Tag Archives: Cornwall


Top left: Joy with the Elvis and Roy Orbison guitars on Music Row; top right: the Carter Family and Johnny Cash guitars; bottom: Joy sitting at the Buddy Killen piano statue.

During our sabbatical trip to Nashville, Tennessee, we had a wonderful highlight – thanks to the BBC and the long-distance kindness of strangers.

Nashville is known as Music City, USA, and the home of Country Music. The downtown area is alive with bars and streets areas that simply rock with country. If you’re not a fan when you get there you surely will be when you leave.

We visited the Grand Ole Opry, of course, and we went to the Ryman Auditorium, known as the Mother Church of Country but which actually was built for a revivalist Methodist preacher who hated, among other things, alcohol, low-cut dresses and bicycles. Yes, I know!

Beyond that, we didn’t have much of a clue, so before we flew out I sent a cheeky email to legendary BBC DJ Bob Harris who I knew regularly visited Nashville. While we were in the astonishing Country Music Hall of Fame, a series of texts and emails from Bob’s office resulted in an amazing evening.

The one place we had really wanted to see was the iconic Bluebird Café where songwriters play, often singing in the round. But it’s such an intimate venue and tickets disappear so quickly we couldn’t get in.

The Bluebird Cafe with Ben and Crissie from The Shires in the centre and Sam Palladio on the left (white shirt).

Suddenly, after being on the outside, we were not just on the inside – we were on the guest list for an evening which included British Country duo The Shires and Sam Palladio, the star of the TV series Nashville. Sam grew up about 10 miles from where we used to live in Cornwall.

It was a glorious evening, made possible by someone who didn’t know us and didn’t need to be generous but chose to. Acts of spontaneous generosity make such a difference. Maybe you can offer somebody your generosity today.


Celebrating The Grenaways

The Grenaways are a collective of musicians born out of The Tubestation, still for me the coolest church on the planet but so much more than that.

You want a skateboard ramp – it’s got it. In this cold weather it’s got a fab woodburner. In need of some stylish coffee – look no further. Home-produced snacks – naturally.

Then, of course, there are always people willing to tussle with Scripture and apply it to life and – with not much pressure – there’s usually someone who’s happy to nip outside and check the swell or lend you a wetsuit and board for a cheeky surf.

But with the rise of The Grenaways the reputation of the Polzeath area is spreading for the quality of its surf-tinged folk music.

The album Be Still Young Heart has been out for a while and the band has been building a solid reputation through playing festivals and being heard on the BBC Introducing streams. While being thoroughly rooted in Cornwall and massively influenced by the surfing culture, their musicianship is ensuring that they have developed a fanbase beyond the South West.

Here they are recorded live at Creationfest on the Royal Cornwall Showground in Wadebridge last August.

A heart of welcome at the heart of the Good News

Surf and fairly-traded coffee, Wesleyan history and cherry bakewells or a massive indoor skatepark with cans of drinks from a vending machine … I encountered three amazing ways of sharing the Good News of Jesus yesterday. On the face of it they were different, but their heart was identical.

I’ve had the privilege this week of being able to share some of Cornwall’s delights with Steve Swann, who’s coming to minister in the county in September. Yesterday was a day for travelling to three projects where the Methodist Church is leading the way.

The first stop was at The Tubestation in Polzeath. I’ve got to declare an interest as the “midwife”, I suppose you would say, who led the team which gave birth to this surf church. It’s always a joy to go back and relax in the chilled-out vibe of a place which I believe to be the most special church on the planet. As Steve, John (who came with us) and I chatted to Dave Matthews – the project’s spiritual director – I caught again the depth of love for community which underpins everything about Tubestation.



The latest development is Zeath Gallery, with paintings by members of the church community and others (above is Right by Ness Lannen), and some astonishing woodwork, including a pine cone which weighs a ton and a table which you would need to build a home around!!

In sheer numbers Tubestation is an astonishing success. From a congregation of six in 2001 to an Easter service with 300 now is an amazing God-blessed journey, but it’s the constant search for new ways of blessing the community that is the hallmark of its mission: not “are you saved” but “come and rest”.

From there we went to the tiny hamlet of Trewint and Wesley’s Cottage where John Wesley and his preachers were offered hospitality by a poor stonemason and his wife in the 1740s and later. As a result they preached and kept coming back and sharing the Gospel. Digory and Elizabeth Isbell, the couple, were so impressed by Wesley, that they provided two extra rooms for him to stay and preach. The cottage has been restored and one room is believed to be the smallest Methodist preaching place in the world.

When we arrived, John Hogarth the warden began by offering tea and cakes and then told us the history of the cottage, the “prophet’s chamber” built for Wesley and his preachers, and of the increased visitor numbers. Wesley Cottage is one of the places in Cornwall where heritage is being used to enhance 21st Century mission rather than simply look back to what used to be.


Our final visit was to an industrial estate at Launceston where the Methodist Circuit has backed The Unit, a massive indoor skatepark. We spoke to Sam and Simon, who live surrounded by noise and the chaos of skaters and bikers as they host this brilliant outreach initiative. The condition of use is that the youngsters have to stop for a 10-minute Bible study, delivered in down-to-earth language and using the Skater’s Bible – the New Testament in a modern translation. It was punchy, open and began with a clear welcome to everyone: we’re happy to have you here, God’s happy to see you here, enjoy being in this place.

As we drove home – thrilled with what we’d seen – the reflection wasn’t so much about the contemporary nature; though that was great at The Tubestation and The Unit. Because what held all three places together was the welcome they offered.

