The Rector Writes – September 2015

Rachel’s Letter

Well, it’s going to be a busy autumn. The long over-due work to make our building watertight will begin, we have a world premiere of a new musical The Tree of War, there are Heritage Open Days and – before we know it – Advent and Christmas will be upon us.

My article on the roof repair work is elsewhere in the magazine, but I want to acknowledge here that it’s been a long hard slog to get to the point where we can repair the roof. I thank everyone who’s made a contribution – in whatever way – so far. I hope there will be minimal disruption to the life of the church, but I guess we might have to get used to people in hard-hats making a lot of noise from time to time.

Speaking of people making noise, I’m not alone in being very excited about the forthcoming production of The Tree of War, between 15th and 19th September. One of the interesting developments at St Nick’s in recent years is our work with musical theatre. The Tree of War is a new version of the commemorative show we put on last autumn. It tells the story of a pair of Burnage lads who end up on the frontline in World War One and face all of the emotional and physical impact of that experience. The new version is a full two-act, two-hour show that has an extended cast of characters
and many new songs, whilst retaining the strengths of the original version.

I know it’s easy for me – as one of the co-writers, along with Oliver Mills – to be positive about this show, but it is an extraordinary venture. The cast and crew are fabulous and the level they’ve achieved is quite startling. I cannot commend the show to you enough. There will be laughter and tears, hope and sadness. The cast ranges in ages from nine to eighty and reflects how much talent there is in Manchester. Even if you saw the show last September and think, ‘Oh it’ll just be the same’ come along – the show has developed so much that you’re in for a real surprise!

In the past few years St Nick’s has become part of the Didsbury Heritage Trail over Heritage Weekend of 12th and 13th September. Once again we anticipate opening the church for visitors. It will – of course – coincide with preparations for The Tree of War, but we hope that this introduction to our grade 2* building will act as a reminder of how much St Nick’s is a living, breathing faith community and not just part of the heritage industry. During the weekend we anticipate having an art exhibition from local artists, themed around war and remembrance.

Sometimes it can feel very challenging to be part of a faith community in the 21st Century. We are all aware that these are challenging times for the Church. Yet, there is so much life and possibility here at St Nick’s. It’s going to be a tiring and exhilarating few months. I know that when St Nick’s becomes a building site it will be difficult. But it is part of ensuring that we can be a sustainable community resource and platform for our attempt to lovingly serve Burnage for many years to come.

Rachel x

Download the September 2015 edition of the church magazine

The Rector Writes – August 2015

Sally’s Scribbles

With much help and support, I seem to have made it to the end of my first academic year at St Mellitus and we are rapidly approaching the end of my first year as an ordinand. Though it must be said, with two essays still to be written and deadlines still to be met there is a real risk of feeling like the end of one year is simply the beginning of the next. I do hope to be able to preserve some of a summer break and so I will be stepping back for much of the summer to recharge for the year to come.

It has been a year of much change. I have learned a lot, laughed a lot and made some incredible new friends. It has been my great pleasure to journey with you all at St Nick’s over the past year and I look forward to all the exciting things to come. St Nick’s seems particularly filled with life at the moment and while it is important to ensure we do not get lost in the busyness, Rachel and I often talk with much excitement at seeing the ways in which the Holy Spirit is moving within our community. It is a privilege to witness and be a part of what God is doing in the life of St Nick’s.

I have been immensely grateful for all the support and encouragement I have received over this past year. It has been incredibly humbling to realise how keen people are to support me, both personally and professionally, to not only do what is required but to grow and flourish in the ministry to which God is calling me. It was never going to be easy and at times has been incredibly difficult, but the practical, emotional and prayerful support of so many people has been a consistent source of encouragement and I cannot thank you enough. Please do continue to pray for me as I move into the second year particularly as myself, and those supporting me in training, look for ways to ensure I can support Abbie through the complex medical situations she faces this year while continuing to train.

