Category Archives: UK

London Churches, Cathedrals and of Course, Celebrations!

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A great weekend in London!  Another great weekend in London, I should say.  My second in three weeks.  Loved it!  And it was hot and sunny, totally unexpected.  Just check out these photos, taken on Sunday, above is Westminster Abbey, and below is Trafalgar Square and St. Martin-in-the-Fields Church… 

This weekend was planned around the 80th birthday celebration (and book launch) of good friend and amazing hymnwriter, Rev. Christopher Idle, who has just published his third volume of collected hymns, this one called, ‘Trees Along The River’. The event was held at St. Mark’s Church, Kennington, near the Oval.  Wonderful to see so many old friends, including some I knew long ago in Tanzania and haven’t seen since.  And some I once met in Taizé and haven’t seen for several years.  Anyway, this is Christopher and his oldest son, Tim and youngest grandson.  Such a lovely family.  The cake was incredible too, reflecting Christopher’s love of hymns, Arsenal and cricket at the Oval.  Many congratulations to him! 

The following day was a Sunday off.  A Sunday off in London.  Wow!  What an opportunity!  I wanted to visit the biggest churches I could find. Not the biggest church buildings, but the largest congregations. So I found myself at 11:00 am at Hillsong, which meets in the Dominian Theatre in central London, and seats over 2,000; it was totally full! 

In the evening I went to the service at 7:00 pm at Holy Trinity, Brompton, famous for its Alpha Courses.  Loved it!  But there was a notice saying not to take photos.  And it was dark. So I took heed, and had a break from photos… 🤔🤔 (that’s me, deep in thought!)

And in-between those 2 services? Well, I arranged to meet up with 3 very lovely Taiwan students who I know from Taiwan, and who have all just arrived in London to study. One is studying MA in Art & Christianity at King’s College, another is studying fashion and the other design, all at famous London universities.  They didn’t know each other directly, but for 2 of them, their parents are colleagues from St. John’s University, Taiwan. Of those, one is a member of Dazhi Presbyterian Church, Taipei, one is a member of Good Shepherd Church, Taipei, and the third is a member at St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei.

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We found ourselves joining the 54th anniversary celebrations of the St. Martin-in-the-Fields Chinese congregation 聖馬田中文堂  led by Rev. Paul Lau (with us in the photo below).  We were very warmly welcomed by the church leaders, and after the service, we enjoyed the most delicious Chinese food at a celebration meal in a room downstairs.  So moving, cos we hadn’t realized it was to be a special anniversary service, and with a wonderful meal provided too!

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And afterwards, it was so sunny outside that we walked outside to see the church (see top photos), and then on around London.  How can you NOT walk around London on such a beautiful September Sunday afternoon?

And my final church of the weekend to show you – though it was actually the first one I visited on Friday afternoon en route to elsewhere. It’s a former Anglican Church now converted to be St. Andrew’s Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Kentish Town. This is it!  So ordinary outside, but oh so stunning inside!  Do go and visit! 

And the last amazing place I went to, not a church nor a cathedral, and I was only there a few minutes, was the British Museum. This is the view inside.

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Check out the Tennyson quote on the bottom right of the above photo… this is it:

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And in fact this is where most people (well, tourists anyway) were going on Sunday morning, not to all the churches, but to the British Museum. The entrance was completely packed out!

So thanks be to God for a great weekend in London!  Almost churched-out (!), but not quite.  Really enjoyed the variety of worship and all the different buildings and people.  And many thanks to all the kind friends who welcomed me for meals and coffee and cake and more.  Much appreciated.

Now saying goodbye to the great capital and heading off to East Anglia tomorrow.  In fact off to visit the very place where my family and Christopher Idle’s family knew each other 20+ years ago. Neighbouring parishes in sunny Suffolk. So, guys, just watch this space, and thanks for your prayers!

London’s Street Art @ Shoreditch: Must Go!

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The best place in London to see street art in abundance is the Shoreditch area, and wherever you go, there’s tons of murals, paintings and graffiti of every kind ~ some of it very famous, like the 2 original ones above by Banksy.  Just walk around and there’s so much to see, you end up walking miles and miles.  New stuff is coming up all the time.  So check it out, often.  I love it!  This was my street art walk last Friday in the area….

