From the Rector - October 2016

Dear Friends,

I sit to write this to you the morning following my fortieth birthday party. I'll take this opportunity to thank everyone who gave cards and gifts and passed on best wishes. It was greatly appreciated. Especial thanks go to Gerry Purdue and David Morgan who put up a "mini marquee" not once but twice due to fierce gusts of wind on the afternoon of the event. Thanks also to guests who had arrived from Bedford, Kent and France who held on to it until they arrived.

There are some similarities between my last parish which I left at the beginning of January 2010 and this Benefice. They are both rural, similar population numbers and similar demographics. One of the main differences seems to be the time one leaves a party. The party last night wound up just before 2am. With the exception of a former next door neighbour from Frome, Anna and I, the seven others left at the end were all from that last parish. There was something quite lovely that people I haven't served for six and a half years made such an effort. There was something nostalgic about having the "old gang back together".

Although there is a very sentimental part of me that always misses people and places of all the areas i’ve lived and worked that isn't what my reflecting on this is about. My thoughts have been about the nature and inevitability of change.

Our former neighbour from Frome now lives in Bedford. Of our seven friends from Sussex only two still live in the same village. The concept of change can be a very difficult one for people to grapple with especially when accompanied by a sense that things won't be the same again. On the other hand life is about constant change and development from the moment of our birth. We can sometimes forget this just as we can sometimes forget that we are called to grow with God.

I found myself saying at a wedding recently that I suspected that ultimately couples either grow together or they grow apart. We know that relationships and friendships and family life in one sense just happen and that, like my group of friends, we can meet after a long time and continue from where we left off. Yet we also know that all manner of relationships at times require work, patience, perseverance and forgiveness. They benefit from sharing joy and sadness and being together to lament and to celebrate. My conclusion is blindingly obvious and you would have seen it coming a mile away; we also need to spend time being aware of the presence of God and working to deepen our relationship with him. I just wish you and I would remember it more consistently!

Yours ever,


From the Rector - August 2016

Dear Friends,

Over the next few weeks. as mentioned previously, we have some major celebrations of our church communities.

On August 14th at 10.30am we have our Patronal Festival for the church of St Mary's East Knoyle. The president and preacher will be The Rt Rev'd Dom Giles Hill OSB. Abbot Giles has been my spiritual director since 2003. Born to a Methodist father and a Roman Catholic Mother, and educated by the Christian Brothers, it is scarcely surprising that Giles became an Anglican. When his father died at a young age. Giles became the bread-winner for his family comprised of Mum and two younger sisters. He worked as a Verger in Exeter Cathedral, and in due time entered Alton Abbey in 1967. Professed in 1969. it was not until I986 that he was ordained priest. He was elected as Abbot in 1990. in which he has served ever since with a three year interlude from 2010-13. He has an historical concern with the details of the Holocaust. reads detective and historical fiction, principally by British authors. Enjoys Irish whiskey and English beer; loves pasta, and won't eat chicken or lamb.

On August 21st at 10.30am we celebrate our Benefice Patronal of St Bartholomew. This service will take place at Semley Church. The president and preacher will be The Rt Rev'd john Kirkham who was educated at Lancing College and Trinity College. Cambridge. After training for ordination he was ordained to a curacy in lpswich. The positions he has held since include Chaplain to the Bishop of Norwich, Chaplain to the Bishop of New Guinea, Assistant Priest at St Martin in the Fields and St Margaret's Westminster, Chaplain to Archbishop Ramsey and Archbishop Coggan, Diocesan Director of Ordinands for Canterbury, Bishop of Sherborne in our own Diocese of Salisbury, and Bishop to the Forces. He was also Chairman of the Salisbury Diocesan Board of Education. Thanks also go to The Venerable John Holliman for helping to arrange Bishop Kirkham’s visit.

