Letter from the Clergy – July 2017

‘You fathers – if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! So if you rebellious people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.’ (Jesus’ words from the Gospel of Luke 11:11)

Summertime is here! We’re looking forward to our holiday in Scotland with our two Manchester Terriers. The younger one, just a year old now, has had a few problems – a nervous puppy. But usually he’s a happy, bounding boy. To be honest, we’ve been quite worried about his nervous behaviour and recently took him to a marvellous local dog trainer, someone who knows a great deal more than us and younger than I am. Now our young dog has more confidence and is settling down nicely with everyone, including other dogs. Now he can hardly wait to meet and greet them and play. We knew the brilliant success rate our dog trainer had but we didn’t think it would work for us. Still, we took heed of the dog trainer’s advice persevering with the new approach and as a result can’t wait to enjoy both dogs company as we explore beaches, lakes, woods and mountains!

As the years have passed I am not only (a little!!!) older but wiser too. I find it so much easier to take advice and guidance from those who know more than I do and yes that does sometimes mean sacrificing my autonomy – well, just a bit of it – to have a better, more fulfilled, life.

The anticipation of the holiday and my natural desire to be totally in charge of my own life reminded me of my walk with God. In the book of 1 Timothy chapter 4 we are reminded that there is much wisdom that can be taught to us by the young. And the book of Proverbs is full of advice to the young about the loving and wise guidance of those older than us – and it reminds the older wiser person to respect the young too. There is always someone wiser than us around; sometimes they’re younger than us, sometimes they are older. If we choose not to listen to them, we’re the losers and life will be harder to live and to enjoy.

God wants us to be happy! He wants us to have life in its fullness and to encounter him in and through Jesus Christ our Saviour and God. Sometimes we don’t see that the choices he gives us don’t mean losing out or being trapped; it means realising our own potential and being free to live enriched lives and enriching the lives of those we love. As we become older and more self aware, and more trusting, we can realise the plethora of resources that other people have and want to share with us and it’s easier to accept advice and share our wisdom too – life becomes better for everyone. The same is true when we encounter God in Jesus Christ and in one another. Life is richer, better, when we follow the commandment that Jesus gave us. ‘This is my commandment: Love one another as I have loved you.’ (John 15:12)

Meg Kirby

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Letter from the Rector – February 2017

Dear Friends

As many of you know this will be a year of change for me and for the Hermitage Team as I shall be retiring as Team Rector at the end of April; clergy are required to retire at 70 and I am not quite there yet but this is the right time for me. Perhaps only the doctrine of the Trinity is more puzzling to parishioners than the way in which the Church of England handles vacancies – so here is a brief explanation of the vacancy procedure, not the mystery of the Trinity! In January the process of consultation started with churchwardens, PCCs and Team Council members and Revd Luci Morriss is co-ordinating that with plenty of advice and support from our Area Dean – Revd Mark Bennet, our Parish Development Advisor – Revd Catharine Morris, Bishop Andrew and Venerable Olivia Graham, the Archdeacon. Together they will compile a Parish Profile for all the Team churches, a job description and a person specification for the post of Team Rector. This is not just an administrative task, it is also importantly a matter of prayer and discernment about the needs of our communities in the future years. “More of the same” is not the answer, because that is to look back to the past rather than plan and build for the future. Once all that work is done there will be advertising the post, interviews and recruitment – how long will that whole process take? as long as it needs to for the right person to be appointed. In the meantime our excellent Team of clergy and lay ministers will ensure that Sunday and weekday services happen, and that people can be married, buried and baptised, and work in local schools maintained.

During a vacancy a great deal is asked of our churchwardens, lay ministers and PCC members and it is very important that they do not find themselves overwhelmed by all that needs to be done and considered – they are all working in the church as volunteers and have busy work and family lives. We have a number of practical tasks with which we need some help in Holy Trinity and you will find a section titled ‘Can you give some help?’ further on in this magazine (page 10), please do not turn the page when you come to it.

