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April 2020

Cheap Chocolate.

No – this isn’t a piece about child labour on cacao plantations and the importance of fair trade, although bearing it in mind is always a good idea.  No – it’s a piece about Easter.  When we lived in the North West a neighbouring family never bought their children Easter eggs until the afternoon of Easter Day (at the earliest) and more often on Easter Monday because by then the supermarket had slashed its prices to clear the seasonal stuff off the shelves.  They were proud of this thrifty move.  It pleased them enormously.  It made me sad.  Because there is definitely a place for extravagance in our lives and I think Easter is it.

Christmas brings extravagance out in almost everybody – whether they’re a church-goer or not – Easter not so much.  The story of Easter is far less user-friendly than the Christmas story.  There are no stars, no kings, no angels, no baby – nothing to coo over, no romance.  There’s mockery, cruelty, earthquakes and an apocalyptic eclipse. Good Friday is the grimmest of stories before the strangeness and wonder of new life on Easter day.  And that contrast between frightening events and an eventual fresh beginning is a story we very much need to hear now.  Things have changed for us almost overnight from a free and easy lifestyle to lockdown.  Fear is (almost literally) in the air.  Things are tough and might get tougher.  It’s all in the Easter story.  In the blink of an eye, Jesus goes from hero to zero in the eyes of his people. Things get tough for him and then they get tougher. But that isn’t the end of the story any more than lockdown is the end for us.   

Easter has no cuddle-factor. The bunny is an interloper from a whole different story – as is the egg, but Christians aren’t daft, we know a good symbol when we see one, so we co-opted the egg.

And I have to say the chocolate egg is a wonderful thing.  There’s something about the taste and feel of a thin sliver of chocolate eggshell that is quite magnificent. It is not at all like a chunk from a bar.  And it is extravagant.  My neighbours were right about one thing though – an Easter egg is a very expensive way to buy chocolate.  But at Easter that’s the point.  God loves us.  Completely.  Extravagantly.  And loving us cost him everything.  If you manage to buy an Easter egg this year, when you pay for it remember that Easter is the very opposite of cheap. 

This Easter will be different for all of us.  No family visits.  No trips out.  But we are a community capable of great things – of sharing so that everyone has something and no-one has nothing; of keeping in touch so that no-one feels lost or alone.  Let’s care for each other extravagantly.  We are of God – looking after each other is built in to our nature.  Have a good  (though different) Easter.

Jan Lees

March 2020

In celebration of Mothers

This month holds a very special celebration on the third Sunday of Lent.  It is Mother’s Day or Mothering Sunday as it was more traditionally called.

Mothering Sunday was originally a time when people returned to their ‘Mother Church’, the one in which they were baptised or where they attended services when they were younger. This meant that families were reunited and returned to the towns and villages where they grew up. In time, it became customary for young people who were working as servants in large houses, to be given a holiday on Mothering Sunday. They could use this day to visit their own mother and often took a gift or food. In turn, this moved towards the modern celebration, which we know today.

Many families get together around their mother and celebrate with a special meal out and I love to see generations of the same family all gathered together. The shops are bursting with beautiful bouquets and bunches of flowers to give as gifts to our mothers and the array of special cards are in abundance too.

However, for some it can also be a sad time, remembering the mother they can no longer hug, or perhaps some wish they had a different or closer relationship with their mother. Others may not be a mother yet and long for a day when they might have a child.

I love the image of a mother hen in this verse from Luke 13 v 34

‘How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings’

That feeling of love, safety, nurture and warmth is so necessary for young to thrive and a human need in us all.

However we will be spending Mother’s Day this year we can be sure that God longs to gather us up and meet all our needs in Him.

Services will be held around the Mission Community on Mothering Sunday 22nd March to which you are all warmly invited.

Linda Joy

Children and families worker

Holyford Mission Community

February 2020

Glimpses of spring light

January is a time of year for promises and resolutions. February is perhaps a month for reckoning – asking ourselves why we’re already slipping back on those commitments. This cold, hard month can be a bit of a reality check.

