Monthly Archives: Jul 2015

Uganda Pictures

I saw a photo of Lake Albert this morning with thunderstorms rolling in. It was a National Geographic photo. It made me want to search for some more images of what is one of may favourite countries in the world!

So – there are a few below!

I hope you like them.

They are mainly culled from the internet and give some idea of the beauty and vitality of this pearl of Africa!

travel-map uganda50-beautiful-places-in-uganda-50

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25th July is St. James’ Day

A thought or two for St. James’ Saint’s Day and for Sunday 26th July ….

St John and St James' mother recommending her children to Jesus, panel of altar of St James, by Leonardo di Ser Giovanni (active 1358-1371), silver foil with embossed decoration, Chapel of Crucifix, Cathedral of St Zeno, Pistoia, Italy, 14th century

St John and St James’ mother recommending her children to Jesus, panel of altar of St James, by Leonardo di Ser Giovanni (active 1358-1371), silver foil with embossed decoration, Chapel of Crucifix, Cathedral of St Zeno, Pistoia, Italy, 14th century

Matthew 20:17-34

Matthew 20:17-34 provides some interesting contrasts: first Jesus talks of the death he must die – his passion, his glory, his enthronement, his coming into his kingdom through death and resurrection!

Then, immediately after he says these words, James and John’s mother asks him a favour for her sons – it is as though she just has not been listening to what Jesus said. She sees him as the Messiah, she has fixed ideas of what he will do as Messiah, and so she seeks preferment for her sons. “When you come into your kingdom grant that my sons will sit one on your right and one on your left!”

Jesus response: “You don’t know what you are asking!” is telling. For the places reserved either side of him when he came into his kingdom were for two thieves and brigands. James and John and their mother had no idea what they were asking for – and ironically they made the request immediately after Jesus had made it very clear what his enthronement would be like.

James and John and their mother are contrasted for us in our reading with two groups of two other men.

The first contrast is with the thieves on the cross. Jesus chosen supporters when he came into his kingdom were from outside his band of followers, people who we would say were completely undeserving. Yet one of those thieves was the first into the kingdom of heaven as Jesus promised that he would be with him in paradise. The first into the kingdom of heaven was a thief, possibly even a murderer. But one who recognised his need of salvation.

That’s one contrast – between righteous disciples of Jesus who don’t listen and renegades, one of whom encountered Jesus and whose life was transformed even in the midst of death.

But that isn’t the only contrast that is made for us. At the end of our reading two other men are mentioned. Not two good disciples, but two people who cannot see. Two blind people. Two people who should not have been able to recognise who Jesus was. Yet two people who really did see him for who he was: “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”

James and John, faithful but perhaps self-righteous disciples, could not see for looking. They were so focussed on what they wanted and on what they believed, that they did not listen to Jesus.

James and John are contrasted with two blind men and two brigands. Brigands who had no right to assume God’s love for them, blind men who could not be expected to see clearly. And in the comparison it is very clearly James and John, the supposedly faithful disciples, who come off worst, who look foolish and grasping. Who appear foolish!

Matthew’s challenge to his first readers and to us who listen to his Gospel is really quite clear. Are we so wrapped up in our own concerns, our own ideas, however much they might be about Jesus, that we fail to hear him speak? Have we got our preconceived ideas about what he is like, so much so that we are just completely unable to hear him speak when he shakes those assumptions?

We are Jesus disciples, just like James and John. … Will we remain open to listen to what God is saying to us, will we remain open to be changed? John and James had to suffer not only Jesus rebuke, but the rebuke that came from their own eyes as first they saw two blind men respond to Jesus and then, quite a while later began to understand that it was on the Cross that Jesus was glorified rather than an ornate throne of gold. How foolish they must have felt as they began to grasp what God was really doing among them – nothing like the assumptions that they first made!

So this is Matthew’s challenge to us. Are we likely to be caught out? So caught up in our own understanding of faith or in our own issues that we miss what God is actually doing right in front of our eyes?

Two bits of news from Uganda!