As ever, I am thankful for the variety of opportunities to grow and to learn that have been offered to me. There is a real richness in this particular model of training, and particularly in its practical outworking for my own training, which allows me to experience some of the breadth of the Church of England exposing me to different types of people and different theological perspectives. This can at times feel like I don’t quite fit in some of the contexts I find myself in.

But as time goes on, and I find myself more established and more willing and able to question and challenge, I am becoming increasingly aware of what a privilege it is to be presented with such a broad perspective. Even when I find myself in a position of profound disagreement I am doing so in the context of community, prayer, and worship. I am immensely blessed by being surrounded by gifted teachers and theologians, not least in Rachel, who provide me with space to reflect and discern what for me is at the heart of the Gospel we profess.

It has been a challenging year in many ways but also a year of great blessings. I have much to be thankful for. As we look towards the year to come, I look forward to getting to know our new curate, Alan, and the insights and perspectives he will bring as well as continuing to journey with you all in both new and familiar ways. I pray that there may be times of peace and rest for us all over the summer months and that God will be our ever present guide in all that is to come.



Download the August 2015 edition of the church magazine

Adams Cycle for Liam by Sam Travis

On Sunday 5th July, I had the privilege of joining Adam, a member of St Nick’s Maker’s Club, on his sponsored cycle ride to raise money for my nephew Liam. For those who may not have heard, Liam was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer in May and has been undergoing chemotherapy to try to eradicate the secondary tumours in his bones and in preparation for surgery to remove the primary cancer on the adrenal gland above his kidney. As Liam’s family live in America they will be faced with a substantial bill for the 18 months of treatment that is currently planned. Hearing this news in the church notices several weeks ago, Adam took it upon himself to organise and complete a 90-minute sponsored cycle ride in a local park to raise money for Liam’s family.

I was so impressed by this show of compassion and commitment by someone of primary-school-age that I thought the least I could do was tag along as Adam’s ‘domestique’: a French term used in cycle racing to describe a rider who works for the benefit of his team leader. One of the roles of a domestique is to sacrifice his bike to the leader should they develop a mechanical problem at a crucial point in the race and I feared this would be the case when Adam turned up on a bike with neither front nor rear working brakes! He explained that he had wanted to get them fixed before the event but the bike shop couldn’t do the repairs in time. Instead he had developed his own stopping technique that required him to push his footwear down on his front wheel while still in motion and having witnessed this for myself I had to admit that he had quite the knack (and worn trainers) for it. Nevertheless, we thought it wise to enlist the help of our new Curate, Alan (officially inducted into post only that day), to bless the bike, giving Alan a crucial, though just too late, insight of what kind of church he had gotten himself involved with.

Adams Cycle2I’m happy to report that the blessing had the desired effect and the actual ride was much less eventful than the prologue. In glorious summer sunshine Adam completed the 90-minute cycle, covering a total distance of 11.46 miles and, most incredibly of all, having zero crashes.

So far Adam has raised £377, which is an extraordinary amount, but even more extraordinary is the way Liam’s illness is touching lives around the world and people like Adam are responding with selfless love and solidarity. As Jesus said, “for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Mark 10:14).

The Rector Writes – July 2015

Rachel Writes

I hope that when any of us look back on our lives we have some strong highlights in our ‘show reels’. For many people I suspect their personal show reel will include wedding days, the birth of children and the various anniversaries that mark out a life. Like most people I’ve experienced my fair share of ups and downs. One definite highlight was being ordained ‘deacon’ in 2005. It was a sweltering day and the culmination of years of ordination formation and training. Manchester Cathedral was abuzz with people and, in truth, it all went by in a bit of a blur. Nonetheless, as I recall it, it was a great day that brought together family and friends for a day of rejoicing.

