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Sunday, 28 February 2021

‘The Rebuking or Calling of St Peter’, Anonymous, Flemish School, c1600

Dear Friends

It may feel as if we are only just beginning ‘Year B’, or the ‘Year of Mark’ in the Common Worship lectionary, but today’s reading (Mark 8:31-end) occurs at approximately the mid-point of the Gospel.  Its narrative reflects the fact that, as human beings, we tend to let things lapse into a routine, and it could be that the disciples at this point in their journey with Jesus were happy to settle back into an easy and comfortable relationship with him.  Jesus, however, is aware that things are soon going to become more challenging, since the ‘Son of man was destined to suffer grievously’.  Peter’s remonstration, although very understandable, is sternly denounced by the Lord: ‘Get behind me, Satan!  You are thinking not as God thinks, but as human beings do’ – Peter, in other words, had become too earth-bound in his approach, even though, immediately preceding this episode (in Mark 8:27-30), he had recognized Jesus as the Messiah, and therefore so much more than simply a ‘good bloke’.

Jesus makes it plain that not only must he accept the path of suffering and death, but that this is the pattern which his disciples must also expect: ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me.  Anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.  What gain, then, is it for anyone to win the whole world and forfeit his life?’  These are challenging words, addressed not just to Peter but to all of us who account ourselves as followers of Jesus.  This is the cost of discipleship and it cannot be otherwise – it is a question of faith and trust (in the epistle reading for this Sunday, Romans 4:13-25, we see Paul holding up the example of Abraham in this respect).  

For most Christians there will come similar ‘times of reckoning’, when we are given a choice – do we stay hiding in the shadows, half-hearted in our commitment, or do we stand up and proclaim that Jesus is, indeed, the Messiah, the Son of God, and that we are prepared to follow him to the cross knowing that, ultimately, this is the only route to true joy?

Fr Stephen


Almighty God,
you show to those who are in error the light of your truth,
that they may return to the way of righteousness:
grant to all those who are admitted
   into the fellowship of Christ’s religion,
that they may reject those things
   that are contrary to their profession,
 and follow all such things as are agreeable to the same;
through our Lord Jesus Christ,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

 Romans 4.13-end

A reading from the letter of Paul to the Romans.

The promise that he would inherit the world 
did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law 
but through the righteousness of faith. 

If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, 
faith is null and the promise is void. 

For the law brings wrath; 
but where there is no law, 
neither is there violation. 

For this reason it depends on faith, 
in order that the promise may rest on grace 
and be guaranteed to all his descendants, 
not only to the adherents of the law
 but also to those who share the faith of Abraham 
(for he is the father of all of us, 

as it is written, 
"I have made you the father of many nations")—
Abraham believed in the presence of the God 
who gives life to the dead 
and calls into existence the things that do not exist. 

Hoping against hope, 
he believed that he would become 
"the father of many nations," 
according to what was said,
 "So numerous shall your descendants be." 

He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, 
which was already as good as dead 
(for he was about a hundred years old),
 or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah's womb. 

No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, 
but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 

being fully convinced that God was able to do 
what he had promised. 

Therefore his faith "was reckoned to him as righteousness." 

Now the words, "it was reckoned to him," 
were written not for his sake alone, 

but for ours also. 
It will be reckoned to us who believe in him 
who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, 

who was handed over to death for our trespasses 
and was raised for our justification.

Mark 8.31-end

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

Jesus began to teach his disciples
that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, 
and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, 
and be killed, and after three days rise again. 

He said all this quite openly. 
And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 

But turning and looking at his disciples, 
he rebuked Peter and said, 
"Get behind me, Satan! 
For you are setting your mind not on divine things 
but on human things." 

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, 
"If any want to become my followers, 
let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 

For those who want to save their life will lose it, 
and those who lose their life for my sake, 
and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 

For what will it profit them 
to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 

Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 

Those who are ashamed of me and of my words 
in this adulterous and sinful generation, 
of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed 
when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."
Sunday, 21 February 2021

Duccio, ‘The Temptation of Christ on the Mountain’, Frick Collection, New York City

Dear Friends

St Clement, in one of his Lenten letters, quotes our Lord’s words in one of his ‘lessons’ on mildness and forgiveness: ‘Be merciful that you may obtain mercy; forgive that you may be forgiven; what you yourself do will be done to you; as you judge so will you be judged; as you show kindness, kindness will be shown to you . . . Your portion will be weighed out for you in your scales . . . If we obey these commandments . . . we will get back to the state of tranquillity and peace.’  He concludes: ‘Let our eyes be fixed on the Father and Creator of the universe and consider how precious and peerless are his gifts of peace.  Let us embrace them eagerly for ourselves.’

