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Thought for the Week – 1st May 2022

Daddy’s Hat Concert

I have just helped to host my first Daddy’s Hat concert, at Billingsley on St George’s Day. A group of local musicians come to a church, to provide an hours worth of music; at the end, a hat is passed round and the collection is used to cover expenses. Normally I will get between 2 and 5 people for the 8am eucharist (yes, some people do prefer the early start), perhaps 10 or 12 for the monthly evening service. For the concert, we had 23 people, including 2 children; 24 if you count the dog. Now, most were not from Billingsley, despite me doing a leaflet drop and advertising it on Facebook. And this was not anything like a traditional service. I did sneak in a prayer for St George and we gave a spirited rendition of “When a knight won his spurs”, taking some of us back to our schooldays. But “Leaving on a jet plane” and various numbers from musicals are not usually associated with church; guitarist Sam’s original song “The bronze age” celebrated pre-Christian culture. So why did I come away thinking the Holy Spirit was moving in the church? Our gathering was not religious, but it was spiritual. The music touched our emotions, in a setting made holy by 900 years of prayer. In fact, perhaps nearer 4000 years of prayer, for a ritually deposited bronze age axe has been found just a few hundred yards from the church. And it was again Sam, the guitarist, who sang about when a crack appears, light can shine in.

We live in an age when a majority do not identify with any recognised religion, but we are hard-wired to be spiritual beings. God is no less real just because people do not believe in him/her. The Holy Spirit still hovers over the face of waters, the face of the planet, the faces of all people. My job as a priest is to give people the eyes, the language, the hearts to recognise and respond to this. I am not particularly bothered what they want to call the Spirit; I am certainly not bothered where they come from. On St George’s Day, the music in Billingsley Church opened a crack and The Light shone in.

 (On Saturday 28th May, the next Daddy’s Hat concert will be at Glazeley, at 3pm)

Rev David Poyner

Thought for the Week – 24th April 2022


The Archbishop and the Minister

On Easter Sunday, Archbishop Justin Welby claimed that there were “serious ethical questions” about the Government initiative to send single migrants to Rwanda for their asylum cases to be processed. In turn, government supporters defended the policy. For what it is worth, this seems to me to be all part and parcel of ethical and political debate that is the hallmark of a free country; there are some places where this could not possibly happen. Whilst I share the Archbishop’s reservations about this particular policy, I can understand arguments that we need to take action to stop the people traffickers and the deaths that happen as a result. Indeed, many who defended the policy made this point. But what struck me was the response of one MP, Ben Bradley, at least as his words were quoted in a national newspaper.

“I think we separated the Church from the state a long time ago, so commenting on government policy is not Justin Welby’s job. He’s usually way out of tune with public opinion and he undermines the role of the church when he comes out with daft statements like this. This will prove to be a very popular policy with the British public”.

Leaving aside the sub-text that politics should only be left to professional politicians, Mr Bradley seems to be of the view that the church should do only what is popular. Perhaps he needs to reread the account of the crucifixion, where Pontius Pilate, the professional politician in charge of Jesus, knew what he should do with an innocent man, but instead followed the wishes of the crowd, released a murderer and executed Jesus. Which of course, was very popular, for a while.

Rev David Poyner

Thought for the Week – 17th April 2022


This is inspired by a reflection by the Rev Malcolm Guite, published recently in the Church Times.

The blossom is starting to appear both on hedges and trees. In my garden I have a damson tree, which is now white; fortunately it has so far escaped the April frosts. Once it has gone, it will be followed by the pinks and whites of the apple and pear tree blossoms. We live in a region of renowned for fruit growing; Longmore House in Billingsley takes its name from a pear tree orchard, in the 19th century, Highley was noted for its cider orchards and the countryside around Bewdley has numerous cherry and plum orchards. All of this makes for a colourful spring. There is something quite uplifting about early spring; how trees that have been cold and apparently lifeless over the winter come back to life, promising renewed life and raising our own spirits as we anticipate the finer weather to come. I paraphrase the words of the Rev Guite; “as I thought of new life coming from the old blossom trees, I pondered again how at Easter 2000 years ago, life sprang from a tree cut into a cross, on a hill overlooking Jerusalem”.

Rev David Poyner

Thought for the Week – 10th April 2022

Cooking Beans

A colleague at work this week posted on his Facebook page what I believe is a classic Chinese poem, first published in 430AD and called Quatrain of Seven Steps, apparently because it could be recited whilst walking just seven paces. Wikipedia has the full story. The author imagines beans, being boiled over a fire, calling out to the bean roots, which are being burnt to make the heat.
Beans are boiled to make broth, Pulses are filtered to extract juice.
Under the pot the beanstalks burn, In the pot the beans weep.
“We are born of the self-same root, Why in such a rush to cook me?”
The poem is said to have been written in response to the threat of civil war and is essentially an appeal for the ruler of the victorious party to be merciful in his treatment to the losers; the poet is reminding him of his common humanity with the vanquished. The confirmation of killings of civilians in Ukraine by Russian forces shows us what happens when individuals forget this and see only enemies, not fellow humans made in the image of God.
Rev David Poyner

Thought for the Week – 3rd April 2022

The Slap at the Oscars

On Monday this week, I switched on Radio 4 at 7am for the news and found it dominated by the story from the Oscars; actor Will Smith hitting compere Chris Rock after Rock made a joke about Smith’s wife. Now film and TV would not be my specialist subject on Mastermind and whilst even I have heard of Will Smith, I had no idea who Chris Rock was. But the story has continued to roll, even on Radio 4.

From what I have subsequently discovered, it appears Messrs Smith and Rock have previous form; once friends, they fell out some years ago. As far as I can tell, the general reaction has been to condemn Smith’s violence, whilst perhaps having some sympathy for his anger. There seems some sadness that the ceremony will not be remembered for Smith’s Oscar, but for his temper; perhaps a man trapped by past events.

My own reflections on this story lead to the story of another slap; that given to the face Jesus by those who judged him before the court of the High Priest, after his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane. But Jesus, who famously taught that his disciples should literally turn the other cheek in response to an attack, made no show of anger and raised no voice of protest. He simply absorbed the insults and violence and, from the cross, forgave. Perhaps the parties to the Oscar slap may also learn how forgiveness can free them from the past.

Rev David Poyner