The Monthly Letter
October 2021 Issue 861
When I googled UK events in October the first event was to have a cup of coffee! It’s always a good start to my day!
In the Christian Calendar, October is full of events too. My favourite day this month is the 4th October. A day Christians remember St Francis because he cared for all humankind and all creatures. Can you recall St Francis wonderful poetic hymn, ‘Make me a channel of your peace’ from his prayer?
"Lord, make me an instrument of your peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.’
As we move throughout October with all its other special eventful days, around care for teachers, grandparents, smiling, singing, history and cats!
May we take a leaf out of St Francis prayer and be those channels of peace in our communities? Amen.
Revd Caren Topley.
September 2021 Issue 860
In the middle of August my husband and I found a baby hedgehog in our driveway. It was lost and looking for food and it’s mum!
At first the little hedgehog scuttled away from us and hid his head behind the ivy leaves; because it couldn’t see us, it assumed that we couldn’t see him. Like a loving parent I stood and watched although I felt helpless, as I wondered what to do for this creature. Fortunately our neighbour who is an expert with abandoned wildlife, took it in. Although she discovered it was underweight, it just needed some TLC, which it duly got.
The hedgehog reminded me how fragile I’ve been feeling over theses recent months. Have you been feeling fragile? Fragile because we’re not one hundred percent sure, that whatever we do, will keep us or our loved safe from this virus. I’ve needed my own nurture and spiritual support more than ever from friends and the church where I have found nourishment and support from God’s Word.
Daily reading and digesting God’s word has helped me through these dark times. However seemingly impossible your situation, I hope you can turn to God and his love.
Nature, pets and animals can remind us that God’s love is for everyone, even if we feel we can’t face the world and want to curl up in a ball like the hedgehog.
There are many spiritual lessons to be learned from tiny creatures and there have been so many creatures that have helped us in this Pandemic. Spare a prayer for God’s creatures on Sunday 3rd October, which is a national day to care for animals. A day when we are encouraged to care for all creatures great and small; and know that the lord God made them all. Amen
With every blessing
August 2021 Issue 859
At All Saints Church we are trying to stay Green! We are hoping to get a bronze, silver or gold Eco award, depending on how well we do.
Helping us be Plastic Free includes what we put in the graveyard. There are graveyard regulations which have to be followed. One of them discourages the use of plastic flowers on the graves. Fresh flowers are the preferred option but a good environmental friendly seasonal silk flower can be allowed by this church.
We also take care of the natural conservation in the churchyard. This provides all sorts of habitats for God’s smaller creatures.
For our aerial friends we provide nesting boxes. Our environment can help us with our mental wellbeing, others have been helped during this Pandemic with dogs, cats etc. Pandemic Pets.
Let us give thanks as we care for our environment and care for all God’s creatures great and small.
|July 2021 Issue 858|
Summer is here
A short reflection by Revd. Carrie Steer (Assistant Curate, Southill)
Summer is here. The glorious and fragrant scented blooms display their beauty. The days are longer and evenings warmer. We can finally meet with friends and family catching up on lost time. Time where grandchildren have been born and grown up without cuddles from their beloved grandparents. Time where loved ones have grown older and days of spending precious time with them has been lost.
The Summer season follows Spring, where pruning has taken place to encourage the growth of good fruit.
In the bible (John chapter 15), Jesus teaches us about the vine and the branches. Jesus says:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. ……. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine…”
Summer is with us and offers us a season of fruitfulness. This season reflects the God-given purpose for your life. The flourishing and fulfilment of that purpose.
If you remain and abide in God then the fruits of the spirit: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control will grow in you and over flow throughout our community.
With every blessing
June 2021 Issue 857
Hopefully by the time this letter goes to print the hope of ending the lockdown will be just a matter of days away! If the data has continued to go in our favour, then we can cautiously engage in ending being at least 2 meters away from the next person, in the shop, restaurant, pub and church. The best ending: an end to having to spend birthday, anniversaries, and celebrating alone.
Fortuitously the Government has chosen June to be the most likely month that we can begin to enjoy each other’s company once again, not just on a device, but face to face! Christenings and Weddings. June the month when we see the wedding season begin to take place in the church. The month that might have been named after the Roman goddess Juno, who was the patroness of marriage. New beginnings socially and possibly, a holiday for some.
Endings and Beginnings.
Let’s not underestimate any sadness that comes when things end. However, let’s grasp the hope afforded by a new beginning that gives us the potential for joy.
May 2021 Issue 856
At last the merry month of May! The government will be encouraging us to become merrier from the 17th of this month, where we are able to meet more people, and we can have 30 guests to a wedding!
So what does being merry mean? In the bible it appears around 38 times and mostly in reference around eating. Eat, drink and be merry! However the later Anglo Saxon use of the word was primarily used to imply being strong or gallant. Being strong, we read in plays and stories from past literature where soldiers are being likened to a merry band of men. Also, the weather can be merry, we think of strong winds and call this ‘merry weather’. I hope the weather when you read this won’t be too merry!
We can be merry in spirit. We can be full of mirth, joy and might. We can be merry and rejoice that this month the Christian faith celebrates Jesus going back to heaven, this event is called The Ascension. Why be merry when Jesus has gone back to heaven and left us! Not so, he has left us with his Holy Spirit, so we can be strong and merry in spirit. Let us feast with joy at the coming of God’s Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost the 23rd May, it will give us plenty to feast on. Be merry!
April 2021 Issue 855
This time last year, all the church buildings were closed by law. From Easter Day this year our church building will be open if we feel we are safe to do so and have the correct measures in place. We have!
After the first Easter, Christians were persecuted for their belief that Jesus had risen from the dead, and St Peter, wrote these words of comfort to them and encouraged them, saying "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead," (1 Peter 1:3.
He reminds them to keep loving and caring for each other in spite of tribulations and continue to place their hope in the endless life to come.
The Easter message to us is the same as it was to the early Christians in the first century BCE.
Just as we are still troubled by this virus and have to follow the guidelines, there is still HOPE. HOPE offered by the current updates around the vaccination program for the whole world. HOPE that we can see loved ones soon, HOPE that through our prayers and our faith we are not alone in our isolated situations and troubles.
Jesus was crucified and died on the cross, he rose from the dead on Easter day and gave us the HOPE that death was not the end. St Peter says, Rejoice in spite of suffering and remember the future salvation and future glory in eternity to come.
Every blessing for a Happy Easter,.
March 2021 Issue 854
It is almost a year since the first lockdown began in March 2020. The world we now inhabit and the way we live is very different. The church building like so many other places saw its first lockdown from Mother’s Day. Right from the start we were denied a hug from people we love who did not live with us. The basic need to love and be held still grieves us and some than others have lost their loved ones and never had the chance to say ‘goodbye’.
As we approach Mother’s Day once more, I’m reminded by the daffodils that are coming into bloom. We used to hand out these flowers in church to people as a symbol of ‘the mothering church’ being a source of care.
This year daffodils remind me of the symbol for the end of life charity, Marie Curie who are holding a National Conference on 23rd March for a National Day of reflection for the first anniversary of the UK going into lockdown.
Our church will join with them on this day of reflection and take this opportunity to reflect back on this year.
"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." (Psalm 46:1)
February 2021 Issue 853
I’m trying to keep my glass half full, and not just with whisky or gin!
February is the month where I begin to enjoy the lighter mornings and sense the warmer days approaching; soon messages about love and Valentine’s Day will be all over the place. I am keeping mindful to be that glass half-full person.
My Christian faith reminds me that God is love. God gave us his only Son, He understands letting go and sacrifice. That sacrificial love and care is also evident in the people we know or meet, especially those in the NHS and Care Homes, and the work of our scientists reminds me to keep my glass half full, to keep faith and nurture hope. My glass is half full of hope, as the vaccination programme rolls out and more people can now help others by reducing the risk of catching Covid.
Faith, hope and love. The greatest of these is love. As we prepare for Lent on the 17th February on Ash Wednesday, and prepare ourselves spiritually for Easter. Let us reflect on a glass that is not just half full but one that overflows. Psalm 23 verse 5. God can keep our glass full and provide for us, never leaving us to want.
January 2021 Issue 852
As I write this before the 22nd December and not having the gift of prophesy, I don’t know how my salutations of ‘Happy New Year’ will be received!
Let’s hope that as this goes to print some of you had a sense of Christmas Comfort and Joy. Let’s hope that the vaccinations are being delivered to those in our communities who need it. Let’s hope that this year really will be a turning point where we can recover and rebuild from COVID-19 19, Brexit and Environmental change.
Let’s hope as we ‘remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labour prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. ‘
(1 Thessalonians chapter 1 verse 3)
Happy New Year!
Wishing you Every Blessing for 2021
December 2020 Issue 851
This year has been one of hardships and uncertainties. Fear lurks around every corner and we keep being threatened that Christmas will be cancelled and ‘Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents…. ‘ a famous line from Little Women, the book by Louisa M. Alcock.
Without doubt, Christmas will be different this year, but the love and hope and light and joy that Jesus brought to that manger the very first Christmas is still God’s gift to us, even in very uncertain times, and that can never be cancelled.
As we go forward we think of those who have been dear to us this year, for those who have died, for those whose way of life has changed forever and lost livelihoods that have put families at risk. We continue to be grateful for those in the NHS and caring professions, the key workers who will be present throughout this Christmas season and the New Year.
The church is still present for you and you are welcome to follow us on our FB page: AllSaintsChurch,Southill,Bedfordshire or find us on A Church Near You.
Christmas begins on Christmas day. Travel with us and be present to find out what happens from the 26th December into the New Year. Take comfort and may you find joy.
‘God of comfort and joy, may we know your presence with us today and bring your gentle, joyful love to others, this Christmas and always. Amen’ (churchofengland.org/ComfortAndJoy).
With every blessing for Christmas.
November 2020 Issue 850
Generosity is a gift!
This month we will give thanks at our War Memorial for those who gave their lives in order for us to be a free nation. We still value what they did, in spite of Covid-19.
Over the last eight months we have seen new expressions of people’s giving; in time or presence. We have had to find new ways to be present when social guidelines restrict who or how we visit people. We still care!
Some of us haven’t had to travel as far as we used to and we may have saved money on petrol. For £45 that spare money could go to supporting someone else, through or to a charity. Tearfund are asking us to twin our bins with developing countries to enable them to have better recycling opportunities, helping their environment and that in turn helps toward climate change.
Generously some of you supported the Scarecrow competition and helped us raise funds in order for us to keep the church available and open for services. Our Christmas tree competition will hopefully give us festive cheer, and also help us to keep the church in this parish of Southill, which serves our communities, and the true message of Christmas can be celebrated in due course.
October 2020 Issue 849
Last month, our schools went back, Harvest festival etc. life is almost beginning to seem ‘normal’. The guidelines may keep adapting, but so far, we can keep our church open for Sunday Worship on the 2nd and 4th Sunday of each month.
Although, we are still online, we now have more opportunities to meet and worship in church where we continue to pray for this Parish and all that is does.
More recently the church has been focussing on the season of creation tide and looking at ways we can support initiatives to combat climate change. Each of our villages have tried really hard to care for each other during these last few months and more effort has gone in to us being more neighbourly, which is not only a Christian value.
I pray that we can also continue to be neighbourly towards our planetary home and continue to care for it. Small things for example: put our litter in the bin, try and reduce our carbon footprint once a week, and walk even more now we’ve discovered different places to walk our dogs (if we have them) during the Lockdown!
The Climate change message this year for 2020 is: May we cherish and be empowered by the knowledge of our enduring and transforming worth in the sight of God. Even if, until now, we have indeed pursued ‘worthless things’.
Sept 2020 Issue 848
The good news is the church is now open for worship every Sunday at 9am. (Please see details in the OUTLOOK for coming back to church.)
We have had to limit this to once a week, due to all the restrictions regarding cleaning and socially distancing outlined to prevent the spread of Covid 19. Do Google, ‘A Church Near you’ website for All Saints Church, Southill, where there is up to date information about our services.
Everyone has been affected by financial restraints and I don’t usually ask for money outright, but since the lockdown, our usual ways to raise funds to keep your much loved church open for services, weddings, baptisms and funerals have like so many other things been cancelled.
Without your support All Saints Church will struggle to stay open. We are part of a joint Benefice, All Saints church, Clifton helps to pay towards the cost of what’s called a Parish Share which goes towards training, housing and providing a vicar for you
As all the church events we have planned for the first half of this year have been cancelled. I wonder would you support your church’s fundraising idea and take part in a Scarecrow Festival? There is also something fun about scarecrows which make people smile. I have been amazed by the huge variety and ideas, I have seen in other villages that have held a Scarecrow Festival recently.
There is an application form with the Outlook.
Stay safe and well
August 2020 Issue 847
All Saints Church, Southill will be open from 6th September. I hope you will rejoice with me as we can begin a new normal. I say a new normal as in order to keep you safe in the building, keeping to 2m apart and other guidelines will have to be followed to ensure that we have the upper hand of this COVID 19 virus!
Just because we cannot sing in church for the present doesn’t mean to say that we lack joy in our hearts.
We are not rushing back as we want to make sure you are safe and make the new service with Holy Communion the best it can be for you at this time. As we belong to a Benefice, if you would like to try the new normal then email me or phone me if you want to come along to All Saints Church, Clifton at 10.30am on August: 2nd, 23rd and 30th in the church for Holy Communion.
The services on August 2nd 23rd and 30th will be recorded from Clifton and later uploaded onto FB or YouTube for those who are still at home for later in the day.
Please note, services on August 9th and 16th and will be filmed for FB and YouTube for the Benefice.
Thank you for your patience and worshipping with us online. I am looking forward to meeting old and new Saints once again back in church.
July 2020 Issue 846
As I walk around the beautiful Bedfordshire countryside and connect to the soil beneath my boots. I am reminded that Jesus also liked to walk around his countryside and observed nature and commented on it as he walked.
My country walks are even more enjoyable now that the RSPB reserve at Sandy has re-opened some of its paths. This means I can walk further afield outside the Parish on my day off. Walking through the woods recently, I saw many a foxglove in bloom. Light purple, dark purple, white glove shaped petals reminding me of illustrations of fairy stories in my childhood books.
The foxglove is also associated with midwifery and a beautiful Foxglove Tree was planted earlier in the year in the royal garden at Frogmore House to celebrate the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife 2020. A wonderful way to say thank you to these nurses, who have given much on the frontline.
On seeing the banks of Foxgloves, I reflected on the many myths around this flower. Its beauty is linked to the Virgin Mary and has some religious connections. It’s been used as a symbol relating to new life. I link this to the church, which, although in a different form and online, is still alive and here for everyone.
Read about our Messy Church from our Reader Ruth Gray. We also have Zoom church for Toddlers and young people and a midweek Holy Communion from my kitchen! If you would like to join in on any of our Zoom church meetings then you are welcome to email me for details.
June 2020 Issue 845
The Church is still here for you!
10 weeks later! A short reflection from my daily walks across our beautiful countryside from around Clifton and Southill. Walking past woods and near our local streams covered by trees and undergrowth and so lots of nature if you are willing to look for it or hear it in the trees, the sounds of birds and insects have been awesome.
More recently as we have been allowed to go further afield for daily walks, at Old Warden I came across a field of bluebells. Did you know the bluebell, has many names, wood bell, fairy flower, cuckoo's boots, and lady’s nightcap. This plant stands for humility, gratitude and everlasting love, for me a flower for this time.
Humility: It made me give thanks for those working in the most humble of occupations, the nurses, the home carers, the shop workers, delivery drivers, postal workers, transport workers, community volunteers who have given so much during these last 10 weeks.
Gratitude: I don’t know about you but I certainly now find myself extremely grateful for all those mentioned in the list above, but also for so many other things. I find myself seeing God's world, God's creation anew, so grateful for the gift of this fine weather, for the technologies I’ve learned to use and I’m grateful for all those creative people who have found new ways to keep us connected, for the time to reflect, review, and renew our spiritual lives.
Everlasting love! We just need to look at God's creation to see the abundance of his love. The love you and I have shared each week when we have clapped our gratitude every Thursday at 8.00pm and not forgetting the love shared by our children, and some adults, when they painted their love and hope through the many rainbows placed in so many windows to brighten our days!
When lockdown ends let’s stay humble, grateful and loving.
May 2020 Issue 844
The Church is still here for you!
Although church services are suspended, I will be celebrating a said Holy Communion each Sunday, if you have access to Face book they are posted on the Southill church page. Copies of the order of service can be taken from Clifton Home Page: http://clifton-beds.co.uk/
Remember the Church is praying for everyone at this time.
April 2020 Issue 843
As this goes to print we may find ourselves preparing for another phase of the Covid- 19 pandemic.
If you are feeling down or lonely through being isolated, All Saints Church Southill and Southill Parish Council are working together to bring you help if needed.
Do let us know if someone is feeling lonely and needs a phone call.
For some of you as you are preparing for Palm Sunday and Easter may want some prayers or knowledge that the church will still be celebrating Easter, albeit for some of us at home. So I have prepared resources for you to use if you need them. Please contact me see details on page 4.
Remember the church is praying for everyone at this time.
March 2020 Issue 842
It only seems like yesterday we were getting ready for Christmas and now we’re already in the church’s season of Lent when Christians get ready to celebrate Easter.
