From the Rectory Advent 2021

FROM THE RECTORY

Fortunately, no bones were broken. Even though it was just before 6am, I had decided there was no need for a torch, as 'Wesley' and I set off down the Rectory path for our early morning walk. Having kept to the right in order to avoid falling into the pond, my progress was suddenly and painfully arrested as my knees struck the closed gate in the darkness.

Advent Sunday marks the beginning of the liturgical year in Western Christianity. For us living in the northern hemisphere, the weeks of Advent come at the darkest time of the year. Consisting of four Sundays leading up to Christmas, the season shares with Lent a spirit of restraint, preparation and penitence. The altar frontals and vestments are purple. Traditionally, the Gloria is omitted - not sung again until the Midnight Eucharist - and there is an air of solemnity in the services. There are no flowers in church, the Advent Wreath providing us with a prominent visual aid, each of its candles reminding us of those who prepared for the coming of Christ: patriarchs and prophets, John the Baptist and of course Mary. Finally, on Christmas Day, the central white candle is lit; all five candles being lit throughout the festive period.

Advent has also been a time for Christians to meditate on the ultimate issues of death, judgement, hell and heaven. It looks forward to the coming of Christ, not only as Judge, but also as Saviour. Candles and lights speak of the Church's hope in the coming of Christ to banish sin and darkness. Down the centuries the great 'O' Antiphons have been sung, originally as Antiphons to the Magnificat at the Evening Office from 17th to 23rd December - 'O Sapientia', 'O Radix Jesse', 'O Emmanuel' among them. The readings from the Old Testament were seen as pointing to the fulfilment of God's purposes in Jesus.

At 6pm on Sunday 28th November we shall be holding the benefice Advent Carol service at the Abbey Church. It begins in near darkness, symbolising the dominion of darkness from which we have been delivered through Jesus, the Light of the World. The 'O' Antiphons will be sung, calling upon God to deliver his people. NB The only other service on that Sunday will be the 11.15am Holy Communion at Exbury.

The last months have been a period of waiting and anticipation regarding music at the Abbey Church. Following Director of Music George Richford's presentations to the PCC and congregation, we are now in a position to start implementing the plans approved by the PCC. You will find details of these in this edition. I am filled with enthusiasm as we move to this exciting phase in our church life, and as we emerge from the effects of the pandemic. As I always say at the Annual Meetings, we are all invited to use our talents in the building up of the life and worship of the church community, called to serve joyfully and selflessly the One who serves us. At its recent meeting, the PCC recorded its thanks to the former members of the Abbey choir, recognising the service and commitment given over the years.

I am delighted that the Reverend Fr Ovidiu Semerean and the Romanian Orthodox Church congregation are sharing St Katharine's Church, Exbury. This arrangement was agreed with the PCC and approved by the bishop. They will be worshipping there on 1st, 2nd and 3rd Sundays of the month. We shall no longer be there on the 2nd Sunday, but we will continue our service of Holy Communion on the 4th Sunday. Please consult the weekly bulletin for the latest information.

Following the result of the congregation questionnaire, and subsequent approval of the PCC, we shall be changing the time of Holy Communion at the Abbey Church on the 2nd Sunday of the month. From February, 2022, on the 2nd Sunday only, the service will be at the later time of 10.30am. Furthermore, Evensong will now always be at 4.30pm, and not vary according to the season.

As I write, final preparations are being made for COP 26 - the UN Climate conference in Glasgow. Pope Francis in his Encyclical, 'Laudato Si', ('May you be praised') reflected on what it means to regard the earth as our home and invites us to pay heed to a groaning, mistreated earth; urging each and every one – individuals, families, local communities, nations and the international community – to an “ecological conversion”. Speaking on the BBC prior to the Conference the pontiff quoted the joint appeal made on 4th October by faith leaders and scientists to work responsibly towards a “culture of care” for our common home, but also for ourselves, and the need to work tirelessly to eliminate “the seeds of conflicts: greed, indifference, ignorance, fear, injustice, insecurity and violence.”

In June of this year, our diocese launched its Net Zero Strategy with a target of reaching net zero emissions by 2030. Many of our churches are part of the A Rocha Eco Church scheme, working towards their bronze, silver or even gold awards. As plans and strategies are debated we pray that we may listen to each other and recognise the urgent and pressing needs of our fragile earth that is God's gift to us, and of which we are custodians. World peace must begin with us, as individuals, in our thoughts and lives. In the same way, care and respect for our planet begins closer to home, responding as we can, even in the small, modest ways; doing what we can, not what we can't.

I am grateful to Jaki and John at TLC for printing this edition. They are particularly busy in the weeks before Christmas, which necessitated the early preparation of this News. The next publication will be a Lent/Easter edition.

