From the Licensed Lay Minister - March 2018

Spring is on the doorstep! We, as an Easter people are looking forward and waiting for one of the major festivals of the church’s year when even the earth celebrates with flowers, birds and the slight greening of Spring.

Lent is seen by some as a penitential season, it seems to be a habit to give up all those little treats which give us a reward at the end of the day — chocolate, a glass of wine or a bit of TV. There is another way of looking at this however, and that is to give up all the things which we do and should not do. l have a friend who gives up exceeding the speed limit for Lent — I'm never quite sure about that - but other things such as passing on gossip or making decisions without hearing all the facts are things we could well do without.

Children today are much less familiar with stories from the Bible than we were as children, so I think that the walk to church with a real donkey on Palm Sunday at Charlton does a lot to make the story more real and memorable for them. Living in the country as we do, we are lucky to be able to enjoy these things and watch our children grow to know the difference between a primrose and a bluebell, while we as adults just have to thank God for the diversity of creation and enjoy the colours, smells and sounds of Spring in the countryside.

The shops are full of Easter eggs of the chocolate variety but I remember as a child dipping eggs in cochineal or tying them in onion skins to produce either red or yellow shells. I think my most memorable Easter was when I lived in Cyprus, where the festival is taken very seriously indeed. My household help invited us to join her on Easter morning on the top of the cliff at daybreak. The children were given bright red hard-boiled eggs to hold and we all waited with an enormous sense of anticipation for the sun to rise out of the sea.

As the light emerged from the waves there was a huge shout of “Christos Annesti" — “Christ is risen"! Everyone hugged each other, the odd tear was shed — it really was a very moving occasion — the children, slightly more pragmatic, began to eat their eggs for breakfast. We piled back into the car and headed for home but that feeling of having witnessed a very special thing remained with us for the rest of the day.

I commend to you a thoughtful Lent, a joyful Easter when it arrives and the wonderful anticipation of watching the English Spring arrive leaf by leaf and flower by flower.

Jo Johnson
Licensed Lay Minister


From the Licensed Lay Minister - September 2017

September. As I look out of the window, the poet's vision of ‘Mists and mellow fruitfulness’, is present just outside the window. There is a mist filling the valley and the apple tree is groaning under the weight of wonderfully rosy apples. Children are still - just- on holiday and their voices can be heard, shouting happily as they and a large black Labrador, play football in the field. You could say it is the perfect rural idyll - but is it?

Although we are told that life in the twenty first century is so much easier, as some famous person said - “We've never had it so good” - is it really? The countryside is full of low waged agricultural workers and the elderly, often on a fixed income, so apart from a favoured few, life is not so easy.

Rural bus services are always the first economy made by local councils, making visits to Salisbury Hospital an expedition of the magnitude of a trek to the South Pole for some. Mobile Libraries seem to be the next area to feel the axe, depriving many of the enjoyment of a good read of a winter's evening.

Enough of the downside of life - let's be more positive! Local Village Shops in our rural communities are re-invigorating village life. Not only do they provide necessities but a place to sit and have a coffee and catch up on all the local news. Posters there advertise local functions and postcards publicise needs for help or the disposal of unwanted goods - a two-way street of opportunities for local people to help each other.

Church still fulfils its role of bringing people together, is a place for passing on news of those not so well, or just back from hospital and in need of a visit for tea and a chat - its members possibly unwittingly continuing the church's medieval function of caring for the sick and needy - in their minds just being good neighbours. It also celebrates our rural heritage, with seasonal services to ask God to bless the work of the farmer and services to thank God for his abundant provisions for us all.

Well, there are the plusses and the minuses, would you rather live in town or city, or in the countryside? I know which I would choose every time it's not just looking out on streets and having neighbours that you don't really know, it's the sense of community, being able to smile and say “Good Morning" to folk you meet, without them looking alarmed, seeing a glut of apples or vegetables being offered free at the gate - and then of course, there is God's glorious countryside with a background of birdsong. Moan we may from time to time but we have so much to be thankful for.

Jo Johnson


From Jo Johnson, Licensed Lay Minister - March 2017

jo johnson llmJust for a change, the Rector has asked me to write this month's piece. In view of the unavailability of some members the Benefice Ministry team, he has found himself under pressure to cover all services. I am a Licensed Lay Minister (LLM), in the Blackmore Vale Deanery, so I asked the Bishop for permission to help out here in Chalke Deanery. She agreed, and I have been delighted to "come home". I lived in Donhead St Andrew for eighteen years, so leading worship in the two Donheads really does feel like coming home. I have also branched out and have been to Sedgehill - March seeing me at East Knoyle as well.

Moving on from being a Lay Worship Leader, I have been an LLM for four years. The difference between the two, is that I wear a blue scarf which indicates that I hold the Bishop's permission to preach, which a Lay Worship Leader does not have, consequently needing to read someone else's words from a book. The path to LLM status is very interesting and stretching. I graduated from Oxford Brookes with a degree in Christian Ministry, having studied part time at Sarum College, and as my last Rector put it, ‘‘She knows what she is talking about, (academic hood), and what is more, has the Bishop's permission to talk about it, (scarf).

LLMs follow a variety of ministerial paths - because of my age, I am very comfortable leading BCP worship - let's face it - that is all there was in my youth and we said Matins three Sundays a month and had Communion once a month - how things have changed! Some of my college peers handle all the family and Informal Worship in their parishes - not my forte, I'm afraid. Some undertake nearly all the funerals and interments in their churches and yet another undertakes to reproduce the Sunday service in sign language for the deaf parishioners in Poole. As you can see, there is no real definition of Lay Ministry - it is a case of using the talents which God gave us, to the best of our ability.

Lent is upon us and this year I have produced a liturgy for the Stations of the Cross, which I shall lead on Holy Wednesday at St Peter's in Shaftesbury. Rather like this editorial, you never know what you will be asked to do next - it certainly keeps life interesting.

This year we have all been given a little book of prayers and suggested readings as a gift from the Bishop of Salisbury*. Lent is a time for reflection and I commend this book to you, for use in the forty days of this season. It will probably do you good and combined with a renouncement of chocolate will definitely be good for your soul!

* Copies of the booklets are available in each of the Benefice churches to take away.