Midweek Letters began as a resource during the Covid19 pandemic, when we were not allowed to hold public worship in the church. Our late Chaplain Fr Ron Corne wrote them, and his letters can be seen at this link: Fr Ron’s Midweek letters Below are letters written recently by our current Reader, Congregational Worship Leader, and locum priest.
1st February 2023
We are now almost at the end of the spring Romerías, and I have been asked by several visitors what these Fiestas are and their history. I have discovered that these events which occur at several villages around the Island, notable in Arona, Tigaiga and Buenavista, venerate the memory of Saint Antonio Abad who is known as the patron saint of many groups including amputees, gravediggers and epileptics. But, he is probably most famous as the patron saint of animals, domestic or otherwise. Thus the Romerías also include a livestock fair. They occur in the spring and are calling blessings on the animals, and the land for the coming productive season.
In the English tradition Saint Antonio Abad is generally known as Anthony the Great, who was born in Egypt in about 12th January 251 and died 17th January 356 at the grand old age of 105.
He lived the life of an hermit and is thought to be the first Monk. Anthony was not the first ascetic or hermit, but he may properly be called the “Father of Monasticism” in Christianity, as he organized his disciples into a community and later, following the spread of Athanasius’s hagiography, was the inspiration for similar communities throughout Egypt and elsewhere. Macarius the Great was a disciple of Anthony. Visitors travelled great distances to see the celebrated holy man. Anthony is said to have spoken to those of a spiritual disposition, leaving the task of addressing the more worldly visitors to Macarius. Macarius later founded a monastic community in the Scetic desert.
The fame of Anthony spread and reached Emperor Constantine, who wrote to him requesting his prayers. The brethren were pleased with the Emperor’s letter, but Anthony was not overawed and wrote back exhorting the Emperor and his sons not to esteem this world but remember the next.
In 338, he left the desert temporarily to visit Alexandria to help refute the teachings of Arius. He then returned to his life as an hermit.
After his death Anthony was interred, according to his instructions, in a grave next to his cell.
Back to Tenerife and the Romerías. These follow a similar pattern wherever they are celebrated. Starting with a Mass in the Parish Church, followed by a procession bearing an image of the Saint through the streets to the village square where all the local animals, oxen, sheep, goats and other farm livestock, also a whole collection of domestic animals of all shapes and sizes are amassed, and, amid the noise, smells, and confusion, the Priest blesses all the animals.
Then the local produce is presented to the assembled crowd and the party begins. The Canary Islanders are very good at turning Religious events into Fiestas. So amid the cacophony of noise, aromas etc. from all the animals and the colourful and intricate local costumes of the islanders, with the aid of the local band(s) of musicians the dancing and partying continues into the late evening.
Long live the traditions of the Island with the joy that the Christian fellowship brings. As we leave the season on Romerías we move forward into the Carnival season, with its associated Fiestas and maybe excess, leading up to the period of fasting in Lent.
25th January 2023
A queue of cars along the road from early morning; people unloading and setting up their pitch area; cases, boxes, railings, racks and tables laden; a long queue shuffling forward to be one of the first through the gates to bag a bargain, a gift or just for a mooch among the fruit and veg, books, bric a brac, clothing, jewellery, pies, crafts or paintings… This is a picture of the popular monthly All Saints Car Boot sale.
Walking through the church and parsonage grounds it´s often struck me how one person´s trash really is another person´s treasure. Looking at the various stalls you see the hard work behind the crafts, the talents behind the home-grown fruit and veg, the paintings and the pies, the growth of babies into children and children into youth as toys and games that are no longer played with are looking for a new home and clothing looking for a new wardrobe, to enable space in its original.
So many reasons for being there from raising funds for a charity, making money to pay the bills, finding an outlet for a talent, a place to meet up with friends, to spot a bargain or just the smell of the homecooked burgers with onions made by the church team! So many reasons and so many opportunities. So many assets and so many treasures. Our next Car Boot Sale is from 10:00 on February 4th. Do come and see for yourself!
The extremes of weather in different parts of the world this last month have brought into focus stories of those who have lost all their belongings and their homes in floods or fires as well as those who have had to flee leaving all behind to escape war torn countries. In those situations treasures and “stuff” lose their value as assets. What would you grab or save in one of those challenging situations? Would it be photos or letters or something small that could be carried on your person? What would you put into one small rucksack? It´s challenging isn´t it when so many of us have so much?
Perhaps we can all learn from a young girl who was comforting her parents at the scene of the third flood after Christmas in less than a year. “Don´t worry we still have each other. It´s love and being with each other that is the most important thing in our family. I don´t need my presents. I just need you.”
Despite all our “stuff” our most valuable assets are a heart full of love, an ear ready to listen and a hand willing to help one another. Sharing those assets enable each of us to recognise our worth and to grow as individuals and as a community. This coming week let us be grateful for not just what but who we have in our life and let´s seek to be an asset in someone else´s.
Congregational Worship Leader
18th January 2023
PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY
I guess we all know how much easier it is to sit comfortably in our own tradition, and remain untroubled by those who see their faith expressed in a different way. It is alluring to want to live and worship only with those who are like-minded. And I am not confusing Unity with Uniformity.
But the question still nags. Do we prefer staying safe and secure with what we know, rather than reach out to try and understand the unsure road of the prophet Isaiah, who would create a new heaven and a new earth, and let the former things pass away?
I am fervently in favour of unity and pray for it – but it’s difficult to imagine something I’ve never experienced. And maybe that’s because I simply don’t know what I’m missing.
For me, it’s best summed up in the story of an oriental king visiting England for the first time for the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria. The Queen came to the subject of non-Christian religions, and she said: ‘I have never been able to comprehend how anyone could worship the sun.’ The king, wistfully thinking of the warmth of his homeland replied: ‘Quite so, madam. But if you had ever actually seen the sun, you might think differently.’
My prayer is that the Lord will open our eyes to the full splendour of his grace, that we may respond to him more readily; that we might begin to want the gifts he has to give and discover the will to desire what is better than what we have now.
With my blessing,
Fr Peter Cavanagh
11th January 2023
The good old Book of Common Prayer still has much to commend it. Not the least of its virtues is an additional title to the festival we celebrate this week – the Epiphany, or, “The manifestation of Christ to the gentiles.” That’s an alternative title that can help us open-up what Epiphany really means.
Unless we’re Jewish the word ‘gentile’ doesn’t mean much to us. But just change the word “gentile” to “outsider” – because that’s what other races were as far as Jews were concerned – and change ‘manifestation’ to ‘revealed’ and Epiphany comes alive: “the revealing of Christ to the outsiders”. At the heart of this Feast lies the simple assertion that, in Jesus Christ, there are no outsiders.
So who are the outsiders for us? Maybe they are asylum seekers: maybe the hooligans or social security abusers. Maybe your outsiders are young people or old people or, people whose lives are lived differently from ours. We’ve all got those we think of as outsiders and we need to remember that it was for people like this, and as varied as this, that God was willing to reveal himself in human form, and it was for people like this that Jesus was willing to die.
So we’ve got to be careful about the Epiphany. The stable was certainly nothing at all like the Renaissance or Baroque masterpieces we see on our Christmas cards: it was, as the carol says, ‘rude and bare’, a cold, inhospitable cave with animal muck on the floor. The revelation of Christ to the outsiders is more likely to involve similar dinginess – that of a prison cell or a bomb site where drug addicts degrade themselves or down and outs neglect themselves. Thank God there are some followers of the Gospel in those place as well, for God is not only to be found and worshipped inside churches. Epiphany is about God coming to meet us AND the outsiders, where we all are: it’s about God revealing himself in Jesus in a way we can begin to grasp how much he loves us.
So we can’t feel superior to those we call “outsiders”. Epiphanytide reminds us that our concern must be for those who are different for whatever reason. If we’re ever to do something about that it can be costly and painful. But then, God’s salvation may be free, but it’s not light and easy, but won through sorrow. Thanks be to God for his loving-kindness.
With my blessing this holy season
Fr Peter Cavanagh
4th January 2023
Writing this at the start of 2023 I’m reminded of the poem written in 1908 by Minnie Louise Haskins and quoted by King George VI in his 1939 wartime Christmas broadcast.
“I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown, and he replied: Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way. So I went forth and finding the hand of God trod gladly into the night. And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of the day in the East.”
The popular name given to this poem is “The Gate of the Year”. Yet the title given to it by the poet was “God Knows”. So much has gone on in our world in 2022 and stepping into 2023 we can hold fast to the God who knows us as individuals and within community.
“Go out into the darkness” reminded me of a trip to Cueva del Viento, underground lava tubes near Icod, where when the guide told us to switch off our headlights, we were in total darkness. The desire for light before we set off walking again was self-evident. We needed to be able to see where we were going. Wouldn’t it be foolish to step out into the unknown? We would likely injure ourselves or another.
As we step into 2023 with all the unknowns ahead of us both personally, communally and internationally this poem reminds me that in placing our trust and ourselves into the hand of God we can be secure in the knowledge that He holds us and walks alongside. Listening to a reflection from Christina, one of the church wardens in Kyiv, I was struck by how she spoke of the miracles of God in the midst of the challenges of life in a war zone. It would have been so easy to focus on the lack of water, electricity and the cold and fear amidst the sirens and the ruins and devastation. Instead she spoke of the tiny miracles and the God who was with them in the midst of it all.
The phrase “so I went forth” reminded me that there needs to be movement. In taking the first step the “I” found God´s hand. The person travelled into the unknown, into the darkness and yet was not alone. As we look back over last year I´m sure that each of us is in a different place from the start of 2022. We´ve experienced many things that might not have been on our annual “to do” list. Each is like a jigsaw piece, part of a whole, of the unknown puzzle called life. As we move into 2023 let´s cling to the light, to a God who tells us “I am the Light of the World” and pray asking for His wisdom and guidance in the dark spaces in our world and our personal situations.
“And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of the day in the East” …there is always daybreak and though we might not always see the sun, it rises each day. Light does conquer darkness. You´ve only got to strike a match in any dark space to recognise that. As we move into 2023 we pray for our brothers and sisters in those places of darkness and despair for miracles of light and love to encompass them.
Congregational Worship Leader
28th December 2022
The feast of Christmas, celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, was celebrated in All Saints Church, Puerto de la Cruz with services on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. As we now progress through the traditional 12 Days of Christmas to the 6th of January when tradition has it that the three wise men, (Also known as the 3 Kings) brought gifts to the infant Jesus. In the present day adults and children alike have or are preparing to receive and give gifts. Children, specifically, wait for Santa Claus or the 3 Kings or St. Nicholas with baited breath. What is the origin of these gift bringers, and how did they become the jolly givers of gifts to the world?
The legend of Santa Claus can be traced as far back as the 4th Century, in Turkey, to a very real man named St. Nicholas. St. Nicholas was the Bishop of Smyrna, which was a Greek community in the 300s. During his appointment as bishop, St. Nicholas was aware of a minor noble in failing health with three young daughters. Because he could not afford the dowry for his daughters, he was going to sell them into a life of prostitution. This is not the happy origin story most people expect, but it does finish with a happy ending. In the dead of night, St. Nicholas is said to have gifted the noble three bags of gold, enough to act as dowry so the three ladies could properly be married off and live happily.
This story lays down the first legend for St. Nicholas the gift giver. The image of St. Nicholas bringing gifts to only the daughters could give power to the tradition of Santa bringing gifts to only children. The road to the European tradition of Santa Claus is long, and much like the gift giver’s origin story, not what everyone expects. On 6th December in the Netherlands, St. Nicholas, or Sinterklaas, still rides into town on a white horse, dressed in his red bishop’s robes and preceded by “Black Peter,” a Satanic figure in an outlandish costume who beats the bad children with a stick while rewarding the good children with candy and gifts.
