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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

November 2020

This month’s letter is from Reader Jan Lees

The harvest is in.  The clocks have gone back. The year is turning, drawing to a close.  Later this month the church year ends and we begin again with Advent. It’s a time to consider endings and to look towards new beginnings – whatever they may turn out to be. 

Doing things differently because of the strange times we’re living in has been a mixed thing, hasn’t it?  I rather enjoy the slower pace of my life at the moment – the going out less, but when I run into a friend I haven’t seen in a while I don’t enjoy keeping my distance. I look forward to the day when I’ll be able to give them a hug.

Advent is supposed to be a strange time, I think.  We’re supposed to watch and wait, to long for God to come to us, to hope for his coming.  But it’s hard to do that when we’re already thinking ourselves into Christmas.  We’re like time travellers with one foot in the departure lounge and one in arrivals…

This year will be different.  Quieter.  Make the most of it.  As we stand at the tail end of the church’s year do a little inventory.  There might be some things you should just let go.  Do that.  There will be some things you need to give thanks for.  Do that.  The year begins afresh any minute now.   And the new growth might be just like the old.  Or it might be something new and surprising.  God delights in surprising us, I think – delights in making all things new.  So we move on doing things differently – or maybe just doing different things.  Either way we’re not on our own.  God is with us every step of the way.  Enjoy the journey.

Jan Lees

October 2020

This month’s letter comes from Linda Joy:

As we move now into the autumn and the leaves are starting to change colour and fall, it heralds a new season beginning, and a reminder from nature that all things are constantly changing.

We have all lived through changes that would have seemed unimaginable at the beginning of 2020, and today, as I write, the regulations and guidelines around Covid 19 are changing again.  These changes are new ways of life that we have had to learn to adjust to as we seek collectively to protect and care for one another at this time.

For young and old alike, it has been a time of great uncertainty and change and continues to be so for us all.  And yet, amongst it all there has been wonderful signs of togetherness, love and hope.  One such event for me was the wonderful wedding day of my daughter and son-in-law – a simple, beautiful day, full of love and hope for the future.

 Another sign of this togetherness and hope for many was the release of the UK Blessing, where many churches came together to produce a beautiful song that can be enjoyed through this link to Youtube.

“The Lord bless you and keep you

Make his face shine upon you

And be gracious to you

The Lord turn His face towards you

And give you peace

In the morning, in the evening

In your coming and your going

In your weeping and rejoicing

He is for you, He is for you

Amen”

In ever changing times we can rely on the love and presence of God with us.

Blessings

Linda

September 2020

This month’s letter comes from Revd Victoria Chester:

Where have the last 12 months gone?  Even though so much of the spring and summer has been spent indoors or no further than the garden gate, both seasons seem to have raced by; how can it already be September?!  Although, as someone said, time proceeds at the rate of one second per second most of us have a sense of it speeding up or slowing down at different times in our lives, even at different times of the day.  The slowing down seems to happen when we wait for something, looked for or dreaded, or are held awake in the small hours of the night; while the speeding up seems to take place when we’re in the midst of ‘living’ – special family events, holidays, even sleep can seem to whisk by when the alarm goes off before we’re ready to get up.

I can hardly believe it is almost a year since I was ordained deacon in Exeter Cathedral.  That day was so full of family, friends, music, joy in a great coming together in thanks for all that had been and all that was to come.  Looking back now that day seems to belong to another time, we didn’t have to wear masks, we could embrace and greet each other and sing our socks off!  Just 12 months on I look forward to being ordained priest in the Cathedral on the 26th of September with just 5 tickets to offer friends and family, no singing, masks and hand-wash replacing embracing; and yet I feel there is still so much to give thanks for, and hope for all that is to come.

Thanks most especially for the support, patience and generosity of our communities, colleagues, and congregations as I have learned new ministries in taking baptisms and funerals, and the privilege of sharing these life moments with people.  Thanks too for being part of new ways of worship, creating new links, new friendships within and beyond our communities in our Telephone and online services.  And hope, that in another year we can be together outside our bubbles, sing together, have time to lament and look forward together. 

Time can seem to pass very slowly waiting for life to ‘return to normal’ though, and I was also recently struck by these words from the American poet Maya Angelou, “since time is the one immaterial object we cannot influence, neither speed up nor slow down, add to nor diminish, it is an imponderably valuable gift.” 

