Vicar’s Blog

Skimming Stones

St. Michael’s Vicarage

Dear People of Alnwick,

I may be taken to task for saying this (so, apologies in advance) but throwing stones into water does seem to be a peculiarly male thing!

For some, perfecting the art of making a stone skim across the surface of the water can occupy them for hours whilst others seem to be happy finding the largest stone around and making as big a splash as possible. Not that it takes a very big stone to have a profound effect – the tiniest of pebbles tossed into the centre of a pool can send ripples which radiate outwards until they eventually reach the bank.

In a sense, the same could be said of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

It all began so quietly, in a stable in Bethlehem and a baby lying in a manger and, even at the height of his ministry, the majority of the world’s population would have been oblivious to his existence. What could one man hope to achieve through his life, his death – or even his resurrection?

In global terms, it was a drop in the ocean – but what a drop! For still today the ripples of Christ’s actions are reaching outwards.

Who would have believed two thousand years ago that the good news of the gospel would still be changing lives and that people would still be coming together regularly in worship to acknowledge the love God demonstrated through his Son?

The effect of that one solitary life was beyond the worst nightmares of Christ’s enemies and greater than the wildest dreams of his followers. Yet that is the nature of our God; the God who, in his sovereign power, plunged himself into the pool of human history in such a way that the world would never be the same again.

As we revel once again in miracle of Easter and celebrate that Christ has “overcome the sharpness of death and opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers”, so we praise God for everything that he achieved in Christ – transforming not just individuals but the very course of history through his life, death and resurrection.

In sending his Son to earth, God involved himself in human history in a way that has never been known before or since. Rather than standing aloof from our need, God, in Christ, shared our humanity in order that we might share his eternity.

As we are caught up in the ripples of this timeless truth, may we feel the power of the risen Christ in our lives and ever work to his praise and glory.

A happy and blessed Easter to you all!

With every blessing,


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Wholeness and Healing

St Michael’s Vicarage

Dear People of Alnwick,

I cannot let this opportunity to communicate with you go by without first of all thanking so many of you for your kindness, your concern, and, most importantly, your prayers over recent weeks when I’ve been more than a little ‘under the weather’.

I’ve always been very keen on praying for the sick (and at one point ‘flirted’ with the idea of being a hospital chaplain) and have been told countless times just how much that ministry is appreciated. I have to say that being on the receiving end of such ministry has been not only strengthening and encouraging but has also led me to ponder, even more than usual, the whole business of quietly and regularly holding individuals before God – asking that they may know his presence and his healing love.

We are incredibly blessed to have a National Health Service in this country and, even though we may only have mistakes and slip-ups brought to our attention, the simple fact is that the NHS does an amazing job for the majority of the time.

I have the huge privilege of acting as Spiritual Director to a Hospital Chaplain who works in an extremely busy acute hospital and I know, from my conversations with him, how much what he and his colleagues do is valued by patients, relatives and staff.

By the time you read this letter we will have just had one of our twice-yearly Celebrations of Wholeness and Healing in St Michael’s when we concentrate on praying for the sick (whether in body, mind or spirit) and offering a ministry of the laying-on-of-hands and anointing.

What a blessing such a service is and, unfailingly, as people go home from it, they express the depth and the power of the worship and the blessing they receive from being part of it.

So – individual prayer for the sick, the work of Hospital Chaplains and the public ministry of healing and wholeness provided by the local church all contribute to a fairly constant round of Christian care and concern – all based on the fact that Christ himself healed and made whole people from all walks of life.

Thanks be to God for every opportunity to hold before our loving God those for whom we have a care – and asking him to work in each one of them the good purposes of his perfect will.

Let me leave you with a prayer for healing which, I venture to think, you might find helpful.

God of the present moment, God who in Jesus stills the storm
and soothes the frantic heart;
bring hope and courage to those who wait in uncertainty.
Bring hope that you will make them equal of
whatever lies ahead.
Bring them courage to endure what cannot be avoided,
for your will is health and wholeness;
you are God and we need you.  Amen.

With every blessing,


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Lenten Season

This post was written by our Guest Blogger, the Rev’d Colin Perkins.

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, which this year is on St Valentine’s Day, 14th February. It lasts until Easter Eve, which is 31st March. During this penitential season we carry out in our spiritual lives something like the spring cleaning we do in our homes.

