From the Rectory - July 2019

caw logoLast year, I took on the role of planning and co-ordinating Children’s Activity Week alongside a small team of helpers. This was quite a task, following on from an established team with 20 years of Children’s Activity Week under their belt!

We made some changes to the format (running it over 5 days instead of 4, offering a breakfast club and an overnight camp in The Rectory garden!) and it was a huge success!

Dates this year are Monday 29th July to Friday 2nd August 2019, and application forms are available by telephoning 01747 830174. Alternatively, you can request an application form from me by email by clicking here, and when the new window opens, click on the 'Contact Form' tab to send your message.

We have chosen an eco-theme, partly after considering that our Diocese is the first to be granted Eco Diocese Status! There will be lots of fun activities, including an over-night camp and family BBQ! Please do share this with any families that you think may be interested.

In a time where the Church of England has seen a decline in attendance, this is three times as pronounced among children, so our outreach becomes more vital, yet it feels to go often unnoticed.

“The average attendance by children, defined as being under 16, fell by 24 per cent in our Diocese between 2012 and 2017, compared with an 8-per-cent fall among adults” (Statistics, 2018)

Here are some of our stats:

  • Children’s Activity Week 2018 involved over 30 families from across the Benefice
  • Messy Church - held in Semley School Hall each month during term time - has up to 25 children in attendance
  • We offer tea & coffee once a month at Semley Church - predominantly for those on the school run (although anyone is of course welcome!) which saw 18 children having fun exploring the Church while 16 adults (eventually) relaxed, letting their children run free while they enjoyed a cuppa!
  • We also have our re-launched Baby & Toddler Group in East Knoyle Church on the Ist Thursday of each month
  • There’s KidzClub at Charlton Church on the 3rd Tuesday of the month
  • Open the Book in our schools
  • The Easter Experience
  • Assemblies... not just at Semley and Ludwell, but Hindon too...
  • Regular visits to St Mary’s School, including preparing the students for confirmation

WOW - don’t we do a huge amount!

So here comes the plea for help! It is all too often the same people that volunteer for these groups ... please can you consider whether you can support us? You don’t have to lead anything in particular - just manning the refreshments would be fabulous!

We would love the families and children from the Benefice to know that our Benefice is a community of faith. They matter and they don’t need to wait until they can believe, pray or worship a certain way to be welcome. It matters that our families and children are an integral part of our Church and that their prayers, songs, and even their badly (or perfectly-timed, depending on who you ask) cries and whines are a joyful noise because it means they are present.

Anna Warhurst


From the Rector - July 2019 Placements

priestThe Diocese uses July for doing rural placements, so The Rev’d Kevin will be attached to a parish in Dorset for much of this time. For this reason, there will not be Morning Prayer or Saturday Eucharist at Donhead St Andrew during July 2019.

 

This year, the Diocese has invited ordinands training at Cuddesdon Theological College, Oxfordshire, to do placements. We are pleased to welcome George Meyrick with us for two weeks from Lammas Sunday which this year is also Rural Mission Sunday.


From the Rector - June 2019

Dear Friends,

On June 16th we celebrate Trinity Sunday. The Trinity is primarily an experience; it is the way we experience God in our lives. But we have turned it into a matter of faith: an idea to be understood. And then we get frustrated when we can’t understand the Trinity and so we defend ourselves, we defend our faith by declaring it a mystery beyond understanding. Yet, of course, the Trinity is a mystery but not because it is a complicated doctrine! It’s a mystery because the Trinity is an Event of Love - and Love is a mystery. We can’t describe Love. We can only experience it; and so it is with the Trinity too.

There are many torturous metaphors to try to ‘understand’ the Trinity: the notion of a Shamrock - 3 leaves joined in one stem, water - existing as ice, steam and liquid, an apple - made of peel, flesh and core, or St. Augustine's analogy of God the lover, Jesus the beloved and the Holy Spirit who is the love that binds them together; three all who are love, all participating in love.

All of these analogies are good as far as they go. But they are all attempts to rationalise what is beyond rationality: they are all attempts to logically examine what is beyond logic. The experience of love is not hallmarked by rationality. The experience of love is not logical.

This month, Anna and I will celebrate our 9th wedding anniversary and in the words of the old Preface to the marriage service 'man and woman become one flesh' and 'they begin a new life together in the community'. I believe that the Holy Trinity is a perfect model on which to base our relationships with each other. We assert that the Trinity is co-equal. The three persons Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all equal to each other and yet fulfil different roles.

The Trinity exists together three persons with distinct functions and yet the one God. It is to this ideal we are called in all our relationships. To build a community of love where all are welcomed and respected and thought of as an intimate part of our family and related to ourselves and each other.

