As covid-19 lockdown is extended in the UK I’m drawn to consider one of the positives that seems to be emerging. Perhaps it is a bit early to do this whilst we are still in the midst of a such difficult time. We are all so aware of the struggles some people are having right now. Thankfully we are all well at the moment but our prayer list for others who aren’t grows daily.

As I write on Sunday afternoon, my twitter feed is telling me that #WoodPigeon is trending, there are threads labelled #naturewatch and pictures of favourite walks, including #myfavebench, the places we love to stop and pause. On Instagram, more than ever, I am seeing multiple pictures of blossom and garden birds. As lockdown continues we are hearing less traffic and more birdsong. Simultaneously it seems spring and coronavirus have broken out.


Richard Passmore recently posted his excellent blog  about noticing what he calls the adjacent possible, the opportunities of the day and the surprises they could hold. It’s probably a really obvious thought, but I think lockdown is forcing us to slow down and be increasingly attentive to what’s under our noses, the local. In particular, as we draw a tighter perimeter around our lives, it seems nature, God’s creation becomes enlarged in our focus. Connectivity to nature, through the combination of slowing down and noticing brings its own kind of joy.


This is not news to many people, whether prescribed or not, mindfulness has become a powerful antidote to today’s busy lives. it’s been the buzzword of the last decade. Being present in the moment is a great tool for quietening the chatter that rages in our heads.  But a new buzzword seems to be emerging… connectivity

It’s ironic, we are more separate than ever before, yet we are drawn to the importance of connection. Is there a subtle difference between mindfulness and connectivity?Mindfulness, it seems to me, has a predominately inward, individual looking focus. ‘I’ need to disconnect and be present in order for me to thrive. Whereas connectivity looks the other way, outward towards communion with another person or nature.

It seems we are striving for deeper connectivity right now, spending better quality time (virtually) with family and friends, joining with our neighbours to clap for carers. This morning our village gave the bin men an ovation. It was great to form connectivity with another person just for a moment.

The great weather and time away from normal routines has given opportunity for increased connectivity with nature, although it has been suggested prior to lockdown that we are gradually losing our connection to nature. Robert Pyle an American author and ecologist, calls this the ‘extinction of experience’. As fewer children connect with nature, the connection they pass on weakens. Less people are passionate about nature and apathy towards it grows along with an absence of caring. But in this moment how could we be encouraged to notice the adjacent possible. If connectivity to nature is now increasing how can we even begin to understand that connectivity…Connectivity with what or who?


Alvin Plantinga was an enthusiastic mountaineer, his day job a philosopher, he makes a
good case drawn from his personal experiences in the hills, to all humans having an intuitive awareness of God through nature and their conscience. This he calls a sensus divinatus, a phrase he borrowed from John Calvin.


As we ponder the majesty of the mountains we are presented with, in some way, a reflection of the majesty of God. As we connect with the bursting forth of a new season,  we meet a reassurance that our lack of control at this time doesn’t worry or lockdown the birds or the trees, and so it enlivens our own sensus divinatus.

Hold on, we all know that at times our intuition lets us down, how reliable can this sensus divinatus be?

Dutch theologian Abraham Kuyper calls attention to the fact that theology as the knowledge of God differs in an important point from all other knowledge. In the study of all other sciences man places himself above the object of his investigation and actively elicits from it his knowledge by whatever method may seem most appropriate, but in theology he does not stand above but rather under the object of his knowledge. In other words, man can know God only in so far as God actively makes Himself known. Reflecting on our current situation could it be, particularly now, nature is God’s megaphone to us?


If God is shouting to us through nature it doesn’t mean it is easy to hear even if we are assured of a connection. Here is a verse from the Bible, I love it because it reminds me of mountain encounters where the clag has been down and its hard to see.

1 Corinthians 13:12, We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!


Connectivity with God through nature is also the sort of area that you wouldn’t imagine science to be interested in. Is it even possible to use a scientific approach to measure the immeasurable?

Yes, scientific and anecdotal evidence show us that our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health are improved as we are drawn to nature or take to the hills. Studies have shown, using scientific method, there are links between nature and spirituality and that this connection to nature is important to our sense of physical and emotional well-being. Lucy Jones in her excellent book ‘Losing Eden’ offers a passionate argument tracking studies from the past 20 years, conducted in countries across the world, she found many positive benefits of connectivity to nature for mental health.


