Stonehenge & Salisbury ~ Wiltshire Wonders of the World!

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Y’know, you can’t beat a good ruin!  And Stonehenge, in wonderful Wiltshire, well, that is some ruin.  Possibly the world’s most famous prehistoric monument, constructed between 3000 BC to 2000 BC, possibly originally as a burial ground.  Many of the rocks were brought from as far away as Wales.  They are massive, those rocks, and in 2,500 BC, transporting such huge rocks relied largely on manpower.  And nobody really knows why they are there.  Why did ancient peoples want to construct a stone circle on Wiltshire’s Salisbury Plain?  There’s lots of theories, but nobody knows for sure.  But that only enhances the mystery.   It’s fairly awesome in the best possible way.

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And this past Thursday, en route to Salisbury, I had my first ever chance to visit this iconic place.  Gotta keep up with my Taiwan friends, who, if they’ve been on a tour of the UK, will definitely have included a tour to Stonehenge.  Everyone who’s been to the UK has been to Stonehenge, except me, so thought I’d better go!  And truthfully, everyone needs to go once in their lifetime ~ and on a sunny day with blue sky, if possible.  Prepare for a biting cold wind and mud.  Stonehenge is located on the top of a hill after all, it’s very exposed.  And it’s not cheap, but for a once in a lifetime visit, it’s worth it.  Go.  Do it. Marvel. Reflect. Enjoy. And be inspired!

And only 10 or so miles down the road is the cathedral city of Salisbury.  Salisbury has been through a rough time recently, in the News for all sorts of the wrong reasons.  But Salisbury is beautiful.  The cathedral close, Harnham and the old city by the river are lovely.  Also awesome in the best possible way.   With great views of the cathedral from all over the city.

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The main part of the cathedral was built between 1220 to 1258, and the spire was added later, and at 123m high, makes it the UK’s tallest cathedral…

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So, the cathedral is stunning, and especially on a sunny day.  I was invited by my lovely friend, Becky to come and stay, and she lives in Harnham, within walking distance of the cathedral.  Last time I visited her was in March 2015 and I took the chance then, on my first visit to the cathedral, to do a tower tour (photos here) but this time I just wandered around and around the cathedral, inside and out.  The stewards are really friendly, they encourage visitors to take photos and the cathedral was full of ladies doing the flower arranging in preparation for Sunday.  It was also full of scaffolding and workmen preparing to take the organ away for restoration.  Check out the Amnesty International Candle and the east window, plus the amazing font. And you can’t miss the pigeons!

And it was also still full of the Advent and Christmas illuminations on the theme of ‘From Darkness to Light’, which includes an amazing ‘Lightwave’ outside the cathedral by the west door, it plays music as the lights change colour in sequence.  In the daylight, it looks like white baubles, but at night it comes alive.  In case you’re wondering, all their Christmas decorations and the crib etc are up until Candlemas, February 3.

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Wiltshire Wonders of the World, indeed.  Do go if you get a chance ~ it’s my new favourite part of the country!

With All the Saints at All Saints Church: CMS Link Visit @ Hurworth, Darlington, Co. Durham!

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Cross the meandering River Tees from N. Yorkshire into Co. Durham at its southernmost point, before the river starts to head north again on its way to Teeside and its arrival at the North Sea, and the first village you come to is the very lovely Hurworth-on-Tees.

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Yes, the great and mighty HURWORTH!

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The village stretches along a road parallel to the river, and is really everything that a quaint English village can be ~ a long line of beautiful cottages and houses of all shapes and sizes, a few large manor houses and stately homes, a village green covered in daffodils each spring, a Methodist Chapel at one end of the village and All Saints Church at the other, and a few shops, schools, housing estates etc in-between.

Quaint indeed, but not without its share of tragedy in times past. On the village green is a notice saying: “In 1665 plague devastated Hurworth and the surrounding villages. 1500 plague victims were buried under this Village Green. Only 75 Hurworth residents survived the plague.” Must have been terrible.

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These days though, Hurworth is a bustling place, and some of the people I know originally came to live in the village cos they were working at the nearby ICI plant on Teeside. Though ICI is no more, they’ve stayed on and now work elsewhere in the area, including Darlington, only a few miles away.  Just down river is the sprawling village of Middleton St. George, and in the last few years, the village of Hurworth has been joined with Middleton St. George, plus Girsby and Dinsdale, all under one vicar, Rev. Adrian Thorp. Helen, his wife is also ordained and for many years worked at Cranmer Hall, Durham’s theological college. He comes from Huddersfield and she from Batley – some of my favourite places where I also have great link churches! Adrian and Helen are such a lovely couple – and they invited me to stay with them this past weekend for my CMS link church visit to Hurworth.