On September 4th we welcome The Rt Rev'd Dr Edward Condry, Bishop of Ramsbury to preside and preach at the Patronal Festival of Donhead St Mary. The first Bishop of Ramsbury was Aethelstan, appointed in 909. The ancient title of Bishop of Ramsbury means that Bishop Edward is responsible for the Wiltshire parts of the Diocese of Salisbury (as well as one parish in Dorset and four in Hampshire). He was ordained in 1982, after studying for a doctorate at Exeter College. Oxford. He has been a parish priest in rural, suburban and urban parishes. In Salisbury he is particularly keen to promote the rural church. He was previously Canon Treasurer at Canterbury Cathedral where he was among other things responsible for the training of Bishops and Priests from around the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Bishop Edward is married to Sarah. They have four grown up children. He claims to have played just about every sport apart from golf and beach volleyball. (information from the Diocesan Website).

We hope to welcome you to join in our celebrations.

Your ever,


From The Rector - July 2016

Dear Friends,

There is much to reflect on following the historic decision to leave the European Union, particularly the tone of the debate from many involved on either side. I have decided to use the space for my usual article this month to publish a joint statement made by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York on the morning of the 24th June.


Statement from Archbishops on EU Referendum Result

24 June 2016

On Thursday, millions of people from across the United Kingdom voted in the Referendum, and a majority expressed a desire that Britain's future is to be outside the European Union

The outcome of this referendum has been determined by the people of this country. It is now the responsibility of the Government, with the support of Parliament, to take full account of the outcome of the referendum, and, in the light of this, decide upon the next steps. This morning, the Prime Minister David Cameron has offered a framework for when this process might formally begin.

The vote to withdraw from the European Union means that now we must all reimagine both what it means to be the United Kingdom in an interdependent world and what values and virtues should shape and guide our relationships with others.

As citizens of the United Kingdom, whatever our views during the referendum campaign, we must now unite in a common task to build a generous and forward looking country, contributing to human flourishing around the world. We must remain hospitable and compassionate, builders of bridges and not barriers. Many of those living among us and alongside us as neighbours, friends and work colleagues come from overseas and some will feel a deep sense of insecurity. We must respond by offering reassurance, by cherishing our wonderfully diverse society, and by affirming the unique contribution of each and every one.

The referendum campaign has been vigorous and at times has caused hurt to those on one side or the other. We must therefore act with humility and courage - being true to the principles that make the very best of our nation. Unity, hope and generosity will enable us to overcome the period of transition that will now happen, and to emerge confident and successful. The opportunities and challenges that face us as a nation and as global citizens are too significant for us to settle for less.

As those who hope and trust in the living God, let us pray for all our leaders, especially for Prime Minister David Cameron in his remaining months in office. We also pray for leaders across Europe, and around the world, as they face this dramatic change. Let us pray especially that we may go forward to build a good United Kingdom that, though relating to the rest of Europe in a new way will play its part amongst the nations in the pursuit of the common good throughout the world.

From The Rector - June 2016

Dear Friends,

We are trying something new for this year in the Benefice of St Bartholomew. In recent years the only one of our churches that kept a "patronal festival” has been Donhead St Andrew. For this year we have made all of our patronals benefice services, meaning that in most cases the only service on that day will be at 10.30 am and we encourage people to attend and celebrate with each church. l believe patronal festivals are important as they are a way of recognising the importance of each church community; the truth that we are connected to something larger than each community while celebrating each particularity. This is not without difficulty as many of our Patron Saints’ days fall very close together and one is always squeezed by other major events for the church such as Christ the King and Advent Sunday. We also have seven patronals for the benefice which creates its own questions. The list for this year looks something like this:

June 26th:  St John the Baptist, Charlton

July 31st:    St Catherine's, Sedgehill

Aug. 14th:  St Mary's, East Knoyle
President & Preacher: The Rt Rev’d Dom Giles Hill OSB, Abbot of Alton Abbey

