WESTMINSTER ATTACK

The terrible events in Westminster on Wednesday have left many in shock and grief.  Our thoughts and prayers go to the families of all those who died, including PC Keith Palmer, and to all those injured.  It is difficult to understand the irrational hatred and lack of empathy which allows someone to mount such an attack, and our thoughts should be with the security services who have the almost impossible task of guarding us from such wanton assaults.  It is also an attack on our democracy, and we all need to make sure that, through anger or fear, we don’t give in to the terrorists’ ideology of hatred of the other.  Our society is based on the values of democracy, justice, a value of individual life and liberty, an appreciation of differences in opinion, of differing types of people in our society, values which stem from our Christian heritage, but are shared by the great majority of those who live here of all faiths and backgrounds.  As we pray for all those who have died or been injured and their families, we pray also for all those, MPs and others, who work in Parliament, for the security forces, and all those who work to keep us safe.  And we pray for our communities, for those who through ethnicity or faith feel afraid of a backlash, and for the health and well-being of our communities as a whole.

We might like to use the Universal Prayer for Peace:

Lead me from death to life, from falsehood to truth.

Lead me from despair to hope, from fear to trust.

Lead me from hate to love, from war to peace.

Let peace fill our heart, our world, our universe.  AMEN.

Canon Gary Philbrick

Fathers – St Joseph, evensong 19th March, preached by Mark Ward

Today we celebrate the feast of St Joseph of Nazareth, husband of Mary the mother of Jesus and earthly father to Jesus, natural father to at least 3 more sons and two daughters. His story is confined to the time before, during and after Jesus’ birth and the incident we heard read to us a few moments ago, the day he and Mary lost Jesus, only to find him in the temple, where he answered them, in what we might see as adolescent arrogance “well why didn’t you know where I’d be – her in my father’s house”. I wonder what Joseph thought at that comment?

 

The passage from Hosea we heard a little earlier is about another Father – Jesus actual father – God, showing his compassion to his errant people.

 

So then – fathers. We all have or have had one, maybe we knew them, and maybe we didn’t. Whether we did or not they had an impact on our lives either through being there or indeed not being there.

 

My own father was born way back in 1916, not so far away from the birth of some of the fathers of those of you who are older than me. He was 45 when I was born. Just think back – he was born in the middle of a world war where life was unbelievably different to today. He lived until 2006 and so he saw and fought in another world war, saw the popularisation of the motor car and the telephone, of television, of computers, air travel and even the mobile phone, although he would only ever switch it on when he wanted to use it which made it a useless means of emergency communication if anyone else needed him! He saw many parts of the world in the Navy but he never again travelled outside the UK apart from Southern Ireland when we once took him and my mother on holiday with us.

 

My father was a joker. He was left-handed and at school his arm was tied behind his back to cure him of his affliction, which of course he didn’t. His left-handedness has resulted in me tying my tie left-handed and playing both cricket and hockey left handed, cricket is simple, hockey less so as they don’t make left-handed sticks, yet I am utterly right-handed. He would rail against his punishment and at least twice was sent to work in the headmaster’s garden which adjoined the village school. On one occasion he was told to plant seeds so he put all the seeds into a pot, gave them a liberal mix and then sowed them in neat rows and awaited the result. On the second occasion he uprooted every carrot and replanted it point up, thus he was no stranger to capital punishment. He left school at 14 fairly uneducated but by no means stupid. He soon learned that taking an empty pop bottle back to the shop earned him the deposit and if he then snuck round to the back yard he could reclaim the bottle and at least once, if not twice more claim the deposit before he was rumbled.

 

He went to work for the local grocer who had a delivery van which daily travelled around the villages of East Lincolnshire. He learned to drive but didn’t take a test. One day the village policeman asked about the licence and my dad who if nothing else was always completely honest admitted he didn’t have a licence, so the policeman banned him from driving the van until he had taken his test. This resulted in a new daily ritual of dad cycling out of the village to await the arrival of his boss with the van, upon which they would swap, dad would do the rounds and in the evening they would repeat the ritual.

 

For a while he was also employed in the church to pump the bellows for the organ and discovered that the speed at which you pumped could have an amazing range of effects on the sound which came from it.

