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Ruth’s article in the June Diary May 28, 2021

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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I was sitting in the bank, waiting for a call to go through to confirm my identity. The bank assistant was a charming young woman well trained in keeping her customers calm and engaged as the phone rang incessantly. “We are sorry to keep you waiting, your call is important to us!”

“Why did you become a vicar”- she asked! I told her it was a sense of answering God’s call, that it was about being the person I was meant to be, about doing a job where I felt most myself. I told her how I had needed to wait from the initial sense of calling aged 15 for another twenty-two years until women could be ordained as priests. “We are sorry to keep you waiting!”

In 1994 the first women were ordained as priests in the Church of England and from then on, both men and women have answered that call from God to ministry in the church as priests and deacons. This month we will celebrate our curate Sarah’s call to ministry and her ordination as a priest. This year we will welcome Bishop Michael to ordain Sarah Richardson (our curate) here in Barkway.

In the bank the telephone ring tone went on and on – I found myself apologising that the church had not always got things right – we have made mistakes in safeguarding, in racism, in inclusion of those who are of different sexual orientation. We have made great strides forward in some areas and there is still work to do in others.  We need to be honest about our failures as a church.

 “Priests are called to be servants and shepherds among the people to whom they are sent.“* *from the Common worship service of ordination of priests.

This ministry of leadership in the church is to serve others, to care pastorally for the people who live in these villages, and further afield. It is to delight in each person God has made, to open up the scriptures and to pronounce forgiveness, healing and hope. Priests are to bless in God’s name and to pray for all in need.

It is a joy and privilege to live this life, and to minister here amongst you all, to serve you and to care for you. I was conscious of all of this as I sat in the bank. As I listened over and over again to the phone message, “We are sorry to keep you waiting, your call is important to us,” I prayed that the Church of England would not keep us waiting too long to see a more inclusive, welcoming church and that we would say to Sarah as she is ordained, “Your call is important to us.” 


Sonia’s article in the May Diary April 19, 2021

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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We are now limping out of lockdown. Every five weeks or so a few more restrictions may be lifted, God willing and covid permitting. How might we be able to have good come out of this pandemic?

I thought back to an earlier global shock, which altered relative national powerbases and geopolitics, as well as significantly changing societies’ behaviours. In 1973-4 the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting countries, led by Saudi Arabia, quadrupled the price of oil. You remember Sheikh Yamani? ‘Yamani or your life!’ It was partially in retaliation against those countries who had been deemed to support Israel against the Arabs in the Yom Kippur war, and also, because they considered that they were being ripped-off by selling oil cheaply, their one major resource. Long term legacies of the petroleum price hike included a focus on fuel conservation, a trend to small, efficient Japanese cars, rather than American gas guzzlers, increased home insulation and a shift in economic power from Western democracies to oil-rich autocracies.

So, what might the long-term changes in behaviour be from this covidpandemic? Social inequalities in terms of income, housing, employment and life opportunities have been highlighted, but may not be easy to remedy. There will have to be remedial work for those bereaved, or suffering long-term effects of physical and mental illness as well as a loss of education and employment opportunities.

What positives? What new dawn may come from this unlocking? Maybe a greater appreciation of the fragility of life and the importance of relationships? A greater respect for the jobs and professions which have kept society supported and functioning through the pandemic? More personally, the neighbourliness and collegiality which have flourished over the past year may bring greater on-going social cohesion.

Apart from our physical lockdown, we may have parts of our internal life under lock and key. Things we are ashamed of – let’s not go there. It’s too painful. Feelings of inadequacy, which can make us hypersensitive and hard to live with. Guilt at badly done or unfinished business. Jesus can enter those locked spaces and release us, if we’ll let him. As he said in Revelation, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to them and dine with them, and they with me.”

Many blessings,  Sonia   07747 844265

Article by Sarah Richardson in the April Diary March 29, 2021

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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I know it’s coming. I can feel it sometimes. The other day I could see it in the way the light was on the grass outside my window, and there are some days when I can smell it. It can’t be far away. Last week I felt so sure it was near, yet today has made me pause, wearily, remembering that I need to be careful not to race ahead with something I can’t control. Rain, hail, grey skies, a definite need to wear a hat, and the dog standing by the open back door looking despondent as he waits for a break in the weather. But something is happening; there is good news. In the dark places of the ground, hidden away, new life has been beginning. Slow, silent work in the dark that leads to something wonderful. Spring is coming. It always does, and it always brings warmth and beauty, even if we can’t quite pin down when that might happen.