The distinctiveness of the three Persons lies in the relationships that relate them to one another. Just as relationships remain vital to the very life of the Trinity, so are they in our life of faith.

It is crucial that we know that Jesus is with us always, until the end of the world. And we encounter that saving, transforming presence as we embrace it in the person of our neighbour.

So this month, Trinity Sunday calls us to an experience of love - but one that stirs us into action: obedience to God’s commandments, which has an outworking in love towards him but. just as importantly, love towards others too.

There is nothing passive about love. As believers, we are constantly being re-made in the image of God and called to mirror that into the world through our words and actions and loving service. As we practice the presence of God in our lives, so we will become more concerned for the well-being of others and seek to serve them to the best of our ability.

My prayer is that we will journey on together to become mirrors in the world of the grace, compassion, love and hospitality of God, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Richard


From the Rector - May 2019

Dear Friends,

When I first met with the primary schools when I arrived in the Benefice in 2015, I had a conversation with the head teachers around the version of the Lord’s Prayer they would like to be taught. Over the course of assemblies we learnt the ‘traditional’ version and over time we have taught the importance of this prayer and understanding and implication of the words Thy Kingdom Come, Thy will be done....’

Over the years, through various walks of ministry, I have experienced the power of praying this prayer individually and in groups, large and small. Holding hands around a hospital bed having given the last rites to Anna’s grandmother... at the hospice where a non-church goer sought the comfort of these familiar words... at bedtime here at The Rectory with Sophia and Tilly... in the homes of the lonely and the bereaved, and of course on my own. In fact, these words echo through every church service, day in, day out.

This year, the Archbishops’ initiative ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ is marked again on the nine days (novena) between the feasts of Ascension and Pentecost - 30 May to 9 June, and we are invited to pray with Christians around the world, encouraging us to explore through prayer how we might witness courageously to God’s life-changing work.

In May 2016 the Archbishops of Canterbury and York invited Christians from across the Church of England to join a wave of prayer during the days between Ascension and Pentecost - a time when the church traditionally focuses on prayer. They encouraged everyone to ask for the Holy Spirit to help them be witnesses to Jesus Christ and to pray for others to discover that living faith. Worship helps to us recognise who God really is, it opens our hearts to what is good, and it catches us up into the life of heaven. It is something we are called to every day of our lives and it is fulfilled, among other ways, when we pray and when we say the Lord’s Prayer.

What started as an idea gained momentum and in 2016 more than 100,000 Christians from different denominations and traditions took part from the UK and across the world. They joined in more than 3,000 events and services. The time of prayer culminated in six national Beacon Events over Pentecost weekend at cathedrals in different parts of the country.

In 2018, every diocese in the UK took part, and 85 per cent of Church of England churches and cathedrals were involved as well as the churches of the world-wide Anglican Communion and many other denominations and traditions. Leaders from Churches Together in England, including Roman Catholic, Pentecostal, Baptist and Methodist churches, Free churches and Orthodox churches came together to pray Thy Kingdom Come', and the event is now truly an ecumenical one.

As the apostles prayed together following Jesus’ ascension, waiting for the Holy Spirit to come at Pentecost, so we will wait and pray. They prayed in obedience, trusting that the way ahead would be revealed. We pray at this time that the Holy Spirit will show us new ways of living and loving. When God is at work in us, God is also at work through us in changing the lives of others, so let us pray ‘Thy Kingdom Come....’ together, and open our hearts and minds to new possibilities.

This prayer has brought me comfort, strength and hope; it has challenged me too as I’ve reflected on God’s call on my life. I pray that you will find in the Lord’s Prayer a source of God’s grace too.

Richard


From the Rector - February 2019

Dear Friends,

By now I hope most of you will have read articles by, if not met, our new Curate Kevin Martin. I am delighted to welcome another colleague in the Gospel to our team and am equally pleased that Kevin, Liz and their family will move into Donhead St Andrew this month.

This month (almost) begins with the feast of Candlemas or The Presentation of The child Jesus in the Temple. It signifies the end of our Christmas and Epiphany celebrations and turning our focus towards the cross and resurrection of Lent and Easter.

The season of Epiphany is about explaining who and what this child Jesus is, whose birth we celebrate at Christmas. One of the first major themes is that this child that is born “king of the Jews” is actually for all people and is worshipped by magi from foreign lands. I have been thinking recently about the character of our rural churches and our villages and villagers. I think it is more evident in the countryside how important church buildings are to a community.

