St. Mary’s Great Massingham
Although the parish is mentioned in the Domesday Commissioners’ report of 1086, no reference is made to a church or priest. Less than 100 years later there were two churches in the village, St Mary’s and All Saints. (No sign of All Saints now!) St Mary’s represented the focal point of village life for hundreds of years, being used for various meetings other than religious occasions. For example, the porch, added around 1300, was used as a schoolroom. Sir Robert Walpole, England’s first Prime Minister in 1720 is thought to have been educated in this porch as a young boy. His descendants still live in Houghton Hall, 3 miles to the north.
The great square tower of St. Mary’s Church, built in the 15th century, is a structure with diagonal buttresses tapering up in four stages to the battlements and corner pinnacles. It houses four bells, three of which were re-cast in 1903. The outstanding architectural feature of the church is its 13th century porch. The high entrance arch is supported by a pair of polygonal buttresses. Visitors then walk between six pairs of fine lancet windows and then enter the church through a doorway of the same period as the porch.
The church interior has several notable features, most striking is the exceptionally tall arch under the tower at the west end of the nave. The apex of this arch is about half the height of the tower itself. Other features include the 14th century font, the very old coats of arms painted high on the clerestory walls, the unused door to the rood loft high up in the north wall of the chancel, and the 15th century painted glass in the south windows of the chancel. The figures were decapitated by the Puritans in the 16th century, however, the symbols carried by the figures indicate that they are eight of the Apostles.
Massingham Churches are in the Benefice of The Gayton, Grimston and Great Massingham & District Benefice.
Team Vicar is: The Rev. Judith Pollard: 01485 601251
There is an active bell ringing group – Tower Captain: Denys Winner: Phone No: 01485 520598
St Andrew’s is the Parish Church of Little Massingham, just to the north of Great Massingham. It is considered to be one of the prettiest churches in the area with the white and greys of the flint setting off the pattern of old red bricks. The red bricks in the south clerestory wall are pieces of red chalk quarried near Hunstanton on the North Norfolk Coast.
The 15th-century porch has panels of flint flush work on either side of the entrance. Much of the remainder of the church is 14th century, but a blocked window in the north wall of the chancel is thought to be Norman. The Domesday Survey says that the two Massinghams were already separate and distinct communities, so it is likely that the Normans built a stone church at Little Massingham to replace a wooden Saxon church, just as they did in many other places.
The tomb under the tower is the burial place of Sir John L’ Estrange (d1517) and his wife Margaret. It is of grey marble and has holes for the rivets that once secured brass effigies of the couple and other brass ornamentation. Initially sited in the south-east corner of the nave, then later moved and sunk flush with the floor near the pulpit. It was moved to its present position in 1857 when the floor was tiled. The Victorian pulpit by Thomas Jekyll dates from the same year. The squint (or hagioscope) was cut at an angle through the wall by the chancel arch in medieval times so that the priest officiating at the Lady Chapel altar could watch and keep in time with the Rector at the main Altar in the chancel.
3rd 11.00 am Holy Communion Great Massingham
10th 10.30 am Group Holy Communion Little Massingham
17th 09.30 am Holy Communion Little Massingham
17th 11.00 am Holy Communion Great Massingham
24th 11.00 am Holy Communion Great Massingham
31st 11.00 am Mothering Sunday Celebration Great Massingham
Wednesday Teas will be held at 3 Abbeyfields from the 7th of November – thanks to Judy and Mary. All welcome from 2pm
If you are able to help on some Wednesday afternoons, your support will be much appreciated.
Please phone Anna – 520196 or Margaret – 520135.
For more news please visit our benefice website at www.ggmbenefice.uk
This takes place every Saturday from 10 am.
We are hoping to get a working party together to tackle some of the clearance jobs in the churchyard. It would be good if we had offers of help just on a casual basis.
If you are willing to help, even for just an hour to two, then please let me have your name and telephone number and I will try to coordinate a suitable date and time even if just to allocate some tasks to be done at your convenience.
February 2019 Message to Parishioners…….. What Does Lent Mean?
The English word ‘Lenten’ derives from the lengthening of days after winter as we move into spring, a time of growth and renewal.
The Christian observance of Lent has its origins in the ancient church and the preparation of candidates for baptism. Easter was the only time when baptisms were carried out and so the days leading up to Easter held particular significance for baptismal candidates – it was the final stage in their long preparation to become members of the Christian church.
Lent was also a time of preparation for those who had been excommunicated, thrown out of the church for ‘grave and public sin’. Lapsed Christians were reconciled and the excommunicated re-admitted to the Church’s sacramental life in time for the great celebration of Easter, after the completion of a period of penance.
It was not long before the Church came to realise the benefits to all Christian people of such a period of preparation, in order to be truly ready to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus at Easter. Over time the Church’s rules governing the observance of Lent have softened. In the early centuries penitence, self-denial, almsgiving, prayer, fasting and study were all rigorously demanded.
A 12th century poem records: “Now is the healing time decreed, for sins of heart and word and deed, when we in humble fear record the wrong that we have done the Lord.”
It is interesting that the word healing is used here, suggesting that even in the earliest times Lent had a positive pastoral focus; it was a time of reconciliation, where people’s spiritual shortcomings could be forgiven and made right with God. St. Bernard of Clairvaux writes: “Sorrow for sin is indeed necessary but it should not involve endless self-preoccupation. You should dwell also on the glad remembrance of the loving kindness of God.”
How can we, in the 21st century, take full advantage of the season of Lent? Perhaps a good place to start is to ask: What does ‘Lent’ really mean to me this year? What do I need to do to get the most out of this opportunity? How can I re-boot my life? Jesus chose to spend time alone, retreating into the austere environment of the desert to pray; he shows us that having personal space, peace and quiet, is important. Less is more… God will not accept false piety. God knows all our shortcomings, and he loves us still. If we act fairly, with generosity, compassion and justice, God will reward us. There is a lovely phrase in Isaiah: “you shall be like a watered garden.” How wonderful, the profusion of a watered garden! Lent offers us all an inspiring new beginning, to discover a little more about how God is working in our lives. Have a joyful Lent, With my love and prayers, Revd Judith x
January Message to Parishioners…….. Home is where the heart is…
Home is where the heart is – that’s what they say. Recently, our eldest son, Joseph, who is disabled, returned home to live with us full-time and it has
made a huge difference to our lives! The washing machine is never off!
Sharing your private, personal space with others can be an interesting challenge. We like things to stay the same and may get into a rut, where what we are familiar with must be protected at all costs.
Home, sweet home! “…Where seldom is heard a discouraging word and the skies are not cloudy or grey.” Sadly, our skies have been pretty cloudy and grey for ages. Do we live surrounded by our loved ones, our friends and families? Some people do not; my mother in Nottingham continues to live alone (and unaided) – in the family home, which is now becoming rather burdensome to her – but she is deeply resistant, unsurprisingly, to trying a new way of being ‘at home’.
Our homes, however, we define them, provide us with wide-ranging security which can only be sustained through stability: in our job, our income, our relationships. Without stability, it is very difficult to maintain a home.
Years ago, I worked for the Department of Employment, coming into contact with people in differing circumstances; and those who were most difficult to reach out to and help were people with no fixed address. Having very little stability in their lives, they tended to have complex problems and were
deeply vulnerable to harm.
Our hearts go out to the homeless people throughout the world we hear about in the news; people who are dispossessed, forced to leave their homes (or what passes for a home) due to war and oppression – so much misery, grief, despair: migrants fleeing situations devoid of hope, asylum seekers, refugees, vulnerable unaccompanied children. I read of a teenager who tied himself to the chassis of a lorry for hundreds of miles in order to smuggle himself into the UK. Our hearts cannot fail to be moved in the face of such desperation. We see people crossing the Channel in tiny boats, yearning for a different reality, their frantic searching for home, their right place to be.
Many UK citizens now live in the European Union and vice versa; we have long been encouraged to develop closer ties with our European neighbours. After 40-odd years of lives being intertwined, our citizens are all mixed up – in work and family living and in retirement. What will happen now? There is such uncertainty around the future for us all. We must pray for stability – and for justice to prevail.
