Who Needs Theology?

Who Needs Theology by Stanley J. Grenz and Roger E. Olson

This is an interesting book, which outlines exactly what theology is, and how it might be applied. Although the beginning is somewhat repetitive, the authors do thoroughly explain things, and if the concepts are new this would be helpful. The writing throughout was clear and easy to understand, and it was regularly smattered with examples from the Snoopy comic.

One slightly irritating aspect was the printing of the book. The typesetter had not kept the words complete, and on some pages there were many words split with a hyphen. When reading unfamiliar words, this was unhelpful. (I suspect it was done to reduce the number of pages and therefore the cost, but was, in my opinion, a mistake.) But if you can ignore the physical aspects (and I am being picky so you may not even notice) the content was excellent.

Irritating hyphenated words.

I especially enjoyed the description of different types of belief, such as the explanation of dogma, doctrine and opinion. The Bible contains many truths and rules. Some of these are dogma, i.e., if you don’t believe them, you aren’t a Christian. They include things like that there is only one God (so if you believe there are many gods, you cannot call yourself a Christian).

Then there is doctrine. A doctrine is a belief that is considered important by certain churches, and they would not allow you to be a leader in their church unless you believe them—though you would still be a Christian. For example, some people believe you should be baptised by being fully immersed, when a believer. They would not allow someone who believed in infant baptism to lead their church, though they would recognise them as being Christian.

Lastly, there are some parts of the Bible that are interpreted according to opinion. Two people might both be Christians (same dogma) both belong to the same church (same doctrine) but one might think women should wear a hat to pray, and the other think that’s irrelevant in modern times (different opinions).

Churches/Christians decide what is dogma, and what is doctrine, and what is opinion. Sometimes they disagree. Of course they do! However, it is helpful to keep these categories in mind when discussing issues. I have heard people protest that if you start saying one part of the Bible should be interpreted in the light of contemporary culture, where do you stop? The answer is now clear—you stop when you reach the truths that make up our dogma.

The book also includes a brief outline of church history:

The first Christian emperor, Constantine, called together the leaders of the church from all the Christian cities in the Roman Empire to write a creed stating what it meant to be a Christian. They met in Nicea (because Constantinople was still being built, and no one likes visitors when the builders are in). They wrote the Nicene Creed, which basically said that to be a Christian, a person must accept that Jesus was equal to/of the same substance as God. This was dogma (non-negotiable).

Until 1054, the church was unified.

In AD 1054: the church split into:

1) Eastern Orthodox (who believed that everything that was decided in Nicea in AD 325 and AD 787 constitutes a definitive body of Christian doctrine—so nothing should be changed.)

2)Roman Catholic Church—this includes the ‘Holy Office’ which decides what should be dogma/doctrine/opinion. They decided, for example, that dogma should include the immaculate conception of Mary, and her bodily assumption into heaven. This church has been further split as follows.

In 1517, Martin Luther, a German monk nailed 95 points for debate to the cathedral door. This evolved to become a new wing of the church, which protested the Roman Catholic emphasis of the authority of popes and councils—it was therefore called the Protestant Church. This then split again:
Luther founded Lutherism.
Zwingli and Calvin founded the Presbyterian church.
Cranmer helped establish the Anglican church (when Henry VIII wanted a divorce).
Simons led the Anabaptists/Mennonites.   

These wings of the church (Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Protestant) were all Christian. They all believed the same basic dogma.

In the early nineteenth century, modernism arrived. The Protestant church began to view Biblical truths in the light of modern culture—in some cases, refusing to believe things written in the Bible unless they complimented modern thought. The Roman Catholic church rejected modernism, thereby also rejecting scientific discoveries, the rights of humans, and so on. The Protestant church divided into two groups—those called ‘liberal’ who at their most extreme would only believe Biblical texts if they could be ‘proven’ by modern thought (so they rejected miracles as superstition, for example) and ‘fundamentalists.’ Fundamentalists at their most extreme tried to make all belief dogma, producing a tight list of everything found in the Bible and declaring that none was a matter of doctrine or opinion, and to be a Christian everyone must believe exactly the same things.

The book then explores the role of theologians, and how theology might be studied and applied. I found the book very accessible and immensely interesting. It is definitely worth reading if you have any interest in theology, or how the church evolved, and is continuing to evolve today.

Should you ask for a miracle when you’ve been given a brain?

Let me set the scene for you: The church service has finished, and people are shuffling their chairs into small circles, ready to take communion. There are small round tables in strategic positions, and someone is quietly walking around, placing silver dishes of bread and small glass cups of wine on each one. (Actually, to be strictly factual, I believe the small glass cups are cocktail dishes, designed for jellies or ice-cream sundaes. And the ‘wine’ is indefinable fruit juice, because this is a Baptist church and they don’t have alcoholic wine for communion.) The bread is gluten free, so that everyone can share from the same loaf.

I sit, in my circle, and look at the other people. This is a mistake—perhaps my head should be bowed in prayer, and I should be oblivious to the people I am about to share a cup with, but I’m not. I notice that at least four people in my group have colds, one lady is stuffing a tissue up her sleeve while we wait, others have red noses and watery eyes and hoarse coughs. I find this stimulates me to pray, but again, not perhaps the prayer I should be praying. I am not praying for my fellow worshippers, not asking God to heal their illnesses, to give them comfort from the sore noses and uncomfortable throats. Nope, I am asking for a miracle. I am asking that could I please, please, be protected from the germs that are about to be shared along with the indefinable fruit juice in the glass cup/jelly dish. Because I have a really busy week coming up, with a book sale, and three different occasions when we’re having a number of people for dinner and I need to cook, and a rather nice event with my family which I don’t want to miss, so please God, please protect me from the cold germs and the flu virus, and anything else that is about to be consumed in the indefinable fruit juice.

Then, as I prayed (my rather selfish prayer) I realised that God had given me a brain and a dollop of common sense. My brain told me that sharing a cup (of indefinable fruit juice) with a bunch of people who were clearly suffering from one lurgy or another, was plain stupid; especially at the start of a particularly busy week. I did not need a miracle (ie to be protected from the germs which I would certainly consume with the drink) I needed instead to use my brain, and not drink it. Perhaps being given a brain was the miracle (brains are after all rather wonderful, with their grey sludge and electrical currents that control every part of us).

