Chaplaincy job anyone?

30 07 2015


Candidate Information Pack (click to download pdf file)

Application Forms downloadable from the St Leonard’s Hospice Website


Sermon for Easter Day 2015 – John 20:1-18

4 04 2015

stone rolled away

Very early in the morning on that first Easter Day around 2000 years ago, Mary Magdalene went to the garden tomb alone. Why did she go? She couldn’t do much by herself. She would need several men with the right lifting gear to shift the great stone closing the entrance to the tomb. And she’d need the other women to help embalm the body of Jesus. So why go alone? Perhaps, with the stress of the previous week or so, she couldn’t sleep and was just wandering aimlessly, but found herself drawn like a magnet to the grave of the person she loved.

She noticed instantly that the stone had been rolled away. Her first thought in her shock at that discovery, was to tell someone else, to share the horror and the fear. So she ran to Peter, the acknowledged leader of the band of disciples, who was with a friend, and she told them. But Mary didn’t tell them exactly what she’d seen. She made an assumption, and she told the two disciples her interpretation of events: “They’ve taken away the Lord, and we don’t know where they’ve put him.” Even in those days it was ‘they’, a sort of nameless, faceless, vague enemy.

Peter and the other disciple ran to the tomb to see for themselves. How young they all were! They ran everywhere. The gospel, from beginning to end, is a story of young people. The other disciple ran faster than Peter and got there first. He saw the grave clothes neatly folded, but he didn’t go in. Perhaps he was frightened. It would take courage to walk into a tomb where you’d expect to see and smell a mangled body, especially the body of a dearly loved friend.

But impulsive Peter had no such qualms. He went straight into the tomb, and the other disciple followed. It was this other, less impulsive, more thoughtful disciple who immediately realised the significance of the folded grave clothes. The body couldn’t have been stolen. Grave robbers would have no reason to hang about either to remove the grave clothes, or to fold them if they were removed. So something very strange indeed must have happened.

None of them were expecting anything. They came, like Mary Magdalene, presumably assuming the body had been stolen. Miracles didn’t enter their heads at that stage. But once they saw the linen cloths, we’re told they believed, even though they’d had no idea Jesus would rise from death. When they saw those grave clothes they made a huge leap of faith – and then they went home!

It seems such a mundane thing to do, to go home! You’d have thought they might have rushed excitedly over to their friends, to break the news and discuss animatedly what it might mean. You’d have thought they might have wanted to drag other people back to the garden with them, so that they could all stand there in their astonishment and work out between them what it all meant. But they didn’t. They went home!

They appear to have ignored Mary, who stayed behind, weeping. She sounds quite a solitary character in her grief. She came to the tomb alone, before it was even light, and now she stayed on weeping, when the others had gone home. And she stooped to peer in to the tomb.

But something strange happened. She saw two angels in white, sitting in the exact spot where Jesus’ body had lain. Only a moment before, Peter and his companion had gone right into the tomb, but they hadn’t seen anybody. They’d only seen the grave clothes. They hadn’t noticed any angels.

Perhaps they were in too much of a rush. Perhaps people who want to see angels must be prepared to hang about, to wait around doing nothing much, but loitering. And perhaps they were too insensitive. At any rate, they didn’t seem to have much regard for Mary’s feelings. Although it was Mary who brought them the news, it sounds as though she was pushed aside when they reached the tomb, for she didn’t have the opportunity to look into the tomb until after they’d gone. But Mary was a sensitive soul, experiencing, and allowing herself to feel, great pain over the death of her dear friend. So Mary saw the angels.

The angels asked Mary why she was weeping, which seems an odd question. It must have been obvious why she was weeping, especially to angels. But perhaps they knew Mary needed to articulate her painful feelings as the first stage in dealing with them.

Yet her answer too was unexpected. You’d have thought she might be weeping because Jesus, the man she loved, had been executed after a rigged trial. Or perhaps because of the shock of finding the grave empty on top of all the other traumatic events of the previous couple of days. But Mary ignored all that, and said she was weeping because: “They have taken away my Lord and I don’t know where they’ve laid him.” She was weeping because of her assumption that the body had been stolen. An assumption which was wrong.

