Dates have just been agreed for a major Team course called ‘Equipping the Saints’ to be delivered during Lent next year. We’re aiming maximum participation across the Team so will need to plug it in the Jan, Feb and March editions of Parish News.

The dates are Tuesdays March 12, 19, 26 and April 2, 9 – lunchtime at

St David’s, Holmbridge (Conference Room,) and evenings at Christ Church, New Mill.

The course is a major Team initiative for 2019, resulting from a process of consultation throughout the previous year. It is designed to give congregation members more confidence in sharing their faith and making the most of encounters with the wider world in their everyday lives. It will also help them develop their own Christian faith and equip them to contribute to a Team effort aimed at serving our local community.

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The kind of home that produces successful children

Children raised in religious homes are more likely to succeed academically than those from non-religious backgrounds, regardless of whether they go to a faith school or not.

Such is the finding of recent research by the UCL Institute of Education, which analysed a cohort of pupils born in 1970, their religious upbringing and the school they went to. The paper suggests that stricter parenting and the protective influence that comes with being part of a faith community could be behind the advantage.

 

Any time soon I am hoping to receive a lumpy packet in the post.  It should contain my very own Friar William of Ockham in the form of a hand -knitted glove puppet.  He is one of my philosopher/theologian heroes most noted for his cutting blade as in ‘Occam’s Razor.’  I wanted my own, to remind me — and others — of the basic principle that he promulgated.  Which is that the simplest explanation is likely to be right.  He uses his razor to cut away extraneous causes and possibilities. 

I have a friend who is a knitter and I found a knitting pattern for a glove puppet of Saint Francis and emailed it to her.  “Lose the soppy birds on his shoulders, please. You know what he should be carrying.”  Came there back the caustic response:  “There’s a dearth of hand-knitted cut-throat razors on the internet but I will see what I can do.”  And then she added, “Just been talking to a friend about William of Ockham and the kiss principle.”  “Ah!” I chirruped breezily back “Kisses?  We can’t have too many of those can we?”  The computer gave me an old fashioned look, as they do. “KISS.” she replied, “As in: Keep. It. Simple. Stupid.” 

“Ah…”

I can see myself lending him out to sit on the edge of the pulpit to remind preachers of the KISS principle and first causes.

Fifty years ago I attended a free food and beer feast in St Chad’s College Durham, which was part of a week’s mission.  I wasn’t concerned about the mission but — being profoundly greedy — I was drawn in by the beer and food.  I found myself sitting next to a man in a black cassock and grey scapular.  He asked about me and my plans.  I said that after Christmas I was about to go to Leeds to teach in a Roman Catholic girls’ secondary modern. 

He said: “Are you a Catholic?’

“No,” I replied, “Common or garden Church of England.” 

“We are growing some interesting things in our garden at the moment,” he said.

A week or two ago we reminded each other of that conversation which was the beginning of a very special friendship that has lasted through half a century.  A friendship of shared laughter and tears, the ups and downs of the human life: the joys, losses, and anxieties of family life, not only in mine but in his within the family of his community.  The sharing of our journeys, ideas, books, exploring new territory, new landscapes, new views.

Because he has become frail I was seeing him in his room.  This was a first but there were no surprises; it felt familiar. There were books, paintings, cards,

How many HOLMFIRTH FLOODS were there?

Most of us have probably heard of the two great floods which caused devastation in the Holme Valley in 1852 and 1944 but did you know there was also a great flood in 1777?
An article from, of all places, the Hampshire Chronicle in July 1777 records the flood:

Wednesday last a most terrible inundation happened at Holmfirth near Huddersfield, occasioned by what is termed by sailors ‘a water spout’. The torrent was so great, and the storm and lightning which preceded it so violent that many people began to terrify themselves with the thoughts of another universal deluge; and it proved little short in respect to those who were principally affected by it, for many of the houses which stood not near any rivulet were recently under water and several, with all their furniture, workshops, utensils, clothes, together with large quantities of wool, and other goods in trade, entirely swept away; some of those house which refitted the violence of the flood, had their furniture washed out, and carried away by it; large quantities of corn and grass upon the ground were utterly spoiled, and no less than seven mills and eight bridges were driven down by the rapidity of the current. The water in a little rivulet in the neighbourhood rose several yards perpendicular in less than ten minutes; three men were carried away by it to a considerable distance, and drowned, one of whom has left a widow and nine children. The scene in short was so amazingly shocking as to exceed description; nor is it possible to form an adequate idea of the deplorable situation of those poor unhappy creatures, many of whom are reduced to the utmost misery and distress. It is impossible to ascertain the damage sustained, but it is supposed to amount to at least £10,000.

