I survey the wondrous Cross,
On which the Prince of glory died’
We are drawing ever closer
to Good Friday, the day when I expect that this hymn will be sung in most of our
churches. We have journeyed through the weeks of Lent, making that journey
together in our times of worship, our times of shared prayer, our times of study
together. We have also made that journey as individuals, as disciples of Christ,
moving through this Lenten period on our own personal journey of faith. Perhaps
we have been able to make a little extra time for God. Perhaps we have been able
to keep up with our Lenten discipline – whatever it was that we set out to do
back in March, on Ash Wednesday, when we set out with such optimism. Possibly we
have failed – I know I have – and have tried to pick ourselves up and get
ourselves back on track, probably with less success than we would like!
The Cross is such a major focus for us during these weeks; that is why we put
up an extra one (the Christmas tree cross) in some of the churches. It is also
why we cover other crosses with veils: to emphasise its significance. As we move
into Holy Week, we go in spirit to Jerusalem, to accompany Jesus through the
final days of his life. We speak of ‘walking with him’ on the way of the cross,
becoming more and more aware of the enormous burden which he carried for us. We
tell ourselves that the times when he falls under the weight of that burden are
like the times when we have fallen from our Lenten discipline. Yet we know that
he will pick himself up again and carry on, moving ever closer towards the place
of execution. The time when ‘the wondrous cross’ will become for us ‘the tree of
As I write this, on the 2nd Sunday of Lent, Good Friday still seems some way
off but the cross has definitely become the strong focus of my Lent journey.
This has been a journey dominated by two world news stories: the earthquake and
tsunami in Japan and the conflict in Libya. Both situations inevitably raise
many questions, not least the questions that we hardly dare form, such as ‘where
was God?’ and ‘why has God let this happen?’ We are perhaps afraid to voice them
because they challenge our faith, which can feel vulnerable and shaky at the
best of times. Now we see the pictures and hear or read about the
heart-wrenching stories and we almost want to cry out, like Jesus, ‘my God, my
God, why have you forsaken me?’ And yet, it is in the very act of making that
cry that we turn back to God. We turn to Him for reassurance. We are drawn back
to the cross, from which Jesus made that cry, and what we see, on that wondrous
cross, is love. Pure, unquestioning and unending love. As the hymn concludes,
‘Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all’.
Our journey through Lent takes us to the Cross and that is where we can take
all our anxieties, all that concerns us, all our failings. We can take all those
things to the Cross and we can leave them there because the Cross is the symbol
of triumph. Jesus Christ has triumphed over sin and death and won for us eternal
life, and so our hymn becomes,
‘Thine be the glory, risen, conquering Son,
Endless is the victory thou o’er death hast won.’
I was most grateful to Fr Michael and Fr Daniel for allowing me to preside at
the Eucharist on the 50th anniversary of my Ordination to the Priesthood which
took place in St Mary’s on February 26th, 1961, and to celebrate the Eucharist
again on the following day, being the anniversary of my first Eucharist. At the
services I explained that Fr Norman Kent, the Vicar, had slipped in the
churchyard and broken his ankle and it proved difficult to find priests to take
the daily Eucharists. There were few active retired priests and NSMs were beings
of the future, so the Bishop agreed to bring my Ordination forward.
I have to say that I was overwhelmed by the number of people who attended the
Saturday Eucharist as well as the numerous cards and good wishes which were
quite unanticipated. One of the delightful features was the number of people
present on the Saturday and Sunday who were at the Ordination in 1961, all of us
looking (ahem!) somewhat older! It all made a most memorable weekend. Thank you.
On Saturday 26th February, about twenty of us gathered at the altar at St
Mary’s Church to celebrate with Fr John Lewis the fiftieth anniversary of his
ordination to the Priesthood. It was a little emotional for me personally
because I was at Fr John’s ordination service. I was privileged to have been at
Fr John’s 40th anniversary celebrations – so here’s to the Diamond! With our
love and best wishes.
McKenzie (and family)
Prestbury URC celebrates 145
During the weekend of 21st-22nd May Prestbury URC will be celebrating their
145th anniversary with exhibitions, open afternoons and a special service.
On Saturday from 1pm to 5pm and on Sunday from 2pm to 5pm the church will be
open as part of the ‘Cotswold Churches Festival’. Inside there will an
exhibition of church records, memorabilia and old photographs and the new
Prestbury Local History Society will be in attendance.
