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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.

Sunday, 14 June 2020
Audio files are available on "The Message" page.


Holman Hunt, ‘A Converted British Family Sheltering a Christian Missionary from the Persecution of the Druids’,
1850, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

Dear Friends

The Gospel reading (Matthew 9:35-10:8) for this, the first Sunday after Trinity, includes Jesus’ exhortation to the twelve to ‘proclaim that the kingdom of Heaven is close at hand.’  And on Monday week, 22 June, we shall be remembering St Alban, the first martyr of Britain, who found that the kingdom of Heaven was close at hand in the person of a Christian priest who was fleeing during a time when the Church was still subject to sporadic persecutions.  Alban himself was a pagan, a Romano-British soldier, who lived near Verulamium.  During the persecution of Septimus Severus he offered shelter to a Christian priest, and was deeply impressed by the holy man’s faithfulness in spending all his time in prayer and vigils.  Touched by the grace of God, Alban was moved to follow the priest’s example and began to emulate his faith and devotion.  In the course of time, he became imbued with the priest’s salutary teaching and himself wholeheartedly professed the Christian faith.  Meanwhile, however, word had got out that Alban was sheltering a Christian and when the soldiers arrived to search the house, Alban dressed himself in the priest’s clothes and gave himself up in the place of his guest and teacher.

The judge appointed to hear the case was incensed that Alban should have surrendered himself in place of his guest, and, when he refused to offer sacrifice to idols, ordered him to be scourged, in the hope that his new-found faith and constancy could be shaken by torture.  But Alban bore all his severe torments with joyful patience for the sake of Christ.  When the judge saw that no torture could break him, or induce him to repudiate his faith, he ordered him to be beheaded.  Alban was martyred on 22 June 205 near the city of Verulamium.  Once more peaceful times were restored, a fine church, worthy of his martyrdom, was built in the city which we now call St Alban’s.

The Venerable Bede includes this account of the life of St Alban within his Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation.  It serves perhaps as a salutary reminder of the adage of another saint, Francis, who is commemorated later in the liturgical cycle: ‘Preach the gospel; use words if necessary’.

Fr Stephen

Collect for St Alban

Almighty God, who at the beginning of the conversion of Britain,
gloriously confirmed the faith of Alban by giving him a martyr’s crown:
in your mercy grant that, following his example in the fellowship of the saints,
we may worship and adore the true and living God
and be faithful witnesses to the same Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Roman 5.1-8

A reading from the letter of Paul to the Romans.

Since we are justified by faith,
we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,

through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand;
and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.

And not only that,
but we also boast in our sufferings,
knowing that suffering produces endurance,

and endurance produces character,
and character produces hope,

and hope does not disappoint us,
 because God's love has been poured into our hearts
through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

For while we were still weak,
at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.

Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—
though perhaps for a good person
someone might actually dare to die.

But God proves his love for us
in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.

Gospel Matthew 9.35-10.23

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

Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages,
teaching in their synagogues,
and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom,
and curing every disease and every sickness.

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them,
because they were harassed and helpless,
like sheep without a shepherd.

Then he said to his disciples,
 "The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few;

therefore ask the Lord of the harvest
to send out labourers into his harvest."

 hen Jesus summoned his twelve disciples
and gave them authority over unclean spirits,
to cast them out,
and to cure every disease and every sickness.

These are the names of the twelve apostles:
first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew;
James son of Zebedee, and his brother John;

Philip and Bartholomew;
Thomas and Matthew the tax collector;
James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus;

Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, t
he one who betrayed him.

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions:
"Go nowhere among the Gentiles,
and enter no town of the Samaritans,

but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

As you go, proclaim the good news,
"The kingdom of heaven has come near.'

Cure the sick, raise the dead,
cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.
You received without payment;
give without payment.

Thursday, 11 June 2020
1 Corinthians 11.23-26

A reading from the first letter of St Paul to the Corinthians.

 For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you,
that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread,

and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said,
"This is my body that is for you.
Do this in remembrance of me."

In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying,
"This cup is the new covenant in my blood.
Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me."

For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup,
you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.

Gospel. John 6.51-58

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

Jesus said to the Jews;

I am the living bread that came down from heaven.
Whoever eats of this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh."

