Daily Reflections 
- keeping in touch 
Please see our Latest News and Services pages for details of church services and recorded services. 
 
We 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. 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. 
Sunday 18th April 2021 
 
‘Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure’ (1 John 3:2-3). 
 
In Christ we are a new creation, one with him in his kingdom. We may not be able to know fully what this entails, but we do know that we have a glorious new hope in him. ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him’ (1 Corinthians 2:9). 
 
‘The Duke of Edinburgh was laid to rest in the royal vault in St George’s Chapel, Windsor, on Saturday afternoon. Before the Duke’s coffin was lowered into the vault, the Dean of Windsor, the Rt Revd David Conner, read the commendation: “Go forth upon thy journey from this world, O Christian soul, in the name of God the Father Almighty who created thee; in the name of Jesus Christ who suffered for thee; in the name of the Holy Spirit, who strengtheneth thee; may thy portion this day be in peace, and thy dwelling in the heavenly Jerusalem. Amen.” The funeral service was stripped to its basics, and not only because of the coronavirus restrictions, which meant that the Queen could be accompanied only by 29 members of her family and close friends. Prince Philip’s hand was apparent in the arrangements, not least in the absence of a sermon. It was, perhaps, his last act of kindness to his wife of 73 years, sparing her the ordeal of a long service’ (Church Times 17 April 2021). 
 
The collect for this week: 
Almighty Father, 
who in your great mercy gladdened the disciples 
with the sight of the risen Lord: 
give us such knowledge of his presence with us, 
that we may be strengthened and sustained by his risen life 
and serve you continually in righteousness and truth; 
through Jesus Christ your Son 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/) 
 
There is a recorded service for today from the church and a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. Also at 10:30am we are having a service of Morning Prayer in Church. If you wish to come - and all are very welcome - please let either Jo Parsons or myself know, either by email or phone. It is important to do this each time even if you plan to come every week. We are hoping that we can sing in the churchyard before the service. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary today we pray for all ministers in the village. There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary on Monday we pray for those with financial worries, business owners who have had to close, and workers who have been laid off. On Tuesday we pray for those who produce our Parish magazine and have continued to do so over this past year. 
 
‘Faced with the prospect of maintaining a churchyard that extends over almost four acres, a parish has turned to animal power to keep the vegetation in check. A pair of alpacas, a breed originally from the slopes of the Andes, have joined the maintenance team at St Wilfrid’s, the 12th-century parish church of the village of Calverley, on the edge of Leeds. The churchyard contains about 3500 graves: most are in a closed Victorian cemetery and in a small area where burials continue today. There is also a wildlife meadow. “It needs a lot of looking after,” the church’s licensed lay minister, who is charge of the alpacas, John Corbin, said. “We can’t mow it, as the graves are too close together. If you look at pictures from 20 years ago, you cannot see the graves for the vegetation”’ (Church Times 16 April 2021). 
 
‘“Wait on the Lord” is a constant refrain in the Psalms, and it is a necessary word, for God often keeps us waiting. He is not in such a hurry as we are, and it is not his way to give more light on the future than we need for action in the present, or to guide us more than one step at a time. When in doubt, do nothing, but continue to wait on God. When action is needed, light will come’ (J.I. Packer, Knowing God). 
Friday 16th April 2021 
 
'A Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, respected by all the people.. said to them… ‘I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone; because if this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them - in that case you may even be found fighting against God!’ (Acts 5:34,38-39). 
 
We know that God has a wonderful purpose for us and a plan for his people. We are assured that he holds all things in his hand and is working his purpose out. Indeed we pray ‘Thy will be done’. So perhaps we ought to trust him in this, that indeed he will fulfil what he sets out to do. ‘So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it’ (Isaiah 55:11). So often we can see only the immediate bumps in the road, while he can see the bigger picture and the way ahead. 
 
‘Adult to group of children: “What do you think Jesus was doing while he was in hell for three days?” Child, after long pause: “I think he was looking everywhere for his friend Judas”’ (John Inge, Bishop of Worcester, 3 April). 
 
‘In his book The Shallows, first published in 2010, Nicholas Carr explored the impact of the internet on our behaviour. Carr was prompted to work in this area through noting what was happening in his own life, particularly his growing incapacity to read a book attentively. “Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.” The constantly changing, ephemeral nature of much of the increased communication of which we are part may be the cause for the diminution in our concentration. In his book Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman contended that the means of transmission was not a matter of indifference. About that he was right, but it may not be that we are amusing ourselves to death. Perhaps the problem is that we have lost both the art of listening and a capacity for discernment. We have all become broadcasters and writers. Even the least literate social-media user is mostly on transmit’ (Church Times 9 April 2021). 
 
The prayer after communion for this week: 
Lord God our Father, 
through our Saviour Jesus Christ 
you have assured your children of eternal life 
and in baptism have made us one with him: 
deliver us from the death of sin 
and raise us to new life in your love, 
in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, 
by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary today we pray for those at University and College. Their studies have been much disrupted over this past year and many are depressed or disillusioned. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for those in need in our village and those confined in their homes, especially those living alone. 
 
On Sunday at 10:30am we are having a service of Morning Prayer in Church. I remind you that if you wish to come - and you are welcome to do so - please let either Jo Parsons or myself know, by email or phone. It is important to do this each time - even if you plan to come every week. 
 
‘We need to give Christ a chance to make use of us, to be his word and his work, to share his food and his clothing in the world today. If we do not radiate the light of Christ around us, the sense of the darkness that prevails in the world will increase’ (Mother Teresa). 
Wednesday 14th April 2021 
 
‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him’ (John 3:16-17). 
 
This has long been celebrated as a powerful and succinct declaration of the gospel. It describes both the expression and the gift of God’s love. God’s love doesn’t just feel for the plight of a fallen world. God does something about it. He gives the most precious thing he has: his only Son. This would have been quite a radical and disturbing revelation at the time since it was believed that God loved only the chosen people. Do we need sometimes to be reminded that God loves all people equally, even those we find difficult or have a radically different world view than us? 
 
‘The Government’s promise to restore the UK aid budget to 0.7 per cent “has been broken and must be put right”, the Archbishops of Canterbury and Westminster have said… In a joint article published in the Evening Standard on Tuesday, Archbishop Welby and the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, write: “In the small print of the recent Integrated Review of defence, diplomacy, and development was a pledge to return the aid budget to 0.7 per cent of Gross National Income. This would honour the many promises made and deliver on the duty imposed by Parliament. But saying the Government will only do this ‘when the fiscal situation allows’ is deeply worrying, suggesting that it will act in contravention of its legally binding target. This promise, repeatedly made even during the pandemic, has been broken and must be put right”’ (Church Times 7 April 2021). 
 
‘God’s door is always open. The kettle is always on. The beers are in the fridge. The champagne on ice. And someone has been sent out with a very large order for curry. God is scanning the horizon for our return’ (Stephen Cottrell, Archbishop of York, Easter sermon, 4 April). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Risen Christ, 
for whom no door is locked, no entrance barred: 
open the doors of our hearts, 
that we may seek the good of others 
and walk the joyful road of sacrifice and peace, 
to the praise of God the Father. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
I shall be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church this morning, together with our Roads to God prayers. I shall ring the bell at 10:30am and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. The Church will open for private prayer from 11am to 12pm. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary today we pray for all medical staff: those in hospitals, GP surgeries, Care and Residential Homes, research laboratories and wherever they may be. They have done a most amazing job over the past year, worked very hard and are feeling the strain. We are immensely grateful as we hold them before God. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for young people in the Church. 
 
On 14th April 2004 Bartholomew I, ecumenical patriarch of the Eastern Orthodox Church, formally accepted the apology offered by Pope John Paul II in 2001 for the sacking of Constantinople (now Istanbul) by Crusader armies in the early 13th century. 
 
‘What did our Lord do by his Passion, Death, and Resurrection? He bridged that gulf which exists between God and man, a gulf which can only be bridged by him’ (Basil Hume). 
Sunday 11th April 2021 
 
‘We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life - this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us - we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all’ (1 John 1:1-5). 
 
Today our prayers are with the Queen and the Royal Family following the death of Prince Philip. Usually at such a time we would be having special arrangements in Church and a Condolence Book. However due to the coronavirus this is not possible. There is a Church of England Condolence book which can be signed online. The bells were tolled at midday yesterday and the flag is at half-mast on the Church. The Parish Council have said ‘If residents wish to lay floral tributes, the Council would be grateful if they could be laid around the Beacon on the corner of Moot Lane’. 
 
‘Tributes continue to pour in following the announcement of the death of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, aged 99.. Many have expressed respect for the way in which the Prince is acknowledged to have knuckled down to a role as the Queen’s consort which was distinctly unwelcome at the stage in life at which it came, and which cost him the naval career that he loved. There is respect and admiration for his rising above a childhood scarred by turbulence and family tragedies and spent largely in exile; and for his overcoming the hostility and suspicion of courtiers to a “foreign prince”’ (Church Times 9 April 2021). 
 
The collect for this week: 
Almighty Father, 
you have given your only Son to die for our sins 
and to rise again for our justification: 
grant us so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness 
that we may always serve you 
in pureness of living and truth; 
through the merits of 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/) 
 
There is a recorded service for today from the church and a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. Also at 10:30am we are having a service of Holy Communion in Church. If you wish to come - and all are very welcome - please let either Jo Parsons or myself know, either by email or phone. It is important to do this each time even if you plan to come every week. We are hoping that we can sing in the churchyard before the service. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary today we pray for our Churchwarden and Deputy Churchwardens. There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary on Monday we pray for our Team Rector and family. On Tuesday we pray for Churches Together in Downton. As we remember Prince Philip, we pray also for all who have lost loved ones recently. 
May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace and rise in glory. Amen. 
 
On 11th April 1814 Napoleon, facing an invasion of France by forces bent on his overthrow and pressed by his own officers, abdicated unconditionally at Fontainebleau. 
 
‘The most casual reader of the New Testament can scarcely fail to see the commanding position the resurrection of Christ holds in Christianity. It is the creator of its new and brighter hopes, of its richer and stronger faith, of its deeper and more exalted experience’ (Edward McKendree Bounds). 
Friday 9th April 2021 
 
‘So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we will also bear the image of the man of heaven’ (1 Corinthians 15:42,47-49). 
 
Easter is a time of renewed hope – not just for us as Christians, but also for all the world. It is a glorious hope of new life, abundant life, eternal resurrection life, a whole new beginning with God. ‘The resurrection completes the inauguration of God's kingdom.... It is the decisive event demonstrating that God's kingdom really has been launched on earth as it is in heaven. The message of Easter is that God's new world has been unveiled in Jesus Christ and that you're now invited to belong to it’ (N. T. Wright). 
 
‘Death is the “greatest and most devastating liar” when it claims to have the final word on life, the Archbishop of Canterbury said in his Easter Day sermon.. “the lie that the final breath is the end, there is nothing more; the lie that we will always be separated from those we have loved, ultimately losing those we love for ever... Of course death matters. It is brutal, terrible, and cruel. But it lies when it claims to be the final word.” 
“Easter”, he said, “calls time on the lie.” He continued: “If death is telling the truth, then we may as well live for ourselves. Then the last year is yet another cruel period of history taking from us those whom we loved, ending lives cruelly and tragically.” Individuals and the world could respond by recognising the “life and hope” of the crucified and risen Jesus Christ, he said. “The joy and purpose he gave to the disciples is exactly the same as is offered to us today. We are each and all invited to accept that new reality, welcoming the living dynamic presence of God into our lives.” This hope was not private, but public and worldwide, Archbishop Welby said. “That is why the Church gets involved with resisting injustice, treasuring our world, tending the needy - it’s why Christians throughout the centuries have lived with compassion and love for all who are excluded and marginalised. They breathed the oxygen of hope through the resurrection of the crucified God.” This was the gift of God and the Church - not to be wasted, he said. “The Church must go with that torrent of good news and love, transformed, celebrating, and declaring in word and deed the truth that death is a liar and that life is offered to all”’ (Church Times 4 April 2021). 
 
On Sunday at 10:30am we are having a service of Holy Communion in Church. I remind you that if you wish to come - and you are welcome to do so - please let either Jo Parsons or myself know, by email or phone. It is important to do this each time - even if you plan to come every week. 
 
The prayer after communion for this week: 
God of Life, 
who for our redemption gave your only-begotten Son 
to the death of the cross, 
and by his glorious resurrection 
have delivered us from the power of our enemy: 
grant us so to die daily to sin, 
that we may evermore live with him in the joy of his risen life; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary today we pray that we may grow through God’s Word. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for all key workers. After a year of extraordinary commitment, they are as in need of our prayers as ever. 
 
On 9th April 1865 General Robert E. Lee, commander of the Army of Northern Virginia of the Confederate States of America, signed a treaty of surrender at Appomattox Court House, effectively ending the American Civil War. 
 
‘All the things in this world are gifts of God, created for us, to be the means by which we can come to know him better, love him more surely, and serve him more faithfully’ (Ignatius of Loyola). 
Wednesday 7th April 2021 
 
‘Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ’ (1 Corinthians 15:20-22). 
 
Easter and resurrection lie at the very heart of our faith. This is where it all comes together and the point of the Good News. Jesus is risen, Jesus is alive - and through him we live too. Now we know eternal life, resurrection life, not just some time in the future but today, now. As Jesus tells us ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die’ (John 11:25-26) 
 
On the subject of Easter, Johann Sebastian Bach's St. John Passion was premiered on 7th April 1724. The sacred oratorio is the oldest extant Passion by the German composer. The highly popular work is a dramatization of the final days of Jesus Christ, according to the Gospel of John. 
 
‘Given the current circumstances, the Royal Maundy Service 2021 could not go ahead this year. Instead the Maundy money was blessed at the Chapel Royal, St James's Palace, before being posted to recipients alongside a letter from The Queen. This meant recipients could still receive their Maundy money and purses, and instead mark the special occasion from their homes’ (www.royal.uk/maundy-thursday). 
 
‘A ruling from the High Court in Malaysia, which says that Christians can use the word “Allah” to refer to God, is to be challenged by the government, prolonging a decades-long battle. The High Court earlier this month overturned a government ban on Christians’ using the word “Allah” to refer to God, in a case brought by a Christian, Jill Ireland Lawrence Bill, after her CDs were seized at an airport in 2008, as it was found that they contained the word. Although Malaysia is majority-Muslim, Christian communities are the third largest religious group in the country. They have argued that they have used the word “Allah” to refer to God for centuries, but challenges over their use of it have previously sparked violence and unrest.. Last week, the High Court in Kuala Lumpur ruled that she had the right not to face discrimination on the grounds of her faith. The judge, Justice Nor Bee, also ruled that other words of Arabic origin - Kaaba, Islam’s holiest shrine in Mecca; baitullah, which means House of God; and salat, which means prayer - could also be used by Christians. But, last week, the government confirmed that it was appealing against the ruling, after protests at the court’s decision by some Muslims’ (Church Times 26 March 2021). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
God of glory, 
by the raising of your Son 
you have broken the chains of death and hell: 
fill your Church with faith and hope; 
for a new day has dawned 
and the way to life stands open 
in our Saviour Jesus Christ. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
I shall be using a simple order for Morning Prayer at 10:30am. The bell will be rung and I ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary today we pray for those who are ill and their families. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for politicians and their advisors. 
 
‘Two thousand years ago, in the Middle East, an event occurred that permanently changed the world. Because of that event, history was split. Every time you write a date, you’re using the Resurrection of Jesus Christ as the focal point’ (Rick Warren). 
 
On 7th April 1948 the World Health Organization was formed by the United Nations. 
Sunday 4th April 2021 EASTER DAY 
 
‘We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear.. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead’ (Acts 10:39-42). 
 
Alleluia! Christ is Risen! 
 
Easter is a celebration of a present reality, namely, Christ’s risen life in us, here and now. The crowning achievement of the Passion is God restoring us to life, as he does first in Christ and then for all of us. We might have been satisfied if Christ’s death had washed away sin, and we were simply free to die in God’s peace. However, that would imply God’s love reaches some endpoint or some final satisfaction. There is no point at which God says to us, “I have loved you enough.” The love of God cannot be exhausted - even on the Cross. 
 
