Sunday, 1 December 2002

Pembrokeshire Coast Path : Part 3

Go to Part 1
"I arise today through a mighty strength
the strong name of the Trinity
through belief in the threeness
through the confession of the oneness
of the creator of creation.”
This prayer from the Hymn of St Patrick has given me courage on many mornings when I’ve felt a bit overwhelmed by particular challenges ahead of me.  I have decided to make it my morning prayer each day that I am able to walk.  Trinity Sunday is approaching and I find myself at this magical interface between Sea, Land and Sky where so much lives and moves and has its being.  I love the smell of the sea, I love the flight and cry of the sea birds, the feel of the wind, sun, rain, the soft grass and hard rocks beneath my feet, the delicate colours and shapes of the cliff top flowers.  Ramsey Island looks majestic and in the Sound the currents are racing and roaring through ‘The Bitches’.
I also adopt a through-the-day prayer:
“Be thou my vision O Lord of my heart
Naught be all else to me save that thou art
Thou my best thought in the day and the night
Both waking and sleeping, Thy presence my light.”
A vision of beauty and strength, and so easy to believe in, being where I find myself now.
My feet are now dully painful and I am walking fast.  It’s time to make a decision: do I take an easy day today by stopping at St David’s, giving myself time to look around and time to recover?  I defer the decision because I now reach the spot where “the Age of the Saints” begins to leave its evidence.  St Non was the mother of St David and he was born nearby during a great storm in AD 462.  The present Chapel of St Non was built in 1934 near the site of the original one, which in turn was near a holy well.  This well was renowned for its healing properties, especially for eye diseases.  The little chapel, built in the Celtic style, is cool and peaceful.  I light a candle and say prayers musing on the fact that the God I meet in here is the same God of the cliffs, the winds and the seas.  Later, I decide that I prefer that little building to St David’s Cathedral which is nice but full of tourists and tour parties.  In the Cathedral I don’t seem to find that ‘heart’ that I did with my little candle in St Non’s – but it’s a lovely building nonetheless and the ruins of the Bishop’s Palace are even grander!  I shop and picnic in a little park.  In the chemists I discover some ‘miracle’ blister plasters, which is just as well as the little devils are worse than ever after my rest.  I continue on to the delightful port of Solva and a delicious cream tea.  Suddenly I think to myself, “I could have spent two weeks just doing this – lazing in the sun and feeding my face – why am I not normal?”  But even the idea of the (relatively) easy day has gone out the window as I feel myself driven onwards.  I wash my feet in the sink in the cafĂ© toilet and apply the plasters – no difference at all – what did I expect? I suppose there are miracles and then there are MIRACLES. 
Now the path becomes really cruel: up and down and up and down.  I am doing my exaggerated limp again but it’s still agony and putting a strain on my right thigh.  I confide in an elderly couple coming the other way.  “I swear by Vaseline,” said the man, “rub some Vaseline on them by all means.”  The wind is really blowing up now.  Eventually I flop down on the campsite behind the storm beach at Newgale.  I hobble to the shop to see if they sell alternative footwear.  I’m beginning to dream about a pair of sandals.  I make some supper and a wonderful woman from a neighbouring caravan brings me a cup of tea in a 50’s cup.
Facing up to my feelings: I am still enjoying the scenery and the variety of the weather and the challenge.  Its ironic: in a sense blisters are so superficial and trivial – the rest of me is slightly fatigued but fine really, considering the distance and terrain covered – and yet they are so awful and insidious.  I desperately want to complete this walk and I’m annoyed.  I’ve met other walkers and they haven’t had blisters.  If only my other boots had been all right.  The pain is always there and makes everything difficult but at the same time I’m not beaten and my spirits are constantly being raised.  Today I have eaten: beans & sausage, orange, banana, the rest of the hobnobs, a loaf of bread with ham, yoghurt, apple, cream tea, tomato soup, spaghetti & coronation chicken.
I had gone to bed at 10 pm but now wake at 1 am because my blisters are fighting back in angry mood.  In the dark I search my pack for penknife and disinfectant swabs.  Piercing them and releasing the pressure eases the pain slightly.  I’m going to have to pack it in.  No doubt I could carry on in the morning but I’ll only pay for it in increasing measure at night and this is no fun.  In neighbouring tents there are five fresh and fit looking men, who are doing a small part of the walk over three days.  In the morning I tell them that I’m going to take it easy.  (“Shall I give up?  Take a day or two off to recover and not worry if I don’t have time to finish?  I might as well enjoy myself!”)  I clean and treat my feet with all bar one of the ‘miracle’ plasters, then sit around and quickly get bored.  “This is not a good place for a day off.”  I buy some Vaseline and cover the friction points of my feet and then try my boots on laced very loose now.  “Not too bad – I’ll go for it, a little way at least.”  I set off from Newgale along the beach.  There are the Scousers again, very friendly, but then it’s their last day so they can afford to feel elated.  One of them has blisters too.  At the end of the beach I scramble up to regain the cliff top path.  It’s cloudy and cool but pleasant.  Amazingly my feet seem to have found a new lease of life. 
At Norton Haven I pass my neighbours of last night – all five of them chatting up an attractive blonde woman – like bees round a honey pot.  They look surprised to see me and I fancy the blonde casts me a wistful look as I stride past.  (I hope they tell her of my earlier pain and I imagine her secret admiration of a real man!).  I stride boldly to the top of the headland where all of a sudden a new blister bursts.  I just can’t believe it.  I really could cry like a baby.  However, I use my last futile ‘miracle’ patch and continue to Broad Haven.  Here I walk straight into a surf shop and lash out £50 on a pair of ‘Reef’ hi-performance sandals, not counting the cost.  Immediately I find another new lease of life and relish walking with the fresh air blowing on my toes.  My boots are heavy and I feel it in the increased weight of my pack but that means nothing to me – I can cope with everything as long as the little demons down at ground level stay asleep.  I picnic at Little Haven – one time coal port, now picturesque holiday village – then on through a change in scenery: the path along the cliff top is wooded, the ground is level and follows the contour, the undergrowth has recently been cut.  Everything seems suddenly to be in my favour.  As I had descended into Broad Haven I had prayed for the ‘exorcism’ of my blisters.  Was all this an answer?
It’s a good push on to St Brides along a lovely coastline.  By the time I get there and visit the little church my feet are complaining again somewhat.  I push myself on a bit further, pausing to watch the gannets give a fine display of diving and fishing skills over Musslewick bay, before eventually stopping to camp at East Hook Farm.  I feel very proud of myself but still wonder how much longer I can go on.

