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Sonia’s article in the December Diary November 25, 2018

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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Presence not presents

A group of children were asked what they wanted Father Christmas to bring them. When they’d finished listing toys, tablets and games, they were asked what they wanted their parents to give them? In summary they said, “Time together; uninterrupted, full-focussed attention.” Things which no Xmas-box can provide.

Our lives can get so filled with the hassle of routine, busyness and screen-time that we crowd out genuine engagement with our closest family. In essence, these children knew what was really valuable. Presence rather than presents. Quality time, not just Quality Street.

Occasionally people say to me, “I envy your faith, but I just don’t get it.” Well “getting it” involves giving God time and attention to allow him to communicate with us. Breaking through the clamour of our lives with his still, small voice of calm. If we ignore him, He won’t impose himself upon us. He does though require some focussed presence. However, the rewards of knowing deep-down that you are personally loved and valued by the Creator of the Universe, who has promised never to desert you in good times and in bad, are immense.

How can we start? A good first prayer is, “God, if you exist, will you please help me to know that.” Maybe try reading the New Testament. That may generate questions. Our Rector, Ruth, (01763 848756) and I would be happy to have a chat and help you explore ideas. Questions of Life, by Nicky Gumbel is also a good introduction.

In the meantime, I wish you a very Happy Christmas and a fulfilling New Year.

Many blessings

Sonia

07747 844265

Ruth’s article in the November Diary October 28, 2018

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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November brings the annual remembrance of all those who have died in the conflicts and wars of the last century. But this year especially, we remember the end of the first World War. The eleventh hour of the eleventh month in 1918 must have brought a whirlwind of emotions. Relief that those who had survived would be coming home, realisation of the enormous loss of life which would mark a generation for years to come, resolve to care for those who would be permanently scarred by mental and physical injury; and remembrance of those who would not return. Young men whose names still stand on war memorials across the British Isles.

Year by year we remember those on our own village war memorials, those who died in the 1st World War and who have died in subsequent conflicts; lives  lost in battles for peace and against oppression.

Every November- solemn remembrance must give way to hope for the future. In Westminster Abbey- the tomb of the unknown soldier is always surrounded with poppies. But at the end of November 11th 2018 it will be surrounded with flowers as a symbol of hope for the future.

To remember is important. Through our lives we remember the events which have shaped each of us; we remember the griefs and the joys, those who have loved us and been part of our lives. But to remember is also to re-member- to put back together.

We can never put back together the broken lives, the broken bodies of those soldiers of the first world war; though hospitals and the love of families did the best they could. They hoped for a new world where war would never rear its ugly head again- and like us were disillusioned.

But we can begin to re-member a future.  This year we face the uncertainties of Brexit and our place alongside Europe.  We have to reimagine a future which will be characterised by a new way of building relationships, new ways of ensuring peace.

Throughout the Bible the people of God have imagined a new future, a kingdom where the hungry are fed, where the poor are welcomed in, and where lasting peace gives all a hope for the future.

Jeremiah, one of the great prophets has encouraging words for our future:

“For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. “

Article by The Reader, Arthur Brignall in October’s Diary September 25, 2018

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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To bring order, relevance and impetus to our worship week by week, we have been provided with a pattern of Festivals and Holy Days.

First there are the Principal Feasts in which we recall the main events in the earthly life of Jesus. Then there are the Festivals in which we celebrate the lives and work of Jesus’s immediate family and the Apostles and Martyrs chosen by Jesus for his Ministry. Thirdly we are invited to honour people down through time who have inspired us with their insights, their faith and their holiness in the service of Christ.

In the month of October there are no Principal Feasts and there are only two Festivals, for Luke the Evangelist and for Simon and Jude, Apostles. But in this month there are a remarkable number of individuals whose Holy Days occur at this time. Among them are:

Francis of Assisi (1226),  William Tyndale (1536),  Elizabeth Fry (1845,)  Edith Cavell (1915), Edward the Confessor (1066),                                                           Teresa of Avila (1582), Alfred the Great (899), Martin Luther (1546.

As you see, they lived at different times over more than half of the 2,000 years of the Christian story. Each of them was an inspiration to the people of their time and we can gain much from a study of their lives as we seek to develop our own beliefs and faith in 2018.

