Category Archives: Uncategorized

8th January 2020

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is fr_simon-3.jpg

Dear Friends

Happy New Year

I can hardly believe that we have reached the year 2020, a new year and a new decade. This year will bring great change. How we manage this change will define this country for years to come. What is clear is that we cannot live with the level of animosity we have recently experienced. It’s important we learn how to move on, to embrace what the future holds for us, be creative and determined. It’s also vitally important that we hold our politicians to account, fine words are one thing, real action, effecting real change are what matter.

These few weeks after Christmas are called the Epiphany Season, not only do we celebrate the wise men visiting the Christ child, but we celebrate Christ’s baptism by John and the great miracle of the wedding feast at Cana. All of these episodes in the life of Christ tell us something of God’s generosity and reconciling love, giving our mortal nature, immortal value. Perhaps a good New Year resolution would be to explore more deeply how we live this reconciling love, to God’s glory and the future of our communities.

“People of God, go out!
Cradle in your hearts
the great mystery
of reconciling love,
that it may take rout and flourish,
within you, among you, and beyond you,
through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen

From Liturgies and prayers for public worship  Brian Wren WJK 2008

Simon

P.S Please lend your support to Hayley & Sagar by sponsoring them for their 13 mile walk next week – click here to donate.


Dear Friends

Happy New Year!

Some of you might have seen chalk markings appear recently on the front of some homes and been curious as to their meaning. Their significance was explained in church on Sunday, when we celebrated the Feast of the Epiphany. For those of you who were unable to be there I will offer an explanation.

The blessing and distribution of chalks is a custom that probably originated at the end of the Middle Ages. The chalk markings represent the visit of the Magi to the infant Jesus.  The tradition has been to mark the door or lintel as follows: 20+C+M+B+20. The initials C,M and B represent the legendary names of the three Magi, Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, 2020 is the year, and the crosses in between remind us of the cross of Jesus. The initials also stand for the Latin prayer request ‘Christus Mansionem Benedicat’, which means ‘May Christ bless this house.’. As one member of the family writes with the chalk another can say the following prayer: ‘As the three wise men followed the star of God’s Son who became man, may Christ bless our home and remain with us throughout the year’.

This Epiphany ceremony is a simple but meaningful act of witness which symbolises Christian willingness to offer hospitality and shelter to the Magi on their journey to Bethlehem and also, by extension in today’s world, to welcome all and sundry who love or are seeking Jesus Christ. It is a valuable link between between church, home and family. It is, moreover, a constant reminder that Christ is incarnate in the love and care we show one another in our daily lives together, and also our relationship with friends and strangers who cross the threshold of our homes during the course of the year. 

With every blessing

Mother Eileen

19th December 2019

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is fr_simon-3.jpg

Dear Friends

Just looking at this morning’s emails I see one from Chris our Churchwarden sharing a Facebook posting he has made with a photograph of last Sundays service and giving information about our Christmas services. Thanks to Chris for doing this and thanks to everybody who Shares, Likes, Tweets and all manner of social media communication. Social media communication is so important these days and frankly the means by which most people receive information. It would be wonderful if everybody who has a Twitter account, a Facebook page, or Instagram account could share as much information about our Christmas activities as possible.

Our Christmas Services are as follows.

Sunday 22 December
5.40 pm Carols on Handbells
6.00 pm Traditional 9 Lessons and Carols.

Tuesday 24 December Christmas Eve
4.00 pm Childrens Crib Service
11.00 pm Carols and Readings
11.30 pm Midnight Mass

Wednesday 25 December Christmas Day
10.30 am Parish Celebration and Mass

I look forward to seeing you all over the Christmas period.

