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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


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.

January 2019

from Rev Anne Futcher

January 6th, known as Twelfth Night, is the official end of Christmas.  Time to recycle the tree, take down the cards and the Christmas decorations.  Let’s pause, though, before we pack away the crib, with its figures of the three wise men.  For this is their time.   In the Church calendar, January 6th marks the Epiphany; the festival of those mysterious strangers who, gliding across the desert on camels, follow the star all the way to Bethlehem. 

Back in November, I visited Abu Dhabi for a few days. One afternoon, I was lucky enough to be taken to a rather plush hotel to taste their ‘camelccino’ – camel milk cappuccino!  I could choose my topping: an outline of a camel either in chocolate or in gold leaf. Gold, I was told, was actually very good for me. But I played safe and opted for the chocolate.

It set me thinking about the gifts brought to the baby Jesus by the wise men; the gold, frankincense and myrrh.  Traditionally, these are thought to be the tributes of three great kings to one who is even greater: gold, a pure and precious metal, to symbolise his majesty; frankincense, burnt in temples to deities, his divinity; myrrh, used for embalming, his death.

Another interpretation considers how in ancient times gold was placed on open wounds to aid healing; frankincense to inhibit inflammation; myrrh to help digestion.  It suggests that the wise men might have been presenting the Holy Family not with tributes, but with gifts of healing. 

Others have understood both the visitors and their gifts rather differently. They believe the men were magicians who dealt in alchemy – changing base substances into gold. Canon Angela Tilby, for example, suggests that their surrender of the gifts meant the admission of fraud; the giving up of powers based on deception or magic.* She sees it as a sign that the birth of Jesus was ushering in a new order, one in which the powers of sorcery and enchantment have no value. 

Today enchantments of different kinds surround us still: the enticement of wealth; the power of charisma; the cheapening of life. Perhaps, as Angela Tilby suggests, the laying down of gold might signify our refusal to be driven by the love, or fear, or worship of money?  Perhaps the laying down of frankincense could mean our refusal to be swayed by the cult of charisma, or the culture ofcelebrity?  Perhaps the offering of myrrh could represent our refusal to be complicit with those institutions and practices that fail to honour and value human life?  Such an understanding could herald in a year inwhich we reflect more deeply on how we act as consumers and as citizens. 

However we might interpret the offering of those gifts to the baby Jesus, overall they signify a greater sense of wellbeing – spiritually, physically, ethically.  That’s a pretty good way to start the NewYear.  Happy Epiphany! 

* BBC Radio 4 Thought for the Day – 06/01/2015

December 2018

Last year the radio station Classic FM conducted a poll to discover the nation’s favourite Christmas Carol.  Many of the well-known and well-loved carols feature in the top thirty:  Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Silent Night, Once in Royal David’s City, O Little Town of Bethlehem and more.  Most of us love to sing carols.  They are often joyful, yet also have the power to touch us deeply.   My personal favourite comes in at number fifteen: It came upon a Midnight Clear.  This is the first verse:

It came upon a midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of gold:
‘Peace on the earth, good will to men,
From heaven’s all-gracious King.’
The world in solemn stillness lay,
To hear the angels sing.

It is unusual because it doesn’t actually mention the birth of Jesus.  Instead it concentrates on the message of peace sung by the angels.  First published in 1849, it was written by Edmund Sears in Massachusetts at a time when America was gripped by social unrest as Civil War loomed.  That tension is reflected in a later verse in the carol:

Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world hath suffered long;
Beneath the angel-strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And warring humankind hears not
The love song which they bring:
O hush the noise of mortal strife,
And hear the angels sing.

The poet longs for humanity to hush its noise for long enough to hear the love song of the angels and to kneel before the infant Jesus who brings the promise of love, joy and hope into the world.  The carol ends by expressing his longing for that day when:

Peace shall over all the earth,
Its ancient splendours fling,
And all the world give back the song,
Which now the angels sing. 

There will be many opportunities to sing carols this Christmas.  Please do come and celebrate the birth of Jesus with great joy and thanksgiving.  And let’s take time together as well, to hush our noise, pray for peace, and listen for the love song of the angels.   Hilary

November 2018

Remembering matters

What is the difference between remembrance and remembering? In dictionary terms, very little, but the term ‘remembrance’ is often used in connection with special moments in time. We remember a wide range of things in passing, randomly, but remembrance is about setting time aside to think deeply about the past.

The first two-minute silence of remembrance in Britain was held on 11 November 1919, when King George V asked the public to observe silence at 11am, exactly one year after the end of World War One. He made the request so “the thoughts of everyone may be concentrated on reverent remembrance of the glorious dead”. This reminds us that remembrance is a shared activity – something we do as a community.

