Faith and Doubt

Blog Bulletin 

Published on: Thursday June 30 2022, 2:20 pm

Faith is a very emotive word. “Do you have faith, sister?” is a very loaded question indeed. Whether asked quietly and gently, or demanded loudly by a person with a loudhailer on the street, it is personal. It is a question that delves into our innermost being. And quite frankly, it can feel intrusive and rude and judgemental if it isn’t asked the right way! Do you have faith?

Faith in what? And how do I get it? St Paul is clear that faith is the gift of God. It’s something given to us, not something we have to go and find. But Jesus (and St Paul) also speaks of nurturing and growing faith within ourselves. So, much like the tomato plants I was given the other day, it is a gift. But unless I water and nurture it, it will shrink and shrivel. Perhaps faith could be compared to a muscle. If I use it, it grows strong. If I don’t, it wastes away and is weak.

This Sunday is the feast of St Thomas, famous for refusing to believe without evidence. I always think he gets a rough time of it, being nicknamed Doubting Thomas. After all, I like to think that I engage my critical faculties and ability to think and reason when it comes to God and faith, just as I do with any other aspect of my life. Instinct is great, but it needs to work hand in hand with evidence. Not necessarily empirical or objective evidence that someone else can examine under a metaphorical microscope. My evidence may be in the form of my experiences and my feelings combined with my knowledge of the context of the thing or situation.

And then again, when it comes to faith, we don’t have to get it all right and sorted before God will step in and help. Remember the father who asked Jesus to heal his child, because the disciples had not been able to do so. Jesus told him, all things are possible for those who believe. And the father cries out in desperation, “Lord I believe, help my unbelief!” Jesus helps him. Of course he does! Jesus loves him! He cares! He’s not demanding “advance payment” by how high the man’s belief score is!

I wonder sometimes if these stories point in a different direction to the one we expect. So often, when we look properly, the bible does that! Jesus’ comment about belief was more likely directed at his disciples than the poor father, distraught at his son’s illness. And when it comes to Thomas’ inability to believe the “impossible”, I bet the writers included it to give comfort and help to those who struggle, rather than to have a dig at Thomas.

Faith is hard work. And a very wise person once pointed out to me that the opposite of faith is not doubt, but rather knowledge. If we have objective knowledge, we don’t need faith. We don’t need that gift of God to make the instinctive jump between what we know and see and observe and that which is just beyond the boundary of our human senses and limitations of knowing. Faith can go hand in hand with doubt – ask any of the saints!! Perhaps doubt is to faith what dumbbells are to body-building! We believe, but we’re not sure, so we go back over our experiences and our responses to where God has been in our lives, and our faith is strengthened in the process.

So on this festival of St Thomas, I shall ask you not, “Do you have faith?”, but rather, “Where is God in your life?” And are you happy with where God is, or perhaps is not? Every time I have doubts, every time my own faith wavers or wobbles, I ask myself those questions. And in so doing, my faith in God’s love and provision is usually strengthened.

May it be so for you.

Revd. Talisker

Photo by Alex Shute on Unsplash

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – 3rd – 9th July

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday June 30 2022, 9:23 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Vocation – being our true selves

Blog Bulletin 

Published on: Thursday June 23 2022, 3:32 pm

This Wednesday is the festival of St Peter and St Paul, those two iconic figures on whom so much of the teaching of the Church, and indeed the writing of the New Testament, rest.

Both Peter and Paul were commissioned by Christ himself to go out and spread the good news of God’s love. And so this is traditionally the time of year for people to be ordained as deacons and priests, remembering that those ordained as clergy are called to follow closely in the steps of these saints, preaching and teaching God’s people, and sharing his message of love.

But we are all called by God, whoever we are. Every one of us has a holy vocation – and it is for us to listen and to have the courage to follow God’s call – to be fully the person he created us to be, filled with his light and love, and sharing that light and love with others.

The feast of St Peter and St Paul is usually an opportunity to talk about vocation, especially to the priesthood. That is indeed a precious and beautiful call; it’s also one which is incredibly demanding, will at times wring you out and then come back again, and is not to be undertaken lightly! It is a role of which can be truthfully said, you absolutely CAN’T do it on your own – you need God, every moment. 

God’s call to each of us is completely unique – just as we all are unique. The most wonderful way you can praise and give thanks to God is to live your true life, live it to the full, shine your Divine light, and share that light and love with others. 

That will look different for each of us. It’s not about saying, I must become ‘xxx’ in order to please God. All any of us have to do is to be truly ourselves. Some are priests, prophets, evangelists; some are mums, dads, brothers, aunties; some are police, hairdressers, nurses, teachers; some are mechanics, engineers, gardeners. Some are combination of all the above. No one is better than any other – all play their part in the interdependent symphony of the whole.

And whatever our vocation is – or whatever combination it may be – let us celebrate it, live it, BE it, and be joyful in it. For a life fully and truly lived is the best.

Every blessing, 

Revd. Talisker

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – 26th June – 2nd July

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday June 23 2022, 10:11 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Daily Bread

Blog Bulletin 

Published on: Thursday June 16 2022, 2:29 pm

It’s a familiar phrase: “Give us this day our daily bread.” We say it in the Lord’s Prayer, and mostly we think we know what we mean by it. Food, shelter, resources sufficient for today, without worrying about tomorrow. Trusting in God’s provision. 

The idea of trusting in God’s provision for our needs was vividly experienced by the Israelites in the wilderness, following Moses, escaping from slavery in Egypt. For forty years they wandered in the desert – because they did not trust in God’s provision, that God would go before them to conquer their enemies. So they ate manna and quails. And they could not gather more than a day’s supply of manna, except for the Sabbath. If they did, it went bad and smelt awful! 

There are many elements to Corpus Christi, or The Fest of the Body of Christ, which celebrates the giving of the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist. The readings for the day remind us of Abraham eating with Melchizedek; we have St Paul’s account of Christ’s words at the Last Supper (chronologically the closest written witness); and Jesus’ words from St John’s gospel, where he says he is the Bread that comes from heaven – the reference circling back to the manna in the wilderness. 

The celebration of this festival is a solemn and yet joyous occasion. Rose petals are strewn, incense wafts upwards representing our prayers of thanksgiving, bread is broken and wine shared, as we remember and give thanks again for God’s limitless love for us, in giving us His Son, Jesus, to show us the nature of God in human form, to teach us how to live as God truly intended us to do. Loving one another as He has loved us.

May we live each day in the love and light of Christ. 

Thanks be to God.

Revd. Talisker

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – 19th June – 25th June

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday June 16 2022, 10:50 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Trinity Sunday

Blog Bulletin 

Published on: Thursday June 9 2022, 2:24 pm

This Sunday is Trinity Sunday in the Church calendar.  I have always found it a little strange that we have a single Sunday identified in the year to remember what is, after all, the central, distinctive tenet of the Christian faith: we believe in one God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We affirm this common faith in the One God who is our Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer, week by week, as we proclaim the Creed in our services, come together in prayers of preparation and intercession, and praise God in the Gloria.  This is our faith, every day and minute – not just on one particular Sunday.

But perhaps it is indeed right to take time at this point in the year for special focus on the Trinity.  This week we see the drawing-together of all our calendar of readings and festivals so far through the year, as we have been learning again of God’s awesome plans for the world, from creation and covenant, through the gift of God’s love and grace revealed in Christ from Christmas to Easter, to God’s intimate welcome and enabling of all into his fellowship through the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, this last week.  As we discover again the enduring love of God-our-source, providing for us; God-with-us, transforming us; God-still-with-us, guiding and uniting us, we are sent out by the Trinity and through the Trinity to share and communicate this love and grace. We reconfirm it every time we welcome a new member into this fellowship through baptism in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

It is also good to be made to stop periodically and wrestle again with just how we understand this seeming paradox of God who is Three in One. This time last year I was reflecting on the nature of God as a single, never-ending dynamic relationship of three persons, as a dance or a symphony calling each of us in different ways into relationship with God through his three persons and by whom we are then called into relationship with one another.  This particular reflection works for me, but there are so many potential ways of reflecting on the Trinity. 

Maybe it is also good, this Sunday, not to get bogged down in trying to pin down the paradox of the Trinity, but instead to welcome the mystery of God who is both ineffable and immediate as a never-ending invitation to get to know him better.  Paul, writing to the Corinthians, recognises that our understanding can only be limited:

For now, we see in a mirror, enigmatically, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.  And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

(I Cor 13:12-13)

As Kandiah says, we cannot ourselves ever resolve the paradoxes of our faith because God is so far beyond our human understanding, but we can keep striving to learn more of God and of his love.  If we could grasp the paradoxes, perhaps the danger would be that we would box God away and stop seeking.  “Christianity was never meant to be simple – after all, it is about relationship, and what true relationship is ever simple?” (Kandiah, p308)

Lucy G.

Kandiah, Krish  Paradoxology: why Christianity was never meant to be simple. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2014

Image – LG

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – 12th – 18th June

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday June 9 2022, 10:01 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Photo by Chris Liverani on Unsplash

Jubilee!

Blog Bulletin 

Published on: Sunday June 5 2022, 7:25 am

Jubilee is an ancient Jewish principle, originally found in Leviticus, and was celebrated every 50 years. In that year, all debts were forgiven, and slaves were freed, and property was returned to its original owner – well, that’s the simple version. Scholars also suggest that the use of 50 years (ie the year after the end of seven sevens) is done to parallel the fifty days between Passover and the Feast of Shavuot, which marks the revelation of the Torah to Moses and the Israelites at Mount Sinai.

Which brings me to our own Jubilee year, celebrating the fact that Queen Elizabeth has reigned over us for seventy years – longer than any other monarch in these isles. She is very nearly the longest reigning monarch in recorded history, bested only by Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand and Louis XIV of France, but as Louis was not yet five when he became king of France in 1643, I think he had something of an advantage!!

Whilst sadly the prospect of a global debt jubilee is extremely unlikely, or indeed any of the other aspects of biblical Jubilee, jubilees are important celebrations. They are moments of reviewing all that went before, and starting a new chapter. In the case of Queen Elizabeth, given her position as Head of the Church of England, and her own deep personal and staunch Christian faith, the biblical aspect seems worth pointing out. Whilst it is another year to the 70th anniversary of her coronation (2nd June 1953), in that year Pentecost had fallen the previous day, on Sunday 1st June. Given her faith, I wonder if the date of her coronation was chosen to fall at Pentecost. And it seems a wonderful and beautiful coincidence that the celebration of her Platinum Jubilee as monarch also falls on this significant biblical festival, when the Holy Spirit fell upon the first disciples whilst they were in the Temple, and they spoke in every language. That festival – Shavuot for the Jews – became Pentecost for the Christians, and is usually considered the birthday of the Church. On the festival of the day that the Torah (or Old Covenant) was given to Moses, the New Covenant of the Holy Spirit was poured out, as Jesus had promised.

I was reflecting on all this in the context of Queens and Kings, and thinking also of the fact that Queens and Kings have traditionally been seen as anointed by God to take on the task and responsibility of rule. Our Queen has taken that duty so very seriously, every day of her life. In April 1947, she said “I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service… But I shall not have strength to carry out this resolution alone unless you join in it with me, as I now invite you to do: I know that your support will be unfailingly given. God help me to make good my vow, and God bless all of you who are willing to share in it.

At her accession, she swore faithfully to uphold the duty which had been laid upon her. At her coronation, she was anointed with holy oil, she was blessed by God through the Archbishops, given the grace of the Holy Spirit in a new way, and formally given this holy task. And she has stood firm through seventy years, seeing almost unimaginable changes and developments, holding strong through it all.

All of us are called and anointed by God to a particular task, and that is unique to each one of us. Most of us do not have to carry that task for seventy years! But may God give us grace and strength to carry our tasks and callings for as long as they are ours to bear. And may God give to the Queen peace and blessing as she celebrates this incredible milestone. For her wisdom, care, duty, and faithfulness, thanks be to God.


Gracious God, we give you thanks
for the reign of your servant Elizabeth our Queen,
and for the example of loving and faithful service
which she has shown among us.
Help us to follow her example of dedication
and to commit our lives to you and to one another,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Revd. Talisker

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – 5th – 11th June

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Tuesday May 31 2022, 9:32 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Photo by Chris Liverani on Unsplash

Speaking blessings

Blog Bulletin 

Published on: Thursday May 26 2022, 3:30 pm

Do you ever have those days when, frankly, you’d rather just stay under the duvet? When the prospect of the day is devoid of joy and positivity?

We don’t admit to it very often, and even more rarely admit the real depth of that feeling. Even though we’re much better about talking about our feelings these days than twenty and more years ago, for many people (especially those over a certain age) it’s still quite difficult to do so.

This is where the psalms can be so very helpful. As can the Jewish tradition of blessing God for all things. As the rabbi said in Fiddler on the Roof, there is a blessing for all things! But we need to get the focus of the blessing right. It’s not about blessing the thing, it is about blessing the Giver, who is God.

It’s amazing how speaking a blessing can transform our attitude and feelings toward something. On the mornings when my duvet has seemed so appealing, but I know that my daughter needs me up and about, I begin by saying “Blessed are you O Lord, God of our ancestors, King of the Universe, for bringing me to this new day.” Even though it’s 530am and far too early (for me, there is only one 6 o’clock in the day!) somehow that blessing changes my feelings.

I then find other things to bless God for – hot water usually is next. Most of us take hot showers for granted, but anyone who has stayed at the monastery of Taize in France will know that by 6am all hot water is long gone. Blessed be God that I can have a hot cup of tea. And breakfast. For my daughter who gives the best cuddles in the world. That I have a car to take my daughter to school. That I have a dog who welcomes me with utter exuberance and love each morning, and throughout the day.

And slowly but surely, that desire to hide under the duvet in grumpy isolation dissipates. I’m not saying that everything is suddenly sunshine and roses, but I am at least appreciative that there are good things in my life, instead of taking them for granted and being blind to them.

Blessed are you O Lord, God of our ancestors, King of the Universe, for all the blessings that you have given me.

Next time you have one of those days, try blessing God for all the tiny things in your life and around you that are good. It doesn’t take away the rubbish, the hurt, the grief, the sadness. But it can bring a little perspective. And suddenly instead of only seeing the bad, we can become aware that there is some good – however small – tucked away in little corners all around us. And maybe those good things will be enough to help us through today.

As for tomorrow, well Jesus had a very wise comment about that too (Mt6.34): do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

Revd. Talisker

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – 29th May – 4th June

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday May 26 2022, 9:45 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Photo by Chris Liverani on Unsplash

Do as I say, not as I do!

Blog Bulletin 

Published on: Friday May 20 2022, 11:31 am

It amazing that it’s so commonplace that we even have a cliché for being an utter hypocrite, and getting away with it. “Do as I say, not as I do” is the classic way of telling people (usually children) that we expect them to obey our teaching and then to turn a blind eye as we blithely ignore those same teachings and principles. It’s even said with wry humour, acknowledging that whilst we know what the right thing to do is, we have no intention (or lack the integrity or ability) to do it ourselves.

It might be the motto of politics – accompanied only by that other great commandment in life, “don’t get caught!”

But what kind of world is this? And what kind of people are we, that we simply accept this kind of double standard as ‘the way things are’?

This Sunday there are two passages set from John’s gospel – John 5.1-9 (Jesus heals the man by the pool), and John 14.23-29. In the first, Jesus heals a man who has been waiting for a miracle for 38 years. The second passage is probably best known for the quote “peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you… Do not let your hearts be troubled.”

But in each passage there’s another detail. In John 5, Jesus asks the man, do you wish to be made well? Instead of saying yes or no, the man replies with what might be called an excuse. Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.” Fair enough, he needs help! But if we look carefully, he’s actually dodging the question, instead of engaging with it. He deflects Jesus, thinking that there is criticism implied. Maybe there is, maybe not. Whether Jesus’ question was open or critical, his response to the man is devastatingly simple and powerful: “Stand up, take up your mat, and walk!”

In John 14, Jesus is asked, “Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?” He replies, “‘Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words…” Jesus’ reply is again so simple, so direct. Do as I say, and you will show your love through your actions.

I learned this years ago when I was a teacher, though I think it holds true in every walk of life. Respect is earned, not demanded, nor given by right of hierarchy. And children have a gift for spotting hypocrisy (and bluffing) a mile off! I couldn’t expect them to go and clean the endless toast crumbs and tea spills in their boarding-house kitchen at the end of the evening if I wasn’t willing to help, or if I left a mess in the house-staff study.

We are always full of excuses. And whilst I know better, I still do it sometimes – though my daughter is very good at calling me on it! There’s one she hasn’t spotted yet: I dread the day she does, and tells me she won’t tidy her room until my study is neat.

It’s all very well to say that, but it can’t be done.” And a whole host of reasons and excuses follow. Yesterday I was at a Scout hut, and saw a poem by Edgar Albert Guest, called “It Couldn’t be Done”. It made me smile wryly. How true it is. The alternative is the old story of “Whose Job Is It?” I bet that Jesus would be found with the man in Guest’s poem.

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – 22nd – 28th May

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday May 19 2022, 9:31 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Line in the sand

Blog Bulletin 

Published on: Thursday May 12 2022, 3:16 pm

Some moments in life are unforgettable. Even if, in the moment, they seemed small, insignificant to the others present.

That meeting in the chaplain’s house one evening, when I was still a teacher, was one such evening. The various students had gathered for the usual coffee and biscuits, and I was also present as I was one of the staff who used to help with chaplaincy (unofficially).

The students were asking questions about sexuality and the bible, particularly about same-sex relationships. This must have been some seventeen years ago. Basic assumptions were not the same then, and this was an area of concern for these young people, not least because there was a very vocal Christian member of staff who unequivocally viewed this as sin. They wanted to talk about this, to ask, to make up their own minds. TO ask what the bible really said about this, and other, matters.

In many ways, it was just an ordinary evening.

And then the chaplain, Revd. Munna Mitra, an incredibly wise man, said something I’ll never forget, which has defined and informed my ministry, and my bible reading, ever since.

“Wherever I have drawn a line in the sand, and said ‘thus far and no further will I go!’, I have always encountered Jesus on the other side of that line.”

For the past seventeen years, eleven of them in ordained ministry, these words have echoed in my soul. Every time I find myself facing hard choices, asking hard questions, studying challenging passages in the bible, I remember these words. Jesus with the woman caught in adultery. Jesus with the lepers. Jesus with Levi the tax collector. Jesus with the Samaritan woman. Jesus’ answer to the Pharisee who wanted to know who his neighbour was, wanting to know where that dividing line stood.

And this Sunday’s gospel, when Peter has this vision of all the animals and creatures of the world, and is told to “kill and eat”. Dietary and purity laws were so important in the Jewish faith. Peter is here being told that God has overcome all such laws. Everybody is included. And what follows is an incredible outpouring of God’s Spirit on the non-Jews. The gift and love of Christ is no longer confined to the Jewish people. As St Paul said, “we are all one in Christ Jesus.” Thanks be to God.

“Wherever I have drawn a line in the sand, and said ‘thus far and no further will I go!’, I have always encountered Jesus on the other side of that line.”

Blessings,

Revd. Talisker

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – 15th – 21st May

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday May 12 2022, 11:31 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Caring for the flock

Blog Bulletin 

Published on: Friday May 6 2022, 6:04 am

Sheep and shepherd are the overriding themes of this week’s readings – Psalm 23, John 10.22-30; Revelation 7.9-17.

God is frequently described as the shepherd of his people. For example, Psalm 95.7: For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. O that today you would listen to his voice! Or again, Psalm 80.1 Hear us, Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock. There are many many more examples!

Most of us probably have some idea of what we “think” shepherding is like – from the perspective of the observer! Talk to any shepherd and they’ll quickly disabuse you of most of those assumptions! Recently I was watching Jeremy Clarkson’s Farm tv series, and his attempts with the sheep were hilarious, in that nothing went to plan, and the sheep always ended up doing almost the opposite of what he wanted. But when the real shepherd (Ellen) arrived, order was restored and things went well. There’s definitely a sermon in that!

Bishops are set as shepherds of the people, and they share that responsibility with those who are called to be priests, who are then set in parishes to be shepherds of God’s flock in that place. The metaphor of sheep and shepherd runs right through Christianity, in practice as well as theory. Bishops, like priests, have a deep care and love for those they are called to look after, which leads me on to the news I must now share with you.

As most of you know, I have been going through a period of immense strain and pressure in my personal life, and have had to take several months off since last August, compounded by pneumonia just before Christmas. I was so happy to be back at work and in ministry for Easter – but the clergy HR and OH depts are most concerned that additional support is needed to ensure I can thrive in ministry, and not go under. Therefore the Bishop, who is (among many other things) “shepherd to the shepherds”, has asked me to take a sabbatical break whilst they assess what support I need, and can put it in place.

This means that I am now moving from pulpit and altar to pews until August. During this time, Bishop Gavin, as our shepherd caring for us all, has asked Revd Chris Ashton, who is the final year curate at Grove and Hanney, to come and help us, to ensure that all our services are covered, and to do those parts of my role which cannot be put on hold and are necessary for the smooth running of the benefice. We will also have Revd. Dick Whittington to help cover the services I would otherwise have taken. This means that Revd. Jim and Lucy and all our churchwardens will hopefully not be put under stress due to my absence, which is very important.

During these months, so that I have something constructive (but fairly stress-free) to do with my time, Bishop Gavin has asked me to write a report on rural ministry. Whilst I am doing this, I will be with you in the pews on Sundays, and you’ll see me around at various things like coffee mornings etc.

I’ll be continuing to write, as it’s something I love doing. So for now I’ll leave you with a reflection on sheep and shepherding from a book I am very much enjoying at present, as it’s looking at Jesus’ teaching through a Jewish lens, and trying to understand how his original Jewish hearers would have understood his words. Sadly, so much of the depth and intensity of his words and stories is lost on us in our modern European 21st century lives.

As this Sunday’s readings are have a lot about sheep, this particular passage resonated for me. Sheep do tend to wander, when not confined, and their escape abilities are legendary. As is their ability to misunderstand the (usually well intentioned) attempts of strangers to get them to move off the road away from cars. Lake District holidays, anyone?

In the south of England and the Cotswolds, we’re used to seeing sheep in enclosed fields. So when we listen to Jesus talking about sheep knowing the shepherd’s voice, and following him, we are missing a large part of the picture that would have been obvious to Jesus’ immediate hearers in a Middle Eastern context.

___

“Shepherding in Israel is a wonderful metaphor for discipleship [which focuses on lifelong learning, growth and transformation]. In many countries, sheep spend their lives in fenced-in pastures where they spend their time grazing and milling about. Many Christians seem to think that the Great Commission is a matter of getting sheep “into the pen”—inviting people to accept Christ, the high point of their spiritual lives. In Israel, however, where grass has difficulty growing in the arid soil, sheep must know their shepherd, following him obediently from pasture to pasture. There, shepherding is a much more active task.

“Judith Fain is a doctoral candidate at the University of Durham. As part of her studies, she spends several months each year in Israel. One day while walking on a road near Bethlehem, Judith watched as three shepherds converged with their separate flocks of sheep. The three men hailed each other and then stopped to talk. While they were conversing, their sheep intermingled, melting into one big flock. Wondering how the three shepherds would ever be able to identify their own sheep, Judith waited until the men were ready to say their goodbyes. She watched, fascinated, as each of the shepherds called out to his sheep. At the sound of their shepherd’s voice, like magic, the sheep separated again into three flocks. Apparently some things in Israel haven’t changed for thousands of years.”

— Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus: How the Jewishness of Jesus Can Transform Your Faith by Ann Spangler, Lois Tverberg

Blessings,

Revd. Talisker

Photo by Steven Lasry on Unsplash

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – 8th – 14th May

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday May 5 2022, 9:56 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Do you love me?

Blog Bulletin 

Published on: Thursday April 28 2022, 2:18 pm

Simon, son of John, do you love me?

Jesus asks this question three times, echoing Peter’s three denials of Jesus on that terrible night, as he stood in the outer court of the High Priest’s house. Peter’s Galilean accent stood out a mile, and so he was asked, are you one of this man’s followers? In absolute terror, lest he be arrested too, Peter denied it.

It’s easy to be all righteous and say that we would never do that. But I wonder. Faced with that situation, what would I do? Would I boldly shout out that Yes! I am one of Jesus’ followers! Or would I try to hide, and survive til another day, to find out what was going on, and what the best thing to do was. What would I do? What would you do?

And when faced with an extremely challenging situation, and a corresponding escape route, what do we choose?

Jesus is quite clear. “You are my friends if you obey my commands” (Jn 15.14). There’s not a lot of wriggle room in that statement. In responding to his call, in loving and following Jesus, we must also obey him. On the face of it, it’s not that onerous – love one another! But then comes the next bit… “as I have loved you.” That’s far harder, because in Jesus God has loved us unconditionally, regardless of all the usual human barriers of race, language, sexuality, gender, socio-economic status, and all the other categories we try to lump people into.

Simon, son of John, do you love me?

What can Simon say, other than yes, Lord. For that is the truth.

And Jesus brings him back into the fold by asking him to do something – “feed my sheep.”

There is a job and a task for each and every one of us, and the blessing is that God will never ask more of us than we can give, and he will always provide us the resources we need to do the job. After all, when the fishermen came to the shore, Jesus was already there with a fire going, and fish and bread ready to eat (Jn 21.9). They brought more fish, for sure. More than they could eat, enough for the whole community and more! But Jesus has already provided their breakfast, without them even having to ask. For God knows what we have need of, and He will provide.

Jesus meets each of us, and asks, Do you love me? And in recognition of our love for him, he invites us to work with him, in making this world (and our own lives) better. We are not merely passive recipients of grace, but invited by God to work with Him! And when you stop to think about that, it’s actually amazing. A bit like being invited by your favourite celebrity chef or gardener to publicly work with her or him on their programme – but on a cosmic level!

Revd. Talisker

Photo by eberhard  grossgasteiger on Unsplash

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – 1st – 7th May

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday April 28 2022, 10:05 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Seeing & Believing: Perspective is Everything!

Blog Bulletin 

Published on: Thursday April 21 2022, 2:22 pm

Sometimes we don’t see what’s under our noses. We’re too busy focussing elsewhere.

Sometimes, we just can’t believe something when somebody tells us, because it makes no sense to us. ‘It’s impossible!’ we say.

And sometimes, we judge the people who don’t see what we see, who can’t understand what’s obvious to us. We forget that we’ve all been in that place too, at one time or another.

Perspective is vital. Arguably, it’s everything. Literally or metaphorically, our perspective totally alters what we are able to see, and to understand.

It’s only when we put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, when we imagine ourselves in that situation, that the intensity of the experience comes home to us. It’s only then that the story changes from words on a page, or something we hear, to something we can empathise with, or even experience for ourselves personally.  

This Sunday’s gospel reading continues the accounts of Jesus’ resurrection appearances. He comes to the disciples who are in a locked room – you can just imagine their faces when that happened!! His first words – Peace be with you! – were likely very necessary. He then breathes the Holy Spirit on to them.

But Thomas isn’t there that day. He cannot bring himself to believe that Jesus has risen. Maybe he has seen too much death in his life. Maybe he loved Jesus so much that he cannot bear to believe it, and then endure the disappointment of finding it wasn’t true after all. We don’t know. But we can empathise with how difficult it can be to believe the seemingly physically ‘impossible’. How many times have you heard someone say, ‘that would take a miracle!’, implying that thing is not going to happen.

Jesus didn’t have to come back and see Thomas. He didn’t have to show Thomas that he was really there, physically alive – albeit in a form that could walk through doors and walls!! For the details of how that’s possible, quantum physics has a good explanation – but that’s another story.

But Jesus did come back. He loved Thomas enough to show him, to understand his pain and inability to believe.

I wonder, have you ever had one of those moments? When you couldn’t believe something, and someone came and showed you? Or when you could not believe in God’s deep and limitless love for you – and Jesus came and showed you it was in fact so?

Easter’s a good time for remembering this, and for remembering to be patient with those who struggle to believe the Good News. And for remembering that we have a part to play in sharing that wonderful Good News of God’s love, and that Christ is Risen. Alleluia!

Wishing you a peaceful and blessed Easter season, 
Revd. Talisker

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 24th – Saturday 30th April

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday April 21 2022, 9:18 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

“Don’t hold on to me.”   Grasping the truth

Blog Bulletin 

Published on: Thursday April 14 2022, 2:25 pm

Other than the risen Christ, the centre of our Easter story, Mary Magdalene is the only follower mentioned by name in all four Gospels.  In our reading this Sunday from John chapter 20 she comes, probably with other women, to the tomb where the body of Jesus had been buried, and finds the stone rolled away and no corpse. Naturally, she jumps to the conclusion that Jesus’ body has been taken; perhaps by one or other of the authorities wishing to heap further indignities on Jesus or to prevent the grave becoming a focal point for his followers.

Mary is distraught – she has lost her beloved Teacher to death on the cross and even before she has time to come to terms with that loss, she has lost him again, his body apparently stolen from the tomb. After she has run to tell the disciples, the two who come to see for themselves just abandon her there by the tomb, still seeking answers. 

 It perhaps seems odd that Mary is not more struck or moved by the presence of angels in the tomb – why, after all, would anyone expect to find a couple of strangers sitting in this tomb, let alone angels? But in her shock and distress, Mary is more anxious to have her desperate question answered and her search resolved than to look at details.

I wonder when, faced with inconsolable pain and trauma of another, do we head off back to our comfort zone, rather than remaining alongside, being there, and simply inviting the person to express themself?

I wonder when, as we are desperately looking for help and answers, do we fail to see the signs or accept the support that God puts before us because we are too caught up in the distress of the moment and the search for what we want the answer to be?

In this distressed state Mary does not recognise Jesus when he asks her why she is weeping and for whom she is looking. Then, in one of the most gently touching moments of the gospel, Jesus responds to Mary’s frantic appeal by calling her by name – and she is floored by recognition, relief, love and delight.  But even here in the midst of this new joy, once more she seems to be losing him: just as she reaches out to him, Jesus says, “don’t cling to me … go … tell my brothers, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” (v17)

Why did Jesus refuse Mary the comfort of holding him then, and instead charge her with carrying his message to the disciples?  Perhaps she needed to be trusted with this task to help her move on and to give her time to digest what he had said.

I wonder when do we try to cling to a Jesus who fits our expectations and desires, rather than responding to the challenge that Christ gives us?

As we look forward through the confusion and pain of Holy Week and of our own lives towards the astonishing new life and new hope of Easter morning, let’s prepare ourselves to see that empty tomb as a doorway, and to let go of the past and accept again the invitation to step through into a new beginning with Christ.

Lucy G.

Image: extract from Titian: Noli me tangere (National Gallery)

Maundy Thursday and Holy Week

Blog Bulletin 

Published on: Thursday April 14 2022, 2:25 pm

This week known as Holy Week is for Christians a key time in the church year, certainly of equal importance with Christmas. Admittedly, for most of the rest of the UK, it’s simply the precursor to a long weekend, accompanied by lots of chocolate and hot cross buns. And indeed due to the busyness of life, those of us who attend church often move seamlessly from Palm Sunday (last Sunday) to Easter, glossing over all the bits in the middle. It’s so very easy to do.

