Daily Reflections 
- keeping in touch 
All Church services and mid-week gatherings are cancelled during the current situation. This means that there will be no formal services in St Laurence Church for the time being. 
 
However, we will continue praying for everyone and providing as much support as we can during these difficult times. As part of that the Vicar, Rev Frank Gimson, is sharing Bible passages and some thoughts on a regular basis (currently daily). These will be included here on the website, but if you would like to receive them in an email, please contact the Vicar either by email to fateamrector@outlook.com or by using the contact form. 
 
If you know anyone else who would like to receive them, please ask them to contact the Vicar as above. 
Friday 5th June 2020 
 
‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves’ (Luke 10:2-3). 
 
Today the Church remembers Saint Boniface (c. 675-754). An English missionary and reformer, he is often called the apostle of Germany for his role in bringing the faith to that country. Born near Crediton, his real name was Wynfrith, but he became known as Boniface (“good deeds”). In his letters and in the writings of his contemporaries, he appears as a man of purpose and dedication, an innovator with a powerful though wilful personality. At thirty, he was ordained and set out to preach in Friesland, from where he was soon expelled because of war between its heathen king and Charles Martel of France. 
 
Boniface went into Hesse and Bavaria, having secured the support of the Pope and of Charles Martel for his work there. According to legend he was the creator of the very first Christmas tree. In Hesse, in the presence of a large crowd of pagans, he cut down the Sacred Oak of Geismar, a tree of immense age and girth and sacred to the god Thor. It is said that after only a few blows of his axe, the tree tottered and crashed to the ground, breaking into four pieces and revealing itself to be rotted away within. As he did this he called to the pagans to see the power of his God over theirs. Then he either planted a fir tree in its place or one spontaneously grew. 
 
This was the beginning of a highly successful missionary effort, and the planting of a vigorous Christian church in Germany, where Boniface was eventually consecrated bishop. He asked the Christian Saxons of England to support his work among their kinsmen on the continent, and they responded with money, books, supplies, and above all, with a steady supply of monks to assist him in teaching and preaching. Boniface never forgot his initial failure in Friesland, and in old age he resigned his bishopric and returned to work there. He preached among them with considerable success. On 5th June 754, the eve of Pentecost, as he was preparing a group of Frisians for confirmation they were attacked and killed by heathen warriors. 
 
‘A Savanta ComRes opinion poll.. suggested that the public backed the early reopening of churches and chapels, provided they could maintain social distancing. Forty-six per cent of the adults polled supported reopening earlier than 4 July: a tentative date mentioned at the start of May. This figure rose to 66 per cent among respondents who attended regularly. The four most important purposes for reopened churches and chapels were listed in the survey responses: providing a place where those who had died as a result of coronavirus could be remembered; providing space for quiet reflection and private prayer; holding occasions such as wedding, funerals, and baptisms; and providing community services’ (Church Times 2 June 2020). 
 
The collect for today: 
God our redeemer, 
who called your servant Boniface 
to preach the gospel among the German people 
and to build up your Church in holiness: 
grant that we may preserve in our hearts 
that faith which he taught with his words and sealed with his blood, 
and profess it in lives dedicated to your Son 
Jesus Christ our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for Churches Together in Downton, as we remember that we all belong to God’s kingdom - and that is what matters. 
 
We can say with Paul: ‘I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Romans 8:38-39). 
Thursday 4th June 2020 
 
He asked him, ‘Which commandment is the first of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is this, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these’ (Mark 12:28-31). 
 
What the scribe is asking here is not which commandment is first of many, but rather which commandment defines the core of Torah law - stands at its centre, summarizes it. Is there one law that is the key to all the laws? A number of prophets and rabbis had tried to summarize the law: “What does Yahweh require of you, but to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8). “What you hate for yourself, do not to your neighbour. This is the whole law, the rest is commentary” (Hillel). “You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Akiba). Jesus says: the first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one” (v.29). The Jews refer to these words as the “Shema” which means, “to hear” and comes from Deuteronomy 6:4-5. The Shema is regularly recited in synagogue worship and daily prayers. In reciting the Shema, Jesus goes to the Torah - to the core of Jewish faith and practice, using it to introduce the commandment to love God. The Shema is not itself a commandment, but instead establishes the foundation for the commandment to love God. 
 
