Some Tools of the Trade

I found myself in a conversation about tools recently at a church work party. The other people in the conversation were in a different league as they talked about power tools and drill bits and the best places to buy good tools. My tool kit is embarrassingly small, a few screwdrivers and pliers, a hammer, and that’s about it. I’ve never been good with my hands, and admire greatly those who can turn their hand to all sorts of things, from carpentry and joinery, to plumbing and electrics. I fear the worst anytime I tackle those household jobs, and so do those who live with me when they see me getting prepared to do battle with a problem around the house.

As the season of Easter approaches, I thought I would share a few of the tools of my trade as a pastor and preacher. They probably seem pretty basic and modest, but they have a power and resonance that, thankfully, goes way beyond the person using them. 

There’s a Bible here and mine is missing its front cover. It’s a bit worn and crumpled, but I love to draw upon its wisdom as I go to situations in hospitals and nursing homes and people’s homes. There are words of life and power and hope that can be read to people at some of the most challenging moments of their lives, and they can bring transformation and healing. They can bring light into the darkness and they are words inspired, not by me, but by the Spirit of the living God.

There’s a clerical collar here and, while some people prefer not to wear them, I use it as a sign to say that as I come, I come, not just off my own bat, but I come to represent the church in this situation. It’s a bit like a uniform, I guess, as you enter places like hospitals or nursing homes or turn up on someone’s doorstep. Some people feel that it represents something bad or sinister after some of the scandals of recent years, but I recognise that, in spite of those terrible failings and failures, the church has been a force for good in all sorts of situations and places over the years, and I feel honoured to represent God’s people and my church community as I wear it. 

There’s a communion set here, and there is a little story behind it. I use it to share Holy Communion with people in their homes, in hospitals and nursing homes. Perhaps, they are not so mobile, or going through a time of ill health, and it is an enormous privilege to break bread and share wine together as we remember all that Jesus has done for us on the cross through His death and resurrection.

It’s a very moving thing to see how the familiar words of the Communion service seem to connect or rekindle memories for those with memory issues, and there is a beautiful sense of God’s presence and His peace as we share that sacred liturgy together. It’s a very special thing to be able to share it with families when someone is seriously ill, and the very name or act of sharing Communion together signifies something very sacred and precious, and creates Holy moments in ordinary and even difficult places. People seem to find the strength to go again and speak of how this act, what we call in church ‘a sacrament’ has brought great encouragement and joy through all it represents. 

You’ll notice that the case of my Communion set is quite old. It belonged to a great-uncle of mine, Canon George Hobson. When he died, his wife, my great-aunt Renee, gave it to me. At that time, I worked as a hospital chaplain in Dublin and it was a very special thing to be able to bring Aunt Renee Communion with this set belonging to her husband before she died. She was always very kind and supportive to me, alongside her family and, in the photograph she is seen beside me on the day of my ordination, 9th June 1996 in Dromore Cathedral. I keep this photo in my study.

As I think about these tools of the trade, the one I cannot photograph is the power of prayer, or being part of a worshipping community. When I have nothing of myself to offer, all I can do is come alongside people and share prayers, either with them in person or from a distance. I usually simply ask God to touch their lives with His healing, His grace and His peace. I ask for His love and presence to surround people in what they are going through and give them all the resources they need. It mightn’t sound like very much and, on many levels, it isn’t, but it reminds us that the power is not in and of ourselves but comes from God and His Holy spirit.

Can I encourage you to come and share in some of our special services for Holy Week and Easter? Each night at 7.30 pm from Monday to Friday we have special services. We have a number of special speakers sharing about the difference Faith makes to their lives. On Good Friday, there is a young people’s service at 12 noon and, in the evening, a service when we hear again the events of the last week of Jesus’s life in the Tenebrae. The Church will be open from 7 am through to 7 pm and there is an invitation to come, slow down, step aside from the world and allow God to speak afresh into your heart and life.

There will be joyful celebrations of Holy communion at 9 am, 11 am and 7 pm on Easter Day. It could be a significant landmark, or turning point, as you engage in these special events and think about their relevance to your life.

The blog and podcast will be taking a break next week, but look forward to speaking again soon.

Much love to everyone,


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