Saturday, 30 July 2011

Pleshey, Essex. It was a pleasure to be at Pleshey yesterday afternoon

Pleshey is a peaceful place.  It has a retreat centre, a lovely church, an ancient motte and bailey castle, two pubs and many charming cottages. Sadly there is no longer a cricket team; the pitch is currently in quite poor condition, particularly the wicket square, and the last match was played about two years ago.

I spoke to a retired gentleman, born and bred in Pleshey, who was working on his five allotments; it is good to hear an authentic Essex accent.  The ugly estuary English accent seems to be spreading throughout Essex. 

The castle moat is now a pleasant water feature

The Diocesan House of Retreat, Pleshey

 Holy Trinity Church, Pleshey

The Parish Church is, to my way of thinking, rather Dibleyesque.  I can see many parallels with the Vicar of Dibley. Visit the church and look into the way things are run.  Reverend Geraldine would be happy here.

                                   Pleshey Cricket Club pavilion and outfield

The ramshackle pavilion has seen better days.  The square is in need of tender loving care and some matches played on it.  There are not enough committed cricketers and locals to tend and look after the ground.

Cottages are lovingly looked after. The thatch on this cottage is a work of art.  Long may this skilful enterprise of quality thatching continue.

The publican is evidently trying to make a go of the Leather Bottle in lean times.  Many pubs are closing and are struggling to survive under harsh economic conditions.

The White Horse has been a popular restaurant and destination for the discerning  diner for many years. 

The old Pleshey village pump has been charmingly preserved for posterity.

The former Pleshey village school buildings are now a private residence.

The old Pleshey blacksmith's barn will soon disappear.  The plot is destined for a new development.

The village allotments are wonderfully well tended, but will future generations find the time and the energy to maintain them to their present glory?

The Old Mission Hall, Pleshey

In the middle of the last century children's voices could be heard singing Christian choruses at this mission hall; it is now a private residence.  A certain way of life has disappeared from the village in these increasingly secular times.

Revision and additional information posted on 8 August 2011.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Videos of St Francis Hospice

I have uploaded two videos of St Francis Hospice, Havering atte Bower, Essex, on my YouTube channel.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Prayer walking in the Fields: Wethersfield, Great Bardfield and Finchingfield

Last Saturday I went prayer walking with two friends.  The weather was overcast and windy; it was not particularly warm but that is better than heat when the prayerwalk is over a few miles and takes more than six hours. I was slower this year and not as fit as I was last year, but I am getting fitter and increasing in stamina. The prayer walk did me a great deal of good, physically and spiritually.  I felt much more energetic a day later.

The countryside was beautiful after some recent heavy rain. There was a  lovely lushness all around us.

In some places the footpaths were hard to find and were covered in thick vegetation.

We even had to consult the OS map to make sure that we were on the right track.

We saw some delectable countryside, magnificent churches and fine views.  It was such a pleasure to walk in the Essex Fields, pray, reflect on God's goodness, shares jokes, and enjoy Christian fellowship.

Sometimes we meet some rough and ready rustics. We loved this bloke's accent and rural charm.

Phil, on the left, likes to have fun with a good pun.  His play on words is often heard.
Sometimes subtle and sometimes funny, sometimes clever and sweet as honey.
Many jokes were told that day before it was the close of play.
No stumps were drawn but our walk was done.
Next year we hope for much more sun.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

St Francis Hospice, Havering atte Bower: birthday celebrations last Friday

Last Friday I attended the St. Francis Hospice birthday service, which was held at the Pepperell Education    (my error corrected on 8.8.11) Centre in the grounds of SFH.  It was a lovely afternoon, sunny and warm.  The visibility from the gates looking south across to Kent was excellent.  I took some photographs of the occasion, the grounds, the old hall and the view south to Kent.  

