Touch Base Home Page: Current Issue (December 2017 - January 2018)

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The deadline for the next edition (February) is 22 January 2018. Please send articles to the Editor at this address 


Dear Friends,


In Luke Chapter 2 we hear the beautiful words of the nativity story: ‘And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth peace among those whom he favours!” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.’

Angels sang and shepherds were amazed but Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. Mary’s hospitality in joining in with the work of God to give birth to God’s Son must surely have been perplexing, disturbing, bewildering, painful and joyful. And then, angels singing and shepherds being amazed added to make the story an even more perplexing, disturbing, bewildering time.  Mary treasured the words and pondered them in her heart.

I often wonder why I meet some people as I attend many meetings and gatherings on behalf of the church in York. Some call it networking, others call it a meeting, a seminar or a conference, others are just there for the lunch. The business activity of networking helps business leaders to meet to form business relationships and to recognize, create, or act upon business opportunities. Introductions are often face to face followed by an e-mail to share information and seek potential partners for ventures or to find ways of working together. Christian Hospitality suggests that I should be generously asking “What do you need from me, how can I help?” A Christian view of networking could be that God has put us with others to see how we can work together to further the kingdom of God. If you meet someone new, then begin to wonder why you have met. Treasure the words, ponder them in your heart until God reveals the next steps, just as Mary did.

At services for Advent, in Carol services, at parties, on Christmas Day and beyond, see afresh the story of the birth of Jesus from Mary’s point of view. Treasure and ponder all the words of greeting and the gifts God has bestowed upon us so that they may be used in the service of others.

May we, as we face situations which are perplexing, disturbing, bewildering, painful and joyful, remember the example of Mary who treasured the words and pondered them in her heart. How wonderful to trust in God in this way. To wait patiently for his will to be done and to join in with His generosity.

Have a very blessed Advent as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus. And, a very happy Christmas to you all: may you have much to treasure and ponder.



The Shepherds

The hard task of being shepherds, a multi-task job of being a provider, guide, protector and constant companion. They ensure that new grazing and water are available for the sheep each day, and lead them to the sheepfold for night time protection from predators and the like.  Shepherds were inseparable from their sheep in a demanding, solitary and sometimes dangerous role.  Shepherds are also seen as figure of leadership to the animals under their care who would respond knowing the voice of the shepherd. 

That night must have begun like any other night as the sun set and the cold set in.  The shepherds gather round the fire in the sheepfold to keep warm when suddenly everything changes before them as the truth revealed of a new born baby and later the visit to Bethlehem.  Mary and Joseph would welcome these strangers with open arms as they pass on the message of the angels and continue to praise God as they returned home.  

Out of all the people in the community, God picked a group of shepherds to hear about Jesus' birth.  The fact that the shepherds were among the lowest and despised, and given this life changing experience to go and see the true Shepherd speak volumes of whom God chooses. 

The exciting news and the experience raised the profile of the shepherds in the story of the nativity and also the future roles of shepherd being an important aspect in the life of the new born child and the life of the Christian communities.  

David Simpson



If you visit the Church of St Nicholas in the Southern German village of Billafingen, near Lake Constance you will find a fine altar dedicated unusually to St Joseph. Unlike the tradition that he was an old man, Joseph  is depicted as young and handsome. He is holding the infant Christ who looks confident and secure. Christ’s arms are outstretched as it were to embrace the whole world. St Joseph’s free hand is poised as if it was a warning, protecting the Christ from any danger. Christ wears white. The magnificent and powerful figure of Joseph is clad in reds and browns and blue. There is no hint of the sentimentality that is often seen in portrayals of the far more traditional Madonna and child.

Joseph gets short shrift from the most of the writers of the New Testament. St Paul does not mention him. Only Matthew portrays him in sharp focus in the birth narratives. Yet his qualities teach us much. We learn that he is a just man, originally resolved to put Mary away, quietly saving her from disgrace.  He is a man of prayer and attentive to the angel who tells him of Mary’s purity. He listens to those later angelic messengers advising him to flee to safety from Herod’s wrath and eventually to return.  He is protective of Mary in the journey to Bethlehem when she is great with child and provides for her and the new born Christ in the stable. He is courageous, protective and resourceful in the flight to Egypt following Herod’s murderous rage.