Home: what does this simple little word really mean to us? In the prayer of thanksgiving after Holy Communion, we say: “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.”
When we share together in fellowship, in caring for one another, in worship, the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, here and now. We are already at home in God’s love. Heaven can be a place on earth. God reminds us of this truth always: He sent his only Son to meet us and bring us home. The first will be last and the last first. Let this hopeful thought make its home in our open hearts.
With my love to you all, Judith
Christmas is coming!
How are your Christmas preparations coming together this year? We are now in the season of Advent which runs from Sunday 2nd to Mon 24th December. Advent is a time for getting our priorities right and getting ready before Christmas.
It seems most of the TV adverts at the moment are presenting us with a perfect Christ-mas. Apparently, all we need is Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, ALDI or LIDL to ensure a perfect Christmas. Oh, and don’t forget ARGOS if you want to avoid the Christmas gremlins (or fools), as the advert puts it! We are being invited everywhere to buy into a guaranteed perfect Christmas. But, as we all know, the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry! Perhaps they go awry because our preparations are focussing on the wrong priorities?
Christmas means many different things to many different people. To some, it is all about getting together with the family. For others, it is all about making sure the children or the grandchildren have a great time. Or, maybe you think it is all about eating the biggest and most extravagant meal of the year!
For many, Christmas is about anticipating traditions. The scents, sights, and sounds of the season – pine needles, sausage rolls cooking on Christmas Eve, candles in church, decorations, lights, carols, and church bells at midnight.
For others, it’s all about the gifts and the excitement of expectation – whatever can possibly be in that parcel under the tree?
But then there’s the awe of it all as we picture a mother and father, shepherds, kings, and the angels of heaven around the manger. Whatever you are looking forward to, at the heart of all our activities and celebrations lies the arrival of a baby.
When God gave that first Christmas, he gave himself.
His gift to us was his love, his peace, his joy. He came to share our human life so that we might understand his presence with us and his love for us. None of the things God gave to the world can be bought from Tesco’s and wrapped up. They are gifts that cannot be shopped for or summed up with a price tag.
So, if you are thinking of coming to church this year, don’t just do it for the children. Do it as your response to God’s love for you.
We do hope you will join us. We have a whole range of services to choose from so there should be something to suit everyone. There’s something so special about being in your local parish church at this seasonal time of year.
After all, the biggest joy, the perfect Christmas is surely in gathering together. Jesus came among us and at Christmas time we gather together with one another as we gather around Him in a very special way.
Christmas and New Year blessings to you all.
Much Love, Rev’d Jane
A Time of Remembrance
This year, 2018, marks the centenary of the Armistice which marked the end of the First World War. At the time it was thought to be the war to end all
wars. Sadly, this has not been the case and since then there have been countless conflicts all over the world – and continuing.
Remembrance is a time both of national mourning and collective memory, a time to bring our shared histories to life as we seek to remember individuals, perhaps family members – military personnel and civilians – whose lives have been shaped by and sacrificed in war. There is a wonderfully evocative passage in the Bible, from Micah, Chapter 4: ‘They shall beat their swords into plough shares and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation shall not lift up sword against nation neither shall they learn war any more. But they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees – and no one shall make them afraid.’ We may not have vines and fig trees but you get the general picture: no one shall make them afraid to speak out for truth and justice always.
The season of Remembrance is also a time to think more broadly of those dear to us who have died, that great cloud of witnesses who wait for us upon another shore and in a greater light, as we approach All Saints’ Day (1st November) and All Souls’ Day (2nd November), also called the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed. Another way of describing All Saints is ‘All Hallows’- churchyards are ‘hallowed ground’ – hence the eve of this day: 31st October is perhaps better known as Hallowe’en -or All Hallows Eve, a time when heaven and earth feel more closely aligned.
As Christians, we are given hope through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ who died for us, that death is not the end, only the end of our earthly life – and the beginning of eternal life in glory.
My colleague Jane and I will be holding special services at St. Botolph’s, Grimston and St. Mary’s, Great Massingham to commemorate our departed loved ones; please see parish magazines or our website: ggmbenefice.uk for details.
As a nation, we seek always to value the freedoms so dearly won for us. We should always use this precious freedom wisely – many others are not so fortunate – and pass it on to future generations in gratitude and as an enduring legacy of peace and hope.
With my love to you all in the name of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, Reverend Judith.
The Path of Life
As many of you will know I returned to the parishes recently after taking a three-month sabbatical during the summer – and what a summer we had! Blue skies and hot sunshine with no rain for weeks on end! I thoroughly enjoyed it. I hope you were able to get outside and enjoy it too.
During my time away I embarked on a number of pilgrimages, walking long distances through some of the more wild and wonderful areas of the British countryside. On one of my journeys, I walked alone for three days through the Peak District. It was a profound experience walking alone with God day after day in the hills and valleys of Derbyshire. As I walked I found myself reflecting upon the path ahead of me and comparing it with the path of life.
Sometimes the way ahead was rough, rocky, steep and exhausting! The path could be narrow – clearly no other way to go – but at other times I faced a broad expanse of hillside and there seemed to be no clear path or direction. There were definitely times I felt lost and I was grateful then to come across a way-marker confirming I was headed in the right direction. At times I was also relieved when the way took me into the shade of cool wooded areas with a refreshing river flowing alongside and the way was easy, clear, comfortable and very enjoyable.
Whatever my thoughts along this varied journey, it brought me to reflect that our lives are very similar. Sometimes life is an absolute joy, the going is easy, we know where we are heading, we have a clear map or plan for our lives. But it’s true for all of us that there are also times in our lives when, along the way, we will encounter difficulties and hardship; we will all endure times of great pain. We can feel lost, lonely and afraid and we can’t see a way ahead. It’s then that we are grateful when friends, family, or indeed strangers, come alongside to offer support, comfort and love to bring us what relief they
can and to help us along the path we must tread.
The great thing is that I knew, as I walked and pondered these things, that I wasn’t actually alone on my journey. God was with me every step of the way – as he is in life – if only we open our hearts to his love. I believe with all my heart that is what God desires for all of us; that we hold him close in our hearts, for it is there that, in our darkest times and our deepest sorrow, we can draw comfort and strength from the depths of his love and care for us. And when life is good? Well, my experience, and I know that of many 0thers amongst us, is that when our way is clear and smooth and bountiful there is no greater delight than being able to rejoice with Him, our loving Father. As we sing songs of praises our hearts too sing for joy.
A great summer, some great walks, many great memories to treasure and a closeness with God in my heart that I will cherish always.
Still, it is good to be back! Much love, Rev’d Jane
Mercy and the Cross of Christ
Recent stories in the news have caused me to reflect on the Christian understanding of mercy – ‘Mercy’ is showing compassion or forgiveness to someone
in one’s power to punish or to harm.
Human relationships can be very complicated but we always have the capacity to be kind and generous. Often there is inequality in our relationships – one person being stronger than another, either physically or emotionally: the stronger person who has power is the one who can show mercy. You may remember a song by Duffy called Mercy?
Making someone beg for mercy is really harsh because we can freely choose to treat each other with kindness. An action to relieve suffering of any kind is a merciful act.
Imagine a condemned prisoner in America, on Death Row, facing the death penalty; the state governor has the power to be merciful and intervene, commuting the death sentence to life imprisonment. He can show mercy. We can show mercy too, in much less dramatic ways, in the way we behave to one another. Can you think of a time when you showed mercy to someone else?
Shakespeare wrote: ‘The quality of mercy is not strained, it droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath. It is twice blessed: it blesses he who gives and he who receives.’ Everyone benefits from mercy.
Christians call Jesus Christ ‘our merciful redeemer’. He gave his life for us on the Cross, so that we might live as redeemed people, freed from sin. When he died, Jesus took away our sins – and the sins of the whole world: he showed mercy. The old hymn states: ‘There’s wideness in God’s mercy like the wideness of the sea….’ a powerful image of the vast, limitless nature of God’s mercy.