During the 1970s many people predicted that Remembrance Day would soon be forgotten. In fact, since the Falklands conflict and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Remembrance Sunday seems as relevant today as it was in 1919. It is a day which marks more than the end of one terrible war, in 1918, where industrialised killing achieved horrors never previously imagined. On this day we fall still – to remember the cost of war, and the burdens carried by those who fight in our behalf. Many of those leaving our armed forces become homeless; some suffer lasting mental health problems.

Remembrance isn’t just about recollecting things we know – it’s about learning. We might find out about long forgotten wars – for example those who served in less well known conflicts in 1940s Israel, 1950s Korea, 1960s Malaya, or 1990s Bosnia. We might take the time to find out about those wars happening across our world today, often unnoticed by the media. We might say a quiet prayer for all those in harm’s way somewhere in the world, and those who wait for them.

If remembrance means learning, we might look at the bigger picture of the 20th Century, where around 200 million people died, directly or indirectly, as a result of war, and millions more were displaced or exiled.

This year naturally we focus on the 1918 Armistice. Some communities across the UK will be thinking this month not just about those named on war memorials, but those who returned and tried to pick up the pieces of their lives. We remember, too, families who have endured wars at home, waiting for an awful telegram.

Remembrance is an action, a choice. It might mean hearing new stories. For example, finding out more about the largely forgotten contributions of African and Caribbean servicemen to the First World War, where over 2 million Africans and 16,000 Caribbean citizens were active participants. We might find out more about the wide ranging roles undertaken by women in war.

Remembrance also means trying to understand; to fathom what causes wars and what avoids them. To understand the full range of experiences of those who go to war, oppose war, or whose lives are consumed by war.

And finally, through understanding, we seek wisdom. One thing all faiths have in common is hope for peace – generosity before guns, tolerance before trumpets. Peace, we know from experience, is precious and needs to be cherished and protected.

Christians know that peace is God’s hope for the world, and that it begins with a simple action – treating others as we hope to be treated ourselves. As we fall still this November we call to mind a powerful truth: peace begins among us.

Revd John Lees, Associate Priest

October 2018

Children and Families in the Holyford Mission Community

For the past six years we have had a dedicated Children and Families worker in our community of five churches.  For the past four of those it has been Kathryn Radley.  Kathryn, alongside an extensive team of volunteers, has done an amazing job.  She has built up Noah’s Ark, our thriving group for families and very young children.  She has led Messy Church with great creativity and flair. And she has run a lunchtime club at Branscombe School which has been hugely valued by the children and school community.  Kathryn has now moved on, but she goes with our love and thanks, and we will continue to see her around from time to time.

Over the summer months we have appointed a new Children and Families worker and I am delighted to introduce to you Linda Joy. Linda comes to us with great experience of working with children and is going to introduce herself in her own words:

Hello, my name is Linda Joy and I have recently moved to Devon from Northamptonshire.  I am an Early Years Teacher and Forest School Leader, and I have a passion for work with children and their families. As well as running a pre-school, over the years I have been involved in Sunday Schools, Messy Church, Café Church and Sporty Church.  Since arriving in Devon, I have joined the Holyford Community Mission working as Children & Families worker.  I am delighted to say that I will be working together with the excellent teams at Noah’s Ark and Messy Church and will continue to run a lunch time club at Branscombe School, where I hope to explore the Christian faith through Forest School sessions with the children. I hope to be popping up at the various locations in the Mission Community soon and I look forward to getting to know everyone and to having lots of fun times together.

We are delighted to have Linda with us.  She will be popping in to each of our churches over the next few weeks to talk to our congregations and our Autumn term programme is now up and running.  Please see below for dates for Noah’s Ark and Messy Church and we hope to see you soon.

Noah’s Ark : Thursday at Colyford Memorial Hall, 1.15-2.45

Oct 4th, 18th; Nov 1st, 15th, 29th; Dec 13th.

Messy Church : 4-6pm at Reece Strawbridge Centre Colyton

Sundays October 14th and November 11th

September 2018

During my recent sabbatical leave I had the opportunity to spend time in different church contexts and was hugely grateful for the hospitality I received and all that I was able to learn.  Likewise, it is a privilege to welcome colleagues to our churches here.  For a few weeks this summer we have been joined by Revd Katharine Hawksley from Chard.  It has been lovely to get to know her and learn from her and we wish her well for the future.  Hilary

Katharine writes:

I’ve been on placement in the Holyford Mission Community for six weeks. I’m just starting my third year of curacy in Chard and I do a placement as part of my training. During my time with you, I’ve had the opportunity to come to community groups such as Noah’s Ark, the pre-school group in Colyford, Southleigh Fayre and the Community Café in Colyton – this does make it sound as though I’ve spent six weeks drinking coffee! Joking aside, it has been a blessing to meet so many people and to hear their stories. Groups like these are so important to the communities in which we live. They provide outreach and support for many people and are cherished and appreciated.

