September 2018

As I write this month, the workmen have just completed the refurbishment of the Abbey Church kitchen. This has been a priority for several years and I am delighted that we have now succeeded in this venture. Although not a catering kitchen, we have nevertheless increased the cooking potential with a new four-ringed hob, oven, and microwave-combi oven. We have maximised the limited space, creating a stable door for additional serving, and improving the storage facilities in and around the area. This project has been made possible by the generosity of Mr Edward Fort OBE, and we are immensely grateful to Ted for his kindness. We look forward to upcoming social events in the hall, including the September Rector's Lunch, and December's “Turkey and Tinsel”.

Sunday 2nd September will be Peter Hackston's last Sunday as Director of Music at the Abbey Church, a post he has held for the last ten years, having been a chorister for several years before that. He has occasionally acted as cantor during services when we have appreciated his lovely solo voice, and as an accomplished brass player, has often played the Last Post during the Act of Remembrance. We thank Peter for his faithfulness and commitment during these years. A collection has been organised by the churchwardens, and we shall be making a presentation to him on his last Sunday in post, at which service he will be organist. Robin Phillips has kindly agreed to oversee the choir until the end of the year, and this will provide us with leadership and continuity, and enable the choir to prepare for the imminent major services, including Christmas. Please remember our church musicians in your prayers, and pray that God will direct the right person to succeed Peter in this significant post.

Whilst we are considering things musical, I want to thank Martin Penrose, organist of St Thomas' Lymington, who gave us an excellent recital in August, and which I hope will lead to a series of lunchtime organ recitals.

As a choirboy I remember with great excitement preparing for the Winchester Choir Festival. We came from all over the diocese, having spent weeks in our home parishes preparing the repertoire; following a mass rehearsal in the cathedral on the Saturday and tea, it culminated in the glorious public act of worship. This year the festival takes place on Saturday 29th September; the worship, to which everyone is welcome, is at 5.30pm. I look forward to seeing some of you there.

The Trustees of the “East Boldre Educational Charity” will be meeting in October. Its purpose is to promote the education, including social and physical training, of children resident in the parish of East Boldre. Applications for grants may be directed to me, or to Mrs Jan Saunders, c/o The Benefice Office, Beaulieu.

At the end of this month we celebrate the feast of St Michael and All Angels. The word 'angel' comes from the Greek for 'messenger'. The Bible tells us that angels are from God - spirits created before humankind. In the Old Testament angels are often called “the heavenly host”, an imaginary army of soldiers who fight for God against the forces of evil. Jacob dreams of a ladder set up on the earth, the top reaching to heaven; and the angels of God ascending and descending on it. The angels in the dream were intermediaries, conveying to God the prayers of the people of Bethel. Jesus himself quotes from this vision when talking about Nathaniel praying under the fig tree (John 1.51). Over and over in the Bible, angels are said to bring people messages from God, warning them of danger, or instructing them in the way they should go.

Evidently aware of the community's failure to demonstrate a warm welcome, the writer to the Hebrews warns “Do not neglect to show hospitality; by doing so, some have entertained angels unawares”. (Hebrews 13.2). Down the centuries, artists have had free reign, painting beautifullly winged, harped and haloed beings. In our own time, who, when visiting Coventry, could not fail to appreciate John Hutton's expressionist work in the Cathedral's great west window, or be impressed by Jacob Epstein's bronze depicting St Michael overwhelming Satan.

My first vicar used to say that St Michael and All Angels' Day was invariably overlooked; lost among the cauliflowers and marrows – coming as it does during the period observed as Harvest Thanksgiving. Happily this year the day need not, and it is the Saturday before our Combined Benefice Service, so we shall observe it on that Sunday. Please note this will be at the later time of 10am and at St Paul's, East Boldre. This will be the main service for the benefice. There will, however, be the usual 8am service at Buckler's Hard.

With my love and prayers.

