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Ruth’s article in the April Diary March 26, 2020

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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Jules Verne, the imaginative travel writer, wrote that “solitude and isolation are painful things and beyond human endurance”. The coronavirus crisis has brought with it increased isolation from each other and withdrawal from much of our social contact.

At church we are also following strict guidelines to keep us safe – we are no longer sharing wine, we are encouraged to receive standing in order not to touch the altar rail, we have been advised not to offer refreshments, and we will require each person to wash or sanitise their hands on arrival in church. We no longer share the peace with a handshake but are exploring waving to each other, sign language and with elbow bumping! (https://www.churchofengland.org/more/media-centre/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-churches)

The film The Greatest Showman shows a circus drawing in those who had previously been isolated and marginalised because of difference. Gradually they gain confidence and become a family, a community strengthening and encouraging each other. But the church is more than the building in our villages, it is the community of people who care for each other, encourage each other and support each other. There are many parallels with the film. We care not just for each other but for all. Where people are increasingly isolated and events cancelled, we will offer the sort of care, companionship and prayer which the church has always given, within the health guidelines.

If you need help with shopping or a chat, a visit from someone who will take health precautions seriously or medical prescriptions collected, then contact or message Ruth or one of the churchwardens. We are blessed with communications technology which will allow us to stay in touch with each other, through Facebook, WhatsApp or simple phone calls. Novels, paintings and films may lift our spirits.

April brings Holy Week – the week when Jesus embraced the isolation of exclusion and loneliness and death – but it also brings Easter, when he rose from the dead to new life and hope, and the Christian community began to grow. May we grow as a community and find ways to reach through the isolation and solitude that may be forced upon us for a time, and pray especially for those in need.

Ruth

Sonia’s article in March’s Diary February 24, 2020

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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Feast and fast

Finished Frugal February after Veganuary, Dry January or even, ‘let’s sign up for the gymn-againuary’? How did they work for you? Post-prandial penance and pre-celebratory fasting have been part of many societies’ traditions, often encompassed within religious practices. Self-denial, whatever form it takes, can help us become more mindful of things we would otherwise take for granted. While catching ourselves reaching for a bacon butty, chocolate or an alcoholic drink, we may consider those in the world who don’t have enough, as our stomach rumbles. It’s often only by changing our routines that we become aware of how ingrained habits have become.

We are in the Church season of Lent. The name derives from the Old English word, lencten, meaning spring season and is also associated with lengthening days. It is a period of preparation, not so much for our bodies to look more Instagram-worthy, as for us to be ready to contemplate the awesomeness of God. How God restored our fractured relationship with him caused by our wrongdoing. This was achieved was by God the Son coming to earth in person, being born as a baby named Jesus. Jesus then took the deathly consequences of all our sins by living a full, sin-free life, teaching about the Kingdom of God, being betrayed by a friend, suffering a sham trial, being flogged and crucified.

To prepare for his time of teaching, Jesus had spent 40 days in the desert praying and fasting. He resisted the temptation to magic up food, enjoy worldly power and test God by reckless behaviour. Christians, less drastically, prepare by prayer and often by giving up something enjoyable; maybe chocolate or alcohol or even gossiping! Each time we are tempted to indulge, we stop and remember Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Of course, this was followed by his being miraculously raised from the dead on Easter Sunday. We are offered the gift of joyous everlasting life if we acknowledge Jesus as our Lord and saviour and believe that God raised him from the dead.

Many blessings

Sonia  07747 844265

Ruth’s article in the February Diary January 24, 2020

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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During the year ahead there may be changes which are inevitable, some unwelcome, others necessary and some desirable. Biology shows that change is part of life and growth. The baby learns to walk and talk, the child to read and play; their independence increases. In the world we need to change the ways in which our use of Earth’s resources affect climate change. You may have other changes looming – a wedding, a new job, a move.

