I’m taking a sabbatical from my role as Team Rector for three months from 1 July to the end of September. In the Church of England they used to be taken every seven years, however, I’ve been in full-time ministry for 22 years and, for various reasons, this is my first one – so it’s well overdue.
Actually, sabbatical’s are now known as Extended Study Leave (ESL) and so you can forget the idea that I’ll be on a beach with my feet up for the majority of that time.
ESL’s are meant to stretch and challenge and include an element of retreat. And so my ESL will include three weeks in the Philippines with The Purple Community Fund where I’ll be meeting some of the families we support at Emmanuel and working alongside those who are ministering to some of the poorest people in the world. I’ll also be leading some training seminars on leadership, managing conflict, parenting, etc.. Much of it is unknown, but I’ll be going with love in my heart and a smile on my face.
In addition, I will be serving as a Festival Angel at the Leeds Festival (bringing together my love of music and mission) do come and say hello if you are going to be there – I’ll be in the Prayer Tent and walking around the site.
I’ll also be walking part of the Camino de Santiago (also known as the Santiago de Compostela or The Camino Way or The Way Of Saint James). I’ll also be squeezing in a breadmaking course (just for fun) as well as taking time to reflect, read and write!
I plan to post a journal of my experiences, as and when I can on this page, when my ESL begins, so be sure to check in from time to time – most recent entry is at the top so scroll down to the bottom and read upwards!
Friday 18 October
I had a great time being interviewed on the Patrick Sherring show on PhoenixFM talking about my sabbatical and my experiences with the Purple Community Fund, Festival Angels and walking the Camino Way. I chose tracks by Jeremy Zucker, Morganway and Lauren Housley. You can listen in here
And Finally …
It’s amazing how quickly three months can pass by and as I look back I’ve a huge range of mixed emotions as I reflect on my ESL (though some are probably not for the public arena): places I’ve been: people I’ve met; friends I’ve made; prayers offered and answered; conversations shared; thoughts about my family; and the difference all these experiences will mean for me personally and for my ministry. I enjoyed new challenges and being out of my comfort zone on more than one occasion. I also enjoyed just having to worry what I have planned rather than the needs of the parish which was quite liberating, I have to day! I’m also asking the question ‘what might God have planned for my future?’ As I do so I’m remembering my ‘life verses’ from Psalm 37:3-5:
Delight yourself in the Lord and he give you the desires of your heart. Trust also in Him and He will bring it to pass. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this.
Tuesday 1 October
Wow. What a view for breakfast! St James Cathedral. A Prayer of Thanks (from the official Peregrino website) for the Peregrino/Pilgrim returning home after walking the Camino Way and a memento to wear around my neck. Off to the airport. Adios Santiago.
Monday 30 September
It’s official. I’m a fully certificated Camino Way peregrino/pilgrim (I joined the queue at 6.45 and was seen at 10.45). The Pilgrims Mass, in English, takes place at 9.00 am and we missed that because I was queueing for my Compostela (certificates). This was a bit of an anti-climax to my pilgrimage if I’m honest. However, the Spanish have a saying ‘el viaje es el destino’ which means ‘the journey is the destination’ and that’s so true about my experience of walking the Camino Way. This is my stamped passport that marks my journey, whether it be a church, a cafe or a restaurant. All precious memories. Now for a beer! Buen Camino.
Sunday 29 September
After 115 km (73 miles) I made it. Heavy rain and a sprained ankle made for a tough day. Beer helped – again! Disappointed that Saint James Cathedral is closed, even the entrance where the statue of Saint James is situated, which means I can’t end my pilgrimage in the traditional way by shuffling on my knees from the entrance and touch the statue and saying a prayer. A days rest in Santiago and then my sabbatical comes to an end. Buen Camino.
Saturday 28 September
20 km from Arzúa to Rua. Last nights massage was excruciatingly painful but did the trick. Heavy mist to start then clear skies. Pathways are becoming busy. Twisted ankle after 5 miles & was a struggle after. Beer still helps. Meeting USA friends for a farewell meal later. Finish in Santiago tomorrow. Buen Camino.
Friday 27 September
Another 15 km walked today from Melide to Arzúa. Heavy rain most of the way and soaked through to the skin – but that doesn’t dampen the spirit. Lots of steep climbs today and this is when walking poles prove their worth. Just booked in for a massage! That should ease my weary legs – it was excruciatingly painful. Beer helps too. Feet are holding up. Due to arrive in Santiago on Sunday. 30 miles to go. Buen Camino.
Thursday 26 September
A more leisurely 15 km today from Palas De Rei to Melide. Legs wobbling and a hot bath didn’t help much! So many amazing people and conversations along the way. Buen Camino.
This is such a great song for how I’m feeling at the moment!!
Wednesday 25 September
25 km today walking from Portomarín to Palas De Rei. Felt gruelling at times but helped along the way by making friends with this lovely group of American Christians which helped the miles pass quickly. This is the inside of the church where our pilgrimage today ended. Buen Camino.