Rukungiri in North Kigezi Diocese

The latest news from Rukungiri is in the newsletter from Rukungiri Orphan Partnership

An Image Slideshow

Uganda Water Tanks News! Kisoro in Muhabura Diocese

Jo and I met with Bishop Cramer and Hope Mugisha in Didsbury on Friday. It was lovely to see them again. They were able to provide an update on what has been happening about the water tanks funded by churches in Ashton Deanery. Bishop Cranmer writes: ‘Dear partners in mission, we thank God for the work done constructing water tanks in the Diocese of Muhabura with your support. We commissioned and handed over the water tanks in Nyakimanga and at Sesame Girl’s school recently. I was able to officiate at the commissioning and handover of the water tanks.’

‘People present at the ceremonies were so appreciative to the Diocese and you, our partners, who saw their suffering and constructed for them a water tank. Someone from Nyakimanga testified: “We used to walk many kilometres to Lake Chahafi, but now we thank God for this tank. We now have water in our village. The parish priest also says thank you: “before the tank was constructed I got my water from Rwanda or from the water tap in Chanika” (some kilometres away).’

Bishop Cranmer brought pictures with him of the commissioning of the water tank in Nyakimanga. here is one of them.





Rest ….. Mark 6:30-34, 53-56 – Sunday 19th July 2015

A few thoughts based on the Gospel reading set for 19th July 2015 ….

Rest …

Mark 6:30-56 includes the story of the feeding of the 5,000. Those who drafted our lectionary wanted us, however, to focus on the context of the story rather than on the miraculous feeding of the 5,000. So they have left the feeding of the 5,000 for another day!

Some interesting statistics:

  • 7 out of 10 British workers want to put in only 40 hours a week at work. But the average employee works almost 45 hours a week – longer than any other nation in the European Union.
  • One in four male employees works more than 48 hours a week. One in five manual workers puts in more than 50 hours. And one in eight managers works more than 60 hours a week.
  • The average British lunch-hour is now only 30 minutes long.
  • One in ten workers still get no paid holiday!

Just walking round Ashton town centre I see people on their mobile phones – keeping up to speed with work, running the home or catching up with friends. Social media and emails mean that we can contact people in an instant, and expect an instant response. Everything is busy, busy, busy.

For many life is too busy – they feel stressed. … But then others have no work at all – and that lack of work is stressful in itself. Stress related illnesses are now so prevalent in our society. Relationships suffer and so our homes and communities suffer.

Busyness was a problem in Mark 6. It began with the disciples returning from their mission. They want to tell Jesus all that they had done and taught. You can imagine them surrounding Jesus full of excitement. They’ve made a difference in people’s lives and they’re eager to talk about what they’ve done, how great it was.

Moments later we’re told that Jesus and his disciples were recognised by many people who hurried to meet them, in a rush to hear Jesus’ teaching or receive healing. At every village, town or farm that Jesus went to, he was surrounded by people begging for his attention.

Yet in the midst of this busyness, Jesus says something highly significant. Listen to his words: “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while”. … Jesus recognised that without rest, refreshment and reflection neither he nor his disciples would be fit for anything. Throughout the Gospels we see this model: Jesus goes off by himself to pray and to find some peace – especially when he has a major task ahead of him. He goes into the wilderness for forty days after his baptism and before starting his ministry. The night he’s arrested he’s found in the garden of Gethsemane taking time to pray to prepare himself for the ordeal to come.

The needs around him were obvious, but Jesus took time to relax, to rest and reflect, and he encouraged his disciples to do the same. It must have been hard to do this, with needs pressing in on every side. … Jesus faced the same dilemma we do. If we take time out for ourselves, how’s the ironing going to get done; how will I find time to visit my friend who’s lonely? Or in my case, how will next Sunday’s sermon get written?! Can you imagine the vicar turning up on Sunday shrugging his shoulders – “Sorry, no sermon today, I needed time to rest!”

