shall see next week.


1 August 2021

Are we a Christian Country?

“Towards the conversion of England” was the title of a ground-breaking booklet, issued from Archbishop William Temple’s office in 1944.

Temple had received reports from Service chaplains of the worrying ignorance of newly recruited recruits to the Services of basic Christian beliefs and practice.

When suggested that it was the wrong title for the book, which was a plan to to see the country as a “Mission field”, Temple replied that from all the evidence there was only residual loyalty to the Faith in this country and we needed  a complete review of what was happening in our parishes.

Probably those interviewed had attended some form of Christian teaching through Sunday Schools with the majority of Primary Schools being run by the Church (such schools as I attended provided a Bible for every pupil).

That teaching consisted mainly of Bible stories, with no indication of their relevance to daily life, and rarely did it affect young people’s behaviour.

Those wartime youngsters had inherited a rag-bag of ideas that involved no commitment to Christian living as portrayed, in the Bible.

There was a concentration on the “God of the Old Testament”, to some youngsters in the image of the nasty revengeful bearded old man sat on a cloud, judging us for every misdemeanour.

"Sin” was the monster to be feared, for sinners whom the fires of hell beckoned were the obvious human failings, of which “sex” seemed to be the most wicked.

Yet, running through those early books, especially Deuteronomy, there appears a more human image of God.

In Exodus, as the Israelites advanced into their Promised land, every non-Jew was to be killed, regardless of age or sex to create a community which was essentially racist.

But reading Deuteronomy, we find God requiring the Jews to welcome “strangers” (immigrants) offering them food and shelter, caring for the poor and widows.

Why such a U-turn? Simply because those parts of the Old Testament were written and approved some 500 years later when awareness of the nature of God had softened.

As a result, the Social Gospel of Jesus rang true with many of His hearers, of which the summary in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew, chapter 5) is a sample.

Generosity towards strangers and a pull-back from the stricter teaching of the Old Testament, forgiveness rather than condemnation preceded Jesus, but He taught it in a way that was far-reaching, challenging with ideas that at the time were thought to be blasphemy.

Jesus’ teaching was revolutionary as He regarded everyone as equals, regardless of race or colour.

This was not a lone voice, for it is supported in the New Testament; the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles of Paul, Peter, James and overwhelmingly, John.

Paul’s conversion to Christianity showed that non-Jews (gentiles) were welcomed into the Fellowship and that there can be no artificial barriers.

That is why it is saddening to find kind, some practising Christians joining in anti-immigration protests and begrudging attempts to help those who are fleeing from the most terrible conditions.

We are all ONE IN CHRIST, for Jesus died for all of us, and we are the Father’s children and therefore brothers and sisters, regardless of race or colour.

Love is the basic word in Christianity; and that is at the heart of the “Good News” which is for all.


25 July 2021

The More We Are Together

Many years ago in the 1930s, people would have been singing or whistling in the street, and the favourite song continued with the above words which ended The happier we shall be” .

It certainly was true when the “Six Pilgrims” began to think and act as a family, looking beyond their parish boundaries and behaving just as I had hoped they would. A subsequent meeting with the Churchwardens showed this transformation in various ways, and here are some of them.

Nothing like a well-attended service, and after the June “breakthrough, things began to happen.

Instead of a sparse gathering of worshippers (which could be very dispiriting), with 25 (of all ages) at 9 a.m. and 30 or more at the 10.30, in small medieval churches it was uplifting.

Remember this from a total population of 675 was a high proportion. Translated into large parishes it was more than 12% of the people. Translate that into a town parish; if their numbers were equivalent in a population of 3,000, the congregation would be a handsome number (many more than they would actually have in most such parishes).

When I left 10 years later, we would see up to 375 people through the church doors during Christmas-tide, many of whom were due to uniting families, but 19 years later, a similar number were counted there during the Christmas of 2019.

On Good Friday they can be sure of 60-70 folk of all ages attending a “Cross" walk and service in the most remote of the churches.

Looking out to the world: I had been introduced by a fellow priest to a small charity that sponsored South Indian boys to be educated in a boarding school, costing £98 per boy per annum.

Hesitantly, finding they didn’t contribute to outside causes such as this,  I suggested that the 6 might pay for  one boy; there was an objection lodged, not that the sum was too much, but too small and they felt that each of the Six could manage that, so six boys it was (later to include girls).

Looking out to the parishes: Jesus’ last command as recorded in the final verses of St. Matlhew, was to give The Church (people) the task of proclaiming the Good News to all the world. Therefore “Outreach” was the word we needed to remember.

The parishes had a well-produced magazine, sold around the parishes. And to my surprise (and joy) it was proposed and agreed that we gave it free to every house in the parishes, trusting that donations and advertising would meet the cost.  And so it was!

Rural it was: It was decided that we would observe ancient Farming Festivals; so we blessed the parish plough in early January (Plough Sunday), blessed the cider orchards “Wassailling” followed by a happy cider and pasty meal, Rogation Sunday (when we went out and blessed the growing crops).

Lammas (loaf) Sunday around August 1 st when the first harvesting was celebrated, followed by Harvest Festival in the Autumn (cider and pasties again}.