The red bishop’s robes have been considerably shortened down to the red coat Santa wears in the current visualization. Figures such as “Black Peter” appear in many cultures with legends like Krampus of Germany, a devilish figure that treats bad children in a similar fashion to Black Peter. Perhaps the split of duties between Santa Claus, Black Peter, and Krampus is where the famous Naughty and Nice list comes from?
British do their gift exchanging on Christmas Day or Christmas Eve, but in the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, Spain and some other European countries, presents are still opened on 5th December, which is St. Nicholas’s Eve, or 6th December, St. Nicholas’s Day. Santa Claus is believed to be an international figure due to the believe that he goes from the North Pole and gives gifts the world over, but to many nations and cultures, he is still the old St. Nicholas. Door to door carolling can be traced back to ancient Greece, as well.
St. Nicholas as Santa Claus has been established, but how does St. Nicholas fit into Christmas? The gifts of the Wise Men to the baby Christ is a very easy and simple tie to St. Nicholas, though St. Nicholas’s gifts were not to the King of Man, but to save three young women from the profession of Mary Magdalene, one of Christ’s closest followers. Also note the connection of three Wise Men and St. Nicholas saving the fate of three women in the Christmas narrative.
In the mid 19th Century, Christmas began to acquire its associations with an increasingly secularized holiday of gift-giving and good cheer, a view that was popularized in works such as Clement Clarke Moore’s 1823 poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” and Charles Dickens’s 1843 story A Christmas Carol. The current concept Santa Claus was first made popular in New York in the 19th century and highly marketed on the internet and by Coca-Cola in the 20th.
In the Christmas Season it’s fun to look back at the old stories and traditions of one of the world’s most celebrated holidays. Because Christmas is celebrated by so many in so many different ways, let us all come together at this season of the year and celebrate the gifts and people we are so fortunate to have this hopefully happy season, always remembering, and praying for, those who are unable to celebrate with us.
When I first came to Tenerife children were encouraged to write to the 3 Kings with their desires for gifts for delivery on 5th January. However with the influence of Hollywood and the internet, Santa Claus also became a person with whom to correspond, and now I hear of many youngsters ‘hedging their bets’ and writing 2 letters every year!
20th December 2022
How would you sum up how the last few weeks have been for you?
For me I´d describe it as a “time for making room” …for a tree, for decorations, for a travel cot and a highchair, for a camp bed in an already overcrowded office, for food and drink for 5 rather than just 1, for suitcases and all that´s contained within them. As a result the shredder has had the cobwebs dusted off it, the charity shop has received a large black sack and the apartment has been spring cleaned throughout. Nothing like having 5 visitors arriving for their holidays! Making room has involved cleaning, clearing, sorting and decision making.
Joining in the Carol Service in La Palma involved another sort of making room. The beautiful church up in the forest was bursting at the seams. We squashed up and moved along benches until there was standing room only. Last Sunday during our 11:00 service our children´s table filled up and we needed a second. In these occasions the making room was more than just giving space. It involved welcoming with a smile, generosity and selflessness.
We read in the story of Jesus’ birth that there was no room for Mary and Joseph at the inn when they arrived in Bethlehem – unless you are the 5-year-old innkeeper who has been standing there throughout his first Christmas play, with nothing to say but just to shake his head when asked a question. Not to be outdone by others with more lines he looks up, catches his teacher´s eye and says very confidently in response to Joseph´s request for a room at the inn: “Yes of course, come in. We have plenty of rooms here. Take your pick!” Maybe that young boy can be an example for each of us in that he wanted to make room for this family who had travelled far. Since February we have heard of so many who have made room for others in their homes. If you would like to pray specifically for the situation in Ukraine please join us on the Diocese in Europe´s YouTube page at 17:30 BST on Wednesday 21st. We will be hearing from and praying with the Archbishop of Canterbury who has recently visited Kyiv with Bishop Robert.
At this time of year, amidst all the holiday festivities may we each find time and room for Jesus, the reason for the season. Here in Tenerife depending on where you come from, Christmas is celebrated on 6th, 24th or 25th December or 6th January. Let´s pray that this year as well as making room for family and friends we will make room for Jesus in our hearts and lives. You will be very welcome to join us in All Saints on 24th and 25th December at 11:00 for both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services. Plenty of room for all!
Congregational Worship Leader
14th December 2022
At this time of year, the run up to Christmas, and seeing so many images of snow in the UK I’m reminded of the story of the farmer whose wife had left him at home while she went to the church Carol Service. Just after she had left flurries of snow began to fall. While the farmer was working he heard a loud thump, followed by a series of further thumps on the patio doors.
He went outside to see what was happening and in the middle of his field stood a flock of migrating geese. With the snowstorm they had become disorientated and were now stranded on the farm, unable to see their way through the snow.
The farmer considered that the best way to help them was to give them shelter in his barn. He opened the door and moved away hoping they would find their way inside but the geese didn’t appear to understand. So he attempted to shoo them inside but they ran in different directions. Reflecting on the situation he decided to lay a trail of bread to the barn door but they didn’t follow it. Nothing he did to offer the warmth and shelter of the barn made any difference.
Frustrated, he pondered: “Why don´t they follow me into this barn? This is where they need to be in order to survive.” Instinctively he realised that they would never follow a person. “If only I could become like one of them then I could explain to them about what the barn can offer and lead them to safety in the storm.”
As he pondered on this he realised that this was precisely why God became one of us that first Christmas. God became small to come down to our level. He came to us in the mess of this world, in the mess of our own lives to lead us to safety, to lead us to himself.
He finally understood why his wife had gone to the Carol Service. In the busyness of the coming weeks let´s pause to think about this, because if it´s true it´s not just “a nice story” but the greatest miracle of all. Come and join us at our Carol Service on Thursday 15th at 6:00 in All Saints Church, Taoro Park, Puerto de la Cruz. You will be very welcome.
Congregational Worship Leader
7th December 2022
A few evenings ago I was sitting quietly reading a book when the peace of the neighbourhood was shattered by a loud crashing sound. I looked out to the street to see what was causing this peace shattering noise, only to find it was being caused by a couple of young lads with a collection of tin cans threaded onto wires which they were dragging along the road.
It then clicked – it was the eve of St. Andrew’s Day. Now St. Andrew is the Patron saint of the Island of Tenerife, amongst other places including Ukraine, Russia and Scotland.
On every eve of St. Andrew’s day in Puerto de la Cruz the celebration known as “Los Cacharros” (roughly meaning “the clutter”) involves tying cans and tins to a piece of metal wire and dragging them along the streets. Young people and tourists gather in the Town Square – Plaza del Charco – to throw piles of clutter and any old objects that hit the ground with a clatter which can be heard all around the streets. The adults also meet in the square where the “Castañada” or chestnut fest is held, during which you can taste some of the Island’s typical products: chestnuts, wreckfish, sardines, gofio bread, sweet potatoes and new wine.
Whilst in the neighbouring town of Icod de los Vinos the traditional ceremony takes place when young and not-so-young adrenaline-seekers clamber onto wooden boards and slide down the steep street of Calle del Plano. Adding to the whooshing and crashing of the boards is the sweet smell of young wine. Under the moonlight, grape harvesters pop open their wines from the latest vintage in a ritual that also takes place in many other towns and villages. The Tenerife answer to ‘Beaujolais Nouveau’? maybe…
Back to the clattering tin cans of Puerto de la Cruz and the ‘clutter’. I’m sure that many of us have a lot of ‘clutter’ in our lives. In many households there is a table that is the place that many things accumulate. It becomes the easiest place to put stuff. Toys, Mail, Homework, Cups, More Cups. The tabletop makes it simpler to just move things around rather than to put them away! So after a while it accumulates a collection of unrelated objects into one centralised location, which is called clutter.
This can be a lot like one’s life. We are forever piling one thing after another onto the table of our life. There are always more things we should be concerned about, and give attention to, and make room for – Somehow…
Before long one’s life is full of clutter, This is the way it remains until God’s elbow grease intervenes, mighty to sweep and clears the table.
Which He will do for us – 2 Corinthians 5 v6-10.
30th November 2022
Happy New Year! This past Sunday marked the beginning of the Church’s year. The First Sunday of Advent is the start of the season of expectation and preparation as the church prepares to remember and celebrate the birth of Christ. In this Advent season we are on a journey, both looking back and looking forward to Christ’s coming again. What God has done is the reason we can have faith in what He will do. Our world faces much uncertainty at this time and there are many who are struggling financially or as a result of natural and man-made disasters. If we took a map of the world it is likely we could find somewhere in most countries where life is challenging. At this time of year we are faced with adverts for so many items that we “need” for a happy Christmas.
I’m reminded of the story of Elijah and the widow in 1 Kings chapter 17 verses 7-16. Elijah had travelled to Zarephath because his source of water from the brook had dried up. He had faith to believe that God would continue to take care of him, as He had in the past. Obeying God he walked about 100 miles believing that God would provide for him. As soon as he arrived in Zarephath he saw a woman gathering sticks. He asked for water to drink, and he also asked for bread. Her response was interesting: As the Lord your God lives I do not have bread, but I do have a handful of flour and a little oil in a jar. Did she recognise that here was a man of God?
The widow was instructed by Elijah to make a small loaf of bread to give to him and then another for herself and her son. She was assured that in doing so she would see the provision of God. She obeyed and baked the bread using all that she had. What should have been empty jars of flour and oil didn’t run out. This continued and she had enough for each day to make the bread. God provided for Elijah and the widow. It wasn’t plentiful but it was enough. It took care of today. It was a daily exercise of faith for him and for her. The widow gave away what she had with generosity. In obedience she used all the flour and oil each day and yet there was always sufficient for the coming day.
May this Advent season be a time for each of us to give generously and to wait expectantly knowing that as God was for Elijah and the widow so He is our provider. God promises enough for the day to each of one of us and to our community of All Saints. The Christmas adverts might tell us that we are looking for abundance, even super abundance. Enough is what we are promised in scripture. Enough is all we need. We continue to rely on the faithfulness of God, trusting that He will provide sufficient for each day.
Congregational Worship Leader
23rd November 2022
I have just been told by the Diocesan Office in London that I am due to renew my Safeguarding Training to work with vulnerable adults and children. It’s easy to be sniffy about being required to do regular training. As I will be 75 next year I’m probably categorised as a vulnerable adult myself! So now I have booked myself on to a two day Zoom course in January.
The recently released figures of child abuse perpetrated in our churches and by clergy of all denominations are horrendous……we’re talking in thousands not hundreds….and something has to be done and fast. For too long the powers that be have been more concerned with maintaining the reputation of the church than caring for the victims themselves. To coin a phrase “dead cats have been thrown over walls” and the word “coverup” has been the currency of those who should know better.
Last Sunday, 20th November, was Safeguarding Sunday, and churches all around the world were encouraged to acknowledge it in some form or other. But why should we care, after all we are a happy bunch of people, nothing bad could happen here! Think back to the “Good Old Days” everyone harks on about, they weren’t so good for all were they? We now know awful things happened to vulnerable children and adults in many places and were hidden and covered up. The institution was more important than the individuals harmed, sometimes for ever.
Safeguarding in relation to the church is all about making our churches safe places for all to attend. As a church we care for one another and the wider community and it is up to all of us to play our part in ensuring that all are safe.
