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Compass is the name of St.Mary's Parish magazine. It is published at the beginning of every month and is distributed throughout the Parish by a band of volunteers.

If you would like to receive a copy of the magazine nearly every month (there is a combined December/ January edition), it is available for an Annual Subscription of £5.00

If you live outside the Parish and would still like to receive a copy, arrangements can be made to post it for an additional charge

For more information about the magazine, please contact either:

                         Robert Pearson
                                     Mary Norris 
                                     Ed Sands    
Distribution Manager

Articles from our September 2017 Magazine

Reader Anne Elphick writes:

The mosaic of love and trust.
Imagine you could see from above and look into what is taking shape as the community that makes up St. Mary’s grows and changes. You may begin to discern that the fellowship of our church is not like a uniformly even glass surface. It is more like a mosaic of wonderfully rich colours and textures. All of us have a unique place in this mosaic. When one or more pieces are missing the picture is incomplete and lacking.

When we are in the middle of feeling like we are being shifted about and things are different from what we have known in the past, it is often difficult for us to find our place in the mosaic of fellowship. At such times we have to trust that the Lord has our welfare at heart and not grow despondent. He knows how the whole of the mosaic is being formed and changed as his Holy Spirit works among us. There is no part of this mosaic of fellowship that is of lesser importance or value. We each help make up the picture and shape of the whole by seeking to come alongside; strengthening and undergirding with love and friendship those who struggle. There has always been a big heart of love and welcome at the centre of St. Mary’s; an echo of God’s heart of love for his people. In Isaiah 44: 8b he speaks to his people to reassure them as he says: ‘Have I not proclaimed from ages past what my purposes are for you? You are my witnesses.’ We each witness in our own unique way by being fully who God created us to be. It is not just about using words, but about the people we are as we convey to others through our whole lives what it means to be someone who has hope faith and trust in God.

The mosaic of our fellowship has never been static. It has kept on changing through the years as new people have been added, others have moved away or come to the end of their lives. As you hold our fellowship in prayer before God remember: he is constantly creating us and recreating us that we may truly be his people. T. S. Eliott writes: ‘You are not here to verify, instruct yourself, inform curiosity or carry report. You are here to kneel where prayer has been valid.’

With my love and prayers for you all, Anne Elphick


In the middle of July, the Bishop of Natal, the Rt Revd Dino Gabriel, arrived in the diocese for a 10-day visit with his wife Elizabeth and the Link Officer in Natal, the
Revd Dane Elsworth.
They travelled extensively around the diocese, which included a visit to St. Mary’s, as we have close links with St. Michael and All Angels church in Himeville in Natal and a number of our congregation have visited them.

Alan Langton - British Empire Medal Award.

It is with great pleasure that we announce Alan’s recent prestigious award  for his involvement with the community life of Arnold and Mapperley. This will be presented to him on 1st September at Nottingham Council House by the Lord-Lieutenant of Nottinghamshire, Sir John Peace, and he will have an invitation to Buckingham Palace for one of the Garden Parties next year.

Alan says: “My professional career was always in teaching, and I taught at Eastwood Hall Park School and Carlton le Willows School, before being appointed to the Headship of South Wolds School at Keyworth in 1981. I retired from this post in 1994 after thirteen very happy years within this village community. At the same time as teaching during the week I was licenced as a Reader in the Diocese of Southwell in 1963, and have continued to serve the parish of Saint Mary’s Arnold for fifty four years, and worked with seven different vicars during that time.”

In 1986 he was one of a group of men who formed the original Rotary Club of Arnold and Mapperley, where he is still a member. This lively group seeks to address and respond to local issues and local people by helping with money and practical schemes which we feel require additional support. He has also been the local representative for the Leprosy Mission in the area, and helped to help raise large sums of money for this international cause over the last thirty years
“After my retirement from teaching I wished to continue making a contribution to society, especially in the area of Arnold and Mapperley, where I have always lived. I formed the ‘Arnold Golden Eagles’, a group especially for older citizens where they could find out more about the workings of health and council and social service organisations as they affected their lives. This was a sub-group of the Arnold Area Forum, which I have represented on the county-wide Older People’s Advisory Group (OPAG), the object of which is to try and ensure that local issues of older people are heard by the County Council for their consideration in future strategies.

