AUGUST 2017 MESSAGE The Parable of the two sons and the prodigal father
Jesus told a number of parables that were built around the context of the consideration of significant human relationships.
In the parable about a father and his two sons we are left to think about how each of the two sons responded to the generosity of the father and of their living within the unconditional love that he had for them both. In brief, we read about a younger son who demands of his father: “Give me the share of the property that falls to me,” and who takes his share and quickly loses the lot. Who later decides on this course of action: “I will arise and go to my Father and say to him, I have sinned against heaven and before you, I am no longer worthy to be called your son, treat me as one of your hired hands.” And then, when he returns, we find the father running towards him, embracing him and laying on a big party for him.
Meanwhile the older son has continued to work hard each and every day in the fields, and so we perhaps understand his resentment when the younger son returns to such a joyful reception.
The father will not dwell on the younger son’s remorse and has little time for the older son’s resentment. He loves them both, wants both of them to know this, and seeks to bring them together. There is no catch or trap to his show of love for them both and he wants them to know the same joyful love that he has for both of them.
JULY 2017 MESSAGE Parables, continued
In Luke Chapter 15 we find three parables about searching for something or someone who is lost. In each of the stories Jesus asks us to consider God in a particular way; as being like a person with responsibility for a home who has lost the equivalent of the weekly rent money and who tidies, cleans up and searches until the money is found; Goad as like a shepherd searching for a missing sheep; and God as like a parent who has unconditional love for their child and who waits for the child to come back.
In each of the stories we find the person who searches as someone who takes ownership and responsibility for a past decision, as someone who believes the best in others, who is forgiving and always seeks to overcome the causes of division by finding a way to bring about reconciliation.
The parables of Jesus can be thought of as like a hard ball or large stone hitting the surface of water. With the splash of the impact comes a rippling out effect. The meaning we give to these parables comes first with the initial impact of the story and then the rippling out of layers of meaning. Martin Luther said of the Parable of the Loving Father (also known as the Parable of the Prodigal Son) that it contained within it the whole message of the Christian Gospel.
In the Autumn I am intending to run 6 sessions based on this Parable, using art, poetry and music to consider more fully and deeply its layers of meaning. Next month I will include a reminder of the story.
JUNE 2017 MESSAGE Parables
During my life as a parish priest, both here and previously in Kent, I have in most weeks prepared a school assembly. The format of these includes a hymn or song, a prayer and an activity based on a bible story or a moral or spiritual theme. This summer for assemblies I will be returning to the stories told by Jesus, the parables that we find particularly in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke.
The word parable has within it the Greek word meaning ballistic, literally a story that explodes and surprises us with its message. With a General Election upon us, we might particularly notice how the story of the Good Samaritan speaks boldly of the priority of loving our neighbour and thinking about who that neighbour might be; the story of the Sower and the Seed, about making sure we look to plant seed in good soil for ourselves and for future generations; the story of the rich man and Lazarus in which the rich man is found to have lived his life without noticing the inequality around him, failed even to give help to the poor man living nearby.
In a similar way, we find in Matthew Chapter 25 the parable of the Sheep and the Goats, which considers God’s kingdom of equity, justice and peace being found in the priorities people have made in their way of living. The people ask: “Lord when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink. And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you or naked and clothe you. And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you.” To which the reply is given: “Truly I say to you that as you did to one of the least of my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.”
MAY 2017 MESSAGE From May to September
We are noticing the lighter early mornings and the longer hours of daylight and this can bring with it a more hopeful outlook in the valuing of our rural landscape and in the enjoyment of the activities and events that the summer months provide.
We have a bumper year of weddings taking plae and being prepared for in our churches this year. The organisers of the summer village social events have already begun their preparations.
At the beginning of May, a group of us will spend a week in Scotland as part of the Iona Community; doing, talking and reflecting on the value of shared life in community. Some of this we can report back on at our Joint Churches PCC meeting in King’s Cliffe church on Monday 15th May. May is also the month when our church wardens, elected at Annual Meetings in April, will be sworn into office at the Archdeacon’s Visitation.
We have an additional Benefice Service at 7.30pm in All Saints Church, Laxton, on Thursday 25th May for Ascension Day, which will be led by Bishop John Flack.
And May also sees fundraising events for Christian Aid and a big fundraising event for King’s Cliffe church with the Plant Sale and Garden Party at The Walnuts on Bridge Street on Sunday 21st May from 2-5pm.
APRIL 2017 MESSAGE Picturing Easter Hope
Caravaggio’s painting “The Supper at Emmaus” is usually on display at the National Gallery in London.
No other painting has ever truly made me stop and stare and feel that the artist is really drawing me into the subject matter. Artists use techniques to do this and here I think there are two. First, the figure of Jesus in blessing the meal, has his hand reaching out in a way that is opening, inviting and inclusive. And second, the three other figures in the paining are all positioned in such a way as to reveal themselves as eager spectators to what it is that Jesus is doing and there is space in the right foreground for the viewer to be similarly drawn into what is going on.
Closer observation of the painting enables the viewer to see the tattered clothes worn by one of the figures; the artist suggesting the presence of the risen Jesus is good news especially for those in need. And for the view almost to touch the hand of the figure whose arms are outstretched like a cross, as he considers how the man nailed to a tree is now bringing blessing and hope.
