Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Equality in the Church (4)

Local Preachers.
Continuing my observations I move now to the topic of Local Preachers and consider as in previous posts the topic based on my own knowledge and experience.
I suppose that we could expect equality among local preachers but if you were to ask me if there was equality I think I would have to say that I do not believe there is but then this is equally true in the other areas I have spoken about.
In my previous experience of Methodism (20+years ago) there seemed to be very much a pecking order with the longest serving preacher being spoken of as the senior local preacher. While I realise that this was referring to the length of service there was a perception that in the same way we have senior stewards who act as the lead person among our stewarding team this applied to the local preachers. The perception was not helped by the fact that this particular preacher who incidentally had not preached for a number of years was almost always the person who assisted the minister with communion and always played a lead role in the church anniversary celebrations. I note from most of the plans I have seen that preachers are listed according to their year of accreditation and remember a couple of years ago when there were proposals put forward to change this and list preachers alphabetically by name which was sadly defeated by local preacher feedback. From a purely personal point of view this change at the current time would mean that I would stay more or less in the same position on the list so there would be no benefit to me and it could be argued I have no particular axe to grind.
While I recognise that many of our preachers have been ‘on plan’ for extremely long periods of time I do wonder about the presentation of long service awards to preachers who are no longer active or have had a long period of inactivity. I am aware of one preacher who took almost a twenty year break but is still being considered for a long service award for forty years of local preaching, I am aware of another case where a 50 year certificate was presented and I am not aware of the person taking a service for at least ten years.
In respect of long service of preachers why do we not count the time they are on trial as part of their service, in my own case I would often take five or six appointments a quarter during my period on trial and prior to that I had been a visiting preacher for a number of years so have effectively served the Methodist Church as a preacher (local because it was in the area where I live and work) for many more years than the four since I have been fully accredited, and yes I know it could be argued I could have done the course much earlier, but it was only when we moved to our current church ten years ago that somebody immediately challenged whether I should be allowed to continue on plan as a visiting preacher. I really didn’t think this was an issue because we were not members at that time but merely attendees. As soon as we became members the wheels were set in motion for me to take the Faith and Worship course and yes I did take four years to complete but like many of our folk I have a family and a full time job as well as other church commitments. It seems to me that there is an inequality here when periods of inactivity can count towards long service but not periods of activity that were not within the ‘fully accredited’ status. I should say I suppose in case anyone thinks there are any sour grapes here that I would be 90 years of age before i qualified for a forty year certificate.
In respect of training of Local Preachers there is it seems a reluctance on the part of many preachers to embark on any sort of training once they have reached that ‘fully accredited’ status and I am aware of the requirements for those who complete Faith and Worship to embark on a program of Continuing Local Preacher Development I wonder how well this is applied or who polices it. I suspect there is an onus on the Circuit Superintendent and the Preachers Meeting to be involved but wonder how often or how much this happens. I am aware from conversation with other preachers and circuit secretaries that CLPD is not often taken up by the circuits and in fact we struggle with it greatly in our circuit. The Leeds (North East) Circuit have a very good website that is dedicated to CLPD http://www.preacherdevelopment.uk7.net/index.htm and it is well worth having a look at. I suppose there is a question of how do we encourage folk who have been preaching for almost as long as I have been alive to take part in any ongoing, on the job training. (I know local preaching is a calling not a job but I was trying to illustrate the point effectively).
