church

Hope

Today I'm thinking about Hope!

It's something we all need, especially when things aren't going so well for us or when we are lost, or when we are grieving.

As I explained in Sunday's daily blog, this evening in Jersey there will be a service of Remembrance and Thanksgiving to allow us to celebrate the lives of our loved ones who have died. It'll be a moving hour with some reflective and uplifting music, prayers, thoughts, readings and poems.

Since the coronavirus pandemic began in 2020, many of us may have lost people, loved ones, and we may not have been able to remember them or say 'farewell' in the way we may have wished because of the lockdown restrictions. But this service is also for us to remember anyone who was and is still important to us ...I've been privileged to produce the hour for Funeral Directors Pitcher and Le Quesne, so I've spent many hours looking at different poems and readings to inspire and comfort those who will be with us this evening.

One of the readings to be included in the service at St Thomas' (Roman Catholic) Church in St Helier is this one ... a profound 'thought' from Henri Nouwen, who was a Dutch Catholic priest, professor, writer and theologian who has left us a huge legacy of words.

Nouwen was a complex character and this is traced through some of his writings, and much of what he wrote about - faith, loneliness, self-esteem, acceptance and other personal struggles - helps us to identify with his and our humanity. I find his words and writings inspirational!

This is just one of Nouwen's 'thoughts' and if today you're struggling, for whatever reason, I hope this brings you some hope.

If you are sad - I wish you comfort and hope.

If you are grieving - may hope help you to see beyond the pain.

If you feel you are getting nowhere - may hope enable you to see into a future!

And if you're in Jersey and you wish to join us this evening at St Thomas' at 7pm, you'll be very welcome.

 

Hope Henri Nouwen

 

 


God in ....

For this Sunday I simply offer this prayer. 

From the Celtic tradition, it's a prayer which for many many centuries has been spoken - out loud and in the silence of a prayerful moment -  bringing comfort, challenge and inspiration. 

If you have  a moment or two today to think of the Divine and the Almighty ... may I humbly suggest that this might be a good place to start?

Have a blessed day!

God in


Not Lost in Translation

Do you speak more than one language?

Maybe you're multi-lingual or, like me, English is my 'mother tongue' and I only speak a smattering of other languages.

A little French - that's about it. I have a few words of Kiswahili, learned when I was a child in Africa. I can say 'good morning' and 'thanks' in a few other languages but not much more than that! I can't converse in any other that the English language. 

Although many people do speak English across the world, for which I'm very grateful, there are times when we go places and we find ourselves in need of help ... we may need a 'translator'. These days there are apps on our 'phones and tech devices that can help us to translate what is being said, but also there are those clever people who make their living translating from one language to another - helping others to communicate.

Today, believe it or not, is International Translation Day  - a day for recognising translation professionals.

But  why today - September 30th?

Well, today is a celebration of St. Jerome,  who is considered the patron saint of translators.

ThursdayJerome lived in the early part of the first century - born it's thought around AD342 or AD 347. He died on this day - September 30th - in the year AD420.

Jerome was a Christian priest, theologian and historian. He is best  known for his translation of most of the Bible into Latin (the translation that became known as the Vulgate) but he also wrote other commentaries on the whole Bible. He was also known for his teachings on the Christian moral life, especially to those living in cosmopolitan centres such as Rome in his time.  Interesting point -  he often focused his attention on the lives of women and identified how a woman devoted to Jesus should live her life. This came about because he was close to several female 'ascetics' from affluent families. 

His contribution to Christianity is so appreciated that Jerome is recognised as a saint and Doctor of the Church by the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Lutheran Church, and the Anglican Communion.

Today is Jerome's 'feast day' and also ... since 2017 ... a date set aside by the United Nations as the day when we recognise the role of professional translation and translators in connecting nations.  Apart from encouraging us all to celebrate their contribution, the United Nations today also stages an annual St. Jerome Translation Contest for translations in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, Spanish, and German.

I first saw translators in action when I lived in Africa - people translating sermons in church services without notes, just responding to what was being said from the pulpit! I've also seen translators work at conferences and that's amazing. They have to be so quick-thinking and alert, and the ability to listen to one language and simultaneously translate into another is a wonderful skill.