In our Church services from Palm Sunday, through Holy Week and Easter we will hear the story of the Passion of Jesus, consider the mystery of what these things mean and in heart and mind seek to encounter the compelling and active love of God that reaches out from the risen Christ to all.
MARCH 2017 MESSAGE Picturing Jesus
Many of us will have a picture of Jesus in our mind. The drawings from the Ladybird Bible Stories are one early image that I have and perhaps also of Robert Powell acting the part of Jesus in the film Jesus of Nazareth. The Jesus encountered in the Gospels is the picture of Jesus that we will seek to encounter during March in the showing of a film that takes the complete text of Matthew’s Gospel and dramatises it in the landscape of first century Palestine.
The first part of the film will be shown on Tuesday 14th March and then again on Thursday 16th March at 8pm. Viewings for the subsequent two parts of the film will follow on Tuesday and Thursday evenings.
After each part of the film is shown, there will be time to talk about and to consider and talk together about what we have seen. Each session ending by 9.30pm.
Mothering Sunday 26th March
Our service of thanksgiving for Mothering Sunday will be an Afternoon Family Service at 4pm. All are welcome and there will be refreshments served after the service in church.
FEBRUARY 2017 MESSAGE The Gospel of Matthew
During each year, a different Gospel is followed in our Church Sunday readings and this usually forms the focus of the sermons. This year we are following the Gospel of Matthew.
Throughout Matthew’s Gospel we get a sense of people living with conflict and doubt, unsure of how the faith they have will continue to guide them in uncertain times. Always the writer brings us back to considering God’s mercy and loving kindness shown by the life of Jesus, and that because of this God’s people can through their following of the way of Jesus be salt and light for each other and for the world.
The Lumo Project has taken the complete text of Matthew’s Gospel and dramatized it in a film that reflects well the context of the Gospel and the landscape of first century Palestine. My intention is to show the film in 4 parts during March. It takes us from the Incarnation through the teachings of Jesus and the healings and other miracles, and then to the trial, crucifixion and resurrection. Each of the 4 showings will last for about 45 minutes and end with time for conversation and discussion.
Please let myself or a Church Warden know if you would be interested in attending. The dates, times and venues of the showings will be confirmed at a later date.
All are very welcome.
JANUARY 2017 MESSAGE Living the Questions
Throughout the Autumn a group of us met in King’s Cliffe Church on Thursday evenings to think about faith and belief, to bring our questions and talk about and consider these questions together.
We started by thinking about the living world and the origins of the Universe. Then we considered relationships and how God might be found relating to the world. We also had discussion about human struggled and suffering and where God might be found within this as a source of help.
Our final two sessions led us to consider more about what our concepts of God might be, to look at the significance of Jesus’s life and how we interpret the four Gospels. The resource “Living the Questions”, a DVD mixing short presentations and conversations has provided a helpful starting point for participants’ questions and for the discussion that followed.
The next “Living the Questions” will be in King’s Cliffe Church on Thursday 5th January, 7.45=9.15pm. Coffee is available from 7.30pm.
We will think about the meaning of Christmas and consider this question: “The First Christmas: What Really Happened?”
All are very welcome.
At the end of November we begin the Church season of Advent. This year at 6pm on Advent Sunday November 27th there will be a Benefice Service of Advent Carols and Readings in King’s Cliffe Church with the Benefice Choir. The service will focus on key aspects of faith including that of the hope of light shining within darkness and despair and of the cry of people for justice and peace being heard by God.
We continue to prepare to receive the message of Christmas through the presenting of the Christmas story in words and music at a carol service or in the acting of the drama in a nativity play. The Carol Service in Collyweston will be at 4.00pm on Sunday 18th December. We will hear then the words of the prophets speaking out against the consequences of complacency and self-interest and we sing Christmas carols that tell how lowly shepherds were the first to comprehend that the coming of God’s kingdom was to be found in the birth of a baby. A baby born in poverty away from the glare of media or the hype of celebrity.
We should also be very grateful that in the thirteenth century St Francis helped to give us a way of visualising the birth of Jesus when he made the first Christmas crib and in addition to Mary, Joseph, Jesus and the shepherds surrounded them with the living creatures, sheep and cattle that give an understanding of the Christmas message being important for all creation.
Whatever life may have delivered for us this year and however we may be looking to the year ahead, the Christmas message, unpacked from the media hype, is both simple in the message of good news it brings, and inspiring, in the way it reveals the loving kindness of the God of all creation, whose love is lived out in the way we respond to the hope that this new birth sets before us.
Philip Davies 01780 470314 or email@example.com
NOVEMBER MESSAGE Special services this month
November will include acts of remembrance for the fallen in our parish churches. This year in particular there will be time for reflection on the hundredth anniversary of the Battle of the Somme.
At the end of November, we begin the church season of Advent. This year at 6pm on Advent Sunday (November 27th) there will be a Benefice Service of Advent Carols and Readings in King’s Cliffe Church, with the Benefice Choir.
The service will focus on key aspects of faith including that of the hope of light shining within darkness and despair; and that of the crying out by people for justice and of the cry being heard by God.
Reflection on and thinking about these themes can help us with our preparation for the Christmas celebration of the birth of Jesus, by giving a context to the meaning of the Christmas message.
