Christmas News 2014

Northern heights

Phil and Miriam at Helmsley Walled Garden

At Helmsley Walled Garden, with the ruins of Helmsley Castle in the background

Reading one of the explanatory displays at Rievaulx Abbey

Exploring Rievaulx Abbey

Due to a full calendar, the first week that we could go on holiday and take Martin with us was in early September. We stayed in a hamlet in the North York Moors and were able to roam on foot, in the car and by train in warm, dry weather.

"Yorkshire was wild, heather covered moors, purple in September, and delightful for walks, seeing ruined abbeys, strolling through woods, beside streams, across fields and generally enjoying British countryside at its best. The nearest town of any size was Helmsley, a small market town, still 5 miles away from the hamlet where we stayed." - Miriam

All over the area we were able to get good views without too much effort. The highest hill we climbed, near Hawnby, overlooked Bilsdale where the heather-covered moorland stretched out into the distance. At the village of Gillamoor we looked down from the churchyard into Farndale spread out below, then drove further up the valley for a walk through woods along a quiet stream.

"A visit to Whitby was delightful. I had some of the best fish and chips that I've ever had." We moved on from the jumble of cafés and shops in the old centre of the town towards the sea and the harbour entrance. From a headland we could see the Abbey on a hill opposite and the harbour and town stretching inland. A signpost indicates the distance to some of the places visited by Whitby's great seafarer, Captain James Cook. If any of our future newsletters report on trips to Tahiti or Christmas Island, that was the inspiration.

"Rievaulx Abbey is a very impressive ruin, an afternoon well spent, deducing how a monastery functioned hundreds of years ago, by an outline and description of the marked out spaces and about one tenth of the walls left standing. Rievaulx at its most popular was home to several hundred monks."

We are not huge fans of steam trains (sorry, that's lost us a lot of friends) but the North York Moors Railway was an excellent way to travel up the valley from Pickering to Goathland, where we did the toughest of our walks to reach a rather inaccessible waterfall.

There are more photos of our holiday here.

New Wine

Outside the Tearfund venue at New Wine

Tearfund, one of Britain's largest development charities, hosted a café, a comedy night and sessions on a wide range of topics including combatting human trafficking

"We spent a week camping at this large annual Christian event near Shepton Mallet in Somerset. We went with 4 other members of our church, using borrowed equipment (not altogether leak-proof). We shared the cooking and had our social times in a gazebo, when we weren't taking advantage of opportunities for teaching, worship, prayer, browsing bookstalls, cafés with delicious cake, or finding out about mission organisations." - Miriam

Miriam had been to New Wine a couple of times before, but this was the first year we were able to go together. The scale and diversity of the event was impressive, and being part of a group was a great experience.

Despite the good facilities, the hardships of camping came as a bit of a shock after not having slept in a tent for many years... and we've already booked for 2015!

There's more about our group's visit to New Wine on the Christ Church website.

London life

Walking in Regent's Park, London

Adrian is now well stuck into his PhD work, and Martin is in what should be his final year at university. We visit them and Sumaya in London from time to time, especially when some heavy lifting is needed, such as when Martin moved to a new flat.

A summer birthday in Miriam's extended family provided an opportunity for several generations of relatives to converge on London for a weekend. We enjoyed a gigantic picnic in Regent's Park and learned that Germans are hard to beat at any sport - even when the game is cricket.

They came from Birmingham, Berlin and, yes, London for the picnic in Regent's Park: More photos taken on our visits to London can be viewed here.

Church service

Looking down on an activity table

Photo fun at Messy Church: the spiral staircase makes aerial shots like this possible

"At Christ Church I am currently running a weekly coffee morning on Fridays during term time. I also volunteer in the office for one morning a week, and there are frequent calls for cakes or people to serve drinks, which I have the space to do at the moment." - Miriam

Miriam at work

Yes, she has actually retired...

I'm continuing to work about 1 day a week at the University of Birmingham. I will probably finish at the end of February 2015, when the current project is to finish recruitment. This is the same stop smoking project that has been running since 2012, so it will be nice to see that it hits the set recruitment target.

I am making ever more use of my camera, acting as photographer for Messy Church, which started at Christ Church this year, and for a comedy night in Birmingham Cathedral. I've also recorded a video for a youth event and taken photos (under very difficult lighting conditions) at a series of concerts organised by a church member. I regard all this as a learning experience - the main lesson being how much there is to learn.

I have also continued to develop the church's online presence. The Internet has transformed the way people communicate, function and form communities, and churches generally have not been good at keeping up. Could our church be an exception, and an example to others? There's a lot of work to be done!

Chorus line

Singers on a stage

Miriam's choir, the Phoenix Singers, gave a powerful performance of Karl Jenkins' The Armed Man earlier in the year. They followed that with a summer concert featuring a wide range of pieces, supplemented by some brilliant guest performers.

It hardly needs saying that a lot of hard graft goes into these concerts, much of it being applied at the weekly Wednesday evening practices.

Two of the songs from the summer concert - filmed by an admiring member of the audience (who could that be?) - can be found on Youtube here and here.

The year in photos

Start here and follow the links. There are also links to some of the photo pages in the articles above.