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Ruth Pyke’s article in the June Diary May 26, 2017

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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Where will your vote be cast?  None of us were expecting a general election this year and yet it comes just a year after the murder of one of our younger politicians Jo Cox. Politics is a case of standing up and being counted. So often in the heat of election campaigning as opinions are vigorously debated we forget too easily the courage and the burden which politicians and their families so often bear. Long hours working, sometimes away from home, the demands of being in the public eye, the unguarded moment which is transmitted instantly through the media. We need to pray for those who stand, those who will be elected and for their families. We need to pray that they will be ready to work for the best outcomes to some of our most serious challenges.

Voting is not new- in the New Testament there is an election to choose a new disciple to replace Judas ready for the work which lies ahead of them. Matthias is chosen after a process of prayer and casting lots. It gives us the pattern for our part- to pray and then to vote.

Voting is not just a cross in a box- we vote with our support for those events and places which we feel to be important.  It is marvellous that on Wednesday June 28th. at 7.30pm in Barkway church there will be a Confirmation service with Bishop Michael Beasley. Six adults and 3 young people are prepared to stand up and be counted for their Christian faith- they are voting in their own way for the future of the church. Please do pray for them and come along and support them.

 

Notes from the Benefice:

Confirmation Service: Wednesday 28th June at 7.30pm. This is a service of commitment where those who have been baptised are now ready to make those promises for themselves. Traditionally the newly confirmed are then able to receive the bread and the wine at the service of Holy Communion. Bishop Michael Beasley, the Bishop of Hertford will take the service and all are welcome.

 

 

Sonia’s article in the May edition of The Diary April 13, 2017

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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In a recent UK national survey it was revealed that six out of seven people pray. This is in marked contrast to those who claim to have no religious beliefs, a number which has climbed steadily to 50.6%.  What is going on here? To what or whom are these three to four people in every seven praying and what results do they expect?

Maybe they are indulging in what is known as Pascal’s wager. If God exists, believing in him and living accordingly offers heaven as an upside and mild self-denial as a downside. Not believing, and being wrong, leads to the fires of hell. There’s also the deathbed comment attributed to various famous people that, when asked by the priest to renounce the Devil and all his works, responded with “Now is not the time to be making new enemies.”

Jesus’ followers asked him to teach them how to pray. He responded with, “Our father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” ‘Father’, is the nearest human analogy we can get to the nature of God’s relationship with us. In Jesus’ day the father was the legal head of the household and was responsible for all its members over whom he had the power of life and death. In Genesis we are told that we are all created in the image of God, the whole spectrum spanning male through female and encompassing all good parental stereotypes. ‘Hallowed’ means, may you and your name be acknowledged as holy. People swear using powerful words. Which is why ‘God’ and ‘Jesus’ may get used along with those describing various bodily functions. That is not hallowing God’s name.

Jesus continued, “Your kingdom come come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” In heaven all are living in harmony, surrounded by love. There is perfect justice and neither pain nor sorrow. “Give us this day our daily bread.” ‘Bread’ is shorthand for food, shelter and all that is necessary for body and soul. “Forgive us our sins as we forgive the sins of others.” If we harbour anger and resentment, it is very hard for us to receive forgiveness ourselves. “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” We are asking for a parent’s good guidance and protection.

You may or may not pray, but if you are minded to, a good structure is firstly acknowledging its recipient and recognising his holiness, praying for the world to become more like heaven, asking for what you need, forgiving those who have wronged you so you can experience the freedom of forgiveness and asking for care and protection. You may be astonished at what happens next.
Many blessings
Sonia. 07747 844265
Sonia Falaschi-Ray
sonia@falaschi-ray.co.uk

Ruth Pyke’s article in April’s Diary March 27, 2017

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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What do a submarine, a classic novel and a cathedral have in common?

Not a riddle, but a word: RESURGAM. The word means, ‘I will rise again’. It was the name of two Victorian submarines which sadly did not rise again! The first was inadequate in size and in manpower. There was only space for one crew member. It would never be efficient as a weapon. The second had space for a three-man crew and trialled successfully; but on its maiden voyage from Liverpool to Portsmouth it developed problems and sank, though mercifully the crew had already moved to their support vessel. The wreck of Resurgam is still marked out on the sea bed near Rhyl.