Tuesday 24 September
22 km walked on the Camino Way today from Sarria to Portomarin. Feet hurt and feeling pretty weary. However, some fabulous scenery and met some amazing people along the way. Weather just perfect too – though torrential rain when we began. These are the churches where we started and finished.
Monday 23 September to Tuesday 1 October
I’m off to walk 115km on the Camino Way, starting at Sarria and finishing at Santiago. See you on the other side.
Monday 16 September to Thursday 19 September
So .. I had a fantastic time in Manchester baking bread with my mate Iain Every at Every Bread. Iain is a friend of a friend who has become a friend in recent years. I enjoyed great hospitality at his home with wife Michelle and daughters Annie, Meg and Ellie.
We began with an introduction to bread making (including soda bread) and a day introduction to sour dough. It was fabulous. In all, I think I baked about a dozen (or should that be 13) different breads – some were eaten at the time (for lunch) others passed onto family and friends and others put into the freezer. Feedback was amazing!
Think it will take a while for my right hand to recover – kneading bread is pretty hard work. However, I picked up a few good tips along the way and so I’ll be baking bread when I get back from the Camino and plan to bake a loaf for Communion! You can see the fruits of my labour below.
Saturday 14 September
I’m not one for watching box-sets, I have to say, however, having a bit of time of my hands, I’ve watched both series of Deep State this week and it’s been fabulous. And, given that is was first released in April 2018, I don’t know how I missed it.
Deep State is a British television espionage thriller series and stars Mark Strong as Max Easton, a former Field Agent for MI6 who is recruited back into a world of covert intelligence and counterterrorism. It is full of political intrigue, twists and turns which you never see coming and nail-biting action sequences.
Deep State is a fictional story that has its roots in real life events. The creators did extensive research on various political and global situations, on which much of the series is based – series one based around events in Iran and series two based around events in Mali.Writers also sought advice from ex-spies and political analysts during production. It is a series that leaves wondering just how much influence organisations such as MI6 and the CIA actually have on world events. This is well recommended, however, be warned, it is gritty and realistic and there is more than a smattering of industrial language.
Thursday 12 September
With a little time on my hand, I’ve been listening to some of my old vinyl and came across a long forgotten 1986 album When I Consider by American Christian singer/songwriter Chuck Butler. My favourite track on that album is Diamond Song – words below but, unfortunately no Video/MP3.
Chuck was/is a Pastor at Calvary Chapel in California and was a member of the band Parable. By some twist of God’s providence, Chuck was seconded to the church I attended in Silksworth, Sunderland, called Calvary Fellowship, in the early 1980’s, and so finding this album was a real trip down memory lane for me.
We’re just like diamonds, in the rough
But he fashions us so fair
We’re just like children, tossed by the wind
But he makes a shelter there
Stay in His keeping, yield to His mighty hand
Let the potter turn the wheel
He’s never sleeping, faithfully He designs
Though we may not always feel
In times of need and when we fail Him
I know that he will understand
If all the world were gone tomorrow
We’d still be in his hands
It’s more than dreams and visions
We have made our decision
And he follows where we leads
Our prayer is simply spoken
Let all the hearts be broken
And the Blinded hearts to see
Saturday 7 September
I love a festival – especially when it’s just around the corner and especially when it’s 80’s themed.
Jimmy Somerville played a perfect set and that Tony Hadley can sing a bit. Sadly, not the right type of grass for my inspirational dancing (a bit like the wrong leaves on the tracks – not grass as in weed as someone on Twitter suggested to me!!) but perfect for air guitar and head banging to the mighty Quo. The other acts were enjoyable but these three stood out – to me. It was a fabulous day and well recommended for 2020.
Note to self: Remember to go in 80’s fancy dress next time.
Friday 6 September
So, this morning I was in the garden and listening to Rush’s epic 1977 album A Farewell To Kings as I was cutting the grass. And, when listening to the title track, the lyrics seemed poignant to where we are today politically.
Lyrics below and further below, enjoy some fabulous prog-rock with the classic Rush setup: Alex’s hollow-body Gibson, Geddy’s Ric, Neil’s Stache of Epicness – add a little analog synth and throw on the kimonos, and commence mind-blowing awesomeness!
When they turn the pages of history
When these days have passed long ago
Will they read of us with sadness
For the seeds that we let grow?
We turned our gaze
From the castles in the distance
Eyes cast down
On the path of least resistance
Cities full of hatred
Fear and lies
And cruel, tormented eyes
Dressed in kingly guise
Beating down the multitude
And scoffing at the wise
The hypocrites are slandering
The sacred halls of truth
Ancient nobles showering
Their bitterness on youth
Can’t we find
The minds that made us strong?
Oh can’t we learn
To feel what’s right and what’s wrong? What’s wrong
Cities full of hatred
Fear and lies
And cruel, tormented eyes
Dressed in kingly guise
Beating down the multitude
And scoffing at the wise
Can’t we raise our eyes
And make a start?
Can’t we find the minds
To lead us closer to the heart?
