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Morning Prayer on 25th October

The world now is too dangerous and too beautiful
for anything but love.
May your eyes be so blessed you see God in everyone.
Your ears, so you hear the cry of the poor.
May your hands be so blessed
that everything you touch is a sacrament.
Your lips, so you speak nothing but the truth with love.
May your feet be so blessed you run to those who need you.
And may your heart be so opened, so set on fire,
that your love, your love, changes everything.
And may the blessing of the God who created you, loves you,
and sustains you, be with you now and always.
May it be so. Amen

A Prayer of Blessing from the Black Rock Prayer book


Consider the sparrows …

Yesterday, was a momentous day in our household. Brandishing a pair of garden shears, as the evening sunshine dappled the back garden with light, I shaved my son’s curly locks off! 

Over the last few weeks of lockdown, my son’s hair has been growing at an alarming rate…not downwards but upwards and outwards in tight ringlets! It has been driving him potty! But with all the hairdressers closed, it seemed as if he had little choice but to put up with it. Latterly, he’s taken to wearing a ‘man bun’…quite the thing I’m told. 

The lack of hairdressers is just one of the lesser trials of lockdown…a much more significant one is the impact of the shutdown on our economy. Volunteering at the local Foodbank, I’m aware that demand for emergency food parcels has increased dramatically as those on zero hour contracts have been laid off and the furloughed workers, getting 80% of an already insufficient salary, struggle to manage to feed themselves and their families. Simultaneously, the foodbank has also seen a rapid decrease in stocks as many of their former food collection points have been closed. 

So it was that Joel had the bright idea of raising awareness of the challenges facing those on less than sufficient income and at the same time raising money for food bank….One night, over tea, he casually mentioned that he was going to raise money for foodbank by getting people to sponsor him for shaving all his hair off! I admit, initially I was sceptical….I wondered if people were beginning to experience compassion fatigue…so many good and worthy causes…so many needs. Where do you even begin to reach out to help your neighbour at a time of global challenge? 

But something has been happening to our global conscience…almost imperceptibly, many of our former values and measures of worth are being subtly challenged….As large sections of our community have to live on reduced means, we are becoming aware of a need for a basic income that isn’t about ensuring survival but enabling people to thrive….in a time when we are more aware than ever of those who service our society, those who ensure that many of our basic needs are met, we are now beginning to re-value and applaud their formerly unacknowledged efforts…to name just a few…residential care workers, refuse collectors, all those working in the food retail industry, health care workers… 

As Rowan Williams said recently, there is a fresh realisation that my happiness and security is intricately and inextricably linked to another person’s happiness and security. The South African word ‘ubuntu,’ summarises this beautifully…’I am because you are.’ 

Given these anxious times, I have been thinking of late about Jesus’s words on the Sermon on the Mount…in one section of his address, he counsels us not to worry…look at the birds of the air; they neither reap nor sow nor store in barns, he says, but their heavenly father feeds them.’ 

What is Jesus getting at here? Is he advocating that we just abrogate all personal and social responsibility and rely on heavenly handouts? Surely, he would have come across those in his society who fell through the net, if there were even such a thing as a safety net back then. 

Throughout the sermon on the mount, Jesus is pointing out the many subtle and obvious ways in which our lives are bound up in each other…a healthy community is one which realises that we are part of an intricate web of life in which each part is interdependent, and as we give and sow and reap so we receive a full and wholly sufficient measure in return, pressed down and running over.  

Many are hoping that the lessons we are learning in this time of global challenge will be received and applied as we emerge from life in lockdown. May we realise afresh each other’s true worth, may we wake up to the realisation that the natural world is not a treasure trove to be plundered at will but a living organism of which we are only a part and that it is incumbent on us to  ensure that our footprint is a light one, careful of the needs and requirements of the rest of the natural world.  

As I was sitting at my desk overlooking the garden at work this morning, I noticed the birds on the grass…they seemed to have their beaks full of a wool like substance…on closer inspection it transpired that they were busy collecting my son’s curly locks to line their nests…. 

‘Consider the sparrow…..’ 