In our churches and church schools we have been considering a change, as we decide whether to seek permission to admit children to communion before they are confirmed. That final decision is scheduled for our church council meetings in March – and if all three councils agree, we will apply to the bishop. Children admitted to communion would have to be baptised, aged around seven, and attend either school or church worship on a regular basis. Parents will have to give permission and will be included in the classes alongside their children.

There are many reasons behind this to consider and I would like to share some of them. Historically in the early Church, whole families were baptised and shared together in the church. The Jewish roots of the Christian faith remind us of the centrality of children in the story: they asked the questions at Passover. Increasingly families discover faith together and preparation for communion enables them to learn and experience together.

Only at the Reformation was there an expectation of understanding the nature of the bread and wine. Then, as Communion became the main Sunday morning service with all ages gathered at the altar, the issue of children receiving with their parents and other adults grew more significant.

Theologically the bread and wine is more often seen as food for the soul, strength for the Christian journey and a free gift of God’s great love rather than a reward for understanding (see https://www.stalbans.anglican. org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/preparingtheway2013.pdf for more information). Please talk with me or members of your church council. Many churches have taken this path already and found it a joy, as children mark their growing sense of belonging to God’s family.

So please pray about this, come to the United Benefice service at Reed on 9th February at 10.30am ready to ask your questions and express your thoughts.

Ruth

 

 

Sonia’s article in the January 2020 Diary December 23, 2019

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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Ring out the old, ring in the new

The UK is experiencing a time of transition, uncertainty and social discord. Locally, our community is trying to repair some of the torn fabric of society, through food banks and charitable giving. We are also repairing our church buildings. Reed and Barkway church towers have just undergone restoration, during which time Barkway’s peal of eight bells was silenced. In the first minutes of January they will ring out anew. I’ve left the rest to Alfred Lord Tennyson.

In Memoriam CVI

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky, The flying cloud, the frosty light:

The year is dying in the night; Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new, Ring, happy bells, across the snow:

The year is going, let him go; Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind. For those that here we see no more;

Ring out the feud of rich and poor, Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause, And ancient forms of party strife;

Ring in the nobler modes of life, With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin, The faithless coldness of the times;

Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes, But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood, The civic slander and the spite;

Ring in the love of truth and right, Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease; Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;

Ring out the thousand wars of old, Ring in the valiant man and free,

The larger heart, the kindlier hand; Ring out the darkness of the land,

Ring in the Christ that is to be.

Many blessings

Sonia Falaschi-Ray

(07747 844265; sonia@falaschi-ray.co.uk)

 

 

Ruth’s December Diary Article November 29, 2019

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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The first time in one hundred years we have gone to the polls in December. As this year we vote in the colder, darker days of December, maybe we will be more conscious of the plight of the homeless, the refugee, those dependent on charities to help them. Recently a homegroup conversation turned to the Church’s concern for the homeless – many of them seen on the streets of Cambridge and other big towns and cities. What can we do? How can we help? We know that the churches and schools in our three villages recently sent two car boots full of food to Jimmy’s night shelter to feed those who live on the streets. But what else can we do?

We discovered Cambridge Street Aid, a charity started in 2016, which has raised over £60,000 to provide funds for grants for homeless people. Each grant helps somebody off the streets and into accommodation. Much of the money is raised through direct giving points around the city centre – which means that giving in this way benefits those who are homeless in more permanent and effective ways than handing out cash on the streets. The charity’s contactless giving points are at the Grand Arcade, the Co-Ops in Mill Road, Chesterton Road and Burwell and in the City Council buildings and the reception area of the Guildhall.

Our discussion and discovery was inspired by a story which Jesus told. A king commended those who had fed him when he was hungry, clothed him when he was naked, and visited him when he was sick or in prison. Puzzled, the people asked the king when they had done these things. He answered, “Whenever you did it for any of my people, however unimportant they may seem, you did it for me.” (Matthew 25.35-40)

As we remember the Christmas story, of Jesus born in a stable because there was no room for him in the inn, maybe we can remember those for whom there has been little room in society, those who have found themselves cold and hungry on our city streets. And if you would like to join one of our homegroups for further discussion and friendship there is room for you too!

