Mike Mercer Thursday 27 February, 1.30 at Mendip Crematorium
14 February I suspect you thought it is St Valentine’s Day today. Well it is, but this is a much lesser festival than the celebration of Cyril and Methodius who were missionaries in what is now the Czech Republic in the ninth century. There was at that time no alphabet there, and Cyril created the Slavonic Alphabet, now known as the Cyrilic text. Actually we know very little about St V who was probably a priest or bishop at Rome / Terni (at one point it was considered that there were two St Vs but now it is agreed there was only one) and who was martyred in about the year 269. I remember the agony in my teens of receiving or not a Valentine’s card. I was at boarding school so of course everyone knew what one had had and cards from parents did not count! It needed to be from a boy, and needed to have SWALK written on the back of the envelope (Sealed With a Loving Kiss). Mostly I didn’t get them, but one year I did and it was wonderful! And later in my early 20s I remember thanking my then boyfriend for the one he had sent me, only discover afterwards that he hadn’t – it was from someone else! And one year I had four Valentines. By the time I had reached my mid-20s it was no longer an issue. But I do often reflect on how lovely it is not to have to worry about all the things I used to worry about – what to wear for particular occasions for instance. Growing old does have some benefits! Which it needs to, considering all the non-benefits. Next week I am on holiday so won’t be doing the blog then.
7 February A very busy week but very bitty as well. I have done quite a bit of visiting, and I have also had clergy prayers which I do roughly every month with a couple of local clergy and what is called Clergy Chapter (a meeting of all the clergy in the local Chapter of the Deanery – see here if you want more details of the Deanery). So I seem to have spent the week all over the place. I have managed to answer almost all of my church emails but I have rather a lot of stuff to do for my business, including sorting out a new website for part of it, which needs a lot of work. My other business website, this website and the new business one all have the same “host programme” but each one is rather different (the choice of my website man) which means that I have to learn to do things all over again. I am feeling very frustrated with myself at the moment! Fridays is my day for updating websites, sending the Friday email etc etc and so far I have not got as far as I would like! I have updated the Coleford Diary Dates as far as I can (would be very grateful if someone could check these since I know a couple of things are missing) but may not get to Holcombe’s today. This is a time of year when we get a huge amount of post for the business (though not as much as we used to because a lot comes in via PayPal) but it has taken me a large part of the last two evenings to open. I have been doing some reading but not quite as much as usual because of this. I am going to sign off now because I still have a lot to do.
31 January Went to stay with my dad and stepmother on Monday / Tuesday. They have a full-time carer looking after them, but memory is a problem. On Tuesday morning I was having breakfast when Daddy came in: “Oh, I didn’t know you were here.” On Tuesday evening I was back home and rang him: “Oh, I didn’t know you had left!” But they are happy and well cared for. I wish they weren’t so far away, though. It is a four hour journey door to door. I go by train which means I can relax and read, and it is fine when all is on time, but not so good otherwise. Last time there was an interregnum (between vicars) in their local church, Daddy asked if I would apply. I told him that if I did I would expect him to come to church every Sunday. “In that case, don’t apply!” So I didn’t.
Had a very hectic day on Wednesday with, among loads of other things, a Governors’ meeting at Bishop Henderson. I never look forward to these, but always enjoy them! It’s surprising how much we can get done in just a couple of hours, and I felt really invigorated by the time I came home.
At the moment, I send out a weekly email, normally on a Friday, to those in the congregations, but I am thinking of extending it (still different to this blog). If you could be interested please go to the home page and scroll down to the bottom left hand side where it says ‘Stay Up to Date’ and sign in (I can’t do this for you). This goes to about 42 people at the moment, whereas my business one goes to well over 1,000 people! Quite a difference!
I went to Kilmersdon School assembly this morning. I go there about twice a term, because it is the designated school for children from Holcombe. This time, parents were there and it was lovely to see so many. Friday’s assembly is when certificates and awards are given out, and there were a lot of them.
Anyway, signing off now. Back next week.
24 January A much calmer week, and my pile of emails has reduced considerably, though not completely. On The Map has arrived, and I imagine those delivering will aim to do so in the daylight because collecting subscriptions is much easier then! I was with the Tuesday Afternoon Guild in Coleford on Tuesday afternoon and really enjoyed the company – they made me very welcome. I have been reading in the evenings, and am very much enjoying Queen Victoria’s Archbishops of Canterbury, very well written and absolutely fascinating. However last Saturday I was so tired I thought I had better read something else in the afternoon so I started Front Runner by Felix Francis (son of Dick) and promptly fell asleep after quarter of an hour. So I shall finish that this weekend – it is something I can only read during an afternoon as far too scary to read in the evenings. Or I might take on the train on Monday – I am off to my dad’s until Tuesday. A short visit, but actually it is long enough for all of us. I have also just finished reading Reading Romans Backwards which took me quite a while (the book I read to ensure I go to sleep at night). Actually it was brilliant and I need to make sure I have absorbed it properly. I shall be reading Romans shortly during Morning Prayer and hope this will help how I think of it. When I went for a half day of Clergy Training last week on Mental Health, one of the things we were told firmly to do is to SMILE. All the time. I need to remember to SMILE at my computer so I won’t find it so irritating and get so cross when it doesn’t do what I want. 10 to 1 my fault anyway.
17 January A really hectic week, with printer deadlines – for On The Map and also some magazines and a catalogue for my business. I now am really seeing light at the end of the tunnel as I just have to send off the catalogue, which I shall be able to finish tomorrow. The February On The Map is always a huge amount of work, because all the adverts need to be entered in again. Trudy sends me a list, and some are the same, some have come out and there are some new ones, so I start from scratch. Then there are all the Diary dates to do, checking that nothing clashes and that people have got the right day of the week for their happening (eg if it is Welcome Club, it has to be on a Wednesday). And then once everything is in, I have to move the pages round so that the colour pages are in the right place (you have to have them on an exact sheet of four folded pages). Apart from services, Vic Iles’ funeral, Holy Trinity PCC and Assembly I have not done much else this week. At least tomorrow is the Cats and Dogs’ Coffee Morning in Holcombe and that will be like a breath of fresh air. I have a mass of emails to answer – and people chasing me for answers (mostly from the business) – and a rather nasty pile on my desk to which I must pay attention. So I am going to stop now, but I hope to be writing properly next week.