As I reflected on what to write for this week, I found myself thinking about what this Holy Week holds for me. Yesterday I was honoured to take the funeral of a good friend, of whom you could truly say, it was a life well lived; he died aged 90. Today I am with the Bishops and hundreds of other clergy in this diocese, as together we reaffirm our ordination vows in the Cathedral at the annual Chrism Mass, before going to Lyford church for the Eucharist of the Last Supper. And on to Good Friday.

These are the days when we travel with Jesus into Jerusalem. We walk with him through the city. We sit with him at the Last Supper. We pray with him in the Garden of Gethsemane, as he prays for the coming anguish to pass him by. We watch as he is betrayed, flogged, endures unspeakable pain, and is finally put to death on a cross.

And then we wait, for hope to be reborn in those dark hours before dawn, the hope which we will finally see with the rising of the sun on Easter Day.

For we are an Easter people. We know that hope is coming. We live in the light of the Resurrection.

The problem is, for so many of us, that light is far off, and we are still stuck somewhere in Gethsemane, or in Good Friday. Whether it is through grief, or some other personal circumstance, we are often in places of doubt, anxiety, even anguish, and terror. And unlike the story of Jesus, we don’t know what will happen next! We do believe that there is hope, that God does indeed hold us safe in his hands, but we also know that whilst God holds us, he does not rescue us from suffering and struggle. Rather he walks through it with us, every agonising step of the way. He is our truest and closest companion, the one who stays no matter what. The one who keeps the tiny flickering flame of hope alive within us.

My favourite service of Holy Week, as many of you know, is the Easter Eve Service of Light, also known as the Easter Vigil. The church is in darkness. We light the Easter flame outside, as night falls, and bring that light of Christ back in to the church in joy and celebration.

It’s a symbol of hope, and symbols are so powerful. Right now, looking around our world, and for many of us in our personal lives, there is so much that is not right. But there are also seeds of good, and the sunrise will come, and the bright light of Easter and Resurrection will banish the dark of our fears and grief.

So let us draw comfort from that hope which we celebrate at Easter, and every Sunday: that Christ is Risen, and that he is victorious over all evil.

And in the meantime, at risk of trivialising, let us draw more worldly comfort from hot cross buns, chocolate, and being together.

Revd. Talisker

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 17th – Saturday 23rd April

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday April 14 2022, 9:31 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 10th – Saturday 16th April

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Sunday April 10 2022, 5:51 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

“I am about to do a new thing…”

Blog Bulletin 

Published on: Thursday March 31 2022, 2:31 pm

The passage from Isaiah is fairly well known, often read at Christmas.

18 Do not remember the former things,
    or consider the things of old.
19 I am about to do a new thing;
    now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
    and rivers in the desert.

There is a wonderful promise here. No matter where we find ourselves, there is a future. No matter how bleak our situation, God will bring something positive out of it.

The wilderness is something we rarely encounter in modern life, unless we go searching for it. These Oxfordshire villages may be rural, but they are certainly not wild! But for the people of Isaiah’s day, the wilderness was very real and existed right at the edge of every town or village. The wilderness was a place of desolation, of danger, and potentially of death. A pathless place, where a person could easily get wholly lost.

The promise of making a way in the wilderness, of rivers in the desert, is a promise of safety and security. It is a promise that God will ensure we do not get lost, and that he will look after our needs.

The things and dangers of the past do however prey on our minds, and are hard to forget. Sometimes we are so focussed on the past that we don’t see the shoots of new growth and possibility under our feet, right in front of us. Indeed, we might even tread on those tender new shoots if we are not careful. But we also must remember that His timing is not our timing, and that can be very challenging indeed, especially when we want to get ahead, or find resolution.

May God give us the wisdom and grace to see where He is at work, to recognise the new shoots of His presence. And may He give us the strength to wait for His timing, painful though that may sometimes be.

Photo by Dustin Humes on Unsplash

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 3rd April – Saturday 9th April

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday March 31 2022, 10:31 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Thoughts on the parable of the prodigal son

Blog Bulletin 

Published on: Friday March 25 2022, 5:23 pm

The story of the prodigal son has caught the imagination of Christians throughout the ages.  In some ways for me it is very personal, because it was a sermon on precisely this parable which brought me back to God after a period of some years of anger and rejection towards the God that I had been taught about. The God that I encountered in this parable is the same loving God who sustains me now in all the times of joy and in the times of struggle and stress. This God could not be more different to the God of judgement, wrath, and punishment that I have been taught about in my youth.

Interestingly, it could be that this parable would be better described as the story of the prodigal father. After all, for a youngster to take resources and unthinkingly fritter them away is not so very unusual. To have little understanding of the value of money and of the impact of one’s actions and the consequences of them is very typical when we are young. We all have our own stories of that! It’s how we learn not to do it again!

What is remarkable here is the behaviour of the father. The father gives his son what he asks for, regardless of the incredible insult and rudeness inherent in the request. After all, for the son to demand his inheritance whilst the father is still alive is the equivalent of saying, I wish you were dead.

There is another remarkable thing – in the Middle Eastern society of Jesus‘s time, for a grown man to run would be most unusual because, quite frankly, it would be beneath his dignity to do so. Imagine if you will, a man of middle age and of good standing in the community – after all he is a very wealthy man according to the story – literally picking up his robes to around his knees as he runs down the road towards his son, who disgraced him in front of the whole community, as he comes home again. 

There is something even more remarkable and it is so easily overlooked. The father saw his son from far off. That means that the father was looking for his son. He was waiting for him. It’s as if that father was standing at the gate, looking down the road which his son had walked off along when he had taken his inheritance and gone off to enjoy his life. And every day the father came back and stood at that gate and watched for his son, hoping that one day he would come home. 

Can you imagine how the father must’ve felt when he suddenly saw in the distance a familiar figure? Even though the young man was in rags, filthy, and probably stumbling and lame, he recognised his son. Without thought, without pause, he ran to meet this son who had been in every way rude and offensive to him. 

The story that Jesus tells here is really about the love of God. How the love of God the father for us is unconditional, limitless, and always ready to forgive and to embrace. In fact, forgive and forgiveness have already taken place and all we have to do is to turn and receive it. The eternal arms of love are already held out to us to embrace us, and all we have to do is to turn into that embrace. You’ve often heard me say in church that it doesn’t matter who you are, where you’ve come from, what you’ve done, or where you’ve been, God loves you.

The world becomes ever more uncertain and for many of us there is trauma and struggle in our own personal lives. The certainty and knowledge of a God who loves us and is always there with and for us is surely the most precious thing that any of us can cling to when all else seems to be adrift.

Photo by Ümit Bulut on Unsplash

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 27th March – Saturday 2nd April

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday March 24 2022, 9:39 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 20th – Saturday 26th March

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday March 17 2022, 8:49 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Times of Trials

Blog Bulletin 

Published on: Thursday March 10 2022, 2:28 pm

Back in summer 2019, there was a bit of controversy in the headlines about proposals to change the Lord’s Prayer. It was about the line “lead us not into temptation…”. Pope Francis was arguing that God does not lead us into temptation, and so the better phrasing would be, “let us not fall into temptation.” The word “temptation” is also rendered “time of trial”.

Why does this matter, I hear you ask! Well, lots of reasons. Not least that for those people who are in dark places, suffering all kinds of evils and trials, to be told that God put them there would be terrible. It suggests that God causes suffering of the innocent. And I would argue that nothing could be further from the truth.

God does not cause suffering. We cause it, whether through our thoughtless action or inaction, or deliberately and with the intent of wounding others. And the reality is that we must all live with the consequences of our actions, and often the consequences of the actions of others too!

Sometimes we can feel very alone, and as if there is no one to turn to. When we are unjustly accused, when there are false allegations against us, when others are trying to hurt or humiliate us, it can even feel like God himself is absent. This is often called the ‘dark night of the soul’, a phrase coined by St John of the Cross in the 16th century.

As I write, the terrible evil of war rages still in Ukraine, and in many other places across the world, though those are not in the main headlines. Moving away from the global, individuals suffer terribly through injustice and the lies and brutality of others. It can feel like we are living in the pain and agony of Good Friday, with Jesus as he is rejected, scourged, crucified.

But as Christians, we are an Easter people. Good Friday is not the end. Resurrection comes with the dawn of ‘the third day’, and with it comes new life and new hope.

I’m reminded of the children’s story, ‘We’re going on a Bear Hunt.’ You may know the refrain: “can’t go under it, can’t go over it, go to go through it!” But how often we wish we could skip the bad and scary parts!

The words of Psalm 27, the psalm set for this Sunday, give hope to those in dark places.

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
    whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold[
a] of my life;
    of whom shall I be afraid?

When evildoers assail me
    to devour my flesh—
my adversaries and foes—
    they shall stumble and fall.

Though an army encamp against me,
    my heart shall not fear;
though war rise up against me,
    yet I will be confident.

One thing I asked of the Lord,
    that will I seek after:
to live in the house of the Lord
    all the days of my life,
to behold the beauty of the Lord,
    and to inquire in his temple.

For he will hide me in his shelter
    in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
    he will set me high on a rock.

It finishes with words of hope and trust:

13 I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord
    in the land of the living.
14 Wait for the Lord;
    be strong, and let your heart take courage;
    wait for the Lord!

For those of you who are in that place of struggle, in pain, hurting, or feeling alone – I offer you these words of comfort. For you are not alone; God is with you. And though it can feel endless, and be agonising, Good Friday does come to an end. Evil does have a limit and an ending.

And after that, when the trial is over, when humans have done their worst, God in Christ Jesus, who is Love Incarnate, is always victorious.

Photo by Rainier Ridao on Unsplash

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 13th – Saturday 19th March

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday March 10 2022, 10:51 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Ashes to Ashes

Blog Bulletin 

Published on: Tuesday March 8 2022, 10:00 am

In August 1883, there was an explosion which could be heard for hundreds of miles, and the shockwaves of which travelled all around the globe – multiple times. The volcanic island of Krakatoa, dormant for the previous two centuries, had erupted. The island was blown apart. Much of the island simply ceased to exist. The remaining pieces of the island were covered in ash, feet deep.

Within a year, the first grass shoots could be seen growing. It is now part of Ujung Kulon National Park.

I remember first learning about this huge volcano on one of David Attenborough’s many documentaries. It has stuck in my imagination. The vast explosive power of the earth, its utter destructiveness which had reverberations and impacts hundreds, even thousands of miles away; and yet Nature’s power to replenish, to renew, to bring life in a place of death and destruction.

The news each day at present is grim. People in Ukraine are suffering the terrible reality of war. There are almost no words adequate to describe what is happening. It is at moments like this that a word such as “sin” comes into its own.

“Sin” carries a huge weight. It describes the evil that comes when faith, trust, and relationship are broken, in any context. We don’t like to use this word much nowadays, preferring to talk of mistakes, and of forgiveness. But there are some contexts, some actions, where “sin” is exactly the right word, to be used where all others fall short.

In the place of pain and sin and brokenness, the presence of God is known. It is known in the acts of kindness, of compassion, of mercy.

After sin, forgiveness can exist. Reconciliation is possible. But it requires both sides to come to the negotiating table. It requires recognition of sin and of culpability. There is no space for excuses. Only for remorse.

And in that place of recognition and remorse, the love of God is made visible.

God knows what will happen next in Ukraine, but I am sure that God is there weeping with those who weep, bringing comfort through His presence. God has already come among us. But the reason that free will is such a double-edged thing, both wonderful and terrible, is that for God to act further, we must act first and invite him in. He will never invade, uninvited. He will never do to us what Russia has done to Ukraine. He simply stands, waits, invites, offers, loves.

I am reminded of the words of the funeral service, at the point of committal, as the body of our loved one is lowered into the ground. That moment when we say our final goodbye, and it seems such a terrible and final ending. And yet, by the grace of God, it is but a new beginning.

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, in sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life.

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 6th – Saturday 12th March

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday March 3 2022, 9:58 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 27th February – Saturday 5th March

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday February 24 2022, 11:19 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

In the beginning – but which version?

Blog Bulletin 

Published on: Thursday February 17 2022, 5:06 pm

In the beginning – but which version?

If I asked you about the account of the creation of the world according to the bible, I’m sure that most of you would say something about seven days, God saying “let there be…” and it was so, that there was a garden in Eden, that Adam named the creatures, and that Eve came out of Adam’s rib.

Well, in a sense, yes. All those elements are present in chapters one and two of Genesis. But they are NOT actually the same story. Or rather, they are the same story told two different ways by two different authors with two differing perspectives and priorities.

I’d like to invite you to re-read both chapters, and really look at this. There are so many reasons why I think this is important – but perhaps the most crucial is the acknowledgment that each storyteller has a perspective, a lens, through which they experience life and will relate those experiences. You and I may see the same thing, and we may tell differing stories of our experiences of that thing.

But that difference of perspective does not take away the fact that there is still Truth. There is a bigger perspective, a bigger picture. However the only Being who ever can be truly said to see that is, arguably, God.

You see, in Genesis 1, human beings are made together. Eve is not created out of Adam. And they are made on the sixth day, along with all the other creatures of the earth, animals and insects. Fish and all sea creatures are Day 5. Light is Day 1. But Sun and Moon and Stars don’t arrive until Day 4.

And then in Genesis 2, nearly all those details disappear. God does the whole job in a day! And Adam was created of dust before any plants or any other creatures. And then plants were created, and Adam was set in a garden. And the creatures were all created to be companions and helpers for Adam – but none of them were able to be his true and equal partner, hence Eve was created out of Adam.

Which is true? Neither, if you are to ask the question literally, and if you have regard for the wonders of knowledge which science has gifted us.

But our reading of our beginnings as creatures, and of the very universe itself, will have a huge impact on how we view ourselves, one another, other creatures, and the world around us.

I’ll come clean here and admit my favourite is Genesis 1. And not because of the equality and simultaneity of creation of men and women. But rather because after each part of creation, God looks and says, “it is good”. And at the end of it all, God also creates rest.

Revd. Talisker

Photo by Nadine Shaabana on Unsplash

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 20th – Saturday 26th February

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday February 17 2022, 10:02 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

A tricky passage in 1 Timothy

Blog Bulletin 

Published on: Thursday February 10 2022, 4:00 pm

Those of us who follow the official readings for Morning Prayer have the advantage of encountering passages that are not part of the Sunday cycle.  But there are verses that seem to cause difficulty, and this last Tuesday’s was one because of what it says about the behaviour of women in church.  

Three ways to make sense of such material are
1. To consider the wider context of Scripture as a whole
2. To read the surrounding verses carefully
3. To access the best possible translations

So bear in mind that St Paul’s friend and close ally Luke wrote even more of the New Testament than he did and is famous for his positive view of women – as notably in Jesus’ treatment of them. Indeed we should find this a good year to register the point because Luke is ‘flavour of month’ for all this year’s Sunday readings. Then notice the disturbing paragraph (1 Timothy 2: 8) starts  ‘ I desire that…men should pray lifting up holy hands without anger or argument’ and only in verse 11 talks about women keeping ‘silent’ – a word which in the original and in the best new English translations is in any case better rendered ‘quiet’.

And all this is specific to a particular situation in Ephesus in the early church. So we need to beware how we apply its lessons to our modern situation in the UK.

One thing is clear. Men and women should still regard our churches as places of peace and not of conflict. What an irony therefore that gender issues should sometimes be the cause of controversy today.

And maybe it’s wise not to include such potentially controversial material in our Sunday readings!
Revd. Jim

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 13th – Saturday 19th February

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday February 10 2022, 9:47 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 6th – Saturday 12th February

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday February 3 2022, 10:35 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Seeing through a different lens

Blog Bulletin 

Published on: Thursday January 27 2022, 2:55 pm

Epiphany season (approximately the month of January) seems to be a time when one might be forgiven for getting thoroughly confused in the narrative of Jesus life. In the gospel readings each Sunday, we jump back and forth: from baby to adult, to youth, and back to baby again. It might be compared to a movie, flicking along a character’s timeline. For those unused to such a device, or unfamiliar with the story, it can be incredibly difficult to follow!

The season of Epiphany is about revelation – about things being revealed and seen for what they are. Hence we find ourselves with the wise men arriving to visit the baby Jesus, revealing his divine and kingly nature to those observing. We find Jesus being baptised in the river Jordan by John, when he is revealed as the son of God as the holy spirit descends upon him. We have the story of Jesus as a youth in the temple, when his parents come up for a particular festival, and Jesus is left behind when the family group depart for Nazareth. His terrified parents go searching for him, and they find him in the temple with the religious teachers and leaders, engaged in learned debate. And of course we have the gospel passage from last week when Jesus performed his first public miracle, turning water into wine at the wedding at Cana.

This week we take a huge step backwards some 30 years, and find ourselves with Mary and Joseph presenting their 40 day old baby in the temple, according to the law of Moses, making a sacrifice of thanksgiving to God for their firstborn son.

As happens so often around Jesus, things do not proceed simply, anonymously, or according to plan. Mary and Joseph are accosted by Simeon and by the prophet Anna. Simeon is an old man, who faithfully believed in God’s word, and has been waiting for many years to see God’s Messiah. God has promised him that he will not die until this has happened. This gives rise to Simeon’s most famous words, often used funerals and at evening prayer each day: “now Lord, lettest thou thy servant depart in peace according to thy word.” And the prophet Anna speaks of God’s redemption through this child.

It must be almost impossible to imagine what Mary and Joseph must have thought and felt on this occasion. For this was no private gathering. The temple would have been absolutely full of people – all kinds of people, from all kinds of places – all going about their religious business. They would no doubt have drawn a crowd. And although Mary and Joseph might, perhaps, have been not wholly overwhelmed, having had the shepherds visit them most unexpectedly immediately after Jesus’s birth, this would surely not have been without and unease and embarrassment in front of so many people. Even knowing that your child is special and sent by God would surely not make such public moments any easier!

All of these stories that come together in Epiphany are showing us different aspects of the nature, person, and work of Jesus Christ. All of them set the stage for what will later follow in his public ministry, in his death, and in his resurrection. Very shortly we will leap forward into Lent, and the 40 days of testing and meditation which Jesus faced in the wilderness, the period of time to prepare him for the public ministry which would follow. Strict chronology would place it between Jesus’ baptism by John and the miracle at Cana, but that is not how the Church’s year structures it.

Sometimes the best way to look at a narrative is not a linear structure, but rather one that is cyclical and spiral. The Church’s year, which may at first glance seem slightly incomprehensible and illogical, is actually all about thematic groupings to help us to a greater and more intimate understanding of the nature of Jesus, and of God as revealed through him. Sometimes to be able to look at things thematically grouped by type rather than simply by chronological order, allows an insight and depth to reflection which is sadly missing if one is insistent upon purely logical and linear progress. The very process of reflection and of seeing repeated patterns allows us to learn from the past in the present moment and to walk forward with greater wisdom and confidence into the future.

It has often been said that the one who does not know history is condemned to repeat its mistakes. Surely this is true on a personal level as much as on a national or global level. In this Epiphany season, what perhaps is coming to light now? What patterns may we be seeing, beginning to emerge in the light? And what perhaps could we take as wisdom to light our path as we travel forward together into this New Year?

With peace and blessings,

Revd. Talisker

Photo by Marten Newhall on Unsplash

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 30th January – Saturday 5th February

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday January 27 2022, 12:50 pm

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

This is the day the Lord has made

Blog Bulletin 

Published on: Thursday January 20 2022, 2:18 pm

The readings from today remind me very much of the words from Psalm 118 that Elizabeth I was said to have uttered as she sank to her knees under a great oak tree at Hatfield Palace, having just received the news that her half-sister, Mary I, was dead and that she was now Queen of England.

“This is the Lord’s doing: it is marvellous in our eyes”.

The twenty-five year old daughter of Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn, rose above her illegitimacy and the taint of being an alleged traitor’s daughter to be a great queen: Queen Elizabeth I, Gloriana. Arguably one of the greatest monarchs that Great Britain has known, and certainly one of the most famous.

This morning, I was talking to the children at Buckland school about patience, and waiting for the right time – that moment when all the preparing and waiting and hard work come to fruition, and the thing we have been working, watching, and waiting for comes into being. Simply, naturally, as if it was always meant to be. And yet how many months, sometimes years, of planning and preparation have gone into that wonderful happening that we have longed for?

The Psalm continues, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Whether that day is the Sabbath – the day of rest – or the day when freedom comes to the prisoner who has been held in long captivity; the day when healing comes to the one who has suffered chronic pain for so long; the day when all our hopes and dreams come true; the day when we stand tall and proud and joyful in success. All these days are the gift of God, who has worked with us in making this thing happen.

Waiting is not something that comes easily to us, especially in the age of technology, instant online gratification, and next-day delivery. But whether we experience that waiting or not, it must happen. Creation of anything takes time. Creation of beauty and wonder can take a lot of time.

In Luke’s gospel for this Sunday, Jesus reads the prophet Isaiah, speaking of the coming Messiah. He then tells them, this has come true in their presence this day. This Messiah wasn’t what they expected. This Messiah wasn’t packaged how they wanted him. And so they did not recognise him, despite having as a nation longed and prayed and waited for God’s promise for centuries.

Whatever it is that you have been longing for, know that it is growing and unfolding unseen in the metaphorical ground of your life. It may not flower or fruit exactly as you thought. But be in no doubt that it will be exactly what you most needed. And may you rejoice and be glad in it, may you take joy and rest in that experience, knowing that ‘this is the Lord’s doing’ and that the timing of it is ‘the day that the Lord has made.’

Revd. Talisker

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 23rd – Saturday 29 January

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday January 20 2022, 10:59 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

New wine?

Blog Bulletin 

Published on: Thursday January 13 2022, 2:40 pm

As we continue through the season of Epiphany, this Sunday we revisit the account in John’s Gospel of the miracle at the wedding in Cana. (John 2:1-11)   It only occupies eleven verses but reflection and discussion on the significance and resonance of every word and action within this story take up pages in the commentaries on John’s Gospel – far too much to explore here!

At the heart of the episode is the transformation by Jesus of water into wine, which John defines as the first of the miraculous signs by which Jesus is revealed in his glory and as a result his disciples put their faith in Jesus. As we look forward, therefore, to seeking out these signs and rediscovering again, over the coming months, with the disciples the meaning of putting our faith in Christ, it may be helpful to remember that this episode follows directly on from the baptism of Christ and the calling of the first disciples, as well as pointing us forward to the living wine of the Eucharist.  

When the wedding servants take water drawn from the stone purification jars to the master of ceremonies, Jesus has transformed it into something urgently needed for the wedding guests and something uniquely special.  

This water which Jesus uses at Cana to become wine – the best wine of the wedding – was placed in the jars used by Jews for ceremonial washing.  This was washing prescribed in Jewish law, an outer purification conducted as recurring tradition.  We can contrast this ritual purification with the deep inner cleansing of the heart and soul in baptism through which we are transformed from mundane into becoming lives adopted by God, called by name as disciples to be a part of the new thing that Christ is doing in the world.

I think it is lovely that this first sign takes place at a party, a community celebration marking a new beginning, and that the wine which is gifted is richer than all that has gone before.  Water, wine and grapes are recurring imagery of Christ, of which this episode is a foretaste, but I think that this miracle also highlights that when we are transformed by Christ into something richer than we were before, he takes our ordinary selves and makes us into people who are called to be full of joy in him.  I wonder, if we were wine at that party in Cana, would the master of ceremonies recognise us as something special?  Can people see that ‘wine’ in us today?

Lucy G

Image under Creative Commons from pxhere.com

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 16th – Saturday 22nd January

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday January 13 2022, 11:10 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Baptism – Are you “In” or “Out”?

Blog Bulletin 

Published on: Thursday January 6 2022, 2:46 pm

Human civilisations and cultures are full of rituals, of ways of establishing whether a person is “in” or “out” of the group. It has gone on since the dawn of time, in one form or another. Whether it’s the clothes you wear, the way you speak, how you hold your knife and fork… Or more physical rituals, such as participating in indigenous tribal ritual experiences.

Faith groups are, in some ways, little different. For the Hebrews (and still the Jews) it is circumcision. For Christians, it is usually baptism.

But nothing is ever quite so simple as mere words might suggest. In the early centuries of the church, some Christians put off baptism until the point of death, so that they were completely cleansed of sin and redeemed, and thus avoided any possibility of punishment for sins committed after baptism! Others, especially after St Augustine, baptised infants as quickly as possible after birth to ensure that they were “in” and accepted by God.

But both of the examples above are driven, at their root, by fear. Not by love. Not by wanting to accept a loving invitation to be in God’s huge family, but by terror of being left out, and the punishment that might entail.

I find this very interesting, because it’s here that the vast gap between our words about God and our true inner feelings about God can be revealed.

What is it that we truly, foundationally, believe about the nature of God?

Are some in, and some out, depending on whether they were baptised or not? Or whether they’ve said the right prayer or not? Or whether they’re Catholic, or Protestant, or pre-destined and chosen, or belonging to the “right” religious group?

For me, this has always been the fundamental question of faith. It was precisely this question of “in” or “out” which led me to reject the God that as a teenager I was introduced to. Any god who could condemn humans to eternal punishment and exclusion based on a human decision made with finite knowledge and dependent on cultural and personal circumstances was not a god I wanted anything to do with. If that’s Jesus, and God, then no thank you!!

Over the years, despite my angry rejection of Him, God did not reject me. He came searching for me. He kept on inviting. He kept on creating opportunities to see something different. And through other people, and through my own experiences, I came to understand that my instinct of rejection had been absolutely right. When in my mid-twenties, I accepted His invitation, I did so out of love, not of fear of eternal consequences.

We will all see things differently. We all have different personalities, often different cultural perspectives. What is right for me may be utterly wrong for you – and that’s okay.

One caveat – that’s not to say that some actions are utterly and completely wrong and sinful and unacceptable. Sin is a very important word, and we need to use it in the right way. Actions which deliberately and knowingly hurt others, especially the weak and vulnerable, are wrong, and the Bible is utterly clear that God does not condone or accept such actions. But God’s love is so great that even whilst He rejects and is grieved by the action, He will never reject the person. Redemption and forgiveness are always possible with God, even when it feels impossible for humans. And in all honesty, some sins are so awful, some crimes so terrible, that only God can sort them out.

But to return to my point about difference in belief and perspective. For me, the most important reason why “in” and “out” is not the key question in belief and faith is that God loves us all, exactly as we are. Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Jew, Baha’i, Buddhist. Our paths may be different, and we will all make different choices. The person who decides whether we are “in” or “out” when it comes to the divine party is not God. It’s each one of us. You. Me.

It may be somewhat uncomfortable to come in if the people there are all the ones we’ve spent our human lives rejecting and excluding. Or if we’re the person who did unspeakable things in life, because the Bible also tells us that in God’s presence, there are no secrets. Think of it as spiritual and emotional nakedness. Whatever our true nature, and our actions, everyone knows it! I can’t imagine that will be anything other than very, very embarrassing and difficult!

But my guess is that, in the end, when we hear the music and see how great the party is, we’ll want to come in. And there won’t be anyone on the door asking whether we have our invite, or checking our credentials. Simply wanting to be there, and being brave enough to come in, will be enough.

And for that, thanks be to God.

Revd. Talisker

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 9th – Saturday 15th January

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday January 6 2022, 11:46 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 2nd – Saturday 8th January

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday December 30 2021, 10:28 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

“O Come all ye faithful… Come and behold him”

Blog Bulletin 

Published on: Thursday December 23 2021, 2:42 pm

“O Come all ye faithful…”  The call to come and acknowledge and worship God echoes through the centuries, the millennia. God has come to be with us, and invites us into intimate relationship with Him, even as His Spirit comes to dwell within our hearts.

Christmas is a time for gathering, for celebration, for gifts, and for saying thank you. This year, like last year, feels a little strange for most of us. We are permitted to gather, but there is a cloud over us, a deep concern over spreading this virus. If I get it, I may be okay, but what about my neighbour? What about old Mr and Mrs Jones? Will they be okay?

This year, I find myself reflecting in a very personal way on how Christmas must feel for those who are unable to gather and celebrate as they might wish. As you know, I’ve had pneumonia, and so I’m effectively shielding for the next couple of weeks whilst I recover. This means I’m not taking any Christmas services – and it has meant for me that there is an aching absence at the heart of Christmas. I freely admit that in years past I have often muttered somewhat grumpily about the number of Christmas services across the benefice – but this year I realise how much I love it, because I miss it so much.

I say this only because this realisation and reflection has helped me to think about Christmas in a fresh way. I’ve become so used to one thing, that the absence of it is a shock.

But in that absence there is a new presence. A quieter, but no less powerful, sense that God is here. Jesus was indeed born in the chaos and mess and noise of a busy and very full home, where there wasn’t a spare inch of space – hence he was laid in the animal feeding trough to keep him safe.

Yet God is also in the quiet corners, the lonely places, and the tiny voice in the silence of a quiet frosty night. The moon shines bright, the only sound is the ice crackling gently on the leaves and grass as it settles. It’s not the warm glow of candles in the church, nor the singing of carols, nor the mulled wine and noisy gathering of friends. But up in the sky, a star shines bright, and it calls us as surely as it did the shepherds and the wise men.

Come let us adore him, Christ the Lord!

Wishing you all a very happy Christmas and a blessed new year.

Revd. Talisker

Photo by KaLisa Veer on Unsplash

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 26th December – Saturday 1st January

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday December 23 2021, 9:57 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 19th – Saturday 25th December

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday December 16 2021, 9:29 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

“On Jordan’s bank, the Baptist’s cry announces that the Lord is nigh…”

Blog Bulletin 

Published on: Thursday December 9 2021, 2:36 pm

So begins the hymn that really does belong to the Third Sunday of Advent, also known as Gaudete Sunday.

Where do I begin? There are so many strands that I am struggling to weave them – so I offer them to you as they are, to do with as the Spirit moves you!

It’s Gaudete Sunday because Advent is a season of preparation and penitence (like Lent) and the Church tradition is that the third Sunday of these seasons is a day off from the fasting, and we get to rejoice and eat some good food!

How apt therefore that this Sunday, we are blessed to have Bishop Gavin coming to lead our benefice service at Buckland  – it’s great to welcome him here for the first time.

But to return to John the Baptist. He wasn’t exactly the most subtle or soft-spoken of people. But then prophets rarely are! Perhaps if I wanted to summarise his words from today’s gospel reading, it might be, “Don’t be complacent!” It’s so easy to become very complacent, and very comfortable, and think that everything’s okay because we are okay.

But oh how quickly things can change! There is no room for complacency for any of us. Surely Covid has taught us that in this past couple of years! But there is also the call to ensure that our actions and our words match, and that our religion is of the heart, and not only the outward appearance.

This Sunday, Mike Sheil begins his Rough Sleep, one night in each churchyard in the benefice, sleeping out under a tarpaulin. He’s doing it to support YoCO and Aspire, two Oxford charities helping homeless and vulnerable young people. And again this year, we are appealing for Toys and Toiletries as gifts for all the guests at the Oxford Christmas Lunch.

John the Baptist calls us to rise from any complacency, to take action, to examine our own lives and hearts, to ensure that we are attentive to the presence of Christ within our hearts, calling us to make sure he isn’t squished in a tiny corner, but given space in the very centre. I’m sure we will find some dusty cobwebs and dirty corners that are rather embarrassing. We all have them. And we can all do with a little clean-up.

