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Sunday, 13 December 2020
Today is the third sunday in Advent often called Gaudete Sunday. We lit the pink candle today, Gaudete means rejoice, and so we have a day of feeling positive and joyful in the middle of this somber season.

Our service was a Parish Communion and Father Stephen was the celebrant. Father Roger preached the sermon. He told us something about the great challenges to the Church today, facing our history and going forward on issues such as abuse of the vulnerable, gender and sexuality issues and finally racism. It was this latter subject that he enlarged on in the rest of the sermon. He described the racist behaviour he had seen when, as an Englishman , he had worked in North Wales, the cold comfort given him from a South Wales priest who assured him he had received worse!! There is much to improve in the way we deal with people of any race or Nation, and the positivity of Gaudete Sunday, the power of prayer and faith in Our Lord will bring us to a more equitable society.

The Choir sang Advent hymns, and Gabriel's Message setting by E Pettman as the anthem.

After the service there was the opportunity to buy Christmas gifts and decorations that the Sunday School children had made, in a Covid safe fashion. Hilary was also selling hand made jewellery in aid of the Church funds.

Please do not forget to book a seat at our Christmas Services.






Fr Roger's Address

Advent 3

It is Gaudete Sunday, when the clergy might wear Rose Pink. A hopeful day as we prepare for Christmas. We hear a lot about ‘positivity’ and ‘negativity’, but positivity has limited value unless it is based on something appropriate. Our positivity, now, is based on God. Gardeners are getting their seeds ready and looking forward to the new growing season in 2021 - the next 12 months. But God being good and active and offering hope for the future can be on a much longer time scale than that.

The reading from Isaiah is one of many warm and hopeful and confident passages. When, - in the gospel today, - John the Baptist is asked about what God is up to, he points ahead confidently to the Coming One, in whom God will meet us.

But God in Christ meets us in many ways, not just as the baby in the manger. He meets us, and challenges us, - as we heard not long ago, - in the poor, the sick, the prisoner. He can meet us, too, when we have a growing awareness - perhaps for decades - of important things we need to address. Maybe a vocation to some role in the church, or in a difficult caring profession, or to let our God-given creativity blossom. There can, surely, too, be sorts of awareness which creep up on society and on the Church, over a very long period. It seems that that has happened to us recently.

Not only have we had to face Covid and Brexit, recently, but three long-standing issues, which, - like the proverbial buses, - have all come along at once. I’m thinking about the work now completed on abuse and safeguarding. Something that has been there in the background for as long as we can remember. Now, it seems, the church will properly address it. Secondly there is the publication on sexuality, marriage, and gender issues. Living in Love and Faith, LLF, which we are asked to engage with seriously, although it is 460 pages of rather tough going. But needing very careful attention. There are various guides published to help, but I’ve started to look at the main book, as it’s free on the iPad. The other issue which has come to the fore recently is racism.

The Church and society have various failings in all of these three areas, but for us it must be a matter of God’s call to us to address them. And confidence in him to take us forward if we make the effort, of work and of will.

I thought to talk a little of racism today. Its been there all along in our lives, but often ignored. We’ve been reminded recently that centuries of slavery underly much in this country. We now realise better, perhaps, the hurt caused, still surfacing, and the real injustice.

Each of us will remember things about racism throughout our lives if we stop and think. My memories are like this:

My Father was born in New York at the end of the 1800s, because his Father had gone to work there. For the rest of his life, my Father was known in the family as ‘Son’. Not ‘son’ s-o-n, but ‘sun’ s-u-n. When a young child, his golden hair reminded his black neighbours of the sun. For those neighbours, slavery would not have been a very distant memory. One of the unhelpful jokes, circulating when he was young, which he always remembered, was, Please whistle my dog, my lips am too thick.

When I was born in the Second World War, golliwogs, black dolls were around, as many of us will remember. They had been around for a hundred years, - not that I had dolls, you understand. My nursery rhyme book had one page which read, Taffy was a Welshman, Taffy was a thief. I did wonder about that. Fifty years later, though, I would be multi-tasking, as a Rector and two Vicars, in Wales, and Governor of a Church School in North Wales, and I was quite active in the School. But surprised to see an unpleasant racist joke against the English on the Staff Room wall! The Dean of the Cathedral would say to me, You may think it difficult coming from England, but I came here from South Wales, I have it worse!

Now for a shaggy dog story! In the 1940s and ‘50s I knew my great aunt, who had a grocers’ shop near Fratton Park Football Ground in Portsmouth. She’d lost her fiancé in the First War. She never married, and stayed alone …except …..for a shaggy dog. A very black shaggy dog which she called Nigger. That is how things were, she never struck me as racist. Around 1950, I will played at Red Indians, feathered headdress, bow and arrow sort of thing, but I meant no harm to Native Americans, - in fact, I’d never even heard of Native Americans or thought they might be offended to be called Red Indians.

In 1969 I was in a parish in Portsmouth and got a letter out of the blue, asking me to consider a post at Bulawayo Cathedral, just as Southern Rhodesia was turning into Zimbabwe. I had just moved to a new parish, and couldn’t get involved, but often wonder how things would have been had we gone. Ideas on racism would certainly have had a chance to evolve!