When we take our daily exercise and engage physically with nature, I believe we are also engaging spiritually. A Christian view of this, drawn from the writings of St Paul, is offered by theologian Paula Gooder,

“Our bodies are an integral part of Spirituality in that what we do with our bodies should
live up to the knowledge that they are the temple of God’s Spirit…How we take care of our bodies should be ranked alongside prayer as a Spiritual discipline.”

Perhaps sensus divinatus articulates a desire for connectivity with God that involves all of us, our whole being, legs, arms, muscles as well as our overworked brains? As we become open to that desire, the creator sovereignly calls to us through his creation.
Once again we catch that God is close in these moments and also that God is ‘good.’ It is a
truth we experience in a beautiful blossom, the smell of wet grass, a bird’s song and in the hills, amongst the rocks with our feet in the clouds.

Connectivity to nature is increasing as we travel through lockdown. It is stirring questions, evoking awe, offering surprises and soothing the soul. I hope that (not lockdown) continues and that our sensus divinatus is fully enlivened.

Easter and Covid-19

A different kind of Easter (2020) – Jemma Basham

Easter this year has been different. I set off for my early morning run with the sound of nature deafening and traffic noise virtually on mute. I was able to watch many birds that are usually too shy to hang around. I could study the elusive jay, stand and stare at the heron, see the blackbird up close. It was as if they were not as afraid of me now fear has swept our world and left us defenseless and vulnerable.

A handful of cars passed me and I caught sight of people wearing masks sat in them. The church I used to call home was locked as I ran past. Yes this Easter Sunday was certainly different. There would be no bleary eyed trips to the highest part of town, to worship as the sun rose today. There would be no jubilant trips to church with the kids wearing Easter outfits, excitedly preparing for the egg hunt. Instead I was running alone in a virtually deserted place that I had called home for over twenty years but now felt strangely unfamiliar.


If you are reading this you are probably like me and have some mental concentration, so perhaps you are a little bit removed from those being devastated by the virus. However, even if this is true this deadly, silent killer will probably still be coming too close to you for comfort. The weather is beautiful and spring is bursting forth, but no matter how brightly the sun shines there is a shadow over our enjoyment of it and over our quiet times.

This morning I saw from a distance an old friend on the trail who lost her Dad two weeks ago and is having to grieve alone. This afternoon I spoke with a neighbour, broken hearted, by the loss of a dear friend.  There wasn’t a ventilator for him when he arrived in hospital and he died too quickly for them to help him. He died alone and my neighbour is grief stricken and angry and frightened.

How to cope?

Coronavirus came so quickly into our world but it has stayed and looks to be staying for a while. When I spoke to my neighbour, he asked me how I was coping. I have four young children and ageing parents. I worry for them of course I do. People used to ask me that question during other times of suffering and I would resent the question. I am a Christian, I worship a God who I believe wants much more for me than coping. He wants me to thrive, not merely survive, to have hope, to hold fast to joy even in the midst of dark times. But right now I think I am just coping. I love my family time, seeing the kids grow up and bond, the sense of strength that the family being in isolation is bringing. But the death toll and the stream of news of the suffering is hard to bear so coping is a pretty good word to use.


My answer to how I am coping is that I have a faith and I gain strength because we are all in this together. The two are intertwined. I learned a few years ago the healing that we can experience from sharing our experiences of suffering. We are all locked down, so no matter how isolated we are we are still in this together and we share our feelings with every person in the world. Sharing and being understood by someone in our human experience is vital for our mental health. So when we clap on our doorsteps or share posts on community social media we are healing ourselves mentally through the sense of solidarity and the normality we create for each other.

However, there is so much more than that at work for me and I don’t want to hold it back. It is like I am tapping into a secret reservoir of strength and everywhere around me I see thirsty people.  Today is Easter Sunday and I look to Jesus to lead the way for my strength, for my peace and for my protection. I am loved and I am understood and it refreshes me and holds me steady during these times. It can hold you steady too. My prayer for anyone who reads this is that you too will do the same because there is more than enough for all of us. I would never usually post, blog or make myself vulnerable in social media circles. But how can I hold back now when people are risking their very lives to help each other and so many people are dying each day?

