Go back to normal view
I’ve just been on a refreshing conference called Leading Your Church into Growth with one of our lay church leaders – three nights at Belsey Bridge, with lovely food, great company, and lots of buzz. It reminded me of some of the good things church is for. A big reason for the church is to remind us of God and his saving presence in Jesus. I think many people find strength and peace to walk with him. Some are fine without the building, finding God in whatever wonderful countryside they have the good fortune to be in, or seeing the hand of God in the lives of people around them. Some like to come especially to the building to enter into the peace and deeper meaning it takes them to. I like a combination of both and would like the church to continue and to grow. If you’d like to pray for the church, then here’s a prayer from that conference to help:
God of Mission
Who alone brings growth to your Church,
Send your Holy Spirit to give
Vision to our planning,
Wisdom to our actions,
And power to our witness.
Help our church to grown in numbers,
In spiritual commitment to you,
And in service to our local community,
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.
With both Buckenhams having Open Gardens this month my mind turns to gardening, and alas, the rapidly growing weeds and lawn of my own garden instantly come to mind – as Shakespeare says, ‘Sweet flowers are slow and weeds make haste!’ Looking for reasons to avoid thinking about the work required in my garden, my mind quickly turns away from my actual garden to the more romantic garden references of the bible: ‘Dear lover and friend, you’re a secret garden, a private and pure fountain, Body and soul, you are paradise, a whole orchard of succulent fruits… Wake up, North Wind, get moving, South Wind! Breathe on my garden, fill the air with spice fragrance.’ (Song of Solomon 4 – The Message) Translations differ as the underlying Hebrew is difficult, and the next line is a bit risqué for a magazine such as this, but it’s nice to dream about romance in your own private garden – in my dreams it’s always warm dry weather, and the garden is ‘just there’, all perfect. Ah me! How I run from reality! As I look out of my study window, there is my wife Jo, working in the garden making it look presentable. A beautiful garden doesn’t just happen, neither does a beautiful relationship. We can do something about it. Shakespeare again: ‘Our bodies are our gardens to the which our wills are gardeners.’ Having the will to work on our gardens (figurative or literal) is better than doing nothing and hoping beauty will just happen. For the relationships in your garden, what actual work are you going to do to make them beautiful?
Somebody commented on the above paragraph that it seemed a bit rambling like I didn't know what to write. Well, it's like this, the monthly magazine deadline was approaching and I needed something for June asap! But you, dear internet reader, get the low down - my brain WAS a bit rambling at the time and I didn't know what to write, but I knew I wanted to get relationships in there somewhere because I've been thinking about how relationships need time and effort to nurture romance and getting on easily with a partner takes occasional bursts of work, and I wanted to mention the open gardens somewhere as that's topical, and I like Song of Solomon (I didn't know at the time that Harry and Meghan were going to have that for their wedding but good on them for doing so as I love that reading!) and a quick google for Shakespeare quotes regarding gardening left me then with with a bunch of ingredients to mix together. And that's how a magazine article comes together, and then, not having a proper blog, but having a 'vicar's view' page on our website that I don't know how to delete, I put that here, and if I can, with a picture that gives 'added value' (meaning it's not in the magazine but only here!). This month's 'added value' is that you get to see my actual garden just after I'd mowed a maze into the lawn just for fun :-)
I had a request to put my Pentecost sermon 'out there' on the website because of it's style. It's alright with a 'normal' sermon because the thoughts flow in a more wordy way, but with this one, as you'll see below, the thoughts are arranged in a different way, and they went past too fast for my listeners to muse over as I went racing on ;-)
‘Oh what transport of delight’ sing Flanders and Swan about the London omnibuses. To me, the familiarity of the phrase comes from ‘The king of love my shepherd is’, based on Psalm 23. I am hoping we can supply the Bishop of Norwich, Rt. Revd. Graham James, with transport of delight when he visits our six villages on the 6th May (Service in Wilby at 10am), for we plan Tractors, Horse and racing carriage, and Ambulater in the course of his day. I hope the weather’s a delight too.
The following week we celebrate the Ascension of Christ and the beginning of ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ week – a week encouraging people to pray for this country in a more concerted way. I hope you will join in. The Anglican, Methodist and New Life Churches will all be having different events during the ten days starting on the 10th May. If you like to be up early, come for prayers each morning at St. Mary’s Banham, 7am. If you’re more a nightingale, then sing at the Methodist Songs of Praise (16th at 7pm), or dance - Banham Community Centre on the 19th! If you need transport to get to these, then please ask and we will try to find you someone delightful to help 😊.
