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I’ve had enough, Lord… February 5, 2021

Posted by Phil Groom in Church, Church of England.
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Me: I’ve had enough, Lord.

Jesus: What of?

Me: The Church of England.

Jesus: Me too.

Me: That bad, eh?

Jesus: Worse. It’s only been 40 years for you; more than 400 for me.

Me: So what’s bugging you with it?

Jesus: The usual. Buildings, people; but mostly people. You?

Me: Likewise. Safeguarding. Attitudes to women and LGBT people, to disabled people. Racism. Obsession with money. Endless bickering. Quiche. All of that. 

Silence…

Me: So… anyone in particular getting to you?

Jesus: You.

Me: Say what??

Jesus: You. You could be the difference. 

Me: Hold on, this is getting personal. It’s your church.

Jesus: Is it? Really?

Me: I don’t like this conversation.

Jesus: You started it.

Me: Yes, but… [becoming increasingly flustered]… [sudden flash of inspiration] hey — what about all the volunteers, the food banks, cathedrals as vaccination centres? Clergy going online? Phone calls cheering people up? Support for children, teachers and schools? Chaplaincy services in hospitals and prisons? Elderly churchwardens getting to grips with modern technology? Bishops challenging the government? Calling out injustice?

Jesus: Not all bad then?

Me: Guess not…

Jesus: So what’s the plan?

Me: You’re asking me?

Jesus: At all times and in all places: that’s the phrase, isn’t it?

Me: Yes, but…

Jesus: You like that word, don’t you?

Me: Well, yes. But—

Jesus: [laughter]

Me: —okay, you win, but—

Jesus: [more laughter]

Me: [laughing too] I’ll stay. Tomorrow’s going to be a good day…

GroomNews Christmas 2020: the strangest of years… December 3, 2020

Posted by Phil Groom in Advent and Christmas, Death, Family, Life, News.
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2020: it’s a year none of us is likely to forget, no matter how much we’d like to, full of words like pandemic, unprecedented, furlough, shielding, lockdown and tiers. For many it’s been a year of grief (we’ve had some of that) but it’s also been a year of hope and transformation as people have discovered new ways of working and doing things differently under lockdown.

Len Groom, 1935 - 2020

We’ll start with the grief: as the year wore on, Phil’s Dad’s health took a turn for the worse and, sadly, he died in October. Here he is sitting in his favourite armchair. Now he’s with his Lord in glory, probably discussing the finer details of theology, biblical interpretation, carpentry and how to build model windmills…

Life under lockdown
How have you dealt with lockdown and tiers? For us it began with working from home, then Phil was furloughed and told to shield (due to COPD), church buildings were closed and Sue — along with all other clergy — had to learn how to lead worship from home: zoom zoom! Then came the challenge of keeping fit…

Sue swimming with a bungee-cord

Enter the world of bungee-cord swimming: Sue took to it, if not like a duck to water, certainly like a pro-swimmer. The biggest problem was the neighbourhood cats, who took great delight in getting their claws into the air-ring around the pool. Thankfully strategic patching and fencing helped it last until Sue’s favourite lake in the Cotswold Water Park reopened, after which it was swim, swim, swim until she was ready for this year’s sponsored swim for Aspire, 6.5km along the River Arun.

Cycle, swim, cycle, swim, tennis, swim, cycle, swim, cycle
The Big Stretch: here’s Almost emerging from dry dock at Bradford on Avon after her extension from 45’ to 60’ — retirement beckons!
The Big Stretch: here’s Almost emerging from dry dock at Bradford on Avon after her extension from 45’ to 60’ — retirement beckons!