His provision of a home and security is vital for the Holy family not only during the dramatic events of the birth but when they returned to Nazareth. As a carpenter he provides for them there. He who became the patron Saint of workers taught the infant Christ the dignity of labour and a father’s love. Pius X wrote a prayer:

Glorious St. Joseph, pattern of all who are devoted to toil, obtain for me the grace to toil in the spirit of penance.”           

Derek Earis


The Kings

Many ancient cultures trusted the wisdom of stargazers. In several places the Old Testament warns against trusting such wisdom. The prophet Isaiah mocks the astrologers of Babylon. This great empire to the East had conquered Israel and was itself being overrun by the Persian Empire. The change of management led to the return of the Jewish exiles to Jerusalem. As their empire falls around them Isaiah challenges them ‘let those who study the heavens save you, those who gaze at the stars and each new moon predict what shall befall you’ (Isa. 47.13).

But then in the Christmas story, the radical story of the Messiah the Jews expected not coming in power and glory but as a fragile human child, a mysterious group of ‘wise men from the east’ (Ma 2.1) read the arrival of a great king in the stars. Not only are they stargazers; they are non-Jews from the East. At the birth of Jesus God shows that the peace he brings is not just for his people Israel but for all people. God shares his message with the stargazers from the East. God’s arms are stretched out to welcome all who read the signs that he is in the world in the life of this child. God’s hospitality is shown to be much wider than the limits human beings place on it.

Of course no school nativity would be complete without three children in crowns of gold cardboard. But actually we can’t be sure there were three of them – we only know they brought the three gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh. But let’s imagine there were three. Picture them under the starry sky. What was going through their minds as they journeyed? And why on earth did they decide on those gifts? We know that gold symbolises Jesus’ kingship, incense his divinity and myrrh foreshadows his death. But what did they think? And the gifts we share with each other at Christmas, and the gifts of our me, talents and treasure to the Church and the community through the rest of the year, what do they mean? Are they reenacting what the wise men saw in the Christmas star: the invitation to be led into God’s expansive hospitality and to find our resting place in the Christ child. If we can be expansive in the giving of our hospitality we can help others respond to the call of God within them and help them bring their hearts to Christ too.

The Rev’d James McDonald


WW1 Armistice Day 100th anniversary

11 Nov 2018

All Saints Pavement has launched a year long project which will end in November 2018. We are asking individuals and groups to make poppies during the next 12 months. These can be knitted, crocheted, made from felt or however you wish to make them and they can be any size. You can find patterns on the internet or use the patterns included here. Once completed, please embroider the names of people who are commemorated on the memorial boards in our churches or the names of family members who died in WW1 or conflicts since that time.

When you have made your poppies keep them until Sept 2018 – at that point community groups asked to attach the poppies to camouflage netting. We are hoping to have enough poppies attached to netting to cover the whole of All Saints Pavement Church – on the outside. You can find patterns for poppies at the end of this article.

In our churches, we have started to formulate and implement some plans for the anniversary:-

 1. York Peace Bells - these are already in position at Holy Trinity Goodramgate, St Paul's Bookshop and in the Merchant Adventurers' Garden (the latter will be moved to Holy Trinity Micklegate soon). Information attached. Nearer the time, we will put information about the WW1 bell story beside the bells.

 2. We have bought banners with the poppy emblem for the lantern at All Saints Pavement. These were installed in 2017 and have now been taken down. We will use them again in 2018

3. We have launched a Poppy Project asking people to make poppies and keep hold of them until Sept 2018. At that point we will bring groups of people together to attach the poppies to camouflage netting. The whole of the outside of All Saints Pavement Church will be covered with the netting and poppies with sandbags around the base to make an art installation for 30 days leading up to 11 Nov 2018.  E mail address is  Knitting/crocheting patterns can be found on All Saints Pavement website

This is in partnership with York Press, RBL York Branch and the families of the three young men remembered in the Afghanistan Window in All Saints Pavement. We are hoping that people will embroider names on to the poppies of family members or friends who died or were injured in WW1 and all conflicts/wars since then to link WW1 with Afghanistan.