The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying,
"How can this man give us his flesh to eat?"

So Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you,
unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you have no life in you.

Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me,
and I will raise them up on the last day;

for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.

Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me,
and I in them.

Just as the living Father sent me,
and I live because of the Father,
so whoever eats me will live because of me.

This is the bread that came down from heaven,
not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died.
But the one who eats this bread will live forever."
Sunday, 7 June 2020
Audio files of today's readings are available on "The Message" page.


Jules Breton (1827-1906)
Study for ‘The Blessing of the Wheat’ (Corpus Christi Procession), 1857, Private Collection

Dear Friends

This week, I’ve decided to consider two of the major feasts of the Church together – Trinity Sunday (for which the readings are 2 Corinthians 13:11-end and Matthew 28:16-20) and the Day of Thanksgiving for the Institution of Holy Communion, or Corpus Christi, which always falls on the following Thursday (and for which the readings are 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 and John 6:51-58).

As often mentioned, although the doctrine of the Holy Trinity is so central to Christian life and worship, you will not find the word ‘Trinity’ itself in either the Hebrew Scriptures or the New Testament!  An understanding of the Trinity is, of course, implicit in many Scriptural passages, including the one often described as ‘the Great Commission’, which occurs towards the end of St Matthew’s Gospel, and in which the Risen Lord commands his disciples to ‘make disciples of all nations’, and to ‘baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’.  It is accompanied by the great promise to the eleven disciples, and to all those who were to come afterwards, that Jesus is with us always, ‘yes, to the end of time’.

The formula ‘in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’ probably reflects liturgical usage within the early Christian community which was known to Matthew – and it was only subsequently, as a response to the Arian controversies of the third and fourth centuries, that the ‘Niceno-Constantinopolitan’ creed (more familiar to us as simply the ‘Nicene creed’) explicitly articulated the understanding of the Church that all three Persons of the Holy Trinity are fully divine and, mysteriously, are both Three and yet also One.

The doctrinal debates which preceded (and followed!) the development of this creed can seem obscure, complex and even, perhaps, somewhat irrelevant to the average ‘churchgoer in the pew’ – but they were essential, since they secured the understanding that all Christian worship is Trinitarian, and that through our prayers and praises, and participation in the sacraments, we also participate, in so far as we are able, in the divine life itself, becoming, as 2 Peter 1:4 puts it, ‘partakers of the divine nature’.

And this leads us on, of course, to participation in the Eucharist, which has not been possible for us as a community of faith for many long weeks now.  I’m sure that many of you are feeling the deprivation keenly.  I did mention, in an earlier ‘thought for the week’, the prayer which can be said by way of spiritual communion, and you may wish to use this again during this week, when, in the normal course of things, we would be giving particular thanks for the institution of the Eucharist.  We hope that it will not be too long before we may once again resume this central act of worship but, in the meantime, we can at least give thanks, as the Great Commission puts it, that Jesus is with us always, whatever our circumstances, and ‘even to the end of time’.
Fr Stephen

Collect for Trinity Sunday

Almighty and everlasting God,
you have given us your servants grace,
by the confession of a true faith,
to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity
and in the power of the divine majesty to worship the Unity:
keep us steadfast in this faith,
that we may evermore be defended from all adversities;
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.

2 Corinthians 13.11-13

A reading from the second letter of Paul to the Corinthians.

Brothers and sisters, 
put things in order, listen to my appeal, 
agree with one another, 
live in peace; 
and the God of love and peace will be with you. 

Greet one another with a holy kiss. 
All the saints greet you. 

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, 
the love of God, 
and the communion of the Holy Spirit 
be with all of you. 

Gospel.  Matthew 28. 16-20

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

The eleven disciples went to Galilee, 
to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 

When they saw him, they worshipped him; 
but some doubted. 

And Jesus came and said to them, 
"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, 
baptizing them in the name of the Father 
and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 

and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. 
And remember, I am with you always, 
to the end of the age." 
Monday, 1 June 2020

Zephaniah 3:14-18

Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart,
O daughter Jerusalem!

The Lord has taken away the judgments against you,
he has turned away your enemies.
The king of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst;
you shall fear disaster no more.

On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:
Do not fear, O Zion;
do not let your hands grow weak.

