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What will you be doing this Summer?

Of all the seasons, many people look forward to summer, with the promise of sunshine, long days and a break from school and work. After around two years of Covid restrictions, I wonder if the freedom of summer will be even more precious to us all this year. I love the song ‘Summertime and the living is easy’ written by George Gershwin and sung so beautifully and soulfully by many fine artists over the years. For me, it speaks of hazy, lazy days relaxing and ‘chilling’ as the young ones say!

What will you be doing this summer?

Perhaps you have planned a trip abroad or maybe a Staycation in our own beautiful isle, or perhaps days out to local beaches or beauty spots. The freedom that we now have to meet and enjoy picnics, parties and holidays is something to really celebrate and be thankful for. The lack of such freedoms in recent years makes this even more precious this summer. With all the platinum jubilee celebrations that were enjoyed in June, we have had much to draw us together as communities in our shared joy and celebration. For me, it has been wonderful to see all the bunting, swaying joyfully around local towns and villages and long may the summer memories last.

Whatever you are doing this summer, let’s join together in celebrating this season and being glad and grateful that we have freedom and remember those who do not.

Ecclesiastes 3: verse 1

For everything there is a season, A time for every activity under heaven.

Blessings and best wishes

Linda Joy

Children & Families Worker

Holyford Mission Community

June: when we celebrate a great Jubilee and a significant Birthday

On Sunday 5th June the Church celebrates two great events: the Platinum Jubilee of Her Majesty the Queen and the Feast of Pentecost (otherwise known as Whit Sunday). Pentecost is celebrated each year as one of the key festivals, like Christmas and Easter. It focuses our attention on the Holy Spirit—the third person of the Trinity (which is: Father, Son and Holy Spirit).  Pentecost occurs fifty days after the celebration of Easter and marks the occasion, fifty days after his resurrection, when Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to accompany his disciples in their faith and assist in their ministry. It is an event recorded in the Bible (in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 2), where the disciples—fearful about how they would keep the faith and do all the good that Jesus had asked them to do in the face of many trials and challenges—were filled with a surge of love and encouragement which drew them together to form the Church. The Holy Spirit transformed a group of fearful disciples (meaning ‘followers’) into a courageous band of apostles (‘ambassadors’). In a very short space of time, thousands learned of Jesus and were baptized. This is why Pentecost Sunday is celebrated as the birthday of the Church.

What exactly is the Holy Spirit? It is often explained as the ‘breath’ or ‘energy’ of God, but there is no single, adequate word to explain what Christians essentially understand as a mystery. It is an indescribable help and tangible power which is at work in us as a gift from God. We use many signs and symbols to help us to understand the nature of the Holy Spirit, including fire, doves, and holy oil, his is because Christians often pray to the Holy Spirit for grace, energy, power, peace and healing.

The prayer of the first followers of Christ—indeed every follower of Christ—is that God will assist us and give us everything we need to live a good and useful life, even when we fail or feel overwhelmed. This is where the Holy Spirit comes in.

Six months before her Coronation service, the Queen asked all people of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth to: ‘Pray that God may give me wisdom and strength to carry out the solemn promises I shall be making, and that I may faithfully serve Him and you, all the days of my life’. This is what we do each week at least two of our services, and shall be doing on Sunday 5th June in the Holyford Mission Community when we will celebrate the Jubilee. What has the Holy Spirit got to do with the Jubilee, or the Queen?

Seventy years ago, on 2nd June 1953 the Coronation was televised—all apart from one moment, which was deemed too sacred to be shown on television. It is where, after a prayer to the Holy Spirit is sung (the Veni creator), the Queen was anointed with holy oil—a symbol of the Holy Spirit coming upon her in affirmation and to assist her in her life’s work. As Handel’s majestic anthem, Zadok the Priest echoed around Westminster Abbey, the cameras turned away as a canopy was brought to cover the Queen to enable her some privacy. This is because at this point in the service some of her clothing was removed. All the symbols of her earthly status were shed—the crimson velvet robe she was wearing, her diamond diadem and the coronation necklace—leaving her in a simple white dress. At that point the Archbishop anointed the Queen with oil (poured over her hands, chest and head). This oil was a symbol of God’s grace and the Holy Spirit. It was used at this point as she was set apart to serve and love her people, vowing to do so through all her actions, with all her heart and with all her mind. The meaning of the ceremony is based on an understanding that the Holy Spirit is called to witness and hallow the oath of her office, and empower the Queen herself to fulfill it.