What a joy and blessing it is that we have people across the Benefice who are involved in the life of our churches. These are often people who are not themselves C of E. Some prominent examples would be The Rev’d John ‘the Baptist’ Passmore who leads services at St Catherine’s, Sedgehill on Christmas and Easter Day. At Donhead Saint Mary, Linda Franklin has been our lead flower arranger until their recent move, and at Semley, Sarah Howard is often seen helping with flowers - among other things; Fay Duthie helps at Messy Church - all three of whom are Roman Catholics. Across the Benefice there are many examples of members of other denominations and actually people who hold no faith who help with flowers, bells, cleaning and numerous other things. What a wonderful thing to rejoice in.

As I write this, we are coming to the end of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. One of the great pillars of the community once said to me that he joined the army at the wrong time in history because the empire was crumbling and that I had joined the Church at the wrong time because of its decline. There may be truth in that but God is always faithful. I give thanks every day that we no longer live in a time when denominations and their adherents mistrust and dislike each other. I give thanks every day that the support for the church from our rural communities is strong and genuine and full of good will.

Thank you.

Richard


From the Rector - December 2018

Dear Friends,

Have you ever said or heard the words ‘are we there yet?‘ I know that I have and can think of numerous occasions when driving that I hear Sophia and Tilly utter these words, on repeat, from the back! We always seem to be in a hurry to get places and if there's a short cut on a route I am sure most of us would take it.

Follow The StarIn science fiction, we see creative solutions to the question ‘are we there yet?‘ Characters teleport from one place to another, they can jump forward or backwards in time, and I suspect that many of us would be tempted to use such methods if we could to avoid long journeys and satisfy our impatience. However, I believe that if we had the means to transport ourselves instantly from one place to another, we would significantly lose out on what those journeys could have entailed. Imagine arriving instantly at your destination of Lake Coniston having not travelled through the beautiful Lake District scenery. This is how I see Advent - a rich and significant journey which is so often ignored or omitted from our lives as we engage with the commercial belief that Christmas is already here.

I am writing this in November and the shops are already full of festive Christmas cheer. The irony is that while our shops and media begin Christmas early and end it on 25th December, in the Church, Christmas truly begins on 25th December. The Christmas season then continues into January with Epiphany and ends with the last feast of Christmas, Candlemas, on 2nd February (which is why, if you've ever wondered, our Christmas tree remains in the Rectory until then!). By this time the shops have long forgotten it and are stocked ready for Valentine's Day and Easter!

It seems to me that at best Advent is misunderstood and used only as a countdown to Christmas, or at worst is completely lost in the midst of festive shopping and parties.

So, what is Advent all about? Well it is, of course, partly to do with remembering Jesus‘ birth and because of where Advent is placed in the Church calendar, we can't help but anticipate remembering the Nativity. My children have Advent calendars and as they open the doors day by day they do indeed countdown until Christmas but this is not what is at the heart of Advent.

It is helpful to learn a little about the origin of the word Advent to understand it's meaning. The word comes from the Latin adventus which means ‘coming’. If we look back even further, the Greek word often translated to the Latin adventus is parousia. Although the Greek word parousia has a number of meanings, it is commonly the word used to refer to the second coming of Christ, his return in glory which is referenced and foretold throughout the Gospels. So the season of Advent can be thought of as a time of looking to the past as we remember Jesus coming to earth as a baby, and to the future in anticipation of his second coming.

For Christians this changes the way we engage with Advent, it shifts its focus from the past to the future, and in turn challenges us to look at how we live our lives in the present. Advent also marks the start of the new Church year, so while 1st January may seem the obvious date for New Year resolutions, Advent is also an opportunity to do this both individually and as a church.

My challenge is that this year we embrace Advent, make an effort to find out more about what this season means and what we can learn from it. Of course, we need to think about Christmas before the day — shopping, decorations, present lists, nativity rehearsals, cake making and so on — but despite the excitement and anticipation that Christmas brings, there is still room to experience the significance and richness of the Advent journey.

Advent also brings some excitement to our Benefice as we welcome our new Curate, Fr Kevin Martin. We hope you can join us at 10:30 am on Sunday 2nd December at St John’s Church, Charlton for a welcome Eucharist followed by yummy refreshments!

Yours,

Richard


From the Rector - New Curate

K MartinOn Sunday 18th November 2018, the following announcement from Bishop Nicholas was read in the Churches of The Shaftesbury team and in our own Benefice.

Fr Kevin Martin is leaving his Curacy in Shaftesbury in order to gain new experience in the Saint Bartholomew Benefice in the second half of his Curacy”.