We all understand the need for children to be protected from all types of harm, predators, groomers, cruelty or misinformation, the list is endless. But who is a vulnerable adult? There are times in our lives when we are all vulnerable to being taken advantage of: financially, physically, mentally or through on-line scammers. Just think about it.
So what are we doing centrally in the Church of England, the Diocese in Europe and in this chaplaincy on Tenerife? We are promoting a safer church, the “Church of England’s Safeguarding Policy”. Practically that means all church leaders and people engaged in various roles within the church have to undergo safeguarding training. This ensures that we are aware of safeguarding issues and how to deal with them. Some of those in main leadership roles also have to obtain Police clearance. However safeguarding is everyone´s responsibility. We have policies and training but the key thing is to put those into action. The noticeboard at the back of church displays the parish safeguarding agreement and we ensure safeguarding is on every council agenda.
If you have any concerns or worries relating to safeguarding, speak to Judith or any council member. Never let it be said, we didn’t care or couldn’t be bothered to help those in need.
Fr Robert Ellis
16th November 2022
This past week I had time “to kill” at the airport and thought I would use it to revise little Spanish words that I often forgot when I first started lessons. Top of the list given by my Spanish teacher was “y” meaning “and”. I didn´t get much further as the British Legion had a stall nearby and I found myself reflecting on Remembrance Sunday…with more “ands”. A time to remember the service AND the sacrifice of all those who defended our freedom AND protected our way of life. Last Sunday we came together to remember AND pray for all those who gave their lives AND those impacted by war, both in the past AND today.
I wonder which “ANDS” come to mind for you this week? At our Chaplaincy Council meeting on Monday we found ourselves facing both the financial challenges that come with the responsibility of our buildings AND the desire to develop and build community.
Rainbows are the result of sunshine AND rain. Without action our spirituality can become lifeless and bear no fruit. Without contemplation our doing can come from a “me” perspective. Each of us has a part to play in our chaplaincy´s mission and outreach – a whole community with action AND contemplation at the centre. As we pray in the coming weeks for the interview process for our new chaplain let´s remember God´s promise of rescue to His people: I will make an unbreakable covenant with you AND give you steadfast love. They will be my people AND I will be their God.
Listening to reports from COP 27 another AND from Egypt´s President struck me: “I deeply believe that COP27 is an opportunity to showcase unity against an existential threat that we can only overcome through concerted action AND effective implementation.”
The world has come a long way in the fight against climate change AND its negative impacts on our planet. We are now better able to understand the science behind climate change, better assess its impacts AND better develop tools to address its causes AND consequences. The hope from this gathering is that a collective approach to tackling the challenge of climate change is resilient, committed, effective AND delivering. May we each play our part so that food and water security will be a reality for all AND that countries and communities in climate vulnerable situations will have their basic needs met and homes protected.
In life it seems there are often both challenges AND opportunities. Let´s take time to notice the “ANDs” that we are presented with this week and pray that we will be blessed with both freedom AND light to lift AND carry us through the challenges we are faced with, knowing that, in His Word, God has promised to be with us always.
Congregational Worship Leader
1st November 2022
So much of life seems to be in a state of flux at the moment. In the UK, recent political events have been breath-taking in their suddenness. Only 44 days after taking office, Prime Minister Liz Truss, concluded she couldn’t deliver her programme of reform and resigned. By the time you read this reflection, the UK is likely to have its third Prime Minister this year. Such instability has serious knock-on effects for our friends and families at home as they face increased costs of borrowing and purchasing. As it happens, I think I am the third locum to serve this chaplaincy since Fr Ron`s sad death earlier this year. Others are likely to follow, before, we pray, a new permanent chaplain is appointed to lead you in your mission and witness. Meanwhile, so much of the responsibility for leadership and organisation falls on the excellent team of workers here at All Saints, notably our two Wardens, Wendy and Dawn. We owe them a great debt for all that is done – often behind the scenes.
The theme of change and momentum is also found in the Lectionary. Most of my Sundays here have been ‘Sundays after Trinity’ – 19 of them in total this year. However, last Sunday, October 30th – which we kept as the Patronal Festival of All Saints – was also the first Sunday of the Kingdom Season (or Fourth Sunday before Advent). Suddenly, we become aware that the Church Year is coming to an end. With Advent we begin a new one (Year A, with the focus returning to St Matthew`s Gospel) and Christmas comes ever closer.
Since I arrived, towards the end of August, apart from when I’ve been leading worship, I’ve been in summer shorts almost every day. What a change awaits me back in Wales. Yet even in Tenerife, I’ve noticed a less intense heat and the welcome cooler breezes of Autumn. In our own lives, too, change and upheaval leave their mark. Some of us will have lost loved ones this year, or experienced a loss of mobility or independence. Others might find the process of ageing a challenge, irritated at not being able to do all that was possible previously. I know the feeling! The Archbishop of Canterbury gave a lecture during a visit to the diocese of Sodor and Man in 2000, in which he referred to that line from the hymn, ‘Change and decay in all around I see’ (1). Perhaps thats how it seems to many people.
I suspect that it was a sense of things being in a state of flux that also accounted for the sense of loss that followed the late Queen`s death. She represented, for many people, values of continuity and constancy. It was my privilege during that time to be part of the various services at All Saints, and in south Tenerife, when the Queen`s memory was honoured. But the Church, too, represents these values. For other religious traditions, Friday is the holy day of prayer. Yet others mark the seventh day of the week as a Sabbath of rest. But for us, Sunday, since Biblical times, is the day when we remember Jesus’ resurrection, and claim the new life that he promises, now and forever. Year by year, we continue to follow the same seasons and festivals. Prayers we learned in childhood remain vibrant and lively. People who were formative in our spiritual growth or who influenced us for good are remembered, the Scriptures are read and shared, and the Eucharist celebrated regularly. These are the tools of the Faith that help keep us rooted in the Lord. In that context, let me note my thanks to all who read the Lessons on Sundays and Wednesdays, who prepare intercessions, who meet and greet at the church door, who oversee the music, who safeguard and provide a ministry to children, who so faithfully prepare our service leaflets, and those who ensure that all that is said is clearly audible. I think All Saints is also the only church in which I’ve served that has its own bar! As a venue for socialising and welcoming, and as a place where outdoor events can be hosted, it’s an asset many other chaplaincies would love to have. For all who contribute to the life of the church here in All Saints only thanks are due.
Since I took up my duties towards the end of August it`s been a joy to share in the life of the community here. The monthly Car Boot Sale, the English Library, the Spanish learners’ class held there on Saturdays, ESTA, the local choir led by our Director of Music, Rayco, the inter-group quizzes – these are some of the things, apart from church work, that have kept me busy since I arrived. Actually, my first days didn’t get off to a very good start: I was fined by the local police for a traffic infringement. But the natural beauty of the island and the warm welcome I received from the faithful and others, soon made me feel I was among friends.
We have a word in Welsh, which is said to be untranslatable. ‘Hiraeth’ refers to the tugging on the heart that follows a prolonged absence. It can be a longing for place or for people, and it involves a sort of yearning for what has been. I`m sure, after a few months I will experience ‘hiraeth’ for Tenerife and for All Saints. But life’s rich experiences don’t allow for us to be too reflective or nostalgic. Instead, those words from from the Psalms encourage us to be thankful for every blessing shared, and to be joyful in the here and now: “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” May God bless you all and keep you strong in the Faith. To quote yet another recent Prime Minister as he ended his time in office, “Hasta luego……”
Revd Hywel Davies
Locum priest August-October
(1) “Change and decay in all around I see”;: Challenges facing the Church in the New Millennium
26 October 2022
With all the challenges going on around the globe I´m reminded of the story of the making of stone soup.
Some travellers came to a village, carrying nothing more than an empty cooking pot. Upon their arrival, the villagers were unwilling to share any of their food stores with the hungry travellers. The travellers went to a stream and filled the pot with water, dropped a large stone in it, and placed it over a fire.
One of the villagers became curious and asked what they were doing. The travellers answered that they were making “stone soup”, tasting wonderful, although it still needed a little bit of garnish to improve the flavour, which they were missing. One villager did not mind parting with a few carrots to help them out, so they were added to the soup.
Another villager walked by, enquiring about the pot, and the travellers again mentioned their stone soup, which hadn´t yet reached its full potential. The villager handed them a little bit of seasoning to help them out.
More and more villagers walked by each adding another ingredient. Finally, a delicious and nourishing pot of soup was enjoyed by all.
In situations requiring endurance what a difference it makes to have those around offering words of support, confidence and hope and not just offering words but showing the same by their actions.
This past Sunday was Bible Sunday and the Bible isn´t just a book to read and leave on our shelves. The things written within it give us strength to endure, encourage us to keep going and offer promises we can hold onto in the tough times. In Mark´s Gospel we are encouraged to love God and love our neighbours as ourselves. In our Community of All Saints we do this amongst other things, by praying for and welcoming our Ukranian brothers and sisters and by feeding the hungry and supporting those in need through our partnership with Cruz Roja.
Many people are going through difficult situations, some very visible but others hidden and managed on their own. By encouraging those we meet each day we can help them. Encouragement is something we can all do for others – maybe a phone call, time to chat, offering practical help or simply a smile.
This week let´s be encouragers and enablers, being part of the making of “Stone Soup” in our communities.
Congregational Worship Leader
19 October 2022
I was out shopping the a few days ago and saw that notices had started to appear indicating that several shops were offering to reserve presents for The Christmas Season. I thought this is a bit early – there’s still about 10 weeks to go.
Then looking at the Lectionary (a Church issued guide to readings for the year) I noticed that the Psalm listed for this Wednesday, in Mid October, is Number 98. Now Psalm 98 is one of my favourites as it is uplifting and full of Joy. So maybe the Church too is ‘jumping on the band wagon’ 10 weeks early.
Psalm 98 is long loved by the church; In fact this Psalm is one of those appointed for Christmas Day in all 3 of the lectionary cycles – in fact, in my opinion, it is also a perfect Psalm for the Easter Season as it looks back at the salvation won by Christ’s climatic victory over the enemies who ruin God’s good world, and looks ahead to the end of the war when just peace will descend on the whole world.
With all that is happening in the world today, wars, hunger, famine, climate change, etc., how are we to have joy? When we consider our own personal struggles in life, how can we find joy and hope? I find that turning to the Psalmists of ancient time can often offer an insight.
The psalms are always a great place to turn to find strength and words of hope during difficult times. Many of the psalms were written during personal distresses experienced by God’s people. Some of the psalms were written after the nation of Judah was invaded, captured, and carried away into captivity at the hands of foreigners. The psalms became God’s book of hope to his people.
The Great Christmas Carol “Joy to the World” was published in 1719 and is Isaac Watts’ Christian Interpretation of Psalm 98. It is alleged that it is the most sung carol worldwide, and this reflects verse 4 of the Psalm “Make a joyful noise, sing praises, break forth into joyful song”. I can only hope that if all peoples break out into joyful Song it will help to bring peace to the World.
This week we have celebrated yet another bank holiday in Tenerife – one of the 14 that we have each year. We have 10 National Bank Holidays and then another 2 Regional days and then a further 2 Local Municipal days. On 12th we celebrated, along with the whole of Spain, Dia de la Hispanidad. This National Day of Spain commemorates the discovery of the Americas by Christopher Columbus on October 12th 1492.
Whilst for many this was a day off work it somehow didn’t seem to have the same element of “Fiesta” which the local and regional days have.
I spent this afternoon in Adeje and the whole town is decked out in flags and bunting. The stage is set for the dancers, musicians and the local folklore groups. The sides of the street are filled with food stalls and the people are enjoying each other’s company. Santa Ursula´s Church is central to the fiesta, with services, processions and sharing farm produce “harvest festival” style.