As Christians we seek to model ourselves on Jesus – to be like him, to make him known to others. This doesn’t just apply to the active Jesus – telling people about God, showing God’s love in action – it needs to apply to the Jesus we see resting, or seeking time to rest. Just as Jesus knew that he needed timeout away from the daily demands so that he would be fully effective in his ministry, we need to ensure that we get timeout in our lives so that we too are effective for him.

If we’re too busy to stop, to spend time with God, to spend time on our own resting, then we’re too busy. We need to hear Jesus’ words: “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while”. I spend time reading and being quiet, when I can. Jo and I make sure that we keep our day off sacrosanct. But we need to heed Jesus call to rest more than we do. Each of us’ll need to discover our own pattern. But we all need to find rest & refreshment so that we can be effective in what we do, in who we are.

As well as making sure that we “rest a while” ourselves, we need to make sure that others are able to do the same. We need to be aware of others who are too busy and we need to seek to share their load so that they are not overloaded. We need to make it possible for them too to find refreshment.

Jesus and his disciples needed to rest, needed time out. We do too if we are to play a full part in building his kingdom on earth. But we also need to look around us, in our churches and parishes, at home, at work, wherever we find ourselves and be ready to share other people’s loads so that each person is able to have space for themselves and for God in the midst of their demanding schedules.

Is there anything worth dying for? Mark 6:14-29

In August 2014, I wrote a very short blog which mentioned Graham Turnbull. In 2015, I had a call from a Daily Mail journalist asking me about Graham. His death in the 1990s had been linked with the arrest in June 2015 of Karenzi Karake, Rwanda’s intelligence chief on a European Arrest Warrant.  Karake was wanted in Spain for war crimes. He was accused of ordering massacres while head of military intelligence in the wake of the 1994 Rwanda genocide. Later in 2015 he was released from custody in the UK.

See more at:

The Spanish indictment named Chris Mannion, a British Catholic missionary shot dead in 1994, and Graham Turnbull, an aid worker and observer with the UN High Commission for Refugees killed in 1997, among foreign nationals who were targeted alongside thousands of Rwandan Hutus in the aftermath of the genocide, during which ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were massacred wholesale by Hutu extremists.

I wonder, is there anything that you think it is worth dying for?

Perhaps if those you love were threatened? …….

What would you risk your life for?

I first met Graham Turnbull when I was staying in Uganda in 1994. Graham had given up his job as a solicitor in the UK, driven across the Sahara to deliver a landrover to Rwanda and had the intention of teaching English in a small town there. His visit coincided with the genocide in Rwanda and he could not get into the country. We shared a house for a short while in Kisoro in SW Uganda.

GrahamI can only find this picture of him taken in 1994 on a trip out to inspect some of the main road bridges in Kisoro District. Graham is facing away from the camera in the blue top.

After I had returned to the UK, Graham later managed to get into Rwanda and taught there for a time. About three years later he felt that God was asking him to be a UN observer in Rwanda. A very dangerous occupation. He wanted to do what he could to stop some of the killing which was still going on. He and his family prayed about this for some time and everyone agreed that Graham should apply for the job. It was in 1997, I was listening to the BBC news at 6 o’clock and there was a report of a group of UN observers being killed in Rwanda. Graham was one of them.

Graham gave up life in this country to serve God, and died doing so. He was 34 years old when he died.

British soldiers around the world are similarly risking their lives on a daily basis for the cause of peace and justice.

What would you be prepared to risk your life for?

That might be too hard a question to answer, so let me ask you a perhaps easier question – I wonder what it would take to make you stand up and be counted?

At times I’ve lobbied the local MP about third world debt. A little while back some of us felt that it was right to try to fight the introduction of a sex shop near the centre of Ashton. There has been the rise and fall of the British National Party and the English Defence League  – an increase in racist views. ……….

What kind of issue would be big enough for you to do something in a committed way?

We are usually reasonably happy if someone chooses to write a few letters, or to do a bit of campaigning, provided of course they don’t go overboard about it! But what would make you act, even at the risk of the disapproval of others?


