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The Apple Tree

This poem was written for an IME assignment.  It is a response to a comment made in a small group that there may be some value in thinking about God’s principles of growth by connecting mission with the seasons of the year. It was, in part, inspired by Psalm 1:3 – “They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season”.

~ ~ ~

Producing fruit is hard, just ask the apple tree:
It takes the right conditions, it takes time and energy
to turn the blossom’s beauty into vessels for the seed
but in due season, when it’s ready, fruit will come.

You can’t expect a Pippin in a February frost,
or a heaving bough of Coxes on the feast of Pentecost
and come September, when the Braeburn’s bare, it may seem all is lost
but in due season, when it’s ready, fruit will come.

There is wisdom in the seasons, in the cycle of the year,
in the ebb and flow of fruitfulness across the biosphere
for, even when the winter bites, and hunger turns to fear,
in due season, when it’s ready, fruit will come.

It may be hard when harvest is a struggle and a chore
when the bounteous crops of yesteryear are memories, no more,
but in Jesus we are branches, grafted firm and sure
and in due season, when it’s ready, fruit will come.

Holy hill

This poem was written for an IME assignment in which I was reflecting on the role of St Alkmund’s church within the town of Whitchurch.  It is based on Isaiah 2:3-5 and I was struck by the image of people streaming up the mountain of the Lord, and the parallel with St Alkmund’s which sits at the highest point of the town.stas

~ ~ ~

Come let us ascend this holy hill,
direct our feet towards the house of God.
We walk where countless saints before have trod
and, in years to come, yet more saints will
discover whence the living waters flow.
Unsteady feet for some, uncertain minds
for others yet all come to seek, to find,
to pray, to learn, to reconcile, to grow.
Come, turn your gaze past scaffold and boutiques,
past market stalls and shops and chained up bikes,
past memories and future fears alike
for, in this moment, Christ alone we seek.
And in the shadows of this holy place,
within these well worn stones we glimpse his face.



“Gradually, we are beginning to understand the myriad ways in which both Christians and non-Christians improvise their spiritualities, drawing freely and eclectically upon a range of spiritual traditions, often with relatively little attention to the way in which the established traditions set the terms of belief. Concern has grown over what some see as a tendency toward the erosion of coherent belief and practice capable of being transmitted from one generation to the next.

However, these developments surely signal something else, which is undeniably positive and creative: the desire to discover spiritual meaning in spite of the perceived inability of established religious traditions to provide it. It suggests a vitality and elasticity to the human capacity for transcendence which must, after all, lie at the very root of any meaningful understanding of spirituality.”

Douglas Burton-Christie, ‘Nature’ in The Blackwell Companion to Christian Spirituality (edited by Arthur Holder, 2005) p.480

I love this quote and think it might form the basis of my MA dissertation – how can things like Mossy Church help the established church re-engage with nature as a source of spiritual inspiration? (Or something along those lines!)

2016 list

As I mentioned yesterday, each year for the last few I’ve written a list of things I’d like to try and do/learn/achieve over the coming year. If nothing else it’s interesting to see how my interests change from year to year. So here is my list for 2016, enjoy!
1) Cycle to clergy conference in April (100km)
In looking for a good cycling challenge for the year I realised that it would be pretty much exactly 100km to cycle to the clergy conference in April. That’s further them I’ve done in a day before (most is about 70km) but I’ve got a few months to work up to it and a nice new bike to do it on. Plus the ride goes through the Peak District – my favourite place in the world!

2) Try bellringing
I’ve been meaning to go along to bellringing practice at Church for ages – this year I’m definitely going to do it!

3) Make (and blog) a Lego animal every day for a month
Lego + animals – what’s not to like?!

4) Bake 3 new kinds of bread from Richard Bertinet’s book
I haven’t set myself a bready challenge for a few years but got this book for Christmas so it seems like a good chance to try some new techniques.

5) Learn to play in D & G on the concertina
I’ve got the hang of playing in C and F (which are the native keys for my concertina) but D & G are more useful keys to be fluent in if I’m playing with other people so that’s what I’ll work on this year.

6) Translate the whole of a new testament book
My Greek translation dropped off a bit in 2015 so I’m going to try and make more of an effort with it this year – starting with translating a whole book (albeit probably one of the shorter ones!)

7) Get an article on Mossy Church published somewhere
Despite receiving a few requests I’ve sort of avoided talking too widely about Mossy Church because we’ve still been trying to figure it out ourselves. This year I will be a bit more proactive in doing that because, even if it’s not working how we had anticipated it, I’m convinced that the idea is a good one.

8) Decide on a dissertation title!
Having spent the last year and a half with numerous dissertation ideas (something to do with environmental theology) rattling around my head, this year I actually have to decide and start writing.

9) Give up chocolate for Lent
I’ve always said this is something I could never do which seems as good a reason as any to try and do it (so you may wish to avoid me during February and March…)

10) Carve a wooden spoon
Yeah I know this has been unsuccessfully on the list for the last few years but I still want to do it!

11) Write a tune for the Gloria
We’ve tried learning a couple of new tunes to the Gloria at Church and they’ve not gone down all that well. I have never heard one that I really like but I do like the idea of singing it so I thought a good way of getting to understand its challenges would be to try and write my own tune.

