The first day of March is St David's Day, patron saint of Wales. Much of what is known about David has been passed on by word of mouth, and as such it is difficult to know what is fact, and how much has been embellished and woven around his name by his devoted followers. Probably born in South Wales in about AD540, the son of King Sant, he was ordained and lived the life of a Celtic monk, his simplicity earning the title “David the Water-Man”. A frugal vegetarian diet no doubt included leeks, which would become a Welsh patriotic symbol. He later became the Bishop of Menevia. During his lifetime David founded several monasteries. When he died, his body was buried in the grounds of his monastery, the site of the present St David's Cathedral.
The 6th March is Ash Wednesday, and the start of Lent. There will be a Benefice service at 10.30am in the Abbey Church, including the Imposition of Ashes. Traditionally the ashes for this are produced by burning the previous year's palm crosses. As the priest traces the cross on our foreheads, we face up to the reality of our life and death: that although we are “beautifully and wonderfully” made, as the Psalmist says, we can also be wilful, self-centred creatures. Signed, and mindful of our humanity - that one day we shall indeed be dust and ashes - we renew our commitment to be faithful to Christ. Thus we embark on an intense 40 day spiritual journey that will lead us to Holy Week and Easter.
The Revd Lynda Mead will be leading our 4-week Lent Course this year. Entitled “Why did Jesus die?”, we shall be reflecting on some of the questions people have asked about the life of Jesus Christ over the centuries. These sessions will be held at the Rectory, the first of which will be from 2pm-3pm on Thursday 14th March. Our time together is intended to be informal: come and share, or, if you would prefer, sit quietly and reflect. Just come along - and enjoy the company of fellow parishioners and pilgrims.
March is also the month of Annual Church Meetings. Every parish is legally required to hold an Annual Parish Meeting to elect Churchwardens, and an Annual Parochial Church Meeting to conduct other parish business. Although these are two separate meetings, in practice, they are held at the same time. The Abbey Church happens to be first – at 6.30pm on Friday 22nd March. St Katharine's, Exbury, takes place two days later, on Sunday 24th March, following the morning service. St Paul's is in April.
Sally Brearley, having served her term as Beaulieu Churchwarden, is obliged to stand down. There will be opportunity at the APCM to thank her. Sally and Frederick Norris, you will remember, were colleagues during the Interregnum, and as such (along with their benefice warden colleagues) assumed greater responsibilities during the vacancy following my predecessor, Canon Ryc Smith's, retirement. The office of Churchwarden is one of the most ancient in the country: a Bishop's officer and a faithful member of the congregation, she/he shares with the Bishop, Archdeacon and the Parish Priest, the care for the parish or benefice.
The Church Electoral Roll has to be revised every six years – this is one of those years. Do be sure that your name is on the Roll, which will only happen if you have filled out one of the forms available in our churches. If in doubt, please ask. You may only attend and take part in the APCM if you are registered.
I chair the East Boldre Educational Charity. The Trustees will be holding their meeting in early April. The terms of the Trust Deed are: “to promote the education, including social and physical training of children resident in East Boldre”. Applications are invited in writing, either to me, or to the Secretary, Mrs Jan Saunders, c/o The Benefice Office, Beaulieu, and must be received by 31st March.
Sunday 31st March is Mothering Sunday, and there will be a United Benefice Service at the Abbey Church at 10am; this is an All Age Service. Posies will be presented to the ladies of the congregation. If you are wanting a service of Holy Communion, there will be the usual 8am Book of Common Prayer service at Buckler's Hard.
Almighty God, we pray that through this season of Lent, by prayer and study and self-discipline, we may penetrate more deeply into the mystery of Christ's sufferings; that following in the way of his cross and passion we may come to share in the glory and triumph of his resurrection; through the same Christ our Lord. Amen. (adapted F Colquhoun)
With my love and prayers,