“Peace, perfect peace, is the gift of Christ our Lord”

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…

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

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!

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

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

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

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’

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

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

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

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”?

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

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

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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

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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

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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.

Longworth Village Coronavirus Assistance Group

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Published on: Thursday March 26 2020, 1:45 pm

LONGWORTH VILLAGE 

Dear residents of Longworth,

During these uncertain and difficult times, it’s more important than ever that we come together as a community and support one another. As a village we are all here to help so you do not need to feel alone. If you are struggling to collect a medical prescription or obtain food or essential supplies, below you will find a list of local businesses delivering to Longworth or initiatives which can help you.

KEEP IN TOUCH Regular updates will be posted on http://longworthvillage.org.uk… and on the Longworth Village Community Facebook group . If you require any support there is a list below of villagers happy to be contacted and help if they can. If you know of neighbours not online, please give them a call and keep them updated.

CAN YOU HELP? If you are able to volunteer your services and would like to be added to the list, please go to the village website (link above) to see who to email with you name, contact details, availability and what you are prepared to help with (collection & delivery of shopping, medicines or just a phone resource to ensure people don’t have to be lonely if self-isolating and they have no one to talk to).

Hinton Helpers Group

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Published on: Thursday March 26 2020, 1:41 pm

HINTON WALDRIST VILLAGE

Hinton Waldrist has a group of volunteers, Hinton Helpers to assist anyone self-isolating or vulnerable in Hinton Waldrist & Duxford who needs help relating to the Covid-19 pandemic as set out in  the letter you have received through your letterbox. 

Please see the noticeboard and the village website http://www.hintonwaldrist.net/ for details. 
If you are unable to view these, feel free to contact the Clerk who can direct you to those who can help.

Littleworth Village Coronavirus Help Group

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Published on: Thursday March 26 2020, 1:34 pm

LITTLEWORTH VILLAGE

It has been suggested that a list of volunteers be collated who are prepared to assist anyone afflicted with the virus and/or self isolating in our community with running errands, fetching prescriptions, collecting provisions and giving moral support generally.

There are already two people who have very public spiritedly put their names forward and if anyone else would like to do so as well please let me know and I will compile a list.
If anyone is in need of assistance in any way please contact me at clerk@talktalk.net and I will do my best to match those in need with volunteers. We can also help by communicating with our neighbours in an approved safe manner, to ensure nobody is left in need.

Livestreaming Sunday Services from the Diocese of Oxford

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Published on: Thursday March 26 2020, 1:04 pm

Every Sunday, the Diocese of Oxford will be livestreaming a Sunday service at 10am – the permanent link for this is here https://www.oxford.anglican.or…

You can also access the Daily Prayer section of the Church of England website to download daily morning, midday or night prayer, or read it online – see here https://www.churchofengland.or…

Closure of all Church buildings

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Published on: Tuesday March 24 2020, 9:05 pm

It is with great sadness and a heavy heart that this evening we have closed all our church buildings in this benefice until further notice.

Whilst our buildings must now close, the Church is more active than ever before and we continue to be a presence of prayer, love and care for all in our parishes. God is not limited to any building, but is in our heart and our actions. May we by our loving action bring the love of Christ to all whom we encounter, and may we see Christ in each one of them.

Every blessing,
Revd. Talisker

Praying together: the Lord’s Prayer, and Psalm 23.

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Published on: Tuesday March 24 2020, 9:04 pm

At 11am GMT tomorrow, and every day following, the Archbishop of Canterbury is inviting us to join with Pope Francis’ call to prayer around the world, inviting Christians everywhere to pray the Lord’s Prayer together at 12noon Rome time (11am GMT). The Diocese of Oxford has also written this special version of Psalm 23 to help us in reflecting and using it as a resource for prayer. It is beautiful… The link is here https://www.oxford.anglican.org/…/DOX-032-Coronavirus-psalm…

Join me and thousands of others in this prayer, knowing that we are not alone, but that we are praying together in spirit.