One of the tasks, as we begin our Lenten journey, is to ask for grace to turn from our sins and ‘turn to Christ’ (the words used during the ashing on Ash Wednesday – which, sadly, of course, we have had to forego this year).  St Leo, continuing Clement’s theme, talks of Lent as a time to reflect upon the mysteries of redemption as we prepare for the greatest festival of the Christian year – Easter – and to meditate on the grace received in our own baptism.

The Gospel reading for this Sunday (Mark 1:9-15) provides a brief account of the baptism of Christ, but it emphasizes that the anointing of the Spirit which was integral to this act of humility, provided the impetus for Jesus’ subsequent time spent in the desert (‘And at once the Spirit drove him into the desert’) during which he was ‘put to the test by Satan’.

Commentators, drawing on parallel accounts in Matthew and Luke, often suggest that the temptations with which the Lord was assailed were messianic – that he was being tested precisely in the area in which his ministry was to be exercised (that is, that his messianic role was to be undertaken in a humble way, which eschewed ‘showiness’ or the misdirection of his gifts).

We may feel that we are not tempted in such dramatic ways but Lent provides the opportunity to reflect upon any areas in which we may be falling short, whilst resting in the assurance that we, too, have been empowered by the Spirit in our own baptism to overcome temptation and, as St Clement put it, to embrace God’s ‘peerless gifts of peace’.

Fr Stephen

Collect for First Sunday of Lent

Almighty God,
whose Son Jesus Christ fasted forty days in the wilderness,
and was tempted as we are, yet without sin:
give us grace to discipline ourselves in obedience to your Spirit;
and, as you know our weakness,
so may we know your power to save;
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.  Amen.

 1 Peter 3.18-end

A reading from the first letter of Peter.

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. 2

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.

Mark 1.9-15

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

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee 
and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 

And just as he was coming up out of the water, 
he saw the heavens torn apart 
and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 

And a voice came from heaven, 
"You are my Son, the Beloved;
with you I am well pleased." 

And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 

He was in the wilderness forty days,
tempted by Satan; 
and he was with the wild beasts; 
and the angels waited on him. 

Now after John was arrested, 
Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 

and saying, "The time is fulfilled, 
and the kingdom of God has come near; 
and believe in the good news." 
Friday, 19 February 2021
Copied from the The Message page..

Dear Friends

It is with great sadness that I must let you know that, in all probability, this will be my last pastoral letter to you as Priest in Charge. You may have noticed over the past year or so that I have become increasingly unsteady, not only ‘on my pins’, but also in conducting public worship, and, approximately two months ago, I was diagnosed as suffering from vascular dementia. This is still in early stages but it is affecting my cognitive and physical capabilities, as well as my mobility, and I have therefore tendered my resignation to the Bishop as I feel I can no longer fulfil my duties here in the way which would be expected.

I’m very sorry to have to do this during such an unsettling time for us all, but I feel sure that the Bishop will not allow you to be left without help and leadership, and will find a replacement for me in due course, who can lead you into the next phase of ministry here. Meanwhile, Fr Roger will be on hand for advice and pastoral care, and I would like to record here my sincere thanks to him for all his support during my twelve-year tenure, especially lately when I have been obliged to ‘shield’ from the virus.

Now would be the time. too. to express my most grateful thanks to Chris and Janet. who. for so many years. have proved to be the very best of Churchwardens. constantly going above and beyond the call of duty, ably supported b) their spouses — as I have been by Margaret. I could not have continued in ministry. or served here for so long, without her unstinting support, and I do thank her. and Chris and Janet, from the bottom of my heart for all they have done. and continue to do.

Finally, I would like to thank each and every one of you for all your generosity, kindness and friendship over the years. It has truly been a privilege, delight and joy to serve in this beautiful parish, and Margaret and l shall miss you all very much indeed, but will be taking many happy memories with us into retirement. As of the time of writing, we are not sure whether it might be possible to hold a socially distanced service for Easter Sunday (please see a note on this elsewhere in this issue), which would be my last Sunday in the parish, but, should this not prove to be the case, please be assured of my prayers and the very best of wishes for the future.

Wednesday, 17 February 2021
 Joel 2.1-2 and 12-17

A reading from the prophet Joel.

Blow the trumpet in Zion; 
sound the alarm on my holy mountain! 
Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, 
for the day of the Lord is coming, it is near— 

a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of clouds and thick darkness!
 Like blackness spread upon the mountains 
a great and powerful army comes; 
their like has never been from of old, 
nor will be again after them in ages to come. 