You’ve probably heard a lot on the news and in other places about the need to care about our environment. Instead of giving up something this Lent, I wonder if we might take on something to help our planet. I read this from Archbishop Justin Welby and Archbishop John Sentamu, they’re asking us:
This Lent, we hope both adults and children might engage in God’s plea for us to “Care for Creation”. It is an opportunity for us to rebuild our relationship with our planet, and in turn with the God who is Lord of everything. During this time, we hope you might engage in prayer, learn more about the remarkable world we have been given and build habits that last beyond the season to protect and honour the earth.
If you have the time and want to do something different then the Care for God’s Creation is the Church of England's Lent Campaign for 2020.
February 2020 Issue 841
It’s Valentine’s Day on 14th February, soon, the day where we hope, that if we are in love with someone who we want to be with forever, they will
propose marriage to us. This year don’t forget it’s a leap year and the ladies might ask the question instead!
Love is in the air! That reminds me of the song, titled ‘Love is in the air’ by John Paul Young.
A line from the song, ‘It’s something that I must believe in’ reminds me of the hope of God’s love for each one of us, it’s something that I must
God loves us whoever we are and in the book of Romans Chapter 8 verses 35-39, St. Paul writes ‘Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?
Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we
are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that
neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all
creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’
However, Love is not just for St Valentine’s Day. The greatest love story of all begins with Ash Wednesday on 26th February? From 26th February to
12th April (Easter) we learn of God’s love for everyone and this theme takes us up to Easter, where Jesus died on the cross for us, overcoming death
that we might have eternal life and forgiving us our sins. In this act of love, for those who believe, God offers us salvation.
1 Corinthians 16:14 ‘Do everything in love.
January 2020 Issue 840
Happy New Year!
I can’t believe we’re in 2020 already. Have you made your resolutions? To go to the gym more, stop smoking,
drink less or watch less TV and so on. If you need help there’s plenty of Apps out there to help you too!
New Year resolutions if we stick to them can make huge benefits to our life, physically and mentally. However,
how do we care for our spiritual wellbeing? Even schools take an interest in the spiritual well-being of their
pupils and staff. Spirituality is a way of life that feeds our relationship with God. If Christmas was no more than
presents on 25th December can it also be the beginning of thinking what else is there in life?
Find a quiet place to reflect and become aware of God’s presence, look back on your day with thankfulness,
and reflect on your feelings throughout the day, then look forward to tomorrow.
Begin the New Year with a deeper need and understanding of God. Happy New Year!
December 2019 Issue 839
Not all news is bad news, although uncertainties to our daily living continue. Christians believe that what is certain is the hope that is given in the Christmas message.
God came in the form of the baby Jesus over 2000 years ago. He dwelt among us in times not too dissimilar to our own in a time full of change. A change that was signalled by a star, shining bright in the night the sky giving hope and a vision of a new world order. The three wise men discovered that the Christ child was the reason for this celestial event.
From Christmas Eve the church will be following the star again this year! #FollowTheStar: do join in!
Maybe like the Wise Men; as we follow the star at the New Year’s new beginnings, we will find hope and joy, not just on Christmas Day but for the year ahead.
With every blessing for a Happy Christmas and a Happy New YeHappy New Year!
November 2019 Issue 837
Are you remembering when we were in the EU or are we still in the EU? As I write this letter at the beginning
of October, I am uncertain as to where we will be when this goes to print.
Life is full of uncertainties and this month we will take time to reflect once again on those who gave their lives
for a better world during the first and second world wars and other conflicts. At these times people didn’t know
whether there would be a better future. However, the words from Hebrews chapter 8 verse 5 from the Bible
‘Jesus the same today, yesterday and forever’ gives me hope and along with these words from Julian of
Norwich, I pray for us all that: ‘All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.
October 2019 Issue 836
Mental Health Awareness Day 10th October.
Sometimes it is difficult to put yourself in another person’s shoes and see things from their position. It’s too easy to tell them what to do, instead of asking how they are doing? Too often we rush from one thing to another and don’t always listen to the reply to our questions and rush in with another question. This isn’t helpful if someone has Mental Health issues and we fail to give them the space they need.
10th October is an opportunity for us to raise awareness of mental health issues and support the work of the charities who give these people the help they need.
There are several charities for example https://www.mind-blmk.org.uk/event-directory/ or start with your GP. The church can support you by praying for you or those you love who need help.
In the name of God and trusting in His might alone, receive Christ’s healing touch to make you whole. May Christ bring you wholeness of body, mind and spirit and deliver you from every evil and give you his peace. Amen. (Church of England prayer for healing)
September 2019 Issue 835
New Begirmings for the school! We think of the new term at Southill Lower school, for its new Head Teacher and new staff and we look forward to them coming into church soon for their Harvest Festival.
New Begiruiings for the church! This September we begin our new Tea Time Church in Broom Village Hall.
4pm on the 1st September. Do come and join us for hymns. prayers with plenty of tea and cake. If you miss this month the next one is 6th October
August 2019 Issue 834
August is a season of letting go, rest and looking forward to new beginnings. Whether it be the end of term and for some exam results or rest, holidays or child minding.
Wherever you are in this month of transition know that the church is open every day as a place for you to sit and rest and reflect upon where your road ahead lies.
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sunshine warm upon your face;
May the rains fall soft upon your fields
and until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand
July 2019 Issue 833
Have you been called to take your holiday at home or abroad this year?
Have you been called to take up a Vocation as a Lay minister or Ordained?
Those of you who have been baptised are called to ministry, whether that is lay or ordained. The Church needs a wide variety of ministers in order to serve all people. God calls young people and older ones, wealthy and poorer. The Church’s ministers come from all walks of life, social classes, ethnic backgrounds and educational abilities.
Could you have a vocation?
If you would like to explore your vocation do please come and speak to me. When I answered my vocation, I was a young mum with two children under the age of 3 years old. I spoke to my Parish Priest who helped me see that my vocation was possible and the rest is history.
This Diocese is always seeking new people with a vocation. If you are aged 18 and over, God could be calling you to serve your community.
Here I am! This Vacation why not consider your Vocation.
June 2019 Issue 832
Such a lot of fruit in the shops, it’s that time of year and the summer is here! There’s also a lot of fruit in the Bible it is talked about as the ‘fruit’ in our lives. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control”. (Galatians 5).
Can we help grow these fruits in our lives? Which do you think are the most important? If you like strawberries why not match it to the gift of love? Strawberries (they look like hearts) and when eating a strawberry, you pray: “Dear God, thank you for this yummy strawberry, and help me to be more loving, Amen.”
Fruit takes a long time to grow. Just as the fruits of the spirit takes time to grow. Godparents and parents can over time help their children develop fruits of the spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control Some may not fully develop until they are grown up. There’s no rush! God’s Kingdom takes time to grow.
Come and find out more about these fruits on 9th June. The day when the church celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit. It is called Pentecost, or it used to be known as Whitsun. We will also be joining in with the Archbishop’s global wave of prayer, Thy Kingdom Come, now in its fourth year. If you have time look it up and find out more. https://www.stalbans.anglican.org/faith/thy-kingdom-come/
May 2019 Issue 831
April showers bring forth May flowers. The spring blossom has already been delightful, may it continue and not be overshadowed by Brexit. Whatever the outcome as I write this our Archbishops ask us to pray that soon we’ll have a future where all may prosper and share.
“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” (Romans 12:12)
It is lovely to conduct many Christenings each year in a service of Baptism and we look forward to welcoming you and your family for a happy service of celebration in this church.
Christenings can take place in the main service or they are offered:
· Clifton on the 2nd Sunday at 12 noon
· Southill on the 1st Sunday at 12 noon
To begin your journey of faith, come along to any service and collect your Christening Information pack.
Before you choose your service of Baptism, we invite you to attend at least three services with us so that we can get to know you and welcome you into the Christian Faith.
We then invite you to a Christening Morning, where you will have the opportunity to meet other families making similar enquiries and to book your Christening time and date. This morning will take place in All Saints Church, Clifton, starting with coffee at 9.30 am and finishing at 11am.
Choose from one of the following dates and RSVP email@example.com
All the family/Godparents are welcome to come along
15th June, 6th July, 7th September,
There is no cost for baptisms/christenings; however, we take a collection during a hymn to help towards the upkeep of the church, heating, lighting costs and its mission. We offer families special time at the end of the service to take photographs around the font or in front of the altar.
Anyone can be baptised/christened at any age, from birth upwards. The usual number of Godparents is 3, and all must be Christened. More information is available from the Church of England website. https://www.churchofengland.org/
March 2019 Issue 829
By the time you read this, some of you may have planned your Mother’s Day gifts and outings!
The church recognizes this day but calls it Mothering Sunday. Mothering Sunday is the day when we remember the Mother Church. It used to be a day when you would return to the place where you were christened or your original place of worship. Some of you have returned to have your children christened or to get married in this church because it is special to you.
Please note, Mothering isn’t about gender. We can all mother and care for each other. On Mothering Sunday 31st March at 9am, we will have a special Service and everyone is welcome. Those who care for us will receive a small bunch of flowers as a gesture to say ‘thank you’ to them.
However, this time might be sad for some of you who are bereaved and that special person who cared for you has died. We remember them in many ways. We now have a memory tree in the church for you to add a leaf on as you write a message for your loved one. You are welcome to come and write a message in memory of them. The church is open 9am-3pm each day.
February 2019 Issue 828
As I write my attention is caught by listening to Malala Yousafzai speaking about her book on Radio 4. She was the young 15 year old who spoke out publicly in favour of education for girls in Pakistan, and who later became a target for the Taliban. How brave she was to stand up for something she believed in. No matter what faith we have, it takes courage to stand up against something that is unjust.
Michelle Obama says, ‘You may not always have a comfortable life and you will not always be able to solve all of the world's problems at once, but don't ever underestimate the importance you can have, because history has shown us that courage can be contagious and hope can take on a life of its own’
I admire people who do something different and are brave enough to discover new things or new ways, especially people who give hope and happiness to others. Southill Lower School’s value this month is Happiness. As we think about Valentine’s Day this month Jesus reminds us about love and forgiveness for others. Let’s pray for courage to make someone happy this month.
January 2019 Issue 827
God give us strength to encounter the present as the New Year begins.
For some of us the past year has been the best year ever; for others they have trudged through one deep struggle after another.
Whether you’ve just walked through the greatest year of your life, or are incredibly glad to see this one finally over, one truth still rings clear amidst it all. Remember you are not alone. God is “with us". Though things and people around us shift and change, our God never changes
In this New Year if we find joy, let us thank God. If life gives us a new challenge, trust in God. If we can find peace and stillness, praise God. If life becomes busier than ever, bless God. Francis de Sales said Every Christian needs half an hour of prayer each day, except when he is busy he needs an hour!
Every Blessing for a Happy New Year in 2019.
December 2018 Issue 826
Are you ready for Christmas?
We’re nearly there at All Saints! We feel a bit like Mary and Joseph and taken by surprise, we’re still organising those Christmas Events and not feeling quite ready. If you’re like us and still mired in the to-do lists, not living up to the image some people give regarding the perfect Christmas then it’s a relief that Jesus accepts us as we are and doesn’t ask us to be perfect.
The first people to see the baby Jesus in the manger were the shepherds, the lowest of the low in society. They followed a star along with others and Three Kings and came to know Jesus.
Maybe as we look at the stars this Christmas we can be reminded of that First Christmas. Come along to our Christmas services and seek Jesus with us or follow #FollowTheStar.
Loving God, help the world to follow the star and find peace; help us follow the star to know your love in our homes, and may the star lead us to find Jesus in our lives, this Christmas and always. (www.churchofengland.org/Christmas)
Every Blessing for a Happy Christmas.
November 2018 Issue 825
Our Harvest message in October from Bishop Alan was ‘Give Peas a Chance!’ This November, can we continue to give peace a chance as we remember the hundredth anniversary of the end of World War One? On November 11th church bells will ring out across the country as they did at the end of the First World War. Hopefully throughout the country there will be 1,400 new ringers this year, which was the number of bell ringers lost during World War one. Hopefully you may be inspired to come and try your hand at bell ringing: it is never too late to learn!
May the message of hope and peace be heard throughout the land in our own uncertain times.
Peace is a precious gift which we ought to hold onto and treasure. It took just four years (1914-1918) to take away our young people, both men and women, to fight and die in a war they probably didn’t understand. We never want to see our young people suffer in this way again. Information about the men who died during WW1from Southill, Broom, Ireland and Stanford is displayed in All Saints’ Church; come and find out who there were. May their sacrifices made at home and abroad be valued as the young people of our village are valued today.
October 2018 Issue 824
As I write for the Outlook this month the season of Harvest will be well on the way. The Quiz, Harvest supper, Harvest Services for school and parish will have taken place.
Harvest is a time of giving and tithing. ‘Tithing’ is an old English word meaning one tenth. The Bible encourages us to give a proportion of our earnings back to God. Why? So that, whatever our situation, money doesn’t take over our lives. Giving something back to God enables us to keep everything else in our life in proportion.
Here at All Saints’ Church Southill we try to make a difference to people‘s lives through God’s love made known in Jesus. This church costs £700 a week to maintain and keep open and available for worship and giving thanks for important life occasions. We get no national or local government financial support unless we apply for a grant when building repairs are needed. There is no assistance from the national church. We meet the cost of the clergy, ministry, music, heating, lighting and upkeep of the building.
Giving isn’t just seasonal, such as at Harvest Festival. If you would like to give and help us stay solvent then please contact Alan Dover who chairs the charity: Friends of Southill Church, or please see the printable online form at http://www.allsaintssouthill.btck.co.uk/The%20Friends.
The results of your giving inspired by this season will be shared across the parish, the Bedford SMART Prebend Centre which provides vital facilities and services for the homeless and the Bishop of St Albans Harvest Appeal to improve the lives of farming communities in Malawi.
Gifts of money and produce will go a long way to improving the lives of many. No matter how small or large your giving is it will help us continue to be a witness for Jesus and here for the next generation.
September 2018 Issue 823
Whatever we are going back to this month; whether it be school, college, university, work, the home, church or a return to faith.
Returning can make us wonder whether we still belong in these places. For some of us there will have been changes over the summer and the new season hints at change not just in the weather.
I always find this verse from the Bible helpful when beginning something new or taking up where I left off.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
August 2018 Issue 822
As I write this letter for the Outlook, I’m aware that the semi-final match for England against Croatia will not have taken place. It will take place after the deadline for this article. It’s frustrating that I can’t say Congratulations or commiserations! However, by the time you read this we will all know the result!
I expect some of you will be in a similar frustrating situation as you await your exam results. By the end of August, families will know who they are going to be supporting at university or who will need to find different support to fulfill their future dreams.
It would be helpful if we could see what the future holds for each one of us, it would be easier to make plans. When I get frustrated like this, I turn to God.
This verse from Philippians 4:6-7 encourages and helps me to wait. It helps me to wait and not get anxious. It helps me to stay steady in my relationship with God. It can help you when you need to make any change in your life depending on exam results.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)
When we have God by our side he can bring about the confidence we need to weather any storms or any results that are not what we expect.
July 2018 Issue 821
All Saints’ Church Southill is an active parish church, and makes a real difference to many people‘s lives through God’s love made known in Jesus.
BUT! Did you know that it costs £500 a week to keep this church open?
The worshippers at this church take most of the responsibility for the costs of ministry and mission in this Parish. We get no national or local government financial support unless we apply for a grant when building repairs are needed. There is no assistance from the national church. We meet the cost of the clergy, ministry, music, heating, lighting and upkeep of the building.
However, you can help too. How can you help? You could place a donation, no matter how small or large, it will be gratefully received. Please place in the ‘Donation bucket’ at the Flower Festival which will be held at the church 5th and 6th July. Do come and support the regular congregation to keep this 13th century church which has been there for families down the ages continue to be there for your families in the future for Worship, Weddings, Christening and funerals, concerts and the weekly afternoon teas.
We need your help to allow these activities to continue.
Every blessing for the summer,
June 2018 Issue 820
How lovely to feel the summer sun again!
The warm sun may encourage us to spend more time outdoors this month which means we often interact with more people in our churches and our community and so on. There’s plenty going on in The Outlook.
However for some even the warm sun will not be enough if you are hurting and lonely inside as the summer season begins. Maybe it’s the first time without a loved one. Can we help and serve and be warm to each other as the sun is beginning to warm us? Take heart from 1 Thessalonians 5:10-11 Jesus: died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
Don’t be lonely this summer! Come along to All Saints church on a Sunday or during the week on Tuesday Afternoon Teas where you’ll always receive a warm welcome to help you get to know more people, especially if you are new to the area.
May 2018 Issue 819
This month begins the third anniversary of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s event called Thy Kingdom Come. Ten days of focused praying from Ascension Day 10th May to Sunday 20th May the festival of Pentecost the day when the church first began over 2000 years ago.
This event encourages us to put aside our differences and people of every denominations are being encouraged to pray for each other.
Why don’t you drop in to church and pray for our community and our world. Who do you know that needs your prayer? You can also leave a note on one of our church prayer boards and we will support your prayers.
The church is always open for prayer in daylight hours for you to come and sit and reflect, so why not come and pray. When we pray we know God is at work.