We were a sociable lot, so that everything possible was done with the other parishes in mind, so the annual Coffee Morning in neighbouring Castle Cary, where each parish mounted a stall (sharing items between them). The proceeds were shared equally among the six, so the smaller parishes benefitted.

Y es, we found that we were indeed, happier together, and what a lot of fun we had en-route!


18 July 2021

The Wine helped!

Following on from last week, I had undertaken to lead and support a group of six tiny rural parishes as the Bishop and staff had decided that, refusing to be “re-organised” to Diocesan plans, they had been virtually abandoned.

It was for me to decide if and how they could be revitalized; as I was receiving a full clergy pension, I thought it wrong to accept payment, only my expenses (this was so for the 10 years I was caring for them, 1992-2002).

In their representations to the Bishop, the parishioners had said that they would “worship and work together”; it was for me in partnership with the people, to enable this to happen.

12 Churchwardens and 6 PCCs had to be persuaded to fulfil that promise, and how.

My first encounter with the parish leaders was encouraging and positive; they knew they had to back their promises with action, although to date, when “United” benefice services were held monthly, few parishioners transferred their allegiance to worship in any church but their own, and were conspicuous by their absence.

Unity of worship was one problem, for each church had different expressions of type of worship, clerical robes and for 6 churches there were 4 different styles.

If we were expecting folk to move around, they needed to have the same service everywhere making it easier for them to fit in.

After a positive discussion, it was agreed that we would maintain traditional language and make services as inclusive as possible.

Half of the churches had Communion Vestments that had been stuffed into vestry drawers by the previous priest, who didn’t approve of such “dressing-up” and had abandoned the hymn books for (guitar accompanied) choruses.

“Moving around” was at the heart of the Scheme and we needed to scale the worship down to, possibly, 2 Communion Services, perfectly manageable for one priest, at 9 and 10.30 a.m.

Being rural, the parishioners were used to travelling to other venues, so there were no practical problems involved and a tentative trial during the Christmas period brought an enthusiastic response.

The Rota meant that every parish had a service every 3 weeks, and either at 9 or 10.30 a neighbouring parish would be conveniently near.

It did mean that every church was active and being used, with no fear of closure, and total congregations increased; but not finally implemented until June 1993, when the “penny dropped” so that eventually the average congregation worshipping on a Sunday numbered 12.5% of the total population.

“It was the wine that changed everything”! Among the decisions made was that we would join for worship together on the patronal Festival of each of the Six, and the first such was to celebrate St. Peter on June 29 th, a Sung Communion followed by suitable refreshments.

The problem, there were no facilities for catering and as I was (at that time) an amateur wine-maker, I could produce a drinkable beverage (“rather like Chardonnay” said a knowledgeable parishioner) which with some attractive snacks made a very happy combination and few wanted to hurry home!

In a moment there was a sense that we were “gelling” and I felt we could adopt the motto of a neighbouring group, “Six churches, but one Church” reminding us that the Church are the people wherever Christians meet.

From that moment there was a new sense of “family” and so began a tradition of parish “sharing” where each parish sought to assist their smaller and fragile and we established worship that was joyful and inclusive.

Despite priestly staffing problems, the parishes are still flourishing and enabling the people to completely participate in the running of their Church.

Of my seventy years of Ministry, nothing was like the “Pilgrim experience” which were the happiest of them.


11 July 2021

United We Stand Divided ...

That was the motto on the wall of Unity Hall, in Star Street, Ryde where youngsters (like 10yr. old me) met for meetings of the Band of Hope, also the home of the Labour and Trade Union Parties.

Clearly, it was the only way working people could improve their pay and working conditions, for Unity was strength, but this was also strength needed for small parishes being forced to join with other town parishes. There had to be mutual respect and understanding.

Unknown to most people, small rural parishes suffered a negative effect, such as “The Six Pilgrims” near Castle Cary (Somerset) and this would have made life difficult.

Two ex-navy officers (a Rear-Admiral and an ex-Destroyer Commander) who had studied the move with care, found that if parishes didn’t wish to lose their identity in this way, the Church Commissioners would not allow it to happen. So, they stuck their toes in and stood firm, resulting in the Six being abandoned by the Diocese and left to struggle, their Rector having moved away.

Of course, when you consider that the TOTAL population of the Six (at that time) was only 675 souls, you can understand the Diocesan position, but there was no attempt to meet and talk with the parishioners and find a compromise.

As a retired priest, I had been helping the parishes out with services, and the rural folk suggested a retired priest could serve those parishes, even if he/she didn’t live there.

To support them, I wrote to the Bishop (2 sides of A4) supporting the parishioners’ case but received no reply, meaning the need to send a copy of my original letter, suggesting that perhaps the reason was that it had been “lost in the post”.

The result was a ‘phone call from the Palace Secretary asking me to “Wait upon the Bishop” (yes, people talked like that in the 1950s) giving no reason why. I thought I had gone too far in my letter and expected a reprimand.

I need not to have feared, for the first question was “What are we to do with the “Six Pilgrims?” to which I pointed out what had been suggested by my letter.

“Would you do it, say, for 6 months?”

To which I replied that we (the parishes and I) would need at least a year to establish a way of working.

“Right”, said the Bishop, “When could you start?”