Think on these things

Think on these things! Practicing Spiritual Psychological first aid.

The other day I was out for my daily run with Frodo. It was yet another glorious sunny Spring day, and yet as I ran down the road to the river, the idyllic scene was spoilt by a load of rubbish dumped on the grass…I must admit…I had a moment…why would anyone just leave their rubbish here spoiling such a place of tranquil beauty…but then I looked up and around…the Sun was still shining, the blossom was still blooming and the birds were in full voice. And I recalled something Paul once wrote from his prison cell in Rome…

I must admit I had often wondered how Paul managed it…he was incarcerated in a cell, his liberty was taken away and I imagine his future prospects of getting out of there in one piece were less than positive but still he counsels …’Think on these things….’

Think on these things, whatever is honest, pure and lovely …

Philippians 4:8

So what was all this about? Rather than encouraging a naïve, idealistic, other worldy perspective on life, Paul was giving us, a hard learnt, 101 lesson in spiritual and psychological first aid….

Indulge me for a moment…think of all the things that really wind you up, get you down, put your teeth on edge…then notice, how are you feeling now….energised and positive or tense and downhearted? Now have a go at the opposite…think of the things that inspire and fill you with joy…it may be family and friends, a special place, a picture, book, piece of music…and allow your mind to really engage with that memory or experience…turn up the volume and picture it in full colour…now how do you feel? Less stressed and wound up? More relaxed and creative? Open to the possibilities that lie before you?

Living life and viewing life through an appreciative filter is good for our spiritual, mental, emotional health. Paul is inviting us to connect with and embrace all that makes life rich and full and of worth…and with a bit of ingenuity, discernment and creativity we can still access these things even in times of lock down…

As I ran home, I found myself smiling at the homemade rainbow decorations in the windows of the houses on my road…I thought back to the clap for carers that takes place each Thursday as folks in this community take the time to affirm and encourage all those working in the myriad of key-worker roles right now…all those who are caring for the sick, supporting the vulnerable, keeping basic amenities going that help our community to continue to function. Whether it be banging your pots and pans on your doorsteps, clapping your hands, or even driving up and down the road tooting your horn…we are all trying to say thank you and we appreciate all that you are doing.

When I got back, I opened Facebook and found people sewing scrubs for hospital staff, baking cakes, delivering food parcels and prescriptions to those at home shielding.

So my invitation to myself and to you is to consider what it might be like practising spiritual and psychological first aid in these times …

Open your eyes to the wonder and delight of this beautiful planet and allow your heart and spirit to give praise to God the creator.

Think of all those people you know who are compassionate, caring, and responsible and think of ways in which you can support and affirm them.

Give thanks daily for the opportunities that lie before you to do your part at this time of global need, whether that be sheltering at home or out in the community at work.

Thank you, Loving God, for creating a world of beauty and love. Let love be my goal. Let me look beyond the detritus, knowing that it exists, but also knowing that there is more to life than pandemic and irresponsibility. There is love, sacrifice, compassion, and commitment. Let me be among the helpers, blessing the earth, wherever I find myself. Amen.


A New Daily Routine

I imagine I wasn’t the only one waking up on Tuesday morning wondering how we are all going to adjust to this new way of living. Covid 19 has radically altered what a normal daily routine might look like. Yet, times of crisis can be fruitful, pregnant with possibilities for doing things differently.

Rebecca Solnit once noted that from the word emergency comes the word emerge:

From an emergency, new things come forth. The old certainties are crumbling fast but danger and possibility are sisters.

What new routines can we create that will enable new ways of working, relating, playing and resting? Annie Dilliard once wrote,

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing.

Or as Aristotle said on a similar vein: ‘How we spend our days is of course part of who we are becoming.’

Can we use this unforeseen time to cultivate practices that would deepen and strengthen our awareness of God, of others and the natural world? Can we establish new daily rhythms that will cultivate healthy and wholesome desires, love and develop a Godly character? What practices might offer us support as we seek to re-imagine our daily lives?