At her coronation, Elizabeth II promised to follow Christ’s example, to be set apart to serve, not simply to be served. After the anointing, St Edward’s Crown of solid gold was placed on her head. This is how the Holy Spirit was called upon to be there at the birth of a new reign. A Royal biographer, William Shawcross, said that the Queen found this intimate and profound moment to be not only the most significant part of the service, but ‘…the most solemn and important moment of her entire life.’

            It is very appropriate, then, that we should celebrating and honouring that oath—the birth of the longest reigns in British history—on Pentecost Sunday.  It is a well-known fact that the Queen is a lady of deep faith.  That moment, when the Holy Spirit was asked through prayer to assist the Queen, has proven to be a source of strength and inspiration to her for over 70 years, through all the ups and downs of her reign.

            The Queen is special, of course, but each one of us is equally important and loved in the sight of God. The Queen, as a committed Christian, knows this, which is why she takes her job so seriously. It is not only the Queen who has been anointed by the Holy Spirit or has access to God’s grace;  all baptized Christians are anointed by the same spirit, to draw on God’s presence and grace to strengthen our faith and service to others. This is what the Queen does, it is what the first disciples and apostles did, and what generations of Christians have been called to do for over 2000 years.

            On Sunday 5th June we shall be celebrating two events in which the Holy Spirit played a key role: the birthday of the Church, and the birth of the longest and most successful reign in British history.

            Each church in the Holyford Mission Community will be holding a special Jubilee service on Sunday 5th June. Join us wherever you can and celebrate with us. There will be services at 8am and 10am at St Andrew’s, Colyton; 10am at St Michael’s, Musbury; 11.15am at St Giles’s, Northleigh and St Lawrence’s, Southleigh; at 3pm at St Winifred’s, Branscombe, and at 3.30pm at St Michael’s, Colyford. All are welcome.

With every good wish and blessing,

Fr Steven.

May 2022

Life begins at 40?

The number 40 is significant for a number of reasons. In scripture it often precedes a notable event, such as the end of the flood after 40 days, Israel entering the promised land after 40 years in the wilderness; Jesus in the wilderness for 40 days before starting his ministry and 40 days between his Resurrection and Ascension.  The 40th Wedding Anniversary is called the Ruby as the red colour of the stone is symbolic of romance and heartfelt love.

40 years ago in May 1982 I was licensed in Norwich Cathedral as a Lay Reader by the then Bishop of Norwich, Maurice Wood, so the number 40 has a particular significance for me at a personal level.  Over those 40 years the World has changed, the Church has changed and I have changed.

Whilst change is not always helpful and can be threatening, it may bring new opportunities.  When we are tested it can bring an appreciation of qualities we already possess but have remained hidden. It can bring a renewed appreciation of those around us who befriend us and support us and are sometimes taken for granted.

During May, Churches often hold rogation services which often focus on the world around us.  Traditionally it has been a time to ask God’s blessing on newly planted crops but often the focus is widened to a thanksgiving for all of God’s creation which feeds us, encourages us and heals us both in body and spirit.   As in William Henry Davies poem ‘What is life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare’ sometimes we need to stop and reflect thankfully on all that is around us.

I am often reminded of God’s love for each one of us which remains steadfast, generous and unconditional and I hope I have been able to share that with others effectively in a variety of ways through my 40 years of varying ministry.  I have enjoyed working with a whole variety of people in terms of age and background and an immense sense of privilege of being able to share at least a small part of their life’s journey as it comes into contact with mine.

