A Letter from Rev Clarissa

(You can watch Rev Clarissa read this letter here.)

My friends and Church family,

This is my overdue pastoral and introduction letter.

Thank you all so very much for your warm and kind welcome; both Lloyd and I have felt so at home here and are excited with the great things that God will be doing with and through us as we pray and grow together.

Yes we are living in a bewildering, liminal season of life. In the words of Charles Dickens in A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair”.

This has not been the ideal entry into a new post of ministry. It has been a very busy time for us. Especially as the confirmation for our move date came on the Thursday and we moved on the Friday. Added to that, we were still in the process of settling two of our five children into university. So not just a new start in a new house, but quite a new start in a new ministry too!

New beginnings are great. I personally find them inspiring and exciting, however with new beginnings there are inevitably endings.

As I drew close to leaving Frome, I became aware of how much love I have for the people there and the love that has been shown to us as a family during my four years in ministry.

However, there has been much joy as my long awaited licensing took place. And my, what a very special event. Archdeacon Simon lead a beautiful service, Joined by friends from Frome, family and friends from abroad, and of course the lovely welcoming folks of Cotford St Luke, Hillfarrance, Heathfield and Oake. In the words of those who looked at the church website: “what a perfect fit” and “they seem like a really friendly lot”, Praise indeed… and I fully agree.

About our children

Simon, age 25, lives in Malvern and runs his own music business

Jake, age 24, lives in Canada. He’s in his fourth year studying medicine and plays basketball for
his college.

Samuel, age 20, is training to be a physiotherapist at Cardiff University

Ruby, age 18, is studying Fine Art at Falmouth university

Benjamin, age 17, is studying drama and stage management in Bath

They are all looking forward to meeting folks and of course, seeing their new home.

For me this new beginning and although strange, it feels natural and right.

Matthew 7:7-11 stands out as a true guideline for my calling and the prayer element of this passage is something close to my heart, when Jesus asks, “How much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him?”

My greatest desire is to encourage others in their prayer life to deepen their personal relationship with God and then to share His love and all that Jesus is about with those they meet. 

I truly believe that God has a calling and purpose for each and everyone of us. For each of us that calling will look and sound different, but His voice is clear and can be heard when we are prepared to listen and respond to His voice.

Several months ago Graham my former incumbent said: ” I have found your perfect Job.” Then I had a deep sense of God nudging me to knock, and maybe, just maybe, that door would indeed be opened for me. The opportunity I speak of was, of course, the vacancy of Rector here.

I did respond, and the rest is history. I found the whole process affirming and truly sensed God’s hand in the proceedings.

And so here we have it, a new ministry for your Rector and a new chapter in the life of the Deane Vale benefice. I deeply hope that you find me approachable, prayerful and above all here to serve God as a Christian among Christians and non-Christians alike. I am looking forward to getting to know you and the community in which we live and serve.

I am always open to new God-given ideas and am excited to hear what you have to say about our role as the Body of Christ in our community; I believe as we work together as a team following the teachings in the book of Acts, we will see God move in an amazing way.

I am also looking forward to being alongside you as you discover or continue to explore your own God-given vocation; be assured we all have one.

I am often out and about in and around the neighbouring villages with my dog Miss Wilson, aka Peppa. I am never too busy for a chat, but if I am for any reason at that time I’m sure you’ll understand.

It is sometimes so difficult to encounter God when life becomes unpredictable and we feel stressed but, let us not forget we can meet him in our hearts and listen to the ‘still, small voice’ of the Spirit of God. The lockdown days are with us again; let us continue to find ways of supporting those in need, being a positive and encouraging voice, and praying for the concerns and needs of the local and wider communities.

At the moment we are planning to have a weekly online Sunday service and Heathfield will be open for private prayer and meditation. I will also be praying in the sanctuary in St Luke’s Centre (SLC) from Monday to Thursday between 9am and 10am. You are welcome to invite anyone to make known their prayer requests by phoning or emailing me or posting it through the SLC letter box.

We have temporarily appointed pastoral contacts in for this time from each Church to keep me informed of the needs particularly of those who are vulnerable and alone. They are Marcia for Hillfarrance, Corinne for Oake, and Dawn for Heathfield. Phil and Lyndsey have kindly passed on information of those in this Cotford St Luke. I am grateful for their support.

So much is happening and certainly we may become alarmed, apprehensive and even anxious to say the least. The ray of light in this dark season is that the star shines brightest when the nights are darkest. People are bringing forth the best in their hearts and lives. As our poet William Wordsworth says in Tintern Abbey: “that best portion of a good man’s (woman’s) life, His (Her) little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love”.