Inside Story

“Do you believe in Father Christmas?”  I thought I had settled that one long ago – but now I’m not so sure!
Christmas has been a long time coming in our house.  Or, looking at it another way, I’m not sure Christmas ever really finished last time.  ‘The Snowman’ was weaving his magic amongst us every day for the first half of the year.  In the height of summer ‘Wow – that’s what I call Christmas’ took over – ever smiling presenters Carl and Katie (aided by Bump and Super Ted) reeling off a string of Christmas Favourites – first thing every morning.  The Christmas Tree has been out of sight but never really out of mind, and we eventually gave in to repeated requests and got it out a couple of weeks ago.  Strangely, that prompted a dramatic loss of festive interest (sudden arrival giving the lie to expectation, I suppose) but things are picking up again now.  Imogen is waiting for it to snow so that she too can go ‘walking in the air’ and she is always on the look out for Santa.
Not that she has to look too far.  She has her very own Santa outfit and, even when she’s not wearing it, the correct answer to ‘What’s Father Christmas doing?’ is to state exactly what Imogen is doing at that moment, “Eating his breakfast” or “Sitting on his potty”!
It’s not that a child of nearly 3 does not have some grasp on reality, but it’s fair to say that imagination and ‘reality’ have, as yet, no clearly defined boundary.  FC is a great character and part of a wonderful story and I suppose he offers a role that anyone can ‘inhabit’, if they wish.
I’ve even quite enjoyed accompanying Imogen and Jemima into Santa’s grotto – you could actually see the half-made toys on his workbench – but there was something I found disconcerting and eventually I worked out what it was.  It was the attempt to go beyond an understated enactment of the story.  The attempt to impress on the children that this particular ‘Santa’ was watching them, that their presents were in his keeping and if they were good he would visit the house and deliver them to the waiting stockings.  I don’t know if I can get my feeling across, but there was an attempt to literalise the story, which threatened to undercut its real nature as a story.  The only (eventual) outcome is for the beauty of the myth and such truth as it possesses to sink in the cold grey waters of hard and disappointing fact.
For me this raises questions about the other Christmas Story – what we often call the ‘true meaning’ of Christmas.  Is that one (just) for the children?  Within it, where does the boundary between imagination and ‘reality’ lie and in what sense is the relationship between the two an important one?  Are they correct who would strenuously assert it all as historical fact or is that just to deny many people the power of the story, which, as inspiring story, can perhaps change the facts of our lives?
Then again there’s the third Christmas Story – the story in the ads.  It says “Spend your money like this, buy into this image and your home will be full of all the happiness and harmony that you could wish for.”
I said that Santa is part of a wonderful story – it is rather a simplistic one though – be good and be rewarded, be naughty and you won’t.  The ‘real’ Christmas story has far more in it, enough to make us question and ponder for a lifetime.
Facts are important, sometimes they are vital.  But I don’t think the human spirit is sustained by fact.  What we need is poetry, imagination and good role models – no, that sounds too mundane – we need to have our imaginations fired up with a vision of the shape our lives could take, if we are to live fully in response to the grace of God.

