March 2019

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,

February 2019

As I write, Members of Parliament are continuing their Debate, a Minister has resigned from the Whip's Office, and there is much political manoeuvring as the “meaningful vote” on Prime Minister May's deal approaches. Parliamentarians will also have the opportunity to vote on amendments and, should the deal be rejected, there will be just three days to present an alternative. These are extraordinary days in our national life. Harold Wilson is supposed to have commented before the General Election that would bring him success, “a week is a long time in politics”. Hopefully, things will be much clearer by the time you read this....

The first of our Lunchtime Organ Recitals begins on Thursday 7 February at the Abbey Church. From 1pm-1.45pm, and with soup and bread available at the start, this recital will be given by Ian Harrison, Organist at St Stephen's Church, Bournemouth. Do come and enjoy the restored Walker & Sons instrument; and please make the series widely known.

On Sunday 17 February we shall be holding the first Rector's Lunches of 2019. These have proved popular. Tickets are limited to 50, so don't miss out.

Jane Barnicoat-Chongwe's training as Licensed Lay Minister has progressed, and she is in the final stages of her training. She is now undertaking an extended placement at St John's, Marchwood, and will be absent until late April. Please remember Jane in your prayers as she engages in a setting very different from our own. 

At its meeting on 23 November 2018, the Parochial Church Council passed a resolution stating that St Katharine's Church is no longer viable or sustainable as a regular place of worship. This decision was subsequently communicated to the Archdeacon of Bournemouth, thus triggering the process that will eventually lead to redundancy/closure. This may not come as a surprise to some of you; nevertheless, it has been a hard decision, and we have taken it only after much prayer and heart-searching. We have had to face up to many challenges: the changing demographic, dwindling congregation, and the many thousands of pounds required to repair and maintain the building. brought us to this  time of decision. Nothing will happen immediately: there is a process, and the PCC will be greatly assisted in this by Archdeacon Peter and diocese staff. As we engage with the process, we shall of course be communicating further. I want to thank the PCC and St Katharine's congregation for their faithfulness, prayer and support, as we look to the future hopefully, and continue to discern God's purposes.

By the time you read this, the Bishop of Southampton, Dr Jonathan Frost, will have departed our diocese for the Deanery of York Minister. He has been a good friend to us, and his oversight of the Benefice included my appointment. A gifted communicator, Jonathan preached the Homily at Lord Edward Montagu's Funeral. I have appreciated the bishop's wisdom and pastoral support; we wish him and Christine every blessing as they re-locate to Yorkshire. He will be installed as Dean on 2 February, appropriately the feast of “The Presentation of Christ in the Temple.”

The Presentation recalls the day on which Jesus was brought to the Temple by his parents and is the climax of the forty days of the Christmas-Epiphany season. It is a bitter-sweet moment. Simeon and Anna lived in a time of crisis, wondering whether the Messiah would ever come to liberate Israel from Roman occupation. These two faithful and beautiful souls kept hope alive, coming each day to the Temple. Simeon recognises the Saviour not in a mighty warrior, but in this child presented to God by his parents. He is the fulfilment of their hopes and expectations, and it is a moment of great rejoicing. Simeon's words, of course, are familiar to us – recognisable as the 'Nunc Dimittis', that we hear at Evensong. Having been granted this moment, Simeon can die happy. Poignantly, he turns to Mary and blesses her, but also challenges her. A sword will pierce her soul as she is called to share the suffering her son will face as he redeems his people. Thus we are pointed both backwards to Christmas, and forwards through the solemnity of Lent, to the joy of Easter.  

The feast day is also known as “Candlemas” because of the candles that are traditionally blessed and lit and carried in procession, representing the light of Christ shining in the dark recesses of our world; the light that the darkness could not overwhelm. A reminder that in our baptism we too are called to shine as lights to the glory of God the Father.

I hope you enjoy reading this first edition of 2019.

With every blessing.

Fr John

December 2018

I am writing this having just attended a meeting of Beaulieu School Governors. Our business was interrupted briefly in order to move outside, where we joined the school community at the Village War Memorial for an Act of Remembrance. The children had made 100 cardboard poppies to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War, which the Parish Council displayed in the Twinning Garden. This was one of the many poignant acts of Remembrance, including that at the Abbey Church, where all the seats were taken, and many people had to stand. It was a delight to see so many young people on this occasion.

Now suddenly a number of Christmas trees have appeared in the village heralding the Victorian Christmas Market. This is always a popular community event, and for some people marks the beginning of Christmas.

This is a combined December-January News. As 2018 draws to a close, may I take this opportunity to thank Jaki and John for their scrupulous attention to each  edition. Thank you to those who, in submitting adverts, have provided valuable sponsorship; and to those who have contributed articles during the year. We are proud of the quality of this publication, which is only as good as the material that it showcases. Please continue to submit articles, support as you are able those whose adverts are contained herein, and let us know how you think we might continue to improve it and make the magazine attractive to a wide readership. 

Jane Noble and I have begun preparations for the Crib service. This is one of the best attended services at the Abbey Church. We look forward to welcoming families at 4pm on Christmas Eve; and we hope that the children will come along wearing appropriate  costumes - religious or seasonal!