He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! 
 
At 10:30am we are having a service of Holy Communion in Church. If you wish to come - and all are very welcome - please let either Jo Parsons or myself know, either by email or phone. It is important to do this each time even if you plan to come every week. We are hoping that we can sing in the churchyard before the service. 
 
‘Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime’ (Martin Luther). 
 
‘Many churches and cathedrals that have remained closed throughout the recent lockdown are reopening in time for in-person worship during Holy Week and Easter - but online services and events remain at the heart of festivities… Indoor worship has been permitted in Covid-safe churches throughout the latest lockdown, but festivals and life events are now included, such as weddings of up to six people, previously permitted only in exceptional circumstances.. Funerals remain limited to 30 people. Children and support groups can continue to function indoors in church buildings. Face coverings remain mandatory, and congregations are still limited to the Covid-safe capacity of the building, allowing for social distancing. Singing, however, is now permitted in small groups, allowing church choirs to return in some form for Holy Week and Easter’ (Church Times 31 March 2021). 
 
‘Our first response to Jesus’s Passion must, therefore, be a recognition of our own need of redemption. He dies to free us, not simply from the guilt that comes from individual sins, but from the dominion of sin. This is reflected in the liturgy for baptism, when (after signing candidates with the cross) the minister says: “May almighty God deliver you from the powers of darkness, and lead you in the light and obedience of Christ”’ (Angus Ritchie, Church Times). 
 
The collect for this week: 
Lord of all life and power, 
who through the mighty resurrection of your Son 
overcame the old order of sin and death 
to make all things new in him: 
grant that we, being dead to sin 
and alive to you in Jesus Christ, 
may reign with him in glory; 
to whom with you and the Holy Spirit 
be praise and honour, glory and might, 
now and in all eternity. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we today give thanks for the Resurrection. There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary on Monday we pray for couples getting married this year, most of whom have postponed their wedding from last year. On Tuesday we pray for all who minister to the sick. 
 
‘The great gift of Easter is hope – Christian hope which makes us have that confidence in God, in his ultimate triumph, and in his goodness and love, which nothing can shake’ (Basil Hume). 
Friday 2nd April 2021 
 
‘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. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need’ (Hebrews 4:14-16). 
 
Today is Good Friday, a day of great solemnity as we walk with Jesus through the final events of his Passion. We mark this in several ways: a leaflet with the Stations of the Cross is available as is a reading of the Passion Gospel. At 2:30pm we are having a short service of the Passion in the churchyard to which we have invited all the churches. As restrictions have now been lifted partially we are able to sing for this service - although not yet for services inside the Church. 
 
‘Jesus, who not so long ago had angrily cast out the moneylenders from the temple, now stands silent before Pilate and Herod. And as he does so, he demonstrates the extraordinary courage and conviction needed to take this stance. In his demeanour we don’t see weakness but rather a profound show of strength’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 1 April 2021). ‘God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us’ (Romans 5:8). 
 
‘We may recognise our own sins in the different characters of the Passion narrative: the callous pragmatism of Pilate, the violent rage of the crowd, and the cruelty of the soldiers. In particular, we may recognise, in Peter’s denial of Christ, an echo of our own weakness in the face of evil. When he tells his questioners that “I do not know the man,” Peter is not only denying his relationship with Jesus: he is also denying “all that he has seen, heard, and lived during those years with him. He is denying his own self and his experience” (Jean Vanier).. God does not come into this story of human cruelty and weakness as a wrathful judge: he is found standing among the scapegoats… “He was wounded for our transgressions, crushed by our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole” (Isaiah 53:5)’ (Angus Ritchie, Church Times). 
 
On Sunday, Easter Day, at 10:30am we are having a service of Holy Communion in Church. I remind you that if you wish to come - and you are very welcome to do so - please let either Jo Parsons or myself know, either by email or phone. It is important to do this each time - even if you plan to come every week. We are hoping that we can sing in the churchyard before the service. 
 
The collect for today: 
Almighty Father, 
look with mercy on this your family 
for which our Lord Jesus Christ was content to be betrayed 
and given up into the hands of sinners 
and to suffer death upon the cross; 
who is alive and glorified with you and the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary today we pray for all who deny God. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for the bereaved. 
 
‘Fear emerges from the Church’s increasing marginalization. This is the fear of loss of influence, of irrelevance and eventual extinction. This kind of fear corrodes and creates the illusion that the future of the Church is dependent on us. In reality, the future is in God’s hands. Our calling, whatever our context, is to resist fear, be faithful in the knowledge of God’s constant presence, and to love without ceasing’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 23 March 2021). 
 
On 2nd April 1982 Argentina occupied the Falkland Islands. The invasion escalated a long-standing conflict between Argentina and the United Kingdom over the archipelago in the South Atlantic and triggered the Falklands War. 
 
O Saviour of the world, who by your Cross and precious Blood has redeemed us: Save us, and help us, we humbly beseech you, O Lord. Amen. 
Wednesday 31st March 2021 
 
‘Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God’ (Hebrews 12:1-2). 
 
This is Holy Week. Over these days we walk with Jesus on his path to the Cross. The Bible doesn't say what he did on the Wednesday. Scholars speculate that after two exhausting days in Jerusalem, Jesus and his disciples spent this day resting and praying in Bethany in anticipation of Passover and preparing for the trials ahead. ‘Fear, betrayal and conspiracy are themes that set the mood.. as we begin the journey through Holy Week. Jesus must have sensed that events were overtaking him, that things had moved to the point of no return and the final outcome was looking grim… What is so striking.. is that although people are closing in and Jesus appears to be at the mercy of others, he in fact remains in charge, totally in control, setting the agenda and the pace’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 29 March 2021). ‘But O my Friend, my Friend indeed, who at my need his life did spend’. 
 
‘St Peter’s Parkstone has filmed 4 dramatic monologues (5-10 minutes in length) for Holy Week, also known as Passiontide. Members of The Poole Passion have been collaborating.. to produce monologues from 4 of the main participants in the Passion of Christ which forms part of this year’s Holy Week within the parish. In the short presentations, the viewer will hear from Mary the mother of Christ, Judas, Pilate, and finally Jesus himself… The monologues will be shared via YouTube and Facebook from 8.00 am each day’ (Diocese of Salisbury Grapevine 26 March 2021). 
 
The April issue of Downton Parish News is now available free to view or download. For those unable to access our magazine through the website, there will be a few printed copies available (free) in the Co-op, Chemist and Woodfalls Post Office. Please can you let anyone know that you think may want one - or collect one for them. They and we would be most grateful. 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
True and humble king, 
hailed by the crowd as Messiah: 
grant us the faith to know you and love you, 
that we may be found beside you 
on the way of the cross, 
which is the path of glory. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
I will be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church this morning. I shall ring the bell at 10:30am and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. The Church will open for private prayer from 11am to 12pm. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary today we pray for local traders. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for those who are alone and depressed. 
 
Tomorrow is Maundy Thursday. This begins the Great Three Days, also known as the Triduum - the three days including Good Friday and Holy Saturday, leading up to the Sunday of the Resurrection (Easter Day). There will be no service in Church for Maundy Thursday, but there will be a Reflective Service on the website. For Good Friday on the website are the Stations of the Cross and a reading of the Passion. Also on Friday we will be having a short service of the Passion in the churchyard at 2:30pm to which we have invited all the churches. With the updated guidelines we can now sing at an outdoor service. 
 
On 31st March 1889 the 984-foot (300-metre) Eiffel Tower, a wrought iron technological masterpiece created by Gustave Eiffel to commemorate the centenary of the French Revolution, was officially inaugurated in Paris. This is also the birthday (in 1596) of the French mathematician, scientist, and philosopher René Descartes, widely considered the father of modern philosophy and perhaps best known for the famous phrase “I think, therefore I am”. 
 
‘Christ alone can save the world, but Christ cannot save the world alone’ (David Livingstone). 
Sunday 28th March 2021 
 
They brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!’ (Mark 11:7-10). 
 
Today we celebrate Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem as King. This also marks the beginning of Holy Week and Jesus’ Passion. We will be marking this on the website with a short Reflective service for Maundy Thursday and the Stations of the Cross and a reading of the Passion on Good Friday. Also on Good Friday we will be holding a short service in the churchyard at 2:30pm. 
 
There is a recorded service for today from the church and a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in, together with instructions of how make your own palm cross. There is also a service of Holy Communion in Church at 10:30am as we return to public worship again - another reason to celebrate! 
 
As we reflect on the events of Holy Week we recognise the challenge to ourselves. Today the crowds welcome Jesus as King - on Thursday public opinion has shifted and he is rejected. Religious and political authorities see only the challenge to their position and so close their ears to his message. How might we have responded had we been there in Jerusalem then? ‘In a compelling passage in Book XIII of his On the Trinity, St Augustine writes of the devil’s sin that: “The essential flaw of the devil’s perversion made him a lover of power and a deserter and assailant of justice, which means that men imitate him all the more thoroughly the more they neglect or even detest justice and studiously devote themselves to power... Not that power is to be shunned as something bad, but that the right order must be preserved which puts justice first”’ (Church Times 26 March 2021). 
 
‘The lifting of some Covid restrictions around worship means our congregations can sing again - providing they are outside. The Government's roadmap out of lockdown sees this new guidance for worship coming into force from this Sunday. The news that singing can once again take place has been greeted with joy across the Diocese… The guidance is in sharp contrast to last Easter when we were all in lockdown and church buildings were closed. According to the guidance, from the 28th of March (Palm Sunday) "when communal worship takes place in the grounds or the outside space of a place of worship, the congregation may join in with singing"’ (Diocese of Salisbury Grapevine 26 March 2021). 
 
‘There is much talk at present.. of how to safeguard the future of a shrinking Church. It is right and proper that we take seriously our calling to proclaim the faith fresh in each generation and pass it on to the next. But in the process there is a danger that we might just miss something profound about fruit coming only once the seed had died. It is a painful truth to contemplate, but what might we in our context need to allow to die in order that something new might blossom?’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 26 March 2021). 
 
The collect for this week: 
Almighty and everlasting God, 
who in your tender love towards the human race 
sent your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ 
to take upon him our flesh 
and to suffer death upon the cross: 
grant that we may follow the example of his patience and humility, 
and also be made partakers of his resurrection; 
through Jesus Christ your Son 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 we today pray for those at University and College. There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary on Monday we pray for couples getting married this year. Many of them have delayed their wedding from last year due to the lockdown. On Tuesday we pray for all who minister to the sick. 
Friday 26th March 2021 
 
‘I love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised; so I shall be saved from my enemies’ (Psalm 18:1-3). 
 
At this time of year, as we stand at the foot of the Cross, we entrust ourselves to God. We are confident that he holds us safe and will bring us through the trials of this present time - our rock, our fortress, and our deliverer. 
 
‘The centenary of the partition of Ireland this year is an opportunity for the Church to “face its own failings” in peace and reconciliation, the leaders of the main denominations in Ireland have said in a St Patrick’s Day message… The message, also recorded in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh, says: “We have an opportunity, in marking these events from our past, to be intentional in creating the spaces for encounter with those who are different from us, and those who may feel marginalised in the narratives that have shaped our community identity. This will require us to face difficult truths about failings in our own leadership in the work of peace and reconciliation. As Christian churches we acknowledge and lament the times that we failed to bring to a fearful and divided society that message of the deeper connection that binds us”’ (Church Times 19 March 2021). 
 
We are having a service of Holy Communion on Sunday at 10:30am and palm crosses will be available in Church. If you wish to join us for this service, please contact myself or Jo Parsons (01725 512738), and don’t forget that the clocks go forward tomorrow night! 
 
If you are not able to be with us for the service on Sunday, you can join in with our recorded service on the website. There are also instructions on how to make your own palm cross, together with a demonstration, that I posted last year. 
 
The prayer after communion for this week: 
Lord Jesus Christ, 
you have taught us 
that what we do for the least of our brothers and sisters 
we do also for you: 
give us the will to be the servant of others 
as you were the servant of all, 
and gave up your life and died for us, 
but are alive and reign, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for our Lay Pastoral Assistants (LPAs). Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for our Bishops and all Church Leaders. Here in our own diocese we pray for Bishops Nicholas, Andrew and Karen. 
 
‘Technology from almost 2000 years ago has been harnessed to help to provide a modern eco-friendly heating system for Bath Abbey. Engineers.. switched on an underfloor network of pipes that take their heat from the great Roman drain that carries away hot spring water overflowing from the city’s famous baths. Each day, about 1.1 million litres of water, at a constant 40°C, rises into the baths before escaping down the culvert into the River Avon. Ten custom-built heat exchangers installed in the drain garner enough energy to heat the abbey, and Kingston Buildings, the adjacent row of Georgian cottages which house the abbey offices, song school, and volunteer facilities. The Rector, Canon Guy Bridgewater, said.. “One of the abbey’s guiding purposes is to help treasure, sustain, and renew God’s creation; and I rejoice that, by working together with the many funding, design, and engineering partners involved in our Footprint project, we can wonderfully reduce our carbon footprint and become more responsible stewards of the planet’s resources.”’ (Church Times 12 March 2021). 
 
On 26th March 2005, sixteen years after being cancelled, Doctor Who returned to television with a new episode, with Christopher Eccleston appearing in the title role. 
 
‘Apart from Jesus Christ, we do not know what is our life, nor our death, nor God, nor ourselves’ (Blaise Pascal). 
Wednesday 24th March 2021 
 
‘When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children’ (Galatians 4:4-5). 
 
As I wrote on Sunday, we are starting services again from this coming Sunday - Palm Sunday. If you wish to join us for this service, please contact myself or Jo Parsons (01725 512738). 
 
‘Some people see God in many places - in the dawn of a new day, a forgiving word, the birth of a child, an act of self-sacrifice or being in love. Others experience the very same things but see no evidence that God exists at all... In Jesus, the light of the world has come and is in plain sight. And yet many refuse to see’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 18 March 2021). 
 
‘A more joined-up approach across all the BBC platforms will have maximum impact and will better serve faith communities, the broadcaster’s chief content officer, Charlotte Moore, declared at the announcement on Wednesday of BBC Religion’s Faith and Hope for Spring 2021 programme. Religious programming had been well received over “an extraordinary year, which has demonstrated the importance of faith in people’s lives”, she said. The new approach would be very evident at Easter, with collaboration across BBC1, Radio 4, BBC local radio, the Church of England, and Canterbury Cathedral for a live Easter Day service at which the Archbishop of Canterbury would preside and preach. Conversations about faith and spirituality had come to the surface during the pandemic, when there had been higher than average listening and viewing figures from a wider range of people, the commissioning editor for radio and television, Daisy Scalchi, said. Songs of Praise viewers had increased by 29 per cent to 1.2 million weekly. One million people had watched Young Chorister of the Year. Nineteen BBC programmes are shortlisted for the Sandford St Martin Awards, which recognise excellence in broadcasting’ (Church Times 19 March 2021). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Gracious Father, 
you gave up your Son 
out of love for the world: 
lead us to ponder the mysteries of his passion, 
that we may know eternal peace 
through the shedding of our Saviour’s blood, 
Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
I will be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church this morning. I shall ring the bell at 10:30am and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. 
 
Today there is no period of private prayer in Church as we are having a funeral service for Jean Carroll. We bear her family in our prayers. 
 
Tomorrow the Church celebrates the Annunciation (Lady Day) when we remember the visit of the angel to Mary to announce that she is to give birth to Jesus - ‘you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end’ (Luke 1:31-33). 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary today we pray for new residents in our village. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for the Barford Day Centre. 
 
On 24th March 1989 one of the worst ever oil spills began when the supertanker Exxon Valdez, owned and operated by the Exxon Corporation, ran aground on a reef in Prince William Sound in southern Alaska. An estimated 11 million gallons of oil eventually spilled into the water. Attempts to contain the massive spill were unsuccessful, and wind and currents spread the oil more than 100 miles from its source, eventually polluting more than 700 miles of coastline. Hundreds of thousands of birds and animals were adversely affected by the environmental disaster. 
 
