April Magazine

This is the thirteenth Parish Magazine on St Mary's website. 

As always thanks to all who have contacted us, please keep in touch  and send us comments and articles for inclusion.

May we wish all our readers a Happy and Blessed Easter

Pauline & Bob - co editors..

Updated 31st March 2021




Dear Friends,

 Easter is coming, and we are able to celebrate together in St. Mary’s at last.


Last Easter we were at the beginning of the first lockdown. Then, I imagined that after a few weeks things would be back to normal.  Little did anyone know Covid would spread so far, become so various, and last for twelve months, and still counting.


All have endured something, and many have endured much. Common to all has been a deep sense of anxiety. This arises in part, I think, from the great extent human knowledge has attained. We have heard so much about the virus and its ever-changing character, the development of the various vaccines, the variations in R-rates, and so much else. The rapidity with which government guidance changes, again, reflects the sophistication of our technology and public information. All this, far from bringing certainty, makes us ask fearfully: what next?


Neither has knowledge brought us peace, whether within us or without. Necessary though government restrictions are, what we have been told contradicts our nature. We know well enough that if everyone were to sever contact with all others completely, then the virus would stop. Is it in humanity’s power to do that, at least without severe distress? Don’t we feel deeply upset by the thought of not visiting elderly parents and relatives? Again, it has not been within the power of scientists or governments to control all the consequences of the pandemic.  What if someone loses their job or their business? And, as we know too well, our best hospitals cannot save every life from an ever-adaptive virus.


We see the great expanse of human knowledge and the great sophistication of human skill, and yet we know how very far they fall short of our needs.  


All this may seem to have nothing to do with religion. That impression may be strengthened in that Christian truth has figured but little in the media coverage of the pandemic. Yet belief remains and faith remains.  It is Christian belief in God that gives His people an understanding of the world at its worst, and trust in Him.   It was into a world which had a high view of its own knowledge and sophistication, but which was yet a very imperfect world, that Christ came. He bore and He bears all the anxiety, all the distress, and all the humiliation of mankind on His back. He bore them as He walked up to the Cross. He bears them as He brings us out of the Valley of the Shadow of Death. It is because there is an Easter Day that even amidst things as they are, we can celebrate and sing ‘Halleluiah to the Lord’.  




Random Ponderings by a Recognised Parish Assistant


Spring is here! And every gardener knows what that means, especially if (like us) there are quite a few shrubs about. It's pruning time, and last month that meant a pretty big job in our back garden. Our shrubbery has been badly neglected in recent years and looked more like a jungle, with unwanted suckers and saplings coming up, a sprawling willow bush elbowing other plants out of its way, and ivy and brambles clambering all over the place. I bought a pruning saw, took a deep breath and went to work, with a well-known Bible verse coming to mind: 'Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit' (John 15:2). God is a gardener – it's a picture used more than once in the Bible – and one of his main jobs, it seems, is pruning.


My greatest concern was our poor magnolia bush. Magnolias, in fact, need very little pruning themselves, but can be overwhelmed by more vigorous plants around them, and that is what was happening to this one. Pushed over to one side by huge willow branches, invaded by some tall sapling that had planted itself right next to it, and half-smothered in ivy – every year it has faithfully borne us its lovely display of delicate pink flowers, but it wasn't going to survive much longer like this. It needed light, air, and room to grow. The pruning saw got to work, cutting back the overgrown willow. The unwanted sapling was felled and the ivy carefully clipped away, as I tried my best not to damage the magnolia itself. In the end, only one small magnolia branch had to be removed, so tangled up with other growth that I could not clear it any other way – and the job was done.


Maybe God, the gardener, is like that sometimes. We are told that he 'will not break a bruised reed or quench a smouldering wick' (Matthew 12:20). So when, as it were, we see him getting out his pruning saw – when life becomes strange and scary, and we don't know what is in store for us – we need not be afraid. He sees our struggles, and our faithfulness as we still try to live the way we should. His skilled and gentle hand knows where and how to tend us, and he longs to free us from all that comes between us and the sunshine of his love. When he is done, we will bloom and blossom as never before.


The past year has been a hard time for the church, and for all of us – a scary time, a pruning time. But God is the gardener, and he knows what he is doing. And Spring will come again.


                                                                                                                        Hilary Longstaff


Archbishops in the Spectator: Church in changing times

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have recently written an article for the Spectator magazine, responding to the recent media coverage asking: ‘Where is the C of E?’

The Archbishops say: “Let us offer an answer. … the Church of England has been a bedrock of faith, love, hope and compassion in this country for centuries through wars, plagues and pandemics — we still are, and we will go on being just that.

“You can imagine our shock, then, when we read in the media about what is supposedly happening…  That the parish system, with its beautiful vision of serving every inch of the country and every person in it, is being systematically dismantled. That clergy are being made redundant. That there are plans to somehow centralise everything and for services, even beyond Covid, to be online rather than in person.

“So let us try to set the record straight. There are no plans to dismantle the parish network. We are committed to our calling to be a Christian presence in every community.

“…Yes, there are hard decisions currently being made across many dioceses. Overall some stipendiary posts will be lost. …But the aim is to make each parish and each Christian community sustainable. If that doesn’t happen, there really will be no Church of England.

“…There are rascally voices around who want to undermine the church — it was ever thus. But the real story is that we so believe in that vision of serving every inch of the country, and every person in it, that we are having to expand what it is to be the church.”


Closure of Acklam Branch of the Mothers` Union

St Mary`s Church branch of the Mothers` Union opened on Lady Day 1931 with over 70 members. It met on the first Tuesday afternoon of each month. When more ladies became employed in 1950s a young wives group was started and met monthly on a Thursday evening. As the young wives matured and no new members joined the group it was merged with the Tuesday afternoon group in 1994.

In addition to interesting talks, a summer outing was enjoyed each year and M.U. charities were supported by an annual garden party, coffee mornings and jumble sales.

I was privileged to be appointed as leader of the branch in 1991 with 58 members. However decreasing numbers due the passing away of stalwarts and few new members, the current membership is reduced to 6.

Consequently, following consultation with the remaining members and Norma, our Vicar, it has been decided, with deep regret, that the branch should close.

It has been an honour and privilege to serve as leader as part of a wonderful organisation.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Jean Pagan   


Virtual Lent Lunches


At the time of writing Lent is “virtually” over and we can reflect on what has been a very different period of prayer, abstinence and giving during Lent. We would like to thank all those who have participated in the virtual Lent lunches every Wednesday on Zoom, and also to all those who have generously given in lieu of attending a physical lunch in the Church Hall. All the money given this year will be divided between our Church and the Middlesbrough Food Bank.


