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Friday, 30 April 2021
Dear Friends

It was a great joy to be able to join with you all as public worship resumed once more at St Mary’s on Easter Sunday morning. As ever, we were deeply indebted to our Churchwardens for their impeccable advance planning and organization, which ensured that the service could be socially distanced as required and yet audible to those in the parish rooms as well as those who patiently sat outside in the churchyard! Despite the necessary restrictions, it was a truly uplifting occasion and thanks must be extended to all who helped to make it so special — particularly to Mary Monnington and her team for the beautiful flower arrangements, our Director of Music for planning the music so thoughtfully, the choir, who were in fine voice, and Fr Roger for an inspiring and thought-provoking sermon. For Margaret and myself it was, of course, a particularly poignant occasion as we had to say ‘goodbye’ to you all, but, again, we were so thankful for the excellent tribute from Mike Allisstone, which was perceptive as well as kindly, and offered a perfect balance of humour and seriousness! And, we need hardly add that we were completely overwhelmed by the generosity of the presentations — the beautiful colour wash (a kind of watercolour) of the church, which will be given pride of place in our new home in Chichester, the wonderful photobook, compiled by Lesley Bromley. containing so many precious memories of our happy times here in Sidlesham, the cards, flowers and far-too-generous cheque (which we hope to use for a holiday once such ventures are again permittedl). Thank you all so much — you will always be in our thoughts and prayers, and we wish you God speed for all that the next chapter here at Sidlesham will bring.

Fr Stephen
Sunday, 25 April 2021
Today, on a bright sunny, but cold day, our 10 am service was a parish Eucharist. Father Roger was with us as the celebrant, and the Covid Choir with Joanna playing the piano sang from the South Transept. The congregation, socially distanced in the pews, joined in with saying some of the service, and the Choir sang the Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei in the setting by Murray. The Anthem was 'A New Commandment I give to you' by Peter Nardonne. We left after the service to glorious sunshine, and a slightly warmer air temperature. 

 Acts 4.5-12

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles.

The Jewish rulers, elders, and scribes assembled in Jerusalem,

with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, 
and all who were of the high-priestly family. 

When they had made the prisoners stand in their midst, they inquired, 
“By what power or by what name did you do this?” 

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, 
“Rulers of the people and elders,

if we are questioned today 
because of a good deed done to someone who was sick 
and are asked how this man has been healed, 

let it be known to all of you, 
and to all the people of Israel, 
that this man is standing before you in good health 
by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth,
whom you crucified, 
whom God raised from the dead. 

This Jesus is ‘the stone that was rejected by you, the builders;
it has become the cornerstone.’

There is salvation in no one else, 
for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals 
by which we must be saved.”

John 10.11-18

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

Jesus said to the Pharisees

“I am the good shepherd. 
The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 

The hired hand, who is not the shepherd
and does not own the sheep, 
sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—
and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 

The hired hand runs away 
because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. 

I am the good shepherd. 
I know my own and my own know me, 

just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. 
And I lay down my life for the sheep. 

I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. 
I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. 
So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 

For this reason the Father loves me, 
because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 

No one takes it from me, 
but I lay it down of my own accord. 
I have power to lay it down, 
and I have power to take it up again. 
I have received this command from my Father.”


Almighty God,
whose Son Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life:
raise us, who trust in him,
from the death of sin to the life of righteousness,
that we may seek those things which are above,
where he reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever,


We come again to our annual Good Shepherd Sunday. The idea of the Good Shepherd is actually a particularly simple one. Whereas a hired shepherd would go to some pains to protect the flock he’s paid to look after, he doesn’t own them, and he’s not going to risk serious injury for them, if danger arises. Jesus, the Good Shepherd from God, will lay down his life, because the sheep are God’s own property. We are his own. As the meerkats would say, ‘simples’.

Those responsible will try to appoint a nice new parish priest for here, in the fullness of eventually. The Good Shepherd is a model for that: we want someone who follows Christ’s way…..or do we, ….really?  Jesus offended the religious community who then got the Romans to execute him! Do we really want that sort here?