Charles Hill

March 2022

March

Even during the pandemic the seasons continued. Who can forget the wonderful sound of Spring 2020? Against the backcloth of isolation, lockdown, illness, fear and the absence of motor noise from our roads, the birds seemed to sing louder than ever on our daily exercise walks. The bluebells seemed more abundant and more vividly blue. There wasn’t much to be positive about but the emergence of Spring was one. Then Spring gave way to summer and eventually more relaxed restrictions. By Christmas, against the backcloth this time of ice, frost and cold, we shivered in gardens treasuring moments with families but oh so missing the warm glow of the lounge fire.

In the church another set of seasons rotates round each year even in times of pandemic – Christmas preceded by Advent gives way to Christmas and then through to Epiphany and Candlemas. After a pause we have Ash Wednesday, Lent, Passiontide, Holy Week, Good Friday, Easter, Ascension Day, Pentecost and Trinity. A longer pause then before we start all over again.

Each year I value and appreciate the joys of each weather season – the new life of Spring, the warmth of summer, the golden colours of autumn and the crisp frosts of short December days. Each year too I value the repeated cycle of the Christian story centring on the birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. Such a cycle makes sure that we miss none of the vital ingredients.

This month sees us observe Ash Wednesday and Lent which is a marvellous time to reflect on our sinfulness and need for salvation so that when April comes and we celebrate Easter, we really do appreciate what we are celebrating – victory over sin and death.

Keep your eyes skinned for details of all that is planned in this Mission Community for Lent so that you can join in and grow closer to God.

At the same time rejoice in the new life that is in our gardens, by the roadside, in the fields and the woods as yet another year moves forward under the direction of our almighty God.

Nigel Freathy   

February 2022

February

This year, perhaps, February brings fewer notable dates as the lateness of Easter moves Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday into March so the romantics will be left with St Valentine and in the Church calendar with 2nd February as Candlemas or the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, 40 days after his birth; perhaps the latter is why February is derived from the Latin word for Purify.  2nd February is also known as Groundhog Day particularly in North America and the date also is associated with weather lore such as ‘if Candlemas be fair and bright winter shall have another flight’. Although some weather lore is based more on superstition than fact  this particular statement has a basis in the statistic that February can be a less changeable month than other winter months although the impact of climate change and its unpredictability are only too evident nowadays and even the sentiment from Flanders and Swann ‘February’s ice and sleet, Freeze the toes right off your feet’ may seem somewhat dated.

Deep down, many of us are creatures of habit and routine and can be challenged by anything that brings uncertainty and it is a particularly English quirk to talk about the weather and its uncertainty allows a little more to discuss!!  The epidemic of the past 2 years or so has indeed been challenging and many have found hidden resources as they take on new tasks and lifestyle changes as well as coping with sadness and loss. I once came across that statement that change may improve things, have no effect or make things worse which is 2 to 1 against change!!  But sometimes it is possible to look back on coping well with times of change with a sense of strength and achievement.

The reality is of course we live in a changing world and it is up to each one of us to do what we can, however little, to direct such change in a positive direction, sometimes to bring improvement for others rather than for ourselves.  It may affect our financial resources, our energy use or the way we choose what we buy, reuse and recycle. Even the smallest changes when multiplied by the same mind in others can make a significant difference to improve the world which we all share.

Charles Hill (LLM)

January 2022

In my early days of involvement with the Christian church, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in January each year was a fairly major event, involving the breakthrough development at that time of Christians of one denomination actually attending and worshipping in a church of a different denomination. Prior to this, the divisions between let us say the Baptists and the Church of England were so pronounced that any sharing of worship, resources, personnel etc would have been considered inappropriate.

Things are now very different for which we thank God. Christians will regularly work and worship together and will sometimes switch denominations during their lifetime without a second thought. Of course there are still different ways of worshipping and different emphases between denominations but fundamentally we know now that “we are the Body of Christ and by one Spirit we were all baptised into one  Body”, irrespective of whether that baptism was within the Church of England or the United Reformed Church for example.