 

 

 

August 2018

Most Sunday mornings, the talk in the Abbey Church sacristy is of sport - cricket, rugby, golf, motor racing, tennis.....and who could escape the World Cup? As I write this, English football fans are licking their wounds, following the defeat of the national team by Croatia at the semi-final stage. It has been a real roller-coaster, and as so often, the media have built and fuelled expectations. The consensus is that the young and inexperienced team have overachieved at Moscow. Their Manager, Gareth Southgate, and his team have behaved with dignity and poise throughout the competition and we can be rightly proud of their achievements. And there's more....before I have even completely my first paragraph, perhaps more remarkable, Roger Federer has just been defeated by the South African opponent, Kevin Anderson, at the Quarter Finals stage of Wimbledon. Lasting over four hours, the fifth set score was 13-11.
Two gripping and exciting contests in these two great sports. But it's not a matter of life and death. Unlike the event in Thailand, where twelve Thai boys and their coach were trapped in a partially flooded cave, and which gripped the world's attention. The complex three day rescue, involving a multi-national team including two British divers, saw all of them brought successfully to the surface. On their return to England they were greated as heroes; one of them modestly commenting, “We are not heroes. What we do is very calculating, very calm. It's quite the opposite”. We pray for the convalescence and full recovery of those rescued, and marvel at the bravery and selflessness of those who daily risk their lives in the emergency services, including our Beaulieu retained firefighters. |
On Wednesday 8 August, 1pm-1.45pm there will an organ recital given by Mr Martin Penrose, Organist of St Thomas', Lymington. Proceeds to Church Funds.
On Sunday 12 August at 6.30pm we shall be hosting a benefice “Songs of Praise” in the Abbey Church, led once again by Hugh Ashley, formerly of BBC Radio Solent. We all enjoyed a similar event led by Hugh last year in the Abbey Grounds. Again, the Beaulieu Village Band will be performing and our choir leading the singing. Cake and a drink will be served afterwards. I hope you can join us.
This month includes the feast of St Bartholomew – Friday 24 August. Bartholomew was one of the twelve apostles; and probably the same figure as Nathaniel of John's Gospel. He came to know Jesus through Philip. On seeing him, Our Lord said of him, “There is an Israelite who deserves the name, incapable of deceit.” Bartholomew is believed to have preached worked in India and Armenia, and tradition says he was martyred by being flayed and crucified, and he is often depicted in art holding his own skin.
The apostle has special significance for us at Beaulieu. King James 1st, in granting a charter to Henry, 3rd Earl of Southampton, gave the right to hold a St Bartholomew Fair. One of two Fairs, it lasted for three days. It seems that early in the last century, the Fair was closed by Henry, 1st Baron Montagu, on account of the riots and rowdiness! Traditionally, monasteries acquired relics from the Holy Land which they kept in reliquaries. Intended to be the largest Abbey in the country at the time of its construction, as late as the 14th century an arm of the saint was kept in a silver chest on its High Altar. Following the Dissolution, Beaulieu Parish Church, formerly the Abbey Refectory, was dedicated to St Bartholomew. Kelly's Directory refers to it as such in 1868. As Tony Norris, our sacristan and archivist commented in the light of the discovery of the grave of Richard 3rd, “One wonders whether secrets still lie beneath Beaulieu Abbey waiting to be revealed ...perhaps it's time to get our metal detectors out!”
I began by referring to matters of life and death, and sadly I must finish on the same subject. On Monday 9 July my mother died. The family are comforted by the fact that she lived a very full and active life for the majority of her 94 years. She died at home, as she would have wanted, in her sleep in the early hours. Many of you will have experienced the death of a loved one, and that of a mother is particularly stinging. The next days, weeks and months will be very painful as we come to terms with our loss and mother's absence. I feel rather disorientated, and there is the inevitable reproach – could I have done more...been a better son, and so on.. I am thankful that during these last few years I have been at Beaulieu, not far away, and she was immensely proud, and pleased to see me happily settled in the benefice, and New Forest area that she had known so well all her life.

Through all the changing scenes of life, in trouble and in joy, the praises of my God shall still my heart and tongue employ.

