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Sonia’s article in March’s Diary February 24, 2020

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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Feast and fast

Finished Frugal February after Veganuary, Dry January or even, ‘let’s sign up for the gymn-againuary’? How did they work for you? Post-prandial penance and pre-celebratory fasting have been part of many societies’ traditions, often encompassed within religious practices. Self-denial, whatever form it takes, can help us become more mindful of things we would otherwise take for granted. While catching ourselves reaching for a bacon butty, chocolate or an alcoholic drink, we may consider those in the world who don’t have enough, as our stomach rumbles. It’s often only by changing our routines that we become aware of how ingrained habits have become.

We are in the Church season of Lent. The name derives from the Old English word, lencten, meaning spring season and is also associated with lengthening days. It is a period of preparation, not so much for our bodies to look more Instagram-worthy, as for us to be ready to contemplate the awesomeness of God. How God restored our fractured relationship with him caused by our wrongdoing. This was achieved was by God the Son coming to earth in person, being born as a baby named Jesus. Jesus then took the deathly consequences of all our sins by living a full, sin-free life, teaching about the Kingdom of God, being betrayed by a friend, suffering a sham trial, being flogged and crucified.

To prepare for his time of teaching, Jesus had spent 40 days in the desert praying and fasting. He resisted the temptation to magic up food, enjoy worldly power and test God by reckless behaviour. Christians, less drastically, prepare by prayer and often by giving up something enjoyable; maybe chocolate or alcohol or even gossiping! Each time we are tempted to indulge, we stop and remember Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Of course, this was followed by his being miraculously raised from the dead on Easter Sunday. We are offered the gift of joyous everlasting life if we acknowledge Jesus as our Lord and saviour and believe that God raised him from the dead.

Many blessings

Sonia  07747 844265

Ruth’s article in the February Diary January 24, 2020

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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During the year ahead there may be changes which are inevitable, some unwelcome, others necessary and some desirable. Biology shows that change is part of life and growth. The baby learns to walk and talk, the child to read and play; their independence increases. In the world we need to change the ways in which our use of Earth’s resources affect climate change. You may have other changes looming – a wedding, a new job, a move.

In our churches and church schools we have been considering a change, as we decide whether to seek permission to admit children to communion before they are confirmed. That final decision is scheduled for our church council meetings in March – and if all three councils agree, we will apply to the bishop. Children admitted to communion would have to be baptised, aged around seven, and attend either school or church worship on a regular basis. Parents will have to give permission and will be included in the classes alongside their children.

There are many reasons behind this to consider and I would like to share some of them. Historically in the early Church, whole families were baptised and shared together in the church. The Jewish roots of the Christian faith remind us of the centrality of children in the story: they asked the questions at Passover. Increasingly families discover faith together and preparation for communion enables them to learn and experience together.

Only at the Reformation was there an expectation of understanding the nature of the bread and wine. Then, as Communion became the main Sunday morning service with all ages gathered at the altar, the issue of children receiving with their parents and other adults grew more significant.

Theologically the bread and wine is more often seen as food for the soul, strength for the Christian journey and a free gift of God’s great love rather than a reward for understanding (see https://www.stalbans.anglican. org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/preparingtheway2013.pdf for more information). Please talk with me or members of your church council. Many churches have taken this path already and found it a joy, as children mark their growing sense of belonging to God’s family.

So please pray about this, come to the United Benefice service at Reed on 9th February at 10.30am ready to ask your questions and express your thoughts.

Ruth

 

 

Sonia’s article in the January 2020 Diary December 23, 2019

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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Ring out the old, ring in the new

The UK is experiencing a time of transition, uncertainty and social discord. Locally, our community is trying to repair some of the torn fabric of society, through food banks and charitable giving. We are also repairing our church buildings. Reed and Barkway church towers have just undergone restoration, during which time Barkway’s peal of eight bells was silenced. In the first minutes of January they will ring out anew. I’ve left the rest to Alfred Lord Tennyson.

