From the Rector - May 2018

Dear Friends,

As I write this letter, we have just returned from a wonderful holiday in Malta. We were blessed with glorious weather and enjoyed much of what the country has to offer.

We stayed in St Paul’s Bay and prior to our holiday. I was unaware that St Paul has an additional feast day on February 10th: ”The Feast of the Shipwreck of St Paul"! I think this gives Paul an edge over Peter in the feast day stakes.They share one feast day, as co-founders of the Church in Rome. Peter also has the Chair of St Peter. Paul has the feast of his conversion and the feast of his Maltese shipwreck!

According to the sources (that is, the Acts of the Apostles), in the year 59, after two years in a Caesarean prison, St Paul exercised his right as a Roman citizen to “appeal unto Caesar." But Paul's voyage to Rome was prolonged by a shipwreck off the coast of Malta, just off St Paul's Bay which probably went by a different name back then! While the ship was mended, Paul worked many miracles and effectively founded the Church in Malta.

We attended the church of St Paul‘s Shipwreck in St Paul's Bay on our first weekend. The church was packed; so much so, that we - along with at least a dozen others - were stood on the steps outside for the service. As you’ll (probably) be aware, the state religion in Malta is Roman Catholic, with 98% of the population adhering to Roman Catholicism. l attended the service wearing my clerical shirt - but imagine my joy when I was invited into the sanctuary - despite highlighting to them that l was an Anglican Priest.

This links me to Christian Aid Week - 13th to 19th May 2018 - which, this year urges you to #StandTogether. Everyone is equal in the sight of God. Yet we live in a world where poverty persists.

This year the organisation is highlighting the plight of the millions of people displaced around the world, but who remain within their own countries.Today, more than 40 million people are internally displaced by conflict, accounting for approximately two thirds of those who find themselves forced from their homes. A further 24 million were displaced by disasters in 2016 alone.Yet, because they haven't crossed a border. the public rarely hear about them.

Despite the huge number of people affected. situations of internal displacement receive almost no political attention, funding or support. In Haiti, thousands of people regularly experience some of the worst natural disasters on earth. The country is one of the poorest in the world,and a high number of its inhabitants live in precarious houses or have been uprooted from their homes entirely, making them especially vulnerable when another disaster strikes. More than seven years on from the devastating earthquake in Port-au-Prince in 2010, an estimated 38,000 people are still displaced.

In November 2016, Hurricane Matthew wreaked yet more havoc across the southern coast of the country, killing 546 people and destroying homes, businesses and infrastructure. Up to 90% of some areas were destroyed. Vilia was left homeless by the earthquake in 20|0 and her mother was killed. Bereaved and homeless, for Vilia, her husband and their seven children, life became a struggle. They didn’t even have a safe place to sleep. Christian Aid’s local partner, KORAL, helps local people prepare for disasters. In the aftermath of the earthquake, it reached out to Vilia and built her and her family a new home, that was safe, stable and strong enough to stand up to natural disasters.

Ahead of Hurricane Matthew, KORAL was able to warn local communities, helping to evacuate around 5,000 families and saving many lives. In the immediate aftermath Christian Aid and KORAL distributed urgently-needed shelter materials, hygiene products such as soap, food seeds and cash, so people could buy other items that they really needed. Disaster-resistant homes were built, giving people safe, secure places to live. Of the dozens
built before the hurricane hit, only one lost its roof in the disaster, and Vilia's home was able to shelter 54 people over several days following the hurricane.

Christian Aid Week unites thousands of churches every year to raise money to support our global neighbours in need, who are often suffering through no fault of their own. Just £25 could buy a hygiene kit to prevent disease after a disaster; £5 could buy a jar of seeds so someone like Vilia can grow beans to feed her family; and £210 could pay to train a local builder in Haiti to build safe, secure hurricane-resistant homes.

