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This is an archive of the Parish Newsletters from December 2008 going back to Dec 2003. It is a long page - if you get lost press the Top arrow!
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From the Parish Newsletter December 2008/January 2009:
When OK! is not OK.
OK! Magazine may be regarded by some as harmless entertainment as it endeavours to ‘raise our eyebrows' as it shares with us the latest in celebrity gossip. Certainly there is no shortage of demand. Despite the downturn in the economy the circulation of OK! in the first half of 2008 rose 9% to 607,048 copies and accounts for being the second most popular magazine in the women's weekly sector.
We know the word but what exactly is gossip? Gossip is defined as: Rumour or talk of a personal, sensational, or intimate nature and the one who gossips as: A person who habitually spreads intimate or private rumours or facts.
For us mere mortals who do not aspire to mixing with the celebrities, the weekly dose of gossip may be relatively harmless, primarily because we are suitably detached from it. However, this is not the case when we live in close knit communities.
One the great benefits of living in a village community is the opportunity it offers to make deep and lasting relationships. A trusting and wholesome relationship with a friend of group of friends is a priceless blessing. In life, we all experience the highs and lows, but when life is particularly difficult a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on is often vitally important for our well-being and the well-being of others. What we don't need is the passing on of our most intimate discussions so they become village gossip.
In all relationships, trust and confidentiality go hand in hand and must be maintained. A ‘friend' who betrays you is no friend at all. Taken to its logical conclusion the one who betrays ends up with no friends or close relationships, simply because they cannot be trusted. The juicy morsel of gossip, which enabled someone to be the centre of attention inevitably, rebounds in self-destruction.
The loss of a friend may be one thing but what of the gossip that is instrumental in the breakdown of a marriage?
Who's going to tell the children ‘I didn't mean any harm' – is the gossiper going to take the responsibility for their part in the destruction of a family and the future welfare of innocent children?
It has been said that ‘ The most destructive force in the universe is gossip' ; and this is certainly the case in village environments.
There is an old Jewish proverb, which says ‘What you don't see with your eyes, don't witness with your mouth.' The problem with gossip is that there is often little truth in it but as most of us are aware, a half-truth is as good as a lie, but it does the damage all the same.
As human beings we naturally want to trust one another but often we are unaware of the inner motives of those we may confide in and caution is needed. Edgar Watson Howe, Country Town Sayings , 1911 said: When you are in trouble, people who call to sympathise are really looking for the particulars.
Jesus similarly warned about those with mixed motives - "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognise them.” (Matt 7:15-16) These words were written ~2000 years ago but in today's world they are even more relevant. A trustworthy person produces ‘good fruit' which is evident over a period of time. Fruit takes time to grow and likewise trusting relationships need time to grow, but the fruit whether good or bad will become evident!
In all our relationships our motivation should be the way of love and the desire of highest good of those around us. Jesus commands us ‘Love your neighbour as yourself' and ‘Do to others, as you would have them do to you '.
There is a saying; ‘If the hat fits, wear it' but when it comes to gossiping then it might just be time to reflect on the above and hang up the hat!
Rev Chris Lawrence
From the Parish Newsletter October/November 2008:
So the world didn’t end on September 10th – but what if it had?
September 10th was an interesting day to say the least. It marked the turning on of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC); part of the European Laboratory for Particle Physics (CERN), Switzerland. The ongoing experiment has been designed to recreate the conditions of the ‘Big-Bang’, which apparently brought time and space into existence 13.7 billion years ago. It is hoped that by understanding what happened at the dawn of time we will be able to grasp how life began and how all of what surrounds us came into existence.
However, the element of danger couldn’t be discounted. It was apparently a possibility that a ‘black hole’ could have been created that would have swallowed up the earth and all of humanity with it!
‘Switch-on’ was a success, but several people who phoned into Radio 2 seemed genuinely disappointed that the world hadn’t ended!
It begs the question ‘so what if it had?’
A few years ago the family were out for a walk across the fields in Rotherfield where we stopped to chat to two elderly men. As the conversation continued, one remarked, “there are only two important questions in life; where have you come from, and where are you going?” Since that time I have often pondered those few, but very significant words.
Are we indeed the product of some primeval soup from which we eventually evolved into human beings or does God as the Bible describes create us in His image? The former hypothesis doesn’t exactly fill one with a sense of intrinsic worth or dignity! The human body is far to complicated to be an accident. Perhaps the psalmist is absolutely right when he writes ‘for you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made’ (Psalm 139: 13-14).
And what of the other question “Where are you going?” Of the two this has to be the most significant. Although we cannot see them, the Bible describes Heaven and Hell as real places. At the end of our lives we either go to one place or the other. Hell conjures up many unpleasant images in the mind but fundamentally it has to be a place that is totally devoid of any goodness or love. Simply because God (who is love) will be absent.
In this life we all have choices and we have to live the consequences of those choices. What if the world had ended on the 10th? Where would you have you ended up? It is not a question that can be lightly dismissed – it is far too important and worthy of our investigation.
During September we will the running two new Alpha courses (see separate advertisement on page 8). Alpha is the forum for discussing the big questions in life, in a friendly non-threatening environment. It takes ten weeks to complete the course and begins with a meal followed by a short video presentation and a time of discussion. If previous courses are a good indicator then everyone should have a really interesting and enjoyable time with the added opportunity to make some new friends.
I will sign off with some words from the apostle Peter’s 2nd letter.
‘The Day the Sky Will Collapse’
Don't overlook the obvious here, friends. With God, one day is as good as a thousand years, a thousand years as a day. God isn't late with his promise as some measure lateness. He is restraining himself on account of you, holding back the End because he doesn't want anyone lost. He's giving everyone space and time to change. (2 Peter 3: 8-9 The Message translation)
Blessings – Rev’d Chris Lawrence
From the Parish Newsletter August/September 2008:
Which path are you on?
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.
But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).
Jesus’ words in Matthew’s gospel are arresting to say the least. In a nutshell He is saying that finding the path that leads to a fulfilling life on earth and the assurance of a place in heaven takes a degree of effort on our part.
Jesus was very fond of using metaphors when describing himself or the kingdom of God, but a casual glance at the words would hardly give away the underlying truth that he was speaking about himself – Jesus, the gate and the narrow road!
In our fast paced society many people don’t appear to have time to stop and eat, let alone think about their lives or their eternal future. Are heaven and hell real places? Do all religions lead to God? Does God exist? If God exists why is there so much suffering in the world? Is their life after death? Why was I born? Is my life of any significance?
Sometimes it takes a real crisis to stop us in our tracks and ask ourselves some of the more searching questions about life. But stop and ask we must. If any of the above is true, then these questions and many others are just too important to ignore.
During September we will the running two new Alpha courses (see separate advertisement). Alpha is the forum for discussing all of the above, and more, in a friendly non-threatening environment. It takes ten weeks to complete the course (that’s the effort part!) and begins with a meal followed by a short video presentation and a time of discussion. If previous courses are a good indicator then everyone should have a really interesting and enjoyable time with the added opportunity to make some new friends.
Not sure? How about attending the introductory Alpha Supper on the 16th September? Hopefully see you there.
Blessings - Rev’d Chris Lawrence
From the Parish Newsletter June/July 2008:
Taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8)
Despite the hubbub of getting children ready for school and making packed lunches etc, breakfast time at the Vicarage has Radio 2 playing in the background. Terry Wogan is usually good for a laugh and brings a good degree of lightness to the beginning of the day. In addition to the fun and frivolity Terry’s programme has a Thought for the Day, given by a variety of presenters from various religious persuasions.
To all religions that believe that there is a god (whatever form god may take), no religious group can absolutely prove that their god exists. Faith is needed to bridge the gap and give credence to their particular set of beliefs. Even a devout atheist needs faith to affirm their belief that God does not exist!
As human beings we all have faith, and need faith, for our daily living. The expectation that a light will go on when you press the switch requires faith that the unseen electricity will make it happen. Sitting on a chair requires faith that the four legs will support your weight, otherwise you may just crash to the floor. There are many other daily examples we could quote that require faith but we accept them as routine as they mostly happen automatically. Over a period of time the continual cycle of ‘cause and effect’ affirms our beliefs and reinforces our faith; that’s the way we learn and accept the world around us.
But what about faith in God; does he really exist? When you read about the many miracles Jesus performed in the Bible, are they true or a figment of someone’s imagination, designed to dupe the gullible?
If you take the Bible at face value and read about Jesus’ healing ministry you may well come to the conclusion that if Jesus was indeed God in human form, then performing miracles was easy for him. If He created the universe and everything in it then a few miracles here and there must have been a piece of cake!
Once Jesus started performing miracles of healing crowds flocked to him, why? In essence people had faith in Him. Jesus never turned anyone away and ‘if he did it for me, he will do it for you’. Jesus moved with love and compassion on all who were in need.
St Matthew records - News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralysed, and he healed them (Matt 4:24). With Jesus words were never enough, he proclaimed the good news of God’s kingdom by demonstrating it.
