Jigsaw Puzzle Festival 2017 Sat 18 February to Mon 20 February at St Mary’s Church, Fordingbridge.

There are well over 500 puzzles of all sizes and for all abilities catalogued ready for the Festival! Many thanks to all you lovely people who have spent hours making them up for us. The response has been fantastic!
Our deadline for receiving puzzles for the Festival is 29th January so make sure you finish your puzzles and get them to us by then, thank you.
The Festival itself will run from Saturday 18th February to Monday 20th February, 10:00am to 5:00pm. Admission is £2 per adult and includes a discount off the purchase of a puzzle, as well as return entry to the church and hall over the Festival.
It is an ideal destination for the Half Term holiday! Come to the Jigsaw Festival and you will find hundreds of puzzles on display in St Mary’s Church for you to buy. They will be made up so you can select from all that is on offer easily! When you make a purchase the puzzle will be put into a plastic bag and into its box for you to take home. A new puzzle will take its place so there are always different ones for you to choose from. In the Church Hall you will find light refreshments as well as unused/brand new puzzles for sale.
This a a true community project. Many people locally and as far afield as Downton and Damerham, as well as Berkshire and Shropshire, have donated and made up puzzles for sale. The profit from the sale of puzzles will be shared between St Mary’s Church and GR8, a local youth group which meets at Avonway.
On Sunday there will be a special Jigsaw Festival Communion Service in the Church Hall at 9.30am.
If you want to know more then please contact the Church Office and they will pass on any queries.
We look forward to seeing you there!
Viv Finch and Judith Dowsett

A sermon preached at St Mary’s Fordingbridge and at Sandleheath Uniting Church on Sunday 18th December by Mark Ward – Meeting the real Advent and EasterJesus

Has anyone been to see “I Daniel Blake”? It’s available now on Amazon and at all other good DVD sellers, I did consider buying 50 copies but I thought the treasurer might blanch so I suggest that a few people buy one and then do one of two things – spread it around for people to watch or even better invite a few people round to watch it and then maybe have a chat about what it says to you. It’s not a happy watch, in fact it’s 100 minutes most of which are miserable, about the dreadful way that a widower, Daniel, and a young mum, Katie, are treated by this country’s faceless benefits system. On days when I’m being generous I blame it just on the system and on days when I am not I cannot believe the behaviour of some of the people who work in the jobcentre they both have to attend. My problem is that whilst I know this is a fictional story, I also know that it is based entirely in reality. I have heard people’s stories from their own lips, I have heard them tell MPs those stories and I sit there and think “why would anyone make that up”.


Daniel, 59, worked all of his life – carpenter, looked after his wife as she died and then had a heart attack, now signed off work by his doctor who refuses to let him go back until he is healthy enough, is told to claim jobseekers allowance and as a result has to apply for hundreds of jobs, but he knows he can’t take one if offered because he isn’t fit, and then he has his employment support allowance refused having done an interview with someone who has no medical experience and is solely interested in completing a form with questions that mostly are not appropriate to Daniel,  – when refused he has to await a decision from “The Decision Maker” – which is to my mind very 1984. Of course the system goes wrong and no-one can correct it and in the meantime Daniel has to sell all his possessions and starves. I won’t tell you the ending but it isn’t pleasant.


Whilst at the jobcentre Daniel befriends Katie, a young mum with two small children. Apart from the scene at the foodbank this is the most heartening part of the film as they in turn reach out to each other providing mutual support. Katie ends up selling herself to pay for a pair of shoes for her daughter Daisy. It is a truly awful situation.


What has this to do with us here today, a week before Christmas – well, some of you know there is a young girl living in a flat behind Fordingbridge High Street who until a few weeks ago had one possession apart from the clothes she stood in – a mattress. Thankfully a few people helped me furnish her flat from the Trussell Trust warehouse. There is also a family where dad has just died, and there is no money, who will receive Christmas lunch courtesy of a man who rings me up once a year and says “hello it’s me, can I help someone” and each year he delivers a full Christmas meal to me and presents for the children. I don’t know his name, he won’t tell me it, but this is, I reckon the fifth year he has dipped deep into his own pocket for the love of people he doesn’t know. And there are many, many more people living in poverty just around the corner from you and from me who have nothing.


I’m not telling you any of this to make anyone feel guilty; I’m telling you because you may not know, and I’m telling you this because the child that we welcome in 7 days’ time was born into poverty also. I don’t think it was as abject as the stories I have told to you, but Joseph was not a rich man by any account, and nor was his mother Mary. They were just ordinary people struggling to get by. And once the baby was grown to a man, who did he consort with – the “nobs of the day” – no, but with the destitute, the fallen, those afflicted by mental health issues, by physical infirmities, and with those who had just got it all wrong. And he reaches out to them now, and he knows how it feels to have very little – you can’t say that about many kings can you?


Unfortunately for Daniel and for Katie and her children Daisy and Dylan, they didn’t meet Jesus. If they had, Jesus would have rescued Katie from going on the game and he would have avoided what eventually happens to Daniel, why, because Jesus was full of love and compassion. You could argue that Katie had made some mistakes, she was a little like the woman at Jacob’s well, her children had different fathers and she wasn’t married to either, but Jesus would not have rejected Katie. Daniel like the woman who had been bleeding for years – “if I could just touch his clothes I will be healed”, Daniel the carpenter would have been cured by Jesus. But they didn’t meet Jesus. Even the people at the jobcentre would not have been past redemption with Jesus, even after they had turned their backs on Daniel and Katie. But they didn’t meet Jesus either.


So in 7 days we welcome a baby, and all will be joy and peace for a few days, but as I have said before, Christmas would not exist without Easter, and at Easter it was a very different story, after a very different life spent loving those who the world had kicked into the gutter.