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I’ve been linked to Hurworth since I first joined CMS in 1989, a fact which dear Barbara, one of the Hurworth congregation reminded me of this past weekend, when she said how she fondly remembers being at my commissioning service all those years ago. In those days, the vicar was Rev. Roy Graham, now in his second retirement with his wife Margaret in the Yorkshire Dales, and a few weeks ago they kindly invited me there for lunch. On display in their home is a cup showing that Margaret has won first prize at the Wensleydale Show for the best Yorkshire Pudding, a great achievement! After Roy retired from Hurworth, Rev. Michelle Ferguson, my good friend from Heighington, became vicar, then Rev. Adele Martin. The diocese reorganized the parishes and amalgamated them here and there, and about 2 years ago, Adrian and Helen arrived, and clearly everyone loves them to bits!  This is Adrian and me, then Helen and Valerie…

On Saturday evening, Adrian and Helen invited a large group of Hurworth people to their home for dinner (see the top photo). There were 12 of us in total, and at least 2 more couples told me they’d been invited but had to send their apologies. It was such a fun evening, with delicious food and lots of discussions and laughs. Some of what goes on in village churches is really worthy of a book, they had me in stitches! Great to reconnect with everyone again, and such wonderful hospitality at the rectory.

On Sunday morning, I went with Helen to the 10:30am service at Hurworth while Adrian went off to the other churches. The Hurworth service was led by the Lay Reader, Paul Mallett, and I gave the sermon. Very pleasantly surprised to see my friend and former colleague, Stephanie turn up to the service too, she’d come over from Darlington, and Andrew, from the church in Heighington, he also came. Last time I visited Hurworth in April 2015 (see my blog post here for that report and all the photos), I’d heard that one of the congregation worked in Taiwan, and I was so happy to meet Adam this time, though he no longer works there. In fact the church seems completely full of interesting people, all faithful supporters of me and CMS. My photos here are mostly of those good people I’ve known for years, though of course there are others, of all ages, in the church. After the service, we had lunch, brought by everyone in the congregation. Delicious!

Thank you to Adrian and Helen and everyone at All Saints Church, Hurworth for such a great welcome, and your faithful support over the years. One member of the choir was celebrating her birthday on Sunday and we sang to her. Later she introduced herself and her husband and told me their surname was ‘Saint’. I gather it’s a French name, and their ancestors probably came over with William the Conqueror.  Of course they’re not the only real saints at All Saints, but hey, yes, there really are Saints at All Saints Church, Hurworth.  Saints and saints ~ and I love ‘em all to bits!

Following the Star on Epiphany: CMS Link Visit @ Sedbergh, Cumbria!

And what a great weekend it’s been!

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The lovely little town of Sedbergh, book-town and home of the famous Sedbergh School, nestles at the foot of the Howgill Fells in Cumbria ~ but is also part of the Yorkshire Dales National Park.  A double blessing – even on a dull, cloudy day!

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The church of St. Andrew’s in Sedbergh has been supporting me ever since my parents retired to the town in 1996, and even though there’s no more resident Lee family in Sedbergh, still the church continues to support me – and they always give me a warm welcome each time. In fact, just walking around the town, and friends drive by saying hello – this is our very friendly former neighbour Jean!

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In the last few years, there’s been changes aplenty in the church scene in the town and in the local area. First, in 2014 came the amalgamation of the Dioceses of Bradford, Wakefield and Ripon into what is now known as the Anglican Diocese of Leeds ~ and Sedbergh moved out from the Diocese of Bradford into the Diocese of Carlisle. More recently, the Sedbergh URC and Methodist Churches have kind of come together to form the ‘Cornerstone Community Church’, and together with the Anglican Churches in the area, they are now all part of the ‘Western Dales Mission Community’.

On the first Sunday of each month, including this past weekend, there is a combined service at 10:30 am, alternatively meeting in the Cornerstone Church (which is actually the old Methodist Church) and St. Andrew’s. Today, January 6, celebrating Epiphany, the service was held at Cornerstone, led by the lovely vicar, Rev. Andy McMullon – I preached the sermon and also presented Andy with an artillery shell cross from Taiwan.  The Church of England theme of ‘Following the Star’ this Christmas / Epiphany fitted in really well with my sermon on transformation!

