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June 2017

You and Me

Engaging with the big questions of life and faith is one of the most rewarding parts of what I do.  I love conversations with people of all ages. When I was working in my previous group of parishes I remember showing a group of our very youngest school children around the church.  As we stood looking at the church tower, I asked them if they knew why church bells are rung on Sundays and before services.  One of them replied, quick as a flash: to tell us that God is at home.

A brilliant answer to a question, which led to more questions and a debate about where God is, and whether God is only to be found in church buildings.  We quickly decided that, whilst we hope we will encounter God in our church buildings and church services, God is to be found at all times and in all places.  Perhaps one of the best places to find God is in the time we spend with one another, friends, families and neighbours and in the conversations we share.

As we head into the summer months there are so many opportunities to meet up, spend time together and enjoy one another’s company in our Mission Community of churches.  We are looking forward to the God at Work exhibition in St Andrew’s Colyton, the Songs of Praise services on the beach at Branscombe, the open day at St Winifred’s church, the cream tea in Musbury and many other events and services, including those in Colyford and Southleigh.

One of my favourite poems is called Between, by Richard Skinner a local Devon poet.  In the poem, he describes a God who is not static but dynamic, present in our actions and reactions, in the words we say and in the time we spend together.  This is how it begins:

God is in the ‘and’ of you and me.

Not you, not me; but you and me. *

I hope this summer will be a very special time, enjoying one another’s company, and glimpsing God’s love and goodness in the spaces, activities and conversations we share together.


*Between’ published in ‘Leaping and Staggering’, Dilettante Publications. 2nd Ed. 1996.

May 2017

This month’s letter comes from Revd. Hilary Dawson and Revd. John Lees

New from May 2017 – The Breakfast Service

If you fancy the idea of a late breakfast, a chance to gather with friends, and informal worship, you might be excited to hear about something new happening at St Andrews.

We are blessed in our Mission Community because we serve people from all backgrounds and age groups. We already do a great deal with children and young families, for example Messy Church, expertly managed by our children’s worker Kathryn Radley. At Harvest, Christmas and Easter families join us in large numbers. We want to welcome into church more often.

A small focus group gathered earlier this year to think about possibilities. The group helped us understand how some people find it daunting to come into church, and what they hear inside can feel like ‘insider’ language. We talked also about what feels relevant and encouraging to busy families. So it’s no surprise that the first suggestion made was that we should begin with breakfast.

Food and hospitality have always been close to the heart of faith and community. One of the best stories in John’s gospel is where Jesus, returned from the dead, stands on a beach and watches his friends out fishing in their boats. He calls to them. He says ‘come and eat breakfast’. Jesus is restored to life, and what does he do? He cooks a meal for his friends.

So, each third Sunday of the month in Colyton we will gather for The Breakfast Service. We start at 10.00 with breakfast (bacon rolls, with a vegetarian alternative), followed by a short (less than 40 minutes) act of worship at 10.30 – with music, story-telling, and material we hope every age will find stimulating.

Recently we heard both Bishop Robert and Bishop Sarah describe churches in other parts of Devon who are using creative formats to attract newcomers, and we are delighted to follow their encouragement.

Every service is of course open to people of every generation, but all age worship means that the language, music, activities, stories and talks communicate something to every age group from school children to adults. In keeping things short and snappy we are particularly mindful of the needs of families with youngsters, but we plan to ensure that everyone is fed, in all senses of the word.

The warmest welcome considers the needs of guests, so we want to offer hospitality, companionship, interesting words and music, a chance for as many people to participate as possible, and, yes, breakfast too.

This new service will complement the wide range of worship offered throughout our Mission Community. Our five churches provide a full range of choices from lively traditional to creatively modern. The new Breakfast Service adds to this rich and much-valued mix. It’s sometimes said that the Church of England is one of the few organisations which serves non-members. That’s important. We serve all of our community, and we want to continue to find ways of making you all welcome.

So, do join us in St Andrew’s, Colyton at 10.00 on Sunday 21 May, and every third Sunday of the month – come and have breakfast.