“In an open letter sent on Monday to MPs whose constituencies lie in his diocese, the Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, writes: “I hope that you would lobby for an urgent review of the continued closure of our church buildings to individuals who seek solace in such places [church buildings]... At a time when tensions run high, I believe that there is a deep thirst for access to churches and cathedrals as places of prayer for people of committed faith, or for anyone who is in search of space in which to find peace… We urgently need places and experience that build hope, trust, and endurance. The capacity of the Christian Church to engender those virtues through prayer and stillness in its buildings should not be underestimated.” 
In a series of tweets after Mr Jenrick’s briefing on Sunday, the Bishop of Worcester, Dr John Inge, suggested: “I think we should be arguing (a) that it is too soon to open other buildings; or (b) that our churches should be allowed to open alongside them. To suggest that our churches should remain closed while other ‘non-essential’ shops and buildings open is to condone secularism.” The benefits of prayer were “not generally of such direct economic benefit”, but that did not mean that they didn’t matter, he observed. “The risk to a person sitting quietly to pray in a church which is properly cleaned and supervised is surely not greater than a trip to the supermarket?” (Church Times 2 June 2020). 
 
Reflecting on the news from America this week, Archbishop John Sentamu said ‘Martin Luther King said violence causes as many problems as it solves … darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that; hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that’ (John Sentamu, Today, BBC Radio 4). We must allow God to open our eyes and see his living presence in all people - those like us and those who are different. ‘As we take the time to see, as we take time to welcome a child, or a stranger, or one another, we begin to learn what it means to welcome God. And as we welcome God, we begin to see differently, not distracted by rivalry or fear but able to see, to love and to act’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, Wednesday 3 June). 
 
The alternative collect for Pentecost: 
Holy Spirit, sent by the Father, 
ignite in us your holy fire; 
strengthen your children with the gift of faith, 
revive your Church with the breath of love, 
and renew the face of the earth, 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our Church School - both those children now in school and those who are still distance learning - that they may continue to grow in understanding and experience. Also we give thanks for the commitment, dedication and professionalism of the staff, and for all who support and work with them - and bear them in our prayers. 
 
For those unable to access our magazine through the website, there are now a few printed copies available (free) in the Co-op, Chemist and Woodfalls Post Office. Please let anyone know that you think may want one. 
 
On 4th June 1783 Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier launched an un-crewed hot-air balloon, the first public demonstration of the discovery that hot air in a large lightweight bag rises. Hot air, of course, is never in short supply. 
Wednesday 3rd June 2020 
 
‘I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him’ (2 Timothy 1:12). 
 
We have confidence in Jesus who dwells in us through the Holy Spirit. He is our Saviour, our Redeemer - the one to whom we have committed our lives and eternity. We think of what God has done for us, of all he has entrusted to us - and we entrust ourselves to him. ‘For I know that my Redeemer lives’ (Job 19:25); ‘The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?’ (Psalm 27:1). Secure in him we can pray (as below) ‘open our lips by your Spirit, that every tongue may tell of your glory’. 
 
At this time in the Church’s year - following Pentecost - we focus on the first disciples and the early days of the Church. ‘We have different understandings of what it is to be human, and our whole way of thinking about human and divine experience is going to be totally different from the first century. We need to get our mind round that when we imagine the Early Church… The New Testament as a canonical collection emerged during the first three to four centuries; so the Early Church is the context in which this is happening. Fundamental questions were asked in this period, and answers formulated, and we live in the light of these.’ (Judith Lieu, Lady Margaret’s Professor of Divinity, Cambridge - Church Times 3 August 2018). 
 