Actually, I had been taking services there since October 1992 as I was free from other Sunday duties but I had a slot at the Cathedral to conduct a weekday 8 a.m. Communion, so this wouldn’t be affected.

I was 66 yrs. old at the time, and the Bishop suggested that I was too near the official retirement age of 70 to be formally licensed; “would I be able to serve in a situation where I couldn’t impose my will on the parishioners and could I run a benefice where I would have to take the people with me on what seemed a risky partnership?”

6 parish churches, the biggest parish had 250 people and three of the others numbered only 70-80. With 12 Churchwardens plus 6 PCCs, we were faced with coping with the unpredictable. “Best of luck” said the Bishop before he gave me his blessing.

I lived at Glastonbury, 10 miles from the parishes, taking 20 mins (few traffic problems), so this presented no problems.

Returning home, Hazel, my wife asked, “What have you taken on?”

I couldn’t answer that, for the simple reason that the future would be a time of learning together and being aware that “God moves in mysterious ways” and so to expect the unexpected of which most were helpful.

Covid has changed much and we may need to cope with the “unexpected” when it comes along’

“Trust and obey”


I realise this is very much a personal view-point; it worked for us (and is still doing so, 30 years later) thank God.

4 July 2021

Not a One-Man Band?

“You’re ill, man, so you must go!” said the Archdeacon.

Word had reached him that I had been diagnosed with severe depression and it was clear that rather than try to assure me that help was available, although below retirement age, I was to resign.

I refused to go immediately, but decided to spend a year tying up all the loose ends, so that my successor would inherit no problems of my making.

What was my problem?

Simply that I was undertaking many tasks that didn’t need a priest.

Inheriting a parish (Wootton) with various demands, I had already spent time and energy in my two previous incumbencies and managed to work in those parishes as my Bishops had asked me to do; not without opposition.

The final straw was my desire to provide employment at a time of recession (1980s) by converting a large hall in the village into an arcade of units enabling people to try and start their own businesses. (It’s still there, “Bumble’s Lane” named after our Old English sheepdog!)

My thinking was, that whilst clergy were praying for the unemployed, I was trying to give people practical help, and much of the physical work of conversion was done in company with a couple of faithful parishioners.

This had triggered my downward spiral, for like many clergy of my generation we thought that the priest should be wholly occupied in the parish life.

I, and many of my contemporaries were driven (and depressed) by a remark made by a senior priest from the Cathedral, who reminded a meeting of clergy that “You clergy are expensive items, and you must ensure that The Church gets its “moneys-worth”.

Was I giving my moneys-worth? From that meeting this question worried me.

I retired on Christmas Day, 1988 and Hazel (my wife) and I felt that a burden had lifted and we were free as we (and the dog) disappeared over the horizon to Glastonbury to a more peaceful existence.

Now, whose fault was my depression, something that I shared with many other priests?

There was that sense, that as the parish leader, I needed to be involved, often doing things that any competent layperson could have done.

That is not the way the Early Church functioned, and with the increasing burden of multi-parish benefices, to ask someone to be responsible for Wootton, Binstead and Havenstreet seems little short of lunacy.

Why have I bored you with my personal story? Because it’s a prelude to what I want to say next time, which is relevant to our present situation.

O ur present crisis is the result of much talking about future staffing of parishes, but despite 3 successive high pressured reports over the post-war years, little has changed.

My depression had a positive influence, for when I retired to Somerset, after recovering a great deal, I found myself in charge of a group of 6 tiny rural parishes and was determined to not follow my mistakes of the past.

In agreement with the parishioners I would only be involved where a priest was needed; conducting services, pastoral visiting, spiritual guidance and giving the group leadership.

As a result, they feel they “own” their benefice and can shape its present and its future and are flourishing.

We need to have a coherent policy where the burden of Ministry is shared with the whole congregation; we need as Paul says “To be Workers together with Christ”.

Priest and People, together.


27 June 2021  

"Suffer the Little Children"

“I have never been so insulted”, cried the well-dressed lady, red-faced with anger. “I don’t expect my hymn book to be given to me by a slip of a girl; I expect that to be done by someone responsible like a Churchwarden, or a Sidesman.

I won’t be coming to this church again” and off she stumped from the church, still muttering.

Let me fill you in as to why we had got to this point.

When interviewed by the PCC in 1968 (as a candidate to be Rector of Wootton), at the top of their list was the request for provision of some form of Family Worship, and as there was already a small Sunday School at 10 a.m. on a Sunday, conducted by a layman I suggested that we might turn that into a Family Communion.

Because of the fact that there was only an 8 a.m. said Communion, and unwilling to upset what obviously was a very conservative clientele, Mattins would need to continue, but moving it to 11.15.

I outlined what kind of Family-friendly service that might be; that it would be a Sung Communion according to the Book of Common Prayer and I would try and incorporate the Sunday School children (boys and girls) to staff the service with the boys (choir) and the girls as sides persons, giving them an appropriate role (the cause of my angry lady’s complaint).

This is where we find the extraordinary idea that worship where children are involved has to be watered down and as childish as possible; frankly, that is something that children in Church don’t appreciate.

I was encouraged by Dorothy L. Sayers’ book “Creed or Chaos” where she states that (in every child), “there is a little adult, screaming to get out”, and what they need is to be presented with worship that is intelligible.

