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From the Rectory – April

Cornerstone, Stone Age, Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone, Gallstones, Stonehenge and The Rolling Stones.  If you’re asked to think of a stone it’s far more likely that one of these will spring to mind rather than the much duller dictionary definition of ‘a hard solid non-metallic mineral matter of which rock is made’.

More than fifty years after it’s first broadcast, the Hanna-Barbera animated sitcom The Flintstones still regularly tops polls among viewers asked about their favourite cartoons. The juxtaposition of primitive technology into mid-twentieth century American suburbs was a ratings winner, although how stone tires on a stone car could get a puncture was never satisfactorily explained! read more

Library News – April

Well now, Brexit or no Brexit? I have no more idea than you have. What’s clear, though, is that the Brexit arguments have given us a huge shake-up in how we see ourselves as a country and a society, and how we see our relationships both with other countries and within our own communities.
Maybe there’s an opportunity here to re-shape the way we all live together. Is this a chance to put God’s values nearer to the heart of our society?

I’ve put three books in the library that may help us see whether there’s anything we can do to make that happen, by ourselves or together as a church. Two are by Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, “Dethroning Mammon” and “Reimagining Britain” and one by John Sentamu, Archbishop of York “On Rock or Sand?” read more

From the Rectory – March

Raconteur is a marketing agency and publisher who create digital campaigns for various big named brands, as well as smaller brands with big aspirations. Among the content and special reports they produce, one of their particular strengths is putting together lists with all sorts of unusual and unexpected themes.

Back in 2015, they asked various journalists, politicians and authors to vote for who they thought would be the ultimate dinner party guest. The results produced a few controversial surprises. Nearly two years before he became president Donald Trump received a vote or two, as did drug lord Pablo Escobar, outspoken feminist Germaine Greer and outrageous comic Joan Rivers. Quite what the conversation would have been like at a table with those four is something that survey didn’t dwell on, but it’s probably fair to say it wouldn’t be dull. read more

Library News – March

Lent is a good time to stop and think. A good time to consider our relationship with God, and maybe to go to an author who will open our minds to some new thoughts or insights. Have a browse through our Library, particularly the shelves labelled “Prayer and Meditation” and “Living the Christian Life” and see what you find there.

I’ve put three new titles into the Library for Lent this year. Two are booklets recommended by the Archbishops, one for the 40 days of Lent, the other for the 40 days from Easter to Ascension, though you could use either of them for Lent. They are in the “Pilgrim Journeys” series, one on the Beatitudes and one on the Lord’s Prayer, both written by Steven Croft, the Bishop of Oxford. They have a reading, a reflection, and a prayer for each day, and will guide you thoughtfully through Lent. I’ve put 10 copies of each in the Library, so please feel free to take one home with you. read more

From the Rectory – February

For the incurable romantic looking for a twist on the traditional gift for Valentine’s Day, a rose is always a good place to start. But why go with red? Rose breeders have produced some striking alternatives, ranging from a dark purple to striped white and pink. There’s no shortage of imaginative names for these blooms either, as the ‘Neil Diamond’, the ‘Ketchup & Mustard’ and the ‘Joseph’s Coat’ are all potential choices. When money is no object, one enthusiastic retailer offers a natural rose dipped in 24 karat gold, keenly priced at only £129! read more

Library News – February

I looked into his face and saw the gates of Hell. Not evil itself, rather the devastation caused by evil. A closed and corrupted soul, so completely absorbed into itself that even the remnants of guilt he felt for his behaviour were turned into another way of proving himself superior. A self-centredness that allowed no other subject for its attention.
I was seriously frightened. I wanted to run. But God said no. The Shepherd is always looking for His lost sheep, and if I am in the place where one is, I have to try and do His work with Him.
How does a person get so lost? I had watched with sadness over the years as our friend began to build a wall around himself, stiffening into a rigid authoritarian. He seemed to have a need to show himself rather than the rest of us that he was always right, had better knowledge, superior understanding. An accident gave him that wonderful victim’s ego trip, the household organised around his needs. Step by step into the darkness and the loneliness of self.
It could, I saw, happen to us all.
The book I turned to for help was C. S. Lewis’ “The Screwtape Letters”. We have in the Library many books that can help us live the Christian life. They show us how to read the Bible, how to pray, how to grow in love, how to walk the path towards our God. We don’t seem to have very many that show us the other path, the one our friend has taken, step by step away from God and His life. We do, I think, need to see that path, so that we notice the danger signs, the choices to avoid. “The Screwtape Letters” and John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress” were the only ones I could find, and an essay by C. S. Lewis called “The Inner Ring” in a collection of essays called “Screwtape Proposes a Toast”.
Screwtape is 70 plus years old, set in WW2, but what it shows is as real now as it was then. Read it and see yourself, and perhaps it will help you to help someone else. I hope so.
Rosemary Smith read more

