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From the Clergy - August 2017

What a difference a year makes…

Hello! First of all, may I add my thanks for the warm welcome you’ve given all us new clergy? Barry and I, together with our children Greg age 11 and Katy age 9 have now been here about 3 months and are settling in very well and beginning to feel at home. Thank you to all of you for the cards and gifts, best wishes and prayers – they have certainly made a huge different to our start here in Market Harborough.

So to introduce myself, I thought I’d tell you a little about how I came to be a priest. I was brought up attending church most Sundays until I was about 12, when my poor father gave up trying to force us all to come to services with him! It wasn’t that we didn’t believe in God, it was more that our understanding of God, or mine at least, was of some distant all-powerful creator who had nothing to do with our lives and was just there to punish wrong-doing (or specifically sex, which seemed to be the only wrong-doing anyone was interested in!)

 I drifted further and further away through my teens and early twentiesMy developing philosophy of religion was that it was invented in order to coerce people into behaviour likely to benefit society, when there was no reasonable prospect of any misbehaviour ever being punished by earthly law and order; not a very original idea …

By this time, I was working as a lawyer in the city of London, and things started to go wrong. I was working very long hours and partying equally hard, and it was all spiralling out of control. I jacked it in to go travelling round the world, hoping to find purpose, peace, significance or something, but even my dream job of working on a yacht sailing round the beautiful Whitsunday Islands off Queensland didn’t satisfy.

Eventually I ran out of money and went home and started working as a lawyer again. Outwardly I was successful and everything seemed to be great, but I was drinking too much and my dissatisfaction with my life was mounting.


Everywhere I looked, people seemed to be simply chasing money but no-one seemed happy, no matter how much they earned.

Then one of my friends became a Christian. This was a huge surprise – he was a normal rugby-playing bloke! I’d thought Christians were weird, wet and wore their sandals with socks, but this guy wasn’t any of those things – in fact he was just as much fun as before but now seemed to have a depth and a peace that I was longing for.

I started to question him about his new found faith, frequently when I was drunk and just as often deriding him for adopting such a ridiculous ‘crutch’. But he was so patient with my belligerent arguments and his kindness and willingness to put himself out for me was very touching. Eventually I found myself wondering if it was true after all – perhaps God not only existed, but loved me, and that it was only in relationship with him that life made any sense at all.

After a while I ran out of excuses not to come to church with him. I went, and within the first song, I found myself on my knees in the pew, sobbing my heart out. I had finally experienced the holiness of God, and in the light of his gaze, I could see myself as I really was, not a successful lawyer with the world at her feet, but a sinner desperately in need of a rescuer.

But at the same time, I experienced the tremendous love of that same rescuer, and I realised that the rescue was mine for the taking. And as I grasped his outstretched hand I felt a load lift off me, the guilt that had shackled me for so long, and it was replaced by joy and peace and a certainty that because I was loved by God, my life had purpose.

Oh dear, I’ve run out of space! And I haven’t got to the bit about God calling me to be a priest! Well, I’ll check with the Editor, and maybe I’ll get to that part of the story next month! But in a nutshell, that’s why I’m so passionate about equipping the church to be able to do for others what my rugby-playing friend did for me (and no, it wasn’t Barry!).

With love and prayers,

Great Bowden says Farewell to James Shakespeare


James Shakespeare and his family have made a huge contribution to the life of the Team and to the village of Great Bowden in particular. Many packed the church to farewell them and recognise their exceptional service. Peter Crowe reports.

St. Peter and St. Paul, Great Bowden said goodbye to James Shakespeare over the weekend of 6th and 7th May. A farewell event was held in the church and James was presented with a cheque and a statue – The Welcoming Christ – a full-sized version of which features in the grounds of Launde Abbey, the Leicester and Peterborough Diocesan retreat house. A presentation was also made to James’ wife Alison and their children Hannah and Edward.

