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Sonia’s article in the January Diary December 28, 2017

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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January brings both the promise of the new and the legacy of the old. A fresh start, an optimistic gym membership, lengthening days and then credit card bills, filthy weather and ages till next holiday time.

The Church’s Christmas season doesn’t end on Boxing Day. It continues all the way up to Candlemas, 2nd February, when we celebrate the presentation of the baby Jesus at the Temple in Jerusalem.

Before that, on 6th January, we have the coming of the magi, wise men from the east, to worship Jesus as King of the Jews. They were probably Persian astronomers. Popular tradition has converted them into kings, often representing different continents, named Caspar, Balthazar and Melchior. Their gifts were highly symbolic: gold for kingship, frankincense for worshipping a god, and myrrh for death and burial.

The magi by The Rev’d Dr Malcolm Guite

It might have been just someone else’s story;
Some chosen people get a special king,
We leave them to their own peculiar glory,
We don’t belong, it doesn’t mean a thing.
But when these three arrive they bring us with them,
Gentiles like us, their wisdom might be ours;
A steady step that finds an inner rhythm,
A pilgrim’s eye that sees beyond the stars.
They did not know his name but still they sought him,
They came from otherwhere but still they found;
In palaces, found those who sold and bought him,
But in the filthy stable, hallowed ground.
Their courage gives our questing hearts a voice
To seek, to find, to worship, to rejoice.

Many blessings for the coming year

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Ruth’s article in the December Diary November 22, 2017

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given.

During December, windows have lit up in Barkway with the theme of many different Christmas songs and carols. Some speak of the fun to be had at Christmas, of sleighs and bells and Santa Claus. Some remind us of snow and cold and the evergreen holly and ivy. Some tell of the story at the heart of Christmas of a baby born in a stable, greeted by shepherds and angels in the midst of a noisy Middle-Eastern town packed with people come to register in a census.

This ‘little town of Bethlehem,’ busy and full of activity, had at its centre the still focus of a young woman giving birth. The child who was born, the Christ Child, had been conceived like most other children in the silence and darkness of the womb. For Christians, that baby was God himself come into our world.

For some, silence is a rare gift in our world today. For some it weighs heavily. Recently, three films made in monasteries across the country were shown on television. There was no commentary, almost no speech but just the sounds of everyday tasks, of birdsong, of running water, of bees. Beautiful to watch, it was challenging in its silence.

Our gift giving at parties and on Christmas morning may be far from silent, especially in households with children. Cries of anticipation and delight accompany the giving of presents. But other gifts are given in silence: the money quietly sent to charity; the Christmas cards dropped into the postbox to friends far away; the smile to encourage a nervous child; the open arms welcoming family and friends.

How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given

So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of his heaven.

It is often in moments of quietness that we become conscious of God’s presence with us, which is at the heart of Christmas, the heart of the Christian faith. We realise that God lives in us and with us, and in the silence gives us the gifts of his love, his strength and his peace.

May you find times of quietness amidst the busyness this Christmas and in the silence, receive his gifts of love and strength and peace.



Sonia Falaschi-Ray’s article in the November Diary October 14, 2017

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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Regime Change: Tighter and Looser Ties

England has experienced several substantial regime changes in the last 1000 years. Firstly, the Norman conquest, which overwhelmed the Saxon hierarchy and culture as well as demoting the English language. In 1534, King Henry VIII removed the country from under the religious authority of the Pope and declared himself to be the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, a title held by our current monarch. This was part of the protestant reformation which subsequently created the country’s established religion.

On 5th November 1605, there was a religiously motivated violent attempt at regime change. The gunpowder plot was a failed bid by a group of English Roman Catholics to kill the protestant King James I and his government by blowing up the Houses of Parliament; thereby hoping to make the country Catholic again.

Following the end of WWII, six continental countries formed what became the European Union. In 1973 Great Britain joined them. Now we are leaving. Currently both sets of negotiators seem to be making a bit of a ‘Dog’s Brexit’ of the whole business.

Jesus came to effect regime change. He declared that much of the way the world operates is far from ideal. The rich and powerful, whether individuals or nations, should not exploit their positions. We should all strive for justice, behave mercifully and, as much as we are able to, love our neighbour as ourselves.

These are Kingdom of Heaven values, which can look topsy-turvey in our achievement, status and acquisition-based society. Jesus said that ultimately restitution and blessings will pour down upon the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the persecuted, the grieving, those sick in mind, body and spirit, the meek, peacemakers and those who strive for a better world. We get glimpses of this whatever our beliefs. However, attempting to engage with God can strengthen our resolve to do the right thing, when it would be easier to keep our head down. Also, to ask for the grace to leave people feeling a little better about themselves and the world after they have engaged with us than they did beforehand.

Many Blessings

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Ruth Pyke’s article in the October Diary September 20, 2017

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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The soul, too, has its brown October days –

The fancy run to seed and dry as stone,

Rags and wisps of words blown through the mind;

And yet, while dead leaves clog the eyes,

Never-predicted poetry is sown.