The Lord, your God, is in your midst,
a warrior who gives victory;
he will rejoice over you with gladness,
he will renew you in his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing

as on a day of festival.
I will remove disaster from you,
so that you will not bear reproach for it.

Psalm 113

He makes the woman of a childless house
to be a mother of children. Alleluia!

Give praise, you servants of the Lord;
praise the name of the Lord.

Let the name of the Lord  be blessed
from this time forth and for evermore.

He makes the woman of a childless house
to be a mother of children. Alleluia!

From the rising of the sun to its going down
let the name of the Lord praised.

The Lord is high above all nations,
and his glory above the heavens.

He makes the woman of a childless house
to be a mother of children. Alleluia!

Who is like the Lord our God,
who sits enthroned on high,
but stoops to behold the heavens and the earth?

He takes up the weak out of the dust,
and lifts up the poor from the ashes,

He makes the woman of a childless house
to be a mother of children. Alleluia!

He sets them with the princes,
with the princes of his people.

He makes the woman of a childless house,
to be a joyful mother of children.

 He makes the woman of a childless house
to be a mother of children. Alleluia!

Romans 12.9-16

A reading from the letter of Paul to the Romans

Let love be genuine;
hate what is evil,
hold fast to what is good;

love one another with mutual affection;
outdo one another in showing honour.

Do not lag in zeal,
be ardent in spirit,
serve the Lord.

Rejoice in hope,
be patient in suffering,
persevere in prayer.

Contribute to the needs of the saints;
extend hospitality to strangers.

Bless those who persecute you;
bless and do not curse them.

Rejoice with those who rejoice,
weep with those who weep.

Live in harmony with one another;
do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly;
do not claim to be wiser than you are.

Gospel  Luke 1.39-56

Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Luke.

Mary set out and went with haste
to a Judean town in the hill country,

where she entered the house of Zechariah
and greeted Elizabeth.

When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting,
the child leaped in her womb.
And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit

and exclaimed with a loud cry,
"Blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.

And why has this happened to me,
that the mother of my Lord comes to me?

For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting,
the child in my womb leapt for joy.

And blessed is she who believed
that there would be a fulfilment
of what was spoken to her by the Lord."

And Mary said,
"My soul magnifies the Lord,

and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,

for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;

for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.

His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.

He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.

He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;

he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.

He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,

according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever."

And Mary remained with her about three months
and then returned to her home.
Sunday, 31 May 2020

Audio files are available on "The Message" page.


Pentecost’, Giotto di Bondone (1266-1336), Scrovegni Chapel, Padua

Dear Friends

Although not so numerous as those for Christmas and Easter, the Feast of Pentecost has a number of hymns for the season, mostly invoking the Holy Spirit to come upon us – ‘Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire, and lighten with celestial fire’ is a particularly well-known example, composed by John Cosin (1594-1672), and based on the Latin Veni, creator Spiritus. It is quite often sung at confirmations and ordinations.

Another ‘responsory’, based on a psalm, goes ‘Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful people, and kindle in them the fire of your love; send forth your Spirit and they shall be created, and you shall renew the face of the earth.’

As I write, we are still in ‘lockdown’, and one unforeseen beneficial side-effect of this has been the ‘renewal of the face of the earth’. The enforced relaxation of human activity has given nature a chance to renew itself – skies are less cluttered with vapour trails, and the reduction of vehicles on the roads has given towns and cities cleaner air. I’m sure you can think of other benefits of this kind. Of course, we are also aware, conversely, of deleterious effects on the economy, but it does raise the question as to whether we need to, or should, return to our previous frenetic ways – do we really need, for example, to make so many journeys in gas-guzzling vehicles, or to continue to be such ‘frequent fliers’?

The present crisis has given us pause to reflect more deeply on how much we depend upon our planet’s natural resources, and whether we might organize our lives in more ‘eco-friendly’ ways – no longer simply as consumers, but as responsible stewards of God’s creation.

Perhaps this Pentecost, we might ask the Holy Spirit to come upon us afresh, as individuals, and as a community of faith, so that not only we, but the whole face of the earth, can be renewed?

