Daily reflections - older posts 
Wednesday 30th December 2020 
 
‘He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers - all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross’ (Colossians 1:15-20). 
 
Many believe that this is an early Christian hymn which Paul is quoting here, much as we might use well-known hymns to illustrate our message today. Be that as it may, this is a truly powerful piece of writing, asserting in wonderfully exalted language the supremacy of Christ in creation and redemption. It links beautifully with the beginning of John’s gospel ‘In the beginning was the Word…’ and has been used as an early example of the idea of the Trinity. ‘From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace’ (John 1:16). 
 
As we prepare to say goodbye to the old year, I wonder how many do so with any regret? It has certainly been an unusual one. It was on 31st December last year that the World Health Organization first learned of “viral pneumonia” cases in Wuhan, China - the disease later determined to be COVID-19. So much has happened since then, that is difficult to reflect on the year other than through the lens of lockdown, restrictions and unfulfilled hopes and promises. Our pattern of life has changed, perhaps permanently. There have been many positives, though, as we have seen an increase in care and concern for neighbours and those who are vulnerable, and an awareness of the interconnectedness of everything. 
 
‘For all the loss and difficulty, we should not let this year be defined by pain. Throughout this pandemic, we have also seen the best of humanity. At the beginning of the pandemic, 750,000 people signed up to volunteer to support our NHS. Now, many of those volunteers are signing up to be trained to deliver the Covid-19 vaccine. Our religious institutions and local communities have banded together for the common good, showing us the very best of Britain. People have supported neighbours by donating to foodbanks, delivering items, or simply picking up the phone to those self-isolating. Many businesses, despite struggling themselves with the economic impact of the pandemic, started manufacturing PPE and sanitiser, or made up food parcels for hungry schoolchildren during the holidays’ (Church Times 18 December 2020). 
 
‘In what has been a very difficult year, thanks be to God and thanks also to you that the response of the Church in the Diocese of Salisbury to the pandemic has been near miraculous. Indeed, a big thank you to everyone involved’ (The Bishops of Salisbury, Sherborne and Ramsbury). 
 
The collect for this week: 
Almighty God, 
who wonderfully created us in your own image 
and yet more wonderfully restored us 
through your Son Jesus Christ: 
grant that, as he came to share in our humanity, 
so we may share the life of his divinity; 
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. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for our Lay Pastoral Assistants (LPAs) as they continue their ministry in these unusual times. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for all who have been baptized this year. There have not been many baptisms, as most have been postponed due to the pandemic. So we pray also for those families. 
 
‘Lo, we have the infant Christ, let us grow with Him’ (St Augustine). 
Sunday 27th December 2020 
 
‘But 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. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God’ (Galatians 4:4-7). 
 
Today the Church celebrates St John - the Apostle, Evangelist and Writer. He is the younger brother of St James, both of the group of twelve disciples called to follow Jesus, and sons of Zebedee, a Galilean fisherman. John has traditionally been identified as the New Testament author of the Gospel of John, the epistles 1 John, 2 John and 3 John, and the Book of the Revelation. Early Church tradition held that he settled in the city of Ephesus where he died at the age of ninety-four, the only one of the Apostles known positively not to have been martyred. We cannot be sure of any of this, but it does seem clear John was a faithful and true witness to the presence and power of God. 
 
John wrote those wonderful words ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’ (John 1:1). So he helps us to see Jesus, who’s birth we are celebrating, in his proper context. This is Jesus, of whom Paul wrote ‘God.. gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father’ (Philippians 2:9-11). 
 
‘The coming of the light of Christ provides hope at the end of a dark and difficult year, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have said in their Christmas Day sermons. The Queen, too, has spoken about the teachings of Christ as her “inner light”. In a sermon preached on Christmas Day morning.. Archbishop Justin Welby said that 2020 had been characterised by “the darkness of Covid, of economic crisis, of climate emergency, evils of racism, of war, genocide, and persecution. For billions around the world, 2020 has been a year walking through the valley of the shadow of death.” There had been “gifts of good news, of hope” in recent weeks, however, including the vaccine and “the capacity of governments to find a way forward in relations after Brexit”. He continued: “But above and beyond all these there is the simple history, the reality that the light came into the world and the darkness has not overcome it. Not because we feel it or believe it or it works for us, but because the light of the birth of Jesus reveals God as God is. Jesus Christ reveals God leaning into the darkness and defeating it through embracing every aspect of our sufferings and struggles, anxieties and fears.”… In her televised Christmas message, the Queen said that Christians, for whom Jesus is “the light of the world", had not been able to celebrate his birth “in quite the usual way”, and she listed other faiths’ celebrations that had been similarly affected in the year’ (Church Times 26 December 2020). 
 
On a personal note, I found the Queen’s Christmas message possibly the most moving I have heard. 
 
The collect for this week: 
Merciful Lord, 
cast your bright beams of light upon the Church: 
that, being enlightened by the teaching 
of your blessed apostle and evangelist Saint John, 
we may so walk in the light of your truth 
that we may at last attain to the light of everlasting life; 
through Jesus Christ, 
your incarnate 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 today. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for our witness as a Church, particularly in these difficult times. There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary on Monday, as we remember the Holy Innocents, we pray for all victims of violence. On Tuesday we pray for all who deny God. ‘They promise.. freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption; for people are slaves to whatever masters them’ (2 Peter 2:19). 
 
On 28th December 1065 the original Westminster Abbey was consecrated and opened by Edward the Confessor. Less than a year later, on Christmas Day 1066, William the Conqueror was crowned there. Every coronation since then has been held at Westminster Abbey. 
Friday 25th December 2020 
 
‘The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness - on them light has shined. For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace’ (Isaiah 9:2,6). 
 
Happy Christmas to you all! 
 
As we celebrate Jesus’ birth, I pray that today you can know the joy of this occasion wherever you are and whomever you are able to be with. Truly this year it is a strange one - but perhaps, as we mark the day and rejoice in it, we can reflect on what it genuinely means for us. Here is God Almighty among us, putting himself in our hands as a helpless babe, ‘Mild he lays his glory by, born that we no more may die, born to raise us from the earth, born to give us second birth’. Jesus himself tells us of his mission: ‘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). 
 
As we welcome Jesus into our hearts and homes, so we think also of those for whom this was never going to be a day of celebration - and all for whom today is overshadowed by sickness, pain and loss. “Christmas is going to be different and difficult for so many. My prayers are with all those who are sad, afraid and suffering. But the message of Christmas remains the same: God is with us. Let’s do everything we can to share that love with others, even if we can’t be together” (Archbishop Justin Welby). 
 
‘Although they might be hurting and fearful themselves, Christians must be bearers of joy to the world this year, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States, the Most Revd Michael Curry, said in his Christmas message. While it could be very difficult, particularly for those in mourning, to proclaim joy, it was essential work for Christians: he quoted the carol “Joy to the world”. In his video message, he said: “While we may not feel joyful this year, as the pandemic of disease continues to bring sickness and death, when fear and mistrust - a darkness - threaten to overcome the light, we, as followers of Jesus Christ, must bear joy to this aching world. We must shine light into the darkness.” Though much had changed this year, God’s call remained the same: “Feed those who are hungry; welcome the stranger; clothe those who are naked; heal those who are sick; visit the prisoner. Love God. Love your neighbour. Sing joy into this old world. Prepare him room”… He told The Washington Post that he had been wrestling with what to write in Christmas cards this year. His Christmas message was inspired by the message from St John’s Gospel that “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it,” he said. “We don’t pretend the darkness isn’t real. People are dead, people are sick, we are fragmented and polarised. But the lightness shines in the darkness. That is a message of Christmas. The truth of Christmas may be more profoundly true for us because everything else has been stripped away. We are not helpless. We are not alone. There’s a God that cares enough to come into this world”’ (Church Times 18 December 2020). 
 
The collect for today: 
Lord Jesus Christ, 
your birth at Bethlehem 
draws us to kneel in wonder at heaven touching earth: 
accept our heartfelt praise 
as we worship you, 
our Saviour and our eternal God. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for those who are alone and lonely, especially today. We remember also all those who, for whatever reason, find today hard to bear. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for all those persecuted for their faith. Many religious minorities around the world - Christian and others - are subjected to increasing persecution today. 
 
There is a recorded service for today from the church together with 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. On Sunday there will be no service in Church, but there will be one on the website. 
 
‘Having been made a sharer of our mortality, he has made us a sharer of his divinity’ (St Augustine). 
Wednesday 23rd December 2020 
 
‘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.’ We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven, while we were with him on the holy mountain’ (2 Peter 1:16-18). 
 
It is worth restating in this runup to Christmas that our faith is based solidly on historical events recorded for us by eyewitnesses. Here we have Peter’s account of Jesus on the mountain - an occasion where Peter hardly covered himself in glory and yet one that clearly made a big impression on him. As I was saying last week, all Jesus asks of us is that we go and tell what we have seen and heard. ‘Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth’ (Isaiah 40:28). 
 
This is a time of waiting in prayer and expectation, in silent faithfulness. While many of the signs of Christmas are around us, we are not quite there yet. There is a strange tension here - but one that can be fruitful and rewarding. We have observed Advent with its focus not simply on Christmas but on the return of Christ in glory as Lord and King. We conclude our prayers with ‘who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever’. We proclaim Jesus as active in our lives and in the world. Yet on Friday we will greet him as the new-born babe. At the heart of all this, though, the true essence of our celebration is the incredible, awesome mystery of the incarnation - of Emmanuel, God with us in human form, God becoming human that we might be reconciled and made one with him. 
 
‘No one is obliged to go to church on Christmas Day.. the Archbishop of Canterbury told The Andrew Marr Show on BBC1 on Sunday, the morning that tier 4 restrictions came into force. But Christmas was not cancelled, he said. “The celebrations are cancelled. We will come to those again. This is very different to what we hoped for and longed for, and it is the most intense pain for a lot of people. We protest, we lament. And in our prayers and in our services we will be doing that. But it’s not cancelled, because at the heart of Christmas is Jesus coming into the world, God coming into the world... This is a moment of God saying: ‘I am with you in the mess and I have overcome the darkness. There is hope”’ (Church Times 21 December 2020). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Eternal God, 
as Mary waited for the birth of your Son, 
so we wait for his coming in glory; 
bring us through the birth pangs of this present age 
to see, with her, our great salvation 
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. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our Bishops and all Church Leaders. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary as we remember Mary and Joseph seeking somewhere to stay and their flight in Egypt after Jesus’ birth, we will be praying for the homeless and refugees. 
 
There will be A Service of Reflection for the Night before Christmas on the website and also one for Christmas Day together with a copy of the service sheet. Also on Christmas Day at 10:30am we are having a service of Holy Communion in Church - and I remind you that if you wish to come you must let either Jo Parsons or myself know, either by email or phone please. There will be no service in Church on Sunday, but there will be one from the church on the website. 
 
On 24th December 1955 NORAD (the North American Aerospace Defense Command) started its tradition of tracking Santa Claus as he travels around the world delivering presents to children. The event began after a printing error in a Sears catalog asking children to call Santa Claus. The number that was printed was the number of Colorado Springs' Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) Center. 
Sunday 20th December 2020 
 
‘Sing and rejoice, O daughter Zion! For lo, I will come and dwell in your midst, says the Lord. Many nations shall join themselves to the Lord on that day, and shall be my people; and I will dwell in your midst. And you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you’ (Zechariah 2:10-11). 
 
Today we remember especially Mary, mother of our Lord, without whose joyful obedience there would have been no Christmas. As we prepare for the coming of our Saviour, so we give thanks for her part in bringing this about ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word’ (Luke 1:38). We rejoice in Emmanuel, God with us - God himself coming among us in human form to redeem us all. We celebrate not simply our own salvation but his renewal of all creation. ‘For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God’ (Romans 8:19-21). 
 
So the government have decided: to all intents and purposes we are going back into lockdown after all. While it appears that we remain in Tier 2 here, many of us have family and friends in the new Tier 4. So whatever decisions we had come to over meeting up for Christmas are now superseded. Let us hold in our prayers those for who this will make life especially difficult, have had their plans suddenly disrupted, or had pinned their hopes on this one allowable bit of contact. May we continue to reach out to all who are in need at this time and remember those for whom this will now mean Christmas on their own. 
 
This Christmas is likely to be a particularly difficult one for many people. So throughout this time, we continue to remember those most in need through our annual appeal for Crisis as we raise money to support them - usually we suggest giving the price of a Christmas dinner. 
 
‘The “Great Conjunction” of Jupiter and Saturn taking place this month - dubbed the “Christmas Star” - is a pretty sight, but it is impossible to know for sure if it has any connection to the Star of Bethlehem, a Vatican astronomer said. On Dec. 21, the planets Jupiter and Saturn will appear a tenth of a degree apart in the night sky, something called a “Great Conjunction.” This conjunction happens approximately every 20 years, but this year the two planets will appear the closest they have been in almost 400 years. To the naked eye, they will look like one, bright star, thus earning the nickname the “Christmas Star”’ (www.catholicworldreport.com/
 
There is a recorded service for today from the church together with 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 Morning Prayer in Church. 
 
The collect for this week: 
God our redeemer, 
who prepared the Blessed Virgin Mary 
to be the mother of your Son: 
grant that, as she looked for his coming as our saviour, 
so we may be ready to greet him 
when he comes again as our judge; 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
On Friday (Christmas Day) we will be having a service of Holy Communion at 10:30am. I remind you that if you wish to come to this service - and you are welcome to do so - you must let either Jo Parsons or myself know, either by email or phone please, as soon as possible. We expect to be fuller than usual and need to know who wants to come. Also on the website there will a short Reflective Service for the Night before Christmas and a service for Christmas Day itself. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for all charities struggling to continue their work and fundraising. There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray on Monday for peace in the world. On Tuesday we pray for those who have been bereaved this year. 
 
This year’s winter solstice - the point where the sun is lowest in the sky and the shortest day of the year - takes place tomorrow. Solstice comes from the Latin word solstitium which means ‘sun stands still’ “because the apparent movement of the sun’s path north or south stops before changing direction,” (rmg.co.uk). 
Friday 18th December 2020 
 
‘An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “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). 
 
So often in the Christmas story Joseph is portrayed simply as a strong silent figure in the background. The focus is on Mary and the baby. However, without his willingness to turn aside from reasonable expectation - to defy convention and stick with Mary at this difficult time - who knows what would have happened. Joseph reminds us that for all those in the limelight, there are so many others who offer faithful and quiet service, going the extra mile over these past months and supporting others as Christmas approaches. 
 
It is now just one week before Christmas, and I am sure many of us still have things to do. Preparing for these few days - sending cards, buying and wrapping presents, together with the festivities of the day itself - these can all take a lot of work. Of far greater concern this year, though, has been those difficult decisions of to what extent we can see or be with those we love. The guidance and advice has been confusing - both do and don’t. We want to see them but also for them to be safe. This is especially acute for those who have been unable to be together over this past year, and fear that this may be their last opportunity. We hold them fast in our prayers. 
 
We are having a service of Morning Prayer in Church on Sunday at 10:30am. Also next Friday (Christmas Day) we will be having a service of Holy Communion at 10:30am. I remind you that if you wish to come to either of these services - 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. 
 
‘Creation has its own truth, its own integrity, and if, as we believe, it is the expression of the will of God, then taking to heart the truth and integrity of the created order, absorbing its rhythms and relationships and learning to live by them, is part and parcel of “dwelling in the truth”, to use John the Elder’s phrase. The most fundamental aspect of our hope for truth today is for the truth and integrity of the creation to be safeguarded, and for effective action to reverse the damage done to it through global warming, environmental pollution, and the decline of species. The way in which our ideas about creation and the natural environment have changed over recent decades illustrates well the way that truth is apprehended through making a journey. Empirical research has been an important part of that journey, both occasioning its start and directing its course, but at the heart has been an inner change in perception of the relationship of humanity to the rest of creation. It has been nothing less than a profound spiritual awakening, a consecrating by the truth, although it is not usually described in that way. As it is so basic to the hope for truth, it is helpful to consider it further’ Peter Sills, Church Times). 
 
We pray: 
Lord Jesus, 
Master of both the light and the darkness, 
send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas. 
We who have so much to do and seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day, 
We who are anxious over many things look forward to your coming among us. 
We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of your kingdom. 
We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence. 
We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light. 
To you we say, "Come Lord Jesus!' Amen. 
(Henri J.M. Nouwen) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for School Governors as they work hard to support our schools at this difficult time. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for our working together for the Church. 
Wednesday 16th December 2020 
 
‘John summoned two of his disciples and sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?”… And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard”’ (Luke 17:18-19,23). 
 
For all that is written about it, this is at the heart of what it means to share our faith. All Jesus asks of us is that we go and tell what we have seen and heard. It is as simple as that. It doesn’t require special skills, extensive training or qualifications. It is just about sharing our own experience of God with others. As Paul reminds us ‘how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him?’ (Romans 10:14). 
 
‘Charities are counting the cost of the pandemic at a time when the demand for their services is greater than ever, but when limited opportunities for fund-raising are predicted to result in a £10-billion shortfall. Those that receive much of their income at Christmas are particularly hard hit. Christingle services have generated about £1.3 million for the Children’s Society in recent years: roughly six per cent of its annual fund-raising income. Thousands of people came together in 2019 for more than 4670 local Christingle events around the country. The director of engagement and income-generation, Joe Jenkins, said that it had been a difficult year for the charity, as there had been a drastic fall in fund-raising because of the coronavirus crisis. “At the same time, lockdown and restrictions have left many children trapped at home, isolated from family and friends, and, in some cases, increasing the risks of abuse, neglect, exploitation, and loneliness,” he said. “These risks may have been hidden from the view of professionals like teachers and social workers who might normally spot the warning signs. Fund-raising events like Christingle are vital in enabling us to support these children and give them hope of a brighter future. We certainly hope that people will use Christingle to fund-raise for us this Christmas; so that we can continue our work to provide support for children and young people through the darkest of times”’ (Church Times 10 December 2020). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
God for whom we watch and wait, 
you sent John the Baptist to prepare the way of your Son: 
give us courage to speak the truth, 
to hunger for justice, 
and to suffer for the cause of right, 
with Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(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. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for Churches Together in Downton, our common witness to the presence of Jesus in our midst - especially at this season. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for our preparation for Christmas, as we make ourselves ready for the coming of our infant Saviour and reflect on what this really means for us and how best to celebrate it. 
 
‘Help me out here, Twitter. Are these (unsurprisingly unnamed) critics suggesting a public broadcaster should be impartial between racism and anti-racism? Or between black lives mattering and not?’ (David Walker, Bishop of Manchester, responding to a story in the Daily Mail). 
 
On 16th December 1773, in what is known as the Boston Tea Party, American colonists disguised as Mohawk Indians threw 342 chests of tea belonging to the British East India Company into Boston Harbour to protest a tax on tea. Whilst on 17th December 1903 near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright made the first successful sustained flights in an airplane - Orville first, gliding 120 feet (36.6 metres) through the air in 12 seconds. 
Sunday 13th December 2020 
 
‘Surely God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid, for the Lord God is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation.. Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known his deeds among the nations; proclaim that his name is exalted. Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously; let this be known in all the earth. Shout aloud and sing for joy, O royal Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel’ (Isaiah 12:1-2,4-6). 
 
This is a good time of year to praise God, to proclaim him and rejoice in all the wonderous things he has done; to ‘shout aloud and sing for joy’! As we announce the coming of Jesus both at Christmas and the end of time, we ‘call on his name; make known his deeds among the nations’. Praise the Lord. 
 
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. Regrettably there are no bells as our bellringers are not allowed to ring while we are in Tier 2 as it is a confined space. 
 
We also now have our Carol Service on the website. It includes contributions from both our Primary School and Downton Community Choir and plenty of carols we can sing along with. Do watch and join in - and tell others that it is there. 
 
Looking ahead to Christmas: we would have loved to do what we normally do over the Christmas period, but have come regretfully to the conclusion that we cannot. So, we will have just the one service, Holy Communion at 10:30am on Christmas Day itself. We expect that we will have quite a number who may wish to join us, so it is important we know who wishes to come to ensure we can fit everyone in. On the Sunday after Christmas, there will be no service in Church but there will be one online. 
 
‘Almost 500 church leaders have signed an open letter to the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, asking him to work with communities, churches, charities, and creditors to create a comprehensive and just solution to lockdown debt. The leaders write: “Our ambition must go beyond delay or avoidance of eviction. This Christmas is a time to give families burdened by debt a fresh start and a more hopeful future.” The letter came at the same time as a video, broadcast last weekend by BBC News and showing desperate and starving people in Burnley, Lancashire, went viral. It featured scenes of the Vicar of St Matthew’s, the Revd Alex Frost, and a Street Pastor, Mick Fleming, being driven to tears of distress as they tried to support their poor and isolated community. It sparked an immediate response: more than £90,000 was donated in three days, from all over the world. The letter to Mr Sunak is signed by representatives of the Church of England, the Methodist Church, the United Reformed Church, the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Salvation Army, and the Roman Catholic Church’ (Church Times 11 December 2020). 
 
The collect for this week: 
O Lord Jesus Christ, 
who at your first coming sent your messenger 
to prepare your way before you: 
grant that the ministers and stewards of your mysteries 
may likewise so prepare and make ready your way 
by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, 
that at your second coming to judge the world 
we may be found an acceptable people in your sight; 
for you are alive and reign with the Father 
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 those at work worried about social distancing. There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray on Monday for all visitors to our Churches. On Tuesday we pray for Trafalgar School at Downton. 
 
On 13th December 1545 the Council of Trent, the 19th ecumenical council of the Roman Catholic Church, which helped revitalize the church in many parts of Europe after the Protestant Reformation, opened in Trent, Italy. 
Friday 11th December 2020 
 
‘Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers; but their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law they meditate day and night. They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper’ (Psalm 1:1-3). 
 
These opening verses of the Book of Psalms take us to the heart and foundation of our faith - our delight in the ways of God. For while we may no longer be required to follow strict laws, we are followers of Jesus who embodies the Spirit of the Law. It also sets the tone for the rest of this book: setting before us a choice between following God or living just for ourselves, that we may take the right way which leads to happiness and avoid that which will certainly end in our misery and ruin. 
 
‘The key performance indicator will be the number of feet we wash, not the numbers attending our services, though we hope by faith both will grow’ (Stephen Cottrell, Archbishop of York). 
 
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. 
 
‘For thousands of families who have lost loved ones during this pandemic, there will be an empty chair at Christmas, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said. Speaking from his own experience of grief, he advised anyone bereaved this year to “be honest about your grief and your loss - that you miss them.” Archbishop Welby was speaking next to the Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, in a BBC video filmed in the grounds of Lambeth Palace to mark National Grief Awareness Week, which ended on Tuesday. A two-minute silence was held during evensong at St Paul’s Cathedral, London, on Tuesday, in memory of everyone who had died during this pandemic year, and the dome was lit up, also’ (Church Times 8 December 2020). 
 
The prayer after communion for this week: 
Father in heaven, 
who sent your Son to redeem the world 
and will send him again to be our judge: 
give us grace so to imitate him 
in the humility and purity of his first coming 
that, when he comes again, 
we may be ready to greet him 
with joyful love and firm faith; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for those in financial difficulties. The statistics we hear in the news are grim and getting worse - and we know that every one is an individual struggling to cope and provide for themselves, partners, parents and children. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for medical staff: those in hospitals, GP surgeries, Care and Residential Homes, research laboratories and wherever they may be. We give thanks for all their hard work, dedication and professionalism - and we pray that they won’t be forgotten again when this crisis is passed. 
 
‘The first African-American cardinal was one of 13 installed by Pope Francis in St Peter’s Basilica, Rome, on Saturday. The new cardinal, the Most Revd Wilton Gregory, the Archbishop of Washington, D.C., was the only American present at the ceremony, which was attended by the first members of the College of Cardinals from Rwanda and Brunei. Archbishop Gregory had criticised President Trump’s decision in June to remove protesters with tear gas and rubber bullets so that he could pose in front of a church in Washington while holding a Bible (News, 5 June). Archbishop Gregory said last month that he wanted to work with President-Elect Joe Biden on “things that we can do together for the betterment of the American community”’ (Church Times 4 December 2020). 
 
On 11th December 1946 UNICEF - a United Nations programme devoted to improving the health, nutrition, education, and general welfare of children - was established. 
Wednesday 9th December 2020 
 
‘The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love… For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his steadfast love towards those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far he removes our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion for his children, so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him’ (Psalm 103:8,11-13). 
 
As we prepare ourselves through this time of Advent for the coming of Christ, we reflect on God’s enduring love for us and his assurance that ‘all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose’ (Romans 8:28). We know that he has a great and glorious future held out for us, even if at times we have to hang on to our faith in that. ‘God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord’ (1 Corinthians 1:9). 
 
‘I’m privileged, but only because that was God’s will. God made me play well. He gave me the ability at birth. That’s why I make the sign of the cross every time I enter the pitch. If I didn’t do it I’d be betraying him’ (Diego Maradona). 
 
‘Restrictions on religious freedom reached their highest levels in more than a decade in 2018, findings released by the Pew Research Center at the end of November have shown. The report is the 11th from the Washington-based organisation measuring global restrictions on religious freedom. The data was gathered from 198 countries, whose changes in attitudes to religion and religious groups were ranked according to two ten-point indexes: the Government Restrictions Index (GRI), based on 20 different indicators; and the Social Hostilities Index (SHI), based on 13 indicators. The indicators used in the GRI include questions on whether a country’s constitution guarantees a level of religious freedom, whether the government interferes with worship and other religious practices, and whether religious broadcasting and the spread of religious literature are restricted. The indicators used in the SHI involve questions such as whether acts of violence from groups or individuals are motivated by religious bias, and whether organised groups use force or coercion to impose their perspective on religion on to public life’ (Church Times 4 December 2020). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Almighty God, 
purify our hearts and minds, 
that when your Son Jesus Christ comes again as 
judge and saviour 
we may be ready to receive him, 
who is our Lord and our God. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
I shall be using a 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. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today 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 politicians and their advisors. 
 
In this year which has been so dominated by the pandemic, it is worth noting that on 9th December 1979, some 10 years after the World Health Organization began a global vaccination program against smallpox, the disease was officially declared eradicated. Smallpox, which carries around a 30 percent chance of death for those who contract it, is the only infectious disease afflicting humans that has officially been eradicated. 
 
‘If every human being possesses an inalienable dignity, if all people are my brothers and sisters, and if the world truly belongs to everyone, then it matters little whether my neighbour was born in my country or elsewhere’ (Pope Francis, Fratelli Tutti). 
Sunday 6th December 2020 
 
‘Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Romans 15:4-6). 
 
Now we are out of lockdown and into Tier 2, what real difference is that making for us? As we look ahead to Christmas many of us have some difficult decisions to make. We are torn between what we will be allowed to do and what we think is sensible and wise. We long to be with our families at this special time, but are concerned that we do not compromise them at all. As the Church too we are giving careful consideration as to how we can celebrate this feast most appropriately - not just for ourselves but opening up to our community. May we find the right way to rejoice in, share and proclaim the coming of Emmanuel, God with us, in these very unusual circumstances. 
 
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 - and the church bells will be ringing from 10 o’clock. 
 
‘Bishop Nicholas has spoken out against the government’s decision to cut Overseas Aid. Speaking shortly after Rishi Sunak’s announcement that came as part of government's spending plans for the next year, Bishop Nicholas said: “Have we not learned that this pandemic needs a global response from us? "As a country we had made a commendable commitment to invest 0.7% of GNI* to support the world’s poorest people. This commitment was enshrined in law by a Conservative government. Less than a year ago the Conservative Party’s highly successful election manifesto pledged to “proudly maintain our commitment to 0.7% of GNI on development and do more to help countries receiving aid to become more self-sufficient. Even the temporary cut in overseas aid to 0.5% of GNI is a major moral failure, particularly in a time of global pandemic. It is also a political failure as it is against our national self-interest because it reduces our influence in the exercise of ‘soft power’”’ (Diocese of Salisbury). 
 
‘A British archaeologist has said that he has identified the site of the childhood home of Jesus in Nazareth. The archaeologist, Dr Ken Dark, Professor of Archaeology and History at Reading University, believes that a first-century dwelling now beneath a convent in the city in northern Israel is where Christ spent his early years. It was first promoted as the likely house of Joseph and Mary after excavations below the fifth-century convent in the 1880s, but, by the 1930s, experts had dismissed the claim. Professor Dark, however, who has spent 14 years studying the site, says that there is a strong case that the well-preserved house was, indeed, Christ’s home. It was a significant structure, partly cut into a limestone hillside and incorporating a natural cave. It probably included several living and storage rooms around a courtyard, a roof terrace, and a rock-cut staircase that still survives... Professor Dark also found a fourth-century cave church decorated with mosaics built in the hillside adjacent to the house, and believes that a fifth-century church built over them both was the largest church in Nazareth, and probably its cathedral. That building, elaborately decorated with marble and mosaics, matched a seventh-century description of the Byzantine church said to have stood on the site of Jesus’s home’ (Church Times 27 November 2020). 
 
The collect for this week: 
O Lord, raise up, we pray, your power 
and come among us, 
and with great might succour us; 
that whereas, through our sins and wickedness 
we are grievously hindered 
in running the race that is set before us, 
your bountiful grace and mercy 
may speedily help and deliver us; 
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, 
to whom with you and the Holy Spirit, 
be honour and glory, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for our Churchwarden and Deputy Churchwardens. There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray on Monday for all key workers. On Tuesday we pray for those at University and College, especially as they seek to return home for Christmas. 
Friday 4th December 2020 
 
'Remember these things, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are my servant; I formed you, you are my servant; O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me. I have swept away your transgressions like a cloud, and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you. Sing, O heavens, for the Lord has done it; shout, O depths of the earth; break forth into singing, O mountains, O forest, and every tree in it! For the Lord has redeemed Jacob, and will be glorified in Israel' (Isaiah 44:21-23). 
 
Even when life is difficult, the outlook seems dark and God appears far away, he has not forgotten us. He is near even when we cannot see or feel him. He hears our prayers and watches over us. We remember all that he has done for us in the past - and hang on to that in trust, in faith and in hope. 
 
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. 
 
Bishop Nicholas writes: 'I wonder what Christmas this year looks like from God's perspective? Christmas always marks the story of God come among us in the birth of Jesus Christ. This year's enforced limitations have got us all thinking about the different ways it has been celebrated over 2,000 years and around the world. For us, this year there is an opportunity to do things differently. It might fit well with the sort of strategic vision for the C of E articulated at General Synod by the Archbishop of York that we should be Christ-centred and Jesus-shaped, focussed by the Five Marks of Mission, but humbler, simpler, and bolder. 
There is a considerable challenge to ensure that the Gospel is proclaimed and Christmas celebrated beyond the Church. I am sure we will all look to celebrate, show, tell and live the story of God come among us in Jesus Christ. Caring for others is going to be very significant this year as we prepare ourselves and our communities for Christmas. 
The Church of England's Christmas theme of Comfort and Joy has the potential to help us land this well. Comfort literally means 'with strength'. We need to do all we can to strengthen individuals and communities and to emphasise the simplicity of love come among us in the Christ-child' (Ad Clerum 27 November 2020). 
 
'The Archbishop of Canterbury has urged people to go to church and pray this Christmas, saying that church is "one of the safest places to be". He was speaking on Tuesday after the Government announced that small groups from up to three households would be able to worship together at Christmas if they form an exclusive "bubble"... Archbishop Welby later told BBC's Newsnight that families would have to consider both the safety of relatives vulnerable to the virus, and the benefit of "a sense of belonging" that "tackles the really dangerous epidemic of isolation, of poor mental health which is also very, very serious". Ultimately, he said, "If you really love people, you will see them in a way that is safe, and it is possible."' (Church Times 24 November 2020). 
 
The prayer after communion for this week: 
O Lord our God, 
make us watchful and keep us faithful 
as we await the coming of your Son our Lord; 
that, when he shall appear, 
he may not find us sleeping in sin 
but active in his service 
and joyful in his praise; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for those made redundant or unable to find work. This is a growing concern, and particularly difficult for those affected at this time of year. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for our Church School. The staff have been working extraordinarily hard this year to ensure the education and safety of our children. 
 
On 5th December 1872 the American brigantine Mary Celeste was found abandoned some 400 nautical miles (740 km) from the Azores, Portugal; the fate of the 10 people aboard remains a mystery. 
Wednesday 2nd December 2020 
 
‘Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. The wild animals will honour me, the jackals and the ostriches; for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself so that they might declare my praise’ (Isaiah 43:18-21). 
 
‘We are invited with Israel to believe that God can act freshly in the world, because we can look back and see what he has done before. We too have a story of salvation that enables us to believe in God’s eternal power to save’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 26 November 2020). 
 
On Sunday we resume our worship together in Church, for which we praise God. From this week there will a service each Sunday morning at 10:30am. This coming Sunday and next week (13th December) it will be Holy Communion. On Sunday 20th December it will be Morning Prayer. Thereafter, restrictions allowing, we will have a service of Holy Communion every week except for the third Sunday of each month when it will be Morning Prayer. For arrangements over Christmas, please see the website - and I will let you know more nearer the time. 
 
‘Advent has begun. In very different circumstances from a year ago, we embark on the season of looking back and looking forward: reflecting on Christ’s first coming in great humility and his second coming in glorious majesty. Yet our perspective lies between the two, here and now ‘in the time of this mortal life’ as the Advent Collect says... What if we are called to lay aside old comfortable understandings of Jesus, that have become too small or old or dry, so that we can receive Jesus in new ways, more deeply, more fully, in a fresh Advent coming? Let’s be open to letting go, and letting him reveal himself to us in renewed personal encounter, in whatever ways he desires. May our prayer this Advent be a radical requesting, ‘We want to see you, Jesus’’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 30 November 2020). 
 
‘“It’s not a great headline, is it: ‘Archbishop says Church must follow Christ,’” the Archbishop of York, the Most Revd Stephen Cottrell, acknowledged on Tuesday. He was speaking in an online interview after calling on the Church of England to be simpler, humbler, bolder, and more diverse. The key performance indicator of the emerging Vision and Strategy initiative would be “the number of feet we wash, not the numbers attending our services, though we hope by faith both will grow”, he told the General Synod’ (Church Times 26 November 2020). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Almighty God, 
as your kingdom dawns, 
turn us from the darkness of sin to the 
light of holiness, 
that we may be ready to meet you 
in our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. 
(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. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for the bereaved and all who mourn. This is a particularly difficult time for all of us who have lost friends and loved ones this year. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for our Team Rector and family. As always we are deeply grateful that you hold us in your prayers. Please also remember the other members of our Team, David Bacon and Veronica Batchelor and their families. 
 
The Archbishops’ call to prayer for the nation - the prayer for this week: 
Loving God, 
your Son Jesus Christ came that we might have life and have it abundantly; 
pour out your blessing upon our nation; 
where there is illness, 
bring your healing touch; 
where there is fear, 
strengthen us with the knowledge of your presence; 
where there is uncertainty, 
build us up in faith; 
where there is dishonesty, 
lead us into truth; 
where there is discord, 
may we know the harmony of your love; 
this we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
On 2nd December 1697 St Paul's Cathedral, designed by Sir Christopher Wren was consecrated for use - over 30 years after the Great Fire destroyed Old St Paul's. While from the sublime... on this day in 1901 King C. Gillette began selling his safety razor blades. 
Sunday 29th November 2020 
 
‘Know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour’ (Luke 12:39-40). 
 
With so much of the focus at this time of year being on Christmas, we can overlook the great and glorious theme of Advent - the coming of Christ as King. Today we look to his coming not as a helpless baby but in power and glory at the end of time. This is our great hope that indeed Christ will come again. We are looking not backward at that wonderful miracle that happened two thousand years ago, but forward to the glorious culmination he has promised us. The question is: are we ready? 
 