Aug. 21th:  St Leonard's, Semley - Benefice Patronal of St Bartholomew
President & Preacher: The Rt Rev’d John Kirkham, Retired Bishop of Sherborne and Bishop to the Forces

Aug. 28th:  St Andrew's, Donhead St Andrew

Sept. 4th:  St Mary's, Donhead St Mary
President & Preacher: The Rt Rev’d Dr Edward Condry, Bishop of Ramsbury

Nov. 6th:  St Leonard’s, Semley
President & Preacher: The Rt Rev‘d Nicholas Holtham, Bishop of Salisbury

The practice of adopting patron saints goes back to the building of the first public churches in the Roman Empire, most of which were built over the graves of martyrs. The churches were then given the name of the martyr. Soon, Christians began to dedicate churches to other holy men and women - saints - who were not martyrs. The people we call saints are often heroes of the faith, so to speak, people who have been important for one reason or another and are part of our story. The holy lives lived by the saints are themselves testimony to the saving power of Christ. At a point in time a Saint (with a big S) became people who were officially recognised by the church. Saint simply means holy. The Church of England, in our calendar, recognises Saints (with big S) and some of those heroes of the faith which we don't call Saint but we still recognise as part of the Christian story. Interestingly the Church of England does not only remember English heroes of the faith in addition to the major Saints; nor do we stop at British examples of faithful Christians. In fact we don’t even stop at Anglican holy men and women but we remember people such as Cardinal Newman who left Anglicanism to become a Roman Catholic, George Fox the founder of the Society of Friends (Quakers), William and Catherine Booth founders of the Salvation Army, Maximillian Kolbe, a Polish Franciscan Friar arrested as an 'intellectual’ and murdered in Auschwitz, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer the Lutheran pastor regarded as a Martyr, among many others. These are as well as holy men and women from our own part of the church, many of whom were modern day martyrs such as the Martyrs of Uganda, poets like Christina Rossetti and George Herbert. and social reformers such as Florence Nightingale, William Wilberforce and Josephine Butler.

Yours ever,


From The Rector - May 2016

Dear Friends,

May brings events to look forward to in the Benefice. However, it also sees the return of Christian Aid Week - 15 to 21 May 2016 - which I hope you will be able to support.

Susan Durber, Christian Aid’s Theology Advisor, writes:

Have you ever looked up at the stars at night, into a sky clearer than you can ever find in a big city and felt suddenly incredibly small, but somehow part of something huge and awesome too? And has it crossed your mind that people all around the world are under the same sky, people with whom you share planet Earth, people who, like you, look up and wonder?

Most of us have at some time in our lives stood and looked at the heavens, at the moon and the stars – and felt a sense of awe. Perhaps this is why Psalm 8 is a favourite among the psalms – not just because there’s relatively little about smiting enemies and all of that – but because we’ve all stood there. We’ve all looked at the sky, at the heavens, on a dark and beautiful night and drawn breath at the beauty and hugeness of it all, and wondered.

Trinity Sunday is a kind of staring up into the great theological sky – of sensing, even if we can only bear it for a moment, the huge, thumping wonder of the great story and truth of our faith. On this day we are drawn to those who write star-like poetry about the God who is three in one, the holy Trinity of love. It is a day to draw back and let our spirits gasp before the wonder of all of creation and the wonder of the God who created it – the God who was made visible and present in Christ and who is still sweeping with passion, warmth and power among us to this day.

A Trinity Sunday at the end of Christian Aid Week is also a moment to look around at the faces of all those others who share the Earth and sky, the days and nights, with us. It’s a time to look at the beauty and the suffering of the earth and to respond to it. And it gives us a new sense of the greatness of what it could be to be a human being, in the light of the great story of our faith. It lifts us up, and we remember once more the true glory of God, and the true dignity of all human beings.

