From the Curate - 26th October 2020

Liz and I send a very big thank you to you all for the beautiful icon of St Bartholomew and the incredibly generous cheque you presented to us at Evening Prayer on Friday 23rd October. It was a lovely service with the small choir being a wonderful and mighty presence. It was lovely to see so many of you there. Thank you to everybody who put so much thought and time into preparing the service. Saying goodbye always brings sadness but we will continue to hold you in our prayers and ask you remember us in yours. We also remind you we are only 20-30 minutes East! God bless you all in your continued service of God and each other.

Liz and Kevin.

Editor’s Note: a copy of the speech given by Juliet Cooper before the presentation of the gifts to Kevin and Liz can be found here.

From the Curate - October 2020

Dear Friends,

We are now in the midst of our Harvest Festival celebrations across the Benefice. This season is always one of such joy as communities come together to share a Harvest Dinner or Harvest Lunch. We come together to rejoice at the blessings we have received from the land and the blessing of having our farmers and farm workers who work so hard to tend the crops and bring in the harvest. It is a time to say thank you to God and thank you to those who use their gifts to provide us with all we need. It is also a time when we share an abundant crop with those whose crops may have failed for whatever reason. As we give thanks we also give to those who are in need.

This year is going to be somewhat different in the way we celebrate harvest but we will still be celebrating. What we are learning in our current times is that we need to do things differently rather than losing our ways of celebrating completely. It is a great shame that we will not be able to gather in village halls, churches and barns across our Benefice to share a meal together but we can still gather in church – as long as it is in a socially distanced way – to give thanks to God and our farming neighbours. We can also continue to give out of our abundance to those who are in need. The local foodbank often receives a boost at Harvest Festival time and I am sure this year will not be any different.

Part of our giving thanks is a looking back over the season and remembering the good things that have happened and sharing stories that have given us strength and made us laugh. It also offers us an opportunity to ponder those things that didn’t go so well and what we can learn from them.

For me, this is what Sunday and any day Worship should be about. We gather as a community and give thanks to God for the good things God has given us. We share words of encouragement to keep on loving God and loving our neighbours as ourselves. We ponder what didn’t go so well and ask for help in gaining understanding of how we will do things differently in the future. We are encouraged to understand our need to care for each other. So our regular worship, like our Harvest Festival celebrations, are a time for remembering and looking forward.

This year the Harvest Festival season is one where I am spending time looking back with great joy and thankfulness for the gifts God has given to me as I have ministered in this Benefice. I am grateful for the loving support of so many people along with your patience when I have got it wrong. This year it is a time of saying goodbye which brings a sense of sadness. It is time for me to move on and prepare for the new year in a different place. To take my learning from being here into a new community.

I thank God for the gift God has given me of ministering in this Benefice and meeting so many wonderful people. I also thank you for your warmth, welcome and encouragement. You have taught me a great deal and each Harvest Season as I give thanks for the Harvest of that year I shall remember with fondness the times we have shared in giving thanks, laughing and learning together.

God bless you all.


*** From the Curate - 23rd August 2020 ***

The Rev’d Kevin Martin is pleased to announce that he has formally been appointed as the next Rector of Bemerton. Kevin asks us to pray for him and Liz as they prepare to move to Salisbury to take up this post. Details of Kevin’s last service with us and of his licensing will be given in due course.

Kevin and Liz would like to thank you for all the support you have shown them during their time in the Benefice and Kevin has stated he is very blessed that God called him to serve here which has been an excellent experience for him. Kevin and Liz wish you every prayer and good wish moving forward and in your continuing process of finding a new Rector.

From the Curate - August 2020

Dear Friends,

What a month it has been. There have been lots of changes we have needed to get used to and for many of us life is beginning to open up again after lock down. The things we used to take for granted are now main events we need to book and put in our diaries. It was a joy to get my hair cut after several weeks and for the first time in my life I realised how much easier it is to book a set time to have a hair cut! We are also able to physically go to the shops rather than buying on line. Even going for a swift pint in the local requires prior booking and it is certainly the first time I ever remember having to ask people to let me know if they will be coming to church on Sunday. There will be more changes over the coming weeks and months that will make the familiar a little strange to us. As I write this I am aware tomorrow will mark the first day of it being compulsory to wear face masks when going into shops and other buildings. The Church of England House of Bishops has today also published guidance strongly recommending the use of face masks in our church buildings. I shall be following this advice but I know for others it will seem a step beyond what they are willing to do.

