September is the month when schools go back, harvest services are being planned, and the College of Bishops takes place. Yippee! Actually I’m not being sarcastic. Of course there’s always a sense of this is a month when many of us feel ‘back at work’. It can seem a busy month with lots to challenge us. However we do have some agency in how we approach the tasks of daily living, don’t we?
So, for instance, at the College of Bishops this month, we shall do more work on ‘Living in Love and Faith’, the theology, social anthropology, biblical scholarship and scientific knowledge being considered as the Church reflects on issues of human identity, sexuality and marriage. I’m looking forward to it. And that’s not being sarcastic either. You see it is not that this will be an easy topic, something which we can just all agree to but rather it will be an opportunity to meet together with one another in the presence of God. We will no doubt have some difficult conversations, grapple over imponderables, find ourselves feeling vulnerable but this is the stuff of life, and seeking to find God’s way in a world which has little time for religious faith anymore. The College meets in an Oxford college over a few days and it can sometimes seem rather distant from the everyday world in which we live. However we always celebrate Holy Cross day while we are there. The Collect for that day reminds us that “the passion of thy blessed Son hast made an instrument of painful death to be for us the means of life and peace”. That surely means that life and peace can be found even through the experience of pain and death. In fact sometimes it’s the only way to find them. Dealing with complex issues, tackling challenging tasks is not about finding the easiest and quickest route to an answer. Sometimes it requires much more from us and we need the grace and patience of the Christ who made Himself a sacrifice for us.
The following is the prayer we use on Holy Cross Day after we receive bread and wine together, perhaps we need to use it more as we face the challenge of seeking to live as men and women of God in His world today.
“O faithful God, whose Son bore our sins in his body on the tree and gave us this sacrament to show forth his death until he come: give us grace to glory in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, for he is our salvation, our life and our hope.”
The Right Revd Ruth Worsley, Bishop of Taunton
On 20th July 1969 the world watched something extraordinary. This was when the Eagle lunar module landed on the Moon’s Sea of Tranquility. This was the very first time that anyone had been to the moon. But astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin had to do something hard. After years of preparation and their long and hazardous flight they had to wait. They were about to open the door of their lunar lander and step onto the unknown surface of a completely different world. But for now, their mission ordered them to take a pause, to wait and prepare for that ‘First step’. That hour-long downtime period was designed to let the astronauts recover from their space flight and prepare for their moon walk.
It is now well known that Buzz Aldrin spent his time praying, reading the Bible and taking Holy Communion. Aldrin was an elder at Webster Presbyterian Church, and before he headed into space in 1969, he got special permission to take bread and wine with him into space and to give himself communion. As the men prepared for the next phase of their mission, Aldrin spoke to the ground crew back on Earth. “I would like to request a few moments of silence,” he said. “I would like to invite each person listening in, wherever and whomever they may be, to contemplate for a moment the events of the past few hours and to give thanks in their own individual way.”
He then reached for the wine and bread he’d brought to space—the first foods ever poured or eaten on the moon. “I poured the wine into the chalice our church had given me. In the one-sixth gravity of the moon the wine curled slowly and gracefully up the side of the cup,” he later wrote. The words he read were those of Jesus: ‘I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, and I in you, will bear much fruit, for you can do nothing without me.’
After the resurrection, as Jesus ascended back to heaven, he gave a promise to his disciples that he would be with them always, wherever they were and wherever they went. As Buzz Aldrin took communion on the Moon he too was aware of that promise. It is a promise that is also true for us today and so whatever each day may bring let us remember to ‘wait’ before we step out into the day and ask that Jesus may indeed be with us. As we say in Communion:
‘The Lord is here.’ ‘His Spirit is with us.’
With warm greetings,
The Right Revd Peter Hancock
Bishop of Bath and Wells
I thought this was going to be a really difficult letter to write, and then as I sorted through my boxes of memories, I came across a prayer written by Bishop George Appleton; it was the prayer I felt moved to use on the eve of my ordination as deaconess on 4th July 1982. After the most wonderful, exciting, fulfilling and yes, at times frustrating 37 years, this prayer which was at the beginning is what I want to share at the end of ministry.
So, thank you for the privilege of sharing your lives and thank you for
sharing mine – to God be the glory!
Lord, as I look back on the journey so far,
I see how thy love and goodness have been with me,
through many failings and dangers,
in many joys and adventures.
I have received much love from friends,
enjoyed so many good and lovely things,
been guided and inspired
by the wisdom and encouragement of many teachers and writers.
Often I have felt thy presence near,
and often I have had to walk by faith.
Forgive my slowness,
my failures in faith,
the smallness of my love,
my poor use of thy grace.
Accept my heart’s thanks
for growing knowledge of thee,
for increasing assurance of thy purposes of love
and deepening knowledge of the things that are eternal.
As I turn again to the journey ahead,
it is bright with thy mercies of the past,
dear God and Saviour.
As I write, we’ve just experienced the most wonderful Easter. The weather was perfect – the trees in bud and blossom, the birds in song and our hearts were raised with Christ. Thursday 30th May sees the next important day in the Christian calendar – Ascension Day – when Jesus is taken away from this earth to be in the kingdom of heaven with his father. As with Good Friday, this day can be seen as a day of grief and sadness – a day of loss -but it also marks a time of waiting for God’s gift of the Spirit which came with power on
the disciples at Pentecost.