Yet even now, says the Lord, 
return to me with all your heart, 
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; 

rend your hearts and not your clothing. 
Return to the Lord, your God, 
for he is gracious and merciful, 
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, 
and relents from punishing. 

Who knows whether he will not turn and relent, 
and leave a blessing behind him, 
a grain offering and a drink offering 
for the Lord, your God? 

Blow the trumpet in Zion; 
sanctify a fast; 
call a solemn assembly; 

gather the people. 
Sanctify the congregation; 
assemble the aged; 
gather the children, even infants at the breast. 
Let the bridegroom leave his room, 
and the bride her canopy. 

Between the vestibule and the altar 
let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep. 
Let them say, "Spare your people, O Lord, 
and do not make your heritage a mockery,
 a byword among the nations.
 Why should it be said among the peoples, 
"Where is their God?' " 

Matthew 6.1-6 and 16-21

Hear the gospel of ourLord Jesus Christ according to Matthew.

Jesus said to his disciples,

"Beware of practicing your piety before others 
in order to be seen by them; 
for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 

So whenever you give alms, 
do not sound a trumpet before you, 
as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, 
so that they may be praised by others. 
Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 

But when you give alms, 
do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 

so that your alms may be done in secret; 
and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 

And whenever you pray, 
do not be like the hypocrites; 
for they love to stand and pray 
in the synagogues and at the street corners, 
so that they may be seen by others. 
Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.

But whenever you pray, 
go into your room and shut the door 
and pray to your Father who is in secret; 
and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 

And whenever you fast,
 do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, 
for they disfigure their faces 
so as to show others that they are fasting. 
Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 

But when you fast, 
put oil on your head and wash your face, 

so that your fasting may be seen not by others 
but by your Father who is in secret; 
and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, 
where moth and rust consume 
and where thieves break in and steal; 

but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, 
where neither moth nor rust consumes 
and where thieves do not break in and steal. 

For where your treasure is, 
there your heart will be also. 
Monday, 15 February 2021

 The Sunday School children are continuing their work at home as we are still not able to meet. They are sent projects relating to the topic, which this week was the Transfiguration. Here are some photos of the completed project, and their Mum reports that the boys enjoyed reading the story and making the mountain!!

Sunday, 14 February 2021

Orthodox Icon: The Transfiguration

Dear Friends

The Gospel reading for this Sunday (Mark 9:2-9) is the story of the Transfiguration, which is the focus of the Feast of the Transfiguration on 6 August but which also crops up in the Common Worship lectionary here, just before Lent.  The reason for this is indicated in the Collect for the day, which states that Jesus was ‘revealed in majesty before he suffered death upon the cross’ – ie that his closest disciples were given an intimation on the mountain (traditionally considered to be Mount Tabor) of his eventual glorification once his work on earth had been accomplished.

Mountain-top revelations of this type, in the pattern of those to Moses and Elijah, were termed ‘theophanies’ – God disclosing himself to chosen human beings, usually for a specific purpose associated with mission.  As in the similar accounts in the Hebrew Scriptures, the New Testament version describes a cloud, signifying the presence of God, which covers the chosen disciples.  Also, as with most such theophanies and human encounters with the Divine, the duration is brief – those who are granted such experiences would often wish them to be longer, but the memory can last a life-time, and the purpose is usually to strengthen the recipients for whatever difficulties, dangers and trials they may have to endure in future.

This seems to have been the case for Jesus, who was preparing at that time to journey to Jersualem, knowing that betrayal and suffering awaited him, and the disciples closest to him were accorded the privilege, briefly, of seeing him as he truly was – ie God’s beloved Son – before they would be required to witness his passion.

It is, then, an especially apt reading for this Sunday as we prepare to embark upon Lent, reminding us that we too, as his disciples, can be strengthened to suffer with him, so that we may ultimately be ‘changed into his likeness, from glory to glory’.

Fr Stephen

Collect for Sunday Next Before Lent

Almighty Father,
whose Son was revealed in majesty
before he suffered death upon the cross: 
give us grace to perceive his glory,
that we may be strengthened to suffer with him
and be changed into his likeness, from glory to glory;
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God now and for ever.  Amen.

 2 Corinthians 4.3-6

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

Even if our gospel is veiled, 
it is veiled to those who are perishing. 

In their case the god of this world 
has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, 
to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel 
of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 

For we do not proclaim ourselves; 
we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord 
and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus' sake. 