Philip Davies 01780 470314 or firstname.lastname@example.org
OCTOBER MESSAGE Iona Trip 2017
The Iona Community is made up of people from all over the world who seek to grow in their faith and understanding, by talking and listening to others and drawing inspiration particularly from the Celtic traditions of Christianity.
Each year hundreds of people spend time in community together on the island of Iona, coming from all over the world and living alongside the residents, mainly voluntary, community. People eat together, talk and walk together, including the day pilgrimage around the island that includes taking in St Columba’s Bay.
In the Abbey itself, restored during the 1950s, daily services are led by members of the community using contemporary words and songs that above all reflect the community’s focus on seeking justice and peace for all people. Wild Goose Music and the work of John Bell are particularly prominent, along with music from the worldwide Christian community.
A 6 night/7 day fully inclusive stay in the Abbey accommodation is £389, in shared twin, 4-bed or family room accommodation. Limited single room s are available but these can also be found in a range of different priced accommodation on the island. Travel to and from Iona is best by train, bus and ferry. With advance fares this should not be more tha £100 return fare per adult.
There has been sufficient initial interest for me to begin the planning for taking a group next year, either in early May, late June or in July or August. Please let me know by 15th October if you would like more information about going.
Philip Davies 01780 470314
SEPTEMBER MESSAGE Living the Questions
If 200 years ago
some religious practices and rituals
were getting in the way,
how did people
come to see Jesus as the Way?
This question, many others and those that participants will bring should provide a rich and varied tapestry of thinking, talking and learning together for “Living the Questions”, a series of presentations with opportunities for conversation, questions and discussion, on Thursday evenings in King’s Cliffe Church.
Weekly sessions beginning
Thursday 29th September
Hot drinks available from 7.30pm
All very welcome!
Session One: Why do religions have creation stories? How are the narratives in Genesis significant for Christianity?
Session Two: The Bible: inerrant or to be interpreted? Finding God’s story, God’s peoples’ story, my story.
Session Three: What are our pictures of God? Jesus and his way of relating Himself and people with God.
AUGUST MESSAGE Living the Questions
Who is God?
Can we have faith in a loving Creator?
Would I call myself a spiritual person?
Is there a soul?
If 2000 years ago some religious practices and rituals were getting in the way, how did some people come to see Jesus as The Way?
These questions, many others and those that participants bring should provide a rich and varied tapestry of thinking, talking and learning together for “Living the Questions”, a series of presentations with opportunities for conversation, questions and discussion, on Thursday evenings in King’s Cliffe church.
Weekly sessions beginning
Thursday 29th September
Hot drinks available from 7.30pm
All very welcome!
JULY MESSAGE Living the Questions
I remember the Head Teacher of the school that I attended agreeing to meet with Sixth Form students to talk about his Christian faith. He gave the title “Why I Am an Anglican” and spoke only to this explaining it was because he was born and bred an Anglican. As for the question “Why I am a Christian” that he would not be talking about that.
We felt a bit let down because I think the expectation had been that he might talk to us about how his faith impacted on his life, the changes through life and how a faith might make a difference to taking decisions and actions.
For myself, being open to God’s love at all times and responding to it in all situations provides the framework for my faith and coming with this the challenge to live out this faith, including living with all the questions that it brings.
The resource “Living the Questions” comes out of the progressive tradition in Christianity and I find it a very helpful way of considering what religious faith is, how it is linked to human spirituality and how, by exploring open questions, a Christian faith can be both challenged and grow and become more meaningful. Running the course in the autumn would be possible and in planning to do this, it would be helpful to have initial expressions of interest either by phone or email.
Philip Davies 01780 470314
JUNE MESSAGE Moving on…
Karin will be taking up a full-time post as Vicar of the Parish of Cherry Hinton in Cambridge in September. She has been part of our team ministering in our villages for five years., first as Curate and now as Associate Priest and she has combined all of this with her responsibilities at Uppingham School.
Karin’s outward going and warm personality will be greatly missed and many people have benefited from her ministry amongst us. We want to say thank you to her on Sunday 3rd July. Karin’s final service will be in King’s Cliffe Church at 10am that morning and the service will be followed by a glass of fizz and some light refreshments. We will also be making a presentation to Karin that morning and donations towards a gift can be given to church wardens in each of the villages.
APRIL MESSAGE Remembering William Law of King’s Cliffe
Saturday 9th April 2016
William Law was a very influential Christian thinker and writer. He was born in King’s Cliffe and is buried in the Churchyard. The charity he established with Elizabeth Hutchinson continues to day to be of significance for the village school and for local almshouses. Law’s books are still in print, 250 years after his death.
We are welcoming Dr Alan Gregory, who has published on William Law, to be with us for these special celebrations on Saturday 9th April:
- 2.00pm Meet in the church for a tour with Sue Trow-Smith and friends, of local William Law sites including the Heritage Centre on Bridge Street, King’s Cliffe.
- 3.30pm Cup of tea and cake at the church – followed by –
- 4.00-5.00pm Dr Gregory will talk about the Nature and Historical Context of the Spiritual Understanding of William Law, including time for questions. The church choir will also sing some pieces.
Reverend Philip Davies
MARCH MESSAGE Easter Hope
Amidst the violence of so much of our world, be it terrorism, war or gun crime, the violent and cruel death of Jesus could seem like one more senseless act of human torture. Religions well understand human nature and the capacity for violence, and most religions have found ways of containing this violence, usually through some sort of system of sacrifice or scapegoat.