However, when the lights no longer go on at 4.30pm, we know spring is on its way. We find things to look forward to – holidays, things to do when the weather improves. These simple plans show how important it is to look forward to better times, to live in hope that good things are on their way.

This is what the church year is doing right now. Christmas is an explosion of light, colour and sound and, even though decorations get put away early in January, the song of the angels keeps ringing in our ears – good news for all. The message is simple and clear – God has come among us, and remains with us.

Hope lives on, long after the recycling lorry has carted away the Christmas wrapping paper. The stories of Epiphany are full of signs and wonders – stories such as the time Jesus turned water into wine at a wedding in Cana, and the moment when Jesus is himself baptised as an adult by his cousin John. When Jesus bursts out of the river water the sky above him is filled with God’s blessings, for him and for us all.

Yes, Lent is coming, a time of quiet, reflection, sometimes sadness. But even now in these dark days of winter we can see the light of Easter in every early glimpse of spring flowers magically appearing in foggy lanes.

Light in darkness – an idea as old as time, and yet a reminder that we live in a world where goodness prevails.

That isn’t just an uplifting message. There is some science behind it. The Gottman Institute has studied relationships for 50 years, discovering that people are generally happy if they have five times more positive experiences than negative ones. In passing, this research suggests that in general people are content with life, because on balance more good things happen than bad things. We are perhaps more generous, caring, helpful people than the daily news would suggest.

If that glimpse of hope isn’t enough to cheer the winter blues, what is?

Revd Preb John Lees, Associate Priest

January 2020

Caroline, John, Henry and I have been overwhelmed by the wonderful welcome we have received from the communities of Colyford, Musbury, Northleigh, Southleigh, Branscombe and Colyton. Thank you for all your cards, letters, messages and your thoughtful gifts, including some wonderful hampers and local food—all greatly appreciated.   

At the beginning of January we celebrate the Epiphany when gifts and greetings were taken to the Holy Family. ‘Epiphany’ is a fancy Greek word which means something like ‘manifestation’ or ‘appearance’. It is a rich celebration which (in the Western Church) marks the visit of the Three Kings who bring gifts to the manger, which is one of the early signs that the birth of the baby Jesus is not simply a good human being, or wise teacher and moral example, but is in fact God made man. The readings we hear in church around this time look beyond the crib, at all the miracles and wonders Jesus did during his life and ministry to help us to think about who exactly Jesus Christ is, and what he might accomplish if we were to allow ourselves to trust in him a little more and our friendship with him to grow. 

As I travel the East Devon lanes (avoiding the potholes….sometimes more successfully than others…) travelling from one church to another, I am aware how fortunate I am to be a part of the life of the six churches which make up the Holyford group. The Church is a people, but it is buildings too, and each of our beautiful buildings is a gift and sign of the Epiphany; each  stands as a manifestation to remind us that we have a God who is Emmanuel—‘God with us’—present at the heart of the community, come wind or weather.

Arriving at the beginning of Advent and leading up to Christmas has provided a great opportunity to get to know quite a few new faces. Thank you to all those who have said hello. If we haven’t already met, I hope that we shall soon. Until then…

 Wishing you every blessing and a Happy New Year,

 Fr Steven.

December 2019

From the Holyford Mission Community Ministry Team

Travelling

Advent and Christmas is a time of travelling for many, for the distribution of gifts and reunion of families and friends and we wish all safety in their journeys and joyful encounters with those they visit and host.

Advent itself is a time of travelling, even if not in terms of distance, but in our readings we reflect on the journey of God’s people in preparation for the coming of the Messiah and it is an opportunity for us to examine our own journey of faith as we prepare to greet the Christ child once more.

At Christmas we remember the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, the Shepherds visiting the stable, the visit of the wise men and the flight of the Holy family into Egypt.