In Memoriam CVI

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky, The flying cloud, the frosty light:

The year is dying in the night; Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new, Ring, happy bells, across the snow:

The year is going, let him go; Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind. For those that here we see no more;

Ring out the feud of rich and poor, Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause, And ancient forms of party strife;

Ring in the nobler modes of life, With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin, The faithless coldness of the times;

Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes, But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood, The civic slander and the spite;

Ring in the love of truth and right, Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease; Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;

Ring out the thousand wars of old, Ring in the valiant man and free,

The larger heart, the kindlier hand; Ring out the darkness of the land,

Ring in the Christ that is to be.

Many blessings

Sonia Falaschi-Ray

(07747 844265; sonia@falaschi-ray.co.uk)

 

 

Ruth’s December Diary Article November 29, 2019

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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The first time in one hundred years we have gone to the polls in December. As this year we vote in the colder, darker days of December, maybe we will be more conscious of the plight of the homeless, the refugee, those dependent on charities to help them. Recently a homegroup conversation turned to the Church’s concern for the homeless – many of them seen on the streets of Cambridge and other big towns and cities. What can we do? How can we help? We know that the churches and schools in our three villages recently sent two car boots full of food to Jimmy’s night shelter to feed those who live on the streets. But what else can we do?

We discovered Cambridge Street Aid, a charity started in 2016, which has raised over £60,000 to provide funds for grants for homeless people. Each grant helps somebody off the streets and into accommodation. Much of the money is raised through direct giving points around the city centre – which means that giving in this way benefits those who are homeless in more permanent and effective ways than handing out cash on the streets. The charity’s contactless giving points are at the Grand Arcade, the Co-Ops in Mill Road, Chesterton Road and Burwell and in the City Council buildings and the reception area of the Guildhall.

Our discussion and discovery was inspired by a story which Jesus told. A king commended those who had fed him when he was hungry, clothed him when he was naked, and visited him when he was sick or in prison. Puzzled, the people asked the king when they had done these things. He answered, “Whenever you did it for any of my people, however unimportant they may seem, you did it for me.” (Matthew 25.35-40)

As we remember the Christmas story, of Jesus born in a stable because there was no room for him in the inn, maybe we can remember those for whom there has been little room in society, those who have found themselves cold and hungry on our city streets. And if you would like to join one of our homegroups for further discussion and friendship there is room for you too!

Ruth

Ruth’s article in the November Diary October 25, 2019

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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There are many children who are afraid of the dark. I recently read about Jacob Starke* who loved the dark, though that’s not how the story begins! To begin with, he was afraid. Darkness really sets in with November as the clocks go back and the evenings start earlier. Darkness is not always physical but for many it is a sense of mental darkness, whether it is the darkness of bereavement, of painful memories or mental illness.

There is a greater awareness and sensitivity to the impact of these dark times in our lives and the need for others to be kind and gentle. It is often only through accepting the dark times that we can progress towards the light. At other times we will rage against it. This darkness is not to be minimalised or underestimated.

In November, the Church offers the chance to remember the light which has shone in those we call saints. On 1st November we remember the great saints, whose stories have travelled down through history, and on 2nd we remember those who have been a light in our lives but whose story is known only to their family and friends.

We shall keep both of these on Sunday 3rd November – remembering the great saints in the morning and in the afternoon, lighting candles in the darkness, hearing of Jesus, the light of the world, allowing ourselves time to grieve and remember.

In the story where I began, Jacob Sparke is shown how the dark is a place to encounter deep space, where seeds can germinate and a sign for the birds to migrate. Jacob eventually loves the dark, exploring the stars with his telescope.

*Jacob Starke loves the Dark by Peta Rainford pub. Dogpigeon Books.

Some darkness we can never love but we are not alone. Psalm 139 contains these words: “If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night,’ even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you”.

God is in the darkness and the light, and when we are afraid there is a beautiful prayer asking for God’s protection:

Visit this place, O Lord, we pray and drive far from it all snares of the enemy;

let your holy angels dwell with us to preserve us in peace;

and let your blessing be upon us always

through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Ruth

Ruth’s September Article September 1, 2019

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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“We are pilgrims on a journey, fellow travellers on the road

We are here to help each other walk the mile and bear the load.” Richard Gillard

Words from a popular contemporary hymn using the imagery of a journey; a concept common to those of faith and none. Buddhism has the path to enlightenment, the Jewish Passover marks a historic journey from slavery to freedom, and pilgrimage is a feature of many lives whether or not people would call themselves religious.