More publicity will be done in Jan 2018 and continue through until Nov 2018.

4. We have researched the names of those who are commemorated on the memorial boards in our churches. This information will be made available for public viewing in our churches in 2018.

5. Plans are in place for the 2nd Annual Peace and Reconciliation Lecture in June 2018. We are hoping that Pastor Robert Pfeiffer and Pastor Annegret Wegner-Braun from Marienkirche in Lubeck, Germany will be with us to have dialogue.

 6. Those named in the WW1 memorial book in St Martin Coney Street are being remembered by name in church services, on the anniversary of their death. This has been in place since 2014 and continues.

 7. Holy Trinity Micklegate has educational information panels about WW1 on display in the church and joined in with the Micklegate businesses initiative to display wooden and knitted poppies along Micklegate.

 8. We are planning Remembrance Day services or Acts of Remembrance for all of our churches to include silence at 11am on 11.11.18 and bell ringing that day to announce the 100th anniversary of the Armistice. The content for St Helen and St Martin will depend on the city's plans eg if a huge event is planned in the city centre.

 9. We are planning services of music and readings in some of our churches on the eve of the Armistice (Sat night)

10. We are considering the use of All Saints Pavement Church for the 30 days during the Poppy Project installation. This could be in partnership with others to provide a programme of lectures, music, readings etc. 

Other thoughts:-

a. I have been impressed in 2017 by the use of the words of In Flanders Fields which were marked out in poppies in several locations across the UK. Could something similar adorn the grassed areas of the walls of York?  

b. I also wonder how the stories of local families can be told eg. the 10 Calpin brothers who went to war in WW1

c. Conversations with schools are important and I haven't heard anything about what they might be planning. Could every school age child be given a memento of the 100th anniversary eg. a chocolate coin wrapped in a commemorative foil? (A real coin or medal would be better but I guess that's too expensive) Nestle might help.

 d. I'm wondering whether or not York Minster has plans for the display of the Kings Book. It will be interesting to find out about plans for York Minster and other churches.


Our family has had quite an exciting week! By Margaret Eyre

First of all, my brother Nicholas Eyre has just retired after 39 years working for the British Council in Madrid, and he has been awarded the MBE for services to the global teaching of the English Language.  Laurence and I accompanied him and his wife Encarnita to Buckingham Palace last Thursday for his investiture and we had an exciting day. 

Secondly, Miriam has now been in Nicaragua for three months as part of her English/Spanish joint honours degree, which requires her to spend a year abroad in a Spanish-speaking country, and she's featured in the latest blog of the organisation in which she's volunteering.

Arriving into a new country is always daunting when you have no idea what it will be like. This was no different for Miriam, who is both in Nicaragua for the first time. Miriam from York, England is here for 4 months as part of her year abroad in her English and Spanish degree.

What is your typical day at work like?

Miriam: Normally I wake up about 6.30 and go to the centre at 7.30 to teach my group of 6-8 children English. I have the younger children so I try to teach English in a fun way whilst focusing on how they speak, instead of just vocab lists. I come back at about 11.30, eat lunch and then in the afternoon I usually go to choir or orchestra in Casa de Los Tres Mundos. In the evening I usually do some sort of dancing or I go to the language exchange at ABC school.

What do you do in your free time?

Miriam: I play in a brass group and also sing in a choir in Casa Del Los Tres Mundos. I also play in an orchestra in Managua on Sunday afternoons. I go to salsa on Monday and I also go to the ABC English school to do an English-Spanish language exchange with my friend.  I also do zumba classes twice a week and take Spanish lessons once a week.

What is your favourite element of the experience?