April 2018 Issue 818
No joke, 1st April is Easter Day this year! The last time this happened was in 1945! I hope your Easter eggs help you to think about the real meaning of Easter; they are eaten at Easter because they symbolise the new life given to Jesus after his resurrection on Easter Sunday. Christians read the Easter story in the Bible and they are told that ‘God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life’ (John 3:16-17).
The Christian message of Easter is about; how God showed his love and power through Jesus for all humankind. The shape of the egg also looks like a tomb – and the cracked egg symbolises the empty tomb. Jesus is risen, Alleluia!
March 2018 Issue 817
Easter is early this year, so all the major Christian festivals leading up to this Day are in March. We start with Mothering Sunday on the 11th, where we are reminded to give thanks for those who care for us and those we care for. Then we move swiftly on through this season of Lent to Good Friday where we remember that God (in the Person of Jesus Christ) died for our sins. Then we rejoice in the message of love and forgiveness through Jesus’ Resurrection which will be celebrated on Easter Day, this year on April 1st. To some, these celebrations may indeed seem foolish. However back in 1220 St. Francis of Assisi said that he was unafraid to appear foolish to the world. Indeed, he was “God’s fool”, taking seriously St. Paul’s exhortation to put on the “mind of Christ” and live God’s generosity, love, and mercy. So April Fools’ Day is a great day to celebrate Easter; for in spite of what may seem foolish God is nobody’s fool!
February 2018 Issue 816
Now in February we stand looking towards Ash Wednesday, which falls on 14th February. For some of us this date will mean Valentine’s Day! We can link these anniversaries with the theme of Love and new beginnings. Ash Wednesday leads us into the start of Lent, a time when we prepare for Easter, in the knowledge, love and grace of a God who loves us. Love isn’t always an easy path to tread. Recently a friend shared this poem with me:
THE SNOWDROP: By Louise Gluck
Do you know what I was, how I lived? You know what despair is; then winter should have meaning for you. I did not expect to survive, earth suppressing me. I didn't expect to waken again, to feel in damp earth my body able to respond again, remembering after so long how to open in the cold light of earliest spring-- afraid, yes, but among you again crying yes risk joy in the raw wind of the new world.
I hope you might find this poem helpful when life is difficult or seemingly loveless, to push upwards and seek light once again. When love seems far away we can look for God's creative spirit in us and ask for courage to risk living and being loving. For life is a risk and there are no easy promises or answers. But God promises that in that journey from dark to light, he is with us always.
I pray as we approach this time of Lent, whatever individual difficulties we are asked to overcome or whatever sadness sometimes holds us, or whatever joy and happiness already exists in our hearts, may we know the breaking dawn of God's light and love washing into our world, and calling us on to greater life, greater joy, in the abundance God longs for us to have.
January 2018 Issue 815
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
A new All Age Worship Service at All Saint’s Church, Southill will take place on the second Sunday of each month. Starting at 9am and finishing by 10am without Holy Communion.
If you find fitting in breakfast and getting to church for 9am then this informal service is for you!
Come and meet just before the service begins at 8.45am and have refreshments including brioche, before the fun activities, worship songs and talks begin.
Our first All Age Worship in on Sunday 14th January 2018
Resolutions made and new beginnings in place let’s hope that 2018 will be a year to remember!
December 2017 Issue 814
Are you ready, ready for Christmas?
We’re nearly there at All Saints! The Carol concerts, Christmas plays, Carol services, do see what we’re planning inside the Outlook and the Christmas Card.
As usual we will be handing out woolly sheep to be cared for by children at the Christingle Service, ready to be returned at the Crib Service on 24th December at 4.00pm in the church.
We want to share #GodWithUs – Your Christmas Journey: “The constant refrain of Christmas, in carols and readings, is that God is with us. In whatever situations you find yourself this Christmas, God is with you – you need only turn to him and ask to know his presence”. (Archbishop Justin Welby).
Sign up and get your friends and family to join the Your Christmas Journey reflections by texting GodWithUs to 88802.
November 2017 Issue 813
BRICS! – Not another proposal for a new housing development, but this time a proposal for spiritual development.
BRICS – ‘Bishop Richard in Clifton and Southill’: As part of the community outreach from our church through Schools, and regular church services, Bishop Richard of Bedford, along with trainee Church of England ministers, will be with us from 1st to 5th November in both our villages. He will begin this mission with a service at 8pm in All Saint’s Church, Southill on the 1st November celebrating All Saints Day. There will also be plenty of other opportunities to engage with the Bishop and his team, at church on Sunday 5th November 9am at Southill or the All Souls Day service at 4pm at Clifton (All Saints Church). In November we tend to remember those fallen in conflicts around the world. Recently I read a novel, Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. It was a distressing story about the war in Biafra, fifty years ago. The film was just as sad and vivid. I remember seeing printed images of this war when I was a child in the newspapers, at the time I didn’t understand the politics behind this war. This book was enlightening to read from someone’s first-hand experience putting this history into context. It made it all the more distressing to learn that it was about the usual motives for war and that the ordinary people are the ones to suffer and have their lives turned upside down. Hopefully the BRICS visit will inspire us to develop and deepen our own spiritual lives and give us a firmer foundation using the armour that God gives us to help us build and heal relationships with humility, faith, truth and praise.
October 2017 Issue 812
The clocks go back on 29th October and we get an extra hour in bed! I love this dormouse time of the year and the autumn colours remind me ‘that the busy time of the year ‘is drawing near. But before we get too cosy let’s be mindful that the Protestant church will be remembering a significant anniversary on 30th October. You remember, you must have read what happened in Zurich, Strasburg, Nuremberg, and Wittenberg 500 years ago! The REFORMATION! This event set in motion by Martin Luther: ways which have shaped the Anglican Church that we have today. Although this is probably a result of religious changes from the Elizabethan times and onwards. The Reformation happened on the 31st October 1517 when Martin Luther recognised that God’s love was for all. Not just the religious. God loved, justified, and blessed Martin not because of anything he was or had done but despite it all. God’s word, the Bible spoken or written is at the centre of this Reformation. It does not depend on Church, Holy Communion or priest only the word of God. Luther recognised only God’s power. He posted his Ninety –five Theses against the indulgences to the Archbishop of Mainz, we like to think he nailed them on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, perhaps he did! Gradually over many years this also led to accepting religious free speech for all, which like it or not led to the downfall of King Charles First! From this Reformation we have inherited a country that accepts liberty and democracy and continually leads to new challenges. At the heart of this Protestant cultural Reform is ‘to glorify God and enjoy him forever.’ (Westminster Confession) We celebrate this event with a joint service on Bible Sunday with All Saints, Clifton, on Sunday 30th October at 10am.
September 2017 Issue 811
As I write the fields are being harvested and those familiar round or square bales are being stacked up ready for later in the year. We give thanks for our farmers and the work they do which quite often we take for granted. Yet,Harvest is a time for counting our blessings. A time for recognising, celebrating and giving thanks for all that God has provided for us, Each year at Harvest the church supports the Prebend Day Centre with useful items of food or clothing. This year we will also be supporting the people in the Philippines, especially those who live in the mountains of Tinglayan where the land is too rocky to be useful for growing rice (the staple food). However, it turns out to be perfectly good for growing beans, which can be sold to generate extra income for their homes and children’s education. I love beans, there’s so many of them, especially chocolate beans! Beans is also a game I used to like to play as a child. When someone called out one of the following: runner beans, frozen beams, jelly beans you had to do different actions to go with the bean. This coming Harvest let’s be full of beans for others. ‘This most generous God who gives seed to the farmer that becomes bread for your meals is more than extravagant with you. He gives you something you can then give away, which grows into full-formed lives, robust in God, wealthy in every way, so that you can be generous in every way, producing with us great praise to God.’ [2 Corinthians 9:10-11 from The Message] Harvest a time for sharing and caring. Let's respond by being generoous in sharing our blessings! Come and count your blessings with a Harvest festival at All Saints Church, 1st October at the usual time of 9am.
August 2017 Issue 810
August! The schools are on holiday and it’s usually a quieter month, a time for change, relaxation and hopefully a little much needed personal space. Summer can be an opportunity to uncover our constant need for recreation: using the word in its best meaning of renewal. The beginning of August signals the middle of summer. The year has already ‘tipped over’ into its second half and towards the end of the month, maybe, there will be a hint of autumn in the air.
August is a month of change placed between work and play. Seventy years ago, a huge change took place when on August 14th 1947 what was then Pakistan (now Pakistan and Bangladesh) and a day later India, gained their independence from Great Britain. This marked the beginning of freedom from foreign rule, but it was also accompanied by suffering as many families and lives were torn apart.
Whatever memories we hold of past holidays, or will have in the making of memories to come, I hope this month will give you space to reflect. As St Paul writes in his second letter to the early Christians in Corinth (2 Corinthians ch. 5 v.7): “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.’’
Maybe we can use this summertime to find space and renewed energy to do some thoughtful sorting out in preparation for the season to come.
July 2017 Issue 809
It is wonderful to see the weddings and Christenings taking place at this time of year. We hear so much about the words ‘Holy Spirit’ in these services and you might wonder why. So if you have a moment to stop during the holiday season, you might find some space to do something different and find out more about God and the Holy Spirit.
You’ll need a Bible to hand – in case you’re not used to looking up Bible references, ‘Luke 4:18˗19’, for example, means that we’re looking at the Book of Luke, Chapter 4, Verses (small numbers in the text) 18 to19.
I think that we often feel a bit confused about God the Holy Spirit, and that it might help to look at a few things we know about Him. This is from the New Testament where Jesus spoke several times about the Holy Spirit (eg. Luke 4:18-19, Matt.10:20, John 3:5). He said that the Father would always send the Spirit when we ask (Luke 11:9-13), and he promised that when he returned to heaven he would send the Spirit to his disciples in a new and fuller way (John 14:15-17). This happened at the first Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4), seven weeks after Easter. That was the day when Joel’s prophecy began to be fulfilled, the Christian Church started, and things would never be the same again!
In the Church of England, the sign and sacrament of receiving the Holy Spirit is called confirmation. This follows a Christening which is part of the Baptism service.
In September this church will be running Alpha groups (18 years +) and Confirmation classes (10 years + you don’t have to be christened/baptised to be confirmed this will be done by the Bishop), if you want to know more about this come and speak to me.
Enjoy life with God, in the strength of his Holy Spirit!
June 2017 Issue 808
As you receive this edition of The Outlook you would have had the opportunity to have voted in the General Election.
If you are a Christian can I ask you to pray with me for those who stood for office, and for those who have been elected?
Archbishop Welby has wrote a letter to encourage us to take this vote seriously. Even if we are bruised after the Brexit decision. He says that the Christian virtues of love, trust and hope should guide and judge our actions, as well as the actions and policies of all those who are seeking election to the House of Commons and to lead our country.. ..We keep in our prayers all those who are standing in this election and are deeply grateful for their commitment to public service. All of us as Christians, in holding fast to the vision of abundant life, should be open to the call to renounce cynicism, to engage prayerfully with the candidates and issues in this election and by doing so to participate together fully in the life of our communities.
Archbishop Welby asks us to think about our shared values and if they are to carry the weight of where we now stand they must have at their core cohesion, courage and stability.
All saints’ church is always open for daily prayer come and if after casting your vote you feel you need to reflect and pray then use the space to bring before God your needs.
May 2017 Issue 807
There are many times in our lives when we have a need to stop and smell the roses, or times when we need to wake up and smell the coffee. With interest rates dropping, savings vanishing, taxes rising, employment increasingly more difficult to find and to hold to if you find it…we often are too concerned with life to appreciate the life teeming around us.
As we rush around trying to put out the proverbial fires, or some of us may be rushing to bury our heads in the sand, why not take a breather, a time-out if you will, and just look up. Do we see a roof over us? Thank God for that! Then, look around you! Take in the view! Don’t you see the great splendour and variety that are the Spring Flowers around us? Can you smell them? What about the renewed chirping of the birds? From the eggs hatch new life! Thank God for that! Don’t overlook the little miracles of life bursting and on display just for us. Warningly, if we do not take the time to wake up and smell the coffee, we’ll sleep in, missing God’s great gifts. If we merely sleep walk through life, shame on us! We cannot afford to bury our heads in the sand, or ignore everything else in the world but our own troubles. We’re all in this economy and living in this world together. Let us work together, help each other, and appreciate the time that God gives us on this earth, and be grateful. April showers bring May flowers, or so we are always taught. So, lets enjoy them while they’re and we’re still here. For if we’re not careful, we’ll wake up one day when our bodies are too far gone to fully appreciate the life we let slip by. For everything there is a season. Life is cyclical, constantly spinning and flowing. Pain and suffering of this age will cease; let us live while we can!
April 2017 Issue 806
We are nearly at the end of Lent. This important time in the Christian calendar, so often associated with 'giving things up’; hope is on the horizon- Easter is in sight!
As I look around at the wonderful signs of nature in this village it reminds me of one of my favourite Easter hymns ‘Now the green blade riseth’. It tells me that spring is here and reminds me that the Easter Message gives a hope which proclaims our Church and every Church a place of resurrection, where death cannot triumph ultimately as there is something more for us in and through God in His work through Jesus.
Some of you may have helped and taken part recently with the Mission Action Planning for your church, All Saints, which is not just made up of bricks and mortar; but living stones, each one of you, loving flesh being modelled in the likeness and love of Christ. As we have prayed together through Lent so we move forward with hopes for the future that we can ‘Grow together in Christ.’
If you haven’t been to any of our services before, why not come along, especially if you are new to the area. You are welcome to the Good Friday Afternoon Devotions and any of the Easter services, especially the service on Easter Sunday where we will remember the glory of the resurrection in a celebratory Easter Day service.
Best wishes and a Happy Easter,
March 2017 Issue No 805
Do you ever feel that you are being torn in different directions? Do you sometimes look at the world and it seems to be reflected back like the pieces in a mosaic floor; joined together but at the same time apart? Lent reminds me that Jesus understands this feeling. Jesus was broken on the cross for us and comes to us alone to st make us whole again. I hope through this Lenten season, which begins on the 1 March with Ash Wednesday, that our fragmented selves may come to know the strength and wholeness that comes from God. The following story helped me reflect on this struggle! Some tiny frogs arranged a climbing competition to reach the top of a high tower. A crowd of frogs gathered to cheer on the contestants. No one really believed that such tiny frogs would reach the top of the tower. Soon they began collapsing, one by one, except for those who were a bit stronger and kept climbing higher and higher. The crowd began to yell, “No one will make it!”. More tiny frogs got tired and gave up except one, which continued even higher long after all of the others had given up, and he, after a big effort, actually made it to the top! Someone asked the tiny frog how he had found the strength to reach his goal. But he didn’t hear him, and the frog in the crowd shouted the question again but he still didn’t hear, so he shouted at the top of his voice, which was really loud for such a tiny frog. But he still couldn’t hear him, he was deaf! How much more could we do if we, like the frog, turned a deaf ear to all those who say we can’t? Thank you for completing the questionnaire about what you need from your church.
February 2017 Issue No 804
As I write this, the sun is shining and the birds are singing, you could believe it is a spring day! February is here and for some we might be thinking of romance as St Valentine’s Day approaches. Valentine reminds us to be loving and compassionate. Compassion is full of kindness and I have been grateful to you for your welcome and friendship and to those of you who support me in prayer as I learn to be your Vicar.
I have become increasingly aware of my calling to look out and to serve this community and make the love of God visible. I can’t do this by myself and I am grateful to those who have responded to the questionnaire I put in last month’s OUTLOOK to help me find ways to make the love of God visible in this place. I do not think that this is necessarily always about grand projects but consider the delicate snowdrop, the brightness of a daffodil trumpet, and the beauty of simple bird song as a model for mission. It is often the small things that speak of the love of God to people.
Over the Lenten period we have the opportunity to consider how we might show God‘s love through the Lent groups planned at Southill church and the Deanery. We will be looking at Bishop Alan’s Lent Course regarding, Generosity, Joy, Imagination and Courage.
Come along and reflect with me how we can be part of making God‘s love visible in our world.
With my prayers and best wishes
January 2017 Issue No 803
Happy New Year, Everyone !
Last year was full of interesting anniversaries and there are more to come this 2017. The first one I’m going to highlight this month is the 300th anniversary since the death of Maria Sibylla Merian. She was 83 years old when she died in Germany in January 1717. She is one of my favourite scientists, although known as a natu-ralist and illustrator, as a young girl Maria painted flowers and insects and later in her life helped scientists un-derstand how caterpillars metamorphosed into moths and butterflies.
I love science and I’m always looking for ways to connect science and faith together. This January I will be taking part in ‘Take Your Vicar to the Lab project’ Take Your Vicar to the Lab is a one-year project promoting dialogue between clergy and scientists. Scientists and vicars live in the same world! I hope this will equip me to be better equipped to address the scientific and technological issues that shape so much of our modern soci-ety.
I am going to visit The Genome Centre in London, along with six other clergy. I hope this will give me an op-portunity to learn about the future of genomics and to consider some of the ethical issues this raises.
If you would like to find out what I discovered come and chat to me over a cup of tea on a Tuesday at the Southill Parish afternoon teas in Southill Church from 2.30pm or a Sunday Morning after the service.
