From the Rectory – December

Usually found only between two halves of a burger bun an all beef patty and special sauce, gherkins are one of those food items that divide consumers neatly in two. Those that find them awesomely delicious, and those that would chew off their own fingers rather than eat one. Quite why they should become a popular if somewhat surprising decoration for the Christmas tree in some nations is something of a mystery.

Of the most popular origin legends, one from Spain suggests that it is done in honour of St Nicholas who rescued two young boys who were being held captive in a pickle barrel. Another from Germany originating in the 16th century has it that a pickle is hidden somewhere in the branches of the tree, and is then given as a gift to whichever child can find it. An exciting treat for some, world’s worst treasure hunt for others. read more

Library News – December

Here it is Christmas time again. Here we are, welcoming the Christ child in the stable again. We offer Him our adoration, bring Him gifts. Sing “What shall I give him, poor as I am? …. .. Yet what I can, I give him, give my heart.”
It’s a lovely sentiment, but do we understand what we are singing? In welcoming the baby Jesus we are welcoming God. And giving Him our hearts means giving Him our lives. Which can end us up in some very tedious chores. Because giving our lives to God means serving Him. And serving Him means serving the people He loves. And the people He loves are … guess what … the poor, the lonely, the sick, the lost, the strangers.
Service to God is not glamorous or high status. It can be uncomfortable or undignified – washing peoples’ feet – ugh! Or time-consuming, or frankly irritating. Visiting a grumbling old lady not just once or twice but regularly. Being patient with a surly teenager. Giving lifts, washing up, helping at the night shelter. Working in one of the serving professions, most of which are not well-paid.
“The church,” Archbishop William Temple once said, “is the only society that exists for the benefit of those who are not its members.” We in the church are the ones who are there to serve other people, whether it be the neighbour next door, or the clients of the organisations we work in. Most of them will not be fellow Christians.
We have an excellent book in the Library that explores how our lives can be lives of service. It is “Celebrating Service: Loving and serving our neighbour” by John and Agnes Sturt. Do find it and read it. And think, as you kneel before that child in the stable, what you are offering Him.
Rosemary Smith read more

From the Rectory – November

Early on in JRR Tolkien’s epic masterpiece, Lord of the Rings, there’s a passage describing a birthday party and accompanying firework display, put on by Gandalf the Grey, a wizard of Middle Earth.

In the book, Tolkien describes how the local inhabitants had not seen fireworks like these for many years, as trees, flowers, birds and sailing ships were all created by the wizard’s work with coloured smoke and light. The finale was a large dragon that breathed out fire and, circling over the heads of the guests, was the signal that supper was to begin. read more

Library News – November

I found myself in Holy Trinity Church in Sloane Square the other day, a monument to the Arts and Crafts movement. Beautiful, elegant, and mysteriously dim. Dim because of the windows. Our windows here in Lawford are clear and plain and fill the church with sunlight, these windows glowed with people.
Every square inch of glass it seemed was filled with faces and figures of saints, martyrs, prophets or priests. Each was holding something, or stood in some posture that told you who they were. St Catherine held the wheel she was martyred on, St Hugh had his swan, bishops held their crooks aloft, monks held bibles, all in beautiful pre-Raphaelite style. And the light shone through them.
It seemed appropriate. God’s light shines through the lives of his saints into the world around them, as it should shine through all of us who are the church. The church is us people, not the hierarchy or the buildings. And all through the church year we remember people who were the church before us. Still are, in the timelessness of God. They are a mixed bunch. In November, we have Leonard, a sixth century hermit, and Archbishop William Temple, who died in 1944. There’s St. Denys, patron saint of France, who is probably mostly myth, and Isaac Watts who wrote hymns in the 18th century that we still sing, there’s Queen Margaret of Scotland (d. 1093) and St. Cecilia, martyred in 230, patron saint of music…..
We have a book in our Library that tells the stories of these people. “Saints on Earth” by John Darch and Stuart Burns gives a short biography of the people we remember through the year – look them up by date. Fascinating. It’s on the shelf in the Library labelled “People and Their Lives” along with a rather random (but interesting) collection other biographies. Browse through them, learn about our fellow saints.
Rosemary Smith read more

From the Rectory – October

In the world of sport, scoring systems range from the simple and and easily understood to the downright bizarre.

Football is straightforward enough, as are hockey, badminton, volleyball and squash. Tennis though seems needlessly complicated.

