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Farewell to Ruth and Richard May 24, 2022

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On Sunday 10 July, Ruth Pyke will be holding her last service at 10.30am in Barkway Church because she is retiring and will move with Richard to Great Abingdon at the end of that month. 

After the service, there will be a party at Manor Farm  to which everyone in the Benefice is invited, so please save the date.

Sonia’s article in the July Diary regarding the Platinum Jubilee May 23, 2022

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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This month, throughout her kingdom and in many of her overseas territories, her subjects will be celebrating Her Majesty Queen Elisabeth’s Platinum Jubilee. Seventy years on the throne. An amazing achievement. Those of us who wish to mark it will finally be able to meet up and party. Events which have been denied us through the long months of covid.

The term and concept of Jubilee has two sources. The Old Testament, biblical, origin of the concept of jubilee was that after every six years of farming a particular piece of land, in the seventh it lay fallow, giving it a period of rest. The term, sabbatical, (which is derived from Sabbath) is still used in academia for a break from regular duties.

After seven times seven years, in the 50th, all land leased to farmers was returned to its original tribal owner. Tenant farmers would pay in rent an amount related to the number of harvests it would yield up to the Jubilee year. Indentured servants were also often released then.

The year was marked by the sounding of a ram’s horn, a yobhel in Hebrew. This trickled down through Greek iobelos into a Latin, iubilaues up through Old French jubileu meaning both anniversary and rejoicing (no longer any mention of rams’ horns) and into our Jubilee.

We might, in the midst of our rejoicing, think about trying to give ourselves a fallow period in order to reset aspects of our life into a healthier state. Maybe giving up grudges and harmful habits, which can degrade our dealings with others, and our sense of well-being. A fresh start. Now that would be something to celebrate.

Many Blessings  Sonia 07747 844265

Sarah Richardson’s article in the May Diary April 18, 2022

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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At the end of May, our usual pattern of bank holidays is to be modified to include an extra day in celebration of Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee. In our villages, plans have been made for events to mark the occasion where we can gather as a community again, hopefully in some beautiful sunshine as we had at Easter. When I reflect on how much has changed in the world during the Queen’s reign, her steadfastness in service and the perseverance in her role is remarkable. Whatever your views on monarchy, it is evident that she has approached her reign with thoughtfulness and care. In her 2019 Christmas address, she said that ‘it is worth remembering that it is often the small steps, not the giant leaps, that bring about the most lasting change’. It seems to be that this is something learned with the wisdom of years.

While some of us have more power than others, in our professional lives or in our communities, we all have the opportunity to make positive changes. We have seen that recently in the efforts of many in the local area to send aid to Ukraine, and to plan offers of hosting people fleeing from there, and in the response and support groups set up during the pandemic. The smalls steps taken by many, offering what they are able to, and joining in with the skills and offering of others, has the potential for lasting, positive change in the lives of others (and ourselves). It can be easy to feel helpless when there is such great suffering, and sometimes we wonder whether what we can do is of any real value. But we are not usually able to see what might grow out of the tiny seeds that we offer. The Bible narrative of the Feeding of the Five Thousand, where Jesus used the packed lunch offered by a young boy of five loaves and two fishes, to miraculously feed a huge crowd, wouldn’t have been an event worth recording if there had been easily sufficient food to start with. The young boy didn’t know the potential of what he had to offer.

At the time of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation in 1952, I wonder how she imagined that her reign would be, and what offerings, large and small, she might be able to give. For all the large public engagements and events, there must have been thousands of personal interactions with others – short conversations and kind words – which have encouraged others and have had a lasting impact on their lives.

Whatever your plans for the upcoming bank holidays, I hope you are able to enjoy some time with family and friends. And for those working across those days, and planning events for others to enjoy, thank you. May there be tiny seeds of fruitfulness that develop into lasting goodness in our villages.