So that is perhaps another hope for the year to come; that however time seems to pass, in our waiting, our living and our hoping, we can welcome whatever it brings as a gift.

August 2020

Our letter this month comes from Rev Preb John Lees

Enjoying the moment

It’s a shock isn’t it, seeing so many people in East Devon. It’s good for our local economy, and good that people can have a holiday of course, but we have got used to things being…… well, quiet.

Many of us have missed seeing friends and family in person. Others have enjoyed the calm and peacefulness of life with less traffic and less frantic dashing from one event or meeting to another. It’s been good for us, in that respect, because it’s enabled us to find time to reflect, to enjoy our countryside and gardens – and we have had more time to connect with people, by phone or on screen.

I’m writing this just after coming home from the first church service I have attended since March. It’s good to be back, even with restrictions, and one of the best things was to see people face to face, all of us comparing hair very much in need of a cut.

People are good for us. Everyone has their preference about how much company they like. Some people say they don’t know what they are thinking until they talk to someone else; they get their energy from other people. Quieter types are usually happy in their own company, but not all the time. It’s good to have conversations even if they are about nothing in particular, to enjoy companionship.

Companion – that’s a good word. Literally, people we break bread with. Perhaps what we have missed most is having a meal with friends or the whole family sitting around one table. It’s what our communion services are really all about – coming to a table, sharing a meal, celebrating all the gifts we are given. Other kinds of meals are also special moments, where we can just be ourselves and not want to be anywhere else but in the moment, enjoying each other’s company.

A writer I came across this week talks about the way happiness is linked to the way we think about the future. If I can save more, work less, ease back on some of my retirement activities, if I can find time for the things that matter, then I’ll be happy. Of course, when the future arrives it’s never as perfect as we hoped. Of course happiness isn’t far away. Being in good company reminds us that all we need is here in the moment; right now.

Jesus was asked when the kingdom of God was coming. His answer was that the kingdom isn’t something you to be observed, nor is it somewhere far off in the future. He said something which turned his listeners’ world upside down: the kingdom of God is among you. We know it’s here by the way we live together, and because we see God in all things.

Don’t always feel you have to match the world’s speed, its hunger for activity. Hang on to peace and quiet if it’s been good for you. Enjoy what you have, and who you are with.

Revd Preb John Lees, Associate Priest

July 2020

This month’s letter comes from Father Steven:

‘Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!” (Genesis 28:16).  This verse is often heard during services which celebrate the dedication of a church—the actual dedication after the church building is finished, or on the yearly anniversary. Jacob realises that the Lord is there with him and says ‘this is none other than the house of God!’.  Our churches are meant to be houses of prayer; God’s house, where we can feel and know that he is with us.

During this period of intense restriction and lockdown, we haven’t been able to go to God’s house. Yet the prayers and worship of the church has continued, not least in our homes. ‘Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!’ During lockdown, rather than go to God’s house, people have invited God into their home and have been surprised at how close they have felt to him. As thoughts turn to God, so comes the realisation that he is always there for us wherever we are, waiting on us to share the ups and downs, or even the ordinary day-to-day. 

God comes to us.  Many people have told me how they have found spaces at home where they have been able to pray as they have in church, places where they have felt the Lord beside them. Our homes, out of necessity, have become our churches. Although I was very glad to be back in church a few weeks ago to celebrate the Eucharist there again, it was sad to be dismantling the make-shift altar in our dining room. It made me appreciate, like Jacob awaking from his dream, that the Lord is everywhere, if we did but know it.

Our church buildings are now open for private prayer and soon, if the situation continues to ease, we shall be able to begin inviting people to take part in services. This is all good, but I hope that although we will be back in our beautiful, spiritual church buildings, we shall continue to know God to be with us at home, and continue to pray as often and deeply at home as we can in church.

Your parish church is God’s house. It is also your house and is there for you as a spiritual home and you are welcome there.  Please continue to pray wherever you are. When we pray, either at home, in church, in the car, on a walk—truly the Lord is in that place. Open your heart to him in trust and honesty and he will come to you. 

Please pray especially for those suffering from the virus, for those who have died and their families, and for all those caring for the sick, elderly and vulnerable.  

With every blessing,

Fr Steven