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Saturday, 26 March 2016

Good Friday, Good Attendance

Over 15 people made the short walk from St Andrew's Church, Houghton, to St Mary's Church, Stickland. It was a perfect day to stroll in company and stop for a moment to reflect along the way with Rev'd Alan - before joining the other people who had gathered at St Mary's for Meditation at the Cross, led by Rev'd Jimmy Hamilton-Brown. It is very encouraging to see the church so full on Good Friday. (A big thank you for the hot cross buns and coffee that had been prepared for everyone at St Mary's Church.)

Friday, 25 March 2016

Thought For The Day on BBC Radio 4 - The Archbishop of Canterbury

Good Friday is the day when Christians remember the death of Jesus on the Cross. It's the day that challenges all our reasons for everything we do - all the motivations we claim for any action. Here's the text of my Thought For The Day on BBC Radio 4 this morning:

For me one of the best and most challenging parts of Canterbury Cathedral is the number of memorials to past Archbishops. There are saints and, to be honest, villains; the brilliant and the dull. Some were heroes, d...oing the right thing for the right reason; others acted cruelly and brutally, or in T S Eliot’s great sentence, put into Becket’s mouth in his play Murder in the Cathedral, “They were tempted to the greatest treason: doing the right thing for the wrong reason.” All had mixed motives and characters.
Good Friday is the day when Christians remember the death of Jesus on the Cross. It's the day that challenges all our reasons for everything we do - all the motivations we claim for any action. Good Friday has that healthy and necessary aspect that is found in many faiths: a time for self-examination.
In the week of the attacks in Belgium - and of recalling the horrors and crimes of the Balkan Civil War, with the conviction of Radovan Karadžić - I am struck by the savagery and bitterness, the utterly perverted reasons, of the attackers and perpetrators carrying out not right deeds but the most deeply wrong ones that could be imagined - and the contrast with the sacrifice of Jesus. He was the one person in history Christians believe had only pure motives for all he did. For me he sets the standard for both actions and reasons.
The nature of hatred is that it is infectious. Terror wins when it causes others to fear or hate. On Good Friday, terror and oppression are met by love - with Jesus praying for the forgiveness of those who caused his death. Christians, considering the Cross, see God crucified because of human cruelty and sin.
The mystery of the immense savagery of human beings -of our desire to use power to harm not heal - is one that confounds all attempts to explain it away. The depth of the grip on us held by lust for power and the desire to dominate others is judged by the Crucifixion. Before it, we are confronted with our wrong reasons and actions.
But I find myself also confronted with the love of God that goes deeper than our cruelty, of God’s reaching out to us that goes beyond our pride and power seeking.
One of the messages chalked on a Brussels pavement this week was “hope is our resistance”. It is compellingly true. Even on this day, even in this week, I find hope because for me, at the end of all things, God is over all

Thursday, 24 March 2016

So...what happened next?

The Last Supper, St Mary's Winterborne Stickland

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Thank You Dunbury Academy

 The children of the Winterborne Whitechurch base at the Dunbury Academy have been very busy in St Mary's Church. They spent a day reflecting on the meaning of Holy Week and they have share their work in the church. Outside in the churchyard, the Easter Garden has been replanted and refreshed.

Inside the church, there are reminders of Palm Sunday, with a pathway strewn with palm leaves and crosses.

The children made daffodil prayer chains and a cross full of hopes. Take time to travel with Jesus with the hand coloured stations of the cross.

And there is a basket of treats with the Jelly Bean prayer, for people who might be feeling sad.

Monday, 21 March 2016

The Rector's report for the Benefice 2015/16

Rector’s APM Report - 2016


This is my third annual report and I would like to begin by expressing my appreciation and gratitude to the many people who contribute to the life of this Benefice. I would name them but that would make this a very lengthy report! I would like to take this opportunity to say a big "Thank you"!