12) Write at least 2 songs
I’ve been doing a bit more singing and performing since moving to Whitchurch and have been revisiting some of my old songs. This has made me realise how long it is since I wrote any songs (apart from a few arrangements for the choir at Trinity) do I’m going to try and do a bit more this year.

So there we go – that my list for the coming year, what’s yours?

2015 list – review

Each year for the last few years I’ve written a list of things I want to try and do/learn/achieve during the coming year which is always an interesting exercise!

This post will be a look back at last year’s list, I’ll aim to post next year’s list tomorrow.


1) get priested

2) get (and learn to play) a concertina
I got my lovely Lachenal Crane Duet concertina back in May and have begun to get the hang of playing it (in the keys of F & C at least!).

3) do a daily blog in September
Fail! I’ve done a couple of interesting September blog projects before but it just didn’t happen this year.

4) go to at least one folk session a month
I’ve been going regularly to both the Wheatsheaf in No-Mans-Heath and The Black Bear in Whitchurch and thoroughly enjoy it!

5) go on a 50 mile bike ride
I didn’t manage a 50 miler but did go on a few 50km+ rides and now that I have a new bike (which actually fits!) I plan on doing some longer rides next year.

6) enter a poetry competition
Fail. I didn’t even write any poems!

7) perform at Blackberry fair
I had a lot of fun back in October busking around Whitchurch during the Blackberry fair.

8) go on a family microadventure each half term
We started well with an overnight campout in the garden back in the spring but we didn’t manage any other ‘proper’ microadventures.

9) carve a wooden spoon
I started a few but haven’t finished any. I did carve a few crochet hooks for Lucie though which was fun.

10) engage with local events around the General Election
I helped organise and run the election hustings in Whitchurch which was a very interesting experience (although the mood and debate on the night seemed to have no bearing on the landslide victory for the sitting MP!

11) increase my folk song repertoire to 60 songs
I’ve just learned my 61st folk song (King John And The Bishop)

12) watch a meteor shower
I lay out in the garden watching the perseid meteor shower earlier in the year although i went back inside just before a big flurry!

Overall rating:
I managed to do 7 and sort of do a couple of others which is about normal so I’m very happy with that I what has been a fairly busy year.



As we entered the cave it seemed almost impossibly dark. Our eyes still sought the bright summer sunlight that had guided us this far, but now we were on our own.

Head-torches were passed around and fitted over the helmets which had been such a source of  amusement  on  the  way  up  the  gorge.    In  spite  of  all the  headslapping  that  had  gone on  earlier  they  suddenly  seemed  like  a very good idea.  

We were  led  further  into  the  cave and,  slowly  our  eyes began  to  adjust, picking  out  strange  features in  the  rock  and,  mercifully,  guiding  our  hands to the rope fixed reassuringly firmly to the wall beside us.

As  the  darkness  of  the  cave drowned out  the  sun’s  rays  so  too  it  seemed to drown out  our  voices  and we walked  on  in near  silence.    Every  now  and again some  joker  would make  the  sound  of  a  ghost  or  clap  their  hands  to see  how  long  the  echoes  took  to  return.   

Always  a little  too  long  for comfort.  

Further  down,  further  in,  as the  earth  swallowed  us up  the  cold made fingers  numb,  ears  mute,  and our  feeble headlamps became a  lifeline  for our  senses.   

Eventually  the  cave opened  out  into  a cavern,  the  sound  of dripping  water  resounding off  the  walls  so that  it  was hard  to  distinguish the original drips from their echoes as they bounced around.   Our  torches  were  no  more than  cobwebs  threading their  way  across  the vast chasm, announcing our alien presence in this ancient wilderness.  

Then  came  the  command,  “turn  the  lights  off”.    We looked  at  one  another in surprise  –  is  she  for  real?!  “turn  the  lights  off”,  she  said again.  So,  one by  one,  we did.    The  first  few  showing  typical  teenage  bravado,  but  it  was the last light to go out that took real courage.

As  we stood  there  in a darkness  that  was so  all-encompassing  you  could feel  it, the sound of dripping water was replaced by thumping  hearts  and shallow  breaths  then  swoosh,  a  match  was struck  and  the  flame  flickered into  life,  sending  the  darkness  scuttling  off  into  the  distant  corners  of  the cavern  and revealing  once more  the  figures  huddled  just  a  little closer together.

Before  the  match  could  go  out  torches  were  flicked back  on  and  relief  gave way  to bluster  as  we each tried  to  convince  ourselves that  we hadn’t  been just a little scared of the dark.

As  we left  the  cave  the  summer  sun  seemed  almost  impossibly  bright  and the  torches  which just  moments  before  had been  a lifeline  now  seemed  so pointless.    So we tossed  them  back into  the  bag and  headed  down the gorge, quickly taking the light for granted just as we always had.

While Shepherds Watched – to the tune of New York Girls!

A rough and ready attempt to add to the canon of ‘While Shepherds Watched’ sung to various folk tunes – not quite happy with the chorus but you get the idea!


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