To believe in someone or something we require evidence, and it is right to be sceptical as words are seldom enough. Even the disciples found it hard to accept that Jesus was God but his response was to say: Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves (John 14:11).
Obviously Jesus isn’t physically with us today, so can we have any expectation that God may move miraculously upon us when we become ill or infirm? Well the answer is a resounding ‘yes’. It takes faith to make that statement but I and many others within the local and world-wide church have personally experienced the power of God and witnessed God moving in miraculous ways. When it happens time and time again the evidence stacks up and you should be left with one conclusion; that God does exist and that He hears and answers prayer. God said He would ‘watch over his word to perform it’ (Jeremiah 1:12) – and praise God He does!
Before Jesus left the earth: He called the twelve disciples to Him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness - Matthew 10:1. Jesus healed by the power of the Holy Sprit and the disciples received the same Holy Spirit to carry on demonstrating the reality of God’s kingdom. Today the same Spirit is at work within every Christian to continue the commission Jesus originally gave to the first disciples - Matthew 28:20.
In Framfield church we have a Healing Service at 6.30pm on the 3rd Sunday of each month. It is a very gentle, informal service and there are people who will pray for you. Even if you have never been to church or considered being prayed for, why not come along?
Whatever your need, big or small, God is there for you – you only need to have the courage to ask. Taste and see that the Lord is good!
Every blessing – Rev Chris Lawrence
From the Parish Newsletter April/May 2008:
Hooray for the Easter Bunny?
Easter is upon us and with it the symbols of new life. The countryside and verges are filled with bright yellow daffodils and the shops are filled with Chocolate bunnies and Easter eggs. Surely a feast for the eyes and stomach and so soon after Christmas! Did you buy that gym membership with the best of intentions? It’s tough wrestling with temptation and trying to drown out the little voice that says, “see, your eyes were bigger than your stomach”.
However, Easter as we know is not about chocolate eggs or indeed the Easter Bunny. As nice as they are they can deflect us from the real meaning – the death and resurrection of Jesus. The gospel writers paint a gloomy picture of Christ’s death on the cross on Good Friday. It would seem that the great hope that Jesus promised to bring, had suddenly been swept away by his untimely death.
In one sense, Jesus’ sacrificial death for the sins of mankind is ‘good news’, despite the awfulness of Jesus’ suffering, as the price for our sins (short comings) had been paid. This alone allowed for the restoration of the relationship between God and man to be made possible. However, better news was to come. During the third day following His death Jesus was raised to life. The Bible refers to death as ‘the last enemy’ which Jesus defeats as death could not hold Him.
The resurrection of Jesus (a well documented historical fact) has great significance to everyone, as the promise of eternal life is given to all who believe.
The resurrection is also unique to Christianity. All of the other major world religions focus on a philosophy, or a charismatic individual now deceased.
But it begs the question, ‘can the following of a set of rules fill the emptiness of the human heart, and what’s the point in worshipping a dead hero’? Think about it; the application of a set of rules is of little comfort in a crisis or can you imagine going to a religious place and praying for help to a dead person or to some form of man-made idol? You could be there a long time waiting for an answer!
Perhaps what is not often spoken about is the coldness of having no hope for the here and now, or the future. From a human standpoint to be known and loved by others is of great value and brings warmth, joy and meaning to our lives. John Lennon was right when he wrote ‘All you need is love’. The Apostle John reminds us that ‘God is Love’ and to be known, accepted and loved by the living God is the ultimate pinnacle in human experience. It’s a relationship that is real and vital every day of our earthy lives and for all eternity. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
Whether we choose to acknowledge it or not Easter is about the Son of God dying for us wayward human beings so that we could be bought back into a right relationship with God. For that is why we were created. Can anyone not even consider the implications this has for their life?
The Easter Bunny may be cute but he can’t save you. His chocolate cousin may make you wide eyed with desire. But when you see through the smoke screen there you will find the Cross of Christ, this is the point of focus and as the writer of the letter to Hebrews reminds us ‘Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God’ (Hebrews 12:2).
From the Parish Newsletter February/March 2008:
Love- keeps no record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:5).
How was your Christmas, peaceful, hectic? Many of us seemed to be very busy; no shortage of social events, school productions, family gatherings and a variety of church services to attend (hopefully something to suit all tastes?).
Overall it was all very enjoyable and a great opportunity for myself and the family to meet so many, and be genuinely welcomed and accepted. Thank you all very much. Coming into a different community has its pluses and minuses. The plus side is in the objectiveness in seeing things as they currently are. The parish has what I call, 'lots of smiley people' - those who greet you with a smile and a friendly welcome. Even when you are feeling a bit down, a 'smiley hello' brings an instant lift to your day. Additionally, we have so much to be thankful for. There is a lot of goodwill and hard work going on that makes this community thrive. This is a very positive place to live and it is a blessing for all of us to be part of it.
The minus side is in not knowing the history of a community. Life would be wonderful if peace and harmony existed ail the time, but as we know conflicts do arise. People fall out with each other, cross words are said or actions taken that cause others upset. Unfortunately, not all issues are resolved. Harsh words can leave deep emotional wounds that if left to fester can leave a lifelong mark and a breakdown of relationships. It would be unreasonable to get it right all the time as to err is part of our humanity. What is important when conflict arises is that it is sorted out in a timely manner. The apostle Paul writing to the church at Ephesus says "In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. (Eph 4:26)
Divide and conquer is still the order of the day and the devil's mandate if we let it be that way; the choice is ours. Paul's words are equally valid in dealing with conflict within a marriage, between friends or different institutions within a community. In a village context one person's offence can quickly gather negative support. The writer of Hebrews says 'Make every effort to live in peace with all men... see to it that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many (paraphrase Heb12:14-15).
But is there a way back when it’s all gone pear shaped and long-standing grudges are still in place? The good news is 'yes'. Jesus' brother James writes 'confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed' (James 5:16). A straightforward apology and the asking for forgiveness breaks the hold and opens the door for restoration within a relationship.
One of the reasons for writing the above is that it has become apparent that in the not too distant past the Church has caused offence through its action or inaction within the parish. I don't propose to go into detail but by way of accepting responsibility and seeking forgiveness a Service of Reconciliation will be held as part of the 10am Parish Communion on the 24th February 2008 (3rd Sunday of Lent).
Confession is indeed good for the soul and a catalyst for a bright and positive future.
From the Parish Newsletter December 2007/January 2008:
Warmest greetings from Framfield Vicarage.
The Lawrence’s finally landed on Friday 2nd November and the warmth of welcome we have all received has overwhelmed us.
Thank you all very much for making us so welcome. On an introductory note, I am usually known as Chris (only my mother calls me Christopher if she is about to have a stern word with me!). I am married to Sarah and we have four daughters; Lois (11), Phoebe (10), Isobel (6) and Olivia (4).
My working background was with the MoD as a senior mechanical engineer in the Naval Warheads Department until 2001 when I was given the opportunity to train for the ministry. The family spent the next two years in Oxford while I studied at Wycliffe Hall theological college.
Prior to becoming a full time mother Sarah ran her own business as a beauty therapist, latterly from Buxted Park.
My first appointment was as Curate in the parishes of Wadhurst, Stonegate and Tidebrook where we have been for the past four years.
The road to Framfield has not been an easy one. Many seemingly fruitless job applications having gone before, but God often saves the best till last if you are prepared to hang in there and simply trust that He has it all under control. We are certain that this is the place we are supposed to be and as such are looking forward optimistically to a bright and fruitful future.
So what of the future for the church and community? I am of the firm belief that God has created each one of us to be in a right relationship with Him through his son Jesus Christ and as more men, women and children come into that relationship the family of God expands and the community thrives. In essence there should be no division between the church and community; one is an expression of the other.
One of my particular desires is that the church family is not looked upon as a group of religious people. Being a Christian has very little to do with religion.
As we are all aware a great deal of the worlds problems, both past and present, can be attributed to 'religion'.
It may surprise some that God has little time for pious religion. Anyone can subscribe to a set of values and live by a 'good' moral code yet God is not impressed. Religion leads to a sideways comparison where we judge each other, often negatively. The right comparison has to be a vertical one, but the Apostle Paul reminds us, 'all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God' (Romans 3:23). This would be an impossible situation if it were not for the grace (unmerited favour) of God. Jesus dying for my sin and yours so that we could be bought back into a right relationship with God. Paul sums it up when he writes to the church at Ephesus 'For it is by grace you have been saved, though faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no-one can boast.' (Ephesians 2:8-9). There is such freedom in those words. God in effect holding out His hands and saying, 'come as you are, bring all of your baggage, your hurts and disappointments, your personal insecurities and leave them with me; accept my unconditional love and walk into a new future.' I am reminded of Jesus' words from John 10:10 "/ have come that you may have life and have it more abundantly".