 

Well the war came and went and he returned home. He loved to dance and it wasn’t unusual for him to work at the shop on Saturday morning and then borrow the van to drive to London to dance to one of the famous dance bands of the time and drive straight back in time to ring the bells before the service on Sunday. Being a bit of a jack the lad he had a few girls on the go and eventually the heat got to him and he escaped to Brighton to another Grocer’s shop, White and Wilson of Preston Park, purveyors of fine foods to the gentry of Hove. He was in digs and one day commenting on the dining table being rocky, he suggested to the man of the house he should sort it out. When dad returned home the wife looked at him angrily and suggested dad try to sit at the table. He discovered his knees would not fit. As dad had well known the problem was not with the table but the floor so constant removal of a piece from each leg had little or no effect.

 

Well my mother, 20 years his junior, much to her own mother’s annoyance followed him south and they were married on 6th June 1960. On a visit to our small bungalow in the small and slightly down at heel suburb of Portslade, my maternal grandmother strongly suggested that dad should remove his muddy wellingtons before entering the house, and in defiance he then proceeded to walk all over the house leaving footprints everywhere he went.

 

I could go on for hours but I won’t, so let’ skip forward 25 years or so. My parents have moved from the pleasant surrounding s to what I thought, arriving in December, was a flea pit of a northern town called Grantham, which of course it was neither, but it was cold. My grandmother was now living with my parents and my mother was still working. Dad now became the main carer for his mother-in-law. Indeed before she moved in it had been his practice to drive the 15 miles to her house in Sleaford once a week to take her and my great aunt Lily shopping. Lily, never one to waste anything would stand in the supermarket and break off all the bits of veg she considered waste whilst grandma would order cheese by the 2 ounce and bacon again 2 rashers at a time. Dad decided to sit in the car and let them shop alone from that point on as he couldn’t stand the embarrassment of being with them.

 

But why do I tell you all of this? Well he was like so many other ordinary men a reluctant war hero, heroic just for being there and doing what he was told, he held down jobs which were no great shakes by some standards, shop assistant, delivery driver and finally postman, which could spawn another 3 hours of stories in addition to “when I was in the war”. My dad was nothing special like so many others and neither was Joseph. He did take notice of an angel more than once but otherwise he was a simple man, yet that does not diminish what he achieved because he simply trusted in God. Amen.

 

 

The woman at Jacob’s Well – risk taking – a sermon preached on Sunday 19th March at Hale by Mark Ward

I don’t know what it is about this gospel passage but I’m often drawn to it. Last Tuesday I was invited by the Bishop of Bath and Wells to present to his area Deans and Lay Chairs about the Deanery Mapping process we have undertaken in this diocese and deanery. If that doesn’t mean much to you, we all did a benefice map a couple of years ago which set our direction of travel and then we did another map for the deanery. I used this passage that day to talk about taking risks.

 

So why am I so fascinated by the story? Well you only have to watch a piece of period drama to realise that until not so long ago there were tensions and etiquettes to keep around meetings between a single man and a single woman, indeed if you had lived in my parents’ house in the late 1970s you would have witnessed my mother turning up in the living room about every 3 minutes to check Margaret and I weren’t up to something she disapproved of – which naturally we weren’t! Well Jesus, a single man broke every rule in the book by talking to a woman alone, and what was worse she was married, or at least she wasn’t married to the man she lived with which made the whole thing worse, and to cap it all she was from Samaria, and the Jews and Samaritans had a bit of an English-French thing going. So the whole situation was wrong.

 

We all know what happened – he met the woman, they had a tricky conversation about her domestic arrangements and then she took him home to meet the neighbours, who also incidentally were Samaritans. Doesn’t sound like much of a recipe for success does it but at the end of the passage we learn that many people came to know him.

 

But given all the risks – why on earth did he do it? I think for more than one reason:

He wanted the woman to change her ways, and as far as we know he succeeded. He sat on the well cover in the middle of the day because he knew that was the only time she would be there as she wanted to avoid the neighbours, and so she really couldn’t argue with him about her situation.

