Remembrance Sunday – Are we in danger of forgetting?

Later this month we will be observing Remembrance Sunday, the annual occasion when we as a nation can come together to mark and remember with gratitude all those who gave their lives serving their country throughout two world wars and other conflicts. This simple act of remembrance is supposed to encourage us to strive for peace as we appreciate the incredible cost of war and the damage that it does to all concerned. Yet it seems as if the world in which we live is more fragile than ever, not only in terms of the environment marked by the COP26 climate conference, but by the volatile nature of world relations. Although we may have got used to the almost routine launching of missiles by North Korea over the seas of South Korea, the world was shocked by the belief that China had launched a hypersonic missile that flew around the world at five times the speed of sound. Senator Lindsey Graham said, “If in fact, the Chinese have developed a hypersonic missile that can deliver a nuclear weapon, it’s a military game-changer when it comes to nuclear forces – God help us all”.  “We have no idea how they did this,” another US intelligence official is quoted as saying. Despite the fact that the Chinese may simply be developing their space technology and that respective nations are still seeking investment and wishing ‘to do business’ with China, the International Institute for Strategic Studies has concluded that its global ambitions are clear, for in terms of tonnage, China has launched more submarines and warships than any other nation, equivalent to the entire Royal Navy every four years.

And yet, as recent events in Afghanistan remind us, military take overs by dictatorial regimes do not always lead to greater freedoms, security, prosperity or peace. We seem to be in danger of forgetting ourselves and the terrible cost of war and hostility. Surely, the heart of the problem is the problem of the human heart! – especially when people, countries and nations seek to manipulate, gain control and take advantage of those around them. The Christian will be mindful of the words of Jesus, who reminded the crowds that “out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, .. theft, murder, .. greed, .. arrogance and folly” (Mark 9.21-22). The recent death of Sir David Amess was a tragedy, but his family were absolutely right when they called for a change of heart. “Our hearts are shattered,” they said. “We ask people to set aside their differences and show kindness and love to all”. Jesus had said something similar when he had commanded his disciples “to love each other as I have loved you” (John 15.9). Loving like this requires a real change of heart, mind and perspective; one that does not seek to simply better oneself, but puts the other person first so that collectively we might all live better lives of freedom, love, joy and peace. These are the goals, values and ambitions that we should strive for and those that previous generations fought so hard to protect at great cost. So let us all take a moment to come together this Remembrance Sunday – ‘lest we forget’.  

  

Be careful … that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Deuteronomy 4.9

Afghanistan – A Story of Broken Hopes, Promises and Dreams

British Forces on the way to Kabul

As I write this letter the Afghan city of Kabul has fallen; there are chaotic scenes at Kabul airport, as both US and UK governments desperately fly in to rescue and retrieve their respective citizens and those Afghans who have worked with them. Despite billions of pounds and dollars being spent on building up the Afghan army (and numerous lives lost), the whole thing has collapsed like ‘a pack of cards’ and Western governments have been left reeling at the speed at which the Taliban have conquered the country. The Taliban spokesman, Suhail Shaheen, called the BBC’s Yalda Hakim live on air to “assure the people of Afghanistan, particularly in the city of Kabul, that their properties, their lives are safe – there will be no revenge on anyone”. This was of little comfort to the people on the ground who were clinging to the sides of aircraft in order to escape. Neither did it sit well with simultaneous reports received by the United Nations Security Council of mass killings and mounting human rights violations against women.