Friday, 1 November 2002

Pembrokeshire Coast Path : Part 2

I cook my pasta in stream water, not having much left in my bottle, and eat it with sardines in tomato sauce – slightly more interesting than last night’s meal but that’s not saying much.  I edge closer to the fire as the embers start to cool.  After a bit of a dismal start it had been a great day.   Now I have only the fire, the sea and the seals for company.  The waves are rolling in and I watch a lobster-pot buoy which keeps riding in on successive waves but is always pulled up short by its rope, making it look like a surfer ‘without enough bottle’.  I eventually go to sleep feeling very self-satisfied at my self-sufficiency and self-congratulating that where some would be easily scared, I was sleeping out on this desolate headland – without any fear.
That was at 10 pm.  At 10.30 I am awake again.  Why?  I’m dog-tired, but something has woken me!  What?  What was that noise?  Silence.  There it is again - indefinable and therefore sinister.  In a tent you feel vulnerable.  Every noise is magnified.  You can’t see and you have no protection.  “It was nothing” I tell myself.  But I’m not convinced ….  There had been ravens on the path just before I stopped.  Some birds sing sweetly and lighten your spirit.  Ravens give a rasping croak!  Dark and sinister, they live in the tower of London where people have been locked up and beheaded in the shadows.  Earlier, in Fishguard, I had read about countless ships wrecked on these very shores.  I remembered the ghost of Sandwood Bay in Scotland – a restless spirit from another such wreck ……  When my brother and I had camped out in the same tent in our garden as children, similar thoughts had sent us immediately running to the house and diving under familiar covers.  Now no such option presents itself.  “Some are easily scared but not me”!  I repeat my night prayer, “I will lie down and sleep in peace for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety”, and try to pull the presence of God around me like a cloak …
I wake again at 2 am to hear the amplified pounding of the high tide waves only 6 feet below and 30 ft away from my tent.  Then at 4.30 I am relieved by first light and get up at 6.15, reviving the fire and cooking my porridge.  In a crevice nearby, the stream forms a perfect natural shower, but it’s rather cold and I decide I can put that off a bit longer.  I break camp at 7.40.  It has been a good campsite despite the irrational fears.  As I walk away I look down on the site from a different angle and see the mouth of a cave 20 yards from where I’d slept.
The weather is dry but dull and rather chilly.  The sea is getting ‘bigger’.  Strumble Head proves to be very rough walking and my blisters start to introduce themselves again, modestly at first but nevertheless in that sinister way they have which promises an unpleasant future.  My Dad always used to quote from somewhere “Little leopards become big leopards and big leopards kill”!  I stop to admire the lighthouse with its little access footbridge down below me, then I press on hoping to reach a second breakfast at the Pwllderi Youth Hostel.  This has a spectacular and exposed location, high up over a little bay and looking south-west along an imposing rampart of cliffs.  Unfortunately it’s shut.  No bacon, eggs, sausage, beans and no chance to stock up on provisions.  I’m down on my reserves and soon have to consume my ‘fruit & nut’ and last two Twix bars.  I pass two women who are spending 8 days walking the north section from Marloe.  I feel a bit disheartened and start running out of energy again, but make it, emptily and painfully, to Trefin and order Soup & Roll, whole dressed crab salad with chips.  I eat every scrap and then all the butter and sauces before stocking up at the shop and eating further a packet of yoghurt nuts and raisins and a third of a packet of chocolate hobnobs.
Now the attention turns fully from stomach to feet.  Agony!  As I set off, I seem to be walking in boots that are full of broken glass.  Should I give up now?  At least take a day off?  I put these questions aside and press on, but only to find myself overtaken by an elderly woman and man with a dicky leg.  I try to admire the scenery, which is lovely, and take an interest in the little ports like Porth-gain with its relics of a short lived industrial past and Aber Eiddy with its quarry ruins.  Nevertheless the pain gets worse and suddenly I get an excruciating tearing sensation on my heel.  I find that by walking with an exaggerated limp I get on okay, however, the man with the dicky leg, on returning the other way, gives me a look as though I’m trying to be funny.  Finally, I get my boots off and survey the desolation that was once a pair of feet – right heel split and at least one blister on each left toe.  I sit for a while and think.  Then I tape up my heel, loosen my boot laces and press on.  I start to pass the remains of Iron Age forts and feel as though I’m picking up a bit. 
I arrive at St David’s head at 7 pm.  Despite the pain I must have covered 20 miles in the day.  I nearly decide to walk on to the campsite, which is a mile further, but as soon as I step through the ancient earthwork beyond which is the very end of the peninsular, I’m transported out of time to become the Iron Age chieftain secure in his fort!  I pitch my tent in the stone-circle of one of the ancient dwellings.  I dig with a stone to make a fireplace then collect heather twigs and wild pony droppings for fuel.  Barefoot and un ‘packed’ now, I feel free and invigorated.  Lacking much water, I have to use the pasta water to make my tea and then use the tea bag to wash the pots and grass to dry them, but I feel very satisfied and a banana baked (in its skin) amongst the glowing dung is a real treat.
It’s been overcast all day.  One of those days when you find it hard to imagine there ever really was a blue sky and a sun.  But as I lie back and wonder whether, after three days, I should now change my socks, I notice a line across the sky just above the western horizon.  When I look again there is a thin band of blue.  Then suddenly the clouds are racing across the sky and the late evening sun, appearing all at once, seems to pour liquid gold down the hillside and across the headland and the sea.  I am reminded that “God has poured his love into our hearts by his Holy Spirit” and I clamber up onto the rocks to see from every angle the view across to Ramsey island and the surrounding flotilla of islets, sitting peaceful among the hammering waves.
I get up at 6 am on Thursday.  The morning is fresh, the sea is calm and the promise is of a glorious day.  There was another strange noise in the night but it is identified now as a breaking tent peg loop – no Iron Age visitations after all.  I breakfast in a sunny nook, watching a gannet diving for its own meal, then I break camp and set off at 7.50 am.  I pass the wild ponies.  They seem to eye me cautiously.  Perhaps they caught a whiff of my fire and identified the fuel.  I pass quickly on to Whitesands, feet tender but manageable.  Yesterday I felt in danger of hypothermia, now it is sunstroke that I have to guard against.    Walking alongside Ramsey Sound and revelling in the beauty of weather and scenery, I catch up with four Scousers and strike up a conversation with their rearguard.  The one at the front: “Watch out he’s from the Social, I knew they’d catch up with us.” “Hey! Don’t tell him where I live”.  Immediately I’m transported back to the non-stop humour of the year I spent in West Everton.

Out of the comfort zone

The lady in the tea shop said how cute Imogen looked asleep on my knee “she must be exhausted poor thing, but isn’t it sweet to see them so peaceful.” (punctuated with one or two cooing noises).
Imogen wasn’t asleep.  She had only put her head down seconds before her admirer appeared from the kitchen.  From my angle I could see that her eyes weren’t even shut.  I knew that at any moment she might pop up again and resume her demand for crisps.  But for some reason I hadn’t the heart to shatter the woman’s illusion.
I suppose it was because she was so caught up in it.  She had sold herself a particular heart warming vision and why should I relieve her of it?  I even began to feel anticipatory guilt lest Imogen should do it for me.
Is it just that I am not a ‘straight talking Yorkshireman’ or have we all been in similar situations – far less trivial ones perhaps?  It’s not necessarily that we tell any lies but just that full honesty becomes somehow inconvenient or uncomfortable or maybe just avoidable.
I think that this is one of the key problems with the Church.  We claim to talk about ‘Truth’ but where does Honesty fit into the scheme of things?  People are required to be nice to each other and to avoid conflict, not to ‘upset the apple-cart’, but where does that get us?  Ironically, in a lot of churches the only thing that is said with real response-provoking passion is the phrase “I usually sit in this pew?”  And there we sit with the eternal platitudes slipping over us!
It is a trap that all clergy are drawn towards – becoming publicly bland and ineffectual – and who could blame us – see what happens to those who speak honestly of their views when those views transgress too far from what is acceptable.
Of course, an organisation which wants to maintain its position and stability at all costs has to treat creative spirits in this way.  But it must be clear by now that all the church can maintain this way is its gradual decline into irrelevance – if that hasn’t happened already.
So next time someone says to me “God answered my prayer” I’ll say, “What does is mean to say that when he didn’t answer the prayers of the parent whose child has died after suffering who knows what horrors?” 
Or will I?          We’ll see.