Tuesday 3 September
Dear Members of Parliament,
You don’t want Theresa May’s deal, you don’t want no deal, you don’t want a second referendum, you don’t want to remain and now you don’t want an election! Could someone please tell us what it is you want?
Tuesday 20 August – Monday 26 August
Wow … what an amazing time I had at the Leeds Festival serving as a Festival Angel – around 170 volunteers working 24/7 served over 100,000 festival goers (mostly under 25 but some too young) in the Prayer Cafe, Lost Property and Detached. I met some amazing volunteers who worked so hard, both in front of house and behind the scenes, sometimes under great pressure, but they served with grace and a smile and made a huge impact on so many festival goers. I made some great friends along the way.
I spent most evenings from 18.00-24.00 in the Prayer Cafe and served thousands cups of tea/coffee/hot chocolate and filled countless pot noodles. I had some amazing conversations with both festival goers, traders and angels and lost count of the number of people I prayed for and with. It’s always a privilege when people open their hearts. I was told I could talk for England – I am a mackem after all – and would you believe me if I said I’d lost my voice when it was all over?
I got to see the Foo Fighters – looks like Taylor Hawkins was sending the right message ‘Y’all need Jesus’ (best photo I was able to capture) and he’s absolutely right.
I particularly enjoyed Jeremy Zucker and The Sherlocks (I’d never heard of them either) and many other ‘unknown’ bands on the smaller stages.
I really get what Festival Angels is about and I’m so glad I was given the opportunity to serve in this way – I loved every minute. Life won’t ever seem quite the same as a result. I’ve already volunteered for 2020. In addition, I survived 6 nights under canvas and I also found myself on Look North (Yorkshire) but the link is down at the moment!
It’s said a picture paints a thousand words and so enjoy the slideshow below …
Tuesday 20 August
I’m on my way! Not sure if I’ll have wi-fi to update my blog when I’m away – keep an eye out on Twitter and Facebook.
Monday 19 August
Thinking about Hebrews 1:14 as I pack my stuff ready to be a Festival Angel at the Leeds Festival this week. Weather forecast is looking good – very pleased as I’ll be spending the week under canvas. Praying for safe travel for all volunteer angels!
Sunday 18 August
Posted at article on my website An Ordinary Office: When The Monsters Strike!
Thursday 15 August
‘A Level’ result day and Annabel has achieved the results she needed to go to University. She’s worked really hard to get these and we’re all very proud. Now she needs to decide which University and which course – plan B, C or D wasn’t required!
But remember, if your A Level results aren’t all you’d hoped for, exams don’t define who you are as a person. Your character, qualities, values and personality are much more important. Be sure to work on these whatever the future holds for you. God knows and has a plan for your life. Trust in him to bring it to pass, Psalm 37:4-5
Tuesday 13 August
Having a bit of a wrestling match with my tent (borrowed from 8th Billericay Scouts – based at Emmanuel) for the Leeds Festival next week. Very cosy. BTW it’s a bit more robust since that photo was taken.
Monday 12 August
Yes, today is the glorious twelfth – National Mackem Day! More details here
Saturday 10 August
I don’t know why I keep doing this, but I do – but then I’m ‘Sunderland ’til I Die’ – we were lucky to force a draw. However, it was a good day out with Ben and meeting with friends at the Station Hotel in Ipswich and at the ground. Haway The Lads!
Friday 9 August
Was planning to spend time in the garden but it’s raining! Ugh!
Today is the day the Church of England remembers Mary Sumner, founder of the Mothers’ Union. You can read more about her in my article here
Thursday 8 August
It seems strange not to be planning for church on Sunday (my next service is 6 October – Harvest Sunday) when I have so much to share with those who have supported me and prayed for me.
Wednesday 7 August
And now a few days to rest, recover and reflect on my experiences of the past three weeks and to prepare for the Leeds Festival. Not forgetting, of course, the pre-requisite washing of clothes. I’ve washed and dried three loads by 1.30 pm. I was up early!! Oh no … it’s starting to rain.
Tuesday 6 August
There’s so much to consider for myself and the impact I may have had on those I’ve met, spoken to, prayed with, trained and got to know. Many people have said that I have given them so much but, as is often the case on these trips, they have given so much to me. I have learned so much about joy in the midst of the most difficult circumstances human beings can contend with. And yet life goes on: work, school, love, children, laughter, pain, sorrow, joy … I’ve been humbled, again and again, by their generosity of spirit and love of life and for the way they welcomed me into their hearts and homes.
I’ll miss them all dearly but they will live on in my heart and my prayers for a long time to come. And, if you are the praying kind, do say a prayer for the staff, volunteers, livelihood workers, beneficiaries and families at Upskills+ Tondo and Baguio.
I want to say Maraming Salamat Po to (mum) Jane Walker for the opportunity, and the trust she placed in me, to undertake so much training – it was a great privilege for me to be able to do so.
If you’ve been touched by some of the things you’ve read in this blog and all that PCF and Upskills+ are doing to support some of the most vulnerable people on the planet, do have a look at the PCF Website to find out ways you can help.