More on when our churches can open: ‘The Government is continuing to review when it might be safe to ease restrictions on places of worship, the Communities Secretary, Robert Jenrick.. said. “I can understand how people of faith would consider it strange that shops, cafés, pubs, restaurants, many other settings might be open in the weeks and months ahead, but not somewhere as important as a place of worship”.. The first logical step was probably to open for individual or private prayer, which would then be “a springboard, hopefully, conditional on the rate of infection, obviously, to small weddings and then, in time, to services.. We certainly don’t want to see what we’ve seen in some countries, where large gatherings in places of worship - particularly because of the demographic in some faiths, because of singing hymns, and so on, which can lead to, sort of, exhalation - can create particular problems.” 
‘The Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, is a member of the (places-of-worship) task force. She said, after the Prime Minister’s announcement, that larger groups could gather outside from the start of this week, and that joy at being able to meet with friends and family once more was being tempered by the vital caution contained in the latest scientific advice. There was no doubt that a second wave of the virus could be devastating for our way of life. “Yet with shops reopening and some people appearing to be returning to a degree of normality, it is understandable that questions are being raised as to how and where the lockdown is being relaxed,” she said’ (Church Times 2 June 2020). 
 
The prayer after communion for Pentecost: 
Faithful God, 
who fulfilled the promises of Easter 
by sending us your Holy Spirit 
and opening to every race and nation 
the way of life eternal: 
open our lips by your Spirit, 
that every tongue may tell of your glory; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for the bereaved, remembering especially those who cannot have their loved ones with them in their last hours, and those relatives and friends unable to attend a funeral. The inability to say a proper goodbye or to share together in mourning and remembrance is an added pressure at an already difficult time. 
 
I shall be using simple order for Morning Prayer in Church at 10:30am. I shall ring the bell and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. 
 
We have some welcome and much-needed rain this morning, refreshing the ground and the atmosphere. ‘I will give you your rains in their season, and the land shall yield its produce, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit’ (Leviticus 26:4). 
Tuesday 2nd June 2020 
 
Jesus said to them, ‘Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s’ (Mark 12:17). 
 
One of the main reasons the Romans had such a problem with Christians was that they refused to worship the Emperor. They had a higher allegiance - to God. ‘In the mid-second-century account of the martyrdom of Polycarp, officials begged Polycarp to say ‘Caesar is Lord’, and to offer incense, to save his life. He refused. Later, in the arena, he was asked by the governor to swear an oath by the ‘luck of Caesar’. He refused’ (BBC History). ‘In a letter to Emperor Trajan, Governor Pliny the Younger described his having executed a number of Christians on the grounds of their “obstinacy,” though he could prove no other crime they might have committed. Marcus Aurelius, the philosopher emperor of the second century who persecuted Christians to promote the Roman gods admired their willingness to suffer death but disdained them for having developed this nature out of “obstinacy” rather than reason’ (owlcation.com). 
 
Some would say that we face a similar, although more subtle and less overt problem today. Do we accept the norms and mores of contemporary culture, or adhere steadfastly to the Christian ethic: putting the demands and obligations of our faith before all else? This is seldom as clear-cut as we might wish. It is all too easy to make small compromises that can then lead to bigger ones. It is just as well that we have a loving, forgiving God! ‘Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin’ (Hebrews 4:14-15). 
 
We must always put God first and make his service our priority. In the Bible we have an example of this in the Book of Acts when Peter and John are before the Jewish Council: Peter and John answered them, ‘Whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; for we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard’ (Acts 4:19-20). Would we be so bold? 
 
When will we be allowed to open our churches for prayer and worship again? The government is facing mounting calls that we can reopen as lockdown restrictions ease. Churches, which have been closed for more than two months, are due to open under step three of the government’s recovery plan on 4th July at the earliest - along with hairdressers, cinemas and pubs! Cardinal Vincent Nichols said in his Pentecost homily “This week’s announcements by the prime minister that some indoor sales premises can open tomorrow and that most shops can open on 15 June, questions directly the reasons why our churches remain closed. We are told that these openings, which are to be carefully managed, are based on the need to encourage key activities to start up again. Why are churches excluded from this decision?” 
 
The collect during this week: 
O Lord, from whom all good things come: 
grant to us your humble servants, 
that by your holy inspiration 
we may think those things that are good, 
and by your merciful guiding may perform the same; 
through our Lord Jesus Christ, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our Churchwarden and Deputy Churchwardens. They work hard for our Church and we are most grateful for their ministry for and with us. 
 
The Met Office tells us that the UK has recorded the sunniest spring since records began in 1929. Also ‘Spring 2020 has been very dry, and May in parts of England has been exceptionally dry. As it stands up to May 27, for England, May 2020 is the driest May on record since 1896, with less than 10mm rain falling across England on average’ (Official blog of the Met Office news team). All this fine weather has certainly made the past couple of months much easier to bear, but what does it say about the climate? 
 