‘Consider the birds of the air’ (Matthew 6:26)

So I just want to ask you when you next see a bird, take some time out to study it and delight in it. Practice mindfulness and notice the beauty of the world around you and at the same time consider what Jesus has done. Give him just a thought about how he can help you through this.


If you are like me you may well have been hurt or damaged by the experience of living in this broken world. You may be left with scars and memories that won’t go away. People may not understand, but Jesus understands you. He rose again and showed his friends the scars as if to say he knows we will have them but we can still celebrate, perhaps celebrate even more so because of what we have been through.

If you are like me, you may have experienced the disorientating betrayal of a closest friend. You may struggle to forgive and move on into the fullness of the life you had before betrayal, it’s hard to know who to trust. He knows what that feels like, he shared his whole life with Judas who sold him and betrayed him with kiss. He knows that searing pain of betrayal.

If you are like me right now, you may not be able to sleep and may wrestle in the shadows with real or imagined fears. Jesus understood that too. He stayed awake and prayed through the dead of the night in the garden of Gethsemane in great distress. We know he understands even that human experience.

If you are like me, you may have been hurt by a stranger or a set of circumstances you never imagined. A suffering unexpected and unpredictable in its impact on you and your recovery. Jesus also knows that suffering too. The pain of strangers spitting at him, mocking him, humiliating him, beating him and stripping him of his physical strength. He said nothing to save himself and then hanging on the cross brutalised and bleeding he prayed for God to forgive the people who did it to him.

It doesn’t matter what the suffering, Jesus has been there before us. We are not suffering this alone we have Jesus to lead us on. He knows what this life can throw at us and he promises us he will be with us always and that nothing can separate us from Him. Covid-19 maybe wreaking havoc with our world but our souls are in safe hands.

So despite the crushing pain of loss, my grieving friends can turn their lights out tonight physically alone but with Jesus by their sides. This love holds us steady and there is more than enough for all of us. As this strange Easter day draws to a close, my prayer is that more people will know the peace that passes all understanding, see the hope that we can find in Jesus and experience the healing that only He can bring in this troubled time.

God bless Jemma x


Spooky Trail

A few pictures from this week. Lots of time with family for half-term. One highlight was making and giving out treats to our neighbours for Halloween.

Training this week has been patchy. Tonight was 13 miles on the spooky trail at Bolton Abbey, pitch black in the woods. I had to be careful underfoot as it was slippy in places.

It’s really different running with a head torch, your experience is the couple of metres ahead and to the side of you. Because of the dark, as I ran I became more aware of the sounds and smells of the trail. Especially being accompanied by an owl for most of that section which was fun.

“Com pane” – with bread

Running in summer is great, especially on the trails when they’re hard packed and fast. But actually I prefer training in the winter, especially evenings.

The darker, colder, windier and wetter the better for me. I enjoy the solitude of winter training. I enjoy the reduced distractions, I like to feel ‘nature scratch at me’ (quote from this film about the Faroe Islands ‘running pastor’)

Having said all that, my running over the last few days has been in the company of Jemma and Hope. Relaxed and chatting. A couple of 2km evening runs with Hope and 11km on the Moor paths with Jemma today. How refreshing to share the trails, the wind and the views with these two.

I preached on Jesus the bread of life last weekend. Bread has always been seen as something that both nourishes and connects us.

Our word company comes from the Latin ‘com pane’ – meaning ‘with bread’

Jesus the bread of life sustains and nourishes, it’s life ‘com pane’ – nourished by and connected to the company of God.

Perhaps winter running is good because everything is framed by darkness and I’m more aware of something I could call the company of God.

But, it’s not quite winter and I’ve loved being in the company of Jemma and Hope as I have run recently.

Standing on the shoulders of giants

Well done Hope who ran her first cross country race of the season today. Northcliffe Park, Bradford filled with hundreds of children and lots of enthusiasm. Not too many over zealous parents instead a really encouraging atmosphere for everyone who took part.

Hope and her friends did really well in their race and I was so encouraged by them that I braved the rain and cold tonight with my own session. 10 miles including 4 x 1km efforts at 3.40 pace.

Tonight I stood on the shoulders of a couple of hundred enthusiastic young runners. Giants each one of them…Thank you!