I’ve also spent time with the congregations in the Mission Community too. It’s been a delight to take part in your worship and to learn about each of the churches. They are all very different and have their own unique personality.

The one thing I have gleaned from my time with you is that the Mission Community really is a community. It has been wonderful to see communities which work on their own, but also with the communities around them. The people who live around us are so important. It can be easy to feel isolated but working together strengthens who we are. It is encouraging to see parishes working well together and communities which care for one another.

The early Christians were a community. They weren’t simply a group who came together on a Sunday. They often lived together, ate together and provided outreach for those in need. Society was community focussed; people took care of one another and family was important. They didn’t have as much as we do and lived in a patriarchal society and so they depended on one another for survival. The society we live in today is very different. It is one that focusses on the individual and on their dreams and aspirations. That is no bad thing and it encourages people to grow and develop, however it can feel that something has been lost along the way. That is why the Mission Community is so important. It’s a group of people coming alongside to support one another.

Finally, I’d like to say thank you to each and everyone of you for your welcome and your time. It’s truly been a pleasure to be with you for these six weeks. I wish you every blessing for the future.


August 2018

The Sound of Silence

Every ten years or so, clergy in the Church of England are encouraged to take three months away from their usual duties and to use the space in ways that will help them, and hopefully those whom they serve. Between April and the beginning of July this year I was on sabbatical study leave.  Over the twelve weeks I spent my time resting, praying, reading, studying, working alongside colleagues in different church settings and travelling. And I’ve also managed to complete another quilt! I am very conscious of the blessing this time has been, and I am so grateful to the ministry team, church wardens and PCCs for giving me the space to do this.

An article in the newspaper last week highlighted the level of noise all around us, and the way in which prolonged or high volumes of noise can affect our physical and mental health.  Even in this relatively quiet area it is hard to escape traffic noise, and many of us are ‘plugged in’ to music, conversation and communication all the time.  Conversely, we know that the sound of TV, radio and music can be a great source of solace and company to many.

However, for large numbers of people silence is very rare indeed and can seem daunting.  At the beginning of my sabbatical I went to North Wales, to St Beunos retreat centre.  There I spent a full week in silence, broken only by a twenty-minute daily conversation with my retreat guide.  I discovered that silence is not just the absence of noise.  Some sounds grew clearer in the ‘silence’ – the sound of my heartbeat and footsteps, the movement of the trees, birdsong, the everyday sounds that are so often drowned out by the noise I impose.  Silence removed all my usual distractions – for example, on my retreat reading was discouraged, as of course were TV, internet etc. A challenging consequence of this was that I had to face things about myself that I would probably rather avoid!  But it also sharpened my other senses, heightening my awareness of the world around me, and the many blessings of life. Most of all, as the silence did its work, it brought with it a greater sense of peace and calm.

Churches are wonderful places to enjoy stillness.  Over the summer three of our churches will be offering ‘Breathing Space’, an opportunity to come and experience half an hour of silence.  Everyone is very welcome!   Hilary

July 2018

This month’s letter comes from Reader Jan Lees.

The Book of The World

In Shakespeare’s As You Like It, Duke Senior says that he ‘finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything.’  It’s a reference to the idea of ‘The Book of the World’ – the belief that God speaks to us through Creation.  And I think that’s true – though if you take it too literally God will sometimes seem to be saying some very strange things…  For example, I don’t think the mating habits of the Black Widow spider should be taken as a pattern for family life.

But the beauty we see around us living in such a place as this and the friendship and support we can find in our communities certainly can be seen as a natural expression of God’s good will, of his desire for our well-being and his whole-hearted commitment to joy in our lives.

The Book of the World is a very useful idea if it helps you find joy – if it helps you identify what makes you feel at peace with yourself and others because those things are everyday blessings.  A cup of tea, a hot shower, the scent and colour of a flower, a view to the sea – all these things that make us feel happy and more open to the world are everyday blessings and we need to make the most of them.

Before I moved here I relished the idea of being able to swim in the sea -conditions permitting – and if I couldn’t swim, then at least I’d see the sea every day.  Now I’m here, I don’t make enough effort to visit the shore.  I’ve not ‘got used to the sea’, but I am in danger of taking my chance to visit it for granted.  I need to sort that out.

The world is full of such wonderful things and such interesting people it’s a shame not to enjoy their company.  We can get so involved in chores and jobs that we forget to savour life.  So, as the summer blossoms round you, don’t forget to be part of it.  Remember, no-one has ever lain on their deathbed and said ‘I wish I’d done more dusting.’

Jan Lees (Reader in Holyford Mission Community)

P.S.     St Andrew’s is at the start of hosting an ongoing art/craft project looking at the world of colour in the cycle of the church year.  Its next few sessions will focus on the idea of ‘The Book of the World’ and the colour green.  If you’re interested in joining us, or want to know more, get in touch.  (01297 551351)