Thy Kingdom Come – national prayer initiative between Ascension Day (May 5th) and Pentecost (May 15th)

Thy Kingdom Come

Thy-Kingdom-Come_FinalThe Archbishops of Canterbury and York have invited Christians across the country to pray for the evangelisation of the nation in the nine days leading up to Pentecost Sunday (15th May).This time of prayer will culminate in six ‘Beacon Events’ around the country over Pentecost weekend, where people will pray for the renewal of the Church by the Holy Spirit and greater confidence to share the Gospel.

One of the national Beacon Events will take place at Winchester Cathedral on May 15th – tickets are free, but you need to book – see below.

How can I get involved?

In the nine days leading up to Pentecost there will be opportunities to participate in this prayer initiative across the Avon Valley Partnership, the Deanery of Christchurch, and Diocese of Winchester.

You might like to make a prayer pilgrimage to a Church you don’t know; or join in one of the creative prayer times, locally or further afield; or use the Nine Days of Prayer 2016 Booklet at home or in Church – details of all of these, and much more, below.

In the Avon Valley Partnership and the Deanery of ChristchurchYour Kingdom Come – programme of events

In the Diocese of Winchester and to find out more:  Diocese of Winchester website – more details and tickets for the Beacon Event

Nine Days of Prayer – a wonderful booklet of readings, prayers and images can be downloaded from here (You can read it on-line as it is, or set your printer to ‘Booklet’ and print it off double-sided in black and white or colour): Nine Days of Prayer Booklet

 

St George’s Day Reflections – a sermon by Gary at St Boniface Woodgreen

THE CROSS OF St GEORGE

 Ephesians 4:7-16

What do we know about St George, whose Feast Day was yesterday? [Discuss].

Compared to other countries in the world, England doesn’t really make much of its patron saint!  St George’s Day falls on the 23rd of April but it is rarely marked by any special events and it does not even earn us a Bank Holiday.

Children’s uniformed organisations however have adopted St George’s Day as a time to renew their commitment to their promises and laws and so there are parade services in many churches.

St George’s story has become focused in the popular imagination on his dragon-slaying exploit and as such he is seen as the archetypal hero who defeats evil.  But there’s more to him than just this legend.  Although, as with many early saints, facts are very sketchy, it seems that he was from Palestine and, as a conscript in the Roman army, decided to stand up against the persecution of Christians in the fourth century because he was so disgusted by the barbaric methods employed by the Empire.  He was very impressed by the faith of those who died believing in Jesus that he became a Christian himself, even though he knew that this would mean certain death.  At a place called Lod, near Tel Aviv in Israel, St George’s Church is the alleged resting place for his body.  In fact St George is very highly regarded by many in this part of the world including Muslims and Jews.  George is one the most popular boys’ names.  It seems that it was Richard the Lionheart from England who decided to adopt George as our English saint in the time of the crusades, probably because he, too, was impressed by the military might of this hero.

Among Palestinian Christians however St George has other associations: as a protector of the home, as a healer and as someone who stood up against the misuse of power. It was at Lod – which in Bible times was called Lydda – that Peter was used to perform a miracle.  Because of the resurrection of Jesus, he experienced the power of God of work through him to bring peace and healing to a man, who had been ill for eight years (see Acts 9: 32-35).  As a follower of Jesus, this is the sort of power of which St George would have approved and for which he would want to be remembered as a saint.

The most famous legend of Saint George is of him slaying a dragon.  However, this story only became popular in the 12th Century – long after Saint George had died.  In the Middle Ages, it was common to use dragons in stories to represent the Devil.  There are many different versions of the story but the most common is the following:

Saint George travelled to Libya. When he arrived there he found it had a large pond, almost as big as a lake, where a ferocious dragon lived. The dragon was terrorising the country and, every day, the people had been feeding the dragon a sheep to appease it.

When the sheep had all gone, the dragon had demanded that the people sacrifice a young maiden to him each day. Saint George found that all the young girls had now been killed and only the King of Egypt’s daughter was left. Unless a knight could be found to slay the dragon, the princess would be sacrificed the next day. The King of Egypt had promised his daughter’s hand in marriage to the knight who could overcome the terrible dragon.

