LENT COURSE 2018 – details and sign-up (Also details of Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday)

LENT 2018

Full details will be available early in February, and also from the Avon Valley Partnership website.

Shrove Tuesday, February 13th: PANCAKE PARTY, The Church Hall, Fordingbridge, 5.30-6.45.  All welcome – no need to book, no charge.

Ash Wednesday, February 14th: HOLY COMMUNION & ASHING, St Mary’s, Fordingbridge, 11.30a.m., followed by the first of the Lent Lunches in the Church Hall.

SUNG EUCHARIST & ASHING, St Mary’s, Fordingbridge, 7.30p.m.


Bishop Jonathan of Southampton will be joining us for the whole of Holy Week (full details to follow in the Lent Programme), and there will be a Confirmation Service (including Baptisms of adults or children if anyone would like it) on Saturday, March 31st (Easter Eve), St Mary’s, Fordingbridge, 7.30p.m.  It will be an informal and joyful Service, beginning with the lighting of the Easter Fire on the Glebe Field, and then going into the Church.  Please speak to any of the Staff Team if you might like to be Baptised or Confirmed, or if you would like to know more.


This year we shall be using ‘Love is the Meaning: Growing in Faith with Julian of Norwich’, based on a book by Ann Lewin, who is known to many people here.

‘Love is the meaning’ is the phrase chosen by the mystic 14th century writer Julian of Norwich to encapsulate all that had been revealed to her in the series of visions that led her to write one of world’s greatest spiritual books, her Revelations of Divine Love which continues to inspire countless readers today.  Its everyday imagery and warm intimacy set it apart from other great spiritual classics. Ann Lewin uses its homely qualities to provide the basis for an exploration of our own experiences of the spiritual life, and as we search for answers to life’s big questions: How can we hold fast to the truth of God’s love in the face of suffering and disaster?  Does prayer change anything?  How can Julian help us to speak freshly about God to our world?  What do we do when God seems far away and silent?  Can we actually believe that ‘all will be well’ as Julian did?  These and other questions are explored here.

There are Sign-up Sheets in all of the Churches, or you can sign up through a Doodle Poll – click on the link below, and then tick the days and times which would be good for you.

You can also offer to host or to lead.

To complete the poll, go to:  https://doodle.com/poll/t4gs32zyevqf2mke

We can provide copies of the book (at a discount price), or they are available through Amazon, etc.

Canon Gary Philbrick

EPIPHANY GIFTS – A talk by our Girl Bishop

Kate Daykin has been our Girl Bishop from Advent to Epiphany this Christmas, and this is the talk she gave at the Allsorts Service on Epiphany Sunday, January 7th, 2017 (Posted with her parents permission).

My sister Florrie likes to play hide and seek with both my brother Ian and me. The game normally starts with either myself or Ian hiding, whilst the other one helps Florrie count to 10. Florrie loves then finding where we have hidden. It is then Florrie’s turn to hide, and I can guarantee that Florrie always choses the same hiding place where I have just hidden. I will count to 10, and then tell her that I’m coming to find her, this is when you start to hear giggling. I will look in a variety of different places first, whilst her giggles get louder and then head back to the hiding place where I had previously hidden, to find Florrie giggling and jumping out to greet me. This game can be very repetitive and boring for a 10-year-old but my 3-year-old sister loves it, and loves to be found.

Florrie turned 3 on New Year’s Day, and with the help of my Grandma Daykin I made Florrie an Olaf finger puppet from the Disney film Frozen. Florrie loves Frozen, it is a story about the power and meaning of sisterly love. It took me lots of time and care to make the finger puppet and I was so pleased with the puppet I had created. On the morning of Florrie’s birthday, she was so excited to open her presents, and she had a large selection of presents in all shapes and sizes, but I couldn’t quite believe that Florrie chose the small present that I had made for her to open first, saying, ‘this one is from you Kate’. Florrie eagerly opened it and it made me feel so happy when she opened it to see the excitement and delight in her face in receiving her new finger puppet. Florrie quickly put it on her finger and pretended she was Olaf. In seeing Florrie open her present and the happiness this brought her made me think how happy it made me feel and how I love receiving presents too. For Christmas, my Granny Amos gave me a bobble hat, my Grandma and Papa gave me a purple gillet and my Grandma and Grandad gave me a Lego Friends hot chocolate van. I loved all of these presents but thinking back I think I may have had more pleasure and happiness seeing my sister open her present that I had carefully made for her, rather than receiving my presents.