And so, dear reader, I did not share the communion cup. I truly hope that I didn’t offend anyone by passing it along the line, I hope that no one felt I was being aloof, or setting myself apart, because I wasn’t. I simply decided to use my brain and not risk catching a germ that I don’t have time to fight.

What, I wonder, would you have done?

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I wrote this several months ago, before I was even aware of Coronavirus. I didn’t post it at the time, thinking I would save it for later. It now seems so poignant, I decided to share it.

Not Quite Catholic. . .

Not Quite Catholic. . .

I have never attended a Catholic Mass, and I was interested to see how it differs from an Anglican service. On Sunday, I persuaded my mother to come with me, and we set off for the 5pm Mass.

The church building was a nice little church, painted white, with no obvious front door to enter, but my mother, who knows these things, took me to a door at the side, and we walked in. There was a foyer, with glass doors into the main church, and we could see a smattering of people (about 8) who were seated, not in the pews, but in a semi-circle around the altar. They looked at us.

Mum gave me a couple of service sheets (I don’t know how she knew which ones we needed, but it turned out she was correct) and we walked, down the aisle, to the front. It was a very long aisle, and I had dressed smartly, in a skirt and boots, and the boots had heels which made a very loud noise on the wooden-floored aisle. We walked, noisily, to the front, while everyone sitting near the altar watched us. I expect my face was red.

There were some empty chairs, and we sat, and looked around. The other people were now looking down, in a prayerful posture, so I copied.

A bell rang, and the priest entered from a side door, dressed in robes, dark-skinned (everyone else was white) and with a friendly face. There was organ music playing, which he controlled from his phone. He faced a statue of Mary, and made the sign of the cross (which interested me, because I’ve always assumed people did that facing the crucifix in the front of the church, but he definitely turned to face the statue). He then leant down and kissed the white cloth on the altar, turned down the music, and the service began.

There was an order of service sheet, but they didn’t seem to follow it entirely, and it was quite difficult to keep up with the liturgy because they spoke very fast. I joined in where I could, but mostly just listened. It all seemed to be almost identical to the words spoken in Anglican churches. At one point, people ‘shared the peace,’ and went around shaking hands and saying: ‘The peace of God be with you.’ We joined in with that. There was a prayer to Mary, but it was very fast, and I couldn’t understand the words enough to hear whether it was something I would want to join in with or not. (I had decided that unless something felt actually ‘wrong’ to me, I would join in. A little like: I don’t think women need to cover their head when praying, but if that is what people in the church believed, I would do it, because covering your head is not ‘wrong’ it is just, in my view, unnecessary. If I want to connect with people, I might need to partake of some rituals that I feel are unnecessary, so that I don’t offend anyone, and so it is easier for them to accept me.)

There was a collection, but I was prepared, and had remembered to put some coins into my bag (how much should one put into the collection in a strange church? I give money regularly as a tithe, so that’s not the issue, the money put into a collection in a strange church is sort of for the other people, to show support—so it has to be more than pennies, but when you’ve already given your main tithe to God, you don’t really want to give notes! I don’t, anyway.) I’m pretty sure that one person didn’t put in anything, and just put a closed hand over the basket and then rattled the money in there to make it look as though they had added something! But I can’t be sure.

There was a short sermon/talk. During this, a young family arrived, and sat in the front pew. I then worried that perhaps only the leadership were sitting around the altar, and they were all wondering why we had joined them! The priest greeted the family, who he clearly knew, and spoke a few words directly to the children.

After the sermon was communion. The priest and another man, did various things—washing fingers in a glass pot of water, drying them on a laced cloth, going to a small locked cabinet and removing other items—and then people filed up, and received communion. Mum had told me that we shouldn’t take communion, as only Catholics are meant to, so we sat and watched. Some people stood with their arms folded across their chest, and they received a blessing rather than the elements, so maybe we could have done that—I don’t know.

I thought we were nearly finished, and although I had lots of questions, we seemed to have survived. . . and then there was another collection! This felt unfair, as if despite our best efforts at integration, we had fallen at the last hurdle. I didn’t have any more money, so we had to just shake our heads when the basket arrived, feeling that out Protestant ineptitude was shining out for all to see.

The service finished, the priest disappeared into the side room in a swirl of robes, and everyone sat down. People started to leave. I had lots of questions, and wanted to make contact with someone, so we sat for a while, trying to look smiley and approachable. No one approached, or looked at us. Perhaps chatting is not a thing in Catholic churches? Baptists are generally very chatty, but perhaps after Mass people leave in reverent silence? Or perhaps we had done something wrong, and they were politely declining to tell us—should we have done the making a sign of the cross thing to the statue of Mary, and was it offensive that we hadn’t? I don’t know, because no one was available to ask. We left, my heels clonking back up the aisle.

As a first experience, it probably left me with more questions than answers. I think I might try to email the priest before I go next time, just to check that nothing I do, or don’t do, is tactless. And I will definitely wear quieter shoes.

Thanks for reading. Have a good day, and take care.

Love, Anne x

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Diary of a Lunch Club

As you know (if you follow my blog) I help with a senior’s lunch every week, and as we only have two cooks, I have to cook on alternate weeks. There are usually some disasters (not always my fault). I thought I’d write a diary for you this week. I can’t include photos of the other workers, as most are ‘vulnerable adults’ (or else shy!)

When I was at school, one of our lessons – Food and Nutrition – involved writing a time-plan each week. We had to start at the end (serve dinner) and work backwards, working out timings. It wasn’t a favourite activity, but I still do it today whenever I’m planning an event or big meal. To be honest, I really hate cooking dinners, but don’t tell anyone that, because it seems to be one of the main things I have to do.

In case you ever are called upon to cook lunch for 40 people, here is the diary, complete with quantities, which you might find helpful. The main thing to remember is that although cooking times are the same whatever the quantity, heating times are longer. So, for example, mashed potatoes need to be boiled for twenty minutes (unchanged whether one or fifty) but heating a big saucepan of 5kg of potatoes will take at least 30 minutes before it begins to boil, and peeling them will take another 30 minutes. Here is the diary for this week:

Roast Gammon followed by Ginger Sponge and custard.
Quantities for 40 people.

