From the Rectory May 2021

As you know we shall be producing three editions of the Benefice News, the first of which appears later in the year. A more substantial Bulletin will now appear on the last Sunday of each month, offering news and the next month's diary. I am grateful to Sally and Elizabeth for producing this first edition.

As I write, a pair of swans are preparing for parenthood on the pond next to the Rectory. Their nest has taken shape over the weeks, the pen busily collecting feathers and twigs; she now perches expectantly... Just over the fence from them buds are bursting forth, the garden heralding new life and potential. Following further easing of the lockdown and greater opportunities for reunions, shopping and outdoor hospitality, we can feel optimistic, though we need to heed the warnings to be cautious.

Philip Baxter officially resigned as Director of Music in March 2020, and during the last year it has proved impossible to sustain a choir. Church and community choirs have been unable to sing together. In the wake of these imposed restrictions, it seemed sensible to disband our choir and to look forward to new leadership. I know you would want to join me in thanking the choir for their commitment and service. Having placed the advert for a Director of Music, I am pleased to say that I have already received some response.

The Easter season lasts some fifty days - forty days will lead us to Ascension Day - and culminates, on the fiftieth day, in the feast of Pentecost. Throughout the Easter season the Paschal Candle continues to occupy a prominent place in church, symbolising Christ's risen presence with us. On the Sundays of Easter, we discover in our readings from 'Acts of the Apostles' how the early Christians lived in the power of the resurrection, how the fledgling church began to find its feet; and we learn what faith in the resurrected Christ can do.

We look forward, with the cob and pen, to what gifts the future will bring us...

With my love and prayers.

Fr John.

Address for Harvest Thanksgiving Sunday 4th October 2020

Address given by Robin Phillips for Harvest Thanksgiving Service, 4th October 2020.

Good Morning and thank you Father John for inviting me to share some thoughts about Harvest.

I must admit I have a soft spot for Harvest Festival. 

Partly, it’s nostalgia: it takes me back to my childhood, when we Sunday School children would process up the aisle to present baskets of fruit, vegetables and flowers which, later, would be distributed to people and organisations in the local community, or auctioned off to raise funds at the harvest supper and sale which always took place the following evening. 

I can still picture the scene: long trestle tables covered in pristine white cloths, stretched the width of the church; sheaves of corn stood in front; rich displays of colourful dahlias and chrysanthemums; all manner of vegetables from garden and allotment; polished apples between all the organ pipes and the specially-made harvest loaf at the centre.

There were a few other things in the display as well – the less colourful, but still essential fruits of the earth, such as a lump of coal; a glass of water; and a plate of soil and there was the ground breaking year when someone added a can of oil.

Then there were the rousing ‘Harvest’ hymns with glorious uplifting tunes and words, heralding from Victorian times. when the concept of harvest Festival was instigated by a Cornish Vicar the Rev David Hawker.

Now he was an interesting person -one of life’s true eccentrics. Not for him the monochrome clerical attire – he wandered his parish wearing a long purple cloak; a bright blue fisherman’s jersey and red trousers stuffed into huge waterproof boots. In bad weather he added a bright yellow poncho made from horsehair. He had a penchant for wide brimmed hats or a more flamboyant pink fez.
He also kept a menagerie of animals including nine cats who all attended church on Sunday morning except the one he publicly excommunicated for catching a mouse on the Sabbath. His other pets included a ‘highly intelligent’ pig called Gyp and a stag called Robin which Hawker insisted was tame even though it was in the habit of attacking visitors to the vicarage and pinning them to the ground.

Perhaps you have similar memories which resonate with our collective past, when people appeared to live in closer harmony with the natural cycle of the seasons and daily life was reliant upon sun and rain, light and darkness.  In the old Log books at William Gilpin School there were many references to poor attendance due to parents needing the children to help with the harvest

In the 21st century, though, you might logically question why we sing (when we are allowed to) about ploughing fields and scattering seeds at all, when most of us have no real connections to the agricultural world - harvest is not the life-and-death issue it once was – at least not for us in our green and pleasant land. 