The Christian story begins from a different perspective. Jesus spending his time with those who are suffering, particularly from disease or exclusion from society. He enters their world and helps them find healing of body and spirit and a way back to living fully once more in community with others.
Then he himself becomes a victim of the jealousy, rivalry and selfishness of others. On the day called Good Friday, he is tortured and put to death by crucifixion, suffering in this way because of his living as he did alongside those in greatest need, doing the things that he did to transform human lives and saying what he said with a vision that challenged the complacency of the religious and political leaders of the time.
On the Cross in Luke’s Gospel we find Jesus forgiving those around him, and with Jesus are Mary and Mary Magdalene who capture something of this turning upside down of religious ways that can make victims disappear rather than raise one up who will continue to make more real the hope within. On Easter Day we will gather in each of the Churches of our Group to proclaim that Jesus is Risen. This is the hope that comes from faith that Jesus overcame all fear to bring new life and a new beginning.
FEBRUARY 2016 MESSAGE A New Year Prayer
This prayer comes from the Iona Community:
Turn again, good God, and give us life
That your people may rejoice in you.
Make me a clean heart, good God,
And renew a right spirit within me>
Give me again the joy of your help,
With your spirit of freedom sustain me.
The small island of Iona sits off Mull on the west coast of Scotland. St Columba made it his base when exiled from Ireland and so beginning the spreading of Christianity across Scotland. Later the abbey he established became a Benedictine monastery, only to fall into ruins during the sixteenth century.
The current Iona Community was the inspiration of George McCloud in the 1930s and is made up mainly of volunteers of people of all ages from many parts of the world, including students and young people and others looking to give a short period of their life to live in community and to work in the kitchens, shop, café and other activities including hosting visitors, also from all over the world.
The full time staff, on the island, in Glasgow and elsewhere bring particular skills that include music, exploration of major contemporary issues, creative worship and administration that give the 21st-century Iona Community its own distinctive voice.
In 2009 a group of us spent a few days on Iona and it really seems time to plan another similar trip, perhaps this Autumn or next Spring. Please let me know if you might like to come.
JANUARY 2016 MESSAGE A birth and a beginning
Listening to 11 year old Caitlin describe how she had acted as an impromptu midwife when her Mum suddently went into labour helped bring home to me that it is the birth of a baby that is at the centre of the Christmas story.
The conversatin Caitlin had had with the emergency services had been recorded so we could hear Caitlin describe what was going on, hear her Mum in labour and the calm voice at the end of the phone giving helpful guidance. “Can you see anything?” “Yes, the baby’s head?” “Right, keep your mum warm and find some towels to wrap baby in.” All, thankfully, went well and a week later being interviewed on breakfast television was Mum, the baby and Caitlin recalling what had happened, a story that family will no doubt re-tell for a long time.
Like the Christmas story, it reminded me that in the course of everyday life people can do extraordinary things for which they might have felt unprepared but that with some instinctive positive thinking, a willingness to ask for advice and a degree of calmness under pressure, good things can result.
It also made me think about how much my faith might enable me to notice that this is often the case and so to recognise the hand of God in everyday life. If the Christmas story of the birth of a baby 2000 years ago to a migrant couple, who cannot return home, is to impact on me, I need to notice what this story might be saying about God’s hand being at work in the world. And to suggest that hope can be found by the way in which people and nations respond to human need, by showing instinctive generosity and hospitality to the most fragile and vulnerable so that they can have hope and be given a new beginning.
DECEMBER 2015 MESSAGE Love Came Amongst Us At Christmas
Love is at the centre of the Christmas message and we look forward to welcoming you to special services throughout Advent and Christmas. Details of services are on the card that was delivered with your copy of Collyweston News this month.
The past year will have brought changes for all of us, and included for some experiences that will have been life changing. There is a need for us all to live each day as that day comes, in a way that we can recognise, and notice the changes that are around is, in the natural and living world, in the lives of those around us and, through the media, in what is going on in the wider world.
For some, the words of the poem “I have no time to stand and stare” can be very true and the lead-up to the season of Christmas can make this feel even more apparent. But we know that time is a precious thing, so that noticing what is going on is so important and how sometimes we need to adapt to changing situations and sometimes not be moved by changes especially when others selfishly and thoughtlessly try to impose these upon us.
Taken as a whole the Christmas narratives found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke show us that people living 2000 years ago also h ad to face the consequences of change. a mother and the birth of her first child, a father needing to move the fragile young family from place to place, and a climate of fear because of oppressive regimes and dreadful acts of terror. All of these we find in those Christmas narratives.
People on the move has been a major focus of attention over the last 12 months and how governments and communities respond to this will continue to be a focus in the coming year. Jesus was a baby born to those who had to quickly flee from terror but who would find a place for family to call home and to live well. This baby that is recognised as a gift of love to the world first needing the love of others to survive and to grow.
Finding love big enough in compassion and selflessness; the love asked of us for others, especially for those most without hope.
SEPTEMBER MESSAGE From the Rectory – Reverend Karin Voth Harman
Hello to all of you in the village whom I’ve not yet met… I’m Karin, your Associate Priest, working with the Vicar, Philip Davies, to cover 6 villages at the top of Northamptonshire. Philip’s enjoying a well earned sabbatical till 1st November, so I get the chance to introduce myself and hopefully to see many of you at various occasions – Harvest, Christenings, Sunday Services – over the next few months.