I only wish that the spirit of tolerance and generosity that largely exists now within the wider church was reflected in the whole of society which seems to be tragically divided and where intolerance, bigotry, prejudice and rudeness pervade and do so most particularly in the world of social media where people write things to each other which one would hope that they would be embarrassed to say face to face. Let us pray for respect, tolerance, forgiveness, humility, courtesy and kindness to be more obvious in all our dealings one with another.   

Nigel Freathy 

December 2021

From the Rector

As always, Christmas has come upon me suddenly and unawares. No sooner is Remembrance Sunday out of the way, we inevitably seem to skip Advent, the Christmas marketing shifts up a gear, and I am already panicking about posting my Christmas cards in time and wondering what on earth to buy for my wife.

It can be easy to feel out-of-step with things and generally behind at this time of year, until we remember that, despite the advertising campaigns and even the early Carol Services in church, Christmas doesn’t officially begin until 25th December. Not only that, the Christmas season proper lasts well beyond the Twelfth Night, until the feast of Candlemas (2nd February). Yet we invariably celebrate it early and by the time New Year comes we are itching to pack away the decorations and put Christmas behind us, even though it has really only just begun.

As we shift Christmas back a month and begin the familiar celebrations early, we can often take the extraordinary story of Christmas for granted. At Christmas we celebrate the fact that God saw a world which is out-of-step with his loving and generous purposes and so he sent his Son, a tiny and vulnerable baby, to redeem creation. All of that took preparation, and a journey.

As they travelled along, Mary and Joseph, as they prepared for the coming of Christ in the stable at Bethlehem that first Christmas Day, must have felt under-prepared and anxious about the huge responsibility placed upon them. The lead-up to Christ’s birth would have been difficult and challenging and very hard to prepare for.  Yet they managed, and the Saviour of the World was born in an inadequate, temporary home in Bethlehem, a somewhat disheveled and unglamorous city south of Jerusalem. Despite that inauspicious start, Mary and Joseph trusted in the message of God delivered by the angels—‘fear not’—and the angels continued to attend and reassure them, shepherds and kings drew close, and the baby grew out of human obscurity to reveal the fullness of God’s love. A love to conquer all fear; a love stronger than death.

The lead-up to Christmas should not be a time of anxiety or worry, but a time of fruitful preparation and expectation. The angels gave to Mary and Joseph the most often-repeated message of the Bible as they prepared for the birth: ‘fear not’. The message occurs 365 or more times (in one way or another) in the text of the Bible—that’s one ‘fear not’ or ‘do not be afraid’ for every day of the year.

However out-of-step or underprepared we may feel, there is plenty of time before Christmas. Fear not. The full effect of God’s love will arrive with us on 25th December and will stay with us: God did not send Jesus as a temporary decoration, but to be with us in all seasons, our saviour and friend forever.

Come and celebrate this with us this year. Details of our Christmas services and events can be found in this magazine and online. There are lots of opportunities to join us in any of the six churches which make up our group, called the Holyford Mission Community. The full pattern of services has been up and running for most of the year now and at Christmas there will be all the usual services at Colyton and Colyford, Branscombe, Musbury, Southleigh and Northleigh, plus other events. If you are still worried about attending busier services because of the threat of Covid, you may wish to consider coming along to one of the smaller churches to celebrate the festive season, or attend our outdoor crib service at Colyton on Christmas Eve (indoors if wet). Please see our website (Holyford.org) Facebook page (@holyfordmission) or contact a churchwarden or me for details of the types of services there will be, and times. 

On behalf of all of us at the six churches of the Holyford Mission Community, I wish you all a happy, joyful and peaceful time as you prepare for Christmas.

With every good wish and blessing,

Fr Steven.

November 2021

Rise to the Moment relay – Same storm, different boats. Christian Aid. 

As I write this piece it is still October, with the leaves just changing colour in all their glory, and the evenings getting shorter and cooler.  It is a time of year when we think of harvest with it’s all its abundance of fruits and vegetable for us all to enjoy.

