Can we ‘Spare’ a thought for Royal Reconciliation?

There can be little doubt that with 400,000 copies being sold on its first day of publication, Prince Harry’s autobiography Spare has caught the public imagination, with many people proclaiming how excited they are to read it. The sales of the publication were no doubt primed by the recent Netflix television series and fuelled by a number of sensational interviews to promote it, all reported upon in the newspapers, which is slightly ironic considering Prince Harry’s well-known loathing for the British press.

But whatever your opinion about Prince Harry and the Royal Family, there can be little doubt that the steady stream of salacious material and juicy titbits are all very sad for the individuals concerned and bad for the Monarchy in general. In fact, the sheer volume of information and level of detail has taken everyone by surprise, with the previously understood policy of the Royal family to ‘never complain, never explain’ being well and truly blasted out of the water. At first glance some of the information about sibling rivalry between Princes William and Harry (and their spouses) seems quite petty, but it’s easy to see how a number of these small petty grievances and cultural misunderstandings can easily ‘blow up’ into larger issues breeding anger and resentment – with accusations of one side leaking information to the press for gain over the other, and charges of overt racism being very serious indeed. There is no doubt that Prince Harry feels compelled to protect and defend his wife from the unconscious bias/racism of his prestigious family (and press), but this, combined with his own sense of past hurt has culminated in his fierce resentment of his perceived treatment as the second son as starkly depicted in his book’s title Spare. But the problem is that no one is perfect and no one comes out of this situation very well – so can the family be reconciled?

Of course, the folly of ‘airing one’s dirty linen in public’ is the difficulty of climbing down and ‘losing face’, especially when you are a member of a Royal family in the full glare of the British press and the world’s media, but despite their grievances, Prince Harry has described his love for his father and brother – and his wish that for his children’s sake, they might be reconciled. Equally King Charles has spoken of his love for his sons, including Prince Harry, which may pave the ground at some point for civilised conversation; an honest, mutual meeting of minds resulting not only in the letting go of past hurts, but also an apology for those caused today. This needs to stem from real repentance, love and forgiveness. But if there is to be any chance of a private reconciliation, then the public argument and media circus has to stop.

The Christian will be aware that the Bible often speaks about ‘not letting the sun go down on your anger’ (Romans 4.26-27) which might give the devil a foothold and ‘the renewing of one’s mind’ (Romans 12.2) which means a change of heart, mind and attitude after the fashion of Christ. Now, no one is saying that this is easy, but genuine love can overcome most obstacles. So together, let’s spare a thought for Prince Harry and pray that he and all the members of the Royal family will overcome their differences and be reconciled.


31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Ephesians 4.31–32

Can we afford to celebrate Christmas?

The greatest gift of all: The birth of Jesus Christ

I’m writing this letter the day before Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his Chancellor Jeremy Hunt reveal their Autumn Statement, and many people are wondering about how they will be affected by their policies. The three wise men may have been able to afford their extravagant gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, but for many the ‘cost of living’ crisis currently fuelled by higher energy prices, high inflation and fewer resources has meant that Christmas is rapidly losing its sparkle. A recent survey suggests that 42% of people are worried about how they will pay for Christmas this year compared to previous years and the media is full of sad stories and advice on how people can make ends meet. Martin Lewis, the Money Savings Expert states that most people start from the wrong place; “They have a perfect Christmas pictured in their mind of everything that they want and exactly how it is going to be, and then they try and work out how they can do it. Please don’t do that. That’s likely to lead to debt and disappointment. Decide on how much you are going to spend on Christmas this year and stick to it.”

The Christian will be aware that although presents are nice, Christmas is not really about presents at all, but about a God who loved the world so much that he freely stepped out of the majesty of heaven, becoming as the ‘Son of God’ a man born in Bethlehem to poor parents. He did this, so that we ‘as poor as we are’ might get to know him in a deeper, better and more profound way, trusting that his love, (ultimately demonstrated for us by his death on the cross) might not only lead to our salvation and the forgiveness of our sins but offer us a better, brighter and more positive future, for as the Apostle Paul once said ‘for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich’ (2 Corinthians 8.9).