I’ve been based at King’s Cliffe church for four years now and have focused on building up the church’s work with families. Every Tuesday afternoon in term time I lead a play group for small people and their carers called “Twiglets” in King’s Cliffe Church. We started up on 1st September at 2.00pm and anyone with a child who won’t nap in the afternoons is welcome to join us! I’d love to start a second “Twiglets” in Collyweston or Easton on the Hill; but need a little team of people to help. If you’re interested, do get in touch.
I also work with the Underground Centre in King’s Cliffe, where we will be starting a “Messy Church Breakfast Club” at 9am on the first Saturday of each month, beginning 3rd October. Anyone wondering what to do with young children on a Saturday morning is welcome to join us for a bacon butty breakfast, crafts, games and songs. Messy Church is a free, very informal and very fun way to introduce your children to the basic Bible stories… and it’s been popular throughout the country. Come and find us at Underground (underneath the King’s Cliffe village hall).
We’d love to offer more church based activities for kids in Collyweston – we just need volunteers to work with us, as we clergy are stretched very thin. If you’d like to help get your village children off to a good start spiritually, then please do get in touch. I’d love to speak with you about what might be possible! My email is email@example.com or text on 07971 936253.
You can also send your email address through, if you’d like to be on a mailing list for children’s events in the wider group of churches. Or you can ‘like’ the King’s Cliffe All Saints and Saint James Church page on Facebook to receive the same information.
September is the real start of the year for all of us who live with children, or remember the deep rhythms of childhood. Shiny new, sharpened like they will never again be sharpened, pencils sum up this time of year for me. What will they draw this year? What stories will they write, what puzzles will they solve?
In our village there will be new beginnings for many of our children, as Underground re-opens – freshly painted, re-floored and re-modelled. After heroic efforts to keep everything going while in exile, culminating in hugely successful trips and fun days all summer long, Underground returns “home” this month. And opens a new venue in Oundle, and continues to work in Thrapston.
In King’s Cliffe, the Church will partner with Underground to start a new venture called “Messy Church Breakfast Club” on the first Saturday morning of each month, from October. Messy Churches are growing exponentially all over the world, and are popular with families of all kinds. If you’d like your child to have some exposure to Christian stories and ideas, but feel that Sunday morning doesn’t work so well for you, do consider coming along to Underground on Saturday 3rd October at 9am. A bacon butty breakfast will be served during the first half hour. Games, crafts, and a short time of singing and stories will follow. All are welcome to drop in!
Another date to flag up is Thursday 17th September, when there will be an open meeting at King’s Cliffe church (8pm) to discuss how we can best address the spiritual needs of our children and young people. We’re eager to get feedback on groups like “Twiglets” and “Chaos” and to consider what else we might do to help the young. Please come along to share your ideas; we’re hoping for a very diverse and opinionated focus group, including people who’ve never come to church.
Most of the key organisations which support children in our villages – the school, Underground, and the Church – are undergoing times of transition and growth. Please join in to ensure that our villages become the best places in Britain in which to raise children!
Associate Priest, Reverend Karin Voth Harman
AUGUST MESSAGE Collective worship in schools and religious education
It is over two years since I finished working with the Peterborough Diocesan Board of Education where my work was particularly to advocate on behalf of and to work with others in making provision for worship in school assemblies and Religious Education in the classroom. Both Collective Worship and RE are compulsory in all maintained schools and when done well, I think they make a tremendous contribution to children’s learning and to their spiritual development.
We have two Primary Schools in our Benefice and both take the provision of Collective Worship and RE very seriously. I enjoy regularly contributing to school assemblies, trying to find ways in which the Christian tradition and bible stories can speak to the lives of children today and help them to make meaning of the world in which they are growing up. Common values, respect for the views of others and to consider life as more than just the day to day, with a wider perspective that can be motivated by the living out of faith-based values. In both schools there are themes such as courage, justice and hope that provide the framework for the daily focus of school assemblies.
I am also asked to contribute to RE lessons and groups of children regularly visit the Churches. I remember the wonderful discussion when we hot seated an empty chair with all the questions the children wanted to ask if God were sitting in that chair.
The County RE Syllabus, in line with statutory requirements, includes the teaching about Christianity in every year group, the learning about 5 other major world faiths – Islam, Judaism, Sikhism, Hinduism and Buddhism – before children reach the age of 14, and considers also the perspective of those who do not have a religious faith, including a Humanist perspective.
I believe the background of this good RE gives children important skills and knowledge and a wider understanding in preparation for their adult lives in our complex and changing world.
JULY MESSAGE The poetry of John Clare
Two recent memorial services have included the reading of poems by John Clare: All Nature Has a Feeling and Nature’s Hymn to the Deity which includes the phrase, “..insect and bird and tree and flower, the witness of every hour are pregnant with this prophesy and ‘God is with us’ all reply.”
In the Lion Book of Christian Poetry, compiled by Mary Batchelor, I found and enjoyed this poem by John Clare (1793-1864) Home Pictures in May which captures his sense of the finding of God within nature. (And while daffodils now seem to bloom a little earlier in the year, the robin remains a very popular bird..)