I really do believe there should be a method of appraisal for local preachers, perhaps once a year and possibly something as simple as the same type of assessment that our local preachers in training are subject to. I always say I am quite fortunate because my wife is my fiercest critic and believe me she will certainly take me to task if she thought I had not done particularly well. I really do think though as good as my wife may be it would be helpful to have an independent assessment on what we are doing. Again in our circuit there is one church that I lead worship at where I know one member will always have some good in depth comments to make at the end of the service – I may not always agree with what is said but it certainly makes me think both in planning the service and writing the sermon and about what is said to me.
I am tempted to say that there is an inequality in the planning of local preachers but realise that this is partly because of the necessity to cover appointments quite often and the lack of evening services in some of our churches. It has to be said however that one of our preachers came to our church last year and said that it had been something like four years since he had preached at our church and yet during the same period he had been planned at his own church almost 50 times. He wasn’t really complaining but making an observation. I have to say in defence of the plan makers though that having planned a three circuit pulpit swap last year I have a little understanding of the difficulties involved and the things that have to be taken into account. On the subject of our planning and possible inequality there was a comment made at our last District Local Preachers meeting about the number of dates offered by preachers and how some folk seem to be out every week while others might only do a couple in a quarter. There were of course a number of responses to the point many of which were to do with the increasing age and often infirmity of our preachers but there were also some which indicated that some preachers had only ever offered two or three appointments at the most. Perhaps I am mad because I offer any dates when I am not playing the organ at my own church or already committed to preach outside the circuit and it should be said that wherever possible I commit to my own circuit first before taking other appointments.
I think finally on the topic of local preachers I am concerned at the lack of younger people taking up local preaching, and yes I know that there is a correlation between this and church membership but when I look at our preachers meeting there are possibly four people who are younger than I am, and at 54 I still consider myself to be reasonably young. I remember a couple of years ago there was a survey carried out and at that time the vast majority of preachers in training were in there late 40’s and I think 49 was the age with the most people in it. Obviously the age issue has a number of ramifications – some people find the course difficult because the method of learning is very different possibly from anything they experienced when they were younger – the potential for long serving ministers is curtailed as this is the route that ministers take and if the average age is 49 and then the person goes on to ministry training we are fortunate if we get ten years of ministry from such people – it does of course mean too that some of these preachers are less likely to give forty or fifty years service as many of their colleagues have done and are doing.
Well again a fairly long piece and I am not really sure how well it addresses the question of equality and I am sure there will be a whole range of experiences and situations in other places but these are some of the things I have seen and experienced and feel quite strongly about.
In closing I would recommend anyone who is having difficulties with CLPD to check out the Leeds website and if you have any ideas or suggestions of how you deal with CLPD I would be pleased to hear them.
This may be my last post of this year so can I thank all my readers especially those who have commented on posts during this year and wish you all a very happy and Christ filled 2009.