As we enter the Christmas season we have the reminder that Jesus laid down his divinity and came to earth to live among us and share our humanity. Christmas is a time to celebrate this fact and to celebrate with family and friends. The church has a rich variety of services over the Christmas period so please come; there is something to suit all tastes. On a practical note. From the 21st November I shall be working from the Church Office, so please call in. On behalf of Sarah, our daughters and myself may we wish you all a peaceful Christmas and wonderfully prosperous New Year.
From the Parish Newsletter October 2007/November 2007:
CHURCH WARDENS’ LETTER
In our previous letter we spoke about the marquee service to be held on the Framfield Recreation Ground on August 12th. For those who came we hope you enjoyed the occasion as much as we did. Mr. Paintbrush, alias Derek Heyman and his friend Cecil kept us amused, as by words and pictures he recounted the Bible story of the lost son. It was good to be reminded that no matter what are our circumstances we are never beyond God's love.
In today’s hurting world, where daily violence is a way of life for many people, it is GOOD NEWS that we have a Heavenly Father who loves us all unconditionally and longs for us to involve him in our daily lives.
Since the last edition of the Parish News, the Parochial Church Council has given much thought and prayer to the process of preparing for a new minister at St Thomas à Becket and we hope soon to be in a position to give some positive news in this direction. We are looking forward to this new chapter in the life of the Church as we seek to reach out to everyone in the Parish.
From the Parish Newsletter August 2007/September 2007:
CHURCH WARDENS’ LETTER
We wish Eric and Maggie well and pray that God will bless this new phase of their lives.
As from July 1st, the interregnum has officially started and we are now taking steps towards provision for the future.
In his last service Eric said that 'a church is not a building but a group of people' - how true that is. Since the beginning of April when Eric left, we are both extremely grateful for the way in which many people have offered themselves to assist with the work of the church and to those faithful people who have always done it and are still carrying on.
Much like housework, the work of cleaning, grass cutting and flower arranging etc. is not appreciated fully until those who do it have stopped !
The visible presence of the church is a comfort to many who rarely go inside and a reminder that prayer and worship have gone on in this place for 800 years. This feeling of peace, which many feel inside the building, is due to the presence of the Holy Spirit, the manner in which Jesus said He would be with us after His bodily form had left the earth and the means through which He works today.
We have felt His presence and seen Him work, because prayer ministry and worship still go on in this place.
What is not so obvious is the pastoral work and visiting which continues as before. By its very nature, this is confidential but much appreciated by those who have needed support. We offer private prayer after each service and have a group of trained people who will pray simply or just listen if that is needed.
We have continued to hold two services each Sunday with the help of our own people and some gifted visiting clergy, and would like to assure all parishioners that St Thomas à Becket, as your local church, will do its best to continue to offer the same help that we have in the past. Please do not hesitate to contact us to discuss any baptism, wedding, funeral, visiting or help which is needed in the parish.
For your diaries we are going to hold a breakfast at 10.00am followed by a Family Service in the Marquee on Framfield Recreation Ground on 12th August at 11.00am. Again we can only do this with the kindness of the Horticultural Society which allows us to use the marquee.
It would be great to welcome you to any of our services, whether you are a regular visitor, or just coming to see what goes on inside !
Pat Tindall and Peter Tomsett - Church Wardens
From the Parish Newsletter June 2007/July 2007:
Letter from the new Editor
When I was asked to "introduce myself as the new Editor, I thought "Well, at least I know something about that subject" Several screwed up balls of paper later suggested that I knew too much and most of it wasn't worth printing.
I live in Framfield and many of you will already know me by sight. I am the person being towed around the village by two dachshunds. Others from St.Thomas à Becket church and East Hoathly with Halland W.I. have been friends for some time.
I am, in Sussex parlance, a newcomer, having only lived in Framfield for fifteen years. I did live in West Sussex in the 60's, departing from there to go “up north" to work - my late husband with Rank Xerox and myself in the Lord Chancellor's Department. When we both finally retired we came back to our favourite county, Sussex.
I have always enjoyed reading the Newsletter and have used the expertise of many of the advertisers, so ,with the help of the team already so good at getting the News organised and printed, I am looking forward to playing a small part in your Parish Newsletter's production.
I do hope that you will all contribute. Your Newsletter is a combined Church and Parish Council Newsletter for all the community. So - let us know of any events, gardening, fund-raising for charity, sports events and results. I can be contacted either by phone or e-mail.
P.S. When I was a child I always wondered who "Ed" was in my magazines. Now I know!
From the Parish Newsletter April 2007/May 2007:
LETTER FROM REV ERIC DORÉ AS READ OUT IN CHURCH
ON SUNDAY 25th MARCH 2007
Well, I wrote in the last Parish Magazine that life is often a mixture of joys and heartaches. It seems to have been a prophetic word for Maggie and myself.
Firstly, we are looking forward to returning to church ministry for holy week and especially the great celebration of Easter Sunday. But, secondly, it is with sadness that I have to tell you that, on the basis of medical advice received, Easter Sunday will be my last service at Framfield. We do hope that you will all come and share with us that day - Breakfast at 9am and the Family Communion at 10am. I am in discussions with the Bishop and my GP about plans for the future.
Maggie and I really want to thank all those (both inside and outside the church) who have supported us in nearly 7 years here. We firmly believe that we obeyed God's call to come here and that we have (in all circumstances - both joys and heartaches) tried to be faithful to that calling and to the gospel message that Jesus first proclaimed. The joy of seeing God at work through people coming to faith, others deepening their faith as well as people being healed has been wonderful.
We shall miss you and will (in due course) let you know where we are. We hope that some of you will keep in touch with us and that we will hear good news of God’s church in Framfield.
With love in the Lord Jesus,
From the Parish Newsletter February 2007/March 2007:
It is often said that life is a mixture of joys and heartaches ! For example, as I write this (between Christmas and the New Year) we have just had the wonderful celebration of Christmas and yet we have lost the Ashes and we are 4 nil down in the series ! The thought of the one day competition fills me with horror (only joking !).
Of course it gets more personal and it gets more serious. The Christmas celebrations are I believe underpinned by a search for joy in life (and a spiritual longing also) and it was wonderful to see so many people in church here over the Christmas period. Attendances were generally up and the crib service on Christmas Eve was (as I mentioned at the time) a modern day example of "no room". To those who came (and those who didn't) can I really encourage you to come and share with us in worship through 2007.
For me, the celebration of Christmas was truly joyful this year. However, there was other news awaiting me when I visited my GP (immediately after Christmas) who advises that I should not work for a period of three months. This is because of high blood pressure and advice received from the consultant concerned who believes that I am suffering from the effects of past and present work related stress and that this will not change unless I take a complete break from ministry.
I hope to return to the parish in time to be involved in services over the Easter weekend but in the meantime could you address any enquiries to Anita or the churchwardens through the church office. My hope and prayer is that we will all have a happy and healthier (!) New Year and that the joys will outweigh the heartaches !
From the Parish Newsletter December 2006/January 2007:
As some of you will know, Eric has been away on extended sick leave and therefore his usual letter does not appear in this edition of the Parish Magazine.
"CHRISTMAS IS GOOD NEWS"
That makes a change - a positive headline !
In an age where bad news gets the most coverage in the media, good news comes as a refreshing change !
Christmas is good news ! Not because of all the presents, parties and time spent with family and friends. All these things are great but, there is something even better !
Christmas is good news because it is a celebration of the birth of God's own Son - Jesus, the Prince of Peace !
Make time for Jesus this Christmas. He is God's special gift to you, a gift that will not only bring you peace but a better life beyond this one.
Please join us as we celebrate together and make this Christmas the best one ever !
From the Parish Newsletter October/November 2006:
FROM THE VICARAGE
As a church, we have recently reviewed the results of the parish survey which we organised earlier this year. Out of 980 forms sent out we received back a total of 17 ! From such a small sample it is difficult (and maybe misleading) to draw conclusions and indeed to go into detail of such a small response could potentially betray a confidence. However, we are grateful to the 17 who did respond (we have written to those who actually gave their names and addresses) and we will take on board the comments made.
August is traditionally a quiet month in church life but not here in Framfield, Blackboys and Palehouse Common ! We have had three excellent events - firstly a really good meeting at Framfield Recreation Ground on August 13th with two excellent testimonies frbm Nathan and Giorgio about how God had acted in their lives. Secondly we had a fun evening with the Aussie BBQ and then an excellent Hot Potato with our MP, Charles Hendry. I thought that Charles spoke with honest and clarity and (whatever your political views) we are fortunate to have him as our MP. Indeed, I tend to think that he is not only our MP but a good friend to the people of this part of the world and if you do have any appropriate issues or concerns I know that he would be very happy to try to help. You can of course write to him at the House of Commons. Looking forward into October you will find in this magazine details of the Harvest weekend (always a good and happy celebration) and details of our next Hot Potato supper when the Bishop of Chichester is our guest speaker. Please come along if you can - you will of course need tickets for the harvest lunch and the Hot Potato supper. In between these dates we will again be taking the church into the community -this time on October 15th when we are having our main Sunday morning meeting in Framfield School (at 11am not 10am). We hope that the children will be involved and it promises to be a good time. "Why not come and see".
