Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Rafael Benitez - Church Guru?!

Very interested to read two very different things this afternoon that said the same thing. 

The first was the book Simple Church, (Thom S. Rainer and Eric Geiger) whihc advocates that you first work out what your philosophy of church is and then reflect that through everything you do, ensuring a process between one thing to the next.  Recruitment is made on the basis of people buying into your church philosophy.  Ministries either serve that philosophy or they become ex-ministries.  You do the stuff you are there to do and scrap the rest.  Quite radical.  Quite scary.  Quite obvious.  Quite rare.

The second thing I read was Rafael Benitez' piece in the i newspaper today that advocates pretty much the same thing.  He advocates establishing a philosophy for your football club: "England above all need the clubs to decide on the style of football they want to play, from academy through to first team.  They must then coach  the coaches in that style and then coach the players."  Otherwise, he says, the ones who aren't quite up to Premiership level end up going out on loan under managers with different philosophies and different styles of play, which is unhelpful. 

He goes on, "You must decide on a system; deciding, for instance, that  you want to play the ball on the floor, not in the air, and then you need to create a philosophy at your club where everyone has the same one."  This would translate in Simple Church terms to all the ministries pulling in the same direction rather than doing what each ministry leader likes best.  He also suggests recruiting on this basis too - "You stick to it, no matter who is manager, and you appoint a manager with that vision."

Monday, 25 June 2012

The Cotswold Way - Day 8 - Wotton under Edge to Old Sodbury

Today's adventure starts early in the hope that I can get back in time for the glamour tie of Holland v Germany in the Euros and so I catch a bus from Chipping Sodbury (where I have parked) to the start point of Wotton under Edge.  The bus goes all round the houses to get there but it gives me the chance to survey the general landscape and it's pretty apparent that it's a lot flatter than I am used to on the Cotswold Way so far.  It's isn't the sort of thing that I would normally pay much attention to but here on the walk this sort of thing takes on a greater significance!  The bus terminates yards from where I need to start walking and, after a brief detour to see the almshouses that were locked for the night when I finished here last time, I am on my way. 

The route through Wotton is easy enough and pretty clearly marked.  In fact they have bright blue signs which boldly and proudly proclaim the route and it's the best signage I've come across so far.  Through the church yard at Wotton and then along a path beside a stream and it makes for a very gentle start to the day before heading steeply uphill though a narrow path lined with tall stinging nettles.  Time to retreat and zip the bottom half of my trousers on. 

This hill, which becomes less severe once I hit the road, is the worst of it today and while it's hard work, it's also the start of a stage, which makes a difference.  It's here that I meet a great Canadian couple who have started from Wotton and are aiming to get to Little Sodbury.  Ken and Karen are walking the section from Painswick to Bath and are even newer to this walking game than I am.  I have to smile at Karen's distress at having to walk through mud and her glee at finding a puddle to wash her boots off a little.  With about ten miles still to walk it seems a little early to worry about such things.  I walk with them a little of the way and then they head off as I stop to take yet more photographs.  The views at the top are excellent and the sun is out and I've taken off a layer and just wearing two tee-shirts, which is how it stays for the rest of the day. 

Further proof of their inexperience follows as they miss a sign about a hundred yards from where I am taking pictures and they end up walking down a hill that they then have to walk back up again.  I manage to wave them back to where they need to be and they are following me at a distance.  They are probably the only two walkers I have encountered who walk more slowly than me (though I do feel that I am quicker than when I started this) and so I fgure I won't be seeing them again. 

There is a long, steep descent through woodland after this, which makes me glad that I am walking south rather than north but it is still very beautiful.  Then over open fields and looking back there is a great view of Wortley Hill and even more impressively, given the summer we have had, glorious blue sky. 

By the time I reach Hawkesbury Upton I am ready for a brief detour to the local hostelry having eaten my sandwiches up near the Somerset Memorial.  The Beaufort Arms serves a good pint and I end up on a table next to an Australian couple who are, rather heroically, doing the whole of the Cotswold Way in seven days.  They leave and their table is taken by Ken and Karen who have loved their walk but are calling it a day.  And why not?  It's all about enjoying the journey.  They are happy to enjoy a couple of drinks and enthuse about the walk and give themselves extra time before they walk again tomorrow.  Or they won't, depending on how they feel.

