jump to navigation

Ruth’s September Article September 1, 2019

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
add a comment

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

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
add a comment

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.


Sonia’s article in the July Diary June 27, 2019

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
add a comment

The times are out of joint

First, we’ve had the almost-driest spring on record, now the almost-wettest summer. Brexit politics are cleaving countries, communities and even families, with unknown long-term consequences. Our two major political parties are fragmented, and the economy is fragile. High streets are hollowing and our social services struggle. Uncertainty surrounds us. Not catastrophic, imminent doom, but enough to leave many of us unsettled, and that’s before we start stressing over climate change.

Having recently commemorated the 75th anniversary of D-Day, many will have heard the hymn ‘Abide with me’, one line of which goes, ‘Change and decay in all around I see’ followed by ‘O thou who changest not, abide with me.’

God, unchanging, ever constant, loving, who will accompany us through all the changing scenes of life, in trouble and in joy. It’s not that bad stuff doesn’t happen to good people. It’s just that in order to cope, we need to have some constants in our lives. Family, relationships, home and occupation, all can offer these, but each is limited and may not be as constant as we hope.

Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’ Engaging with Jesus by asking for his help is no cop-out. We may experience it through the kindness of others, a lightening of our heavy heart, a more peaceful night’s sleep. He is that constant and ever fixed mark who has promised that if we engage with him, he will never abandon us, even if all around is crumbling.

If you’d like to explore how you might do this I, or our Rector Ruth Pyke (01763 848756) would be happy to chat.

Many blessings


(07747 844265)

Article in the June Diary by Ruth Pyke May 23, 2019

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
add a comment

What do a hairdryer, a windmill, a battery, a candle, a dove, a petrol can, a teddy bear and a glass of water have in common? A question recently for our young people who are preparing for Confirmation later this year! Maybe you are also puzzling what the answer might be?

Fifty days after Easter, the disciples were together in one place when they were re-energised in a way which changed their lives and the lives of many others. The account in the Bible* speaks of something like wind and tongues of fire resting on them and filling the house where they were gathered. From that moment on they were empowered to communicate the story of faith across cultures, and from that the Church grew. This is the story of Pentecost.

The coming of the Holy Spirit has been described like a gentle breeze or a mighty wind, like a gentle dove or a roaring fire, like a trickling stream or a surging tide. It gives strength and power as well as gentle encouragement.

Across our world today many feel disempowered and without a voice. To them the gift of confidence and purpose, strength and encouragements is priceless. The gift of love for each of them, as the people they are, whatever they have done, can be the beginning of the journey to a new self-confidence. There are many charities who help rehabilitate individuals, enabling them to discover a new sense of purpose, a new confidence in themselves. There are many churches who minister to those in desperate need.

Whatever our own religious persuasion, this is important and self-giving work. Christians see the encouraging, strengthening Holy Spirit breathing life into all of this, bringing these gifts to more people. Some of you may be involved in such work.

So what do a windmill, a hairdryer etc have in common? Well, all of them can be used to tell the story of Pentecost, of wind and flame and power to rebuild lives and communities.

Come Holy Spirit and kindle in us the fire of your love.*

* Acts 2 v14



Sonia’s May Diary article April 24, 2019

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
add a comment

A plague on both your Houses (of Parliament)?

There have been increasing media mutterings that the Brexit omnishambles is indicative of our parliamentary democracy being irredeemably broken, and that it should be scrapped for something else. Historically, revolutionary changes of governance have generally come with unintended and unfortunate consequences.

Back in the first century AD, just after Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection, which Christians celebrate as Easter, his disciples – who numbered several hundred at that point – adopted a form of communal financial support. Those who had goods and property realised them in order to provide for the entire group. It was based on an honour system, but was open to abuse. One couple, Ananias and Sapphira, sold a field but retained half the proceeds whilst implying that they had handed over the lot. When challenged, they dropped dead.* Justice is not always so swift and satisfying!