John the Baptist, in Mark 6:14-29, was prepared to make a stand. His stand against Herod’s wrong relationships cost him his life.

For the sake of God’s work and God’s Word, for the sake of truth and justice, John was prepared to die. He was willing to be a martyr for what he knew to be right, for his faith. And John is not alone – for down through the centuries many people have seen their faith as more important than their own lives. Astoundingly the 20th century saw more Christian martyrs than in all 19 previous centuries since the birth of Christ, put together.

As Christians we talk sometimes about being a prophetic people. A people who model God’s love and God’s life in the world. John the Baptist, and Graham Turnbull model for us what it means to be prophetic. When we see injustice, when we see wrong, when people around us are far from God – we need to take up their challenge. We need to do something about it.

If we talk about our Christian faith we may feel foolish, we may even suffer rejection. If we stand out and speak against injustice, it’s possible people may become fed up with us. But these afflictions are nothing compared to what our sisters and brothers around the world or down the centuries have faced for the sake of the Gospel.

Working with the ongoing campaign for the relief of debt. Speaking out against injustice in our own communities. Fighting for the human rights of asylum seekers. Taking action on behalf of the oppressed. Talking of, and living out, the love of God in our communities. These, and things like them, are just small steps in the footprints of those who have gone before us.

My friend Graham decided that there were things that were worth more than his own life. Not selfish things, but things which benefited others. British soldiers have died in Afghanistan and in many other places in recent years. It is unlikely that any of us will personally be faced with the same kind of life and death issues. But we live in a world where everything is not right, where injustices exist, where people live in fear and have little or no hope. Graham and others like him are a challenge to us all.

We too need to be courageous, to be willing to act. And as we do these things we know that we do not stand alone. We stand with people like John the Baptist, like Graham Turnbull. We stand with many people that we call Saints.  But more than that, we have Jesus’ promise to his disciples. “I will be with you always – even to the end of the age!” We have Jesus walking alongside us as our friend, strengthening us by his spirit. Enabling us to be his servants. Whatever actions it is right to take, whatever decisions we face, we are definitely not alone.

Travel Light – 5th Sunday after Trinity – Mark 6:1-13

In Mark 6, the disciples are beginning a new phase in their ministry, in their relationship with Jesus. And Jesus gives them instructions and advice as he sends them out to work for him.

Jesus sends the disciples out, two by two. He tells them to take nothing for their journey except a staff – no bread or money – and just one pair of sandals and one tunic. “Travel light,” says Jesus.

Travelling is always about leaving something behind. There is always something ahead of us, but a journey always means leaving something behind. When we go on holiday by plane we have to decide what size case we’re going to take, what clothes we’ll wear, what books we’ll read. We only have a finite space available to us and we have to prioritise.

Jesus says to us all that travelling with and for him will mean travelling light, making decisions about what we need with us, about what is important and what can be left, or should be left, behind. We have to prioritise!

We have to decide what being sent, what travelling light mean for us. We have to decide what is really important and what is secondary and of lesser importance. We have limited resources. We cannot do everything.

“Carry only what you need,” says Jesus, “and target you efforts, stay with those who welcome you. God will provide for everything else.” Jesus’ disciples discovered that it was true. God did provide for their needs. This is how Jesus wants us to live – depending on him, trusting him to provide what we need.

But listen to what else Jesus says in our passage this morning:  “Stay with those who welcome you,” he says. “If you are not made welcome move on.” These seem to be quite harsh words. Yet in saying them Jesus is highlighting two important things: The importance of welcome … and the risk of rejection.

Welcome is so important. If we fail to welcome others, to draw them into our community, to be willing to change to accommodate them, they will move on, they won’t stay.

But in everything we do, we risk rejection. When we reach out with the love of Christ to others, there will be those who turn their backs on us. It is our calling as a Christian family to be an open and welcoming place, to excel in our efforts to make people feel at home even if that means change and uncertainty.

Ultimately though, Jesus suggests we should target our efforts. But target them not according to our own agenda but according to God’s agenda. But, here is a word of warning: God is often at work in the least expected places, sometimes in places or people we avoid at all costs.