Things are the same but different as we are learning to keep a social distance from others. I am delighted to see, however, that we are also realising keeping that distance doesn't stop us from taking time to stop and talk to each other. As we come out of lock down we are engaging with each other more and enjoying the ability to re-establish contact. In the midst of lock down and our growing anxiety a trip outside often meant hastily going about the tasks we had set ourselves to complete in the quickest time possible. This was then the responsible thing to be doing in order to keep everybody as safe as they and we could be. Now we are again beginning to enjoy our time going to the shops or to church services or out to socialise. We realise the importance of social contact whilst also having a greater sense of how much of contact we need. This varies from person to person. Some of my friends have been very happy socially isolating whilst others have been craving the ability to meet up in person with others.

All of the above reminds us that we are social beings. We may need time with others to a greater or lesser extent but when the ability to communicate is taken away it can be very challenging indeed. Technology has been wonderful at enabling us to stay in touch and see each other on-line but there is something more uplifting when we are physically gathered in a place together. I feel many of us have realised just how much we 'talk' to each other with non-verbal communication.

For me, this extra dimension to our meeting with each other is a reflection of the God whose image we are created in. We are made in the image of God and for Christians we have come to understand that image to be a community of love between Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer with ultimately us being invited into that community. Being made in this image it is no wonder that we feel so much more alive when we share time together with family and friends, when we reflect being part of that community of love that always wants what's best for each other and our mutual growth and flourishing. I hope in the coming weeks we will all have many opportunities to share time with friends and family. In this I hope we will experience a sharing in the love of God in our lives and an awareness that we are living life in all its fullness. (John 10:10).


From the Curate - June 2020

On 11th June 2020, I received my ‘sign off’ letter from Bishop Nicholas. This is my official letter saying that the training element of my curacy has now been completed and that I am free to start applying for my first post of responsibility. I would like to thank you for your support and prayers throughout my curacy so far and ask for your continued prayers as I discern where God is calling me next. I shall be here for a few more months, but I wanted to share this good news with you all.

Kevin Martin

From the Curate - Thought for the Week - 4th May 2020

Dear Friends,

As I begin to write, we are beginning to hear a lot of talk about how we may be coming out of lockdown in the coming weeks. There is a lot of speculation and a great deal of uncertainty. We are aware that there is a strong possibility that some of our more vulnerable members of society will need to continue to self-isolate for their own protection.

The last few weeks have been very strange in so many ways, but they have also seen us finding new ways of being in touch with each other. We have also seen how as communities we are so willing to respond to those who are in need. It has been very heartening to see the amount of care and support that is present in our villages. We too have taken time to show our appreciation to those who work in the NHS and all key workers each Thursday evening. We have all had to make sacrifices too. It is difficult if we cannot get to spend time with family and friends, but it is ultimately for their good as well as ours that we make those decisions to keep our contact virtual.

On Sunday 3rd May, one of our readings was taken from the Acts of the Apostles. In hearing it read again in our Zoom service, I was struck how we are continuing to live our early understanding of being the church in our present day. In our times of uncertainty, we are continuing to devote ourselves to following Jesus’ teaching and to meet together to pray. We are ensuring those who are in need do not end up going without. We are sharing in fellowship and the good news that with Jesus walking alongside us we can hold on to hope for the future.

As we enter this phase of easing lockdown, I pray you will all have many opportunities and experiences which give you hope and reason to trust that God is always alongside us in our need. We simply need to continue to be channels of that love and care to each other.

May God bless you all.