I have had a number of discussions recently about what we are learning from this past year and how we will use that as we seek to move forward. In many ways, of course, this is still unknown. However it is clear that we need to reappraise our thinking of what really matters and what we are about . This is true both as a society, where so many of the old assumptions have been challenged by the realities laid bare by the pandemic - and also as the Church as we consider how best we can fulfil our main purpose of proclaiming the living God present and active in the world. ‘At this particularly dark time, God among us remains the source of light and hope. We can help to encourage each other with the stories of God at work among us’ (Bishop Nicholas). 
 
Tomorrow is the Feast of St Andrew the Apostle. Andrew was Simon Peter’s brother and together with other early disciples, they were called from their fishing by Jesus to follow him promising he would make them “fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). According to John’s Gospel, Andrew was originally a disciple of John the Baptist and when John tells him and another ‘Look, here is the Lamb of God!’, Andrew ‘first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah”’ (John 1:36,41). He is the patron saint of Scotland and Russia. 
 
The collect for this week: 
Almighty God, 
give us grace to cast away the works of darkness 
and to put on the armour of light, 
now in the time of this mortal life, 
in which your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility; 
that on the last day, 
when he shall come again in his glorious majesty 
to judge the living and the dead, 
we may rise to the life immortal; 
through him 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 under the current lockdown rules, but the Church does remain open for private prayer from 11am and I will ring the bell so we can pray together at 10:30am. Church services will resume next Sunday. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for our Lay Pastoral Assistants (LPAs) as they continue their ministry at this time. There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray on Monday that, following the example of Andrew, we may proclaim the Good News. On Tuesday we pray for all who rely on food aid, especially with winter and Christmas coming. 
 
Don’t forget the Advent Calendar with reflections for each day. Each of us can find something that will help us reflect as we pause and consider, ponder and take hope. 
 
‘Turning to science does not mean turning away from the God who speaks in the Bible or through the Christian tradition’ (Church of England Report: Living in Love and Faith). 
Friday 27th November 2020 
 
‘Then he told them a parable: Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near’ (Luke 21:29-31). 
 
We have a whole host of commentators who interpret the news according to their views - but we are to interpret the times in the light of God’s Word. How much of what is happening today is the result of how we live and treat God’s creation? This is not saying that all that is happening is some punishment from God. However we cannot expect our treatment of his world, and the enormous disparity between those who benefit from its resources and those with very little, to be without very real consequences. It is as much a practical response as well as a moral and theological one that says we have to change our ways. 
 
‘”Inequalities of wealth and opportunity, poor housing, poor nutrition, prejudice, and xenophobia that have surfaced during the pandemic are “a scourge and a disgrace”, the Archbishop of York, the Most Revd Stephen Cottrell, has said. He was introducing a debate on the Church’s response to Covid-19, during a formal meeting of the General Synod, held for the first time via Zoom.. The Synod later carried his amended motion to: care for the bereaved and suffering, including disabled people; thank the NHS; lobby to eradicate social inequalities; preserve the foreign aid budget; and support the role of churches in maintaining mental and spiritual health. 
Archbishop Cottrell said that several lessons had been learned by the Church and nation throughout the pandemic. First, “the NHS is deeply loved. We have also learned that it is the ideas behind the health service that are important and precious.” These ideas were not self-evidently true, he said, and were derived from the Christian faith. Secondly, the pandemic had revealed terrible inequalities. “The mortality rates from Covid-19 from the most deprived areas in the country are more than double those in the least deprived... This is scandalous”… Third, he said, “We have rediscovered the vital link between worship, spirituality, pastoral care, and evangelism. These should never have been separated.” In this second lockdown, church leaders had had to “push back to the Government to demonstrate that we, too, are an essential service”; that worship was not an “optional add on” but “iron rations for the Christian journey and the service we offer”’ (Church Times 24 November 2020). 
 
I recommend an Advent Calendar with reflections for each day which has been launched by a group of clergy. This is part of a library of Advent online resources created for individual Christians and churches to help deal with the impact of Covid-19 during Advent. ‘The website has a whole load of sharable content. The hope is that for each day of Advent, an individual Christian could go to each page and find something that will help them reflect... Resources on the website range from pop-up icons of the Virgin Mary and Jesus made from plasticine, and videos of artists creating “doodle meditations” on the themes of hope, joy, and peace, to antiphons. “You wouldn’t normally put such a diverse range of things together,” said the Revd Dr Sara Batts-Neale, Chaplain to the University of Essex, who has overseen the project’s social-media activity. “Certain ideas are feasible online that wouldn’t be in person, which is a slightly less-awful aspect of life being so hard at the moment”’ (Church Times 19 November 2020). 
 
The post communion prayer for this week: 
Stir up, O Lord, 
the wills of your faithful people; 
that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, 
may by you be plenteously rewarded; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our PCC. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for peace in the world. 
 
The Nobel Prizes were established on 27th November 1895. Having read a premature obituary which condemned him for profiting from the sales of arms, Alfred Bernhard Nobel - the Swedish chemist, engineer, and industrialist who invented dynamite and other, more powerful explosives - bequeathed his fortune to the Nobel Prize institution. 
 
‘I mustn’t speak ill of Arsenal. I do believe in bringing people together, and in Christ there is no Spurs or Arsenal. Believe it or not, we are one’ (Stephen Cottrell, Archbishop of York on Radio 5). 
Wednesday 25th November 2020 
 
‘Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint’ (Isaiah 40:28-31). 
 
When our burdens feel more than we can bear, we can forget how great and powerful God is - that he is the first and the last. Here Isaiah is telling us that in our brokenness, God comes in and saves us. He lifts our heads, he pulls us up out of our mess, and he gives us the strength to keep going. This is a message we need to hear in these times. 
 
‘Almost 200 British humanitarian, development, and domestic charities have called on the Prime Minister not to cut the UK’s foreign aid budget… Leaders of 185 organisations, from the National Federation of Women’s Institutes to Save the Children, Christian Aid, and Friends of the Earth, have signed an open letter in which they say that any cut in the £15-billion UK aid spend would be “a significant threat” to development, and could “seriously jeopardise” the UK’s long-term global Covid-19 response… In their letter, the signatories say: “We understand the challenges and difficulties the UK public faces. Covid-19 has cost more than a million lives and has strained economies around the world, including in the UK. However, at a time when 115 million people look set to be pushed back into extreme poverty, now is the time for an international, collaborative response to Covid-19”’ (Church Times 20 November 2020). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Heavenly Lord, 
you long for the world’s salvation: 
stir us from apathy, 
restrain us from excess 
and revive in us new hope 
that all creation will one day be healed 
in 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. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our Forest & Avon Team. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for the Trafalgar School at Downton. 
 
There is good news regarding Church services: ‘Churches are to reopen for public worship when the lockdown ends on 2 December, the Prime Minister has confirmed… The Covid-19 Winter Plan.. allows places of worship to open for congregations in all tiers. In tier one, the rules say: “Open, but cannot interact with more than six people.” For tiers two and three, the rules are identical: “Open, but cannot interact with anyone outside household or support bubble”’ (Church Times 23 November 2020). 
 
The Archbishops’ call to prayer for the nation - the prayer for this week: 
Lord Jesus Christ, 
in these dark and difficult days, we turn our hearts to you. 
In ages past, you have delivered our nation from disaster. 
Do it again, we pray. 
Give wisdom beyond human wisdom to our leaders, 
Give strength beyond human strength to the NHS and all our frontline workers. 
Give comfort beyond human comfort to the elderly and all who grieve. 
Lord Jesus Christ, 
in these dark and difficult days, 
turn your face towards us, 
have mercy upon us, 
and heal our land, we pray. Amen. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
On 25th November 1952 “The Mousetrap,” a murder-mystery written by Agatha Christie, opened at the Ambassadors Theatre in London. It would go on to become the longest continuously running play in history. 
Sunday 22nd November 2020 
 
‘For thus says the Lord God: I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep… I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them; I, the Lord, have spoken’ (Ezekiel 34:11-12,23-24). 
 
The image of God as our shepherd is a very powerful one. He cares for us, protects us, leads us and guides us. ‘The Lord is my shepherd,’ the Psalmist writes, ‘I shall not want’ (Psalm 23:1). While Jesus tells us ‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep’ (John 10:11). 
 
Today we celebrate Christ as King of All. He is the Lord of all creation who will return in glory at the end of time - bringing all under his just and gentle rule.. Christ’s kingship stands in contradiction to this world’s conceptions of status and power. It reminds us that Jesus is King of Kings over all earthly authorities - and we are called to worship, to serve and to obey him. 
 
A survey ‘Coronavirus, Church and You’ has concluded that ‘the writing is on the wall. These statistics show that the fragile-church hypothesis is well established in the countryside, but also experienced more widely by one in five clergy across the Church of England. Too many parish churches are running out of money, running out of people, and now running out of time. Covid-19 has hastened the urgency with which the problem needs to be addressed. Perhaps now is the time to engineer a second Reformation in England’s green and pleasant land. 
But, before the management model steps in to close these fragile churches, it is sensible to pause to reflect on how these churches may continue to speak to a new generation, and whether there is something fundamentally different between how churches work in society and how sects work in society… The new post Covid-19 Reformation may well decide that the time has come to abandon the parish churches and to find a sectarian future. This should offer a good short-term solution. What is so unfortunate, however, is that the lessons of history remind us that the Church at large survives largely because parish churches endlessly reinvent themselves as they resist pressures that would see them vanish with the morning mist’ (Church Times 20 November 2020). 
 
The collect for this week: 
Eternal Father, 
whose Son Jesus Christ ascended to the throne of heaven 
that he might rule over all things as Lord and King: 
keep the Church in the unity of the Spirit 
and in the bond of peace, 
and bring the whole created order to worship at his feet; 
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 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 under the current lockdown rules, but the Church does remain open for private prayer from 11am and I will ring the bell so we can pray together at 10:30am. 
 
If today were not a Sunday, we would be remembering St Cecilia, the patron of music and musicians. In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for those who produce our Parish magazine, helping us to stay in touch. There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray on Monday for our bishops: Bishop Nicholas, our diocesan bishop, and Bishops Andrew and Karen, our suffragan bishops. On Tuesday we pray for politicians and their advisors. 
 
‘God uses the words of the Bible as a school of righteousness, of justice, and of love... Our reading shapes our desires, our imaginations, our emotions, our habits, our ideas, our relationships, our institutions, the structures of our society, and our cultures. It shapes all the physical stuff of the lives we live ... together in the world. All of life is caught up in the curriculum of this school’ (Church of England Report: Living in Love and Faith). 
Friday 20th November 2020 
 
‘All deeds are right in the sight of the doer, but the Lord weighs the heart. To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice’ (Proverbs 21:2-3). 
 
It is all too human to find reasons for doing what we want to do anyway, and then seeking excuses - or even scripture - to justify our prejudices or selfishness. God, though, sees through into our innermost being. He understands our true motives and our self-centredness. In his love he leads us gently to see the truth more clearly and to walk in his ways. ‘What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?’ (Micah 6:8). 
 
Today the Church commemorates Edmund King of the East Angles - and the first patron saint of England. Born on Christmas Day 841AD, Edmund succeeded to the throne of East Anglia in 856. Brought up as a Christian, he fought alongside King Alfred of Wessex against the pagan Viking and Norse invaders (the Great Heathen Army) until 869/70 when his forces were defeated and Edmund was captured. He was ordered by the Vikings to renounce his faith and share power with the pagan invaders, but he refused. According to the 10th century account of the saint’s life by Abbo of Fleury, who quotes St Dunstan as his source, Edmund was then bound to a tree, shot through by arrows and beheaded when he refused to rule as a Viking underking. 
 
There has been an exciting change at the Salisbury Foodbank. On 1st November it became an independent charity, no longer run by the Trussell Trust. In future if you wish to give a monetary donation, you will have to decide whether you wish to donate to the Salisbury Foodbank, The Trussell Trust - or perhaps both! For more details see the December copy of the Downton Parish News. 
 
The collect for today: 
Eternal God, 
whose servant Edmund kept faith to the end, 
both with you and with his people, 
and glorified you by his death: 
grant us such steadfastness of faith 
that, with the noble army of martyrs, 
we may come to enjoy the fullness of the resurrection 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/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for charities struggling to continue their work and fundraising. Many are finding it very difficult to continue with their core purpose as their income plummets. 
 
Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for all ministers in our village. Please pray that we may know the wisdom to speak God’s word into our current situation. 
 
‘This year, how about saving Christmas by keeping Advent? Look for safe ways to buy the presents and order the food. Give some time to writing some personal cards or messages. Then, dust down your Bible and look up the stories for yourself. Light a candle for each Sunday. And enjoy the peace - peace now, as you give Christmas the best chance it can have of going off well; and the promise of a peace that passes our understanding that can surround us, come what may’ (Dr David Thomson, Church Times 13 November 2020). 
 
‘God’s creation is a dazzling explosion of diversity which speaks of the unutterable beauty, unfathomable grandeur, and infinite creativity of the Creator. And so when God made human beings, they too reflected this dazzling diversity’ (Church of England Report: Living in Love and Faith). 
Wednesday 18th November 2020 
 
‘Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty firmament! Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his surpassing greatness!.. Let everything that breathes praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!’ (Psalm 150:1-2,6). 
 
Here at the end of the Book of Psalms everything is summed up in praise. We praise God for all that he is, all that he has done, all his blessings in our lives: our creation, salvation and the love that keeps and sustains us in every moment. Everything and everyone is called upon to praise our God! 
 
‘As our parishes and schools adjust again in changing times, returning to lockdown patterns and seeking to involve those with and without technology, new forms of church gathering, worship and working are emerging. Where do we go from here? In this Diocese, we have fostered traditional church while recognising the need for forms of church that respond to the people, communities and cultures around us that are less ‘churched’. We are now seeing churches with magazine-style services streamed on social media, phone networks, person-to-person messaging, and international reach, alongside traditional prayers and liturgy, playing of pre-recorded hymns, and lighting of candles. Can these new forms be ‘Church’?’ (The Diocese of Salisbury 13 November 2020). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Heavenly Lord, 
you long for the world’s salvation: 
stir us from apathy, 
restrain us from excess 
and revive in us new hope 
that all creation will one day be healed 
in Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(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. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for School Governors, giving thanks for all the time, energy and commitment they give to our schools. 
 
Tomorrow there is no Reflection. The Church remembers Hilda, abbess of Whitby, who was recognised for the wisdom that drew even kings to her for advice. At the Synod of Whitby (664AD) she was instrumental in bringing resolution between the Celtic and Roman traditions in the Anglo-Saxon Church. So in our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying that we may work together for the Church. 
 
The Archbishops’ call to prayer for the nation - the prayer for this week: 
Loving Father God, 
be with us in our distress; 
be with our families, friends, and neighbours, 
our country and our world. 
Give health to the sick, 
hope to the fearful, 
and comfort to mourners. 
Give wisdom to our frontline and key workers, 
insight to our Government, 
and patience to us all. 
Overcome disease with the power of your new life, 
through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
On 18th November 1477 William Caxton published Dictes and Sayenges of the Phylosophers, the first dated book printed in England. Also on 18th November 1959 the film Ben-Hur, arguably the best of Hollywood’s biblical epics, had its world premiere; it later won an unprecedented 11 Academy Awards. 
Sunday 15th November 2020 
 
‘For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing’ (1 Thessalonians 5:9-11). 
 
We have a great future and destiny stored up for us by God. We are to live with our eyes fixed firmly on that. We have the joy of living in the light of Christ. We have the hope of expectation that one day we will live forever with him in God’s kingdom. We are an expectant people - we have a lot to look forward to! 
 
‘Church leaders continue to press the Government on the importance of worship and prayer on the spiritual and mental health of the nation, but have conceded that places of worship are unlikely to reopen before the second lockdown ends on 2 December… A spokesperson for Church House explained on Tuesday: “We are stating the importance of public worship for spiritual and mental health, and as the heart of the Church’s mission and ministry. We are also stating the measures introduced since March to make church buildings as safe as they possibly can be. We expect public worship to resume once lockdown is over. We are focusing on the positive steps we can encourage, including the month of prayer in November [News, 6 November], and forward to ensuring churches are ready for Christmas in different circumstances”’ (Church Times 12 November 2020). 
 
From the diocese: ‘Our parishes have been told their Share request will remain the same for 2021. With a few exceptional cases, our parishes will be asked to raise no more in Share than they were asked to pay in 2020. Writing to Parish Treasurers, the Chair of our Diocesan Board of Finance, Nigel Salisbury recognised we are living in exceptional times, saying that his letter “comes at a time of continuing difficulty and renewed uncertainty for all our parishes and communities.” With the possibility that restrictions may still be in place well into next year, Nigel also asked our parishes: “Whatever your particular circumstances as a parish, please pay us what you can, when you can both for the remaining weeks of 2020 and in the year ahead”’ (The Diocese of Salisbury 13 November 2020). 
 
The collect for this week: 
Heavenly Father, 
whose blessed Son was revealed 
to destroy the works of the devil 
and to make us the children of God and heirs of eternal life: 
grant that we, having this hope, 
may purify ourselves even as he is pure; 
that when he shall appear in power and great glory 
we may be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom; 
where he 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. You may notice the large plastic sheeting to one side of the picture - this is protecting the organ while vital remedial work is being done to the west wall and in the south transept. 
There is no service in Church under the current lockdown rules. However the Church is open for private prayer from 11am and I will ring the bell so we can pray together at 10:30am. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our witness as a Church. At a time when life is far from normal and many assumptions in society are under pressure, we stand for a God who is eternal, creator and Lord of the world - who holds all history in his hands. Public worship may have been banned but the Church is still here and, arguably, more important than ever. 
 
There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray on Monday for Churches Together in Downton. On Tuesday we pray for all who rely on food aid which has become an increasingly serious problem. 
 
On 15th November 1859 the final instalment of Charles Dickens’ serialized novel “A Tale of Two Cities” was published. In contrast, it was on this day in 2001 that Microsoft released Xbox, the video game console system. 
Friday 13th November 2020 
 
‘Happy are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord. Happy are those who keep his decrees, who seek him with their whole heart, who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways’ (Psalm 119:1-3). 
 
We are God’s people called according to his purpose. Only in following him and living according to his love can we find our true fulfilment, happiness and peace. The one who walks in God’s word knows the true blessedness of living and enjoying an undefiled life wholeheartedly - not trying to ‘serve two masters’ (Matthew 6:24). 
 
There was a ‘socially distanced Armistice Day service at Westminster Abbey, marking the centenary to the day of the burial of the Unknown Warrior there, started at 10.30 a.m. on Wednesday. At 11 a.m. there was two minutes’ silence. Attendance was by invitation only, but the service was streamed live by the BBC… Archbishop Welby said: “We pay tribute to the men and women who died on so many battlefields, unnamed and unclaimed except by God. Sacrifice not only comes in times of war... It is the virtue that smooths the rough roads over which our societies travel. This year people have put aside all they hold dear. We may not know what they have suffered or given up. They may be anonymous, but their actions are glorious. From their lives comes fruit. From the life of this Unknown Warrior comes the fruit of Remembrance and hope. When we face deep uncertainties and difficulties, we do not just look after ourselves - we make a stand. We know that none of us are safe until all are safe”’ (Church Times 11 November 2020). 
 
‘Part of being human is to be imperfect. We are all imperfect in different ways and impatient with other people’s imperfections and sometimes with our own.. Jesus demonstrates both patience and realism about his team and his friends. Jesus acknowledges that ministry and service will be very difficult for.. his companions. There will be opposition that is both seen and unseen. The disciples must anticipate this.. in our inevitable weakness and failure, we become better ministers and servants through the times when we stumble and fall and fail’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 28 July 2020). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
God, our refuge and strength, 
bring near the day when wars shall cease 
and poverty and pain shall end, 
that earth may know the peace of heaven 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for those at work worried about social distancing. 
 
Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for all visitors to our Churches. We are grateful that although we are unable to hold services at the moment, at least our churches do not have to be closed to private prayer. 
 
‘During the lockdown, the UK Government has again banned corporate worship (News, 6 November). They have done so without giving evidence that such a ban, with its human costs, would be an effective means of fighting the coronavirus. Permission has, quite rightly, been given for churches to be used for “essential voluntary and public services”, for private prayer, and for services to be broadcast online, but not for the services for which churches were originally built. The Government has simply not grasped the reality that communal worship, especially the eucharist, feeds those who hunger for it just as foodbanks feed those in need. Worship is not a leisure activity, but, alongside mission, is at the heart of what it means to be Christian. Indeed, worship and mission are two sides of the same coin. Worship feeds and motivates mission; mission poses penetrating questions about worship (The Rt Revd Dr Brian Castle, Church Times 10 November 2020). 
 
On 13th November 1862 Lewis Carroll wrote in his diary, “Began writing the fairy-tale of Alice - I hope to finish it by Christmas”. Also on this day in 1940 Walt Disney released “Fantasia” an experiment in animation and classical music. Unlike his first two animated movies Fantasia was not a commercial success but is now considered a classic. 
Wednesday 11th November 2020 
 
‘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). 
 
Today is Remembrance Day, although there will be no act of remembrance at the Borough Cross and we must remember quietly at home. It is also the day when the Church remembers Martin, Bishop of Tours. This is a happy coincidence, perhaps, as Martin was himself a soldier. 
 
Martin was born early in the 4th century in what is now Hungary where his father was a high-ranking officer in the Roman Imperial Horse Guard. At the age of fifteen, Martin was required to follow his father into the cavalry. By the time he was 18, Martin is believed to have served in Gaul, and also eventually Milan and Treves - and scholars think he served as part of the emperor's guard. About the age of 20, Martin made clear to his superiors that he would no longer fight, following his Christian conscience - “I am Christ’s soldier: I am not allowed to fight”. Martin travelled to Tours where he began studying under Hilary of Poitiers. Here Martin established a monastery and became the father of monasticism in Gaul, and the first great leader of Western monasticism. Then in 371AD he was made bishop of the city despite not wanting the job. He died in 397AD and was one of the first non-martyrs to be publicly venerated as a saint. 
 
‘Martin’s worry about cooperation with evil reminds us that almost nothing is either all black or all white. The saints are not creatures of another world: They face the same perplexing decisions that we do. Any decision of conscience always involves some risk. If we choose to go north, we may never know what would have happened had we gone east, west, or south. A hyper-cautious withdrawal from all perplexing situations is not the virtue of prudence; it is in fact, a bad decision, for “not to decide is to decide”’ (www.franciscanmedia.org/). 
 
From the Archbishops’ letter to the nation: ‘Soon it will be Christmas. At his birth Jesus was also called Emmanuel. It’s a word that appears in lots of carols. It means ‘God is with us’. And this is the message of Christmas: in Jesus, God is with us, sharing our darkness and our struggles, bringing comfort and joy. It is the source of our hope. As the Bible says: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:5) Let us shine in the darkness of this winter’. 
 
The collect for today: 
God all powerful, 
who called Martin from the armies of this world 
to be a faithful soldier of Christ: 
give us grace to follow him 
in his love and compassion for the needy, 
and enable your Church to claim for all people 
their inheritance as children of God; 
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 at 10:30am. I will ring the bell and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for all who suffer through war. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for all medical staff in hospitals, GP surgeries, Care homes and research laboratories. 
 
The Archbishops’ call to prayer for the nation - the prayer for this week: 
Loving God, 
at this time of crisis 
when so many are suffering, 
we pray for our nation and our world. 
Give our leaders wisdom, 
our Health Service strength, 
our people hope. 
Lead us through these parched and difficult days 
to the fresh springs of joy and comfort 
that we find in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 
Sunday 8th November 2020 
 
‘I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings should be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth’ (1 Timothy 2:1-4). 
 
We should give thanks and pray for those who are in authority, says Paul, because God has ordained government in society to keep order. For all its faults and the failings of those who rule, we need government. In his Apology, Tertullian referenced this verse when saying that he prayed for emperors and the empire, for courageous armies, for a faithful senate and virtuous people, and for peace. “All who are in authority” would include officials of foreign nations - even enemy nations. Jesus told us to love our enemies and to pray for those who mistreat and persecute us, so “that you may be children of your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:43-45). 
 
Paul’s words are especially remarkable given that Nero, who instituted a terrible persecution of Christians, was emperor during Paul’s ministry. Paul doesn’t specify the contents of our prayers for these officials. Should we pray that their hearts be turned towards God? Yes! Should we pray that they be given wisdom and integrity? Certainly! Should we pray that they act wisely and justly? Most assuredly! 
 
Today is Remembrance Sunday. There is a recorded service from the church - together with members of our local Royal British Legion. The service includes a time of Remembering, with the Exhortation, Last Post, two minutes Silence and Reveille. There is a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. The main tenor bell from the tower will be rung for remembrance at 11am. 
 
Our 10:30am service of Holy Communion in Church has been cancelled under current lockdown rules, but the Church is open for private prayer from 11am and I will ring the bell so we can pray together at 10:30am. Rev. Ron Hart was due to lead this service, and I attach his notes. Thank you, Ron. 
 
The collect for this week: 
Almighty Father, 
whose will is to restore all things 
in your beloved Son, the King of all: 
govern the hearts and minds of those in authority, 
and bring the families of the nations, 
divided and torn apart by the ravages of sin, 
to be subject to his just and gentle rule; 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for those at University and College. We pray especially for those suffering from the mental stress of lockdown and those worried about seeing their families at Christmas. There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray on Monday for those in Residential and Nursing Homes - lifting them, their families and all who care for them to God. On Tuesday we pray for our bellringers, thankful that we can still hear them as they ring out. 
 
From our service today: 
If there is to be peace in the world, 
There must be peace in the nations. 
If there is to be peace in the nations, 
There must be peace in the cities. 
If there is to be peace in the cities, 
There must be peace between neighbours. 
If there is to be peace between neighbours, 
There must be peace in the home. 
If there is to be peace in the home, 
There must be peace in the heart. 
(Lao-Tzu, 6th century BC) 
Friday 6th November 2020 
 
‘Our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humiliation so that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself’ (Philippians 3:20-21). 
 
At times we can get so caught up with the problems and trials of the world and our worries about life that we forget that our true home is in heaven. Our time here is one where we learn to follow in the ways of God and his service - an apprenticeship as it were. We have a most wonderful and glorious future in store for us. 
 
As of this week, we are unable to worship together in Church - but will continue to have midweek prayers and a recorded Sunday service. However the Church will be open for private prayer. This will now be on Sundays as well as Wednesdays. You are welcome to come and spend some quiet time from 11am to 12:30pm. 
 
‘The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have appealed to the British people to be calm, courageous, and compassionate, the day before the second lockdown comes into force. In a rare letter to the nation, published on Wednesday, and addressed “Dear friends”, the Archbishops refer to the story of Jesus calming the storm. They write: “This year, too, we have been caught in a storm which often feels overwhelming. And yet we can look to Jesus, in the boat with us, who calms the storm and comforts us in fear.” 
They continue: “We are writing to share our belief that whoever you are, and whatever you happen to believe, you are loved by God. Beyond measure. We also want you to know that we are praying for you, particularly asking that Christ’s love will comfort us, calm our fears, and lead our nation and our world through this terrible pandemic.” 
They invite people to join churches in prayer every day at 6 p.m., and encourage three responses in particular. First, they ask people to be calm… Second, they call on people to be courageous… Third, they ask people to be compassionate’ (Church Times 4 November 2020). The full text of the letter can be found here
 
‘The Archbishops are encouraging daily prayer for the nation throughout the month. We are encouraged to pray daily for a specific area of national concern culminating in a collective moment of prayer at 6.00pm each evening, with cathedrals and churches across the country invited to ring a bell at this time. There is a simple seven-day prayer cycle, praying for a specific area each day including the NHS and frontline workers, the bereaved, and those struggling with physical and mental ill-health, and for children and young people’ (Bishop Nicholas). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
God of glory, 
touch our lips with the fire of your Spirit, 
that we with all creation 
may rejoice to sing your praise; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our Churchwarden and Deputy Churchwardens who continue to work hard for our Church family. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for all key workers who contribute so much to our health and welfare, especially at this time. 
 
This Sunday is Remembrance Sunday. There will not be a formal Remembrance Parade or service but our recorded service - available on the website - will include remembrance with the Exhortation, Last Post, Silence and Reveille. 
 
For music lovers: Antoine-Joseph ”Adolphe” Sax, who invented the saxophone was born on 6th November 1814, while forty years later on 6th November 1854 the American bandmaster John Philip Sousa, who composed 136 military marches, was born. 
Wednesday 2nd November 2020 
 
‘Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure’ (Philippians 2:12-13). 
 
It is not in our own strength but God’s that we follow and serve him; it is not by our own efforts but by allowing God to work in and through us. This is particularly important to remember and understand in these difficult and worrying days. This is not to say that our part is unimportant, for we are to ‘work out your own salvation’. However we do this with God sustaining, strengthening and supporting us. He holds us in his hands, sets us on his paths and guides us with his Spirit. 
 
As I write and send these words to you, I am very aware of the perils in what I say. ‘It’s very tempting to judge success in the Church today by the number of Twitter followers a preacher has, or by the size of congregation a pastor draws, or by the book sales an author produces. All these things are of course done in the cause of the gospel, and when you do an internet search for the preacher/pastor/author’s name, somewhere in the results Jesus does get a mention. Yet, today, there remains across the globe a mighty army of faithful Christians called.. to follow Jesus, whose names are known only to God. Without monument or applause, they too know the truth of Isaiah’s words: ‘Only in the Lord... are righteousness and strength’. And.. in the power of the Spirit they are seeing Jesus change the world’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 28 October 2020). 
 
Tomorrow we enter a second period of lockdown. It has been announced that ‘Places of Worship will be closed, unless they are being used for: Funerals, To broadcast acts of worship, Individual prayer’ (www.gov.uk). However ‘Senior church leaders were not consulted about the suspension of public worship, which was announced on Sunday as part of a second national lockdown which comes into force on Thursday. They were due to meet the Government on Monday to seek an explanation for “why certain exemptions were made and not others”. In an ad clerum sent to C of E clergy on Monday, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and the Bishop of London write that they are grateful that churches will be allowed to remain open for private prayer and online broadcasts. “We were cautious about these issues during the first lockdown - perhaps overly so - but in this second lockdown we want to encourage church buildings to remain open for private prayer wherever possible, making sure that their buildings are Covid-secure in the ways that we have learned in recent months, and to broadcast services from their church buildings”’ (Church Times 3 November 2020). 
We wait to hear the detail of the rules. 
 
The collect for this week: 
Almighty and eternal God, 
you have kindled the flame of love 
in the hearts of the saints: 
grant to us the same faith and power of love, 
that, as we rejoice in their triumphs, 
we may be sustained by their example and fellowship; 
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 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 for today we pray for all those made redundant or unable to find work. We know that all too many people have already lost their jobs or are unable to return to their workplace and are in need not only of practical help but our prayers. We pray also for the American people at this time. 
 
Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for our Church School, which is doing a wonderful job ensuring our children continue to grow and learn in these difficult days. 
Sunday 1st November 2020 
 
‘After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!”’ (Revelation 7:9-10). 
 
Today is All Saints Day. We are reminded that we are all saints - the people of God. As Paul writes to the Christians in Rome: ‘To all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints’ (Romans 1:7). We recall also the witness of all those who have gone before and have encouraged and inspired us. Like stained glass windows, the saints are those who allow the light of God to shine through them. We rejoice that in God’s good time we will all stand together around his throne as one of the multitudes of the heavenly host. 
 
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 - and the church bells will be ringing from 10 o’clock. 
 
Also this afternoon we have our All Souls service when we remember those whom we have loved and stand already in God’s presence. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace and rise in glory. 
 
‘When we commemorate during a liturgical celebration those who have gone before us, we do much more than direct a pious thought to our own deceased family and friends; we recognize that we stand in the midst of history and that the affirmation of our present condition is grounded in the recognition that we were brought to where we are now by the innumerable people who lived their lives before we were given the chance to live ours’ (Henri J.M. Nouwen). 
 
So we will be going into lockdown again this week - not, I think, any real surprise. We don’t know yet what this will mean for our services and Church life. I will let you know when I have more information but please watch the website. Whatever happens we intend to continue our recorded services. 
 
The November 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 let anyone know that you think may want one - or collect one for them. They and we would be most grateful. 
 
The collect for today: 
God, you have knit together your elect 
in one communion and fellowship 
in the mystical Almighty body of your Son Christ our Lord: 
grant us grace so to follow your blessed saints 
in all virtuous and godly living 
that we may come to those inexpressible joys 
that you have prepared for those who truly love you; 
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 for today we pray that we may reflect God in our lives, living as his saints in the world. ‘Saints are not men who store goodness in themselves, they are just men who do not delay to repent, and whose repentances are honourable’ (Austin Farrer). There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray on Monday for the bereaved and all who mourn. On Tuesday we pray for our Team Rector and family. 
 
On 3rd November 1534 the Act of Supremacy was passed confirming that Henry VIII was the head of the Church of England. From this has evolved our particular expression of what it means to be Church - and the worldwide Anglican Communion, now the third largest denomination of about 85 million Christians worldwide. 
Friday 30th October 2020 
 
‘All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord, and all your faithful shall bless you. They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom, and tell of your power, to make known to all people your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendour of your kingdom. Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations’ (Psalm 145:10-13). 
 
In these difficult and uncertain times, it is good to know that the one enduring and steadfast reality is God and his kingdom. We are God’s own people, and in Jesus we are the heirs of his kingdom which will last forever. In the words of the angel to Mary: ‘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 1:32-33). We are safe in his hands and set aside in his service. So we are to proclaim his kingdom - reflecting God in our lives and making him known in the world. ‘To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen’ (Revelation 1:5-6). 
 
‘When we see social relationships controlled everywhere by the principles which Jesus illustrated in life - trust, love, mercy, and altruism - then we shall know that the kingdom of God is here’ (Martin Luther King, Jr.). 
 
‘Churches in Switzerland have backed legislation to penalise multinationals that abuse human rights and damage the environment, and have urging that their country’s neutral and humanitarian traditions be deployed to encourage similar steps internationally. “Human rights provide a protective shield for everyone against inhuman treatment by a third party - this requires companies to respect human rights abroad as well,” the Evangelical Reformed Church said in a joint statement with Switzerland’s Roman Catholic Bishops’ Conference. “It makes it all the more important that international enterprises headquartered in Switzerland actively contribute to protecting human rights where they cannot be guaranteed because of precarious political and legal conditions.” The statement was issued in support of a Corporate Responsibility Initiative, which threatens sanctions against companies that fail to uphold environmental and human-rights standards, and is to be put to a national referendum on 29 November’ (Church Times 23 October 2020). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Merciful God, 
teach us to be faithful in change and uncertainty, 
that trusting in your word 
and obeying your will 
we may enter the unfailing joy of Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
We had our Annual Meeting last Sunday. It was a small affair under the present restrictions, but important to the life of our Church. Thank you to all who produced reports - they are still up in Church if you wish to read them. I gave my Team Rector’s report which is now available to be read. 
 
This coming Sunday afternoon at 4pm we will be holding our All Souls service when we remember our loved ones. This year we have been giving priority to those who have been bereaved recently to attend. There are, though, a few extra spaces available. If you wish to come, please contact me. If you are unable to come, please pause for a moments prayer at that time. 
 
According to tradition, it was on 31st October 1517 that Martin Luther posted on a church door in Wittenberg, Germany, his Ninety-five Theses. His manifesto turned a protest about an indulgence scandal into the Protestant Reformation - “Here I stand, I can do no other, God help me. Amen!”. 
 
‘Live in the kingdom of God in such a way that it provokes questions for which the gospel is the answer’ (Lesslie Newbigin). 
Wednesday 28th October 2020 
 
‘So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God’ (Ephesians 2:19-22). 
 