Some of the patches of daffodils I’ve seen with flowers out have been next to others which haven’t yet come out, and that seems to fit well with where we find ourselves now. Some vaccinated, some not, some more anxious about mixing than others, as we all continue to wait for a relaxation of the rules that govern our lives at the moment. But the silent, unseen work of those who have been developing vaccines, planning logistics, and delivering the jabs is now showing up in the relief of those who have had their chance to be vaccinated.

We hope to be returned to our church buildings for Easter this year, and although this will be a time of celebration and joy, we know there is still more to come. We won’t be able to sing together yet, for some people this will be the first Easter without a loved one, and there will still be restrictions on our lives and communities for some time. For many, the darkness of Good Friday will feel particularly bleak this year. But there is good news – Easter Sunday is coming. There will be times of celebration and of joy, and I can see and hear some of them already: the sound of children playing at school, seeing people meeting up in their pairs with their cups of coffee and people talking about the plans they’re making with a note of confidence in their voices. Out of the darkness, new life emerges.

With my best wishes for a Happy Easter,

Rev Sarah Richardson

Ruth’s article in March Diary February 28, 2021

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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March has come and with it the memories of that sudden lockdown last year when we had no idea that the pandemic and crisis would last so long. Inevitably we look back at the highs and lows, the joys and sorrows, and all the changes to our ways of living and working.
We worry about our physical and mental health, the emotional development of our children and the economic wellbeing of many who are facing considerable loss of income.
We look back to the past and we worry about the future. The practice of Mindfulness, much written about and widely practised, encourages us to ‘be’ in the present moment. It is about allowing our minds to be fully present, aware of our surroundings and our actions and yet not be overwhelmed by what is happening around us.
The practice of this comes through meditation. Mindfulness allows us to live in the moment, acknowledge the circumstances and demands of our lives but not to overly react or be overwhelmed by them. Increasingly, mindfulness and meditation are used in our schools to enable children and young people to centre themselves and find calm. There is a strong link with Buddhism but many are unaware of the practice of mindfulness and meditation within the Christian tradition. Stillness and silence, reflecting on the best of the day as well as the worst and being present to the moment are all part of Christian prayer. No words – just being.
Lent, which began in mid February, is an opportunity for some mindfulness and meditation – whether your tradition is of faith or none. A few minutes each day, allowing ourselves to stop and to breathe deeply. Listening to what is happening around us, hearing the birds sing, the traffic noises, the crackling of a fire – bringing into our conscious the best things around us, and the difficult things, can bring a sense of peace into our lives.
Psalm 46 encourages this practice of stillness with the words, ‘Be still and know that I am God’.


Sonia’s article in February’s Diary January 26, 2021

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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Mamma Mia, here we go again. Lockdown, mustn’t now resist you. (Apologies to Abba)

The following was written by The Rev’d Dr Malcolm Guite in the Church Times, 8th January. I think it perfectly sums up how many of us are feeling.

‘This is the time of year, in any year, when we might reflect a little ruefully, a little wistfully, on the passage of time. And this year, especially, we might find ourselves wanting to hasten its passage, as we yearn and strain towards the day when the vaccines have been dispensed, when the lockdown is lifted, when the longed-for return of spring and, after it, of summer might not only loosen the frozen rivers and open out the coming buds, but might also unfreeze our chilled lives, unlock our sheltered houses and hearts, and set us free once more for all those loving and affectionate encounters for which we are made; when we might no longer be condemned to see each other in the dark glass and dim reflections of our Zoom screens, but really and joyfully meet one another face to face.’

All last year the BBC ran a series of programmes to mark the 250th anniversary of the birth of Beethoven. The very last extract in the final programme was strangely topical. The Prisoners’ Chorus from the opera Fidelio.

Here the central character is a man called Florestan. He has been jailed on a trumped-up charge, and is being kept in a dark cell. But the true hero is this man’s wife, Leonora, who has disguised herself as a servant called Fidelio, meaning Faithful. Eventually she succeeds in getting the authorities to release the rest of the prisoners in the jail, letting them enjoy a brief walk in the sunlight. Here are the words they sing, as they emerge from their lockdown:

‘Oh what joy, in the open air

Freely to breathe again!

Up here alone is life,

The dungeon is a grave.

We shall with all our faith

Trust in the help of God.

