Pilgrimpace's Blog

christmas, tiredness, pressure, social media
December 18, 2018, 4:17 pm
Filed under: christmas, estate churches, estate ministry, necn, Uncategorized | Tags: , , ,


I am Chair of the National Estate Churches Network.  NECN is committed to flourishing estate churches, and as part of this flourishing we want our estate churches to be bigger and have more people.

But we know that many of our churches are small and that growing them is often hard, slow work.

This is one of the times of year that church leaders and clergy are really tired.

We are also now solidly in the season of social media where colleagues are sharing their successful Christmas services.

How does this all feel?
What does faithfulness and success look like for estate churches?
How do we judge if we are doing it?
Should we all take a social media break for a fortnight?

A load of slightly random thoughts, but would value your take.

Prayers for you all in the business end of Advent


advent journey – “success”
December 22, 2017, 4:57 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,

Christmas (and in terms of season I am solidly in both Christmas and Advent for these days) is a beautiful and strange time for clergy.  For myself there are the wonderful, huge number of services, assemblies, opportunities to share with people something of God.  But there is also the challenge of having time and energy for my family.  And, as we all know, there is a shadow side to the season.

We can find this a bit in social media, which (if you follow the same people as me) can be full of clergy who are justly proud of the numbers attending their services.  Now, I am fully in favour of having as many people in Church as possible (part of my ministry is a missioner), but I am also aware that many of us in urban housing estates and other places will be ministering as hard and imaginatively and faithfully as possible, but may have very few visitors and regular congregation in Church this weekend.  This can be crushing, especially when you are exhausted.

So, maybe we might think before we tweet or facebook our numbers.  And, to be honest, it might be best to stay off the computer for a bit.  Spend time with family and friends, watch a film, read a book.  Much more healthy.

My prayers for you all over the next days.

(and Sarah Schofield says similar things much better here).

December 24, 2016, 10:42 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: ,

These two cartoons by the wonderful Michael Leunig really speak this Christmas.

May you have a blessed time.  Love and prayers,





Images courtesy of Michael Leunig

christmas services at st bede’s

Our Christmas Services at St Bede’s start this Sunday 18th December with the CANDLELIGHT CAROL SERVICE at 6pm. This is followed by mince pies and mulled wine.

Our CHILDRENS CAROL SERVICE is on Christmas Eve at 4pm.
We’ll have a Scratch Nativity – please come dressed up!
This is a short service designed for excited little ones.

MIDNIGHT MASS starts at 11.30pm on Christmas Eve


You are welcome at any or all of these.

Prayers for you at Christmastide


christmas journey – face

My first day at school stands out clearly in my mind. A crust of bread and a kiss was my breakfast as I ran across the road to St Saviour’s, at the age of five. When I got to school, there was placed before me a white mug of hot milk and a bun; it looked very big. I couldn’t believe it was for me. I looked up, and there was a big fat man in black, with a funny hat looking down at me. He had a big face with a double chin; he was smiling; it was a lovely face. The man put his hand on my head and said, simply: ‘Eat.’ That was Father Dolling, and I think I have felt that touch ever since.

– Father Joe, The Autobiography of Joseph Williamson of Poplar and Stepney


Fr Dolling

This is a good passage to reflect on.  Where do we receive the things that feed us so deeply?  Can we make sure we see them and don’t overlook them? What do they say to us?  How can we be people who do this to others?  Giving with such humanity.

If you want to be involved in feeding people in a way that really builds up, I heartily recommend the Free Bread Project connected to the excellent Ifakara Bakery in Tanzania.  Click here for more information.

The Holy Innocents (Refugee)
December 28, 2015, 1:24 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , ,

Malcolm Guite’s Advent Book ‘Waiting on the Word’ is a fantastic companion through Advent and Easter. This poem and reflection, for Holy Innocents Day, speak so much to the journey we have been making together recently

Malcolm Guite

https://lanciaesmith.com/image-for-the-day-advent/ https://lanciaesmith.com/image-for-the-day-advent/

The poem from my Anthology Waiting on the Word reflects on the fact that today, the fourth day of Christmas, is the feast day of the Holy Innocents. It is the day the Church remembers the story, told in Matthew’s Gospel of the appalling cruelty and wickedness of Herod in ordering the massacre of innocent children, in a bid to protect his own power-base. Appalling, but only too familiar. What Herod did then, is still being done by so many present day Herods. This scarred and wounded world is the world into which Jesus was born, the world he came to save, and amongst those brought by his blood through the grave and gate of death and into the bliss of Heaven are those children of Bethlehem who died for his name without ever knowing him. But he knows them, as he knows and loves every child in Syria…

View original post 259 more words

christmas journey – pilgrims
December 27, 2015, 5:09 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , ,

We’ve been using this traditional poem from Mexico as a basis for some of our Christmas reflection:

“Who knocks at my door so late?”

“We are pilgrims without shelter and we want a place to rest.”

“Go somewhere else. Don’t disturb me again!”

“But the night is very cold. We have come from afar and are very tired.”

“But who are you?”

“I am Joseph of Nazareth, a carpenter. With me is Mary, my wife, who will be the Mother of the Son of God.”

“Then, come into my humble home, and welcome! May the Lord give shelter to my soul when I leave this world!”


I love the observation of one of the children I shared it with in school: 

They only let them in when they knew it was Mary and Joseph.  

Let’s pray for to see with the eyes and heart of God, to have practical compassion for all who need it.

advent journey – the way

There is a very good piece by my friend and fellow pilgrim Rebekah Scott here about the plans that the Fraternidad Internacional del Camino de Santiago have to restore the Way to something that is holy and down to earth and which does not eat itself.  I recommend reading it, especially if you are a pilgrim.

It speaks a lot to me about the Advent Journey we’ve been on.  About taking care.  Looking for what is important.  Holding onto it for dear life.  Loving passionately.  Doing justice.  Looking for God in other people.  Respecting the earth.

Advent finishes tomorrow night as we move into Christmas.  There is a calm for me before the wonderful chaos of Children’s Carol Services and Midnight Masses.  Let’s carry on walking together and see what Christmas brings.

The unexpected and unlooked for is so often the best.


happy christmas
December 24, 2013, 7:00 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

Happy Christmas to you all.

The Advent Calendar is now complete


The Crib in Church has been blessed (and the Scratch Nativity at Brandwood may have been the only one to have included the Cat in the Hat in the characters).

Here are three quotations which have been in my mind as I have prayed my sermons for tonight and tomorrow:

There is something holy, something divine hidden in the most ordinary situations, and it is up to each one of you to discover it (unknown author)

Where there is no love, put love, and you will find love (St John of the Cross)

Be human in this most inhuman of ages; guard the image of humankind for it is the image of God (Thomas Merton)

May you be filled with the wonder of Mary, the obedience of Joseph, the joy of the angels, the eagerness of the shepherds, the determination of the magi, and the peace of the Christ child this Christmas and for evermore.

christmas trees
December 27, 2012, 1:10 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,

Bonhoeffer in his skylit cell

bleached by the flares’ candescent fall,

pacing out his own citadel,


restores the broken themes of praise,

encourages our borrowed days,

by logic of his sacrifice.


Against wild reasons of the state

his words are quiet but not too quiet.

We hear too late or not too late.

– Geoffrey Hill