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.
Thank you to everyone who participated our latest fundraising event for St Luke’s Centre. We are pleased to report that we raised £163.00!
This year, The Bible Society is once again challenging us throughout Advent, to take on 24 acts of kindness to show others there’s more to Christmas than they might have thought.Top challenges from last year include: Letting someone out before you when driving. Saying three kind things in a day. Being quick to forgive when people hurt you or frustrate you. I’m going to give it a go – what about you? You can sign up to the Advent challenge at https://www.biblesociety.org.uk/get-involved/adventchallenge/ Part of the idea in the challenge is to take our focus away from the intense pressures of preparing the material things which can so dominate our lives in the lead up to Christmas – a practical way to remember who we are as Christians and what the message of the Kingdom is about. Another way we can prepare our hearts for Christmas is to commit some time each day to being quiet and thoughtful about the season – maybe by reading an Advent book and ensuring we don’t neglect worship and prayer.
My hope is that your Advent will be full of such wonderful preparation for Christmas that when you get to Christmas day, you will be sure of why you rejoice in the baby who brought love, hope, forgiveness and joy. And my prayer for you lies in the words of John Lennon!
“So this is Christmas and what have you done
Another year over, a new one just begun
And so this is Christmas, I hope you have fun
The near and the dear ones, the old and the young
And so this is Christmas for weak and for strong
The rich and the poor ones, the road is so long
And so happy Christmas for black and for white
For yellow and red ones let’s stop all the fights
A very merry Christmas and a happy new year
Let’s hope it’s a good one without any fear.”