As I write this month the cricket season is drawing to a close. I have enjoyed watching our Beaulieu Club fixtures. One of my predecessors at the Rectory was a keen exponent, rupturing his Achilles Tendon in the process. Although not a practitioner, I I found myself unexpectedly caught up in the excitement of the recent Test Series. It seems it's never to late to come to things...And as he retires from the England team, Alastair Cook's cricketing achievements have been all over the news. Widely regarded as one of the greatest batsmen ever, and fifth highest Test Runner, he is a remarkable role model. Interestingly, he has attributed his powers of concentration on the field to his training as a young chorister at St Paul's Cathedral. He has spoken of the single-mindedness and utter commitment needed to rehearse and sing for services, whilst at the same time managing his school work and sport. Many commentators have remarked on this self-discipline. Many of us lament the paucity of music in some schools today. Sadly, when cuts have to be made, music is often one of the first casualties. We have only to watch BBC's “Young Musician of the Year”, and eavesdrop on our own “Music at Beaulieu” Competition to appreciate the quality of musicianship emanating from our local young people, and realise the enormous benefits that music brings.
Recently, we gave thanks for Peter Hackston, our Director of Music's contribution to Abbey Church Music. I hope before long to announce his successor. When I was a teenager learning the piano, I recall adults expressing their sorrow at having failed to maintain their lessons and practice. It is never too late to start, or resume! And whilst I am trilling on, I wonder if you have considered the possibility of singing in the Abbey choir – it really is a marvellous pursuit – good for our health, good for us spiritually and socially. It is a great way of making friends, and in a liturgical setting, offering worship to Almighty God.
Sunday 14 October is the Abbey Church Harvest Thanksgiving. Our speaker at the Family Service will be Mr Mike Dolbear of Beaulieu's 3D Farming Partnership. Run with his father and brother, 3D Farming spans some 457 acres, and includes three farms, Hazelcopse, Leygreen and Swinesleys, which have been amalgamated into one holding. Their business produces sunflowers, maize, asparagus, and grain, and sub-let some land for grazing. The only people they employ are East European part time asparagus pickers.
Being thankful is part of what it means to be a Christian. The word “eucharist”, the original word in the early Church for the Holy Communion, means “giving thanks”. We are blessed that there is enough food available for all our people in Britain. Yes, there are still foodbanks and shelters for the needy and homeless but inherently, we have enough; which cannot be said for so many areas of our world. It is easy for us to become complacent. And if we are not careful Harvest can become little more than a quaint tradition. The occasion ought to be the opportunity to think about others who are not so fortunate, and make an extra effort to contribute food and resources to those in need.
Surrounded as we shall be by Harvest produce, seasonal decorations, a specially baked loaf, and grapes, may we be a thankful people. And as we articulate our thanks in the singing of the well-known hymns we acknowledge our interdependence, giving thanks for those who provide our food – including farmers and fishermen; and for those who transport the food, sell it in our shops, and those who cook it for us. And there are a host of others who play their part in the cycle. Harvest is a good time to remember them all and to be thankful. At the end of the service we shall partake of the harvest loaf, and sip wine made from grapes from the Beaulieu Vineyard. Roger Marchbank, who supervises the Vineyard, tells me he is looking forward to an excellent harvest this year after two very poor seasons.
The following day we shall enjoy our Harvest Supper in the Domus, the living quarters of the Cistercian lay-brothers. This is always a very popular event. I look forward to seeing you there.
October 28 October is the feast of Ss Simon and Jude. In Luke's Gospel, Simon is called the Zealot. The Zealots were the extreme Jewish Nationalists, so presumably at some stage he was affiliated to them. Whatever the veracity of this, Simon is another example of a most unlikely character being called into relationship with Our Lord. It seems that his heart was softened as his relationship with Jesus grew, and he came to see another way. Jude is a very common name in Biblical times, allied to Judas. Confusingly, the name Jude does not occur in all the lists of the Twelve. In fact, we know very little about either Simon or Jude, both just names on a list; chosen so that they could represent the twelve sons of Jacob; symbols of the twelve Patriarchs, the ancestors of the twelve tribes of Israel. Their names were chosen to show that the Church is the new Israel. Jude is often called the patron saint of lost causes. Which is precisely what he himself never was once he came into contact with Jesus of Nazareth. Jude is the encourager of all those who never give up when everyone says there is no chance of success.
It is also the Sunday when British Summer Time ends, and the clocks go back. Thus we continue to journey deeper into winter. Please note that during the winter months Evensong - on the 2nd Sunday of the month - will be at the earlier time of 4.30pm
With my love and prayers.
Perhaps not really finished.