Magazine Letters from 2017
We have recently moved to Staplehurst, from Surrey, where I was an Assistant Priest in the small village Church. At the Rector’s request and with the Bishop of Dover’s Permission to Officiate in this parish, I have been asked to assist at All Saints as a retired Assistant Priest. As an introduction, I was asked to give a bit of background information about myself and family. So, where to start? Some words of advice from Lewis Carroll might help.
‘Begin at the beginning’ the King said, very gravely, ‘and go on till you come to the end: then stop’.
I was born and spent all my childhood in Devon, from the age of 10 going to a small private boarding school with my
sister, Dad worked in West Africa and Mum joined him for several months every year. My parents held strong Christian
beliefs and Church services were an automatic part of every Sunday, yet religion was rarely talked about, and any teaching was only done by example.
I left school at 17, and completed an NNEB course at a residential children’s home run by Surrey County Council, filling in time until I was old enough to be accepted as a student nurse at Great Ormond Street to train as a sick children’s nurse. I was married to David as soon as I had taken my finals, and he was immediately posted to Paris for 18 months, seconded by Barclays Bank to the economic intelligence department of a French Bank. Little did we know that that was the start of over 20 years of travelling, living in 6 different countries with intervening spells at home in Hadlow. We have 4 children, 3 boys and a girl. Our sons now live in Chiswick, Berlin and Marden, Alison and her husband are teachers in Hong Kong.
Thinking we had finished with travelling, we settled into a small village (half the size of Staplehurst) near Guildford, curiously called Normandy, David soon found out that his travelling was not at an end and he found himself still travelling worldwide for 7 months of the year as a bank auditor. With our children at boarding school and university, I quickly got involved with the local Parish Church, St Mark’s. We lived in Normandy for over 30 years, and in that time, I did most of the jobs which needed attention in the parish, probably doing more pastoral work than anything else, although I did spearhead the Church’s year long celebrations for its 150 years anniversary! During the time our home acted as the Parish Office. I was the PCC Secretary and a member of the team that raised £300,000 to build a new church hall, which replaced a last world war army hut. By then, I had completed the Readers Course, and after 12 years as a Reader, I took the extra 2 years training to become an Assistant Priest, and so was able to offer more help to our Part-time Vicar.
When I was well past the retirement age, we decided that the time had come to move to a smaller house and garden and to be near our son who lives with his family in Marden. I feel that I am still able to help out if and when it would be helpful, so am very pleased to join the Ministry team at All Saints. And so, I started as Alice in Wonderland’s king recommended, at the beginning. The end? I don’t think I have reached there yet, so perhaps I wont stop, and you may see more of me!
I am very grateful for the warm welcome I have been given at All Saints, and in the village. I have received a lot of help, and you truly are a welcoming and helpful village. And so I say to myself; and to all who read this: Put your hand into the hand of our Creator, and trust that he will lead us, guide us, accompany us as we weave our way through the maze of this life.
With my best wishes
A Letter from the Reader
Happy New Year!
I hope that you have enjoyed a wonderful Christmas and that 2017 is starting well for you.
So what happens next? As you read this, do you still have your decorations up, or are you beginning to think about taking them down? Are you waiting until Epiphany, the 12th day of Christmas, or has life perhaps already returned to what you might call normal? So what are you left with from Christmas?
During the Advent season and over Christmas, I try to look out for the real thing, for a moment when God succeeds in
cutting through all the cardboard imitations of Christmas and reveals Himself to me again. Sometimes that moment is a
time in prayer, sometimes it’s a chat over a coffee with someone, or something I read or hear. Sometimes it happens in church, often it doesn’t. But it’s always a moment when I feel I am tasting the real Christmas again – the reality of God leaving heaven and living amongst us, the reality of a God taking the risk to be born as a fragile baby, the reality that we are not alone because God now walks with us. Maybe you had a moment when you tasted the real Christmas this year. A moment when God cut through all the Christmas lights, the wrapping paper and the busyness.
So what happened next – the Epiphany. The wise men were not all that wise because they went to the wrong place and the wrong person. They went to the capital, Jerusalem, and to King Herod. Fancy asking him, ‘Where is he who is to be born King of the Jews’?’ Herod hadn’t a clue but he knew who would know about the Messiah, about the Christ. He asked the chief priests and scribes. They told him, ‘In Bethlehem in the land of Judah.’ Lucky for the wise men it was only a few miles away. Herod sent them off and told them to search diligently for the child and to tell him when they had found him. Fortunately, the wise men did not trust Herod or his interest in the Christ child.
We assume there were three because we are told of three gifts. We know that they were rich, foreign and wise, but we
do not know that they were kings. The shepherds were ordinary Jews smelling of sheep and probably not able to read or
write. These men were different indeed, almost in total contrast. It helps us to see God calls all peoples to come to him, rich, poor, the known and the stranger, modest and wise, all are invited to come to God.
If you did find that moment with God this Christmas, then cherish it, nurture it, and don’t lose sight of what happened as 2017 starts up and life gets going again. And if it didn’t happen this year, don’t give up. Jesus is here amongst us, and you can be sure that he’s ready to meet you. He’s ready to offer you the real thing, the glorious truth of his love, which is alongside you in every situation and which will never give up.
There is always an opportunity to look at what happened next – by joining us at church at other times of the year.
May I wish you a peaceful New Year.