I love the way these 2 almost interact….

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And some more, including the community garden on Brick Lane….

So, get yourself to Shoreditch and, well, just enjoy wandering around!

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Mountains and More @ The Lake District!

So here I am, in the Lake District for a week visiting family – and friends – and based at Troutbeck.  It’s deep in the Lake District.  Of course, the Lake District is famous for mountains, lakes, steamboats, views, daffodils, poets, slate mines, sheep – and tourists.  Seen them all, well, except daffodils, and maybe poets.  The Lake District is contained entirely in Cumbria, and Cumbria is so famous for its mountains that people forget about the coast, but it’s beautiful, especially on a sunny day…  This is it!

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THE Lake District place for coffee is to bring your own and sit on the seat overlooking Tarn Hows ~ with views of the Langdale Pikes…

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And Coniston Old Man and Wetherlam…

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THE place for lunch is the Bluebird Cafe on Coniston Water, where you can watch the steamboats

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Other highlights ~ a wonderful trip to St. Bees, on the west coast of Cumbria, with views over to the Isle of Man.  Two of my Taiwan friends came to St. Bees to start the 309 km (192 miles) Coast to Coast Walk, so we went over to meet them for the day of their arrival. Drove a whole circuit of the Lake District, took the northern route over via Keswick and came back by the southern route via Sellafield and Newby Bridge.  Quite a trip, very spectacular.  St. Bees beach (see top 2 photos) is the official start of the Coast to Coast Walk….

We ended up at the St. Bees Priory drop-in coffee morning, where we met lots of lovely local people who entertained us with tales of the St. Bees Man (fascinating stuff – but gruesome, especially over coffee and cake!).  Also met a lady who had learned all about the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan (Formosa) when she was a child in the then-Presbyterian Church (now URC) just up the road in Whitehaven.   Ah, it’s a small world!

The west coast of Cumbria is really very remote, but in the 19th century, it was very famous for its theological college, there being only 3 at the time: Oxford, Cambridge and, yes, St. Bees…

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St. Bees Priory is the huge sandstone church with an impressive main entrance…

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And inside pretty impressive too…

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Where else? Well, apart from visiting lots of lovely friends, I did give the sermon during the Sunday service at Jesus Church, Troutbeck on Sunday morning, and a talk about Taiwan on Tuesday afternoon more locally… thanks to everyone for their warm welcome!

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And I mustn’t forget the local pub, the ‘Mortal Man’…

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And now? Preparing to set off down south tomorrow. But do spare a thought for my Taiwan friends on their Coast to Coast Walk over the next 2 weeks.  The weather has been very unsettled so far, with rain and sun and cloud and wind in equal amounts ~ so wish them well!

From Taiwan to London ~ with love!

This was really quite some weekend!

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What you need to know (according to Wikipedia): Lambeth Palace, London is the official London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury in England.  And the Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bishop and principal leader of the Church of England, the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion and the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of Canterbury…

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And this past weekend was my first time for both.  My first ever visit to Lambeth Palace, AND my first time to meet the Archbishop of Canterbury.  YES!

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This year, Taiwan is marking the 60th anniversary of the 823 Artillery Shell Bombardment of Kinmen, and on Monday I was honoured to present an artillery shell cross on behalf of the Bishop of Taiwan, David J. H. Lai, to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, during a lunchtime Eucharist in the chapel at Lambeth Palace. It was a really wonderful occasion, and Archbishop Justin and his staff made me feel really welcome.  Later that day, the archbishop wrote in his Facebook post, ‘The cross shows us the transformation of hatred into love. Today I was given a special gift by the Diocese of Taiwan – a cross made from artillery shells. Made as part of the diocese’s peacemaking ministry, these crosses show us that the love of Jesus turns hate into love, and war into peace. Thank you Catherine Lee for presenting this cross on behalf of the Bishop of Taiwan, David Lai.’

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This is the artillery shell cross on the Lambeth Palace chapel altar after the service…

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I also had a short tour of some of the other rooms, the crypt chapel, and the state drawing room. Many of these rooms were badly damaged during World War II, so extensive restoration work had to take place after the war. Fascinating place to visit!