“I have served as vice-chair of this Nottinghamshire group for several years until last year. I have also served on the Southwell Diocesan Older People’s Forum, which ties up well with the local parishes’ issues concerning the welfare of older parishioners.

The award came as a complete surprise, but is deeply appreciated.” Vicar of St. Mary’s, the Rev’d Margaret Caunt, says: “I think Alan is a worthy recipient of the award. I’ve not been here long but I know that he’s done a lot of good work in the Arnold community and here at St Mary’s over the past 40 years.
How do people encounter God?
Human beings from ancient days have looked to the skies in a state of wonder, and attributed the scope and beauty of what they see to a Creator. For those who believe in God, that sense of wonder has increased in recent years as science has made us increasingly aware of how very unlikely it has been that life of any kind
Like many people, Christians look at nature and marvel. In it they find powerful evidence for the existence of God. It speaks of the character of God – powerful, eternal and with a special place for humans in His purposes. However, it also poses unsettling questions about God, because nature is a place in which catastrophes can overtake men and women in a way that seems meaningless and entirely unfair.

Deep down in human nature is a curiosity that leads us again and again to speculate that there may be a God. These encounters take place in circumstances in which we confront something that money cannot buy. Sometimes it is a shock that leads to these questions – the loss of a job, a friend or health. Sometimes it is joy – such as the birth of children and the longing to give them a future full of hope. Sometimes it is disappointment that the activities of life do not make us feel fulfilled. Occasionally people encounter God through supernatural experiences that they cannot explain.

There are many circumstances in which people find their attention grabbed by the possibility that God might be making Himself known to them. However, Christians
have always recognised that the most significant way that God has made Himself known is through a specific event in history. God has lived in a human body. At the
start of the first century AD, God inhabited human flesh, and walked and talked on this planet - Jesus, the founder of the Christian faith.

When a child asks, ‘What is God like?’ a good answer would be, ‘He is like Jesus.’ Christians study Jesus’ life and teaching because they appear to answer some of
the questions they have about God.

You can find answers to questions about Christianity at is the website of the Christian Enquiry Agency Ltd. This is an
agency of Churches Together in England.

Trinity Sunday – celebrating our God who is Three Persons
Trying to explain the doctrine of the Trinity has kept many a theologian busy down the centuries. One helpful picture is to imagine the sun shining in the sky. The sun itself – way out there in space – unapproachable in its fiery majesty – is the Father. The light that flows from it, and which illuminates all our lives, is the Son. The heat that flows from it, and which gives us all the energy to move and grow, is the Holy Spirit. You cannot have the sun without its light and its heat. The light and the heat are from the sun, are of the sun, and yet are also distinct in themselves, with their own roles to play.

The Bible makes clear that God is One God, who is disclosed in three persons:
Father, Son (Jesus Christ) and Holy Spirit. For example:

Luke 24:49 actually manages to squeeze the whole Trinity into one sentence. Jesus tells His disciples: ‘I am going to send you what my Father has promised;
but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power (the Holy Spirit) from on high.’

In other words, the sun eternally gives off light and heat, and whenever we stand in its brilliant light, we find that the warmth soon follows.
Thy Kingdom Come
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York are calling Christians of every denomination to join in with Thy Kingdom Come, a prayer initiative between Ascension and Pentecost (25th May to 4th June), to pray for the nation to know Jesus Christ. It is a time to seek the empowering of the Holy Spirit, that we may be effective witnesses to Jesus Christ.

Praying for others to know Jesus is one of the most powerful things we can do. Persistent prayer for others brings transformation to their lives. As Paul writes: ‘Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.’ (Colossians 4: 2-4).

The Archbishops are encouraging us to choose five people who we can pray for regularly. Why not ask God to guide you, as you settle on five names and commit to praying for them daily, perhaps by using the following prayer:

‘Loving Father, in the face of Jesus Christ your light and glory have blazed forth.
Send your Holy Spirit that I may share with my friends the life of your Son and your love for all.
Strengthen me as a witness to that love as I pledge to pray for them, for your name’s sake. Amen.’

St Mary’s church will be open for prayer on Wednesday 31st May.