One of those who inspires me particularly is Alfred the Great, King of the Wessex Saxons when the Vikings had succeeded in overcoming most of the country. Alfred nearly succumbed to them as well but he held his nerve, won a decisive battle and established himself as the defender of all the Anglo Saxons against the Pagan Vikings. By the middle of the 10th Century the whole of England was ruled as one for the first time. This enabled him to adopt a new legal code and to reform the monetary and fiscal systems of that time. Alfred was described by his biographer as a truthteller, a proud, resourceful and pious man, generous to the faith of the Church and anxious to rule his people justly.

I acknowledge that Alfred ruled in a very different situation than is the case today. In the seemingly chaotic times we are living through in our country at present, I suggest that if only some of the principles applied by Alfred in his rule could be put back in place, it is possible we could regain the moral purpose which we now seem to have lost.

If in our prayers and in our worship we seek to honour such individuals on their Holy Day, who knows what influence their lives and their example might have on each of us?

Arthur

Sonia’s article in the September Diary September 1, 2018

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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Wisdom and Tears

None of us looks forward to life’s difficulties, though we know they must surely come. Some arrive with a bang. No warning at all. A devastating shift in your life. Bereavement, loss of job or hopes or home. Others, as if with a whimper. Long-drawn-out stressful events. Maybe illness, a grindingly hard or boring job, perhaps family or financial worries. All these take their toll and can prompt tears. We would all ideally like to avoid these experiences, yet they are not without merit even though it is hard, if not impossible, to appreciate that at the time. Trials help build depth of character, resilience and, hopefully, wisdom. Wisdom to be better equipped with good judgement regarding how to react when the next one of life’s blows hits. Wisdom to put things into perspective and perhaps to help others do the same with their life’s rough patches.

Ancient peoples had the idea that human beings are made of wisdom and tears. Early Christians developed that concept with wisdom being the image of God in which we are made, and tears our failure fully to reflect the divine. Wisdom, in part, is the knowledge of good and evil. To an extent it is inherent. Young children have a highly-developed sense of what is ‘fair’ (as do dogs, as experiments have shown). However, we are corrupted by selfishness, greed and a lust for power. Societies all struggle with attempting to maintain a just balance for their citizens and it requires great wisdom from our leaders to get this right. Unfortunately…

The Bible has a lot to say about tears and wisdom. The wisdom of God, who invites all to know her, is perceived as feminine; I suspect not merely because the words in Hebrew and Greek happen to be of the feminine gender. King Solomon, when invited by God to ask for whatever he wanted, prayed for sound judgement and wisdom to rule his people Israel.

Many Proverbs regarding wisdom are along the lines of, ‘The fear [respect] of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, but fools despise knowledge and instruction.’

I’ll finish with part of Psalm 126:

May those who sow in tears, reap with shouts of joy.

Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing,

shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves.

Many blessings, Sonia (07747 844265)

Article in the August Diary by Ruth Pyke July 17, 2018

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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I wonder how many of our readers were used as children to playing outside in fields, fishing in brooks and feeling safe to be outside all day. In a culture which is increasingly worried about health and safety, and with a growing amount of indoor entertainment, both adults and children can become increasingly distant from the natural environment. *

Our village schools are tackling this head on – Reed have their vegetable garden with children involved in the sowing, weeding and harvesting. Barley and Barkway Federation have regular Forest School at their Newsells site and recently the church has used its outdoor spaces for worship: a Pet Service held outside Barkway Church, a memorial service in the grounds of Reed Church and Messy Church out on the recreation ground for B in the Park festival.

Great feelings of delight and wellbeing have been expressed at worshipping in the open air at all of these events. Fortunately, the weather has been kind to us but I do think there is something to be gained from being outdoors.

The great story of God begins in a garden; Jesus’s agony and his resurrection both happen in a garden. Two saints celebrated in August have connections with the natural world. St Augustine, a great saint of the early church, came to faith in a garden as he read the words of St Paul; and St Aidan the abbot of Lindisfarne, came from a community that was part of the Celtic church, which integrated the Christian life with a respect and wonder for the creation.

So if we can spend more time outside during this summer, if we can enjoy the outdoors environment more, maybe we can also be more open to a sense of wholeness, a sense of proportion, a sense of well-being. Maybe we will be moved to wonder how all this was created, maybe it will inspire us to find new ways to worship God out in the beauty of the world he has given us.