But there is also much to celebrate this Gaudete Sunday. So, rejoice with me, that God so loved the world that he sent his Son – a light shining in the darkness – to dwell in our hearts through faith, and to be with us always.

Revd. Talisker

Photo by KaLisa Veer on Unsplash

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 12th – Saturday 18th December

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday December 9 2021, 9:32 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Speaking the Truth?

Blog Bulletin 

Published on: Thursday December 2 2021, 2:47 pm

Snow in November? What is the world coming to?!! Strange things do indeed happen all the time. Often those strange things become legends and myths, stories that we pass on, tell and re-tell, until the actual facts of the event are lost in the mists of time. What remains is the heart of the event, the ‘truth’ of it, the impact of it.

At present, I’m reading a book by Simon Loveday called ‘The Bible for Grown-Ups’. His basic premise and question is, how do we move from the simple unquestioning narrative and faith of a child to the intelligent and well-considered faith of an adult. As St Paul says, ‘when I was a child, I thought as a child, I spoke as a child…. Now that I am a man, I have put away childish things.’

(By the way, this book is utterly brilliant – it makes the bible scholarship accessible and understandable without needing a theology degree!)

When we are children, we believe in Santa. My daughter is now three and a half, and she is so excited about Christmas and Santa and the Nativity play. It’s wonderful to see. But when she’s thirteen, I would be frankly worried if she still believed in Santa Claus, and I would definitely hope she would have a deeper understanding of the true meaning of the Christmas story, beyond angels and shepherds and a special baby.

The four gospels all treat the Christmas narratives (ie the birth of Jesus) differently. In fact they don’t agree, they all have different details, and one doesn’t mention it at all! Does that mean it’s not true? No. Does that mean it probably didn’t happen quite as the stories suggest? Almost certainly.

In the end, truth is bigger than mere facts. Truth is the heart of the event – in this case, that God so loved the world that He became one of us, as Jesus, to show us God-in-action and God-in-humanity.

Truth is, I think, often subjective. Your experience of an event and mine may be wildly different – but does that always mean one of us is lying? Not necessarily. We simply tell our experience. And from among those differing experiences, those differing perspectives, Truth emerges – radiant, multifaceted, beautiful, shimmering. And completely beyond the confines of mere fact.

And for this, Thanks be to God.

Revd. Talisker

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 5th – Saturday 11th December

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday December 2 2021, 10:08 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Mike’s Rough Sleep

Charities & Fundraising 

Published on: Friday November 26 2021, 10:06 am

Christmas is a time of the year when, inspired by the story of Joseph and Mary and the baby Jesus sheltering in a stable, we think of the disadvantaged and homeless as they endure the long winter nights.


Two people who are doing more than think are Jane Cranston and Mike Sheil, both over 70, who will be sleeping rough in the seven churchyards of the Benefice during the week of 12 – 18 December. Jane was High Sheriff of Oxfordshire in 2017 when she helped established Youth Challenge Oxfordshire (YoCo) and is currently the Chair of the Oxfordshire Homeless Movement. MIke Sheil is a retired photographer living in Buckland who won a World Press Photo award for his documentation of child trafficking in West Africa.


They are seeking to raise money for two local charities, Aspire Oxfordshire which works to prevent homelessness amongst young people and YoCO , who run a challenging programme to help young people develop personal confidence and resilience.

Their schedule is as follows:
Sun   12 LIttleworth

Mon  13 Pusey

Tue    14 Charney Bassett

Wed  15 Lyford

Thu   16 Longworth

Fri     17 Hinton Waldrist

Sat    18 Buckland
so please support their effort by making a donation. at
https://www.aspireoxfordshire.org/appeal/mikes-rough-sleep

Christmas Appeal 2021

Charities & Fundraising 

Published on: Friday November 26 2021, 9:54 am

for The Christmas Day Lunch at The King’s Centre, Oxford

This year The King’s Centre will host over 500 adults and children for

Christmas Lunch who would not otherwise be able to afford to celebrate Christmas and won’t receive any gifts.

Our Christmas Appeal this year is to provide

TOYS AND TOILETRIES

For the children and adults who attend the lunch

Toys

Need to be NEW, under £10 in value, unwrapped toys please which don’t need batteries or charging  e.g.  Sticker books, colouring books, crayons and pencils, toy cars, teddies, dolls, picture books, jewellery and accessories, balls, lego, puzzles, top trumps


Toiletries

Toothpaste & brushes, shower gel, soap, shampoo, deodorant and other essentials

DONATIONS CAN BE LEFT IN THE DEDICATED BOXES IN YOUR CHURCH PORCH WHERE THEY WILL BE COLLECTED DAILY

OR CONTACT YOUR CHURCHWARDEN WHO WILL ARRANGE FOR THESE ITEMS TO BE COLLECTED FROM YOU

 

THE DEADLINE FOR DONATIONS IS SUNDAY 19th DECEMBER

THANK YOU!

for further info, or to arrange a collection, contact tiggy@thewildmanfamily.co.uk

Timing is everything

Blog Bulletin 

Published on: Thursday November 25 2021, 5:18 pm

There’s a scene in the film, A Good Life, where an eccentric uncle teaches his young nephew the secret of life. He says, it’s the same as comedy: ‘timing’.

Like so many things in life, that line I’ve just quoted (probably misquoted!) has to be delivered exactly, to be heard and witnessed, not simply read in words on a page or screen. It has to be experienced to be in any way meaningful or funny.

So often the psalmist in the bible cries, ‘how long, O Lord, how long?’ We echo that cry down the centuries; millennia in fact. It has been the cry of humanity, and of the earth, probably since consciousness began.

When, Lord? When will you do this? When will you act? When will the righteous person be vindicated? When will the unjust get their comeuppance? When will evil be stopped? When? When? When????

And there are simply no answers that fit comfortably within human timeframes. ‘The time is coming’, says the Lord. ‘Soon’, says Aslan in the Narnia books. A lot of the time, in all honesty, that sounds like mum telling the toddler, ‘maybe’ or ‘later’. In other words, probably either ‘never’, ‘when I get round to it’, or ‘hopefully you’ll get distracted by something else and forget’.

Whilst God is as a mother to us, ‘soon’ to God means ‘yes, in the right moment’. For if there is one thing we must hold to, it is that God never never goes back on his promise. Even if his sense of timing isn’t what we want or expect. Come to think of it, quite often his answers to our prayers are not what we expect or think we want, but that’s another story.

Human time is meaningless to God – he dwells outside of time, as much as he is able to be within it. Quantum physics teaches us that all time is in fact ‘now’, the present moment. Everything else is an illusion, and all collapses into the pure ‘now’.

Where does that leave us?

This Sunday is Advent Sunday. The start of a new year in the Church calendar. The start of the time of preparation and waiting. God asks us to make room for him once again in our hearts, coming to us as one of us in Jesus. Just as expectant parents need to make room in the house for the baby, so we need to do a bit of spiritual internal space-creation.

But not too much. God doesn’t ask for everything to be perfect. Quite often, new-born babies would be put in a drawer, pulled out from a chest, as a makeshift crib. It’s effective, it’s safe, and it’s a very good way of putting the baby right there in the middle of the family, so all can be present and keep an eye on it. In the same way, when Jesus was born, he was put in the feeding trough for the animals – not in the stable out of sight or hearing, but in the centre of the house where the whole family, humans and animals, all shared the one room, the one roof.

God doesn’t mind the mess. He doesn’t mind being given a small space. But he does ask for just a tiny bit.

And when will he arrive? Now.

And when will your life change? Now.

And when will you become aware of those changes? Of the difference that God makes? That he does in fact keep his promises? Soon. At precisely the right moment. When that right moment is Now.

Revd. Talisker

image: bernie_photo

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 28th November – Saturday 4th December

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday November 25 2021, 9:42 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Christ the King

Blog Bulletin 

Published on: Thursday November 18 2021, 2:31 pm

Did you know that the festival of Christ the King was established within the Church calendar as recently as 1925, by Pope Pius XI? His purpose was a refocusing of Christian direction and priorities in the face of the devastation of war past and threatened, growing secularism and the rise of extremes of political authority. We might say today plus ca change …. Pope Pius XI wanted to remind the Church and the world that there could be no hope of lasting peace in a world that rejected Christ:

“We live in the peace of Christ when we surrender our lives to him every day, accept him as our God, Saviour and King and allow him to rule our lives.” (Vatican Encyclical Quas Primas 11121925)

In the Anglican Communion the festival of Christ the King is celebrated this Sunday, the culmination of the Church year, a reminder that Jesus is the ultimate Lord of Earth and heaven, and that all creation, prophecy, law, judgment and life are brought to fulfilment in him. The Church of England liturgical guide to the seasons of the Christian year Common Worship: Times and Seasons (p537) says, “The year that begins with the hope of the coming Messiah ends with the proclamation of his universal sovereignty.” As such, this festival marks an end and a beginning as we look to Advent, the weeks in which we take time to reflect and to scrutinise our lives in preparation to celebrate again the coming of God in the person of Jesus into the world. And Advent is also the season in which we refocus and reprioritise our lives as we look forward in hope to Christ coming again in all the transforming glory of his kingship – Christ the Alpha and the Omega.

It is significant that in the gospel reading for this Sunday, when Pilate asks Jesus if he is King of the Jews, Jesus responds by shifting the emphasis away from a particular place and political context. Instead he expresses his kingdom as those belonging to the truth and listening to his voice. (John 18: 33, 37)Recognising that Jesus is King means accepting our responsibility as subjects in his kingdom today as people who listen to God and hear, who try to live as servants in the world as Jesus has shown, and who look for Christ present and active in the situations and the people around us.

As we celebrate and give thanks this Sunday for Christ our King, let’s also give thanks that he has made us into Kingdom people now to serve and share his truth and his peace in the world today.  

Lucy G

Photo by Wolfgang Sauber of window in Linz Cathedral, available under Creative Commons Licence

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 21st – Saturday 27th November

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday November 18 2021, 10:35 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

REMEMBERING WITH HONOUR AND HOPE

Blog Bulletin 

Published on: Thursday November 11 2021, 2:15 pm

It is now 100 years since the British Legion adopted the idea, in 1921, of wearing poppies – first fabric and then paper – as a mark of remembering and honouring the men and women who have given their lives in wars and conflicts since the First World War for our safety and in the service of protecting peace in the world.  

The idea of the poppy as a symbol of remembrance and as a way of generating funds which in turn give back support to former service men and women damaged by war, and to their families, came from two women, Moina Michael and Anna Guérin, working in America, France and Britain.  Both took their inspiration from McCrae’s poem,

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row.

Michael was particularly moved by the final lines of the poem:

To you from failing hands we throw

the torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

we shall not sleep, though poppies grow

in Flanders fields.

The poppies grew in the battlefields of Flanders because of the churned-up soil. Their bright red is a visual splash that reminds us of the blood and lives poured out for us.  As a flower, poppies are fragile and quickly fade, reminding us of the lives cut off by war.  And yet despite their fragility, they come back year after year – an enduring reminder of the sacrifice made.

But did you know that poppies were not the only flowers in the mud of Belgian and French battlefields in the First World War? Soldiers living through months of heat, cold, rain, fear and long, boring waiting in the trenches made gardens in the mud banks of trench walls with seeds sent to them by their families.  Through this they kept a small visual reminder of connection with home and brought a little colour and peace into their surroundings.  In the midst of danger and death, they grew a creative act.

The former Bishop of Singapore and Birmingham, Bishop J L Wilson, who was a Japanese prisoner of war in the Second War, recommended three thoughts for us all to carry in our hearts on Remembrance Sunday.

1. That we should be thankful for the sacrifice of others

2. That we should be dedicated to work for peace and justice in the world

3. That we should be sorry for human sin and evil.

And so, as we remember today and on Sunday, let us make this a creative act of thanksgiving and of taking up the torch of the fight against the enemies that cause war: greed, injustice, hatred and intolerance.  As we remember and reflect, may God give us the courage to blossom as peacemakers, so that those who have died for us may rest in peace.

In the name of Jesus Christ who died that we might have life in him.

Lucy G

John Alexander McCrae  In Flanders fields

American Legion Auxiliary  https://www.legion-aux.org/Blog/Moina-Michael-The-Poppy-Lady

Wildflower image from publicdomainpictures.net

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 14th – Saturday 20th November

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday November 11 2021, 10:03 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Wait on God alone in stillness, O my soul

Blog Bulletin 

Published on: Thursday November 4 2021, 3:26 pm

Do you ever find there are days when your mind seems to have turned to cotton wool, and you just feel flat?  Or you know what you should be doing, and you just can’t find the motivation? 

The Old Testament reading this Sunday is from the book of the prophet Jonah. At the start of Jonah’s story, God called him to go to preach to the Ninevites – “but Jonah ran away from the Lord.” (Jonah 1:3)  The job seemed too difficult, too unappealing, so Jonah bunked off in the opposite direction.  Contrast our Gospel reading, where the fishermen Simon, Andrew, James and John dropped everything and followed Jesus the moment he called them. (Mark 1:14-20)  But, tracing their experiences through the Gospel story, we see that even with their commitment and enthusiasm, they were often confused, at sea as to what was happening or what they should be doing and at times making as much of a mess of things as Jonah.  Yet God saw potential in Jonah and in the disciples; he chose them and drew out what was needed from each of them.

That might not feel much comfort, when one is looking blankly at the page in life, trying to make sense of things.  Jonah found his turning point in the isolation and despair of the belly of the fish, refreshing him to turn back to Nineveh and see through his role in God’s mission.  In the beautiful poem of his lament and new hope in God, Jonah said “When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you.” (Jonah 2:7)   In Psalm 62 for this Sunday, the psalmist reiterates this patient trust through the ups and downs and reminds us, whatever the situation, to “pour out your hearts before God” (62:8) because “power belongs to God” (62:11). 

When the page is blank, give it – empty – to God, and wait on him in stillness to fill it.

Lucy G

Photo by L.Gildersleeves

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 7th – Saturday 13th November

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday November 4 2021, 10:11 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

A CLIMATE OF FAITH, ACTION AND HOPE

Blog Bulletin 

Published on: Thursday October 28 2021, 4:08 pm

As I write this, Glasgow – preparing to host the COP26 conference on climate change – has suffered flooding and is expecting more rain.  In contrast, a number of countries in eastern Africa are experiencing lengthening dry seasons and the failure of their seasonal rains.  Climate change is affecting all of the world and often it is the poorest people and the Earth’s wildlife that are worst hit.

COP26 is bringing together representatives of the majority of the nations of the world to try to agree commitments to combat climate change and to talk through ways of moving forward that will protect the planet and the most vulnerable on it.   The estimate is that we have less than 30 years left in which to effect radical change and achieve zero emissions, to hold the present increase in warming down to 1.5◦C.

As Christians, we are reminded that this world is God’s creation which he declared to be very good. (Genesis 1) God made us stewards of the world to care for it but collectively we have made a substantial mess of this care.  COP26 is one part of the attempt to set right that responsibility and action.  The Church of England invites us all to become part of this attempt.  Bishop Olivia (Bishop of Reading) is one of the Church’s representatives at the conference and will be speaking on a joint Faith Panel.  You can follow the link below to watch this livestreamed on Monday. As stewards entrusted by God we can, as churches and as individuals, act – by reviewing and altering how we use resources, aim for net carbon zero energy consumption and direct our investments and policy choices.   We can, as people of faith, raise the alarm and speak out our concern, our unity and our hope for the COP26 conference and for a good future for all the Earth, joining together in the national ringing of church bells at 6.00pm on this Saturday 30th October.

And we can pray – for wisdom, compassion and inspiration for all who are part of the COP26 discussions and implementation, and pray for the wellbeing of those who are most burdened by climate change. 

Lord God, you made the world and everything in it.  Forgive us for how we have failed to treat Earth and our fellow humans with the care and respect they deserve. Give us the courage to change our behaviours and to speak out for change that protects the world and the vulnerable in it.  Pour your Spirit of peace into the hearts of the COP26 delegates and of all people, so that conflicts end in peace, and relationships are restored.  Amen.

Lucy G

Faith Panel – Are religious leaders rising to the climate challenge? https://cjc.org.uk/2021/10/20/are-religious-leaders-rising-to-the-climate-challenge-join-cjc-at-cop26/

Livestream of the Faith Panel discussions – Monday 1st November, 1.30 pm https://www.youtube.com/c/cop26

Ruth Valerio – Why COP26 matters – a Christian perspective    https://www.tearfund.org/stories/2021/09/why-cop26-matters?

Image used, available under Creative Commons Licence from © MaxPixel 

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 31st October – Saturday 6th November

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday October 28 2021, 11:27 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Spreading the word on the street

Blog Bulletin 

Published on: Thursday October 21 2021, 3:35 pm

This Sunday is the Last after Trinity.  The Gospel reading tells of how Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, cried out to Jesus to have mercy on him. Even though the crowds tried to shush Bartimaeus Jesus stopped in his journey, called Bartimaeus to him and asked him what he wishes Jesus to do for him.  Bartimaeus asked to see again.  Jesus responded, “Go, your faith has made you well.” With his sight restored, Bartimaeus did not go; instead, he followed Jesus on the way.  (Mark 10: 46-52)

Before his encounter with Jesus, Bartimaeus was trapped in poverty, his life limited by his blindness.  He had not seen the power of Jesus’ ministry but he could hear and listen to the word on the street, and from that he recognised Jesus as a great teacher who could and did transform his life.  With the renewed sight of his physical and spiritual eyes, Bartimaeus was ready to begin again, following Jesus.

Today we do not have the opportunity to see Jesus in person like Bartimaeus, but we get to know him and learn the awesome news of his saving grace which has the power to transform lives everywhere, through hearing others speaking about Jesus and through reading the Bible.  This Sunday is also known as Bible Sunday, an opportunity to be thankful for the gift of the story of God’s loving and recreative relationship with the world and humanity, and to recommit ourselves to reading, sharing and learning from the Bible.   As the psalmist says,

The unfolding of your words gives light;
    it imparts understanding to the simple.  (Psalm 119: 130)

This Sunday is also an opportunity for us to think about how that Word is made accessible to those who are crying out for it and to those who have never heard of it.  Some people are gifted at standing in crowded shopping malls to spread the word on the street, or at chatting about their faith at the bus stop or over a coffee.  Others are more confident at sharing the Bible with school children through story telling activities like Open The Book or Godly Play. If this is not you, maybe you could help by supporting organisations like The Bible Society who translate the Bible into whatever language is needed and ensure copies are made available in places where it is hard to obtain.   Or maybe we could begin on our own doorstep: The PCC of St Mary’s Church, Buckland, give each Year 6 child at Buckland School their own Good News Bible – perhaps we could help this happen in other schools too.

Let’s join together in getting the Word on the street.

Lucy G.

Image taken by Lucy G, with thanks to Rob Lacey, author of the word on the street retelling of the Bible, and to Karen Beard and Rob Monacelli, for the cover photo and design.

Lacey, Rob, the word on the street, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003

The Bible Society   https://www.biblesociety.org.uk/about-us/

If you are interested in being part of our Open The Book team, please contact Lucy on gildersleeveslucy@gmail.com

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 24th – Saturday 30th October

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday October 21 2021, 11:57 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 17th – Saturday 23rd October

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday October 14 2021, 11:20 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

The Kingdom of God

Blog Bulletin 

Published on: Thursday October 7 2021, 3:11 pm

It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God. (Mark 10: 25)


A variety of explanations of Jesus’ statement have been proposed.


Was there a little gate in Jerusalem’s city walls, through which it would have been extremely difficult for a camel – especially a camel loaded with goods – to pass? The archaeological evidence for such a gate is unproven, but the point of the illustration might then be that the only way to enter the Kingdom of God would be to unburden oneself of all the goods and baggage we carry that prevent us being in a right condition to enter. Certainly, the rich man who approached Jesus to find out how he might inherit eternal life was shocked when Jesus challenged him to sell his possessions and give the proceeds to the poor before coming to follow Jesus; he left in grief because he could not face this unburdening himself of his stuff, this leaving behind the comforts of his life. I wonder what are the comforts, the ties, the assumptions or the habits that personally we find hard to lay down in order to centre ourselves on Jesus?


Or, the Aramaic word for rope or knot translated into Greek is so close for the word for camel that perhaps Jesus was likening the problem for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God to the impossibility of threading a needle with rope. The disciples, living in a culture that associated worldly success as evidence of God’s blessing of a person’s faithfulness, were amazed at this and asked if not these ‘blessed’ people, who then could be saved? (v.26). Jesus responded that this was impossible for mortals, but not for God. If we try to understand Jesus’ illustration this way, we are reminded that whoever we are, whatever we have or do not have, we cannot engineer or buy our way into the Kingdom of God by our own actions. It is only through the grace of God that we are adopted into God’s present and future Kingdom – and being part of that Kingdom now is both a difficult, painful responsibility and a blessing of the optimism of God’s grace. I wonder how God is calling us to be loving brothers, sisters, mothers, children for each other as we engage with this responsibility and grow in our dependency on God?


Lucy G.


Image by permission of kidadl.com free colouring pages

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 10th – Saturday 16th October

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday October 7 2021, 9:59 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Are we locusts?

Blog Bulletin 

Published on: Thursday September 30 2021, 2:45 pm

In this Benefice of Cherbury with Gainfield we are in the middle of giving thanks for harvest. The readings this week include one from the prophet Joel, writing during a period of agricultural devastation.  A plague of locusts had consumed crops and the grazing on which livestock and humans depended; it seems also that drought had led to wildfire and to water sources drying up. (Joel chapter 1)

Joel’s account seems terribly apposite today as we read reports of forest fires around the world, extreme weather conditions wiping out communities, and the ongoing plague of locusts which has been infesting Eastern Africa, the Arabian peninsula and India for the last three years.

But Joel was not writing an account of despair but of hope.  In the passage for this Sunday (Joel 2:21-27) he prophesied ‘do not fear’ to the earth and to the animals and to the people because God would provide abundantly and that those who had lost everything would eat in plenty and be satisfied and praise the name of the Lord.  And so we read this message of encouragement at our Harvest Festivals as a reminder of our dependency on God as we give thanks for how we have been blessed this year.

Some might say, Joel’s prophecy sounds wonderful but what comfort is that to families starving in Somalia or Yemen right now?  Where is God as another child dies of malnutrition?  This is a painful reality in our world affected by climate change, by conflict and by politics of demand and deb.  I believe God is present in the promise of future restoration and also present in suffering alongside every starving family, and at every damage inflicted on creation.  And I think God is present alongside us as we celebrate our good fortune, challenging us to ponder not only how we may use that fortune to help others, but perhaps even whether some of that good fortune is only possible because of the poverty of others.  Are we perhaps guilty of being locusts in the world today? Joel’s third chapter is a disturbing call to arms, but I propose that we could read it instead as a call to war against the obvious and the hidden injustices around us.

Lucy G.

Image courtesy of PIXNIO free images.  https://pixnio.com/

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 3rd – Saturday 9th October

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday September 30 2021, 10:46 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

A vast network of prayer

Blog Bulletin 

Published on: Thursday September 23 2021, 2:44 pm

This Sunday one of the readings is from the letter of James (5:13-16):

If any of you are having troubles, they should pray. If any of you are happy, they should sing praises.  If any of you are sick, they should call the church’s elders. The elders should pour oil on them in the name of the Lord and pray for them.  And the prayer that is said with faith will make the sick person well. The Lord will heal. And if any have sinned, God will forgive them.  Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other. Do this so that God can heal you. When a good person prays, great things happen.

This brief passage captures the pattern of prayer within our services week by week, encompassing praise and thanksgiving, confession and intercession.  The passage also hints at the many ways that prayer may be communicated: in quiet, in song, in hands-on actions, alone, with friends, with the body of the Church. The opening of heart and mind to God happens anywhere and everywhere: before a lit candle or holding a cup of tea, in the peace of a church or walking bridleways and pavements, in desperation and in expressions of creativity … But however and wherever we pray, prayer is never solitary.

I’ve been enjoying Merlin Sheldrake’s book Entangled Life, about the fascinating hidden depth and range of the interconnectedness of the world’s ecosystems held together by vast mycelium networks that act as communication and nutrition carriers and health support systems.  The fungi exist in many forms, in dramatically diverse conditions, with surprising interactions, and without them our life could not exist.  The blurb on the jacket says,

“The more we learn about fungi, the less makes sense without them. They can change our minds, heal our bodies and even help us avoid environmental disaster.”

I found myself thinking we could easily replace fungi here with prayer.  As we pray, God makes us into a ‘mycelial’ network through which the Holy Spirit flows, conveying nourishment and distributing comfort (a strengthening and a source of alleviation and relief) into situations of need.  Prayer is not something we do in isolation.  As church, we pray to God in thanksgiving and in intercession for each other, for the world; we also as church represent our communities as we pray.  As we do this, whether individually or gathered collectively, we are joining with millions of others around the world in every situation and location, and with generations who have prayed before us and will pray after us.  And the results of prayer are far-reaching, sometimes surprising and sometimes something that as individuals we cannot see. But as James writes, out of prayer great things happen. Being a part of this network of prayer is a part of the task of loving God in loving our neighbour and of being the universal Church filled with the Holy Spirit, worshipping and serving God.

Lucy G.

Image courtesy of Daily Theology https://dailytheology.files.wordpress.com/2017/04/consciousnature11_01.jpg

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 26th September – Saturday 2nd October

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday September 23 2021, 11:10 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

“Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” (Mark 9:37)

Blog Bulletin 

Published on: Thursday September 16 2021, 3:24 pm

In the Mediterranean culture of 2000 years young children largely lacked status; for the Jews, recognition and value came with the ceremonial transition to adulthood.

Yet, the gospel readings for the coming three Sundays all show Jesus deliberately identifying little children with himself and with entry into the Kingdom of God.  In each context, Jesus is challenging the assumptions of those around him about status and importance and about faithful service to God.  In each case there is an emphasis on welcoming children and protecting and encouraging their relationship with God, for the child and as ‘being childlike’ as illustration of true relationship with God.

Little children put their trust in parents, are wholly dependent on them for care, security and love.  Little children have a straightforwardness, an honesty of purpose which has not become complicated by prejudices, goal-seeking or self-doubts.  They live in the moment and, if not constrained by fearful circumstances, respond with love, delight and playfulness to the world around them.

Jesus speaks of the need to be like a child in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  (Matthew 18:3)  Over the coming weeks we are invited by these accounts from Jesus’ ministry to look at how we relate to the world with a childlike heart, a heart that delights in our surroundings, looks for the best in others and simply gives and seeks love.

Jesus also speaks of those who welcome a little child in his name as welcoming Jesus himself.  Interacting with little children is exciting, demanding, full of potential and risk, sometimes scary, a time of new and shared discovery, of growth.  I wonder, is this how Jesus invites us to welcome our interaction with him?

Lucy G

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 19th – Saturday 25th September

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday September 16 2021, 11:11 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Careful what you say

Blog Bulletin 

Published on: Thursday September 9 2021, 3:22 pm

This month we read the letter of James. A kind of Marmite epistle. Martin Luther called it an epistle of straw because it lacked the doctrinal argument of St Paul. You may prefer it for the same reason – it is certainly practical. The timely comparison it makes is with the way misusing the tongue is like a forest fire – utterly destructive but starting with a small spark! How, therefore, we need to take care with what we say. And if, like me, you sometimes use a radio mike – be especially careful to check when you want to switch off! Or with email such as we all use – check what you’ve said before pressing the send button.

What massive consequences can follow our communications for good or bad.

Soon we shall be into the church harvest season. Thankfully there too the small (grain) can produce masses of good (wheat, barley etc) so thanksgiving is certainly in order.

Revd. Jim

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 12th – Saturday 18th September

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday September 9 2021, 10:50 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Be opened up

Blog Bulletin 

Published on: Tuesday September 7 2021, 2:09 pm

This Sunday our Gospel reading shows us Jesus travelling many miles, up north from Galilee to the coast at Tyre and then back south again towards Jerusalem through the mainly Greek districts of the Decapolis, east of the Jordan.   The previous time Jesus travelled in the Decapolis he had freed the man Legion from the torment of possession by multiple personalities, disposing of them in drowning a herd of pigs, and the locals begged Jesus to leave the area.  This time the people seek Jesus out, bringing a deaf-mute to be healed. They have had time to see and hear and gossip about the news of all the healing, teaching and blessing that Jesus has been doing.  And Jesus takes the man aside, for this is not a publicity stunt for the crowds but a personal restoration, and he uses deliberate almost stylised actions to communicate with the man in a way that he can grasp, to open his ears and his tongue.  When the people around the restored man see what Jesus has done, they are bursting to share the news.

36 Then Jesus[i] ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it.

This passage, which only appears in the Gospel of Mark, is part of the accounts of the opening up of God’s kingdom to gentiles as well as to the Jewish people: the inclusive nature of Jesus’ welcome and blessing for everyone and the promise of his restoration to full life of all believers as part of the family of God.

In the Benefice this month we see this welcome into God’s family and blessing in action as we delight in the first of a number of baptisms and thanksgivings, so long delayed by Covid.  In baptism, the individual is washed in the water as a symbol of that healing restoration from God and receives the Holy Spirit as guide and shaper of life as a member of the body of Christ. In baptism, the individual is opened up to a new identity, enabled to hear God’s word and discover God in every moment. Their tongue is released to share in praising God and in talking about what it means to be a part of his family.  The Church too is opened up in every baptism, reminded of what it means to welcome the precious gift of each new life.

37 ‘He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.’

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 5th – Saturday 11th September

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday September 2 2021, 12:29 pm

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 29th August – Saturday 4th September

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday August 26 2021, 10:47 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 22nd – Saturday 28th August

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday August 19 2021, 11:53 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 15th – Saturday 21st August

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday August 12 2021, 11:33 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Rest & Recuperation – Elijah

Blog General 

Published on: Thursday August 5 2021, 3:16 pm

Have you ever found that after a huge event, you feel utterly depleted and empty?

Last weekend I saw some dear friends who I had not seen for years, as they live abroad, and a few others as well. It was the most wonderful chaos of adults and kids and reunions. My friends stayed for a couple of days, and then they had to go. And suddenly the house was empty, and I wandered, feeling lost and sad and hollow for some hours.

For some weeks now, the story of Elijah in 1 Kings has been resonating with me. Elijah has just won a huge battle against the prophets of Baal who wanted to kill him – instead he has killed them, and the drought in Israel has ended. He has proved that God is greater than any other god. If you want the full story, click here.

And at the end of this massive and very public victory, he says, ‘I can’t do any more, and I’m no better than all the others who just got it wrong. And now they’re trying to kill me. Let me die!’

God doesn’t get angry with him for feeling rubbish just after God has given him a massive success! Instead he sends an angel to give Elijah food and water, and Elijah rests. Only then, when he has rested and been nourished, does God call him on the next journey – at the end of which he will encounter God in a powerful and new way, in the sound of sheer silence.

It’s a beautiful story. It’s a story of care, of respite, and of presence. And it’s a story of being fed and equipped to go on and do even greater things.

