Letter from the Vicar – December 2017

Dear Friends,

So this year it’s Paddington softening the heart of a hapless villain verses something mysterious under the bed, as Marks & Spencer and John Lewis respectively compete to define Christmas 2017*.

I wonder as I watch these ads and get drawn towards beautiful Christmas images in glossy magazines, if we’ve lost confidence in our own version of Christmas and look to someone else to create it for us?

I wonder if our expectations are now so great, that we don’t trust ourselves to deliver the sort of Christmas the world tells us we should have. May be we need to be courageous and discover for ourselves what is at the heart of our Christmas?

So, what will be at the heart of your Christmas this year? It may, like this one, be a mixed list…

  • The company of family and friends
  • Warm hospitality
  • Giving and the joy of receiving
  • Family tensions
  • Rituals and stories particular to you and your family
  • Feeling alone
  • A rare opportunity to relax, unwind and rest
  • Faith
  • Wonder
  • A lot of time spent driving around the country
  • Laughter

Everyone’s list will be unique and with each ingredient expressed in a different way. If we decide to define our own Christmas, it means we and our families no longer need to try and fit neatly into the ‘perfect family’ box, we can be real about who we are … doesn’t that already sound more relaxing?!

Christmas is rooted in a story that defied convention. A king was born in a stable. His first visitors were social outcasts. Some of his earliest worshippers weren’t priests of his own religion, but foreigners who’d predicted his arrival through the stars.

The story of Jesus’ birth reminds us that we don’t need to feel under pressure to conform (at Christmas or at any other time!). We, and our families, are as we are for a reason and that’s okay.

So, if you have five minutes between tackling things on your Christmas to do list, why not use the space below to list a few ingredients to your Christmas; nobody else’s, just yours. Give thanks for the good bits and ask for God’s help with the rest.

However you spend your Christmas, may it be filled with peace and joy.

Revd Luci Morriss
*Christmas adverts for other companies are available!

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A letter from the Hermitage Ministry Team

Dear friends,

November is a month full of remembrance. We begin with celebration of all the lives of the Saints past and present. I am sure that each one of you have known someone who you would call a saint. So why do we remember them? Saints are remembered for their life of generous service to their fellow man. They may have encountered hardship and freely given this service in work and devotion to God.

We commemorate Remembrance Day and wear a poppy and stand to remember those of our Armed Forces who died in the Great Wars and since. On the Remembrance Sunday here is Hermitage we are graced to see members of the Armed Forces attend with the uniformed organisations. We stand with them to remember those that paid the ultimate price for our freedom. Jesus said, ‘No one has greater love than to lay his life down for one’s friend. This year the battle of Passendale was remembered. When many soldiers lost their lives on the first day. The trouble is it is not just the soldier but the family that is bereaved and a life cut short – A Father, a son, a sweetheart. We remember those that are injured and weeks of healing and rehabilitation that takes place. There have always been wars and conflicts striving for good. We strive for peace in the world which is hard to continue. So let us wear our Poppy with Pride fully enjoying the freedom and the generosity that has been given by these soldiers and becoming like saints to our neighbours and to those whom we work and live with.

God Bless

Margaret Fisher

Licensed Lay Minister

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Harvest Festival

By the time you read this we will be well into – or possibly even past – the Harvest Festival season.

I like Harvest Festivals. Yes, they’re a time to give thanks to God that the crops have been gathered for the coming winter, but given the nature of today’s global economy we are accustomed to being able to go down to the supermarket and buy whatever we want from anywhere in the world pretty much whenever we want it. We don’t live in the middle-ages, when a poor harvest in this country meant famine, starvation and sometimes huge loss of life. We have only to turn on the news to know that even today there are parts of the world where this is still very much a reality. So we thank God for what we have. It can be shared.