‘Some people feel guilty about their anxieties and regard them as a defect of faith but they are afflictions, not sins. Like all afflictions, they are, if we can so take them, our share in the passion of Christ’ (C. S. Lewis). 
Sunday 21st March 2021 
 
‘This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord’, for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more’ (Jeremiah 31:33-34). 
 
Today is Passion Sunday, beginning the two weeks of Passiontide - a period of time to focus more and more on the Passion and death of Jesus and so accompany him on his way to Calvary. Here we are drawn with Jesus to the Cross where his love is revealed in all its fulness and which paves the way for the glories of Easter. 
 
We are planning to resume our services in St Laurence. Services will start again on Palm Sunday (28th March), on the same basis to what we were doing in December. That is to say we would have a 10:30am service each Sunday - Holy Communion except on the third Sunday of the month when we would have Morning Prayer. As before, this would be entirely voluntary for those who feel ready to join us and according to the current guidelines. 
 
You may hear a bell tolling just after midday on Tuesday. This is to mark the National Day of Reflection. ‘The majority of mourners during the pandemic have been unable to say goodbye properly, and Church of England cathedrals and parishes are preparing to mark a National Day of Reflection on Tuesday 23rd March, the anniversary of the first Covid lockdown… Bishop Nicholas said: “This year has been exceptionally hard for the bereaved, while those in ministry in the Diocese have done a wonderful job being alongside those who have lost loved ones, they have also found it a great source of frustration and sadness when they have been unable to offer a Christian farewell that allows relatives and friends to gather and comfort each other. This National Day of Reflection will give us all the opportunity to stop and remember all those who have lost loved ones during this difficult time and what that has meant for them. It will also allow us to pray together for them allowing them to know just how much they are in our thoughts.” The National Day is being led by the Marie Curie charity, supported by organisations including the Church of England. Churches and cathedrals are being encouraged by the Central Council of Church Bellringers (CCCBR) to toll a bell at the end of the minute’s silence at midday on 23rd March’ (Diocese of Salisbury Grapevine 19 March 2021). 
 
The collect for this week: 
Most merciful God, 
who by the death and resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ 
delivered and saved the world: 
grant that by faith in him who suffered on the cross 
we may triumph in the power of his victory; 
through Jesus Christ your Son 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/) 
 
There is a recorded service for today from the church and a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. There is no service in Church. I shall ring the bell in Church at 10:30am and ask that you join me in prayer at that time. The Church will open for private prayer from 11am to 12pm. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary today we pray for those who produce our Parish magazine. There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary on Monday we pray for all ministers in the village. On Tuesday we pray for our Forest and Avon Team. 
 
‘Let all your thoughts be with the Most High, and direct your humble prayers unceasingly to Christ. If you cannot contemplate high and heavenly things, take refuge in the Passion of Christ, and love to dwell within His Sacred Wounds. For if you devoutly seek the Wounds of Jesus and the precious marks of His Passion, you will find great strength in all troubles’ (Thomas à Kempis). 
 
On 21st March 1963 Alcatraz Prison in San Francisco's Bay, known for its harsh conditions and record for being inescapable, closed down and transferred its last prisoners. At its peak period of use in 1950s, “The Rock,” or “America’s Devil Island,” housed over 200 inmates at the maximum-security facility. 
Friday 19th March 2021 
 
‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins’ (Matthew 1:20-21). 
 
Today we remember Joseph of Nazareth. Everything we know about him comes from the Bible. He was a carpenter, a working man, for the sceptical Nazarenes ask about Jesus, “Is this not the carpenter's son?” (Matthew 13:55). He wasn't rich for when he took Jesus to the Temple to be circumcised he offers the poor man’s sacrifice of two turtledoves or a pair of pigeons (Luke 2:24). However Joseph came of royal lineage. Both Luke and Matthew mark his descent from David. Joseph was compassionate man, for when he discovers Mary is pregnant he resolves to send her away quietly to not expose her to shame. Then, when an angel comes to him in a dream, he takes Mary as his wife. (Matthew 1:19-25). When the angel comes again to tell him that his family is in danger, he immediately leaves everything and flees to a strange country with his young wife and baby. His one concern is for the safety of this child entrusted to him. He waits in Egypt without question until the angel tells him it is safe to go back (Matthew 2:13-23), but upon his return settles in the obscure town of Nazareth out of fear for Jesus’ life. We know also that Joseph treats Jesus as his own son for the people of Nazareth say of Jesus, “Is this not the son of Joseph?” (Luke 4:22). Since Joseph does not appear in Jesus' public life, at his death, or resurrection, most believe Joseph probably had died before Jesus entered public ministry. 
 
‘Clean For Good, described as a Christian ethical cleaning business, has launched a national poetry competition, Poetry for Good, to celebrate key workers. Submissions will be judged by the poets Rachel Long, Katherine Lockton, and Cecilia Knapp. The deadline for entries is 9 April in three categories: Written Word - written poems from those aged 16 or more; Spoken Word - spoken poetry from those aged 16 or more; and Growing Word - written poems for those aged 11-15. Clean for Good is majority-owned by the parish of St Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe, London; the Centre for Theology and Community; and the Church Mission Society’ (Church Times 12 March 2021). 
 
The collect for today: 
God our Father, 
who from the family of your servant David 
raised up Joseph the carpenter 
to be the guardian of your incarnate Son 
and husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary: 
give us grace to follow him 
in faithful obedience to your commands; 
through Jesus Christ your Son 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/) 
 
At 12 o’clock today we are having the third of our virtual Lent lunches. If you would like to join us please contact me and I will send you the link. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for the Trafalgar School at Downton. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for Churches Together in Downton. 
 
‘“Wait on the Lord” is a constant refrain in the Psalms, and it is a necessary word, for God often keeps us waiting. He is not in such a hurry as we are, and it is not his way to give more light on the future than we need for action in the present, or to guide us more than one step at a time. When in doubt, do nothing, but continue to wait on God. When action is needed, light will come’ (J.I. Packer, Knowing God). 
Wednesday 17th March 2021 
 
'Listen to me, my people, and give heed to me, my nation; for a teaching will go out from me, and my justice for a light to the peoples. I will bring near my deliverance swiftly, my salvation has gone out and my arms will rule the peoples; the coastlands wait for me, and for my arm they hope’ (Isaiah 51:4-5). 
 
Today we celebrate Saint Patrick. ‘St. Patrick, (flourished 5th century, Britain and Ireland; feast day March 17), patron saint and national apostle of Ireland, credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland and probably responsible in part for the Christianization of the Picts and Anglo-Saxons. He is known only from two short works, the Confessio, a spiritual autobiography, and his Letter to Coroticus, a denunciation of British mistreatment of Irish Christians’ (www.britannica.com)
 
We remember in our prayers today all who live on the island of Ireland. We give thanks for their immense contribution to our Christian witness and heritage, and for the great strides they have made towards peace and stability over these past twenty years. We pray especially for them at this time of increased tension arising from the new border and customs arrangements. 
 
On Friday we are having our next virtual Lent lunch. If you would like to join in with us, please let me know. 
 
‘You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope’ (Thomas Merton). 
 
Tomorrow marks the anniversary of the first Daily Reflection I sent out. Little did we know how long and troublesome this pandemic would prove to be. However, as I wrote then, ‘At this time of quite unprecedented disruption to our normal pattern of life, it would be easy to feel that we are forgotten by God. However we know that this is not so. He loves us far more deeply than we can ever know - and asks us to share that love with all those around us’. As we are assured: ‘Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go’ (Joshua 1:9). 
 
The collect for today: 
Almighty God, 
who in your providence chose your servant Patrick 
to be the apostle of the Irish people: 
keep alive in us the fire of the faith he kindled 
and strengthen us in our pilgrimage 
towards the light of everlasting life; 
through Jesus Christ your Son 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/) 
 
I will be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church this morning, together with our Roads to God prayers. I shall ring the bell at 10:30am and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. The Church will open for private prayer from 11am to 12pm. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for all school governors. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for peace in the world. 
 
‘Oh don’t you just love it when, hungry, weary and massively screened out, you record a whole session of a Lent course and then realise you never pressed, “Record.” AARGH! Time for dinner I think. . . [Later] Now that I’ve done it my computer is giving me the option “Stop converting” which would rather undermine the purpose of the Lent course’ (Philip North, Bishop of Burnley, 8 March). 
Sunday 14th March 2021 
 
‘When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears, and rescues them from all their troubles. The Lord is near to the broken-hearted, and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord rescues them from them all. He keeps all their bones; not one of them will be broken’ (Psalm 34:17-20). 
 
In a world where health and success are held up as the goal and measure of life, it is refreshing to remember that in the real world God stands with us where we are actually in all the pressures and difficulties and burdens we bear. 
 
Today is Mothering Sunday, a day to celebrate and honour our mothers and all mothers and which has been celebrated in the Britain and elsewhere in the English-speaking world on the fourth Sunday in Lent since the Middle Ages. However we do recognise that this can be a difficult day for many. Not all have happy experiences of their mother, or have lost or been unable to have children. We bear them all in our prayers today. It is also Refreshment Sunday - traditionally a day when the Lenten fast was allowed to be relaxed, hence its name. 
 
‘No announcement has yet been made whether - with the approach of Holy Week and Easter - there will be any revision to the Government’s current guidelines on singing in places of worship. Submissions from the Church of England Recovery Group to the Places of Worship Taskforce have included a draft roadmap from the Royal School of Church Music (RSCM) and the Cathedral Organists’ Association (COA) for the safe resumption of singing within the context of a gradual easing of the lockdown in the UK. It had received proper consideration, and the deliberations of the Recovery Group were informing government planning, the RSCM’s director, Hugh Morris, said on Tuesday. “Communication lines are good and open, and we have certainly been making sure that the message has been getting to the right places about music being a critical part in the marking and celebration of Holy Week and Easter.” No communal singing is permitted under the current guidance, which restricts “singing or chanting essential to an act of worship” to one person wherever possible. Up to three individuals may sing “where it is essential to the service”, observing strict social distancing. The limit of three - a figure acknowledged to have arisen from another faith tradition - has caused frustration, because much church music is written in four parts’ (Church Times 12 March 2021). 
 
The collect for Mothering Sunday: 
God of compassion, 
whose Son Jesus Christ, the child of Mary, 
shared the life of a home in Nazareth, 
and on the cross drew the whole human family to himself: 
strengthen us in our daily living 
that in joy and in sorrow 
we may know the power of your presence 
to bind together and to heal; 
through Jesus Christ your Son 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/) 
 
There is a recorded service for today from the church and a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. There is no service in Church. I shall ring the bell in Church at 10:30am and ask that you join me in prayer at that time. The Church will open for private prayer from 11am to 12pm. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we today pray for all mothers, together with those who are unable to be mothers and all who are separated from their families for whatever reason. There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary on Monday we pray for our Church School, where the whole school community is doing a wonderful job ensuring our children continue to grow and learn in these difficult days. On Tuesday we pray for young people in the Church. 
 
On 14th March 1942, for the first time in history, a dying patient's life was saved by penicillin when she was successfully treated for streptococcal septicaemia in the United States. Although some claim that the pioneering trials at the Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford resulted in the first cures using penicillin, this is generally accepted as the first documented successful treatment. 
Friday 12th March 2021 
 
One of the scribes.. 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”’ (Mark 12:28-30). 
 
Here we have Jesus’ summary of the Law, getting right to the heart of the matter. Our relationship with God is not about keeping commandments or to the rules. It is not even a question of living up to a moral code, being a ‘good person’. It is all to do with love: love of God, love of others, and love of ourselves. ‘Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God’ (1 John 4:7). 
 
Having said that, so much of our public life today is rooted in self-justification and putting others down. ‘Even the briefest review of the tabloid press or social media shows that condemnation remains commonplace today.. The gospel is a protest against such ready condemnation. Are we able to rid ourselves of this deadly error?’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 9 March 2021, on John 8:1-11). 
 
‘Is there anybody who doesn’t think that it’s a scandal that there are so many homeless people on our streets? But we’ve learned to live with it. We’ve learned to accommodate things that we know are wrong, which it would be possible to do something about’ (Stephen Cottrell, Observer interview, 28 February). 
 
‘All of us are specialists in crucifying others to save ourselves. Jesus, instead, allowed himself to be crucified, to teach us not to shift evil on to others’ (Pope Francis, Lent reflection, 1 March). 
 
‘To have Faith in Christ means, of course, trying to do all that He says. There would be no sense in saying you trusted a person if you would not take his advice. Thus if you have really handed yourself over to Him, it must follow that you are trying to obey Him. But trying in a new way, a less worried way. Not doing these things in order to be saved, but because He has begun to save you already. Not hoping to get to Heaven as a reward for your actions, but inevitably wanting to act in a certain way because a first faint gleam of Heaven is already inside you’ (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity). 
 
The prayer after communion for this week: 
Merciful Lord, 
grant your people grace to withstand the temptations 
of the world, the flesh and the devil, 
and with pure hearts and minds to follow you, the only God; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for all those in Residential and Nursing Homes. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for charities struggling to continue their work and fundraising. 
 
On 12th March 1994, the first 32 women were ordained as Church of England priests. The service was officiated by Bishop Barry Rogerson in Bristol Cathedral. The women were ordained in alphabetical order, so Angela Berners-Wilson is considered the very first woman to be ordained. 
 
‘To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible’ (St. Thomas Aquinas). 
Wednesday 10th March 2021 
 
Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life’ (John 8:12). 
 
This is the second of Jesus' seven “I AM” statements in John’s Gospel, pointing to his unique divine identity and purpose. We walk in the light of Christ. He is a ‘is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path’ (Psalm 119:105). He shows us the way and draws us to himself. We pray that our eyes may be open to see his way and we may have the wisdom and the courage to follow it. 
 
‘Pope Francis arrived in Iraq on Friday, amid security concerns and rising Covid-19 infection rates, for a four-day visit intended to offer support to the dwindling number of Christians in the country.. During the flight, the Pope said that, despite the risks, he was “duty bound” to visit “a land that has been martyred for so many years”. In a video message before he boarded the plane, he said: “I am coming as a pilgrim, as a penitent pilgrim, to implore from the Lord forgiveness and reconciliation after years of war and terrorism, to beg from God the consolation of hearts and the healing of wounds.” It is the first papal visit to Iraq, and Pope Francis’s first overseas visit since the beginning of the pandemic. So far, at least 13,000 people have died from coronavirus in the country, which received its first batch of vaccines earlier this week. The Vatican’s ambassador to Iraq confirmed last week that he had tested positive. Pope Francis has been vaccinated against the disease’ (Church Times 5 March 2021). 
 
‘The Children's Society has issued an emergency charity appeal on behalf of at-risk or vulnerable children and young people. The charity says that children in this country are facing the worst crisis they have ever experienced, with many of the most vulnerable trapped at home, isolated and at risk of abuse and neglect. For some, their lives are in danger. Relationship Manager Gill Ford tells us: "Hope is what is needed for many vulnerable young people as their situation is even worse. The pandemic is the worst crisis that today’s young people have ever faced”’ ((Diocese of Salisbury Grapevine 6 March 2021). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Eternal God, 
give us insight 
to discern your will for us, 
to give up what harms us, 
and to seek the perfection we are promised 
in Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
I shall be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church this morning. I shall ring the bell at 10:30am and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. The Church will open for private prayer from 11am to 12pm. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for all key workers, giving thanks for all they have done for us over the past year. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for all medical staff: those in hospitals, GP surgeries, Care and Residential Homes, research laboratories and wherever they may be. They have done a most amazing job in very difficult circumstances and we are immensely grateful as we hold them before God. 
 
‘A well-known delaying tactic for any movement of change in the Church is the charge that we haven’t done the theology’ (Stephen Cottrell on Vision and Strategy work to General Synod members, 27 February). 
 