On Sunday following the church service the Romería will take place – Oxen drawn carts decorated with Canarian colours of white, yellow and blue travel through the town and each shares food and drink with those standing on the side watching the procession. It´s accompanied by music, dancing and smiles of inclusion and welcome. The whole family participates in the celebration.
Welcome, participation, joy and energy are all part of fiestas.
This reminds me of a story in chapter 15 of Luke´s Gospel known as The Prodigal Son. The story begins with a young man asking for his inheritance and then having been given it by his father he leaves to party with his friends. When he has spent everything he falls on hard times and finds himself in a pigsty – feeding the pigs. He realises that his father´s hired servants have more than he does and so he turns and heads for home. While he is still a long way off his father sees him and runs towards him with arms outstretched to welcome him home. He starts to tell his father he is sorry about squandering his money but the father calls for a celebration and kills the fatted calf, celebrating that his son who was lost is found. That is all that is important. He was welcomed home.
In this story there are 3 places – the pigsty, the palace and the road in between. We might each find ourselves in one or other of these at different times. As I reflect on each I think of the pigsty…a place of darkness, captivity, muck and mess: The palace…a place of feeling treated as royalty, feasting, free and without burdens: The road in between…like this young man there are times when I´ve felt rebellious, repentant or just rambled aimlessly.
What I do know is that there is always a welcome from a God who, like the father in the story, looks out and meets each one with open arms. His love is for each one who acknowledges Him. This week may we each find that welcome, love and joy, knowing that wherever we are, pigsty, palace or on the road in between, we have a God who loves and welcomes us with outstretched arms.
Congregational Worship Leader
This week in All Saints we are celebrating Harvest. Several schools join with us in collecting non-perishable foods for Cruz Roja to distribute to local families in need.
So why do we celebrate harvest? A simple answer is that it’s an opportunity to thank God for all He has blessed us with. The Psalm for Harvest Festival Sunday is Psalm 100 and it’s both a summons to praise and a reason to praise. Make a joyful noise: Worship: Come into God’s presence…. The noise is one of triumph, confidence and joy.
Before I lived in Tenerife I lived in the Kent countryside – with many orchards, even grapevines and it wasn’t unusual to hear the combine harvesters extremely late into the night – even into the early hours of the morning, with their bright lights shining across the fields of wheat and barley at harvest time. The triumph and joy of the workers when the fields were harvested and the grains were stored before the rains came was evident…along with the exhaustion of their demanding work.
On reading Psalm 100 I was struck by 2 elements that are part of any harvester’s way of life – Complete dependence and complete trust.
One of the laws of harvesting is that you will get what you plant – if you plant fruit bushes you will not get a harvest of vine ripened tomatoes. So the seeds, the weather and the people involved all play a part in that dependence and trust.
Another law of the harvest is that you reap more than you sow – you sow one seed of corn and from that you will grow a cornstalk, provided the seed is good, cultivated and watered. But you don’t plant today and reap tomorrow…there’s a season of planting and a season for growing and a season for harvesting.
Many times in the Kent orchards there was fruit left rotting, having fallen to the ground due to a shortage of pickers and the unpicked cabbages shrivelled due to the excessive heat – There’s a certain unmistakable smell from rotting cabbages and cauliflowers! But this excess is in sharp contrast this week to the distressing stories from Somalia where, along with civil war there is famine. Innocent children are without medical aid. Families are leaving their children on the roadside, unable to bury them following their death. We can’t but be touched when we look into the eyes of a child crying because of the death of his sibling due to malnutrition. The media have told such poignant stories, of life in an area without a harvest. Families who are leaving in search for land to grow crops, to feed themselves and their cattle are dependent on agencies from the worldwide community to meet their basic needs of food and water.
The way our food is grown presents significant future challenges and opportunities, both to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions and the potential to store carbon within the soil. We are mindful that meeting these challenges will require changes that we all have to make, in the food that we eat and in the way we pay for public goods that land use provides. As we look to the future let us pray this week that those in leadership will help us all to discern and address the twin challenges of climate change and ecological ill health that is impacting our world.
As we open our cupboards, shop in our supermarkets and turn on our taps let us be grateful for the food that is harvested for us to enjoy and be mindful of those whose harvest has failed and the aid agencies coming alongside them.
Congregational Worship Leader
Our regular readers will have noticed that regrettably there was no weekly message last week. This was after the sad news of the death of the Governor of the Church of England Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. At that time all our efforts were directed into preparing and arranging a suitable memorial service in All Saints Church.
The memorial service was held on Wednesday 21st. and was attended by the British Vice Consul in Tenerife – who read the lesson. A delegation from the Town Council here in Puerto de la Cruz, also leaders of other organisations and charitable institutions. In addition members of other Churches in the area, including Spanish, German, Scandinavian, and also persons of other faiths and none. All of whom wanted to pay their respects and give thanks for the 70 year reign of Queen Elizabeth II.
As part of this service it was decided to ask all participants to say The Lord’s Prayer in their own language. I believe the languages that were heard included; English, Spanish, German, Welsh, Ukrainian and I am sure others that I did not hear or were not reported. The sound that I could hear, however, reminded me of the passages in the Bible where one can read of people ‘speaking in tongues’:
Isaiah Ch 28 v 11 For by people of strange lips and with a foreign tongue the LORD will speak to this people.
Acts Ch2 v 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language.
1 Corinthians Ch 14 – which I leave for you to read for yourselves and contemplate.
I definitely heard the speaking of many tongues, in that prayer, all extolling God, and felt a great uplifting at that time.
I can only hope that the Memorial Service remains in the minds of those attending for many years.
Also, I pray that the Soul of our late Queen Elizabeth will Rest in Peace & Rise in Glory.
I’m so sad today.
For the first time, I woke up, in the morning, a few days ago and The Queen was no longer with us.
To be honest, I still can’t quite believe it. She leaves behind an incredible legacy of service and duty, working right up to the end.
What an amazing example she set.
Thank you and Rest In Peace Ma’am.
In response to the sad news we have endeavoured to keep All Saints Church open for a few hours every day for people to visit and pray or to sign or book of condolence. I was heartened however whilst ‘Church Sitting’ during this time by the number of non British people who came and passed on their condolences and thanks for a life, of duty and service, that was an example to leaders of all nations.
I offer some prayers that you may find useful at this sad time:-
Our Queen is dead, Her long life is over – but You live forever!
Our Queen is dead, Her long reign is over – but You reign forever!
Our Queen is dead, Her loving service is over – but Your love lives forever! Amen.
Almighty God, whose Son, Jesus Christ, was crowned not with gold but with thorns, and whose blood was shed to give life to the world – crown us with Your love. That we may serve one another with humility and joy and Your Kingdom come with peace on earth, through the same Jesus Christ who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit ever One God, now and for evermore – Amen.
Merciful Father and Lord of all life, we praise you that we are made in your image and reflect your truth and light. We thank you for the life of our late Sovereign Lady Queen Elizabeth, for the love she received from you and showed among us. Above all, we rejoice at your gracious promise to all your servants, living and departed, that we shall rise again at the coming of Christ. And we ask that in due time we may share with your servant Elizabeth that clearer vision promised to us in the same Christ our Lord; who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen
May our late Queen Rest in Peace – and Rise in Glory!
God Save the King.
The market place was a focal point for ancient society. Much like today’s shopping Centres, people not only shopped in them, but also socialized there. That’s why they were so popular.
In Jesus’ day, every village in Palestine had a marketplace, which was usually located in an open area or where streets crossed, or near the Temple. The market had many stalls or booths, where foods or spices could be measured and sold. A visitor would find things like wheat or barley, bread, fish, olives, and figs.
The market was filled with sights and sounds and smells. Sellers would often shout at buyers to try to get them to look at their food or other items. Animals like sheep, goats, or birds that were being sold also made lots of noise. The smell of animals, cooking food, and spices filled the air.
As Jesus’ story about the man who went to the market to hire workers for his vineyard shows (Matt 20.1-16), the market was also a place where people might meet to talk or just to spend some time. Others went there because they knew that landowners often came to the market looking for workers.
I was reminded of this last Saturday when All Saints held the first ‘Car Boot Sale’ of the season, normally held on the first Saturday of the month opening at 10:00 in the morning.
As I walked round the stalls, hearing the bartering for the goods on offer, and the smells wafting from the stalls selling food and drinks, and seeing all the people attending interacting (without the need for mobile telephones), buying, selling, eating and drinking. I was heartened to see the joy and pleasure in the faces of those there.
Then I entered the Church, what a contrast – PEACE – and just the gentle sound of background choral music. There I saw a few people taking a few moments away to offer a prayer to our Lord, and take a break from the hustle and bustle going on in the adjacent car park and gardens.
I remember the prayer offered by St. Teresa of Avila:-
May today there be peace within.
May you trust your highest power that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.
May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.
May you be content knowing you are a child of God.
Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance.
It is there for each and every one of you.
Have locum, will travel.
One of the unexpected benefits of retirement since 2010, has been the opportunity to serve as locum chaplain in different parts of the Diocese in Europe. In effect, for me, that has meant Spain and PortugaI, and the Spanish ‘costas’ in particular. At the beginning of 2019 I began a period as locum chaplain in Majorca; but as my time there was drawing to a close, the anxiety associated with Covid-19 steadily became more pressing. Three years followed when, like many other people, I obediently stayed put at home. But the taste for travel and adventure – as well as a sense of fulfillment in exercising a pastoral and teaching ministry – remained strong. So, when the chance came to serve as locum chaplain here in Tenerife North, I jumped at it.
Not everybody understands this impulse. One clergy colleague said to me that he thought I was mad uprooting myself for months from a retired life of leisure. Others in my home parish expressed concern that I might be lonely or isolated. “Do you know anybody there?” they asked with concern. “Why?” was someone else`s question. “It can’t be a career move, surely: not at your age!” At least that made me smile.
The truth is that it’s good to be reminded of the diversity of experience that ministry offers. In one sense, of course, peoples’ hopes and fears, their needs and expectations, are the same wherever they are. But the ex-pat community, perhaps, offers an even wider range of human experience and endeavour. Not everybody, after all, has the ingenuity and resilience it takes to begin a new life overseas, to put down new roots, to anticipate new horizons. Ex-pats are a special breed, and I look forward to learning more and more about them.
I should also say that I take to heart what the author of the Letter to the Hebrews says about the character of the Christian community. ‘Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers’, he writes (Hebrews 13:2). Its said that the Queen is the only person who, when she travels abroad, is not required to have a UK passport. All the rest of us, especially since Brexit and Covid, are faced with an array of regulations and restrictions as we travel overseas. When I flew from Bristol to Tenerife in August 2022, not only did I have my Covid status registered on my smart phone, but I had paper copies too – just in case. Similarly, like most travellers, I make sure I have a photograph of my passport details and boarding pass – just in case.
By contrast when Christian people move from one community of believers to another, as St. Paul did on his missionary journeys – and many others since – we are never total strangers. So many shared assumptions and expectations serve as a passport to a common life in Christ. ‘Let nobody be a stranger here’ is a good mission statement for any church.
Another piece of Scripture that came to mind as I settled into chaplaincy responsibilities was Paul`s First Letter to the Corinthians. In his Letter, Paul is at pains to stress how Christian communities are at their best when members pull together. ‘For we are God`s servants, working together’, he writes (1. Cor. 3:9). It`s often said that society at large has become increasingly atomised in recent years – that individualism has become the default position for most of us. That may be so elsewhere; but it can never be the order of the day in the Church. As members of the Body of Christ, by baptism, we all have a role to play as labourers in the vineyard of the Lord.