I hope you liked the photographs of St Francis Hospice, Havering atte Bower.   SFH has been a labour of love and kindness, made possible by the generous gifts of many dear Christian people and others.
Acts 20:35.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Norway now mourns over the massacre at Utoya and the bombling in Central Oslo

It is every parent's nightmare, the fear of losing children and having to bury them.  Families of the victims of the Oslo bombing and Utoya murders, by Anders Breivik, are feeling such terrible pain and grief.  Thousands have gathered around the Lutheran Cathedral in Oslo to show solidarity, compassion, grief and respect for the many lives so tragically taken by a fanatic.  Tears have flowed.  Many hearts are heavy this morning as Norway is facing its worst disaster and loss of life since the Second World War.  Around 100 people, mainly young people, have been swept into eternity as the result of a right wing maniac who had no respect for their lives or pleas for mercy.  Breivik showed no mercy but cold and calculated cruelty in slaying so many with his weapons of wickedness.  It is clear that there is hate in his heart.  This was a hate crime against humanity, which Breivik so evidently lacked.  He has claimed to follow some form of Christian teaching, but no one or no theology can justify such outrageous actions.  To hate is to do the work of the devil.  1John 3:8,10,14-20.  Christian ethics are centred in faith expressing itself through love. Galatians 5:6b.

Breivik has allowed a root of bitterness to grow within his soul; he was following the dangerous way of demonic destruction and did what was right in his own eyes.  They were not fixed on Christ, so there is absolutely nothing Christian in his actions. Breivik is a liar like the devil, who is his master. He has listened to lies, believed lies and now evil has come from his life.  He does not follow the Way, the Truth and the Life. How dare he claim to do any of these wicked works in the name of Christian teaching!

Update 26/7/11
It is now estimated that less than 100 but over 70 people died in the two events caused by bad guy Anders Behring Breivik, the bestial butcher.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Cliff Richard, Crusaders and Finchley in the 1960s

In 1965 Cliff Richard, now Sir Cliff Richard, came along to the Finchley Crusader Bible Class held at Christ's College School, London N3, on Sunday afternoons. This Bible class for schoolboys, predominantly private and grammar schoolboys, was run by Bill Latham and Graham Disbrey.  Cliff had been invited to "sit in...under the gaze of thirty goggling schoolboys."  I was one of them, in the intermediate age group, and I proudly wore my Crusader badge on the lapel of my school blazer. My friend, who sat next to me, had a Crusader Bible, having attended Crusader classes for a whole year, on Sunday afternoons, without an absence.  This would have been something that I could never achieve because my Father, who played cricket up to three times a week, encouraged me to be a cricket scorer and occasional fielder/player, when somebody cried off on the day of the match. (The money for scoring and the delicious free teas, with plenty of sandwiches and cakes, were very tempting to a teenage boy.)  I was told by some evangelical Christians that I failed to honour the Lord's Day properly.  According to this view, Sunday (the Lord's Day or Christian Sabbath) was not a day for sport or recreational activity, and certainly not for any school homework.  Crusader Bible class was considered to be a most worthy way for teenage boys to spend their afternoons on the Lord's Day.  Dr John Harvey of Imperial College, University of London, was leader of the Crusader Bible class for senior boys.

Cliff was very committed to the class, despite his heavy commitments as an international entertainer.  On Saturdays we occasionally went on special outings.  On one Saturday we went to Whipsnade Zoo, and Cliff drove some of the boys up the M1 in his Citroen convertible.  He had some impressive cars.  I seem to recall him arriving at Christ's College in a Jensen Interceptor and an E type jaguar.  He once told the boys that he had owned a Cadillac, but it had been a great disappointment.

Cliff moved to Etchingham Park Road in Finchley, London N3, where Mrs Latham and her son, batchelor Bill Latham, lived.  I understand that Cliff believes that his conversion took place in this house.  Bill attended St. Paul's Church (Anglican), across Victoria Park, in Long Lane, Finchley. Cliff went there too. Paul Betts was the vicar and Terry Nottage was the curate. David Winter, who had been editor of Crusade Magazine,   became a BBC producer of religious programmes; he was a very active member of the congregation at St Paul's. ( I remember arguing with him about adult believers' baptism. David Winter robustly defended the Anglican theological position of infant baptism.)  St. Paul's Church had a thriving youth club, but nothing like Christ Church, North Finchley, which had a packed large hall (with badminton and table tennis) on Saturday nights. Christ Church had very well attended after church meetings on Sunday evenings, with some excellent guest speakers. Andrew Kirk, an eminent theologian, was a curate then. Both churches were soundly evangelical.  Harold Parks became the vicar in the mid 1960s.