In our Mission Community we begin a journey as we welcome Steven and his family and look forward to his ministry amongst us.

Through all our ‘travelling’ we wish you all a joyful and peaceful Christmas Season and may that continue into the New Year that lies beyond.

Charles, Colin, Emma, Jan, Jeremy, John, Linda, Nigel, Steven and Victoria

November 2019

We are very excited about moving to Colyton and getting to know the churches and parishes that make up the Holyford Mission Community.  In preparation for our arrival, I have been asked to provide a few lines about myself, so…

I was born ‘at a very early age’, in London, and came to the church through music, as a choirboy at St George’s Metropolitan Cathedral, Southwark. It was there that I encountered some inspiring Christians and began to learn about the faith; it is since then that I have always felt the deep and loving presence of Jesus Christ in my life.

We moved to Sussex when I was about 10 years old, and it is there I began to learn to play the organ. My family and I moved again to Devon, about 22 years ago. Music, especially church music, has always been a passion. I read music at Exeter University, going on to postgraduate study there and finally at the University of Bristol. During my time studying I was organ scholar at the University and at Crediton Parish Church and for three years a choral scholar at Exeter Cathedral. Before ordination, I was a teacher and taught music at The Maynard School in Exeter.

I trained for ordination at St Stephen’s House, Oxford, and served my curacy at Tavistock with Gulworthy and Brent Tor. During the past year I have also been looking after the churches at Mary Tavy and Peter Tavy. I am married to Caroline, who works as an historic landscape specialist for Nicholas Pearson Associates. We were married just over eight years ago at Crediton (where I was Director of Music), and have two sons, Henry (aged 3 ½) and John (7 months). You will also see (and hear!) Beryl pottering about. Beryl is our 1969 brown Morris Minor who has been with me for the past 20 years.

It would be good at this point if I could write something gripping or niche about my hobbies and interests (…that I liked windsurfing in tweeds or that I was founding captain of the England Bo-taoshi team…) but the truth is that in my spare time I like to do all the usual things, like listen to music, read (short-ish) books, wander about in the garden and, most of all, doze off in front of the television.

I know that there will be precious little time for dozing off as I endeavour to meet everyone and discern how I can best serve you and the growth of God’s Church on our journey together. Thank you for inviting me to become your next Rector; I hope that we shall meet soon, and pray that God will bless us and all that we do in his holy name and in the service of his love.

Fr. Steven.

October 2019

Food for thought?

Or should it be the other way around.

Writing this when many of our Churches are about to celebrate harvest festivals or have recently done so I am also aware that the topic is rarely absent from one form of media or another.  I am particularly reflecting upon the different emphases of such information, including economics, environment ethics and health and, as I listen to the latest ‘wisdom’, it seems increasingly difficult to hold them in a balance which does not involve conflict between them.  😕

Our food comes from many different sources and even improvements in package (another issue!) labelling do not give us the whole story.  We may have the country of origin but not the type of agricultural system which produced it, what its carbon footprint might be, the degree of exploitation of vulnerable individuals and/or local environment and animal welfare issues (if appropriate).

We live in a complex world and as we are faced with more information the complexity seems to increase and it can be tempting to carry on regardless but it is clear that to do so is unsustainable for our planet and calls for urgent action should not go unheeded.

Any changes we can make may seem like a drop of water in an ocean but when there are many drops it does make a difference.  We have a responsibility to one another and to the global human community as well as having respect for the natural world.  We should acknowledge our dependence on many others and giving thanks for what others have provided for us is a sign of responsibility and respect; reducing our over-consumption and wastage of food is a practical way to demonstrate it.

When we obtain our food perhaps we should focus more closely on what we needrather than what we want and indeed on what we might be able to share.  Our heavenly Father is a generous God and gives us many things for our enjoyment and well-being but also recognises our different needs and situations. All he requires in return is our acknowledgement of his generosity with thankful hearts and to remember that what we do for ourselves may well have an impact on others.