Simon


Dear Friends

We are now in our final week of Advent. We have lit the first three candles on our Advent wreath: the first for the patriarchs, the second for the prophets and the third (pink one) last Sunday for John the Baptist. This coming Sunday morning we shall light the fourth candle for Our Lady, the Virgin Mary. And in the evening we look forward to our service of Nine Lessons and Carols. This final week of Advent is inevitably especially busy for most of us, and we can become anxious about all our preparations for Christmas celebrations. Nevertheless, I hope we can all find some time for quiet reflection amidst all the hustle and bustle. I reprint below a poem called ‘Refuge’ by the priest and poet Malcolm Guite. I hope you can find time to reflect on his words.     

We think of him as safe beneath the steeple,
Or cosy in a crib beside the font,
But he is with a million displaced people
On the long road of weariness and want.
For even as we sing our final carol
His family is up and on that road,
Fleeing the wrath of someone else’s quarrel,
Glancing behind and shouldering their load.
Whilst Herod rages still from his dark tower
Christ clings to Mary, fingers tightly curled,
The lambs are slaughtered by the men of power,
And death squads spread their curse across the world.
But every Herod dies, and comes alone
To stand before the Lamb upon the throne.

Wishing you all a very happy and blessed Christmas

Mother Eileen

12th December 2019

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is fr_simon-3.jpg

Dear Friends

The unpredictable graciousness of God

As we embark on our Advent journey, so we embark on a new Church year, and it being a new Church year our lectionary concentrates upon a new Gospel, this year it is Matthew.  Matthew wrote his gospel to support the beleaguered community of messianic Jews in Antioch. After the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in AD 70 and slaughter of the priesthood many were looking for reasons why such a catastrophe had befallen the Jewish community. Why would God do such a thing? Some of the remaining Pharisees suggested it was because the community had not been sufficiently devout in their observance of the law; God’s wrath had been visited upon them as a result of their wayward behaviour, thinking and worship. The messianic Jewish community, later to be called Christians, came in for particular attention and persecution as a community challenging the established orthodoxy. Matthew is writing precisely to this community, to support and uphold them in their difficulties.

Matthew begins his Gospel with a genealogy, a long list of names. Of course some of the names are familiar to us, but to his Jewish audience they would all have had significance. Matthew offers them this genealogy for two reasons: first to confirm their belief that the Christ who they now recognise is indeed the Messiah, born of the race of David, the one for whom they have all longed. Secondly, to provide them with hope, they would recognise that this genealogy contained people who were not the personification of perfection, indeed they are quite a motley bunch. The story begins during the ‘patriarchal’ period when Abraham begets Isaac. Why not Ishmael, he was the older?  Or why Isaac begetting Jacob and not Esau? Granted, he was a bit challenged, but at least he was honest, unlike Jacob who stole his birthright. Or again Judah over Joseph and so it goes on. In the period of the Monarchy David was hardly an example of stunning sainthood, more a mixture of saint and sinner – he arranged for the murder of Bathsheba’s husband so that David might possess her legally. Matthew publishes this list as proof that God rarely chooses the best, most noble, or the most saintly. God is not controlled by human understandings of merit but ‘Manifests his own unpredictable graciousness’. God works, as the reformers of the church proclaimed, through grace. Matthew’s gospel tells us as we later learn in the birth narrative that the story of Jesus is our story too. Matthew challenges the pharisaic understanding that the messiah could only come through our perfection, our perfect observance of the law. Rather God works with and through the imperfections of humanity to bring forth the Christ child and he does so not dependent upon our behaviour but by and through his own will, ‘grace’. The whole birth narrative is shot through with stories of the imperfect being chosen as the vehicles of God’s good news. The Christmas story, like Matthew’s genealogy, proclaims the ability of God to work through the marginalized and imperfect to make real the kingdom, in other words through you and I.

Simon


Dear Friends

We had a wonderful Community Christmas lunch on Wednesday of this week, thanks to Anne McBride and her team of helpers, with a visit from Santa who came bearing gifts (see photos below).

We look forward to the Nativity play this Sunday, for which the Children’s Church have been busy rehearsing. If you subsequently wish to explore the nativity story in a little more depth I can recommend visiting St Paul’s Cathedral website, clicking on their videos, and watching a talk called ‘God with us: seeing the Christmas stories with fresh eyes’ by Paula Gooder, a distinguished New Testament scholar. She is a great fan of nativity plays and unravels some of what the well-loved and familiar Christian stories really tell us about Jesus’ birth and why God chose this ludicrously risky way to redeem the world.