Saint George was determined to save the princess, and the next day he rode out to the lake. When he arrived, he found the princess there, waiting to be fed to the dragon. Saint George sent her home to the palace and approached the dragon’s cave.

When the dragon heard Saint George’s horse approaching, he came out of his cave and roared at him. The dragon was huge and its roar sounded like thunder, but Saint George was not afraid. He struck the monster with his spear, but the dragon’s scales were so hard that the spear simply broke into pieces.

Saint George fell from his horse but did not give up. Instead, he rushed at the dragon and used his sword to slay it under its wing where there were no scales. The dragon fell dead at Saint George’s feet.

See https://www.scholastic.co.uk/assets/a/20/a9/dragon-pcps-217327.pdf

Christians are people who believe that the real power to overcome evil comes from the story of Jesus – his life, death and resurrection.  St George knew this too.  He had seen how strong Christians had been when facing persecution from the Roman Empire.

When George saw God’s power at work, he decided not to forget but stay loyal to his new Lord, even though it meant death.  This has impressed people ever since and the cross of St George has become his sign as well as our English national flag, which you have printed on your sheet.

Look at the two images of St George here: St George’s Day-WG-Photos-Ap16.

The right-hand image is taken from The Fraser Chapel reredos by Mark Cazalet, which is in Manchester Cathedral, which is dedicated to St Mary, St George and St Denys.

Everyone recognizes the traditional, left-hand, image of St George, as, mounted, on a white stallion, with a lance, he slays a dragon writhing beneath him.  That’s intended as a symbol of cool Reason subduing the destructive energy of unruly passion.  But here, to the right, we have a very different symbol.  In this image the dragon has become, on the contrary, a representation of creative energy.  He still represents passion.  But here it’s the possibility of an impassioned creativity; which has however been locked up, inhibited by despair.  So he’s a sulky, bedraggled sort of creature.  And he’s in chains – which the 21st century St George is cutting, to release him.  In the background are scenes of a blighted neighbourhood – parts of Manchester.  This, then, is an image of Christian faith as, not least, unlocking a creative passion of loyalty to ‘home’ – the nation, the city – and so helping promote the cause of urban renewal.

Further discussion, leading into the prayers.

The Small and the Big Pictures – a sermon for Vocations Sunday (Easter 4), April 17th 2016

Canon Gary Phlbrick, at St Mary’s Fordingbridge, 9.30a.m.

Acts 9:36-43 & John 10:22-30

After taking my nearly two-year old grand-daughter swimming on Monday morning, we went into a Café in Ringwood for a drink.  As I sat her at a table, she started pointing at the salt and pepper pots and saying something that sounded like ‘An, An, An’.  I moved the salt and pepper further away and said, ‘No, you can’t play with them’, but she carried on pointing and saying, ‘An, An, An’.  By now people on the next-door tables were looking to see what was happening.  To my astonishment, I suddenly noticed that there was indeed an ant wandering around inside the glass salt pot.  Those around were suitably amazed, and so was I.  It turns out I’d been looking at the big picture – was it safe for her to play with the salt and pepper?, and so on – whilst she had been looking at the small picture – she has a fascination with tiny little things.

I think that most of us have a preference for either the broad sweep, or the detailed picture.  There are those here today whom I know are really good at the details – those who notice things, who spot when something is out of place, who are really good at detailed reading of documents.  In Myers-Briggs psychological terms, they are known as ‘Sensors’, and they are very good at receiving information from the outside world; and there are those, myself included, who are more broad sweep people, who have, for example, difficulty in remembering where all the chairs should be when they’ve been moved in Church, those known as ‘Intuiters’ in Myers Briggs terms, those more interested in the bigger picture than the individual details – they are less good at receiving information from the outside world, and have a more internal, reflective bias.  All of us do both of these things, of course, but most of us have a preference for one or the other.