There is still time to donate, so money could be brought to church on Easter Sunday (or subsequent Sundays) in an envelope marked ‘Lent Lunch’, however, if you don’t feel able to attend church for the time being, we are happy to receive donations through our letter box at 48 St Mary’s Walk TS5 7RZ.  


Thank you all - Jill & Tony


St Mary's Vestry Meeting and AGM 2021

The Vestry meeting is held to elected two churchwardens.


The annual parochial church meeting is held to receive reports from various church organisations and to elect Deanery Synod representatives and four PCC members.


This year the meeting will have to take place by the end of May, and due to the covid restrictions it has not yet been decided as to whether it will take place in church or via Zoom, like last year.  The date, time and place will be on the website and Facebook page once it has been clarified.


All can attend the meetings but only those on the electoral roll are eligible to vote .


Could all church organisations who are submitting a report, please do so by the end of April via email to Brian Livingstone emailExternal link opens in new tab or windowbrian.livingstone1234@outlook.com  or Pauline Simpson email:  External link opens in new tab or windowpauline.simpson3@ntlworld.com   



April 1st         Maundy Thursday Communion Service      7pm via Zoom


April 2nd        Good Friday Liturgy  3pm  via Zoom

                                                                7pm  Stations of the Cross  via Zoom


April 3rd        Stations of the Cross  7pm via Zoom


April 4th         Easter Day   10am     Holy Communion  IN CHURCH


April 7th         Wednesday Private Prayer 2pm – 3.30pm IN CHURCH




Canon Paul Hardingham considers the eternal promise of Easter

Easter Hope

“So many people right across the country are anxious about employment, anxious about food, isolated from loved ones and feel that the future looks dark.”  These are words from the Archbishop of Canterbury’s sermon on Easter Day 2020. Who would have thought that we are experiencing the same uncertainties this Easter!

Yet the Easter story remains one of hope overcoming darkness and despair. The women arrived at the tomb on Easter morning with mixed emotions, as they came to anoint Jesus’ body. ‘But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away.’ (Mark 16:4). They were confused, as they tried to make sense of Jesus’ death. Their hopes were dashed with an uncertain future. In the current pandemic, we too are left asking: Where is God in all this?

The young man at the tomb reminds them that God is still in control: “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him.” (Mark 16:6).

The women had forgotten Jesus’ promise to the disciples that He would die and rise from the dead. Jesus’ resurrection is also the sure foundation of hope for us in the present crisis. He turns our confusion and fear into joy and wonder! We can trust Jesus’ plan for the future of our world and lives, despite the fact that things can’t return to the way they were:

“There needs to be a resurrection of our common life, a new normal, something that links to the old, but is different and more beautiful. We must dream it, build it, make it, grasp it, because it is the gift of God and the call of God.” (Justin Welby).



19th April:        Alphege – the archbishop taken captive by Danes

Alphege is the saint for anyone who refuses to let others suffer on their behalf.

His is a tale of courage and self-sacrifice, with some details that are still poignant, even down 1000 years of history.

Alphege began like many other leading churchmen of his time; born of a noble family, with a good education, he decided to become a monk. Alphege joined the Benedictine Abbey at Deerhurst in Gloucestershire, and then became a hermit at Bath, before becoming Abbot of Bath. From there, he was appointed to be Bishop of Winchester, where he was loved for his frugal lifestyle and great generosity towards others.

In 954 King Ethelred the Unready sent Alphege as a peace envoy to the Danes, seeking some relief from the constant Viking raids against England. Alphege secured a time of peace, and in 1006 was made the 29thArchbisjhop of Canterbury.

But the Viking raids increased again, until the south of England was largely overrun. In 1012 they surrounded Canterbury, and with the help of a treacherous archdeacon, Elfmaer, captured and imprisoned Alphege.  A vast sum was demanded by his captors, so much that it would have ruined the people of Canterbury.  And so Alphege refused to be ransomed.

This infuriated the Danes, who wanted the gold of Canterbury, not the Archbishop. After seven months of ill-treating him, one night they got very drunk and began pelting him with ox-bones from their feast, until in a frenzy they hacked him to death with an axe.

Alphege was mourned as a national hero and venerated as a martyr: he had given his life in order to protect his people from harm.



The Ven John Barton reflects on God’s mercy and judgement. 

The coming Judgement Day

As the Nicene Creed puts it, “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and His kingdom will have no end.” This phrase echoes numerous passages in the Bible.  Here’s one: “I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.” We get one go at this.

In the British legal system, there is an unusual provision for the Court itself to appoint a Counsel to represent a defendant who doesn’t have one and is facing serious charges.

Something like that is implied in some of the biblical descriptions of Christ’s intervention on behalf of humanity: Jesus Himself is described as our Advocate: “But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.”

The late Lord Hailsham, a distinguished lawyer who became Lord Chancellor, was asked how he would face God when he died. “I will throw myself on the mercy of the Court,” he said.

On Good Friday, the most sacred day of the year, when God’s justice and mercy are intertwined, I take heart for myself and the whole human race by meditating on this text: “There is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all people”. [1 Timothy 2]

On Easter Day when church bells ring out to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from death, we do not forget the immense cost of God’s perseverance with us, for Christ’s body continues to bear the scars of Crucifixion. Nor is this the end of the matter.




Around November time last year, I heard about an exciting partnership project between our church, Tees Valley Community Church and The Message Trust which is based in Manchester. We already had a number of strong links with The Message through our Eden projects and schools’ work, so I knew them to be a mission focused organisation committed to loving people and transforming lives through the power of the gospel.  The project was a Community Grocer to be based on Ragworth in Stockton.  The idea had been born in Manchester in the autumn following on from the charity’s provision of meals for school children in the local area during lockdown and school holidays.  The need for affordable food was huge which was the perfect opportunity for the church to show the practical love of Jesus whilst offering people dignity and choice through shopping rather than relying on food parcels.    The vision for the grocers was to meet not just the physical need of hunger but also to create a sense of community where there was always the offer of an introduction to Jesus and the gospel.

The partnership plan gathered speed and by Christmas the plans for the Grocers were firm and I was asked if I was interested in applying to be manager.  My thirteen years working in Sainsbury’s, my volunteering as a mentor/friend to learners on our courses at 3:Thirteen which is our church training provider, and my general love of people and chatting seemed to come together perfectly in this role!  It was a leap of faith to leave a job -which whilst I didn’t love, was secure and familiar – to step out into something brand new but I felt very strongly that God was in this and He was calling me to get into the adventure with Him.


I was appointed to start on 1st February with a six-week lead into the shop opening.  At this point, there was no shop!  An assistant manager was appointed – the amazing Paul Conner – who lives in Ragworth and is the Eden team leader on the estate and we set to work learning about the vision and getting the practical things in place.  What a roller coaster!