It was the inscription chosen by Jane Eyre for the headstone on the grave of her childhood friend Helen Burns. Helen had died of consumption in the harsh environment of Lowood School, but not before her short life had witnessed her Christian faith and hope.

It was the word carved over the South Transept door of St Paul’s Cathedral under the carving of a Phoenix rising from the flames. A reminder that the new St Paul’s had been built out of the destruction of the old by the Great Fire of London.

The stories of the submarine, of Jane Eyre and of St Paul’s remind us that when life seems darkest, when hope has faded, when all seems to lie in dust and ashes then the risen Christ – who did indeed rise again – can bring us new life and new hope.

Jesus said, ‘The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.’

Resurgam: I will rise again – words of hope, faith and vision. A word for this Easter season, the season which repeats the story of the power of life over death, of light over darkness, of love over hate.

Come to church this Easter and find that new chance, that new beginning, vision, faith and hope. May you know the light, hope and joy of the Resurrection, and the power of love which conquers all. Resurgam – I will rise again.

Ruth

 

 

Sonia Falaschi-Ray’s article in the March Diary February 21, 2017

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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Taking Stock

Carl Jung, the Swiss psychoanalyst, described how, in the first part of our adult lives, we tend to focus on accumulating. We, hopefully, secure a job of rewarding work, a life partner, a home, children, and career advancement. Around the age of 40 we take stock. What meaning does our life have? What are our core values, and does the life we lead cohere or conflict with them? Are our subconscious desires more or less in line with our outward existence or is there an inner disconnect? This can lead to mental distress, even illness. If we need to focus on the fewer things we have decided are more important to us, what might we have to give up to allow space for them? Jung called this process of coordinating our conscious and sub-conscious minds, individuation.

Within the religious life a period of time each year is set aside for reflecting upon our values and how they may have become overwhelmed by the demands of daily life. This time of Lent, which is in the run-up to Easter, has traditionally been used to reassess our lifestyle, to further develop a healthy balance and to pray for ‘those things which are requisite and necessary as well for the body as the soul’ as the Book of Common Prayer so poetically puts it.

Giving something up for Lent is not really about chocolate or gin. How about giving up that long-standing grudge against a neighbour? As has been said, bearing a grudge is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die. Maybe giving up the regrets of unfulfillable might-have-beens? Perhaps giving up prejudices which harm us more than the people we disparage? Each of us will have our own energy-sapping gripes.

Then we may become more integrated as a person, with fewer inner conflicts and may experience the peace of God which passes all understanding.

Many blessings

Sonia 07747 844265

Ruth Pyke’s letter in the February Diary January 20, 2017

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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Last year we planted snowdrops. This year we are waiting to see if they have survived the winter. They will not rival the big gardens which, with their carpets of snowdrops, bring thousands of visitors; but they will be a first glimpse of spring.

Lying hidden through the year, their growth is unseen until the first shoots and flowers pierce the earth, even if snow is on the ground. They promise warmer, longer days to come and are a sign of growth and goodness beneath the surface.

As January turns to February we commemorate all those who died in the holocaust of World War 2 – a truly appalling period. We are conscious that even today thousands of refugees are driven out of their homes and lands because they are deemed to be the ‘wrong’ nationality, the ‘wrong’ ethnic grouping, the ‘wrong’ religion. But even in those circumstances, even in the holocaust, there were those who, under the surface and hidden like the growth of the snowdrop, imagined a better life, a better world. In February or March 1945, Anne Frank died in Bergen Belsen. For two years she had hidden in Amsterdam in Nazi occupied Holland. In her hiding place she wrote the diary that has become a powerful witness to courage and hope, recording her daily life and imagining a future that would bring peace.

 ‘It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart. I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness, I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too, I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty too shall end, that peace and tranquillity will return once more.’

Imagination is the first step. It is the hidden work that goes on before we can act. What change can we each imagine that would be a glimpse of a better future? Maybe we can start with these words of Isaiah: ‘See I am doing a new thing, I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the desert.’

Ruth

 

Sonia Falaschi-Ray’s article in the January Diary December 16, 2016

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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Don’t worry, it might not happen.

