Thoughts from the manse 23rd October

We are fast approaching the end of British Summer Time and whilst for a week or two the mornings will be lighter the evenings will come sooner.  When we visited Scotland in September I was hoping for some autumn colours to inspire me but it was not to be as the trees were still holding their green.  It was only last week, on a trip to Milton Keynes, that I realised the autumn colours had arrived.  That is the problem with not travelling about so much, you can miss the subtle changes, and suddenly the trees were ablaze, although mostly in places we could not stop.

I love the autumn colours and this year they do seem more vibrant, with rich yellows, oranges and reds.  It is a catalyst to get ready for the warmth of home in the winter, an altogether different warmth from the stifling heat of the summer.  We are encouraged to wrap up, be cosy and enjoy the times of contemplation that winter brings. 

The Danish call it Hygge.  I wonder if it will be different this year as many have had more time than they wish already for contemplation.  I hope not, as this time is an important restorative time in the cycle of life.  We need time to absorb all the things we have done during the year, to catalogue the photos, to catch up on reading, and to get out the recipes for soups and casseroles, both of which I love.

I can remember visiting forests in the autumn, kicking through the fallen leaves and searching out sweet chestnuts to take home and roast.  The latter was a prickly business and required gloves if you were not to end up with fingers like pin cushions.  It was like wrestling with hedgehogs!  When I was a teenager, we used to roast the chestnuts in the open fire, whilst eating pomegranates by picking out the seeds with a pin.  This was a standard pastime whilst watching the Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance, something I still watch every year although there is no open fire, and I am not that keen on pomegranate seeds anymore.

Remembrance is a marker in the journey through autumn to winter and as a Scout Leader it often involved a parade in the cold and wet which was followed by a warming cup of Bovril.  This year will be different although the Cenotaph Ceremony will still take place, I believe, but other gatherings may be curtailed.  However, the pause to remember will still be held in some way and our worship together on the 8th November will reflect this important time.  Even though we are all struggling with the pandemic there does seem to be more unrest in the world and remembering that war is rarely the answer to grievances is important, the cost is simply too high.

So, take a moment to enjoy Autumn, it is more than looking wistfully back to summer and forward to the cold of winter.  It is a special season when walks take on a different feel, we harvest produce to enjoy later, we reflect on all that had happened, and we plan our winter pastimes.

Left, autumn sycamore at the national Arboretum at Westonbirt

Right, a November morning at Glastonbury Abbey

Read more Thoughts from the Manse on the archive page

Thoughts from the manse 16th October

Last Sunday we celebrated Harvest in the strange virtual world in which we are living.  It was good to take time to reflect on creation amid this pandemic which at times feels more about destruction.  As Christians we recognise that we are partners in creation and have a responsibility to ensure there is something to hand on to future generations. 

We also have a responsibility to encourage fair shares for all of creation’s bounty.  There are commodities that we treat as infinite and yet, we are aware that many of the earth’s resources are not infinite and need to be cared for.  We cannot keep plundering and polluting. 

Recently, our kettle developed a leak and we had to replace it, the choice does seem infinite with all the variations you could dream of and more. However, as we researched one thing became apparent there are far too many plastic kettles on the market and some ridiculously cheap ones which seem almost in the disposable category! 

I am sorry to say that it was a plastic kettle that we were replacing and yet our kettle history has been mostly metal, from that early Russell Hobbs metal kettle that nearly everyone had in the seventies and eighties.  I am please to report that we once again have a metal kettle. 

Many kettles these days have a quick boil facility to encourage us to save water and energy by only boiling what we need. It is estimated that during the pandemic we have brewed and extra 28 million cups of tea, boiling the amount of water needed, rather than filling the kettle, could save £46 per year, as well as saving water.  It is an important aspect of our green living. 

Water is not infinite.  We are all aware of WaterAid and other charities which seek to bring clean water into the lives of all people, but I wonder if we forget that being careful with water is part of the deal.  In the UK we use approximately 142 litres of water per person per day, imagine if you had to carry that from a well. It is estimated that in ten years’ time, 2030, there will be a 40% shortfall in the fresh water needed across the world.

 It takes 650 gallons of water to produce one cotton tee shirt.  So, even as we shop, we have a responsibility to make sure that tee shirt is one that will last.There are lots of books and programmes about decluttering and during lockdown many people took the opportunity sort possessions.

Decluttering is perhaps a part of our throwaway society, buy cheap and replace but that was not the way of my parents who bought the best they could afford in the hope that it would last them a lifetime.  There are times when something breaks and many domestic machines are not built to last the way they used to be, so when something breaks we need to encourage our local councils to recycle as much as possible, and preferably in this country.  I think we have all seen the mountains of plastic waste we thought was being recycled littering and polluting other countries and it is not sustainable, not ethical, simple not right. 