There are those around the world, those who look at the same stars as us, who
can tell us better than any how we have forgotten our vocation to care for creation and how to give praise to God. There are people in many lands who could tell us
how the seasons are changing, how the rains can’t be predicted as they once could, how the harvests are failing, and the glaciers melting. There are those in Bangladesh who can tell us how the sea is rising, how their familiar ducks are no longer flourishing, and how their houses need to be built on better foundations for when the floods come.

They are human beings like us, only a little lower than the angels, precious in God’s sight, people who lift their eyes to the skies as we do and marvel at creation. The writer of the book of Proverbs was convinced that God had ‘made firm the skies above’ (Proverbs 8:28) and ‘assigned to the sea its limit’ (8:29), but there are those who would tell us that the sea is moving, that the rivers are turning to salt. The people whose houses must be built again will remind us, like the psalmist, of our true dignity and our true purpose within the creation which God has made.

We are part of the same earth as they are, dust of their dust, and like them only a little lower than the angels. Before it is too late, we must look again at the beauty and wonder of the world, and find again the vocation that God the Trinity, has given us.



From the Rector - April 2016

Dear Friends,

A few days ago I was asked whether we were ”settled into the Rectory, now?" It's a kind question showing care for your Rector and family. It struck me because it was a question for the first four to five months I was asked several times a day every day. It prompted me to reflect on my first few months. I believe we "settled in" very quickly but there has, at least up until now, been a major event or season to plan and prepare for. No sooner had I arrived than we were planning for Harvest festivals across the Benefice; Eucharists, Evensongs, lunches and suppers. These were not at an end when we started to think about Advent and then Christmas including the thought of post Christmas with a reduction in staff. From January we started our Pilgrim Course. Plough Sunday and Candlemas followed and then Lent with all its intricacies of Lent courses, Lent Lunches and special services leading up to Easter. Then there is the season of the APCM — The Annual Parochial Church Meeting with endless minutes, accounts and reports to paw over and meetings to attend. With five parishes in the Benefice we have five meetings between the beginning of March and the end of April.

I often think that Christmas is over too quickly and so I emphasise the Christmas — Epiphany season taking us up to Candlemas on the 2nd February but every Clergyman and Benefice Administrator is mentally deep in thought about Lent while still in January. People often think that Eastertide is too long; weeks and weeks of it. Yes, there are still things to prepare for - Beating the bounds and Rogation on the 1st of May and our Pentecost service and picnic on May 8th. However, there is a profound sense of pause with Eastertide. I like to think a God given time that in the business of life we can all take some time to reflect on His glory and recall His love for the world and each one of us without having to rush on to the next thing.

May I take this opportunity to thank all those who have worked so hard to prepare for the Easter feast, worship planners and leaders, servers, flower arrangers (and display designers!), cleaners and church beautifiers, rota compilers and compliers and re-arrangers. Thank you all and more besides.

We will be having an Open House at The Rectory in Semley on Saturday 2nd April from 2.30pm to 5pm. Drop in (and out) during this time for a cup of something and to say hello.

May I wish you all a blessed Eastertide.



From the Rector - March 2016

Dear Friends,

March this year seems such a full month. The first Sunday is Mothering Sunday and we'd be delighted to welcome you to any of our services. We then quickly move into Passiontide where the church takes us through Jesus’ approaching his last weeks on earth before the Resurrection. The following Sunday sees Palm Sunday with the retelling of the "triumphant entry" into Jerusalem. Yes, we have a donkey! (at Charlton). We then turn in a very special way to walk with Jesus in the week before his crucifixion. Holy Week is viewed as a special time where we make an effort to join part (or all) of that journey. There will be a simple said Eucharist on Monday - Wednesday. This is followed by the Sacred Triduum of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter. These are all considered "red letter days" in the Church of England where we are all encouraged to take part as fully as possible. These are the highlight of the Christian year (and include two of my three favourite services in the whole year).

