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Anne Bowes’ Article in the August Diary July 24, 2022

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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A true story

Late one Saturday evening, I was travelling by train from London to York. It was crowded… so I was thankful even for a seat at a table with three Newcastle United football fans, working their way through a twelve pack of lager! They were noisily engaging in a crossword to while away the miles. Gradually the coach emptied and I was just considering moving my seat when, stuck for lexicon inspiration, they jokingly began to involve me in their exercise (the crossword, not the lager).

“What are you then, a teacher or something?”

“No,” I replied, “I am a sort of vicar.” Silence fell. And then…

“Right,” said one of them. “The missus wants us to have our Shane christened, but I think we should let ‘im grow up to decide for ‘imself – what do you think?” Oh, help! I asked if they ever took him to church. “No, I want ‘im to choose for ‘imself.”

What do I say next? Then an answer came to my quick arrow prayer. Drawing not on my theological training but on my across-the-generations, male-family-members’ football passion, the conversation progressed.

“When Shane is big enough, will you take him to Newcastle United, so that he can grow to share your love of the team?” I queried.

“Yeah, course I will,” he replied.

“So that would give him the best chance of learning about it all. Otherwise, he might not just start going later to an alien place. He wouldn’t begin to understand how to be there, what to do, or know any of the people there or who the key players were. Or what it was all about. He wouldn’t hear the songs.”

Silence.

“Yeah, you’ve really made me think. Thanks.”

A little later, I alighted, with a sigh of relief. Too soon, alas, to relax. What is this? A lady running down the platform after me. To tell me about all the others in the carriage who had been listening and… taking note!

Ruth Pyke’s article in the July Diary June 27, 2022

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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As I end almost seven years of ministry here in these beautiful villages, you might ask me what will I remember?  The answer would be so many things: the rolling landscape with its abundance of wildlife, deer, kites, buzzards and barn owls; joyful Monday mornings at Barley and Barkway Federation with the children singing enthusiastically; the beauty of Eastermorning at sunrise in Reed, and playing with the band at Barley carol services. The groups exploring Confirmation, and the joy of those services. The chance to sing evensong in our cathedral at St Albans, and the quiet times of morning prayer in our churches. 

It will be the pandemic, the way we held onto community and church by Zoom, and the miles we walked during lockdown. Our own family occasions of a wedding and a baptism both celebrated in Barkway; the coach trip to Wintershall to see The Life of Christ. 

These may be the highlights but there are equally lovely memories of those of you who have allowed me to minister toyou at times of joy and times of sorrow. The baptisms, weddings and funerals, and the congregations who week by week have allowed me the privilege of presiding at the altar as bread and wine are taken, blessed, broken and shared. 

Throughout the Bible the people of God have remembered- their escape from slavery into the promised land, their homeland as they wept by the waters of Babylon. Jesus told his disciples to remember him in the breaking of bread and sharing of wine. And now as I prepare to say thank you to all of you for sharing your lives and villages with both myselfand Richard over these last seven years it is the words of St Paul which resonate with me. He wrote to the church in Philippi, 

I thank my God every time I remember you.  In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy”. 

I can think of no better words to finish with- a reminder to me and to all of us to pray for each other with thanksgiving for our communities and for our friendships and to remember each other in our prayers. I will continue to pray for you- please pray for me and for Richard as we move away from here to our new home in Oxfordshire. We take with us so many things to remember with joy and thanksgiving. Thank you

Ruth

Sonia’s article in the June 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