July 2018

My Labrador, “Wesley”, is growing and has graduated from pink bag Puppy food to green bag Junior food. I'm weaning him off lamb and rice and on to chicken, which will now serve him until he is about 18 months old. Greek writers and philosophers often complained about their pupils' ability to learn; the notion of milk and solid food was often used figuratively, contrasting basic and advanced learning. Wesley's maturing digestion reminded me of a reference in St Paul's first letter to the Corinthians! Paul admonished the community at Corinth who were beset by jealousy and quarrelling, and who regarding themselves as intellectually superior. Disarmingly, he reminds them that however they might regard themselves, they are really still children in the faith. “You were not ready for solid food,” he tells them, “Even now you are still not ready”. (I Cor. 3.2) The writer to the Hebrews insists, “Mature people need solid food – and by 'mature', I mean people whose faculties have been trained, by experience, to distinquish good from evil.” (Heb. 5.14)

Sunday 8th July is Sea Sunday. As in previous years, we are holding a special outdoor service at 6.30pm at Buckler's Hard. The 18th century ship-building village on the banks of the Beaulieu River is the perfect setting with its rich maritime history. Our speaker will be the Revd Reg Sweet, Master, St Cross Hospital, Winchester. The Collection will support the work of “Missions to Seafarers”, an international charity whose personnel work in over 200 ports in 50 countries. The distinctive Flying Angel is their logo. Chaplains offer spiritual support and advice, and are trained to recognise and respond to signs of post-traumatic stress. Flying Angel centres provide refreshments, activities, and facilities. Notable family projects are located in Ukraine and in the Philippines. Since many ports are located some distance from towns and amenities, Missions to Seafarers also provide welcome transport, enabling seafarers to enjoy the local area. The Beaulieu Village Band will provide musical accompaniment, and the choir will lead the singing. I look forward to seeing you there.

The Beaulieu Village Fete is on Saturday 21st July. This is always a happy and enjoyable community occasion, providing something for everybody, but it demands good organisation, and much effort. Peter Melhuish co-ordinates the event, from which normally half the net proceeds are given to the Abbey Church. If you are able to help on one of the stalls, assist with the setting up or clearing up, please contact Peter, whose details are at the front of the magazine.

Our Annual Benefice BBQ is in the late afternoon of Sunday 22nd July, and will be in the grounds of Palace House, by kind permission of Lord Montagu, the large marquee remaining in place from the previous day's activities. Further details, including the menu, can be found in the weekly newsheet, and on our website. I am in the process of organising an alternative event for some of our families – date and details available via the same sources.

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have written an open letter to clergy drawing our attention to the real problem of human traffiking. The National Crime Agency estimates that tens of thousands of people are being exploited in the UK, forced to work long hours, and often under threat of violence. The Primates cite, in particular, hand car washes where abuse is said to be rife, and commend the Safe Car Wash campaign. An free app. is available to download, and takes you through a short survey about the working conditions of the hand wash, and suggests a form of action if necessary. As the leaflet endorsed by the Archbishops comments, “We cannot be indifferent to the suffering around us, in our own communities, and as the Church we cannot turn away from our neighbour who may be in need. Instead we must turn to them and say 'we see you'”. (www. THECLEWERINITIATIVE.ORG/SAFECARWASH)

On Saturday 14th July the church commemorates the Tractarian John Keble. An academic, he gave up his position at Oriel College, Oxford, to follow his clerical calling, becoming his father's curate in Gloucestershire. A gifted poet, during this period he produced “The Christian Year”- poems for all the Sundays, and some feast days, of the Liturgical Year. Many of these become hymns, among them, “Blessed are the pure in heart”, and “New every mornng is the love”. Keble became Professor of Poetry at Oxford in 1831. He was Vicar of Hursley near Winchester and Oxford's Keble College was founded in his memory.

A reminder that next month, 12th August, there will be no Evensong in the Abbey Church, but instead, at 6.30pm, “Songs of Praise”. I am delighted that the popular and enthusiastic Hugh Ashley, who compered last year's outside event, will be leading it. Do put the date in your diary.

With my love and prayers,

Fr John

May 2018

I write having just returned from walking "Wesley" on the Estate cricket ground. On this particular occasion, and almost home, he caught sight of "Bailey" in a neighbour's garden and, like an exocet missle, launched himself through the brambles, over a stream, finally frustrated by a fence, preventing him from pairing up with his canine mate. Impelled, and oblivious to my pleading, Wesley was on a mission – determined to extend his adventure and do what dogs do. Bailey's owner appeared, laughing, having witnessed the performance from the window. We left the garden, waved off by my empathetic neighbour, Wesley straining at the leash; such was his energy and drive to do what he had to do....

