“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow”

For many of us lockdown three has felt the hardest so far. Perhaps it is because we had the Christmas lights around us, raising spirits before the third lockdown, and this was simply not the way we had hoped to be starting the new year. However, the Covid-19 vaccinations are being efficiently and effectively rolled out, already protecting those who are most vulnerable in our communities, and starting to work down the generations.

At the time of writing this to you we were approaching Valentine’s Day. We’ll be well into the season of Lent when you read this and Easter is just around the corner, another time of hope and the greatest expression of love.

Like during lockdown, we rediscover the importance of the garden during our own times of need. Sometimes it can be one of the places in which we can feel closest to God. Walking bare footed on the grass or hands in the soil or tending plants. Connected to His amazing creation and design. At Easter time we firstly revisit in the bible passages the garden of Gethsemane, at the foot of the Mountain of Olives in Jerusalem. Here, Jesus prayed, deeply distressed about what lay ahead, revealing His human nature as well as His sacrificial divine nature and love for God and each of us: “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” Matthew 26:39

Jesus is later betrayed here with a kiss, a revered sign of friendship and love, then led like a lamb to the slaughter.

Secondly, we revisit the garden near to where Jesus was crucified, the place where His pierced body was laid in an empty tomb and then raised to life three days later! This garden provided space for mourning and grieving, as well as for the joyful wiping away tears as Mary finally recognises the gardener as Jesus, raised from the dead!

“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.”

This wonderful quote by Audrey Hepburn wonderfully captures our hope and promise for the future in God. The world is His garden, full of provisions both mentally and physically, and He’s creating a better tomorrow.

Hope for all.

Your focus word

How are your 2021 New Year’s resolutions going? Did you make any?

They are not always easy to keep even with the best of intentions. An effective alternative to resolutions can be to select a ‘word’ or phrase for the year and then use that as a focus and guide to help filter and make decisions.

For instance the word ‘re-set’ could be a great one for 2021, reminding you to:

  • add self care in your day to day routine
  • care for our planet (perhaps by repurposing items, considering purchases in terms of their ethical providence)
  • reconnect with nature (catch a sunrise, listen to the birdsong, spend time in the garden, head out for a nature walk, star gaze)
  • do something kind for someone (surprise note, charity donation, thank someone, phone call…)
  • make a note of 3 things you are grateful for (try doing this each night before you go to sleep)
  • make time to talk to God (perhaps over your morning coffee/tea)
  • re-evaluate your priorities (how do your actions, work, rest and play support your re-set?)

What ‘word’ would you choose and what does it mean to you? How will things improve for you and others when you achieve the result of your ‘word’? What will be different?

There are so many actions and opportunities your chosen ‘word’ can help to inspire, strengthen and transform areas of your life, helping you to take steps closer towards achieving your ambitions.

Keep safe and well.

New Year

One of the online Sunday reflections that really stood out during lockdown was all about prayer. The pandemic unleashed many feelings which were experienced both physically and spiritually. The feelings of isolation, distance, loneliness, questioning purpose, doubts, anxiety, and fears about the future, making the activity of prayer more challenging. During this service they shared accounts from people in varying situations, who each persevered through their individual feelings and rediscovered the hope and sense of peace prayer brings. Phil Togwell, Director at Prayer Spaces in Schools describes four simple steps to help us reconnect and pray:

P.R.A.Y: Pause, Rejoice, Ask, Yield.

Pause – ‘Be still for the presence of the Lord’. Let your mind rest. Find a quiet place. Release the thoughts and busyness of your to do list. Simply be.

Rejoice – ‘Enter His gates with thanksgiving in your hearts’. Talk to God about the things and people you are grateful for, and give thanks for them. It could simply be the weather, a connection in nature or a kind act experienced that day.

Ask – ‘Ask and it shall be given unto you, seek and you shall find, knock and the door shall be opened unto you’. Ask God for what you need. It might be strength, healing, wisdom…
whatever you need to overcome the challenges being faced. Talk to Him about your situation and circumstances.

Yield – ‘You are all I need, it’s Your face I seek, in the presence of Your light, we bow down’. Bring everything to God in prayer, lay it at His feet. When you let go you will see new opportunities

In this together

At the time of writing this it’s Good Friday, and what a different day and Easter weekend it will have been for us all this year. We’re listening to radio a lot more and gathering virtually and spiritually together with friends and family via video calls, emails, phone calls, and prayer. 

There’s something reassuring and rather special knowing that you are reading, watching, listening, or praising at the same time as others throughout the world. The community clap each Thursday evening at 8pm to show our appreciation to the NHS, carers and many support workers has provided a real sense of community spirit and strength. It’s also lovely being able to catch up across the road regularly with our neighbours, from our respective driveways, and share in this united caring act. We are truly in this together.

One of our neighbours is a volunteer nurse and another is working with the fire brigade. It is hard to truly imagine what each of their days are like and just how challenging their duties and responsibilities are, both physically and emotionally.