Ruth

Ruth’s article in the November Diary October 25, 2019

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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There are many children who are afraid of the dark. I recently read about Jacob Starke* who loved the dark, though that’s not how the story begins! To begin with, he was afraid. Darkness really sets in with November as the clocks go back and the evenings start earlier. Darkness is not always physical but for many it is a sense of mental darkness, whether it is the darkness of bereavement, of painful memories or mental illness.

There is a greater awareness and sensitivity to the impact of these dark times in our lives and the need for others to be kind and gentle. It is often only through accepting the dark times that we can progress towards the light. At other times we will rage against it. This darkness is not to be minimalised or underestimated.

In November, the Church offers the chance to remember the light which has shone in those we call saints. On 1st November we remember the great saints, whose stories have travelled down through history, and on 2nd we remember those who have been a light in our lives but whose story is known only to their family and friends.

We shall keep both of these on Sunday 3rd November – remembering the great saints in the morning and in the afternoon, lighting candles in the darkness, hearing of Jesus, the light of the world, allowing ourselves time to grieve and remember.

In the story where I began, Jacob Sparke is shown how the dark is a place to encounter deep space, where seeds can germinate and a sign for the birds to migrate. Jacob eventually loves the dark, exploring the stars with his telescope.

*Jacob Starke loves the Dark by Peta Rainford pub. Dogpigeon Books.

Some darkness we can never love but we are not alone. Psalm 139 contains these words: “If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night,’ even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you”.

God is in the darkness and the light, and when we are afraid there is a beautiful prayer asking for God’s protection:

Visit this place, O Lord, we pray and drive far from it all snares of the enemy;

let your holy angels dwell with us to preserve us in peace;

and let your blessing be upon us always

through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Ruth

Ruth Pyke’s article in the October Diary September 18, 2019

Posted by nicholastufton in Uncategorized.
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Baptisms, weddings and funerals – rites of passage, times of grief and times of rejoicing. Prayers for the nation in times of disaster, prayers of gratitude at the end of hostilities and annually at the bringing in of the harvest. Christmas carol services and visits by our schools. All of these take place in the churches of our villages.

Each of these churches is open every day as a place to reflect, a place to pray, a place to ask ‘Why?’ They are places set apart for each member of the community and visitors to find moments of quiet in our otherwise rushed and sometimes frightening lives.

Our churches are timeless buildings standing firm through the years – but look closely and you will see they have changed. At one time there would have been no rails around the altar, the walls would have been brightly decorated with pictures or with coloured painting around the pillars; pulpits have come and sometimes gone, windows have changed through the years. In mediaeval times the nave of a church was a much busier place where sacred and secular met. In this tradition the Cathedral in St Albans will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landings with a spectacular son-et-lumière.

Our churches host teas and book sales, craft fairs and markets as well as the regular Sunday services and celebrations of life and death. BUT to do this our buildings need upkeep and improvement. All three of our active village churches have works which need doing – the tower at Reed is being restored, as is the tower at Barkway. At Barley there are plans to provide good disabled access, a servery and accessible toilet. All of this costs money and we are asking for your help, for your village church.

Please consider any way in which you can help – whether it is a donation, a fundraiser, with specialist skills in grant applications or in any other way.

We need your help so that baptisms, weddings and funerals can continue for hundreds of years still to come, prayers and praises can be offered and our churches continue as places of hospitality and welcome to the whole community.

Ruth

 

 

 

 

Ruth’s September Article September 1, 2019

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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“We are pilgrims on a journey, fellow travellers on the road

We are here to help each other walk the mile and bear the load.” Richard Gillard

Words from a popular contemporary hymn using the imagery of a journey; a concept common to those of faith and none. Buddhism has the path to enlightenment, the Jewish Passover marks a historic journey from slavery to freedom, and pilgrimage is a feature of many lives whether or not people would call themselves religious.