From the Curate - February 2020

Dear Friends,

I hope the new decade has started well for you and I wonder if you got involved in the #10YearChallenge which experienced a revival on social media as the decade came to an end. In the challenge we were being encouraged to post pictures of ourselves ten years ago and now It had originally started much earlier in the year when celebrities took to social media to show how they had changed (or not) over a ten-year period. For those celebrities and for those who engaged with it for the end of the decade there was a lot of fun to be had. Some took the challenge seriously enough to ensure a similar pose in each picture and others took the opportunity to have fun with a more light-hearted approach. I was tempted to post something myself but resisted - mostly because up until I was ordained I would avoid having my photograph taken at any cost. Now I have to simply give in!

Whether we got involved with the ten-year challenge or not I imagine we all had a moment or two in the past couple of months when we have reflected on the past twelve months and indeed the past ten years. New Year is a natural time for this type of reflection. We may think of those decisions we made and wonder how things may have turned out if we chose differently. We think of those loved ones who have died and who we miss particularly at this time of year. We remember the good times with a smile and the sad times with a tear. We may take time to make a commitment to live or work differently as we look back and maybe rediscover our hopes and dreams. This doesn’t last long, however, as immediately Christmas is ‘over’ we are bombarded with advertisements for summer holidays or sales which we simply can’t miss. In the supermarket a week or so after Christmas Day I saw the range of small chocolate eggs increasing as we are encouraged to focus on the next big spend!

Christmas, however, is not over. In the Church’s Year we are still in the Epiphany Season which lasts up to the beginning of February. This season is where we continue to celebrate the wonderful gift of God becoming human, of God revealing Godself to us by becoming one of us. This gift shows us how much God loves us and wants us to know God as clearly as we can and it is one that brings the greatest thing we can ever hope for - the gift of eternal life. It is something for us to celebrate not just for one day but for a season.

In our fast-paced world we can sometimes forget the importance of recognising we live our lives through seasons. Not simply the seasons of the church year, calendar year, decade or century, but also our own lives. We are always engaging in a cycle which reminds us of periods of growth, plenty, decay, death, peace, activity, understanding and confusion.

Our life is not simply a linear thing but a cycle that offers us time to reflect as well as times to be active. In the Church Year we receive many opportunities to meet God face to face and to hear afresh God’s will for us. This is that we should be people of love, support and nurture and to realise that God sends us the people we need in our lives to help us through the good and bad experiences of life. In this cycle we are reassured that after any death there is new life and indeed that new life cannot come forth without a death.

The new life of love and care is born in us when we die to selfishness, envy and greed. Our eternal life begins when we accept the gift of life that God offers us to see God in the beauty of nature and others around us. Our new and eternal life begins when we say yes to love of God and neighbour and no to jealousy, selfishness and envy.


From the Curate - September 2019

Dear Friends

As I write we are approaching the end of August and already we are making preparations for the restart of the year. August can be an unusual month when our usual routines change or completely disappear! The pressures of the school run or commute to work give way to a more relaxed start of the day as the holidays begin. New stresses can arise though as we wonder how to keep children and visitors entertained. It can sometimes feel like nothing is happening as clubs take a break and sometimes even our favourite cafe or hairdresser is closed as they too take a break.

Throughout August, however, there is also so much happening. It is a time when we hopefully find rest or a few extra hours in the day to ponder. Sometimes, time away from work makes us consider if we are in the right job or even career. For students it is a time of waiting. Waiting for results so as to be able to decide the next step of life's journey. Once the results are in there is then a flurry of activity as preparations are made to start a new term in a new place or new position.

We begin to realise that the quiet time we were expecting or may think others are having is actually very full. It is full because we have embraced a different relationship to time to the one we usually have in our normal daily routine. We can find ourselves in the present moment more and this is the main aim of taking time to rest. If we embrace the present moment we may notice people and things around us that we normally pass by in our rush to the next appointment or meeting. We can pause and have conversations we may usually miss the opportunity to have. In these moments we meet our surroundings, our neighbours and even our families in a more in-depth way.