Wednesday: Shopping.
I try to arrive at the supermarket early, so there are plenty of easy parking spaces that will allow access to the boot of the car, because my bags will be heavy. I am fairly rubbish at parking, even in an empty car park, so this is bit of a stressful event.

I enter the supermarket at 8:45. Realise I have left all my shopping bags in the boot, so go back for them. Reenter supermarket at 8:50.

Buy everything on list (see end of blog). Pay, and remember to put receipt safely in purse (this is another very difficult thing – which causes Husband some stress when yet again, I have lost it).

When home, transfer things to fridge and freezer, and try to remember where they are so I don’t leave them there on Friday (it happens).

Thursday: Cook puddings.

I use my super-efficient Kenwood Chef mixer, which is the one piece of kitchen equipment I could not manage without. I make the sponges in two lots, each batch making 4 loaf-tin cakes (which are then easy to transport in a container). Being very old, I work in pounds and ounces.

Put dog outside (she mutters about this) and wipe all surfaces to avoid cross-contaminations with allergens (I use nuts in my kitchen). Tie back hair, put on apron, wash hands. (Because although this is my kitchen, I am cooking for the public, so need to raise the hygiene levels a little.)

Put 1lb butter and 1lb caster sugar into bowl and mix on high speed. Add 8 eggs, one at a time, cracking into a cup first to ensure no shell/bad eggs. Beat very hard. Add 1lb self-raising flour and 28g ginger, mix, stir, mix. Put into 4 lined loaf tins, bake on 170º for about 35 minutes. While cooking, make the next lot.

I set an alarm on the phone, but got it wrong, so they almost burnt. This happens more often than you might think.

Put on cooling racks until cold, then pack into air-tight containers. Cut off the end of one sponge and ate it (to test it wasn’t too burnt. Plus they smelt really nice, and I was hungry). Put into car so I don’t forget to take them tomorrow (this also happens fairly often).

Thursday afternoon: H phones to let me know that the boiler at church has broken, so there won’t be any hot water. Super. The plumber/engineer is coming to mend the boiler in a couple of weeks. Double super.

Friday: Visit washroom 23 times and pray a lot – which is normal for someone who gets anxious about leaving the house. Mainly pray that I won’t poison anyone. Leave home 8:30am.
Remember to take: My hat, sausages and 6 gammons and milk and butter from the fridge. Puddings. Sweetcorn from freezer. Food bags. Church keys. Marker pen (to write date on any new sauces that we open)

9:00 arrive, unload, put freezer stuff in freezer.
Say hello to D and R, the ‘advance team’ who arrive. They are busy, returning the tablecloths from last week, which have been washed and ironed, setting up the tables and chairs. They also chat about growing up in the 1950s and make me laugh. D has brought his meat-slicer, which means I won’t have to hack the gammons into pieces when they’re cooked. He isn’t meant to, in fact, I’m not sure he’s meant to be there at all as he has a major heart operation next week; but I am hugely grateful.

We have a checklist for when we arrive, so I start to go through it: I wipe surfaces and bleach sinks. The church kitchen is used by a variety of groups during the week, so we assume the worst and clean everything. I fling all the tea-towels into the laundry pile (because although they look clean, someone might have blown their nose on one). I turn on the dishwasher and water heater, preheat the ovens to 180℃. I throw away old sauces (check dates) and put dates on new sauces. Then I clean the microwave, check fridge temp etc.

Get out 6 saucepans (because the saucepan cupboard is under the sink, and when S arrives I don’t want to keep asking her to move). Plates and jugs and dishes are put in hot cupboard, switched on, temperature set to 65º.

D puts out ‘sign-up’ sheet for next week, so we’ll know roughly how many dinners to cook.

I start to peel potatoes. We have coloured chopping boards, to avoid cross-contamination, so they are cut on the brown one. S arrives, and starts to peel the carrots. We only have one sharp knife, which she uses. (S comes every week to help us. She suffers from autism, so likes to do the same jobs, in the same place, with the same equipment each week; and any changes need to be discussed in advance. She also works very hard, and we miss her when she’s away.) We cut the carrots into sticks, because they go further than when cut into rounds (don’t ask me why).

I prepare the cauliflower.

9:45 Rinse meat, boil, wrap in foil.

10: 05 Put the potatoes onto the stove to boil (2 saucepans)
S grates the cheese.

10:15 T&H arrive, and set up the cafe in the front of the church. People begin to arrive for coffee. I can hear lots of laughing and chatting (loud chatting).

10:30 Meat into ovens.

At some point F arrives and washes his hands and says hello. F helps to set the tables with bowls, glasses and jugs of water. F also has ‘special needs’, but he takes more care over the setting of the tables than anyone else would. He is also in charge of the music, and has a preference for marching bands. The rest of the cooking is done to the sound of military music.

10:34 Tins of oil into oven to heat.
10:35 Strain potatoes, shake flour and salt and pepper over them, shake, put into tins of hot oil, into oven.
S puts the custard into jugs, covers with cling film, leaves ready to be microwaved. S then goes for a coffee break.

10:50 Water on hob for cauliflower.
S appears in the kitchen, to tell me the lights aren’t working in the washroom. I investigate, and find there is no electricity anywhere, and all the ovens are off. Not sure what to do, then electricity comes back on. Carry on cooking.
11:00 Put carrots onto hob. Salt all pans. Turn potatoes and move them around the ovens, because some ovens work better than others. Ovens seem a bit cool.

I check the ovens, and realise that although the electricity is back on, the ovens have set themselves to ‘automatic timer’ and are not working. I cannot remember how to override the automatic setting and spend 5 minutes pressing random buttons. Eventually they come back to life. I shove the dials to the hottest setting and swear a little.

I start to make the cheese sauce. T appears in the kitchen and begins to explain, in great detail, what is wrong with the boiler. I am not terribly interested at this point, and find it difficult to remain polite, especially as he is standing between me and the fridge and I need the milk.