When abnormal becomes the new normal…

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Published on: Tuesday March 24 2020, 9:43 am

“When abnormal becomes the new normal…”. I saw this post four days ago from Martin Punaks, and it rings so true, especially in the light of last night’s announcement asking everyone to stay home. It may be a bit of a cliche, but letting go of the situation and letting God bless us in wherever we find ourselves is probably the only thing we really can do right now. Here’s the link to the post https://www.martinpunaks.com/…/covid-19-when-the-abnormal-b…

Church Information Update re Coronavirus – being a new kind of church.

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Published on: Thursday March 19 2020, 8:58 am

As many of you will now know, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, in line with government advice, have issued guidance that all public worship be put on hold for the time being. This means that there will be no Sunday or weekday church services, including public Morning Prayer, until further notice.

However, the Church of England continues to be a strong presence of prayer and action in our communities. Our ministry team continues to say morning prayer daily at home, and now meets weekly for a private Eucharist on behalf of and to pray for the whole benefice We are also available for pastoral support, though this may be more by phone and email than in person as the need for social distancing and self-isolation grows, especially among the more vulnerable. The churches in Buckland, Charney Bassett, Longworth, Littleworth and Lyford are also open every day for private prayer. Please do feel free to go in and take some time to be still and reflect and pray, whenever you wish or need to do so.

Please do continue to check the Benefice website www.cherbury-gainfield.org for updates; and the clergy team will also continue our Thursday emails. As we are no longer doing public church services, we will instead share messages of hope and faith through the Thursday emails and on our website blog, so please stay in touch. It would presently seem that our website and emails are the best way of staying in touch with the majority of people, as they are regularly updated.

If you or someone you know would appreciate prayers or clergy support, please contact us via our website Contact Page. You can also phone or email any of the ministry team using the contacts listed in Village Voices.

Although we cannot for the time being meet together publicly on Sundays for worship and prayer, we do have resources for those who wish to follow the Church service of morning prayer, and these can be posted out to you on request, along with a list of bible readings references for each day. If you would like this, please email or phone the benefice office and this will be arranged for you as quickly as possible.

With prayers and blessings to you & all your families during this very difficult time,

Revd. Talisker, Revd. Jim, Revd. Tim & Lucy Gildersleeves

Coronavirus – Archbishops call for a national day of prayer and action

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Published on: Tuesday March 17 2020, 10:28 pm

In this joint article published in the Daily Mail and the Yorkshire Post today (17th March), the Archbishops of Canterbury and York call for a National Day of Prayer and Action in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

We are good in this country at holding our nerve and steadying one another. But a pandemic is something else; you can’t touch the virus, see it or even know where it is. It may be spread by those who don’t even know they are infected. It is very serious for some, very mild for many. Nevertheless, the effect of the virus could drive us apart. To some extent it must do.

When someone we care for has it they must be isolated. That is particularly so for older people and the most vulnerable, the ones by whose bed we want to sit, and hold their hand, express our love with touch. As in epidemics throughout history the effects of this fear disturb us very deeply, and dread comes upon us.

The answer to conquering this fear is love that we receive. The tears of the child wakened by a bad dream are stilled by the embrace of someone who loves them. The uncertainty of someone of great age is often quietened with a familiar voice. The words of a friend can enable us to challenge the fears of illness to reduce our sense of threat. The UK has a culture of caring, expressed through the NHS, in Social Care, and in many other ways.

All of us, now, face a common threat, COVID-19. The question is, how do we find hope in these difficult circumstances? Hope comes both from what we can do and who we are.

We know that everything possible is being done to ensure that we can meet the challenge, in the NHS and across society. The struggle will bring with it many practical difficulties, from the closing of sports grounds to meeting the needs of those in isolation. It may mean some very hard decisions have to be taken about who is treated, as in Italy where they have had to decide not to treat some patients.

We must not be suspicious or indulge in conspiracy theories. Those who are leading our country are seeking the best advice and can be trusted to do all they can. NHS staff and scientists our Government can call upon are amongst the best anywhere in the world. They have no agenda other than the wellbeing of all.

We are capable of bearing the truth. Honesty strengthens our hopes. We need to listen to the science. Through listening we already know how to reduce the risk: washing our hands meticulously; self-isolating even if we are not ill but have come into contact with the virus; resisting the temptation to go to a doctor’s surgery where we might infect others; resisting the temptation, too, to panic buy.