With a lot of hard work and a lot of prayer, the Community Grocer Ragworth opened on 15th March in a portacabin in the car park of The Shack on Dover Road in Ragworth which is our Eden building on the estate.  The principle is very simple … shoppers buy an annual membership for £5 which then entitles them to two £3 shops a week.  Suppliers provide us with redistributed surplus food, including fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as packaged and canned goods.   Shop stock varies week to week based on supplies, but a typical shop includes five pieces of fresh fruit or veg, five canned or boxed items, one or two freezer items, two fridge items, a bread item and two non-food items such as toiletries or household goods.  Eggs and milk are also available at a small extra cost.   We also use local donations too and this is one way that our partnership with TVCC comes alive with people able to serve into the project through giving donations of food or money, through praying for us and our customers and also through being one of the fantastic team of volunteers who run the shop with us each day and invest in getting to know our community of shoppers.

So, we opened last week and we already have over 200 members.  Each day was busy and lively with a steady flow of people coming to see what we were all about and inevitably signing up and joining the community.  By Friday, the vast majority had returned to do their second weekly shop.  This is exactly what we want because this is the way we will build the relationships and trust that will enable us to offer more than just a great value shop.  We can offer wellbeing courses, debt advice and training courses that lead to recognised qualifications through the partnership work with TVCC and also the option to explore Christianity through courses such as Alpha. It really is a hugely exciting project, and I am just loving being a part of it and I’m expectant for all that God will do through the Community Grocer.


If you would like to know more about The Message Trust and their vision for a network of Community Grocers across England,

follow this link: External link opens in new tab or windowBringing Food For All Across The UK                                                                                                             

                                                                                                                                                                                      Andy Malbon - Manager


Why Easter will never go away

How do you make sense of the Resurrection? Dead men don’t rise, so why believe that this particular dead man did rise?

At the end of St Luke’s Gospel we read that: “they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement” (Luke 24.4). This is highly significant. The Gospels do not show us a group of disciples who were in a receptive frame of mind. After the crucifixion, they were in hiding, frightened and scattered. Then suddenly, they came out of hiding and were totally different; excited, joyful.  By Pentecost they were confident, with one firm message: ‘You crucified Jesus, but God raised Him up!’

How did they know this? Because of direct personal experience. Some of them had visited the tomb of Jesus: it was empty. Others claimed to have seen and touched the risen Lord. Were they hallucinating? People can hallucinate in groups – when taking drugs, for example. But of course, each one will see a different hallucination. But the disciples all saw the same thing. Or rather, the same person.  Jesus.

Were they lying? Jesus had died a humiliating death as a criminal. Perhaps they wanted to rescue His good name. So, did they pretend they had seen Him?

This theory has a big problem. Their preaching led them into trouble with the authorities. They were beaten and imprisoned and some of them killed. People will die for ideas and causes which they believe in passionately. But not for things they have made up.  We might suffer for our convictions, but we will not suffer for our inventions.

What about the ‘swoon’ theory? That Jesus didn’t die on the cross, despite terrible wounds? That He recovered in the tomb, and then escaped? That the disciples nursed Him back to health? But Roman soldiers knew when a man was dead; and there was the guard on the tomb. Also, the events which followed simply don’t fit. If the disciples had been hiding Jesus all along, they would have kept very low-key, and out of the way, so that the authorities did not come after Him again.

Besides, to preach that God had raised Jesus from the dead – which is exactly what they did preach – would have been a lie. Beatings and threat of death would soon have loosened their tongues. Inventions crumble under pressure; convictions hold fast.

Another reason for believing in the Resurrection is this: Jesus’ continuing impact.  Thousands and soon millions of people in every generation since have shared an inescapable sense of being ‘accompanied’ through life. Though unseen, they identify this presence as the Risen Lord.

Sometimes this experience of meeting Jesus is gentle and fitful. Sometimes it is dramatic and life changing. This reminds us that the resurrection of Jesus is not just an interesting historical puzzle.  It is a vital, present day reality. It brings wonderful comfort, assuring us of the central Christian truths: death is dead; Jesus is alive; God is love.

This central notion was captured, most movingly, by the great Albert Schweitzer: ‘He came to those men who knew Him not. He speaks to us the same word: “Follow thou me,” and sets us to the tasks which He has to fulfil for our time. He commands. And to those who obey Him, whether they be wise or simple, He will reveal Himself in the toils, the conflicts, the suffering which they shall pass through in His fellowship, and, as ineffable mystery, they shall learn in their own experience who He is.’

Have a joyful – and a challenging – Easter.




  1. Where is the largest Easter egg museum in the world?
  2. When were Cadbury Creme Eggs introduced?
  3. What was Simon of Cyrene made to do by the Romans?
  4. A sign was affixed to the top of the cross stating "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews" which according to the Gospel of John was written in which three different languages?
  5. The world’s tallest chocolate Easter egg was made in which country? 
  6. Every year on Good Friday the Pope commemorates the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross), which is held where?
  7. Since Easter is not a fixed holiday on the calendar, it is known as what type of feast?
  8. The large white candle that is blessed and lit every year at Easter by the Western Churches is called what?
  9. The traditional Easter flower is what?  
  10. Every Easter Monday the town of Haux in France uses more than 5000 eggs to make what giant item for the town to enjoy for lunch? 
  11. Brazilians create straw dolls (which are to be hung in the streets and beaten) to represent who?  
  12. In Sweden it is an Easter tradition for the children to dress up as what?
  13. Due to its twists resembling arms crossed in prayer, what savoury snack was associated with Easter?
  14. The spices inside hot cross buns signify what?  Spices used to embalm Jesus
  15. Who was said to be the first person to have seen Jesus alive after his resurrection?  
  16. Bermudians celebrate Good Friday by flying homemade kites which is said to represent what?
  17. The Pope performs the annual Holy Thursday act of feet washing on how many people?
  18. What does the tenth Station of the Cross represent?
  19. The Easter Islands form part of which country?
  20. How much did the most expensive hot cross bun cost? 