Acts for Everyone
At the end of May comes Ascension Day (25th), a bit of a neglected festival in the Church. As Luke reminds us in Acts 1:1-11, it was the opportunity for Jesus to commission disciples as His witnesses in the world:
‘But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ (Acts 1:8).
What is a witness?
a witness knows Jesus:
A credible witness speaks of what they know personally. The disciples had spent 40 days with Jesus and now they were called to share that experience and relationship with others. What is my story of how Jesus is alive in my life?
a witness grows in Jesus:
Jesus told them to wait for the gift of the Spirit to empower them as witnesses. ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.’ (4). The Spirit equips us to display Jesus’ character (fruit) and enables us to witness (gifts). How does our life demonstrate the difference Jesus makes?
a witness goes for Jesus:
They were called to witness for Jesus in ever-increasing circles of influence. For us, this means family and friends, workplace and community, and the wider world. Where is God calling us to serve Him?
The story is told of Jesus arriving in heaven after the Ascension, being welcomed by the angels. Gabriel asked Jesus, ‘what is your plan for everyone to know your love?’ Jesus replied, ‘I have given my disciples the task of carrying the message into all the world.’ Gabriel’s face dropped, ‘These are unpredictable men, what if they fail? After a pause Jesus answered, ‘There is no other plan!’

Easter faith
Three years after the Russian Revolution of 1917, a great anti-God rally was arranged in Kiev. The powerful orator Bukharin was sent from Moscow, and for an
hour he demolished the Christian faith with argument, abuse and ridicule. At the end there was silence.

Then a man rose and asked to speak. He was a priest of the Russian Orthodox Church. He went and stood next to Bukharin. Facing the people, he raised his
arms and spoke just three triumphant words: ‘Christ is risen!’

At once the entire assembly rose to their feet and gave the joyful response, “He is risen indeed!” It was a devastating moment for an atheist politician, who had no
answer to give to this ancient Easter liturgy. He had not realised he was simply too late: how can you convince people who have already experienced God, that
He does not exist?

The real message of Easter
‘When you die, that’s it. Nothing. Out like a light.’ That’s what the man in the pub said, and his mates all nodded, though the one whose mother had died the week before wasn’t really quite so certain. Still, it seemed to make sense. After all, we know what ‘dead’ means: dead leaves, dead batteries, dead fish, dead pets . . . and dead people, to be honest. While we recognise that it’s all too easy to go from alive to dead, we’ve got serious doubts about the possibility of any return journeys.

Which is why Christians have an uphill task at Easter. Jesus was a great man, and people want to remember how He died. Fair enough. But it starts getting complicated when Christians insist that Jesus died but didn’t stay dead - in fact, that He’s alive now. That ‘return journey’ has happened, they say. That’s the problem about Easter. Christians persisting in what sounds like a
ridiculous belief. If they just dropped the resurrection bit, and concentrated on the wonderful teaching of Jesus and His example of generosity, compassion and love then everybody would find Christianity much more believable. Wouldn’t that make sense? And wouldn’t that fill the churches again?

Well it might (or, more likely, it might not). But in any case, the trouble is that it wouldn’t be Christianity at all. The faith of Christians actually depends on the resurrection of Jesus, and always has done, right from the earliest days. After the crucifixion the body of Jesus was taken down from the cross by some of His friends and put in a rock tomb with a heavy stone. But after His death, His followers claimed that they had met Him, seen Him, talked with Him. So certain was their belief that nothing could make them recant it. Not ridicule, not torture, not even death itself. They couldn’t do it because they were absolutely convinced that it had happened. Plenty of clever and powerful people at the time had a vested interest in proving them wrong. It shouldn’t have been difficult to prove that a dead man had stayed dead, especially when you have at your disposal the resources of the greatest empire in history. Yet they didn’t do it, because it couldn’t be done.

Still today millions of people all over the world believe that Jesus did in fact rise from the dead. They include brilliant scientists and philosophers as well as plenty of ‘ordinary’ men and women of all ages. They believe it because they respect the witness of those first Christians, and because in many cases their own lives have been transformed by a relationship with Jesus - a relationship that wouldn’t make sense if He were dead!

Christians don’t put their faith in a dead hero from the past, but in Someone who is alive and active in their own lives and in the world. That, in a nutshell, is the real message of Easter.

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall – how do you see yourself this Lent?

Somebody asked a Christian friend why he was eating doughnuts, when he had given them up for Lent! He answered, ‘At the bakers I told God, that if He wanted me to buy doughnuts, He
should provide a parking space in front. On the eighth time around, there it was!’