Yes, the wise men may have offered Jesus expensive gifts as part of their worship, but in truth Christmas is really all about God’s good gift in Christ to us – and so on his birthday, what might he want most of all? An expensive lavish present? Not at all! He simply wants to be your friend as you put your faith and trust in him.

It’s a gift that grows with the receiving, each day becoming more and more satisfying as we come to appreciate and learn just what God has done for us in the person of Christ.

It is my hope that you will all have a really lovely Christmas with your respective families and friends, but not allow the finances to get in the way of your celebrations, but simply rejoice in each other’s company as God in love and ‘in Christ’ rejoices in you.

May I on behalf of my family and all the parishes I represent wish you all a very happy Christmas and a worry free, peaceful new year.  

What can I give him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd I would bring a lamb;
if I were a wise man I would do my part;
yet what I can I give him – give my heart.

From ‘In the bleak mid winter’ by Christina Rossetti

No Greater Love Than This …..

The First World War (1914-18) has often been described as ‘The Great War’ and ‘the war to end all wars.’ It is given such accolades because despite the many brave and heroic actions that took place, it’s also recognised as being one of the most tragically painful episodes of human history with immense suffering, as no-one can be certain how many lives were actually lost on the battlefield. Historians estimate that it may be as many as 10 million people killed with another 20 million people wounded. It was therefore hoped that the world would never see such a conflict again, but sadly within a few short years not only did we have the Second World War but there have been many other conflicts since. It’s no wonder that the Christian poet, Steve Turner, was inspired to write ‘History repeats itself. It has to – no one listens.’

To those of us who have, thankfully, only ever known peace, the current war in Ukraine with all its evidence of mass graves, torture chambers and deportations reminds us of just how dirty, depraved, and brutal war can be, causing much damage to people’s lives, infrastructure and society. We can therefore only hope and pray that the innocent will find peace; the good will prevail; and that the wicked will be brought both to heel and to justice.

In such circumstances, many of us will remember the biblical verse, “Greater love has no-one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15.13), often quoted on Remembrance Sunday. It’s true, there is no greater love than making this ultimate sacrifice. But it also needs to be remembered that that particular verse is set within a passage that not only commands us to be loving in death – but in life! This is my command says Jesus, “Love each other as I have loved you” (John 15.12). War sometimes requires us to live and love sacrificially, but that same quality should also be evident in times of peace, as we endeavour to see others the same way that God sees them. Ultimately, it was this same quality of sacrificial love and purpose that drove Jesus to die for us upon the cross, taking upon himself not only the consequences of our fallen nature but offering us the forgiveness of sins when we put our faith and trust in him. The Bible reveals not only how ‘in love’ Jesus lived and died for us, but how as ‘God incarnate’ he rose again. His resurrection therefore (which is promised to all who believe) heralds not only a new way of life, but a new way of living forever as part of God’s new creation which we call heaven, where God will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and where “there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain” for all that has passed away (Revelation 21.4). How much do we long for that!

Please join us in church this Remembrance Sunday as we commemorate all those who sacrificially gave so much serving our nation in times of war, so that we might be free to live and love in peace.  


“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.”

1 John 3.16

The Queen Is Dead: God Save The King!

By the time you get to read this letter, the period of mourning for our late Queen, HM Queen Elizabeth II will be over. The parades, The Queue, formal lying-in-State and the funeral will all have come to an end, although our heartfelt praise and gratitude for Her Majesty and her long and glorious reign will last for ever. There will always be a special place for her, both in our history and the heart of the nation – and yet now in this period after the funeral we have an opportunity for quiet thought and reflection.