The Cross is the powerful symbol of Jesus’s unfailing mercy to us. We are weak, we don’t always do the right thing but Jesus is merciful and he will always forgive us. The Cross is the universal symbol of our faith as Christians. It can remind us of many things: suffering, humility, reconciliation… and also, importantly, hope and love. God offers us the hope of redemption through Jesus Christ. God loves us unconditionally; we are made in his image to reflect his truth and light and we each have the opportunity for a personal relationship with God through faith. This is what the Cross reminds us of: our
merciful God, who always loves us, even though we don’t deserve it…
The Bible tells us: ‘The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning.’ What an inspiring thought to keep in mind.
With love, Judith
One of my son Joseph’s favourite books in childhood was The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. It describes the adventures of a tiny caterpillar as
he munches his way through many exciting foods, growing bigger and bigger until he becomes a cocoon and, ultimately, a beautiful butterfly. Children
identify with this story. Eating too many treats can mean having a stomach ache but the hungry caterpillar had to be so greedy to be transformed into a butterfly! It’s about positive transformation.
Many of Jesus’s stories or parables are about transformation too. The word parable literally means ‘to throw alongside’; there’s a sense of strength here and also surprise. God’s kingdom is nothing if not surprising – and counter-cultural, subverting conventional power systems such as, in Jesus’ time, the all-conquering Roman Empire. And still, the Gospel message continues to inspire and energise us to this day. Parables allow us to use our imagination to engage with Jesus’s stories in each new generation and compel us to challenge conventional ways of looking at the world. We could all do with some unconventionality
occasionally – think of President Donald Trump and North Korea!
St. Iraeneus, one of the Fathers of the Church, said in the fourth century that: ‘the glory of God is a human being fully alive.’ I would strongly suggest that we are all in a process of transformation, becoming ever more authentic to our particular calling, whatever that calling may be. This may involve munching our way through the right food, or taking the right exercise or reading the right books or sharing the right conversations.
However, ultimately, we need courage and to have the space in our lives to listen to our families and friends but also to be influenced perhaps by external factors for good, in order to grow and develop both as individuals and as communities.
St Benedict, known as ‘the father of Western monasticism’, wrote a renowned Book of Rules to order life in the community, which people still find helpful today. Life in the community doesn’t have to mean a religious community, it can apply to any situation where people are living and working together, such as our village communities here in Norfolk.
Two of St. Benedict’s most important rules are: don’t judge your brother or sister, and don’t grumble. The first word in his book is ‘Listen’. Let us heed this wisdom of St. Benedict and continue together on this lifelong journey of transformation.
Summer is a wonderful time – of rest and recuperation, holidays, good times shared, village fetes and sunny days (hopefully!) Have a wonderful summer!
With my prayers and gratitude, Judith.
Sun, Sand and Sore Feet!
Some of you may know that I am going to be away from the parishes for three whole months this summer, on Sabbatical. However, I will be back at the end of August!
A Sabbatical is granted after a number of years in ministry and is given as a time for ‘reflection and refreshment’ – in particular, ‘spiritual refreshment.’
So what will I be doing with this precious time? Lots of sun and sand I hope – with not too many blisters on my poor feet – I hope and pray! I will be undertaking several ‘pilgrimages’ involving long distance walking across some of the UK’s most stunning countryside and coastlands. Hiking and hill walking is a popular hobby for many people and has long been a favourite pastime of mine – so – on with the boots and off I go!
You may wonder, what is the difference between a long distance walk and a pilgrimage?
After all, when you look at the pilgrim road on the one hand and at a hiking track on the other, they’re essentially the same. There’s a track, you walk, you carry your stuff, you meet other people. The main difference is that a pilgrimage has a special place at the end, there’s a more or less fixed trail, there’s a religious context and there is both an outer and an inner spiritual journey.
When Christians go on a pilgrimage they travel somewhere that is special to their faith. It might be to places written about in the Bible, such as where Jesus and the early Christians lived. It may be to a place where a miracle is said to have once happened or to where a saintly person has lived, worked or is buried. Importantly, the journey itself matters as much as arriving in the special place, because it gives the pilgrim (the person on the journey) time to pray and to think.
It’s an important part of spiritual life for many Christians as we leave behind everyday concerns and spend time in the presence of God. Over the years, places have become special for different reasons and because of different people. On my journeys this summer I will visit the tiny island of Iona off the West Coast of Scotland, sometimes called ‘The cradle of Christianity’.
I will also journey (walking of course!) to the parish church at Eyam, Derbyshire where, in 1665-1666, the heroism of the villagers is still remembered when they listened to their vicar and pledged to ‘stay put’ and endure the plague rather than flee and infect the surrounding area. 276 people in the village died – including the vicar’s wife. God (and feet) willing I will complete Cuthbert’s Way, a walk of some 70 odd miles across country, to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, Northumberland where in 635AD Saint Aidan came from Iona and founded his monastery. The Christian message flourished from there and spread throughout the world.
These will be some of my special places and I hope that my visits will bring me closer to God and to myself. I also hope and pray that you too will find special places to visit this summer on your own journeys.
Bon Voyage & Much Love, Rev’d Jane.
Here we are in the merry month of May, sitting comfortably at the crossroads of Spring and Summer. This month, many historical influences are strongly
felt. ‘Cast not a clout until May is out’ is an old warning not to shed winter clothing too early in the year.
The wind at North and East
was never good for man nor beast,
so never think to cast a clout
until the month of May be out
Let’s hope the weather improves so that ‘clouts’ (clothing, rags, patches) can be cast with impunity!
The Anglo-Saxons called this month thrimilce because, then, cows could be milked three times a day. The present name, from the Latin Maius, probably refers to Maia – the goddess of growth & increase. May is a month of blossom. Virgil says that Roman youths used to go out into the fields and spend May Day dancing and singing in honourof Flora – another goddess – but this time of fruits and flowers.
The English have long celebrated May Day with games and sports, particularly archery and Morris dancing, and the setting up of the maypole on the village green for dancing around with long ribbons. There was also a competition for the prettiest girl, the May Queen. May used to be a popular girls’ name and is still occasionally used.
May Day was also (in times mercifully gone by) the festival day for London chimney sweepers. It also has deep political connotations for the Labour movement, being known as International Labour Day.
‘Here we go gathering nuts in May’, from the children’s nursery song, is probably a corruption of ‘knots of May’ referring to the old custom of gathering posies (knots) of flowers or hawthorn twigs on May Day. May blossom is another name for hawthorn. There are no nuts to be gathered in May!
In the Church calendar, May is the month of Ascension day and Whit Sunday – also called Pentecost – of Whitsun weddings, works outings and public holidays and of the coming of the Holy Spirit to inspire and invigorate the life and worship of the Church. It is a welcome time of renewal and new growth.
We would do well to tap into this resurgent Maytime blossoming and growth – we really need it in our lives, our communities, our churches. If a few people do a lot all of the time it’s really hard work for them: but if many people regularly do a little it can be far less burdensome – fun even!
Finally, Mayday is an internationally accepted radio signal word for distress/danger used by aircraft or ships. It comes from the French for ‘help me’ (m’aider). In these troubled times globally, perhaps we should pray fervently that this May that mayday will not be needed…
With my love and prayers, Reverend Judith
Let’s think for a moment about plastic – a superb modern material, all around us in our daily lives. Everything seems to be made from plastic – which used to be thought a Very Good Thing, a huge improvement on previous materials. Alexander Parkes gave the first public demonstration of plastic, his new invention, in 1862 at the Great International Exhibition in London.
I feel compelled to get on my soapbox this month, something I do try to resist. Have you seen recent news reports about the catastrophic damage plastic waste is doing to our planet? The pristine Antarctic wilderness, the last unspoilt corner of our world, is pristine no longer.
Our discarded plastic such as bottles, rope and plastic micro beads from cosmetics, often pulverised into minute fragments by the sea, is infiltrating our ecosystems, devastating the landscape and killing wildlife throughout the food chain right up to polar bears and large aquatic mammals.
What can we do to improve this dire situation? We may think very little – other countries especially in the developing world, are far more culpable. But we all have a duty of care. We all want to be wise & responsible stewards of our world for future generations. Norway has a well-developed plastic bottle recycling system which works well, incentivising people to collect empty bottles and reuse them responsibly. We could learn from them.
