Monday, 13 December 2010

Completing Christmas!

We're midway through Advent and have finally started to get into the Christmas Spirit. We held a successful Table Top Sale on Saturday which brought in a new selection of stallholders and an ever varied selection of bargain hunters. It was a great atmosphere and everyone seemed to have a rewarding time. The efforts of our fundraising committee who organise these events is to be commended as the funds raised help towards building up a fund for future fabric and outreach expenditure.
In the evening (who had the idea to do these things on the same day!) we held our Christmas Dinner. Forty-eight attended which brought its own challenges for the catering team not least fining enough oven space for all the roast potatoes. In the end all way cooked and served and everyone was well and truely stuffed! The proceeds of the evening - £100 - were presented to representatives of The Folkestone Rainbow Centre, a homeless charity we had decided at Church Meeting to support. We rounded the evening off with carol singing - the first carols we had sung in the 2010 season! Reflecting upon the mountain of washing up, with fresh enthusiasm we resolved to commit to the challenge of relocating the kitchen by next year so we could prepare, cook, serve and clear up that much easier at such events.
Our 'alternative' Christmas tree has been placed in the church - a simply decorated cross - after it was displayed at the town's Methodist Church during the first week of Advent as part of their Christmas Tree Festival's display.
At our final Home Groups of the year we listen to the insightful recording of an interview with the writer/producer of the BBC series 'The Nativity' to be shown in prime-time during Christmas Week.
We prepare now for the long run of Christmas services and activities. The knitters have their Christmas Party on Wednesday, we hold our All-Age Nativity Service on Sunday 19th with Carol Singing to our neighbours in the afternoon. With our Carol Service on Wednesday of Christmas week, Family Carols on Christmas Eve and a Family Service on Christmas Day, we will be looking forward to the end of our celebration with Informal Worship on Boxing Day.
Having distributed over 1500 invitations to local homes we hope that we will see some new faces at some if not all of our celebrations.
College term finishes this week and I have two assignments to hand in well ahead of the 31st January deadline and hope to relieve the library shelves of a few books to help complete one, if not two more, over Christmas.
On a personal note having skipped a couple of weeks of college for hospital appointments I am awaiting news of results but with the assurance of the Consultant that all seems well.
So Christmas is coming...and so, if the weathermen are correct, is more snow - hopefully the right sort this time so I can build some snowmen! Then my Christmas will be complete!

Monday, 29 November 2010

Is He laughing at me?

Yesterday was Advent Sunday. At Walmer it marked the much heralded start of a new Christian Year. We had celebrate Christ the King Sunday the previous Sunday and now with our thoughts turning towards Christmas we began our period of anticipation and expectation.
After a number of years we decided to re-introduce a Toy Service, inviting a Missionary from the London City Mission to come and share with us insights into their work in the city. Darren Dotson who works in the Randall Christian Centre, Greenwich rounded off a holiday in Walmer at the LCM Retreat House by sharing with us. He and his family left us with their car laden with black sacks full of new toys we had donated for distribution over the Christmas season to families and especially children he worked with.
After several days of anticipation prompted by severe weather reports, snow fell across Walmer as the congregation walked, drove or cycled to church. It was apt that as we turned 'the page' and entered a new liturgical year that God chose symbolically to make everywhere white. Was this a sign for us that we should be reaching out to all our community with the message of hope and peace that Advent brings to our Christmas observance?
Since the last blog we have had a challenging time pastorally with several folk in hospital undergoing surgery and treatment, others are convalescing whilst others, myself included, are undergoing tests. Two friends have also died after long struggles and we will be joining their families and friends to remember them at services in neighbouring churches.
That said, the pace of church life remains constant and we have ensured that essential fabric maintenance tasks have been undertaken, finalised our plans for Christmas (including distributing 1500+ Advent & Christmas service invitations to our community), met with an architect to advance our kitchen project plans and this week have our Christmas shopping outing to Polhill Shoppig Village.
With a myriad of distractions and a couple of enforced weeks away from college to visit hospitals the deadlines for assignments start to loom large and prompt some serious study. I am preparing to travel back from London with what feels like half the college library in my case to facilitate the writing process over the next few weeks.
I must mention the value I place on having the opportunity to meet from time to time with my support group at Bloomsbury which I did this month. These informal opportunities to share highs and lows of both church and college life with friends who can offer sympathetic, supportive and understanding listening helps considerably.
So, Christmas is the next big event and despite my reluctance to get caught up in the commercialism that drives the secular world and often the church into its celebrations I am prepared and ready for the season. Under its blanket of snow Walmer for a few hours was calm, still, white - a Christmas Card scene. I'm sure God knows how excited I get about snow and, perhaps, as I begin my Advent journey he was smiling at his handiwork and prompting me to get excited at the beginning of a new Church Year.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Remember, remember....

One of the advantages of keeping this blog is that it offers an archive of information on the life of the church that might otherwise be forgotten.

We have just celebrated our second indoor firework party - Spuds & Sparklers - and the universal view was that we had more people attend this year than last. Looking back at the blog I reported last year on our joy at having almost 40 people attend our first outreach event since my arrival in Walmer. That this year we had over 60 attend is evidence that the event was popular and that we have an increasing group of friends who want to join the fun and fellowship of such occasions.

Our Table-top Sale on Saturday also had the feel about it that more people were dropping in than usual. Certainly we served more teas and coffees than usual as we had to refill the hot water pot twice!

The Eleven Empty Spaces exhibition we hosted on behalf of the Dover Museum also attracted over 200 visitors across three days which was encouraging.

We are moving towards Remembrance this week with the opportunity to gather at the graveside of a young naval rating who attended the church in WW! and whose remains are buried in the local cemetery. The local paper has run a small feature on this act of remembrance and we have made contact with a relative of Pte William Bennett.

Pastorally life in the church is challenging as we have a number of folk in hospital - some for cancer treatment - and others recovering from operations. But everyone is being supportive of one another and their needs which is good.

Encouraged by the BU to look at our bank balances we are spending some of our fabric reserves and now have two new sets of stacking chairs for easier use in the hall. The electricians have done some much needed improvements to the church electrics and today the plumber starts renovating the old gents toilet.

Christmas is just around the corner, a raft of assignment deadlines loom for college so the next few weeks promise to be busy!