As with many things, there might be pitfalls. There are clergy about who are very, very, nice. An attractive people person, will always have some sort of following, but they may - at the same time, - and rather importantly - be someone who has little serious engagement with Bible, or with Christian doctrine, with liturgy, or with the disciplines by which our church is supposed to operate. Liturgy, - services - in which the priest has a leading role, - that word, ‘liturgy’, means ‘the work of the people’ - which is not always the same as what the people happen to fancy. We are not a restaurant, aiming to cater for all individual tastes. We are a community to be focused on God, with larger principles. A priest should show an appropriate interest in liturgy and its proper structure, and have a good grasp of that.

Allan Jenkins used to speak a lot about ‘Christ our example’. So, what sort of shepherd was Christ, and what sort of minister would follow his pattern, and what sort of discipleship would he or she inspire in us? Jesus was a people person, but in the sense of caring for individuals in such a way as to help them be challenged and grow in their relationship with God. If you challenge, you will court resistance, and sometimes hostility, and often lose some of your popularity. So, Jesus says to his disciples, ‘Woe to you when all speak well of you’, if they do, you’re probably getting something wrong! You can have an unhelpful sort of popularity. On the way to the cross, Jesus tells sentimental bystanders that he wants followers, not superficial admirers. Followers who will rise to join him a challenging and sacrificial path of discipleship, if they are called to it, and will inspire and encourage others in the right way. When some parishes have pursued their bishop to get a priest, sometimes the bishop has replied, ‘you ask for a priest, but how many priests has your congregation produced, and inspired to give their lives to that?’
So, a priest, if they are popular, must be popular for the right reasons, reflecting a challenging gospel, and inspiring others to embrace a fuller relationship with God. Not popular simply for being chatty, easy going, having no ministerial substance, willing to ignore every inconvenient rule, not engaging with study, and never stirring things up. Such clergy often, very, very, humbly, say that they aren’t really preachers. To which the response should be, ‘if you engaged with the important things of ministry with a proper vigour, the Almighty would make you an adequate preacher’. St Paul himself needed to struggle and persevere. He says this, ‘And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.’ 1 Corinthians 2:1-5

If the priest is unpopular, it should be because people are rejecting a genuine ministry, and not because the priest is putting them off, by unpleasantly lording it over them, or being distant from them, or is sensed to be lacking integrity, or appears to be seeking an easy life for themselves.

Christ, and, soon St Stephen, St James, and St Paul, were rejected and killed, as a consequence of doing the right things, and made that sacrifice. It was a true way which led to new life and resurrection, and led to Christ finding glory, and finding followers. After a very long interregnum elsewhere, many years ago, which I was involved in, the parish was delighted that a young family man had applied. When he arrived, he told me, oddly, that he ‘had bigger fish to fry’. It became clear that he had come, merely to move on to another job, out of parish work, when the time was convenient to him and his family, and, before very long at all, he quit the parish which had welcomed him, at short notice. The time that he served there was much briefer than the interregnum had been. I had told the congregation that their new priest would not come to spend time there, but come to be spent there, but it proved not so.

Here, you could get someone younger, and self-supporting through having another part-time job. The likelihood is probably someone pensioned. Age might not be a problem, if they are willing and able to work. They would be younger than me, and I’m younger than both the Pope and Joe Biden, but to be fair, Francis and Joe have a much bigger staff than just our two stalwart churchwardens!

I’ve heard of clergy interviews where clergy were asked to give an undertaking never to change anything! But we, as individuals, and as a church, are a living organism, meant to be actively responding to God, and, with him, to the current needs of our society, in the times we live in. A parish which asks for that ‘undertaking’ needs an undertaker! 

A priest, ideally, is wise and prophetic. There is a saying in youth work, ‘if you think all is thriving – worry, it won’t last’. Nothing lasts for ever. Sooner or later, any rut – that may have had many good points - fizzles out, people move on, times change, and – in any case, that good status quo would not have been benefitting from all of the possibilities, anyway. It’s best to be inspired by a leader to a right new direction, long before a local church hits some buffers. A biblical Shepherd had the skill to keep the flock headed for nourishment in a tricky landscape, and the skill to help them to remain safe and protected against human and wild animal threats, and the skill to maintain their health. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, didn’t look for a comfortable life, but one of self-giving, in doing the necessary, and bearing the cost, as should the clergy.