In church things are a little more sombre: no flowers or special decorations except those used for Mothering Sunday, and quieter, more reflective hymns. We leave out the Gloria in Holy Communion services.

In private we can think about our own progress in our Christian walk, and examine our consciences. It may be helpful to read a Christian book – there are plenty in our church library to choose from.

Here are some suggestions for things we could do as individuals:

  1. Read 1 Corinthians 13, verses 4-7. Here St Paul writes about all the things that ‘Love’ is. Go over it, putting your own name in place of the word Love, and think about how true it is of you.
  2. If you don’t usually read the Bible every day, try it. If you don’t know what to read, the weekly pew sheet gives at least five readings for each Sunday and it would do no harm to read them again, one each day, during the week.
  3. If you are free, come to either or both of the midweek services. The regular Wednesday morning service at 10.15, and the early Thursday morning Prayer Book Communion service at 7.30am.
  4. It is a good tradition to practise some form of self-denial in Lent, but not just to lose weight! If you give up something give away the money saved or use the time saved in some worthwhile manner.
  5. Write an article for our magazine, Gateway: something that could be used at any time would be helpful. Everyone has memories, reminiscences or even rants, and something from more than the usual list of contributors would be gratefully received by the readers and editor.

Photograph of Rev'd Colin Perkins

Rev’d Colin Perkins

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Advertising Christmas

St. Michael’s Vicarage

Dear People of Alnwick,

The latest supermarket ‘war’ seems to be with Christmas adverts! John Lewis, Marks & Spencer, Debenhams, Aldi and even PC World are all at it – with varying degrees of taste…

So what about the Church? Well, so far as the Church of England is concerned, there is an advertising campaign in the run up to Christmas each year. In 2016 it used the strapline “Joy to the world” and this year it is “God with us – Your Christmas Journey”. You may or may not have seen something of this campaign – but one thing is certain, it will not reach the number of people that the supermarkets do on prime time television.

And yet, come Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, people will flock to churches in massive numbers. The cynic may say that, for many, it is simply part of the ‘hype’ of the secular celebrations and that, if there is a gentle snowfall to add to the candlelight and the Christmas tree as folk make their way home from church, all the better.

In truth there is likely to be some substance to this claim but, as I stand at the door of St Michael’s on such occasions and wish people a Happy Christmas as they head back for further festivities I am convinced that many do take seriously the message of God’s love which the birth of the Christ-child signifies.

Of course, there may be much more emphasis on family celebrations in the current day – but, heretic that I am, I become more and more convinced that our God is so loving that he will revel in the enjoyment that many experience over the Christmas season.

Let’s be honest, there have been periods in the history of the Church when people of faith did nothing to advertise the wonderful message of the birth of Christ and its significance for humankind. Under Oliver Cromwell the celebration of Christmas was frowned upon and it is even suggested that he made the consumption of mince pies illegal!

The responsibility for advertising Christmas – and the wonderful truth of the Word made flesh – lies first and foremost with those of us who are regular, card carrying members of the Church locally. If those with whom we have to do see the faithful folk who worship week by week in a positive light: being welcoming, caring, compassionate and non-judgemental – not just at Christmas but all year ‘round – they will ‘catch’ some of that way of life and want to be part of it.

So, my plea is that, here in Alnwick, our Christmas advertising campaign will be a way of life, a daily activity filled with the love which came down at Christmas.

‘Love came down at Christmas, love all lovely, Love divine;
love was born at Christmas, star and angels gave the sign.’

With every blessing for a Christmas filled with the love of God and a New Year that brings happiness and contentment,


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Stages on the Journey

St. Michael’s Vicarage

Dear People of Alnwick,

The other day I dipped into a book which Jane had recently purchased. Entitled ‘Re-enchanting Christianity’, it is by the author Dave Tomlinson who is well-known for an earlier book, ‘How to be a bad Christian…and a better human being’.

Reflecting on the way in which a considerable number of people who were formerly regular churchgoers have become disenchanted, Tomlinson says:

“Church is not supposed to be a place of theological ‘purity’ or rigid conformity to certain beliefs and conventions, but a mishmash of believers, doubters, dissenters and malcontents, each of whom is grappling in his or her own way towards a mystery that is God.”