Which brings me to tea bags. Try buying loose tea these days. It’s difficult. 95% of the tea we buy is in tea bags; in the UK alone we drink 165 million cups per day, 62 billion per year. Tea bags used to be made of paper but nowadays are frequently made of plastic and nylon fragments and polyethylene to make them stronger. These items may take 2000 years to biodegrade – if at all. 165 million cups of tea every day. If we all went back to using loose tea that would make a positive difference. Small changes, big effects.
Sorry about the soapbox – but some issues are impossible to ignore!
God’s Kingdom of justice and peace is always close at hand. This year, on April 1st, Christians throughout the world will celebrate God’s saving power through the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ and we will draw close to God. The theological term for this is ‘reconciliation.’ We need to be reconciled too to our planet and to its delicate ecology… for ourselves and for future generations. The alternative – the gradual destruction of our planet – is unthinkable.
Lord of all life, help us to work together for that day when your Kingdom comes and justice and mercy will be seen in all the earth.
Wishing you all a blessed Lent, Reverend Judith.
Love is in the Air
We are well into 2018 now; Christmas and New Year celebrations are long gone and there is a feeling of being back into the normal mundane daily routine of things.
However, at this time of year in the churches, we begin preparations with couples planning to marry in the months ahead, which is always a pleasure and a joy.
Furthermore, the middle of the month gives us an opportunity to celebrate once again – to celebrate love. Many of you, I’m sure, will be looking forward to doing something special on Valentine’s Day. Love is truly in the air this month.
So, for all you romantics out there, what is your best hope for the 14th February 2018? A card perhaps (at the very least!) or a message via social media so that the world may know! Or maybe, it will be a dozen red roses, your favourite chocolates or even a meal out. Or, better still, all of the above! It’s a shame hardly any of us write love letters any more Texts, emails, social media just aren’t the same, or maybe I’m just becoming ‘old fashioned’.
Thinking about love though, I was struck by the words of Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer on BBCs Radio 4’s ‘Thought for the day’ recently. His subject – ‘love’. So, especially if you will be spending a quiet Valentine alone, remember this: The bible is like a love letter from God to us. Inside its pages, we learn of God’s great love for us and everything that he has done. From the Creation stories to the Nativity we
learn who God is and, when we take the time to read those stories, we catch a glimpse of not only the past but also the future. For the truth is, even though we may change, God does not change. He is the same yesterday, today and forever and His love for us all is
When God sent Jesus, over two thousand years ago, to be born in a manger, into a world of violence and suspicion, He did it with one purpose. To redeem the world and offer us New Life in Him. God does not promise us an easy ride – but he does promise to be with us always, in good times and in bad and His love for us is beyond measure – his death on a cross showed us that. God was prepared to share in the world’s darkness and Christ gave his all for us. This was and is and always will be the most absolute total act of self-giving love the
world has ever, or will ever see.
Much Love, Rev’d Jane
Christmas Message From Reverend Judith
I have always been intrigued by ‘Secret Santa’ around in the workplace at this time of year. Everyone buys a gift (with a price ceiling, no bragging) and wraps it up all Christmassy. These gifts are handed out randomly to all employees. Some will be delighted, others less so, but the pleasure is mainly in the purchase of the surprise gift, carefully chosen, and the mischievous speculation in allocating the gifts: ‘Secret Santa.’
The season of Christmas radiates good cheer which means we are more disposed to be generous or to think of others with kindness. We remain convinced that Christmas is a good thing – even those of us without Christian faith. A break from work is welcome and our empathy for the less fortunate is enhanced and we give more generously to charitable causes, such as Samaritan’s Purse. This year their shoe-box appeal to provide a gift for children in need in areas of the world tough to live in has approached 200 boxes, an all time
high. Huge thanks to all who contributed.
Can we encourage this spark of altruism to grow? Are we open to offer random acts of kindness? Is there a willingness to be ‘hands-on’? Some of us already are of course – but perhaps we could do even more in our communities… Who is alone and in need of friendship, who finds shopping difficult and would welcome some practical help, who is in chronic pain and needs the distraction of an outing, a change of scene? The inspirational story of St. Nicholas who is behind the giving of Christmas presents – check it out, – and the Good King Wenceslas we sing about in the carol are both seasonal role models.
As this is the Christmas and New Year edition, it’s never too early to think about new beginnings, making a fresh start. Of course, this doesn’t have to be at New Year, but it’s the logical place. Our New Year resolutions (secret, perhaps, known only to ourselves?) seem doomed to failure as we set ourselves impossibly difficult targets.
Samuel Beckett once said, “Ever tried, ever failed. No matter. Try again, try harder, fail better.” However, the optimists among us will know there’s always the blessed possibility of success – and that’s what keeps us going!
Across our ten churches, 2018 is going to be a Year of Prayer and Pilgrimage – more details coming soon!
I wish you an abundance of joy this Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous New Year,
Remember, Remember, the Month of November!
November is a month to remember. It can seem a dark month – but there is light too!
In November, the clocks have gone back, it is getting dark by late afternoon and, if the wind blows from the north, the cold can be biting.
However, November 1st is All Saints’ Day when the Church remembers and celebrates those men and women of every age whose lives of gentle kindness, courage and love have brought light into the world and provided a glimpse of heaven on earth. Then on November 2nd we have All Souls’ Day when those who have died are remembered.
Our Celebration of Life Service this year fell a few days earlier on 29th October, held in Gayton Church; always a very moving and reflective service, full of poignant remembrance of those we have loved and lost in dark times but, also, our hearts are filled with the joy of having loved them and being loved by them and there is a warm sense of hope for the future, a gleam of light in the darkness.
To remember is to invite the past into the present. When we do this, people, places and shared experiences can be so valued and
cherished that greater meaning, depth and joy are brought to our lives today. Remembrance can be holy ground.
November 5th is, of course, gunpowder, treason and plot! We remember Guy Fawkes and his mates and celebrate the foiling of their treasonable plot in 1605. We have managed to turn that remembrance into something of a party with bonfires and fireworks so
it has become a splash of colour and light in the dark days of November!
Then, back into the dark, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month we mark Armistice Day in 1918 when the guns finally fell silent. We stand in silence to remember all those whose lives have been tragically cut short by warfare. November is a month of many services and events but some of the most poignant and powerful are the services of Remembrance which take place in our churches and around our war memorials as we recall the darkness of war.
But, there is one brilliant bright stunning light shining on the horizon – in just a few short weeks at the end of the month Advent commences – the countdown to Christmas! We are just one month from the light and joy of Christmas, but first, I’m afraid we have
to wait. The trouble is that we are not very good at waiting. In a culture of instant communication and obsessive planning we often find it difficult to simply allow the future to become the present in its own time.
Having to wait is difficult (especially for children, but for many grown-ups too!). So, when this month of remembering draws to a close, I wish you God’s blessing as we watch and wait for the light and joy of remembering and celebrating Jesus’ birth this Christmas time.
And remember – unlike the dearly departed that November commemorates – Jesus Christ is still with us now – present on earth through His Holy Spirit he can and will be alive in us all now and always. At least we don’t have to wait for that!
Much Love, Rev’d Jane
No one could fail to be moved by the floral tributes to Diana, Princess of Wales attached recently to the gates of Sandringham marking the 20th anniversary of her tragic death, nor the quiet dignity of Harry and William as they spoke of their mother and her legacy. The national outpouring of grief seems undiminished by the passing years.
The spirit of Diana lives on in her children and grand-children and in the continuing work of the charities she founded or with which she was associated: charities for the homeless, those suffering with HIV/Aids, victims of war and notably the clearing and future banning of landmines, to name but a few. We honour her memory and her legacy.
At the end of this month we celebrate the Christian festivals of All Saints and All Souls, often linked together in popular understanding as Hallowe’en – which actually means the day before or ‘eve’ of the Feast of All Hallows. The word ‘hallow’ is another word for holy, which can refer to a person – a saint! – or to an object, as in the last Harry Potter book. In the Lord’s Prayer we say: “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by your name.” Together with Remembrance Sunday these two days form the short season of Remembrance-tide. Hallowe’en is a well-embedded date in the calendar, especially with local farmers who grow the magnificent pumpkins for us to create pumpkin lanterns and to find ever more ingenious ways of cooking the delicious orange flesh in soups and pies. (Trick or treat was imported from America.)