There is so much to know and understand about God and ourselves. God is the God of the gene, the Higgs boson and the computer subroutine, just as much as the God of the Eucharist and the Scriptures.
May God the Father, who led the wise men by the shining of a star to find Jesus, lead you also in your pil-grimage to find the Lord. Amen.
December 2016 Issue No 802
Well, hasn’t this leap year of 2016 been full of surprises! Great and surprising (?) expectations were met this year. The Queen celebrated her 90th birthday, a space mission to Jupiter revealed its moon Juno to us. The Olympics and Paralympics were amazing! Andy Murray is no.1 Tennis player in the world! Other surprises may not have met our expectations! Whichever way you voted about the European Union, the BREXIT vote will lead us down a new road in 2017. The USA has a new president and we hope that the surprising result will lead to new opportunities for our world.
With Christmas around the corner I’m dropping hints to my family about what I’d like to see in my Christmas stocking this year. So my expectations may be realised. I will try to be grateful and thankful for whatever comes my way. What we get or expect are two
different things! For, surprises can be pleasant or really unpleasant! We didn’t choose to be born; most of the refugees from Syria didn’t choose to be displaced.
However, surprisingly, Jesus was one person who did choose to be born and he chose to die for us too that we might know God’s forgiveness and be brought back into a right relationship with God. While Santa puts gifts under your tree remember .... JESUS became our gift and died on a tree...the cross. We need to put Christ back in CHRISTmas, Jesus is still the reason for the season.
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).
May God Bless you this Christmas and be with you as you journey into the New Year.
November 2016 Issue No 801
Remember the fifth of November! So much to remember in November! Remember, the thief next to Jesus on the
cross at the Crucifixion asked Jesus to remember him when Jesus went into his Kingdom. The Taize chant “Jesus remember me when I come into your Kingdom” is taken from the words of the Gospel of Luke 23:14. We remembered earlier this month our loved ones who have passed away and given thanks for their lives at the service on All Souls Day.
Remember to stand at the War Memorial and remember those soldiers who gave their lives for us this includes World War One
and World War Two, the Falklands War, the Gulf War, and conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Remember the Advent season where we look forward to the coming of our Saviour Jesus Christ into the world.
Remember to get ready for Christmas, more than making the cakes, buying the presents; it is a time of prayer and reflection on God’s gifts to us all.
Remember, this month is about not forgetting but Remembering.
October 2016 Issue No 800
Now I am officially your vicar! Thank you, if you were able to come to my Installation and Induction
service on the 15th September or were praying for me.
The year has flown by again and by the time you read this the Harvest season would have been
celebrated in church. We were reminded that in this beautiful county of Bedfordshire we saw the fruition of a whole
years work from our farming communities in the produce you brought to church to
share with those less fortunate than ourselves. We hope our farmers can take
time to finally sit back and be thankful with a great sense of satisfaction, as
we wonder at the beauty and generosity of nature’s bounty.
Observing the natural rhythm of the seasons teaches children so many good things, but above all it
instills in them a love and respect for the world we live in. Recently Southill
Lower School’s Gardening Club asked me to take part in judging the children’s
produce and things they had made out of natural resources. It was wonderful to see the effort that the
children had put in to their work; it made the judging very challenging. Well
done to those who took part!
As we start to peer through the autumn mists, we look ahead to November. Please let me know if you
have a loved one that you would like to be remembered at the All Souls Service
on the 6th November 4pm next month at All Saints Church, Clifton.
On Remembrance Day, 13th November this year we
will give thanks for those who generously laid down their lives in both world
wars and particularly those who died in the Battle of the Somme 100 years ago
you in my prayers
September 2016 Issue No 799
September is a month of new beginnings, the new term for school and a new start for All Saints Church, Southill.
Some of you already know me as the SSM (Self Supporting Minister) over these last eighteen years for All
Saint’s Church. I feel both humbled and privileged to be invited to become your new Vicar at All Saints from the 15th
My first service as your Vicar will be on Sunday 18th September at 9.00am, where you are
warmly welcome to come and meet me or if you see me around the parishes please
come and introduce yourself to me.
This year I have enjoyed taking an assembly once a month at Southill Lower School and supporting the
curriculum with their Values Education. I hope in time the children will come
along with their families to All Saints Church, Southill and join in with our
Family services which take place on the first Sunday of each month.
Looking ahead to October, I am working hard on a Quiz to challenge you at our Harvest Supper on Saturday 1st
October 2016 at Southill Parish Hall, followed by our Harvest service on the 2nd October at 9.am.
So as the new term is about to start, I hope your holiday memories are still warm and I look forward to
getting to know you as your Vicar over the years to come.
Keeping you in my prayers
August 2016 Issue No 798
All Saints Southill and All Saints Clifton (the Benefice)
have a new Rector.
On Thursday 14 July the Reverend Caren Topley was asked to
take up the position of Rector for the Benefice. Caren has been our associate
Priest this year (and for many years before that) and she has been a great help
to the Churchwardens in ensuring that all services in Southill Church continued
There has not been a single omission during the vacancy and
this includes all funerals, baptisms and weddings.
The children from Southill School already know Rev Caren, as she has been visiting at least once a month and you will all have an
opportunity to meet her when she is the quizmaster in Southill Parish hall for
the harvest supper and quiz on 1 October 2016. (Alternatively attend any Church
service or tea in Church on a Tuesday afternoon).
The licensing service will be on Thursday 15 September at 7.30 pm by the Bishop of Bedford and this
will take place at All Saints Clifton. From that moment she will be available
to answer all your questions from The Vicarage at Clifton.
For the time being, we will remain in vacancy and all
requests should still be directed to the Churchwardens.
However you can be sure that Rev Caren will have an input in
all future developments in the church and its life. We look forward to working
Tony Parkhouse and
Nico Rodenburg (Churchwardens)
July 2016 Issue No 797
Have you read your Bible recently?
Do you ever read the Bible? Perhaps you even ask “what is the Bible?” It is in
fact not one book but a collection of 66 very interesting books – a mini
library which is divided into 39 books in the Old Testament and 27 books in the
New Testament. Each book varies from
another but all have a message. Whatever the facts are it was written by people
who were inspired by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21 & 1 Corinthians 2: 13
for example) and is seen by believers as the word of God.
The Bible is not always easy to
read and understand especially the King James version which is in 17th
century English. However, there are many modern translations which may not have
the poetry or lilt of the older versions but are more easily understood. My
Bible is a dog eared New Living Translation which I can highly recommend as
being very readable. A good way of reading and understanding the meaning of the
Bible passages we hear or read is to share the readings with other people. Book
Clubs are a popular way of meeting friends and sharing information, why not a
Bible study group? The study group I have the privilege to attend has helped my
understanding of the Word as well as offering wonderful fellowship, friendship
and spiritual growth.
There are many sources of Bible
study notes which can aid understanding of a reading from such groups as
Scripture union, CWR, Premier Radio, the Bible Society whose vision is a world
where everyone has access to the Bible & can recognise its value for themselves,
their families and communities. We must also not forget the tireless work of
the Gideon Society who work so hard to provide a copy of the Bible to every
hotel room. Perhaps not as acceptable as it used to be as we become more and
more a multi faith or no faith society.
Hopefully you will be able to find
time in your busy lives to give yourself a few moments of quiet each day to
read a passage from your Bible and meditate on what you have read.
June 2016 Issue No 796
Communing with nature is a simple pleasure - you go
outside. For some it may mean simply opening
a window. However, for 43 of us, it was
walking the Southill Spring Walk, this year.
Adults, a child or two, and a few dogs set off from All Saints’ Church
in Southill, through Southill Park, over and up to Old Warden parish church…and
back again stopping off at the Scotts for a very refreshing drink and
biscuit. The day was very pleasant, the
Whitbreads were most gracious in allowing us the pleasure of their estate, and
the company was warm and hospitable.
For many years, now, the Spring Walk has been attracting
people from all over the area to commune with each other and nature. God is moving in this place! Each year our numbers slightly increase, the
luncheon afterwards is always refreshing, and the proceeds contribute to the
life and mission of the church. Remember, this is your parish
We pray that you really and truly enjoy the summer months
ahead. May they bring you and yours
great comfort, peace, and joy. We should
also pray for us as Human Beings, upon whom God has bestowed the role of
Caretaker of His Creation. As The Lord’s
Prayer states, ‘Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from Evil,’ may we
be ever aware of just how much electricity and gas we consume, as well as
diesel, petrol, aviation fuel, in order to keep our relationship with all
things in a proper balance. Let us not
be tempted by greed, power, or gluttony.
As we move into June, please know that your parish church is
very much alive and well, eager to serve all four villages, and expecting to
see you on Sundays at 9:00 am for Communion Services or at 8.00 am on the 1st
Sunday of each month. Come and join
us. You are always welcome.
May 2016 Issue No 795
PROGRESS REPORT ON THE APPOINTMENT OF A NEW VICAR
On Thursday 14 April the vacancy meeting took place in the
Church for the parish of Southill and the parish of Clifton (The Benefice), to start the lengthy
procedure for electing a new Vicar.
The Bishop of Bedford and the Archdeacon of Bedford outlined
the necessary action to be taken and also tried to summarise the needs and
shortcomings of both parishes.
It is now up to the Churchwardens and the Parochial Church
Council to update the profile ( which can be found on All Saints Church
Southill Website with much more information).
Once the profiles of both Southill and Clifton are completed and a “Job Description”
has been prepared, two representatives of each Parish will meet with the
Archdeacon to prepare an advert for the vacancy.
This will be placed in the Church Times and on the Diocesan
website to attract candidates for interview.
It is anticipated that the preparations will be completed in
May and interviews will take place in June/July with possible appointment in
However – as before – the Church continues and with the help
of our Ministry Team ( Revd. Caren Topley, Revd. Paul Lanham and Lay Reader
Robin Welsford) and some visiting Clergy, you may not have noticed any
The Sunday services are all taking place at 9 am. Holy
Communion on the first Sunday of the month at 8 am and Sunday School on the
Third Sunday of the month at 9 am.
Wedding, Funeral and Baptisms are continuing to be part of
the Church life, as well as Teas in Church, home communion for the ill and all
the other activities.
The Parochial Church Council members continue with the
social events and fundraising events as normal.
If you need the family of the Church for any reason, please
do not hesitate to contact the Churchwardens or any member of the PCC or
congregation. They are all there to help.
April 2016 Issue No 794
Many years ago
I had the ‘opportunity’ to board a ship in Southampton, which became home for
23 days whilst travelling to Singapore. What different views of the world I
saw: beautiful scenery and ugly slums, great riches and abject poverty, and a
bewildering variety of 'smells' as I sailed first into Valetta, Malta; then to Aden and on
through the Suez Canal, with a steam train on one side and camel train on the other; on to
Colombo where I first encountered snake charmers and finally the noise and smells of Singapore. The
next three years living in the 'exotic' East served to confirm this variety of views.
Now, each month as I travel through the Parish of Southill to deliver the ‘Outlook’,
irrespective of the weather conditions I become aware of the beautiful and
peaceful part of our land I am privileged to inhabit. I appreciate all those in
the various villages who work hard to offer the opportunity to socialise and
help keep loneliness at bay - village lunches, the various clubs, our school,
chapel, village store, church and the pubs in which to gather and have fun
together. What a way of life is there for the taking, and as we live together
in comparative peace and harmony, looking forward to the Summer sunshine, I am
sure that we all wonder at times just how we could make the world a less
dangerous place for everyone. Maybe part of the solution is to enjoy what we
have and worry less about what we haven't?
Although currently we do not have a Vicar to lead and guide us, we get the opportunity
of meeting many visiting ministers. This is a bonus as we can see things
through different eyes, but we look forward to being able to greet ‘our’ new
Vicar before too long.
March 2016 Issue No 793
We are all so fortunate to live in a parish such as Southill, a beautiful part of the world,
and a vibrant community life with many activities to enjoy.
Remember, community spirit is a group of people working together
to help improve the community they live in. A phrase used to describe local
people working together for a mutually positive and sometimes pleasurable
result. This may be apparent at a community fair or a school fete. Other events in our locale that create
community spirit include charitable events like a quiz at the village hall, the
monthly lunch club in Broom, and Tuesday Teas at All Saints in Southill.
The measure of community spirit is subjective, but can be considered by looking at the level of achievement from
deeds done by the community alongside the level of contentment of the locals.
Community spirit is associated with voluntary work, favours and gestures of goodwill by residents and local
businesses. Local voluntary organisations such as a neighbourhood watch or the
Women's Institute often help create community spirit.
Our local idyll, sadly, is not necessarily reflected nationally.
Margaret Thatcher once said there's no such thing as society and she may
be right after all. According to a recent survey community
spirit has almost vanished in modern Britain with fewer people prepared to look
out for their neighbours or ask them for help.
Gone are the days when people have homely conversations over the garden fence or nip round to borrow
some milk. So, enjoy what's on offer locally. There's plenty to do – and much of it can be
found within these pages.
February 2016 Issue No 792
Perhaps you have experienced someone telling you what you should or should not be doing or testing you out with some catch question. Despite His great wisdom Jesus also suffered such questions asked by people who thought they knew best.
One such person asked Jesus what is the most important commandment. Jesus replied that there was only one Lord who you should love with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and with all your strength. The second commandment is equally important – to love your neighbour as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these (Mark12 vs29-31).
But who exactly is your God and who is your neighbour? I am blessed with knowing a wonderful God and wonderful neighbours - the best that anyone could ever have, ever. What if your neighbours are not the best you could hope for, perhaps noisy, have bad habits, irritating work patterns which disturb your sleep or rest, babies who cry in the night, youngsters who play loud music or kick a ball into your garden…….every day, or swear at you for no reason? Or it could be someone you meet on the street who asks you for the price of a cup of tea, or someone who is homeless, or lonely or who wants to talk when you are busy? Could you give a welcome to refugees in your house or street? Could I? I know of many people who do love their neighbour and one person in particular who owns very little and was still pleased to give shelter to a very smelly homeless person until he was re-housed several months later. That is being a really loving neighbour……… I learned a lot from knowing that and still have a long way to go.
January 2016 Issue No 791
The celebration of the new year on January 1st is a relatively new phenomenon. The earliest recording of a new year
celebration is believed to have been in Mesopotamia, c. 2000 B.C. and was celebrated around the time of the vernal equinox, in mid-March. A variety of other dates tied to the seasons were also used by various ancient cultures. The Egyptians, Phoenicians, and Persians began their new year with the fall equinox, and the Greeks celebrated it on the winter solstice. The early Roman calendar designated March 1 as the new year. The calendar had just ten months, beginning with March. That the new year once began with the month of March is still reflected in some of the names of the months. September through December, our ninth through twelfth months, were originally positioned as the seventh through tenth months (septem is Latin for "seven," octo is "eight," novem is "nine," and decem is "ten." The first time the new year was celebrated on January 1st was in Rome in 153 B.C. (In fact, the month of January did not even exist until around 700 B.C., when the second king of Rome, Numa Pontilius, added the months of January and February.) The new year was moved from March to January because that was the beginning of the civil year, the month that the two newly elected Roman consuls—the highest officials in the Roman republic—began their one-year tenure. But this new year date was not always strictly and widely observed, and the new year was still sometimes celebrated on March 1. In 46 B.C. Julius Caesar introduced a new, solar-based calendar that was a vast improvement on the ancient Roman calendar, which was a lunar system that had become wildly inaccurate over the years. The Julian calendar decreed that the new year would occur with January 1, and within the Roman world, January 1 became the consistently observed start of the new year. In medieval Europe, however, the celebrations accompanying the new year were considered pagan and unchristian like, and in 567 the Council of Tours abolished January 1 as the beginning of the year. At various times and in various places throughout medieval Christian Europe, the new year was celebrated on Dec. 25, the birth of Jesus; March 1; March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation; and Easter.
In 1582, the Gregorian calendar reform restored January 1 as new year's day. Although most Catholic countries adopted the Gregorian calendar almost immediately, it was only gradually adopted among Protestant countries. The British, for example, did not adopt the reformed
calendar until 1752. Until then, the British Empire —and their American colonies— still celebrated the new year in March.
December 2015 Issue No 790
As Christmas approaches I love looking around the shops. Everything looks so very attractive, and we like to go for quality: “You get what you pay for” is the common phrase used in our culture. The church however is different. That phrase is not used, because God’s grace is a free gift. If we’re given a free handout when we browse around the shops we think, “What’s the catch?”
When God gives a free handout there is no catch. So what is that free handout? In fact we should be saying, “What are the free handouts?” because there are so many. First of all there is Joy, peace, forgiveness, love, blessings, healing of wounds, life forever.….and the list go on. All that has to cost somebody something somewhere along the line, and indeed it did. It cost Jesus his status from King of Heaven to become fragile little baby in a dirty stable. It cost him ridicule and abuse by those who felt they were in charge of the religious life of the people. It cost him his life by those who wanted him out of the way because he just didn’t fit into their clique. When it cost Jesus all that because he loves us and loves us and loves us, God showered the people with gifts of love, straight from his heart. There is no catch.
