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Sarah Richardson’s article in the October Diary September 24, 2021

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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A surprisingly warm September has led us into October, the month when our clocks go back (I think it’s on the 31st this year). For some, it’s a delight, an ‘extra’ hour for a lie-in on a Sunday morning. For others, particularly parents of young children, the early morning wake-up call feels that little bit harder, and those first few days after the time change seem so very long.

The nature of time is a strange thing, and our clocks sometimes appear to be part of our small efforts to exert some control over the natural world. Humans have used sun dials, water clocks and sand timers for thousands of years. It is believed that the Ancient Greek philosopher Plato had one of the first alarm clocks, created so that it would wake his students in the morning. Our desire for timekeeping has developed along with our technology, giving us the electronic chronometers and atomic clocks used in the world today. And time is important to us. When we are waiting for something, every minute seems like an hour, and yet for this year’s Olympians, the tiniest fraction of a second was all it took to deny them of victory, or give them the highlight of their career.

Our efforts to be ‘in control’, to define our lives by clocks and timepieces will, in the end, prove fruitless for us. We have no sway over the passing of the hours. But even if all the clocks were to disappear, there is still an underlying rhythm to our world and our lives that is beyond time, that doesn’t seek so much as to control time, but to dwell in it in confidence. The flora and fauna that surround us in our beautiful villages, and beyond, are rooted in this pattern of seasons, the ebb and flow and warmth and winter. And there is real peace to this, from which we can all benefit. Most people find that time spent outdoors makes them feel better, helps to put things in perspective, helps to reconnect us with others in our world. For Christians, God is eternal, outside of time, and this beautiful pattern of the seasons can reassure us of the stability of creation, of its dependability, and of the reassuring and steadfastness of God’s love for us.

I hope that this Autumn you can enjoy some of the beauty and rhythm of the outside world, whether walking on hillsides, pottering along pathways, or simply sitting in a garden with the glimpses of sun that remain.

With best wishes,

Rev Sarah Richardson

Ruth’s article in the September Diary August 26, 2021

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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Amongst the many industries damaged by the Coronavirus pandemic is the music industry.  As concert halls and theatres closed down thousands were left without a reliable income, and travel restrictions still affect musicians. Many of us like to listen to music as we work, as we exercise, and as we relax; and with ever more means of accessing recorded music we can enjoy the highest standards where we want and when we want. But for live music it has been a tough time for both amateur and professional.  In our local area, the Reed choir were unable to practise for months at a time, the carol services were pre-recorded and our churches could only sing outside at Christmas and then not again until Easter. We have been cautious about singing and have sung outside each Sunday but we hope that singing will have confidently returned this Autumn. As well as singing we have celebrated with Reed the success of their organ marathon raising money for a new organ.

Music has played a key part in worship in many different faiths. From the Shofar, the ram’s horn, sounded at the Jewish festivals of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, to the sacred chanting of Buddhism. In the Christian tradition music has often played a central part from the pure sound of treble voices to the gutsy West Gallery music of Thomas Hardy.

In the Bible- music accompanied worship in the temple, celebrated the victories of battle and soothed the troubled King Saul. Music can speak to the soul and give voice to our deepest emotions. A favourite reading at weddings speaks of the return of singing after the winter,

for now the winter is past,
    the rain is over and gone.
 The flowers appear on the earth;
    the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtledove
    is heard in our land.    The Song of Solomon

If you would like to sing or can play an instrument at harvest or at Christmas at any of our churches, regularly or occasionally, please do let me know and I will put you in touch with those who coordinate our music.

Ruth

Sonia’s article in the August Diary July 26, 2021

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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Cry Freedom!

Initially, 19th July was flagged as Freedom Day, when Covid restrictions would be lifted. As that day approached and infections continued to rise, enthusiasm for unlimited unlock became more muted and a staggered relaxation of restrictions was advocated. This would rely on levels of personal responsibility (ranging from that of the Head of the NHS to the man at the UEFA euro finals fooling around with a flare).

Nelson Mandela, who was imprisoned for 27 years by Apartheid South Africa, on account of his fight for equal legal status for its black majority population with its white minority, eventually became its President. Mandela said, “To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others”. Consideration of others’ fears and vulnerabilities should guide us in our exercise of covid freedoms.

Freedom from internal conflicts is also a worthwhile goal. Bitterness at what life has thrown at us; grievances, hurts, injustices inflicted on ourselves or on those we care about can become corrosive if we can’t resolve their internal effects, even if we can’t ignore their external reality. We may not forget, but if we are unable to forgive, they will be a permanent burden crushing our spirit. To gain freedom through forgiveness is not easy, may require many repetitions, and we can rarely do it alone. Appropriate counselling and, for those who do, prayer can help. Even if you don’t really believe in God, you could try it. “OK God, if you exist, please help me put aside my rage at these dreadful things so I may attain freedom from hate, desire for revenge, or even just deep sorrow.”

Nelson Mandela, after all the injustices he had suffered said, As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”

Many blessings

Sonia 07747 844265

Sarah Richardson’s article in the July Diary June 24, 2021

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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As I write this, we are heading into a whole month of European football, with Wimbledon joining in at the end (they both end on 11th July), and the Olympics in Japan starting soon after. Hopefully, this will be a feast of sport for those who enjoy seeing the dedication and effort of the athletes involved, and perhaps a chance for people to continue to meet safely together to enjoy the competition in the company of others.

Although I won’t be watching the football, my husband certainly will. As we talked about the Euros last night, I realised that in England we seem to have a cycle of blind optimism about our football team, where we talk up the latest young star, and some of us book tickets or flights to the later stages of the competition in the hope that our team will make it that far.

Those of us old enough to remember the David Baddiel and Frank Skinner singing about ‘thirty years of hurt’ will not feel any younger to realise that it is now fifty-five years of hurt. There seems to be a collective pit-of-the-stomach disappointment when the match that signals our exit from the competition comes to a close. Part of the joy of following a team (or playing in one) comes from the rarity of those big wins, those matches that only happen annually or more rarely. Hours, days, months of training all culminating in just minutes of performance. And then a long wait for the next chance. Hope gone in just a moment.

But the hope that is offered by faith in God is neither blind optimism, nor fatalistic misery, but a pervasive peace that God’s steadfastness is something offered freely to all of us. Not in four yearly cycles, so that if we miss the boat we have to wait, but for anyone at any time. Of the twenty-four teams in the Euros, twenty-three will go home disappointed to have not clinched the title (although they may well have surprised themselves with how far they got in the competition), but the kingdom of God is not a zero sum game. There is hope for everyone, a hope that does not lead to disappointment (‘we were so close!’) but to joy. A hope that is to be shared and multiplied so that no one leaves empty-handed.

I hope that whether you’re an avid football fan, a Wimbledon watcher, or someone who will be avoiding the TV entirely for the month, July brings you the opportunity to enjoy the sunshine, to spend time with those you love, and perhaps to celebrate a surprising victory.

Revd Sarah Richardson

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.” 

Ruth

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’.

Ruth

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