Reflection for the Third Sunday before Lent

‘You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored?’ Jesus, in Matthew 5:13-20.

‘We create…..a ‘salt of the world’ as well as ‘for the world’ – Blackthorn salt advert. 

Whilst I was serving in a church in Nottingham, I used to do some talks and articles for broadcast with the local radio station. I became quite a dab hand with cutting tape to edit the comments made and met some fascinating people as I interviewed them but, on one occasion, heard of the time when salt had been scattered on the ground to strengthen the signal from an outside broadcast. That greatly helped the transmission – but nearly killed the nearby trees and vegetation. A similar thing happened at St Melangell’s where, some years ago, salt was scattered to look like snow for a TV film and did the yews no good at all. Nowadays, with greater awareness of care for the environment, that wouldn’t happen – salt has to be used with care!

Jesu knew that, as the Dead Sea was a place where salt was harvested and, at times, cut with additives to make it go further. If too much was added, that made it unusable and  it would be trodden underfoot. Jesus would have been familiar with that and, once again, uses illustrations with which those who listened to him could identify. 

He tells his followers in this extract from the Sermon on the Mount that you ARE the salt of the earth – not that they will be. Now is the time and even just a few grains will enhance flavour. If left in the pot or packet, salt is useless – it’s when it’s sprinkled on food or stirred into it as seasoning that it makes a difference. Salt is also used as a preservative and for healing, as in a salt water gargle to kill germs. It’s a disinfectant too – bacteria are the only living organisms in the Dead Sea although, when I went, they were nearly joined by the provost of Southwell Minster who needed help to right himself having turned turtle trying to retrieve the newspaper the wind blew away as he read it whilst floating in the brine for the good of his health!

Nowadays, salt is avoided by those with high blood pressure and there are many alternatives to it medically. However, any priest shares the cure of souls with their bishop although their helper tends to be called the curate rather than the assistant curate that they  actually are. In curing fish or meat with salt, it’s also being protected from decay and, as Lent approaches, so these words of Jesus remind us of the cure that our souls as well as our bodies need, too. Despite its many uses, Jesus is talking specifically of the use of salt for seasoning – as it’s stirred in to food and disappears, it can no longer be seen but its presence can be tasted. In speaking of salt – and light too – Jesus highlights the ordinary things of life that are to hand in any kitchen and to which his followers could make a difference. Salt needs to be used and, in such dark times today, there are many possibilities to being useful and making a difference to the mixture that is the kingdom of heaven here on earth. As Blackthorn’s advert suggests, the followers of Jesus need to be salt of the world as well as for the world if we’re to have any relevance or make a difference in life today. And in mixing in now as well as in what lies ahead, we need to be seasoned campaigners!

With my prayers; pob bendith,

Christine, Guardian.

February Services for the Shrine Church of St. Melangell

It’s for good reason that one of the old names for February is mud month – although January has also deserved that name this year! February is a month of contrasts not only due to the weather but to the range of events within it, not least Candlemas, Valentine’s Day, Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent. At what can still be a bleak time of year, it’s good to celebrate light and love as well as thinking about where our journey through life is taking us and why.

The following services will be held at the church or centre according to the weather:

Candlemas, Thursday 2nd, noon, Holy Eucharist.

Sunday 5th, Third before Lent, 3pm, service of reflection.

Thursday 9th, noon, Holy Eucharist.

Sunday 12th, Creation Sunday, 3pm, service of reflection.

Wednesday 15th, 10.30am at the centre, Julian Group

Thursday 16th, noon, Holy Eucharist 

Sunday 19th, 3pm, service of reflection.

Ash Wednesday, 22nd February, 10am – Holy Eucharist and Ashing. Please note that, due to this, there will be no service on Thursday 23rd.

Sunday 26th, 3pm, Holy Eucharist for the First Sunday of Lent

All services will be followed by refreshments at the centre and further information is available on 01691 860408 or

With my prayers; pob bendith, 

Christine, Guardian.

Sunday reflection

Reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Epiphany and Holocaust Memorial Day.

”What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?” From Mark 1:21-28.

’If I survive the war… I would like to send every man, woman and child in Western Europe on pilgrimage along the via sacra so that they might think and learn about what war means from the silent witnesses on either side.’ David Gillespie, killed at the Battle of Loos in 1915.

‘As a five year old, I could stand at the edge of the clearing where the trains were being loaded. People like sardines in those wooden trucks. And the people loading them in – they were railway men, they didn’t look terribly different from the railway men who check my tickets these days – they looked like ordinary people.’ 

Dr Martin Stern, Holocaust survivor.