Goodness of heart, gentleness and thoughtfulness are as golden as the autumn leaves, and that is a sign of light in these most difficult of seasons.

Please visit our Church website for ongoing information, pass on information to those who may not be Techie. Since the first lockdown, regular collections in our Churches has ceased. If you would like to make a donation to help in God’s work through the church’s mission and ministry in our communities please do so by contacting either myself or one of the churchwardens.

We are still Church. We want to love God with all our hearts, soul, mind and strength, and to love our neighbour as ourselves. We will continue to do this. As Jesus exhorts us: we want to be people of Faith, not Fear. We will do all we can to reach out and help!

Please take care and do stay safe!

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all now and always.

With my love, prayer and blessing to each one of you,

Clarissa

Sermon on John 14:1-14: For troubled hearts

Do not let you hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.”

I wonder how many times I’ve read and spoken those words. I’m sure you’ve read and heard them countless times. They are familiar and favorite words in difficult times. They’re the right words for times like today.

I love the encouragement, hope, and promise that stand behind those words, and I never tire of hearing them. But today I find those words a tad more difficult, given the past weeks conversation with people I have met on my daily walk about, and the fear that is brewing or resurfacing.

Hearts are troubled about in-person worship, about not continuing in-person worship. Troubled by those who are out and about acting as if the virus is gone. And hearts are troubled by another day in the house and a life lived in increments of distancing. Troubled by all the things we can’t do. And trouble by all the things we’re starting to do. Troubled by millions of job losses and more than 50,ooo deaths in the UK alone. Hearts are troubled by the pain and hurt of the world because the virus continues, because things aren’t like they used to be, and we are probably never going back to the way things used to be. Hearts are troubled because many don’t know the way.

Whether it’s the coronavirus or a thousand other heart troubling things, I suspect every one of us is living with some form of troubled heart. It seems to be what happens when we don’t know the way, or what is going on.

What troubles your heart today? What does it feel like? We all experience it in our own ways but does any of this sounds familiar: isolated, paralyzed, overwhelmed, anxious, powerless, off balance, out of control, disconnected, afraid, thoughts spinning in your head, no stability, despair, grief, tears, frustration, anger. Do you recognize yourself in any of those?

Spoken or unspoken, I think there’s a question every troubled heart is asking. Will the centre hold or is
everything collapsing around us? These are some of the questions I hear from folks.

That’s my question and maybe it’s your question too. I think it’s one many are asking. And today Jesus answers,

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.”

As much as I like those words, wouldn’t it have been great if Jesus was a little more specific but we all know, Jesus was never much for Q &A sessions.

What’s going to happen? “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”

How will we get through this? “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”

When will it be over? “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”

What will life, the world, the church be like? “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”

Is everything going to be ok? “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”

Jesus is telling us to not lose our centre in the midst of what’s going on. That’s what happens when hearts are troubled and we don’t know the way. We lose our centre. We start living outside of ourselves, and when we do life is defined by and focused on external things. Jesus is calling us back to our centre, telling us to re-centre and rebalance. He’s inviting us to live from the inside out, instead of from the outside in.

Jesus knows what it’s like to be troubled. There were times he lost his centre. He too has felt the weight of a collapsing world. He was deeply moved and troubled when he saw Mary weeping at the death of Lazarus (John 11:33). And then Jesus wept (John 11:35).

“Now my soul is troubled,” he said as he faced his own death (John 12:27).

And John says that Jesus was “troubled in spirit” when he told the disciples that he would be betrayed (John 13:21).

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46) Is that not the cry of every troubled heart?

I wonder if Jesus’ heart was troubled even as he was telling the disciples to not let their hearts be troubled. Why wouldn’t it be? It’s the night of the last supper, feet have been washed, and Judas is about to get up and leave the table. I wonder if Jesus was talking to himself as much as to the disciples. I wonder if he was reminding himself as much as them that the Father’s house is a sanctuary and
home for troubled hearts, and that there are as many dwelling places in the Father’s house as there are troubled hearts.

What if today’s gospel (John 14:1-14) is a story about finding and recovering our true centre? What if re-centring is the front door of the Father’s house – for Jesus, the disciples, and us? And what if we sometimes have to lose our centre so we can find a new one, a truer one?

Every re-centring, every change, every re ordering offers us the opportunity to take a closer look at where we are with the one who is the centre of our being.

Jesus says “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”

If our heart is troubled then it’s probably time to reconnect with God. we begin by looking within and seeing the ways in which we are living, is Christ our centre, or are we centred upon the troubles of the world.