Whatever you are doing this autumn time - as they say, enjoy !
From the Parish Newsletter August/September 2006:
FROM THE VICARAGE
A few days ago I was driving back from Blackboys School and when I arrived back at the Vicarage I looked down at the temperature gauge in the car to see that the outside temperature was 34° centigrade. I think that summer has finally arrived ! Which reminds me to tell you about some events happening locally to which we would like to invite you.
Firstly on August 12th it is the Framfield and Blackboys Horticultural Society Annual Show which is always a great community event and I hope that you will be able to be there for the usual amazing display of flowers and vegetables etc. Maybe you are planning to enter one of the competitions - or just going along to join in the fun.
On the Sunday (August 13th) we are glad to be able to use the facilities on the Recreation Ground to have a celebration at 11am. It is hoped that this will be preceded at 10am by a simple breakfast (this is not actually finalised at the time of writing - so look out for local publicity).
We are hoping to have a number of people speaking about what God has done for them under the broad title of "something that God has done in my life". At the end of the celebration why not bring along a picnic to meet and talk with friends old and new ! It promises to be a really good day. Why not come along and find out more !
Also on August 19th we are having another of our famous summer food evenings. This time it is an Aussie barbeque and you will find all the information you need on the flyer enclosed with this magazine.
Whatever you are doing, enjoy the summer !
From the Parish Newsletter June /July 2006:
FROM THE VICARAGE
Can I firstly thank those who did take the trouble to complete the parish survey form that we enclosed with the last parish magazine. If you have put it on one side, promising yourself to deal with it when you have a few minutes to spare, then could I ask you if you could possibly dig it out and complete it for us. I am sure it would only take a few minutes to complete (unlike the questionnaires that come to most of us through the post from time to time) and would be really helpful to us in planning for the future. Thank you for your help. We plan to start reviewing the completed forms from the end of June so you still have plenty of time to complete one.
As a church, we have recently produced a welcome pack for new comers (to either the church or the parish) giving details of church services and pastoral and other contact information which would hopefully be helpful to those moving in. We though it would be good, therefore, to let you see a copy for your own reference or to pass on to someone you know who has newly moved in the area and this is enclosed with this magazine. If you do have any comments on the welcome pack, then do please write to me or telephone.
Father's Day is coming up (mothers and children please note!) on Sunday 18th June and we wanted to make this a real celebration of family life at our Family Service in church that day. So come along as a family (however many or few there are in your group!) to celebrate that family and to give thanks to God for each other. Hopefully you will see the yellow posters around the parish to remind you we are here and open for business!
Have you seen the film yet? According to the Daily Telegraph the Da Vinci Code which was published as a book in April 2003 is "the biggest selling hardback fiction book of all time". It has sold millions of copies. It has been translated into dozens of languages and on May 19 it was released as a film starring Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou. The book has made its author, Dan Brown, a multi-millionaire.
It is worth saying, from the outset, that the root and foundation of the Da Vinci Code is theological. In fact, it is Christological. In other words it is about Jesus Christ. The whole edifice is built on a distorted theory, fanciful and without any real foundation, about Jesus and the rest of the story only becomes relevant if, and only if, there is anything in that theory.
When I read the book there were some questions that I wanted to answer. Firstly, what is the truth about the Da Vinci Code. What is truth and what is fiction. Secondly, will those who read it, believe it! Will it damage my faith or the faith of others?
You see, such is the pernicious brilliance of Brown's book. It is a confident presentation of a bogus theory but with enough truth mixed in to create a convincing alternative account to the biblical account of Christ.
The Da Vinci Code is, however, a superb thriller. A mysterious murder in the Louvre, takes us on a high speed chase for the murderer and his motives. Along the way there are secret societies, car chases and conspiracies, Christian crosses, high tech surveillance, mediaeval self flagellation, an albino assassin and a burgundy haired green eyed heroine!
The story takes us back and forth like an arcade game, a story that grips from almost the first page to the last and that of course is where it is exceedingly clever. You see, what Brown does is to cleverly and engagingly introduce us to a crash course on symbology, cryptology, art history, church history and paganism.
Ah, but after all, we need to learn it, to solve the mystery and to crack the code. So he takes us through some uncontroversial, accurate facts, about the 65,300 works of art in the Louvre, about a mathematical progression called the Fibonacci sequence and about the pentangle being a pre-christian symbol relating to nature worship.
All accurate and very engaging and what happens is that you find yourself trusting all Brown has to say and, therefore, trusting what he has to say about the life of Christ and the heart of the Christian gospel. But you see Dan Brown's true purpose is to undermine the divinity of Christ and to undermine the witnesses of the Church.
One of the experts in the book speaking, says this "what I mean... is that almost everything our fathers taught us about Christ is false". There is a page at the front of the book, a so-called fact page, which says that "all descriptions of art work, architecture, documents and secret rituals in this novel are accurate". Well, some of the "facts" listed on the facts page have been shown to be dubious but I think that the expression about accuracy is also misleading because it could mean that people will believe that the conclusions Brown reaches, about Jesus, also have some basis in "fact" which clearly they do not.
I thought it might be helpful to give you a flavour of the book, in case you haven't read it, but also to deal briefly with two of the questions which I think are key to Dan brown's theories. Firstly, is there, as the Da Vinci Code suggests, an earlier suppressed form of the New Testament which claims that Jesus was not divine, just a mere man. Secondly, is there any evidence as the Da Vinci Code suggests, that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene or anyone else? That they had children and their descendants are living today and certain people know who they are.
Well, firstly, there is no credible evidence that the earliest gospels were the Gnostic gospels and in fact most serious scholars believe that the Gnostic gospels were written much later than the gospels in the New Testament. There is no evidence at all that Jesus was viewed simply as a great man or only a prophet in the early historical sources. Indeed, there is considerable evidence to the contrary in the New Testament. The clear evidence is that Jesuswas regarded as the unique son of God. It is worth noting that Jesus is called "God" seven times in the New Testament and he is called "Lord" in the divine sense, numerous times.
Secondly, there is no evidence at all that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene or to anyone else. The Gnostic gospel of Philip, which is used to back up this claim, was written some time in the late third century and there are gaps in the relevant parts of the text which makes any analysis doubtful. It is certainly true that it seems to refer to Jesus as the companion to Mary but companion does not necessarily mean a spouse.
It seems quite clear that Dan Brown's claims do not stand up at all to serious scrutiny. He has produced an exciting story (for sure) and if the Da Vinci Code only claims to be a novel - that is fine.
But if it claims to be based on scholarship that's another issue which is at least fanciful and in the end rather ridiculous. And certainly therefore it should not challenge anyone's faith.
From the Parish Newsletter Apr /May 2006:
FROM THE VICARAGE
You know how it is when someone asks you to complete a survey form which will only take you ten minutes and when you open it up there are a hundred questions or more - some complex - which would take you over an hour. Well, we have produced a survey form which is enclosed but before you throw it away can I mention that it only includes 10 questions - most of which are fairly simple - and surely the form could not take more than ten minutes to complete.
We are asking everyone to complete this because we are wanting to plan for the future on the basis of what you believe and therefore what you require of your local church. Perhaps over Easter you will complete it and return it via Framfield Post Office, Country Fare Blackboys or to the church office direct. Alternatively, if you require someone to collect it, please phone the church office on 01825 891090 or me personally on 890365. If the information on the form is confidential, could you put the form in an envelope before returning it. Thank you for your help. We do really appreciate it and will publish a general summary of what we have learned in the next available Parish Magazine.
"Love is the basic need of human nature, for without it, life is disrupted emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically. Love cures people - both the ones who give it and the ones who receive it" Karl Menninger.
I want to remind you of the greatest act of love there ever was. When God came this earth in Jesus and died on a cross to show that love … even to you and to me. I am writing this on Ash Wednesday – the start of the period of Lent, the period leading up to Easter and the most important Christian festival of the year. Of course, the Easter weekend starts with the death of Jesus, the Messiah, the saviour of the world and apparently all hope was lost-but it wasn't.
Christianity would only have a few lines in most encyclopaedias if it were not for the resurrection of Jesus. The fact that Jesus rose from the dead is the proof that Jesus is who Jesus said he was. Only the son of God could sleep in death and then through God’s power stir and rise to life ! But did Jesus truly rise from the dead ?
Well - lets look at the evidence.
If Christ did not rise from the dead then the apostles were either fools or frauds. So – were they gullible – were they naïve? At the outset they did not believe ! They were so far from being eager to believe in the resurrection that when the women ca me back from the tombs with the news that it was empty and that Christ had risen, it says in the bible "to their minds the story was madness” (Luke 24: 11).
I put it to you that such men would never be content with any secondhand evidence – and they did not have to be.
Because later Jesus himself came to them and they saw him with their own eyes. They saw him – not at a distance but close up. Jesus cooked them breakfast – and ate with them – and ghosts do not eat fish at breakfast !