Today the Church celebrates the apostles Simon and Jude. Apart from their names in the Gospel, there is very little we know for definite about these two Apostles. Simon is called the Zealot (Luke 6:15). ‘Zealot’ here may indicate membership of a strict Jewish sect. There was also a party called Zealots famous in the war of the Jews against their Roman occupiers but there is no evidence they existed in Jesus’ lifetime. Jude, or Judas son of James (Luke 6:16), was also called Thaddaeus - presumably to distinguish him from Judas Iscariot. “Judas” in New Testament contexts corresponds to “Judah” in the Old Testament. He is also believed to be the author of the Letter in the New Testament bearing his name. After the Last Supper we read: Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, ‘Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them’ (John 14:22-23). Some ancient Christian writers say that Simon and Jude went together as missionaries to Persia and were martyred there. If this is true, it explains, to some extent, our lack of historical information on them and also why they are usually put together. 
 
‘Unless the church stops being defined as the building, the ministry of lay people will not flourish, a new report suggests. The report.. offers an in-depth examination of the part played by the laity, historically and in scripture, and asks why a succession of church reports over more than half a century have failed to correct the Church’s leaning towards clericalism. “Why has the culture proved so difficult to shift when there is no obvious argument being put forward in favour of the status quo?” the report asks… 
“The risk is that the strength of association between church and place makes it easy to hear such language as making a distinction between being gathered into the church and being sent out from the church - with the clear implication that it is in gathering that the church is most truly at home and most truly itself.” This misunderstanding has been promoted by secularists and individualists, the report suggests, seeking to define the church only as what goes on in the building, or, at most, private piety or work of a social nature. Consequently, those who order life in the building - predominantly the clergy - achieve an elevated status, and clericalism continues to thrive. 
In contrast, the report says: “The church as gathered by and in God is not defined by geographical or social boundaries; while the church as sent by God always travels in divine company and never moves away from its divine origin”… Lay ministry cannot simply be that which the Church turns to because it can no longer afford enough professional, ordained ministers, or when not enough people come forward to train as priests. Congregations that are not, instead, being regularly asked what ministerial vocation each member is called to are “failing in a fundamental duty”. “The calling of God’s people as a whole is a kingdom calling: called to be sign, instrument and foretaste of the kingdom, which extends over all creation”’ (Church Times 22 October 2020). 
 
The collect for today: 
Almighty God, 
who built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, 
with Jesus Christ himself as the chief cornerstone: 
so join us together in unity of spirit by their doctrine, 
that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; 
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 for today we pray for all who rely on food aid. Clearly this is a very topical story at the moment. In the words of the Trussell Trust ‘No-one should face going hungry’. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for School Governors. 
 
I will be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church at 10:30am. I shall ring the bell and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. 
Sunday 25th October 2020 
 
‘Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him’ (Colossians 3:16-17). 
 
Today we celebrate the received word of God that we have in and through the Scriptures (the Bible) - the great gift of God to us in his holy word, to inspire, teach and guide us. ‘All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work’ (2 Timothy 3:16-17). 
 
‘Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation’ (Articles of the Church of England, VI). 
 
‘Post-pandemic stimulus packages are at risk of increasing global inequality and jeopardising efforts to reduce climate change, Christian Aid has warned. In a report released today, Whose Green Recovery?, the charity said that governments’ economic stimulus plans designed to aid reconstruction after Covid-19 were often just “rhetoric” that did little to help the most vulnerable. Christian Aid says that that half a trillion dollars globally have gone towards supporting carbon-intensive industries, and that 70 per cent more aid has been given to businesses related to fossil fuels, such as airlines, than to their green alternatives. In the UK alone, more than £5 billion has been awarded to the oil, gas, and transport sectors without requiring a future commitment to becoming more sustainable. Christian Aid said that recovery plans publicised as “green” made little provision for poorer countries that were trying to recover from the economic fallout. The danger inherent in this, the charity has said, was of poorer nations’ being left with only cheap fossil fuels to support post-pandemic recovery efforts. Any climate gains already made are under threat, as well as the status of the Paris agreement and the 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), scheduled to take place in Glasgow in November next year (News, 5 September), the charity says’ (Church Times 23 October 2020). 
 
The collect for this week: 
Blessed Lord, 
who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: 
help us so to hear them, 
to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them 
that, through patience, and the comfort of your holy word, 
we may embrace and for ever hold fast 
the hope of everlasting life, 
which you have given us in our Saviour 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/) 
 
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 - and the church bells will be ringing from 10 o’clock. This will be followed by our Annual Meeting. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray that we might grow through God’s Word. Scripture reveals God to us and helps us to understand him and his call. Jesus said ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free’ (John 8:31-32). 
 
There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray on Monday for the Trafalgar School at Downton. On Tuesday we pray for those in Residential and Nursing Homes. 
 
Today two significant battles in our history are remembered: Agincourt in 1415 and the Battle of Balaclava (which included the Charge of the Light Brigade in 1854. While both of these were remarkable encounters, it is perhaps an open question as to what we have learnt from them. 
Friday 23rd October 2020 
 
‘There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all’ (Ephesians 4:4-6). 
 
As the Church we need to remind ourselves constantly that we belong to the one Body of Christ. All our hopes, all our plans and ambitions for the Church should be contained in the one goal - the proclamation and building up of the Kingdom of God. That is our call, our purpose and our true joy, and the Church to which we belong is simply an instrument to help us as we seek to achieve that. 
 
‘The proverbial Someone Else, much beloved and terribly elusive, won’t fill in for us. I am the only person occupying my particular space in life with my opportunities and gifts and friendships. I am the only one who can witness to the kingdom of God, and work for it, in my particular setting. So it’s over to me, and you. Not as burden and duty but as privilege and joy. Not with my strength but with the light touch of the Spirit. Not with my ideas but with the nudge of God’s genius’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 17 October 2020). 
 
‘Politics must not be reduced to “raw majority power unleashed” that normalises law-breaking, the Archbishop of Canterbury has warned. The UK “will suffer great harm” and peace between the home nations will be compromised, he told the House of Lords on Monday. Archbishop Welby was contributing to a debate on the Internal Markets Bill which was given its second reading in the Lords. The Bill, which sets up internal arrangements for trading after the Brexit transition period ends, has been heavily criticised for breaking international law, something that the Government has admitted, and reversing the devolution of power in the UK. “What we are above all called to do in this country, deeply embedded in our Christian culture and history, is to act justly and honestly,” the Archbishop told peers. “We cannot do so if we openly speak of breaking a treaty under international law reached at properly on which peace in part of the UK relies”’ (Church Times 20 October 2020). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Faithful Lord, 
whose steadfast love never ceases 
and whose mercies never come to an end: 
grant us the grace to trust you 
and to receive the gifts of your love, 
new every morning, 
in Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for all who assist with our services. The format and delivery of our services may have had to change over this year, but we still gather together to worship God in whatever way we can and as best we can. 
 
Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for politicians and their advisors. There appears to be increasing division as the effects of the pandemic are felt unevenly across the country. We pray for a true spirit of generosity and a desire to ensure that all are treated with equal respect and value. 
 
The world was created on Sunday 23rd October 4004 BC at 9 a.m. This was the conclusion of the 17th century divine James Ussher, Archbishop of Armagh. He calculated this from key events recorded in the Bible. This date was widely accepted in the Western world until the 19th century. 
 
Finally: I remind you that the clocks go back on Saturday night as British summer time comes to an end – so we all get any extra hour in bed! 
Wednesday 21st October 2020 
 
'Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God's grace that was given to me by the working of his power. Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places' (Ephesians 3:7-10). 
 
We have the privilege of sharing the good news - the boundless riches of Christ. Paul here calls himself a diakonos, a minister according to the gift of the grace of God. It is possible that the word has its origin in a similar Greek word, diakonis, which means "running through dust." In the Roman world, servants would run errands for their masters through the dusty streets. We too are servants of the gospel called to run through the dust 'so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known'. 
 
'The Archbishop of York, newly enthroned in York Minster, has spoken of the "hope, relief, and practical help" that the Church has brought to communities affected by the coronavirus. In the sermon during his enthronement service on Sunday, he referred to the uncertainty and fear felt by many, especially those in the north, and paid tribute to the work carried out by the National Health Service. He put this in the context of one of his predecessors. "This is a time of huge challenge, uncertainty, and fearfulness in our world. I am conscious that I'm standing in the shoes of some very great forebears, not least a man like William Temple, who, during the darkest hours of the Second World War, with others, dreamed of what the peace may look like, and how literally devastated cities would be rebuilt; but also a moral vision for the rebuilding of a nation. "He was one of the architects of that post-war consensus that gave birth to a welfare state, and to that NHS that we stood out on the streets and clapped every Thursday evening during the hardest days of lockdown," he said' (Church Times 19 October 2020). 
 
The collect for this week: 
O God, forasmuch as without you 
we are not able to please you; 
mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit 
may in all things direct and rule our hearts; 
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 and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for all ministers in the village. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for all visitors to our Churches. 
 
'What the Church brings, its USP, is all the kind of weird stuff. If you regard Jesus as just an enlightened teacher, then, ultimately, he's no different to philosophers, teachers from other periods of history... But if what the Gospels, the New Testament, the Church teaches is true, then the strangeness is so strange that it must surely animate everything that Christians say about the figure of Jesus' (Tom Holland, Church Times podcast) 
 
On 21st October 1805 a fleet of 33 ships (18 French and 15 Spanish) under Admiral Pierre-Charles-Jean-Baptiste-Silvestre de Villeneuve fought and was defeated by a British fleet of 27 ships under Admiral Horatio Nelson in the Battle of Trafalgar (combat was waged west of Cape Trafalgar, Spain). So, as we approach Remembrance Day in a couple of weeks, we pray for all those who have lost loved ones or been injured through war - especially at sea. 
Sunday 18th October 2020 
 
‘Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake their way, and the unrighteous their thoughts; let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. 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 55:6-9). 
 
We need to listen attentively to God. We should seek to know him and to learn what is good. However as our understanding grows we must beware the temptation to think that we know better. ‘God took a huge risk in making a world that is other than himself, and we live with the resultant questions of who causes what. The answer probably doesn’t lie in philosophical argument or any form of human wisdom, but in flesh and blood, both Jesus’ and ours. It’s in our own experience that we know both God’s ways and our ways are honoured, both God’s freedom and ours are fully in play’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 15 October 2020). 
 
Today we remember St Luke - gospel writer, doctor and missionary - and so bring before God our own witness and the healing ministry of the Church. He was the author of Luke’s Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles, a companion of St Paul, and the most literary of the New Testament writers. We know little about his life expect from Paul’s letters from which we learn that he was a physician and a Gentile and that he accompanied Paul on several missionary journeys. Luke's gospel shows a special sensitivity to evangelizing Gentiles. It is only in his gospel that we hear the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus praising the faith of Gentiles, and the story of the one grateful leper who is a Samaritan. 
 
‘Episcopalians in the United States have been urged by their Presiding Bishop, the Most Revd Michael Curry, to “shine a light against the darkness” of the increasing coronavirus cases and the divisions over race and the presidency. The Church’s Executive Council met via Zoom this week.. In an opening address that referred to the divisions of race as well as politics, Bishop Curry said: “We are meeting in the midst of some pretty difficult times. Now is not the time to hide this light under the bushel. Now is the time to lift up this light... this light that we’ve gotten from Jesus, and let it shine - even, and in spite of, whatever may happen around us”’ (Church Times 16 October 2020). 
 
The Revd Canon Jane Charman is being inducted today as Rector of the Cockermouth Area Team. We pray for her, together with the Revd Canon Bill Rogers, Matilda and Trelawny in their new home and as they start this new time in their lives and ministry. 
 
The collect for today: 
Almighty God, 
you called Luke the physician, 
whose praise is in the gospel, 
to be an evangelist and physician of the soul: 
by the grace of the Spirit 
and through the wholesome medicine of the gospel, 
give your Church the same love and power 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. Also today at 10:30am we are having a short service of Holy Communion in Church - and the church bells will be ringing from 10 o’clock. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for all who minister to the sick. There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray on Monday for Bishop Nicholas. On Tuesday we pray for peace in the world. 
Friday 16th October 2020 
 
‘Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God’s sight. But even the hairs of your head are all counted. Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows’ (Luke 12:6-7). 
 
It is good to remember in these difficult times that God loves and cares for us. In our complex and often confusing world it is all too easy to think that our lives, hopes, fear and aspirations are of little consequence or interest to those who make the decisions. Yet to God we are, each one of us, very important and greatly loved. We matter to him for ourselves - that individual, unique person that we are - rather than simply for what we might become or in our economic contribution to society. 
 
We respond in faith and love. ‘Something attracted us to move from nominal faith, or being outside faith altogether, to being serious about it.. So are we being faithful to that original heavenly vision that we were given, or have we let it drift into conventional religiosity? Discipleship has been defined as ‘long obedience in the same direction’. The precise nature of the heavenly vision will vary from person to person, but the overall direction is always the same - it’s towards Jesus Christ’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 12 October 2020). 
 
This is the Week of Prayer for World Peace. ‘This interfaith event has taken place each October since 1974. It began with 'A Call to Prayer for World Peace' which was signed by many Faith Leaders, including Lord George Macleod, Trevor Huddleston, Kenneth Slack and Bishop Wilfrid Westall. They wrote: 'Believing that God is calling us to pray with new purpose and deeper understanding for peace and justice among all people, we invite our fellow believers of all faiths to join in a Week of Prayer for World Peace.' (Churches Together in England). 
 
As the new wave of COVID-19 begins to make itself felt, there appear to be indications that there may be a greater incidence of it locally than earlier in the year (I have heard of more than one instance recently, including that at The Goat). We hold our whole community in prayer before God and seek to help one another to keep safe and in practical ways. As yet there is no indication that this will affect our worship, but we must be careful and prepared. I will continue to keep you informed as best I can. 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
God, our judge and saviour, 
teach us to be open to your truth 
and to trust in your love, 
that we may live each day 
with confidence in the salvation which is given 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for the bereaved, remembering especially those who cannot have their loved ones with them in their last hours, and those relatives and friends who are unable to attend a funeral. 
 
Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for charities struggling to continue their work and fundraising. Many are battling to survive and nearly all are struggling to find the funds they need for their work. This affects not only those unable to receive their help but the jobs of their employees. 
 
On 16th October 1555 during the reign of Queen Mary Tudor, the Reformation Bishops Latimer and Ridley were burned at the stake for refusing to recant their faith. Latimer immortalized himself by exhorting Ridley with the words “we shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England as I trust shall never be put out.” 
 
There was another fire on 16th October 1834 when the Houses of Parliament burnt down. This wasn’t the action of enraged constituents but probably started by porters burning used tally sticks. 
 
‘No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it’ (1 Corinthians 10:13). 
Wednesday 14th October 2020 
 
‘The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things’ (Galatians 5:22-23). 
 
This wonderfully complements the passage from the letter to the Philippians we had on Sunday. The way we live should reflect the Spirit at work within us. If we allow God to rule in our lives, then his fruit will develop and grow within us. As Jesus tells us ‘every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit’ (Matthew 7:17-18). 
 
Our Annual Parochial Church Meeting, which was postponed in April due to the lockdown, will be held in church on Sunday 25th October following the morning service. The AGM reports are now up in Church in the south aisle for us to read. You can do this while the church is open on a Wednesday morning, or after the service on Sunday. 
 
‘The Church of England’s Advent and Christmas campaign for 2020, Comfort and Joy, has been launched with a special purpose to console people who are suffering because of the pandemic and may not be in the mood for “jubilation”. The C of E website says: “Comfort and Joy holds together the hope that Christmas will bring joy and celebration after a uniquely difficult year with an acknowledgement that — for those who have lost loved ones or livelihoods, or who are potentially still not able to be together with loved ones — it may be the Church’s role, both nationally and locally, to provide consolation, rather than assume everyone will be ready to join in jubilation. We also have to anticipate there may be further spikes.” It asks the Church to draw on St Paul’s words in Romans 12.15: “Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.” It continues: “We will aim to celebrate where we can together in one place - but also embrace a wider community that wants to join in the celebration but may not be physically able - or emotionally ready - to do so. We hope that Comfort and Joy will enable us to build a campaign that both enables us to reconnect with the rich and joyous traditions of the past and to offer God’s consoling love in the present.”’ (Church Times 9 October 2020). 
 
Let me share with you the prayer from Branksome St Aldhelm in our Diocesan Cycle of Prayer: 
We give thanks for the open doors of our awesome church building; 
we pray for open minds in all who enter those doors; 
and we pray that all of us be more and more open to God 
and to his generous possibilities for us and for our world. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for Churches Together in Downton - for our shared witness as God’s people here. 
 
I shall be using simple order for Morning Prayer in Church at 10:30am. I shall ring the bell and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. 
 
Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for those at work worried about social distancing. Many people have no choice about how they work and must accept the hazards of their workplace in order to pay for the necessities of life. 
Also tomorrow the Church remembers St. Teresa of Ávila, who in a time of great change and upheaval pointed the way from outer turmoil to inner peace. ‘St. Teresa of Ávila, also called Saint Teresa of Jesus, original name Teresa de Cepeda y Ahumada, (born March 28, 1515, Ávila, Spain - died October 4, 1582, Alba de Tormes; canonized 1622; feast day October 15), Spanish nun, one of the great mystics and religious women of the Roman Catholic Church, and author of spiritual classics. She was the originator of the Carmelite Reform, which restored and emphasized the austerity and contemplative character of primitive Carmelite life. St. Teresa was elevated to doctor of the church in 1970 by Pope Paul VI, the first woman to be so honoured’ (https://www.britannica.com/)
 
On a lighter note: 14th October 1926 marked the literary debut of Winnie-the-Pooh, when he first appeared in a collection of short stories by A.A. Milne. The book followed his adventures in the forest with his friends Piglet, Owl, Rabbit, and Eeyore. 
Sunday 11th October 2020 
 
‘Whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things’ (Philippians 4:8). 
 
Here in his letter to the Christians in Philippi, Paul gives us a wonderful checklist against which we can measure our own actions and intent - by focussing our thoughts firmly on Godly values. He is not talking here about the power of positive thinking, but rather exhorts us always to seek that which is right and good and true. If these are at the forefront of our minds then Godly living should follow. 
 
‘Pope Francis has reaffirmed a link between religious faith and human dignity in his new encyclical, Fratelli Tutti: On fraternity and social friendship, and confirmed his Church’s unconditional rejection of war, capital punishment, and excessive wealth. He calls on Christians to back policies that promote justice and the common good. “For decades, it seemed the world had learned a lesson from its many wars and disasters, and was slowly moving towards various forms of integration,” the encyclical observes. “Our own days, however, seem to be showing signs of a certain regression. Ancient conflicts thought long buried are breaking out anew, while instances of a myopic, extremist, resentful and aggressive nationalism are on the rise.” The 40,000-word letter was signed in Assisi and published last weekend. Pope Francis’s third encyclical, it claims inspiration from the “fraternal openness” espoused by St Francis, who died in 1226. It says that faith in God has “concrete consequences” for the ways in which people take decisions and treat one another’ (Church Times 9 October 2020). 
If you wish to read the full encyclical, you can find it here
 
The collect for this week: 
Almighty and everlasting God, 
increase in us your gift of faith 
that, forsaking what lies behind 
and reaching out to that which is before, 
we may run the way of your commandments 
and win the crown of everlasting joy; 
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 today at 10:30am we are having a short service of Holy Communion in Church - and the church bells will be ringing from 10 o’clock. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our Parochial Church Council (PCC). Together we are responsible for guiding our church and making decisions on behalf of all - and we value your prayerful support as we seek to do this. 
 
There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray on Monday for the Barford Day Centre. On Tuesday we pray for our Church School, which as just appointed a new Deputy Head. 
 
On 11th October 1962 Pope John XXIII convened an ecumenical council of the Roman Catholic Church - the first in 92 years. In summoning the ecumenical council (Vatican II - a general meeting of the bishops of the church) the pope hoped to bring spiritual rebirth to Catholicism and cultivate greater unity with the other branches of Christianity. 
 
‘Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened’ (Winston S. Churchill). 
Friday 9th October 2020 
 
‘The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy. They are established for ever and ever, to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness. He sent redemption to his people; he has commanded his covenant for ever. Holy and awesome is his name. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practise it have a good understanding. His praise endures for ever’ (Psalm 111:7-10). 
 
The fear - or rather respect, reverence and awe - of the Lord is the true beginning of wisdom. Wisdom is rather underrated today, it would seem. Cleverness looks to be valued more highly now. Yet true wisdom looks beyond that to what is good and right further than the concerns of the moment. ‘Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself’ (Rumi). 
 
‘A Chinese textbook teaching ethics has used a story from the Gospels - but changed the ending. The Roman Catholic news agency UCA News reports that the government-run University of Electronic Science and Technology Press has produced a textbook for secondary vocational schools on the subject of “professional ethics and law”. The book uses the story of the woman caught in adultery who is presented to Christ by the crowd, from chapter 8 of St John’s Gospel. “The crowd wanted to stone the woman to death as per their law. But Jesus said, ‘Let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone.’ Hearing this, they slipped away one by one.” In St John’s Gospel, the story concludes: “When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, ‘Woman, where are those thine accusers? Hath no man condemned thee?’ She said, ‘No man, Lord.’ And Jesus said unto her, ‘Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.’” The textbook version, however, states: “When the crowd disappeared, Jesus stoned the sinner to death saying, ‘I, too, am a sinner. But if the law could only be executed by men without blemish, the law would be dead.’” (Church Times 1 October 2020). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Gracious God, 
you call us to fullness of life: 
deliver us from unbelief 
and banish our anxieties 
with the liberating love of Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for those who produce our Parish magazine. Through their work they continue helping us to keep in touch. It involves a lot of work, and we are most grateful to them. 
 
Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for all for medical staff: those in hospitals, GP surgeries, Care and Residential Homes, research laboratories and wherever they may be. We give thanks for all their hard work, dedication and professionalism - and we pray that they won’t be forgotten again when this crisis is passed. 
 
‘It was almost inevitable that the coronavirus would be treated by statisticians like a war, in which fatalities are logged but injuries are overlooked. But long-term Covid “injuries” are changing perceptions of the virus yet again. There is now clear evidence of persistent and often debilitating symptoms among those who have contracted Covid-19, including those who thought that they had escaped lightly. Breathlessness, fatigue, and loss of cognition are common, to be added to the range of severe disabilities caused to sufferers who emerged, scathed, from intensive care. As citizens in the UK, on the Continent, and elsewhere return to stricter regulations in attempts to flatten a second wave, it might encourage compliance if more people were aware of long Covid’ (Church Times 1 October 2020). 
 
‘For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding’ (Proverbs 2:6). 
Wednesday 5th October 2020 
 
'Praise the Lord, all you nations! Extol him, all you peoples! For great is his steadfast love towards us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures for ever. Praise the Lord!' (Psalm 117). 
 
This, the shortest of all the psalms, is a universal call to worship. It calls on us all to praise the name of the Lord. In all probability it was frequently used as a brief hymn suitable for almost every occasion, and especially when the time for worship was short. Perhaps it was also sung at the commencement or at the close of other Psalms, just as we now use the doxology. 'Martin Luther devoted thirty-six pages to this psalm, expounding it in four important categories: (1) prophecy (the Gentiles will participate in gospel blessings), (2) revelation (the kingdom of Christ is not earthly and temporal but rather heavenly and eternal), (3) instruction (we are saved by faith alone and not by works, wisdom, or holiness), and (4) admonition (we should praise God for such a great salvation)' (James Montgomery Boice). 
 
Yesterday the Church remembered William Tyndale whose work translating the Bible inspired much of the wonderful phrasing we have in the Authorised Version (the King James Bible). Tyndale believed that the scriptures should be made available to the English people in their own language, but the church authorities in England prevented him from translating the Bible. So in 1524 he went to Germany, receiving financial support from wealthy London merchants. His New Testament translation was completed in July 1525 and printed at Cologne, the first copies reaching England in 1526. Tyndale then began work on an Old Testament translation. However he was captured in Antwerp before it was completed and was executed at Vilvoorde in 1536. 
 
'Whether the translation is more functional or formal in its equivalence to the original text, the task of the translator has always been to strike the balance of communicating the message of the original language clearly while allowing the target reader to follow literary devices through the text, an important goal to ensure that the written Word of God is able to speak clearly to cultures around the world' (Mark L. Strauss). 
 
As you may have gathered, I had a problem with my emails on Sunday. It began as I was sending out the Daily Reflection. I was still receiving emails - but those I was sending were not being delivered, despite their appearing sent from my end. Nothing I could do or find in my searches provided me with an answer. Then twelve hours later the problem simply disappeared and the sent emails popped up at their destinations. As in so many areas of modern life, we work with systems and forces about which we understand little and often can affect even less. 
 
The collect for this week: 
 
Almighty God, 
you have made us for yourself, 
and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you: 
pour your love into our hearts and draw us to yourself, 
and so bring us at last to your heavenly city 
where we shall see you 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 for today we pray for our Team Rector and family. As always we are deeply grateful that you hold us in your prayers. Please also remember the other members of our Team, David Bacon and Veronica Batchelor and their families. 
 
I will be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church at 10:30am. I shall ring the bell and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. 
 
Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for our children and young people. We hold them in our thoughts and prayers as the pandemic continues to impact their education. We pray also for our schools as they work hard to support them. 
Sunday 4th October 2020 
 
‘You visit the earth and water it, you greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water; you provide the people with grain, for so you have prepared it. You water its furrows abundantly, settling its ridges, softening it with showers, and blessing its growth. You crown the year with your bounty; your wagon tracks overflow with richness. The pastures of the wilderness overflow, the hills gird themselves with joy, the meadows clothe themselves with flocks, the valleys deck themselves with grain, they shout and sing together for joy’ (Psalm 65:9-13). 
 
Today we celebrate Harvest, it being the first Sunday in October. This has been a mixed year for our farmers, and we hold them in our prayers. We thank God for his abundant provision (apples seem to be particularly plentiful this year). There is more than enough for all and we pray for the grace and wisdom to share it with open and generous hearts. We are reminded also of our call to care for God’s creation - not simply as part of our Christian vocation but out of necessity for our survival. 
 
We offer our grateful thanks to God for all the fruits of the earth, the down-coming of the rains (particularly abundant these past few days!), the ripening warmth of the sun and the seeds and produce of every year. We pray that we may always walk gently upon the earth, in a right relationship with God and all his creation, ever seeking his way. ‘As the gathering of first fruits and presenting them is a pledge that the whole harvest shall be reaped, so the resurrection of Christ is a pledge of the resurrection of the human race (cf. 1 Cor 15:22)’ (F.J. Taylor). 
 
The collect for Harvest: 
Almighty and everlasting God 
we offer you our hearty thanks 
for your fatherly goodness and care 
in giving us the fruits of the earth in their seasons. 
Give us grace to use them rightly, 
to your glory, 
for our own well-being, 
and for the relief of those in need; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(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 today at 10:30am we are having a short service of Holy Communion for Harvest in Church - and the church bells will be ringing from 10 o’clock. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we give thanks for all God’s goodness. Usually on 4th October we would remember Francis of Assisi. However as this is a Sunday he has been transferred to tomorrow. St. Francis is the patron saint of animals and the environment, as his devotion to God was expressed through his love for all of God's creation. So as we thank God for his great and abundant goodness to us, we ask for the grace and wisdom to preserve the integrity of his creation and use it for the good of all. 
 
There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary on Monday we pray that we may grow through God’s Word. On Tuesday we pray for those made redundant or unable to find work - a particularly pertinent prayer at this time. The biggest rise in unemployment recently has been among young people. The Office for National Statistics says that this is because young people are more likely to be employed in areas such as hotels, restaurants and tourism. 
 
On 4th October 1535 the first complete English Bible, the work of Miles Coverdale, came off the press either in Zürich (Switzerland) or in Cologne (Germany) - an important step in making the scriptures available to all. While on this day in 1957 the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite, which orbited Earth until 1958 inaugurating the space age. 
Friday 2nd October 2020 
 
‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest’ (Matthew 9:37-38). 
 
We are reminded here of Jesus’ words immediately before he ascended: ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age’ (Matthew 28:19-20). In a similar vein, Peter tells us ‘you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light’ (1 Peter 2:9). We are God’s labourers, called out by him not simply to follow but to ‘proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness’ and to ‘make disciples’. 
 
On Sunday we will be celebrating Harvest Festival. Clearly we cannot do this as we would normally, collecting in offerings of food during our service and then selling the fresh produce to raise money for the Trussell Trust. However the need this year is likely to be even greater as the financial impact of the coronavirus continues to affect jobs and lives on an individual level. So instead we will be taking a special collection for the Trussell Trust: through a retiring collection on Sunday or through donations delivered to The Vicarage. Alternatively, of course, you can make a contribution directly to the Trussell Trust. 
 
‘What do the Bishop of Oxford, Dr Krish Kandiah, Annie Lennox, and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream all have in common? They’re all really chilled, I hear you say? Not quite — but they do all want to keep our world cooler. Today, the Climate Coalition, the UK’s largest group dedicated to action on climate change, has launched a declaration which urges the Prime Minister to lead the UK towards a healthier, greener, fairer future as we tackle the coronavirus. High-profile signatories come from across society and include Ellie Goulding, David Gyasi, Liam Gallagher, Gillian Burke, businesses such as Tesco and Selfridges, and Christian leaders such as Pete Greig and the Revd John and Anne Coles. NGOs signed up include Tearfund, Islamic Relief, and the Women’s Institute, as well as community groups, MPs, and more. Members of the public are being urged to join this rallying call to show the strength of support for action on climate change. The Climate Coalition aims to get one million signatures before the UN climate talks in Glasgow in November 2021’ (Church Times 30 September 2020). 
 
The prayer after communion for this week: 
Almighty God, 
you have taught us through your Son 
that love is the fulfilling of the law: 
grant that we may love you with our whole heart 
and our neighbours as ourselves; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our Forest and Avon Team as we seek to continue serving God in mission and ministry across our six parishes at this time. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for all key workers. We give thanks for all their dedication and hard work, pray that they may have the resources they need, and ask God’s blessing upon them. 
 
The October 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 let anyone know that you think may want one - or collect one for them. They and we would be most grateful. 
 
On a lighter note, you may like to know that on 2nd October 1950 Charles M. Schulz's comic strip, Peanuts, was printed for the first time in 9 newspapers around the U.S. 
Wednesday 30th September 2020 
 
‘Your hands have made and fashioned me; give me understanding that I may learn your commandments. Those who fear you shall see me and rejoice, because I have hoped in your word’ (Psalm 119:73-74). 
 
We are each one special and unique. God made us all for a very particular purpose. Each and every one of us has been created lovingly and individually. Before we were even born, he knew us, loved us and had a vision for our lives. ‘O Lord, you have searched me and known me… For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made’ (Psalm 139:1,13-14). We each have a very specific place in God’s plan for his kingdom and we seek understanding of his will for us, the path he has set before us. 
 
‘More than 150 Anglican clergy have joined with ministers of other denominations to urge the Government not to recommend the suspension of public worship again for fear of causing “serious damage” to the mental, physical, and spiritual well-being of the nation. In an open letter sent to MPs on Thursday of last week and published over the weekend, the five lead authors, while supporting “proportionate measures” to protect the vulnerable from the coronavirus, oppose the severity of recent restrictions (News, 25 September). “We are troubled by policies which prioritise bare existence at the expense of those things that give quality, meaning and purpose to life,” they write. “Increasingly severe restrictions are having a powerful dehumanising effect on people’s lives, resulting in a growing wave of loneliness, anxiety, and damaged mental health. This particularly affects the disadvantaged and vulnerable in our society, even as it erodes precious freedoms for all. In our churches, many have been working tirelessly to provide help to those most affected.” The letter has accrued more than 780 signatures’ (Church Times 28 September 2020). 
 
Thank you to Ron Hart for sharing this uplifting video from the Mary Help Association in South Sudan 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Lord of creation, 
whose glory is around and within us: 
open our eyes to your wonders, 
that we may serve you with reverence 
and know your peace at our lives’ end, 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
‘The diocese of Blackburn has released a prayer asking for “wisdom and stamina” among teachers and “good judgement” from school leaders to keep pupils safe in “challenging times”’ (Church Times 25 September 2020): 
Lord God, we ask you to pour your blessing on the schools of our nation. Give joy and curiosity to our children: that they may discover their gifts, grow in knowledge and learn to live well. Give wisdom and stamina to our teachers: that they may delight to inspire young minds and find contentment in their work. Give vision and good judgement to our head teachers, school leaders and governors: that they may guide our schools well and keep them safe in challenging times. Give courage and compassion to the people of our land: Protect us from fear and help us to act with calmness and kindness. Your Son Jesus Christ taught his disciples to follow in his Way. Inspire us by his example and strengthen us by his presence, for we make our prayer in his holy name. Amen. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our Lay Pastoral Assistants (LPAs) and all who ensure that our pastoral care continues in this trying time. 
 
I shall be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church at 10:30am. I shall ring the bell and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. 
 
Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for our Churchwarden and Deputy Churchwardens, thanking God for their ministry and asking that he will ever watch over them and keep them. 
Sunday 27th September 2020 
 
‘Listen to me, O Jacob, and Israel, whom I called: I am He; I am the first, and I am the last.. Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: I am the Lord your God, who teaches you for your own good, who leads you in the way you should go’ (Isaiah 48:12,17). 
 
God himself is our teacher. He knows us and understands us far better than we can ever know and understand ourselves. He gently guides and directs our way according to his plans for our salvation and purposes for our life. He watches over us constantly for our good and promises to provide us with everything we need for what he is calling us to do. 
 
Yesterday 8 priests and 14 deacons were ordained and 4 LLMs were licensed across the diocese (https://www.salisbury.anglican.org/news). We pray for them all as they enter this new stage in their ministry and we give thanks to God for raising up new ministers to serve in his Church, especially at this time. May God grant them wisdom, strength and a renewed vision. 
 
‘A survey into local and global community showed that 43% of adults across the South West of England had an increased sense of community spirit in their neighbourhood since the start of lockdown, Christian Aid has revealed. In the survey by Savanta ComRes*, commissioned by the aid and development charity, a further 28% of adults across the South West said they felt more part of a global community than before the virus outbreak began. The survey results are launched as Christian Aid is encouraging people this autumn to come together within their local communities, in line with restrictions, to help those worldwide who have been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic. Half (50%) of all Christian adults questioned in the poll across the UK said they felt there had been an increase in community spirit in their neighbourhood and 31% reported feeling more part of a global community’ (Diocese of Salisbury Grapevine, 25 September 2020). 
 
The collect for this week: 
O Lord, we beseech you mercifully to hear the prayers 
of your people who call upon you; 
and grant that they may both perceive and know 
what things they ought to do, 
and also may have grace and power faithfully to fulfil them; 
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 today at 10:30am we are having a short service of Holy Communion in Church - and the church bells will be ringing from 10 o’clock. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for those in Residential and Nursing Homes Our local care homes are continuing to do great job. However many staff and residents are feeling the strain as the pandemic continues to hold us in its grip. We continue to hold them all in our prayers. 
 
There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary on Monday we pray for all who rely on food aid. All the indications are that this number will rise in the coming months. Also we offer our practical support through the Trussell Trust - to whom financial donations are probably most helpful at this time. Tuesday is the Feast of St Michael and All Angels (Michaelmas) and we pray for our passing on of God’s message - that we too might be heralds of the Kingdom. 
 
‘We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts. How can God entrust great things to one who will not thankfully receive from Him the little things?’ (Dietrich Bonhoeffer). 
Friday 25th September 2020 
 
'O Lord, what are human beings that you regard them, or mortals that you think of them? They are like a breath; their days are like a passing shadow' (Psalm 144:3-4). 
 
It is indeed a most wonderful mystery that Almighty God, the creator and sustainer of all, should care for us - that indeed he should love us, even to extent of being born in human form and dying on the cross for us: 
 
'Tis mystery all! The Immortal dies! 
Who can explore His strange design? 
In vain the firstborn seraph tries 
To sound the depths of love Divine! (Charles Wesley) 
 
It would appear that we are heading back into lockdown. At this time we think most especially of those who find isolation and distancing particularly stressful or difficult. We pray for them and also all residents of care homes and their families who are unable to visit with one another properly. 'Our language has wisely sensed the two sides of being alone. It has created the word "loneliness" to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word "solitude" to express the glory of being alone' (Paul Johannes Tillich). 
 