Twenty years ago, following the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, things had been very different. The anti-Taliban forces of Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance with the backing of the US and other Western nations had pushed the Taliban out of Kabul and were gaining the upper hand over Osama Bin Laden and his al-Qaeda movement. With this advance came political and social progress; businesses were allowed to prosper and flourish; girls and young women were able to study by going to school and university; and democratic processes became a part of electing governments. None of these things were perfect, but they were like a breath of fresh air to those who experienced them. Unfortunately, President Trump’s desire to ‘bring troops home’ and have a foreign policy success which would appeal to voters at home, has led him and his successor President Biden to make decisions that are disastrous for Afghanistan and arguably for western nations as well. The Bible encourages Christians to be as ‘wise as serpents and as innocent as doves’ when living amongst wolves (Matthew 10.16). Unfortunately, not a lot of wisdom was shown here, as we were really ‘blind as a bat’ in this case, only seeing what we wanted to see rather than what was the potential reality. This is a dark day for US/UK foreign policy as our credibility is shot to pieces; we can only hope that we have learnt our lessons.

However, there may still be a glimmer of hope, that God will work in the hearts and lives of all those who have experienced a better way of life and freedom, that one day they will encourage their society to turn their back on all the things which harm, impede, pull down and destroy and reach out for something better. Let’s pray that this may be so.                

Our Churches are Open – And You’re Invited!

All Saints Necton

I’m delighted to be able to say that our churches will be open from the first Sunday in May (2nd) and you are all warmly invited. It can be difficult to explain to people who don’t come to church why those of us who do find it so immensely valuable and rewarding – after all it’s not a perfect institution and neither are we, the people who attend, and yet despite its weaknesses and imperfections it provides us all with a sense of common faith and community which can be very warm, very uplifting, very engaging and supportive, even in the most difficult and darkest of times.

St Andrew’s Holme Hale

The church of course is a ‘religious institution’ but it is also so much more than this – it is a family, a fellowship and a community of faith built around the concept that we are all children of a loving God, who despite our failings demonstrates his loving concern through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Perhaps these ‘religious phrases’ are a mystery to those who have no concept of them or don’t really understand their significance, but faith comes from hearing, which leads to understanding – maybe not all at once, but over a period of time, perhaps by hearing a bible passage being read, a sermon being proclaimed, a prayer being uttered, a song being sung, a liturgical phrase being said, a conversation with a Christian friend or a quiet moment of contemplation. In our busy, modern, chaotic world, many people just don’t give themselves this opportunity when in fact, it may be the very thing that helps to lift and sustain them.

St Andrew’s North Pickenham

During the past year, the coronavirus has had a huge impact upon us, and many folk have either lost loved ones, or experienced a change in their circumstances. Thankfully, as we come out of lockdown it looks like things may be getting back to normal, but what sort of normal do we want? Today is a perfect moment for us to think, reflect and reset our lives, and who knows? Maybe a visit to church will help you to do that!

During the past year, many of us have benefitted from our online services and prayer meetings, but they are no substitute for the loving fellowship that we experience when we come together, and we would be delighted if you would join us!

(But please bring a mask!)


The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song. Psalm 28.7


Easter – A New Day Dawning!


There is no doubt that this past year has been a very difficult time for us all, and for those who have sadly lost loved ones it will be a year which they will never forget. Although no one would pretend that the government has got everything right when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic, it’s roll out of the vaccination program with nearly 25 million people receiving their 1st dose of the vaccine as I write this letter, has been well received and applauded. This wonderful progress gives us all a sense of hope, that there is indeed ‘light at the end of tunnel’ and that hopefully one day soon our lives will be more like normal. Which is why the suspension of the AstraZeneca vaccine in at least 13 countries across Europe seems strange. Fears that the vaccine may cause blood clots has prompted the EU to follow ‘the cautious principle’ and restricts its distribution until they are confident that it is safe to do so, despite the fact that both the World Health Organisation and indeed Europe’s own European Medicines Agency has consistently said that there is no evidence that the AstraZenica vaccine is unsafe, and with only 40 suspected cases of blood clotting being reported out of a distribution pool of 17 million, the rate is less than that you might expect to find in the population generally. With many scientists feeling baffled as this development, the general conclusion is that this move is more politically motivated than data driven.

But of course, any delay in vaccine distribution has the potential to sadly cause more suffering and death.  