Over the last few years, our Archbishops have invited us to keep these 10 days as days of prayer and meditation. Because the Holy week meditations were so successful in the numbers that attended, I’ve decided this year that we should keep the 10 days from Ascension to Pentecost as a time of prayer and waiting for the Holy Spirit, and as a time to strengthen your lives as you begin to get ready for an interregnum. Each short service will begin at 8pm (look out for which church is hosting!) and we shall begin as has been customary at Hillfarrance with a service of holy communion; and this too will be at 8pm.
I do hope you will join me in at 8pm from 30th May to 9th June.
As I was writing my Rector’s report for Oake, I indulged myself and looked back over the 17 years I’ve been Rector in the benefice. I listed my highlights and realised just how many things had changed over that time; the old village hall was demolished and a new one sprang up, the school kept its old building but added a new one, the church took out pews in the south aisle to create a bright and flexible space, the cedar tree fell in the storm and a beautiful sculpture was created, the altar was stolen and a marvellously crafted altar now stands in St Bartholomew’s. From the old, from the tired, from the broken and the hopeless, something marvellous and maybe even better, can come. I’m sure as I write the reports for the other parishes I will discover the same….the old gives way to new, as we move with the times, and, in Christian terms, as we try to listen to God and are prepared to trust the next part of the journey to a God who says “Behold I make all things new!”
The message of Easter is like that – from death comes life, from despair comes hope, from hopelessness comes miracle, from betrayal comes forgiveness. Just when we think we would like to give up or cannot see a way forward, we can be surprised by joy.
I have found that the best way to really experience the full message of Easter is to immerse yourself in the lead up to it – to come to the Holy week meditations, the Passover Supper, the walk of witness and Easter day itself. Of course there might be reasons why you can’t do everything, but there’s a wealth of opportunity to dip in and out. By experiencing Holy week – you go from high to low, from low to high: from Hosanna to Crucify! From the cross to the empty tomb.
May you have the chance to experience Easter in its fullness so that however you are feeling, that message of Christ’s triumph over death will be real for you.
This year, Bishop Peter and I are focusing on care for the environment for our Lent Challenge to parishes. With almost daily news of the damage that humankind is inflicting on the natural world, it seems timely to remind ourselves that as Christians we are called to be good stewards of the world that God has entrusted to us. Our lives should reflect the Good News of Jesus to all of creation, as summed up in the 5th Mark of Mission ‘To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth.’ Although, there is much ‘green’ advice available, many churchgoers are not aware of how much our faith has to say about caring for creation. This Lent we hope to help people make those connections, and to be encouraged to take small steps towards a more sustainable lifestyle.
To help people get involved, we are creating a suite of resources which will be available on the diocesan website at: www.bathandwells.org.uk/Living-Well-Lent-2019. These will include the opportunity to sign up for regular emails for a small dose of inspiration direct to your inbox – a short reflection, prayer and ideas for practical action.
We look forward to joining with you to explore how we can live well in God’s world in Lent and beyond.
Hillfarrance Church is looking for volunteers to clean the church Because of people moving away, we are down to two people! If you would be prepared to be on a rota to do a bit of dusting and vacuuming once a month (or less if we get lots of volunteers!) please contact Marcia on 461245.
Why is Easter so late this year? I’ve been asked on numerous occasions already this year. I find myself explaining that it is to do with the way Passover is calculated and that in turn brings astonishment because people don’t connect Jesus with Judaism and the Last Supper being the Passover meal. But facts apart, on reflection I think people are asking the question not because they want a factual answer but because somehow Easter, in the back of peoples’ minds, is associated with hope and new life, the beginning of warmth and the end of early darkness.
I’ve never been a great lover of January and February with low dark skies and not so many hours of sunshine – some people actual suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder. It seems to me that when negative things happen during these months feelings of despair and loneliness can be multiplied. Often this can be further hampered by the season of Lent as we give up things which can be a comfort to us – so, being positive, at least this year Lent falls in March!
So, what can we do when the skies are grey and the sun seems to have left us and it’s cold? Here are my tips! When you can’t leave the house, dust off your Bible and read a Gospel from beginning to end. When you turn the lights on as it gets dark, pray for those who truly are living in darkness. Invite someone to come with you to craft group, bereavement café, baby or toddler group at St Luke’s Centre. Can you continue the list?
It’s another 11 weeks until Easter… so let’s lighten peoples’ lives as we travel towards that great festival of hope, and in lightening others I pray we might find a bit of light ourselves.
St Andrew’s church in Wiveliscombe are holding 2 workshops which might be of interest to you:
Mon 28th Jan 7pm Lay Pastoral assistants training. If you feel God might be calling you to visit people, help with baptism or bereavement follow-up, listen carefully to others, please let Alison know if you’d like to attend this taster.
Sat 23rd Feb Fabric workshop – led by Yvonne Bell who made the shirts for Rev Richard Coles on Strictly come dancing! If you have an interest in banners/altar frontals/kneelers etc then don’t miss this! Again, let Alison know
These are the words of this year’s 60second sermon on Christmas
Day. They are adapted from an anonymous Argentinian poem called
Che Jesus written in the 1970s –
Jesus why is it that you seem to come back to be born every
You must be crazy! . . . or perhaps you’re trying to tell us something:
That the message of God’s love and grace needs to take root in each of our hearts.
That we need to change selfishness for love.
That we need to learn what it means to be brothers and sisters.
That we need to be serious about fighting for those without bread, education, freedom, and dignity.
That there is a message that’s called the Good News, and a Church, and that’s us –
A Church that should be servant of all,
a Church that knows that because God became human one Christmas,
there is no other way to love Him but to love all people.
If that’s the way it is, Jesus, come to my house,
Come to my country,
Come to the world of humanity.
And first of all, come to my heart.