Other News…
🌟 Sue passed her LLM in Canon Law with flying colours, achieving a distinction and an award for the best Masters in Law thesis.
🎾 Phil set up an improvised tennis court in the back yard which helped keep both of us moving during lockdown.
🏊‍♀️ Sue swam the Henley Mile in August as part of her preparation for her River Arun swim.
🪵 Phil has sawn, split and chopped more firewood than ever to keep us going through the winter.
✅ Sue’s Mum is still living contentedly in her own home with a full-time live-in carer.
🥕 Phil’s also been keeping himself busy in the garden growing carrots, potatoes and leeks.
👍 Sue has had a wonderfully pain-free year!
🧁 Phil has done lots of lovely lockdown baking, including chocolate brownies & Ovaltine cookies using a recipe from his Mum — thanks Mum!

Club La Santa: entrance sign with cacti

Holidays!
We’ve been very fortunate with holidays this year: a week in Hayle, Cornwall, with Sue’s sister Alison, which included sailing with dolphins and visits to the Seal Sanctuary & Land’s End; and a week’s retreat with the Sheldon Community in Devon, stopping off at Sidmouth en route in both directions. Saving the best till last, an undoubted highlight of our year was a SwimQuest holiday at Club La Santa, Lanzarote, way back in February, with Olympic swimmer James Goddard and a group of other enthusiastic swimmers from around the UK.

Olympic outdoor pool at Club La Santa

Finally a huge thank you to everyone who has cheered us on and encouraged us through what has been a very bleak year for so many: without that support this would have been a very different year. With our love & prayers for Christmas and hoping with you for the best possible year ahead,

Phil & Sue

Coronanvirus: A Lament June 4, 2020

Posted by Phil Groom in Church, Current Affairs, Life, Prayer, Watching.
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I was sad when they said to me, “Let us go up to the House of the Lord,” for the great congregation was no more.

I looked and I saw empty spaces where the elders once sat; and widows and orphans sat apart in silence, alone they sat as tears ran down our faces. Together we wept as alone we sat. Loneliness and tears are now our companions, our only friends are sorrow and grief.

Where are you, O Lord God of our ancestors? Where is your great power? Why have you turned your back on your people, walked away and rejected our prayers?

Look with pity on your people, O Lord, and turn back from your rage. Speak, O Lord, into the silence that surrounds us; in the emptiness make your voice heard. We have heard tell of your great love and together we sang your praise; but now we sing alone and our prayers return to us unheard.

Our computer screens mock us and our phone batteries die; our eyes strain and our backs ache. Our minds grow numb and our hands tremble; over keyboards without words our fingers shake. Our mouths turn dry and speech flees from our lips.

Our leaders abandon your ways; lies and deceit spew forth from their mouths. Rules they make and break them saying, “We did the right thing.” Science is their watchword whilst the scientists go unheard; “We follow the data,” they say, whilst truth is twisted and truth speakers are silenced. Hypocrisy reigns and whispers behind closed doors echo across the land.

Surely sadness and grief shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of my sorrow for ever; and we of all the nations on earth are become the most to be pitied.

Selah.

The Death of Mungo Blackwell February 18, 2020

Posted by Phil Groom in Book Review, Books.
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The Death of Mungo Blackwell

The Death of Mungo Blackwell

Lauren H Brandenburg
ISBN: 9781782642916
Lion Hudson, 2019
Paperback, 304pp, £8.99

The Death of Mungo Blackwell is a gently humorous tale of a wealthy couple, Charlie and Velveteen Price and their young son, Gideon, who lost it all in a financial crisis, then found it all again in another world — the strange and peculiar world of the Blackwell family.

Charlie and Velveteen had it all: with Charlie flying high in a very well paid banking career, they enjoyed every accoutrement of a fashionable lifestyle, a magnificent period townhouse and family home in a respectable neighbourhood—or perhaps I should spell that ‘neighborhood’ for this is an entirely American tale—but bad investment decisions by Charlie brought them and their dreams crashing down to earth. Charlie had to find a new line of work, and Velveteen’s life as a socialite wife, entertaining and being entertained, was over. But what else could Charlie do? How could he salvage their lives, recover from their losses?