April Crosswords Clues (answers next month)



8  ‘He poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the — ’ (Isaiah 53) (13)

9  ‘When they had sung a hymn, they went — to the Mount of Olives (Matthew 26) (3)

10 Comes between Galatians and Philippians (9)

11 ‘Your heart will — and swell with joy’ (Isaiah 60) (5)

13 Muslim holy month (7)

16 Ten ears (anag.) (7)

19 Under (poetic abbrev.) (5)

22 How Abram described himself to God (Genesis 15) (9)

24 ‘Go to the — , you sluggard’ (Proverbs 6) (3)

25 Debar from receiving Communion (13)




1  My — for His Highest (Oswald Chambers’ best-known book) (6)

2  Festival of the resurrection (6)

3  ‘His sons will prepare for war and — a great army’ (Daniel 11) (8)

4  ‘Let not the — string his bow’ (Jeremiah 51) (6)

5  Name of the River Thames in and around Oxford (4)

6  ‘From then on Judas watched for an opportunity — — him over’ (Matthew 26) (2,4)

7  ‘But Christ is faithful — — — over God’s house’ (Hebrews 3) (2,1,3)

12 Long-handled implement used to till the soil (Isaiah 7) (3)

14 Order to which monks and nuns devote themselves (8)

15 Appropriate (Proverbs 15) (3)

16 I, uncle (anag.) (6)

17 ‘They gave him — — of broiled fish’ (Luke 24) (1,5)

18 ‘Weren’t there three men that we — — and threw into the fire?’ (Daniel 3) (4,2)

20 Mountain where Noah’s ark came to rest (Genesis 8) (6)

21 ‘Don’t you know that friendship with the world is — towards God?’ (James 4) (6)

23  Prominent architectural feature of large cathedrals such as St Paul’s (4)

Send your answers with your name to  External link opens in new tab or windowstmarywestacklamwebmagazine@outlook.com


Answers to March Crossword



ACROSS: 1, Planet. 4, Rugged. 7, True. 8, Augustus. 9, Attitude. 13, Bed. 16, Participation. 17, War. 19, Hillside. 24, Baldhead. 25, Bede. 26, Census. 27, Arisen.


DOWN: 1, Path. 2, Adulterer. 3, Tract. 4, Rigid. 5, Gust. 6, Exude. 10, Irish. 11, Uriel. 12, Esau’s. 13, Blindness. 14, Deny. 15, Spew. 18, Awake. 20, Ideas. 21, Lydia. 22, Odes. 23, Lean.


Winners:  Peter Warren and Mabel McGurk..   


Rearrange these letters to form the names of 12 well-known football grounds. Answers may consist of one, two or three words. Don't be misled by the Welsh look of some of the anagrams - all the grounds are in England!


1.     FINDALE   2.     GOTHAM DULIFIST    3.     LLANDODREA   4.     BYL MEWE   5.     KORIN GASPODO   6.     DIRE VIRES   7.     GORBIL HUSHLO


8.     RIK DAPPER   9.     LLANMAARBLE    10.   BROM TREFASGIDD   11.   KIRPLVAAL   12.   DOLDAFF TORR         



March Anagram answers:     Winners:        Bill Davison, Wyn Hirst and Mabel McGurk


1.         CONGREGATIONAL   2.         UNITED METHODIST   3.         ROMAN CATHOLIC    4.         SOCIETY OF FRIENDS   5.         UNITARIAN


6.         PRESBYTERIAN   7.         BAPTIST   8.         PLYMOUTH BRETHREN   9.         UNITED REFORMED   10.       PENTECOSTAL

                                                                                                Compiled by Peter Warren

 Send your answers with your name to  External link opens in new tab or windowstmarywestacklamwebmagazine@outlook.com



Canon Paul Hardingham considers our patron saint.

St George’s Day

The film How to Train your Dragon is set in a Viking village under attack by dragons, who steal livestock and burn down houses. Hiccup, the village Chief’s son, invents a machine to capture them. However, when he catches the most dangerous one, Night Fury, he cannot kill it. This is because when he looks into the dragon’s eyes, he sees that he is just as frightened as himself. Through their friendship, the people and dragons eventually come to live in harmony.

It’s appropriate to think about dragons this month, when we remember St. George, England’s patron saint, famed for slaying a dragon. Whether he actually killed a dragon is open to question! We do know that the original George was a Roman soldier at the time of Emperor Diocletian. He refused to renounce his faith, as commanded by the Emperor, resulting in his death on 23 April 303 AD.

So, we have here St George who slayed a dragon, while Hiccup refused to kill one. They seem like opposites: one a brave soldier and the other a weak boy! However, both acted according to their conscience, going against what people expected and not worrying about the cost to themselves. St George was martyred for standing up for his faith in Jesus, while Hiccup risked rejection by his father and village because of his compassion.

Today, we are still called to stand for Christ against wrongs and injustice in a daily life, despite the personal cost. We need to look into the eyes of apparent enemies and meet their hostility with love and compassion. And for all of us the most important place where we need to slay evil is in our own hearts. Don’t forget that we have the power of the Resurrection at our disposal!


Lessons of Lockdown

This past year may have altered your perspective on life.  Some of the following statements may be worth thinking about….

  • Life is precarious
  • A nurse is worth more than a professional footballer
  • Spare time isn’t a waste of time
  • A smile is precious
  • Being alone isn’t the same as loneliness
  • Hard work doesn’t guarantee employment
  • I’m spending more on food & drink and less on church & charity
  • Silence opens us to creative ideas
  • Social media are a mixed blessing
  • Shopping needn’t be addictive
  • Driving less and walking more is good for humanity
  • Isolation teaches us we need each other to generate energy
  • Getting back to ‘normal’ isn’t God’s plan for the human race
  • When everything else is shut, God is open


Thy Kingdom Come global prayer movement’s plans for 2021

Thy Kingdom Come, the ecumenical prayer movement for evangelisation, uniting Christians in nearly 90% of countries worldwide from the Ascension to Pentecost, will be run differently this year, from the 13th-23rd May.

Thy Kingdom Come – which is led by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, and has attracted the support of His Holiness Pope Francis in recent years – will offer a selection of new resources and ways in which worshipping communities can participate – despite ongoing COVID-19 restrictions.

New resources for 2021 will include an 11-part family-friendly animation series; video reflections from influential Christian voices such as Bear Grylls, Bishop of Dover Rose Hudson-Wilkin and Archbishop Angaelos, and this year’s Prayer Journal, penned by the Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell.

A special video message from Archbishop Justin Welby, who will be on study leave during this year’s 11-day prayer period, will also be shown.

While prayer for evangelisation remains at the heart of Thy Kingdom Come, this year the resources are designed to encourage worshipping communities, families and individuals who may have struggled with the idea of Church at Home.

For families, there is an 11-part children’s video series called Cheeky Pandas – packed with Bible stories, prayers, animation, worship songs and interviews with special guests including Adventurer, Bear Grylls, CBeebies Presenter Gemma Hunt, Revd Nicky Gumbel (HTB and Alpha) and Pastor Agu and Shola (Jesus House) to name a few. The video series (which will be available from early April onwards) can be used as part of church at home, gathered church (online and offline) and in school assemblies. Similar to last year, the series will be the main content in the Family Prayer Adventure Map and App.

For Youth, Thy Kingdom Come are working with the Archbishop of York’s Youth Trust to produce a selection of youth resources including a series of video reflections from young influential Christians such as the current Methodist Youth President – Phoebe Parkin, rapper and author – Guvna B, Worship Leader- Elle Limebear, Spoken Word Artist – Joshua Luke Smith and many more.

