Not long ago, a number of us enjoyed a nice tea in the Burditch Hall, put on by a small group who worked hard to organise a very worthwhile event, which included special attractions for the children. After tea, we watched the lighting of the Beacon, a 21-gun salute, and then we sang a verse of the National Anthem. It was, of course, our community’s celebration of the Queen’s 90th birthday. Our busy life continues with the Open Gardens & Flower Festival on 11th and 12th June, and the special Commemoration of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme on 30th. Details of these events are found elsewhere in “Outreach”. Changing times and lifestyles mean that, for many, these “community” events aren’t as important now as before, but they are still vital, for remembering significant occasions and bringing people together. Celebrating the Queen’s Birthday may not have grabbed everyone’s attention. Sadly, for some, the Queen and Royal Family are irrelevant. It was a while before I dared tell my brother that I had met Prince Charles! I for one believe that we are very fortunate in having this “democratic monarchy” which provides stability and an example of service, without dictatorship and brutal aggression. Also, we are pleased to belong to a caring community whereby people can feel reassured that they are not alone, or without help. And those special anniversaries help us to remember good people who have made great sacrifices for us, and to reflect on the possibilities for good or evil following whatever has happened. Patriotism and Participation in local events in reasonable doses are good for us, but we need to be aware of the dangers of “isolationism”. If we follow the ideals of the New Testament, we will certainly want to “go Global”!
Thanks to the Editor, I “drooled” over my last contribution! Not because of any merit in the text, but because of a photograph he included! It was a picture of the front of the “Lord Nelson” Inn at Southwold, looking towards the sea. Happy memories of times spent there, both recently and in times past, drinking “off-the-peg” beer and enjoying the convivial atmosphere and good food! The other photo, although amusing, didn’t give me the same feeling. I wanted to recommend that he spend a week as a Primary School teacher! Anyway, the point is that we shouldn’t make excuses for sentimental attachment to people and places. Memories are very important, and when things are hard and maybe loved ones are separated from us, we can look back and find new strength. Thinking of the Queen’s birthday, a happy memory I have, is of sharing with two of our friends in the Maundy Thursday Service at Christ Church in Oxford, when the Queen presented them and others with the Maundy Money. The Queen didn’t speak to me, although she might have looked me up and down and thought I would be OK to be Rector! However, she acknowledged us all with a smile as she came past us, and, as one recipient of the money said: “Although she didn’t say anything, she made me feel that I was the only person that mattered to her” That’s the kind of “picture” that encourages us as we journey on. A deep attachment to people and places, an occasional “sentimental journey” are good for us, so long as we don’t wallow in them at the expense of looking life squarely in the face. Two members of our community have died recently: Margy Mitchell and Richard David. They have lived different lives, and in different places. They both loved, and cared for others, but at the same time, they were both realists!
In some cultures, the new year is given a name, such as: “the Year of the Dog” or “the Year of the Bottle”! If I were giving a name to 2016, I think it would be :”the Year of the Surprise”! The surprise for me and for the parish, is that, after 10 years, I am to become the Rector, as opposed to being “Priest-in-Charge”. On Thursday 7th January, I will be formally “installed” by the Bishop of Dorchester and the Archdeacon. This will be at 7-30pm in Wootton Church, and all are welcome to join us. Unfortunately, it won’t mean a pay rise, because I’m not paid anyway, nor will I be “promoted”: able to wear much fancier robes and prance around in Christ Church Cathedral! However, this change is a good thing, both for me and for the Churches. It brings more stability and security. At present, my “terms of employment” are based on a yearly appraisal, and open to suggestions that I might move or retire! Or, I could be told to look after X neighbouring parishes! As Rector, I am in a better situation regarding the Church authorities, and also, when I do move, the parish is in a position for another Rector to be appointed, as opposed to being put in a group of parishes, maybe with a Priest who lives at some distance from the villages, and making an occasional visit! To be fair to the Church, this change, which is happening in most dioceses, is right, and much fairer, because all Parish Priests will be subject to the same terms of appointment and “tenure” of the parish. If you can, please come and share in the service on 7th. a chance to renew our commitment to God, the Church, and to each other. There will be suitable refreshments afterwards, but the only disappointment may be that the person appearing as Rector, is not a stately figure, or, on the other hand, a “cool dude”!!