Tuesday, 1 October 2002

Pembrokeshire Coast Path : Part I

I know I’ve mentioned my walk in Pembrokeshire more than once, and it was a few years ago now, but I recently unearthed my diary of the walk and, magazine material being as hard to come by as it is, I thought why not serialise it for the faithful readers!
“I’m going to walk the Pembrokeshire Coast Path”.  That’s what I had decided and that’s what I had been telling people who asked where my next holiday was going to be.  South Wales sounded a bit anti-climactic after Ecuador and Madagascar but I fancied a different kind of challenge and this one was 186 miles of official route and an overall ascent the equivalent of Everest, carrying a tent, cooking equipment and as little clothing and food as possible on my back.  To walk the coast path was my aim.  Perhaps to state, so confidently, that I would was a little presumptuous.
I set off from Poppit Sands car park at 3 pm on the first of June (1998), walking the route from north to south.  The first leg was 14 miles over a most strenuous part of the path.  I had trained well in the previous weeks, doing progressively longer distances with a heavier pack, but, my favourite boots had more or less collapsed on me the previous Monday and I am wearing a rather heavy and inflexible pair that I haven’t put on for two years.  Also, despite all the walking I have done in the previous 5 years, it was over 10 years since I had done significant walking on a number of consecutive days.  Nevertheless, I am in buoyant mood as I stride out between the banks of bluebells and foxgloves on a bright and sunny day.  Stonechats “chat” beside the path and in the distance a pair of buzzards soar on the thermals that rise above the interface where the sea meets the cliffs with their dramatic folds and fissures of rock.
I stop at a farm to fill my water bottle.  I sense the farmer is keen for me to stay the night there on his camping field (£1 a night).  He says it is 6 hours walk to the next campsite, but I have only just started and I know I can do it quicker than that.  However, I didn’t reckon on his dog adding to the argument in a rather more direct manner.  Having not noticed it steal up behind me, the agonising pain of his fangs in the back of my calf makes me shout out in surprise and pain.  Luckily he didn’t break the skin, but the cynical smile on the animals face as he backs away from me makes me hope it isn’t an omen of things to come!
That is soon forgotten as I push on and drink in the heady views – the purity of the sea air and the intense and tranquil blue of the ocean; the mass of wild flowers that I’d heard such rave reviews of – I wasn’t going to be disappointed.  I only pass one other walker until I get within strollers’ reach of Newport.  I walk along the sands and ford the river, my bare feet appreciating the soothing coolness of water and soft mud but then complaining about the sharp stones that have to be crossed to reach the boat club jetty.  I find a pleasant campsite – the only campsite – but with a good congregation of midges – cook my spaghetti and tuna, take a short stroll and go to bed.  I feel fit and eager to get going again the next morning.  My training has obviously paid off and I feel I could eat this walk for breakfast!  I relish the fact that my home for the next ten days would be my little tent and this rugged path together with the sea, the cliffs and the soaring skies.  I pray that this would also be a pilgrimage for me.  
I awake at 4.30 am to the patter of rain.  I enjoy the rain when I am snug in my down sleeping bag in my ‘storm master’ tent, but the rain gets harder and so does sleep.  By 7.30 am, when my superfluous watch alarm goes off, it is pouring down.  I ‘lie-in’ till 8.15 thinking “is this dismal watery world going to be my home for the next 9 days?”   Cancelling my plan of cooking porridge, I make for the campsite shop to purchase toast and tea.  A woman of 45 ish is there who is walking solo from south to north.  She has got there in 9 days.
The rain always eases just after you’ve packed all your gear away.  I set off at 9.40 feeling comfortable in my swimming shorts and waterproof jacket.  The long wet grass soon soaked boots and socks and I have the first intimations of blisters on the outsides of my little toes.  Oh dear!  Despite this and the weather there is plenty of interest: the ruined Celtic chapel of St Brynach; Dinas “island” with the seabird colony on Needle Rock; and some fellow walkers.  Three men of pensionable age hoping to do the route in 14 days using Bed & Breakfasts.  “It’s getting to me” one of them confides.  I share the news of my nascent blisters to show solidarity and try to cheer him.  “It’s not blisters for me” he says, “it’s my back!”  I look at his pack and his stooping posture and I fear there’s not much I can say.  Admiring his courage, I hope things get better for him and not worse.  The path continues down and up and down again.  Two pieces of toast isn’t really a breakfast, I discover, and start to top up on chocolate bars and bananas.  I stop briefly to watch a fisherman checking his lobster pots and to watch intrepid canoeists out on the growing swell.  A two-person canoe had capsized.  They would have been in real trouble but under the guidance of their instructor the four single canoes form a raft over which the canoe can be lifted and emptied and refloated and from which the displaced persons can re-embark to try once more.
Lower Fishguard was the setting for the film version of Dylan Thomas’ “Under Milk Wood”.  A chapel is being converted into a very des. res.  But I’m now seriously “out of petrol” so at the Sea View Hotel I tuck into a full English Breakfast.  I’m well and truly tired now, but mercifully the blisters that threatened seem to have quietened down again.  In the afternoon I see the lobster fisherman again.  He’s wearing bright orange leggings in an open boat with a pulley suspended over the side.  As he performs the well-worn routines of pulling in his pots, emptying them, sorting the catch, re-baiting and then casting them off as he motors away, he reminds me of the fisherman of Sua in Ecuador.  There they didn’t have outboards but worked long nets from dug out canoes and all the family came to the beach to unload and sort the catch by the light of oil lamps, however, the spirit of the two seems to be the same.
Now I am going back to basics.  At the tiny remote bay of Porthsych near Strumble Head I stamp just enough level ground out of the undergrowth and pitch my tent.  I then uphold some well worn family traditions: scouring the small pebble storm beach I collect the necessary wood to construct myself a bench and find a foam-filled fibreglass block to make a table; with more drift wood and dry bramble shoots I light a fire (it took more than one match but I had no fire lighters).  Then, careful not to dry my boots too close to the fire, I settle down to sing to the seals!  Four or five are already congregating just off the beach and are bobbing on the waves, full of curiosity.  My Dad always said that they come closer when you sing to them.  I guess that depends …!

Funny at the Time

Have you ever had that sinking feeling, whilst telling a story to a group of people who are totally unmoved?  You can well remember how your sides were splitting as were those of whoever was with you at the time.  But now the light of day seems horribly cold and you realise that you just ‘had to be there’ and no amount of explaining can really get people into the spirit.  Your story dies a death and you rather wish that you could too.
On the other hand we sometimes find ourselves in completely the opposite scenario – tears running down the face as an experience is re-lived along with friends.  Then as the laughter dies away someone will acknowledge the grimmer reality that “of course it wasn’t funny at the time!”
Over recent months I have preached a number of sermons on the theme ‘What is the Bible?’  Two points in particular are very important to remember.
First, is that each of the writings that make up the Bible was written at a particular time (remembering that the Bible is not really a single book but a library of books).  This has many implications for us and means, in particular, that entering into the spirit of the Bible’s message involves more than just reading it at face value.  We have to try and understand something of the situation at the time it was written, what the influences were and what the author was trying to convey – not always easy.
Secondly, as we read the scriptures more intelligently, we find within them the process of their own transformation.  Some parts of the Bible are funny, though since we tend to read it with our ‘serious hat on’ we may miss this.  Other parts of the Bible seem nonsensical or even offensive (divine instruction to destroy whole nations including women, children and animals for instance). Supremely, Jesus says “You have heard that it was said ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’ But I say to you … turn the other cheek.”  Even that doesn’t give a final answer for every situation, but it shows the tradition behind the scriptures reflecting on itself and seeking transformation, to increasingly witness to the fullness of God’s life for every generation.
As we read the Bible in this way, I think we find it a much more fascinating and relevant book.  We also find that we have both the freedom and the responsibility to bring the transforming power of its message to bear on every part of life.

