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 hope to keep Heathfield Church and the Sanctuary in Cotford open every day, and St Luke’s Centre on Sunday mornings, for private prayer and contemplation.

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!

A Rich Journey

‘A cold coming we had of it 
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey…’
T.S. Eliot’s ‘Journey of the Magi’

How many of us are making journeys over the turning of this new year? Perhaps it has been an opportunity to catch up with family or friends we haven’t seen for a while. Perhaps for some of us, it’s been about fun and relaxation, (although skiing doesn’t appeal for either, for me!)

Perhaps some of those journeys have been disrupted by weather or illness. Or perhaps they’ve been punctuated by the plaintive cry, ‘Are we there yet?’ During winter months we are often seeing the journey as a ‘means to an end’ rather than something of value in itself. However travelling with others or meeting people on the way can make journeys so much richer.

On my windowsill at home sits a wooden cross with a shell attached. It’s made from the stick my son used to walk the Camino de Santiago, one of the most popular of pilgrim paths in Europe. I’m not sure I have the legs to do it! Two of my sons have walked it from France to the coast of Spain, each on their own, but meeting strangers along the way who have become friends.

2020 is being marked by our Cathedrals as a year of pilgrimage. You will be hearing more from our Cathedral here in Wells as they invite us to share in pilgrimage with them. Journeying together gives opportunity for us to discover something new as we share in others’ perspectives and experiences, not just our own. At this time of Epiphany we remember the journey of the wise men who travelled together to seek out something new. A star had appeared which indicated to them there was new learning to be had. And so they left the familiar and went to explore what was new.

So… what new thing might you wish to explore this year? Who might you travel with? And what might you do once you find it?

Wishing you a very special new year!

The Right Revd Ruth Worsley
Bishop of Taunton

Election Thoughts from Bishop Peter

So it has been decided. There is to be a General Election on 12 December and much has been made of the fact that this is the first December election since 1923. Things could be worse however, as the 1885 General Election took place over three weeks from 24 November to 18 December 1885. It was nonetheless an important milestone in social history, as it extended voting rights so that for the first time a majority of adult males could vote and most constituencies returned only a single member to Parliament. These were quite radical developments and at that election large numbers of men voted for the first time. It saw the Liberals, led by Gladstone win the most seats, but not an overall majority, with the Irish Nationalists holding the balance of power and the Unionist MPs having a significant voice. The 1885 election also saw the first socialist party, the Social Democratic Freedom participate.

So significant was this election that my predecessor, Bishop Arthur Hervey, wrote an open letter on 2 October 1885 suggesting that ‘all Christian subjects of the Queen had a duty of special prayer to Almighty God that He will be pleased to guide the minds of the Electors to make such a choice of representatives as shall tend most to the glory of God, the honour and welfare of our Sovereign, and the happiness of the people.’ In His view Parliament was responsible for establishing ‘peace and happiness, truth and justice, religion and piety’ and the ‘welfare of all people.’ In asking people to pray, as well as to vote, he made it clear that whilst people would have different ‘political leanings’ that they needed to come together to pray for the ‘peace and happiness of the nation at large’.

I think we all know that this General Election before us now will similarly be critical in helping to determine the future of the United Kingdom – at least for the immediate future. In writing this article I am therefore seeking to follow Bishop Arthur Hervey by reminding us all of the responsibility we have to pray for our country and to work with all people for the welfare and the well-being of everyone.

With my prayers and very best wishes,

The Right Revd Peter Hancock

Treasure the Earth

As I write this parish letter, we are in the midst of two weeks of action by Extinction Rebellion drawing our attention to the concerns of climate change. Following Greta Thunberg’s rousing speech to the UN and the various climate strikes undertaken by young people around the world, we are becoming more aware of the dangers of neglecting such an important matter. Whether we are young and passionate about this issue or one of Boris’s so-called ‘crusties’ and equally passionate, it seems to me that we are all called to be passionate about caring for the world God has made, and which He has entrusted to our care.

The fifth Mark of Mission calls for us to ‘Treasure the Earth’ or, to ‘safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth’. Here in Bath and Wells we focus on placing mission and evangelism at the heart of all we do. This often means we highlight the story of Jesus and the opportunity for us to know God’s grace and forgiveness in personal ways. All really important for us to know how much we are loved. However, mission and evangelism isn’t just limited to those people we live amongst in the present day. St Paul speaks about how our salvation and that of the world or creation are bound up together….

‘The created universe is waiting with eager expectation for God’s children to be revealed. It was made subject to frustration, not of its own choice but by the will of him who subjected it, yet with the hope that the universe itself is to be freed from the shackles of mortality and is to enter upon the glorious liberty of the children of God.’ Romans 8: 19-21

Sometimes I hear people dismiss concerns for the world and its future as being insignificant in the light of the eternal hope we have in Christ. I think this misguided and often selfish. It’s a bit like the attitude which says, ‘well as long as it sees me out!…’

This month you have the opportunity to get involved yourself. On Monday 18th November at Wells Cathedral and in Christ Church, Weston-Super-Mare on Saturday November 9th, there are opportunities for you to find out more. Look on the diocesan website.

And it’s not just for individual action, we as a diocese want to encourage churches to look at how they might become Eco churches in the way in which they respond in worship, theological reflection, make practical changes to their carbon footprint, and in bringing about that freedom for the whole universe to be sustained and renewed.

What might you get passionate about and do?

The Right Revd Ruth Worsley, Bishop of Taunton

Message from Preb Alison

This is a letter I’ve been meaning to write for over a month now… but finding the computer has been a problem!

A huge thank you to you all for my wonderful send off at the end of July and your generous gifts. The whole weekend was more than I could have dared hope for and I was overwhelmed by the sense of love and friendship. As the saying goes “Missing you already!”

It has been an odd transitional time – packing to leave one home and community where most people know you (or have at least heard of you) and move into a new house where no one knows you. So far we’ve managed to keep our previous identities a secret!

Unpacking has kept us very busy and we still have no curtains! Andrew has already embarked on some hobbies, but I am taking things slowly and waiting to see where God leads me next.

My time with you in Deane Vale was very special and I continue to thank God for you, praying too that the right person to be your next incumbent is just waiting for that advert in the Church Times!

Go well, be kind to each other and give thanks to our amazing God daily!
With love and thanks,
Alison of Bath and Wells

A time for grace and patience

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

Always with us

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

Preb Alison writes…

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.