Flying back from Manila to Heathrow – I finally arrived home after 25 hours hotel to door 10.00 pm (5.30 am Philippines time). My body clock was a bit disorientated. Took this photo just as we were coming in to land at Heathrow.
Monday 5 August
Sadly, my last day in Tondo and, indeed, in the Philippines, included a full days staff training looking at: Managing Conflict; Assertiveness and Gibbs’ reflective cycle! And what a fabulous group of gifted, compassionate, caring and committed people they are. It’s been a privilege to get to know them these past three weeks and to have the opportunity to lead two days of training for them. The evaluation forms were quite excellent and you can tell they’ve really grasped the training and the concepts I was trying to put across through the comments they’v made.
Later in the afternoon there were lots of goodbye speeches and songs and tears and cake with some lovely things said about me. I think my greeting (which I said to everyone I met): “Hello, good morning, how are you today?” Will live on long after I have gone. Love always wins through as does a smile! Tess said the clock was a reminder that my time in the Philippine’s was time well spent!
And finally, and certainly not least, these are the lovely ladies (Yolly, Wanuita, Evelyn and Emily) who provide 100’s of meals for breakfast and lunch 6 days a week, starting at 5.00 am. They really appreciated my popping into the kitchen every morning and thanking them after every meal. They signed the attached letter. I was deeply moved when they read it out to me.
Saturday 3 and Sunday 4 August
All seminars were cancelled on Saturday because of inclement weather – flooding across Tondo and many roads impassable. Managed to get to the centre and spent the day talking with staff and some of the beneficiaries who go there for their breakfast and lunch every day.
Sunday was a bit lonely as plans to attend church and meet up with folk for lunch and dinner were cancelled because of the floods. Spent time updating this blog page and finalising my staff training for Monday. Also took the opportunity for a bit of a lie in!
Friday 2 August
Woken up at 4.00 am with heavy rain and thunder (and didn’t get back to sleep – I’ve since found out this was tropical storm Hannah!’). Not surprisingly, there was flooding on the roads around Pedro Gil station in Manila – I just didn’t expect it to be 18″ deep. I needed to catch a train to Balintawak so I decided to copy what the locals do and go for it … glad I was wearing my shorts and that I’m 6’1”. I’m wondering how families cope in their shanties in Tondo when the rain is like it is. To say they must be flooded is an under-statement. I’m also wondering if my vaccinations will be enough to protect me against any waterborne diseases! It was that, or miss out on …
A visit to the satellite Upskills+ centres in Bulacan and Pandi where families from shanty towns across Manila were relocated about five years ago. Some seem to have settled well, having moved with their immediate neighbours, and others have yet to make their house into a home.
All schools and colleges and some government buildings across Manila have been closed today because flooding. It’s rained non-stop for 36 hours. They say it’s a Typhoon and I quite believe them! This means I’ll probably have no students to teach tomorrow.
In the evening I spent an inspiring evening of friendship and testimony with this discipleship group in Tondo, Manila. I’m always humbled by the faith people have here and their love of life.
Thursday 1 August
A full day of training for the fabulous Upskills+ staff looking at leadership (characteristics and qualities) values (inherited core & aspirational) and compassionate resilience. A very thought provoking day for them all – and me – but productive in the longer term. More on Monday! Pleased that my M.A. in Missional Leadership is being put to good use – alongside my theological training, of course, and my experience in pastoral ministry.
Wednesday 31 July
Visited the old dumpsite on the mountain where some families have relocated. It’s amazingly fertile and many are growing their own vegetables both to eat and to sell. However, their houses are still shanties but at least they have space around them and the air is clean. It’s a bit of a hike to get there.
Spent the afternoon in the shoe workshop with the Tatay’s (fathers). Emmanuel gave nearly £2000 to help buy machinery for this project earlier in the year. Roy, who has been a cobbler his whole working life, has been training the fathers and he made a pair of flip-flops just for me. He said he’d never made a pair so big in all his life!
Tuesday 30 July
Spent time with the ladies in the ‘ring pull factory’ this morning. It’s amazing the quality of the items they produce. Such a lovely group who are mostly on ‘flexi-time’ to work around their families. It seems to work for everyone. Had a lovely conversation with Jamielyn about her faith in Jesus and an answer to prayer for her daughter.
In the afternoon I led a session on leadership for the parent volunteers from satellite centres across Manila. Some journeyed 4 hours to get there. Such a lovely group of ladies – and one man (far left on the back row)! They really do an amazing amount to support Upskills+ in their area. The certificate is so important to them and will be framed and put on their walls. And no, I’m not standing on a chair!
Monday 29 July
I had planned to have a relaxing day doing nothing until Maya contacted me asking if I wanted to go to the Senate Office with a friend of hers – Dr Chau! I didn’t need much persuading. RevPACman meets PacMan Pacquiao
Because all the museums etc, were closed were drove to Tayaytay City which is a bit of a tourist attraction about an hours drive south of Manila. I couldn’t resist the carrot cake in this fabulous coffee shop with this amazing view.
