From the Rector - July 2017

Dear Friends,

First of all l want to record my (and our) thanks to The Rev’d Canon William Burke who came to help us in the Benefice shortly after I arrived. He had retired to Shaftesbury but soon discovered he “needed to work”. He has been a great help in the Benefice both in taking services but also in pastoral care of our congregations - and also of me; being a very encouraging, loyal and supportive colleague. He is leaving to take up the unusual post of House for Duty Rural Dean in the Diocese of Ely. We wish him well and thank him sincerely.

At the time of writing, we have recently returned from a wonderful driving holiday in Europe. On the whole, the weather was wonderful!

This led me to consider how we so often talk about and reflect on the weather here in the UK. That is not surprising really, because it is always changing. With the weather changing so frequently there is the sense that if you blink you can miss a season (usually summer) and we spend the rest of the year longing for that summer season. From time to time, I get the feeling that we approach life in a similar way; we look forward to a time when everything will be perfect in our lives, but then we never quite reach that point, or if we do it is such a short and transient stage that it has passed before we realise it, and so, we then look back with a sense of sad wistfulness on that perfect time, and yearn for it to come again.

Whenever I catch myself thinking like that I try to stop and instead of longing for something else, try to value the life that l have and the moment of life that is now. It is not always easy to do that, but if we as Christians believe that life is a gift, given by God, then we should always seek to appreciate what we are given and make the most of it, seeing it in the most positive light.

There are probably too many times in all our lives when we feel grumpy about our lot because we don't have what we want, our health has let us down or we just carry with us a sense of weariness. When you become aware of these tendencies in your own demeanour, just stop and remind yourself that this life is God‘s gift to you, try to appreciate it and live it to the full. If you approach your life in that way you may be surprised at how enjoyable it can be, and also how your sense of enjoyment seems to be contagious and infects those around you.

Finally, somebody once asked me what I thought as I approached the altar? This struck me, as I'd never really thought about this question (and indeed, thought it an odd one!) until the same question was asked by a fellow student at theological college of our Principal.The Principal was a deeply spiritual man with a first rate mind, so I was surprised by his answer; he said he thought “oh, hello Jesus, it’s me again”. At first I thought he was joking, but he wasn't.

When I approach the altar these days, l often repeat the phrase of The Jesus Prayer ‘Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me a sinner’, but I can’t help myself from thinking “oh, hello Jesus, it’s me again”. At first l found this amusing, then it quickly became irritating and now l accept it as a valid prayer to God, revealing more of his intimacy and love than mine.

Yours ever,

Richard


From the Rector - June 2017

Dear Friends

As a child I loved balloons. These of course were just ordinary balloons that had been blown up by breath.... They couldn’t fly and if you let go of them they would drop to the ground. Sophia and Tilly also love balloons - however they are now more sophisticated, helium filled. These of course float in the air and if you aren’t careful could fly away completely.

The story of Jesus’s ascension into heaven is quite an amazing picture with the disciples standing there looking up as Jesus vanishes into the clouds. The important thing to note here though, is that after Jesus disappeared in this way, the disciples didn’t stand there gazing into heaven doing nothing but wait for his coming back. They weren’t frozen in the moment. They weren’t numbed with a sense of loss... No, the disciples went straight back to the temple, continued praising God and made ready for the next step in their mission to the world.

The disciples were filled with joy, filled with hope, and filled with purpose. Just one more thing was needed and that was the coming of the promised Holy Spirit, the power of God coming among them from on high, the life breath that would fill them with God’s spirit. That of course took place at Pentecost.

Before Pentecost the disciples were more like those balloons l described from my early childhood - they were still balloons all right, they were still great fun, you could still do lots of things with them... But they couldn’t really fly, they couldn't really soar into the sky... something was missing. After Pentecost the disciples were more like those helium-filled balloons - ready to fly, ready to go wherever they were blown by the spirit.

By the time you read this, Ascension and Pentecost will have likely passed - so I wonder where you will be? Will you be like the post Pentecost disciples? Will you be like the Helium balloons - ready to soar and fly wherever the Holy Spirit sends you? I think we should resolve to follow the example of the disciples and not be people who stand still and only look to the sky towards a distant God and a faraway Jesus. but instead let’s make ourselves a people who are open to the coming of the Holy Spirit, ready to be sent out into the world in action, ready to make a difference in the name of the living God.

