Monday, 29 June 2009

Happy Memories of Hazel Hollis (1974-2008)

Last Saturday Hornchurch Baptist Church held a thanksgiving service for the life of Hazel Hollis, who sadly died of breast cancer last year. Hazel was a lovely Christian young woman who, though dead, still speaks by the fragrant memories and her kind words that she spoke during her short life on earth. Her race was not a marathon, but a successful sprint or short run.

Hazel was known for her lovely smile, positive attiude to life and people and tremendous energy in carrying out what she believed in. Her testimony was bright and clear (and copies of her story are available from Hornchurch Baptist Church, Leather Lane, Hornchurch, Essex, RM11 1RL tel. 01708 456173) ; she was open and honest. Hazel had a love for her fellow Christians and folk in the community. Her involvement in cafe church and cafe style evangelism was inspirational; it is hoped that her work in this area will continue and those that she wanted to reach will be invited to respond to the wonderful Gospel message, which Hazel proclaimed in word and deed.

Some men in the church will never forget her beautiful long hair and the little black dress that she once wore to a social event; once seen but never forgotten, because she had the figure to do justice to the said garment. Hazel did turn heads, and other women noticed the male admirers. Some were protective towards her, but Hazel could take care of herself being highly trained in Tai Kwon Do (the Korean martial art).

We believe that Hazel is now with the Lord, and though absent from our fellowship of believers she is with the saints triumphant and the great cloud of witnesses. Hazel is, I believe, cheering us on, interceding and working for the Lord in a new way.

After this memorial service there was a storm and very heavy rain which lasted for hours and it soaked quite a few people. It caused some flash flooding. To me it was like tears from heaven, weeping with those on earth who felt the grief of Hazel's death, yet this rain was welcome blessing to a parched and needy land. Hazel brought showers of blessing into many lives.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Eastern Baptists

The Eastern Baptist Assembly took place today at Christchurch, Ipswich, Suffolk. The building was quite full, and that is very welcome in a fellowship linked to the United Reformed Church which has been in serious numerical decline in parts of the England. (In some Essex villages the URC cause seems to have a terminal prognosis. The United Reformed Church is an organization with perceptible problems; it does not seem united and its certainly not reformed from my point of view.) Certain Essex Baptist churches have closed (Ardleigh Green, Harold Hill, Mawney's to name a few), but there are some very encouraging signs of numerical and financial growth, and project development.

The seminars at the EBA were engaging and stimulating. I rejoice in the fact that Eastern Baptist wish to engage and connect with everyday folk and meet them on the high street, in the highways and byways, the ditches and the dirty places of life.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Another warm sunny day in the Constable Country

This afternoon I spent a most enjoyable afternoon at Hall Farm, near the parish church at Stratford St Mary, buying the local farm shop produce and sampling the fine food in the restaurant. I was feeling content with my lot in life as I ate al fresco under the high June sun and admired the view across the meadows to Dedham. The magnificent tower of St Mary's could be seen above the leafy landscape with lovely lanes and farmlands. Such scenes inspired John Constable. Coachloads of tourists and day trippers come for cream teas at the Essex Rose and the Boathouse Restaurant at Dedham. Le Talbooth at Stratford St Mary has a beautiful setting and offers top quality food. There are many good places to eat in this area, and the public houses are worth visiting. I have happy memories of The Swan at Stratford St Mary, where my sons used to play and chase each other in the beer garden by banks of the River Stour. John Constable painted The Young Waltonians near this spot, but the old mill is no longer there.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Tenby, Dinbych yr Pysgod

Tenby in Pembrokeshire will always have a special place in my heart. I have so many very happy memories of relatives, events and family holidays there. We used to visit Uncle John Cilyn Davies and Aunty Dilys Davies, who lived at Crosgar (on the corner of Queen's Parade and Trafalgar Road in Tenby. Their bedroom had a magnificent view across to Caldey Island. Uncle John, who for many years was the bank manager at Barclay's in Narbeth, bought Crosgar for his retirement. Dilys loved playing golf at the links nearby. (She was a county tennis player, and something of a gymnast when she was a schoolgirl at Tasker's School in Haverfordwest.) My sons loved the seaside and playground by the South Beach area. We would often eat at Candy's Restaurant, with the magnificent view of the harbour and North Beach. Uncle John liked a drink, well a few pints, at The Mariners.

He would come back to Crosgar and enjoy a whisky night cap. Dilys liked a drop of Valpolicella and enjoyed adventurous cooking; well it was adventurous in those days, helped by a lovely Rayburn cooker in the kitchen. My elder son liked to talk to the seagulls that visited the backyard, and made friends with one of them that he called Joey. He liked to go on the nearby swings that were there in the 1980s, and we played putting and boules on the green across the road. I loved to look across the sea to Caldey Island by the flight of steps that go down to the beach carpark; at one time there was a "fundrome", which is now a distant memory.

Boat trips to Caldey were always a most enjoyable experience; we loved to visit the Abbey, hear the monks talk about the Cistercian way of life and give informative guided tours to men only. One year I remember Roscoe Howells giving the talk and guided tour, shortly after his conversion to Roman Catholicism. While I respect the monastic way, I don't really think of it as a positive witness and best way of living the Christian life. There seems to be too much restrictive practice which inhibits spiritual activity, such as evangelism and sharing the Gospel with others, perhaps over an evening drink. Going to bed before 9 p.m. in the middle of summer seems to be a form of stupidity. What a waste of such lovely sunny daylight hours and balmy Summer evenings with beautiful sunsets.

Sunset at Whitesands Bay
I also rejoice in my happy marriage and love for my sons. The monastic life is definitely not for me. To love, to think and to engage in good conversation, that's the life. No vow of silence and celibacy for me!

Caldey Island from South Beach, Tenby

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Joy in June 2009, pleasant days in Pembrokeshire

I spent some lovely days in Pembrokeshire walking the coastal path and enjoying the long Summer days with fine weather and brillant sunshine. I rejoice in the beauty of West Wales, especially the beaches and seascapes. I have two favourite parts of the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path: from St Bride's Haven to Broadhaven, and from Stackpole Quay to Barafundle Bay.


I have taken some photographs of the Pembrokeshire coast on my Fuji digital camera. I hope you like them, but they can in no way capture the true beauty and glorious sights that have to be experienced while walking along the coastal path in God's presence in Christ Jesus by the Holy Spirit. A foretaste of heaven!


River Stour