Letter from the Rector - April 2019

Lifegiving Choices?

There is a film called ‘The World in Darkness’, about an archaeologist excavating in Jerusalem who claims to have found a body in the tomb where Jesus had been laid. He puts a mummified body on show – the corpse that apparently proves that Jesus had not risen from the dead.

The film then paints a picture of a world plunged into gloom – caring communities are disbanded and cathedrals are demolished. The world has ultimately become a less vibrant place without Christianity and it is as if the colour has drained from the richness of life’s tapestry. And then, finally, (Warning – Plot Spoiler!) the archaeologist on his deathbed confesses that he had lied to get famous, and that the tomb he discovered had been empty.

‘The World in Darkness’ illustrates that we should bring life, and life in all of its abundance to the world around us. Or to put it another way, the church should not (just) be about morals and values, but should bring life and colour and light to our community.

In a similar way we should ask ourselves, do our choices reflect a need to bring life and light to our community, or are our choices cynical and self-serving? I do find a lot of social media discourse is ultimately very demanding and judgemental.

To avoid being sucked into the temptation to be fashionably negative, we need to remember that the more we try to please ourselves the emptier we will feel, but the more we try and bring life to others, the more we will receive life, life in all its abundance.

May I wish you all a very holy and blessed Passiontide and Easter this year.

Yours in Christ,
The Revd Canon Howard Gilbert, Rector.

Letter from The Rector - February 2019

Children and the Body of Christ

As communion was distributed, an 8-year-old boy paid close attention. He was very interested in what was going on and started to take a wafer. His mother leaned over and told him that he was not old enough to be a part of Communion. Later, when the collection plate came by he ignored it. His mother again leaned over and this time tried to coax a coin out of him. He steadfastly refused, stating, “If I’m not old enough to eat, I’m not old enough to pay!”

Whilst this is amusing, it also carries a very serious message about attitudes that make children feel a part of the church, and attitudes that make them feel like unwanted guests at an adult activity.

Over my 9 years in Cirencester one of the things I am proudest of is how we brought the Good News of Jesus to young people. The church tends to look like those who run it, and so often that means it looks like a club where young people (and their children) don’t belong.

As a part of actively trying to make our church more welcoming to young people, each year I would prepare children to take First Holy Communion. Surprisingly for me, preparing children to become a full member of their church family, proved to be one of the most significant experiences of my ministry.

Many have questioned the wisdom of admitting children under the age of 12 to communion. I must confess that I had my doubts too, but each year, as these children first received the body of Christ, something special happened. The Holy Spirit blew through the whole church, and some of God’s precious children drew closer to Him, and became more intricately entwined in His body, the church.

When one is ordained, there is a tradition that people line up before the new priest to receive a first blessing from them. Each year, as we admitted children into receiving the body of Christ, I felt like asking for their blessing in the same way. They were especially blessed by God, and it was a special day for all of us who shared in God’s blessings through them.

One of the things I think we may learn from children and the Eucharist, is that being a Christian isn’t about logical comprehension or knowing things. It is actually about the simple desire to draw closer to God. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” I am greatly enriched by God’s little ones, who often receive the spirit in such a pure and simple way compared with us complicated grownups!

Fr. Howard Gilbert

Letter from John Spiers, Associate Priest - December 2018

I think we all enjoy receiving a gift to unwrap at Christmas. I include myself in this respect. The greatest gift I am given each Christmas is that, at least once at one of the Christmas services, I have the amazing experience of listening to, or even reading, the first few verses of John’s Gospel.

They are as follows:

Firstly

‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God....What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.’

Then

‘And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.’

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Letter from Sandy Emery, Associate Priest - October 2018

Dear Friends
Autumn is one of my most favourite seasons with all the richness of colour around us. Pic- tures never seem to do it justice and artists try to get the autumnal colours right but there’s nothing better than viewing all them yourself. It can be an awesome experience what God has given us in creation.

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Letter from Sandy Emery, Associate Priest - July 2018

As the countryside flourishes I look around me in the profound silence and I give thanks to the Creator. How could I not? When after all we live in an area of outstanding natural beauty. How do we describe it? I have heard some say it is like heaven on earth. Others use the word ‘awesome’ which is a distressingly overused word nowadays, but it was for this that the word was intended. I think that for many people today an approach to the divine is made most easily through the natural world. I might like to think that being introduced to the person of Jesus would bring people to their knees, but experience suggests that, in our highly secularised culture, a walk on the hills or digging in a garden is, for many people, a surer guide to the geography of God. This is where Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s words ring true for many people:

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Letter from Sandy Emery, Associate Priest

Sandy EmeryBy the time you read this letter I do hope that we will be having sunny days to enable us to enjoy our gardens and walking on the common. We have had a long cold snowy winter so it is wonderful to have better weather to look forward to so we can enjoy the surrounding countryside we are fortunate to have. 

When May arrives, I think of Minchinhamp-ton getting back to normal with the cows on the Common holding up the traffic as usual and amusing us as the Highlanders wander through the High Street displaying their fine horns! 