Perhaps one of the most striking things that struck visiting Presidents, Prime Ministers and other Heads of State, was that despite their constant praise of Queen Elizabeth as being ‘a rock’, and a ‘constant and invaluable presence’ (considering that she had witnessed 15 different Prime Ministers and 14 US Presidents during her reign), was the instant and seamless flow from one Sovereign to another; the Sovereign may have died but the Monarchy lives on; the Queen is dead; God save the King! This is not to show any form of disrespect, but to ensure that the life of the nation is maintained even in periods of great sadness and difficulty. The fact that Prince Charles became King Charles III upon the death of his mother, even before there was any formal proclamation or act of accession feels extraordinary to foreign dignitaries (and a great relief to those of us who have just witnessed the latest Conservative leadership contest). It’s the monarchy which helps bring this sense of constancy so admired by others, and perhaps most poignantly summed up by the Queen’s own words that “I find that one of the sad things is that people don’t take on jobs for life”.

Inevitably the sad death of the Queen will bring a period of uncertainty and change to those who have known nothing else, but the new King’s dedication to follow his late mother’s sense of Christian service and duty has been both comforting and reassuring. It’s also comforting that the Christian and religious nature of much of the past proceedings has brought a comfort and consolation to many, regardless of their own religious faith or lack of it – all are welcome here. Elizabeth was our Queen and now Charles is our King.

However, the Christian will also have a sense of another constancy in their lives, one that is central and a bed-rock to all that they say and do, bringing much comfort, strength and peace, and that is of course in God whose eternal nature was most wonderfully demonstrated through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is both God incarnate, and ‘Sovereign Lord and King’. His majesty and eternal promise gives us strength in times of difficulty, peace in times of uncertainty, hope for the future and comfort even beyond the grave. So as we look to the future of our nation, may we all celebrate our new earthly monarch and put our faith in the one in whose name he serves.     


“And surely I am with you always …” Matthew 28.20

Cultivating a generous heart this harvest

There can be little doubt that the ‘cost of living’ crisis is upon us. The continuing war in Ukraine, soaring energy costs and climate change (as demonstrated by the recent heatwave) have all had a devasting effect upon wholesale prices leading to a sharp rise in inflation. The impact of all this for those with limited incomes is enormous – how can the poorest and most vulnerable in society possibly feed themselves and manage their daily existence? Farmers too are struggling to ‘feed the nation’ as the lack of rain stunts their crops and forces them to feed precious winter supplies to their animals in the height of summer. Never have we been so eager and pleased to pray for rain!

However, imagine what it is like for those in poorer countries. Tearfund reminds us that 18 million people are desperately short of food in East Africa, for not only have they been impacted by the lack of grain coming out of Ukraine, but they haven’t had any significant rain for at least four years. The land is therefore parched, and malnutrition is widespread. Oxfam’s International Executive, Gabriela Butcher, said that “competing priorities” have meant that as the world’s attention is on the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, East Africa is simply not on its agenda, meaning that it is missing one of the greatest crises ever known.

Nepal is another poor country in need. Landlocked between India and China, more than 85 per cent of its population relies upon subsistence farming to feed their families, but climate change has meant that often people go hungry as their crops fail resulting in whole communities withering away.

This is why we at All Saints Necton have decided to support Tearfund, who have worked in both East Africa and Nepal for many years, as our harvest charity this year. They are teaching farmers new techniques to help them produce more crops in this changing climate; how to set up better irrigation systems to make people less dependent on the rains, and finally how to farm sustainably, protecting the land for future generations. Please join us for our harvest service – as in previous years our cash donations will go to our harvest charity (Tearfund) and we encourage you to bring dry provisions that will go to our local food bank.

Yes, our current circumstances may well be difficult, but if anything, this harvest should encourage us all to be a little more appreciative and to give thanks for what we do have – and be even more mindful, compassionate and understanding of those who have less.

A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.

1 Timothy 2.1–2

Praying for Parliament, Politicians and the Prime Minister

Things are certainly hotting up today, for not only has The Met Office issued a red warning (level 4) indicating a state of national emergency as the country braces itself for a heat wave that could exceed 40oC,  but also Conservative politicians are in a race to see who will be the next leader of the Conservative party and with it, the next Prime Minister. At the time of writing 5 candidates remain, Kemi Badenoch, Penny Mordaunt, Rishi Sunak, Liz Truss and Tom Tugendhat and as they appeared in the first TV debate, sparks began to fly.