One step at a time

I’m into my final year of studies at St Hild college. At the moment it feels like the finish is a long way off.

Running teaches you lots of things including at times ‘just take the next step’

This year I’ve returned to running, mainly on the trails, usually slowly with an occasional burst of effort.

I’ve tried a few races over the summer months, Otley 10, Ilkley Half and Burnsall 10.

One step at a time…

BAP man (superhero?)

In 2 weeks time I’ll be at a BAP (Bishops Advisory Panel), with 7 others, all of whom are in the process of discerning whether God is calling us to ordained ministry within the c of e. If the outcome is positive then it will mean lots of change ahead for my family. At times it can feel as though this change looms over us. Scary and exciting at the same time.

Yet, as I write, something bigger than the BAP is happening at home. My 3 year old son has a new hero. It’s not one of the cyclists we’ve watched in the Tour de Yorkshire this week, nor is it one of Klopp’s mighty red men who qualified for the champions league final this week. This hero, Judah follows everywhere, wants to be just like him, thinks he’s amazing and cries when he leaves him. Enter hero daddy!! My responsibility as a dad is only starting to become clear to me. Judah’s every second word is ‘daddy’, he needs my affirmation in everything he does. I am scared by the power it feels like I hold to shape who he becomes.

Naturally, I like to think I am close to all 4 of my kids but as Judah is entering the next stage of his identity formation, it seems daddy is definitely his hero. It’s exciting and scary!

Personally I don’t feel like the kind of hero our culture demands. I have no super powers, not really achieved anything amazing, never rescued anyone. It’s actually more scary than exciting to think I might be Judah’s hero.

At the start of Isaiah chapter 3, we read God through the prophet threatening to remove the supply and support from the community in Jerusalem and Judah. The list that follows this warning is what would be taken away and therefore what is needed to underpin a flourishing community. Unsurprisingly food and water top the list but not far behind God says he will remove a bunch of different types of people. Interestingly top of this list are heroes? This text has fascinated me for years. How can heroes be part of the supply and support of a flourishing community? Don’t heroes swoop and save and then move on to their next mission?

Yet when I look within my church community I start to see and understand what real heroes look like. Perhaps the type of hero the Bible suggests are important to the flourishing of a community? These are the people that have so inspired me, that I admire deeply and would be happy to serve if God is calling me to be a vicar.

The heroes I’ve seen persevere when everything is stacked against them. They gracefully cope with the pressure of chronic illness in their family. Heroes smile and encourage others when they themselves are in desperate pain. They choose to honour those who have hurt them. They give generously to those from whom they will never receive anything. They have deep questions yet still trust. They walk through the shadow of the valley of death yet are not overcome. They listen and don’t judge.

The Tour de Yorkshire has put sports heroes in our midst this week. The organisers, the cyclists and the fans have all played their part. At the moment my son believes I am invincible, the fastest, strongest hero out there. When we watch the race on tv he shouts “that’s daddy” at the peloton leader. One day, and it will be pretty soon, he will realise I am not any of those things. But my prayer is Judah will actually see someone who models some of what I’ve described above. The stuff of heroes which over the years I have been privileged to witness in our community at All Saints, Ilkley.

Every community needs heroes to flourish, their capes or dog collars aren’t always necessary but for sure someone will be watching and drawing from their example. It could be you…scary and exciting?


Jemma writes: Recently I’ve started to look into an intriguing therapy for the mind called EMDR. This therapy aims to dislodge traumatic memories that are not being processed properly and stick them in their proper place in the brain. The past.

It has prompted me to meditate on one of my favourite verses in the bible Isaiah 43:18-19. “Forget the former things. Do not dwell on the past. See I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

That scripture speaks to those of us who struggle to leave things in the past. For me it was multiple miscarriage, isn’t it impossible to leave little people you loved and lost behind? It is only through God, his strength and power that we can do this impossible thing.

Anyone who has lost a baby for whatever reason knows it isn’t something you will forget. Miscarriage is birth and death rolled into one. A mystery, an unknown, a difficult to think about or logically rationalise event that has happened and can’t be erased. I read an article recently written by a grieving but moving on parent, who said their first miscarriage shattered his wife like a champagne glass on a hard floor. That has stuck with me. Shattered into fragments. Yes that’s what it has been like, every time.

