Friday, 29 January 2010

Book Launch

I was very glad and grateful for a sabbatical break from ministry for three months in 2009. The adventure of my "backwards pilgrimage" has now been published and we've made plans for a small launch event on Saturday 27 February, from 3 to 5pm.

The book can be purchased from for £9.90, plus delivery. To reserve a copy for collection at the launch, please download and return the order form. The proceeds (over £3 per copy) will go to Christian Aid.

To whet your appetite, here's the blurb from the cover:

Simon Harvey, a Leicestershire vicar who describes himself as not much of a walker, sets out on a five hundred mile pilgrimage in reverse.
Perhaps a pilgrimage doesn't have to involve a package tour to a distant shrine. What happens if it is simplified and taken at walking pace, where the goal is not some unfamiliar holy site but home, the place of belonging?
This book describes an unlikely journey from the very heart of the French capital to a suburban parish on the southern edge of Leicester, in the English Midlands. Fifty-two days of solitary walking, punctuated by reunions with old friends and special places, lead Simon through an adventure in faith.
Keen observation, thoughts that are allowed to wander as far as his feet, a delight in the ordinariness of unspectacular places and a series of surprising encounters, all fill a travel story that is humorous, reflective and accessible.
Simon explores the Bible's metaphor of "walking with God" on unpromising tarmac roads and country paths. He discovers fresh insight into the possibilities of down to earth discipleship in a style that isn't preachy or too keen to persuade.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Diocese of Leicester Clergy Conference

Every two years, the clergy of our diocese are invited to join the Bishop in a three-day residential conference. Nearly two hundred of us have just returned from the Hayes Centre at Swanwick, where the theme was Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.

The programme was rich and varied, with lots of stimulating input from an excellent panel of speakers. More details, including links to recordings of the sessions, are available at the conference website.

I was particularly struck by the good-natured mood of our gathering. This is a Diocese in good heart. We face growing challenges and complicated demands but I sensed among us a genuine collegiality. Among our various backgrounds and traditions we easily find issues on which we take different views, especially in a topic as potent as worship. But, as far as I could see, these differences were held within an even greater commitment to our common purpose of serving God in mission to the people of Leicestershire.

Leicester Diocese is blessed with very capable and gifted parish clergy, supported by an excellent central team and an inclusive, hard-working bishop. It's a generous place to be and I'm thankful to be part of it.

Faith is political - Parish Magazine article for February 2010

Even before we finished the mince pies and sang Auld Lang Syne the press began to speak of this as Election Year. Unlike the United States and many other democracies, the governing party chooses a date for a General Election, subject to an absolute limit of five years. So whatever else this year brings, we can be sure that on or before the third of June, the great British electorate will be invited to cast its votes.

I know that for some readers, the prospect of months of driving past billboards, on which party leaders beam their white-teethed smiles, is deeply depressing. Many people do not look forward to daily media reports of debate about policy and personality. Sadly, for many people "Politics" has become a rather grubby word. And it's getting worse. Thanks in part to last year's furore over MPs expenses, politicians often receive as much appreciation as car park clampers. A record number have already announced that they have enough, and won't be seeking our votes for their re-election.

True, the quality of the argument is sometimes likely to be depressing. We shall probably weary of the distortion of opponents' policies, groan at the crass sloganeering, and roll our eyes at the weak jokes. But could it just be that we get the politics we deserve?

This is, of course, a chicken-and-egg kind of a situation. Which comes first? Misbehaviour by a minority of politicians, or a disengaged electorate? If the stakes were small, say limited to the careers of a few hundred ambitious individuals, it probably wouldn't matter so much. But politics, whatever we feel about it, is serious stuff.

Politics is the decision-making process in which choices are made that affect us all. It involves the negotiation of ideas. It gives legitimate powers and holds authority to account. It listens to grievances, creates and restrains freedoms, sets priorities and makes investments for the welfare of individuals and communities. It's hardly unimportant.

There's a particular tendency among the English to treat politics a bit like religion, as though both are somehow essentially private matters, inappropriate for conversation unless one is sure one is among like-minded friends. Perhaps our bloody history makes our national psyche more nervous than other nations in talking openly about our political views and our personal faith. There are families in which neither are spoken about. Some husbands and wives don't talk about how they vote or how they pray.

The challenge at the start of an election year for Christians, is not a simple matter of asking which way Jesus would vote. For one thing, we can be sure no single party perfectly embodies the values of the Kingdom of God, and no party official, MP or Prime Minister will be perfect. But neither should we give up on the political process.

Let's be thankful that there still are plenty of men and women who are motivated to seek office for the sake of public service. Let's appreciate that while cynicism and manipulation play their part in every democratic system, our MPs generally seek to change things for the better.

To follow Jesus seriously means being concerned about the way that our society is ordered. His first followers did not bow to earthly powers and declare "Caesar is Lord!" But they did understand that matters of justice, poverty, inclusion, freedom and equality were vital faith issues. In our day a loving Christian response to these issues is not withdrawal from the political sphere. It's to engage, listen, discuss and to participate. The minimum we should do is cast our votes.