This Christian Aid Week, people can help to change the lives of people displaced due to disasters or conflict by donating online at www.caweek.org or calling 08080 006 006.

Please do support Christian Aid this month and let us #StandTogether as a united Christian family.

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as l have loved you, you also should love one another" - John 13: 34

Yours,

Richard


From the Rector - April 2018

Dear Friends,

A child once asked me if Jesus carries scars on his body, now that he is risen from the dead at Easter? What a great question that is!

A rugby-playing friend once told me that following a major tendon repair, his surgeon explained that that the repaired tendon was stronger than the original. The scar tissue would remind him he was stronger, better, faster now!

But while we all carry scars of one kind or another, how should we think of the damage we receive as human beings, even death, and what can our faith tell us?

I offer the following story as an illustration, remembering that Mary was one who grieved at the foot of the cross:

Someone on the internet wrote the following heart-rending plea:

“My friend just died and I don’t know what to do.”

A lot of people responded. Then there was one old man’s incredible comment that stood out from the rest that might just change how you think about death and dying. Here it is:

“Alright, here goes. l’m old. What that means is that I’ve survived (so far) and a lot of people l’ve known and loved did not.

l’ve lost friends, best friends, acquaintances, work colleagues, grandparents, mum, relatives, teachers, mentors, students, neighbours, and a host of others. I have no children, and I can’t imagine the pain it must be to lose a child. But here’s my two cents.

I wish I could say you get used to people dying. I never did. I don’t want to. It tears a hole through me whenever somebody l love dies, no matter the circumstances. But I don’t want it to “not matter". I don’t want it to be something that just passes.

My scars are a testament to the love and the relationship that I had for and with that person. And if the scar is deep, so was the love. So be it. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are a testament that l can love deeply and live deeply and be cut, or even gouged, and that I can heal and continue to live and continue to love. And the scar tissue is stronger than the original flesh ever was. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are only ugly to people who
can’t see.

As for grief, you'll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you're drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it's some physical thing. Maybe it's a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it’s a person who is also floating.

For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive.

In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don’t even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you’ll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out. But in between, you can breathe, you can function.

You never know what’s going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a motorway service station, the smell of a cup of coffee or hot chocolate. It can be just about anything...and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life.

Somewhere down the line, and it's different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or landing at Gatwick Airport You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you'll come out.

Take it from an old guy. The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don’t really want them to. But you learn that you'll survive them. And other waves will come. And you’ll survive them too. If you're lucky, you’ll have lots of scars from lots of loves. And lots of shipwrecks.”

Perhaps a good way of understanding Easter is to see Jesus’ love for us providing ‘scar tissue’ for our wounds and injuries? So that while the above story might provide a means of coping, an attractive means too, we as Christ-lovers have more than just a means to cope - we have triumph over death and dying.

The Easter season is a time when Christians rejoice in the knowledge that their risen Lord has overcome death and in so doing brought forgiveness to the world. Yet, for many, Easter is simply a holiday period and a time for giving chocolate eggs and enjoying the beginning of Spring (hopefully).

The Easter message resonates down the centuries and can bring a special meaning to all those who are feeling at their most vulnerable in these difficult times.

The truth of the resurrection for Christians is a message of hope and it is one that we are called to share with our friends and neighbours wherever they are. I wish you all a happy and joyful Easter.

Yours,

Richard


From the Rector - February 2018

Dear Friends,

Almost two years ago now the Benefice undertook the exercise of reviewing the service schedule. As part of this we discussed forming a “roving choir” to sing on a near weekly basis going around four of our churches for the 9.30 am Eucharist and the other two on other occasions. That initial group was made up of representatives appointed by each PCC with The Ven. John Holliman and myself. The group included Churchwardens, including Bob Thackray who had put in an incredible amount of work, both in advance and after the meeting, how we might arrange the schedule so different services were available across the Benefice so that our churches weren’t competing with the same services at the same time. Bob is also no stranger to the musical world, being involved in choirs and having been the Headteacher of two Cathedral schools. Michael Hockney, the Director of the Benefice Choir was also there. The Benefice Choir sings for five services a year (plus occasional extras) and they, of course, will continue. Other members (at least according to my memory and I apologise if it fails me and I miss some people) included Suzanne Sandford, David Webster, Caro Morgan, Annie Meston, Freddie Yorke, Sarah Jones, Andrew Vaughan, Evis Holliman, Simon (and or Juliet Cooper!) and Simon Franklin (and quite possibly Tony Gowers and Christopher Sykes).