And, fortunately, the Gospels cater for both of those types – the detailed and the broad sweep, the small picture and the big picture, the ‘Sensors’ and the ‘Intuiters’.  Sometimes Jesus says, ‘Look at the mustard seed, the smallest of all the seeds’, and urges us to focus on the tiny details of a particular story, or a particular person – ‘See that widow who has just put two tiny coins in the offertory box…’  And sometimes he is encouraging us to look at the big picture: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are the meek’, and so on.

Today’s Gospel reading from John 10 seems to be a ‘bigger picture Gospel’.  The people want to know who Jesus is, they want to know clearly, they want to know now: ‘How long will you keep us in suspense?  If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly’ [Jn 10:24].  Jesus says that he has already told them, and they do not believe.  The things that he has been doing show who he is.  He is in effect putting to the test his own words in Matthew 7 [20], when he’s talking about the good and the bad trees: ‘By their fruits you shall know them’.

But although today’s Gospel is a bigger picture one, some of the details can be helpful.  And it may answer the slightly puzzling question as to why the Lectionary setters have chosen it for this 4th Sunday of Easter in Year C of the Lectionary.

For a start, it’s useful to know that this Sunday, in each of the three years of the Lectionary, is a sort of ‘Good Shepherd Sunday’.  The passage we heard today is the least obvious of the three years, but most of chapter 10, up to the point where our Gospel today begins, has been about shepherds and sheep.

The chapter opens with Jesus saying that anyone who does not come in to the sheepfold by the gate is a thief or a bandit [Jn 10:1-6].  Then he goes on to say, ‘I am the gate for the sheep…whoever enters by me will be saved’ [vv. 7-10].  And then, ‘I am the Good Shepherd.  The Good Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep… I am the Good Shepherd.  I know my own and my own know me’ [vv. 11-18].

So, when in today’s passage, in response to the question from those around him, Jesus says, ‘My sheep hear my voice.  I know them, and they follow me’ [v. 27], he is referring to the earlier part of the chapter, and all the teaching about the shepherd and the sheep to which he has already been giving – and that’s why this passage has been chosen for today.  In understanding the Gospels, it’s useful to have both the bigger picture, and to look at the smaller details – the ‘Sensors’ and the ‘Intuiters’ need each other.

The response of Jesus’ first hearers to these words is a violent one.  ‘The Jews took up stones again to stone him’ [v. 31], we read immediately after our passage.  They were so challenged by his words about following him, listening to his voice, that he was working in his Father’s name, and that he was offering eternal life – they were so challenged by all of this that they wanted to kill him.

And his words are certainly challenging ones.  Whether talking about the bigger picture, or about the details, Jesus is always urging us to make a decision about the truth of what he is saying.  Do we believe that he is the Good Shepherd, the Messiah?  And, if we do, what are we going to do about it?  Will our works match his work?  Will we become his hands and his feet in the world, as the 16th C. St Teresa of Avila prays in a famous prayer which was used at the Annual Meetings this week?  What will our response be to the Good News which we read about in the Gospels, and which we hear Sunday by Sunday?

As well as being a sort of Good Shepherd Sunday, and, indeed, because that is the theme of the today’s readings, this is also Vocations Sunday, ‘the day for churches to encourage everyone to reflect, discover and recognise God’s call to them’ [See resources at: https://www.churchofengland.org/education/adult-education-lay-discipleship-and-shared-ministry/call-and-vocations-for-all.aspx].

Across the Diocese of Winchester, and, indeed, across the Church of England, people are being encouraged to reflect about the call of God on their lives.  My conviction is that ‘All are Called’, that each of us has a vocation, a calling, to fulfil the role which God has given us in the Church and in the world.  The poem which Rachel has put on the front of Partners this morning, and which she used at Mothers’ Union on Wednesday, expresses something of that desire to be in the right place, to be the part of the jigsaw, or the quilt, or the group photo, or the body, which God wants us to be.

As the Church of England says on its website:

‘The young are called; the elderly are called.
There is no retirement from the Christian pilgrimage. ……
Women are called and men are called…..