It seems to me that St Michael’s is a microcosm of Tomlinson’s description of what the church should be – and for that I’m hugely thankful. Whatever stage each of us may be in our pilgrimage of faith, we’re all ‘in the soup’ together and we’re all loved by God equally!

At this stage in the life of the Church – and not least in Alnwick – we need to recognize that all of us are at different points in our understanding and in the intensity of our faith but that God is calling us to be his followers at this time and in this place.

Within the vastness of God’s unbounded and unchanging love and mercy, we can find ourselves unnerved by change and disheartened because ‘things aren’t the way they were’. I was, therefore, really heartened to read these words in a section of the book entitled ‘Behind the mask of certainty’:

“’When I was a child,’ St. Paul says, ‘I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways’ (1 Cor. 13:11). We are not meant to remain the same, to stick with the same outlook on life or to hang on to the same beliefs and attitudes, come what may. We are meant to grow as people, and as that growth occurs all kinds of change will come about in the way we go about interpreting and applying our Christian faith. This can be exciting and stimulating, but it can also be unnerving – both to ourselves and, more especially, to those around us.”

So, recognizing that, as followers of Christ, we are called to be taken out of our comfort zone, let us embrace this ‘adventure’ which is membership of the body of Christ and do all we can to bring about his kingdom and earth (and especially in Alnwick) as it is in heaven.

As we do so, I would draw your attention to the information in our ‘Gateway’ magazine on the ‘Bishops in Mission’ programme entitled ‘Pathways’ which is being planned for September next year. It feels as if this will be a splendid opportunity to celebrate our diversity as individuals and communities alongside all we hold in common in and through Our Lord.

A prayer from Eric Milner-White, a former Dean of York, seems fitting:

O Lord God,
who called your servants
to ventures of which we cannot see the ending,
by paths as yet untrodden,
through perils unknown:
Give us faith
to go out with a good courage,
not knowing where we are going,
but only that your hand is leading us,
and your love supporting us;
to the glory of your name.  Amen.

With every blessing,


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Disasters and Blessings

St. Michael’s Vicarage

Dear People of Alnwick,

Following hard on the heels of all the damage caused by Hurricane Irma, we are now beginning to get stark warnings of the havoc that Hurricane Maria is likely to bring.

As I write this letter, predictions are that Maria will move roughly along the same path as Irma, badly affecting many of the Caribbean islands and parts of the US once again.

Neighbourhoods have been flattened, lives have been lost, and one correspondent described the damage as “something you see in images from the First World War”.

I am not qualified to explain, nor do I understand fully, all the likely causes of these natural disasters but the one thing we know for certain is that the devastation which they leave behind will create a legacy from which some people will take years to recover – long after physical restitution is made.

This sort of news – particularly when one terrible experience is followed by another in such quick succession – made me think how fortunate we are in this part of God’s world and, more particularly, how, as we pray and do what we can to support those in such adverse situations, we should remind ourselves of our basic responsibility to give thanks for all the good things we receive in this life.

By this I do not mean that we should simply be relieved that such awful things have not happened to us but, rather, to look at our lives each day and realise, despite the odd ache or pain, despite a few minor irritations that ‘things have not gone our way’, we do indeed have so much to be thankful for.

At each baptism service the candidate is presented with a lighted candle and all who are gathered say:

“Shine as a light in the world to the glory of God the Father.”

Just imagine, if every baptised person took that request seriously, what a different place our world might be.

Of course it would not prevent natural disaster – but a world filled with gratitude for all that God has given us would go a long way to counteract the negativity of a ‘glass-half-empty’ attitude.

There is no avoiding the fact that life can be complicated at times. Sometimes this is of our own making and sometimes we can merely be ‘victims’, but hearing one of the women of Barbuda, who was left only with the clothes in which she stood, speak with faith and massive hope following her life being turned upside down made me realise that many of us (myself included) need to reassess how good God has been to us and shine as lights in his world.

Although the words may seem trite amongst all that has happened in our world of late, there is a very simple message in an old hymn which might be worthy of reflection as we pray for the victims of Irma and Maria and consider how blessed we are.

When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God has done,
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

With every blessing,


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All Are Welcome

St Michael’s Vicarage

Dear People of Alnwick,

What a wonderful event our Flower Festival proved to be!