Sabbath keeping … taking a day each week to receive life as gift and to delight in the goodness of being alive.
Worship … setting time apart each day to enjoy God’s presence and express our thanks and praise, our lament and petitions..
Giving … of our time, talents, skills and resources so that others can be blessed by our wealth and experience of God’s goodness.
Prayer … spending time waiting, listening, opening ourselves to God’ Spirit at work in our deepest self, making us whole.

Lord, help us become large spirits. Deliver us from fear and anxiety, from boredom and impatience, from loneliness and isolation. May we discover your glory right where we are. Amen


Prayers in a Time of Pandemic

May we who are merely inconvenienced
Remember those whose lives are at stake.
May we who have no risk factors
Remember those most vulnerable.
May we who have the luxury of working from home
Remember those who must choose between preserving their health or making their rent.
May we who have the flexibility to care for our children when their schools close
Remember those who have no options.
May we who have to cancel our trips
Remember those that have no safe place to go.
May we who are losing our margin money in the tumult of the economic market
Remember those who have no margin at all.
May we who settle in for a quarantine at home
Remember those who have no home.
As fear grips our country, let us choose love.
During this time when we cannot physically wrap our arms around each other,
Let us yet find ways to be the loving embrace of God to our neighbours.

Keep us, good Lord,
under the shadow of your mercy
in this time of uncertainty and distress.
Sustain and support the anxious and fearful,
and lift up all who are brought low;
that we may rejoice in your comfort
knowing that nothing can separate us from your love
in Christ Jesus our Lord.

A Prayer from the New Zealand Prayer Book for People Facing Great Uncertainty

God of the present moment,
God who in Jesus stills the storm
and soothes the frantic heart;
bring hope and courage to all
who wait or work in uncertainty.
Bring hope that you will make them the equal
of whatever lies ahead.
Bring them courage to endure what cannot be avoided,
for your will is health and wholeness;
you are God, and we need you.Amen

For those who are ill

Merciful God,
we entrust to your tender care
those who are ill or in pain,
knowing that whenever danger threatens
your everlasting arms are there to hold them safe.
Comfort and heal them,
and restore them to health and strength;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

For hospital staff and medical researchers

Gracious God,
give skill, sympathy and resilience
to all who are caring for the sick,
and your wisdom to those searching for a cure.
Strengthen them with your Spirit,
that through their work many will be restored to health;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

From one who is ill or isolated

O God,
help me to trust you,
help me to know that you are with me,
help me to believe that nothing can separate me
from your love
revealed in Jesus Christ our Lord.

For the Christian community

We are not people of fear:
we are people of courage.
We are not people who protect our own safety:
we are people who protect our neighbours’ safety.
We are not people of greed:
we are people of generosity.
We are your people God,
giving and loving,
wherever we are,
whatever it costs
For as long as it takes
wherever you call us.

(Barbara Glasson, President of the Methodist Conference)


Inside Out: Lenten Reflections on Mission

Dave Flitcroft shares his thoughts on what a loving engagement in God’s world looks like for him.

A poem

Ministry is …
Listening when you’d rather fix the problem,
Searching for joy when it’s easier to say, ‘It’s not fair’.
Helping when you feel like you’re the one who needs the help,
telling God, ‘Use me’, when you’d rather ask to be rescued,
Encouraging, even when you don’t understand God’s reasoning,
Making that phone call or saying hello, even when it feels awkward,
Serving when you doubt you have anything left to give,
Comforting by being the flicker of light in another’s darkness,

I thought these words were particularly apt considering the current situation that we find ourselves in. As Christians we are all ministers in our communities, regardless of whether we wear a clerical collar or not. In times of crisis or hardship people often turn to faith for answers and comfort even if they are not particularly a regular church attender or even think of themselves as a Christian in the strictest sense.

Well, I suppose I had better tell you something about me and what I do. My name is Dave Flitcroft and I live in Moor Row with my lovely wife, Donna and our children, Molly, Isaac and David. We have two Staffordshire Bull Terriers, Opie and Rosemary. David is our youngest and has severe autism, which can be very challenging at times, but can also be an incredible blessing too. It’s like having this little bloke bodding around the place that has no filter whatsoever. He can’t tell lies, doesn’t understand humour or irony and can be very refreshing in a way.