Any money we do give in church is purely a means of saying ‘Thank you to God’ for his kindness to us and not a means of buying a service from a supplier. How that money is best used to further the whole ministry of the church is a matter for those appointed to that task. Our role is to
simply enjoy God’s gifts to us, and if we feel inclined, we might give a ‘thank you’ gift, but that in no way is used to “get what you pay for.”
November 2015 Issue No 789
It is with some mixed emotion that I can confirm the news most of you will no doubt have heard. I will be moving on in the New Year to become the Vicar of Warmington, Tansor, Cotterstock, Fotheringhay and Southwick. This is an exciting development for me personally, but of course there will be sadness at leaving behind many kind and supportive friends. Bob and I intend keep in touch with you. My last services will be on Christmas Day, so we would love to see you at one or more of our festive services so we can say a personal farewell to you.
I have loved my ministry here in this benefice, since we have embarked on new projects and seen people keen to explore their faith. The Autumn colours remind me of the inevitability of change “there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens….” (Ecclesiastes 3), and so it is with the life of the church and our personal lives. We all wait with anticipation for the coming season with its potential and possibilities. As my new post is part time I am also looking forward to spending quality time with my family and new grandson Harry. In the meantime I would like to invite you to my service of Induction at Warmington Church on Saturday 23rd January 2016 at 3pm, just past the Peterborough services off the A1.
On Monday 9th November at 7.30 Clifton Church there is an amazing opportunity to meet and hear the Very Revd Canon Dr Jeffrey John speak on “Making sense of Scripture” for anyone from Clifton, Southill, Broom, Stanford, Ireland, and beyond. It promises to be a truly inspiring event –free of charge. I do hope you will consider coming along.
October 2015 Issue No 788
The changing colours and falling leaves of autumn most likely bring to mind countless thoughts:
Harvest, cider, blackberrying, hay stacks, mountains of leaves to rake, mountains of leaves in which to play, and colourful leaves gathered and pressed between the heavy pages of the dictionary. Somewhat nostalgic recollections, all. We thank God for the generosity of the Harvest, as generations have previously enjoyed, at our services on Sunday 4th October 8am Southill, 9am Southill, 10.30am Clifton followed by buffet and
cake stall, and 3pm ‘Songs of Praise’ Broom Village Hall with tea and cakes.
But autumn can also bring to mind thoughts about the transient nature of so much in this life. The falling leaves remind us of our own limited existence, and so autumn can be a good time to take stock and reflect.
Near the end of this short story entitled, Going Nuts!, by David W Jones, Jonah – the main character – takes an autumn walk in the woods. While on this walk, he hears the voice of God speaking to him. God asks, “Jonah, do you know what the difference is between you and the trees?”
“Yes,” he said. “The difference between me and the trees is that the trees let go of their leaves. I keep holding onto mine. The trees make room for new life. I don’t.”
Jonah scoops up a handful of leaves and then, one-by-one, separates them, naming with each leaf a grief that his life has known. When these grief-named-leaves are spread out before him, Jonah then offers them up to God, metaphorically letting them go. In this autumn season, what are the leaves that God is calling us to let go in order that we can celebrate the new life he so longs to give us?
Take a walk outside. Pick up a leaf or two. Let them be an invitation to you to consider, reflect, and let go. Take a lesson from the trees and make room for new life.
Then next month, 4pm 1st November at Clifton, in our All Souls’ Memorial service people from Southill and Clifton remember loved ones who have passed away. Please come along and the name of your loved one which will be read out during the service. Candles will be lit symbolising the offering of our love of them to God.
September 2015 Issue No 787
I return from my 3 months’ Study Leave with gratitude to all who have worked so hard to manage the mission and ministry of the parishes I left
behind. I left much behind as I ventured up Lake District mountains to engage with God.
Climbing up the mountains, one feels drawn there by an invitation to ‘come’. Yet I have discovered that we never conquer the mountains – they
demonstrate how the sudden descent of swirling mist can unexpectedly disorientate; the wind, which is so gentle in the valley can easily sweep you off the summit so you must crawl and cling to keep safe; the rain can cause surfaces to become slippery and treacherous; and the sheep create their own pathways leading to dead-ends and ways off the beaten track, causing confusion for the walker; the maps often don’t refer to these other pathways and so it becomes difficult to judge which is the correct way; the sheer climb can be exhausting with the temptation to give up.
As the mountains let us climb, however, you notice the clarity of the air; the insignificance of all the materialistic dross; the value of friendship
and companions en route as they greet you in passing with “’ow do?”; camaraderie as they offer helpful tips, directions and encouragement; respect for the weather; and awesome panoramic views which take your breath away in praise of the Creator.
Many Biblical formative moments occur on the top of mountains. To have a ‘mountain top type experience’ with the Lord we have to listen to the Call of God to come up to a higher plain. James 4:8 “Come near to God and he will come near to you.” If we are satisfied with where we are, we will never hear the call.
I look forward very much to arranging a Benefice Away Day to introduce the spirituality I appreciated whilst engaging with God
in a lovely focused way.
August 2015 Issue No 786
What is it like to be really free? We live in the 'Free World', in a 'free society', and enjoy freedoms many, many people still cannot dream of. Yet, they are somewhat freer than we are, in many, many ways. We are civilized, walking on footpaths or pavements; we traverse the countryside on paved or poured motorways or travel on rails. But are we free? The clock ticks... …..and we move to its rhythm - up at the alarm, dressed by a certain time, out the door, kissing whoever along the way, and then we're not seen again for the rest of the day, as we're shuttled along in rush-hour traffic, crammed into cans on wheels with a hundred others afraid to talk, else we disturb the peace.
Oh yes, we are freer, now, than in days gone by; well, we have far more choice, at any rate. We are free to choose from so many things in our lives. Still, there is something powerful about the image of our lives being in a Rat Race. We're free to run where we like, but only get earthly rewards for the right turns and actions. We are free to not push the levers, to not run in the pack, we are free to ignore the 'norms' of the day and thus opt out of mainstream society, but who really can afford that?
As Christians, we know very well the choices we have. We understand that the world works so very hard to keep us in a box its designed especially for us, for each one of us. People essentially do not feel free enough to talk to strangers on the train, for fear of condemnation or scornful and reproachful looks or comments. "Yet, I know that my Redeemer liveth." To be a follower of Jesus Christ, a Christian, is to have no fear of such pettiness, knowing that God loves us regardless, and that He wants us to live our lives free from "sin, the world, and the devil", as is asked of us so to do at Baptism; Christians are actually free to live fuller and more complete lives.
Freedom from worldly constraints such as fashion, fads, trends, modes, and wanton consumerism - which leads to a corruption of our personal relationships and improper stewardship of our planet, enables us to more fully live our lives together in the Peace of God. Through Jesus Christ, we are free from the bondages of sin; we are truly free from the Rat Race. I pray that you find your way through the confusion and constraints of this world, that you might be blessed with a clear journey to the next. If you feel lonely, while travelling, come and join your fellow travellers along the Way. We'll be worshipping our God of Freedom and Peace every Sunday in All Saints' Church, Southill at 9am.
July 2015 Issue No 785
The month of July should bring us warmth, school holidays, perhaps a bit of travel, and more time with family and friends. I pray that you thoroughly enjoy all or most of the above.
July is also a month chock full of saints’ days. People, who for a variety of reasons, have been singled out by the church as being holy, enlightened, and/or remarkable examples of what a Christian should be. Two of them are apostles from Jesus’ own inner circle, Thomas and James. But there are others. Out of 31 days in July, there are 18 days in which we remember those outstanding exemplars.
On July 1, we remember Henry, John and Henry Venn, who were priests and divines. The third is Saint Thomas’s Day, on 6 July we
remember Thomas More; 7 July is for Thomas Becket; 11 July is for Benedict of Nursia; 14 July is for John Keble; 15 July is for Saints Swithun and Bonaventure; 16 July is for remembering Osmund; on 18 July we are to remember Elizabeth Ferard, who was the first Deaconess of the Church of England (late 1800s); on 20 July we remember Margaret of Antioch; 22 July is for Mary Magdalene; 23 July is for Bridget of Sweden; 25July is St. James’ Day; 27 July is for remembering Bishop Brooke Foss Westcott; 29 July is for remembering the siblings Mary, Martha, and Lazarus with whom Jesus Christ was very close; and the last two are William Wilberforce (30 July) and finally Ignatius of Loyola, who we are to remember in our prayers on the 31st of July.
On these particular days, can you please take a brief moment to remember the particular person of the day in your own personal prayers? It takes but a moment; it need only be a brief pause during daily activities, but the prayer to God should be one of thanks for their lives and examples, that we might learn from them and try our best, as they did. Prayer need not be a burden or for hours. Simply talk to God. Talk to God! He will hear our prayers. Let us remember all those who have gone before us in the faith of Christ, not just in our own time, but all the Saints before us that we might walk (as they did) in Jesus’ ways remembering that we are never alone. Enjoy July’s journeys!
June 2015 Issue No 784
As you know the Rev Anne Hindle is on extended study leave, but the life in the church carries on. There are still the usual Sunday services, supported by our Benefice Clergy and many others. One Sunday 10th May the Bishop of Bedford was the leader of the morning service and then, with his wife, enjoyed a friendly lunch at the Cock in Broom. July the Bishop of St Albans will also join us for the day.
Weddings and Baptisms take place as planned and Funerals are cared for as usual.
The major repairs on the tower of the church will be completed before the Rev.Anne is back in post and she will not have seen any of the work in progress.
Tuesday teas carry on as normal. Please join them every Tuesday between 2.30 and 4
The schedule of events in June is extensive. The Southill House open gardens for the National Garden Scheme is on 7th June. 14th June is the date not to be missed for the Parish Open Gardens,
Plant Sale and Teas in aid of Church Funds and on 21st June it will be Open Churches day when you are invited to come and view the Church, including the Byng Vault, which is only occasionally open to the public.
After the General election, everybody looked at the National Outcome, but what about your local councillors, who give up their time to ensure that your Parish is looked after and the grass is cut, roads maintained etc. Disappointingly there were not enough candidates in the Parish of Southill to have an election. Both Southill Ward and Broom Ward were short, but Stamford filled their quota. Please consider filling these vacancies. There are only six meetings a year. You might even consider joining the Speedwatch group and reduce the speeding motorists through our villages. The meetings take place in Broom Village Hall and Southill Church.
Participate in the life of the Parish. You never know – you might enjoy it!!
May 2015 Issue No 783
This is the last letter I will write to you for a few months, as the Bishop has awarded me time for Extended Study Leave from 1st May-1st August.
This is a really appreciated gift, which I intend to use to maximum benefit. During this time I shall be undergoing a project entitled: “The beauty of words; the beauty of Wordsworth.” The intention is that I draw out of Wordsworth’s poetry the spirituality which I shall tie in with the Ignatian Spiritual exercises. I will also express the impact it has on me, by creating works of calligraphy. The project isn’t simply an academic exercise, but a real opportunity to engage with Jesus, and allow space and time for me to listen to him. This should be very transformative and refreshing. I can return fired up with the exciting things I have gained from the encounter, which will be useful as I minister to others.
Naturally I will miss parish life, but the Wardens will manage any enquiries, and all services are covered by our own Revd Paul Lanham, our Reader Robin Welsford, and a selection of guest ministers. Our Bishops will be paying a visit to take some services too. I will miss out on such a wealth of excellence, but I look forward to hearing how much you have enjoyed such varied participation.
April 2015 Issue No 782
This letter will reach you just before Easter, and for many it is another opportunity to have time out with the family, and time away from work, in a very welcome Bank Holiday. The word 'holiday' actually comes from the old English word ' haligdaeg', meaning holy day - and referred only to special religious days. Of course Good Friday and Easter Day are probably the most holy days in the calendar. During Good Friday we reflect upon the way Jesus was so unfairly and brutally killed. He stands as a sign that all evil can be conquered ultimately by love. The bleakest of times, in God's hands, can be transformed for good - which we celebrate on Easter Day, with the miraculous way Jesus rose from the dead.
These days we are only too aware of the atrocities suffered by so many innocent people. While we might feel inclined to retaliate, the death and resurrection of Jesus reminds us of the overwhelming power of love to bring about remarkable change. Of course despicable acts of violence must never ever be condoned, but the manner in which those appalling crimes are tackled shouldn't cause us to stoop to responding in vindictive ways, but to rise above in a manner which honours God and maintains our own integrity.
For me Lent and Easter involve extra acts of worship to prepare and conduct, the doing of which actually helps my own faith to develop. Having said that, I am looking forward to a holiday later on when I know that the God I worship is present in the beautiful natural world which Bob and I will be enjoying.
March 2015 Issue No 781
“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times” so penned Charles Dickens at the start of ‘A Tale of Two Cities’. So it is today as we approach Mothering Sunday – Refreshment Sunday (15th March). Traditionally a family time when we show our appreciation for our Mums. I always give a card to my Mum and also to a lovely lady who has no family at all, but who has given me a precious amount of ‘mothering’. However, I spent some time working in the Women’s Hospital in Liverpool, where we had women undergoing termination on one ward, and next door were those receiving attention for infertility. How Christ-like the atmosphere was there, in which each woman was held in the utmost respect with no blame, no shame, no criticism, just loving care & compassion. These women were ones for whom the prospect of, or denial of motherhood posed a challenge and turmoil too difficult at times for them to reconcile. For many it remains a secret ache, hidden for years. Then of course we have those who’s Mums are no longer with us, and those who’ve been traumatised by the loss of a child. Maybe it helps when we look to Mary (Lady Day 25th March) who also knew such personal tragedy, and ever lives to offer us consolation and point us to Jesus, who himself exercises the gift of Mothering when he said, “ Jerusalem, Jerusalem…. How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings….” (Matthew 23:37)
February 2015 Issue No 780
This month brings in the start of Lent. Some people use the 40 days before Easter to give up something that isn’t helpful, or that involves an amount of sacrifice – chocolate, biscuits, sugar etc. I am not disciplined enough for that, but I do like to commit to deepen my spirituality. For me, this starts with the Ash Wednesday Services at Clifton, 10am and 8pm, on 18th February. Both these services will be in the beautiful style of Taize. If this isn’t familiar to you, please do come along to see what it is like.
As I buzz around sorting cupboards, turning out drawers and visiting the tip with my usual gusto for spring cleaning, I also recognise that my many errors and failings also need sorting. I need to get rid of unwanted behaviour and attitudes. During Lent I ask God to bring to mind what I need to turf out in order to give space for the development of Christ like characteristics, then I can emerge from Lent at Easter refreshed and energised, filled with a fresh passion for Jesus.
"As Lent is the time for greater love, listen to Jesus' thirst...'Repent and believe' Jesus tells us. What are we to repent? Our indifference, our hardness of heart. What are we to believe? Jesus thirsts even now, in your heart and in the poor -- He knows your weakness. He wants only your love, wants only the chance to love you." Mother Teresa of Calcutta
Whatever Lent means for you, I hope that it will be a time of sorting and reflection.
January 2015 Issue No 779
I am writing this in the middle of the Christmas celebrations, and already becoming nostalgic! I am recalling the fantastic time we had in the Cock in Broom, as Michelle kindly opened her doors to welcome us all carol singing. I am impressed by the modern technology which provided the backing music and vocals from the itunes on my iphone and a bluetooth ampifier gismo thing – what a brilliant combination. Thanks to Heather and Brian for the warmth of their open house; and Peter Twitchin our organist for his sterling playing of the carols in the church's candle light carol service. We learned some new carols and enjoyed the familiar, amidst the wonderful atmosphere of our new candle stands.
I am nostalgic too about a new year retreat I spent several years ago with my favourite aunt in the Lake District. People were amused to discover that we went at the most out of season time, but in actual fact, the rest of the country was snowed under for the fornight apart from us, and we had the Lakes to ourselves – Heaven!
As I approach the new year I have a very clear idea of my 'resolution'. As clergy we have to have a spiritula director, and as I chatted to mine recently I reaslised how much resentment I harbour against all those who have hurt and harmed me over the years. I can't move forward until I've learned to forgive and be reconciled with them. It's a tough road ahead, but one I'm determined to work at with utmost dedication. I recall the story of Joseph (of the techincolour coat fame) and his gracious forgiveness of his cruel brothers. Gen 50:20 has him saying to his brothers, “you intended to harm me, but God intended it for good, to accomplish what is now being done.” I too must learn what goodness can emerge from forgiving.
Wishing you all a very blessed New Year.
December 2014 Issue No 778
Advent is here! Advent is a time of preparation for meeting Jesus. We so often use it to write and send cards, to buy and wrap pressies, and think of ordering the turkey. In amongst all this preparation Advent is a season observed in many Western Christian churches as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas. The term is an anglicized version of the Latin word adventus, meaning "coming". For Christians, the season of Advent anticipates the coming of Christ from two different perspectives. It offers the opportunity to share in the ancient longing for the coming of the Messiah, and to be alert for his Second Coming. Advent starts on the fourth Sunday before December 25, which is the Sunday between November 27 and December 3 inclusive.
The celebration originally began as a period of fasting, similar to Lent. Although the practice of abstention was later relaxed, Advent retains the spirit of atonement and penitence, reflected by the use of the purple colour in the church’s vestments, and absence of flowers, during this time
The St Albans Diocesan Advent Challenge this year is called Connections for Life.