Of course this change won’t eliminate the virus and it won’t necessarily take away our worries or fix our problems, whatever they might be. But it gives us a place of stability on which to stand. It tethers our heart to faith, hope, and love. It means loving our neighbour as ourselves; valuing the needs, hopes, and concerns of others as much as our own; being gentle with ourselves and others; forgiving not seven times but seventy times seven, whether it’s ourselves or another. It helps us to
know what to hold on to and what to let go  of. It connects us to the abundant life and to each other. It opens our eyes, ears, and hearts to the way, the truth, and the life, and reminds us that we are not the centre but that the centre lies within each one of us.

Hearts are troubled and the world seems to be spinning crazily and out of control, but there is a still point at the centre – that is not spinning crazily, a still point of peace, of stability. “God,” writes Julian of Norwich, “is the still point at the centre.”

In what ways are you living off centre and what in you today needs re-centring? What does re-centring look like for you today? What is just one thing you can change or do today that will help bring you back to your centre?

Clarissa Shaw-Notice
All Saints Day. 1st November 2020

GOOD NEWS! 

The Hub cafe at St Luke’s Centre is re-opening on Wednesday 12th August. 

Initially the cafe will be open on Weds and Fri mornings from 9.30-12 and hopefully additional sessions will be added later in the year. 

Several measures have been taken to ensure that the building and sale of refreshments will be Covid-19 secure. 

Cash donations welcome as we cannot take card payments.

WE LOOK FORWARD TO SEEING YOU SOON!

Virtual Dog Show!

We’ve gone online for Cotford’s Annual Dog Show!

We love putting on the annual dog show for Cotford St Luke and since we cannot get together up on the village green this year, we decided we would go online.🌎💻

📷 The idea is that you email us photos of your dog and tell us which class you want to enter (you can enter as many classes as you want).

We will post your entry on our Facebook page and encourage people to like their favourite in each class. The entry with the most likes in a class on the closing date will win! The show will finish on June 27th, with winners being declared soon after. We are thinking about putting all the class winners into a Best In Show class that runs until July 4th – has anybody got any ideas about a suitable prize for that?

The classes you can enter are:

  1. Handsome Boy
  2. Gorgeous Girl
  3. Cute Puppy
  4. Fancy Dress
  5. Most Appealing Face
  6. Best Action Shot
  7. Caught in the Act (pictured doing something naughty or funny)
  8. In A Special Place (e.g. armchair)
  9. Just Good Friends (with another of your pets)
  10. Best Pet (no dogs in this category, its for any other pet).

Note that classes (1) to (8) are for dogs only and class (9) is for a dog and another of your pets together. Any pet, except dogs, can be entered into class 10.

To enter, send an email to enter@cotforddogshow.org with photos and details of the classes you are entering. Please don’t send pictures that include people.

We need to raise funds for the maintenance of St Luke’s Centre, so we are asking for donations to be made via PayPal. The donation amount for entering one class is £2.50, for two classes it is £4.50, for three £6.50, four £8.20 and for five the donation is £10. If you consider us friends, which I hope you do, donating to friends and family means no fees to pay!

😁 Please send your donation to https://paypal.me/cotforddogshow

The prizes are vouchers to spend at Quantock Pet & Equine (Bishops Lydeard), who have kindly sponsored this event. Thank you Quantock Pet & Equine. 😀💖

We hope you enjoy this event, and please share it with your friends because anybody with a pet can enter!

News

News from Hillfarrance – As you are probably aware, churches were allowed to be open for private prayer and funerals from 15th June. The PCC of Hillfarrance has come to the decision that we are sadly not in a position to open Holy Cross yet because the regulations with which we must comply are too onerous, especially given the fact that most of us fall into the vulnerable category. We will obviously review this when we reach the next stage in the easing of lockdown. You may already be aware that the same decision was made by the PCC at Oake about St Bartholomew’s Church.

Letter from the Right Reverend Ruth Worsley, Bishop of Taunton For Parish Newsletters – June 2020

Recognise the one who stands beside you.

‘Stay alert’ is the message as we ‘ease out of lockdown’. We know that for some there is little ease as we begin to re-engage with a world that is still fearful of Covid-19 and uncertain about its future. The requirement to ‘stay alert’ is to encourage us to watch out for signs of the virus and protect ourselves and others as necessary.

