A Vicars' View

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2017 August/September

I’ve been noticing the Norfolk Churches Trust annual sponsored Bike Ride advert in our pew sheet and feeling guilty about the amount of exercise I do. Eventually I got round to following the link to their page and read in the first paragraph: The Sponsored Bike, Ride and Drive will take place on… etc etc and I thought, Ah! It’s a Drive as well, perhaps I’ll do that! Last year, the most churches visited was 64 by someone by bike and 35 by another on foot, so you’d be doing well to beat that even in a car I imagine. The Church of England in Norfolk serves every community through a family of 650 churches (and 110 schools and academies) so you’d have to visit 80 churches an hour to do them all on the day. Perhaps I could do a sponsored pray and mention them all in prayer on the day…maybe not.

We have a wonderful heritage of Christian holy spaces in this country. We appreciate them in times of grief and sorrow, such as funerals, and in time of celebration and joy, such as weddings and baptisms. The Norfolk Churches Trust encourages us to appreciate them, and to exercise, on Saturday 9th September. It’s 12 miles round our six villages – any takers?

2017 July/August

I am very glad that in this diocese we are able to keep our historic church buildings open – we are one of the most welcoming counties in the country, woo woo! This is not so in every area and so once in a while we have an ‘Open Churches Week’. This year it’s Saturday 5 - Sunday 13 August. This would be a good week to visit any churches you have seen from your journeys in the car but have never taken the time to stop and look. Don’t pass it by, go in, and don’t just wander round as if it’s a live version of Pinterest. Sit in a pew somewhere and listen. Listen to the birds, the sound of the wind, and think of a favourite hymn you know and see how many of the words of it you can remember. If you took up my encouragement of last month you could recall the last gospel story you read and see how well you remember it by looking it up, if there are bibles in the pews of the church you have visited. And as you sit, pausing, be thankful for the moment. Jesus used to have moments like this. Ask him to give you that peace as you leave the building and get back in your car to carry on. You’ll be on the same journey, but this time God may be a bit closer, which is a good thing.

Then you can come and tell us all about it at the Messy Church picnic (BYO) on Sunday 13th August at 4pm at St. Mary’s Banham 😊

2017 June/July

I have been preparing for a lecture on how understanding another religion helps me to be clearer in understanding my own (Norwich Cathedral library, on the 8th July at 10am). I thought I’d give you one point to ponder from it concerning what we think of the Bible.

For many of us, we will have a bible with the title saying it is the ‘Holy Bible’. Sixteen years in the Gulf have given me an appreciation of what others think ‘holy’ means when applied to a book by seeing the way they treat their holy book – putting it on a special stand, reading it with solemnity, not writing on it, learning it by heart, not allowing people to speak insultingly of it. By contrast, using it as a coaster for my drink sometimes, not reading it as much as I should, not being upset if people disregard it, seems very casual, and if a Muslim thought I didn’t think much of it, could I blame them?

It is a collection of 66 separate books and reading it is not always straightforward, but my encouragement to you for a summer read this year would be to try a Gospel at least (look in the contents page for Matthew, Mark, Luke or John). If you think it is in some way special, a holy book, then reading a whole Gospel this summer would honour that. It’s not like a novel with pages and pages of description, so take it episode by episode, and pause between each one to exercise your imagination and take it in. And if you have questions, ask someone who attends church to tell you about it, or there’s me, in the Rectory, enjoying the view.

2017 May/June

It’s exam time for many so I thought I'd join in by giving you an exam with three questions. If you get them right, I’ll save you a place in the front pew on Sunday and a free cup of coffee after the service. (If you get them wrong you can only have the coffee - which means if you come to church and no one is in the front pew...oh dear)

1. What sport did the first Christians play?

2. Where was Solomon’s temple located?

3. And one to catch the ladies: Why did King Solomon have 700 wives?

The first Sunday of June is Pentecost Sunday (the day they played the sport of question 1) when we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit. I encourage you to pray for that gift at our morning services that day, or at the St. Mary’s Mashup celebration in Banham at 4pm. God may not be so far away as you thought (as with King Solomon’s temple). Although we think sometimes that we have to get all the answers right, to live a good life, in order to be acceptable to God and pass through those pearly gates, his eyes see you with love already (he has met and known you!), and you can turn to him in trust and faith. If you’d like to know more about praying and being with God, our churches can help. The picture below is at our first service of Easter - we're now looking forward to the fire of the Spirit.

Answers: 1. Cricket – Peter stood with the eleven and was bold (Acts 2.14) 2. On the side of his face. 3. Because he never met you!

2017 April/May

April was an eventful month, with Quidenham church having its lead roof stolen a week before Easter. As one of our church wardens pointed out in the EDP, “The irritation for us is that we’re having to divert our attention to repairing the fabric of the building when we’d really like to be concentrating on the spiritual wellbeing of the village.” Meanwhile Banham celebrated the reopening of the east end of the church after £315,000 repairs, but we have a small overrun (£12,000, about 4%) because of unexpected repairs to the roof and window guards. Meanwhile Old Buckenham notes with alarm that the fund that gave the lion’s share of Banham’s cost, The Heritage Lottery Fund, is ending the part of the scheme that is specific to places of worship and we now only have until the Autumn to finish all the stages of the application for their thatched roof to be re-done! If you can help, cheques to ‘village name’ PCC (eg. Banham PCC) is a start, and if you know of any business that would like to add a bit of charity work to its portfolio we can acknowledge their contribution in a suitable way.