But the reason I really think I like Harvest Festivals is the tradition, the history, and the little bits of paganism sneaked in! The corn dollies, the bonfires, the wicker statues; the Church Services with good old belt-‘em-out hymns and offerings to the altar, once passed on to the poor of the parish but these days donated to the food bank. The harvest suppers and feasting, barn-dances and entertainment. Even when I was a kid I remember taking a basket of fruit and a couple of tins in for harvest assembly at school (they were donated to a local old people’s home where I was, In London.)

Back in Jesus’ time they had a harvest festival. It was called “Pentecost”, and these days it’s remembered chiefly for being the day God sent his Holy Spirit to the disciples thus forming the Christian church. It’s come down to us as “Whitsun”, presumably from “White Sunday” denoting the colour of Altar cloths used for the celebration. But the Holy Spirit didn’t come just once, a flying visit which we use up until it comes again. Like our global supermarket economy, the produce is there to be used at any time. The spirit dwells in Christians, and the harvest it produces, the fruits of the Spirit, are listed in the Bible by St. Paul (Apostle, letter-writer and former enemy of the Christian Church.) They are, he says, “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians Chapter 5, Verses 22-23.) These really are things worth having, are likely to last a mite longer than a can of Alphabetti Spaghetti and are unlikely to be affected by Brexit. Oh yes, and they’re free…

Happy Harvest

Dave Hawkins

Compton Churchwarden

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Vacancy for Team Rector – Hermitage Team

The Hermitage Team is a benefice of seven varied rural parishes, which:

  • vary in nature from dormitory to agricultural to 21st century suburban
  • are outward facing in mission and engaged in Partnership for Missional Church
  • are working towards a greater sense of Team identity
  • have close links with the schools and other parts of our expanding communities
  • are located around the M4/A34 Junction in West Berkshire

We are looking for a Rector who will help us define our true vision and identity, who will take pastoral responsibility for two of the larger parishes.  Are you up for the challenge?

For further information on this vacancy, please see the vacancy listed on the diocesan website.

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  Letter from a Licensed Lay Minister – All Things New

A year ago, the Rt Revd, Steven Croft began his ministry as the new Bishop of Oxford.  

Since his inauguration in September 2016 in Christchurch cathedral, he has travelled across Oxford Diocese in a series of Deanery Days to get to know and to listen to the whole diocese.

His visit to Newbury Deanery took place on 4th July, the aim being to engage with lay people and clergy and to get to know the wider community as well as the church.

He arrived at St Mark’s church Cold Ash late morning, where he led clergy in a Eucharistic service and then joined them for lunch in the Fisher Room. The afternoon saw him in Hampstead Norreys Community cafe, meeting members of the newly formed dementia awareness group. After an early evening meal in Compton meeting with more lay people, he was whisked into Newbury to meet parishioners invited from the whole of the Deanery, to share refreshments, introduce himself, give a talk and answer questions.

He began with two questions-

  • What is your vision for the church in this diocese as we look ahead together? and
  • What are we therefore called to do together?

His answer was based on The Beatitudes in Matthew 5, beginning with ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit’, who know their need of God, making the point that we cannot live as we are called to without God. Moving through the passage, he had a deep thought for each verse.  The overall message was that the church should be a growing church and more Christ-like.

(The whole talk can be found on St. Nic’s website.  www.st-nics.org  (Home page, under ‘Recent Sermons’, Dr Steven Croft, 04/07/2017).
Bishop Steven is to attend a Summit to be held from 14th to 18th September in Kimberley South Africa for all parishes in Oxford Diocese, who have a link with a parish in SA. Each link in both Dioceses is to send two representatives. Newbury Deanery is linked with the church of St Michael and All Angels in Batlharos and two people from the Deanery are preparing for the visit. A conference of this nature has not happened before, so this is a new venture. The theme is similar to Bishop Steven’s vision, ‘Journeying together within the Body of Christ’. It will be a time to learn more about each other and to share prayer, experiences and reflection on key areas of mission and a chance to review where we are and to look towards the future.

Will you please pray for the success of this Summit?


Wendy Willoughby-Paul

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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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