My life has been a series of ordinary miracles. Meeting my soul mate when I was fifteen, giving birth to our first daughter, then our twins and the unexpected and much celebrated recent finale. It is only now my family is complete that I have started to see there are parts of me that are still shattered into pieces and that I need help to move on.

I never wrote down my dates. I didn’t want a calendar peppered with grief and I wanted to move forward, think positively about the future. Think positive, be positive. But sometimes my body reminded me without me trying. I remember once hitting a week like I’d been run over by a truck and just weeping uncontrollably. It was Lawrence who worked out it was my due date. I didn’t consciously think about it but my body did.

The bible talks about the mind, the heart, the soul. The losses have affected all those parts of me but it is only now that I am allowing myself to truely let go. Somehow grief connected me to the babies, all I had left of them.

This week some small but significant things happened. I have always loved books and this week I picked up my first book in three years, I started to read fiction and poetry again and my mind could absorb it and enjoy it. Last night I had my first simple dream in three years. It was wonderful because it wasn’t a nightmare about loss just a simple dream.

The bible always makes perfect sense even when culture and the medical profession tell you otherwise. Those babies, some of whom were not even days old were part of me, formed by God and forever to be loved by me. I have four beautiful children to hold and love and care for and for that I am so grateful. It is time to allow myself to heal.

I trust God. I can see him at every high and every low of my life, holding it all together. I know now more than ever before I haven’t shattered into pieces and scattered, dispersed, lost forever. I can look up at the sky and know He holds parts of me in His hands and loves them more than I ever could. I have started to breathe out and let Him take them into the past.

So tonight as I tuck each of my precious children into bed I thank Jesus for His great strength and heart that overflows with love. I thank him that grief isn’t the end and that every loss connects us to the hope we have in Him on the cross. And I pray for all those parents out there who love and lose and at some point, whether they like it or not, begin to move on. I keep on asking Jesus to hold us all as we look together at the future.

New Year With God

The main points from today’s all age service at All Saints Ilkley.

Begin with thankfulness. Look back at the year, 2017 and give thanks for the small things, big things, ordinary things and extra ordinary things where we recognise God.

God’s people look backwards to look forwards. The faithfulness of God motivates hope for the future.

Thank you bingo is a great way to engage all ages in beginning the discipline of thankfulness. Me and my helper ‘A’ called the pictures and gave lots of chocolate away as prizes!

Consider Forgiveness.

I want to be on an adventure with Jesus in 2018 and so the children helped me find a collection of things hidden around church to fill my rucksack in preparation for the adventure.

What do we need when journeying with God? Here is my list and the items that went in the bag.

Bible – My Children’s Gospel Bible

Prayers – A candle to help me pray

Holy Spirit – A toy dove!

Passion and boldness – flames of fire

Identity, child of God, son of the King – a gold crown

I missed two items in the service – a cross hidden near the back of church and a shepherds crook to symbolise Godly authority or leadership.

Finally friends help us avoid getting isolated and in danger on the journey. Trusty helper and friend ‘A’ agreed to carry my rucksack but could not move it.

At the bottoms of the bag was two carrier bags full of rocks! There is little point setting off on an adventure if we are dragging hard and heavy things with us everywhere.

The Bible is clear about forgiveness. We should offer it to others for our own sake. We receive it from Jesus when we confess our sins and sometimes we need to forgive ourselves to walk in the freedom that forgiveness from God offers.

The congregation came forward in silence to place their hard or heavy thing, a rock from the pile, at the foot of the cross in buckets of water, representing cleansing. To remind us of the sweetness of forgiveness, everyone was invited to take a chocolate. Some took two – double blessing!

This was our first reading Matthew 11: 28-30

Welcome 2018

2nd reading, Ephesians 3:14-20 which finishes with these words…

God is described here as the one who can accomplish infinitely more than we can ask or imagine. The song, God Our Father, was sung over the congregation we asked for God’s blessing in areas where there is pain and struggle and imagined afresh what the Kingdom breaking in would look like in our lives and that of our churches, families, communities and world. It’s based on the Lord’s Prayer.

“You are never too old to set a new goal or to dream a new dream.” C. S. Lewis.

Happy New Year, looking forward to the adventure.