'Divisions are deeper now - on the brink of a second wave of coronavirus infections - than they were six months ago when the nation first went into lockdown, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have warned in a joint letter to all bishops on Wednesday. The letter speaks of the inevitability of further national and local restrictions as the winter months approach, and the responsibility of the Church to "avoid mistakes" and respond in the right way to a more complex situation than before. In March, the Church was criticised for going beyond the government advice at the time and ordering church buildings to close, even to clergy (News, 24 March). "We will need to be more critical in our response to restrictions that are above and beyond government regulations," the Archbishops write, "helping the Church at the local level, in parish and diocese, steer a course that is marked by responsible action towards each other, care for the most vulnerable, and witness for the poor and disadvantaged who are suffering disproportionately."' (Church Times 23 September 2020). 
 
Tomorrow we were due to hold our Goose Fair in Church. This has been always an enjoyable event with plenty of opportunity to meet people and for fellowship - and perhaps even an opportunity to buy an early Christmas present. We will miss it. Also, of course, it is one of our major fund-raising events of the year. Along with many other charitable organisations, our finances have been very hard hit by our need to cancel all our big social events. 
 
The prayer after communion for this week: 
Keep, O Lord, your Church, with your perpetual mercy; 
and, because without you our human frailty cannot but fall, 
keep us ever by your help from all things hurtful, 
and lead us to all things profitable to our salvation; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for school governors. They are volunteers who work hard to support our schools and we are greatly blessed by their dedication. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for Trafalgar School at Downton. 'While one is young is the time to investigate, to experiment with everything. The school should help its young people to discover their vocations and responsibilities, and not merely cram their minds with facts and technical knowledge; it should be the soil in which they can grow without fear, happily and integrally' (Jiddu Krishnamurti). 
 
'Thieves who targeted a church roof in Wales took lead worth just £35, but caused damage that will cost 100 times more to repair. The crooks struck over the August Bank Holiday weekend at All Saints', Newport, taking out the flashing from a gully between two roofs. "It was a very small amount of lead," the Hon. Priest-in-Charge, the Revd Christopher Watkins, said. "It has a scrap value of about £35, but the repair estimates are around the £3500 mark. It is really galling. The irony of it all is that, if it was taken because the people are hard up, we would have given them the money if they had come to us. They did try to take more, but the roof is very steep, and it has moss on it; so it is quite difficult to climb. The police don't hold up much hope of finding anybody." He said that the bill was so high because the new lead had to be beaten into the correct shape, and that there was considerable damage to slates, batons, and underfelt to be repaired. There are also labour costs' (Church Times 11 September 2020). 
Wednesday 23rd September 2020 
 
‘Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, or else he will rebuke you, and you will be found a liar’ (Proverbs 30:5-6). 
 
We have the word of God himself. God is in his word, God is his promise, we can put our trust in him. That is sufficient, and therefore we are warned that we must not add to it - a warning we find also right at the end of the Bible in the Book of Revelation. Throughout the history of the Church there has always been the temptation to add new restrictions or requirements to the faith, or claims to possess a unique and unassailable knowledge of God’s will. However we have God’s own word, available to all - a tremendous and living blessing. Alongside that we must remember Jesus' promise that ‘when the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come’ (John 16:13). 
 
Yesterday I was walking through the village against the flow of pupils coming out of school. It is heartening to see that, whatever else may happening, our schools are all back and working hard for our children and young people. Sometimes we forget that when we are young we have just the one chance at schooling. We give thanks for the dedication and commitment of all our school staff. 
 
‘A chalice made of lead, dating from the sixth century, is being hailed as one of the most important finds of a Christian artefact in Western Europe. It was discovered in the remains of an early church built inside the Roman fort at Vindolanda, near Hexham, close to Hadrian’s Wall. Broken into 14 pieces, the cup, which is about the size of a modern cereal bowl, is covered with religious grafitti. The director of Vindolanda excavations, Dr Andrew Birley, said that discovering the church was an important find, but finding the inscribed chalice was “quite incredible”. “This artefact sheds a bright light into a time that used to be known as the Dark Ages,” he said. The marks inside and outside the cup appear to be by the same hand. They are difficult to see with the naked eye, but specialist photography revealed symbols including crosses, chi-rhos, a whale, fish, flags, angels, a smiling priestly figure holding a crook, ears of wheat, and a boat with a cross-shaped mast, believed to represent the Church as a vessel to take Christians to their eternal destination. “It’s just remarkable” Dr Birley said. “Nothing in North-Western Europe comes close from the period.”’ (Church Times 18 September 2020). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Lord God, 
defend your Church from all false teaching 
and give to your people knowledge of your truth, 
that we may enjoy eternal life 
in Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
I attach a simple order for Morning Prayer that I shall be using in Church at 10:30am. I shall ring the bell and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for all who assist with our services. While our services at the moment may appear to be more simple, preparation for them has to be more careful. Tomorrow there is no Reflection and in our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for politicians and their advisors. As we come to the party conference season we listen to their programmes and their claims, while remembering that God tells us: ‘I am the one who searches minds and hearts, and I will give to each of you as your works deserve’ (Revelation 2:23). 
 
‘The 1662 Book of Common Prayer has arrived on Amazon smart speakers, helping users to say morning and evening prayer and to learn more about its history. On Thursday, Cambridge University Press, which publishes the Prayer Book, announced that Alexa smart speakers would now be programmed with a new “skill” - one of the voice-driven apps - called the Cambridge Prayer Book. The idea is to help people to pray and worship at home during the pandemic. Users can now ask Alexa to: “Say morning prayer”; “Say evening prayer”; “Pray the Lord’s Prayer”; “Give me the Apostles’ Creed”; and “Recite the Grace”. The services are read by clergy from St John the Evangelist, Cambridge, close to the publisher’s headquarters. In place of a congregation, responses are said by members of the Cambridge University Press choir. There is also a small selection of Bible readings’ (Church Times 17 September 2020). 
 
As we rely on even more our computers and other devices during the pandemic, you may like to know that on 23rd September 1884 the American Herman Hollerith patented his mechanical tabulating machine - the beginning of data processing. And the rest, they say… 
Sunday 20th September 2020 
 
O give thanks to the Lord, call on his name, make known his deeds among the peoples. Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wonderful works. Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually. Remember the wonderful works he has done, his miracles, and the judgements he has uttered’ (Psalm 105:1-5). 
 
Here we have an exhortation to praise God for all his dealings with his people. Indeed Psalm 105 is sometimes called a “Hallelujah psalm,” since it ends with that phrase. However it reminds us that true praise is more than just a joyful expression of worship. We are to remember all that God has done for us, and we are to share that with those around us. So our praise leads naturally to our witness to all that God is at work in the world. 
 
As I return from a refreshing break (thank you to all who’ve asked: we had a good time away) to these Daily Reflections, autumn is approaching and our thoughts turn naturally to our usual activities in this period. Earlier hopes that things might be better by now are fading - and so we continue to look for new ways to live out our mission as God’s people in the world. Perhaps he is calling us to be Church in quite a new way? 
 
The collect for this week: 
God, who in generous mercy sent the Holy Spirit 
upon your Church in the burning fire of your love: 
grant that your people may be fervent 
in the fellowship of the gospel 
that, always abiding in you, 
they may be found steadfast in faith and active in 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/) 
 
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 - and the church bells will be ringing from 10 o’clock. 
 
‘Places of worship have been granted additional exemptions to the ban on social gatherings of more than six people, which came into force on Monday (News, 11 September). When it announced the “rule of six” last week, the Government was clear that public worship would be exempt. Updated guidance, published on the Church of England website on Thursday says, however, that this “is not a blanket exemption”. Worshippers must not form groups of more than six in church, unless they are from the same household or support bubble… 
The C of E guidance does not address socialising after services, but Government guidance says that, once a worship service has ended, “participants should be encouraged to move on promptly, to minimise the risk of contact and spread of infection... “Worshippers should limit their interactions with anyone they are not attending your Place of Worship with, i.e. if they are attending a communal service with one other household, wherever possible they should try not to engage in conversation with anyone outside of this group.”‘ (Church Times 17 September 2020). 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for peace in the world. At this time more than ever we need to work together across our world both in fighting the pandemic and seeking to minimise, or even better reverse, the conditions that have caused it. 
 
The is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. On Monday we celebrate St Matthew the Apostle who gave up being a tax collector to follow Jesus, and became one of the four gospel writers. In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray that we may use our gifts in God’s service. On Tuesday we pray for all visitors to our Churches. 
 
On 20th September 1519 the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan departed from Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Spain, with five ships on a quest to circumnavigate the globe. Although Magellan died during the voyage, the expedition achieved its goal when the surviving ship, the Victoria, returned to Spain on 6th September 1522 to become the first ship to circumnavigate the globe - opening up new vistas and possibilities. 
Wednesday 2nd September 2020 
 
‘Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God, and steadfast love belongs to you, O Lord. For you repay to all according to their work’ (Psalm 62:11-12). 
 
As we look around the world today, all that is going on, it is always good to remember where true power and authority lie - and hold fast to that. God is the Creator and Sustainer of all; all things are in his hands; he is Almighty God. As we proclaim each time we say the Lord’s Prayer: ‘Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory’! All things are for the glory of God. This driving passion was the very heartbeat of Jesus’ ministry, the highest aim he sought and the loftiest goal he pursued. All things in life and ministry, Jesus taught, are to be solely for the glory of God. We hold fast to him, and he holds us firmly in his hands. 
 
As we adapt to our new ways of worship, how about this from the Church in California: ‘Clergy in the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Sante Fe have been warned that they may face “possible suspension of the faculty to preach” if they continue to breach the five-minute time limit for homilies. The Vicar General, the Very Revd Glennon Jones, said that the rules were in place to limit people’s exposure to the coronavirus, as well as to avoid putting them off attending mass. Since May, priests have been permitted to celebrate mass under strict guidelines; attendance has been limited to ten per cent of each church building’s capacity, and singing has been prohibited. In a memo on 31 July, clergy were instructed to keep homilies “very brief”. The warning came after mass-goers had been informed of the archdiocesan protocols and had expressed concerns’ (Church Times 28 August 2020). 
 
From tomorrow I am taking a break for a couple of weeks. So the next Daily Reflection will be on Sunday 20th September. The Church will still be open on Wednesdays for Private Prayer from 11:00am and there will be a service of Holy Communion at 10:30am on each Sunday, when the Church bells will be rung. There will also be services on the website each Sunday. 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
God of constant mercy, 
who sent your Son to save us: 
remind us of your goodness, 
increase your grace within us, 
that our thankfulness may grow, 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for those starting at a new School or College. This is a particularly difficult time for all in education and we continue to bear them in our prayers. ‘Upon the subject of education… I can only say that I view it as the most important subject which we as a people may be engaged in’ (Abraham Lincoln). 
 
I shall be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church at 10:30am. I shall ring the bell and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. Although we continue to find it difficult to come all together in worship and prayer, we are together even as we pray physically apart. 
 
The Parish Prayer Diary for each day in September can be found in Downton Parish News
 
On Sunday 2nd September 1666 the Great Fire of London began accidentally in the house of the king’s baker in Pudding Lane near London Bridge. The worst fire in London’s history, it destroyed two thirds of the City of London - including most of the civic buildings, old St. Paul’s Cathedral, 87 parish churches, and about 13,000 houses. A violent east wind encouraged the flames, which raged during the whole of Monday and part of Tuesday. 
Sunday 30th August 2020 
 
‘Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me. To the one who conquers I will give a place with me on my throne, just as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne’ (Revelation 3:20-21). 
 
This is the passage that inspired the artist William Holman Hunt to paint his famous picture The Light of the World. In the early 20th Century this “sermon in a frame” became the most travelled artwork in history. It depicts Jesus, carrying a lantern, knocking at a door with no handle on the outside. The door is overgrown with weeds, and the nails and hinges are rusted, implying that the door has never been opened. The message: it is up to the person on the other side of the door to let Jesus in. Jesus never forces his way in where he is not wanted. We have to invite him in to share our lives. 
 
‘A short film in which a priest describes “the extremes of emotion” which he experiences in his ministry has been watched more than 30,000 times on social media. In the film, the Vicar of St Silas the Martyr, Kentish Town, in north London, Prebendary Graeme Rowlands, says: “I am what I do, and I do what I am. And so I can’t define when I’m doing my work as a priest, and when I’m not.” He continues: “There is no such thing as an average day. The hardest part, I suppose, is coping with the extremes of emotion, not just in other people but in me — because I will go immediately from a graveside, back into school, and then on to a visit, which is quite hard going. My life is so ordinary and uninteresting; there’s nothing interesting to say. But, on the other level, my life is absolutely full.” His message about vocation is uncomplicated: “Of course, if God wants you to be ordained, then you will; and, if he doesn’t, then you won’t. I can’t imagine being anywhere else or doing anything else.”.. Since the film was posted on Twitter, on 14 August, it has been viewed more than 33,000 times. The Twitter message promoting the video has had more than 8000 “engagements” (the number of times people have interacted with the tweet), and nearly 500 “likes”. It was not possible to ascertain the exact location of viewers, because the video was posted from a personal, not a business, account. Mr Haddock said that he was surprised by the reaction. “A few hours after posting, I’d had very kind messages from quite a few people, from as far away as the US and Kenya.”’ (Church Times 28 August 2020). 
 
The collect for this week: 
Almighty and everlasting God, 
you are always more ready to hear than we to pray 
and to give more than either we desire or deserve: 
pour down upon us the abundance of your mercy, 
forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid 
and giving us those good things 
which we are not worthy to ask 
but through the merits and mediation 
of 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 together with 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 - and the church bells will be ringing from 10 o’clock. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our Parochial Church Council (PCC). As the trustees for St Laurence, we have the responsibility for our Church’s life, ministry and mission and decisions on how we worship together. 
 
There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray on Monday for charities struggling to continue their work and fundraising. On Tuesday we pray for our Churchwarden and Deputy Churchwardens. 
Friday 28th August 2020 
 
‘Happy are those who live in your house, ever singing your praise. Happy are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are set on the pilgrim’s way’ (Psalm 84:4-5)
 
Today the Church remembers St Augustine, a foremost theologian and teacher of the faith and bishop of Hippo in North Africa from 396AD to 430AD. 
‘Augustine is remarkable for what he did and extraordinary for what he wrote. If none of his written works had survived, he would still have been a figure to be reckoned with, but his stature would have been more nearly that of some of his contemporaries. However, more than five million words of his writings survive, virtually all displaying the strength and sharpness of his mind (and some limitations of range and learning) and some possessing the rare power to attract and hold the attention of readers in both his day and ours. His distinctive theological style shaped Latin Christianity in a way surpassed only by Scripture itself’ (https://www.britannica.com/)
 
We hold in our thoughts and prayers our schools and all children and young people as they prepare to return for a new term. ‘Bishops have praised the resilience of students and the “unstinting work” of school leaders, after a week of anxiety and anger surrounding A-Level and GCSE results… In a statement to coincide with GCSE results day on Thursday, the Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler, who is the lead bishop for education, said that the continued row should not distract schools from the task of preparing to reopen next month, however. “Today’s GCSE results day is an important moment of celebration for many, and for others it is a time of uncertainty over next steps and future direction. Students have shown immense resilience and character in unprecedented circumstances. The unstinting work of teachers, school leaders, and governors throughout this whole period has been absolutely inspirational”’ (Church Times 20 August 2020). 
 
The collect for today: 
Merciful Lord, 
who turned Augustine from his sins 
to be a faithful bishop and teacher: 
grant that we may follow him in penitence and discipline 
till our restless hearts find their rest in you; 
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 for today we pray for volunteers helping others in their community. We give thanks for all who have reached out to their neighbours at this time, and pray that such acts of care and generosity may continue into the future. 
 
Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for all who rely on food aid. We are all aware of the need and that the pandemic has exacerbated existing problems. ‘The charity Child Poverty Action Group has warned of a “significant deterioration” in living conditions for low-income families caused by the coronavirus. The warning comes in a report, Poverty in the Pandemic: The impact of coronavirus on low-income families and children, published on Tuesday, and co-authored by the Church of England’s Mission and Public Affairs Council. The research was based on a survey of 285 families on low incomes whose children are eligible for free school meals, backed up by interviews with 21 families. The report’s key finding is that eight out of ten of the families say that they are in a worse position because of the pandemic. In addition, nearly half (48 per cent) reported having a debt problem that was new or worse than before’ (Church Times 25 August 2020). 
 
On 28th August 1963 Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech before a crowd of some 250,000 people during the 1963 March on Washington. A call for equality and freedom, it became one of the defining moments of the civil rights movement and remains one of the most famous speeches in history. Weaving in references to the country’s Founding Fathers and the Bible, King used universal themes to depict the struggles of African Americans before closing with an improvised riff on his dreams of equality. 
Wednesday 26th August 2020 
 
‘You who live in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty, will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust’ (Psalm 91:1-2). 
 
There are many Christians who seem to know very little of the shelter of the Most High or what it is to abide under his shadow. Many seem to regard this as only a thing for mystics or the super-spiritual. Yet David, if he wrote this, was a warrior and man well acquainted with the realities of life. It is true that the life of the spirit seems to come more easily for some than for others, but there is an aspect of this that is for us all. We don’t have to be a mystic or super-spiritual - God is present with each one of us and all who put their trust their trust in him live in his loving shelter. 
 
‘Without a sound theology the Orthodox fear that prayer could become a personal experience deprived of any certainty, an illusion. But, even more importantly, without a basis in prayer, theological speculation would easily remain isolated from life. Theology is not an end in itself, but rather a means, a way to union with God’ Andrew Ryder SCJ). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
God of glory, 
the end of our searching, 
help us to lay aside 
all that prevents us from seeking your kingdom, 
and to give all that we have 
to gain the pearl beyond all price, 
through our Saviour Jesus Christ. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
As we draw towards the end of the traditional wedding season, we think about those who had been hoping to be married this year: ‘“I’ve grieved for my wedding,” Ruth Lumbers, a 37-year-old nurse living in Bradford, says. “I know it was only a day, but I actually had to grieve for it.” This sense of loss - for dresses unworn and speeches unread - has been widespread in a summer overshadowed by Covid-19. Even as restrictions slowly ease, this pandemic is certain to change how weddings are celebrated for years to come. But, long before a downsized wedding was even possible, many betrothed couples were stuck in limbo at the start of the pandemic… This stress is not uncommon. A survey of 34,000 brides by the financial app Dreams found that one in ten couples considered calling off their engagement owing to the emotional and mental strain of planning a wedding during a pandemic’ (Church Times 21 August 2020). 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our Lay Pastoral Assistants (LPAs) who continue to play an important role in the pastoral work of our Church, keeping us in touch and connected. We give thanks for their ministry and dedication. 
 
I shall be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church at 10:30am. I shall ring the bell and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. 
 
Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for our bishops: Bishop Nicholas, our diocesan bishop, and Bishops Andrew and Karen, our suffragan bishops. 
 
On 26th August 1883 the Indonesian island of Krakatoa erupted in the largest explosion recorded in history, heard 2,200 miles away in Madagascar. The resulting destruction sent volcanic ash up 50 miles into the atmosphere and killed almost 36,000 people - both on the island itself and from the resulting 131-foot tidal waves that obliterated 163 villages on the shores of nearby Java and Sumatra. Ash fell as far away as 3,775 miles away and barographs around the globe documented that the shock waves in the atmosphere circled the planet at least seven times. The atmospheric effects made for spectacular sunsets all over Europe and average global temperatures were as much as 1.2 degrees cooler for the next five years. 
 
Let me share with you the prayer from Hazelbury Bryan & the Hillside Parishes in our Diocesan Cycle of Prayer: 
Please pray for our communities and congregations in a time of change; instil in us all a sense of hope and expectation as we look to the future. A hope grounded in God’s faithfulness and an expectation held firm in the promise of the Holy Spirit who works through us and intercedes for us. 
Sunday 23rd August 2020 
 
Jesus said to them, ‘Who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God’ (Matthew 16:15-16). 
 
Who is Jesus? Is he a great teacher, prophet, spiritual leader? The Christian faith holds that he is none other than God himself in human form - incarnate. ‘I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic - on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg - or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse’ (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity). 
 
‘Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death - even death on a cross’ (Philippians 2:5-8). 
 
From St Mary’s Church, Beverley in East Yorkshire: ‘This year, as part of the restoration of the north nave clerestory, 14 new carvings of characters from The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis are being made especially for St Mary’s. These new carvings are being made with kind permission from The CS Lewis Company Ltd... On 17th August 2020, all fourteen of the carvings were blessed by the Bishop of Hull in the presence of the stonemasons who created them and who are restoring the church’s stonework. Bishop Alison described the ceremony as “one of the most joyful things that I have been invited to do as a bishop”. It was the last chance to bless the carvings before they are fixed high up on the church’s walls in the coming weeks’ (https://stmarysbeverley.org/heritage/narnia/). 
 
The collect for this week: 
O God, you declare your almighty power 
most chiefly in showing mercy and pity: 
mercifully grant to us such a measure of your grace, 
that we, running the way of your commandments, 
may receive your gracious promises, 
and be made partakers of your heavenly treasure; 
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 today at 10:30am we are having a short service of Holy Communion in Church - and the church bells will be ringing from 10 o’clock. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for young people - especially those worried about their future. After all the confusion over exam results recently, many young people have had their plans thrown into confusion. We must remember always that these are - each one - individual people who matter for themselves, not just percentages and statistics. We pray also for all those preparing for a new stage in life. 
 
There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. Tomorrow we remember St Bartholomew the Apostle (who may also be the Nathanael introduced to Jesus by the apostle Philip in John’s Gospel). Tradition has it that he preached in India and Greater Armenia, where he converted King Polymius. In our Parish Prayer Diary tomorrow we pray for all who suffer for their faith. On Tuesday we pray for politicians and their advisors. 
 
On 24th August 79AD, Mount Vesuvius erupted, destroying the ancient cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. The excavations of these sites in the mid-18th century led to the modern science of archaeology. 
Friday 21st August 2020 
 
'A lawyer asked him a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets’ (Matthew 22:35-40). 
 
Jesus’ summary of the Law neatly encapsulates what it means to live a Christian life. Here we have the very heart of the old covenant as it is transformed through Jesus into the new. Jesus said ‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfil. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished’ (Matthew 5:17-18). Ours is a faith of relationships: our relationship with God and through him with one another. It is a relationship of love, worked out in love. 
 
‘Some choirs made a prompt and joyful return to church services on Sunday, after changes to government guidelines on the performing arts were announced on Friday. These were reviewed and then endorsed by the Church of England in new guidance issued on Monday. 
It is not yet clear which of the scientific studies of droplet transmission commissioned by the Department for Digital, Media, Culture and Sport gave the Government confidence to “reconsider appropriate mitigations”. Results are eagerly awaited from Declan Costello, an ear, nose, and throat surgeon and choral singer, who has been conducting stringent trials. Lay vicars from Salisbury Cathedral have also taken part in experiments (News, 10 July). 
Crucially, it is now permissible for both professional and non-professional singers and musicians to perform individually or in small groups inside and outside of buildings, in line with the recommendations for physical distancing and hygiene set out by the Government in its performing-arts guidance. 
The C of E guidance makes it clear: “This includes those who regularly volunteer to do music and singing, as part of a choir, for example, to perform as a part of worship.” 
Congregations are not yet permitted to sing. Wherever possible, the guidance says, people should continue to distance physically from those with whom they do not live; venues, performers, and audiences should be matched to ensure that two-metre distancing applies; and the number of performers should be limited’ (Church Times 18 August 2020). 
 
This does prompt one to ask: what is the difference between the singing of a physically distanced choir and that of a congregation? 
 
The prayer after communion for this week: 
God of our pilgrimage, 
you have willed that the gate of mercy 
should stand open for those who trust in you: 
look upon us with your favour 
that we who follow the path of your will 
may never wander from the way of life; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for all for medical staff: those in hospitals, GP surgeries, Care and Residential Homes, research laboratories and wherever they may be. We give thanks for all their hard work, dedication and professionalism - and we pray that they won’t be forgotten again when this crisis is passed. 
 
Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for those in Residential and Nursing Homes, both residents and staff. 
 
‘The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them’ (Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island). 
Wednesday 19th August 2020 
 
‘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’ (Psalm 77:11-12). 
 
In these days when everything is considered relative and a matter of opinion, it is always good to remember who God is and all that he has done for us. He is our rock and our life - almighty God who has called us into his eternal truth, is working his purposes out in the world, and is drawing all things to himself. Today we are told that there is no absolute right or wrong but merely differing points of view and that ‘one man’s gospel truth is another man’s blasphemous lie’. We know, though, that there is ultimate truth - which is found in God alone. As Jesus tells us ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free’ (John 8:31-32). 
 
‘The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it’ (Flannery O’Connor). 
 
‘The Anglican Communion Office has had the clever idea of building a course in Christian doctrine on the back of ecumenical statements. The project, What do Anglicans Believe?, has the whole global Communion in mind. Like most of those statements, the document is freely available online, to make the project accessible where books are hard to come by. Those agreements are themselves helpfully international, hammered out between global rather than local bodies. The resource is available in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese. It is offered for use in “home groups, study programmes, seminaries and theological colleges”. The method in What do Anglicans Believe? is “See - Judge - Act”. First, see: observe your context and ask how a particular theological topic currently plays out there. Then, judge: turn to sources with recognised authority and ask how they speak into that situation. Finally, act: ask how deepened theological understanding might lead to at least one change of life or action’ (Church Times 14 August 2020). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Lord of heaven and earth, 
as Jesus taught his disciples to be persistent in prayer, 
give us patience and courage never to lose hope, 
but always to bring our prayers before you; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for Archbishop Justin Welby. We pray for true godly wisdom at this difficult time as he and all the bishops seek to lead the Church in God’s ways. 
 
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 and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. 
 
Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for those alone and depressed. There have always been those who have struggled with isolation for whatever reason, and for many the pandemic has made this worse. On the other hand, this time has also encouraged others to reach out to their neighbours who live alone. 
 
‘The name of Jesus is not a magic password admitting us to eternal life; rather, it is the only way of knowing what being saved, being whole, being human, actually is - the surrendering of life in order to find life, following the pattern of Jesus. Salvation is Jesus-shaped’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 18 August 2020). 
 
As the temperatures begin to ease, we have been remembering the blisteringly hot summer of 2003. We were on holiday in Normandy where temperatures were over 35˚ - exceeding the seasonal norm by 11˚ to 12°C - on nine consecutive days. They called it the Canicule, and we found the best place to be was in the air-conditioned supermarkets! 
Sunday 16th August 2020 
 
‘May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known upon earth, your saving power among all nations. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you’ (Psalm 67:1-3) 
 
We have much to be thankful for, and so we offer our praises to God. He has blessed us in so many wonderful ways and is always there for us, sustaining us and keeping us. God watches over us, guides us and leads us. We have his promise ‘Be strong and bold.. because it is the Lord your God who goes with you; he will not fail you or forsake you’ (Deuteronomy 31:6). As we live in his presence as his people, so his ‘way may be known upon earth, (his) saving power among all nations’. 
 
We know that not everyone is ready, or able, yet to attend Church and receive communion. You may be interested in this response to a question in the Church Times about this: ‘The spiritual grace that one person receives does not injure another. Many people are, for various reasons, excluded from participating in communion as often as others, even under ordinary circumstances. As we make our way to the altar, we should be mindful of them, bringing them with us into the Lord’s presence. Communion is never about us alone: it is about the salvation of the world’. 
 
The collect for this week: 
Let your merciful ears, O Lord, 
be open to the prayers of your humble servants; 
and that they may obtain their petitions 
make them to ask such things as shall please you; 
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 today at 10:30am we are having a short service of Holy Communion in Church - and the church bells will be ringing from 10 o’clock. 
 
‘Congregations forced out of their churches by the coronavirus have been taking advantage of warm summer days to worship outdoors. For some, the experiment could become permanent, even after the weather turns autumnal. Gatherings for services have ranged from small groups assembled in the corner of a field to scores of cars in a supermarket car park for a socially distanced drive-in… There are still some restrictions, including social distancing, no singing, and holy communion is administered in one kind only. Chairs are provided, but people are advised to bring an umbrella - for shade as well as protection from the rain’ (Church Times 14 August 2020). 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for those at work worried about social distancing. As we know the government is encouraging everyone back to work, but it can be very difficult sometimes to keep safely apart in many places. 
 
The is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray on Monday for all who minister to the sick. On Tuesday we pray for those who produce our Parish magazine. 
 
‘Everything about the life of the Church, its mission and ministry, its organization and worship, flows from who Jesus is and what God is doing through him’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 13 August 2020). 
 
On 16th August 1896 gold was discovered near the Klondike River in the Yukon Territory of Canada, sparking a gold rush. As so often in history the real winners were those who supplied (exploited?) the miners rather than those actually searching for the gold. 
Friday 14th August 2020 
 
Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him’ (Acts 2:38-39). 
 
The good news is really quite simple. If we turn to God in repentance and accept Jesus as our Lord, he will take us to himself and bring us to eternal new life. It is not about who or what we know; it is not to do with being worthy or good enough; it is not even dependant on us belonging to the Church. It is quite simply about faith and acceptance. That is why on Wednesday we had Jesus talking about being like a child: it is that simplicity of openness, trust and belief. 
 
Of course, once we do accept - are ‘saved’ - then joining with others in the life of the Church, and seeking to live a God-centred way of life rather than following our own desires, should follow - because that is what we now want to do. However these are not prerequisites. ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved’ (Romans 10:13). 
 
‘Knowledge, without common sense,’ says Lee, is ‘folly; without method, it is waste; without kindness, it is fanaticism; without religion, it is death.’ But with common sense, it is wisdom with method, it is power; with charity, it is beneficence; with religion, it is virtue, and life, and peace’ (Austin Farrer). 
 
It was good to have the rain yesterday. I wouldn’t say exactly that it feels fresh now, but it does seem to have washed some of the heaviness and mugginess out of the air. Certainly the ground needed the water as well. Apparently we can still expect more of the same: heat and downpours! 
 
Tomorrow marks VJ Day as Japan publicly announced its surrender on 15th August 1945. So we remember the final end to a terrible war, bring before God all the loss and the pain, and pray for peace and reconciliation. ‘With the end of the war in Asia and the Pacific, over a million servicemen and women from Britain and across the Commonwealth had to be demobilised and transported home. Soldiers from Wales to The Gambia and from Karachi to Cairns would need to be shipped from one side of the world to another, with some service personnel and POWs only finally returning home in 1946’ (Royal British Legion). 
 
We pray: 
Father, give us courage to change what must be altered, 
serenity to accept what cannot be helped, 
and the insight to know the one from the other. 
(Reinhold Niebuhr) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray that we might grow through God’s Word. Scripture reveals God to us and helps us to understand him and his call. Jesus said ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free’ (John 8:31-32). 
 
Tomorrow there is no Reflection. It is the feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray that we would listen to God - as, indeed, Mary does when visited by an angel. 
 
‘In August 1959, an unmanned satellite called Explorer 6 took the first photos of Earth from space, on a mission that marked the first steps towards the mission to the Moon. The spacecraft, which was shaped like a ball with large wing-like solar panels, was sent into space to monitor radiation in the Earth’s atmosphere. While nearly 17,000 miles above Mexico, the craft captured the first ever photo taken by a satellite. The image, which was taken on 14 August 1959, is very basic by today’s standards. It shows a sunlit area of the Central Pacific Ocean and cloud cover in the area. The image was beamed back to a station in Hawaii and took 40 minutes to send’ (https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/
Wednesday 12th August 2020 
 
The disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me’ (Matthew 18:1-5). 
 
Jesus tells us that only if we have the openness of a child can we enter the Kingdom of Heaven. True greatness lies in being receptive to God in innocence and a willingness to be taught. Personal ambition, prestige, or profit are motives which can find no place in the life of the Christian. The Christian is the one who forgets self in our devotion to Jesus and in his service. 
 
We pray for the people of Lebanon at this time. ‘The Beirut explosion is a “devastating tragedy”, a statement from the Anglican diocese of Jerusalem says. In a joint statement, the Archbishop, the Most Revd Suheil Dawani, and the Bishop, the Very Revd Hosam Naoum, said last week that the people of Beirut were still “shocked and stunned” while “trying to understand what has really happened”… The altar of the Greek Orthodox Church of St Dimitrios, in the Achrafieh area of Beirut.. survived the blast. It was less than a kilometre away from the explosion, was ruined, but iconostasis protected the sanctuary, and a sanctuary lamp continued to burn there. The Bishop of Truro, the Rt Revd Philip Mounstephen, appealed last week for donations to a Church Mission Society Fund for those affected by the blast. “We know that thousands of people have been injured, and the hospitals that were already stretched to breaking point by Covid-19 on top of significant financial challenges are struggling to give the care that people need. Hundreds of thousands have lost their homes - the problems are almost beyond comprehension,” he said… The director of Christian Aid’s partner organisation Basmeh and Zeitooneh (The Smile and the Olive), Fadi Hallisso, said: “The last few days I have been having so many mixed emotions, some anger and frustration over the evil of negligence and corruption that permitted such a catastrophe to happen; but at the same time I had a great feeling that the solidarity of people can overcome this; the solidarity of youth on the streets, but also the solidarity we are seeing from abroad, people from all over the world calling to check on us as to how they can help make things easier”’ (Church Times 10 August 2020). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Gracious Father, 
revive your Church in our day, 
and make her holy, strong and faithful, 
for your glory’s sake 
in Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for those who are ill and their families. Although some restrictions are eased it is still difficult to see one another, particularly if they are shielding. This can be very distressing both to those who are alone or suffering and family members who want to be with them in their time of need. 
 
I shall be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church at 10:30am. I shall ring the bell and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. 
 
Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for our community life, especially groups unable to meet. We are all aware of the pressures the lockdown has brought on so many people, the stresses and the strains - in particular the inability to gather together in larger groups and the worries about doing so at all. 
 
How are you managing in this heat? I know some people really enjoy hot weather, but I am just melting. There is a point about the middle of the afternoon when my study becomes quite unbearable and I simply have to find somewhere else. 
 
‘Christ has entrusted us with the ministry of reconciliation, and this demands keeping very closely in touch with the world and with God’ (David Watson). 
Sunday 9th August 2020 
 
‘If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame”’ (Romans 10:9-11). 
 
Tomorrow the Church celebrates St Laurence, our patron saint here. “These are the treasures of the Church” - so, reputedly, Laurence said to the prefect of Rome when he was commanded to hand over the riches of the Church to the authorities. In fact, he was referring to the poor of the city whom he had assembled together. He had asked for three days to gather the Church's wealth, during which time he worked swiftly to distribute it to the poor of the city to prevent it being seized. This act of defiance led to Laurence's martyrdom on 10th August 258 AD. The traditional account of his death says that he was roasted on a gridiron - which we see him holding on our church banner. During his torture he is supposed to have cried out “I am already roasted on one side and, if you would have me well cooked, it is time to turn me on the other.” 
 
Laurence was one of the seven deacons of Rome who assisted the Bishop of Rome (the Pope). He is often depicted wearing a dalmatic, the distinctive robe of a deacon, and coloured red to signify his martyrdom. He was appointed as deacon by Pope Sixtus II in the year 257 AD and placed in charge of the administration of Church goods and care for the poor (this probably explains the circumstances leading up to his death). For undertaking this duty, Laurence is regarded as one of the first archivists of the Church and is the patron saint of librarians. 
 
The famous comment of St Laurence about the “treasures of the Church” surely reminds us all in this materialistic age that the true treasures of the Church and the world are indeed its people, all made in the image of God, and not jewels, gold and silver, which are really of no lasting value. 
 