Sunday, 1 September 2002

One man and his dog

Welcome to the September edition of the Parish Magazine.  As I write we’re not long back from our holiday – 8 nights in Bideford, North Devon (Clovelly, Woolacombe, Westward Ho! etc) a night on the edge of Dartmoor (in my Uncle’s house, so not as bad as it sounds) and 5 nights at my sister’s home in Twickenham.  We managed to get good weather too, so a good time was had by all (except perhaps for adjacent guests in the hotel who may have been wakened by crying in the night!) 
I thought I would share with you my version of a story I was told while we were away:
Having just died, a man was amazed to find his dog, which had died a couple of years before him, standing with its front paws on his chest and licking his face.  He was overjoyed and having revelled for a while in the happy reunion, he picked himself up off the path and they set off together to see what they would find.
After a little while they came to some pearly gates attended by an angel dressed in white.
Very nervously, the man asked if he could enter.
“Of course you can,” laughed the angel, “come right in.”
The man heaved a huge sigh of relief, whistled his dog and started in.
The angel coughed lightly and said, “Just one thing, Sir, the dog must stay outside.  You’re very welcome but I’m afraid it’s got to go.”
There was a long moment while the man looked at his four-legged friend and the dog looked at him, turning its head beguilingly to one side.  Finally the man’s mind was made up:
“If he’s not coming in then neither am I!”
“On your own head be it.” called the angel, “Think carefully about where you might find yourself …”  but man and beast were already on their way.
After a long but strangely pleasant walk they came to a place where the path broadened out.  A wooden gate had broken off its hinges and stood permanently opened wide.  There were some farm buildings and the familiar smell of cattle.  As they wandered into the yard a human face appeared that seemed to be that of a farmer.  She carried a tray on which were a mug of tea and an old ice cream tub full of cold water which she plonked down in front of the travellers.
“Hello!” she said with a beaming smile.  “Welcome.  Make yourselves at home and stay as long as you like.”
Man and dog somehow knew that they would do just that.  But the man, being a man, had one thing that he wanted to clear up first. 
“What’s this place called?” he asked.
“Oh, this is heaven.” said the woman, “Why?  Isn’t it quite what you expected?”
“Oh!  Well …” stammered the man, “I don’t know.  But the thing is … we passed another place on the way, you know, pearly gates and angels and so forth and I presumed …”
Lot’s of people think that,” said the woman, “but the fact is, you won’t find anything like heaven in there.  We tried to get them closed down at one point but now we realise that they are actually quite useful.”
“Useful?” queried the man.
“Yes,” she said, “they weed out all the travellers who are willing to forsake their friends.”