Other new resources include the Prayer Journal, written by the Archbishop of York, – aimed at inspiring readers to re-encounter the love and joy found in Jesus Christ and this year’s Novena.

The award-winning Thy Kingdom Come app, available in nine languages, will for the first time, include audio content from 24-7 Prayer’s Lectio 365 with audio reflections from Pete Greig, Archbishop Justin and 24-7 Prayer GB UK Director, Carla Harding.

This year Thy Kingdom Come is also giving away 100,000 copies of the Prayer Journal and Family Prayer Adventure Map to UK churches, as long as P&P is covered.

Emma Buchan, Thy Kingdom Come Project Director, said: “We really want TKC to inspire people in their relationships with Christ, and to resource children and young people in fun, spiritually nourishing ways.

“We hope and pray Pentecost is a time of great joy after what has been such a challenging season.”

Now in its sixth year, Thy Kingdom Come has grown from an initial call to prayer from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to the Anglican Communion, to a worldwide ecumenical prayer movement.


Churchyard update


About two or three times a year our editors collar me, the conversation normally goes like this…Lomas we need an article about the work being done in the church yard by the garden group, followed by, not one of your rambling missives just give us the basic information!


Well, this year I thought I would do a short article without being asked!


First report of progress in the churchyard 2021 - short and to the point   No work carried out!


On a more serious note, this is due of course to the government restrictions which prevent groups meeting together; obviously we have to comply with this and at the time of writing these restrictions are still in place.


But looking to the future, the lifting of restrictions as the vaccination programme rolls on is very much a topic of discussion and things are changing quickly.


So, garden group members and anyone else who would like to come along, please keep reading our online Parish News, because as soon as restrictions are lifted you will be hearing from me.


Now is the time to sharpen your shears, and clean your spades and rakes, because my ‘To do’ list is getting longer as each month passes by - you have been warned!!

I look forward to our Saturday morning gardening sessions, especially our chats at tea break time and of course doughnuts!!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Barry Lomas


The Ven John Barton considers a beloved, national institution….

100 years of the PCC

It’s a hundred years since parish churches gained the power to run their own affairs, separately from what we now regard as local government.

The religious affairs of a parish, as well as its secular business had been controlled by a single committee, which met in the church and was known as the ‘Vestry’. Then, in 1894, Parish Councils were formed to deal with secular matters; the Vestry continued to oversee church affairs until 1921, when Parochial Church Councils (PCC) were established. People still get confused by the two.

Churchwardens have been around since the 13th Century and legally ‘own’ the movable contents of the church. They are meant to maintain order in the church and churchyard, with the assistance of their staves, if necessary. In the event of serious disorder today, a mobile phone might be a safer instrument, with staves reserved for ceremonial occasions!  Churchwardens are now chosen by parishioners, though the Incumbent (ie Vicar or Rector) has a limited right of veto.

Today, anyone on the Electoral Roll of the church (sorry, this is another confusion, for the secular Electoral Roll is entirely separate) can attend the Annual Parochial Church Meeting, which elects the PCC. The Incumbent is an ex officio member, as are other licensed clergy and Churchwardens, members of the Deanery Synod, plus any member of the Diocesan Synod and General Synod who lives in the parish or is on the Roll. The Incumbent chairs the PCC, which elects a Vice-Chair and appoints a Standing Committee to transact business between meetings.

The purpose of a PCC, which must meet at least four times a year, is to consult together with the Incumbent “on matters of general concern and importance to the parish”, and that includes the “whole mission of the Church”. Did you know that changes to the forms of service, or the vesture or the minister, can only happen after consultation?

Inevitably, money and building maintenance take up a lot of room on the Agenda, though we all know they are less important than mission.  It’s a real challenge for every PCC member to pray for non-churchgoing parishioners and to find imaginative ways of introducing them to Christ and His Church.

If you’ve got this far and are a member of your PCC – congratulations – you are a hundred years old this year! 


On the best way to run a church council meeting


The Rectory

St. James the Least of All


My dear Nephew Darren


Thank you for inviting me to speak at your church council yesterday. I began to suspect that my theme of why Eusebius’s dislike of Sabellianism led to his condemnation at the Council of Antioch in 324 was a little misjudged, when the only question I was asked after my lecture was if Eusebius was on Facebook.


I never realised how much technology is needed these days just to discuss church matters. It seemed that everyone had brought their laptop, so they could refer to all the diocesan briefing documents and reports that you mentioned. I’ve been in the diocese 40 years and have never heard of most of those papers.  But then I find it too easy to delete the diocesan mailings, unread, with a click of my mouse.


Our church meetings are far more traditional. Since the church floor seems to have been carved out of permafrost, our meetings circulate round members’ houses. This introduces a nice element of competition, as each host tries to outdo the previous one in the baking of cakes. Meetings at Colonel Drinkwater’s – a more inappropriate name one cannot imagine – are the shortest, since we are always promised wine once the meeting is over. It is remarkable how unanimity is achieved on every subject within minutes, and nothing appears under “any other business”.


Mrs Eddington never troubles us with minutes, largely because she can rarely read the notes she takes. She just shares with us whatever she can decipher at our next meeting. Last month, she accidentally brought her shopping list instead, and so read that out. There followed a lively discussion on whether carrots from our local shop were better than those at the supermarket. When it was found out she intended to use them in a venison casserole, endless recipes were keenly debated.


We always leave our church meetings well fed, up to date with village gossip, and totally untroubled by any church council business. And the lack of any minutes ensures that I can then make all the decisions myself, between meetings. I think you will find our system has much to be commended.


Your loving uncle,



The good news about your forgetfulness

You know the scenario – you go into the lounge, and then wonder what you wanted. Or you need to make a phone call but can’t find the phone. You go to the cash point and forget your pin number.  Or your car keys are lost in the kitchen, but even when you find them and go shopping, you forget stuff on the list.

If at times you find yourself living in an annoying brain-fog, the good news is that it is not because you are ill or getting old.  To varying extents, everyone does it.

A recent study at the University of Edinburgh has found that forgetfulness is as common in people in their 20s as it is in people in their 50s.  Although some of the people in the study were worried about getting dementia, a neuropsychiatrist at the university reassured them: “People think that if you are starting to forget things – something like misplacing your keys – that is something to worry about. But it is normal.” 

Good reasons for forgetting things range from the fact that too much was happening in your life at the time, you were stressed about something, not paying attention to what you were doing, or just too busy thinking about something else entirely.