All three Annual Meetings in the benefice have taken place: Peter Melhuish, Sally Brearley, Brian Hernaman, David Hughes, Dr Graham Stirling and Marigold Jordan were elected churchwardens. We are grateful to them for offering their time and energy, and also to those serving on the three PCCs for the next year. Of particular concern is the sustainability and viability of St Katharine's, Exbury. The co-opted PCC Secretary writes further in this edition about the two community meetings held in the church, and whilst ideas were shared, and a possible project introduced, given the very modest congregation numbers and the changed demographic of the village, the future is very uncertain. We continue to pray about this, and for the PCC who must make some difficult decisions; we need to recognise in all these deliberation that God may indeed be asking us to engage with different opportunities and priorities.

On Sunday 20th May we celebrate the feast of Pentecost - the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Often colourful balloons and a cake feature, marking what Christians regard as the birthday of the Church. The disciples were a disparate group whom we have come to know quite well through the Gospel stories. Following Jesus' death, we see them meeting behind locked doors, perhaps fearful of repercussions. John's narrative tells us that the risen Lord appears to them "on the first day of the week"; reminiscent of that first day of the week in Genesis, where God the Creator begins to bring life out of chaos. In John’s Gospel, God the Redeemer comes to bring new life out of the chaos of grief and loss. Having shown the disciples his wounds, Jesus then breathes on them. In Genesis God breathes life into the creature he has made out of earth. In John’s Gospel, God's new life and hope are breathed into the fearful and uncertain disciples. The 'Acts of the Apostles', attempts to articulate the extradordinary Pentecost event: it's like a rushing mighty wind, and attendant tongues of fire. However it happened, from Pentecost onwards these people left their locked rooms and went out, preaching and teaching and embracing the danger they had previously feared. We are commissioned to go out and share what we have been given through them and after them; to call others into God’s new creation, free from fear, and empowered by the spirit.

To return to "Wesley" - he's impelled by testosterone at present – but we are fuelled by the power of God's spirit: in the spirit of Christ we are called to go and make disciples, to love others as he has loved us, to go to those places where we might not otherwise go, sharing his love and life, encouraging a spirit of oneness, hospitality and communion.

As I type Prime Minister Teresa May has called a special meeting of the Cabinet to discuss the parlous situation in Syria, and the possibility of backing military action by the US and its allies, following the suspected chemical attack in Eastern Gouta. We have become used to aweful news from the region, but we have been horrified by recent pictures of children apparently suffering the effects of chemical agents, though the Syrian leadership has dismissed it as false information. There are many layers to the narrative of the Middle East; these are unpredictable times, and there is the fear of excalation. We must pray for our Prime Minister and political leaders as they shoulder weighty responsibililtes and make difficult decisions, including the possibility of force; may they may be given the wisdom and insight to act for the common good. In the face of arguments, confusion, and apparently locked doors, may God's spirit direct us in the ways of truth and peace and trust.

We are looking forward to our benefice outing to Wells next month which John and Kathy Hughes have organised - they are well known for their thoroughness and ability to make a good day out. After stopping off at Wilton we shall make our way to the cathedral city on the edge of the Mendip Hills. Our visit culminates with Choral Evensong. It would be a perfect opportunity to invite a neighbour or friend along. We look forward to your company.

With my love and prayers - and licks from a spirited canine!

April 2018

My labrador, “Wesley”, has thoroughly enjoyed eavesdropping on the recent Rectory Lent group, and has learned to be discreet sitting in earshot of Benefice meetings, as well as providing a non-critical audience for his master's sermons. As I write this, he is fast asleep under my feet, snoring contentedly.

You may be reading this edition when it comes out on Palm Sunday, the day we recall Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Our donkey-led procession through Beaulieu village with the village band is both a local re-enactment of it – the Abbey Church becomes our Jerusalem - and a witness to our community of the significance of the “holy week” that is unfolding.

Flavia Webb and the staff of St Paul’s Pre-School recently underwent their first OFSTED inspection since the change of ownership. Lasting about six hours, the inspection included: the interaction between staff and children, communication between the staff and parents, how child development is supported, feedback from the parents, and the setting itself. The fantastic news is that they have been rated GOOD, with every indication that an 'outstanding' grade is within their grasp. This is a significant milestone for Flavia and her devoted team, and official recognition of their hard work and commitment to the children in their care. Congratulations to them. In voicing her delight at the result, Flavia kindly remarked that this achievement has been helped by the support and goodwill of both St Paul's Church and the community.

At a recent diocesan panel, the Bishop of Winchester's selectors affirmed our Reader-in-training Jane Barnicoat-Chongwe's gifts and progress. We have seen her commitment to ministry; I have enjoyed having her as a colleague, and we look forward to seeing her take on further responsibilities as befits her role. She will be licensed next year. Please continue to pray for Jane and husband Reuben.

We are fortunate to have a faithful team of Servers at the Abbey Church, who function most Sundays. I am keen to recruit a further team, which will take the pressure off those already doing it, and even allow for the occasional Sunday off! This is a really worthwhile and important opportunity to serve God and play a part in the running of the Sunday Holy Communion. It was as a member of a young unrobed team that I came to experience the liturgy more intimately, enabling me to watch close-up how clergy lead worship. If you would like to consider serving at the altar, do let me know, and we can arrange some little rehearsals.

