Rector's Letter - March 2015

Dear Friends,

Lent is such an important time in the Christian calendar, and there are many different ways we can mark this time. It is so often associated with 'giving things up' - and I do think there is a place for that. Somehow in a culture which encourages us to have what we want when we want it, there is something about going without for a period that is good for us. But many have quite rightly wanted to also recognise it might be a time for taking new things on. Perhaps our giving up chocolate or alcohol, as people sometimes do, for the 40 days of Lent, might also mean the money we save can be given to a good cause, for those who go without each and every day, not just for a season.

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Rector's Letter - February 2015

Dear Friends

I'm someone who loves the seasons - both the natural turn of the year with its contrasting dark and light, but also the liturgical turn of the seasons, by which I mean those cyclical events, memories, stories, we live through each year to tell afresh the story of Christ and our own lives in relation to it. Now in February we stand looking towards Ash Wednesday, which falls on 18th February, when we recognise the lowliness of our state, and come face to face with how far we fall short of all we were intended to be. That can be a dark journey for some, and a season that along with being penitential, can quite rightly often feel a rather sombre time. It leads us into the start of Lent as we ponder these things, but we do so held in the knowledge, love and grace of a God who leads us steadily into light, and loves us regardless. We know that at the end of Lent, as we prepare for the Easter journey, we will journey once again through the story of the cross, but beyond that, into resurrection light. Darkness will turn to light, and despair will turn to hope.

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Our Rector Writes - January 2015

Dear Friends,

Firstly can I wish you a very Happy New Year! It may feel like 'Christmas' is behind us for another 12 months, but of course the Church keeps the Christmas Season just a little longer, until 6th January, reminding us it is not just one day we celebrate, but the joy of the birth of God into our world as a baby, which has rather longer-lasting implications for us and our world.

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Our Rector Writes - December 2014

With a birthday falling at the start of Advent, I've always considered myself something of an 'Advent baby'! It's the start of the church's year, and it's the start of mine also. It doesn't always happen of course that my birthday falls on the first Advent Sunday itself, but no matter. For years as a child I was given for my birthday various advent calendars by all sorts of aunts-who-are-friends-of-the-family, and I think a record year was being given four advent calendars. Of course today Advent calendars are often chocolate-filled ones, and delicious though that is, it sometimes seems the exact opposite of what Advent is supposed to be: a period of waiting in anticipation and hope as we await the celebration of Christ born on earth. These days, we can't even wait for Christmas for the chocolate!

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Our Rector Writes - November 2014

You will know that at the beginning of October I returned from my travels, which took in Sicily, as well as various UK destinations to catch up with old friends and relations: St Albans, London, Harrogate and Middleborough. My final day away was a work day, albeit not in the parish, as I had been invited to the Archbishop's Lecture at Lambeth Palace in London. This is an annual event, usually for what are called the 'Young Theologians' amongst the clergy - those with an academic interest or pursuing further study who are also under 30 years' old. Clearly, I am fifteen years too old to be classed as a 'young theologian!' But I do have academic interest, and for the first time this year they opened the lecture up to those of us who took that route - and go on taking that route - in our studies. On that basis, I was invited to the lecture.

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Our Rector writes - October 2014

In my previous parish we used to have a baptism and wedding evening every week at church, because we would have roughly 60 baptisms and 30 weddings annually. It was the easiest way to offer a space for those initial encounters and questions. I caused rather more questions than I had intended, however, one evening, when in the rare lull there had been, I had brought out from my bag the book I was reading, and had left it on the table. It had the rather thought-provoking title, 'Why Go To Church?' 'Well if you don't know,' quipped one of my wedding couples, 'how are the rest of us supposed to know?!' Actually the book in question, written by Timothy Radcliffe, also has the subtitle 'The Drama of the Eucharist' and 'someday soon' I will do something with that book here, as it is the best engagement with what the Eucharist is all about that I have read.

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Our Rector Writes - September 2014

Dear Friends
It was quite ironic that the day before I headed off to a week of Silent Retreat with the Sisters of the Love of God in Fairacres, Oxford, I managed to lose my voice for all that day's Sunday services, due to a cold I'd picked up! Most managed to resist saying, perhaps it was the only way I would be able to keep quiet for the coming week! But it's true, that although I know I'm rather talkative, actually silence is a big part of my spiritual life these days - perhaps that is why!

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Our Rector Writes - July 2014

Dear friends,
I recently spoke about hospitality and welcome at our Trinity Joint Benefice Service, and it seemed appropriate to summarise what I said there in this space.
 
The famous icon, by Andrei Rublev, goes by two titles. Western Christians call it 'The Old Testament Trinity'. Eastern Christians call it 'The Hospitality of Abraham.' The Old Testament story it depicts is Genesis 18 when three angelic beings visit Abraham, who speak and act as one in the story, and soIcon later, Christians saw this story as a foreshadowing of the Trinity, and the relationship at the heart of the Trinity. Three separate persons, but one God, acting and speaking as one. The icon's two titles lead us nicely into thinking both about what the Trinity teaches us about relationship and oneness, but also what it tells us about hospitality - which is key to what relationship is so often about.
 
Today we have a western understanding of hospitality as entertaining family and friends. But hospitality to ancient middle Eastern cultures is very different. It is always about hospitality to the stranger. In the New Testament the Greek word translated 'hospitality' is the word 'philo-xenia' which means 'one who loves strangers'. Provision is seen as a basic human need, and so it becomes the moral duty to provide food and shelter to the stranger because it is our moral obligation to God. When Abraham has visitors turn up, he is morally obliged to provide hospitality. To refuse hospitality is to reject God. To show hospitality is to welcome God.

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Associate Priest's Notes - June 2014

Music@Minch The next Music@Minch concert is Sunday June 29th 7pm. James Watson – Jazz Quartet. Tickets sold in advance by Deborah Smith cost £10 or on the door £12. Contact 01453 883611. Thank you to those who supported the last Music@Minch when the The Maggini Quartet gave an excellent performance. We also had the opportunity to say a fond farewell to Joan and Michael Schmeising who founded and organised Music@Minch. So many are grateful to have enjoyed such an excellent variety of great performers and concerts over the years.

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Our Rector Writes - June 2014

Dear Friends
An exciting month, where we begin it having just welcomed the Revd Brian Atkinson to the benefice. As House for Duty Priest for Amberley and Associate Priest for the Benefice, Brian will be working two days (or equivalent) during the week, plus Sunday. Over the course of the first month, we shall be delighted to welcome him at services in all three churches in the benefice! We are all looking forward to working with Brian, and getting to know him better.

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