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Thought for the week, 4th June; The Holy Spirit

This coming Sunday, 5th June, is Whit or Pentecost Sunday, when the church marks the work of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God. This prayer, from the evening service of Compline, speaks to me: 

Come, O Spirit of God, and make within us your dwelling place and home. 

May our darkness be dispelled by your light, and our troubles calmed by your peace; 

may all evil be redeemed by your love, all pain transformed through the suffering of Christ, 

and all dying glorified in his risen life. Amen. 

Thought for the week 28th May; the 70 year faith

For most of us, it is all we have ever known; the Queen on the throne. To have any real memories of George VI, you will need to be at least 80. It is a period that has seen remarkable changes both nationally and internationally; for many of us, the 1950s seems another world with the Second World War still fresh in the memory. The Queen has been the symbol of the nation through good and bad; both good and bad in the life of the nation but also in her own life.

The coronation in 1953 was fundamentally a religious service with connections to enthronement services described in the Old Testament. Like a priest at ordination, the Queen was marked with oil as sign that she was called and set apart by God for her role. Like a priest, she made promises before God. Even in 1953, I doubt many people paid much attention to this; the country had long before effectively left the church of “all gas and gaiters” (Under 60s, Google this…) behind. But one person did take seriously the anointing and the vows made before God and that was the Queen herself. Almost alone of our national figures, she speaks openly about her faith as a Christian, whilst at the same time respecting the beliefs and convictions of those around her. Her faith underpins her life and she is open about this.

One of my favourite hobby horses is how, as a society, by rejecting organised religion, we are in danger of turning our backs on something that is actually part of our very nature, our spiritual life. That isn’t really about whether we believe in God or not, it goes instead to the heart of how we live our lives, what our values are, how we relate to other people and the world. It seems to me that many people have lost the language to talk about this and they are diminished as a result. By contrast, this 96 year old woman remains at the heart of the nation because she has not lost that language. Long may she reign as an example to us and to our political leaders.

Daddy’s Hat 23rd April

On Saturday 23rd April  we played host to a Daddy’s Hat concert; many thanks to Sally for organising and all who helped or took part. It was the fullest the church has been since lockdown. We look forward to welcoming them back to Glazeley Church in May

Getting ready for the Summer in the church yard

The churchyard has received attention from the Caring for God’s Acre Team as well as our own volunteers. All is looking very smart and flower beds are ready and waiting for planting up. Particular thanks to Diane for painting the memorial bench to Sidney Fry, which looks stunning! 

Events and Services for April

6.00pm Sunday 10th April (Palm Sunday); Donkeys

A celebration of the unsung hero of Palm Sunday, the donkey who Jesus rode. We will be helped by Severn Valley Donkey Sanctuary, who will bring some of their residents and talk about their work for donkeys and children.

7.00pm Thursday 14th Maunday Thursday

We follow in the footsteps of the medieval worshippers at Billingsley who marked the events of the Last Supper with a service of Holy Communion, then stripped the church and laid out the Easter Sepulchre ready for Easter Sunday.

8.00am Sunday 17th April; Easter Day

We greet Easter morning with a service of Holy Communion and the unveiling of the Easter Sepulchre.

3pm Saturday 23rd April; Music for St George’s Day

The local “Daddy’s Hat” concerts come to Billingsley Church, with an hour long concert of classical music, with refreshments afterwards. All free; put any contribution in the hat at the end.

7.00pm Thursday 5th May; Billingsley Walk

Meet outside Billinglsey Church for a stroll around the village and back.

April Draw of the 100 Club

The April draw of the 100 Club took place on Friday the 1st of April. The numbers were drawn by Bonnie and Mike in Bynd Lane and they were assisted by Jacob and Tila and their lovely dog, Papy. Number 97 was drawn first winning Paul £52, Rhona (16) and Steve (53) both won £26 each. Congratulations to the lucky winners and thank you for the continued support of the 100 Club members. Numbers are always available for anyone who wishes to join.

In June some funds from the Club will go towards hosting a community tea party in the orchard to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. It is hoped that as many people as possible from the village will come along to the party. More information regarding the event will follow shortly.

Thought for the week 19th March; the deeper rhythm

“Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing.” 

Thus Kenneth Grahame, in “The Wind in the Willows”, marks the arrival of another season in the life of Mole. And if it penetrated the subterrain dwelling of Mole, it has also made its way into the equally closed recesses of my inner being; I have commenced operations in the garden. And somewhere in Ukraine, alongside the missiles, flowers will be blooming, birds will be nesting, just as they did two years as Covid first gripped us in this country. We live our lives on a bigger canvas, where nature follows its own rhythms, in spite of our impact on the planet. Kenneth Graham talks of spring having a “divine” spirit, the discontent and longing perhaps reflecting the way we can draw from its example to make a fresh start. Perhaps we also draw strength from its constancy; you do need to believe in the literal truth of the story of Noah’s flood to stand alongside the ancient Hebrews in their awe that seed time and harvest do not fail, that the seasons still follow each other. Many who do not call themselves religious none-the-less find something spiritual in this pattern, that stands above the traumas and happenings of everyday life. 

On Tuesday evening at 6pm a small group of us will meet in Glazeley churchyard to seek meaning in the renewal of spring. I will bless the soil in the churchyard and fields; as a Christian priest I will do this with words that draw on Jesus’s parable of the sower. But all are welcome, to draw sustenance from the miracle of rebirth that happens every year. 

Forest Church; Welcoming Spring

On Tuesday evening, 22nd March at 6pm there will be an open-air event (“Forest Church”) in Glazeley churchyard to mark the coming of spring. There will be readings, time for reflection and music and I will bless the soil in the churchyard and fields. All are welcome, whatever your faith, to join in and draw sustenance from being in nature. The event will last about 30 minutes; you might want to bring a chair or a blanket to sit on. Should the weather be “refreshing” rain, plan B is to retreat into the church and use our imaginations a little more….

Thought for the week 12th March; The refugees

It is impossible to avoid the images of the civilians fleeing from Ukraine; crossing a major river on a plank footway, the wait at stations for trains going east and then the scramble to get on. Then there is the misery of those still in the besieged cities; the cold, the hunger, to say nothing of the danger from bombs and shells. Poland seems in danger of being overwhelmed; the response of our own government does seem to be caught up in red-tape and form filling.

The Bible, and especially the Old Testament, has much to say about exile. At the heart of their faith, the ancient Hebrews had a memory of when they were captives, how God acted to bring them to safety from Egypt. And in historical times, they lived through a period of enslavement, when they were all taken into captivity in Babylon. The pain is recorded, especially in the psalms. And this led to a response; engrained in the Law was an obligation not just to look after the poor, the widow and the orphan, but also the “alien”, because “you were once aliens in the land of Egypt”.

And so we also have an obligation to help the refugees from Ukraine; something I suspect almost everyone agrees with. But inside me, I have an uncomfortable thought. When Russia was bombing Allepo in Syria, did I feel quite the same concern? Does our compassion extend in quite the same way to refugees who are not from Europe? From pride of race and creed, Good Lord deliver us.