Not so of course in some countries. We are all aware of the problems some African countries have had with a total lack of rain. Here the seed hasn’t even managed to germinate, let alone get anywhere near ripening. In countries such as these, there is little chance of a shortfall being made up for by imported produce

But for us, even if the weather were to ruin things and the British harvest were to fail completely, the shops would no doubt still be full of produce brought in from all around the world.  It’s just that things would cost us more, and our carbon footprint would be even bigger than it is now.

There are positive aspects to this change. Globalisation has opened up new markets for smaller countries to export the crops that they can grow and we can’t. But it does mean that the whole reason of an autumn Harvest Festival really doesn’t mean as much as perhaps it did.

Not so many years ago everything had its season, and one could look forward with eager anticipation to the first strawberries of summer, or the arrival of the cauliflower, cucumber or tomatoes. As you walk round a supermarket today you can all too easily assume that ‘harvest’ is now a year-long, rather than a seasonal event 

The traditional harvest can, therefore, seem little more than a distant, quaint memory.   We are now the hunter-gatherers of the supermarket – just as tenacious as our ancestors, but more attuned to shopping hours than to light and darkness, or sun and rain. 

So if there is no really defined time in late September when we can breathe a long sigh and say that the harvest is safely gathered in, why do we still continue to have Autumn Harvest Festivals?

It serves as a reminder of, and allows us to focus on, our dependence upon the earth and its produce, and those who labour to bring it to our shops and homes. We not only come to give thanks for flowers, fruit and vegetables, but for all life’s blessings. 

Celebrating our ‘first fruits’ reminds us about gratitude and celebration for things we take for granted and about generosity for those in need.

Also, this Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi reminds us that our gratitude cannot ignore the animals, birds, fish and all aspects of the environment which are such a vital part of the intricate and interdependent network of life on planet earth.

I’m sure in schools all over the country several willing volunteers have struggled to reorder the letters of the word harvest into key words such as Share and Starve. In the past months we have witnessed the worst of human selfishness – panic buying – must have – can’t manage without – but also the best of human generosity in keeping the food banks supplied which have never been more important for so many, even on our own comfortable affluent doorstep.

Also in the past months saying a public thankyou suddenly became new and special instead of an everyday occurrence As the mediaeval mystic, Meister Eckhart, once said, ‘If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is ‘thank you’, it will be enough’.  It’s the shortest and simplest prayer imaginable, but one we perhaps too often forget. 

So an autumn Harvest Festival, or perhaps more appropriately Harvest Thanksgiving still has a great significance. It acts like a full stop in our week in week out routines and reminds us that, to quote one of the hymns we sang in school, we mustn’t forget, no we mustn’t forget, to say a great big thankyou we mustn’t forget.

Which brings me to my tin of soup

This tin of soup contains everything that we need to celebrate and thank God for not only this morning but every morning

It is a nutritious meal, something in itself we should give thanks for.

It’s full of vegetables, carrots, onions, and peas, tomatoes and pasta, herbs and flour.
Farmers have planted the seeds and harvested the crops.
Chefs have mixed all the ingredients and using God’s gift of water it has all been cooked to perfection to become soup.

But the soup is not the only harvest in this tin.

The tin itself is a celebration of the earth and the minerals and ores that it gives us.
It reminds us to give thanks for industry and all the men and women who work in industry.

Even the label is a cause for celebration

The paper label reminds us that we should thank God for the beauty and usefulness of trees and the bright colours can remind us just how beautiful is the world around us

Even the list of ingredients and cooking instructions on the back can remind us to thank God for the gift of language and the wonder of modern communications.

The barcode can remind us to thank God for the gift of technology and science in our world and the creativity of the human brain.

And finally when we sit down to enjoy the soup itself… We can give thanks to God not only for all our senses. But we can thank him for the gift of life itself.
All this in one small can of soup that contains everything it says on the label …. And a whole lot more!

Is a truly wonderful celebration of our Harvest and serves to remind us that giving thanks should be more than a once-a-year celebration--giving thanks to God sharing and caring is never out of season.
In the words of the Book of Common Prayer, let us thank God today and every day for the goodness and loving kindness shown towards us, and bless God for our creation, preservation and all the benefits of this life. 