As we return tentatively to Church worship, I was struck by this concluding paragraph of a comment piece in the Church Times: ‘At parish level, while there are bishops who make no secret of the fact that they would like to wind down the parish system in favour of church-plants and mega-churches, it turns out that venues in which large numbers bob about to worship songs in close proximity to one another are about as unsafe as it gets. Crumbling but spacious parish churches with ten to 20 quietly scattered worshippers are relatively safe, however. You can’t help wondering whether the virus has theological preferences’ (Angela Tilby, Church Times 7 August 2020). 
 
The collect for this week: 
Almighty God, 
who sent your Holy Spirit 
to be the life and light of your Church: 
open our hearts to the riches of your grace, 
that we may bring forth the fruit of the Spirit 
in love and joy 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. Also today at 10:30am we are having a short service of Holy Communion in Church - and the church bells will be ringing from 10 o’clock. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for all who have lost their jobs or are unable to find work. Every week we hear of more businesses laying off workers or going into administration, while even the simplest of jobs are attracting hundreds of applications. We pray for them and their families as they struggle to survive. 
 
There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray on Monday (our patronal festival) for our witness as the Church. On Tuesday we pray for all key workers. 
 
“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking” (Albert Einstein). 
Friday 7th August 2020 
 
‘Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?”’ (Matthew 16:24-26). 
 
Jesus challenges us to look beyond ourselves if we want to be his followers. If we are too focused on our own needs and desires then we will fail to see all the riches that he holds out for us; if we concern ourselves with the things of this world, we will fail to recognise the treasures of heaven. We need to look up, see the abundance he offers, to let go of all that holds us back - and follow him. 
 
‘Jesus invites his followers to cut the cord that binds us to what is not truly life giving. When we try to hang on to things, people, status, personal ambitions and agenda, following Jesus is constant compromise and struggle. Let it go’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 27 June 2020). 
 
‘There is new Church of England guidance on face coverings in places of worship, which will be mandatory for congregations from Saturday but not for those officiating at a service. The move comes after the announcement last Friday by the Prime Minister that, from Saturday 8 August, the requirement to wear a face covering would be extended to “other indoor settings where you’re likely to come into contact with people you do not normally meet, such as museums, galleries, cinemas, and places of worship”. 
Church of England guidance, issued on Wednesday, says, however, that there will be exemptions for those “who are leading services or events in a place of worship, and those who assist them (for instance by reading, preaching, or leading prayer)”. Other worshippers will be required to wear masks. The exemptions will also cover the bride and bridegroom at a wedding and those “officiating/leading”. They do not apply to “those observing the wedding, who should wear face coverings consistent with the requirements for any other public space”. In line with government advice, children under 11 and people with disabilities or certain health conditions are also exempt’ (Church Times 5 August 2020). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Lord God, 
your Son left the riches of heaven 
and became poor for our sake: 
when we prosper save us from pride, 
when we are needy save us from despair, 
that we may trust in you alone; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our Team Rector and family. As always we are deeply grateful that you hold us in your prayers. Please also remember the other members of our Team, David Bacon and Veronica Batchelor and their families. 
 
Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for those who care for loved ones at home. This year many more people have taken on additional caring responsibilities for their relatives and friends who are disabled, ill or older and who need support. 
 
On 7th August 1947 the Kon-Tiki expedition headed by Thor Heyerdahl, which had carried a six-man crew aboard a balsa wood raft from Peru 3,770 nautical miles across the Pacific Ocean, crashed into a reef in at Raroia in the Tuamotu Islands on a Polynesian archipelago after being at sea for 101 days since 28th April. Thor Heyerdahl believed that people from South America could have reached Polynesia during pre-Columbian times. His aim in mounting the Kon-Tiki expedition was to show, by using only the materials and technologies available to those people at the time, that there were no technical reasons to prevent them from having done so. 
Wednesday 5th August 2020 
 
'I lift up my eyes to the mountains - where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth... The Lord will keep you from all harm - he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore' (Psalm 121:1-2,7-8). 
 
We are God's Church. We exist to serve him and proclaim him in the world. He guides us and leads us in his way, and we seek to grow as his people in his image. 'As many of our churches are able to unlock again, we are looking beyond the present at how church might look in the future. For many who worship and serve in our parishes, there is a desire to ensure that we enter this "new normal" as Eco Churches. And a number of churches have been using lockdown to do what they can to help us achieve a 'net zero' future' (Diocese of Salisbury Grapevine, 31 July 2020). 
 
'Choral and organ scholars from cathedrals across the country have come together to produce a virtual evensong to raise money for the Cathedral Choirs Emergency Fund and to raise the profile of the English choral tradition. A survey by the Church Music Trust (CMT) showed how many foundations would struggle without additional funds once lockdown restrictions were eased. Choral and organ scholars from Bristol, Worcester, Exeter, Truro, Gloucester, Wells, Hereford, and Tewkesbury Abbey have been involved in complex logistics that required six weeks of individual rehearsal to backing tracks created at Truro. Three weeks of audio and video editing have followed. "It's been a sizeable task," a tenor choral scholar at Exeter, Daniel Maw, said. "We are so fortunate to have great support from the Cathedral Music Trust, as well as individual composers who were kind enough to commission music for this service. Paul Mealor has written a beautiful introit, set to the text 'Lead me, Lord', while Roxanna Panufnik has arranged a truly epic setting of 'Let all the world', a much loved and familiar hymn text"... The scholars' evensong was streamed on YouTube on Tuesday. Lessons were read by the former chorister and TV presenter Alexander Armstrong and Katie Derham, who presents the BBC Proms. "Helping to bring together a bunch of incredible singers to raise funds for something so close to our hearts is an incredible honour," Harry Hoyland, a Truro choral scholar, said. "We are extremely pleased with the results"' (Church Times 31 July 2020). 
 
Tomorrow the Church celebrates the Transfiguration of Our Lord. All three synoptic Gospels - Mark, Matthew, and Luke - give us an account of the Transfiguration of Jesus on top of Mount Tabor. This follows Peter's confession of faith in Jesus as the Messiah, the One sent by God to redeem mankind, and Jesus's prediction of his own passion and death. Jesus, together with three of his disciples - Peter, James and John - went up the mountain. Matthew says Jesus 'was transfigured before them. His face shone as the sun: his garments became white as snow'. Two other figures appeared with Him: Moses and Elijah. Christ thus stood between the two prominent figures in the Old Testament. Then, a voice was heard from above saying, 'This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!' (Matthew 17:1-6). 
 
The collect for the Transfiguration: 
Father in heaven, 
whose Son Jesus Christ was wonderfully transfigured 
before chosen witnesses upon the holy mountain, 
and spoke of the exodus he would accomplish at Jerusalem: 
give us strength so to hear his voice and bear our cross 
that in the world to come we may see him as he is; 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for Churches Together in Downton, as we remember that we all belong to God's kingdom and have the one gospel to proclaim - and that is what matters. 
 
Tomorrow there is no Daily Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for all visitors to our Churches. They may have come in for private prayer, stood outside, paused in the churchyard or visited us online. 
Sunday 2nd August 2020 
 
‘Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (2 Peter 1:5-8). 
 
God has given us everything we need but we are responsible in using what he has given us. God expects us to make our own contribution by growing our faith in response to what he has done for us. He has made all things possible for us; but they are not yet complete, and we must labour diligently to realise the glorious possibilities opened out for us. Here Peter is enumerating some things that we ourselves must add to what God has already done. God does his part, we do ours. These virtues we “provide at our own expense” - that is the thrust of the Greek word. Of course, in this we are aided by the Holy Spirit, but we, too, must “make every effort.” You could say that these qualities of Christian character and maturity are like the rungs of a ladder - except that we don’t achieve them sequentially but work on them all at the same time. 
 
The government announced on Friday that face coverings are now to be mandatory in churches from 8th August. ‘The Government had previously stated that from 24 July face coverings were only to be “encouraged” in places of worship (News, 17 July). Guidance from the C of E, updated on Friday afternoon, said: “We will study detailed government regulations and guidance once they are available and will update our guidance accordingly. “In the meantime, we continue to strongly advise that face coverings should be worn by all those attending a place of worship, including ministers, worshippers, staff, volunteers, contractors and visitors, where there may be other people present; remembering that they are mainly intended to protect other people, not the wearer, from coronavirus and that they are not a replacement for physical distancing and regular hand washing”’ (Church Times 31 July 2020). 
 
The collect for this week: 
Almighty Lord and everlasting God, 
we beseech you to direct, sanctify and govern 
both our hearts and bodies 
in the ways of your laws 
and the works of your commandments; 
that through your most mighty protection, both here and ever, 
we may be preserved in body and soul; 
through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our Churchwarden and Deputy Churchwardens. They work hard for our Church and their ministry is particularly important now as we begin to open the Church up again for worship and prayer. 
 
There will be no Daily Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray on Monday for the bereaved. Then on Tuesday we pray for our Church School: staff and pupils that this may be a time of refreshment for them. 
 
‘We must pray, for prayer is neither more nor less than living with God... Prayer is just living with God: looking at him, regarding his will, reaching out our hands for the blessings he is so eager to give, bringing our action into his’ (Austin Farrer). 
 
On 3rd August 1492, hoping to find a westward route to India, Christopher Columbus set sail on his first transatlantic voyage, departing from Palos, Spain, with three small ships - the Niña, Pinta, and Santa María. 
Friday 31st July 2020 
 
'The priests and the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speaking these words in the house of the Lord. And when Jeremiah had finished speaking all that the Lord had commanded him to speak to all the people, then the priests and the prophets and all the people laid hold of him, saying, ‘You shall die! Why have you prophesied in the name of the Lord, saying, “This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate, without inhabitant”?’ (Jeremiah 26:7-9). 
 
How do we respond to criticism, especially when it’s our faith or way of life that is being criticised? What happens when we are told we have missed the point, or we are wrong? It is only natural to be defensive, to shut out the reproach. Part of being human is to be imperfect. We are all imperfect in different ways and impatient with other people’s imperfections and sometimes with our own. ‘We need very strong ears to hear ourselves judged frankly, and because there are few who can endure frank criticism without being stung by it, those who venture to criticize us perform a remarkable act of friendship, for to undertake to wound or offend a man for his own good is to have a healthy love for him’ (Michel de Montaigne). 
 
‘The Central Readers’ Council (CRC) has launched its first online module - for Online Worship - under its Transforming Ministry programme: a three-year project to provide free resources for lay people. The new module, which is accessible via the new Transforming Ministry website, consists of three one-hour sections. It has been written by the Revd Norman Ivison, a former BBC producer in the area of religion and ethics. He says: “If you are struggling to produce online worship, or doing it but know you can do better, then this is the course for you.”’ (Church Times 24 July 2020). 
 
‘Christ shows us again and again that the mind of God is a complete reversal of human values and pretensions, and that it is only through this reversal that man can really progress’ (K.W. Stevenson). 
 
I remind you that from the beginning of August (tomorrow), I will be reducing these reflections to three days a week: Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. This means there will not be a Daily Reflection tomorrow but there will be one on Sunday. Then the following one will be on Wednesday, and so on. 
 
We pray: 
Open my eyes, God. 
Help me to perceive what I have ignored, 
to uncover what I have forgotten, 
to find what I have been searching for. 
Remind me that I don't have to journey far 
to discover something new, 
for miracles surround me, 
blessings and holiness abound. 
And you are near. 
(Naomi Levy) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for charities struggling to continue their work and fundraising. Most charities have been very badly hit as their usual fundraising has been curtailed or cancelled. This can make a big difference especially to the smaller ones. At the same time, on the whole, those of us who have retained our work and incomes have been spending less. 
 
Also: in our Parish Prayer Diary tomorrow we pray for peace in the World. True peace comes from peace in ourselves and with God. This is Shalom - a Hebrew word meaning peace, harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, welfare and tranquillity. 
 
‘In view of the coming reign of God, the moral and religious distinctions among men are broken down; this is shown in Jesus’ own actions. He eats with tax-collectors and sinners, and dares to announce to men the forgiveness of sins. His authority must be acknowledged or rejected’ (David Hill). 
Thursday 30th July 2020 
 
‘For 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). 
 
Our relationship with God results in a new relationship with one another. All racial, economic and gender barriers and all other inequalities are removed in Christ. The equality and unity of all in Christ are not an addition, a tangent or an optional application of the gospel. They are at the very heart of the good news. The equality of us all before God must be demonstrated in social relationships within and beyond the Church if the truth of the gospel is to be expressed. As Jesus proclaims at the beginning of his ministry: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour” (Luke 4:18-19). 
 
Today the Church remembers William Wilberforce, famous for his role in the abolition of slavery. By the late 1700s, the economics of slavery were so entrenched that only a handful of people thought anything could be done about it. That handful included William Wilberforce. This would have surprised those who knew Wilberforce as a young man, as he grew up surrounded by wealth. He graduated from university in Cambridge with the intention of following a political career and became Member of Parliament for Hull in 1780, aged 21. Four years later he became MP for the whole of Yorkshire and began to work for the abolition of the slave trade. 
Wilberforce was a deeply religious man and later became an Evangelical Christian. He wrote “So enormous, so dreadful, so irremediable did the [slave] trade’s wickedness appear that my own mind was completely made up for abolition. Let the consequences be what they would: I from this time determined that I would never rest until I had effected its abolition.” 
He was a popular figure and was known to be charming and witty and a great public speaker. He campaigned for a number of causes: for legislation to improve the lives of the poor; education; prison reforms; ending child labour; and he was one of the founders of the Royal Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA). 
Wilberforce attempted several times to bring private members’ bills before Parliament to end Britain’s involvement in the slave trade. After many years of defeats, he finally achieved his goal on 25 March, 1807. But this did not completely prevent British people from engaging in the slave trade. 
He retired from politics in 1825 due to ill health but continued to campaign for the abolition of slavery. Finally, on 26 July 1833, as Wilberforce lay on his deathbed, he was told that the Slavery Abolition Bill, granting freedom to all slaves within the British Empire, had been passed by Parliament. Wilberforce died three days later. 
 
We have become increasingly aware recently that slavery has not disappeared. It is estimated that 40 million people are trapped in modern slavery worldwide. ‘Modern slavery is the severe exploitation of other people for personal or commercial gain. Modern slavery is all around us, but often just out of sight. People can become entrapped making our clothes, serving our food, picking our crops, working in factories, or working in houses as cooks, cleaners or nannies’ (https://www.antislavery.org/slavery-today/). 
 
The collect for today: 
God our deliverer, 
who sent your Son Jesus Christ 
to set your people free from the slavery of sin: 
grant that, as your servant William Wilberforce 
toiled against the sin of slavery, 
so we may bring compassion to all 
and work for the freedom of all the children of God; 
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 for today we pray for our Parochial Church Council (PCC). As the trustees for St Laurence, we have the responsibility for our Church’s life, ministry and mission and decisions on how we worship together. 
Wednesday 29th July 2020 
 
‘It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters, saying, “I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters, in the midst of the congregation I will praise you”’ (Hebrews 2:10-12). 
 
The letter to the Hebrews uses a collage of images to show who Jesus is and what it means to follow him. Jesus did not come into this world to gain status or political power, but to suffer and die so that we could have eternal life. In this Jesus is the pioneer of our salvation - the one who makes a way forward for others. ‘He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy’ (Colossians 1:17-18). 
 
Also Jesus proclaims himself as our brother. Most of us have little difficulty recognising that it is best if people do not look too closely at us. Scrutiny will show that Jesus might have any number of good reasons to be ashamed about who we are. So if Jesus calls us his brothers and sisters, it is not because we are so impressive. Being called one of his brothers or sisters is an act of grace. It offers us a sense of dignity and fellowship in the family. 
 
Apparently (I can’t find the source for this) Martin Luther said that if he could understand the first two words of the Lord's Prayer as Christ did, the rest of his life in Christ would fall into place. 
 
How we see the world - and so what we believe is happening - depends to a large extent on the newspapers or online services we use. This is especially important at times like this. But how do we know what is true? As Pilate asks: ‘What is truth?’ (John 18:38). ‘It is easy to decide that we are each powerless in the face of the onslaught of post-truth, fake news, and disinformation. What can I do against the pervasive and often negative impact of social media, the algorithms of big tech serving me up information that confirms my inbuilt biases, or the politicians who bend facts with slogans that lose sight of the truth?... Post-truth, fake news, and disinformation together pose a serious threat to societies around the world. Citizens can feel powerless in the face of their demoralising and demotivating effects. But Christians can play their part in bringing truth and integrity back into the centre of public life. This might call for concerted action over many years. It will need co-operation from local churches with national structures, and the voice of the Church in Parliament, Whitehall, and in the media. We will need to work with partners and people of good will across the political spectrum. But, given the negative impact of post-truth on our society, we need to be acting now’ (Church Times 24 July 2020). 
 
We pray: 
Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised, 
there is no end to his greatness. 
One generation shall praise your works to another 
and shall declare your power. 
All your works praise you, Lord, 
and your faithful servants bless you. 
They make known the glory of your kingdom 
and speak of your power. 
My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord: 
let all flesh bless his holy name for ever and ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for all who rely on food aid. ‘The Trussell Trust and its network of food banks are here to help anyone who needs support at this time. Together, we can get through this crisis - please remember that you’re not alone’ (https://www.trusselltrust.org/). 
 
I shall be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church at 10:30am. I shall ring the bell and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. 
 
On 29th July 1588, the Spanish Armada, the great fleet sent by King Philip II of Spain to invade England, was first sighted by the English off Lizard Point, Cornwall. 
Tuesday 28th July 2020 
 
‘O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens… When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?’ (Psalm 8:1,3-4). 
 
We proclaim the majesty and sovereignty of God - and his loving grace to us. God is our Lord and ruler of all: ‘Know that the Lord is God. It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture’ (Psalm 100:3). In the words of the Te Deum canticle: 
We praise you, O God, we acclaim you as the Lord; 
all creation worships you, the Father everlasting. 
To you all angels, all the powers of heaven, 
the cherubim and seraphim, sing in endless praise: 
Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might, 
heaven and earth are full of your glory. 
The glorious company of apostles praise you. 
The noble fellowship of prophets praise you. 
The white-robed army of martyrs praise you. 
Throughout the world the holy Church acclaims you: 
Father, of majesty unbounded, 
your true and only Son, worthy of all praise, 
the Holy Spirit, advocate and guide. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
‘The Archbishop of Canterbury has asked the Government what it is doing to prevent the use of social-media platforms to incite hatred. During a virtual sitting of the House of Lords, on Thursday of last week, the Archbishop asked a follow-up question to Lord Holmes of Richmond, who had asked the Government “What assessment they have made of the impact of digital platforms on the functioning of democracy”. The Archbishop said: “The minister will be aware that, although social media has immense power for good, some social-media platforms are used to incite hatred, stirring up social disruption and even extreme violence in some parts of the world. . . What steps are Her Majesty’s Government looking at to motivate and encourage responsibility to be taken by such platforms to prevent their use in everything from hate speech to genocide?”.. Archbishop Welby said last year that social media gave a “voice to the voiceless”, but that their lack of accountability encouraged “vicious” behaviour (News, 15 May 2019)’ (Church Times 24 July 2020). 
 
We pray: 
God of time and space, 
We are awed by the majesty of your creation, 
and become increasingly aware of its marvellous inter-connection, 
in the midst of which we find our place. 
Ground us in the knowledge 
that our actions affect both those around us and the natural world, 
and give us wisdom to do only those things 
which bring light and love and wholeness to the world; 
for all people everywhere are our sisters and brothers, 
and the Earth is our common home. Amen. 
(https://www.churchinwales.org.uk/en/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for volunteers helping others in their community. We hear many stories of people helping out and engaging with their neighbours. This has been an opportunity to build new relationships and develop gifts of service. 
 
On 28th July 1914, using the assassination of the Austrian archduke Francis Ferdinand as a pretext to present Serbia with an unacceptable ultimatum, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia - sparking World War I. As it happens, it was 28th July 2005 when the IRA announced that it had ended its armed campaign and instead would pursue only peaceful means to achieve its objectives. 
Monday 27th July 2020 
 
He said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves’ (Luke 22:25-27). 
 
We hear a lot today about the need for respect - or indeed the lack of it. Those in leadership roles all too often want simply to exercise the authority of their status over others; while those without such positions feel that they are not being heard. The Christian perspective is clear: authority is given in order to serve, to minister (attend to the needs of). Standing on worldly importance has no place in the Kingdom of God. In the words of Mary’s song (the Magnificat): ‘He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty’ (Luke 1:51-53). 
 
‘In Jesus the service of God and the service of the least of the brethren were one’ (Dietrich Bonhoeffer). 
 
We had another good service in St Laurence yesterday and it was a true joy to worship together again, even with the necessary restrictions in place. However, we are always very aware that those who can attend physically are only a part of our church family. As we gather on a Sunday morning, we are one together in Christ wherever we may be in body. As one in spirit we come before God as his Church - as we celebrate online, in the church building or quietly in the stillness of our hearts. 
 
‘We are now more than half-way through our Emergency Appeal for the Sudans and we need your help to reach our £50,000 target. We launched the Appeal at the start of the month after receiving this shocking statement from Archbishop Ezekiel Kondo in Khartoum: “They would rather die of Covid-19 than hunger.” While inflation and starvation is reaching record levels in Sudan, poor sanitation in the refugee camps means the coronavirus is able to spread freely among a weakened population. 
Meanwhile, lockdown means that the healthy are unable to work and what wages they receive cannot begin to cover the inflated prices for even basic foodstuffs. Many are hungry. Many cannot feed their families. Many fear contracting a virus in a country where there are less than 10 ventilators available for the whole population. That's why our Appeal is for FOOD and SOAP. Your money can provide food for our brothers and sisters in the Sudans who are starving. It can provide the same things we have to keep us safe from the virus. It can buy materials so their Mothers' Union members can make 20,000 masks and help to buy other PPE. It can pay for lifesaving sanitisers and basic hand washing facilities. 
Please give what you can, even the smallest donation could save a life. Donate at https://bit.ly/sudansemergency’ (Diocese of Salisbury Grapevine, 24 July 2020). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Generous God, 
you give us gifts and make them grow: 
though our faith is small as mustard seed, 
make it grow to your glory 
and the flourishing of your kingdom; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our Bishops: Bishop Nicholas, our diocesan bishop, and Bishops Andrew and Karen, our suffragan bishops. They continue to work hard providing leadership and pastoral support in the diocese while offering guidance and encouragement to the wider Church and us in the parishes. 
 
‘If we believe that God’s future kingdom will have justice and peace as features of its life, it is a powerful argument to work with all our strength to bring those features into action now’ (Bishop David Sheppard). 
Sunday 26th July 2020 
 
‘We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified’ (Romans 8:28-30). 
 
In today’s world all to often we are just a cog in the system: a consumer, a worker, a pensioner, a taxpayer - or perhaps just a ‘sponger’. We are statistics to be quantified and counted; known by our NI number or NHS number. To God, though, we are each a much-loved individual, created in his image and called to be fully ourselves as members of his Kingdom. From the very beginning of time, God has been working to a plan - a plan to draw us to himself that we might be completely the special person he has created us to be. ‘For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Romans 8:38-30). 
 
‘A God who reverses nature, a God who undoes death, that those in whom the likeness of his glory has faintly and fitfully shone may be drawn everlastingly into the heart of light, and know him as he is: this is a God indeed, a God Almighty, a God to be trusted, loved, adored. The end of man is endless Godhead endlessly possessed, but that end flows back in glory on our mortal days, and gives a hope and meaning to whatever Christians do for love of God or love of one another. For we are all heirs of everlastingness, and whatever we do or are furnishes material to the hands which out of perishing stuff create eternal joy’ (Austin Farrer). 
 
Guidance on face coverings and outdoor worship for churches has been updated by the Government: We are ‘now being "strongly advised" to wear a face mask in church. The House of Bishops Recovery Group has published advice on face coverings which reflects Government guidance encouraging the wearing of face masks "in enclosed public spaces where there are people they do not normally meet". The advice, published on the Church of England website states: “We strongly advise that face coverings should be worn by all those attending a place of worship, including ministers, worshippers, staff, volunteers, contractors and visitors, where there may be other people present; remembering that they are mainly intended to protect other people, not the wearer, from coronavirus Covid-19 and that they are not a replacement for physical distancing and regular hand washing.”’ (Diocese of Salisbury Grapevine, 25 July 2020). 
 
The collect for this week: 
Lord of all power and might, 
the author and giver of all good things: 
graft in our hearts the love of your name, 
increase in us true religion, 
nourish us with all goodness, 
and of your great mercy keep us in the same; 
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 for today we pray for our Lay Pastoral Assistants (LPAs) who continue to play an important role in the pastoral work of our Church, keeping us in touch and connected. We give thanks for their ministry and dedication. 
 
There is a 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 - and the church bells will be ringing from 10 o’clock. 
 
‘The Gospel needs to proclaim the need and the possibility for God both to change people from inside out and to change the course of events to set people free to make such choices’ (Bishop David Sheppard). 
Saturday 25th July 2020 
 
‘Just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture - ‘I believed, and so I spoke’ - we also believe, and so we speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence’ (2 Corinthians 4:13-14). 
 
We believe, and so we too are called upon to speak. Sharing the good news is fundamental to our calling as Christians. ‘Always be ready to make your defence to anyone who demands from you an account of the hope that is in you’ (1 Peter 3:15). ‘But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’’ (Romans 10:14-15). 
 
Today the Church celebrates St James the Great - so called to distinguish him from the younger apostle of the same name. He was the son of Zebedee and Salome, and the brother of St John the Evangelist. He was also cousin to our Lord. He was a fisherman, and with his brother and his partners Peter and Andrew, left his fishing at the summons of Jesus. 
 
Our Lord calls James and John ‘Boanerges’, which means ‘Sons of Thunder’ - presumably on account of their fire and energy. They are both present at the raising of Jairus’ daughter, at the Transfiguration, and in Gethsemane at the beginning of our Lord’s passion. It is not known where James preached after the Ascension, but there is a tradition in Spain that he spread the Gospel there, and according to St Jerome he preached to dispersed Jewish communities. 
 
About fourteen years after the Crucifixion James was arrested with Peter during the persecution of Herod Agrippa I - and was beheaded. Eusebius relates that the accuser of James was so moved by the constancy and courage which he showed at his trial that he too became a Christian and was condemned to be beheaded. As they went together to the place of execution he begged forgiveness from James. After a little consideration, the apostle embraced him, and they died together. James was buried at Jerusalem, but the Spanish tradition claims that his remains were translated to Galicia, and later to Santiago de Compostela where his shrine became a famous place of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages. 
 
I have been giving some thought to these Daily Reflections. They have been coming to you now for over four months. As we begin, cautiously, to emerge from lockdown and arrive at the traditional time for a summer break, I believe the time has come for a review. So, from the beginning of August, I intend to reduce these Reflections to three days a week: Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. This means there will not be a Reflection next Saturday, 1st August, but will be one on Sunday 2nd. Then the following one will be on Wednesday 5th August, and so on. I will keep this pattern under review as we continue. 
 
The collect for today: 
Merciful God, 
whose holy apostle Saint James, 
leaving his father and all that he had, 
was obedient to the calling of your Son Jesus Christ 
and followed him even to death: 
help us, forsaking the false attractions of the world, 
to be ready at all times to answer your call without delay; 
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 for today we pray for politicians and their advisors. As they make decisions that affect us all to a degree that we have never experienced before, we pray for true wisdom and a willingness to put the good of all before any personal benefit or ambition. 
 
On 25th July 306 AD Constantine, the first Roman emperor to claim conversion to Christianity, was proclaimed Roman Emperor by his troops. 
Friday 24th July 2020 
 
‘The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake’ (Psalm 23:1-3). 
 
Millions of people have memorised this psalm, even those who have learned few other Scripture portions. The image of God as our shepherd is a very powerful one. God is the one who protects and guides us. The idea begins as early as the Book of Genesis, where Moses calls the Lord the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel. There are other references to this analogy between the deity and his followers in ancient Middle Eastern cultures. “In all Eastern thought, and very definitely in Biblical literature, a king is a shepherd” (Morgan). A shepherd is all things good to a sheep: its protector, guide, healer, comforter, provider of food and safety. Sheep are very fearful of running water; it would saturate their wool and carry them away to drown if they fell in a flowing stream. They have no fear of a quiet pool; they can safely drink from the edge or wade in for a drink and wade back out. A quiet pool beside a green pasture in the presence of its shepherd would mean the shepherd had instilled in the sheep peace, trust, confidence of his safety and the assurance that the one looking over him loves him, will not desert him, but will remain nearby to protect him. A sheep with a good shepherd has nothing to fear. 
 
Ron Hart has asked that we bear South Africa in our prayers. He has received a letter from the Rector of St John’s, Port Elizabeth, where they stayed 2 years ago. Here is an extract: ‘Grace, mercy and peace! Thank you for your enquiry as to how we are and for your continued prayers – especially after our beloved city received some infamy after being broadcast on BBC and Sky last week as they look for the next big Covid story. The virus is certainly getting closer and closer and we are all aware of someone who has contracted it – many of us in our own families – and of course the churches have been closed for more than 100 days except for funerals and from last month the odd wedding (no more than 5 pax). Our bishop and chapter have taken the decision not to open any churches yet as we will only peak in September/October – and don’t want to risk infecting anyone.’ 
 
‘O God, to those that have hunger give bread, and to us who have bread give the hunger for justice’ (Latin American Prayer). 
 
We pray: 
O Lord our God, 
source of all goodness and love, 
accept the fervent prayers of your people; 
in the multitude of your mercies look with compassion 
upon all who turn to you for help; 
for you are gracious, O lover of souls, 
and to you we give glory, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, 
now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for those who are alone and depressed. As we know, some people have been managing this time of lockdown better than others and there is evidence that many people have suffered from mental health effects. There are those who were already on their own and finding it difficult; families who have been juggling homeworking with parental responsibilities; those who face an unknown future at work. Also not everyone has access to the internet and other forms of modern communication. 
 
‘Every happening, great and small, is a parable whereby God speaks to us, and the art of life is to get the message’ (Malcolm Muggeridge). 
Thursday 23rd July 2020 
 
‘Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your judgements are like the great deep; you save humans and animals alike, O Lord. How precious is your steadfast love, O God! All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings’ (Psalm 36:5-7). 
 
We need to lift up our eyes and fix them always on God and his Kingdom - remembering his love, his faithfulness and his grace. The deep divisions that have become so evident in our society since the referendum have encouraged a defensiveness and a building up of barriers. We need to listen more to Jesus who ‘rejects the dualisms (Luke 20:20-26, whether to pay taxes to Caesar)… He won’t be forced into an ‘either/or’ answer to a question designed to entrap. Jesus won’t collude with the state and neither is he advocating the revolution espoused by the Jewish zealots. The earth, Jesus is saying, belongs to God. Whatever belongs to Caesar also belongs to God. Christians are called to participate in the world, rendering dues to the State while always acknowledging the limitations of Caesar’s rights. 
Much of our current public discourse is similarly hostile, polarized and dualistic. We may find this even in our other relationships and conversations. Faced with opposition, Jesus speaks wisdom that challenges partisan thinking and reveals the kingdom of God. How might we do likewise in the actual conditions we find ourselves?’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 17 July 2020). 
 
‘The light of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ reveals the image of God everywhere; for this gospel is able to relate everything to Jesus Christ. He who has seen Christ can see the Christ in all men’ (Austin Farrer). 
 
On top of all the obvious health risks caused by the pandemic, we are all too aware that it has exasperated other problems - especially for those least able to cope, the poor and powerless. Whatever we may think of the response to the situation here, in other places they have had far fewer resources to combat it: ‘Donations of £5 million were made in one day to the coronavirus appeal launched on Tuesday by the Disasters and Emergency Committee (DEC), on which the main Christian relief organisations are represented. Monies will be used to help vulnerable people fleeing conflict and instability, as well as the threat of Covid-19, in countries including Yemen, Syria, Somalia, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and South Sudan. The appeal is supported by Christian Aid, Tearfund, and World Vision UK. The first donations, up to £5 million, will benefit from the UK Aid Match Scheme, in which individual donations are matched by the Department for International Development. 
Campaigners have raised concerns that the humanitarian situation brought about by the pandemic has become critical in several countries. In Yemen, where half the health services have been destroyed by conflict, one in four people who contract the virus is dying, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In Afghanistan, 24 million people are living in crowded temporary accommodation, while, in the Rohingya refugee camps of Bangladesh, the population density is one and a half times that of New York City, but its inhabitants have little access to health facilities or sanitation’ (Church Times 17 July 2020). 
 
We pray: 
O God, under your wing you gather the whole of creation: 
praise and glory to you! 
Help us to follow your will, to gather up all things in Christ. 
Open our eyes to see the riches of your grace, 
so that we may open our mouths to proclaim the hope for the world which lies in you. 
Help us to work for a world where people of different religions and cultures can live together in peace; 
for a just world where rich and poor share their resources. 
Help us to use the gifts of your creation according to your wisdom, to the praise of your glory. 
(Diocese of Saskatoon) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for young people - especially those worried about their future. This should be a time for looking forward in hope and excitement, but for too many it is one of deep concern and apprehension. 
 
‘Don’t walk in front of me, I might not follow you. Don’t walk behind me, I cannot see you. Walk by my side - and be my friend’ (Old Persian proverb). 
Wednesday 22nd July 2020 
 
Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”’ Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her (John 20:16-18). 
 
Today the Church celebrates Mary Magdalene. Her name means literally Mary of Magdala, which presumably refers to a town on the west coast of the sea of Galilee. This would place her home in the same general area as that of the first disciples, and of Jesus’ first miracle - that of turning water into wine during the marriage feast at Cana. Alternatively her name could translate as “Mary the Tower”, being a name given to her by Jesus to refer to her strength or dependability. 
 
Mary is first mentioned in the gospels by Luke, who tells us that: ‘with [Jesus] were the Twelve and a number of women who had been set free from evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, known as Mary of Magdala, from whom seven devils had come out...’ (Luke 8:2). From early times Mary has been identified both with Mary the sister of Martha of Bethany, and with the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet in the house of Simon the leper. However the gospels give no real support for either identification. 
 
What is certain is that Mary was one of a band of women who accompanied Jesus during his earthly ministry, and put their possessions at his disposal. She was a witness to his crucifixion and took note of where he was buried intending to return after the Sabbath in order to anoint his body. According to John, Mary Magdalene was the first person to be met by the risen Christ (John 20:10-18). That he should do so is particularly significant, bearing in mind the status of women in first century Palestine. In western tradition, a very popular but quite unfounded legend had arisen by the 9th century that Mary, together with Martha and Lazarus, came to the south of France by sea. In the Middle Ages her supposed tomb was venerated at Aix-en-Provence. 
 
‘That woman, who is the first to encounter Jesus... now has become an apostle of the new and greatest hope… He knows us by name, he watches over us, he waits for us, he forgives us, he is patient with us’ (Pope Francis). 
 
The collect for today: 
Almighty God, 
whose Son restored Mary Magdalene 
to health of mind and body 
and called her to be a witness to his resurrection: 
forgive our sins and heal us by your grace, 
that we may serve you in the power of his risen life; 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray that we may learn God’s forgiveness. Forgiveness is the story of our salvation, at the very heart of the Good News. Yet sometimes we find that hard to accept. However God is lavish and wasteful. God loves to excess, even when that love is not wanted or merited. ‘If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness’ (1 John 1:9). 
 
I shall be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church at 10:30am. I shall ring the bell and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. 
 
It has been said that today with ever more television channels there is even less worth watching. Well, 22nd July 1959 saw the premiere of the film ‘Plan 9 From Outer Space’, called one of the worst films ever! 
Tuesday 21st July 2020 
 
'Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of your possession? He does not retain his anger for ever, because he delights in showing clemency. He will again have compassion upon us; he will tread our iniquities under foot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea' (Micah 7:18-19). 
 