Charles Hill

September 2019

This month’s letter comes from Victoria Chester

‘Tis the season . . .

Having been a Reader (a lay minister) in our parishes for a number of years I am about to take the plunge into ordained ministry – or as a friend of mine puts it ‘getting collared’!  As the year turns from summer to autumn I will be ordained in Exeter Cathedral on the 14th of September and then serve as a self-supporting curate in our Mission Community parishes of Colyton with Colyford, Branscombe, Southleigh, Musbury and Northleigh.

Although the days may still be warm, there’s no doubt that September marks a turning of the seasons for many of us, from holidays to the start of the new school year for some and the return to work for others.  The same is true for our religious festivals, those times in the Church year that recall special moments in the life of Christ and in the life of the Church.  Some of the most familiar festivals and seasons seem to come round with startling speed – can it really only be just over 100 days to Christmas?!

Here in our Exeter diocese July marks a special time commemorating St Peter and Christ’s call to him to be “a rock” on which the Church would grow.  Whether or not these were the exact words used it is always an important anniversary in the life of any community when we remember the foundations we are built upon.  Church, village and family all have roots that remind us of our beginnings, where we have come from, and where and with whom we hope to grow in the future. 

For Exeter Cathedral, Petertide, the season of St Peter, has particular significance as the Cathedral building itself is dedicated to St Peter and each year the community there uses this as a focus for special celebrations.  This significance also carries through into other seasons in the life of our diocese.  Ordinations in the Church of England usually take place at Petertide, but here in Exeter we wait until Michaelmas, mid-September, for the service at the Cathedral that marks the start of our new ministry.  I for one am grateful for this later season and celebration; just as the disciples waited in Jerusalem before starting their ministry so the period between the end of my study course at Petertide and my ordination at Michaelmas has given me much needed time to rest, to give thanks for the care and support that has given me the foundation from which to take this new step, and to look forward with joy to the journey to come.

August 2019

Happy To Chat

We have scaffolding up outside the house at present and it’s rather odd to see knee-down views of workmen passing the bedroom window.  It’s not attractive – the scaffolding, I mean  – I wouldn’t dare criticise the chaps’ legs!   But scaffolding isn’t pretty to look at, unless it’s been specifically designed to be visible like the jolly coloured structures on the Pompidou Centre in Paris. 

Anyway, all this has got me thinking about hidden support (there should be an underwiring joke here, but I can’t think of one, so insert your own).  So many things in our lives depend on hidden support.  The friends who drop by to see you when you feel low, the casseroles and cakes that arrive when life’s got out of hand aren’t listed as emergency services but they rescue us just the same.

We’re lucky to live in a place where people care about their neighbours and where there are such strong networks of friendship holding our communities together.  The everyday friendliness of our neighbourhoods is a great gift and harnessing it in organisations such as LINK is a brilliant idea.  And here’s another one that I saw online –  a photo of a bench bearing the sign  ‘happy to chat’.  The idea being that if you sat on that bench you were inviting conversation as an antidote to loneliness – either your own or whoever might pass by.   Of course some people would find that a nightmare – they’re desperate for a bit of quiet,  and five minute’s peace on a bench where no-one mithers them is their idea of paradise.  Support comes in all shapes and sizes.  Sometimes just letting someone enjoy their alone-time is the best support you can give.  Which is not the same as blanking them – a smile and a nod go a long way to making everyone’s day better.   A smile and a nod is like wearing your built-in support system on the outside.*  It’s part of the glue that holds us all together.

Jan Lees

(*insert own joke about being a superhero/wearing your pants on top of your trousers etc etc….)

July 2019

Playing with Fire

Whilst the weather at the time of writing in early June does not live up to the title of flaming June I remember the orange skies over NW England last year when Lancashire moorland was very much ablaze.  It also reminds of our ambivalent relationship with fire as it can be both creative and destructive.