The tragedy is that this is not recognised, especially in the upper reaches of The Church, but also in the rank and file of many clergy.

Having accompanied on the organ the Sunday School in Tanfield church in Durham for some 3 years, most of A&M’s hymns “For the Young”, including “We are but little children week”, or “Above the bright blue sky” were completely insensitive to the needs of a techno-savvy clientele.

Experiments are taking place throughout the CofE, and the most successful is that emerging from Dorset, where children and adults are involved in a teaching/Eucharist, where, following rules agreed by General Synod, enables children,  (age 8 upwards) to receive Communion before Confirmation.     This instils a spiritual routine, where the youngsters can be made to feel that they are equal and important.

In the immediate post-War years, a much acclaimed book on Children’s work was hailed as the blueprint for the future, but it was in a sense, damned by its title “Tomorrow’s Church” which we students and junior clergy seized upon, because it is Baptism that makes us Christians, NOT Confirmation.

The “Ely” report on “Communion for the Un-confirmed” supported the theology behind the practise. Every other denomination does this; Roman Catholics have done so for centuries, it is usual in Free Churches.

We (upstart ordinands and young clergy), thought we need to view baptised children as much members of Christ’s Body and were adamant that if Baptism makes us Christians, then the gateway to Communion is not Confirmation by a Bishop, but by the pouring of water in the Name of the Holy Trinity.

Every baptised youngster is not a member of “Tomorrow’s Church”, but is part of “Today’s Church” and our thinking and actions need to reflect this.

If there is no “Today’s Church”, there certainly won’t be one tomorrow.


13 June 2021

Who is my brother?

Watching the TV over the past few weeks we have seen the heart-breaking pain of Gaza, where there has been scant attention paid to basic concerns for the plight of the Palestinians.

True, the forces of Hamas fired rockets into Israel, but the Israelites have gradually taken away by force, land that was originally ceded to the Palestinians and are now building new Israeli settlements, driving out the Palestinians.

Strangely, there has been little concern by the outside world that has mainly made appropriate noises, but no action; the USA under Trump was actively supporting the Jews.

Now, my saying this will instantly condemn me for “racism”, but this is not a question of racism, but the concern of others that people abide by natural justice.

Now, people may argue that the land was given to the Jews via Abraham (Genesis 12 ff) but in early books of the Old Testament, it is made clear that all “strangers” are worthy of death, but a study of Deuteronomy 12, we find just the opposite.

Among commands given by Moses, there is protection for widows, children, “strangers” (immigrants), and all who are poor. If a man borrows from a wealthier man, as a security, he can leave his top coat, but at eventide when it will be cold, the lender must return the coat so that the poorer may be kept warm!

Note that the “strangers” are not to be killed, but treated kindly, which is in complete contrast to earlier chapters of Genesis.

Why the change in attitudes?

To put it in numbers, Moses lived somewhere around 1250BC and died c1210 BC. Deuteronomy was written between 500-700BC (possibly) by Levites, who were priests at the Temple and whose attitudes had changed over the years.

Strange you may think, but you need to realise that although a writing may appear to be in chronological order, that is far from the truth.

Moses is credited with some of the commands, but it is clear that he had been long dead when those commands were first given as recorded in Deuteronomy.

Judaism was a “socialist” religion in that it was concerned with the welfare of the poorer folk and Christianity as taught by Jesus is fairly in the lobby of “Do unto your neighbours as you would like to be treated”.

It is sad, that at the Brexit vote, the anti-immigrant lobby enlisted the worst of anti-immigrant and refugee arguments and racism have reared their unpleasant head again.

Strange to say, the Church of England through its Arch-bishop has failed to question some of the doubtful moral decisions in this dispute.

Jesus, undoubtedly had no sense of the Jewish racism, but was open to all manner of people, even the hated Samaritans, and his partying (as described in Mark 2, vv13-17) showed Him ready to enjoy the company of Society’s outcasts.

Paul also, makes it clear that we are “all one in Christ Jesus”, and the Gospel (Mark 15, v21) tells us that a coloured man, Simon from Cyrene (together with Rufus, his son) because of Jesus’ weakness carried the cross to the place of execution.

The Church has finally played its part at last by recognising the contribution that other cultures and values have made (or should make) in opening the priesthood (and Bishoprics) to other races.


6 June 2021

Behold I tell you a mystery

As a vicar of a parish church dedicated to the Holy Trinity, it was necessary to preach on this mystery every year.

(The authorities had noted that this could be a problem, and so decided that rather than trying to explain this mystery, instead the day should be used to preach on the Sacred Ministry as a kind of ordinands’ recruitment drive. For some it was a blessed release, but I felt conscience demanded that at least I should give it a try).

But the truth is that probably none of you reading this have much real grasp of what the Holy Trinity means.

We sing happily about “Three in one and one in three”, but “how” or “why” and how can it be?

If you turn to the “Athanasian Creed” in your Prayer Book, you won’t find it very enlightening; “The Father incomprehensible, The Son incomprehensible. The Holy Ghost incomprehensible”, or as one Methodist Minister put it, rather quietly, “The whole d*** thing incomprehensible”.

Following ancient custom and doing the thing properly, we obeyed the Prayer Book’s directions and sung the whole thing in procession, candles, incense and all!