Micah concludes his prophecies with a burst of enthusiastic homage to the God of gods. God knows us in our weaknesses and failures - but loves us even so and is always ready to forgive and renew us. It is his nature to delight in pardoning the penitent, and giving blessings: 'let the wicked forsake their way, and the unrighteous their thoughts; let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon (Isaiah 55:7). 
 
'In love, O Lord, all your works have begun; by love you sustain them and in your love our life is everlasting. So let the beginning and ending of all our loving be to see you O God, for ever and ever. Amen' (Julian of Norwich). 
 
'Life after the pandemic should not return to the "normal" that existed before it struck, the Bishop of Truro, the Rt Revd Philip Mounstephen, has said... "I suggest that we must ditch any temptation to believe that the past we came out of, into the Covid-19 crisis, was somehow 'normal'," Bishop Mounstephen writes. "I don't think it was 'normal' at all. It was not 'normal' that we should have been living on this earth in a way that was increasingly unsustainable, with global warming becoming a growing reality and threat to human flourishing... Nor was it normal that we were living with such dramatic and growing inequalities of wealth in our society. That too is inimical to human flourishing and harmonious communities. And we should not accept as normal the fact that, relative to the rest of the UK, Cornwall itself was increasingly becoming poorer." Bishop Mounstephen expresses hope that the pandemic is teaching people "to value things differently". "In particular we have learned to give new value and dignity to some of the people who are least well rewarded financially in our society"' (Church Times 18 July 2020). 
 
The prayer after communion for this week: 
God of our pilgrimage, 
you have led us to the living water: 
refresh and sustain us 
as we go forward on our journey, 
in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray all for medical staff: those in hospitals, GP surgeries, Care Homes, research laboratories and wherever they may be. We give thanks for all their hard work, dedication and professionalism and pray that they won't be forgotten again when this crisis is passed. 
 
We will be holding another Holy Communion service on Sunday at 10:30am. If you wish to come - and you are welcome to do so - it would be helpful if you could let either Jo Parsons or myself know. Then we can have some idea of numbers and make the necessary arrangements so there is somewhere for everyone to sit. 
 
As we enjoy this sunny weather, you may like to know that on 21st July 1983 the world's lowest recorded temperature, −128.6°F (−89.2°C), was measured at Vostok Station, Antarctica. 
 
'For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God - not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life' (Ephesians 2:8-10). 
Monday 20th July 2020 
 
'With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high?... He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?' (Micah 6:6,8). 
 
This is the key question that we must ask ourselves: what does God require of us? Here in a nutshell is the essence of Christian living, what it means to live a godly life. What Micah is stressing is that ritual worship alone is not enough - what we need is a change of heart. Here "humbly" is used not in the sense of self-abasement, rather the opposite of walking proudly or walking self-righteously. In the same way when Jesus calls us to love our neighbour, the word "love" is not an emotional feeling but an action verb. Religion is for God's sake. The human side of religion, its creeds, rituals and institutions, is a way rather than the goal. The goal is 'to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.' When the human side of religion becomes the goal, then injustice becomes a way. 
 
We have a similar emphasis in the Letter of James. He tells us that it is no good professing our belief if we don't act on it, live it out: 'What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you?' (James 2:14). 
 
'Obeying God is listening to God, having an open heart to follow the path that God points out to us' (Pope Francis). 
 
Yesterday's service in Church was most uplifting. There was a real sense of joy - and indeed relief - at being able to come together in worship again. Over two dozen of us shared a short service of Holy Communion. It was different to what we are used to, but heartening all the same. 
 
'If God is limited by those things that limit us - most particularly death - then perhaps the Sadducees (when they question Jesus - Luke 20.27-40) would have a point. But God is not limited. Jesus points to an eternal life, a new heaven and new earth, which is not merely a continuation of this life. The Sadducees understand this world to be the only one in which God would act to keep his promises; Jesus is joined by the Pharisees in proclaiming that God will keep his promises and enact justice beyond even the boundaries of this world. These are hopeful words for Luke's early readers.. and they are hopeful words for us today. God is not bound by what we know or understand; his redemptive purposes are always expanding beyond the limits of our imagination' (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 18 July 2020). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Creator God, 
you made us all in your image: 
may we discern you in all that we see, 
and serve you in all that we do; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for school governors. Schools have to prepare for a full return of all pupils in September - which has been causing them a great deal of extra work to ensure that happens safely. Governors are responsible for strategic direction but, more importantly, are there to support, encourage and help the staff and whole school community. 
 
On 20th July 1969, the Eagle lunar landing module, carrying U.S. astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin ("Buzz") Aldrin, landed on the Moon, and several hours later Armstrong became the first person to set foot on its surface. Going to the Moon also emphasised how we all live on one small planet, and our need to look after it. 
Sunday 19th July 2020 
 
'Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god. Who is like me? Let them proclaim it, let them declare and set it forth before me. Who has announced from of old the things to come? Let them tell us what is yet to be. Do not fear, or be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? You are my witnesses Is there any god besides me? There is no other rock; I know not one' (Isaiah 44:6-8). 
 
'I am the first, and I am the last': God is the first cause and last end of all things in nature, and providence, and grace; all things are of him, through him, and from him; all things were made by him in creation, and for his pleasure they are and were created; and all things are disposed of in his providence for his own glory; and he is the first in reconciliation, justification, and salvation, and all are to the glory of his grace. He is from everlasting to everlasting, without beginning or end, the Alpha and Omega. 
 
In short: he is God. Yet people have other gods in their lives. These gods do not always take a physical form; they can be anything people worship, trust, or serve. The origin of the English word "worship" is "worth-ship." Worship is ascribing value to people or things. Perhaps it is more things - more money, more exotic holidays, more pleasure and excitement, more activities, more of everything. Maybe it is more nebulous - more freedom, health, or approval and affirmation. Then, of course there is putting ourselves at the centre of our lives in place of God. We pray for God's grace to put him first and to worship only him. 
 
'Remember this. When people choose to withdraw far from a fire, the fire continues to give warmth, but they grow cold. When people choose to withdraw far from light, the light continues to be bright in itself but they are in darkness. This is also the case when people withdraw from God' (Saint Augustine). 
 
The collect for this week: 
Merciful God, 
you have prepared for those who love you 
such good things as pass our understanding: 
pour into our hearts such love toward you 
that we, loving you in all things and above all things, 
may obtain your promises, 
which exceed all that we can desire; 
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 for today we pray for our witness as a Church. In these strange times this is as, if not more, important as ever. 
 
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 our first service of Holy Communion in Church since March - and the church bells will be ringing from 10 o'clock. It will be good to hear them again. 
 
On July 19th 1545, during the Battle of the Solent, Henry VIII's flagship the Mary Rose sank in a strait of the English Channel. According to an eyewitness account, after firing at the French fleet, the Mary Rose was attempting to turn when it was blown onto its side by a gust of wind. The cannon openings had not been closed, causing the ship to fill with water and sink. She was raised in 1982 and can now be seen at the Historic Dockyards in Portsmouth. 
 
'Christianity preaches the infinite worth of that which is seemingly worthless and the infinite worthlessness of that which is seemingly so valued' (Dietrich Bonhoeffer). 
Saturday 18th July 2020 
 
‘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’ (Isaiah 42:1). 
 
This is one of the Old Testament prophecies that was fulfilled by Jesus (see Matthew 12:18). The life and Good News of Jesus is not a break from the Old Testament but rather its accomplishment. Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah of prophecy. The tragedy was that ‘With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that says: “You will indeed listen, but never understand, and you will indeed look, but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; so that they might not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and understand with their heart and turn—and I would heal them.”’ (Matthew 13:14-15). 
 
As we read this can be tempted to complacency. For we are the ones who have seen in Jesus God’s own Son. We acknowledge him as Lord; we listen to his words; we follow his way. Nevertheless, we too are in danger of allowing our religious arteries to harden; get set in our ways and our thinking - so that we ‘listen, but never understand’. A hoped-for side effect - indeed, a prayed-for consequence - of this present situation is that it will help us to see things afresh and awaken within us a desire to be more attentive to what God is saying to us now - rather than just what he said to our forebears. We must pray always to be open to God’s promptings, guidance, and direction in our lives. 
 
‘Prayer is first of all listening to God. It's openness. God is always speaking; he's always doing something. Prayer is to enter into that activity... Convert your thoughts into prayer. As we are involved in unceasing thinking, so we are called to unceasing prayer. The difference is not that prayer is thinking about other things, but that prayer is thinking in dialogue,... a conversation with God’ (Henri Nouwen). 
 
‘The Christian disability charity CBM has launched a campaign to raise awareness of the voices of those living with disabilities during the pandemic. Coronavirus: My Story features eight videos made by women and men from Bangladesh, Indonesia, Nepal, and Zimbabwe, in which they speak about their experiences during the pandemic. CBM said that the stories “show the wide range of challenges that women and men with disabilities are facing including loss of income, lack of access to health care, and difficulties accessing personal care and support”. But they also show, CBM said, “how people with disabilities and their representative organisations are playing a valuable role in responding to the crisis”’ (Church Times 17 July 2020). 
 
We pray: 
O gracious and holy Father, 
give us wisdom to perceive you, 
diligence to seek you, 
patience to wait for you, 
eyes to behold you, 
a heart to meditate upon you, 
and a life to proclaim you, 
through the power of the Spirit 
of Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for those who produce our Parish magazine. Through their work they continue helping us to keep in touch - both online and now with a few printed copies. It involves a lot of work, and we are most grateful to them. 
 
18th July is Listening Day, put on every year by the World Listening Project “devoted to understanding the world and its natural environment, societies and cultures through the practice of listening and field recording.” In today’s world more listening must surely be a good thing. 
Friday 17th July 2020 
 
‘I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. But if you had known what this means, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice”, you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the sabbath’ (Matthew 12:6-8). 
 
It seems to be a perverse part of our nature that all too often we are stricter on ourselves, and on others, than God would have us be. In the words of the hymn There’s a wideness in God’s mercy: ‘But we make his love too narrow by false limits of our own; And we magnify his strictness with a zeal he will not own’. We remember that ours is a faith based on a loving relationship with God, not a religion of rules. 
 
That said, of course, if we follow Jesus that must surely affect how we live; how we relate to others; and how we use all that God has given us. As Paul writes: ‘What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life’ (Romans 6:1-4). 
 
‘It is in knowing increasingly the reality of Christ that we come to know our true selves - that which we have it in us to become’ (Gordon Jeff). 
 
Today is the last day of school for our Year 6 pupils (those moving on to secondary school in September). I will be going into our two local Primary Schools this morning for the first time since March - in order to present each of our leavers with a Bible from the Church. We hold them all in our prayers as they make this important transition in such unusual circumstances. Also the staff continue to need our prayerful support as they work hard to prepare our schools for a full return of all pupils next term. 
 
‘Involving religious leaders in international aid organisations’ responses to humanitarian disasters makes the responses more effective and helps the organisations to reach more people in need, the report on a new project suggests. A pilot “bridge-builders” programme in South Sudan brought together Christian and Muslim leaders with international aid agencies, as part of the working out of a United Nations vision that aid should be as “local as possible, as international as necessary”. 
The programme included coaching on WhatsApp, and involved Tearfund, Islamic Relief, the Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities, and the University of Leeds. South Sudan was chosen for the pilot programme because of the reliance of half of its population on aid, after years of conflict and natural disasters’ (Church Times 10 July 2020). 
 
The prayer after communion for this week: 
Grant, O Lord, we beseech you, 
that the course of this world may be so peaceably ordered 
by your governance, 
that your Church may joyfully serve you in all godly quietness; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for all who minister to the sick: not only the medical professionals and care workers, but all volunteers, friends and family members. This has been a difficult and stressful time for many of them and they continue to worry about what is yet to come. 
 
Today is World Day for International Justice or International Justice Day, as 17th July is the date of the adoption of the treaty that created the International Criminal Court. 
 
‘Christ does not save us by acting a parable of divine love; he acts the parable of divine love by saving us. That is the Christian faith’ (Austin Farrer). 
Thursday 16th July 2020 
 
‘Praise the Lord! Praise, O servants of the Lord; praise the name of the Lord. Blessed be the name of the Lord from this time on and for evermore. From the rising of the sun to its setting the name of the Lord is to be praised. The Lord is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens’ (Psalm 113:1-4). 
 
In the words of a song we sing sometimes in school: Our God is a great big God. He is integral to life and the world. He is creator and sustainer of all – and Jesus ‘is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together’ (Colossians 1:15-17). ‘For whatever be the knowledge which we are able to obtain of God, either by perception or reflection, we must of necessity believe that He is by many degrees far better than what we perceive Him to be’ (Origen). 
 
Today the Church remembers Osmund. According to a 15th century document, Osmund was the nephew of William the Conqueror. Certainly he came to England with the Normans. He was William’s chaplain and one of the compilers of Domesday Book. He became chancellor of England (c.1072–78) and then the first bishop of Salisbury (1078–99) which absorbed the Saxon bishoprics of Sherborne and Ramsbury. Osmund was responsible for the building of the cathedral which was consecrated on 5th April 1092. This was at Old Sarum, the then site of the city - which William of Malmesbury describes as a fortress rather than a city, placed on a high hill, surrounded by a massive wall. Peter of Blois later referred to the castle and church as “the ark of God shut up in the temple of Baal”. 
His liturgical reforms became the basis for the later “Old Sarum” liturgy used throughout the British Isles. After Osmund was canonized, his remains were transferred from Old Sarum to Salisbury Cathedral. 
 
‘Church musicians have welcomed the Government’s initiation of targeted scientific research into the droplet transmission produced by singers (News, 5 June), as the debate continues on how choirs can return safely to singing together physically. On Thursday, the Government updated its guidance on singing. From 11 July, one individual may sing or chant indoors when other worshippers are present. The guidance suggests that churches consider the use of a plexi-glass screen to further prevent transmission. Group singing is still banned. 
Also from 11 July, “small groups of professional singers” will be able to sing in front of worshippers out of doors. “Singing in groups should be limited to professional singers only and should be limited to a small set group of people. Both the singers and the worshippers should be outdoors.” The guidance gives no specific number, nor explains why permission is given only to professional singers. 
The guidance continues to instruct congregations to avoid “singing, shouting, raising voices and/or playing music at a volume that makes normal conversation difficult or that may encourage shouting . . . even if social distancing is being observed or face coverings are used.”’ (Church Times 9 July 2020). 
 
The collect for today: 
O God, our heavenly Father, 
who raised up your faithful servant Osmund 
to be a bishop and pastor in your Church and to feed your flock: 
Give abundantly to all pastors the gifts of your Holy Spirit, 
that they may minister in your household 
as true servants of Christ and stewards of your divine mysteries; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord, 
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, 
one God, for ever and ever. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for those at work worried about social distancing. As more are encouraged to return to work where they can and new places reopening people are naturally worried. Those who have to work alongside others are particularly vulnerable. 
 
‘The Bible is now available in 250 languages and dialects. But translating it is no simple task. One wrong letter in an Eskimo tongue turned “nation shall rise up against nation” into “a pair of snowshoes shall rise up against a pair of snowshoes”’ (National Geographic School Bulletin). 
Wednesday 15th July 2020 
 
‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be a healing for your flesh and a refreshment for your body’ (Proverbs 3:5-8). 
 
Sometime the hardest thing of all is just to listen to God’s word. We want to be doing, to work out our own answers and plans - and then to ask God’s blessing on them. Instead we are called to listen to God, to trust in him, and follow his ways. ‘For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength’ (1 Corinthians 1:25). 
 
Today the Church remembers St Swithun. Swithun was born in Winchester around 800, became counsellor to the Saxon kings Egbert and Ethelwulf. He was Bishop of Winchester for the last 10 years of his life. The life of St Swithun is rich in legend. A century after his death in 863, he was chosen as patron saint for Winchester Cathedral’s Benedictine monastery. His bones, housed in a splendid reliquary, became famed for their healing powers. His cult lasted until the Reformation, when all traces of his shrine were swept away. One source claims that when Swithun died, he asked to be buried out of doors ‘where the feet of ordinary men could pass over him.’ This, and a possible mistranslation of a medieval text, may have given rise to the story that when the saint’s bones were moved inside the Old Minster on his feast day, on 15th July 971, a terrible storm broke out, lasting for 40 days and nights. This is the basis of the popular belief that if it rains on 15th July, it will rain for 40 days. Sadly it seems, this claim has no basis in fact. 
 
‘Talking about mental health is going to be essential as the country emerges from lockdown, the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, has said this week. The coronavirus remained a killer, and understanding the risks had helped everyone to stay alert in a time of real danger, the Bishop said in an article for ViaMedia. Many people had also faced “fearful burdens” on top of the virus: the shielding elderly, those whose loneliness had been exacerbated, those facing financial hardship and uncertainty, and those trapped with abusers. 
“But the general climate of fear that has been so successfully inculcated in us leaves us with a conundrum,” she said. “How do we encourage one another wisely to emerge from lockdown? How do we begin to navigate this brave new world of face masks and social distancing?” The challenge to churches was “to continue to have a culture in which everyone feels safe to share their struggles and feel able to speak openly . . . to talk to each other, to make it integral to our ministry life, whatever context we find ourselves in, for mental health to be a subject for prayer in public as well as in private. In this way, we can find the comfort and support we need.”’ (Church Times 10 July 2020). 
 
The collect for today: 
Almighty God, 
by whose grace we celebrate again 
the feast of your servant Swithun: 
grant that, as he governed with gentleness 
the people committed to his care, 
so we, rejoicing in our Christian inheritance, 
may always seek to build up your Church in unity and love; 
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 for today we pray for those in Residential and Nursing Homes. Our local care homes have done a great job in keeping the virus at bay - but many staff and residents are feeling the strain, especially as visits are curtailed. We continue to hold them all in our prayers. 
 
I shall be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church at 10:30am today, together with our Roads to God prayers. I shall ring the bell and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. 
 
On 15th July 1799 the Rosetta Stone is found in the Egyptian village of Rosetta by French Captain Pierre-François Bouchard during Napoleon's Egyptian Campaign. The Rosetta Stone is one of the most important objects in the British Museum as it holds the key to understanding Egyptian hieroglyphs - a script made up of small pictures that was used originally in ancient Egypt for religious texts. 
Tuesday 14th July 2020 
 
‘May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Romans 15:5-6). 
 
Today the Church remembers John Keble, Anglican priest, theologian, and poet. Keble originated and helped to lead the Oxford Movement, which sought to revive the High Church ideals of the later 17th century in the Church of England. This was known as Tractarianism after its series of publications, the Tracts for the Times, published from 1833 to 1841. ‘Keble, who served as a country vicar at Hursley from 1836 until his death, is remembered as much for his lyrics as for his Tractarian role. Among his books of verse are included The Psalter or Psalms of David (1839) and the poems for childhood, Lyra Innocentium (1846); he also wrote numerous hymn lyrics, including “O God of mercy, God of might.” In 1869 Keble College, Oxford, was founded in his honour’ (www.britannica.com/). 
 
On a personal note: we got married in John Keble Church, Mill Hill - 30 years ago next month. Completed in 1936 to a modernist design, it is the only church dedicated to John Keble. 
 
We are starting Sunday services in Church again - at least for a trial period. There will be a service of Holy Communion on Sunday (19th July) at 10:30am. It will be a short and simple service without hymns. We will maintain proper physical distancing and hygiene procedures will be observed, especially during the administration of communion which will be wafers only. If you wish to come - and you are welcome to do so - it would be helpful if you could let either Ken Parsons or myself know. Then we can have some idea of numbers and make the necessary arrangements. 
 
We recognise also that many of you are not ready yet to return to public worship - and do understand and respect that. This is a decision each of us must make for ourselves and is an opportunity not a requirement. The service in Church is in addition to the recorded services for each Sunday which I will continue to make and will be available as usual on the website. 
 
The collect for today: 
Father of the eternal Word, 
in whose encompassing love 
all things in peace and order move: 
grant that, as your servant John Keble 
adored you in all creation, 
so we may have a humble heart of love 
for the mysteries of your Church 
and know your love to be new every morning, 
in 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 for today we pray for growing through God’s Word. Scripture reveals God to us and helps us to understand him and his call. ‘For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.’ (Romans 15:4). 
 
‘As much as Paradise exceeded all the places of the earth, doe the Scriptures of God exceed Paradise. 
In the midst of Paradise grew the Tree of knowledge, and the Tree of life: 
in this Paradise, the Scripture, every word is both these Trees; 
there is Life and Knowledge in every Word of God’ (John Donne). 
 
Today is Bastille Day, commemorating the storming of the Bastille, a symbol of the despotism of the ruling Bourbon monarchy, by an armed mob of Parisians on 14th July 1989 - in the opening days of the French Revolution. More properly in France it is the Fête nationale and commonly and legally le 14 juillet. 
Monday 13th July 2020 
 
‘Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High. Call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me’ (Psalm 50:14-15). 
 
Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that this is God’s world and that he is Lord of All. The spirit of this age insists that we are in charge and masters of our own destiny - and, being part of this world and living our lives in it, that message has taken root deep within us. God is our creator and sustainer and we know we can trust him: ‘the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and the dry land, which his hands have formed’ (Psalm 95:3-5). ‘We praise you, O God, we acclaim you as the Lord; all creation worships you, the Father everlasting… Throughout the world the holy Church acclaims you: Father, of majesty unbounded’ (Te Deum). 
 
‘Foodbanks and charities working with the homeless are fearful of a “huge storm” of demand this autumn, as the effect of redundancies are felt and hunger mounts. Already, volunteers are looking ahead with “fear and trepidation at what is coming down the road at us”, one foodbank manager reported. Charities fear that, as government support tails off in the autumn, the demands on charities will increase to unsustainable levels, and that a new wave of homelessness will be unleashed. Those most at risk of destitution are those already vulnerable, including migrants who are have no access to government support… 
“We are looking at a significant increase as redundancies continue, and we expect there to be a storm on the horizon.” In preparation for the autumn and winter, the foodbank has taken on more storage space to prepare for the demand. “We are concerned not just about the numbers of people coming to us for help, but that people who have donated will not be able to donate, because they will face hard times themselves ahead. We don’t know what is on the horizon, but we’re waiting with fear and trepidation of what is coming down the road at us.” 
Cathy Howard, from Oxford Food Bank, told Radio 4 this week: “A lot of people suspect it is going to get a lot worse. It is terrifying for a lot of charities, because the burden is going to fall on us.”’ (Church Times 10 July 2020). 
 
‘What good does it do me if Christ was born in Bethlehem once if he is not born again in my heart through faith?’ (Origen). 
 
We have a PCC meeting (via Zoom) this morning to discuss if/how we might open for Sunday worship. Please pray for us that we might be guided by the Spirit and know God’s wisdom and grace in this - and his will for us. 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Almighty God, 
send down upon your Church 
the riches of your Spirit, 
and kindle in all who minister the gospel 
your countless gifts of grace; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our community life, especially groups unable to meet. There has been a wonderful outpouring of community care and action over these past months. However we are all aware of the pressures the lockdown has brought on so many people, the stresses and the strains - in particular the inability to gather together. 
 
On 13th July 1985 the benefit concert Live Aid was held simultaneously at Wembley Stadium in London and JFK Stadium in Philadelphia; the event drew an estimated 1.5 billion television viewers and raised millions of pounds for famine relief in Ethiopia. 
 
‘Our culture has been confident, during the past two centuries, that it could change the world. Perhaps we may now have to insist that the point is to understand it’ (Lesslie Newbigin). 
Sunday 12th July 2020 
 
‘Hear then the parable of the sower… as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty’ (Matthew 13:18,23). 
 
This parable of the sower is one of only three that appear in all four gospels. Although it is often known as the parable of the sower and the seed, it can also be said this is a parable about the soil. For it is how the seed is received that matters here. All four types of soil are essentially the same dirt but are in different conditions and respond in different ways to cultivation. So what makes one soil more responsive and the other less? This presents a challenge for us. Everyone receives seed, the Word of God. Everyone has potential for the harvest, living a fruitful life, but the ones who will produce the most fruit will be the ones most open to his cultivation. How receptive are we? 
 
This story is illustrative of not only Jesus’ mission but also of the evangelistic work of his followers: they are all to “sow” the message of God’s kingdom. Jesus intends this parable to encourage disciples in their proclamation of the Gospel - they must be sowers too. We who have received the seed and proclaim the Gospel today are also sowers. There is an abundance of seed and the implication is that we should sow it liberally. Much of it may not fall on good soil, but that which does will yield a fruitful harvest. 
 
‘But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’ (Romans 10:14-15). 
 
The collect for this week: 
Almighty and everlasting God, 
by whose Spirit the whole body of the Church 
is governed and sanctified: 
hear our prayer which we offer for all your faithful people, 
that in their vocation and ministry 
they may serve you in holiness and truth 
to the glory of your name; 
through our Lord and Saviour 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/) 
 
‘Ministry means the ongoing attempt to put one’s own search for God, with all the moments of pain and joy, despair and hope, at the disposal of those who want to join this search but do not know how’ (Henri J.M. Nouwen). 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for those who are ill and their families. Although restrictions are being eased it can still be difficult to see one another, particularly if they are shielding. This can be very distressing both to those who suffer and family members who want to be with them in their time of need. 
 
Today, it appears, is National Simplicity Day - observed every year on 12th July to honour the life, work and philosophies of poet, author and leading transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau. Thoreau was an advocate of living a simple life and wrote a number of books around the subject. Perhaps it is particularly appropriate this year when we have had to focus on what is really important to us. 
 
There is a service for today from the church. There is also a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. Do listen out for the bell at half past ten when I ask that you join me in a time of worship and prayer. 
 
Let me share with you the prayer from the Savernake Benefice in our Diocesan Cycle of Prayer: 
We ask special prayers for the school cohorts most affected by lockdown. We pray for all of those who care so well for our children. We pray especially for all the staff as they cope marvellously with a new and unexpected set of priorities. 
Saturday 11th July 2020 
 
‘My child, if you accept my words and treasure up my commandments within you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; if you indeed cry out for insight, and raise your voice for understanding; if you seek it like silver, and search for it as for hidden treasures - then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God’ (Proverbs 2:1-5). 
 
Today the Church remembers Benedict, founder of the Benedictine order and known as the Patriarch of Western Monasticism. Born at Nursia in central Italy about 480 AD, Benedict went to Rome as a young man to finish his education. However he was horrified by the licentious behaviour of the city and left before completing his studies. Instead he decided to withdraw from the world, and eventually made his home in an almost impenetrable cave near Subiaco. He lived there as a hermit for some years, but gradually a community of disciples grew up around him. So he established twelve wooden-built monasteries, of twelve monks each, which he ruled from Subiaco. 
 
Local jealously forced Benedict to leave Subiaco, and about 525 AD he moved with a small band of monks to Monte Cassino. There paganism was still practiced. However Benedict's preaching and example made many converts and, on the site of the former temple of Apollo whose idol he overthrew, he built two chapels. At Monte Cassino Benedict elaborated his plans for the reform of monasticism and composed his Rule. What he achieved was to produce an integrated, orderly and workable way of monastic life. Indeed his Rule was to become the basis for almost all Western monastic life in the Middle Ages, whose light helped to dissipate the gloomy chaos of the dark ages. 
 
Benedict died at Monte Cassino in about 550 AD. He was buried in the same grave as his sister, St. Scholastica. Over time a great monastery was built there, and this became the home of the Benedictine order. 
 
There are a number of Benedictine communities in this country today – both Catholic and Anglican. I have found the pattern of prayer still followed by them is a great help when I have been on retreat. It provides a simple framework to a day centred on God and which everyone can join in. 
 
We have a wedding in Church today at 12 o’clock for Jude and Rhob. Do please bear them in your prayers. ‘Since the lockdown was first imposed in March owing to the coronavirus, an estimated 73,400 marriages have been postponed in the country, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported at the weekend. Although some weddings took place with only the couple, the priest, and two witnesses present before the closure of churches on 23 March, few weddings have been able to take place since. 
Last week, however, as part of a wider easing of the lockdown, the Prime Minister announced that churches could reopen for public worship from 4 July, provided that physical distancing was observed (News, 26 June). Guidelines released later stated that 30 people would be permitted to attend weddings, funerals, and other “life-cycle” services, such as baptisms, regardless of the size of the building, unless the service took place during routine communal worship (News, 3 July). The total includes the couple, witnesses, and officiant, as well as guests. 
Although wedding receptions are still not permitted, many couples took advantage of the changes to marry this weekend’ (Church Times 6 July 2020). 
 
From the wedding service: 
God of wonder and of joy: 
grace comes from you, 
and you alone are the source of life and love. 
Without you, we cannot please you; 
without your love, our deeds are worth nothing. 
Send your Holy Spirit, and pour into our hearts 
that most excellent gift of love, 
that we may worship you now with thankful hearts 
and serve you always with willing minds; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for all key workers. We recognise the many, often previously un-regarded members of the workforce, who are necessary for our society to function efficiently - or even at all. We give thanks for all their dedication and hard work, and ask God’s blessing upon them. 
 
‘Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may he bring us all together to everlasting life’ (Rule of Benedict). 
Friday 10th July 2020 
 
‘When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you’ (Matthew 10:19-20). 
 
Matthew collects together a number of related sayings of Jesus having to do with committed discipleship in the face of conflict. It is important here to notice what Jesus actually commands. The command is to not be anxious. The issue is one of confidence and trust. It is a reminder to the disciples of where their authority and power comes from, and a call to rely upon the Spirit to communicate effectively. 
 
Jesus recognizes that fear will also cause the failure of discipleship. Jesus’ disciples courageously leave the security of their homes and families to follow him as they proclaim the advent of God’s reign, but they, too, will know and ultimately bow before the power of fear. Faithful proclamation and practice of the gospel inevitably puts disciples on a collision course with the powers of this world. So, as Jesus prepares his disciples for their mission to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel,” he is starkly realistic about the threats they will face. At the same time he builds the case for why they should not let this fear master them or hinder their witness. This message is for us as well. 
 
From Archbishop Justin: ‘Unprecedented destruction calls for unprecedented cooperation. The creation of the United Nations in the rubble of the Second World War is a prime example. Yet, as we face another global crisis, the UN will not be enough to steer us through. We need new cooperation, within and outside the UN, to serve humanity and save lives. 
This week saw a remarkable glimmer of hope. After months of division, the United Nations Security Council agreed a resolution which demands immediate ceasefires in conflicts across the world. These will allow relief to reach the most vulnerable - in countries already ravaged by armed conflict and crippled by humanitarian crises - potentially sparing them the worst effects of Covid. It shows the Security Council recognising its responsibility to model courageous leadership in the interests of peace… 
This is a time for us all to be courageous, to reach across chasms of difference, and emerge into a post-Covid world with relationships, systems, and institutions that serve humanity. We must not, in this country or internationally, establish identity by making enemies of others or renewing old hatred and rivalries. Let us do the opposite: valuing diversity, disagreeing passionately, but with respect and care. In the words of St Paul in the Epistle to the Romans 14.19: “Let us pursue what makes for peace and mutual upbuilding,” working together during this crisis for more than our own safety’ (The Most Revd Justin Welby, Church Times 3 July 2020). 
 
We pray: 
Creator God, 
may every breath we take be for your glory, 
may every footstep show you as our way, 
that, trusting in your presence in this world, 
we may, beyond this life, still be with you 
where you are alive and reign 
for ever and ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for the Trafalgar School at Downton. This month many 16-year olds will be leaving for an uncertain future, while in September new Year 7 pupils will arrive after a disruptive end to their primary education. Pupils and staff are bearing up well on the whole but continue to need our prayer. 
Thursday 9th July 2020 
 
‘O give thanks to the Lord, call on his name, make known his deeds among the peoples. Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wonderful works. Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice’ (Psalm 105:1-3). 
 
There is much to give thanks to God for even in the midst of these strange times. We thank him for all the blessings we know living in this beautiful - and so far relatively unaffected - part of the country; for family, friends and neighbours, and the increase in neighbourliness and community helpfulness; for our health professionals and the tireless work of so many others to ensure our essential services continue smoothly; for the dedication and commitment of our school staff; and for so very much more. 
 
Above all we thank God for his living presence amongst us and in our hearts and lives. ‘John Robinson, in his book The New Reformation?, has this to say: ‘We have got to relearn that “the house of God” is primarily the world in which God lives, not the contractor’s hut set up in the grounds’. We are to pray for the coming of the kingdom. It shall eventually be on earth as it is in heaven. Meanwhile, the kingdom is already breaking forth. It is among us. Or rather, we are always in the midst of the kingdom God is building in the world. We are to be faithful to the calling of the kingdom first: ‘strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness’ (Matthew 6.33). Churches may grow then, or they may decline. But faithfulness always matters more than success. Meanwhile, we are to be agents of God’s kingdom. God is at work through people, times, places - contexts and cultures - reconciling the world to himself through love and mercy. We are asked to join in that work, and foster it’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 6 July 2020). 
 
A General Thanksgiving 
Almighty God, Father of all mercies, 
we your unworthy servants give you most humble and hearty thanks 
for all your goodness and loving kindness. 
We bless you for our creation, preservation, 
and all the blessings of this life; 
but above all for your immeasurable love 
in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ, 
for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory. 
And give us, we pray, such a sense of all your mercies 
that our hearts may be unfeignedly thankful, 
and that we show forth your praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, 
by giving up ourselves to your service, 
and by walking before you in holiness and righteousness all our days; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord, 
to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, 
be all honour and glory, for ever and ever. Amen. 
(adapted from The Book of Common Prayer https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for all who have lost their jobs or are unable to find work. For many the outlook is bleak as the furlough scheme draws towards an end and we hear of more businesses laying off workers or going into administration. 
 
‘Love cannot be an unchanging system of rules... Jesus Christ is not frozen in the first century... He is part of an infinite variety of human experiences, which alter from age to age. To imitate him will be to find out what the contemporary age is like, and how love is best expressed in it. This imitation of Christ our contemporary is of course a more complex and challenging business than the obeying of ancient precepts’ (Archbishop Robert Runcie). 
 
Today is the 9th anniversary of South Sudan declaring its independence after a referendum to secede from Sudan was passed overwhelmingly. This was the outcome of a 2005 agreement that ended Africa’s longest-running civil war. Previously the 10 southern-most states of Sudan, South Sudan is one of the most diverse countries in Africa and two-thirds the size of the whole of Europe. It is also one of the world's most underdeveloped economies with endemic poverty. 
Wednesday 8th July 2020 
 
‘Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you’ (Hosea 10:12). 
 
The actions and deeds of our lives are like seeds scattered abroad. They have a negative or positive effect on those around us. If we sow in righteousness, we will reap in mercy. However some hearts have become hardened to God, like ground that is hard and stubborn, resistant to the seed. It does little good to sow seed on fallow ground; it must be broken up first. Only when we are receptive can God’s seed grow in our hearts and we can produce a harvest for God. To ‘rain righteousness’ is the same image as the psalmist uses of Christ; ‘May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass, like showers that water the earth’ (Psalm 72:6), and Isaiah, ‘Shower, O heavens, from above, and let the skies rain down righteousness; let the earth open, that salvation may spring up, and let it cause righteousness to sprout up also; I the Lord have created it’ (Isaiah 45:8). 
 
‘Our confidence is that God’s faithfulness will prevail over our faithlessness, that he will recall us, that he will not let us go. Our broken resolutions witness against us, but he renews to us daily the miracle of his forgiveness, because he is faithful to his friends’ (Austin Farrer). 
 
This was supposed to be the annual Clergy Day for the diocese. This is an opportunity for all the clergy to gather together, far from the paces of our daily ministry, for fellowship and mutual encouragement. We have had some very good speakers over the years. I have to say that my favourite was the Director of the British Museum, Neil MacGregor who has made some excellent podcasts - such as A History of the World in 100 Objects - which I would highly recommend. 
 