Monday, 18 October 2010

Year Two, Semester One, Update Two

For the returning students on the Church-based Course we have by now, I think, managed to re-establish our routine of college days back into our busy weeks. We have our assignments and the deadline of the end of January to turn them in. Some eager beavers have already begun in earnest to get these done - like me perhaps - aiming for a self imposed pre-Christmas deadline.

After a busy summer it takes a little time to readjust and I'm sure that I am not alone in trying to keep the 'at Church' workload moving at the same pace and volume despite the added pressures of college work.

It was good to take 'time-out' on Saturday and spend a few hours in London, at Bloomsbury, sharing in the joy of the wedding of two young friends. It was good too, to have the opportunity to give some face-to-face updates to Bloomsbury folk who are always interested to know about both college and Walmer life.

At Walmer, we continue to press on with our programmes and activities. We've started our new BibleGLO studies, knitting still flourishes and we are getting ready to host the Eleven Empty Spaces - Royal Marines local history - exhibition next week.

We've had two full church celebrations of Harvest with our local school. As ever, the children were superb - sadly parents have little or no idea about church and many struggled to know how to participate appropriately if at all.

Our decision to spend some fabric money sees us taking delivery of our new chairs for the hall this week. Our new water boiler awaits the plumber and the electrician to install and both these contractors have given us start dates for this and other work.

Sunday saw us say a fond farewell to one friend who has been worshipping with us for three years or so but who is returning to the USA. We also joined with our friends from Deal and Mongeham for a Baptists Together service at Victoria.

Finally, a number of our folk are currently recovering from surgery and others are anxiously awaiting the results of tests which adds to the pastoral demands on the Pastor.

More news soon...

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Back to Blogging... promise!

OK so I took the most of a college work free month and didn't update the Blog through September. But, now college has resumed - year 2 begun - I return to the discipline. If you are a regular reader and feel I'm slipping behind in my updates don't be afraid to tell me.

So September was a busy month inspite of nothing to do for college - apart from reading of course (just in case there are any tutors following!).

Back to Church Sunday was probably the highlight when couples who had been married here and who we had invited to return actually came. Along with couples in the congregation they renewed their vows together - a moving moment for everyone.

The lowlight was the frustration associated with getting the GLO Bible resource to actually download and work on a PC in readiness for our year-long exploration of the Bible together. The final solution which worked was to buy a new PC - mercifully a bargain from e-bay.

Our Church Meeting was dominated by our finances. The news the BU Grant we had hoped for had been cut was a disappointment but prompted us to look afresh at our personal giving and our church expenditure. We think we can balance the budget for 2011 with a bit of extra giving (£1.20 per attender a week seems about right) and we have agreed to spend some of our Legacy Fabric Funds, ahead of the VAT rises on some essential maintenance to electrics and plumbing as well as buying some new stacking chairs.

We have also agreed to work towards a £30K project to move the kitchen to a new location which will give access to the hall and the garden and increase our mission options considerably. We know we will have to fundraise very hard but see the target as reachable and from our initial discussions with an architect know it is viable.

As September ended and October began, we celebrated Harvest with David Goodbourn, who grew up in the church here. We also harvested our Thankoffering Talents (the £5 notes we gave everyone in June and encouraged them to grow). The result to-date is that our initial outlay of £250 has grown to over £1000 so our talents have multiplied three-fold.

And finally, our bids for community funding from the County Council to refurbish a toilet and to buy safety mats for Kid's Kingdom were both in part successful. Although we didn't get all we asked for, almost £1900 is very welcome.

Now college has resumed, the Modules for the semester reveal new deadlines for assignments and offer more lists of books to read. Life will be busy as I juggle study and church and of course also try to find time to blog too.

Monday, 6 September 2010

What no work?

With the final piece of work - my reflective journal - submitted to the college September offers a Spurgeons free month in terms of formal work although there are always books to read!
This month of freedom is welcome as thoughts turn to resuming programmes and activities suspended over the summer and there is the necessary planning of autumn events to finalise.

As one might expect life is really no quieter than any other month and I type this blog update after a busy Sunday when we marked Home Mission Sunday with our good friend Rosie Davies leading our morning worship and representative of the 21 churches in our network coming to join us for tea and a Celebration Service in the evening.

Blessed with a pleasant day it was good to meet friends from the churches of East Kent, showcase ourselves, our facilities and activities and of course be encouraged and encourage our regional team from SEBA.

We have received news from Didcot that our BU Mission Grant application has been successful although we will only receive half of the sum we had applied for. Having looked at the figures we submitted it is adjudged that we have the resources available to fund both my half stipend, our running costs and our aspirational maintenance costs with a little less help.

This is a disappointment and prompts a close look at the figures by myself and our treasurer so that we can submit to the Deacons and Church Meeting an accurate picture of our current financial position and our financial needs in 2011.

We will need to set clear spending priorities and be seen to eating into our reserves - a financial strategy I, for on,e am uncomfortable with, but it seems is one the BUGB is encouraging churches to adopt.

Priorities for me are to move ahead with moving the church kitchen which will ultimately enhance our facilities. I'm meeting an architect next week to discuss the feasibility. Church Meeting will vote on the proposal in October. We need to finish the lighting in our 'new' Games Room and launch this new resources upon the church.

We've finally repaired our Induction Loop which is good news for the hearing impaired, the lounge carpet has dried out after last month's flood and we now have a superb new outside noticeboard to attract the attention of passersby and the passengers of the No.13 bus who draw up alongside it every hour as the bus turns onto Dover Road.

Oh, and the County Council have 'pleaded' with us to submit a grant application for play equipment for Kids Kingdom as the 'pot' of money they have is under subscribed. Hopefully we will be successful.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Busy, busy, busy

Is it really only just over a fortnight since I returned from my holiday. It seems such a distant memory.
Much of the last week or so has been dominated by the important task of finishing my first year Portfolio for college which I have now done and have dispatched to Spurgeon's.
Amidst this necessary there has been the distractions of 'the flood' - a monsoon style downpour which closed the road in front of the church, flooded many homes and businesses across town and left us with a very soggy church lounge carpet. Thankfully this is now showing signs of drying out and our minor inconveniences have made us appreciate the enormity of the strife in Pakistan as they reel from their flooding.
A number of us spent a pleasant afternoon at the Community Picnic on Walmer Green arranged by the Parish Council and from our stall in the voluntary organisations marquee promoted our activities.
Our Knitting for the Needy group have also featured in a very nice article in the local paper -with a picture - as we sent Debbie back to South Africa with assorted garments for distribution amongst the AIDS orphans she works with.
We've had a double dose of Bloomsbury visitors, first with the Bowers and June Peat on Sunday. It was good to include Richard in our service as he helped us with our affirmation of faith. It was good too to have our local vicar in the congregation taking a break from his own flock.
Then we have had the big Bloomsbury invasion with the Tuesday Lunch crowd descending upon us and the people of Deal & Walmer for a summer outing. They came for tea which gave our ladies the opportunity to show their talents as only Walmer does best with a magnificent spread of sweet and savoury temptations. Doggy bags in hand the intrepid city folk boarded their train in good heart after a good dose of sea air and Walmer's hospitality.