(To celebrate the patronal festival, after time for a coffee, we embarked on a coach to take us all to Sidmouth for a picnic lunch and a Jolly” on the beach. I was accused by a local Minister as “leading my people to hell by our behaviour”.

Thinking of Jesus’ “jolly” among undesirables (Mark 2, vv15-18), I’m sure that He was with us on Sidmouth’s beach and afterwards for a High Tea).

 Let’s return from sentimental “day-dreaming” and return to our subject; the idea that the Spirit is a third character in the Divine story.

Jesus makes reference to the Spirit, in that He is a guide and strengthener in our spiritual endeavours, but only appears in bodily form (that of a dove) at Jesus’ baptism (Luke 3, 21-22), it seems, by studying all the times that the Spirit of God is mentioned, that the Spirit is more of an agency by which God conveys His messages and will to mankind.

The idea that there were 3 persons in this unity was a hotly argued premise and led eventually to the Church in Eastern Europe dominated by Constantinople to separate and become the Eastern Orthodox as opposed to Western Christendom centred on Rome and the Pope, a sad division that still is not healed.

The Bible is clear that the work of the Spirit is spread between God the Father (uncreated) and God the Son, (be-gotten) so in Galatians 4, v6, He is referred to as the Spirit of the Son, equally the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8,v9).

Jesus Himself defines the work of the Spirit clearly (John 16, vv13-15) that “He (the Spirit) will take it of me and announce it unto you” and that given Biblical evidence it seems clear that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son and not as an innovator, but rather, an “enabler”.

“When the Spirit cones, being the Spirit of Truth, He will guide you into all truth”.

As I said, in passing last week we have to differentiate between the roles of each of these figures; Jesus says that the Spirit will speak only what He hears. Jesus, born of the Father, speaks the truth of God by His incarnate life which comes from the Father.

Hans Kung (“On being a Christian”) tells us that it is clear that this seems to be not a union of three equals, for the Spirit can only “announce” and clarify truths that “proceed from the Father AND the Son”.

So, there you are; so much Biblical testimony, but perhaps rather than argue about “How?”, we should simply accept that we can share in the Divine Mystery that is the Holy Trinity in our own Christian journeys.


30 May 2021   

"Come Holy Ghost our Souls Inspire"

It’s a pity that the word “Ghost” was used in the 1662 Prayer Book rather than the word “Spirit” for from my youth (8yrs. old plus), I could only think of the 3 rd Person of the Holy Trinity as something (some one?) in a ghostly white robe, but not as an individual Being.

In Luke, (11, v13), Jesus tells the disciples, that the Father will give them the Holy Spirit if they do, but ask Him.

Is it as simple as that?

We need to dig a bit deeper and find more.

Paul speaks of the “Fruits of the Spirit” which are: Love, Joy,  Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-control.

However, the German theologian, Hans Kung throws in the idea that the work of the Spirit is to enable the intentions of the Father and the Son, suggesting that the Holy Trinity is more a “duality” (two) rather than three.

Indeed because of disagreement on this part of the Nicene Creed (which we recite during the Eucharist), the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Church parted company in 1054 over one word in the discussions.

Genesis 1, v 2-30, describes the Spirit as “moving on the face of the waters” and it would seem from that, the Spirit is the agency by which things happen to fulfil God the Father and the Son’s will.

Clearly, the Spirit can be given through the laying-on of hands, or breathing upon the recipient, something very evident in the Early Church (John 20, vv21-24).

The Spirit’s work can be seen in our lives if we are prepared to trust Him (not “It”) and it is in personal guidance that He becomes effective.

There is a children’s hymn, “Trust and obey” and that is wise advice, whether on an individual or corporate scale.

The Christian life has to be one where faith is paramount; we need to believe that if we are led along a possibly  ‘rocky’ path that God’s purpose for any of us is ultimately for our good and the good of all Creation.

Opportunities to further God’s work in proclaiming His love, have been missed because it has seemed that those trying to do so, have hesitated and failed to reach out.

So many meetings have been held, but no result because it was thought to be “too risky”, or “it may upset some people”.

As I have told you, our relationship with God has to be one of “Trust”. Archbishop William Temple in his commentary on St. John’s Gospel wrote:

“When we pray, ‘Come Holy Ghost, our souls inspire’ we had better be sure that we wish Him to do so, for He may lead us along paths that seem to us to be risky and undesirable”.

The Church of England’s failure since the last war is that we have had various reports of the need to plan for, not just a shortage of clergy, but equally of the money to pay them.

Clergy are having to cope with impossible tasks; unless there is a bold and adventurous plan, whereby we use our human resources wisely and trust in the Holy Spirit, not only to maintain a pastoral ministry, but to reach out to the un-Churched.

This “cutting-back” is going on all over the country and is not the answer; we are on a road to decline and extinction if we fail to seek and implement the Spirit’s guiding.

We are forgetting that the Spirit is here, not only to guide us, but by the title “Comforter” is not to be like a nanny, but it means “strengthener”, so that if we listen to the guidance, we shall also be enabled to carry it out. 

“Come, Holy Spirit and quickly” for the time is short!


23 May 2021

Tomorrow's or Today's Church?