Sarah Richardson

To St. Albans. From St. Albans. Via York. March 23, 2022

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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En route to interview, for a potential pioneering Reader House for Duty post in rural Yorkshire 17 years ago, I crossed the threshold of Micklegate Bar, a stone castellated edifice in York once famed for displaying on spikes the heads of those who had displeased and fallen short! Be warned! And the archdeacon decides to take a chance. ‘Ann, just go and love the people,’ he instructs. I did. They knew; and my reputation was, ‘We see ‘er about,’ in the village streets, in school, shop, post office, homes as well as in church. So scarily, perilously, ‘a woman, lay and even from the South’, my most recent role as a Reader was for seven years in charge of three rural parishes in the Vale of York. And even for a year as chaplain to the Chair of Yorks County Council. The mould breaking post did in fact however ultimately raise significant issues. All part of the pioneering and I hope learning!

To fulfil this post, often during vacancy of the priest with oversight in the nearby parishes, I was blessed in being able to draw on the excellent St Albans training and experience I had in the Dunstable team ministry 30 years ago now. That had also led to a hospital chaplaincy and later running my own retreat centre, (with parish and diocesan support, good home cooking at the heart!). ‘Wellsprings’ in Bedfordshire, served those outside the church as well as in. It too ran for seven years; its reputation particularly growing in bereavement support and professional work with a small group of mothers caring for young adults suffering from eating disorders. During that time, I undertook an MA in Contextual Theology to help us understand and work in the integrity of our Christian foundation and local professionalism.

 Now, since officially retiring but in recent years working in a URC church in Northallerton, the County Market town of North Yorkshire,  where I learnt much about the difference between rural and urban spirituality and ‘mission’,  I astonishingly find I am back in ST. Albans diocese to be relicensed to other rural parishes, to help in the ministry team here in Barkway, Reed and Barley. This is a tremendous privilege for me, and I am deeply thankful, for your welcome as Paul and I have moved to be nearer to our families at this stage of our lives. I am passionate about the spiritual integrity of the parish churches at the heart of village community and look forward to living as a Reader, a woman, lay and now back again in the South!

Much of my varied Reader ministry is recorded in two books I have written and had published, one   in the genre of people’s parish stories written by themselves, threaded with my pioneering ministry reflections. There is another more critical document written alongside, called Grit in the Oyster, unpublished which I hope may one day be helpful as we seek together to continue to explore new ways of being church. 

I am hugely appreciating this connection with Readers and Lay ministers again today, whilst having a valued experience of the practice of contemplative prayer and a hope to develop a Julian meeting locally. I am currently celebrating the joined up-ness of my Dunstable Priory Choir experience back- in- the- day, to now being in Reed Choir, with the awesome joy of being able to sing Stanford in C again! Even in the Abbey in June!

And now for the next learning curve… IT. Help anyone?

Ann Bowes

Sonia’s article in the March Diary March 6, 2022

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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Wellbeing, Mindfulness, Meditation, and Pilgrimage

Over the last two years of COVID disruption, many of us have had time to re-assess our priorities, our work-life balance and, perhaps, how we might live differently in the time that we have left to us here on earth. Over the centuries some people have found it beneficial to take time out of their regulated lives, creating space for contemplation of nature, of relationships and a sense of their place in the world. Some have embarked on pilgrimages to holy sites, where many seeking God and meaning have travelled ahead of them.

I am about to undertake a Pilgrimage across Spain to Santiago, the traditional last resting place of St James, an apostle of Jesus. James was executed in c.44AD by King Herod Agrippa in Jerusalem and his body was transported by friends to a ‘field of stars’, Compostela, on the west coast of Spain.

Most people walk the Camino, some 700km, depending upon the route. Having previously ruptured an Achilles tendon I can’t do that, so I shall proceed sitting down. On a horse. I’ve been practising and our luggage is transported ahead of us, to small hotels (with stabling) so I won’t be roughing it quite as much as many pilgrims do. Stories abound of very cheap but lumpy bunk-beds in communal dormitories with cold showers and few phone-charging points, plus huge blisters.

Why am I going? I’m not entirely sure, but I expect that its purpose will reveal itself along the Camino. It will take me the whole of April, which encompasses much of the Church’s preparation time of Lent, Holy Week, and Easter. Christians around the world take time out during this period to pray and to focus on their relationship with God. Others may find periods of mindfulness and meditation enhance their wellbeing.  

I do hope that you will have found some positives arising from COVID, along with all the restrictions, and can, perhaps, use the run-up to Easter to re-balance your life.