Monday, 29 December 2008

Equality in the church (3)

In my previous two posts I have already set out my reasons for these particular posts and as I have said these are thoughts drawn from my personal observations. I do realise that as with most things in Methodism there will be a range of viewpoints on any given topic but present these as mine, and who knows they may even start some discussion.
Synod and Conference.
In today’s post I thought I would give some consideration to both synod and conference and again I have attended both so feel reasonably qualified to have a view on both.
Starting with synod I have recently started attending synod after a 20+ year break and you can imagine that I was quite surprised to find that there were people at synod who were there when I last attended. I should perhaps just say that did not include the person from our circuit who has been going for almost 30 years apparently.
I looked around the room and I suppose in fairness I would have to say it seemed that synod was fairly representative of the majority of congregations that I visit and was probably more representative than when I attended over 20 years ago. Certainly 20 years ago I was the youngest person in attendance and in some senses felt very out of place a feeling that in some ways has not lessened. As I look around the room(s) there are two things that strike me, one is that people tend to sit in their circuit groups (safety in numbers?) and that it is little bit like a member’s only club with many people seeming to gravitate towards one another in the breaks but not necessarily engaging in conversation with newcomers like myself. I do feel that I am slightly invisible to the majority of synod members and those who know me will understand that it is not easy for me to be invisible given that I am a fairly big lad (hence fat prophet) and I am certainly not a shy retiring type. It does seem however that apart from the people I know at synod there is little interaction from other members and if I were twenty years younger I might be tempted to say I would not go again. The actual format of our synods is far better than I remember it and there seems have been a serious streamlining of the business allowing time for other activities such as workshops and presentations which on the three synods I have attended have been very good.
I do understand that lay representatives to synod are elected by local circuit meetings but I do wonder how much equality is exercised in this respect if one person is elected each year for many years or even volunteers for many years and gets the nod of the circuit meeting because other people really don’t want to be chosen. I always think these are the parts of our meetings where almost everyone looks at the floor and hopes the Superintendent doesn’t catch their eye. Apart from a reference to members of district committees I can find no mention of the six year rule in relation to membership of synod and it seems if this rule does not apply to synod membership then the same people could attend ad infinitum and it could be very difficult for ‘new blood’ to become involved and for the synod to be truly representative.
In respect of conference it could be said I had a meteoric rise to fame in this respect because at the first synod I attended in 1981 I was chosen to attend the conference in Plymouth in 1982. I hadn’t at that time developed the knack of looking at the floor and I was unemployed at the time so I think someone thought it would be quite easy for me to attend if I was still out of work by the time conference came around. In some ways I was very fortunate because I travelled and stayed in a house with Reverend Robin Napier who for many years reported on the conference for the Recorder, so was always able to ask those nagging questions that came up. The other good thing was that I sat next to Reverend Tony Kinch who seemed to know what conference was all about and certainly guided me on the best times to go for a coffee break (usually during finance and property business as I recall). I think it would be true to say I had a range of feelings and emotions in respect of conference some of which were good and some not so good. I have to stress yet again that these were my observations at the time and any references to the conference now will be based on what I read in the Methodist Recorder.
I think the first feeling I had in 1982 was absolute amazement when this voice seemed to come from nowhere and lead the conference in the singing of Wesley’s hymn ‘And are we yet alive’. I did eventually work out where it came from and I also found out that the person who did it was the ‘precentor’. I remember looking round the room and feeling a little bit like the poor relation – many of the representatives were dressed in their Sunday best which was far superior to my Sunday best, lots of them spoke very nicely, certainly not with a broad Black Country accent like me and again there seemed to be a lot of people who knew each other quite well.
There were a range of debates and some excellent speakers but I remembering saying to Tony Kinch that in one debate to do with unemployment the people who had spoken all appeared well to do and probably had never had a day’s unemployment in their lives. He said if I felt strongly I should go up to the podium and say something – sadly I was not brave enough at that time, now I would have no hesitation but of course with experience would probably be far more articulate.
There was also a rule at conference that you could not applaud and another highlight for me was when the President Rev Norwyn Denny during the singing of the hymn ‘I am so glad that our Father in heaven’ started clapping and was quickly joined by many of the conference representatives.
I am conscious that there was no great emphasis on equality all those years ago and I suppose the conference then was as representative as the systems and viewpoints of the time allowed, but what of today how much equality is there and how representative is the conference of the wider church membership? The simple answer is I don’t know but as the path to conference starts with the circuit meeting it could be argued that conference can only be as good as the basics allow. If we don’t get it right in the circuit this has a knock on effect on synod and ultimately on conference.
Because of the connection with Robin Napier who was my minister when I first started attending a Methodist Church I have always followed the reports on conference in the recorder with great interest and I am always intrigued by the fact that a number of names consistently appear across the range of debates at conference and wonder how equal the contribution from conference members is – I suspect the President has a similar role at times to the Speaker in The House of Commons in trying to ensure equity in contributions to debates on any particular topic. I am also aware that often the names that appear year on year are those representatives who are elected by conference. As far as I can see there is no restriction on length of service as a conference elected member of conference so effectively once elected someone could remain there until death removes them. I am not sure this gives any opportunity for equality given that unless you are well versed in the working of conference you may be tempted to vote on issues with the guidance of another member of the conference – I certainly did when I attended because in respect of voting for conference elected members I would not necessarily have know who they were. Perhaps if it doesn’t already exist the six year rule should be applied to these type of positions to enable a broader brush approach and perhaps a more equality based approach.
Well I seem to have written rather a lot here and on reading it back may not really have got down to looking at equality as was my own brief, but then perhaps I have because it has to start at the bottom and work up, we have to do the choosing of representatives to synod at circuit level so the onus is very much on us to ensure that the synod is being provided with people using equality rather than some of the other methods that might be used.
Watch out for the next post which will be about local preachers.

Friday, 26 December 2008

Equality in the Church (2)