God ‘has no favourites’ ….
We are all called no matter what our occupations may be.
There is no special status in the Kingdom for those in ‘top jobs’ or ‘important responsibilities’’ [Ibid.
]

Across the Diocese many people are considering ordination – indeed, I met with two young men yesterday, one of whom has been selected for ordination training, and the other has a selection conference next month.  And there may be people here who are called to that particular ministry, either full-time or part-time.

But many more will be fulfilling their calling in lots of other ways; either by ministry in the Church – Licensed Lay Ministry, ministry with children and young people, ministry with the elderly, a ministry of prayer, serving , leading prayers, caring for our Church buildings – all sorts of different things; and many will fulfil their calling either in their homes, caring for children, or elderly relatives, or in their workplaces, sometimes simply be being a Christian presence in whatever sort of job they may have.

Roger Walton puts it like this:

[We can] say that our calling as the people of God may grow into a personal vocation, as our serving of God is taken up willingly and it also engages our gifts and experiences, our commitments and passions and for which our life is deliberately oriented and shaped. Those who know that they are sent are on the way to discovering their personal vocation within the vocation of all God’s people.

 Jesus said, ‘My sheep hear my voice.  I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life’ [Jn 10:27f.].

Each of us is made by God, loved by God and called by God.  As we listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd, so we will discover our calling, and become more and more the people God wants each of us to be.  The big picture and the small picture combine as we find ourselves in the individual place which God has dreamed for each of us.

ANNUAL PARISH CHURCH MEETINGS

The annual Meetings of the three Parishes were held in April 2016.  Here is Gary’s Annual Report to the three meetings:

APCM Report – 2016

Breamore – April 11th

Fordingbridge – April 12th

Hale & Woodgreen – April 15th

I thought I’d spend a few moments reflecting on the past year – and, as usual, it’s been a very full and interesting one.

We are extremely fortunate here to have such a varied and capable Ministry Team.  Rachel and Nicky were both priested in July, and we had wonderful First Communions for them at Fordingbridge and Hale on the following Sundays.  This year Kate has developed her ministry with the Pastoral Visiting Team: regular meetings, training, a new Coffee Morning especially for those who have been bereaved, and so on.  Mark is developing a role for education and training – we’ll hear more about that over the next few months, but he’s going to take the lead in encouraging us to take steps forward on our journey of faith, and to be aware of the opportunities for growth locally and further afield.  Ian continues his ministry, especially at Breamore, and John is a great support across the Partnership – they all give of their time freely and generously, and we would struggle without them.

As well as our regular Thursday morning Communions in the Church Office, and monthly evening meetings for planning at each other’s houses, the Ministry Team has started meeting once a term on a Friday morning, usually in the hall at Damerham, so that we have a bit of time for long-term planning and discussion.  We usually end up with lunch in the pub, and it works very well.

There have been some changes in the Church Office.  Sadly, Sarah Farr moved on to a new post at the end of the summer – she had been in the Office for a number of years, and built up a vast expertise of how things were done, as well as being a very significant presence in the Office and more widely.  We were very fortunate to recruit Gail Newell, who now shares the work with Marie Gray, appointed the previous year, and the Office is moving forward well in its new form.  We have also been providing some support for our neighbouring Parish of Hyde with Ellingham and Harbridge, with whom we are in a Group – which means we try to work together and support each other where we can.  At the moment we are providing 5 hours a week for them, principally to look after Baptisms, Weddings and Funerals, and we are looking into the possibility of a longer term arrangement, which should be beneficial to both them and us.  This will need the approval of the three PCCs if it is to go ahead.

One of the main projects of the past year has been the Partnership Mission Action Plan – the pMAP.  The pMAP Group from the three Parishes started its work last Spring, and we had the very enjoyable Vision Morning in the Hulse Hall in May, followed by endless drafts of the pMAP as it went backwards and forwards between the three PCCs, the pMAP Group, the Ministry Team, and so on – eventually being launched both in the Cathedral and in our Parishes in November.  We are now in the Action Phase – and the pMAP is discussed at each PCC each time we meet, so that we keep it in mind, and move forward with the actions we have agreed.  If you’ve not had a copy, they are available – do continue to pray for all of us, which means everyone, who has responsibility for taking the pMAP forward.