Last Sunday, I was saying that one of the things I find most surprising in the Bible is that there is so much complaint and lamentation. It’s okay to complain – even to rage! – against God. To say, “I am in despair, and where are you now, when I need you most?”

Having studied Classics for years, the contrast with ancient Roman and Greek religion could not be more stark. In ancient pagan religion, you had to placate the gods, to get them on side with gifts and sacrifices. To rail against the gods would quite likely make them angry and they would punish and destroy you! But with the God of the Jewish and Christian faith, such honesty and engagement is okay! Indeed the story of Job is a way of exploring precisely this. And the psalms are full of agony and crying out to God.

When we complain, when we despair, when we feel hollow and alone and lost, God wants to come even closer, and sit with us. Last Thursday, I wrote of how God refines us as silver is refined. If the silver were sentient, I doubt it would enjoy the process!! But the refiner must sit and endure the heat of the flames too, utterly attentive to the silver in her hand, or the silver will be ruined.

God does not just rescue us from bad situations and places. Instead he is in those situations alongside us. He gives us strength to get through them, he shows us the way out, he provides help when we need it (often in the form of other people). And at the end, he gives us rest.

When that hollow feeling comes, I find myself coming back to this story of Elijah. When I am struggling, I think of the refiner of silver. And then, I stop, and allow myself to be held in that deeply uncomfortable place, knowing I am not alone, and knowing that God will give me rest and recuperation.

Revd. Talisker

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 8th – Saturday 14th August

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday August 5 2021, 11:45 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Refining Silver

Bulletin General 

Published on: Thursday July 29 2021, 1:00 pm

Sometimes life is not very comfortable – to put it mildly!! And in those moment, we may ask, what on earth is God doing? Why does he not rescue us out of this situation?

One of the images that crops up repeatedly in the Old Testament, in the Prophets and the Psalms, is that of God as one who purifies and refines us as silver is refined.

A few days ago I saw the following story on FaceBook, re-posted by a friend of mine. I don’t know if it’s true – or simply written by someone to illustrate a point. But I found it profoundly moving and so I would like to share it with you.

_____

There was once a group of women studying the book of Malachi in the Old Testament. As they were studying chapter three, they came across verse three, which says: “He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.” This verse puzzled the women, and they wondered what this statement meant about the character and nature of God. One of the women offered to find out about the process of refining silver and get back to the group at their next Bible study.

That week this woman called up a silversmith and made an appointment to watch him at work. She didn’t mention anything about the reason for her interest beyond her curiosity about the process of refining silver. As she watched the silversmith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest as to burn away all the impurities.

The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot – then she thought again about the verse, that he sits as a refiner and purifier of silver. She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined.

The man answered “Yes”, and explained that he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. If the silver was left even a moment too long in the flames, it would be damaged.

The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked the silversmith, “How do you know when the silver is fully refined?”

He smiled at her and answered, “Oh, that’s easy. When I see my image in it.”

If today you are feeling the heat of this world’s fire, just remember that God, our Father, has His eyes on you.

____

I’d like to add to this story. When I read it, it struck me that, as he holds the silver in the flames, the refiner is also feeling the heat and the discomfort. Yet again, as we examine this image, we find that we are not alone. We are held, lovingly and carefully. And God is in the fire with us, walking the road alongside us. He cannot ever leave us, most especially during those times of refining.

Revd. Talisker

Blessing, Nourishing, Resourcing…

Bulletin General 

Published on: Thursday July 29 2021, 9:54 am

Nourishing and resourcing seem to be the themes of this month. When I was planning ahead, I chose the theme of Blessings of God – but actually nourishing and resourcing are actually about blessing. We need these to help us on our journey, or just to get through the day.

As I write, the heat is (for me) almost overwhelming. I’m one of those who often gets migraines in this kind of weather, and I just want to hide somewhere shady and cool. Luckily in England, 30 degrees plus doesn’t last for long. But with the environmental changes we all face, many are suggesting that these temperatures will become normal, and we will all have to adapt to cope.

But I have absolute faith that God will give us the tools we need to adapt, if we have the courage to step out and use them, no matter how unlikely they may at first appear.

Which brings me to this Sunday’s gospel – and echoes last Sunday too.

I can only imagine the scene on the hillside in Palestine. Jesus has drawn his disciples aside for a while to rest, to eat, and so he can teach them. They have been so busy that they haven’t even had time to eat! Many of us can identify with that nowadays. The lunch hour is definitely a thing of the past for many people. Life can feel relentless.

And Jesus says, Stop. Rest. Be nourished yourself, so you can then help others.

But then the crowds gather again. Not just a few – but five thousand of them! And Jesus asks his disciples, Where shall we find bread for them to eat? It’s as if he wants to see how they will respond.

The unlikely available resource is the boy with five loaves and two fish. What good is that? Not even worth bothering with!

But with Jesus, even the most unlikely resource becomes powerful. That boy’s lunch became nourishment and blessing for thousands. How it happened, God knows. In one sense, it does not matter. Did it literally become enough, in Christ’s hands, to feed everyone? Did this in fact inspire everyone to share? I’m not going to get hung up on that detail.

For me the miracle here is that Jesus can take something impossibly small and use it to bless and nourish thousands of people. Part of the beauty of this story is that Jesus uses the small and unimportant, bringing it to the very centre. And the compassion he shows gives me hope. Jesus is not just interested in telling people how to be better, and be more religious, and teaching theology. He looks after the body as well as the soul. Blessing is physical and tangible, as much as it is in the mind or heart. And the nourishment Jesus offers is for the body, as well as for the soul.

And so I wonder, what has God given me that will nourish and bless me, spiritually and physically, for today, and for the journey onwards? Above all I pray that I will not overlook the tiny things, for in them sometimes the greatest blessing of all can be found.

Revd. Talisker

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 1st – Saturday 7th August

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday July 29 2021, 9:51 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 25th – Saturday 31st July

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Wednesday July 21 2021, 2:16 pm

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

The Nature of Blessing

Bulletin General 

Published on: Thursday July 15 2021, 4:00 pm

The theme for this month is the blessings of God. We’re often exhorted to ‘count our blessings’, often when we have tried to complain about something or when we are struggling. And it doesn’t always seem awfully compassionate to be told to count our blessings when we’re not okay.

At those times when we’re just flat out whingeing, then we all need the proverbial kick. And we’ve probably all done our fair share of whingeing at one time or another! But feeling that we are struggling and expressing our unhappiness is very valid indeed. It’s vital! And equally vital is the compassionate response, the listening ear, the person who sees us, who hears our cry, and who stands or sits with us in the suffering.

Good friends (and parents) do that. God does that too.

But it can help to get a bit of perspective on things – and that’s where counting blessings can actually be very wise advice. Remembering our blessings – the good things in our lives – doesn’t take away the current pain or struggle, but it does help to re-frame it and give it context. Humans are hard-wired to see and express the negative. But what about the good? That can too easily get forgotten or brushed aside.

There are always blessings, if we have the eyes to see and the space to watch for them. Sometimes our vision is clouded by things we wish were not so, and at those times it’s hard to see the good.

God is one who laments with us, and rejoices with us. He guides and supports us, he walks alongside us, He has compassion on us in our struggles and suffering. And above all, God is the one who blesses us. Whether that blessing is the presence of a friend when we needed it most, the kindness of a stranger, a meal when we were hungry, money when we had none, the person who lifts the burden from us and gives us respite, or that sense of utter peace in our hearts even when everything is falling to pieces around us. God blesses us directly, and through others.

How many times have I been blessed by God through the words and actions of others! Beyond counting.

And how many times may I have blessed others, perhaps without knowing it, by listening to the inner prompting of the Spirit? I don’t know. Maybe I don’t need to know. But even as I bless, then I am blessed.

I think it helps sometimes to think of God as one who blesses in this gentle way of compassion and presence, rather than expecting fanfares and trumpets and magical transformation from the outside. God can do that too – and I am privileged to have seen it – but mostly God’s blessing is quiet, unassuming, and at the same time completely transforms the situation from within.

May you know God’s blessing in your life: may you have the eyes to see it, and the hands to give it, and the heart to give thanks for it, wherever you may experience it.

Peace and blessings,
Revd. Talisker

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 18th – Saturday 24th July

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday July 15 2021, 10:41 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Life with Covid

Bulletin General 

Published on: Sunday July 11 2021, 6:54 am

As I sat to write this piece, I nearly put the heading “Life After Covid” – but that’s exactly the point. Life after Covid is a long way in the future. For now we must all learn to live with Covid, whether because we have had it, are still suffering from it, have lost loved ones to it, are hugely vulnerable to it, or because it significantly impacts our daily lives.

“Normal” as we knew it in 2019 now seems a very long time ago, and part of me wonders if we will ever quite return to that. There are some things which have gone which very few people will miss. Other new things have come in which are good, and yet others which are less good. But it is also quite clear to me, having listened to a lot of people over the past months, that each of us has different perspectives on what has been good or less good for them.

However there is also the Common Good – and this is, I think, where our Christian faith becomes most visible and vital. At the very start of the pandemic, we were told that wearing a mask would very likely not protect ‘me’ as the wearer – but it would protect ‘you’, the other person, from my germs. And so we wear masks for the sake of others, to halt the spread of a virus which many of us carry without even knowing we have it.

There have been other measures, such as distancing, which have been mentally and emotionally far more painful. We are social creatures. Even the most introverted person needs some friends and company. And we have been either cut off or severely limited in this for so long now.

And on 19th July comes the Great Release! Or does it?

I ask this because, whilst all the measures which we have experienced / embraced / endured for these past months now become voluntary, we must still ask ourselves what should go and what should stay. The answer will change from person to person, and from one situation to another. Yet again, there is vast inequality. The lifting of restrictions is a sigh of relief for some. For others, it is sheer terror and panic.

As always, the blessing of freedom carries the burden of responsibility. We must be compassionate towards and respectful of the needs of others even as we do what is right for ourselves.

One thing I am very excited about it being able to sing again! But I know not everyone will share my joy. So in this case, whilst we will begin singing hymns in church again, those who sing will sit towards the front, and those who prefer not to will be seated towards the back of church, so they are not in “breathing direction” of the singers.

In the benefice churches, we will take all possible steps to ensure that everyone is made to feel as comfortable as possible. It’s not going to be easy, but Christ commands us to love others as we love ourselves. Although it’s tempting to focus only on ourselves and our choices after so long without choice, perhaps this is one of those moment when our Christian compassion and care for our neighbour truly does come to the fore.
I know you will all join me in making these coming months joyful as we come back together in community, and in ensuring that no one feels excluded or unwelcome because of their vulnerabilities – but rather that we can all gather to give thanks to the God who invites and blesses the sick and the healthy, the rich and the poor, who welcomes the outsider and honours the outcast, and who calls us all as his beloved children.

Peace and blessings,
Revd. Talisker

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 11th – Saturday 17th July

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday July 8 2021, 11:36 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

And relax….

Bulletin General 

Published on: Tuesday July 6 2021, 11:29 am

Preaching in June I was struck by two consecutive passages about sleep given us to think about on two consecutive weeks.

Jesus told a parable to illustrate how the ‘kingdom’ works. In a sense all the farmer has to do is to sow seed – and then go off to sleep! It was a picture appreciated by Martin Luther who might seem to have been a workaholic but in fact believed in sleep – and drinking German beer with his friends! Worrying by contrast may achieve nothing for a ‘kingdom’ that God brings in his own way.

And then immediately there’s the story of Jesus and his disciples in a boat in a storm. Jesus, however, was asleep while the other passengers were panicking. At the time they found this really strange. Later they came to understand what it meant.

Which set me thinking of other sleepy moments. Early on in the gospel story we read of Jesus getting up in the early morning for solitude – and prayer. While in the closing events, Jesus is awake in Gethsemane praying while the disciples sleep.

So the Christian faith isn’t for or against sleep – or holidays – or work. What all this tells us is that there are appropriate times for and against. But the thread of continuity is a sense that God is at work even when we take a break.

This year so many of us are thinking more than usual about what constitutes a holiday and how we can arrange one. If you’ve not already had that privilege I’m sure the gospels would recommend us to seize the opportunity if we possibly can.

Jim Mynors

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 4th July – Saturday 10th July

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday July 1 2021, 10:16 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

The healing power of touch… touched by faith and touched by love

Bulletin General 

Published on: Thursday June 24 2021, 4:50 pm

Gospel reading: Mark 5: 21-43

The therapeutic power of touch has been recognised in modern medical care.  Touch as an expression of focus on the patient as a person rather than as a case diagnosis brings a sense of the patient being valued as an individual. There is evidence that touch as a mark of loving care enhances empathy, boosts health and well-being and encourages people to be more collaborative and cooperative in life.

However, it also seems that we are as society becoming much more wary of contact, whether through rightful concerns over inappropriate touching or currently because of Covid security.

Our Gospel reading this week recounts two intertwined stories of the extraordinary power of Jesus’ touch.  Jairus begs Jesus to save his daughter’s life; Jesus takes the dead girl’s hand and gently calls her to wake and get up.  The woman who has been bleeding constantly for twelve long years believes that if she can touch Jesus’ robe she will be cured; as she makes contact, power flows out of Jesus into her and heals her.

The stories are of course more than just wonder-cure accounts.  The sequence of events makes it clear that the healing experienced by the woman and the girl was a response to the woman’s faith and to Jairus trusting Jesus’ instruction to stop being consumed by fear and “only believe” (v36).

I think there is another dimension too at work here, of the power of contact in the narrative as the start of new life and new relationship.

When Jairus comes, risking his status in the community as a synagogue leader, with his plea to Jesus, Jesus could have sent him home with a promise that he would find his daughter live and well. Instead, Jesus chose to walk with Jairus, literally and metaphorically, to be with the family in their fear and worry, their bereavement, confusion and joy.  Jesus chose to make this healing private and personal as he entered into their home and restored life to the daughter and to the family.

I wonder what difference that personal presence of Jesus in the moment made to Jairus and his wife.

In Jewish law a woman was made unclean by bleeding and she had to self-isolate until her bleed ended so that she would not contaminate others.  The woman in the story had been bleeding for twelve years: shut away from family and community for all that time, cut off from touch or hug, and risking punishment by venturing into the crowd to approach Jesus. She could have remained hidden in the crowd. Yet Jesus deliberately sought her out, blessed her with healing peace and publicly affirmed her transformed state.  And he addressed her as daughter, welcoming her into a new family relationship.

I wonder what are the taboos and barriers we hedge around people that marginalise them.

I wonder how we can reach out to those who are lonely or isolated.

I wonder how we communicate to those we meet, especially those who make us feel uncomfortable, that sense of welcome in the way that God invites and welcomes into his family.

May you feel the touch of God’s love today and through this week

Lucy G

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 27th June – Saturday 3rd July

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday June 24 2021, 10:33 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Singing Stars, the Foundation of the Earth, and All Mystery

Bulletin General 

Published on: Tuesday June 22 2021, 10:57 am

Job 38.4-7
‘Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid its cornerstone
when the morning stars sang together
and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?

I have always loved this passage from the book of Job. The entire narrative of the book of Job is a story which explores the “why” of human suffering, especially the age-old question of why bad things happen to good people. In the end, the answer is that it is, in effect, part of the mystery of life. Job is quite clear – despite all the words of his so-called comforters – that God is not responsible for his terrible misfortunes. And he is proved right at the end, when God himself shows up in the story.

Job is the archetype of the one who suffers for no reason other than that’s how life happened for him. He lost everything just ‘because’ – though the writers used the idea that the Devil was tormenting him. And in the end, God restored everything and more to him. It is very clear that God does not cause the evil to happen, though equally he does not prevent it. But what he does do, is to bring blessing and good out of those evil circumstances.

The reason why I love these verses so much is because it expresses just how mysterious and beautiful and wonderful this world is. Science is discovering amazing things. In part, we do now know that the foundations of the earth are tectonic plates, and we know how they move. We do know just how big the earth is, and how far away the stars are.

But those measurements, whether in billions of miles or in billionths of a millimetre, do not truly show us the heart of the mystery – they only show just how incredible the whole mystery is. We have knowledge. But to have understanding, sometimes it feels that we must look at things with wonder and simply appreciate their beauty.

The image of the morning stars singing together at the wonder of creation is, for me, so special. It is as if the created world sings for joy at its own beauty and ‘amazingness’.

Some of you will recall the film, Shakespeare in Love. The hapless owner of the Rose Theatre, Philip Henslowe, is always in some kind of trouble. But he knows that there is always a solution, some way out. When asked by the moneylender precisely what his solution to the theatre’s debt is, Henslowe replies, “I don’t know! It’s a mystery!”

He repeats this through the film at crisis moments, and somehow his childlike faith that somehow something will turn up and that a door will open has always stuck with me.

I am not a scientist, but for me the knowledge that science has brought to us regarding the world simply deepens its beauty and mystery. I cannot hope to understand it, in the sense of being able to see its heart and soul simply by picking apart and numbering its constituent parts. I don’t think any human can, no matter how brilliant. In the end it is, and will remain, a mystery understood only by God who created it all and set the whole incredible universe in motion.

Peace and blessings,
Revd. Talisker

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 20th – Saturday 26th June

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday June 17 2021, 10:47 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Cafe@Church postponed till July

General 

Published on: Tuesday June 15 2021, 10:12 am

CAFE@CHURCH IS RETURNING!
but sadly we have had to postpone until July, 
due to the Government decision to wait another four weeks before restrictions lift. We are so sorry for any disappointment, but we’d rather be safe than sorry! We look forward to seeing you in July instead.

We hope you will join us on Sunday 25th July any time between 10 and 11.30 am Sunday 27th June (and every 4th Sunday of the month after that) to celebrate our village communities coming back together again, and join in the re-start of C@C. It is a chance to

  • renew friendships put on hold during lockdown
  • welcome new people who have moved to the village this past year, or those who have been here a while but are coming to C@C for the first time
  • celebrate the restart!

What to Expect: The usual great quality refreshments, bacon butties, cakes, fresh coffee etc, provided by our Kitchen Team, but also (who knows?) there might be something a bit more special as well to celebrate our re-opening!

For children and young people there will be a variety of craft activities and, for those (young and older) who want to join us, there will be a short, informal service that normally begins around 10.30am and is held in the Chancel which is at the front of the Church.

This is YOUR Invitation. Cafe@Church has been such a popular community event since its opening in 2014. We are hoping it will continue to remain popular and provide a welcome place for everyone. Please join us!

Waiting and longing for the light of day

Bulletin 

Published on: Thursday June 10 2021, 10:10 am

As I write this, sunshine is pouring through the window, a delight after such a wet May.  Sunrise happens every day, even when we can’t see it.  Perhaps in the UK we take it for granted.  In polar extremes, the first sunrise after winter does not simply mark a new day but the beginning of the end of a very long period of darkness.   It indicates the start of a healing process, recovery from the effects of Polar Night Syndrome which can leave people feeling exhausted and worn down.  The new sunrise is eagerly waited for and celebrated by children singing “welcome back my dear friend.”1

The writer of Psalm 130 captures this sense of longing, of yearning for release from darkness, the darkness of the depths of anguish and personal failings. It seems a particularly relevant psalm for today. There are many for whom these past months of Covid have been a great burden, physically, emotionally or spiritually, and who are crying out from the depths, and what stands out for me in Psalm 130 is the writer’s confidence in God’s presence in the midst of our troubles.  The psalmist cries to God, “let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplication” (v2), begging God to attend: not just to listen but to be on hand and to give special care.  Then he calls to Israel, “Hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love and with him is great power to redeem.” (v7).  Even while we cannot see the resolution of our difficulties or the way forward, we are invited to be patient and to keep looking forward because God is present with us and draws into his safety those who doggedly watch and wait for Him.

During this last year there are people who have discovered in themselves a yearning for meaning, for relationship and connectedness with something greater than themselves, and who have never had the chance to get to know God.  Perhaps this psalm that speaks of waiting and hoping “more than night watchmen wait for the dawn” (v6) is for these seekers too, and calls us also into this search.

I am reminded of F.W. Boreham’s writing about this longing and watching for the light of faith as if a watcher was pressing his face “against a window pane, eager to discover …some grey glimmer of the coming dawn.”2  Boreham relates an encounter of a Christian with the agnostic scientist Thomas Huxley, in which Huxley suggested that the Christian might opt not to attend Sunday service but instead take time to talk with Huxley about his religion.  The Christian declined, on the basis that he was not clever enough to refute Huxley’s scientific objections.  Huxley then asked the man instead to stay and simply talk to him about his personal experience of faith.  So, the man did not go to church that Sunday but told Huxley the story of all that Christ was to him.  This made such an impact on Huxley that he said, “I would give my right hand if I could believe that!”  And in time Huxley came to argue fiercely for the acceptance of faith and science as different lenses through which to understand the world.

It is not enough for us as individual Christians only to watch and wait for the Lord.  We need to be ready to attend alongside those who are crying in the depths, and to share our own story of Christ with those who are peering through the window for a glimmer of light.  We don’t need clever arguments, only a willingness to tell the story of all that Christ is to us personally.

God is longing and watching for each of us, in whatever place or situation we are, whether we can see the sunrise or not, so that he too can say, ‘welcome back, dear friend’ and can give us his healing blessing.

Lucy G.

  1. R. Hersher, In the Arctic Circle the sun will come up after 58 tomorrows, BBC World Service, 26 January 2016
  2. F.W. Boreham, The Luggage of Lif, Ch.8 ‘The Face at the Window’. The Internet Archive.

Photo by L.Gildersleeves

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 13th – Saturday 19th June

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday June 10 2021, 9:23 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

All change

Bulletin 

Published on: Friday June 4 2021, 8:37 am

‘Change and decay in all around I see’ runs the old hymn (Abide with me). And many reflect how even living for many years in the same village they’ve seen many unwelcome developments around them.

The last few months have involved more change in our society than most of us have known in our lifetime.

And on top of that most of us have also experienced the major life changes any typical year brings such as adding or (sadly) losing family members and friends.

And at the village level too things move on. Even here. In Buckland there seem to be more houses changing hands than we have known – although to outward appearances it seems the sort of place that might never change.

Yet the lifting of lockdown is now leading to many welcome changes even though some are just a return to how things were.

So how are we to face all this creatively?  A key Christian idea is that of faith which I interpret as the need to look beyond the immediate to what God is up to. ‘DV’ (Deo volente – God willing) used to be an expression for pious people but now we’re learning that many of our plans need such a qualification. And that may be a hard lesson for many of us, but one that we may need to learn.

The challenge I now see is that as things get easier we need to learn an appropriate thanksgiving.

The hymn goes on ‘O thou who changest not – Abide with me’. It was inspired by the words of the disciples on the Emmaus Road who unexpectedly found themselves speaking to the risen Lord on the first Easter Day. Return to a ‘new normal’ seems to me an understatement. What we’re about to enjoy feels more like resurrection!

Jim Mynors

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 6th – Saturday 12th June

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday June 3 2021, 10:28 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

All Good Things Come… in Threes!

Bulletin 

Published on: Tuesday June 1 2021, 8:45 am

A scientist told me yesterday that the nucleus in an atom has a proton and a neutron, and that each of these has three quarks. The most important bit is that quarks come in threes. And they cannot exist alone.

I found myself reflecting on ‘one’, ‘three’, and another weird thing – that ‘1+1=3’.

One on its own is a very lonely thing. So many of us have experienced with first hand intensity this past year just how lonely and painful it is to be one person alone. We are simply not created to be solitary. A few people have the ability and desire to be hermits – but even they will encounter other living creatures and have relationships of various kinds with them. Solitary confinement is punishing.

Two is good – but it can become stifling. The two need a third to love and to wonder at together. To say ‘look!’, and to enjoy, and to celebrate.

And strangely, when two are together, a third is almost always formed, which is why 1+1=3. When two come together, something else and other than themselves is formed and created. It may be a relationship, it may be a project or endeavour. And this 1+1=3 is the mathematics at the heart of families.

When we have three together, there is balance. A three legged stool is solid. A three leafed clover has symmetry. A flower arrangement tends to go in threes (or fives), rather than just two. Three creates a dynamic flow of relationship into which others and more can be invited.

And thus we have the eternal dance of love and life that is the Trinity. God is One, but God is also love and life. And Love cannot exist without a Beloved, and Another to share in that act of loving. And Life is not alive, unless it can create and become and be – which it cannot do in isolation. Even this piece of writing requires three – the author, the writing itself, and the reader – if it is to have meaning and possibility.

Three is indeed at the heart of Life and the Universe – and to find that it is so, even at the subatomic level of quarks, is just wonderful. It literally fills me with wonder at the beauty and complexity and utter simplicity of Life and all that exists.

This Sunday is Trinity Sunday. Normally this is the bane of preachers. To try and explain that God is One and God is Three can feel like a theological pretzel! But actually, when we take it away from the theory and observe it in action in the world around us, we find it is in fact much simpler than we had made it. And in the same way, God is Love and Life and Being. And we are invited into relationship with Him. At heart, faith is in fact that simple.

Thanks be to God!

Every blessing,
Revd. Talisker

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 30th May – Saturday 5th June

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday May 27 2021, 9:19 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Littleworth Virtual Fun Dog Show

Charities & Fundraising General 

Published on: Tuesday May 25 2021, 12:53 pm

12th  June 2021

Classes:

  1. Prettiest Bitch
  2. Most Handsome Dog
  3. Best Rescue
  4. Hairiest
  5. Best Fancy Dress
  6. Best Pair (to include your dog and another pet/toy/or even you!)

  • Enter by sending one photo of your dog for each class entered, by email to Jill (woodwardjill02@hotmail.com)

  • All entries to be submitted by 9th June

  • £2 per class entrance fee, payable to Gainfield PCC
    sort: 30-93–18, account: 00107968 ref: DOG SHOW

  • Rosettes for Winner and Runner Up in each class

  • In aid of Littleworth Church. Like last year, class winners’ photos will be displayed on the Church gates!

  • Contact Jill for more details

Pop up Bring & Buy at Littleworth Church

Charities & Fundraising General 

Published on: Tuesday May 25 2021, 11:56 am

Friday 28th May to Tuesday 1st June

9am-5pm every day

Having a clear out destined for the charity shop? Try here first!

Cakes & biscuits, jams & jellies, plants & produce, clothes, books & bric a brac all welcome.

Please nothing you would take to the tip!

Come along whenever you like to avoid crowding.

Please wear a mask and observe sensible hygiene

Honesty box for donations in aid of the Church

Any queries please ask Alice 01367 243387 alice@manofarmchase.com

In the Power of the Spirit…

Bulletin 

Published on: Thursday May 20 2021, 3:10 pm

Sometimes the most powerful things in life are actually invisible. As I sit here writing, the wind is howling around the house. I can hear it. I can see the trees moving as they are buffeted by the wind. But I cannot actually see it – only the effect of it.

But for all that I can’t see it, it’s incredibly powerful! The wind can have a huge impact!

The Holy Spirit can be very similar. We can’t see it. But the difference that it makes in our lives is amazing. One of the children in assembly this morning suggested it was like being charged up with batteries, or being plugged into the mains. The Holy Spirit fills us with energy, with power, with potential.

Sometimes Pentecost is referred to as the birthday of the Church, celebrating that moment when Peter went outside and preached about Jesus to the crowd for the first time.

When we are anticipating birthdays, we’re often excited. What will happen? Who will we celebrate with? What presents will we get?

As we wait for Pentecost this year, I’d like to invite you to join me in getting excited! Find your inner child, and invite her or him to play, to imagine.

Two weeks ago I compared dunking biscuits in tea to being immersed in the Holy Spirit, and that no matter how much of the Spirit we soak up, there will always be an abundance more for us and for everyone else too.

Let’s pray that not only the Church, but all of us too, will be filled again with the Spirit. That we may be plugged in and switched on, flooded with light and energy, with excitement.

What presents will we get? I don’t know, but I do know God has something for each one of us.

What will happen? Not a clue. But I am certain that if we are opening to receiving those gifts, and if we unwrap them with joy and expectation, something beautiful will be within and will be seen among us.

Whilst we can’t see the Spirit, we can definitely feel its power, and we can see the difference it makes. Peter and the disciples went from cowering behind locked doors to proclaiming the love of God to all those gathered in Jerusalem. What difference might the Spirit make to us, if we invited Him in?

Photo by Jason Blackeye on Unsplash

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 23rd – Saturday 29th May

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday May 20 2021, 11:27 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Young people campaign for climate justice

General 

Published on: Tuesday May 18 2021, 2:05 pm

The Young Christian Climate Network are organising a relay walk from the G7 in Cornwall to COP26 in Glasgow, raising awareness of the faith groups advocacy asks on fair climate finance.  Download their How to Get Involved pdf for ways to support the relay. You don’t have to be a walker; there are also home-based ways to help, or you can organise a linked advocacy or celebration event.

Here is a map of the draft route as it passes through our diocese at the end of July and in mid-August. See if it comes near your home or church. If you live near Reading, put the morning of Saturday 31 July in your diary for a linked event at Reading Minster

Eco Youth Forum

General 

Published on: Tuesday May 18 2021, 12:55 pm

Sunday 4 July, 3:30–5:00pm

The Bishop of Reading is inviting young people (aged 13 -18) to an Eco Youth Forum. A hosted conversation exploring faith, the environment and climate crises and justice. A chance for young people to connect with what is happening in the diocese, but also an important opportunity for their voice and influence to count.

If you would like information for the young people in your church or youth group, please email Bev Higgs

Quiet Encouragement – Barnabas the Apostle

Bulletin General 

Published on: Tuesday May 18 2021, 11:56 am

This Sunday the reading from Acts describes how Barnabas became the twelfth apostle, replacing Judas who had done the unthinkable, the unspeakable. Judas, who is forever remembered as the one who betrayed Jesus. And he is replaced by Barnabas.

Barnabas clearly walked with Jesus throughout his wandering ministry in Galilee and Judea. However we don’t hear about him until after Jesus has risen and ascended, until the first part of the story has ended, and the next part is about to begin.

Barnabas is said to mean “son of encouragement”. He travels with Paul on his missions to the Gentiles around the Mediterranean and is credited with founding the church in Cyprus. For all he was a quiet figure in the background of the gospels, he was also a tower of strength and faith, full of the Holy Spirit and God’s love.

It makes me wonder, how many others were there just like him. How many others who wandered with Jesus from the very beginning, who are now unknown and invisible. Men, women, of all personalities, who simply never made it to the front row, but without whom the entire group would have been far less vibrant and powerful.

And it makes me wonder about how each one of us is invited, drawn, called into relationship with God and into God’s service. We don’t know how Barnabas first came to know and follow Jesus. But we do know that he was chosen to be an apostle by drawing lots. In fact, that’s the reason the new Pope is chosen by lot, with all the cardinals casting their votes, supposedly inspired by the Holy Spirit as they do so (though especially in earlier centuries, politics had a lot to do with it too!!).

It is not a question of “if” we are called, or “if” we are chosen. God has called and chosen each and every person, simply by the act of creating them. And we are called and chosen to be our unique selves. We don’t have to become different than we are. We simply are invited to be the best version of our selves that we can. And there is something we can contribute which is unique to you, to me, to each of us.

And so I wonder, what is it that you have been quietly called to do and to be? When did you first become aware of God’s call to you? How did that happen?