It is heartening to see such values being put into effect here in Puerto de la Cruz. The chaplaincy is very fortunate to have such a willing body of workers, all of whom give so generously of their time and talent for the common good. I look forward to spending the next 10 weeks or so with you, doing what I can as locum chaplain to share the Good News of God’s Kingdom. May we minister to each other, and so become channels of his grace.
Revd Hywel Davies
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God … And the Word became flesh and lived among us.
As we prepare to return to the UK, I read that for the first time ever English Literature has slipped out of the ‘top ten’ of favourite subjects studied at A Level. It has got me thinking about words, how they are used, not least in church.
When I was at school, the first team had an annual fixture against John Motson’s Commentators XI. It was a personal highlight and one year I scored an absolute screamer. As the saying goes, the older a man gets, the faster he ran in his youth! Back in the Eighties, Motty was the BBC’s number one man with a mike – in those days it was always a man – but his pre-eminent status didn’t preclude the occasional endearing gaffe. ‘For those of you watching in black and white, Spurs are in the all-yellow strip’. That was one of Motty’s.
Each year after the game, which Motty and his motley crew of co-commentators and ex-pros always won, he would lead an assembly. Invariably, the message was a self-deprecating one … about the perils of working with words. A broadcaster puts his job on the line every time he opens his mouth or types out text. And, of course, it is no less true of each and every one of us that the words we choose to use – in casual conversation and serious debate – are powerful. They can bring hope or indefinite damage.
A career in sports commentary would have been fun; instead, I became a lawyer. Lawyers also work with words. They are forever trying to find words that fit … words that explain precisely what is allowed, and what isn’t. In legal documents, words are of necessity trapped in tortious sub-clauses. They are given a lengthy sentence.
Now as a priest, precision remains important to me. But I hope the language I employ is more elegant. And doesn’t constrain. I hope above all that the church sets words as free as the words themselves can set us free. But that only happens when words are treated with reverence … and that, I fear, happens all too rarely.
As Mark Oakley and Malcolm Guite amongst others have noted, this is not an easy time for words. Fake news and propaganda are just the tip of the iceberg. Consumerism and marketing make language seductive rather than truthful, as they lure us towards our wallets. Technology, for all its brilliance, now gives us too many words; we trip over them as they come at us from every direction, and the danger is that our care for words decreases as the words themselves proliferate. Like the sixth former who bumped into someone she had known at a previous school. He had asked her out; she couldn’t go, but was baffled by the subsequent frostiness of his friends. Puzzled, she checked her phone, and found to her horror that the message that she had thought explained that she had no free evenings until the end of term had fallen victim to the perils of predictive text: she had actually said that she wasn’t free … until the end of time!
Oakley wishes politicians would take more care with words, identifying ‘political leaders , who, in many parts of the world, now campaign in graffiti and govern in tweets. With their continual and careless talk of ‘individuals’ rather than ‘people’, of ‘losers’, ‘swarms’ and ‘sad’ failures, it all makes for a world where we see ourselves as competitors rather than communities. It leads to a world where, as has been observed, if you are not at the table you are probably on the menu’.
That’s certainly how my daughter felt after one bruising day at school not long ago. She came home complaining of not being quick enough at comebacks and put-downs. As I listened, I remembered the one and only time I had got the better of the class bully. ‘Hey, Harbridge,’ he had said. ‘Look out the window. There’s a naked man.’ Without even glancing up from my book, I calmly replied ‘Well, trust you to see him first’. Bully never bothered me again.
But was mine an enlightened response? I hardly think so. Tit for tat never is.
Words become flesh, so let’s treat them with reverence. As Oakley notes in his refreshing ‘The Splash of Words’, all life – even language – is sacramental. In church, ‘the placing of our spaces, the metaphors, rhythms, cadences and chosen vocabulary is as vital as the placing of bread and wine on the table and the pouring of water into the font’. Amen to that.
Revd Philip Harbridge
Senior School Chaplain, Millfield
Priest Vicar of Wells Cathedral
All Saints Locum, July-August 2022
Last week as I was writing the intercessions for our service on Sunday I was reminded of a reflection by Mother Teresa: “I used to pray that God would feed the hungry, or do this or that, but now I pray that He will guide me to do whatever I am supposed to do, what I can do. I used to pray for answers, but now I´m praying for strength. I used to believe that prayer changes things but now I know that prayer changes us and we change things.”
Looking at or listening to the News we are faced with so many situations – war, flooding, drought, hunger, oppression, terrorism, medical ethics, shootings, knife crime, debt and the cost of living to name but a few – which are impacting so many across our world. It could be overwhelming reading of the issues that are faced by so many. Equally it could be that we hear or read and then move on to the next story because it doesn´t affect us. When the media outlets move on so does our concern. There is always news and it´s almost always outside of ourselves. We have the opportunity to sleep without the fear of bomb or bullet. We can worship in church without the threat of reprisals towards ourselves and our families. We are not living on an island that is now feet under water and uninhabitable. We have a choice of places to shop, with food on the shelves. We might be immigrants here in Tenerife but we are not refugees.
Some things we cannot change but there are other things that through our choices can make an impact for others in our global village. Climate change has brought sharply into focus our responsibility to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, that the life of the earth will be sustained and renewed for generations to come. So with Mother Teresa´s emphasis on our being the agents for change what could we personally do about it? Maybe less meat, maybe off setting our carbon emissions when we fly, maybe researching ways to do something and understanding how our small change can impact the bigger picture. Small changes to our home, transport, energy provider and diet can contribute in a big way to the fight against climate change. As 1 Peter 4:7-8 says, “Be intentional, purposeful and self-controlled so that you can be given to prayer. Above all constantly echo God´s intense love for one another…” Let´s pray that using our voice and using our choice we will each have an impact on our world. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!
Congregational Worship Leader
Traditionalists in a Church…
I was reading about Pope Francis’s recent trip to Canada and came across a remark that he made about tradition….
which set me thinking about tradition in our lives and in the Church.
Family traditions in general don’t go back more than 3 generations – that is as far as the current generation can recall. Think of what is known as the “Traditional Christmas” maybe taken from the book by Charles Dickens. We have evolved from that time with motor vehicles replacing coach and horses, and electric lights replacing candles the internet replacing post-horses etc..
Coming up to date football was traditionally considered a “Mans” Game. This has evolved to the extent that the wonderful English Ladies have now won the European Cup.
In the Church many of our readers will have been brought up using the Book of Common Prayer of 1662 which had evolved from a book of the same name dated in the mid 1500’s and which is still approved for current use. However it too has evolved to become currently the 2 volume set of ‘Services and Prayers for the Church of England’. This is the source on which our service booklets are based.
So ‘Traditions’ do evolve with time. Within the church whilst all accept the teachings of Jesus there are many different ways of expressing worship, Evangelical, Low Church, High Church etc. all different traditions. Whilst here in All Saints we are looking for a new incumbent Chaplain, our succession of locum Priests give us the opportunity to hear and savour some views from different “Traditions” to that to which our congregation are accustomed. This can only help us understand and broaden our faith.
Now what was Pope Francis’s remark that brought about my train of thought this week?
“Many people who call themselves traditionalists, they are not, they just go backwards. That is a sin.
Tradition is the living faith of the dead; indeed their attitude is the dead faith of the living. It is important to understand the role of tradition – a musician used to say the tradition is the guarantee of the future. It is not a piece that belongs in a museum.”
Let us ensure that ours is a living Faith not a dead Tradition.
As I write this the wildfires continue to burn on the slopes of Teide, impacting 5 regions of our island. As we have been faced with the Calima heat and temperatures well in the 30s I have followed with awe the stories of the many volunteer firefighters from our own and other neighbouring islands, dressed in heavy protective clothing and working in the skies and on the ground alongside the raging fires. Trusting and listening to each other they are working together to protect the homes of the 600 plus who were evacuated and to stabilise, control and extinguish 27km perimeter rings of fire.
I am also reminded that today the bishops from around the Anglican Communion gather for the 15th Lambeth Conference in Canterbury. The theme is God’s Church for God’s World – walking, listening and witnessing together. The fruit of their prayer, bible study, worship, fellowship and listening together will shape the life of the Anglican Communion for the next decade. Their biblical focus is the Book of 1 Peter. 1 Peter reflects the challenges that Peter´s communities were facing; belonging, alienation, persecution, slavery and exile. Each time we pray the Our Father we pray: “Your Kingdom come. Your will be done”. 1 Peter raises an inspiring vision of God´s Kingdom. Have a read and you will see Peter encouraging his listeners to witness in their lives to Christ´s hope and holiness.
One theme of the conference is Our Environment and Sustainable Development. Coming from many different corners of the globe those present will be able to speak to varying global crises, their impact on the most vulnerable and the Gospel call to serve the world in need. Listening will be imperative.
Deep listening is an act of surrender. We risk being changed by what we hear. As we listen to the stories from our own and other parts of the world impacted by global warming and climate change we can ask ourselves what is at stake for the other person? Telling of our wildfires we know the impact of them on our island. The primary goal of listening is to deepen our own understanding. The hope is that in listening well we are changed by what we hear and new horizons will be opened up for each listener.
Our Diocese in Europe encourages each of our chaplaincies to become places where we strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth. We have 5 Ts to remind us: Transform, Treasure, Tend, Teach and Tell. As we look into the sky or watch TV and social media we see the flames, the smoke and the devastation caused by the fires. We acknowledge the strength of those working to extinguish them and pray with gratitude for their work and their selfless dedication. Journeying together we pray that we will respond to our 21st century world, changed by science and technology and impacted by the crises of injustice, war and poverty.
In the life of All Saints we pray this week: “May Your Kingdom come. Your Will be done. May we take seriously our responsibility to care for creation and sustain our earth. We pray for safety for all working on our behalf to protect our island home. Amen”.
Congregational Worship Leader
This week we welcomed the Revd Philip Harbridge, the Senior Chaplain of Millfield School, accompanied by his wife and daughters, to our congregation. Father Philip will be our Locum Priest for the next 6 weeks.
As we hear reports of heat waves and wild fires in the Iberian Peninsula and Northern Europe, here in Tenerife, whilst in the East and South of the Island hot and humid conditions have been experienced, in the Orotava Valley we are thankful for our own “micro climate”. The Sea breeze generated by the Northeast trade winds, allied with the high ground around our volcano “El Tiede”, can create an adiabatic process which often, in the heat of the day, fills the valley with a layer of cloud. This shelters us from the worst of the midday sun. The local term for this uniform layer of cloud is “La panza de burro” (The Donkey’s Belly). Its interesting to note that similar effects can on occasion be found the Valleys of Wales where the local term “bol buwch” (Cow’s Belly) is used. One wonders if there is a link going back in time!
We must be thankful for these natural effects that make our life here more pleasant.
Whilst being thankful for the shade offered by these clouds we are reminded of the words from St Mathew 24 verse 30:
“Then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with great power and glory“.
Last week I found myself counting with a three-year-old who is learning to count in Spanish – he was enthusiastically counting the goals he had scored against me at table football! Subsequently I’ve been aware of friends counting their steps, a child excitedly counting out her piggy bank to see how much money she has for her holiday and an advert telling me that I don´t need to count calories or points to lose weight.
Counting is part of life and after our service on Sunday at All Saints I was aware of counting blessings too. There was a sense of “wow” as we stepped into the church to be met by a stunning array of colour from orchids and other flowers and plants which decorated every part of the church. What a blessing of generosity alongside gratitude for my sight and sense of smell.