11:10 Cauliflower into boiling water.
11:30 Sausages in oven (sausages are an alternative for people who don’t like gammon).
Prepare peas in microwave (because we have one person who will only eat peas). I also use the meat thermometer to check temperatures. The gammons are over 75º, which means they’re cooked. Phew.
11:30 D cuts the meat. I remember to check carrots. The cauliflower is cooked, so I strain it, and pour over the sauce. More people are arriving in the kitchen, washing up and chatting. I mostly ignore them (otherwise I will make a mistake).
11:32 Sweetcorn into boiling water.
11:35 Check/turn/move the roast potatoes again.
11:45 Make gravy. I’m not sure that anyone actually eats gravy. C arrives, and says that the person who always used to like gravy, even when there’s a sauce, died a year ago. I decide the baseline stipulation for people we cater for needs to be that they are not dead, so I only make one jug of gravy.

I move all the food to the hot-trolley, which keeps it warm while people come and sit down and grace is said. There are bowls on the tables, and everyone puts in £3:50 (which I have to remember to take home and give to Husband with the receipts from shopping).

I put the puddings into ovens (switched off) to warm slightly. I microwave the custard.

I serve the meals onto plates, the servers take them to the people sitting at the tables. I serve 35 dinners, plus 3 people ask for an extra dinner to take home for someone who is housebound/ill.

All the leftovers are put on the serving hatch, and people take them home in empty containers to eat in the week.

Rev.P gives a short talk while I put the puddings into bowls.

The servers collect all the dirty plates and serve the puddings.

The washing-up team start to clean up, L takes home the tablecloths to wash.

I take off my apron and drive Mum to her house, then go home.

I feed the cats and ducks, and give the cauliflower leaves to the chickens, then go inside for a sandwich. Am knackered.

Shopping List:
For 40 People

3 large cauliflowers (or 2 1/2 kg broccoli)
4kg carrots
10kg potatoes
6x750g gammon joints
1 packet sausages

4 pints milk
8oz butter (plus 2lb for puddings)
450g cheese
onion gravy mix
tin foil
dettox spray
2kg bag sweetcorn
small plain flour

Custard 7x400g (the large tins) or ice cream
2lb butter
2lb SR flour
grd ginger
16 eggs
2lb golden caster sugar
tinned fruit (as an alternative)


Thanks for reading. Hope you have a good week with no disasters.


Anne E. Thompson has written several novels. They are available from bookshops and Amazon.
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Diary of a Harvest Festival

Diary of a Harvest Festival

You might remember, if you follow my blog, that way back in March, I wrote a post about an idea I had for harvest, and I promised to let you know what happened. Here is a brief diary of events:

March: I read about the origins of our harvest festival in Leviticus, and was challenged by my apathy towards the festival. Had a clear idea of how the weekend might be planned. Decided to wait and see if idea faded or grew.

Next Sunday: As I sat in my church, I could clearly see how it might be decorated and arranged for a large family supper. Began to feel rather excited. My idea/vision was not fading.

Few Weeks later: A Missions Team Meeting – I shared my idea with the rest of the team, and was given permission from Rev P to start planning the event. He said he would arrange the Sunday bit. (This caused me some angst – what if he got the Sunday bit wrong? I am a control-freak.)

April: I chatted to J and C in church, and they agreed to help me plan the event. We met one evening, and I splurged out my ideas. They then discussed what they thought would work, and what should be dropped, and generally improved on my basic thoughts.

One idea which they modified was my “Thank you table,” which they thought had too much potential for precious items being lost/spoiled. They suggested instead a “thank you tree,” where people could write their thanks on autumn leaves, and attach them to the tree.

They also said there was too much for one evening, and they didn’t think my ‘sacrifice table’ would work, so we dropped that idea.

May/June: We met a few times. C planned some attractive fliers, which we could use to advertise the event. She also booked the church rooms for the evenings we needed them, and managed to book DJ to do the demonstration (which was brilliant news).

Rev P let us know that all the families I’d hoped would return had accepted the invitation. Very exciting!

We split the event, so each of us was leading a specific area: C would arrange the flower arranging demo on the Thursday evening. J would head-up a team to decorate the sanctuary ready for the meal/service. I would organise the catering.

July: We finalised the design for the fliers, setting the times for when we thought the most people would be able to attend (needed to juggle people who work on Saturdays with those families who are on an early clock). J told us the ‘thank you tree’ was under control, and she had ordered some rather smart autumn leaves. We discussed whether to have a flower demo followed by a workshop, or whether to split that over two evenings. We then realised we were suggesting people came Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday to harvest events, and this might be too much for most people. Decided to drop the Friday workshop, and instead decorate the church Saturday morning.

We started to announce our plans in church, giving people advance notice. Husband told me my announcements were mainly confusing (always get very honest feedback from family).

We spent an evening at the church measuring tables and rooms, deciding on the layout of the tables. We would have the demo in the back hall, and use the sanctuary (which is a lovely space) for the meal, arranging the tables as for a banquet – trying to give the impression of one big table (like a big family meal), even though the space only allowed for 3 separate tables.

The supper is a ‘Bring and Share’ supper. People will arrive, and sit at the table with their dish, which they will eat, and share with those around them. This means people with allergies/food preferences won’t worry about the food. It also eliminates the long queue of people waiting to go to the food table (and the need for there to be space for people carrying plates of food). It also means that people who have spent 3 hours cooking something delicious don’t arrive at the table to find only a cold burger and a hard baked-potato.

August: We all went on holiday and thought no more about it.

September: Returned from holidays, life became very busy with work/ill parents/health/start of all the church groups, and I began to wonder if harvest was all a big mistake. Very stressed. This was made even worse by reaching the part in my book where there is a barn dance, so I was also planning that (even though it wasn’t real). My head was full of how much a band costs (not real), how many people we could seat in the church (real), what food to serve (both real and not real). All got very confusing.

(Note: You may wonder, why— when I was busy planning an event— was I also trying to plan a virtual event for a book? The thing is, if authors are not disciplined, and keep writing, even when life ‘gets in the way’, then books are never finished. As in, never. I meet so many people who have been writing a book for about 25 years, and never finished it. To write a book, you have to write; you cannot wait until there is a ‘good time’ because there never is.)