Obviously these services are spread around the Benefice of six churches. Maundy Thursday is celebrated in Semley. The Eucharist and foot washing is followed by a watch until midnight ending with a very short Night Prayer. The Good Friday Liturgy takes place in East Knoyle. On Holy Saturday (I wonder how many TV channels will incorrectly call it Easter Saturday?!) we have a beautiful service of the Easter Vigil. When the candidates to become Rector were interviewed by representatives of Semley School Council we were asked the question "What is your favourite service of the year?" Both of us answered that it was the Easter Vigil. This is the most important service of Easter and the first Eucharist of Easter. It is very different to the norm and it is a beautiful celebration. This year it is at Donhead Saint Mary.

I encourage you to take part in these services as fully as possible. Please do move around the Benefice and support each other (and your clergy!)

This is a tiring time for the clergy and may I take the opportunity to thank our retired clergy for all they will do during the celebrations and the rest of the year.

By the time we get to this point in March I can wish you a Happy Easter.



From the Rector - February 2016

Dear friends,

In just a few short days the churches season of Lent will be upon us. i will only just have taken down the decorations from Christmas (we will have been celebrating the season of Epiphany until Candlemas (February 2nd) - we're very modern in our house.

Epiphany is all about a showing, a manifestation. It's the season when we are told who Jesus is. The wise men visit showing the significance of Christ to all the nations. Jesus is acclaimed as the Son of the Father at his baptism and he performs his first miracle of turning water into wine. l suppose there is an appropriate link with the short turn around into Lent and into Easter as this is a season which focuses on why Jesus came to us. in fact there is some evidence to suggest that the church season of Lent originally followed straight on from the Epiphany but soon became attached to Easter as this was the main celebration at which baptism happened and it became a time for examination of conscience, penitence, fasting and study.

It's very easy to imagine that what we are used to is the norm. On the Sunday before Palm Sunday (which I would call Passion Sunday) it was traditional in my home parish church to bless a basket full of nails and distribute them to the congregation as an aid to meditation for the following two weeks. When I was ordained I had to phone a friend and ask where I could find the prayer to bless the nails. Needless to say he was bemused and l was surprised to find the rest of the Church of England did not do this as standard. Our Churchwarden sent one to her son, who was serving in the RAF and stationed in Northern Ireland at the time. The security machines were not expecting them either.

Whatever you're used to you are very welcome to come and experience any of our services as we move through Lent, Holy Week and Easter. Even if you just want to see what we do, you will be very welcome.

During Lent we will be having Lent study groups. These will take place on Wednesdays during Lent starting on the 17th February.

Donhead St Mary at Glebe Cottage, next to the church at 9.30am

East Knoyle     Feb 17th Coopers Ground at 7.30pm
                         Feb 24th 3 Mallet Close at 7.30pm
                         March 2nd Church Cottage, next to the church at 7.30pm

This year we will be looking at a course called The Joy of the Gospel by Dr Paula Gooder based on Pope Francis’ acclaimed book of the same name. Dr Gooder is the Theologian in Residence for the Bible Society and also holds a number of honorary positions such as Canon Theologian of Birmingham and Guildford Cathedrals, Lay Canon at Salisbury Cathedral, a Six preacher of Canterbury Cathedral, Vice president of the Bible Society and Visiting lecturer at King's College, London. She is a Reader (Licensed Lay Minister) in the Church of England and a member of General Synod.

All welcome!



From the Rector - January 2016

Dear Friends,

One of the silly frustrations of modern life is how the feast of Christmas has been over commercialised. Not that I'm grumpy...but I first started listening to Radio 4 (years ago now) because Steve Wright was wishing people a Happy Christmas in October. I took great exception to being told by a major television network’s news programme on Boxing Day (St Stephen's Day) this year that "Christmas is all over for another year” when it had in fact only just started. All this may sound like a grump but actually, as most of you will read this in early January when it will still be Christmas, this is a preamble to wishing you a very blessed Christmas and a happy healthy New Year.

May I also take this opportunity to thank all those who gave us cards and gifts. It helped to make our first Christmas here very special.