Rather than seeing Lent simply as a time to give things up, let’s use it intentionally for self-examination, reading Scripture, penitence, fasting and prayer. At Jesus’ baptism, God’s voice says, ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’ (Luke 3:22). The Holy Spirit then leads Jesus into the wilderness, where we find Him coming to terms with who He is. Satan’s temptations challenge Jesus in key three areas of His identity: social action, political power, and religious identity (Luke 4: 1-13). It is as though Jesus looked into the mirror at Himself to discern what kind of Saviour He would be.
We can also think of Lent as an opportunity to hold a mirror up to ourselves and ask the question, ‘who am I? It is a season of honest encounter with who we are, what we’ve done, and the world in which we live. How will you keep Lent period of 40 days running up to Easter? What will you see when you hold up the mirror to yourself? Alongside taking time to read Scripture, study a Christian book and pray with fasting, why not give up texting for Lent and simply talk on the phone; commit ourselves to just working 40 hours a week or spend five minutes each day in silence!
Whatever we do, Lent is a season for self-reflection, as we put ourselves in a position to receive afresh the forgiveness and healing that God offers

Next time someone tells you that Jesus did not exist…
Recent research in England revealed that 40% of people do not realise Jesus was a real person. Among 18-34 year olds, 25% think Jesus was a mythical or fictional character.  They probably have no doubts about other famous people from the past. Of course, it matters more when the authenticity of Jesus is questioned.  If Jesus was as ‘real’ as the Christian creeds imply, then the whole purpose and destiny of humanity are changed.  There’s a lot at stake.
How do we know that Jesus actually existed? For that matter, how do we know any historical figure existed?  We need to look for corroborative evidence.
In any other historical investigation we would examine all literary sources.  However, as sceptics often discount biblical material because they suspect the writers distorted the facts, we look outside the New Testament to non-Christian authors for clues.  
First, to Roman historians.  Tacitus (56-117 AD) wrote “Christus was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius”.  Suetonius (69-130 AD) wrote of “Chrestus” and of his followers having been persecuted by Nero.  In 112 AD a Roman Magistrate, Pliny the Younger, sought advice from the Emperor Trajan, having failed to force Christians to renounce Christ whom they “worshipped as a god”, when worship was due exclusively to the emperor. The Jewish historian Josephus (37-100 AD) referred to James as, “the brother of Jesus the so-called Christ.”  None of these authors questioned Christ’s existence.
Even-handed enquirers would also want to know what the New Testament has to say.  By comparison with texts of other ancient literature now available, we have infinitely better records.  Over 5,000 separate manuscripts are now available.  One complete New Testament in the British Library is over 1600 years old.  A substantial collection of New Testament documents is dated mid-3rd Century and is split between Dublin, Michigan and other locations.  Much of the Gospel of John is in a document dated 200 AD or earlier.  Modern translations of the Bible result from studying all these manuscripts. It is false to suggest that they suffer from multiple translations.
Let historian Michael Grant have the last word, "...if we apply to the New Testament, as we should, the same sort of criteria as we should apply to other ancient writings containing historical material, we can no more reject Jesus' existence than we can reject the existence of a mass of pagan personages whose reality as historical figures is never questioned…"
A Priceless Find – by accident!
70 years ago this month a couple of shepherds in the hills above Qumran near the Dead Sea idly threw a stone into what they thought was an empty cave. When they heard the sound of smashing pottery they searched inside, and found the most important biblical discovery of the century.
Their stone had led them to what became known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, manuscripts of the entire Hebrew Bible except for the book of Esther, stored in clay vessels. The scrolls were the work of a religious community called the Essenes, who lived near that site before and during the life of Jesus.
As scholars slowly unraveled them – and that task took decades - they discovered that they were handling manuscripts of the Bible which were hundreds of years older than any we had previously possessed. Most of the biblical manuscripts on which our translations had previously been based were copies of copies, carefully crafted in monasteries over the centuries by people dedicated to preserving the sacred text. But inevitably, in the process, there were occasional slips in the copying, and at times it’s obvious that those who were doing it didn’t understand the words they were copying.
So, in February 1947, the world had access to a much older and therefore more accurate record of the Jewish Scriptures – the Bible of Jesus and the first Christians. The most remarkable thing is actually how few ‘mistakes’ there were, seeing the centuries of copying – and not one that seriously affects our fundamental understanding of the Bible.
Those two shepherds 70 years ago ensured that we today have a Bible text which is as close to the original as one could ever hope to get. I’m glad they threw the stone into the right cave!
Understanding and living with depression
Lady Gaga helps others with Anxiety and Depression by declaring an inborn tendency to such mental illness herself which is made worse in living such a public life. In times of Depression I am helped to endure by people I admire, such as Winston Churchill, depression he called ‘black dog’, and some Church leaders when depressed felt the Spirit of God deserted them. Depression impacts people
of all ages. Parents may feel, often wrongly, that it can blight a child’s life. Many depressions are one off events. Depression can arise from our inherited make up, with or without some element of life’s stresses. For instance, it’s half of Bipolar Disorder. It can arise from a traumatic experience.