As we await the renewal of the baptism of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost next Sunday, now is a wonderful time to reflect on this and give thanks for the unique gifts which God gives us in Jesus through his Spirit. And also to give thanks for the unique gift that each of us can give to each other and to the world in Christ.

Blessings,
Revd. Talisker

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 16th – Saturday 22nd May

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday May 13 2021, 10:48 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

CAFE@CHURCH IS RETURNING!

General 

Published on: Thursday May 6 2021, 11:46 am

SUNDAY JUNE 27th 10-11.30am-ish.

LONGWORTH CHURCH

We are delighted to be re-opening after 12 months of lock down. We hope you will join us any time between 10 and 11.30 am on Sunday 27th June (and every 4th Sunday of the month after that) to celebrate our village communities coming back together again, and join in the re-start of C@C. It is a chance to

  • renew friendships put on hold during lockdown
  • welcome new people who have moved to the village this past year, or those who have been here a while but are coming to C@C for the first time
  • celebrate the restart!

What to Expect: The usual great quality refreshments, bacon butties, cakes, fresh coffee etc, provided by our Kitchen Team, but also (who knows?) there might be something a bit more special as well to celebrate our re-opening!  

For children and young people there will be a variety of craft activities and, for those (young and older) who want to join us, there will be a short, informal service that normally begins around 10.30am and is held in the Chancel which is at the front of the Church.

This is YOUR Invitation. Cafe@Church has been such a popular community event since its opening in 2014. We are hoping it will continue to remain popular and provide a welcome place for everyone. Please join us!

Biscuits as a metaphor for faith in life?

Bulletin General 

Published on: Thursday May 6 2021, 11:37 am

When you dunk a biscuit, do you just briefly introduce the biscuit to the tea in passing? Or do you give it a really good soaking? Or somewhere in between?

A friend once asked me – you’ll have heard me say this one before – “with God, are you a weekday friend or a Sunday acquaintance?” He was speaking of the place of faith and God in our lives.

By and large, English people are very good at not talking about things that are really important to us! There is also a tendency to understatement. My very Irish friend frequently remarks on this with laughter. “How’s your day going?” she might ask me. On particularly fraught days, the reply is usually, “Interesting.”

We understand our own culture because it is the ‘yoghurt’ we all inhabit, so to speak. But a different culture can seem very challenging, even threatening, simply because it is unfamiliar.

So to talk about God and faith is very natural to certain cultures and races and nationalities. But less so for the white English. And this puts us very much at a disadvantage – both in our own lives, and in sharing something so vital with our friends and with our children.

Here’s an example. We often bewail the generational decline in church attendance. But the older generations are faithful attenders, there each Sunday, quietly praying and doing. And often they will take that quiet praying and doing into their daily lives, as unobtrusively and invisibly as possible. And they simply do not talk about it. Ever. Not to their friends, not to their children.

And so those friends and those children may observe that a person goes to church, but they will have no understanding of why. Of the relationship that person has with God through prayer and worship. How God has sustained them through the bad times and blessed them in so many ways. How could they possibly know? We don’t talk about it!

But we talk about Line of Duty. And Strictly. And Bake Off. All of which are very entertaining! And fun is vital in life! But none of those are likely to completely transform our inner selves or how we relate to each other and the world around us.

When we don’t talk about things that matter, or why they matter, others will not understand, and they will ignore it. It is unimportant to them, because they have no connection. If I tell my daughter to tidy up, she likely won’t do it and won’t care. But if I explain to her why things being tidy helps mummy be calmer and more organised and happier, then she will care, and she will tidy her bits and pieces – realising that she will probably be calmer and more organised too.

Communication matters. As does connection and reiteration, in ordinary and subtle everyday ways. Things that are ingrained in us will naturally flow out from us too, if we let them.

The readings for this Sunday are about the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, and Jesus telling his disciples to abide in him. The Greek word for baptism actually means to immerse something. To submerge it. To dunk it thoroughly and completely so it’s soaking wet.

Imagine a towel, dropped in the bath and then hauled out. Unless you wring it out, you’re going to end up with a lot of water on the bathroom floor!

Or dunking your favourite biscuit in the tea. Unwary handling leads to quite a bit of biscuit falling back in!

If we take that as a metaphor for our faith, and for our lives in Christ, that would mean that going to church each Sunday is like being re-dunked in the tea / bath / source of life, love and blessing that is the Holy Spirit.

It would also mean that we will be dripping that Spirit around in a little trail behind us wherever we go in the days that follow, before our next re-dunking.

I am absolutely NOT talking about being the kind of people who you can’t have a conversation with without them hammering on about God. That’s the equivalent of shouting at my daughter to tidy up OR ELSE!! In my experience, it’s hardly likely to get any kind of positive response.

But I am talking about making God such a normal and everyday part of our lives that it is not awkward or hard to say “thank you” out loud for something, or to ask for God’s help in the tough moments of the day. Making God someone we do talk about, rather than a secret. Just like we talk about the neighbours, and our friends, and all the other little things in our lives.

Because above all, God cares about those little things. And he wants to share them with you, there and then, however messy. Not just to have it saved up for Sundays, and always neat and tidy. He wants to be that weekday friend… But will we let him?

Every blessing,
Revd. Talisker

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 9th – Saturday 15th May

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday May 6 2021, 11:27 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

powered by Jesus

Bulletin General 

Published on: Thursday April 29 2021, 12:47 pm

God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.

The readings for this week are all about abiding in God, being part of and being powered by God through Jesus. And this theme continues throughout May – our theme for sermons is “foundations for the future”.

Covid is not over. There seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel – and we are all hoping it’s not the headlights of an oncoming train! That said, we seem collectively to be starting to look at what the future might look like. What will life be as we learn to live with Covid long term, whilst coming out of lockdowns and resuming life with one another, instead of cut off from one another.

The idea of ‘with’ as opposed to being separate is deeply rooted in the readings set for this Sunday. In the gospel, Jesus uses the image of the vine, and that we are all grafted on to him, that he is the life-giving stem in which we all live. St John talks of God as love, and that loving one another is the sign and proof that we live in God and God lives in us. It is this that signifies the Divine being present in us.

We are all individuals, we are all unique. But the experience of the last year has taught us in a deeply visceral way how much we need one another if we are to thrive. John Donne (1572-1631) famously wrote the poem which opens with the words, “no man is an island, entire unto himself”. How very true. We are not created to live in isolation, but in community and relationship.

We can exist alone. But it is existence. To live – to be fully, vibrantly alive, to be the best and most colourful and joyful version of ourselves – we need others. In essence, this is why God is Trinity. We need a beloved – that makes us two. We also need another to love, who can be the object of the shared love of two others. Like two parents loving a child, who can share their joy in that love with each other. Like a child with one parent, sharing in their joy at the loving actions of the other parent. Always, the fullness of love is found in the relationship of three, or more.

Jesus gives us the image of the vine, of abiding in God, and of love as the signal that God does indeed dwell within us – alive, creative, and growing, even as the sap in the stem of the vine brings life and growth and possibility to the leaves and flowers on that stem, so that fruit may come forth.

I leave you with the words of Donne’s poem in full. It’s beautiful, and so true.

No man is an island,
Entire of itself;
Every man is a piece of the continent, 
A part of the main.

If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less,
As well as if a promontory were:
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were.

Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

Revd. Talisker

Photo by Chris Moore on Unsplash

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Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 2nd – Saturday 8th May

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday April 29 2021, 11:57 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Cornerstones and Foundations

Bulletin General 

Published on: Tuesday April 27 2021, 9:33 am

Revd. Jim’s sermon yesterday was quite simply brilliant. It was thought provoking and profound, and deeply rooted in the building of St Mary’s church – but in many ways equally applicable to nearly every church building. It was also one of those sermons which is all about the words spoken. So, I shall not attempt to take his notes and do it justice in writing. I can’t!

If you missed it, you can find it here – skip to 13.27 minutes for the start of his sermon.

Blessings,
Revd. Taliske

All Age Services May 2021 – For the young at heart, aged 0-100!

General 

Published on: Thursday April 22 2021, 2:22 pm

As we come back to services around the benefice, we plan to have a service every week which is a bit less formal, and which is all-age in style. The music will be a mix of modern songs and favourite traditional hymns. The sermon might be interactive or visual. We’re inviting kids of all ages to help with various parts of the service. And once we’re allowed, there will always be coffee, juice and cake afterwards!

Sunday 2nd May 10am
All Age Communion at Charney Bassett

Sunday 9th May 10am
All Age Communion at Buckland

Sunday 16th May 10am
All Age Communion at Longworth

Sunday 23rd May – to be announced
(From June onwards, 4th Sundays will be Cafe@Church in Longworth)

Sunday 30th May – watch this space… we’re planning things!!

If you’d like to know more, or want to get involved, please chat to any of the ministry team. We’d love to hear from you. And please do invite your friends, and pass this on to anyone you think might like to know.

Who we are in what we do: love made visible

Bulletin General 

Published on: Thursday April 22 2021, 11:34 am

What does it mean to love? What does it really look like?

St John gives us a clue when he writes (1Jn 3.18), “let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.”

We talk a lot about love when we talk about God and being a Christian. But sometimes it can be really hard to do! Especially when we’re trying to love God – what does that really mean?

And it’s hard to love people who, in all honesty, we don’t like or who we find difficult. It’s hard to love strangers and people who are very different from us.

We need to start small. And God knows this. And so he shows the way. The love of God permeates all that exists, and sustains that continued existence. From the smallest grain of earth to the tallest tree to the mighty elephant, to you and me.

Today is “Earth Day”, and so it seems very appropriate that we might think of starting with the literal earth under our feet. This is of course a very Franciscan thing to do, so I shall turn to my favourite Franciscan teacher, Fr. Richard Rohr, for some help…

St. Bonaventure (1221–1274) taught that to work up to loving God, start with the easier lesson of loving the very humblest and simplest things, and then move up from there. “Let us place our first step in the ascent at the bottom, presenting to ourselves the whole material world as a mirror, through which we may pass over to God, the Supreme Craftsman,” he wrote. And further, “The Creator’s supreme power, wisdom and benevolence shine forth in created things.”[1]

Fr. Richard encourages us to apply this spiritual insight quite literally. “Don’t start by trying to love God, or even people. Love rocks and elements first, move to trees, then animals, and then humans. It works. In fact, it might be the only way to love, because how you do anything is how you do everything.”

Our job as conscious humans is to awaken early to this innate beauty and goodness in all of creation. Why wait until heaven when we can enjoy the Divine Flow in all of nature now?

To return to St John, this is the commandment of God – to love. This encapsulates all that God calls us to do and to be. For as St Paul pointed out (1Cor 13.4-7), love does no harm and seeks only the best for the beloved. That love will manifest in myriad ways and actions, but it is always and forever at the core of our faith.

And if we love, if we obey God’s command, then even as we are held within God, so also God dwells within us, through the Holy Spirit. We are One with God through Christ, and even as we are One with God, so we are also One with all other things in existence – for they too are held within the love of God.  

Blessings,
Revd. Talisker


[1] Bonaventure, The Soul’s Journey into God, 1.9–10, trans. Ewert Cousins (Paulist Press: 1978), 63.

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 25th April – Saturday 1st May

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday April 22 2021, 9:04 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

“Peace, perfect peace, is the gift of Christ our Lord”

Bulletin General 

Published on: Tuesday April 20 2021, 8:56 am

Despite the fact that on Thursday I wrote about peace and presence, I find myself unable to let this go as my theme on this week’s gospel reading.

Peace is what so many people truly desire – both around them and within them.

And in our increasingly busy world, peace is one of the hardest things to find.

There is an endless proliferation of apps, mindfulness exercises, gadgets, medication, and activities promising peace and stress relief. There’s of course the slightly more “traditional” approaches of alcohol (and even drugs) to numb the pain.

But none of those actually deliver. Not really. Not beyond a short span of time. And some have devastating side effects.

I read an article the other day about what churches are, and are not, doing and offering. The bottom line is that we are a community who believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. That in him God was made human, lived a fully human life (being at the same time fully divine), was crucified and rose again. And that in his death and resurrection we are freed from sin and death and all their consequences, through his unearned grace and love and forgiveness.

I don’t often speak like this, I know. It’s maybe something of a surprise to you.

But it is nonetheless true. This is what we as Christians believe. And this is what we are called to live, and to (when asked and when appropriate) share with others.

Christ offers us a redeemed life, a life in his presence, not just hereafter but here and now. He offers us the gift of the Holy Spirit. And he offers us his peace, and his presence.

That does not mean a life wrapped in cotton wool, where no bad things ever happen. You may have heard me say before, there is a difference between true religion and false religion.

False religion says, don’t worry, God is with you, and nothing bad will happen to you.

The problem with that of course is that sooner or later, bad things will happen, of one kind or another, and you will end up losing faith in the religion that offers such a false and empty promise.

True religion says, don’t worry. God is with you. And when the storms come, and the wind rises, and you fear that the waves will drown you, you do not need to be afraid because God will be with you in that storm. You’ll get wet, for sure. But you will survive.

Sometimes, we survive by the skin of our teeth. Sometimes it feels as if God speaks to the wind and the waves, and commands them suddenly to be still, and we are left awestruck at events. But we do survive.

What a gift, to be able to stand in the middle of a storm, or of uncertainty, of insecurity by any worldly standard, and KNOW in your heart, in the deepest part of your soul, that somehow – literally God knows how! – it will be okay.

To have the peace that the presence of God’s spirit gives.

I feel that this is exactly the kind of peace that Jesus was speaking of here. The disciples are terrified of the Jews, even more than the Romans. For after all it was the Jews who caused Jesus to be crucified, and who would turn them in to the Romans to be killed. But if we read onwards in Luke’s narrative, we soon find that they are recovering their courage. And when it comes to Acts, and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, they are brave as lions! No hiding in corners for them after that!

I suppose that the truth is that any preacher will speak from their own experience and from their own heart. As some of you know, I’ve had moments of storm and uncertainty in my life, particularly in the past year or so.

But in all of it, in the craziest and most dangerous moments, in the times when I should logically have been most afraid, I was at peace inside myself. And those who knew what was going on, were astounded and joined me in giving thanks to God for that peace.

It wasn’t always like that. When I was trying to work it out on my own, do it all and sort stuff out in my own strength, peace was the last thing I had. And peace was the thing I wanted most.

But when I let go of control, when I let the presence of Jesus in, the peace descended. And miracles happened.

May we all know the presence of Christ with us, wherever we find ourselves.

May we know the peace of Christ in our hearts, whatever our situation.

Every blessing,
Revd. Talisker

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 18th – Saturday 24th April

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday April 15 2021, 10:23 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Peace and Presence…

Bulletin General 

Published on: Wednesday April 14 2021, 2:31 pm

Presence can be a very ambiguous word.

Jesus’ presence among the disciples in this Sunday’s gospel reading likely caused more disturbance than peace.

Mary Magdalene has told the others she has seen the risen Christ. Peter and John have seen the empty tomb. The couple from Emmaus who have encountered Jesus on their journey have rushed back to tell the disciples in Jerusalem of their experience.

And even as they tell their story, Jesus appears among them.

Unsurprisingly, they’re terrified. Well, wouldn’t you be? The man you saw arrested, tortured, crucified, is now standing in front of you. Despite those stories from Mary and the others, they think it’s a ghost. And Jesus has to touch them, and eat in front of them, for them to move from fear to joy to full acceptance of his presence.

We are rarely at peace in the presence of things we don’t understand, or which we cannot understand in one way or another.

But this is the first thing that Jesus speaks to them – Peace.

Perhaps you ask, What has this to do with now?

Well, this past twelve months have seen immeasurable changes, unpredictable in every way. Most of our fixed anchor points for understanding our world and the shape of our lives have been altered or removed.

Just as we seem to begin the slow climb back out and up into the sunshine, another icon or anchor has gone. The Duke of Edinburgh, like the Queen, has been one of those fixed points in British culture. He’s simply been there. Always. For many people, he married the Queen before we were born. He has always been part of the background fabric of our collective national life. And now, he has died.

All things pass – that is the simple fact of mortal life. Except, for us as Christians, we have this hope and faith that the end of this life is not the end of existence for us. As followers of Jesus, we live in the now and not yet of God’s kingdom, living our lives from a heavenly perspective. By that, I mean taking action now to live out God’s love in our daily lives. Making differences in the world now, to reflect the peace and compassion and justice we believe that God will one day bring to completion in Christ.

We see that kind of example in Prince Philip, a man of great faith according to those who knew him well. The commemoration services across the country this Friday will bear witness to that faith. Above all, he was a man who lived out that faith in quiet and simple but direct action. The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award – giving skills and hope to so many young people. The World Wildlife Fund, saving species at risk of extinction. Championing organic farming and care for the earth at the most basic level. The list goes on and on.

Opinion may be divided on royalty and how it should or should not conduct itself or impinge upon a nation. The same has been said about faith – must it remain private, or can it influence our public lives?

I would suggest that the answer lies in two things: presence, and peace. Two things which Prince Philip appears to have understood well.

Christ is present with us always, at all times. He is not limited to Sundays, funerals, special occasions. He gives us peace in our hearts, if we ask in faith and prayer, no matter how the storms of life around us may toss us about. When all other anchor points are removed, this one anchor still holds fast.

And those who follow Christ, who accept his presence and his peace, in turn demonstrate that presence and peace in their own lives, and in their actions, both private and public.

Revd. Talisker

Image by Sunyu on Unsplash

Determination, Curiosity, Asking the right questions: Prince Philip and Doubting Thomas

Bulletin General 

Published on: Tuesday April 13 2021, 9:40 am

This is not the sermon I was preparing on Thursday; the news of the death of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, overtook it.  But when I read this Gospel passage again on Friday it seemed very appropriate to the situation.

Prince Philip may have been a figure in the background of the monarchy, tending to hit headlines more for apparent gaffes than for the quiet difference he made to the monarchy and to the world over decades.  But the picture built up from the accounts of those who knew him highlights his kindness, self-sacrifice and self-effacement, his loyalty, great curiosity and interest in diverse areas, tremendous hard work for many causes, and his wish to encourage and to enable others from every walk of life.

Prince Philip was passionate about the world’s responsibility to care for God’s creation. He was interested in the relationship between science and religion.  He was a man of deep faith.

At aged very nearly 100, Prince Philip dying cannot be a surprise.  But death, any death, even when expected, is still a shock. It disrupts, tears apart, the pattern of life and creates a hole at the heart of family, a grieving that is unique and personal to the bereaved.

Our Gospel today speaks out so powerfully of that uncertainty, that sense of limbo as the disciples struggled to come to terms with their loss: of a leader, a friend and a hope for the future – and also to make sense of the extraordinary experiences of encounter that had happened during that day.  We see the disciples gathered together, shutting themselves away from the danger outside.

It is into this isolation, grief and disruption that the risen Jesus steps, bringing not one but two blessings of peace, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit and of a new purpose for their lives.

Our Royal Family cannot entirely shut their doors on the world. Their grief has to be lived under the spotlight of the world’s media and political institutions, and the continued demands of their public responsibilities.  We pray that they know the blessing of God’s peace at this time.

We read in the Gospel today that Thomas was not there with the disciples on that first Sunday evening – we don’t know why; possibly practical affairs prevented him from being able to be with his friends and to share in their mutual pain and support at that time.  Or perhaps the only way he could come to terms with the situation was to be alone, working things out for himself.

When he was told of what happened that Sunday evening, his response to their account is “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and thrust my finger into the nail marks and thrust my hand into his side, I shall not believe it.”

As a result, Thomas has become labelled as Doubting, defined by that headline.  He has been blamed even as somehow lesser than the other disciples for questioning the truth of the resurrection, or identified as arrogant in demanding proofs from Jesus.

But is this really the Thomas that the gospelist John – who knew Thomas personally – is presenting to us?
I’m not sure this is.  If we look beyond the headline, the label, at the picture throughout John’s gospel, I think John shows us a man who is loyal, courageous and committed, and a man who really wants to understand.  Someone who does not simply go along with things uncritically. Someone not afraid to be the one who sticks out his neck to ask questions in order to get to the heart of the matter.

It is Thomas who encouraged the other disciples when they were concerned at Jesus’ intention to make a risky return into Judea to go to Lazarus’ family; Thomas who exhorted them to accompany Jesus, even to death (John 11:16).

It is Thomas, at the Last Supper, who asked what is maybe the biggest, most significant question in the whole Bible: how can we know the way to where Jesus is going, the way to be with God?  And Jesus gives him the answer: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:5).

On Easter Sunday, Thomas had missed hearing the report from the couple travelling to Emmaus and had missed Jesus showing his wounds to the disciples when he appeared to them, so it is not so surprising that Thomas doubted their account.  Thomas was honest about that doubt and wanted to be sure for himself.
But when Jesus then appeared, risen from death, to Thomas, demonstrating that He could see right into what Thomas was thinking by commanding him to make his tests of Jesus’ wounds, Thomas’ response was immediate and wholehearted recognition and worship.

Thomas may not be one of the more visible disciples, but when he appears he has important questions to ask, and his commitment to God is profound.

I have a sneaking feeling that Prince Philip might have got on well with Thomas.

And as the Royal Family, this nation and a number of nations around the world mourn his death, our Gospel passage today is a reminder of the hope and confidence we have because Jesus has broken the finality of death, because He does not leave us to cope alone, because we are blessed in coming to believe in Him, and through that believing we have life in Jesus’ name, now and in the resurrection to come.

Lucy G.

Seeing & Believing: Perspective is Everything!

Bulletin General 

Published on: Thursday April 8 2021, 12:53 pm

Sometimes we don’t see what’s under our noses. We’re too busy focussing elsewhere.

Sometimes, we just can’t believe something when somebody tells us, because it makes no sense to us. ‘It’s impossible!’ we say.

And sometimes, we judge the people who don’t see what we see, who can’t understand what’s obvious to us. We forget that we’ve all been in that place too, at one time or another.

Perspective is vital. Arguably, it’s everything. Literally or metaphorically, our perspective totally alters what we are able to see, and to understand.

It’s only when we put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, when we imagine ourselves in that situation, that the intensity of the experience comes home to us. It’s only then that the story changes from words on a page, or something we hear, to something we can empathise with, or even experience for ourselves personally.

This Sunday’s gospel reading continues the accounts of Jesus’ resurrection appearances. He comes to the disciples who are in a locked room – you can just imagine their faces when that happened!! His first words – Peace be with you! – were likely very necessary. He then breathes the Holy Spirit on to them.

But Thomas isn’t there that day. He cannot bring himself to believe that Jesus has risen. Maybe he has seen too much death in his life. Maybe he loved Jesus so much that he cannot bear to believe it, and then endure the disappointment of finding it wasn’t true after all. We don’t know. But we can empathise with how difficult it can be to believe the seemingly physically ‘impossible’. How many times have you heard someone say, ‘that would take a miracle!’, implying that thing is not going to happen.

Jesus didn’t have to come back and see Thomas. He didn’t have to show Thomas that he was really there, physically alive – albeit in a form that could walk through doors and walls!! For the details of how that’s possible, quantum physics has a good explanation – but that’s another story.

But Jesus did come back. He loved Thomas enough to show him, to understand his pain and inability to believe.

I wonder, have you ever had one of those moments? When you couldn’t believe something, and someone came and showed you? Or when you could not believe in God’s deep and limitless love for you – and Jesus came and showed you it was in fact so?

Easter’s a good time for remembering this, and for remembering to be patient with those who struggle to believe the Good News. And for remembering that we have a part to play in sharing that wonderful Good News of God’s love, and that Christ is Risen. Alleluia!

Wishing you a peaceful and blessed Easter season,
Revd. Talisker

Bishop Gavin’s Consecration 14.04.21

General 

Published on: Thursday April 8 2021, 12:19 pm

We are delighted to attach below the YouTube link to Bishop Gavin’s consecration service, taking place at 9.45am on 14th April. It is frustrating that the current lockdown restrictions mean that this is needing to be done as a small service on a very restricted entry basis but we hope that as many people as possible will be able to take part in the worship via the YouTube livestream.
 
The link is:
 
Lambeth Palace Chapel – 14th of April 2021 09:45am
The Consecration of the Bishop of Dorchester
 
The Order of Service can be found here

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 11th – Saturday 17th April

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday April 8 2021, 10:46 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

The Last Supper togetherness in the face of suffering

Bulletin General 

Published on: Thursday April 1 2021, 12:51 pm

Yesterday the headteacher at Buckland school sent me the image at the top of this week’s bulletin, wishing me a Happy Easter. I love that photo. It’s cute.

But as I looked again, another message began to come through.

Too often we end up making difficult and challenging things cute or kitsch, and essentially removing their true meaning. But I wonder if, this year particularly, those teddies might have something powerful to say.

For many of us, it felt like Easter simply did not happen last year. We said the words “Christ is risen” on Easter day, but it felt hollow. The joy was not there. And we were alone. Separated from each other by an invisible enemy who we could only see in the trail of devastation and death which it left behind.

For many of us, this whole year has felt like an extended Good Friday and Holy Saturday. A time of grieving, of shock, of readjustment. Of asking “what now?” Those same things must have been running through the disciples’ minds as their leader was crucified and they wondered, “Am I next?”

Jesus was of course fully divine as well as fully human – he knew what he was doing, and what, and what would happen. Doubtless this gave him courage and fortitude to endure the agony of his torture and death.

But I do wonder if the love and support of his friends and family – even when they didn’t quite get the point – also sustained him in those awful moments.

John’s gospel tell us that when he was on the cross, he looked down and saw his mother and the beloved disciple standing there. And he asked them to become a new family (John 19.25-27). Luke’s gospel tells us that he had the energy and love to show love and kindness to the thief crucified beside him (Luke 23.39-43). And he famously forgave those who nailed him to the cross – and arguably all those whose anger and lies had put him there (Luke 23.34).

But before all this, he had a last meal with his closest friends (Luke 22John 13). It’s that meal we remember today, Maundy Thursday. On the night before he died… He gathered with his friends and followers and they ate the Passover meal together. Even though one would betray him, another would deny him, and most would be in fear of their lives following his arrest, they were with him then. And there is no doubt that they truly loved him. Mary Magdalene and Mary his mother were even brave enough to come and be with him as he died.

Teddies are so often a symbol of love and care and comfort, a memory of cuddles in our childhoods. We all need comfort. We all need to feel that we are not alone. It is this togetherness and sense of love and comfort which struck me as I looked at that photo above. The Last Supper was no formal gathering merely for a religious ritual. It was the gathering of beloved friends around a meal. It was a last moment of comfort and peace before one would die, and the others would scatter in fear.

We know the end of the story – though at that moment they did not. We know that life broke through death, bringing hope and love and a new future.

May this Easter truly feel like a Resurrection, filled with joy, new life and new possibilities! May we meet with our friends and celebrate life once more, strengthened by the struggle of the past year. And above all, may we know that we are loved, and that we are not alone.

Wishing you a peaceful and blessed Easter,
Revd. Talisker

Holy Week and Easter Services

General 

Published on: Thursday April 1 2021, 12:47 pm

This year we are holding limited services. Please see full details below.

Christ Church Cathedral is offering a full Holy Week – for all their services, beginning on Palm Sunday, please see here

Please note, all the Easter Sunday services in our benefice are ticketed (available here as of Friday 26th March, or chat to your churchwarden).
________

Maundy Thursday  
6pm, Christ Church Cathedral, ‘Liturgy of Maundy Thursday’, Choral Eucharist Online

Good Friday
Way of the Cross, 12pm, St Peter’s Church Charney Bassett
Also, 10am Christ Church Cathedral, Solemn Liturgy Online

Holy Saturday 
8pm Easter Vigil Service, Christ Church Cathedral

Easter Sunday 
830am St Peter’s Charney Bassett – Family Communion (please note this is not a traditional BCP service)
10am St Mary’s Buckland – Family Communion, with livestream
10am St Mary’s Longworth – Family Communion

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 4th – Saturday 10th April

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday April 1 2021, 10:50 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Palm Crosses

Bulletin General Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Sunday March 28 2021, 8:39 pm

Symbols of togetherness and connection…

Gospel Reading: Mark 11.1-11 Liturgy of the Palms

By the way, for those you who heard (or read) last Sunday’s sermon on growing things, in case you were wondering, I did plant those seeds last week. And yesterday afternoon, I spotted the first tiny seedling poke its head up!

Palm Sunday is usually characterised by a donkey and lots of palm crosses. For those of us who only come to church on Sundays, there’s a bit of a jolt – we celebrate Jesus’ triumphal entry to Jerusalem, and then suddenly it’s Easter Day. It’s as if the key scenes of the movie got edited out.

Normally, the church carefully moves from Sunday to Sunday, shaping the readings to tell the story of Jesus’ life and ministry in a coherent way and flow.

But this week, it simply doesn’t work. Because Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday all fall between today, and next Sunday.

And those three days – Thursday / Friday / Saturday – are three of the five most important days in the Christian year. The others, in case you were wondering, I was putting as Easter Day and Christmas Day.

Palm Sunday is a day of raucous celebration. Jesus returns to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival – he was there a couple of years previously for the Passover – and this time he is not just an unknown itinerant rabbi.

This time, as he enters the city, he is feted and celebrated as the Messiah – the one who will bring God’s peace to God’s people, and overthrow all oppression.

Most of all, he will end the hated rule of the Romans, and will make the Israelite nation free once more. Ironically, they have such a fixed idea of what God’s Messiah is and will look like, that they can’t see or understand the reality of Jesus’ message.

So when the reality begins to sink in, when Jesus does not begin an armed insurrection against Rome, the religious leaders take the opportunity to destroy him – using the Romans. They arrest him as a political and religious rabble rouser and dissident – which he is! And they demand he is put to death for blasphemy.

They miss the true nature of the peace Jesus comes to bring. They miss the relational and restorative nature of that peace.

And strangely, that relational and restorative nature is seen in the cross.

There’s various ways to make a cross. One way is very neat and lovely, and it’s the way that’s used to make the pre-made ones you have in your hands. It’s also fiddly, and takes quite a bit of practice. I know – I’ve done it.

But there’s another way – which I’m going to try and show you now.

First – the palm frond.

Split it open, and carefully tear it in two. Sometimes things get broken. But when they have been put back together, sometimes the new thing that is made is even more beautiful than the original. The Japanese have made this into an art form, called Kintsugi.

For me, the cross symbolises RELATIONSHIPS.

The first piece of the palm is the relationship between HEAVEN and EARTH – between GOD and US. That’s the up / down bit.

The second is the relationships between YOU and ME. Between one another – all humans, all creatures.

These relationships are important, and they often get broken or damaged by our words, our actions, or our inactions. Our mistakes. Even sometimes things we do on purpose.

That’s basically what sin is. The Greek word is “hamartano”. Literally, it’s the word used of the archer who misses the target. It’s simply being less than our best selves. 

Sometimes we’re good at the up / down relationship. Sometimes we’re good at the relationship between one another. But we’re not great at putting the two together.

But Jesus did that for us. He knotted everything together.

I heard a story once about navy helicopters. Apparently, there is a single nut on the top of the rotor blades which is called the Jesus nut. Apparently they call it that because if you fly the helicopter without ensuring it’s sufficiently tightened, you’re likely to meet him!

So – take your two strips of palm. And this is how we bring it together.

