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Sunday, 12 July 2020
This Sunday for the first time since March, we were able to hold a service at St Marys, following the guidance on social distancing, hand sanitising, and with out any singing or exchanging the peace we non the less celebrated the Eucharist! About 20 people gathered at 10 am, and using alternate pews, we said the service, and Father Steven was the celebrant. His homily is presented below for those who could not come!

It was a wonderful thing to be together again and we praise God that we are able to meet in his presence at the Eucharist. We were not able to have refreshments afterwards, but it was joyful to meet and see each other, to resume our worship and to hear Joanna play the organ.

Next week we will meet again for Mattins, many thanks to Chris and Janet for organising this 'new normal' service!


Vincent van Gogh, ‘The Sower’ (two versions, both completed during 1888)

Dear Friends

Vincent van Gogh painted two pictures entitled ‘The Sower’ during 1888.  Both show a large sun behind the central figure and we can imagine him sweltering in the ‘heat and burden of the day’, although in one of the paintings the sower is depicted beside a river, with a large tree perhaps offering a little shade.

For van Gogh, the one-time lay preacher in Holland, the Gospel reference to the parable of the sower would almost certainly have been uppermost in his mind as he worked on these paintings.  And, of course, the Gospel set for today (Matthew 13:1-9 and 18-23) provides one of the versions of this parable, describing the sower who liberally sprinkles the seed of God’s word, which falls indiscriminately over the ground, with some falling on the edge of the path, some on patches of rock, some among thorns, and only some on the good soil, which, as every Sunday School child knows, brings forth a rich harvest, whether thirty-, sixty- or a hundred fold.

Jesus’ parables of the Kingdom, of which this is one, tend to be very concise – every word counts – and in this case we are offered an explanation of the details.  Thus we learn that the seed that is sown in good soil represents those who hear the word of God and understand it.  I must have preached on this passage at least thirty, sixty or even a hundred times in my ordained life, but it has never struck me before that it is only those who understand the word who produce the crop.  We know that any preacher Sunday by Sunday will only be able to ‘broadcast’ the seed of God’s word to a limited number of people – perhaps forty or fifty on average – although these days, with the increased streaming of services, perhaps this might be more.  We can never know what effect our preaching will have on those who listen, but we trust that the Holy Spirit will come to our aid, so that those who hear God’s word may also receive it with understanding, and bring forth a good harvest within their own lives and situations.

Fr Stephen

Collect for the Fifth Sunday after Trinity

Almighty and everlasting God,
by whose Spirit the whole body of the Church
is governed and sanctified:
hear our prayer which we offer for all your faithful people,
that in their vocation and ministry
they may serve you in holiness and truth
to the glory of your name;
through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
One God now and for ever.  Amen.

Romans 8:1-11

A reading from the letter of Paul to the Romans.

There is therefore now no condemnation
for those who are in Christ Jesus.

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus
has set you free from the law of sin and of death.

For God has done what the law,
weakened by the flesh,
could not do:
by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh,
and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,

so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us,
who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

For those who live according to the flesh
set their minds on the things of the flesh,
but those who live according to the Spirit
set their minds on the things of the Spirit.

To set the mind on the flesh is death,
but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.

For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God;
it does not submit to God's law—indeed it cannot,

and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

But you are not in the flesh;
you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you.
Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.

But if Christ is in you,
though the body is dead because of sin,
the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you,
he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies
also through his Spirit that dwells in you.

Gospel.  Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

Hear the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Matthew.

Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the lake.

Such great crowds gathered around him
that he got into a boat and sat there,
while the whole crowd stood on the beach.

And he told them many things in parables, saying:
"Listen! A sower went out to sow.

And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path,
and the birds came and ate them up.

Other seeds fell on rocky ground,
where they did not have much soil,
and they sprang up quickly,
since they had no depth of soil.

But when the sun rose, they were scorched;
and since they had no root, they withered away.

Other seeds fell among thorns,
and the thorns grew up and choked them.

Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain,
some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.

Let anyone with ears listen!"

Hear then the parable of the sower.

When anyone hears the word of the kingdom
and does not understand it,
the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart;
this is what was sown on the path.