10 January Looking back over Christmas, it was wonderful. The lead up to the festival was, as ever, fabulously busy. Our two Carol services were amazing and were really well attended. The Coleford Christmas Choir were absolutely terrific and will, I hope, be performing for us later in the year. We have never had so many people in Holcombe Old Church and it was really lovely. Our services on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were also lovely, though we were down in numbers a bit. The Christmas Tree festival at St Andrew’s was really lovely, and I don’t think I have ever seen the church looking so good. During the period we had two separate Christenings so lots of people were able to see the festival. As ever, I opened presents on Boxing Day and had some lovely things, especially a good lot of books, some theological which I started to read in January and quite a lot of children’s collectibles which I devoured almost as soon as I received them. I then moved on to Biggles, but as I can’t read Biggles before breakfast or in the evening (much too scary) I turned to theological books – that is rather a loose term as some of them are very light! I also had the new in paperback Felix Francis (Dick Francis’ son), Crisis, which I started almost as soon as I opened it. It was absolutely brilliant. I used to have them in hardback but now I only have the paperbacks, otherwise they take up too much space. I also ate far too much and I think I have put on about 2 stone, which I did in about 2 days. I am probably on a sugar high and must start eating normal food again. But it is one of the things I really enjoy on my break. I also love cold turkey so at a lot of that (with Marmite, baked potato, sweet corn, avacado and Sharwood’s Mango Chutney). Properly back this week, a huge amount to do. Funerals need to be properly prepared, urgent stuff for my business, and a lot of desk work for the church. But I have been out and about a bit as well, and last night we had an enjoyable PCC for St Andrew’s (thanks to Anne-Marie for hosting us).
13 December I thought this week was going to be quieter but it hasn’t been, and I am still not sure if I am coming or going. A good example of this was when someone asked me yesterday when our Carol service is. Sunday, I replied, and had to return later to tell her that of course it is Sunday 22nd December, at 6.00. I gather that our Christmas Choir are going great guns. I think many people will have felt cold in church recently, and this is not surprising. One boiler was turned off and the electrics running from the thermostat to the boilers were not working. Plummer and electrician have sorted this yesterday, so we will at least be warm. I have spent some time at my desk this week, and have managed to cross off quite a few things from my List of Things to Do, which is a huge relief. The news of Robin’s death on Wednesday came as a shock to many, I know, but for him it was a blessed release. His funeral is on Friday 10th January at 1.00 in church, and I am absolutely certain it will be packed. Obviously I know quite a bit about Robin, but if there are any memories of him you would like to share please can you email them to me. I shall prepare the funeral service on Monday 6th January so that this gives you time. This week my reading has consisted of the paper and Christmas magazines (light but even so I have fallen asleep over them). On Wednesday I went to see the three Bishop Henderson School plays (as ever, brilliant) and this morning I was at Assembly at Kilmersdon School handing out the Achiever’s awards, of which there were a lot, and quite a few outstanding. Just so that you know, I shall not be at my computer very much after Monday, and not at all after Thursday of next week. After Christmas (apart from Sunday 29th) I shall be on my post-Christmas break until Sunday 5th January (looking at emails again on Monday 6th). If there is an emergency please ring me but otherwise I shall be enjoying slouching on the sofa, reading books I will have been given and eating far too much. (And yes, I did see a headline which told me how much I can taking off my life for so doing, but I didn’t read further!) I hope that I shall see many readers of my Blog, but if not, please have a very blessed Christmas and a happy New Year.
6 December A hectic week, which has so far included several visits to people and two Christmas lunches (the Welcome Club on Wednesday, and the Deanery clergy one yesterday). And of course in a moment we have our Christmas coffee morning in the Church Hall, then tonight our Family Christmas Bingo in Holcombe Village Hall and tomorrow our Christmas Fair at the Legion. A very busy 24 hours or so, but also very enjoyable. I suspect tomorrow afternoon I shall sleep! One thing we have done this week is to mostly decorate the house – it’s not yet finished but is getting close to it, and is looking very nice. I have finally picked up The First Urban Christians by Wayne Meeks again, and have got on with it quite well, although I don’t feel it is as good as I thought it was in 2003. I think that is because it now starts to feel quite dated. But I want to get it finished so that I can also finish Reading Romans Backwards by Scott McKnight. I should like to finish both before Christmas, so that I can read new and more relaxing books over my holiday, although I shall need a ‘going to sleep’ book, and these fit perfectly into that category. No good reading a murder when you want to sleep, and St Paul is quite good at sending me to sleep! I still haven’t had time to do the results for the Bible Sunday Quiz though I have now put it on my list so I shan’t forget. My list has a depressing amount of things to do which should have now been done (checking through Christmas services and finishing Christmas cards for two), a couple of presents to sort out, and a couple of urgent things for my business.
29 November A short week in the parish this week as I was away Monday and part of Tuesday visiting my dad and stepma in West Sussex. As my father keeps saying he is “still above ground” but I am very glad they have a full-time carer, and do realise how lucky we are. Door to door a four hour journey. I go by train (from Warminster to Pulborough, with two changes) and miraculously, in spite of the very wet weather, all the trains were reasonably on time, and as one was a bit late so was another and so I didn’t miss any. Took a couple of Agatha Christies with me so the journeys went very quickly. These were The Secret of Chimneys and The Seven Dials Mystery. The second is a sequel of the first, though actually you don’t need to have read the first. Two of my favourites (not any of the main detectives, though Superintendent Battle appears) and really enjoyed reading them. Otherwise have not read much – am frantically trying to write Christmas cards in the evenings, have a lot to do and I don’t want to leave this so late it becomes a chore. And last night I was at Ali-Baba and the 40 Thieves. Along with everyone else I thought this was absolutely wonderful, and I laughed and laughed, and clapped and clapped. Much aided by two small boys in front of me who were letting lots of cats out of bags, to whom the cast responded brilliantly. If you can see it, then do – 01373 812137 for tickets. Congratulations to Coleford Theatre Group. One thing I have not done is the Bible Sunday Quiz results – that will be in my list of things to do for next week – I have had four complete answers from Holcombe, one from Coleford and one from elsewhere – it is still not too late to finish yours!