Jesus was highly political. He railed against unjust customs and practices which disadvantaged the powerless in his society: women, the poor and elderly parents. He highlighted the hypocrisy of leaders who scrupulously followed the letter of the law but ignored its underlying intentions.

The UK’s system of Law and Governance has been built on the Judeo-Christian principles of treating others as you yourself would wish to be treated, individually and collectively. For example, having an impartial judicial system which is independent of the government, an ability regularly to vote for political representatives, property ownership, a free Press, access to education, healthcare and the basic necessities of life. Although these operate imperfectly, we should perhaps take care before we set about radically remodelling them.

Throughout biblical history people are repeatedly urged to, ‘Act justly, apply mercy and to walk humbly with God’. It’s a good start, both individually and communally.

Many blessings
Sonia (07747 844265)

* Acts of the Apostles 4:32 – 5:11

Ruth Pyke’s article in April’s Diary March 26, 2019

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
add a comment

At the end of April the church across the world will remember the events of the last week of Jesus’ life. Easter is the time when Christians remember the resurrection of Jesus from death. But on the Thursday before Easter the focus is on the Last Supper, when Jesus took the bread and the wine of the Passover and filled them with new meaning.

For Christians ever afterwards bread and wine have been the spiritual food which gives us strength for our journey through life. Traditionally it has only been for adults who have been confirmed, to share, (though not in the early church) but increasingly churches are preparing baptised children who are about seven years of age to receive Communion before confirmation.

The churches in our villages are exploring whether or not we should do the same. We will need to consider various questions. Amongst them will be: that those who are baptised are full members of the church; that their need for spiritual sustenance is as great as anyone else and that they are part of the Christian family and should be sharing at the table with us.

This can be a difficult idea for some, there are concerns about understanding, about reverence, about the merits of waiting. All of these questions need to be asked, prayed through and reflected upon.  We will have a further chance to discuss this important decision and to learn from the experience of others later this year.

Whatever the final outcome, the Easter story is about new understanding, new hope, new life. For many it has been radically life changing. May we share together this Easter, whatever our age, the hope of Easter: a love stronger than death, stronger than darkness, stronger than hate.

May the hope and joy of Easter be yours.


Ruth Pyke’s March Diary Article February 26, 2019

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
add a comment

Do not switch off your computer – updates are in progress.

You see this message and the little circle turning and a message that you are something like 88% complete.

Of course, I know that this is Windows updating my operating system through the WiFi but I am not really sure how it happens. But I see the circle turning and I hear the machine working away! I am sure that many of you will understand the technicalities of all this but to me it is a wonderful mystery!

What I do know is that this is a shared experience. Anyone connected to the internet will have experienced this.

Updates are important – they keep our operating systems effective and protected, they allow us to continue to use our machines for communication, for entertainment, for information, and as a channel for our creativity. They come unseen and when we least expect them, downloaded automatically.

In Christian teaching the Holy Spirit often comes unseen and when we least expect him (or her). The Spirit comes as the spark of communication between God and each one of us. It comes to us as individuals and as communities to inspire us to find creative ways of finding faith in our contemporary world. The Spirit is seen before the world began and in the lives of those today – ‘ever old and ever new’. How and when the Spirit comes is also a mystery, though we may trust he or she comes from God.

Lent is a time for ‘updates’, a shared experience as Christians around the world prepare for Easter. It is a time to ask for a spiritual update. It is a time for the church to update the ways we communicate more effectively with the world around.

Whatever you do, whatever you give up or take on, make it a spiritual time, plug into God and allow the Spirit to ‘update’ you.

07747 844265

Sonia’s February Diary Article January 25, 2019

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
add a comment

February blues

February!  What can one say in favour of February?  Well it’s short. We’ve had Christmas, New Year and the credit card bills.  Term has started, it’s still getting dark at 5ish and the weather is grisly.  Our New Year resolutions are already looking a bit thin, unlike us.

