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October 2016

From the Vicarage – Revd Hilary Dawson 01297 553180 

Poetry Please!

say-it-with-a-poemWritten in the world

I left you a message in the apple tree
‘Blossom’ it said.
I meant you to be strong and happy
I meant you to grow and shine
I know you will be beautiful –
you are so loved, how could you not?

I left you a message
in the rivers, in the tides
about comings and goings
the way things keep on being new.

The sky is full of scribbled notes
birdsong and blue,
stormcloud, hailstone, blizzard.
Stuff changes
but bad things are not forever.
The same is true
of all the weather in your heart.

And don’t forget the message in the snail –
the unexpected elegance of shells,
trails of silver underneath your feet
that let you know
the things which eat
your precious garden shoots
are more than pests,
and have a secret loveliness
that’s all their own.

Jan Dean

We’re right in the middle of our celebrations of Harvest, giving thanks for ‘all good gifts around us’.  Traditionally and rightly we focus on gifts of food and water, fruit and veg, the harvest of the land and the sea.  We thank God for all the things which make our lives so rich, and we long for and pray for a more equitable sharing of the earth’s resources.

Harvest time also reminds us of the other ‘good gifts’ which make our lives richer and more enjoyable.  Love and friendship, sports and hobbies, rest and relaxation, fun and fresh air, music and words.  Poems, for example, make us laugh and weep, challenge, delight and disturb us.  Often we can remember and recite poems we learnt years ago at school and, increasingly, poetry is at the heart of our day to day lives.  One of the pleasures of travelling in London is the poems that often appear in tube train carriages.  This year marks the 30th anniversary of Poems on the Underground, a project which has inspired and delighted thousands of travellers, who have found that poetry makes their journey just that little bit more bearable.

On October 6th the gift of poetry will be celebrated all across the country.  The theme of this year’s poetry day is Messages, celebrating all the ways that poems communicate with us.  National Poetry Day is encouraging us all to ‘say it with a poem’ and there will be poems in St Andrew’s, St Michael’s and all of the churches in the Holyford Community for people to take away.  If you have a favourite poem you’d like to share, feel free to take a poem and leave a poem for someone else to find.

Oh, you shouldn’t have!

I bought you a cauliflower .
I thought a rose
was too much the same shade of red
as your nose.

I brought you a radish.
I thought a cake
was more than your waistline
was able to take.

I brought you a haddock
I thought you’d prefer
a fish to a flower
to show that I care.

I would have brought perfumed silk sheets
for your bed…
but I didn’t,
so here is a bullfrog instead.

Jan Dean

From Jan Dean (Lees!) (National Poetry Day Ambassador) and Hilary Dawson


September 2016

This month’s letter comes from our Associate Priest, Revd John Lees.

Fall of the Leaf

It seems rather odd writing about the autumn while it’s still high summer – but magazine deadlines prompt this kind of time travelling!

There is something inspiring about this golden time of year. Until the 14th century we called this season ‘Harvest’. North Americans call it ‘Fall’, drawing on the 1540s phrase ‘Fall of the leaf’.

I’ve always found September a refreshing time; perhaps because I was born this month, perhaps because it was a time for packing my school bag with apprehension about new teachers and subjects, perhaps a new school. We have nearly two decades being educated, so it’s no surprise that we develop an internal clock that resets itself at the end of every summer holiday.

It might seem odd that we think of new beginnings at a time of year when leaves turn gold as the first signs of winter. The year is turning, and it’s a time for change.

In his book Holidays and Holy Nights the writer Christopher Hill writes about the way the Christian year begins in Advent as the natural year ends, containing a great promise: “it teaches us to watch for the signs of a beginning when, to all appearances, the world seems the least promising … we watch the fall of the reign of summer, a great triumph moves deep into a darkness full of danger, promise, and mystery. We pass through a wild night of apparitions into a quiet that grows deeper until it is infused with the lights of candles and stars. Time narrows down until it comes to its turning point, as all creation holds its breath in the silent night and waits for the entry of something new and unimaginable.”