Fear him, ye saints, and you will then have nothing else to fear; make you his service your delight, your wants shall be his care”. (Nahum Tate & Nicholas Brady)

With my love and prayers for a restful and refreshing summer. Fr John

 

July 2018

My Labrador, “Wesley”, is growing and has graduated from pink bag Puppy food to green bag Junior food. I'm weaning him off lamb and rice and on to chicken, which will now serve him until he is about 18 months old. Greek writers and philosophers often complained about their pupils' ability to learn; the notion of milk and solid food was often used figuratively, contrasting basic and advanced learning. Wesley's maturing digestion reminded me of a reference in St Paul's first letter to the Corinthians! Paul admonished the community at Corinth who were beset by jealousy and quarrelling, and who regarding themselves as intellectually superior. Disarmingly, he reminds them that however they might regard themselves, they are really still children in the faith. “You were not ready for solid food,” he tells them, “Even now you are still not ready”. (I Cor. 3.2) The writer to the Hebrews insists, “Mature people need solid food – and by 'mature', I mean people whose faculties have been trained, by experience, to distinquish good from evil.” (Heb. 5.14)

Sunday 8th July is Sea Sunday. As in previous years, we are holding a special outdoor service at 6.30pm at Buckler's Hard. The 18th century ship-building village on the banks of the Beaulieu River is the perfect setting with its rich maritime history. Our speaker will be the Revd Reg Sweet, Master, St Cross Hospital, Winchester. The Collection will support the work of “Missions to Seafarers”, an international charity whose personnel work in over 200 ports in 50 countries. The distinctive Flying Angel is their logo. Chaplains offer spiritual support and advice, and are trained to recognise and respond to signs of post-traumatic stress. Flying Angel centres provide refreshments, activities, and facilities. Notable family projects are located in Ukraine and in the Philippines. Since many ports are located some distance from towns and amenities, Missions to Seafarers also provide welcome transport, enabling seafarers to enjoy the local area. The Beaulieu Village Band will provide musical accompaniment, and the choir will lead the singing. I look forward to seeing you there.

The Beaulieu Village Fete is on Saturday 21st July. This is always a happy and enjoyable community occasion, providing something for everybody, but it demands good organisation, and much effort. Peter Melhuish co-ordinates the event, from which normally half the net proceeds are given to the Abbey Church. If you are able to help on one of the stalls, assist with the setting up or clearing up, please contact Peter, whose details are at the front of the magazine.

Our Annual Benefice BBQ is in the late afternoon of Sunday 22nd July, and will be in the grounds of Palace House, by kind permission of Lord Montagu, the large marquee remaining in place from the previous day's activities. Further details, including the menu, can be found in the weekly newsheet, and on our website. I am in the process of organising an alternative event for some of our families – date and details available via the same sources.

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have written an open letter to clergy drawing our attention to the real problem of human traffiking. The National Crime Agency estimates that tens of thousands of people are being exploited in the UK, forced to work long hours, and often under threat of violence. The Primates cite, in particular, hand car washes where abuse is said to be rife, and commend the Safe Car Wash campaign. An free app. is available to download, and takes you through a short survey about the working conditions of the hand wash, and suggests a form of action if necessary. As the leaflet endorsed by the Archbishops comments, “We cannot be indifferent to the suffering around us, in our own communities, and as the Church we cannot turn away from our neighbour who may be in need. Instead we must turn to them and say 'we see you'”. (www. THECLEWERINITIATIVE.ORG/SAFECARWASH)

On Saturday 14th July the church commemorates the Tractarian John Keble. An academic, he gave up his position at Oriel College, Oxford, to follow his clerical calling, becoming his father's curate in Gloucestershire. A gifted poet, during this period he produced “The Christian Year”- poems for all the Sundays, and some feast days, of the Liturgical Year. Many of these become hymns, among them, “Blessed are the pure in heart”, and “New every mornng is the love”. Keble became Professor of Poetry at Oxford in 1831. He was Vicar of Hursley near Winchester and Oxford's Keble College was founded in his memory.

A reminder that next month, 12th August, there will be no Evensong in the Abbey Church, but instead, at 6.30pm, “Songs of Praise”. I am delighted that the popular and enthusiastic Hugh Ashley, who compered last year's outside event, will be leading it. Do put the date in your diary.