The Rev’d Kevin will begin working in the Benefice on Monday 26th November 2018. This is a great opportunity for us, and I expect Kevin to be with us for a minimum of two years. In a few months time, he will move into the Curate’s house (“The Rectory”) in Donhead St Andrew but until then will travel from Shaftesbury.

His first Sunday will be Advent Sunday 2nd December. The Archdeacon reminds me that we need to do a service of welcome.

Services on 2nd December will now be as follows:

  • 9.45 am: Pilgrim East Knoyle.
  • 10.30 am: Welcome Eucharist at St John’s, Charlton, followed by refreshments.
  • 6.00 pm: Advent Carol Service, St Leonard’s, Semley. The Archdeacon of Sarum, The Ven. Alan Jeans, will be licensing The Rev'd Kevin at this service.

The Matins scheduled for 11.00 am at Donhead St Mary is cancelled.

Please make every effort to be there even if attending elsewhere that day, and please spread the word and encourage others to come.

Richard


From the Rector - November 2018

Dear Friends,

As the season of Harvest draws to a close you may well be feeling harvested-out! It's been the time of reflecting on abundance and that we are blessed with plenty.

And now in to November; a time of remembering in the church year.

The period from All Saints to Advent is a time when we are reminded of the fact that 'no Christian is solitary’. All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day are days when we reflect on this sense of belonging and remembering.

On All Saints, we celebrate men and women in whose lives the Church as a whole has seen God at work. God's work of grace can be seen in the ordinary and extraordinary.

The services where we commemorate the faithful departed are a more local and personal way of remembering those whom we have loved and are no longer with us. They allow us to remember those whom we have known more directly, those saints in our lives who have nurtured us, who gave us life, and made us who we are.

Then we move to Remembrance Sunday, where we explore further the theme of memory, both corporate and individual, as we confront issues of war and peace, loss and self-giving, memory and forgetting.

This year marks the centenary of the Armistice to the First World War. Full peace would be declared months later in 1919 with the Treaty of Versailles. However, within 20 years, despite it supposedly being the war to end all wars, Europe and the rest of the world would be plunged into turmoil once again.

The two minutes silence at the eleventh hour, on the eleventh day of the eleventh month gives us pause for thought. We will give thanks for those who sacrificed their lives for the hope of a world in which freedom and justice reigned. We will take stock of the cost in deaths and lives shattered that war will always demand. We will pray for peace. Peace in our hearts and homes, and peace for all the world. 100 years after the guns fell silent and battle-hardened men wept at the waste of lives, we will mark the occasion in acts of remembrance across the Benefice.

So, November - a time of remembering, of reflecting, of moving towards a renewed hope as we prepare to celebrate the birth of God's son. A birth not announced in best BBC English on Radio 4, but by angels, to an unmarried teenager and her carpenter boyfriend. An announcement. made for each one of us, God so loved the world that he sent his only Son to save us. That's worth remembering.

Yours,

Richard


From the Rector - October 2018

Dear Friends,

October; a turning of the year. Very definitely the end of summer, the start of Autumn. Even the university students have started back again, and schools’ half-term is coming soon. The weather might be anything — wet and windy, hot and sunny, cool and grey — but regardless, the leaves have started to turn colour, and the days are shortening fast.

We are in the time of year when we celebrate Harvest. Some have recently celebrated, and some are yet to do so.

Harvest seems to be something that occurs each year. It just sort of happens, does it not? It does not need any work or effort and all rolls along quite smoothly. Indeed, in some kinds of farming there is not even anything to harvest at a particular time of the year. Do cows milk themselves; do beef, sheep and pigs just eat; is that is all there is to it?

If such a statement is absurd in farming terms, why do we assume that Church finances occur in a similar way? Perhaps it is one of those things — it does not directly affect us unless something goes wrong and when it does go wrong we will take some interest. Such an approach can work but it is does not lead to long term growth or a sense of confidence. God will provide; indeed He has provided. The provision is with us and it is us that need harvesting.

Like an agricultural harvest, we will have been affected by outside factors. Jobs may have changed (and in some cases may not be there any longer); retirement may have occurred or full time study concluded and the world of work entered. All of these are key things that may prompt a personal giving review.

But, what about the many of us where there has not been a major change? As with a long established apple orchard, we still produce fruit even if no major changes in the shape of the tree have occurred. We still have a harvest and we need to look at what it is. We then look at how we offer part of this back to God.

We sing in the harvest hymn that all good gifts around us are sent from heaven above. We are then exhorted to ”thank the Lord, O thank the Lord, for all his love”. The tune enables us to concentrate on the word ’’all’’. When we review our giving, this year, let's concentrate on the word ‘all’ when looking at what God has given us. Our response can then reflect that giving to us.