In a previous post I gave a little bit of background to myself and my journey to where I am today from a church perspective as a lead in to some thoughts on equality following a post by Dave Warnock over at 42. In this post I make some observations of where I think we are in terms of equality.
This seemed like a good place to start as in a sense members are our most important factor – much is said in many places about declining membership and while that is not a topic I particularly wish to discuss it is fairly true that we are not as healthy in this respect as we were even ten years ago.
How equal are our members? In my experience not very much so! I get the impression that in many churches there are a few who decide on all the important issues, in some churches there is often a strong group of people related to each other who hold many of the key roles. In other churches people stay in roles almost indefinitely despite the ‘six year rule’. In our circuit we have just had a senior church steward step down after 30 years, and we have another one where a person who was senior steward for many years was made to step down by the application of the six year rule but would still appear to be in charge of things.
While membership of church council is open to all members do we again find the same group of people on there, do we do enough to encourage ‘new blood’ and when we get new blood are they able to understand the way the whole thing works, and if they don’t are they frightened to ask in case they look a fool. Personally I claim to be naive in respect of the ins and outs of Constitution, Practice and Discipline of the Methodist Church and will always raise a question based on this naivety. It works for me but then I tend to be able to hold my own in most situations while I am aware others are the more shy retiring type.
Again when we have new or younger people join our committees and councils do we treat them differently to everyone else? Do we think because they are young they know nothing? Do we almost treat them as total idiots? These questions are as true in life away from church I believe but I am certain they go on in church. I once saw a situation where a youth group of almost 70 young people shrank very quickly following a knock back at a church council meeting on a point they raised which was an exceptional good point to do with a process that made many of them feel uncomfortable. When the question was asked there were two responses one of which was the good old chestnut that makes everything OK ‘We’ve always done it this way’ and the other was ‘What do they know they’re only young’.
We had a situation in our church council recently where an item was under discussion and one of our younger members felt that someone else was intimating the younger person had no idea what they were talking about when in reality they were probably the most knowledgeable person in the room in respect of the topic under discussion. The young person now feels it is pointless attending the church council if they are treated almost as an idiot by some members.
There is much that goes on within our church lives that affects all of our members and yet there seems to be very little consultation with them and when there is I am not entirely sure it is fed back or acted on in the proper way by those doing the feeding back. In our circuit we have recently gone through the re-invitation process for our Superintendent and because it is a Superintendent each church was asked for their thoughts with the emphasis being on the churches he is in pastoral charge of and I believe that is rightly so. What does bother me though is that the timescale and the instruction only allowed for consultation with a few ‘key’ people with the decision on who key people were in the church being made by the representative from each church who was on the invitation committee. I see all sorts of dangers in this methodology and I am sure those who have commented on the situation in the Scilly Isles would probably agree. For me we have a situation where if the representative doesn’t like someone in the local church they do not seek that person’s opinion or conversely if it does not agree with their own opinion they can ignore it. There is then a danger that at circuit meeting the recommendation of the committee and the views of a particular church can be skewed because the person representing the church decides to vote how they think personally rather than how the church as a whole might think.
Now just in case people think this is very negative I have to say that it is very much based on things I have seen and have personal knowledge of – I am hopeful that there are other places where the opposite is true and equality rules OK in these things. I just think that there are many places where it could probably be argued we have a very long way to go before we could say there is anything like equality among our members. It is an area we need to work very hard at and we really do need to encourage and nurture the younger and newer members and perhaps listen to what they have to say without assuming because they are young or new they don’t know anything.
Anyway enough for now but more will follow – I may look at Synod and Conference next or even Local Preachers where I have a few thoughts as you can imagine.

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Christmas Greetings

Not sure if anyone will read this today but I have taken my wife to work and was sitting here thinking I never sent greetings to my readers so here goes. A very Happy and Blessed Christmas to you all.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Equality in the Church

This post stems from a piece by Dave Warnock (42) in which he considers the future of Methodism and a range of topics related to this. I responded on his blog to most of them but thought I would like to make a more in depth response to the question of equality. Detailed below is the comment Dave made in respect of equality.
5. Equality
We have some excellent theology that backs up our belief that all people can be called by God to any role within the Church and to make it impossible to discriminate on the basis of gender, race etc. However, we do need some significant steps to be made to in policies, procedures and monitoring to ensure that we do not allow discrimination anywhere through both prevention and monitoring.