This week sees the need to complete one final piece of work for the college - a reflective journal which must be in the post by tea-time on Friday!

We then turn our minds to Home Mission Sunday and our hosting of the East Kent SEBA Network Celebration on 5 September. Oh and I need to do a spot of training for the Friends of Kent Churches Sponsored Cycle Ride which looms on the horizon on 11 September.
Keep watching this space...

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

The wanderer returns

I'm back!

After the longest break I have taken in years I have returned home to the routine and busy life of running the church here in Walmer. Three days from my return the break all too quickly fades into a distant memory as life gets consumed by pastoral matters, planning for the autumn programmes and, of course, the need to finish my college Portfolio.

But what of Hawaii and the Baptist World Alliance Congress you may ask?

Well having spent two preliminary visits in Honolulu researching both hotel options and travel arrangements in and around Waikiki there were no real surprises on the logistics front.

Having secured accommodation in a hotel within walking distance of both the beach and the conference centre I was able to settle into the routine of long sunny, summer days very quickly.
With over 48 hours before the start of the Congress there was amply time to hit the beach and play 'Spot the Baptist'. It proved quite challenging at first to identify any Baptists although as the opening night of the congress drew closer some obvious groups from the Caribbean and Africa became more noticeable. American Baptists were less easy to identify and Brits were clearly in very short supply. All changed when the Congress identity badges were issued along with Congress bags and it was easy then to know who was who although of course the rebel in me kept folk guessing refusing as I did to add a new bag to my collection or to wear my badge unless forced to in the Congress Centre. That said, close contact when I was wearing my Walmer's Pastor t-shirt gave the game away but I was careful who I got close enough too to reveal that!

With all large scale events of this nature there were highs and lows. Whilst the Congress theme was 'Hear the Spirit' and we were enthused on the final day to believe how many had heard it I came away wondering whether we had given sufficient if any time to be still and actually hear the Spirit of God speaking amidst, when we were assembled, an almost continuous round of worship sessions, key-note addresses, Bible studies and Focus Groups.

That said, attending one of the Focus Groups on Inter-faith dialogue was refreshing, not least as it showed that in countries where there is a stereotypical view of hostility particularly to Muslims, on the ground there is reasoned dialogue building mutual trust and respect between those of the Abrahamic religions. (Less conciliatory tones were evident which is a worry but my hope is that those more conservative thinkers might 'Hear the Spirit'.)

According to Jonathan Edwards our own BUGB General Secretary, around 40 Baptists had registered from the UK. I think I saw around 12 including three retired folk from the north of England who joined me in regular seats at the back of the auditorium, happy to avoid the daily rush for front row seats to be nearest the platform and stand a good chance of being a face on the big screen when the cameras panned around! From the back it was possible to resist the frequent calls to stand and sing, clap, greet (even hug!) our neighbours and also beat a hasty retreat before the mass Exodus after each session.

The almost 400 strong children's choir from Korea was a memorable sight and sound, beautifully turned out and regimentally organised, singing in perfect dictionary English.

Informal conversations with fellow Baptists from around the world were illuminating even if Indian Pastors were at time a little pushy in their approach to wanting support for their ministries! 'Amen' affirming ladies from the Deep South who went around in packs were useful sidestepped and I have to confess at times were on the verge of affirming both negative and positive statements from the platform when they got into 'Amen', 'Hallelujah' auto-pilot.

On the whole I'm pleased to have experienced the event, proud to have been able to represent our small church in the South East of England and have that noted by both the General Secretary of BUGB and the Director of BMS World Mission and I shall make every effort to attend the next Congress in 2015 in South Africa.

Two days after the Congress and after most delegates had either left the Islands or slipped into anonymity without their land lards, I returned to the West Coast of the US and what is to me the familiar surroundings of San Francisco.

My hotel has had a make-over since my last stay and become Hotel Frank which reminded me of Bloomsbury and I half expected Mr Brown to appear from the lift at anytime. The four full days I had scheduled in San Francisco were 'Seyan time'. I know the city well enough to navigate without a map or guidebook. I know the weekday service times at Grace Cathedral and when the prayer Labyrinths are likely to be quietest. I know where to eat for good value food that caters for my diet and of course there's the opportunity to check-up on how Ryan and Amy Parker are doing.

It was good to spend an evening with them exchanging news and enjoying a delicious home-cooked meal (thanks Amy!).

All too soon the long flight home was called and although I'd not been successful in securing a place beyond the waiting list for a first class seat on any flight on the return trip I has an empty seat next to me which meant I could wriggle more and spread out although as is the norm any attempt at sleep proved impossible.

Now back home, here and elsewhere I need to report on my BWA experience and attempt to be positive and less cynical. More importantly right now the deadline for submitting my Portfolio for my first year looms as the end of the month fast approaches.

At church, today we have a photo call with our Knitters and the local paper, we are finalising our church outing plans for next week, I've started planning for Back to Church Sunday and Harvest and ordered banners and invitation cards. We also have a visit from friends at Bloomsbury, a Strawberry Tea and the East Kent Network Celebration we are hosting to enjoy over the next few weeks.

As ever, I hit the ground running fresh from my travels and will try and post an update here again soon.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Where does the time go?

For the benefit of Ros (and anyone else who might read this blog) I am finally posting an update. Quite where the time goes I really don't know and despite the best of intentions of try to have the discipline to update this blog every week or so I have clearly failed.

So here goes with an update on the last three weeks which comes with a warning that as I am away from this weekend a further update may not appear for another three weeks!!

