Really Rockin’ it @ St. Andrew’s, Haughton, Darlington, Co. Durham!


It’s true. Yes, some of the congregation told me that St. Andrew’s really rocks!


St. Andrew’s is Darlington’s oldest church, built around 1125, and is now linked up with Sadberge, another of my link churches. My previous visit to them was in February 2015 (see that blog post here). The vicar, Rev. Mark East has a really good lay leadership team, all busy doing things. So versatile and adaptable; everyone seems multi-talented! Stoker is a retired priest based at St. Andrew’s, and formerly the diocesan IT adviser – in so many churches it’s the younger people in charge of all things technical, but not here, at St. Andrew’s it seems that everyone, young and old, is really high-tech!


Sometimes the church also helps with training for theological students from Cranmer Hall, Durham. A few years ago, one such student was Jonathan Gillespie, now curate of Windermere in the Lake District – it was he who took my father’s funeral service last year, and did such a great job. Everyone loves him to bits! Sadly, St. Andrew’s has recently lost Jacki, their much-loved pianist and keyboard player, so the music group was supplemented by Mark on his guitar and John on his clarinet, plus others singing their hearts out. Rockin’ it, they certainly were!


St. Andrew’s is a busy bustling church, and this past weekend was a bumper weekend extraordinaire! A first for me ever was a Taiwanese evening on Saturday night where the congregation cooked their own Chinese food. Yes, really good REAL Chinese food. Cooked by the congregation. Not bought, but cooked. And it was great! We had all sorts of delicious dishes, and everyone enjoyed it all. They were encouraged to wear red and gold, and I got to share my power-point of Taiwan. Such a fun evening. I was delighted to welcome along Naomi, who was one of my former youth group in Heighington many years ago, and came dressed in her Chinese outfit – turned out she knew several others in the church too. Thanks to Muriel and Pam for all their hard work planning everything and making it all happen, it was amazing. Something to remember for decades to come!

I also met my good friends, Sue and Paul plus plenty more lovely church members who welcomed my so warmly. Helen and John welcomed me to stay in their home, and it was so good. Helen is a very creative and talented textile artist, and kindly gave me one of her stunning pictures to take to Taiwan – it’s inspired by the rain and mud of the Lake District!  Come to Taiwan if you want to see it on display!


On Sunday I gave my sermon at both morning services, 8:45 and 10:45 am; and then in the afternoon at 3:00 pm there was Tea and Praise with a Taiwan theme, held at the local home for the elderly, with a delicious tea afterwards. There were 4 of us with the name Catherine at that service lol! Helen and John hosted a dinner in the evening too. Soooo much delicious food, I won’t need to eat for another week. Food at St. Andrew’s means fellowship, friendship and fun, and there was certainly plenty of each.


A big big thank you to Mark and all at St. Andrew’s Church for all your support over the years, your prayers, letters, messages of encouragement, financial support for CMS, your warm welcome – and all that yummy food! Rockin’ it indeed.  Thanks be to God!

Advent Word 2018, Day 10 ‘Go 成長’

#AdventWord #Go #成長


In Advent, we pray for the grace to go and “prepare the way for our salvation . . . that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ.” What shall we wear when we to to greet him? Why, says Baruch, we should “put on the robe of the righteousness that comes from God.” So, put on that wonderful garment and go! Prepare the way! Go! Greet Jesus with joy! Go!


With the dissolution of the monasteries and the closure of Lindisfarne Priory in 1537, so the last of the monks left Holy Island.  Soon after, in the 1550’s, Lindisfarne Castle was built to protect the island against invasion from Scotland, but in 1603, England and Scotland were united under the rule of James I, and so its military importance diminished; the castle was finally demilitarized in 1819.  Fast forward to 1903, and Edward Hudson of Country Life magazine bought the castle, and with the help of the famous architect, Sir Edwin Lutyens, converted it into a very stylish holiday home. Today it is owned by the National Trust and open to the public. Saints, monks, soldiers, magazine owners, tourists and pilgrims, all have come and played a part in Holy Island’s rich history. Many have stayed a while, some their whole lives. Holy Island is a place to come to, and a place to go from.  Hopefully we all leave the richer for having been there.

Advent Word 2018, Day 9 ‘Cry 哭泣’

#AdventWord #Cry #哭泣


Advent is a season to turn our cry of fear to joy. A young Mary’s fear for the unknowns of motherhood.  Yet, we, like Mary, have favor with God and in all seasons of life, our Lord is with us to hear our cry.  The coming of the Christ child is soon… joyful tears as Mary first touches wisps of soft newborn hair and cries with love as he tenderly claims her breast.  Advent is the cry of fear turned to joy.


The Holy Island of Lindisfarne must have shed many tears over the centuries, cries of fear as the monks were forced the flee the island in 875 to escape attacks from the Vikings, and then again in 1537 when Henry VIII closed down the Benedictine Priory, which had been established in the 1120’s.  These days, Holy Island is a peaceful place, the ruins of the Benedictine Priory are well-maintained by English Heritage, and when the tides and weather are good, there are visitors and pilgrims galore.  Holy Island’s cries of fear have turned to joy.

Advent Word 2018, Day 8 ‘Wild 野地’

#AdventWord #Wild #野地


Across uninhabited and inhospitable spaces, the voice of love cries out. The proclamation of forgiveness sweeps across the uncultivated terrain of neglected hearts, making way for abundant life. In the abandoned places, God is. In the wilderness, God works. We await no one less than the savior of the world, full of strength and truth. We wait with joy: wild abandon; wild hope.