I write this while still in the glow of Easter and all the positive music that comes in the season in church after the somewhat sombre season of Lent. I hope that you will find sources of delight through your prayers, in whatever weather we are sent, and even your transport. And yes, alright. I made up Ambulater. He’s walking one section, weather permitting.
(pic from picgifs.com)
The Lord is risen! Alleluia! Happy Easter everyone!
I thought having Easter on April 1st was bound to cause trouble. Was it Jesus way of doing an ‘April fool’ on his disciples? ‘You saw me die last Friday but, April Fool! I’m back!’ Vicars might be tempted for such nonsense, but Jesus rising from the dead was a serious business, even frightening, but it’s Jesus way of saying, ‘I meant what I said’. I look forward therefore, in hope, to my own dying and rising.
On another matter: Old Buckenham’s Raise the Roof campaign goes up a notch on the 22nd April with the Old Buckenham 2000 Trust 10k run (details: http://www.oldbuckenham.org.uk/index.php/old-buckenham-race). If you’re not an actual runner, the please consider causing your ink to run instead, around the letters for ‘Old Buckenham PCC’ on a suitable bit of paper. We turn to God to bless our fields and industry on 6th May when Bishop Graham of Norwich comes to pray for us on Rogation Sunday in Wilby at 10am (with the New Buckenham Silver Band). Afterwards he will come to Old Buckenham for lunch. Currently the longest serving bishop in the church of England, member of the House of Lords, nationally known on Radio 4, he will thank and encourage us all. All Saints is a beautiful church and my hope is that people can take a share in the roof by helping to fund it. The dividend on that share is that for the rest of your life you can look at it and say, ‘I helped build that roof!’. If 40 people pledge to give an average of £20 per week for the next two years, that would do it.
That previous paragraph is less ‘Vicar's View’ material and more an advert or call for support. The fact is though, that what the view looks like from The Rectory is a blend of surface reality and deeper reality. Without the news of the first paragraph, the second paragraph would be utterly pointless to me. What’s your view?
Sometimes I’m embarrassed by how much it costs to keep a trained and up to speed vicar on the road, but local personnel ‘on the ground’ are the main ministry strategy of the church – we don’t want to centralise our services in larger centres as nearly everything else is these days. Our six churches between them managed about 80% of that ministry cost last year, and we are proud that we are not such a drain on other wider church resources that otherwise subsidise us. Church members and friends also pay for the maintenance of 5 graveyards for use by all the villages, and of course our beautiful church buildings that bear witness to the ways of God and his followers in our land. These are our ‘holy places’ and I encourage you in this season of Lent and Easter to make use of them.
There are however some costs that you cannot pay. While you can pay for most things, even friendship to an extent, I don’t think you can pay for good will or for love, but that needs to be freely offered. When someone you love offends you, for all that they may say they’re sorry, and may even try to pay you in restitution, your love is not bought by it. Whatever their sorrow and whatever they do to ‘make it up’, there is a point when you have to bear the offence, forgive, and then love, and that is a cost that cannot be paid by the one who sins against you. We remember this most poignantly at the end of this month. As the old hymn puts it, ‘There was no other good enough to pay the price of sin. He only could unlock the gate of heav'n and let us in’. You may express some sorrow, and might try restitution, but you cannot earn that open door. He has carried our offences, and his door is open. I encourage you to turn to him. Holy Week services are advertised in another section – all is paid, come on in.
Graveyard prowlers are not encouraged, especially ones with black cloaks and scythes, but Banham’s churchyard clearly had something going on in early December when a beaten path slowly and mysteriously appeared going right round the church. Was it a muntjac, or a lost cat looking for home? Perhaps a disturbed tomb resident was having a nightly jaunt!!! Phil, who unlocks the church each day, made enquiries but to no avail, until one evening, when he was waiting in the darkness by the churchyard gate (for delivery of the Christmas tree), he heard the quiet clink of keys and looked over the wall to see what spectre there might be to make such a noise. In the dim light, he saw a mysterious grey headed person, wrapped up against the cold, walking deliberately along the very path he had been wondering about, holding keys that jangled quietly in the cold of night! On the phone to me later that night he asked, ‘was that you?’.
It was. Every day a parish priest is supposed to say his church prayers twice a day. But saying prayers is usually a very sedentary activity, not something that helps towards getting fit. I’d downloaded an app (Active 10) which encourages a brisk walk for at least 10 minutes a day and I thought I would combine part of my evening prayers with a bit of exercise, and began walking round the graveyard seven times a day. Each time round I pray for one of our six villages, and then the last time round is for myself. I finish it with a short time in church and then lock up. Thus, the quiet jangle of keys. Thus, the mysterious path. The vicar’s on the prayer prowl.
The season of Lent begins on Valentine’s Day. You could give up some time to go for a prayer walk each day. Or join us in church on Sundays 😊!