Fliers were printed and distributed. Friends were invited. J arranged a team to help decorate. I tried to find people to help me cater, and printed off a quiz, so people who felt shy/bored had something to do at the tables.

The team has grown. We have someone who will wash all the white cloths we use at Lunch Club and return them to church for the Saturday. People setting up games in the hall for the children/young people to use during the meal. Someone collecting and returning wine glasses (borrowed from Waitrose). Someone sourcing some autumnal napkins. A team who will help decorate. People who will help set up tables and move furniture before and after the meal, and so on. I am beginning to feel excited.

One Week Before: Ordered food from Morrisons (15 stick loaves and 6 gammons) and bought drinks. I also cooked some dishes, and froze them, ready for next week. Other people in the church began to plan/buy/cook what they would bring.

Wednesday, day before the flower demo: C phoned to say our demonstrator had pulled out and could no longer come. I was flummoxed. Now what? We couldn’t even let most people know the event was cancelled, as we didn’t know who would have seen our advertising.

Son suggested I went to local florists and tried to find a replacement.

Chatted to C and we decided that I would pray, she could contact DJ and try to persuade him to still come. I wasn’t sure what to do if this failed.

Wednesday afternoon: C phoned and said DJ had agreed to still come (I think there had been a misunderstanding, which C had now sorted). Phew!

Thursday 6pm: Arrived at church, just as C and DJ were leaving, having set up his display tables. J arrived, and we set up chairs, refreshments, a place where I could give a 3 minute Tearfund talk (we were collecting donations for Tearfund at all 3 events). J had made mini chocolate brownies, sausages coated with herbs and honey, and tiny feta and olive pastries. I brought wine and soft drinks, J brought glasses.

Thursday 7–9pm: DJ gave a brilliant talk and flower demo. About 20 people attended (which was disappointing, as I’d hoped for more). The evening seemed a happy one. We raised about £35 for Tearfund.

Friday: Lunch Club. A last chance to advertise the event. Afterwards, on my way home, I bought food, so there would be enough at the meal for our guests (17 people, who were invited to come but who wouldn’t be bringing food as they were travelling a distance). When I got home, I picked some flowers and fruit for the display.

Friday evening: Popped into church to check: kitchen was clean, there was a supply of toilet rolls, I filled freezer with ice-creams. The stage was heaped with beautiful flowers and vegetables which people had grown and donated.

Saturday morning: I arrived at church to help decorate. People were already there, making the sanctuary look beautiful. Someone had also set up the back hall, with games for teenagers and toys for children. It looked fabulous already!
We set up tables (there was some discussion, as to whether to change the planned design, but eventually they were set up as planned, with a sort of ‘mini top-table’ to visually link the tables – wasn’t sure who would feel comfortable sitting there though). We had 85 people signed up to come, and finding enough cutlery/water glasses/serving spoons was a challenge. We ran out of knives, and had to use plastic ones. (I should’ve counted all the cutlery beforehand.)

The church began to look beautiful. Inspired by the Thursday demo, I decided to have a go at an arrangement with the stuff I’d brought. The last flower arrangement I attempted, my mum rearranged when she saw it. People were very polite about my attempts (but I could see in their eyes that they were lying). Then D, who is so sweet, said I had started a really lovely shape, and she had some flowers left over, how would I feel if she added to my arrangement? She then added flowers and foliage, and made it look amazing. I decided I would tell my family I had done it. Sent them a photo.

Left the church about 1pm. All looks exactly how I’d hoped. Very excited. Went home, sorted the animals, cooked lots of gammons, finished planning what I would do with the children on Sunday.

Saturday 6–8pm. People arrived (about 80 people) & everyone seemed to have enough to eat, the atmosphere was happy. I was busy, checking people had what they needed, washing up, passing wine, etc. At one point I glanced into the hall, and it was full of young people playing snooker and table-football and having a laugh. That warmed my heart. Another special thing was the ‘top table’, which I’d worried might remain empty, was full of little girls, who were clearly having a party!

Rev P did an entertaining and poignant talk, which fitted perfectly.

Cleared up. Lots of people helped, which was great. I got really tired, and at one point needed to rest my brain from all the noise, so sat in the car for a few minutes. Felt seriously exhausted – in the end decided to leave some of the washing up and do it on Sunday. Went home.

Sunday: When I went into the church kitchen, to sort out the dirty dishes I’d left, someone had already done them, and everything was clean and tidy.

Church was nicely full, and looked lovely.

D and I took the older children during the service. We had 13 young people, ranging from 7yrs old to 15yrs, in a fairly small room. It was a great hour. Many of them knew each other from before they’d moved away, so they were happy just to be there. At one point, one of them stared at the 7 year old, and said: “Is she the baby who used to smile at everyone?” (She was!) It was so nice to be there, in a sort of slightly disorganised family atmosphere. I did a short talk, then we played a variety of Pictionary/Jenga/Consequences games, the kids in teams of mixed ages. Happy morning.

Went downstairs after the service ended (a few minutes late, as the young people wanted to finish what we were doing). The atmosphere was very happy, people smiling, hugging, chatting. I tried to chat, but I was very tired, so I’m not sure I made much sense.

So, was it worth it? Well, yes, I think so. Afterwards, several people have contacted me, and although their comments aren’t intended for a public blog, I know that God did bless the events, he did speak to people. (Plus we raised about £1,500 for Tearfund.)

Harvest is about remembering what God has done in the past, what he has given to us, so that we don’t forget when times are tough. I think we managed to do this, our church was reminded that God has blessed us, that church is still a family and a good place to be. The work before and after was actually a crucial part of this – a group of people sitting together and making table decorations was as essential as the words said from the front. Church is God’s family, and I am happy to belong.


Have a great week, and I’ll write again next week (I want to tell you about an old book, written in 1600s – I bet they didn’t have trouble with publishers in those days!)

Love, Anne x

Thank you for reading.

