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April's Pastoral Letter

“All will be well; all will be well” is a famous saying of Julian of Norwich. Her world was being devastated by the plague and today we are experiencing Covid19.

Julian was an Anchorite and chose to have what was then termed a living death. She chose to be physically walled in to a small cell attached to the sanctuary of her church, there to live for God but dead to the temptations of life and the world. In prayer and silence Julian found God’s goodness, even in the midst of great suffering she saw that God was in all things, and he loves all things.

Julian, through her visions and writings saw that the soul and the church are the same, and we find them within, in the secret places of our own souls. In difficult times though God can seem very distant and prayer leaves us feeling spiritually dry.

Julian’s advice to those was firstly, not to give up: when we least feel like praying is when we most need to.

Secondly, she tells us, we must recognize that it is the Holy Spirit who prays in us and not we ourselves.

But she also gives us an important hint about living and praying: We do not use to the full the means God has already given us to explore and enjoy all that there is. She encourages us to use all our senses: touch, smell, hearing, taste and sight.

How often have we walked out without even noticing the birds singing or the scent of the shrubs around us? Eaten a meal without really tasting it?

Our inner world operates at half-throttle too. Often, we rely on reasoning, speech and sight and neglect our emotions and dreams. Julian wrote, “When the soul is stormy, troubled and left restlessly to itself, then it is time to pray to make it supple and compliant to God.”

Often, we fail to listen to or reflect upon what we experience and encounter day by day. Julian wrote “God loves us and enjoys us, and so he wills that we love him and enjoy him, and firmly trust him, and all will be well.”

Pam Knowles

Reader Minister

March's Pastoral Letter

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

As I sit down to write this letter, I have just come inside from the garden. Standing in the potting shed looking out over the Rectory garden, apart from a few snowdrops and the first signs of the bulbs I planted last autumn, there is little in the way of new growth, and what there is, is currently buried below a crisp layer of falling snow. The beauty of last autumn is now rather faded and has become something of a damp mess waiting for me to come and clear it away ready for spring.

But, as I survey this scene from the potting shed window, I have just received a delivery of packets of seeds and have been busy filling seed trays for the earliest spring sowings (mainly the cone-flower, Echinacea, one of my favourite plants). These small seeds will grow into tall stately plants full of summer blooms and provide a rich source of pollen for the bees and other insects. And there are plenty more packets of seeds waiting to be planted over the coming weeks and months. For now, the seed trays appear to be just bare compost, but they are filled with hope, and filled with the promise of what is to come.

March finds us deep into the season of Lent, a season of repentance and preparation as we approach the joy, hope and celebration of Easter. Over time our Christian lives can become rather like our gardens, a bit faded, maybe a bit neglected, with little sign of growth and new life. But it is also true that, like my seed trays, our lives are filled with hope and the promise of what is to come. We need the same combination of care as the garden does. In places we need to clear away, prune or cut back and get rid of the debris. In other areas we need the nurture of good compost to feed us, water to enable growth and sunlight to strengthen us and draw us upwards.

This is exactly what Lent calls us to do. Lent is a time of repentance, of clearing away the sins of the past and turning back to God. We give things up for Lent as a reminder of pruning out that which is sinful, unhelpful or which holds us back. But Lent is also a time when we refocus on prayer, on studying our Bibles, on nurturing our faith and on growing in our discipleship of Jesus. Lent is a time to focus on new growth and the promise of the future. We may not all be gardeners, but we all need to take time to refocus our lives on God, to clear away the debris of the past and plant for the future.

As Lent leads us towards Easter, so our attention is turned to the hope and joy of the future, to the love of God, and to the redemption and eternal life found in the resurrection of his son, Jesus Christ, from death on the cross. Easter holds out the promise of new life, it directs our attention to the hope founded on Jesus Christ and calls us to grow and flourish with him. Just as those seed trays and the lengthening, warmer days of spring hold out the promise of all that is to come in our gardens.

The wonderfully named hymn writer, John MacLeod Campbell Crum wrote these words in a glorious Easter hymn…

                    Now the green blade riseth from the buried grain,

                    wheat that in the dark earth many days hath lain;

                    Love lives again, that with the dead has been:

                    Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green.

 

I wish you all a blessed, holy and sacred Lent, and I look forward to sharing the joy and hope of the resurrection with you at Easter.

With every blessing,

Rev’d Clive

 

February's Pastoral Letter

In his whole life of some 33 years or so Jesus probably walked virtually everywhere he went. He will have been carried as a baby and child and may have ridden a donkey or mule on occasions but basically he walked everywhere. In our sense of travel he never really travelled.

We know that Jesus could read – he read from the scriptures in the synagogue and expounded upon them but his only known writing was when he doodled in the sand whilst waiting ‘for someone without sin to cast the first stone’. He certainly did not write influential books.

There is evidence that he worked with his hands – probably as a carpenter in the family business. He was brought up in a family and his ministry lasted at the most three years.

Yet his life has changed the world.

His method was to deal with the people he encountered – he taught those who turned up, he healed those he came across who were ill, he challenged the thinking of the religious and of those in authority. He made visible - to those with eyes to see - the loving, father, creator God who is not usually visible. He touched the untouchables and washed the guilty clean. No one was too disgusting for his attention.

Jesus was born into the people who had been chosen by God to be in relationship with God and then show how wonderful God was to all the other nations and Jesus became the means by which all nations could come to God.

We do not need to travel or write great books to show Jesus to today’s world – we can simply use Jesus’ model of caring for those our life

brings us up against, making a difference to lives lived out in our villages – maybe in the house next door; welcoming strangers, smiling, challenging wrong thinking. We can choose each day to rejoice in the gift of the God given day. We can trust in the totally trustworthy God that Jesus trusted in and pointed us towards.

If you ever think that you are too small to make a difference just spend one night in bed with a mosquito!

May God richly bless you!

Rev'd Fiona