You may remember that I have told you that intelligent tests collected in the mid-40s directed at ‘teen-agers, revealed great gaps in the interviewees’ knowledge of the basic tenets of Christianity.

In answer to the question “Who was the Prodigal Son” the reply was “ Which band is he in?” and there were similar gaps when it came to asking about Jesus.

We can put this down, partly to the fact that Religious teaching pre-war, both in school and churches was often of poor quality, conducted by well-meaning but ill-trained volunteers, and using out of date methods.

For over three years, whilst coal-mining as a “Bevin Boy” I played the organ for the vicar’s afternoon Sunday School, and found myself accompanying such ditties as “We are but little children weak” or “ Above the bright blue sky” sung with great gusto by miners’ burly sons but none of them proceeded to Confirmation because there was no encouragement or reason to do so.

Another survey found that in the 1940s, 50% of babies born in England were baptised, of these some 16% were confirmed, but of these, 3 months later, fewer than 5% were still worshipping within the Cof E.

In my training parish, we usually presented 25 youngsters annually on whom the Bishop laid his hands, but of these we were doing well if if more than 3 were coming to Communion 3 months later.

In my final year at College (1952), a book considered to be a “ground-breaking” contribution to the debate was published entitled ”Tomorrow’s Church”, urging more attention be paid to the younger generation including  bright ideas, but we of the post-war ordinands thought the title altogether wrong. Why?

Simply because that younger generation was still treated as inferior in the attention paid to them by The Church.

We argued that because of their Baptism, they were full Christians and ought to be treated as such, admitting them to Communion at as early an age as possible.

In those days it was only the CofE that required this additional rite. The Roman Catholics had always given Communion to 8 year olds, the Easter Orthodox babies are given Communion (with a spoon) at Baptism, the Methodists allow the very young. We seem to be the only group who erect a barrier.

Under the Bishop of Ely (‘Ted Roberts once Archdeacon of the IoW as chairman), a positive report was submitted to General Synod, allowing Communion prior to Confirmation, but the decision was left to every individual Bishop, whether he/she would consent to this.

As a result, it has become an ecclesiastical mess.

At a meeting about “Outreach” some years ago, we were informed that approximately 50% of parishes in our Diocese had NO children worshipping regularly.

As we pressed for change we felt that the book title should have read “Today’s Church” and my experience has shown that unless we have parents and children worshipping (and receiving Communion) together, we shall have no one here to continue the witness in very few years.

As I wrote last week, experiments have taken place and have been successful.

Two or three years ago, the Easter Day Eucharist at St. Alban’s Abbey was full of families, with youngsters receiving Communion, giving them the sense that they were equally valued. Interesting that a priest who had pursued this policy in his own Dorset parish is now a Canon of the Abbey, so clearly it does work.

I’ll have more to say on this subject next week; all I am trying to do is to draw attention to the problem, possibly offering food for thought.


16 May 2021

Business as usual or exploring alternatives?

Could the first Christians, from information contained in writings by both St. Luke (Acts 20, vv7-12) and St. Paul writing to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 11, vv17-end) give us valuable insights into the conduct of the Eucharist?

Please read the Bible accounts contained in the 2 readings suggested and try and imagine how our early predecessors ordered their worship, based on the Lord’s Supper.

Gathered in a house, probably that of a wealthy convert (no church buildings as the Faith was persecuted until the 4 th century) the service took place in the evening (after work) and followed a reasonable meal, giving time for the congregation to gather prior to the worship.

When all was ready, extra lights were brought in that created the stuffy atmosphere, plus a long sermon by Paul, which sent the young man Eutychus to sleep, whence he fell, unhurt from the window sill!  This was a sign that the secular meal was giving way to the spiritual meal.

Luke emphasises how there were “many lights”. While this was taking place, a hymn (possibly “Hail, gladdening light”) was sung. “Many lights” in honour of Him who is the” Light of the world.”

There was no formal priestly ministry, but often the host would have presided, the sermon being preached by one who had the ability and authority to do so.

Usually, the day of worship was Sunday (the first day of the week), celebrating the Resurrection. (Lent fasting does not apply, the day being one of weekly celebration.)

The Corinthian Christians seem to have been badly behaved, with gluttony and drunkenness condemned by Paul in no uncertain terms.

However there is evidence that after the Eucharist, worshippers were allowed to take some of the consecrated bread home, enabling them literally to “Give us this day our daily bread”.

I am wondering whether this could be for people an “alternative” Eucharist, and as secular forces (because of the Sunday Trading Act) have taken over Sunday, particularly Sunday mornings, then this could solve some of our practical problems.

Now, everything possible other than worship takes place on the Lord’s Day, hence, youngsters are absent now from our churches and there is not a lot that can be done in the present, almost-pagan Society to rectify this.

An obvious alternative worship day could be Thursday, the evening of the Last Supper.

I am not suggesting for one moment that we abandon Sunday worship, but I do believe that we need to offer an opportunity for families to come at a suitable hour.

When I was caring for St. Michael’s, Swanmore, I discussed this with parents of our Mother and Baby group and there was a general opinion that this could be a way forward for them . . .   might it also be for us?

I realise that this would be a break with age-old tradition, but as congregations rapidly decline, it is clear that we need to wait upon the Holy Spirit in prayer and follow His leading.