Help for the journey

‘Are we there yet?’ This is a familiar cry from a child frustrated by a long journey, impatient to be at the destination. With the school holidays soon upon us, it’s good to be reminded of Psalm 121. This is one of those psalms (Ps 120-134) used by the Jewish pilgrims journeying to Jerusalem for the great festivals.

There were real dangers for these Jewish pilgrims on their journey. They could slip on the road, there was the threat of wild animals and they had to suffer hot days and cold nights. On the Christian journey we are tempted by ‘the world, the flesh and the devil’, as well as dealing with those who mess up our lives and our questions about God’s goodness or existence.

So where do we look for help? 'I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from?’ (Psalm 121:1). Ironically, the Jews would look to the hills, where pagan worship was practiced. Even today, we can go to the wrong places for help eg horoscopes rather than the Scriptures; work colleagues or friends, rather than fellow Christians. We can also miss where to look for help: ‘My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth’ (2).

Like the Jewish pilgrims, we need to recognise that only God has the power to keep us on the road. Even when God seems silent in our suffering, He is ‘watching over us’ (5). On our journey He ‘will keep us from harm’ (7) and ‘watch over our coming and going’ (8).

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There’s No Place Like Home

July and August – the British holiday season really takes off. Literally, for those who are flying to warmer or more exotic climes. The full-colour ads still promise their annual delights, whether it’s a cottage for four in Wales or a fancy hotel on the Boulevard des Anglais in Nice. Others of us will simply load the caravan, or pack the boot of the car, and set off for, well, ‘somewhere else’. Holidays, which were originally holy days spent in church or at home, have become the great evacuation. “Going anywhere nice for your holidays?” asks my neighbour. My truthful answer would be “Yes, I’m staying here.”

But that’s more my age than a judgment on holidays. My mind can re-run so many, without any need of an album of old photos: the kids knee-deep in a rushing Welsh stream, or having pedalo races off a Spanish beach. A couple of cappuccinos in the piazza in Capri. The beauty and holiness of Assisi. And far back memories as a child myself, the boarding house, the beach, the sand in the sandwiches.

But still it’s true. Every single time it was nice to see the key go in the lock and to know we were home.

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Are we there yet?

Are you off on holiday by car soon? Then beware: car journeys become too long for hot, bothered children after precisely two hours and 37 minutes. That is when you are likely to hear ‘Are we there yet?’ 14 minutes later, arguments break out in the back seat.

This is the finding of recent research by the Highways Agency, who feels sorry for parents preparing for the long summer getaway by car. It suggests that parents travelling with children might wish to consider planning to stop for a break about two hours into the trip, to help young passengers cope with the boredom, and to keep family peace alive.

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How far do you live from where you were born?

Where were you born, and how far away is it from where you now live? The average distance seems to be up to about 100 miles. If that does not seem far, consider this: only 25 years ago most British people tended to live within five miles from where they had been born.

Recent research by the genealogical website Ancestry has found that exactly half of us still live in the place where we were born, and half of us move on. 70 per cent of people who move away from their birthplace are sure that they will not return, and just 14 per cent ever plan to go back.

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Beat back seat boredom

Do you have a long holiday drive with the family ahead of you? Here is a game to keep the tedium at bay….

Car Snooker This game starts when someone spots (or ‘pots’) a red car, which gives them a score of one point. Then someone needs to spot a car of one of the following colours: yellow (two points), green (three points), brown/rust/orange (four points), blue (five points), purple-pink or rose (six points) or black (seven points).