[This sermon was very much a “show-and tell”, which is impossible to write! Basically, the two pieces are laid across each other and the tail of the horizontal piece gets wrapped around the vertical to hold the two together, and then various bits get tucked in to tidy it up! Plenty of instructions on the internet!!]

When we look at a cross this way – two pieces (the Heaven / Earth and Me / You directions) broken and then knit back together – it becomes a beautiful symbol of strength and unity. It’s transformed from a symbol of suffering into a symbol of togetherness and love.

And so, here’s the link – from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday. It’s in your hands.

Thanks be to God!

Revd. Talisker

Palm Sunday

General 

Published on: Thursday March 25 2021, 2:08 pm

This year, we will be holding Palm Sunday as a Service of the Word in St Mary’s Buckland. For those of you who prefer to join us online, the link will come out on Saturday as usual.

As part of the service, everyone will be invited to make a palm cross. If you are at home and wish to do this, you can cut an inch wide strip from a piece of A3 paper, or a centimetre wide strip from an A4 sheet – though that will be quite fiddly! Maybe cutting two, and sellotaping them together!

If you live in the villages of the benefice, you may wish to come and pick up a palm frond from the porch of Buckland church – I will ensure some are there from tomorrow (Friday) morning.

Bethany: the place of welcome and friends

Bulletin General 

Published on: Thursday March 25 2021, 12:24 pm

‘Welcome, Nicky.  Welcome, welcome, welcome!’ said Azman. 

Moving from the hallway to the living room, Elaine came forward with the biggest smile on her face and said,

‘Nicky you are so welcome.’ 

It’s funny when we reflect on things in life, how it can be a momentary phrase that changes our lives forever.  I’d never been to their home before, and yet they welcomed me profoundly.  Both of them searching me out on separate occasions throughout the evening, and said the same thing to me,

‘Nicky, we are so happy you are here, so pleased.  You are so welcome. So welcome. We are really glad you are here. Thank you for coming.’

Elaine and Azman are married.  They are leaders in Journey Church in County Antrim, and to me they are a couple that personify the word welcome.  It is their fragrance.  An uncanny ability to make the person in front of them feel so seen, that it changes everything. 

The way they welcomed me with a cadence of kindness, on that Spring evening awash with the colour of daffodils a decade ago, left me forever changed.  This was a time when I didn’t even feel welcome in my own life.  To receive such warmth from Elaine and Azman was solace to my dry, weary soul.  It was a gift of nourishment, which opened a new season of life for me.

This week I read Mark 11, and a new way of thinking about the text opened.

‘Then Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.’ Mark 11.11

There’s nothing really that profound about this verse, in fact I have skipped over it for years without a second thought.  Not this time! I’d been having a chat with Rev. Talisker, who has been one of my dearest friends for over two decades, and she mentioned that the word ‘Bethany’ means ‘place of welcome’.

Her insight puts a whole new spin on the words in this passage.  Welcome holds us.  Lets us be seen. Welcome is not only words, but also an atmosphere of heaven on earth.  It offers us restoration. 

Jesus needed his friends.  He needed a place of welcome.  And that’s just where and what Bethany was. Here in a place that means welcome, and filled with his friends, Jesus was welcome.

As I consider the brutality of the week ahead for Jesus, I think about Jesus tending to his own needs.  Going to both people and a place offering him nourishment. It feels profound.

To think of Jesus needing things, reveals his humanity.  It reminds me of the global human need for friendship and welcome. Our need to be seen.  Of my personal need to be seen.  Jesus’ need makes me, and I hope you too, feel a little less alone. This Holy Week, may you be held and nurtured in the embrace of welcome by your friends.

Nicky Cahill

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 28th March – Saturday 3rd April

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday March 25 2021, 9:34 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Seeds & Planting ‘letting go in order to let grow’

Bulletin General 

Published on: Tuesday March 23 2021, 8:57 am

This sermon included a very tiny plastic bag of seeds, a pot of earth, a broad bean seedling, and a large calathea plant, for demonstration and visual purposes… 

Jeremiah 31.31-34
I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 
John 12.20-33
Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also.

Seeds can be tiny! Sometimes really huge plants and trees can come from seeds so small, it’s hard even to pick them up! There are 500 in here!

And the thing about seeds is that they look pretty dead. They don’t need anything to just ‘be’. You can keep seeds for years, decades even, just in a cool dry dark place, and nothing happens. They just ‘are’.

But if we want something to happen to that seed, we need to bury it in the ground.

But there’s a funny thing about burying things – it’s what we usually do when someone or something dies. That’s when we bury things.

So there’s a paradox here.

Jesus lived in a very rural setting, so he knew all about plants and growing things. He also lived in a time when death was much more present. Most of us expect to get to old age. In his time, that was much more unusual. So death was very much a part of life for people in those days than it is for us.

He says, unless we bury the grain of wheat – the wheat seed – it remains just that – a single seed. It remains effectively dead because it doesn’t change or create anything.

BUT… if we bury it in the ground, as if it were dead, then it actually becomes alive! It germinates and grows and becomes a stalk of wheat …

which then in turn produces lots and lots of wheat seeds. Or in this case, a giant calathea plant!!
(By the way, this is also known as a prayer plant, because at night it raises its leaves upwards, as if praying.)

We could take the metaphor of seeds, dying, and growing a bit further.

Sometimes we have to let go of things, let go of control, if they are to have the space and freedom to flourish and grow into their full potential. If we keep a tight hold, then they will never have the space to be more than they are now.

Same with a seed – if we hold on to it as it is now, it will never have the chance to become more. But if we let go, if we bury it and seemingly let it die, new and abundant life will arise.

And then there is the idea of God’s presence within us. The reading from Jeremiah talks about this, and Jesus does too. The idea that God is no longer only found in the temple, or the church, or in the scriptures, but is actually present within us.

Jeremiah speaks of God dwelling in the human heart. But the heart is a deep and hidden place within us. And it’s pretty uncontrollable.

We try our best to control our hearts (the seat of our feelings and emotions) by being rational, and staying in our heads. If we are too successful, we can actually end up emotionally or spiritually stunted. We don’t grow to our greatest potential.

I’d like to suggest that there is a link here. We have to allow God’s spirit to dwell in our hearts, and we have to let the seed that is our inner self, our soul, be buried within the heart. And then we let go.

And in that act of burial, letting go of unyielding control, and letting God be present, miracles will happen.

The seed of our soul will blossom and flourish, watered by God’s spirit, fed by our hearts, and we will become the best that we can be, blessing those around us.

If in loving what is now – our self, our identity, our possessions – whatever it may be… If we hold on to it with tight control, we will lose the very thing that we value and desire to keep.

But if we bury that seed in our hearts, if we let what we love go into that place of nourishment and potentiality, then the life and fruit that will grow from it will astound us in its beauty and wonder.

Thanks be to God.

Revd. Talisker

‘Jesus & Cushions’ Comfort in the storm

Bulletin General 

Published on: Thursday March 18 2021, 1:22 pm

Mark 4.35-41
When evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side [of the lake].” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

A year ago, Covid was getting more and more scary, and there was talk of lockdown. Then, suddenly, on Monday 23rd March, it came. You must stay at home. And then the storm began in earnest.

Just under a year on from that, I was reading a commentary on this passage and about the cushion. So often we focus on the storm, or the fact that Jesus is asleep and that it feels like he has abandoned us to cope as best we can.

The disciples are terrified. They’re fishermen, they’ve known Lake Galilee all their lives, and they know boats. But they also know how vicious those storms can be, and I imagine that they will have known people from their communities who got caught in such storms and never came home again. So their fears are not unfounded. They know exactly what kind of danger they’re in.

I wonder, did any of us really know, back in March 2020, just how bad this was going to get? Some among the medical profession, especially epidemiologists, probably had an inkling. And we’re still not out of the storm yet. There will be fallout at all levels and in so many areas as we try to work out how to rebuild our lives and businesses.

Back to the cushion. Jesus finds rest and softness. Even in the midst of chaos and danger, he finds comfort and time to renew himself in rest. I wonder, is that what Jesus offers to us too? He doesn’t promise to remove the storms of life from us. But he does offer comfort and rest for our souls. He does journey along with us – he’s in the boat too, tossed by the waves.

As in so many gospel stories, Jesus does not step in until he is asked to. We have to ask for help, we have to articulate what it is we want. Understandably in this story the disciples are angry he doesn’t see the situation and sort it out. Angry that he can find rest when they are frightened of drowning. But as soon as he is asked, Jesus instantly brings calm and peace. And they are stunned.

I wonder, if we ask Jesus to still the storm for us, will the wind and waves cease? Or will it in fact be our fear that subsides, and we find that despite the storm, we can rest on a cushion in the boat, safe in the knowledge that somehow we will get through this.

It may not be as we expect. It may not be as we might wish. But we will get through. And our inner peace will be strong, knowing Jesus is with us in the midst of the wind and the waves that surround us. We may get very wet. But we will not drown.

With Light and Blessings,

Revd. Talisker

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 21st – Saturday 27th March

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday March 18 2021, 10:12 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Update from Malawi – March 2021

Charities & Fundraising 

Published on: Tuesday March 16 2021, 9:16 am

Welcome to our Spring 2021 newsletter.  Firstly, a brief update on the current Covid-19 situation in Malawi.  The wave of virus transmission which surged more strongly from December 2020 now appears to be slowing again.  Joshua’s Field Officers have been regularly visiting communities to provide accurate information and advice about the virus, and now that the life-saving vaccine has arrived, they are continuing to reassure the villagers about its safety and importance as there are many misconceptions.  The new PA system in our vehicle has enabled the broadcasting of this vital information which helps keep staff and community members informed. Education is still suffering significant disruption – schools were shut for 5 weeks in January – and schooling will undoubtedly be a priority for a long time to come.  We are extremely grateful for the passion and commitment of our staff team in Malawi who have had to constantly adapt and innovate to cope with the varying demands over the past year.

Growing hope for the future 

Over the last year, we’ve been working with communities to prepare them for the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our community-based childcare centres depend on fortified porridge, known as Likuni phala, to help support children’s nutrition. For many children, it will be the only meal they get that day.  When these centres aren’t able to open, we prepare take home packs of likuni phala to make sure children are still getting this vital daily food. 
 
We were also concerned that the impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic would make buying commercially manufactured likuni phala more difficult and expensive.  The solution has been to help communities start to produce their own porridge – hopefully a more sustainable way of providing this food in the future. This has involved working with community members to identify land, irrigating the land to ensure good cropping and training community members in producing the porridge.  

As you’ll see in the photos from Nchokera, communities have been successful in growing the crops (maize and groundnut) and producing porridge. There have been some other positive impacts of the project – children prefer the taste of the home made likuni phala.  We’ve also noticed that there is less wastage – the work involved in making the porridge means the volunteers are taking pride in what they’ve produced and making sure it’s distributed efficiently!

Join our band of regular supporters! 

Our 3-year grant from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, which supports our Early Childhood Development work, also ends this Spring, and we would love to be able to continue the huge progress we’ve already made to the lives of vulnerable pre-school children in our village communities. We’re aware that this is an especially difficult time financially for many people, and remain so grateful for the support we are already receiving, but we still need to increase our income.  If this could be by a regular donation of as little as £10 monthly, it would greatly help our future planning and go towards essential running costs, particularly of fuel for the vehicles without which our field officers’ efforts would be greatly impaired. 

Regular donations can be set up in two ways – outlined here. 

  1. Virgin Money Giving website – click here
  2. Download a form from our website

To say thank you to our regular supporters – old and new, we’re planning to start sending special information updates about how their donations are helping.  Look out for the first of these in April.

How to help us through online shopping – every little helps!  
 

If you’re doing more of your shopping online, then you can help us for free at the same time. 

Eligible purchases through Amazon Smile get a 0.5% donation to Joshua.  Register at www.smile.amazon.co.uk and choose us as your charity.  Click on the link to go straight to our page.
https://smile.amazon.co.uk/ch/1114727-0

Using Give as you Live for purchases with major retailers, including John Lewis, Waitrose, Argos, Boden and Booking.com, also raises between 0.5 and 4% on each purchase.  To register, visit www.giveasyoulive.com/startpage
 

As always, thank you for all your support, it really does make a difference.

Kum ba yah, My Lord

Bulletin General 

Published on: Monday March 15 2021, 2:45 pm

Sermon for Mothering Sunday, by Lucy Gildersleeves

Today is Mothering Sunday, when we celebrate ‘mother church’, and those who have been as mothers to us – those who have cared, nourished, protected and stood by us – and we celebrate God’s motherly love for us.

You might like to have a pencil and a piece of paper during this service, but if these are not handy you can join in by just tracing with your finger and holding in your mind and heart.

There is a Yoruba saying: it takes a village to raise a child.  It seems quite a good saying for us too in our rural context.  In effect, it says, we all have something to contribute to enabling a person to grow and develop potential.  We are all part of the mothering process.

We see this at work in our Old Testament story today (Exodus 2: 1-10).

How many different people were involved in the nurturing, protecting and raising of Moses?

  • His parents.
  • Quite possibly the midwives who are mentioned in the part of the story just before what we heard today.
  • His sister, who stood on hand to keep watch over Moses floating in his basket.
  • Pharaoh’s daughter, who paid for the foster care of Moses (by his mother – though Pharaoh’s daughter did no know this) and then who adopted him.
  • And as Moses grew up to a position of responsibility within the royal household, doubtless there were teachers and others.
  • And we know that God was watching over Moses in all of this, encouraging him and seeing how he was growing to fulfil the potential that God knew he had.

So let us pause for a moment to think all the people, mothers and others, who have loved us, looked after us, waited for us, shaped us, helped us along the way.  And give thanks for them.

Draw a heart or flower shape on your paper, and write in it the name of someone you would like to celebrate in your life.

Lord, kum ba yah: come by here and join the singing in our hearts for these people today.

Let us also remember that the context of our Old Testament story was bleak: this was a time when the Hebrew people were being persecuted and living in fear; their infant sons were in danger.  Moses’ mother saw how wonderful her child was – but the only hope for him was for her to hide him, and then to let him go in God’s care.

Let us remember also that Mary’s experience in our Gospel reading is both of astonished wonder and of uncertainty – Simeon’s prophecy promises her heartache.

This is also the nature of motherhood – to risk the pain of love for those we care for. 

  • We want the best for those dependent on us, but life is not a safe journey. 
  • We feel joy but also worry.
  • We are proud of them, but sometimes they turn their backs and walk away from us. 
  • We try to keep our loved ones safe, but sometimes we just can’t.

That pain of worry, of being unable to be present, of loss – has marked this last year.  And sometimes it is hard to feel God’s love in the middle of this.  But God has promised us that he WILL give peace and he WILL comfort you as a mother comforts her child. (Isaiah 66:13)

Draw another heart or flower shape on your paper and write in it the name of someone you know is hurting today.

While you do that, I would like to share with you a part of the poem entitled Mother’s Prayer by Liam Lawton[1]:

When Your mother let You go
Did she walk the dusty roads forever in her heart
Following You with love
Or did she learn to trust
Even when You walked that hill
For me
And all humanity?

Lord, kum ba yah: come by here and give peace to those who are crying today.

Remember that Yoruba saying: it takes a village to raise a child?  A community of people, to help us, to support us when the world is tough, to share in our joys.  We need each other; to belong as part of relationship.  We are not really made to be individuals in isolation.

We have seen that this year as people have been cut off from each other.  But we have also seen it at work as people have rallied round for each other, providing practical and emotional support.  Each little act of motherly care builds the relationship of love.

That love and spiritual nurture is what we, as the church gathered in a particular place, promise to do for all who are baptized into the Church.  We have promised to support and to encourage, to be there for each other, to be mothers to each other, whatever our age, our gender, our abilities.

Jesus came to give us life, life in all its fullness (John 10:10).  Through him we are all adopted by God as his children, made into family, one body, one ‘village’ to care for each other and to pray for each other as part of our worship of the God who longs to cover us with his wings and protect us as a mother hen protects her chicks (Luke 13:34).

Now draw one more heart or flower and write in it the name of someone you commit to praying for this week.  Keep your piece of paper holding these names by you this week.

While you do that, I would like to share with you another part of Liam Lawton’s poem Mother’s Prayer:

Help me place my life, my flesh, my child
Into Your care, Your arms
Mind him for me
Mind him well
Then one day Lord
He can tell his child
Of You and of love
As well.

Lord, kum ba yah: come by here and hear our prayers. Shelter us beneath your wings and show us how to be Mother Church in the world today.


[1] Liam Lawton, The Hope Prayer: Words to nourish the soul.  Dublin: Hachette Books Ireland, 2014

Do you need help with educational projects & activities? Charney Bassett and Lyford Education Trust (CLET)

General 

Published on: Thursday March 11 2021, 2:22 pm

CLET supports a range of educational projects and activities, with grants awarded to individuals under the age of 25 and to community groups in the villages of Charney Bassett and Lyford.
Online applications are welcomed at any time and forms can be found on the Charney Bassett village website (see below), or contact the Clerk Ruth Clements for further details at cletclerk@gmail.com
Applications will be considered by the Trustees who meet in January, May and September.
 https://charneybassett.org.uk/our-village/charney-bassett-lyford-educational-trust/

Divine Images of Mothering

Bulletin General 

Published on: Thursday March 11 2021, 12:21 pm

Images of Divine Love, God as Mother, God as Father

We are so used to saying, “Father, Son and Holy Spirit” that we automatically limit our thinking and imagery to the male gender. The impact of the words Father and Son are such that we tend to think of Spirit as male also. But for many people this is not always helpful, and there is much biblical imagery and evidence to the contrary.

Most of you will have heard me remark on the Hebrew word Ruach, meaning Spirit, as being feminine. Thus there is a feminine at the heart of the Trinity. Jesus himself uses distinctly motherly imagery in the gospels, notably his lament over Jerusalem, wishing to gather the city and its people tenderly as a mother hen gathers her chicks under her wings. And there are many examples in the Prophets of maternal imagery for God and God’s love for us all.

Traditionally most societies and cultures have thought in binary terms – male or female. It seems that this is being challenged now in our own culture, but for those brought up on strict duality, this is still quite difficult to get one’s head around. Something is either male or female. For languages with gendered nouns, there is also ‘neuter’.  

But even that word may not help – for it suggests ‘neither’. And what is at the heart of all this is that God is ‘both’. God is ‘all’. God embraces and encloses both the feminine and the masculine, is both at the same time, and is also beyond and more than either.

The mystics have long understood this, and Julian of Norwich is perhaps one of my favourites on this topic.

In Chapter 54 (Long Text) she writes:

For the almighty truth of the Trinity is our Father, for he made us and keeps us in him. And the deep wisdom of the Trinity is our Mother, in whom we are enclosed. And the high goodness of the Trinity is our Lord, and in him we are enclosed and he in us.

And in Chapter 59, she continues:

Our high Father almighty God, who is Being, he knew us and loved us from before-any-time. Of which knowing, in his full marvellous deep Charity, by the foreseeing endless counsel of all the blessed Trinity, he willed that the second Person should become our Mother, our Brother, and our Saviour.

Whereof it follows that as truly as God is our Father, so truly is God our Mother. …

And therein is a forth-spreading, by the same grace, of a length and breadth, of a height and a deepness without end [see Ephesians 3:18–19]. And all is one love. 

Julian understood love in its biggest and most Divine sense. She realised its inclusivity – not just that Love includes us all as its objects, but that Love is not limited by gender.

Mothering Sunday is traditionally about Church being our spiritual Mother. In the old patriarchal model of the Trinity (exclusively male), the Christians found their feminine models in Mary and in the Church. God may be loving, but in the more remote nature of the traditional Father. Whereas in contrast, it is Mary, and the Church, who tend to our spiritual grazed knees, and our tears.

But in establishing this, I feel that we miss something so vital. Nurturing is not exclusively feminine – though women have by and large done the lion’s share, it is true. Men also nurture and care for the young, more so in the modern age. And there are also all the uncles and aunts and grandparents who offer nurture in all kinds of different ways.

Perhaps most of all, and regardless of age, we nurture one another. We all have times of pain and struggle, moments when we wish we had a gentle loving ‘mother’ to confide in, who might wipe away the tears. Not everyone had this experience growing up, and for those people it is most difficult to speak of God in parental terms.

I wonder, by removing the gender stereotypes from God and seeing Divine Love in all its wonderful and glorious breadth and inclusivity – the “both/and” – whether we might rediscover the incredible gentleness and nurture at the heart of God. And that it is this nurturing Love that we celebrate on Mothering Sunday – in God and then mirrored in both the Church and in one another. For we – you and I – are the Church, the Body of Christ.

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 14th – Saturday 20th March

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday March 11 2021, 9:59 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Back to Church – Sunday 14th March

General 

Published on: Tuesday March 9 2021, 9:09 am

We are returning to church services “in-pew” this coming Sunday, 14th March, which is also Mothering Sunday. It’s the day when we celebrate the Church as our Mother who nurtures us in faith, so it seemed a very apt day to recommence services with congregations present in church.

It’s also really important to think about the nurturing and maternal side of God – there are so many images of this in the Bible. Nurturing and mothering are intimately connected, and sometimes it’s helpful to think of God as Mother as much as Father. But let’s not forget all those others who nurture us – fathers, aunts, uncles, grandparents. I know this day can be so hard for many people – but let us focus on the love and nurture that we give one another in all kinds of ways – for we all together are the Body of Christ which is the Church, and it is through precisely this mutual Love that we are able to speak of the Church as our spiritual Mother. 

Rules, or “Love Rules”?

Bulletin General 

Published on: Monday March 8 2021, 11:14 am

Thoughts on the Ten Commandments

There are few things so frustrating in life as rules – when they are not in your favour. Equally rules are extremely useful when trying to navigate a strange and unfamiliar situation. 

Revd. Jim preached a wonderful sermon for us yesterday on the Ten Commandments, and he has sent me a few thoughts from what he shared, but his preaching was from notes – so I must take full responsibility for what follows, as it may not be quite the line he was following!

Preparing to preach on Exodus 20 (the Ten Commandments appear at Deuteronomy 5 too) set me thinking about how it relates to Lockdown Rules. We may fear these are irksome – or impossibly complicated. But we need to remember that the Israelites had just experienced the amazing deliverance of the exodus – just as testing, treatments and now the vaccines mean so many of us have experienced an amazing deliverance. It may be helpful to think of the rules as response therefore.

The lockdown rules are also, quite frankly, confusing at times. Can I do this? Or can’t I? But in these circumstances, is it different? Soundbites may be irritatingly short and lack details. But the alternative is at times mind-boggling, and often feels contradictory.

So if all the rules seem too much – the government website has 30 readings each leading to more material – then be grateful for short summaries. We can all remember the slogan emblazoned across the podiums at the Government press conferences: Stay Home – Protect the NHS – Save Lives.

Returning to the Ten Commandments – we’ve all heard of them. Many people think of them as the basic rule book of the Bible. But they are in a context of hundreds and hundreds of laws for the ancient Hebrew society that emerged and began to organise itself as the Hebrew people came out of slavery in Egypt and began to build their own independent nation. It’s a story of the society that they decided was best, and would best reflect their understanding of God at the time. It’s also deeply practical – including advice on what to do when building a flat roof! Many of the rules are common sense and are there to prevent injury of one kind or another. It’s about saving lives!

Rules are often like that. They begin in an attempt to regulate behaviour for the collective good, to prevent bad things happening, and they get more and more convoluted and end up being really annoying. It can feel like being tied in knots. And sometimes we wonder what on earth is the point of some of the rules anyway. We forget it’s about saving lives, and just get annoyed.

I’m sure there are many daft laws that can be pointed to, with no discernible purpose. But generally, in context, most rules make sense. The problem is that, out of context, they lose their purpose. The other problem comes when they are too complex. We all need summaries!

Those ten original commandments were themselves a distillation of all the others. The bottom line of all the rules is Love. It’s about saving lives. It’s about cohesion and keeping everyone safe and together. Look at the Ten Commandments again. It’s not just a list of rules. It’s a list of principles which, if we keep, help us to maintain trust in one another. They help society and communities to remain cohesive, instead of fracturing. Don’t lie. Don’t steal. Respect one another. Don’t get jealous wanting what belongs to someone else. Don’t kill people! Remember that you are not God!

But even that summary was too much. When questioned by a religious teacher as to which of the rules mattered most, Jesus condensed it down even more. Even as the lockdown rules were condensed (for a while) into the Rule of Six last autumn, just Jesus pares the Ten Commandments into: Love God and love your neighbour as yourself.

In the end, it’s all about saving lives. It’s about respecting others’ needs as well as our own. It’s about not deliberately doing anything which harms another person – and trying to ensure we don’t harm them by accident either!

And talking of ‘saving lives’ the Ten Commandments leads on to a conclusion: the Old Testament law is there to deliver from death to life. Just so the exhortations of politicians and science today.  Now that really makes it all worthwhile.

Human Wisdom & Divine Foolishness

Bulletin General 

Published on: Thursday March 4 2021, 11:46 am

Game theory is all about making decisions based on trying to work out what the other is going to do, and what is therefore of greatest benefit to ‘me’. There are various kinds of games, but the bottom line is our choices and those of others are always going to interact with and impact on each other.

So what?

Well, the received wisdom in the western world seems to be that we should always focus on self-preservation and the best deal for ourselves. This is for two reasons: first, the assumption that basically everyone is looking for the best deal for themselves regardless of the impact on others, and secondly that if we don’t look out for ourselves, then we will end up in a situation we don’t like.

This is a far cry from the wisdom of God in the bible, and the wisdom that Jesus teaches. That upholds the communal and collective ethic of mutual flourishing. In other words, if I do well, you do well, and vice versa. Together we are more than merely the sum of our parts.

But there’s a hitch in that – we have to trust the ‘other’. And the moment that trust is broken, it’s almost impossible to regain it, individually or collectively. Once trust is broken, fear kicks in, and it becomes ‘dog eat dog’.

Many people say that Darwin’s theory of evolution demonstrates that the world runs exactly this way – only the fittest survive. Well, maybe. But a close look at nature demonstrates mutual aid in all kinds of ways. For example, trees in a forest – they crowd each other in a desperate attempt to reach the sunlight but each species in an area also has an interconnected root network which actually shares sap and nutrients, so that they all survive.

For most humans, there is a gap between the reality of how we operate, and the ideal to which we aspire. We freely admit that a world of cooperation would be nice. But in the very next breath say that’s impossible because not everyone will get on board with that.

And that’s probably true. We’re frightened to trust, because what if it isn’t reciprocated?

But this doesn’t mean that we can’t make every attempt to minimise any negative impact we have on others, and that to do so will not only have little detriment to us, but likely make us feel a lot better. After all, there are few people who enjoy consciously hurting others. So when we do make decisions which are harmful, we prefer ignorance. Witness our throwaway culture, as merely one example.

This applies to so many areas of life. We all know the story of the Good Samaritan. But how many of us would actually do that? We have all heard in church and read in the bible God’s call to justice and an end to oppression, to love our neighbour as ourselves – but it can often feel impossible in today’s world beyond the limited circle of our acquaintance.

I wonder if changed actions can only come when we change the way we look at things. And so the bible readings for this Sunday make a lot of sense. God’s wisdom is indeed foolishness to people who live by the precepts of this world, where trusting others is for idiots. ‘If you don’t look after yourself, no one else will; in fact they’ll probably take advantage of you’. And all of that is rooted in fear. Fear of scarcity. Fear of missing out.

But that’s not how it works when we see from God’s perspective. When we apply divine logic, then trust is obvious, and love is always stronger than fear, no matter what form that fear takes. That’s why, if we stop and look carefully, the Ten Commandments are not just a list of “Don’ts”, but rather a list of key things to do or not do in order to avoid breaking trust, relationships, and community.

Last week I wrote about the power of words and the joy of poetry. Once again I find myself turning to William Blake. For me, his poem about the clod and the pebble exemplify exactly this difference of attitude.

“Love seeketh not itself to please,
Nor for itself hath any care,
But for another gives its ease,
And builds a Heaven in Hell’s despair.”

So sung a little Clod of Clay
Trodden with the cattle’s feet,
But a Pebble of the brook
Warbled out these metres meet:

“Love seeketh only self to please,
To bind another to its delight,
Joys in another’s loss of ease,
And builds a Hell in Heaven’s despite.”

We can change our experience of the world simply by changing how we look at it. Others may or may not change. The world is unlikely to change (unless enough people do!). But as St Paul knew (1 Corinthians 1.18-25), the message of Jesus would make sense to those willing to see it through the lens of love, but would sound like idiocy to people who see only through the lens of fear.

Shakespeare summed it up perfectly in Hamlet (Act2 Sc.2): “there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

So, what glasses will I put on today? Fear? Or Love?

With Light and Blessings,
Revd. Talisker

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 7th – Saturday 13th March

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday March 4 2021, 10:04 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

World Day Of Prayer Friday 5th March

General 

Published on: Tuesday March 2 2021, 5:19 pm

(A Women led, Global, Ecumenical Movement)

BUILD ON A STRONG FOUNDATION

On Friday 5th March, several million women and men around the world will be joining together to hold the same, specially prepared service on the same day. This years’ service has been prepared by the women of the Republic of Vanuatu, with it’s black and white sandy beaches, coral reefs and beautiful forests. This year we are called to ‘build on a strong foundation’ and live in unity, love and peace in the context of ethnic and cultural diversity.

The World Day of Prayer is an international, inter-church organisation which enables us to hear the thoughts of women from all parts of the world; their hopes, concerns and prayers. It is celebrated in over 170 countries beginning when the sun rises in Samoa, and travelling throughout the world – through Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Europe and the Americas before finishing at sunset in American Samoa some 39 hours later.

Coronavirus means that we have to do things differently this year, and we are holding a zoom service instead of meeting in person. Everyone is very welcome to join us for this very special and inspirational service. A link to the service will be available nearer the time. It will appear in the benefice e-newsletter on Monday and next Thursday or, if you would like it emailed directly please contact Dee Tyrer 01865 820570.

More info on our service and the zoom link will come out on Monday… 

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 28th – Saturday 6th March

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday February 25 2021, 9:34 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 21st – Saturday 27th February

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday February 18 2021, 10:11 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 14th – Saturday 20th February

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday February 11 2021, 9:26 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 7th – Saturday 13th February

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday February 4 2021, 9:41 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 31st January – Saturday 6th February

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday January 28 2021, 9:08 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 24th – Saturday 30th January

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday January 21 2021, 8:51 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 17th – Saturday 23rd January

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday January 14 2021, 9:46 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 10th – Saturday 16th January

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday January 7 2021, 9:29 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 3rd – Saturday 9th January

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday December 31 2020, 11:11 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 27th December – Saturday 2nd January

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday December 24 2020, 10:39 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 20th – Saturday 26th December

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday December 17 2020, 10:41 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 13th – Saturday 19th December

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday December 10 2020, 9:26 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 6th – Saturday 12th December

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday December 3 2020, 9:04 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning Prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 29th November – Saturday 5th December

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday November 26 2020, 8:59 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

St Mary’s Church, Longworth – Christmas Cheer Raffle

Charities & Fundraising 

Published on: Tuesday November 24 2020, 2:55 pm

Something perhaps to provide a little Christmas Cheer.