I mention this because by the time you read this, our new Curate Alan Simpson will have been ordained deacon. I am delighted that he’s going to be with us over the coming years and I trust you’ll all welcome him to our fellowship. He, along with Sally, will bring new eyes and insights into how we can grow as a community of service and love. Some of you may be wondering what the difference between a ‘deacon’ and a ‘priest’ is. Well, I’ll leave Alan to give you the details! The important thing to remember is that in June 2016 Alan – supported by a fair few representatives from St Nick’s – will be heading back to the Cathedral for his ordination as a priest. Being a deacon is not just a temporary thing however. I am – for example – both a deacon and priest. The deacon’s ministry is very much focused on service and pastoral care. It is liturgical too, emphasizing welcome and peacemaking. At theological college we used to joke that every time one of us tidied away the chair we were getting in touch with our diaconal ministry!

Ultimately I hope that we at St Nick’s can offer a place of grace where Alan can feel welcomed and be the minister God is calling him to be. Over the next few years he will need to find the shape
of his ministry. In some ways that will be shaped by the nature of church – for example, after he’s been ordained priest, he’ll preside at the Eucharistic table and officiate in all of the things that make the church ‘the church’. But within that wider calling he will have his own gifts and interests. Alan won’t be here to be my ‘mini-me’. He will be here to be Alan Simpson.
One of the things I really hope for over the coming years is the ongoing growth in the ministry of all God’s people in this church. People have stepped forward into all sorts of roles and I hope this process continues. Sally and Alan can inspire us to step forward and say, ‘why not me?’ when it comes to the various liturgical and church roles in the church. Please don’t be shy in offering yourself in service to God. God will be with you. You might be delightfully surprised by where it leads!

Rachel x

Download the July 2015 edition of the church magazine

The Rector Writes – May 2015

Rachel Writes

‘Where are you going, where are you going, won’t you take me with you?’

These lines from Stephen Schwartz’s 1970s’ musical, Godspell have always haunted me. Sung by two female disciples just before Jesus is crucified, the lines form a plaintive counterpoint to the violence that’s about to take place. The women are desperate to be where Jesus is and have not yet begun to understand what that might entail. If they’re to follow him it might mean the death and resurrection of all they’ve known and treasured up to this point.

As I offer this report to St Nicholas’ Annual Parochial Church Meeting (APCM) the words of that song are echoing round my
mind. I think it’s part of my responsibility to ask where we – as St Nick’s – are ‘going’ and equally to spend time discerning where Jesus is leading so that we can get involved and follow. But this is not just the Rector’s responsibility. If we as a serving parish community are to be around in the future, we are all called to examine who God is calling us to be and to get involved in his works of creation. Increasingly, the work of St Nick’s will be the work of the whole people.

Part of discerning God’s call entails looking back at where we’ve come from and seeing the good news (and, sometimes, not so good news!) within it. As our churchwardens have indicated in their own report, it has been an incredibly busy year for St Nick’s.

What with our production of The Tree of War, heritage open days, tree-lighting events as well as various fairs there has been an incredible footfall through our building this past year. Some people will ask, what has that got to do with being church? Let’s be clear, however: unless we become both a destination for people and also a community building, we can’t serve our local community. The hall continues to be well used and I have been delighted at witnessing a new Rainbows unit grow and flourish. The Burnage Community Choir goes from strength to strength, we have held another successful holiday club and we have never had better relationships with our local councillors. Equally, long-standing groups like Women’s Fellowship continue to be witnesses to God’s love. Though it continues to be a struggle for us to be seen, we are becoming more visible.

Our building is both a profound blessing and a challenge. We know this is a landmark building that is justly celebrated. But it remains a challenge for our congregation to manage and service.
We are waiting to hear whether we shall receive a Heritage Lottery Fund grant for c £170,000 to help repair our leaking roof. It has been a difficult process to go through and if we receive support it will continue to be challenging. Not only will we be required to manage the project with great care, but we’ll be required to raise match funding. I am pleased to say we’ve received some grant funding already and there have been donations, but we have a long way to go.