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Running at the same time, and also once a month, is a café-church service at the Sedbergh People’s Hall, attracting those who prefer a more informal style of worship, including young families and teenagers.  This has been going for over 15 years, and originally grew out of a children’s holiday club, an outreach of what was the Sedbergh Methodist Church, now Cornerstone.  So immediately after I’d finished the sermon at Cornerstone, off I went to the People’s Hall for their service, arriving just in time to give the sermon.  What a great welcome they gave me!

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And then in the afternoon, at 2:30 pm we had an informal power point talk in St. Andrew’s Church…

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Since my previous CMS Link Church visit to Sedbergh in November 2014 (see that blog post here), the URC Church has sadly closed its church building in Sedbergh, but in the past, under their previous minister, Rev. Carole Marsden, there were close links with the Taiwan Presbyterian Church – part of a link with Cumbria URC.  At least one young person from Sedbergh has been on the youth exchange trip to Taiwan. Then in 2008 just before the last Lambeth Conference, our Anglican bishop of Taiwan, Bishop David J. H. Lai and his wife Lily, accompanied by Rev. Charles C. T. Chen and his wife, Maryjo spent several days visiting Sedbergh, and loved it ~ in fact, Charles described Sedbergh as ‘Paradise’ after his visit – though presumably the weather was kind to them, cos Sedbergh can be the windiest, coldest and bleakest place on earth at times!

Sedbergh’s Howgill Fells tower over the town; Wainwright described them as a ‘herd of sleeping elephants’ – this is them from the top looking down…

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Yesterday, Saturday, I arrived in Sedbergh in the morning with the intention of going up the Howgills ~ and fortunately the weather was kind, although on the ridge at the Calf, the biting wind forced me down a bit, and so I descended by Cautley Spout, quite a beautiful waterfall. Met plenty of sheep too….

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I stayed in Sedbergh with Margaret and Andy, and it was wonderful. Thank you! And I saw many of my old friends, none of whom seemed any older (I’ve just checked the photos on my blog post from November 2014, and it’s true!)  Especially pleased to meet long-time CMS mission supporter, Mary Gladstone, who celebrates her 93rd birthday on January 7 – she’s on the left in the photo below, taken with Christine.  Congratulations Mary!

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So Happy Epiphany to you all, and special thanks to all in Sedbergh for your warm welcome and ongoing support ~ and to all the sleeping elephants for their charm and splendid views. Ah yes, I love Sedbergh and the Howgill Fells ❤️❤️❤️!

Happy New Year 2019!

New Year’s Day in the Lake District ~ and the sun came out, all day long!  So did all the people. The secret is to get out early, while everyone is recovering from their New Year celebrations – or don’t drive too far and stay nearer home.  So this is a mix of photos taken yesterday morning at Coniston, and in the afternoon sun on Wansfell Pike with the fell ponies.  Enjoy!

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A wonderful start to 2019 ~ hope your New Year also got off to a sunny start, and long may it continue!

Farewell to 2018!

The end of 2018, and I’m here in the UK’s Lake District for Christmas and New Year, and looking at mountains and lakes and spectacular scenery. People pay thousands of £ € ¥ $ to come here on holiday, and, well, here I am, enjoying it all, courtesy of my family who live here. So far, the weather has been mostly grey, often foggy, sometimes frosty, but mainly mild. On Christmas Eve, we had a day of brilliant blue skies and sun, all day. The above photo is Ullswater on Christmas Eve. Pretty nice, eh?

And this is Jesus Church, Troutbeck over Christmas…

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In case you’re wondering, yes that big stained glass window is all in Pre-Raphaelite style, designed in 1873 by Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris who used to come up to Troutbeck for fishing. The window even has 4 trout depicted in 4 small separate windows. I know, cos I counted them this very morning. Love it or hate it, it’s kind of famous.

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I’ve been in the Lakes since I came back from a weekend in Anglesey (that’s it, above, with the mountains of the mainland in the background). What a beautiful island! I kind of like islands, and Anglesey is one special one. Google told me that 2 of the most famous places to visit on Anglesey are Menai Bridge and Beaumaris, so knowing the weather forecast for that weekend was going to be terrible, I went there on the Friday afternoon. Then off to visit a friend, and we spent a wet weekend putting up Christmas decorations and worshiping at her church at Llanfaelog. Wales can be wet, but wonderful!