Quite helpfully in parallel with what the parishes will be doing is the preparation that Christopher and I personally are involved in; we have a house in Wash Common in which we have had tenants during my thirteen years in stipendiary ministry and we are making detailed plans for the future there – some work in the house and the garden to create the home we want for our future years, not to put things back to exactly where they were when we moved out! We have experts – plumber, builder, carpenter and tree surgeon – to advise and assist us, just as the people of the Hermitage Team have Bishop Andrew and senior clergy to help you, and the pattern of open discussion, careful listening, a shared vision for the task and mutual trust is equally important in both situations to achieve the desired outcome. Have I just compared our wonderful Area Bishop to a plumber? Retirement is obviously a necessary step! So all round there are things that need to be changed, restyled, refreshed and new ideas to be embraced; it may be a job description in one place and a decision about tiles and carpets in the other, but altogether the watchwords should be careful consideration and excitement at new possibilities.

This year Ash Wednesday falls on 1 st March and the start of the season of Lent is a good time to look at our priorities, our life balance and our faith expressed in words and actions. You will find information about the Lent Course that will be offered in the Team and about other opportunities for reflection and study; I hope that something there will engage your interest.

God has for us a preferred and promised future, rooted in his love and mercy; change is a means of growth and new life; let us welcome 2017 with confidence and work together to hear God’s will for us all.

with love and prayers

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Letter from The Rector – September 2016

Dear Friends


This September marks the beginning of the ministry of the Rt. Revd. Steven Croft as Bishop of Oxford, and a new era for the diocese after a two year period in which Bishop Colin Fletcher has done an excellent job as Acting Bishop of Oxford and several important senior appointments have been made in the diocese. Bishop Steven has asked that his letter of introduction should be made available as widely as possible, and that letter is attached below.


We are offered the opportunity to meet our new diocesan bishop at Reading Minster on Wednesday 5th October at7.45 pm, this service, followed by refreshments, is open to all parishioners and those who would like to be there are asked to reply to bishopreading@oxford.anglican.org by 24th September. Perhaps anyone planning to attend would kindly copy their RSVP to me at rita.e.ball@btinternet.com and it may then be possible to arrange some car sharing, or the train is a good option as the Minster is quite close to Reading Station.


Please continue to pray for Bishop Steven, all our senior staff and the people of this diocese as together we begin a new stage of the journey.



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Letter from the Rector – June 2016

Dear Friends

In recent days I have had two very different but linked conversations; one with someone who has just completed an eight day silent retreat based on the Ignatian exercises,  and the other with someone who was expressing a wish to spend some time in an ashram exploring a simpler way of life.  Both people making a decision to step away from their normal daily life, not as an escape but in order to engage more fully with those matters they see as important for themselves and for those with whom they live and work.  Sometimes it is very useful to do something entirely different in order to increase our understanding of the things we do all the time -“stepping outside our comfort zone” so that we can gain a new perspective.  Modern technology, mobile phones, tablet computers, mean that often we take all of ordinary life with us all the time and everywhere,  and find it increasingly hard to stand back and take a longer view, or even stand close and look at detail.

A small group of people were encouraged to take a very gentle step in this direction on a recent Tuesday morning when we had a chance to try a combination of prayer and painting, or drawing; as someone who has not done anything artistic for many years I found it a real challenge, and quite scary, certainly outside my comfort zone, but once started it was fascinating, absorbing and rewarding.

You will find in this magazine an article about an Open Door retreat which will be held locally later this year – this will provide a wonderful opportunity to experience the benefits of a retreat without needing to go away from home, do have a look and consider if this might be right for you.

with love and prayers


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Harvest Lunch 2015

Harvest Lunch will be in the new Hermitage Village Hall on Sunday the 4th of October:

12:00 – 2:00 pm

Tickets are still available for a delightful meal at the bargain price of £8 per adult and £4 per child if bought before the 27th of September.
£10 & £5 thereafter.

Contact Jenny Usherwood: 248 969

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Letter from the Rector – September 2015

Dear Friends,

Another summer is coming to an end and another autumn about to begin. Life is abundant with seasons, patterns and rhythms – not just the rhythm of winter spring, summer and autumn; seasons that herald and support the changes in the agricultural year that lead to times of harvest. There are other seasons too that affect our lives – we move through childhood to adolescence, then to adulthood and, we hope, maturity that brings experience and wisdom which can be harvested and shared with others.