Above all we must look after one another, knowing that in an uncertain world with a new virus we are best protected with honesty, compassion and care.

Remember the example of the Good Samaritan, the story in the Bible, which speaks about the need to care for the other and ensure we notice those who are in distress even if they are those who are often invisible to us.

We can find hope and courage in the goodly and wholesome spirit that is in so many ways common to all human beings, whether they are people of Faith or None. We must distinguish between a healthy fear – the beginning of wisdom, which prompts us to follow advice, and to care for those at risk – and unhealthy fear which is driven by pride, leading us to act, selfishly, doing harm to ourselves and others.

With the gift of truth and hope, we can care for one another lovingly, using words if not touch because of self-isolation. We can accept advice without grumbling, out of concerns for others, even if we do not see ourselves as being at risk.

We can go out of our way to be attentive to neighbours and to those who are vulnerable. We can shop for one another. We can help at a food bank. We can volunteer in community service. We can support those who struggle to feed their children when there are no free school lunches.

Finally, there is one more thing that everyone can do. Something we would expect from two Archbishops. We make no apology for saying “Pray!” Even if you scarcely can imagine how, pray! Pray for yourself, for those you love, for friends and neighbours.

Three thousand years ago a young King, of shepherd background, called David, wrote a song. It was a hit at his time and has remained so ever since. That is quite a success, even the greatest of our stars of today would feel that three thousand years at the top was quite an achievement. It’s the Shepherd song, “The Lord’s my Shepherd”.

We sing it in our common worship, at weddings and at funerals. It starts with hope but speaks of darkness as well as life. The singer begins with joy: God, the divine Shepherd-King, leads his people to nourishment and safety but in the song the scene quickly darkens.

The path along which he goes becomes a valley of the shadow of death. But the shepherd’s ‘rod’ and ‘staff’, implements that prod and guide the sheep, provides the comfort that comes from divine guidance.

Find Psalm 23 and read it aloud. The Shepherd’s song is about real life, not an idealised picture. It speaks of suffering and facing enemies.

Whether we are confident and brave, or doubt-filled and fearful, God is the source of love and hope. Why not say the Lord’s prayer – “Our Father who art in heaven ….” when you wash your hands. It takes more than the recommended 20 seconds.

So, we are inviting you to join us from today, for 7 days, in praying the Lord’s prayer every time you wash your hands. Yes – for seven days! And then pray throughout the day for healing for those who are sick with COVID-19; and that God will heal us from the fear which will prevent us from working together.

May the wisdom of God lead the doctors, nurses and researchers, that they may know God’s protection; and that God will guide the leaders of the nations into the ways of justice and peace. And that the love of Christ will surround us and take away our anxiety and give us His peace. May He hear us and heal us.

With the hope that you will find, then act. Where someone is ill, encourage them. Where someone dies, remember that, as the foundation of our faith for over two thousand years, we have believed that God shared the pains and fears of our lives in Jesus Christ, that He faced death, but overcame it. And He is with the bereaved.

Where is our hope? It is in the end in the love and faithfulness of a God whom we may have forgotten, but whose action and character is expressed in millions of acts of love by every person in this country. This is the God who we see in Jesus Christ, who called himself the Good Shepherd. Acts of love are the normal reaction to those in need. They are a reflection of the God who is our Shepherd.

So today we, together with our fellow bishops and other church leaders, call for a National Day of Prayer and Action this coming Mothering Sunday (22nd March) – light a candle at 7pm and put it in your window, ring someone who is isolated and vulnerable; buy an extra item and place it in your local food bank, keep your night shelters open.

We have a stronghold and refuge, we do not depend on ourselves alone, for God keeps us so that as the Shepherd song ends: “surely goodness and mercy shall follow me, all the days of my life”.

The full text above was published online at https://www.archbishopofcanter…

Light a Candle of Hope – a national call to prayer Sunday 22nd March

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Published on: Tuesday March 17 2020, 10:15 pm

Light a Candle of Hope

A national call to prayer, Sunday 22nd March 2020 at 7pm

Place a lighted candle in your window at 7pm this Sunday, and join with hundreds, maybe thousands of others in praying together in these strange and challenging times. These candles are a symbol that the light and love of Christ shines in the darkness and can never be extinguished.