There is something like £8 million pounds worth of precious metals dumped each year in the form of electronic equipment, platinum, and gold amongst them.  Surely, we cannot afford to waste precious metals. 

As we take stock during this pandemic, let us remember those days of worldwide lockdown when the skies cleared and people breathed more easily, when birds and animals began to re-inhabit their lost areas and creation seemed to calm.  Let us remember that we must play our part if the world is to recover and life on earth be sustainable. 

We can do this by making a conscious decision over how and what we purchase, encouraging recycling and re-using, and being more aware of the water and energy we use every day.

Live lovingly, live responsibly, help sustain the planet.

Read more Thoughts from the Manse on the archive page

Zoom Worship

Since March we have posted worship on the website which you can use at home and we will continue to do this at least until we are once again all able meet together. 

However, for those who have access to the internet, we will also worship together every week using Zoom.  If you are not part of the pastorate but have been following worship with us you are welcome to join us on Zoom.  You will need to request the link for the worship and to do this simply email our minister, Revd Heather Whyte, by using the contact form and you will be added to the invitation emails, please head your message 'Zoom Worship'.  You will also be sent a guide to using Zoom, so please do not worry if you are unfamiliar with Zoom.

Helping ourselves during the pandemic

The current pandemic is a trauma to communities, the nation, the world. It’s not a shock-event like a fire or a terrorist attack, but slowly there has built, and is still worsening, a crisis that shatters people’s assumptions that the world is generally safe and reliable, and that all that we have worked for in businesses, churches and communities will be fruitful.

The loss of those assumptions, the breaking of connections between people, and the overwhelming of people’s ordinary resources – all of these are characteristic of trauma.

During trauma we feel all sorts of emotions and strange symptoms as our bodies react to the fact that they are not safe.  Our emotions will be all over the place in surprising ways. Concentration may be difficult, it is normal to be up, down, energetic, exhausted, afraid. Don’t worry about it try and maintain a positive approach that will help reassure yourself and those around you.

Practise a mindset shift, looking at things differently will make you feel better.

Mindset table


Need help in Luton – useful numbers

helpful numbers in Luton

Pandemic a different view

for a different take on self isolation read Lynn Ungar's poem Pandemic

read here

meeting of bugs

Dealing with the anxiety of Covid-19 and isolation

Five ways to beat anxiety and take back control of your life during the COVID-19 pandemic – based on science

Dr Olivia Remes, of Cambridge University, shares her top tips on looking after your mental health during this difficult period  see the article here

Golden rules for caring and sharing

In this time of crisis and uncertainty Bishop Alan of St Albans offers some timely reflection in the form of four golden rules.

Golden Rule One. Each one of us can think about how we can protect and support our neighbours. So much of the public rhetoric is sowing fear about the danger of other people. So, taking all the  official precautions,  offer help and reassurance to others – and don’t demonise anyone or any group.

Golden Rule Two: Think about who may be suffering more than me. For those of us who are healthy there is much less to worry about but the elderly, the housebound and those with chronic health conditions may be very anxious. How about each church undertaking an audit of all the vulnerable people they know and sharing out the responsibility to phone them each day. There’s nothing like a friendly voice to offer solace when someone is worried. A smile can bring cheer, even on the phone. If you visit, follow all the official precautions or don’t go.

Golder Rule Three. Don’t give into panic and start hoarding food. There is plenty to go around, so practise the Christian discipline of sharing. Ask your neighbours what they need and do you best to help them get it. If you are self-isolating you will of course need some supplies.

Golden Rule Four. Live today to the full. None of us ever know what the future holds. In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6. 25 – 34), Jesus challenged his followers to live each day fully and not be afraid. Every time we are tempted to give in to fear we need to make a conscious choice to respond in trust and openness.

And, along with just over half the adults in the UK, don’t forget to pray. Here’s a suggestion from the Revd Louise Collins, a Team Vicar in Borehamwood, Herts:

Dear God our Shield and our Defender, guide and protect my neighbour in this time of health emergency; deliver them from all harm and may your love and care ever grow in this place. Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord, Amen.

Covid 19

Due to the current situation the churches within the Luton and Dunstable Cluster of the United Reformed Church have suspended Sunday worshipping together and all activities. Edward Street URC and St Katherine of Genoa URC/Anglican in Dunstable will be open for private prayer on Sunday morning for one hour at the moment. Edward Street 10.30 -11.30am and St Katherine 10.45 - 11.45am.

Although we are not meeting to worship together we are still praying together and continue to support one another through other forms of communication. We are very conscious of the many within our communities who are very worried about illness, security of employment and the isolation from other people, our prayers are with you all. We will be posting a worship service, prayers and other resources to help those with concerns to share with God, the source of all being.