Since I last wrote, I have had the opportunity to deliver face-to-face updates to many Bloomsbury friends at their summer party in Ealing which I was able to attend. It is always good to share news first hand and show that there is a living breathing person behind these virtual updates.

Life here in Walmer has been hectic. Without the formal discipline of study that two days a week in London enforces in term-time all too quickly I have fallen into my default mode of 24/7 work for the church.

Work on the summer project for the college on my Portfolio and Journal is getting some attention (I need to report this in case anyone at the college reads the blog), but it doesn't have the urgency attached to it that it might just yet as the submission deadline is weeks away.

We have marked Sea Sunday when we benefitted from the insights of into maritime life from a former cross-channel ferry captain who until recently, when he retired, been an Anglican vicar of a Kent village.

We also, as the BU encouraged all churches, shared in The Big Lunch. This nationwide event seeks to build and strengthen community cohesion by bringing together friends and neighbours to share lunch together. Whilst, despite our best efforts, our immediate neighbours did not respond to our invitation members of the fellowship did bring their friends and family along and we had a super time of fellowship together out on the church lawn.

We have started a summer series of Hymn-Sings on Thursday afternoon which are proving popular and attracting friends we have lost touch with back into the fold.

We have welcomed a new member into the fellowship - the fifth of this year - and someone else has started a conversation with me about joining.

We anxiously await news from the BU about our application for a BU Ministry Grant to help us meet the challenges of paying a half-stipend in order to keep me here. The Deacons have met with the Association visitors to put forward our case.

On the building front, Church Meeting has agreed that we explore the feasibility of moving the church kitchen to a more appropriate location in the building and work on the replacement of the garage roof nears completion. (We plan to make the garage a games room to store the former youth group equipment.)

With three days remaining before I jet off to the Baptist World Alliance Congress there is what seems a mountain of things to organise and do before I go so for now blogging must cease.

As ever I ponder, where does the time go?
(And I've only been here ten months today!!)

Friday, 2 July 2010

It's another glorious sunny day!

...and what am I doing. I'm stuck indoors writing this blog! Not for long!!!

It's been a full week beginning with Baptist Together events. Firstly the annual Barbq for our three cluster Baptist churches, this year hosted by our friends at Mongeham. The sun shone!

We had our united service on Sunday evening, again at Mongeham, and it was very warm with a good crowd from all three churches packed in the chapel on another very hot day.

Alan, one of our industrious workers has finished staining an old pew which has been languishing in the garage. It now has pride of place under the office window in the garden and has already become a popular resting place for weary gardeners and reading Pastors. Hopefully passers-by will soon take to using it too.

We've finished our LIFEsize series of studies appropriately in New Testament church style sitting outside under a gazebo in The Manse garden. It was a good reminder to us that whilst we have a large building it is not necessary for us to be 'church'.

Plans for our hymn-sings which start next Thursday are well in hand with a team of teamakers and cake bakers lined up.

We've also sent out our invites to our 'Big Lunch' Barbq we're holding on 18 July.

The 9 July is Sea Sunday and we have a former Vicar and retired Ferry Captain coming to preach and the town will be busy with the annual Royal Marine Band Concert on the bandstand.

There is much to do and I'm now off to do some of it in the sunshine. A fresh update will come soon (sooner if we get a wet day!)

Monday, 21 June 2010

OK it really is over now...

It's official! I don't need to return to Spurgeon's until the start of year two in October.
I still have work to do here in Walmer completing and submitting both my Reflective Journal and my Portfolio by the end of August but trips to London for lectures and study are off the agenda for the whole summer.

So I look back on the last few weeks...
Church Anniversary - a great celebration for us as it marked the completion of Phase 1 of the Spire works. With all the bills paid we DID have enough money in the fundraising account to do the job without using any general church funds. Paul Kerley our Regional Minister re-dedicated the spire for us.

Alan and Beattie's 67th Wedding Anniversary - another excuse for a family celebration and a delicious church lunch. It was great to welcome friends new to the area to join us on their first Sunday with us (and they've been back!)

We've been working hard at smartening up the building and grounds, or at least Alan, Derek and Kathleen have. The beautiful hanging baskets now adorn the brackets either side of the church doors and I been given one for The Manse too. The hedges are all neatly clipped, sunflowers planted and of course the doors are looking wonderful thanks to Alan's care with sander and varnish.

The local authority have stated a series of Baby Massage classes in our facilities on Thursday mornings which is bringing mums and babies into the building which is an exciting mission opportunity.

We are preparing to roll out our Summer programme dominated by Hymn Sings every Thursday when we hope the locals will come for informal afternoons to sing their favourite hymns.
We're planning for The Big Lunch, our community BBQ on 18 July.
Someone has suggested we might organise a day trip out which sounds a great idea.
And we are looking forward to welcoming from friends from Bloomsbury who will visit on one of their outing days.
Sea Sunday looms when we have a former Vicar (also a former Ferry Captain) preaching for us.

For me, and for the church, there is much to do and we are enthusiastically getting on with the job of being a Christian community, for the community, in the community.

Friday, 4 June 2010

We've been busy....busy... busy...

With college lectures finished for the summer (except a few days on Child Protection and Racial Justice in June) life for me becomes more church focussed - as if it wasn't already!
We've had a run of major festivals to mark in the church calendar - Ascensiontide, Pentecost and Trinity Sunday.

The image of the congregation all blowing bubbles in church on Pentecost Sunday will live with me for a long time! We were showing that the spirit was moving amongst us although without the help of the bubbles we didn't always recognise it!

We've also been getting ready for the Church Anniversary when we will be re-dedicating our spire after the completion of the first phase of the restoration work.

The builders have removed the scaffolding and we have spent a great deal of time, tidying flower beds, cutting hedges, mowing lawns, dusting rooms, shampooing carpets, throwing out lots of rubbish, re-staining doors, painting gates and redecorating the vestibule.

You can't fail to notice the work that has been done.

After 106 years it is a privelage to continue to serve the community of Walmer and we will celebrate that this Sunday with our Regional Minister, Paul Kerley as guest preacher.

We are also launching our Annual Thankoffering Appeal. It's an appeal with a difference as everyone is being given £5! This is their talent to 'grow' over the summer and we will gather in the 'harvest' in October at our Harvest Festival Service.

We're half way through a series of small church studies called Lifesize produced by BUGB that are starting to produce ideas about how we might do 'new' things to connect with the community which is encouraging.