On 11th March 1990, following a vote in the parliament, Lithuania became the first Soviet republic to declare its independence from the U.S.S.R. Also it was on this date last year that the World Health Organization declared that the Covid-19 outbreak was a pandemic. 
Sunday 7th March 2021 
 
‘This is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that on the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God’ (Philippians 1:9-11). 
 
Love is at the heart of our faith, for God is love. We are called to love God, our neighbour and ourselves. Indeed, as St John tells us ‘God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them’ (1 John 4:16). Without love our faith is meaningless. This is a constant challenge for the Christian, as we ask what is the loving way to live and to respond to all that we meet in the world. This is not always as clear or as straightforward as first it seems - or as we would like. ‘Seek a relationship when you pray, not answers. You won't always find answers, but you will always find Jesus’ (Father Mike Schmitz). 
 
‘Nearly five million people volunteered for the first time in their lives last year, a wide-ranging report on community spirit in the UK has found. Of the estimated 12.4 million people who volunteered during the pandemic, 4.6 million people were volunteering for the first time. Of these, 770,000 were aged between 18 and 24 years old; 360,000 had a disability or long-term illness; and 740,000 lived in the poorest fifth of neighbourhoods in the UK - all groups of people who were previously less likely to volunteer, it says’ (Church Times 5 March 2021). 
 
The collect for this week: 
Almighty God, 
whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, 
and entered not into glory before he was crucified: 
mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, 
may find it none other than the way of life and peace; 
through Jesus Christ your Son 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/) 
 
There is a recorded service for today from the church and a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. There is no service in Church. I shall ring the bell in Church at 10:30am and ask that you join me in prayer at that time. The Church will open for private prayer from 11am to 12pm. 
 
When I uploaded today’s service to YouTube, I got the message ‘Partially blocked. This video contains copyrighted material. As a result, it has been blocked in some countries and/or regions’. A subsequent email informed me that ‘your video has been blocked in some countries. This means that your video is still up on YouTube, but people in some countries may not be able to watch it’. It transpires that today’s hymn will be blocked in Cuba, Iran, North Korea and Syria. So my apologies to any worshippers we have in those countries. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary today we pray for those made redundant or unable to find work. There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary on Monday we pray for politicians and their advisors. On Tuesday we pray that we may grow through God’s Word. ‘Choose to view life through God's eyes. This will not be easy because it doesn't come naturally to us. We cannot do this on our own. We have to allow God to elevate our vantage point. Start by reading His Word, the Bible... Pray and ask God to transform your thinking. Let Him do what you cannot. Ask Him to give you an eternal, divine perspective’ (Charles R.Swindoll). 
 
On 7th March 1876 Alexander Graham Bell was granted a patent for the telephone, and three days later through a receiver connected by wire to a transmitting instrument located in another room, Watson heard Bell’s famous first telephone call, which Watson later recalled as “Mr. Watson - come here - I want you”. 
 
‘You were made by God and for God and until you understand that, life will never make sense’ (Rick Warren). 
Friday 5th March 2021 
 
‘Jesus answered them, ‘My teaching is not mine but his who sent me. Anyone who resolves to do the will of God will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own. Those who speak on their own seek their own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and there is nothing false in him’ (John 7:16-18). 
 
Jesus is the very image of God, his word is the word of God. He is our teacher, our guide and our one true example for life. We walk in his footsteps with him as our goal. He is ‘the way, and the truth, and the life’ (John 14:6). ‘Self-denial means knowing only Christ, and no longer oneself. It means seeing only Christ, who goes ahead of us, and no longer the path that is too difficult for us... Self-denial is saying only: He goes ahead of us; hold fast to him’ (Dietrich Bonhoeffer). 
 
Today is the World Day of Prayer which this year is led by Vanuatu on the theme “Building on a Strong Foundation”. If you wish to take part, you can find out more in this month’s Downton Parish News. Also today at 12 o’clock we are having the second of our virtual Lent lunches. There will be a short reflection and time for discussion and will last for forty minutes. If you would like to join us please have a word with Jo Parsons (01725 512738). 
 
‘There are no plans to dismantle the parish network. We are committed to our calling to be a Christian presence in every community... Yes, there are hard decisions currently being made across many dioceses. Overall some stipendiary posts will be lost. But that isn’t the same as making clergy redundant… The aim is to make each parish and each Christian community sustainable. If that doesn’t happen, there really will be no Church of England. And to do it requires generosity and sacrifice’ (Justin Welby, Stephen Cottrell, joint article in The Spectator, 11 February 2021). 
 
‘The Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I, has asked church leaders to meet in 2025 to mark the 17th centenary of the First Council of Nicaea, to “reflect on mistakes past and present” and steer a “more determined ecumenical course”. “This 1700th anniversary can serve as an occasion for Christian Churches to reflect on their journey,” he said. “That first ecumenical council at Nicaea stands as a symbol, a turning point in Christianity’s history, not just because it formulated the creed but also because it issued 20 canons. It thus offers a unique opportunity to re-source our common canonical heritage from the first millennium.” The 80-year-old church leader tabled his proposal as Russian Orthodox and Roman Catholic representatives marked the fifth anniversary of the February 2016 meeting in Havana between Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and Pope Francis (Church Times 19 February 2021). 
 
The prayer after communion for this week: 
Almighty God, 
you see that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves: 
keep us both outwardly in our bodies, 
and inwardly in our souls; 
that we may be defended from all adversities 
which may happen to the body, 
and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary today we pray for our Team Rector and family - thank you for your continuing prayers and support. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for our Churchwarden and Deputy Churchwardens, giving thanks for all they do to continue and build up the work of our Church. 
 
On 5th March 1946 Prime Minister Winston Churchill popularized the term “Iron Curtain”- describing the separation of the Soviet Union and its eastern and central European allies from Western nations - in a speech at Fulton, Missouri. 
 
‘Lent stimulates us to let the Word of God penetrate our life and in this way to know the fundamental truth: Who we are, where we come from, where we must go, what path we must take in life’ (Pope Benedict XVI). 
Wednesday 3rd March 2021 
 
Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, ‘Do you also wish to go away?’ Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God’ (John 6:66-69). 
 
For the Christian the situation is simple: there is no one else we can turn to but God himself. He is our salvation and our guide, and life itself. ‘The Gospel of John is a book of signs pointing to the recklessly loving grace of God. Like the Bible, life itself is to be read by us with attentiveness so we can read the love between the lines and find ourselves full of gratitude, which, when it comes, is not only a miracle in itself but allows us to see so many more’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 20 February 2021). 
 
Please continue to remember South Sudan in your prayers. Ron Hart has forwarded this news from there: ‘The UN Commission on Human Rights in Sudan reports to the UN Human Rights Council that, despite a diminution of hostilities at the national level, “unprecedented levels of ethnically based violence threaten to spiral out of control because of lack of justice and accountability.” The Commission said that more than 75% of South Sudan is experiencing “murderous violence” at the local level. It cited some of the most brutal attacks of the past seven years as occurring in the Central Equatoria, Warrap, Jonglei and the Greater Pibor Administrative Area, surpassing the level in 2013 when civil war broke out’. 
 
‘Nothing was being “decided centrally and kept under wraps” where the vision and strategy discussions were concerned, the Archbishop of York, the Most Revd Stephen Cottrell, assured General Synod members on Saturday. Press reports claiming so had been misleading, Archbishop Cottrell said in an informal Synod meeting held via Zoom. The ten-year plan for the C of E, unveiled at the November Synod (News, 26 November 2020), had “landed well and seemed to capture the spirit of the Church”; but it was still, he reiterated, a work in progress. “There has to be realism and humility,” he said. “It is my intention to be open and transparent about the full nature of the challenge. Many of us are exhausted. We don’t know what the Church is going to look like in the future, but we are very proud of what we have achieved as a Church” in the past year. The initiative Archbishop Cottrell outlined in November called for a simpler, humbler, bolder, and more diverse Church, in which the key performance-indicator, he had said, would be “the number of feet we wash, not the numbers attending our services, though we hope by faith both will grow”’ (Church Times 27 February 2021). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Almighty God, 
by the prayer and discipline of Lent 
may we enter into the mystery of Christ’s sufferings, 
and by following in his Way 
come to share in his glory; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
I shall be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church this morning. I shall ring the bell at 10:30am and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. The Church will open for private prayer from 11am to 12pm. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for all who rely on food aid. ‘This year has been an extraordinarily difficult one, with many more people across the country facing destitution as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Food banks carry on, working as tirelessly as ever, to support people in crisis through the unprecedented challenge the pandemic continues to pose’ (Emma Revie, Trussell Trust Chief Executive). Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for those at work worried about social distancing. 
 
‘Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at His disposition, and listening to His voice in the depth of our hearts’ (Mother Teresa). 
Sunday 28th February 2021 
 
‘In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus’ (Galatians 326-28). 
 
‘A new UK survey suggests that non-Christians’ view of churches has improved over the past three years, especially in their response to the pandemic. The study, by Savanta ComRes, found that the respondents were more likely to agree that the UK Church was making a positive difference in the world: 25 per cent today, compared with 19 per cent three years ago. More than one in three (36 per cent) agreed that Christian churches were making a positive difference in the world. The online poll of 2170 adults carried out from 12 to 14 February for YourNeighbour, and the charity World Vision UK, found that 42 per cent agreed that churches were making a positive difference in their communities, and 24 per cent disagreed. When asked which community needs the churches could provide, 24 per cent said events for the elderly, and homeless services, followed by shelter for the homeless (22 per cent), and the collection and distribution of food, clothes, and toys (20 per cent)’ (Church Times 26 February 2021). 
 
As I mentioned on Friday, this coming Friday is the World Day of Prayer. If you wish to take part, you can find out more in this month’s Downton Parish News. Also on Friday we are having the second of our virtual Lent lunches. If you would like to join in please have a word with Jo Parsons (01725 512738). 
 
The March issue of Downton Parish News is now available free to view or download on our website. For those unable to access our magazine through the website, there will be a few printed copies available (free) in the Co-op, Chemist and Woodfalls Post Office. Please can you let anyone know that you think may want one - or collect one for them. They and we would be most grateful. 
 
Our collect for today is rather like advice from our doctor: avoid those things that are bad for your health. Unfortunately all too aften these are the things we crave. We have to make a positive effort to look beyond the desires of today to the far greater joys yet to come. 
 
The collect for this week: 
Almighty God, 
you show to those who are in error the light of your truth, 
that they may return to the way of righteousness: 
grant to all those who are admitted 
into the fellowship of Christ’s religion, 
that they may reject those things 
that are contrary to their profession, 
and follow all such things as are agreeable to 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 we today pray for charities struggling to continue their work and fundraising. There is a real crisis amongst many charities as fund raising has been difficult, if not impossible, during the pandemic. They face an estimated £10bn shortfall in income. There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary on Monday we pray for all visitors to our Churches. On Tuesday we pray for our witness to the faith. 
 
‘On the fourth floor of the Museum of the Bible, a sweeping permanent exhibit tells the story of how the ancient scripture became the world’s most popular book. A warmly lit sanctum at the exhibit’s heart reveals some of the museum’s most prized possessions: fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls, ancient texts that include the oldest known surviving copies of the Hebrew Bible. But now, the Washington, D.C. museum has confirmed a bitter truth about the fragments’ authenticity.. Independent researchers funded by the Museum of the Bible announced that all 16 of the museum’s Dead Sea Scroll fragments are modern forgeries that duped external collectors, the museum’s founder, and some of the world’s leading biblical scholars. Officials unveiled the findings at an academic conference hosted by the museum. “The Museum of the Bible is trying to be as transparent as possible,” says CEO Harry Hargrave. “We’re victims - we’re victims of misrepresentation, we’re victims of fraud.” In a report spanning more than 200 pages, a team of researchers led by art fraud investigator Colette Loll found that while the pieces are probably made of ancient leather, they were inked in modern times and modified to resemble real Dead Sea Scrolls. “These fragments were manipulated with the intent to deceive,” Loll says’ (National Geographic). 
Friday 26th February 2021 
 
When they found him on the other side of the lake, they said to him, ‘Rabbi, when did you come here?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal’ (John 6:25-27). 
 
Why do we seek God? For most of us it is probably for a mixture of reasons, some of which we may not be entirely sure of ourselves. There is a need, a yearning deep within us. It is said that there is a void in our lives which we all try to fill somehow. However only God can truly and fully answer that need. 
 
All of a sudden everything is warmer and sunnier. The Spring bulbs are blooming and the days are brighter and longer, lifting our spirits. ‘Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures for ever’ (1 Chronicles 16:34). 
 
Tomorrow the Church remembers George Herbert, priest, pastor and poet. ‘George Herbert was born in 1593, a cousin of the Earl of Pembroke. His mother was a friend of the poet John Donne. George attended Trinity College, Cambridge.. In 1626 he was ordained, and became vicar and then rector of the parish of Bemerton and neighbouring Fugglestone, not far from Salisbury. He served faithfully as a parish priest, diligently visiting his parishioners and bringing them the sacraments when they were ill, and food and clothing when they were in want. He read Morning and Evening Prayer daily in the church, encouraging the congregation to join him when possible, and ringing the church bell before each service so that those who could not come might hear it and pause in their work to join their prayers with his.. His spontaneous generosity and good will won him the affection of his parishioners. Today, however, he is remembered chiefly for his book of poems, The Temple, which he sent shortly before his death to his friend Nicholas Ferrar, to publish if he thought them suitable… Several of them have been used as hymns, in particular “Teach me, my God and King,” and “Let all the world in every corner sing” (http://justus.anglican.org/resources/bio/110.html). 
 
‘It is said that the Church talks a lot about truth but finds honesty difficult. Maybe being truthful is one sure way of worshipping God and might be more acceptable to God than half-hearted pieties and self-proclaiming certainties?’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 18 February 2021). 
 
Next Friday is the World Day of Prayer. If you wish to take part, you can find out more and some resources on their webpage. Also next Friday at 12 o’clock we will be having another virtual Lent lunch. There will be a short reflection and the opportunity for discussion and it will last for 40 minutes. If you would like to join us please have a word with Jo Parsons (01725 512738). 
 
The collect for the commemoration of George Herbert: 
King of glory, king of peace, 
who called your servant George Herbert 
from the pursuit of worldly honours 
to be a priest in the temple of his God and king: 
grant us also the grace to offer ourselves 
with singleness of heart in humble obedience to your service; 
through Jesus Christ your Son 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 we pray for all ministers in the village. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for all who minister to the sick, both professionally and those who look after loved ones at home. 
 
‘Teach me, my God and King, in all things thee to see, and what I do in anything to do it as for thee’ (George Herbert). 
 
On 26th February 1909 a colour motion picture was shown to the general public for the first time. A series of 21 short Kinemacolor films were presented at the Palace Theatre in London. Whilst on this day in 1991 the world’s first web browser was demonstrated. The browser “WorldWideWeb” (later renamed “Nexus”) was developed by Tim Berners-Lee, a British computer scientist best known as the inventor of the internet. 
Wednesday 24th February 2021 
 
‘I will call to mind the deeds of the Lord; I will remember your wonders of old. I will meditate on all your work, and muse on your mighty deeds. Your way, O God, is holy. What god is so great as our God? You are the God who works wonders; you have displayed your might among the peoples. With your strong arm you redeemed your people’ (Psalm 77:11-15). 
 
When life is difficult or the outlook seemingly bleak, it can be hard sometimes to see the positives. Yet we can always look back at all that God has done in our lives, all the blessings and joys. We can take strength from that, and so find hope for the future. Then we remember that ‘Prayer is not overcoming God's reluctance. It is laying hold of His willingness’ (Martin Luther). 
 
‘Lent invites us to distil, reimagine and remember the fragile miracle of our own self.. Responsibilities distract us and tell us we’re too involved with the ‘real’ world to be concerned about the spiritual questions. But it is always spiritual questions that make the difference in the way we go about our public and day-to-day lives’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 17 February 2021). 
 