‘David, did you scribble on that wall?’
‘Yes, I did, Daddy’
‘Do you know that’s very naughty?’
‘Yes, I do’
‘You’re not going to do it again are you?’
‘Yes, I am’

Seriously, though, David’s condition has taught Donna and I so much about patience and tolerance and that people see and interpret the world differently and that doesn’t mean that they are wrong.

During my day job I am a Team Leader at Sellafield where I am also the workplace chaplain and a mental health champion. Outside work I am involved in youth ministry, foodshare, the deanery synod and a member of St. James church choir in Whitehaven.

I am a member of the Society of Saint Francis, an Anglican religious community consisting of three orders, the Franciscan friars, poor Clare nuns and the third order. As a third order postulant I conform to living in the world in the spirit of poverty, chastity and obedience. Third order Franciscans can be male or female, lay or ordained, single or married but we all feel called to live our lives in a very distinctive way whilst carrying out the normal professions of life

The past few years have been incredibly busy for me and my family and it’s been a time of huge change but also incredibly formational as I figured out what God’s call on my life actually is. The truth is, I believe that anyone active in ministry whether lay or ordained simply can’t do it without the support of their nearest and dearest. My wife has been incredibly supportive, after all the man she married had a nice job at Sellafield. Then one day I turned round to her and said, ‘I think God wants me to be a vicar’ and she didn’t miss a beat. I think the spouses of ministers are unsung heroes and they have my utmost respect.

So how did all this begin?

Let’s take a trip back to the 1970’s. My brother and I were both raised by my Mam on her own after Dad walked out in 1976. Life was pretty tough back then and being a single parent was a real social stigma, but Mam did her best working as a supply teacher to make ends meet. By today’s standards we would be considered pretty poor, but we got help from our maternal grandparents and we made do with what we had.

Nana and Grandad were both fascinated by the bible and made numerous pilgrimages to the holy land during their lifetimes. When we were baptised, they brought water back from the river Jordan especially for the occasion and when Grandad died, he was buried with a sail from a boat from the sea of Galilee. Grandad was a bit of a biblical scholar and he would spend hours poring over maps and religious texts. He would tell us stories about Jesus, Moses and Jacob and show us the places on his maps. He knew how to spin a good yarn and always wore a tie and a waistcoat even in the height of summer. It was through him that I believe the first seeds of faith were sown.

My brother and I attended a good C of E school and did all the things that Anglican kids did back then. We went to Sunday school, joined cubs and scouts, went to pathfinders and confirmation classes. Our vicar came into school often and we knew him well and church featured prominently in our lives. I have fond memories of those years because after that when I began secondary school things began to go wrong.

Being poor I didn’t have all the latest fashions or expensive shoes, so I was pretty much singled out for bullying from day one at secondary school. The bullying I experienced left a lasting impression on me that made me unable to trust people for many years. It was around this time that we learned that Mam had been hiding a serious drink problem for a long time. She was a great Mam, loving and caring but she was one of those people who struggled with life’s problems. Things that other people would sail through would knock Mam flat on her back and she turned to drink to blot it out.

As the years passed the drinking got worse. When my grandparents died things just spiralled to rock bottom. Mam cut ties with friends and family until we were eventually on our own. I often wonder if there was anything we could have done but we felt utterly powerless as she slid deeper and deeper into the clutches of alcohol.

When I was 16, I felt God’s call on my life. I had been studying Mount St. Bernard’s Abbey at school and I had the strongest feeling that a life of prayer was something I really wanted to explore further. Unfortunately, events worked against me. My brother who was a couple of years older than me turned 18. Straight away he enlisted and joined the army, eager to be away and making a life for himself. I don’t hold that against him because to be fair, life in our house was pretty grim by that point but I knew I had to stay close at hand for Mam. I shelved my plans and pretty much forgot about them.

