Rector's Letters

May 2019

The summer term is upon us. Two bank holidays to look forward to, and the variety of community activities that the summer season brings. These activities demand a great deal of time and energy to put on, and it always amazes me, that given the stress involved, we never seem to end up like Midsomer, and have a murder or two as the events unfold. Far from it, these activities seem to build and reflect our communities.

Each year people are prepared to play a part, sometimes it feels that it is the same group valiantly putting things together, but the truth is that although it feels like that, each year one or two begin their involvement and the events roll on year by year taking each crisis as it comes and probably being the stronger for it, although it may not feel like it at the time. We are indebted to those who work so hard on our community's behalf.

Right in the middle of this season of activity is the church's celebration of Pentecost or Whitsun as it used to be known. This celebration of the birth of the church is also a celebration of the way God uses people. He changed those disciples of old from a group of rather anxious people into fellowship of determined and committed followers.

He brought out peoples' gifts and used them to the benefit of not just their friends, but to people all around them. Their willingness to be involved, to use their time, energy and money for the greater good meant that the church grew from a small number of people who had heard Jesus physically, to a worldwide movement of people who had heard Jesus in a spiritual manner.

Sometimes the circumstances of the present prevent us from learning from the past. We worry about how we will manage to continue given all the difficulties we face. Yet the story of the church from those early days is that God is much bigger than circumstances and the message of Pentecost is that He will bring out the right gifts for the right time. Over time things will change and develop and we might be anxious about finding people to fill certain gaps but the Church will continue; God has not let it disappear yet, and l don't believe He is about to now.

From the Rector's Desk

A very big thank you to Christ Church for hosting the Benefice Mothering Sunday service. And also a very big thank you to Patsy Simpson for the lovely posies we were able to give to every lady present, they were beautiful.

Continuing in that vein, a big thank you to all the flower ladies who made our churches look so lovely on Easter day.

Don't forget the Coldharbour fete on the 18th!

Thanks also to those who helped with the spring clean at St James', especially Sally our hardworking Parish secretary who organised it all.

April 2019

As I write, the people of New Zealand are still coming to terms with a mass killing in Christchurch; friends of ours are visiting their daughter who lives there and one can only guess at what their feelings are. Our thoughts and prayers are with those who mourn the violent loss of a loved one, and those who survived the traumatic event.

We all face surprising events at some point in our lives, not on this tragic scale perhaps; but certainly things that make us sit up and ask questions about human nature, the fragility of life and maybe even the meaning of our existence. For some no doubt those can be life changing events, but l guess for most of us, the moment passes; and we are none the wiser, despite all the questions that have been raised and the time we have spent pondering on them. Answers are often in short supply, or so it seems.

At the 2018 Beach Mission we held a Sports Quiz Night; as in previous years it was very popular, over 60 people crammed into the venue. What is it that makes people come to such an occasion, is it simply the competitive spirit? Indeed our friends, referred to earlier, are often at those quizzes and are fiercely competitive. I've seen it within our own parish boundaries too!. It is all good fun, but underneath it all is the satisfaction that we can answer stuff, and that is a good feeling.

Yet it is hard when we come up against those things for which we don't have an answer or maybe just a sort of generic, catch all, vague, sort of response rather than a real answer. It reminds me of the Peanuts Cartoon [for those of you who remember them] where I think Linus was carrying a placard saying "Jesus is the answer!" and Snoopy came along behind with one saying "What is the question?"

People in Jesus' day often looked at events and tried to read things into them, given the nature of their culture and society they often used to invoke God and that used to leave some feeling rather smug. Even today people with faith can seem rather smug. Jesus challenged that thinking when questioned about specific tragic events of his day and made people reflect upon their own lives and situations. In the same chapter His parables acknowledge how hard finding answers can be, but having found them he explained how they can can change the whole of your life, not in a smug way, but in a deeply sustaining way. Personally, l think Linus was right, the challenge is finding what Snoopy was looking for. [Hint -Good Friday and Easter may help!]

From the Rector's Desk

Do look out for all our services over the Holy Week and Easter period [14th-21st, we'd love to see you.

It is Annual Parochial Church Meeting time:

We have to renew the Church Electoral roll, so if you are part of the Church community do make sure you have filled in a form, further details from the Parish Office.