What a year we have just had! Nationally, we had Brexit, the outcome of which is still far from clear. Across Europe, people are rebelling against an old order which they feel has let them down, disrupted their way of life and left them behind. The man originally thought of as a joke making satire redundant has been elected as the next President of the United States. The disasters of wars in Syria, Iraq and other parts of the world, which are destroying whole communities, ruining lives and which have no simple solutions, bear down on us all.

More personally, you may have had a really rough 2016 and are hoping that 2017 will be better, but you worry that it might not be. We can make sensible provision for probable outcomes and perhaps build in flexibility for possible events. However, after that, when dealing with Donald Rumsfeld’s famous ‘unknown unknowns’ we may do little other than worry.

Jesus addressed this propensity for angst head-on. ‘I tell you, don’t worry about your life, what you’ll eat or what you’ll drink, or about your body, what you’ll wear. Isn’t life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow, nor reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you of more value than them? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your life-span? So, don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today. But, strive first for the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.’

So what does ‘striving for the Kingdom of God and his righteousness’ mean? Well, if you attempt to treat others as you would yourself like to be treated, that’s a good start. Even if you consider you don’t ‘do God’ you’ll not be so far from him, and his caring for you, as you might think.

Many blessings for 2017

Sonia

07747 844265

 

 

 

Ruth Pyke’s December Diary article November 26, 2016

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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Wrapping paper, gift tags and shiny ribbons, wrapping the gifts we have chosen so carefully. Even the most ordinary box of biscuits or chocolates looks so much more enticing and exciting when gift wrapped and placed under the Christmas tree. As the days of December rush by, Christmas shopping becomes increasingly frantic – whether anxiously waiting for parcel deliveries or finding time to browse in the shopping malls and arcades.

Time was when gift giving happened at New Year and was usually small-scale, homemade and handcrafted. As industry and mass production increased, so did the possibility of giving larger, shop-bought gifts. Suddenly, for those who could afford them, there were toys and games, books and other delights to be bought. This was, of course, the preserve of those with money. And it still is. For some, the desire to provide any sort of festive food for their families at Christmas, let alone provide gifts, is an enormous struggle. Foodbanks have become a wonderful channel not just for emergency food during the year but for others to give presents, turkeys and extra treats which help many more people to have a joyful Christmas.

Giving is such a central part of Christmas: giving presents, giving to charity, giving of our time, energy and hospitality. It can remind us of the gifts which the Wise Men brought to Jesus: gold, the symbol of Kingship, frankincense, the symbol of godliness and prayer, and myrrh, the symbol of healing and anointing. I wonder if Mary kept those strange gifts to one side, gifts too precious, too adult for the infant Jesus.

In her play The Man born to be King Dorothy L Sayers implies that the myrrh, at least, was kept carefully and used not at the beginning but at the end of Jesus’ life; not at Christmas but at Easter. The dialogue between Mary Cleopas and Mary Magdalen runs thus:

MARY CLEOPAS: Mary the mother of Jesus gave us this to take with us.

MARY MAGDALEN: Oh, but what is it? I never saw such a beautiful casket. The gold and the jewels are fit for a king’s treasure.

MARY CLEOPAS: It came from a king’s treasure. It is King Balthazar’s gift of myrrh, that he brought to Jesus at Bethlehem. It has waited for him three and thirty years.

The gift that God sends to us year by year is the same. The gift of Jesus, God in human form who shares in our joys and sorrows, our hopes and our dreams. Maybe year after year we leave the gift to one side, but just like the gift of King Balthazar it waits for us with patience and with love. Maybe this is the year you will take it, unwrap it and see it as the most important gift ever given.

Ruth

November Diary Article by Ruth Pyke October 21, 2016

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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I will not be growing a moustache for Movember! Suddenly every month has a charitable focus, a sponsored challenge. So we were exhorted to Go Sober for October and men are challenged to grow a moustache for Movember – both initiatives to raise money for cancer charities and awareness. People seem to love a challenge – whether it’s the Herts and Beds Historic Churches bike ride raising money for our village churches, moonlight hikes or abseiling from church towers! There are any number of activities which both raise money and challenge our personal fitness or courage.