This is the relationship God calls us into. One where we notice God as present in every moment of our day no matter what we are experiencing. God is with us in our busy routines and in our moments of rest and re-creation and invites us to notice God's beauty in our surroundings and the people we meet. God is a God of relationship between Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer and through the person of Jesus Christ we too are invited into that relationship. This relationship takes place in the present moment for time changes in this moment as we experience something of God's eternity. We glimpse it in our 'holiday mode' when we take time to notice our surroundings. We also glimpse it when we notice how time seems to drag when we are waiting for holidays to come or exam results to arrive but then speeds up as we start to plan for new terms or new jobs. We begin to get some understanding of how for God a day is like a thousand years whilst a thousand years is like a single day. I am hoping I will remember to embrace this present moment more often as the busyness of life starts again in September and beyond.

May God bless you with the rest you need and the time to embrace the present moment in everyday life.


From the Curate - April 2019

By the time you read this article we will have become used to the clocks having changed and us ‘losing an hour’ at the end of March. We will be enjoying lighter evenings and seeing the signs of new life in nature around us. It is a lovely time of year.

I am looking forward to experiencing spring and summer whilst living in a village. I’ve been told by a few local residents that we don’t tend to go out much on winter evenings. Having been out on moonless or overcast nights, I can see why! Even if we were all out and walking about, we still wouldn’t see each other! Just last week I received a telephone call in the evening from somebody trying to find the house. I told them there was a temporary A4 laminated sign on the gate. This didn’t really help matters so I decided to walk out to the road to see if I could see them and they me. As I opened the front door and walked out onto the road I realised the folly in my mission. Dressed all in black, on an evening when there was no break in the cloud meant I wouldn’t be seeing anybody and they certainly couldn’t see me. Then, as I peered into the darkness, I could see in the distance a faint blue glow and realised it may well be the individual’s mobile phone as they were talking to me. I turned on the torch on my mobile and started to wave it to try and show where I was. This plan worked and, a few minutes later, the person arrived. All this was rather comical at the time but it seemed somewhat fitting as i pondered the fact this was the first evening of a Lent course.

Soon, Lent will have gone and we will have celebrated Easter. We will be refreshed from our time of rest and our time of getting to know ourselves better during Lent as we struggled with things we gave up or learnt something in an activity we have taken on. We may, by attending church services, have engaged with Jesus’ journey leading from his entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, through his Last Supper with his disciples, his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, trial, crucifixion, death and resurrection. The greatest celebration is the easter Vigil when the Paschal (or Easter) Candle is lit from a fire and the light from this candle is brought into the unlit church. This small flame is so clear in that space and for Christians it reminds us of the light of Christ in our midst. As we move into the church the candles of the congregation are lit as we become bearers of Christ’s light into the world. To make known to all people that God loves us so much that God was prepared to become human and die for us to then show us the glory of the resurrection to which we are all called.

Like I found in the country lane, a tiny amount of light can be seen far away and can shatter the darkness that engulfs us. As we build community around us and engage more with each other as the evenings become lighter, we are reminded that where two or three are gathered then God is there in the midst of them. I believe we reflect the community of the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit whenever we do our best to build community that looks out for each other. Our light as village communities shines bright when the lonely, bereaved and sick are cared for. I am a great believer that the Church follows Jesus’ teaching when it does all it can to help build communities and offer a home to community activities. As clergy, we are here to minister to all our parishioners which means you. If there is anything you would like to talk over or an event you feel the church would be good to be involved with then let us know. If we carry the light of Christ together, we can shine brightly and the darkness of loneliness or sickness can’t engulf that light but is shattered by it. We look forward to continuing in our ministry alongside you as the summer draws near.


From the Curate - March 2019

As I sit to write this article it is wonderful to notice a moment of peace in what has been a rather full week. Two days ago we completed our move into Donhead St Andrew from Shaftesbury. In this moment I am aware of the peacefulness and beauty of our surroundings and of feeling very blessed by God at being called to serve in such a lovely part of the Diocese. In my short time in fully rural ministry I have already gained an insight into the joys but also the challenges that rural living can bring. I am sure now that we have moved I shall gain even greater insight into these aspects of rural living.