With every blessing as we journey on through Advent and prepare to celebrate Christmas

Mother Eileen

4th December 2019

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is fr_simon-3.jpg

Dear Friends

Hospitality is at the heart of this weeks Advent reflections. To be hospitable is to be deeply Christ like. Welcome and acceptance are integral to this concept of hospitality. It’s not just about a smile and a cup of tea, it is this, but it is also about how we welcome the stranger into our lives. How do we cope with difference, different ideas, different ways of understanding how the world works, or how we make decisions. I worry that too often much of our public discourse has stoked a fear of the other – the stranger in our midst.  Fear leads to closed minds and hearts, that to some extent is understandable, it is our survival instinct kicking in, the appalling events of last Friday don’t help. The question is how do we move on, how do we get beyond the fear, how do we create a better and safer place.? Perhaps it is the courage to be hospitable, but with an acute awareness of the human condition? After all, when Jesus sent his disciples out he said to them. ‘Be wise as serpents and gentle as doves.’ Matthew 10:16.

Simon


Dear Friends

After a wonderfully reflective Advent Carol Service at St Nick’s on Sunday evening I thought I would share with you another Advent poem. This one, entitled ‘The Bridegroom Cometh’ is by Christina Rossetti (1830-1894). I hope you are all able to find a little quiet time for reflection in the busy run up to Christmas.  

BEHOLD, the Bridegroom cometh: go ye out
With lighted lamps and garlands round about
To meet Him in a rapture with a shout.
It may be at the midnight, black as pitch,
Earth shall cast up her poor, cast up her rich.
It may be at the crowing of the cock
Earth shall upheave her depth, uproot her rock.
For lo, the Bridegroom fetcheth home the Bride:
His Hands are Hands she knows, she knows His Side.
Like pure Rebekah at the appointed place,
Veiled, she unveils her face to meet His Face.
Like great Queen Esther in her triumphing,
She triumphs in the Presence of her King.
His Eyes are as a Dove’s, and she’s Dove-eyed;
He knows His lovely mirror, sister, Bride.
He speaks with Dove-voice of exceeding love,
And she with love-voice of an answering Dove.
Behold, the Bridegroom cometh: go we out
With lamps ablaze and garlands round about
To meet Him in a rapture with a shout.

With every blessing
Mother Eileen

28th November 2019

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is fr_simon-3.jpg

Dear Friends

This Sunday we celebrate a new Church year and the beginning of Advent. Please don’t forget our Advent Carol service at 6pm on Sunday evening, we still need a couple of volunteers to serve the mulled wine. In fact we still need volunteers for lots of little jobs over the Advent and Christmas period. We need people to welcome and hand out service sheets, to serve wine and to help with the crib service. Please, please sign up, or let Hayley in the office know.

Our children are busy preparing for their annual nativity on Sunday 15 December at 10.30am. After the service we will hold our annual ‘Pop up’ Christmas Fair. We still need donations of cakes, jams and all sorts of home produce, also bottles for our bottle stall. Janet has put a list up at the back of church please sign up.

Our popular service of 9 Lessons and Carols is at 6pm on Sunday 22 December. Please let David Cresswell or Anne McBride know if you are willing to sing, the more people the merrier. There will be a few rehearsals after church on Sunday starting 8 December.

Simon

21st November 2019

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is fr_simon-3.jpg

Dear Friends

On Sunday we celebrate the feast of Christ the King, the following Sunday is Advent Sunday when we begin a new Church year and begin to look forward to the birth of Christ our Saviour. The feast of Christ the King is relatively recent, proclaimed in 1925 by Pope Pius XI to remind the world of Christ Kingship over all of creation. He did it because he saw an increasing secularisation and wanted to make a statement about the importance of faith and our own faith journeys. Like many good ideas it’s only good if you do something about it. Proclaiming a new Sunday feast is useless if we don’t run with the idea and do something about developing our faith.