An online raffle with just one prize. A Christmas drinks collection which includes champagne, gin, whisky, port and red and white wine.

Raffle tickets £5 each (not per strip).

All proceeds to the running costs of Longworth Church. Like so many people and charities this year, St. Mary’s also has dipped into limited savings to pay our way.  No wonderful Village Fete to help with bills.

If you would like a flutter, then please email me to let me know how many tickets:  r.r.fitchett@btinternet.com  or phone me on 07941 595635.

Please send the money direct to the bank account:

Account Name: St. Mary’s Church, Longworth

Sort Code: 20-01-09

Account Number: 40796530

Reference: “Raffle”

or send cheques to Hollycote House, Longworth, Abingdon OX13 5EP; cheques payable to St. Mary’s Church, Longworth.

I will provide a number for each ticket requested and let you know your number(s).

Closing date for entry Sunday, 6th December.

All tickets will be put in a bucket, well shaken and given to the Reverend Talisker, who will draw the winning number. We will deliver the prize.

Robert Fitchett

Treasurer – St. Mary’s Church, Longworth

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 22nd – Saturday 28th November

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday November 19 2020, 9:29 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 15th – Saturday 21st November

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday November 12 2020, 9:46 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 8th – Saturday 14th November

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday November 5 2020, 10:21 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services,

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 1st – Saturday 7th November

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday October 29 2020, 11:11 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 25th – Saturday 31st October

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday October 22 2020, 11:01 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 18th – Saturday 24th October

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday October 15 2020, 11:10 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

All Souls & Remembrance Sunday 2020: A Season to Remember

General 

Published on: Wednesday October 14 2020, 9:11 am

November is traditionally the Church’s time to remember those who have died and journeyed ahead of us, and who wait for us to join them when our time comes. This year, perhaps more than at any other time since the World Wars, our society has had to face the prospect of our very human mortality as we have grappled with coronavirus. And it has not been easy.

Remembering the past helps us to live better in the present moment, and to avoid repeating the mistakes of yesteryear. It helps us to build a better future, if we recall where we have been. Remembering was key to the ancient Hebrews. The Ten Commandments begins with a call to remembrance that God had rescued them from slavery, and therefore because of what they had suffered, they must always remember to be merciful and never to oppress others as they were oppressed. If we know where we have come from, if we remember our roots, then we will be better able to cope with the present.

By remembering the past, we know who we are now. The stories we tell about ourselves, our families, and where we come from form a huge part of our identity, and the act of remembering brings all of that to life again for us. It literally re-members it – makes it once more a member (a part) of our very selves. When we remember our family and friends who have died, they live again in our hearts and memories, and are part of us once more.

All Souls Annual Memorial Service

All Souls is the ancient Christian festival of Remembering, when we remember and pray by name for all those who we have loved and lost, and for whom we grieve. Our churches hold an annual Memorial Service which will be on Sunday 1st November this year, and during this service we remember all those whose funerals have been in our churches in recent years, and any who we are asked to remember and to pray for.

All Souls Covid Restrictions

To enable as many as possible to join in, without physical restriction, the service itself will be online only, accessible via our YouTube Channel. Please our website www.cherbury-gainfield.org.uk (or sign up to our newsletter) for more details. In addition, all our churches will be open for private prayer that day, and most will have prayer resources and candles to light in memory of our loved ones

Remembrance Sunday, 8th November is another key point for remembering the dead and honouring their memory – not just the soldiers who died in the two world wars, but also all the service personnel and civilians who suffered and died on every side of every conflict. Nobody chooses war over peace, and so this act of Remembrance is surely about committing ourselves to work for peace and for reconciliation in whatever way we can, in the hope that one day we will be able to stop the tragedy and horror of war being perpetuated year after year as it is now.

Whilst few of us now remember the Second World War, and even fewer the First, many of us have relatives who were in both of them: one of my grandfathers fought in the trenches in 1914-18, and the other was a POW on the Burma Railway. Their stories shape mine, just as the collective narrative of those times still shape our society and national memory today. And perhaps in this present experience of pandemic and the shared grief of the loss of security, stability and a familiar way of life, we may find once again a common solidarity and urge to work together to forge a new world, as those who survived the horrors of the World Wars had to do.

Covid Restrictions for Remembrance Services

To enable as many people as possible to attend, all our Remembrance Sunday services will be outdoors – at Buckland Memorial Hall, at Charney Bassett War Memorial on The Green, and at St Mary’s in Longworth. The service at Buckland will also be livestreamed for those who don’t feel safe coming to a public gathering. Despite being outdoors, we still respectfully request that masks are worn as people will inevitably be in close proximity and many are of a vulnerable age. We also respectfully request that those attending sign in on arrival via the NHS Covid App QR code poster, or by giving their name and number to the welcomers at the entrance.

If you have any questions at all, please phone or email our admin office (details on the contact page) and we will do all we can to help.

With peace and blessings to you all,
Revd. Talisker

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 11th – Saturday 17th October

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday October 8 2020, 9:04 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 4th – Saturday 10th October

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday October 1 2020, 10:20 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 27th September – Saturday 3rd October

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday September 24 2020, 10:14 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 20th – Saturday 26th September

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday September 17 2020, 11:33 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 13th – Saturday 19th September

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday September 10 2020, 1:50 pm

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer – Sunday 6th – Saturday 12th September

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday September 3 2020, 1:24 pm

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Ride & Stride

General 

Published on: Thursday September 3 2020, 11:52 am

We are happy to announce that the annual sponsored Ride and Stride will take place as usual this year on

SATURDAY 12TH SEPTEMBER 2020

How many historic Oxfordshire churches can you visit on foot, horseback or cycle in a day?

This is a great day out for all the family and a way to raise money for your local church and Oxfordshire Historic Churches Trust. Plan your own route and visit the churches of your choice.

Because of Covid 19, churches cannot offer refreshments or toilet facilities this year.

ALL our benefice churches will have an unmanned sign-in desk with sheet for self sign-in.

With the exception of Hinton Waldrist (tbc) and Pusey, ALL our churches will also be open.

For more details and to register visit the OHCT website  where the latest updates will be posted including the list of churches taking part.

Sunday Service 30th August – Livestream & in St Mary’s, Buckland

General 

Published on: Thursday September 3 2020, 9:30 am

Join us for our weekly worship – yesterday, Sunday 30th August, is Come&Praise service of the Word. A very warm welcome to Morning Worship for the Benefice of Cherbury with Gainfield. We are a rural group of seven churches in Oxfordshire, and our worship is led by Revd. Jim this week, and Revd. Talisker is preaching. If you’d like to know more, please visit www.cherbury-gainfield.org.uk or visit our FaceBook page @BeneficeOfCherburyWithGainfield – we’d love to hear from you! If you’d like to donate online and help support our churches financially, please go to www.cherbury-gainfield.org.uk/giving to access the JustGiving pages for each of our churches. Thank you!

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer, Sunday 30th August to Saturday 5th September

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday August 27 2020, 2:24 pm

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here, and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer, Sunday 23rd to Saturday 29th August

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday August 20 2020, 10:09 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here, and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Longworth Community Library

General 

Published on: Thursday August 20 2020, 8:42 am

Held in the Houlton Rooms, St. Mary’s Church, Longworth

WE ARE OPEN!!

First Tuesday of the month (10.00am-12.30pm), next one 1st September

contact Lesley Kinch 01865 820237 or Karen Coleman 01865 821795

Membership free to residents in the Benefice

Books free to borrow

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer, Sunday 9th to Saturday 15th August

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday August 6 2020, 9:00 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here, and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer, Sunday 2nd to Saturday 8th August

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Wednesday July 29 2020, 9:15 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here, and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer, Sunday 26th July to Saturday 1st August

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Wednesday July 22 2020, 9:30 am

Please find the daily readings for morning prayer here, and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Church Openings for Private Prayer

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Friday July 17 2020, 7:00 am

Our churches are now open for private prayer during the day as follows:

Tuesday      – St Peter’s, Charney Bassett

Wednesday – St Margaret’s, Hinton Waldrist

Thursday    – Holy Ascension, Littleworth

Friday        – St Mary’s, Longworth

Saturday    – St Mary’s Lyford

Sunday      – St Mary’s, Buckland

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer, Sunday 19th to Saturday 25th July

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Wednesday July 15 2020, 9:15 am

You can find the daily readings for morning prayer here, and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer, Sunday 12th to Saturday 18th July

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Wednesday July 8 2020, 11:38 am

You can find the daily readings for morning prayer here, and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

A Way of Life and Living?

General 

Published on: Wednesday July 1 2020, 3:37 pm

This Sunday is the fourth Sunday after Trinity, as we continue through the long summer season. Whilst some kind of normality may seem to be hovering on the horizon, it still remains tantalisingly out of reach. What is life really going to be like as lockdown lifts? What will our towns and churches look like? Nobody quite knows yet. And the uncertainty is one of the hardest things.

Clearly for some people, mostly from a desire for familiarity and security, it is tempting to just ‘go back to how it was’ – but that maybe isn’t quite the best idea!! Rather, let’s grasp the opportunities to hang on to what has been good in the past three months, and let go of the toxic old patterns of life where we can. Building back better does after all require clearing the ground first, and removing the debris and weeds and all the things that kept tripping us up.

And then, once the ground is clear, what Way of Life do we want to follow? What do we want life to look like?

How we live seems to be largely predicated on how we see life. This week’s gospel speaks to exactly this. Jesus says to his followers: Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart. My burden is easy, and my yoke is light.’

For most of us, hearing the phonic ‘yoke’ is more likely to make you think of eggs than oxen. However, the metaphor is a good one. A yoke was / is used to harness two animals together so they pull in unison. Often an older animal was yoked to a younger one, so the younger one would learn how to do its job of ploughing or pulling a load. 

Jewish Rabbis of Jesus’ time used the word ‘yoke’ to indicate their teaching, their way of life that their disciples were to follow. The disciples were to take the rabbi’s yoke, just as a young ox is yoked with an older one, to learn how to live and work and be. 

So when Jesus invites his disciples to take on his yoke – well that’s normal language. But he goes on to make the point that his yoke is easy. Implication – not all rabbis chose to interpret life and following God as an easy thing. But Jesus does. His yoke – his way of living, his teachings about following God – are easy. The burden that he puts on his followers is light. 

What an incredible statement. The Son of God is saying that to follow God is not about being burdened and weighed down with requirements, but rather about lightness of being. The Way of Life, the Yoke which Jesus lays upon us is easy to bear, is designed to help and not to hinder us. 

I wrote above about the need to clear the ground before we can rebuild, before new things can grow. It’s the most laborious and seemingly endless task – whether you’re looking at a building site or an untended and overgrown allotment full of cooch grass. And half the time the backbreaking labour of clearing it seems to make more mess than it removes. But finally, one day, all the debris is gone, and the clear ground is before you, ready to accept the new foundations and the new thing you want to build or plant. 

Many people are reflecting that we have an almost unparalleled opportunity to do things differently. Things that were unthinkable in January are virtually normal now. The politically impossible has become the politically necessary. But on the small scale that works too. 

In the various webinars and meetings I have attended over the past weeks, a particularly useful set of four questions has emerged, as a way to think about our individual personal lives and circumstances, and what we might want going forward. 
1. What have I gained during Covid that I wish to keep?

2. What have I gained that I am willing to let go of?

3. What have I lost during Covid that I must have back?

4. What have I lost that I do not want to have back?

We will all have different answers to these questions, but they’re worth thinking about if we want our lives and communities in the months and years ahead to be what we truly want, instead of situations and spaces that we drift into and don’t really have control over, or ability to grow and shape as we truly want them to be.

And if our thinking and being is shaped by what Jesus invites us to, then surely the yoke and burdens that we bear in the future will be considerably lighter and easier than the ones we have borne in the past.

 

Every blessing, 

Revd. Talisker
 

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer, Sunday 5th to Saturday 11th July

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Wednesday July 1 2020, 12:45 pm

You can find the daily readings for morning prayer here, and you can also view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Vocation – being our true selves

General 

Published on: Thursday June 25 2020, 3:00 pm

This Sunday is the festival of St Peter and St Paul, those two iconic figures on whom so much of the teaching of the Church, and indeed the writing of the New Testament, rest.

Both Peter and Paul were commissioned by Christ himself to go out and spread the good news of God’s love. And so this is traditionally the time of year for people to be ordained as deacons and priests, remembering that those ordained as clergy are called to follow closely in the steps of these saints, preaching and teaching God’s people, and sharing his message of love.

But we are all called by God, whoever we are. Every one of us has a holy vocation – and it is for us to listen and to have the courage to follow God’s call – to be fully the person he created us to be, filled with his light and love, and sharing that light and love with others.

As I said above, the feast of St Peter and St Paul is usually an opportunity to talk about vocation, especially to the priesthood. That is indeed a precious and beautiful call; it’s also one which is incredibly demanding, will at times wring you out and then come back again, and not to be undertaken lightly! It is a role of which can be truthfully said, you absolutely CAN’T do it on your own – you need God, every moment. 

God’s call to each of us is completely unique – just as we all are unique. The most wonderful way you can praise and give thanks to God is to live your true life, live it to the full, shine your Divine light, and share that light and love with others. 

That will look different for each of us. It’s not about saying, I must become ‘xxx’ in order to please God. All any of us have to do is to be truly ourselves. Some are priests, prophets, evangelists; some are mums, dads, brothers, aunties; some are police, hairdressers, nurses, teachers; some are mechanics, engineers, gardeners. Some are combination of all the above. No one is better than any other – all play their part in the interdependent symphony of the whole.

And whatever our vocation is – or whatever combination it may be – let us celebrate it, live it, BE it, and be joyful in it. For a life fully and truly lived is the best.

Every blessing, 

Revd. Talisker

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer, Sunday 28th June to Saturday 4th July

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Wednesday June 24 2020, 8:30 am

For anyone who wishes to follow the readings for morning prayer, the readings for each day can be accessed here, and you can view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our benefice website and our Facebook page.

Letting Go? Or Holding On? I AM, or I HAVE?

General 

Published on: Thursday June 18 2020, 3:00 pm

The gospel for Sunday 21st June, 2nd Sunday after Trinity, is from St Matthew; it is very dense and has so much going on. It has the reassurance that ‘the hairs of your head are counted‘ – ie God knows and cares for you that deeply. But it also says that ‘those who try to gain their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will gain it.’ 

I wonder if The Message translation might give a bit more insight: “If your first concern is to look after yourself, you’ll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you’ll find both yourself and me.”

Reading this makes this saying a bit easier to understand I think. It is about focus. Gaining life, holding on to life, so often ends up making us focus on material possessions and status – our job, home, money. And whilst all those things do indeed make life more comfortable, they are adjuncts, not essentials. When people come to crisis points, when people are facing their own imminent death, it is people and relationships that generally are the points of importance, and often of regret.

For our true being does not lie in possesions or status. It lies in our relationships – with ourselves, with God, and with each other. How many of us are doing things that we simply have to do, but which bring no joy or excitement? But if we are truly in touch with our souls, we know ourselves and what brings us passion and makes us feel alive

That’s the kind of life that I think Jesus is talking about here. This is what ‘finding yourself’ is really about. It’s about saying I AM rather than I HAVE. Knowing our true inner nature so that we can allow our souls to shine, to feel fully alive and able to find the joy in each day (even the bad ones!), to be in positive relationships with ourself and others. It’s about letting go of the I HAVE, so that the I AM – our true divine nature – can shine forth.

Every blessing, 

Revd. Talisker

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer, Sunday 21st to Saturday 27th June

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Wednesday June 17 2020, 10:30 am

For anyone who wishes to follow the readings for morning prayer, the readings for each day can be accessed via this link, and you can view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can also access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services here.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our website, and our Facebook page.

Church Openings for Private Prayer

General 

Published on: Monday June 15 2020, 12:00 pm

Our churches are now open for private prayer during the day as follows:

Monday – St Peter’s, Charney Bassett

Tuesday – St Mary’s, Buckland

Wednesday – St Margaret’s, Hinton Waldrist

Thursday – Holy Ascension, Littleworth

Friday – St Mary’s, Longworth

Saturday – St Mary’s Lyford

One Bread, One Body – thinking about Corpus Christi

General 

Published on: Thursday June 11 2020, 4:09 pm

Being One Body, Sharing One Bread

There are a lot of metaphors about the body in the gospels and in St Paul’s letters. It’s actually a really helpful way to think about things. A body is one cohesive unit (or it’s meant to be!), held together with an outer covering of skin. But within that, there’s bone and muscle and tendon and of course all our vital organs which allow us to function and retain the breath of life. And then there’s the different parts of the body – feet, hands, head, eyes, nose, ears, mouth etc. through which we perceive and experience and interact with the world. 

One of the saddest misunderstandings in Christianity has been a false dualism of the physical and the spiritual. Some people have read the bible to understand it as saying that the physical world is somehow fallen or inherently evil and sinful, and that we must strive to push that aside as we seek to be more and more spiritual. 

But for me Jesus gives the lie to that – the fact that God chooses to become part of his creation, to become one of us, makes it clear that the physical world is in fact inherently good and beautiful and to be celebrated. And that whilst the world is not running to God’s plan, and that there is sorrow and pain and brokenness in this world, one day God will renew and restore and reconcile all things within this creation. He will bring healing – and that’s not by destruction and leaving it behind, but through healing and restoration. I’ll not give lengthy bible quotes here – this is about being a short reflection, offering food for thought, but all that I’ve said is very much based in scripture. 

In Jesus, God lives as a human and experiences our life. And to experience something is a far cry from merely observing it. It is this deeply incarnational physicality and the goodness of the material world – and its connectedness to the spiritual – that is at the core of the Sacrament of sharing Bread and Wine in memory of Christ, as he taught us. 

There is something deeply relational about sharing food and drink. Hospitality is what allow relationships to flourish, for us to know one another better. Sharing food is one of the most important things we as humans can do; it’s at the heart of pretty much every culture I think. It brings togetherness. And it reminds us of what we have in common, giving space for that commonality to be explored and expressed.

So in asking us to remember him in bread and wine, Christ is affirming the goodness of the physical world, but he is also bringing us together. And this brings me back to where I began with the idea of sharing one Bread making us into one Body. 

We’re all differrent. We all have different skills, abilities and experiences. We all have something to contribute – just like the differing parts of the human body. On our own, we are incredibly limited – just as hands can’t hear; ears can’t touch! But together, in harmony, we can achieve incredible things.

As we share in this one Bread – literally and metaphorically and spiritually – may we be built more and more into one Body that can value each of its constituent parts and work in harmony to the glory of God. 

Every blessing, 

Revd. Talisker

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer, Sunday 14th to Saturday 20th June

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Wednesday June 10 2020, 1:30 pm

For anyone who wishes to follow the readings for morning prayer, the readings for each day can be accessed via this link, and you can view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services here.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our website, and our Facebook page.

Trinity Sunday – the Divine Dance

General 

Published on: Thursday June 4 2020, 3:00 pm

The Dance of the Trinity

Exploring the concept of the Trinity is one of the hardest parts of the Christian faith. Some theologians have even joked that if you think you get it, you clearly don’t! But this complete conundrum is also central to our faith.

Richard Rohr points out that “Trinitarian revelation says start with the loving – and this is the new definition of being!” (Rohr, The Divine Dance). Many theologians have commented on the idea that the relationship between the persons of the Trinity are what makes us relational, what puts love in action at the heart of the divine image in us. 

For me, this principle that God is not some lone and distant figure is absolutely central to my experience of God. It is also key to understanding why God would choose to come and experience his own creation by living as a human being – Jesus. And it also explains why he continues to be involved in this world every moment through the action and presence of the Holy Spirit.

Above all, if I believe in a God who exists in relationship within God-self, then I can also believe that this God is interested in a relationship with me – and with all his creatures – and this call to relationship runs through the Bible and through Christian faith like letters in a stick of rock. 

God is not distant, but yearns to be close to us, always inviting and calling us into an intimate relationship with Godself. What an incredible joy, and also a rock on which we can rely in our times of struggle. If God was somehow just ‘out there’, uninvolved with the daily dust of the universe, then it would make little sense to call out to this deity in our times of pain and trial.

Instead Christians believe in a God who loves us all so much he became one of us, lived and died as we do, experienced all the human emotions, and who remains with us still through his Spirit. 

And through this we are in turn invited into the divine dance that is God. For the very nature of this God is love and relationship, and so when we love, when we are in relationships that build us up and encourage and strengthen us, then we participate in the Divine nature also. It is in our relationships that we experience love, that we experience the Divine in tangible form.

Rublev’s famous icon painting of the Trinity has three winged figures around a table. There is clearly a space for a fourth at the table, and the poses of the figures suggest invitation. This invitation is for the viewer – for each one of us. 

George Herbert wrote the wonderful poem Love (III). It begins ‘Love bade me welcome’. And it finishes ‘You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat. So I did sit and eat.’ It’s an imagined conversation between God and a person, an utterly beautiful poetic expression of the eternal invitation of Love to the Soul – just google ‘George Herbert Love’, and you’ll find it! So often poetry can express what mere prose cannot. It puts into words the emotions we might feel at the invitation which Rublev paints.

So whilst trying to explain the theology of Trinity in ordinary prose (rather than poetry or art) reduces us to (albeit very useful!) metaphors of clover leaves and all kinds of linguistic contortions, as we desperately search for an image or simile that works completely to express that most elusive of principles, the truth is that we can experience this Trinity each and every day. Just by being – with God, with one another, with ourselves. Just by loving. Just by presence. 

For even though words often fail, Love is always enough.

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer, Sunday 7th to Sunday 14th June

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Wednesday June 3 2020, 12:30 pm

For anyone who wishes to follow the readings for morning prayer, the readings for each day can be accessed via this link, and you can view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services here.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our website, and our Facebook page.

Pentecost, the fiftieth day – Waiting…

General 

Published on: Thursday May 28 2020, 3:49 pm

Pentecost – the fiftieth day

Nobody likes waiting. Not any more. We used to be able to wait with equanimity, but our patience levels seem to reduce each year. Modern technology has brought wonderful and incredible advances and abilities that previous generations only dreamed of. But there are also flip sides – and one of those appears to be an inability to wait patiently for things to happen in their own time.

It’s a feature of modern life, beautifully exemplified by Amazon and the ‘Order Today Get It Tomorrow’ of online shopping, that we want things immediately. But the world does not naturally operate in that way. And waiting brings beauty and promise that we would otherwise miss.

In the past weeks, I have been doing a bit of gardening. Normally I don’t have the time! And it’s not that I have more time now – in some ways I am busier than ever – but it is that my approach to time has changed. Looking out my study window, I now have a small garden which has grown and morphed over the past weeks. I have learned from YouTube about taking cuttings and repotting things, and I have loved working with my daughter, getting our hands covered in compost – or as she puts it, ‘mud’. And I am reminded of the old adage, one is closer to God’s heart in a garden than any place else on earth. For after all, God was the original Gardener!

Gardens – and plants – take time to grow. And so do people. And that brings me back to Pentecost. It’s called Pentecost because it is fifty days after the Resurrection. Jesus walked with his disciples for forty days after he rose again, and then he returned to heaven to be with the Father. And then, another time of waiting – ten days between Ascension and Pentecost. 

Times of waiting can seem empty, but they might be better seen as times of preparation. A time in which a space is created and made ready for what comes next. Jesus had to go into heaven in order for the Holy Spirit to have space to come and dwell in our hearts. But the waiting time between seeming loss and being refilled is so important. What comes next is not the same shape, size or dynamic as what has gone. The new thing can’t just fit into the old space. The space has got to adapt and be made ready for what will be.

I feel there are all kinds of parallels with the global situation at present as we all try to work out what our individual and collective new ‘normal’ is going to be in a Covid-19 world. Each one of us will have to work that through, and together we will have to work out what society and culture is now going to look like and how it will function. And the waiting time is crucial in giving us the space to do this.  

There are times right now when the immensity of the changes we have undergone and which are likely to linger feel overwhelming. It is so tempting to retreat, however we can, into the old and familiar. But we cannot go back. As the hymn-writer says, ‘Time like an ever-rolling stream bears all its sons away..’ There is only one constant, and that is God, who sustains all life and existence from moment to moment. 

And if we can dwell in each moment, one at a time, if we can bear the waiting, then time itself will help us to re-shape and adapt to what comes next. And above all, we are not alone – for we have the Holy Spirit, the Helper, the Accompanier, the Consoler, who dwells in our hearts. This Helper Spirit is the gift of God. It speaks in a very small voice, we have to listen for it! But through waiting, through stillness, through patience, it becomes clearer and louder, guiding and accompanying us into whatever the future may hold.

As we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost again, and remember the birth of the Church on that first Pentecost Day, let us pray again for the Holy Spirit to be renewed within us, for us to reconnect and listen again for that still small voice, and for the Spirit to bring new life to us, our families, and to the Church throughout the world.

With love, light and peace, 
Revd. Talisker

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer, Sunday 31st May to Saturday 6th June

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Wednesday May 27 2020, 10:45 am

For anyone who wishes to follow the readings for morning prayer, the readings for each day can be accessed via this link, and you can view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services here.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our website, and our Facebook page.

The meaning of life… Which way is up??

General 

Published on: Thursday May 21 2020, 3:01 pm

Which way is up? Well, the answer to that depends on your view of the world! The ancients had a cosmology (universe / world view) that had a flat earth in the middle and heaven (the residence of the gods) as Up, somewhere beyond the stars. And the early Christians pretty much took on that view – they had no reason not to! It was, after all, the common understanding of science at the time.

 

So the gospel writers, when they record the ascension of Jesus into heaven, speak of him being taken up and a cloud hiding him from their sight.

 

But since the time when the gospels were written, our whole way of looking at and understanding the world and the universe has changed. We now know that no matter how far Up we go in among the stars and planets, we will never find a place called heaven that is the abode of the gods. That’s just not how it works.

 

I have always found that science fiction is a great place to start when trying to explain how God and the world work. Somehow the very nature of fiction that pushes every possible boundary is exactly the right medium for ways of expressing and understanding things which are at or beyond the boundaries of our understanding and experience.

 

I have the privilege of preaching this coming Sunday on Ascension, so I won’t focus on it today – but I will post my sermon online on our website and on my facebook page after Sunday, so if you want to read more, you can do so there.

 

But there is something connected with this that I will focus in on, and it is very much connected with the concept of a world-view.

 

In last week’s reading from the book of Acts, St Paul is in the Areopagus in Athens, where all the great philosophers and thinkers would gather to talk and chew over the great ideas of their day. Endless discussion and argument would take place, along with teaching schools of thought. Over the decades, it is where you would have found Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and a host of other names which have influenced our thought to this very day.

 

The thing which St Paul picks out is the fact that the Greeks are indeed very religious. It mattered enormously to them. But rather than seeing God in everything, they saw gods everywhere. There was a god for every river and stream, a goddess of the harvest, gods that looked after each family (much like we might think of guardian angels), gods for each city, gods who looked after health and sickness – you name it, it had a deity associated with it. And this was in addition to the main twelve gods that they worshipped, such as Zeus, Athena, Apollo and Aphrodite.

 

But in and amongst all the very many altars that St Paul saw in Athens, there was one to the Unknown God. The Greeks realised that even with all their gods and all their knowledge, there was still something that remained beyond them. And because they were afraid of missing some deity out and thus incurring their wrath, they had this altar.

 

In this “cover all bases” approach, there seems to me a kind of seeking after perfection at the heart of their belief system. And certainly in their worship, any mistake of any kind in the ceremony meant you had to go back to the very beginning and start again!

 

The Hebraic faith seems to me to stand in stark contrast to this, because it is not about seeking perfection but rather about existing and finding joy (and God) in the midst of the mess and chaos and beauty of life. The coming of God as Jesus, to live as one of us, bears witness to this utter dedication to the joy and beauty of life and the world as we know and experience it. God does not stand at a distance, but rather chooses to get involved in the everyday dust of life.

 

And within the Hebrew and Christian faiths, God is not unknown. For this is the core of the Incarnation – the coming of God in Jesus to live as one of us, to live with us. We worship a God who knows and loves us, and who knows what it is to live and die as one of us.

 

For the Greeks, this would be utterly incomprehensible in their religious cultural understanding of the world. To them, the gods were utterly removed from daily existence, living in a state of perpetual bliss in heaven. In contrast, for the Hebrews God might reside in heaven with his angels, but he was deeply concerned and interested in the doings of humans on earth; how we live and interact with each other and the plants and creatures. How you saw and understood God and the world and your place in it all was completely dependent on your world view – and on which culture you belonged to. Which brings me back to where we began – which way is Up??

 

In the end, for me the key to everything in this world lies in the unconditional and limitless love of God for all that exists. We are all climbing the same mountain, though we may use many paths; and the path we choose will depend on our culture, our background, and so many other factors. All that matters is that, whatever path we may be travelling, we help our fellow travellers that we meet along the journey, as we all make our way towards the great Divine Love and Light that embraces and holds us all.

With love, light and peace, 
Revd. Talisker

Thy Kingdom Come – A Global Wave of Prayer

General 

Published on: Thursday May 21 2020, 1:53 pm

Thy Kingdom Come is a global prayer initiative across all Christian denominations. It lasts the ten days from Ascension Day until Pentecost…

As we pray during this period we remember and learn from the first followers of Christ who gathered together in hope and joy to pray and make ready for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses …to the ends of the earth. When he had said this…he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight…Then they returned to Jerusalem … and were constantly devoting themselves to prayer… When the day of Pentecost had come they were all together in one place… All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit… and that day about three thousand persons were added.”   (from Acts 1 and 2)

 

Thy Kingdom Come was set up by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to encourage Christians to:

  • Deepen our own relationship with Jesus Christ
  • Pray for five friends or family to come to faith in Jesus
  • Pray for the empowerment of the Spirit that we would be effective in our witness for Christ

“In praying ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ we all commit to playing our part in the renewal of the nations and the transformation of communities.” Archbishop Justin Welby

You can find out more about Thy Kingdom Come, inspiring stories and interviews and resources to help you join in with this worldwide, ecumenical and exciting eleven days of prayer action at

https://www.thykingdomcome.global/about-us

There’s a Thy Kingdom Come app, podcasts and you can even get Alexa and Google Home to ‘Ask the Church of England for today’s Thy Kingdom Come’ to hear a short service of Prayer During the Day (before 7pm) and Night Prayer (after 7pm) throughout the eleven days.

We will be adding daily postings throughout this period on the Cherbury with Gainfield facebook blog at

https://www.facebook.com/BeneficeOfCherburyWithGainfield

 

So, please join us in the global wave of prayer
 
 

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer, Sunday 24th to Saturday 30th May

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Wednesday May 20 2020, 9:15 am

For anyone who wishes to follow the readings for morning prayer, the readings for each day can be accessed via this link, and you can view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services here.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you.

We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our website, and our Facebook page.

“Seek first the Kingdom of God” – Prayer and Possibility

General 

Published on: Thursday May 14 2020, 3:00 pm

So much has happened this week. We are in the now-and-not-yet all over again. Lockdown is easing – but is it? Is it safe to do so? How do we feel about it? I attended a church leadership webinar recently in which we talked about the short, medium and long term plans and approaches for the future – but above all the reality is we simply do not know. There is no blueprint for this. There is no clear A to B – because we don’t yet know what B is! It’s all emerging and we have to figure it out as we go along. 