In this moment of stillness and silence I am also reminded that Lent is nearly here and in a short time we will be possibly thinking about what we will be giving up for Lent. When I was a child I remember an older member of the parish saying this would be the year she gave up sugar in her coffee I wondered if she had a rolling calendar of items she gave up each Lent but she explained that a few years before she had given up sugar in her coffee for Lent. By the time she got to the end of Lent, however, she couldn’t drink coffee with sugar in it. The following year she thought hard about what to give up as she no longer had sugar in her coffee and then came up with the idea that she would put the sugar in and force herself to drink it. But then, by the end of Lent when she had her first coffee without sugar she didn’t like it so she waited for the following Lent to give it up again! So the rolling pattern started of giving up sugar one year and adding it the next.

This is a good example to us that we can choose to do something extra during Lent rather than the idea of simply giving up sugar or meat or alcohol. It might be that we attend Morning Prayer or mid-week Eucharist or that we simply find quiet time for prayer and contemplation. It may be visiting the lonely or grieving neighbour or volunteering at a local charity.

Jesus entered the desert for forty days and forty nights after his baptism in the Jordan. It was a time for him to be alone before God, to have a focus on his relationship with the Father and the world before his public ministry began. We can follow the example of Jesus by finding a way to give up or add something into our lives this Lent that will offer us an opportunity to know God, ourselves or our world better. We may feel uncomfortable or put out in the beginning but like the older parishioner above we may well get to the end of Lent and realise we cannot bear to go back to being who we were before Lent started.

We will hopefully also be in a spiritual and emotional place where we can notice the joys of living where we do more clearly and realise we are not alone when we face the challenges that will inevitably arise as we journey through another year together.


From the Curate - January 2019

It is very easy to think that Christmas is over once our Christmas and New Year annual leave comes to an end. The Spring Term starts at school and end of semester exams loom throughout January. No doubt a few of us are planning to make some New Year resolutions when 2019 rolls in.

As a Church we continue to celebrate Christmastide up to 6th of January and then we stay in the season as we keep Epiphanytide. During this season we continue to focus on the great gift that we celebrate at Christmas. The Gift of God becoming human. A gift which means we are invited to consider how we are going to live. Not just at Christmas or throughout the month of January when new year resolutions are fresh in our minds but every day of our lives.

During Epiphanytide we celebrate the arrival of the Magi who bring gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. Each gift making explicit different aspects of Jesus’ life and presence in the world. A life and presence that has an impact on humankind for all eternity. We are invited to respond to this gift of God. And our response can lead us into some very interesting and unexpected places and situations.

I am delighted to say that my response to God's invitation has led me to be Assistant Curate in the Benefice of St Bartholomew. I look forward to serving among you for about three years. Liz (my wife) and our family are looking forward to moving into Donhead St Andrew during the first part of the new year. We currently live in Shaftesbury and have lived there since September 2017. I was Assistant Curate in the Shaftesbury Team from September 2017 until December 2018 when I was licenced to the Benefice of St Bartholomew.

Before moving to Shaftesbury we lived in Wimborne. I lived there for 10 years whilst Liz has lived there most of her life. Liz still works in Wimborne for a couple of days a week and the rest of the week works in Guildford. At the moment Liz is completing a PhD so all in all is kept very busy. I am step-dad to four children but two of these are now at university so the house is now only a full one at holiday time. Our eldest lives in Southampton with her fiancé, having decided to settle there after completing her degree and we are delighted to be (step) grandparents to a very active granddaughter of 16 months!

When responding to God's invitation to know and love God we don't ever really know where God will lead us. It won't necessarily be an easy path as there are always the challenges that life throws at us. What we are assured of, however, is that when we accept God's invitation to follow him we will receive God's Grace and Blessing to be the best we can be and to be channels of God's love into our world. When I said yes to a vocation to the ordained ministry the whole family placed ourselves into God's hands not knowing where we would be called to live. We certainly feel blessed by God to now find ourselves in this Benefice.

I look forward to ministering among you and getting to know you in the months ahead. In the meantime I wish you a very happy New Year and God's blessing on your year ahead.

Kevin Martin