Sunday 28 July
Attended The Feast a lay led Catholic church, founded by Bro Bo Sanchez, in the International Convention Centre. It holds 4,000 people and there are four services every Sunday. It was amazing and inspiring and uplifting with fabulous worship (and strict 20 min sermons because if the time limits) and yet very Catholic when it came to the Eucharist. Such a contrast from last week.
I actually went to the above with Dr’s Joy and Lyn Malinit who my wife met at a conference in London, and whom I met also. Afterwards we went out for lunch with their mum to a Pancake House, then to SM, the third largest mall in South East Asia and then back to PICC for an evening concert #TAG – Truth and Gratitude, with some stunning performances from ‘Feast’ young people from across the Philippines performing excerpts from musicals. My fave, of course, was Les Miserables. There was a surprise appearance from 4th Impact, who, I must confess, I had never heard of – apparently they took world by storm via X Factor. Boy could they sing – hugely impressed.
Saturday 27 July
Spent the day leading seminars for college students. I asked them what they were hopig to achieve in their lives, some said teachers or policemen, but one said she wanted to marry an Englishman – at least she was honest. I have to say there is something slightly nauseating about the age of the white men compared to their mail order brides around Manila. I can’t decide who’s most in the wrong.
Friday 26 July
Visited Naic, a site where 1000 families from shanties across Manila were relocated just over a month ago. Roland Matus, General Manager of Onocom Philippines, was with us and they have offered to draw up plans for a purpose-built building for a centre, school and livelihoods. Lots of dreaming taking place here. However, there is currently no infra-structure in place – it’s almost set up for self-governing with the strongest overpowering the weak. And, whilst the houses are much better than the shanties they were living in before, they are half-finished and (in my view) poorly built and with no electricity supply. In addition, the water source is contaminated with many of the children carrying skin diseases.
Finally decided to go to the Robinson’s Mall round the corner for a meal. I’ve managed to do with breakfast at the hotel and lunch at the centre thus far, but I’m feeling a little peckish. It’s an amazing place with more food outlets / restaurants that I’ve seen in my life.
It’s such a contrast to the shanties and I feel embarrassed eating here – spending a months wages for some on a meal. This was also the place where I was propositioned on several occasions. It seems that whilst having a large nose in the UK is often a source of ridicule, here it’s considered sexy!! I’m a Gwapo …
Thursday 25 July
Visited a few more families and I never cease to be amazed at peoples welcome and hospitality. Nanni Nida who has just had a pacemaker finished, Nanni Juanita (one of the volunteers in the centre kitchen) who shares her house with 10 others. Joyce who lives on her own in nothing more than a Rabbit hutch. Whilst I’ve had a few photo’s taken with those I’ve visited, I’ve not taken photo’s of the inside of people’s homes – it just doesn’t seem right to do so – though I’m sure they would say yes if I asked.
My audience for an afternoon of teaching on how to be a good parent (because I’m a perfect parent, of course) looking at ‘loving your child’ (which included a section on the five ‘lurve’ languages) ‘being a good disciplinarian’ and ‘helping your child build character.’ We even had a conversation about ‘sex’ (which I’m told is a taboo subject and which my interpreter, Jiselle, was, at first reluctant to interpret) which seemed to go down well! I have a way with words … Great fun and a very receptive group of mothers – about 80 in all – many of whom I’ve met, before and after, during my time here. They call me “Sir, pastor, Gwapo!” At least they won’t forget me in a hurry!
Wednesday 24 July
Back in Tondo – met Maya, a Filipino living in London, who’s setting up a foundation for sexually abused children in the Philippines. Visited a number of families to pray with them. I can’t decide if praying for them is the least I can do or the most I can do. Some people are living in the most unimaginable conditions – we treat animals better than this – and yet they have such a positive outlook on life. It’s humbling. A word I come back to again and again.
Monday 22 July
The morning was spent training parent volunteers on leadership and the afternoon was spent downtown with Pastor and Pastora. No photos!
Last photo in with my wonderful ladies and their Gwapo. What a wonderful blessing they have been and how moving their speeches were at our last meal together. I bought some ice cream – a once a year treat for them. I also ate with my fingers – it’s surprising how much easier eating fish (any guesses what kind of fish it is?) is with your fingers when trying to separate it from the bones.
Sunday 21 July
Needed a change from rice and so taught my ladies how to make eggy bread – with a little ketchup on the side.
Spoke at Pastor Leo’s church ‘The Sower Church of the Nazarene’ the highest church on Baguio mountain and it was a real struggle to get there. I preached on Nehemiah 8:10 ‘The joy of the Lord is your strength.’ Whilst only about 50 present, the worship was intense and uplifting (I knew many of the songs). It seems as though when people are worshipping all their cares and worries slip to one side and they focus heavenward. I’m humbled by Pastor Leo and Pastora Lyn’s faithful service. We have so much to learn from their approach to church. This was followed by a bring and share lunch. I passed on the stewed chicken feet – though it smelt delicious and so was the sauce. However …
Saturday 20 July
A great day teaching on leadership and preparing for employment with a group of young people – all of whom are sponsored through PCF.