I remember talking to Cliff at David Winter's house, near Victoria Park in Finchley, about Cliff's future in showbusiness. David Winter, Bill Latham and Nigel Goodwin wanted Cliff to get involved in the Billy Graham Evangelistic Organization and the Crusade meetings. (Nothing to do with Crusaders.)  For a time Cliff was considering becoming a school teacher of religious studies.  Bill Latham was then head of religious education at a secondary school in Hertfordshire; he gave Cliff advice about a career in teaching and the need for academic qualifications in order to enrol for teacher training.  Some Christians felt that Cliff should quit the worldly pop music business, like Terry Dene the skiffle group singer. Becoming an evangelist or RE teacher would have been a possible way forward.  These Christians contended that the evil influences of the pop music industry would be detrimental to an authentic Christian witness.  The broad way of compromise and terrible temptations would beckon.  There was fear of worldliness and the contamination by the pop scene with its loose morals and sexual promiscuity i.e. sex, drugs and rock and roll.  The Nationwide Festival of Light was formed to challenge and stand against the perceived moral laxity, particularly in the media. Some trendy teenagers, however, thought that it was better to be a Keith Richards (of the Rolling Stones) fan rather than Cliff Richard, sometimes despised for his squeeky clean Christian pop star image.   When Cliff decided to remain in showbusiness some Christians were disappointed.  Others rejoiced that he could witness and proclaim his deeply held Christian faith to a very wide but needy audience.  Links with evangelist Billy Graham, a Billy Graham  film starring Cliff called Two A Penny, with RADA graduate Nigel Goodwin, followed.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Is the road out of Helmand paved by bad excuses?

I have heard it said that the path to hell is paved by bad excuses, rather than good intentions.  There are good intentions and bad excuses in abundance when it comes to the war in Afghanistan. It seems that people who provide bad excuses are able to justify all kinds of evil enterprises.  We are hearing bad excuses in relation to the Afghan War and the failure to see any tangible results. Rogue army personnel manage to kill British troops with alarming regularity.  That's what I hear on the BBC news.  Despite NATO forces spending billions, Afghanistan seems no better off today.  The number of civilian deaths and casualties is totally unacceptable. Disgraceful!  Yet the Ministry of Defence continues to spin and send out bad excuses for failures in Afghanistan.

British troops are often regarded as occupying infidels, and those who have suffered from "friendly fire" and stray bombs will be glad to see them leave their country.  Far too many civilians have been harmed by NATO
bullets and bombs that have afflicted thousands of Afghans.

I believe that the NATO forces will have wasted billions of dollars on an enterprise that was doomed to fail.
The lessons of the previous Afghan wars and the Vietnam quagmire have not been learned.  Sadly the hell of Helmand continues. Foreign invaders will not sort it out.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

The Induction of Reverend Stephen Henwood at Hornchurch Baptist Church

Yesterday afternoon the Reverend Stephen Henwood was inducted as Minister of Hornchurch Baptist Church.

Yes, the Mayor of Havering was there.

 It was a very happy occasion, despite the inclement weather outside the church building. Friends, relatives, church leaders and members, regular worshippers and colleagues (some representing St Francis Hospice where Stephen worked as Senior Chaplain) attended the service conducted by Reverend Sheila Martin, regional minister of the Eastern Baptist Association.  Reverend Ian Bell of Romford Baptist Church, an old friend from the north east of England (who watched Middlesbrough play at Ayresome Park), gave the address. A cream tea was provided after the service. Strawberries and cream provided the right colours for the Middlesbrough fans.

The Bible reading was from Ephesians chapter 4, which was expounded by Ian Bell (not to be confused with the England test cricketer).

Please note that the Reverend Stephen Henwood should not be confused with Stephen Henwood the chairman of Britain's Nuclear Decommissioning Authority 2008-2011.


River Stour