For it is the God who said, 
"Let light shine out of darkness," 
who has shone in our hearts 
to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God 
in the face of Jesus Christ. 

Mark 9.2-3

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

Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, 
and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. 
And he was transfigured before them, 

and his clothes became dazzling white,
 such as no one on earth could bleach them. 

And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, 
who were talking with Jesus. 

Then Peter said to Jesus, 
"Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; 
let us make three dwellings, 
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah."

He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 

Then a cloud overshadowed them, 
and from the cloud there came a voice, 
"This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!" 

Suddenly when they looked around, 
they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus. 

As they were coming down the mountain, 
he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen,
 until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 
Monday, 8 February 2021

 This week’s work from Sunday School is from the Merrett family and is based on the Gospel reading for the second Sunday before Lent – John 1:1-14. The aim was to delight, like God’s wisdom, in all creation.

The boys singing their prayer while their Mother plays for them

Sunday, 7 February 2021

Orthodox Icon: Christ as Light of the World

Dear Friends

It may seem strange, just as we feel that Christmas-tide is concluded, that the Gospel reading set for today is John 1:1-14 – the magnificent prologue, which is so well-known from carol services (and is also an optional reading for Christmas day itself), and which concludes with the sonorous words, ‘And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us’.

In these memorable phrases, the writer of the fourth Gospel introduces us to the heart of our faith as Christians – that, through the mystery of the Incarnation, God became human and lived among us.  As the letter to the Colossians expresses it, ‘Jesus is the image of the invisible God.  In him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell’ (Colossians 1:15-20).

But why, you may ask, is this reading chosen just as we begin to approach Lent?  The answer is that it is intended as a preparation for all that is to follow, as we begin to embark upon our Lenten journey, with the focus, during Passiontide, upon the suffering and death of Jesus.  Having celebrated the Incarnation at Christmas, and reflected upon the revelation of God’s glory during Epiphany, we have the opportunity, on this Second Sunday before Lent, to reflect once more upon Jesus’ divinity, his existence in the Godhead from before time came to be, so that this truth can be held in creative tension with the rejection and suffering he was to experience: ‘He came to his own, and his own did not receive him.’

The prologue is also a reminder that Jesus is the ‘true light’, but that this light also ‘enlightens everyone’.  All human beings are made in the image of God and have the capacity to reflect God’s light in the world – but, as we know, we often fall short in this respect.  The Church Fathers, especially those from the Greek East, used to explain this by distinguishing between the ‘image’ and the ‘likeness’ of God – we are all made in the image, but we are called to grow into God’s likeness, in other words, to become more Christ-like.

So, this reading does, in fact, begin to prepare us for the self-examination and repentance which characterize Lent - but perhaps suggests that we can undertake this best by meditating also upon the great mystery of God’s glory and unfathomable love, as revealed in his Son.

Fr Stephen

Almighty God, 
you have created the heavens and thearth
and made us in your own image:
teach us to discern your hand in all your works
and your likeness in our children;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who with you and the Holy Spirit
    reigns supreme over all things,
now and for ever.

John 1:1-14

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

In the beginning was the Word, 
and the Word was with God, 
and the Word was God.

He was in the beginning with God. 

All things came into being through him, 
and without him not one thing came into being. 
What has come into being in him was life, 

and the life was the light of all people. 

The light shines in the darkness, 
and the darkness did not overcome it. 

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. 

The true light, which enlightens everyone, 
was coming into the world. 

He was in the world, 
and the world came into being through him; 
yet the world did not know him. 

He came to what was his own,
 and his own people did not accept him. 

But to all who received him, 
who believed in his name, 
he gave power to become children of God, 

who were born, not of blood 
or of the will of the flesh 
or of the will of man, 
but of God. 

 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, 
and we have seen his glory, 
the glory as of a father's only son, 
full of grace and truth.
Sunday, 31 January 2021

Andrea Mantegna, ‘The Presentation of Christ in the Temple’, c1455,
Gemäldegalerie, Berlin

Dear Friends

‘See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple.’

This passage, from the third chapter of Malachi, is invariably read out at the start of the service for the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, or Candlemas, which occurs on 2 February, although it is often transferred to the nearest Sunday – of course, I use the word ‘invariably’ advisedly as, sadly, this service will not be held at St Mary’s this year.

The service traditionally starts with the distribution, blessing and lighting of candles, with the congregation processing into church, either from outside or from a nearby hall (in recent years we have tended to use the parish rooms for this).  What is the significance of this part of the liturgy?  Well, by carrying a lighted candle we, as it were, re-enact the bringing of the Christ-child into the temple, as described in St Luke’s Gospel, when Mary and Joseph ‘present’ their first-born at the Temple in Jerusalem.