‘The privations of 2020 have prompted others to suggest that self-deprivation for Lent might not be the most appropriate counsel this year. Theatre Chaplaincy UK (TCUK) is offering “Words for the Wilderness (Soft Words for Hard Times)” every Wednesday during Lent, in a video on its YouTube channel. It features a series of well-known actors, including Samantha Bond, Giles Terera, and Rakie Ayola, reading a poem chosen to reflect the themes of Lent and also of the pandemic. These will then be the focus of a Thursday Late Night Lent on Facebook, and a Friday-afternoon discussion group on Zoom’ (Church Times 19 February 2021). 
 
‘It's Fairtrade Fortnight.. and you can 'Choose the world you want' by getting involved with this year's campaign, which will be an online festival. There are dozens of free festival events to dive into, coming from all corners of our global Fairtrade community. From quizzes and expert panel discussions to live music and Q&As with Fairtrade farmers, each event is a unique chance to explore climate, Fairtrade, and choices open to you. With international climate summits like COP26 coming to the UK this year, there is an unmissable opportunity to push world leaders to deliver urgently needed support for those already feeling the worst effects of the climate crisis- farmers and workers who are often behind familiar supermarket staples like bananas, chocolate and coffee. An unjust global trade system means many simply aren’t earning enough to adapt to a changing climate which - through increasingly extreme weather patterns, rising temperatures and more deadly plant diseases – poses an immediate threat to their livelihoods. Many farmers and workers do not earn enough for the basics like critical medical care, decent food and education for their children’ (Diocese of Salisbury Grapevine 18 February 2021). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Heavenly Father, 
your Son battled with the powers of darkness, 
and grew closer to you in the desert: 
help us to use these days to grow in wisdom and prayer 
that we may witness to your saving love 
in Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
I shall be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church this morning. I shall ring the bell at 10:30am and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. The Church will open for private prayer from 11am to 12pm. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for Churches Together in Downton. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for all medical staff, those in hospitals, GP surgeries, Care Homes and research laboratories. We give thanks for all their hard work and dedication, and bring them before God in all the stress, worry and exhaustion that has brought for many. 
 
On 24th February 1582 Pope Gregory XIII ordered the introduction of the Gregorian calendar. Luigi Lilio's reform of the Julian calendar was first introduced in some Catholic countries and is now the world's most widely used calendar. 
Sunday 21st February 2021 
 
'If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. The scripture says, ‘No one who believes in him will be put to shame’ (Romans 10:9-11). 
 
Lent is a time for reflection and self-examination before God - an opportunity to stand back, to pray, and for a renewal and deepening of our faith. It is, as it were, a sort of spiritual spring-clean perhaps (Lent is from an old English word meaning Spring). In the words of our collect, we are to ‘to discipline ourselves in obedience to your Spirit’. ‘Christianity is either fire or it is nothing at all’ (Mother Maria Skobtsova). 
 
‘“The church has - and should - fight against injustices, but I think we are failing on climate change.” That was the message 18 year-old Joe Brindle gave to Synod on Saturday, who also warned, “The church risks losing its next generation of members if it fails to speak up”. Joe, from Devizes, had been invited to speak to Synod to give a voice to the younger generation in our Diocese who are deeply concerned about the climate crisis and want the Church to do more to address it. Quoting Spider-Man in his talk to Synod members attending by Zoom, Joe said: “With great power comes great responsibility. The people who are being most affected by climate change, aren’t those who contribute to it. In fact there is almost an exact inverse correlation - richer countries like the UK cause way more emissions per capita, but suffer way less of the effects of climate change. And this is only getting worse.” Joe explained that he had grown up a Christian and had been “sparked into action” after he had watched a Tearfund video about a woman in Malawi who, due to droughts that had been worsened by climate change, was surviving on corn husks and orange juice sachets alone’ (Diocese of Salisbury Grapevine 18 February 2021). 
 
‘Nearly two-thirds of people in the UK believe that the Covid-19 vaccination should be rolled out equally around the world, and that poorer countries should be given equal access to the vaccines, a new survey suggests… Christian Aid has formed a partnership with the diocese of Gloucester to encourage people who have been vaccinated to “pay it forward” by donating to Christian Aid’s coronavirus appeal. A similar campaign, set up by the Rector of St Andrew’s, Curry Rivel, in Somerset, has raised more than £20,000. The “Twin my vaccine” campaign, set up on the donation site Just Giving by the Revd Scott Patterson, encourages those who have been given a free vaccine to donate towards one for people in the world’s poorest communities. It beat its initial target of £1000 and raised £20,000 in the first two weeks. The money raised will go to UNICEF’s Covid-19 appeal, to deliver vaccines around the world’ (Church Times 19 February). 
 
The collect for this week: 
Almighty God, 
whose Son Jesus Christ fasted forty days in the wilderness, 
and was tempted as we are, yet without sin: 
give us grace to discipline ourselves in obedience to your Spirit; 
and, as you know our weakness, 
so may we know your power to save; 
through Jesus Christ your Son 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/) 
 
There is a recorded service for today from the church and a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. There is no service in Church. I shall ring the bell in Church at 10:30am and ask that you join me in prayer at that time. The Church will open for private prayer from 11am to 12pm. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we today pray for our Parochial Church Council (PCC) who have been continuing to meet online. There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary on Monday we pray for the Guides and Brownies on this their Thinking Day. On Tuesday we pray for our Forest & Avon Team. 
 
‘Let us never forget to pray. God lives. He is near. He is real. He is not only aware of us but cares for us. He is our Father. He is accessible to all who will seek Him’ (Gordon B. Hinckley). 
 
On 21st February 1958 the peace symbol was designed by Gerald Holtom. Commissioned by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) the symbol combines the semaphore symbols for the letters N and D - an abbreviation of “Nuclear Disarmament”. 
Friday 19th February 2021 
 
Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, ‘Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?’ And Jesus said to them, ‘The wedding-guests cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast’ (Matthew 9:14-15). 
 
Lent is a very special time in our Church year as we pause and consider our life with God. For many this will mean also a period of closer attention to the Word of God and more time in prayer and reflection, as we commit ourselves to examine our lives and those obstacles and stumbling blocks we put in the way of faith. The purpose of all this is to make us ready for a glorious celebration of Easter. 
 
‘Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rearguard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am’ (Isaiah 58:6-9). 
 
Today at 12 o’clock we are having our virtual Lent lunch. There will be a short reflection and the opportunity for discussion and it will last for 40 minutes. If you would like to join us please have a word with Jo Parsons (01725 512738). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Holy God, 
our lives are laid open before you: 
rescue us from the chaos of sin 
and through the death of your Son 
bring us healing and make us whole 
in Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for all visitors to our Churches. We may have been in lockdown but people continue to come to pray, stand a while in the churchyard or join us online. 
Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for those who produce our Parish magazine. This has not been easy during lockdown, but Downton Parish News has been available online throughout. Please ensure that everyone knows this and where to find it. 
 
‘The carbon footprint of Church of England buildings has been calculated for the first time. The estimate is that parish churches use about 185,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases each year. The data has been gathered by the Energy Footprint Tool (EFT), an online calculator built by the statistics team at Church House, Westminster, which allows parishes to input their energy usage and discover how much carbon-dioxide equivalent they are using.. Once churches have entered their data, the tool offers advice for how they could cut their energy usage, and a simple comparison on how they are doing compared with churches of similar size. It is hoped that wider usage of the EFT will help to push the Church towards meeting its target, set by the General Synod, of reaching net-zero emissions by 2030’ (Church Times 12 February 2021). 
 
On 19th February 1878 American inventor Thomas Edison patented the phonograph - so starting the era of recorded sound that is such a feature of our lives today. 
 
‘A way has to be found to enable everyone to benefit from the fruits of the earth, and not simply to close the gap between the affluent and those who must be satisfied with the crumbs falling from the table, but above all to satisfy the demands of justice, fairness and respect for every human being’ (Pope Francis). 
Wednesday 17th February 2021 
 
‘As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life’ (1 Timothy 6:17-19). 
 
We brought nothing into the world and will take nothing from it. So we should be working on those ‘treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal’ (Matthew 6:20). These are the things that will last. ‘The spiritual adventure of following Christ means trying to think critically but live faithfully. This means being open about our questions and scrutiny. Faith is not certainty. It is a relationship and it knows that our flickering communion with God so often deepens through things that unravel us and our securities. Faith works by questioning our answers as much as answering our questions’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 13 February 2021). 
 
Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. Now we turn our thoughts towards Christ’s Passion and Resurrection, and what that means for our own walk with God. There is a service for today from the church. There is a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. There is no Ashes Service in Church. 
 
I shall be using a simple order for Morning Prayerin Church this morning, together with our Roads to God prayers. I shall ring the bell at 10:30am and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. The Church will open for private prayer from 11am to 12pm. If you come to Church this morning during this time of private prayer, I will be available to sprinkle you with ashes as we mark the start of this season of penitence and reflection. 
 
‘It has been said that the heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart. Lent is time set aside each year to take this thought seriously… In the Gospels, the 40 days that Jesus spent in the beguiling wilderness immediately followed his baptism. Coming up out of the water, he had heard the unmistakable voice that matters, telling him he was cherished, wanted, and ready. He then goes into the heat, spending time with himself, hearing other voices that want him to live down to them; but he knows that his vocation can be lived only when he learns to live up to the one voice that he heard that day in the river, not down to the ones that want him to live some indifferent and submerged existence as a consumer of the world and not as a citizen of the Kingdom. We follow him. Where he goes, so do we. A wilderness Lent is needed more than ever to do some heart-repair and start becoming Christians again’ (Mark Oakley, Church Times 12 February 2021). 
 
The collect for today: 
Almighty and everlasting God, 
you hate nothing that you have made 
and forgive the sins of all those who are penitent: 
create and make in us new and contrite hearts 
that we, worthily lamenting our sins 
and acknowledging our wretchedness, 
may receive from you, the God of all mercy, 
perfect remission and forgiveness; 
through Jesus Christ your Son 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 today we pray for our good use of Lent. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for all key workers. 
 
‘Our prayers may be awkward. Our attempts may be feeble. But since the power of prayer is in the one who hears it and not in the one who says it, our prayers do make a difference’ (Max Lucado). 
Sunday 14th February 2021 
 
‘For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honour and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased’ (2 Peter 1:16-17). 
 
This last Sunday before we enter into Lent, we celebrate the Transfiguration of Christ - as he is revealed in his glory on the mountain and joined by Moses and Elijah. Peter, the author of our passage here, was one of the witnesses to this event: ‘He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth’ (John 19:35). So we know he speaks with authority. 
 
Happy St Valentine’s day. ‘The medieval English poet Geoffrey Chaucer often took liberties with history, placing his poetic characters into fictitious historical contexts that he represented as real. No record exists of romantic celebrations on Valentine’s Day prior to a poem Chaucer wrote around 1375. In his work “Parliament of Foules,” he links a tradition of courtly love with the celebration of St. Valentine’s feast day – an association that didn’t exist until after his poem received widespread attention. The poem refers to February 14 as the day birds (and humans) come together to find a mate. When Chaucer wrote, “For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne’s day / Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate,” he may have invented the holiday we know today’ (www.history.com/)
 
Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, when usually we would be having an Ashes Service at the Church of the Good Shepherd. Although we are unable to do that this year, there will be an opportunity to receive the ashes in Church on the morning. These will be sprinkled on our heads rather than imposed in a cross, in line with the current guidelines and regulations. 
 
I remind you that on Friday we will be having a virtual Lent Lunch. It will start at 12 noon and last for 40 minutes. There will be a short reflection and time for a chat. If there is a demand, we will continue this every other week. If you would like to take part, please have a word with Jo Parsons (01725 512738). 
 
The collect for this week: 
Almighty Father, 
whose Son was revealed in majesty 
before he suffered death upon the cross: 
give us grace to perceive his glory, 
that we may be strengthened to suffer with him 
and be changed into his likeness, from glory to glory; 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
There is a recorded service for today from the church - including a reflection from Bishop Nicholas. There is a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. There is no service in Church. I shall ring the bell in Church at 10:30am and ask that you join me in prayer at that time. The Church will open for private prayer from 11am to 12pm. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we today pray for the homeless and refugees. There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary on Monday we pray for those at work worried about social distancing. On Tuesday we pray for those who are alone and depressed. 
 
On 14th February 1946 the first general-purpose high-speed electronic digital computer, the ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer), was demonstrated to the public by its creators, J. Presper Eckert, Jr., and John W. Mauchly. Whilst on 14th February 1984 Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean won the gold medal for ice dancing at the Winter Olympics in Sarajevo with a perfect performance. 
 
‘Understand the creation if you wish to know the Creator…. For those who wish to know the great deep must first review the natural world’ (St Columbanus c. 543-615). 
Friday 12th February 2021 
 
'When the goodness and loving-kindness of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life' (Titus 3:4-7). 
 
Sometimes we put too much on ourselves - expect too much of ourselves. Yet it is not from any righteousness or goodness on our part that we are saved. Rather it is purely through God's love and all that Jesus has done. 'I think the reason we sometimes have the false sense that God is so far away is because that is where we have put him. We have kept him at a distance, and then when we are in need and call on him in prayer, we wonder where he is. He is exactly where we left him' (Ravi Zacharias). 
 
'The pandemic is giving countries in the West a taste of the insecurity experienced for decades by developing countries because of climate change, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said. "The Covid-19 pandemic has forced the world to look at how we have been living and operating, when so much of what was considered 'normal' was not possible," he said on Thursday. "We have been confronted by our behaviour: by our sin; our greed; our human fragility; our exploitation of the environment and encroachment on the natural world. "For many, this uncertainty is new. But many more around the world have been living with uncertainty for decades as the grim, real, and present consequence of climate change. To think it is a problem of the future rather than a scourge of the present is the blind perspective of the privileged." Archbishop Welby was addressing the first of a series of online meetings between global faith leaders in preparation for the COP26 climate-change conference in Glasgow in November... The pandemic had revealed humanity's capacity for change, hope, and interconnectedness, and the response to climate change must make use of this, he said. "Climate change is an issue in which greed, fragility, justice, and interconnectedness come together"' (Church Times 5 February 2021). 
 
'This we know, the Earth does not belong to us; we belong to the Earth. We did not weave the web of life; we are merely a strand in it. Whatever we do to the web we do to ourselves' (Chief Seattle). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Almighty God, 
give us reverence for all creation 
and respect for every person, 
that we may mirror your likeness 
in Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for the Barford Day Centre - 'Open 1 day per week to older & disabled residents of Downton & surrounding villages. providing transport, home cooked lunch, tea, coffee plus games, entertainment & outings, also advice & information, under supervision of trained organiser' (Charity Commission). Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for politicians and their advisors. 
 
'Creation is not a property, which we can rule over at will; or, even less, is the property of only a few: Creation is a gift, it is a wonderful gift that God has given us, so that we care for it and we use it for the benefit of all, always with great respect and gratitude' (Pope Francis). 
 
On 12th February 1709 Alexander Selkirk, the Scottish seaman whose adventures inspired the creation of Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, was taken off Juan Fernandez Island after more than four years of living there alone. While on this day in 1924, George Gershwin's ground-breaking symphonic jazz composition Rhapsody in Blue premieres with Gershwin himself playing the piano with Paul Whiteman's orchestra. 
Wednesday 10th February 2021 
 
‘O taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are those who take refuge in him. O fear the Lord, you his holy ones, for those who fear him have no want. The young lions suffer want and hunger, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing’ (Psalm 34:8-10). 
 
Today the Church remembers Scholastica, the twin sister of St Benedict. Scholastica, we are told, consecrated her life to God from her earliest youth. After her brother went to Monte Cassino, where he established his famous monastery, she took up her abode in the neighbourhood at Plombariola. Here she founded and governed a monastery of nuns, about five miles from that of St. Benedict who, it appears, also directed his sister and her nuns. Scholastica is the patron saint of nuns. 
 