Celebrating new life just as the world is in the grip of cold and darkness offers great hope. This lies at the heart of what Christians believe. New life comes in the midst of winter. At Easter, light bursts out from the blackness of the tomb – secure, grounded hope at a time when the world seemed to have ended. This is the gift God provides. Hope arises in the darkest moments. In these seemingly chaotic times this message matters more than ever. Revd John Lees, Associate Priest

Celebrating with Canon Colin Preece

On Sunday 18th September Canon Colin Preece will be presiding at the 9.30 service of Holy Communion at St Andrew’s.  During this service we will be celebrating the 40th anniversary of Colin’s ordination.  We are delighted that Colin and Jane have chosen to retire to Colyton and are thankful for all that they bring to our community.  We look forward to being part of this special day.

First Sundays at St Andrew’s

Everyone of all ages is welcome at every service in our Mission Community.  In addition, from Sunday September 4th, there will be dedicated activities for children at the service of Holy Communion at 9.30 on the first Sunday in the month.  Do come along and join in – we look forward to welcoming you!


August 2016

Hilary writes:-

‘Building bridges not barriers’

Before I was ordained I was a primary school teacher for many years and loved it. One activity the children used to enjoy immensely was something we did as part of the technology curriculum.  I would ask them to work in a group to build a bridge out of the junk materials they had to hand.  The finished article couldn’t just look like a bridge – it had to act like a bridge.  In other words, it needed to be able to bear the weight of a model car or even a person walking across it.   Watching the children at work was an illuminating experience.  They soon worked out that building bridges together requires good listening, generosity, give and take and collaboration.

Post-referendum we find ourselves living in very uncertain and fast-changing times.  Regardless of our own personal views and voting decisions we are all having to get used to a very different political landscape.  Some people feel their concerns and views have not been properly heard.  Others feel vulnerable, threatened and discriminated against. The risk in uncertain times is that we retreat into our ‘own’ corners rather than reaching out to friends and neighbours, near and far.  A few days after the referendum, the archbishops of Canterbury and York issued a joint statement.  I found it immensely helpful and hopeful and share part of it now:

As citizens of the United Kingdom, whatever our views during the referendum campaign, we must now unite in a common task to build a generous and forward looking country, contributing to human flourishing around the world. We must remain hospitable and compassionate, builders of bridges and not barriers. Many of those living among us and alongside us as neighbours, friends and work colleagues come from overseas and some will feel a deep sense of insecurity. We must respond by offering reassurance, by cherishing our wonderfully diverse society, and by affirming the unique contribution of each and every one. We must act with humility and courage – being true to the principles that make the very best of our nation. Unity, hope and generosity will enable us to overcome the period of transition that will now happen, and to emerge confident and successful. The opportunities and challenges that face us as a nation and as global citizens are too significant for us to settle for less.

My bridge-building groups of children show us what is needed to build bridges and not barriers: good listening, generosity, give and take and collaboration.  Over the months and years to come let’s build as many bridges as we can, locally, nationally and internationally.  Bridges that are strong.  Bridges that bear weight. Bridges that last.


01297 553180


July 2016

Hilary writes –

This month I am delighted that our letter comes from Revd. John Lees, associate priest in the Holyford Mission Community.  In addition to his work in careers and coaching, and serving in the parishes of our Mission Community, John now has a new role.  As we congratulate John, please do come and support him at his licensing service in Colyton on Monday July 4th at 7.30pm. 

 Juggling roles, building bridges

 In early July Bishop Nick McKinnel, Bishop of Plymouth, will be performing an unusual service here in Colyton. He’ll be licensing me to the newly-created role of Bishop’s Officer for Self-Supporting Ministry.

This bit of church jargon needs some unpacking. This role is essentially about helping with the training and development of the many unpaid, volunteer clergy found in the Church of England. Volunteer clergy are not new – they’ve been a feature of church life since the 1950s, and with increasing financial pressures they’re going to be an increasingly important feature of church and community life.

I’m a self-supporting minister – a priest, yes, but not a vicar. My role is best described as ‘Ministry in Secular Employment’ – this means that the focus of my ministry is not just in Holyford Mission Community but in the wider world of work. My work is coaching and writing books about work and careers. You can find ordained ministers also working in many other jobs, for example in local government, IT consultancy, farming, teaching, the health sector…..

Ministers in these roles can provide a useful bridge between church and the word we live in, but blurred boundaries are a feature of many working lives. In East Devon many people have varied and mixed work commitments, often seasonal or project based. Some people hold down more than one job – particularly as the tourist season takes off.