The idea of a roving choir with a choir director then went through PCCs and the Benefice Council for approval then advertising, interview etc. What I am trying to say is that this idea is coming to fruition afier a lot of hard work and time by many people in the Benefice. I want to say thank you to them for their continuing support.

I hope you will also support the new choir.

I am not much of a singer. I do enjoy singing in a choir, not that I can be much part of this one because I tend to be up front. I would encourage people to have a go! Children are very welcome as long as they can read well.

One of the starting points for this Venture was that speaking to people around the parishes it became clear to me just how many people’s first contact with church was being involved in choirs in their youth. Most of the churches in the Benefice at one time had their own choir. I began to wonder what we had lost by not having a regular choir. It, to my mind, is a clear detriment to the worship of God and to our experience of that worship. I also began to question what the loss would be not only to future congregations but also how that might impoverish future generations in their lack of experience of church life and the beauty and diversity of church music.

“He who sings prays twice”
St Augustine

“Be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Ephesians 5: 18b - 20

Yours,

Richard


From the Rector - January 2018

Dear Friends,

As the New Year begins, it is traditional to take up a New Year’s resolution. Attendance at a gym, quitting smoking, reading the Bible cover-to-cover, or not eating chocolate ever again! Whatever it is, I wish you well with your resolve. But if we are honest, we know that so often the New Year resolution has not lasted until the end of January. I would like to suggest that instead of resolving to do something drastic, that we each resolve to do very small things, every day.

It is tempting to wonder if doing small things can really be worth it. What difference can that little thing make? What difference can one person make? Surely it's only a drop in the ocean, so it will not be noticeable. I cannot do much about the big problems in the world, so why should my little actions make a difference? But, the ocean is made up of lots of little tiny drops. And what is more, God works through very small things. I believe that in the same way that God’s weakness is stronger than human strength and God can somehow be more powerfully at work in small things done in faith, than in huge, great big, grand gestures.

So if we hear a simple, trusting prayer of a young child, we can know that God is at work. And God will be in the small things we can do each and every day. Whether it is giving a smile to a stranger in the street, or in the prayer for a relative, that only God hears you say. And God is in the helping hand offered to a neighbour in difficulty, or in the kind word to a stranger that nobody else hears you say.

So as we prepare for all that God has in store for us in 2018 and beyond and for inevitable changes in our church, I suggest we remember some words from the poem ‘God knows’ by Minnie Louise Haskins:

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
"Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
"Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night.
And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.

Yours,

Richard


From the Rector - December 2017

Christmas NativityDear Friends,

During December, we journey through Advent, which, for Christians is a time of reflecition, prayer and preparation. We then come to the heart of what we are anticipating, the heart of the hopeful story.

‘The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light’, Isaiah promises. What brought on the light in darkness? The answer comes in those immortal words: ‘For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; And the government (the authority) will be upon his shoulder’.

What startling and wondrous images these are! First, we are given the image of the deep darkness of ignorance; then we are given the image of the great light of an announcement. St Luke permeates his story with light. ‘The glory of the Lord shone round about them’, he says and surely the only way we can picture glory is through light. ‘And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest’. Is there a more beautiful picture painted in so few words?

