Welford House (GBBO)

Welford House (GBBO)
Snowdrop Walk

Friday, 15 February 2019

Mark's book review of: The Divine Dance by Richard Rohr

I enjoyed this book. I understand it is not to everyone's taste, given that Richard Rohr is a Roman Catholic theologian and mystic. He is also well read and very spiritual. Books like this make you think and the language used helps you think more. For instance:
"Even your mistakes will be used in your favour, if you allow them to be. That's how good God is."
"You are a travelling ark of the covenant".
"God does not love you because you are good. God loves you because He is good".
...See what I mean?
But the reason I bought this book was to learn more about the mystery we call The Trinity (God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit). Richard Rohr does not disappoint. He helps us choose different metaphors in thinking of the Trinity, hence The Divine Dance. More than that, he says, we are invited to the dance. Brilliant.

Friday, 1 February 2019

Mark's Review of The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal

Some books are important to read. The Hare with Amber Eyes is one of those books. It traces the colourful history of a wealthy banking Jewish family across Europe. The Ephussi. Apart from being very good bankers, they also collect art, Japanese art in particular, hence the title of the book. The reader is drawn in to the family knowing this is not going to end well. Sure enough, 1938 in Austria arrives and the family brutally and quickly loose everything. Some die in the concentration camps of Auschwitz or Dachua. This was Speen Book Club choice for January - very fitting as we have also had Holocaust Memorial Day. An important read.

Monday, 28 January 2019

5 days in Beijing.

On our way home from New Zealand visiting Len & Ruth (Bev's father and his Kiwi wife) we stopped in Beijing for 5 days. Beijing is great; the city is great; the people are great; the food is...Chinese; (scorpions, tarantulas and sea horses on a stick is challenging); The Forbidden City is very interesting; the Great Wall is 2 hours away and is steeper than you think to walk along; the air quality is very poor (get masks like the Chinese from Mini-So, £1 for 5); there are lots of interesting places to visit; there are lots of police; beware pretty Chinese girls approaching you to "practise English"!; the Beijing International Christian Fellowship is a great church; Chinese Christians are still being persecuted; fascinating place, well worth the visit.

Thursday, 24 January 2019

Being patient at Beijing airport...

I have been through Beijing airport twice this month. Beijing is a great city, with great people and fascinating places to visit. If you happen to be going there, be prepared and patient. If you are visiting Beijing your fingerprints will be taken, you must fill out an immigration form, then get a visa (if you haven't got one), have your photo taken, then go through immigration, then baggage, then security, then exit the airport. Both times this took more than 2 hours. Worth it, but be patient.

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Avoiding Burnout Part 4- Check Yourself

Are you suffering from Burnout? Are you approaching Burnout? How do you know? First, be honest with yourself. Consider the signs (see Avoiding Burnout Part 1 below). Is that you? Listen to your body. It speaks. Ask some one else how do they think you are doing? What do they observe? Ask someone at work and someone at home? It may be time to see a doctor. Or a pastor. He or she will ask good questions about how you are feeling, sleep patterns, emotions etc. Be honest. Burnout is common. It is worth pausing and asking yourself...how am I doing?

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Avoiding Burnout Part 3 - Burnout in the Caring Professions

The Guardian newspaper recently ran an article: How Burnout Became a Sinister Epidemic. The article describes the worrying high levels of workplace stress and burnout in the UK. It features the top three professions where burnout is most prevalent: Health Care, Social Services and Education. These professions require a high level of emotional investment, often with little reward or reciprocity. https://goo.gl/xhYfj3
The Nuffield Trust in its report Addressing Staff Burnout described the detrimental impact of "moral distress" on its staff. https://goo.gl/yxgBwE
A study by the NHS found that those working in maternity wards, for example, experienced high levels of work place stress and burnout - high emotional investment, long hours, sharing joy and pain, the impact of handling multiple births and death.
The NHS study found that working more than 40 hours per week significantly increased symptoms of work place stress and the likelihood of burnout.

  • Is workplace stress and burnout a new epidemic, or are we just better at seeing the signs?
  • What then can be done about Workplace Burnout, sometimes called Occupational Burnout...?

Thursday, 29 November 2018

Avoiding Burnout Part 2 - Pastoral Ministry & Burnout

Burnout in Pastoral ministry is common. Many of us will know a church leader who worked hard, gave himself to the church and as the years progressed...hit the buffers or crashed, emotionally done in. Leading a church is hard work: it is emotionally demanding; expectations are high; you get criticised; you have to perform; it is spiritual warfare; it takes its toll. How then do we maintain a healthy emotionally life that sees us thriving through the decades and running through the tape at the end?
One very helpful resource for pastoral workers is from the 9Marks Journal:
Pastoral Burnout its Causes and Cures https://goo.gl/jkVNDn

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Avoiding Burnout Part 1 - What are the Signs?

