GroomNews Christmas 2011 December 16, 2011Posted by Phil Groom in Advent and Christmas, Life.
Tags: 5 Quid for Life, Almost, Biggles FM, Christmas Cards, Christmas Greetings, GroomNews, Henlow and Langford, LST, Phil & Sue Groom, Phil Groom, River Nene, Sue Groom
A Card Free Zone
Last year we invited you to vote for the charity that would receive our Christmas card money: the charity you chose was WaterAid, so we’ve gone with the flow and designated them for this year too — a much better cause than Royal Mail, we hope you’ll agree…
2011: A Year of Years
10 years since UKCBD, the UK Christian Bookshops Directory, was launched. Christian booksellers are suffering along with other retailers, with dozens of shops closing down.
15 years since Sue’s ordination, and still going strong — from ordinand to DDO: see below!
20 years since we set sail to London on Almost to become students at London Bible College, now London School of Theology. Sadly LST is still struggling to balance the books, with more redundancies kicking in over Christmas/New Year: please pray for those leaving, those left behind and those with the unfortunate task of liaising with the staff affected.
50 years since Phil’s Mum unleashed him on the world: it’s all your fault, mother!! We celebrated with a few days away in York, and you’ll be relieved to know that the city survived the experience.
Church, Work and Research
Sue has now been formally appointed as St Albans DDO, Diocesan Director of Ordinands, which is keeping her busier then ever alongside parish responsibilities and research. DDO work is supposed to take 21 hours a week but in practice it’s nearer 30 — not surprising since her predecessor was full-time. The parishes have been growing in responsibility if not numerically: we now have a trained baptism preparation team and a bereavement visiting team who work across the benefice. Find out more on the church websites, which Phil is now looking after: www.henlowchurch.org.uk and www.langfordchurch.org.uk
The DThM has taken the hit from the workload: Sue has been unable to do as much as she would have liked and now that she’s in year 6, it gets scary. She has, however, negotiated a sabbatical (Sept – Nov 2012) and aims to produce a full draft of the final thesis during that time.
Sue also gives a ‘Thought for the Day’ on our local radio station on the first Thursday of each month: tune in to Biggles FM 104.8 if you’re in range!
This year we set off along a waterway we hadn’t visited before: the River Nene. It’s a lovely stretch of water: Almost fairly flew along and we found some very pleasant moorings along the way. Two weeks gave us enough time to make Peterborough and back. Almost finished the year with a week in dry dock and now has a spendidly shiny black bottom.
In May Sue joined some of her friends in the Third Order of the Society of Saint Francis for a pilgrimage to Assisi. It was a wonderful week revisiting some of the well-known churches but also getting out into the countryside to see where Francis escaped on retreat. For her own annual retreat, Sue returned to Alnmouth Friary in Northumberland and renewed her acquaintance with some of the writings of Henri Nouwen and Thomas Merton, two of her favourite spiritual writers.
A New Generation
We’re delighted to report that we are now a Great Uncle and Aunt to Oliver, born to nephew John and his wife Laura in October. Oliver is already taking swimming lessons and is expected to win Gold in the 2012 Olympics: Oliver, we salute you!
A Super Slimline Sue!
Over the summer Sue realised that she was slowly but surely putting on weight (a factor of increasing age apparently!), so she increased her swimming to five mornings a week bright and early and is now slimmer, fitter and healthier than she has been in years.
5 Quid for Life
5 Quid for Life is a new charity launched this year by Phil and a group of friends to support people with mental health problems whose lives and livelihoods are under threat due to changes to the UK benefits system: discover more online at 5quidforlife.org.uk.
Thank you for being there with us through 2011. This comes as always with our love, best wishes for Christmas and prayers for peace in the year ahead,
GroomNews Christmas 2010 December 18, 2010Posted by Phil Groom in Advent and Christmas, Life, News.
Tags: Biggleswade, Café Mocha, Christmas Cards, Christmas Greetings, GroomNews, Henlow and Langford, LST, Phil & Sue Groom, Phil Groom, Sue Groom
Which Charity Would You Choose?
Like last year, instead of adding to the carbon-footprint chaos caused by billions of ultimately unwanted Christmas cards, we’re sending most of this year’s Christmas greetings without a card or by email only. But this time it’s your choice: where should we donate the money we would have spent on cards & postage? The charity which gets the most votes wins £50, as that’s the amount we think we might otherwise have thrown away: vote here today!
2010: All Change Again
We’ve settled in well to the semi-rural lifestyle and we made good friends with the wild birds last winter, but not sure where they’ve all gone this time around. If you see Bedfordshire’s bird population, please tell them there are seeds, fat balls and more waiting for them here.
