Peace Amid The Thorns

Greetings from Cambridge!

At last, the months of waiting, praying and preparing have come to a climax and we’ve moved into the new St A’s manse.  It’s a busy and bustling environment, with all sorts of smiling people coming in to paint, plumb, rewire and illuminate the house.  We’re making new friends and it’s bringing back all kinds of memories of the years when I spent some of my spare time working alongside my dad – a heating engineer.

When I say, ‘moved in’ it would probably be more accurate to say that we’ve begun the process of moving in.  At the moment, the belongings we managed to transport in an Iveco van are forming little islands in the middle of the living spaces.  As soon as the workmen move out at the end of the day, we move seats and our TV to the edges and the place gets a more homely feel.

All of the St A’s folks involved with the project have been overwhelmingly caring.  I think we’re all excited to see how the house will turn out.  In the meantime, my family and I would all like to say a huge thank you to all who are putting so much time into the enterprise.

Just before we left Norwich, things were very busy too.  In many ways this was a blessing.  We were all feeling very emotional at saying goodbye to old friends and Christian family.  To be engaged and focused on various things meant that we didn’t have much of a chance to reflect and feel saddened by the prospect of parting ways.

However, on the day before my final service at Norwich Central Baptist Church, I felt a great need to be away from all busyness and to find a peaceful place for prayer and fellowship with the Lord.  I wandered to the Roman Catholic Cathedral – a favourite haunt, often empty and still – to discover that it was packed to overflowing with people, lots of them clutching Easter nests and other seasonal things.  Next, I tried the Church of St Peter Mancroft in the city centre.  It, too, was busy, but it has a lovely prayer chapel attached to the side of the building and this was deserted.  Just as I sat down to pray, a deafening noise came from right outside the window: it was the voice of pop-star Jessie J. singing her hit single, Price Tag.  A local dance troop was putting on a display, and they played this song on a loop while the instructor yelled things like, “Yeah!” and “Woo!” and “Here we go!”

Amazingly, a lovely sense of peace came over me as I sat in that noisy place at the heart of the city.  The outside festivities and frantic bustle seemed to create a stark contrast with the sanctuary of the chapel.

As I prayed I recalled a visit I made, many years ago, to Ampleforth College.  I’d gone to hear a lecture by Brother Dominic Milroy and ended up attending a seminar about the retreat weekends that Ampleforth has on offer.  During this seminar, the monk who was explaining the ‘ins and outs’ of retreating to Ampleforth showed a very memorable picture on his overhead projector.  It was a picture of Christ’s crown of thorns and written in the centre of this image was the word, PAX (Latin for ‘peace’).  He went on to explain that this was image was symbolic of what Ampleforth offered to the world: a place of peace amid the thorns.

As I’ve continued my journey with Christ, I’m pleased to say that I have found His peace is far more widely available than just within the North Yorkshire valley that houses the College and Abbey that make up Ampleforth.  Indeed, His peace sometimes manifests itself in the least likely situations: moments of pain or illness; moments of joy and excitement; moments of change and departing; moments of Jesse J. singing and young dancers dancing!

I thank the Lord Jesus for the peace He gives – I thank Him that I have been able to experience it as all of our lives change and as we embark on the ‘Cambridge Adventure’.

I pray for peace and blessing for St Andrew’s Street Baptist Church, as we now journey together, seeking His glory and His kingdom in all we do.

John 14:27


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