The following has been published by Thy Kingdom Come, a prayer initiative within the Church of England.

A National Day of Prayer and Action has been announced by the presidents of Churches Together in England, re. the Coronavirus epidemic, for this Sunday 22nd March.
In an excerpt from a joint letter issued today, they wrote:
  “At such a time as this, when so many are fearful and there is great uncertainty, we are reminded of our dependence on our loving Heavenly Father and the future that he holds.
Therefore, at 7pm (GMT) this Sunday, light a candle in the windows of your homes as a visible symbol of the light of life, Jesus Christ, our source and hope in prayer.”

 
Wherever you are in the world, we invite you to join with us in prayer to see an end to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Let us pray for one another during this difficult time.
  “Cast all your cares on to Him, for He cares for you.”
1 Peter 5:7

Main text Copyright © 2020 Thy Kingdom Come, All rights reserved.

#LiveLent – Week 3 – Land and Vegetation

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Published on: Wednesday March 11 2020, 9:31 pm

Continuing our series using the #LiveLent tag, next week (16th – 22nd March) we turn to the Land and Vegetation, and we’re reading chapter 3 of “Saying Yes to Life”, as we explore the incredible beauty and abundance of the earth and all the plants which grow.

Read Genesis 1.9-13 – The earth brought forth … plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind … and God saw that it was good.

Monday – get in touch with Nature – perhaps spend time outdoors noticing any plants, trees and wildlife. Get wet, go for a walk, dig the earth. 

Tuesday – find out how trees help the planet.  Trees do so much to support other life around them – people, animals and plants. 

Wednesday – save paper – and trees – today. Think of ways you might use less paper.  What can you recycle?

Thursday – pray for people leading action on environment, who are working hard to encourage changes that will help tackle climate change and conserve the natural world. 

Friday – prune your stuff! Sharing and re-using things is good for the environment.  Do you have unwanted things like toys or games or clothes that you could give to a friend or donate to a charity shop?

Weekend – Take a break. This weekend includes Mothering Sunday, the half-way point in Lent.  Enjoy a break and treat yourself (and those who care for you) this weekend.

If you want to, you can follow the #LiveLent campaign via the Church of England app on your phone – see here, or you can sign up to receive the daily emails.

#LiveLent – Week 2 – Water

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Published on: Thursday March 5 2020, 12:00 am

Continuing our series using the #LiveLent tag, this week is all about Water, and we’re reading chapters 2 & 5 of “Saying Yes to Life”, as we explore this precious natural resource which God has given us.

Read Psalm 65.9-13: You visit the earth and water it, you greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water.

Monday – give thanks for water. Whenever you use water today, say thank you to God for this amazing gift we often take for granted. 

Tuesday – find out about “virtual water” – how much water does it take to make a pair of jeans? Or a hamburger? Research online, and share what you find.

Wednesday – Care for local waterways. Where are the canals, rivers and beaches in your area? Perhaps you could be involved in a local community clean-up.

Thursday – Check your cupboards!  Go through your bathroom and kitchen cupboards and see if at least one or two products could be swapped for ones with fewer harmful chemicals.

Friday – Don’t give up hope. Pray for people already experiencing damaging climate change, and ask God to bring hope and courage to those trying to help them.

Weekend – Support a water charity. Find out about charities providing clean water and toilets in poor communities. Can you help, maybe through raising money in the church or the school. 

If you want to, you can follow the #LiveLent campaign via the Church of England app on your phone – see here, or you can sign up to receive the daily emails.

Seven Voices March 2020 newsletter

Published on: Sunday March 1 2020, 6:30 am

The March issue of the Seven Voices newsletter is now available! Please download your copy here. 

There are a limited number of printed copies available in each of our churches but it would be great for the environment viewed online. If you would like to subscribe, you can do so via our contact page. If you have any notices and events to include in March’s e-newsletter, please contact sevenvoiceseditor@gmail.com by 20th February.

#LiveLent – Week 1 – Light and Energy

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Published on: Thursday February 27 2020, 1:40 pm

This Lent, the Church of England is doing a series using the #LiveLent tag. Every day of Lent, for 40 days, there is a little thing we can do or think about to help us connect with the Earth and all that God has created.