 As for what was sown on rocky ground,
this is the one who hears the word
 and immediately receives it with joy;

yet such a person has no root,
but endures only for a while,
and when trouble or persecution arises
on account of the word,
that person immediately falls away.

As for what was sown among thorns,
this is the one who hears the word,
but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth
choke the word, and it yields nothing.

But as for what was sown on good soil,
this is the one who hears the word and understands it,
who indeed bears fruit and yields,
in one case a hundredfold,
in another sixty, and in another thirty."
Friday, 10 July 2020

Dear All,

This is such a welcome email to be writing!  Our first service post lockdown will be at 10am on Sunday, 12 July!

For the immediate future we will not be holding the 8:00am service as the logistics of preparing the church for a further service within such a short period of time are not practical.  I am afraid Sunday School will not be restarting this term but, please, come along to church as a family. We will be following the usual pattern for 10am services and so the service this Sunday will be a Parish Eucharist taken by Father Stephen.  Janet and I will ‘sidesman‘ this service to see if everything runs smoothly or if anything needs rethinking.

The practicalities are -
  1. We must remain 2 metres apart from other family groups at all times –coming to church, in church and leaving the church.  For this reason we will be sitting in alternate pews, no-one should sit in the front pew or rear pew in the front half of the church and in the front pew in the rear section of the church. No one should sit within 2 metres of the ends of the pews. We will put chairs in the transepts to increase seating as much as possible but we may run out of space in the church.  You might like to put a garden chair in the car and then we will transmit the service into the churchyard for those who can’t get into church or who pprefer to sit in the churchyard.  If you do choose to sit in the churchyard you must still maintain social distancing at 2 metres.  If you wish to wear a mask, please do. Please wait to enter church if necessary to maintain that 2 metres.  Please avoid touching surfaces unless necessary.
  2. Please use the hand sanitizer provided on entry to the church and when you leave. 
  3. If you wish to visit the toilets the door opposite the south door of the church will be open. Again, please use the sanitizer on entry and on exit.  Please use the surface cleaner provided on any surfaces you have touched including taps and the toilet seat and flush.
  4. We cannot sing or exchange the Peace.  We are asked to make all responses quietly and not raise our voices.
  5. We will use our service booklets as usual and they will then be quarantined for 7 days.
  6. We will have a collection but the collection bags will not be used. We will place plates by each exit for your donations and these will be quarantined for 72 hours before being processed
  7. Father Stephen will explain the arrangements for receiving the host on Sunday but basically we are allowed to receive the host in one kind – the bread.  However we must come up to receive in single file (2 metres apart) and receive standing.  We will not respond.  We will go up to receive by the centre aisle and peel off as appropriate to the side aisles to return to our seat.

Please be patient with these measures , we do reassure you that they are there in order to keep everyone safe. We are aware that this is gong to feel very different but it will be so good to be back in church worshipping together!  If you have any questions do, please, ring either me (01243 641493) or Janet (01243 641698). 

If you wish to see St Mary’s Risk Assessment relating to services at church, please contact me.

Looking forward to seeing you on Sunday,


Sunday, 5 July 2020
Audio files are available on "The Message" page.


Rembrandt (1606-1669), ‘Moses Smashing the Tablets of the Law’, 1659, Gemäldegalerie, Berlin

Dear Friends

Last Sunday, the ‘thought for the week’ focused upon St John the Baptist, who features in the Gospel narrative for this Sunday.  So this time I shall be taking a look at another reading set for today, taken not from the principal service but from what the Common Worship lectionary describes as the ‘3rd service’ (i.e. the readings set for Mattins).

It is Deuteronomy 24:10-22 and it is an interesting passage because it confounds some of our preconceptions concerning the ‘Old Testament’, or ‘Hebrew Scriptures’.  ‘Humane’ is perhaps not a word which immediately springs to mind in this context, since so many narratives within these books of the bible seem to be concerned with ‘divine wrath and punishment’.  Nevertheless, this passage is just that, humane, a fact which might at first glance seem remarkable in that it comes from the Torah, or the Jewish Law.