Thursday, 1 August 2002

From the Archives …

Report to the annual church meeting for the year ending Easter, 1924
Council Members: Mr WN Addey, Rev F Appleton, Mrs F Appleton, Miss Banham, Mrs Elmhirst, Mr WE Fowkes, Mr GA Habbeshon, Mr HL Humphrey, Mr L Humphrey, Mr WC Johnson, Mr R Littledyke, Mr F Morland, Mr EN Taylor, Mr F Thompson, Mr EH Wakefield, Mrs Wakefield, MTR Whitelock, Miss B Wright, Mr AW Wright, Miss E Elmhirst, Mrs Whitelock.
Electoral Roll – The Electoral Roll has been revised in accordance with the Constitution, and a copy is now presented to this meeting.  It contains the names of 952 Parochial Electors.
Banham Memorial Hall – The Building Fund has increased to just over £800, invested in War Loan.  The Committee submitted to the Council a tentative design by Mr Arthur Whitaker for a Hall at an estimated cost of £2,900, but the council did not feel justified in adopting provisionally a scheme which would involve so great an expenditure.  The Committee will reconsider the question of design, and will continue its efforts to increase the Building Fund.
Sunday Schools – an encouraging development is the opening of a Primary Department under the direction of Miss Wright in the Mixed School.  The Department is conducted on modern educational principles, and provides admirably for the younger children for whom the Infants’ School in Park road is too far distant.  There is urgent need of more teachers in the Boys’ and Girls’ Departments to fill vacancies caused by retirements.  The number of scholars is approximately 145 Boys, 165 Girls; Bible Class Members, 100 – totals 410.  An important step was taken by the teachers in the purchase of an excellent piano for £47.  of that sum £39 was lent and has yet to be found, and the need provides an opportunity for others than the teachers to show their practical interest in our Sunday Schools.  A mutually beneficial agreement with the Education committee has been made, whereby the Sunday School piano (on the upper floor) may be used for Day School purposes, and the Day School piano (on the ground floor) for Church purposes.
Swaithe Mission – Last year’s Report spoke of the necessity for larger accommodation than that afforded by the Mission Room.  Towards the end of the year the use of that room was brought to an end by the tenant of the house, who required it for his own purposes.  A good Army Hut was bought for £68 by means of funds raised in the Mission, donations and loans, and a site, at a nominal rent, was kindly granted by Mr CE Smith of Swaithe Hall.  This hut was inaugurated as the “Swaithe Mission Hall” on Sunday, March 30th, when a large congregation filled the building for a service conducted by the Vicar, the lesson being read by Mr Fowkes and the music being led by the organist and choir of the Parish Church.  About £35 is needed to repay the money lent to defray the cost of erection and equipment.
Girls’ Friendly Society – Meetings for Members have been held twice weekly, on one evening (under Miss Banham’s guidance) for work in preparation for a Sale, the proceeds of which are to support a bed in a Missionary Hospital; on the other for devotion, education or recreation.  Interesting lectures were given by Mrs Dransfield, Mrs Elmhirst, Mrs Fryer, Mrs Wakefield, Miss Smith, Miss Woffinden and Miss Wright.  The candidates, numbering 80, show a slight increase.  Their weekly meetings have been occupied in games, singing, sewing (for the bed in the Mission Hospital), and Missionary and other talks.  Thanks to the good work of Mrs Buckley, Miss Banham and Miss Wright, these gatherings have been greatly appreciated by the girls.
Missionary Enterprise – The number of CMS Magazines now in circulation is 147 monthly.  A study circle on the text book, “Women Workers of the Orient,” was conducted.  Miss Irene Gregory has been giving a monthly Missionary address at the Children's Sunday morning service in the School. An interesting Lantern Lecture was given by Mrs. Wakefield, describing the work in China, and showing pictures of Funing Hospital, in which one of the beds is already supported by this Parish. At the Diocesan Missionary Festival, held at Sheffield in June, our Choir supplied its full proportion to the massed Choir, and the Parish was represented by a party of 35.
Parish Magazine – Under Mr. Taylor's vigorous management the Parish Magazine more than paid its way during the first year of its restored existence. The circulation has steadily increased to about 450.
Finance – The £40 fixed by the Council as the Parochial Contribution to the Diocesan and Central Funds for 1923 (as against the £100 at which the Parish was assessed by the Ruri-decanal Conference) was attained, but only by the gifts of a few donors supplementing the collections in Church. Church expenses showed an increase of £17 over the previous year, mainly accounted for by repairs, including the making good of a breach in the north wall of the Churchyard, and books, including a supply of new Prayer and Hymn Books for the use of visitors. Under Special Objects the payments were £3 less than in 1922. For the present year the position is one of uncertainty. The income from the Church Trust property on Worsborough Common will largely be absorbed in meeting municipal requirements for road making. On the other hand, a -Free-will Offering Scheme has been launched with the two-fold object of providing a steady income for the Memorial Hall Building Fund, and also for meeting the general needs of the Church with a special view to the Diocesan quota. Mr. W. N. Addey has undertaken the secretaryship of the scheme, and has secured 52 members, contributing the equivalent of about £1 10s. Od. per week. If this scheme were more widely taken up a reliable income, sufficient to meet all our needs, would be assured.
Interdenominational Christian Council – A Special joint Committee, representative of the various Denominations, organised a united procession of the Sunday Schools on Whit Monday. The undertaking was successfully carried out, and obviously made a favourable impression on the minds of the inhabitants generally. As a sequel to this co-operative venture, a permanent Council was created by the governing bodies of the several denominations to secure common and united prayer and action upon spiritual, moral and social questions, and to bring Christian principles to bear upon such questions. This Council is composed of representatives of this Church and St. James', Worsborough Bridge; of the Wesleyan, Wesleyan Reform, and Primitive Methodist Churches, and of the Salvation Army.
General – The congregations on Sundays have continued to show a slight increase, though they represent a lamentably small proportion of the nominal Church inhabitants of the Parish. The Council would specially appeal to the large body of Parochial Electors on the Roll not to forsake "the assembling of ourselves together." The candidates presented for Confirmation were 5 males and 13 females. The small number of those seeking Confirmation is a cause for concern, for apart from it there cannot be a full growth either in personal spiritual life or in the corporate life of the Church. The average number of Communicants per week was 30.5, or practically the same as last year. An impressive Service was held on Armistice Day, when the Church was quite filled with a congregation representative of the District Council, Ambulance and Fire Brigades, and Friendly Orders. Such a gathering suggests a thought of the possibilities of common worship and of the inspiration to be found in a great congregation.
The Council would conclude this Report by asking its constituency, that is, the Parochial Electors, as well as the congregation in general, to join with it in thankfulness to Almighty God for every token of His Presence and Blessing in the past year, and in the prayer that the coming one may be marked by inward growth in grace and outward activity in every work of faith and labour of love to which He shall call us in the fellowship of His Church,
F. APPLETON, Chairman.
A. W. WRIGHT, Secretary. 31st MARCH, 1924.

Getting through

This morning we were up at 6.15 (not my choice) and shortly afterwards set off on the bike to go round the reservoir.  We stopped a little way up the mill stream where it is easy to get down to the water and there is enough flow to make throwing sticks in worth the effort.  Willow leaves become little fish, and sticks are canoes, but most of them get stuck within a foot or two of beginning their journey – a trailing weed, muddy shallows, some other debris – stuck fast and the current too feeble to free them and set them moving again.
Except that, eventually, one of the many (many) does miraculously sail on, perfectly avoiding every obstacle, merrily down the stream out of sight, and we can only imagine some wonderful adventure just beginning …
How many prayers do we pray, how many dreams do we dream, how many good intentions do we cherish in our thoughts, only for them all to get snagged up or bogged down before they have really got anywhere.
In the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes it says, “Cast your bread upon the waters and after many days it will return to you”.  I’m not sure if I really know what the writer was on about, but he seems to be encouraging a kind of reckless generosity (albeit with a pay back) – Don’t worry how much of your effort is wasted – if one prayer, or dream or good intention really does get through, then that is something beautiful and beyond the cold calculation of efficiency.

Monday, 1 July 2002

St Thomas

The third of July is the festival of St Thomas, our very own saint.  We don’t usually have a service on a Wednesday so we will be marking the festival on the following Sunday.
We all know the expression ‘a doubting Thomas’.  It’s not one that I like, because the way it is usually used suggests that to be like Thomas is to be weak and wishy-washy, someone who sits on the fence and doesn’t have the courage to make and sustain commitment.  Thomas certainly wasn’t perfect, but neither was he weak.  He was his own man and the way he doubted showed, I think, strength rather than weakness.
It is only in John’s Gospel that we are given any insight into Thomas’s character.
Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”
“But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?” ….
Then Thomas said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” 
John 11vs7,8,16
Okay, so it’s not exactly the most positive contribution to the conversation, but at least it shows a deep sense of loyalty when the others are probably more concerned about their own safety.
(Jesus said) “In my father’s house are many rooms … I am going there to prepare a place for you … You know that way to the place where I am going.”
Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” 
John 14vs1-5
Jesus is trying to paint a reassuring picture; but such rosy ideas simply bounce off Thomas’s hardened head!  He’s down to earth and stubborn.  Perhaps not the easiest person to have around when you’re trying to develop a vision of better things.  But then how often have we failed to challenge someone when, to be honest, we haven’t got a clue what they are going on about?  As a little boy Thomas might well have been the one to challenge the emperor’s birthday suit!
And then we come to Thomas’s main scene (John 20vs19-31).  From what we’ve seen already, it’s not surprising that he doesn’t take the word of the other disciples – after all it’s not everyday news that they are telling him.  But why does the situation arise in the first place?
The disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews.
… but Thomas was not with them.  That seems to sum him up.  While all the others were huddling together in secret, he was out and about, doing his own thing!  And I don’t suppose the rest were best pleased with him.
But when Thomas does see the risen Jesus for himself his exclamation “My Lord and my God” and the subsequent response of Jesus (vs39-31) are considered to form the climax of the whole of the Gospel of St John.