With the sun shining we are in a positive mood as we continue to move forward under God's direction and leading.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Centrefold Celebrity

It will surely be the first and last time that I have found myself a centrefold celebrity. With the return of our newly restored weathervane, its goldleaf finish glistening in the sunlight, the photographer from the local paper was keen to get clicking with his camera. He was also keen to climb to the top of the church spire to capture some unique shots of the local community from the vantage point 80 feet up that the scaffolding afforded.
So in the current edition of the East Kent Mercury the entire centre pages have been devoted to pictures of Walmer, our weather vane, the Spire restoration and if I'm honest rather too many picture of the Pastor! (A search of the on-line photos at will reveal all!)
The press coverage has been great and good publicity for the church. The scaffolding has started to come down today and so the community will be able to see the work that has been undertaken in this first phase of work on the exterior of the building.
Inside we have been busy too...
On Saturday we held our new Fundraising Group's first event - a Table Top Sale. The weather was kind and throughout the morning we welcomed a steady flow of friends, old and new, to the see what was on offer. Tempted by my 'bacon butties' - yes even a vegetarian has to make sacrifices to raise funds for the church - the generous attenders helped swell the coffers by £315.
Over the last two Sundays we have taken the opportunity to focus on the mission of the church in the wider Church. We marked the start of Christian Aid week using their resources on work in Kenya. Every member of the congregation was given their own 'flying toilet' to take home along with a collection envelope to gather 2p's every time their toilet was used last week. This past Sunday we joined with friends in London and across the country celebrating the founding of the London City Mission. Walmer has long supported this work and we have retired LCM Missionaries in our congregation.
For me, formal studies for year 1 conclude tomorrow. I am eager to finish my final assignment due in on 1 June this week if I can. That said I have the joys of Child Protection training organised by SEBA to distract me later in the week plus the need for some creative thinking on how to celebrate Pentecost on Sunday.
Anyway, it will be good to be spared the regular journey to and from London for the summer and focus on the work in Walmer.
Watch this space for another update soon...

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Greetings from Plymouth

I don't think I have been this far west in England before! That said, Plymouth is not the end of the world and appears to be a thriving diverse community. Arriving at a popular easting house in the midst of a stag party with the 'guests' in fancy dress which left little to the imagination it was highly amusing to see sober Baptists lining the bar to place their orders for food alongside men scantily clad in stilettos and suspenders! What an introduction to Assembly!
That said it served as an introduction to an assembly weekend which proved to be refreshingly different to previous experiences.
From the outset the musical worship element was presented as thoughtful, reflective and, for those of us who appreciate these things, not too loud!
An evening of Taize chants and the opportunity to share in Liturgy from the Northumbria Community was refreshing as was the opportunity to sing well-chosen more traditional hymns often appropriately accompanied on the piano rather than the more awkward worship band accompaniment of recent years.
And with Assembly Listeners, frequent 'pauses' for silent reflection and the reflection boards there seems to be a definite attempt to listen to both one and another and to God - less being talked at more being listened too!!
It has been good to gain insights into the mission opportunities and development ideas being promoted by BUGB and BMS World Mission.
The seminars and plenary sessions have been helpful and at times stimulating for future theological and practical thinking.
From Tuesday I will be back home, engaging back with my community. I shall return to assignment writing and college studies.
Plymouth and Assembly has proved a refreshing and positive experience this year which for me at least is a welcome surprise.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Assembly looms...

As the thrilling prospect of a cold, wet Bank Holiday weekend in Plymouth is just days away there is just time to post an update.
Last week saw us gather in church meeting. Everyone was in good heart and it was encouraging to us all that we will need to consider meeting in a larger room next time, every seat being taken which made us feel rather cosy.
The church agreed to welcome two friends as members which increases our membership by 4 in the year to-date. We reflected upon our Easter activities and services and made plans for our summer programme with a mix of social and spiritual activities.
We were very pleased to learn that the Spire works are almost completed and that the scaffolding should be coming down well in advance of the 4 June deadline.
Find of the week was a tiny sketch of the Kaiser found behind panelling in the church kitchen when we removed the organ blower. Doubtless drawn by a builder in 1914 it has been hidden for almost 100 years.
The week afforded the opportunity to meet Bloomsbury friends on Saturday as they celebrated a member's birthday and also to see them briefly at the end of evening worship on Sunday.
One of our flock has been in Kings College Hospital for open heart surgery at is was good to be in London to visit her.
College studies start to wind down for the end of the semester as we have just two weeks worth of lectures to go and assignments to hand in.
Both members here in Walmer and my supporters group at Bloomsbury have been enlisted to help provide evidence for my Portfolio which needs to be handed in by the end of the summer.
The sun continues to shine in Walmer which bodes well for one last climb of the spire tomorrow to replace the weathervane after its gilding which will be followed by a lively discussion in the evening at our Churches Together Election Hustings!

Monday, 19 April 2010

Holiday is over...

It's back to college time! After the joy of the Easter break and all that has been happening in the life of the church its time for a reality check as college studies resume.
Post Easter the weather has been glorious and the summer wardrobe has come started to appear along with my legs in a new range of shorts for the 2010 season.
It has been good to spend some time tending the garden - earthing up the potatoes, waging war on the dandelions in the front lawn and preparing a new flower bed outside the dining room window!
Deacons have met and we continue in positive mode towards a full summer programme of events and activities.
It was good to have the opportunity to lead worship with friends at Victoria and encourage them to do things a little differently. It is good too to have a date in the diary for a Deal Area Churches Together Election Hustings which will be held at Trinity in a couple of weeks time.
Knitters still knit with enthusiasm on Wednesdays and parcels of knitwear have been dispatched to Debbie Smith working for Habitat for Humanity in South Africa.
Despite the 'Ash cloud' all of our cohort have returned for the last round of lectures before our summer break and we journey towards that in the care of Chis Voke, the Vice Principal, Nigel Wright being on study leave.
It was reassuring to sing in worship today 'Will your anchor hold...'!