Sue’s role has changed in the diocese following the retirement of her boss — no, not God, the DDO. Sue is now Interim Acting Diocesan Director of Ordinands, which keeps her very busy interviewing would-be priests and helping them as they find their way through the discernment process. At the same time she continues to be Priest-in-charge of Henlow and Langford. She does seem to have a habit of being appointed to jobs which subsequently double in size! Somehow, in between DDO interviews and parish work, Sue has also resumed her DMin studies, except it isn’t a DMin anymore it’s a DThM. Due date is 2012, which should be possible if she takes a sabbatical to write up. This should be feasible thanks to the arrival of the Revd Patsy Critchley as part-time Assistant Curate in November this year.
If you follow this blog or Phil’s twitterfeed @notbovvered you’ll know that he left LST in September. Things came to a head in July when LST initiated redundancy proceedings against him and several other members of staff, but rather than wait around to be shown the door Phil managed to find another job: he’s now working for Sainsbury’s in Biggleswade. Started in September: so far so good. A simple routine: go to Sainsbury’s, take stuff off the shelves, give Sainsbury’s money; go back to Sainsbury’s, put stuff on shelves, Sainsbury’s give Phil money. Less pay for less responsibility but immensely liberating and as Biggleswade is within walking distance of home, a substantial saving on travel. Please pray for others made redundant and for those left behind at LST battling their way through the education sector’s financial crisis.
Before starting at Sainsbury’s, Phil spent a while working as a volunteer at Café Mocha, a Christian-run community café in Biggleswade. Whether you fancy an Americano, a Gingerbread Latte or Mocha Snowball, Café Mocha is the place to get yours: the friendliest and best fairtrade café in town! Find out more at cafemocha.org.uk or facebook.com/CafeMochaBiggleswade
Almost is now moored closer to home, at Milton Keynes Marina on the Grand Union. This year’s summer holiday took us from the Kennet & Avon, up the Thames and via the Oxford Canal to the Grand Union. Most enjoyable, especially catching up with a few friends along the way. It was too hot the first week and too wet the second: typical British weather — but at least it didn’t snow!
It’s been an interesting year for Phil’s parents, with his Dad having a mini-stroke and his Mum having a hip replacement. The net result is that Dad has slowed down and Mum has got faster. Please pray for them as they readjust to one another’s strengths and weaknesses.
This year Ed, one of our nephews, was posted to Afghanistan with the RAF. Please pray for a speedy resolution of the conflict and a safe return home for him and all the troops.
Thank you for your friendship over the past year: this comes with our love, best wishes for Christmas and our prayers for peace in the year ahead,
Vote now for the charity you’d like to receive our Christmas card money! We’ve selected 5 but feel free to nominate another via the comments below: if other readers shout out for them then they might win instead!
The hardest part wasn’t letting go, it was closing the door September 17, 2010Posted by Phil Groom in Life.
Tags: Leaving, London School of Theology, LST, LST Books & Resources
The hardest part wasn’t letting go, it was closing the door.
It tore me apart. 2pm: closing time. I fetched the display stands in then went to the door — and couldn’t close it. The finality hit me: this was the last time I’d be closing that door and I’d never be opening it again.
I stood outside. I wandered back in. I went out again. I went over to the reception desk, just across from the shop doorway, and made some small talk with Juliette, the receptionist. I couldn’t tell her what was wrong, just sort of looked at her and looked around hopelessly, blinking back tears.
A student wandered by. He was unaware of what was going on. Juliette told him it was my last day. We shook hands and wished one another well.
Peter, the school accountant, came down. We were due to run through the invoicing procedures with Nick but Nick wasn’t back from his lunchbreak. I told Peter what was wrong and only just managed not to burst into tears. He put a hand on my shoulder but he looked as lost as I felt and said he’d come back later.
I stood just outside the shop doorway. This was it. But I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t bring myself to close the door.
Then David, my former line manager, came by. He understood. He came into the shop with me and we closed the door. At least, I think that’s what happened. Maybe he stood outside or in the doorway, but we agreed to keep in touch and the door was closed.
Another interlude from Coldplay: My song is love…
Now… how does it feel now? A deep sadness, with more questions than answers. I’ve wanted to leave for over a year now but still, somehow, it breaks my heart. I see my colleagues, brothers, sisters but above all friends and it seems that these beautiful people are set adrift on an ocean of uncertainty, thrown about in the wind and the waves.
In the midst of that uncertainty I ask: when Jesus was caught out in a storm, how many of the disciples did he throw overboard?
I ask: what is this institution, London School of Theology — and why? To me LST’s purpose can be summed up in three words: equipping God’s people. That’s what it’s about, that’s why so many of us down the years have given so much of ourselves to it, and what so many of us have gained from it.
And today, it hurts.
The Hardest Part September 15, 2010Posted by Phil Groom in Life, Watching and Waiting.
Tags: Coldplay, Letting go, LST
Coldplay: The Hardest Part: my theme tune for this week.
The video’s kinda weird but no weirder than LST: the age old story of the Bible dancing with a 21st century theological institution. Impossible, you might think, but the dance goes on.