Salvage becomes the answer: ‘picking’ and ‘flipping’ secondhand goods. Think the TV shows ‘American Pickers’ or ‘Bargain Hunt’ and you’ll get the picture. But Charlie doesn’t scour the country for his picking: he discovers a town called Coraloo and its Flea Market owned and operated by the Blackwells, then moves in with the family and begins to build his new career around the Blackwells and their market.

Woven in—sequenced between and betwixt the modern day riches-to-(not-quite)-rags story—is the older tale of the Blackwell family’s eccentric and adventurous globetrotting ancestor, Mungo Blackwell, cobbler extraordinaire. Is it history or is it legend? Who can tell? But this tale informs the Blackwell family’s sense of identity and way of life, setting the scene for the modern tale’s development, for a series of comical clashes, crises and misunderstandings between them and their newly moved-in neighbours, the Price family.

Alongside this, a love of books—of Kipling in particular and of a fictional romance, The Heiress of DuMont—keeps the plot simmering along: Charlie loves Kipling and Velveteen imagines herself as Melba DuMont, the heroine of her romantic reading. Can Charlie acquire the collector’s edition of Kipling he longs for? Can Velveteen live up to the ideals she sees in Melba? And where does Granny, the crotchety old matriarch of the Blackwell family, fit into it all?

Eccentricity is the name of the game here—it would be remiss of me not to mention The Rooning, families living in camper vans as their home-schooled children play-act in the marketplace, and a longstanding feud between the Blackwells and another local family, the Tofts—but underlying everything is a deep search for meaning, acceptance and authenticity in a world of uncertainty and chaos.

The future will always be unpredictable, the past will always leave its residues, but the present—the now in which we live—is the moment to cherish, to treasure. Leaving the past behind, living without fear for the future and taking hold of each day as it arrives: that, for me, is the take-home message of this captivating and almost Pythonesque novel. Evermore unlikely twists and turns take the tale to a delightful and highly satisfactory ending: expect the unexpected as you read, enjoy and share.

As for me, I’m already looking forward to the sequel: The Marriage of Innis Wilkinson, due in October 2020.

Note: my thanks to Lion Hudson for providing a complimentary copy of this book for review.

GroomNews Christmas 2019 – A Rollercoaster of a year! December 13, 2019

Posted by Phil Groom in Advent and Christmas, Family, Life, News.
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Last year we wrote about some of the surprises life had thrown our way. This year the surprises have continued and it’s been a real rollercoaster ride of ups and downs…

⬆️ Hip hip hooray for Sue’s new hip! Yes, it’s corny but never mind: she had the op in February and it was as if she’d been given a new lease of life, both legs the same length at last and free from pain. We celebrated by buying new bikes and began cycling up and down the towpaths, discovered other local cycle routes and even began to play tennis again…

⬇️ Then suddenly in the summer Sue’s back objected and a protracted episode — about 4 months! — of sciatica kicked in: the pain and discomfort was worse than ever! She pushed on through, kept on swimming and happily that episode is now over: thank you for all your prayers and encouragement.

⬆️ Having kept the swimming going, Sue decided to go for it and entered this year’s Aspire Channel Swim: thanks to your support, as we write she’s at No.7 on the national leaderboard having raised over £1,300 and swum more than 80 miles!

Sue’s Aspire Channel Swim page on JustGiving - there’s still time to sponsor her if you’d like to show your support!

⬅️ This is Sue’s Aspire Channel Swim page on JustGiving – there’s still time to sponsor her if you’d like to show your support!

⬆️ Sue is now a member of Salisbury Cathedral Chapter. No, I don’t really know what that means either: you’ll have to ask her to explain!

🏊‍♀️ 🚲 🏊‍♀️ 🚲 🏊‍♀️ 🚲 🏊‍♀️ 🚲 🏊‍♀️ 🚲 🎾 🏊‍♀️ 🚲 🏊‍♀️ 🚲 🏊‍♀️ 🚲 🏊‍♀️ 🚲 🏊‍♀️ 🚲

⬆️ Phil’s Dad is still with us, battling on with the support of friends and family, most of all from Phil’s Mum. Amazingly, the stomach cancer hasn’t spread and the meds he’s on seem to be keeping his pain levels under control.