Finally, let me go one stage further and dare to suggest how you should vote in 2010: prayerfully and selflessly.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Remembering the Holocaust

At Peace Memorial Park, Wigston Magna, at 5pm on Tuesday 26 January 2010 people of all faiths will gather to "Imagine…remember, reflect, and react"
The programme lasts for one hour:
  • Assemble at the Pavilion for refreshments served by Friends of Peace Memorial Park (the Pavilion will be open from 4.45 p.m.)
  • Welcome from His Worship the Mayor Councillor Mr Kevin Loydall
  • Jessica Huczmann a pupil from Beauchamp College talking about her visit to Auschwitz
  • Poem read by Mary Lawson, Head Teacher of All Saints Church of England Primary School, Wigston Magna
  • Reading of the Kaddish by Councillor Jeffrey Kaufman
  • Song of Peace by the pupils of All Saints Church of England Primary School, Wigston Magna
  • Collect the candles and walk to the sculpture
  • Readings
  • Laying of Candles
This moving and important event is open to the public and all may attend as a sign of remembrance and a pledge to not allow such atrocities to occur again.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

St Paul's stays open in the snow

One of the benefits of living next to the church is that not even the deepest snow prevents me getting to worship. We promise that whatever the weather, our services will continue.
From St Paul's Church, Oadby

If you live nearby and the weather is making you think twice about worshipping in your usual church, why not join us for our ten o'clock service? The building is always warm and there are hot refreshments afterwards. But our worship is more than comfortable - we seek transformation for ourselves and the world by the presence of the living God.

We understand that regular worshippers at St Paul's might find it harder to travel tomorrow and we are always looking for ways to support each other and our neighbours in times of difficulty.

Friday, 8 January 2010

The Revd Ken Bastock

We are sorry to announce that Ken died today, following a long illness. For many years following his retirement, Ken offered a much-appreciated and valued ministry in the Parish of Oadby, including at the Thursday Communion service at St Paul's. We will always be grateful to God for Ken's prayerful and devoted service and we ask you to keep Ruby and her family in your prayers.

"For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." (Philippians 1.21)

Thursday, 7 January 2010


Friends Ant and Karen Johnson, members of Oadby Baptist Church, are part of a new alternative worship gathering based at OBC.

At their new website they explain, "We are open to everyone of any faith or none and are seeking to work together to discover what it might look like to follow the teachings of Jesus in our world. We aim to do this through a varied range of multi sensory experiences."

The gospel needs to be heard, seen and experienced in every context and this looks like a great local development. We wish them well.

District Church Council Meeting - January 2010

At last night's DCC meeting we:
  • studied Matthew 2.1-12 and prayed in response to the account of the visit of the Magi. We reflected on the different motivations of Herod (fear) and the Wise Men (seeking after God) and considered how these relate to our ministries at St Paul's. We thought about the character of the worship that took place in Bethlehem - hearts overflowed with joy, costly offerings were given, there was adoration and humility.
  • approved, subject to confirmation from the Diocesan authorities, the go ahead for work to the church plant room to reduce the noise of the heating system.
  • considered where we are in our exploring of our vocation as a church, especially in relation to children and young families.
  • made a decision, in principle, to hold another church community fete in the late summer.
  • were updated with news that our recent stewardship campaign has resulted in pledges of a further £3000 in Christian Giving.
  • reviewed our Christmas services and publicity.
  • decided to clean the upholstery of the chairs in the Barnabas Centre in the coming weeks, to arrange for a professional clean of the carpet and repairs/repainting of the walls during the summer.
  • decided to invite church members to donate a shoe-box of essential items for young people at the YMCA, to be collected on Homelessness Sunday in February.
  • were excited to hear plans for a Bollywood Night - more details to follow.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Faith and the Human Genome Workshop: Sat 23 Jan at Leicester Cathedral

I was fascinated to hear that Leicester University in partnership with Leicester Cathedral, is offering this event.

With many people in our church congregation who work at the University or in the field of medicine, I know that this will be of interest to quite a few at St Paul's.

Most of day will be based in the laboratory where all comers will have the chance to extract DNA, try to solve a crime using DNA technology, and to engage in real ethical scenarios raised by the emerging science – some of which, including DNA fingerprinting, were discovered in Leicester.

Scientists and ethicists will speak about their work and Bishop Tim Stevens, Bishop of Leicester will conclude the day by chairing a panel of thinkers including Professor Annette Cashmore (Director of GENIE Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning in Genetics and Sub-Dean, Faculty of Medicine and Biological Sciences, Leicester University) , Revd Mark Bratton (Senior Chaplain University of Warwick and Editor of God, ethics and the human genome, CHP, 2009)and Revd Dr Malcolm Brown (Director of Mission and public Affairs for the Church of England).

As the promotional material says, "Leicester Cathedral is seeking to build good partnerships with other places of learning, including the universities which are deemed to be some of the best in the country. Medicine and biomedical sciences are very significant areas of study in the east midlands with significant numbers of Christians working in these fields. Yet the dialogue between faith and science often does not take place or it is stifled as a result of the crude backdrop created by Richard Dawkins and others. This is an opportunity for any Christian with an enquiring mind to experience the world of science and then to actively try to connect that world with their faith and therefore it is not restricted to ‘professional Christians’ or those within accredited ministries."

For information: Faith and the human genome flyer

Or Contact Canon David Monteith, Canon Chancellor at Leicester Cathedral 0116 248 7463 or at the University Jenny Pickard 0116 252 3319

Cost: £10 including lunch
Venue: Maurice Shock Building, University of Leicester