A note from the Vicarage...

April 2024

I’ve been doing a lot of shredding recently. You know, that thing where you feed documents into the top of machine that greedily grabs them, makes a groany-whiny-scrunchy sort of noise, and showers them into a bin underneath in lots of little bits. My one is called a ‘confetti cut’ shredder, although the tiny pieces of paper it produces are smaller than any real confetti I’ve ever seen (and, trust me, I get to see a lot of confetti in my line of work).  Any document that falls into that machine is well and truly destroyed, annihilated, obliterated, wiped out, exterminated, eliminated, and lots of other things that my thesaurus suggests but which I can’t use here.  In other words, permanently gone.

Shredding of ‘sensitive information’ is encouraged, of course, and not just because of GDPR.  We are told that it’s important not to let our personal details and all that sort of thing fall into the wrong hands. And that it’s important not to put very much at all about ourselves on social media sites like Insta-Snap-Whats-Tumble-Twit-Face, either.  Indeed, it’s seen as a virtue to be paranoid about this sort of thing.   Our privacy may be invaded. Our bank details may be stolen. Our very identity may be stolen.

All sadly true.

But all this raises an interesting question: just how much should we reveal about ourselves to the world at large?   In any given situation, how much is too much?  How little is too little? 

We’ve all met people who give us far too much information about themselves at first acquaintance.  And we’ve all met people who remain a total enigma no matter how long we’ve known them.  The truth is that it’s very hard to relate to either kind of person.  If we are to connect with others in a meaningful way (which is a large part of what makes us human), we need to move beyond purely functional communications, or the ‘have you come far?’ sort of small talk.  And that inevitably involves some sort of self-revealing.

Of course, this is potentially risky.  There are risks involved in revealing what’s on your mind (your opinions), or what’s on your heart (your feelings).  What if people don’t like what you think or feel?  What if you get rejected?  Isn’t it better to keep yourself closely guarded, so that you don’t get rejected, hurt, or taken advantage of?

The answer is, yes, there are risks to showing others what you’re really like.  But there is also immense potential.   

We live in a world of contrasts, particularly the stark contrast between divulging all sorts of personal things far and wide on one hand, and being suspicious of everything and everybody on the other.  Neither of these things actually build community.  What does build community is the willingness of people to be open with one another ; in fact, to be intentionally, but appropriately, vulnerable with one another.  The strong senses of community and belonging that we all so deeply desire can come about in no other way.

Personally, I don’t think that there’s a shred of doubt about that.

With every blessing,


March 2024

So, how many sound engineers does it take to change a light bulb?

Answer: One. Two. One. Two. One. Two. One. Two. IS THIS MICROPHONE


In virtually any public gathering these days you’ll find some sort of amplification.

Speech and music need to be heard clearly by everyone. So, there’ll be a sound

system. Microphones. Loudspeakers. That sort of thing. And where there’s a sound

system, there’s usually a sound engineer to operate it. We usually see them, if we

see them at all, at the back of the venue, sitting behind the mass of knobs, sliders

and dials which make up the sound mixing desk. Their work has often begun long

before the event started – they’ve set everything up, often heaving all the equipment

around themselves; they’ve plugged in dozens of cables, and they’ve done all sorts

of sound checks. Their work goes on long after the event finishes, too – it all has to

be unplugged, dismantled and packed up again.

I think that sound engineers are the unsung heroes of the entertainment industry,

and I always try to thank them if I can.

Here’s the thing about sound engineers. You never notice the good ones. The few

bad ones you do notice – they make themselves known by unwanted squeals,

squeaks and pops, by microphones not being switched on (or off) when they should

be, and by sound levels which are too quiet, too loud, distorted, or indistinct. You

don’t notice the good ones because they make the sound system ‘transparent’, so

that you hear only the true performance, and don’t really notice that it’s amplified at

all. But even the best sound engineers can be caught out by equipment failures and

so on – and also by performers misusing the equipment. So, often, their only contact

with the public is when the complaints come. And they’re almost never given the

benefit of the doubt. Whatever the problem with ‘the sound’, it’s the sound

engineer’s fault. One absolutely essential requirement for any sound engineer is a

thick skin.

There are many jobs like that. We, the great British public, have been encouraged

to expect perfection wherever we go, and also encouraged to complain whenever we

don’t get it. This leads to very competent people in all walks of life being put under

great pressure. Why? Because perfection is impossible. We’re all imperfect human

beings. The fact that so many things in our society are actually done to such a high

standard, by many very talented people, perhaps just reinforces the myth.