Week one is all about Light and Energy, and this ties in with our Lent Book Group session too.

Read Genesis 1.1-3: In the beginning… darkness covered the face of the deep… Then God said, “Let there be light” and there was light.

Monday – notice Light around you – sit and watch a candle or the sunlight, and think about the difference light makes in our lives.

Tuesday – make small changes – turn off the light when you leave the room. Turn off your phone charger when it isn’t in use. 

Wednesday – Walk in the Light – is there one journey we could make on foot or by bike today?

Thursday – Let your Light Shine – Jesus calls us to share his Light with others. Can we think of one way our family, school or church could take better care of creation?

Friday – give thanks for light and warmth at home – almost a billion more people now hae electricity at home than did ten years ago. Thank God for this progress, and for your own home too. 

Weekend – help those bringing hope – read a webpage for a charity like Christian Aid, or Tearfund. How do they help bring light into dark situations, such as countries badly affected by climate change?

Seven Voices February 2020 e-newsletter

Published on: Sunday February 2 2020, 8:00 am

Latest News! 

The February issue of the Seven Voices e-newsletter is now available! Please download your copy here

There are a limited number of printed copies available in each of our churches but it would be great for the environment viewed online. If you would like to subscribe, you can do so via our contact page.

If you have any notices and events to include in March’s e-newsletter, please contact sevenvoiceseditor@gmail.com by 20th February.

Lent Book Group – Saying Yes to Life

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Published on: Thursday January 30 2020, 11:23 am

This Lent, please join Revd. Talisker, Revd. Jim and Lucy Gildersleeves for soup lunch and an exploration of ‘Saying Yes to Life’.

The lunchtime Book Group will meet on Thursdays, 12.30pm – 2pm, in the Houlton Room at St Mary’s Church in Longworth, where we will share soup and homemade bread, and share our thoughts and reflections as we explore this faith perspective of some of the challenges facing us all in the coming years.

We will meet on four Thursdays: 5th March, 12th March, 19th March, and 26th March.

If you are interested in joining the group, or would like to know more about the book, please contact Revd. Talisker, Revd. Jim or Lucy.

Copies of the book can be purchased at Blackwells online at a discounted price, and the book is available from all major bookstores.

‘Ruth Valerio’s book is perfect for individuals and groups to think, reflect, pray and be challenged together.’ — Justin Welby

Seven Voices January 2020 e-newsletter

Published on: Thursday January 2 2020, 11:16 am

Latest News! 

The January issue of the online Seven Voices e-newsletter is now available! Please download your copy here.

There are a limited number of printed copies available in each of our churches but it would be great for the environment viewed online. If you would like to subscribe, you can do so via our contact page.

If you have any notices and events to include in February’s e-newsletter, please contact sevenvoiceseditor@gmail.com by 23rd January. 

Seven Voices December e-newsletter

Published on: Monday December 2 2019, 12:04 pm

Latest News! 

The December edition of the online Seven Voices e-newsletter is now available! Please download your copy here

There are a limited number of printed copies available in each of our churches but it would be great for the environment viewed online. If you would like to subscribe, you can do so via our contact page.

If you have any notices and events to include in January’s e-newsletter, please contact sevenvoiceseditor@gmail.com by 12th December

Seven Voices November e-newsletter

Published on: Thursday October 31 2019, 2:00 pm

Latest News! 

The November edition of the online Seven Voices e-newsletteris now available! Please download your copy here! There are a limited number of printed copies available in each of our churches but it would be great for the environment viewed online. If you would like to subscribe, you can do so via our contact page.

If you have any notices and events to include in December’s e-newsletter, please contact sevenvoiceseditor@gmail.com by Thursday 21st November

Benefice Advent Course – Who are we praying to?

General 

Published on: Thursday October 31 2019, 12:23 pm

This year’s Advent Course is focussing on prayer – why we pray and who we’re praying to.

The course is written by Principal of St John’s College Durham, David Wilkinson, who has Ph.Ds in astrophysics and theology, and includes contributions from churchgoers of several denominations.

David Wilkinson helps us to engage and reflect on why we pray and who we are praying to, and helps us to relax into the idea of prayer as an ongoing conversation which is at the very heart of our relationship with God, and which can happen at any time and in any place.