We’ve just celebrated Pentecost, often recognised as the birthday of the Church. Jesus’ message to his followers as he left them to return to his Father was that they were to ‘stay alert’, not to guard against something fearful to come but rather to be watchful for the Spirit that would free them from fear. It didn’t mean that there weren’t still physical dangers to face but rather that their spiritual lives should grow in boldness.

We have seen much courage exhibited throughout this crisis to date. Key workers who have continued to serve us day by day even whilst most of us have remained at home. The NHS has quite rightly been applauded and appreciated at this time and there are so many more.

I’ve been especially impressed by our schools and their teams who have largely been open throughout this period to be provide care for key worker families and vulnerable children. Even at weekends and during this past half term holiday they have been tirelessly supporting their local communities. Staying alert to the needs of our young, they have shown their commitment and care. I want to express my huge gratitude to them!

As we move into June we may be seeing more children returning to schools having been home-schooled for a time. This will not be without fear for some and a need to be especially alert to physical dangers. Whatever the situation we find ourselves to be in at this point, we are reminded that we have a Comforter, an Advocate, the Holy Spirit, who strengthens and encourages our faith even at times of doubt and anxiety.

Whether still at home and isolated or beginning a return to wider community life, may you find yourself being alert for and recognising the one who stands alongside you, the Spirit, who is friend, guardian and comforter.

With every good wish

Bishop Ruth

A Word from David Rhodes

I’m missing the opportunity to prepare a sermon for St Luke’s Centre this month, so I thought I’d commit a few ideas to paper and share them here:

In the last few weeks, we’ve all been snowed under with statistics in news broadcasts and on social media. Here’s my favourite: The use of the word “unprecedented” has reached unprecedented levels! It seems that everything has changed – the way we work, the way we communicate, the way we worship. It’s a challenge for people in all walks of life and it is certainly a challenge for the church.

Christians are reminded, of course, that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8), so there is always one constant that we can rely on, however turbulent the rest of our lives may become. In the present circumstances, it really is something we must rely on, but it needs a little thought.

I’ve been reading the book of Acts in the Bible over the last couple of weeks. It’s the book in which we read about the growth of the church in its first 25 years or so, beginning just after Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to heaven. Those were turbulent times, indeed. As the story unfolds it is absolutely clear that the message of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit are the constants around which everything else revolves – but that isn’t the whole story. As we read about the beginnings of the churches in Jerusalem, Antioch, Ephesus, Phillipi, Athens, Corinth and the rest we cannot escape the fact that in each place those early missionaries faced different situations, different cultures, different languages and different people. They had to adapt to each situation.

Right at the beginning of the book, in Acts Chapter 1, we read of the disciples gathered together in Jerusalem after the Ascension, hiding away, sorting out only the most urgent matters and waiting for God to do something spectacular. In our present situation, we can feel bit like an Acts Chapter 1 church – but that’s not what we are.

The book of Acts doesn’t really have an ending – in Chapter 28 the church is still growing, the great missionary apostle, Paul, is under house arrest in Rome but still preaching and writing to other Christians. It’s not the end of the story, it’s just that it’s reached the time at which Luke wrote it all down and he didn’t know what would happen next. He couldn’t write Chapter 29, because he didn’t know what the future would hold. We’re not an Acts Chapter 1 church – we’re an Acts Chapter 29 church. We are stepping out into new places, new situations, “unprecedented” times. Christians must adapt to the “new normal”. Jesus Christ is, indeed, the same yesterday and today and forever, but to do his work we, with the power of the Holy Spirit, must find new ways to be His voice, His hands and His feet.

Many people are finding ways to worship and meet in prayer with the help of the internet as well as television and radio. Do take a look on line at the services and discussions being shared by local churches and national Christian organisations. Think about what more we can do as a church even without the use of our wonderful buildings – and about what we might do differently when we can open them up again. Keep on the work that so many of you are doing in the community, look after your families, your neighbours and yourselves and keep us all in your prayers.

Here are some links which may be helpful:

Church without Walls Sundays @10am Everyone welcome, whatever your age or stage. Email Katherinelyddon35@gmail.com and she can send you the zoom link and password.