Fr Stephen

Collect for the Feast of Pentecost

God, who as at this time
taught the hearts of your faithful people
by sending to them the light of your Holy Spirit:
grant us by the same Spirit
to have a right judgement in all things
and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort;
through the merits of Christ Jesus our Saviour,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Acts 2.1-21

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles.

When the day of Pentecost had come,
they were all together in one place.

And suddenly from heaven there came a sound
like the rush of a violent wind,
and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.

Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them,
and a tongue rested on each of them.

All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit
and began to speak in other languages,
as the Spirit gave them ability.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven
living in Jerusalem.

And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered,
because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.

Amazed and astonished, they asked,
"Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?

And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?

Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia,
Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,

Phrygia and Pamphylia,
Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene,
and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes,

Cretans and Arabs—
in our own languages we hear them speaking
about God's deeds of power."

All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another,
"What does this mean?"

But others sneered and said,
"They are filled with new wine."

But Peter, standing with the eleven,
raised his voice and addressed them,
"Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem,
let this be known to you, and listen to what I say.

Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose,
for it is only nine o'clock in the morning.

No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:

"In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.

Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.

And I will show portents in the heaven above
 and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and smoky mist.

The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood,
before the coming of the Lord's great and glorious day.

Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord
shall be saved.'

Psalm 104.25-35, 37

O Lord, how manifold are your works!
in wisdom you have made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.

Yonder is the great and wide sea
with its living things too many to number,
creatures both small and great.

There move the ships,
and there is that Leviathan,
which you have made for the sport of it.

All of them look to you
to give them their food in due season.

You give it to them, they gather it;
you open your hand and they are filled with good things.

You hide your face and they are terrified;
you take away their breath
and they die and return to their dust.

You send forth your Spirit and they are created;
and so you renew the face of the earth.

May the glory of the Lord endure for ever;
may the Lord rejoice in all his works.

He looks at the earth and it trembles;
he touches the mountains and they smoke.

I will sing to the Lord as long as I live;
I will praise my God while I have my being.

May these words of mine please him;
I will rejoice in the Lord.

Bless the Lord, O my soul.

1 Corinthians 12.3b-13

A reading from the first letter of Paul to the Corinthians.

No one can say "Jesus is Lord" except by the Holy Spirit.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit;

and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord;

and there are varieties of activities,
but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom,
and to another the utterance of knowledge
according to the same Spirit,

to another faith by the same Spirit,
to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit,

to another the working of miracles,
to another prophecy,
to another the discernment of spirits,
to another various kinds of tongues,
to another the interpretation of tongues.

All these are activated by one and the same Spirit,
who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.

For just as the body is one and has many members,
and all the members of the body, though many, are one body,
so it is with Christ.

For in the one Spirit we were all baptised into one body—
Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—
and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

Gospel John 20.19-23

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

It was evening on that day, the first day of the week,
and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked
for fear of the Jews,
Jesus came and stood among them and said,
"Peace be with you."

After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.

Jesus said to them again,
"Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you."

When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
"Receive the Holy Spirit.

If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them;
if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."

Sunday, 24 May 2020
Audio files are available on "The Message" page.


‘The Ascension of Christ’, Albrecht Durer, Woodcut, 1510, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Dear Friends

Some churches celebrate the Ascension of Christ on the Sunday after the Ascension, rather than on the feast day itself, which always occurs on the Thursday before the seventh Sunday of Easter.  Being a fairly traditional church, we at St Mary’s have kept to the time-honoured pattern of celebrating Ascension on the actual day (which this year would have fallen on 21 May), retaining the following Sunday as the seventh of Easter.  I feel somewhat vindicated in keeping to this separate celebration of the Ascension, which enables us to focus during the Sunday, in John 17:1-11, on the passage from what is known as Jesus ‘High Priestly prayer’.

In this prayer (which takes up the whole of chapter 17), Jesus discloses a knowledge, not only of the situation which pertained at the time (ie during the Passover of circa AD33), but also of the future, when, in verse 20, he says, ‘I ask not only on behalf of these (ie those in the upper room), but also on behalf of those (ie including ourselves) who will believe in me through their word, that they also may be one as you, Father, are in me and I am in you, so that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe it was you who sent me.  I have given them the glory you gave to me that they may be one as we are one.’