Celebrating Sea Sunday we counted the blessings of service and protection by the many who serve around our shores and further afield on the sea.
After we had received communion Revd Richard offered each one the opportunity of anointing with oil. This was both powerful and profound. The words prayed over us were for each one specifically. The prayer I received reminded me that I matter to God. He values me.
Perhaps you’ve heard the story of the man who gave his daughter his old jeep as a present on her graduation. He told her that before she took possession of it she needed to take it to the used car garage to see how much she´d be offered if she sold it immediately. She returned and told him it was worth about one thousand pounds because it was pretty worn out. Next he told her to take it to the pawn shop and ask the same question. They offered her a hundred pounds. Finally he sent her to the Jeep Club where she was greeted enthusiastically with, “I will offer you a hundred thousand pounds because it´s an iconic jeep and sought by many collectors.” He told his daughter to remember the lesson that the right place values you the right way and that if you´re not valued you’re just in the wrong place. Those who know your value appreciate you.
Each of us counts. We matter – to God, to others and hopefully to ourselves. I read this week that stillness isn’t about focussing on nothingness but about creating a clearing and opening up an emotionally clutter free space and allowing ourselves to feel and think and dream and question. Like our gifts and talents, meaning is unique to each of us. What counts to us varies but we always count to and can count on God. As the final line in Matthew´s Gospel reminds us: Jesus came to them and said…Know that I am with you always…and in another translation: Never forget that I am with you every day. Counting on God to be alongside us this week may we reflect on and count our blessings and enable others to know of their value and sense of worth, praying for our world desperately in need of the unity, peace and healing which we shared around the table of the Eucharist.
Congregational Worship Leader
In the past few days we have been able to celebrate 3 Baptisms at All Saints – a set of 1 month old Twins, and also, last Sunday, during our Holy Eucharist service, a 90 year old lady. Baptism marks the beginning of a journey with God. This journey continues for the rest of our lives. It’s the first step in response to God’s love.
It was a joyful celebration on Sunday with the children of the Sunday school making a display of the elements of Baptism and also they presented a handmade gift to the newly-baptised lady. A truly wonderful celebration of God’s blessing that we all receive.
Next Sunday we say goodbye, (or should it be ‘hasta luego’ ) to Father Richard, who has been our locum priest for the past 6 weeks. He and his wife Jill have brought great joy to our Chaplaincy and we all wish them well as they return to the United Kingdom. Their stay with us here in Tenerife has brought an air of freshness and joy to our services, and we feel blessed that they have been sent to us at a time when the Chaplaincy was in gloom after the death of Father Ron.
With these events I am minded of the words of the Psalmist:-
“Oh, sing to the Lord a new song! For He has done marvellous things; His right hand and His holy arm have gained Him the victory. The Lord has made known His salvation; His righteousness He has revealed in the sight of the nations. He has remembered His mercy and His faithfulness to the house of Israel; All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God” (Psalm 98:1-3).
I am fortunate to live overlooking the coast, on the Southwest of Tenerife, which means that at this time of year the sun sets directly in front of me into the sea. As Spring turns to Summer the sunsets become more spectacular. The colours of yellow, orange and pink light up the vista and the sun´s rays spread out across the sky. Each sunset is unique and my favourite place to watch the dwindling light and changing sky is from my hammock. I´ve noticed that cloudy skies earlier on can sometimes be the precursor to a stunning sunset.
As the sun sets here it begins to rise over our friends in the Western hemisphere…and as it sets there it returns to rise over us the following day. We wait in the dark for the light to break forth and there are days when the clouds hide it totally. Hammock reflection has made me wonder about the “clouds” that colour and cover my personal sky, that prevent the sunlight shining through?
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross writes: People are like stained glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out but when the darkness sets in, their beauty is revealed only if there is light within.
There´s no perfect life, no perfect job, no perfect childhood, no perfect marriage and no perfect set of people who will always do what we expect them to do. What we do have is a perfect God who is able to lead us through this imperfect life with unfailing strength, incomparable wisdom and infinite love. Talking about what gets in the way can be a way of enabling us to live and love with our whole hearts.
Now I´m pretty sure that we all know what healthy eating constitutes and we have access to a wealth of information around the topic so why is it that some of us struggle to eat healthily? Perhaps it´s because we don´t talk about the things that get in the way of doing what we know is best for us, our families and our communities.
Naming and having honest conversations about our “clouds” can enable us to develop resilience, courage, compassion and connection. We live in a world where expectations can tell us that being imperfect means being inadequate. Secrecy, silence and judgement can prevent us from developing resilience. We are encouraged in scripture to love each other as we love ourselves. Some of us are not so good at loving ourselves, naming our “clouds” and talking about them, owning and telling our story. Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we are supposed to be and embracing who we are. Choosing authenticity means cultivating the courage to be imperfect, to set boundaries and to allow ourselves to be vulnerable. It encourages us to exercise the compassion that comes from knowing that we are all made of strength and struggle and nurturing the connection and sense of belonging that can only happen when we believe that we are enough in the eyes of the God who loves us unconditionally.
Belonging to a community of faith, as we do at All Saints, enables us to connect and share ourselves and our stories. As we look at the sun´s rising and setting we are reminded of the faithfulness of God who is above, beneath and beside us. We experience a Creator God who lit the world and breathed life into each one of us. We are enabled to know more of the Son who saved the world and stretches out His hand to each one of us and we experience the Spirit of God who encompasses each one of us in our world. This coming week may we see the sunset as an opportunity to reset knowing that the sunrise brings the promise of a new dawn. Our horizons may change but the sun, the Son does not.
Congregational Worship leader
This week sees the summer solstice which is the first day of astronomical summer and the longest day of the year for people in the Northern Hemisphere. In ancient times, solstices and equinoxes were important in helping people to maintain calendars and grow crops. The solstice itself has remained a special moment of the annual cycle of the year since Neolithic times and over the centuries has been marked by festivals and celebrations.
In Anglesey, (The Island from where my ancestors come) lie prehistoric sites such as at Bryn Celli Ddu. This open burial chamber dated to around 2000BC, is so perfectly aligned that for only 20 minutes each year, a beam of sunlight aligns exactly with the opening to the chamber.
With the coming of Christianity, people were encouraged to give up their old traditions, by their incorporation into new Christian practices. For example, the summer solstice became known as the feast of St. John, the Baptist.
Here in the North of Tenerife every year on the “octava” (eighth day) of Corpus Christi – i.e. the following Thursday after the date of the religious feast – the northern Tenerife town of La Orotava celebrates its Día de las Alfombras (Carpet Day), when, since 1846, carpets of sand and flowers have been made in the streets as a traditional part of the celebrations.
La Orotava families, many still with the same surnames since the 15th Century conquest of Tenerife, start making the flower carpets from the early hours of “carpet day.” The central sand carpet – created entirely using sand and soil from Teide National Park – created each year in the square in front of the town hall. (It made the Guinness World Record for Largest Sand Painting; the 859.42 square meter “alfombra” or carpet of sand created in June 2007.)
In the early evening the procession walks all over these ephemeral carpets and destroys them, so the “window of opportunity” to see them is very short. Don’t miss them, because as works of art, they are breath-taking.
As a child I remember being read the book, “Pollyanna” about a girl who, following her father´s death, is sent to live with her aunt who undertakes the responsibility out of a sense of duty rather than pleasure. Pollyanna affects everyone who meets her with her exuberance and positivity and she spreads joy and love wherever she goes. Nothing deters her excessive cheerfulness and optimism.
This week in the UK is National Loneliness Awareness week with the emphasis being on the Power of One. The campaign encourages each to explore the difference that one person can make to someone experiencing feelings of loneliness. During the pandemic we heard many reports of those who felt lonely due to the isolation imposed by the various governments around the world. In this post pandemic time many have made significant lifestyle changes in the light of their experiences during lockdown. Others however do not have the option, dare I say luxury, to make changes. The characteristics of Pollyanna are a challenge for many in our world. Yet as individuals the power of our one can make a difference to many living in loneliness.
If you are reading this that means you have the access to either a computer, laptop, tablet or smart phone. You have electricity and connection to the internet. You are more fortunate than over a billion people across the world who are unable to read.
Several times recently I´ve caught myself bemoaning a situation. My car wing mirror needs replacing…but I have a car. The water filter has broken…but I have access to clean water on tap. The power is off…but I have access to electricity and had been informed it would be switched off briefly. The price of my shopping has increased. Within a week I noticed the Pineapple juice jumped from 69c to 1.15 – yet I have a choice in our supermarkets and the ability to buy without needing to make a choice between food or bills. Starvation is the daily situation for millions. The lens through which I choose to see my world can be one of gratitude as I recognise the riches that I have in comparison with so many.
The Passion translation of St Paul´s letter to the Philippians 4:4 reads “Be cheerful with joyous celebration in every season of life. Let your joy overflow!” Paul continues in this letter to encourage his listeners to be saturated in prayer throughout the day and to tell God every detail of their life.
This week let us pray in gratitude for the riches that we enjoy and pray for the ability to reflect joy. Facebook reminded me recently that; “Today you could be standing next to someone who is trying their best not to fall apart. So whatever you do today do it with kindness in your heart.” In this way the power of one can become the power of many to influence and affect change within family and community.
Congregational Worship Leader
After four days of watching a weekend of pageant, pomp, celebration and thanks, the one word that sticks in my mind is DUTY. Some seventy years ago I was a young boy who joined a wolf cub pack, there we had to make a promise to do our duty to God and the Queen, to keep the laws of the wolf cub pack and to do a good turn to someone every day. I have tried to achieve this every day since then, despite having got a little bit too old to be a member of the cub pack or even the boy scouts!
Watching the trooping of the colour, I was conscious that all those on parade had also taken an oath to do their duty to The Queen and country. All serving members of the armed forces also respect and have a duty to honour the regimental colour which, after being blessed, was then presented to the regiment by Her Majesty.
At the Service of thanksgiving, in St Paul’s Cathedral, the Archbishop of Canterbury also was doing his duty, after being tested positive for COVID, by self isolating. The Archbishop of York doing his duty, presiding over the service and giving a very heart-warming address of thanks for Her Majesty’s seventy year reign, recognising that she has always done her duty, to God and the country, as promised in Her coronation vows,, and also pointing out that Christ had also done his duty, as required by God the Father, by dying for Man’s sins.
Here at All Saints, we joined in the celebrations by having a ‘Street Party’ the congregation also doing our duty celebrating Her Majesty’s long reign.
I feel that the whole platinum jubilee can best be summarised by Paddington Bear’s closing remark at the ‘tea party’
“Happy Jubilee Ma’am, and thank you – for everything”.
Reader – All Saints Puerto de la Cruz
I wonder how many different flags you´ve been aware of this week?
With our celebrations locally for Dia de Canarias (30th May) the food, culture, music and sports have for the most part taken place under and around the Canarian flag. This flag is formed of 3 identical vertical stripes of the following colours, starting on the pole, white, blue and yellow.
Many over the past months have placed Ukrainian flags in their windows as a symbol of solidarity with the Ukrainian community. The two bands of azure and golden yellow represent grain under a blue sky. How poignant that the exportation of grain to Russia is contributing to an impending global food crisis.
With the celebrations for Queen Elizabeth´s Platinum Jubilee the Union Jack and associated bunting is seen to be flying in many places up and down the UK and across the Commonwealth, and indeed in All Saints in preparation for our own celebration on Saturday.