As the years groaned by, Mam’s drinking got worse and eventually, sadly it claimed her life. It was such a tragic waste. I remember I was incredibly angry with her at the time and I was angry with God too if I’m honest. I felt I had basically put my life on hold for her and she had just thrown her life away. I decided in that moment that I wasn’t going to waste another minute of my life on anyone else. I was going to live my life, my way, at full throttle and to hell with the consequences.

I had a keen interest in motorcycles and that love of two wheels brought me into contact with a notorious gang of bikers. I deeply admired their camaraderie, their brotherhood and devil may care attitude. I asked to join their number and began the lengthy process of being accepted as a member of their club. two years of mopping floors, cleaning bikes, running errands, working behind the bar at the clubhouse and basically being an on-call skivvy. It was hard work, but I did it. The day I sewed the club’s patches onto the back of my cut-off jacket was the proudest moment of my life up until then. The club’s colours were my most prized possession.

The next ten years vanished in a haze of drugs, alcohol, violence and chasing after women who followed the club around. I didn’t care about much else really. People outside the club were just things to be used for my pleasure, entertainment or to fulfil some task I needed doing. I threw myself into the lifestyle 100% and soon I was rising through the ranks to become a senior club officer in charge of keeping the members in line and sorting out issues with other clubs. I had money, power, respect, drugs, women and best of all I was feared. Life was good, or so I thought at the time. I hadn’t exactly stopped believing in God at this time, I just reasoned that if I ignored Him I could pretty much please myself. How utterly blind I was.

I felt utterly untouchable, filled with arrogance and pride and as we all know, pride always comes before a fall. I noticed this sadness deep inside, a feeling of being torn in two that wouldn’t go away no matter what I did. I began self-medicating with more and more drugs to dangerous levels. I became so reckless and out of control that the club decided enough was enough and I was kicked out. I lost my girlfriend, my home, my money, my bike and all the things I held so dear. I literally had the clothes I stood up in. I drifted from place to place until one night in sheer despair I sank down in a shop doorway and prayed. The big, bad biker fell on his knees before God and prayed. I asked God to deliver me and I promised I would never turn my back on Him again.

That was the moment my life changed forever. Within days I had been housed in a hostel and this gave me an address so I could apply for jobs. I secured work in the north of Scotland for six months and that period of solitude surrounded by nature gave me time to reflect. A chance to repent of all the harm I had done and make friends with God once more. I liken this time to my own forty days in the wilderness. I was made anew, reborn as they say.

Now although I had made friends with God once more, it wasn’t until I met my wife, Donna that I began attending church once more. She attended mass at St. Begh’s RC church in Whitehaven and suggested I went along with her. I’ll be honest I was reluctant to go at first, not because it was RC, as I’ve never really worried about denominations. We are all disciples of Christ regardless of our differences. To me church was somewhere that holy people went, people who had led good lives and did good things for others. It wasn’t for me, but Donna convinced me.

Now if you’ve ever attended a Roman Catholic mass then you’ll know that it’s a little bit different from what many of us Anglicans are used to. Of course, there are similarities but the statues, the incense and the bells were all new to me. Despite it feeling a bit strange I came out of church feeling utterly uplifted. I began to attend regularly, and I recall it was around this time that I began to feel God’s call on my life once more. I began to feel this need to draw closer to God in prayer and scripture, to reach out to others with God’s love.

It was all very strange, but it wasn’t until we began attending our local C of E church at St. James’ that things truly clicked into place. It was during the ordination of Alison Riley, who was our curate at the time, that I had what you could call my burning bush moment. Bishop James was talking about vocations during the service, about how God calls really ordinary people to do pretty extraordinary things. It was as though he was talking directly to me. I was sitting in the choir stalls behind the bishop and I looked up. My wife was sat at the back of church and our eyes met and she just smiled knowingly as if to say, ‘He’s talking to you’.

This all sent me into a bit of a tailspin because the idea of any kind of ministry in the church was not on my radar at all. Then I remembered way back when I felt like I wanted to lead a life of religious service and I knew I had to look into this further. I spoke to Rob our Vicar, and he directed me to see the vocations advisor. I met them several times and over the space of a few meetings we decided I needed to see the director of ordinands at Penrith.

