June 2019

“How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God:

it is the doorway to heaven”. (Gen. 28.17)

The month of June is very significant for us. On 17th June 1246, some 42 years after its construction was begun, Beaulieu Abbey was dedicated. The Dedication 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 bear testament to what was once one of the wonders of Christendom. Belinda, Lady Montagu's fabulous 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 were able to 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 and joy to meet Sunday by Sunday in the monk's former Refectory, now the parish Church of Beaulieu. There has, in the history of the Church, always been a deep relationship between buildings and those who use them. Buildings can express our deepest feelings of profound hope or faith. There has always been sacred space where God has spoken; and holy ground where the appropriate response is simply to worship; as T.S. Eliot reminds us in his poem 'Four Quartets', “where prayer has been valid”.

For the prophet Ezekiel the Temple in Jerusalem was very important. It was the home of the Shekina, the glory of God, and the prophet believed the future hope of Israel was bound up with the future rebuilding of the Temple. Ezekiel expresses his vision of hope for the future in terms of the river of life flowing out from the Temple, bringing new life to the entire world. St Paul uses the image of a building in a more specifically spiritual way. He speaks not of a physical building, but describes the people of God as the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. He says that we are building and each one of us is a living stone. As such, we give one another support by living beside one another and being there for one another. We provide a roof overhead and a shelter from the cold. We give warmth to one another and welcome.

Sometimes we can spend too much time thinking about buildings and they can become a barrier to a real and personal faith. But sometimes they can be the vehicle that enables us to rise above the challenges and difficulties of our own particular existence and express our faith externally. We give thanks for the Cistercian monks, and those many unrecorded worshippers whose faith and prayer and love has gone to hallow our sacred place.

On Thursday 6th June, there will be a service at St Katharine's, Exbury, to mark the 75th Anniversary of the 'D Day' Landings. Following the 11.00am service, to which all are invited, there will be a wreath laying at the Anchor Memorial at Exbury Gardens.

Sunday 9th June is the feast of Pentecost or Whit Sunday, when we commemorate the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Church – the coming of the Spirit of God upon the apostles, and upon the whole Christian people. Following the morning services, we shall be holding another Rector's Lunch. Numbers are limited, and tickets and further details may be obtained from the Benefice Office.

On Tuesday 25th June we shall enjoy a benefice outing to St Cross Hospital, Winchester. The author Simon Jenkins described the church as “a cathedral in miniature”. The church is the only part of the original 12th century hospital to survive. Our visit will include a guided tour, tea, and Evensong.

We offer our congratulations to the Revd Debbie Sellin as she prepares for her consecration as Bishop of Southampton. Ordained twelve years ago after working as a Family and Children's Worker, and as a Manager in the NHS, she is currently Vicar and Area Dean in the diocese of Guildford. Bishop Debbie will begin her episcopal ministry in July.

With my love and prayers.

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. (www.crisis.org.uk/help

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..