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Sonia Falaschi-Ray’s May Diary article April 15, 2018

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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Teenagers’ patron saint, St Pancras (May 12th)

We think of St Pancras as a London railway station. It was built in the medieval district designated as St Pancras, which covered much of what is now Camden. Pancras was a Roman, who had become a Christian, and was martyred when he was 14 years old by the Emperor Diocletian, hence becoming the patron saint of teenagers.

Many teenagers will be taking exams this May, the outcome of which may determine their immediate academic and employment options. The results are often public, and it is hard not to feel judged by success or failure. If you’ve done your best, and things don’t turn out as well as you had hoped, you have nothing to blame yourself for and you will almost certainly find other opportunities. If you have mucked-about, and then got bad results, you might feel guilty at having wasted your chances.

What you shouldn’t have to experience is shame. Shame is embarrassment for who you are, rather than what you do. Who you are, does of course influence what you do, but guilt and shame are not the same thing. Both can be spurs to attempt to live better but shame can generate unhelpful avoidance strategies or projecting blame onto others while going into victim mode. Some people never feel shame. They tend to be psychopaths rather than saints.

Jesus came to enable us to engage more closely with the creator of the universe, who loves each one of us unconditionally. He affirms our worthwhileness as people. Experiencing that, we can become more whole, integrated and able to be open with others without fearing negative judgements. We should still experience guilt at stuff we do wrong, but by apologising and genuinely attempting to rectify matters with those hurt, guilt can be absolved.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, Jesus, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” John 3:16-18

Many blessings

Sonia  07747 844265

A Letter from The Reverend Canon Ruth Pyke March 20, 2018

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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‘The winter is past’. We hope that this is so. We have endured snow and cold, the ‘beast from the east’, Storm Emma and the ‘pest from the west’. But with each day we see more signs of spring and longer brighter days. April, the month in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales for ‘folk to go on pilgrimage’, and the ‘elm tree bole in tiny leaf’ in Robert Browning’s Home Thoughts, from Abroad. The month of April brings a change. There is a lovely passage in the Bible which speaks of the return of Spring:

See! The winter is past;
the rains are over and gone.
Flowers appear on the earth;
the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves
is heard in our land.
The fig tree forms its early fruit;
the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.
Arise my love, my fair one and come away.

(Song of Solomon)

It is a popular reading at weddings of which there are three in our parishes this year. This is good – the hope and excitement and joy which surrounds a wedding is lovely and we welcome couples who wish to begin their married life in one of our churches.

Marriage at its best is about a relationship which allows each person to grow and flourish, and is life giving and life enhancing. This is why marriage is used as the image of the relationship between God and humanity. In Jesus, God came into our world, healing, blessing, eating and drinking. He was life giving and life enhancing – not repressive, not a killjoy. He loved this world so much that he was willing to give his life. In the great 50 days which follow Easter Day, we give thanks for all our life-giving relationships, for all that gives life and enables us to grow and flourish, and especially for Jesus Christ who offers a life and a love which even death could not destroy.

Ruth

Sonia Falaschi-Ray’s March Diary article February 26, 2018

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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Mindfulness

In the film version of Absolutely Fabulous, Edina, (played by Jennifer Saunders) has run out of money while trying to maintain her glamorous lifestyle. We find her sitting cross-legged, eyes shut, humming Ommmm. When asked what she was doing, replied, “Mindlessness”.

Mindfulness, on the other hand, involves intentional thought and action. It includes being conscious of our thoughts and emotions as well as being spiritually alert and aware. To become more mindful, we may have to slow down and do less. There is a counselling concept of ‘planned neglect’, which entails making deliberate choices regarding things we will not do, or will postpone, releasing us from feelings of guilt over an unachievable ‘to do’ list.

The pre-Easter season of Lent is when Christians engage with spiritual mindfulness. Some give up a pleasure or habit, thereby having their thoughts drawn back to God as they repeatedly resist it. Others take up a new challenge.

Pope Francis, leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, recently made the following suggestions. You may find a couple really resonate with you. Try them. Your Easter eggs may taste all the better as a result.