They saw him - not in flash - not like a magician s trick - but over a space of 6 weeks in the period before he returned to heaven. They saw him where there was not just one witness or two or three - when you might suspect hallucinations - but with a dozen others - then one hundred - once there were two hundred and once there were five hundred.
Todav we would say - show us the proof. Its worth emembering that frauds do not die for their causes. Most of the apostles died a violent death - basically because of what they said they had seen - and what they therefore believed.
I hope to see you in church this Easter. Full details or our services on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Day are set out in the invitation leaflet that is enclosed.
From the Parish Newsletter Feb/Mar 2006:
FROM THE VICARAGE
So here we are at the beginning of another New Year (I am writing this on New Year's Day !) and, as is usual at this time of year, perhaps we could take a moment to look back, over the last twelve months or so, and also to look forward. But its also a time not to miss out on the reality and the potential of today - and the truth is its so easy to be preoccupied with the past and the future that we can miss out on today!
But when we look back over the last twelve months it does appear to be a year which has been dominated by disasters - both natural and otherwise. The year started with the Asian tsunami, and that was followed by the devastation left by hurricanes Katrina, Wilma and Rita, especially in New Orleans, the earthquake in Pakistan, the famine in Zimbabwe and other places, the ongoing war in Iraq and closer to home, the London bombings on 7 and 21 July.
Also closer to home, was the brutal murder of Anthony Walker in Huyton, Liverpool in July which seemed to send shock waves across the country. It was of course a racist murder which the vast majority of us would find difficult to understand. And yet it happened.
Those who perpetrated this horrific crime have been caught and dealt with and yet the fall out from all this has surely been significantly mitigated by the response of Anthony's family. As Christians, they know that the call is to forgive - and forgive is seemingly what they have done. We marvel at that and we need to be grateful for the implications of their decision. Of course, they know that had they chosen not to forgive then their own agony would only have been compounded by the bitterness.
I'm reminded of the example of Gordon Wilson - the father of Marie Wilson (do you remember ?) who was one of the eleven victims of the Enniskillen commemoration parade bombing by the Provisional IRA in 1987. Gordon held his daughter's hand as they lay trapped against a mountain of rubble. Her death shattered Gordon and his wife Joan but a few hours after the bombing, when interviewed by the BBC, Gordon Wilson forgave the terrorists who killed his daughter. He said that he would pray for them. He also begged that no one took revenge for Marie's death. He said "that will not bring her back".
The bomb had done a lot of damage - as Christians, as believers in Christ, the Wilsons wanted to help repair the damage between people. Gordon Wilson died a few years ago. After his death many people in Northern Ireland carried on his work. As we know, in Northern Ireland, the bombings have stopped thanks to the work of people like Gordon Wilson.
So, perhaps we can look forward with hope. It is true that we do not have all the answers about suffering in the world. The question never quite goes away of why it is that God made a world in which such tragedy is still possible. But we have just been through another Christmas celebration and that reminds us of the one thing we can know for sure - and that is God's way of responding to suffering.
He doesn't wave a magic wand or descend briefly from the sky to clean things up. But he arrived on earth as a human being - and changed things for ever simply by the extent of his love.
Which brings us back to today. Because today is the opportunity for us to make a contribution. How will we respond to the needs of others. How will we respond to the love of God shown to us at Christmas. Can we forgive when we need to.
Because I believe that faith is restored and strengthened -not by talking - but by acting. And one of the most moving things this year has been the generosity of so many who have responded to the desperate needs of the tsunami victims and those who suffered in New Orleans.
No one on this earth has all the answers - if they claim to have, then they are not worth listening to - but Jesus shows us the right thing to say through the crying of a vulnerable small child beginning a life of risk and suffering. In it all God shows us (by his grace and in his spirit) how we might respond to help build a better world.
I hope that 2006 brings you happiness and peace.
From the Parish Newsletter Dec 2005/Jan 2006:
FROM THE VICARAGE
You wouldn't necessarily believe it given that the grass is still growing but its that time of year again ! When you hear the words "it will soon be Christmas" do they fill you with excitement/anticipation of the celebration and a new year or, maybe, do you look back with mixed feelings.
As with many of you, I guess, for Maggie and I it has been a year filled with a mixture of joys and heartaches. On a personal note, I fulfilled a lifetime's (well, since I was 15 !) ambition to see the Grand Canyon. In the true sense of the word it was awesome - if you have never been and get the chance, take it! But on the other hand, we have seen the effects of the Tsunami, the hurricanes and the earthquake in Pakistan - and of course the "manmade" disasters of 7/7, the ongoing conflict in Iraq and Palestine and now the riots in France.
It has of course long been said that "one man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist" and that is not new. Sorting out the differences between political (with a small "p") struggles and criminal acts is not new either. I am writing this just before Remembrance Sunday and I am reminded of a story of a young man who lived in a country under oppression - an occupied territory - a peace loving man but someone who had friends in the resistance movement. A man with strong principles, unafraid to speak his mind even though people warned him not to. The people said that it was almost as if he wanted to get into trouble.
Eventually the collaborators decided he was a threat to the stability of their occupied land. So they turned him over to the enemy commander and after a rigged trial he was executed.
But this was not World War Two - its not the war in Iraq or Palestine - but almost two thousand years ago. The occupying army were not Nazis - but Romans. The young man's name was Jesus.
We need to look at Christmas in the light of the Jesus story. He was born in humility, he was to die a brutal death, but he rose again from the dead and one day will return to gather his people to him. Jesus is God's rescue plan for all mankind - he was born in a world that desperately needed him and perhaps today needs him more than ever!
It makes you think - doesn't it ?
Please - have a thoughtful but a happy Christmas - and (please God) a peaceful New Year.
From the Parish Newsletter Oct/Nov 2005:
FROM THE VICARAGE
As I write this letter, we just celebrated our final wedding service for 2005 in Framfield Church (unless there are some late bookings still to come !) with the marriage of Adrian Bidewell and Lorraine Wells - now Mr. & Mrs. Bidewell. I have to say it was a lovely ceremony - as all our weddings this year have been ! All very different -some very grand, some very modest - but all very personal and its been a joy and privilege to have been involved.
Call me an old romantic (if you will) but there is still, I believe, something very special about being married in church - asking God to be very much part of your wedding and your marriage ! I would like as many as possible who are planning to get married in 2006 to experience this - so I'm inviting you now (if you are making wedding plans at the moment) to get in touch with me to talk about things.
It might help if I were to summarise the rules (as they currently stand) concerning arrangements for church weddings because there has been some misleading comment in the press over the last weeks or months. Basically, if you are both at least 18 years old (and not related !), if at least one of you lives within the parish of Framfield, Blackboys and Palehouse Common and if neither of you have previously been married, then you have a legal right to be married in your local church. In addition to that, if neither of you actually live here (but have genuine and ongoing connections with the parish) then arrangements can be made for you.
Re-marriage in church, where one of the parties is divorced, is only possible in "exceptional circumstances" but if this is you, then I would very much like to have the opportunity to meet with you and explain the church's position on this and then to let you know whether or not we feel we could go ahead.
So, the church door is very much open - come and talk to me - or I will come to you if you invite me !
There was a report in "The Times" last week that suggested that most church goers who abandoned their weekly worship do so because they have had a dispute with a fellow member of the congregation. "It isn't the big questions that stop people going to church - it is the little irritations, research has suggested".
How sad - but I suspect "how true". Its true - we are all different I Its sad - if we can't recognise that and at least accept people even if we can't quite understand why they think this way or that way ! Anyway, I didn't wish to turn this into a sermon - but I do want to tell you that we are here at St Thomas a Becket, participating in a national initiative called "Back to Church Sunday" to encourage people who seem to have drifted away from the church (whether for major reasons or for less significant ones) to come back ! We are holding a special service on 25th September at 10 o'clock. It will be a morning service for all the family, which means that anyone with or without children, parents, friends - will all be more than welcome.
You can find out more information on our website -www.framfieldchurch.org.uk. If you receive a personal invitation, I sincerely hope that you will respond to it positively. If you have not been invited personally, then I invite you now to come along. I hope you will.
People often say to me "you don't need to go to church to be a Christian" and at its very basic level I would have to agree with that. But I also have to say two things. Firstly, that God encourages us to meet together, to pray together and to worship together. But there is a second (practical) reason for sharing together. Perhaps an analogy would help - after all Andrew "Freddie" Flintoff would still have been a great cricketer even if he was only playing in his back garden - but it was only by joining a cricket club that he developed those skills and ended up representing his country!
On October 2nd we celebrate our annual Harvest Festival and some publicity for this is enclosed. There will be a lunch in the church hall and if you would like to book a place (or two) then do please ring Anita in the church office any week day morning on 891090.
Among the words the Vicar most dreads hearing are these "I'm afraid that the church roof needs repairing and it will cost thousands ...". Well - I have heard those words recently - and we are fortunate that we have a Friends organisation which has worked so hard to help with this but we are still needing to raise a further £10,000 to complete this work etc. and of course with something like a church roof there is always the danger of further problems being uncovered when the work gets under way !
