Last night there was an excellent turn out for David’s May evening walk. As usual the weather was wonderful which I believe he orders especially! Following the walk everyone enjoyed the usual offering of refreshments but there was a lovely surprise when John shared a bottle of champagne to belatedly toast his recent milestone birthday. A wonderful and generous gesture and we wish John all the very best as he enters a new decade of his life.
John kindly agreed to draw the 100 Club number for May and 92 won Diane £52 and numbers 81 and 78 won Donna and Barbara cheques for £26 each.
Pland are shaping up nicely for the Billingsley Jubilee picnic so please make sure you save the date in your diary, 3rd June at 2pm in the Orchard.
I have never really had much interest in what two consenting adults do in the privacy of their home; I suppose I share in a common liberal consensus. However, Christiana Emba, a columnist on the Washington Post, in a recent book, “Rethinking Sex, A Provocation”, has challenged the view that consensual sex is purely a private matter. More exactly she argues that even when the activity is consensual, it is not always good for individuals or society. The ethics of sexual intercourse has been largely forgotten, leading to a corrosive morality where it is regarded as simply as a matter for personal gratification, with no consideration of what might be the effect might be on others. The long-term effect this has on society may not be good. Interestingly, a recent survey in UK sexual habits has shown a sharp decline in “one-night stands” during Covid. A social commentator who was interviewed as part of the report suggested this was not just due to lock-down; there was a longer term decline in frequent, casual, sexual encounters. People now craved lasting relationships, not just a string of casual encounters without any commitment.
The early church placed significant emphasis on sexual morality, seeing it as more than something to be indulged purely for self-gratification. It recognised its importance in forming and shaping personal relationships which are pivotal for a healthy society. I am not about to start lecturing anyone on what they may or may not do in their private life, but it does seem to me that a renewed recognition of the importance of love in sexual relationships can only be welcomed and is entirely consistent with the values of the Kingdom of God that Jesus proclaimed.
I have just helped to host my first Daddy’s Hat concert, at Billingsley on St George’s Day. A group of local musicians come to a church, to provide an hours worth of music; at the end, a hat is passed round and the collection is used to cover expenses. Normally I will get between 2 and 5 people for the 8am eucharist (yes, some people do prefer the early start), perhaps 10 or 12 for the monthly evening service. For the concert, we had 23 people, including 2 children; 24 if you count the dog. Now, most were not from Billingsley, despite me doing a leaflet drop and advertising it on Facebook. And this was not anything like a traditional service. I did sneak in a prayer for St George and we gave a spirited rendition of “When a knight won his spurs”, taking some of us back to our schooldays. But “Leaving on a jet plane” and various numbers from musicals are not usually associated with church; guitarist Sam’s original song “The bronze age” celebrated pre-Christian culture. So why did I come away thinking the Holy Spirit was moving in the church? Our gathering was not religious, but it was spiritual. The music touched our emotions, in a setting made holy by 900 years of prayer. In fact, perhaps nearer 4000 years of prayer, for a ritually deposited bronze age axe has been found just a few hundred yards from the church. And it was again Sam, the guitarist, who sang about when a crack appears, light can shine in.
We live in an age when a majority do not identify with any recognised religion, but we are hard-wired to be spiritual beings. God is no less real just because people do not believe in him/her. The Holy Spirit still hovers over the face of waters, the face of the planet, the faces of all people. My job as a priest is to give people the eyes, the language, the hearts to recognise and respond to this. I am not particularly bothered what they want to call the Spirit; I am certainly not bothered where they come from. On St George’s Day, the music in Billingsley Church opened a crack and The Light shone in.
(On Saturday 28th May, the next Daddy’s Hat concert will be at Glazeley, at 3pm)
The 100 Club will be hosting a community picnic on Friday 3rd June at 2 pm to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee in the orchard next to St Mary’s Church. Light refreshments will be available and everyone in the village is invited to bring along a picnic, a blanket and whatever else you need to celebrate this unique occasion!
Volunteers are needed now to help with planning and to prepare for the big day. If you are able to help in any way at all or have ideas for the celebration please leave a message or call Ellen 07305 955295, Sue 07434 882845 or David 01562 68638. Watch this space for more news!!
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
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!
On Easter Sunday, Archbishop Justin Welby claimed that there were “serious ethical questions” about the Government initiative to send single migrants to Rwanda for their asylum cases to be processed. In turn, government supporters defended the policy. For what it is worth, this seems to me to be all part and parcel of ethical and political debate that is the hall-mark of a free country; there are some places where this could not possibly happen. Whilst I share the Archbishop’s reservations about this particular policy, I can understand arguments that we need to take action to stop the people traffickers and the deaths that happen as a result. Indeed, many who defended the policy made this point. But what struck me was the response of one MP, Ben Bradley, at least as his words were quoted in a national newspaper.
“I think we separated the Church from the state a long time ago, so commenting on government policy is not Justin Welby’s job. He’s usually way out of tune with public opinion and he undermines the role of the church when he comes out with daft statements like this. This will prove to be a very popular policy with the British public”.
Leaving aside the sub-text that politics should only be left to professional politicians, Mr Bradley seems to be of the view that the church should do only what is popular. Perhaps he needs to reread the account of the crucifixion, where Pontius Pilate, the professional politician in charge of Jesus, knew what he should do with an innocent man, but instead followed the wishes of the crowd, released a murderer and executed Jesus. Which of course, was very popular, for a while.
This is inspired by a reflection by the Rev Malcolm Guite, published recently in the Church Times.
The blossom is starting to appear both on hedges and trees. In my garden I have a damson tree, which is now white; fortunately it has so far escaped the April frosts. Once it has gone, it will be followed by the pinks and whites of the apple and pear tree blossoms. We live in a region of renowned for fruit growing; Longmore House in Billingsley takes its name from a pear tree orchard, in the 19th century, Highley was noted for its cider orchards and the countryside around Bewdley has numerous cherry and plum orchards. All of this makes for a colourful spring. There is something quite uplifting about early spring; how trees that have been cold and apparently lifeless over the winter come back to life, promising renewed life and raising our own spirits as we anticipate the finer weather to come. I paraphrase the words of the Rev Guite; “as I thought of new life coming from the old blossom trees, I pondered again how at Easter 2000 years ago, life sprang from a tree cut into a cross, on a hill overlooking Jerusalem”.
Palm Sunday, 10th April, 6pm; Don’t forget the Donkey…
At Billingsley Church this Palm Sunday we celebrate the contribution of Donkeys, both in the story of Palm Sunday but also today, helped by colleagues from the Severn Valley Rescue Centre( www.Severnvalleyrescue.org) who (weather permitting) will be bringing some of their donkeys to church. All are welcome to meet our four-legged guests, learn more about them and the work they do in helping children who suffer with anxiety and autism who are not at school ( www.proudtobeeme.co.uk ). There will be suitable donkey-themed music and hymns with refreshments afterwards.