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Magazine letter April 2024

‘Then they went out and ran from the tomb, for terror and bewilderment had seized them. And they said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.’ Mark 16.1-8. So ends the Gospel of Mark, to many a short and unsatisfying end to the Gospel – the Greek even ends on a preposition (very bad Greek!). Several other later endings were added by other hands but Mark’s true account ends here with the women too afraid to speak of what they saw.

Magazine letter March 2024

We are a good way into Lent by now, our 40 days of fasting, or what passes for fasting these days, usually the giving up of some self-destructive habit, like sugar in your tea or chocolate biscuits. All very useful but hardly a wilderness experience! I suppose we’ve lost our sense of urgency in the conduct of our spiritual lives, we don’t generally tend to think in terms of ‘doing battle with our lower natures.’ Such language belongs to an age of hand to hand combat.

Magazine letter February 2024

In our increasingly secular world any kind of ‘organised religion’ is regarded as something strange and peculiar. People instead claim to be ‘spiritual’. Which rather sounds to me like claiming to be able to swim without getting wet! Religion is the embodiment of spirituality, it is what gives it shape and purpose, and allows the experience of generations to be shared and learned from.

January Magazine Letter

This poem by Al Zolynas seems appropriate when there is so much to cause us concern this new year, from the ever present threat of global warming to the dreadful wars in both Israel and Ukraine, not to mention the endless conflict in Iraq and Yemen.

Magazine Letter for December 2023

December 3rd is Advent Sunday. The season of Advent is all about waiting. But there is more than one sort of waiting – there is the kind of waiting when you know something’s going to happen and you know when it’s going to happen. Like Christmas, we all know when it is so we know how long we have to wait; and there are things that you wait for that you don’t know quite when they going to happen just that they will. Like catching the ball, you know that someone’s going to throw it to you, but you don’t know quite when so you have to stay ready, just in case – fielding in cricket is exactly like that. And we all know that life is like a game of cricket.

Magazine letter November 2023

I write this on 19th October, given the need for submission deadlines it has to be rather ahead of publication date. Usually such a lead time would be no difficulty, none of our three parish magazines is designed to convey national, let alone international news – and certainly not the Rector’s letter. Yet as the world stands at the moment I can’t help thinking that the context of all our thoughts is desperately subject to change in disturbing ways.

October 2023 Magazine letter

There is a parable that could have been written specially for a post-Covid church. It goes…
‘In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, “Grant me justice against my opponent.” For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, “Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.”‘

Magazine letter for September 2023

There are many opinions on prayer, but long gone is the idea that it matters what the proper physical attitude is. In fact, it is probably true that prayer is little thought of at all, even by those who do it! We who do pray tend not to think too much about the why or the how, we pray because we pray, for us to stop praying would be like removing a leg from a three-legged stool. Do we get answers to our prayers? It would be impossible to say empirically, but then it is not at all about getting answers.

Magazine letter for August 2023

This is the month of the great British get-a-way. The children have broken up and the family holidays begin. Whether it is to accompany a long flight, or for something to do by the poolside – many of us will take a novel to accompany our travels. I love stories, I can’t get enough of them – short stories, long stories, stories with a moral, stories without a moral, stories on the radio, stories on television, stories in a book. I don’t think I’m alone, human beings just respond to stories, made-up sequences of events, made-up characters, pure invention or supposed reality, it doesn’t really much matter, we just like stories.

Magazine letter July 2023

Despite being in midsummer there are many reasons to be feeling low. You only have to listen to the news to become depressed about the state of the world and the nature of mankind. Psalm 77, for example, makes that very clear, but also suggests a remedy. Read it for yourself, it’s not long – just type Psalm 77 into Google if you haven’t a Bible to hand.

Magazine letter June 2023

As I write, parts of northern Italy have been struggling under almost unprecedented levels of floodwater. We can recall the appalling floods in Pakistan last year, and in other places across the world in recent years.

May Magazine Letter 2023

Easter has long passed by the time you read this, but the church has not done with it so quickly. The chocolate eggs may be just a sweet memory, but there is an endless amount of thinking that will happen before we stop calling the Sundays after Easter ‘Sundays after Easter’. Death and resurrection are all around us, we so often see the former, but we sometimes need to be reminded of the latter.

Magazine letter April 2023

Holy Week – Easter is not a one off event, it is not like Christmas, it is inseparable from what went before. The services of Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday are an essential part of what makes Easter so special. Without any one of them the story is incomplete.

Magazine letter for March 2023

The earthquake in Turkey and North Syria has stopped us in our tracks. So many of the worries and concerns we have suddenly seem so small in comparison to the plight of the many people who have lost everything and who just don’t know where to start to bury their dead, let alone begin the process of rebuilding their lives.

Magazine letter for February 2023

I remember little from my school days, which is not surprising, my memory about anything is not that great, but I do remember a story from my Scripture lesson when I was in primary school (who remembers Scripture lessons? Shows my age!). It was the story of the paralysed man whose friends made a hole in the roof of a house in order to lower him, still on his bed, right in front of Jesus (Mark 2.1-12).

Magazine letter for January 2023

After the thrill of candles and cribs, presents and turkeys, the scramble of the sales takes over – the shops rip down the decorations and bargain hunting rules the day. Christmas is well and truly over, and Epiphany is ignored.

December 2022 magazine letter

In December the church traditionally remembers prophets, their words come to us in all those services of Nine Lessons and Carols (6pm Otterbourne 18th Dec). We remember prophets and their words because they are the special mouthpiece of God, his means of communication with the world. Or at least that is how they were understood.

Magazine Letter for November 2022

During daylight hours the churches of this benefice are always open (well, almost always) for prayer and reflection, for people to find their God – or just some peace and quiet.

Magazine letter October 2022

I write this on Friday 16th September, I give the date because our thoughts this week, a week of mourning for our late Queen Elizabeth II, can’t help but be dominated by Her Majesty’s death and the response to it.

Magazine letter for September 2022

This Sunday (as I write) I have the enormous privilege of baptising my eighth grandchild, Norah. We inevitably ask ourselves what world she has she been born into, and what faith will she be taught to help her to cope with such a world.

It’s very physical this Christianity thing. Sometimes I like to pretend it’s all rather esoteric, and spiritual. But then I realise that Christianity is all about incarnation, about God alongside us… in this world and with this world – a part of this world. Christianity is not about ethics, it’s not about being good boys and girls, keeping to the rules, avoid doing bad things and you’ll be a good person, and God will think you’re just great. Jesus did not die on a cross to tell us that.

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