If you fancy helping, we need the whole A to Z-: baristas, baby bouncers, bread roll slicers, collection takers, croissant wranglers, doorkeepers, ketchup monitors, organisers, publicists, pamphleteers, puppeteers, singers, storytellers, tea pourers, waiters, warm-up comics, washer-uppers, and welcomers. And probably several other jobs we haven’t thought of yet – just get in touch.

But if you’d rather just turn up, that would be good too.

Hilary and John

April 2017

Our letter this month comes from Revd Anne Futcher

“An event, seen from one point of view gives one impression.  Seen from another point of view it gives quite a different impression.  But it’s only when you get the whole picture, you can fully understand what’s going on.”

That’s the voiceover of a television commercial for a national newspaper, back in 1986.

It shows a series of three scenes.  In the first we see the figure of a young man.  His head is closely shaven.   He’s casually dressed.  He runs furiously round a street corner.  Clearly he’s running away.

In the second, the young man runs straight towards a smartly dressed older man whom he pushes roughly. Clearly he’s assaulting the second man.

As the final shot pans out to show the whole scene, we begin to understand what’s going on.  The younger man did push the older.  But he pushed him out of the path of some masonry that was about to fall on him from a nearby building.  The older man’s life was in danger, but not from the young man.  He turns out to be his rescuer, not his assailant, after all.

In the space of just three seconds, our perspective is changed completely. Everything looks different.

One of the familiar Easter stories tells of the risen and unrecognised Jesus walking along the road to Emmaus with two of his bereft followers.  As they walk together, Jesus listens to them speaking of recent events. You can almost hear their incredulity at what’s happened; their disappointment and sadness as all their former hopes lie in tatters.  The person they’d put their faith in as king and saviour has turned out to be just a nobody – who’s died a criminal’s death on a cross.

But then there’s the concluding frame.  Jesus starts talking to them about what really happened, about how his death has fulfilled the promises of scripture.  And as their eyes are opened, they recognise him.  The disciples begin to see the whole picture.  Their perspective is changed completely.  Everything looks different.

Christ is risen. There’s a new world.  There is hope after all.

And when we recognise Jesus among us today, when we recognise him in one another, our perspective is changed completely too.  Everything looks different.  We have a new perception of our world.   Death and destruction don’t have the last word.  Life and love do.

This is the Easter message.  It is very Good News indeed.  Happy Easter!

March 2017

Hilary writes:

There are lots of traditions associated with Lent, the span of time between Ash Wednesday and Easter Day. Probably the most famous is the practice of giving something up.  It might be something edible: chocolate, wine or cake.  It might be a regular activity: computer games or watching TV.  Or it might be giving something up to make a lifestyle change: smoking perhaps, or foregoing the car in favour of walking.  Giving something up has its roots in the centuries old Christian tradition of fasting, which created time and space for devotion to God, a greater awareness of others and a more disciplined life of prayer.

In recent years, the idea of giving something up has been replaced for some by the idea of taking something up.  Instead of attempting something which might end in disappointment or failure, the idea is to do something positive which makes a difference to us, our family, friends, the local community or the wider world, and which might last beyond Lent.  It could be volunteering, actively supporting a charity, or learning a new skill which will benefit others.

For many, Lent has become an opportunity for both.  A time to give something up which has become distracting or unhelpful in order to create some valuable time for reflection.  And a time to make a commitment to doing something which might be life-enhancing or even life-changing.

One of my favourite prayers asks that we would forget the God we don’t believe in, and find the God who believes in us.  So many of us build up a picture of God which might well be distorted or unhelpful.  We might imagine a God that is too small, or a God that is petty, judgmental or distant.  Perhaps the best thing we can do this Lent is to ‘give up’ the God we stopped believing in long ago, find some time for reflection, and ‘take up’ the God who has never stopped believing in us.

February 2017

This month’s letter comes from Revd John Lees, associate priest in the Holyford Mission Community

On the shoulders of others


Sometimes sporting champions are carried around a stadium on the shoulders of their team-mates. This way of raising people up and making them visible relates nicely to a phrase made famous by Isaac Newton in 1676: “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”. Newton was talking about the way discovery builds on earlier thinking, but it’s a good image for how we achieve things in life. If we see the world clearly, if we make new things happen, it’s because of other people.