Surf and fairly-traded coffee, Wesleyan history and cherry bakewells or a massive indoor skatepark with cans of drinks from a vending machine … God is in the detail, his smile is in the handshake and the invitation to be yourself in his presence whether the place echoes with 250 years of preaching and prayer or a few months of acrylic paint and a hard hat.

Christmas letter 2009

A man decided to buy his wife a really special Christmas gift and visited a posh department store. The assistant showed him a bottle of perfume for £150. ‘I’m not paying that,’ he spluttered. ‘Have you got a smaller bottle?’

After rejecting the £75, £35 and tiny £10 bottles of the same brand he demanded to know the cheapest thing they had in the store.

The assistant reached under the counter and handed him a small mirror. She said: ‘I believe if you look in there, sir, you’ll see the cheapest thing we have in the shop.’

The Bible says that when Jesus came in the stable at Bethlehem he came as the ‘exact representation of God’s being’ … God’s mirror image, if you like. Our prayer is that you find time this Christmas to find the real Christmas in the middle of all the other great things that go on.

Joy and Gareth Well, we’ve had an amazing year. Not just getting used to being in our new home and Gareth’s new job, but three family weddings to enjoy and another one in the planning!

Siân and Damien married at the end of May (more of that below) but also both of Gareth’s sisters got married – and neither of those were expected when we wrote last year’s letter!

The first was Claire who married in St Ives at the end of March. She and new husband Dave Walter now live in Braunton, Devon. Youngest daughter Sarah is with them while Rachel and Hannah are in St Ives with their father.

Then Betsan married Steve at the start of August. She managed to begin the day as Miss Hill and ended it as Mrs Hill! Steve is a Methodist minister and within very few days Bee, Steve and Chloe had moved to Crosby near Liverpool where Steve is the Superintendent Minister of a Methodist Circuit. Gareth was thrilled to be asked to conduct the service.

The weddings meant that both Gareth’s sisters moved out of Cornwall within a few months of each other – he wondered whether it was something he said! – and contact is now through Facebook, text messages, phone calls and the occasional visits.

But we all work hard at keeping in touch and, during a holiday trip to Merseyside, also saw Gareth’s brother Mike and his family.

Gareth has had some preaching invitations this year including at Llanyrafon Methodist Church, which his parents helped to build, and at Park Road Methodist Church, Hastings, which meant that we could spend the weekend with Joy’s brother Pete and his family. That included the obligatory dip in the hot tub!

For Joy, the highlight of the year was her 50th birthday which featured a 70s disco. It was lovely to see friends from her childhood and from recent years coming together for the evening.

It also brought her back in touch with Lynny (pictured below), her best friend through the 70s, and they’ve been in virtually daily contact since through Facebook, despite Lynny spending many weeks out of the country.

In April we celebrated our Pearl (30th) wedding anniversary and went to London to see Les Miserables – an amazing show.

Next year Gareth has a sabbatical, the gift from the Methodist Church of three months paid leave. He’s aiming to do some more hymn writing and to try to build a book around some of the hymns he’s already written (you can find them on http://www.cybervicar.com). We’re also looking forward to taking our ageing caravan to France for an extended break.

Before that there’s still plenty to do at work. Joy is into her 11th year on the children’s unit at Treliske Hospital, Truro; battling with a new system for serving food.

There’s also more involvement in village life. We’re firmly established in the Clockhouse Players and rehearsing for next year’s panto with Gareth in the title role as The Wizard of Oz. And there’s pub quiz on Sunday nights.

Both of these are a key part of Gareth’s work – doing church for people who don’t do church – and led up to the pub hosting a link-up with the BBC in the South West for a interactive carol service in Christmas week.

We also now have a LIFE group that meets at our house twice a month and are looking at how to develop contemporary worship in the area. A very successful Alpha group has just finished in a pub in St mawes.It’s been a year of major change for our children in all sorts of ways.

Siân and Damien The end of May brought Siân and Damien’s big day.

They were married at Llanyrafon Methodist Church on the most perfect sunny day. Gareth had been asked to write a hymn for the day.

They had already made the decision to move back to Cornwall after their jobs in Wales ended around Christmas last year – but while they were with us for the holiday were both offered their old posts back!

So Damien is now Head Chef at The Pickwick in St Issey, near Padstow and in the final six competitors for the Great British Pub food awards 2010. Siân is working on the reception team at The Metropole in Padstow.

They now live in a mobile home in the grounds of The Pickwick.

Andrew and Rose It’s also been a momentous year, one way or another, for Andrew, Rose and the boys.

This time last year Andrew was effectively the number 2 at a kitchen design and suply company on the edge of Plymouth but it was becoming increasingly clear that there were money problems in the company – particularly when Andrew didn’t get paid!

Eventually, Andrew made the brave decision to go and it proved to be wise. Soon afterwards the company went bust.

After a while looking at what he wanted to do he decided to try his hand at his Dad’s old career and is now a reporter at the Cornish Times in Liskeard. He covers Callington but also writes for the West Country Sunday paper The Sunday Independent, which is published from the same office.

Rose is continuing her degree studies in Child Development and also working part-time for the NHS – we don’t know where she gets the energy!

They have booked their wedding for August next year and we are really excited about that!

Rhys is six next March and has been doing really well at school, regularly bringing home certificates for his spelling and being congratulated for his behaviour.

He is having swimming lessons in the same pool that Tom Daley started in – and is eyeing the diving board rather too keenly!Matthew looks frightenly like Rhys did at the same age and loves calling his Nanny and Papa on the phone; especially leaving messages: “Hello! Hello! Hello! Bye!!”