Worship, discussions and children’s activities from Taunton:

https://en-gb.facebook.com/stjamestaunton

“Spring Harvest Home” – Discussions and activities for adults and children:

https://springharvest.org/spring-harvest-home/

Bible games for all ages

www.biblegamescentral.com

 

Out of the Ark craft at home

www.outoftheark.co.uk/resources/downloadable-resources

 

Faith Inkubators – Share/Read/Talk/Pray/Bless – family devotions for Covid 19

www.faithink.com/

 

Kitchen Table – 10 things to do at home to maintain faith

https://kitchentable.org.uk/10things/

 

Together at home – weekly resources

www.tath.co.uk

 

Sessions for home based on the lectionary readings

https://www.rootsontheweb.com/

 

God venture @ home

www.godventure.co.uk/news/faith-at-home-in-a-time-of-covoravirus/

 

Pilgrims at home

https://www.rochester.anglican.org/content/pages/documents/1587552422.pdf

Bible story videos

https://www.max7athome.org/en

 

Cotford Community Church, St Luke’s Centre & St John’s Church, Heathfield [our parish church]

With regret, all public worship services in Cotford and Heathfield are suspended until further notice.

Also suspended are: the Hub cafe in Cotford; Baby group; Toddler group; Toddler church; Bereavement cafe; home study groups; Farmers’ Market; Saturday breakfast cafe.

We continue to follow the advice given by the Diocese of Bath and Wells, which is set out in detail on their website www.bathandwells.org.uk. We will re-open our church buildings and resume our full programme of activities as soon as they advise us that it is safe to do so.

Where they can, church members in the villages will be happy to help anyone you know who isn’t coping, and to work with other community support groups [such as Cotford St Luke Coronavirus Community Help on Facebook].

For more information, please contact one of our church wardens:

                 Ally Gabell                      433125

                 Philip Hall [deputy]      430818

                 Dawn Mitford-Slade     432255

                 Clare Reid [deputy]      433590

‘…but all shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well’ [Julian of Norwich]

‘God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble’ [Psalm 46:1]

Let’s talk

‘It’s good to talk!’ so the old BT advert (other telecommunications firms are available) used to say. I agree. Who doesn’t feel better after having a good old chat with a friend, or even after having a quick chat with a stranger when stuck in a tedious queue? It may seem then, that this year’s Lent Challenge from Bishop Peter and myself is no great challenge at all as we are simply suggesting that we have conversations with our neighbours, family and friends.

The challenge comes in what we might talk about. We are encouraging all of us, including Bishops, to step outside what may be our normal topics of conversation, and perhaps our comfort zones, and grapple with some simple questions about life, death and everything in between. The challenge is both to listen to someone else’s viewpoint and to ask ourselves how our own answers connect to what we believe.

In order to help us have those conversations the Go Team and discipleship team have produced a handy pack of question cards, and by the time Lent begins, we hope that each church will have received at least one of these packs of 40 Everyday Questions. The questions are suitable for all ages so can be used in a whole host of ways – with friends, family, colleagues, in school, with a Lent group, at a ‘bring and share’ lunch, even in church on a Sunday.

We’ve already been out and about across the diocese asking people some of the questions on the cards. And you can bet that asking school children questions like ‘Should all bad people be punished?’ or ‘How would you describe God?’ has yielded some very interesting conversations. We will be sharing some of the conversations we’ve had with a range of people on Facebook and Twitter so if you are on social media then do keep an eye out for them during Lent, and by all means let our communications team know how you are getting on using the hashtag #40questions.

We really hope the 40 Everyday Questions cards generate some interesting, meaningful and indeed, Godly conversations that will help us hear the point of view of those around us and refresh and deepen our faith in God this Lent.

The Right Revd Ruth Worsley, Bishop of Taunton

Lent Challenge

This year’s Bishops’ Lent challenge sounds straightforward: simply to have conversations with our friends, family, colleagues, or people we just bump into in our daily life.

How can that be a challenge?

Often the conversations we have are on the same topics (you can probably name them!) or they are about practicalities like who is going to get the tea. This challenge provides an excuse to grapple with some simple questions about life, death and everything in between.

In a society where loneliness is on the rise, it’s good to find ways of connecting with those around us and having meaningful conversations.

Are they all ‘Christian’ questions?

No! These are questions, big and small, on a variety of topics about life, the world and faith.

These are everyday questions that many of us wonder about, even if we wouldn’t usually have a conversation about them.

What happens if I don’t know the answers?

Don’t worry, this is about conversation, not about answers! The Challenge is two fold:

  • · To listen to someone else’s viewpoint
  • · To ask ourselves how our own answers connect to what we believe

How do I get started?

We’ve produced a pack of question cards, suitable for people of all ages. The question can be used in any way you want but in the pack there are some suggestions to get you started. You can even use the questions with a Lent Group or school class if you want to. We’ll share the questions each day from Ash Wednesday (26 February) on our Twitter and Facebook feeds with the hashtag #40questions. We’ll also share some very short videos of people of all ages having a go at some of the questions, just as a conversation starter!