Archives December 2012

2012 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

19,000 people fit into the new Barclays Center to see Jay-Z perform. This blog was viewed about 67,000 times in 2012. If it were a concert at the Barclays Center, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Homily Notes: Holy Family Year C

  • Inevitable question: What did you do for Christmas
    • “I was working”
    • Lots of people worked over Christmas
      • To manage the floods, restore rail network
      • In hospitals and nursing homes
      • To keep the retail monster churning
      • To keep this world safe in far-off places – our Forces and in local places of tension – our Police
  • For many the work of the season was to keep the family together
  • For some the season is a time of tension and stress
  • Remember that Christmas is not yet over.
  • Christmas started on Christmas Eve when Advent gave way to the Nativity
  • It will continue until Candlemas on Feb 3rd (this year) when we will gather together in S. Cecilia’s with Bishop John for the Confirmation of Jayne, Clair, Amy, Karen and Angi – a fitting culmination of our Christmas celebrations
  • Please pray for them as they continue their faith journey and as they join the wider family of the Church
    • A family which transcends blood ties
    • A family which is like other families sometimes a bit messy, a bit dysfunctional, which disagrees and sometimes even falls out
    • The Holy Family is held as a model of family life, and certainly when our own family life feels under stress we can seek our the intercession of the holy famly
      • But like all families, the Holy Family was a real family
        • Anxiety for our children
        • Panic, when we lose one in a crowded place
        • Worry about where their life is going
        • Fear for their lives
          • Never forget that the Holy Family were refugees, Asylum Seekers in Egypt
    • Joy, Laughter, Love
    • Christ would have been a child like all children
      • cf Max Ernst’s 1926 Image of Mary Smacking Jesus



  • Remember that being like a child is not sinful
  • We should therefore take the opportunity to pause occasionally (amid the chaos of Christmas preparations) and treasure our family
    • Especially if at this time of year they have come to us from some distance
    • We should give thanks for what we have, and consider what we need to rebuild, to restore, to reunite
    • We should look to the Holy Family and give thanks for what they had
    • And seek to be like them
      • United in love and prayer
      • Amen

The long slow death of the landline This is US data, reporting that 34% of Americans now don’t have a landline. When I arrived at Roborough, people looked askance when I said I wasn’t going to have a landline and if they wanted me, my mobile was the solution. I have to say it works. There may occasionally be delays in responding to a message, or I may forget to turn up the volume after Mass, but I’m way better at mobile voicemail than a vicarage answer phone. Younger members of the congregation simply text me. You know it works. One of my churchwardens does insist on txtspk though, which does look a bit passe these days, but we love her so she’s forgiven. The congregations aren’t yet up to live tweeting but time will tell.

If you want a laugh…

Peter Ould inhabits a very different part of the Church of England, and we differ hugely on issues of sexuality, gender and the process by which Christ’s salvation works, but we both proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord and have a great mutual respect for each other. He is a true brother in Christ as we both seek to build the Kingdom.

It was therefore very flattering to see him list me in a one to watch list for 2013. Utterly undeserved, of course, but that a colleague with whom I occasionally disagree yet respect hugely should say this is affirming. Thank you, Peter.

Of course, he is utterly wrong on the purple issue – to be one of those you need discretion, political nous, skills in oratory and flattery and as all of my friends know, that ain’t me.

The other names are of course much more deserving interesting and significant. Watch them, and pray for me: parish priesthood is my calling, mission is my life. Let us meet with Christ together in his holy and blessed sacraments…

Liturgy on an Android Tablet Device: a users guide

Although I have a reputation as an early adopter, and a willingness to use any technology to support the liturgy and witness of the Church, I have been careful in my use of electronics as a paper substitute for the priest. I have over time preached from a Kindle device and nowadays almost exclusively say my Daily Office from a Smartphone (extremely useful for Home Communions!)  but this season, I exclusively celebrated the liturgy using my Android Tablet. Here is how it all fits together…

Daily Office: Universalis Email

The excellent Universalis website ( provides web, desktop and email versions of the Readings for Mass and the Texts of the Divine Office each day. You can have this for free, but for a small subscription, you can get the whole package sent as one convenient email. No more losing ribbons, no more forgetting that obscure Saints day or getting the antiphon wrong because you have forgotten what day of the week it is. Perfect for prayer on the move, you can have the text whereever you have your smartphone. This is what I use for Home Communions now, and it is very convenient.

