Monday 31 May 2010


The blocks of ironstone
bound by rigid mortar
flake away

like some dry mud cracking
in a shallow hollow
once a pool

or honey coloured cells
in a comb of pointing

A mix far too strong to
take the stone’s expansion
and fall out

slapped in to free a man
from the tedium of

the whole point of pointing
to take the punishment

Inside, with the same care,
the man places people
in a vice

insisting that the words
should be stronger than the
lives they frame

while the words’ own Word waits
to take the strain of our

Friday 28 May 2010

Behaviour management

The subservient female monkey has paused for a moment before grabbling the food being offered to her on the stick so she can check whether the dominant male monkey at the bottom of the cage is aware of what she is about to do lest he expect the treat to be handed over to him or he administer a cuffing because she has taken it instead of him. It was an fascinating process to watch as my godson fed the monkeys at a zoo near Jena when I was there, and I’m glad the photograph caught the moment.

Returning from the short break, and taking part in another of the meetings of the norther Rural Deans, has been a little depressing.

I’d asked for feedback from the Candlemas Convocation to be on the agenda in the hope of flushing out a timetable for receiving the analysis and the Bishops’ response. We were given photocopies of the raw material but told that the Bishops had no intention of analysing it since it had served its purpose in getting us to talk about the message they had wanted to give us.

I’d also had put down the issue of why incumbents hadn’t been copied into letters to Readers inviting those who wished to be considered for the permanent diaconate to contact the Diocesan Director of Ordinands. I was told that it had ‘worked’ since their initiative had provoked the conversations they had wanted to take place.

The days of being collaborative partners do seem to have given way to our behaviour being prompted and managed. It doesn’t much help that I find that my latest communications about processes they simply want us to follow through with the Diocesan Director of Education (13th February), Diocesan Chief Executive (27th April) and Diocesan Accountant (20th May) each remains without reply.

It was also depressing to be told that the new Government ‘vetting and barring’ procedure is designed to supplement and not replace the endless round of Criminal Record Bureau checks for those who volunteer to work with children and the vulnerable elderly. I had naively assumed that it was to be an improved CRB system the implementation of which would preserve what was important about the old one but reduce both its hassle and its failings. I discover instead that it is the next on the list of additional burdens.

Tuesday 25 May 2010

Monday 24 May 2010

More Erfurt

The second picture yesterday was the boy looking after the wise men's camels and comes from the church next door to the Cathedral. The pair of pictures today are the wise and foolish virgins and come from either side of one of the Cathedral's doors.

Sunday 23 May 2010

Saturday 22 May 2010

Friday 21 May 2010

In Jena again

Each candle on the Communion table at the Stadtkirche in the centre of Jena last Sunday is for one of those confirmed there that morning, including a godchild of mine. It was wonderful to go out for the service and, having travelled the distance, to stay for most of a week, enjoy time with him and his family, renewing acquaintance with Jena and Weimar, and discover new things in Dornberg, Erfurt and Saalfeld.

One of the possible sets of readings for Morning Prayer on the days after Ascension Day (the set which I’ve followed while away) is a preparation for Pentecost. The very first was Moses pointing out that the gifts Bezeal and Oholiab have for building God’s sanctuary- intelligence, knowledge, craftsmanship, artistic design, skill at cutting and setting jewels, ability at carving and teaching - are from the Spirit . So my brief contribution to the Confirmation celebration lunch was a wish for the creativity of the newly confirmed whether with his hands or with his words or with his kindness.

Monday 10 May 2010

Going down

The national and local votes in North East Lincolnshire appear to have swung in different directions.

Nationally, the local authority area went into the General Election with two Labour MPs (one of whom represented a Constituency which also included a small part of North Lincolnshire). One of these lost her seat to a Conservative and the other nearly did so, having his majority cut to less than 800 votes.

Locally, North East Lincolnshire went into Council Elections with four (out of forty-five) Labour Councillors. It came out of it with ten. There were defeats for four Liberal Democrats, one Conservative and one Independent, including the Councillor who expected to be elected Mayor this month.

One suggestion is simply the extent to which some previous supporters voted against the party in office, which happened to be Labour at the national level but happened to be Liberal Democrat at the local level.

I suspect the apparently contradictory swings are actually more consistent than first appears given the national and local polls taking place at the same time.

When local polls take place on their own, fewer people turn out, and those who do so are more inclined to vote on local issues; locally, individual Liberal Democrats have been perceived to have a chance of being elected and the party has been known to have a realistic chance of being in office.

When national polls take place at the same time, more people turn out, and those who mark two ballot papers at the same time (some of whom will be likely to see a national Liberal Democrat vote as a waste) are quite likely to vote for the same party on each; although there are fewer Labour votes on the national ballot paper than five years ago, a similar proportion of Labour votes on the local ballot paper is actually more than it was at the local elections for the same batch of Councillors three years ago.