 

He wanted to meet the local people and heal the rift between his nation and theirs – and he achieved that too.

 

But more than that, he wanted his disciples to see that what he had to offer wasn’t just for the Jews but also for everyone else, you and me included. He was saying I can offer you something that exists way outside ethnic boundaries and something which is open to everyone without having to obey all the rituals of past religion. He went in human form to be with people where they were – notice that – he went to them; he didn’t expect them to come to him.

 

He deliberately disobeyed the Jewish law, why, because the law had become all about ritual and hypocrisy and he wanted no more of it – he wanted people to simply get back to being in a relationship with God and the only two rules were, love God and love one another.

 

But let me come right back to this – he took an enormous risk and it could have all gone very wrong – his disciples could have left him, the Jewish leaders could have tried to haul him up before the religious courts and his reputation could have been torn to shreds.

 

Was it worth it – was it worth the risk? Well clearly he felt it was.

 

I talk a lot about risk in my day job. It’s my job to weigh up the risks of doing or not doing things according to what I refer to as the Trussell Trust’s appetite for risk. We have decided the level of risk we are willing to take in different circumstances and I have to decide if the idea in front of me fits within or outside that, and if it is outside it can we change the plan to bring it inside, or alternatively should I suggest that on this occasion the extra risk is worth it. Do you remember the Baron’s trail we had in Salisbury in 2015 – that was a huge risk which could have been a financial disaster but it seemed like an opportunity we could not miss, so we went out on a limb and it payed off and earned us almost £250,000, I just didn’t sleep for a year.

 

I have no idea whether Jesus weighed up the risk or not, or whether for him any risk was worth taking to bring people to faith. I suspect, given what happened to him, he felt that any risk was worth it.

 

So then – here’s the tricky bit. This isn’t just a story with a happy ending. It is an example to us all. That’s why I’m quite fed up with the Bishops at the moment about their attitude to gay marriage. Ignore the actual issue itself. In my view they should come out and say what they think rather than coming up with an unworkable compromise – being gay is ok, being a gay priest is ok, we still love you, but if you get married and you are a priest we won’t recognise you. I’m not saying any of the issue is right or wrong, although I do have a view if you want to ask me, but in my view the bishops should stand up and tell us what they think rather than attempting to please everyone and pleasing no one.

 

Let’s bring it a bit closer – we live in this safe world of church, or so it seems. We come here, we all know what’s going on and we expect pretty much the same thing every time. Yet this safe place and the way we go about has put Christianity in the UK, especially in the Church of England onto a trajectory which could wipe us out in a few years. We are losing people at a vast rate of knots but we continue to do the same thing.

 

If Jesus is our model what should we do? I would venture we should take more risks. We need to be out there meeting people in places where we engineer interactions – it doesn’t have to be with the local lady of ill repute, it could be propping the bar up at the Horse and Groom but we won’t spread the Gospel of God’s love in here.

 

Hopefully we will soon get a real chance to experiment. Last October some of us went to the diocesan conference for a week and whilst there we discussed twelve possible projects for the diocese to undertake over the next three years or more. In Bishop’s Council 12 or so of us whittled these 12 down to 4 based on the feedback from the conference and on Thursday evening we put those four items to Diocesan Synod who decided to risk backing us. One of those four may have a very direct effect on us here, because our benefice of Avon Valley is one of only three pilot projects called “The benefice of the future” which is all about working out new ways that rural churches can work together to provide all the things that the community they serve needs. We will have pretty much a blank sheet of paper, a dedicated mentor and some money to try out how to make ourselves relevant to the communities around us. It means we won’t try to do everything everywhere but we will have the resources to be able to tell people what we do in different places and I hope to develop new ways of being church.

 

Let me finish with just one idea that occurred to me. Everyone goes on and on about getting new people, young people into the church, but that’s all well and good as long as we don’t forget all the people who have faithfully kept these places going. In Salisbury there is a health care company that looks after people who are housebound. As part of the service they install a monitor in the house just like a TV screen. Each morning and evening, irrespective of whether a visit is planned, the company calls up each of their clients and they have a conversation where each can see the other. That allows the care company to assess the person very easily – do they look ok, have they got dressed, do they look happy or not and the client can also see the person they are talking to so it’s proper company at least twice a day.