*https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/documents/read-our-natural-childhood-report.pdf

Ruth

 

 

Sonia Falaschi-Ray’s article in the July Diary June 14, 2018

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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“The truth is rarely pure and never simple.” Oscar Wilde

In the aftermath of a man-made disaster, we tend to crave definitive explanations. How did it happen? Who was to blame? How can we prevent it happening again? Certainty of cause and effect. Clarity regarding culpability. Punishment of any wrongdoing. All of which, hopefully, will lead to closure.

Unfortunately, clear-cut reasons and solutions are often not available, as disasters tend to have multiple contributory causes. The disastrous fire at Grenfell Tower, which cost 72 lives, injuries, trauma and homelessness, has been much in the news as its official inquiry unfolds. The teams of lawyers representing, amongst others, the local authority, building advisors, cladding manufacturers, refurbishment consultants, the Fire Service and, not least, the residents, demonstrate how complex it will be to unravel contributory factors and levels of responsibility. Clarity regarding every aspect is unlikely. Doubts will remain. The truth will have blurred edges, however much people crave certainty.

This is an example writ large of the tensions between truth, doubt and certainty which we all encounter in our lives. Proof of truth can be hard to come by. You may know through feelings and experience that your parent, spouse or child loves you. However, you cannot prove that to me, as I could always offer an alternative, expedient explanation for whatever you describe that they have said or done. But you know. It’s true for you; mostly.

Christian faith is like that. I know through my feelings and experience that God loves me. Jesus said he was, ‘the way, the truth and the life’ and, most of the time, I know that to be the case. You might point out that what I put forward as evidence could have an alternative explanation. However, the consistency of my experiences reinforces my level of certainty.

Why should we believe in a God who loves us unconditionally? It adds an entirely new dimension to life, enriching the fullness of it. It is like adding a sixth sense. People who are blind, or deaf have a limited experience of the world. Life without engaging with God is similarly limiting its potential richness.

Many blessings

Sonia  07747 844265

June article by Ruth Pyke May 23, 2018

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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A LETTER FROM THE REVEREND CANON RUTH PYKE

It’s a common argument- that religion is the source of all wars. And to be fair many of the conflicts which beset the world seem to be between those of opposing religious understanding. But when we scratch the surface we often discover that different faith groups also have a different political understanding and loyalty which so often is the deeper cause for conflict.

I recently heard a story of a second in command in the Falklands war. At the height of the battle his Commander died and he became responsible for the 2nd Paras. One in six of his men were killed or wounded, they were exhausted and almost out of ammunition. A devout Catholic, he chose to pray. He prayed a prayer of complete abandonment to God which he later described as a terrifying thing to do. Unexpectedly, calm and joy replaced cold and fear. He had complete clarity as to what to do next. He negotiated for peace and achieved an Argentinian surrender which saved hundreds of lives on both sides of the battle. Courageous faith can bring peace.

In June we remember a soldier saint, Alban, who gave the city and our Diocese his name. Alban was a Roman soldier who also acted courageously. He sheltered a Christian priest persecuted for his Christian worship by the Roman authorities in the Roman city of Verulamium – present-day St Albans. During the days that Alban sheltered him, the priest shared the story of Jesus and Alban came to faith. When the authorities banged on the door, Alban went out to face them, giving the priest the opportunity to escape and share the story of Jesus with others. Alban refused to renounce his new faith and was put to death by the sword. He is reported to have said, “I am Alban and I worship and adore the true and living God.”

Alban’s feast day is on 22nd June and each year on the Saturday nearest to this date his story is re-enacted by giant puppets through the streets of the city. The procession involves schools and community groups, adults and children. Following behind the puppets are the Bishops and clergy of the Diocese and at the cathedral there is a festival Communion service and Evensong. There are fun activities for children and a chance to picnic together on the Abbey Orchard or eat out in one of the city’s many restaurants.  Why not come with me and enjoy a day out!

Religion, like all else, can be used for good or for ill. But faith in the living God can enable us to take courageous decisions, live bravely, build peace and justice for all.

The Prayer of Abandonment prayed by Chris Keeble before the surrender at Goose Green:

My Father, I abandon myself to you. Do with me as you will. Whatever you may do with me I thank you, provided your will is fulfilled in me. I ask for nothing more. Charles de Foucault

Ruth

 

Sonia Falaschi-Ray’s May Diary article April 15, 2018

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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Teenagers’ patron saint, St Pancras (May 12th)

We think of St Pancras as a London railway station. It was built in the medieval district designated as St Pancras, which covered much of what is now Camden. Pancras was a Roman, who had become a Christian, and was martyred when he was 14 years old by the Emperor Diocletian, hence becoming the patron saint of teenagers.

