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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.

Service Times

First Sunday in the Month:
08:00am Holy Communion
10:00am Family Service

Second Sunday in the Month
08:00am Holy Communion
10:00am Parish Eucharist

Third Sunday in the Month
08:00am Holy Communion
10:00am Sung Matins

Fourth Sunday in the Month
08:00am Holy Communion
10:00am Parish Eucharist

Variations can be found in the Parish Magazine or the Calendar at the bottom of this page.

Useful links

Here are some links to resources you may find helpful:

  1. St Mary's Facebook page
  2. Chichester Cathedral will be live streaming services. For the Eucharist and order of service Click here before 10:00am Sunday and follow the instructions.
  3. The BBC Daily Service is available here.
  4. Prayer for today.
  5. The C of E youtube channel.
  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.

Please note that St Mary's are not responsible for the contents of external links

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