A match in tennis consists of three or five sets, the winner being the first to two or three sets, each of which has a number of games. The aim is be the first to get 6 games to win a set, and be ahead by two. If the number of games is tied at six each then there is a tie breaker to decide who wins a set. Unless it’s the final set, then the players keep playing until one of them is two games ahead. Each game sees the players seek to be the first to score 4 points, and be ahead by two. But rather than points increasing in the obvious progression of 1 – 2 – 3 – 4, instead the scoring system goes 15 – 30 – 40, and then the next point the game is won. Unless they are at 40 for each side, in which case it’s called ‘deuce’, and the next player who wins a point moves to ‘advantage’, then winning the game if they successfully take the next point, or moving back to deuce if they don’t. read more

Library News – October

It is the most Canadian view you can imagine.  Snow-covered peaks frame a long, mirror-smooth lake.   Evergreen forests sweep down the mountainside to ring the shore and reflect in the water.   A lone canoeist lifts his paddle and the sunlight glints off the falling drops….   Timeless beauty.

Look closer.   Half the forest trees are dead.   Like our elms, a beetle has brought disease into the Rockies, and all the pine trees have died.   Only the spruce and fir remain alive.  Small animals and birds, mice, chipmunks, finches, who need the pine nuts for winter food have gone hungry, their numbers fallen.   Foxes and weasels who eat the mice have suffered.  The whole pattern of forest life has changed. read more

From the Rectory – September

The Camino de Santiago, or The Way of St James, is a series of pilgrimages that lead to the shrine of the apostle St James the Great in the Cathedral of Santiago. The majority of those travelling the Camino would begin in France, and often walked the Way for months or sometimes years at a time. It follows for the main part an earlier Roman trade route and was one of the most important Christian Pilgrimages of the Middle Ages. Over the next few centuries the number of pilgrims reduced significantly, until in the late twentieth century only a few hundred people made the journey each year. read more

Library News – September

Whenever I go into a Christian bookshop, I look for collections of prayers.   They are remarkably difficult to come by.   There are plenty of books about prayer    when, where, why, and how    but collections of prayers themselves don’t feature much.

We are not very much better in our church library.   The two shelves labelled “Prayer and Meditation” have more books about prayer than books of prayers.  So I’m always looking for more.   

We do have some good, helpful collections in the library.   The Rhythm of Life” by David Adam and “An Everyday Book of Hours” by William Storey give us patterns of prayers to use, andNorfolk Pictures and Prayers” helps us to pray about what we see every day.  Two books by Mary Fleeson combine thoughtful pictures and meditations, and “Evelyn Underhill’s Prayer Book” compiled by Robyn Wrigley-Carr is a treasure house of prayers.  There are others.  I do hope you browse through these shelves and take any books home if you find them a help. read more

From the Rectory – August

Henry Ford’s vision of the future was one in which no-one earning a good salary would be unable to afford one of his Model T cars. Most famously, his description of the choice he would make available to customers is one of his best known quotes.

‘Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it’s black’

Ford’s belief was that it was only 5% of customers who wanted something different. The ninety-five percent would purchase a car without making a fuss or requesting an alternative colour. This, says Ford, is why you should concentrate on the 95% rather than the five. read more

Library News – August

I am reading yet another book about St. Paul, and rather to my surprise, I can scarcely put it down. It’s not an introduction (one is assumed to know his epistles pretty well) and it’s not telling me why I was all wrong about St Paul up till now, as many do (how do they know?) but instead it’s written as a narrative. It’s Tom Wright’s “Paul, a Biography”.
Saint Paul has not been one of my favourite characters. One must admire him, of course, but he seems a difficult man, all passion and contradictions, and all that stuff about having to wear a hat in church and not ask questions puts one’s back up from the start. But reading this book, I realise that I’ve never looked at the man as a whole, only at splinters of him, like scattered jigsaw bits.
We know St. Paul from two sources. One is the adventure story told by Luke in Acts, all action: disasters, triumphs, crises, friendships, betrayals, with Our Hero bravely shining through. The other is Paul’s letters, admonishments, memories, intricately argued theology, practical guidelines, administrative detail, all mixed together with passages of the deepest poetic inspiration. On the whole we look either at the one, or at the other, drawing lessons from the vivid scenes in Acts, or picking carefully at his close packed prose and his arguments from the law and the prophets.
What this book does is to bring the two together. It is a wonderfully creative approach. Tom Wright’s knowledge of the ancient world and its clashing cultures, and his deep understanding of the Old Testament, the Jewish scripture of the time, means he can show us why Paul faced the opposition that he did, and explain to us what the crises were that blew up in the newly founded Christian communities. As we follow Paul on his journey, Wright shows us how each of the letters Paul wrote came out of the time and the place he was in and the problems that had blown up around him there. And at the end he asks “What was Paul trying to do? Why was he so successful?” and makes a good stab at an answer.
I don’t think I’ve read a book before that made me rush to my Bible and read Galatians straight through. I’ve put a copy in the Library. Do read it.
Rosemary Smith read more