It is a joyful moment, but is also bitter-sweet, as Mary must come to terms with the prophetic words of Simeon, that the child she has borne will be destined ‘for the falling and rising of many in Israel’ and will be a ‘sign that will be opposed’.  Even Mary herself will not escape sharing in the suffering of her son, whose life is not to be one of ease and adulation but will lead to the cross – ‘a sword will pierce your own soul too’.

So the Feast of Candlemas represents a pivotal moment in our liturgical year.  It is a last look back at Christmas but also helps us to begin to turn towards Lent and the events of Passiontide.  

Ultimately, of course, those events would lead to the salvation of the whole world - but, for the time being, the child Jesus was taken back to Nazareth, where he ‘grew, and became strong and was filled with wisdom’.

Fr Stephen

Collect for Candlemas

Almighty and ever-living God,
clothed in majesty,
whose beloved Son was this day presented in the Temple, 
in substance of our flesh:
grant that we may be presented to you
with pure and clean hearts,
by your Son Jesus Christ our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Malachi 3:1-5

A reading fromt he book ofthe prophet  Malachi.

Thus says the Lord God:

See, I am sending my messenger 
to prepare the way before me, 
and the Lord whom you seek 
will suddenly come to his temple. 
The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—
indeed, he is coming, 
says the Lord of hosts. 

But who can endure the day of his coming, 
and who can stand when he appears? 
For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap; 

he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, 
and he will purify the descendants of Levi 
and refine them like gold and silver, 
until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness. 

Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem 
will be pleasing to the Lord 
as in the days of old and as in former years. 

Then I will draw near to you for judgment; 
I will be swift to bear witness against the sorcerers, 
against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, 
against those who oppress the hired workers in their wages, t
he widow and the orphan,
 against those who thrust aside the alien, 
and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts. 

Luke 2:22-40

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

When the time came for their purification 
according to the law of Moses, 
mary and Joseph brought him up to Jerusalem 
to present him to the Lord 

(as it is written in the law of the Lord, 
"Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord"), 

and they offered a sacrifice 
according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, 
"a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons." 

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; 
this man was righteous and devout, 
looking forward to the consolation of Israel, 
and the Holy Spirit rested on him. 

It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit 
that he would not see death 
before he had seen the Lord's Messiah. 

Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; 
and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, 
to do for him what was customary under the law, 

Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, 

"Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, 
according to your word; 

for my eyes have seen your salvation, 

which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 

a light for revelation to the Gentiles 
and for glory to your people Israel." 

And the child's father and mother 
were amazed at what was being said about him. 

Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, 
"This child is destined 
for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, 
and to be a sign that will be opposed 

so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—
and a sword will pierce your own soul too." 

There was also a prophet, Anna 
the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. 
She was of a great age, 
having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 

then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. 
She never left the temple 
but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. 

At that moment she came, and began to praise God 
and to speak about the child 
to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. 

When they had finished everything 
required by the law of the Lord, 
they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 

The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; 
and the favor of God was upon him. 
Monday, 25 January 2021
 Despite the church being closed for formal services, the childen in the Sunday School are still very active with tasks to do at home.

This week, the reading was about the miracle of turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana. 

The foot prints are to remind us that we should try to walk in the footprints of Jesus.

Sunday, 24 January 2021

Orthodox Icon: The Wedding at Cana

Dear Friends

On this third Sunday of Epiphany, the Gospel reading (John 2:1-11) recounts the episode in which Jesus turns the water into wine during the wedding feast held at Cana in Galilee.  It is a passage which is often used during marriage services held in church and, as with all narratives within the fourth Gospel, it is theologically rich and can be read on several levels.

There is, of course, the immediate context of a first-century Jewish wedding feast.  Wedding parties lasted several nights (with guests often going to work during the day) and expectations in terms of the food and drink provided were high.  In this case, it appears that the host family was reasonably wealthy, since they had servants and the kind of stone water-jars which only the more prosperous could provide.  To run out of wine at a wedding would have entailed at the very least social embarrassment and, at worst, could even lead to lawsuits if disgruntled guests considered that they were not receiving the kind of hospitality appropriate to the value of their wedding gifts!  So this might perhaps explain why Jesus, after initial demurrals, performs what could otherwise seem a ‘non-essential’ miracle in this instance.
But there are other layers to this story.  The miracle is the first of the seven ‘signs’ portrayed in this Gospel, in which Jesus’ glory as Son of the Father is revealed.  Within the Jewish mind-set the words ‘marriage feast’ had immediate connotations of the longed-for messianic banquet in which God’s loving purposes for Israel – and, ultimately, for all humankind – would be made manifest.  So this sign, performed in the village of Cana, points us to the lavish extravagance of God’s banquet in which the best is saved until last – the Gospel writer is letting us know that this sign demonstrates that the dawn of the messianic age has come in Jesus Christ.