Fr Roger

Sunday, 18 April 2021
This morning we came together at 10 am for Matins, having had a said communion service at 8am, something we have not had during the Pandemic. The 8 am communion services will resume as a regular service from the beginning of May. 
Both services were taken by Father Roger,  at the Matins the Venite, Psalm 4 
and the Jubilate were sung, the first two to chants and the Jubilate in the setting by CV Stanford. The Te Deum was said by the whole congregation, as were the responses. The Choir sang Increase my Faith by Losemore as the Anthem. Father Roger's sermon is presented below. It was another beautiful sunny day although the air is still very cold, as we left the Church in a socially distanced manner. 

Holy Communion 8 am

Acts 3.12-19

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles.

Peter addressed the people, 
“You Israelites, why do you wonder at this, 
or why do you stare at us, 
as though by our own power or piety we had made him walk? 

The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,
 the God of our ancestors has glorified his servant Jesus, 
whom you handed over and rejected in the presence of Pilate, 
though he had decided to release him. 

But you rejected the Holy and Righteous One 
and asked to have a murderer given to you, 

and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. 
To this we are witnesses. 

And by faith in his name, 
his name itself has made this man strong, whom you see and know; 
and the faith that is through Jesus has given him this perfect health 
in the presence of all of you.

“And now, friends, I know that you acted in ignorance, 
as did also your rulers. 

In this way God fulfilled 
what he had foretold through all the prophets, 
that his Messiah would suffer. 

Repent therefore, and turn to God 
so that your sins may be wiped out.

Luke 24.36b-48

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

 While the eleven and their companions were talking about what they had heard
 Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, 
“Peace be with you.”

They were startled and terrified, 
and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 

He said to them, 
“Why are you frightened, 
and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 

Look at my hands and my feet; 
see that it is I myself. 
Touch me and see; 
for a ghost does not have flesh and bones 
as you see that I have.” 

And when he had said this, 
he showed them his hands and his feet.

While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering,
 he said to them, 
“Have you anything here to eat?” 

They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 

and he took it and ate in their presence.

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

Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 

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

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

You are witnesses of these things. "


Almighty Father,
who in your great mercy gladdened the disciples
    with the sight of the risen Lord:
give us such knowledge of his presence with us,
that we may be strengthened and sustained
    by his risen life
and serve you continually in righteousness and truth;
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.

Our two Biblical readings today, may not be immediately the most gripping, but they do give us a theme, about this People of God we belong to. Saying that it has a cohesive history for something like four millennia. 

I can’t help being a trendy modern young thing, but today raises the question of why, at Matins, we normally use a Bible translation which was a great achievement, but perhaps unduly weighty and literary in style, and old fashioned - in 1611! They apparently thought then that weighty, literary, sonorous, and old fashioned were somehow religious, irrespective of how a passage was originally written. What is appropriate, surely, is the truest translation, which gives a feel for the actual style and meaning of the original Greek or Hebrew writer, using the best current scholarship. And scholarship has advanced since 1600! If we are more interested in something other than the truest translation and scholarship, we surely need to think about that! Today, I for one, would have preferred to hear about looking for God’s tenderness and compassion towards us, rather than listening for the sounding of his bowels!

Usefully, the first reading does focus us on God’s ‘loving kindness’, sometimes translated ‘steadfast love’. This reflects a very important Old Testament word, in some ways comparable to the special New Testament word for love, agape.

So how old is this People of God which we belong to? We may well look bemused when an independent, non-denominational Church says that it was founded, in, say 1970. What we belong to was really founded early in the second millennium BC, long before Christ, when Abraham left Ur and his old gods, with their little statues, to go in faith into the unknown, feeling called by one unseen God. A God of whom there could be no effigies or images. Our readings today are aware of this big picture.

Many years ago, rather madly, whilst working as a vicar, I did a long teaching practice, teaching Maths.  But was collared to also teach a lot of Judaism, for several months, to several classes of teenagers. As part of this, there had to be Passover meals enacted. This, for me, was not something I could work through as an outsider or an atheist, as some teachers might: I was never Jewish, but inevitably experienced the special meal as part of my own religion and history, prefiguring the Christian Easter and Eucharist.

The long book of Isaiah. from which we read, reflects the work of more than one prophet, over a long period, maybe from 700 and something BC to around 400BC. Our reading belongs to the later writings, when the Jews had come back from exile in Babylon, and were rebuilding their life in the Holy Land. They looked for help to the God whom they had already known for well over a thousand years, thinking especially of how he had rescued them from slavery in Egypt, under Moses, eight hundred years before their own time. 