⬇️ Various trips to hospital for Phil’s Dad as other health issues have arisen.

⬆️ Phil survived the restructuring of Canal & River Trust and now has a much bigger fundraising region, Wales & South West. Look out for members of his team on a waterway near you, stop for a friendly chat — even better, he says: sign up and become a Friend!

⬇️ Sadly it’s been a steady downhill slide for Sue’s Mum as she becomes increasingly lost in dementia, plus hospital trips for her too.

⬆️ Phil passed his driving test in March, which means we can now share the driving when visiting friends & family.

Exploring the Jurassic Coast

⬆️ Discovering Sidmouth

No doubt about it, one of the best ups in our rollercoaster ride was discovering Sidmouth, first taking a short break there by ourselves, then another break with Alison, Sue’s sister. The people were friendly, the weather was kind and both Sue and Alison went swimming in the sea. We also fitted in a cruise along the Jurassic Coast: highly recommended!

Here’s Almost on the K&A during this year’s summer holiday. Watch this space: she’s about to grow longer in 2020!
⬅️ Here’s Almost on the K&A during this year’s summer holiday.

Watch this space: she’s about to grow longer in 2020!

All in all it’s been another interesting year with the various ups and downs, but we’ve been aware of many people praying for us through the rough patches: if you’re one of those people, thank you – we’d be grateful for your continued prayers, especially for our parents with the ongoing challenges they’re facing.

As always, this comes to you with our love, prayers and very best wishes for Christmas and the year ahead,

Phil & Sue (signature)

Swimming to save the world August 28, 2019

Posted by Phil Groom in Appeals, Campaigns, Life.
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Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration: what Sue is actually doing is swimming to help people with spinal injuries, raising funds for Aspire, the charity that, in its own words, “provides practical help to people who have been paralysed by Spinal Cord Injury, supporting them from injury to independence.”

Ready for action...

It’s something that means a lot to Sue, even more so recently as she herself has been suffering with debilitating back pain and sciatica for several weeks, giving her a glimpse, albeit a small one, into that world. Sue’s personal history of chronic pain caused by CDH (Congenital Dislocation of the Hip) and a whole raft of operations to deal with that – culminating in a hip replacement in February this year – has given her a particular affinity for anyone struggling with pain and disability.

One thing that’s kept her going down the years, down the decades in fact, is swimming. Swimming quite literally takes the weight off your feet, relieves the stress on your joints and gives you a sense of freedom that’s difficult to find in any other activity. Starting the day with a swim is like pressing a reset button on your mind as you enter the rhythm of the strokes, stretching out and reaching for the pool’s far end, then repeat, occasionally changing stroke until, suddenly, you find that you’ve swum 40, 50 or even 60 lengths: where did the time go? But as the time flies by, your mind settles, ideas coalesce and new possibilities take shape.

New possibilities. That’s what Aspire offers to people with spinal injuries. Hope where there was no hope, a future where there was no future. And that’s why I, as Sue’s husband, am proud to support what she’s doing here and want to invite you to become a part of it with her by sponsoring her swim this year.

In action at Sidmouth

She’s really going for it this time around, out of the pool and into open water, swimming in lakes and in the sea, stretching out, recharging her batteries and, with your support and mine, saving someone else’s world.

Whether it’s as little as a fiver – less than the price of a coffee and a cake in most cafés these days – or something more, whatever you can afford, every contribution counts.

Thank you for your support.