A single piece of fabric can be interpreted in a multitude of ways. Depending on where they fly flags can represent freedom or control, danger or safety. Originally flags were used mainly in warfare and to some extent they have remained symbols of leadership – as a way of identifying friend or foe. Local flags help to foster a sense of identity and create a symbol which members of a community relate to. The Canarian colours of white, blue and yellow have been festooned around many parts of the island this weekend. Children and adults alike have proudly celebrated the day to mark the anniversary of the first session of the parliament of the Canary Islands held on 30th May 1983.
Flags are used to share the past, present and future vision of a community. Whether it be a simple Church Parade of uniformed organisations or the impressive Trooping of the Colour this ceremony reflects how the flag is held in high esteem as part of the history, the sacrifices made by the people and for the qualities for which the community and its people stand.
Words that come to mind when reflecting on the flag and its symbolism are service, duty, looking forward with faith and hope, solid, enduring, courage and strength…not because of the flag itself necessarily but because of the people who it represents and who serve under it.
There was a worship song some years ago that started: The Lord is mine and I am His. His banner over me is love. It contained several scriptural truths: He brought me to His banqueting table. He lifted me up into heavenly places. He is the vine and we are the branches. Jesus is the rock of my salvation. There´s one way to peace through the power of the cross. Each verse concluded with the words; His banner over me is love.
This coming week may we each know the hand of God´s love on our lives. May we reflect that same love within our families and communities. As a church family we pray with gratitude for all who serve their country and community – remembering all standing for truth and justice in places of war and remembering particularly the 70 years of service given by Queen Elizabeth. I conclude with her words as the Supreme Governor of the Church of England:
We are all visitors to this time. We are all visitors to this place. We are just passing through. Our purpose here is to observe. Our purpose here is to learn. Our purpose here is to grow. Our purpose here is to love and then we return home.
Congregational Worship Leader
This week here in All Saints we celebrated a Service of Thanksgiving for Revd Ron. Amongst other things it was a time of remembering and sharing the memories.
Memory is the process of taking in information from the world around us, processing it, storing it and later recalling that information, sometimes many years later. Memories help shape the way we live and experience certain things that occur in our lives.
Remembering the past, living in the present and looking to the future are all important, however remembering the past can affect how we live in the present and the future. The good and the bad of our experiences will both determine the acts of our futures. Ultimately reflection can empower us to determine what´s important to us and one simple way to start reflecting is through memory keeping.
Facebook reminded me of a memory this morning from 7 years ago. Sifting through photos and videos on my phone, calendars and journals is a way to piece together not just a narrative – not just the story of what happened but, like historians we can decipher which significant moments mattered in our lives.
The concept of remembering recurs prominently in the bible, especially in the Old Testament. God remembers his covenant with his people whereupon God´s people are encouraged to remember Him. There are many times stones are placed as a marker or piled together to stand out in a place. Climbing various Welsh mountains in my youth there were frequent cairns contributed to by those who had completed the task and left the stone as a lasting memory.
The most enduring memorial in the bible is one that can´t endure: the loaf and the cup at the Last Supper – and Jesus´ words, “Do this in remembrance of me.” What lasts is the meaning. The body and blood are seen and shown and shared in the memorial of that meal in the upper room. It vanishes through being consumed but it endures in not just the memory but the behaviour, the actions of those who by eating and drinking together come to see how they now form themselves into one body.
This week perhaps we can take time to name and contemplate what has shaped us in the past. We will each have formative moments that have shaped our life. Memories are reflections of the heart we happen to gaze on once in a while. The choices we make reflect the memories we create. As Christians we try to become more like Christ. As we pursue this transformation let us consider the invitation God gives to each one of us to be led and guided to a deeper awareness of His love and care for each of us. Calling on God to remember his people or an individual is the essence of prayer. The repentant thief alongside Jesus on the cross called out: Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom. We pray for all who have asked us to remember them in prayer this week.
Congregational Worship Leader
Yesterday I found a map and a torch in my car door and I realised that both reminded me of my journeying over the past few weeks. My map gets much less use now thanks to the Sat Nav but it is handy to show visitors where we are in relation to other parts of the island and to view the contours and communities in Tenerife. Both the Sat Nav and the Map have their place and I realise I am helped by visual descriptions – turn left at the red house on the corner or right at the petrol station beyond the bridge. Solely sticking to the signposts, road numbers and street names doesn’t give me the confidence that I will reach my destination. Trusting my Sat Nav totally means I rely on my phone battery not to let me down. The more I use it the less reliable it is. There´s a place for each at different times and in different places.
These last few weeks journeying has been from place to place in England but as well as the physical journey there has been a spiritual and healing journey at a retreat centre. My map has been my bible and the Sat Nav has been the opportunity to join with other Christians and with direction from team members. The journey has been about spending time with God who is both my destination and my origin. The familiar question asked by children as they are travelling, “Are we there yet?” was one I asked several times. Over time I realised that peace was not the absence of something but the presence of someone.
The torch I found in my car reminded me of the analogy I used when looking back and describing my time at Crowhurst. When a torch grows dim or stops working you don´t throw it away. You change or recharge the batteries. Some torches need AA: Attentive listening and Affection. Some need AAA: Attentive listening, Affection and Acceptance. Some use C: Courage and others require D: Direction. If after all these have been tried and there´s still a lack of light then there are those who simply sit alongside and share their light and The Light – Jesus, until the terminals are ready for the right batteries to be inserted and the torch can shine and shed its light once again, to illuminate other dark spaces and to light the way ahead. As Spurgeon said: To trust God in the light is nothing but to trust Him in the dark, that is faith.
We each have our own faith journey to take and we can’t walk anyone else’s. This week let’s pray that we will find the tools required for the journey that we are taking and know more of God who is with us, alongside and within us as we do so.
Congregational Worship Leader
Over the past months while out and about and passing children in their pushchairs or out for a meal at a restaurant something has struck me forcibly. Many children were sitting with a phone or tablet in their hand, and in fact one buggy had a clip with the phone mounted on it in front of the toddler. The children weren’t engaging with what or who was around them. Their heads were down and they were engrossed in whatever was on the screen in front of them. The thing that seemed sad was that in most cases the adult(s) with the child(ren) were also on their phones or speaking into the air, using airpods or similar. In a restaurant one family group of 2 children and 2 adults all sat looking at their screens and there wasn’t a word spoken between them from ordering their meal until it arrived – and then there were strong words exchanged between child and adult about putting the device on pause to eat the food while it was hot.
I contrast this with a family sitting across from me on a train recently. The children were excited about going to visit their grandparents. There was conversation between them and Mum had them looking for various objects out of the window to see who could gain the most points…can you look for…and they were given several things to look out for between this and the next station: a field with animals in? Can you count them? Are there more than 10? The list of things to find on their train hunt was interesting and kept them engaged and chatting together. Then out came a drink and a bag of fruit pieces with paper plates and the challenge to make something recognisable. There was a face, and a lighthouse and a pattern! The children were then given paper to write or draw something and then fold it over and pass it on – after it had done the rounds several times Mum then told them a story following those prompts. I´m sure I wasn´t the only one enjoying the adventures of the dog who had long floppy ears! When the time came to get off the train the children were eagerly looking out for Grandad who would be on the platform to help with the luggage and they rushed into his arms for a hug. Not one phone or screen between them for the duration of the journey and time for conversation, fun and listening well.
The contrast between this poverty of attention and the gift of being fully present was marked. I was reminded of a phrase I heard once: We are not machines that need to be fixed. We are humans who need connection.
Sometimes we accept this deficit of attention as part of life but we can feel a little less validated, a little less valued and a little less loved. Time and complete attention are precious gifts to give. One vicar in a parish many years ago had the gift of making you feel as if you were the only person he had to listen to and he was totally focussed on what you were saying when you were with him – no checking watch or phone for messages or rushing to fit you in to a full schedule. It might have been full but you were never made to feel anything other than you were the person to whom his complete attention was being given for the time you were with him.
Self-giving listening creates a safe place for vulnerability and trust. It allows pain and confusion to be articulated. This characteristic is one which God shares with each one of us. He is wholly present, utterly available and listening attentively. We have a God who suffers with – who meets us in our disappointments and joins us in our mourning for his world and people. In the Book of Job chapter 12 verse 10 we read: “In His hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind”. As we are conscious of our world and all its pain let us pray this week that we can allow the true nature of God to shape our pain and not let pain shape our image of God.
Exodus 3:7-9 tells us that God sees our misery, hears our cries, knows our sufferings, comes down to deliver and brings us into a new place. We know He suffered for us at Calvary and because of this he suffers with us today in our darkest hours. Desmond Tutu said: Hope is being able to see there is light despite the darkness.
We pray this week for our brothers and sisters in all parts of the world at war, for light in their darkness and hope in their uncertainty and we give thanks for all who offer aid and are present with and alongside them in the struggle.
Congregational Worship Leader
This past week I found myself noticing a scar which I have on my left hand and being reminded of how I received it – and the fact that because of my obstinate nature I carry it with me today. I´m not left with any pain or wound just the visible reminder of an experience of many years ago. We each carry scars, some more visible than others. But the thing about physical scars is that, while at one time they were wounds, they are now healed. They point us to a memory or an event but they are a healing of that same event.
On Sunday our Gospel reading was the story of the disciples together in a locked room following Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus came among them and offered them the gift of peace – “Peace be with you”. Thomas however wasn’t with them and despite their proclamations he announced that he wouldn’t believe Jesus was alive unless or until he could have proof – and that proof was to see the wounds that Jesus bore. A week later they were together again and Jesus appeared to them. He said to Thomas, “Look at the nail marks in my hands. Touch the sword wound in my side. Stop doubting and believe”. Thomas didn´t need to look or to touch. His doubts had gone. On hearing Thomas´ declaration of Jesus as his Lord and God Jesus responded: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe” …that´s us! In all our wounds and scars of life Jesus offers us an eternal hope.
This midweek letter will be uploaded on Tuesday, the day before Revd Ron’s funeral when we will be coming together to share fond memories of Ron and give thanks to God for his life, but we don’t just have our memories of Ron we also have hope – the Christian Hope that death is not the final word – that although there is parting, there is also re-uniting; although there is death – there is also resurrection. At the Bible study which followed the midweek service the morning after hearing the news of Ron´s death I found myself staring at the chair where he usually sat and reflecting that Ron had left a large Ron shaped hole. It felt quite wound like.
Despite that, we know that Ron had a firm faith in the resurrection to eternal life. Ron preached on this very gospel to the Tenerife Virtual Church 2 years ago. He told us that the Early Church rather than kneeling were required to stand and look up, because Easter was such a glorious time. He likened it to the sense of Heaven and said, “When we get there as you go to kneel as you would naturally do before the throne of Christ, He will be lifting you up under the arms and looking you in the eye and saying Welcome brother / sister”.
He and those we know and love who have gone before us have experienced a total healing of all wounds and scars. As an Easter people we experience new life and hope and we pray today for Ron´s family and friends that, over time, rather than wounds scars will form and memories will be a source of comfort.
Congregational Worship Leader
What are your memories of Easter, I wonder? Hiding Easter Eggs for the children to find after church on Easter Sunday I was reminded that as a child in those days many patients brought their GP, my Dad, an Easter present – and knowing that he had 4 children we were inundated with chocolate eggs. They were lined up and as the oldest I got to choose first so my sister as the youngest inevitably got the smallest eggs. We experienced the same choosing but our memories are different and unique to each.