Anne E. Thompson has written several novels. They are available from bookshops and Amazon.
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If you want to read my post, written way back in March, the link is below:


When you shouldn’t laugh…

I had one of those “mustn’t laugh” moments at Lunch Club this week – you know, when something happens which is really really funny, but you’re not sure if anyone else will think so, and you might offend someone, so you have to try and keep a completely bland face. I am pretty rubbish at the ‘bland face’ thing, so usually try to leave quickly.

Anyway, people were arriving, ready for their meal, and one of the ladies had brought a card. The trouble with running a club for the elderly is that we often lose members because they die, which is always sad, but is not unexpected when most people are over eighty. This week another member had died, who we hadn’t seen for a few months, and the lady was asking people to sign a card for his widow. You know the sort of thing, a pretty picture of a sunset on the front, and a few words inside about never being forgotten.

The card was being passed around while people sat at the tables, waiting for lunch to be served. Several people asked who it was that had died, and then wrote a little message – “thinking of you,” or “so sad to hear your news,” or “may God be especially near at this time” – little words that showed they cared and the widow wasn’t alone. But then the card was passed to someone who we’ll call Alf. Alf was slightly late, so hadn’t heard the news, and as he sat down, he was passed the card to sign. Now, as well as bereavement cards, we also often pass around birthday cards for people to sign. Alf assumed he was being asked to sign a birthday card – at least, I hope he was, as he signed: “Many Congratulations, Alf.”!

The person next to him saw what he’d written, and then one of those conversations which only seem to happen at Lunch Club occurred.

“You can’t write that!” said Bernard (I’ve changed the names).
“Why not?” said Alf.
“Well, read what everyone else has written,” suggested Bernard, “this isn’t for a birthday.”
“I can’t, I haven’t got my glasses with me,” said Alf.
“Here, use mine,” said George, passing his glasses along.
At which point, one of the servers arrived with a lunch.
“Oh, we’re not ready for food,” said Bernard, “we’re busy switching glasses.”
“Why are you switching glasses?” asked the server, “We have plenty more clean glasses in the kitchen.” And off he went to fetch a clean water glass.

Hope you have a good week, with a few laughs.
Take care,
Anne x

Anne E. Thompson is an author of several novels and one non-fiction book. You can find her work in bookshops and on Amazon.
Thank you for reading.

Harvest Thoughts (yep, I do know it’s only March!)

I have some ideas for Harvest. Yes, I know it’s ages away, but things in churches move very slowly, and unless I start making noises now, it will suddenly be upon us. My reason for wanting to do something stems from last Harvest, when I arrived at church, saw someone had made a pretty display of fruit and branches, and thought, “Oh, it’s Harvest!” And that was it. Harvest meant nothing to me any more, and I’m not sure it’s meant to be like that.

Harvest used to be quite exciting. When I was in infant school, we all took in tins and packets of food, and the teachers decorated shoe boxes. We had a special service, which I remember nothing about except that there was this heap of food in front of us, and we sang the same songs each year – you know, the ones about farmers, and hunter’s moons, and fields being ploughed. I’m not sure I had ever seen a field being ploughed, and I had no idea what a ‘hunter’s moon’ was. But that mound of food was so enticing. We didn’t have much money in those days, and to see packets of biscuits, and fruit, and tins of chocolate pudding – all the things that never appeared in our own home – made the service very interesting. Then, when we were in the ‘top class’, we were allowed to walk around the council estate where I lived, carrying the shoe boxes of produce, delivering them to the old people’s homes. All very exciting.

But things have settled since those days, and now that I don’t teach, Harvest has become bit of a non-event. Which is not, I feel, how it should be.

Now, I’m not sure that Harvest itself is particularly important in its own right, but I do think festivals and traditions in general are hugely important. I have been reading though the Bible, from start to finish, and as I ploughed through all the laws and instructions in the early books (not, if I’m honest, thrilling reading) I became aware that people were designed to have festivals. We need physical things to remind us about God, traditions to make sure we remember things that are important. Which led me to think that perhaps I am missing an opportunity with Harvest, perhaps it needs to have more importance in my year.

Originally, I think that our Harvest Festival was based on the Jewish festival of ‘Booths’ or ‘tents’. The Israelites were told to make little shelters, using boughs from trees, to decorate them, and to camp in them for a week. How much fun would that be! My kids would’ve loved to do that every year, they used to love making camps. For the whole family to camp in the garden or lounge for a week, to remember what God had given us, would’ve been something they’d have really enjoyed. The Israelites were told to use the festival to remember their escape from Egypt, and later, to use it to remember to thank God for what he had given them – and it was held at harvest time. Even pagan civilisations have celebrated harvest time, the time when the barns were full of food ready for the next year.

So, how can we, with our mobile phones and busy schedules, celebrate harvest in a meaningful way? How can we have a significant Harvest Festival?

The main elements seem to be decorating a space, sharing food, and making an offering to say thank you to God. I have some ideas about these (which I have not yet ‘shared’ with my church – so I will keep you posted on which ones actually come to fruition).

I recently went on a course on how to make table decorations and arrange flowers. Not really my ‘thing’ but most people were very enthusiastic. Perhaps therefore, we could run a similar course at the church. We could invite a demonstrator, people in the village could come, and everyone could spend a couple of evenings making decorations and flower arrangements. These would then be used to decorate the hall (and taken home by the people who made them after the festival). People from the village would also be sharing in Harvest, the church would be leading the community in a festival of thanks.

The food could be a ‘pot-luck’ supper. The whole community could be invited to the church, we could set up long tables with white cloths, in the space that has been previously decorated. We could provide some basic food – perhaps french stick loaves and slices of gammon – and everyone who came could bring one dish to share. It might be a slightly strange menu, but for a supper, I think it would work fine.

At the side, would be two tables. One is a ‘thank you’ table. On here, people put symbols of things they want to thank God for. Maybe photographs of pets or people or things. There would be a time when we say a simple prayer, thanking God for the things represented on the table.

There would also be an ‘offering’ table. People would put on there things that they want to offer back to God, a ‘sacrifice’ for want of a better word. Perhaps if someone can sew or knit, they might put a pair of gloves on there. If they paint, they might give a picture. I could give some of my books. The emphasis is on giving – giving something back to God. Something which has cost us, either time or money or both. Something of value. There would also be a box, for those who want to give money.