Friday, 9 April 2010

Easter in Walmer

It's been busy...but the memories are positive! As readers of the local Churchscene bulletin had been commenting for weeks, there was a lot going on at Walmer Baptist this Easter.
We began with our Fellowship Meal with our friends from Mongeham and Victoria. Sharing Communion throughout the meal and the adjourning to the church for our 'in the Garden' reflection proved a moving experience for some.
On Good Friday in sombre mood befitting the day we gathered to witness the 'Reflections of a Carpenter' which sought to connect us with the Good Friday story in dramatic form. Again for some a moving experience.
After much earnest prayer, the sun shone brightly on Easter Saturday for our Easter Egg Hunt. With over 350 coloured straws for the children to find buried in the church lawn we'd set ourselves a challenge to which many wondered whether the children would come to.
We were pleased to have over 70 'hunters' with parents and grandparents in tow and by all accounts everyone left with a plentiful supply of chocolate and had had a fun afternoon.
Easter Sunday started with light rain which didn't dampen the commitment of 18 members and friends who gathered in the park under umbrellas for our Sunrise Communion before we gathered back in the hall for a hearty Easter Breakfast.
The highlight of Easter was of course our Family Service during which Kate professed her faith through Baptism.
Befitting the season the Hallelujahs rang and we were blessed with a good congregation to witness the Baptism and continue our Easter celebrations.
A dry day on Easter Monday afforded us a pleasurable stroll along the beach and over the downland to St Margaret's for our Ramble. We made good time and had lunch in the bus shelter before catching the bus home.
Today the sun shines again as spring flowers burst forth in the church garden, the men continue to work hard on the spire (which I climbed again yesterday in the sunshine), Pastor and people are in good heart.
Christ is Risen, Alleluia!

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

It's a long way up!

This week's reflection is dominated by the experience of climbing to the top of the church spire. Now shrouded in green netting and scaffolding it was a remarkably safe experience to climb the 10 ladders to the very top. It was a shame that it was a damp, overcast day so the photo opportunities are limited but I shall venture to the top again on a sunny day armed with my camera.
The reporter from the local newspaper has been chasing me for old picture of the church for a 'now and then' feature she wants to run in the pre-Easter edition. It's nice the media are chasing us for a story rather than us pleading for coverage.
Palm Sunday worship was both moving and memorable as we had an all-age service reflecting on Hans Memling's painting 'Passion of Christ'. Everyone seemed to offer positive feedback on the interactive nature of the worship. (It was good too to have friends from Bloomsbury in the congregation too!)
Holy Week observance is marred a little by the need to be in college on Monday and Tuesday but everything is prepared for the forthcoming activities and service for later in the week.
We have counted 320 Easter Eggs ready for our Easter Egg hunt - hopefully the weather will be kind. We've had a 'dry-run' for our Baptism and now need to hope both the plumbing and the heating hold up.
Easter promises to be both busy and joyous - return for a report next week.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Feisty and flowing

It has been an interesting week. For the first time in our studies something touched a nerve within our class and at our PMP lecture last week we started expressing views in ways that thus far had layed dormant. It was good to hear some of the more timid members speak out and what started within PMP continued in our Reflection Group. Encouragingly, this freedom to share continues in the new week and it brings fresh engagement with our lectures as we start to shed our inhibitions and share what we truly believe. Long may it continue!

So from the 'feisty' discussions in college to the flowing discussions and activity of church life.
We continue to encounter 'People on the edge of His pain' in our Lenten studies. I have met with a small group of members to explore whether we might form a 'Friends' group. Interestingly our discussion moved from this more passive suggestion for fundraising to a far more pro-active, mission focused, approach with the team flowing with ideas for outreach activities and an enthusiasm to organise them and find others to help rather than rely on the already over stretched Deacons to do it. Exciting!

We also have met in the first of our responsibility clusters where we focused on 'Fabric'. In small groups we spent time auditing the condition of the building inside and out and identifying things we'd like to improve or change. This list is quite long and we need to prioritise things under headings of DIY and Professionals. There was enthusiasm for some work days to reduce the DIY list which again is encouraging.

Easter looms and it has been good to finalise all the service orders for services up to and including Easter Day. (We have a dry run for our baptism scheduled for this week to reassure the candidate -and me- of the logistics of the day.)

Sunday saw us uniting with our friends from Mongeham and Deal for a united service here at Walmer in the evening. It was good to share together with our friends who supported the evening in greater numbers than in the recent past.

Hopefully, on my return from college today I shall find that fliers for the Easter Egg hunt have come which I can take to school for them to distribute to the pupils. I'm likely to brave the scaffold tomorrow to inspect the works ongoing on our spire. News of this and of our Palm Sunday worship which will be , as we warned the congregation last Sunday, different! What would they (or you) expect?

Monday, 15 March 2010

I've been gardening

After a winter of virtual farming on Facebook with the advent of spring (or at least a couple of days of sunshine and warmer temperatures) I have spent some time in the garden. Lettuce seeds are planted as are a row of potatoes and the newly prepared vegetable patch has room for some additional planting. Out the front, some general pruning and tidying has been done and now I wait rather impatiently for the daffodils to finally flower.
On the subject of daffodils we marked Mothering Sunday reflecting on the tradition of the church to go 'a-mothering' and remembered our church roots in Deal and Eythorne. The children distributed daffodil posies to the congregation and we enjoyed simnel cake over coffee.
Cleaning of the spire in preparation for the architect's inspection has been completed - you can already see the difference the labours of the stonemason has brought.
The EK District fraternal at Canterbury was not as well supported as it might be and it is a shame that the dialogue between the churches I recall from my youth is not as strong today. That said, we prepare to host our cluster Baptist's Together service this Sunday with our friends at Deal and Mongeham.
Our Lenten Bible study series continues to prove popular and both the afternoon and evening sessions this week were poignant as we reflected on the experience of Mary on 'the edge of Jesus' pain'.
Plans for the Baptistmal service on Easter Day are well in hand and classes with the candidate are progressing well. Easter Cards have been delivered to all the local homes (1000 cards) and we hope some 'new' faces may come and encounter Easter with us.
The college routine of lectures and assignment writing returns this week after Reflection Week although the memory of Roy Searle's helpful Retreat Day last Tuesday lingers on.

Monday, 8 March 2010

A Day off...

Well it wasn't exactly a church free day nor was it a different experience, I spent my first 'Sunday off' from my responsibilities at Walmer back at Bloomsbury. It was great to be back amongst friends and have the opportunity to publically thank the church for its support of my 'new' ministry away from them. It was good to spend time chatting with folk who are not able to keep up with the news via this blog and to give some additional background information to those who take a keen interest in Walmer and how things are going.