This time of year is also known as a ‘thin place’, where earth and heaven come together more closely than usual, and this may have given rise to some of the myths and legends about ‘ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggetty beasties’ which abound in the tradition and folk-lore of the British Isles. On the Feast of All Hallows we remember all Christian saints and martyrs, both well known and less known. On the following day, All Souls, we give thanks for the lives of people we have known personally: those who gave us life, who nurtured us in faith or reflected for us in some way the love of Jesus Christ: the faithful departed, whom we mourn. St. Paul calls all Christian believers ‘saints’ and I would agree with him.
There will be special services in our group of churches where we will be commemorating our loved ones who have gone before us; and remembering the families and friends of those whose funerals have been conducted during the past year. In recognition of this we light candles: this earthly life is not the end, we have the hope offered to us through Jesus Christ, the promise of eternal life, by the grace of God.
In conclusion, it just remains for me to say: ‘Go forth into the world in peace: be of good courage, hold fast to that which is good; render to no one evil for evil, support the weak, help the afflicted, honour everyone, love and serve the Lord. Amen.’
With my continuing prayers, Reverend Judith
Our villages & our churches
Our villages have a great and historic past, much of it centred on or around our parish churches. Our glorious medieval buildings have been at the heart of village life for, in some cases, a thousand years. As well as providing Sunday Services, people have relied on our churches for Baptisms and Funerals, the joyful celebration of Weddings and to mark great national events such as Remembrance Sunday.
Our congregations give generously to cover the costs of running and maintaining our churches. Like all parish churches in our country, the local parish church receives no money from the Church of England nor does it get any government or other public funding – other than the tax recovered from Gift Aided donations and, in some parishes, help from the local parish council towards the maintenance of our churchyards.
We ourselves have to find thousands of pounds each and every year to pay the bills so that our churches can keep going and be available for all the people who live in our ten parishes. Day-to-day running costs include: • maintaining the clergy presence within the parish • keeping the churches open for worship and accessible for visitors • keeping the church welcoming – clean, dry and (hopefully) warm • paying for the cost of insurance and electricity • maintaining the churchyard in good order • the general upkeep and maintenance of a listed ancient building • dealing with restoration and redecoration, often major projects. • initiatives in the community with young people, families and the elderly – such as: Messy Church (Gayton), Holiday Club (Massingham), the OWLS – oldies who lunch (Grimston) and weekly tea and cake sessions in Gt. Massingham.
The parish church is for everybody. We value its ongoing, vibrant, active presence in our villages. The cost of its upkeep should not rest solely on those who worship there on a Sunday. We are therefore asking you to consider making a small monthly donation to your parish church to preserve it for both present and future generations. It is our great joy and privilege to serve all the people of our villages. We are deeply committed to our shared ministry across our ten churches – and we are determined to keep all our churches at the heart of village life. With your help we can do this – but only with your help. We are mindful that many of you already do a great deal to serve our churches and communities but if you feel able to give any financial support to your local church it really will make all the difference. With our love and prayers, Rev’d Jane and Rev’d Judith
Religion and Politics Don’t Mix! So some would say. Are they right?
Politics and religion are both important topics – more important than most topics in our lives – much more important than sport and even the good old British weather! However, they can both be controversial and generate different beliefs and feelings and so they are sensitive topics to talk about. It’s said that to bring either into conversation in a crowded room will create an argument – mention both together and there’s likely to be a brawl!
It could be said that religion deals with eternal things, spiritual things, things ‘not of this world’ whereas politics is very much ‘in the world’ dealing with the stuff of government, law and order, pot holes in the road, taxes, welfare, safety and protection. So, on the face of it, they don’t appear to have anything to do with each other.
Jesus told his disciples (us) we are to be ‘in the world’ yet ‘not of the world’. Complicated? I often use stories or symbols when I am explaining matters of faith to people. Being ‘in the world’ yet ‘not of the world’ can be demonstrated using water coloured with a little food colouring (representing the people of God) and oil (representing the world). Pour both into a jar and they will always separate out but shake it up a bit and they mix wonderfully well! Left to stand, the oil and water will naturally separate out again but the oil takes on colour from the water showing that when we go out and mix in the world we are to have an effect on it. Being a Christian in the world by sharing God’s love and goodness with the world is the way we can all help bring a little colour and beauty to it.
The church is in the world. It may not be of the world but it is definitely in this world.
And this world is a political world. Christians are both religious and political people. We believe, teach and confess things about God and we participate in the world of government and politics. Some may still say politics and religion don’t mix but faith, I hope, influences every area of my life – otherwise it’s less important than my hobbies or indeed the weather – and that surely would be an insult to God. Archbishop Welby reminded all Christians before the General Election that ‘Religious belief is the well-spring for the virtues and practices that make for good individuals, strong relationships and flourishing communities.
The Christian virtues of love, trust, justice and hope should guide our actions, as well as the actions and policies of all those who seek to lead our country.”
The world in which we live is complicated and there are no simple religious answers to the problems we, as individuals or the world, face but as the Archbishop of Canterbury reminded us we all have a duty to play our part.
With Love, Rev’d Jane
Vicar’s Letter for Flamin’ June
The sound of Mendelssohn’s Wedding March will soon be echoing around our villages – it’s June, although perhaps not flamin’ June as I write but certainly the start of the main wedding season. They say ‘if you marry in June you’re a bride all your life, and the bridegroom who marries in June gets a sweetheart for a wife.’ Well, there may not be seven brides for seven brothers this year but it’s just as exciting for all those involved in planning a wedding. People are still choosing to ‘tie the knot’ in church, making solemn promises in the eyes of God and in front of the gathered congregation, despite competition from alternatives like all-in-one wedding and reception venues.
Vows of love made in public are always extremely moving and it’s a joy and privilege to be alongside couples at this important time in their lives. We consider the different qualities of love: such as patience, kindness, trust and forbearance, truthfulness; and the cost of loving someone -because love always comes at a cost. So in June, love is in the air and it would be good to keep this uppermost in our minds as we are all drawn to other more turbulent events, less joyful perhaps but certainly emotionally charged. I’m thinking of the General Election.
Many people are anxious and disturbed by the challenging, uncharted political territory in which we find ourselves regardless of how we voted in the referendum or plan to vote on Thursday June 8th. Love in all its complexity is conspicuously absent from the political arena, especially during election campaigns, and yet, we need it so much.
Our Archbishops Justin and John have written an open pastoral letter to the whole country, available to read in its entirety on the Church of England website. In it they urge us to take inspiration from the ancient Christian values of love, trust and hope, while playing our part in these troubled times with generosity and kindness: ‘the season of Easter invites us to celebrate and renew our love of God and our love of our neighbour, our trust and hope in God and in each other.’
Some people think that the Church should never speak out nor involve itself in politics; but being the established Church, church and state are inextricably entwined in our Monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, Defender of the Faith and Head of State. She offers us a perfect example of loving, prayerful service to all her people without exception, whatever they choose to vote on June 8th. My love and prayers to you all – and for our country.
Yours in Christ, Judith
Who does the Church belong to? We have recently been successful in our bid for Heritage Lottery Grant Funding for urgent repair works to one of our church buildings; congratulations East Walton! One of the questions on the HLF application form is: ‘Who owns the building?’ We didn’t actually have to answer this as for churches it’s N/A – not applicable!
So who does the Church belong to? Well, that is an interesting question. The Church (meaning a body of people who meet together regularly) belongs to those who are part of it. The Church is a family or a fellowship. However, it’s not true to say the Church belongs only to those who use it because the Churches belong to the communities in which they are set.
In essence, your parish church belongs to you, in a very special way. The Church of England offers services – not only regular services (of all styles) every week throughout the year but also for special occasions and those most important moments in our lives. The Church has been there for everyone for generations and has baptised, married and buried parishioners, being available not just to those who regularly worship at church on a Sunday but to all parishioners.
There are also important celebrations at special times of the year that many people from our parishes enjoy – Easter, Christmas and Remembrance Sunday – to name just a few. And it’s not just about church services, the Church can and does offer much more. The Church is there for its community to offer support to everyone within the geographical parish and the Rector or Vicar is available to everyone. The Church is also a very special place where anyone can come to find a few moments of peace, solitude and solace. It’s also good to remember just how much churches have contact in their communities.