The sunshine bathes in clouds of many hews
And morning’s feet are gemmed with early dews;
Warm daffodils about the garden beds
Peep through their pale slim leaves their golden heads.
Sweet earthly suns of spring; the gosling broods,
In coats of sunny green, about the road
Waddle in ecstasy; and in rich moods
The old hen leads her flickering chicks abroad,
Oft scuttling neath her wings to see the kite
Hang wavering o’er them in the spring’s blue light.
The sparrows round their nests chirp with glee
And sweet the robin spring’s young luxury shares,
Tootling its song in feathery gooseberry tree
While watching worms the gardener’s spade unbares.
JUNE MESSAGE Christianity and the visual arts
Tucked away in the Easter television schedules was a dramatisation of the life of Jesus based on the Gospel of John. It followed the whole Gospel word for word, with the voice of a narrator, as the actors through mime and movement conveyed the action and dialogue. I found it one of the most thought provoking and engaging of all the filmed dramatisations of the life of Jesus.
There was an intensity to the gathering of Jesus and the disciples in the Upper Room with the washing of their feet, the teaching about the new Commandment to love one another and the conclusion when Jesus commissioned the followers to be his hands and feet in the world. Another striking moment was Peter’s denial of Jesus, captured through the eyes of the servant girl questioning him.
The experience of watching this drama unfold was memorable because it drew you in and asked for a response.
I think for many people the creative arts, as well as the finding of special places or landscapes, can often unlock a spiritual experience of the holy and that, when combined with the telling of the Christian story, heart, mind and spirit can respond to the presence of God to help make meaning of life and experiences.
This was certainly the vision of Neil MacGregor, then Director of the National Gallery, who in 2000 created the exhibition “Seeing Salvation”. It included artwork mainly from the Gallery that showed the Gospel Narratives about the Birth of Jesus, the Suffering, Death and Resurrection of Jesus, and recognising a contemporary world where image is so much a part of life. There was also a focus on the face of Jesus and how in a secular age people might respond to this.
MAY MESSAGE Moving forward together after Easter
How do we respond to the Gospel writers’ narratives about the resurrection appearances of Jesus?
I think we start be recognising how in the narratives fearful, confused and broken men and women find hope and a new beginning. Peter, Mary Magdalene, Thomas and the others are met in their place of need and given courage to believe that Jesus is not to be fund amongst the dead but is alive.
All 4 Gospels are written with this uppermost in the writers’ minds and everything in the Gospels, which were all written between 20 and 50 years after the death of Jesus, convey the hop that Jesus the light shines within darkness, that he overcame all that leads to despair and bitterness, and lived a way that showed people how the love of God can be lived out.
I think that the resurrection narrative that holds these things together is the one when 2 people are joined on their journey to Emmaus by a stranger, who the narrative later reveals to be Jesus. This stranger talks with the people about the big picture of how people had recognised for centuries God’s commitment to the creation and humanity and that this had been most considered by the prophets who wrote of people responding in different ways to there being something greater than the toil of life, and something important which encouraged people to hold on to selfless love in relationships and in community living.
This resurrection narrative ends with the recognition of Jesus in the breaking of bread and this way of meeting with Jesus has continued to be the focus of the witness and worship of the Church. During Lent we were reminded of this and encouraged to think more deeply and more honestly about how we together show and live out God’s love for all.
APRIL MESSAGE Could we start again please?
Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s musical Jesus Christ Superstar is touring again and while the main aim of the show is to entertain, I always find that it offers much to think about as to the meaning of Jesus’s life. “Who are you? What have you sacrificed?” and “Did you mean to die like that?” are in the lyrics of the title song. In fact the whole idea of Judas asking questions of Jesus, and trying to find ways in which Jesus could have been a leader but in a way that does not take him to the Cross, gives the whole show a unique slant on exploring the meaning of Jesus’s death and how his death has been interpreted.
The musical ends with Jesus dying on the Cross and does not explicitly consider the meaning of resurrection. But it does present the disciples and followers of Jesus as people seeking and searching, and finding hope and a new beginning through their faith in Jesus.
In the musical, Mary Magdalene sings of her love for Jesus because he has given her life meaning by raising her as a person from living on the edge and being exploited by others. In the Easter Day Bible narrative in John’s Gospel, it is Mary who is the first to encounter the risen Jesus in the garden. Later in the Gospel we read of Peter who had publicly denied his friendship with Jesus, being restored to a position of trust and leadership and given the task of seeking the lost and caring for the broken. “Could we start again please?” sing Mary and the disciples in the Rice/Lloyd Webber musical.
The message of Easter Day is
“Yes. We Can.”
MARCH MESSAGE Science and Religion
The recent death at the age of 99 of Professor Charles Townes, the inventor of laser technology, is a reminder that science and religion must work more closely together.
Charles Townes won both the Nobel Prize for Physics and the Templeton Prize for contribution to world religions – and he saw the 2 disciplines of science and religion as 2 sides of the same coin, needing each other to enable understanding and meaning in life.
He wrote: “The goal of science is to discover the order in the universe, how it works and to understand through it the things we sense around us including our fellow human beings. This order we express as scientific principles or laws, striving to state them in the simplest yet most inclusive ways.