As someone who struggles with taking 'time off' it was good to have a day that was full of familiar experiences and encounters to keep me occupied and so not worrying about what was happening back home.

But this blog needs to bring others up to date so here's the latest news...

The scaffolding on the spire is finished and as I blog from college, work on the initial stone cleaning should be underway. The Architect plans to inspect the state of the spire, thus far only assessed from the ground, and decide on whether any changes to the schedule of works are necessary.

The Deacons met this past week and it was good to have Alan as our newly elected deacon with us and sharing his wisdom in our deliberations.

We have encountered Judas this week in our Thursday Lenten studies and it has been encouraging to have good group discussions both at the afternoon and evening sessions.

Having rescued Alan from a visit from the Jehovah's Witnesses last week it was my turn to have a visit this week. Having corrected their assertion that Revelation was one of the writings of Paul and challenged the thrust of much of their Biblical interpretation the two ladies decided they had would end our doorstep conversation after 45 minutes. Although I assured them of my prayers for them they seemed reluctant to offer the same for me - I fear I'm noted in the book as one of the lost souls.

Our Fairtrade Coffee Morning was a great success. We sold all the Fairtrade stock I had brought from Bloomsbury for us to sell, all the delicious doughnuts provided by Dennis where eaten and we have a hall full of both regulars and visitors.

Added to all this I've had my picture taken for the local paper (again) which will be followed by an interview this week with a reporter about our spire appeal.

We've agreed a date for the first of our new 'responsibility cluster meettings' the Fabric Team will meet to discuss priorities for work on the bulding inside and out.

So it's been a busy as usual and the future promises more of the same...
Mothering Sunday is next followed by a Baptists Together Service on Passion Sunday evening. Palm Crosses are ordered, Easter Eggs are being stock piled for the Easter Egg hunt and preparations for the Baptismal Service on Easter Day are in hand.

Keep following for news...

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Slowly reaching heavenward

The long anticipated start to our Spire restoration has begun. The scaffolders have begun to encase the Spire in scaffolding and slowly they are reaching heavenwards. Several days of heavy rain have severely curtailled their operations and the project is already a little behind the builder's schedule but we remain hopeful that if the weather improves the work will be completed on time for our Church Anniversary on Sunday 6 June.

As this work has begun so for us we have begun our own personal journeys through the Season of Lent. Many of us are following the Christian Aid Lent giving appeal - 'Count your blessings'. We started Lent together on Ash Wednesday with a short Penitential Service where we symbolically burned slips of paper on which we had listed the ways we discriminate against others and thereby prevent them encountering the gospel - on grounds of race, age, gender or 'class'.

Last Sunday saw us welcome two new members which has very encouraging to us all. The Knitting for the Needy group is also growing as is the mountain of wool donated to keep them busy.

We've crunched the numbers necessary to prepare and send off our BU Mission Grant application for 2011 and now await to hear back from our 'visitors' who will help decide whether we remain worthy of support from the Baptist family.

We continue to plan for Easter and our collection box for Easter Eggs for our Easter Egg Hunt is brimming over.

The routine of college lectures has now returned as week three of Semester 2 draws to its close. Assignments are started with the aim of turning them in well ahead of the 1 June deadline.

Friday, 12 February 2010

What do insomniacs get up to at 5am?

When at bedtime the weatherman forecasts up to 4 inches of snow to fall overnight this insomniac starts to make plans! So with several layers of winter clothing on to ward off the chill from the strong wind drifting snow across the road work started in earnest to build an army of snowmen before the rest of the road awoke to see the blanket of snow that had fallen.
By the time the first curtain twitched around 6.30am most of the snowmen were smiling. The top hatted sentry on the church steps had returned (two earlier versions having melted after the previous thaws), the Manse sentry (see below) had also returned along with 12 gatepost sentries on the walls of my neighbours. Each sported a fresh carrot nose thanks to Sainsbury's who had kindly packaged their carrots in punnets ideal for this particular need.

This nocturnal activity provided a useful distraction from the fresh demands of the new semester at Spurgeons. Four new modules are begun each with a 1500 - 2000 word assignment due by 1 June. Thankfully the options for these already offer three attractive possibilities which should see the bulk of the work completed by Easter.

The final two essays of the last semester have come back with more than adequate marks which is a relief. The annual interview with the College Principal is now behind me.

Lent looms with a special service on Ash Wednesday and the start of our Lent Bible Studies using the CTBI materials beginning on Thursday.

By the time I return from college next week work on erecting the scaffolding on the spire should have begun a topic of conversation which dominated the local fraternal.

I have a reference to write for a friend seeking recognition for ministry by the LBA which needs careful and prayerful thought and of course there is the last Sunday before Lent with its focus on the Transfiguration to finalise. Having bought lip shaped 'post-it' notes for the children's talk I'm beginning to have second thoughts about my Valentine's Day link but we'll see.

There's no time to wax lyrical about my new friend Arwen or the opportunity to reflect on the move of a young friend from the UK to the Caribbean but those who make the connections will doubtless make their own enquiries. Oh, and it was good to see and hear Dr Haymes and meet up with Bloomsbury friends on Sunday - a bonus to the week!

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Inter Semester Break!

Well, this is the official break between the two semesters of the college year. We have a week off! Of course the reality is there are always things to do and this week is no different but first a recap on the last few days.

We had our Church AGM on Saturday. The idea of having a coffee hour beforehand proved popular and by the start of the meeting we had assembled over 25 members and friends to receive the reports of the church, elect deacons and do all the usual things required at an AGM.

My report to the AGM is posted elsewhere on the church's website for you to read. We heard from the Treasurer that we had over spent a little in 2009 but with all the additional costs refurbishing The Manse, loss of Bank Interest and also paying the share of my Half-Stipend this was not unexpected. Weekly giving was rising slowly and if we remain careful with expenditure in 2010 we should survive the year.

Encouragingly, we received reports on the visits to two folk seeking membership and they were duly approved - we welcome Liz and Roger formally at our Communion service in February. Alan Cook (retired London City Missionary) was nominated for the diaconate along with two retiring deacons so our leadership team has now grown to 5 plus me. These, I trust, are the first green shoots of growth we have been praying for. We've also got a candidate for Baptism and we hope to have a Baptismal Service on Easter Day.