Do you want to fast this Lent?

Fast from hurting words and say kind words. Fast from sadness and be filled with gratitude. Fast from anger and be filled with patience. Fast from pessimism and be filled with hope. Fast from worries and trust in God. Fast from complaints and contemplate simplicity. Fast from pressures and be prayerful. Fast from bitterness and fill your heart with joy. Fast from selfishness and be compassionate to others. Fast from grudges and be reconciled. Fast from words and be silent so you can listen.

Many blessings

Sonia 07747 844265

February Diary article by Ruth Pyke January 25, 2018

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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The plastic tide has hit our consciousness in a huge wave of awareness since the beginning of this year. Blue Planet (BBC) has shown plastic entangling sea creatures, preventing them from flying or swimming, and eventually killing them. Plastic is being ingested by fish, turtles and sea birds and it is littering the beaches and seas of the world. Politicians have begun to take notice and made promises to reduce our plastic footprint.

The way in which we treat our planet makes a difference to our health and well-being. Whether or not we see the world as created by God who saw it and said ‘It is good’, it is likely that most of us are disturbed by the scenes of plastic pollution in hedgerows, trees and roadsides.

Over the last year, I have been challenged and inspired by two Facebook groups which are striving to live with less, to recycle more and to cut down substantially on the plastics used in our homes. Just one or two actions can help – whether using paper bags instead of plastic, milk bottles instead of plastic containers, or to repair where possible instead of buying new. Others take containers to butchers to avoid their meat being wrapped in single use plastic. I hope that we might all do something as our contribution to a better world for our children and future generations.

In ancient times, the writers of the Psalms would also look at the stars and at the sea just as we do – and wonder at it. Over 2,500 years ago the writer of Psalm 104 wrote this hymn of wonder at God’s creation. It speaks of the stars and the heavens, the clouds and the winds. It sings of the springs which bring water to the earth to sustain and refresh all that is created, both plant life and animal, and finally he gazes at the sea. The words could be a commentary for the Blue Planet.

Yonder is the sea, great and wide

Creeping things innumerable are there,

Living things both small and great.

There go the ships and Leviathan* that you formed to sport in it.

On 14th February, Lent begins. Perhaps, inspired by the beauty of the world and by the Blue Planet, we could each think of one way in which we might reduce our plastic so that future generations have the same beauty to marvel at as did the Psalmist. Maybe our inspiration will be that of the Creator who loves our world and shares with us the joy of caring for it.

*A sea monster – a whale or a crocodile or maybe a dolphin.

Ruth

Sonia’s article in the January Diary December 28, 2017

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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January brings both the promise of the new and the legacy of the old. A fresh start, an optimistic gym membership, lengthening days and then credit card bills, filthy weather and ages till next holiday time.

The Church’s Christmas season doesn’t end on Boxing Day. It continues all the way up to Candlemas, 2nd February, when we celebrate the presentation of the baby Jesus at the Temple in Jerusalem.

Before that, on 6th January, we have the coming of the magi, wise men from the east, to worship Jesus as King of the Jews. They were probably Persian astronomers. Popular tradition has converted them into kings, often representing different continents, named Caspar, Balthazar and Melchior. Their gifts were highly symbolic: gold for kingship, frankincense for worshipping a god, and myrrh for death and burial.

The magi by The Rev’d Dr Malcolm Guite

It might have been just someone else’s story;
Some chosen people get a special king,
We leave them to their own peculiar glory,
We don’t belong, it doesn’t mean a thing.
But when these three arrive they bring us with them,
Gentiles like us, their wisdom might be ours;
A steady step that finds an inner rhythm,
A pilgrim’s eye that sees beyond the stars.
They did not know his name but still they sought him,
They came from otherwhere but still they found;
In palaces, found those who sold and bought him,
But in the filthy stable, hallowed ground.
Their courage gives our questing hearts a voice
To seek, to find, to worship, to rejoice.

Many blessings for the coming year

Sonia
07747 844265

 

Ruth’s article in the December Diary November 22, 2017

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given.