However, this sense of jumping to a conclusion without due consideration of the evidence is precisely how many people behave when it comes to thinking about Easter. They like the trappings of being with family and friends (in normal times) as we move into Spring and the Easter holidays, complete with chocolate treats and Easter eggs, but they don’t give any more serious thought to the significance of Easter than they do the ‘Easter bunny’!  But this is a shame, because, if they were to really consider the Easter story, and contemplate the significance of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, They would discover that not only is there a compelling case for Jesus to be the Son of God and the Saviour of the World, where the ‘facts’ speak for themselves, but the debate is much more significant, lively and robust that they would imagine. In fact, it’s life changing and life-giving! For you see, at the heart of the Christian gospel is the ‘Easter story’ which brings light into the darkness, life over death, and hope where there is despair. For many it would seem ludicrous to pass over the hope of a life-giving vaccine simply because one had been failed to give due weight to the evidence or come to it with some form of unfounded prejudice. It’s my hope that you won’t treat the Gospel story with the same distain, but allow a new day to dawn in your heart as you consider the evidence, ask all the right questions and come to it fresh and with an open mind.   

May I take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy Easter.


Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. John 20.8

Will the Church Survive the Coronavirus Challenge?

The challenges of the past year have indeed been heavy and obvious – apart from the terrible loss of life caused by the coronavirus and the pain felt by grief-stricken families, we are all aware of the immense stresses and strains that have been placed upon other sectors of society, ranging from the NHS and schools, and through to the economy. But recently people’s thoughts and attention were directed by various news articles and items to the state of ‘the church’. This is because the church, like the rest of society, was strongly encouraged to ‘stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.’ With a natural concern for their communities and indeed their congregations, many of whom are elderly and vulnerable, the church wanted to do the right thing and protect its members. Unfortunately, this meant that the public ‘face’ of the church was strongly curtailed, as many churches felt obliged to close their churches for public worship, and numbers for weddings and funerals were heavily restricted. In many ways this posed a serious challenge, as many usual church activities, home, fellowship & prayer groups, lunch clubs and school activities came to a halt, and along with it all the usual fund-raising activities. However, surprisingly, for churches here within the Necton Benefice, we have managed to provide a pre-recorded online service every week since last March which has been very well received, with folk who aren’t online able to request a DVD or audio CD. Parochial Church Council meetings have continued via Zoom, and most wonderfully people have continued to meet, support and pray with and for each other and their communities weekly by Zoom since last March, which has been a great source of fellowship and encouragement.  However, churches across the benefice have seen a drop in their financial income because of the pandemic, and this is true both at diocesan and national levels as well, leading to press speculation that the church is in decline and will find it hard to survive post pandemic. When articles such as the one that appeared in the Church Times (4th December 2020) report that Chelmsford Diocese had formally proposed to cut 61 stipendiary clergy post by the end of this year, it is clear that the national Church is having to ask itself some difficult questions, prompting The Spectator (6th February 2021) to ask whether the Church of England would become a ‘Holy Relic’ post-pandemic.  This led to a spirited response by both the Archbishops of Canterbury and York (Justin Welby and Stephen Cottrell) in the next issue, who whilst acknowledging the financial difficulties of the current situation, rightly reminded the reader how its priests have buried the dead, comforted the bereaved and both prayerfully and pastorally supported families throughout this pandemic. Yes, the times are changing, and no doubt the parochial system as we have known it will have to change too, and some stipendiary posts will be lost, but the church is not dead, nor dying. There have been more people turning to God and finding faith in Jesus Christ than ever before. “This year, we have seen the biggest rise in ordained and lay vocations for a quarter of a century,” the Archbishops said – which of course neatly reminds us of the church’s greatest asset and ‘not so secret weapon’ which is of course it’s laity. The church is not a building or even a collection of buildings – it’s people, a people who together do not simply put their faith in mere structures or some lauded institution, but in God and his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.    