It’s the lyrics that really hit the spot, though, that say how I feel about this letting go…
And the hardest part
Was letting go not taking part
Was the hardest part
And the strangest thing
Was waiting for that bell to ring
It was the strangest start
I could feel it go down
Bittersweet I could taste in my mouth
Silver lining the clouds
Oh and I
I wish that I could work it out
And the hardest part
Was letting go not taking part
You really broke my heart, oh
And I tried to sing
But I couldn’t think of anything
That was the hardest part, oh, oh
I could feel it go down
You left the sweetest taste in my mouth
Silver lining the cloud
Oh and I
Oh and I
I wonder what it’s all about
I wonder what it’s all about
Everything I know is wrong
Everything I do it just comes undone
And everything is torn apart
Oh, and that’s the hardest part
That’s the hardest part
Yeah, that’s the hardest part
That’s the hardest part
Tags: LST, LST Books & Resources, Nick Aston, Fairtrade
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That’s the LST Bookshop, of course. Yes, courtesy of the inimitable Nick Aston, my awesome colleague and cheerful Assistant Bookshop Manager, we now have a fridge in the shop. Contents include fair trade orange juice, 50p per 200ml carton, and a selection of 45g Divine chocolate bars, 75p, for those who prefer their chocolate chilled.
So what are you waiting for? Get over there today and chill out with Nick!!
- Leave us a comment on the shop’s UKCBD entry: LST Books & Resources
GroomNews Christmas 2009 December 11, 2009Posted by Phil Groom in Life.
Tags: Christian booktrade, Former SPCK Bookshops, GroomNews, Henlow and Langford, LST, Phil & Sue Groom, Phil Groom, STL Distribution, Sue Groom, World Vision
What? No Christmas Card??
This year, rather than add to the planet’s burden of billions of ultimately unwanted Christmas cards, we’ve decided to send out most copies of this edition of GroomNews without a card or by email only. We’re donating the money that we would have spent on cards to World Vision instead. If you haven’t already sent out your cards, may we encourage you to consider doing the same?
Challenges and Changes
2009 has been another year of challenges and changes, the most dramatic of which was our move away from London to the delightful wilds of Bedfordshire. Sue now has a new dual role as Priest-in-Charge of two semi-rural parishes, Henlow & Langford, and as Assistant Diocesan Director of Ordinands in the Diocese of St Albans. We’ve been warmly welcomed by the two villages, the vicarage is the best yet and we are especially delighted to have a garden again. There are numerous opportunities for ministry with three schools and all sorts of community groups. In the run up to Christmas Sue is dashing here, there and everywhere, but she is thoroughly enjoying being back in parish ministry!
Sue has put her DMin studies on hold for the current academic year but she is fulfilling the occasional teaching commitment alongside tutoring for LST’s Open Learning Hebrew course.
Unfortunately Langford isn’t so good for Phil’s job at LST: the journey takes two hours each way so he’s cut down to working three days a week and is looking for work closer to home. Reduced hours, of course, means a reduced income, but also helps to reduce LST’s costs in running the shop: along with so many other bookshops, the LST Bookshop is struggling to break even in the current economic climate. Although students and staff have been very supportive, having the LST community as a ‘captive audience’ doesn’t help when they have limited funds and are just as liable as anyone else to shop online for lower prices.
A Less Painful Hip
Following a course of physiotherapy, a carefully planned regime of exercises and regular swimming at a very good pool in Biggleswade, Sue’s hip has been much less painful this year.
is still moored on the Kennet & Avon (K&A) canal with the Newbury Boat Company. This year’s summer holiday took us further along the K&A to Devizes, where we resisted the temptation to go through what is widely regarded as one of the most impressive flights of locks in the country. We settled for mooring at the top and watching sympathetically as other boaters went for it in the rain…
Phil Blogs On
The SPCK/St Stephen the Great bookshops situation seems to be approaching resolution: earlier in the year the Charity Commission appointed an Interim Manager who took control of the shops from the Brewer brothers. He is now selling the organisation’s assets in order to pay outstanding debts. Read all about it at spckssg.wordpress.com
Sadly the last year has seen another crisis building up in the Christian booktrade: in October 2008 STL Distribution (the UK and Europe’s biggest Christian wholesaler and owners of Authentic Media publishing and the Wesley Owen bookshops) attempted to install a new IT system as part of its parent company Biblica’s globalisation strategy. Unfortunately it all went pear shaped and for reasons that remain unclear, they were unable to revert to the previous system. In November Biblica announced that they were pulling the plug on their UK operations. It’s all very messy with at least 490 people’s jobs on the line, but hopefully some resolution should be found before Christmas. Please pray for everyone caught up in the situation. You can find out more on the UKCBD blog: christianbookshopsblog.org.uk.
With Our Love
As always, this comes with our thanks for your friendship, our love, best wishes for Christmas and our prayers for peace in the year ahead,
A Bus for LST February 7, 2009Posted by Phil Groom in Frivolity.
Tags: Atheist Bus, London School of Theology, LST
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This one’s for my friends and colleagues at LST:
Bus image courtesy of the Atheist Bus Slogan Generator:
Now it’s your turn…