Yours,

Richard


From the Rector - September 2018

Dear Friends,

September is effectively the start of a New Year for many people. It is always a busy month with every group and committee in churches, schools and many other organisations wanting to hold meetings so that they can make a ‘good start’.

Looking through the pages of this website (and the recent edition of the ‘Parish News’), you will read of all the things we are planning to do in the Benefice over the coming months. it can make you dizzy reading about it all... and thinking about Christmas — well that will immediately set you in a spin!

So what is it with all this ‘busyness’? Why are we planning all these activities? And who are they for? As is so often the case, simple enough questions don't lead to simple answers. Is all this for the benefit of the congregations within our Benefice...? Well, yes! We will enjoy taking part in all the things that are planned for the coming months, whether it be a Harvest Festival, a Christmas Carol Service, Messy Church, Bible Study... But we are not planning these things just for our own benefit. We are planning them for the benefit of friends and neighbours, and members of the Benefice who we don't even know — yet. We are seeking to invite people into the Church fellowship. Why? Because our church is something that we value; it is important to us and helps us in our lives, and so we want others to benefit from that, just as we do. We want to travel with other people on a shared journey of discovery, and the sharing of that journey with other people in our church is one of the most important things that we as a church can do.

So the question you should ask yourself as you read through the events of the coming months is not really: ‘Do I want to come to that?’ It is rather: ‘Who am I going to invite to come with me to this or that event?’ By approaching things from this angle we start to engage in a fundamental activity of the Church — mission.

For the eagle-eyed among you will have noticed Messy Church and Bible Study in my list above! Starting in September I will host a bible study in the Rectory - “The Text This Week" — on Thursdays at 7:30pm, during term-time. Everyone is welcome and you don't have to commit to attending each week. The idea is that we will explore the text for the coming Sunday (over a glass of wine or cup of tea...) - not only will it help you understand and dissect the readings, but it will support my sermon prep!

Also, following an incredibly successful Children’s Activity Week, Anna & l have decided that now's the time to explore “Messy Church”. This will be held on the 4th Saturday of the month (except December & August) in Semley School Hall. We will need volunteers for this please... it doesn't need to be a monthly commitment if enough come forward —— but people to make refreshments and support activities would be very welcome! Please speak to Anna or myself for more details.

Yours,

Richard


From the Rector - August 2018

Dear Friends,

You may have noticed I have been growing a beard; it started as an ‘Advent beard’ but I embraced a challenge to grow it long by two Children at Semley School (much to Anna’s disdain... although she assured me she got used to it!). It was ultimately a bit of fun, but it also reminded me that some challenges are sought, and some are thrust upon us. Some are welcome and others we would prefer not to face.

I reminded the children of this in an assembly just before cutting my facial locks off in front of them (to the noise of pleasing gasps!)

Generally, in Western society we are money rich and time poor. That is as true for the church as it is for the rest of society. As Ecclesiastes 3 reminds us, there is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven.

Each and every one of us are subject to times and changes over which we have little or no control.We all change; how we look changes; we grow older. When we are young we grow taller and many of us as we grow into our later mature years have started to become smaller. We can spend huge sums of money in an attempt to prevent or disguise these changes, but the plain and simple fact is that we and the world we live in, is constantly changing.

In Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, Solomon explains how we can understand time and the times. It is a beautiful passage that I often read at funerals. Why? Not because (as some think) it’s a depressing passage because it stresses the power of God and the helplessness of man, but because this passage is an extraordinarily beautiful summary of the optimistic view of the Christian life.

We cannot control time - we cannot control the seasons - no matter what our skills, efforts or riches. So, they say, this is a counsel of despair. It would be, if it were teaching that everything is futile. But this is not the case.

There are times and seasons.There are rhythms. and there is a rhythm to life. We instinctively know this and our life demonstrates it. We all have our biorhythms. One of the problems with modern life is that we like to think we can change these - that we can live 24/7 lives, 365 days a year - with all our gadgets and artificial stimulants enabling us to overcome the natural rhythms and times. But ignoring the rhythms and seasons never works. It only results in burnout.

The 14 couplets in this Ecclesiastes poem cover every range of human activity; the two most momentous events in our life - birth and death, creative and destructive activities, human emotions, friendship and hatred, possessions and our resolutions concerning them...

I take great comfort from the fact that our times are in God’s hands. It is not fate. And that there is a time for everything. You may be going through a hard time right now, but that will change.

You may be going through a spiritual springtime - it will turn to summer and perhaps to winter, before it turns to spring and summer again.

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born. and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war; and a time of peace.

Yours,

Richard