Early human groups first learned how to use and then control and create fire and it had a fundamental impact on how human societies developed, to migrate to more northern (and southern) latitudes, to improve diet and later to produce metal implements from copper, tin and iron. Much later it enabled the development of steam power and the internal combustion engine which as well as being the basis of much technological improvement was also a factor in the climate issues we face today.

The destructive power of fire is evident in the destruction of natural habitats and human habitation both by accident and intention, sometimes the intention is to provide replacement vegetation and indeed some Eucalyptus shed their bark to act as kindling so when forest fires occur naturally their competitors are destroyed and the heat from the fire is necessary for their seeds to sprout!

Despite our own fascination with fire we also need to use it responsibly not only for our own benefit but to consider the impact that our own choices have on those who are more vulnerable and the legacy we leave for future generations.

The word fire occurs over 600 times in the Bible and not surprisingly in both a positive and negative context.  Amongst these are ideas of refining and purifying and also denoting God’s presence – as with Moses and the burning bush and at Pentecost, celebrated in early June, when the apostles received flames of fire above their heads. 

Perhaps the next time there is the opportunity to contemplate a burning flame, it might also be the time to consider the flame of love burning in God’s heart for each one of us and the flame of God’s presence in our own lives both to overcome the faults of the past but also to bring us reassurance and hope for the future.

Charles Hill

June 2019

Trinity is the green season now for church hangings, which seems very appropriate when we see the abundant leaves and grass growing all around us. As I write, the lanes are still full of bluebells and cow parsley, which will give way to pink campion and honeysuckle and other summer flowers. We are fortunate to live in such a beautiful area where people want to come on holiday.

But the joy of summer returning and the apparent tranquillity of the English countryside can possibly lull us into paying less attention to the serious environmental challenges facing us with increasing urgency, not only in the near future, but actually now.

Several high profile events in the media came together over Easter to draw attention to the seriousness of the situation of global climate change. One was the broadcasting by the BBC of David Attenborough’s hard hitting documentary spelling out climate change facts. No-one who saw it could remain unmoved by the sight of thousands of bats which had dropped dead to the ground from sheer heat exhaustion due to extreme temperatures in Australia.

It’s a step forward that the BBC have accepted that climate change is a scientific fact, and not a political position that needs to be balanced by giving airtime to fossil fuel industry deniers. Not only the BBC but the Governor of the Bank of England is warning of this growing crisis.

Of course climate change also means more storms and flooding, melting glaciers and rising sea levels, which are already having a catastrophic effect in some areas. This is the effect of greenhouse gases raising global temperatures by 1oC already, and we need to avert much greater rises.

We have also seen unprecedented mass nonviolent action from the group Extinction Rebellion who mobilised many thousands of protesters demanding change and action from our politicians. Over a thousand were arrested, and whatever we think of mass civil disobedience as a tactic, it succeeded in raising the profile.

At the same time we saw the school children’s climate strikes around the world started by the Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, who gave a hard-hitting speech to our parliament. According to the Environment Secretary she is the “voice of our conscience”. She used a striking image to describe how we must respond now – “Avoiding climate breakdown will require cathedral thinking. We must lay the foundation while not knowing exactly how to build the ceiling.”

We can each start doing something to reduce our carbon footprint – waste less food, buy from local producers, insulate our homes, walk or use public transport. Let’s wake up to the need, and remember that the earth is the Lord’s. We are merely caretakers, handing on to generations to come.

Emma Laughton.

May 2019

This month’s message comes from Anne Futcher

I’m writing this having just returned from a flying visit to Cyprus. I was there for a forum, convened by the Anglican Church, which focussed on refugees and people who are trafficked.  The day was an introduction to my ministry there from September, which will include responsibility for co-ordinating the Diocese’s response to refugees on the island.

At the forum, there were representatives from various secular and religious organisations, both from the north and the south of the divided island.  As each stood to speak, I was struck by their shared energy, passion and commitment. And this was in the light of a refugee situation that must have felt overwhelming. For in 2018, Cyprus exceeded every other EU member state in asylum claims, mainly from people fleeing Syria.

