Thursday, 28 November 2013

Standing on the roof of Africa

Finally we made it.
struggling to the summit on the morning of the 21st of November, my  Grandfathers 100th  birthday if he had been alive.
It was cold !
it was high!

Saturday, 16 November 2013

We are on the off

JIThe moment has arrived and we need to go. Woke up last night at 2.00am wondering if I really have agreed to do this climb. Well the sun rose, prophet Malachi reminded us of the coming of the Messiah as the sunshine on the righteous and with healing in his wings in this mornings lectionaries. Our prayers are for those who will benefit, yes even find healing through the BLMF for which we hope to climb this mountain and see the sunrise on Thursday morning from its vantage point.
All this for 5 of us camping up Kili

Preparations near completion

I was awoken by the call to prayer from the local mosque in Moshi at 5.00 am in the morning, in fact there were two different calls from two competing mosques in the town I was later informed. It reminded me of the Victorian church builders who would often build their churches within line of sight of each other in the high streets of the  growing towns of England. As part of our preparations we spend the day on Safari in Arusha  give us time to acclimatise and see some of the wildlife that Tanzania offers. Through out the day my mind turned to my grandparents who visited Tanzania from Kenya in 1936.  I am told my Grandfather wished to climb Kili with my Grandmother with an intention of proposing to her on the summit. Sadly he did not make it to the top, but my Grandmother did. Here are some photos they took on their trip.
We are off tomorrow morning. 

Friday, 15 November 2013

Life is a journey not a destination

Sitting on an aeroplane for eight or so hours is never the most exhilarating way of spending a day. However the plane was only half full so at least my travelling companion Ernest the bear had a seat to himself, a great deal better than the over head locker that he claims he usually finds himself stuffed in.
 I am not a nervous flyer by any means, but the wording chosen by KLM, no doubt the result of extensive research into creating a welcoming and reassuring  passenger experience, seemed to me a little ominous- "Life is a journey not a destination." What is one to make of this well used phrase some 30,000 feet above the ground.
I was having trouble with my impulse purchase at 4.40am in WHSmith " The Black Rose" so Michael, one of our intrepid group of five lent me his book to ease my boredom. Kilimanjaro the trekking guide to Africa's highest mountain.  The third paragraph of the introduction left me with that feeling that many travellers have of having left something very important at home, in my case common sense.
I quote "Don't be fooled. Cyclists to skiers, heroes to half wits, bikers to boarders to backward walkers: its no wonder, given the sheer number of people who have climbed Kili over the past century, and the way in which they've done so, that so many people believe that climbing Kili is a doodle. And you'd be forgiven for thinking the same. You'd be forgiven - but you'd also be wrong"
The author concludes his opening paragraph with a small but fascinating detail of the number of people who climbed Kili on  New Year's Eve during the millennium celebration with a couple of rather sobering statistics, 1000 people were on the slopes of this African giant, but over a 300 failed to reach the summit, 33 had to be rescued and 3 died.
I called an air steward to ask for something to help relieve me of this sobering reality and as I sipped in my Heineken beer I wondered again at the reality of this journey.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Packing is always stressful

The children of St Mary's and St John's primary school have been fundraising for the BLMF. Here is one of the posters created for the occasion. I have been given a companion who will travel with me Ernest the school bear. He had been to many interesting places like China and yr 6 classroom! He seems somewhat reticent about standing on the highest single standing mountain in the world -i am thinking he is looking a little under dressed for the occasion. As I try and close  my suitcase I realise I may have a little too much. what not to take.....


This year for me marks 25 years of ordained ministry within the Church of England.
I have been so blessed by the parishes and people with whom I have worked over the last 25 years and want to mark and celebrate that. I began work at the parish of Holy Trinity Birchfield in Handsworth Birmingham. I and My wife Emma were ordained Deacon on the 3rd of July 1988 sand served as curates in the same parish. The parish was a community that a few years earlier had been through the turmoil of the first uprisings, riots, in our modern cities, back in the summer of 1981 and then the autumn of 1985. In spite of the very real need within the community after so much neglect there was a real sense of faithfulness within the communities, not just Christian of course but it was certainly to be found at Holy Trinity. Faith in the face of real hardship, loss and pain is truly like gold as St Peter tells us.(1 Peter 1.4-9)
I left Birmingham in 1992, Emma died in 1990, and came to work in London, joining the team ministry, the first in the country as it happened, at All Saints Poplar. I was appointed to St Nicholas on the Aberfeldy, a church that has been closed to the community for the last 30 years. My task was to open the building again and “do what ever you want except start a Sunday congregation” as I was charged by the Team Rector at the time. It was at All Saints Poplar in my first month that I looked up at a late arrival to Church one Sunday morning and saw a young woman and two small children entering the church and I knew with out a doubt that I was going to marry this woman, and I did! It was a troubling time on the Aberfeldy, an estate with the highest recorded unemployment rate for an estate in the whole of Europe recorded in the 1991 census. There were some real moments of danger and violence when the first elected leader of the BNP, Derrick Beackon, became a local councillor in the next door ward of the Isle of Dogs. I remember one evening facing down a young white man with a 10inch blade who was trying to cut up a local Bangladeshi boy, I was in my cassock as it happened and I am not sure he could bring himself to attack a man in a dress! The work at St Nicks was absorbing, I led a demonstration down the A13 during the evening rush hour to demand the keeping of the promise made to the families of the estate to rebuild our local state school that had stood for 30 years as a temporary building, and yes we got a brand new school building. We had to negotiate with Poplar HARCA ( a regeneration board set up to rebuild the estate) and there was one occasion at a meeting that the bishop of Stepney, Bishop John Sentamu, was present that some of the residents were indignant that he was there and told him in no uncertain terms to clear of and go back to his palace!
In 1998 we held our first Sunday Eucharist at St Nicks, since it had been closed, with a small number of the congregation of All Saints who pledged a year with us as a “church plant” , and there is still a lively congregation at St Nicks to this day. This year a family and children’s worker employed for the Aberfeldy estate has been appointed and funded by the Bishop of London Mission Fund.
In 1999 I came to St John West Hendon and it has again been a fascinating time. I have had the opportunity of working with the parishes of the Deanery as an Area Dean for five of those years and once again seen the importance of the BLMF in its financial support of the Team ministry and the appointment of the Rev’d Simon Rae. I have also had the privilege of training a number of curates, Fr William Whitecombe, Fr Tony Halton and Fr Steven Young.
In 2007 I also became the Priest-in- charge of St Matthias Colindale and the two parishes work together to proclaim the gospel and provide a welcome to all those who wish to worship God. Of course both parishes are faced with “regeneration” within their boarders, the West Hendon estate is a regeneration estate and Colindale as a ward is set to expand considerably over the next decade. This brings with it new challenges as we try and work with the community as it grows rapidly.

I finish with the opening words of the Prayer of Ordination spoken over those men and women whose call to service has been recognized and honoured by the church through Ordination:

We praise and glorify you, almighty Father,
because in your infinite love you have formed throughout the world
a holy people for your own possession,
a royal priesthood,
a universal Church.

it is of course a prayer of course for all us as well as those called to the ministry of Deacon and Priest in his church.

If you are interested in sponsoring me to climb Mt Kilimanjaro as part of a small team of volunteers from the Diocese of London then you can made a donation on the following website: