December 2017



This is a combined edition. Our Benefice News can only be as good as those who contribute to it. Thank you to those who have provided articles throughout the year - including clergy, parishioners, local reporters, authors, researchers and photographers. Thank you to our advertisers and sponsors, and importantly, thank you to you, our readers. Our thanks to Jaki and John who each month have received our copy and produced excellent editions.

As I write, charity literature continues to drop through the letterbox encouraging my support this Christmas; which is a particularly difficult time for those who find themselves homeless. Among the leaflets – actually one of the few that didn't end up contributing to “Wesley”'s teething routine - was one from “Crisis at Christmas”. It claims that some 160,000 households across Britain are experiencing the worst forms of homelessness. A recent article in the “Lymington Times” (10 November), draws on the charity Shelter's figures, reporting that the New Forest is among the top 50 areas of the UK with the highest rates of homeless people. “Crisis at Christmas Charity” is running a “Table” scheme; each 'place' providing company, three nutritious meals, a bed for the night if necessary, a health check, advice on housing and employment, and access to year-round training and support. Remarkably, in 2016, the charity enabled 37,552 meals to be served, and provided 797 health checks. All this and more for the modest sum of £26.80.

As you know the Waterside Winter Night Shelter is due to open on 1st December. Whilst we shall not be providing a venue, nevertheless several of you have kindly volunteered to help with this project. Our PCC's agree the charities we support for the year. I know that many of us have our own 'pet' charities that are close to our hearts. Whatever the demands and pleas, we cannot do everything. Thank you for supporting our church charities as generously as you have this last year.

December contains the four Sundays of the season of Advent. 3rd December is Advent Sunday. On the one hand, we are anticipating the joy and pleasures of Christmas: the renewing of friendships, the parties and the presents. On the other hand, the Church tells us that Advent is a season of restraint and penitence: reflected in the absence of flowers, the solemn purple altar hangings and vestments. The Gloria is not sung until its joyful explosion at the Midnight Mass of Christmas. Christians have always rejoiced at the birth of Jesus from the earliest days, but have also always had in mind the Second Coming of Jesus - ‘in glorious majesty to judge the living and the dead”, as the Collect puts it. Thus Advent has encouraged the faithful to reflect on the themes of Death, Judgement, Heaven and Hell, the so-called “Four Last Things.”

You will find in this edition details of our benefice Christmas services. This year Christmas Eve falls on a Sunday. There will be no 9.30am service in the Abbey Church because there will be the benefice Midnight Mass. There will, however, be a 8am Holy Communion at Buckler's Hard, and the 11.15am Carol Service at Exbury. The benefice Crib Service will take place at 4pm.

On Christmas Day there will be an 8am service at Buckler's Hard, a shortened Holy Communion with carols at the Abbey Church, and Holy Communion at 11.15am at East Boldre.

This edition straddles both 2017 and 2018. I find myself looking forward to a new year wondering what it will bring, both excited and not a little anxious. We have no way of knowing what lies ahead. Certainly 2017 has been momentous, including the Referendum and the decision to exit Europe; all this will need to be worked out further in the coming year. I hope it will be a happy and healthy one for my family. I find myself recalling ML Haskins' words, spoken by George VI in his 1939 Christmas broadcast, “And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: 'Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.' And he replied: 'Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.'”

The most important event of January 2018 is our Confirmation Service at the Abbey Church on Sunday 14th January. It will be the only morning service of the day. Please note the later start - 10am - and make every effort to come and support those who are taking this next and important step on their spiritual pilgrimage. There will be Evensong at 4.30pm.

I look forward to seeing you at one of our services during the Christmas period.

With every blessing for Christmas and the New Year.