1. What is equality?
I have heard many definitions of equality and I am not really sure that any of them hit the mark. I would hope that for most of us it is the recognition that each one of us is a unique person with individual needs, aspirations and hopes and that equality should take into account these things and not assume that we should all be treated the same. Equality is about more than dealing with people in the same manner because how you deal with me may not be appropriate for my wife. There is a view in some quarters that equality can only be equality if we treat everyone the same and you will appreciate that this is not my view from what I have already said here.
2. Equality in the church.
I have to ask myself does this exist. While I agree with Dave that there is theology in place that assists us with this issue the reality I think is far removed from this. As I have travelled through my church life I have tried very hard to observe what has gone on in each place and how equal we are under God. It should be said that certainly in the first chapel I attended I was still quite young but with the benefit of knowledge and hindsight I feel able to look back and make reasonably informed comment.
In my first experience of a Christian organisation it was very much a tight regime that was in place and would from what I know have been fairly standard practice in the Brethren church 40+ years ago. There was a definite separation of boys and girls in Sunday School with boys on one side of the building an girls on the other. Boys were taught by male teachers and girls by female and the female teachers all wore hats which of course was part of the thinking in this particular group at that time, as it was with other groups and supposedly based on the writings of Saint Paul. The ladies were not allowed to speak in church and as far as I can remember were not allowed to take any part. I have visited this church in the last year and find there have been some changes in that ladies are not all wearing hats or other headgear now but the men still seem to be firmly in charge.
My second church when I was in my mid twenties was a Methodist Central Hall which at the time had a large youth group of 70 or so members and other youth activities such as Boys Brigade, Brownies etc. The congregation at this church had people from other chapels in the town which had closed down but seemed to work together very well. At the time (early 1980’s) this was probably a very forward thinking church in many ways and I have to say within six months of going there I was a door steward and a member of the family committee and church council. This was followed by becoming secretary of the family committee and assistant youth leader as well as road manager to a gospel rock band that were based at this church.
We were probably more fortunate at this church than many as there was a wide mix of people on the various committees including a number of the younger people who were also for the most part church members. This was a good period and I think that in general terms I saw equality in action here with everyone’s views being taken into account most of the time and there not being the us and them that often seems to exist between younger and older groups in any walk of life. Meetings were run very much in accordance with the rule book (CPD) and in fact the minister always made a point of bringing the two black folders and placing them in full view before the meeting.
The equality seemed to end when the younger people challenged the way the bringing of gifts to the church anniversary was done and this I believe was the catalyst for the decline of the youth group at this church.
My next church was an Elim Pentecostal church where the church was run by the church session (all male) made up of the pastor and a number of elders and deacons. The ministry at this church was on a shared basis and one of the elders deacons would lead worship and the pastor would preach or vice versa. Again I had not been attending very long before I was involved with Sunday School and became a deacon which led to me leading and preaching. I suppose I would have to say that this church was similar to my first church in that ladies wore hats and did not speak in church unless it was to give a message in tongues or an interpretation. During my time at this church the pastor moved to another church and we had a new pastor come who was effectively a one man band – he did everything, he didn’t use the elders or deacons and at one church session meeting told us that we were in a theocracy not a democracy and that effectively his word was law.
We then moved to an Assemblies of God Pentecostal church which operated on similar lines to the Elim one except the wearing of hats seemed to have now become less of an issue and there was some involvement of ladies in leading prayers and reading but still no speaking or preaching activity. At this church as with the previous two I was asked in a very short time if I would preach and lead and we had a situation where the pastor, his son and I did the bulk of the leading and preaching.
My latest move was ten years ago when I moved to my current church and this is obviously a Methodist church which is to a great extent probably the place that I have seen more equality than any other that I have attended or been part of.
If I were to put the heading of this point as a question – Equality in the church? I think I would have to say that in my experience it is not or has not been very evident. Each of the churches has obviously been operating within the ‘norm’ for that church and while I recognise this I really do feel that the ladies in general have come out of all this very badly. I find it quite pleasing that there has been some movement in almost all of these denominations over the years but I think there is still quite a way to go to achieve anything like equality and certainly a way to go to achieve the priesthood of all believers.
More to come.
I am aware that this is a fairly lengthy post so I intend to end here with a view to returning to the topic in the next day or two and looking at the matter in more depth in respect of my experience of the Methodist Church. My intention is to consider a range of things including Conference, Synod, Committees, Local Preachers, Ministers (maybe) and how I see equality working or not as the case may be within these areas of the church.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Preparation for next post