GroomNews Christmas 2018: A Year of Surprises December 13, 2018

Posted by Phil Groom in Advent and Christmas, Family, Life, Watching and Waiting.
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One of the best things about life is its endless capacity to take you by surprise. I think it’s safe to say that certain shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night understood that…

Knitivity, by Phil’s Mum

Knitivity, by Phil’s Mum

Sometimes those surprises are good. In no particular order, as they say on Strictly:

  • The arrival of a new great-nephew, Adley. Okay, not a complete surprise, his parents, Sam & Darren, did tell us that he was on the way: congratulations, Sam & Darren!
  • Family get-togethers, including a wedding for one of Sue’s cousins and Phil’s Mum’s 80th birthday party…
  • Phil landing his dream job with Canal & River Trust in April…
  • Visiting lots of lovely coffee shops – and discovering their magnificent cakes – whilst on retreat at Alnmouth Friary…

The Village Tearooms, Alnmouth

The Village Tearooms, Alnmouth: without a doubt, one of the best cafés in Alnmouth!

  • A Special Appreciation Award for Phil at this year’s Christian Resources Together Authors, Booksellers and Publishers retreat…
  • The opportunity for Sue to take a holiday in Cornwall and explore Land’s End with her sister, Alison…
  • Catching up with friends we hadn’t seen for years…
  • Discovering the free public tennis courts at Bradford-on-Avon during our summer holiday on Almost

Sometimes those surprises are not so good:

  • Getting back from that summer holiday only for Sue to wake up in excruciating pain one day the following week, leading to various tests and investigations and – eventually – a diagnosis of a prolapsed disc, a consequence of her long-term hip problems. The good news, however, is that her back is now much better, the pain is under control and she is on the waiting list for a hip replacement…
  • Phil being told in November that his wonderful new job is one of around 240 roles at risk of redundancy within Canal & River Trust as the organisation undergoes a major restructuring…
  • Phil’s Dad collapsing, being rushed into hospital and being diagnosed with stomach cancer…

Meanwhile many other things in life continue as normal:

  • The joys and challenges of being an Archdeacon, which include taking services and supporting parishes through clergy vacancies, meaning that most weeks we attend a different church, always good fun; sitting on various committees; licensing new clergy and other church workers; sitting on various committees; helping to resolve conflict; sitting on various committees; doing radio interviews; sitting on various committees…
  • Sue’s studies in Ecclesiastical Law in Cardiff. It’s a two year course, so this is her final year already!
  • Sue’s swimming, 50 or 60 lengths most mornings, interspersed with Pilates classes, physiotherapy sessions and walks along the towpath, all of which combine to help keep her fit.
  • Sue’s Mum, still living in her own home with the support of a live-in carer.
  • Phil’s driving lessons, the end of which are hopefully in sight as his driving test comes up just before Christmas! Clear those roads!!

All in all it’s been an interesting year with plenty of ups and downs, but we’ve been aware of many people praying for us through the rough patches: if you’re one of those people, thank you – we’d be grateful for your continued prayers, especially for our parents with the challenges they’re facing.

As always, this comes to you with our love, prayers and very best wishes for Christmas and the year ahead,

Phil & Sue (signature)

 

 

 

Broken theology… October 23, 2018

Posted by Phil Groom in Christianity, Life, Poetry, Random Musings, Theological Reflection, Theology.
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My theology is broken.
I am not ashamed of that:
I live in a broken world,
amongst broken people;
and I, too, am broken.

I worship a broken God,
and he (or she) is not ashamed of that:
s/he accepts my broken worship
as her due,
sings along with me
in a broken duet.

She watches over me,
her broken worshipper,
and watches over you,
though you may not know her:
she watches over her whole broken creation
and weeps broken tears.

Why does she not let go,
give up,
let me go
and let you go?

Ah, but she does,
daily,
as her tears fall to the broken ground
and gently, gently caress the world to life.

Without her brokenness
there would be
no life,
no world,
no you, no me:
we belong together, broken together.

And broken together, we learn:
we learn to mend, to repair, to rearrange
our broken things and broken hearts.

Do not despair,
my broken ones,
for in the brokenness there is a gap,
a space,
a space for love to flourish
and grow.

It is, of course, a broken love,
but it is true,
for it is real:
there can be no pretence
in brokenness,
no hiding
from the messiness.

Broken am I,
broken are we,
and broken, we welcome all
who are broken
to come, dine with us:
be who you are
and be not ashamed.