Sermon for Sunday 12th July 2020

Sermon for Sunday 12th July 2020 by Revd Lynda Mead.

A few weeks ago we had a great Quiz on Zoom, so I thought I would try a sort of New Testament Quiz for you all today to start these few words, - actually there are only two questions and no prizes so it isn't really much of a Quiz, and so no pen or paper needed.
Q. 1) What do these names have in common - Matthew; Mark; Luke; John: Paul; Peter;
James, Jude ? 2 points
Answer They are all writers whose work can be found in the New Testament.

Q.2 Who physically called them to follow Him ? {tricky one this}
Answer If you answered 'Jesus' you can have one point, but if you remembered that there is no evidence to prove that either Luke or Paul ever actually met Jesus, then you can have 2 points.

End of Quiz. We are now in the season Of Trinity when we follow a Gospel - It's Matthew, and some of Paul's Letters - Romans now others to come, continually and with virtually no other Gospel or Letters intervening. We are steadily working our way through Matthew's Gospel, and Paul's letter to the Church at Rome (the Epistle) the Old Testament moves about somewhat, mostly the Prophets. That we have a certain continuity is partly that there are no great Festivals or Feasts (except for Patronals really), until we come to the Autumn where of course we here will have lots of Feasts and festivals - and then it will be Advent and Christmas. But Trinity means that we get a chance to really hear and listen to the words coming down from the time of Jesus and the early days of the Church, uninterrupted as it were.

We are not moving about so much, in our hearing the Scriptures in our main service, we are following on, which can be a very good thing for us all. This does imply that you hear/read the Lectionary readings week by week (if not day by day) and sometimes that is not the case for any of us.

We have two or three readings - from the Old Testament telling us the story of God's [2]
covenant with His people, the children of Israel and how it all went wrong, and then the New Testament, Gospel and Epistle, and it is on these latter two I wish to speak a little, not because there is anything amiss with the Old Testament Readings, but because the other two are more directly concerned with Jesus - and what we - you and I, know of Him. They tell His story, what He did, and what He left for us to know.

Week by week in Church we listen to or read the words of men (sorry, no words of women except in the Old Testament) about Jesus, about His life with us, about His death and resurrection. We hear about the men of the early Church (still not very many women) and how they went out into the world and told everyone of the Good News of Jesus Christ, how they spread the Gospel, regardless of their own safety or indeed of their lives. They were persecuted, imprisoned, punished for this, most of them died preaching Christ Crucified, died holding out salvation and eternal life to all who would listen. The story of the beginning of the Church.

We hear their words, we listen because we wish to know more of Jesus, to learn more
of Jesus, learn more of God's great mercy and forgiveness for all who would repent, we wish to go on in faith, in understanding. It is truly a living part of our following Jesus, to read and to hear the Holy Scriptures, and that leads us to place great value on these words, by listening/reading with thought and reason. For that is why God gave us these attributes, so that we might use them in our growing relationship with Him. I hope that we go home and think on these words - Old Testament, Gospel, Epistle, We want to grow in faith and these words help us and guide us, they also test us at times.

Reason and thought have led us to understand that we have, at times, to interpret as well as read and listen, for we are aware that all the books in the New Testament were written, if not quite with an 'agenda', certainly with a purpose and an 'audience' in mind, and they were written in a time and culture which is not ours.
But we can learn to understand, that time even as we realise that it is not our time [3]
and culture. As the writer J. Hartley said, "The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there." At the moment, as I said, we are hearing Matthew and Paul, we are hearing the stories about Jesus - His parables, His teachings, His miracles, His healings, one after another from the former outcast tax gatherer Matthew. And Paul, the Pharisee and former hard line persecutor of Christians instructing and advising, preaching and guiding the small Christian presence in far off Rome.

We are learning, we are taking on board what is both said plainly and what lies behind their words; always keeping in mind my favourite word 'context', and that there are the others involved in this telling of Jesus. Former fishermen, former prostitutes, ill-educated lower class men and women, foreigners, all of whom are telling us of Jesus. None of the 'elite', the educated and learned figures much here, not at the time of Jesus. Oh, and not to forget, there are cowards, liars, defectors and generally unimpressive and unimportant people witnessing to Jesus, and speaking/preaching to others. These are the people who tell us of Jesus, mostly because they were either with Him or heard of or saw Him.