As we approach Advent and prepare to celebrate Christmas I commend to you this prayer by MJ Kramer:

'God of gods, whom saints and angels worship and adore, as we prepare our hearts for your Son's coming, renew our spirits with the joy of your hope, that reaching out to you in our waiting, and praising you in our worship, we may come to know more deeply the mystery of Christ and the fullness of your divine compassion on our world, through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.'

I look forward to seeing you at one of our benefice services during Advent and the festive period. With my love and prayers for Christmas and the New Year.

Fr John

From the Rectory August 2021

As you know, in May the bishop of Winchester, the Rt Revd Tim Dakin, stepped back from his duties, and responsibility was temporarily delegated to the bishop of Southampton. Over the weeks there has been much speculation, exacerbated by limited information due to process, and fuelled by social media. Bishop Tim has announced his retirement in February 2022. I include below a copy of his statement. Please continue to pray for our diocese as we come to terms with this unprecedented situation; for its healing and recovery, for its future governance and leadership, and as the process of discernment continues.

Every blessing, FJohn.

The Bishop of Winchester, the Rt Rev Dr Tim Dakin, has today announced his retirement, having formally notified HM The Queen of his intention to step down. He will retire as Bishop in February 2022. Bishop Tim’s decision follows the conclusion of a series of facilitated conversations that have taken place over the summer to consider matters raised concerning leadership and governance. Bishop Tim said:

I have now received confirmation that Her Majesty the Queen has accepted my retirement as Bishop of Winchester. I wanted you all to hear my decision as directly as possible – and doing it this way rather speaks to our times. Some formalities and details need to be finalized but I’ll be leaving the Diocese in early February and handing over my responsibilities to others in the meantime. Please pray for all involved in this transition process.

Mahatma Gandhi said that “unity to be real must stand the severest strain without breaking.” I have always been clear that, as your Bishop, I should be there to build and foster togetherness across our Diocese, focused upon our life together in Christ, and upon our joint mission to serve Christ in our communities and to sustain Christian witness in daily life. Sadly, it seems it is no longer possible for me to fulfil this role.

The last eighteen months have brought enormous pressures to bear on us all, individually, as a country, within our families and communities, and as a Diocese. The painfully difficult financial decisions made over the last year have caused real anguish. In trying to secure a sustainable future for the growth of the Diocese, it is clear that I’ve not done enough to acknowledge what we have lost in this process. To those I’ve hurt or let down, I am sorry.

I realise that the steps taken to stabilize the finances continue to cause upset. Bishop’s   Council has received full reports in recent weeks from the Diocesan auditors and legal advisers, explaining and corroborating the decisions made by the Diocesan Board of Finance. None of this makes those decisions any easier to take. Nevertheless, I hope there is some comfort in the clarity now provided, and that faith can be restored in the relevant Diocesan staff and functions as the pastoral reorganisations proceed. Please continue to pray for all those involved. Pray too for all serving in the parishes and various projects: that the church and its witness may grow in the Diocese.

I could not have come to my decision, or indeed found a way through this recent period, without the love and support of Sally, my children and close friends. While I have not seen much of what has been said about me, my family and friends have seen more, and I have seen the effect it has had on them. They are the people who know me best, of course – and I’ve drawn upon their love and their view of me during these difficult times.

It has been a privilege to serve a Diocese that has Companion links across the world. I’ve been reminded of previous ministry experience: of the need to live on other people’s terms to see the world they see and to know the Christ they follow. I hope these links will continue to grow in strength and in significance. It’s also been a great joy to be part of a Diocese where education is taken seriously at all levels, not least, Further & Higher Education. All of us are called to pray and witness in such a way that the coming generations will find fullness of life in Christ.

I will remain proud of what has been achieved across the Diocese over the past 10 years. For there to have been a record number of ordinands at the Cathedral recently is a wonderful achievement for those involved in the School of Mission and in the parishes. I believe each and every one of our new clergy – and the many lay people who’ve received the Bishop’s Commission for Mission – will have a valuable role to play in the next stage of the Diocese as it witnesses to Christ’s mission in this region, in the life of the nation and across the Anglican Communion. The new national strategy for the Church of England offers an inspirational trajectory for such future developments.

As for me and Sally, we are planning a move to Plymouth, and we’re looking forward to making new friends, as well as to visits from old friends and from our growing family. Thank you for all we have shared. We will miss you. God bless you.

The Bishop of Southampton, Debbie Sellin, will continue to fulfil Bishop Tim’s duties, following the recent announcement that he would step back until the end of August. The nomination and appointment of a Diocesan Bishop is made through the Crown Nominations Commission. Further information on the process for selecting the next Bishop of Winchester will be available following Bishop Tim’s departure.