22 November I have finally finished Thomas Cranmer – nearly two months, but it was very good and I really enjoyed it. I have now started two more, Reading Romans Backwards by Scott McKnight and The First Urban Christians by Wayne Meeks. This one I read years ago. It was first published in 1983, and a new edition published in 2003, and it was shortly after that that I read it. I remember it as being incredibly good, but last night I really struggled through the Prefaces and Introduction. However, by Chapter 1, it was fascinating. The only thing with a book that age is that it was when people were doubting everything – so the author does not recognise Paul as the author of all the letters which bear his name, which nowadays all leading scholars do (although there is still some doubt about the Pastoral Letters to Timothy and Titus). Yesterday, I went to the pre-Advent retreat in the Bishop’s Palace. This is held over three days, one day for each Archdeaconry. We have several talks, and in between we are quiet. It was a very cold day and the Palace can be very cold so I had come prepared. During the first break I went to the drawing room and read, as well as having a sleep. In the afternoon I did the same, it being too cold for me outside, esp as I had a good walk back to the car – but I didn’t sleep this time. We were given a really delicious lunch. Often this has not been very good with my diet (in spite of requests beforehand) but this time it was really excellent. Anyway, I came back feeling really relaxed. (That feeling has completely disappeared now, but it was good while it lasted.)
15 November Have managed to get out and about in the villages more this week. On Wednesday at the 10.00 Holy Communion service, we had a visitor from the world-wide Mother’s Union, when Gay (who is v active in the MU here) brought Themsbie Mchunu to the service. Thembsie is the Zonal Trustee for Central Africa, Nigeria, South Sudan, Sudan, Southern Africa She is an educator, mother of 4 and grandmother, who joined Mothers’ Union in 1978. She has dedicated herself to serving her community through Mothers’ Union. She has held positions at parish, diocese and national level in South Africa, and has formulated policies and procedures to ensure good governance. Particular passions include fighting violence against women and children for 365 days a year, and fighting for groups who are marginalized, such as those with Albinism. She is a member of the Provincial Standing Committee for the Church in South Africa, and in the community has led “one parish, one orphan” at a time when they were badly affected by AIDS, and “one home, one garden” to encourage a balanced diet. We really enjoyed having her at the service. Here is a picture which Gay took under our old and very beautiful Mother’s Union banner.
8 November Much preparation for Remembrance this week, including quite a lot of work on my IPad for the music at St Andrew’s, which hopefully will work smoothly. Have also prepared the service for our Early Carols next Friday 15th in Holy Trinity (7.00 pm) which has been a lot of fun. It’s been a week of meetings – 2 Parochial Church Councils, one down at the Old Church, and a clergy one yesterday, and I am a bit short on sleep today. This is going to be a quick blog today because I have a mass of stuff to get done before the Garden of Remembrance. One thing I have done is to amend the postcode for St Andrew’s which should end in DW. If you could look through the website and let me know of anywhere I have not spotted, that would be very helpful.
1 November I can’t say I had a good holiday last week because I spent it recovering from my cold. I came back on Sunday but by the end.of the morning I was absolutely exhausted. However, now I do feel much better. I have had a huge amount to do at my desk, including preparing for Christening tomorrow, for Remembrance Sunday (have had to print off extra copies of the service sheet for St Andrew’s because last year we had 62 people and only 30 odd service sheets!) and also our Raise the Roof with Carols, which I have started but not got very far with yet. I have also been out and about a bit, and had several visits and been to see a couple of people. Have had meeting with my Accountant this morning and shortly have another meeting for my business and in between trying to do various things! One thing I have got back to this week is reading Cranmer (see below) which is a great relief. Am now getting on very nicely with the book and really enjoying it. While not feeling so good, I read three books which come from the parson’s notes of Oliver Willmott. These were the Easter Day Services he took in 1952:
7.00 Holy Communion, Loders Church
8.00 Holy Communion, Loders Church
9.00 Holy Communion, Dottery Church
10.00 Holy Communion, Askerswell Church
11.00 Mattins, Loders Church
11.45 Holy Communion, Loders Church
2.00 Children’s Service, Loders Church
3.00 Evensong, Dottery Church
6.00 Evensong, Loders Church
7.00 Evensong, Askerswell Church
That is ten services in one day. I don’t know how lucky I am! Don’t forget the Quiz for Bible Sunday – there is still plenty of time to send your answers in.
18th October The concert with the Unravelling Wilburys last Friday night was amazing. the photographs are rather dark, but here are a couple of videos which will give you an idea. For the rest of the blog this week, carry on under the videos.
Sadly, I was unable to stay for the whole evening, as I had to be up early for the Jumble Sale in Coleford the next morning. I was delighted to introduce the Wilburys, looking back to the Travelling Wilburys who were founded in 1988 but were really, for me, a 60s group, considering who they were. In 1969 I used to go to dances in the holidays. These were hosted by friends of mine who were lucky enough to have elder brothers (mine was younger so useless). Each would ask upwards of 15 guests, and of course the idea was that you Got Off (and were seen to do so). Fast forward until 1988, I would be at the Frankfurt Book Fair in early October, dancing in the disco until 4.30 every morning (I think I said 6.30, but I meant 4.30). Then back to the hotel, a quick hour or two in bed, and back to the Book Fair for a hard day’s work. By this stage, fortunately, it was not necessary to Get Off, though some people did. Anyway, last Friday I danced happily – and congratulations to Ray Smith who I think danced more than anyone else and at one stage was on the floor with 12 women. (Not sure where all the men were, because they were there!).
I went off to stay with my dad and step-ma on Monday, coming back on Tuesday. I spent the train journey there composing the Quiz for Bible Sunday which I hope many of you will be trying to do. On the way back, I started to re-read A Fell-Side Parson: Joseph Brunskill and his Diaries 1826-1903. For me, this is particularly fascinating because he ministered in the Cumberland which is where my mother grew up, and where I spent many happy holidays as a child. At one stage, Brunskill was appointed as perpetual curate to Plumpton. Plumpton was part of the rectory of Lazonby (where my mother grew up, not in the rectory). The rector received £551 a year, and paid his perpetual curate £62. The income was paid by tithes (collected from those in the parish who could afford to pay) and the titles of Lazonby totalled £455 + money from glebe land £80, and the tithes of Plumpton £327, so those in Plumpton felt very sore that the Rector should have so much. I have an absolutely streaming cold at the moment, and shall not be around for a bit. I am on holiday next week and so there will no no Vicar’s Blog until the week after.
11th October Harvest was wonderful in both churches. The Harvest lunch for the congregation of St Andrew’s was a lovely occasion, and thank you especially to Anne-Marie who made some delicious cous-cous without raisins. I could have eaten three times as much! Everything was delicious and people had provided some lovely food. And then on Monday we had a terrific Harvest Lunch in Coleford. All tickets had sold and people really enjoyed themselves. I have been out and about a bit more this week and have also done a terrific amount at my desk. I don’t know how many of you look at the Prayer Calendar for the Diocese but I was asked to write the MSN bit and compose the prayers for November and I have just sent this in. It will be there from the beginning of November. Do print it off and use it for prayer. They are changing things from next year and it is going to be a quarterly production, inserted into Manna. I am not sure how I feel about that but I suspect it will reach more people so will be better from that point of view. I have been quite tired this week so have not read much more of Thomas Cranmer. However, I am reading Kilvert’s Diary. I last read it in March 2007. It is set a century later than Parson Woodforde’s Diary (see below), and for most of the time Kilvert is a curate on the Welsh / English border (close to Hay-on-Why) and also Wiltshire. He is rather fond of girls but also loves the countryside and gives some wonderful descriptions. He does a lot of visiting of the poor, and also a lot of socialising with the rich, and sometimes it is difficult to know which he is writing about – very unusual for those days. Like Woodforde, Kilvert is also available in three volumes and I shall put this on my list (though a long way after Woodforde!).
4th October – I have just come back from a lovely Harvest service in Bishop Henderson School. Normally, the school come down to church, but with the weather as it has been today, I went up to school. Apart from Owl Class, the children were all there, and behaved absolutely perfectly. They have contributed greatly to the produce we shall have to display on Sunday at our Harvest Festival in Holy Trinity, and of course we shall be selling everything on Monday for Dairy House (who help the homeless in Stratton). Mrs James has also chosen this charity to teach the children about in R.E. and later one of the classes will be going there to see round. I hope I will be able to go too. This has been a busy but not too hectic week. I have had to give a bit of attention to my business, because books need to get to the printers, and I have enjoyed doing the necessary typesetting but would just like more time! I was able to see a couple who are planning to marry in HOC on Monday. On Wednesday I was with the Welcome Club enjoying a delicious Harvest lunch, and then almost immediately went to BHS to meet Owl Class, who have just started this term. The idea was that I told them something about me and what I do and that then they should ask me questions. As ever the first question was about me living in the church (!) but then I was asked whether I had a cat or a dog, so after that a good half of the questions were about Jack and Jill. I did not tell them I had done far too much dealing with mice recently. Yesterday I had what is known as Clergy Chapter, when the Deanery clergy meet together to hear about each others’ joys and sorrows, and to spend time in prayer together, and to discuss various other things. Tonight I am looking forward to the Coleford Theatre Group Quiz. I always enjoy going, even though my so-called brain does not add much to proceedings. Last Sunday I finished reading Diarmaid McCullough’s Reformation: Europe’s House Divided 1490 – 1700 and have now started the same author’s Thomas Cranmer. This is a revised edition of a book he wrote just over 20 years ago. It is much fatter than the Reformation but actually is not so long – ‘only’ about 680 pages. As always with a long book, I start off in great style, then I slow down (the stage I am at now) and then I speed up as I come to the end. Anyway, talking of speeding up, my desk is calling me …
27th September – this past week has been not quite so hectic, and annoyingly I have not felt so well. The wretched M.E.! This meant that in the end I did not go to Clergy Training yesterday. As it was on the Psalms, I was very upset but it would have been stupid to go. We have a really good programme of Training in this Diocese (known as CMD – Clergy Ministerial Development). We have a list of things to choose from, and we are expected to do about 4 days each year, plus things like the Advent Retreat Day and the Bishops’ Day. We have an extra morning in October, when we have to go to be told (if it is known) what is going to happen with the Register books at a wedding. The Government has brought in a law that these will no longer be used, and has yet not told the CofE when this is going to happen or what exactly is going to happen. If you get married in a church of another denomination a Registrar has to come and deal with this, but in the CofE we are Registrars for the wedding. I always find it a very moving part of the service so I shall have to see what we can do instead. More anon. Jenny Lamb and Jen Smith always hold a wonderful Macmillan Coffee Morning in Jenny’s house and on Wednesday it was no exception, and they raised over £1,200 which was incredible.
20th September – last Saturday’s wedding was really lovely, and the church looked particularly beautiful thanks to Anne-Marie. I always enjoy a wedding, Ali and Mark had really prepared for their day and the weather was wonderful. In fact I came home afterwards and slept in the garden. I am reminded of that TV programme fairly recently (beginning last year?) about the church in Herefordshire. Having filmed a wedding, someone asked the Vicar whether he felt he was qualified to conduct a wedding since he had never been married. He replied that he had not yet died but had managed to conduct funerals without this being a problem! I thought this was a brilliant reply, just the sort of thing I should love to have thought of myself. I also of course take Christenings, but I cannot remember my own Christening! In those days the only photographs were outside the church so not even the font is shown and certainly not me being Christened. I am much enjoying this glorious weather and have been out in the garden several times. I feel very close to God’s creation as I gaze in wonder at the different flowers and plants in different seasons. At Bishop Henderson School this week we thought about Creation and how we needed to be kind to the wonderful world God has given us. Have been mostly reading this week Diarmaid McCullough’s Reformation: Europe’s House Divided 1490 – 1700 Some of you may remember that I was reading this in the middle of August, but I have had to leave it when I was terribly tired. However I am getting on very nicely now and am almost half-way through. I am finding it absolutely fascinating – not so much the English Reformation, about which I have read quite a bit, but the whole European scene. For example Poland-Lithuania was the most enormous territory and really very powerful at that time. I had no idea about that. More next week.