Recently I have been concerned about the number of those around me experiencing Burnout or emotional breakdown. Others have expressed symptoms of anxiety, depression or just not wanting to carry on. Maybe it is an age thing - most of these are in their mid 50s, men and women.
To begin this series on Burnout let us first look at some of warning signs of Burnout:
Feeling overly emotional, lack of concentration, being distracted, loss of appetite, loss of sexual appetite, awake worrying in the night, making excuses, evasive, constant tiredness, irritability, anger,  depression, anxiety, more frequent illness, hurry sickness, feeling depleted...
If you registered 5 or more of the above, then watch out, your body could be telling you something. But it is not too late to make necessary adjustments.
For more on Burnout see Psychology Today: https://goo.gl/NXc8vB

Friday, 23 November 2018

Healing Rooms Launched in Newbury

Today was an important day in Newbury. A small but significant event took place. The Newbury Healing Rooms were launched in Costa. Lord Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury, joined us with Brian the Newbury Town Crier. Healing Rooms are a safe place for folk to come to receive prayer for whatever is troubling them: anxiety, depression, physical difficulties or aches and pains of the heart will be prayed for on Friday mornings at Costa for free! Members of  various churches in Newbury will be available. "I'm glad you've come", the Costa manager said to me, "some very sad lonely people come here everyday - perhaps you can help them". I hope so.

Thursday, 22 November 2018

I Really Like Newbury

I really like Newbury. It is unlike anywhere else I have lived. I like the sense of history in old buildings and Donington castle that I can see from my house; I like the big houses used on TV like Highclere Castle (Downton) and Welford House (Bake Off); I like the water all around - the Lambourne river, the Kennet and Avon canal; I like the locks in the town centre, the bridges (22!); the West Berkshire countryside; I like the clock tower; the sense of community; so much happening in the town; the relationships between the churches; the Newbury Weekly News; racehorses in the paddock; Parkway Christmas lights; making new friends; so much in Newbury to enjoy...

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Mark's book review: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

I enjoyed this book very much - the Newbury Book Club read for November . A deserved Telegraph Book of The Year 2018.
Eleanor is a 29 year old Glaswegian from a deeply traumatic background who lives in a psychological walled city, built for own protection. Her life is very ordered, very dull and lonely. Slowly, through the kindness shown to her by Raymond at work and a stranger, her life takes a beautiful and unexpected turn.
This is the story of a misunderstood woman. Thoughtful, painful and funny with poignant insights into the power of kindness, this book isn't just an enjoyable read, it makes the reader want to be kind to someone today and to watch out for lonely heighbours.
Watch out for the film release summer 2019 starring Reese Wetherspoon...

Saturday, 3 November 2018

National Day of Prayer 1940

As we approach Remembrance Sunday, I have been reflecting on a significant national event of the Second World War. With the allied soldiers stuck at Dunkirk, facing certain annihilation, King George VI announced a National Day of Prayer for Sunday 26th May 1940. Cathedrals and churches up and down the land were full to bursting, many of them having long queues of people waiting to get in to pray. What followed was the incredible mass evacuation of 300,000 allied troops during calm seas, sometimes referred to as The Miracle of Dunkirk.
The Bishop of Chelmsford wrote at the time:
"If ever a nation was at the point of supreme and final disaster it was ours and yet we were saved. It does not require a exceptionally religious mind to detect this was the Hand of God"

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Prayer & Fasting Highlights: A Premiership Chaplain, the M4 and man from Bosnia...

I have just returned from 2 days Prayer and Fasting with 100 other church leaders from Commission - part of the Newfrontiers family of churches. It was great. I loved the worship and being refreshed in God. I enjoyed hearing about and praying for churches in the UK, but also in the US, ME, Ghana and Indonesia (in the wake of the tsunami). It was a particularly pleasure to have a leader from Bosnia Herzegovina. We prayed for the Commission churches in Fareham, Torquay, Plymouth, Guildford and London and we prayed north of the M4! We heard from a Premiership football chaplain who is also a church leader. Terrific time. Loved it. Just off to get something to eat...

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Learning from Natalie Williams

I went to a day conference yesterday in Winchester. Natalie Williams was the speaker. She is brilliant. - a former journalist, now church Press Officer who also works for Jubilee+. It was a Media Workshop. Natalie helped us understand the workings of the local newspaper business, how to build good relations with the media, how to write a good press release, how to have a church press calendar, what to do in the event of bad news breaking, media protocol, how to communicate better, how to love your town and what is the main thing your church\organisation wants to communicate and how are you going to do it? Brilliant

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

When a refugee came to stay...

Ali has been living with us for 11 months. He came to the UK, like many others, from a war torn country in an overcrowded boat, across Europe in hazardous fashion and in the back of a vegetable lorry from France. He arrived traumatised and bewildered. He has been to the doctor, the dentist and college to lean English. I have learnt a lot too - about having a refugee to stay; about his homeland; about the complex geo politics of the middle east; about how blessed we are in the UK to have electricity and running water all day long; to have super markets full of produce. I have learnt about Social Services, the Home Office, appearing in court and the good support he has had.
I have learnt how selfish and introspective I am.
He was sent back to his home country last week. It was good to have a refugee come to stay...