Thinking about giving made me think of the 3 Wise Men and their journey to Bethlehem. The 3 Wise Men wanted to find Jesus and followed the star to find their way to Bethlehem, I want to find Florrie in hide and seek but follow the giggles and knowing where I last hid to find her. I think both Jesus and Florrie want to be found, and love being found. The 3 Wise Men brought precious gifts to Jesus, and I think Jesus would have liked his gifts like Florrie liked her finger puppet I gave her. I think this will have brought pleasure not just to Jesus but to the Wise Men too. The process of giving brings so much pleasure, whether it be giving time to someone, for example me playing the repetitive and boring game of hide and seek with my sister, or giving an actual present, like Florrie’s Olaf puppet. Giving in itself is actually a gift to both the sender and receiver, and the bible teaches us that giving is an act of worship and we will be more blessed if we give.

Would anyone like to see Olaf?


Christmas Day, St Mary the Virgin, Fordingbridge, 2017.

A ‘Thought for the Day’ by Craig Philbrick, Ordinand.

Good morning.  My name is Craig and I’m a 2nd year trainee vicar at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford.

Now.  Has anyone opened a present this morning?

I haven’t but I’m hoping you can help me unwrap my presents.

(Unwrap present 1)

That’s just what I was hoping for.  I really wanted a box of chocolates and I was really hoping someone would get it for me.

In our readings today both Hebrews and John announce good news of great joy that will be for all people.

I also think that they are telling us three things about this new-born baby.

  1. Firstly, in a similar way that I had been longing for some chocolate, they had been hoping for a saviour.

Do you know that when the angel told the shepherds that this new baby was the Christ, the messiah – this was what everyone had been hoping for?

For God’s people they had been waiting for a time when God would send his special king, his messiah who would come and bring God’s true kingdom.

When the angels said: he is the messiah – all the years of longing and waiting were centred on that baby.

Isn’t it great when on Christmas day we open that present that is exactly what we’ve been waiting and hoping for.  Jesus is just like that.

  1. Secondly, the angels told the shepherds that the baby was more than they were expecting.

Now let’s open up my second present.

(Unwrap present 2)

It’s a card, it’s just a card but it is from my auntie Monica and I haven’t seen her in ages.

She must know me so well – I love receiving cards with cute bears on them and soppy poems!

But there’s something else in the envelope – a £20 note. I wasn’t expecting that – as I said I haven’t spoken to Auntie Monica for ages.  That’s so much more than I thought I’d get!

When the angels told the shepherds that Jesus was the Lord – the shepherds realised this was much bigger news than they expected.

Whilst everyone was longing for the special king, the messiah, they hadn’t realised he was going to be God’s son.

But by proclaiming him as Lord, the angels proclaimed that Jesus was God, the master of all, Yahweh, the Lord God.

Jesus isn’t just a special king but he’s God.

Isn’t it great when on Christmas day you open a present, it’s a surprise and it’s much more than we thought it might be.  Jesus is just like that.

  1. The third thing the angel told the shepherds was that the baby was just what they needed.

Let’s open my third present, it looks exciting, I must have saved the best until last.

(Unwrap present 3)

Oh….it’s some socks.

That might seem lame but that is exactly what I need.

I’m always getting holes in my socks and I’ve been left with a load of single socks that make up odd pairs.