Hope whispers softly in my ears:

We shall be free, we shall find peace.’

Many blessings, Sonia
07747 844265

Sarah Richardson’s article in the January Diary December 24, 2020

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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As 2020 rolls to a close and we look to a new year, I imagine that few of us are sorry to see the back of what has been a truly extraordinary year. Usually, the new year brings with it a yearning for change and a desire to bring about new things, but perhaps this time round some of us are actually wishing we could bring back the old things. This time last year, few of us would think twice about being able to meet friends for lunch or sing together in church, and we probably didn’t notice when our children hugged their grandparents or how often we were in close proximity to others. But we’re still living with the ‘new normal’, albeit with the hope of an end to the worst of the pandemic in the near future.

So we might be feeling a little stuck between the old and the new, with things we are longing to be able to do again but also with things we’d like to keep from our ‘year like no other’. Communities across the UK, including our own, have found innovative and compassionate ways of caring for one another and patterns of living have changed, giving some people more flexibility in the shape of their week. The possibility of spending less time on the train and having more time for families or hobbies has certainly made a positive difference in my family. People who had been unable to attend groups and clubs previously have been able to join in online. And I think we’ve all been spending more time outside, which is surely good for us all, even if it just means mulled wine around a fire. I read an article recently about the boom in sales of thermal clothing, outdoor furniture and cycling gear, so some businesses have had a good year. And ‘shopping local’ seems to have come into its own, with many of us recognising the value of having a shop or pub near our homes, many of whom have gone above and beyond to serve and support their communities.

The God who came to earth as Jesus, whose birth we celebrate at Christmas, is with us in our old and in our new. Throughout the Bible, and throughout our lives, God’s steadfastness gives people the firm hope needed to strike out for new things but also to cling on to the things that are important in our lives, even when the going is tough. God is present in all these things, in whatever we choose to include in the pick and mix of the old and the new this year.

With my best wishes for the start of 2021.

Rev Sarah Richardson

Ruth’s article in the December Diary November 28, 2020

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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Carols sung by those wrapped up against the winter air; or choirs in churches by candlelight. This may not be possible this year and it may only be recorded carols that we hear. The pandemic has stopped singing in our churches, it has been months since we sang together and those favourite carols may remain unsung. 

As we reflect on this year we remember so much sorrow and sadness – lives lost, hospitals and medical staff under crippling pressure, families parted for months at a time, weddings, celebrations and social events put on hold. Internationally we hear of the terrible plight of those in countries torn by war, famine and natural disaster and of extreme poverty in our own nation. The economy is struggling, many are unemployed. It has been a lonely year for many, and the future remains uncertain even though the news of a vaccine becomes ever more hopeful.

The Church of England has chosen a line from a carol as its focus for this Christmas. A line which reminds us that Jesus came into this world to bring good news – news of comfort and joy. Comfort is what we so long for – the comfort of hugs and kisses, the comfort of family and friends visiting and sharing around our tables, the comfort of the battle won against coronavirus, the comfort of gathering together and the comfort of feeling safe after so much anxiety and fear.

We long for the joy of Christmas to return, to us and to those places where poverty, famine and war still rage, at home and abroad. Like our own, the world of first-century Israel was far from well. The people of Bethlehem also longed for comfort and joy and it was into this world that God in Jesus came.

We may not be able to sing in our churches but we can still sing in our homes; our carol service will be on YouTube and we can sing along then. Singing can bring us great comfort and it can bring us great joy. It doesn’t matter what we sound like – even less when only our family or the cat can hear us! If this year has brought you great sadness and anxiety, may you find comfort. If you have been blessed by good news, may you be joyful and may the peace of Christ bring both comfort and joy to you, those you love and to the world.

Sonia’s Article in the November Diary October 26, 2020

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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Trick or Treat turns Track ‘n Trace

Along with so much, traditional Autumnal events like Halloween, bonfire night and Remembrance Sunday are having to be re-configured to abide by Covid-19 rules. The fact that doubts have been sown over what, if any, Christmas celebrations will be allowed has cast a pall of gloom over the nation’s spirits. We are all at sixes, but not at sevens. Social isolation, unstructured time and financial insecurity can corrode the soul.

Theatres, Pubs and restaurants are teetering on the edge. Entire cinema chains have been closed, due to uneconomic social distancing requirements and deferred releases, the most high-profile being James Bond’s, Die Another Day, whose title could be considered either prophetic, or merely tactless.

