Fr Guy Writes
From our November 2021 magazine
Remember, remember the 5th November, gunpowder, treason and plot.
November is the month for remembering. From the 1st, when we recall and celebrate the lives of all the Saints, living and departed, to the 30th, when we celebrate the call of Andrew, to become an Apostle Of Christ. On All Souls’ Day (2nd) we commemorate the Faithful Departed; on the 5th we remember Guy Fawkes. Then come Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday, when we remember all those who gave their lives in war and conflict, past and present, in the hope that we may live in peace.
It is right that we should remember, because it makes sense of who and where we are in the present. As Christians we constantly remember the redeeming work of God, achieved through His Son, Jesus Christ. It is in the mystery of the Holy Eucharist, when we “do this in remembrance of me”, that past, present and future become one in sacrament.
As I say, it is right and proper to remember, but we should do this remembering in a positive way.
Not harking back to old times, not raking over the past to open again old wounds and resentments, not returning to things which should be left with God. All our remembering, personal and corporate, should be exposed to the searching love and light of God, who is God of all time and eternity, who is judge of all and knows all the secrets of our hearts. It is only when we remember in God’s light that we can make any sense of what has past, offer it to the present and so look to the future.
When we remember in the pure searching light of God and hold our memories before him, we will then find the wisdom and strength to let go of past hurts and failings and perhaps encounter healing of those things which prevent us from being the people God would have us be.
It is when we allow God to search and cleanse our hearts and souls, that we as disciples of Christ today, and a community of faith today, can embrace the present and look forward to God’s future
In this month of remembering we will recall the lives of loved ones we have known with sadness and joy and the lives of those not known to us at all. And, in this remembering, we will carry the gifts of the past into the future. It is by remembering what Christ has won for us that we can step into the future with hope and confidence.
With hope in God’s future ,
From our October 2021 magazine
Harvest Thanksgiving is a relatively modern service in the church calendar, but one which seems to transport many back to childhood, back even to a bygone era of working horses, of haywains, of fields of labourers stacking sheaves.
I have a real soft-spot for Harvest Thanksgivings, after 8 years working on the land there is still farming in the blood-stream. That sense of achievement, a job well done, when all was safely gathered in, a wonderful, warm feeling at the end of a long hot day carting straw. And then to Church to thank God. The smell of fresh bread and autumn fruits, of straw and incense, of hops and damp air. The colours and imaginative arrangements, the gifts laid before the altar, all part of our thanksgiving.
Perhaps this power to be transported back in time is, in some part at least, due to the sights, colours and smells. As human beings, made in the image of God, we have been blessed with five senses: sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch, and there is nothing like a harvest thanksgiving to awaken, and to encourage us to use, all five. The rich colours of autumn, the sheer physical beauty of fruit, the different textures, the scrunching of leaves, the crunching of apples, the autumnal fragrances – fruit, grains, even that indefinable damp, misty smell of an early morning. The slight chill of the air at dawn and dusk, the spikiness of many seed cases, the exquisite smoothness of the fruit they conceal. The sheer delight of picking fruit and eating it, apples, blackberries, autumn raspberries. And the timing too is so perfect – a feast just before the harshness of winter. I could go on (and on!), but I won’t. We can hopefully all relate to the beauty and joy of the harvest. I hope you will allow this season of autumn to awaken all your senses.
As a Christian, I believe all this thanksgiving is meaningless and empty, if our hearts and lives don’t show our gratitude to God. How we care for Creation – the planet and environment, for each other and the stranger. Whether our giving is generous and heartfelt will reflect our true thankfulness to God.
With thanksgiving, Guy
From the August 2021 magazine
As we have reached the end of an extraordinary academic year for teachers, children and young people alike, and enter the month of August, our minds naturally turn to summer holidays. I imagine most of us will holiday in the British Isles, rather than risk the complex hurdles you face if going abroad! And as we cautiously emerge out of COVID 19 restrictions on all our lives, we all need a break, we would welcome a holiday if at all possible!
