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This is the page on which the former Warden of Readers, Revd Martin Stephenson, posted a few personal thoughts on topics in our news or items of special interest to Readers. Others from the Readers Association Executive or from the group of Assistant Wardens also contributed occasionally. The future of this page is under review.

Prospero, Trump and Truth

March 2017

On the night President Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the Unites States of America Kay and I were at the Royal Shakespeare Company Stratford to see a performance of The Tempest by William Shakespeare. The central role was an outstanding Prospero by Simon Russell Beale. The production also featured the use of the very latest technology to project an avatar series of images of the sprite Ariel.  But perhaps what struck me most forcefully was the profound wisdom of the writing in contrast to what was going on in the United States. This is a play about the desire for...

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You shall not murder - The Sixth Commandment

May 2016

‘You shall not murder’. The very simple sixth commandment. Could anything be clearer? I am struck by its directness. We have had five commandments so far which have either a few introductory words, or a few explanatory words, or perhaps, as with the fifth commandment, a possible outcome to encourage us: ‘so that you may live long...’ The sixth commandment, and the following four are much more succinct. It is as if God is saying; ‘You don’t really need any further explanation. Just do these. Keep them.

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Honour Your Father and Mother - The Fifth Commandment

March 2016

'Honour your father and mother.' This is the 5th Commandment. Here is a further reflection on the 10 Commandments. This month I skip to the 5th - particularly significant as we approach Mothering Sunday.

Notice that the verse in Exodus goes on: 'so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.' This tells us that this commandment was a key part of creating a settled community in a new land. Stable family groups, in which parents play a vital part, and in which the relationships of children with parents are signs of stability, are the building blocks of a flourishing society. 

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No Blasphemy - The Third Commandment

November 2015

'Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.’

I remember the first time we took our three young children to watch Leicester City.

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Commandments for our times?

October 2015

‘You shall have no other gods before me.’ So begins that series of instructions to the people of Israel which we know as the Ten Commandments. At the beginning of a new academic year I thought I might begin ten reflections on the Ten Commandments and what I believe to be their absolute relevance to us today in the technologically advanced world of the 21st Century.  

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Reform and Renewal

July 2015

‘Reform and Renewal’ is the general title of a series of reports which have been published this year at the request of the House of Bishops and of General Synod. The reports in question are: Developing Discipleship; Resourcing the Future; Simplification; Leadership Development (also known as The Green Report) Resourcing Ministerial Education. If you are inspired to read any of these they can be found on the Church of England’s website at the following address, together with audio visual presentations:  

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True obedience

March 2015

Lambeth Palace, as I am sure you know, is the main residence of the Archbishops of Canterbury. It is not only an historic palace but also a suite of offices for the Archbishop’s staff - his Chaplain, Director of Mission and Public Affairs and administrative staff - and, at its heart, quite literally, a place of prayer. This was made so clear to me when, with 35 other chairs of the houses of clergy from the Church of England Dioceses, we met at Lambeth Palace in January. For at 12.30pm we descended to the bowels of the building to the lovely crypt chapel for the Eucharist. Jo Bailey Wells, Archbishop Justin’s chaplain, presided, and the Archbishop served as deacon. In the congregation were members of the Lambeth Palace staff, and, the day after their commissioning, the Director and Prior of the newly founded Community of St Anselm: Sister Sonia Berenger from the Chemin Neuf community, and the Reverend Anders Litzell, Anglican priest from Sweden.  

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Blasphemy or what?

February 2015

What can you say? What are the limits to free speech? The horrific events of January 7, 8 and 9 in Paris underline the dangers of saying what we say, being who we are (if, in this case, you happened to be Jewish and visiting a supermarket, or a police man or woman and protecting the public, or a cartoonist and journalist taking a dig).  

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Tweeting the message of Christmas?

Christmas 2014

Tell the message of Jesus’ birth in 140 characters. Can you do it? As I expect you know, if you want to send a message on Twitter, you have to keep within the limit of 140 characters. This is a good discipline. Because you only say what you really have to say. I am not a daily tweeter, but when I do tweet I really enjoy the challenge of putting what I have to say in this concise form. In this letter I want to share with you a few of my attempts to put the message of Christmas in Twitter form!  

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What's in a Library?

October 2014

The new Birmingham Library was opened a year ago by Malala Yousafzai. Malala has been in the news again recently as the joint winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. She was told of the award during a Physics lesson at Edgbaston High School for Girls where she is studying for her A-levels. In her speech, last year, she spoke about the power of books. She told how in her school in Swat she was top of her class and was very proud of herself because she had read nine books from the library. And then she said:  

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The Sound of Silence?

September 2014

One of the most intriguing verses of the Bible is the first verse of Revelation chapter 8: ‘When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.’ So I suppose the question I am asking is; ‘What would you do with half an hour’s silence?’ In this noisy world we may long for such peace. On the other hand the thought of half an hour of silence may be something that terrifies us!  

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The Great War - how to remember?