The chapel has an amazing ceiling, ‘From Darkness to Light’ (Leonard Henry Rosoman, 1988)…

Before the service at the chapel, Archbishop Justin introduced me as working for Church Mission Society (CMS).  In fact, the Archbishop of Canterbury is the patron of CMS.  During the service, we prayed for our CMS executive leader, Philip Mounstephen, who has just been appointed as the next Bishop of Truro, Cornwall, and for the CMS trustees as they start the search for a new leader.  Archbishop Justin also mentioned that before I worked in Taiwan, I had been in Mwanza and Dodoma in Tanzania, places he knows well.  Ah, yes, I was just so happy to hear the Archbishop of Canterbury mention Mwanza and Dodoma!

Y’know, many of my closest friendships date from my years in Tanzania, and I’ve spent this weekend in London catching up with some of them, including Tim and Sarah and their family ~ and I’m grateful to them for their generous hospitality this weekend.  They are long-time members of Brandon Baptist Church, Camberwell, S. London….

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The minister of Brandon, Steve, kindly invited me to speak at their church on Sunday morning – and I showed the congregation the artillery shell cross that I was about to present to the Archbishop of Canterbury the following day.  Steve followed up my sermon by sharing how this artillery shell cross and its message, of hatred transformed into peace, is so relevant for their local community, struggling with unprecedented levels of knife crime and violence.  And many of the prayers of the congregation during the service were also related to their desire for peace on the streets of London. The words written on the wooden artillery shell cross stand say in English and Chinese, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Matthew 5:9.  Yes, indeed.

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The Brandon Baptist Church congregation were so lovely, and those originally from Nigeria, Ghana and Jamaica in particular were wearing the most amazing variety of stunning outfits. Had to take some photos. Loved them all!

After the service, Tim and Sarah took us on a wonderful outing and picnic to the Horniman Museum, in Forest Hill, where we had a very lively and colourful carnival to entertain us as we ate…

The museum is really incredible. There is THE very huge and very famous walrus in the centre, and all around are a real mix of interesting things from all over the world. Highly recommended. And it’s not often that I recommend museums, or even go in them to find out. So make sure you go. Just make sure you don’t touch the walrus or sit on that iceberg! 🤣🤣🤣

The walrus even appears on the street art sign (by Lionel Stanhope) of Forest Hill under the railway bridge, he’s a local celebrity!

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Actually my London weekend got off to a really lively, exciting and fun start, when I had the chance to meet up with Eshita and her parents, who I knew from Isamilo Primary School, Mwanza.  She was one of my pupils there when she was, well, just 5-6 years old! Y’know, not everyone feels really comfortable meeting up with their former primary school teachers, but Eshita is completely delightful and I am honoured that she arranged to meet me, at a delicious S. Indian restaurant (Sagar in Hammersmith).   It was the first time I’ve seen her parents since I was in Mwanza, so we had much to catch up on.  Thank you Eshita!

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Also visited a few more friends over the weekend, and the rest of the time, I spent walking round London. And on the underground. And on the bus. Seeing all the sights. Catching up after 3 years away. Seeing what’s new. And what’s not. Loved it all!

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So, here goes.  I went to Southwark Cathedral. There was only one other person in there, a lady taking photos of the cathedral cat. The cathedral is free to go in. Make the most of it, guys, this is a cathedral, and what’s more, it’s FREE!

And across the Millennium Bridge….

To St. Paul’s Cathedral, where the Bishop of London was in the middle of rededicating the cathedral bells…

Along by the river…

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Past the Globe Theatre…

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The Houses of Parliament, under restoration and renovation…

The London Eye…

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Westminster Abbey..

Methodist Central Hall (good coffee shop in the basement)…

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Around Buckingham Palace…

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St. James’ Park…

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Kensington Palace…

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The Round Pond and Hyde Park – swans and geese everywhere!

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The Albert Memorial and Royal Albert Hall…

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Christo’s beautiful art installation in Hyde Park, called ‘The Mastaba’, and made out of over 7,000 oil drums…

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And more art at Carrie Riechardt’s mosaic house out at Chiswick, ‘The Treatment Rooms’…

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Piccadilly, St. James’ Church and Piccadilly Circus….

And not forgetting Trafalgar Square, and St. Martin-in-the-Fields….