Stories were told from different perspectives, and many were very moving.  They spoke of large numbers of people dislocated and traumatised; of the daily challenges faced by strangers in a strange land. 

As the day went on, it seemed to me that the work of every group, whether secular or religious, was underpinned by pretty much the same three messages: ‘We stand with you.’  You have worth.’ ‘Things can be different’.

Messages of solidarity and of hope and dignity; messages we would all want to hear in times of very real need, wherever, and whoever, we are.

And these three messages resonate absolutely with the Christian faith. Throughout his life on earth Jesus bestowed time and attentiveness on those whom his society deemed insignificant – women, foreigners, the poor, the maimed, and those who were unwell, either mentally or physically.  His very presence signified to each of them: ‘I am with you’;  ‘you have worth’; ‘things can be different’.  Through an encounter with him, their lives were transformed.  And those who later met the risen Christ – the disciples, the soldiers, the two Marys – experienced profound change too.  Their confusion, shame and fear dissipated.  And Jesus bestowed on them, through his attentive love, a sense of worth and hope and dignity.

Our world today is every bit as wounded and wounding as it was in Jesus’ time.  And it’s every bit as wonderful, too.  For within each of us lies the potential to bring new life and possibility to another.  Every act of compassion, every good deed, every fair and honest act of business, every kind word, really matters.  Each act says to another person: ‘you are cherished’, ‘you have worth’; ‘things can change’.  Each of us, wherever and whoever we are, can make a much greater difference to someone else than we might ever have imagined.

Over the past few years, I have been so touched by the care and warmth in this community. It’s been a privilege being here.  Thank you.  I look forward to my work in Cyprus hugely and I take with me precious memories.

God bless you

Anne

April 2019

Welcoming the Dayspring

Easter Sunday is, as normal, a day packed with services but for many the most memorable will be the dawn service held at 6am at the Hillhead picnic site in Colyton. It’s well before most people are out of their beds, so there will be little traffic and a chance to enjoy birdsong and a stunning view across the Axe Valley. There really is no better time of day to celebrate Easter, which all began with a surprise very early one morning. A group of people had seen their visionary friend arrested, and then seen him executed in the cruel method reserved for those most hated by the Roman Empire. Their friend Jesus had been buried, and they thought their story was over.

Early the next day something new and strange happened to a young woman, Mary, a friend of Jesus. Someone appeared to her, and whether it was mist or the uncertainties of dawn light, she thought the man talking to her was a gardener. Something powerful had happened, something so strange that witnesses fled in fear, and people passed on the story in hushed voices. Death hadn’t closed down the story at all – just the opposite. What seemed like an ending, the ending of everything important, was in fact the beginning of something new and life-giving.

We know the story well. A story of something that happened in the uncertain early light of a spring day, and an event we constantly associate with spring, green shoots, new growth. Spring is always a wonderful pick-me-up after a hard winter. This season has something extra on offer – things bursting into flower, sunlight, and the promise of warm days ahead.

Dawn has always been seen as an important moment in all religions. In Islam and Christianity it’s the moment when the first prayers of the day are said.

Dawn is of course not a moment, but a transition from pitch black to full sunlight. Photographers talk of the ‘golden hour’ before the sun breaks through, when the light is much warmer and softer than the harsh light of noon. It’s a time when we come round slowly, allowing all our senses to kick in and enjoy the early hours, wondering what the day might bring.

A lovely old English word for the dawn is ‘dayspring’, in regular use at the time the King James translation of the Bible was composed. It sometimes meant the exact point on the horizon where the sun was predicted to rise, a point that changes as the year turns. The word Dayspring is used to describe John the Baptist as the one who brings light to those who live in darkness, and was later and much more frequently used to describe Christ himself, not just the light bringer, but the light of the world.