The Sunday service rota has settled into its current sustainable pattern. The trial of choral evensong at Houghton continues and has been well supported by choir and congregation. we have had an increase in baptisms in the Benefice and our attendance figures show a slight increase. We struggled to maintain the cafe church service. It proved too much for the resources available. Benefice services, Harvest and Carol services have been well attended.
This year our churches, led by St James who initiated this last year, have engaged with a shoe box Christmas parcels project, putting together over 160 parcels and sending them to countries where people live in very poor circumstances.
Our three coffee shops make an important contribution to community life.
The annual Valley Walk became a pilgrimage with over thirty people from St Mary and St Alban Church in Teddington coming to take part. The weather was kind to us and many people helped to make it a good experience. There was a great sense of fellowship and hospitality. Again, I would thank those who give their time to organise and provide food for this event.
There is now a monthly communion service in Chescombe Court, led by Rev'd Sue Litchfield and supported by a good team. Sue also co-ordinates the monthly Women Alive group which is following the Lyfe course.

I continue to be involved in the Dunbury Academy for regular assemblies. I have handed over the shared post of ex-officio governor to the Red Post Benefice as I have completed my term of office. We have Pippa Rossiter continue the lunch club with church members. This term the children will be constructing a reflective zone and prayer stations in St Mary's, Whitechurch. The school hosted Knitivity as part of the Posada event that took place throughout the Benefice for the first time. The cubs and scouts also acted as hosts and we will continue to build on these links.

We have run two courses this year, firstly, the Diocese worship leaders' course, which has resulted in the Bishop of Sherborne coming to the benefice to commission them. This is an exciting development in the life of our benefice. The second course is "Making Disciples", through small groups during Lent. A large number of people have participated in this. It raises the question, "Are we volunteers or disciples"? The answer to that is that volunteers do what they want to do, whilst disciples will try to do what God wants them to do. We shouldn't be too disheartened if that is a struggle, the first disciples with Jesus also struggled. A small group attended a Messy Church training day to explore possibilities.

Of the two home groups that were running, one has closed as people moved away, whilst the other continues in strength, following the Bible Society's "Lyfe Course." I hope that some of the Lent Groups will continue after Easter as home groups.
Once again there has been a significant change in staff, in that our Licensed Lay Minister has moved away. Churchwardens have also moved away. This leaves quite a gap in our skills and knowledge. it is good that people do feel able to fill those gaps. I am very grateful that people are willing to step forward and take on rolls which they perhaps never imagined they would. I am very grateful to the churchwardens, past and present, for all that they do to serve our churches and for the time that they give. Churchwardens are often the first point of contact in the parishes and this role is as much about mission as it is about the building.  Church treasurers and secretaries have roles that are largely unseen but are essential to the wellbeing of our churches. We are blessed by the presence and commitment  of Rev'ds Jimmy and Sue who so readily share their gifts and experience with us. I, personally, appreciate their encouragement and wisdom.
The Old School Room which belongs to St Mary's in Whitechurch is now a viable asset and is proving extremely useful. Lighting and electrical work, along with maintenance to roofing and rainwater goods is under way. St James at Milton Abbas has had problems with rainwater ingress. St Andrew's, Houghton, with support from the village, has worked hard to improve the appearance of churchyard. St Mary's in Turnworth is in good order. Plans to reorder St Nicholas' in Clenston are awaiting approval. St Mary's in Stickland has been redecorated internally. All this takes considerable effort, and it is a credit to the hardworking people that our buildings are being improved.
In February 2014 we had a benefice day where we engaged with Robert Warren's process of developing a healthy church. The benefice mission statement of "making Christ visible" provides us with vision and mission priorities. Sometimes we have to accept that the maintenance and upkeep of our buildings means that at times we have to become less missional and more maintenance minded. Robert Warren's process identified that as a benefice we should concentrate on: "knowing what God wants". We have been engaging with this, this year through preaching and teaching and through the exploring of vocation - lay worship leaders and making disciples are examples of this. We are continuing to use the results from this to focus future development.
As Rector, I give thanks to God for allowing me the privilege of living in this Benefice and thank all of you for your ongoing support and encouragement. Please pray for the continued work of our Benefice as we look forward to all that God has in store for us in this coming year.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

7 New Worship Leaders commissioned by 1 New Bishop

Monday 14th March
Our new Bishop of Sherborne was welcomed by the benefice, at St James, Milton Abbas. One of her first public events was to commission our seven worship leaders who have completed the Diocese of Salisbury's training course for Lay worship leaders. Bishop Karen preached on 'basin ministry' - in other words, a ministry of service - as the gospel reading was John 13:12-17.
It was a very special evening service, followed by refreshments and a chance to chat. Thank you Milton Abbas for hosting this so superbly.