Anyway, we have taken a step of faith, and the work will have begun at the beginning of September - we hope with the minimum of disruption to church life and to our neighbours ! You will find a letter from Peter Berry enclosed giving more information about the appeal and I would ask you, once again, to respond - and to be generous with your giving. Its very easy, I know, to "leave it others" - but we need everyone in this parish to help us -whether you can give only a little or whether you can give a substantial amount Whatever you can do - will, I assure you, be most appreciated, not only in the church community but in the community as a whole. We want to be here to serve the whole community.
We have no help these days with any of our running costs from central church funds. Maintaining an historic church building can only be achieved with the help of the wider community so that we are here when you need us. Whether its for a baptism, a funeral - oh yes - even a wedding !
From the Parish Newsletter Aug/Sep 2005:
All Things Bright and Beautiful - continued !
In the April/May edition of the parish newsletter I referred to certain matters relating to the churchyard and if you have wandered through In the last few weeks you will see that we have decided again this year to keep part of the' churchyard as a natural area. The wild flowers and variety of butterflies really are lovely - and if you haven't seen the area this year then do please go and have a look.
We have also recently completed the drainage work at the bottom of the churchyard which means that we will be an open churchyard for many years to come (hopefully !) and able to accommodate "double graves" in this part of the churchyard which we were not previously able to do. We are very pleased that we have been able to do this - and it represents another way in which the church supports all the community here.
However, we do have a problem with the churchyard which we need to address. Many of you will know that the use and maintenance of the churchyard here is under the control of the Diocese of Chichester. The Diocese set down rules about what is (and what is not) acceptable in the churchyard.
'Why have rules ?' I hear you say but there are some good reasons for this (including the overall appearance and ease of maintenance etc.) and unless special permission has been given by the Diocese we are asked to ensure that the rules are complied with.
In particular, it is not permitted to erect kerb surrounds plant shrubs on graves leave plastic flowers or personal items on graves.
Unfortunately, over the last few months, some items have appeared in the churchyard which are not permitted and we will shortly have to put up notices asking for these to be removed. I realise that there are sensitive issues involved here and we will try and deal with matters as sympathetically as possible but we do have to ensure that the Diocesan regulations are followed and we would ask for your co-operation in this.
On a different issue, one thing you can be sure of (if you have to maintain an historic church building) is that from time to time there will be problems with the roof - and we are no exception to this rule ! We have to take action now to effect some repairs and maintenance that is overdue and the work will start in September at a cost of about £25,000. We are extremely grateful to our Friends organisation who have allocated over £10,000 to the project and we have obtained some grants from bodies such as the Historic Churches Trust. But we do need to raise £10,000 from the local community.
Maintaining the roof is of course essential for the protection of the whole building and an appeal will be launched soon by the Friends of Framfield Church. But we will be very grateful for your help now in preserving this building for the use of the whole community and cheques (made payable to the Friends of Framfield Church) can be sent now to the church office - please mark envelopes 'roof appeal' - thank you !
Please help by giving as much as you are able.
From the Parish Newsletter June/July 2005:
At the end of a week which has seen a labour government return to power for "an historic third term" I am reminded of the advice that it is not appropriate to introduce "politics or religion" into a conversation !
I wonder why ? To follow such advice would make the "vicar's letter" harder than usual to write this time ! How our country is run - how our world is run - and how faith informs our understanding and conduct in the world – are surely of paramount importance.
Jesus certainly made it clear that we should obey the law and respect the decisions of those in authority (not always an easy thing to do '). That he did so in the context of faith - and acceptance of who God is - and His authority - is not to diminish his words. "Let your yes mean yes - and your no mean no" is not likely to be a political catch phrase but what an impact it would have on our lives if we could all (politicians included) be relied upon to follow that teaching. To be more honest in our dealings with one another – and with God.
The general election campaign seemed at one stage to be dominated by accusations of lies being told. The prime minister called for an end to cynicism about politicians - but I would think that cynicism ends when honesty prevails and is seen to do so.
One final thought. The day after the election I heard a number of key government politicians on a radio interview promising to listen more to what people were saying to them. Lets not forget that God - in Christ - not only promises to do just that (to listen when we come to him in I prayer) but He also promises that all his dealings with us will be underpinned by justice - and honesty.
Some politicians tell us now "we don't do God". Maybe they need to look at that again !
From the Parish Newsletter April/May 2005:
ALL THINGS BRIGHT AND BEAUTIFUL
Hard though it is to believe after the cold end to this winter, spring and summer are just around the corner. A time when all God's bright and beautiful creation emerges into new life. Easter reminds us that we too can emerge "bright and beautiful" into a new life with God. Easter is the most important time of the year for the Christian - it is not just about eggs, it is about new beginnings with God. It starts with Jesus' death on the cross but it finishes with the resurrection - the glory of Easter Day. "Death defeated -life without end". Fantastic. Who could refuse God's offer?
I wonder if you know that old country verse 'Spring is sprung, the grass is ris', I wonder where the birdies is!' For those of us involved with trying to maintain our beautiful old churchyard (one of the largest in Sussex) the advent of the grass growing season is a double edged sword. Lovely to see the new shoots of spring but wondering how we can keep the grass cut by our small band of dedicated volunteers.
Perhaps we should change the old saying to 'Spring is sprung, the grass is ris', I wonder where the churchyard is!' Seriously though, I thought it might be helpful if in advance
of the growing season some explanation was given regarding the churchyard management. The maintenance of graves is the responsibility of individual families and some do it lovingly and beautifully. But, of course, in a churchyard as old as ours many graves have no-one to care for them now. There are companies who will maintain graves, for a fee, and send you photos too ! There are old graves, some with only partly visible stones remaining, which means it is almost impossible in places to cut with machines. We have been advised that to keep all of it short cut throughout the summer would require two men full time cutting much by hand. Those of you who pay for help with your own gardens will know how costly that would be ! We simply do not have the resources to do that.
Last year we allowed a section to be a natural area, something which conservationists are keen to encourage and which many churches do. The variety of butterflies and wild flowers were lovely. However, like all things in life it is not possible to please everyone. Some said what a delight it was to see the tiny butterflies and the sea of large white daisies swaying in the breeze - others complained it was unkempt.
So whatever scheme we use this year and whichever camp you fall into between wild and ordered, please consider also the other point of view. And we do need more help in the churchyard, so if there are any Charlie Dimmocks or Allan Titchmarshes out there, a few hours whenever you can spare it is a lovely way to de-stress ! Ring the church office - 891090 - if you would like to help.
Our churchyard is still an 'open' churchyard, which means we have some grave plots, albeit very few. We are hoping to undertake some drainage work at the bottom of the churchyard which will mean we will have a few more and will also increase the Garden of Remembrance area for the
burial of ashes following cremation. Many village churchyards are 'closed' as they have no more space. Once a churchyard is 'closed' it becomes the responsibility of the local authority to maintain it, which may mean a tidier churchyard but also means no more new plots for burials.
The churchyard is also a good access to the footpath in the fields beyond. Many dog owners use it regularly. Unfortunately we have had problems recently with increased amounts of dog fouling. It is good to see how many people come to visit graves as they remember birthdays and anniversaries but it is not right that they should have to watch where they walk ! So four legged friends - please remind your owners that if you have a 'little accident' in the churchyard on the way to the field, they must clean it up.
All this talk about spring and the growing season reminds me that 'New shoots' (both young and not so young) are always welcome at our church. We have a variety of services each month from traditional to informal and a congregation of all ages. We try to be both welcoming and child friendly so why not 'spring' across and pay us a visit!
From the Parish Newsletter February/March 2005:
At the beginning of another New Year we are being asked some searching questions, aren't we ? Many I know have been hoping for a happier year, having encountered many personal difficulties in 2004, and immediately we are all faced with the tragedy of the Indian Ocean Tsunami. Not just the loss of life - but the ongoing tragedies of families devastated and communities ripped apart.
No doubt the next few weeks and months will reveal the full extent of the destruction, the disease and starvation that is already starting to be seen. Then there is the question of all questions for people of faith. How does a loving God permit a tragedy such as the Indian Ocean tidal wave ?
How will we tackle that one ? The scientists tell us that the world has probably been rocked on its axis which might have shifted by one inch. How close were/are we to a cosmic disaster? Is this a sign of divine anger or the end of the world - or both ?
These are not easy questions to ask and certainly there are no easy answers. God save us from those who think there are. The church, however, must not duck the issues but at the moment the only response I can make is "God, I do not know why this has happened but I do know (because you tell me clearly) that I must be involved wherever I can, to be a comfort to the bereaved and to help heal those who are injured and sick." The only way I can do that in relation to the international situation at the moment is through prayer and by donating money to the relief work. Will you join me in that ?
I know that many of you will have given through the appeals made on tv etc. but we are also organising a response as a church community. If you would like to make a gift to the Tsunami Disaster Appeal Fund then please bring any donation to the church office or send it as a cheque made payable to Framfield PCC.