Every 2 people out of 10 are likely to feel it from their experience. The NHS Wales booklet on’ Depression in Young People’ states ‘It is normal to feel down and not enjoy things sometimes, but when these feelings are severe, long lasting or keep coming back, and begin to affect your day to day life, this may be a sign of affects your moods, energy, thoughts and behaviours. Depression can be treated’. It can make us feel unable to concentrate and make decisions, lose confidence, no energy and see no hope. Treatments are available but the sooner accessed via your Dr., the shorter the illness. Talking Therapies are first line. The aim of CBT Cognitive Behavioural Therapy etc. is to help us manage what is happening to us by finding a changed way to think, behave and cope so as to break the cycle of feeling down. Family or friends can sometimes make us feel worse by saying ‘pull yourself together’ and make us feel more doomed. Listening and caring is what’s needed. For more severe forms, medication may help to lift over a few weeks but younger people are helped by different antidepressants to older people. Counselling, Art, Music help some and a recent introduction of Mindfulness training can help us relax, under pressure, our body and our mind. Those who suffer would not wish it on others but can value the learning for their life and empathy.

Michael Allen

Dare to dream.

Imagine your home, your street, your place of work, the world living by biblical teaching out of which God is honoured, creation is cared for and strangers become friends. Imagine a world where truth and goodness prevail. Where people asking what the Lord requires of us, do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God. Imagine fellowship being welcoming and deep, warm and challenging, supportive and transforming. Mini Kingdom communities that fulfil the promise of Jesus: ‘By this everyone will know that you are my disciples; if you have love for one another.’ Communities that counter the twenty first century epidemic of loneliness and build up the body of Christ. Holy communities that heal and make whole.

Imagine prayer becoming as natural as breathing. Imagine a prayerful way of life transforming your vision so that you see glimpses of God all around, the sacred in the secular – the potential for good. Imagine your staff room, your shop floor, boardroom or changing room being changed by the holiness of prayers as you pray. Imagine prayer transcending tribes and cultures, breaking down walls and barriers, paving the way to a just and peaceful world.

Imagine your home, your street, your place of work, the world being keener to give than to get. Where what is mine is yours if you need it. Imagine a church known more for giving than for asking, and imagine the queue at the door! Imagine the millennial goals being realised as richer nations remodel unjust systems. Imagine the day when poverty is over. Imagine a world, a church where gladness prevails and cynicism is banished! Imagine the sight of smiles and the sound of laughter, the warmth of hugs and tears of joy as people are generous with their compliments and thanks. Imagine communities of affirmation and real appreciation where gifts are honoured and celebrated, not envied.

Imagine younger people generously giving time to care for older people. And imagine older people generously saying to younger people: ‘you lead us into the future.’ 

Extracts from ‘Holy Habits’ author Andrew Roberts 2016

Some photos from the Installation of our new vicar: Rev. Margaret Caunt
Learn to ‘wait well’ for things
‘My future is in Your hands…’
In her helpful book, When, God, When?  Joyce Meyer writes: “God has taught me to keep living the life I now have, while I am waiting for the things that are in my heart to come to pass.  We can become so intent on trying to birth the next things that we neither enjoy nor take care of the things at hand.  I had a vision from God ten years before I began to see it fulfilled.  During those years, I believe I missed a lot of joy trying to give it birth outside of God’s timing.”
Learn to enjoy where you are, while you’re waiting to get to where you want to be.  After all, all your life you will spend more time waiting that you will receiving.  And when you receive what you’re waiting for now – you’ll begin waiting for something else.  That’s life!  If we don’t learn to ‘wait well’, we’ll live with endless frustration. 
Waiting well is what will deliver our dream.  Listen:  “in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Gal. 6:9).  “Due season” is when God knows we’re ready, not when we think we are.  He has set appointments to accomplish certain things in our life, so we might as well settle down and wait patiently, because that’s when it will happen – and not before. 
God knows what you need, He knows when you need it and He knows how to get it to you. All He asks you to do is trust him.  
From UCB ‘Word for Today’
From Margaret Caunt