So, will the church survive the coronavirus challenge? Yes, of course by the grace of God and with your help!

“I long to see you … so that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.” Romans 1.11-12


“Are We Nearly There Yet?”

I’m sure we are all familiar with the concept of the plaintive cry of a small child on a long car journey who cries out – “are we nearly there yet?”, usually when going on holiday or travelling a great distance across the country. Well, this week we heard plenty of other distressed ‘holiday cries’ as people discovered that the government was imposing a 14 day quarantine period upon all travellers and holiday makers returning from Spain who it feared might be harbouring the coronavirus. Not only did the suddenness of the announcement take holiday makers by surprise, but holiday companies, travel firms and airlines were all equally caught out and swiftly started to complain that the government was being too heavy handed and extreme in its response which they thought unreasonable. Naturally, the Spanish authorities were indignant that they had been singled out in this way, and upset about the effect that this restriction would have upon their tourist industry and economy, arguing that many of their choice tourist locations were better protected and managed than their equivalents in the UK. But within a few days and with the number of Covid-19 infections rising in Germany, France and Belgium, it became clear that the government’s concern was far wider, fearing that a ‘second wave’ of the pandemic might be looming and swiftly sweep across Europe towards the UK.      

Apart from the obvious imperative of the government to protect its citizens, this episode demonstrated the sombre truth that despite the relaxing of lockdown restrictions and greater public freedoms, the virus had not gone away, and these latest measures politically symbolised the government’s resolve and willingness to act. Indeed, despite huge progress being made in terms of testing and the development of a vaccine, it was abundantly clear that as far as this particular journey was concerned, we weren’t ‘nearly there yet’; in fact we would still have to keep travelling and working together for some considerable time if we were ever going to reach our final goal and long held desire and ambition of a virus free future. This was a point made by Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director General of the World Health Organisation who despite telling the World’s media that the pandemic was accelerating (16 million cases of coronavirus had been reported to the WHO), still insisted that “We are not prisoners of the pandemic. Every single one of us can make a difference. The future is in our hands.”  If we are going to achieve our goal then we need to work together.

St Paul reminded the early church at Philippi that if they wanted to successfully overcome the trials and tribulations that came their way, then they needed to become more like Christ in both their attitude and outlook, for Christ had not avoided suffering but pushed his way through it in order to win the greater prize of eternal life and the forgiveness of sins for all those who put their faith and trust in him. It was Paul’s ambition to become more like him, thinking about and loving and caring for the world in the same way that Christ did. Now of course, nobody wants to suffer or likes it, but it is the manner in which we face it and lovingly support one another through it that makes all the difference and will ultimately help us overcome the trial before us and reach our destination.       

Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4.13-14


Patience Is A Virtue – Even In ‘Lockdown’

200501-coronavirus-research

Every Thursday evening my family and I, like many others, have stood outside our house clapping our hands, applauding the sterling work of the NHS whose doctors and nurses have been battling on the ‘front line’, looking after and caring for sick coronavirus patients. But over the weeks our appreciation has grown as we have become more aware (and thoughtful) of all those who are playing such a massive part at this difficult time, not just the doctors and nurses but all employees of the NHS; alongside care workers in care homes (the new and perhaps previously forgotten front line?); ‘key workers’ in so many various and different fields (supermarkets, schools, and utilities) and not forgetting the increasingly significant part played by funeral directors, whose own personal ‘risk’ is not inconsequential.

The panic buying of the first few weeks has been largely forgotten by the many acts of kindness that we have seen by members of the public as they look after and support one another, especially the vulnerable, at this difficult time. We have seen real acts of courage, bravery and sacrifice undertaken by those whose professionalism and dedication to public duty and care has put themselves at risk in the service of others. We remember especially all those doctors, nurses and care workers who have died, largely and inexplicably from the BAME community. All this has been coupled with massive acts of generosity as people have rallied to support one another and the NHS behind such inspirational figure heads as Captain Tom Moore.