It has a bit of an Advent shape: Week 1, Living, a brief trip through Genesis. Week 2, Loving, a look at Ruth and Hannah, Samuel and David. Week 3, Seeing, a reflection on the visions of the prophets. Week 4, Meeting, the journey to Bethlehem.
You will find up to date information on the Challenge website www.livethechallenge.co.uk
Many people have appreciated the Lent and Advent Challenges over the last few years. Not least those who wouldn’t otherwise be finding time to stop, reflect and pray.
November 2014 Issue No 777
As we approach our services of Remembrance, with dignity and sorrow for all who have been killed in past conflicts, and particularly for those lost in WW1 at this centenary year of its outbreak, we are also mindful of the dreadful and barbaric violence occurring in the Middle East at present. Traditionally there have been 2 stances in the face of war. The first being a pacifist view. A pacifist is someone who believes that under no circumstances is war justified. Early Christians refrained from warfare because:
1. In order to become a soldier in the Roman army, one had to offer a sacrifice, swearing an allegiance to Caesar—swearing ultimate allegiance to him as a god. Of course, all Christians agreed that this was not possible for a devout believer.
2. Soldiers may be called upon to pick up the sword and use it. Many Christians believed that this too was against the teachings of Christ.
Jesus said: “You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also” “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:38,39,43,44)
Pacifists say, “Jesus called us to love our enemy, not take up arms against him. We are to pray for those who persecute us.”
However, John Calvin said, “use force out of love for thy neighbour.” Standing by and refusing to act while harm befalls a neighbour is not a virtue; it is a vice.
Just War Theory is the other dominant position held by many Christians. This position was first formulated by Augustine of Hippo and later refined by Thomas Aquinas. It is based on the following assumptions:
War is never good. But it is sometimes necessary. Why? Because sin is an ever present reality that has to be dealt with.
Necessary wars are to be conducted within the limits of justice. We are all guilty sinners, but by applying just principles we can be as righteous as one can be when it comes to waging war.
Only governments, and not individuals, have the right under God to carry out retribution. This rules out terrorists. They have no authority to do what they do.
Within Just War Theory there is a seven-fold criteria.
There must be a just cause. No war of unprovoked aggression can ever be justified.
Just intention. The war must have a right intention to secure a fair peace for all parties involved.
It is a last resort. Other means of resolution such as diplomacy and economic pressure must have been reasonably exhausted before war.
4. Formal declaration. Only governments can declare war, not individuals or militias or terrorist organizations.
Limited objectives. War must be engaged in such a way that when peace is attained, hostilities cease.
Proportionate means. Combatant forces of the opposition may not be subjected to greater harm than is necessary to secure victory and peace.
Noncombatant immunity. Military forces must respect individuals and groups not participating in the conflict and must abstain from attacking them.
Jesus makes everyone uncomfortable, because He can never be put in anybody’s box. He said, “blessed are the peacemakers.”
So at this sensitive time, we pray for peace, we pray for our troops, and we remember with dignity those who gave their life for our freedom.
October 2014 Issue No 776
Last Saturday we celebrated my daughter's wedding, and we're buzzing with the way everything went perfectly well, and how gorgeous the Bride looked. So, some good family times for Bob and I.
In today's increasingly fragmented society, villages like ours still have the capacity to celebrate community. Clifton and Southill do this in so many ways. One of the ways I like to encourage is through singing. The many positive benefits of coming together to sing in a choir has been highlighted in the popular Gareth Malone Choir projects. Clifton Church has a wonderful, dedicated choir, who not only enhance our regular worship, but also like to contribute to our 'specials' as well. They are a wonderful gift to our community, and on 19th Oct a Community Choir from across the benefice - Clifton, Southill, Broom, Stanford & Ireland - will be coming together with the regular Choir for an 'All Saints Community Sing Celebration Service' at 6.30pm in Clifton Church. Do come along and embrace the concept of community in our villages.
Community is evident when Clifton Church offers Craft and Chat every Monday 10-12, open to all, and completely free. Likewise, Southill is starting Tuesday Teas 2-4pm every week from the start of October in the Church. Come enjoy a free cake & cuppa!
September 2014 Issue No 775
I had the privilege of going on retreat a few weeks ago, and it really was long overdue. Clergy are supposed to go on retreat at least once a year, with the aim of spending time listening to God. We all get so caught up in the hectic activities around us and the desire to do our best for people, that we forget where our ability comes from. Jesus spent time talking to a woman at a well. She’d come to draw water, and when she noticed Jesus there, she offered him some of hers. Jesus, however talked about a supply of ‘water’ which will never run out, and we know he was referring to himself as the source of living water – the water of life – the grace to sour like eagles, to run and not grow weary, as it says in the book of Isaiah. I learned more about being still, and receiving from God, on retreat. As a naturally restless person, who can’t sit still for a minute, I found the concept of the singing bowl extremely helpful. The way you use it allows a beautiful note to emanate from it, which relaxes the whole body and mind. Then we can be still and hear God speak. One poem which expresses this is ‘The Singing bowl’ by Malcolm Guite:
Begin the song exactly where you are,
Remain within the world of which you’re made.
Call nothing common in the earth or air,
Accept it all and let it be for good.
Start with the very breath you breathe in now,
This moment’s pulse, this rhythm in your blood
And listen to it, ringing soft and low.
Stay with the music, words will come in time.
Slow down your breathing. Keep it deep and slow.
Become an open singing-bowl, whose chime
Is richness rising out of emptiness,
And timelessness resounding into time
And when the heart is full of quietness
Begin the song exactly where you are.
August 2014 Issue No 774
So women can be bishops now! Many people think that it is long overdue, and that the culture of today recognises the equal value of the contributions from both men and women in leadership roles. There are a few who understand the Bible in a different light. The thing is, portions of the Bible are written in a way which appears to place women in a submissive role, but they were there to counteract a movement in which women exercised great control over men! So it boils down to mutual respect and recognition of different and complementary gifts.
The first apostle was in fact a woman. Mary Magdelene was the first to see the risen Jesus and the first commissioned to ‘go and tell’ the good news. Like her I too have met the risen Jesus, and I too have experienced God’s healing and forgiving grace. I too have good new to tell, and I too have been called by Jesus to share His compassionate, deep, and powerful grace with others. However, I have not had the phone call to step into the deeper sacrificial service of bishop (I’m sure I am not in the radar for that!), and remain excited about the ministry for which I have been selected here in the benefice of Clifton and Southill.
July 2014 Issue No 773
I want to let you know about a change in church law which now permits youngsters of 7years old and above
to receive Holy Communion before Confirmation, following a period of preparation. It is important that the
community takes time to understand where the Church of England view is today on admitting children to
Holy Communion, as it could well impact upon your family or your friends and relatives.
Traditionally and historically Baptism and First Communion were welded into one event. Indeed they
remained so in some denominations. Due to political reasons and fewer available bishops, Confirmation was introduced as a separate event. It still is today. That is an important occasion, during which an older teenager or adult wants to make an act of firm commitment to Jesus.
When a child is baptised he or she belongs to the church family, and should have all the benefits of being so. The Church of England has rediscovered that offering baptised children Holy Communion, following careful preparation, is a special means of grace – a chance for Jesus to feed us spiritually and to strengthen us when we need His help. If a young person is ready and desiring to receive this benefit through Holy Communion, with the permission of parents, we should not prevent them. Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.’ (Mark 10:14). The Roman Catholics have a similar view.
I would like to stress that, only when the child grows up and makes their own deliberate decision to continue in their journey of faith, they can be prepared for Confirmation. Alternatively they may wish to put it on hold until, or if ever, they want to take that particular step of faith.
Holy Communion is about strengthening and feeding spiritually; Confirmation is about decisive commitment to Jesus and His church. These are two distinct steps.
Please feel free to discuss this further with me, as this is very ancient and traditional concept which has been lost in recent church history. Today church law permit us to consider it again.
Incidentally, the ‘Faith-Full’ sessions for adults who wish to think about exploring faith and Confirmation begin on 3rd Sept. Please do contact me about that if you are interested.
June 2014 Issue No 772
I am conscious of the students working hard towards their GCSE’s, A levels, degrees and qualifications; so I dedicate this version of Psalm 23 to modern hectic lives, by the Japanese poet Toki Miyashina:
The Lord is my pacesetter, I shall not rush.
He makes me stop and rest for quiet intervals.
He provides me with images of stillness
which restore my serenity.
He leads me in ways of efficiency,
through calmness of mind,
and his guidance is peace.
Even though I have a great many things to
accomplish this day, I will not fret,
for his presence is here.
Will keep me in balance.
He prepares refreshment and renewal
in the midst of my activity
by anointing my head with the oil of tranquillity.
My cup of joyous energy overflows.
Surely harmony and effectiveness shall be the fruits of my hours,
for I shall walk in the place of my Lord,
and dwell in His house forever.
I have a couple of events in mind which may appeal to some of you. On 9th July 2014 at 8pm in All Saints’ Clifton we will be holding a Healing/Prayer and Care service. Be assured that this takes the form of gentle prayer and care, rather than the telly evangelists’ approach. We focus on a person’s respect and dignity, and ensure they have a quiet moment to express their needs. We then pray with them, not in full view of others, but in a space to one side. I would heartily recommend this to anyone with any sort of need, or who has concerns for prayer about someone else on their mind.
“O Lord my God, I called to you for help and you healed me.” (Psalm 30:2)
A little way ahead I know, but on Weds 3rd Sept 7.30pm at the Rectory, we begin our ‘Faith-Full’ sessions. Please put aside any notion about having to learn facts. This is an enjoyable way of exploring faith. It is a fun and informal way, and lasts only 7 weeks. For many this has led to confirmation, but it is open to anyone who is interested in gentle discovery. Please contact me or Robin Welsford, our Lay Reader if you’d like to find out more.
May 2014 Issue No 771
8th May is the day in our church calendar dedicated to the life and work of Julian of Norwich, who happens to have been a great inspiration for me for many years. She was born in 1342 and lived during a very turbulent period of history both personally and within the community, but was always able to offer Godly instruction and encouragement. Her profound experiences of God reinforced deep within her the knowledge that God is Love, and she’s often remembered for her words of comfort, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” She was a wonderful encourager and enabler. Although Julian spent most of her life as an anchoress, living in a cell attached to a church, she was very approachable and a great listener. She had time for people. By the grace of God, I would like to follow such an example as I continue to live and work amongst you.
The beginning of June heralds a hive of hospitality. Southill Park and Gardens are open on 1st June in the afternoon, and at the same time Clifton teas will be on sale in the Church Hall . 8th June is hospitality Sunday, when we ask you to ‘bring and share’ at 11.45am following the Sunday service at Clifton.
April 2014 Issue No 770
The sun is shining today and there is welcome warmth in the air. It has given me the enthusiasm to tidy up my study. What a lot of paperwork everywhere! At the same time, I am reflecting on the quiet morning Robin and I led, and the profound depth of spiritual engagement. I am also thinking of the very different style of Ash Wednesday service we held this year, and how moving it was. All the adornments in church have been put away for Lent, so that when Easter arrives its celebratory message is all the more uplifting. RS Thomas reminds us that sometimes our faith seems bleak and dry, yet God is in the waiting. This poet also injects earthiness into the Resurrection.
“In a Country Church” by R.S. Thomas
To one kneeling down no word came,
Only the wind’s song, saddening the lips
Of the grave saints, rigid in glass;
Or the dry whisper of unseen wings,
Bats not angels, in the high roof.
Was he balked by silence? He kneeled long,
And saw love in a dark crown
Of thorns blazing, and a winter tree
Golden with fruit of a man’s body.
“Resurrection” by R.S. Thomas
Easter. The grave clothes of winter
are still here, but the sepulchre
is empty. A messenger
from the tomb tells us
how a stone has been rolled
from the mind, and a tree lightens
the darkness with its blossom.
There are travellers upon the road
who have heard music blown
from a bare bough, and a child
tells us how the accident
of last year, a machine stranded
beside the way for lack
of petrol, is crowned with flowers
March 2014 Issue No 769
I have been reflecting so much on humility recently. Just when we feel we have it, that’s the moment it leaves us! We’re encouraged to promote ourselves when we apply for a job, and to be sure to highlight our achievements and gifts. We’re taught to assert ourselves, without being aggressive; but I find very few comments on the grace of humility. So I go back to 1927 and the words of the “Desiderata” by Max Erhmann, and am moved by his gentle wisdom, reminding us of the beauty of humility:
Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time……..
And I love these quotes from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832):
“If you treat people as if they were what they ought to be, you will help them become what they are capable of becoming.”
“You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.”
February 2014 Issue No 768
I have been reflecting so much on humility recently. Just when we feel we have it, that’s the moment it leaves us! We’re encouraged to promote ourselves when we apply for a job, and to be sure to highlight our achievements and gifts. We’re taught to assert ourselves, without being aggressive; but I find very few comments on the grace of humility. So I go back to 1927 and the words of the “Desiderata” by Max Erhmann, and am moved by his gentle wisdom, reminding us of the beauty of humility:
Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time……..
And I love these quotes from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832):
“If you treat people as if they were what they ought to be, you will help them become what they are capable of becoming.”
“You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.”
January 2014 Issue No 767
I have recently chatted with several people about why people do or do not come to church. Perhaps it is a mystery that, with so much else to do on a Sunday – people to see, days out, shopping and so on, why it is some should choose to attend a religious service. The thought is that maybe they are in distress, or that maybe they are so used to the routine and habit that Sunday wouldn’t be Sunday without it.
As youngsters some have been so instilled with the doctrine, teaching, and worship in church, that there is a bit of rebellion against the expectation to conform to this pattern. What’s it all about anyway?! The heavens aren’t going to cave in just because I’m not at church! That’s absolutely true. What is also true is that when a person encounters Jesus, that person is so filled with love for Him, that we can’t resist coming and worship. We want to and we love to.
It was so true of the 3 wise men – they appear later in the Christmas story – 2 years later to be exact, but marked on the feast of Epiphany 6th Jan. The Magi had a yearning to meet Jesus, so they explored and followed their instincts, and their desire to search for him. They did meet Jesus, and they were moved to worship.
It is an attitude of wanting to find out more, and actively doing so, until one meets Jesus personally, that draws us to come to church to worship Him.
Wishing you all a wonderful year ahead in 2014.
December 2013 Issue No 766
As the festive season approaches, I am pleasedto saythat all my presents were bought and wrapped in August, and my cards bought and written in September! That’s pretty fine planning, if I say so myself! It’s all so busy in the lead up to Christmas, that I want to have the space to soak it in and truly absorb the message of the birth of Jesus. Many of us like to plan ahead. I guess we have a good idea about where we will be spending Christmas day, and with whom.
The Holy Family didn’t have that luxury. It was all so uncomfortably un-planned. Too late to find a hotel room. No birthing plan; no midwife on call; no babygrows or nappies in the suitcase. It was all so seemingly and annoyingly inconvenient.
I suppose we often do our best so to organise our diaries, that we have no place for the irregular surprises of God interrupting our tidy and predictable routine. Perhaps this Christmas time let’s consider asking God to surprise us with His Presence in unexpected ways, even if it means upsetting our carefully laid plans.
November 2013 Issue No 765
I have been pondering over what to write to you, and my head is full of the ‘MAP’ – no not OS or Sat Nav, but that which we are asked to produce for each church. It stands for Mission Action Plan, and is a record of what we have been doing and what we would like to do – i.e. vision. As it says in Proverbs, ‘Where there is no vision the people perish’ (proverbs 29:18). It is our desire is to be the church that Jesus intends us to be.
We want to ensure we are there for you, regardless of whether you are a regular church goer or not. Churches are often in danger of becoming inward looking cliques, into which any visitor may feel uncomfortable. That is not what Clifton and Southill is about. We are here to accept everyone without judgement or criticism, and we are a people who can support you during the highlights of your life – baptisms and weddings; - and can be available during the turbulence of bereavement, ill health, and this month in particular remembering loved ones deceased.
Our Bishop’s vision is ‘Living God’s Love’. That summarizes what Christianity and the church is all about. That Love was seen when Jesus was on the cross, being more concerned about forgiving those who tortured him and making sure his mother and best friend were going to be cared for after his death. May we be churches and communities focused on Living God’s Love and meeting the needs of all in Christ’s name.
October 2013 Issue No 764
Summer’s been and gone, and we enjoyed the warmth this year. We all had a bumper crop of fruit and veg. My apple tree was laden, and the blackberries were luscious. I thanked God for His generosity with every fruit I picked.
I also underwent some pretty intensive further ministerial training. There’s always more to learn. We never know it all. During my training as a Reader, then subsequently as a Priest, it was impressed upon us to be acutely aware of the culture of the age. We’ve had the Modern Age, Yuppie Age, Post Modernism, Age of Prosperity, Age of the Internet, Age of Economic Reform, and now we are in the Age of Arrogance. This is terribly sad.
Way back in 1597 Sir Francis Bacon first coined the phrase, “Knowledge is Power” in his ‘Religious Meditations of Heresies’. With IT we have knowledge at our fingertips, and the suggestion is that this has led to cultivating the personality disorder identified as ‘arrogance’. The advice on how to address this, along with that of the control freak , is to adopt the humble attitude of John the Baptist who said, ‘He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie’, (John 1:27).