The Church doesn’t do gloomy at this point.  Until February it is the season of Epiphany, the public display of Jesus, Son of God, to the Magi; wise men from the east.  These were not merely Gentiles, non-Jews, but came from outside the Roman Empire which, at that time, was considered very exotic. They represent all of us.

After the Magi, Christians celebrate when the baby Jesus was taken to the Temple in Jerusalem to give thanks for his birth.  An old, devout man called Simeon, guided by the Holy Spirit, took Jesus in his arms and praised God, saying, “Lord, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory of your people Israel.”  Simeon was happy to die, as he had held God’s promised Saviour.  He was completely at peace.  He was confident of his destination and he had fulfilled his life’s ambitions.  He knew, in the words of the lady mystic Julian of Norwich, that “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well”.

You may not feel in the dark days of February that “all shall be well”, but with God everything is possible. If you would like some encouragement, or just someone with whom to explore how God might make all well for you, feel free to give me or The Rev’d Ruth Pyke (848756) a ring.

Many blessings

Sonia Falaschi-Ray

07747 844265


Sonia’s article in the December Diary November 25, 2018

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
add a comment

Presence not presents

A group of children were asked what they wanted Father Christmas to bring them. When they’d finished listing toys, tablets and games, they were asked what they wanted their parents to give them? In summary they said, “Time together; uninterrupted, full-focussed attention.” Things which no Xmas-box can provide.

Our lives can get so filled with the hassle of routine, busyness and screen-time that we crowd out genuine engagement with our closest family. In essence, these children knew what was really valuable. Presence rather than presents. Quality time, not just Quality Street.

Occasionally people say to me, “I envy your faith, but I just don’t get it.” Well “getting it” involves giving God time and attention to allow him to communicate with us. Breaking through the clamour of our lives with his still, small voice of calm. If we ignore him, He won’t impose himself upon us. He does though require some focussed presence. However, the rewards of knowing deep-down that you are personally loved and valued by the Creator of the Universe, who has promised never to desert you in good times and in bad, are immense.

How can we start? A good first prayer is, “God, if you exist, will you please help me to know that.” Maybe try reading the New Testament. That may generate questions. Our Rector, Ruth, (01763 848756) and I would be happy to have a chat and help you explore ideas. Questions of Life, by Nicky Gumbel is also a good introduction.

In the meantime, I wish you a very Happy Christmas and a fulfilling New Year.

Many blessings


07747 844265

Ruth’s article in the November Diary October 28, 2018

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
add a comment

November brings the annual remembrance of all those who have died in the conflicts and wars of the last century. But this year especially, we remember the end of the first World War. The eleventh hour of the eleventh month in 1918 must have brought a whirlwind of emotions. Relief that those who had survived would be coming home, realisation of the enormous loss of life which would mark a generation for years to come, resolve to care for those who would be permanently scarred by mental and physical injury; and remembrance of those who would not return. Young men whose names still stand on war memorials across the British Isles.

Year by year we remember those on our own village war memorials, those who died in the 1st World War and who have died in subsequent conflicts; lives  lost in battles for peace and against oppression.

Every November- solemn remembrance must give way to hope for the future. In Westminster Abbey- the tomb of the unknown soldier is always surrounded with poppies. But at the end of November 11th 2018 it will be surrounded with flowers as a symbol of hope for the future.

To remember is important. Through our lives we remember the events which have shaped each of us; we remember the griefs and the joys, those who have loved us and been part of our lives. But to remember is also to re-member- to put back together.

We can never put back together the broken lives, the broken bodies of those soldiers of the first world war; though hospitals and the love of families did the best they could. They hoped for a new world where war would never rear its ugly head again- and like us were disillusioned.

But we can begin to re-member a future.  This year we face the uncertainties of Brexit and our place alongside Europe.  We have to reimagine a future which will be characterised by a new way of building relationships, new ways of ensuring peace.

Throughout the Bible the people of God have imagined a new future, a kingdom where the hungry are fed, where the poor are welcomed in, and where lasting peace gives all a hope for the future.

Jeremiah, one of the great prophets has encouraging words for our future:

“For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. “