Modern society likes to think of us all as individual achievers. You sit exams on your own, go to job interviews alone. We put career success down to individual ability. In reality, no one achieves any of these things on their own.

The Nigerian proverb “it takes a whole village to raise a child” exists in different forms across Africa – the Tanzanian equivalent is “One knee does not bring up a child”. It reflects a culture where bringing up a child is a shared effort, with responsibility shared not just amongst extended family but the wider community.

This a picture of how society has worked through most of our history. It’s only in recent generations that people have lived in a much more isolated way.

The proverb also reminds us how much we owe other people. Behind every person who succeeds you will find parents, godparents and the wider family, close friends, and many other people who shape us into who we are. We don’t always acknowledge the many people who have taught us, inspired us to new challenges, shared expertise, trusted us to grow in confidence.

Lent begins on 1 March this year. In Holyford Mission Community we run annual Lent programmes of learning and discussion, with each of the five churches we serve hosting one occasion. This year’s lent course takes the theme Inspirations. We will be joined by speakers from a wide range of backgrounds (public service, education, theological education, literature, and Christian leadership). Each speaker will be telling us about the people who have inspired them to become the people they are today. All are welcome. Please see separate post for details.





January 2017

Hilary writes: ‘Walking Backwards to Christmas’

No, this is not about the old Goons song – that was called ‘I’m walking backwards for Christmas’! Walking Backwards to Christmas is the title of a beautiful book by Stephen Cottrell, Bishop of Chelmsford.

In it, he tells the Christmas story backwards. Starting with Mary and Joseph taking the baby Jesus to be presented at the temple, he travels backwards with each chapter. Escape to Egypt, Wise Men, Shepherds, birth, journey to Bethlehem, the visit of the angel, the prophecies of old. Right the way back to God appearing to Moses at the burning bush. This unusual backwards story-telling helps Cottrell get to the heart of the story: God first makes his name, purpose and love known to Moses. And then he makes his name, purpose and love known to the whole world when Jesus is born, Emmanuel, God with us.

Here we are in January, ready to walk forwards from Christmas. Every year it’s the same. We tidy up the decorations, and get on with our lives, often without a backward glance. This January, as we look forward to what 2017 might bring for us, let’s not forget to look back as well as forward. We might have closed the book but the story hasn’t finished. The baby has been born. God is still with us, on the difficult days, ordinary day and joyful days. Wherever love is, there is God.

In one chapter in his book, Cottrell imagines Casper as one of the wise men who uses all his wisdom, experience and longing to find the baby. When he does so, the baby changes him for ever. And as he turns to leave Jesus and continue his journey he says:

I tell you now, as we turn our faces away from Bethlehem, it doesn’t feel like an ending. Something has begun here. Something that has to do with love.

We don’t know what 2017 has in store for us or our world – but looking back to Christmas reminds us that something has begun. And it has to do with love.

 What do Christians believe? We are hoping to run a short course on Wednesday evenings starting on January 18th for anyone who would like to discover more about the Christian faith. Please contact Hilary Dawson or Anne Futcher to find out more.

December 2016

Hilary writes: Journey to the Manger

Many years ago, after a year that had been particularly difficult and troubling, Henry van Dyke wrote a short story called The Other Wise Man.  He said later that he did not know where the story had come from – ’out of the air perhaps’.

The ‘other’ wise man in the story is Artaban, who set out to join the rather better known wise visitors on their pilgrimage to visit Jesus.  Before he left, he sold everything he had and bought a sapphire, ruby and pearl to take as gifts for the child.  He never did find his travelling companions because he stopped to tend to a refugee lying ill and exhausted in the road.  This first act of kindness ended with him giving away his sapphire so that his journey could continue.

When Artaban eventually reached Bethlehem, his companions had gone and Jesus and his parents had fled to safety.  Determined to continue his pilgrimage, his journey was delayed once again when he stopped to save a young baby from one of Herod’s soldiers.  The baby’s safety came in exchange for his ruby.