The book of Ecclesiastes Chapter 3 tells us that there is a time and a season for everything and as we prepare to put down our roots in Arnold it really does feel that we are entering a new time, a new season of life and ministry with God. Both my husband David and myself were born and bred in the east end of Sheffield and have lived in the Diocese of Sheffield all of our lives. So moving to Nottingham really is a new season and a big step as we continue to respond to the call of God on our lives.

David and I became Christians in the early eighties after discovering that God is real, that he cares about each one of us and that it is possible to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ his son. We committed ourselves to that relationship and so began our adventure with God. It has been one heck of a rollercoaster ride with many ups and downs along the way, many joys and lots of challenges. But in it all, in the good and in the bad, we have found that God is faithful, and full of loving kindness. Over the years we have served God together in a variety of parishes and contexts and are passionate about helping others to encounter God in their lives and grow in faith.

In June this year David and I celebrated 43 years of marriage and have three wonderful children, Cheryl, Ian and Paul. Over the years our family has grown to include Richard, Joanne and Stacey and we have been blessed with two beautiful grand daughters, Abigail and Madeleine. We are not all work, or all church and no play though. David is a fan of all kinds of sport and is a lifelong Sheffield Wednesday supporter. He loves nice wine, guinness and the sunshine. I am fan of all kinds of music, from rock to opera and most things in between. I am an avid reader, love cooking for family and friends and keep tortoises and finches. To de- stress I make jam and sing along to the Rolling Stones.

Together we love having holidays in the sunshine, walking our two dogs Sasha and Cookie, and spending time with family and friends. We are very open and honest people, we have lots of enthusiasm and we can’t wait to see what God has got in store for us and the people we will meet and come to know in this new season and next chapter in our adventure with God.

With every blessing
Revd Margaret Caunt


It is said that people over 50 years fear Dementia, and responding to others with Dementia, more than the big C (Cancer). Yet many sufferers live a fulfilling life and contribute to groups that benefit others. Dementia is a brain disease that causes us to lose some ability to think and reason as well as we have been used to. Basically there are 3 types: 

 ALZHEIMERS Disease – 3 out of 4 are this type; 

VASCULAR Disease – often the after effect of multiple strokes; 

 LEWI BODY Disease which is Parkinson like. 

 We are more susceptible as we enter our 80ies though a few are affected in middle age. Memory of past and recent events are harder to recall, but not totally for most people. Sufferers can become frustrated with themselves in not organising and problem solving as they are used to doing. Family and close friends may experience unusual displays of emotion including anger and depression. Sufferers may offer less empathy to nearest and dearest, whereas understanding and love can help sufferers to help themselves. Keeping memories alive is helped by photos, events recalled and by ‘their music’. Seeing your doctor is key to learning how medication & diet may inhibit progress of the disease. Also therapy and information on what is best exercise for you. Each person has their own journey to holding in well. 
 Later stages of Dementia may be years ahead, when extra care help is needed. 

 Michael Allen & Sue Baxter, MHAGS for St. Mary’s (Info. Mainly from Alzheimer Society) 

DO COME on SAT. 1 OCTOBER to ‘UNDERSTANDING and LIVING with DEMENTIA ‘ from 10.15 for coffee at St. Mary’s Family Centre and 10.45 Presentation on Understanding Dementia by Dr Richard Turner, Adults Psychiatrist- now retired -also Reader, followed by questions 11.20 Sharing on Living with Dementia and Alzheimer Friends by Rowland and Carole Harris, followed by sharing experiences. 12 noon close

Smartphones and the Death of Conversation

If a few decades ago you had turned on the television and  found yourself watching some drama in which the entire human race walked around utterly engrossed in the little slabs of metal and glass they held in their hands, you would have assumed it was some sort of science-fiction nightmare in which aliens had taken over the world. You would have called it fantasy; we have come to recognise it as normality.