 

What if we could dial up Vivian this morning so he could see us and we could see him and he could be part of this service. We could have as many people dialled in as are here – one of them could lead the readings or the prayers – they could be fully part of this service even though they struggle to leave home, how amazing would that be? If we got known about we could have a virtual congregation with us from almost anywhere as long as we could make the technology work. And I haven’t even thought about what we could do outside the church.

 

So, I know we can’t go around breaking the law otherwise we find ourselves doing as I have to next Friday, attending a speed awareness course in Eastleigh courtesy of Norfolk police Last Christmas Eve, although in my defence I was certain I was in a 40 limit! But it doesn’t mean we can’t take other risks that help us share God with others.

I for one can’t wait.

Amen

BISHOP’S COMMISSION FOR MISSION

Might you be interested in developing your skills in either pastoral ministry or leading worship?  A new course, the Bishop’s Commission for Ministry, is being run by the Diocese starting in April – details below.  If you are interested, speak to one of the Ministry Team, and we can let you have an application form, which then is approved by the Incumbent on behalf of the PCC.

BCM Programme Streams – Spring 2017

 Are you a lay person? Would you like some input for your existing ministry, or for a developing vocational path?  More interested in learning from passionate practitioners and others in ministry than in getting a formal qualification?  Then Bishop’s Commission for Mission could be for you.

We are running two programmes in the spring of 2017 as below.  To talk through in more detail what participating this programme might involve, please contact me: phil.dykes@winchester.anglican.org 01962-710973 07884-268968.

For an application form or further details please contact Frances Ter Haar (frances.terhaar@winchester.anglican.org)

BCM for Pastoral Missioners led by Phil Dykes, School of Mission

This is for those with a pastoral heart.  The training will cover a foundational understanding of the missional context we are in, the core skills required for pastoral work in your church/community, as well as input from passionate personal practitioners on specialist areas, in this case growing older, coping with dementia and talking to people about their faith.  You will learn from others who are pastoral in different contexts and also through engaging with a portfolio during the training.

 SESSIONS

DATES TIMINGS VENUE
3 Foundational Sessions Saturday 22 April 2017 10  am –  4pm (to include sandwich lunch) St. Lukes, Sway

SO41 6AD

6 Evening Sessions Tuesdays 2, 9, 16 May

6, 20 and 27 June

7.15 – 9.15 pm St. Lukes, Sway

SO41 6AD

2 Closing Sessions Saturday 1 July 9.30 am – 12 pm St. Lukes, Sway

SO41 6AD

 BCM for Lay Worship Leaders: led by Andy Saunders, School of Mission

 

This is for those who have a desire to lead God’s people into God’s presence. The training will cover a foundational understanding of the missional context we are in, the core skills required to lead worship in your church/community, as well as input from passionate personal practitioners on specialist areas, in this case leading intergenerational worship and leading worship not in a church building.  You will learn from others who are leading worship in different contexts and also through engaging with a portfolio during the training.

 SESSIONS

DATES TIMINGS VENUE
3 Foundational Sessions Saturday 22 April 2017 10  am –  4pm (to include sandwich lunch) St. Lukes, Sway

SO41 6AD

5 Evening Sessions Tuesdays 2, 9, 16 May

6, 20 and 27 June

7.15 – 9.15 pm St. Lukes, Sway

SO41 6AD

2 Closing Sessions Saturday 1 July 9.30 am – 12 pm St. Lukes, Sway

SO41 6AD

 

Sermon preached at St. Mary’s Church, Breamore, 2nd Sunday in Lent

Sermon preached at St. Mary’s Church, Breamore at the Morning Service for the second Sunday in Lent on the theme of ‘The basin and the towel’- 12th March 2017.

“Jesus…got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself.  Then he poured water in a basin and began to was the disciple’s feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.” (St. John 13: 3-5).