Years passed and he covered many miles, with only the pearl left in his pocket.  Just as he was losing hope of ever finding him he arrived in Jerusalem where Jesus was about to be crucified. Within moments of finally coming face to face with Jesus, he stopped, moved by the pleadings of a young girl about to be sold into slavery. He rescued her, giving away his pearl to seal her freedom.

As he handed over the last of his gifts, the world grew dark and the earth shook as Jesus died on the cross.  In the tremors, Artaban was struck by a falling roof tile.  As the old man lay dying, he cried out in anguish and regret that he had never seen Jesus nor given him his gifts. In the silence that followed he heard the voice of Jesus say:

I was a stranger and you welcomed me, sick and you cared for me, imprisoned and you visited me. 

Artaban whispered back: When did I welcome you, care for you and visit you? I have never seen your face. 

And Jesus replied: When you did it for the least of my sisters and brothers, you did it for me.

Artaban knew that his journey had ended.  He had found Jesus.  His treasures had been accepted.

There have been good and uplifting moments in 2016, but also some profoundly sad and difficult ones right across the world. As this year ends and a new one begins let’s gather together at the manger to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Let’s pray for the world. Let’s commit ourselves to working for an end to division and discrimination. And let’s fill the world with treasures of love, kindness and hope.   Hilary

Christmas Eve Nativity with Donkey!

This year we will be continuing the tradition of a Mission Community service on Christmas Eve at 4pm in St Andrew’s Colyton.  As usual, we will tell the story of Jesus’ birth, sing carols and everyone is very welcome to dress up (or not!) as angels, shepherds and wise men.  Do come and celebrate Jesus’ birth! Please see the downloadable leaflet on the welcome page for details of all Christmas services around the Mission Community.


November 2016

Dscf0510 poppies at St Andrew's editThis month’s letter comes from Revd Anne Futcher, Curate in the Holyford Mission Community.


‘O God, please help me to be brave., for the men’s sake, for my family’.  So prayed Gerald Lewes at 6.05am on November 13th 1916 in the Somme Valley.  Blowing his whistle, he shouted ‘Follow me’  – and scrambled up the pegs on the trench sides, over sandbags, and into the still grey landscape above.  We know what happened next – but not from him.

This account is in a book I’m reading about men who served in the Great War.  It’s called ‘Six Weeks’ – the average life expectancy of junior officers who led their men over the top.  And 2nd Lieutenant Lewes is an almost perfect statistic.  He survived at the Front just 4 days longer than average.

2016, the 100th anniversary of the Battle of The Somme, gives us an opportunity to remember those, like Gerald Lewes, who lost their lives in the Battle.  It gives us the opportunity to reflect on the human cost of conflict.  And It also gives us opportunity for hope – an opportunity that’s reflected in the British Legion’s strapline ‘Live on’.  For this strapline carries, I think, a two-fold message: the importance of ensuring that memories of those who died live on through the generations; and that we, too, live on to shape a different future.

It underlines for me that remembrance isn’t simply recalling the past in the present.  Rather, it’s something far more mysterious and powerful.  It involves not living in the past but living in relation to the past, so that lessons can be learnt, healing and forgiveness can take place, and a different future can be shaped by love and compassion.

Reading the diaries and letters of those young men in ‘Six Weeks’, I’m struck by how their testimonies speak of courage and justice, of loyalty and compassion. And I’m particularly struck by how many of them speak about God; how many draw in some way on their childhood faith; how many have a strong sense of One who holds destinies in his hands.

Remembrance, forgiveness and compassion are unequivocally at the heart of the Christian faith.  Among the last words Jesus spoke to his disciples before his crucifixion were ‘Do this in remembrance of me’, and among the final words spoken to Jesus on the cross were ‘Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom’.  Jesus’s entire life, teaching and death were suffused with love and compassion and forgiveness and hope.

So November, with its focus on remembrance and reflection is a sombre month.  But it’s also one of hope.  It invites us, by gazing attentively at past events, to build on the dedication and self-sacrifice of people like Gerald Lewes.  And it invites us to commit ourselves to recreate and renew the world in the light of love and compassion – in the light of the cross.

Weekly news-sheet

Did you know that the website now features our weekly news-sheet with information about everything that is going on around our five communities? Do take a look on the welcome page.


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.