Over the period of the last few years I have come to understand where God wants me to be and through prayer, discernment, study and being involved with several different ministries i have formed a very clear picture of God’s purpose for me. I have felt from very early on in the process that chaplaincy at Sellafield was something God wanted me to do but He has thrown a number of curved balls my way that blindsided me too.

I became involved in youth ministry quite by accident. It was suggested that I might want to help out at Network Youth Church. Alison is the local NYC minister and is very passionate about working with youth, I however had always had somewhat negative images of the younger generation. The notion of spending my Friday nights and weekends with a group of rowdy 11 to 18-year olds made me shudder but I went along anyway. The first night I came home and told my wife I’d made a dreadful mistake but Donna, in her usual fashion, convinced me to stick with it for a few months before making my decision. Working with those young people at Mirehouse is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done.

Sharing the gospel with the young people and seeing them come to truly know Christ is the most incredible experience. It re-affirms my own faith and I have truly grown to love those young people. For whatever reason I seem to have a gift for working with youth and they have taken to me for some reason although I suspect they think of me as some mildly eccentric grandad figure or something. It was through working with Alison at Network Youth Church that I got involved with foodshare.

Foodshare is a really simple concept. As part of recycling lives, it takes the excess food that supermarkets regularly dump into landfill and redistributes it to those in the direst need in society. Poverty is all around us and sometimes I think we get the impression that it only really affects third world countries or those living rough on the streets, but poverty is all around us. It’s in our schools, our workplaces on our streets and maybe even in our pews on Sunday morning.

There are many reasons why people live in poverty and it isn’t just unemployment. Lack of education, lack of opportunity, illness both physical and mental, drug and alcohol addiction all contribute to poverty but there is an increasing number of working people in the UK that also live on the breadline every week. The rise of zero-hour contracts often force people into holding down several jobs. We had one family at foodshare where Dad had three jobs, but they still needed the foodbank to make ends meet until pay day.

Nelson Mandela once said, ‘Poverty is not an accident, like slavery and apartheid it is manmade and can be removed by the actions of people’. Wise words indeed. Mother Theresa left her convent and went to live and minister amongst the poorest of the poor in the slums of Calcutta. She devoted her life in the name of Christ to feeding those whom society deemed as untouchables. Saint Francis famously renounced all his worldly goods and, wearing the simple brown habit of a peasant, went and lived amongst the lepers and outcasts he had once despised. Through ministering to them he truly encountered Jesus and what was once bitter was made sweet.

‘Preach the gospel with all of your heart, and when you need to, use words as well’ Those words were attributed to Francis, but he never actually said them. In fact, Saint Francis was very vocal about preaching the gospels and did so diligently throughout his ministry, but I do like the sentiment of that phrase. If we claim to be disciples of Christ, then we need to live like Christ and that means putting ourselves in challenging situations. Situations with people that society might deem as undesirable or untouchable, and yes, it’s messy and unpredictable but these situations truly let you see God at work.

Many of those who used foodshare had the most generous hearts I have ever seen. They would literally give each other the shirts off their backs. They all had their stories and we dealt with drugs and alcohol issues regularly but many of these people lived lives with no structure at all. I’ve been in that situation and it’s a scary place to be.

The setup of foodshare was really simple. People got a bag of food no questions asked, we made sandwiches and tea and coffee, and everyone had a good craic. After the sandwiches we held a time of prayer, hymns and bible study. One of the leaders would choose a passage of scripture and discuss it with the group. At first only a few stayed but over time more and more stopped back. Spending this time sharing God’s love and His word was incredibly precious to us all.

Many of our foodshare people had very difficult lives but slowly they came to see their own value as beloved children of God. Some even began coming into church on a Sunday morning which was fantastic. I believe when one strips away all the materialistic stuff, we think is important, it’s then that you truly encounter God. In that shop doorway, stripped of my goods and arrogance I was totally open to Christ. This stripping away is part of Lent, for me. It’s something that Saint Francis grasped and understood. By denying ourselves we embrace God and I know that in the eyes of those people at foodshare I saw Christ looking right back at me.