On Sunday there will be a special anniversary service at 10.30am which will
be led by the Revd Maz Allen, but the preacher will be one of our previous
ministers, the Revd Glyn Jenkins. Afterwards there will be a celebratory lunch
for our members and invited guests.
On both days we will be serving afternoon teas so we hope that as many of our
friends from St Mary’s and St Nicolas’ as possible will drop in and share in the
Cobalt Unit Fundraising
Sheila Cook has received a letter thanking members of St Mary’s and St
Nicolas’ for everything they do for the Cobalt Unit and its patients. ‘You
are fantastic fundraisers and we really value your support. Together with
others, you have raised thousands and thousands of pounds to help fund our local
cancer work and we need you to keep going!’
There are small blue ‘penny pots’ in a basket on the table in St Mary’s and
in St Nicolas’ vestibule. Please take an empty pot, fill it with pennies or
other coins, and return to Sheila at St Mary’s, or Gillian Jackson at St
Nicolas’, who will send the money to the Cobalt Unit. So far we have donated
£301.17 in this way. Thank you all.
the Meaning of Lent in the Year of the Bible
I did not expect anything except good company when I went to Professor Andrew
Lincoln’s talk on 13th February. I didn’t have any expectations of what the talk
would be like, I just thought I would go and see what was happening in the
church next door.
I want to start with the end because the end of the talk tells you a lot
about what is to follow when you listen to it. When questions were asked for
there was silence. Deep truths had been uncovered, and as I listened to people
during coffee they were buzzing about how to formulate their questions, so lack
of ammunition was not the reason. Something had stirred in the depths, I suspect
for each one of us. Stillness is the beginning of a question that grapples, the
first step of an important search.
If you want to see what caused the stillness you can read
Andrew’s talk on this
website, but in the meantime I thought it would be useful to share some
reflections and start a conversation.
Andrew explored with us how ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul and with all your strength’ (Deut 6:4,5) helped Jesus
through his temptation in the wilderness. Reflect on what this means in relation
to God’s promises and what it means to trust in God and how we can find both
faith and reason to trust in God through the Bible.
Can you see how God is working in your life? It is not easy at times but ask
to see and watch… For me the easiest way to do this has been to do what Jesuits
call a ‘review of the day’. It is what we do naturally before we sleep or when
we wake, looking back through the events of the day; try to do it prayerfully
seeing where God has been at work.
The more we participate in what God is doing in our lives, through living out
our baptismal vows, the more we reflect the relationship between the Father and
the Son, between God and Jesus.
Life gives us ‘wilderness’ time which slows us down, makes us watch where we
are going and look closer for the way ahead because it is unfamiliar territory.
Together as Church we face unfamiliar ground, an adventure, if we enter it
fully; despite the cost of moving into what feels like unknown territory we will
grow. All God wants is for us to listen, discover and act. God does not see
success and failure in the same way we sometimes do. Strive to be who we are
called to be, encourage new growth, and God, I have found, will meet us more
Compline during Lent
As part of our provision of daily prayer in Lent, this year there will be a
simple service of silent prayer followed by sung Compline at St Mary’s Prestbury
on Tuesday evenings. Silent prayer begins at 8.30pm, and Compline will begin at
9.00pm. You are welcome to both or either.
Update from Robin Denney
Abridged from Robin’s most recent email.
As we begin the season of Lent, I pray that for each of you it may be a time
of reflection and renewal. It seems like ages ago that I set out on this
journey. I remember the excitement of that time, looking forward to the work and
getting to know the place and the people, and I am glad to say that my time in
Sudan has more than exceeded my expectations. When I started, I agreed to a term
of two years with some flexibility, hoping that at the end of that initial
period the Agriculture Department, which I was asked to establish, would be
ready to stand on its own. I celebrated two years in Sudan at the end of January
this year, and I am happy to say that the Agriculture Department of the
Episcopal Church of the Sudan is in transition to local leadership and
management. My replacement will be hired shortly, and I will be departing Sudan
in April, returning home to California. However, my involvement with Sudan and
the ECS Agriculture Department will not end in April. I will continue to advise
the department and its new leader as I am able by email, and I will return to
Sudan late in the year for several weeks to assist with some training programs.