To gain the best-possible advantage from such a change, our approach to Family/Community worship would require careful planning and possibly to take advantage of new guide-lines for giving Holy Communion to youngsters prior to Confirmation.

Our Lord’s final command was to proclaim the Gospel to all the world, making “Mission” a “Must”; is this a way we could do so? 


9 May 2021

I realise this is controversial, but experiments with considerable positive feed-back are taking place of which I am trying to make us aware.

How shall they hear without a Preacher?

A milestone was established this week as I am informed that this is the 100 th issue of “Jottings”, so thank you bearing with me. GCR

When a Commission was set up to plan evangelical strategy for the Church of England for the post-war years, there were arguments over its title.

However, its instigator Archbishop William Temple remained adamant that it should be “Towards the Conversion of England”, for he argued, quite rightly, that whilst many claimed to be members of the CofE, only a small proportion had any real loyalty to The Church and to the Gospel.

Temple was backed up by feed-back from military chaplains, who found themselves dealing with conscripts, who had no real idea of what, or who, Jesus was (and is).

A study of the 1944 statistics showed that no more than 10% of the population attended a church in the post-war era, and membership for most was nominal in the extreme.

During the intervening years, this has become more and more obvious in the scant attention that is given to Christianity in either the popular press or the media in general.

A quick glance at the TV schedules around Easter gave little or no space to Good Friday and a meagre offering on Easter day itself.

It is clear, that ignorance of the basic Gospel colours many people’s views on religion in general and the Church of England in particular.

If people fail to come to a church for worship because they have no idea what it is all about, how are they to be informed?

What is clear is that “Outreach” was not then, and equally so now, does not seem to be the driving force in most parishes’ priorities, yet Our Lord’s final command to His disciples (Matthew 28, vv 16-end) was to evangelise.

The Victorian Church began various “Outreach” projects from 1837 onwards with, the establishment of Church Schools, the building of churches in deprived areas and the establishment of Sunday Schools, plus various provision through youth groups, such as the Baden Powell organisations. Most of this has quietly disappeared.

My first incumbency was a parish that had numerous problems, where despite a population of more than 5,000 people, there was only a small congregation.

Being a printer by trade, my solution was the “Silent Visitor”, where at least at times around the primary festivals, a newsletter was delivered to every house in the parish, so that they might know exactly where Easter Bunnies, Mince Pies, etc. have religious relevance, dispelling some of the strange ideas that go for Christianity in the majority of the populace.

The truth is, that we need to answer some of the basic questions, such as “Who was, and IS, Jesus?”, “What is the Gospel (the “Good News”?), and so much more.

If I were to ask you “What is the Good News?” could you answer that?

I well remember being challenged by a regular church-goer who demanded “I’ve had enough of those teaching sermons,  Can’t you preach about anything else?”

Study St. Paul’s letters and you will find that everything that he wrote were ‘teaching’ letters, explaining the Gospel, often at great danger to himself.

My “silent visitors” went through the people’s letter boxes, giving me a chance to talk to them in a way that would have been impossible by normal visiting and after so many years of working this way in different parishes, it may be that this is something that we need to think about?

Something needs to be done. Otherwise, we fail the un-Churched if they are not made aware of what the Faith offers.


2 May 2021

Where do we go from here?

The end of the last war found The Church (of England) completely unprepared for dealing with thousands of people, whose lives had been turned upside-down and who now had to face all manner of challenges.

The Church’s message met doubt, fears and a bewildering way in which life would change.

What had appalled many priests who had met service men through military chaplaincies was the extraordinary ignorance of the average ‘teen-ager of the Christian basics; many of whom had probably attended Church Schools and Sunday Schools, yet without having any impact on their lives.

A thoughtful and revolutionary plan instigated by the late Archbishop William Temple entitled “Towards the Conversion of England” was abandoned with the sudden death of Temple, whilst the Church Assembly spent 10 years discussing changes in the Church of England’s  Rule Book (Canon Law)), while the  nation embarked on the gradual abandonment of religion to the almost complete secularisation of Christian and moral standards.

There was a lack of understanding that a huge reshaping of so many aspects of Christian life would be needed to convert what was only a lip-service religion about which the majority knew little.

Whose fault? A Church that had failed to take on board Our Lord’s final command (Matthew 28, vv16-end) that the embryo Church’s task was to proclaim the “Good News”.

Being ordained in 1952, I stepped into a Church that had failed to even attempt to change direction, and whilst preparing to pass legislation to ensure that church buildings would be kept repaired through a 5-year scheme of inspect and repair, The Church (the people) might not be there to fill them, and so we began our decline that is hastening every year.

This year, the TV schedules over Good Friday and Easter Day were bereft of much that once would have dominated them.

 Some ordinands ignored the “Conversion of England” concept (which incidentally suggested many actions that have since become acceptable), but strangely, most opposition came from the older clergy who found it challenging their predictable lives.

As you may guess. I, and many of the ordinands were aware that changes were needed.

The very strict theological college where I was trained, was firm on the work of Ministry and set out four “musts” which were:

1 Pastoral Care & Mission, 2 Presentation of the worship, 3 Loyalty to the Principles of the CofE and 4 Revival of the Healing Ministry within our parish churches.