All this is producing a collective listlessness, lassitude and heaviness of heart. Solitary medieval monks were prone to it. They named it accidie, though this phenomenon had been recognised for a millennium. The Ancient Greek philosophers, known as the Stoics, recommended as an antidote to set one’s personal troubles into an historical context, thereby gaining a sense of proportion regarding their relative severity.

An attitude of gratitude, rather than grievance, can sooth the soul. Various psychological studies have associated thankfulness, the daily counting of one’s blessings, with an increased sense of well-being, an enhanced immune system, better sleep patterns, and a greater ability to be kind to others. When medical and religious advice coincide, it is worth taking notice.

Jesus urged his followers not to worry about their material needs, offering the perspective that worrying could add neither a day to their life nor an inch to their height. He assured them that God loved them unconditionally and would be with them eternally.

St Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, exhorted, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Many blessings

Sonia 07747 844265

Sarah Richardson’s article in the October Diary September 25, 2020

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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When our third son was born, we were given a pear tree. It is rather an unusual new baby gift, and as my husband and I are neither skilled nor enthusiastic gardeners, it immediately posed a challenge to us as to where and how we’d plant it, and how we might keep it alive and fruitful. It is a Williams’ Bon Chretien Pear (we had named our son William), and this year appears to be the most productive we have had so far, of the six years we’ve had it. We really are not good gardeners; I try to remember to water it if it’s a particularly dry summer, and we prop it up with a stick every now and then. It’s fairly amazing that it produces anything. But as we begin to pick the fruit, and its leaves start to fall, we will once again be left with a rather unremarkable looking, and slightly crooked tree on our front lawn. The small bare bones of the tree will remain throughout the winter, and it will seem as if nothing is happening; there will be no buds and no leaves, and no signs of growth or life. But I am confident that come next spring, the leaves will return, and the flimsy looking branches will bear fruit again.

We live in a society that does not often appreciate these times of ‘unfruitfulness’, the times when it looks like nothing is happening, but I don’t believe that our pear tree is about to have a lazy winter. It will be restoring its roots and trunk, allowing the branches to prepare for another season of growth. We do a disservice to ourselves and others if we expect continuing fruitfulness with no time for our leaves to fall, and our branches to rest without the burden of heavy fruit. Some people have had exceptionally fruitful times this year, using the unexpected enforced time at home to learn Hebrew, whittle spoons, take up running, or nurture sourdough starters (this is a selection of some of my friends’ new skills).

Yet for some of us, this year has brought a time of empty branches and lost leaves. In the Bible there are several examples of rest being encouraged, even commanded. Yet God is unchanging in his faithfulness throughout the seasons and we can always be assured of his presence with us, whether we feel as though we are fully fruitful, just beginning to produce buds, or as if the last of our leaves are falling. Even in the worst of the winter, the trees are still rooted in the soil, taking what they need. And so we too can stand rooted in God, even in the bleakest of times. God delights in us in every season, and sees the beauty of our empty, fragile branches as well as that of our leaves and our fruit.


Ruth’s article in the September Diary August 20, 2020

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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This year is a strange year and no mistake. It has brought grief and trauma, changed plans and disappointments. And it has brought us beautiful sunshine, a warm spring and a hot summer, more time at home and for some, the chance to discover new things. Many have been frantically busy working from home but have also expressed their thankfulness that we live in such a beautiful area where we can enjoy the wonders of nature around us. Others have enjoyed time to be more creative and discovered new skills and old.

Thankfulness is the focus of this month as we remember the majestic combines harvesting the fields back in August; as we enjoy the glut of vegetables and fruit produced in our gardens, the apples and plums, tomatoes and beans.

But it is good to remember the other harvests too – the ocean and its yield of fish and shellfish, the harvest of the flocks and the wool they produce.

The practice of thankfulness is widely recognised as beneficial to our health and wellbeing, and has a central place in both the Christian and Jewish traditions. Both faiths – as well as others – celebrate and give thanks for the harvest. Thankfulness features in many Jewish blessings and is central to the Communion service where the great prayer of thanksgiving is at the heart of the service.

This year, as well as the agricultural harvest, what will each of us give thanks for? New babies safely born, something we have made with our hands, a conversation had with friends, a beautiful sunrise, pets, music we have heard, a work project carefully completed.

Harvest is a great opportunity to give thanks for all that is good, all that brings us hope.

O give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his steadfast love endures forever  (Psalm 136.3)