As I said, Jesus isn’t here now, in a physical sense I mean, for we all know he is here. And we, you and me, we have a choice – we can meet him, the real Jesus, in here and unfortunately we can also leave him in here as we walk out that door, or we can take him with us and we can be the people who rescue the lost, reach out to those who have made a mess of everything, offer help without judgement, make a real difference, or of course we can just leave him here as a baby. I know the people I would rather we are – Easter people bringing hope and looking out for those in trouble. Easter people are Advent people because Advent is about the birth of a baby but it is even more about anticipating the second coming of the risen Jesus, – we worship the risen Jesus, – the Easter Jesus – the Jesus of hope. I pray that as we leave here today we are Advent and Easter people – that we will look out for the Daniel’s and the Katie’s, and that we will look after them. Amen.


A Sermon preached at St. Mary’s Church, Fordingbridge on the Feast of Christ the King 2016.

A Sermon preached at St. Mary’s Church, Fordingbridge on the Feast of Christ the King 2016.

If you are like me, and I am not suggesting for a moment that any of you are, the thought of a Rule of Life fills me with some intrepidation. For part of my Theological Training I lived with a monastic community or a year and was required to fulfil certain weekly obligations as part of a rule of life. Failure to do so required me to knock on the Father Wardens’ office door on a Saturday morning and confess my lack of keeping to the rule. I am not sure who became bored the quickest!

Several years later during my further training at Theological College I did marginally better maybe because I was not required to knock on anyone’s door! Does this tell me something of my slightly rebellious nature-maybe?

Today, I am here to encourage you to reflect of what a rule of life might look like and the reason for having one. What I am certainly not assuming is that you do not individually and severally already have one.

The diocese as part of its Mission strategy has produced a Diocesan Rule of Life called ‘Sharing God’s Life’. It is made up of three stands ‘Loving, Living and Serving’. The inspiration for this rule comes from that of St. Benedict. Indeed I want to quote direct from the Prologue of his rule which provides a direct link between his rule and our celebration of the feast of Christ the King:

“To thee, therefore, my speech is now directed, who, giving up thine own will, takest up the strong and most excellent arms of obedience, to do battle for Christ the Lord, the true King.”

The monks are admonished to put aside their needs and wants and to follow the will of God. The challenge for us is the same-how can we best follow God’s will rather than our own. We say Sunday by Sunday, maybe day by day-‘Your kingdom come; your will be done’.

At the outset, whatever our rule of life contains, its springboard is ’doing the will of God’. So just what does that mean? If we start from the premise that all life is sacred then nothing lies outside the desire to do  God’s will. ‘Thy kingdom come’ expresses the hope that the whole universe will be evolving to a point of ultimate obedience to God shown in the face of Jesus Christ. Now the will of God in the end is a community issue. We are not being encouraged to imagine that what I want and ask for in prayer is God’s will. It is a much more measured process in which we are encouraged to share with one another and corporately discover what God is already doing in the world and do just that!

Laurence Freeman a spiritual writer has these wise words,

“Prayer is not informing God of our needs or asking God to change ‘his’ mind. We are not setting up our will in opposition to God’s will or telling God what he should be doing. Such egocentric prayer fosters many forms of neurotic behaviour, religious behaviour, such as praying for victory over others or the fulfilling of egotistical desires.”

Now what is implicit in the Diocesan Rule, I want to make explicit here. I feel there needs to be a fourth strand or cord-a cord which the Benedictine Tradition held at its heart-the practice of being in the presence of God at all times. You may say , that’s fine for monks and nuns but I have a life to lead, a job to do and a family to bring up-and so we do!

We don’t have to think about being pious or religious. God dwells within each one of us, within all in the world, and within the church, Christ’s living body here in the world. A rule of life simply invites us to bring all this into consciousness and get on with the business of daily living. Remember the prayer of Jacob Astley, 1st Baron Astley of Reading during the Civil War: ‘Lord if I forget you this day please, do not forget me’. When we meet for worship like this morning we are bringing into consciousness the mystery of God, divine love, the ground of all being-whatever name you find works for you.

Like the Benedictine Community we are called to an expression of a rule of life which is primarily about being a community, Christ’s corporate body loving, living and serving as best we can. There are suggestions of how you might enhance this rule in the leaflet. Please read it. What I also discovered was that Benedict encouraged different communities to make the rule work for them –be autonomous-do your own thing within the spirit of the rule.

On this feast of Christ the King when we are encouraged to consider the nature of Christ’s kingship, our gaze rests on how Jesus exercised his power of love amongst those with whom he lived and worked. If our heart and therefore our inner motivation and attitude are attuned to loving self and others i.e. in touch with a sense of our potentially loving power, then we shall less and less be preoccupied with external forms of power that makes us superficial, judgemental, split off and often downright wrong-without knowing it. Benedict called it ‘doing battle for Christ the King’.

We have had two political examples of late-Brexit and The American Presidential Election in which the some proponents of their cause believed that by rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic-that it my euphemism for violent and threatening words setting out to coerce others to their point of view-they could hoodwink the electorate. Of course, in part, they have been successful. Napoleon is deemed to have said, “Only people of the Spirit actually change things, the rest of us just rearrange them.” God is patient enough to wait for real change.

Whatever your rule of life looks or indeed becomes, may it be motivated by a genuine desire to seek God’s will whose springboard is an inclusive and humble love for al, and results in lives which are transformed rather than dominated by fear.

A final quote from Fr. Harry Williams in a lovely Lent Book called ‘Becoming what I am’. He is talking about prayer:

“Our job is to put ourselves at God’s disposal by the discipline of regularity, by faithfulness to our rule, and by the use of that common sense without which we can’t do anything. But there our job ends. What happens when we pray is God’s business, not ours. God will give us what he knows best.”