A packed church enjoyed food and drink and the event was attended by members of the congregation, people from the wider team including Team Rector Barry Hill, and others from the village, from Market Harborough and from other churches in the area. The choir sang a specially composed song to the tune of ‘O Jesus I Have Promised’, describing moments from James’ time at the church.

James’ last service was on Sunday May 7th. James took the communion service and there was a large congregation, again representing both the members of St. Peter and St. Paul and the wider team.

James, who is moving to St. John the Evangelist in Cambridge, said:

“It has been a wonderful experience serving as vicar of Great Bowden and within the Harborough Anglican Team and Diocese of Leicester, and we have seen real growth in faith, in numbers and in service of the wider community.”

For further information on the Elderberries Project contact David on or ring him on 07505 968767

MusicFest goes from strength to strength

Peter Crowe reviews a quality festival.

Now in its fourth year, the 2017 Great Bowden MusicFest provided a feast of music of the highest standard, covering everything from Mozart to musicals, jazz and chorale. From a 14-year old cellist to veteran jazzmen, who have performed at venues such as Ronnie Scott’s, it presented a level of musical talent that would not have looked out of place at much larger events.

The Fest opened with a concert aptly called Mostly Mozart and the evening began with Mozart’s String Duo No 2 in B-flat major played by Musical Director Christopher White on violin and Johannes Gurth on viola; these two were joined for the second item, Mozart’s String Quintet No. 4 in G minor by Vanessa White on violin, Mirka Hoppari on viola, and Matthew Forbes on violoncello.

The one exception to the evening’s theme was Schubert’s Rondo in A major for violin and strings played by Vanessa White with a beautiful delivery which belied her youth, and supported by The Great Bowden Camerata, a string ensemble brought together for the occasion. The evening finished with the ever-popular Mozart’s Eine kleine Nachtmusik.

Friday night saw the return of the musicals night that proved so popular at last year’s Music Fest. The first half featured the Great Bowden Recital Trust Adult Vocal Choir, which also performed at the first MusicFest in 2014. Led by Musical Director Tracey Holderness, the choir wowed the audience with renditions of vocal classics ranging from ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ to Stevie Wonder’s ‘Sir Duke’.

During the second half, solo artists Louise Oakley, Tracey Holderness, Jonathan Reynolds, Jonathan Painting, and Beth Hodgson sang a selection of songs from the shows backed by a specially assembled house band and strings section. Each song was greeted with rapturous applause by the audience, not least the finale of ‘Tell Me It's Not True’ sung by Tracey Holderness and Jonathan Reynolds supported by the other soloists and GBRT choir. The whole evening was coordinated by Pat Oakley, who acted as Musical Director for the second half.

Great Bowden MusicFest

Great Bowden MusicFest

The Saturday morning coffee concert has grown in popularity and the audience were treated to a tour de force as the youthful Alegria Piano Trio of Vanessa White (violin), Elizabeth Elliott (Cello), and Imy Luc (Piano) played Arensky's Pio Trio No. 2 in F minor.

This was followed Melanie Reinhard (piano) and Christopher White playing Beethoven's Sonata for Piano and Violin Op. 47.

Saturday evening saw another change of pace with a band described as the 'cream of British jazz players' led by Leicestershire's own legendary bass player Bill Coleman. The audience was wowed by the virtuosity of the musicians as trumpet player Bruce Adams and saxophonist Alex Garnet exchanged solos. The question of whether the audience wanted an encore was never in doubt!

A new innovation was a Sunday lunchtime concert featuring two pianists: Melanie Reinhard, who played Chopin's Ballade No. 4 in F minor, and Petra Milarova, who entranced with Memoires, a series of three pieces by Novak, a composer from her native Czech Republic. Finally, the two combined for Schubert's Fantasie in F minor, a duet by Franz Schubert that had the audience spellbound.

