What is your image of Christmas? if you needed to describe Christmas to someone with whom you did not share a language then how would you begin to do that? For television advertisers food seems to be the answer, lots of festive fare and slim healthy people eating it, or maybe a whole array of this season’s toys and gadgets delivered by a smiling Santa; perhaps a family gathered round a beautifully decorated Christmas tree, or a garland of holly and candles is more your ideal Christmas picture. All these things, including sending Christmas cards that depict them, are part of our traditional Christmas celebrations but they are all the results of Christmas and not its origins. The first picture of Christmas is a new-born baby, a boy, closely swaddled to keep him warm and secure against the cold of the night, in a bed made of a cattle trough closely packed with hay in a place set aside as a winter stable for the animals. There is joy in that picture, great joy and wonder, as greets the safe birth of any first-born child; there is hope and anxiety, there is humanity and a deep sense of love and the closeness of God.
At some time during December you will encounter this image of Christmas, perhaps on a card you receive or send, at a school nativity play, or in the crib set up in church on Christmas Eve. Perhaps you might take time to really look at the picture, not just a fleeting glance but a long gaze, and think about how you would add words to explain why this is the image which expresses Christmas, and if your own words fail you then you can borrow words from Cecil Frances Alexander:
Once in royal David’s city
stood a lowly cattle shed,
where a mother laid her baby
in a manger for his bed:
Mary was that mother mild,
Jesus Christ her little child.
He came down to earth from heaven
who is God and Lord of all,
and his shelter was a stable,
and his cradle was a stall;
with the poor and mean and lowly
lived on earth our Saviour holy.
May you all have a peaceful, joyful and blessed Christmas and a happy and hopeful New Year.
love and blessings
Sheep have scattered to different venues around Hermitage and Curridge. (12) We need to know the names of 11 of them by 22nd December when all the sheep will be gathered in. There will be a prize draw for all completed entry forms which are available from Hermitage Church. The prize draw takes place at the Christmas Crib Service at 3.p.m. on Christmas Eve.
Messy Church at the W.I. Hall Curridge on Saturday 30th November at 3 – 5 for all the family. Activities Food and celebration on the Christmas Story.
November is for many of us a time for looking back, for memories of past events, and for recalling family members and friends who have died, perhaps attending an annual memorial service in one of the local churches.
This year also for the churches and people in the Hermitage Team it is a time for looking forward to the New Year when we shall welcome Revd Luci Heyn as the new Team Vicar. Luci is currently with the parishes of Goring, Streatley and South Stoke and will be licensed to our parishes on 23rd January 2014. Luci will live in the Vicarage in Compton and we shall ensure that she gets to know the local area, schools and churches as quickly as possible; obviously as she is now living fairly locally she has some knowledge of this part of Berkshire so will soon feel at home I hope. It has been a great delight in the past weeks as different people have heard about Luci’s appointment, to hear lots of very enthusiastic comments from a whole range of people about her talents and the ministry she has developed in her present parishes.
This is a busy time of year as people prepare for Christmas, it is also a time that many people find difficult as the days shorten and people are less inclined to go out to visit and those who are largely housebound feel increasingly alone and isolated; it can also be a hard time for families who are apart or who are struggling financially and find all the pre-Christmas commercialism and celebrations difficult to handle. Through November the Church keeps the Kingdom season, weeks in which we think about Jesus Christ as Lord of all creation; Kingdom season ends with the feast of Christ the King and then the season of Advent begins and days of preparation for the great festival of Christmas. Through November and December we are invited to become more aware of the needs, and the wonder, of the world around us and to re-examine how we live, reflecting on what we might do better, or not at all, and those things which we have neglected.
So a time of remembering, reflecting, and realigning our lives with God’s will for us as we recall the daily privilege of being citizens of His Kingdom.
With prayers and blessings
Those were the words of a chorus I learnt many years ago and they are almost a direct quotation from Hebrews chapter 13 verse 8: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever”. However our daily experience is that change is a frequent and unavoidable aspect of our lives, sometimes for the good – the baby boy we could hold in two hands becomes in twenty short years a young man a full head taller than we are and able to lift us up – and sometimes change is loss – the partner or friend with whom we have had such great conversations is rendered speechless by a stroke or profound deafness. October is a month of change; the trees and gardens and fields around us are taking on their autumn colours, the mornings are chill and misty, after an evening meeting the way home is dark and somehow unfamiliar.
Here in the Hermitage Team parishes we are in a time of change; Rev’d Tony Lynn, well known and well loved here for the past ten years, has retired and is moving away and we are waiting to announce the appointment of a new Team Vicar who will come to live in Compton, and waiting to engage with the process of recruiting a house for the duty priest to live in Yattendon and work in the Team churches and with those working and living at Denison Barracks.
How do we cope with change? Do we pretend not to see it is happening and hope it will go away if ignored? Do we embrace change with enthusiasm, sure it will solve all our problems? Do we get grumpy with those who take a different approach from our own? Perhaps I can recommend a ‘harvest’ approach – without the cutting off and ‘death’ of one crop there is no seed for the next sowing. All around us we see the rich pattern of the changing seasons and we rejoice because we trust the natural cycle of sowing, growing, fruiting, harvest – can we discern the same pattern in our own lives and in our churches and our relationships and communities, all set against the cosmic backdrop of the God who is faithful, unchanging in his love and mercy?