Kindle (for the benefit for those still using one)

I don’t use my Kindle as much as I used to, which is an indicator of how fast the technology has moved on. Two years ago, I took my Kindle to the Holy Land and thanks to its Whispernet, used it to email home, update FB and Twitter all for free – no expensive data charges!

The brilliant Fr Edward Green worked out the ideal word document for displaying a homily on a Kindle. Here it is: kindleblank

If you were to save that docx document as a dotx template and put it in your Microsoft Word Teemplates folder, then you can have a new template which you can then email to your Kindle and preach from it. Create your texts in Microsoft Word as if it were paper, but using this special size and there you are!

Android Tablet

This is the where I am at the moment. The power and flexibility of a tablet is amazing: they have come on so far recently. My tablet is the Google Nexus 7: a powerful 7 inch tablet. I highly recommend this one to you all, and at under £200 it is a real bargain. I prefer the 7 inch size because it will fit in my cassock or my hoodie pocket.

I create all my liturgy as I have always done, on a PC on Microsoft Word (service sheets and posters tend to be done in Microsoft Publisher, but for my use at the altar, it remains in Word).

I save all of my key documents in the cloud using Dropbox . This is a free service and if you sign up for you free 2Gb of storage using this link, I get a little bit of extra space for a referral (please!). The advantage of saving documents in the cloud is that they are available across all your devices (in my case, a couple of laptops, my tablet and a smartphone). Update the document and the update is automatically replicated across all your devices very quickly. I also use this to share key documents securely between the staff team: you can create folders which named accounts have access to and so rotas, liturgy and other such essential admin can be properly shared: no more “oh, I didn’t get that version” because as a document is edited, all versions are updated. This is therefore a seemless way to transfer documents to your device.

I have Dropbox installed on my tablet, so can easily access ALL my Word documents (and Excel Spreadsheets etc) as and when I need them. Anywhere.


I simply select the document I want, and Android asks me with what I wish to view the document in. There are lots of apps on the Market, and some of them may be bundled with your tablet. However, I have found that the best reader is not necessarily the best editor. I have used my tablet to write quite a lot (on the train usually) and to blog and for that OfficeSuite Pro is by far the best, but an app designed to write has the annoying habit of going into edit mode if you accidentally touch the screen. For writing and editing documents, I wholeheartedly recommend it. See here (currently only £6.20). As you will realise, if you edit a file from Dropbox on your Tablet, it becomes available everywhere – perfect!

However to view the document, ie to just read from it, I recommend the wholly free version of OfficeSuite: the OfficeSuite Viewer (download here)

My Android Apps - Google Play-075842


This also will view PDF files for you so is even more useful. There is no problem having both on your system, because it will ask you how you want to use it. I always select “Just Once” so I can choose whether I am viewing or editing a document.



Once you have the document open in the Office Viewer, you can look at it two ways: as it looks on the page or as a web page. At the top, select the Menu (three dots to the right of Word Count) and select View

The Page View is exactly as the Word Document is. If you pinch-zoom the document to make it more readable, it will not wrap around. This keeps the format.

The Web View is even more useful for this purpose, because it fills the whole screen and wraps according to the size. I can therefore pinch-zoom the page to a convenient size for reading (and to fit a decent amount on screen so I am not scrolling in the middle of the Eucharistic Prayer) and it wraps!



The Reader will cope with a lot of Word formatting, including TextBoxes, which can be quite useful. In my wedding liturgy, the bride and groom’s response “I WILL” is in big letters in a box upside down. This means that I just have to tilt the tablet towards the couple to prompt them for their response.



With Marriage, Baptism and Funerals, I create a bespoke document with all the names and prompts in place of N and M so avoiding little bits of paper getting in the way – so elegant.