Many teenagers will be taking exams this May, the outcome of which may determine their immediate academic and employment options. The results are often public, and it is hard not to feel judged by success or failure. If you’ve done your best, and things don’t turn out as well as you had hoped, you have nothing to blame yourself for and you will almost certainly find other opportunities. If you have mucked-about, and then got bad results, you might feel guilty at having wasted your chances.

What you shouldn’t have to experience is shame. Shame is embarrassment for who you are, rather than what you do. Who you are, does of course influence what you do, but guilt and shame are not the same thing. Both can be spurs to attempt to live better but shame can generate unhelpful avoidance strategies or projecting blame onto others while going into victim mode. Some people never feel shame. They tend to be psychopaths rather than saints.

Jesus came to enable us to engage more closely with the creator of the universe, who loves each one of us unconditionally. He affirms our worthwhileness as people. Experiencing that, we can become more whole, integrated and able to be open with others without fearing negative judgements. We should still experience guilt at stuff we do wrong, but by apologising and genuinely attempting to rectify matters with those hurt, guilt can be absolved.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, Jesus, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” John 3:16-18

Many blessings

Sonia  07747 844265

A Letter from The Reverend Canon Ruth Pyke March 20, 2018

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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‘The winter is past’. We hope that this is so. We have endured snow and cold, the ‘beast from the east’, Storm Emma and the ‘pest from the west’. But with each day we see more signs of spring and longer brighter days. April, the month in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales for ‘folk to go on pilgrimage’, and the ‘elm tree bole in tiny leaf’ in Robert Browning’s Home Thoughts, from Abroad. The month of April brings a change. There is a lovely passage in the Bible which speaks of the return of Spring:

See! The winter is past;
the rains are over and gone.
Flowers appear on the earth;
the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves
is heard in our land.
The fig tree forms its early fruit;
the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.
Arise my love, my fair one and come away.

(Song of Solomon)

It is a popular reading at weddings of which there are three in our parishes this year. This is good – the hope and excitement and joy which surrounds a wedding is lovely and we welcome couples who wish to begin their married life in one of our churches.

Marriage at its best is about a relationship which allows each person to grow and flourish, and is life giving and life enhancing. This is why marriage is used as the image of the relationship between God and humanity. In Jesus, God came into our world, healing, blessing, eating and drinking. He was life giving and life enhancing – not repressive, not a killjoy. He loved this world so much that he was willing to give his life. In the great 50 days which follow Easter Day, we give thanks for all our life-giving relationships, for all that gives life and enables us to grow and flourish, and especially for Jesus Christ who offers a life and a love which even death could not destroy.

Ruth

Sonia Falaschi-Ray’s March Diary article February 26, 2018

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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Mindfulness

In the film version of Absolutely Fabulous, Edina, (played by Jennifer Saunders) has run out of money while trying to maintain her glamorous lifestyle. We find her sitting cross-legged, eyes shut, humming Ommmm. When asked what she was doing, replied, “Mindlessness”.

Mindfulness, on the other hand, involves intentional thought and action. It includes being conscious of our thoughts and emotions as well as being spiritually alert and aware. To become more mindful, we may have to slow down and do less. There is a counselling concept of ‘planned neglect’, which entails making deliberate choices regarding things we will not do, or will postpone, releasing us from feelings of guilt over an unachievable ‘to do’ list.

The pre-Easter season of Lent is when Christians engage with spiritual mindfulness. Some give up a pleasure or habit, thereby having their thoughts drawn back to God as they repeatedly resist it. Others take up a new challenge.

Pope Francis, leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, recently made the following suggestions. You may find a couple really resonate with you. Try them. Your Easter eggs may taste all the better as a result.

Do you want to fast this Lent?

Fast from hurting words and say kind words. Fast from sadness and be filled with gratitude. Fast from anger and be filled with patience. Fast from pessimism and be filled with hope. Fast from worries and trust in God. Fast from complaints and contemplate simplicity. Fast from pressures and be prayerful. Fast from bitterness and fill your heart with joy. Fast from selfishness and be compassionate to others. Fast from grudges and be reconciled. Fast from words and be silent so you can listen.

Many blessings

Sonia 07747 844265