From the Rectory – January

Pop singer, musician and philanthropist Cliff Richard, the country of Myanmar and New Years Eve have one thing in common. They were all previously known by another name. Cliff Richard was born Harry Webb, Myanmar was Burma and New Years Eve was rather unimaginatively known as Old Years Night.

Spectacular celebrations to mark the passing of another year and the welcoming in of a new one occur the world over, and Samoa in the South Pacific is the first to get the party started. This hasn’t always been the case though. Up until 2010, Samoa was the last country in the world to see the calendar turn from the 31st of December to the 1st of January. Following a government decision, Samoa moved to the west of the international date line, and were subsequently the first nation to see in 2011. read more

Library News – January

I did a course, a couple of years ago in Children’s Book Illustration. I’ve found it very useful. The skills it taught me have gone into a stream of birthday cards for friends and family, the Bible story cards for Nicky’s snakes and ladders game, and our Christmas cards.

Action, Reaction, Interaction, that’s the mantra for illustrations. Something must be happening, the characters must be reacting to something, interacting with each other. The picture must pull you into the story, must tell you something more than the plain words. The “more” can be the emotion it shows, or it can be the extra details a picture can bring, perhaps the echo of other scenes, or a telling point of character. read more

From the Rectory – December

Following a recent survey, the retailer Matalan reported that 82% of people own a Christmas jumper and that young adults between 25-34 year were the most likely to purchase one. Over three quarters of people buy their festive jumper to wear for an event at work. More than half wear one on Christmas Day. The options are near enough limitless, from a traditional Christmas tree, snowman or reindeer, to the less conventional ‘We Three Gins’ or Darth Vader in a Santa hat. Even computer game character Sonic the Hedgehog is available for the discerning fashionista looking for an original take on festive attire. read more

Library News – December

December. Christmas. The stable in Bethlehem. God here, human among us…
We walk through December step by step towards that stable, and the amazing act of God within it. We kneel, finally, in the straw, on our knees before the Child, and when we do, we find we are not alone. The stable is crowded. Not only the Holy Family, not only the shepherds, the donkey, the cows, the sheep, the place is filled with people.
A throng of strangers kneeling together, a most peculiar mixture of men, women, and children, dressed in the strangest, outrageous, mixture of clothing. We see a frock-coat here, jeans and tee shirt there, a Roman toga, someone in feathers and deerskin, in a sarong and flowers, a woman in a high mediaeval wimple, a battered looking man in chain-mail, ruffs and doublets, bare feet and rags, the uniforms of a hundred armies. The walls of the stable have faded out of focus.
Perhaps at our shoulder we see Simon or Sally, others from our church and our benefice, but who are the rest? It is the church, us Christians, gathered together in a worship that stretches back two thousand years. We are not alone as we follow Jesus. We have around us all the saints of God.
Our Library has books about saints. “Saints on Earth” by John Darch and Stuart Burns gives thumbnails of the people we remember day by day through the year. Janina Ramirez’ “The private Lives of the Saints” tells us the histories and backgrounds of the saints in early Britain. We have books about people, from thoughtful biographies (“Michael Ramsey” by Michael De-la-Noy) to racy stories of conversion and mission (“Taming the Tiger” by Tony Anthony). All of us are saints together. All of us kneeling in the straw of the stable in Bethlehem. Not strangers at all. The loving family of God.
Rosemary Smith read more