Marcus Aurelius – Stoic philosopher and Emperor of Rome

Some 1900 years ago, on 26th April 121, Marcus Aurelius, Emperor of Rome (161-180 AD) and Stoic philosopher, was born. He was the last of the rulers known as the Five Good Emperors, and the last emperor of the Pax Romana, an age of relative peace and stability for the Roman Empire.

He had been marked out as a future emperor at the age of 17, being related to several prominent establishment families, but he actually ascended to the position when he was in his 40th year.

His biggest interest was Stoicism, which emphasised fate, reason and self-restraint, and his works are still read. But he was not a great innovator, and at his death the Roman Empire was in deep crisis, both militarily and from a devastating plague.

Marcus had cleared away much of the harshness and anomalies in Roman law, but he disliked Christians. He did not initiate persecution, but he did nothing to stop it, and it seems that Christian blood flowed freely during his reign. On his death he was deified by the Senate.

Philosophically, he had spiritual virtues. He said: “Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.”


Thank God for dentists

Here is something gruesome: last year the sale of DIY dentistry first aid kits nearly doubled. People actually attempted to give themselves lost fillings, caps and crowns.

Most popular were products that offered ‘long-lasting’ temporary repair for caps and fillings, and a first aid kit.

The British Dental Association understands why; because of lockdown, there were 20 million fewer dental treatments available last year than in 2019.  That left some people desperate.

But experts warn against the damage that could be done. Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the Oral Health Foundation, says: “DIY home dentistry is a terrible idea and should be avoided at all costs. Home treatments in untrained hands … can lead to permanent damage to your health.”

The good news is that dental surgeries are now back to relative normality.  So – book an appointment if you need one!


Baby news!


Congratulations to Margaret and Malcolm Dabbs and Norma Dent who have become grandparents again!  Toby George was born on 7th March to Rachel and Michael Dent.


And – Congratulations also to Malcolm Brownlee who has become a great grandad again.  Matilda was born in March to Malcolm’s granddaughter Alison and her husband Martin.


Best wishes to you all from all your friends at St Mary’s.


Sapphire Wedding Anniversary


Congratulations to Ethel and Fred Hewitson who celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary on 24th March.  

Best wishes from all your friends at St Mary’s


John Barton considers the Government’s policy on Covid-19. 

Covid-19:  should we have sacrificed the economy, or us?

Suppose the Government had chosen an entirely different policy for dealing with coronavirus.  Instead of building temporary hospitals and instructing us to wash our hands, observe social distancing, and then locking us down, they had let the pandemic run its course? Hundreds of thousands of people would have died: mainly those who were old, as well as some younger people with pre-existent health deficiencies.

As these potential casualties were already costing the National Health Service much more per head than anyone else, their (slightly) premature deaths would have saved the Exchequer billions and freed up resources to improve the health and standard of living for the rest of the more vigorous population. Only the fittest would have survived. Isn’t that the law of nature?

Instead, the policy was deliberately to sacrifice the economy. At all costs, human beings were to be saved, whatever their longer-term prospects. Consequently, many businesses have gone under, unemployment has shot up and may get worse when the dust clears.  Family relationships have been curbed, children may have lost a year’s schooling, and leisure, hospitality and travel have been hampered.

Why? Why choose this policy and not that?

The answer is a religious one. Perhaps without realising why, policy-makers chose to act as though each human being has a value which can’t be measured by their state of health or wealth or status. That’s not what ‘nature’ intends. It’s what the Christian faith demands. Everyone, everyone without exception, is unique and marked with God’s image. Everyone has the potential for adoption as a child of God. Christ died for each one. You can’t put a price on that.

Some countries have this faith ingrained in their national character. Some do not.  In some, life is cheap, disposable and valued only by its usefulness for production or warfare. The fittest survive. Even then some are sacrificed as warriors, like suicide bombers paying the price of an ideology.

Christianity doesn’t happen by accident. It is the outcome of missionary activity and the conversion of one-time unbelievers. They then saw other people in a new light: equally worth saving, whatever the cost.

Dreadful as it is, Covid-19 will eventually be controlled. In its wake will be a history of survival, not of the fittest, but of the God-given value of every human being.


All in the month of APRIL       It was:


1900 years ago, on 26th April 121 that Marcus Aurelius, Emperor of Rome (161-180AD) and Stoic philosopher (whose works are still read today), was born. He was the last of the rulers known as the Five Good Emperors, and the last emperor of the Pax Romana,

an age of relative peace and stability for the Roman Empire.


500 years ago, on 27th April 1521 that Ferdinand Magellan, Portuguese explorer who led the first expedition to circumnavigate the earth, died at the hands of natives in the Philippines.  He was aged 41.


300 years ago, on 3rd April 1721 that Robert Walpole became the first British Prime Minister.


250 years ago, on 13th April 1771 that Richard Trevithick, British mining engineer and inventor of the first steam locomotive, was born.


125 years ago, from 6th to 15th April 1896 that the first modern Summer Olympic Games were held in Athens. The original Olympics were banned by the Roman Emperor Theodosius (I or II) in either 393 or 426 AD.


95 years ago, on 21st April 1926 that Queen Elizabeth II was born in Mayfair, London. Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor was the first child of the Duke and Duchess of York. Her father became King on the abdication of his brother King Edward VIII in 1936, from which time Elizabeth was the heir presumptive.


90 years ago, on 14th April 1931 that the first edition of the Highway Code was published in the UK.


80 years ago, on 12th April 1941 that Bobby Moore, British footballer, was born.  He was Captain of the English team that won the 1966 World Cup and died in 1993.


75 years ago, on 21st April 1946 that John Maynard Keynes, British economist, died.  He was the most influential economist of the 20th century, whose ideas formed the basis of Keynesian economics.


70 years ago, on 17th April 1951 that the Peak District National Park was established. It was Britain’s first national park. 


60 years ago, on 11th April 1961 that Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann went on trial in Jerusalem. He was convicted on 12th September and executed in June 1962.


50 years ago, on 6th April 1971 that Igor Stravinsky, Russian composer, died.  He was one of the most important and influential composers of the 20th century.


40 years ago, on 11th April 1981 that the Brixton riot took place in London. 5,000 youths rampaged through the streets, attacking police officers and damaging buildings, looting shops and setting cars alight.


30 years ago, on 3rd April 1991 that Graham Greene, novelist, short story writer, playwright and journalist died.  Author of Brighton Rock, Our Man in Havana and many more.


20 years ago, on 7th April 2001 that NASA launched its Mars Odyssey spacecraft to search for evidence of life and volcanic activity on Mars.  It went into orbit around Mars and remains operational (though it will run out of propellant in 2025).  It is the longest surviving continually active spacecraft orbiting another planet.  (It has successfully mapped the distribution of water below the surface and discovered a vast amount of ice below the equatorial regions.)