This passage is usually recommended also for reading during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity – ie that Jesus’ oneness with the Father may be replicated in Christian communities as they join together for worship and service.  As we know, there has been much progress in Christian ecumenism during the last fifty years or so, although there are still, of course, also many areas of difference and even disagreement.

In the letter to the Ephesians (chapter 4) we read of the way in which these two themes, of the Ascension, and the unity of all Christians (and, indeed, pointing implicitly also to the unity of all humankind), are inextricably linked:-
‘He went up to the heights, took captives, he gave gifts to humanity.  When it says “he went up” it must mean that he had gone down to the deepest levels of the earth.  The one who went down is none other than the one who went up above all the heavens to fill all things.  And to some, his gift was they should be apostles; to some prophets; to some evangelists; to some, pastors and teachers; to knit God’s holy people together for the work of service to build up the Body of Christ, until we all reach unity in faith and knowledge of the Son of God . . so the body grows until it has built itself up in love.’

Our unity in Christ, then, through baptism and participation in worship, service and the sacraments, is a foretaste of the fullness of the glory which awaits us in heaven, when Christ, as our head, shall be ‘all in all’ – a wonderful promise indeed, especially during times of trial such as we are currently going through.

Fr Stephen

Collect for the Seventh Sunday of Easter

O God the King of glory,
you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ
with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven:
we beseech you, leave us not comfortless,
but send your Holy Spirit to strengthen us
and exalt us to the place where our Saviour Christ is gone before,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Acts 1.6-14

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles.

When the apostles had come together, they asked him,
"Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?"

He replied, "It is not for you to know the times or periods
that the Father has set by his own authority.

But you will receive power
when the Holy Spirit has come upon you;
and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem,
in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

When he had said this, as they were watching,
he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.

While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven,
suddenly two men in white robes stood by them.

They said, "Men of Galilee,
why do you stand looking up toward heaven?
This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven,
will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven."

Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet,
which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day's journey away.

When they had entered the city,
they went to the room upstairs where they were staying,
Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas,
Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus,
and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James.

All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer,
together with certain women,
including Mary the mother of Jesus,
as well as his brothers.

Gospel John 17.1-11

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

Jesus looked up to heaven and said,
"Father, the hour has come;
glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you,

since you have given him authority over all people,
to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.

And this is eternal life,
that they may know you, the only true God,
and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

I glorified you on earth
by finishing the work that you gave me to do.

So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence
with the glory that I had in your presence
before the world existed.

"I have made your name known
to those whom you gave me from the world.
They were yours, and you gave them to me,
and they have kept your word.

Now they know that everything you have given me is from you;

for the words that you gave to me I have given to them,
and they have received them
and know in truth that I came from you;
and they have believed that you sent me.

I am asking on their behalf;
I am not asking on behalf of the world,
but on behalf of those whom you gave me,
because they are yours.

All mine are yours, and yours are mine;
and I have been glorified in them.

And now I am no longer in the world,
but they are in the world,
and I am coming to you.
Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me,
so that they may be one, as we are one.

Thursday, 21 May 2020
Audio files are available on "The Message" page

Acts 1.1-11

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles.

In the first book, Theophilus,
I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning

until the day when he was taken up to heaven,
after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit
to the apostles whom he had chosen.

After his suffering he presented himself alive to them
by many convincing proofs,
appearing to them during forty days
and speaking about the kingdom of God.

While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem,
but to wait there for the promise of the Father.
"This," he said, "is what you have heard from me;

for John baptized with water,
but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit
not many days from now."

So when they had come together, they asked him,
"Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?"

He replied, "It is not for you to know the times or periods
that the Father has set by his own authority.

But you will receive power
when the Holy Spirit has come upon you;
and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem,
in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

When he had said this, as they were watching,
he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.

While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven,
suddenly two men in white robes stood by them.

They said, "Men of Galilee,
why do you stand looking up toward heaven?
This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven,
will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven."

Ephesians 1.15-23

A reading from the letter of Paul to the Ephesians.

I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus
and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason

I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers.

I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory,
may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation
as you come to know him,

so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened,
you may know what is the hope to which he has called you,
what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints,

and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power
for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.

God put this power to work in Christ
when he raised him from the dead
and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,

far above all rule and authority and power and dominion,
and above every name that is named,
not only in this age but also in the age to come.