We listen to Mark, who ran away a lot, most probably in Gethsemane and certainly when journeying with Paul; (Spoiler, he did come back) we listen to Luke was a Gentile, not even a Jew and certainly never met or knew Jesus himself, just heard of Him from others and witnessed the change in people; we listen to John who quite frankly, is not a completely reliable commentator as he is not above altering times and places to fit his account of Jesus the God become Man, the foretold Messiah, we listen to Peter who after all was just a fisherman, probably illiterate, and at times seemed to be of limited acuity and certainly not very reliable in times of danger. And to Jude about whom no-one knows very much at all, and James whose previous claim to fame was that, with his brother, was a hot-headed speak-before-you think man whose main concern was angling for prestige in heaven.
But we do read these men and listen to them all, study them and learn from them.
More, we take their words as 'gospel' - pun intended. We take the words of these [4]
people, and to a certain extent, we have faith in them as a part of the foundation for our own faith in Jesus Christ - why we are Christians.

That isn't all there is to it, being a Christian, listening to the words of others - but what a bunch we have just established they are, because as they met Jesus, so too have we met Jesus in our lives, we believe because we know Him personally. Jesus is in our lives, is one with our own life. We truly have a personal - sometimes uneven, sometimes wobbly but always loving relationship with God whom we have come to know in the Lord Jesus. You may have noticed that I do keep rather harping on about these men whose words we lay much store by, about who they had been, how they were 'former '- well undistinguished reprobates might be a cover-all word for most of them.

By the way, that's the way it was then, there is no gender issue here. Does it matter that Matthew was a quisling, that Mark was a veritable coward, that John played around with the facts and Luke wasn't even there ? That Paul was an appalling human being, James a braggart and still we do not know much about Jude. The important word here is, of course - WAS. It is an important word for all of us, as much for all men and women - 'WAS' or before the encounter with Jesus, you might prefer. Whatever we have been, when we meet Jesus, it all changes, when we let Jesus into our lives and give Him the rule and kingship of our lives, everything changes. Whatever we were - sinner, reprobate, coward or liar, morally suspect, in Jesus we find forgiveness and mercy, and we find and live a new life.

We find a new direction, a new sense of worth, a sureness and peace and our place, and it does not matter what the materialistic world thinks of us, for we are with Jesus.
St Paul, "There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because .........(we) are set free from the law of sin and death" (Rom. 8) I think that we all know only too well, that our world does not always seem to be able to let go of what a man or woman was or did., Very often others cannot seem to look at the 'now' of a man or woman, how often are [5]
the words spoken in judgement - 'once a thief/killer/liar/ always a thief/killer/liar'. a conclusion that offers no hope of change, of redemption, of forgiveness and reconciliation. But Jesus does, Jesus always holds out to any and all, the promise of mercy and understanding for past mistakes and failures. A true repentance and acceptance of forgiveness, means a new life in Jesus Christ. The prophet Isaiah (The Lord says) "Remember not the former things, .... Behold I make all things new." (Is. 43)

And just as there was the incredible change in the life of these men, we too can know
such change in our lives. And it is because we can see who they were and who, in Jesus, they became, we can read in confidence, and trust their words. We do hear the word of God in their words, through their examples of faith and trust, and in their resolution to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Gospel of Love in obedience to His command.
Meeting Jesus changed their lives, it will change ours also. Amen

Sermon for Sunday 21st June 2020

Sermon by Revd Iain Morrsion.

“Take up your cross and follow me!” says Jesus. Our response to these words may be, in modern parlance, “easier said than done!” Yet, should you and I expect anything less that sharing the Cross of Christ? If so, what would our reason be?