With that in mind, June 2017 is a busy month within the Benefice with both village and church events. I would like to draw your attention to a few of these things...

On Saturday 17th June 2017, Donhead St Mary with St John's Charlton have a Family Barn Dance from 18:00 to 22:00, and on Sunday 18th June 2017, we welcome Bishop Edward to St John’s Church, Charlton, where we will be celebrating their Patronal Festival at 11.00 am. All welcome.

On Saturday 1st July 2017, there will be a social event at The Rectory, to which wedding couples from recent years, baptism candidates and young families from the Benefice are invited to celebrate those happy occasions and also to get to know each other.

Yours ever,

Richard


From the Rector - May 2017

Dear Friends,

There are always people to thank. I have been particularly aware of this over the past two months as I have tried to capture my thanks for all those who work hard, often unseen, for us across the Benefice as I have been doing our rounds of Annual Parochial Church Meetings.

s sandford rector

I want to reiterate my thanks to our active clergy and lay people who lead or take part in our worship especially over the Lent, Holy Week, Triduum and Easter services. Also to those who have made our church buildings look so splendid with cleaning, flower arranging, linen, frontals and all that jazz. I think it makes a tremendous difference to the richness of our worship.

Congratulations and/or commiserations to all those with new roles following our APCMs. I do, however, wish to pay a special tribute to the work of Suzanne and Chris Sandford from East Knoyle. Suzanne has served as Churchwarden at St Mary's for fifteen years and I believe Chris has been the Treasurer for even longer. They have both served with dedication and devotion and have been a great support to my family and I since we arrived in the Benefice (since before actually!). Suzanne suffered from a bout of ill health just before Christmas and they both decided it was time to step down. They were both supportive across the Benefice and so on your behalf I offer them special thanks for their length and quality of service. Suzanne is also the editor of our Benefice Magazine and is continuing in this role. Her release from being Warden has meant she has already popped up in other churches of ours as the new magazine paparazzi. She was clearly not behind the camera for this shot of her as she retired and Chris was obviously hiding.

Yours ever,
Richard


From the Rector - April 2017 - The Ven. John Holliman

John HollimanThe Venerable John Holliman and I were both Incumbents in the Diocese of Chichester, though didn't know each other at the time. He retired to the Salisbury Diocese and was an invaluable part of the Ministry Team in our Benefice. He served us with loyalty and faithfulness under two incumbents and was key during the vacancy. He knew the people of the Benefice well and cared very deeply for them.

John died peacefully at 5am on the 4th March 2017 fortified by the rites of the church. Please keep Evis, Karl, Aurora, Sian and their families in your prayers.

He was ordained Deacon in 1967 and priested the following year. He served his title in my native Derbyshire serving as Assistant Curate in Tideswell. John was a Chaplain to the Forces from 1971 and retired from the Army as Deputy Chaplain General and Archdeacon for the Army. He then served as an Incumbent in Funtington, Sennicotts and West Stoke from 1999 and served as Rural Dean of Westbourne from 2004. He was also an Honorary Chaplain to the Queen from 1994 to 1999.

In our local community he was also Chairman of Shaftesbury Area Talking Newspaper and maintained involvement with various organisations.

John's wishes were for a funeral service and burial in Funtington and a thanksgiving service to take place at Semley in Wiltshire at a later date. Although the majority of his ministry was spent with the Royal Army Chaplains’ Department, he often talked about his time in Chichester as he clearly loved being a parish priest there.

He requested a “Solemn Requiem Mass” which took place on Saturday 18th March 2017 at 2.30pm in West Sussex.

There will be a Thanksgiving Service at Semley on Tuesday 18th April 2017 at 2.30pm in St Leonard's Church, Semley.

John was a very humble and holy priest. We became firm friends and he was a great support to me and was willing to dispense his wisdom and experience quietly and with great humour. I also know he prayed for the people of the Benefice and our bishops and archdeacon and many others daily, and he managed to pray his daily offices, or latterly have them said to him till the end.

 

Richard Warhurst
Rector


From the Rector - The Ven. John Holliman

John Holliman

Those familiar with the Benefice will know that the Venerable John Holliman was diagnosed with a brain tumour in July 2016. We regret to inform you that he died peacefully on Saturday morning 4th March 2017, fortified by the rites of the church.

John was a humble and holy priest. He became a firm friend and a great support to me and was willing to dispense his wisdom and experience quietly.