On hearing their story, I am surprised to find that they booked the walking holiday on a whim, just two weeks ago to the day.  They hadn't done any training for it and they aren't walkers.  She is 58 and he is 72 and they play some golf so figured, how hard can it be?  So they booked plane tickets and joined up with a company that arranges bag transfer along the route and stepped out.  Respect is due.  No wonder I walk a bit faster than them. 

After a couple of pints I know that if I don't get up and walk soon I won't feel like starting again so I wish them well and retrace my steps to where I left the trail.  The walking is very easy at this point and it is the terrain rather than the effects of the very good Spa ale, though beer tastes so much better if you have walked nearly eight miles to get to the pub.  There are poppies poking through, a sight that I always love. 

Past Horton Court and the lovely views from there and I am very soon in Little Sodbury.  It's here that I visit my second church because this is where William Tyndale attended church (although the building was elsewhere in the village then) and decided that he was going to translate the Bible into English.  I wonder if it was because the priest was doing such a good job or a bad one of preaching the Bible?

I promise that I won't go off on another one about Tynedale.  The church is quite pretty and there is a great sentiment on the lectern in the pulpit.  Tynedale is remembered with some strained glass, a little booklet, his figure is carved into the pulpit, there's a page of his translation framed on the wall and there's a great big sign about him outside too.  All well and good.     

However.  Bizarrely, and I promise that I didn't know this when I wrote up day 7, they appear to use the Tynedale translation (with original spellings) in their worship still today, nearly 500 years later.  Why?  I'll leave it at that.  New readers are referred to my previous rant / post about Day 7

A short sharp climb follows, up to Sodbury Camp, which is the site of an old Iron Age fort, covering 10 acres.  High on the hill it is the perfect vantage point for spotting potential enemies as they approached on the A46.  From there it's an easy walk down into Old Sodbury.  There's a moment or two of confusion as I try and follow the instruction about what to do when I reach the tall sycamore, all the time not having a clue what a sycamore looks like.  Just as I am in danger of missing the path by no more than 50 yards, a woman tending to her horses puts me right and I am soon at the point in Old Sodbury where the route crosses the main road.  

Here I must leave the Cotswold Way to turn right and walk another couple of miles into Chipping Sodbury.  I note that the bus into Chipping Sodbury is on this junction and more by accident than design I see that the last bus is due in two minutes.  I wait fifteen before giving up.  It races past three minutes later.  Nevermind.  The terrain is flat and it's still dry.  It doesn't take too long to walk and I manage to get home in time to watch the whole of the Germany v Holland game.  I can now look forward to two more days walking before I reach my goal, Bath Abbey.  They are walks of 9 miles and 10 miles and I plan to do them consecutively in early July.  Can't wait!    

Friday, 15 June 2012


Here's the girl I trapped 21 years ago today and proof that I've been looking after her well.  Can I keep her, please?

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Woman only speaks for 25 minutes!

On Sunday morning, my favourite parishioner preached for the first time on a Sunday.  She has spoken to groups before, children, pensioners, people in between, but she has never preached on a Sunday, in a church building, to men and women, using a lectern. 

Some people that I love will be joyful at the opportunity she had to speak on Sunday, some others (who I also love but disagree with) will be upset that a woman preached on a Sunday.  I suspect that most people in church aren't all that bothered either way and that most people outside the church must wonder what we are like if we are even still having this conversation.  