What we can all do is to strive to show God's love to the world.
It is part of the character of God to "bring good out of bad" and perhaps we are beginning to see that happening. Governments and individuals mobilising resources and giving finance on unprecedented scales. We are now seeing a global response to this tragedy - but the response is rooted not in national governments (important as they are) but in how ordinary people have responded. The truth is that we often feel totally helpless when we are faced with national and international tragedy on this scale - but this shows us that we are not (helpless I mean !). Governments have been moved to respond to the concern and generosity of ordinary people - some might say they have been shamed into action. Our own government having increased the £1 million promised in aid to some £50 million at the time of writing.
And yet there is another international tragedy going on which probably claimed more lives between Boxing Day and New Year's Day than the Indian Ocean disaster. World poverty (and all that goes with it) is a scandal of monumental proportions. Did you see the New Year's Day episode of "The Vicar of Dibley" and in particular the closing scenes ?
Again, God tells us through his word (the Bible) that Christians are to "weep with those who weep" and unashamedly I did so that night. If this world wakes up to the tragedy of world poverty and acts (and challenges governments to do so) then maybe, just maybe, we will see a real change in our world this year. Change for good coming out of disaster - but make no mistake even if it starts to happen the costs will have been enormous. And God sees it all. And He weeps too.
In the light of all this it does seem a little inappropriate to wish you a Happy New Year but I do hope and pray that the rest of 2005 will be a little happier!
PS. Can I take this opportunity to thank everyone who has responded to the letters we have written, in the magazine and elsewhere, in the last few months in relation to church finances - and the need to increase our giving if the church is to continue to operate in the community. I am very pleased to be able to tell you that as a result we have been able to meet our commitments for the last three months of 2004 - but we need the improvement to be maintained in order that we can meet our obligations in full in 2005. We continue to need your help in this !
From the Parish Newsletter December 2004/January 2005:
By the time you read this it will not be long until Christmas - another year gone by ! Another year to look back on and look ahead to the future.
I can't help but think about some of the events in our village church life throughout this year. Not just the annual festivals of Easter, Harvest etc but the times when the Church has played an important part in peoples personal lives.
There have been happy weddings. Beautiful brides, nervous grooms, family and friends - all in church, to celebrate and share when two lives are joined together in God's presence.
The church has been filled with the excited chatter of the children from Framfield and Blackboys Schools.
There have been Baptisms. Parents proudly bringing the newest member of the family to church, making promises for them as they enter into God's family. An adult making her own baptism promises.
There have been funerals. A corporate Act of Remembrance for those fallen in war. Acts of personal remembrance for long lives lived to the full and desperate heartache for those cut short Times of thanksgiving or sadness shared in God's house. Feeling the peace, sharing the sorrows and memories . Knowing that God's love endures forever, whatever befalls us.
But that leads me to ponder - what is to befall us as a Church ? Will we still be here in the future ? Will the building still be the church or just a lovely old building ?
'Use it or lose it' is a somewhat hackneyed phrase but just as it has been with many village shops, pubs and post offices - so it could be with the church. I was recently at a church finance meeting for all the local churches, addressed by the Bishop of Chichester, where it was made clear that there is a real financial crisis. Many village churches (including our own) are not 'paying their way', central funds are not available to prop them up, and things will have to change.
I was talking to a wedding guest this year who expressed surprise at the sign up in Church advising people that it costs over £1200 per week to keep our church running. "But, of course," she said "you get money from a central fund towards that, don't you?" She was even more surprised when I told her that we didn't and in fact, we have to pay into a central Diocesan fund at a current rate of £30,000 per year which is due to rise to £45,000 in the next few years ! Just in case you are wondering, that is not what the Vicar gets paid I can assure you ! On top of that payment we also have our day to day running costs to find. It made me wonder how many other people might be under the same misapprehension as she was.
Over the years and now, there has been a very faithful congregation here who have effectively enabled the church to remain the village spiritual heart and amenity that it is for everyone. A dedicated group of people (many from outside the village) put their hands in their pockets to pay the bills. They give of their time and talents to provide music for services; to care for the churchyard (a never ending task in the growing season and an often thankless one too); to keep the church clean and tidy, the brass polished, the flowers beautiful and the altar cloths clean and fresh.
We are also very grateful to the Friends organisation who raise money for building repairs and projects but their funds are not available towards the £1200 per week day-to-day running expenses.
Both our treasurer and myself have appealed to the community outside the church for financial help but the response has been disappointing. Well to be honest, minimal. It may be that the community is not bothered whether the church keeps going, or is it a case of 'you don't know what you've got 'til its gone!'
I hope that you will have read this with an open heart and mind and that you will give it serious thought. I am sure that most people would want the church to be here when they need it. Most of us think very little of spending £5 in a week on a bottle of wine, or a couple of pints - and what does £5 buy in Tesco's - not a lot! But a number of people making a gift of £5 per week to the church would make such a difference. If you are a taxpayer the Treasury will even top it up for you ! We live in a beautiful and affluent part of the country, can we really not afford to keep a church here?
So, when you are sitting down over Christmas, planning next years holidays, reviewing your budget, please think about whether you are able to make a regular monthly gift to the church so we too can plan for the years ahead. A standing order form is again enclosed with this magazine.
I wish you all a happy and peaceful Christmas and look forward to seeing you in Church.
From the Parish Newsletter October/November 2004
Unfortunately this edition is missing !
From the Parish Newsletter August/September 2004
Due to the financial position of the Church I have asked The Treasurer to write “the letter” this time.
God bless you
I write to introduce myself to you as your new Church Treasurer. I qualified as a chartered accountant in 1989 and presently work as the Finance and Operations Director of a family firm in Hailsham. My wife and I moved to Blackboys in 2000 and we celebrated the arrival of our first child in August 2002.
Before I was appointed in May 2004 I was aware that the finances of the church were not strong. I have now finished my initial review and feel it is my duty to inform you of the current financial position. You might be surprised to know that it costs £1200.00 per week to keep the church open and functioning.
I set out below a summary of the financial position for 2004 :
Expenditure Church Expenses £25.000
Parish contribution £30.000
Other costs £5.000
As you can see we are in desperate need of additional funding. The deficit represents approx £200.00 per week. Furthermore if we regularly fail to pay our monthly parish contribution to the Church of England it is likely that we may be asked to share our vicar with other parishes and ultimately this may lead to the closure of our church.
The finance committee has resolved to try to raise £75,000 per annum for the next three years so that, on a day-to-day basis, the church will be self-funding. The funding target is comparable with the level of funds raised in previous years and would serve to replenish our reserves which are at an all time low.
The funding target excludes the activities of the Friends of St. Thomas a Becket whose fund raising focuses on the maintenance of the church buildings.
The vast majority of the church's income comes from planned giving which attracts a tax rebate and you may be interested to know that some givers are not regular church goers. The finance committee are therefore seeking the generous support of £20 per month from as many households in our parish that are able to help. To survive we need to be supported by a larger group of people.
I attach a form that will enable you to set up or increase a planned giving facility with your bank. We want to keep the church running so that we can continue to serve the whole community, especially with baptisms, weddings and funerals. Please forward your completed form to me at The Church Office.
I will keep you informed of our progress in due course in the meantime thank you for your support.
Alasdair Smith Treasurer
From the Parish Newsletter June 2004/July 2004:
As I write this letter, the situation in Iraq just seems to get worse by the day and its not at all easy to predict what might have happened by the time you read this. Its never really helpful to say "I told you so ..." but I recently spoke to a man who had tears in his eyes as he told me how he had written to Tony Blair, before the war started, pointing out the likely consequences and asking that we draw back from a full scale military attack.
Recent history is littered with examples of a different kind of warfare. "Quick fixes" are not realistic. Now we are into a desperate situation. Now we are back to street fighting and the terrible abuse of Iraqi prisoners. What a mess !
Without doubting the evil nature of at least part of the regime in Iraq, the problem is that if you build a policy on some sort of moral high ground then that's a difficult position to sustain. You will surely be setting yourself up to be knocked down. I will never forget the dramatic sense of truth I had when I first read the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount
"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye ? How can you say to your brother 'let me take the speck out of your eye' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye ? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." (Matthew 7:3-5).
Jesus doesn't mince his words, does he ? And he makes you think, doesn't he ?
Its probably not an overstatement to say that "a picture paints a thousand words" and what we have seen recently in sickening photos from Iraq might very well be (as one headline writer has put it) the pictures that lost the war. Well, it will certainly change our perspective won't it and maybe change our minds. I am reminded of the pictures of Auschwitz, Hiroshima and the group of children (including 9 year old Kirn Phuc) running down that road in Vietnam. It brings reality home to us.