Please keep Evis, Karl, Aurora, Sian and their families in your prayers.

Funeral and memorial service details will be shared once confirmed.

Richard


From the Rector - January/February 2017

Dear Friends,

As you may know, our magazine Editor was ill over the Christmas period, and consequently there was no January edition of the ‘Parish News’. I therefore have to say two things. The first is a very Happy New year to you all, and the second is a thankful recognition for all that Suzanne does for us and to encourage you all to pray for her and her family as she recovers.

It seems that every February I end up writing something about Lent. That then is where I will briefly start. Easter this year falls on April 16th (April 23rd being the latest possible). I am sure many of you are very aware of this fact as it may have implications for work and for things such as school holidays. In this short piece I simply want to flag up that on Ash Wednesday (1st March) there will be a joint Sung Eucharist with imposition of ashes (isn't that a lovely phrase?) at 7.00 pm at Donhead Saint Andrew. For those unable to make that there will be a said service at 10.00 am at Sedgehill. There will also be a pancake party at the The Rectory the night before (28th February from 7.30 pm)

However, I am feeling that there is a festival that gets missed in February that deserves just a little mention here, if you will indulge me!

You may all know the gospel story of the Presentation (you can find it in St Luke Chapter 2 if you have forgotten the details): Mary and Joseph come to the Temple with their baby to make the offering required under the law for a first-born son. They are greeted there by an old man and an old woman - Simeon and Anna - who recognise the significance of the young child and say mysterious and unsettling things. This child brings hope and promise, but he is also ‘destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel’. The whole point of ‘celebrating the Presentation of Christ in the Temple - often known as Candlemas - is that it points in two directions at once; back - to the Christmas story of Christ's birth; and forward - to his Passion on Good Friday.

All through life there are bit-part characters. People who pop up from time to time, who don't seem to have much of a part to play, but who, in the cosmic scheme of things, are enormously important people. People like Simeon and Anna.

Both of them are mentioned only once in the Bible and they both have only a walk-on part. But it's such an important part that neither of them have ever been forgotten. They were both elderly people. We don't know quite how old Simeon was, but we're told Anna was eighty-four and had been a widow for many years. They had something else in common too. They were both very spiritual people. Simeon was someone who was able to listen to God, for he'd already heard from God that he wouldn't die before he'd seen the Messiah. Anna never left the temple. She worshipped with fasting and prayer, night and day. When Mary and Joseph came into the temple with Jesus, both Simeon and Anna instantly knew this baby was the long awaited Messiah. There must have been hundreds of little families every year, coming to make their offerings. Why did both Simeon and Anna single out this family as being different? I think because they'd both spent a lifetime waiting upon God. Being silent before him, praising him, praying to him, listening to him, reading his word in the Scriptures. Their whole lives for many years had been immersed in God, so that when the moment came, they recognised it.

I am convinced that what will bring people to God is a genuine love for each other, inside and outside the Church, and prayer. Prayer not only for people to come to Christ, but the very prayerfulness of the community itself. If we want to be ready, if we too want to begin to recognise the holy in the ordinary, the holy in the everyday, then we need to spend regular time alone with God. And gradually, imperceptibly, as He draws us closer, we too shall begin to spot God amongst the everyday and others will see Him in us.

Yours

Richard


From the Rector - December 2016

Dear friends,

I hope that you have a holy Advent Season and on behalf of all our church communities in the Benefice, I also pray you have a holy and blessed Christmas and New Year. I hope to see you over the Christmas period.

I also hope you have already seen news about our revision of the pattern of service, but I am aware that some people, who I expected might have, have not. I have therefore given my space over to one of our Churchwardens, Bob Thackray, who will explain the changes below, and for which I am very grateful .............

Richard

**********

*** IMPORTANT NEWS  ***

From Bob Thackray

When a group of parishioners from the five parishes that make up our Benefice met in May 2016 to discuss the possible revision of the Sunday service rota, the last thing that any of us expected was speedy agreement.

The first step was to try to understand why any change was considered necessary.

The Benefice has one priest, Richard. Those others who often take services are retired clergy who help us out of the kindness of their hearts. They will continue to do so whenever they can, but we must have a rota that can, if necessary, be operated by one priest with the help of lay leaders. With that in mind, the timings have been altered to make possible the journey from, for instance, East Knoyle to Charlton between services.