And finally on Monday afternoon, the last place to visit was my most favouritest shop in all of London, Stanfords in Long Acre, near Leicester Square where they sell maps of every kind and every place and every style. Go there if you want to travel. Go there even if you don’t want to travel, and maybe you’ll get inspired. Could have spent a fortune, but restrained myself.  Had tea instead, lol.  Ah, I love that shop!

‘When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life’, so said Samuel Johnson in 1777 and it’s been true ever since. And for women too, of course. Tired of London? Ain’t gonna happen, I’m sure of that. As long as you have legs that carry you, you can walk around that great city seeing everything. And on a sunny September weekend, with blue skies, friends and fellowship to enjoy, what more can London do to make us smile?  Thank you London, and all my friends in London, you’ve done it again!  YES!

Greenbelt 2018 ‘Acts of the Imagination’

‘Seeds of creative imagination will grow forests of change’…

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Just been to my first ever Greenbelt Festival YES! It’s only been going since 1974, so it’s taken me a bit of time to get there. But having got there, y’know what, it’s a grand place to be. And especially because of the fact (not despite of!) I’d only been back in the country for 3 days. Should you find yourself living elsewhere in the world for long periods of time – and then on return, want an in-depth but all-expansive, see-everything, do-everything, learn-everything kind of immersive experience of the best that the UK church has to offer, then Greenbelt is THE place to go.

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Greenbelt describes itself as ‘a festival of arts, faith and justice. The best you’ve never heard of’. That’s kind of it. All those famous people (who I’d never heard of anyway) were all there. Doing their stuff, doing what they do best, whether it was a rock band, performance art, leading worship or a seminar or cooking, they were all there, and we all had a chance to learn from them, to see and to do.

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Greenbelt says ‘Our history is firmly rooted within a Christian tradition which is world-affirming, politically and culturally engaged. Ours is a belief that embraces instead of excludes. And, as such, the festival is an inter-generational celebration, inclusive and accepting of all, regardless of ethnicity, gender, sexuality, background or belief.’

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Which really means that everyone is welcomed. And it all takes place over the August Bank Holiday weekend every year, and since 2013, has been held in the grounds of Boughton House, Kettering, Northants. That in itself is relevant. Only a few miles up the road is Corby, one of the many places I lived as a child. In those days, Corby was full of vast new housing estates, and from there, we rode our bikes into the local countryside, all around Boughton House, to and through all the neigbouring villages. But of course, we never went into Boughton House or even into the grounds. And so here I was, now, all these years later in 2018, camping in the very grounds of Boughton House. Whoopee!

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Yes, I admit it, Greenbelt is a bit of a culture shock. But of the pleasant kind. Mainly cos it’s so big and there’s so many people in such a huge area, that you can be as involved or as uninvolved as you like. You can go to everything or nothing. And you can see, learn and do as much as you like.

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A little rewind to last week, and I had left Kota Kinabalu, E. Malaysia very early on Monday August 20, heading for London. It was to be a long long long day that turned into night when the flight from Kuala Lumpur was delayed 2 hours, which meant missed connections. So after a night in a hotel in Dubai, finally I got to London on Tuesday afternoon. Collected a car on Thursday (very nice silver VW Polo) and set off for Greenbelt on Friday. Fortunately Greenbelt offer (via Camplight) packages for hire of a recycled tent, sleeping bag, mat and chair. So there I was all set up. This is my green tent in the foreground and the view from it. And very comfortable I was too!

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And the highlights of Greenbelt?

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On Friday, I went to see Carol Ann Duffy, the poet laureate. Amazing.

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On Saturday, I went to see Pussy Riot as they shared about their vision, motivation, their protests, time in prison – and answered questions. Really interesting. Learned a whole lot. Also saw the second half of their performance, ‘Riot Days’ on the Sunday afternoon.

On Sunday, there was the big Communion Service, taking the theme of ‘Windrush and Carnival’, remembering, praying and celebrating the 70th anniversary of the arrival in the UK from the Caribbean of the ‘Windrush Generation’. By mid-morning it was pouring with rain, and continued all day. I was there, in all my rain-gear and umbrella, sitting outside in the pouring rain along with everyone else. Every festival needs some rain. Not too much, but some. It adds to the atmosphere. And rain, of course means mud. Loved it!