It has been interesting on my sabbatical to visit churches that have been recommended to me as places doing a good job. Every minister I have spoken to has been gracious and generous with their time and thoughts.  I've asked each one if women preach at their church.  Each has said that they do (although the overwhelming majority of preachers are men) and that it's not an issue for them as a church.  It's of particular interest to me as we are in the middle of discussions as a church about this very thing.  We've been studying the Scriptures as a leadership and trying to work out what they say because, like it or not, neither side of the debate can say that it is straight forward.  It's not altogether clear.  I, and most of the church leadership, are happy to welcome women preachers.  This is most definitely not a pragmatic decision but based on what we believe the Bible allows.  Being the kind of people we aspire to be (i.e. family), we'll need to sit down as a church and discuss it before we make a final decision.  There may well be future blogs on this. 

Back to Sunday.  She did  a terrific job and I am left thinking that there must be something that I can do better than her.  If she's this good the first time...  More seriously, I also wonder why some people would be happier to have a less able/gifted (male) teacher in the pulpit on a Sunday.  Pragmatism isn't the reason for our decision but you do have to consider that the church is missing out where it is not using gifted women in this area of ministry.   

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Cotswold Way - Day 7 - Coldharbour Farm to Wotton-under-Edge

Today Dursley is internationally famous in a way that no-one would have believed twenty years ago.  Sure it has had the odd brush with fame before - Listers produced machines from here, and Mikael Pedersen came from Denmark to produce his bicycle here.  Shakespeare, it is claimed, may have taught here for a while and there's a pub, The Old Spot, which was CAMRA 'Pub of the Year' a few years ago.  

None of these, however, are the reason that people know about Dursley.  Harry Potter fans know the Dursleys from JK Rowling's novels; she was born just down the road from here.  Due to her phenomenal her sales and the almost obsessive devotion of her fans, Dursley has become world famous.  Yet, for all great things about the Harry Potter novels (and I've read each one, seen all the films and will be taking the studio tour later this summer) JK Rowling isn't the most important literary figure we'll encounter on the Cotswold Way today.  Far, far, from it. 

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  I park in Wotton-under-Edge and get a bus to Dursley, delaying my start for the day because the weather forecast is lousy for the day.  The worst of it is a heavy downpour with some thunder at lunchtime.  So I plan my journey to start in the early afternoon.  And, of course, it's perfectly dry all morning and only begins to rain as I step off the bus at Dursley.  

The first twenty five minutes is spent walking in light rain back to where I left the trail last week.  It's easy walking and, making sure I touch the stile I climbed over at the end of the previous leg, I turn around and start Day 7 proper.  At the same time the rain stops and despite some threatening black clouds that have locals predicting a downpour, it's dry for the rest of the walk.   Dursley is pretty uneventful (sorry Potter fans) but the steep climb out of the village up Stinchcombe is more memorable - why did Pedersen think that producing a bicycle here in the hills was a good idea? 

The whole of this leg is well signposted with the slightly panic inducing waymark near the top of the hill which gives two options, neither of which is marked with the magic words 'Cotswold Way'.  It's only a few yards on from here though that I come across the Golf Club, just where the map says it should be.      

Stinchcombe is golf course number 3 on this walk and is doing good business.  There's a choice of walking across the course or walking a couple of miles around it.  Both are recognised routes and neither will have the good people who regulate the Cotswold Way thinking any the worse of you.  But my internal policeman won't even counter the shorter route, even though the guidebook says the longer route isn't worth taking.  And they were probably right.  But the walking was easy and no-one can take my badge off of me at the end on a technicality.  (You do know there is a badge in this, don't you?)

I step on it over the second part of the golf course as I head to North Nibley not just for fear of rain but also wanting to get to the village shop before it closes.   

It's lovely walking, through fields and crops and even making the brief acquaintance of a couple of horses. 

Then, one of those lovely little moments that make walking the Cotswold Way such a joy.  A fridge just on the side of the road, advertising chilled bottled water for walkers.  There's an honesty box in the fridge along with the bottled water and a rather charming notice saying that the price has been held for six years at 50p a bottle.  It was a great investment, which refreshed body and soul.     

