All posts by Alan

Associate Priest, Badshot Lea and Hale

Beyond Belief

For our next book we are going to read Accidental Saints by Nadia Bolz-Weber, a Lutheran pastor in America who writes of her life and church giving new insight into age old Christian Questions (sample chapter here).  It will make you laugh, and make you ponder on what you thought you knew.

We will be meeting on 24 February, 9 March, and  20 April 2016 (and later at dates tba).

If you are interested in attending then please email or phone me:, 01252 820537.


Refugees in Farnham & Guildford Diocese

Yesterday Rachel spoke at all our services about the Refugee crisis, and the things that she had learnt at the PEACE event at the Cathedral in October.  She mentioned a couple of ways of keeping in touch with what is happening and what help is required, and the links to those places are here:

Guildford Diocese: especially details of the kinds of help required for those coming into the Diocese.

Farnham Help for Refugees in UK and Overseas – this is a Facebook Group and will keep you up to date with what is happening locally:

Google Mapping St John’s Churchyard

Information about who is buried in the churchyard at St John’s, Hale, is coming to light and is being published online for the first time thanks to work by the Parish of Badshot Lea and Hale. Among those whose graves are now mapped and documented in a churchyard that dates back 175 years are John Henry Knight who built the first petroleum carriage for two people in England, and Bishop Sumner who lived in Farnham Castle and built 200 churches in the area.

However there are still some gaps in the information and the parish is asking for help to fill these.

The Reverend Alan Crawley, Joint Rector, says, “This has been a harder task than you might imagine, but it has reached a point where some information is now available to view on the web. It is far from complete, and may be inaccurate in places, but it is a work in progress and needs someone with time to volunteer to finish the task. Could you help build this up, or make it more accurate? If so, please get in touch.”

He continues, “The tools being used for the mapping of the churchyard are all free and public domain – if anyone would like to document another churchyard or cemetery then I would be happy to talk to them about it.”

You can contact Alan by email – or by calling him on 01252 820537.

The map can be found online or through their website – by choosing from the ‘funerals’ menu at the top.

Developing our plans for Growing Spiritual Maturity

We would like to grow in Spiritual Maturity as a Parish and so the PCC formed a sub-group to consider how we might achieve this. We used the Diocesan review documents for Community and Personal Spiritual Maturity, which were really helpful tools to aid discussion.

There are four themes in the “Community” material:

Rooted Faith: how can we be a disciple unless we study scripture, understand how the Church came into being, know something about the Church of England (if we claim to be an Anglican) and engage in regular prayer and worship?

Working Faith: however we spend our days – in employment, unemployed, volunteering, job seeking, studying, retired, at home with children – and the list is endless – disciples need to be disciples all the time. Does our faith ‘work’ when we are at work? Do we see
our ‘secular’ lives as separate?

Responsible Faith: the environment, social justice, fairness, equality, stewardship, food production . . . how do we behave responsibly if we believe that God’s world is a gift?

Sharing Faith: being a disciple means witnessing to our faith whether that’s by telling stories, having a chat, engaging in direct evangelism, writing articles, being creative – and embodying Christ so that people see our faith and want to share in it.

For each of the four areas we spent time reviewing where we thought we were.

We also looked at the ‘Personal review’ and instead of each member of the group doing this individually, we considered  how we as a church might help people address these and brainstormed ways to move forwards in areas that were difficult.

For each topic we then picked out what we considered to be the best ideas.  Then at the end of the process we looked at all of the ideas again and determined which we wished to progress, and took these to the PCC for approval. They included:

Knitted Crib
We will have a knitted crib set for each church which people borrow for a day and tell the story wherever they take it – they add to a scrap book which accompanies it and then pass it on to the next person. This will help us take the story out into the rest of our lives.

Welcome Training
What does it mean to be welcoming and inclusive?

Carol Singing on Badshot Lea Green
This should be a fun event at Christmastime and also a way of telling the Christmas story.

Next Lent – Bible Study with Sermons before hand.
We will have a commentary as a Lent book and encourage people to read their Bible through Lent, and talk about it at the groups.

Course on Prayer in May 2016
We will set up a series of weekday evening meetings with visiting speakers to introduce different forms of prayer.

More House Groups – start in September 2016
House groups are a great way to grow in faith but people have so little time. We will do a survey – ask about frequency/format/which nights/whether it is best that they last a finite time. Perhaps 6 weeks then a break – say 4 times a year.

Magazine Series
We will interview people (not the usual suspects) to describe how they came to faith and who influenced them.

These ideas  were received enthusiastically at the PCC and various suggestions to improve them were made.

Now all we have to do over the next year or so is to implement them!

