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