Someone then has to spot another red car, and so the process is repeated until 15 red cars and all the other coloured cars have been spotted. Hopefully, by then, you will have arrived!

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They may look like just weeds to you….

Where would you think to look for some of the UK’s rarest plants? Well, you could be forgiven for ignoring the roadside verges, but that is where they are.
The myriad of weeds and grasses that grow wild along our roads each summer are also home to such rarities as fen ragwort, sulphur clover, crested cow-wheat and wood bitter-vetch. In fact, fen ragwort is now reduced to living in a single drainage ditch beside the A142.

In total, Britain’s verges are home to more than 700 species of wild plants, one in eight of which is threatened with extinction. The research was done by the charity Plantlife. Some verges are leftover fragments of wildflower-rich ancient hay meadows and grasslands, while coastal plants thrive beside motorways and A-roads because they are salted in winter. No wonder the charity is pleading for better verge management, in order to give the plants to flower and grow each year.

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Flight path

Windsor Castle, outside of London, is directly in the flight path of Heathrow International Airport. While a group of tourists was standing outside the castle admiring the elegant structure, a plane flew overhead at a relatively low altitude, making a tremendous noise. One irritated tourist demanded: "Why did they build the castle so close to the airport?"

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In the lobby of a Moscow hotel across from a Russian Orthodox monastery: You are welcome to visit the cemetery where famous Russian and Soviet composers, artists, and writers are buried daily except Thursday.

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Diana Hogley – February-March 2017
We returned from Kenya recently. We have never seen the country so dry. Many of the areas which are usually a lush green were a parched brown. Dust was everywhere, blowing across roads, and a thick haze hung over the towns and cities. In Nakuru the usually clear views over Lake Nakuru had disappeared and the lake was hard to see. There has been no proper rain for many months with the failure of the rains in October. Many rivers have virtually dried up and life is even harder than ever. The drought is worst in the north and people and their cattle are dying. The wild animals are dying too. Rain is not expected before April or even May.
Most of our time was spent visiting three children’s homes. We stayed for a week in Eldoret in the home of John and Esther Green who have overseen Testimony Faith Homes since it started almost forty-eight years ago. Their adopted son Daryl, now the director, takes on much of the responsibility for the day to day running of the home.
There are three houses, with wonderful house-parents caring for more than a hundred children and there are now two hostels for the over eighteen year olds who are no longer allowed to live in children’s homes.
Shortage of water has led them to consider sinking a borehole. They keep cows and chickens and grow what they can.
After church on the Sunday we were there, a group of Hindu women brought hot food for all the children. Later in the day a church group passed by and brought supplies of rice and soap etc. and a donation of money. On the Monday, the accountant commented that they would need very little shopping that week. A wonderful provision for an organisation that relies totally on Faith and Prayer.
Neema Home, also in Eldoret, is run by Joshua and Miriam Mbithi, caring for over fifty children, many HIV positive. While we were there the water board cut off their water and removed the meter without telling anyone. Later they accused Joshua of tampering with the meter! For fifteen days, they had to run a hosepipe from their own house to the home. Many visits to offices were made before water was restored. It is thought that officials were looking to obtain money towards election expense. Joshua and Miriam are praying and hoping that they might be able to visit the U.K. later this year.
Riziki Children’s Home, the home we are most heavily involved with, is in Nakuru and the Director, Julius Kivindyo, is ably assisted by his daughter Liz. This is the newest home we visit with twenty-two children at present. Here we stay with Julius and his wife, Esther.
At Riziki, the farm is bare, with precious young fruit trees being kept alive by careful watering. The water tanks, intended to store rain water from the rooves, are empty, only receiving the contents of three tankers every ten days. These now cost about £50 each instead of £40 a few months since.
Fortunately, there is a good store of both maize and beans in the silos we installed a few years ago. There are plenty of tomatoes in the freezer and dried sukuma wiki (literally ‘stretch the week’), a cabbage-like leaf, is stored in plastic bags on shelves.
If, or when it rains, many of the plants should return to life.
(to be concluded in the June magazine)