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I’ve not written here for a long time. Life intruded into my writing – it’s been a challenging year (or four) here in our messy parish in all sorts of different ways. Mess has a way of occupying my head, crowding out coherent thought and motivation.

But an online friend announced yesterday that she was going to be doing #lentowrimo – a take on the #Nanowrimo hashtag, where people try and write a novel in a month in November. My friend has suggested writing non-fiction every day apart from Sundays in Lent.

So here is a post that has long lain in my drafts folder. About our parish. About something I love about this place. A reminder to dwell on the gifts that the Lord has brought and not on the struggles of life and ministry. A tiny reminder that God hates nothing that he has made and that he brings us mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Our parish smells of bread and spices. Like, seriously smells. Strongly. Often on a morning dog walk, if the wind is in the right direction, I’ll inhale strong scents of rising dough or of star anise. The other week spices flavoured our worship on Sunday morning in church, so pungent was the aroma.

The mundane reason is that this is because of two local factories – Allied Bakeries, making Kingsmill bread amongst others, and East End foods where spices are milled.

But I have found that the bread and spices lead me to thoughts of the aroma that brings life:

The bread that was broken for our salvation. Our mess exchanged for his perfection.

Daily bread. All that we need. All that we pray for. For today. For life. For the ministry. For the mess.

The bread of life. Bringing power and joy into lives. Sustaining and building.

Spices for the tomb. Fragrant and sweet. The smell of grace. Still carried by the women. For the tomb is empty.

A parish that smells of bread and spices: one where the brokenness of the cross and the beauty of the resurrection are in the very air we breathe.

Bread

Vicarage bread: a bit messier than Kingsmill

Vicarage Views

The lovely sunny autumn days have inspired me to get out and about around the Vicarage with the camera on my mobile phone. I’m enjoying finding beauty in the detail. Victorian brickwork seems particularly good for this.

 

It’s turned rather chilly this week. We’ve started lighting the wood burning stove in the evenings, but during the day the Vicarage can be a bit nippy. My usual lunch solution in cold weather is a bowl of soup. But recently I have been branching out into hot salads. I’m not sure if that’s the correct technical term, but I’ve been frying and roasting veg in various combinations, to warm firstly the kitchen, and secondly the Vicar and me. This recipe is easily constructed from ingredients I almost always have in the fridge and pantry.

Today’s combination was a fried option because we only had half an hour to spare before the Vicar had a meeting scheduled. It was prepared and cooked in fewer than 15 minutes, and consumed in even less time than that.

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Ingredients (serves 2)

1 red onion, sliced

2 cloves garlic, sliced

2/3 rashers bacon, sliced into strips

a handful of cherry tomatoes, chopped in half

1 tin cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

2/3 tbspn cream or creme fraiche

Fry the onion and garlic gently in olive oil until softened. Then add the bacon and cook, then the tomatoes. Once the tomatoes are soft and juicy add the beans and the cream and grind some pepper over. Heat through and serve, with crusty bread if you’re really hungry, but this is very filling without.

Picturing the Word

Recently I have started combining two tech blessings – the YouBible app and my mobile phone’s camera, using YouBible’s nifty ‘image’ menu that appears if you underline a verse.

I’ve enjoyed some great views of late – tropical islands, misty autumn mornings and some spectacular West Brom sunsets. And so I’ve used these backgrounds when God’s word has spoken to me. Creating the image – choosing and sizing a font, selecting a crop of a photo – has enabled me to meditate as I create.

And now my blogging software is enabling me to share these Bible pictures with you, and put them up here on the internet in a rather beautiful tableau. Sometimes technology makes me smile.

 

Parish Beauty

It’s been too long since I’ve blogged and too much has happened to write about: much joy, much sadness and many glimpses of beauty. Last night I drove home under a dramatically heavy sky, colours turning from ochre to pink to a luminous purple. I pulled up at the Vicarage just in time to run out and take these photos.

The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Psalm 19:1

It can be hard to imagine what a Vicar does all day, particularly if you watch Midsomer Murders, where the clergy mainly seem to skulk about looking sinister and then getting murdered. Or doing something nefarious.

So to give you a glimpse of what the Vicar does in our parish, here’s a set of pictures from a couple of days ago, showing you what the Vicar does on a Monday after leading a school assembly and meeting with church staff to plan the week ahead.

He’s got the pump that we’re using temporarily to drain down the basement where the boilers for the church heating are located. The old pump has been broken for a while and this is actually the one from the birthing pool we used to use for baptisms (we now have a shallower, wider heated paddling pool). The old pump worked automatically, but this one has to be switched on when the basement gets flooded. And it can get a bit clogged and mucky. So after draining the basement down following some recent heavy rain, it was brought into our back yard for cleaning, and for making an amusing fountain.

They don’t give you lectures on drain pump maintenance at theological college. Or on boilers for that matter. But they probably should.

A Walk in the Tow-un

On Wednesday mornings I meet with our Families and Community Worker, Dreamer, to pray. We often start our time together by walking Freddie the dog – we get a lot of pre-prayer chatting done, and a bit of healthy exercise into the bargain.

This week Dreamer had a parcel to collect from our local sorting office, so instead of our usual round of the local park, we walked along the Metro line and up to the industrial estate where the Royal Mail are based. We rather enjoyed this bit of graffiti on a unit on the estate. Freddie was not so amused.

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