During our lifetime we learn that the fastest road to exhaustion and burnout is to go against the natural rhythms and seasons of life and go our own way just a little too much. The beginnings and endings of events, occasions and the natural ebb and flow of life present us with opportunities to enjoy, and learn from, as we go along the varying seasons of our lives. There are times of activity and energy, times to learn and nurture, a time to relax and go with the flow, and times to fade.

Yet the pace and challenges in our world today often demand that we ignore the reality that we are natural creatures and as such are affected by life’s seasons, patterns and rhythms. Often we can feel driven to comply with those contrary expectations and demands. But we do so at great personal risk. In short, our quality of life becomes impoverished, and we may run on ‘empty’ for quite a while before we realise what is going on. The expectations and demands of ourselves, and from others, often drives out the balance required by body, soul and spirit and we are gradually depleted and diminished.

It’s not a new experience. Wise people have always known that the continual rhythm of seasons, beginnings and endings are there to remind us that the whole person is created to live in harmony with creation. And that’s the way we have been made by God, to be part of the whole of creation, something beautiful and unique and the seasons of life are to be embraced if we want to remain healthy and whole in body, mind and spirit. When they are embraced life can make more sense, be more mysterious and puzzling, be sweeter, be more challenging, and often, more fulfilling. A passage from the book of Ecclesiastes reminds us of this and invites us to take stock of our lives and the harvest we can benefit from personally and share with others; it begins, ‘for everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven’. The passage can be found in Ecclesiastes chapter 3 verses 1-15.

Rev Meg Kirby

Associate Priest

Yattendon and Frilsham

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Letter from the Rector – July 2015

Revd Rita Ball has invited Revd Dr Simon Thorn to write the letter for this edition


Oh no! not another bag to trip over, another heel trodden on. It seems there’s no escape. Go to Blackpool, Bournemouth or Benidorm, or take a trip into Oxford, London or Venice, and you’ll find yourself trapped in a swarm of people.

Sometimes you might as well be on a commuter train or in a department store lift. A day of trying not to bump into people, of watching your back and struggling to block out the incessant background noise is exhausting. Holidays don’t seem to be relaxing anymore. Travel chaos and oppressive crowds are not what you need when you’re trying to recharge your batteries.

But, it needn’t be so; with just a little more effort, you can walk further along the beach, away from the car park. You can take a detour down a side street or find a less-hyped attraction. Then you’ll find some peace. It might be a distant sand dune or woodland. It might be a picturesque castle estate off the beaten track or a secluded church tucked away from the main town square.

In this age of 24-hour news, instant global communication and the seven-day working week, it’s difficult to switch off. It seems everybody is demanding your attention all of the time. This isn’t just a 21st century problem of modern living. Jesus often found himself surrounded by crowds clamouring for his attention. He was frequently bombarded with questions by his disciples.

The Gospels tell us that after these exhausting encounters, when he needed to think and to pray, Jesus withdrew from the crowds to a deserted place: sometimes a hilltop or the other side of a lake. It was after one such occasion when he had been praying alone, that his disciples asked him to teach them how to pray, and he gave them what we now call the Lord’s Prayer: Our Father in heaven.

Try it for yourself. Escape the crowd. Find a quiet place, be still and listen. Without the constant pressure and distractions, you can open yourself to God’s voice and find the deep peace you need.

The Revd Dr Simon Thorn

Dean of Winchester College Chapel,  Associate Priest Hermitage Parish

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Letter from the Rector – June 2015


Dear Friends

The letter this month comes from Revd Tony Lynn, more than a year after his retirement as Team Vicar. It is good to hear his news, I am sure you will agree.


From our Former Team Vicar

Some years ago, when I retired from the Hermitage Team, you were very generous. You gave me many wonderful gifts, as well as a handsome cheque. It took some time to decide how that money should be spent. Borage (remember him?) was all for food, biscuits, more food and edible treats. When I saw an advertisement for a pilgrimage to the Holy Land led by the former Bishop of Oxford, I knew that that was what I should do. Now I am back, after an exhausting but truly wonderful and revealing time.