In 1980s, I was a Vicar in Cheshire, and attended a service with one of my Lay Readers, who was a well-to-do mature gentleman, with a big house, - nay, a Hall. We were marking the visit of a certain Caribbean bishop – a very large and impressive black man. The Reader volunteered that his family had once lived in that part of the Caribbean. The bishop asked his surname, and then said solemnly and rather sadly, ‘we’ve a lot of them’. The implication seeming to be be that the Reader’s family had been major slave owners, giving their surname to all those working on their plantation! … Awkward!

In the 1990s, our daughter worked in Holland, and Christina and I would occasionally visit. I’ve an interest in Judaism, and was very saddened to see the Jewish memorials vandalised by neo-Nazis.

I started to think about racism again in late 2018, when I had my knee operation. One of the very kind - and the most conspicuous of the hospital staff - was a young woman who had trained in Nigeria, and was doing her best for us, a long way from her home. It struck me that it would be quite appalling if she were treated badly by idiots just because of her colour.

Pennies seem to have been dropping lately. Safeguarding, gender issues, and racism, surely have to be confronted properly, now that we have made big new steps recently. These are issues for the Church and for society. But we must be conscious that the Church has failed particularly badly in these areas, and also be conscious that the Church has a vocation to actually be leading and helping society in these matters, given our distinctive vision of what it is to be fully human, and in a living and positive relationship with God.

For years some of us, thinking about an annoying problem, hard to get to grips with, would talk of the ‘nigger in the wood pile’. It might then have changed to the ‘colonial brother in the woodpile’, but that was no really on. It was also the to habit to say to someone helpful and reliable, ‘you’re a white man’. Abuse within the Church, of several sorts, has also now finally to be tackled seriously, whilst giving those accused a proper chance to clear their names if they are not guilty.

The Church and society as a whole has these and other failings. It seems a forlorn hope that they will disappear quickly. You may come to think that embracing our Christianity better, and promoting Christianity to others is the way forward. If people have no notion of a loving God, who values everyone, of living sacrificially as followers of Jesus, with the associated hope and joy, courage and moral vision and fibre, then society will be the worse, and is now the worse. I see church worship as central to evangelism, a welcoming community committed to impressive worship and caring for others.

The C of E, however, has effectively diversified into disparate strands - conservative catholic, open evangelicals, and conservative evangelicals. Only the middle one of those three really accepts our numerous women clergy. Another, fourth strand, is surely what we need. The genius of Anglicanism was that it was thoughtfully and radically Catholic. God-given reason brought to bear on the way we are loyal to scripture and on how we are committed to tradition. It is that main strand of our church, and of it’s worship, and it’s discipline, which is being lost. Rather than do it well, people rush to label it as out-dated, even suggest that it is what got us in a mess in the first place! What they follow, instead, for me, is not so good and true. And that may actually matter in the end to the health of the nation.

One thing that has come to the fore during our time of dodging the virus, is racism. It’s been there all along in our lives, but often ignored. We now realise better, perhaps, the hurt caused, and the real injustice. Each of us will remember things throughout our lives if we stop and think. My memories are like this.

I remember my Father. He was born in New York at the end of the 1800s, as his Father had gone to work there. For the rest of his life, my Father was known in the family as ‘Son’. Not ‘son’ s -o -n, but ‘sun’ s-u-n. When a young child, his golden hair reminded his black neighbours of the sun. For those neighbours slavery would not have been a very distant memory. One of the unhelpful jokes circulating when he was young, was, Please whistle my dog, my lips am too thick.

When I was born in the Second World War, golliwogs, black dolls were around, and had been for a hundred years, - not that I had dolls, you understand. My nursery rhyme book had one page which read, Taffy was a Welshman, Taffy was a thief. I did wonder about that. Fifty years later, though, I would be a Governor of a Church School in Wales, and be surprised to see an unpleasant racist joke against the English on the Staff Room wall!

Now for a shaggy dog story! In the 1940s and 50s I knew my great aunt, who had a grocers’ shop near Fratton Park Football Ground in Portsmouth. She had lost her fiancé in the First War. She never married, and stayed alone …except for a shaggy dog. A very black shaggy dog which she called Nigger. That is how

things were, she never struck me as racist. Around 1950, I will have played at Red Indians, feathered headdress, bow and arrow sort of thing, but I meant no harm to Native Americans, - in fact, I’d never heard of them!

In the 1950s my Grandmother in Portsmouth was, however, rather shocked and somewhat mystified when her neighbour took in an Asian lodger, Pakistani, I think. In 1958 the Notting Hill race riots began in London. A few years after that I would be a student living near there. A certain black curate on a bicycle was noticeable in parts of London. That was Desmond Tutu who was also studying at my College. When I was an altar server in the College Chapel, I borrowed his cassock. It seems that he got where he did, partly because, as a small boy, in South Africa, he was very surprised and impressed when a white priest was actually polite to his black mother.

