Tuesday, 29 May 2012

A voice is heard in Houlah

A voice is heard in Houlah,
weeping and great mourning,
women weeping for their children
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more.

Bashar al-Assad will now go down in history as a slaughterer of the innocents, as King Herod in New Testament times. Herod's dynasty was eventually removed, as the Assad regime will fail and fall. In some ways one can draw parallels with Rehoboam, in the First Book of Kings, who oppressed the people with harshness and cruelty, caused a rebellion and warfare, and did evil in the sight of God and man.

The cries of the oppressed in Syria have been well documented, but still world leaders refuse to help those in desperate need of medical supplies and protection.

Kofi Annan is so meek and mild that he is ignored.  Like cold and weak coffee, people do not wish to swallow his brand.  It is time to get tough with the Assad assassination machine.

Assad must go, and eventually after more deaths and dreadful, despicable dealings a new regime will be installed.  The house of Assad will fall.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Thomas Watson, Puritan preacher, and Barnston, Essex

Some of my readers may know of Thomas Watson, the great Puritan divine, who wrote wonderful works of biblical theology.  Thomas Watson was active in the 17th century and spent his last years at Barnston, Essex.

He was ejected from the church in the City of London where he ministered in 1662, as were many principled preachers who could not in good conscience subscribe and submit to the Act of Uniformity.  It was the beginning of a new chapter of non-conformity in England.

Last Thursday I spent a very happy afternoon in the Essex countryside around Great Dunmow, The Rodings and The Easters.  The journey from High Roding to Barnston was really lovely on a perfect May day, when the sun shone brightly, the birds sang beautifully, the yellow fields of oil seed rape glowed gloriously, and the warm weather gladdened the heart of man and beast.

The Church of St Andrew at Barnston was rather remote and hard for me to find.

For those who are keen on the history of the church in the Puritan period, this plaque should be of interest.

A memorial plaque inside the church of St Andrew, Barnston, near Great Dunmow, Essex.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Sounds like another form of anti-democratic repression

President Vladimir Putin, the former KGB officer, wishes to shield the Russian people from radical actions. He  apparently supports a very controversial bill which would significantly increase fines for those involved in "unsanctioned protests".

In December 2011 there were mass street protests, by opponents of the re-elected President Putin, which were certainly unsanctioned, in response to perceived election fraud.

It is now feared that the bill, which has gained lower house approval, will prevent and put pressure on the protesters and public opponents who wish to take to the streets to express their grievances.  Fines for unsanctioned protests could be used to curtail free speech, opposition rallies, spontaneous responses to injustice, and democratic practices.  The heavy fines could be a weapon against democratic and spontaneous protest. Yet President Putin maintains that establishing increased fines for unsanctioned protesters "strengthened democracy".

Monday, 21 May 2012

Annie Davies, Evan Roberts and the love song of the Welsh Revival

Annie Davies was a church singer from Maesteg who became well known for her rendition of Here is love vast as the ocean during the 1904 Welsh Revival and the ministry of Evan Roberts.  Annie became the main soloist at meetings led by Evan Roberts.  There were rumours that they were engaged. The handsome Evan Roberts did not marry the lovely singer, but he remained single. It is recorded that congregations were often moved to tears when Annie Davies sang.  This great hymn that she often sang was known as "the love song of the Welsh Revival".  It was in fact written by William Rees.

Here is love, vast as the ocean,
Lovingkindness as the flood,
When the Prince of Life, our Ransom,
Shed for us His precious blood.
Who His love will not remember?
Who can cease to sing His praise?
He can never be forgotten,
Throughout Heav’n’s eternal days.

On the mount of crucifixion
 fountains opened deep and wide
Through the floodgates of God's mercy
 flowed the vast and gracious tide,
Grace and love like mighty rivers
 poured incessant from above
Heaven's peace and perfect justice
 kissed a guilty world in love.

My mother in law remembered Evan Roberts, who died in 1951.  She said that he was a very attractive man who had many female admirers.  At one time Evan Roberts was quite a celebrity in South Wales, but he died in obscurity. The newspapers, such as the Western Mail, helped him gain popularity.  But he was a really anointed preacher who drew large crowds and saw many people come to faith and salvation in Christ. My wife's grandmother was in Sunday School in Llanelli during the Welsh Revival and remembered hearing him preach to thousands.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Stoke by Nayland on Ascension Day

On Ascension Day, which fell this year on 17 May, I visited Stoke by Nayland and Polstead in Suffolk. (Please see my blog post yesterday for video details.)

This area is in the Constable Country and close to the River Stour, which runs through Nayland, where one can see a Constable painting (Christ blessing the elements) in the parish church.