Helping others to communicate, to break down the barriers between nations and peoples, is an important contribution not just to relationships between individuals but also to peace and understanding in the world. 

Sometimes we think, arrogantly, that those who don't understand or speak OUR language must be somehow lacking. And I'm not just talking about French, Spanish, English ... or Swahili or any other 'lingo'! We expect them to be like us, act like us, fit in to our agenda - to 'speak our language' in lots of respects. And that means we may miss out on the diversity of difference. When we don't try to understand where people are coming from, let alone their actual words,  that's a shame.

So today, as we celebrate those brilliant people who help to actually translate conferences, and meetings and correspondence so that everyone is aware of what others are saying and thinking and imagining,  let's also ask ourselves whether we are making the most of our personal communications and interactions with others. Are we deliberately not attempting to understand others? Or is it just we're not paying enough attention or can't be bothered to put in the effort to see another person's viewpoint? 

If we are in danger of our relationships getting 'lost in translation',  let's determine to be better communicators, to work harder to understand other people's viewpoints.

Language is very important. Let's use our words wisely and understand the impact negative sentiments may have on another person. Positive words and actions can make us and others feel great and that sort of positivity is contagious. 

And if you do fancy learning another language ... well, why not give that a go as well?

What language might you learn?

Now that's a question.

 

 

 

 


Remembering Roy

Today I'm remembering a great man!

I was privileged to meet him just once ... as a young reporter in Jersey I interviewed him because he was the star of the annual summer parade - The Jersey Battle of Flowers.

Roy Castle was a HUGE personality, a star of stage, screen and TV -  musician, singer, comedian, actor, dancer and television presenter - he was a true legend.

Many will remember him because for years he became well known to British TV viewers as the presenter of the children's series Record Breakers

But before that he was well known for his roles on stage, television and film and because of his amazing musical talent - he was an accomplished jazz trumpet player but he could play many other musical instruments. He was also a person of great Christian faith and a family man - years after that meeting with Roy I actually got to know his wife Fiona ... what a lovely family!

I'm thinking about Roy today because it was on this day - September 2nd - in 1994, that he passed away aged just 62. I remember the shock of hearing about his death ... he had lung cancer but he had never smoked. He blamed his illness, which was diagnosed a couple of years earlier, on passive smoking during his years of playing the trumpet in smoky jazz clubs.

Roy was brave. Even in his final months and with his health declining he continued to work hard, including on the high-profile Tour of Hope to raise funds for the erection of the building that would become the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, the only British charity dedicated solely to defeating lung cancer.  Fiona continued to work with the charity after her husband's death, and campaigned for the British smoking ban which came into effect in Northern Ireland in 2004, Scotland in 2006 and England and Wales in 2007, banning smoking in virtually all enclosed public places.

What a legacy!

Sometimes when you meet your heroes, it's a disappointment because they turn out not to be the person you think they are.

But when Roy Castle came to Jersey in 1988 to be 'Mr Battle' at our island's annual floral parade, the highlight of the summer season, the Jersey Battle of Flowers - there was no disappointment.

He was JUST as lovely as I thought he would be. He was jolly and kind, and smiling. A consummate professional and actually a really nice chap. I  interviewed him for the local TV station - Channel TV (ITV) - and filmed him during the Afternoon and the evening Moonlight parades. I saw first hand how hard he worked and how brilliant he was with the public, and us media! There was no 'stardom' about him really - he was full of fun and laughed and chatted to anyone and everyone. People loved him!

That same year - 1988 - Roy presented a TV series for the ITV network which was also close to my heart.

Marching as to warIt was called 'Marching as to War' and it told the story of The Salvation Army, it's founders William and Catherine Booth, and explored all sorts of aspects of the work and music of the global church and charity Christian movement.

For me, as a young Salvationist and someone who was working in television at the time, it was exciting to see my church and it's history being shared with the world, and I was thrilled that Roy Castle - so empathetic and compassionate - presented that series of programmes and was able to bring something of his own personal Christian faith to the project. And I know, from talking to people who were in that series with him (some of whom I can still recognise on the films) that Roy was a pleasure and joy to work with!