Friday 19 July
So, I’m into my fifth day here in the Philippines, having spent 3 days in Manila / Tondo and this is my second in Baguio. I’m currently in the PCF Centre on the dumpsite in Baguio. There is very little phone connection. No wi-fi and it’s been difficult to update my blog because if this, so it will be updated when I get back to Manila.
It’s wet, damp, mosquitos everywhere – the dumpsite is on marshland – and I’m feeling more than a little chilled. All my clothes are damp when I put them on – though my conditions are much better than the 15,000 who live here.
I’ve visited some of the families who live on the dumpsite – I had the privileged opportunity to pray for them too. The dumpsite (or dream site as some refer to it) is a maze of narrow streets and cobbled together houses, though most of them are built of concrete, with tarmac main roads, not at all like the shanty in Tondo. Families are proud to live here and value the support of the community they live in. They say they wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. My M.A. dissertation was on the theme of community and so it shouldn’t surprise me that they enjoy living here, but it does.
Aedita has lived here for 53 years, since she was born in fact. She owns a store and has set up an internet café on her premises. Some of the residents are quite entrepreneurial. I guess that comes from making a living collecting plastic, glass and tin on the dumpsite.
Lazarus (53) has lived here for 25 years and makes his living out of buying and selling. When I was first introduced to him, I asked him how he was, he replied, with a twinkle in his eye: “I’m still alive!”
This is Thelma (20), with her mum Agostina, who is graduating from college in English and she has aspirations to be a Secondary school English teacher.
Beatrice (33) has suffered from heart failure since she was nine and hasn’t left her home during that time. She lives at the bottom of a steep hill that was a struggle for me to walk never mind her.
In the afternoon Pastor Leo and my ladies (I call them my security detail) went on a sightseeing trip around Baguio City and I treated them to their favourite meal BBQ chicken in a fast food chain called Insala.
Thursday 18 July
Travelling from Manila to Baguio on VIP coach! Very comfortable.
I thought it was a four hour journey but it turned out to be six hours. I’ve since learned that Baguio City is the summer city not because it’s warm and sunny, but because people come here for rain and the cool air of 17’. I sat next to Oman who had travelled from Saudi Arabia to spend four days in the cool and rain. I guess if you’re in constant 40/50’ plus you can understand.
I met Pastor Leo, pictured with his wife Lyn, who is my host and intreperter for my stay in Baguio – he took me to the centre on the dumpsite where I was introduced to the ladies who are looking after me during my stay, breakfast, dinner and tea (L-R): Meribel, Agnes, Grace and Leah, along with the social worker, Angeline (who’s a spitting image of singer / songwriter Danni Nicholls) fortunately, they all speak English!
Wednesday 17 July
This is Jomar who will be my guide and interpreter whilst I’m in Tondo.
Jomar is one of the first children Jane met when he was 3 yrs old. He went through school and college through sponsorship from PCF. Jomar is now 23 yrs of age and is well known, and obviously well loved, in the community. He still lives their sharing a house of two rooms which he shares with his sisters, cousins and nieces – 8 in all. Jomar sleeps on the kitchen floor!
Jomar gave me a further tour of the dumpsite and find there is clinic, market and internet cafe. Normal things for everyday life when everyday life is far from normal. I was quite taken back. The quality of life here is pitiful. Many people have long term health issues that are not easily remedied due to a lack of finance and location. However, many inhabitants work in the city and commute from here and many children and young people attend school. PCF currently supports nearly 1.000 students through school and, for many, that is a 12 to 16 year commitment. More sponsors are needed as they have reached their current capacity. Great to meet Simon Lewis who has a vision to build a gym on the dumpsite. More info here
The hotel is quite some distance from the centre and I’ll be making my own way each day so Marcel (who heads up the livelihoods) showed me how to do it via Trike, Jeepney and Train. Being 6’1″ creates lots of problems when everything is designed for people under 5’6″ – I’ve lost count the number of times I’ve bumped my head on something or other.
Tuesday 16 July
Up early so I went for a walk through the surrounding streets. Very humid, even at 7.00 am. This is breakfast Filipino style. Filipino’s eat rice with EVERY meal – guess I’ll get used to it.
A group from Burgate school in Hampshire are coming to the end of their stay so I tagged along in their mini-bus to the Upskills+ (name of PCF in the Philippines) centre in Tondo. Jane took me on a tour of the dumpsite – which has to be seen to be believed. I know I’ve seen photos and videos and knew something of what to expect, but it doesn’t prepare you for the putrid smell and the dank, sticky air which seems to cling to your skin and clothes.
Child labour is growing in Tondo as families feel the loss of income after the dump site closed. Many children work to support their families through scavenging. This is Melissa who attends the morning sessions in the local government school (5.00 am to 12.00 noon). Her 8 month brother is under the umbrella while she shifts through the leftover foods from the fast food restaurants for pieces of food for her mum to refry tonight. Melissa is eight years old. She’s a student, baby-sitter and providing an income for her family. I’m lost for words. It’s an all too familiar sight.