In your brokenness find life.
In your brokenness, find wholeness.
Seek no escape now:
the brokenness is real
and the real is what we must face,
head on, heads unbowed.

And if you are foolish enough
to argue theology
with me
and if I am foolish enough
to argue back,
do not expect consistency
or sense,
for my theology is broken,
like me…

Doing what I love and loving what I do… May 1, 2018

Posted by Phil Groom in Life.
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… thank you @notquitealice for the title ❤️

 

GroomNews Christmas 2017 December 9, 2017

Posted by Phil Groom in Advent and Christmas, Life, News.
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GroomNews Christmas 2017 - front cover featuring Nidaros Cathedral, Trondheim, in the snow (March 2017)

GroomNews Christmas 2017: download and fold in 4 to make a Christmas card (pdf, 254kb)

WELCOME to GroomNews Christmas 2017 as another remarkable year draws to an end. Thank you, first of all, to everyone who has been in touch—or even visited—during the year. We apologise where we haven’t kept in touch as well as we should.

Cruising the Norwegian Fjords
The year’s highlight came early on, a cruise around the Norwegian Fjords on Hurtigruten’s MS Finnmarken at the end of March. It’s a holiday we promised ourselves many years ago and this year, with Sue’s doctorate completed, we finally managed it.

Some of the trip’s highlights were meeting the husky puppies after going on a husky sleigh ride; crossing the Arctic Circle; a midnight concert at the Arctic Cathedral; and a visit to Nidaros Cathedral, Trondheim, pictured above.

Sue with a Husky Puppy

Meeting the Husky Puppies

Celebrating 30 Years
Yes, that’s right: it’s hard to believe that three decades have passed since that day in 1987 when we said, “I will!” We celebrated with a day out in Bath (and bought each other presents, of course!). Thank you to all those who have supported us down the years and to everyone who sent us cards and/or greetings on facebook.

Being an Archdeacon
Sue is as busy as ever in her work as Archdeacon of Wilts and—perhaps most importantly—still enjoying the role and the various challenges it brings. Keep an eye on the Diocese of Salisbury facebook and twitter pages for updates on what’s happening in the diocese, including some of Sue’s activities.

Swimming the Channel—again!
A huge thank you to everyone who sponsored Sue in this year’s Aspire Channel Swim Challenge: in the 12 weeks Sue swam over 50 miles—more than double the distance—and raised more than £724 (plus Gift Aid) to support people with spinal injuries. Although the swim is officially over you can still sponsor her via her JustGiving page >> go on, you know you want to!

Beyond Caen Hill…
For this year’s summer holiday we took Almost down the world-famous flight of Caen Hill Locks, through Bradford-on-Avon and Bath, to Hanham on the River Avon—then back again, of course. If you’ve never visited Caen Hill, you should: it’s one of the Wonders of the Waterways. Look out for Phil and his colleagues fundraising for Canal & River Trust at the Welcome Station outside the café. Please don’t just walk on by: stop and say hi—we don’t bite!

DLT Books Christmas Sale 2017

DLT Books Christmas Sale 2017

DLT Advocate
Phil is still working freelance on a part-time basis for DLT Books (Darton, Longman & Todd), looking after several twitter accounts and helping with publicity & promotions. If you follow him on twitter or facebook you’ll often see him giving shout outs for new titles or special offers. Right now the Christmas Sale is in full swing with 1/3 off the entire gift book range: use discount code xmas17 at the online checkout. Some great stocking fillers there but you’ll need to move fast now to get your orders in for Christmas!

Learning…
Both of us are on a steep learning curve at the moment: for Phil, the L-plates are out as he—at long last!—learns to drive, chivvied along by John, one of his colleagues on the CRT fundraising team; and for Sue, it’s getting to grips with Canon (aka Ecclesiastical) Law. Ooo-er…

With our love, prayers and very best wishes for Christmas and the coming year,

Phil & Sue (signature)

Phil and Sue's Husky Sleigh Ride

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