How are we meant to respond to this story?  We are told that, as a result of this miracle, his followers ‘believed in him’ – that is, they became committed disciples rather than just a group of friends who were accompanying Jesus out of curiosity, to see what would happen next.  The words of Jesus’ mother, Mary, ‘Do whatever he tells you’, are surely significant here.  Again, on one level, this is a delightfully ‘human’ response to Jesus’ insistence that his ‘hour had not yet come’ – the Jewish mother who is sure that her son can do something to rectify an awkward situation.  On a deeper level, though, her words are directed to us, his latter-day disciples, to ‘do whatever he tells’, a process which involves a lifetime’s listening to his word, and responding in obedience.

Fr Stephen


Almight God,
whose Son revealed in signs and miracles
the wonder of your saving presence:
renew your people with your heavenly grace,
and in all our weakness
sustain us by your mighty power;
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 forever.

Revelation 19:6-10

A reading form the book of Revelation.

I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, 
like the sound of many waters 
and like the sound of mighty thunderpeals, 
crying out, "Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. 

Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, 
for the marriage of the Lamb has come, 
and his bride has made herself ready; 

to her it has been granted to be clothed with fine linen, bright and pure"— 
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. 

And the angel said to me, "Write this: 
Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb." 
And he said to me, "These are true words of God." 

John 2:1-11

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

There was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, 
and the mother of Jesus was there. 

Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 

When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, 
"They have no wine." 

And Jesus said to her, 
"Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? 
My hour has not yet come." 

His mother said to the servants, 
"Do whatever he tells you." 

Now standing there were six stone water jars 
for the Jewish rites of purification, 
each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 

Jesus said to them, "Fill the jars with water." 
And they filled them up to the brim. 

He said to them, "Now draw some out, 
and take it to the chief steward." 
So they took it. 

When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, 
and did not know where it came from 
(though the servants who had drawn the water knew), 
the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, 

"Everyone serves the good wine first, 
and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk.
 But you have kept the good wine until now." 

Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, 
and revealed his glory; 
and his disciples believed in him. 
Sunday, 17 January 2021

Greek Orthodox Icon: The Calling of Philip and Nathanael

Dear Friends

As mentioned in last Sunday’s ‘thought for the week’, we continue to explore, during Epiphany, narratives from the Gospels which encourage us to reflect upon the ‘epiphany’ (unveiling, or manifestation) of the glory of God in his Son, Jesus Christ.  The Feast of Epiphany itself focuses upon the visit of the Magi to the infant Christ, and the presentation of the three symbolic gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, as recounted by Matthew.  Then, last week, the story of the baptism of Christ, which is to be found in all three synoptic Gospels, to a greater or lesser extent, depicts Jesus coming up out of the water after his baptism in the river Jordan, experiencing the Holy Spirit descend upon him, and receiving confirmation, through the ‘voice from heaven’ of his unique role as Son – it is one of the key instances in the New Testament in which the Trinity begins to be revealed (although the word ‘Trinity’ as such is not to be found within any of these documents).

This Sunday, the focus, in the narrative of the calling of Philip and Nathanael (John 1:43-51), is upon the way in which Jesus, newly anointed for his messianic role by the Spirit, begins to gather around him a group of disciples.  As so often in the Scriptures, it is a story which reflects the fact that God’s choice can be unexpected and frequently rests upon those who seem least ‘worthy’.  As one commentator has suggested, if you put yourself in Nathanael’s shoes, and your friend, Philip, comes to you with the outrageous suggestion that the One about whom Moses and the prophets have written is a denizen of Nazareth – a small village in the backwaters of Galilee, truly the back end of nowhere – it is perhaps not surprising that Nathanael’s reaction is at first incredulous, and even cynical: ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’.  It is not at all what he was expecting – Nazareth is ‘off the religious map’ and this is not what is supposed to happen when the Messiah comes!  Nevertheless, he responds to the invitation to ‘come and see’, and Jesus praises him for his integrity: ‘There, truly, is an Israelite in whom there is no guile’.  As a result, Nathanael finds himself the recipient of a promise that he will see God’s glory revealed in a way that will demand his lifetime commitment – God, through his Son, has made even Nazareth (and Nathanael) new.