When the angels told the shepherds that Jesus was the saviour the shepherds realised that Jesus was exactly what everyone needed.

Lots of people thought that they needed someone to save them so they could be friends with God again.

We couldn’t save ourselves.  God’s people knew that they had gone their own way, they had rebelled against God and done things wrong but they knew they couldn’t save themselves.

They needed a saviour who could make them right with God again and Jesus is that saviour.

Does anyone know what the name ‘Jesus’ means?

Yes, when the angel spoke to Joseph they said you are to call him Jesus, which means the Lord saves, because he will save his people from their sins.

And the saviour that the angel announced to the shepherds is for each of us as well.  It’s exactly what we need to be made right with God.

This is good news of great joy that will be for all people.

It’s great when we get those presents that are just what we need and Jesus is exactly that.

So why you and why now?  We’re going to get some great presents today I’m sure.

But God has already given us the best present we could ever get because he gave us his Son, the baby Jesus who grew up to be

–    the one we were hoping for – the messiah and God’s special king.

–    the one better than we expected – the Lord, this baby is God.

–    the one who’s exactly what we need – the saviour, who would save us from our ourselves so that we could be friends with God.

So on this Christmas morning, may you be transformed by the truth that God sees you.  May you know that you are seen.

Our readings today remind us that the business of God is about turning our brokenness back into beauty — into peace and into joy.  He’s done it for me and he will do it for you too.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.


THE SHEPHERDS AND THE ANGELS – Christmas Midnight Service

A Sermon preached on Christmas Eve, December 24th, 2017, at the Church of the Holy Ascension at Hyde, by Canon Gary Philbrick, Rector.

I don’t know how it is for you, but for me the run-up to Christmas can be quite challenging.

There is always a lot to do – wrapping presents, sending out cards, getting to see family and friends to deliver things, making sure there is enough food and drink in for all the guests who might turn up; and for clergy there are Services and Sermons to prepare, and lots of things to arrange.  In the past week I’ve been to around 15 Carol Services or Carol Singings, all of which have been delightful, and really worthwhile, and I wouldn’t have missed any of them.  But they do mean that the week has been fairly full.

And then, this afternoon, two Christingle Services, in Fordingbridge and Sandleheath, hundreds of children and adults, hundreds of lighted candles, and a great deal of excitement all around.

But now, leaving all of the busyness of Christmas behind, we’ve come to this quiet corner of the Forest, to this lovely Church which has stood here for over 150 years, to hear again the Christmas Story, to sing carols, to pray in whatever way we can or want to, and to open ourselves to the deeper meanings of Christmas, behind all of the tinsel, turkey, presents, and trimmings – important as they are to our celebrations, and all of which I love.

It could be in just such a quiet country spot as this, somewhere of which it would be difficult to say that it was the centre of the universe, that the shepherds, as we’ve just heard from Luke’s Gospel, were ‘Living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night’ [Lk 1:8].

Who were they, these shepherds, living in the fields?  Ordinary working men – and they probably were all men.  Simple but skilled village folk, brave enough to face the cold nights and the dangers of wild animals, to stay with the flocks wherever they roamed, and to protect them from all that might harm them.  Sometimes they would be the owner of the sheep; sometimes they would be hired hands.  As Jesus pointed out [Jn 10:11-13], sometimes they were good shepherds, and sometimes they didn’t care all that much about the flocks in their charge.