It was 67 years ago today, on 2nd June 1953, that the 27-year-old Elizabeth II was crowned queen at Westminster Abbey. These past nearly 70 years have been a time of great change and we are grateful for her faithful service and steadying presence. May God keep her and bless her. 
Monday 1st June 2020 
 
‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour’ (Luke 1:46-47). 
 
Today the Church celebrates the visit of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth shortly after Gabriel has told her that she is to bear God’s son. This commemoration is usually celebrated on 31st May but has been transferred to today as Pentecost took precedence. 
 
Why does Mary do it - traveling to a town probably some 80 to 100 miles away? Well, if we think about what has just happened: she’s been told that she is pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit. She has also learned that her cousin Elizabeth, believed to be too old to conceive, is expecting as well. Mary must have been bursting to talk to the one woman who could personally understand her excitement, her wonder, and probably her nervousness, too. 
 
One thing seems to unite these two women in the account. The first to speak, Elizabeth, is filled with the Holy Spirit and cries out in a loud voice, uttering words which we could only consider prophetic: “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb” (Luke 1:42). The other, Mary, responds to this word of prophecy with her own - saying in her song: “All generations will call me blessed” (Luke 1:48). 
 
Her song, which we call the Magnificat, sees the work of God in history with the eyes of faith. It is radical in its outlook and has inspired great numbers through the centuries. One theme is displacing the proud, mighty, and wealthy from their high estate, and in their place exalting the humble, the hungry, and poor. It sounds much like Jesus’ own mission, “to preach good news to the poor... to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed” (Luke 4:18, quoting Isaiah 61:1-2). The other theme is God’s faithfulness to those who trust him - or, in Old Testament language, “to those who fear him.” God’s salvation is an outworking of remembering and acting on his own promise to Abraham nearly two thousand years before - the faithful God showing mercy and salvation to those who trust him. 
 
It is a clearly a good visit. Elizabeth, who is about six months pregnant, tells Mary “as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy” (Luke 1:44). Mary stays for three months, presumably until John the Baptist is born. Upon returning home, Mary would be subject to cruel taunts and slander - here she is safe. Upon returning home, Mary would have to stand on her own spiritual feet, lonely, misunderstood and rejected. Here she is loved and accepted. We all need the opportunity to step back at times - whether that be a holiday, retreat or just a day out. We should remember those unable to do so, especially at this time. 
 
The collect for today: 
Mighty God, 
by whose grace Elizabeth rejoiced with Mary 
and greeted her as the mother of the Lord: 
look with favour on your lowly servants 
that, with Mary, we may magnify your holy name 
and rejoice to acclaim her Son our Saviour, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for peace in the world. In many parts of the world, the pandemic appears to have encouraged competing nationalist agendas. We pray that Christ, the Prince of Peace, may guide and encourage us to ‘seek peace, and pursue it’ (Psalm 34:14). 
 
The June issue of Downton Parish News is now available free to view or download on our website. However not everyone has access to the internet, and we are very conscious that some previous subscribers and others may be missing their printed copy of the magazine. So if you know of a friend or neighbour who might like to read the magazine but cannot access it for themselves, perhaps you could consider printing a copy - or part of one - for them so that they can continue to keep in touch. They and we would be most grateful. 
Sunday 31st May 2020 - Pentecost 
 
‘When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability’ (Acts 2:1-4). 
 
Today is the Feast of Pentecost - or Whitsun as traditionally it was called here. This probably an abbreviation of White Sunday from the white garments worn by catechumens, or alternatively from the Old English ‘wyt’ because the Holy Spirit brought ‘wyt and wysdome ynto all Cristes dyscyples’ (John Mirk c.1382-1414). In the Bible Pentecost is the Jewish Feast of Harvest or the Feast of Weeks. The word is Greek, meaning fifty, and reflects the fifty days since Passover - or for us, Easter. 
 
Pentecost celebrates the birthday of the church. The day when Jesus fulfils his promise of sending to his followers the Spirit of God to be with them and in them. This coming of God as the Holy Spirit is marked by the sounds and signs of God’s power - a power which enables them to carry out the task of taking the good news to the ends of the earth. God’s Spirit still empowers us today: to share and to show the love of God and bring people into his kingdom. 
 