I had lunch at the Crown, Stoke by Nayland and then visited the pleasant Church of St Mary at Polstead.

From the churchyard it is possible to see the tower of Stoke by Nayland in the distance to the south.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Prayerwalking today on the third Saturday in May

Come what may, prayerwalking is for me today!  It is the third Saturday in May, so prayerwalking will make my day!

Later this morning I'll be in Dedham, ready and willing to walk to Langham, Stratford St Mary, East Bergholt and back along the River Stour to Dedham, stopping on the way to pray at four churches dedicated to St Mary.

I love to watch football and often this Saturday in May clashes with the Cup Final, but today it is a Wembley match for the Hammers, and Chelsea are in the Champions League final against Bayern Munich in Munich. But
I'd rather be out in the Constable Country prayerwalking.  I hope to see the matches on TV later.

Thursday was Ascension Day, and I went out visiting churches in North Essex and Suffolk.  I have recorded my visit to St Mary's at Polstead on YouTube.





Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Yes, we must work harder Mr Pickles...to tackle obesity!

Mr. Eric Pickles has told us that we need to work harder.  I agree with him, a man who looks like he has not missed many meals.  We need to work harder to tackle obesity, which lies at the root of many ailments and therefore costs the National Health Service pounds and pounds sterling.  We need to shed some pounds in weight.  Mr Pickles certainly does.

So we need to work hard to live more healthy lives, to get sufficient exercise, to get off our fat backsides and exercise daily, to maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle, and avoid obesity.

Yes, we need to work harder.

Beware of Greeks bearing debts

With apologies to Sophocles and John Dryden, we should beware the Greeks bearing debts.  Greeks lied about their financial situation to enter the Euro zone.  Some of their pension arrangements, Government spending, and state pay awards were irresponsible and completely unsustainable. Tax evasion is rife in Greece. The Greek economy is not in any position to pay back what it owes. Many Greeks seem to want to have the benefits of the Euro club membership, but they are clearly not prepared to pay the membership fees.  Many have rejected austerity, but austerity and financial hardships are coming their way.

Some people are referring to the Greek economy as a zombie economy.  It has been feeding off the livelihoods of others.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Wow! What a dramatic and exciting end to the Premiership season

In the dying seconds of the game between Manchester City and Queen's Park Rangers the Premiership was decided.  Two goals in injury time secured the title for Man. City.  Their rivals, Manchester United, were uncertain about the title when they left the pitch at Sunderland. United had won by a single goal at full time, but Manchester City were a goal to nil down after ninety minutes.  City fans had experienced joy when they took the lead, and then shock when QPR equalized, and then despair when the QPR team of ten men took the lead.  The slender lead remained until extra time, and despondent City fans of little faith were leaving the Etihad Stadium.  The loud cheers brought some of them back to celebrate the Manchester City victory and title celebrations.  Quite a number were climbing over concrete walls at the exits.  I understand the celebrating stewards allowed fans back into the ground. Amazing scenes were shown at the Etihad in the final minutes of the game.  Manchester United fans at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland were in a state of shock and sadness.  Their bitter rivals had won the Premiership on goal difference. It was so, so close.  Who would have believed it would have been this exciting.

Yesterday determined the top four places in the Premiership.  Spurs were hoping for a win against Fulham, which they achieved by winning by two goals to nil, and for West Bromwich Albion at home to hold or defeat Arsenal, their North London rivals. Arsenal managed to beat WBA by three goals to two at the Hawthorns.

Roy Hodgson, who will be the next England manager, finished his time as WBA manager with a home defeat.   His side were really mediocre; the Albion goalkeeper, Fulop, was woeful, giving one the worst performances of the season.  Arsenal consequently won third place and were guaranteed Champions League football next season.  Fourth place normally offers the chance of Champions League (CL) football, but Chelsea will qualify for that spot as holders if they beat Bayern Munich, who play at home in this year's final. Bayern are expected to win on their home turf.  They have won every CL game at home this season.  Should Spurs fail to secure CL football then they could lose some key players, who would not want to play Europa League football. Hard negotiations would take place in the Tottenham camp.

 Harry Rednapp, who would be the best man for the England job, ended his season with a comfortable home win.  I have admired Roy Hodgson as a football manager and coach, but he is not as good as Harry. As an Albion manager Roy will be remembered with affection.  He helped them climb out of the regulation zone and reach mid table respectability.  For the Baggies, in the 21st century and in the context of their recent history, that is success.  Harry has had more success in the Premiership.  Roy has never won an FA cup or managed a top four finish in the Premiership.  Roy's poor track record at Liverpool causes people to doubt his ability to set England on the road to success.  England are not expected to well, so Roy may be given time and space to improve things, but many believe that Harry will, in time, be waiting in the wings to take over.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Beauchamp Roding: beautiful church in the fields

Yesterday I visited Beauchamp Roding on a magnificent May afternoon.  The rape fields rejoiced in the midday sun.