Imagine being one of the shepherds, trembling with fear; this fear is the awe we feel in the presence of something that is beyond our senses and our capacity for understanding. This awe should fill us in our Advent preparation and throughout our celebrations. For what happened in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago was then and remains now beyond our understanding. ‘For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and his name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace’.

A child, a little baby? Who can explain the Incarnation of God? Enter into this realm of awe; you are in great company. You are in the company of the angels, of all the saints and of the souls who have gone before us. We welcome the awe with the humility of poor shepherds being confronted with glory. We hear the great announcement and ask for grace to believe. We fall on our knees with gratitude.

Let us together go and look for the child Jesus, God become man and worship him!

We look forward to welcoming you to our worship over the upcoming festive period.

Yours,

Richard


From the Rector - November 2017

Dear Friends,

As I write, the leaves on the trees are turning to yellow and gold, the days are getting shorter and there is a chill in the air. The days can seem gloomy and it’s perhaps natural that our thoughts turn towards endings. The year itself is coming to an end; however we all know that the year will begin again and whilst we have the harshness of winter to face, we also have the hope of springtime.

The arrival of November signals the beginning of a series of festivities; be it Bonfire night and fireworks or Advent Carols. We move from the quiet sadness and grief of All Souls and Remembrance Sunday, into a time when we remember that we DO have hope - not just for Christmas coming, but for the assurance of eternal life in heaven.

Our Development Project for Donhead St Andrew Church is making excellent progress and you will notice that our last service there is on Sunday 10th December in order to allow time to prepare the building for works to commence. The traditional service of Nine Lessons & Carols will be held at Donhead St Mary, and there will be services across the Benefice during the Christmas period. Gift Aid envelopes for Donhead St Andrew will be available should you wish to continue your giving during this period.

I’d like to share a story with you...

A Father and Daughter were saying goodbye at an airport. Her plane had been called. I was sitting nearby and heard him say ‘I wish you enough’. They kissed goodbye and she added ‘I wish you enough too’. Then she left to board her plane. As he watched her go. he was crying. I asked him if there was anything I could do. He shook his head, but smiled and thanked me. ‘I am saying goodbye to my daughter forever. I am old and I have an illness that will soon take its toll. My daughter lives a long way away. She has work to do and so have I. We both know that when she returns it will be for my funeral’. I said ‘I heard you say “I wish you enough"; what did you mean?‘ He smiled again, ‘It’s a saying in our family, passed down through generations. I don't quite know where it came from, but it's precious to us’. Then he closed his eyes a moment and spoke it from memory.

I wish you enough sun to keep your outlook bright.
I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun.
I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit strong.
I wish you enough pain to make life’s joys precious.
I wish you enough luck to satisfy your needs.
I wish you enough loss to appreciate what you keep.
I wish enough 'Hellos' to get you through the final ‘Good-bye‘.

As Christians we are not untouched by death. but we also have the hope of springtime: the springtime of the eternal life to come.

My friends, I wish you enough.

Yours ever,

Richard


From the Rector - October 2017

Dear Friends,

Benefice LogoThe observant among you may have noticed that we have been using a new logo for the Benefice.The old logo was a simple clip-art picture. Our friend Lynda Appleby, who you will know is an exceptionally talented artist living in the Donheads and is one of our elected Parochial Church Councillors, has designed a new one for us.

Lynda worked through several drafts trying to incorporate various architectural features of our six churches. We then looked at combinations of maps and other features. Lynda in the end came up with an image of St Bartholomew himself.

In one way it is incredibly simple; in another sense it conveys several intricacies and connections. The image created by Lynda is a depiction of a statue of St Bartholomew on the Great West Front of Salisbury Cathedral. The statue was made between 1867-69 by James Redfern. It is therefore a reminder to us that as all the churches and communities are connected through the Benefice, we have a wider connection through our Deanery and Diocese.We are connected wider still to all the church. We hope that this simple logo of an image of our Benefice patron will also be a continual reminder of our interconnectedness and mutual need for each other.