Of course, in Old Testament days, all the things offered for sacrifice were burnt or eaten by the priests, which doesn’t seem appropriate today. It might be better to sell the things, and send the money to Tearfund. We could either save them until the Christmas Fair, and have a stall, a “Thank You Stall”, where people could ‘buy’ the items by making a donation which would then be sent to Tearfund; or we could sell them at the Harvest Supper. But I think Christmas is a better option. It makes harvest a ‘giving back’ time, and the value of the items is the value of what the giver has given, not the value that might be raised by selling them.

The building would then remain decorated for the service the following day. At our church, the main thing God has given us is people, who have then moved into ministry in different places. I think it would be poignant if they were all invited back, and asked to give a five-minute sermon on giving thanks. It would remind us of what God has given to our church, it would mean that they could invite their families and old neighbours to share in the celebration, and it would be fun – seeing old friends is always fun.

So, there are my plans. Now to let them settle, share them with other people, and see which ones are from God and which ones are just my ideas. I will let you know in the autumn what actually happens!


Thank you for reading.


Anne E. Thompson writes a post every week. You can follow her blog at anneethompson.com
Anne is an author, and has written several novels and one non-fiction book. You can find her books in shops and on Amazon.





Life has been busy…

Life has been busy since we arrived home from India. We had barely unpacked before Husband set off again, for Germany. I’m sure this was an essential work trip, and not because I am very irritable when I’m jet-lagged. It took me a few days to readjust my clock, which was fine because waking before the rest of the country is not unpleasant, though I did have a tendency to collapse at about 7pm. I was cooking at lunch club on Friday, so the first couple of days were busy with shopping and making ginger sponges for pudding. I cooked my default meal: roast gammon, roast potatoes, carrots, cauliflower cheese, and sweetcorn. It went okay, and we served 36 dinners.

The following day, we were organising a church social. Well, to be precise, Husband was organising a church social, as when it was planned way back in October, I told him that after Christmas and new year and a trip to India, I would NOT be helping to then arrange an evening of entertainment for the church family. But he didn’t listen. He arrived home from Frankfurt Friday evening, and spent all day Saturday getting things ready.

Due to my refusal to help, he ordered fish and chips for everyone. This worked really well, and the shop delivered 45 portions, all boxed and ready to eat, with tiny sachets of salt and vinegar. All I had to do was hand them out to people. Everyone had brought puddings, and we had a table of drinks.

It was a fun evening. Everyone was put into teams, and each team was given a box of challenges to complete in 45 minutes. These ranged from drawing a portrait of a team member, to building the highest tower with the paper and tape provided. It was an evening for the whole church family, so we had young children and elderly, but there was something for everyone, and lots of opportunities to chat. Which is probably the main purpose. One of the activities was to complete a jigsaw puzzle, which was probably impossible in 45 minutes, but it was rather pleasant to join puzzle pieces while chatting to other people on the table.

On Sunday, daughter and dbf popped home. We went for lunch at The Bell in Godstone, which is the only pub I know which offers a complete alternative menu for vegans. (I pretended I had known this in advance, and chosen it specially, but actually it was a complete fluke!) Then we went for a very wet dog walk and lazed around watching television.

I found an old book about grammar, and read out interesting snippets to people, which I’m sure added to their enjoyment of Lord of the Rings. For example, did you know that you should use ‘was’ for things that are certain (I was at the cinema) and ‘were’ for things that are uncertain (If I were to go to the cinema…)? Or that Samuel Johnson put together the first English dictionary in 1755, and thereby standardised spelling. But Noah Webster found all the silent letters very annoying, so he produced an alternative, American, dictionary in 1828, which spelt words the way they sound: center not centre, and color not colour. Which is why, even today, American spelling is different to English spelling.

I also made a Kindle paperback of JOANNA. I was hoping it would be listed first on Amazon, above all the annoying secondhand copies. But it’s not, it appears to be listed separately. So, if you live in the UK, don’t buy that version – the first edition version can still be bought, which is a nicer quality book. You just need to check you are buying a new copy when you order one. However, the Kindle paperback version does now mean that people in other countries can order physical copies of the book, so I will leave it there. I’ve sold quite a few other books in the US, Australia, and various parts of Europe, and now JOANNA is available in those countries too.

Today, I will try to catch up with life a little. I feel as if I have been running since November, and I have piles of stuff around the house which need to be sorted. I then need to start planning the launch of CLARA, which I’m very excited about. The manuscript is finally with the printer, and the order placed. I had to decide how many copies to print. I was very tempted to print fewer books than previously. I really find the selling bit difficult – since my operation, I find approaching strangers and telling them about my books, to be really scary. On the other hand, I feel that CLARA is a book that should be read. I know it’s controversial, that some people will find it difficult, but it says so much. It tells the story of the women I met in the slums, and it has layers of messages hidden in the depths of the story. It is a gripping story, but I hope it will be more than that. So, I was brave, and have ordered 500 copies. I need to work out the price, as it’s a fatter (and therefore more expensive) book than JOANNA, but I think £12.99 will be about right. I’ll let you know. If you want to preorder a copy, send me a message via my Facebook page.They sent me a copy of the cover to approve, so I’ll let you have a sneaky preview.

Thanks for reading. Have a good week.
Take care,
Anne x

Calamity Church


Ever have those days when everything seems to go wrong? Church has been a bit like that recently…

At school, we used to sing the hymn “Onward Christian Soldiers” – do you know the one? All about brave soldiers marching forwards into battle, ‘See his banners go’, ‘Like a mighty army, Moves the church of God’ – all sung to a rousing tune. The sort of song you have to stand up to sing. Well, the church I attend isn’t like that. My bit isn’t anyway. Sometimes it’s more like Dad’s Army if I’m honest.

Take this week as an example. On Friday, we had the health inspector at Lunch Club. Now, in case you don’t realise, health inspections are very high stress. If you serve food to the public, you have to comply with certain laws, which is good. You have to attend a hygiene course, so you don’t poison anyone, which is good. You are given a ‘star rating’ so everyone can see what your hygiene standards are like, which is good. In order for all these excellent things to be effective, you have to also endure random inspections by the health officials. Which, when you are the leader of a group, is quite stressful.