So many tears are so often shed over assumptions, which then turn out to be entirely wrong. Assumptions about other people’s thoughts or actions. Assumptions about what might happen in the future. Assumptions about other people’s opinions. Breakdowns in relationships so often occur because of misunderstandings. Because someone has made a false assumption which they regard as the whole truth.

The angels didn’t answer. They didn’t correct Mary. They played no further role in the story. But Mary turned at this point, almost as though she sensed someone watching her. And she made another erroneous assumption. She saw a man, and assumed he was the gardener. Perhaps it’s not such a surprising assumption. Two days previously Jesus had wounds so horrific he died from them. Now, he was fit and well, and walking in the garden without difficulty. Mary would surely have recognised him immediately if he’d been the same Jesus she knew and loved so well.

Mary and Jesus at the tomb

Even his voice must have been different. He asked Mary exactly the same question the angels had asked, and she still failed to recognise him. This time she didn’t answer the question, but countered it with what was almost an accusation: “If you’ve taken away his body, tell me where it is, so that I can go to him.”

He didn’t take offence at the implication of her words, but simply spoke her name in that way he always used to: “Mary!” which enabled her to recognise him. Jesus was clearly living in some different dimension. For his risen body was quite different from that poor, broken and lacerated body which hung from the cross.

As a result of that encounter, Mary changed. Her tears dried, her misery disappeared, and she ceased to be quite such a loner, for she went straight away to all the other disciples. This time she didn’t allow them to push her out of the way. She told them her story, even though she might have expected ridicule and incredulity. She seems to have gained a remarkable new inner strength from her encounter with the risen Christ.

All encounters with the risen Christ change people, even today. Those who are miserable, change. Those who are loners, change. Those who are timid and unsure of themselves and feel they have no self-value, change. Those who think life isn’t worth living, change.

This is our Easter promise. In many different ways resurrection can happen for us too. We too can receive new and vibrant life, full of hope and promise and power. And we can receive it now. All we need is an encounter with the risen Christ. May you meet with the risen Christ this Eastertide. Amen.

God of glory,

by the raising of your Son

you have broken the chains of death and hell:

fill your Church with faith and hope;

for a new day has dawned,

creation is restored,

and the way to life stands open

in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Complete liturgy for Palm Sunday

27 03 2015

Click below for a complete liturgy for Palm Sunday

Palm Cross

Some thoughts, reflections and prayers for Lent 1 – Year B

21 02 2015

“And immediately God’s Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness.  He was there for forty days while Satan tested him.  And wild beasts were all about him, but angels took care of him.” 

(Mark 1:12)

What are we to make of this?  We who pray each day, as Jesus taught us, “lead us not into temptation/do not bring us to the time of trial”? God’s Spirit led Jesus out into a wilderness place of temptation and trial. Today reminds us that the Holy Spirit can push us to places we would prefer not to be in. For Jesus, this comes immediately after his baptism and God saying, ‘This is my beloved, with him I am well pleased.’ Well if that’s true, God, why send him out into the wilderness? What are you up to, God?

During Lent, as so often, we are reminded of Jesus’ summary of the law at the start of today’s worship. Firstly, and above all else, the life of the baptised is to be focused on loving God with everything you are and everything you have. Then, and only then, comes the second part – loving neighbour as yourself – even the neighbour who hates you, for what use is it to love only those who love you. Now that’s hard teaching – but it is what Jesus asks of every single one of us who are baptised. And living in that way is not easy.

Some of us – me included – still have a long way to go on faith’s pilgrim journey. The moment of becoming a Christian is brief – but coming to faith is a lifetime’s task – a task made up of giving, self-discipline, and prayer: the very themes named in our ‘wilderness’ season of Lent.

Can you imagine your/our community full of people trying to live as people coming to faith, and making a difference to everyone’s lives; people who are bursting with generosity, learning to know themselves better (self-discipline), and growing closer to God (prayerfulness) – can you imagine the impact, the support, the joy, the love, can you imagine the worship? Our community is waiting….waiting for wilderness people, who know what it means to emerge from wildernesses trusting even more in Gods generous loving care.

Jesus matures in his wilderness time, and so can we; and in some small way. Maybe you are in a wilderness time at the moment. What questions is it raising for you? To whom/to what do you turn? What do you need to have a change of mind/heart about? How is your wilderness time shaping and forming you? How will you use that experience for your own benefit and the benefit of others?