If you don’t have an MC, then you can hold your tablet yourself, place it on a legillium or on the altar. Missal Stands are perfect for a Tablet, but I have also used a cushion on the altar (as some Churches do) and have also simply put the Tablet on the altar by the Corporal. At Midnight Mass the MC held my Tablet for me whilst I proclaimed the Gospel. I must admit, I was a little worried I might clonk the tablet with the thurible, but it was fine (and I am so skilled with the thurible anyway!) We both reflected afterwards how the signing and kissing of the Gospel was affected by a touch-sensitive device, but it was fine.

My Tablet has a Wake-Sleep Cover, which turns the screen off when you close it. This does mean you have to hold it carefully but practice sorts this out. I don’t set a password so if my device does accidentally sleep, then it wakes instantly into action. I did try it without a cover, and it was okay, but I was a little anxious about dropping it (and dropping it into the font).

In summary, I can’t see me ever going back. You don’t need a torch during the Easter Vigil or Nine Lessons and Carols because it is backlit. It wastes no paper, it can be totally personalised to the service and changes can be incorporated really quickly.

I have been working from this template (with appropriate seasonal variations) for most Sundays, cutting and pasting in the collects, introductions etc Download: Sunday Mass Template for Tablet

A**le Tablets

I have always said that Blesséd was the last truly radical and subversive alt.worship group simply because we use PCs instead of Macs. I am not (as you will tell if you read this blog or follow my tweets at @frsimon) an Apple Fanboy, although I have had an iPhone (ugh!) and a Mac Mini and a Macbook, so I know how beautiful and utterly useless they are: noddy machines with expensive pricetags. If you can afford one of these things, then quite a lot of this is directly transferrable. You can still use Dropbox, (or indeed any cloud software – there is Google Drive and Microsoft Skydrive and I am sure Apple has an equivalent). I am also sure that the iPad will have a viewer that will expertly read a Word or Pages document. Take these principles and apply them as appropriate for your system.

I’m delighted with how my setup works, and I hope it works for you.



Reflection on Christmas 2012

First Christmas in a new parish: no pressure then.

After seven years getting STE to the place where I wanted it to be, the experience of working in a new setting was bound to be a challenge, particularly when one follows an Incumbent of more than 20 years. However, I have nothing but fulsome praise for the regulars of Bickleigh and Shaugh Prior, Glenholt and Woolwell: they have shown commitment and energy, enthusiasm and willingness to join me in a new journey.

However a couple of encounters with strangers whose only visit to the Church is at this time of year left me a little taken aback, depressed even. At the door of the Church after 9 Lessons and Carols one man “demanded” that the Crib Service be brought back. This was the day before the service, and although it was called something different he had no idea what the content was. It was quite an aggressive challenge as well “a lot of people are very disappointed there isn’t a crib service”.  I didn’t have the wit (nor the grace) to deftly reply with “well, if you come you might just find out what it contains”, for the tone was just so… oppositional. I had to reply that I wasn’t Fr Roger and I needed to offer what I offered, not a pastiche of a previous incumbent’s ministry. He didn’t leave me a script anyway. The Script of my Christingle Service is well documented  but quite rightly, STE did something new and different: utilising the skills and charism of the person leading it. Despite it being called a Christingle Service, there is a huge focus on the Crib. He wouldn’t know that, of course, but he and his family clearly weren’t interested in discovering that.

On Christmas Eve morning, Liam and I are setting up the projector screen, and a couple come in. As we were leaving to set up S. Edward’s, we are chatting and she asks “But would Fr Roger approve?” I wouldn’t know, he’s no longer the Incumbent…

“But would Fr Roger approve?” has rapidly become the response of choice to everything in the parish. It’s gone from hugely annoying to rather funny in a few days.

Nine Lessons & Carols

I have done three church Nine Lessons and Carol services, as well as a couple of school ones. The Church services were the classically traditional service, with that lovely introduction first said by Dean Milner-White:

And because this of all things would rejoice his heart, let us remember, in his name, the poor and helpless, the cold, the hungry, and the oppressed; the sick and them that mourn, the lonely and the unloved, the aged and the little children; all those who know not the Lord Jesus, or who love him not, or who by sin have grieved his heart of love.