Reality was certainly brought home to me recently and I suspect to two other people I now pray for regularly. It happened like this. It was a weekday morning. I was trying to write a sermon. I had a list of phone calls to make (and people to see) when Anita phoned from the church office to say she had two people with her who wondered if they could see me now about trying to organise awedding for later in the year. It would not have been unreasonable to ask them to make an appointment but somehow Iknew that I had to see them straightaway.Yes, I could instantly sense their love for each other. Yes, they wanted to get married when they were next back together in the UK. You see, they were serving in the British army and had just been given a few days notice that they were both to be posted to Iraq. We never know whats round the corner do we ?
Would you pray for them too?
From the Parish Newsletter April 2004/May 2004:
THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST
By the time you read this, Mel Gibson's controversial film will be out on general release. Maybe, like me, you have been asking yourself the question "should I go and see it?" I did in fact go to see a preview showing of the film and I will try to answer the question as best I can or, at least, provide some more information. It certainly seems appropriate as we approach this Easter time to be aware of the flogging, the crucifixion and the death of Christ on the cross. It involved intense, horrifying suffering.
Mel Gibson's film is already arousing lots of comment prior to it's general release. Not least of which, the general surprise amongst the cinema going public that he should choose to share his beliefs so openly.
You may have seen or heard the reports. Does the film blame the Jews for killing Jesus or is it simply relating the Gospel accounts of events? Then there's the violence. Is it too much or do we prefer not to think about the true horror of crucifixion?
Even the Roman Empire gave up that particular form of execution as too barbaric! In most films on the subject, the mocking, the beating, the pain, lasts only a few minutes but in this film it goes on for two hours. Probably nearer to the actual time Christ spent enduring it. The depiction is a masterful piece of cinema but it is painful - it is relentless - too cruel to contemplate, let alone watch.
I do believe that Christians should see the film. We need to understand the true nature of the death of Christ - what it costs for us to be released from the consequences of our sin (the things we do wrong). And how Christ suffered that believers might be set free -the substitutionary nature of that death. I would have to add a cautionary note, however, in that if you feel that you could not bear watch extreme violence then you will need to think twice about going to see "The Passion".
You will certainly be in good company if you looked away during that part of the film. Several characters in the film found the violence so unbearable that they had to look away and so does Gibson! His camera follows Mary (Jesus' mother) as she retreats to another room where she tries to cope with the cries of pain that she can still hear.
It is interesting that the film is being released at a time when in this country there is now almost open hostility (particularly in certain sectors of the media) towards faith and the practice of it. A very significant comment was made recently by the Muslim Council of Great Britain "religion, or Christianity especially, is certainly seen as more and more fair game, as a target to be lampooned, satirised". In fact, the national census of 2001 rather shocked our ruling bureaucracy by revealing that 71.75% of the population of Britain claim to be Christian. However, the BBC in a lead-in to a programme on the census decided to explain things in the following words " Britain is basically secular, it is also overwhelmingly Christian" - which is surely a contradiction.
Despite that, I believe that people are actually seeking after truth and a spiritual dimension to life.
Appropriately, in the end, "The Passion" draws attention neither to the brilliance of the acting nor the vision of Mel Gibson but the wonder of the Christ who gave his life in agony of body and soul for the love the world.
So, should you go and see "The Passion"? Well, if you are interested in gaining a greater understanding of what it means for you and me and for the world, then the answer has to be "yes"!
From the Parish Newsletter February 2004/March 2004:
NEW BEGINNINGS - AND A (REALLY) HAPPY NEW YEAR
What is your wish for 2004 ? Maybe it's for employment ot more income ! Maybe it's for healing. Maybe it's for friendship. I'm sure that for many it's a mixture of these and other things. But as I meet and talk with people around and about I sense continually and perhaps over-ridingly a desire for "peace". Not a shallow "absence of conflict" peace, but a deep "shalom" type peace. So how will we find it ? does it depend on us alone to make things happen ?
I wonder if you made any New Year's resolutions which might help ? If you did, have you broken them yet ? That's the problem with New Year's resolutions isn't it - and maybe why they seem less popular these days !
But it's good to make a new start - a chance to get off on the right foot once again - and yet as we have reflected it's so easy to slip back into the bad habits.
T.S. Eliot said this in "Little Gidding" :
What we call the beginning is often the end - and to make an end is to make a beginning - the end is where we start from.
So, what do you need to "end" in order to "start" ? Maybe in terms of a relationship (with a friend or family member) an "end" needs to be brought to a point of disagreement. It might be difficult to identify. It might be right under your nose ! It might involve your husband or wife ! Maybe you can hardly remember now what the disagreement is all about but you know the bitterness in your heart and that precludes peace. Or what about selfishness or pride or jealousy or arrogance ?
"I can't deal with all that I hear you say" - and I agree. But we can all make a start, even a small start. Maybe we need to forgive someone. Maybe you need to write a letter or pick up the phone or confide in a friend who will help you.
Because the good news is that we are not alone in this. Because our God is a God of new beginnings. In terms of our relationship with him, he will give us a new beginning every day, every hour, every moment of every day if we just ask. And it doesn't finish there. It gets better. Because not only does God want us to restore our relationship with him, but he also wants to help us to restore our relationships one with another.
And may God's peace go with you into 2004.
From the Parish Newsletter December 2003/ January 2004:
READY FOR CHRISTMAS ?
Well I haven't actually counted the number of shopping days left to Christmas nor have I heard it mentioned in the media. But this probably reflects the thinking that "shopping for Christmas" is now an all year round activity.
You could be forgiven for thinking that this is going to be an opening for the vicar to condemn the secularisation of Christmas. But I will resist the temptation.
Meanwhile increasing standards of living for many and our obsession with "retail therapy" will surely, in time, leave us dissatisfied rather than fulfilled. In addition, the deep concern at world events (shown to us in the desperate situation in Iraq) shows us a picture which should surely leave us thinking "there must be more to life than this !" And of course there is ! God has acted in Christ to show his love in the world !
I hope it dosen't sound patronising if I say that I continue to be impressed by the attitudes and attempts of young people I meet who are seeking answers to the big questions of life. Who am I ? What am I here for ? Where is life leading me ? At the same time, God's church (by which I mean the world-wide church that God sees) which has been entrusted with the message to the world, is percieved to be far too consumed with internal disputes to concentrate on bringing the answers to those questions.
We need to be concerned about that. So, we thought that locally we should start our preparation for Christmas early this year. Remember to catch the (spiritual) post ... Our Family Service on 7th December will ask the question "Ready for Christmas ?"
Are we ? Will we be ? Or will Christmas seem rather empty again this year ? The choice is ours !
From the Parish Newsletter October/November 2003:
Its harvest time - AGAIN!
Have you seen the Autumn colours start to appear on a recent drive through the country roads around Framfield, Blackboys and Palehouse Common - or even as you have driven along the motorways ?
You know, harvest is a wonderful time of year.
Flowers, the fruit and vegetables, combined with autumn colours are beautiful and yet it is easy to take these things so much for granted. Its easy to look at the harvest and stop there - not to think about who created it and why. About the basic things of life. Bread and water for instance !
Just think about something as "every day" as water. We use it for our gardens, to wash with, to cook with and of course to drink and quench our thirst. Without water our rivers run dry, our crops fail and humans and animals perish within days.
I would like you to imagine for a moment the situation of Marietta Remula from Muita village in Mozambique who used to have to collect water from muddy pools in swampy ground. In the rainy season dirt, rubbish and human waste would wash into the water. Then in the dry season little water would be left in the pool at all. The water was dirty and unsafe but she had no choice but to drink it and give it to her family. As a consequence sadly two members of Marietta's family have died from diarrhoea casued by unsafe drinking water and inadequate sanitation.
Unfortunately Marietta's story is not uncommon. Today almost one quarter of the world's population do not have access to safe water and nearly half of the people in the world are in need of somewhere safe and hygienic to go to the toilet.
It may not happen to us, but it does happen to many others ! We often say there is nothing we can do to help - but that's just not true. That's why, this harvest time, as a church we are going to support the work of WaterAid.
WaterAid believes in the power of water. Clean water is essential for life but over one billion people around the world do not have it and over two billion people lack adequate sanitation. It is estimated that half of the world's hospital beds are taken up by people suffering from diseases associated with dirty water and poor sanitation. WaterAid helps poor communities in developing countries achieve sustainable improvements to their quality of life through improved domestic water supply, sanitation and associated hygiene practices.
WaterAid began work in Mozambique in 1995 and has since helped communities like Marietta's to install local wells for clean water and latrines for defecating safely and in privacy. Now families in Muita village no longer have to give their families unsafe water, but have the clean water and sanitation facilities to enable them to work themselves out of poverty.
This year we will join churches all over Britain who will be celebrating at harvest time to help more of the poorest people in Africa and Asia gain access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene education.
It costs WaterAid just £15 to help provide one person in the developing world with access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene improvements for life.
At our harvest services this year will collect for the work of WaterAid. You can make a difference! You will find gift envelopes in church or you can send me a cheque payable to "WaterAid".
We have so much to be thankful to God for in our lives in leafy Sussex. Will you please do what you can to help better the lives of those who have so little. Please do not leave it to others! Your gift could help so much. Thank you.