Over the Summer months I have written a short Advent guide, huge thanks to Hayley who typed everything out and the Diocese of Bangor, North Wales for allowing me to use some of their material. It’s called Advent landscape. There is a reading, thought and prayer for every day of Advent – do take a copy, it’s free. I hope it will help enrich your Advent journey this year and make Christmas even more meaningful.

Simon

Ps Don’t forget our Advent Carol service on Sunday 1 December at 6pm. It will be a service of music, scripture, poetry and hymns to help reflect on God goodness in the birth of the child Jesus. Still need some more readers,drop me an email to volunteer


Dear Friends

Last Saturday the Very Rev’d Dr David Hoyle was installed as Dean of Westminster Abbey at a suitably grand service. Bishop Sarah was there and said the following prayer which I feel is very appropriate for us all at this present time:

Guide we beseech thee, O Lord, all those to whom is committed the care of this nation; and grant to them at this time special gifts of wisdom and understanding, of counsel and strength; that they may consider all matters calmly in their deliberations, and act wisely and with compassion, upholding what is right, abhorring what is wrong, and performing that which is just, so that in all things thy will may be done; for the sake of Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen

With every blessing

Mother Eileen

14th November 2019

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is fr_simon-3.jpg

Dear Friends

It’s that time of the year again when the church seems especially active. So here are a few pleas and notices for you.

We are desperately in need of new servers, if anybody would like to serve – young or old, please see me. I will provide full training for you. It’s a wonderful way to praise God in his sanctuary and be such a support to the whole Church community. 

Advent is almost upon us, it’s just over two weeks away. We will be holding our annual Advent Carol service on Sunday 1 December at 6pm. This is a quiet and reflective service, it’s a great preparation for the Christmas rush which lies before us. It, hopefully, puts the whole of December into perspective. If anybody would like to read at this service – either a poem or a piece of prose, please get in contact.

Don’t forget Children’s Church annual Nativity which is at 10.30am on Sunday 15 December.
After the service there will be a ‘Pop up’ Christmas Fair. We need cakes, bread, homemade goods, in fact anything we can sell. Please talk to Janet Lucy and look at the notice at the back of church. 

Fr Simon


Dear Friends

We had a marvellous Community Lunch this week, with the theme of Remembrance. It was well attended and we were treated to a delicious meal of roast lamb with rosemary (for remembrance, of course!)  Our thanks go to Anne McBride and her dedicated team of helpers.

Our next gathering will be our Christmas lunch on Wednesday 11th December.

With every blessing

Mother Eileen

7th November 2019

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is fr_simon-3.jpg

Dear Friends

We are now firmly into the season of All Saints. We have united our voices with all the saints and we have prayed for those we love but see no longer. On Sunday at 10.30am we give thanks and pray for those who gave their lives in the service of our freedom. 

On reflection this season might usefully be categorised as the season of those who responded. What is important to note is the fact that these were ordinary people, like you and I.

The Saints responded to God’s call, to a vision which transformed their lives and continues to transform ours. 

We remember those we love but see no longer precisely because they loved us and love creates that secure environment which enables individual flourishing. 

On Sunday, willingly or reluctantly, confidently, or in great fear, we give thanks for those ordinary men and women who died in the service of this nation. In what sometimes sees like an obsessively self-centred world, these people are a check on our direction of thought and travel.

God bless

Fr Simon


Dear Friends

Our thoughts and prayers this week have revolved particularly around the life of this world and the world to come. It reminded me of a poem I read recently entitled ‘Heaven in Ordinary’, reproduced below. It was written by that wonderful priest poet Malcolm Guite and published for general circulation as a foretaste of his latest book of sonnets and other poems ‘After Prayer’ to be launched officially on Friday of this week. I hope you enjoy reading and reflecting on it.