St. Michael’s looked absolutely splendid with over forty amazing displays beautifully arranged by a band of incredibly talented floral artists – and all based on the theme of ‘Leisure’.

There was a constant stream of visitors through the doors and lots of them left highly complimentary comments in the visitors’ book, not only about the floral art and the beauty of the building – but many more about the warmth of the welcome and the quality of the hospitality they had received.

Welcome and hospitality lie at the very heart of our Christian presence and witness – and, in a church like St. Michael’s, where there is hardly a Sunday in the year when we are without visitors at our worship, it is vital that we remain constantly aware of our need to excel in this department.

In my experience, it is often when being with a group of like-minded folk who all know each other well that the newcomer or the passer-by can feel most isolated. Churches can particularly fall into the trap of celebrating what a welcoming group of people they are without realising that they confine that welcome to those they already know.

Of course, some people are naturally shy and particularly reticent at making conversation with folk they don’t know but, in church, we all, friend and stranger alike, start from a common understanding of the love we have recognised in God through Christ – the Christ who reminds us that in welcoming the stranger we are welcoming him (see Matthew 25: 34-40).

So, as we give ourselves a pat on the back for the affirming nature of many of the comments in our visitors’ book, let us not rest on our laurels for too long but, rather, keep up the good work so that in our town and locality, as well as in all the places to which our visitors return, St. Michael’s may continue to cultivate the reputation of having welcome and hospitality as an ongoing priority in our corporate ministry.

Perhaps the words of a hymn we’re just beginning to get to know might help:

Let us build a house where love can dwell and all can safely live,
a place where saints and children tell how hearts learn to forgive.
Built of hopes and dreams and visions, rock of faith and vault of grace;
here the love of Christ shall end divisions:
All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.

Let us build a house where hands will reach beyond the wood and stone
to heal and strengthen, serve and teach, and live the Word they’ve known.
Here the outcast and the stranger bear the image of God’s face;
let us bring an end to fear and danger:
All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.

With every blessing,


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Weddings Galore!

Dear People of Alnwick,

Weddings are featuring large in my life at the moment!

We have more weddings booked at St Michael’s this year than I have known in the past five years – and that is really good news. In July, five sets of Banns were called at the same time – something I’ve not experienced before in my ministry.

People come to St Michael’s to be married for all sorts of reasons and, with a true sense of hospitality, so far as we can, we try to welcome couples and give them a good experience of church. Many in our congregation, I know, make wedding couples feel welcome and valued as they sit alongside them on Sunday mornings.

These encounters are greatly appreciated by many of the couples as they build up ‘connections’ which would not naturally occur if the wedding was taking place in a secular setting – be it in a stately home or on a Caribbean island.

Statistics certainly seem to reflect an upsurge in church weddings and when I talk to couples in preparation for their big day I sense, more and more, an understanding that they are inviting God into their relationship and that his blessing on their union is both real and important to them.

A photograph of a man and a woman, dressed in white albs in a highly decorated chapel

Vicar Rev’d Canon Paul Scott and his wife Rev’d Jane Scott in Bavaria. (Click to enlarge)

Associations of a different kind resulted in Jane and I being invited to a most beautiful part of Bavaria in mid-July to officiate at the wedding of Lord Max Percy and his fiancée, Princess Nora of Oettingen. This turned out to be a really happy and memorable occasion and a splendid mixture of Bavarian and Northumbrian customs and celebrations. I hope that you can get a flavour of the occasion from the photographs which are included in this month’s edition of ‘Gateway’.

In a rather different context, Jane was recently asked to bless a civil marriage in a celebration held on the beach at Bamburgh – and which was followed by a fish & chips lunch in Seahouses!

However different the Bavarian and the Bamburgh celebrations might have been, they and all the other weddings that are taking place in our own church this summer, illustrate a growing recognition of the need to have loving relationships transformed into holy relationships in which God dwells with the couples in every aspect of their changing lives and wherever they may go.

So perhaps now, as greater numbers return to the church for a blessing on their relationships, is a good time to pray for marriage and family life. They are, after all, the foundations of stable communities.

Let us take the opportunity, too, to pray especially for those relationships which find themselves under undue strain or pressure – that love will find a way to renew and re-energise, that ‘commitment’ may be valued and upheld and that gentleness and forgiveness might win the day.