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Letter from Sandy, Associate Priest

I always get excited at this time of year when everything in God’s creation awakens from the harshness of winter and the dark evenings are getting shorter. We have the snowdrops, crocuses and now the daffodils are poking their heads up and in sheltered spots they are even flowering. The evenings are getting lighter and the birds in the garden are becoming more active especially on days when the sun shines. Doesn’t it just lift your spirits! And all of this is the glory of what God has given us in creation.

I reflect each day in thanksgiving and gratitude to God for giving me the eight years of ministry among all of you and for all that we have done together. I would not be able to serve you without your great encouragement, help and love.

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Letter from The Rector - March 2019

Enemy of Apathy?
Over the last couple of years, this benefice has, no doubt, been pondering what kind of a benefice we are and what kind of clergy might best work with us. And at the heart of those questions we ask ourselves, what are the core values that are more important to us than all the others.

Similarly, I found myself in a “Rule of Life” workshop, where we were encouraged to consider our core and unchanging values, and then try to marry that up with how much of our time and energy we give to those values.

As I spent time contemplating, what was essentially my personal mission statement, I came up with five core values, one of which was John 10:10: I believe that our faith should be life-giving, that our time together in church, and our time spent taking Jesus out into the world, should be about joy, and re-creation.

In all of the above, I believe that the better we understand ourselves, and the better we understand what God made us for, the more we play our part in God’s breath-taking coming Kingdom; and I believe that the better we understand our parish, and God’s plan for us, the more joyful we will be in our mission and ministry. In other words, the truth shall set us free, free to enjoy eternal life – the abundant gift of life in all of its fulness that begins now. I have no doubt the future for us will be challenging but, if God is involved, it will also be Joyful!

If, on the other hand, we buy into the, oh so fashionable, cynicism of our generation, if we fail to be passionate about the core values that God places in our hearts, and if we fail to strive together for the coming Kingdom of God, then in our apathy, we can look forward to a bleak, monotone future…

When Jesus came to Golgotha, they hanged Him on a tree,
They drove great nails through hands and feet, and made a Calvary;
They crowned Him with a crown of thorns, red were His wounds and deep,
For those were crude and cruel days, and human flesh was cheap.

When Jesus came to Birmingham, they simply passed Him by.
They would not hurt a hair of Him, they only let Him die;
For men had grown more tender, and they would not give Him pain,
They only just passed down the street, and left Him in the rain.

Still Jesus cried, ‘Forgive them, for they know not what they do, ‘
And still it rained the winter rain that drenched Him through and through;
The crowds went home and left the streets without a soul to see,
And Jesus crouched against a wall, and cried for Calvary.

G A Studdert-Kennedy

Letter from Sandy Emery, Associate Priest - January 2019

Dear Friends

January is the time of year for new beginnings and as tradition has it many of you will have made New Year’s resolutions all too soon to be broken. Now I am older and hopefully wiser I never make these resolutions, especially to start something rash such as a diet, because I know my will power is weak when it concerns what I eat. However, I do instead of giving up something try to make promises to do something extra in my life. This just seems like a more positive way forward to me.

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Letter from John Spiers, Associate Priest - November 2018

How did the average citizen of Great Britain, France, Germany and Russia view the looming clouds of war in 1938. Twenty years earlier the war to end all wars had been fought and won by the combined efforts of Britain, France, Russia and America. There were over twenty million military and civilian casualties.

At events in our churches this year some of us will commemorate the end of the carnage that was the war to end all wars. On Sunday 11th November some of us will gather around war memorials and remember the dead of the two major conflicts of the last century as well as those killed in Korea, The Falkland’s, Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere.

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Letter from John Spiers, Associate Priest - September 2018

Then suddenly the weather changed. The country had baked in hot sunshine for weeks. With only a few days warning, on the last weekend in July, thunder rumbled, lightning flashed and the heavens opened. Little is constant in this world. We establish our patterns of living only to find them disturbed by events outside our control. The Sunday afternoon barbeque planned on the assumption of yet another sun-ny day was eaten under cover as water dripped from the gazebo.

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Letter from John Spiers, Associate Priest - June 2018

At the time I am writing this letter Holy Trinity Minchinhampton have just had a service of rededication. Then two days later there was a meeting at Holy Trinity Amberley to give the congregation the opportunity to review the pro-posed plans for a shop at the rear of the church.
When you read this article the congregation of Holy Trinity Minchinhampton will be exploring how to use what is now a beautiful warm flexible space for more than regular worship. I am unsure where the conversation concerning the shop at Holy Trinity Amberley will have got to but I hope and pray that it will have been conducted with respect for differing views.

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Letter from John Spiers, Associate Priest

These days it seems that joyous events can take a lot of preparation. Anyone who has had a part in organising a wedding can tell you that. A wedding in church or a wedding at a venue, they all seem to need a lot of preparation, although the Church of England wedding web site does give you tips on how to reduce the cost and make a wedding simpler

And preparation is what Christians have been doing since Ash Wednesday way back in February. For me, a priest in the Church of England, writing an article at the start of Lent that will be read around Eastertide seems odd. Surely we need to have spent six week of preparation during Lent before we can think about Easter let alone celebrate Easter. This may be a mind-set of some Christians. We must have observed a holy Lent before we have that brief outburst of immense joy that is Easter. Certainly observing Lent is important. Why? Recently two comments reminded me that this long time of reflection, meditation and self-denial is important.

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