The climate of the world is changing drastically in so many ways! Sensitive public opinions and reactions allow teachers to appear free to comment positively about non-Christian religions, (comparative religion) but fear disciplinary if they say anything positive about Christianity. The media portrays not infrequently Christianity in a negative light and journalists tend to put aside the good work of the Church but revel in reporting its failings and misdeeds. Fundamentalists in Islam are quick to target Christians and others who do not share their beliefs as infidels and even in our own time we learn of Christian places of worship being targeted. So too, sadly, are synagogues, mosques and temples and many others. History does tend to repeat itself.

Let me, just for a moment, quote some words of Martin Luther King, that I think are very apt for us today:-

“Meanwhile Christians who are baptized in Christ’s Name must keep still and must put up with being trampled upon, and must still be patient. For in this life of believing, it is Christ’s will to appear small; but in the life of seeing, He will not be small but very great. Then Christ will show that He saw the suffering of His people and heard their cries and that His will was inclined towards them to help them, and that He had the power to help them. Now Christ hides His good will, power and strength; but when He appears He will reveal His will and power and strength. He could help and save now. Christ has the power to do it, nor does He lack the will, but all this is concealed in the Word so that we cannot see it, but must take hold of it by faith.”

PROPER 7 - BEAULIEU - 21ST JUNE 2020. Mt. 10: 24 – 39.

In today’s Gospel narrative by St. Matthew, in chapter 10, we hear the words of Jesus Himself Who is giving His Disciples both encouragement for their future ministry, but also some timely advice on their being aware of what dangers may lie ahead. Synagogues will not be entirely safe and those in high places may prove even dangerous. Yet, in all of this, Jesus emphasises the need to stand fearless in face of any threats and to remain firm in their new-found faith. He goes even further by adding the words ’even unto death.’ Those, surely, must have been words that would at first undermine their newly received conviction in Jesus that these twelve men held undoubtedly at that moment. Initially, they were told that there was no need to worry because God’s judgement, ultimately, would fall upon Israel. These words would not necessarily have been words to offer any encouragement. No immediate reassurance sensed by any one of them, at all, perhaps.

Our Lord then went on to urge them to become more like Him and this would to be their sole aim and purpose in life. Jesus is asking every Disciple to become more Christ-like - more like Him! The same call from Jesus with which are faced today! Yes, this is a tall order indeed so what must these men have thought, themselves, at that moment, I wonder? Jesus goes on even further to say that not even your closest and most loved one must come between you and your Lord and Master, for He must be and remain always your only focus for all things.

The most challenging and significant of Jesus’s following statement was that each one of them should take up their own cross and follow Him. If they do not, then, says Jesus, you are not worthy of Me.” How often have we heard the expression: “It’s a cross I have to bear?” These words, though, are a far cry from what crucifixion really means and in terms of personal surrender and even death as the ultimate price to pay. Our price!

In the first century it was not at all uncommon to be aware or even to be a witness to a public execution by mean of crucifixion. It was the punishment by law for specific criminal acts. Let us not bypass, however, what Jesus really means here:- He is asking for the very life-blood of every true follower if such a demanding sacrifice should ever arise. This begs the question:- How willing would we be today, if faced the same question? What happened to our Lord on Good Friday still happens to thousands of our Christin brothers and sisters world-wide. The early Christians were persecuted in that time then. They continue to be persecuted today. Why not us?

Amidst all this, there is a great Hope for if we understand that our being a Christian in these modern times in some ways removes from us from the difficulties and challenges we face now we need to think again for we would be wrong to think in this way. The ‘easy way out’ was not the purpose of our becoming Christians. Our faith does not act as a prop in our lives but as our firm and upholding buttress! In all that we face today, it is a wonderful thing to know that our Lord promises that we shall never be alone for like the small sparrow, we are not insignificant nor ever ignored by God. We are indeed valued by our Creator. We matter to Him!

Today’s Gospel concludes with the words:- “Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for My sake will find it.” In other words, live for yourself and you will never find Jesus! Live for Him only and you will become and remain His for ever! That is indeed a unique statement and a wonderful incentive and encouragement for each one of us to remain true to our calling as modern-day disciples of Christ. The first verse of the well-know hymn “Onward, Christian soldiers” well expresses our real hopes for our pilgrimage through life in the steps of Jesus.

AMEN.