I make it to the Village Shop in North Nibley with 10 minutes to spare.  I'd upped my pace not to buy a pork pie, but because I had read in a guidebook that this was the place to pick up the key for the next destination on my walk.  It would mean walking up the hill twice, but I was prepared to do so for what lay ahead.  Turned out that I had need not have worried, the shop assistant tells me that it was open and would be left that way.  Still, as a result of  being there I was a pork pie up.  It felt like it would be rude not to have bought one.    

I'm shortly at the bottom of some very steep steps where I have a quiet smile at the written notice at the bottom.  After several stops on the way up to catch my breath my attitude changes from one of being sniffy about his writing skills to being grateful for the work he must have put in to do this cleaning.  Well done Raymond!  This is seriously steep and very hard work. 

Then, here it is, through the trees.  I find myself looking up at the Tynedale monument, perched high above North Nibley.  With all due respect  to JK Rowling, William Tynedale is an even more important literary figure in the life of the English speaking world than even her.  

He was born in North Nibley and is the man who gave us the Bible in English.  He asked his Bishop for permission to do this and was denied, but driven by a desire to make the Scriptures available for "the boy that driveth the plow", he carried on anyway.  He was labelled a heretic, because the position of the church was that the Scriptures should not be translated into English.  It seems ridiculous to even type those words today.   

He took to the continent and finished his translations in Germany and Belgium.  They were printed up and then smuggled back into Britain.  For this he was betrayed, arrested, and then strangled before being burnt at the stake in Belgium.  His dying words were reported as being ""Lord! Open the King of England's eyes", and it seems like his prayer was answered.  Just four years later the King approved the publication of English translations of the Bible, based on Tynedale's work.  It is calculated that about three quarters the King James or Authorised Version of the Bible is Tynedale's work.  

Thanks to him, you and I can read the Bible.  We may not choose to, but it's there for all of us.  Driven by one man's desire to make it accessible to all who wish to read it.  Now 'the boy that driveth the plow' could read it for himself.  Here he could read that he could only be put right by faith in God alone, all the good works in the world weren't going to save him.  No wonder the church at the time were so cross.

It's ironic, of course, that there are still some people who insist on using the work of Tynedale today and who refuse to accept any other translation of the Scriptures, even though it's so dated now.  Some love the beauty of the language, others are tied to tradition.  I have a degree in Religious Studies with some English Literature modules thrown in for good measure and I have a hard time reading the KJV.  Fair play to those who don't but don't make it a requirement unless you want to hide the Scriptures from people today.   Michael Gove, a Conservative minister here, has just sent a KJV to all schools, marking it's 400 year anniversary.  I'm sure the kids will be delighted.  Richard Dawkins supports the move and if I didn't want kids to read the Bible, so would I.   

I reckon that today Tynedale would be coding the Scriptures to produce versions for the iPad, or producing it in cartoon form for YouTube, or doing something digital and ingenious for something on the cutting edge of new technology so that the boy that driveth the X Box might be able to engage with the Bible.

I seem to have gone off on one.  Suffice to say, "Hats off to Tynedale!"  And there's a great view from the top of the tower that commemorates and celebrates his life.         

From the monument, it's a gentle couple of miles to Wotton.  Unlike most of the woodlands that I have walked on the Cotswold Way, this is pretty level and easy walking in evening sunlight before a sharp downhill section into the town. 

Normally, I'd be walking the following day as well but there are long bouts of heavy rain, high winds, and warnings about severe damage across the south west for the next couple of days.  Turned out that they were right enough about that.  Day 8 will need to be rearranged. 

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Cotswold Way - Day 6 - Haresfield Beacon to Uley - sort of

Having sweated it out yesterday, today is fleece weather, albeit with shorts.  It's the kind of day where it isn't too bad if you keep moving but when you stop to admire the scenery in an exposed spot, you don't stop for long.  I prefer it to the heat of yesterday, but Dave, my brother-in-law and walking companion, isn't so sure.