Job-juggling isn’t just a feature of modern life – in the past many workers in rural communities had several sources of income. The idea of a single, nine to five job that fills life between our 20s and our 60s is a relatively recent development. In today’s world people frequently mix different kinds of work – blending paid and voluntary work, employment and home-making. Most charities and many of our treasured places and services survive because of the volunteers who support them.

The service this July will I hope make connections between different areas of life, but will also remind us to celebrate the many talented people in this community and the flexible, creative way we all work.

Revd John Lees, Associate Priest





June 2016

Hilary writes:

MU anniversaryThis year marks a very special anniversary – 140 years of the Mothers’ Union.  This remarkable organisation was founded in 1876 by Mary Sumner, a mother of three daughters, who understood the joys, demands and challenges of family life.

Over the years it has changed and developed but has never wavered in its commitment to pray, to live out the love of God, and to support individuals, families, whole communities and people of all faiths and none.  One of its earliest branches was set up in Exeter and by 1900 the Mothers’ Union had 170,000 members across the world.  Today, it is active in 83 countries and has over 4 million members.

People are often surprised at the range of work undertaken by the MU.  Here is just a flavour:  in Devon, the MU knits clothing for premature babies; in Leicester it supplies nappies and clothing for refugee families; in Carlisle it runs the children’s play area in Haverigg prison. In Baghdad, its members help to run a nursery school and health clinic; in Botswana members campaign against domestic violence and human trafficking; in Spain, MU members have a particular ministry supporting the bereaved.  In addition to all of this, wherever there are MU branches, there is a much valued opportunity for social events, mutual support and the sharing of interests and skills.   At the heart of everything the Mothers’ Union does is a vibrant life of prayer and worship which sustains the work of its members and enfolds those with whom it works.

Our Mission Community has a Mothers’ Union branch in Colyton which is always pleased to welcome new members.  Please do contact Christine Sansom (552065) if you would like further information.

On Sunday 3rd July at the 9.30 service of Holy Communion at St Andrew’s Colyton there will be an opportunity to celebrate the 140 anniversary of the Mothers’ Union, and to pray for its work here and across the world.  Do come and join us if you can, and do pray for the Mothers’ Union in this very special year.

The Mary Sumner prayer:

All this day, O Lord, let me touch as many lives as possible for thee; and every life I touch, do thou by thy spirit quicken, whether through the word I speak, the prayer I breathe, or the life I live. Amen.

May 2016

reader-logo editHilary writes:

On Ascension Day in 1866 the order of Readers was re-inaugurated, and so this year we celebrate 150 years of Reader ministry.  We are blessed to have a group of Readers working in the Holyford Mission Community as part of our ministry team.  On Sunday 29th May at 6.30pm we will be having a special service at Southleigh Church to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Reader ministry.  Please do come along to help us celebrate, and to thank God for all that our Readers contribute to the life of our churches and communities in so many different ways.  Jan Lees, one of our Readers, explains a little more about Reader ministry:

I’m a Reader in the Church of England – so what do I actually do?  Some people assume it simply means I occasionally read from the Bible in services, that being a Reader is just a matter of being invited to join a rota.  It isn’t.  Reader Ministry is a calling which includes preaching, teaching, evangelism, pastoral work and planning and leading worship.  Very few Readers do all of those things in equal measure, but all of us would recognise those elements in our ministry.

Traditionally Readers are described as ‘bridges’ between clergy and congregation – I’m not very comfortable with that idea, it suggests that clergy and congregation belong in two different worlds and that doesn’t reflect my experience.  Though being voluntary ministers and in the pews on a regular basis does add a dimension to our preaching and leading of worship – a heightened sense of solidarity, perhaps?

Readers are trained in theology and licensed by the bishop, but we’re not ordained like deacons or priests.  In practical terms this means Readers can’t consecrate bread or wine, but we are often closely involved in the Communion service.  Exactly how we are used in services varies according to local custom.  In some parishes we distribute bread or wine, and taking communion to the housebound is a very Reader-y thing to do. Readers often take funerals – very important in busy town centre parishes, where if it wasn’t for Readers a priest might find themselves doing very little else.

Sadly, we don’t officiate at baptisms (think of all that baby cuddling we miss out on) and we don’t declare God’s blessing – we simply ask for it, in the absolute confidence that our loving God will not refuse it!