March 2019

The days are gradually getting longer, within weeks the clocks will change and the prospect of a spring that is followed by summer is no longer a forlorn hope carried wistfully in secret during the winter months.

Of course we may have lots of other forlorn hopes that we carry. The results we wanted but did not get, the house we wanted but were beaten to by someone else; the promotion, the pay rise, the new job, all hoped for but never achieved. These along with a thousand others, some of which are too painful to acknowledge, make up the challenges we face as we go through life. Sometimes l wonder how some people manage to carry on. The sad truth is that there is no fairness about them. Some people have more than their fair share of disappointment and difficulty, others either by luck or character seem to weather such storms as they face, and some never seem to face many at all. Yet, sadly, it may take only one such challenge to throw someone completely off balance and find it hard, maybe even impossible, to get back up again

For most of us we make our way as best we can, and thankfully we manage to get the most out of our life. I have been struck in recent days about the coverage in the news about teenage suicide and self- harming. It is so tragic that those who have so much potential stretching out before them should find life intolerable and all hope extinguished.

The Bible presents us with countless stories of dashed hopes, moral failures; lives, blighted by people or circumstances. It is a realistic book reflecting the human condition portrayed in stories collected over the centuries. But it also gives us glimpses of hope as we see the redeeming nature of God at work in those who are prepared to risk putting their trust in him. These glimpses do much in countering the forlorn hopes l may nurse; they remind me of a bigger picture, one that has an eternal perspective. The one that speaks to me most is Jesus parable of two men praying. One had everything going for them but had lost sight of reality and attributed his good fortune to himself; the other recognised his weaknesses and failures and asked for God’s help.

Some of the troubles and dashed hopes we face may be trivial, others may be devastating but both can be brought to God and we can ask his help to face them.

From the Rector's Desk

We are really looking forward to Bishop Jo, the Bishop of Dorking, joining us on the 3rd of March. She is, to my mind, an inspirational preacher; do please take this opportunity to hear her.

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent on March 6th we have our benefice service at St James’ at 8.00pm It is a said Communion service with the imposition of ashes for those who would like it. During Lent there will be a service for the benefice of Compline at 8pm on each Wednesday from the 13th onwards at Holmbury. It is a real chance to stop and think and reflect amidst the business of our weekly rush.

If you would like a bit of Bible study, Hilary is leading a series on the 7 signs of John’s Gospel. The next one is on the 19th of March in the Barn at the Plough in Coldharbour at 8pm

Right at the end of the month is Mothering Sunday which will be celebrated at Christ Church and as it is a 5th Sunday all the benefice will be celebrating together.

February 2019

As usual for Parish News we are one month in when l come to put pen to paper or rather digits to keyboard. Gone are the hopes expressed in New Year’s resolutions, replaced in some cases by a sense of failure and in others a great sense of relief. Gone is the bonhomie of the Christmas season, replaced by the pushing and shoving in post-Christmas Sales. Gone is the friendship expressed in Christmas cards as they drop on the mat replaced by credit card bills and worries about self-assessment tax returns. Real life asserts itself again.

We should not be surprised by this, it happens every year. One response might be to join the “bah humbug” brigade, and in the future ignore the hope expressed in our Christmas festivities. Yet by and large we don’t, come December we will find ourselves caught up with it once again. That, l believe, is because the eternal message of a God who cares enough to enter our world strikes a chord in every heart, or at least most of us even if it only remains for a few brief weeks.

The disciples found it hard to hang on to some of the wonderful moments they had with Jesus. After one incredible encounter with God on a mountain top three of them returned with Jesus and found the experience completely overshadowed by the desperate need of the son of one unfortunate man. So too with us. A simple read of the newspapers, will make us aware of all sorts of seemingly unsolvable problems both at home and abroad. Jesus response to the disciples’ confusion about why it was so hard to help the boy was to point them to prayer; in fact the phrase he used was “much prayer”.

Perhaps if we were to ask for God’s help a little more, learn to trust him in spite of what we may feel about prayers that don’t seem to be answered; be prepared to persevere with prayer beyond the first approach well into the future; then maybe, just maybe the transition from Christmas to the new year may not be so much of a contrast. Because our hopes and expectations, our sense of understanding of our fellow humans, and our sense of responsibilities have been formed over the months by a relationship with God forged by regular prayer and thanksgiving; based on the truth that God has come amongst us in the person of Jesus Christ and revealed his love grace and mercy in doing so. Worth a try l think.