Mind you, it is several years since there was a dramatic backlash which virtually wiped out the representation of the then hugely unpopular ruling Labour group, so we may simply be swinging back to what is a more ‘normal’ level of Labour support locally anyway.

Meanwhile, one MP and six Councillors are not the only ones to have lost their places. We all knew a week ago that we must win next week and Barnet must fail to do so for us not to be playing Conference football next season and, since neither of the things happened, Grimsby Town will be playing in the Blue Square Premiership this autumn.

This does have implications for the local economy, and it was pointed out to me this morning that it would be good to have reassurances about the impact of this on things like funding the Club’s Football in the Community programme.

The close up of oil see rape was taken on our Bank Holiday walk a week ago.

Friday 7 May 2010

Fossils in our walls

There is a large fossilised shell in the wall of St Michael’s, Little Coates. In fact, there are substantial fossil and shell fragments in the ironstone which makes up the majority of the walls of the mediaeval half of the church. I can’t think why I hadn’t noticed this at any point in the last ten years, but I hadn’t until Rod Collins pointed it out to me this week.

The walls are actually a mishmash of different stone and in fill around the ironstone, and nowhere more so than in the section of which I’ve taken a photograph and in which the white circular object (in the middle left of the bottom third of the picture) is the fossilised shell.

We know that the church was partly derelict at the beginning of the seventeenth century and there is a large late seventeenth century date on the wall of the Chancel which is our only indication of substantial restoration then. Perhaps the mishmash is part of that rebuilding. Or perhaps it is the cumulative result of repairs over several hundreds of years.

This section includes one quite substantial boulder alongside other smaller ones and a couple of cut stones which are not the ironstone. It also includes a river cobble (approximately central to the top half of the picture) of the kind which the most recent archaeological investigation at the west end showed to form the foundations of these walls.

The in fill is equally varied. There are three tiles in there, the use of which Rod was aware of elsewhere (including the reuse of Roman tile, although I guess this example will be more modern). There is also a lot of modern mortar (to the left of the ironstone block in which the shell is embedded) which adds to the variety rather than the attractiveness of the ensemble.

Rod was observed taking close up pictures of the church walls ahead of our mid-week Communion service, and I am thankful that he did not repeat the explanation he claims to have offered when similarly observed at another church 'I'm from the News of the World and I'm waiting to catch one of the people about to come out of the church'.

Tuesday 4 May 2010


Our church based questioning of our election candidates was not as distinctively Christian as it might have been. I was landed on to chair the event on Sunday evening organised by Churches Together in North East Lincolnshire, so I may carry some responsibility for this, although there is of course nothing non-Christian about expressing concern for things like our economy and transport network.

All seven candidates for Grimsby were invited without generating the publicity for the BNP candidate which not inviting him might have done; the risk then was that some other candidates would indicate they’d not come if the BNP did, but in fact they did not, UKIP apologised, and the BNP didn’t even reply. So we had the three main parties and the two other local candidates.

One of them said to me before hand that he’d expect slightly different questions at a church sponsored event, and mentioned the question for overseas aid as a possible example. This didn’t turn out to be the case, I suspect partly because a good quarter of the audience appeared to be non-church based supporters of one of the candidates (some of whom took the opportunity to ask questions as if innocent members of the Churches Together audience) and partly because it may actually not have dawned on most of the church based attenders that this was what they might want to do at this event or anywhere else. With hindsight, I suspect I’d advise myself on a future occasion to be more explicit from the chair about this expectation.

We did get a question seeking support for marriage, but I was amused that this was quickly balanced by a question seeking support for gay inclusion, so it is not just within the Anglican Communion that there are different takes on what represents being distinctively Christian. But that was it. At the end, when there were three hands up but only time for one final question, I asked people to vote for which of the three topics they wished to have addressed, and was sad that the clear vote was then for an ‘electoral reform’ question rather than an ‘equality’ question.

And then I had the Bank Holiday off. We walked a small part of the Viking Way. I took this picture when we got the key to look inside Bigby Church; I’m sorry that none of my attempts to capture the wonderful details of the Tyrwhit tomb there came out well enough for sharing and we’ll need to go back again at some point to do better about this as well.

Saturday 1 May 2010

Staying up

The Bishop of Grantham is a long term supporter of a football team outside the diocese where he is well known. His Blog reports his being tapped on the shoulder as a match began with the words ‘I’ve read your Blog - too much religion and not enough football’. In case this represents a wide spread and well established point of view, I balance the themes well covered in previous posts with these photographs from this afternoon and the report that Grimsby Town didn’t drop out of the Football League today (as the club would have done if we had not won the match - seven thousand of us saw us beat Barnet) but we must win next week and Barnet must fail to do so for us not to be playing Conference football next season.