I am very conscious of those who have worshipped in our churches before us, and in the recent months we have lost several more dear souls. I am wanting to put together a benefice “Year's Mind”, by which I mean a diary containing the names of departed loved ones, so that they can be remembered during our services. For convenience sake I will start with those who have died during my time here,  whose names, and dates of death, I know. Each week a list will be read out at services. If you wish to include the name of a loved one please do not feel constrained by recent years; by all means pass the name to Elizabeth in the parish office. For consistency,  please only include name and date of death, and she will enter it in the diary for you.

I want to thank the Estate team for spending two days at the Abbey Church replacing light bulbs, re-hanging the bell rope, and assisting with several other important manual tasks. The men gave so generously of their time and nothing was too much trouble for them – I am most grateful to them. The LEDs, being more efficient and cheaper to run, happily means a reduction in the need to import scaffolding...

The 1st day of April is Easter Sunday. It is also, of course, “All Fools Day”, the day for practical jokes, hoaxes and false news. It was St Paul who said in his letter to the Corinthians, “we are fools because of the Messiah, but you are wise in the Messiah”. (1 Cor 4.10). It appeared to all the world that the powers of darkness had had the last laugh, that God made flesh had been defeated on a jibbet on Calvary's hill. But the events of that first Easter morn would prove otherwise. As the women who had followed Jesus during his life go to pay their last respects to his body, they are met by an angel and an empty tomb. As Peter and the beloved disciple run to the empty tomb to see for themselves, so they come to believe Mary Magdalene's words.

Thus the Church embarks on the joyful Easter season with its wonderful Easter hymns resounding with alleluias; appropriately the altar frontals and vestments changed to gold for Easter Day - white for the Easter season. The Church observes 40 days of Easter, during which Sundays we shall hear of the risen Christ's appearance to the disciples - of Thomas' initial refusal to believe; of the 'stranger' joining those  dispirited travellers on the Emmaus Road and breaking bread with them; we shall read John's account referring to Jesus as the ultimate Good Shepherd and offering his very self for the safety and salvation of his flock; and be encouraged by Jesus' words that when we are in communion with Christ and each other, we can achieve anything in His name.

With my love and prayers. 

March 2018

The 4th Sunday in Lent, Sunday 11th March is Mothering Sunday. I am delighted that a member of staff from Beaulieu School will be our speaker at the 9.30am Abbey service. This year it will be a Holy Communion service, and suitable for families. There will be the usual 8.00am service at Buckler's Hard. Happily, and appropriately, the 11.15am service at St Katharine's Exbury on that day includes Holy Baptism, so very much a family service as well.

The last week of March is one of the most important and influential weeks in the Church’s calendar. Sunday 25th March is Palm Sunday and the beginning of Holy Week. We shall begin at 9.30am outside Beaulieu Village School, where palm crosses will be distributed and blessed, and we hear the Gospel recalling our Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Then we shall embark on a donkey-led procession through the village to the Abbey Church. Beaulieu Band will lead our singing. At the 10.30am benefice Holy Communion we resume our procession, waving our palms and singing "All glory, laud and honour to thee Redeemer, King". This service includes a dramatic reading of the Passion Gospel.

I always look forward to the walk whatever the weather! It is all the more poignant for its disorganised nature - capturing the spontaneity of our Lord’s entry into the city. Our procession is an opportunity to witness to the community, and is a powerful reminder to all of us of the significance of the week that is unfolding.

Thus Holy Week begins, which includes the sacred three days - the "Triduum" – Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. On Maundy Thursday, the clergy and Licensed Readers of our diocese make their way to the cathedral, the "Mother" church, where they renew their ordination and ministerial vows. The Oils are blessed by the bishop, and brought back to the churches, to be used for anointing at Baptism and Confirmation, and to anoint the sick.

Maundy Thursday evening begins with all the joy of a usual sung Holy Communion, and ends with the altars stripped, the church bare; the reserved communion hosts reposing in a specially prepared garden in church – our Garden of Gethesmane, and a focus for silent prayer. We shall keep the Watch (Vigil) from 8-9pm, mindful of our Lord’s invitation to his disciples, "could you not watch with me one hour?"

On Good Friday there will be a Walk of Witness from St Paul's, East Boldre, to Hatchet Pond. In the afternoon, from 2-3pm, there will be a devotion at St Katharine's, Exbury. The Revd Lynda Mead will be leading "Tenebrae" (Latin "darkness"), a service of meditation on the "shadows" of Good Friday, and consisting of Bible Reading, singing and reflection. A feature of the service is the gradual extinguishing of candles and other lights in the church until only a single candle, a symbol of our Lord, remains.

In the evening, as part of the Music at Beaulieu programme, "Sarum Consort"will be treating us to 'Music for Holy Week'. The singers, who are drawn from various cathedral choirs, will sing Lenten music from the 11th - 20th century; their programme "built round Tallis's impassioned settings of 'Lamentations of Jeremiah'".

So there is much to look forward to and participate in as we continue to make our spiritual journey to Easter.

With the love and prayers of your Rector.