Ruth Pyke’s Diary article March 27, 2017Posted 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.
Sonia Falaschi-Ray’s article in the March Diary February 21, 2017Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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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.
Sonia 07747 844265
Ruth Pyke’s letter in the February Diary January 20, 2017Posted 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.’
Sonia Falaschi-Ray’s article in the January Diary December 16, 2016Posted 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
Ruth Pyke’s December Diary article November 26, 2016Posted 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.
Sonia Falaschi-Ray’s article in the October Diary September 23, 2016Posted 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.
Sonia( 07747 844265)
Ruth Pyke’s article in the September Diary August 17, 2016Posted 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
Article in the August The Diary by Sonia Falaschi-Ray July 18, 2016Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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Continuity and change
In 1743 a collection of Roman/Celtic metal work dating from the third century was dug up in Barkway. Inscriptions on the votive offerings mention the Roman god Mars and the Celtic/Norse god Vulcan. These indicate that there had been a sophisticated settlement here centuries before its mention in the Doomsday book. Parts of the church building date from the 13th century, with houses lining the High Street range from the 15th Century to the present day.
The United Kingdom has experienced some momentous changes over that period. Some have been gradual, others shockingly sudden: the Norman invasion in 1066, the reformation of the Church, causing the country to become officially Protestant at the turn of the 16th-17th centuries, installing the Monarch and not the Pope as its Supreme Governor, the union of England and Scotland and the formation of the Irish Republic, political reform enshrining the sovereignty of parliament, the creation and decline of the British Empire and the devastation and legacies of two World Wars.
Brexit is our latest step-change. By a narrow margin the electorate has voted to leave the European Union. Reactions to the result have ranged from delighted to appalled. How this will play-out is unclear. There are, as Donald Rumsfeld once observed, ‘known unknowns and unknown unknowns’, the latter being unanticipated, unintended consequences. This level of uncertainty running through our political, business, academic, trading and everyday lives may be deeply unsettling for us all.
I will leave you with words of a hymn addressing God, which I hope will offer you some comfort.
Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide;
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me.
Change and decay in all around I see—
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.
I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness;
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.
Many blessings, Sonia 07747 844265
July’s Diary article by Ruth Pyke June 17, 2016Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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When I was growing up there was a popular advert for a certain chocolate bar. The advert promised that this chocolate bar would help you to ‘work, rest and play’. Current dietary advice would surely not advise eating one of these chocolate bars every day. But the idea of a balanced life with work and rest and play is still highly desirable. For so many people it seems beyond achievement.
Many people work long hours, and the 24-hour availability of email and the internet exerts its own pressure to be accessible at all hours of the day and night. Employers make much of a work/life balance but it still eludes us. Of course there are busy periods in the year for each of us. April is always frantic for accountants and those who work in finance, August is demanding for our farmers working at all hours to bring the harvest in whilst contending with the vagaries of English weather. The end of term brings pressure to teachers, and children have to cope with the exam season. Sometimes it balances out, but in a recent survey the British did not fare well in the work/life balance tables. Two French cities led the way, followed by Moscow and then Finland and Austria. In the top ten cities for a good work/life balance there were no British cities.
Yet we are urged to eat a balanced diet, to take time for leisure and sport and relaxation. The church year is busiest from Advent to Easter but within the year there are special days when we remember the different saints of the church. On July 11th we remember Saint Benedict. Benedict lived in 6th-century Italy and founded a monastic community. But the Rule which he wrote for his brothers is defined by balance, moderation and reason.
Here we find the sensible advice that as the seasons moved from winter to summer, as the daylight lengthened and the nights grew shorter and as the agricultural year made greater demands through the growing season of summer, times of prayer should be shortened. His rule deals with a respect for those tools which we need and use whether in the kitchen or the workshop; for the importance of sharing meals together, of hospitality and a structure to the day which indeed balances work, rest, prayer and play. The Benedictine lifestyle has been much appreciated by many contemporary people.
By the time this is read we will know whether we are in the EU or out of it. Whatever the case, I hope that we continue to work for a society which insists on a better work/life balance so that all may enjoy time for refreshment and rest, time for work and, I suggest, a time for prayer.
Article in the June Diary by Ruth Pyke May 18, 2016Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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A ninetieth birthday is always a time to celebrate and reflect, a time to bring all generations together to party. True for anyone who reaches the age of 90, it is as true for Her Majesty the Queen and for our nation which she serves so dutifully. In some of the pictures released of her there is a real smile of joy in her eyes. The weekend of 10th, 11th and 12th June will be the climax of the celebrations marked nationally with a service of thanksgiving, the trooping of the colour and a huge street party in The Mall. But here in our villages we are celebrating too, with picnics and tea parties. We pray for fine weather for all these events. As we rightly celebrate the Queen’s good health and long life, we also celebrate and give thanks for the stability that this has given us as a nation. Many nations in the world today long for stable government, a place where they can bring up their families in peace.
I recently saw a nest of robins. For the first five weeks of their life the parent bird provides shelter and food. During this time the young birds begin to fly, always returning to the nest and the food supply provided by the parents. The nest is a place of stability as great changes occur in the growth of the young robins.
The church also provides a place of stability, like a nest, where there is shelter and nurture. It is where people return for the great celebrations in life. St Paul’s Cathedral, the symbol of stability in the London Blitz, will be the focus for the national service of Thanksgiving on 10th June. St Paul’s is a great part of the London landscape and national heritage. Likewise, our local village churches are part of our landscape and heritage. But they must also be places engaged in the present, where we are challenged to work for that stable society, which values humanity and all creation.
There is a simple song which comes from the community of Taize in France. It speaks of the kingdom of God and the values which are foundational to that kingdom. But these same values are those which make up stable societies and kingdoms here on earth. They are the values of justice, peace and joy, values which have been supported and promoted by Her Majesty the Queen, worked for in our nation and in the commonwealth and which are God’s desire for us all.
The kingdom of God is justice and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit
Come Lord and open in us the gates of your kingdom.
© Ateliers et Presses de Taize 2005