But whatever your politics or personal preference, it’s worth taking a step back and asking yourself seriously, who would really want the job at this particular time in the nation’s life?  Oh yes, there is certainly plenty of power, prestige and glory to be had if you get things right and make the right decisions, but if you get things wrong, or make a mistake or simply have a run of bad luck, you can very quickly find all that power and authority slipping away from you, as Boris Johnson was to discover, and before you know it – you’re toast! Or as Boris Johnson strangely put it ‘them’s the breaks’. And of course the problems upon any future successor are considerable, such as the cost of living crisis and inflation (with huge pressures by trade unions for higher wages and pay settlements); sorting out the Northern Ireland protocol and making the most of Brexit; and most seriously of all, the terrible war in Ukraine which looks like it is only going to get worse before it gets better, leading to an immense loss of life, tremendous pain and suffering, and global food shortages exasperated by climate change; not forgetting that the coronavirus is still with us. Any one of these would be a real headache for any Prime Minster, but to face them all at once is an immense challenge.

The Bible encourages us to pray ‘for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness’ and whatever your politics or religious outlook, we should all prayerfully, support and encourage our politicians to act with fairness, honesty and integrity, and with strength to meet the challenges of the day upon which all our lives depend.     

I urge, then,… that …prayers, …be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.

1 Timothy 2.1–2

Where is the truth and does it matter?

I think we can all agree that today (15th June) was a bad day for the Prime Minister, for not only did the EU restart its legal proceedings against the government plans to unilaterally scrap parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol, but also a fiercely heated debate took place over ‘who understood what’ at the time of signing the Brexit deal and how it should be practically interpreted – with the European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic effectively accusing the British government of lying to the general public. Secondly, Lord Geidt resigned from his position as Boris Johnson’s independent ethics advisor stating that there was a legitimate question as to whether the Prime Minister broke the ministerial rules over Partygate. Once again, the whole issue of ‘who knew what’ and who was lying came to the fore.

The problem is that we live today in a postmodern world where it is fashionable to believe that there is no such thing as absolute truth; all truth is said to be relative, depending upon your own particular point of view, which in the realm of politics (and much of society at large) tends to mean that ‘the truth’ becomes whatever suits me and is the most convenient and practically expedient. In fact, in recent years,  the most expedient thing has often been to deny the truth completely. We saw this in Donald Trump’s use of the term ‘Fake News’ to dismiss anything that he didn’t agree with, and his false accusation that the US Presidential election result was rigged, which in recent days even close family members and political advisors have dismissed as nonsense. Sadly, we have seen the most serious and blatant denial of truth coming from Russia, as President Putin conducts his ‘special military operation’ within Ukraine, which most observers would have no hesitation in calling a war, which has disastrous consequences for us all.

The problem with all this political spin, ‘fake news’ and propaganda is that it erodes trust as people lose faith in their political leaders and become disillusioned and suspicious instead. What can we believe and where can truth be found?

One’s own perspective of the world is greatly determined by one’s values and what one believes, which is why for many, Christianity offers a bedrock of security in a sea of change and relativity, for in the person of Jesus, we see a man who as the ‘Son of God’ not only had a great love and compassion for the world, but also kept his promises, living a life full of integrity and truth, backing up his words with action. Jesus had described himself as ‘the way, the truth and the life’ (John 14.6), offering his disciples not only a way to his Father in heaven but ‘life in all it’s fullness’ (John 10.10) and a ‘truth that will set you free’ (John 8.32). Despite the fact that the people were living in difficult and uncertain times, because he spoke with such authority and lived with such integrity, people were willing to embrace his words ‘do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me’ (John 14.1), and many people did trust Jesus because not only were his words trustworthy and true, but also so were his actions, as ultimately demonstrated by his life, death and resurrection.