‘"They would rather die of Covid-19 than hunger” is the really distressing plea delivered by Archbishop Ezekiel Kondo in Khartoum, Sudan. This shocking statement and appeals for help from church leaders throughout the Sudans has led Bishop Nicholas to launch an Emergency Appeal for the Sudans. He is asking our Diocese to give generously for this desperate need and help him raise over £50,000 in a month. Launching the Appeal with a video and a letter, Bishop Nicholas said: “Our own problems with Covid-19 in this country are significant, but our brothers and sisters in South Sudan and Sudan face even greater problems with even less resources. “The pandemic has added another frightening aspect to lives in the Sudans where ‘normal’ includes hunger and the threat of disease. “I hope and pray we will be generous.”’ (Diocese of Salisbury Grapevine, 6 July 2020). 
 
We pray: 
O Lord our God, 
grant us grace to desire you with our whole heart; 
that so desiring, we may seek and find you; 
and so finding, may love you; 
and so loving, may hate those sins from which 
you have delivered us; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for all those who care for loved ones at home. This year many more people have taken on additional caring responsibilities for their relatives and friends who are disabled, ill or older and who need support. 
 
I will be saying a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church at 10:30am. I shall ring the bell and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. 
 
‘I will make them and the region around my hill a blessing; and I will send down the showers in their season; they shall be showers of blessing. The trees of the field shall yield their fruit, and the earth shall yield its increase. They shall be secure on their soil; and they shall know that I am the Lord, when I break the bars of their yoke, and save them from the hands of those who enslaved them’ (Ezekiel 34:26-27). 
Tuesday 7th July 2020 
 
When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest’ (Matthew 9:36-38). 
 
As Jesus sees the needs around him, he is filled with pity and love. He is working for the healing of the nation as much as of those people who are physically or mentally ill. That involves him in a confrontation with the authorities as well as looking to the needs of individuals. True shepherds must be found, proper leaders who will guide the country in Godly ways, caring for the weak, the powerless and the vulnerable - as well as shepherds who will seek to grow the Church. ‘He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?’ (Micah 6:8). 
 
‘We can be encouraged by Jesus’ realism: the task is overwhelming…. But statistics and quantities are not ultimate realities. The only reality worth taking with ultimate seriousness is the Living God’ (Frederick Bruner). 
 
‘The changes in guidelines that will allow many of our churches to unlock doesn’t mean our new ways of ‘doing church’ online will stop. With the worship in our churches set to feel very different to pre-virus days, and many people finding they are enjoying the many ways you can pray and worship online, ministry teams throughout our Diocese are in the process of finding the right blend of the new and the old ‘normal’ together. And with social distancing meaning some activities still can’t move offline, online video conferencing is still proving a great way to keep ministry and mission going in our communities’ (Diocese of Salisbury Grapevine, 3 July 2020). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Gracious Father, 
by the obedience of Jesus 
you brought salvation to our wayward world: 
draw us into harmony with your will, 
that we may find all things restored in him, 
our Saviour Jesus Christ. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our Team Rector and family - thank you for your prayers, they are a great support particularly at this time. Please pray also for the other members of our Clergy Team, David and Veronica and their families - together with our retired clergy, especially Ron who lives here in Downton with his wife Creddy. 
 
Today we have the funeral for Judy’s mother, Joan. In line with current restrictions, this will be for family only, most of whom are coming some distance. I ask that you bear us in your prayers. This will be the first service in our church since the lockdown began. So in many ways there is a sense that we are venturing into something new. We hope that the weather is fine so that those who are travelling are able to have a picnic before returning home. 
 
Apparently books and films about apocalyptic events have become increasing popular recently. In the Bible, of course, we have the story of the flood. So, I thought this might be of interest: 
‘We all know the story of Noah’s Ark. Ever since George Smith’s 1872 translation of Babylonian texts similar to the Biblical Deluge (see “George Smith’s Other Find” below), we’ve also known about echoes of the Genesis narrative in pre-Biblical Mesopotamian texts. A recently translated Old Babylonian (c. 1900–1700 B.C.E.) tablet has literally reshaped our vision of the Babylonian vessel used to weather the storm and builds bridges across the floodwaters dividing the Biblical and Mesopotamian accounts of the flood… The text describes the construction of a coracle or gufa, a traditional basket-like boat that would have been familiar to Mesopotamian audiences. Of course, this is no average coracle—Atrahasis is to build a boat with a diameter of close to 230 feet across and 20-foot-high walls. The boat is made out of a massive quantity of palm-fiber rope, sealed with bitumen. This isn’t exactly the same ark that Noah built’ (https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/). 
Monday 6th July 2020 
 
‘O Lord, who may abide in your tent? Who may dwell on your holy hill? Those who walk blamelessly, and do what is right, and speak the truth from their heart; who do not slander with their tongue, and do no evil to their friends, nor take up a reproach against their neighbours’ (Psalm 15:1-3). 
 
The question here is equivalent to asking: who is qualified to dwell with God? His holy hill is regarded as the dwelling-place of God, the type of heaven, the eternal abode of the Most High. In other words, what kind of person does God want me to be? The Hebrew of the phrase ‘who may dwell’ does not suggest ‘living in,’ but rather ‘visiting with’ - that is to say, being acceptable to come into God’s presence. So the psalm has at least an equally strong present tense application as it does a future one. It is interesting to note that while Christians usually choose Psalm 23 as their favourite psalm, Jews often choose Psalm 15. 
 
Today the Church remembers Sir Thomas More. ‘More was an English lawyer, scholar, writer, member of parliament and chancellor in the reign of Henry VIII. He was executed for refusing to recognise Henry VIII’s divorce and the English church’s break with Rome… More took the post of lord chancellor in 1529, just as Henry had become determined to obtain a divorce from Catherine of Aragon. The previous chancellor, Lord Wolsey, had failed to achieve this objective. Henry was close to breaking with the Church of Rome, and the so-called ‘Reformation parliament’ was about to convene. When Henry declared himself ‘supreme head of the Church in England’ - thus establishing the Anglican Church and allowing him to end his marriage - More resigned the chancellorship. He continued to argue against the king’s divorce and the split with Rome, and in 1534 was arrested after refusing to swear an oath of succession repudiating the pope and accepting the annulment of Henry’s marriage. He was tried for treason at Westminster and on 6 July 1535 was executed on Tower Hill’ (http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/). He is recognized as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church. 
 
In the words of the 1960 play, and then film, about Thomas More, he was A Man for All Seasons - the title taken from a description of him by a contemporary, Robert Whittington. Although perhaps another way of seeing him is through the phrase coined by Bertrand Russell ‘I am firm, you are obstinate, he is a pig-headed fool’. 
 
Thomas More’s time was one of great religious conflict. We are inclined look askance at all the violence and - as we would see it - bigotry. Perhaps we do better to see this as a time when passions ran high because people took their faith and its implications in deadly earnest. It was a most serious matter with eternal consequences and so it was incredibly important to get it right. Maybe the challenge they have for us today is: do we take our religion seriously enough? 
 
A Prayer by Thomas More 
Good Lord, give us Your grace 
not to read or hear this Gospel of Your bitter Passion 
with our eyes and our ears in manner of a pastime, 
but that it may with compassion so sink into our hearts 
that it may stretch to the everlasting profit of our souls. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for all visitors to our Churches. They may have come in for private prayer, stood outside, paused in the churchyard or visited us online. We hope it will not be long before we can open our buildings again for small services and those who simply want to look round. 
 
There has been much in the news about the economic impact of the pandemic. So it’s good to hear something positive: ‘The Church Commissioners have survived the worst of the economic turmoil brought about by the coronavirus: their £8.7-billion fund is mostly back to where it stood before the pandemic hit… Because the Commissioners’ stocks are diversified and include fewer publicly listed equities than the average fund, they did not drop as precipitously as the wider market did. A spokesman for the Commissioners explained on Tuesday that their fund was, by nature, more diversified, and better protected from stock-market crashes’ (Church Times 3 July 2020). 
Sunday 5th July 2020 
 
‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light’ (Matthew 11:28-30). 
 
Here Jesus summarizes the invitation to discipleship that characterised his earthly ministry. Jesus had called Peter and Andrew with a similar expression (Matthew 4:19), but there it was “Come after me,” while here it is “Come to me.” He is addressing the people around him who were burdened and weighed down with the externalism and the legal do’s and don’ts of the Pharisees, and with the consequences of that - the guilt, frustration, and dissatisfaction. They are like the crowds earlier whom Jesus said are harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36). 
 
Jesus is our shepherd - the Good Shepherd - and our faith goes beyond the law to the purpose and spirit of the law, which is love. We are to learn from him: ‘my yoke is easy,’ he tells us, ‘and my burden is light’. He won’t weigh us down with impossible demands. If we trust in him and follow him, he will teach us and sustain us. ‘Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ’ (1 Peter 2:4-5). 
 
Some churches, mainly cathedrals and other larger buildings, will be holding their first public services for over three months today. This is an important moment for them and in the life of the Church in this country - and we hold them in our prayers. We have not yet made a decision when we will resume services here but hope that we will be able to do so soon. ‘Where it is safe and they are able, our churches are unlocking for worship, weddings and funerals. Following closely behind the unlocking for private prayer, for many it will be the first time they have been back in church for many months. While for some, it will be the first time. Introduced to online worship during the lockdown, many of those in our new online congregations will now find a warm welcome waiting inside our buildings’ (Diocese of Salisbury Grapevine, 3 July 2020). 
 
The collect for this week: 
O God, the protector of all who trust in you, 
without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: 
increase and multiply upon us your mercy; 
that with you as our ruler and guide 
we may so pass through things temporal 
that we lose not our hold on things eternal; 
grant this, heavenly Father, 
for our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for Churches Together in Downton, as we remember that we all belong to God’s kingdom and have the one gospel to proclaim - and that is what matters. 
 
There is a service for today from the church and also a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. Do listen out for the bell at half past ten when I ask that you join me in a time of worship and prayer. We also have another contribution from Ron Hart, who was due to take our service in St Laurence today. It is attached. Thank you, Ron. 
 
‘The Lord could do without our intercession and our praise. Yet it is the mystery of God, that he should require us, his co-workers, to keep on praying and never lose heart’ (The Rule of Taizé). 
Saturday 4th July 2020 
 
‘Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts. Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land. Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other. Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky’ (Psalm 85:8-11). 
 
This psalm is a prayer at a time of real difficulty for the ancient faith community. They prayed for joy, joy that can come from God's presence in the midst of the community. This proclamation of salvation is a strong word of encouragement and assurance in a community crisis. It is a word of hope, and the worship setting seeks to call the community to trust and faithfulness in the God who will bring about this salvation. 
 
At this time, we too look to God for reassurance and hope. We live in difficult times and consider our response as the Church both now and in the future. God is faithful and just; he has called us to follow his ways. What should be the prophetic word and the character of his Church today? What is he calling us to be today; how are we offering his love and hope in our community? 
 
‘The choir at Salisbury Cathedral have teamed up with the Government's secretive science labs to find a way to start singing safely again. Scientists have attended a choir rehearsal at Salisbury Cathedral to test the reach of spray and spittle from the choirs. The choirs professional singers will perform a series of tests in the government science facility at nearby Porton Down to establish how close the choir can stand to each other. Services at the cathedral had moved online during the pandemic but as lockdown measures ease, the famous cathedral choir hopes to start singing under that famous spire again. And once the labs determine the minimum social distance, Salisbury can exult in hearing music to sooth the soul again, in a city which has been through so much in recent years’ (itv.com). 
 
On Wednesday I met with a couple, Jude and Rhob, who are eager to get married in Church at the first available opportunity. We have arranged their service for 11th July. It won’t be the same for them without all their family and friends to witness this important moment in their lives and to be a part of it. However what matters most will be there - the two of them coming before God to join together as one and commit themselves to each other. Please bear them in your prayers at this time. 
 
We pray: 
Eternal Father of my soul, 
let my first thought today be of thee, 
let my first impulse be to worship thee, 
let my first speech be thy name, 
let my first action be to kneel before thee in prayer. 
(John Baillie) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our Church School - both those children now in school and those who are still distance learning - that they may continue to grow in understanding and experience. Also we give thanks for the commitment, dedication and professionalism of the staff, and for all who support and work with them - and bear them in our prayers. We bring before God their preparations for September and the hopes and fears attendant on that. 
 
‘Ours is a Creator who from the first has been lovingly involved in his creation. The God who took pleasure in the creation in those first days has never stopped loving it and nurturing it. He has never left it, and he guards it as it moves towards its fulfilment. Our convictions about the Creator’s involvement are most plainly seen when the Creative Word itself became flesh in the person of Jesus’ (Christopher P. Burkett). 
Friday 3rd July 2020 
 
Jesus said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe’ (John 20:27-29). 
 
Today the Church celebrates Thomas. Thomas was one of the twelve apostles, and his main characteristic seems to have been that of a questioner. He was a man who wanted to see, to understand, before he was willing to commit himself whole-heartedly. He is often rather unfairly held up as lacking in faith because of that. 
 
Perhaps it would be more true to say that Thomas was honest. He did not pretend to a level of understanding, or of faith, which he did not have. He knew what it was to doubt, and he faced up to that. He didn't simply fall into line with accepted belief or allow himself to be carried along by it. In addition, Thomas was willing to voice his doubts, to be open about his lack of comprehension. This took courage. When the other disciples hold back, it is Thomas who tells our Lord that he doesn't understand. Such an admission often prompted Jesus into further teaching, which continues to benefit us today. 
 
Thomas had a questioning faith, which proved also to be a more mature one. Of all the disciples, he is the one who declares “My Lord, and my God” (John 20:28) - accepting and acknowledging Jesus's divinity for the first time. Having worked it through for himself, Thomas's faith was all the more secure - enabling him to move forward and to grow. In this he is an example for us all. For our faith to truly flourish we must face up to our doubts and work through towards a true acceptance and understanding. ‘Faith is not a terminus but a starting point from which understanding can begin. This model is offered for acceptance by faith as the way to understanding. Its motto is “Credo ut intelligam” I believe in order that I may understand’ (Lesslie Newbigin). 
 
In his later life, Thomas’ mature faith and courage are shown as he takes the Gospel to India. The Syrian Christians of Malabar have a tradition that they were evangelized by Thomas - and continue to call themselves the `Christians of St Thomas'. Thomas was eventually martyred and buried at Mylapore, near Madras. 
 
The collect for today: 
Almighty and eternal God, 
who, for the firmer foundation of our faith, 
allowed your holy apostle Thomas 
to doubt the resurrection of your Son 
till word and sight convinced him: 
grant to us, who have not seen, that we also may believe 
and so confess Christ as our Lord and our God; 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for the bereaved, remembering especially those who cannot have their loved ones with them in their last hours, and those relatives and friends unable to attend a funeral. The inability to say a proper goodbye or to share together in mourning and remembrance is an added pressure at an already difficult time. We give thanks that we can now hold funerals in Church for a limited number. 
 
In our Diocesan Cycle of Prayer today we pray for our bishops, Nicholas, Andrew and Karen. They ask us: Please pray for wisdom and good judgement in the oversight of the diocese as we come out of ‘lockdown’. May we all learn lessons from what is new and has gone well and we want to keep; and what is old and we value deeply and we want to retain. 
 
Yesterday we drove 290 miles to Chelmsford and back so that I could officiate at my aunt’s funeral. I was very glad to do so, but it is by far the furthest we have travelled since the lockdown began - and, to be honest, we were somewhat nervous. It didn’t help that at times we were driving through absolutely torrential rain. Unlike previous such occasions, we were unable to stay overnight, nor was there a proper opportunity fully to socialise afterwards. Even so, it was a good and blessed time. 
 
‘Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase’ (Martin Luther King, Jr.). 
Thursday 2nd July 2020 
 
Amos answered Amaziah, ‘I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees, and the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, “Go, prophesy to my people Israel”’ (Amos 7:14-15). 
 
The prophets of the Old Testament were called to bring the hard truth to God’s chosen people, so that they would be forced to take an honest look at themselves and realize their need for reconciliation with God. As we see from our brief glimpse of him in this passage, Amos was all about hard truths. This was a time of economic boom with luxurious living, moral corruption and rampant idolatry. Wealth and security had led the people to forget God’s ways. They needed to hear his word anew. 
 
For Amos prophesy was not a job but a calling from God to speak out. That is true for all Christians. We are all called to be prophets: proclaiming the truth. Speaking God’s word to the world is not just the job of the ‘professionals’. It is what each one of us called to do. Many people believe that our faith should remain a private matter and its social implications should never be mentioned in the public arena. Se we need a balance of courage and discretion in facing such issues today. Too often we ask “Why doesn’t the Church speak out?” We are the Church – so our question should be “Why are we not speaking out?”. 
 
‘A joint letter calling for Safe Passage for child refugees has now been signed by over 250 faith leaders. Our Bishops added their signatures to last week's Safe Passage open letters that call upon our Prime Minister to offer sanctuary to unaccompanied children stranded in Europe. The letters sent by Safe Passage in Wiltshire, signed by Bishop Nicholas and Bishop Andrew - and Safe Passage in Dorset, signed by Bishop Karen - explain more than 1,600 unaccompanied children remain stuck on the Greek islands. The letter comes as the UNHCR published their Global Trends Report, which has stated that an unprecedented 79.5 MILLION PEOPLE were displaced as of the end of 2019, with nearly half of the those forcibly displaced being children’ (Diocese of Salisbury Grapevine, 27 June 2020). 
 
‘Is it heartless to take issue with most diocesan mission statements? After all, they are the work of many hands. Committees and bishops’ leadership teams have sweated over them for days in conference centres and retreat houses, agonising over every word, poring over phrases, and satisfying competing interests and points of view. But few mission statements really focus on the imperatives of the gospel. They do not tell us much about how the Church should reflect on its identity and values, or how to respond to many of today’s pressing issues, such as the racism embedded in our nation’s culture and history. When Jesus preached at Nazareth (Luke 4.16-30), he quoted words from Isaiah 61.1-2. His message, he said, was “good news to the poor”. It is good news for the outcasts, the misfits, the ill and the dying, the disadvantaged, and the marginalised. The poor to whom Jesus refers are not only those who are poor in a literal sense: those without the money and opportunity to feed and clothe themselves. He also includes those who face illness, hardship, neglect, prejudice, exclusion, loss, and disability. He means the people who are deprived of what the healthy, the happy, and the advantaged take for granted’ (Anthony Bash, Church Times 26 June 2020). 
 
The prayer after communion for this week: 
O God, whose beauty is beyond our imagining 
and whose power we cannot comprehend: 
show us your glory as far as we can grasp it, 
and shield us from knowing more than we can bear 
until we may look upon you without fear; 
through Jesus Christ our Saviour. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our Churchwarden and Deputy Churchwardens. They work hard for our Church and their ministry is particularly important now as we begin to open the Church up again. 
 
‘Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are’ (St Augustine). 
Wednesday 1st July 2020 
 
‘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’ (Psalm 77:11-14). 
 
The writer of Psalm 77 wrestles with his faith at a difficult time. Perhaps he has got God wrong? Does he limit God because he sees him through too narrow a focus? How about us? What are we asking God to be? Is he a troubleshooter - God who is good to have around when I’m in trouble; a distant authority figure - God gives us laws but isn’t really concerned about the ordinary parts of my life; a grandparent - God gives me what I want? God is so very much more than these. He is involved in every aspect of our lives: the good and the bad, the highs and the lows, when faith is easy and when it is hard. He loves us and he is there for us. 
 
We can say with Paul ‘I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Romans 8:38-39). 
 
As we look to economic recovery beyond the pandemic, the Vatican has recommended disinvestment from fossil fuels: ‘The Vatican has published a document aimed at Roman Catholics and other Christians on how to relate to God’s creation. It marks the fifth anniversary of Pope Francis’s environmental encyclical Laudato Si’: On care for our common home (News, 26 June 2015). The document, Journeying for the Care of the Common Home, urges Christians to disinvest from fossil-fuel companies, build a circular zero-waste economy; and advocate forms of low-carbon development, such as reforestation. Released on Thursday of last week, the document was compiled before the pandemic by several Vatican dicasteries that have been working on “integral ecology” in association with other RC bodies since 2015. An English-language version has not yet been published, but Vatican News summarises the central argument that “everything is connected”. “Each particular crisis forms part of a single, complex socio-environmental crisis that requires a true ecological conversion.”‘ (Church Times 26 June 2020 - a dicastery is a department of the Roman Curia). 
 
On 1st July 1535 Sir Thomas More went on trial in Westminster Hall for treason for refusing to accept King Henry VIII as head of the Church of England. On the charge of opposing the Henry’s marriage, Sir Thomas freely admitted that he had, “according to the dictates of my conscience,” told the King his true opinion. To do otherwise, he said, would have “basely flattered” his Majesty and made him “a wicked subject” and “a traitor to God.” 
 
A prayer by Sir Thomas More 
And give me, good Lord, 
an humble, lowly, quiet, 
peaceable, patient, charitable, 
kind and filial and tender mind, 
every shade, in fact, of charity, 
with all my words and all my works, 
and all my thoughts, 
to have a taste of thy holy blessed Spirit. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for peace in the world. As nations compete for scarce resources during the pandemic (in the news today we hear that the US has bought up the entire world stock of key Covid-19 drug remdesivir), or use this opportunity to increase their power and influence in the world - so we pray that God will lead us into his paths of peace and understanding. ‘By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace’ (Luke 1:78-79). 
 
I shall be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church at 10:30am. I shall ring the bell and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. 
Tuesday 30th June 2020 
 
Jesus said to them, ‘Why are you afraid, you of little faith?’ Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a dead calm. They were amazed, saying, ‘What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?’ (Matthew 8:26-27). 
 
Although the disciples had some faith in Jesus, there was a great deal of fear and unbelief too. In Luke, the phrase is, “where is your faith?” what is become of it? You professed but just now to believe in me, is your faith gone already? In Mark it is, “how is it that you have no faith?” That is, in their exercise of it, their faith was only small. Clearly they did have faith - but they are finding it difficult to trust it, to accept its implications. 
 
How often does that apply to us too when things are hard? We are like the father of a boy just before Jesus heals him ‘I believe; help my unbelief!’ (Mark 9:24). ‘We may have crossed the boundary from unbelief to faith, but we have not fully explored the new country’ (John Fenton). 
 
We have been discussing when and how we can start services in St Laurence again. Of course, we don’t know how many would wish to come in the present circumstances. Opening up the Church is not as straightforward as it may seem. We have to ensure that proper procedures are in place to protect - as far as is practicable - all who come to worship. There is physical distancing to observe, orders of service to consider and arrangements for administering communion. In addition to all this, we must keep those areas of the building and anything people may touch as clean as we can. This requires both careful preparation and continuing vigilance - whilst not losing sight of the purpose for which we are here. 
 
Guidance from the government on public worship was finally published yesterday: ‘No maximum number is specified for people attending for general worship, which includes led prayers, devotions, or meditations. The guidance confirms, however, that a maximum of 30 people are permitted to attend weddings, funerals, and other “life-cycle” services, such as baptisms, regardless of the size of the building… The guidance advises that all services should be completed in the “shortest reasonable time”, and the building emptied promptly.’ We are also encouraged to continue recording services (as we intend to do anyway): ‘It is recommended that, where possible, places of worship continue to stream worship or other events to avoid large gatherings and to continue to reach those individuals who are self-isolating or particularly vulnerable to Covid-19’ (Church Times 29 June 2020). 
 
The July 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 let anyone know that you think may want one. They and we would be most grateful. 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
God our saviour, 
look on this wounded world 
in pity and in power; 
hold us fast to your promises of peace 
won for us by your Son, 
our Saviour Jesus Christ. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our Parochial Church Council (PCC). As the trustees for St Laurence, the members have the responsibility for the risk assessments that need to be prepared for the Church and decisions on how and when we can start worship again. 
 
On 30th June 1908 a large and powerful explosion occurred in the stratosphere above the remote taiga near the Podkamennaya Tunguska River in central Siberia. The blast, caused by the explosion of an incoming comet or meteorite above the site, levelled about 2,000 square miles (5,200 square kilometres) of pine forest. The force of the explosion was estimated to be roughly 1,000 times the power of the atomic blast that destroyed Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945. We can thank God it didn’t happen somewhere more densely populated. 
 
‘Faith which does not doubt is dead faith’ (Miguel de Unamuno). 
Monday 29th June 2020 
 
‘I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven’ (Matthew 16:18-19). 
 
Today the Church celebrates the Apostle Peter. Peter was a fisherman from Bethsaida, a village near Lake Tiberias. He was one of the first disciples to be called by Jesus, along with his brother Andrew. The gospels portray him as a blunt and direct man, rather inclined to leap in with both feet. At first sight Peter was not the man that we might have picked out as a leader. However, he it is who generally takes the lead among the twelve and is the spokesman for the apostles. He also appears as ardent and humble with a passionate love of Christ. 
 
It is Peter who first professes the belief that Jesus is the Christ: ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ (Matthew 16:16). It is after this that our Lord says: `I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church’ (Matthew 16:18). It is on this passage that the claims of the Popes are made, and its interpretation has caused much controversy. After Jesus’ arrest, we have that poignant story of Peter’s denial of Jesus three times, and his subsequent repentance, and later restoration by the risen Jesus with the triple command to feed his sheep. 
 
Following the Ascension, Peter begins to flourish. He takes the lead immediately and is seen clearly as the leader of the first church. Peter is the one who speaks on the day of Pentecost; he is the first to perform a miracle in the name of Jesus; together with John he performs what amounts to the first confirmations (in Samaria); and he is the first to baptize Gentiles into the Church. 
 
The tradition connecting Peter with Rome is well supported. St Jerome records that Peter was bishop there for 25 years before suffering martyrdom. He probably died during the reign of Nero, in the persecution of 64 AD. The old legend that Peter was fleeing from Rome when he met Christ along the Appian Way, is recorded in the book Quo Vadis by Henryk Sienkiewicz (and the 1951 film). 
 
You will have seen in the news that Churches can begin opening up again for worship from next weekend. We have not yet made a decision on how we are going to respond to that. We will keep you informed. Whatever we do, I shall continue recording Sunday services and posting them on our website, at least for the time being. 
 
‘In today’s digital age whilst Zoom, social media and online church services are keeping many connected during the coronavirus lockdown, those self-isolating without internet access can be left feeling forgotten. Daily Hope, a free phone line, was set up to address that - and since it was launched by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby on 26 April, more than 150,000 calls have been received, totalling more than 1.7 million minutes of listen time’ (Diocese of Salisbury Grapevine 27 June 2020). 
 
The prayer for today: 
Almighty God, 
who inspired your apostle Saint Peter 
to confess Jesus as Christ and Son of the living God: 
build up your Church upon this rock, 
that in unity and peace it may proclaim one truth 
and follow one Lord, your Son our Saviour Christ, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for those due to be ordained this year. In addition to those who were due to be priested on Saturday, there are the many new curates across the country who are waiting to be made deacon. Here in Salisbury Diocese, they are being appointed as lay workers – and, as with the new priests, will be ordained now on 26th September (the priests at 11am and the deacons at 5pm). 
 
‘What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like’ (St Augustine). 
Sunday 28th June 2020 
 
‘Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me’ (Matthew 10:40). 
 
Jesus is sending his disciples out to share the good news. They are his ambassadors. They go in his name and with his authority, proclaiming the Kingdom of God. So it is with us ‘we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us’ says St Paul (2 Corinthians 5:20). An ambassador of Jesus Christ is any person who is a follower of Jesus and is thus sent out to live and work to his praise and glory in daily life. This is about people living out their Christian discipleship among all the people and places of their week. Paul precedes his declaration with ‘God.. reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us’ ((2 Corinthians 5:20). 
 
The Church Times this week is devoted to an ‘attempt to stimulate debate within the Church about how life might be once the threat of the coronavirus pandemic has receded’. Here is part of just one contribution: 
‘Crises reveal truth. They lay bare weaknesses, they expose dysfunctionality, they magnify pre-existing problems, and they show up the holes in systems and structures. You cannot lie to a crisis, and you cannot hide away from it. So, what is the coronavirus crisis telling us? 
First, it is revealing something about our national life, and any attempt to rethink the ministry of the Church of England must begin with an attentive listening to the culture that it is our task to transform in Christ. I believe that we are seeing the unpicking of the lie that people today are not interested in the gospel. We have, instead, a nation relearning how to pray, looking to us for answers to the big questions, and accessing church life through online means in a way that we could not have imagined possible six months ago. Some studies reckon that one in three of the population have attended online worship since lockdown began. One Sunday, the Christians crashed Zoom. 
At the same time, we are called to serve a nation on the brink of the most serious economic catastrophe in peacetime. Foodbank use has spiralled, unemployment is likely to reach levels unknown since the early 1980s, and the closure of schools is having a profound impact on the well-being and prospects of the most vulnerable children. The hollowing out of local government and the voluntary sector through ten years of austerity gives churches a huge responsibility to serve the neediest. 
We are at a point in history when the nation is crying out for the ministry of the Church. But are we ready? Are our patterns of ministry robust enough to grasp hold of the biggest evangelistic opportunity that any of us will ever know?’ (Rt Revd Philip North, Church Times 26 June 2020). 
 
The collect for this week: 
Almighty God, 
you have broken the tyranny of sin 
and have sent the Spirit of your Son into our hearts 
whereby we call you Father: 
give us grace to dedicate our freedom to your service, 
that we and all creation may be brought 
to the glorious liberty of the children of God; 
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 service for today and a service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. Do listen out for the bell at half past ten when I ask that you join me in a time of worship and prayer. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for volunteers helping others in their community. Behind the headline stories of selfishness, there are greater numbers of people helping out and engaging with their neighbours. We are discovering new ways of being community, and this has been a real silver lining to the events of these past months. 
 
On this day in 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and his consort, Sophie, were assassinated by Gavrilo Princip in Sarajevo, Bosnia, precipitating the outbreak of World War I. Five years later, on 28th June 1919, the Treaty of Versailles was signed at the Palace of Versailles in France, signifying the end of World War I. 
Saturday 27th June 2020 
 
‘Salt is good; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure heap; they throw it away. Let anyone with ears to hear listen!’ (Luke 14:34-35). 
 
Salt is good as long as it is salty. If not, it is thrown away. Salt in the ancient world was used in several ways: as a catalyst for a fire, as seasoning, as a preservative and as fertilizer. In each case the presence of salt facilitated some function. But once salt ceases to perform its role, then it is good for nothing. Similarly, Jesus says, the disciple who loses “saltiness” can become useless to God. Discipleship is serious business to Jesus. We need to count the cost and be committed - and successful discipleship requires that we put God first. 
 
We are called to be the salt, the leaven of our culture and of our time. Jesus’ point in talking about salt is this: If we lose our basic nature, our God-given usefulness, then we are unhelpful to the Kingdom and God’s work in the world. His message is a harsh one, but one we need to hear. 
 
‘The kind of lifestyle God expects from his people means unquestioning loyalty to the one God, a loyalty which will find practical expression in a caring society. Only if that call is heeded can the people lay claim - as they are only too anxious to do - to the promises of God’ (Robert Davidson). 
 
Bishop Nicholas writes ‘The prospect of churches being able to re-open for worship is a relief and will be a great joy for many. There is also likely to be some anxiety about whether reopening is possible in local circumstances and some may be wondering whether the easing of lockdown is wise. As I write, I have not seen the statutory instrument that relaxes the current prohibition nor the government’s detailed guidance on how the relaxation is to be effected. Equally, the national Church’s guidance is provisional until those documents are available. I understand that the government guidance may not be available until the end of the week and so the national Church’s guidance will follow on from that.’ 
 
Today we were due to have our Church Fete. Being unable to hold it means we miss out on the fellowship as we come together to put it on as the Church community. Also we cannot offer this occasion to our neighbours; we miss an opportunity to share the faith and raise the profile of St Laurence in the village; and we miss out on much needed income. It is perhaps some small consolation that it is raining this morning and more is forecast. We really need the rain, so we can’t complain if the Lord takes this opportunity to give us some! 
 
Also today eight deacons in the diocese were due to be ordained priest. This has been rearranged now for 26th September. We hold them in our prayers at this time. 
 
We pray: 
Lord, you have called us to be the salt of the earth. 
Sprinkle us across our village, 
across our world, 
to bring the flavour of your Kingdom wherever we go. 
Lord, you have called us to be the light of the world. 
Uncover the radiance that is within us, 
to shine the truth of your love wherever we go. 
Lord, may our light shine before others 
that everyone we meet 
may see our lives of worship 
and glorify you, our Father in heaven. 
(based on a benediction by Sam Hargreaves) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our Bishops: Bishop Nicholas, our diocesan bishop, and Bishops Andrew and Karen, our suffragan bishops. They continue to work hard to hold everything together and to offer us guidance, supporting and encouraging the wider Church and us in the parishes. 
 
‘God’s people witness to his truth from within their life in the world. They share a vision of mankind united and at peace; they build on the insights already vouchsafed to men, but move beyond them by giving glory to God alone’ (J.B. Muddiman). 
Friday 26th June 2020 
 
Gideon said to God, ‘In order to see whether you will deliver Israel by my hand, as you have said, I am going to lay a fleece of wool on the threshing-floor; if there is dew on the fleece alone, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that you will deliver Israel by my hand, as you have said.’ And it was so. (Judges 6:36-38). 
 
I have a lot of sympathy with Gideon. Who hasn’t at times longed for some assurance that we are making the right decision? How do we know? What if we’ve got it wrong? I have found that making a choice and then sleeping on it can often help, but that doesn’t always work. So here God gives Gideon a sign - but even that is not enough. He needs another sign before he is willing to do what God asks of him. 
 
In today’s world (and probably it has always been so) there are those who will criticise whatever we do - and perhaps at times we are too ready to criticise others. Who is not wise after the event, when it is too late or when we are not the ones making the decision? I am reminded of something said by one of our lecturers at theological college about when we spoke up in chapel. He told us that yes, there would be those who would criticise, but the other 95% were right behind you, supporting you. That is not to say that we shouldn’t hold others to account. As has been said, the role of the Church in society is to hold up a mirror so we many see the true consequences of our actions. 
 
As we begin to open up our buildings for private prayer and - we pray - soon for services, we ask for God’s guidance and direction. We pray for the wisdom to use St Laurence, and all the buildings in our Team, to advance God’s Kingdom - that we might be ready witnesses to the hope that is within us. ‘Always be ready to make your defence to anyone who demands from you an account of the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence’ (1 Peter 3:15-16). 
 
Yesterday I quoted the Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, saying that this is ‘the first period without public worship and the sacraments in England in more than 800 years’. She was referring to the time when, during the reign of King John, Pope Innocent III placed the kingdom of England under an interdict for six years between March 1208 and May 1213. So we can be thankful that our lockdown looks like being somewhat shorter! 
 
We pray: 
We are not people of fear: 
we are people of courage. 
We are not people who protect our own safety: 
we are people who protect our neighbours’ safety. 
We are not people of greed: 
we are people of generosity. 
We are your people God, 
giving and loving, 
wherever we are, 
whatever it costs 
For as long as it takes 
wherever you call us. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our Lay Pastoral Assistants (LPAs) who play an important role in the pastoral ministry of our Church, as they continue to exercise their ministry at this time, and we give thanks for their dedication. 
 
On 26th June 1945 the Charter of the United Nations was signed in San Francisco. Also on 26th June 1483 Richard Plantagenet, Duke of Gloucester, began his reign as Richard III after usurping power from his nephew, Edward V. We continue to live with this tension between the need to cooperate together as the basis for any stable community and the pressures of individual greed and ambition. 
 
‘We must put our confidence in truth. But that doesn’t mean sitting back, and waiting for the truth to shine from above, as one might sit back and wait for the day to break. It means following with devoted obedience the truth we have seen as true, with an entire confidence in God, that he will correct, clear and redirect our vision, to the perception of a freer and a deeper truth. Go with the truth you have, and let it carry you into collision with the hard rocks of fact, and then you’ll learn something’ (Austin Farrer). 
Thursday 25th June 2020 
 
‘When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes’ (Matthew 7:28-29). 
 