On the border between Semley parish and Donhead St Andrew there stood a Chapel, now incorporated into a house. St Bartholomew’s was a Roman Catholic Chapel served from Wardour and opened in 1887. Mass was said each Sunday from at least 1938 and it closed in 1960. I think it is a good thing that our Benefice reminds us also of the connections in faith with our brothers and sisters across the family of the church. On that note may I encourage you to attend a talk by Fr Luke Bell of the Order of St Benedict from Quarr Abbey on the 21st October 2017 at Tisbury Methodist Church - talk starts at 11.50 am with refreshments beforehand.

And a big thank you to Lynda!

Finally, on Sunday 29th October 2017 at 4.00 pm in St Mary’s Church, East Knoyle, we are having a service of remembrance for our departed loved ones. If you would like anybody remembered by name, please leave their details on the sheet in Church. Alternatively, send the information in an email to the Benefice Office by clicking here, and when the new window opens, click on the ‘Contact Form’ tab to send your email.

Yours ever,

Richard


From the Rector - August 2017

Dear Friends,

In July, a group of 10 pilgrims from our Benefice went on a pilgrimage to Walsingham, alongside the parish of Bathwick (where Anna was Director of Music and l was an Associate Priest prior to becoming Rector here 2 years ago).

The shrine at Walsingham marks the place where a noblewoman called Richeldis de Faverches had a vision of Mary in 1061. It became a place of pilgrimage at the time and through the Middle Ages, and this tradition was revived in the twentieth century.

Walsingham is ecumenical and multicultural. The Anglican Shrine in Walsingham itself is balanced with its Roman Catholic opposite number at nearby Houghton St Giles. As well as Walsingham’s Parish Church there is the recently rebuilt Roman Catholic Church. The village also possesses a fine Georgian Methodist Church. Within the Anglican Shrine is a tiny Orthodox Chapel, located at the top of a tall staircase in the apse, and Walsingham’s long-disused railway station, upon which is perched a tiny Byzantine dome, now functions as the Orthodox Church of St Seraphim.

Pilgrimage combines the individual and personal, together with the communal. Some of the most intensely personal moments at Walsingham are those experienced within a service with a particular focus on sickness and healing, with the laying on of hands and anointing. Associated with this is the sprinkling at the well, which reminds one of references in Scripture to water and encounters at wells. Also, of great poignancy is the row upon row of votive candles, thanksgiving offerings for blessings received, tokens of prayers for the sick and remembrance of those who have completed their earthly pilgrimage.

Here are some thoughts from Stuart Asbury, who joined us:

”This was not my first visit to Walsingham but the first time to have stayed at the Shrine. The experience is entirely different. As a resident, one is part of a living, praying community. One meets all manner of people. At supper one evening I sat next to two men from Doncaster. They came on a pilgrimage there every year, escaping from their work as a miner and a railwayman. A memorable year for them has been when Michael Ramsey, a former Archbishop of Canterbury, had been a fellow pilgrim.

The first evening, we all met in the Holy House, which forms the heart of the Shrine Church. After supper many of us had an early night but some remained awake enjoying spiritual gifts in a liquid form.

Each day began with Morning Prayer in a simple chapel in the grounds. A leisurely breakfast followed in the Refectory, a bright, modern and spacious addition to the Shrine, where good wholesome food was served very efficiently. The Eucharist was celebrated daily - once in the Holy House but on other occasions in a side chapel.

Water has long been recognised as an agent of spiritual purification and healing. In the shrine. there is a Holy Well and we met there for sprinkling followed by Ministries of healing and reconciliation. On my first visit, i remember the cluster of abandoned walking aids — no longer required as healing had taken place.

Under the Norfolk sunshine, we walked the Stations of the Cross in the beautifully tended Shrine gardens. Starting with Jesus being condemned to death and culminating with His glorious resurrection. This act of devotion concluded with the veneration of the Relic of the True Cross. A simple but powerful ceremony reminding us that the Holy Cross has redeemed the world.