Jan Lees (Reader in the Holyford Mission Community)


April 2016

Mensa Christi beach resized

The beach at Mensa Christi, Sea of Galilee


From Revd Anne Futcher:

Daffodils in early January…snow in March…. 2016 has begun with the unexpected – with wonder, contrast and contradiction.

Wonder, contrast and contradiction sum up the start of the year for me in a different way. For late January didn’t find me admiring the spring flowers of East Devon, but rather those of the Holy Land.  With 22 fellow curates and 2 bishops from Exeter Diocese, I was there on pilgrimage.

Starting in Jerusalem we visited places holy to Christianity, Judaism and Islam.  We marvelled at the mosques on Temple Mount and joined Jewish worshippers on Sabbath Eve at the Western Wall.  We followed in Jesus’s steps to the Mount of Olives where he spent time with his disciples; to the pool at Bethesda where he healed a paralysed man; to the Garden of Gethsemane where he watched and prayed before his death; and we traced his final steps along the Via Dolorosa to the site of his crucifixion.

We journeyed on to nearby Bethany, home of Jesus’s friend Lazarus; to Jesus’s birthplace at Bethlehem; to his childhood home of Nazareth; and onto the banks of the River Jordan where he was baptised; and where we renewed our own baptismal vows.

Our pilgrimage ended in Galilee, home of Jesus’s lakeside ministry.  We swam in the cold water, went up the Mount of Beatitudes where Jesus preached, and finally walked on Mensa Christi beach where the resurrected Jesus cooked supper for his disciples.

Wonder indeed.  Biblical stories and place names took on new and special meaning.  And there were moments for me of deep encounter with God.  Not among the ornate shrines, but at unexpected moments outside – on hillsides, by water and most of all among weathered rocks and stones.

And there were moments, too, of sadness.  As Jesus grieved over the divided city of Jerusalem, so, more that 2,000 years later, did we.  The West Bank Wall now divides both Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

Contrast and contradiction were all around: seen in the bustle of market stalls along the Via Dolorosa; in the Israeli female soldier at prayer, sporting designer bag and gun on either shoulder; in the walls that protect but also separate and exclude; in all those who spoke to us of living in fear and yearning for peace, for shalom.

We journeyed from places of darkness to light: from the darkness of Jesus’s crucifixion site and the Holocaust Memorial to the light of places associated with the resurrected Jesus; a home and school dedicated to restoring children’s hope and dignity; and a reconciliation centre with its blunt message: ‘don’t curse the darkness, light a candle’.

So this Easter season, among the remaining spring flowers, my prayer is one for light and hope and peace, in the Holy Land and among peoples of difference the world over. Shalom

Annual Church Meeting

This year’s annual meeting takes place at St Andrew’s on Tuesday April 26th at 7.30 pm.  Do come along and hear about what has been happening in the parish and at St Michael’s and St Andrew’s over the past year, and what is being planned for the year ahead.  Coffee will be served from 7pm.


Letter from Hilary


On April 25th 1962 the poet Sylvia Plath wrote to her mother that daffodils were in full bloom in her Devon garden. On December 25th, Christmas Day, last year many of us saw daffodils in bloom in our Devon gardens. They continued in increasing number into January and now, as I write in February, are being battered by storm Imogen.

Particularly precious amongst daffodils is the small, pale variety native to this country. It was once very common but began to decline in Victorian times and blooms less abundantly now. Sometimes called the Lent lily because its flowering season usually falls between Ash Wednesday and Easter Day, this tough, fragile, precious little flower seems to stand for hope and the promise of a new beginning.

The Bible sets the origins of our story in a garden. The new beginning of our story that we celebrate on Easter Day is also set in a garden. Mary rushes to the tomb and discovers the stone has been rolled away and the tomb is empty. In her confusion she stands weeping in the entrance and wonders what has happened to the body of Jesus. When she turns she sees a man whom she takes to be the gardener. It is only when he says her name that she realises that it’s Jesus. There are no words that can adequately describe the healing, renewing power of that moment.

Daffodils and spring flowers of all types have taken quite a battering this year and have had to endure a good deal. As we emerge from the winter aware perhaps of our own troubles, or the troubles endured by many across the world, the flowers we traditionally associate with the early spring and the Easter season remind us of the extraordinary and life-giving promise of the resurrection story. Whatever our hopes, dreams and beliefs, we welcome the spring together. Our hearts are lifted by the sight of snowdrops, primroses and anemones and the new life they represent. Happy Easter!