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

Library News – September

Someone had laid a small bunch of wildflowers on the plain stone altar. We were not the only visitors that day.

We had climbed up onto this high stony hill to see the chapel of St. Antoine, perched above the fields and woodlands of the valley, nearly a thousand years old. The village church was down amongst the houses. We had expected a ruin up here. But no. It was bare, but not empty. A few rows of benches were the only furniture. What it was full of was beauty and a sense of worship. The rounded sanctuary was painted from floor to ceiling, a simple pattern in faded colours. Clear light glowed on the walls and the arches and lit up the little side chapel. The whole space sang of the worship of God, and it was full of prayer. read more

From the Rectory – August

French military leader and statesman Charles de Gaulle was a man with a good grasp of attempting the impossible. While serving as President of France he asked the presumably rhetorical question ‘How can you govern a country which has two hundred and forty-six varieties of cheese?’ Understandably, he didn’t attempt an answer.

De Gaulle understood the impossible. Others less so.

William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin was a hugely successful mathematical physicist, engineer and inventor. Among other things he was knighted for his work on a transatlantic telegraph cable, he determined the lower limit of absolute temperature, and had had the scale of temperature measurements named in his honour. He wasn’t always right though. In 1895 he declared that ‘heavier than air flying machines are impossible. It was just eight years later that he was shown to be completely and utterly wrong. read more

Library News – August

All through July we did Romans. Simon and Sally have expounded St. Paul’s letter to the church in Rome, week by week, bit by bit, until we ought all to know the text and understand Paul’s message. Shouldn’t we?

Well, you can’t cover the letter to the Romans in four sermons, and Romans is only one of Paul’s letters. So I looked in the Library to see if we had any books that would help us carry on listening to what Paul had to say.

It’s important to listen to him. His letters are the earliest accounts we have of Christian experience and Christian thinking, earlier than the Gospels by about twenty years. In them he thinks about and explains the transformation God brought about through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. His thoughts have been the foundation of our Church’s doctrine and practice ever since. read more

From the Rectory – July

Several years ago, the company that make Swan Vesta matches encouraged their employees to make suggestions that might improve their business. History doesn’t record how many different ideas they were presented with, or how truly dreadful the majority might have been. One however, ended up with a change to the business that had a significant financial impact.

Every box of Swan Vesta matches had a strip of sandpaper stuck to both sides of the box for the matches to be struck on. The ingenious member of staff asked why two were necessary – surely one would be enough. read more

Library News – July

Greetings to all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints.” says St. Paul, beginning his letter to the Romans. “To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi” begins another. For Paul it was not just the great, grand figures of the church who were saints. It was every follower of Jesus, every church member. We too are saints.

The tradition of the Church, however, has been to single out special people to call saints. People whose lives showed a special devotion to God in how they lived, or in what they did, or what they wrote. People to take as rôle models, to inspire us to live in the same way. read more

From the Rectory – June

The local elections in May 2017 had many fascinating moments. As neighbourhood issues came to the forefront, the partisan nature of national politics was not as pronounced. Tribal loyalties featured less heavily as is inevitably the case in a nationwide General Election.

Despite the lower turnout and relative lack of engagement, the contests were still keenly fought, and in some places extraordinarily close run.

Nowhere was this more the case than in the South Blyth ward in Northumberland. After two recounts, the number of votes stood equal, so the candidates drew straws to decide who would take the seat. For a result of an election to come to quite literally to the luck of the draw was an extraordinary piece of political theatre. read more

Library News – June

I’ve spent almost all the last six weeks being political. It’s not really a choice for me. I’ve been doing elections at one level or another for the past 40 years and I can’t seem to stop. I thought I’d retired, could sit back and be a benevolent elder in the local Party, but then came this General Election, and there I was, back in the thick of it, coloured rosette flying, organising our candidate, designing leaflets, pushing stuff through letterboxes, accosting perfect strangers, the lot. read more

From the Rectory – May

At the end of the 1970’s, in the days before multi-channel television, children’s programming was limited to two hours on a weekday evening. Alongside controversial school drama Grange Hill, adventurous space dwellers The Clangers, and magazine show Blue Peter, was Vision On. Aimed especially at children with hearing impairment, Vision On featured an assortment of segments, one of which was The Gallery. This section consisted of artwork sent in by viewers which covered every subject imaginable, and ended with one of the presenters apologising that they couldn’t return the pictures, but there was a prize for everyone whose art had been shown. read more

Library News – May

 The Lent course this year was built around the great Christian teacher C. S. Lewis, using scenes from his Narnia books for children, and scenes from “Shadowlands”, the film about Lewis’ love, marriage and widowhood. It was a thoughtful and nourishing Lent course, so I went to the Library to see what we had of C. S. Lewis and his writings.
Lewis lived from 1898 to 1963. I read him a lot when I was a student, when he was still alive and writing, and I am glad to see him still so influential, and read so much today. But I shouldn’t be surprised. He has a marvellous way of showing us how we experience God, and how God brings us to him and uses us for his purpose. He is very clear-eyed about our self-deceptions, and deals ruthlessly with woolly thinking about Christian life and thought. His writings and his insights are as vivid now as they were when he first wrote them.
We have several of Lewis’ books in the Library. We have all his children’s books, the “Chronicles of Narnia”, from “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” to “The Last Battle”. We have “Mere Christianity”, his classic introduction to the fundamental teachings of Christianity. We have two books that I find very helpful at times of loss and grief, “The Problem of Pain” and “A Grief Observed”. He wrote that last one after his wife died, and I often give it to friends who have lost their partner, to help them live through their own grief. We have “The Screwtape Letters”, very sharp on temptation and how to handle it, and “The Four Loves”.
I have also put into the Library some books about Lewis and his work. Rowan Williams wrote “The Lion’s World” about the Narnia books. Not at all what you expect – I recommend it! “Shadowlands” in book form by Brian Sibley gives you the story behind “A Grief Observed”. And I have put there the book of our Lent Course “Not a Tame Lion” by Hilary Brand.
So if you’ve never met any C. S. Lewis books, now’s the time to begin! And if you know him already, try some more…
Rosemary Smith read more