Miriam: I do really like the kids, they’re really nice and are rewarding to teach as for the most part they are receptive and able. I also really like living in the house with the other volunteers that’s really nice. Oh, and the country!



St Martin Coney Street, York

 Community of the Cross of Nails – Building a Culture of Peace

The Community of the Cross of Nails group at St Martin’s hopes to welcome The Bethlehem Light of Peace in a short service of reception in St Martin’s at 11am on Saturday, 23  December.    We are awaiting confirmation of this, because there has been a change of circumstances.  A different Scout or Guide company from that at Menwith Hill may bring the Bethlehem Light of Peace to St Martin’s for distribution to other churches or organisations in York.  We will let you know as soon as we have further details.

We hope to extend a warm invitation to all to come and personally receive a Light of Peace direct from Bethlehem! 

UK Peace Light Badges 2017 The UK Peace Light team have a badge made to celebrate this year’s  Peace Light, worn as a special events badge Dec - Feb, approved by HQ, to be worn above the left breast pocket. The badge costs £1.20 each, and an additional £1.00 to cover postage of whole order.

To place an order please click the Order Form icon to download the order form (in pdf format) or select the "shop" icon to go to the EBay shop to order using PayPal. 

This can be done via the peace light website

Monica Lawrence


St Martin Coney Street, York - Community of the Cross of Nails

Healing the Wounds of History and Building a Culture of Peace

Holocaust Memorial Day is one of the days the Community of the Cross of Nails group at St Martin’s observes each year.  On Saturday 27th January 2018, Holocaust Memorial Day, there will be candle lighting in the church from 1.30pm to 3.30pm, to remember all those who have been killed in holocausts and to honour those who have survived.

Each year a theme is set for Holocaust Memorial Day that highlights ways we can learn from the past and avoid repetition of atrocity. This year’s theme is shown above.  To help us all engage more fully with it, a visual presentation by the Rev’d David Simpson will be shown, and there will also be a short pew prayer available to take away if you would find it helpful.

Words make an impact - for good and evil. The theme explores how words have been used in the past (with appalling consequences), and how words were used to make sense of situations in which people found themselves.  Words used in the present can create either prejudice and division, or inclusion and unity.  Written or spoken, words can define our thoughts, attitudes and actions.

Affirming words - of hope and faith, can challenge any prevailing negative attitudes and promote solidarity for the good, especially in times of insecurity.  This year’s theme is a timely reminder to us all of our responsibility to use words wisely, not only publicly, but in our personal relationships, so that those who hear or read them can feel respected.

In 1940, Provost Howard’s Christmas Day radio broadcast from the bombed ruins of Coventry cathedral, just weeks after the destructive air raid on Coventry, remain an example of the power of words, and how, when carefully chosen, words can unite us in action for the common good.  Provost Howard said that after the war we should work with those who had been our enemies ‘ to build a kinder, more Christ-like world.’  Those words live on timelessly. People acted on his words and the international Community of the Cross of Nails came into being!   The Community continues to enable peace and reconciliation in the UK and around the world.

Monica Lawrence


The Advent Virus
Anonymous via email


Be on the alert for symptoms of inner Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. The hearts of a great many have already been exposed to this virus and it is possible that people everywhere could come down with it in epidemic proportions. This could pose a serious threat to what has, up to now, been a fairly stable condition of conflict in the world.

Some signs and symptoms of The Advent Virus:

  • A tendency to think and act spontaneously rather than on fears based on past experiences.
  • An unmistakable ability to enjoy each moment.
  • A loss of interest in judging other people.
  • A loss of interest in interpreting the actions of others.
  • A loss of interest in conflict.
  • A loss of the ability to worry. (This is a very serious symptom.)
  • Frequent, overwhelming episodes of appreciation.
  • Contented feelings of connectedness with others and nature.
  • Frequent attacks of smiling.
  • An increasing tendency to let things happen rather than make them happen.
  • An increased susceptibility to the love extended by others as well as the uncontrollable urge to extend it.

Please send this warning out to all your friends. This virus can affect and has affected many systems. Some systems have been completely cleaned out because of it.