Buildings are not ends in themselves. That’s why I want us to focus on where Jesus is leading us. I want us to hunger to be involved in what the Spirit is doing and saying. We’re privileged to have Sally Robinson with us as an ordinand and, in the summer, Alan Simpson, will be joining us as curate. Sally is beginning to examine how we, as a church, can become an ever more welcoming and inviting congregation. I’m sure she is going to helpfully challenge us in all sorts of ways. Alan will bring his own wisdom and insight, and I trust will help us grow as we attempt to support and encourage him. I hope Sally, Alan and I will work together to develop our whole congregation’s theological understanding, not only through preaching, but by developing new home groups for prayer and reflection.

It has, as always, been a year of goodbyes as well as new beginnings. Our community mourns the loss of Vera Gawkrodger, Barbara Stenton, and Ken Paterson. Each, in differing ways, made lasting contributions to our fellowship and community. May they rest in peace and rise in glory. In a different way we say ‘farewell’ to Elaine Jess who stands down as treasurer after many years. I’m delighted that Caroline Abiodun has stepped in and it’s important that we carefully support her during this time of transition. Equally, it has been great to welcome Sam Travis and Rachel Varughese to our fellowship. Rachel’s design skills have brought new energy into the magazine. I extend my thanks to Alison Mills for her work as editor of the magazine, but I’m sure she won’t mind me saying that she’s glad to step down from this important role. This is also true for Anne Tudor and Norma Cookson who have let go the reins of arranging flowers. Thank you to Val Hagan and Christine Price for stepping in and continuing this valuable way of visually representing our trust in God.

I see so many seeds growing in this congregation and it is thrilling. I feel like there is so much promise and possibility at St Nick’s. We are a small fellowship, but in many ways a remarkable one. We are becoming a richer, more inclusive congregation and I think we’re slowly learning to be open to the communities in which we are set. I extend my particular gratitude to the Wardens for their patience, steadfastness and willingness to commit to these key roles. As you will know, my own health continues to be troublesome and I’m seeking to be a good steward of the energies and gifts has apportioned me. Please pray for me, as I pray for you.

Rachel x

(This text comprises the Rector’s Report given at the APCM, Palm Sunday, 29th March 2015.)

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The Rector Writes – April 2015

Rachel Writes

Most of us have met one or two remarkable people. Sometimes those remarkable people will be counted among what the modern world calls ‘celebrity culture’. More often the people who are remarkable are self-effacing, ordinary folk who have found themselves caught up in extraordinary situations. They have not sought out celebrity, but have become high profile because of their insight or talent or courage.

One does not need to be a Christian to recognize that Jesus was remarkable. I’ve met many atheists, agnostics and adherents of non-Christian faith traditions who consider Jesus great, as a wise and original thinker and a singular holy person. Before I came to faith I very much believed that Jesus was an amazing figure who challenged many of the orthodoxies of his day and remained a critical ethical voice in ours.

The Easter story invites us to consider Jesus as something more than a wise person or great ethical teacher. As I’ve said before, there is something offensive about the ‘Easter Event’ – the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus. For, on the one hand, if we suppose that Jesus is God the idea that he might die is offensive. How could God die and die a criminal’s death at that? Jesus is honoured as a prophet in Islam and – in virtue of his status as a prophet – they insist that he could not die on a cross. Given that we say he is the Son of God, how much more offensive is it to say he died on a cross? Yet, at the same time, if we believe, as Christians, that Jesus actually dies on the cross, the notion of his resurrection is an offense to reason. Don’t we all know that no one dies and lives again?

Yet, the Jesus we are invited to meet and be loved by is no mere teacher or prophet. He is the Christ, the Son of God, as St Peter has it. And I think the significance of Easter lies not simply in some act of redemption undertaken two thousand years ago, but in our ongoing participation in redemption now. Easter symbolizes an invitation to each of us to meet Christ afresh as if for the first time.