With every blessing,


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Commitment and Respect

St Michael’s Vicarage

Dear People of Alnwick,

I’ve always been interested in words – and when I talk with couples who are preparing for marriage we usually have a discussion about the word ‘commitment’. In modern day life, people much prefer to opt in or out of things according to how they feel on any particular day. Long term pledges are often seen as restrictive and less morally binding than was once the case. Commitment may continue to have the same dictionary definition – but, in almost every sphere of life, it doesn’t seem to carry the weight that it once did.

Just recently, following the tragic tower block fire in Kensington, I listened, until I could stand it no longer, to a disgraceful television interview with the Environment Secretary on early morning television during which the interviewer rudely harangued and pilloried the Minister and constantly refused to allow him to respond to the invitation he had been given to appear on the programme. It was at that point that I realised there was yet another word in our language which seems to be daily losing the definition it once had. That word is ‘respect’.

Of course, the interviewer, like all other right-thinking folk was angry, appalled and upset at the tragedy which had occurred – but his rudeness and seeming inability to allow any reasoned response or level-headed discussion demonstrated a complete lack of respect for a fellow human being.

And, of course, the shocking terrorist activities which have taken place recently in London and Manchester are an extreme example of a complete lack of respect for the sanctity of human life.

Whatever faith is followed, a basic tenet of existence has to be one of respect for the world, its environment and its people. The ‘commitment’ to which terrorists and suicide bombers pledge themselves is tragic and the lack of ‘respect’ which such people have for peaceful co-existence both devalue words which once had great influence on the life of our society.

Jesus said that he had come so that we might have life and have it in abundance (John 10:10). Perhaps a re-examination of what we understand by ‘commitment’ and ‘respect’ might help us to find that abundance once again.

In the meantime, people of faith and goodwill everywhere must surely commit themselves afresh to do whatever they can, no matter how seemingly insignificant, to respect all life in order to experience the abundance which can be freely ours.

With every blessing,


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Election Thoughts

St. Michael’s Vicarage

Dear People of Alnwick,

As Jane and I returned from the polling station to elect our County Council representatives, the postman was delivering our polling cards for the General Election which is to be held on 8th June. These were followed by some further post – a ‘Pastoral Letter’ from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York with some ‘guiding principles’ as we approach this somewhat unexpected opportunity to vote once again for a new government.

Should you wish to read the full contents of the letter, it is available on both the Church of England and the Diocese of Newcastle websites. For those who don’t ‘do’ technology, there is a copy on display at the back of St. Michael’s and I would commend it to you.

In a nutshell, the archbishops remind us that we should set aside all apathy and cynicism and ensure that the Christian virtues of love, trust and hope guide and judge our actions and the actions of those who are elected. They then go on to suggest that cohesion, courage and stability are required from those elected if we are to face successfully all the challenges that lie ahead.

Irrespective of your party allegiances – or who, ultimately, our elected representatives are, the guidance given by the archbishops is very worthy of consideration as election day draws near. And, of course, it goes without saying that we should set the whole activity within the context of prayer for all who are putting themselves forward as candidates and for those who will take on the huge responsibility of being MPs.

All of this set my brain into action on the whole subject of being public representatives and decision makers – and it didn’t take me long to think that all of us who call ourselves Christians (and, particularly, those who form part of a worshipping community) are all, whether we realise it or not, public representatives of Christ – and that each of our actions is being closely monitored.

Never doubt that, as card-carrying Christians, we are being watched from those on the outside: often purely out of interest to see how we conduct our day to day lives – but also, on occasion, to see if we trip ourselves up or do not quite model the lifestyle of some pre-conceived notion of what is acceptable.

So, as we go about our daily living, I ask myself, and each of you:

Have we set aside apathy and cynicism?

Are we ensuring that love, trust and hope are central to our lives and all that we do?

Are cohesion, courage and stability our ‘watchwords’ as we approach the challenges (both small and great) of our times?

Above all else, is calling upon God in prayer – and listening carefully for his guidance – a natural and regular part of who we are?

It has been said that countries end up with the government they deserve. Perhaps all of us would benefit from answering the four questions posed above before we place our X on our voting papers on 8th June.

With every blessing,


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