 When I give children’s harvest talks and assemblies at this time of year, I often mention how we can cultivate the soil, plant the seeds, and water them, but we rely on the sunshine and the rain to be provided.  For this we need to be grateful and thankful.  We need to be mindful of how we can do our part in caring for this wonderful planet that has been entrusted to us to care for.

When I last wrote for the magazine, I mentioned the Waves of Hope that children all across the UK had produced with conjunction with Christian Aid.  This was intended to draw attention to the climate summits to be held in the UK with year, with the Cop 26 due this November.

 This month I was again drawn to what young people and children were doing to care for our beautiful world, and I discovered that a group of young people were carrying a boat in relay, between Cornwall and Glasgow, the places of the two UK summits this year. The aim is to highlight the climate crisis as part of the Rise to the Moment relay, in collaboration with the YCCN (Young Christian Climate Network).

https://www.christianaid.org.uk/news/big-moment-events-yccn-relay.

Locally, we created some boats out of windfall apples, and discovered a little more about the small changes that we can all make to care for our planet.

We do need to be grateful and thankful for all we have and look to the example of some of these young people and children, as we strive to care for our world.

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Psalm 19 v 1  

Best wishes

Linda Joy – Children & Families Worker – Holyford Mission Community

October 2021

As we begin October we well and truly enter into the ‘Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’, as the poet Keats put it. Each season has its own character. Autumn is a particularly beautiful time. Although it is sad to bid farewell to the summer, we know that a new depth of beauty will reveal itself through the bare branches as the leaves turn and fall.

            At the very end of October we begin a period of remembering and thanksgiving. Halloween has become a caricatured, pagan celebration, when we think of ghosts and ghouls, tricks and treats. This is all good fun, but it is far from what All Hallows’ Eve is really about, which is the first day of three where we celebrate and give thanks for the saints and all the faithful departed.  In the Holyford Mission Community we shall be keeping the feast of All Saints on Sunday 31st October. There will also be services for All Souls at Colyton on the Sunday evening (6.30pm) and on Tuesday 2nd November (All Souls’ Day), to which all are welcome. If you would like to remember someone who has died by having them named in the service at St Winifred’s on 31st October, there will be a list in church where you can write their name, or email the office:  office@holyford.org.

            In September I was involved with the celebrations of an Anglican martyr, born and bred in Devon: Bishop John Coleridge Patteson. He founded the Church in Melanesia (Solomon Islands) and was murdered on 20th September 1871 on Nakapu when he was mistaken for a blackbirder (slave trader).  Patteson was by all accounts well-loved by the native people of Melanesia. He brought them the benefits of education and taught them the Christian faith, and won their deep respect because he didn’t force British ways and customs on the islanders but encouraged them to keep their culture.  Patteson is still very well-known and honoured in Melanesia today. When I visited there in 2017 lots of people wore t-shirts with his name and picture on and children are often still given his name at baptism.

            The Melanesian Mission UK is a charity which supports the work of the Anglican Church in Melanesia. In September they held their annual AGM at Exeter Cathedral, attended by the Archbishop of Canterbury.  To mark the 150th anniversary of the martyrdom of Patteson, a new pilgrimage route has been established from Feniton (where he was born) to Exeter Cathedral, which has some of his relics; the pulpit there has scenes of his martyrdom is carved on the panels around it.

            The Christian faith is very strong in Melanesia. There are several religious communities there, including the Melanesian Brotherhood, a monastic order that was founded by a Melanesian policeman, Ini Kopuria in 1925. It is a very popular community as men (there is also a separate order for women) can take vows for a few years at a time, rather than take vows for life. I was privileged to spend some time with them when I spent a few weeks in the Solomons.

Saints are not simply things of the past, and the Brotherhood has produced its own, modern-day saints. In 2003 seven members of the Melanesian Brotherhood were kidnapped as a result of ethnic conflict in the Solomon Islands. The Brotherhood had been very active, trying to persuade the various parties involved to lay down their weapons. They worked hard to restore peace and encourage disarmament. One of the Brothers went to negotiate with one of the leaders. When he did not return, six of the Brothers went out to find the one.  None of them returned alive. They are martyrs because they lost their lives for love: for love of God, truth, justice, and their neighbour.