Saturday, 1 June 2002


Trinity Sunday always reminds me of my 10 day trek along the Pembrokeshire coast path: physical challenge, mental freedom and spiritual pilgrimage all rolled in to one – in constant communion with the cliffs, the ever-changing sea and the all encompassing sky.
I felt sorry for the preacher in the church I attended in Pembroke on the evening of Trinity Sunday that year – after all I had picked my holiday dates wisely to avoid that particular sermon.  He tried to give some explanation of what the Trinity was and inevitably ended up by apologising.  If we get bogged down in mathematics or give too much emphasis to three leafed clovers then we inevitably ‘dumb things down’, as they say nowadays. 
Perhaps the power of the idea of Trinity lies in the fact that it is beyond explanation.  Rather it symbolises the complexities of life, the interplay of various contradictions, contrasts and competing interests; but also the relevance of God and the strength which God gives to the believer in the midst of all of these.
Take the basic ‘trinity’ of Self, Family and Community.  A key process in all our lives is to work out the balance between these three.  It would be great if each one was always in harmony with both the others, but of course that’s not the way it is in practice – perhaps it would be if we were all perfect but we’re not. 
Having said that, it is clear that some of the most beautiful things emerge out of conflict – how many of the greatest artists have conceived their works in response to the painful conflicts within body, mind and spirit.  The beauty of the coast is by no means lessened by a dramatic clash between wind, rock and wave. 
God is not a simple idea, nor is he a kindly old gentleman.  God is greater and more beautiful and more awe inspiring than anything we can think or imagine.  As the Old Testament patriarch Jacob found out: in wrestling with God we find strength, even as we are made painfully aware of our humanity.  But again, as St Patrick prayed:
I arise today through a mighty strength, the strong name of the Trinity.
Through belief in the three-ness, through the confession of the one-ness
of the creator of creation.

Memories of the Worsbroughs by Revd Howard Ansell

My first official visit to Worsbrough was in 1966, when I was still finding my way around South Yorkshire and learning the language.  I had come into teaching by accident, having left Lichfield Theological College after a very unhappy year there and arrived at Mexborough Grammar School because I had married a girl from Sheffield who was homesick!  I stayed until 1970, when I became Head of English at Penistone Grammar.  After part time training with the North West Ordination Course, I was priested in 1977, and after eighteen months as curate of Chapeltown I was asked by Bishop Gordon Fallows to take on the Worsbroughs, as he thought I was tough enough for the job!  It was not going to be easy, as Colin Hill had been there for about seven years and was very popular with the church people, and my family had been happily settled for thirteen years in Chapeltown.  However, I was immediately struck by the warmth and generosity of the congregation, as large working parties gutted the then vicarage, opposite the church hall, and redecorated it from top to bottom.
My memories of those four years are quite sketchy, as life was unbelievably busy.  Carol was still teaching in Chapeltown, but became very ill and had to have a hysterectomy, my mother down in Ramsgate went rapidly downhill after my father’s death and needed full time care, and the children were learning to cope with the survival problems which vicarage children usually had in those days.  Of course, the pits were still open but in serious decline, the railway line and many other businesses had closed down, and there was an air of dereliction and hopelessness throughout the parish.  Arthur Scargill, who was a national figure at that time, lived just behind the vicarage on Yews Lane, and so dodging reporters of all kinds and nationalities was an occupational hazard.
As I have no real contact with the parish now, I will give you the names of the people I remember most clearly, some of whom may still be around.  The wardens were Raymond Hampshire and Terry Kilburn.  Ray was our elder statesman, and his wife Marie ran the Mothers Union.  Terry worked for the Coal Board and was a valuable support to me and my successor until his untimely death.  My other valuable support was Pat Vaughan, who kept the keys, cleaned the church, wrote up all the records, ran the Girl Guides, and kept me on my toes – quite a difficult job, as I was still very inexperienced.  The organist was Ron Langdon, a saintly man who followed in his father’s footsteps, giving an immense amount of time and energy to creating and running a large choir, with real choirboys gathered from the back streets of Worsbrough.  The boys were regularly bribed with sweets from Percy, Gwen and Frank, and given occasional superb parties by Madge, Ron’s wife.  Ron sadly died not long after moving away from the parish.  The secretary was Audrey Hawes, who lived outside the parish, and now runs a hotel in Blackpool.  The treasurer was Derek Firth, who ran an engineering company, and grew magnificent dahlias.  The magazine, a monthly affair, was put together by Ann Wigglesworth, who lived with her aunt on the edge of the cutting.  The Church Lads Brigade was run with military precision by Malcolm and Kathryn Crowther, and the Sunday School was run by Hilda Hinde, including trips to exotic places like Mabelthorpe and Hornsea.  And then there were May and Mildred, Jean, Molly and Sally, who brightened my days with their cheery smiles and their willingness to help anyone do anything at any time.  There must of course be many more, but remembering even this lot for me is a triumph!
St Thomas’s was always a ‘church on the move’ – because of the amount of coal which had been dug out from under it.  The Coal Board strapped it and propped it, but yawning gaps appeared, and disappeared, from day to day.  However, nothing ever fell off, and eventually it always settled back on an even keel – unlike Chapeltown, which I gather has been condemned.   One old lady whom I visited regularly, always nagged me about the church bell which was never rung, because the frame was rotten.  When she died, she left sufficient money for the bell to be restored, retuned and re-hung on a very expensive metal frame.  Getting it down and up again, and removing half a ton of extract of pigeon from the loft was quite a problem!  Apart from this venture, I don’t think we attempted anything else of a structural nature during my time.