The final concert entitled English Summer Serenade proved to be a fitting finale to the MusicFest with St. Peter and St. Paul, providing a beautiful backdrop to stunning performances by the specially assembled Great Bowden Camerata and the Harborough Singers, returning for the fourth year running. Highlights included Vaughan Williams' The Lark Ascending with Christopher White on violin, and the finale of Zadok the Priest.

Make “Truth” your 2017 Resolution!

Derek Williams offers some contemporary considerations of this well-used word

Oxford Dictionaries declared that “post-truth” was their word of the year for 2016. It means that objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than emotional appeals. It is a development of a word popularised by US comedian Stephen Colbert. He described “truthiness” as preferring one’s wishes to be true rather than believing what is factually true.

It has long been the case that many newspapers and some broadcasters gear their coverage to pander to the interests and opinions of their audiences. In turn, we tend to buy, or tune into, media that reflect our views. On social media, where fake news is now spreading like fire, and as destructive, we “like” or “follow” those who think and feel like us. So unconsciously we collude with “truthiness” and contribute to “post-truth” attitudes.

It’s not a new problem. The seeds were sown at least as far back as the 1960s, when traditional constraints were questioned and cast off in the name of freedom. Rapid developments in the scientific community revealed that previously-held truths were inaccurate, and demonstrated that with every new discovery we learn how much more we don’t know.

So it’s easy to shrug our shoulders with Pontius Pilate, faced by Jesus on the one hand and a mob baying for blood on the other, and ask cynically “What is truth?” Who knows? And we adopt the fallacy that all “truth” is relative: what is true for you may not be true for me. Hence, “post-truth”: if it feels good to me, it’s true.

That is not what Christians believe. Without needing to become obscurantist, and certainly needing to retain an enquiring and open mind, Christians believe that there are crucial objective truths that never change. And those truths form the basis for successful, meaningful, truth-full Christian living.

They are summed up in the creeds that we recite in our worship. Because they are summaries, they are open to discussion and interpretation. But they are based on some absolutes, not least that God is the supreme determinant of what is true and false, right and wrong. Some truths are not relative, even if our brains, superb as they are, cannot fully comprehend both the what and the why. God’s ways and thoughts are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:9).

When Jesus said “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6) he meant that he was the truth about God and the truth about life, demonstrated in human form. He spoke and lived truthfully.

The apostles call us to do the same as far as our human limitations allow. Instead of being “blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming” we are to “speak the truth in love” and thus “grow up into Christ” (Ephesians 4:14-15).

So this year, why not resolve to learn more of God’s truth; consider rationally all sides of arguments and issues; and be measured in voicing opinions?

An extended version of this article together with Bible study suggestions is on Derek’s website:

The Latin inscription on St Stephen’s Basilica in Budapest: I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.

The Latin inscription on St Stephen’s Basilica in Budapest: I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.

New Team Rector Appointed

After a false start and following the lengthy process described by George Marshall in the May edition this year a new Team Rector has been appointed. We welcome the Revd Barry Hill and look forward to his taking up office early next year.

Bishop Martyn describes how the new post will work. We reproduce his letter to the parishes in full below.

 “The Bishop of Leicester is pleased to announce the appointment of Revd Barry Hill as the next Team Rector of Market Harborough combined with Diocesan Resource Church Enabler. 

Barry will take up his new appointment in Market Harborough in Spring 2017 (working half-time) and this role will be combined with a new half-time diocesan role enabling the development of ‘Resource Churches’.

These are churches committed to the principle of generous giving and to sending people out from the Resource Church to establish fresh expressions of Church and new congregations and to resource mission and ministry across a wide area. Over the coming years, the Market Harborough Team will grow into being the first ‘Resource Church’ in the Diocese of Leicester. 

Market Harborough is ideally placed to become a Resource Church both because of its size, its ministry team (which will be further strengthened by the appointment of an Associate Rector) and its location

Barry has worked with the Diocese of Leicester as Diocesan Mission Enabler since 2009. During this time he has overseen the development of fresh expressions of Church across the diocese and has played a significant role in encouraging local churches in their calling to serve their local community. He was previously Curate of Emmanuel Loughborough and has a background in the aviation business.