August 2014

4 August 1914. 4 August 2014. Lights out at 10.00pm for one hour. Did you? Will you? What do you want to remember in this Centenary of The Great War? Somehow, we are all connected by this, and the remembering. For each of us will have stories in our family which, in some way or other, tell of this time. Yet how often have we heard it said that those who came back remained silent? Perhaps the horror was just too searing to relate.

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General Synod - a historic vote?

July 2014

‘Pray for the General Synod of the Church of England as it meets in York from 11-15 July. Those of us who yearn for the time when, at last, the Church of England can ordain women as bishops have much to pray and hope for. Synod members will be voting again on a new simplified motion - the result of a period of reflection and reconciliation among groups for and against, over the last 20 months - to approve the ordination of women in the episcopate in the Church of England. It is a momentous decision, and hopes are high that this time synod will say ‘Yes’. Though, because it has to pass by a two thirds majority in all three houses, of laity, clergy and bishops, it is still possible that it will fail, and particularly in the house of laity. Here a number of conservative evangelicals hold, it seems to me, two main objections. Firstly, following certain passages of scripture they declare that men and women have different roles and that women must not hold authority over men. Secondly, they declare that, as Jesus Christ was a man, so those in a position of leadership within the church should also be male. The outcome depends upon how much they believe that they, as holding this view, are still loved and valued within the Church of England and can do so without their principles being compromised

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Warden of Readers - Address for Annual General Meeting 22 May 2014

May 2014

‘Honour everyone. Love the family of believers. Fear God. Honour the emperor’. I Peter 2.17

I wonder what you make of that exhortation from the first letter of Peter? On this election day – it has its impact upon us in that Mike Lynch, our Secretary, is busy with election administration – what is our place as Christians in the world of Britain and Europe of the 21st Century? What, if anything, do we learn from the attitude of those first Christians, the first ones who had to live in a world that had only just begun to recognise the designation: Christian?

If, as I have suggested before, one meaning of Reader could be ‘a reader of the signs of the times’, then perhaps we might at least take a view of all this?

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People of faith - Christian and Muslim

May 2014

Above a church in Shiraz, Iran, is written the following poem:

‘Where Jesus lives, the great-hearted gather.

We are a door that’s never locked.

If you are suffering any kind of pain, 

stay near the door. Open it.’

These are words by the thirteenth century Persian scholar, philosopher, mystic, and founder of the order of the Whirling Dervishes, the Islamic poet: Rumi. 


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Bread of life...

April 2014

‘Take, this is my body’.  ‘I am the bread of life.’ Scandalous words: ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’  To the world this sort of talk is disturbing, distasteful, sacrilegious.  Yet to Christians there never has been a more powerful symbol of what it means to share the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is about daily recognition of need: ‘Give us this day our daily bread.’  It is about rescue from starvation in the wilderness: ‘Manna. (Meaning ‘What is it?’) he gave them manna in the desert.’   ‘This is the living bread which came down from heaven and gave life to the world’.  ‘Lord, give us this bread always.’  And there, in that wonderful resurrection encounter on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24),  it is the moment he breaks the bread that his disciples recognise him.  ‘Did not our hearts burn within us?’   Somehow the meaning of it all is recovered at the moment at which the bread is shared around that table. Read more.

And will the Church of England be here in 50 years!?

March 2014

So what do you think?  What will the Church of England look like in 50 years time?  Will your parish church still be here, with a committed congregation?  Those are the sort of questions I find myself asking as we celebrate 50 years in 2014 of the building of our existing church.  I believe that the answer to both questions is a resounding ‘Yes’, but I do believe that the church, both nationally and locally, will look very different.  Let me start with two images of the present church, as it looks at the beginning of 2014. Read more.

How has parish ministry changed in 50 years?

February 2014

At St Peter’s Hall Green we are celebrating our Golden Jubilee this year.  In 1964, in a period of much enthusiastic church building, the new St Peter’s was finished and consecrated by Bishop Leonard Wilson. This gives me, as a parish priest, cause to reflect on what we mean when we say ‘St Peter’s Hall Green’ - you must replace that title with that of your own church community. Because the building whose Jubilee we celebrate may be remarkable, but it isn’t all we mean when we say: ‘St Peter’s Hall Green’. The truth, I believe, is that St Peter’s is a fellowship of people bound together by our faith in Christ and always seeking to become more true to who we are.  Let me try to illustrate this by telling a couple of stories. Read more.

Nelson Mandela

January 2014

Nelson Mandela. Some of you will have seen the film 'Long Walk to Freedom'. All of us have been made aware in recent weeks of the life of this extraordinary man. Is it not true to say that no other human being in our age has been such an inspiration to so many people? Does that sound extreme? To be honest I don't think it is. I can think of no one else who has received so many tributes from all parts of the political spectrum. Read more.

The Challenge of Communicating

December 2013

In my Midnight Mass sermon I spoke about the changing demographic of Hall Green over the last 10 and more years. This is particularly significant when we look at the number of people of other faith communities who are increasingly becoming our neighbours in Hall Green. One of the ways we are responding to this in our parish is by working together as ‘Families Together’ - mainly Muslim and Christian families finding things we can share as we meet regularly in church and halls in our special days. Read more.


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