13th September – Am feeling rather exhausted, in fact so much so that I didn’t make the St Andrew’s Parochial Church Council last night. I thought it would be one thing too many (great apologies to the PCC). Last Sunday had a Christening in Coleford which was lovely, and then on Monday went off to spend the night with my dad in West Sussex. It is a long way and I go by train. This means I can read, and indeed I managed to read two Miss Silver murder mysteries by Patricia Wentworth. I got off at Chichester to go and see my stepma in hospital, where she had been for almost five weeks following a stroke. (She finally came home yesterday, just a few hours short of five weeks.) Both she and my father have memory problems in different ways and they are fantastically looked after by a carer but even so I find it very exhausting going all that way. On Tuesday, because the carer had to stay in to await the boilerman, I took Daddy to the hospital in the morning and then in the afternoon caught the train back from Pulborough which is an extra hour away so was v tired when I came home. Had a busy Wednesday with service, acupuncture, school assembly, and Governors’ committee meeting later. Then had funeral yesterday and wedding rehearsal, which is why I didn’t make the PCC. Today shall be at my desk most of the day, though have a funeral visit later this morning. Tomorrow breakfast in Holcombe Village Hall and then wedding at Holcome Old Church. Have read almost nothing this week because I am trying not to tax my non-existent brain. However, have watched The Great British Bake Off and shall probably catch up with Celebrity Masterchef (am still watching last week’s) though may go for Antiques Roadshow. The other thing I plan to watch is myself – I was filmed being interviewed by Debbie McGee about an author I publish. If you would like to see this on IPlayer go to https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0008dr9 I gather you have to go almost to the end of the programme. I have never watched IPlayer before but understand this works.
6th September – I have now finished The Diary of a Country Parson 1758-1802 by James Woodforde (the one vol edition) and shall definitely have to buy the five vol edition though need to check which version is the right one. Couple of quotations for you: Aug 7 1796, Sunday “Mrs Corbould was so frightened at Church by a Bat flying about the Church, that she was obliged to leave the Church”. April 5 1987 when he had company: “We had for Dinner, some Skaite and Oyster Sauce, Knuckle of Veal and a Tounge, a fine Fore Quarter of Lamb and plumb Pudding. 2nd Course, Asparagus, Lobster, Raspberry Tartlets, black Caps set into Custard &c. We also had Cucumbers and Radishes.” They ate an enormous amount of meat in those days! And his servants wages are very interesting – ranging from about £2 per year to £10, this in an age when the above dinner would cost well over £1. Obviously the servants had all their food and also their clothes provided, but it seems incredibly low. A good time to live if you were rich, but not if you were poor – and the whole country had higher and higher taxes to pay for the war with France. The diary is well worth reading and once I buy the five-Vol set I shall be offering this volume.
30th August – my holiday seems a long time ago. Most of the week I was here but I did go to Sussex to see my dad and stepma who is in hospital following a stroke. She has now been there 3 weeks and I think needs to be having more rehab, but it is difficult to get decisions made. She wants to come home and keeps asking for her cheque book so she can pay the bill and leave! Luckily they have a brilliant live-in carer who takes my dad down to see her every day, but it is difficult being so far off. Many of you will know that I have several funerals at the moment – one yesterday, one today, one next Tuesday and one on Wednesday so this will not be a long blog. I am however reading The Diary of a Country Parson 1758-1802 by James Woodforde (the one vol edition) and it is absolutely fascinating comparing how things were done then. He seems to spend most of his time eating incredibly large meals. I shall write about this next week but must get to other things now.
16th August – having finished my ‘typical’ day last week, I realised that I said nothing about saying Evening Prayer. This I normally say at about 5.00 – 5.30, and it takes about half an hour. Sometimes it is earlier and sometimes later. Very occasionally I don’t manage to say it at all, and sometimes only a quick version. I stopped worrying some years ago after a read an autobiography by a former Bishop of Bath and Wells, Bp John Bickersteth, Run of the Mill Bishop, when he said that because of all his appointments he had to stop worrying about it. There are two other Prayer services – Prayer during the Day, which I never manage to say by myself but which I sometimes use when praying with other clergy, and also Night Prayer or Compline. I used to say this just before I put the light out, but found it was a real effort to finish before I fell asleep, and so wasn’t saying it properly. These days I read something which will not keep me awake – always something theological. I often read up to four theological books at a time – something at the end of morning and evening prayer, two early evening books and one late at night book. But at the moment I am only reading two books. Firstly, Unlocking the Bible by David Pawson. I bought this years ago, and dipped into it, but over the past several months have been reading it alongside my Bible reading at Morning and Evening Prayer. I have to say that I do not always agree with him at all, but sometimes what he says is really helpful. But you have to know which things you might agree with or not! Then I am also reading Diarmaid McCullough’s Reformation: Europe’s House Divided 1490 – 1700. He is a brilliant author and I have read quite a few other of his books. This one was published some years ago and I missed it at the time. It’s over 700 pages so will take me a couple of months. In case you think I read nothing but theological books, I am a great reader of both children’s books, and also murders. And it is murders I am reading at the moment. I am enjoying the Miss Silver books by Patricia Wentworth. Next week, I am on holiday so there will be no vicar’s blog.
9th August – To carry on with the ‘typical’ day. I am normally at my desk between 7.00 and 7.30 am. First of all, I check emails. Most of you will know that I also run a business (Girls Gone By Publishers and Friends of the Chalet School) – technically I am a ‘half-time’ vicar – and it is usually my business emails that I check first, printing off orders etc. Then I check the church ones, deciding which ones need to be answered and which can be deleted pronto (and yes, there are a lot of those). After that, things vary enormously from day to day. On Wednesdays and Thursdays I have services at 10.00 in Coleford (W) and Holcombe (T) and I try to do some visiting after those. On Tuesdays I very often have an acupuncture appointment in Frome and so if I need to do anything else in Frome, such as a visit to the hospital, I try do do it then. Mondays is often a catch-up day at my desk. On Fridays I like to update websites, do my weekly emails (at the moment the Friday church email goes to 39 people, my Friday business one goes to 694!!), Facebook etc. Business wise, I typeset about 8 – 10 books during the year and also produce 4 magazines (total about 100 pages each). And then there is On The Map. Lunch tends to be around 1.30 – 2.00 which gives a long morning. In term time, I usually take Assembly in Bishop Henderson on a Wednesday afternoon. I try to go to Kilmersdon (the ‘official’ school for Holcombe children) about 3 or 4 times a term on a Friday morning. On Saturdays there is often something in one of the villages such as a jumble sale or breakfast in HVH (as tomorrow) to attend, or there might be a wedding or a Christening. Then there are often meetings – perhaps seeing Wardens, Secretaries or others, and things for the Deanery. In the evenings I may see wedding couples, or have a meeting (Parochial Church Council, School Governors, Deanery etc) or something like a Quiz. I try to limit my evenings to 2 per week but it varies. Some weeks I will have a funeral, or need to do a funeral visit, and sometimes I am called out to see someone. For that I am available 24/7 unless I am away. On Sundays I never look at my computer, and I find that two services in the morning sets me up nicely for a good sleep in the afternoon. I do a lot of reading (I will write more another week) and of course there is sermon preparation. In fact, there is no ‘typical’ day or week because I just can’t say what will come up. I have a firm list of things to do, of which I usually manage about half – three quarters, plus rather a lot of other things. At the moment I am still needing to rest in the afternoon, and normally sleeping but I hope that will come to an end in a few weeks’ time.