In contrast to Jesus’ generally favourable opinion of shepherds, though, by the

First Century [AD], it seems, shepherds – specifically, hireling shepherds – had a rather unsavory reputation… Rabbinic sources [suggest] that ‘most of the time they were dishonest and thieving; they led their [flocks] onto other people’s land and pilfered the produce of the land’.  Because they were often months at a time without supervision, they were often accused of stealing some of the increase of the flock.  Consequently, the pious were warned not to buy wool, milk, or kids from shepherds on the assumption that it was stolen property.  Shepherds were not allowed to fulfil a judicial office or be admitted in court as witnesses… Philo, a Hellenistic Jewish philosopher of Alexandria [25 BC – 45 AD], [living about this time], wrote about looking after sheep and goats, ‘Such pursuits are held mean and inglorious’


These then, these ordinary working people, of a generally unfavourable reputation, these chaps minding the flocks and minding their own business in the fields outside Bethlehem, in quiet countryside such as we have here in Hyde – these were the ones who were suddenly confronted by ‘an angel of the Lord [who] stood before them, and the glory of the Lord [which] shone around them’.  And no wonder ‘They were terrified’ [Lk 1:9].  And no wonder the angel’s first words were ‘Do not be afraid’ [Lk 1:10].

In the midst of their ordinary working lives, their routine daily existence, God’s ‘good news of great joy’ [Lk 1:10] suddenly came upon them, they heard the angels’ words, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’ [Lk 1:14], and they rushed up to Bethlehem to worship the child who had been born that night.

If it can happen to them, it can happen to us, as we gather here this evening, and open ourselves again to the message of the angels, about which we’ve already sung twice, and will sing about three times more in this Service: ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’ [Lk 1:14].

An anonymous poet imagines the shepherds telling their story to Mary, when they arrive in the stable – ‘Mary’ here described as ‘Lady’, as in ‘Ladybird’ or ‘Lady Chapel’

We stood on the hills, Lady,
Our day’s work done,
Watching the frosted meadows
That winter had won.

The evening was calm, Lady,
The air so still,
Silence more lovely than music
Folded the hill.

There was a star, Lady,
Shone in the night,
Larger than Venus it was
And bright, so bright.

Oh, a voice from the sky, Lady,
It seemed to us then
Telling of God being born
In the world of men.

And so we have come, Lady,
Our day’s work done,
Our love, our hopes, ourselves,
We give to your son.

We, the ordinary people of this place, have come to listen for the message of the angels, to be assured again of God’s plan for each of us and for the whole world which he loves, and to have the opportunity to reflect on our lives in the light of the Christmas Message.

I came across this poem recently, written by Esther Curtis in 2010 – Esther, I’ve recently discovered, lives locally, and has links with Hyde Church.  It sums up for me the continuing significance of the Christmas narrative for our day-to-day lives.


We try to imagine the first Christmas Day –

The Shepherds, the Angels, the Babe in the hay,

Young Mary and Joseph, the beautiful star,

The Wise Men who journeyed, from country afar;

The Innkeeper surly, his wife who was kind,

No room at the inn, and no shelter to find,

The oxen, the donkey, the stable, the snow –

For this is the picture of Christmas we know.


A story so simple, we read in God’s Word –

By ordinary people the message was heard;

God chose a young maiden as part of his plan –

Salvation was promised before time began.

The Shepherds saw Angels, a star led Wise Men,

A few people worshipped – there in Bethlehem.

Emmanuel came just as God had arranged,

For this was the night on which everything changed.


Yes, everything changed with the birth of this boy –

To a world of great darkness he brought light and joy;

For God intervened in earth’s history –

Jesus was born, to set us all free.

So look past the parties, the lights and the fun,

Say ‘Thank You’ to God for the gift of his Son,

Who came here among us, and for our sins died,

That life everlasting, he might provide.

Esther Curtis, December 2010



A sermon for Advent 3, preached at St Mary’s, Fordingbridge, 17/XII/17, by Canon Gary Philbrick.

Is 61:1-4,8-11, Jn 1:6-8,19-28

Advent is the season of imperatives!  Watch!  Pray!  Rejoice!  Come, Lord Jesus!  Hark, a thrilling voice is sounding!  Be alert!  Be on your guard!  Wake up, the time is near!  And so on.