10 years ago, on 29th April 2011 that the wedding of Prince William and Catherine (Kate) Middleton took place at Westminster Abbey in London. They were given the titles the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.




Coronavirus reopening roadmap: comment from the Bishop of London

The Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, who chairs the Church of England’s Coronavirus Recovery Group, has recently responded to the Prime Minister’s roadmap for reopening the country, saying that “we will refine our own advice for local churches in the weeks ahead.

“When the first lockdown was introduced last year, we were – as we are now – in the midst of Lent, a time of preparation and self-reflection for Christians as we look forward with hope to Easter.

“This has been an incredibly testing time for the whole world.  But we have also seen remarkable signs of hope. The rapid development and distribution of vaccines has been a phenomenal achievement and the way in which people have reached out to others has been inspirational.

“Our churches have loved and served their neighbours perhaps like never before and found ways to meet and worship God together we would not have imagined just a year ago.

“As we look ahead to the prospect of easing of restrictions, we know it is still a long road. Yet Easter reminds us we always have hope.”



With the imminent opening of pubs and restaurants…….


The Beer Prayer


Our lager, which are in barrels

Hallowed be thy drink.

Thy will be drunk, I will be drunk,

At home as in the tavern.

Give us this day our foamy head,

And forgive us our spillages,

As we forgive those that spill against us,

And lead us not into incarceration,

But deliver us from hangovers,

For thine is the beer,

The bitter and the lager,

                                                                                              Forever and ever.



 In praise of the afternoon nap

A short nap in the afternoon improves your memory and keeps your brain more agile.

People who nap tend to speak more fluently, have greater mental agility, and remember things better than those who do not break up their day with sleep.

Even a five-minute nap can offer your brain a chance to down-time and replenish itself, so that it is ‘good to go’ again.

If you want longer than five minutes, try to stop at 40 minutes, before you enter the deepest stage of sleep. If you do carry on, sleep for two hours, which is a full sleep-cycle. The study was published in the British Medical Journal.



David Pickup, a solicitor, considers the legal details of Jesus' arrest and trials.

Was the trial of Jesus legal?

We have high expectations of the legal system. In criminal cases we want criminals punished and innocent people protected. I have been involved in many court hearings and all clients want a just result. Some disagree with the decisions, but few actually question the basic fairness of the legal system.

As a lawyer, I have thought about the legal trial Jesus faced. I find the biblical accounts of what happened on Good Friday challenging to read, not because the gospels differ a lot, because they are remarkably consistent; not only because the subject matter is harrowing. They are difficult because the subject matter is complicated.

The legal system was very different to ours. For a start, Jesus was in the centre of three different legal jurisdictions: the Jewish legal system with its council, the law of the occupying Romans and also that of King Herod, who ruled Galilee, where Jesus came from. There was not one trial, but several. One writer has counted six. There were at least two hearings before the Temple council, two procedures with Pontius Pilate and a hearing of sort with King Herod. These were interspersed with beatings and abuse.

Jesus faced two separate sets of legal accusations: one for blasphemy before the religious council and one of rebellion before Pilate. The Romans would not have been interested in the Jewish religion, but sedition meant trouble.

Very few of the participants come out of the story well. Many of them could have stopped at the different states, but they did not. The whole procedure was a setup, the illegal murder of an innocent man.

So, what was illegal about it? Here are some points:

There was an unholy and unfair rush to accuse, convict and kill Jesus before Passover.

The judges had conspired to arrest and charge Jesus, the procedure was muddled, and they tried to fit the charge to suit the evidence. The judges were prejudiced and determined to kill Jesus. It is not the judge’s role to find witnesses, but to be impartial.

It was illegal to try capital cases at night. By doing so the Sanhedrin broke the law. When a person’s life was at stake, the trial could only be held during the day and they should have delayed judgment until the next day. It was illegal to try someone on the day before the Sabbath or before some holy day.

Jesus was forced to incriminate Himself, which was not allowed and not acceptable evidence. Jesus had no-one to support Him or given time to defend Himself.

The trial should not have taken place in anyone’s home.

The whole thing was a travesty of justice. Jesus was illegally murdered.

This is a very brief introduction to a complex subject. There are many websites which analyse this, written by much more learned people than me. Two books stand out which are readable authoritative and available:

Grieve, V, (1990), The Trial of Jesus, STL Bromley

F F Bruce, (1985) The Real Jesus Hodder & Stoughton, London


Chelsea Flower Show moves to the autumn

For the first time ever in its 108-year history, Chelsea Flower Show will not be held in the Spring, but in the Autumn.

The 2021 Chelsea Flower Show will now take place from 21st to 26th September. The Royal Horticultural Society, the show organisers, will still hold it at the Royal Hospital in Chelsea.

The hope is that by September, millions more people will be vaccinated, so that mass outdoor events will be able to happen safely. 140,000 people are predicted to attend this year’s Chelsea, over the six days.

Sue Biggs, RHS director general, says: “We believe many designers and nurseries will look forward to working with different plants that would not be available or at their best in May.  We will do our utmost to deliver a beautiful, uplifting and different RHS Chelsea safely in September 2021.”


by Tim Lenton 

The first British Prime Minister

Robert Walpole became the first British Prime Minister 300 years ago, on 3rd April 1721. It was a title he rejected, but historians agree that he effectively created that office for himself.

He was one of the greatest politicians in British history, but he had intended to be a clergyman, until his older brother Edward died in 1698, leaving him responsible for the considerable Walpole estate.

His country seat was Houghton Hall in Norfolk, which he used as a base for generous, sometimes extravagant hospitality and built up an impressive art collection, most of which was later sold and now resides in the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg.

Another part of his legacy is 10 Downing Street, which was offered to him personally by George II, but which he accepted as the official residence of the First Lord of the Treasury. He was knighted in 1726 and made Earl of Orford on his resignation in 1742.

His skills as an orator and negotiator played a significant role in sustaining the Whig party over a long period, and in ensuring the Hanoverian succession. He rebuilt the tower of the medieval church on his Houghton estate as a memorial to his grandfather.



Chocolate – food of the gods!

The botanical name for the cocoa bean is Theobroma – which means ‘food of the gods.’  Millions of us obviously agree – half a million tons of it are consumed in Britain each year alone.

Chocolate makes us feel better. The chemicals it contains trigger the release of endorphins similar to those we naturally produce when we fall in love.

But nutritionists warn against using chocolate as a pick-me-up, especially in the evening. Chocolate eaten before bedtime can cause blood glucose levels to plummet during the night, which will disrupt your sleep. Chocolate eaten in quantity every day can lead to mood and energy swings, weight gain and poor immunity. If you have mad cravings for it, you could have a problem with blood sugar, or a deficiency in magnesium, copper, zinc or iron.