 

 

From the Rectory July 2021

July is a month of mixed emotions for me. I was ordained deacon in Winchester Cathedral on 2nd July, and priested the following year at Christchurch Priory on 4th July. This July also marks the 3rd anniversary of my mother's death. For sports fans this month offers the excitement of the finals at both Wimbledon Championship and EUEFA EURO 2020.

Buckler's Hard occupies a unique place in maritime history. Originally founded as a free port for the trading of sugar, it has flourished as a shipbuilding centre, becoming famous for building warships for Nelson’s Navy, including three vessels that took part in the Battle of Trafalgar. St Mary's Chapel - No 82 on the village street - was built as a dwelling for shipyard workers, and for a short time it would serve as a school. Beaulieu River is considered to be one of the gems of the UK, and is rich in wildlife. The Yacht Harbour has recently undergone a major £2m redevelopment.

Our annual 'Sea Sunday' service will be held at the Chandlery at Buckler's Hard Yacht Haven on Sunday 11th July at 6.30pm. The service gives us the opportunity to think about, and thank God for, seafarers. Over 90% of world trade is conveyed by sea, thanks to seafarers. Theirs is a demanding lifestyle, subject to stress, isolation and loneliness, with long periods of separation from their families and loved ones; violent storms and bad weather an occupational hazard; piracy a possibility. I hope that you'll be able to join us for the service and to celebrate the role seafarers play in our daily lives. The preacher will be the Revd John Attenborough and Beaulieu band will provide the music. There will be a Collection for the work of “Mission to Seafarers”.

Following a recent one day OFSTED inspection Beaulieu School continues to be rated a good school. The staff and governors were delighted with their feedback, including the remarks about the kindness and understanding the children show to one-another. Knowing the children “inside out” is at the heart of the school's ethos. It was also noted that staff have high expectations of the children, and were ambitious for them to succeed. The school's strong links with its community and the many opportunities it    provides was also commented upon. It has been a demanding and challenging time in education during the prolonged Covid period. All the more reason to say: 'Well done and congratulations Beaulieu School!'. We send our best wishes to Katherine the   headteacher and her inspirational staff, the supportive governors, and the brilliant children.

It is with sadness that we record the death of the Revd Peter Murphy. Apart from a curacy in London, his impressive ministry was exercised in our diocese, including incumbencies at Hythe and Lyndhurst. He was a friend to many of us, and in retirement was pleased to officiate at Beaulieu; latterly, he would attend St Mary's Chapel. We shall miss Peter's wisdom, pastoral care, and humour, the latter invariably expressed in his art work and cartoons. May he rest in peace.

With my love and prayers,

Father John

From the Rectory June 2021

The pair of swans about which I wrote last month have become parents...four tiny, fluffy, cute cygnets nestle in the feathers of the Pen; two eggs are yet to crack open.

Following our benefice Annual Meetings, Adam Mills and Sally Brearley, Dr Graham Sterling, and Brian Hernaman and David Hughes were elected churchwardens. Thank you to them, and to those serving as PCC members this year.

On 17th June 1246, some 42 years after its construction was begun, Beaulieu Abbey was dedicated. The service was conducted by the Bishop of Winchester in the presence of King John's son, King Henry III, his wife Queen Eleanor, their son, Prince Edward, the Abbot Alcius de Gisors, and the bishops of Bath and Wells, Exeter and Chichester. Although the Cisterican Monastery is now largely ruined, nevertheless the remaining buildings and stones remind us of what was once one of the wonders of Christendom. Belinda, Lady Montagu's wall hangings in the Domus provide us with a vivid record of the Abbey's history. It was a seat of learning, religious works being copied and illuminated. Fugitives could claim sanctuary at Beaulieu, so long as they remained within the precincts. Although the monks were not medically trained, nevertheless a garden in the Cloister includes many medicinal herbs used to treat various complaints.

It is a privilege to worship in the monk's former Refectory. There has, in the history of the Church, always been a deep relationship between buildings and those who use them. Buildings can express our feelings of profound hope or faith. There has always been sacred space where God has spoken, and holy ground where the only appropriate response is worship; as T.S. Eliot expressed it in his 'Four Quartets', “where prayer has been valid”.

St Paul uses the image of a building in a more specifically spiritual way. He speaks not of a physical building, but of the people of God as the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. He says that we are the building, and each one of us is a living stone. As such, we support each other by living for each other; by being there for one another. We give thanks for our Cistercian heritage, for the first monks who journeyed from Citeaux to Beaulieu, and for those worshippers whose prayers through the centuries have made this hallowed ground.

Congratulations to Marion Loveland who celebrates her 100th birthday on Sunday 6th June. Following the 9.30am service refreshments will be served in the Cloister – weather permitting.

 

With my love and prayers,

Father John