You won’t be surprised that I and some of those with this approach set out to implement the “Conversion” principles as soon as we were given charge of a parish. In my case at the very unusually tender age of 30.

Earlier in the Church year we have the season of “Epiphany”, which translated means “showing” and through the Gospel accounts then we are “shown” the nature of God through Jesus’ words and actions.

I will try and make suggestions as to what a parish might do to awaken interest in the “Good News” by which we are offered eternal life and through the Cross can be made “children of God”.

“Lock down” has produced similar conditions to the post-war restrictions and all our lives have been affected, requiring a careful and even revolutionary approach.

T he Church was slow to adapt to the post-war conditions in the 1940s, we cannot be complacent now, imagining that we can just continue as if nothing has changed.


25 April 2021

What Lies Beyond?

Sitting in Wells Cathedral at Evensong at Eastertide about thirty years ago, Hazel (my wife) and I were intrigued to hear an aged Prebendary preaching, the subject being Heaven.

He obviously knew his subject well, encouraging us to think of a place where life would go on, just the same as before our death.

Yes, we would immediately find our loved ones, looking just as they had done previously; everything and in such detail that everything would be fine.

But, wait a minute, for the truth is, that Jesus refused to be drawn on such certainties ”Would we join up with our old friends and family?”

Our Prebendary had no doubts on the subject, with an affirmative “Of course”, but wait a minute, hear what Jesus had to say about this “They are neither married nor given in marriage” so if we study the Gospels we begin to lose confidence in what we had heard told so forcefully.

The truth is, that Our Lord gave us no details at all about the hereafter. He spoke of the Heavenly Banquet when we would all sit down to a celebratory feast, but this was not peculiarly Christian, pagan religions taught similar ideas.

Let’s dig a bit deeper, for post-Resurrection Paul, when tackled by Corinthian Christians enquiring “What sort of body shall we have?” gives us a simple but acceptable answer (1 Corinthians, chapter 15).

Charles Darwin discovered that all creatures had gone through a transformation in order to survive thus far and really, we need to ask “what kind of body shall we need to fit into our new environment?”.

Shall we need “fishy” bodies if we find that we are needing to swim, or develop legs capable of transporting us swiftly and safely on dry land, or perhaps have wings that we may fly among the heavenly host?

It seems clear that we shall have recognisable bodies, but of what form, for we believe in the Resurrection of a Body.?

For more certitude, I turn to what Jesus says in John 14, where He is more definite and encouraging.

The suggestion there in His conversation with Philip and Thomas, Jesus speaks of a journey where there are many “resting places” (NOT “mansions”) and we shall be led and shown the “heavenly ropes” welcomed on our arrival, and accompanied by Our Saviour. John 14, v 18 assures us that like a Junior child making his or her first entry to a new school, we will be supported, reminding me of when I had a friend who accompanied me as I stepped into this new environment of Sandown Secondary School with teachers wearing College gowns!

Speaking of “resting places”, Jesus is implying that there is a journey beyond the grave. that we shall make accompanied by Him so we need not be afraid.

Have a Happy and Socially distanced Easter.


4 April 2021

"He only could unlock the gate of heaven and let us in”

“He only could unlock the gate of heaven and let us in” wrote Mrs. Alexander in her well known Passiontide hymn; but, singing it, you wonder if what she is saying makes sense. It implies that Jesus had limited powers suggesting that “all He could do was open the gate”, when if she had put a comma after the word “only” it would have changed her message, that “He only, could unlock the gate of heaven” and why? Because He was God in Christ.

As the Athanasian Creed states: “Although He be God and Man: yet He is not two, but one Christ.

One; not by conversion of the Godhead to flesh, but “ by taking of the manhood into God” we are saying that humanity was glorified by being taken into God

Here we are immersed in the Doctrine of the Holy Trinity, whereby we are proclaiming that the baby borne to Mary is exalted to Divine Majesty with all His powers.

The reason that “He only” could unlock the gate of heaven and let us in is because He is not only the Carpenter of Nazareth’s son, but also exalted to Divinity yet remaining truly human.

Jesus laughed, and being welcomed into a feast attended by tax collectors and general sinners (Mark 2, vv15-17) He wouldn’t surely have been welcomed if He was a misery?.

His humanity comes to the fore when the manhood within Him shrinks from the torture that awaits as He prays in the Garden (Mark 13, vv32-42) and that terrible cry as He hangs in agony on the Cross “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

In so doing He echoes all who through countless generations have felt that they had no Saviour, all summed up in that terrible cry of anguish, and the tragedy that all who had promised to be faithful, including Peter, but above all, His Father had run away, leaving Him to die alone.

It is so difficult for us mortals to take “on board” this concept that the derided and spat upon figure stumbling under the weight of the cross is God in human flesh, or rather, humanity taken into the realm of Divinity to even imagine that cruel soldiers spat God in the face.

Here is true Divine humility, as the poet Faber in a Passiontide hymn could write:

“My God, my God!  And can it be that I should sin so lightly now and think no more of evil thoughts than of the wind that waves the bough?

And make me feel it was my sin as though no other sin were there, that was to Him who bears the world, a load that He could scarcely bear”. That is Divine Love.


28 March 2021

Jarge's Jottings by Year
2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018
Search Logo Facebook Logo Twitter Logo LinkedIn Logo Email Logo