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Library News – February

Much as I enjoy the services as we have them now, I regret that we do not together, as a congregation, recite the Bible any more. We have two Bible readings in most services, we taste the Old Testament and hear the Gospels and Epistles, but we have lost the songs and the poetry of the Bible.
We used to say or sing the psalms. We used to say together the great New Testament poems, Mary’s Magnificat, Zechariah’s Benedictus, Simeon’s Nunc Dimittis. Week by week the poetry embedded itself in our memory, as poetry does. And with the poetry came prayer. We have lost a way of talking with God.
I suspect the clergy haven’t noticed this. Each Anglican priest says Morning Prayer each day, and so recites the psalms in order through the year. The poetry and the prayer runs through their minds still, and they may not see what their people have lost.
I urge you to return to the psalms. We have some books in the Library that can help. C.S. Lewis’ “Reflections on the Psalms” is a thoughtful look at the psalms, and what they were written about. David Garnsey’s “Songs From a Dry Land” is a useful brief description of each of the psalms, with some odd comments. Dietrich Bonhoeffer “Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible” is a tiny book, urging us to pray with Jesus through the psalms, showing us how in the psalms, God is teaching us what to pray.
I would recommend starting with Eugene H Peterson, “Psalms: Prayers of the Heart” (A Lifebuilder Bible Study) to understand the psalms as both poetry and prayer. He takes twelve psalms and leads us (in study question style) through the different ways of prayer each gives us. He shows us how to use them all. Try it. read more

From the Rectory – January

If you make a New Years resolution, how long do you think it will last? Is it going to be something of a complete life change, which means you’ll never go back to the previous way of doing things? Or is it something that will likely last no more than a couple of days? A survey from an American University back in 2012 suggested that a surprisingly high 75% of resolutions would last a week, and an equally surprising 46% will go for six months. If you’re younger the chances are better as well. Four in every ten people in their twenties will achieve their resolution, but if you’re over 50, it drops dramatically to below 15%. The list of the top ten New Years resolutions contains the usual suspects, lose weight, quit smoking, stay fit, spend less. My favourite though came in at number 8 – “help others in their dreams.” read more

Library News – January

My granddaughter wrote, as her final year dissertation at university, an essay on “The Apocalypse in Video Games”. The Disaster At The End Of Time…
“The Day of the Lord” the prophets called it, and strangely they seemed to welcome it. Isaiah positively relishes the destruction he describes. The early Church looked forward to it. The Book of Revelation and all that…

But isn’t the apocalypse a huge disaster? Think of all those end-of-the-world disaster films. Why would anyone welcome it? Is there a difference between the way Christians see the apocalypse and how non-believers see it? read more

From the Rectory – December

If there was a list of the most surprising Christmas traditions that happen around the world, Japan would undoubtedly come near the top. In a country where it isn’t even a national holiday, the astonishing success of Kentucky Fried Chicken at Christmas is remarkable.

It began some forty years ago, when foreigners who were living in Japan struggled to find a whole turkey or chicken anywhere else, so ended up purchasing a yuletide KFC. Ever the masters of marketing, the company seized on this and now offers specifically themed traditional Christmas party barrels. This family pack includes fried chicken, a salad, and a chocolate cake. So popular are these barrels that customers have to pre-order, and it’s not unusual for them to sell out more than a month before Christmas Day itself. read more

Library News – December

I was trying to paint a picture for a meditation – a devotional picture – and I found I couldn’t do it.

I’m a moderate artist. I can paint a landscape, I can illustrate a story, I can draw birthday cards with mermaids or monsters to amuse my grandchildren. But a devotional picture has to do more than that. It has to show you the landscape of the soul. It has to take you right through the story to the truths beneath. It should be, says one writer, “a window for our earthly eyes through which we can see the Kingdom of Heaven.” I can’t do that. read more

From the Rectory – November

In 1760, the engraver and cartographer John Spilsbury mounted a map onto a sheet of hardboard, and using a marquetry saw, produced the first jigsaw puzzle. Originally known as dissections, these ‘dissected maps’ were used to teach geography, as the pieces were cut along national borders.

It wasn’t until around 1880 that the name ‘jigsaw’ became associated with the puzzles, when fretsaws began to be used to cut them up into pieces. Why they were not called ‘fretsaw puzzles’ seems to have been an accident of history. In the following years, subject matter became more varied. From cityscapes to pastoral scenes, steam trains to film posters, there is now no theme off limits. read more

Library News – November

What do you do when you can’t find God? When you can’t hear Him? When you ask a question and get no reply?

He’s there. You know with your mind that He’s there, but your heart is dry and empty, or you’ve asked Him in prayer for guidance, and you’re getting nothing. What do you do?

You carry on, that’s what you do. You pray, and you read the Bible, and, most important, because we are not alone with God, you hang out with other Christians. That means go to church, and read books by Christians. And with neither your head nor your heart, but with your will, you trust God to show himself to you when He sees you are ready. read more

From the Rectory – October

As well as being an expert on the history and culture of Italian Cuisine, Mario Batali is an accomplished chef, restauranteur and media personality in his native America. Like most chefs he is passionate about the quality of produce that he cooks with, and he’s especially keen to see that the fruit and vegetables that are often discarded are put to good use. And it’s not just because of the waste. As Batali says

“We need to figure out a ‘harvest system’ to collect the produce that stores don’t put out for customers to buy because it’s not perfect looking. Frankly, the stuff left to rot in the storeroom is more beautiful to me than the perfect carrot. I’m a gnarly carrot kind of guy.” read more

Library News – October

The church’s budget, says Archbishop Justin Welby “is applied theology expressed in numbers.” Now there’s a thought for our PCC!

I have been reading Justin Welby’s book “Dethroning Mammon”. It is not quite what I had expected. Welby does not say that money is unimportant. Quite the contrary, he explains that money is central to the working of human society. But money deceives us. It is because money is important that we need to see it clearly for what it is. What he is showing us is how to handle money, and the power it brings, as Christians. read more

From the Rectory – September

‘The times they are a changin’ was an attempt by the American songwriter, singer, painter and writer, Bob Dylan, to write an anthem of change for the moment. Which for Dylan was 1964. At the time it was released the single was a moderate hit, squeaking into the top ten. Unlike many of the the songs that charted above it, Dylan’s has had astonishing longevity, has been covered by artists from the Beach Boys to Phil Collins, and was recently voted one of the greatest songs of all time. The social moral and political upheavals of the 1960s found their voice in Dylan’s song. It not only reflected a sentiment that was already happening, but also anticipated what would come later.  Change can be exciting, exhilarating and thrilling. But just as easily it can difficult and demanding. Change though is necessary, not for its own sake, but because without it there is only decay. As the American author and lecturer Gail Sheehy said ‘If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living.’ Which is all along way round of explaining the changing of the times we will be holding Sunday services in our Benefice of Lawford, the Bromleys and Little Bentley.

The wheels of the Church of England move exasperatingly slowly. Our decision to join together as a single Benefice of three parishes was taken some time back, but the legal niceties have still yet to be completed. Despite this, we have been working more closely together over the past year or so, and it has become clear that we need to change the times and nature of some of our Sunday services to better use our clergy, readers and lay preachers, and to see where God might be working so that we can join in. read more