The Bishop (“Call me ‘John’”, but no one did!) took us to so many special sites that, just now, I’m still reeling to think that I walked where Jesus walked. Possibly most special was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee. It was quiet, peaceful, the water lapped the pebbly shore making, surely, that gentle, comforting sound that Jesus himself will have heard. Something of a contrast with being on the Sea itself. We gathered on a boat like so many tourists before; then the union flag was hoisted, the National Anthem was played, and we stood to attention! Bizarre! It was, I suppose, a somewhat tourist-y event. In Jerusalem itself, which was not too awash with other visitors, we could sense the special-ness of the places: all those sites so familiar from the Bible stories. Sites which I’ve read about, mentioned in sermons and talks, and right there! From Bethlehem to Nazareth and on to Jerusalem.

But there was another side of the Holy Land which we witnessed. Most afternoons, we heard from Palestinians about their plight. We discovered that, if you were resident in  a refugee camp (flats not tents), you had just 12 seconds of the doctor’s time to describe your ailment. Palestinians have to keep their curtains and shutters closed at all times if they overlook the homes of settlers. And you can easily tell which is the home of a Palestinian: it has a water tank on top because the authorities frequently turn off the water supply. All the Palestinians we met asked that we pass on their story. In humility, sadness, and in solidarity with them, I am doing just that right now. The Wall of Separation built within living memory by the Israelis is a cruel and very visible sign of a repression and fear that, surely, cannot be sustained.

One extraordinary oddity was our final stop: coffee at an All-American diner, dedicated to Elvis Presley. The place was filled with him: life-size statues, wall-paintings, and his songs on the radio! And, on leaving, you are given the Elvis mug in which your coffee was served! That souvenir now stands alongside the small wooden cross which we were given to carry down the Via Dolorosa (the route Jesus took in Jerusalem to the Cross), and a tiny dove given by the Palestinian guide we had (a reminder of his desire to live amicably alongside all others).

Those items cannot hope to express all I felt, experienced, enjoyed, endured, loved during that Pilgrimage. A stunning, overwhelming trip to the Holy Land, made possible by you. Thank you again.

And, surprisingly enough, there was enough money left over to buy Borage a biscuit !  So he thanks you, too!

The Reverend Tony Lynn  revtonylynn@btinternet.com

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Holy Week 2015 in the Hermitage Team Churches

On March 29th – Palm Sunday – there will be services at Compton, Hermitage and Yattendon at 9.30 and at Cold Ash and Hampstead Norreys at 11.00.
Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week, palm crosses are blessed and distributed and we recall Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem greeted by cheering crowds.

On Monday at Yattendon, Tuesday at Hampstead Norreys and Wednesday at Cold Ash we meet at 7.30 in the evening to walk through the events of this special week; each evening will have its own particular emphasis and provide a reflective space at the end of the day.

On Maundy Thursday there will be services at 7.30 in the evening at Compton, Hermitage, Hampstead Norreys and Yattendon as we remember the Last Supper when Jesus took bread and blessed and broke and shared it telling his disciples  “do this to remember me”.  This day has a solemn ending and you may wish to stay and pray recalling Jesus’ own vigil of prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane.

On Good Friday there will be a service in Compton church followed by an event in the Village Hall; a simple service at 11.00 at Cold Ash; then at 2.00 at both Frilsham and Hermitage there will be music and words focused on the crucifixion.

Easter Sunday is the great feast of the Christian church  – we rejoice in new life, the victory of love over death, of joy after despair.   There is an outdoor sunrise service at Compton and then 9.30 in church, services at 8.00 at Cold Ash and Frilsham;  at 9.30 at East Ilsley and Hermitage;  at 11.00 at Cold Ash, Hampstead Norreys and Yattendon.  Our churches are filled with flowers, bells will ring and young and old will gather together to sing and celebrate.

Our Holy Week pattern of services has slightly changed from recent years, providing Maundy Thursday services in four churches, rather than one service for the whole Team.  We hope that this will provide more people with an opportunity to worship on that significant day.  There will be a Team Eucharist on Sunday 26th April at 11.00 at St Mark’s Cold Ash when Bishop Andrew will celebrate and preach as the climax of the 150th anniversary of the founding of St Mark’s church.

May the joy and peace of Easter fill your hearts and homes and flow out from our churches this year.

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Messy Church – 28th March

Fun, Activities, Tea and Celebration for Easter At Hermitage Church from 3pm.

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