We have all noticed with some frustration the Sundays when there seem to be identical services at the same time at churches that are little more than a stone's throw apart. The new rota needed to ensure that there is one of each type of service somewhere in the Benefice on each Sunday. A balance should also be achieved between the two ends of the Benefice.

Within the bounds of these two principles, the working group quickly came up with a workable solution that gave each parish the range of services that they requested. Compromises had to be made over exact timing, and parishes had to accept that some of their services would be on different Sundays in the month — but beyond that, all fitted in well.

It is hoped that the new arrangements will provide much more for families with children. The 9.30am Sung Eucharist each week will develop to include ‘Sunday School’ activities for children in another space and also a musician and choir of adults and children moving around the Benefice with this service.

There will also be a Family Service each week for those who like something less formal which includes both children and adults throughout the worship. The Family Communion at Charlton on the third Sunday will provide a bridge for children between Family Service and the Sung Eucharist.

All 8.30am communions, 11.00am Matins and 6.00pm Evensong services will follow the Book of Common Prayer.

We have created a rota that covers the four Sundays of each month. When there is a fifth Sunday, and also on the Sundays following Christmas and Easter, there will always be just two services, a Sung Eucharist with no provision for children at Sedgehill, and a Family Service run by a team from across the Benefice at Charlton. The real hope is that churchgoers will pick the services that suit them best, wherever they are held. We are one Benefice and can keep our parish allegiances whilst moving around to worship in ways that best suit us.

The new rota will begin on 1st January 2017 with a Benefice Sung Eucharist at Sedgehill at 9.30am and a Family Service at Charlton at 11.00am. This may seem the worst possible day to launch anything new, but you are urged to put aside your headache from the night before and to venture out to one or other place. As an incentive, the hospitality following the Sedgehill Service is legendary, whilst Charlton will be serving a restorative cup of tea or coffee from 10.30am.

See you there!

Bob Thackray

PS. Click here to view, download and/or print a copy of the new pattern of services.


From the Rector - November 2016

*** IMPORTANT NEWS  *** 

Dear Friends,

This month I would like to use my letter to tell you about two changes that we are making across the Benefice. In recent months we have recruited and trained a group of people to be a Lay Pastoral Visiting Team. They are available across the Benefice. If you would like a visit from one of the team then please let us know in the Benefice office on 830174. If you think someone else would benefit from this service please try to discuss this with them before you ask us to visit, as we will need their consent. If you would prefer to see someone from outside your community or would prefer to see someone of a specific gender then we are very happy to try to pair you with someone most suited to you. This does not mean that I am not happy to visit. I enjoy visiting and if you specifically would like to see me I would be happy to visit. If you need a specific kind of visit such as Home Communion please do ask and we will be very happy to arrange it.

Changes to the pattern of services from January 2017:

From the first week of my taking office I have been asked how I am going to change the pattern of services. I requested at Parochial Church Councils that I had some time to get to know how things work here. The background to this is that in recent years the Benefice has gone from having three full time members of staff to having one (me). The pattern of services when I arrived had regular services at 8.30, 9.30 for 10, 9.45, 10, 10.30, 11 and 6pm. On one of our Sundays there are three services at 9.45 and one at 10.30. This means on that Sunday we need at least four different people to be available and willing to take these services every month. In January I asked each PCC to appoint four people to meet and discuss the needs of their own church and community and also to think how all services work across the Benefice. In May we came together as one large group to think how we could go forward. We decided to change all (bar one) main service time to 9.30 and 11 and retain an 8.30 and 6pm. We have worked very hard to try to make sure that there are a range of services available each Sunday and that they are less in competition with each other than they are at the moment. This means that if there are five services a Sunday, which usually there are, l am able to do 8.30, a 9.30 an 11 and a 6pm. The gap between 9.30 and 11 means that there is a gap of 30 minutes which means I have 10 minutes to say goodbye, 10 minutes to drive to the next church and 10 minutes to prepare. The 15 minutes at the moment is not very satisfactory. Each week there is a Sung Eucharist at 9.30 and in time it is envisioned that this will have a Sunday School/Children's Church and a small choir attached to it that will move around the churches. Please study the new pattern carefully so you know what to expect. l hope you will find the new arrangements helpful.

Yours ever,

Richard

PS. Click here to print and/or download a copy of the new pattern of services.


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,

Richard


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,

Richard


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.

Richard

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.