But occasional consumption of cocoa can provide medical benefits. Chocolate containing 60 per cent or more cocoa solids is rich in essential trace elements and nutrients such as iron, calcium and potassium, and many vitamins. Cocoa is also the highest natural source of magnesium.

Good as all this may be – most of us enjoy chocolate simply because of its high sugar and caffeine content. Chocolate simply gives you an instant sugar hit, providing a sudden burst in energy, unfortunately followed by a slump and the desire for another sugar-fix.


A fun recipe for our sweet-toothed readers to try after Lent…

Mars Bar Cake

This quick and easy cake is a favourite in many families.


3 Mars bars; 150g butter;150g rice crispies; 150g chocolate 


In a pan, slowly melt the Mars bars and butter together. Remove from the heat and add the rice crispies, a little at a time, until they are covered with the mixture. Spread mixture onto a baking sheet and place in the fridge until hard. Melt the chocolate and cover the mixture with it.  Return to the fridge for a further half an hour.  Cut into pieces.


Give your house an M.O.T.

It is Spring, and time to venture outside – to take a really good look at your house. How has it survived the winter? A spokesman for the National Home Improvement Council says: “For most of us, our homes are our biggest single investment. We need to look after them well.”

There are a number of things to look for:

Roof space:  Venture up into your loft and check for signs of leaks through tiles or roof linings. Check timbers are sound, dry and free from woodworm.

Walls:  Are your airbricks clear? Are there any cracks in your brickwork? Check for crumbling bricks, often caused by frost and loose rendering.

Chimneys and flues:  If you don’t fancy climbing up onto your roof, why not beg or borrow a pair of binoculars off someone and check for broken pots, missing pointing and loose chimney seals. Make sure your flues are clear from debris.

Gutters and pipes:  Make sure that all your gutters and pipes are clear of twigs and leaves. You’ll be surprised where last year’s fallen leaves have ended up! Also, check for leaks in downpipes, as these can cause damp patches.

Floors:  Many of us now have timber floors. Check for undue springiness – which can be a sign of rotting or weakened joints. Inspect your skirting boards for rot and woodworm.

Doors and windows:  Check for rot or corrosion, missing putty and flaking paint. Make sure they open and close properly and are not warped. Check your locks for wear.

Paths:  Finally, wander around the paths outside your house. Check for loose paving or broken slabs – a potential hazard. If you find problems, lay new paving – soon!

Most of these checks are things that you can carry out yourself. But if in doubt about your roof, your heating or your electricity, it is far better to call in an expert.


By the Revd Tony Horsfall of Charis Training.  More details at: www. Charistraining.co.uk.  

Walking and talking

During the pandemic, I have enjoyed walking. In many ways, getting out daily for a good walk has not only helped me physically, but also bolstered my mental well-being. Often, I have arranged to walk with a friend, and we have enjoyed good conversation and fellowship.

Today I was walking alone, and I noticed it seemed further and to take longer. When you are walking and talking, you hardly notice the distance or the time. I am not usually able to think much when I am walking alone, but today the reminder came into my head of a saying: ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’

It made me thankful for all the friends who have encouraged me this year and helped me to keep going. We can walk alone, and sometimes that’s a good thing; but it is easier to be able to walk through life with others.

Who has walked with you this year? Do they know that you appreciate their companionship on the journey?


By Dr Peter Brierley, a church statistician.

Average age of churchgoers

The average age of a pre-Covid churchgoer in 2020 was 50, whereas the average of a person living in England as a whole was 41. So, churchgoers are almost 10 years above the average in age. It doesn’t vary hugely by gender – in 2020 male churchgoers were 48 on average and female 51.

In Scotland in 2020 folk were slightly older – the average male churchgoer was 53 and women were 55. These are against a population average of 42, so Scottish churchgoers have a larger gap.  We don’t have the same information about Welsh churchgoers or those in N Ireland, though their average population ages in 2020 were, respectively, 42 and 40 (making the overall UK rate 41).

The graph shows that Scottish churchgoers have consistently been older than English churchgoers over the last 40 years. Almost certainly this is partly because England has seen huge numbers of immigrants, asylum seekers, workers, students coming to the country since the 1980s, a number of whom come from Christian countries and presumably would join a local church. 


Beware the cost of supermarket convenience stores

If you do your weekly food shop at a supermarket convenience store, you will be paying up to £320 more a year than if you had used one of the bigger branches.

According to a recent study by Which? Tesco Express costs £5.37 more a week, or £279 a year, while Sainsbury’s Local stores cost £6.18 more a week, or £322 a year.

Tesco points to higher rents, rates and operating costs in Tesco Express stores, while Sainsburys points to ‘a range of factors’ including varying promotions.


We are reading more books

More than 200 million print books were sold in the UK last year, according to an estimate from the official book sales monitor Nielsen BookScan.

It was the first time since 2012 that the volume of physical books sold has exceeded 200million, and it was the biggest volume rise in the books market since 2007, says The Bookseller magazine.


                         SMILE LINES


Lot’s wife

A father was reading Bible stories to his young son. ‘The man named Lot was warned to take his wife and flee out of the city, but his wife looked back and was turned into a pillar of salt.’

His son looked up, concerned.  ‘What happened to the flea?’

Saying good-bye

An inexperienced curate was sent to do a graveside burial for a homeless man with no family or friends. Not knowing where the cemetery was, he made several wrong turns and got lost. When he eventually arrived, the hearse was nowhere in sight, the backhoe was next to the open hole, and the workmen were sitting under a tree eating lunch.

When the curate looked into the open grave and even found the vault lid was already in place, he felt very guilty. The homeless man deserved something, even though it was late. And so, the curate delivered an impassioned burial service, sending the deceased into the great beyond in some style. The workmen looked on in silence, but as the curate returned to his car, he overheard one of the workmen remark: ‘I’ve been putting in septic tanks for 20 years and I never seen anything like that!’


The nice thing about becoming forgetful is that you can hide your own Easter eggs.

Expensive boat

A vicar was planning an Easter pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and was aghast when she found it would cost her £50 an hour to rent a boat on the Sea of Galilee.  She protested to the travel agent that the cost was ridiculous. ‘That might be true,’ replied the travel agent, ‘but you have to take into account that the Sea of Galilee is water on which our Lord himself walked.’  ‘Well, at £50 an hour for a boat,’ she replied, ‘I am not surprised!’

True story

My curate friend had to preach his first-ever Easter sermon, and was very nervous about it. However, he prepared hard, and when Easter day came, he strode into the pulpit and thundered through his sermon, only to crash at the closing line. He pounded the pulpit and shouted: “Yes…it is all true! Jesus rose…and then He died again!  Hallelujah!



The views expressed in this a magazine are those of the contributors and do not necessarily reflect those of St Mary's, it's clergy or the Church of England.