Monday 15 July
Arrived in Manila Airport at 6.40 pm (7 hours ahead) after a 13 hour flight which was surprisingly comfortable – I even managed to get a few hours’ sleep. I met Jane and Marcel at the airport. I’m booked into the UCCF Shalom Christian Hotel and ready for a good nights sleep. However, I find it quite amusing that they are asking guests to follow a ‘proper decorum’ if keeping quiet and I’m right next door to the Korean Methodist Church who are singing their heads off and disturbing my sleep. Hmmm … time to put my headphones on.
Saturday 13 July
It’s the Durham Miners Gala today – otherwise known as The Big Meeting. Disappointed I can’t be there, but you can catch up on a review I wrote a few years ago here
Today has been a day of shopping, washing, ironing and starting to pack! After all the planning and preparation, I can’t believe I fly TOMORROW! It’s a 10.20 pm flight and so I’ll get the chance to watch some cricket before I go. I’m told Filipino’s love chocolate, shortbread and presents / trinkets (keyrings and fridge magnets) with London on it. So, Paula’s got a bit of stuff to take with me – hoping I’ll have space in my case for clothes! Just checked-in for my flight online – that will save an hour at the airport.
Friday 12 July
The new Mr & Mrs Hannaway married at All Saints, Stock this afternoon. Peter and Gill have a lovely story to tell through a chance meeting in Lanzarote, and the love and companionship they have found with each other – at a stage in life when they may have thought they wouldn’t find that someone special again.
Thursday 11 July
Spent most of the day watching England vs Australia in the semi-final of the ICC World Cup 2019 semi-final. It was a bit of a trouncing. It’s always good to defeat the ‘Auld Enemy’ Bring on the Ashes but the final vs New Zealand first. Hope I get a chance to watch some of it on Sunday before my flight.
I spent the evening preparing my talk and prayers for a wedding I’m taking tomorrow (Friday 12 July) at All Saints, Stock for a couple who have both been widowed. I’ve known one family since I arrived in Billericay, but events we’ve share have usually been filled with sorrow and sadness. This one, however, will be fill with joy and laughter. Yes, I know I’m on sabbatical but I promised quite sometime ago that I’d officiate and a promise is a promise. They chose the date to fit in with my availability.
Wednesday 10 July
A long awaited independent review by the Bishop of Truro, Rt Rev Philip Mounstephen, was commissioned by the foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, to examine the extent and nature of Christian persecution and assess the UK government’s response. Mounstephen concludes that Christians were the most persecuted religious group in the world and recommends that the UK government should be prepared to impose sanctions against countries that persecute Christians. You can read it here
It is well worth a read and should give some much needed political support and encouragement to our brothers and sisters who are persecuted, vilified and martyred across the world. Hunt said he would enact all of the recommendations if he became prime minister. Whilst Hunt may not have found great favour with many as Health Secretary, he has certainly ‘grasped the nettle’ with many issues as Foreign Secretary.
Tuesday 9 July
I attended Oak Hill Theological College, where I undertook my Theological training for ordained ministry, for a day conference entitled: In his image: The doctrine of humanity in the 21st century. In 2018, they explored the Biblical theme of humanity made in the image of God. This year it was a theological and pastoral response to some of the leading challenges of our times: Class, Race and Gender, and asking: Who are we? How do we know? What value do we have, and why? What divides us and what unites us?
I was particularly challenged about how issues of class and race affects our: Apologetics; Evangelism; Social Justice; Discipleship; Community and Leadership. A one day conference that will give me much to think about for a long time to come.
Monday 8 July
The day after the day before! A simply fantastic Gig in the Garden 2019 yesterday. 174 people enjoyed over four hours of three very different, yet outstanding, performances, from Dismal Dan and the Mildly Dynamics, Michelle Lewis and Lauren Housley and her fabulous band. It was a little chilly in the end so we called it a day at 8.30 pm. Proceeds of the event, with raffle, amounted to £765 .00 which is an amazing amount, and will go towards my trip to the Philippines.
A shout out to Richard and Jacqui from Really Awesome Coffee for serving Really Awesome Coffee. And for coming to my rescue at very short notice, when a previous supplier dropped out two days before. Highly recommended.
Sunday 7 July
It’s Sunday. I’m not at church and it feels strange. However, I’m not twiddling my thumbs. I’m getting ready for my Gig in the Garden 2019 this afternoon when I’m expecting over 160 people who will enjoy some fabulous live music and raise funds for my trip to the Philippines at the same time. It’s been sold out for a couple of months now!
Anyway, because it is Sunday, I’ve posted Stormzy’s storming (see what I did there?) performance of Blinded By Your Grace at Glastonbury on my website here. Enjoy.
Lord I’ve been broken
although I’m not worthy
you fixed me, now I’m blinded
by your grace
you came and saved me.
Saturday 6 July
This has been a regular occurrence for me for 22 of the past 25 years.