What do I mean? Well, while I return again and again to the powerful image of the Cross, for me the most powerful moment in the Gospels is found in the Garden on that first Easter. It is when the risen Christ meets Mary Magdalene. This is the Christ who comes with love, reconciliation and hope to the ones who betrayed him and failed to stand by him in his hour of need. It is the Christ who stuns his witnesses into awe.

Perhaps it’s just me, but I constantly want to meet again the Christ who reconciles and invites us into a way of peace, generosity and new beginnings. I suspect that this is because I’m conscious of the inadequacy of my faith and my need for forgiveness. But it’s also predicated on my desire to participate in God’s good news here and now. As we celebrate Easter, let’s not just see it as an historical event, as something from long ago, but as part of God’s living creation now. Let’s seek to live on the promises of God and be people of grace and peace today.

Rachel x

Download the April 2015 edition of the church magazine

The Rector Writes – March 2015

Rachel Writes

It feels like it’s been a long winter. I know it’s not been especially harsh in terms of snow and ice, but it has been dismal and bleak. People seem to have been unable to shake off colds and chills. There have been days when the sun has hardly raised itself from its slumbers.

I don’t think I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) but I’m very glad that March is here and spring is almost upon us. I know that the weather can still be a bit yuck right through April, but at least we have the promise of the summer. Snowdrops are peeping out. Daffodils and bluebells are coming into bloom.

Recently I’ve been reading about how, during Christianity’s expansion in Europe after 300 AD, Christian festivals and culture overlaid earlier Roman festivals and gods. It’s fascinating stuff. In
rural areas, for example, devotion to a female fertility goddess – who blessed the grain and so on – took centuries to dislodge. Even then the fertility goddess stories were often turned into stories of female Christian saints.

Most famously it’s been argued that the name we use for the greatest Christian festival – Easter – is derived from the ancient name for the fertility goddess Eostre. Insofar as this is true, it’s a reminder that the age of Christian European expansion was a time not only of colonization, but also when Christianity had to adapt to local conditions in order to thrive.

When Christianity spread across Europe, most of its inhabitants lived in villages and were closely tied to the land. It was hardly surprising that the Church would appropriate the rituals and practices of the community to tell the story of Jesus. Even to this day, we use images of eggs and grain springing into new life as metaphors for Jesus’ resurrection from the tomb.

We live in a very different context to that in which Christianity spread. Not least we are all, basically, urbanites and city dwellers. As Lent progresses and we move towards Easter, I wonder how
well any of us still relate to the images of new life and the hopes for good harvest embedded in the old agricultural practices?

Those of us who live in cities – and in the UK that’s most of the population – can feel both alienated from nature and from the rituals and practices of religion. Sometimes I think, as we shove another bag of pre-washed salad in the shopping trolley, we fail to appreciate how miraculous and fragile creation is.

I sense that right up to the Industrial Revolution, the people of the so-called West had a stronger and closer relationship with creation than we now have. For most people on the planet
outside the privileged west, that sense of both the bounty and also the danger of creation is still alive. I think that we have some lessons to learn here.

So I have an invitation to you this Lent and, indeed, a personal challenge to me. It’s to attempt to be more aware of the world around us. That is, to attempt to be more aware of the liveliness
of creation, even in our stark, urban surroundings. I know that sometimes we can think that there isn’t much ‘nature’ happening in the city, but it’s there in every moment. I just think that, in our busyness and hurry, we often don’t notice what is directly there before us.

We have come a long way from the agricultural world in which Christianity first took root in Europe. We cannot, nor should we, go back. We live in the here and now. But God is as present and
as vibrant as ever. Perhaps we just need to be more attentive to the work God is doing and reconnect once again.

Rachel x

Download the March 2015 edition of the church magazine

The Rector Writes – December 2014

A few years ago a clergy friend told me about a session he was running on the Christmas story. Right in the middle of it, a vicar on the course admitted that he was bored to death with Christmas. This vicar had been ordained so long that he felt he’d run out of things to say about the stories of Jesus’ nativity.