Bishop Martyn commented: “I am delighted that Barry Hill is taking up this exciting new role. He has been a very effective Mission Enabler in the diocese and this is the natural next step as the diocese commits to a strategy of developing a number of Resource Churches in different contexts around the city and county.

“Market Harborough is ideally placed to become a Resource Church both because of its size, its ministry team (which will be further strengthened by the appointment of an Associate Rector) and its location. I am particularly pleased that our first Resource Church will be in a vibrant market town and will be well placed in the coming years to resource mission and ministry in the rural South East of the county.”

Revd Barry Hill said: “The opportunity of a significant increase in resources for churches in making a bigger impact across a region is a wonderful God-given opportunity as we seek to invite the nine out of ten people who are not a regular part of a Christian community to know the fullness of life Jesus offers.

“I am delighted to take on this new role, working with very able colleagues in serving and leading the five Anglican churches of Harborough, and working in partnership with the wider community, the other churches of Harborough, and the Welland Valley Mission Partnership."

The Diocesan Resource Church Enabler role is being funded by the Church Commissioners and the diocese is hoping to access further funding to develop a number of other Resource Churches around the city and county.

Please pray for Barry, Pep and their two children as they prepare for this significant transition.”


Revd Barry Hill – the new Team Rector

Revd Barry Hill – the new Team Rector

Retreat at Monastero di Bose San Masseo Assisi, 16-19 June 2015

This summer I had an unforgettable experience, staying at a monastery on the edge of Assisi, home of the much loved St Francis. Going on retreat, usually for three days a year, has always been important to my Rule of Life, and a major spiritual resource for my ministry. This year, partly in preparation for receiving a new curate but also because of my life-long love of Francis, I decided to venture beyond our shores and try something new! The opportunity arose for me to visit a unique ecumenical community, now occupying a beautifully restored 11th Century monastery, that Francis himself is thought to have prayed in. The experience was profoundly renewing and will stay with me for a very long time.
I first discovered St Francis at the age of 14, and my vocation is bound up with his influence, the way that Jesus Christ has spoken to me through him. Interestingly, San Masseo sits astride Assisi’s hill, more or less equidistant between the various Franciscan pilgrimage sites.
It is close to the Church of San Damiano (a short walk away), in which Francis, the romantic young knight, first heard Christ call out to him: ‘Francis, repair my Church, which you see is falling down!’ Ten minutes’ walk up the hill, on the eastern side of the city, is the Basilica of St Clare, Francis’ female counterpart, who founded a contemplative order of nuns, living in strict poverty. In this Church hangs the original Byzantine cross from which Francis heard the Christ speaking to him.
Further down the hill, on the Assisi plain, is the large Basilica of St Mary of the Angels, containing the little Portziucola Chapel, restored by St Francis himself. Here he heard, in the words of Matthew, the call to ‘Preach the kingdom, heal the sick, cleanse the lepers… taking nothing for the journey.’ All of which St. Francis, with his early companions, went out to do! He set the world on fire with the love of Christ and showed that the Gospel is first of all a life to be lived.
The last site that I walked to from San Masseo (alongside the dramatic Basilica of St Francesco, which frames the whole city), is the hidden hermitage of the Carceri, some six kilometres walk up into the beautiful hills of Mount Subasio. Here is a place of immense stillness, peace and contemplation, where Francis adored God and his bounteous creation, allowing himself to be equipped for a life of mission and service. I too was privileged to pray there, a still point in a fast turning world. Having walked there in the heat, I was grateful for a lift back to Assisi with some visiting Catholic priests, one of them a Congolese seminarian, who told me about life in his home country.

