Monday 30 April 2012

A new MAP

A new Mission Area Plan (MAP) for the deanery dropped through my letter box on Wednesday. That was a bit of a surprise, although we were asked to provide some basic material about this parish a while ago to contribute to some reflection on the existing MAP. It appears the Deanery Synod’s Standing Committee has taken to itself the role of the MAP Group (which hasn’t met for nearly a year now, but which did use to have representatives from each parish). The covering letter anticipates discussion and approval at clergy Chapter and then Deanery Synod next week.

The surprises don’t stop there. The only new element of the MAP is a half-time Parish Development Adviser post - which, it says, has already been filled (albeit only for an short initial period). The Standing Committee actually has skills in this area I did not have; when I was Rural Dean it proved a protracted and obstacle strewn process to get the diocese to authorise the appointment and payment processes for posts even when they had been through the then required layers of consultation and Pastoral Committee approval.

Other than this new half-post, the new MAP simply sets out the present pattern of clergy deployment - which is the existing MAP developed by incremental changes over several years. This is a further surprise because this is the one thing the Bishop of Grimsby challenged us not to do. We had a surreal experience last November when all the local clergy were called to his house to ‘share ideas for the future mission and ministry of the church across the [two North East Lincolnshire] deaneries’; the Bishop spoke for five minutes as we stood round a crowded room, funnelled us through for a buffet lunch and then sent us home. The one thing he did say then was the approach of making cuts by incremental steps within present groupings of parishes has gone as far as it can and we needed to move on to a more radical approach.

The new MAP also floats the idea that an increase in parish giving could be considered to fund a further half-post promoting Fresh Expressions in the more socially vulnerable areas of the deanery. I suspect some special expertise in this area would be appreciated in all parishes. The money may in fact already be there. The new MAP capitulates to the diocesan policy of budgeting for all planned posts rather than all filled posts which has and will mean that on average each year we return at least the cost of half a post to diocesan reserves; I think there would be more of a revolt if I had not failed so badly as Rural Dean in conveying the fact that this is equivalent to about £1 in every £7 paid by each parish as Parish Share going unused.

My guess and hope is that this is all a bit less strange than it appears to be at first sight. Most parishes probably have a member of the Deanery Synod Standing Committee, or have been consulted by someone who is, so knew how far a process had got and may even had the opportunity to contribute ideas to it. Most Deanery Synod members next week will probably simply welcome the support the new post holder can give without thinking a great deal more about it. Her quality and work might well be exactly the thing which prompt us towards developing the sort of more radical MAP the Bishop requested. Most parishes will simply continue unaware of the damage diocesan policy about budgeting for all planned posts does to our mission potential. Nevertheless, I’m sorry to have just briefed two of our District Church Councils in detail about where we’d need to be developing and thinking next unaware that a new MAP was going to drop through the door a few days later and not to have been able to tell them that a new deanery developmental colleague was already in post.

Oh, and the new MAP also thinks that lay ministry should ‘compliment’ ordained ministry, so this spelling may now be becoming normative among those who take leadership in providing and implementing fully worked out plans on our behalf.

Meanwhile, we heard Prof Warwick Rodwell lecture at Barton last week, and he pointed out that the two largest stones at eye level here at St Peter’s, Barton are actually hollow - portions of mediaeval stone coffins cut up and reused.

Monday 23 April 2012

Inside St Nicolas' again

I have just found this postcard view of the interior of St Nicolas’, Great Coates at about the time of the First World War. It is much clearer than the slightly earlier image which I posted with commentary on 8th July 2008 ( The shape of the east window, the nature of the hangings along the east wall and the details of the false chancel arch (none of which survive today) are things I haven’t seen before.

The picture must have been taken after the work authorised by the 1900 Faculty (because the present pews are in place) but before the work authorised by the 1925 Faculty (because the present wooden backing to the altar is not yet in place), and it is interesting that the lectern (in a new position but with the same decoration on it as in the earlier picture) has not yet been replaced by the present brass First World War memorial lectern.

I can now see that I was wrong to suggest that the present semi-circular step in front of the altar was part of the work undertaken in the 1920s. The metal altar rails in this picture clearly curve (it is easiest to see this on the left / north side), and, now that I look at this again, I see there are repair marks in the stone evident today to show where this altar rail was once fixed. I would now suggest that it is may have been part of the 1865 restoration; the pulpit and the artificial chancel arch may well date from 1865 as well.

It is the chancel arch, of course, which is most striking. As far as I can see from the small amount of this arch which shows up in the earlier photograph, it appears to have been painted since the earlier photograph was taken.

Wednesday 18 April 2012

Malmesbury Poems

Almost accidentally, I’ve developed part of a sort of sub-George Mackay Brown cycle of poems based on the details in each of the carvings on the south doorway of Malmesbury Abbey.  I suspect I'd need to go back to collect a whole set of pictures, and then spend proper time with them, to develop the cycle any further.

The Creation of Adam
(picture posted on Monday)

Still life-less man,
God draws you from the mud
your feet as yet unformed.

Adam and Eve hide from God
(I have no picture of my own - but see

Naked, almost skeletal,
you crouch to conceal yourselves
and double up in shame.

Adam and Eve are given a spade and a distaff
(pictured on Monday)

Free and winged one,
fix their fear and hands
to delving spade, to spinning staff.

The Annunciation

Long sleeved Lady,
are you calm or fearful
with an angel by your chair?

The Holy Family

Rest now, Lady,
beneath the bed spread’s fold and fall
for Joseph watches the child.

The Crucifixion

Closest to him
almost touched by his fixed arms,
you echo the squirm of his body.

The Burial
(pictured on Monday)

Bent, intent in grief,
with your delicate fingers
gently lay the body down.

The Resurrection
(pictured on Monday)

Risen one
gazing ahead, moving forward,
your banner streams behind you.

Monday 16 April 2012

Malmesbury at Easter

Discovering Malmesbury Abbey was one of the highlights of a few days away last week. Only a quarter of the original building remains - on the left there should be a west front where windows are now open to the sky, and on the right there should be a central tower with a tall spire and then a whole chancel to the east.

The graceful lines and inclinations of the figures in the twelfth century carvings within the south porch are famous. Only St Peter on the right (clean shaven and tonsured like the monks of the Abbey) has suffered significant damage: his feet have been hacked away to stop people kissing them.

But it was the series of heavily eroded biblical episodes round the opening of the porch which entranced us most, and almost best of all is this still lifeless Adam being drawn by God out of the mud with his feet not yet fully formed.

Here a central angel gives expelled Adam and Eve a spade and a distaff - an unusual image to be echoed a couple of hundred years later in the Peasants’ Revolt’s ‘When Adam delved and Eve span, who was then a gentleman?’.

And then, almost most exquisite of all, further round we came to the gentleness and grief of these figures in this representation of the entombment of Christ; one can almost believe there are tears in the eyes of the right hand figure.

After which, for Easter week, there is this purposeful resurrection scene, with the risen Lord's banner flowing behind him .

Monday 9 April 2012

Less water, more trees

A hose pipe ban has began, and the reason why is clear from this pair of pictures of Kingston Wood by the water tower on the edge of the parish.  The top picture was put up on this Blog on 19th March 2010 when there was concern that the rising water table was damaging the area.  The bottom picture was taken last week, just over two years later.

Meanwhile, a contributor to Rod Collins' website has found this old postcard image of St Nicolas' (and of the Grange next door).  This is clearly number 3 in a series of which the image of a monument  in St Michael's churchyard put up on this Blog on 13th March 2010 was number 5 (so I'd dearly love to be able to find numbers 1, 2 and 4, and possibly numbers 6 onwards).  The bottom picture is the 'same view' yesterday.

Monday 2 April 2012

Signs of the Kingdom?

The Lent gatherings in the parish having produced some creative reflections. We had a Mental Health Chaplain and an Industrial Chaplain to share what they had discovered through their work, and a couple of us from within the parish offered something similar ourselves around the issues of debt (outlined here a few weeks ago) and from involvement in the Heavy Metal scene.

The volunteer who has been developing and hosting a new parish website has put up some of this at


I have played a small part in helping her remember who she is, what she values, and that she herself is of value. ‘Good news’, although we have not mentioned God’s name once in our conversation... It lies at the heart of my job to remind others that those with mental health conditions are people (people with a bipolar disorder, people with anxiety, and so on). They are a person first who has a mental health condition. The condition does not define them; it is not the total sum of them. Even the most difficult person who spits and shouts and lashes out is still a person. Kindness and care for the individual goes a long way. When Jesus heals the Gerasene demoniac, he does not make his healing a spectacle but takes him aside, asks his name, has him unbound, and sends him back into his community. He deals with the person.


Jesus taught about God’s kingdom breaking in around us, and led us to pray for its coming here as much as in heaven. We were reminded of the language of a foretaste - catching something of the flavour of a feast we are not yet at. We were reminded of the language of birth pangs - the labour pains involved as a new life is brought forth. We wondered whether the things we had been exploring for five weeks were telling us about the character of God’s kingdom, about savouring the hints of what it is intended to be, about how the moment it begins among us can be as traumatic as a difficult birth. Those who live among or minister with people with fractured mental health, in situations of debt, in the Heavy Metal scene, and at the work place had been reporting and reflecting on what this had meant to them. What we heard about were signs of God’s kingdom breaking in around us.

Meanwhile, the pheasants in Great Coates churchyard normally squawk away long before I get out a camera, but this pair were so intent on harassing each other that they didn’t bother about the potential threat from a human being very close by.