Psychologists and social scientists are beginning to realise that since the first iPhone in 2007 unleashed an unstoppable flood of smartphones, human culture has begun to change. For many of us, our smartphone is now a fundamental part of our existence. We check it immediately on waking and before closing our eyes at night. We use it to email, communicate by text, take photographs, read maps and engage in Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and whatever the latest cult app is. From our smartphone comes our music, advice for living, directions for driving, appointments and, increasingly, much of our life. Smartphones have woven themselves inextricably into who we are and how we live. We cannot imagine life without one.

While the usefulness of smartphones is beyond question, you don’t have to look hard to start to suspect that there might be a price to pay. Reading books has clearly suffered: anyone with any time on their hands now simply engages with a smartphone. Equally, many people now struggle to handle silence: they are never alone with their thoughts, nor, it seems, do they want to be. Few people now seem able to sit quietly staring into space or gazing at nature without succumbing to an irresistible urge to check the phone or take a selfie.

One particular aspect of concern is the impact of smartphones on conversation. We’ve all seen the classic and sad manifestation of this: the young couple sitting in a restaurant deeply engrossed, not with each other but with their phones. But the problem occurs more widely. How many of us have tried to have a serious discussion with someone and failed because they seemed more interested in checking their phone? This erosion of conversation is important because it is surely one of the things that makes us human.

I want to suggest that while smartphones give us communication – and do so very well – they do not allow us to take part in conversation in any real sense. Think for a moment about what a traditional, old-fashioned, flesh-and-blood conversation involves. It’s not just words: there are silences, hesitant exploratory phrases, eye contact, facial expressions, laughter, hand gestures and possibly even physical touches of reassurance or encouragement. The fact that there is no technological intermediate means that such conversations are spontaneous. They can spread free and wide, bouncing one moment into a joke, sliding the next into some subtle expression of regret or even becoming one of those silences that says more than words. In an authentic conversation, unconstrained by technology, there can be a richness that gives rise to both empathy and intimacy. Indeed, real conversations can be dangerous: you can easily find yourself saying more than you meant to say. Is the fact that you stay in control one of the strongest attractions of smartphone communication? Smartphone communication promises us so much more yet, in reality, delivers so much less. We end up with a pale shadow of a real conversation; the equivalent of junk food for the mind.

There is, I think, a clear perspective on all this. I believe we were made by God to communicate in the deepest and richest possible way. Famously, John’s Gospel in the Bible begins ‘In the beginning was the word’. Yet the Greek word there, logos, can have a far richer meaning than simply word. Indeed, historically some renderings of that phrase have been ‘In the beginning was the conversation’. There is some truth in that. The Christian belief that God is a Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – is that, from eternity, there was conversation within God. Before the universe was created, at the heart of the eternal God, there was conversation. To be made in God’s image is to be made for conversation.

The truly scary thing about the global smartphone epidemic is not merely that we are losing the richness of conversation but we may be losing the very ability to achieve it. In the beginning was indeed the word but unless we take care to guard our use of technology in general, and smartphones in particular, I fear that in the end we may no longer have the word but a wreck in our relationships.
The top ten weirdest Foodbank donations:
You might have seen a steadily increasing array of items appearing on your Harvest table at church in the last few weeks. Heinz Baked Beans stacked to the rafters alongside endless boxes of Kellogg's Corn Flakes - these have become the expected signs of thanksgiving at this time of year. Most churches will send these goods to a local Foodbank, who in turn distribute it to those that need it most in the local community. Our gratitude at Harvest transforms into generosity. And it makes an incredible difference.

To celebrate Harvest this year, Stewardship asked Jolene at the Trussell Trust Foodbank to tell us the top ten weirdest donations they've ever received. Move aside, baked beans, these items take the biscuit:
The top ten weirdest Foodbank donations:
1. A jar of pickled stags head
2. Beluga caviar
3. Half a bag of cold chips
4. A tin of curried haggis
5. A bag of chicken blood
6. A packet of dried empty snail shells
7. Pickled walnuts
8. Octopus pieces
9. Tinned cheese
10. A tin of crispy baby clams with anchovies

Jolene said that the Foodbank was incredibly grateful for every donation...even the - well - slightly bizarre ones. "Surprisingly, octopus came up three times!" she said. ‘We’re continually delighted by the generosity of everyone who donates, even when they give stag’s head!’

Please don't forget to bring your donations of food to the back of church!

Page was last altered 28 June 2017

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