Now, I’m not saying that we should be content with poor standards. It’s reasonable

to expect that all of us should aim for the best in everything we do, at least

professionally. But not at the expense of our humanity, or by being inhuman to

others. Let’s not allow the modern self-obsessed ‘moaning malaise’ to rob us of our

humanity, or our appreciation of what others do for us – whether they’re on the stage

and in the limelight, or backstage, hidden, making it all happen anonymously.

There’s only one Person at work in this world who is perfect.

And it’s not me – or you.

With every blessing,


February 2024

I have to admit, it took me a bit by surprise.

My piece in this magazine last month on how I became a vicar generated a

considerable amount of interest. You, know, me falling and breaking my back

and all that. A number of people asked me if I could write a bit more about my

story. So, being an obliging sort of chap, I will…

I suppose the seed might have been sown when I took my driving test. I

remember it well, even though it was, er, some time ago. I remember the

tension of the whole thing. I remember seeing the examiner’s fingers and

knuckles whiten on the dashboard as I performed a very satisfying emergency

stop. I remember doing the best three-point turn of my life up to that point. I

remember being held up by, of all things, another learner driver who was

crawling along at twenty miles per hour in front of me. And I remember the

examiner turning to me after he had asked me to pull up by the side of the

road (I didn’t realise at first that it was the end of the test) and telling me that

I’d passed.

Then, while I took in this momentous announcement, he paused and said,

“You’re a very serious-looking young man. Are you going to be a vicar when

you’re older?”


Of course, it was probably his standard way of breaking the ice at the end of a

successful test. He’d probably said it to hundreds of young people who, like

me, had been concentrating fiercely during their tests and inevitably looked

rather serious about the whole thing.

But it stuck in my mind. At the very least, from then on I filed ‘vicar’ mentally

under ‘vaguely possible life choices.’ Reflecting on it later, though, I started to

think, why should being a vicar mean looking serious all the time? Had the

examiner known a particularly grumpy vicar? Why should ‘religion’ be

equated with a lack of humour and humanity? And, of course, it shouldn’t,

even though there have been many through history who have tried to be ‘holy’

by being glum and boring. Christ most definitely wasn’t like that. He spent a

lot of his time at parties. He said that he came to bring us life in all its fulness.

And that life that he brings to us as he breaks the power of death on Easter

Sunday is full of godly and holy hope and happiness, despite what life may

throw at us. All things become possible through his love and power.

Even becoming a vicar. With a sense of humour.

With every blessing,


January 2024

This year, 2024, will mark the twelfth year that I’ve been the Vicar of Fernhurst.  Amazing, isn’t it?

But, as a lot of you will know, I haven’t always been a vicar.   I’ve had previous careers.   Leaving aside the interesting fact that one definition of ‘career’ is ‘to run uncontrollably downhill’, I regularly find myself being asked how I actually became a vicar.  Not, notice, how ‘one’ becomes a vicar – the formal process involved – but how I came to be a vicar, recognising that this will have been a big step for me to take. 

Well, it all started with a water leak.  Yes, really.  I’d come downstairs early one morning, in my pyjamas, dressing gown and slippers, to make a cup of tea for Anita and myself, and I noticed that there was water on the floor in the utility room.  So I looked up, and I saw a very wet patch on the ceiling.  And sighed, because and I knew that immediately above that wet patch were the main central heating pipes, and that they must be leaking. So (being a typical man), I got a stepladder there and then, and climbed up to the ceiling hatch to investigate.  And all I remember after that is that, as I was pushing the hatch upwards and sideways into the roof space, the stepladder went one way, and I went another. I ended up falling from ceiling height flat on my back on to a concrete floor.   The pain was unbelievable.  I couldn’t move.  An ambulance was called.  The paramedics took me to hospital strapped to one of those spinal boards.  Scans were done.  The verdict: I’d broken my back.  To say that this changed my plans for the day would be a massive understatement.  I spent the best part of a week in hospital, and then six months convalescing.

Which gave me time to think and reflect…

When I was well enough to leave the house, I started to have lunch with my vicar every week in the local pub.  We talked about this and that, faith, the church, and all sorts of things.  And one day he said to me, “Have you ever thought about becoming ordained?”   And I said, “Yes – but I’ve always kind of discounted myself.”  And he said, “Why?”   That was the question that changed the course of my life in a very unexpected way.

I found that it’s not easy becoming a vicar. There’s an immense amount of work involved, much of it academic, and lots of in-depth interviews with bishops and the like.  Not unreasonably (in fact, very sensibly!) the Church wants to be assured that this is a genuine ‘call’.  But I sailed through it all, probably because the passion for being a priest that developed in me grew from that time of enforced reflection, together with the perceptiveness and prompting of a friend.

There’s more to tell of course. Lunch in the pub, anyone?

With every blessing,