Like leaves from a tree, they turned and fell, but new growth came and the Brotherhood is as strong as ever. The winter of conflict turned into a spring of peace, thanks to the ministry and witness of the Christians inspired by Patteson. And it all started in Devon.

This year St Andrew’s, Colyton will be hosting a meeting of the Devon Companions of the Melanesian Brotherhood on Saturday 30th October. There will be a service at 11am followed by a picnic lunch and meeting.  If you would like to find out more, you are very welcome to come along.

As always, there is lots going on in the six churches within the Holyford Mission Community, especially in the lead-up to Advent and Christmas.  As I write, plans are coming together for the celebration of Branscombe’s Patronal Festival around St Winifred’s Day in early November—do keep an eye on our website or Facebook page for details, or the church notice board for services and events.

With every good wish and blessing,  Fr Steven.

September 2021

At the time of writing this short article, the Olympic Games are in full swing in Japan and every morning I catch up with the previous night’s events on what is usually Breakfast TV on BBC. The usual presenters are there but instead of the usual diet of close analysis of what is happening with the Covid pandemic and the repercussions of Brexit, we are treated to a short news bulletin and the weather forecast and the rest of the programme is devoted to sport. I applaud this shift of emphasis because watching sport for me is more therapeutic and mood enhancing than endless debate about seemingly insoluble problems. I wonder however what has happened to all the news and views that filled the air waves for the last 16 months or so.  The truth is that something more important has come along in the view of the TV editors and so much of the news and views have simply vanished.

In life in general greater priorities push out lesser ones. Of course people vary as to what they consider to be a top priority. What are your priorities in terms of your ambitions, time, money, talents? The everyday decisions we make reflect our deeper priorities. The BBC decided that an Olympic Games that we had waited 5 years for warranted moving other material to less prominent billing, if any billing at all. Maybe they decided that the nation’s morale would benefit from some relative frivolity. How I spend my money, how I use my talents, how I make use of my time reflect what I think is ultimately important.  

The Bible talks about priorities many times. “Seek you first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto you.” “He who seeks to save his life will lose it”. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth”. “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Nigel Freathy

August 2021

From the ministry team

The first of August is known as Lammas day and the word Lammas literally means ‘loaf mass’.  It is a celebration of the first fruits of the harvest which were used to bake a loaf which was brought into church to be blessed.  This tradition seems to go back to Anglo-Saxon times but more recent changes in farming practice have reduced its relevance as the harvest period in this part of the world is extended over a much longer period.

Irrespective of such practices the importance of bread in our daily lives cannot be denied and judging by the amount of supermarket shelves devoted to it we must eat quite a lot of it! I remember that when on camping holidays, especially abroad, one of the first things to identify locally was where bread could be bought and the word for it in the local language!

The word companion literally means one who shares bread and reminds us that food in general is not just about satisfying our own needs but also the importance of social contact when we perform some basic activities. Food (and drink) sharing and eating together is a means of social cohesion not only in human groups but also other social animals and it is one thing that we have lost in the current pandemic and it is not surprising that people yearn for it to return as in pre-pandemic days.  In our modern culture bread is now a very diverse product and perhaps reminds us of our own social diversity, but eating and drinking together becomes a means of laying aside our differences and appreciating what it means to be truly human.

The  New Testament records that in Jesus in his last hours before his crucifixion shared a meal with his disciples which included both bread and wine; a meal of both sorrow and reassurance of a Father’s love for his Son and each one of us too and which is still remembered in Church services today.

Charles Hill

May 2021

This month our letter comes from Rev Nigel Freathy

The disciples of Jesus had made great sacrifices to follow Jesus. They had left their homes and occupations and for three  years they observed from close quarters Jesus’ miracles and listened to His teaching. Then came the nightmare of His arrest, trial and execution. Had it all been a mistake?