Coronavirus stats

But of all the virtues we have witnessed there is one that seems to be in increasingly short supply (particularly in the media) and that is – patience! Despite being told from the outset that this crisis would be more like a marathon than a sprint, we were barely ‘locked down’ for a fortnight before the media started to ask as to when the lockdown might be lifted. This question gained momentum from business and opposition parties as the cost to business and the economy started to bite. In one sense these are natural questions to ask and no one underestimates the very real pain and uncertainty that people are feeling and experiencing. The costs and pain to peoples’ lives and livelihoods at this time is immense, and yet I would suggest that it is nothing compared to the pain of losing a loved one. For many life will go on, even if it is different, but once you have lost someone you can never get that life back! That’s why it is crucial that we all pay attention to the rate of infection (the ‘R’ number) and follow the government guidelines. Until we have ‘flattened the curve’ and this number becomes ‘1’ or ‘less than 1’ it would be irresponsible to lift the restrictions. The cost to the economy and people’s lives would be much, much worse if we allowed this rate to increase again – which it could easily and very rapidly do. At the time of writing 26,771 people have died of the coronavirus in the UK alone, a rise of 674 from the previous day. These are unprecedented numbers which is why we must hold on to our nerve and our courage! We must bravely hold on to our resolve and our dedication. We must continue to have faith, courage and patience! As tempting as it may be to return to work, to enjoy the sunshine and pick up our normal lives once again, we can’t until it is safe to do so. Neither can we allow the sacrifice of others to be wasted, nor destroy our hope for a better future.

BB13uBmy

The Christian will be aware that Jesus also undertook a very long, arduous and painful journey towards the cross. The shadow of his looming death must have been a constant and fearful presence, and yet he bravely continued on, knowing that it would be the only way by which others might be saved. So, at this time of national crisis, let’s continue to embrace the path which is set out before us, doing so with the same love, resolve, determination and kind generosity of spirit – and let us be patient!  


4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud…. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

            1 Corinthians 13.4,6-7


Necton Benefice Logo

Easter, the Coronavirus and ‘Doing Whatever it Takes’

Easter Day 3

“Every single person in the country is affected by this” I was told and so we are. Who would have thought that our lives could be so dramatically transformed by a disease that nobody had ever heard off until a few months ago? All social gatherings have been banned and people have been encouraged to work from home. Schools have closed and Churches have had to cease all acts of public worship. Prime-ministerial news briefings have spoken about ‘flattening the curve’ to give the NHS the time and space to cope with the rising number of infections and those who are over 70, pregnant women and those with underlying health conditions have been encouraged to go into self-isolation. Social distancing has become the new social responsibility and the nation has been put on a ‘war’ footing. The health crisis has also become an economic crisis with the Chancellor of the Exchequer pumping £330 billion pounds (15% of GDP) into the economy to help businesses pay their rent, salaries and suppliers – the largest ever injection of aid in ‘peace time’ Britain. The Chancellor is clearly committed to ‘doing whatever it takes’ to overcome this crisis and yet the Prime Minister’s frankness has been clear from the start ‘many more families will lose loved ones before their time’. It’s a truly nerve-racking and terrible situation, a situation outside of our experience, and which has brought out both the best and the worst in us. Many people are kindly looking after their neighbours whilst others are sadly and selfishly panic buying in the supermarkets and shops.

If we ever needed a reminder of the imperfection of our world, then surely this is it! For many of us, calamities and disasters usually happen to other people, somewhere on the other side of the world. We are not used to the fact that in a global situation and in a truly global pandemic this one might actually affect us.