A few years after the programmes went out I found myself living in Norwich where the series was made by Anglia TV. By the late 90's I was actually working in the network religious department at Anglia ITV. It felt like a circle was complete.

The whole 'Marching as to War' series is available on YouTube, thanks to my friend Rob Westwood-Payne, who also hails from Norwich and who is  now a Salvation Army officer, or minister.

Some of the footage is now rather dated. Times have changed ... among other things, the uniforms are different and some of us don't wear uniforms at all these days ... and of course the world has altered around us. 

But the message of Booth and his life-altering mission movement remains as strong today as back in 1988 when the series was made, and in 1865 when William Booth first set up his East London Christian Mission, which in 1878 would be renamed The Salvation Army.

So - if you have half an hour to spare - why not  sit back and enjoy this episode?

It's the one where Roy tells us all about 'Soup, Soap and Salvation' - one of the key message of the early Salvation Army ...

 




In His Hands

Life is a Roller Coaster - there's a pop song which expresses that sentiment isn't there? 

And it's true! 

Ups and down, valleys and mountain tops. And life can change very quickly. One minute things are going along nicely, then something can happen which changes not just the present but the future - illness, bereavement, new opportunities, unexpected meetings. 

I've been thinking a lot about that recently. 

Sometimes the change is of our own making, and we can plan the transition from one phase to another, but at other times life is beyond our control.  

Stuff Happens.

It's Sunday so I'm having a spiritual thought or ten, and I'm encouraged by the fact that whatever life might throw at me I believe I'm not on my own.  My Christian faith reassures me that wherever life might take me, God is there, even if I don't always take notice of him. Even if he allows us to go through challenges, he doesn't desert us. And when we have joys beyond compare, he's also always there!

I'm in His Hands!

There's a great song which I think I have been singing all my life. It's popular in The Salvation Army church and the words are profound and encouraging.

Originally written by an American Salvation Army leader and musician, (Commissioner) Stanley E. Ditmer and the words are so deep and yet the message is also simple...

I'm in His handsI shall not fear though darkened clouds may gather round me;
The God I serve is one who cares and understands;
Although the storms I face would threaten to confound me,
Of this I am assured: I’m in His hands.

I’m in His hands, I’m in His hands;
Whate’er the future holds, I’m in His hands;
The days I cannot see have all been planned for me;
His way is best, you see; I’m in His hands.

What though I cannot know the way that lies before me,
I still can trust and freely follow His commands;
My faith is firm since He it is who watches o’er me;
Of this I’m confident: I’m in His hands.

In days gone by my Lord has always proved sufficient,
When I have yielded to the law of love’s demands;
Why should I doubt that He would evermore be present
To make His will my own? I’m in His hands!

The song is in the Salvation Army Song Book (Hymn Book) and in recent years another brilliant songwriter and musician, Phil Laeger., has  re-imagined 'I'm in His Hands'  to another tune, using just the chorus which repeats that phrase and reassurance over and over. The interesting thing is that although it's a new tune, those who know the original melody to Commissioner Ditmer's classis song  will hear that tune coming through in the third rendition. 

This is a piece of music which I've listened to often in recent years, especially as my life has taken different and unexpected twists and turns. Life hasn't quite worked out as I might have planned but then I've been given opportunities which I might never have had if I had got all my 'dreams' and 'wishes'.

I don't know where in your Life's Journey you are today ... but I share this with you, simply hoping that it will bring you encouragement, comfort, inspiration and peace.

Happy Sunday! And Be Blessed!

 


Song on the Summer Breeze

Happy Sunday!

For those of us who are Christians today is, of course, known as 'the Sabbath' ... a day traditionally set aside as a day of rest, a special day.

These days, however, Sunday for many is a working day. So not much rest being had.

I've never had a problem working on a Sunday because in my line of work - journalism and broadcasting - it was a necessity. And many people in many professions also have no option but to work Sundays, including doctors, nurses, carers and other health professionals.

If you like your Sunday newspaper then someone has to work in the shop to sell it, and if you enjoy a Sunday lunch out at a restaurant, then those who cook and serve your meal will, of course, be working the Sabbath. Our actions and decisions impact on the ability of others to set one day aside for rest.