“It has always been done this way”

There has been a lot of talk recently about Weddings and how Weddings have always been…  Well, did you know:

1076 – Weddings had to be conducted by a priest but no witnesses were required, and it could take place anywhere.

1306 – Mediterranean male bonding church ceremonies including the joining of hands at the altar, and a kiss were banned because of sex between the men.

16th Century – Council of Trent required two witnesses to be present.

1754 – The Marriage Act made the registration of marriages compulsory, and required that they take place in the Parish Church.  This did not apply to Scotland where marriages could be witnessed by anyone and did not require a priest – hence the rise of Gretna Green.

1836 – Civil marriages, and those by other denominations, became legal.

1857 – Divorce allowed to common people.  Previously an act of parliament was required.  Clergy were required to remarry divorced people and could only refuse in cases of adultery.

1870 – A wife was allowed to keep any money she earnt or inherited.  Prior to this it was legally her husbands.

1907 – Deceased Wife’s Sister’s Marriage Act allowed men to marry their deceased wife’s sister (contrary to BCP table of Kindred and affinity).

1929 – Age of consent raised to 16 for both sexes, previously 14 for men and 12 for women (parental consent was required for marriages under 21, and more recently 18).

1937 – Clergy could not be compelled to preside at a marriage, or allow their church to be used for a marriage while a former spouse was alive.

1957 – Convocation of Canterbury (Church rule makers) said that Marriage Service should not be used for those with a previous spouse still living.

2002 – General Synod allows remarriage in Church.

2014 – Law allows same sex marriage in England & Wales – but does not force churches to conduct them.  Church of England refuses to do so.

Teenage Prayer Experiment

Available on Amazon or here: Online Blog

Although the style of this book is aimed at a teenage audience, most of the content is appropriate for anybody (perhaps with minor amendment) provided that you don’t mind the jazzy graphics and odd fonts aimed at the target audience.

It contains a number of “experiments” – different ways of praying – and encourages you to see what works for you and what doesn’t.  It also contains a feedback form for yourself, and feedback left by others.

If you are looking to find a way to pray that suits you, and don’t mind the layout (Amazon has look inside), then this is a book/website worth looking into.

Now a Christian

There are all sorts of regular daily readings that you can get on the web these days and we have linked to a number of them here.  However, I have recently become aware of this one which is a 5 week course on the basics of Christianity.  It is advertised as a course for those who are Now a Christian, but I think it may well be of interest to others who would like a little reminder – I’ve only just missed posting it in time for people to use it for Lent – never mind!

Also, for those who are reading and enjoying Return of the Prodigal, you might also like a daily thought from Henri Nouwen.

He Went Away Sad

Mark 10 22 When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

“Everywhere people have actually built their lives on the unquestioned belief that without certain things – money, power, success, approval, a good reputation, love, friendship, spirituality, God – they cannot be happy.”  You then develop an attachment to the thing and become happy when you have it and sad if you are in danger of losing it.

If you possess something but you can’t give it away, then you don’t possess it… it possesses you. – Frank Sinatra

This set me pondering about love, and marriage.  There is a paradox here, which I recognise in my own marriage – without Lesley I would be less happy, but clinging tight and not letting her have a free choice reduces my happiness too.  Instead of being about controlling the other to ensure that they are there all the time, you have to accept their freedom.  However, with it comes the gift of their presence – which increases our joy.


Luke 14:26 ‘Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.

Happiness cannot be found by seeking it – unhappiness is caused by our false beliefs about what makes us happy, and these are so ingrained by society that we are not even aware that we have them – like a dreamer in a dream.  Once we realise that attempting to please others will never bring us happiness we can start to understand this.

Not trying to please others  is difficult.  I write this as someone who got a career because that is what you are expected to do after university.  It was all very pleasant, passed the time nicely, paid the mortgage, but wasn’t what I was called to do.  As I changed my life, discovered my vocation, left the career, stopped worrying about what the world might think (at least sometimes) I found a deeper happiness.  But – it was a scary process!

I was asked over 30 years ago if I might have a vocation to the priesthood, but at that time I was too scared to give up the nascent career that I had, too worried about what “they” might say.  Two questions which Lesley helpfully (really) asks me from time to time are:

  • Who are they – name them?
  • What is the worst that could happen?

They do help 🙂

Profit & Loss

Matthew 16: 26 For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?

Anthony De Mello asks us to consider the difference in satisfaction between doing something that makes us feel good, and something which gives us kudos in the eyes of the world.

One of the pitfalls of ministry can be forgetting that we are serving God, and thinking that we make things happen, that we are achieving things.  The times that I find I get most stressed are just those times – the times when I forget that it is God who is transforming the parish, that it is God who gives the growth.

I know this – I have been around the loop often enough to know this, and yet there are still times when I find myself falling into the same trap.

When will they (I) ever learn!