And, whilst a fun video (with an element of truth in it), it isn’t funny what Andy Burnham, Mayor Manchester, has to say in the August edition of British GQ Magazine: “Northerners are victims of discrimination in London.” In the article he asks: “‘How many Labour prime ministers have come from the North of England? Read more here
Whilst Burnham is talking about politics and the cult of Westminster, his reasoning could also apply to the CofE if we were to ask how many Bishops come from a working class / Northern background who haven’t attended Oxbridge! I’m guessing you could count on one hand.
Now there’s a piece of research waiting to be done – but I’m on sabbatical so that will have to wait for another time (seems as though this phrase could be a recurring theme on this blog page).
Friday 5 July
I’ve been listening to Kathy Mattea’s last album Pretty Bird and just had to share this fabulous song Mercy Now written by Mary Gauthier. Great video but even better tune and lyrics.
My father could use a little mercy now
The fruits of his labor
Fall and rot slowly on the ground
His work is almost over
It won’t be long and he won’t be around
I love my father, and he could use some mercy now
My brother could use a little mercy now
He’s a stranger to freedom
He’s shackled to his fears and doubts
The pain that he lives in is
Almost more than living will allow
I love my brother, and he could use some mercy now
My Church and my Country could use a little mercy now
As they sink into a poisoned pit
That’s going to take forever to climb out
They carry the weight of the faithful
Who follow ‘em down
I love my Church and Country and they could use some mercy now
Every living thing could use a little mercy now
Only the hand of grace can end the race
Towards another mushroom cloud
People in power, well
They’ll do anything to keep their crown
I love life, and life itself could use some mercy now
Yea, we all could use a little mercy now
I know we don’t deserve it
But we need it anyhow
We hang in the balance
Dangle ‘tween hell and hallowed ground
Every single one of us could use some mercy now
Every single one of us could use some mercy now
Every single one of us could use some mercy now
I saw Kathy at The Kings Place, Kings Cross, earlier in the year and, when introducing one of her songs, she said something quite profound (at least it was to me):
Thursday 4 July (Independence Day)
Happy Independence Day. No, I don’t mean American Independence Day (though fireworks would be greatly appreciated, thank you very much) I mean my Independence Day! Confused? Well, twenty one years ago on this day (1998) I was ordained Priest by the Bishop of Chester, at Chester Cathedral, which meant I was no longer a Deacon and was now deemed able to lead services of Holy Communion on my own. Which means today is my coming of age as a Priest in the Church of England. Soli Deo Gloria.
I even have the paperwork to prove it!
Now, how can I celebrate?
A Theology for July 4 by Jim Wallis is a thought provoking read whether or not you are American:
Find ways to love your family and your neighbours and your country – and remember the values and ideals that this nation has, at its best, rightly aspired to and have even inspired others around the world.
Wednesday 3 July
Enjoyed a coffee with the former principal of Spurgeon’s College, London Revd Dr Paul Beasley-Murray this morning to reflect on, and discuss, his recently published research Entering New Territory of which I made a contribution (cited anonymously, but it filled a whole page!) and something in which I have a vested interested. Paul is a heavyweight of evangelical spirituality and a prolific author. What a privilege to be able to spend time talking/praying with him.
Spending the rest of the day chilling in front of the TV watching England vs New Zealand in a must win match if they want to progress to the ICC World Cup 2019 semi-finals – watch this space! They won – quite convincingly too.
Tuesday 2 July
Reflecting on The invention of Essex: how a county became a caricature ‘A long article’ by Essex boy Tim Burrows in The Guardian
From Loadsamoney and ‘Basildon man’ to Towie and Brexit – Essex has long been held up as both the authentic England and the crudest, stupidest symbol of Englishness.
An interesting, insightful, and sometimes provocative, article which is well worth a read (over a cup of coffee) about the County of Essex which has been my home for the last 18 years. Would love to write a theological reflection on my experiences of ‘Essex man’ but I’m on sabbatical so that will have to wait for another time.
I also took the opportunity to have a clean-up in my garage as well as enjoying more gardening. I’m glad the weather is good this week so I can spend the time outside! May need to light a bonfire – hope a concerned neighbour doesn’t call the Fire Service as they did when I last had one a few weeks ago! And yes, it was under control. Can’t help but wonder if someone was being more than a little mischievous. My garden has never looked so good – and it is super ready for my Gig in the Garden on Sunday.
Monday 1 July
Catching up on a few ‘missed’ last minute bits of admin – I forgot to inform local Funeral Directors that I wouldn’t be available for the next three months! I’m praying that the Lord won’t take home any church members during my absence. Did a load of shredding which I found quite therapeutic. I also enjoyed a bit of gardening in the sun (wearing factor 50 because of having four melanoma’s removed in recent years – so no chance of a tan) which was also quite therapeutic – and chilling in the shade with an (n)ice-cold beer.
My euphoria was shattered, however, to learn that Lee Cattermole is to leave Sunderland AFC after 10 years at the club. I’m Gutted! Catts epitomised the type of player the fans love and he will leave a club legend. For those ‘in the know’ this is an iconic moment in his career …