Insults are thrown at us from time to time, and often they annoy and upset us. Although, a wise person once told me that we only get angry when we know they are true! Anyway, one of the worst insults I have heard given to someone was when a parishioner (not here!): was described as “just a taker!” An awful thing to say! A person regarded as totally selfish, always ready to receive gifts, to be offered help, but never giving anything, never offering a present, never paying your way! We’re rapidly approaching Christmas, a time of giving and receiving, and, because lots of things happen in a Community around Christmas time, people are already giving a lot in time, talents, and money, even well before Christmas Day! Such giving is a sign of genuine love, as recommended by the Bible where we are reminded not “to love in word only, but in action and in truth”. As we know, Jesus gave a lot, healing and preaching, and not taking time off for himself! But, He also graciously received! He accepted hospitality, he took up the chance offered for a quick nap in the fishing-boat, and no doubt in his childhood and youth, accepted the care and guidance of a loving family. And so, yes, we can be “takers”! Not without giving, but receiving with thanks and appreciating what is done for us and the love coming across to us. The words “Received with Thanks” may seem to be too-short a response to kindness, but I’m convinced that they are always very sincere and a sure sign that your gift is much-appreciated. At our School Harvest Service, we sang a hymn which talked about the Harvest, and included the line: “A time for giving and a time for taking”. The presents bought and given with love, the service of others, the appreciative and encouraging words are all received with thanks, and come with the assurance that we are loved, and that Christmas strengthens our fellowship and renews our resolve: to give, receive, and share!
We all can get nostalgic at times, probably, more so as we get older. We long for youth and energy, we miss old friends, and we think that everything was much better then than now. That’s why “memorabilia” can sell well! If only we had the “Henricus” blanket that covered Samuel Pooch, or the turkey bone which Henry VIII threw over his shoulder! We could make a fortune! November is a month for “Remembering”. Not so much nostalgia, but recollecting people and events that have helped to shape the world and influence our lives. We remember the Saints, good people who showed God’s love in their lives and remained faithful even in spite of suffering and imminent death. At the All Souls Memorial Service, we remember, and give thanks for, loved ones who have shared our journey and have showed us care and loyalty. Guy Fawkes and his fellow plotters come into the picture as well! Sadly, we commemorate all those, particularly young people with lives before them, who have died for us, and for the cause of freedom, in the two World Wars and other conflicts. As we do so, we note their unselfishness and sacrifice , and we learn the lessons. We see what can happen when people have a lust for power, or uncontrollable tempers, and we become aware of the dangers of unchecked evil. As we remember, we see that, over the centuries, good and evil have lived side by side, and that there will always be folk who will want to lord it over us, weak people who say “OK. Walk over me!” and good, brave people, who will do their utmost to promote love, justice, and freedom for all. We might sigh and wish for a perfect world, but this would be the weirdest thing you could imagine! Everyone eating healthy food at exactly the same time, everyone wearing identical perfect clothes. Much as we want to see good things happen, we have to accept a free world in which things can go wrong. An “assortment” is what we have, but we also have inner strength, the co-operation of others, and the lessons of history to help us make sure that the best “sweets” in the mixture come to the top of the box!
To some people, I may be considered very lucky. I’ve walked under a ladder three times, and survived! Years ago, in our school yard, if I had done that, I would be told to expect possible death, plagues, and other terrible things. I don’t think people are as superstitious as they were, but there are still places where such things are accepted. I can remember some bizarre examples. If you saw an Ambulance, you then had to keep your fingers crossed until you saw a dog! I don’t know the origin of that one, or the reasons behind it. I do know, because I’m old enough to remember them, that you were in deep trouble if you saw “t’ fever van”, the brown ambulance that ferried people with infectious diseases to the “Isolation Hospital”! All kinds of superstitions have been around, some of them not just weird, but cruel. For some, black cats were lucky, for others, they were friends of the witches! Clouds and mists were said to hide the Devil. He was watching you from within the cloud, and ready to pounce! Disabled people, and those with long-term illness, skim disease, or whatever, were looked upon as demonic, and to be avoided at all costs. On the principle that you “fight fire with fire” it was believed that a “devilish” face would scare off Satan, hence the Gargoyles, often bearing the face of the Building Foreman! I mention superstitions because it will soon be Hallowe’en, and that was a “field day” for superstitious people. Before the day when the Saints were triumphantly venerated, the devils had a whale of a time, and witches and black cats were out on the rampage! For a long time now, the Church has wisely spoken out against such ideas. Trusting in God and thankfully receiving His gifts doesn’t involve seeing devils at every corner, incantations, and avoiding ladders. It’s rejoicing in the good things we enjoy now and facing the future armed with faith, hope and love. Not “abracadabra” but “Alleluia!”