(Picture from BrettQuays Photography http://www.brettquays.co.uk)
2017 December/2018 January
The clock is ticking. Time goes by. This is our third Christmas in the Quidenham Group of Parishes. At the time of writing I’m having trouble choosing hymns that people know – I’m in the dark of course because I don’t know they don’t know them until we have them. We journey into the unknown! It’ll be the same with choosing carols at Christmas, but slowly, I’m sort of getting the hang of it.
The clock is ticking. Time goes by. Advent calendars, some with chocolates, encourage us to count time and mark the days until the awaited day! Advent marks the day, as yet unknown, when Jesus comes. We’re in the dark of course because we don’t know the day. But we do know the day of Christmas, and celebrating it is a good contribution to being prepared for that greater day when he comes, or we return to him. Hearing Jesus’ story is a way to get a good perspective on life.
The clock is ticking. Time goes by. New Year is looming, new hopes, new dreams perhaps, or maybe depression – another year, another headache? For some, the long dark nights and lonely Christmases make this a hard time of year. Look out for those on their own – a word of encouragement, of willingness to support, a gift perhaps, can stop alone-ness becoming loneliness. If someone in your family seems quiet, perhaps it’s not a gift they wanted, but rather a word of appreciation, a warm embrace, or simply your company for longer than the gap between your emails and facebook. Sing up, remember Jesus, love, and you’ll get the hang of this season and be ready for next year too!
Happy Christmas to Banham and the Bucks, Eccles, Quidenham and Wilby!
When I first came to rural Norfolk two years ago there were a number of aspects of life here that were like I'd stepped back into the past - there were the Funeral Directors with their solomn bowing, long hearses, and formal uniforms of top hat, tails and walking cane, which I'd not seen for more than 20 years; there were obligations to what you 'must have' at a wedding or funeral which I thought were optional, and the choice of music in church was so very traditional, and, thinking of Rememberance Sunday, it was quite a shock to discover that Remembrance Sunday was a time to remember the British dead from the two world wars, as if nothing had happened since. Slowly I discovered I wasn't the only one finding it hard to get used to church, and this year we've stepped out in Old Buckenham and allowed the uniformed organisations to have a say in what happens in the afternoon service. It was refreshing last night to see the video that the scouts have chosen to show in the Remembrance service in Old Buckenham, (yes, a video in a Remembrance Day service, what is the world coming to!) - it reminded me of my own experiences (tiny though they are) of involvement with the military, made up of 'real life' soldiers, fighting in the present day, young men remembering friends who have died in the wars of today.
Remembrance Day is a time to remember what truly awful things happen when nations coordinate their resources to fight one another, a time to dedicate ourselves to pay for, work for, and to work together for peace. It's not a fun service, but it's important. We forget the cost of war at our peril.
Old Buckenham, 2pm in Church. Pray that it may be a good service, that people won't be upset because it's 'not like the way we used to do it' but will see past it to what it means to the younger people to have had a more active part in it than standing on parade. Pray that the uniformed organisations who helped design it will find it relevant, meaningful, and something to draw them a little closer to the calling of God on their lives.
Ah me! All the change we have to live with in modern life!
And now they’re changing our change! I can remember using the money pictured here, and the old pound note, and can even remember buying ‘Black Jacks’ for a pre-decimal ha’penny, though I don’t remember farthings as I was less than 1 year old when they ceased to be legal tender. There’s a shop in Diss that still sells Black Jacks and other sweets from my youth but it’s not the same.
Sometimes I can get very wistful about the things that I used to enjoy that no longer happen, and even if I am able to recreate them, I am still dissatisfied because it’s just not the same here and now – at the very least, I have changed, let alone the life around me! Like the falling leaves of autumn, the past is gone, which sounds so final and lonesome, but every day is a NEW day, every day is a NEW start, and lifting up my heart to enjoy what IS, as well as what WAS, is one key to live in a beautiful world. God is described as the one who was, and is, and is to come – he doesn’t fall away like an autumn leaf. In a world of change, God is a rock, a strength, a source of true being, and I encourage you to consciously walk with him every day, thanking him for the harvest of your life.
Meanwhile, the old pound coin falls out of circulation from the middle of October, and the church, not known for change, is happy to take all your old change! (We’re also happy to take your old fivers and tenners too, though with the tenner you’ve got until next Spring to spend it).
St. Mary’s Banham is hoping to raise £6000 with a gift day to cover its deficit this year, St. Andrew’s Quidenham is replacing its stolen roof, and All Saint’s Old Buckenham is in the early stages of raising the money to rethatch its church building. Join us in building for the future.
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?
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 😊
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.
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!
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).
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.
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.
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.