As much as I would like everyone to enjoy a firm confidence in Christ, I’m also certain that we need to step back from a world where ‘all things are relative’ but have the confidence of one’s own convictions, for paraphrasing a comment made by Jeff Myers, a Christian commentator – ‘If something is true, then it is true whether we admit it, like it or not! May we and all our politicians live in the light of such certainty, and within it foster a high regard and appreciation for the truth.


 31 Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8.31-32

God bless The Queen

Queen Elizabeth II leaves after attending the opening ceremony of the sixth session of the Senedd in Cardiff. Picture date: Thursday October 14, 2021.

“I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service… But I shall not have strength to carry out this resolution alone unless you join in it with me, as I now invite you to do: I know that your support will be unfailingly given. God help me to make good my vow, and God bless all of you who are willing to share in it.”

Princess Elizabeth, 21st April 1947

These words spoken four years before King George VI died on 6th February 1952, show how greatly aware the young Princess Elizabeth was of her role and life as the nations’ future Queen. You could say that these words were spoken not only in anticipation of that event, but to prepare the nation that one day it would eventually come (as we are seeing similar signs today), and when it did, the young princess immediately became Queen at the age of 25, although her Coronation wasn’t until 2nd June 1953. Although it hasn’t always been easy, the Queen has remained a faithful servant to the United Kingdom and its citizens, gaining huge respect, here and abroad, and especially so in her role as the head of the Commonwealth. On the 6th February 2022, she became the first British Monarch to reign for 70 years and we will celebrate her Platinum Jubilee at the beginning of June – what a wonderful achievement!

Of course, over the past 70 years our nation has seen immense change, in terms of medical, technological and societal advances, and our economy has sometimes had to take the rough with the smooth, but in all that time the Queen has been a steadfast constant and stabilising influence, comforting many who had lived with her through the war years, and demonstrating how it is possible to embrace the future with a quiet and confident optimism. Her mature and majestic example has been a great source of inspiration and admiration both to world leaders and members of the general public.

No doubt, alongside her late husband Prince Philip, the Queen has been greatly sustained by her Christian faith which she has spoken about more naturally and openly in recent years, most notably through the broadcast of her Christmas messages. Her royal upbringing and personal faith in Jesus Christ as her Lord and Saviour has not only enhanced her sense of duty, but given her a greater understanding of Christian service and a better perspective of what is truly worthwhile and of lasting value.

As we collectively say ‘thank you’ to Her Majesty for 70 years of loyal service, may her life continue to be an example and encouragement to us all. May God bless the Queen!


Lord of our lives and Father of all, let our thanksgiving prove itself in service to you and to our Queen, our country and one another, for your Name’s sake. Amen.

Prayer of Dedication from the Silver Jubilee Year

Easter hope in the midst of conflict!

Ukranian Easter Egg

I write this letter on the day that President Zelensky of Ukraine spoke to the US Congress, thanking them for their help but also appealing for them to do more, most notably the establishment of a no-fly zone, ‘closing the sky’. Whatever we may think about the prudence of such an action, the disappointment from a Ukrainian point of view is easy to understand. This war has generated a huge wave of emotion in us all, whether it be a profound shock and disbelief that it could happen in the first place; to anger and despair as we witness the appalling suffering; to quiet admiration at the courage & stoicism of the people as they resourcefully defend their country; coupled with a huge amount of sadness, pity and compassion for the people who have suffered and lost so much. Yet at the same time we admire the extraordinary acts of kindness and generosity of surrounding nations as they open their hearts and their homes to take care of refugees and provide medical and humanitarian assistance where they can.