Maintain your own integrity and humility, with the desire to listen and learn from others. Generally, the reflective people have great wisdom. Barak Obama is quoted in Time Magazine: “Some virtues go dormant for generations, as we’ve seen with thrift, making its comeback after 40 years in cold storage. I’m hoping for a sudden outbreak of modesty, a virtue whose time has surely come.” Amen to that!
September 2013 Issue No 763
You are warmly invited to our Animal Service at All Saints Southill, 29th Sept 2013, 9am. Please bring your pets along – horses, goats, dogs, cats, spiders, etc…..…We will hold the service in the churchyard, but if the weather is really bad we’ll bring them all inside. There will be refreshments afterwards.
To mark this St Francis Day occasion I will bless all the animals with St Francis’s Prayer. Francis loved the larks flying about his hilltop town. He and his early brothers, staying in a small hovel, allowed themselves to be displaced by a donkey.
One of Francis's most famous sermons is one he gave to a flock of birds. One day while Francis and some friars were travelling along the road, Francis looked up and saw the trees full of birds. Francis "left his companions in the road and ran eagerly toward the birds" and "humbly begged them to listen to the word of God." One of the friars recorded the sermon, which overflows with Francis's love for creation and its Creator: "My brothers, birds, you should praise your Creator very much and always love him; he gave you feathers to clothe you, wings so that you can fly, and whatever else was necessary for you. God made you noble among his creatures, and he gave you a home in the purity of the air; though you neither sow nor reap, he nevertheless protects and governs you without any solicitude on your part." Thomas of Celano records that the birds stretched their necks and extended their wings as Francis walked among them touching and blessing them.
Francis wrote a Canticle of the Creatures, an ode to God’s living things. “All praise to you, Oh Lord, for all these brother and sister creatures.”
August 2013 Issue No 762
As I reflect back over the 2 years I have been here, there has been an interesting connection with friends and family from way back when. I have had the opportunity to meet up with family members I haven’t seen since my twenties, and friends from school days. This has occurred partly through Facebook and partly through funerals. Resistant to Facebook for a long time, I discovered what a wonderful way it is to touch base again and build up those connections. Last week I met up with a colleague from 7 years ago. I think it helped her to settle a traumatic past, which had caused her a breakdown and early retirement from the ministry, by talking about the problems she had to face and then remembering the good times. She felt she needed to apologise to me for leaving me on my own to run a very challenging Benefice. How therapeutic it was for her to say sorry – but she had no need as far as I was concerned, because all was well.
In the Bible God says, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I shall make him a helper to be his partner.” Loneliness is a symptom of this modern era when families live in scattered places and when marriages sadly end. Perhaps saying sorry is part of that journey of making stronger ties and firmer friends. Perhaps too it is a case of making the time and effort to meet up again or write that long overdue letter or email. Our lives are so much richer when we cultivate and nurture our friendships. Here are some inspirational friendship quotes:
Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: "What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” ― C.S. Lewis
“Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.” ― Albert Camus
“The only way to have a friend is to be one” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
“A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.” ― Elbert Hubbard
Hope you have a relaxing and restful summertime,
July 2013 Issue No 761
From the sublime to the ridiculous! The 10 commandments last month – Alice in Wonderland this! The ‘porpoise’ is to encourage exploration!
“Curiouser and curiouser!”
“I wonder if I've been changed in the night. Let me think. Was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I'm not the same, the next question is 'Who in the world am I?' Ah, that's the great puzzle!”
“It's no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.”
“But I don't want to go among mad people," Alice remarked. "Oh you can't help that," said the cat; "We're all mad here."
The Mad Hatter: “Have I gone Mad?”
Alice: “I'm afraid so. You're entirely bonkers. But I'll tell you a secret. All the best people are.”
Alice: “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
The Cheshire Cat: “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”
Alice: “I don't much care where.”
The Cheshire Cat: “Then it doesn't much matter which way you go.
Alice: “...So long as I get somewhere.”
The Cheshire Cat: “Oh, you're sure to do that, if only you walk long enough.”
“No wise fish would go anywhere without a porpoise.”
(Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland)
And we have a great time exploring the ‘porpoise’; discovering the different person we become; and that all the best people are entirely bonkers! ……..in our confirmation course. No formal lessons, no chunks of theology to learn, just great company, journeying with each other and Jesus, and discovering more than we ever imagined. Do consider coming along to our next set of meetings, beginning on Wednesday 4th Sept 7.30pm at the Rectory, for ~ 7 sessions. Confirmation takes place 6.30pm 17th Nov at Ampthill. Please contact me if curiouser!
June 2013 Issue No 760
Did you know.….that there are 4 sets of 10 commandments in the Bible? We’re all familiar with one particular set from Exodus 20, even though we might not be able to recite them off rote, but just recently I’ve been delving into the others – which were also written on tablets of stone for Moses.
Now at the risk of being a bit too religious in this letter, I thought you might well be interested in one of those seemingly weird laws. “You shall not boil a young goat in its mother's milk.” (Exodus 34:26b). Feel free to laugh; the first thing that comes to mind when hearing this is, “No problem. Never done it, never intend to.” But the truth of this commandment, its importance, will give most people unfamiliar with it a bit of a surprise.
Boiling a baby goat in its mother's milk was a primary fertility ritual in Egypt and Canaan at the time. It was thought to magically increase the number and health of the offspring in a goat herd. A similar practice was planting a small amount of a second seed in a field; say, scattering a bit of barley seed in a field of wheat. These aren’t rituals directly associated with any religion. They are simply superstitions. So, do we think the number 13 is unlucky, or the number 7 is lucky? Throw salt over our shoulder when we spill it? Fear a black cat crossing our path? Shrink from opening an umbrella inside the house? Yes, we do, most of us.
However, we aren’t going to make a new friend just because we find a penny. A horseshoe or rabbit's foot won’t make us luckier. Superstition just saps the strength of faith. That’s why it is in this set of commandments. Better to trust Jesus, who is effective and loving, to guide and protect us, than indulging in a little make believe ritual.
Well, if that reflection proved a little too religious for your taste, then maybe you’ll be able to answer a question on this if it crops up at a quiz night!
May 2013 Issue No 759
Easter is now behind us and we are looking forward to all the activities of Spring and Summer. I do however, want to look back at Easter again because it was a time when more people came to worship than previously. It seems church-going is gaining in popularity, or maybe people are interested to explore and discover what it is that keeps us faithful in our worship when there are so many other distractions out there.
We are actually in the presence of the Living God, and at times we can experience that spiritual encounter in a vital and amazing way. As a priest I am called to pray and to sit in God’s presence in church, even when the attendance has withered to a couple of others, or sometimes none at all; but I don’t mind. If others wish to join me then that’s a bonus. I keep the people of Clifton and Southill in my prayers all the time.
Easter was tremendous. The children’s services at both churches proved very popular, and the Maundy Thursday trip to the Abbey service with the blessing of Holy Oils and renewal of ministerial vows was incredibly inspiring. We all had a lovely lunch together in the refectory afterwards. Good Friday is a deep experience, and we had a good number joining in the reflections on the crucifixion of Jesus. That is so powerful! The Cross of Jesus holds a myriad of meanings and relevance for each one of us today. How moving, how compelling it was. If you have never thought to experience the ‘Watch at the Cross’ service, then please do give it a thought for next year. Easter Day - what can I say! We were all aware of the life-giving, life-enhancing opportunities Jesus offers. Do we make the most of everything Christ wants to give us? Such excellent congregations in church suggest that many are looking to find out.
April 2013 Issue No 758
A very Happy Easter to you all! Easter is often a time of new beginnings, so maybe some will be inspired to try out new opportunities and new ventures.
On June 28th and 29th at 7pm we are being involved in what was a brand new venture last year, and due to popular request is being held again this year. Both parishes are hosting our Summer Sing. This is an evening of musical entertainment offered by all sections of the community, schools and churches. This year it is entitled “Around the World in 80 minutes” and will include well known songs. As a truly social event the price of entry on the night is just 50p each – yes just 50p! We will be offering refreshments in the interval and it is up to you if you want to leave a donation towards that.
Now, I’m sure we have some singers out there who have never been part of a choir before or even thought they could sing – feel free to come along to join us, and you will discover how inspiring it is to sing along with other people.
The rehearsals for the Southill Community singers will begin on Tuesday 7th May at 9.15am in Southill Church. That time is best for the mums among us who can come along after dropping the children off at school. Please contact Peter Twitchin, who has worked with the famous Gareth Malone, if you’d like to join us: 01767 316363 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 01767 316363 FREE end_of_the_skype_highlighting.
The Clifton Community rehearsals begin on Sunday 28th April at 7.45pm in Clifton Church, usually for just half an hour. Susan Sims inspires us with her enthusiasm and her number is: 01525 404264. Do contact her if you’d like to come along and join us.
March 2013 Issue No. 757
Today, as I write, it has just been announced that Parliament has voted in favour of same sex marriage. No doubt views of the clergy will be sought, and it may or may not be disappointing for you to learn that I have no strong views either way.
What I do have concern about is the definition of marriage. This I have researched quite thoroughly and discovered that through the ages this has undergone considerable transformation. I would like Christian marriage defined with greater clarity, and I welcome examples of loving committed relationships – covenant relationships imply the security of forever, no matter what; whereas contract relationships imply a ‘get out’ clause. Covenant relationships can, however, be prone to abuse; and contract relationships could possibly be more fragile. The term ‘committed’ needs unpacking, and assimilating.
Back in Genesis God said, “It is not good for man to be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” Loneliness is a terrible thing, so I fully endorse the companionship which same sex couples offer to each other. One can feel lonely in an unloving heterosexual marriage. There are many same sex couples I know who express wonderful love and kindness in such a way that stands as good as examples of some heterosexual partnerships.
If we understand Christian marriage to be between heterosexual couples for the procreation and nurture of children, well that would indeed eliminate many such couples.
I am looking for that which stabilises society and which provides a means of God’s love and grace to be evident to all. Loving couples stand by each other through the storms, the vagaries, and the calms of life, and they have the capacity to provide hospitality to family, friends and neighbours. Whatever the relationship, I am keen to know that at its heart is a deep love and freely made decision to be together for life.
Finally, in any relationship, If the ‘grass seems greener on the other side’ – then it is about time to tend your own side, so that it flourishes and thrives!
February 2013 Issue No. 756
For clergy it seems that we whizz through the church year – simply because no sooner is one season over than we are preparing ahead for the next. Our next term offers us Education Sunday on 27th January, then Candlemas on 3rd February. Following that we have the start of Lent, beginning on Ash Wednesday, 13th February. Now for most people Mothering Sunday is something to look forward to then Easter Day. The church, however, has a much richer way of marking this most important of seasons. How can we celebrate Easter without journeying through Lent? It doesn’t make sense.
So we always hold an Ash Wednesday service with the imposition of ashes. This is highly symbolic and significant. I would urge you to come along to that service, even if you have never experienced it before. ‘Come and See’ - as Jesus famously encouraged the hesitant disciples at one stage. The service will be held twice on Wednesday 13th Feb. 10.00am at Clifton, then again at 8.00pm at Clifton. I understand that the Clifton Care Scheme will be happy to transport people to those services, particularly the 8pm one.
Mothering Sunday is on 10th March, and on Maundy Thursday there will be a group of us going to the Abbey for a spectacular service on 28th March 11am, followed by lunch in the refectory – please let me know if you’d like to join us. Good Friday has a huge impact. The tendency in recent years has been to avoid this deeply moving experience. That is to deny the most crucial of days in the church’s calendar. There will be children’s services from 10am 29th March at both churches, then 2-3pm Watch at the Cross at Clifton, and 6-7pm Watch at the Cross at Southill.
This is just a gloss over of the rich variety and depth of spirituality we engage with in the season of Lent and Easter. Please do consider this year making it a priority. ‘Come and See’.
Come and see what the Lord has done (Psalm 46:8). “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon. (John1:39). “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip. (John1:46)
January 2013 Issue No. 755
I write this letter having just returned from visiting friends in the Staffordshire Moorlands. Eager to catch up with life there and the five churches I left behind, I was actually very saddened to see one former churchwarden struggling severely as he awaits an operation for two new knees. These are hard times with cutbacks in the NHS. I learned too that Diocesan financial restraints meant that those five churches are now having to be cared for by only 0.5 of a priest, who is so overworked that she collapsed during a Sunday service.
I am passionate about my ministry, and am eager to see us move forward into 2013 as a Benefice which is able to withstand the current economic climate. I am truly grateful for the generosity of the Friends of Southill Church and those individuals who commit themselves to regular gift aided giving, which helps to ensure we are properly resourced here. There are many who are glad of our presence during major life events, and appreciate the prayers we offer for the sick and distressed. Whatever your faith, or lack of it, the church is here to serve and support you in the name of Jesus Christ, when you request help. We are here to remind you that Jesus loves you, whatever your circumstances and whatever your past. May 2013 bring you much peace, and a closer awareness of the God who loves you more than you could ever imagine.
December 2012 Issue No. 754
Christmas is approaching fast, and many of us are busy planning practical details for the festive season. I’m holding a mega extended family party this year, which will be tinged with sadness after the loss of two very dear Aunts.
On a practical note too, we are changing the times of our main Sunday services. This was due to an overwhelming request by the people of Clifton, who really found the later time quite tricky to balance with quality family time. Huge thanks goes to the Southill congregation who generously agreed to start their service at 9.00am, so that Clifton can begin theirs at 10.30am from January.
On another note I have personally found the confirmation classes this year to be incredibly inspiring and uplifting. Our candidates have also found them to be so enjoyable that they have asked to meet together afterwards. I reckon that’s encouragement enough for others to speak to me about confirmation.
I truly hope that you will discover something special within the rush, shopping, and food; within the atmosphere, carols and cribs that enable you to remember Jesus, and how He loves you so much that he came down from the grandeur of heaven to the squalor of a feeding trough. He knows the nitty gritty, cut and thrust of life first hand, so he can help you now in your daily living.
“Where meek souls will receive him still, the dear Christ enters in”.
November 2012 Issue No. 753
It has been with great sadness that all the local clergy have noted that for some strange reason there have been a greater number of funerals this summer than normal. There is always the desire to care for those we know who are grieving. We, in this Benefice of Clifton and Southill, have been particularly active in our bereavement care, so much so that all next of kin have a visitor assigned to them. Of course we realise that people have individual needs and may or may not require all we have to offer, but the feedback to date has been extremely encouraging and I am incredibly grateful for all our visitors do.
We have an All Souls Memorial Service at Clifton on 4th November at 4pm.
This is intended for members of both parishes, and the names of those loved ones who have passed away this year will be read out. The service will be sensitively conducted and it is hoped that any who have been bereaved, whether recently or in the distant past, will find consolation and comfort. Everyone there will be invited to light a candle on the altar and of course prayers will be said. Afterwards you will be invited to enjoy the refreshments prepared for you.
We do hope you will feel inclined to join us for this special occasion.
“The Lord is close to the broken hearted and saves the crushed in Spirit.” (Psalm34:18)
October 2012 Issue No. 752
Harvest has arrived and once again we give thanks for our food and for the work of all those who ”give us each day our daily bread”. It is evident that 2012 has been a most difficult year for our farmers; too little rain followed by too much rain and a lot less sunlight. There have been problems in other countries especially in the draught stricken parts of the USA and food has become much more expensive. Hopefully no one will starve in our country but sadly we know that in other countries they will. “Help us to live more simply so that others may simply live”
Our harvest festival service will be at Southill Church be on 7th October 2012 at 9.15 and our harvest gifts will be going to a local food bank which require both processed and fresh goods to distribute to those in greater need than ourselves.
It has been a feature of Southill Church that the ‘Friends of All Saints Southill’ have been generous towards the cost of upgrading the fabric of the building; so much so that the brand new boiler system owes much to their kindness. A ‘Friends’ organisation exists for social opportunities as well as funding specific projects aimed at enhancing the church structure. How uplifting it is to enter a warm and welcoming environment for worship, and all those significant life moments marked by baptism, weddings and funerals.
Many people work solidly in the background giving their time and resources to the good order of our church and grounds, which is really appreciated.
Sadly we marked the loss of Mary Summers and Arthur Massey this summer, both of whom have cared for All Saints’ Church and been faithful in worship. We will miss them terribly and continue to hold their families in our prayers and thoughts.
September 2012 Issue No. 751
As summer is traditionally the wedding season I thought you’d be interested to understand my views and approach to marriage and weddings. It is my joy to conduct services for those who wish to be married in church, and as such I feel I can offer a special treasure. We know it takes ‘two to tango’, and indeed form a loving relationship, but it is by involving God in the equation that there is a profound strength in that marvellous union. Ecclesiastes 4:12 points out that: ‘A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart’, likewise the combination of Bride, Bridegroom, and God make for a firm and lasting marriage. When we encounter the vagaries of life, those who call on our Lord for strength and support will not be disappointed.
There are those whose hopes have sadly been shattered by divorce proceedings; but the good news is that Jesus is the tender God who permits the chance to try again. It has been my privilege to marry those who have had such pain in the past, and now look forward to a new start
Sometimes couples opt for a civil marriage, and I am delighted when they desire to have their union blessed by God – for which I conduct a super special service, including the blessing of rings and ‘tying the knot’ (or ‘hand fest’), which is when the priest’s stole is wrapped around the couple’s hands to seal the marriage.