With my love and prayers,

Fr John

May 2018

I write having just returned from walking "Wesley" on the Estate cricket ground. On this particular occasion, and almost home, he caught sight of "Bailey" in a neighbour's garden and, like an exocet missle, launched himself through the brambles, over a stream, finally frustrated by a fence, preventing him from pairing up with his canine mate. Impelled, and oblivious to my pleading, Wesley was on a mission – determined to extend his adventure and do what dogs do. Bailey's owner appeared, laughing, having witnessed the performance from the window. We left the garden, waved off by my empathetic neighbour, Wesley straining at the leash; such was his energy and drive to do what he had to do....

All three Annual Meetings in the benefice have taken place: Peter Melhuish, Sally Brearley, Brian Hernaman, David Hughes, Dr Graham Stirling and Marigold Jordan were elected churchwardens. We are grateful to them for offering their time and energy, and also to those serving on the three PCCs for the next year. Of particular concern is the sustainability and viability of St Katharine's, Exbury. The co-opted PCC Secretary writes further in this edition about the two community meetings held in the church, and whilst ideas were shared, and a possible project introduced, given the very modest congregation numbers and the changed demographic of the village, the future is very uncertain. We continue to pray about this, and for the PCC who must make some difficult decisions; we need to recognise in all these deliberation that God may indeed be asking us to engage with different opportunities and priorities.

On Sunday 20th May we celebrate the feast of Pentecost - the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Often colourful balloons and a cake feature, marking what Christians regard as the birthday of the Church. The disciples were a disparate group whom we have come to know quite well through the Gospel stories. Following Jesus' death, we see them meeting behind locked doors, perhaps fearful of repercussions. John's narrative tells us that the risen Lord appears to them "on the first day of the week"; reminiscent of that first day of the week in Genesis, where God the Creator begins to bring life out of chaos. In John’s Gospel, God the Redeemer comes to bring new life out of the chaos of grief and loss. Having shown the disciples his wounds, Jesus then breathes on them. In Genesis God breathes life into the creature he has made out of earth. In John’s Gospel, God's new life and hope are breathed into the fearful and uncertain disciples. The 'Acts of the Apostles', attempts to articulate the extradordinary Pentecost event: it's like a rushing mighty wind, and attendant tongues of fire. However it happened, from Pentecost onwards these people left their locked rooms and went out, preaching and teaching and embracing the danger they had previously feared. We are commissioned to go out and share what we have been given through them and after them; to call others into God’s new creation, free from fear, and empowered by the spirit.

To return to "Wesley" - he's impelled by testosterone at present – but we are fuelled by the power of God's spirit: in the spirit of Christ we are called to go and make disciples, to love others as he has loved us, to go to those places where we might not otherwise go, sharing his love and life, encouraging a spirit of oneness, hospitality and communion.

As I type Prime Minister Teresa May has called a special meeting of the Cabinet to discuss the parlous situation in Syria, and the possibility of backing military action by the US and its allies, following the suspected chemical attack in Eastern Gouta. We have become used to aweful news from the region, but we have been horrified by recent pictures of children apparently suffering the effects of chemical agents, though the Syrian leadership has dismissed it as false information. There are many layers to the narrative of the Middle East; these are unpredictable times, and there is the fear of excalation. We must pray for our Prime Minister and political leaders as they shoulder weighty responsibililtes and make difficult decisions, including the possibility of force; may they may be given the wisdom and insight to act for the common good. In the face of arguments, confusion, and apparently locked doors, may God's spirit direct us in the ways of truth and peace and trust.

We are looking forward to our benefice outing to Wells next month which John and Kathy Hughes have organised - they are well known for their thoroughness and ability to make a good day out. After stopping off at Wilton we shall make our way to the cathedral city on the edge of the Mendip Hills. Our visit culminates with Choral Evensong. It would be a perfect opportunity to invite a neighbour or friend along. We look forward to your company.

With my love and prayers - and licks from a spirited canine!