And yet for the Christian this all rings strangely true, for the Christian will be aware that in many ways, theologically speaking, we have never lived in a perfect world; for Genesis reminds us that when we think we are ‘masters of all that we survey’ and are in charge of our own destiny perhaps knowing better than even God himself, then something always happens to trip us up and we are destined for a fall. Now God has graciously gifted us with many wonderful qualities and characteristics, such as knowledge, skill and intellect and we are constantly amazed at what human endeavour and intuition can achieve, but fundamentally the heart of the problem is always the same – it’s the problem of the human heart, which wants to do things our own way and keep God out of the picture. This bias to self (which affects us all) the Bible calls sin and spoils our relationships with God, with one another and even with creation. It’s the worst of all social distancing! What we need is a new start and a new hope!

Fortunately, the Christian is aware that despite the fact that many of us may have forgotten God, he doesn’t forget us, for in the person of Jesus, God steps into this broken and fallen world of ours and bears the brunt of our pain and our sin in his own body upon the cross. He’s the one who truly does ‘whatever it takes’! He dies the death that we all deserve precisely so we don’t have to when we put our faith and trust in him – and he does this because he loves us. Christ’s death is awful and frightening, and if he were just an ordinary man then it would be the end of the story, but it’s not – because Christians recognise that Jesus isn’t simply human, he’s divine, he’s the Son of God, God made flesh, God incarnate and his resurrection proves it as witnessed by so many of his day.

resurrection

He is therefore as the risen Lord, , a man of the ‘new creation’ (2 Corinthians 5.17 / Revelation 21.1), a man of the new life and  perfectly restored order, which is promised eternally to all who believe. This is the joyful essence of Easter Day and it provides us not just with the courage and strength to meet the challenges of this moment (however dark it may be) but hope for the future, for as the Bible reminds us ‘God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life’ (John 3.16).

So, yes, despite the difficulties of the present moment, may I take this opportunity for myself and the parishes I represent to wish you all a very happy and joyful Easter.


May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all … this day and always. 2 Corinthians 13.14


Necton Benefice Logo

It’s All A Matter Of Perspective: The Norwich Cathedral Helter Skelter

Helter Skelter

For ten days or so in August, it appeared that Brexit was not the only topic to divide national opinion but whether the decision to install a helter skelter within the Nave of Norwich Cathedral was really a good or a bad idea! Certainly, The Dean, The Very Revd Jane Hedges, appeared to be enjoying herself as she came swishing down the slide accompanied by a number of her Cathedral’s choristers captured on the BBC’s national news, but the wisdom of such a move was soon brought into question by The Right Revd Dr Gavin Ashenden (former chaplain to the Queen), who thought that the whole enterprise ‘smacked of desperation’ as the Cathedral tried to tempt visitors through its doors. He was concerned that the apparent frivolity of the helter skelter detracted from the holiness of the place; the awesome nature of God and the seriously sacrificial nature of the Gospel as demonstrated by Jesus and his death upon the cross. The vast and awesome nature of the Cathedral space with its north and south transepts symbolically representing the cross could and should encourage people to look upwards and prayerfully contemplate the presence of God – if only they weren’t distracted!

Ironically, this inspirational aspect of the building was not lost on the Cathedral staff whose campaign was entitled ‘Seeing it differently’, encouraging people to use their imaginations as they saw the Cathedral from a new perspective engageing with its structure and ‘salvation story’ as they admired its ancient roof bosses which depict the whole Bible story from Genesis to Revelation – all easier to see from the slide’s 40ft high viewing platform.

In response to Gavin Ashenden’s criticism, Diarmaid MacCulloch, Professor of the History of the Church at Oxford University observed that although some would think that the installation of the helter skelter was ‘trendy’ and a somewhat ‘undignified’ attempt to appeal to people in an increasingly secular society, in reality Cathedral attendances are growing and “so this shouldn’t be seen as a desperate attempt to get people in the building”.