Someone suggested recently that children in Primary Schools should be introduced to Philosophy. This prompted an article in the “Times”, in which the writer looked back to what he called the “best lesson we ever had”. They were supposed to be preparing for GCSE and the teacher told them to put their textbooks away. He then wrote out a very searching question about moral judgements, and started a discussion. The journalist said that he learned more from that lesson than from many others he faced during his schooldays! Actually, in a sense, our children do already tackle what we might call philosophical questions. The National Curriculum for 5-11 year-olds includes such headings as “Honesty” “Responsibility” and “Respect”, and teachers have to give appropriate illustrations and guidance. Leading the occasional Assembly at School, I’m very impressed by the children’s grasp of the importance of these values, and their understanding of the questions raised. Talking about “Patience”, I gave two examples of reactions to problems, one of which was totally wrong and counterproductive. I then asked which of these was the right way to follow, and I received excellent answers, not just from Year 6, but from others in earlier years. They are really beginning to understand and appreciate the need for reflection, discernment, and appropriate responses, and so they are already learning Philosophy! That doesn’t mean that we can forget Maths etc. nor does it mean that there shouldn’t be any “learning by rote”, but thankfully, there seems to be a balance between “2,2’s are 4” and “What would you do if . . . ?” Also, encouraging more reflection means that the facts and figures given out can be put into context. Well done, Teachers! A bit more searching, reflecting, sharing, and consideration of other people’s needs, might make people hesitate before pressing the button! Stephen
I can remember one preacher beginning his sermon with a tirade against young people. They were selfish, greedy, lazy, drunk, and many other things besides! He then went on to say that these words were not his own, nor were they from a present-day sceptic. They were from somebody called Peter Martyr, a 13th century scholar and preacher! Nothing changes, we might say. Each generation of adults find fault with current youngsters! In the “Swinging Sixties” my parents were always going on about the youth having too much money, too much freedom, and too much libido! No doubt, people are saying the same today. Recently, as mentioned in “Life Events”, I went to a Confirmation Service at Magdalen College, Oxford, where some members of Magdalen School were baptised and others confirmed. They had all been asked to write a short piece about themselves and their faith, and how they had come to this decision. They made very good reading! Their words were not banal, and they obviously hadn’t cribbed from each other or from the Internet. They spoke sincerely about their experience of the world, their understanding of spirituality, and about their hopes for the future. We were rightly impressed. Here were a number of down-to-earth young people, not pretentious or arrogant, prepared to stand up for their beliefs and to show that they appreciated that there was another dimension to life, and that they would do their best to love and care for others. When you see and hear of such people, surrounded by every temptation under the sun, ready to live by faith, hope, and love, it makes you feel less worried about the future. No doubt when they become adults with children of their own, they will grumble about the next lot, but, again, they too will carry on the good work.