Three days after Jesus’ crucifixion, the disciples started to see Jesus again in the flesh. They could touch Him and see Him eat. For forty days on numerous occasions they met with the risen Jesus. Following Jesus had not been a mistake after all. The love of God in Jesus had conquered death and the sin  of humanity that had put Jesus on the cross in the first place.

Then one day they went to a mountain in Galilee and met Jesus once more and there he gave them His final instructions along with the promise that He would be with them always to the very end of time. St Mark tells us that  then Jesus is taken up into heaven as does St Luke who also tells us that, despite the fact that the disciples are not going to see Jesus in bodily form again, they return to Jerusalem with great joy.

The reason that they are so joyful is that Jesus has promised them that He will be with them always and in St Luke’s account of the incident in the book of Acts Jesus specifically says, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you.” So they return to Jerusalem full of joy and there they await God’s promised gift.

This month we celebrate the ascension of Jesus on May 13th and the subsequent coming of the Holy Spirit on the disciples at the Jewish festival of Pentecost which this year is on May 23rd. Like the disciples we can rejoice that through His Holy Spirit Jesus is indeed with us here in East Devon empowering each one of us to carry out His mission to the world for we are His body here on earth.

February 2021

From the Rector

I hope that this finds you well.  I am writing this in the middle of January, deep in lockdown. Our churches have remained open for individual prayer, but several of the PCCs within our benefice have decided that we should cease public worship for now. At the time of writing a lot still seems to be up in the air. We hope that there will be some public worship back in some of our churches during February—please see our website (Holyford.org) or contact me or a churchwarden for information. 

Despite not gathering in person as a church on Sundays, the services and prayers continue, individually in church, online, over the ‘phone and on Zoom.  Please be assured of my prayers for you all, every day.

There is a general feeling that we are on the ‘home straight’, but that the immediate future will still be tough.  President Joe Biden in his inaugural speech included a quotation from the Psalms: ‘Heaviness may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning’ (Psalm 30.5). This is an important and powerful prayer during this period of heaviness.  Yet we know it will pass, and joy will come in the morning.

February sees the beginning of the season of Lent; a time of penitence and preparation for Easter. It is about preparing for joy, but in a deep and measured way, with patience. As we hope and prepare for the future, we have learned over these past months that we are unlikely to return to normal with a whizz bang and a party (more’s the pity!) So we must be watchful of the expectations we place on ourselves and others.

The last words of St David to his followers, who were facing many challenges and problems, come to mind: ‘Be joyful, keep the faith, and do the little things’.  Little by little the heaviness will become lighter and the morning will come.  ‘Be joyful, keep the faith, and do the little things’. We will get there.

With every good wish and blessing,

Fr Steven   (tel. 01297 553180)

January 2021

From the Rector

It is always tempting at this time of year to make predictions and resolutions. Whilst it is no bad thing to begin January with ideas or dreams of what we wish to achieve, it seems more difficult than ever to know or predict what will be likely, or even possible, as we make plans for the next twelve months.

            The only thing I can predict with any degree of certainty is that, unless I stop snacking between meals, my clothes shall grow even tighter during 2021…

            Setting to one side thoughts of biscuits etc., allow me to turn our attention towards the Holy Family: Jesus, Mary and Joseph. What can they teach us about plans, resolutions and predictions?

Their plans, intentions and new year’s resolutions went by the board that first Christmas. Yet in all the uncertainty, Mary trusted and embraced her future with God, as she accepted the call to be the mother of Jesus. This upset various plans. After the shock of learning of Mary’s pregnancy, Joseph’s compassionate intention to quietly release Mary from their engagement, is overturned.  After he learns the truth from an angel, the depth of Joseph’s goodness is revealed in his decision to heed God’s call and support his wife-to-be. He and Mary travel the long distance and begin their family in the temporary and uncertain surroundings of the stable. Soon after the birth, despite the visit of the Kings and the promising signs, they are forced to flee and become refugees. So begins the rather underwhelming and uncertain earthly life of God. Yet great things happen.

