The Monthly Letter

     

     

     

    April 2017 Issue 806

    Dear Friends,
    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

    Greetings everyone,

    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

     Dear Everyone,

    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

     
    Dear Everyone,

    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.

    God Bless,

     

    November 2016 Issue No 801

    Dear Friends,

                                     Remembering
    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.

    God Bless,

    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
    this year.

    Keeping
    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
    September 2016.

    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

     GREAT NEWS

    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
    as before.
     
    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
    with her.

    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
    church. 

    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
    September.

    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
    difference.

    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.

    His timelessness,
    His all-importance,
    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

    Dear Friends,
    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

    Dear Friends,
    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

    Dear Friends,
    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,
    12th Dec.                                                     
     
    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

    Dear Friends,
    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

    Dear Friends,
    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)