For many years when I was working for at BBC Radio Jersey, I presented the Sunday morning Breakfast Show, which is still focused on all things spiritual in the island. And during that time I learnt that the 'sabbath' can be interpreted in various ways.

Although many would say Sunday should be kept special, because it's a day for church and spiritual things, I think that the main point is that us humans DO take at least one day to rest from the turmoil and 'busyness' of life.  Whatever day that might be. We can't keep working day in and day out without a break. Because we WILL break after a while.

And as for meeting God on Sundays, well of course, we can meet God any day ... every day actually ... and at any time. Although on the sabbath maybe we take more time to feel the presence of the Almighty, we can do that anytime.

Whether or not you are a person of faith, today I share these words with you which I think we can speak, or pray, whatever the time of day, whatever the day of the week.

I hope by the time you lay your head on your pillow to sleep tonight, your heart will feel lighter, your mind will be clearer, your bones will feel strong and your heart will feel like singing.

Be blessed!

Song on the Summer Breeze

 


What we Love ...

Most of us, even if we're not religious, may have heard of St Francis of Assisi.

You know who I'm talking about ... the 12/13th century Italian Catholic friar, mystic and preacher who is best known these days for being the Patron Saint of Animals because of his close association with nature and the natural environment and animals. 

In addition,  his 'Prayer of St Francis' ... Make Me a Channel of your Peace ...  is now widely known as a Christian prayer for peace.

It was on this day - July 16th - in 1228, just two years after his death, that Francis was canonized by Pope Gregory IX

But did you know that one of  the first followers of Francis was a young woman called Clare, who was actually born on this day in 1194?

Clare, like Francis, hailed from the town of Assisi in central Italy and was from a rich and ancient Roman family whose homes included a palace in Assisi. Clare would have been brought up in the Roman Catholic faith and apparently was very devout even as a child. Although undoubtedly she would have been destined for a rich marriage, instead when she was what we would now call a 'teenager', Clare decided on a religious life.

She apparently heard Francis speak at a church service during Lent, the period running up to Easter, and was inspired to give her life completely to God. She was just 17 but on the evening of Palm Sunday, 20 March 1212, she left her father's house and, accompanied by her aunt Bianca and another companion, went to the chapel of the Porziuncula in Assisi to meet Francis.

There, so history tells us, Clare's hair was cut, she removed her rich clothing and instead took on a plain robe and veil, indicating that she was turning her back on her previous life of luxury and was committing herself to a life of poverty and service to humanity.

Her father was furious. He tracked her down at a convent in San Paulo near Bastia where she had been placed in the care of Benedictine nuns ... but she refused to return home, and continued to profess that she would have no other 'husband' but Jesus Christ. She implored Francis to send her to an even more secluded religious community  - Sant' Angelo in Panzo - where she was soon joined by her sister Catarina, who changed her name to 'Agnes'. Both Clare and Agnes would eventually be canonized!

They remained with the Benedictines until a small dwelling was built for them next to the church of San Damiano near their hometown of Assisi.  Here Clare and Agnes gathered other religious women around them, they lived a life of poverty and seclusion from the world and they became known as the "Poor Ladies of San Damiano". Later, ten years after Clare's death in August 1253, it would become known as the Order of Saint Clare. These days the contemplative order of nuns is in 75 countries across the world but it began with just one woman and a vision from God.

While the Franciscan friars travelled around the country to preach, Saint Clare's 'sisters' existed in isolation from the world, where they lived a life of manual labour and prayer. They were barefoot, slept on the ground, ate no meat and observed almost complete silence. At one point the Pope of the day,  Gregory IX, offered Clare a 'dispensation' from the vow of strict poverty. She declined, and eventually the Pope instead granted them something called the 'Privilegium Pauperitatis' — a ruling that nobody could oblige the Clares to accept any possession. 

It's hard to imagine these days, when we're so wrapped up in belongings and 'stuff' and 'freewill', that a live of solitude and austerity could be appealing ...  but in fact Clare and her followers inspired many to join them, including more members of her own family.