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On Sunday afternoon, went to listen to Rev. Winnie Varghese sharing about the Episcopal Church and #metoo. Very relevant.

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On Sunday evening, there was a USPG Solidarity Prayer Vigil with the Igorot peoples from the northern Philippines, via London. They started with dancing…

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And on Monday, I went to see Jo Berry and Pat Magee sharing their incredibly moving story of how they became friends through the most terrible of events. Jo Berry’s father was MP, Anthony Berry, who was killed in the IRA Brighton Bombing in 1984, and Pat Magee was the man who planted the bomb. These days they work together to promote peace and understanding in areas of conflict. Unbelievably humbling.

And then I went to visit Boughton House. One of 4 stately homes belonging to the Duke of Buccleuch, it’s famous for its amazing art collections, beautiful gardens and cos it looks like Versailles. But, in the context of the 70th anniversary of Windrush, it is impossible to ignore the role of Britain in the slave trade, and even of Boughton House, and many other stately homes. Money flowed from their plantations in St. Lucia, presumably funding their extravagant lifestyle, art purchases, and house and garden renovations. Slaves from the Caribbean were brought to work in the house, a source of great pride at the time for the owners, symbolizing their own high status and great wealth. And here was Greenbelt in the midst of all that history. And yet, if you had to choose another venue, it’d be impossible to choose one that didn’t have similar associations. During World War II, the British Museum sent many of their treasures for safekeeping in Boughton House, the army took over the grounds, the US air force were stationed nearby, and by the end of the war there were 2,000 German POW soldiers living there too.

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Other highlights of Greenbelt were the discussions, seminars, workshops, concerts and art installations. Something for everyone…

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Christian Aid deserves a special mention for providing really yummy meals, asking only for a donation, and USPG provided lots of mission-minded activities.

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Meeting old friends was also a highlight. Especially grateful to Tim and his family who gave me delish Sunday breakfast and Phil who took me for Sunday lunch. Also Colin, Chuli, Michael and their families. And I mustn’t forget Church Mission Society, CMS, who had a stand, the CMS Mission Mystery House, which 4 of my CMS friends took care of all day long. They smiled non-stop all day, talked to everyone and still looked happy when I left on Monday lunchtime. These are the before and after photos, taken on Friday night and Monday lunchtime.  Still smiling.  Respect!

So if you get a chance to go to Greenbelt, then do go! Definitely worth it. A big thank you to all those who made it possible. And to those of my friends who were there, but who I only found out were there when I saw their photos on Facebook after they’d left, sorry we never met up. But then, what a lot we’ll have to talk about if and when we do meet up in the coming months!

Greenbelt was an oasis in the midst of daily life. Now back to reality. Been to East Grinstead, Rochester and now Deal, Kent. Listening to people sharing their stories of good things that have happened, and of course what’s gone wrong in the UK since I was last here (just don’t mention Southern Rail!), and what’s in fashion, and what’s out. Learning a lot!

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Thanks be to God for his many blessings and his provision.

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Onward and outward we go!

Reblog: My CMS Link Visit to St. Thomas Church, Batley, W. Yorkshire

RIP Jo Cox, MP for Batley and Spen, tragically killed yesterday in a vicious act of violence. St. Thomas Church, Batley is one of my beloved CMS Link Churches, full of great people, the salt of the earth. When I last visited Batley in April 2015 it was in the midst of the election campaign in which Jo Cox won the seat for Batley and Spen. Praying for her family, friends, and the whole community of Batley at this sad time.

This is my blog post from that visit to St. Thomas Church, originally posted on April 13, 2015….

https://catherinelee234.wordpress.com/2015/04/13/cms-link-visit-to-st-thomas-church-batley-w-yorkshire/

From Tyneside with love….

And the Christmas cards are still arriving (thank you everyone!) ~ the latest one to arrive today clearly had the post office people here completely baffled.  Beautiful classical style of handwriting but if you’re not familiar with this style, it’s true, it could be a bit difficult to read.  It’s been stamped as saying that the address is unknown, but someone else has clearly worked it out and written on the envelope in pencil….

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All the way from sunny Tyneside too ~ and maybe I’ll keep it for next year!