Uncertainty is something that few people truly like. We may say that we like challenge and flexibility, but generally we do at least like to face those challenges and the need for flexibility with firm ground under our feet, rather than quicksand. But right now, there seems very little firm ground, and many of our old assumptions and habits simply don’t fit or function in our new world. 

So what now? One point that was raised, which resonated greatly for me, was the fact that whilst we haven’t a clue, God does. He knows how blessing can be brought about for us individually, as communities, as nations, and globally. We have a truly once in a lifetime chance to re-imagine what society and daily life looks like. And the best way we can engage with that is by beginning with prayer. 

Unprecented times call for unprecedented prayer! We need to pray lots – as much as we can, whenever we can, in any way that we can. There’s no right or wrong way or place to pray; just do it! And if we engage with God, if we try to listen carefully to what He is saying, what kind of world He might be calling us to on the other side of this, then maybe collectively what emerges may be a whole lot better – for everyone – than what we knew before. 

One simple example of that is meetings. We used to spend hours in our cars driving miles to meetings. In the past 8 weeks, global emissions have gone through the floor on the graphs. Whilst that will go up again once industry picks up once more, maybe we don’t have to go back to all that driving. Maybe we can do at least some of our meetings online. It does save a lot of time as well as miles, and though there will always be times when we do need face to face meetings, is that true all the time? There’s no substitute for real human contact – but wouldn’t you rather that the human contact we focus on and spend the majority of our time on was with our family and friends, the ones we really care about? 

Jesus said, seek first the Kingdom of God, and all else will fall into place (Matthew 6). He said this in the context of worry and anxiety for our daily needs – food, clothing, shelter – and the constant human rat race of getting ahead. How often are we so busy taking care of those daily needs that we don’t have time or energy to step back and look at the bigger picture. To wonder, if we did daily life differently, whether getting those things that we need might be less of a strain and struggle. The Kingdom of God, after all, is not a place – it is a way of living and being. It’s a focus and approach that is in tune with God.

Jesus was above all a teacher of wisdom. He showed us how to live a calmer, less frenzied life that is more in touch with our deepest needs. He showed us how to live according to God’s plan for humanity and in tune with the universe. He knew what he was talking about, and he lived it. Maybe in the coming weeks and months, if we could spend time in prayer, connecting with God and trying to catch His vision – not just for ourselves but for the world – then we could work hand in hand with God in co-creating a new world. 

As I write this, I am reminded of the Sistine Chapel ceiling, where the hand of God stretches out to the hand of Adam, bringing life and the divine spark. God is always stretching out His hand to us. What infinite possibility might arise if we stretched out our hands and touched His?

With love, light and peace, 
Revd. Talisker

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer, Sunday 17th to Saturday 23rd May

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Wednesday May 13 2020, 12:30 pm

For anyone who wishes to follow the readings for morning prayer, the readings for each day can be accessed via this link, and you can view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services here.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you.

We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our website, and our Facebook page.

Living the Serenity Prayer

General 

Published on: Thursday May 7 2020, 3:00 pm

Living the Serenity Prayer – a reflection on calm and handling change

These are strange and challenging times, and in many ways very troubling because they are so far from what we are used to as our normal daily lives. We used to be able to go out and about we are all stuck at home. We miss our friends from school and work, and we are having to get used to a whole new way of doing things.

In all of this, trying to stay calm and focused, keeping a balance within ourselves, is probably one of the most important things we can do. For those who have faith, taking time to pray has never been more important. What I have found of great encouragement myself is the news that so many people who would not describe themselves as having faith particularly have turned to prayer in these past weeks and have found great comfort in doing so.

At the Buckland School Governors meeting yesterday evening, the Head Teacher Mrs Warren spoke of the serenity prayer which many of you will have heard before and it inspired me to write this short piece to go out with the weekly newsletter.

The Serenity Prayer is a prayer written around 1932-33 by the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971). It is commonly quoted as:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.  

Niebuhr’s prayer originally asked for courage first, and specifically for changing things that must be changed, not things that simply can be changed:

Father, give us courage to change what must be altered, serenity to accept what cannot be helped, and the insight to know the one from the other.  

It’s so easy to see the world around us and to feel completely overwhelmed by all the things which we just feel are too big and which press in upon us. We can’t change them, and even to try is an overwhelming task. Greta Thunberg wrote a small pamphlet entitled ‘No One is Too Small to make a Difference’ and certainly she has made that very true.

Many of the greatest wisdom teachers over the past centuries have noted that in truth, the only thing we can really change in this world is ourselves and our reactions. Sometimes we are blessed enough to be able to change the situation we find ourselves in, but we certainly can’t change anyone else, and a lot of the time changing the situation is beyond us as well.

But what we can change, and what we always have power over, is ourselves and our reactions. We can change how we respond, how we act, and how we interact – with people and with the situation we find ourselves in.

Einstein famously said that you cannot solve the problem with the same level of thinking that created it. When we are struggling with something – and when I was at school for me it was always my maths homework – simply ploughing on in the same old way only caused more frustration and stress. It was only when I tried a different approach, usually after a short break and with a fresh mind, that I was able to achieve anything. And sometimes I needed to ask for help from somebody else to see the problem from a different angle.

Even though the lockdown due to coronavirus is due to ease shortly, life is not going to simply go back to what it used to be three months ago. We going to have to continue to adapt, to do things differently, and it’s going to be hard and stressful. But maybe we can make it a little bit less stressful if we keep in mind Niebuhr’s prayer, which has had many variations over the years.

I offer you this as my personal variant on the original, as it reminds me always that if I want to change anything in life, that change has to begin with myself.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know that the change is in me.


With love, light and peace, 

Revd. Talisker

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer, Sunday 10th to Saturday 16th May

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Wednesday May 6 2020, 9:45 am

For anyone who wishes to follow the readings for morning prayer, the readings for each day can be accessed via this link, and you can view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services here.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you. We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our website, and our Facebook page

Come & Praise Service Sheet Congregation Livestream

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Friday May 1 2020, 3:00 pm

For anyone wishing to follow the Come & Praise Service Congregation Livestream on Sunday, the Come & Praise Service Sheet can be accessed via this link, and you can view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

St Philip & St James – Reflection on Living the Divine I Am

General 

Published on: Friday May 1 2020, 1:07 pm

St Philip and St James – Living the Divine I Am

This Friday 1st May is the saints day of Philip and James, and the gospel reading set for the festival is from John 14. This passage is probably familiar to many of us, and is very often used at funerals. Jesus is speaking to his disciples at the Last Supper, just before he is arrested and put to death; he is seeking to comfort his friends who don’t know what is about to happen, so that when it does, they are not wholly bereft and devastated. 

At funerals, the reading often stops at verse 6 with the statement: “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” These words have sadly often been taken by Christians as a claim to exclusivity, and thus have been a great challenge to those who would wish to see the love of God in a more inclusive and holistic way. 

For me, these words were indeed a challenge rather than a comfort for many years. But now I embrace them, along with what comes immediately before and after in Jesus’ conversation with his disciples in John’s gospel. There are a few reasons I can do this. Firstly, Jesus is so clear that there is room for everyone in his Father’s house – “there are many dwelling places. If that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?” When I read this, I hear Jesus telling us that everyone – and I do mean everyone – is welcome and has a place prepared especially for them in God’s house, in God’s presence. No one is left out, no one is rejected. After all, the Bible is clear that Jesus has come to renew all things (Matthew 19.28); restore all things (Acts 3.21) and reconcile all things (Colossians 1.20). All things – nothing is left out, seen or unseen, past or present or future. What a wonderful promise and encouragement that is!

I also reflect, in the light of God’s all-embracing, limitless and unconditional love for all his creation, on Jesus’ words “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” And I wonder if the key words in this statement are actually “I Am.”

When Jesus says “I Am”, he is stating his integrity and identity in God, and invites us to do the same. And I believe that it is true that to live with total integrity and honesty is the Way to God, it is the absolute Truth, and it does bring us Life – life in the sense of a vibrant aliveness in our being, rather than simply existing from day to day as so many people do.

Not fully understanding, Philip asks him to “show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” In response, Jesus points him back to the Divine that is contained within himself and within each and every one of us. Jesus has lived his life as one who can say “I Am”, and invites us all to do the same. And it is when we live in that light, that integrity of “I Am”, that the Divine light in each of us shines forth. It is then that God can be seen in us. When Jesus replies “anyone who has seen me has seen the Father… I am in the Father and the Father is in me” he is simply prefiguring that relationship into which we are all invited. 

And this relationship is seen and experienced through action, not merely words. It is in how we live. And this is the point that Jesus seems to be making to Philip and all the disciples.

The disciples so often are examples to us, not because of how advanced and spiritual and knowing they are, but rather because they are, like so many of us, often slow to see or to understand, and because like us they are so flawed. Think of St Peter, who denied Jesus three times and was later commissioned by Jesus to lead his Church. Think of St Paul who utterly rejected Jesus and persecuted all who followed him, and ended up spending the rest of his life travelling the known world preaching the love of God in Jesus Christ. 

We too are loved and called by God just as we are. We don’t have to do anything or become anything. Simply to say “I Am” and to allow the Divine in us to shine out and be seen, and to open our eyes and see it in one another. Not that it’s always easy! And the New Testament records its fair share of arguments between disciples! But to stand in the limitless love of God, shoulder to shoulder with one another as sisters and brothers in Christ, all saying “I Am”, and all seeing the God in one another, is a wonderful thing to strive for.

With love, light and peace, 
Revd. Talisker

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer, Sunday 3rd to Saturday 9th May

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Wednesday April 29 2020, 2:45 pm

For anyone who wishes to follow the readings for morning prayer, the readings for each day can be accessed via this link, and you can view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services here.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you.

We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our website, and our Facebook page.

Recognising and Resting in God

General 

Published on: Saturday April 25 2020, 11:45 am

Recognising and Resting with God

Last week I wrote about seeing God in the small things and the small blessings in our daily lives – those little things that are making the present challenge bearable. It seems there is a strange paradox going on at present. This morning, I saw a headline in the daily CofE media digest that took me to the Mirror – where it announced that only 9% of people want things to go back to precisely the same normal that we took for granted only a few short weeks ago. So many of us are appreciating our friends and families more, enjoying our homes, valuing our food, just to name a few things. We are reading more, communicating better with each other (ironically!), and making far more effort to be in community and to value one another. 

And all this is happening whilst we are forced to be apart and at a distance. It is indeed a strange paradox. But paradox is often at the heart of the Christian faith. The teaching of Jesus show us a vision of a better world and how to live that and create it in our own lives and communities; and as Christians we believe in that hope and try to live it out in practice.  But for all our attempts, this better world is very clearly both here and not here at the same time – we have only to look at the news to see the pain and suffering throughout the world, as well as seeing the blessings and miracles that do occur.

On Easter day, in my sermon I spoke about not always recognising the presence of God, despite God being very much with us. One of the examples of this is when Jesus walks with the disciples who are travelling home to the village of Emmaus on the Sunday, after witnessing the tragic events of Good Friday in Jerusalem. This is our gospel reading for this Sunday, and it has always been one of my favourite passages. Jesus’ appearances after the Resurrection seem to very often involve conversation and food with his friends, and for anyone who wishes to put the spiritual above the practical, there is the wonderful story from John’s gospel (chapter 21) where Jesus has the breakfast barbeque waiting for his friends. 

God is often not where we expect him to be, nor does he appear in the form that we expect to see him. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t there. It just means that he invites us to see differently. To see with his eyes. To remove the limiting window frame of our expectations and wants, and to go outside and see the whole view. It’s not always comfortable viewing admittedly. God does challenge us to come out of our comfortable habits and ways of being and doing. But if we are willing to take that step, and to recognise his presence with us on the journey, then it seems to me there is also the promise of the practical care that Christ shows in these Resurrection appearances; where time and rest and refreshment together are given to us before we arise and step out on the next part of our journey. 

As this lockdown extends, and the return to “normal” recedes further and further away, all the things that have given us strength and hope in the early weeks must be renewed and refreshed to help us continue. The paradox of closer and better community whilst being forced to remain at a distance will continue; and there is a long journey to take to find what will be on the other side of all this. 

Much has been written on how to survive the kinds of trauma that suspension of normality brings – often in a war situation. And it is both true and helpful. The cliche of ‘marathon not a sprint’ may be annoying to hear repeatedly, but it’s worth noting. And the first disciples had the same challenge ahead of them. 

After Jesus’ death, their normal was shattered. It was shattered again by his resurrection. Everything they thought they knew went out the window, never to return. What on earth was to come next?? Before that ‘next’ could be revealed, they had to come to terms with the ‘now’. And Jesus spent time with them, made them wait and rest, and gave them refreshment – spiritual and literal – before sending them onwards and outwards to share and to build the new vision into reality. 

I wonder if there may be some hope in reflecting upon this for ourselves this Easter season. Our normal has been shattered, and the longer that this lasts, the less our chance of returning to what we used to take for granted. As I wrote at the beginning, the vast majority of us already don’t want to return to it. We have already seen glimmers of a better future and possibility. But we need to rest and be in the ‘now’ that is the present moment, before we can hope to move on to the ‘what next’. 

Because the ‘what next’ has to be built upon the reality and the needs of the ‘now’. This is as true for the Church as for any other part of our society. What is the Church going to look like in the future? Most of us have had our heads in the sand on this question for at least a couple of decades now. We can’t do the ostrich any longer. But before we start to try to run forwards on a new course (which ostriches do extremely well by the way), we have to take time to look around and see what direction we want to travel in! 

Our best direction is surely wherever God is, and wherever he is suggesting we go. Whatever we choose, he’ll go with us; that’s just how God is. But first, let’s take the time to rest and recognise where God is, and which direction he might be ever so gently pointing in…

With love, light and peace, 

Revd. Talisker

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer, Sunday 26th April to Saturday 2nd May

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Wednesday April 22 2020, 10:15 am

For anyone who wishes to follow the readings for morning prayer, the readings for each day can be accessed via this link, and you can view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services here.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you.

We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our website, and our Facebook page.

Seven Voices Thursday 19th April – Peace be with you

General 

Published on: Thursday April 16 2020, 3:00 pm

“Peace be with you…”

Jesus often says these words, and it is always a benediction, a blessing. Peace is above all what we need most in these times. Peace in our hearts, with a sense of inner tranquillity and calm in the face of almost complete uncertainty and unknowing, is a gift that we all crave.

It is this kind of peace that I think Jesus offers us. The kind of peace that allows us to face the unknown, the crisis, the trauma and the tragedy, with the certainty that whatever is thrown at us, God is with us.

To say that God is with us is absolutely not to say that we will never endure suffering and struggle. We have only to look at the example of countless Christians over the past two millennia who have endured the most terrible struggles and privations, whether because of their faith or simply because of the situation and time in which they lived.

The knowledge that God is with us does however give us hope and strength to continue in whatever crisis, struggle or tragedy that we find ourselves in, taking each day at a time, trusting that above all we are not alone, and that we are loved.

One of the things I have found most helpful in the past weeks has been to give thanks for the smallest blessings. It’s easy to say thank you for the big things. But it is the little things that can make or break our emotional, mental and spiritual stability in the moment. In the midst of the grief, bereavement and struggle that we are all going through, in different ways and on different levels, it is often remembering the small blessings that allows us to continue to smile and gives us the strength to face every new challenge.

These small things, the small blessings, will be different for each and everyone of us. But if we can slow down enough to notice them, and then to say thank you to God for each one of them, then we may be able to notice his presence with us in and through those blessings. We are indeed in a time that is unprecedented. And the fear that this brings because of the uncertainties can be overwhelming, especially for those who are older, isolated and unable to be self-sufficient in the way that they used to.

I do not wish these words to be in any way trite or to be a gloss over the very real pain and struggles that we all face in our individual situations and as humanity as a whole. But I do hope that for those of us who have faith in God and in his son Jesus, the Easter hope of resurrection, renewal and transformation may speak to the doubt and the darkness in our hearts and shine a light there, so that our own hope is renewed, and that we in turn can shine a light for others. 

I am reminded of the hymn, Brother Sister Let me serve you (YouTube link) by Richard Gillard. I have put the words below.

Brother, sister, let me serve you, let me be as Christ to you;

pray that I may have the grace to let you be my servant too. 
We are pilgrims on a journey, and companions on the road;

we are here to help each other walk the mile and bear the load.

I will hold the Christ-light for you in the night-time of your fear;

I will hold my hand out to you, speak the peace you long to hear.

I will weep when you are weeping; when you laugh I’ll laugh with you;

I will share your joy and sorrow till we’ve seen this journey through.

When we sing to God in heaven we shall find such harmony,

born of all we’ve known together of Christ’s love and agony.

Brother, sister, let me serve you, let me be as Christ to you;

pray that I may have the grace to let you be my servant too.

________________________

This Sunday, 19 April, we will again be live streaming our Sunday morning service at 10 AM via YouTube. This week will be a Service of the Word, and I will be joined by my colleagues in the clergy team, Revd. Jim, Revd. Tim and Lucy G.

We will send the link for the YouTube live stream on Saturday morning so that it is near the top of your inbox and easy to find on Sunday morning! Thank you very much those of you who shared so much positive feedback on last Sunday’s service – you’ve given us the faith to keep going!

_______________________

Our community groups are going from strength to strength in the various villages, and if you haven’t already connected into them or are not sure how to, please do be in touch with us and we will put you in touch with the group leaders. 

Please know that the clergy team and our wonderful churchwardens are here to support you in any way we can – the church buildings may be closed but the church is very much open and we are here for you as brothers and sisters in Christ. It is in times like this that faith and the support that we can offer one another is so very important for us all. 

With love, light and peace, 

Revd. Talisker

and the Ministry Team

Easter Sunday sermon – signs of hope

General 

Published on: Thursday April 16 2020, 10:09 am

For those of you who missed the Easter Sunday sermon, if you would like to read it, the text is below. 

Revd. Talisker

____________

Easter Sermon 2020
 

The gospel reading from today is from St Matthew. At dawn Mary Magdalen and another Mary go to the tomb where Jesus has been laid.
 

Reading the text, their experience must have shaken them to the core. There was a violent earthquake; the stone in front of the tomb was rolled away, and an unearthly being with an appearance like lightning was in front of them. This experience so terrified the Roman soldiers who were present that they became like dead men!
 

Clearly the women were made of stronger stuff! They did not faint; but I can imagine that they must have been absolutely terrified. This experience must have been so far beyond anything they had expected or experienced before, even though they had travelled with Jesus for years and seen many miracles and amazing things.
 

This Easter must be the strangest that any of us have experienced, perhaps the strangest in living memory. The last time the churches were closed in this country was in 1208, when the Pope excommunicated King John. We are unable to meet together, worship and pray together, or to celebrate the traditional dawn of new life and new hope at Easter with our friends and families.
 

So to speak of resurrection and new life in a time when it feels more like a continuing Good Friday, or the emptiness and waiting of holy Saturday, is very strange. Emptiness, absence of the familiar, and a sense of isolation and lostness are, for many of us, probably more prominent emotions at present.
 

I find myself reflecting on the fact that the women who had spent so much time with Jesus and who were so close to him did not seem to immediately recognise him when they saw him that Easter Sunday. This lack of recognition is something which comes up, one way or another, in all of the gospel accounts of the resurrection. The women do not recognise Jesus; the travellers on the road to Emmaus do not know who they are walking with; until a certain moment. And that moment is different for each person in each of these accounts. 

What I’m trying to say is that the resurrection was not immediately obvious. At first they saw emptiness and absence, or perhaps it is truer to say they did not recognise God’s presence with them.

 

I think this is especially relevant to us this year in the midst of this pandemic, where we hear of the numbers in hospital and the numbers of those who have died rising and rising, both in this country and around the world. Although today is Easter and is a celebration of the renewal of hope and new life, for very many of us that hope is not yet visible, but rather all seems still very dark.

 

Perhaps we are looking in the wrong place for these signs of hope. If we look in the tomb for signs of life, we will not find it. In Matthew’s gospel, the angel said to the women: I know that you are looking for Jesus, he’s not here, he has risen, just as he said. Go and tell his disciples that he is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.

 

If Jesus has gone ahead of us into Galilee, then where is Galilee for us today? It is no good looking in the tomb for the signs of life and for hope and a future which are not there. Instead, we must look forward to what is not yet known, and be brave enough to take the journey, trusting that Jesus will walk with us even as he walked to Emmaus with those disciples. We may not recognise him as we travel; we may have to wait until we arrive, even as they did. But we can make that journey in the certainty that he will meet us, that we will see him, that the resurrection hope is there and that new life is with us even if we don’t see it yet.

 

Matthew finishes this section of the account with another unexpected twist. Given what the angel has said, we would expect that the women would go home, tell all the other disciples, and that together they will see Jesus in Galilee. But as they hurry away, Jesus meets them. He repeats the message that the angel has given for the other disciples.

 

This is worth stopping to think about because it is likely to have been so unexpected to those hearing this story for the first time. For women to be the first witnesses of the resurrection is amazing. In Jesus’s time, women were of less importance and value than men, in all kinds of ways. But in this account, the men – the Roman soldiers – are unable to cope and overcome by the experience and are as corpses. The women may be afraid but they stand their ground, and they are given the message of hope to pass on.

 

Looking at this as a metaphor, perhaps again this is relevant for our own times. The people, systems, and ways of doing things that we expect to be powerful and which we rely upon have perhaps not been as strong or important as we might have expected. Rather it has been the people and the aspects of life which we have overlooked and taken for granted as small, and perhaps previously unimportant, which have suddenly become absolutely key to our everyday lives. It is these that have brought us the message of hope and new life, the message that we can survive, even if not in the ways to which we have been accustomed.

 

And that brings me back again to the fact that the resurrected Jesus was not immediately recognized even by people who knew him well. Maybe the shoots of hope, and the possibilities of transformation and blessing, that are symbols of the resurrection and of Easter are among us already, but we need a little more time before we can recognise them for what they are.

 

Wherever we find ourselves, spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically, may we be open to God’s blessing and to his peace, and above all may we know that we are loved and precious in his sight. Amen.

 

________________________

 

 

A Reflection Before The Cross for Good Friday

General 

Published on: Friday April 10 2020, 3:54 pm

Here is a reflection for Good Friday made by Lucy G, a video meditation on the Seven Last Words of Jesus upon the Cross.

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer, including Easter Day – Sunday 12th to Saturday 18th April

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Wednesday April 8 2020, 2:30 pm

For anyone who wishes to follow the readings for morning prayer, the readings for each day can be accessed via this link, and you can view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services here.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you.

We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our website, and our Facebook page.

The journey begins…

General 

Published on: Sunday April 5 2020, 3:52 pm

And so the journey of Holy Week begins. It is the ultimate rollercoaster, spiritually and emotionally. This year, it will have an even deeper meaning for so many people, given that our church buildings are shut and we cannot gather together in prayer or worship, except in virtual online communities. 

Today is Palm Sunday, and the readings take us from the jubilant shouts of Hosanna, as Jesus enters Jerusalem in triumph, to the despair and darkness, as the sun sets, of Good Friday. From being hailed as King, to being taken down dead from a cross reserved for criminals and traitors. 

Each day of Holy Week the story unfolds further. The bible readings take us deeper into the story. I sometimes wonder, what must those days have been like for Jesus’s disciples. None of them had truly grasped his message that the Messiah must suffer and die, that it was his role to take upon himself all the pain and suffering and agony of humankind upon the cross, absorbing it all into himself and thus ending our perpetual cycle of violence. The death of Jesus opens up new possibilities for us all, whoever we are, wherever we are from or are going. Death is indeed a transformation, and not an end. 

The Palm Sunday story is also a visceral reminder of the fleeting nature of human success and fame. The same crowd that joyously and exuberantly welcomes Jesus on the Sunday is likely more or less the same crowd who are like hounds baying, demanding his death only a few days later. 

And in all this, there is the deeply human experience not only of Jesus himself but also of his followers, as they struggle to make sense of all they see and experience. Sometimes things can just seem too much, it is overload, and we cannot process it all at the time. It takes quiet and reflection after the storm before any kind of clarity comes. St Peter is perhaps the clearest example of this when he says that he will follow Jesus anywhere, even to death. And yet mere hours after he speaks these words he is the one who three times denies knowing Jesus in order to save his own life.

I write all this to try to show that whilst we might be tempted to see the bible narratives as cut and dried and fixed somehow, when we enter into them they are as dynamic and visceral as our own experiences today. These may be events that happened (give or take) two millenia ago; but it would not be hard to imagine ourselves into the scene. How would we feel? How would we respond? The characters of the gospels are the same characters we encounter in our daily lives, perhaps even at times the character we encounter in the mirror!! 

I wonder if, in times of chaos and upheaval such as we are living through now, we may have the gift of a greater understanding and engagement with the earth-shattering events (for those who experienced them) of Holy Week. Maybe this year, we can take the time to make that journey, step by slow step, day by day, through the bible readings and prayers, with Jesus and his disciples from the palm-strewn road and shouts of Hosanna, to the cries of ‘Crucify him’, and on, through the dark gate of Death, to the Resurrection hope of transformation and renewal that lies beyond. 

Every blessing, 

Revd. Talisker

An Iona Community Prayer

General 

Published on: Thursday April 2 2020, 11:10 am

Some years ago a clergy friend shared this prayer by John Bell of the Iona Community. It has helped me a lot in the past days.

You keep us waiting … you, the God of all time, want us to wait

For the right time in which to discover

Who we are, where we must go,

Who will be with us, and what we must do.

So thank you … for the waiting time.

You keep us looking … you, the God of all space,

Want us to look in the right and wrong places for signs of hope,

For people who are hopeless,

For visions of a better world which will appear

Among the disappointments of the world we know.

So thank you … for the looking time.

You keep us loving … you, the God whose name is love,

Want us to be like you –

To love the loveless and the unlovely and the unlovable;

To love without jealousy or design or threat;

And, most difficult of all, to love ourselves.

So thank you … for the loving time.

And in all this, you keep us.

Through hard questions with no easy answers;

Through failing where we had hoped to succeed

And making an impact when we felt we were useless;

Through the patience and the dreams and the love of others,

And through Jesus Christ and his Spirit, you keep us.

So thank you … for the keeping time,

And for now,

And for ever,

Amen.

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer, Holy Week and Easter – Sunday 5th to Sunday 12th April

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Thursday April 2 2020, 2:45 am

For anyone who wishes to follow the readings for morning prayer, the readings for each day can be accessed via this link, and you can view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services here.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you.

We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our website, and our Facebook page.

“Wild Worship” – time in Nature

General 

Published on: Tuesday March 31 2020, 12:45 pm

Whilst we are confined to our homes, our daily walks can become an incredible time of wonder and worship – we are spending time in God’s own cathedral of Nature. Today I came across this wonderful resource of creative outdoor prayer ideas from thesanctuarycentre.org. You can find it here. http://thesanctuarycentre.org/…/creative_prayer_idea_wild_w…

A Wild Worshipper’s Prayer

God of the wild and wonderful –
of arcing skies and miniscule, jewelled wings –
set my worship free to explore beyond these walls.
Re-ignite me, excite me and creatively delight me
as your word comes newly alive through the colourful witness of your world.
Re-tune my senses, sharpen my mind
and quicken my spirit to your presence
as I look, hear, smell, touch and taste more of your goodness and lead me out into greater adventures
of discovering you and caring for all you have made.

(photo courtesy of unsplash via google)

A reflection on resurrection hope – the prophet Ezekiel and John’s gospel, Sunday 29th March 2020

General 

Published on: Sunday March 29 2020, 1:15 pm

Reading the bible passages set for this Sunday, I find myself noticing a particular thread in both Ezekiel and St John. In Ezekiel’s vision, the valley is filled with dry bones. There is no life left in them; they speak of life long gone and ended. God speaks to him and asks, can these bones live? Wisely Ezekiel answers, ‘Only you know’.

God’s response to this is to give Ezekiel a message that the bones will indeed have flesh put on them again, and the breath of life breathed into them. And Ezekiel passes the message on, and surely enough the bones knit together, and muscle and skin appears on them, and the breath of life is in them once more – and they stand before the prophet, a huge number of people, living and breathing, where before there was only bones and death.

There are indeed times when, as in Ezekiel, we say ‘our bones are dried up and our hope is gone.’ But that does not need to be the case. Unless of course we are relying on our own strength, our own abilities, our own resources.

We see this again in the story from St John’s gospel, where Lazarus is sick and Jesus does not arrive in time to heal him – or so it seems. Lazarus is one of Jesus’ dear friends, along with his sisters Martha and Mary. We know Jesus has visited their home; this family clearly plays a significant part in Jesus’ life. But when news comes of Lazarus’ illness, Jesus does not drop everything and run to him. Instead he finishes his task where is presently is before going to Judea where Lazarus lived.

By the time Jesus arrives, it is all too late. Lazarus is dead. Hope is gone. There are only bones, and the body decomposing upon them – it is quite a graphic moment in the gospel description, when Jesus tells them to open the tomb and the response is that this will not be pleasant as the man has been dead four days and it’s a hot country! The sisters Mary and Martha are reproachful. If you had come, they say, he would not have died. This could have been avoided.

We all have moments like this, when it seems utterly hopeless. When the people or places or things that we love or rely on are snatched away from us, and we are bereft. At present for most of us, it is only our way of life that has radically changed as we try to slow the spread of Covid-19. But soon, the time will come when we lose loved ones. The announcement by the NHS chief medical director, Professor Stephen Powis, that the UK will do well to keep deaths below 20,000 is a big reality check. And it means that many of us may lose friends and family members. What can we do? Sitting at home in a way feels like doing nothing. But it is one of the best things we can do.  

The other key thing we can do is to keep hope alive and trust in God to bring blessing. To bring the breath of life back into the dry bones. Things may not be the same after this as they were before, but it is possible that God will bring something beautiful out of the pain and struggle and chaos that we are currently in – not just in the UK but across the world. Already we are seeing communities pulling together and a generosity of spirit coming through. Yes, there are incidents of rage and anger and violence. But let us also pray for those people, that God’s love can break through their pain and anger, so they too can see hope.

Tonight, Sunday, the #CandleOfHope continues to shine its light, its flame burning strong. I will be lighting candles in the windows of the Rectory, and I encourage you to join with me and with thousands of others. Please share your photos on our facebook page too!

‘The light shines in the darkness; and the darkness has not overcome it.’ (John 1.5)

With love, light and peace,

Revd. Talisker

Bible Readings for Morning Prayer, Sunday 29th March to Saturday 4th April

Prayers & Readings 

Published on: Friday March 27 2020, 12:30 pm

For anyone who wishes to follow the readings for morning prayer, the readings for each day can be accessed via this link, and you can view it on screen or print out the PDF document.

You can access the Church Of England’s Daily Prayer services here.

If you wish, you can also download the Church of England “Daily Prayer” smartphone & tablet app from Apple Store or Google Play, which gives you the whole service including all the readings for every day.

If you or anyone you know would prefer a copy of Morning prayer printed out, please let us know and we will post this to you.

We will be sharing more resources online over the coming days and weeks, so please continue to check our website, and our Facebook page.