Another sister, Beatrix, also joined the order and after their father's death, their mother Ortolana also entered the convent at San Damiano which followed the Franciscan monastic religious order. It was here that Clare would write their  Rule of Life, which are believed to be the first set of monastic guidelines known to have been written by a woman. 

Many words of wisdom have passed down the centuries from St Clare but I think one of my favourite thoughts from this wise Woman of God are those below.

It's such a profound thought, and could have been written for the 21st century. 

I invite you today to read these words, and reflect, as I am doing.

What is it that I 'love'? What is shaping me?

Is it 'things', possessions, power, status, money?

Is that what is shaping our lives?

Or is it just simply ... love? Compassion for others? And maybe God? 

It's a tough one ... and although it might not necessarily mean a life of seclusion and poverty, it might help us to think about what is important in our lives and what we hold dear!

 

St Clare of Assisi


When I am ...

I mentioned yesterday that this has been a mixed week for me.

Lots of exciting and new things happened but also, on Wednesday just past, a man who I admired and loved left this earth.

I worked for the Rev Dr Joel Edwards in various capacities over the years and he was not just a boss, but a mentor and a friend.

He was well known across the world and in the UK and not just for his leadership in many different fields of life, including where I first worked with him, at the Evangelical Alliance UK. Click on the link above to read more about this tour de force of a man, a person of great Christian faith and vision, with a passion for the poor and unity among nations and peoples. He was a writer and speaker who inspired, and so much more!

After the EAUK I also worked for Joel on the Micah Challenge ... an international campaign tackling issues of global poverty, specifically working towards the Millennium Development Goals ... and on the EXPOSED campaign, which challenged global corruption which is one of the major contributors to poverty across the world. As International Director, Joel and the people he gathered around him challenged politics and big business and corporations. He was brave and working for him was inspiring.

Joel Edwards made the world a better place. On this death this week his family released via social media a beautiful letter he had written, knowing he was soon to go to his Eternal Rest. It was a heart breaking, but also a challenging, inspiring and uplifting final message especially for those who knew and admired and loved him,

Joel lived life to the full, loved his family and friends well, worked exceptionally hard on everything, including those causes to which he was devoted. Joel Edwards did in many senses change the world. Not just on a global scale, but also for those of us who were privileged to have shared time with him. He laughed and smiled, and prayed and laughed again with a big grin that wrapped you up in its embrace.

Thank you Joel. I feel honoured to have known you! What a legacy you have left, and that will continue in the lives you touched, the campaigns you led and the movements you spawned and supported. And of course, through your family. 

Most of us don't think much about dying. Why would we when we are wrapped in up in living and enjoying life?

But it's moments like this, when people like Joel leave us, that perhaps we may think about our own mortality.  Maybe it's at times like this we ask ourselves serious questions like ...

What difference am I making in the world?

What does my life actually mean?

Am I so wrapped up in 'stuff' that I'm missing something really important about what my life could be and mean?

Certainly this week has made me think again about the purpose of life and what we leave behind as our 'legacy' ... which led me to write these words... 

I'm still thinking about it all ...

What I leave behind

 

 

 

 


The Story of Brave Men

This week has been an exciting one in Jersey.

Among other things, we had a Royal Visit.

HRH The Princess Royal (Princess Anne) did a whistle-stop tour of our lovely island. And although we've had a very damp week, actually on Thursday we were blessed with glorious sunshine, so that was brilliant especially for all the islanders, including hundreds of children, who came out to greet her.

The Princess Royal opened our newest school (the fabulous Les Quennevais School) and a new sports training facility, and visited the Jersey Zoo ... she's the patron of the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust.

Waterloo memorial St Saviour's Church JerseyBut for me, her most important duty during the day took her to St Saviour's Church where she unveiled a very special memorial plaque in the church.

In St Saviour's Churchyard in Jersey there are many interesting stories. In 2018 I spent many months wandering around the graveyard with the then Rector of St Saviour, the Rev Peter Dyson, who was investigating the people laid to rest there.

This resulted in a series of 26 episodes broadcast by BBC Radio Jersey and it was fascinating. I learned so much.