Our work in schools is just one of the ways that church meets community and shows our face to the world. We live in a time when, sadly, many people are turning away from the church. I think it is so important that our younger generation grow up with the knowledge that the Church is here for them and always will be at any time in their lives should they wish to turn to it for friendship or support. The Church has, and will continue, to provide a place for everyone – young, old and in between and we look forward to serving you for a long time to come. After all what is the Church here for? Only a couple of weeks ago we celebrated Easter.
I have in my mind a picture of that man, Jesus, who hangs on a cross with arms outstretched, symbol of the love God has for all humankind and a constant reminder to me that the Church, and particularly your Parish Church, is not just for ‘the chosen few’ but for all of you out there! Who does the church belong to? I
t belongs to you – because you belong.
With love, Revd Jane
An Easter Message
The German theologian, Dietrich Bonhöffer, once wrote: “The Christian is not a ‘religious person’ but simply a human being, as Jesus was, a human being profoundly this-worldly, characterised by discipline and the constant knowledge of death and resurrection.” Death and resurrection; death is not the end. This quotation reminds us that Easter is as much about life before death as about what happens when we die. Our attention is drawn to the here and now and what matters to us in this world.
Think of those occasions when we have felt truly alive, tinglingly ‘recalled to life’. It may be through a stirring piece of music or a walk in the countryside on a beautiful Spring day, or a new friendship or reading something inspirational. There is a quickening of the spirit, a sense of renewal. These instances can be seen as part of God’s resurrection at work in our lives. Conversely, there will be other occasions, significantly to us personally, when hope is absent, when all seems bleak, dead and buried.
We may have lost our way or had a dream crushed or been let down; something inside us shrivels and dies. This is when we enter a bleak landscape without hope and former things no longer hold the significance they once did. But then things begin to change, perhaps over a period of time and we begin to breathe again.
This is a glimpse of resurrection too. For resurrection has to be preceded by a kind of death – a dying of old habits perhaps which prevent us living life to the full. That’s the discipline bit that Bonhöffer refers to – getting through each day, keeping on keeping on. We are all human, we are ‘this-worldly’, we all fall short of perfection!
There was once an eminent doctor, a heart surgeon, who employed a gardener. The surgeon was an atheist, the gardener a devout Christian and sometimes they would have discussions about God. “You know,” said the surgeon, “I have cut open many human hearts in my time but I’ve never found a soul inside.” “Indeed,” said the gardener, “and do you know : while digging in your garden I have sliced through many a daffodil bulb in the soil but I’ve never found a daffodil inside!” Do you remember that lovely old hymn? “There is a green hill far away without a city wall, where the dear Lord was crucified who died to save us all.”
At Eastertide we can rejoice in the new life and hope that Jesus brings. Living in faith and in hope of resurrection, we are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song.
I wish you all a very happy Easter, Reverend Judith
Light and Life With February gone, the cold dark winter months are behind us at last! How we have longed (well I have) for the warmer days of Spring bringing with them light and new life. But it seems to me that it’s not only the weather that has been cold and dark lately.
The world seems to be a more unstable and darker place than ever before. We are witnessing massive movements of people around the world, continuing wars in the Middle East, terrorist acts and threats, Brexit and now, to cap it all, Donald Trump! What on earth does the future hold for us? We all long for a brighter, safer future for ourselves, for our families, our children, grandchildren and indeed for the whole world. But there is so much uncertainty and insecurity. Is this something new, or has it always been like this?
The world has been through troubling times before and come out the other side but now, somehow, the stakes seem so much higher. Donald Trump has been described as ‘the most powerful man on earth’ – heaven help the world! I offer you some thoughts to reflect upon this month as we travel through Lent.
Lent covers the weeks running up to the poignancy of Maundy Thursday and the pain of Good Friday before the joyful celebration of Easter Day. Lent is a good time to slow down and ‘take stock’. Christmas has long gone but back in Jesus’ day – the first Christmas – life was pretty difficult then too. The people were surrounded by soldiers, crushed and oppressed by a new and Mighty Power – the Romans. Everyday life was a struggle for ordinary people and the future must have seemed bleak. Into that uncertainty came Jesus – quietly and almost unnoticed – well it’s true, a handful of shepherds noticed and a few wise men from the East – but practically everybody else missed this world changing event. The arrival of the ‘Light of the World’ – come to save the world – bringing light and new life.
The mighty power of God at work on earth! There is no greater power than this and Jesus’ power is still alive. It is a different kind of power, it is not power over people but the power to love all people and help them to love one another ‘as He has first loved us’. Jesus came to show us a different way; a way based on love, peace and justice for all; and if the world is to be a brighter and safer place for all of us to live in then perhaps His Way is the one to try. It’s not easy – but then He never said it would be!
Some final words in a famous quote from G K Chesterton to ponder on this month: “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult, and left untried”. Much Love, Revd Jane
The Hope of Spring and the Generosity at the Heart of Community. What a joy it is to see snowdrops, fair maids of February, pushing up through the dark earth, heralding the hope of Spring. I love snowdrops; when my son Luke was born a friend gave me a little bunch of snowdrops, the first flowers of the New Year.
As I write, we are still in the Church Season of Epiphany, when we celebrate Baby Jesus, the Christ-child, being revealed to all nations, as symbolised by the Three Wise Men paying homage, having journeyed from distant lands. Does this evoke in us any thoughts of today’s world? Many people are still undertaking long, perilous journeys to find hope for their future.
At the end of January we commemorated Holocaust Memorial Day – genocide is still present in our broken world. We really need the light and hope of the Christ-child in our hearts at the moment.
Many of you will have already heard about the theft of lead from the roof of St. Andrew’s Church, Little Massingham – the third time it has happened there. Several of the churches in our Benefice, especially in isolated locations, have been targeted. Some people think that this is a victimless crime. They couldn’t be more wrong. The whole community is affected, churchgoers and non-churchgoers alike. It is a time to come together in mutual support and fellowship. We have a duty of care as custodians of our magnificent medieval churches – in Norfolk we have about 670, that is a higher density of such churches per head of the population, than anywhere in the world.
Wherever you look you’ll see a church tower beckoning you across the countryside. What do our churches mean to us? Many people value their architecture, their beauty and heritage. Others appreciate their special atmosphere, their stillness and tranquility where, over the centuries, Christians have joined together to worship God: ‘thin places’ where heaven and earth meet. However, the church building is only part of it – it’s the people who complete and make the church, both in the wider community and the worshipping congregation, who offer hospitality and gifts in kind, who provide sanctuary, who look after both one another and the fabric of the building. We have been given a huge task to nurture and maintain our churches – buildings and people – to form a Church fit for the 21st century – whatever that looks like!
If our communities come together in this we will win. There will always be setbacks, great and small. Our Medieval churches will be standing long after we are not. Huge thanks to all who have helped magnificently in our latest crisis – you all know who you are. The prompt and invaluable support the church received from the wider community prevented rainwater from getting in – and the sun shone at the crucial point! It could have been so much worse.
So all we’ve got to do now is to find the money to replace the roof. Hallelujah anyway! With every blessing – and deep gratitude, Reverend Judith
Christmas – Bring it on!