“The goal of religion may be stated, I believe, as an understanding (and hence acceptance) of the purpose and meaning of our universe and how we fit into it. Most religions see a unifying and inclusive origin of meaning, and the supreme purposeful force we call God.
“Science is the pursuit of understanding about the order of the universe; religion the pursuit and acceptance of its meaning in the universe.”
The laser technology that developed as a result of Charles Townes’s work has found widespread medical application, in particular laser eye surgery, domestic use with the microwave oven, and Townes was the NASA technical adviser for the Apollo space programme.
He grew up on a farm, was encouraged as a child to explore everything around him, and his passion for science and his Christian faith shaped his search for meaning with the desire that all people should work together for the common good and learn to live and act courageously, as a result of the consequences of the making of new discoveries.
Our thoughts and prayers to the family of Mrs Hazel Moore-Orton who has recently died.
Often there are stories about Jesus which involve large crowds. Each story has a meaning and tries to show an aspect of faith and belief. When Jesus is baptised he comes forward from a large crowd of people who have responded to the call of John the Baptist to turn from sin and turn to God. A turning away from selfishness, from resentments and from all the things that prevent people from living fully, accepting people as they are and loving with compassion.
When people took to the streets of Paris recently in great numbers that had not been seen since the liberation of Paris in 1944, people walked together to show respect for those who had died and to make a case for peace in response to the brutal killings that had taken place. The French President and other leaders of nations were just part of this large crowd of people of many faiths and of none, and at the centre were the family, friends and colleagues of those who had died. There were no speeches; instead, the act of coming together said everything.
The Bible verse at the end of the Baptism of Jesus speaks about Jesus being a beloved son in whom God is well pleased. From sharing in the lives of others and being a part of the daily lives of all people, Jesus is then identified as beloved of God and one in whom God’s favour abides. Only through living alongside others, sharing fully in life in all its fullness, with joys and disappointments, with hopes fulfilled and when hopes are shattered, can Jesus step forward and show the way of God. Not as one beloved because of being separate but as one in whom God is well pleased because of his being at one with all humanity.
The Paris crowd of people, world leaders and those most affected by the death of loved ones, helped me think again about the way shown by Jesus in his being within great crowds to show God’s love and to help people think more about living out God’s mercy and love more fully.
JANUARY 2015 MESSAGE… Millennium Development Goals
These were the ambitious and agreed millennium goals at the centre of the United Nations aim for living sustainably and we have reached the year in which the targets were hoped to be met.
- to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
- to achieve universal primary education
- to promote gender equality and to empower women
- to reduce child mortality
- to improve maternal health
- to combat HIV/AIDS and Malaria and other diseases
- to ensure environmental sustainability
To achieve the above with a global partnership for development.
In spite of war, global recession and the outbreak of diseases such as Ebola, there has been progress to achieving some of these goals, most especially in there being greater access to clean water and more children than ever attending primary school. But there is much more that still needs to be done. 2015 will see the goals return to centre stage for review and for reassessment with an agenda that is now likely to include the ending of poverty and hunger, improving health and education, making cities more sustainable, combating climate change and protecting oceans and forest.
So as we begin 2015 a reminder also of the Millennium Prayer.
Dear Lord, Our Father, to a world of darkness, give us your light;
In lands of war and prejudice, grant us your peace,
In a world of despair, give us hope,
In a world of hatred, show us your love,
In a world of arrogance, give us humility and faith.
Give us courage to face the challenges of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, housing the homeless and healing the sick.
Empower us to make a difference for the better to your world and to protect your creation.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
DECEMBER MESSAGE… Waiting, Seeking, Questioning
We look forward to welcoming you to the special services throughout Advent and Christmas. Details are here.
Recently, I have been enjoying Grayson Perry’s Channel 4 series “Who Are You?” I think the reflection below about Advent parallels the sort of way, through artistic representations, that he helped people understand more about themselves at times of change.
An Advent Reflection
You keep us WAITING, you the God of all time,
Wanting us to wait for the right time n which to discover
Who you are, who we are, where we might go,
Who will be with us and what we must do>
So thank you for the waiting time.
You keep us through our HARD QUESTIONS with no easy answers,
Through failing when we hoped to succeed
And making an impact when we felt quite useless,
Through the patience and the dreams and love of others,
And through Jesus, and His coming to be amongst us.
So thank you for the QUESTIONING time.
You keep us LOOKING, you the God of all space,
Wanting us to seek in every different place for signs of hope,
For those who are without hope,
For visions of a better world which will appear
Among the disappointments of the world we know.
So we thank you God for the LOOKING time.
NOVEMBER MESSAGE… The Charter for Compassion
Karen Armstrong, writer and expert on World Religions, has recently opened up the debate on the causes of violence and tries to engage with this through considering the way that religions are essentially built around peace and hope. To this end she and others have launched a campaign to further understanding between different faiths called “The Charter for Compassion“.
I was recently asked how and why the Holy Spirit is important to the lives of Christians and I found myself thinking about this message of compassion and peace. I wrote the following as a starting point.
I see the Holy Spirit in God’s creation, in the living world, and in the expanding Universe; the life breathed into creation that is the variety and uniqueness of all living things. The life that I am a part of and for which as a person created in the image of god comes the responsibility of good stewardship.