Teasel growing on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, with St. Cuthbert’s Isle in the background

Advent Word 2018, Day 7 ‘Alert 儆醒’

#AdventWord #Alert #儆醒


In Advent, we are all pregnant. Like Mary, we, too, have been wooed by God. And, moved by her courageous example, we also say, “be it unto me according to your word.” And having spoken those words, we observe with wonder the gestation happening within us, we live in expectation of the birth pangs. We must be patient, resilient, and stay alert, for it will happen in God’s time. We are all called to be God bearers and in this season we are being readied to give birth to the life, light, and love of God.


In 875, violent attacks by marauding Vikings forced the monks of Lindisfarne to flee for their lives, and their priory was abandoned.  In the 1120’s, monks from Durham Cathedral re-founded a Benedictine Priory on Holy Island, which flourished until 1537 when it was closed down by Henry VIII.  Not long after the dissolution of the priory, in the 1550’s, Lindisfarne Castle (see above photo) was built to protect the harbour against invasion from Scotland.  Over the centuries, the people of Holy Island have long been on alert against hostile attack, and also against the incoming tides which cut the island off from the mainland for six hours twice a day, and can leave travelers – and boats – stuck in the sands.  The old posts of the jetty stand out in the photo, remnants of Lindisfarne’s 19th century past, where ships would load the lime from the nearby lime kilns, to be taken to Dundee.

Scotland, ah Scotland!


And what a great wee country it is!  A bit bleak in places, and at this time of year, not always the best weather (read: don’t go to Scotland in winter!) but hey, the people are lovely and there’s plenty of tea, coffee, soup, hot water bottles, coal fires and thick duvets to keep out the winter cold and damp.


And so it is that I’ve just spent the last 12 days in Bonnie Scotland, in-between 2 weekends of church visits in Co. Durham, but with a free weekend in the middle.  So it’s fitted in really well.  But as I’m a fine-weather photographer, you’ll just have to imagine most of my trip, cos it didn’t half rain for the first few days!  Visited friends in Hawick, West Kilbride, Fife, Dundee, Perthshire and East Lothian, in that order, staying for 1-3 nights with each.  Loved it all!  Grateful thanks to all my friends for their hospitality – and all the teas, coffees, soup, hot water bottles, coal fires and thick duvets too.


Weather-wise, it improved as I went on.  A wet journey up the A68 to Hawick.  Knew I’d arrived in Scotland when I saw haggis lasagne on the menu, really good!  Cold and wet on the west coast.  Highlight there was the tea party for some of the West of Scotland CMS group ~ new friends and old gathered together.  Then I arrived in St. Andrews on St. Andrew’s Day, where admission to everything was free for that day only.  Especially interesting was the Royal and Ancient Golf Club.  Worth a visit!  And the Chariots of Fire beach was as beautiful as ever.  But then the rain started ~ and the rest was, well, very wet and cold!

Sadly no photos of Scotland’s most famous chain walk at Elie, which consists of 8 long chains going up and down the rocks and cliffs all round the beach, and only passable at low tide.  That was an experience.  Exhilarating.  Not for the faint-hearted.  So maybe it was good that it was late afternoon and the light was going, and it’d been drizzling for a few hours, so I couldn’t see too much.  Some of those rock faces are really scary.  Go with people who know the way, it makes a big difference on those rocks. But all in all, highly recommended!  Also went to church on Sunday at Upper Largo Church of Scotland where there must have been 70 in the congregation, and a very energetic retired minister taking the service.  Lots of friendly people to drink coffee with afterwards too.

Then there was Dundee, where the new V & A was also well worth a visit.  Stunning architecture.  Grateful that my friend had membership plus one, so I could also go in the liners exhibition free too. Loved it.

And so to Perthshire.  Cold.  Oh so cold.  But the frosty views in the sunshine were great.  Heavy frost 2 nights running, but the car started first time.  If you know my history with cars, you’ll know that cars rarely start first time.  Or any time.  And always break down, groan, groan 😉😉!  But on this trip, so far, so good.  This is the area around Glenshee.  Snow on the mountains.  Yes, yes yes!

And finally to East Lothian, where beach views and North Berwick Law were bracing and breezy.  Blown away by both the wind – and the views!

My furthest northernmost point on this whole UK trip was the Glenshee Ski slopes, not yet open, which are just into Aberdeenshire.  Cold and blustery, but beautiful.  Loved it.  From now on, it’s southwards all the way!


Thank you Scotland – and all friends in Scotland – enjoyed every minute, even the cold and damp.  Can’t wait to come back, and I haven’t even left yet!  Off to Darlington tomorrow, Saturday.  So, goodbye until we meet again, and thanks to you all!

Advent Word 2018, Day 6, ‘Sprout 發芽’

#AdventWord # Sprout #發芽


This is a time of expectancy, much like the moments of curiosity and wonder we experience while we anticipate the sprouting of seedlings, hoping that they will take root. We are called to faithfully sow seeds that will take root and sprout in the promised days that are surely coming. So be curious and watch for those sprouts of hope and be alert to the wonders that abound today. May your marvelment inspire you to keep on sowing.


One of Holy Island’s many dry stone walls.  The picture says it all.

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