The text makes it clear that if you make a loan to a neighbour and take a pledge in exchange, perhaps a cloak, for example, then you should not keep it overnight, for your neighbour may get cold – so you return it to him for the night.  That way, you will receive a blessing rather than resentment.
Likewise, one is not to withhold the wages of poor and needy labourers, whether Israelites or aliens.  This runs very much counter to the practices of some employers today – especially as we hear lately that the wages of furloughed staff are being kept back and unscrupulous companies are keeping the Government money for themselves.

Similarly, provision is made for those who glean the edges of harvest fields, ie those who were usually the most marginalised groups of society such as widows, aliens and orphans – landowners are to ensure that, as the crops are harvested, the stubble around the edges should be allowed to remain, and that grapes are to be left on the vine, and olives on the trees, so that these vulnerable groups have something to take away with them.  The purpose is to keep reminding the people of Israel that they too were once an enslaved and vulnerable people in Egypt, prior to the Exodus.

Most of us at times in our lives have experienced hardship of various kinds, and this passage in Deuteronomy is a salutary reminder to us to respond with compassion to the needs of our neighbours.  Although now part of the Law, Deuteronomy was a later addition to the four books which had previously made up the Torah – the compilers were clearly coming to that greatest of realisations that ‘love is the fulfilling of the Law’.

Finally, it has been good to receive, within the last few days, not only the latest Government advice concerning the resumption of public worship, but also Bishop Martin’s very helpful Ad Clerum which gives practical and detailed suggestions for the ways in which our services can be conducted in as safe a way as possible over the next weeks and months.  I shall be meeting with our Churchwardens to discuss things during the course of next week and, once we have come to a common mind on these matters, we shall, of course, let you know the outcome as soon as possible.  There is much to think about to ensure that the arrangements are right for St Mary’s, so please bear with us in the meantime!

Fr Stephen

Collect for the Fourth Sunday after Trinity

O God, the protector of all who trust in you,
without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy:
increase and multiply upon us your mercy;
that with you as our ruler and guide
we may so pass through things temporal
that we lose not our hold on things eternal;
grant this, heavenly Father,
for our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake,
who is alive and reigns with you,
In the unity of the Holy Spirit,
One God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Romans 7.15-25a

A reading from the letter of Paul to the Romans.

I do not understand my own actions.
For I do not do what I want,
but I do the very thing I hate.

Now if I do what I do not want,
I agree that the law is good.

But in fact it is no longer I that do it,
but sin that dwells within me.

For I know that nothing good dwells within me,
that is, in my flesh.
I can will what is right,
but I cannot do it.

For I do not do the good I want,
but the evil I do not want is what I do.

Now if I do what I do not want,
it is no longer I that do it,
but sin that dwells within me.

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good,
evil lies close at hand.

For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self,

but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind,
making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.

Wretched man that I am!
Who will rescue me from this body of death?

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Gospel  Matthew 11.16-19, 25-30

Hear the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Matthew.

At that time Jesus said,

"But to what will I compare this generation?
It is like children sitting in the marketplaces
and calling to one another,

"We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we wailed, and you did not mourn.'

For John came neither eating nor drinking,
and they say, "He has a demon';

the Son of Man came eating and drinking,
and they say, "Look, a glutton and a drunkard,
a friend of tax collectors and sinners!'
Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds."

"I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
because you have hidden these things
from the wise and the intelligent
and have revealed them to infants;

yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.

All things have been handed over to me by my Father;
and no one knows the Son except the Father,
and no one knows the Father except the Son
and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

"Come to me, all you that are weary
and are carrying heavy burdens,
and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me;
for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.

For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

Sunday, 28 June 2020
Audio files can be found on "The Message" page.


16th-century Russian icon of The Nativity of John the Baptist, Hermitage Museum

Dear Friends

This Sunday, the third after Trinity, falls just after the Feast of the Nativity of St John the Baptist, which is celebrated by the Church on 24 June. Throughout the Gospels, we have indications of the way in which people at the time speculated about the respective roles and ministries of John the Baptist and Jesus – not least in the Gospel passage (Matthew 11:16-19 and 25-end) which is due to be read next Sunday, the fourth after Trinity. In that passage, Jesus shows that he is aware of the way in which he was being compared to his cousin, and, of course, many of the comments and criticisms were misplaced. Just as today anyone who puts his or her head above the parapet is likely to be misunderstood, either wilfully or through ignorance, so John the Baptist was accused of being possessed by demons because of his ascetic lifestyle, whereas Jesus was assumed to be a ‘glutton and drunkard’ because he was prepared to enjoy a meal with both ‘friends and sinners’ alike! You can’t win!