2nd August – “What’s it like being a vicar today?” I was asked. I thought I would start by giving an account of a ‘typical’ day, if there is ever such a thing. My day always begins with Morning Prayer. The canonical (correct) hour for saying Morning Prayer is 10.00 but while that worked in the past when vicar’s mornings were given over to prayer and study, it does not do so today for most of us. When I say Morning Prayer depends on how I sleep. If I sleep through the night, then I say it at 5.30 am, but usually a few nights in the week I will wake and know I am not going to sleep again for a while, so I say it then, usually around 2.00 – 3.00 am. And sometimes I just don’t get to sleep so I say it just after midnight! For this reason, I always say it in bed.
All clergy are required to say MP, but we don’t all use the same books! Up until 2002, the official book to use for MP was the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, and indeed some clergy still use that. Some of the more Anglo-Catholic of the clergy used to use the Roman Catholic MP (and I expect some still do) and some of the more Evangelical Clergy used a more free style. In 1992 Celebrating Common Prayer was published by the Society of St Francis, and many people used that. In 2002 the Preliminary Edition of Common Worship Daily Prayer was published, and then the final edition came out in 2005, and has been reprinted several times. This is what I have always used.
The Lectionary for the Year gives the Psalms and readings to be used. However, I don’t use that! I like to read through the whole Psalter every four weeks, and I read through the Bible straight through (which people always say you shouldn’t but which I find helpful). At the moment I am using the Common English Study Bible for the NT, and for the Old I am about to finish The Bible for Everyone. See my comments under Bibles on this website. If it is a Saint’s Day, I use a book called Celebrating the Saints by Robert Atwell (now Bp of Exeter) which was published in 1998. You can now buy a more extended version which covers Saints in the whole of Britain as opposed to just England. But I like the one I have and it is enough for me.
Bishop Ruth talked last week at the Deanery service about how difficult Prayer is, and I have to confess this is something I struggle with. I have a number of set prayers, which I use each week (I have these pasted into a book and use them over the period of the week) and then I pray for people in the parish on a rota, although some people need prayers more often. I also pray for some other people, sometimes every day, and sometimes by rota, and I also use the booklets provided by the Church Missionary Society and by the Barnabas Fund (persecuted church). The whole of MP usually takes about an hour – sometimes longer and sometimes not quite so long.
I will carry on writing about a Vicar’s day next week.
What I do not want to do is to carry on repeating what I say in my weekly Friday e-Newsletter, unless there are people who only read this Vicar’s Blog. So if you do only read this, please email me.
26th July – very sadly, we have had to cancel our Summer Meal tonight, we just didn’t sell enough tickets. Hopefully, we shall re-arrange at a later date. This Sunday morning (28th) there will be no service in either Coleford or Holcombe. Instead, we are going to our Deanery Service in St John’s Midsomer Norton at 10.30. Bishop Ruth will be preaching, and if you want to feel what it is like to worship in an absolutely packed church, please come and join us, but get there early! I have to confess it has been so hot this week that I have done very little extra, although I have enjoyed resting in the garden. We had clergy prayers then on Wednesday. I am feeling a lot better, just not energetic! And I suspect I am not alone. I know some people have had to work in horrific conditions, and I feel really sorry for them. And do please keep an eye out for neighbours who might not be so good.
20th July – I am feeling better each day, though still making sure I pace myself well. But I have been able to do a little bit more every day. And yesterday I was able – and privileged – to take Rita House’s funeral in the afternoon with no ill effects. Tomorrow, Sunday 21st, we have our Dedication Service in Holy Trinity at 9.30 – Holy Trinity is now 188 years old! In St Andrew’s tomorrow, I shall be showing our Deanery Film instead of a sermon (at 11.15). This Friday, 26th at 7.30 it will be our Summer Meal in Holcombe Village Hall. I have been absolutely hopeless and not paid for my ticket yet, but I shall be doing so tomorrow. The menu looks absolutely delicious, and includes things I can eat even on my special diet. So if you would like a ticket, please ring Liz on 01761 232372 or Paula on 01761 232307. There will be a bar, a raffle and entertainment – and don’t ask me what that will be because I have not been told! I am looking forward to it very much. Next Sunday morning (28th) there will be no service in either Coleford or Holcombe. Instead, we are going to our Deanery Service in St John’s Midsomer Norton at 10.30. Bishop Ruth will be preaching, and if you want to feel what it is like to worship in an absolutely packed church, please come and join us, but get there early! This week, I have had my first wedding booked for 2021 – I love weddings and am always so pleased when a couple choose to get married in any of our churches.
12th July – a better week. I was able to lead the Holcombe Gala Service last Sunday, and much enjoyed seeing the Festival of Childhood, too. That was really amazing with lots of wonderful items on show. The on Tuesday I had a meeting here, and I was able to take the services on Wednesday and Thursday. I hope to be at Breakfast in the Village Hall tomorrow (9.30 – 11.00) but that will depend on how I feel when I wake up. This Sunday I am planning to lead both services (but will not preach). However, at St Andrew’s I shall be blessing our new 100 Room and Loo. The whole area looks absolutely wonderful and we are all really pleased with it. There are just a couple of small things still to do, and also in the vestry where there are now some really good storage cupboards. And of course we also need to raise the last few thousand pounds! If you are around on Monday for our Open Hour at 11.00, do please come and have a look – we are back in the church! Have been doing quite a bit of reading while I’ve not been so well – rather too many murder mysteries but also some theological things. Am reading one about the training of clergy (or not!) in the early 19th century. Very revealing.