In the loneliness of the wilderness Jesus discovers in his own experience that he is not really alone – that God goes with him and that with the aid of God’s word, he can survive – and in fact prosper – no matter what he faces. God wants each of us to discover that truth too. How much are you and I dipping into the Scriptures? Jesus’ answers to his tempter in his wilderness times were not just ‘no’, they were times to take stock of the resourcing and strengthening word of God. From which bits of scripture do we draw most inspiration / comfort / challenge? How are we resourcing one another as ‘companions’ (that is, bread-breakers) along that pilgrim pathway to faith?

I share with you some words which I once filed on my computer, but have now forgotten from where they come. They inspired me just at the right time. Perhaps they, along with the scriptures Jesus quotes in our Gospel reading for Lent 1, will inspire you too:

I asked God for strength that I might achieve

I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.

I asked for health that I might do greater things

I was given infirmity that I might do better things.

I asked for riches that I might be happy

I was given poverty that I might be wise.

I asked for power that I might have the praise of men

I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.

I asked for all things so that I might enjoy life

I was given life that I might enjoy all things.

I got nothing that I asked for – but everything I had hoped for.

Let us pray:

O God, guide us,

help us to trust in you through all our experiences;

whatever comes, stand beside us,

and see us through the hardest days.

Help us to trust in your unchanging love,

and to build on the Rock that cannot move,

even Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Intercessions for Lent 1

The Response to:         

In you, O Lord


We put our trust


Let us pray.

Our God knows us, our humanity, and the temptations we face.

Let us, with open hearts, pray to God now.

Lord, as we enter this season of Lent,

we ask you to remind us of what is important and what is not,

of what must change in our lives,

so that by Easter we will be renewed and strengthened

for being your hands in the world.


Lord, our world is in need of so much healing and restoration

in relationships and across communities and cultures:

we pray now for all those places

where people no longer see your image in each other,

where forgiveness is withheld, where humanity is not cherished;

for the healing needed in our own relationships with you O God,

and each other…..    


We pray for all who are vulnerable to temptation:

for those who are strong, to support the weak.

We pray for those are weakened by illness,

that they may receive help from those who care,

and hope from the God of love: we pray this especially for…


We pause for a moment to bring our own prayers to our God,

in whose image we are made, and by whose love we are redeemed…


Lord, we give you thanks and praise for the hope we have in Jesus;

for the strength to resist temptation

and the joy and relief of forgiveness when we fail.


God of love and compassion

Hear our prayers

and help us to listen for your voice in those you call us to serve.

Let your love in us be the well-spring of our caring;

this we ask through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Sermon – Second Sunday before Lent, Year B (Transfiguration)

14 02 2015

It’s interesting these days as Shane and I sit in front of the TV at home. I ask, “what’s on the TV this evening?” As the TV guide button is pushed, we both reach for our glasses. A sign we are both now well into our 40s – Shane much nearer 50 than me though!

It reminds me not to take my sight for granted.

A friend of mine has recently been diagnosed with a pituitary gland tumour. Although it’s benign, it is pushing on her optic nerve. Her sight could easily be compromised, perhaps irreversibly – and she’s been told to stop driving. She’s my age.

It reminds me not to take my sight for granted.

Sometimes when I’m out walking the dog, someone in the distance waves – and because I’m too vain to wear my glasses all the time, I don’t always see who it is, or even realise they are waving at me. I wonder just how often I fail to see things clearly, or recognise people, places or situations for what they really are.

It reminds me not to take my sight for granted.

Today, in our Bible reading from the Gospel of Jesus, as recorded by Mark, we are invited to celebrate a moment in Jesus’ ministry where his identity becomes blindingly obvious. Those disciples with Jesus are granted a glimpse of God’s glory in Jesus. It was a beautifully radiant moment. For a brief moment, there is a clear vision of Jesus – all in perspective –alongside the great and the good (Moses and Elijah). The veil of limited vision is lifted, and the brightness of God’s love shines with a radiance that cannot be quenched.

It is, perhaps, an echo of that which we sing in the Christmas Carol, ‘Silent Night’: radiant beams from thy holy face. Even in his infancy, the devoted recognise a radiancy, a lightness, a glow – a light we have recently celebrated at the Feast of Candlemas too – Jesus as the Light to Lighten the entire world – except, perhaps, for those with the highest factor ‘Son-Screen’: those who prefer to stay in the shadowlands of misguided or absent faith.