The season of Epiphany is a time in which we, too, are especially invited – although at times we may feel as sceptical or incredulous as Nathanael – to offer our lives once more to be transformed and renewed, so that God’s glory may be revealed, even in us.

Fr Stephen


Almighty God,
in Christ you make all things new:
transform the povertyof our nature
    by the riches of your grace,
and in the renewal of our lives
make known your heavenly glory;
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 forever.

1 Samuel 3:1-10

A readinf from the first book of Samuel.

The boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. 
The word of the Lord was rare in those days; 
visions were not widespread. 

At that time Eli, 
whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, 
was lying down in his room; 

the lamp of God had not yet gone out, 
and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, 
where the ark of God was. 

Then the Lord called, "Samuel! Samuel!" 
and he said, "Here I am!" 

and ran to Eli, and said, 
"Here I am, for you called me." 
But he said, "I did not call; lie down again." 
So he went and lay down. 

The Lord called again, "Samuel!" 
Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, 
"Here I am, for you called me." 
But he said, 
"I did not call, my son; lie down again." 

Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, 
and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.

The Lord called Samuel again, a third time. 
And he got up and went to Eli, and said, 
"Here I am, for you called me." 
Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. 

Therefore Eli said to Samuel, 
"Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, 
"Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.' " 
So Samuel went and lay down in his place. 

Now the Lord came and stood there, 
calling as before, "Samuel! Samuel!" 
And Samuel said, "Speak, for your servant is listening." 

John 1:43-51

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

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. 
He found Philip and said to him, 
"Follow me." 

Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 

Philip found Nathanael and said to him, 
"We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, 
Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth." 

Nathanael said to him, 
"Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" 
Philip said to him, "Come and see." 

When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, 
he said of him, "Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!" 

Nathanael asked him, 
"Where did you get to know me?" 
Jesus answered, "I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you." 

Nathanael replied, 
"Rabbi, you are the Son of God! 
You are the King of Israel!" 

Jesus answered, 
"Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? 
You will see greater things than these." 

And he said to him, "Very truly, 
I tell you, you will see heaven opened 
and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man."
Tuesday, 12 January 2021

 As we are in Lockdown at the moment the Sunday School is not meeting, but the learning goes on! The team of Sunday School leaders prepare work for the children to do and parents and grandparents have been helping and encouraging the youngsters with the tasks. 

Here are some pictures of the work underway and a lovely picture of John the Baptist baptising Our Lord.

Many thanks to all the team and all the youngsters and their families for keeping going during the pandemic!

The Sunday School will be sharing more of their activities with us in weeks to come!


Sunday, 10 January 2021

Piero della Francesca, ‘The Baptism of Christ’, National Gallery, London

Dear Friends
We have now reached the second week of Epiphany.  ‘Epiphany’, of course, means ‘manifestation’ – in this case, the manifestation of Christ’s glory - and the theologically rich and complex themes of this time of year are explored through three discrete but interlinked episodes from the Gospels.  On the first Sunday of Epiphany we tend to focus on the visit of the Magi to the child Jesus, and the presentation of their gifts.  Today, we join with other Christian churches in reflecting upon the manifestation of Christ ‘in Jordan’s stream’ – ie at this baptism, when his divine Sonship is revealed.  Subsequently, we shall be celebrating the way in which Christ’s glory was first disclosed to his disciples at the miracle of the transformation of water into wine during the wedding feast at Cana – a pivotal moment, as recounted in the Gospel of John, in which his disciples began to ‘believe in him’.
All three manifestations are covered in the Sundays of Epiphany-tide, which continues until the Feast of the Presentation at Candlemass, and all three include the imperative for us, as Christian disciples, not only to believe, but also to obey the Lord’s call to spread the word – to evangelize, in other words.  This is something which we Anglicans can be hesitant about, but we can, at least, recognize situations when a ‘word in season’ could help others to make a step towards their own discipleship.  Of course, this is not easy during the current lockdown situation, but I can’t help thinking that there are many ‘out there’ who might be just waiting for us to share the joy and hope we derive, during dark times such as these, from being followers of Christ.
A little later this month, between 18 and 25 January, we shall be observing the week of prayer for Christian unity, during which the Collect for the Confession of St Peter is often used.  The Collect recalls the incident at Caesarea Philippi when Peter was inspired to confess Jesus as the Son of God (Matthew 16:13-20) and perhaps helps us to reflect upon our own role, as disciples, in mission and evangelism:-
‘Almighty God, who inspired your Apostle Saint Peter to confess Jesus as Christ and Son of the living God: build up your Church upon this rock, that in unity and peace it may proclaim one truth and follow one Lord, your Son our Saviour, Jesus Christ, who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Fr Stephen


Eternal Father,
who at the baptism of Jesus
revealed him to be your son,
annointing him with the Holy Spirit:
grant to us, who are born again by water and the Spirit,
that we may be faithful to our calling
    as your adopted children;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive with you, in the unityof the Holy Spirit,
one Gos, now and forever.