In our second reading, St Paul is doing what the first Jewish Christians were very keen to do, which is trying to make sense of Christ, and try to see how he squared with their treasured Old Testament scriptures. They must do that, to make sense of their experience of Christ, and if they are to convert more Jews to Christianity. St Paul, too, looks back – in his case – twelve hundred years – back to Moses. Paul sees the events with Moses, - who was the greatest in the Old Testament, - as somehow prefiguring events with Jesus, - the new greatest. The same God seen as behind the whole long story. And just as some of those with Moses went badly off the rails, so Christians, - says Paul, - had better not be too casual about their morality. We, too, might find ourselves at odds with God!

The Old Testament is not read most Sundays in many churches. That would mean having three readings much of the time, (shock and horror!), but very many churches do, and I think we had to when the Bishop came. When I sometimes take a service near Petworth, where Chris Hubbard, our former churchwarden is, we always do. If a new priest here wanted that, I should be pleased and not try to undermine it.

The Old Testament is relevant to much in the New. It is what shaped and inspired Jesus’ life and ministry. When working in Wales, I was shocked that those training to preach as Lay Readers did no Old Testament studies at all. Like most of my thoughts in those days, it was received very coldly, and the person running the training course was promptly promoted to Archdeacon! Happy days.

There are a few key things to remember with the Old Testament. Firstly, we need to realise that it reflects the thought and experience of the People of God over a great amount of time. However, not all was written down early on. The ancient creation stories of Genesis, were perhaps only actually written down a very few hundred years before Christ. Realise that thoughts, say, about life after death, - thoughts on many things, - develop and change over that long period, they don’t stay the same. 

Another thing is to appreciate, is the different sorts of writings. Some are historical stories - things that happened, - some are more timeless stories, not fitting neatly into history, but none the less enshrining great truths about the state of God and humanity. Some, like Job and Jonah, are stories written to make important points. The Psalms, of course, are hymns. And the prophets have a special place as seers and courageous ministers of God in their own day and circumstances …. and so on.

So, for any Old Testament reading, - or New for that matter, - we need to identify what type of writing it is, history, fiction, myth, or whatever, and what period of history and thought it reflects, and what sort of society and circumstances the writer was in, and why he wanted to write. It is useful to have in our minds an outline of the history, the big picture of Biblical times. We may well in our minds have a rough idea, or better, of English history back for a millennium or more. That can usefully be done for a millennium or more of Biblical times too.  We must realise, also, quite vitally, that this big history of the People of God extends from the Old Testament to Christ’s ministry and Pentecost and to our own time, to include us. It is a history we must live in now!

Fr Roger.


Isaiah 63.7-15

A reading from the Book of Isaiah.

7 I will mention the lovingkindnesses of the LORD, and the praises of the LORD, according to all that the LORD hath bestowed on us, and the great goodness toward the house of Israel, which he hath bestowed on them according to his mercies, and according to the multitude of his lovingkindnesses.

8 For he said, Surely they are my people, children that will not lie: so he was their Saviour.

9 In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old.

10 But they rebelled, and vexed his holy Spirit: therefore he was turned to be their enemy, and he fought against them.

11 Then he remembered the days of old, Moses, and his people, saying, Where is he that brought them up out of the sea with the shepherd of his flock? where is he that put his holy Spirit within him?

12 That led them by the right hand of Moses with his glorious arm, dividing the water before them, to make himself an everlasting name?

13 That led them through the deep, as an horse in the wilderness, that they should not stumble?

14 As a beast goeth down into the valley, the Spirit of the LORD caused him to rest: so didst thou lead thy people, to make thyself a glorious name.

15 Look down from heaven, and behold from the habitation of thy holiness and of thy glory: where is thy zeal and thy strength, the sounding of thy bowels and of thy mercies toward me? are they restrained?

1 Corinthians 10.1-13

A reading from the letters of St Paul to the Corinthians.

1 Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea;

2 And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;

3 And did all eat the same spiritual meat;

4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.

5 But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness.

6 Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.

7 Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.

8 Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand.

9 Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents.

10 Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.

11 Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.

12 Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.