Lastly, let us remember before God all those who rejoice with us, but upon another shore, and in a greater light, that multitude which no man can number, whose hope was in the Word made flesh, and with whom in the Lord Jesus we are for ever one.

I tend to want these services to be filled with what I lovingly called “cheesy classics” – not meant in a disparaging way but which people know and love. There is a time to be challenging and subversive to the form, but this is not it. All of the services were received well. Many positive comments.

42 Cdo Carols

See here for my report on this. Great to do, fun to be a part of. Glad to serve them.


Three 45 minute services over 3 hours in 2 different locations: hard work. Lots of people came. It was just how I love it: chaotic, rabbellous and very very child focused. This wasn’t about looking at a pretty crib, but getting involved: we sang carols, we hunted the church for Nativity Figures, we made our Nativity, we made our own Christingles. The service was squarely focused at young people, many of whom I already knew through my school ministry.

It was fun, it was full of jokes, classic carols and yet still kept pointing back to the reason for the season.

Projector Screen at St Mary’s only hampered by the sheer numbers which was standing room only. TVs at t Edwards. Both worked well. Sound could have been better. There will be improvements next year. Learn.

At S. Edward’s


DSC_1965 - Copy christingle

DSC_1970 - Copy

feedback was hugely positive:

“Hearing my three small grandchildren sing Away in a Manger brought tears to my eyes.Beautiful.”

another person came up afterwards full of appreciation saying that the worship was “an inspiration”, and yet another visitor described me as “the Harry Hill of the Church” which I think was a compliment… I think.

Three left me completely exhausted, but it was O so worth it.  Improvements will be made, as you have to experiment with a service in a new sacred space.

Am I going to bring back the old Crib service? (if I ever thought it was possible). Oh no. This is too good to move away from…

Midnight Mass

I was only able to say the Midnight at Bickleigh whilst the Archdeacon celebrated at Shaugh Prior. I understand that went well, despite the flooding of the previous weekend.

At Bickleigh we had an MC (Liam) and a Thurifer (Zoe). It was so good to have servers, and my task for 2013 is to get that set up. Unfortunately due to illness,  I was not as well prepared as I should be: The people worked really hard, but I missed some key things required in the setup and so consequently, I felt very untogether. Liam was brilliant at helping me round the problems, Zoe was proficient and capable. Good numbers: about 80 people, the majority of which were communicant.

To the congregation, it went well. It’s always a bit like a swan: serene to the public, and paddling hard below the surface. My homily was full of the spooky mysterious, which unfortunately didn’t record properly. I love Midnight Mass, and consider it a privilege to celebrate. Always.

Mass of Christmas Day

Much more relaxed, and in a good mood despite the complete state of exhaustion now descended upon me. I didn’t have a server (Oh how I want a regular server) but it went all fine: a lovely service. Reasonable numbers at Mass.


The regular members of the congregations worked so hard to help me deliver this Christmas, and I would like to record my thanks to them. We worked well together as a team and I look forward to making it work even better next year. God is good, and the Incarnation was well and truly proclaimed.


Today, the twenty-fifth day of December, unknown ages from the time when God created the heavens and the earth and then formed man and women in his own image.

Several thousand years after the flood, when God made the rainbow shine forth as a sign of the covenant.

Twenty-one centuries from the time of Abraham and Sarah; thirteen centuries after Moses led the people of Israel out of Egypt.

Eleven hundred years from the time of Ruth and the Judges; one thousand years from the anointing of David as king; in the sixty-fifth week according to the prophecy of Daniel.

In the one hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad; the seven hundred and fifty-second year from the foundation of the city of Rome.

The forty-second year of the reign of Octavian Augustus; the whole world being at peace, Jesus Christ, eternal God and Son of the eternal Father, desiring to sanctify the world by his most merciful coming, being conceived by the Holy Spirit, and nine months having passed since his conception, was born in Bethlehem of Judea of the Virgin Mary.