Through my travels and work in Sudan I have learned so much about the
church’s role in development work. It is quite clear here that being a member of
the Body of Christ is not just something you do on Sunday morning. Our calling
as Christians touches every part of our lives, farming included. Most people who
engage in farming in Sudan feel as though farming is the work that is left over
when they have missed out on every other opportunity. But when the church brings
the message that they are being called by God to be caretakers of the land and
provide for their families and communities it is hard to describe just how much
that understanding changes a person. When you understand a task as a calling
from God, you look for and find the strength and love you need from God to do
it. Your work becomes joyful, challenges become opportunities to rely on God,
and the fruits of your labor multiply.
I want to thank you each for your prayers and encouragement during my time in
Sudan. I ask for your continued prayers for peace in Sudan, as armed conflict in
the border region between north and south has been increasing in the last month.
‘For I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor
things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor
anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God
in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ (Romans 8:38-39)
World Partnership Sunday will be on 8th May.
Thank you all very much for your tremendous response to my request for old
glasses which will go a long way to help the patients of St Luke’s Hospital in
Malawi. These have all been cleaned and I have spent a number of afternoons in
the Eye Department at our hospital checking the prescriptions of the glasses. By
the time you read this all donations received before 24th March will be on their
way to the Malawi hospital in a shipping container organised by the Diocese of
At present (13th March) our living areas are full of medical kit which will
go in the container. We received from GP practices throughout the county items
that they no longer need and are gathering dust in stores. I have been given a
steriliser, an ECG machine on a large stand, numerous BP kits and stethoscopes,
nebulisers and assorted other goods, so St Luke’s Hospital should be able to
improve their services which in some areas are at the level of medical practice
when I qualified some 30+ years ago. I shall see how the equipment is being used
in July when I visit them.
Please keep donating the glasses as I will take them out in my luggage so you
will not have missed the boat.
Communities for today
Have nothing to do with stupid, senseless
controversies; you know they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not
be quarrelsome but kindly to every one, an apt teacher, forbearing, correcting
his opponents with gentleness ...
2 Timothy 2 v 23-24
I recently went to a talk about the Whiteway Colony near Stroud. It was
founded in 1898 by anarchist followers of Tolstoyan Utopian ideals which had
broken away from another Tolstoy community in Essex. Parkland of some forty
acres was purchased along with seeds, tools, materials and provisions. Private
property was shared and the deeds of the land were burnt at the end of a
pitchfork! After initial problems the community prospered as more people were
attracted by freedom from conventional standards to have a plot of land and
build their own houses. A communal hall was built by residents in 1924 and a
swimming pool and school in 1969. The colony is still in existence today, and
residents are aware and proud of its origin. There is still communal use and
maintenance of communal facilities and governance of the community continues to
be done by general meeting of the residents. What I found interesting was that
although one of the early trustees was a Quaker (who translated the World
Classics edition of some of Tolstoy’s philosophical works), formal religion
seemed to play no part in their daily life and the buildings did not include a
specific place of worship. This did not mean there was no reaching out to those
in need. It became a haven for immigrant anarchists, Conscientious Objectors and
refugees from the Spanish Civil War. It was one of the first organisations to
run camps for multi-national groups and to initiate co-operative ventures (such
as Prothero’s Bakery).
Co-incidentally at the same time I was reading an article in New Fire
(a quarterly journal of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist, which sadly is
no longer published) by Sister Aelred Mary on ‘Communities – Old and New’. In
this she assesses the value of ‘alternative’ communities – communities which are
concerned in working out a different form of life from the rather hectic,
rat-race consumerism most of us endure as being part and parcel of First World
society. As a Benedictine nun the society she describes is, of course, very
different from Whiteway. It is, she records, a typical Benedictine balance of
prayer and work, framed worship together in the chapel, interspersed with
periods for work or relaxation. Although it is highly structured she sees it as
allowing greater freedom than might be apparent. Discipline itself produces a
measure of freedom, enhanced by spiritual freedom, space for God. She is aware
that the future for such traditional communities is uncertain and thinks they
should do well to look at ‘alternative’ communities and recognise that absolute
certainty in a future is not necessarily a good thing. Although she was not
considering communities like the Whiteway Colony nonetheless her conclusion that
other forms of community have something to learn from each other remains valid
and relevant to us.
Then at Evening Prayer we were reading the letters of Timothy and the
attempts by Paul to build a community of faith under difficult circumstances.
Since even our community here in Prestbury is not immune from controversy, the
Letters Paul wrote to Timothy are still pertinent and worth our study, if only
to re-enforce the need for compassion, tolerance and prayer in our life