The last verse of Norman Nicholson’s poem, St Luke’s Summer. Three verses describe the letting go of summer. Despite the golden sun, poppy heads are dry, the dew is thick upon the grass and the last roses fall to the ground. St Luke’s day is celebrated on 18th October each year just as summer may have its last fling.

Luke was a travelling companion of St Paul, and the ‘beloved physician’. Because of this, October is a time when the church often focuses on healing. Type ‘healing’ into a search engine and you find stones, crystals and alternative therapies as well as the conventional treatments of the NHS. But there is a further strand to healing: prayer.

For thousands of years, prayers have been offered for healing, for oneself, for one’s friends, for specific illness, for healing of relationships, for stress among the demands of life, for mental health or for strength to cope. Healing is not just about ‘getting better’.

Every week in our churches, people are named who have asked for our prayers. Some are known to us, others known to only a few. At Barkway church on 22nd October, the Sunday after St Luke’s day, we have a special opportunity to offer prayer for healing during the service. Everyone is welcome. Prayers will be shared in confidence, or in silence. Nothing need be said unless you wish. The service will be our usual Sunday morning Communion – but during Communion, those who wish will be welcomed to the side chapel altar where prayers will be offered.

You may at any time add a name to our list or ask for prayers to be said in private on your behalf. Just put a note through the Rectory door, or if you would like to talk to me please make contact.

All of us need prayers for strength and healing – I commend this service to you.


Ruth’s August Diary Article July 26, 2017

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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August – in Northern Europe the holiday month. A time for rest, relaxation, for adventure and travel. It is a month for change, as teachers and children move from one academic year and begin to look forward to the next. Even for those no longer at school, or not on holiday, August has a different and quieter feel, as many activities take a break. 

August may mean GCSE and A level results – and the changes ahead which they represent. Change is a constant reality of the human condition, we grow older, we change jobs, we move from childhood to adulthood. Some change is good and we welcome the changes that bring new opportunities and new skills. Some change is difficult, bringing anxiety for ourselves or for others. 

On 6th August the world remembers the most devastating change which came for the city of Hiroshima when the atomic bomb was dropped. Accounts can be read of the awful injuries and destruction which marked it. Today the same city has been transformed – like any other, it has high-rise buildings, Starbucks, McDonalds and all the hallmarks of the twenty-first century. But the peace park there is a constant reminder of the events of 6th August 1945 and a pledge that the evils of nuclear war should not be repeated. 

In the Christian church, 6th August has another meaning. It is the feast of the Transfiguration, when Jesus took his closest disciples Peter, James and John to a high mountain where they begin to pray. Suddenly Jesus was transfigured, his face changed in appearance and he shone with dazzling light. 

But whereas the bright light of the A bomb foreshadowed devastation and destruction, the light around Jesus foreshadowed the glory of heaven. Though suffering and death lay ahead of Jesus, the glory was a promise that at the last there would be peace. 

As we consider the changes which life brings, may the promise of the light and peace of Jesus strengthen you in times of difficulty and encourage you when you celebrate.

Ruth Pyke

Article by Sonia Falaschi-Ray in the July Diary June 19, 2017

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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“Have enough courage to trust love one more time and always one more time.” Maya Angelou

We have all been reeling from the assaults of recent events. Most recently, the horrific Grenfell Tower fire, which has claimed at least 58 lives and resulted in hundreds of traumatised, displaced people who have lost family, friends and neighbours, along with all their possessions. Disbelief and anger, the first two stages of grief, are being collectively expressed, not just by those directly affected but by our entire nation. Recent terrorist attacks against Finsbury mosque worshippers, pedestrians on London and Westminster bridges and children at a Manchester concert, engender incredulity and fear. Politically, Brexit and its outcome, along with a hung parliament, may have left us feeling unsafe and insecure.

What sort of society have we become? What sort of society would we like to be part of? How should we act on the international stage? How should we nurture and educate our young, offer meaningful work and decent accommodation and care for our elderly, with the resources available to us? It can all get too much, with the risk that we mentally hunker-down and hope it will all go away, or at least not come too close.

Lamentation, raging at the dreadfulness of events, and their personal impact, has long been a type of prayer cried out by Jews and Christians to God. Raw, real and with faith that we are heard, not abandoned. Jesus, dying on the cross, utters Psalm 22: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? … I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; … But you, O Lord, do not be far away! O my help, come quickly to my aid!”

For God so loved the world that he, through Jesus, promised to be with us always as the one true, secure relationship we can have for ever, when all is stripped away. Grief gradually turns to hope, enabling us to trust love one more time and always one more time.

Many blessings Sonia, 07747 844265

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

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

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

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


Notes from the Benefice:

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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Taking Stock

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

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

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

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

Many blessings

Sonia 07747 844265