13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

Sunday, 11 April 2021
We met for the 10am Eucharist on a very cold but sunny morning, in a somewhat sombre mood in the light of the death of the Duke of Edinburgh. Father Roger took the service and spoke of the effects of change, our first Sunday without Father Stephen, and out thoughts with Her Majesty the Queen in her loss. Our 'Covid Choir' masked and socially distanced in the south transept sang some Easter Hymns and the Elgar setting of the Ave Verum. At communion there was an opportunity to light a candle in memory of the Duke.  
At the end of the service, after  the dismissal we kept a minute of silence and then sang the National Anthem. As we left the Church Joanna played the Sailor Song by Schubert to mark the passing of the duke.

Some of our lovely Easter Flowers

Fr Roger's Homily

Currently we will be thinking of the Queen and revisiting our memories of Prince Philip. Some of you will have more memories than I.

Like some here, I remember the Queen’s wedding in 1947. In 1950s, with my parents, I saw Prince Philip at an event at Eastney Marine Barracks in Portsmouth. In 1990s the Duke joked with me at St James’s Palace, when my younger son got a D of E Award. Later still, Christina and I had a short trip to Bruges. The locals said, ‘you’re in luck. The Duke is here this weekend at a military event, where you can see him. Also, they said, a small container of Jesus’ blood is on display this weekend.’ (It had allegedly been brought back by a crusader.) The Duke would have been amused that the two events had been so incongruously lumped together. The Duke would surely also be amused that the Gospel today is about Thomas, a man who rocked the boat by not hesitating to say what he thought!

Plans are having to be made for Prince Philip’s funeral. Plans are having to be made here, too, now that Fr Stephen has retired. In the story from Acts, the first disciples are having to make plans for the newly-born Church. 

Firstly, it says, they were pretty united, of one heart and soul. It wasn’t a case of one or two plotting and scheming and trying to pull strings behind the backs of the others. They had their appointed leaders but they did all work together. They wanted to care for the poorer members, very commendably, and so they tried … wait for it….Communism!

But we must see that in context. They probably expected the end of the world within a generation, and so had no need to take a long view about their family’s property. But the end of the world, and the return of Christ didn’t happen. They had got it wrong, but they had worked together, they had cared for each other, they had troubled to make a plan, and to make an effort to meet the situation, under God, as best they could understand it. We must do no less.

On this Sunday, every year, we hear about Thomas and his doubts. Every year there is need to defend him. He was not a man to follow the herd. He simply thought for himself and said what he thought. There are two other occasions when we particularly hear of Thomas. Jesus, at one point, talks of returning to the Jerusalem area, where his most powerful enemies were, - putting himself in danger. Most of the disciples said, no, no, don’t do that, Jesus. Thomas said, Jesus knows what he is doing, they should go too, and stick with him, and die with him if necessary. At another time, when Jesus speaks of his going away to the Father, and that they know the way, it is Thomas who says, ‘we don’t know where you’re going, how can we know the way?’ 

In today’s reading, when Thomas hears that Jesus is risen, he goes into Victor Meldrew mode,  - or dare I say Piers Morgan mode -  saying ‘I do not believe it!’ ‘At least,’ he says, ‘not without further evidence.’ ‘I wasn’t expecting a happy ending!’ Thomas was simply telling it as it was. And happily, a week later, he found further evidence. There is much to be said for thinking for yourself. You can’t realistically believe something and act on it unless you stop and weigh it up under God, and then ponder what he wants you to actually do about it.

We usually have two readings on a Sunday morning, rather than three, which means that, most often, the Old Testament reading is lost, which is perhaps a pity. The Old Testament was an absolutely central part of Jesus’ background and upbringing. 

Old Testament prophets are important, at their best they were those who bravely told it as it was, and often got into bother for it. You will know of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea and other prophets, but what about Micaiah? I think Thomas would have liked him as well, but we hear very little of Micaiah, except one special story. Micaiah is in 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles. 

The most ancient Hebrew prophets came in two sorts. And Micaiah’s first crucial decision was about which sort of prophet he would be. On the one hand, there were large gangs of prophets, who hung around the royal court, and tried to keep the King happy by telling him what he wanted to hear. And then there were the independent, lone, prophets, who took the things of God a bit more seriously, and were often unpopular for that. Micaiah felt that that was his vocation.