Today is the nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh.


Christmas Poem: St John of the Cross "If you want"

If you want,
the Virgin will come walking down the road
pregnant with the holy,
and say,
“I need shelter for the night,
please take me inside your heart,
my time is so close.”

Then, under the roof of your soul
you will witness the sublime
intimacy, the divine, the Christ
taking birth

as she grasps your hand for help,
for each of us is the midwife of God, each of us.

Yet there, under the dome of your being does creation
come into existence eternally,
through your womb, dear pilgrim—
the sacred womb in your soul,

as God grasps our arms for help;
for each of us is
His beloved servant
never far.

If you want, the Virgin will come walking
down the street pregnant
with Light and sing …

–St. John of the Cross, “If You Want” in Daniel Ladinsky Love Poems from God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West (New York: Penguin Group, 2002), 306-307.

Thanks to Mark @liminalspace

Bishop John Ford – Lectio Divina

A series of reflections recorded for the “Goodness Gracious Me?” Mission Conference, 13-16th December 2012, Plymouth

Christingle Kit Making: All hands on Deck!

A really good number of people turnout out to make the Christingle Kits for Christmas Eve today. Thank you to everyone who came to help. Many hands really did make light work.

Kits you say?

Oh yes – all the children are given a bag containing the relevant elements for them to make along with me during the service.

[caption id=”attachment_3949″ align=”alignnone” width=”830″600 Christingles for 3 services. Thanks to all who helped. 600 Christingles for 3 services. Thanks to all who helped.[/caption

Here is my explanation video designed for 7-11 year olds:

This video explains the symbolism of the Christingle and how to make one. Using some lovely pictures of S. Thomas the Apostle, Elson in Gosport, it ends with the grace prayer which we give out when the children of the area make their own Christingles on Christmas Eve.

The Christingle is a wonderful, visible reminder of Gods goodness to us, and in this season of Advent or preparation for the coming of Jesus Christ into this world, it can teach us some special things about Jesus.

The Christingle originally came from Germany in the 18th Century, but has also been connected with the tradition of St. Lucia, a Saint in Scandanavia who is associated with light.

Anyone can make a Christingle, and now we will show you how.

You will need:

  • An Orange
  • Four Cocktail Sticks
  • Some sweets: marshmallows or raisins, dolly mixtures are very popular
  • Some red ribbon
  • A candle. We like to use birthday candles, as there is someones birthday associated with this after all…

Each of these elements signify something special, something to remember about Christmas.

The Orange represents the world, Gods world

On each of the sticks we put some of the sweets, representing thr fruits of Gods creation, his bountiful love to us. The Psalms say Taste and see that the Lord is good and we know that when we taste these good things to each, we know how good God is to us.

The four sticks represent the four seasons, and when placed in the orange represent the directions of North, South, East and West, reminding us that Gods love reaches all over the world.

The ribbon represents the blood that Jesus Christ shed for us on the cross, dying to rise again. Even at Christmas, we need to remind ourselves of the Easter story, and what Jesus did for you and for me.

The candle reminds us of some words of Jesus. He described himself as the light of the world, the light that shines in the darkness, and so even in these dark wintery days we can see the light of Jesus reflected in our faces, and scattering all the sadness and unhappiness that there is in the world.

So there is your Christingle…

Remember what these symbols mean?

The orange is the world
The sticks are the four seasons of the year and the four corners of the earth
The sweets are the fruit of the earth
The ribbon is Christs blood, shed for us.
The candle is Jesus. The light of the world.

Why not take your Christingle, and keep it for Christmas Day? Put it on the Christmas table when you sit down to eat your Christmas dinner with all your family and friends. Light the candle to remind yourselves that Christ is present with you as you eat together.

And why not begin your Christmas Dinner with this Grace prayer:

Dear God,

May we whose faces shine from the light of your Christingle Candle
be blessed this Christmas, be blessed this year.
For family, for friends, for food and for all you do for us,
We give you praise!