The theme of this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day is Ordinary People, mindful of those who were perhaps doing ordinary jobs or tasks at the time, people who were perpetrators, bystanders, rescuers, silent witnesses – and victims themselves. 

People such as Henryk Gawkowski, a train conductor who estimated that he had transported about 18,000 Jews to Treblinka concentration camp and said that vodka was the only way to make his job bearable. Or the two hundred Lithuanian railway workers involved in the shooting of more than 60 Jewish men in August 1941, their bodies falling into a pit that had been dug by Russian prisoners of war with noisy motors covering the firing so that it could not be heard by other Jews close by. Or Léon Bronchart, a French railway worker who was made a Righteous Amongst the Nations for helping his Jewish neighbours, hiding a Jew and refusing to drive a train containing political prisoners. These were all ordinary transport workers who responded in different ways to the situation unfolding around them in the horror of the Second World War – see for further information. And lest it’s thought that this is all long ago, the case of Irmgard Furchner, 97 and known as ‘the secretary of evil’, has only recently been in the news – she worked in Stutthof concentration camp and was sentenced for her role in facilitating what was unfolding. 

This is within living memory, unlike David Gillespie’s reference to what war meant to the silent witnesses on either side in the First World War. Yet, in a letter written shortly before he was killed in 1915, Gillespie wrote of his hopes for a pilgrimage along what he called the via sacra, the way that had become sacred to him through the shedding of the blood of so many who were killed during the warfare. A hundred years later, his hope has been realised, facilitated by those who came after him – the Western Front Way is now a walk of 1,000 km through soil where, for every step taken, ten people had died or been wounded. 

Two thousand years earlier, another walked a via sacra, the Via Dolorosa which is sacred to many who follow in the footsteps of Jesus on his journey to a terrible death. Jesus the Jew retained that faith to the end, quoting the Hebrew scriptures when faced with temptation and praying at his death the prayer a practising Jew prays at the end of the day in case they die during the night: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Luke 23:46. Today’s Gospel mentions a challenge to his authority in the synagogue at Capernaum and, when he could have kept silent, Jesus chose to speak out – a man raised in an ordinary human home but one who, through his extraordinary courage and action, links Judaism and Christianity and offers hope that death and betrayal will not have the last word. 

Today, ordinary people still face choices which may or may not activate that hope so that extraordinary things may result despite – and perhaps because – of what is unfolding around us. What choices will we make and how might they be extraordinary?

With my prayers; pob bendith,

Christine, Guardian


A PRAYER FOR ORDINARY PEOPLE From the Council of Christians and Jews

Loving God, you care for each and every human life. All people are cherished as your beloved children, no matter how ordinary or extraordinary their stories are.

Today we come before you to remember the victims of the Holocaust.

We lament the loss of the six million Jews who were killed in the Holocaust, the millions of other victims of Nazi persecution, and victims of all genocides.

May our minds be clear and attentive to their memory, and our hearts be moved to bear witness to their lives.

Help us all to turn away from hatred and division, and to build a world where genocide is no more.

Strengthen us so that we, in our own ordinary ways, may show extraordinary love in the world today. Amen.

Sunday reflection

Today’s reflection is for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and comes from Dr Nicola Brady, the General Secretary of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland. The Guardian’s reflections will resume next week.

Reflection for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

The murder of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis in May 2020 was described as a watershed moment. There was a sense that the global wave of solidarity that brought people out onto the streets during a pandemic would make it impossible to ignore the deadly consequences of institutional racism and the power imbalances that deny human dignity.

The Black Lives Matter movement has certainly sparked uncomfortable yet necessary conversations, shaking the complacency that allowed racism and xenophobia to slip down the agendas of political and civic leaders alike. It has also questioned their reliance on legislation to protect people’s rights and challenged the failure to invest in the deeper work of examining the quality of our relationships in society, the attitudes that shape them and the language that defines them.

Yet with each passing year we see continued evidence that, across the world, the powerful institutions of the state continue to treat people differently based on race, ethnicity and other facets of identity that are protected in legislation. Those who live in fear are still waiting for their watershed moment.

Despite the heightened awareness of the nature and consequences of racism in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement there is a persistent resistance to dialogue about issues of power and privilege, exclusion and alienation in society. Christians bring to this dialogue a vision of reconciliation grounded in mercy and faithfulness, justice and peace, from which we draw hope for the healing of relationships.

For this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity we are guided by the churches of Minneapolis as we seek to explore how the work of Christian unity can contribute to the promotion of racial justice across all levels of society. Through this resource, the CTBI writers’ group has also focussed our attention on the 30th anniversary of the murder of Stephen Lawrence, which we mark this year. The work of restoring hope through justice undertaken in Stephen’s memory continues to inspire and change lives for the better.