I remember as a very young child when I was sick needing to wash in my bedroom. I remember the jug and ewer-a wonderful Victorian piece with bright blue lines on the edges of the jug and around the rim of the basin. I cannot say I remember the colour of the towel! I guess these are items of a past world having replaced with our stainless steel sinks and designer wash basins. I can’t say washing was a favourite pastime of mine as a small lad and one on which my mother commented frequently! But I do remember my mother taking great care in washing me when unwell, with a soft muslin flannel.

Washing another person is an extremely personal activity. It is a sign very often of a special intimacy. Those of you who have been hospitalised in the past may have experienced a blanket bath at the caring hands of a nurse. Now on day one they stand behind you as you stutter to the bathroom so that you can was yourself-how times change!

This morning’s reading from St. John is the familiar reading of the washing of the disciples’ feet from the events of Maundy Thursday evening the night of the betrayal of Jesus and the evening in which he ate his Last Supper with his friends. During the meal he leaves the table, takes off his outer robe and invites each of his disciples to have their feet washed. We may think this strange. But in his day and culture this might be expected from the slave of the house-washing the grime off their feet. It was a very menial task and one in which he deliberately chose to accept.

He takes on the mantle of a slave, the lowest role in their culture. A bowl and a towel’ this is today’s Lent theme. Returning to the story I am struck by the intimacy of this action by Jesus.

But what is its significance at this time in the Passion Story? I am sure you have heard lots of sermons about the challenge of being a servant church and our participation in that. However, this morning I want to direct our gaze to the intimacy of his actions.

Intimacy can be a scary subject to talk about because it takes us to the very heart of ourselves and our innate vulnerability.  The philosopher, Martin Buber talks of intimacy as an ‘I-Thou’ moment rather than an ‘I-It’ moment. In our modern English language we have lost the sense of intimacy which ‘Thou’ or in French ‘Tu’ signifies. A relationship demands at least two people. I am sure all of us can identify moments of intimacy with others. They are often moments in which we truly feel we have been recognised, acknowledged, heard, seen-they have a certain ring of truth about them. They are precious and special. It is like a process of ‘mirroring’-they are moments of mutual receptivity each gazing on the other. Two or more people see each other as distinct human beings and are not absorbed by each other. This happens when we are in love, in a deep friendship, an unsolicited act of kindness by another, or indeed being moved by a beautiful sight in the countryside or by music or a painting – all moments of encountering something or someone beyond the here and the now of seeing- moments of mystery.

I was speaking earlier of that feeling of intimacy I received at my mother’s hand. I know I am fortunate because I know so many people who have had such opposite experiences with parents. To receive that love we have to be open to receive it, and that sometimes happens more when we feel unwell or ill and our guard is down. I felt this very recently t the hands of some wonderfully tender nurses in the Intensive Care Unit after my recent heart operation.

This loving action of Jesus as he pours water into a basin, washes the disciples feet and dries them with a towel is a pattern for our intimacy with others. If we are to serve others as a Church and as individuals we need to be willing to open ourselves to others in our serving. Say I write a cheque for Amnesty International, or Christian Aid- how can that be intimate? I suggest it can become intimate when we allow ourselves to feel what the recipients of our money might be feeling. Bonhoeffer called this a willingness ‘to participate in the suffering of God in the world’. Or it may be that a friend or indeed stranger wants to share something of their anxiety or illness with you. Can you allow yourself to listen in a non-defensive way, as another vulnerable human being with compassion? Allowing yourself to get close to another can mean more to the other than your words. I am not suggesting this is easy or that you will not feel uncomfortable. All of you will have experienced this from time to time. Being an intimate compassionate human servant of others simply requires an open and willing heart. This is often called a process of transformation. This is the path to human growth. It is also the path to encountering the presence of God.

Jesus pours water into a basin, washes the disciples’ feet and wipes them with a towel-an intimate totally self-giving and loving act. As Richard Rhor writes, ‘Jesus reveals that the give-and-take of human and Divine is utterly possible precisely because he became human and personal.’ He goes onto say, ‘If any friendship does not somehow empower you, it is not true relationship or truly personal’.

A basin and a towel-these are but symbols of a pattern of living we are invited to emulate in our reaching out to friend and strangers alike. They are symbols of a pattern of living which promise an encounter with Divine Love who is both present among us, and between us, and beyond us.

John Towler, Assistant Priest.