Like yesterday, the first part is easy walking and downhill, first through woods and then across fields as we head towards Stroud, in particular Ebley.  Today we are faced with a choice.  At the bridge pictured below we can carry on across and take a shorter route, or we can turn left once we have crossed the bridge and walk along the Stroudwater Canal.  (If you are using this blog to pick up anything practical for your own walk (heaven forbid!) then it will be useful for you to know that the picture is taken once you have crossed the bridge, looking back to your right.)  Do note that neither of the two options are signed as the Cotswold Way and, unusually, there is no signage on the longer route until we reach the A419.   

Both routes are equally valid and recognised and official but I don't want to feel I have taken any shortcuts.  I am so obsessive about this that I even walked an extra fifty yards to the end of the car park yesterday in case I parked closer to the entrance to the woods this morning and missed twenty yards somewhere.  So it's the longer option for us. Along the canal and over Selsey Common.   

Now, of course I don't know what we missed on the other route but I strongly suspect we made the right decision.  For a start we had some flat walking alongside the Stroudwater Canal and the team who are devoting their efforts to it's restoration are clearly seeing some great results.   Unknown to us, just up (or down) stream at Stonehouse, the first of the boats for the Jubilee celebrations is being lowered down the slipway today.  I didn't realise the significance of this until I later read that the boats taking part in these celebrations were the first to take to the water in a hundred years.  This also explains the big voluntary work party, out in force, busy making final preparations. 

They have done a terrific job, the canal is beautiful and the new housing that has sprung up alongside is in keeping with it.  If they could just add a Cotswold Way sign or two, it will be perfect.  As it is our guidebook says to turn right down a footpath opposite the houses and I suspect there are a few more houses there now than when it was written.  There is an element of going back and forth before we work out where we turn off, cross the mill stream and walk across a fairly unpromising looking field before going through the tunnel to the A419.  It is only when we find the tunnel that we are sure we are on the right route and again, a sign or two wouldn't go amiss. 

The climb up to Selsey is across a field and as well as pausing to work out how the village plays on such a hilly cricket pitch, we call in at Selsey Church to admire the windows.  It's a Victorian building with windows by some of the Arts and Crafts movement, William Morris designed some of the windows. 

The climb up to Selsey Common is a longish and steady one and, with a few breaks to take in the scenery, not too taxing.  Not bad considering we have climbed from around 30 metres at canal level to over 200 metres.   The views are great across Selsey and the church, and the Stroud Valley beyond it. 

Once over the common we seem to spend a lot of time in woods, going down and up.  I don't like the thought of the height I am giving away after the ascent of Selsey Common, knowing we'll only have to climb again.  Those hills, they make you pay!   Eventually we emerge at the Nympesfield Long Barrow and soon after that to Coaley Peak.  It's very windy up there today and the last of the fruit (or food of any kind) that we have is consumed in haste so as to move on. 

And now for my confession.  We made two mistakes today.  One was to use an old OS map that showed us a Car Park that isn't on the current map and I can't see exists anymore.  This was especially dumb as I had the newer version as well, tucked away in my glove compartment.  Why?  Instead of parking there as planned, Dave (and this will be no surprise to anyone who knows him) suggested that we parked opposite the pub in Uley, leaving us a walk of about a mile downhill to get there but with a great incentive.  

The second mistake was a shared one.  We were both so excited (in a, 'Well, we've come this far, let's take this hill as well' sort of way) that we see Cam Long Down and it's short sharp climb as a challenge.  It's hard work this late  in the walk but the views are good.  What we don't realise (and Dave doesn't know yet) is that we didn't need to climb it at all.  I needed to on Day 7, but he got to climb it in what I like to consider a bonus.  Time will tell if he agrees.  I may not tell him yet as he is considering walking another leg with me.  maybe later.


Coming down the other side we meet a runner who tells us, without breaking stride, that we need to leave the trail here and head back down the road.  Particularly impressive as earlier we saw him run up the hill we have just laboured up.  It's a longer walk than is necessary to get to Uley village (we are on the edge of Dursley when we turn back) and we have walked further than planned today.  But the Uley Ale, brewed in the same village, is fantastic and Dave's decision to park opposite the pub is more than vindicated.  Next time I am faced with the choice of parking in Dursley and walking back to where we left the trail before we turned back or starting in Uley, parking outside the pub again.  It's a tough choice.    

