It’s a bit like waiting a long time for a bus and then within a short space of time a whole number turn up at once! The reason for the absence or delay in writing further blogs was circumstantial and then intentional on my part. After an extensive period of travel from Easter through until the end of May, that took me as far afield as Ireland in the West and the Czech Republic in the East, it was great to be back home for a period and not to have to think about any major travel. The week’s holiday break at my cousin’s in Norfolk at the beginning of summer, signalled a change in gear and a slowing down over July and August. Not that I am lazy but in order to work well and to give a lead that is significant and which comes from a deep place rather than simply responding and reacting to happenings, I regard this time of year as one of a slower pace where work is punctuated with rest, recreation, some reflection and participating in things that summer affords, e.g. tennis (where this year I reached the dizzy heights of being runner-up in the Men’s Singles Tournament, a major feat for someone who is nearly twice the age of the other finalists!), walking, sight-seeing, spending some quality time with friends, neighbours and our family, including a delightful ten days holiday in Ireland. Inevitably, the glorious weather that we have been experiencing through the early summer months changed on the weekend that the school’s broke up for their holidays but overall it has been a beautiful period. In all the changing seasons, I love living here in Northumberland and whilst it is exciting and challenging to be engulfed in 18 inches of snow, nothing can rival basking in the garden, countryside and coastline of this amazing county with temperatures a very pleasant 20° plus.
So if you haven’t heard from me for a while it’s because I have been taking it a little easier and normal service now resumes.
The highlight of the summer is undoubtedly the safe arrival of a beautiful new grandchild, Eden Grace, a daughter to Ben and Judith, a sister to Isaac and Patrick and our first granddaughter. As with all our grandchildren, we have seen them within a couple of hours of their birth.
Other highlights have included: a constant stream of friends staying or passing through our house, the arrival of Bill and Eeva-Liisa Eugster to begin their ministry here in Glendale, a fantastic Leadership School which I was privileged to lead at Nether Springs, being in the audience of ‘Any Questions’, our son Joshua returning home for a couple of weeks from Dublin before he set off on another summer of European travels, taking part in an Ordination Service at Durham Cathedral, a sobering weekend ministering in Barrow which reminded me of the plight of many people who are battling with the consequences of social deprivation, a delightful but incredibly hot (temperatures well into the 30°) time speaking at a weekend conference in Suffolk, doing some filming work and having time to occasionally buy The Guardian and reading it from cover to cover. Add to this some writing, a lovely day out at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe to celebrate our 34th Wedding Anniversary and our garden bearing the fruit and revealing the beautiful profusion of Shirley’s many hours and my occasional forays.
The lows are few. It’s not true that I had disappeared under a cloud of depression following the General Election result. The Labour Party faired better than I expected and I guess it was inevitable that we would spend the next five years under a Tory Government, sorry, a Coalition Government. My fears are slowly being realised as the new Conservative, sorry Coalition, policies are being rolled out and inevitably it is the poorer, disadvantaged and vulnerable who will bear the brunt of the greed and folly of the bankers, financial institutions and other powerful bodies. My hope and prayer is that in handling what is a considerable financial crisis, which requires some fairly radical measures that we will not return to political and economic policies that led to the savaging and neglect that many communities, not least here in the North East, experienced during the Thatcher years of the 1980’s. I will never forget the experience of ministering in a context where unemployment went from 24% to over 50% and the damage that it did to peoples lives and to the social fabric of a community. I loathed the Presidential style election campaign which cheapened political debate and simply reiterated the celebrity culture that we now live in which suggest to me how shallow society has become.
As for the World Cup, it has to go down as one of the biggest flops and poorest adverts for football. Overpaid, over-rated sportsmen, who when it came to representing their countries were a huge let down. I certainly, after seeing the opening few games, didn’t build my life around the match schedules. I did watch the final, not least with a notional longing for Holland to win, my having been influenced by the number of Dutch friends that I have acquired and who are now part of our Community. Within the first quarter of an hour, however, when the game plan was clearly to discard good attractive football with the tactic of kicking the opposition and disrupting anything that could be regarded as quality football, my support shifted over to Spain who went on to win. It is so disappointing when principles give way to opportunism but enough of the Liberal Democrat party and the Tory Government, sorry the Coalition Government.
Enough of my ramblings or rant on politics. It’s good to be back and corresponding with the Community through these blogs. It’s an incredibly exciting time for us, not least as we prepare to relocate Nether Springs to Acton Home Farm. Hetton Hall has been absolutely buzzing with a constant stream of guests and visitors. Many Companions and Friends are coming to say their farewell to the place that has been home to our Mother House since 1992 and recording their thanks to God for the place. Others are part of that growing movement of new people connecting with the Community and wanting to explore further the call of God upon their lives. There are some understandable reasons why we have welcomed so many people from Holland through the hall but slightly more puzzling but nevertheless delightful has been the steady flow of German folk. Hardly a week has gone by without us saying “Auf Weidersein Pet!” to individuals and groups. The mystery may become a little clearer in October when Shirley and I are visiting Germany for a couple of days during which I will be speaking at a big conference Voices of Inspiration as well as meeting with individuals including folks who are wanting to connect further with our Community.
Talking about connections it’s good to be back blogging!
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