When God makes a promise we can always be sure that he keeps it. ‘There comes a moment towards the end of an advert when the voiceover races so quickly through the script that one can barely keep up with what is being said. It’s a script that often ends with the ominous words ‘terms and conditions apply’. The promise of happiness has been made, but freedom is then briskly taken away’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, Friday 29 May). God is not like that. He has promised; he will deliver; his Spirit has come! 
 
I remind you about Together in Prayer today. The diocese is inviting us all to join in prayer during the day. “Come, Holy Spirit” is among the best prayers we can pray - and we are asked not simply to pray that friends and family, colleagues and neighbours might encounter the love of God in Christ, but that they would experience that love in action. 
 
The collect for today: 
God, who as at this time 
taught the hearts of your faithful people 
by sending to them the light of your Holy Spirit: 
grant us by the same Spirit 
to have a right judgement in all things 
and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort; 
through the merits of Christ Jesus our Saviour, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for volunteers helping others in their community. The numbers of people helping out and engaging with their neighbours, often for the first time, has been a real silver lining to the events of these past months. 
 
There is a service for today from the church. There is also a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. For some reason the sound drops and is rather quiet in the middle, so you may need to turn your volume up at that point. Do listen out for the bell at half past ten when I ask that you join me in a time of worship and prayer. 
 
‘He is called the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, the Mind of Christ, the Spirit of Adoption, of Truth, of Liberty, the Creator-Spirit, who by baptism and by resurrection creates anew’ (Gregory Nazianzen). 
Saturday 30th May 2020 
 
‘This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true. But there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written’ (John 21:24-25). 
 
We have here what may well have been the original end to the Gospel. They identify the writer with the disciple whom Jesus loved, who was an eyewitness to the events described and the words spoken. We are indebted to him for writing his gospel, for through it he is still testifying to those things of which he wrote. Like him we too are called to be witnesses to the good news of Jesus. ‘We know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life’ (1 John 5:20). 
 
These verses also underscore our continuing need to learn and grow as the Church in our understanding of the faith. There is so much more about Jesus and his message for us yet to discover. ‘When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come’ (John 16:13). 
 
All this envisages something far beyond that sought by those who want merely to find their way into the Kingdom of God. The Spirit works in and through us so that we might seek out and extend God’s Kingdom in the hearts and lives of all who might respond - an ever-expanding panorama of God’s renewing grace flowing out into the world. To use an analogy: ‘Gather a throng of people and pour them into a ferry... we may divide all the alert passengers into two classes - those who are interested in crossing the river and those who are merely interested in getting across’ (Max Eastman). 
 
A prayer for growth: 
God of mission, 
who alone brings growth to your Church: 
send your Holy Spirit 
to give vision to our planning, 
wisdom to our actions, 
and power to our witness. 
Help our church to grow in numbers, 
in spiritual commitment to you, 
and in service to our local community; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
 
I have been asked by the family of Pauline Turner to tell you that she has passed away at Ashley Grange. She was a long-standing member of our Church and will be much missed. The past few years have been difficult and she is now at peace. The plan is to have a service of Thanksgiving for her life on 5th December. Please bear her and the family (her husband Michael, and children Liz, Abby and Catherine) in your prayers. Donations to the Alzheimer’s Society and Stroke Association can be made via Chris White, funeral directors if people wish to do so. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for those in Residential and Nursing Homes. We thank God for the dedication and hard work of all the staff and ask God’s blessing and protection on them and all the residents. 
 
On 30th May 1431 Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in Rouen. Having led the French army in a momentous victory over England at Orléans during the Hundred Years' War, she was charged with heresy and witchcraft. Last year we visited the Historial Jeanne d’Arc in Rouen which has a very good - though perhaps overlong - multimedia presentation on the events around her trial. It also makes clear that the fault for what happened to her lies squarely with Les Anglais! 
 
‘God is alive and abroad in his world. At times his footsteps may appear faint or indistinct, but they are there. Those who have eyes to see him and the curiosity, if not the faith, to follow them, will catch glimpses of his glory and learn to stand in awe at the presence of God in the ordinary’ (Roy Williamson). 
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