The Gospel ends, however, with words of comfort and reassurance, as Jesus exclaims that the mysteries of the Kingdom are being revealed to ‘little children’ – i.e. those who trust that God’s purposes are being worked out in the person of Jesus himself - who are contrasted with the ‘learned and the clever’ – i.e. the Jewish religious leaders who were rejecting all God’s advances, whether made through the stern penance of John or through the courtesy of Jesus. For those who accept the gentle mastery of Jesus, there is the great promise that he will give them rest: ‘Come to me all you who labour and are overburdened and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.’ The original context of this saying is probably to be found in ideas associated with the burden of the Law and the additional Pharisaic observances – the ‘yoke of the Law’ was a familiar metaphor in use at the time – but Jesus’ words have continued to resonate through the centuries as his followers find that he offers us rest and hope, and a place where we can lay down our burdens, whatever they may be.

Fr Stephen

Collect for the Third Sunday after Trinity

Almighty God,
you have broken the tyranny of sin
and have sent the Spirit of your Son into our hearts
whereby we call you Father:
give us grace to dedicate our freedom to your service,
that we and all creation may be brought
to the glorious liberty of the children of God;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. 

Acts 12.1-11

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles.

About that time

King Herod laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church.

He had James, the brother of John, killed with the sword.

After he saw that it pleased the Jews,
he proceeded to arrest Peter also.
(This was during the festival of Unleavened Bread.)

When he had seized him, he put him in prison
and handed him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him,
intending to bring him out to the people after the Passover.

While Peter was kept in prison,
the church prayed fervently to God for him.

The very night before Herod was going to bring him out,
Peter, bound with two chains, was sleeping between two soldiers,
while guards in front of the door were keeping watch
over the prison.

Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared
and a light shone in the cell.
He tapped Peter on the side and woke him,
saying, "Get up quickly."
And the chains fell off his wrists.

The angel said to him,
"Fasten your belt and put on your sandals."
He did so. Then he said to him,
"Wrap your cloak around you and follow me."

Peter went out and followed him;
he did not realise
that what was happening with the angel's help was real;
he thought he was seeing a vision.

After they had passed the first and the second guard,
they came before the iron gate leading into the city.
It opened for them of its own accord,
and they went outside and walked along a lane,
when suddenly the angel left him.

Then Peter came to himself and said,
"Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel
and rescued me from the hands of Herod
and from all that the Jewish people were expecting."

Gospel Matthew 16.13-19

Hear the gospel of our Lord Jesus Chris according to Matthew.

When Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi,
he asked his disciples,
"Who do people say that the Son of Man is?"

And they said, "Some say John the Baptist,
but others Elijah,
and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."

He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"

Simon Peter answered,
"You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."

And Jesus answered him,
"Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah!
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you,
but my Father in heaven.

And I tell you, you are Peter,
and on this rock I will build my church,
and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.

I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven,
and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven,
and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."

Friday, 26 June 2020
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has been recording deaths in England and Wales where Covid-19 has been mentioned on a person's death certificate.

Those deaths, which occured between March 1 and May 31 - registered by June 6, have either been caused by Covid-19 or the virus has been a 'contributing factor.'

Please enter your postcode in the box below to  see  the statistics for your area:

Sunday, 21 June 2020
Audio files are on "The Message" page.


Michelangelo, ‘The Prophet Jeremiah’, Fresco, The Sistine Chapel, 1512

Dear Friends

If my calculations are correct, under normal conditions we would be having Mattins at our 10.00am service this coming Sunday morning, in which case the first reading would be from the Old Testament (or, to be politically correct, the ‘Hebrew Scriptures’).  We would therefore be hearing the passage from Jeremiah 28:5-9, in which the prophet addresses the assembled company, who are still in the city of Jerusalem (ie the ‘remnant’ who had not been exiled to Babylon), and expresses the hope that all the vessels of the house of the Lord, taken by their captors to Babylon, would one day be returned to their proper place.  The libretto of William Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast graphically describes their desecration at the hands of the Babylonian ruler.