Way back, after King Solomon’s time, in the 10th century BC, the Hebrew Kingdom divided into two. In the story, the two kings, the King of Israel in the north of the Holy Land, and the King of Judah from the south, are together contemplating fighting a battle to retake some territory. The gang of prophets says to Ahab, the King of Israel, ‘Great idea, you’ll win the battle’, and they even act it out for him dramatically to try to please him. But the King smells a rat. ‘Let’s see what Micaiah has to say, misery as he is,’ says King Ahab. So Micaiah, faced with two Kings and a big hostile gathering, says, ‘er, well, OK then, it’ll be fine’. But the King replies, ‘Micaiah, tell us what you really think.’ And Micaiah then musters the courage to make the right decision and replies , ‘I see total disaster if you attack’. Micaiah is punished, for his honest message, but he is right. They go to war, against his advice. King Ahab is killed and the dogs lick his blood.

In the old ordination service the clergy are ordained to be, amongst other things, ‘stewards and watchmen of Lord’. The steward bit is about seeing there is decent organisation in the Church, the watchman bit is about prophecy – trying to see things as God must see them, and daring to speak out, even if that is unpopular. But it is not just clergy who might glimpse the right way forward, even children might. When you have a new parish priest, it will be one of their duties, not just to try to discern what God wants, themselves, but to listen to what God is saying to others, and through others, and try to weigh that up too.
A parish priest will often have to decide whether or not they should rock the boat, and possibly court unpopularity by making an issue of something. And if they decide that they should do so, they must decide if they are actually going to do it. It would be sad if a parish priest was never moved to take a lead and make a stand, or refused that vocation. And sad indeed if a parish went looking for such a priest in the hope of having an easy time. The ways of God and of real life with him are otherwise!

 Acts 2. 32-35

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles.

Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, 
and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, 
but everything they owned was held in common. 

With great power the apostles gave their testimony 
to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, 
and great grace was upon them all. 

There was not a needy person among them, 
for as many as owned lands or houses 
sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. 

They laid it at the apostles’ feet, 
and it was distributed to each as any had need.

John 20.19-31

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

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

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

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

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

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

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, 
was not with them when Jesus came. 

So the other disciples told him, 
“We have seen the Lord.” 
But he said to them, 
“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, 
and put my finger in the mark of the nails
and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

A week later his disciples were again in the house, 
and Thomas was with them.
 Although the doors were shut, 
Jesus came and stood among them and said, 
“Peace be with you.” 

Then he said to Thomas, 
“Put your finger here and see my hands. 
Reach out your hand and put it in my side. 
Do not doubt but believe.” 

Thomas answered him, 
“My Lord and my God!” 

Jesus said to him, 
“Have you believed because you have seen me? 
Blessed are those who have not seen 
and yet have come to believe.”

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, 
which are not written in this book. 

But these are written so that you may come to believe 
that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, 
and that through believing you may have life in his name.


Almighty Father,
you have given your only Son to die for our sins
and to risegain for our justification:
grant us so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness
that we may always serve you
in pureness of living and truth;
through the merits of your son Jesus Christ our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever.

Sunday, 4 April 2021
Blessing the Easter Garden

                                                    Christ is Risen

                                                 He is Risen Indeed

Easter Sunday and for the first time since Christmas we were able to be in church for a celebration of the eucharist, with full social distancing and face coverings, and to accommodate everyone, we had people in the Rooms and fortunately it was a beautiful sunny morning so there were people sitting in deck chairs outside the north door of the church, the service being relayed using the sound system normally used for the Fete! 
This was Father Stephen's last Sunday with us, as he and Margaret begin their full retirement from today, so it was with great sadness we had to say goodbye to them.

Father Roger, who has been such a support to us all, was the celebrant today, and he opened the service by blessing the Easter Garden. Then we proceeded to the main service. We were able to have our small 'Covid Choir' to sing the traditional Easter hymns for the service, and Joanna accompanied them on the piano. During Communion the Choir sang the Ave Verum in the setting by Mozart, one of Father Stephen's favourite pieces, and two hymns. At the end of the service, Mike Allistone gave a very heartfelt speech of thanks to Stephen and Margaret, reminding us of all the achievements within the Parish that Stephen has overseen, not least of which is the building of the Parish Rooms next to the church, and that he leaves the Parish in very 'good order' despite being in a pandemic! Presentations were then made of cards and presents for both Stephen and Margaret. After which Father Stephen gave the final blessing. We came away from church, sad to say good bye to a much loved parish priest, but wishing them both a very happy retirement.  