These disciples would’ve known the great story of Moses’ encounter with God as he is given the Commandments on Sinai – and how Moses’ face shone – so much so that his face had to be veiled. Moses stands for God’s Law – and Elijah stands for the prophets. Jesus completes them both, standing alongside – not to abolish but to fulfil.

Moses led God’s people through their wanderings, and brought them to very edge of it….but could not enter it himself. And now we have Jesus, the one who walks with us in our wanderings, but promises that not only can he get us to God’s promised land, but that his way is in fact THE WAY – he is the Way, Truth and Life.

But the disciples are completely overwhelmed with the entire experience on that mountain; so much so that Peter comes up with a plan – let’s capture all this and build a shelter, a chapel, a church, a cathedral – he wants to cling to this golden experience like a miser clinging on to their gold coins – when the reality is that Jesus wanted Peter (and us) to turn from this encounter and shine with a radiance like that of Moses and to get on with our tasks of enlivening and enlightening the world, the communities, the relationships we inhabit.

Sometimes, though, it’s hard to see clearly – with perspective, with breadth, isn’t it?

In my work as a counsellor and as a Senior Healthcare Chaplain, I have to receive regular supervision. It is the process through which reflective professional practice is built. The purpose of supervision is just as the word suggests: to give super-vision: the ‘broad view’ the ‘wider picture’. Sometimes we need help with that sense of vision – whether in our work, our faith, our personal lives.

Then, as quickly as that dazzling light, that beauteous brightness appears, a cloud casts its dark and gloomy shadow.

The reality hits home. The voice of God is perceived – not in the moment of bright glory but in the moment of overshadowing.

Suddenly the whole experience is over.

The disciples have had an eye-opening encounter. They saw Jesus for who he really was, and his light and his radiance enables us to see a little more clearly too, if we choose: to look beyond first glances, to look beyond the proverbial cover of the book.

Perhaps we too are challenged to see that light in one another too – to look with Jesus’ eyes. How might that be? To see one another through the eyes of Jesus – to see one another without judgement, without comparison, without anxiety, without fear, without insecurity?

Now, this is all just one way of looking at this remarkable story – with its metaphor and imagery. Things don’t often happen to us in our faith journey in quite such a dramatic way perhaps – but if we are finding it difficult to see, perhaps we should try to listen, just as the voice from the cloud recommends: listen to Jesus….and as we listen – in whatever way we discern that to be – as we listen, we may begin to find that God’s glory creeps up on us unawares, strengthening us, just as it did for those disciples, for the journey ahead.

Lord, thank you so much

that you shine the light of your love upon us.

Fill us with your radiancy

that we might shine in our own ways,

revealing the transfiguring power of your love.

Warm cold hearts, enliven stubborn minds,

and give clarity to our vision

that we may see you more clearly,

love you more dearly, follow you more nearly,

and share you more freely, day by day. Amen.

Liturgy for Candlemas

28 01 2015

Click the image below to download a pdf version of a liturgy for Candlemas.
It is a non-Eucharistic Service, with plenty of creative elements and participation for Children.
If you’d like a Microsoft Publisher version, just drop me a line – I’ll happily share!

Happy Candlemas!


Sermon – Advent 4, Year B

20 12 2014

Creating a Christ-like Shape in our hearts

There is a story that says, long ago, St Francis was concerned because people had forgotten the Christmas story. Many people thought that because they worshipped Christ in magnificent buildings, that he must have been a marvelously rich and majestic king. Francis ministered alongside impoverished people and he knew Christ was to be found there among them, not in palaces. So, one Christmas Francis built a stable and showed people what that first Christmas might have been like. The tradition remains to this day.

Our first reading this morning was about how King David wanted to construct a temple, but how God reminded him that the Almighty dwells everywhere. God needs no house except the hearts of the people. Here this morning, we gather again, to get our hearts ready….are you listening?

When my sister got married she had telegrams offering expressions of joy. These were congratulatory telegrams. I guess there was a time when nearly everyone received such telegrams on great occasions like twenty-first birthdays and weddings and so on.