2015 was the first full year of the new Parish Share system, the Common Mission Fund, and all three Parishes were able to meet their share, which was wonderful.  Last year, as a Diocese, 98.3% of the Common Mission Fund requests were met – the best result the Diocese has ever seen.  The system is based on a number – the Worshipping Community – which we decide locally, and an Affluence Band, which is determined by national statistics.  This year will be challenging for us in all three Parishes, as we have an extra 10% to contribute, as we move towards the amount the new system says we ought to be paying.  In the autumn we had a teaching and preaching series, Joyful Giving, and that resulted in an increase in giving across the Benefice which was very welcome.  We shall return to that subject again later this year for the annual review.

2015 was also the first year of the Partnership Account, in which all three Parishes contribute to the costs of the Partnership – principally Office, Clergy expenses, Administration – and the amounts are calculated using the Worshipping Community number I just mentioned.  This has worked well, and we now have the budget set for this year.  Particular thanks to Martin Calver, Treasurer at Fordingbridge, who has set up the system for us, and has done a lot of work in keeping it all up to date.  It is a huge achievement to have got agreement for this across the three Parishes, and helps our working together enormously.

And, since the beginning of this month, we have ‘Just Text Giving’.  You can now donate to the Church via your mobile phone. Simply text a code [Breamore: SMBM11, Fordingbridge: SMFB11, H&WG: HAWG11] and up to £10 to 70070. As easy as that!  We hope it will be used by Baptism and Wedding families especially, but also visitors to the Church might decide to donate that way.

Amongst highlights of the year for me, and for Rachel, was the trip to Kinkiizi to join the Diocese for its celebrations of the centenary of Christianity in Kinkiizi.  That was a wonderful fortnight, and was followed up by visits from Bishop Dan, who was here for the priestings in July, and Revd Sam who was here at the start of this year.

Also the Holy Week Activities in schools which we did last month – about 350 children from Breamore, Fordingbridge Infant and Junior and Hale Schools either came to Church, or we went to school, and they heard the Easter Story and did activities related to that.  We had very good feedback from staff, children and parents, and it was a super group of people who helped us to make it happen.

Breamore: In Breamore, great work has been done on raising most of the money needed to repair the bells; we have remembered each of those on the War Memorial on the anniversaries of their death; we have done a lot of work with the school again, this year – individual class visits, assemblies every week, Trudi has gone in most Thursdays to hear children read, and we had a School Baptism for the first time – four children were baptised, with the whole school present, and it was a wonderful Service.  We’re proposing to do it again on June 16th – anyone, of any age, is welcome to be baptised at that Service.

A big thing for the school this year has been the Federation of Breamore and Hale Schools – which begins today.  Two separate Schools, one Church of England, one County, each with their own budget, timetable, uniform, Ofsted, etc., but with one head, and one Governing Body.  I can say more about this if you are interested, but it is a way of supporting small rural schools, and helping staff to feel more supported by having a larger group to work with.  We have increased the number of Foundation Governors from two to three on the new Governing Body, as a way of ensuring that the distinctiveness of Breamore School is not lost – I remain Ex Officio, and will be joined, as approved by Breamore PCC, by Richard Farr and Nicky Davies.

The School is a big part of the life of our Parish here, and the pMAP encourages more of us to be involved it is also great fun, as those who have been on the recent inter-generational days will agree.

In the Partnership as a whole, we have had Quiet Days, Gravetalk sessions, wonderful Christmas and Easter Services, and so much else – it’s been a wonderful year.