So what is it? Well in my view – it is a joyful invitation! It’s a joyful invitation not only to encourage people into the building – but to make them feel welcome and what could be more welcoming than effectively saying ‘here you are – ride this! It’s fun!’ So many people, even Christians, tend to think of God as a great big killjoy and nothing could be further from the truth. God himself knows joy and he wants his people to know joy too. Psalm 104.31 speaks of God as rejoicing in all of his creative works – and what is the pinnacle of his creation? We are! Of course we should naturally respect God and honour his name but we should never, ever forget that God rejoices in us – because in and through Christ he loves us. Of course, being welcomed into the Cathedral is one thing, but if through that one visit, experience or conversation someone finds faith in God and wants to know more about the Cathedral, and it’s worship then how much more glorious and joyful is that! A simple welcome into the Cathedral becomes a joyful invitation into the ‘Kingdom of God’. So, perhaps for a mere ten days the helter skelter in the Nave should be viewed not so much a distraction to heartfelt worship and prayer – but as a warm invitation and proper attraction to it.


May the glory of the Lord endure forever; may he rejoice in all his works. Psalm 104.31


Image 2
Bishop Jonathan Meyrick – 18th August 2019

“Loving You To The Moon And Back” – And So Much More!

0_Apollo-11-astronaut-Buzz-Aldrin-standing-on-moon-with-astronaut-Neil-Armstrong

Although I can’t honestly say that I actually remember Neil Armstrong’s famous moon landing of the 20th July 1969 (I was 7!) I do remember seeing some of the Apollo missions by the time that they finished in 1972 and being aware of the profound effect that they had upon me. When I looked out at the night sky it was incredible to think that men had actually stood on the moon. It was so exciting! What would they do next and where would they go? I still think it’s absolutely incredible and exciting – and I’m in utter awe of the men who undertook such a brave and perilous journey. It took Apollo 11 four days, six hours and 45 minutes to get to the moon (8 days including the return journey) and cost NASA around $25 billion (£20 billion). It may have been ‘one small step’ for Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins but it was a huge accomplishment for the 400,000 people who had worked upon the mission. The Earth, the Moon and space would never be seen in quite the same way again. However, during the recent 50th anniversary celebrations, it’s been the reflections of Alan Bean, who was part of the Apollo 12 mission and the 4th man on the moon that struck me most. Gazing back to the beautiful but profound sight of the Earth hanging in the darkness of space (later referred to as ‘the blue marble’ by the crew of Apollo 17) Alan Bean was powerfully struck by the recognition that all the people I have ever loved are over there! A thought he would frequently share with his family upon his return.

I suppose the truth is that of course the human spirit has an immense desire to explore and discover, to look beyond the horizon and around the corner in search of new things – and incredibly through our brave ingenuity, determination and skilled use of finite resources we often have the capacity to achieve more than is usually thought humanly possible – but at the same time it is love which unites us and binds us together and gives us not only the motivation to succeed, but a sense of place, belonging and home. Used wisely, intellect and love are powerful gifts with which we can pursue not only our goals, dreams and ambitions but also serve our nations and further the common good.

The accomplishments of Apollo 11 and all those missions that followed it combined with the fragility of the Earth have fostered our modern desire to go further and reach for the stars, the Moon, Mars and beyond – and yet however amazing those thoughts might be, the Christian is struck by another amazing theological concept, which is not only did God create the world that we see hanging so beautifully in space, but that he actually stepped into it, and not because it was pristine and perfect but precisely because it wasn’t. For the beautiful world that God had originally created had been spoilt by the often selfish, unkind and greedy actions of its inhabitants which the Bible calls sin. Yet, the mission that God embarks upon is not one of running away, starting again and abandonment, but one of new beginnings, new starts and digging deep as people recognise the grace, peace and restoration that is made possible through Jesus and his death upon the cross. It’s an amazing act of love that reaches out to us across the depths of time and space and calls us – home!


Praise him from the heavens … praise him, you sun and moon and shining stars. Psalm 148.1,3


Posted on the 50th Anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s Moon Landing with Apollo 11