The Easter Garden

The Covid Choir


Graham Sutherland, ‘Noli me Tangere’, 1961,
Mary Magdalene Chapel, Chichester Cathedral

Dear Friends

There is always a choice of Gospel readings for Easter Sunday, and those that are set for today are Mark 16:1-8 and John 20:1-18.  The reading from Mark is the shorter of the two and describes the women coming to the tomb early in the morning, carrying spices to anoint the body of Jesus, and wondering how they are going to manage to roll the stone away from the tomb.  Then they see, however, that it has already been rolled back (it would have been very large indeed) and, on entering the tomb, they see a young man in a white robe sitting on the right-hand side – are we meant to think this was an angel?  He reassures them that Jesus has been raised from the dead and that they must tell the disciples and Peter that they will see him in Galilee.  The reading concludes with what most commentators believe was the original ending to this gospel, describing the women running away from the tomb and saying ‘nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.’  The subsequent verses (9-20) which complete this gospel as it has come down to us provide additional resurrection stories, as they were made known by other witnesses.

The reading from John is more fulsome and describes Mary Magdalene coming to the tomb so early in the morning that it is still dark.  As in the story from Mark, she finds that the stone has already been rolled away and she rushes to tell Peter and ‘the other disciple’ (usually presumed to be the evangelist himself) the news that Jesus is no longer in the tomb.  There ensues a little running race to the tomb in which John, probably the younger of the two, arrives first and sees the linen cloths lying on the ground but it is Peter, impetuous as ever, who first enters.  We are told that, on the evidence of the linen cloths, ‘the other disciple’ ‘saw and believed’ as he begins to understand that Jesus has indeed risen from the dead.  

These two then return home, but Mary Magdalene lingers at the tomb, weeping, and wondering where Jesus’ body has been taken.  She explains her grief and bewilderment to two angels who are now seated where Jesus had been lying and there follows the moving encounter with Jesus himself, whom at first she does not recognize, ‘supposing him to be the gardener.’  (Some paintings which depict this resurrection encounter emphasize this point by picturing Jesus with a hoe or a wide-brimmed hat.)  Jesus asks Mary why she is weeping and then addresses her by name: ‘Mary’, to which she responds with ‘Rabbuni’ (meaning ‘Master’ or ‘Teacher’).  She is told not to cling to him because he has not yet ascended to the Father (the famous ‘noli me tangere’ theme, much explored by artists) and Mary becomes a powerful witness to the Resurrection as she goes to tell the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord.’
These brief but telling narratives (there are others in other gospels, such as the story in Luke of Jesus meeting the disciples on the road to Emmaus) provide the ground and basis of our Resurrection faith and hope as Christians – our confidence that sin, suffering and death can never have the last word because God, through his Son, has ‘made all things new in him’.

This will be the last of my ‘thoughts for the week’ as I am retiring from my post as Priest in Charge at Sidlesham, with Easter Sunday being my last in the parish.  It has been a great privilege and joy to serve here for just over twelve years, and I take this opportunity to wish you all a truly blessed and happy Easter.

Fr Stephen

Collect for Easter Sunday

Lord of all life and power,
who through the mighty resurrection of your Son
overcame the old order of sin and death
to make all things new in him:
grant that we, being dead to sin
and alive to you in Jesus Christ,
may reign with him in glory;
to whom with you and the Holy Spirit
be praise and honour, glory and might,
now and in all eternity.  Amen.

 Acts 10:34-43

A reading formt he Acts of the Apostles.

Peter began to speak to those assembles in the house of Cornelius: 
“I truly understand that God shows no partiality, 

but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right
is acceptable to him. 

You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, 
preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all. 

That message spread throughout Judea, 
beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: 

how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth
with the Holy Spirit and with power; 
how he went about doing good 
and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, 
for God was with him. 

We are witnesses to all that he did 
both in Judea and in Jerusalem. 
They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; 

but God raised him on the third day 
and allowed him to appear, 

not to all the people 
but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, 
and who ate and drank with him after
he rose from the dead. 

He commanded us to preach to the people 
and to testify that he is the one ordained by God 
as judge of the living and the dead. 