As we join with other Christians around the world for this year’s Week of Prayer we pray that our hearts will be open to see and hear the many ways in which racism continues to destroy lives, and to discern the steps we can take as individuals and communities to heal the hurts and build a better future for everyone.

Dr Nicola Brady, General Secretary, Churches Together in Britain and Ireland.

Sunday reflection

Reflection for the Third Sunday of Epiphany and The Call.

Jesus…”called to them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.” From Matthew 4:12-23.

If you were going to die soon and had only one phone call you could make who would you call and what would you say? And why are you waiting? Stephen Levine.

Today’s Gospel focuses on the call of Jesus to his disciples, the first thing he does when he emerges from the desert. Whether they knew him or had heard of him or not, it’s nevertheless astonishing that men who had work and families to support should immediately leave to follow him. What did Jesus see in those fishermen as he summoned them beside the Sea of Galilee, what did they discern in him – and whatever did their loved ones make of the consequences for them?

A spoof selection process for the twelve disciples suggests that they are lacking in background, education and vocational aptitude for the roles which Jesus asks of them. Simon Peter is described as ‘emotionally unstable and given to fits of temper‘, James and John ‘place personal interest above company loyalty’ and Thomas ‘demonstrates a questioning attitude that would tend to undermine morale’. Matthew is one of the hated tax collectors who liaised with the Romans whilst Thaddeus and James were both deemed to be possibly bipolar and have radical leanings. What would the same process suggest about each one of us?

However, the spoof suggests that one shows great potential: “He is a man of ability and resourcefulness, meets people well, has a keen business mind and has contacts in high places. He is highly motivated, ambitious and responsible. We recommend Judas Iscariot…..’

In telling Peter, Andrew, James and John to follow him, it seems that Jesus offered no inducements or obvious benefits. However, his call to those four men quickly grew into twelve and the start of a mission which is still ongoing today although there have been many challenges to it along the way. The first four chapters of Matthew’s Gospel reveal the birth of Jesus, the journey of the Magi and the Massacre of the Innocents as well as the baptism of Jesus and his temptations in the wilderness. This is known to the reader but not, presumably, to the disciples who nevertheless responded to the sudden call of Jesus on their lives. What if they had not?

What if we had not, too? For the spoof reminds us that who we are now is not what we could possibly become when Jesus influences our lives and our potential. Those first unlikely followers who were summoned by him responded without knowing where it would lead them and, despite their faults, began to fulfill what Jesus saw in them. That was clearly both challenging and bewildering for them at times. In the bewildering and uncertain times of today, as we try to discern where love, hope and fulfilment can be found, our response is as important now as it was then. For George Herbert’s poem reminds us that the call is twofold, not only that of Jesus to follow him but the call from us for his revelation in our lives too:

“Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life

Such a Way as gives us breath,

Such a Truth as ends all strife,

Such a Life as killeth death.” From George Herbert’s ‘The Call’.

With my prayers; pob bendith


Sunday Reflection

Reflection on Epiphany, the Baptism of Jesus and Prince Harry.

“This is my Son, the Beloved.” Matthew 3:13-17.

“She wanted Harry to be William’s wing man and not, as we have seen, his hit man.” Andrew Morton, of Princess Diana’s comments about her children, the heir and spare. 

Today’s Gospel refers to Jesus as the beloved son of God who was born in human form and drew a series of diverse characters together through his birth in Bethlehem. Innkeeper, angels, shepherds and Magi were brought to the stable by a wordless infant entrusted to a human family as the Word was revealed to the world. This Prince of Peace was nevertheless subjected to possible violence and forced to flee as a refugee to Egypt in his early days as the unstable King Herod sought to get rid of him by massacring all the boys under the age of two. That would probably have amounted to 12 or 15 babies and it must have been a disturbing and worrying time for his parents, although the family returned after the death of Herod and little else is known of Jesus’ early childhood. 

By contrast, in his memoir Prince Harry has revealed previously unknown details of his childhood, being born into wealth and privilege as part of the British Royal Family and second in line to the throne. It’s now clear that Harry did not always feel a sense of belonging or purpose about his role as the second beloved son and spare should anything happen to the heir. Similar issues were reflected in the life of Princess Margaret, the Queen’s sister who was also constrained by her position. However, the ‘spare’ child was needed when Edward VIII abdicated the throne for love of a divorced American and George VI became King, thus paving the way for Harry’s later position. Many would have sympathy for the young Princes when Princess Diana was killed in so violent a car crash when Harry was only 12 and it’s clear that the grief and anger he experienced in his childhood then continues greatly to affect him. However, in divulging so much now, it’s clear that Harry’s Spare has spared very little for his father and brother in particular – he who brought so many diverse characters together through the Invictus Games and being a Commonwealth youth ambassador has now chosen to distance himself from the Family and institution of his birth. That also applies to his time in the Army and security issues as Harry has broken with accepted practice by noting the 25 members of the Taliban that he claims to have killed and calling them just chess pieces rather than human beings. That perhaps relates to his training as an Apache helicopter pilot, but what will result from all this in whatever lies ahead?