‘An additional 1.2 million people in the UK will be driven to foodbanks if the £20 temporary uplift in Universal Credit is ended in April, the Trussell Trust, the leading foodbank network, has said. The Trust said that its own research had shown that almost a quarter of a million parents feared that they would have to cut back on food for their children this spring if the temporary £20 uplift was removed - as the Government plans. More than two million adults also said that they would be forced to cut back on food for themselves… The Trust forecasts the more people will turn to foodbanks for support if the cut goes ahead. Some 20 per cent, 1.2 million people, of those asked, said that they would have to turn to a foodbank. Demand for foodbanks rose last year, and more children than ever required emergency help. In the first six months of the pandemic, 2600 parcels were provided for children every day by the Trust’s network of foodbanks. Between March and September 2020, 1.2 million parcels were given out to clients’ (Church Times 5 February 2021). 
 
‘Fragments of an ancient fabric such as might have been worn by King David and his son Solomon have been discovered in southern Israel. The material is dyed purple, a colour associated with royalty because it was derived from snail shells in a complex process that made it worth more than gold. The Bible records David as wearing purple robes. Carbon dating of the woven fabric, a tassel, and loose fibres placed their creation to about 1000 BC. King David is believed to have reigned from 1010 to 970 BC, and his son Solomon from 970 to 931 BC. The find was made in the Timna Valley, at a site, Slaves’ Hill, about 20 miles north of the Red Sea port of Eilat. The valley is renown for copper mines dating from the fifth millennium BC, and was dubbed “King Solomon’s Mines” during early excavations in the 1930s’ (Church Times 5 February 2021). 
 
The collect for today: 
We pray, O Lord, that, following the example of Scholastica, 
we may serve you with pure love 
and happily receive what comes from loving you; 
through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, 
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, for ever and ever. Amen. 
 
I shall be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church this morning. I shall ring the bell at 10:30am and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. The Church will open for private prayer from 11am to 12pm. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray that we may grow through God's Word. ‘Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation’ (Articles of Religion). We are encouraged especially to spend time in Bible reading over Lent, and - equally important - reflect on how this should affect and direct our lives. 
Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for our Churchwarden and Deputy Churchwardens. 
 
On 11th February 1858 in Lourdes, 14-year-old Bernadette Soubirous, a miller's daughter, first had her visions of the Virgin Mary that were authenticated by Pope Pius IX in 1862, initiating the devotion of Our Lady of Lourdes. 
 
‘I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day’ (Abraham Lincoln). 
Sunday 7th February 2021 
 
‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?... But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well’ (Matthew 6:25-26,33). 
 
Once again our Bible passage directs us to consider our priorities. What comes first in our lives - worrying about what we have or striving for the kingdom of God. Of course, it is only natural to be concerned that we have a safe and secure basis for our lives. God, though, tells us to let him worry about that, while we concentrate on what he has called us to be and to do. 
 
‘Do we expect God to sit aside and smile wistfully at his errant offspring? ‘There, there. Just my people doing what they please. No matter to me.’ Judgement is an expression of the desire of God, rooted in love. A God who doesn’t judge, doesn’t care. Judgement is not the opposite of love; it is the expression of it’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 26 January 2021, on Hosea chapter 4). 
 
‘The UK Government should demonstrate global moral leadership on the triple emergencies of Covid-19, poverty, and climate change, says a new “Crack the Crises” coalition of organisations representing ten million people in the UK. It was launched on Monday after a YouGov/Save the Children poll showed that 83 per cent of respondents believed that the coronavirus outbreak was better dealt with by countries’ working together to find a solution. Eighty-six per cent and 61 per cent respectively believed that the same was true in relation to climate change and poverty. The coalition has been formed in advance of the UK’s hosting of the G7 nations in Cornwall in June, and the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, in November. It embraces international development agencies such as Christian Aid, Oxfam, CAFOD, Save the Children, and WaterAid; nature conservationists such as the Wildlife Trusts and the Marine Conservation Society; and others, including the National Union of Students, VSO, and 38 Degrees’ (Church Times 2 February 2021). 
 
‘Covid-19 has hit us hard. It has also revealed other shortcomings and challenges that were often unheeded. We are moving into new, uncharted territory. Therefore, there isn’t a map. We are finding our way. Many challenges await us. A deep renewal of our life in Christ, and a determination to shape our life around the things we see in Christ, will be the only way we find what sort of church God wants us to be. He is our compass’ (Stephen Cottrell, Archbishop of York). 
 
The collect for this week: 
Almighty God, 
you have created the heavens and the earth 
and made us in your own image: 
teach us to discern your hand in all your works 
and your likeness in all your children; 
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, 
who with you and the Holy Spirit reigns supreme over all things, 
now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
There is a recorded service for today from the church and a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. There is no service in Church. I shall ring the bell in Church at 10:30am and ask that you join me in prayer at that time. The Church will open for private prayer from 11am to 12pm. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray today for our Team Rector and family - thank you. There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary on Monday we pray for those made redundant or unable to find work. As we hear of yet more well-known companies going into administration, we pray for all those many individuals for whom this has a very direct and immediate impact on their lives. On Tuesday we pray for those in Residential and Nursing Homes, together with all the staff. 
 
‘There is no evidence that church buildings being closed for worship has led to a general feeling that they are not needed’ (Money, People and Buildings, discussion paper). 
Friday 5th February 2021 
 
‘Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’ So we can say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?’ Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever’ (Hebrews 13:5-8). 
 
Jesus is the same: this is both a source of great joy, comfort and hope, as his love and grace enfold us - and also a challenge in these days when all is considered comparative and merely a matter of opinion. We know that we serve and are held fast by the one eternal unchangeable God. Being content with what we have is also at odds with the values of today, when we are supposed always to be striving for more: ‘bigger, better, newer, smarter’ (Michael Flanders). 
 
‘If we take God seriously, we cannot divide the world into sacred and secular, excising God from public life as though God is somehow separate from politics, economics, social policy and cultural perspective, as though God neither sees nor cares. We cannot lock God up in a Victorian box pew and let him out for an hour on Sunday. It is imperative that the Church does not forget that God is active in the world. In societies that, at best, often banish God to the margins, the Church must be robust in praying for our politicians, civic leaders, military heads and business directors, praying into al! areas of public life - and allowing our intercessions to shape our subsequent actions. As the psalmist puts it: 'The earth is the Lord's and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it' (Psalm 24.1)’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 30 January 2021). 
 
As we continue to endure the lockdown, there are signs of hope appearing all around us - from the steady progress of the vaccine emerging from the dedication and hard work of so many, to the spring bulbs poking through the earth with their annual promise of renewal. All this reminds us that we live in God’s world and that he is at work among us. 
 
‘Prayer is never restricted to people of faith, the Archbishop of York, the Most Revd Stephen Cottrell, has said. He encouraged the whole nation to pray daily for all those who had died, those who were suffering and grieving, and those who were working to save and improve the lives of others during the pandemic. More than 100,000 people in the UK have died from Covid-19 since its outbreak last March. To mark this “terrible milestone” last week, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York invited the nation to pray and to “reflect on the enormity of this pandemic” on each day in February, beginning at 6 p.m. this evening (News, 26 January). The focus this week will be on schools and colleges, and children and young people. Archbishop Cottrell told BBC Radio 4’s Sunday programme this week: “It is a profound and simple thing; but it is the one thing that we can all do. . . I believe that by praying we can make a difference and we can begin to be that difference’ (Church Times 1 February 2021). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
God of our salvation, 
help us to turn away from those habits which harm our bodies 
and poison our minds 
and to choose again your gift of life, 
revealed to us in Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for the bereaved. At this time we remember especially the families of Dennis Johnson and Yvonne Livesey who both died last week. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for the Trafalgar School at Downton. 
 
‘Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul. It is daily admission of one's weakness. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart’ (Mahatma Gandhi). 
Monday 3rd February 2021 
 
‘Lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. Pursue peace with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord’ (Hebrews 12:12-14). 
 
Today the letter to the Hebrews has a very important lesson. It tells us how to look at the pains and sufferings that occur in our life. We should not be discouraged by such experiences nor should we take such things lightly. We may not be able to avoid pain coming into our own lives, but God is always with us in and through it all. Nor should we ever be the source of pain in the lives of other people. 
 
Bishop Nicholas has announced that he is retiring. ‘The Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam, will retire on the 3rd July 2021, a month short of his 67th birthday. He will have been Bishop of Salisbury for ten years. “Being the Bishop of Salisbury has been a privilege and a joy”, the Bishop said. “In present circumstances, the timing of my retirement has not been an easy decision but it feels right to me and to those I have consulted. The impact of the pandemic is going to be felt for a long time. The diocese is developing a Mission and Pastoral Plan and we have an agreed financial framework with which to face the future with confidence. We continue to be about Renewing Hope as we Pray, Serve and Grow.” 
 
We are now looking ahead to Lent, which begins in a fortnight. To mark Ash Wednesday, there will be an opportunity to receive ashes during the time of private prayer at Church in the morning. I will give more details later. Also we will be having a virtual Lent Lunch. It will be on Friday 19th February and 12 noon for 40 minutes. There will be a short reflection and time for a chat. If there is a demand, we will continue this every other week. If you would like to take part, please have a word with Jo Parsons (01725 512738). 
 
‘God’s knowing is intimate and total. This knowing is deeply comforting - or profoundly threatening. For the humble of heart, to be known by God offers deep assurance. To reach out and receive forgiveness when we have slipped up in stupidity is the source of all solace. However, if we spurn God, the same fact of God’s knowledge is terrifying; hence the need to dig deep into resistance. Barricaded by pride, we entertain the illusion that all is fine. God is denied, ignored, or treated as just another player in the game, rather than the maker of all things’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 27 January 2021). 
 
The collect for this week: 
Almighty God, 
by whose grace alone we are accepted 
and called to your service: 
strengthen us by your Holy Spirit 
and make us worthy of our calling; 
through Jesus Christ your Son 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/) 
 
I shall be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church this morning. I shall ring the bell at 10:30am and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. The Church will open for private prayer from 11am to 12pm. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray today for all who rely on food aid. Demand at the Salisbury Foodbank has been up week on week since August. As many have remarked, it is staggering that in a wealthy country such as ours so many should be unable to feed themselves and their families. We give thanks for the hard work of all the Foodbanks and those who work for and with them. 
Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for our Church School. Our schools have been doing an amazing job, but it has been extremely hard work. We bear the staff in our prayers and give thanks for their dedication and commitment. 
 
‘Politics does not have to be a raging fire destroying everything in its path. Every disagreement does not have to be a cause for total war. We must reject the culture in which facts themselves are manipulated and manufactured’ (Joe Biden, inauguration speech, 20 January). 
Sunday 31st January 2021 
 
‘They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes… They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching - with authority!”’ (Mark 1:21-22,27) 
 
The Presentation of Christ in the Temple forty days after his birth marks the end of the Christmas/Epiphany season. The actual date of the Feast of the Presentation is on Tuesday, but we are celebrating it today. For those still with your lights or decorations up, it is the time to take them down. If your crib is out, now we should put it away. 
 
Here we are reminded both of the incredible love and grace of God in coming among us as a weak and vulnerable baby - and his long-term perspective working across the ages to draw us all to himself. From today our focus shifts forward as we think about our own walk with God (in Lent) and begin looking towards Jesus’ Passion and the events of Easter. 
 
‘The second woman to be ordained priest in the Anglican Church of Kenya, Canon Emily Awino Onyango, has been appointed as an Assistant Bishop in the diocese of Bondo, the Anglican News Service reports. She will be the first female Anglican bishop anywhere in East Africa. Her appointment was unanimously approved by the diocesan synod last week. Canon Onyango was made deacon in 1984 and ordained priest in 1986. She is currently a senior lecturer at St Paul’s University, where she teaches church history in the Faculty of Theology. She chairs the Africa Centre for Biblical Equity and is a founder member of the Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians. She was appointed a Canon in Bondo diocese in 2018. As Bishop, she will focus on the training of clergy, women’s ministry within the Church, and gender issues, including the empowerment of boys and girls and tackling gender-based violence’ (Church Times 22 January 2021). 
 
The collect for today: 
Almighty and ever-living God, 
clothed in majesty, 
whose beloved Son was this day presented in the Temple, 
in substance of our flesh: 
grant that we may be presented to you 
with pure and clean hearts, 
by 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/) 
 
There is a recorded service for today from the church - including a reflection from Bishop Andrew. There is a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. There is no service in Church. I shall ring the bell in Church at 10:30am and ask that you join me in prayer at that time. The Church will open for private prayer from 11am to 12pm. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we today pray for our mission and ministry as a Church. It has been difficult at times to know how we should respond to the current situation. Whatever happens, though, we continue to proclaim God’s love and saving grace in our midst and to pray for our village and community. 
There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary on Monday we pray for our Lay Pastoral Assistants (LPAs). On Tuesday we pray for peace in the world. 
 
The February issue of Downton Parish News is now available free to view or download. For those unable to access our magazine through the website, there will be a few printed copies available (free) in the Co-op, Chemist and Woodfalls Post Office. Please can you let anyone know that you think may want one - or collect one for them. They and we would be most grateful. 
 
On 31st January 1958 Explorer 1 was the first artificial space satellite orbited by the United States, marking the country's entry into the space race. While on this day in 1966 the Soviet Union launched Luna 9, the first spacecraft to make a soft landing on the Moon. 
Friday 29th January 2021 
 
He also said, ‘With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade’ (Mark 4:30-32). 
 
God achieves the most amazing things using the very smallest of beginnings. However tiny we may feel is our contribution to the Kingdom, God uses it to his glory. However weak and faltering our faith, God acts in us and through us, rejoicing in us and building us up, drawing us more fully to himself, and working for the salvation of all. 
 
‘God wants us. How easily we forget this. It’s as though we close the shades and huddle around a feeble fire of our own making, enormously proud of its weak warmth. God whispers, ‘Draw back the curtains and stand in my light.’ Do we opt for a dying heat source when God offers the sun? Paul presses on because he knows his purpose and direction, he understands the goal of his desires. ‘Christ Jesus has made me his own’’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 25 January 2021). 
 
‘The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have invited the British people to pause each evening from the start of next month to “reflect on the enormity of this pandemic”, and to pray. In an open letter to the nation, issued on Tuesday, the Archbishops write: “As we reach the terrible milestone of 100,000 deaths from Covid-19, we invite everyone in our nation to pause as we reflect on the enormity of this pandemic”… The Archbishops write: “100,000 isn’t just an abstract figure. Each number is a person: someone we loved and someone who loved us. We also believe that each of these people was known to God and cherished by God.” They encourage anyone “who is feeling scared, or lost, or isolated to cast their fears on God”’ (Church Times 26 January 2021). 
 
There are copies of the latest Christian Aid magazine available (free) in Church. There is also a copy of their Impact Report 2020. 
 
The prayer after communion for this week: 
Almighty Father, 
whose Son our Saviour Jesus Christ is the light of the world: 
may your people, 
illumined by your word and sacraments, 
shine with the radiance of his glory, 
that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed 
to the ends of the earth; 
for he is alive and reigns, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for our Archbishop, Justin Welby. What Archbishop Justin says and does - or does not do or say - can have a big impact on people’s perception of the Church. We pray for God’s wisdom, guidance and courage on him and his ministry. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for our Lay Pastoral Assistants (LPAs). 
 
Tomorrow the Church remembers Charles, King and Martyr. This is Charles I who was executed on 30th January 1649. Charles is regarded as a martyr because, it is said, he was offered his life if he would abandon the historic episcopacy (bishops) in the Church of England - but he refused. However, many would see Charles’ death primarily as part of the political struggle between King and Parliament rather than a religious matter. The Society of King Charles the Martyr campaigns for the restoration in England of the observance to the Book of Common Prayer. 
 
‘During the first lockdown, I had an encounter that I’ll never forget. As I was walking down the lane outside the church, a neighbour called Steve stopped me and asked whether or not it was true that we had been closed down for public masses. I replied that it was indeed true. Steve, with the characteristic frankness you would expect of a man who played several times for Millwall in the 1960s, shook his head sadly and said: “Either it matters or it don’t”’ (Jonathan Beswick, The Spectator, 16 January). 
 