With Siri on my phone it was very easy to establish that Easter Sunday in 1980 was on 6th April. So it is likely that the chocolate had been eaten and the Easter holiday had been and gone by 25th April. Life was back to the normality of the ordinary. Except for many people their world would never be normal or ordinary again. Dan Air Boeing 727-46 G-BDAN, rather than landing at Tenerife North Airport, crashed into the high ground and forest in La Esperanza. This resulted in the death of all 146 on board, 8 crew members and 138 passengers. In All Saints we have a memorial rose garden and this coming Sunday 24th April after our 11:00 service we will be remembering all those who lost their lives and those who live with the impact of that memory.
Each family and friend will have their own jigsaw pieces of that disaster and its memory. The same could be said for the disciples and the women on Easter Sunday. They had pieces of a story and an experience – finding the tomb empty, running to tell the others, not believing the news, walking along the Emmaus Road and not initially recognising Jesus. Each had their own experience of the risen Jesus and the circumstances surrounding his resurrection and their part within it. They had been through the horror of Good Friday and the grief, loss and disappointments of Holy Saturday. Their Messiah had died and their hope had died too. It took time to experience the resurrection of Easter and that the cry of Jesus on the cross, “It is Finished” didn´t mean the end as they understood it. Jesus had defeated death. On the cross he spoke to the repentant thief alongside Him, “This day you will be with me in paradise”. Paradise – what´s your image? For me it certainly isn´t that death has the last word. The tomb of the Risen Jesus on Easter Sunday morning was filled with hope and freedom.
As we remember and pray for those impacted by the disaster and all who are grieving across our world today we pray the prayer from the Celtic Prayer Book:
Into my grieving weave the strength of the Father.
Into my grieving weave the compassion of the Son.
Into my grieving weave the comfort of the Spirit.
Into my grieving I receive the presence of the three in one.
Into my anger I weave the patience of the Father.
Into my numbness I weave the healing of the Son.
Into my confusion I weave the wisdom of the Spirit
And we shall grieve together, one in community with the three in one. Amen
Congregational Worship Leader
Earlier this week I heard of a friend who has decided to take up running. To ensure this isn´t a whim and that she doesn´t give up she has signed on to take part in a half marathon in a couple of months’ time.
As I was reflecting on our conversation I was conscious that no amount of inspiring books or motivational YouTube videos will make someone a runner. You just begin to run, just the tiniest distance initially and gradually building up. The only way for a non-runner to become a runner is to run. It clearly takes time to prepare for and time to recover from the end goal of the half marathon but each day is part of the preparations.
Our Christian journey through Lent has been an opportunity to walk more closely with Jesus. Perhaps we have been on a journey of taking on something new, learning and growing with Jesus, sharing hopes and dreams, setbacks and mistakes. This week we reach Holy Week. It´s often known as Passiontide. The Greek root for the English word Passion, which we often associate with romantic or sexual love, derives from Pashko which means “To Suffer”. Passion is not just about what/who you love but it is what/who you are willing to endure and suffer for. The Greek term Persona is translated Stage Mask. Suffering forces us to choose whether we want to lose the “persona”, unmask ourselves and embrace the true person. Putting the two together if we truly want to find ourselves in the midst of our losses we must be prepared to risk the uncertainty of vulnerability. In the Holy Week journey of Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday Jesus walks this path of total selfless giving and vulnerability. We know the end of the story. There is Resurrection.
Resurrection reminds us that light shines in the darkness, not outside it or into it from outside but within it. In the darkness of war zones, whether literally or our personal “war zone” of isolation, fear or loss, we who have seen suffering, pain and love will also be able to share in His resurrection.
How do we tell counterfeit money from real? By learning what real money looks like! Similarly with artists, we study their work, their ways and their style. This helps us recognise the counterfeit and the fake. So this week may we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, and know the truth of his suffering and death, his love for each one of us and the freedom we can enjoy in his resurrection life.
Congregational Worship Leader
On Tuesday March 22nd we in All Saints learnt of the unexpected and untimely death of Revd Ron, known simply to many as Ron. There have been many and varied emotions expressed since then. Conversations have included shock; sadness; no time to say goodbye; it doesn’t seem real; we didn´t know how ill he was; what happens now; it hits in waves. I’m sure these are only the tip of an iceberg.
Earlier I was watching 2 children playing with a ball in the swimming pool. After throwing and catching they started to push it down and then let it burst through the surface of the water. It went where it did. The further down they pushed it, the higher, more forcefully and more randomly it emerged. The way the ball behaved reminded me of grief. It pops out in unexpected places and the more we push it down the more likely it is to emerge randomly.
I am holding onto Psalm 31:7, “For you have seen my troubles and you care about the anguish of my soul”. Loss is woven into the fabric of life. The valley of the shadow of death and the way of suffering, grief and loss is a terrain which Ron walked and which we are now travelling. We read in scripture that Jesus promised life to the full. I´ve thought of that as a life of joy and miracles but this week I´ve been reminded that the life of Christ was marked by suffering as well as joy. The story of Holy Week which we remember from this coming Palm Sunday is one of disappointment, struggle and pain. Love and loss, presence and absence, suffering and resurrection aren´t sets of opposites. Rather they ebb and flow together in our life. In describing the loss of a friend C. S. Lewis writes: “Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything”. We will each have our own memories of Ron and a grief journey to walk, both individually and as a church family. We will move through it at different paces. At our car boot sale on Saturday one of our young members spoke to me: “Do you know that Ron has died?” “Yes I do and I am very sad” was my reply. He continued; “But I love Ron. He can´t die. He was my friend”.
May the words of Julian of Norwich encourage us in the coming weeks: “From Him we come. In Him we are enfolded. To Him we return”.
There will be an opportunity for us to remember and celebrate Revd Ron and his contribution to life in All Saints in the coming weeks. Meanwhile we pray for his family and each other.
Congregational Worship Leader
This past few weeks I´ve found myself in various “waiting” situations – waiting for flights, trains, news and results. Many of these “waitings” have meant “watching” too – a watching with, a watching for or just simply being and observing the world around me.
Sometimes it´s easy to wait and watch. At other times the watching and waiting has stirred many emotions. Sometimes words have got in the way and what was important was just the being there, waiting in the stillness, alongside. At other times, as when I was sitting at a train station, I was aware of the birdsong, the people around me and the sound and smell of freshly mown grass (I was in England and not Tenerife)! I was both a part of and apart from life going on around me.
In Matthew´s Gospel in the Garden of Gethsemane while praying to His Father Jesus asked his friends to stay, to keep watch and to pray. They simply had to wait and watch, yet they fell asleep. Each time he returned and asked them to watch and pray. Each time they fell asleep and He was left to carry His present anguish alone.
We have seen many pictures of the Ukrainian people waiting in underground shelters, waiting for an end to the horrors of war and watching the devastation occurring around them. The world watches from a distance but with the instancy of the media we are part of the horror. Many have been moved to action and across the world many have committed to pray, that the present won´t be the ultimate reality, that there will be an end to the horror of war, with healing and peace overcoming the pain and darkness experienced by so many.
In the Garden of Gethsemane as Jesus prayed to His Father, after asking his friends to wait, watch and pray, despite the darkness, pain and suffering it wasn´t the ultimate end.
Our feelings and circumstances can appear despairing and yet within them Jesus comes alongside us. He has known the pain of suffering and despair. He told his disciples: Wait to receive the Holy Spirit. He will give strength and power.
Have you ever climbed up a tower? The landscape is seen from a different perspective than from the ground view. It enables us to see further and to see beyond the immediate. Today we pray for strength and power for all those who are in the darkness of waiting and watching, for a different viewpoint and a sense of light in their darkness.
Congregational Worship Leader
This past year we seem to have become very used to having covid rules and regulations and their being changed depending on the situation locally. I’ve found it interesting how they have varied from country to country. My sister in Sweden has had very little disruption by any rules. Here in Tenerife the rules have depended on our “level”.
Are you naturally a stickler for following rules or do you tend to sail as close to the edge as you can get away with? Do rules give security or are they a frustration? One year for Lent I decided I would stick to the speed limit (shameful, yes I know) rather than regularly exceeding it.
Our upbringing can affect how we view rules too. “Do to others as you would like them to do to you” was a rule that was emphasised when I was at primary school. It encompassed love, peace, compassion, kindness, gentleness and inclusivity – encouraging us to include everyone in our games.
It´s interesting how some rules stick. We still today must keep our liquids to under 100ml when flying with hand luggage.
Perhaps you have your own rules for life. The Diocese in Europe encourages us each to have a Rule of Life. It includes 4 aspects.
The first is Knowing God: To commit ourselves to regular participation in an act of worship.
The second is Growing in Christ: To commit ourselves to regular prayer and intentional study of our faith and where possible to seek guidance from another to resource us as we seek to journey with Christ.
The third is Building Community: To offer time, treasure and talents to work constructively with our fellow Christians in building community within the church and in the places where we live.
The fourth is Living beyond ourselves: To seek purposefully to find a specific way or ways to relate our faith to the wider world in which we have been placed by God our Creator.
As Lent is a time when we can each focus on our journey of knowing Jesus and growing closer to Him I hope that using a Rule of Life could be one way to do this.
Congregational Worship Leader
For the past 2 days Tenerife has been hit by Storm Celia. We’ve seen videos of trees being uprooted, patios covered in palm leaves and husks which have been torn down by the wind, waves crashing high over harbour walls, lashing rain making tiles lethal to walk on and sand being whirled along beaches stinging anything in its path.
It’s one thing to sit inside and watch it happening from the warmth and safety behind the patio doors – though I have to admit to wondering whether the doors would be blown in as the sunbed was thrown from one side of the terrace to the other! It´s quite another to be outside in the midst of it. I live overlooking the harbour and from it there are frequent boat trips to see the whales and dolphins. There were no sailings over the past few days as the waves crashed onto the rocks and the turquoise swirling foam poured over the walls.
I didn´t venture very far during the height of it but last night I sat on the outdoor settee under the shelter of the roof, watching the palms bend with the wind and observing the changing colours of the sky. In one direction it was jet black and you could see the rain falling further out over the sea and La Gomera. In the other direction there were whisps of white cloud and pockets of blue sky. Suddenly the black clouds parted and a ball of brilliant sunlight shone through so brightly. I had to squint as it shone directly onto me. Despite what I could see the sun was still there, hidden, and it would be setting as it always did, whether it was visible or not.
Storms are part of life. They were certainly part of Jesus´ disciples´ life. On the lake as the disciples were tossed about in a boat fearing for their safety, Jesus slept. When I saw the water yesterday I asked myself how anyone would be able to sleep through a boat being tossed up and down in the storm. As a child I remember having a bible storybook and seeing a picture of a wooden craft with slender mast, sails and Jesus asleep in the stern on a pillow as the boat rode the crest of the swirling lake water. The disciples looked petrified as they clung onto the sides.
Haven´t we all been there, facing whichever storm we find ourselves in the midst of? Our media is full of the most unspeakable and unthinkable storms which the people of Ukraine are enduring. That storm is known to all and thankfully many are coming to their aid and standing shoulder to shoulder in support. However perhaps you are facing your own storm – known to a few or just yourself.
Let´s return to that boat on the lake in Galilee. Jesus was woken by the disciples. He spoke to the storm: Peace. Be Still. He told his fellow sailors: Do not be afraid.
He tells us the same.
In this coming week let us cling to the anchor in our storms, Jesus. In the final verse of Matthew´s Gospel we read: Know that I am with you always…Jesus is our companion in the storms as well as in the calm. Let us pray for all who are storm tossed and for those who are clinging to their boat in the hope that Jesus will speak words of peace to them, that they will know his presence alongside them and see the sunlight behind the darkness of their clouds.
Congregational Worship Leader