Acts 19:1-7
A reading from the Acts of the Apostles.

While Apollos was in Corinth, 
Paul passed through the interior regions and came to Ephesus, 
where he found some disciples. 

He said to them,
"Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?" 
They replied, "No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit." 

Then he said, "Into what then were you baptized?" 
They answered, "Into John's baptism." 

Paul said, "John baptized with the baptism of repentance, 
telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, 
that is, in Jesus." 

On hearing this, 
they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 

When Paul had laid his hands on them, 
the Holy Spirit came upon them, 
and they spoke in tongues and prophesied— 

altogether there were about twelve of them. 

Mark 1:4-11

Hear the gospel o our Lord Jesus Christ according to Mark.

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, 
proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 

And people from the whole Judean countryside 
and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, 
and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, 
confessing their sins. 

Now John was clothed with camel's hair, 
with a leather belt around his waist, 
and he ate locusts and wild honey. 

He proclaimed, 
"The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; 
I am not worthy to stoop down 
and untie the thong of his sandals. 

I have baptized you with water; 
but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit." 

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee 
and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 

 And just as he was coming up out of the water, 
he saw the heavens torn apart 
and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 

And a voice came from heaven, 
"You are my Son, the Beloved; 
with you I am well pleased." 
Saturday, 9 January 2021

 Dear All,

 I do hope everyone is well and not too bored!

I would like to let you know that Fr Stephen, the churchwardens and PCC have taken the decision to suspend Sunday church services at St Mary’s until the pandemic situation improves.

 There are a number of ways in which we can worship at home please see Useful Links on the top right of this page for ideas.

 The church will be open during daylight hours for private prayer and weddings and funeral can take place if required and under the regulations applicable at the time.

Fr Stephen will, of course, be available if you require his support.  Please ring the Vicarage or contact one of the churchwardens  if you wish.  If you need any practical help with anything during the lockdown do ring or email Janet or I and we will arrange help for you.

 I have got to submit a form to the Church of England authorities giving numbers of how we managed to worship at home during the previous 2 lockdowns last year - spring and autumn.  – with numbers!  If you listened to services on the radio, watched services on the television, attended another church or live streamed – however you tried to stay in touch with church and worship, would you be kind enough to let me know how and during which lockdown – I would be very grateful.

 Take care and stay safe,


Fr Stephen and the church wardens telephone numbers are in the Church magazine. Or you can email us on the Contact us page.

Sunday, 3 January 2021

This sunday we had a Family Eucharistic, at which we celebrated the Epiphany. We would normally have a procession of the Maji by the sunday school children, but this was not allowed with Covid 19 restrictions, and Mrs Field gave a talk instead of the children. The celebrant was Father Roger as Father Stephen is shielding. We had no choir but Joanna chose some lovely recorded mudic for us.

As it now transpires this is the last service we can hold for the time being. We pray that every one can keep safe and healthy in these terrible times. We will continue to post the set readings for each week, and any news that we have. God Bless every one and we look forward to every one being vaccinated and safe from the Corona virus.

Matthew 2:1-12 

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

In the time of King Herod, 
after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, 
wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, 

"Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? 
For we observed his star at its rising, 
and have come to pay him homage." 

When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, 
and all Jerusalem with him; 

and calling together 
all the chief priests and scribes of the people, 
he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 

They told him, "In Bethlehem of Judea; 
for so it has been written by the prophet: 

"And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, 
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; 
for from you shall come a ruler 
who is to shepherd my people Israel.' " 

Then Herod secretly called for the wise men 
and learned from them the exact time 
when the star had appeared. 

Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, 
"Go and search diligently for the child; 
and when you have found him, 
bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage." 

When they had heard the king, they set out; 
and there, ahead of them, 
went the star that they had seen at its rising, 
until it stopped over the place where the child was. 

When they saw that the star had stopped, 
they were overwhelmed with joy. 

On entering the house, 
they saw the child with Mary his mother; 
and they knelt down and paid him homage. 
Then, opening their treasure chests, 
they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 

And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, 
they left for their own country by another road. 

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.