During the lead up to Christmas, leaflets cascade through my letterbox. Among them I notice one to the parish from 'Crisis', and we're invited to open the enclosed card, “to see what £281.80 could do at Crisis at Christmas”. The poet, GK Chesterton,  in his poem, “The House at Christmas”, wrote about the homeless Mary and Joseph - “There fared a mother driven forth Out of an inn to roam; In the place where she was homeless All men are home. The crazy stable close at hand, With shaking timber and shifting sand...” His words provide food for thought as we remember how, according to Crisis' latest literature, in 21st Britain, 236,000 will be stuck in crowded and unsafe places, sleeping on people's sofas, living in cars or tents – or even out on the streets; many will be feeling lonely, desperate and in danger. Crisis endeavours to open Christmas Centres to welcome as many homeless guests as they can. (

The Abbey Choir, under Robin Phillips, are preparing for our service of Lessons and Carols. The service was conceived by the Bishop Edward Benson. Later it was modified for use in the chapel of King's College, Cambridge, the Bidding Prayer composed by its Dean, Eric Milner-White. The shape of the service is so familiar, and for many of us one of the great joys of Christmas is the act of worship recorded at King's. The Abbey Carol Service will be at 6pm on Sunday 23 December. Exbury's Congregational Carol Service will take place at 11.15am on the same day. East Boldre's service will be at 6.30pm on Christmas Eve. Please consult the diary for details of all the Benefice Christmas and New Year services.

NB Sunday 30 December is a 5th Sunday, and the united benefice service will be 10.00am Holy Communion at the Abbey Church.

In 2019 we intend to start a short series of Lunchtime Organ Recitals. They will be from 1pm-1.45pm during February and March. Soup and bread will be available. Proceeds from the recitals will be towards the upkeep of the Abbey Church. Further details to follow in the weekly news sheets and on the benefice website. The provisional dates are: Thursdays 7, 14 and 21 February. Wednesdays 13, 20, 27 March.

“Almighty God, you make us glad with the yearly remembrance of the birth of your Son Jesus Christ: grant that, as we joyfully receive him as our redeemer, we may with sure confidence behold him when he shall come to be our judge; who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen”.

I wish you all a very happy Christmas, and a healthy and fulfilling 2019..

November 2018

What a beautiful time of the year this is; as I write, the trees are dressed in their dazzling Autumnal colours: a kaleidoscope of rusty reds, oranges, golds, yellows, greens and browns. The season encourages a crisp walk, and the prospect of settling down in front of a cosy fire at the end of the day.

November is, of course, the month of Remembrance. Over the last four years we have marked the anniversaries of important Great War battles, among them the Somme Offensive, Passchendaele and Ypres. It has been a time of reflection, of looking back with sadness and regret at the immense loss of human life; a determination that the sacrifice of so many would not be in vain, and a resolve to face the future hopefully and in the pursuance of peace and justice. The present conflicts in Syria, Sudan, and Yemen remind us that there is still much to do.

This year the centenary of Armistice Day is Remembrance Sunday, so the marking of the Two Minutes Silence on 11th November converge. There will be a service at the Abbey Church at 10am, followed by the Act of Remembrance at the War Memorial. The list of the fallen will be read out, including those associated with Exbury. Our preacher will be the Revd Robin L Nash SSC, formerly vicar of the parishes of St Luke's and St Alban's, Bournemouth. We shall be joined by the 3rd New Forest East Dibden Scouts, and Hythe and Beaulieu District Guides.

As well as the usual 8.00am service at Buckler's Hard, at 3pm, there will be Evensong and Act of Remembrance at East Boldre. The preacher will be the Revd Lynda Mead.

I am pleased to announce the appointment of Mr Philip Baxter BA LGSM ACertCM MBIM as Director of Music at the Abbey Church. Philip is an accredited Royal School of Church Music course director, and holds the Archbishop's qualification in Church Music, in choir training. Formerly, he was Diocesan Deputy Director of Education for Salisbury, a voluntary organist for the cathedral, and Vicar Choral for the Precentor. A Visiting Scholar at Sarum College, Philip has lectured on the “Sarum Use”; and has almost completed his second publication, “Sarum Chant – Plainsong of the English Church”. There is the possibility that Philip will be in post before the end of the year.

We have been most fortunate that Robin Phillipshas been at the helm since Peter Hackston's departure, taking choir practices, as well as giving his distinctive strong bass lead from the choir stalls. We are most grateful to Robin for graciously filling the gap, to the choir, and Andrew our organist, for their faithfulness and commitment. Please pray for Philip as he prepares to take up this important post, and for all our musicians as we look with confidence to the future.

On Saturday 1st December we shall be going to Salisbury Cathedral for their Advent service - “Darkness to Light”. Thus begins our annual celebration of the good news of the coming of God's Kingdom in the person of Jesus his Son. Traditionally, the service begins in darkness, symbolising the dominion of darkness from which we have been delivered through Jesus, the Light of the World. But this is only the eve of Advent Sunday: Christmas Day is still far off. During the winter weeks of Advent we reflect on God's promise of salvation, watching and waiting for its fulfilment.

I hope you will able to join this benefice outing and experience what is a most moving act of worship. A coach will leave Beaulieu at 4.30pm. Further details may be obtained from John and Kathy Hughes on either of the following: 02380 207433, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Congratulations to Lucy and Michael Pelham who celebrated their wedding anniversary during October.

With my love and prayers.