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Sandcastle World Record Claimed in Burnham on Sea

The reports are that the world record was shattered today with 993 sandcastles built on the beach in an hour.  The old record was a mere 571.  It will need to be verified by the Guinness people but it looks like the good people of Burnham have done it!

Cotswold Way - Day 5 - Birdlip to Haresfield Beacon

After a couple of weeks off, back on the Cotswold Way trail.  It's a beautiful day as I leave Birdlip, stopping only to apply sun lotion because it's a hot sunny day today.  The start of the walk is through Witcombe Wood and it's a lovely area.  There's isn't much to look at but there is plenty to hear.  The birdsong seems to be amplified by the lack of other people in the wood, and there are squirrels aplenty, along with a few rabbits.   It's easy walking and I don't see anyone for a couple of miles.  When I do, there's a couple of older men, then a single walker, then a group of five women, all within a few minutes. 

At a distance the five women all seem to be older, retired women, resting up ahead and taking in the view, a bit of a rare thing in these woods.  It's only as I get closer that I realise that four of them are older retired women and one is younger and blind.  They have stopped to rest and are sorting out who's turn it is to lend a guiding arm to the blind woman.  The light tone of the conversation makes it clear that they each want to be of help and that they are in no way reluctant to help.  It's a very beautiful thing to have witnessed.

Cooper's Hill soon follows, famous for the annual cheese rolling event that takes place there each May Day Bank Holiday, though in this Jubilee year it will be taking place a week later.  Which means next week people will be running down this slope chasing a Double Gloucester cheese.  Look at the slope and how steep it looks from the bottom.

However steep you reckon it is, it's even steeper when you look at it from the top, a gradient of 1 in 2.  My climb up to the top is less direct than that but it's plenty steep enough.  The path just below the cottage in the picture is where I took the other shot from.  I wouldn't even want to walk down this slope, let alone pursue dairy produce down it.  I sit at the top, a little breathless, and treat myself to an orange and more water.  It's recorded as 100% humidity today, so even without being in direct sunlight the whole time, it's energy sapping.   

More woods which, in all honesty get a bit dull after a while, views being occasional but then out to Painswick Beacon.  This was a picnic spot of choice when I was a kid (though the choice of my parents rather than me, to be honest).  Fond memories though, yet I don't remember very much of it.  I remember the spot we picnicked in, which turns out to be very close to the Beacon, so I must have seen a great deal more of it today than ever before.  What I don't see is many people on the golf course.  Whereas Cleeve Common was heaving in very windy weather, Painswick has two lone golfers to offer in all, despite the sunshine.   A great view from the Beacon though, and the showers that were promised, threatened but came to nothing. 

Painswick itself brings the chance to sit in the churchyard with another bottle of water, a sandwich and a well-deserved (according to me) Twix.  The churchyard is said to possibly have the finest collection of table top tombs in Britain and these are surrounded by 99 yew trees.  All very well, but it plays havoc with your sight lines when you are trying to photograph the place. 

There's a lovely descent from Painswick but you pay for it with a long tough climb up to the top of Scottsquar Hill.  I sit at the road having climbed the best part of a hundred metres and contemplate whether I am goimng to be sick or not.  As I sit in the low stone wall of the Edgemoor Arms I wonder if I am going to throw up.  A van driver, waiting at the junction looks like he thinks something much more serious might happen but in that English way we both have I roll my eyes, he smiles sympathetically and then he drives on to leave me to it.  Both of us are probably glad that no fuss was made.  Even then, after crossing the road, there is more climbing to be done and I use the last of my water, save a mouthful, to get there.

There are a few more ups and downs to get through but that's the worst of it.  Haresfield Beacon is a welcome sight and the topograph (I'm a sucker for those things), and the great view a bonus.  It's been a tough day, the toughest by far, but I am now half way through my journey.  For now, an easy amble (a little further along the Cotswold Way to the National Trust car park at the edge of Standish Wood, tomorrow on to Uley Bury.