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

Posted in Uncategorized

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

Posted in Uncategorized

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

Posted in Uncategorized

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.

Posted in Uncategorized

Messy Church – 28th March

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

Posted in Uncategorized

Mothering Sunday – March 15th

Sunday 15th March


Family Communion

to celebrate

Mothering Sunday

9.30 a.m.

Holy Trinity Hermitage


Posted in Uncategorized

Letter from the Rector – March 2015

“By a pilgrimage of prayer, may we learn to be your people once more”

Dear Friends

The season of Lent  is a journey; we start with Jesus at the Jordan River and move into the wilderness and then on towards Jerusalem; through all of that our ideas, our awareness, our hopes and fears change.  It is a time of preparation for the great Events of Holy Week and Easter, and each year as we follow the pilgrim path we find new companions, new insights, new challenges,  new joys and sorrows.  It is all too easy to take Lent in leaps and bounds – to begin with good resolutions on Ash Wednesday about some new discipline, then to lose focus and find it is already Mothering Sunday and we need to find some extra time and care for family matters, then Palm Sunday approaches and suddenly Easter is upon us and the reflective opportunities of Lent have passed for another year.

A pilgrimage of prayer is one way that we can make a daily journey through Lent; you might want to try saying the Lord’s prayer slowly and carefully each morning and evening or learn by heart and use each day a verse of a psalm:      ” Give me again the joy of your salvation, and sustain me with your gracious spirit” from psalm 51.  Whatever you find that helps you to set your compass each day towards God and brings a moment of quiet.  Prayer is very good for those moments of otherwise empty waiting- for the kettle to boil or the traffic lights to change – recalling the presence of God in the midst of daily living.

The journey Jesus made from Jordan to Jerusalem was not a sustained time of holy quiet; there were meals and conversations and problems to be faced, all in the company of a group of often demanding and argumentative friends.  However if you want a quiet place apart some days, then the churches are open and all are welcome in the house of God.

Travel well and safely,


Posted in Uncategorized

2015 Lent Lunches in and around Hermitage

Friday 27th February – Jill Burgess, Sunnymount, Orchard Close, tel 202478

Thursday 5th March – Rev Rita Ball, The Rectory, High Street, tel 202967

Wednesday 11th March – Phyl Mallet, Oaktree Cottage, Ridgeway Close, tel 200970

Tuesday 17th March – Judith Denny, 1 Sewell Close, Cold Ash, tel 862290

Tuesday 24th March – Dini Hunt, The Rookery, Bucklebury Village, tel 0118 971 2597

Lunches served between 12.00 and 2.00pm.
Please call the hostess beforehand to let her know you’ll be there.
All donations will go to Berkshire Women’s Aid.

BWA provides refuge, support and advice for women and their children affected by domestic violence, sadly still a serious problem for too many (mainly) women of all social backgrounds. BWA also works with male perpetrators and visits schools to raise awareness amongst young people.

Posted in Uncategorized

Letter from the Rector – Feb. 2015

Dear Friends

It seems that the wise men have only just started to ‘make their way home by another way’ when we are
plunged into preparations for Lent and Easter. Perhaps some of you heard Canon Angela Tilby from
Christ Church Oxford speaking on Thought for the Day at the Feast of the Epiphany? She did not actually
make an explicit connection forward to Lent but certainly her explanation of the significance of the gifts
brought by the wise men to Jesus provoked me to think of Lent. She spoke of the Magi as those familiar
with enchantment and who recognised in the Christ child a new power; she interpreted the offering of
gold as a refusal to be dominated by the love or fear of money, of frankincense as a rejection of the cult
of charisma and the power to manipulate of those who are ‘stars’ in modern society, and of myrrh as a
repudiation of all who hold life cheaply and kill casually.

All of those ways of living in the world might require of us a new awareness and a new direction that
would be well suited to the season of Lent. Wise use of our money, thoughtfulness about the power of
money, wise caution about those who are offered as gurus or heroes by the media, and firm opposition to
all who use violence and threats to achieve their aims, including on-line violence.

It has been many people’s traditional practice to ‘give up’ something through Lent, or maybe in more
recent thinking, to take up a new and virtuous practice. There can be great value in both of those
provided that we let the changes we make to our way of life produce an interior change, a change of
heart, for this is where real change begins.

I hope that in our Lent studies this year these are issues we shall be able to explore together as we look at
the Beatitudes – described by Bishop Stephen Cottrell as “probably the most important, subversive and
revolutionary text in the Bible”. As always we begin our keeping of Lent with the flourish of a Pancake
party at the Rectory in Hermitage on Shrove Tuesday – 2.30 to 4.30 – and services on Ash Wednesday –
10.00 at Holy Trinity Hermitage and 7.30 at St Mary & St Nicholas Compton – everyone is welcome to all
of these events.

With every blessing

Posted in Uncategorized


ear Friends

In recent days we have seen wonderful photographs from the Philae craft after it successfully landed on a comet. The team of scientist who have guided the project showed their absolute delight and relief that after many years of waiting their work had finally produced such good and clear results. Now the Philae craft and the Rosetta mother ship will leave the headlines but the scientists’ painstaking work of analysis and assessment will continue until they can finally express in laymen’s terms the secrets of the comet. As humankind explores ever more of the universe in which we live, and indeed deep space beyond it, some might say that reaching into the heavens reveals that God is not there; however we cannot use first century language and imagery to talk about twenty first century science. When people thought the earth was flat and the heavens like an upturned bowl above it then to speak of God as ‘above the heavens’ made perfect sense. Now we have a different understanding and we need to look for the presence and energy of God in the intricate detail of an atom seen through an electron microscope, in the pattern of planets and comets held together by a mysterious interplay of gravity and speed of movement. The presence of God is seen in so many places if only we will look with open eyes and minds – we can be lost in wonder and amazement.

But sometimes we need to grasp something simple and tangible, to see God in a way that our limited vision can appreciate, and the best place to start is in the cave at Bethlehem where a newborn male child found welcome and love among humble working folk and domestic animals. If we start with that Christmas image and follow his life story and his teaching then we shall find the God who is continually creating the universe, and we shall know that we are found and known and loved by him. How exactly does that happen? I cannot tell you, anymore than I can tell you just how to get a landing craft from a rocket launch site to a comet ten years away, but I know that it is true, that the journey is exhilarating and risky and needs to be undertaken not alone but in company. Vision, patience, courage, love and determination are gifts of God and take people to amazing places, even into the heart of space. Our journey starts with the birth of the Christ-child and takes us to the heart of God.

Wishing you every blessing this Christmas and in the year to come.


Posted in Uncategorized