 

The course is in four sessions, but don’t worry if you can’t make it to all of them – come to what you can. Everybody welcome!

There are 3 groups – please contact the group leader directly to sign up!

MONDAY AFTERNOONS: Richard Waterhouse  (07808 764981)
18th November, 25th November, 2nd December, 9th December, 1.45pm at Pusey Furze House

WEDNESDAY AFTERNOONS: Revd. Talisker  (01865 596224, rector@alathea.org.uk)
20th November, 27th November, 4th December and 11th December 3.00pm in Buckland

WEDNESDAY EVENINGS: Revd. Jim (01367 243219, jim@mynors.me.uk)
20th November, 27th November, 4th December and 11th December 7.30pm at Longworth Rectory

Seven Voices October e-newsletter

Published on: Tuesday October 1 2019, 3:30 pm

Hot in your Inbox!

The October edition of the online Seven Voices e-newsletter is now available! Please download your copy here.There are a limited number of printed copies available in each of our churches but it would be great for the environment viewed online. If you would like to subscribe, you can do so via our contact page.

If you have any notices and events to include in October’s e-newsletter, please contact sevenvoiceseditor@gmail.com by Monday 21st October.

Seven Voices September e-newsletter

Published on: Saturday August 31 2019, 7:59 pm

Hot in your Inbox!

The September edition ofthe online Seven Voices e-newsletteris now available! Please download your copy here.There are a limited number of printed copies available in each of our churches but it would be great for the environment viewed online. If you would like to subscribe, you can do so via our contact page.

If you have any notices and events to include in October’s e-newsletter, please contact sevenvoiceseditor@gmail.com by Sunday 15th September.

Seven Voices August e-newsletter

Published on: Thursday August 1 2019, 8:39 am

Hot in your Inbox!

The August edition of the online Seven Voices e-newsletteris now available! Please download your copy here.There are a limited number of printed copies available in each of our churches but it would be great for the environment viewed online. If you would like to subscribe, you can do so via our contact page.

If you have any notices and events to include in September’s e-newsletter, please contact sevenvoiceseditor@gmail.com by Thursday 22nd August.

The Beatitudes and Social Media

General 

Published on: Saturday July 6 2019, 9:24 am

Let’s Make Social Media Kinder…

Another post from Bishop Steven, this time on Social Media and The Beatitudes – let’s make social media a blessing, not a burden.

“Fifteen years ago, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube didn’t exist. Today, 67% of people in the UK are active users of at least one of them, and we now spend almost two hours each day on social media. Yet society is increasingly fearful of the risks of fake news and harmful content and distrustful of the very platforms that consume so much of our time.

Our lives are irreversibly online, lived with ever decreasing levels of privacy and hyperstimulated to a relentless place. Few of us have stopped to properly consider what it means to live well in this age, but as Christians, we have an essential part to play in the shape of online society.

This week the national Church launched a Digital Charter, which includes guidelines and a pledge that anyone can add their name to as part of a personal commitment to making social media a more positive place.”

Read the rest of the blog post here.… The list of the beatitudes and how they relate to social media and our daily lives is really inspiring and thought-provoking.

Seven Voices July e-newsletter

Published on: Monday July 1 2019, 11:31 am

Hot in your Inbox!

The July edition of the online Seven Voices e-newsletter is now available! Please download your copy here. There are a limited number of printed copies available in each of our churches but it would be great for the environment viewed online. If you would like to subscribe, you can do so via our contact page.

If you have any notices and events to include in August’s e-newsletter, please contact sevenvoiceseditor@gmail.com by Monday 22nd July.

Bishop Steven’s reflection on Psalm 8 for the Mass Lobby of Parliament

General 

Published on: Thursday June 27 2019, 7:52 pm

Bishop Steven was in Westminster on 26 June with over 16,000 people. Thousands more were there in spirit. They were meeting and marching and lobbying because the time is now to arrest the emission of greenhouse gases which are causing such lasting damage to the Earth.