Holidays are important times for each of us, whether we holiday alone, with family or with friends. They are times when we can leave aside our every day routines, when the ordinary chores of life can be abandoned for a while, and even our concerns can be laid down for a day or two. Holidays are times, hopefully, when we can find some rest from the pressures of life, when we can slow down and take time to see God’s world anew, listen to the natural world and each other, savour and taste the food we eat without rush, just enjoy the company of God’s world and each other.
In resting, in slowing down, in paying attention to the world around us and our fellow human beings, we will begin to be refreshed in body, mind and soul. Some of us will find this slowing down difficult (we are all different, thank God) but a change can allow us to see the world differently, and that may make all the difference, and allow the batteries to be recharged.
However we take our holidays, it is when we find rest and are refreshed, that we can then reflect on life with its many blessings and sorrows, ups and downs. As we reflect on our lives, at work, at home, in the current pandemic and with God, we may begin to see where some adjustment ought, or even needs, to be made to enable us to live more balanced lives.
Where do our priorities lie? Where should they lie? This is equally true of our physical and emotional needs as well as our spiritual needs. And what is true for us as individuals, is equally true for us as members of the body of Christ. It is when we find time to reflect, to look on things with fresh eyes, that we can discern what is to be laid down, enabling us to do something new. We may indeed lead active and full lives, but to make them fulfilling lives will need a positive change from our old ways to new enriching ways of being and doing as God’s people and as God’s church.
Wherever you take your holiday, whether by the sea or climbing mountains, camping or luxury hotel, staying with friends or family, I hope and pray that you may find rest and refreshment, which may allow you to reflect on life and all that our loving God would want for you, and for us all at St. John the Baptist.
As I write this, I am also very aware that some of you, for various reasons will be unable to take a holiday. I pray that God will sustain and support you this and every day, and maybe these summer days will offer the opportunity for a moment’s rest to reflect.
Yours in Christ,
As we emerge from the COVID 19 restrictions placed on our lives and give thanks for the continuing rollout of the vaccine programme, we can tentatively begin to look to the future with hope.
As Government restrictions and guidelines are eased and things are opening up, we perceive the time is right to look at the worship we offer on a Sunday. Following conversations with Carol and Beth, your churchwardens, the Standing Committee of your Parochial Church Council, and with the support of the PCC, we feel that we can reinstate the Said Holy Eucharist at 8.00 am every Sunday. We also feel the time is right to move the 9.30 am Parish Eucharist back half an hour so that our worship begins at 10.00 am on a Sunday morning.
There are various reasons for introducing this change. Firstly, research shows that the optimum time for a Sunday service is 10.00 am; this change may help us as we seek to encourage young families and children to join our worshipping community. The parish where I was previously Incumbent introduced this change and we began to see families and children attend far more regularly. Secondly, within your Parish Profile the Parish Questionnaire asked, “if you could change one thing?” A number of responses clearly indicated that they would like a later service time. And thirdly, the time between the end of the 8.00 am Said Eucharist and the beginning of the 9.30 am Parish Eucharist leaves very little time for the Priest to prepare or to gather their thoughts before the next act of worship. From experience I know that an extra half an hour between two acts of worship makes a prayerful difference.
With this modest change in time, it is my hope and prayer, that this will help and encourage us to “open up” and become more accessible to young families and children. It may also help us in our outreach to the wider community and in our desire to be inclusive and open to all.
There is also the opportunity to offer different kinds of worship on a weekday or Sunday evenings as we explore together ways in which we may broaden the range of our worship of God, and so attract more people to journey with us as we share the story of God’s love for us and for the world.
8.00 am Said Eucharist.
10.00am Parish Eucharist.
It is hoped that this new pattern of worship on a Sunday morning will begin on Sunday 4th July 2021, as long as Government restrictions continue to be lifted.
With hope and prayer,
Fr Guy Writes
Like many, last Saturday afternoon (17th April), I sat and watched H.R.H. Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral from Windsor Castle and St. George’s Chapel. I found the music, the procession and the service moving, dignified and fitting, in accordance with the Duke’s wishes.