I don’t know if you’ve seen Tesco’s Christmas Advert showing on our TV screens at the moment featuring Ruth Jones, Ben Miller and Slade’s, ‘Merry Christmas’ where the ‘lady shopper’ is daunted by the thought of getting ready for Christmas – and it’s only mid November! Well, as I write this in mid-November, I know just how she feels! So many Carol Services to plan and prepare for as well as all the special things that happen in our churches and villages in December – all this and more – and ‘normal life’ doesn’t stop because it’s Christmas. I admit to feeling a little daunted. I suspect there are many of you who feel the same with thinking of all the shopping, planning and preparing to be done over the next few weeks. And yet, like the character in the advert, we too can pause, take a deep breath, look afresh, see the joy, love and hope in Christmas (not necessarily the mince pies!) and say to ourselves; Yeah – Bring it on! Christmas is such a special time of year with candle lit churches, family fun, children laughing. There is an abundance of good things coming up for us all to enjoy – including the mince pies. Christmas is full of love and joy and hope and new beginnings. It is the beginning of the Christian story when God, because he so loved the world, sent His son to earth to live among us and show us the right way to be – to live. That, when we take it seriously, is life changing. It is the beginning of the churches’ new-year and it heralds the New Year to come. It is a time when we can all pause for a while from our normal routines and amidst the tinsel, wrapping paper, turkey and trimmings, reflect upon the potential and possibilities that lie ahead. So let’s not be daunted – let’s turn around together and say, ‘Bring it on!’ And remember that this child we celebrate every Christmas time, born in controversy, threatened by kings, would forever change the course of human history. His story is our story. He can transform our lives too. So will you embrace him as the most wonderful and life changing gift that we can ever receive? I promise you it will take you until eternity to unwrap His treasures. I pray that your Christmas this year will be full of Joy and Love and Hope for the future.
Every blessing, Rev’d Jane.
Advent, the start of the new Church Year, when we begin to look forward to the birth of Jesus at Christmas (ten weeks away as I write) falls in November, towards the end of the calendar year. Endings and new beginnings: our life consists of these, rolling out across the years. We like to mark such landmark occasions, pivots on which we hang our lives. We aspire to look forward in hope, although this can sometimes be quite a challenge – when life surprises or overwhelms us; and politically, due to Brexit, we could not live in more uncertain, uncharted times. However, the time around Remembrance Sunday (13th November) is familiar territory, when we look back at our nation’s history in respect and gratitude, remembering the courage of the past and the heroes who have given us the freedoms we continue to be thankful for to this day. We live in a world of tremendous upheaval and darkness; never has the inextinguishable light of the Christ-child – and the hope He brings us – been more needed in our world. We continue to commemorate the Centenary of the First World War. The Bible Society, in conjunction with the Royal British Legion, has produced a small collection of psalms, poetry, prayers and hymns: Hear My Cry, subtitled ‘words for when there are no words.’ I quote from the books foreword, words written not by a priest but by a decorated soldier, General the Lord Dannatt: “God does not take sides between countries. However, he is passionately concerned for the people who live in those countries and get caught up in war. He made us. He loves us and wants us to love him in return. In peace or war, God is interested in us as individuals.” I echo these words. This Remembrance-tide let us offer our prayers for our serving military personnel and their families, for those challenged by life-changing injuries and for those who have lost their lives in war (including civilians) during the past year: at the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them. We also pray that peace and justice will prevail in Syria, especially in the city of Aleppo – and all the countries of the Middle East. Wishing you all a blessed and peaceful Advent, Reverend Judith
What is it?
What is this thing we call church? You may think that a silly question (especially com-ing from the vicar!) You would probably answer, ‘we can all recognise a church when we see it thank you – it’s an old stone building with a tower, stained glass windows, and uncomfortable seats!’ And you would be right if I had asked about a church – but what is ‘Church’.
To be Church there has to be people. Without people the buildings are just a set of his-torical artefacts with varying degrees of architectural merit.
People, and that means you and me, are absolutely central to the Church. I can prove it! Spell out the word Church – C H U R C H. What is in the middle? Answer: you are! Yes, I know that is silly too – but it does make a serious point. You really are the heart of the Church. Without you, it just doesn’t exist and all the buildings in the world won’t change that!
And there’s more! What’s at the beginning and end of Church. Answer: CH CH for, of course, Christ. Jesus is at the beginning and the end, the alpha and omega. He is the beginning and end of the whole world and he is the beginning and end of the Church. Without Jesus there would be no Church.
That’s it really; that’s the Church – you and Jesus. Yes, the buildings are great and we love them, but, always remember it’s the people who matter.
And what matters most to people? I would suggest it is family. So what’s the point of a church without family!
The family is the basic unit of society and of the Church. It is in the family that we first learn to communicate and it is where we learn good from bad. It is in the family that we learn what love is because that is where we first receive love. It is also where we learn how to forgive. It is in the family that we learn to value ourselves and others. Families provide safe havens for each member to flourish and unfold their giftedness. Each one learns from the other how to be caring, loving, resourceful, responsible, giving and hopeful for life. Families support one another, cry together, laugh together and have fun together.
For all of these reasons the Church identifies itself as a family reflecting what the church is – a community of faith, hope and love where we celebrate, pray, laugh and cry togeth-er – and have fun together too! Families are made up of people of all ages – young and old and in-between – and there is something for everyone in our church family!
Why not come along to one of our services or family activities where you will discover a warm welcome because you are part of this family. Come and discover the love, joy, care and support of your family – the Church.
Much love, Rev’d Jane
The 4th Commandment – Take a break!
July beckons and warm weather and school holidays encourage us to take a break, to slow down and refresh for the autumn term ahead of us. We all need to take time out in order to be able to give of our best when we are back at school or work, paid or voluntary.
In fact, God commands us to do it! The Ten Commandments in the Bible’s Old Testament are often thought of as a list of negatives, things not to do. And it’s true there is a list of ‘do nots’ – things like: You must not commit murder. You must not steal. You must not give false evidence against your neighbour. But there are positive instructions too: the ‘dos’ rather than the ‘do nots’ and these seem to me specifically about building positive relationships between us and God and with one another (i.e. respect your father and mother), although, arguably, trying hard to keep all the ten commandments will help strengthen that bond.
There is one commandment that seems quite a gift to us, especially as we move into the holiday season – the 4th Commandment: ‘observe the Sabbath and keep it holy …. You have six days in which to do your work, but the seventh is a day of rest …’. God is recognising our need to take time out. He’s also suggesting we use that time to strengthen our understanding and relationship with Him. It’s a gift of time from God to us. Simple to read; hard to do. Yet we do need, in our busy, hectic lives, that special time out. Sometimes it’s referred to as ‘Sabbathing’. Maybe that’s a helpful expression for those of us who can’t make that time out on a Sunday but do need to find it sometime. A regular slot for resting in God. Letting God’s peace and calm into our rush and bustle.
So my prayer for this holiday season is that each and every one of us might find that special time when we can stop all those things we think we just have to do – but maybe don’t really – and just rest with God. Jesus encouraged his community to keep the Sabbath, although it’s fair to say he wasn’t afraid to use his gifts to help others on that day. But he did support one day in the week for God, a day not to work per se but to be as a community, as a family. The church is not the Vicar or the Ministry Team or indeed the building.
The Church is a family and it is the community. Whatever you do this summer I hope you find time for ‘Sabbathing’ – special times of rest and refreshment and fun with your family and with your community. Have a great summer. Much Love Rev’d Jane
90 Glorious Years!
Our monarch Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her 90th birthday on April 21st but she also has an ‘official birthday’ which, this year, will be on Saturday June 11th. This tradition originates from 1748, the reign of King George II, whose actual birthday fell in chilly November. King George inaugurated a military cavalcade for his armed forces which always took place in the summer months to take advantage of the (hopefully) sunny weather. This cavalcade evolved to also become a celebration of the monarchy, a tradition which continues to the present day.
Modern celebrations of our armed forces’ parade ground prowess are rightly applauded throughout the world. The month of June has ‘Trooping the Colour’ on Horse Guard’s Parade followed by a military fly-past and the traditional appearance by the Royal family on the Buckingham Palace balcony. The birthday honours list is also published at this time.
Because this year is so significant – the Queen having become the longest-serving British monarch of all time – we too are encouraged to have local events and parties and to join in a national weekend of celebration.
In King’s Lynn we have ‘Celebrate King’s Lynn’ – a free, full day event of activities.
In our benefice, we are having a barbeque at St. Botolph’s Church, Grimston on Saturday 11th starting at 4pm. Tickets are £5 – do come along and enjoy a lovely summer evening.
What better reason for a party?
Our beloved Queen offers us the perfect model of enduring public service and inspirational leadership, underpinned by strong Christian faith. She writes: “For me the teachings of Christ and my personal accountability before God provide a framework in which I try to live my life.” We could do well to follow her example.
Let us all join in wishing Her Majesty a very Happy Official Birthday: hip hip hooray!
To Brexit or not to Brexit? – that is the question!