5th July – I should have said last time that I was on holiday last week so that there would be no blog update. Sadly, I woke on the Monday (24th) with a relapse of my M.E. Not sure where this came from, but I think probably I had been doing a bit too much, but there are things you just have to do. So I cancelled my visit to my dad’s, and spent the day in bed, and the rest of the week getting gradually better, although in the background I still felt a bit M.E.ish. But I was able to lie in the garden and read lots of murder mysteries! However, on Sunday morning (30th) I woke feeling absolutely awful. Huge thanks go to Ann M-H and Ann G-B for taking the services in Coleford and Holcombe, almost without warning. And huge thanks to go to all those who have been so supportive during this past week. Apart from having acupuncture (which I find really helps) I have not been out at all, so I have just had to cancel everything. I have managed to work both on my laptop and my desktop (it is one of those months when I have deadlines for my business as well as all the church stuff) but I am also having to rest a lot as well. I am going to have to miss the Gala Quiz tonight and also Gala all day tomorrow, but I am intending to be at the Gala Service in St Andrew’s on Sunday. Ann M-H is very kindly going to take the service again in Coleford as I think two services will be too much. And a Lay Reader, Mary Dolman, is going to lead the service at Holcombe Old Church in the evening. Fortunately she came last time and so knows the form. I am going to take things as easy as I can over the next couple of weeks, and will not be able to do anything in the evenings. I am feeling very fed up, and am not sure where God is in all this. But I shall get better, and will be properly back as soon as I can.
21st June – well the weather has been very unlike ‘flaming June’ with very heavy rain, and it has not been warm. But the rain held off during the Vicarage Garden Open Afternoon last Saturday, and lots of people came and looked round. Teas etc were in the Church Hall which worked incredibly well except that the electricity failed and kettles had to be taken to and from the Vicarage. We made £200.50p for each church from the teas, raffle and b&b. In addition donations for St Andrew’s brought their share to £224 for the Loo Fund. Holy Trinity’s donations and Gift Day envelopes have not yet been counted. On Monday we celebrated Tim’s 60th birthday at our Open Hour. Two cakes had been made and it was a really lovely occasion. The work on the Loo and other things at St Andrew’s is coming on very nicely and I hope all will be finished in a couple of weeks. We are busy getting ready for the Holcombe Gala Weekend. St Andrew’s will have a stand on the Gala Field, and we are also holding a Festival of Childhood in the Church (open from 2.00 – 4.00 on both 6th and 7th July). I am busy working out what I can lend for this. On Sunday morning we have our Gala Service at 11.15. Let’s hope the weather improves!
14th June – oh, this weather! I can actually see just a bit of blue sky now, but it has been really raining hard. However, this did not put people off from coming to Rattle the Roof last week, it was really fantastic and huge thanks go to all who came, Ron and Margaret for playing and Abbey Piano services for lending the Grand Piano. All who were there really enjoyed themselves and yes, we shall be doing it again next year! Tomorrow we have the Vicarage Garden Open Afternoon from 2.00 – 4.00 and please don’t let the weather put you off. Adam, Eddie and Peter have worked really hard in the last 24 hours to get the garden looking absolutely beautiful. We may well have to have teas in the church hall, but wrap yourself in your waterproofs and come! On Monday we have our Open Hour at John Ashley’s at 11.00 and will be celebrating Tim’s 60th birthday which is actually on Wednesday. After that, the Support Group are meeting to plan future events. You can now see the Deanery Film on the website. The actual page is password protected and the password is Churches (with a capital C. Enjoy it! If you want to see it in church, we will be showing it in Coleford next Sunday 23rd at 9.30 (instead of the sermon!).
7th June – it is certainly pouring today but last Saturday the weather was lovely and we had a fabulous Gift Day, Fete and Barbecue at St Andrew’s. So far have raised about £1,500 but still plenty of time for more to come in. Evensong at Holcombe Old Church was really special, and we had 44 adults + one child which was a terrific number for the summer. The installation of the Loo has now started and we are all feeling very excited about that. On Monday, we had our Open Hour at John Ashley’s and there must have been about 17 people + 3 dogs so it was lovely. Tonight we have the Rattle the Roof in Holy Trinity at 7.00. Please don’t let the weather put you off – we have a really wonderful organist who will be playing the grand piano (thanks to Abbey Piano Services) and of course Ron on his accordion. Singing some terrific hymns as well. Everything is being got ready for our Vicarage Garden Open Afternoon next Saturday 15th June (2.00 – 4.00)but this rain is not helping! Tomorrow, there is breakfast in Holcombe Village Hall (9.30 – 11.00) and then Julia Neesam is having a Garden Party at her home, The Grove, in Lower Coleford, starting at 2.00, in aid of Dorothy House. We are also busy getting teams together for the Huckyduck Carnival Quiz next Friday (7.30 for 8.00 in the Legion).
31st May – well, it was supposed to be lovely today, and although it isn’t raining it is not exactly hot summer. However, tomorrow the weather for our Gift Day, Fete and Barbecue 11.00 – 1.00 at St Andrew’s is supposed to be glorious, so do come and join us. We have terrific stalls, and there will be a great barbecue. And we need to sell everything because of clearing the church for our Loo installation next week. I have been doing some weeding (though not as much as others) for our Vicarage Garden Open Afternoon on Saturday 15th June (2.00 – 4.00). The garden is looking lovely with all the roses coming out – and on Monday we still had one daffodil though that certainly will have gone by mid June! There will be cream teas, a raffle and a bring & buy. We look forward to seeing as many people as possible. Requests for Hymns for Rattle the Roof (an evening of Hymn Singing in Holy Trinity) next Friday 7th June at 7.00 are coming in. There is still time to choose hymns so do please email me. Music will mostly be provided by a grand piano (lent to us for the evening by Abbey Piano Services – their shop is where the Post Office used to be) and also Ron on his accordion. If you have not looked at our Bibles page recently, please do so. I am adding a Bible each week. Have done a lot this week, but of course never enough.