Inspired by this, he has written a reflection on Psalm 8 which you can read here

“When I consider the heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have ordained…

“The Time Is Now” – Bishop Steven’s article on climate change from the Diocesan e-news

General 

Published on: Thursday June 6 2019, 12:40 pm

From today’s Diocesan e-news, a new article by Bishop Steven is a clarion call for action on climate chaos: “…why have our politicians failed us on climate change? Partially, it’s because you and I, the voters in the democracies, looked away. We could not face the reality of what was coming towards us. We still can’t.” 

The time for action to address the greatest crisis of our age is now. Join +Steven and thousands of others at the mass lobby of parliament on 26 June. Find out more at https://blogs.oxford.anglican.org/the-time-is-now

St Frideswide Pilgrimage to Christ Church Cathedral

General 

Published on: Friday May 31 2019, 12:00 am

Christ Church Cathedral are inviting everyone from across the Diocese to take part in the inaugural St Frideswide Pilgrimage on the saint’s day, Saturday 19th October. 

People have always gone
on journeys to enrich their
spiritual lives. The desire
seems deeply ingrained in
human nature. Pilgrimage
can be a way of nurturing and sustaining our
inner life – and helping us to become a more
‘Contemplative’ Church.

Christians have felt drawn to pray at the
Shrine of St Frideswide for many centuries.
Indeed, the Priory on which our Cathedral
was built was an important destination for
medieval pilgrims. And today, pilgrimage is
enjoying something of a boom.

They are offering a range of guided walks of
varying lengths, bringing pilgrims in to the
city of Oxford from all points of the compass
and all corners of the diocese.

If you’d like to know more, you can download their leaflet here.

Putting out into Deep Water – Bishop Steven’s blog on Acts and the mission of the Church

General 

Published on: Wednesday May 29 2019, 9:35 pm

Bishop Steven has written four bible studies on the book of Acts which he gave at the Common Vision diocesan conference in May. In these he looks at how the story of the early Christians can inspire and help us today as we live out our faith and share it with others in our own local contexts.

He writes:

The story of the spread of the Christian faith across the Roman world is a story full of surprises. It is a story of both suffering and joy. It is a story of human endeavour and God’s agency. It is a story to which the Church has returned again and again through two thousand years as we seek fresh inspiration in God’s mission. It is the story told by St. Luke both in the gospel and in his second book, the Acts of the Apostles.

In every era of the Church, Christians have turned to Luke’s great narrative to find renewal and to return to first principles. In the eighth century AD, the great English historian Bede bases his Ecclesiastical History on the Book of Acts. In the early twentieth century, the Anglo-Catholic theologian, Roland Allen reflects on the story of Christian mission in China in his seminal book: Missionary Methods, St. Paul’s our ours?. In the late twentieth century, the American Episcopalian priest Dennis Bennet turns to Acts to describe his experiences of God which were the beginnings of charismatic renewal in his book Nine O’clock in the Morning.

In these talks, I want to continue this tradition of reflection on the principles of Christian mission in Luke and Acts. We are reflecting together as a Diocese on what it means to be a Christ-like Church for the sake of God’s world: contemplative, compassionate and courageous. We have listened carefully to the kind of church we are called to be in the Beatitudes, in the story of the raising of Lazarus and in the Letter to the Colossians [you can find the common vision study guides on our online store].

We are now at the point where we are beginning to move forward in God’s mission together: to attempt new things in new ways for the sake of the kingdom of God. We are doing this as a single Diocese and also in our parishes, benefices and deaneries and in our schools and chaplaincies.

As we begin to act and to do new things, so this is a good moment to listen to the Book of Acts, as framed by Luke, and to find fresh inspiration for mission in our own day.

These studies are being published, one per week, on his blog – you can read them here.

“It’s about abundant life, not hell avoidance”

General 

Published on: Saturday October 7 2017, 5:56 pm

“The Church is called … to celebrate creation, enjoy culture, and share in flourishing life. … “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10.10). Christians don’t have to look far for a mission statement for the Church. Living abundant life.” 

This is an article from the Church Times (6th October 2017) offering a new and exciting view on how the Church might rethink its purpose and the way that churches are used.  

Please click on the article link here to read the full article by Revd. Dr. Sam Wells, Vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields London. It’s part of the “Reformation” series of lectures – you can hear the podcast or see more at www.smitf.org