Following the AGM I dashed for a train and then a bus to attend the South Easter Baptist Association Celebration held at Tenterden Baptist Church. Travel connections meant I slipped into my seat in the gallery just after the beginning 'like an angel descending' I think Jonathan Edwards (BUGB Gen. Sec.) later described it when we chatted over tea. It was good to represent Walmer and rub shoulders with some old friends and tell them what was going on.

Sunday was Education Sunday and we seized the opportunity to invite the Headteacher of our local primary school to come and share her reflections on 'Faith based education in the 21st century'. She was an excellent speaker and gave us much to think about as we seek to support the school and its community in sharing the Good News with the young people of Walmer.

As I write this I am starting to turn my mind to the meeting tomorrow morning with the architect and contractors who will start work on the spire very soon. It will be good to get this long-awaited work underway. (I've pledged to the church that I'll climb the scaffold to put the re-gilded weathervane on top if the workmen will let me!!)

Our Knitters for the Needy group meets tomorrow for the first time since my appeal letter was printed in the local paper. We've already had wool donated and I bumped into a lady yesterday who said she'd like to come along. It will be great to see this group grow and build bridges between the church and the community.

I've booked my place at the Baptist Assembly in Plymouth (as well as also sorting accommodation for Bloomsbury's Team too!) and all the flights and hotels are booked and paid for for the Baptist World Alliance Congress in Honolulu at the end of July.

Studies resume on Monday with new lectures for the second semester and doubtless a new list of assignments that will need to be written so after this brief break the journey continues...

Friday, 22 January 2010

Twiddling my thumbs - not!

I've been spending time updating friends in other ways. With Bloomsbury's magazine due out soon and with a letter to supporter's well overdue I have been in reflective mode looking back over the last few weeks and months and recalling the highs and lows of both college and church life. I won't repeat the detail here but suffice to say on balance all is positive and the new year promises much.

That said, its raining today which is not so great. Best made plans to spend the day out in the community, chatting in the village, delivering posters to neighbouring churches, and popping into school are on hold unless the rain eases.

Sunday's sermon is written, the powerpoint is ready, all college assignments are in and even the Manse is in fairly good order so I'm at a loss to know what to do.

The reality is of course that I've already found one thing to do and I'm doing it now -updating my blog and I'm sure that once I hit the 'publish' button I will start on a fresh task. News of that and more will this space!

Sunday, 17 January 2010

'As you can see rumours of my death are greatly exagerated!'

With these words an elderly member who lives alone began to share testimony of recent events in her life.

Having missed her at a number of events in the past week and that folk had tried to raise her on the phone without success, prompted action late on Friday night when a deacon called the Manse.

Visiting her home which was in darkness, speaking to her neighbours who confessed they had not seen her all week, alarm bells started to ring. Her brother, living 20 miles away was called and he came as soon as possible armed with a key and fearing the worst.

To our great relief, but her surprise and shock, on entering her home she was in fact OK - contentedly watching t.v. although mildly annoyed at regular telephone calls all evening from callers who 'withheld their number'.

In the cold light of day and after reflection and further concern shared by others who had been alerted to the potential situation the night before, she shared he gratitude that folk were concerned for her and that God's love was evident through this and through their well meaning actions.

As we witness the horrors of the scenes in Haiti and recognise the outpouring of concern and support from nations and individuals there must be much for us to learn and reflect upon, as we seek to hear what God wants to say to us about how we respond to crisis, whether at home or abroad, in our personal lives or the lives of others.

Apart from the unexpected events of last Friday, the week has been largely uneventful. Studies for the semester have ended although one further assignment needs to be written before the month ends.

We have started to prepare for our Annual Church Meeting on 30 January when members will elect new Deacons and hear reports on the life of the church in the past year.
That we have an extra nominee seeking election to the diaconate is encouraging and will share the load carried by the existing team.

Two names will be brought to the church for membership with a further name brought to the next meeting.

One member has asked for Baptism and we've set Easter Day as the date for the Baptismal Service.

As the sun shines through the window of my study as I write this update, the future looks bright. We thank God for his care for us and look forward to all he has planned to do amongst us here in Walmer in 2010.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Winter Wonderland

The train journey to college was slow! Despite the platform information at Walmer and on-line the trains were not running to London but rather a shuttle service between Ramsgate and Ashford from where eventually it was possible to catch a stopping service to London. The long stop at Maidstone East was a further delay whilst the service was regulated and other trains passed by. Arriving in London to yet more snowflakes gently falling from the sky onto the already snow covered ground was a reminder of events of the past week when in varying amounts each day snow had fallen.
The snowman hastile built on the front steps was melting fast by Sunday morning but almost certainly snow will still be on the ground when I return home.
This is the last week of lectures for this semester and sees us rounding off our first round of modules. As is the norm with most things these days we have to fill in a questionaire for each lecturer rating our satisfaction of the teaching - content, delivery, etc., - and comment positively and negatively on aspects we wish.
With another assignment returned with a more than favourable mark there is little I wish to cooment on so am simply ticking the 'very good' boxes for everything.
The next couple of weeks will be given over to finishing two final essays due by the 1 February.
At church we are preparing for our AGM at the end of the month. Accounts are being auditted, Deacons are being nominated and joyously two names for membership will be presented to the Deacons this week.
On a practical note - snow from the church roof slid off with some force and through the roof of the garage which leaves us with a big repair bill some of which we hope the insurance company may fund.
The new year has begun... and already the challenges have been many.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Happy New Year!

As the snowflakes once again fall outside my study window I realise that it's high time I posted an update.
With college studies due to resume tomorrow and the prospect of an engineering works effected journey to London looming there is just time to post a few lines.
Christmas was celebrated well. Attendances where encouraging with visitors at every service and a relaxed atmosphere throughout as worshippers drank their 'mulled wine', ate mince pies and chose and sang their favourite carols.
Slowly we re-told the Christmas story ending this morning with the coming of the Wise Men and an opportunity to let incense fill the sanctuary as we reflected upon the gifts the travellers brought.
Doubtless the chocolate coins - the gold - have already been eaten but hopefully the frankincense and myrrh everyone received will stay in home a little longer.
Two major essays need to be written this month as the semester draws to a close so that focuses the mind a little on the Spurgeon's front.
The Church's AGM looms large at the end of the month too with reports to be written, Deacons elections to be arranged and accounts to be prepared, audited and reviewed.
As ever then there is much to this space.