24th May – the Quiz last Friday for Holy Trinity went really well, and people enjoyed it a lot. Huge thanks to Heather A for organising it. I was absolutely amazed when our team came Joint Second, although we lost it on the third tiebreaker (my apologies to Heather R who had the answer almost spot on). But then it wouldn’t have looked very good for the Vicar to collect a prize in a church quiz …
In St Andrew’s, we spent a couple of hours last Saturday morning clearing out the 100 Room and the Vestry in preparation for the Loo etc being installed. We have had to leave quite a bit of stuff in for Saturday 1st (our Gift Day, Fete and Barbecue 11.00 – 1.00) but will clear everything completely before Monday 3rd. There will be coffee after church this Sunday (no sherry, Jane has taken the glasses to sort) and the Monday Open Hour this coming Monday 27th will also take place. After that, on Sunday 2nd we shall be far too busy clearing everything, and from Monday 3rd the Open Hour will be in a marquee at John Ashley’s, The Acorns, Brewery Lane BA3 5EG. It’s the Oasis turning next to the Manor. Huge thanks go to John for his hospitality.
This coming Thursday it is Ascension Day, and the start of Thy Kingdom Come (the global wave of daily prayer between Ascension and Pentecost. St Andrew’s Church will be open for prayer from 9.30 – 11.30, which will include our 10.00 Holy Communion service for Ascension. After that, the church will be open most days, and people will be able to come in and pray – in the vestry which can be relatively quiet (the loo will be being installed at the back of the church).
Rattle the Roof (an evening of Hymn Singing in Holy Trinity) takes place on Friday 7th June at 7.00. There is still time to choose hymns so do please email me. Music will mostly be provided by a grand piano (lent to us for the evening by Abbey Piano Services – their shop is where the Post Office used to be) and also Ron on his accordion.
17th May – a lot of events are being planned at the moment, so I will just mention three here:
1. Thy Kingdom Come May 30th to June 9th. St Andrew’s will mark this global wave of daily prayer between Ascension and Pentecost – May 30th to June 9th. A large poster will be placed outside the church advertising this, and lining the path of the churchyard will be pebbles spelling out the title ‘Thy Kingdom Come’. We are asked to identify five areas to pray for daily during this season. We will pray for doctors and nurses in areas of conflict, the growing number of suicide among teenagers; the entrapment of slavery; families suffering in poverty and for people persecuted for their faith. Representing the five issues that St Andrews has chosen, a member of our congregation will take five smaller pebbles on pilgrimage to Rome. Thy Kingdom Come starts on Thursday 30th May. The church will be open for prayer from 9.30 until 11.30 that day, including our Ascension Day service at 10.00, to which all are welcome. Because of the work on our Loo, we will not be holding any extra services after that, but the church will be open for people to come in and pray for much of the week from Monday 3rd June, although we can’t promise it will be quiet as the men will be working there.
2. Gift Day, Fête and Barbecue, Saturday 1st June On Saturday 1st June from 11.00 – 1pm we shall be holding our annual Gift Day, Fête and Barbecue which will include a wide variety of stalls such as cakes and produce, plants and fresh fruit, bric-a-brac, children’s toys, books, raffle and tombola. We shall also be serving tea and coffee, and there will of course be our barbecue. This day raises some much needed funds for St Andrew’s, in order to help us pay our parish share, which went up quite a bit this year and is £12,654, and simply to help pay for the everyday running costs.
3. Rattle the Roof, Friday 7th June, 7.00 in Holy Trinity This is your chance to enjoy singing hymns which you love – perhaps something you have not sung for years, something you had at your wedding, something particularly personal for you, or just something you love to sing. We are hoping to have music provided by both a grand piano and by Ron on his accordion. Several people have already given hymn requests, but there is still time to ask for something you would like. Please email me. There will be an interval during which you will be able to enjoy a drink and there will also be a raffle. There will be no charge for the evening.
Probably the most exciting news this week is that work will start on our Loo at St Andrew’s on Monday 3rd June. This is thrilling news and more anon.
10th May – There have just not been enough hours in the days over the last week, but I feel a bit as though I am coming up for air today as apart from going to Kilmersdon School for Assembly this morning I am going to be at my desk all day until I go out tonight for the Murder Mystery Play at the Legion to which I am much looking forward. Spent Tuesday in Wells doing Safeguarding Training (all clergy have to do it once every three years, as do our Safeguarding Officers and anyone else who is DBSd) and actually it was a very interesting day as well as being rather harrowing with several case studies. Then in the evening Holy Trinity Parochial Church Council met in my study. On Wednesday, among other things I celebrated Communion in Holy Trinity, led Assembly at Bishop Henderson, and in the evening had what is called the Archdeacon’s Visitation in Midsomer Norton. This is when Churchwardens are sworn in, and our two Holcombe wardens, Ann and Anne-Marie, enjoyed it very much, as did I. Yesterday, after Communion at St Andrew’s, I did a couple of very brief visits before going to Holcombe Old Church. In the evening, St Andrew’s PCC met here in my study. I have just finished reading a book on Eucharistic Prayers, worldwide and from earliest times up until about the end of the 18th century. Absolutely fascinating, and makes me realise how lucky we are to have much shorter prayers in the Church of England now. I think all is in hand for our Quiz on Friday 17th at the Legion – if you haven’t booked yet, please get in touch with Heather Allen on 01373 812137 or email her. Also getting going on Rattle the Roof – an evening of singing your favourite hymns in Holy Trinity on Friday 7th June. In Holcombe, we are busy planning our Fete and Gift Day on Saturday 1st June (11.00 – 1.00) and then both churches are starting to plan for the Vicarage Garden Open Afternoon (2.00 – 4.00 on Saturday 15th June) + cream teas etc. And of course in Holcombe our thoughts are turning towards our Pet Service on Sunday 23rd June and the Gala weekend.
3rd May – Easter seems a long time ago now, but it was wonderful and I also managed a good rest afterwards. Didn’t go away but actually did a lot of theological reading which was surprising – normally I move to children’s books or murders when on a break! I was disappointed that we didn’t have more people at the Jenny Peplow concert last Friday, but they were absolutely incredible – really wonderful singing. And we raised £488.85 which was fantastic, so a huge thank you to all who helped in any way or came. Our next event is our Quiz at the Legion on Friday 17th and you need to book tickets through Heather Allen – either ring her on 01373 812137 or email her. We are busy preparing for the Vicarage Garden being open on Saturday 15th June (2.00 – 4.00) and at St Andrew’s we are also preparing for our Fete and Gala on Saturday 1st June (11.00 – 1.00) and then Gala on 6th / 7th July (more anon). This week has been incredibly hectic today, and shortly I shall be going out – acupuncture in Frome, funeral in High Littleton + the crematorium and wedding rehearsal in Wellow. I am not abandoning the parish but we are short of vicars at the moment.