It’s the “Merrie Month of May” and we may have visions of Maypoles, Dancing on the Village Green, and plenty of Cakes and Ale! Apparently, May is named after “Maia” a Greek goddess linked with love, respect, and fertility. (All ancient Gods and Goddesses have something to do with fertility!) In the Catholic Christian tradition, May is often called “Mary’s month” when the Church encourages particular devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The connection could be that 1st May in the Church’s calendar, is the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker. Whatever, Mary is held up as an example of obedient womanhood, committed to God in faith, a perfect Mother of a perfect Son, and a perfect wife to a hard-working man! All Christians ought to follow God’s way as Mary did, but, thankfully, we are getting away from the idea that women should be subservient, obedient to the menfolk, and dedicating themselves to housework and nothing else! The Church has lagged behind the secular world, but is now recognising the tremendous contribution women are making to the life of our world and the ministry of the Church. Recently, a “Times” obituary of Canon Barbara Wollaston, a lifelong Christian, and a down-to-earth minister, spoke of her vocation to ministry, and that, before she was able to be ordained, and after a long experience of community work, she underwent three years intensive training to be a Parish Worker. She would tell the story of arriving in the parish with a “dizzy young curate, just out of school” who was given “exciting things to do”. The Vicar said to her: “Well, perhaps you could read the lesson once a month!!” Another Woman Priest told some of us at a recent meeting, of how she had worshipped regularly and spoke to her Vicar about vocation. Apparently, he was delighted and said “Thank God for young people like you. Join our Church Council and we will value your contribution”. Soon afterwards, he called her to one side, and said: “You can scrub the Church Hall floor!!” We’ve moved on. We have three great Christian women to be Bishops, and I, for one, warmly welcome the way in which women are now valued much more, for their gifts, intuition, commitment, and the way they carry burdens of responsibility and care for others. Honestly, darling . . . I do . . . I do!! Stephen
Although we have had very little snow this winter, we have endured “Arctic” winds, and it has been very cold. And most people in the parish have suffered the “flu-type” illness, involving sore throats, runny noses, dizziness, and other unpleasant symptoms. At one stage, a fair number of children were off school, and it takes a while to get over these things. You think you’re free, no more coughing etc. and then, suddenly, it’s back! Well, the good news is that the weather is improving, daffodils are out, and Spring is here! We’ve come through the cold and rain, and the bad throat, and our reward is some warmth, longer daylight, and looking forward to BBQ’s and drinks on the lawn! However, I must confess that I now understand people who disappear in October to somewhere much warmer and brighter, only returning for our Summer! Anyway, we’re feeling much better, and more inclined to appreciate our surroundings, and, hopefully, to be more loving. Love is often associated with warmth, sunshine, and well-being. And it’s no wonder that people used to say that, in Spring, “a young man’s fancy turns to love”. But Love is perennial, and not just associated with sunshine and green fields. It often involves endurance, facing difficult and dangerous conditions, and stamping your feet to keep warm. The daily diet of “doom and gloom” in the media is offset by stories of such endurance and care for those in need. Love has been active during Winter, and will continue for the rest of the year!
Leaving home uncomfortably in “Sunday Best”, Mother’s last words would be ringing in our ears. “Don’t forget to say `Thank You`!” On our way to a party, being taken somewhere nice by Grandparents, or whatever. Good advice, and important to remember, not only age 10, but throughout our lives. It’s so easy to forget, and sometimes we cause genuine grief when we do. I can still hear: “I’ve done the flowers all these years and never been thanked” or “you might have said thank you for the gift I sent” Elsewhere, you will see a genuine word of thanks for your support for our Church Christmas Bazaar, and for sharing in our Christmas activities. We’re now moving into Lent, and that reminds me to say, yet again, a very strong “Thank You” for your support for the Church’s Lent Appeal last year. As a result, we faced Easter with a better balance, and have been able to continue our work in the parish and beyond. Once again, dare I suggest £1 a day for the Forty Days of Lent, to help keep the Churches as part of our community and as visible symbols of undying love? Also, and just as much a priority, I want to say “Thank You” for Friendship. Saying “hello” and “how are you”, giving a nice smile, a few words may sound sentimental or trivial, but it’s part of the bread-and-butter of daily life. Whatever our situation, to feel affirmed, loved, and respected is important, particularly for those living alone. However short the conversation may be, however small the gift may be, in the eternal scale of values, they are great! In one parish, I had a very kind, committed person who used to say that the only thing she was good at, was making cups of tea. To which, I would say: “Joyce, pour me another!!”
Although a good few weeks past, still a happy memory. Not least because of the excellent Christmas Bazaar which ultimately raised £3,121.78 for Church funds. Lots of folk worked very hard, in many cases for weeks beforehand, and the greater use of space in the Hall and the Church gave us more room, and comfort to buy first-class crafts and goods ready for Christmas. Thank you all for that, and thanks, also, to everyone who supported the Christmas Services, the “Village Band”, those who decorated our Churches, and to all of you for helping to make it as magical as it should be.