Our votes (yours and mine) as we go to the Polls next month to decide whether the UK wishes to remain a member of the European Union will probably be the most important vote we will make at the polls in our life time. It will affect all of us.
The stay in crowd say:
Jobs We maintain trade relations with the continent and thereby secure jobs.
National Security “It is through the EU that we exchange criminal records and passen-ger records and work together on counter-terrorism,”
National Financial Impact The UK’s status as one of the world’s biggest financial cen-tres will be diminished if it is no longer seen as a gateway to the EU for the likes of US banks,
BUT the get out crowd say:
Jobs Control of our own borders means we decide how many immigrants come to the UK – limit the numbers coming in and there will be more jobs available for those al-ready here.
National Security Unless we get out we leave the “door open” to terrorist attacks. Open borders do not allow us to check and control people.
National Financial Impact Free from EU rules and regulations Britain could reinvent itself AND there would be an immediate cost saving, as the country would no longer contribute to the EU budget (£13bn)
These are just some of the arguments. None of the above statements tells the full story by any means but you can see my dilemma as there seems to be equally good arguments on both sides of the campaign – so who to believe and who is right? What to do?
I’ve been pondering this conundrum and there is a big part of me, as a Christian, that says –stay with our friends in Europe; we are better, stronger together and surely we should aim to be an inclusive nation, welcoming and willing to work with our brothers and sisters across our borders in fellowship and love. Together we can form policies and friendships that benefit everyone and are a beacon of light in the world. After all (on a much smaller scale admittedly) that is what our group of ten churches are aiming to do here – to see ourselves as one body of faithful people who help each other, work to-gether, pray together, worship together and reach out together to our communities with God’s love. We are about taking away boundaries – not putting them up.
But then someone remarked to me that if the EU were embedded in Christian Values that would be fine but sadly it more often seems to be about grabbing at power and the self-ish aims of individuals or individual nations.
So where does this leave us? To Brexit or not to Brexit? For me that is still the BIG question! I shall now go off into a quiet room to pray about it and hope to hear God’s still small voice guiding my hand as I place my X.
“April is the cruellest month breeding lilacs out of a dead land…” The poet TS Eliot was referring to the annual resurgence of new life in Spring – which will only die once more when its time comes, hence the cruelty: the annual cycle always leads to death. But this is a bleak way of seeing the world.
As Christians we know that in Spring-time, each Easter-tide, we can bear witness to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the life-blood which invigorates and sustains our churches throughout the year. Our Christian faith is nourished by the life-giving power of God in Christ Jesus, who gives us hope that will never die; the power of the Holy Spirit is always at work in all our lives. April is, in fact, the most joyful month – and the season of Easter-tide lasts all month.
As a former city-dweller, I really appreciate the joy of rural life and being surrounded by the natural beauty of the countryside in Spring. I was at an RSPB reserve last week and saw the reed beds quivering with new bird-life. In our villages, the toad patrols are on high alert near our wonderful ponds, as toads emerge from hibernation for their spring migration to breed where they were born.
Gardeners too are stirring in their potting sheds, planning for the year ahead. Our lawnmower has been dusted off but during its annual service it gave up the ghost so investing in a new mower became a priority. We decided against a self-propelled one in case it ran away from us and attacked Rufus, always at our heels, but we have gone for the best petrol engine we could afford, an investment in many happy years of mowing to come!
With Easter falling early this year we can now enjoy a leisurely stroll towards late Spring and Summer as we welcome the new influx of visitors to our beautiful county, passing through our villages and churches. Springtime activity in churches is similar to that of gardening: dusting off the produce stall and trying to summon up new energy for
fundraising as well as doing a bit of spring-cleaning. If you have ever thought of getting a bit more involved in Church life, now is the perfect time – we really do need your help and support. Have a word with one of the churchwardens or myself. Do come and join us for our Sunday services, especially as the weather gets warmer!
Happy Spring-cleaning, Happy Gardening! Most of all Happy Easter-tide! Reverend Judith
March is a Funny Month!
Not funny ha ha but an odd mix of highs and lows and contrasting emotions as we travel in our hearts with Christ on his journey to Jerusalem. There is deep personal reflection (for those of us who take Lent seriously); then, later in the month, we feel the pain and passion of Holy week as we remember Christ’s suffering humiliation and death on the cross. And then, in complete contrast again, the joyful celebration of Easter day and resurrection.
What’s even odder is that, in the midst of this journey toward and then celebrating Easter, the story is broken into on the fourth Sunday of Lent (this year 6th March) as it is always kept as Mothering Sunday – a day when Mothering in all its forms is celebrated. So, within the church, March will bring a mixture of emotions, highs and lows – serious reflection, sadness and indeed joy. Bit like life really!
Thinking about mothering – The list of characteristics associated with mothering is long and varied. We could say those who ‘mother’ us are determined, protective, nurturing, passionate, generous, sacrificial, brave, joyful, trusting and faithful and ever present, even in sorrow, grieving and caring. Mothering demonstrates a love that is stronger than death. We call God ‘Our Father’ – we could equally say ‘our mother’ (Jesus’s) wept tears over the people of Jerusalem ‘as a mother weeps for her children, longing to gather them like a hen gathers her chicks.’ A ‘love stronger than death’ is also a description of God’s love for us.
We all yearn to be mothered don’t we? Without someone to look out for our interests, to defend us, to protect us; to enable us to learn our purpose in life, without someone to model trust, faith, and joy; without someone who will love us enough to let us go our own way; without someone to take the risk of loving us, even knowing that that love may bring them pain; without someone to stand with us in our times of greatest suffering – without someone to do those things for us, we are missing something crucial. And if we ourselves have nobody for whom we can do these things, we are also missing out.
As we think about our own lives, our experiences of mothering or of being mothered, we remember with thanksgiving the people who have done those things for us. And that might well include people other than our birth mothers, for mothering is not only done by mothers – we can all do mothering! On the cross, God’s love is nailed firmly to the world so as never to let it go. A truly parental love is one that would give anything and everything for the child. This is the love of God that we see on the cross but this is also the love that we are called to have for one another and for all of God’s creation.
When we love like that, we make our Mothering-God visible in the world. Happy Mothering Sunday, and a Very Happy Easter. Much Love, Revd Jane
Message to all Parishioners February 2016
Spring into Action – it’s only Lent again! We Brits like stability, don’t we? We know where we are with Christmas – every year the same, December 25th. But as for Easter, well it moves around all over the place. In the Church we call it ‘a moveable feast’. It makes for huge complexity when planning ahead in business or education, for example. Easter is really early this year; the start of Lent, Ash Wednesday, is on February 10th, even before Valentine’s Day. However, the Archbishops have now decided that Easter should come into line with the Eastern Christian Church and, in the future, have the same date every year. This will take 5-10 years to accomplish. So all we will have to contend with is the clocks going back – and forward – as they will on 23rd March 2016 – which this year just happens to be Easter Sunday. Funny old world, isn’t it?
Lent is the traditional time to give up something we enjoy (forgo chocolate?) and in doing so ‘hope-fully’ become more appreciative of the pleasures of life when they are reinstated at Easter, forty days later. Or we can take something on – a course of study perhaps? Lifelong learning has been described as the interaction between our experience (good and bad) and our personal development. Lent Courses are a popular feature of this season of the Church year and a great opportunity to dip one’s toe into the water. This year we are running the same course at each end of our benefice (group of churches) on different evenings. We will be exploring together ‘Not a Tame Lion’ by Hilary Brand, a short course based on the writings of CS Lewis. Please see our website for further details – or ask a member of the team. We have now passed the first anniversary of our new benefice: the Gayton, Grimston, Massingham and District Group of churches over ten different villages. Please check out our exciting new website: www.ggmbenefice.uk
We are fortunate in having several groups that meet together regularly for prayer and Bible study. We hope to build on this foundation over the coming months and offer other courses which could, if desired, lead to confirmation. Please be in touch if this is of interest to you.
I wish you a blessed and rewarding Lent.
PLEASE NOTE : The Lent course at Massingham is kindly being hosted by Kim and Allan Frazer at Cobwebs, Great Massingham on Mondays, starting on 15th February at 7.30pm