All the prophets testify about him 
that everyone who believes in him 
receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Mark 16:1-8

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

When the sabbath was over, 
Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, 
and Salome bought spices, 
so that they might go and anoint him. 

And very early on the first day of the week, 
when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 

They had been saying to one another, 
“Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” 

When they looked up, 
they saw that the stone, which was very large, 
had already been rolled back. 

As they entered the tomb, 
they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, 
sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 

But he said to them, 
“Do not be alarmed; 
you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. 
He has been raised; he is not here. 
Look, there is the place they laid him. 

But go, tell his disciples and Peter 
that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; 
there you will see him, just as he told you.” 

So they went out and fled from the tomb, 
for terror and amazement had seized them;
 and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
Friday, 2 April 2021
Hebrews 10:16-25

A reading from the letter to the Hebrews.

The Holy Spirit testifies to us, for after saying,

“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, 
says the Lord:
I will put my laws in their hearts,
and I will write them on their minds,”

he also adds,
“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”

Where there is forgiveness of these, 
there is no longer any offering for sin.

Therefore, my friends,
since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, 

by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain
(that is, through his flesh),

and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 

let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, 
with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience 
and our bodies washed with pure water. 

Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, 
for he who has promised is faithful. 

And let us consider how to provoke one another 
to love and good deeds, 

not neglecting to meet together,
as is the habit of some, 
but encouraging one another, 
and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

John 18:1-19

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

After they had eaten the supper,

Jesus went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley 
to a place where there was a garden, 
which he and his disciples entered. 

Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, 
because Jesus often met there with his disciples. 

So Judas brought a detachment of soldiers 
together with police from the chief priests and the Pharisees, 
and they came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. 

Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, 
came forward and asked them, 
“For whom are you looking?” 

They answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.”
Jesus replied, “I am he.”
Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. 

When Jesus said to them, “I am he,”
they stepped back and fell to the ground. 

Again he asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” 
And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.”

Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he.
So if you are looking for me, let these men go.” 

This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken, 
“I did not lose a single one of those whom you gave me.” 

Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, 
drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, 
and cut off his right ear. 
The slave’s name was Malchus. 

Jesus said to Peter, 
“Put your sword back into its sheath. 
Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?”

So the soldiers, their officer, and the Jewish police
arrested Jesus and bound him. 

First they took him to Annas, 
who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, 
the high priest that year. 

Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews 
that it was better to have one person die for the people.

Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. 
Since that disciple was known to the high priest, 
he went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, 

but Peter was standing outside at the gate. 
So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, 
went out, spoke to the woman who guarded the gate, 
and brought Peter in. 

The woman said to Peter,
“You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?” 
He said, “I am not.” 

Now the slaves and the police had made a charcoal fire 
because it was cold, 
and they were standing around it and warming themselves. 
Peter also was standing with them and warming himself.

Then the high priest questioned Jesus 
about his disciples and about his teaching. 
Thursday, 1 April 2021
 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

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


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

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

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

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

John 13:1-17

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

Now before the festival of the Passover, 
Jesus knew that his hour had come 
to depart from this world and go to the Father. 
Having loved his own who were in the world, 
he loved them to the end. 

The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot 
to betray him. 
And during supper 

Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, 
and that he had come from God and was going to God, 

got up from the table,
took off his outer robe, 
and tied a towel around himself. 

Then he poured water into a basin 
and began to wash the disciples’ feet 
and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. 

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, 
“Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” 

Jesus answered, 
“You do not know now what I am doing, 
but later you will understand.” 

Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” 
Jesus answered, 
“Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” 

Simon Peter said to him, 
“Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 

Jesus said to him, 
“One who has bathed does not need to wash, 
except for the feet, but is entirely clean,
And you are clean, though not all of you.” 

For he knew who was to betray him; 
for this reason he said, 
“Not all of you are clean.”

After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, 
and had returned to the table, 
he said to them, 
“Do you know what I have done to you? 

You call me Teacher and Lord—
and you are right, for that is what I am. 

So if I, your Lord and Teacher, 
have washed your feet, 
you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 

For I have set you an example, 
that you also should do as I have done to you. 

Very truly, I tell you, 
servants are not greater than their master, 
nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. 

If you know these things, 
you are blessed if you do them. 

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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