For the eight days of mourning since his death much has be written, heard, and seen recalling Prince Philip’s long and distinguished life. A life of service, anchored by faith. His interests and passions were wide ranging; from environmental conservation to young people, from supporting our Armed Forces to carriage racing, from encouraging interfaith dialogue and understanding to innovation in engineering. He has been rightly praised for his unfailing support and unstinting loyalty to the Queen and his commitment to their family.
What I hadn’t appreciated was Prince Philip’s strong commitment to the Christian faith. In an article published in the Church Times on 16th April 2021, The Rt. Rev’d Graham James, former Bishop of Norwich, wrote this; “He (Prince Philip) may have been baptised in the Greek Orthodox Church, but he seemed more at home at matins than high mass. I think sermons were more important to him than sacraments. His was a cerebral faith, and, in that sense, he was a son of the Enlightenment. But he did have a sacramental understanding of creation. His book Survival or Extinction, written with Michael Mann, was an early contribution to developing a Christian theology of the environment, one in which the earth was understood as a means of grace given by a Creator God, and which should not be exploited, but demand good stewardship.”
In this Easter season, when we give thanks for our Easter faith and the gift of eternal life, we give thanks for Prince Philip and for his example of Christian service.
We pray for Her Majesty the Queen as she faces the rest of her reign with a “huge void” instead of her “rock”, and for all members of the Royal Family at this time.
I end with the words that begin the Russian Contakion of the Departed which were sung at Prince Philip’s funeral.
Give rest, O Christ, to your servant with your saints: where sorrow and pain are no more, neither sighing, but life everlasting.
With Easter hope,
At the beginning of February, we celebrate the Feast of Candlemas, marking the end of Epiphanytide. By the middle of February we will be in the penitential season of Lent. Ash Wednesday is 17th February this year.
Candlemas is traditionally a festival of light, marking the end of the whole Advent – Christmas – Epiphany season, when the light of Christ shining into the darkened world is a predominant theme. It has a bittersweet feel to it; there is a sense that Candlemas is a bridge between a season of anticipation, joy and revelation and the more sombre message of Lent, which shortly follows. As we read in Luke’s Gospel, like Simeon in the Temple, it points both back (to the joy of the birth) and forward (to a time of testing). We have to leave the manger and turn to face the Cross.
But before we do move on, I would like to reflect on the Epiphany theme of gifts. At the Feast of the Epiphany we consider the wonderful gift God has given to us, the gift of Love found in a baby, the gift of God’s own son Jesus. And having received such an unconditional gift, how or what should be our response? Surely, we give thanks, heartfelt thanks for a wondrous gift and a humble acceptance that anything that we say or do in return cannot compare to the mystery of God’s love. All we have to offer in return is our time, talents and treasure or as Christina Rossetti puts it: ‘What can I give him, poor as I am? if I were a shepherd I would bring a lamb; if I were a wise man I would do my part; yet what I can I give him, give my heart.’
As Christians we are called to respond to God’s gift to us in all that we do and say, in our worship, in our prayer, in our daily lives, and as we respond to God’s gift of love we ourselves become open hearted and can share with joy God’s love to all we meet and help build up God’s Kingdom here in this place at this time.
As we journey through another national lockdown, it is up to us to share God’s love and light with those around us in our daily lives (socially distanced of course!). And it is up to us to recognise and acknowledge God’s love and light we see revealed in the many acts of kindness and care we receive from others and our NHS. Despite the darkness of a worldwide pandemic the light of God’s love can be seen in our community, in our companionship one for another, in our generous giving of time, support and help, and in listening to each other informing our prayer and reflection on all that God has given us. God’s continues to pour out his love and light around us in all creation. It is at times like these when we can pause and look again at the many signs of God’s Kingdom around us.
At Candlemas we leave God’s love as revealed in the manger and to Simeon and Anna in the Temple, and prepare to face God’s love as shown on the Cross. We do so in the light of Jesus Christ, God’s gift of love to us. May that light of love shine in us as we express our thankfulness in all that we do and say as we approach the Holy Season of Lent.
Yours in Christ,