On 29th January 1924 the first machine for rolling ice cream cones was patented by Carl Rutherford Taylor of Cleveland, Ohio. 
Wednesday 27th January 2021 
 
By a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us, for after saying, ‘This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds’, he also adds, ‘I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more’ (Hebrews 10:14-17). 
 
In Jesus we have a new relationship with God - one based on the Spirit not on a system of laws. This is a relationship of love – God's love for us and our response to that. So the Church is revealed as the Bride of Christ. ‘John the Baptist will shortly be describing Jesus as the bridegroom and himself as the best man. The wedding celebrations are ready to begin. Glory is revealed. The disciples believe. This is the marriage of heaven and earth. The world is a wedding and we are all invited’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 4 January 2021). 
 
‘Spirituality and solidarity are inseparably linked. Abiding in Christ, we receive the strength and wisdom to act against structures of injustice and oppression, to fully recognise ourselves as brothers and sisters in humanity, and to be creators of a new way of living, with respect for and communion with all of creation’ (Introduction to the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity booklet). 
 
‘Christians around the world have faced increased persecution as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, including the refusal of access to emergency aid and increased surveillance and violence, a watchdog has reported. The charity Open Doors compiles an annual World Watch List of countries in which Christians face persecution. This year, it calculates, one in eight Christians around the world have been subject to some form of persecution or discrimination as a result of their faith. The total, 340 million, is 30 million higher than in 2020. Covid-19 has exacerbated the persecution, researchers say. In countries in Asia, there are widespread reports that Christians are being denied Covid-related assistance. Some reported being told that “Your Church or your God should feed you” as they were refused help. In China, there has been a tightening surveillance of Christians. China has moved up into the top 20 on the list for the first time in decades’ (Church Times 22 January 2021). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
God of all mercy, 
your Son proclaimed good news to the poor, 
release to the captives, 
and freedom to the oppressed: 
anoint us with your Holy Spirit 
and set all your people free 
to praise you in Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
I shall be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church this morning. I shall ring the bell at 10:30am and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. The Church will open for private prayer from 11am to 12pm. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for those who are alone and lonely. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for the housebound. With lockdown and all its abundant restrictions, many of those who live alone are starved of human contact and the simple touch of a loved one. 
 
‘The Bishops are offering weekly video reflections in the form of a short homily/sermon that could be used in your Sunday online service.. They will then be published on YouTube at 1.00 pm on a Sunday, and therefore be available for a wider audience. The Bishops have also suggested that churches might also like to consider using the sermons throughout Lent’ (Diocese of Salisbury 21 January 2021). 
 
Today marks the birth, in 1756 of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Generally considered a musical genius, his music continues to delight, inspire and encourage us - brightened our days. 
 
On 28th January 1813 Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice was published anonymously and enjoyed immediate success, thanks in part to the popularity of the central character, Elizabeth Bennet, who was reportedly Austen's own favourite among all her heroines. 
Sunday 24th January 2021 
 
‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him… Those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God’ (John 3:16-17,21). 
 
Sometimes we need simply to return to the heart of the Gospel - that God in his great love for us sent Jesus as our Saviour. We have not earned this; we do not deserve it - but God has done it anyway. ‘In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins’ (1 John 4:10). So, as we wake up this morning to a light blanket of snow across the village, we are reminded that this is God’s world and we do not direct or control it. 
 
‘People caught in poverty are bearing the brunt of a serious housing crisis, made worse by the pandemic, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said. That eight million people in this country live in unaffordable, insecure, or unsustainable housing is an issue of justice that must be tackled now.. Archbishop Welby was speaking in advance of the publication next month of the report by the Archbishops’ Commission on Housing, Church and Community (ACHCC), which will advocate increased collaboration between churches, housing associations, and communities (News, 12 April 2019). 
The Commission has established five core values that it suggests will set a new standard for what good housing should look like, and ensure that everyone has a good home. First, houses should be safe - free from dangers like damp, fire, intruders or cold - and warm, “a place where we feel protected and at home.. Second, they should be stable - “Many people live in fear of the constant threat of eviction” - and affordable: “Places where individuals and families can settle and put down roots without the fear of disruption.” Third, they should be sustainable. “We need to create housing that that does not harm our planet but sustains the balance of the natural world we live in and depend on, for now and for future generations,” he explained. They must also be sociable, with “enough space inside and outside to socialise, exercise, interact, to get to know our neighbours, and be part of a community”. Finally, they should be satisfying, using efficient, innovative design and technology to create spaces that are comfortable, “a place where we truly belong”. 
Archbishop Welby continued: “Now more than ever, we are each and all called to respond to this crisis. If we adopt these values that the Housing Commission has suggested, we can make sure that no one faces the injustice of poor housing, that everyone has a good home”’ (Church Times 21 January 2021). 
 
The collect for this week: 
Almighty God, 
whose Son revealed in signs and miracles 
the wonder of your saving presence: 
renew your people with your heavenly grace, 
and in all our weakness 
sustain us by your mighty power; 
through Jesus Christ your Son 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/) 
 
There is a recorded service for today from the church and a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. There is no service in Church. I shall ring the bell in Church at 10:30am and ask that you join me in prayer at that time. The Church will open for private prayer from 11am to 12pm. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we today pray for the homeless and all refugees. The weak, vulnerable and powerless are all too often left out or pushed to the back of the queue. Yet God is clear that they are close to his heart and his first priority. ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour’ (Luke 4:18-19). We pray also for all those for whom snow is not a delight to see but presents real and present difficulties. 
There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. On Monday the Church celebrates the Conversion of St Paul and in our Parish Prayer Diary we pray that we may share our faith. On Tuesday we pray for all who serve our community. 
Friday 22nd January 2021 
 
‘Even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth - as in fact there are many gods and many lords - yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist’ (1 Corinthians 8:5-6). 
 
What are our priorities and values, individually and as a society? This has been very much a live issue of late. Ultimately, though, the question that really matters for us is: Do we follow God’s true ways or gods of our own making and desires? We are challenged to look deep within ourselves, asking God to shine his light in the darkness. ‘What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it’ (John 1:3-5). 
 
‘The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.. brings together people around the world in a practice that predates the technological togetherness of Zoom: prayer. Prayer helps people to stay connected through the pandemic, even while physical contact is so limited, the interim deputy general secretary for the World Council of Churches (WCC), the Revd Dr Odair Pedroso Mateus, has said. The WCC organises the week with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, in Rome. “Prayer often involves a kind of self-isolation, focusing our minds and hearts on the love of Christ; but when we pray for unity, we enter into closer communion with our brothers and sisters in Christ,” Dr Mateus said. The theme for this year’s week of prayer is “Abide in my love, and you will bear much fruit”’ (Church Times 15 January 2021). 
 
‘More than half the 12,500 Anglican parishes in England have closed their churches to public worship, despite permission to remain open under current Covid-19 lockdown rules. Rising concern about the risk of spreading the virus has led many clergy and PCCs to suspend services, replacing them with online worship. Other clergy have ended public worship because they, too, are shielding. While standards of bio-security inside churches are generally good, many of the worries focus on the possible mingling before and after services. Some clergy have complained about having to make the decision themselves; but a C of E spokesman said: “The circumstances in each place will inform a local decision. While many churches have decided to offer digital services only for the time being, others are continuing to remain open in a Covid-secure way, for individual prayer and public worship. “We urge everyone to be exceptionally cautious, and, in particular, to do everything possible to prevent mingling outside of households and support bubbles. We acknowledge and share the sadness many are feeling at not being able to meet together as we would usually do at the moment, and prayerfully and confidently look forward to better times ahead’ (Church Times 20 January 2021). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Eternal Lord, 
our beginning and our end: 
bring us with the whole creation 
to your glory, hidden through past ages 
and made known 
in Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for the Barford Day Centre. For many of those who belong this has been a particularly difficult time of isolation and loneliness. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for our Bishops and all Church Leaders. We pray especially for wisdom and courage that they may speak God’s truth to the nation and those in authority. 
 
‘God knows we’re dealing with a bad situation with no perfect solution. All he asks is that we keep praying and do what we believe to be the loving thing. He’ll keep feeding us & making us holy when we ask him to, because he refuses to lose a single one of us’ (Emma Bourne @HolyCountenance, Twitter, 9 January) 
 
On 22nd January 1901 Queen Victoria - who reigned for more than 60 years, during which time the British Empire reached the apex of its power - died at the age of 81. She was succeeded by Edward VII, aged 59. 
Wednesday 20th January 2021 
 
‘Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who live in it. Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills sing together for joy at the presence of the Lord, for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity’ (Psalm 98:7-9). 
 
Here we have a salutary reminder of God’s all-encompassing power and authority as we see and live through the consequences of living and acting as if the world is ours to do what we wish. ‘The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it’ (Psalm 24:1). 
 
‘The Pope has criticised those who have fled abroad to escape tough lockdowns in their own countries. Speaking in a video address earlier this month, he said that he had been “saddened” by newspaper reports of people escaping lockdown by flying abroad to go on holiday. “They didn’t think about those who were staying at home, of the economic problems of many people who have been hit hard by the lockdown, of the sick people. [They thought] only about going on holiday and having fun,” he said. The Vatican has been among the most prominent voices urging that vaccines be distributed equitably, and that poorer countries not be left behind’ (Church Times 15 January 2021). 
 
A Prayer for Christian Unity: 
Lord Jesus, who prayed that we might all be one, 
we pray to you for the unity of Christians, 
according to your will, 
according to your means. 
May your Spirit enable us 
to experience the suffering caused by division, 
to see our sin 
and to hope beyond all hope. Amen. 
 
‘Our Social Justice Manager Colin Brady led Staff Prayers this week. Praying with those of other traditions, sharing life and learning together, can bring true richness and be deeply moving. Resources uploaded to the Diocesan Staff Prayers page include a PowerPoint and a sample script’ (Diocese of Salisbury Grapevine 15 January 2021). 
 
I shall be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church this morning, together with our Roads to God prayers which you may wish to use along with it. I shall ring the bell at 10:30am and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. The Church will open for private prayer from 11am to 12pm. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for charities struggling to continue their work and fundraising. ‘Politicians have become more hostile to charity campaigning over the last twelve months, according to a survey conducted by the Sheila McKechnie Foundation. The foundation accused politicians of trying to “slam shut the doors of Whitehall” against charities, after 90% of campaigners said they believed their right to criticise government policies was under threat. A large majority of the campaigners surveyed also blamed negative media coverage for making lobbying harder’ (Civil Society News 15 January 2021). 
Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for peace in the world. 
 
Today we pray also for Joe Biden, as he is inaugurated as the new President of the United States. ‘And so the world watches America - the only great power in history made up of people of every race and faith and cultural practice - to see if our experiment in democracy can work... The jury’s still out’ (Barak Obama, preface to his autobiography A Promised Land, 2020). 
 
On 21st January 1793 Louis XVI, king of France, was executed by guillotine in Paris during the French Revolution. In 1972, Chinese premier Zhou Enlai is reported to have remarked “Too early to say” when asked about the impact of the French Revolution. However, in fact he may have been referring to the 1968 student uprising in Paris. 
Sunday 17th January 2021 
 
‘O Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, you know it completely. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it.’ (Psalm 139:1-6). 
 
Our readings at this time continue on the theme of the manifestation of Jesus in the world, that is to say Jesus being revealed for who he is to and for the world. Last week we had his baptism by John in the Jordan and today we see him start to gather his disciples around him. They are an eclectic bunch and probably not the ones we would have chosen. So Jesus reveals a vision far greater and higher than our earth-bound understanding - a vision encompassing nothing less than the salvation of the world. ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts’ (Isaiah 55:8-9). 
 
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity begins tomorrow. This is a time for us to remember and reflect on the fact that we are all members of the one true living Church. We may express this in different ways; have various emphases on what really matters and how we should do things; or find God’s strength and renewal in distinct ways - but ultimately what matters is that we all belong to Christ. ‘For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another’ (Romans 12:4-5). 
 
‘Women may now serve canonically as lectors and acolytes in the Roman Catholic Church, after a change to canon law announced by Pope Francis on Monday. These lay ministries, which include reading biblical texts at mass, carrying the processional cross, presenting the Bible to the priest, bringing the bread and wine to the altar, and assisting at communion, had previously been described as open only to “suitable male faithful”, because they were considered preparatory to eventual admission to Holy Orders. Around the world, however, women were already doing these things, authorised by local bishops: something that the Vatican acknowledged as “nothing new” in its explanation of the move. “Now, in the wake of the discernment which has emerged from the last Synod of Bishops, Pope Francis wanted to formalise and institutionalise the presence of women at the altar,” it explained. The Pope makes a clear distinction in the letter between lay and ordained ministries’ (Church Times 15 January 2021). 
 
The collect for this week: 
Almighty God, 
in Christ you make all things new: 
transform the poverty of our nature by the riches of your grace, 
and in the renewal of our lives 
make known your heavenly glory; 
through Jesus Christ your Son 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/) 
 
There is a recorded service for today from the church and a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. There is no service in Church. I shall ring the bell in Church at 10:30am and ask that you join me in prayer at that time. The Church will open for private prayer from 11am to 12pm. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we today pray for all key workers. Many of them are stressed and tired, and often the focus of other peoples’ frustration. There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary on Monday we pray for this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. On Tuesday we pray that we might work together for the Church. 
 
‘Washington has a choice to make - all of us have a choice to make: will we continue to divide, distract, and dishonour one another, or will we love our neighbours as we love ourselves?’ (Raphael Warnock, on winning a US Senate seat, 6 January). 
Friday 15th January 2021 
 
‘Do not pronounce judgement before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive commendation from God’ (1 Corinthians 4:5). 
 
It is too easy - and we all are inclined to do it - to look at another and imagine that we know their condition, what they need or deserve. However, none of us truly knows what is in someone else’s mind, or the hopes, fears, possibilities and constrictions of their life. Only God knows us as we really are. The utterly amazing thing is that, knowing us fully as he does, yet he loves us and wants to draw us to himself. 
 
‘The Church of England Pensions Board has welcomed pledges by eight of the world’s leading oil and gas producers on moving the energy industry away from fossil fuels. The companies - BP, Eni, Equinor, Galp, Occidental Petroleum Corporation, Repsol, Royal Dutch Shell, and Total - have jointly agreed to apply six Energy Transition Principles. They are to: support publicly the goals of the 2015 Paris agreement on climate change; work to reduce carbon emissions from their own operations and by customers and society; develop and promote approaches to reducing emissions; support and promote development of emissions sinks, such as carbon capture and utilisation and storage technology; provide disclosure related to climate-change risks and opportunities; and report information about their memberships of industry and trade associations and their alignment with the companies’ key climate-advocacy and -policy positions… Climate Action 100+ is an investors’ initiative launched in 2017 to put pressure on the world’s largest corporate greenhouse-gas emitters to take action in response to climate change. It is backed by more than 500 investors with more than £37.8 trillion in assets under management’ (Church Times 8 January 2021). 
 
Fairtrade Fortnight is approaching - 22 February to 7 March 2021. Learn more.. 
 
The prayer after communion for this week: 
Lord of all time and eternity, 
you opened the heavens and revealed yourself as Father 
in the baptism of Jesus your beloved Son: 
by the power of your Spirit 
complete the heavenly work of our rebirth 
through the waters of the new creation; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for the bereaved and all who mourn. We remember especially all who are unable to be with their loved one at the end or are unable to attend their funeral. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for all School Governors, giving thanks for the hard work so many put in to support our schools. 
 
On 15th January 1759 the British Museum opened to the public. ‘It was the first national museum to cover all fields of human knowledge, open to visitors from across the world… The Museum is driven by an insatiable curiosity for the world, a deep belief in objects as reliable witnesses and documents of human history, sound research, as well as the desire to expand and share knowledge’ (The British Museum story). 
 