Although we have not been physically uprooted like the Israelites in Jeremiah’s day, we may currently be feeling deprived and exiled from our usual worship in church, where we would expect to be fed by the sacrament of Holy Communion from our customary vessels, which for the duration lie unused in the vestry safe.  The need to worship together in this way is integral to the Christian life, and, of course, we feel this ‘exile’ more keenly when it is enforced upon us, even when this is for the best of reasons.

I believe, however, that when we are once more allowed to conduct public worship in our cherished church here at St Mary’s we shall appreciate it all the more.  It’s the sort of response that pundits describe as ‘visceral’, ie not so much an intellectual appreciation but rather a ‘gut feeling’ which resonates with our deepest needs.

It is my hope and prayer that when, eventually, this time comes to an end, we shall be able to look back and see our present deprivation for what it is – a deep-seated need for the sacraments which feed not only our minds (sometimes we can intellectualise too much) but also our ‘inward parts’ and hearts, where the most profound feelings of love and compassion reside.

Fr Stephen

Collect for the Second Sunday after Trinity

Lord, you have taught us
that all our doings without love are nothing worth:
send your Holy Spirit
and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of love,
the true bond of peace and of all virtues,
without which whoever lives is counted dead before you.
Grant this for your only Son Jesus Christ’s sake,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Romans 6.1b-11

A reading from the letter of Paul to the Romans.

Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound?

By no means!
How can we who died to sin go on living in it?

Do you not know
that all of us who have been baptised into Christ Jesus
were baptised into his death?

Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death,
so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead
by the glory of the Father,
so we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his,
we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

We know that our old self was crucified with him
so that the body of sin might be destroyed,
and we might no longer be enslaved to sin.

For whoever has died is freed from sin.

But if we have died with Christ,
we believe that we will also live with him.

We know that Christ, being raised from the dead,
will never die again;
death no longer has dominion over him.

The death he died, he died to sin, once for all;
but the life he lives, he lives to God.

So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin
and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Gospel Matthew 10.24-39

Hear the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Matthew.

Jesus summoned the twelve
and sent them out with the following instructions;

"A disciple is not above the teacher,
nor a slave above the master;

it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher,
and the slave like the master.
If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul,
how much more will they malign those of his household!

"So have no fear of them;
for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered,
and nothing secret that will not become known.

What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light;
and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops.

Do not fear those who kill the body
but cannot kill the soul;
rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?
Yet not one of them will fall to the ground
unperceived by your Father.

And even the hairs of your head are all counted.

So do not be afraid;
you are of more value than many sparrows.

"Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others,
I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven;

but whoever denies me before others,
I also will deny before my Father in heaven.

"Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth;
I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.

For I have come to set a man against his father,
and a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;

and one's foes will be members of one's own household.

Whoever loves father or mother more than me
is not worthy of me;
and whoever loves son or daughter more than me
is not worthy of me;

and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me
is not worthy of me.

Those who find their life will lose it,
 and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

Thursday, 18 June 2020
 St Marys is now open 9 to 5 each day for private prayer. Please use the hand sanitizer provided and try not to touch anything! Also please observe social distancing.
We are not yet able to hold services, but look forward to the day when we can!
Please remember in your prayers those who have lost loved ones in the Pandemic that they may be comforted in their grief.

Service Times

10:00am Sunday Service

Useful links

Here are some links to resources you may find helpful:

  1. Chichester Cathedral will be live streaming services. For the Eucharist and order of service Click here before 10:00am Sunday and follow the instructions.
  2. The BBC Daily Service is available here.
  3. Prayer for today.
  4. The C of E youtube channel.
  5. We will be updating Fr Stephens Message page on a regular basis.
  6. Hearing You is a new phone help line launched by the Diocese of Chichester in partnership with Together in Sussex in response to the impact that Covid 19 has had on Just about the whole community. It aims to provide pastoral support and a listening ear to the recently bereaved and people directly affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.
  7. COVID-19 advice from the Diocese of Chichester here.