It’s a season of weighty themes – the Four Last Things – Heaven, Hell, Death and Judgement.  In the Reading from Isaiah we heard the announcement of the in-breaking of God’s Kingdom on earth, as the Good News is preached, the blind see, the deaf hear and the lame walk – words which Jesus used of himself when preaching in the Synagogue in Caperneum at the start of his public ministry [Is 61:1 & Lk 4:18-19].  And from the beginning of John’s Gospel we heard of John’s preaching in the wilderness, and of his testifying to the light which is coming into the world [Jn 1:6-8].

Advent is a season of imperatives, of weighty themes, and a time for action and reflection.  It’s a time of expectancy and hope – that God will in Christ return to save his people, and that somehow, the Kingdom of God is breaking into this world even now – combining thoughts of Jesus’ first coming, being born in the stable at Bethlehem, with thoughts of his second coming in glory at the end of all time.

It’s an exciting and expectant time, a time for thought, reflection and action.

And this morning, in the midst of what is for lots of people a rather hectic time, I thought we’d spend a few moments at the reflective end of the spectrum.  For many people there is no shortage of action at this time of the year – too much to do, in fact.  But we find it more difficult to find time for reflection and prayer.

First, a short poem by James Hart, simply called ‘John The Baptist’, in the form of a ‘Wanted’ poster, reflecting on John’s character and calling.  What must he have been like when he appeared in the wilderness?

Wanted: John the Baptist

Clothing: Camel’s hair and leather Girdle
Food: Locusts and Wild Honey
Home: In the wilderness
Family: Connections with Jesus
Job: Greatest of prophets
Message: Repent and believe

If found: Follow or decapitate; Take your pick…


It is in John’s Gospel that we are told that John ‘Came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him’ [Jn 1:7].

He came to ‘testify to the light’.  You should have had a copy of an image by Jan Richardson called, ‘Testify to the light’, which you might like to look at now.

Image: Testify to the Light  © Jan Richardson

Jan is an American painter and writer, who collaborated very closely with her husband, the singer/songwriter, Garrison Doles, known as Gary, until his early death in 2013.

Alongside the image, she writes:

In Belfast there is a woman who lights candles for Gary and me.  She has a gift for finding thin places: an eleventh-century stone sanctuary; a whitewashed church in the mountains of Wales; a chapel crypt on the Yorkshire moors that holds the bones of Saint Cedd.  In those places, on an altar or in the chink of a wall, Jenny lights a candle, and she prays—not merely in memory of what was, but in hope and in blessing for love that endures and life that persists on both sides of the veil.

Here on my brokenhearted side of the veil, the light comes as solace and unexpected grace.  In this dark time, when there is no one who can walk this road for me or lessen what has been lost with Gary’s death, the light comes as a vivid reminder that we have, at the least, the power to help illuminate the path for each other.

It matters that we hold the light for one another.  It matters that we bear witness to the Light that holds us all, that we testify to this Light that shines its infinite love and mercy on us across oceans, across borders, across time.

Who holds the light for you?  In this season, who might need you to hold the light for them in acts of love and grace?

And she follows those words with this poem, which I heard this week, and which led me to her image and her story:

Blessed Are You Who Bear the Light

Blessed are you
who bear the light
in unbearable times,
who testify
to its endurance
amid the unendurable,
who bear witness
to its persistence
when everything seems
in shadow
and grief.

Blessed are you
in whom
the light lives,
in whom
the brightness blazes—
your heart
a chapel,
an altar where
in the deepest night
can be seen
the fire that
shines forth in you
in unaccountable faith
in stubborn hope
in love that illumines
every broken thing
it finds.


Finally, a poem by Christine Sine, called:

Breathing in Advent

In this season of waiting,
breathe in life.
Life of the One
who created all things,
whose image we bear.

In this season of waiting,
breathe in love.
Love of the One
who gave a precious Son
to live as one of us.

In this season of waiting,
breathe in peace.
Peace of the One
who calmed the sea
and quiets the tumult of our souls.

In this season of waiting,
breathe in hope.
Hope that the One
for whom we wait
Is indeed making all things whole.