With every blessing
Mother Eileen

Because high heaven made itself so low
That I might glimpse it through a stable door,
Or hear it bless me through a hammer blow,
And call me through the voices of the poor,
Unbidden now, its hidden light breaks through
Amidst the clutter of the every day,
Illuminating things I thought I knew,
Whose dark glass brightens, even as I pray.

Then this world’s walls no longer stay my eyes,
A veil is lifted likewise from my heart,
The moment holds me in its strange surprise,
The gates of paradise are drawn apart,
I see his tree, with blossom on its bough,
And nothing can be ordinary now.

30th October 2019

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is fr_simon-3.jpg

Dear Friends

So it is to be a General Election on Thursday 12 December. Let us hope that whoever wins, wins a working majority, we really do need a government who can get things done. My fervent prayer is for the healing of division in this nation, so I am looking forward to imaginative and compassionate election manifestos from all the political parties – I can but hope.

Last week a group of us shared stories of our relationship with St Simon and Jude, our link parish in Angola, at a meeting of ALMA. It was good to be able to tell people of our journey so far, of the ups and downs, the joys and sorrows. The drought situation continues and I am grateful for all the support this parish has offered to the Nutrition project. I hope to be able to bring you news of its work in a later E-Bulletin.

Appeal – Does anybody have a working piano stool that they could donate to church? Our present piano stool which was donated some years ago, is becoming quite creaky and worn out, the noise of it rather detracts during a performance, we would like a quieter model! If you can help please let me know.

On Sunday we celebrate the feast of All Saints at 10.30am and we pray for and remember the Souls of our loved ones departed this life at 6pm Sunday evening. If you would like a departed loved one prayed for at this service please write their name on the sheet at the back of church.

Simon

22nd October 2019

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is fr_simon-3.jpg

Dear Friends

I have just returned from my annual retreat, which for the last four years I have taken at the Friary of the Society of Saint Francis, Alnmouth, Northumberland. The combination of open space and a religious house is perfect for getting away from it all. In the past I have taken my retreat in various locations, either alone, or with others. What is vital is that my time away is spent in an environment immersed in prayer and with a daily prayerful structure. At Alnmouth the community prays together at 7am, 12noon, 5pm and 9pm. There is a daily mass after noon prayers at 12.15am. I’m always struck by something new and this year, I think for the first time, I was very conscious of just how slowly and prayerfully we recited the psalms. It was like a brake being applied, it felt a bit awkward at first, I recognised an impatience in myself which wanted to move things along, but after the first day I relaxed into the routine, and what a difference. The psalms are a treasury of lived human experience in relationship with God. To recite the psalms so slowly, is to be immersed in each word, or phrase, it was a wonderful experience. Try it.

I know this is rather belated, but Happy Birthday to Ruby who two weeks ago celebrated her 101 birthday!

Simon


Dear Friends

I have recently returned from a pilgrimage to Romania which has been a wonderful experience, the highlight being visits to the painted monasteries in the north of the country. Their most unusual feature is that they have paintings on their outside walls as well as inside, being mostly protected from the elements thanks to large, overhanging roofs. In the Romanian Orthodox tradition a combination of words and images is the main way of communicating the Christian faith. 

I attach two photos of the painted monastery at Voronet, considered to be ‘The Sistine Chapel of the Orient’ erected by Stefan the Great in 1488, with the exterior walls being painted in 1547. One photo gives an overall view of the church, surrounded by the monastic buildings. The other is a photo of the western wall on which is painted the Icon of the Last Judgement, a meditation on the meaning of our existence in this life and in the life to come. 

After travelling hundreds of miles round Romania, it was good to be back in London in time to celebrate the Grand Re-opening of the Upper Room last Thursday. This wonderful charity which works with socially and economically disadvantaged people from some of the most deprived areas of London, and which St Nick’s supports, has reached another milestone in its development. It has just completed a new mezzanine floor which will incorporate its Hub for the Homeless project, enabling it to expand the wonderful range of support it already offers. We wish them every success in this exciting venture!

With every blessing

Mother Eileen