I think about the Holy Spirit in relation to human knowledge and understanding, the challenge of living out what we know and what we are still finding out, and that this knowledge can be used wisely by living in a way that shows kindness to others and seeks justice for the poor, so that all people can be the best they can be.
I respond to the Holy Spirit in my following of Jesus, the life he led and his teaching, the way he died and his rising from the dead so that like his first followers I try to live out the love of God that Jesus showed as a way of life and hope.
OCTOBER MESSAGE… The Parable of the Sower and the Seed
Vincent Van Gogh painted many biblical scenes including some of the parables of Jesus. In one of these we see a figure striding purposefully through a field, expansively scattering seed in all directions.
From the story that Jesus told, let’s consider that the figure is the Sower and that the is to represent God and that in telling the story Jesus is asking us to think about the vastness of God’s love, the generosity of God’s love. Giving a sense that God loves all people without any favour; scattering and sowing always and everywhere and that a word that might help to describe this way of loving is “gratuitous”; openly and generously gratuitous.
In the Gospels we find Jesus described as the particular word, the special and unique way of showing how God’s love really is. So in the parable of the Sower, let’s consider Jesus as the seed; the seed that is thrown into the reality of everyday life, the seed that lands in different places and situation, the seed that is broken and dies, the seed that can bring life and restore life.
A seed that can point us again to the generosity and openness of God’s love; Jesus showing this in his life, particularly in his relationships with men and women, especially his drawing back into community those who were isolated or excluded. A seed that can open up faith and belief not by clever persuasion and not through fear but like the very small scattered seed, out of weakness and vulnerability. A seed that lands in the hearts of men and women so that it can grow by abiding in their hearts and minds and flourish in human lives lived for others.
The parable of the Sower and the Seed: a story that shows people how we can be and how we can show God’s love through living lives centred on love, joy and peace, through faithfulness, self-control and patience, through kindness, goodness and gentleness.
JULY MESSAGE… The Creative Spirit
The creative arts are well represented in our local communities, artists, musicians and those involved with theatre. We also have people who express their thoughts through writing poetry. Putting into specific words, feelings and responses to all sorts of situations.
The Gospel writers had the task of putting into words the experience of Jesus; resurrection and to show how the followers of Jesus responded to the recognition that they were to share in the work of bringing new life and restoring hope. Artists, dramatists and poets have continued to try to capture this.
In her book Seeking the Risen Christa, the feminist theologian Nicola Slee considers the impact of being raised up and particularly the ways in which people respond to facing personal suffering, serious illness in themselves and in others and in responses to serious accidents and tragedy.
She writes: “Wherever there is a lifting up from the mud and the gutter;
And a holding of tissue destroying mortality close to the heart and lungs;
Wherever one weakened hand reaches across intolerable pain or loss to touch another who does not speak the same language;
Wherever the imperative of care endures despite any difference it can make…”
And so the poem continues inviting the listener to include their own experiences of “wherevers” and of lifting up, of compassionate touch and of reaching out to others in love.
We might add our own “Wherever” and by doing so I believe draw closer to the experience of those who suffered with Jesus and who through the experiences of resurrection found they could face life again by responding to human need in others and who could live with, and bring, Hope.
MAY MESSAGE… The Benefice Services
There are a number of opportunities for us to worship together for Holy Communion as a Benefice in the coming weeks.
Sunday 4th May at 10am in King’s Cliffe when Reverend Karin Voth Harman will preside and preach.
Ascension Day at 7.30pm Thursay 29th May in Collyweston when Rev Philip Davies will preside and preach.
Sunday 1st June at 10am in King’s Cliffe when the preacher is Canon Sam Radall, Peterborough Diocese Ecumenical Officer and previously the Bishop of Bradford’s Officer for Church in the World.
On these occasions, there are not separate services in each of the villages in the Benefice. This enables us to experience worshipping together with others in our group of churches. At the Sunday Benefice services there are children’s activities and a choir. We hope to have similar services in the other villages in the coming months.
Our main priority of course is to maintain a regular pattern of worship in each village and to provide worship that best meets the needs of each community. To this end we need to be thinking about the services that currently do this well, including the special services at major festivals, and also to think of ways in which our services can be made more accessible to the whole community.
Good links with schools in the Benefice are greatly helping this. In the past year about 50 assemblies have been led by the Benefice team and there have been regular special school services in church. The planning for reorganisation of the education system also continues and we need to think about and pray for this, and for all those most affected by it, especially the children and the staff.
APRIL MESSAGE… We very much look forward to welcoming you to our service at 11am on Easter Day. The hope of new life and new beginnings made real in the celebration of Jesus raised from the dead.
The journey to the Easter celebration will have continued in our Church services through Lent and Holy Week. The Benefice service gives us an opportunity to worship together and there are separate children’s activities provided.
The service on Palm Sunday reminds us how the crowds welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem before his betrayal and suffering. A Palm Cross is given out to everyone to help us reflect on personal suffering and also on the suffering in the world; suffering that Christians believe Jesus shared in and that he showed a way through, to find hope.
On Maundy Thursday at 8pm there is a Communion Service in King’s Cliffe Church to mark Jesus’s final hours with his friends and his giving of the bread and wine as a way for them and us to remember his giving of himself for all to have fullness of life.
On Good Friday there will be a service at St Andrew’s at 2pm. An opportunity to reflect on the Cross through music and readings led by Reverend Karin.