“God of grace, as you are ever at work in your creation,
so fulfil your wise and loving purpose in us
… that your glory may be revealed and the whole earth give praise to you.”
with love and blessings
Have you noticed how quiet it is these days on a Sunday morning? Possibly not – we usually don’t notice things that are not there – but some of you may have realised that the church bell has not rung before the service for the past few weeks. Sadly something has broken, or become dislodged, in the bell hanging mechanism and we need to have the problem investigated and mended; this means scaffolding to get the bell down and again to reinstall it . So please will you help us by being alert when you are near the church to any obstruction on the paths, and for anyone or anything which causes concern about the security of the building. If you can be our eyes and ears while this work is undertaken that will be a great help, and later we might want to ask if you might be generous friends of your parish church when we know just how much this repair will cost. Update next month.
Another longer-term project in our church building is to refurbish the Adelaide Room, particularly by modernizing the kitchen provision and for that we shall be seeking grants and doing some fundraising, as well as welcoming individual donations. The recent quinquennial report on the building from our architect was good and he commended the quality of the work that has been done in the past five years, but like all good householders we need to be vigilant and keep up with all necessary maintenance and improvements that will keep the church building in that good condition for present and future users.
Perhaps you are thinking that all of that is very practical and not very spiritual for a letter from your local priest? We do not live life in compartments – God on Sundays and not for the rest of the week – the life on earth of Jesus is the clearest possible sign that God is part of every part of our daily living. The Word made flesh, the incarnation, all those things we reflect on at Christmas are “not just for Christmas but for life” and as we seek wholeness of living, an integrated balanced life, so also we find holiness and happiness.
With all blessings
For many, homelessness is sadly a fact of life!
In order to raise funds to alleviate the problems caused by this distressing situation
‘TONY will be ‘DOSSING-DOWN’
in Hampstead Norreys Church Porch
on Friday, 12th July from 10.00pm to 8.00am
Please support him
by visiting him during this night-time vigil
(cocoa or perhaps hot chocolate would be welcome)
but more importantly please
this personal endeavour by completing the sponsorship forms which are in the Village Shops
in Hampstead Norreys and Yattendon
or you can do this direct online at
He aims to raise £1,000 for
Church Action on Poverty – thank you
On Wednesday 5th June Bishop John, the bishop of Oxford, spent most of the day in the Newbury Deanery. He met a large number of the clergy and licensed ministers at a Eucharist and lunch at St Mark’s Cold Ash, made a brief visit to Cold Ash St Mark’s School and visited the areas of the deanery where substantial new housing development is in progress or being planned. In the evening he spoke at an open meeting in St Nicolas Newbury and much of what he said was drawn from his recent book “Living Faithfully”, published by SPCK. His big question is “what do Christians do with the 167 hours in the week when they are not at church?”! In other words how does the local church, the Christian community, have an impact on the community, society and world in which we live. There are many people, some church goers, some not , who make a real contribution to our local community through voluntary work, and to global needs by generous charitable donations – and all the range of activities and involvement that are too numerous to mention. However it is probably true that there is more we could do – and particularly if we make efforts together, and part of the purpose of the local church is to be a focus for that activity where appropriate.
So I hope that you might like to be part of our plans to support the local West Berkshire Food Bank set up by the Trussell Trust and run from a unit at Greenham Common. There is a clearly labelled plastic box inside the church near the font, and lists of the items that are needed on the porch and Fisher Room notice boards. Items left at the church will be taken to the local permanent collection point at the Co-op in Thatcham, and thence will go to the sorting and distribution point. If you can offer any additional help, perhaps in taking the collected items to Thatcham, then please contact me, or if you want to volunteer to help with the other work in the Food Bank look for the details on the website of the Trussell Trust.
Following the G8 summit and as the IF campaign is launched, both looking at the wider issue of feeding the world, perhaps we can play our part by sharing in the local initiative and becoming more aware of the needs, often hidden, of our own communities.
In the month of May this year the Church celebrates the feasts of the Ascension and Pentecost. A capital “C” for Church because these are celebrations for every Christian community and run a ring round the earth proclaiming the sovereignty of God and the new life He pours out on all people. Many of you will recall the times when Ascension Day was at least a half-day holiday for schools and when Pentecost, more commonly called Whitsun – short for White Sunday – marked the beginning of summer with many girls having a new summer dress and new short white socks! I am not sure what the present generation of children would make of those ideas, a rather mixed reaction I expect.
However without a recognition and celebration of Ascension and Pentecost our understanding of both Christmas and Easter are impoverished. Ascension marks the completion of the earthly, time-bound, individual life and ministry of Jesus which began with his birth at Bethlehem, and Pentecost shows us the power of the resurrection, the power that overcame death, released in the world in a new way, working in the lives of an ever-growing number of men and women to bring the good news of God’s love to all people.
In the western world, “old Christendom”, the Church is not “ever-growing” if by that we mean increasing in absolute numbers, but in Africa and Asia many thousands are responding to the good news of God’s love made known through Jesus and Christian churches are growing and flourishing. The instruction of Jesus to make disciples of all nations and the promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit to people of every race are still working their way to completion today, perhaps just out of sight of our daily experience. At this particular point in history when the major denominational groups of Roman Catholics and Anglicans both have a new spiritual leader, Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin Welby, it is good to reflect on the universal Church and the work of the Holy Spirit in all times and places and to remember before God our brothers and sisters in Christ across the world.
May the Holy Spirit bring you joy and peace and assure you of God’s love
Following last night’s Annual Parochial Church Meeting, and the PCC meeting held immediately afterwards, the following people will serve as the churchwardens and PCC officers for 2013.
Church wardens – Jenny Usherwood and Caroline Coopey
Treasurer – Mark FosterSecretary – Bunmi Sowande
The standing committee will consist of all four people listed above, and the chairman of the PCC, Revd. Canon Rita Ball.