I’m glad to say I’m not in that situation (yet!). Next year (Christmas 2015) my new book, ‘A Star-Filled Grace’ – filled with poems and stories about Christmas – is due to be published. Clearly I still think I have things to say about Christmas, even if some days I worry I won’t have enough stuff to fill a book!

For any of us, however, the seasons of Advent and Christmas can feel an exhausting and draining time. Perhaps part of the problem lies in the way many of us ‘do’ Christmas. For it has become the ‘season of excess’ in more ways than one. I think I need to preface this by saying I’m not a party pooper. One of the things I really look forward to at Christmas is (digestion permitting!) some rich food and a chance to indulge in a little liquid cheer. When my family are able to be in one place we very much try to enjoy a feast – of company, food and fun. But I’m alarmed by the way our society’s expectations of a ‘good Christmas’ have been continually inflated in recent years. It can feel like a competition to see who can spend the most, who can eat the most and who can get most drunk.

Curiously, I take this conspicuous consumption as a sign that we’re empty and hungry. This might seem an odd thing to say. When most of us have got an abundance of food and drink, how could we ever be hungry? But the fact that we seem to always want more and more is surely a sign of our emptiness. It’s like we’ve stretched our stomachs – metaphorically and literally – to the point where we can never quite be full. And Christmas seems to be the season that underlines that fact.

In the midst of all this, Jesus – the central character of Christmas – can get lost. Unlike the amazingly glitzy and slickly-made ads which appear at this time of year, he does not shout for our attention or try to trick us into parting with our cash for something we don’t need. Unlike most of the shiny images we have family Christmastimes, his family was poor, far from home and without all the comforts we take for granted. While great events were taking place in other parts of Jesus’ world – in Jerusalem, in Rome – God crept in beside us in a no-note village called Bethlehem. Not as a king in a shiny chariot. Not as a powerful prophet, but as a babe with little shelter and in great peril. And – somehow – it is this God who will save us.

So often we surround ourselves with ‘stuff’. WE try to fill ourselves up so that we feel complete. But it is not our possessions or even our family who will save us, but the love of God. And we are called to love and serve him. So I hope that you do have a lovely and pleasurable time this Christmas, but I also hope you know the love of God in your deepest being.

May you have a blessed and peaceful Christmastide.

Rachel x

The Rector Writes – November 2014

November has increasingly come to be seen as the ‘Season of Remembrance’. In part this is because All Souls – the day we remember all those who’ve died – falls in this month. Equally, Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday fall in November.

This year is particularly poignant. 2014 marks one hundred years since the outbreak of the First World War. As many of you will know, both my grandfathers fought in that conflict. I think it’s fair to say that both of them were scarred by their experiences and those ‘wounds’ had a huge impact on my family. Grandpa Bert, for example, carried an inoperable piece of shrapnel around in his leg for over sixty years and it blighted his (and his wife Edith’s) life in all sorts of ways. But there were other less obvious wounds. My mum tells the story of how each Remembrance Sunday Bert would insist on watching the parade on TV alone. As a nipper I couldn’t understand why. It was only after his death that I found out that it was because he couldn’t bear to have anyone watch him cry.

Today, we know so much more about the effects of war on men and women. We’ve moved from talking about ‘shell shock’ to ‘post-traumatic stress disorder’. Some people – usually those who’ve never been under fire – will claim that these problems are not real. Yet there is no doubt that violence is traumatizing and damaging. The impact of being under fire and living in a kill-or-be-killed world is not to be confused with a gung-ho video game.

Despite knowing how damaging war is, it seems that the human race will not learn. Again and again we’ve plunged headlong into hell. The extent to which the rejection of great wickedness and injustice is predicated on standing up to monsters like Hitler is moot. What is clear is that, even if just war is possible, too often our brave boys and girls have been sent into impossible situations. ‘A land fit for heroes’ has so often failed to emerge and has been betrayed by the craven adventuring of politicians desperate to maintain Britain’s place in the international order.

Jesus is often called The Prince of Peace. This is not because he’s some sort of ‘lily-livered’ coward. He stood up to the authorities and powers of his day and was courageous enough to die for what he believes. Rather, he’s the Prince of Peace because he models and embodies the deep truth at the heart of God – that we are called to seek reconciliation and forgiveness in our communities and within ourselves. Violence and war typically generate more violence and war. Human history shows this. However, Jesus subverts this pattern. Jesus is, himself, the victim of violence – he is put to death – and yet in resurrection he comes not seeking revenge, but welcome, reconciliation and love. He invites us to live in a different way to that which the world typically lives by.

This season of remembrance is meaningless if it entails simply looking backwards and saying, ‘How sad that so many died’ or even allowing it to be an excuse to let our chests swell with pride. I am proud of people like my Grandpa Bert, but if the memory of men like him is to be honoured, that’s not good enough. We have to commit ourselves to living in a different and more creative way than simply repeating war over and over. Anything less is a betrayal of men like Bert.

When I think of Bert – an often silent and distant man – I am haunted by the thought that, such was his war-trauma and such were the cultural expectations on him as a man, he felt he had to keep his tears away from view. His lived as if his pain was his and no one else’s. He must have been so alone then. That is not how God wants us to live – to let the horror of our memories cut us off from others. It’s one reason why war is such an appalling sin.

The Rector Writes – October 2014

It’s seems like forever since I last wrote a letter for the parish magazine. And, given the vagaries of my health, I have to admit it has been a little while. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of you for the love and prayers since my stay in hospital in July. I’d particularly like to thank Alison Mills and Jane Cawley, our lovely Church Wardens, for rising with such skill and sense to the challenge of having me out of action. I very much hope that you both appreciate their work and join me in praying for them. It can be a challenge being a church warden at the best of times, let alone when the Rector is poorly.

Some of you may be wondering what the future holds for me. I am pleased to report that since coming out of hospital I’ve been reasonably stable. My medication – a regime already with side effects – has been doubled and I’m hoping this will bring some of the active Crohn’s under control. I’m dealing with some less than lovely side effects from the drugs and there is a big question over whether the NHS will support the increased dose (one of the drugs is eye-wateringly expensive), but I’m sure we’ll get there on that front. The surgical aspects are more complex.

I am hoping to avoid any more major surgery. Alas, I’ve had so much surgery in the past that any intervention in the abdominal area will be tricky. It is very much a last resort, but given how serious things were in July it remains a real prospect. I have some serious narrowings in my remaining bowel and surgery may be unavoidable.

However, before that becomes the main option I’m hoping that a smaller surgical procedure will do the trick. It is possible to dilate sections of bowel, opening them up so that food can pass more easily through. I’ve had this done in the past and it provided temporary relief. My consultants and I are hoping that it might provide more than temporary relief this time. However, there is no guarantee of this. Equally, I am in a bit of limbo as the person who is capable of carrying out the procedure might yet decide that my particular case is too tricky.

As you can imagine, all this uncertainty is a little unsettling. I continue to welcome your thoughts and prayers at this challenging time. However, I also want you to know how encouraged and hopeful I am about the future. It seems to me that seeking to live faithfully in the midst of the Living God is about trusting. The way of God is always precarious. It would be easy to imagine the Way of Christ as some sort of clear road-map that – with the right ‘skills’ – offers a clear and direct path to some glorious future with God. That has always struck me as appealing, but ultimately childish. God more often offers enough grace for the day, the hour, the minute ahead. Sometimes, when pain or distress is great, it can seem as if there is no grace at all. I don’t know what the future holds, but does that really matter? I see lots of options and expect lots of challenges. But God is to be found in all of them, sometimes in the most bleak and scary places. It was always thus. And – for all of us – so it will always be.


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