‘A new year’s resolution? Can’t improve much on this - to live SIMPLER - happiness is not found in buying more stuff; HUMBLER - I am not the answer to the world’s problems; BOLDER - to speak more often of the one who is’ (Graham Tomlin, Bishop of Kensington, Twitter, 1 January) 
 
‘Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe’ (John 20:29). 
Wednesday 13th January 2021 
 
‘He had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested’ (Hebrews 2:17-18). 
 
The amazing, incredible story we have been celebrating these past weeks is that Jesus is God become human. He has taken on our mortal nature with all that this implies. Jesus is both fully God and fully human; he is one with us; he shares in all the joys and sorrows of our condition. ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him’ (John 3:16-17). 
 
Today the Church remembers Hilary of Poitiers (c. 300-368 AD). Also known as Hilarius, he was bishop of Poitiers in Gaul (today’s France) and an eminent doctor of the Western Christian Church. A sometimes persecuted champion against the theological movement of Arianism, he was known as the “Athanasius of the West.” Arius taught that although God the Son indeed pre-existed as a divine being before the creation of the Universe, he was not “co-eternal” with God the Father. The orthodox position, championed by Athanasius, held that the Father and Son existed together with the Holy Spirit from the beginning. Further disagreements involved the question of whether the Son and the Father were of the “same substance” and whether the Son was in any way subservient to the Father. 
 
‘Churches have been alerted to a potential increase in lead thefts, as four men who caused more than £2 million-worth of damage to 20 rural churches were sentenced. The men targeted churches from Dorset to Yorkshire between 2018 and 2020 (News, 4 October 2019). Many of the churches had little or no insurance cover for lead theft… Handing down long prison terms at Lincoln Crown Court last week, Judge Sjölin Knight described the four as “sophisticated, persistent, and organised”. She said: “Those losses fall on the parish. Small congregations struggle to pay the cost. These were very serious theft offences, not because of the lead you took but by the nature of the buildings targeted”’ (Church Times 8 January 2021). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Heavenly Father, 
at the Jordan you revealed Jesus as your Son: 
may we recognize him as our Lord 
and know ourselves to be your beloved children; 
through Jesus Christ our Saviour. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
I will be using simple order for Morning Prayer in Church this morning and I shall ring the bell at 10:30am and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. The Church will open for private prayer from 11am to 12pm. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for those at work worried about social distancing. Many people have no option but to work, often in very difficult circumstances. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for all visitors to our Churches. They may have been unable to go in, but may have stood outside, paused in the churchyard or visited us online. 
 
‘Many more churches and cathedrals have closed their buildings to communal worship, in the light of the dangerously increasing Covid-19 infection rate. Direct requests to do so have come from local authorities. There is also widespread unease within faith communities about the government exemption which allows places of worship to remain open during national lockdown (News, 4 January). Churches had been faced with an “impossible, unfair and unsustainable dilemma”, and critical public-health decisions had, in effect, been outsourced to local churches, the Bishop of Burnley, the Rt Revd Philip North, said on Monday’ (Church Times 11 January 2021). 
Sunday 10th January 2021 
 
‘Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be crushed until he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his teaching’ (Isaiah 42:1-4). 
 
Here is our Saviour, the Messiah, Christ. He is our King who gives himself for us, even to death. Our hope, our future, is in him - and he will hold it and us secure in his love. ‘God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins’ (1 John 4:9-10). 
 
So, as we seek to maintain our Church life without meeting together, we remind ourselves that our faith is rooted in God himself and held safe in his hands. We are his children and members of his eternal kingdom. ‘For whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith. Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?’ (1 John 5:4-5) - ‘for thine be the kingdom, the power and the glory for ever and ever’. 
 
The collect for this week: 
Eternal Father, 
who at the baptism of Jesus 
revealed him to be your Son, 
anointing him with the Holy Spirit: 
grant to us, who are born again by water and the Spirit, 
that we may be faithful to our calling as your adopted children; 
through Jesus Christ your Son 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 we pray today for politicians and their advisors. There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary on Monday we pray for those in financial difficulties. On Tuesday we pray for all medical staff: those in hospitals, GP surgeries, Care and Residential Homes, research laboratories and wherever they may be. We remember especially those tasked with administering the vaccine on top of all their other responsibilities. 
 
There is a recorded service for today from the church and copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. There is no service in Church as we have decided to suspend worship for the time being due to the current situation. I shall ring the bell in Church at 10:30am and ask that you join me in prayer at that time. The Church will be open for private prayer from 11am until 12noon. 
 
‘The Greek Orthodox Church refused to close its buildings this week, defying an order from Greek government to close places of worship amid rising coronavirus cases. The Holy Synod issued a statement on Monday saying that it did “not consent to the Government’s measures” and that its churches would remain open to celebrate Epiphany, including ceremonies of blessing of the waters. It said that the Church had not been consulted about the new tighter restrictions, which came into force on Saturday. A government response on Monday said: “The law cannot be applied at whim, so that whoever disagrees with it can just ignore it”’ (Church Times 8 January 2021). 
 
We have a contribution from Ron Hart, who was due to take our service in St Laurence today. Thank you, Ron. 
 
On 10th January 1863 London Underground began operations, when the Metropolitan Railway opened its 3.75-mile line to the public using gas-lit wooden carriages hauled by steam locomotives. 
Friday 8th January 2021 
 
‘This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one that testifies, for the Spirit is the truth… And this is the testimony: God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life’ (1 John 5:6,11-12). 
 
While most of us took down our decorations on Wednesday, we hear that some people are keeping them up. In these dark winter days we need the light of hope, the message of Christmas, to shine more brightly. ‘Leave up Christmas decorations and keep the halls decked with boughs of holly until February to bring cheer in the dark winter months, English Heritage has said. The charity is appealing to the public to follow the traditions of their medieval ancestors and leave festive decorations up until Candlemas on February 2’ (Salisbury Journal 5 January 2021). 
 
‘The Government’s exemption of public worship in the new lockdown, which started on Wednesday, is meeting resistance from clergy in areas where the number of coronavirus infections is highest… Shortly after Boris Johnson’s announcement, the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, who chairs the Church of England’s Covid-19 recovery group, stated: “Some may feel that it is currently better not to attend in person, and there will be parishes which decide to offer only digital services for the time being. Clergy who have concerns, or others who are shielding, should take particular care and stay at home”’ (Church Times 6 January 2021). 
 
Having taken the decision to suspend our public worship, it is important that we continue to proclaim that even so the Church is still open and praying. So ‘let us.. lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith’ (Hebrews 12:1-2). 
 
‘People in the Roman Empire often regarded Christianity as a religion fit only for slaves, and that, of course, is exactly what it was: it was a religion that in principle turned the world upside down, which (as the Magnificat puts it) “cast down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted the humble and meek”… If we recognise Jesus as humanity’s Messiah, we are accepting that these values are to be our values, and that we will work to try to see them implemented in our world. That involves personal dedication, and it may also require political action. But in no way may we seek to implement these values by methods that contradict the values themselves; for that is to drop back into the kind of activity from which Jesus came to set the human race free… He provides the guiding thread with which we can trace the hand of God in all that went before him, giving us knowledge of the real questions to which we need God’s answers’ (Professor John Barton, Church Times). 
 
‘Jesus knew how deadly the pursuit of unredeemed ‘greatness’ really is. He knew the brutality of a society preoccupied with power, hierarchy and influence where greatness, significance and status are only sustained by oppressing the least. And this explains his fierce judgement on the abuse of the most vulnerable by the powerful. Then, and now, his words are designed to shock his disciples and to provoke a deep, penitent reappraisal of the priorities and goals we live by’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 28 December 2020 - Holy Innocents). 
 
The prayer after communion for this week: 
Lord God, 
the bright splendour whom the nations seek: 
may we who with the wise men have been drawn by your light 
discern the glory of your presence in your Son, 
the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for those at University and College. This is a particularly difficult time for them as their education is disrupted once again. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for all those in Residential and Nursing Homes. 
 
‘The greatest crisis in any age - and its greatest hope - is always God’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 6 January 2021). 
Wednesday 6th January 2021 
 
'May all kings fall down before him, all nations give him service. For he delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper. He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy. From oppression and violence he redeems their life; and precious is their blood in his sight’ (Psalm 72:11-14). 
 
Today is the Feast of the Epiphany, the twelfth day of Christmas, which focuses on the Magi and the star. Epiphany means “manifestation” or “appearance” as we celebrate the manifestation of Christ in the world - our Saviour King. The three gifts from the Magi led to the tradition that there were three wise men - although the text does not give a number. Traditionally this is when our trees and decorations come down. However the Crib will remain until 2nd February, reminding us that the full Christmas season is 40 days - leading up to Jesus’ Presentation in the Temple. 
 
So, once again we are in full national lockdown - almost as it all began last year. However now at least we have the hope of a vaccine, although full rollout may take a while, and public worship in Church is permitted. 
 
However, we have taken the decision not to continue with services here for the time being. This was not an easy decision to make, but it would appear that Downton and Morgan's Vale are currently a Covid-19 hotspot (according to the Salisbury Journal there are 39 cases; +29 on the previous week). So this would seem a sensible precaution. This means that there will be no service at St Laurence on Sunday and until further notice. A similar decision has been made across our Team. This is in line with permission given by Bishop Nicholas, and I have informed him of our decision. We will continue, though, with Private Prayer in Church on a Wednesday morning at least for the time being. We place ourselves in God’s hands, for ‘we walk by faith, not by sight’ (2 Corinthians 5:7). 
 
‘Parish giving in the Church of England has slumped by about £40 million during the pandemic. The latest figures presented to the Archbishops’ Council for the first ten months of 2020 are said to show a 7.8-per-cent fall in income compared with the same period the previous year… Part of the fall can be attributed to church closures, loss of fees for services such as weddings, and reduced congregations because of social distancing or a fear of becoming infected in or on the way to church. Parishes that have relied on cash or cheques in the collection plate have suffered greater losses than those that have successfully promoted giving by standing order or direct debit. Another factor is the loss of income from the hire of church buildings for outside events. Parishes that earn much of their revenue from rent - for community groups and businesses - have also suffered loss of income’ (Church Times 1 January 2021). 
 
We pray: 
Almighty and eternal God, 
Brightness of faithful souls, 
you brought the Gentiles to your light, 
and made known to them him who is the true Light, 
and the bright and morning Star. 
Fill the world with your glory, 
and show yourself by the radiance of your light to all nations; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 
(from the Gregorian Sacramentary) 
 
I will be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church this morning. I shall ring the bell at 10:30am and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray that we may reveal Jesus in the world in our words and in our lives. Now more than ever we need to share the Good News that he is present in our midst, caring for us, walking with us - a light in the darkness, giving us hope. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for our Churchwarden and Deputy Churchwardens. 
 
During January 1610, Italian astronomer Galileo made the earth-shaking discoveries that four moons revolve around Jupiter and that the telescope reveals many more stars than are visible to the naked eye. God’s creation is ever more wonderful than we can ever know. 
Sunday 3rd January 2021 
 
‘Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high, who looks far down on the heavens and the earth? He raises the poor from the dust, and lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes, with the princes of his people’ (Psalm 113:5-8). 
 
Those who are considered important or highly exalted are generally unapproachable: they tend to be proud and overbearing, or so surrounded with hangers-on, sycophants and security, that the poor have no access to them. However God, although infinitely exalted, who ‘dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see’ (1 Timothy 6:16) - he humbles himself in his love and commitment to us. He loves his creatures so much that he rejoices over even the very meanest of his people and works for our good. 
 
Today we are celebrating the Epiphany, although the actual feast day is on Wednesday. This commemorates the visit of the Magi to the infant Jesus. It shows how Jesus came for us all, whoever we are, whatever our background, ethnicity or place in society. God is not restricted to the good or the holy or those with special knowledge. ‘In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus’ (Galatians 3:26-28). 
 
‘Despite the “tremendous pain and sadness” of 2020, there is hope in the New Year ahead, the Archbishop of Canterbury says in his New Year’s message… In the Bible, he says, “God rejoices in.. small acts of love - because they reveal who we truly are: human beings made in God’s image, deeply connected to one another. Such gestures speak to me of Jesus - the one who shows us what God’s love looks like. And for this reason, we can have hope for each and every month ahead”… Pope Francis, in his New Year message, spoke of the Covid-19 crisis as “a global phenomenon cutting across boundaries, aggravating deeply interrelated crises like those of the climate, food, the economy, and migration, and causing great suffering and hardship… These and other events that marked humanity’s path this past year have taught us how important it is to care for one another and for creation in our efforts to build a more fraternal society.” and he advocated “a culture of care as a way to combat the culture of indifference, waste, and confrontation so prevalent in our time”’ (Church Times 1 January 2021). 
 
The collect for today: 
O God, 
who by the leading of a star 
manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth: 
mercifully grant that we, 
who know you now by faith, 
may at last behold your glory face to face; 
through Jesus Christ your Son 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 we pray for our Team Rector and family - thank you for your prayers and support. There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary on Monday we pray for those made redundant or unable to find work. On Tuesday we pray for our Church School and indeed all schools as they seek the right way forward at this difficult time. 
 
There is a recorded service for today from the church and a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. Also today at 10:30am we are having a short service of Holy Communion in Church. 
 
‘The Archbishop of York, the Most Revd Stephen Cottrell, is releasing a series of short reflections, prayers, and poems throughout January on a similar theme: “Our Hope is Found”… In his first reflection, released on New Year’s Day, Archbishop Cottrell considers the Old Testament story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who refused to worship the king’s golden idol instead of their God. “We can trust in God whether times are good or bad”’ (Church Times 1 January 2021). 
Friday 1st January 2021 
 
‘After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb’ (Luke 2:21). 
 
Happy new year. We all hope and pray that it will be better than the one just past - and we commend it, and ourselves, into God’s hands. We know we are not out of the woods yet and it is clear that the effects will be with us for a very long time yet. So how do we want 2021 to be defined in our lives, our community and society at large? 
 
‘And I said to the man 
who stood at the gate of the year: 
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.” 
And he replied: 
“Go out into the darkness 
and put your hand into the hand of God. 
That shall be to you better than light, 
and safer than a known way’. (Mary Louise Haskins) 
 
Today the Church celebrates the Naming and Circumcision of Jesus. The Bible tells us that this baby was born of a woman as a Jew, born under the law, a child of the covenant and circumcised on the eighth day. Today’s observance of the naming of Jesus reminds us of Jesus’s full humanity and, in his first 30 years of life, of his place within the Jewish community as he lived and worked with his family. 
 
From the Sudan ‘Archbishop Ezekiel says, “Please do not grow tired of praying for Sudan” Even before the independence of South Sudan in 2011, Sudan was a predominantly Muslim country. Although there were Christian churches throughout the land, they were chiefly in the South. Then came the referendum, and the south became the independent nation of South Sudan. Most of the Sudanese Christians found themselves in South Sudan. No wonder those who remained in Sudan felt bereft!’ 
 
‘A 2021 Calendar of Hope. The Bible Society says: "We know lots of our supporters have been encouraged by this year’s Story of the Bible calendar. Our new 2021 Calendar of Hope features 12 Scriptures focused on the living hope we have in Jesus, and it can be yours for free – our gift of encouragement to you." Read more... 
 
We are having a service of Holy Communion in Church on Sunday at 10:30am. I remind you that if you wish to come - and you are welcome to do so - you must let either Jo Parsons or myself know, either by email or phone please. It is important to do this each time - even if you plan to come every week. 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
God in Trinity, 
eternal unity of perfect love: 
gather the nations to be one family, 
and draw us into your holy life 
through the birth of Emmanuel, 
our Lord Jesus Christ. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for our resolutions for the new year. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for all who rely on food aid - an increasing number in these difficult times. 
 
The January issue of Downton Parish News is now available free to view or download. For those unable to access our magazine through the website, there are a few printed copies available (free) in the Co-op, Chemist and Woodfalls Post Office. Please can you let anyone know that you think may want one - or collect one for them. They and we would be most grateful. 
 
On 1st January 1863 President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation that freed the slaves of the Confederate states in rebellion against the Union. Lincoln later stated that the Emancipation Proclamation was “the central act of my administration, and the greatest event of the nineteenth century”. 
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