One of the great Christian walking pilgrimages is to Compostela in Spain; and for every Muslim a pilgrimage to Mecca is a must at least once in a lifetime.  These physical pilgrimages are a link back to the Middle Ages, to Chaucer and the many pilgrimage sites throughout Europe. But not every pilgrimage involves a physical journey.

Alongside the physical journeys there are other journeys in which we are each engaged. The inward spiritual journey, the journey of our lives and our emotional development from infancy to old age. On each there are milestones, places and times of great significance. September marks some of those milestones – and you are invited to each of them.

On September 8th at 10.30am at the United Benefice service in Reed we will “Bless the Backpacks” of all those going back to school in September – teachers and children alike – so come along and bring your schoolbag!

September 10th at 7.30pm at Barley marks another milestone when several young people and adults will be confirmed by the Bishop of Hertford. This will mark a point where each of them will publicly affirm their own baptismal promises.

Then on 29th September at the United Benefice service in Barkway we will continue our exploration of whether we seek permission to admit children to communion around the age of 7 years old.  This too could offer a significant milestone on our journey as a church.

So September is a month of milestones, and on September 26th I celebrate a personal milestone since it will be 20 years since I was ordained a priest, which has been the deepest privilege, the most unexpected gift and the most wonderful joy.

On this pilgrimage of life we are here to walk together – through milestones and through the ordinary days, through laughter and through tears.

“We are here to help each other walk the mile and bear the load.”

Ruth

Ruth Pyke’s article in the August Diary July 24, 2019

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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Eva Kor, a survivor of Auschwitz, died recently at the age of 85. She and her twin sister had been subjected to terrible medical experiments conducted on them at the hands of the Nazis. Even when she was made ill she clung to life in order to save her twin sister from being killed in the name of further experiments. It is a powerful story.

But more powerful still was her lifelong determination to forgive – to allow herself the inner healing which this brings.

Anti-Semitism has resurfaced in our mainstream news and racial tension is never far away in our contemporary world. We are aware of the current plight of the Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.

Eva Kor’s programme of forgiveness and education will never exonerate the evils which men and women can inflict upon each other, but they do show us a way to rebuild society in the wake of such horror. The book of Deuteronomy shared by both Jews and Christians reminds us that God “is not partial and takes no bribe, he executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and loves the strangers, providing them with food and clothing.” And if this is God’s way of welcome then it is expected of his people as well. The words follow on, “You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Deuteronomy 10. 17

Barley once played its own small part in welcoming the stranger when The Reverend James Parkes lived in the village, working and campaigning against anti-Semitism, rescuing Jewish refugees and speaking out during the Holocaust. He contributed to the founding of the Council of Christians and Jews and worked for tolerance between those of all faiths and none. Parkes’ work, some of which was pioneered in Barley, formed the foundation for the Parkes Institute, now part of the University of Southampton.

During November an exhibition of the work of James Parkes will be held in Barley Church, courtesy of the Parkes Institute. It will form a focus for our Remembrance Day service with a lecture during the week of the exhibition.

As we look at the world today, whether on the international stage or in our own lives, Eva Kor’s message of the healing we can find through the power of forgiveness, and the willingness to welcome the stranger are powerful reminders of a way forward to build strong and settled communities.

Ruth

Ruth’s sermon on Children and Communion July 23, 2019

Posted by nicholastufton in Sermons, Uncategorized.
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We are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.

The Christian church began with inclusivity. Quoting from the prophet Joel on the morning of Pentecost, Peter recognised that this extraordinary phenomenon of wind, fire and language was the promised Spirit of God which was meant for everyone- young and old, men and women, slaves and freemen, of every culture and nation.

However, church doctrine has worked itself out, with whatever divisions that have torn it apart in its 2000 year history, it began with inclusivity. All are welcome.

As a benefice we are looking at ways in which this welcome is worked out- through the use of our buildings and the provision that they make for comfort and hospitality; through communication keeping those on the edge included in our news; through invitation to special events.

