Dear Friends,
In 1 Samuel chapter 8, Samuel has a problem: the people are revolting! Or more correctly they are near to revolt. They want to be like other nations and have a king to lead them, and Samuel is in a dilemma. All his life he has tried to do what is right, and been a faithful and wise judge for the people, and they repay him with this, a rejection of his authority and the established way of doing things! The trouble is he can forsee the troubles that will come. A king will not solve all their problems: he might be able to bring people together for a time, and even defeat the Philistines who are threatening to overwhelm the people of Israel. He might be able to unite the disparate tribes into a nation, but in the end kings are unreliable: they may lack the skills necessary to lead the country. Worse still they will take the best of the nation’s resources for themselves and even become tyrannical in their behaviour.

Dear Friends,

                      Usually in these letters I reflect on a theme that applies equally to each of our churches. But this time I'd like to home in on a project hosted by Avenue St Andrew's: the Avenue Centre, helping troubled families with young children, which celebrates its 30th birthday this May. Not that Avenue St Andrew's can claim sole rights in the Avenue Centre! Each of our Group churches has supported it generously, and that's hugely appreciated. But not all of you will know the story of how the Avenue Centre began, and how it has developed over three decades.

Dear Friends,

                      How good are you at following directions? Perhaps you are good at reading maps, or at remembering directions, or at giving directions (which can be even more challenging!)… or perhaps not. In truth even those of us who are good at finding our way about will struggle once in a while. Directions are only good if they are precise and in order (and if we have listened when they are given verbally!); a map is only useful if the information is relevant and up to date, and satnavs are only as good as the information that is programmed in – if a road has been closed or is unsuitable for the vehicle that we are driving then there are going to be problems!

Dear Friends,
It is a day in March, in what is usually considered to be the season of Spring, however there is snow on the ground, the skies are leaden and the scene in my garden is decidedly monochrome! A few daffodils had the temerity to flower recently and they are bent over by the cold and the snow, their colour barely visible. Somehow, Spring (which seemed to have started a few days ago) is now a long distance away, and the promise of light, warmth and renewal seems a hollow one at a moment such as this.

Dear Friends,
Already this New Year I have had an unusual amount of time to sit and let my mind wander about all over the place!
I don’t know about you but when I’m wandering on a walk I will stop and look at anything that catches my eye and even take a different turning to the one I had planned in advance. This can be really rewarding or a bit scary or even boring… but always a learning experience.