So much for history and theology, so much for thinking. Perhaps it’s equally good to enjoy the golden dawn light as the created world sings itself awake and fills us with new hope.

Revd Prebendary John Lees, Associate Priest

March 2019

This month’s letter comes from Jan Lees.

Print deadlines being what they are, I’m writing this in January from a desk with a whole landslip of papers on it.  This is normal.  There’s stuff I know I need along with things I’m not sure what to do with and stuff that’s in transit.  The dining table’s in the same state. 

Periodically I pull myself together and have a sort out and at the moment sorting out and decluttering is all the rage.  The Konmari method has even made it onto Netflix and Marie Kondo is an international tidying-up guru.

How do you feel about clutter?  I can’t make up my mind.  I do enjoy the calm spaces that minimalism produces, but then again my clutter is a spin-off of doing all sorts of interesting things. 

One thing Marie Kondo says really fascinates me.  She says we should only keep things that ‘spark joy’ in us.  Well, not quite – you are allowed to keep things like your recycling bins and loo cleaner, though the likelihood of them ‘sparking joy’ is pretty slim.

I suppose her philosophy isn’t a million miles from William Morris’s dictum that we should only have things which are useful and/or beautiful in our homes.  Lovely idea – provided you’re not skint.  And provided you don’t mind upsetting the aunties who gave you vases and jumpers that you could never learn to love, but loving the aunties has given their gifts squatters’ rights in your life.  I suppose those things spark a sort of second hand joy – you smile at the ornament you’d never have bought because it ties you to the love behind the gift. 

It’s the same with some friendships.  Unlikely people enjoying each other’s company because of a bigger thing that has brought them together.  Being together and enjoying each other’s company is what make communities tick – whether it’s a smile shared or a chat in the street.  If you find yourself too busy for those sorts of things, then it really is time for a decluttering.  Making space for the people you meet day to day is always worth doing.

Jan Lees

February 2019

This month’s letter is from Linda Joy.

Hello, my name is Linda and I am the new Children and Families Worker for the Holyford Mission Community. Thank you for the wonderful warm welcome I have received from many of you and I look forward to getting to know more people right across the community in 2019.

I started the role in September 2018 and have been busy working alongside the Noah’s Ark team and Messy Church team as well as popping up at the Breakfast Services at St Andrew’s.  I have also enjoyed exploring faith with the children of Branscombe School at weekly outdoors lunch club and visiting pre-schools and school assemblies.

I moved to Seaton last July, from a little Northamptonshire village where I had lived for 34 years.  There I was an Early Years Teacher, leading a pre-school and very involved over the years in the churches with children and their families.

It has been a privilege and a delight to have been welcomed into my new chapter of life in Devon by someone as warm and supportive as Hilary Dawson and I can see how much she is loved and will be missed by so many. 

In the packed church at her Leaving Service, Hilary said:  “There will always be things we have to lay down in order to receive the new things God wants to give us. May this Mission Community, and its many communities, always be places with the wisdom to value the treasures of the past, and yet the boldness to dream a new dream, do a new thing, and sing a new song.

Sometimes a new chapter is welcomed with excitement and we look forward to singing a ‘new song’ in our lives.  At other times we feel like we have had a new chapter thrust upon us – such as bereavement, divorce, redundancy, children going to school or university, health issues, and we can feel overwhelmed by trying to accept this new chapter and to ‘sing a new song’. 

But God says “Behold, I make all things new” (Revelation 21 v5) and he promises to “Take hold of your hand and keep you” (Isaiah 42 v 6).  I have found these promises to be abundantly true, in my major life changes and move to Devon. 

I had to smile as I read further in Isaiah 42 v 10: “Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise from the ends of the earth, you who go down to the sea.”  Isn’t that all of us who are blessed to live in such a wonderful part of the world, here in Devon by the sea? As we head further into 2019, we can depend on God’s promises and we can depend on one another in our communities as we make that journey together.

I thank you for the wonderful welcome I have received and I very much look forward to getting to know you all more.