Think of the story of Zacchaeus, the little tax collector, so hated by everyone, especially by the most religious of people – but God was at work in his life. Think of the Roman Centurion, symbol of Roman occupation, Roman power of whom Jesus said, “Never have I found faith like this in Israel.”

Think of the Cross, the place of curse and condemnation, the place where everyone knew no good could occur, but the place where God did his greatest work of love.

“Stay,” says Jesus, “where you receive a welcome – where God is at work.” At the Cross; with people like Zacchaeus; with the poor, with the outcast, with the prostitute; even with the oppressor.  … Wherever God is at work.

We need to commit ourselves again to travelling light, to focussing on the important and essential, to giving ourselves as best as we are able to those around us in our community – for if we don’t our Christian congregations will die.

“Live by trusting me,” says God in Jesus, “live in my strength; and work where you see me at work.”

Islam, Christianity and Violence

I have heard it said that Islam is a violent religion. I have been told that the Qur’an legitimises violence and that the interpretation put on the message of the Qur’an by those called Islamic terrorists does not distort the message of the Qur’an.

I don’t know enough about Islam or the Qur’an to speak with authority. However, it seems to me that for every argument that Islam is a religion of the sword there are equally well constructed arguments that it is a religion of peace. Here are a few ….. (cf:

There are also those who have made comparisons between the Bible and the Qur’an. Here is one example  …

Ultimately, almost every argument has a counter argument. So, for example, this is a response to Patrick Sookhdeo’s Article (July 30, 2005) in London’s The Spectator , “The Myth of a Moderate Islam” …

I am no expert, but all I hear in these articles is argument and counter-argument which seek to portray Islam as violent, or non-violent. I cannot easily determine right from wrong.

I do know something, however, about the Bible and I have spent a lot of time studying it over the years. I am a Christian and I have something of an implicit faith that God speaks through the Bible. I am also convinced that the message that God wants us to hear through the scriptures is one of love, forgiveness, grace and faith and that God’s kingdom is a kingdom of righteousness and faith. I pray for that kingdom to become a reality here on earth.

However sure I am that this is the message of the Bible – both Old and New Testaments – I have to accept that the Bible is a book full of stories, many of which contain violence. It is a book which contains instructions, which it claims come from God, which speak of violent retribution. I believe that I have integrity when I say that God’s kingdom is a kingdom of justice and peace. But my scriptures contain a great deal of violence, some of which, even in context, appears to be justified by the writers of the text.

So, for example, there is the story of Samson who in Judges 16 kills himself in order to take out a large number of his enemies. His actions appear to be justified in the story, yet they are essentially the same as many of the suicide terrorists of today.

There are instructions from God – see Deuteronomy 7: 1-2, Deuteronomy 20:10-17 and Numbers 31:17-18.

Then there are Jesus’ own words in his parables … see for example, Luke 19: 26-27. Of course, this is only a parable, a story, and these are the words of a character in the story, but ….  there are also Jesus’ words: ‘I have not come to bring peace but a sword.’ (Matthew 10:34).

There are many more references to killing and violence throughout the Bible. It is possible, because of its relative length compared to the Qur’an, that there are considerably more references in the Bible to violence and killing than there are in the Qur’an.

If I believe that I have integrity when I argue that Christianity is not a violent religion, but a religion of peace and justice, forgiveness and grace … then surely it is possible that when a Muslim friend argues that Islam is not a violent religion, this is also the case – he or she is speaking with integrity.

There is much that is different between Islam and Christianity.

As a Christian, I am firmly convinced that, in Christ, God is reconciling the world to himself; that God, in Christ, takes into himself the sin of the world, my sin. As a Christian, I believe that, in Christ, God is with us, Emmanuel, not remote and ‘other’.

But I really don’t have any firm grounds for claiming that Islam is a more violent faith than Christianity. I need to listen to, and believe, the majority of Muslims who tell me that their faith is a faith of peace and not of the sword.