I am writing a little bit about me to set the scene for a post that I am writing currently in relation to something Dave Warnock (42) posted on his blog the other day. I did post a response there to most of his points but there was one I did not.
My walk with God began at the age of four when I was sent to the Sunday school at the local Brethren Chapel where I attended regularly until I was 14. During this time I learnt much of the Bible and I was taught by some very godly men but I don’t believe I ever heard the gospel, or if I did I did not recognise it or respond to it.
I then spent Around 10 years away from church and was brought back initially by a persistent young man inviting me to go and hear a gospel rock band. I went to hear them and this led to the same young man inviting me to go to the youth group at the Methodist Church. I went along and began to attend services and then joined the church becoming road manager to the band and assistant youth leader. I very quickly seemed to get a number of roles including ,door steward, church steward, family committee secretary and representative to synod. In my first attendance at Synod I was elected as a representative to the conference in Plymouth in 1982.
Not long after marrying Shirley I moved to the Elim church in West Bromwich because I felt that was where God was calling me and had a great deal of peace about this move. We stayed here for around seven years and then felt that God was calling us to another Pentecostal Church in Darlaston and again we stayed there for seven years. At both these churches we were involved in a number of activities.
I had been a visiting preacher on the Walsall plan for some time and we both felt we had reached a point in our lives where we were not at peace and started to look for a new place of worship and tried one or two for a number of weeks until we arrived at Pleck one night at 6-20p.m. for a service we thought started at 6-30p.m. (that’s what the plan said) but it had been going for 20 minutes. The service stopped while we were welcomed and extra chairs added to the circle for us to sit on. We felt a real peace about being in this church and ten years later that is where we still are and we believe that we are in the place that God wants us to be.
You will see from this that I have been involved in five different churches during my lifetime and much of what I will be writing in my next post will be based on my observations of these various churches and wider things such as circuit meetings and synods.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

I believe and am Father Christmas!!!

My friend Methodist Preacher has a post on his blog asking whether British Methodist bloggers believe in Father Christmas and suggesting who might or might not.
He suggests that I believe in and have probably been asked to be him (Father Christmas) and he is absolutely right. I have played father Christmas on at least two or three occasions a year for around the twenty years until two years ago when nobody asked me.
It did make me realise thought that the last five years I had done this I had developed laryngitis each year around Christmas and I couldn't understand why. Two years ago I did not develop any problems and I wondered if it was something in the beard I used to wear that caused it. I tried the beard a couple of times last year and developed a tickly cough so although I enjoyed being the jolly red giant I decided it was probably best to retire from the job.
If you go over to Methodist Preacher's blog you can vote on whether you believe or not but be warned you might not get any presents for Christmas if you vote no. I voted YES to edge my bets (I am hoping for an electric shaver this year).

Friday, 12 December 2008


Hi folks, sorry to anyone who has commented and not seen a response either here or on other blogs I comment on but I have been in Scarborough for a few days with Shearings. This is the first time we have been on this type of holiday but it was a very good experience and the weather has been quite kind to us.
The drawback to all this is that I have returned home to lots of post and believe it or not over 200 emails (I only went on Monday. It may be a while before I get round to looking at blogs given there is a fair pile of snail mail as well.
Watch this space for some comment on the holiday.

Friday, 5 December 2008

New Methodist Hymnbook

I am fairly confident that many readers will know of the proposals for a new Methodist Hymnbook to be produced and that there is a group working on this.
In this weeks Methodist Recorder which I have received this morning there is a list of the proposed contents of the new hymn book. The list contains some questions that the music group are asking people to feedback on by the end of January 2009.
The list is also available on the Methodist Church Website at www.methodist.org.uk/newhymnbook

I will be looking at this closely during the next week and may comment again on it when I have.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Lights, camera, action!

Well not quite all three but I have noticed that there are a few more lights starting to spring up on houses and while I know some readers will complain about the waste of valuable resources, I have to say a I like to see them.
I live in a town where for many years there has been a light show in the biggest park in the town and this year they have recorded one of their worst attendances in the history of the event, this means the event is in jeopardy for next year. I went this year and was extremely disappointed with the displays, they all looked tired and jaded and even the laser show which has been a highlight in previous years was in my opinion very poor. the other factor I believe in the poor attendance was the continually increasing cost - in the past we went as a family twice, once near the beginning and once near the end but as the cost has risen we have now reduced to once.
When we came out I said to my wife that for me there had been nothing with a 'wow' factor.
I have already seem some Christmas lights on a house that have that wow factor that was missing at the illuminations in Walsall this year. I think that this is what is missing from Christmas as a whole the wow factor has gone as Christmas has become more and more commercialised and society has become better off. I am sure the new penny that was in my stocking each year when I was little made me make an exclamation such as wow. I wonder is that the experience of the shepherds and the wise men at that first Christmas in that little town called Bethlehem - better watch out I feel my Christmas Day sermon coming on.

New link added.

I have been to look at a new blog that I found via Doorman Priests blog. It is called Suffer the arrows and makes fascinating reading. Pop over there and see for yourself.