One of the great Christian walking pilgrimages is to Compostela in Spain; and for every Muslim a pilgrimage to Mecca is a must at least once in a lifetime.  These physical pilgrimages are a link back to the Middle Ages, to Chaucer and the many pilgrimage sites throughout Europe. But not every pilgrimage involves a physical journey.

Alongside the physical journeys there are other journeys in which we are each engaged. The inward spiritual journey, the journey of our lives and our emotional development from infancy to old age. On each there are milestones, places and times of great significance. September marks some of those milestones – and you are invited to each of them.

On September 8th at 10.30am at the United Benefice service in Reed we will “Bless the Backpacks” of all those going back to school in September – teachers and children alike – so come along and bring your schoolbag!

September 10th at 7.30pm at Barley marks another milestone when several young people and adults will be confirmed by the Bishop of Hertford. This will mark a point where each of them will publicly affirm their own baptismal promises.

Then on 29th September at the United Benefice service in Barkway we will continue our exploration of whether we seek permission to admit children to communion around the age of 7 years old.  This too could offer a significant milestone on our journey as a church.

So September is a month of milestones, and on September 26th I celebrate a personal milestone since it will be 20 years since I was ordained a priest, which has been the deepest privilege, the most unexpected gift and the most wonderful joy.

On this pilgrimage of life we are here to walk together – through milestones and through the ordinary days, through laughter and through tears.

“We are here to help each other walk the mile and bear the load.”

Ruth

Ruth Pyke’s article in the August Diary July 24, 2019

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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Eva Kor, a survivor of Auschwitz, died recently at the age of 85. She and her twin sister had been subjected to terrible medical experiments conducted on them at the hands of the Nazis. Even when she was made ill she clung to life in order to save her twin sister from being killed in the name of further experiments. It is a powerful story.

But more powerful still was her lifelong determination to forgive – to allow herself the inner healing which this brings.

Anti-Semitism has resurfaced in our mainstream news and racial tension is never far away in our contemporary world. We are aware of the current plight of the Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.

Eva Kor’s programme of forgiveness and education will never exonerate the evils which men and women can inflict upon each other, but they do show us a way to rebuild society in the wake of such horror. The book of Deuteronomy shared by both Jews and Christians reminds us that God “is not partial and takes no bribe, he executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and loves the strangers, providing them with food and clothing.” And if this is God’s way of welcome then it is expected of his people as well. The words follow on, “You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Deuteronomy 10. 17

Barley once played its own small part in welcoming the stranger when The Reverend James Parkes lived in the village, working and campaigning against anti-Semitism, rescuing Jewish refugees and speaking out during the Holocaust. He contributed to the founding of the Council of Christians and Jews and worked for tolerance between those of all faiths and none. Parkes’ work, some of which was pioneered in Barley, formed the foundation for the Parkes Institute, now part of the University of Southampton.

During November an exhibition of the work of James Parkes will be held in Barley Church, courtesy of the Parkes Institute. It will form a focus for our Remembrance Day service with a lecture during the week of the exhibition.

As we look at the world today, whether on the international stage or in our own lives, Eva Kor’s message of the healing we can find through the power of forgiveness, and the willingness to welcome the stranger are powerful reminders of a way forward to build strong and settled communities.

Ruth

Sonia’s article in the July Diary June 27, 2019

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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The times are out of joint

First, we’ve had the almost-driest spring on record, now the almost-wettest summer. Brexit politics are cleaving countries, communities and even families, with unknown long-term consequences. Our two major political parties are fragmented, and the economy is fragile. High streets are hollowing and our social services struggle. Uncertainty surrounds us. Not catastrophic, imminent doom, but enough to leave many of us unsettled, and that’s before we start stressing over climate change.