By contrast, Jesus meets his second cousin John and consents to baptism by him, even though John suggests that it is not necessary. The Baptist is clearly surprised by what is being asked of him but agrees to it when Jesus says to him, “Let it be so now.” As a result, through John’s acceptance despite his reservations, the words confirming Jesus as the beloved Son of God are heard and his public ministry begins – many challenges have been overcome and also lie ahead.

Whatever our private or public thoughts and actions, we all have opportunities and constraints upon us for all sorts of reasons and there are times when this is bearable and when it isn’t. Perhaps there are current issues when we need to “Let it be so now”in the hope of future fulfilment or when we have to accept that there is little that can be done to change matters and events as we would wish. At such times of revelation, whether through an epiphany of some sort, the controversial memories and comments of others or the inner voice of conscience, decisions will follow about whether to be supportive or critical as Andrew Morton suggests. These decisions may be affected by whether we seek justice or revenge for the situations that trouble us and all this has its consequences. As the voice from heaven speaking of the beloved child goes on to proclaim that it is well pleased with Jesus, would it say the same of each one of us?

With my prayers; pob bendith,

Christine, Guardian.

Sunday Services of Reflection will be held at 3pm on 8th, 15th – Holy Eucharist, 22nd and 28th January, followed by refreshments at the centre.

Holy Eucharist will be held at noon on 5th, 12th – Service of Reflection, 19th and 26th January, followed by a shared lunch at the centre.

Services will be held in the church if the weather is mild or in the centre if it’s cold – please also be aware that wet, wintry or stormy weather can cause difficulties in getting down the lane here as well as accessing the broadband and phone.  

However, green shoots are appearing in the garden – Spring is also on its way! 

New Year Reflection

New Year Reflection at the Shrine Church of St Melangell.

Christmas is now over for many, although we are still in the twelve days of Christmas until Epiphany on January 6th as far as the church is concerned. One thing that struck me this year, however, is the relevance of many of the traditional Christmas carols that were sung. There have been some calls for their rewriting and one Anglican church carol service included an updated version of ‘God rest ye, merry gentlemen’ with the lines ‘God rest you, queer and questioning’ and ‘God rest you also, women, who by men have been erased’. Whatever the views of those attending – and not! – the Christmas story has once again been proclaimed in many ways with its universal message of hope and love for all people. 

This winter is hard for many, bleak even, as some families, businesses and charities struggle to pay their way. Christina Rosetti wrote of another bleak midwinter in her carol of 1872, which mentions earth hard as iron and water like a stone. That may not be the case for us as we end what could turn out well the hottest year on record with primulas in bloom and blossom on some trees because it’s been so mild. But Rosetti’s carol speaks of the stable-place that sufficed for Jesus’ cradle – a place that was probably dirty and smelly from the animals and with shepherds from the hillsides rather than the family calling. However, it was enough to provide the milk and bedding that was needed and the basics were there. That first Christmas was very different and yet familiar too: a pregnant teenager, thought at first by her older fiancé to have mental health problems because she spoke of an angel visiting her; an uncertain journey to be counted at the census, with no room being found on arrival in a town full of their relatives – probably due to shame and embarrassment at the situation; the family fleeing as refugees and being homeless because Jesus was in danger……

But that’s why there’s something to celebrate as New Year begins – Jesus was entrusted to an ordinary human family, not into wealth or a palace befitting a king. The first to hear of his birth were those on the hills tending the sheep – it was the poor and marginalised who heard the song of the Angels which so many others did not and they were told the good news first, with Jesus spending his early life as a refugee and then growing up in obscurity. He experienced so many of the issues still being faced today as well as then – so little has changed and yet so much!

Rosetti asks what Jesus can be given, poor as I am, and suggests that giving her heart is what’s needed. That’s as true today as at the first Christmas and when she wrote her carol. Love, hope and human care were needed and were enough for God’s purposes then – and that can be so now, no matter how bleak things seem to be getting. The stripping back of the luxury and frivolity to which many seem to have become accustomed may enable the true and basic values at the heart of the Christmas story to emerge once more – and that could enable a hopeful New Year, no matter how uncertain and challenging things seem as it begins. May it be so!

With my prayers; pob bendith,