So, this week I was cooking and knew an inspection was due. Arrived early and scrubbed the kitchen before I cooked. (Yes, we do ALWAYS wipe the surfaces, we do not every week scrub the tiles behind the taps, dig out every last crumb behind the bins, things like that.) I was mid cooking when the inspector arrived. A very nice woman dressed in white overalls. I explained that I was cooking, and would just strain the part-cooked potatoes which were ready for roasting, and then set her up with our files to read through, while I put the potatoes in the oven and got lunch to a position where I could leave it for a few minutes. I left the potatoes in the saucepan while I grabbed the folders for her to read, then turned back to find one of of the other helpers was mashing the potatoes – or at least, was trying to mash them, they were still hard as had only just come to the boil. I did not slap the helper (inspector was present) and rescued those potatoes that were still large enough to roast, then continued to cook lunch and answer questions and appear calm. All turned out okay, 38 people had lunch (very few commented on the potato shortage) and we retained our 5 star hygiene rating. But it did not feel professional. It didn’t feel like an army marching forwards.

Another unfortunate event was our film night. We found out that it’s possible to rent films after they have been in the cinema but before they are released on DVD. This makes for a good opportunity to have a ‘community cinema’ – a service for local people, somewhere friendly for them to spend a Friday evening, plus they come into the church building, meet some of the members, and hopefully discover that we are welcoming, church is less ‘odd’ than they might think. The first showing was this week. It had been advertised in the local press, fliers had been given out, ice creams bought for the interval, a new high definition projector bought to ensure film quality, we were all set. We just needed the film. Which was delivered later than expected. So no one watched it beforehand. Certificate 12A have changed since I was a kid (when we went to see things like The Sound of Music!) As I sat in the church building, behind a fluffy haired sweet old lady; while strobe lights from a party scene flickered across the stained glass windows and people on the big screen snorted drugs; I felt this might have been a mistake. In the interval, the pastor said how relieved he was that at least there had been no nudity. He spoke too soon….

None of which makes me feel much like a mighty army of God. But we try. We are called to be faithful, not to always succeed – which is just as well at my church! And, we do have some brilliant sermons. This week, the week of disasters, we had a sermon on the book of Job. You know the book? It’s about a man who has everything, nice family, health, possessions. Then God lets the devil take it all away, to see if Job will still worship God, if he will stay faithful. I have never seen the point of this book before. I have no idea if it’s based on actual events, or is a story to make a point – but previously I never got what the point was, it just seemed cruel. But this week, it was explained.

The book shows that God is worth following. Just because he is God. Not so we have an easy life. Not because it will guarantee health, or wealth, or safety for our family. Stop and think for a minute.

Sometimes Christians ‘sell’ God. We talk about becoming a Christian so you can know peace, joy, forgiveness, so you have someone in your life who cares. The book of Job illustrates that these are NOT the reasons we should follow God. We should worship God because he is worth it. Just because He is God. That is a huge thought. Huge.


Thank you for reading.

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Hidden Faces final cover 6 July 2016



Letter to a Sister – Lunch Club

How was your week? I cooked at Lunch Club. Usually I make a syrup sponge, but I thought I’d try something different this week, so I used tinned pears instead of syrup and added some ginger to the sponge mixture. I was a bit worried about cooking tinned pears – they might have turned to mush in the oven. It was okay. I thought it was a bit lacking in taste, tinned pears are a bit bland, but it wasn’t horrible, which is the main thing. I might try marmalade next week.

I cannot tell you how much I dislike cooking dinners for large numbers of people. However, Lunch Club is something special, and I always come home happier than when I went, even though it’s also really hard work (as you know – I believe you told me that if you ever agree to help again I should shoot you!) This week the ‘kitchen team’ were mainly men, ranging in age from about 65 to almost 80. That says it all really!

Each week we produce a healthy meal for forty people, and they pay £3:50. Some weeks we are an efficient productive team. Other weeks I feel like I have wandered on to the set of a Dad’s Army film.

I am by far the most stressed member of the team. Maybe when you have lived through a war and survived, it seems less important if the potatoes don’t cook on time. I am also the bossiest. The kitchen is inspected regularly for hygiene, so we have check lists of things to do. I am always nagging people to wash their hands ( even if they have just washed them when they used the loo, they have to wash them again when they reenter the kitchen.) They now tell me whenever I see them, “Yes Anne, I washed my hands.”

Whoever is cooking buys the food, then arrives at the church early to start preparing. Gradually the rest of the team arrive, some by bus, some via ‘Dial-a-Ride’ and some walk or drive. Everyone is pleased to see each other, so it’s quite a social time. It’s also the time when we hear about ailments. The team are mostly not young, so it’s not coughs and colds – they will quite casually mention that they “had a minor stroke in the week” or “had bit of a heart attack so had to call an ambulance.” I am always amazed how they seem to take in their stride, to carry on with life as soon as they feel well enough.

They also laugh a lot. At some point, before the ‘oldies’ arrive (who are actually no older than the team some weeks) we have a quick prayer. This is always more enthusiastic when I am the cook (need all the help we can get!)  When I got there this week, one of the team had rolled up his trousers to show some injury, which led to a general discussion of scars until I called them to order and suggested that we should get on with praying. Slightly worried as to where the conversation might lead. Like I said, I am the bossy one.

This week one of the church members popped in with his little boy. The oldies love to see children. They are, I have noticed, quite competitive with how many great-grandchildren they have. I can’t really chat to them when I’m cooking (too busy trying to not burn anything.) But when I’m not the actual cook, I love listening to them, they have so many tales about growing up during the war, living in a world that has changed so much.

I love how enthusiastic they still are, how they will arrive excited that dog-racing has started in the next town, or there’s a new club they can join, or even a new knitting pattern has arrived. Their obvious enjoyment of life makes me realise that growing old doesn’t have to be scary, there are still deep friendships and loud laughter. Especially laughter. Friday lunch times are always some of the happiest, and most exhausting, hours of my week.

Take care,
Love, Anne x

PS. Going on a trip to Poland. Never been there before.

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Thank you for reading.