Wednesday, 28 January 2009

New online - the February Parish Magazine

I've just completed the setting up of our latest issue of St. Cuthbert's Parish Magazine. It still has to be taken to our printer - but you can see what's in it by accessing the online edition here.

We hope, nevertheless, that you'll still buy one / subscribe if you're within easy reach of a hard copy (when it appears).

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul

The Hall's Car Park proved a great success with church-goers this morning - only one car parked outside the official parking bays!

In church Rosie Junemann preached on the subject of today's Feast - the Conversion of St. Paul. You can find the sermon here.

There's an interesting discussion of how the Conversion is depicted in the art of Caravaggio by Martin Warner in the Church Times. I'm including both the pictures to which he refers.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

After the mud

I'm sorry if I seem to have become a bit fixated with work going on around our Hall to provide a new car park. It's not been a matter of re-surfacing, because there hasn't really ever been a proper surface as far as I can see... more a case of mud mixed with spare tarmac from any local project which the contractor has kindly rolled into said mud.

Now that's all gone - and we have a shiny new surface (just wait till you get some frost on that, said one of our neighbours). It's even marked out with proper bays - eager anticipation of whether anyone will use them! How long will it be before advice is given that we could have got another two or three spaces in there?

But it's a brilliant piece of engineering. And we've at last been able to erect railings round the window well which were commissioned 10 years ago when we put the extension on the Hall. They look a bit battered, but that's because it's nine years since they were painted, and they've been stolen from our craftsman at least once during the time he's held them in storage. So thanks to him - Tad Jurowski.

For getting this latest project complete thanks to our local Derwentside District Councillors who found the funding, and to Trevor Watson and the Engineers' Department who have see it through. And I've enjoyed the huge machines we've had on site...

We look at the landscaping next (depending on how much is left in the Budget)....

And for our next project... we've almost finalised the plans to complete the Hall basement renovation and the new extension meeting room. We just need the money.

For people who think this is taking a long time, we only started in 1881 - and there was a pause in building work between 1898 and 1999. Compare this with the building of the Cathedral in Milan - begun in 1386, completed 1965. This latter information comes courtesy of "The Tablet" which this week carries an interesting article on the "artist-in-residence" scheme in our own Durham Cathedral, itself built in a mere 40 years... Actually there has been the odd bit added since, but the fact is we can never think we're finished and stick our feet up. Everything is a work in progress - or should be.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Second Sunday of Epiphany - Hearing the Call

This morning didn't get off to the best of starts. We woke to find light snow had fallen and then frozen. For Church Bank and its 1 in 5 approach downhill to St. Cuthbert's this is problematic. Fortunately things were not as bad as a couple of weeks ago when three cars had to be towed away after a driver lost control on the bank. And after our 8a.m. start, we dared to think that there might be a thaw by the time of the 10a.m. Eucharist.

But there wasn't! In fact by then conditions had become still more treacherous underfoot. So while sturdier members of the congregation waited by the gate to offer an arm to those less confident on their feet, my own priestly preparation involved carting shovel-loads of salt up and down the road. Thankfully everyone got into church safely (though at least one person went down between his own front door and his car). And even after we got off to a late start, people kept coming in - rather a larger congregation than anticipated!

A problem the congregation has at the moment is where to park. The good news is that our Hall's Car Park, across the road from the church, is in the final stages of preparation for the laying of the new tarmac surface - hopefully on Wednesday. There's much anticipation - most of the kerbs seem to be in place and the mud of the picture is now covered in a thick layer of yellow "hard core."

Actually everyone seemed to be in good spirits this morning. Baptism and marriage bookings are off to a good start considering it's only January. And I've just found that a member of the congregation has posted a re-telling of one of the jokes from this morning's homily on Facebook. It wasn't original, so I can't complain. And if you want, you can read it here.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Work in progress

An expanse of mud, clinging to the side of a steep hill. That's the current appearance of our car park. But the good news is that it's on the way to a transformation. What there was by way of surface has now been scraped off and hard core layers and kerbs are being put in. Two giant sycamores which blocked the view and the main access to our new hall extension have been removed, so that the paths and disabled access will actually become usable. We hope there's going to be enough money to landscape the grounds surrounding the Hall. And the Guides and Brownies will hopefully get an area where they can light their camp stoves (but not on our new tarmac!!!).

Business as usual

Our monthly "Second Tuesday" Lunch Club was back in action today - with the most excellent cottage pie you could imagine. There are over thirty regular members, some of whom make their own way to the Church Hall, others who get picked up and bussed in... and a contingent which comes from Shotley Park, one of our local residential homes. It's a change of faces and an opportunity for people who might be largely housebound to mix into the wider community.

Raffle tickets are always much in evidence. The draw can take an age due to the large numbers of prizes and the repeat winners who shout out, "I've won once - put it back in!"

The Baptism of the Lord

The year has started in quite a busy fashion at St. Cuthbert's. We've already celebrated a wedding, booked another and a baptism, and sadly there are a number of funerals to deal with here and in neighbouring parishes.

We kept Epiphany itself (the Coming of the Magi) on 4th January - my homily was off the cuff so it's not to be found in written form. I remember relating it to Pantomime and everything ended up as a bit of an interactive dialogue ("Oh, yes it did!"). And the pantomime I'd seen the previous day was excellent (Theatre Royal in Newcastle - "Robsinson Crusoe and the Caribbean Pirates").... I love this time of year.

The Epiphany season goes on throughout January and is focused very much by the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. You can find the sermon (illustrated and) preached by Paul Heatherington, one of our Readers, here.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Happy New Year

A very happy and blessed New Year to all who read this.

We can't avoid the world's sorrow as we see it depicted in the news media. Last Sunday we kept the Feast of the Holy Innocents, a reminder that even as we celebrate the birth of Christ, the Prince of Peace, the forces of violence and fear are a reality: in the massacre of all those young children in Bethlehem two thousand years ago; and today as Israeli and Palestinian confront each other with weapons of death... not to mention ongoing conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Darfur, Somalia and the menace of fear, famine and disease in Zimbabwe. Read what Rosie Junemann, one of our Readers, had to say when she preached last Sunday.

Today, of course, is another Feast Day. For most Christians it's the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God - the reminder that God in his good purpose comes to us in human flesh, and works that purpose out in human flesh, calling for the free consent of Mary that she should be the Mother of his Son. For Anglicans it's the Feast of the Circumcision and Naming of Christ - the reminder of a ritual on the eighth day following Jesus' birth which makes him part of a covenanted people. At St. Cuthbert's we try to remember the whole of that... together with prayers for the New Year. Our prayer is that we can keep God in the human picture, make our human response to a divine calling, and be faithful in seeking for this world the peace and healing that is God's will.