From the Rector's Desk

Thanks so much to everyone who worked so hard to make our celebrations of Christmas such fun. Advance warning on a couple things. First Ash Wednesday is on March 6th. We will be marking that as a Benefice in St James’ at 8pm.

But before that on March 3rd Bishop Jo Bailey-Wells is coming to preach at our 10.30 service. It would be lovely to have a good turn out to welcome her.

December 2018 and January 2019

The end of the year is in sight, and the New Year soon to follow. We will mark the change in one way or another with a party or simply on our own. We move from one year to the other and the seasonal cycle begins once again. What might this coming year hold? We cannot be sure, some things might be certain, but how we feel and react when we come to them has no such surety.

There is a similarity with Christmas presents from certain people, you know it is coming, but whether you can manage to look excited about it is an open question. When Jesus received those first Christmas presents of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh, l am not sure what face he pulled, or even if he noticed them at all, but we know that his mother pondered on the matter. What did the gifts mean, why had these foreigners travelled so far just to bring them? They were looking beyond the immediate and transient to something that was eternal and everlasting, and their gifts reflected that.

In a sense the New Year is a present, it is a gift that we receive; none of us knows how many gifts of “New Years”, we may have in a lifetime. How will this one treat us, and we it? What will we make of it. Will we make the most of each days potential, or for whatever reason will we only manage to get some of it. At the end of 2019 will we feel good about what we have achieved or will we feel that we have squandered a lot of what we could have done? And when the sum total of all those gifts is tallied, what will we have done that will last beyond our lifetime.

Jesus’ advice on how to make the most of each day, was to trust God, by seeking His Kingdom first and the rest would sort itself, or “be added unto you” to use a more biblical phrase. And maybe that is the way to take every New Year, one day at a time putting our trust in God and seeking the Kingdom of God, its values, its hopes, and its presence.

King George reminded our nation of this in 1939 when facing a most daunting coming New Year '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."'

A very joyous Christmas, and Happy New Year from Mad and myself to you all!

From the Rector's Desk

Thank you for the many kind messages on our 25 years amongst you, and for those who came and took part in our communion service on the 4th of November.

Both our Remembrance Day services were extremely well attended, which was great, and thank you to those who took part and contributed to those Centennial events.

Our usual array of Christmas services are listed so do please come along to those, and also to the Quiet Spaces service in St James’ at the beginning of the month, take the most of the opportunity to have some quiet reflective space before it all kicks off, lovely though that is.Of course we may have lots of other forlorn hopes that we carry. The results we wanted but did not get, the house we wanted but were beaten to by someone else; the promotion, the pay rise, the new job, all hoped for but never achieved. These along with a thousand others, some of which are too painful to acknowledge, make up the challenges we face as we go through life. Sometimes l wonder how some people manage to carry on. The sad truth is that there is no fairness about them. Some people have more than their fair share of disappointment and difficulty, others either by luck or character seem to weather such storms as they face, and some never seem to face many at all. Yet, sadly, it may take only one such challenge to throw someone completely off balance and find it hard, maybe even impossible, to get back up again.

For most of us we make our way as best we can, and thankfully we manage to get the most out of our life. I have been struck in recent days about the coverage in the news about teenage suicide and self- harming. It is so tragic that those who have so much potential stretching out before them should find life intolerable and all hope extinguished.

The Bible presents us with countless stories of dashed hopes, moral failures; lives, blighted by people or circumstances. It is a realistic book reflecting the human condition portrayed in stories collected over the centuries. But it also gives us glimpses of hope as we see the redeeming nature of God at work in those who are prepared to risk putting their trust in him. These glimpses do much in countering the forlorn hopes l may nurse; they remind me of a bigger picture, one that has an eternal perspective. The one that speaks to me most is Jesus parable of two men praying. One had everything going for them but had lost sight of reality and attributed his good fortune to himself; the other recognised his weaknesses and failures and asked for God’s help.

Some of the troubles and dashed hopes we face may be trivial, others may be devastating but both can be brought to God and we can ask his help to face them.