During December, windows have lit up in Barkway with the theme of many different Christmas songs and carols. Some speak of the fun to be had at Christmas, of sleighs and bells and Santa Claus. Some remind us of snow and cold and the evergreen holly and ivy. Some tell of the story at the heart of Christmas of a baby born in a stable, greeted by shepherds and angels in the midst of a noisy Middle-Eastern town packed with people come to register in a census.

This ‘little town of Bethlehem,’ busy and full of activity, had at its centre the still focus of a young woman giving birth. The child who was born, the Christ Child, had been conceived like most other children in the silence and darkness of the womb. For Christians, that baby was God himself come into our world.

For some, silence is a rare gift in our world today. For some it weighs heavily. Recently, three films made in monasteries across the country were shown on television. There was no commentary, almost no speech but just the sounds of everyday tasks, of birdsong, of running water, of bees. Beautiful to watch, it was challenging in its silence.

Our gift giving at parties and on Christmas morning may be far from silent, especially in households with children. Cries of anticipation and delight accompany the giving of presents. But other gifts are given in silence: the money quietly sent to charity; the Christmas cards dropped into the postbox to friends far away; the smile to encourage a nervous child; the open arms welcoming family and friends.

How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given

So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of his heaven.

It is often in moments of quietness that we become conscious of God’s presence with us, which is at the heart of Christmas, the heart of the Christian faith. We realise that God lives in us and with us, and in the silence gives us the gifts of his love, his strength and his peace.

May you find times of quietness amidst the busyness this Christmas and in the silence, receive his gifts of love and strength and peace.

Ruth

 

Sonia Falaschi-Ray’s article in the November Diary October 14, 2017

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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Regime Change: Tighter and Looser Ties

England has experienced several substantial regime changes in the last 1000 years. Firstly, the Norman conquest, which overwhelmed the Saxon hierarchy and culture as well as demoting the English language. In 1534, King Henry VIII removed the country from under the religious authority of the Pope and declared himself to be the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, a title held by our current monarch. This was part of the protestant reformation which subsequently created the country’s established religion.

On 5th November 1605, there was a religiously motivated violent attempt at regime change. The gunpowder plot was a failed bid by a group of English Roman Catholics to kill the protestant King James I and his government by blowing up the Houses of Parliament; thereby hoping to make the country Catholic again.

Following the end of WWII, six continental countries formed what became the European Union. In 1973 Great Britain joined them. Now we are leaving. Currently both sets of negotiators seem to be making a bit of a ‘Dog’s Brexit’ of the whole business.

Jesus came to effect regime change. He declared that much of the way the world operates is far from ideal. The rich and powerful, whether individuals or nations, should not exploit their positions. We should all strive for justice, behave mercifully and, as much as we are able to, love our neighbour as ourselves.

These are Kingdom of Heaven values, which can look topsy-turvey in our achievement, status and acquisition-based society. Jesus said that ultimately restitution and blessings will pour down upon the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the persecuted, the grieving, those sick in mind, body and spirit, the meek, peacemakers and those who strive for a better world. We get glimpses of this whatever our beliefs. However, attempting to engage with God can strengthen our resolve to do the right thing, when it would be easier to keep our head down. Also, to ask for the grace to leave people feeling a little better about themselves and the world after they have engaged with us than they did beforehand.

Many Blessings

Sonia
07747 844265

Ruth Pyke’s article in the October Diary September 20, 2017

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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The soul, too, has its brown October days –

The fancy run to seed and dry as stone,

Rags and wisps of words blown through the mind;

And yet, while dead leaves clog the eyes,

Never-predicted poetry is sown.

The last verse of Norman Nicholson’s poem, St Luke’s Summer. Three verses describe the letting go of summer. Despite the golden sun, poppy heads are dry, the dew is thick upon the grass and the last roses fall to the ground. St Luke’s day is celebrated on 18th October each year just as summer may have its last fling.

Luke was a travelling companion of St Paul, and the ‘beloved physician’. Because of this, October is a time when the church often focuses on healing. Type ‘healing’ into a search engine and you find stones, crystals and alternative therapies as well as the conventional treatments of the NHS. But there is a further strand to healing: prayer.

