December 2019

At the end of November I began Jury service, becoming one of about 200,000 people who fulfil this public duty. Jurors are randomly selected from the electoral register, ensuring that those called for service reflect the community from which they are drawn. 

Sunday 1st December is Advent Sunday, the start of the season of expectation and preparation as we prepare to greet Christ in his incarnation. As well as the usual morning services, there will be a benefice Advent Carol service at 4pm. This is not to be confused with the Christmas Carol Service! During Advent, church decorations are sparse, flower arrangers taking a much deserved rest until Christmas Eve, when their creative skills are once again given full rein, with the addition of holly, ivy and tinsel. The altar frontal and vestments are changed to purple, to reflect the season's penitential nature. Services focus on the Advent Wreath, as we seek to become one with those who waited in darkness for the revealing of God's light. Each Sunday of Advent has its candle, reminding us of those who prepared for the coming of Christ – the Patriarchs, the Prophets, John the Baptist, Mary. The final candle, a white one, is lit at Midnight Mass, symbolising Christ the Light of the World. You will find details of this and all Advent and Christmas services in this edition, and on the Sunday news letters. 

During Advent, and as a preparation for Christmas, we will be exploring worship in different ways. The Revd Lynda Mead will be leading three sessions at the Rectory. Each one is complete in itself, and you are welcome to join us for any or all of them. Simply turn up on the day at 2pmSession 1 comprises a Prayer Walk – using the rooms of the Rectory, so no sou'wester or Wellingtons necessary. Session 2 will focus on the Advent Journey, and the final session will include a silent Holy Communion. 

There are many traditions and customs associated with Advent and Christmas. One of my favourites is 'Las Posadas', which began in Mexico in the sixteenth century, and is now observed in many parts of the world. 'Posada', which means inn or shelter, celebrates the arrival of the expectant May with her husband Joseph to Bethlehem. The posada guests re-enact the couple's inability initially to find accommodation. Splitting into two groups - one group remaining outside, anxious for shelter; the other remaining inside like the innkeepers. A song is sung back and forth until the guests are finally granted entrance and treated to traditional foods and drinks. As well as being fun, and the opportunity to share hospitality, the drama recalls Mary's resilience, and her husband's faithful response to the Angel Gabriel. Posada can prompt us to consider how we might respond to, and help, those in our own day who find themselves vulnerable and in need. 

Due to the constraints and pressures of preparing and printing, this is a combined edition. As 2019 draws to a close, I want to thank Jaki and John at TLC Online for their care in preparing and printing our magazine. Thank you to Margaret and Elizabeth in the benefice office, those who have taken out advertisements and provided sponsorship, those who have delivered the publication. An edition is only as good as its contibutors make it, and I am most appreciative of those who have supplied us with news and articles. And, not least, thank you for reading it...

The Carol Service at St Katharine's on Sunday 22nd December will be Joan Willrich's last service as organist. Shortly afterwards she celebrates her 90 birthday! The daughter of a priest, Joan has spent half her life at St Katharine's Church, not only seated at the organ console, but serving on the PCC, acting as sacristan, and arranging flowers - and more. I shall miss hearing her rendition of the Intermezzo from Mascagni's 'Cavalleria Rusticana' during the Sunday service, which has become something of a signature tune. We offer our thanks and good wishes to Joan, and to her husband John, who has been a constant encouragement in the background. I am pleased to report that Philip Baxter, Director of Music at the Abbey Church, has kindly offered to play for the services in the New Year. 

As you plan your seasonal celebrations, I invite you to worship with us. 

With my love and prayers, and every blessing for Christmas and 2020.

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