Despite the buildings diverting our attention so often, our buildings do help the spiritual life of our villages. When you are perplexed, coming to pray to God may give clarity. The people of God, those attending church and many who don’t, offer a lot of help and care. Our six congregations jointly fund a full-time worker (the vicar) who encourages and assists as best as he is able, and who is there when bereavement strikes, when romance becomes commitment, when dedicating people to God at baptism, and when prayers for healing and wholeness are needed. Keeping a roof over your head can be difficult, but building the house on the teachings of Jesus is the best foundation and the church is here to help. So, if God seems far away, come near, to a church near you, and find the local church roof over your head (thatched, leadless or otherwise).

2017 March/April

Last month I revealed one of my potential addictions and my resolution to reduce its hold on me – computer based entertainment. My links with computers go way back to university days and my degree and my short-lived job as a software engineer in the days before Mice in internet were invented. Though the mindset is still with me sometimes, my life took a turn when I dedicated my life to God by becoming a clergyman. I remember that fateful day every year at a service in the Cathedral just before Easter on Maundy Thursday. The bishop says to us all, ‘As we stand once again on the threshold of the paschal mystery [celebration of Good Friday and Easter], ready to go with Christ to die with him, I invite you to reaffirm your dedication to his service’. After the clergy have answered their questions, the people from all the parishes standing around us face their own question from the bishop, and once committed to, ‘the priestly ministry of all the baptised, working in partnership’ is affirmed. It’s a moving occasion and you are welcome to come up to join me – 11am on the 13th April.

When the demands of love are a weight, in job or family life, I remember the dedication of Jesus. How he was heralded as saviour on Palm Sunday, betrayed by his friends, crucified by the disillusioned, and rose again sometime in the night before Easter Dawn. If you’d like to join us at services in each of our six villages during Holy Week, you’d be very welcome at any or all our meditations. It’s a hard road sometimes, but with Jesus, your joy will be full.messing about with celtic knot designs

 

2017 February

I’m not very good at New Year’s resolutions, though that said, my resolution this year has been more successful than any before it in that I am STILL following it! My resolution was to be less screen based in my entertainment. My children scorned it as not specific enough, and in order to know whether I’d kept it or not, I should say I would BAN the computer for entertainment and then I’d KNOW (and so would they)!

But I do know. It has been good. Having a complete ban might have been more easily measurable, but it would clearly have been for a limited period because OBVIOUSLY one has NEEDS! The desires of the flesh, when given free reign, can often take over, and the temptation is to CRUSH them with a vengeance in the hope that we can drive the evil lust (say for chocolate) away for ever. We can keep it up for a short period, like Lent, but we long for Easter Day when we can indulge ourselves with a chocolate feast, nom nom nom! We breathe a huge sigh of relief and are stuck where we were before.

I encourage you this Lent to pick a resolution that is not so extreme. A complete ban might be in order for some things, but for most things, reducing what has become an addiction for a season may enable you to form a life habit that is manageable for a longer period, even if at first it is not easy. If you chose, and kept, one more good resolution each year then you’d be on your way to being a saint! Lent is only 40 days (with Sundays off). You could try it.

All Saint’s Church, Old Buckenham, has a service for our six villages to mark the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday, 1st March at 7.30pm.

 

 


 

 

2017 January

We are made in the image of God, so the Good Book says, and being creative and making stuff is part of being a chip off the old block. Since coming to the Quidenham Group of parishes I have enjoyed learning to make stuff by chipping blocks of wood until they look as I intend them at the Eggleton’s workshop in Banham. Just as I think I’m reaching the end of something I am making and thinking it looks good enough for me, Steve Egg. will come and look over my shoulder to give advice: it needs ‘a bit’ of tidying up a bit there, and ‘just straighten’ that bit up there. He says these helpful things as if they were little tiny adjustments (which to him of course, they are) but to me it’s an annoying revelation of imperfection still to be overcome just when I thought I was OK, and to me they are not tiny adjustments but fiddly minor difficult things to bother with! But I’ve never done what he says and then been dissatisfied at the effort.

God of course is annoying in the same way. We are works that are supposed to be ‘in progress’, which means to say, not staying where we are but being willing to listen to him when he says: you need ‘a bit’ of improvement here, and ‘just straighten’ this part of your life out a bit. It’s because God knows that if you do it, it will all be worth it in the end.

Some of the carvings I have contributed to have ended up in the Via Beata Project (‘Way of Blessing’ – a trail of sculptures across the UK following a line from Lowestoft to St. Davids, Pembrokeshire). I have to give some time in order to do it.

Give God some time to guide you, do what he says, and you will look as God intended, a chip off the old block.

 

 


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