I am so pleased when couples ask to renew their wedding vows, often on an anniversary, or around Valentine’s day. Occasionally husband or wife has had to replace a wedding ring for whatever reason, and I have blessed that ring too.
If you want to enquire further about any of the above, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
August 2012 Issue No. 750
Will we ever see much sunshine this summer? As I write this it looks quite dismal outside, and I’m conscious that those farmers who were anxious about drought conditions are now struggling with rotting produce due to the excessive rain. We, at Church continue to hold them in our prayers.
For me it is now the busy baptism season, and how lovely it is to see so many children, and some adults, being offered for baptism. I am conscious of the fact that these families commit before God to bring their children regularly for worship. In order to enable a helpful experience and participation, we have decided to make the 1st Sunday of every month a Family Service at both Southill (9.15am), and Clifton (11am). This will be a very short Holy Communion, during which any who have not been confirmed can receive a personal blessing. You will find the service very easy to follow, as the words are in a separate little booklet. The talk will be accessible for all ages, with visual aids when appropriate. Sometimes families worry that their children will become fidgety, but we don’t worry about that, and we like to provide all we can to support. There are toilet facilities at both churches, as well as toy bags to help the younger ones keep occupied. We hope that you will enjoy the hymns and songs we choose especially for that occasion, and then have a chance to chat over refreshments at the end.
This new pattern will begin in August.
You will also find that at Clifton on the 4th Sunday of the month there is a Morning Worship Service, which doesn’t have communion, but has the advantage of a varied additional input from those members of the congregation who have offered. This service will also be easy to follow and enjoy.
“Come and See!” (Psalm 66:5; John 1:39)
A blessed and enjoyable summer,
July 2012 Issue No. 749
I have just returned from the Spanish sun, sea, sand and sangria! Wonderful! I went with my Mum as Bob couldn’t get the time off work, so it was with mixed feelings that I boarded the plane. However, the miracle of my new iPhone enabled me to keep in touch with my family every day, by email, text & phone.
It has been my experience, though, that such forms of communication can so easily be abused, and used for another to vent anger or manipulate the words sent. I know many go to their offices and face countless emails each day, some of which can be downright cruel and unnecessarily cutting.
How delighted I was to switch on my laptop for the first time after my holiday and receive lovely kind and helpful messages. It really was a boost. One of those emails asked me about Sunday School at Southill, offering to help with it, and desiring it more frequently than once a month. We do indeed have a wonderful opportunity for the children of Southill, Ireland and Broom to enjoy the Sunday morning experience on the 3rd Sunday at 9.15am, as well as the Family Service on the 1st Sunday. Watch this space for further developments!
I offer you some quotes to engage with and encourage others:
"Good words are worth much, and cost little." - George Herbert
“Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.” ― Mother Teresa
“In prayer it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart. ” ― John Bunyan
The next Deanery Confirmation Service is on 8th November 7.30pm in Flitwick.
I will be holding informal confirmation classes for anyone who feel they would like to explore their faith. They will be held on Tuesday evenings : 4th, 25th, September, 2nd,9th,16th,23rd,30th October 7.30pm-8.30pm at The Rectory, 8 Rectory Close, Clifton SG17 5EL. Please contact me if you would like to come along.
June 2012 Issue No. 748
It’s here at last! The Diamond Jubilee! Such a remarkable achievement for her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II! As I was reflecting upon this wonderful milestone the word ‘steadfast’ came to mind. ‘The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies are new every morning.’ (Lamentations 3:22-24)
We’re so used to the word ‘fast’ – fast food, fast lane, fast forward, fast pace – and racing on through life; but what of hold fast, stand fast, and fasten, bringing a sense of stability and security – a stationary rock-like state of being. To stand someone in good stead is to be useful to someone in the future; steady reminds us of something or someone who is firm and unshakeable. A steady state is a condition of a system in physics when all or most changes or disturbances have been eliminated from it. The dictionary describes steadfast as steady and unwavering.
Queen Elizabeth has also shown her service to this country in such a reliable and faithful manner. No matter what changes and challenges have presented themselves, no matter how fast the pace of life has been, Her Royal Highness has been constant, loyal and resolute; steadfast in her faith and in her duty; steadfast in her support and service. Such dedication, as the Head of the Church of England, expresses the kind of commitment Our Lord has towards us, ’The One who calls you is faithful and he will do it’ (1Thess5:24). It is He who anointed the Queen at her Crowning with His Holy Spirit, and for 60years shown that He has provided her with the qualities needed throughout her reign. I pray that we too may find that our Lord is just as steadfast towards us, and that we too will respond with the same resolve as our Queen did at her Coronation to lead a life of service in our community.
May 2012 Issue No. 747
I hope you had a very special Easter and are looking forward to the warmth and joy of summer time.
Below is a prayer I came across, entitled, “Thank you Lord.” Please do reflect on its sentiments.
Even though I clutch my blanket and growl
when the alarm rings,
Thank you, Lord, that I can hear.
There are many who are deaf.
Even though I keep my eyes closed against the morning light
as long as possible,
Thank you, Lord, that I can see. Many are blind.
Even though I huddle in my bed and put off rising,
Thank you, Lord, that I have the strength to rise.
There are many who are bedridden.
Even though the first hour of my day is hectic,
when socks are lost, toast is burned and tempers are short,
my children are so loud,
Thank you, Lord, for my family.
There are many who are lonely.
Even though our breakfast table never looks like
the pictures in magazines
and the menu is at times not balanced,
There are many who are hungry.
Even though the routine of my job is often monotonous,
Thank you, Lord, for the opportunity to work.
There are many who have no job.
Even though I grumble and bemoan my fate from day to day
and wish my circumstances were not so modest,
Thank you, Lord, for life.
Lord, thank you for this sink of dirty dishes;
we have plenty of food to eat.
Thank you for this pile of dirty, stinky laundry;
we have plenty of nice clothes to wear.
And I would like to thank you, Lord, for those unmade beds;
they were so warm and comfortable last night.
I know that many have no bed.
My thanks to you, Lord, for this bathroom,
complete with all the splattered mirrors,
soggy, grimy towels and dirty lavatory;
they are so convenient.
Thank you for this finger-smudged refrigerator
that needs cleaning.
It has served us faithfully for many years.
It is full of cold drinks and enough leftovers
for two or three meals.
Thank you, Lord, for this oven that absolutely
must be cleaned today;
It has baked so many things over the years.
The whole family is grateful for that tall grass
that we all enjoy the yard.
My kids are healthy and able to run and play.
Lord, the presence of all these chores awaiting me says
You have richly blessed my family.
I shall do them cheerfully and I shall do them gratefully.
April 2012 Issue No. 746
I write this just as I launch our MAP. What! A MAP!.....Yes, this is a way in which we can focus our vision and purpose for our churches. Bishop Alan has asked us to submit our Mission Action Plan by Easter. This I have done, and I now accompany that with a call to embrace our Mission Statement - Growing together in Faith, Rejoicing in Hope, Sharing God’s Love – based on 1 Corinthians 13:13:- ‘And now these things remain, faith, hope and love; and the greatest of these is love.’
Mission Statements have been a part of industry, public sector and commerce for many years now, and at last the C of E has caught up with the good ideas of the modern world. We will be using our MAP to deepen and strengthen the good foundations already in place in Clifton and Southill, and to enter into new and exciting ventures. Christianity is basically a call to embark on a journey with Jesus, and journeying involves taking risks, experiencing different arenas and affirming the good traditions which have sustained and supported us thus far.
Easter is a time of new starts, and the birth of fresh opportunities, which Bishop Richard mentioned in his retirement sermon. We pray for a stimulating and enjoyable future for him and Liz. It has already been announced that he will be replaced by another Bishop Richard, who will be consecrated in May. So there it is – new beginnings and openings all round!
May God grant you a sense of vitality and joy this Eastertide.
March 2012 Issue No. 745
I can still recall the most beautiful musical rendition of the ‘Nunc Dimmittis’, as sung in the film’ Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy’, and as sung by our very own choir in Clifton. This proved to be a wonderful part of our special services at Southill and Clifton to celebrate the feast of Candlemas. This is a rich and moving festival, marking the ending of winter and the coming of spring. It marks the first visit of the baby Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem, where it was the elderly ‘quiet of the land’ who had the insight to recognise who he was. It is also a time when candles are blessed. If you missed it this year then please make a point of putting it in your diaries for next year. The official date is 2nd Feb, but we mark it on the Sunday nearest to that.
A couple of days ago I had my appraisal. We clergy aren’t immune from the same concept of targets and working to our strengths as the rest of society – those who thankfully are in employment. The stresses are evident in all sectors, and financial constraints ever present. Those out of work have their faith tested to the limit at times and yet, by the grace of God, many persevere until they secure another position. For others the stresses become unbearable and often these are they who have the courage to recognise their limits and learn how to manage the burdens without the burdens managing them. ‘More demands and new initiatives!’ we cry. One who becomes burnt out has nothing left to contribute. They are spent and disillusioned; but take heart! Our God is there and He will re-energise and refocus you. Perhaps you’d like to reflect upon this passage of scripture:
Have you not known? Have you not heard? Even youths will faint and be weary,
The Lord is the everlasting God, and the young will fall exhausted;
the Creator of the ends of the earth. but those who wait for the Lord shall
renew their strength,
He does not faint or grow weary; they shall mount up with wings like eagles
his understanding is unsearchable. they shall run and not be weary,
He gives power to the faint, they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:28-31)
and strengthens the powerless.
February 2012 Issue No. 744
Now that the New Year has well and truly arrived, and our parties with fireworks and great company seem a distant gleam I am focusing on praying for the future! Whatever our gifting we can all pray. Sometimes we worry that our prayers seem puny and futile, but we are assured that even our very sighs are interpreted by Spirit and offered to God in prayer.
I am about to distribute a Prayer Diary. There will be one focus for each day of the month. We are encouraged then to go back the next month and pray for those items again……we can pray through their progress and development in that way. We are called to “Pray without ceasing” (1Thessalonians 5:17), and this is one way we can fulfil that calling. Many who are housebound find this a rewarding and vital ministry as they support those who fulfil a more active ‘doing’ role within the church and community.
Te strengthening of community is essential in this day and age; which is why our local PC Gill Richardson will be coming to speak to us on February 26th at both Churches.
January 2012 Issue No. 743
What a wonderful experience my first Christmas has been here in Clifton and Southill. I loved the Christmas trees, and the new Memory/Prayer tree proved a marvellous success as people chose to offer the name of a loved one upon it, ready for its Christmas Eve dedication. The Christingle was a truly exciting occasion, and the Carol Service witnessed our own home grown choir offering the fruits of Peter Twitchin’s tuition. For several of us this was the first time we’d ever been in a choir. We have a long way to go – but Gareth Malone you have some strong competition! We were there and we were willing. Maybe we could try something like that again. Coming together as novices to sing is quite exhilarating.
Christmas however, does tend to be such a rush that during January it is a good time to reflect. Perhaps we can ponder upon the words of the following meditation as we prepare for the New Year with new possibilities and plans.
Such Knowledge (Anon)
Come to me child.
Rest your head upon my chest and know
That I hold your deep longings in my heart.
Take comfort my Child, in the knowledge
That my arms are holding you far above the world.
You are in my kingdom and under my sovereign rule
I have a royal plan for you –
which includes your heart’s desires
combined with my will for you.
You will be completely fulfilled
As you trust my love & plans.
Yes, only one day at a time.
Rest in what I am to you.
Rest from fretting for things I haven’t given you yet.
I am preparing only what is good and perfect for you.
Let your heart be at peace.
Come to me and I will give you rest.
December 2011 Issue No. 742
Christmas is on its way – time has flown by for me since Bob & I arrived here, and now I’m learning how you celebrate Christmas at Clifton and Southill. I’m still on that steep learning curve, but you have been so kind and supportive while I absorb it all.We felt very much the strangers when we first moved in, and wondered how we would fit into the community here – I guess the bedraggled little Holy Family had the same concerns as they knocked upon the doors of the townsfolk of Bethlehem. Sadly for them they were met with hostility and rejection. I wonder how hospitable we really are with our neighbours. Do we offer them warmth and understanding? Are we showing a little compromise in order to accommodate their needs? Or do we in fact adopt the now familiar NIMBY approach?I have to say I did offend some neighbours when I first arrived by having a bonfire to burn cuttings – Huge Apologies! Inadvertently we can all upset or irritate our neighbours at times, but the example of the Innkeeper at Bethlehem invites us to make allowances, and practice mutual concern and respect for those whose paths cross ours.So this Christmas time please reflect on parts of the Christmas story as we put up our trees and eat our turkey. May God give us forgiving and tolerant hearts, and may we grow to adopt a greater acceptance and appreciation of our close and community neighbours. ‘Do not neglect hospitality, because through this some have received angels as guests without knowing’. Hebrews 13:2‘O come to my heart Lord Jesus! There is room in my heart for thee’The Blessing of Peace within and without to you all.
November 2011 Issue No. 741
November approaches, and how soon we forget the beautiful warmth of an Indian Summer! There is, however, much to engage us during the winter months, particularly open church at Clifton, for it is here on a Monday morning that ‘Church Sitters’ are available to offer a cup of tea and a chat, but now there is more, with the development of a CRAFT CLUB. This is for all skills and none. Just come along with your hobby or simply come to learn a new craft. There are refreshments in a friendly social setting. The dates are every 2nd and 4th Monday morning from 10.00am – 12.00noon: 10th Oct, 24th Oct, 14th Nov, 28th Nov,
I’d like to draw your attention to the PRAYER REQUEST system in both churches of Clifton and Southill. I shall be praying for all requests every Monday. The system makes provision for confidentiality. You are invited to fill in a slip at the back of church, put it into the envelope provided, seal it and place into the basket. I will open them to ensure confidentiality, but if you would like the prayer group to pray as well, then you can tick the box on the slip.
Another initiative I have found to be of help to others is the development of a MEMORY TREE. This is connected with our Christmas trees, and the children from Southill and All Saints Lower Schools and Churches will be making card decorations for this tree, with space for you to fill in the name of a loved one passed away. I shall dedicate these trees so that our loved ones are remembered with deep affection at, and those left aching can experience the Lord’s Comfort during a sensitive time.
So I have been busy with ideas to touch and meet the needs of others, and I have also been introducing some lively worship songs for the children, which are so catchy that we adults can be heard humming them too.
October 2011 Issue No. 740
Thank you all so very much for making Bob and I feel welcomed into the Benefice. We thoroughly enjoyed the Licensing Service and were mightily impressed by the care given to the preparations for the event. My family, friends and previous parishioners want me to express their gratitude too for your warm and generous hospitality.
So I am well and truly in situ – and I have not been slow in generating ministry rotas and a Benefice Diary. None of us relishes the prospect of embarrassing clashes of events, so hopefully significant occasions can be pencilled onto our calendars well in advance.
I am excited by the children’s work already in place and am eager to explore ways of developing that. I plan to work with the Prayer Group to extend the wonderful undergirding that occurs by their prayerful support…...so keep looking out for signs of that!
By the time you read this letter harvest will have come and gone. It has been fantastic to prepare my own apples for the freezer and appreciate God’s bounty in that way. I used to enjoy making pies, and I shall resume that with the blackberries and apples I have in stock. Seeing the combine harvesters hard at work recently made me thank God that most farmers managed to finish the task while the weather was warm and dry.
Now we prepare ourselves for All Saints and All Souls. Revd Paul will take the memorial service in 30th October at Clifton to remember loved ones lost and support those who are grieving. Paul has taken many funeral services during the interregnum and I know how much you valued his care. I hope to develop a bereavement support group to continue that care. I know there are several of you interested in being a part of it. “I will not forget you; see I have written you on the palms of my hands.” (Is 49:16)
Well it’s still early days for me but I am filled with enthusiasm and am inspired by the gifting already evident in and amongst you. By the way, I have had offers being introduced to all manner of crafts and activities such as clay pigeon shooting – time permitting I look forward to having a go at these new things. As it says in Isaiah 43:19: “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it”, a verse which I take to heart myself and maybe it rings true with you too.
September 2011 Issue No. 739
It’s great to be here and settled in the Rectory. Bob and I have enjoyed making it into a lovely home and tending the garden.
I must say it was hard saying ‘Goodbye’ to friends in Staffordshire, who presented me with an album of my escapades in the Moorlands – memories of getting totally involved in village life - milking cows, plucking turkeys & geese surrounded by snow & feathers, getting into the JCB to dig trenches for the new build, Rogationtide from the farmyard to bless the land, pensioners’ parties…….all good fun and happy times.
However, letting go is essential before moving on and, as the day after I left was my birthday, it really brought home the concept of new beginnings, new opportunities, and new friends.
I’m looking forward to discovering your village activities and joining in where I can. I hope to learn new skills – during my ministry I have learned the art of quilling & calligraphy (by no means an expert!), and I know there’s much more to glean from your talents and interests.
When I was born I was named ‘Anne’. This means the ‘Grace of God’; so I never forget that it is by His Grace alone that I minister and serve among you.
Well, I am excited about what plans God has for us all and the grace he will give us to enable and equip us. In the words of St Paul: “but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on towards the goal…” (Phil 3:13)