And he has put all things under his feet
and has made him the head over all things for the church,

which is his body,
the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Gospel Luke 24.44-53

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

Jesus said to the disciples,
"These are my words that I spoke to you
while I was still with you—
that everything written about me in the law of Moses,
the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled."

Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures,

and he said to them,
"Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer
and to rise from the dead on the third day,

and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed
in his name to all nations,
beginning from Jerusalem.

You are witnesses of these things.

And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised;
so stay here in the city
until you have been clothed with power from on high."

Then he led them out as far as Bethany,
and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them.

While he was blessing them,
he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven.

And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy;

and they were continually in the temple blessing God.
Wednesday, 20 May 2020

If your screen is too small, here is the poem.

The Old Parish Church

C Champneys Burnham

My stones were laid. my building planned
When conquering Normans ruled the land
My tower was raised,strong, stout and tall
To house the bells whose clamorous call
Through all the country round did cry
"Come, enter in. Your Lord is nigh."
I've watched as through my great west door
For centuries long came rich and poor
Sword bearing baron in his might
Penurious peasant in his plight
From powers pursuing men would flee
In hope of sanctuary in me
Swift archers came who from my yews
The wood for new long bows did choose
Came Puritan and Quaker  maid
Gay Cavalier - Restoration blade -
I welcomed them whate'er their mood
As mother hen enfolds her brood
All England came - of that be sure
How varied were the clothes they wore
Rich robes and laces, furs and frills
Thick gaberdines to ward off chills
Soft silken gowns with swirling flair
Homespun linen, cloaks threadbare
Cromwellian dress, demure and staid
Bright uniforms with golden braid
And khaki too - how much I saw -
When England's youth went twice to war
To England's throne in rich procession
Came kings and queens in due succession
Angevins and Tudors held their sway
Hanoverians, Stuarts had their day
Throngh changing years a changing throng
Fill my walls with unchanging song
I christened them 'mid infant tears
And married them in later years
Some - not all - the Sacrament received
But all I hope in God believed
Through church gate shade at length they passed
'Neath churchyard green to sleep at last
Though customs die and fashions fade
Yet I to God have faithful stayed
Within my quietness you will find
Tranquillity to ease your mind
Come, quietly sit and feel around you
How centuries of prayer surround you
The unseen hosts that filled this place
Bear witness of God's love and grace.
Sunday, 17 May 2020
Audio files are available on "The Message" page.


‘St Paul Preaching the Areopagus Sermon’, Raphael, 1515, Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Dear Friends

We are now nearing the Feast of the Ascension, which, as narrated in Luke and read on Ascension Day itself, is described as a self-contained event.  However, John’s Gospel does not include a description of the Ascension of Christ rising up to heaven.  Instead, the Resurrection narratives seem to imply rather that Jesus goes to the Father – but, while still with his disciples in the upper room, he breathes on them, thereby conferring the Spirit upon them.

In this Sunday’s reading from Acts (Acts 17:22-31), Paul uses a little flattery to try to get the usually sceptical Athenians on his side, with uneven effect.  It’s as if the Athenians shrug their shoulders in a ‘We’ve heard it all before’ sort of way.  Paul in this episode is less forthright and more respectful of his hearers than usual, trying to persuade his listeners (whom he describes elsewhere as ‘itchy-eared’ – i.e. eager to hear, but equally prepared to dismiss, all the latest philosophical arguments) to move on from the ‘natural religion’ of their pagan beliefs to an understanding of God as revealed in the life, death, passion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  It is an approach which, as far as we can tell from Acts and from the information in his correspondence, he does not use again – as he writes in his first letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 1:21-24): ‘Where are the philosophers? . . . And where are the debaters of this age?  . . . While the Greeks look for wisdom, we are preaching a crucified Christ . . . who is both the power of God and the wisdom of God.’

Subsequently, of course, despite this apparent ‘failure’ of his preaching at the Areopagus, Paul moved on to Rome, another centre of the Classical world, and many of the Greeks did, in fact, embrace Christianity as those evangelists who followed in Paul’s footsteps carried forward the Gospel message to the embryonic Christian communities around the Mediterranean basin.