On Sunday January 3"‘ we will say farewell to our Assistant Curate, The Revd Alice Goodall. As I'm sure you're all aware Alice has been appointed as Rector of Shelswell in the Diocese of Oxford. Alice has worked tremendously hard during her time here and I know she is much loved across our community and schools. We will also miss Joe who has been a committed member of our churches, great fun and a very handy person to have in the congregation when you need a server at the last minute. He also drinks espresso so is clearly a man of sophistication and style.

I will personally miss Alice far more than she could know (though I do tell her). She has been very supportive and informative and has also been tremendous fun. Above all that, I know that she has a deep love and care for our communities and for you.

One of the patrons of our Benefice (specifically for Semley) is Christ Church, Oxford. Alice is also going to a Christ Church '’living’’. This is particularly good for two reasons. The first is that Christ Church are a very good, supportive and generous patron to have and I know there will be this support for Alice. Secondly, Christ Church has a biannual Incumbent’s Conference, so I hope I will be seeing much more of Alice over the years to come. I attended the conference in September; I seem to remember Alice mentioning something about "an Oxford port lake" before I went. Sadly this was not true but I would be delighted to introduce her to some of my favourite watering holes from my time in Oxford

I hope you have all seen details of the Pilgrim Course which we shall be starting on January 7"‘ at Semley Rectory. Please feel free to come along. Booking isn't essential but it would be helpful to have an idea of numbers - so please let us know if you know you are coming.

Yours ever,


From the Rector - December 2015

It would be a delight to welcome you to any of our services over Christmas (or any time). Families and children are welcome at any of our services.

I wonder how willing you are to trust other people? Are others willing to trust you? There is quite a lot of trust around the Christmas story. There is Joseph - quite an incredible man amongst men. Joseph finding his fiancée to be pregnant could have refused to marry her but is persuaded in a dream to trust both her and God.

There is no doubt why Mary trusted him. He is a man of noble character, refusing to make a public scandal out of Mary's pregnancy.

Joseph knew Mary too, and in the depths of his heart he trusted her. Of course there were difficult facts to face but it took just one mysterious dream to set Joseph's heart at peace.

Then there is Mary herself. She puts her trust in the words of an angelic messenger although few people are likely to believe her story and she knows that to bear a child can only bring shame on her family. She trusted Joseph, and God too, resisting what passes for human respectability and ‘common sense’.

You can just imagine the tongues wagging in that little town. Perhaps that is partly why Mary and Joseph chose precisely that moment to set off to be registered at Bethlehem — it was a good excuse to get away from all the gossip.

We see the trust of the shepherds and of the Magi and later on of apostles and disciples.

Behind the human trust that we see so poignantly displayed in Mary and Joseph there is of course something much greater, the eternal trustworthiness of God and a word that can never be broken.

God is asking us to renew our trust in each other and to build a world in which not only individuals but whole nations display a genuine care and concern for each other, a world in which we are more concerned with our duties to each other than a fearful preservation of our own petty rights on our own little patch of turf.

But God is not only asking us to keep trusting each other. We are being asked to trust in something much more sure and certain than a vague hope in human benevolence.

God is asking us to trust Him.

The gospel tells us that Mary bears a son whose name is Emmanuel, or 'God-is-with-us‘.

This Christmas may we all grow in trust and faithfulness to God and to each other.

On behalf of all our churches in the Benefice may I wish you a happy and peaceful Christmas.


From the Rector - 18th October 2015

Alice GoodallI am pleased to announce that our curate, The Rev'd Alice Goodall, has been appointed Rector of the Benefice of Shelswell, a rural Benefice in North Oxfordshire. She will probably move early in the New Year, and her Institution and Installation will take place on 19th January 2016.

Further details will follow.

I know you will share with me in wishing her the warmest congratulations and will keep Alice, Joe and their family in our prayers now and in the years to come.