Monastero di Bose San Masseo Assisi

Let me say a little bit more about San Masseo, where I spent most of my retreat. The monastery is a home of the Bose community, from North Italy, who live a life of prayer, hospitality and manual labour. All guests are welcomed, after the Rule of St Benedict, as if they were Christ. This in itself is a transforming experience. The hours of prayer, in the beautifully simple stone Church, are profound and melodious. I had never experienced the liturgy in Italian before! Lectio Divina is an important part of their life, listening for God speaking through the Bible. Food is simple and wholesome. The monastery is surrounded by vineyard and olive grove, which sounds romantic, but involves back-breaking work for the small community of brothers. Guests are housed in a well-equipped guest house. I truly appreciated, within the context of the liturgy, the gift of silence, for meditation, reflection and writing.
How did San Masseo affect me? It restored in me the simple joy of faith, of knowing that ‘the Lord is near’. I was reminded that at the heart of my active life is prayer, the wellspring from which all else flows: an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. I found myself, as an Anglican, strongly connected to the universal church, of which we are a part, and much encouraged by our ministry in Harborough. I found myself drawn to make connections between faith and contemporary life at many different levels. And I glimpsed an outflow of creativity, as I reflected, prayed and read, including the following stanza - part of a longer poem, ‘Pilgrimage of Trust’ - about my time in Italy:

Returning to the fire which first drew me
Landscape bathed in iridescent light
Drawing from the well which first irrigated me
Water cascading onto thirsty ground
Inhaling the breath of wind flowing freely
The Spirit blows where it wills, Assisi fills
Feeling the fertile earth beneath my feet
Bursting with life, flower and grasses greet!

The invitation go on Retreat, joining with a community of prayer, enjoying their hospitality and soaking in the beauty of silence and creation, is a life-changing opportunity. It may take us time to overcome our inner restlessness (it does for me), but it is well worth it. The benefits are immeasurable. Why not try it? God may be trying to show you something.
Rev James Shakespeare

An Amos Trust Alternative Pilgrimage

Two and a half years ago I went on a pilgrimage to The Holy Land and visited many religious sites. I also went to a Palestinian refugee camp and a farm as well as hearing speakers from Palestinian and Israeli organisations sympathetic to the Palestinian cause.

This time the emphasis was on the plight of the Palestinians living in Israel/Palestine. The pilgrimage was ‘alternative’ because, for the majority of the time, we visited Palestinian projects in Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Nazareth, Hebron, the Jordan Valley and Haifa. We did have a couple of days to visit the sites in Jerusalem and Galilee as well.

We learned what life is like for people who have to live in the shadow of the separation wall, are forbidden to drive on main roads, and endure the uncertainly of house demolitions.

The wall at the Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem.

The painted slogan says ‘We can’t live so we are waiting for death’.

The skips are for rubbish, which is infrequently collected and so has to be periodically burned.

The wall at the Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem.

The wall at the Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem.

Hebron, where Israeli settlers have moved into the Palestinian city. We could show our passports and walk past the IDF soldiers into the settlement. Palestinians cannot do that, or return to their confiscated homes in the area.

Hebron, where Israeli settlers have moved into the Palestinian city.

Hebron, where Israeli settlers have moved into the Palestinian city.

A demolished house on the left.

Palestinians have to apply for a permit to build, but these are rarely granted, and so they are forced to build in the knowledge that the IDF can come along and bulldoze their houses at any time and with little warning.

The house on the right was rebuilt with the aid of Amos Trust volunteers shortly after Easter. The family of nine had been living in one room in a nearly refugee camp. Although they hadn’t fully moved in all 35 of us were invited inside, seated and served mint tea! This house is less likely to be served with a demolition order because of the involvement of the international community in its rebuilding

A demolished house on the left.

A demolished house on the left.

What hope for the future?



Peacemakers like these men, a Palestinian ex-fighter and a Jewish rabbi, who became united in the cause of peace once they started talking to one another – something that just doesn’t happen under normal circumstances - and started the Roots Project.

Sue Macdonald



For more information please visit websites such as:

The Amos Trust -,

The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions -

The Roots project -

Grassroots Jerusalem

Ma’an Development Centre