When Shane and I celebrated our special day 6 years ago – there were no telegrams – times have moved on: it was e-mails and texts instead from those who could not be present to celebrate with us.

For Mary in our Gospel reading it is the angel, Gabriel, who brings a message. First, though, Gabriel appeared to Zechariah, to announce that his barren wife, Elizabeth, would bear a son. Gabriel appears in the Old Testament, too, explaining for Daniel his vision. It seems Gabriel has some important tasks to fulfil in co-working with God.

Within a matter of months the Gabriel appeared to young Mary to tell her that not only would she bear a child, but that that child would be the Messiah, the Saviour of the whole world. Interestingly, it is that same angel, known as Jibreel in Islam, who revealed Muslims believe dictated the Quran to Muhammad.

In our gospel reading from Luke, Mary and Elizabeth are pregnant: the whole atmosphere around us, too, is pregnant with expectancy and the sense that what we are looking forward to has already begun to be fulfilled.

Today, the fourth Sunday in advent, our attention turns to Mary as the bearer of God. She is the one God chose, the one in whom God grafted a Christ-like shape into which God’s own physical presence was planted by the Holy Spirit. As a result of being chosen, Mary had to lay aside so much in order to be able to receive Christ. There was much to sort out, not least Joseph’s understanding of what was happening.

There is enormous strength in the capacity to set aside something precious to us in order that a greater good may be enabled to happen. Jesus set aside his glory, taking on the form of a servant; he set aside his garments to wash his disciples’ feet; all in obedience and out of love. It is a hallmark of faith, and hope, and love.

When we find ourselves and each other, acting like Mary, being willing to set aside so much in obedience and out of love, we are watching the most real and beautiful thing: God and humanity co-operating together for the good of the world.

Today we are given the chance to press the pause button as Mary and Elizabeth meet, with their unborn children within them, and wonder at what can happen when we allow God to work in us and with us for the greater good.

At the heart of our story from Luke this morning is the text which for some Christians has become known as the Angelus: a prayer used by many Christians as they recall the miracle of God coming to share the life of humanity – the Incarnation. “Hail, Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with you. Blessed are you and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.”

Those of a more high church or ‘catholic’ spirituality may revel in the honouring of Mary. Those of a more Protestant tradition can enjoy Gabriel’s word of grace. Feminists note that God requires the willing consent of a woman before God’s plan for salvation can be inaugurated. Those obsessed with more patriarchal systems remember Gabriel appeared as a man, setting the whole story into action. Traditional believers a reminded that this infant Jesus is none other than God-in-the-flesh. Skeptics repeat Mary’s words: How can this possibly be? Optimists may find hope in the phrase ‘nothing will be impossible for God.’ And all of us are called to reflect upon our calling and vocation as people of faith – people whom God invites to be God’s partners, proclaiming, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord.’

So, whatever our perspective and whatever we take from our readings today, perhaps in these final moments before the big day itself, we can take some time to reflect on what it is that God asks each of us to set aside as we, like Mary, create a Christ-shaped space within ourselves too. What is it that we need to relinquish in our lives to free up that Christ-like space within us? What is it for each of us, in our own circumstances, that we need to work with as we make room for the life-changing presence of Christ? Who and what has God given to you to help with that task? Only you know can discover the answers to those questions; I hope you will want to take some time to be with those questions, and respond to God’s loving presence. Today’s newspapers will give us plenty of clues to what some of those answers might be, I guarantee it.

Advent has been a time of getting ready our own hearts to receive the Christ of faith afresh in our lives, not simply to listen to the familiar stories and to see children re-enact the narratives of Jesus’ birth. It is a time to prepare our hearts to receive something life-changing and life-making.

Today’s readings point us to the truth that God gives birth to grace, hope, new possibilities and salvation for everyone. Today God invites us to wonder about our own future, and invites us on a journey of personal change and transformation – through which we discern our God-given task – to be, give, receive and share God’s love. It is because of the great example we have not only in Christ, perfect human and perfect God, but also in Mary, a humble, obedient, questioning and often confused figure, that we are able to hear the words of Jesus from the cross to the beloved disciple, John and to all his beloved disciples in his Church: ‘Behold your Mother’. And that is why, in obedience to scripture, all generations have called Mary blessed, and always will.