Recently I began the Thames Path – a walk of 180 miles along the Thames to the source. We will do the walk in stages, discovering new stories along the way and remembering key events in our lives which centre along the Thames Valley, the places which used to be home and where Richard and I grew up.

A friend has recently completed a pilgrimage to Canterbury, travelling on foot like the famous Canterbury pilgrims. Others are walking the famous Camino, or way, to Santiago de Compostela. There may be an opportunity next year for pilgrims to travel to the Holy Land from our local churches. However we travel, a pilgrimage challenges the body and the mind. We have time to think and new stories to discover. It can also be a time when our thoughts turn towards the deeper questions of life and death.

November itself is a pilgrimage, as we travel towards the beginning of Advent. In that pilgrimage too there are times when God can come especially close. Whether we are remembering the great saints of the church or those whom we loved and knew, or standing in silence and respect as we remember those we never knew but who went to war in the hope of winning freedom for our people. Those moments of remembering offer a chance for God’s love to steal into our hearts.

During November some have set themselves the challenge to explore the Christian faith through a Confirmation group meeting at the Rectory. There is space for more! So what is your challenge this November? Will it challenge your inner being as well as your personal stamina; your faith as well as your strength? Will it give you time to remember and time to move on?

May God bless you in your challenges this November and always.

Ruth

Sonia Falaschi-Ray’s article in the October Diary September 23, 2016

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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Love looks on tempests and is never shaken

October is the height of the hurricane season in the United States, of which we mostly get just the tail-ends (1987 excepted). Humankind over the millennia has afforded the powers of nature divine influence. The Ancient Greek pantheon had Zeus hurling thunderbolts, Poseidon stirring up storms at sea and Aeolus, with his windbag. These controllers of the most powerful forces of physical nature were worshipped and bargained with.

The most powerful metaphysical force we can experience is the power of love. Christians believe that the divine nature is a trinity of persons in an interdependent loving relationship. They invite us to share that love and enfold each other into it. Not three Gods, but one, whose persons are often called the ‘Father’, who created the universe by speaking it into being through the ‘Word’, or ‘Son’, whom we know as Jesus, effected through the power of the Holy Spirit. God’s essence is love. As we allow ourselves to engage with him, through prayer, reading the Bible and marvelling at nature, we may find our lives enhanced, with a renewed sense of purpose and care for our fellow human beings.

William Shakespeare’s sonnet on love between two people describes how it is more valuable and durable than any physical phenomenon.

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O, no! it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand’ring bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom:
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

Many Blessings

Sonia( 07747 844265)

Ruth Pyke’s article in the September Diary August 17, 2016

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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All good gifts around us
are sent from heaven above,
then thank the Lord,
O thank the Lord for all his love.    (Matthias Claudius  1782)

 

So runs the refrain of the well-known Harvest hymn. This month we begin the round of Harvest festivals in our three churches, though in truth the harvest began in late July. Harvest has always been a time when we are conscious of our dependence on the creation.

For some this naturally finds its response in prayer and praise. For some there is the faith that God is the provider of the good gifts of creation which we all need. Whatever our individual belief we are amazed by the abundance of crops and grain within the fields around us.

I am also conscious of the abundance of good gifts which people give to the communities in our villages – caring for neighbours and supporting village events which draw us closer.

Much of that good will and support is extended to the three churches in Barley, Reed and Barkway which form a focus for families in time of joy and sadness and as part of our village landscapes. There are so many generous supporters and that is a cause for great thanksgiving.

But each year, we have to review our income and expenditure and reflect anew on the money which provides for the running costs of a living, caring, healthy church. Not just the stone and flint, the roof and the woodwork but the heating, lighting, insurance and the pastoral care that is there for all, whenever it is needed.

Each of our village churches looks for financial support in different ways but each relies on those who give generously and realistically.  If you are already a regular giver- thank you, and if you are not may I ask you to consider doing so. If you would like to help, do let me know and I can assist with any questions you may have.

We ask, because we want to continue to offer the very best pastoral care to all who need it and because we want to fund the different ways in which we welcome all to our churches. We want to do this generously because we believe in a generous God who gives good gifts and above all his love.

With my love and prayers

Ruth