For thousands of years, prayers have been offered for healing, for oneself, for one’s friends, for specific illness, for healing of relationships, for stress among the demands of life, for mental health or for strength to cope. Healing is not just about ‘getting better’.

Every week in our churches, people are named who have asked for our prayers. Some are known to us, others known to only a few. At Barkway church on 22nd October, the Sunday after St Luke’s day, we have a special opportunity to offer prayer for healing during the service. Everyone is welcome. Prayers will be shared in confidence, or in silence. Nothing need be said unless you wish. The service will be our usual Sunday morning Communion – but during Communion, those who wish will be welcomed to the side chapel altar where prayers will be offered.

You may at any time add a name to our list or ask for prayers to be said in private on your behalf. Just put a note through the Rectory door, or if you would like to talk to me please make contact.

All of us need prayers for strength and healing – I commend this service to you.

Ruth

Sonia’s article in the September Diary August 28, 2017

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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The holiday season is over. For children and their teachers it is “back to school”. Hopefully, you will have had some time to become refreshed and perhaps you have been able to gain a clearer perspective on the priorities of your life. It’s often only when we are away from the day-to-day that we can gain insights into how we could best spend our time. Exercising wisdom can be differentiating between the important, the urgent, and the urgently important, which you should probably have done before you went away! Wisdom, a synthesis of experience, knowledge, and good judgement, often best recognised in hindsight.

In Ancient Greek mythology, Athena was the goddess of wisdom and of military victory. She is often depicted with a helmet, spear and shield, the imagery of which was adopted for Britannia, as depicted on our coins. She first appeared on coinage on these shores under the Roman Emperor, Hadrian. She was revived in the C.18th holding a trident, representing British naval power, and has survived to appear on the 50 pence piece. Wisdom and warfare represented by a woman.

In the Bible, the spirit of wisdom gets a good press. A proverb states that, honouring God is the beginning of wisdom. Also, “Trust in God with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he shall direct your paths”. Of course, we can all develop our levels of wisdom, but both Jews and Christians have found it enhanced by including God in our ruminations before coming to a decision.

There is a need for all of us, from time to time, to go “back to school”. To realise that wisdom begins when we can acknowledge that we don’t know it all and that we may have to juggle conflicting pressures and come up with the best or least-worst solution. Consulting God can help. If you don’t think you know how to pray, you can start with, “God please help!”.

Many blessings

Sonia
07747 844265

Ruth’s August Diary Article July 26, 2017

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August – in Northern Europe the holiday month. A time for rest, relaxation, for adventure and travel. It is a month for change, as teachers and children move from one academic year and begin to look forward to the next. Even for those no longer at school, or not on holiday, August has a different and quieter feel, as many activities take a break. 

August may mean GCSE and A level results – and the changes ahead which they represent. Change is a constant reality of the human condition, we grow older, we change jobs, we move from childhood to adulthood. Some change is good and we welcome the changes that bring new opportunities and new skills. Some change is difficult, bringing anxiety for ourselves or for others. 

On 6th August the world remembers the most devastating change which came for the city of Hiroshima when the atomic bomb was dropped. Accounts can be read of the awful injuries and destruction which marked it. Today the same city has been transformed – like any other, it has high-rise buildings, Starbucks, McDonalds and all the hallmarks of the twenty-first century. But the peace park there is a constant reminder of the events of 6th August 1945 and a pledge that the evils of nuclear war should not be repeated. 

In the Christian church, 6th August has another meaning. It is the feast of the Transfiguration, when Jesus took his closest disciples Peter, James and John to a high mountain where they begin to pray. Suddenly Jesus was transfigured, his face changed in appearance and he shone with dazzling light. 

But whereas the bright light of the A bomb foreshadowed devastation and destruction, the light around Jesus foreshadowed the glory of heaven. Though suffering and death lay ahead of Jesus, the glory was a promise that at the last there would be peace. 

As we consider the changes which life brings, may the promise of the light and peace of Jesus strengthen you in times of difficulty and encourage you when you celebrate.

Ruth Pyke