As a result of his research, Peter found many dozens of men who are connected to the Napoleonic era... the Napoleonic and Peninsula Wars, including the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. Men were found who fought on the British side and even one who fought under the French emperor. It's thought St Saviour's is the resting place of more Napoleonic and Peninsula Wars veterans than anywhere else in the world. It's astonishing that so many veterans of these campaigns eventually found their way to Jersey.

In 2020 a book was published which outlines their stories - 'Napoleonic War Veterans Buried at St. Saviour’s Church, Jersey' edited by one of the world's leading experts in the period, William Mahon.

Napoleonic & Peninsula Wars memorial Oct 2020In Autumn 2020, a memorial was placed in the north Lady Chapel of the Church but the unveiling of the plaque was a year delayed because of the COVID19 pandemic. Finally, this past Thursday, June 24th 2021, that memorial was unveiled by The Princess Royal ... there was a special church service and colourful celebrations including lots of children and members of the Jersey community.

In October 2020, just before Rev Peter Dyson retired as Rector of the parish, I returned to the churchyard at St Saviour's Church to talk to him about the memorial, some of the stories it told and the importance of the research.

This was played in two parts on the BBC Radio Jersey Sunday Morning Breakfast show on October 4 2020.

Here is the complete story. 


*images from St Saviour's Church Jersey Facebook Page

 

 


Send the Fire!

Today is Pentecost in the Christian church!

Happy birthday 1Which means it's quite appropriate for me to shout to the rooftops ...

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!

... especially to all those Christians out there! 

I know what some of you are asking - Why 'Happy Birthday'? 

Well it's because this is the day that we recognise the 'birth' of the church, that movement which started when the handful of  followers of Jesus Christ way back 2,000 years ago received the courage and momentum to take His message to the world. It's a BIT more complicated and theological than that ... but that's the gist of it. Please feel free to do more reading if you want!

Pentecost is celebrated on the 50th day, the seventh Sunday, after Easter, when Christians believe that Jesus came back to life, even though his followers and many many more people had seen him die, hung on a cross outside of the city of Jerusalem on the day we now call 'Good Friday'.

After that first Easter Day when Jesus was resurrected, his disciples, his 'Apostles', saw him many times over a period of weeks, not as a ghost but as a real life walking around breathing human being. He appeared to them among other things to encourage them that even though he would not physically be with them in the future, God would still be with them through his Holy Spirit. This meant that even though Jesus was no longer on earth, his message of love and compassion and reconciliation with God and our fellow human beings, would continue.

Jesus finally 'ascended' back to heaven - that momentous occasion is marked on Ascension Day - and ten days later, the disciples were back in Jerusalem celebrating the Jewish Feast of Weeks (Shavout), when they experienced something extraordinary, supernatural and empowering.

The fire of the Holy Spirit fell on them ... this is described in the New Testament of the Bible in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2:1–31).

This is what the Bible says happened...

Pentecost fireWhen the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit ... 

This coming of the Holy Spirit gave Jesus' followers not just the encouragement and courage, but also the power, and some of the skills they would need to take his message out, beyond what we now call The Holy Land, and into the wider world. It really was the moment when the 'Church' as we know it began.

THAT'S why Pentecost ... the coming of the Holy Spirit ... marks the Birthday of the Church!

Down the centuries, the Holy Spirit has inspired many many many millions of followers of Jesus to share his Gospel of love and compassion, and to make a difference in the world.

The events of Pentecost have also inspired many songs and hymns which not only tell of the coming of the Holy Spirit to our world, but also celebrate the changes that can happen in individual lives and communities when the Spirit of God moves among us. Those songs include one penned by the co-founder of The Salvation Army, William Booth,  who was a bit of a poet apart from anything else, which is a favourite for Salvation Army worship meetings, and not just on Pentecost.

The song was originally set to a different tune which is still sung in The Salvation Army but it was re-worked by a composer/song writer called Lex Loizides and has become a popular hymn across the wider Christian church and is sung especially on this Sunday.

So, to celebrate Pentecost, let's just enjoy this fabulous song ... here it is sung by the masses of people attending a Stoneleigh Christian Conference.

If you know it please do sing along.

Enjoy! and Be Blessed!