In 1980s, I was a Vicar in Cheshire, and attended a service with one of my Lay Readers, who was a well-to-do mature gentleman, with a big house. We were marking the visit of a certain Caribbean bishop – a very large and impressive black man. The Reader volunteered that his family had once lived in that part of the Caribbean. The bishop asked his surname, and then said solemnly and rather sadly, ‘we’ve a lot of them’. The implication being that the Reader’s family had been major slave owners, giving their surname to those working on their plantation! … Awkward!

In the 1990s, our daughter worked in Holland, and Christina and I would occasionally visit. I was greatly saddened to see the Jewish memorials vandalised by neo-Nazis.

A good chunk of my family now live in France and have dual nationality, so I follow events there. In 2016 an elderly Roman Catholic priest was murdered in church by Islamic extremists. When I attended a church service in France after that, there were armed soldiers at the church door. Recently a teacher murdered, - not so far from my grandchildren’s schools – he was apparently teaching about the right to be offensive to Muslims and others, in what is a secular country. Three issues there. Firstly, it seems that the man was simply doing his job. Should that be his job in school? Secondly, then, this right to be extremely offensive. I don’t think we have that, and people preaching here on some biblical themes might be locked up. The third issue is the idea that the Almighty delights in barbaric murder. That should be deeply offensive to mainstream Muslims, as well as to us, although we don’t always hear Islamic leaders condemning this behaviour as much as we’d hope.

I started to think again about racism more seriously in late 2018, when I had my knee operation. One of the very kind hospital staff was a young woman who had trained in Nigeria. It struck me that it would be quite appalling if she were treated badly by idiots just because of her colour.

Pennies seem to have been dropping lately. Racism has surely to be confronted properly now. For years some of us, thinking about an annoying problem, hard to get to grips with, would talk of the ‘nigger in the wood pile’. It might then have changed to the ‘colonial brother in the woodpile’, but that was no really on. It was also the to habit to say to soon helpful and reliable, ‘you’re a white man’. Abuse within the Church, of several sorts, has also now finally to be tackled seriously, whilst giving those accused a proper chance to clear their names if they are not guilty.

The Church and society as a whole has these and other failings. It seems a forlorn hope that they will disappear quickly. You may come to think that embracing our Christianity better, and promoting Christianity to others is the way forward. If people have no notion of a loving God, who values everyone, of living sacrificially as followers of Jesus, with the associated hope and joy, courage and moral vision and fibre, then society will be the worse, and is now the worse. I see church worship as central to evangelism, a welcoming community committed to impressive worship and caring for others.

The C of E, however, has effectively diversified into disparate strands - conservative catholic, open evangelicals, and conservative evangelicals. Only the middle one of those three really accepts our numerous women clergy. Another, fourth strand, is surely what we need. The genius of Anglicanism was that it was thoughtfully and radically Catholic. God-given reason brought to bear on the way we are loyal to scripture and on how we are committed to tradition. It is that main strand of our church, and of it’s worship, and it’s discipline, which is being lost. Rather than do it well, people rush to label it as out-dated, even suggest that it is what got us in a mess in the first place! What they follow, instead, for me, is not so good and true. And that may actually matter in the end to the health of the nation.





Isaiah 61:1-4 and 8-11

A reading from the book of the prophet Isaiah

The servant of the Lord said:

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, 
because the Lord has anointed me; 
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, 
to bind up the brokenhearted, 
#to proclaim liberty to the captives, 
and release to the prisoners; 

to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour, 
and the day of vengeance of our God; 
to comfort all who mourn; 

to provide for those who mourn in Zion— 
to give them a garland instead of ashes, 
the oil of gladness instead of mourning, 
the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. 
They will be called oaks of righteousness, 
the planting of the Lord, to display his glory. 

They shall build up the ancient ruins, 
they shall raise up the former devastations; 
they shall repair the ruined cities, 
the devastations of many generations.

For I the Lord love justice, 
I hate robbery and wrongdoing; 
I will faithfully give them their recompense, 
and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.

Their descendants shall be known among the nations, 
and their offspring among the peoples; 
all who see them 
shall acknowledge that they are a people 
whom the Lord has blessed. 

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, 
my whole being shall exult in my God; 
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, 
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, 
as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, 
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. 

For as the earth brings forth its shoots, 
and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, 
so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise 
to spring up before all the nations.


John 1:6-8 and 19-28

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

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.

He came as a witness to testify to the light, 
so that all might believe through him.

He himself was not the light,
but he came to testify to the light.

This is the testimony given by John
when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem
to ask him,, "Who are you?"

He confessed and did not deny it, 
but confessed, "I and not eh Messiah>"

And they asked him, "What then? Are you Elijah?"
He said, "I am not."
"Are you the prophet?"
He answered "No."

the they said to him, "who are you?
Let us have an answer for those who sent us.
What do you say about yourself?"

He ssaid,
"I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness,
"Make striaght the way of the Lord," "
as the prophet Isaiah said.

Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.

They asked him, "Why then are you baptising,
if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?"

John answered them, "I baptise with water.
Among you stands one whom you do not know,

the one who is coming after me;
I am not worthy to untie the thing of his sandal."

This took place in Bethany across the Jordan
where John was baptising.

Service Times

Services are suspended.

The church is open during daylight hours for personal prayer and reflection.


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.