And this year particularly we are looking at including our children in Communion. Much research has been done into the theology and history of children receiving communion – certainly in the early church whole households were baptised together – the jailer in Acts and also Cornelius’ household. It would seem unlikely that they were excluded from the earliest agape, meals when the early church met to break bread. In some earliest frescoes in the catacombs in Rome there are clear pictures of adults and children gathered around the table sharing in bread and wine. One shows a child reaching out for their share of the food. The first Christians were Jews and children had played a central part in the celebration of Passover and other festivals.

John’s gospel, along with texts from Corinthians and Acts all show how important the breaking of bread and sharing in the Eucharist was, both to bind the church together as well as to incorporate it into Christ’s very body- which is the church.

A family gathered around a meal together both expresses their unity as a family and further strengthens it. The food shared expresses their culture and provides nourishment appropriate for health and growth. As they gather around the table, they learn language, conversation, values and their place in the family.

Indeed, by the 3rd Century Cyprian described infants receiving bread and wine from birth, and Saint Augustine wrote, “They are infants, but they receive His sacraments. They are infants, but they share in His table, in order to have life in themselves. The Apostolic Constitutions of the 4th. century instructed that children should receive communion after the various orders of clergy and before the adults.

Which is where the Eastern Orthodox church remains. Children still receive- in age appropriate ways. From the moment of their baptism wine is administered on a spoon. Their need for Communion and their right to communion is unquestioned.  Their baptism makes them full members of the church.

But as the church divided into East and West the western church began to see baptism, confirmation and communion as separate events. The scarcity and distance of bishops to confirm was a factor along with the Reformation emphasis on understanding and instruction which further divided those who were considered suitable for communion and those who weren’t. The Book of Common Prayer declared that, “ There shall be none admitted to the Holy Communion until such time as he be confirmed or ready and desirous to be confirmed”. This allows anyone wanting to be confirmed to receive before confirmation but it also linked confirmation and communion firmly together- which of course is still important.

By the 19th century confirmation had become the entry point for communion after a period of instruction and understanding and Anglicans accepted this as the norm.

But think back to the Eastern Orthodox and baptism as the beginning of full membership and actually we are the same- baptism admits us to full membership of the church.

Immediately before baptism those present affirm with the infant the faith of the church- it is into the church that we are baptised. Immediately after baptism this prayer is used:

May God, who has received you by baptism

into his Church,

pour upon you the riches of his grace,

that within the company of Christ’s pilgrim people

you may daily be renewed by his anointing Spirit,

and come to the inheritance of the saints in glory.

The moment when we share the peace and welcome the newly baptised reminds us of our reading  from Romans which started this sermon, 

We welcome you into the fellowship of faith;

we are children of the same heavenly Father;

we welcome you.

We are all one in Christ Jesus.

We belong to him through faith,

heirs of the promise of the Spirit of peace

And what of the church today in the 21st century. It has always held true to its core beliefs, but it has also changed and adapted as society has changed.

Pentecost was all about change and renewal. It still is. Wind, fire, and language all effect change and enable change- whether we are talking about physics or theology.

The spirit of God living in us enables us to change and renew, to look at the world around us and see families increasingly doing things together, families which are less divided along traditional age and gender roles, places where learning develops through experience.

As a church we have the chance to reflect this year on what it means to be the family of God in this place, what sort of family we are- how we learn, how we encourage others, how we share together. I’m sure you will have many questions – please do ask them either over coffee or at any other time. Write them down or phone me or ask me to visit.

Discuss it with others in your congregations and with your PCC members. There is more to say about the process by which we eventually make the decision whether or not to apply to the Bishop for permission to admit children to communion before confirmation. There is more to be said about the nature of Communion but this is for another occasion.

This year gives us a chance to explore baptism, confirmation and communion. It gives us opportunity to explore what it means to be children of God, heirs of a kingdom where we can find peace and confidence.

Ruth Pyke