Whatever challenges we are faced with we will not be challenged beyond what we can cope with. “Every test that you have experienced is the kind that normally comes to people. But God keeps his promise, and he will not allow you to be tested beyond your power to remain firm; at the time you are put to the test, he will give you the strength to endure it, and so provide you with a way out.” 1 Corinthians 10:13

On Good Friday in particular we remember the physical and emotional torment and suffering of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, Wonderful Counsellor, Prince of Peace, King of Kings, the Servant King as he bore the cross to save our lives. He came not to be served but to serve. To fulfil Gods will. The greatest expression of love and grace for each of us. The events of Easter weekend are both a witness and evidence for us today that death, once and for all, has been defeated. It is finished! 

Keep looking out for each other, especially those who live alone, we all need each other. Our prayer is that we will all emerge out of this challenging time stronger and more united in love and peace, and filled with God’s grace in all we say and do.

Keep safe and well.

Virtual gatherings for Easter

BBC Broadcasts Over Easter Weekend 2020

Either specifically Christian, or at least ‘religious’. Details supplied by Church Times


Rebuilding Notre-Dame: Inside the great cathedral rescue 
A year after the fire, archi­­tects and scientists tell their restoration strategy. 
Wednesday 9pm BBC4

Friday 1.40pm and Sunday 1.50pm (BBC1) 
Alexander Armstrong’s Heavenly Gardens 
A visit to six gardens steeped in faith and spirituality, starting at Pluscarden Abbey, near Elgin, and con­tinuing to the Bishop’s Palace, Wells (1/2-2).

Friday 7pm (Channel 5) 
Digging Up Britain’s Past: Viking invasion: 
Archaeologists try to locate the site of a monastery on Holy Island (1/6).

9pm (BBC2) 
Pilgrimage: The road to Istanbul 
The seven pilgrims visit an orthodox church in Batak, and the Suleymaniye Mosque, in Istanbul (3/3).

Saturday 12pm (BBC2) 
The Greatest Story Ever Told 
The 1965 biblical epic starring Max von Sydow.

7pm (BBC2) 
Easter from King’s 
A service of music and readings from King’s College, Cambridge.

Sunday 11am (BBC1) 
Urbi et Orbi Pope Francis de­­livers his Easter message and blessing, live.

11.25am (BBC1) 
Sunday Worship From Bangor Cathedral, with music from Songs of Praise, 2018.

1.15pm (BBC1) 
Songs of Praise Katherine Jenkins visits St Luke’s, Gas Street, in Birm­ingham.

1.40pm (Channel 5) 
The Ten Commandments The 1956 film.

Wednesday 7pm (Nat Geographic) 
Saving Notre-Dame The rebuilding of the Gothic cathedral.

Thursday and Friday 9.45am (R4 FM) 
The Passion in Plants Bob Gilbert concludes his pilgrimage (4-5/5).

Friday 1.30pm (World Service) 
Heart and Soul Wassim Razzouk’s family have been tattoo­ing pilgrims to Jerusalem for more than 500 years.

2pm (R3) 
Afternoon Concert 
An archive recording of Bach’s St John Passion sung in German, first broadcast in April 2017.

3pm (R4) 
Good Friday Meditation 
A Baptist min­ister, the Revd Richard Littledale, reflects on why Christians see beauty and love in the Cross.

7pm (R3) 
Radio 3 in Concert 
An archive recording of a semi-staged performance of Bach’s St Mat­thew Passion, first broadcast in September 2014.

7pm (R2) 
At the Foot of the Cross 
The Passion written and narrated by Frank Cottrell-Boyce.

Sunday 6.35am (R4) 
Sunrise Service Celebration with music from a gospel group.

8.10am (R4) 
Easter Sunday Worship 
The Arch­­bishop of Canterbury leads an intimate com­munion service with his wife in Lambeth Palace.

1.30pm (R4) 
Three Vicars Talking 
The Revd Richard Coles, the Revd Kate Bottley, and Canon Giles Fraser in an Easter special.

3pm (R3) 
Choral Evensong 
An archive recording of festal evensong from Norwich Cathedral, first broadcast on 16 April 2017.

5.30pm (R3) 
Words and Music 
A celebration of the Passover, Easter, and Spring.

Monday 4.30pm (R4) 
Beyond Belief 
Can faith values help people and religious organisations to invest their money in a way that matches their ethics?

Wednesday 3.30pm (R3) 
Choral Evensong 
An archive recording of a service from the Church of the Incarnation, Dallas, Texas, first broadcast on 19 April 2017.

Plus other material will also be available on BBC local radio.

Yours in Christ. May God bless you and keep you safe.


Good Friday – Separated by fear, united by love

When Jesus was crucified the gospels share the use of the phase that the disciples who were brave enough to be there ‘stood at a distance’. Perhaps they stood at a distance out horror at what they were witnessing, distance made it more bearable. Perhaps they stood at a distance out of fear of identifying themselves with Jesus, they didn’t want to risk being picked out, arrested, and possibly sharing the same fate as Jesus. Perhaps they stood at a distance because the Roman soldiers pushed them back, forcibly separating them from Jesus. For whatever reason, they stood at a distance, and Jesus suffered alone, isolated. The words speak powerfully into our present separated human condition.