In my more depressing moments, I often remember the sad motto from the calendar on my desk when I was a “Junior Clerk”. It said: “The old have reminiscences of what never happened, and the young have dreams that never come to pass”. What a good start to the New Year! Fortunately, I think that those words were written by a cynic, because, for most of us, we can look back on a reasonably good life, and don’t feel cheated or unfulfilled. Also, to spend all our time going over the past means that we don’t appreciate what we have, and can’t face the future with hope. Yes, we have regrets. Mine are that I didn’t play more sport at school instead on conjuring up illnesses to get me out of shivering on the Sports Field, and also that I didn’t pay more attention to Science. Sport improves the mind. Most of our big Rugby players at School were the ones who won the University Scholarships!. Science enhances our understanding of, and appreciation of, our world, and for Christians, it doesn’t do away with God, but helps us to widen our view of Him. Rather than harp on about regrets or unfulfilled dreams, January should be a chance to look to the future. Now, for some, the future isn’t all that rosy. Treatment, treatments, and more treatments, and we’re getting older, weaker, and most of us getting poorer! Recently, I was asked what the Latin “Carpe Diem” meant, and for once I was able to oblige. “Seize the Day!” Forget tomorrow, enjoy today! And, as we contemplate the ageing process, take comfort in the words of St. Paul, writing in a age when 50 was today’s 100! “We do not lose heart. Even though our outward nature is decaying, our inner nature is being renewed every day” (2 Corinthians 4: 16) Happy New Year! Stephen
Christmas is a time of joy and giving, but not for everyone. There are people who cannot enjoy Christmas for various reasons. Thousands, if not millions, of children who will have been told the Christmas story and about God’s love, still can’t say on Christmas Day: “Look. He’s been!” There are today a large number who recognise this, and try to do something about it. And so, we have the “Shoebox Appeal” or “Operation Christmas Child” organized by the “Samaritan’s Purse”. We fill a Shoebox will suitable gifts, labelled “boy 5-9” or “girl 10-15”, it then goes to a central “depot” and from there is sent to an area where it is pretty certain that the children wouldn’t receive any other gift. A few years ago, a Shoebox Appeal Worker went out with some of the boxes and said: “if only you all could have seen the expression on the children’s faces as they were given their presents!” The motive behind responding to this appeal, and other appeals like Children in Need, is Love. Christmas is a vivid reminder of how Love comes into our world and makes a big differences, transforming human selfishness, greed, aggression, and weakness into Caring and Sharing, Peace, Courage, and Strength. The Baby in the Stable eventually influenced people and nations to change their values, redirect their energies, and sort out their priorities. It isn’t just from BC to AD: it’s from Self to God and others, from Hate to Love, from Sorrow to Joy, and, in spite of conflicts still going on, for many of us it’s from war to peace, slavery to freedom. The Invitation is not just to come and share in our Celebrations, it is, also, to take on the message and lifestyle of the Christ-Child, and discover a better life.
Some of us are busy learning our lines for the play “Murder at the Red Barn” to be performed later this month. As time goes by, it becomes harder to remember, and to learn “by rote” as we did at school! We may now still remember “times tables”, dates of battles, names of Kings and Queens, but can easily forget tomorrow’s meeting, or who we were talking to a short while ago!. Often, significant things in our memories come from vivid experiences, rather than from the OED or Smith’s “Mental Arithmetic”! This month, many people are remembering the two World Wars, and thinking of loved ones killed or badly wounded, particularly on Remembrance Sunday 9th November. Others remember loved ones who have recently died, and we shall be doing this together, at our Memorial Service on 2nd November. Remembering is keeping alive in our hearts the people we love, and reasserting our continuing fellowship with them in the “Greater World”. But, remembering isn’t just that, important though it is. At the same time, our memories teach us and inspire us to go forward doing all we can to make a better world. After the two World Wars, people began to show more concern for others, and to find ways of preventing conflict on such a scale happening in the future. The People of Israel were taught to remember, at least once a year, their deliverance from slavery by God’s hand, and also their enjoyment of the fruits of the earth by God’s gracious provision. Unfortunately, as the Prophets kept on saying: their “remembering” became a mere ritual, and didn’t inspire them to show their gratitude by loving and sharing. As some of us try to remember the dialogue for the play, as we remember the sacrifice made by thousands to give us our freedom and peace, and remembering loved ones, family and friends who have died, let’s not fall into the same trap!