Many blessings Sonia 07747 844265

Ruth’s article in the February Diary January 25, 2022

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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Never before has a monarch ruled for 70 years. HM The Queen has given a lifetime of devoted service to this country and to those of the Commonwealth. On February 6th1952, with the death of her father, Queen Elizabeth succeeded to the throne and began a reign which would be constant through many national and international changes. As she took on this huge role at the young age of 25 she was grieving at the death of her father King George VI.

Many mixed feelings surround the idea of a monarchy but it would be hard to deny the absolute service and duty that the Queen has shown. Many others have copied her example and still do in serving their towns and villages, through voluntary organisations, through paid employment putting the good of others first.

As we mark the beginning of this Platinum year maybe we can each take a moment to remember all who serve their country, and their fellow men and women, however hidden or small. Thank you to all of you. Maybe we can also take a moment to pledge ourselves to work to improve that which is not yet perfect in our nation- to transform society into a thoroughly inclusive, welcome and generous country. Each act of service, however small, makes a difference; together maybe we could manage 70 acts of service to match each year of the Queen’s reign.  

There is no doubt that the Queen has depended on prayer to guide her throughout her life, maybe this year we can pray for her. These words written, when she became the longest serving monarch may remind us of her duty and ours.

“Almighty God,
whose Son Jesus Christ exchanged the glory of a heavenly throne for the form of a servant,
we thank you that you have given Elizabeth our Queen a heart to serve her people,
and have kept her devoted in this service beyond all who were before her:
encourage us by her example to serve one another, and to seek the common good,
until you call us all to reign with Christ in your eternal kingdom.


Sarah’s article in the January Diary December 13, 2021

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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In our weekend newspaper’s glossy magazine, there was a mini article of the best diaries and planners to buy for 2022. Maybe you’re a daily planner, a family photo wall calendar type, a bullet journaller, a £175 paper diary afficionado (that’s one I saw in the magazine!), or an online agenda keeper to share your goals with your Fitbit or Strava. You might even just like the odd post-it note. But I think we all hold hopes and dreams in our hearts, whether we can bring ourselves to write them down or not, particularly after the last 20 months of disappointments and delays to things that we so dearly want to happen.

Some of us are real planners and list makers (I love making lists, even though I’m not always very good at completing the goals), and the new year always seems to be the time for us to feel as if we ought to be making lists and plans. And having goals and things to look forward to, or to aim for, is good for us, particularly when we manage to achieve something we’ve worked hard for. But sometimes, even with our best laid plans, things don’t turn out as we expect, in good ways and bad: covid or cancer, or a new job opportunity or new baby – there can be many things which jump into our lives and thrown our plans out of kilter. Some of these unexpected interruptions will be beautiful and life-changing in ways we couldn’t have imagined, and some will leave us drained and frustrated.

The church calendar after Christmas reminds us of God’s promise to be with us in all things, planned and unplanned, joyous and trying. During January we celebrate Epiphany to continue that hope of God come down as Jesus at Christmas, the one who is with us always. I hope that 2022 brings you many joys, whether already on your list or not, and that you may find God drawing close to you in all that you travel this coming year.

With best wishes, Rev Sarah.

Sonia’s article in the December Diary November 24, 2021

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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Return of the Grinch who stole Christmas?

Dire warnings of food and present shortages have been assailing us for some time. The  most entertaining cause being the container ship which seemingly attempted a three-point-turn in the Suez Canal, blocking it for a week and creating a huge, two-way backlog. COVID related factory closures, labour shortages, especially of HGV drivers and farm labourers, along with multiple cost increases, (and rising COVID cases) have all fuelled festive season anxiety.

Dr Seuss, an American children’s author and cartoonist, best known for his Cat in the Hat series, wrote a poem entitled, How the Grinch stole Christmas. The Grinch was a Scrooge-like creature who lived up a mountain with his dog, Max, overlooking a town called Whoville.

The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season! Now please don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason. It could be perhaps that his shoes were too tight. It could be his head wasn’t screwed on just right. But I think that the most likely reason of all may have been that his heart was two sizes too small.

He comes up with a dastardly plan and enters Whoville on Christmas Eve disguised as Santa Claus, with Max having strapped-on horns as his reindeer. He descends every chimney, hoovering up all the presents, trees and food, Max dragging them back in a sleigh to their lair.

