A Farewell Hymn – T-1 day

Micah’s Gang helped us say “Ta Ta for now” to the Church family at All Saints this morning.  Off to the boat on Friday!

Micah's Gang Afloat

Singing Rod Stewart’s “I am Sailing” with the wonderful line at the end “Oh Lord to be near you, to be free!”.

We also sang a new version of the Seafarers Hymn “Eternal Father Strong to Save”

Eternal Father strong to save
Our Vicar’s feeling rather brave
He’s heading out alone to boat
We’re praying he will stay afloat
O hear our plea in loud chorales
For those in peril on canals

O Christ Whose voice the waters stilled
O may his locks be quickly filled
And if a gap proves far too wide
O Let him on the waters stride
O hear our plea in loud chorales
For those in peril on canals.

O Holy Spirit please forbear
And make him a life jacket wear
And in the deepest darkest lock
Please help him when the boat doth rock
O hear our plea in loud chorales
For those in peril on canals

O Trinity of Love and Power
Bring him safe back at th’appointed hour
May journeys end be dry not wet
And make his preaching better yet
O bring him back to boost morale
Home safe from travelling on t’canal



Poo Bags and a Cross – getting ready. T-21 days!

Well, packing lists are being drawn up and plans made for departure.  Suddenly we are a fortnight away from our last service at All Saints until June and there are lots of things to do.  One of these involves the good people of Thetford.

Now to a geographer that is a village in Norfolk; to an organist it is an obscure hymn tune; but to anyone who has been caravanning it is the name of the company that makes the best cassette toilets.

A bit of education here – there are three ways to deal with…. to use the Guide Dogs delightful toilet euphemism “spending” on a narrowboat.  You can have a compost toilet, a tank (which has to be pumped out at a cost) or a cassette toilet (that can be emptied at a wide range of sanitation stations for free).

NB Essence has gone for the last option and the loo has a removable tank that can be carried ashore and dealt with – don’t worry – it really isn’t that bad a job.  NB Essence has the smaller tank design and when there are four of us aboard the tanks get filled quite quickly.  There are two – but life is a lot easier with three – so as part of the deal of us borrowing NB Essence we bought a third one.

This reminded me of something that happened a few weeks ago.  I was emptying my pockets to put my trousers in the wash and took my wooden cross off as well.  I was struck by the dog poo bags sat next to the cross.  Both ways of dealing with something that is smelly and unpleasant – the dog bag deals with the natural consequences of feeding a dog; the cross deals with the consequences of our sin and greed and shame.

Poo bags and a Cross

Our recent purchase for the boat was about dealing with “skubalon” (the Greek word for poo used by St Paul in Philippians 3:8 and usually translated as garbage when really it should be a LOT stronger with four letters!!) as quickly and efficiently as possible.  That’s what the dog bag is for.

And that is what the cross enables us to do.  Jesus has won the battle against sin and death, and as his friends and disciples we can deal quickly with the things we do wrong – we don’t have to wait for a suitable “pump out” and pay for the privilege – we can come to Jesus and be set free.  On the cross he dealt with the “garbage” of my sin.

So that’s my first image on the journey of finding visual ways to express theology.  Poo bags and a cross. God dealing with the **** that my broken self produces and, in forgiving me,  making me more a little bit more  more like Jesus.

So on this occasion – Theology is ****!!!

NB For a little bit more about the greek word Skubalon click here


What’s it all about?

The following article is based on an article published in “The Word” – the quarterly magazine of the Boaters Christian Fellowship – www.boaterschristianfellowship.org.uk.

What is it that could make an extrovert look forward to time alone?
What might tempt a wifi addict to trust to a potentially dodgy 3G signal along the cut?
What could persaude a Church leader to leave the Curate in charge for three months!!!?

The simple one word answer is a Sabbatical, but as the Church of England never uses a simple word when a complicated one will do I perhaps ought to explain.

After 10-15 years of ordained ministry clergy are encouraged to take 3 months out of parish life to reflect on their ministry and take time to study or develop a particular interest that the pressures of Parish life give no time to pursue. The Bishop said “yes!” So we had to work out how it might happen!

Three months away from parish life sounds easy to do – but for clergy in the Church of England (and many other Church leaders) it can be a real challenge because we live in the parish we serve – in fact, you have to have special permission from the Bishop not to live in the parish.  So how do we find a way for me to be out of the parish, without it costing huge amounts of money, or me needing to find a friendly family to gate crash for three months?

Well you’ve probably guessed from the title of the blog the answer involves a narrowboat. From the beginning of March to the end of May I will be swapping the life of a busy parish priest in the Church of England for the 4 miles per hour lifestyle of a canal cruiser.

I will be borrowing NB Essence from my (wonderful) in-laws Chris and Adrian Dann and leaving Middlewich as soon as the CaRT stoppages allow me to head south either down the Shropshire Union or preferably, the Trent and Mersey.  The plan is to head for London as we’ve booked moorings in Little Venice for the Easter holidays.  After that I’m heading back up to the Midlands and then heading down the Oxford canal. After a brief foray on the Thames (shudder) I hope to find the fabled end of the Kennet and Avon Canal and head west.  Jacquie and I used to live in Newbury and were married there, so I’m looking forward to visiting afloat.  It might seem strange to choose a narrowboat as my base, with Jacquie and the boys visting most weekends and the holidays, but having holidayed several times on Essence – and its predecessor NB Bendithion – the one place I don’t mind being alone is on the back of a narrowboat – and, as many of you will know, its a great place to think and pray.


RevTechnoHubby and Mrs RTH aboard NB Essence on the Chirk Aqueduct

So, Vicars get a a three month holiday then – lucky for them – except I have a task – well, two tasks in fact.

The first task is to work on a project, something relevant to my ministry, something I haven’t had time to explore in parish life.  I am a visual learner and I love all things visual so my project is to look at how we can use images an story to engage in and to teach theology.  There are a lot of materials out there to help folks use images for worship and prayer, but not much in using story and image to learn and engage with theology.  It seems a huge task but I already have some promising leads, and I’m hoping that time in London and Oxford will allow me to pick the brains of people far cleverer than me.

But what’s the other task.  Well that’s simpler – that’s the task of being “A Vicar Afloat!”  I’m sure God has a plan for some wonderful encounters along the cut.  As I travel I will be looking out for those Holy Spirit moments that make the life of a minster so wonderfully exciting, but at times, a terrible privilege.

So if you see NB Essence on the cut this Spring then please do say hello – If you are looking for a mooring and want to moor alongside, just knock and the kettle can be boiled in minutes.  We won’t have a Guide Dog puppy with us (as we did at the BCF annual meeting last year) but there will be a warm welcome (and if Stephen has been on his own for a couple of weeks he will be delighted to spend some time saying hello!)

So please pray for us, Stephen afloat and the family at home, and travelling lots – I will be blogging my travels here so follow my adventures on the cut, either as a wonderful example… or a terrible warning!!