            The Holy Family clearly lived very much in the present during those days, dealing with what was in front of them calmly. I think one of the most striking things about the account of Jesus’ infancy is the remarkable equanimity which shines through as characteristics of Joseph and Mary. Their plans have gone out of the window, yet they remain calm, faithful and hopeful.  They had with them the child: Emmanuel, which means ‘God with us’.  God with us in good and bad, certainty and uncertainty, there in love for us however we feel, to share in whatever we take to him and no matter what form of words our prayers take. 

Our Christmas services went well across the parishes. My thanks to all those who attended for their patience and cooperation with the various Covid-measures we have in place. It has been good to hear that people have not only appreciated the services, but also felt safe whilst in church, and of course, at our outdoor Crib Service in Colyton. 

As we enter Tier Three restrictions (as of 31st December), our churches will remain open for public worship. We continue to have strict social distancing measures in place and everyone is taking great care to ensure the churches are places where we can feel safe and confident. We continue to pray for all who are unable to be with us in church at this time.

            We have aimed to provide access to church services for all, whatever situation you find yourself in during these times. Those remaining at home can join us via the online service, those at home without the internet can join us via the telephone service on Sunday afternoons. There are a range of services you can attend in church, too.  We have the usual Sunday services, often with music, provided by choristers at a safe distance; or if you are worried about gathering in larger groups, there are smaller, shorter Eucharists at St Andrew’s on Wednesdays at 10am or Sundays at 8am, or daily Morning Prayer (Mondays to Fridays at 8.30am), or Evensong (Tuesdays to Fridays at 5pm) where groups of around 5 to 15 gather.  You may wish to attend one of the smaller village churches, perhaps Southleigh or Northleigh, where there is plenty of room available for people to spread out. Details of our services and church opening times can be found via our website Holyford.org or Facebook page, @holyfordmission.

            Whatever lies ahead, we continue to celebrate the wonderful fact that God is with us. As you plan for what will hopefully be a brighter year, may you know God with you and continue to draw strength from the power of his love.

            With every good wish and blessing for the New Year,

            Fr Steven.

December 2020

This month’s letter comes from Charles Hill:

This is being written early in the second period of lockdown this year when nothing in December can look certain and in this season of Advent our preparations for Christmas will be getting underway. Christmas is a season of hospitality and for many this involves the giving and receiving of food and drink and the sharing of time with friends and family.

Mary and Joseph must have been extremely grateful for the hospitality shown to them by the Innkeeper and although perhaps not meriting many stars the accommodation was no doubt a huge improvement over any alternative.  In turn, Mary and Joseph were able to offer simple hospitality to the shepherds and wise men and possibly others not recorded.   

The birth of Jesus was also a sign of God’s hospitality towards each one of us as a reminder that he invites us to be part of his family.  In the Eucharist (a celebration of Jesus hospitality to his disciples and their successors) the following words are sometimes said in a prayer after Communion ‘Father of all, we give you thanks and praise that when we were still far off you met us in your Son and brought us home’.

At the heart of hospitality is love. Love which seeks to recognise the needs of others and meet those needs either through own actions or by supporting others. Such hospitality can be shown in so many ways; through the offering and receiving of food and drink, through personal presence and presents! but also through a kind word by phone or other means, through the carrying out of a simple errand or just a smile (face masks permitting) at the appropriate time and other possibilities may well come to mind.  Through our own acts of hospitality our own love for others and that of a loving heavenly Father can become manifest.

I wish you a blessed and peaceful Christmas Season.

Charles Hill

PS  each week on Friday or Saturday an email is sent out to about 200 email addresses with details of what is happening on the Sunday and coming week.  If you think you should be receiving this please check your Spam folder as attachments on the email could be routing the email here. If you are not receiving such updates and wish to do so, please get in touch.

National Christingle Service

Sunday 13th December with other details to be announced

Please see https://www.churchofengland.org/resources/preparing-advent-christmas-2020-comfort-and-joy

Mission Community Carol Service

This will be a short service (5 carols) on 23rd December at 5pm via Zoom (incl telephone) and hopefully facebook too, aimed at the whole community