In today’s Gospel (John 14:15-21), Jesus is exhorting his disciples to eschew fear, to keep God’s commandments, and to expect ‘the Advocate’ from heaven – he is preparing them, in other words, precisely for that apostolic ministry which was to ensure the establishment of Christianity, which, ultimately, would be accepted, under Constantine, as the official religion of the Roman Empire.  There is just a hint in this passage of the Trinitarian implications of the unity between the Father, Jesus himself and the Spirit – although it was, again, not until the great Oecumenical Councils of the fourth century (Nicaea in 325 and Constantinople in 381) that the full doctrine of the Trinity could be agreed.

Fr Stephen

Collect for the Sixth Sunday of Easter

God our Redeemer,
you have delivered us from the power of darkness
and brought us into the Kingdom of your Son:
grant that as by his death
he has recalled us to life,
so by his continual presence in us
he may raise us to eternal joy,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Acts 17:22-31

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles.

Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said,
"Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way.

For as I went through the city
and looked carefully at the objects of your worship,
I found among them an altar with the inscription,
"To an unknown god.'
What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.

The God who made the world and everything in it,
he who is Lord of heaven and earth,
does not live in shrines made by human hands,

nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything,
since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things.

From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth,
and he allotted the times of their existence
and the boundaries of the places where they would live,

so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though
indeed he is not far from each one of us.

For "In him we live and move and have our being';
as even some of your own poets have said,
"For we too are his offspring.'

Since we are God's offspring,
we ought not to think that
the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone,
an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals.

While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance,
now he commands all people everywhere to repent,

because he has fixed a day
on which he will have the world judged in righteousness
by a man whom he has appointed,
and of this he has given assurance to all
by raising him from the dead."

Psalm 66. 7-18

Bless our God, you peoples;
make the voice of his praise to be heard.

Who holds our souls in life,
and will not allow our feet to slip.

For you, O God, have proved us;
you have tried us just as silver is tried.

You brought us into the snare;
you laid heavy burdens upon our backs.

You let enemies ride over our heads;
we went through fire and water;
but you brought us out into a place of refreshment.

I will enter your house with burnt offerings
and will pay you my vows,
which I promised with my lips
and spoke with my mouth when I was in trouble.

I will offer you sacrifices of fat beasts
with the smoke of rams;
I will give you oxen and goats.

Come and listen, all you who fear God,
and I will tell you what he has done for me.

I called out to him with my mouth,
and his praise was on my tongue.

If I had found evil in my heart,
the Lord would not have heard me;

But in truth God has heard me;
he has attended to the voice of my prayer.

Blessed be God, who has not rejected my prayer,
nor withheld his love from me.

1 Peter 3.13-22

A reading from the first letter of Peter.

Who will harm you
if you are eager to do what is good?

But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed.
Do not fear what they fear,
and do not be intimidated,

but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord.
Always be ready to make your defence
to anyone who demands from you an account
of the hope that is in you;

yet do it with gentleness and reverence.
Keep your conscience clear,
so that, when you are maligned,
those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ
may be put to shame.

For it is better to suffer for doing good,
if suffering should be God's will,
than to suffer for doing evil.

For Christ also suffered for sins once for all,
the righteous for the unrighteous,
in order to bring you to God.
He was put to death in the flesh,
but made alive in the spirit,

in which also he went
and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison,

who in former times did not obey,
when God waited patiently in the days of Noah,
during the building of the ark,
in which a few, that is,
eight persons, were saved through water.

 And baptism, which this prefigured,
now saves you—
not as a removal of dirt from the body,
but as an appeal to God for a good conscience,
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God,
with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.

Gospel  John 14.15-21

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

Jesus said to his disciples;

"If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

And I will ask the Father,
and he will give you another Advocate,
to be with you forever.

This is the Spirit of truth,
whom the world cannot receive,
because it neither sees him nor knows him.
You know him, because he abides with you,
and he will be in you.

"I will not leave you orphaned;
I am coming to you.

In a little while the world will no longer see me,
but you will see me;
because I live, you also will live.

On that day you will know that I am in my Father,
and you in me, and I in you.

They who have my commandments and keep them
are those who love me;
and those who love me will be loved by my Father,
and I will love them and reveal myself to them."

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.