Visits were always popular with the congregation.  Apart from Hilda’s trips to the seaside, the Wives group and the MU would trek off to stately homes, gardens, and even on one occasion to Windsor Castle.  The choir liked to go on RSCM courses, and often came home full of enthusiasm and new music.  The PCC had at least one weekend away at Scargill, where, in company with other PCCs they ruminated over the problems and challenges – mainly financial – which they constantly faced.
Life for me was of course the endless round of funerals, weddings, and baptisms, with all the associated home visits, which I always felt I should do myself.  Trips to the factories and the pit were quite rare, but always rewarding.  Of course I always had to make my annual visits to the pubs for their Christmas carols and their harvest festivals, which sometimes made it a bit difficult to find my way home afterwards.  My first innovation in the church was a short family service before the main rather formal communion, which was welcomed by those with small children, but viewed with suspicion by everyone else.  The other was an annual Christingle service, quite rare in those days, which filled the church to overflowing.
Last of all there were my three friends from my teaching days, Dave Malkin, Les Foweather and Brian Ivett.  They seldom ever set foot in church, but their contribution to the artistic and creative life of the area was immeasurable.  Their best work – indeed, the best thing which has ever come out of Worsbrough – was ‘A Miner Too Many’ – a play written and researched by them about an actual Worsbrough family who lived and died in the pit disaster recorded on the monument in front of the church, and whose family history they traced in the church records.  It was performed in the school hall by children who were descended from the families they were depicting, to audiences of miners and ex miners who were gripped by the reality of the presentation, which included the creation of a coal face on stage, and an explosion with real explosives!  Their most spectacular project was a re-enactment of the Mystery plays in Worsbrough village churchyard, with the help and co-operation of all the schools, churches, factories, the NCB, and the Angels and Ministers of Grace!  I still remember the crucifixion scene under blackening storm clouds, when, as Christ on the cross said ‘Eli, Eli …’ a quite natural thunderbolt crashed to earth quite near, followed immediately by torrential rain.  On one moved!
Although I enjoyed my time at Worsbrough, and still like to visit Barnsley as a tourist, yet I never felt that I fitted in.  I was a young southern ex teacher with a Cambridge degree who didn’t smoke, drink beer, breed pigeons, or go to football matches, so although I was tolerated, yet I was never accepted, and my children had quite a tough time at school.  Therefore, when I was offered in 1983 the chaplaincy of a huge hospital with a small country parish in Essex, I felt I couldn’t refuse.  However, as I settled into my new job, the news that the miners strike was tearing my old parish apart gave me many sleepless nights.  However, no one is indispensable, and in the fullness of time a new man came, and parish life continued as it always had, and no doubt always will.
I wish you all well, and I thank you for giving me this opportunity to revisit places and faces which I had almost forgotten.

And now …

I’m getting older and more crotchety, and Carol is maturing gracefully.  She has had one cataract done, is eagerly awaiting the other one, while I remain as fit as a fiddle – apart from collapsing at a Mothers’ Union dinner and doing a blue light dash to the hospital.  I can, however, still manage Steep Hill (Lincoln) at a brisk pace without pausing – but of course, all my brain cells went years ago.  Stephen and Jackie are still in Ramsgate producing children – number three is on the way – Simon has just moved to a much happier Roman Catholic School in Dagenham, and Katie has decided to forsake the delights of Sheffield and move back down to London.
Howard Ansell

Wednesday, 1 May 2002

Take yourself for a Royd

Before coming to Worsbrough I hadn’t come across the word ‘royd’ before, but in this area you could say it’s hard to escape.  From Rob Royd to Clayroyd; Gilroyd to High Royd Farm; Hudroyd to Royd Close; and more remote – Stoney Royd Spring to Hall Royd Wood.  The word isn’t in my dictionary, so for some time I was rather puzzled and my interest aroused.  Eventually I read (somewhere I can’t remember now) that it means ‘a clearing in a wood’ which would make sense if you think back to when the whole area was forested and clearings were gradually named from features they contained or the person who made them.  If anyone knows more, please let me know.
Anyway, one of my favourite short walks from home is to go from Ward Green Community Centre, down the steps and along the stream flowing through the narrow belt of trees which, according to my AtoZ, is called Jarret Royd Wood.  The stream doesn’t flow much, except in winter after heavy rain, but such water as there is goes on through Wigfield Farm and finally into the reservoir.  We stop before the farm however, and retrace our steps.  (We being usually Imogen and I or Jemima and I – I once took both but on the way back up I. decided if J. was being carried she was too!)
Sadly, there are some signs of vandalism to the young trees, and occasional fly-tipping of old tyres and other ugly rubbish (like the old motor scooter that is gradually decomposing near the steps).  But at this time of year, all that begins to fade into the background as the bluebells appear and seem to float just above the ground in the patches of sunlight.
Last time, Imogen and I found a ‘secret’ little path off the main one which took us under drooping bows and round a corner to a miniature clearing by the stream – only a few yards but a world apart – a place to daydream waste a few minutes and be restored.  Sometimes ‘you can’t see the wood for the trees’ but a clearing in the forest brings out the beauty of everything that surrounds it.

Monday, 1 April 2002

Two halves that make one whole

Hopefully you will receive this magazine in time for me to wish you a Happy Easter.  If so then there will also be plenty of time for you to wish me a happy birthday – yes, I will be exactly half way to three score years and ten on 6th April 2002. 
As I have already mentioned in Church, this would seem to be a good time to have a mid-life crisis.  (I keep waking up in a cold sweat, in my dream I had my crisis when I was about seventeen-and-a-half – it reminds me of that joke about the man who went to see the Doctor: the bad news was that he had to take a tablet a day for the rest of his life; the ‘good’ news was that the doctor only gave him 7 tablets.)
To make matter worse, I recently went on one of those running machines and set it to recreate the pace at which I last ran the 800 metres when I was at school (aged about 17½); I’m sorry to say that I couldn’t begin to keep up with myself.
I suppose 70 isn’t reckoned to be that old these days, generally speaking, but (more computer generated statistics…) during the time that I have been vicar here, the average age of death for (CofE) people in the parish is only 74.  Though to put it another way, I have taken over 175 funerals since arriving in the parish and if you laid the life spans of those people end to end you would get a total of over 13,000 years!  Just think of all the accumulated experience, thought and wisdom those years contain.
Lent begins, for the enthusiasts at least, with the ash cross on the forehead and the thought provoking words “remember you are dust and to dust you shall return”.  It ends with the story of the empty tomb - the space where everyone expected a full stop
Perhaps it would be an idea if only those who had received and saved their ash cross were allowed into church on Easter Sunday.  Perhaps not!  But both are needed to sum up our lives: We are creatures of this earth, but sons and daughter of God as well.  We find ourselves constrained by time but we also belong to eternity.