I am privileged to join you as your new vicar and extremely thankful for the warm welcome that Emma and I have received since we moved to Bulkington. I’m excited for all that lies ahead for the communities of Bulkington and Burton Hastings and in my first week and a bit, I’ve had the opportunity to do lots of different things and meet lots of people. Please come and say hello!
There is a sense of anticipation building for our Christmas celebrations. We’ve already begun to welcome people for carol services and advent celebrations and we can look forward to lots more festivities. Launching into all the activities of Christmas certainly keeps a new vicar out of mischief!
Amidst the preparations for Christmas, as part of our preparation, we are invited to share in the wonderful season of Advent - four weeks that begin a new Church year. It’s in these days that God calls us to wait.
‘That’s ages away!” I wonder if you’ve ever heard those words from a young person you know when told they have to wait for something? Perhaps you have said or thought it recently! Often we’re not very good at waiting for things, and most of the time we don’t have to. So many things can come to us almost instantly.
But waiting is so important. It helps us to be more fully in the present moment, appreciating all that is good, and supporting one another when times are tough. God asks us to wait because he is more interested in the person we are gradually becoming, than what we are doing. Amongst the busyness of December, could you find a moment or two to be still, to be thankful? It will make such a difference as we look forward to celebrating that Jesus came to be with us at Christmas and has been with us ever since! Happy Advent to you all!
This Sunday, the last Sunday before Advent is known as ‘stir up Sunday’ taken from the words at the beginning of the collect for the day found in the Book of Common Prayer.
‘Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people’
According to tradition Victorian families would gather on this Sunday to make and stir up their Christmas puddings, which as all good cooks know should be made in advance of the big day and then heated up for several hours on Christmas Morning ready to be served after the main course having had brandy poured over it and set fire to.
Silver six pences were put into the puddings to bring good luck and each member of the family stirred it whilst making a wish for the coming year.
I’ve been known to make a pudding and a Christmas Cake but it’s a very rare occasion now.
The Victorians had a point get the preparations underway early to gain more time later on
This Sunday is also celebrated as Christ the King.
Instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925
He said it was to remind catholic people of their allegiance to Christ, coming just after the end of the 1st world war, it was to demonstrate that true lasting peace can only be found in Christ Jesus, the prince of peace who sits at the right hand of God, king of kings, lord of lords.
Most Anglican communities also celebrate this feast day on the last Sunday before Advent.
Perhaps we should take time this weekend to reflect as we stir up our Christmas puddings and make a wish for lasting world peace as we too remember the end of the 1st world war a hundred years ago.
Perhaps we should pray that our wills be stirred up enough to make a difference in our world as we look forward to our coming journey through Advent.
So long ago, so many tears,
Remembering for a hundred years.
Poppy seeds burst into life,
Where life was lost to cruel strife.
The Skylarks sang above the fallen,
As if to say, “This way to Heaven”
We stand and stare at fields now white,
Loved ones beneath our feet, “Sleep tight”
So many crosses, so many names,
Of those who died on these foreign plains.
Tears fall silently to the ground,
A bugle played, the only sound.
We give our thanks , O Lord our God,
To those you gave your staff and rod.
We hope and pray to see no more,
The horrors of war upon our shore.
With thanks and gratitude, we live on,
For them, the battle bravely won.
God bless the souls who paid the price,
Of the ultimate………...sacrifice.
Reflections - Memories
Sorting through a bag of remnants the other day, that I had amassed over the years, I came across a piece of white taffeta. As I sat there, running it through my fingers, the memories came flooding back. It still rustled and shimmered as it did all those years ago, I was fourteen. In mum’s skilful hands, the white taffeta would become my confirmation dress. Mum was a very talented seamstress, making many of her own clothes, and my clothes too. Her smocking was something to be reckoned with. Knitting was also loved by mum - remembering the swimming costume and trunks lovingly made for me and my brother, but we won’t go there! Back to my confirmation. Our vicar, Fr. Henry Hughes, was a larger than life character, a very holy priest in the very best of that tradition; and he made a great impact on my life. Even today I find myself living by many of his standards and sayings. I attended church from an early age, not missing many Sundays; morning service and later,as I got older, catechism in the afternoon. If I did miss a Sunday, there through the letter box on a Monday, would be a note from Fr. Henry, hoping all was well. Miss two Sundays, and you would hear the chug of his old Ford pulling up outside. I chuckle now thinking back, perhaps he just liked coming round to sit in our fireside chairs which he always commented how comfortable they were! It made mum and dad smile, they always welcomed him, not that that could be said for our cocker spaniel, who growled continually at him from underneath the opposite chair. She was very wary of men, especially one in a black cassock.
Confirmation was a very important event in my church life, and also for my friend Juliet. Dr. Cuthbert Bardsley had just taken up his appointment as Bishop of Coventry. Juliet and I were to be the first candidates to be confirmed by him in Coventry. The service was held at St. Luke’s, Holbrooks, in late spring 1956. In those days, the tradition was for girls to wear white veils, and Fr. Henry, ever the stickler for correctness, made sure we didn’t have a whisp of hair showing.
The service was full of splendour, reverence, wonderful music, and of course the nerves. Mum had worked her magic, and my dress was beautiful. A fully flared skirt, and a fitted bodice with tiny pearl buttons. I often wish that a photo had been taken to record that important event in my life, and my small part in local history.
I received the book Footprints by Margaret Fishback Powers, for my birthday four years ago. Coincidentally it was also written the year I was born, in 1964!
The book is a collection of scripture reading and reflections all based on her poem, (which was written for her husband), and is a treasure trove which I can dip in and out of most days. I also take it with me when I go on our caravan holidays!
I suppose like most people, I have experienced times of anxiety, sadness and worry as well as many happy times. The words of this poem and, indeed the whole book has helped me through all these times.
The poem is rather long but the last part is here for you...
“…But I’m aware that during the most troublesome times of my life there is only one set of footprints. I just don’t understand why, when I needed You most, You leave me.”
He whispered, “My precious child. I love you and will never leave you, never, ever, during your trials and testings. When you saw only one set of footprints it was then that I carried you.”
What more can be said…
I'm writing this on holiday at Amble in Northumberland on the north east coast. Amble call itself 'the friendliest port' and people do their best to live up to the title. A few days ago we were in Alnwick (there's a new railway there!) David Scott (once vicar of St James) once told me that he was born in Alnwick but when he was a boy his parents 'moved south to Gateshead' It was hard for a Coventry kid like me to imagine.
Soon our Parish Pilgrims will be her in the real North remembering St. Aiden and St. Cuthbert and walking to Lindisfarne. There is something wonderfully genuine about the saints of the North. Omn July 25th we remebered St James, an ambitious and noisy fisherman. He tells us that faith needs to be witnessed to by genuine good works.
Soon we will begin a new era of faith and good works - and genuine friendliness - as we grow together 'under new management'