”Pooh-pooh to the Whos!” He was grinchily humming. “They’re finding out now that no Christmas is coming! They’re just waking up. I know just what they’ll do! Their mouths will hang open a moment or two then the Whos down in Whoville will all cry boo-hoo”.

Then he did hear a sound rising over the snow. It started in low, then it started to grow. But this sound wasn’t sad! Why this sound sounded glad! Every Who down in Whoville, the tall and the small, was singing without any presents at all! He hadn’t stopped Christmas from coming! It came. Somehow or other it came just the same.

The Grinch’s heart then grows several sizes with love, he returns all the stolen stuff, joins the celebrations and carves the Roast Beast.

Merry Christmas and Many Blessings,  Sonia  07747 844265

Ruth’s article in the November Diary October 25, 2021

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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The flowers decorating Barley church tower have been taken down just as the beautiful leaves of Autumn are also falling from the trees. There is no doubt that the more sombre month of November is here. As the poet Thomas Hood wrote:

No sun — no moon!
No morn — no noon —
No dawn — no dusk — no proper time of day.

This is the month where we remember those who have died in war, and those we have loved. A month where the good things in life might be a warm home, candlelight, casseroles and crumpets.

But many are worried with the onset of this winter with its rising fuel prices, its possible shortages and the end of furlough and the Universal Credit uplift. A warm home, and comforting food may be hard to come by. There are two ways in which we can help- to place warming food in our parish pantries- the Trussell Trust has warned that the bigger foodbanks may have difficulties with supplies this winter and local foodbanks will be all the more needed. Then the Barley sleep out is taking place again this year at the very beginning of December- raising money for the Church Urban Fund which works with other faith based partnerships around the UK supporting communities in tackling social inequality. Could you join the sleepers, or sponsor them, raise money and awareness?

If you are worried about your own food crises or heating bills do talk to the clergy, to the surgery or to CAB. Don’t suffer alone- there are agencies to help.

If the impending winter is filling you with gloom and anxiety please talk to someone- invite a neighbour for a cup of tea, ring one of the listening agencies. The spiral of darkness can pull us down so easily but in the darkness there is always a spark of light – like the smallest candle.

The traditional prayer for the evening is this:

“Lighten our darkness, Lord, we pray, and in your great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night, for the love of your only Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ.”

We can pray it at any time when we feel the darkness closing in on us.

Sarah Richardson’s article in the October Diary September 24, 2021

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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A surprisingly warm September has led us into October, the month when our clocks go back (I think it’s on the 31st this year). For some, it’s a delight, an ‘extra’ hour for a lie-in on a Sunday morning. For others, particularly parents of young children, the early morning wake-up call feels that little bit harder, and those first few days after the time change seem so very long.

The nature of time is a strange thing, and our clocks sometimes appear to be part of our small efforts to exert some control over the natural world. Humans have used sun dials, water clocks and sand timers for thousands of years. It is believed that the Ancient Greek philosopher Plato had one of the first alarm clocks, created so that it would wake his students in the morning. Our desire for timekeeping has developed along with our technology, giving us the electronic chronometers and atomic clocks used in the world today. And time is important to us. When we are waiting for something, every minute seems like an hour, and yet for this year’s Olympians, the tiniest fraction of a second was all it took to deny them of victory, or give them the highlight of their career.

Our efforts to be ‘in control’, to define our lives by clocks and timepieces will, in the end, prove fruitless for us. We have no sway over the passing of the hours. But even if all the clocks were to disappear, there is still an underlying rhythm to our world and our lives that is beyond time, that doesn’t seek so much as to control time, but to dwell in it in confidence. The flora and fauna that surround us in our beautiful villages, and beyond, are rooted in this pattern of seasons, the ebb and flow and warmth and winter. And there is real peace to this, from which we can all benefit. Most people find that time spent outdoors makes them feel better, helps to put things in perspective, helps to reconnect us with others in our world. For Christians, God is eternal, outside of time, and this beautiful pattern of the seasons can reassure us of the stability of creation, of its dependability, and of the reassuring and steadfastness of God’s love for us.

I hope that this Autumn you can enjoy some of the beauty and rhythm of the outside world, whether walking on hillsides, pottering along pathways, or simply sitting in a garden with the glimpses of sun that remain.

With best wishes,

Rev Sarah Richardson