Fordingbridge: In Fordingbridge Parish in particular, we had the Hustings before the General Election last year, arranged by Nicky and John; another fantastic Patronal Festival – which, once again the Foresters very generously supported with a grant of £1,000; lots of activities for children and families – Refresh, a new Sunday afternoon Service, arranged by Rachel and Kate and a team; Boost, which is for primary aged children, and follows on from Puddle Ducklings – and which has been particularly successful; Families Skittles, Pancake Party, Bonfire Party – in the pouring rain; Godly Play has been refreshed, and moved into the Porch Room.  Lots of good things – but there is still more to do if we are to integrate families into the life of the Church, if we are to go out to them, if we are to continue to grow as the Christian community in this place.

The 11.00 1st Wednesday Communion and Coffee has been introduced, reviewed, and changed to 10.30, and continues to grow.  And after reflection, the Wednesday Communion in other weeks has been moved to 10.00 by popular request.

At Godshill, the Services moved, again after much discussion, to 9.00, on the 1st and 3rd Sundays, and a new Coffee Morning, with Traidcraft Stall and IT support, once every couple of months or so has been started in the Village Hall, preceded by prayers – and this has been very well attended.

Sandleheath has had a difficult time recently, after John Scrivens’ accident – he is still seriously ill in hospital, and he and his family are very much in our prayers.  The Church there continues to work with children and families, to worship on Sundays, and to run the very successful monthly 1st Tuesday Coffee Morning – lovely cakes!  At St Aldhelm’s, the leasing of the Church to the Village Hall Association has been long and tortuous, but we hope to draw that to a conclusion soon.  If all goes to plan, we will also have free access to the building, and will be able to use it for worship or other events if we wish to do so.  It’s been a very stressful business, especially for the small working group which has been looking after it, and especial thanks are due to them for all their hard work.

Hale & Woodgreen: In Hale and Woodgreen we’ve had another great Summer Holiday club, super Friday Fairtrade Coffee Mornings, very enjoyable Hale’s Angels’ Suppers at the Rectory, and lots more.  There are serious questions to ask about our finances, and the sustainability of our Church buildings, but I hope that some of those will be addressed by the pMAP.

We are very grateful to Patrick Hickman, for a legacy of £5,000, which was released last week after probate.  That is very kind of him – Sloan has said that he thinks his father would want us to ‘fritter it away’ – as if we would!  But we might want to think creatively as a PCC about how we best use the gift in Patrick’s memory.  He was always very good with young people for example, and there may be something in that area we could do.

A big thing for the Hale School this year, along with the retirement of Maria McCusker as head teacher, has been the Federation of Breamore and Hale Schools – which began on Monday.  Two separate Schools, one Church of England, one County, each with their own budget, timetable, uniform, Ofsted, etc., but with one head, and one Governing Body.  I can say more about this if you are interested, but it is a way of supporting small rural schools, and helping staff to feel more supported by having a larger group to work with.  We have increased the number of Foundation Governors from two to three on the new Governing Body, as a way of ensuring that the distinctiveness of Breamore Church School is not lost – I remain Ex Officio, and will be joined, as approved by Breamore PCC, by Richard Farr and Nicky Davies.

The School is a big part of the life of our Parish here, and it would be great more of us were able to be involved, thus strengthening the links between us and the community.

 As ever, it’s been a very demanding year in the Deanery.  We hope the vacancies at Burton & Sopley and Highcliffe will be filled in the coming months.  The Deanery Standing Committee is now functioning very well, and we are planning another Excite Deanery Celebration Event in May, at which Bishop Jonathan will speak on the Holy Spirit.  May 21st at Moorlands College at Sopley – do come.  There will be other vacancies to come, sadly – and supporting the Churchwardens and Parishes through them, and then the short-listing and interviewing, is time-consuming – but worthwhile.  And I continue to fulfil duties in the Diocese, and in particular in the Cathedrals at Winchester, and now Salisbury as well.

So, another full year, full of struggles and delights, another year in which God has been with us, and as we look forward to the year ahead, we can do that in the knowledge that God has a plan, and we have a plan – the pMAP – and we hope that our plan matches God’s plan!  And there is plenty to get on with, as we seek to be God’s people in this place, and as we continue to listen to him, to our communities, and to each other on our journey of faith.

 Canon Gary Philbrick

Priest-in-Charge