The climax of our pilgrimage was undoubtedly the procession through the gardens. The pictures show how some of us were involved. For my part it was an anxious time. The Master of Ceremonies gave me some instruction. It may be that I will not be asked again! We all returned to the Shrine Church for Benediction, where the blessed sacrament is placed on the High Altar in a sea of candles, gold leaf and clouds of incense. This is indeed high drama and one needs to be present to appreciate the splendour of the moment. It takes one’s thoughts away from the troubles of this world to the Throne of God.

We left Walsingham firmly resolved to return very soon and to pray for the life of the Shrine.”

So, a wonderful week, full of friendship and warmth set in beautiful surroundings and a time for restoration of the soul. People came with the problems of the world on their shoulders and were able to lay them down. it's a busy schedule, lots to do but with no obligation to do it ail, maybe you just need rest and peace.

It is so hard to describe exactly how the Walsingham magic works; a heady mix of devotion, prayer, wonder, mystery, beauty and the sense of being involved in something so much bigger and deeper than oneself.

Everyone is welcome to join us for next year's pilgrimage to Walsingham; new friends. are friends and children! Bookings are now being taken.

Yours in Christ,

Richard

 

Below are some photographs from the pilgrimage - click on each picture to see a larger version….

 

 


From the Rector - July 2017

Dear Friends,

First of all l want to record my (and our) thanks to The Rev’d Canon William Burke who came to help us in the Benefice shortly after I arrived. He had retired to Shaftesbury but soon discovered he “needed to work”. He has been a great help in the Benefice both in taking services but also in pastoral care of our congregations - and also of me; being a very encouraging, loyal and supportive colleague. He is leaving to take up the unusual post of House for Duty Rural Dean in the Diocese of Ely. We wish him well and thank him sincerely.

At the time of writing, we have recently returned from a wonderful driving holiday in Europe. On the whole, the weather was wonderful!

This led me to consider how we so often talk about and reflect on the weather here in the UK. That is not surprising really, because it is always changing. With the weather changing so frequently there is the sense that if you blink you can miss a season (usually summer) and we spend the rest of the year longing for that summer season. From time to time, I get the feeling that we approach life in a similar way; we look forward to a time when everything will be perfect in our lives, but then we never quite reach that point, or if we do it is such a short and transient stage that it has passed before we realise it, and so, we then look back with a sense of sad wistfulness on that perfect time, and yearn for it to come again.

Whenever I catch myself thinking like that I try to stop and instead of longing for something else, try to value the life that l have and the moment of life that is now. It is not always easy to do that, but if we as Christians believe that life is a gift, given by God, then we should always seek to appreciate what we are given and make the most of it, seeing it in the most positive light.

There are probably too many times in all our lives when we feel grumpy about our lot because we don't have what we want, our health has let us down or we just carry with us a sense of weariness. When you become aware of these tendencies in your own demeanour, just stop and remind yourself that this life is God‘s gift to you, try to appreciate it and live it to the full. If you approach your life in that way you may be surprised at how enjoyable it can be, and also how your sense of enjoyment seems to be contagious and infects those around you.

Finally, somebody once asked me what I thought as I approached the altar? This struck me, as I'd never really thought about this question (and indeed, thought it an odd one!) until the same question was asked by a fellow student at theological college of our Principal.The Principal was a deeply spiritual man with a first rate mind, so I was surprised by his answer; he said he thought “oh, hello Jesus, it’s me again”. At first I thought he was joking, but he wasn't.

When I approach the altar these days, l often repeat the phrase of The Jesus Prayer ‘Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me a sinner’, but I can’t help myself from thinking “oh, hello Jesus, it’s me again”. At first l found this amusing, then it quickly became irritating and now l accept it as a valid prayer to God, revealing more of his intimacy and love than mine.