Having recently commemorated the 75th anniversary of D-Day, many will have heard the hymn ‘Abide with me’, one line of which goes, ‘Change and decay in all around I see’ followed by ‘O thou who changest not, abide with me.’

God, unchanging, ever constant, loving, who will accompany us through all the changing scenes of life, in trouble and in joy. It’s not that bad stuff doesn’t happen to good people. It’s just that in order to cope, we need to have some constants in our lives. Family, relationships, home and occupation, all can offer these, but each is limited and may not be as constant as we hope.

Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’ Engaging with Jesus by asking for his help is no cop-out. We may experience it through the kindness of others, a lightening of our heavy heart, a more peaceful night’s sleep. He is that constant and ever fixed mark who has promised that if we engage with him, he will never abandon us, even if all around is crumbling.

If you’d like to explore how you might do this I, or our Rector Ruth Pyke (01763 848756) would be happy to chat.

Many blessings

Sonia

(07747 844265)

Article in the June Diary by Ruth Pyke May 23, 2019

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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What do a hairdryer, a windmill, a battery, a candle, a dove, a petrol can, a teddy bear and a glass of water have in common? A question recently for our young people who are preparing for Confirmation later this year! Maybe you are also puzzling what the answer might be?

Fifty days after Easter, the disciples were together in one place when they were re-energised in a way which changed their lives and the lives of many others. The account in the Bible* speaks of something like wind and tongues of fire resting on them and filling the house where they were gathered. From that moment on they were empowered to communicate the story of faith across cultures, and from that the Church grew. This is the story of Pentecost.

The coming of the Holy Spirit has been described like a gentle breeze or a mighty wind, like a gentle dove or a roaring fire, like a trickling stream or a surging tide. It gives strength and power as well as gentle encouragement.

Across our world today many feel disempowered and without a voice. To them the gift of confidence and purpose, strength and encouragements is priceless. The gift of love for each of them, as the people they are, whatever they have done, can be the beginning of the journey to a new self-confidence. There are many charities who help rehabilitate individuals, enabling them to discover a new sense of purpose, a new confidence in themselves. There are many churches who minister to those in desperate need.

Whatever our own religious persuasion, this is important and self-giving work. Christians see the encouraging, strengthening Holy Spirit breathing life into all of this, bringing these gifts to more people. Some of you may be involved in such work.

So what do a windmill, a hairdryer etc have in common? Well, all of them can be used to tell the story of Pentecost, of wind and flame and power to rebuild lives and communities.

Come Holy Spirit and kindle in us the fire of your love.*

* Acts 2 v14

Ruth

 

Sonia’s May Diary article April 24, 2019

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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A plague on both your Houses (of Parliament)?

There have been increasing media mutterings that the Brexit omnishambles is indicative of our parliamentary democracy being irredeemably broken, and that it should be scrapped for something else. Historically, revolutionary changes of governance have generally come with unintended and unfortunate consequences.

Back in the first century AD, just after Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection, which Christians celebrate as Easter, his disciples – who numbered several hundred at that point – adopted a form of communal financial support. Those who had goods and property realised them in order to provide for the entire group. It was based on an honour system, but was open to abuse. One couple, Ananias and Sapphira, sold a field but retained half the proceeds whilst implying that they had handed over the lot. When challenged, they dropped dead.* Justice is not always so swift and satisfying!

Jesus was highly political. He railed against unjust customs and practices which disadvantaged the powerless in his society: women, the poor and elderly parents. He highlighted the hypocrisy of leaders who scrupulously followed the letter of the law but ignored its underlying intentions.

The UK’s system of Law and Governance has been built on the Judeo-Christian principles of treating others as you yourself would wish to be treated, individually and collectively. For example, having an impartial judicial system which is independent of the government, an ability regularly to vote for political representatives, property ownership, a free Press, access to education, healthcare and the basic necessities of life. Although these operate imperfectly, we should perhaps take care before we set about radically remodelling them.

Throughout biblical history people are repeatedly urged to, ‘Act justly, apply mercy and to walk humbly with God’. It’s a good start, both individually and communally.

Many blessings
Sonia (07747 844265)

* Acts of the Apostles 4:32 – 5:11