There were pastures green, a pleasant path and a stream of full of water.  I thought about Psalm 23 and John 7:38..

 The church is isolated and peaceful.  It has no buildings around it. I understand that the Black Death struck this area, and I have come across documentary evidence of fatalities from the plague at Beauchamp Roding.  The ancient puddingstone and yew trees in the graveyard suggest a pre-Christian era, perhaps a pagan grove.  It is well known that churches were built on pagan sites and on high ground overlooking the local settlements.

St. Botolph's Church, Beauchamp Roding, Essex

From the south

The ancient puddingstone at Beauchamp Roding

The font at St Botolph's Church, Beauchamp  Roding

Friday, 11 May 2012

Moreton, near Ongar, Essex

Today I visited Moreton, in Essex, on a bright sunny dry day.  Yes, it did not rain at all, though some dark clouds appeared from time to time.  I mentioned recently that the Nag's Head pub restaurant featured in the second series of Lovejoy, broadcast in 1991.  Please see my post of 8 May 2012 for further details about the Lovejoy episode.

The village has another pub restaurant across the road, The White Hart Inn at Moreton.

Moreton has some charming cottages and a lovely church.

The north side of the Church of St Mary the Virgin, Moreton

The south side of the Church of St Mary the Virgin, Moreton
Looking towards the bell tower at the west end of St Mary the Virgin, Moreton

The pulpit, lectern and organ at the Church of St Mary the Virgin, Moreton, Essex

This afternoon there was a wedding at the church, and the weather was kind to the bride and groom. I saw  weddings guests preparing for the event, and quite a few went to the Nag's Head.
The font at St Mary the Virgin Church, Moreton, Essex

Cripsey Brook flowing east.

The bridge over Cripsey Brook, looking north to Moreton

The bridge over Cripsey Brook, Moreton, looking south

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Key factors in church growth

There are many books, views and strategies for church growth.  I would like to pass on my own observations.
Having seen churches and fellowships thrive, decline, stabilize and die since the 1960s, I have noticed that the ones that did manage to grow significantly had some important elements that helped them sustain and succeed.

These growing churches had a committed core membership who were able to enthuse others and engender a strong belief in the value and worth of their fellowship.  In many cases these members really believed that their fellowship had a great deal to offer.  Some would express it in the words, "our church is the place to be" or words to that effect.

Some of these members had charisma, leadership skills and attractive personalities.  Some were evidently filled with the Holy Spirit and power from on high.  Therefore they were able to create an atmosphere of love, grace and warmth, a place where people felt comfortable and spiritually nourished.

These members were able to create and build an infrastructure that gave good support, fellowship and a sense of community.  Good facilities definitely can help. People are drawn to churches that provide useful services, such as child care groups, luncheon clubs, sports, youth and leisure programmes.

Quite often these growing churches had very good musicians, Bible teachers and caring pastors (not necessarily professionals and ordained clergy).

It helps when a church or fellowship has contact with the community through its programmes, and can allow people to come in from the fringe without the cringe factor.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Major Crime and Corporal Punishment

"Major Crime and Corporal Punishment" were mentioned as a comedy military double act in a Lovejoy episode. Former Major Linden Walker (played by John Wells, better known for his Denis Thatcher impersonations) had been Major Crime, and former Corporal Tinker Dill (played by Dudley Sutton) had apparently been called Corporal Punishment.  John Wells sadly died in January 1998, when he was 61.

This episode 15, broadcast on 3 February 1991, was called Who Dares, Sings.  It was in the second series.  The first series was in 1986.  For those who are interested in Lovejoy locations, as I am, the pub restaurant was in fact The Nag's Head at Moreton, near Ongar, Essex. It was once known as Moreton Massey.  The pub restaurant is still operating.   http://www.grahamsatthenagshead.com/

Praise for Proper Pudding Company of Hintlesham, Suffolk

Yesterday I bought a triple chocolate crunch made by the Proper Pudding Company of Hintlesham, Suffolk.  It cost me £6.85 in a farm shop.  When I tried a portion in the evening I was not disappointed.  It was so very tasty.  Delicious!  I loved it. It was handmade in Suffolk.

There is very little information about Proper Pudding Company of Hintlesham, IP8 3NH, on the internet at the moment, but I wish Helen Bryce Ltd. every success.  Food this good deserves to do well and to be appreciated.


River Stour