Church of England Diocese of Derby St. Barnabas Bradwell

From the vicar

Monthly reflection

May 2021 Ribbons, beans and flowers

By the time you read this, children will have returned to school and for most of us Easter will feel a distant memory, but I’m still going to reflect on it.

For me, Easter this year was an improvement on Easter last year! Last year our churches were closed, we could not meet, and Richard and I greeted Easter dawn on our own on the top of Rebellion Knoll. This year, I know our churches and communities a little better, I feel we have learned a lot together over the last year or so, and I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who enabled our Easter celebrations this year to be as near to ‘normal’ as possible.

I know I am not alone in finding it a joy this year to see the number of prayer ribbons that have been tied to Thankful Crosses across the Valley. It will feel sad in a way to take them down, but I hope that we will find other similar ways to share together. I also have a runner bean plant by my front door that started as a Lent activity, and is now climbing towards the ceiling so quickly that I’m wondering what to do with it while it is still too cold for it to go outside. One or two emails and photos have suggested I’m not alone in that either!

On a chilly and damp Palm Sunday, Wesley the donkey behaved impeccably on a walk through Castleton to the Methodist Church, as I shared stories about Jesus with random (carefully planted) passers-by that I met, before Rev’ Julie Letts led us in worship together outside the Methodist Church. Unfortunately, although Wesley behaved impeccably, the same was not true of the technology! Finally, on Easter Sunday itself, a high point was undoubtedly the flowers, and Easter gardens and crosses in all of our churches.

One of my prayers for our churches as we look ahead is undoubtedly that we will continue to work closely together to value one another, and to value the faith of the many members of our communities who love God, but do not feel that our traditional ways of worshipping ‘work’ for them, for a whole host of reasons. And, as always, I thank you for the support our churches enjoy from so many in our communities.

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April 2021 A year and a bit

Recently someone asked me to reflect on the fifteen months since I moved from Youlgrave to the Hope Valley, to the Hope, Castleton and Bradwell Benefice. So here’s my attempt.

If you had suggested to us two years ago that Richard and I would ever move from Youlgrave, we would probably both have laughed at you. However, I have learned over most of a lifetime that God’s plans and mine don’t always match up, and that I can only be truly happy if I follow God’s plans rather than mine. So when we began to feel a sense that God meant us to be in the Hope Valley rather than Youlgrave it was irresistible, if not altogether welcome!

We arrived in Bradwell in January 2020, pleased to see our dog, Barney, enjoying the large garden, and with me feeling very much that I was groping forward in the dark without a clue where I was going, except that it felt right to be here. A few weeks on, just as I was beginning to be able to put some faces and names together, we found ourselves in the first national COVID lockdown.

Of course, it probably wouldn’t have mattered if I had known where I thought I was going, since the last year or so has been for me, like for our churches in general, a steep learning curve of learning how to ‘be church’ in completely unfamiliar territory. That learning is ongoing. But I have felt blessed in many, many ways: blessed that we have been forced into learning new ways of communicating that I believe we should have learned years ago; blessed by PCCs and congregations who have embraced willingly all the new things I have thrown at them; blessed above all by church communities who seem to share my vision for churches that work together, that are willing to learn, and are willing to seek out new ways of making the gospel ‘good news’ relevant to people everywhere today.

On a personal level, like virtually everyone else we have missed being able to see family, and missed too being able to see our friends from Youlgrave. But we have felt blessed by being in the middle of some of our favourite places, with walks that we have enjoyed since we were university students, actually in my parishes. Gardening has been both a challenge and a delight, since the vicarage garden is large, and does not appear to have had much gardening done in it for many years. Having spent a year ‘finding’ it, this year we are much more focused on planting, with plants for pollinators, a wildlife hedge and a pond being top priorities.

Looking forward, I am certainly hoping to be able to see family and friends again. But I have no wish to ‘return to normal.’ My prayer is for a kinder future, that puts the needs of the planet first, and gives us a fighting chance of avoiding the next pandemic.

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March 2021 Six Nations Rugby

I could not call myself a fan of sport. In fact I hardly follow any sports at all, but I do enjoy watching the Six Nations Rugby. However for many of the matches I find myself wondering who to support. If England are playing, I usually want England to win. But I have had many wonderful holidays in Wales and Scotland, so I rather like them too. And our dog is originally from Ireland, so maybe I should support them sometimes? Added to this, I always want a team to win if they are playing well, whoever they are. But I generally feel sorry for a losing team and want them to play better, so they don’t lose. In my ideal rugby match, both teams would win. So, as you can see, it gets complicated!

Over the years, I have often reflected on why I enjoy watching the Six Nations. I am sure that at least part of it is that I hugely enjoy seeing the quality of the team work that good rugby teams always display. I’m certainly no expert, but it seems to me that you cannot be a good rugby player on your own. Even the very best players are heavily dependent on their fellow team members to enable them to play well. I’m pretty sure that a team where the members are not keenly aware of one another’s strengths and weaknesses, and where they are not working well together has very little chance of winning.

Maybe international rugby has something to teach our churches? In the New Testament letters we read of the apostle Paul urging the very first Christian Churches to build community, and I suspect that the communities he was urging them to build might have looked something like good rugby teams. Paul urged early Christians to put the same effort and focus into loving and serving one another that a top class athlete puts into their training. Paul and Jesus both taught that all our gifts and skills are to be used for the good of the whole community, the whole team if you like. I feel truly blessed to live in communities and churches with among the strongest sense of community I have experienced anywhere, but my prayer is still that we will keep up the training!

If you would like to sign up to receive the regular newsletters from our churches, please go to
or email me on [email protected] and I can sign you up.