But in John’s gospel there is an opposite glimmer of community restoration. Jesus looks out at his disciples from the cross. He calls to Mary his mother, and to John. He says: “Woman, here is your son.” And he says: “Here is your mother.” And it continues: ‘From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.’ Jesus loves his mother, and in his ultimate distress Jesus tenderly puts her into the care of another. Jesus leads us by his example. Jesus models for us how to create communities of care, and households of love and commitment.

For most of us, many of our loving human relationships are separated by coronavirus separation restrictions. If we love people, then we keep apart from them. But for a few of us, we are discovering deeper and closer connections of love and commitment within our households of care. There are wonderful pictures of residents and carers in Nursing Homes on the TV, they know that they are in it together, they have become committed to one another. I also read the heart-warming stories of zoo keepers moving into on-site accommodation so that they can spend the isolation period close to the animals in their care.

Yours in Christ. May God bless you and keep you safe.



At time of writing this, more and more restrictions are being advised daily to protect the vulnerable and strategically delay and cope with the Coronavirus pandemic. It all feels very surreal. Each one of us will know someone who is in the at high risk category, either through age or from having underlying health conditions; friends and family who have had their long awaited holiday cancelled; parents with children now at home from school; places of work closing; places of worship closing; people adjusting to working remotely; empty shelves in store… the uncertainty is causing a lot of anxiety and distress.

However we’re all in this together, throughout the entire world, and even though we face daily set backs there is also a strong sense of community emerging. And of course the British spirit of people rallying together. ‘Cup of tea anyone?’

Although the phrase “I’ll put the kettle on” is somewhat stereotypically British there is something very homely and welcoming about those words. A moment of normality and bliss amidst our current turmoil. A time for our thoughts. Muster our strength, courage and determination to face whatever the next challenge may be.

It’s important for us to remember that through challenging times of uncertainty, no matter how dark things may get, God is working out His purpose for good.

“And we know that in all things God works together with those who love him to bring about what is good, with those who have been called according to his purpose” Romans 8:28

He has a wonderful way of turning things round for the better. Everywhere you look you’ll find good deeds being done; kind words being said, cheerful smile, neighbours checking in with one another, running errands for each other, looking out for one other, being there to answer a call for help. If we could keep this community feel and focus on what’s truly important in life, long after this outbreak is over, how much better would our planet be? Good things will come.

Let’s resolve to focus on the things we can do. The decisions and actions we have control over. The little things we can do each day that adds a moment of normality and balance. Why not turn on your favourite piece of music. Bake a cake. Pick a posy of flowers. Listen to the birds singing. Call a friend for a catch up. Check in on your neighbour. Take up a new hobby (or pick up an old one again). Open a window to let in fresh air. Make that cup of tea. Pray for each other. Small actions, words and deeds no matter how small can spread a little piece of joy and hope.

Keep safe and look out for each other.


“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  2 Corinthians:8-9

We’re currently studying together ‘The Grace Course’. At the time of writing, so far we’ve had an insightful re-look at ‘The Prodigal Son’ and its three main characters; the father, the lost younger son, and the eldest son. It’s definitely worth looking at their different characteristics and attitudes. Do you see any of these characteristics in your own life? Which character can you most relate to?

The study revealed the parable in a completely different light, enabling us to take away fresh meaning as to what God’s grace means for us all, today. For instance, the eldest son had been given everything, “all I have is yours” exclaims his father, yet the eldest son’s mindset was closed to this, feeling overlooked, unappreciated, and by the end of the parable, very disgruntled! We can naturally have sympathy for him. However turning the situation on its head, it was the son’s own choice to continue dutifully working long hours, away in the fields, alongside the servants, rather than spending some of that time with his father, or enjoying communion with his friends. How similar are we? Heads down, working away? Yet, if we were to only look up once in a while, take a step back to enjoy and appreciate what we’ve already graciously received, how much better and happier would we feel? There is absolutely nothing we can do to earn God’s grace – he has already generously given it to each and everyone one of us…

“Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work”.  2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

It’s real love

It’s easy to get caught up in the magic of Christmas, with all the stores beautifully adorned and decorated, and adverts portraying the idyllic Christmas. One advert in particular has taken precedence in people’s hearts with the message:

 “…Seems like all they really were doing, was waiting for love…

…It’s real love. It’s real.” lyrics sung by Tom Odell (written by John Lennon)

What a great way to sum up Christmas! – and exactly what the world was waiting for in the prophesied birth of Jesus – real love. It goes beyond the baubles and the wrapping paper straight to the heart of the season. It’s a special time of year; powerful enough to lay guns and fighting aside, as we were reminded during our 1914 Remembered evening in November with the rendition of “Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht…Silent Night, Holy Night”.

(It was a fantastic evening raising over £160 for Help for Heroes – many thanks to everyone involved in the evening behind the scenes, participating and attending).

Christmas is time for everyone, it’s patience, kindness, humility; it believes,  it hopes and endures: It’s real love. It’s real!

You’re warmly invited to celebrate Christmas with us – bring along family and friends and discover the reason for the season…