In the face of so much suffering, it would be easy to lose heart and lose faith wondering – just where precisely, is God is in all this? But of course, God is at work in the hearts of all those who are trying to look after their loved ones and those less fortunate than themselves. He’s in the compassion of doctors and nurses, trying to save lives and bind up the wounded. He’s in the voice of Russian protesters who are trying to speak truthfully to their neighbours in the light of false propaganda. He’s in the massive effort of governments, humanitarian agencies and charities all trying to act as one to relieve suffering and promote peace. Not forgetting to mention those who literally put themselves in harm’s way while trying to protect others. Finally, he’s in all our tears and prayers as we determine together that there must be a better way of being and living life.

Indeed, the Christian will recall that it is for this better way of life that Jesus came. His message was constantly about how we should ‘love God and our neighbour as ourselves’ (Matthew 19.19). In fact, it was precisely because we were so bad at doing this, wishing to promote our own agenda and thinking that we knew better than God, that sin came into the world in the first place, resulting in pain, suffering and death. But Jesus’ death upon the cross was the start of God putting things right, for when we recognise that the death he died, he died for us, and put our faith and trust in him as our Lord and Saviour, then we are forgiven our sins and given the chance to start again. But of course, Christ’s death is not the end of the story, for Christ’s divinity is demonstrated not only by the way he died, but by the way he rose again! The resurrection is therefore the basis of our Christian Easter hope, giving us, by faith, not only the strength to meet the challenges of today, but also a sure and certain hope for all eternity. May this be a real source of peace and comfort to each of us as we continue to demonstrate the love that God has for us in the way that we live and treat one another.  

Happy Easter to you all.                 


Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Colossians 3.15

A Prayer for Ukraine

God of peace and justice,
we pray for the people of Ukraine today.
We pray for peace and the laying down of weapons.
We pray for all those who fear for tomorrow,
that your Spirit of comfort would draw near to them.
We pray for those with power over war or peace,
for wisdom, discernment and compassion to guide their decisions.
Above all, we pray for all your precious children, at risk and in fear,
that you would hold and protect them.
We pray in the name of Jesus, the Prince of Peace.
Amen

Archbishop Justin Welby
Archbishop Stephen Cottrell

When war is looming, it’s essential that we act with wisdom, integrity & prayer!

As I write this letter, the West is becoming increasingly alarmed by the number of Russian troops gathering on the borders of Ukraine. President Putin has repeatedly said that Russia has no intention of invading Ukraine, and his government has repeatedly accused the West of ‘histrionics’. In fact, hopes raised by President Putin’s recent statement that the Kremlin has authorised a partial withdrawal of its forces were quickly dashed by NATO’s chief, Jens Stoltenberg who insisted that satellite imagery showed no evidence of such a withdrawal, in fact, strategically, quite the reverse. This was swiftly followed by Liz Truss our own foreign secretary urging the West at a press conference in Kyiv, to ‘wise up’ in its dealings with Russia.

She no doubt has a point – when war is looming, and peoples’ lives are at stake it is beholden upon all of our national leaders to act with prudence, wisdom and caution. Concerns that Russian information might be misleading or that their tacticians might be engineering a so called ‘false flag’ provocation to justify a military invasion of Ukraine are as shocking as they are deceitful. This is why the West must ensure that it acts with wisdom and integrity, powerfully speaking to those who threaten harm, and with care to those who are in harm’s way. Every nation has the right to defend itself, but the engagement of warfare should always be a last resort.

The Christian will be aware that although Jesus commanded his disciples ‘to love your neighbour as yourself’ (Matthew 19.19), he also commanded them to ‘love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you’ (Matthew 5.44). This is not a soppy, sentimental, ‘wishy-washy’ sort of love, but a love that allows the individual to keep a clear head and a clear perspective, not allowing oneself to descend into a mindless anger or hatred. Let’s pray that our national leaders will continue to act with as much tact and diplomacy as they can muster to encourage peace and deter the minds of those who might be tempted to go to war out of greed and evil self-interest.    

    “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12.17-21


———-

Since writing this initial post, Russia has invaded Ukraine, we therefore continue to pray for the people of Ukraine, and trust that they will not only be able to endure this ordeal with integrity and courage, but that the Western nations will do all that they can to ease their suffering, confront aggression and promote peace.