Yours ever,

Richard


From the Rector - June 2017

Dear Friends

As a child I loved balloons. These of course were just ordinary balloons that had been blown up by breath.... They couldn’t fly and if you let go of them they would drop to the ground. Sophia and Tilly also love balloons - however they are now more sophisticated, helium filled. These of course float in the air and if you aren’t careful could fly away completely.

The story of Jesus’s ascension into heaven is quite an amazing picture with the disciples standing there looking up as Jesus vanishes into the clouds. The important thing to note here though, is that after Jesus disappeared in this way, the disciples didn’t stand there gazing into heaven doing nothing but wait for his coming back. They weren’t frozen in the moment. They weren’t numbed with a sense of loss... No, the disciples went straight back to the temple, continued praising God and made ready for the next step in their mission to the world.

The disciples were filled with joy, filled with hope, and filled with purpose. Just one more thing was needed and that was the coming of the promised Holy Spirit, the power of God coming among them from on high, the life breath that would fill them with God’s spirit. That of course took place at Pentecost.

Before Pentecost the disciples were more like those balloons l described from my early childhood - they were still balloons all right, they were still great fun, you could still do lots of things with them... But they couldn’t really fly, they couldn't really soar into the sky... something was missing. After Pentecost the disciples were more like those helium-filled balloons - ready to fly, ready to go wherever they were blown by the spirit.

By the time you read this, Ascension and Pentecost will have likely passed - so I wonder where you will be? Will you be like the post Pentecost disciples? Will you be like the Helium balloons - ready to soar and fly wherever the Holy Spirit sends you? I think we should resolve to follow the example of the disciples and not be people who stand still and only look to the sky towards a distant God and a faraway Jesus. but instead let’s make ourselves a people who are open to the coming of the Holy Spirit, ready to be sent out into the world in action, ready to make a difference in the name of the living God.

With that in mind, June 2017 is a busy month within the Benefice with both village and church events. I would like to draw your attention to a few of these things...

On Saturday 17th June 2017, Donhead St Mary with St John's Charlton have a Family Barn Dance from 18:00 to 22:00, and on Sunday 18th June 2017, we welcome Bishop Edward to St John’s Church, Charlton, where we will be celebrating their Patronal Festival at 11.00 am. All welcome.

On Saturday 1st July 2017, there will be a social event at The Rectory, to which wedding couples from recent years, baptism candidates and young families from the Benefice are invited to celebrate those happy occasions and also to get to know each other.

Yours ever,

Richard


From the Rector - May 2017

Dear Friends,

There are always people to thank. I have been particularly aware of this over the past two months as I have tried to capture my thanks for all those who work hard, often unseen, for us across the Benefice as I have been doing our rounds of Annual Parochial Church Meetings.

s sandford rector

I want to reiterate my thanks to our active clergy and lay people who lead or take part in our worship especially over the Lent, Holy Week, Triduum and Easter services. Also to those who have made our church buildings look so splendid with cleaning, flower arranging, linen, frontals and all that jazz. I think it makes a tremendous difference to the richness of our worship.

Congratulations and/or commiserations to all those with new roles following our APCMs. I do, however, wish to pay a special tribute to the work of Suzanne and Chris Sandford from East Knoyle. Suzanne has served as Churchwarden at St Mary's for fifteen years and I believe Chris has been the Treasurer for even longer. They have both served with dedication and devotion and have been a great support to my family and I since we arrived in the Benefice (since before actually!). Suzanne suffered from a bout of ill health just before Christmas and they both decided it was time to step down. They were both supportive across the Benefice and so on your behalf I offer them special thanks for their length and quality of service. Suzanne is also the editor of our Benefice Magazine and is continuing in this role. Her release from being Warden has meant she has already popped up in other churches of ours as the new magazine paparazzi. She was clearly not behind the camera for this shot of her as she retired and Chris was obviously hiding.

Yours ever,
Richard