And then there was my visit to the Wirral, en route to Anglesey. One of the highlights was a short visit to Port Sunlight, home of Sunlight Soap factory and a model village set up by the Lever brothers to house their workers in the 1880’s, and it’s really lovely. There’s even an art gallery and museum with an amazing collection of stuff. Definitely needs lots of time to see it all. Fascinating place.

My friends in the Wirral, Nigel and Linda, kindly took me for a delish Christmas lunch at the local college, cooked by students in the catering section. Here we are. Note the new Christmas jumper and my chubby cheeks – too many Christmas dinners ha ha ~ diet will commence on January 1!

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And before the Wirral, though it was some weeks ago now, I also visited Chester – it’s the same area, in fact the Wirral is in the Diocese of Chester. That was actually over Remembrance Sunday, and we went to the Chester City Remembrance events outside the cathedral…

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And then across the Peak District, to Buxton, where the Methodist Church has solar paneling in the shape of a cross. Imaginative or what?! And a whole lot of other beautiful buildings. Loved it all!

And I called in at Eyam, the plague village in the Peak District, really fascinating!

And so to Sheffield. This was the first time I think I had ever visited the Cathedral…

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Loved that stained glass artwork in the ceiling!

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Plenty of street art in Sheffield around the university area and the newly-renovated section of Parkhill Flats, home of Yasmin Khan from the new Doctor Who series – plus there’s even a green tardis, in the form of a police box in the centre of Sheffield. Impressed, I was. Sheffield could rapidly become one of my new favourite cities.

And somewhere on my travels, there was a Catherine Street. Always love a good name for a street! This one was in Chester.

This photo, below, is one of my favourite photos of 2018, taken here at Lake Windermere. It’s a black-headed gull in winter plumage with the moon reflected in the water. When people ask me what I miss about England when I’m in Taiwan, this is my answer. Seagulls. They are so much part of UK life everywhere I seem to go, and although Taiwan has a lot of sea, it doesn’t have many seagulls. In Taiwan we have egrets, but they’re just not the same. Seagulls can be a great nuisance, especially herring gulls. But when you don’t have any seagulls, it’s oh so quiet without them. They have a huge amount of character, make a whole lot of noise and bring a bit of excitement to the place. Appreciate them, dear people of Britain!

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So there you go for another year. Grateful to you all for all your support over 2018. Thanks be to God for another year of many blessings. And wishing you all a Happy New Year for 2019!

Advent Word 2018, Day 24 ‘Celebrate 慶祝’

#AdventWord #Celebrate #慶祝

「你可能認為,要忽略真正的好消息很難。」我的意思是,誰會錯過慶祝的機會?但是,我們卻錯過這個福音,12月25日的福音。
讓我們今年別錯過了。不論你怎麼看它,上帝來到這世上,不為別的,只為了愛。當你思考這件事時,你會知道,愛是好得無比的好消息,一個值得我們花時間來慶祝的好消息。

You would think that it would be hard to overlook really good news.  I mean, who would miss a chance to celebrate?  But, too often, we miss the good news, the real good news, of December 25.
But let’s not do that this year.  Because no matter how you look at it, God coming into the world for no other reason but love is, when you think about it, incredibly good news—news that is worth making the time to #Celebrate.

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St. Mary’s Church, Holy Island.  All around is darkness, but the church door is open, don’t miss it.  Don’t miss the chance to celebrate.  Don’t miss the real good news of December 25.

Today is Christmas Day, and the final post for Advent Word 2018 ~ hope you’ve enjoyed them.  Let’s celebrate ~ have a wonderful Christmas!

Advent Word 2018, Day 23 ‘Peace 平安’

#AdventWord #Peace #平安

如同復臨節的人們,我們要等候,慢下腳步,除去使我們分心的事物並且尋找上帝應允我們的平安,直到伯利恆統治者的再來。安靜並接納平安的禮物,愛的果實,它就在你的內心裡而不在你的作為裡。記住,耶穌是一切平安的來源。

As Advent people, we are to wait, slow down, free ourselves from distractions and search for the peace that God has promised us through the coming of the ruler from Bethlehem. Be still and allow the gift of peace, the fruit of love, to be found within your being rather than in your doing. Remember that Jesus is the source of all peace.

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A cross in the Holy Island churchyard against the wall of the priory ruins.

It’s Christmas Eve: wishing you all a peaceful and blessed Christmas!

Yes to God, Yes to Mission, Yes to Taiwan!