These verses complete Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, the first of five great discourses by Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel. Here Jesus is seen to be speaking with real authority. He is not just another itinerant preacher. The impression is given that those present hear his words as trustworthy, to be relied on. Then, as now, people could tell the difference between that and those whose words did not ring true - who only want something for themselves or are simply spouting the ‘party line’. As in the parable that immediately precedes these verses, the wise person takes his words and builds on them - they are a rock that provides a solid foundation for life. We can have confidence in Jesus’ words because they are authentic - overshadowed by the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Truth - taking us as it were into God's very presence. 
 
‘I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world… Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth’ (John 17:6,17-19). 
 
As we hear that the lockdown is being eased from next month, we await advice from the national Church as to what this can mean for us in practical terms of opening up and holding services. That will be dependant on the detail of the Government guidance once it is published. We remember particularly those couples who have been waiting simply to get married in Church - even if this means forgoing a big celebration. 
 
Whatever the guidance is, we will be following a careful and cautious approach. ‘The Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, who leads the Church of England’s Recovery Group, said: "The last three months have been an extraordinary time - the first period without public worship and the sacraments in England in more than 800 years. There will be real joy as we begin to come together again - if even at a physical distance - but I also know that many will be understandably cautious at this news. We will not be returning to normality overnight - this is the next step on a journey. We’ve been planning carefully, making detailed advice available for parishes to enable them to prepare to hold services when it is safe and practical to do so. It is important to say that the change in Government guidance is permissive, not prescriptive”’ (https://www.churchofengland.org/). 
 
‘God is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord”’ (1 Corinthians 1:30-31). 
 
We pray: 
Lord, help me see with eyes that are wise, 
not eyes blurred with overwhelming emotions. 
Help me act out of a heart that follows you, 
not a heart heavy with worry. 
Help me think with a holy perspective, 
not a mindset based on my own opinions or feelings. 
Give me wisdom and discernment, 
and the ability to recognize and follow wise instruction when I receive it. 
(www.crosswalk.com/) 
 
I realise that this is my 100th Daily Reflection. Who would ever have thought when all this began that it would continue for so long. It seems clear that we are still in for the long haul - and that will impact different people in various ways. We must continue to hold those most affected in our prayers. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for politicians and their advisors. As they make decisions that affect us all to a degree that we have never experienced before, we pray for true wisdom and a willingness to put the good of all before any personal benefit or ambition. 
 
‘To be wise, you must have reverence for the Lord. To understand, you must turn from evil’ (Job 28:28). 
Wednesday 24th June 2020 
 
‘Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. Her neighbours and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her… Fear came over all their neighbours, and all these things were talked about throughout the entire hill country of Judea. All who heard them pondered them and said, ‘What then will this child become?’ For, indeed, the hand of the Lord was with him’ (Luke 1:57-58,65-66). 
 
Today we celebrate the Birth of John the Baptist. In the early days of the Christian Church, many of the old festivals were Christianised. So the Midwinter festival was used to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and became Christmas. But what of the Midsummer festival? Since according to the Bible story, John the Baptist was six months older than Jesus, and as it’s six months before Christmas – so it was decided that 24th June should be the festival of the Nativity of John the Baptist! 
 
John is the link between the old and the new covenants. He is a prophet in Israel in the old tradition and was popularly regarded as such in his time. Yet also he is the forerunner of the Christ, the Messiah. We find the story of his birth and upbringing only in St Luke’s gospel. However all four evangelists report his activities, as he proclaims the imminence of the Kingdom of God. Indeed, it is clear that several of our Lord’s disciples had followed John first. Some of them appear even to have gone out to the Jewish communities beyond Palestine on his behalf, to preach John’s message of repentance and the coming of the Kingdom of God. 
 
John baptised Jesus in the river Jordan, despite insisting that he was unworthy to do this. Shortly after this he was imprisoned by the Tetrarch Herod, for rebuking him over his affair with his brother’s wife, Herodias. John was beheaded on Herod’s orders - but shortly before his death John sends a message to Jesus which seems to reveal some nagging doubt in John’s mind about our Lord, despite his earlier witness to him. John said of Jesus, `He must increase, and I must decrease’. And that is what the sun does at the time of their respective festivals. It begins to increase in strength after Midwinter and to decrease after Midsummer. 
 
‘No greater person has appeared... on the stage of human history than John the Baptist, because he stood on the very threshold of the Kingdom. Yet the least disciple who, through following Jesus, already participates in the reality of the Kingdom... is greater than John. Although this assessment of the Baptist could be attributed to the editor of the Gospel, it could also be understood on the lips of Jesus, for whom the greatness of any person is measured with reference to his participation in the Kingdom of God’ (David Hill). 
 
The collect for today: 
Almighty God, 
by whose providence your servant John the Baptist was wonderfully born, 
and sent to prepare the way of your Son our Saviour 
by the preaching of repentance: 
lead us to repent according to his preaching 
and, after his example, 
constantly to speak the truth, boldly to rebuke vice, 
and patiently to suffer for the truth’s sake; 
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 for today we pray for those alone and depressed. As we know, some people have been managing this time of lockdown better than others. Not everyone has access to the various electronic and support systems that have been so important to us recently and may have an increased feeling of dislocation. Also, of course, there are those who were already on their own and finding it difficult. 
 
I shall be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church at 10:30am. I shall ring the bell and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. 
 
On 24th June 1497 John Cabot, a Venetian explorer and navigator born Giovanni Caboto, became the first European to set foot in North America since the Vikings. Commissioned by Henry VII, his is the earliest known European exploration of coastal North America since the Norse visits to Vinland in the eleventh century. 
Tuesday 23rd June 2020 
 
Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it’ (Matthew 7:13-14). 
 
In the diocese of Bradford (where I was ordained) there was a Retreat House up in the Yorkshire Dales where we gathered for our ordination retreat. It was a wonderful place for reflection and refreshment. In the house was a nineteenth century depiction of the wide and narrow ways. I remember it because on the wide way that leads to destruction were deaconesses - and we had five ladies preparing for ordination as deaconesses in our group (this was before the Church of England ordained women as deacons and priests)! 
 
What this illustrates, I think, is that we have to be careful that we don’t copy our own prejudices and cultural assumptions back on to God. When we do well in life and the world is good to us, it can seem natural to assume that this is how God intends things to be. Sometimes, though, we need to look beyond our own situation to see those for whom life is not so good. Then we can challenge ourselves with the deeper questions of whether this is what God intends for them - and for us. What marks the narrow road that leads to life - and are we looking for God’s way markers? 
 
There is a tendency today that ‘we can be so concerned not to do what is wrong that we neglect to do what is right. We can be so committed not to be tainted by the sins of others that we remain untouched by the pain and struggles of others - or indeed their joys… what opportunities to love and act justly have been lost because, through pride or anxiety, we fear making mistakes or getting tangled in the mess of the world? Does your faith enable others to find God or do we, however unintentionally, end up being a barrier to others seeing and discovering the liberating love of God?’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 13 June 2020). 
 
‘Eastern Orthodox leaders have urged the Turkish government to abandon plans to turn the ancient basilica Hagia Sophia, now a museum, in Istanbul, into a mosque, if approved by the country’s highest court in early July. “This is a masterpiece of architectural genius, globally renowned as a pre-eminent Christian cultural monument whose value remains universal,” the Greek Orthodox Church’s Holy Synod said in a statement. “Any change will provoke strong protest and frustration among Christians worldwide, as well as harming Turkey itself.” The Synod was reacting to calls by the President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and senior government officials, to change the landmark’s status. Meanwhile, a senior Russian Orthodox official also spoke out against the move, and called on Turkey to maintain “open access to everyone”. “For millions of Christians around the world, especially Orthodox Christians, this temple is a symbol of Byzantium and Orthodoxy,” the Russian Church’s foreign- relations director, Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, told Rossija-24 TV. “Any attempt to change the current status of Hagia Sophia will violate a fragile interfaith and interreligious balance.” The basilica, founded by Emperor Justinian (527-565), became the world’s largest at its dedication in 537, but was used as a mosque after the Ottoman capture of Constantinople in 1453, and was turned into a museum in 1935 by the secularising founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’ (Church Times 19 June 2020). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Faithful Creator, 
whose mercy never fails: 
deepen our faithfulness to you 
and to your living Word, 
Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for young people, especially those worried by the cancellation of their exams. There has been a lot in the papers this past week about how and when school will be going back fully. We pray for them all and their families in this time of uncertainty. 
 
‘The more seriously we take the future promise of God’s Kingdom, the more unbearable will be the contradictions of that promise which we meet in the present’ (Jurgen Moltmann). 
Monday 22nd June 2020 
 
‘Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit… Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour’ (John 12:24,26). 
 
Today the Church remembers St Alban - whose fruit continues to flourish many centuries after his death. Having grown up in the city dedicated to his name and attended the Abbey that contains his shrine, I have always had a special interest in St Alban. 
 
Alban was a citizen of Verulamium, the first city of Roman Britain. Legend has it that he was a soldier, possibly during the early fourth century - although some scholars would place him fifty, or even a hundred, years earlier. Whichever date we choose, this was one of those times of sporadic persecution for the church. In this case the persecution was instigated directly by the Emperor himself (Diocletian, if we accept the 4th century date). Alban gave shelter to a fugitive priest, traditionally named Amphibalus. While this man stayed with him, Alban was converted and baptized. When soldiers were sent by the governor to search the house, Alban disguised himself in the priest’s cloak, enabling Amphibalus to escape. So he was arrested, and after refusing to offer sacrifice to pagan gods, was condemned to death. He was executed on the hillside outside the city - on the site of his present-day shrine in the Abbey which was founded on that spot. 
 
Amphibalus is said to have been captured a few days later in Redbourn and have been stoned to death. So it might be said that Alban’s martyrdom was in vain. However he is a fine example for us that once we have found Christ, and received new life in him, then all else in worthless by comparison - even our own lives if it comes to that. Alban was the first recorded Christian martyr in Britain. As such, you could say he has a very good claim to be our national patron saint. ‘So among the roses of the martyrs, brightly shines St Alban’ (acclamation at the St Alban’s Rose Service). 
 
‘Leaders from three international NGOs - the United Nations, the World Health Organization and WWF International - teamed up to issue a stark warning that pandemics like the coronavirus are a direct result of the destruction of nature caused by humans.. Top figures from each organization argued that the wildlife trade, coupled with the destruction of forests and other habitats for wildlife, is causing a large number of animal diseases to migrate to human hosts... In their call to action ahead of the UN biodiversity summit in September, the three senior representatives cited examples from prior incidents of environmental destruction that triggered new viruses in humans. "We have seen many diseases emerge over the years — such as Zika, AIDS, SARS and Ebola — and although they are quite different at first glance, they all originated from animal populations under conditions of severe environmental pressures," they wrote, adding those examples "all illustrate that our destructive behavior toward nature is endangering our own health."’ (www.ecowatch.com/) 
 
The collect for today: 
Eternal Father, 
when the gospel of Christ first came to our land 
you gloriously confirmed the faith of Alban 
by making him the first to win a martyr’s crown: 
grant that, following his example, 
in the fellowship of the saints 
we may worship you, the living God, 
and give true witness to 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 for today we pray for Charities struggling to continue their work and fundraising. Nearly all of them have been very badly hit, and that can make a big difference especially to the smaller ones. 
 
‘For a man of faith no meeting is accidental’ (Henri J.M. Nouwen). 
Sunday 21st June 2020 
 
‘Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground unperceived by your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows’ (Matthew 10:29-31). 
 
Jesus tells us we are of far more worth and value to God than sparrows. Sparrows were the cheapest commodity sold in the markets (as food for the poor); the penny here is one-sixteenth of a denarius, thus equivalent to less than an hour's wage. Yet as worthless as sparrows were to people, God cares for and watches over them. God knows us so well that he knows each hair on our head. Who truly cares about every hair on our head? But if God knows even about our hair then how much more does he know of our thoughts, feelings, trials, fears, hopes, dreams, desires and all the rest. All this intimate knowledge our Heavenly Father has for us is just one of the many demonstrations of height and depth and breadth of God’s love and care for us. We are greatly blessed. 
 
Today is the Second Sunday after Trinity - and also, of course, Father’s Day. This is the day that the Lord has made - another beautiful God-given day, filled with his grace. I hope it is a good and blessed day for you. For those who wish to pray in Church, it will be open from 11:00am to 12:30pm for private prayer. 
 
Will we be able to sing together when services return to church? ‘As the latest Government guidance set out steps for reopening of church buildings for individual private prayer, and also for organ practice which is now permitted, the Church of England together with the Royal School of Church Music has encouraged the Government to be proactive in ensuring music-making can resume in church buildings, once it is safe to do so. 
The latest guidance shows that the Government is still reviewing scientific evidence on how music and particularly singing can be resumed safely. Royal School of Church Music Director, Hugh Morris said: "This news will be of great encouragement to organists. We know from the work we have been doing to support church musicians up and down the land that they are longing to express themselves in music making; and we endorse the encouragement to the Government to be alert to the importance of allowing a safe return of choirs and singing to all our churches. The ministry of music is such a vital part of the life of the church, and choral music is a rich part of the tapestry of worship."’ (Diocese of Salisbury Grapevine, 19 June 2020). 
 
The collect for this week: 
Lord, you have taught us 
that all our doings without love are nothing worth: 
send your Holy Spirit 
and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of love, 
the true bond of peace and of all virtues, 
without which whoever lives is counted dead before you. 
Grant this for your only Son Jesus Christ’s sake, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for all medical staff: those in hospitals, GP surgeries, Care Homes, research laboratories and wherever they may be. 
 
There is a service for today and a service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. Do listen out for the bell at half past ten when I ask that you join me in a time of worship and prayer. We also have another contribution from Ron Hart, who was due to take our service in St Laurence today. Thank you Ron. 
 
‘For the first time since 1985, when women were first ordained to the diaconate, more women than men are being ordained in the Church of England. But the Church is a long way off from reaching its ethnic-diversity goals, new figures suggest. The latest mission statistics, published on Wednesday, show that more than half (51 per cent) of the 570 people who were ordained deacons in 2019 were women (290); this was compared with 47 per cent of the 500 people who were ordained in 2018 (235 women). Of the 550 people who began ordination training in 2019, more than half (54 per cent) were women - similar to the past two years’ (Church Times 17 June 2020). 
Saturday 20th June 2020 
 
‘Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these… But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well’ (Matthew 6:28-29,33). 
 
‘These oft-quoted words invite me to remember God’s generous, faithful provision. When all seems well, it is natural to notice the intricacy of flowers or the extraordinary colour of wings. I glory in the sun catching the plumage of a buzzard from below or an unexpected butterfly in December sunshine. Simple, earthly reminders of creativity and care evoke trust and thanks. Yet … life is not straightforward and sometimes our worries are very real. Anxiety can be all-consuming and make us feel isolated and frightened. In the midst of fears, whether real or imaginary, telling ourselves we ‘should’ be able to trust does not always help much… The invitation of Jesus is to be with the lilies, to gaze upon them, to be captivated by them with all my senses of sight and sense and shape and fragrance. To consider the lilies is to pray, simply by being present to creation.’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 17 June 2020). 
 
Today is the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, marking the beginning of summer - helping us to rejoice in God’s good creation. After some of the weather that we’ve been having recently, we might be forgiven for thinking that summer has been with us for a while - and the birds in our garden were out celebrating from a very early hour this morning. The summer solstice falls between the traditional times for the planting and harvesting of crops, which enabled those who work the land time to relax. So traditionally June became the month for weddings. Indeed we should have had a number in Church this year, and we remember those couples in prayer. Today signals the moment the sun reaches its highest and northernmost points in the sky - and so this is the start of days becoming steadily shorter as the slow march towards winter begins. 
 
Jesus always asks us to examine ourselves rather than judge another. This is challenging, yet also hopeful, because Jesus is always inviting us to see things differently. ‘The dust of old hurts and resentments accumulates and clings to my feet like a solid layer of mud, until it finally prevents me from moving on at all. To shake it off is to set myself free, as well as those who caused the hurting’ (Margaret Silf). 
 
From the Prayer of St Patrick: 
I bind unto myself today 
the strong Name of the Trinity, 
by invocation of the same, 
the Three in One and One in Three. 
Christ be with me, Christ within me, 
Christ behind me, Christ before me, 
Christ beside me, Christ to win me, 
Christ to comfort and restore me. 
Christ beneath me, Christ above me, 
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger, 
Christ in hearts of all that love me, 
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for all school governors. Schools have been asked to make some difficult decisions over the past few weeks, which have also involved them in a great deal of additional work. Governors provide strategic direction but also support, encourage and help the staff and whole school community. 
 
‘The Government asked schools to open for more pupils at the start of June, but without issuing any statutory guidance for schools to rely on. Statutory guidance would have provided greater clarity for schools about their legal responsibilities… It is uncertainty about where the liabilities rest in these challenging times which will also be worrying school leaders, governors, and trustees. They are the bodies with overall responsibility for running schools as educational institutions, and, for voluntary aided and foundation schools and academies, they also employ the staff. Neither the Department for Education guidance nor any legislation relieves them from full liability (corporately, and perhaps, in some circumstances, individually) for all the consequences of their decisions’ (Church Times 19 June 2020). 
Friday 19th June 2020 
 
‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also’ (Matthew 6:19-21). 
 
These past few months have helped us to focus more on what is important in our lives. It is not in the things we store up, that we are encouraged to go out and buy - and then hang on to until either we throw it away or pass it on to a charity shop. What matters more is our relationships with others and with God. These are our real, lasting treasures. Jesus asks us to examine ourselves and to see things differently, ‘so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power’ (Ephesians 1:18-19). 
 
In the cycle of the Church’s year, we are now in ‘Ordinary Time’. This is our opportunity to explore those aspects of our faith that do not fall neatly into one of the particular seasons. As we do this, it is a good time to open up questions about God, faith and the Christian life that we don’t always get around to discussing. 
 
So: if there are such questions that you would like to look at further, please send them to me. Then either I could include them in one of these daily reflections, or I could use them as the basis for one of my Sunday talks in the recorded service. However this should not just be me giving answers to your questions - rather it would be part of a continuing dialogue as we work through things together. I await your responses with interest. 
 
The Downton and Woodfalls Mask Tree group are planning to hold their last Pop-Up tree this Sunday (21st) from 11am. They are a small group of volunteers sewing cloth masks (non-medical) to raise money for Naomi House and Jacksplace. They write: 
‘Thanks to The Borough Dental Practice offering to house our mask tree, we are popping up for the last time in Downton this Sunday morning from 11am (We will be there for at least an hour and a half). We will have a good selection of homemade masks (please see the additional information on cloth mask coverings). However, it is being completely run by volunteers using their own or donated supplies so if we run out or don't have your size please don't be upset. There is also the possibility that you may need to queue as it is essential, we keep to social distancing guidelines. You will also be asked to use your own/our hand sanitiser before touching the tree. All donations will go to Naomi House and Jacksplace. Please note, we are only accepting cash donations (no change). 
As a result of having a limited number of masks, we have had to impose one per person in order for us to reach as many people as possible. However, we are aware that some are shielding and we are happy to let carers, family members or neighbours to attend the tree on your behalf and pick up a mask for those who are unable to attend. 
Unfortunately, we are unable to take individual orders due to the time this takes and you might be interested to know that other mask trees can be found on the Community Mask Tree Map (which may help you get a mask earlier). 
 
We pray: 
Spirit of Peace, 
you know the things 
which unnecessarily disturb us 
because we have not yet learned 
to put ourselves into the hands of God; 
stay with us we pray, 
that the little space which we have made for you may grow, 
until we are fully possessed of that peace 
which passes human understanding. 
(Pentecostal Prayers, All Year Round 1998) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our witness as a Church. In these difficult times this is as, if not more, important as ever. 
Thursday 18th June 2020 
 
‘I will recount the gracious deeds of the Lord, the praiseworthy acts of the Lord, because of all that the Lord has done for us, and the great favour to the house of Israel that he has shown them according to his mercy, according to the abundance of his steadfast love’ (Isaiah 63:7). 
 
As with yesterday’s passage, this verse from Isaiah reminds us of God’s goodness to us and all his blessings poured out upon us. As with the ancient Israelites, we know that life does not always go smoothly. We have our ups and downs, our crosses to carry and pains to endure. For many at the moment this includes the effects of the lockdown on our mental wellbeing. Yet throughout it all, God has our backs. He is there with us; he is there for us - watching over us and helping to bear the load. 
 
Many of us have been fortunate enough to spend time in our gardens over these past three months. Indeed the little yellow flowers in what is supposed to be our lawn are flourishing at the moment! The Chaplain of Queens’ College, Cambridge writes: ‘In the fury of a Twitter storm, or amid the anger and angst stirred by the sharing of another inflammatory article on Facebook, I like to leave my laptop and phone in the flat and head out into the garden in search of peace and stability. The college gardens have, for me, been a place of great refuge and solace during the past few months. I take exercise in them, rest, read, chat to the gardeners, and pray. I know that I am deeply fortunate to have such a haven. I feel for people who do not have access to gardens, and I fear for a world in which their value is commodified. 
I’m blessed to live in a community which values its gardens. I have long associated this sanctuary with our other holy places. The vaulted ceilings of bark and lichen are breathtaking, canopies of leaves like stained glass stream green light on to the nave below, as a chorus of birds chant in their elevated quire. Gardens are places where I feel like I can commune with God in a natural, easy way… Anyone who wants a garden to be “oven-ready” has missed the point of gardening. Only a fool expects a new garden to be instantly mature. Perhaps that is why God started with a garden: to be patient with it, to let it grow in its own time, and to watch it happen. Just because you have to work at something, doesn’t mean it isn’t perfect. When Adam ate of that forbidden fruit, he lacked trust and humility, but he also lacked that quality of keen patience, which any gardener must know’’ (Max Bayliss, Church Times 15 June 2020). 
 
‘Nature makes us aware of the preciousness of life. Nature tells us that life is precious not only because it is, but also because it does not have to be’ (Henri J.M. Nouwen). 
 
We pray: 
We thank you, Lord of all creation 
for the wonder of the world in which we live: 
for the earth and all that springs from it; 
and for the mystery of life and growth. 
We pray that our gratitude may be shown by our care 
to conserve the powers of the soil, 
by our readiness to learn from scientific research, 
and by our concern 
for a fair distribution of the earth’s resources. 
We ask these things in the name of Christ our Lord. 
(Basil Naylor) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for those who produce our Parish magazine. They continue to do a great job, working hard to keep us all in touch –- both online and now with a few printed copies. 
 
June 18th marks two significant days in our history. In 1815 at the Battle of Waterloo British forces under Wellington and Prussian troops under von Blücher defeated Napoleon; and in 1940 Winston Churchill made his “this was their finest hour” speech to the House of Commons. Today thankfully we no longer fear war with our European neighbours. Rather we recognise the richness of diversity among our different peoples and seek new ways to share and grow together. 
Wednesday 17th June 2020 
 
‘Love the Lord, all you his saints. The Lord preserves the faithful, but abundantly repays the one who acts haughtily. Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord’ (Psalm 31:23-24). 
 
The psalmist knows that loving God is the best thing we can do and is at the very heart of our relationship with him. Loving God is the focus through which we live our lives. ‘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). When we love God, we will truly love others. When we love God, then we will obey his commandments. God is faithful and does not fail us. ‘Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go’ (Joshua 1:9). 
 
Today, for the first time since the lockdown began, we are opening the Church for private prayer - from 11:00am to 12:30pm. We take this step in faith, to provide this holy space at the heart of our community where we can find the consolation of God’s enduring love for us all. We have no idea who will come or how well it may work: that is in God’s hands. Please hold in your prayers all who seek this opportunity and support today for God’s grace and refreshment. 
 
How have you been coping in your own prayer life over this time? ‘As Churches report a boom in people joining online services, and search engines record a huge increase in the numbers searching for prayer support online, many retreat houses have been adapting to the lockdown by going online. But, although there are early signs that new audiences are engaging with meditations and retreats, such as the Zoom meditation offered by the Jesuits in Britain, retreat houses and leaders believe that the lockdown experience will also encourage renewed interest in traditional retreats when they become possible again… 
Early evidence is showing that lockdown has encouraged many to look deeper into themselves and embrace some new ways of living. The Revd Barry Preece, who chairs the Association for Promoting Retreats, says: “People have been discovering space and silence and stillness in a way that perhaps they couldn’t before, because these things were crowded out. Some are also discovering nature more: making the most of going out on their exercise each day and [enjoying] nature. When all you can do is experience a walk, then the walk itself becomes the focus, not the destination, and that, in itself, is a kind of pilgrimage, a discipline”’ (Church Times 12 June 2020). 
 
We pray: 
Spirit of Love 
who seeks and finds that which may be loved 
in each and every one of us, 
help us in our turn 
to recognise lovingly 
the true worth 
and the real needs 
of our family and friends, 
and to behave caringly 
towards all whom we shall meet this day. 
(Pentecostal Prayers, All Year Round 1998) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for all who minister to the sick: not only the medical professionals but all care workers, volunteers and family members. 
 
I shall be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church at 10:30am, together with our Roads to God prayers. I shall ring the bell and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. 
 
‘Our relation with God being inescapable, since we draw our very existence from him, it is not something we are free to let alone if we choose. We violate his will if we do not follow it, we are starved of our supreme good if we do not embrace it. Alienation from God is a positive misfunctioning, a frustration of our total aim. If we are not reconciled to God, we are spoiling the music, we are not just letting the music alone’ (Austin Farrer). 
Tuesday 16th June 2020 
 
‘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). 
 
These verses form part of the canticle for Easter Day: the Easter Anthems. They celebrate that great hope of our faith, the resurrection. Christ is risen - and we, too, will rise with him on the last day. The wonderful future God holds out for us puts all else into perspective. Alleluia! 
 
Today the Church remembers Richard of Chichester (1197-1253), or Richard de Wych. He wrote the prayer: ‘Thanks be to thee, my Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits thou hast given me, for all the pains and insults thou hast borne for me. O most merciful redeemer, friend and brother, may I know thee more clearly, love thee more dearly and follow thee more nearly, day by day’. As bishop of Chichester, Richard was seen as a model bishop - travelling around his diocese on foot, visiting and caring for his clergy and people, and being accessible to all who needed him. His private life displayed rigid frugality and temperance. Richard was an ascetic who wore a hair-shirt and refused to eat off silver. He kept his diet simple and rigorously excluded animal flesh, having been a vegetarian since his days at Oxford. While Richard was merciless to usurers, corrupt clergy and priests who mumbled the Mass, he was also a stickler for clerical privilege. 
 
The PCC met yesterday to discuss the opening of the Church for private prayer, in accordance with the current guidelines. We have agreed that the Church will be open on Wednesdays and Sundays (which gives us 72 hours between openings) from 11:00am to 12:30pm - starting tomorrow. A member of the Church will be present at all times as a steward, and everyone will be asked to maintain physical distancing and to leave their contact details, should they be necessary. I attach a poster which - if you are able to do so - I ask you to print and display. Thank you. 
 
As the Black Lives Matter protests continue, let me share this from a comment piece in the Church Times. ‘I know that some white people sometimes clench at talk of white privilege. They just don’t see themselves as privileged, and feel that they are being unfairly got at. But privilege is not only having obvious advantages: it is also not having to put up with being seen as different, whether that difference is construed as amusing or threatening. It is the constant micro-aggressions, as they are tellingly called, which wear people down. At least, today, we are a bit more aware of the problem’ (Angela Tilby, Church Times 12 June 2020). 
 
The collect for today: 
Most merciful redeemer, 
who gave to your bishop Richard a love of learning, 
a zeal for souls and a devotion to the poor: 
grant that, encouraged by his example, 
we may know you more clearly, 
love you more dearly, 
and follow you more nearly, 
day by day, 
who with the Father and the Holy Spirit are alive and reign, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for those at work worried about social distancing. As more are encouraged to return to work and with conflicting advice on what is safe, those who have to work alongside others are particularly vulnerable. 
 
Tomorrow is the third Wednesday of the month, so we will be praying for our Roads to God concerns during Morning Prayer - when I will be in Church and will ring the bell at 10:30am. Although we are unable to deliver our prayer cards, we are still holding our village in prayer before God. I invite you to join your prayers with ours. If you wish prayer for yourself, or you know of anyone we should be holding in prayer, please do let me know. Your request will be confidential and I shall pray for you - or them - tomorrow. 
Monday 15th June 2020 
 
‘You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you’ (Matthew 5:38-42). 
 
We can really struggle with these words of Jesus. They feel unrealistic - too difficult for us. Jesus is inviting us to leave our places of assurance for a remarkable style of life as he shows us how to live in God’s world. It is lifestyle capable of surprising the world. It does not fit in with normal expectations. People usually stand on their rights as a safety net but - Jesus tells us - there is another way, a better way. The invitation to discover this comes from the one who himself showed the power of the unexpected response. He calls us to model a life based on self-giving and loving relationships - whereas the world wants us to be good producers and consumers. ‘What we are in relation to God is to be reflected in what we are in relation to others’ (R.S. Good). 
 
‘The director of a coalition of 1300 churches in Britain has warned the Government that relaxing the laws on Sunday trading for a year, to stimulate the UK economy in the wake of coronavirus, would “not be good for the spiritual and mental health of the nation”. In response to reports at the weekend that the Government was considering easing Sunday-trading laws, which would also help to meet demand for round-the-clock goods and services, the director of Affinity, an Evangelical network of churches, agencies, and individuals, Graham Nicholls, spoke of “serious concerns”… The Church of England’s Director of Mission and Public Affairs, Canon Malcolm Brown, said: “We believe that a day of rest, enjoyed in common by the majority of the population, is essential for well-balanced lives and flourishing communities: extending Sunday trading would deny this to numerous workers in retail and associated occupations’ (Church Times 12 June 2020). 
 
Looking ahead to when we might gather for worship again: ‘New scientific evidence from Germany has cast doubt on the claim that singing constitutes a high-risk activity in the transmission of Covid-19. This and other evidence suggests that, with adequate risk assessment and social distancing, singing could be restored in some contexts as part of church life in the UK… A professional musician, Ed Ballard, has studied.. the most commonly available scientific material online… “There’s no question that, for the foreseeable future, we are going to have to do things differently,” he said on Tuesday. “But that’s a very different proposition from singing itself occupying some unique status as a dangerous activity.”’ (Church Times 4 June 2020). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
God of truth, 
help us to keep your law of love 
and to walk in ways of wisdom, 
that we may find true life 
in Jesus Christ your Son. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for those in Residential and Nursing Homes. Most care homes locally appear to have done a great job in keeping the virus at bay, and we continue to hold them and the residents in our prayers. 
 
It is with great sadness that I have to let you know of the death of Judy’s mother, Joan Ungar, who came to live here in the village in 2004. She passed away peacefully yesterday morning in Braemar Lodge where she has been living for the last three years. We are all very grateful for your support and prayers at this time. 
 
On 15th June 1215 Magna Carta (“The Great Charter of the Liberties”) was agreed between King John and a council of 25 leading barons of England. In the 17th century, Sir Edward Coke used Magna Carta to challenge Charles I and the doctrine of “The Divine Right of Kings”, thus raising Parliamentary rule above that of the monarchy. Magna Carta also influenced the American Constitution of 1789. The best preserved of only four surviving original copies is held in Salisbury Cathedral. Having signed Magna Carta, John then promptly ignored his obligations under the charter and civil war broke out again. Nothing much changes it seems. 
 
‘The gospel is all about lavishing scarce resources on the uneconomic’ (Roy Williamson). 
Sunday 14th June 2020 
 
‘God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us’ (Romans 5:8). 
 
This is one of the most loved verses in the Bible. God’s love goes beyond anything we might deserve or expect, irrespective of whether we merit it or not. God is supremely willing to demonstrate his love, so much so that he has given Jesus, his Son for us so that all can see it. This is the proof of his amazing love for us. It is patently clear that there is no qualification in God’s love and he leaves no one out of his love. 
 
So too we are called to respond in love. As St John writes: ‘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. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us’ (1 John 4:10-12). 
 
As I wrote on Monday, soon we will be able to open again for private prayer. ‘Churches in England will be able to open their doors again on Saturday for private prayer and funeral services.. The Government initially announced that places of worship would be permitted to open for private prayer from 15 June. Guidance updated on Friday, however, said that the date was 13 June… The Ministry defined individual prayer in a place of worship “as a person or household entering the venue to pray on their own and not as part of a group, led prayer or communal act. They should be socially distanced from other individuals or households.” Public worship, streamed or otherwise, is not permitted while visitors are in the building. And on Tuesday, the House of Bishops agreed that funerals could take place again inside churches from 15 June. The decision was prompted by the continued reduction in death rates linked to Covid-19 and the pastoral needs of the bereaved… Bishop Mullally said that it “recognises that the buildings themselves are important sacred spaces for people... We look forward to when it is safe for our church buildings once again to become meeting places for worship, prayer, and all they do to serve and bless their communities”’ (Church Times 12 June 2020). 
 
Tomorrow our PCC will be meeting (via Zoom, of course) to discuss the practicalities of how this might be arranged. Please pray that we might be led by God’s guidance, love and wisdom as we seek the right response to this. 
 
The collect for this week: 
O God, 
the strength of all those who put their trust in you, 
mercifully accept our prayers 
and, because through the weakness of our mortal nature 
we can do no good thing without you, 
grant us the help of your grace, 
that in the keeping of your commandments 
we may please you both in will and deed; 
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 for today we pray that we might grow through God’s Word. This is foundational to our understanding of God and our relationship with him. ‘All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work’ (2 Timothy 3:16-17). 
 
There is a recorded service for today and a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. Do listen out for the bell at half past ten when I ask that you join me in a time of worship and prayer. Ron Hart was due to take our service today - and I attach his notes. Thank you Ron. 
 
‘What God promises us for the future is great, but what we recall as already done for us is much greater. When Christ died for the wicked, where were they or what were they? Who can doubt that he will give the saints his life, since he has already given them his death? Why is human weakness slow to believe that men will one day live with God? A much more incredible thing has already happened: God died for men’ (St Augustine). 
Saturday 13th June 2020 
 
‘The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage. I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me’ (Psalm 16:5-7). 
 
We have a loving heavenly Father who keeps us, watches over us and sanctifies us. If we but allow it he will pour out his blessings upon us: ‘Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened’ (Luke 11:9-10). If we seek God, we will find him for he is always there; if we open our hearts to him, he will enter - filling us and renewing us with his Spirit. ‘If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!’ (Matthew 7:11). 
 
God does not promise that life will be easy, or without pain - but that with him it will be a ‘goodly heritage’: his love and joy and strength to bear what we must, knowing he is with us. Then, as we strive to fulfil his commandment to love, so we see that love rebound on us. ‘Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back’ (Luke 6:37-38). 
 
These past few months have brought into focus the importance of our environment and our effect on it. ‘A coalition of churches and charities has launched a campaign, Climate Sunday, as part of a call for action on climate change. Starting from 6 September, churches will be encouraged to have a Sunday devoted to the theme of climate change at any time during the following 12 months. The scheme was announced last Friday, to mark World Environment Day, by Churches Together in Britain and Ireland. It supported charities which include CAFOD, Christian Aid, Operation Noah, and Tearfund’ (Church Times 12 June 2020). 
 
‘Thus says the Lord: Do not let the wise boast in their wisdom, do not let the mighty boast in their might, do not let the wealthy boast in their wealth; but let those who boast boast in this, that they understand and know me, that I am the Lord; I act with steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth, for in these things I delight, says the Lord’ (Jeremiah 9:23-24). 
 
We pray: 
Merciful God, 
you have prepared for those who love you 
such good things as pass our understanding: 
pour into our hearts such love toward you 
that we, loving you in all things and above all things, 
may obtain your promises, 
which exceed all that we can desire; 
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 for today we pray for our community life, especially groups unable to meet. There has been a wonderful outpouring of community care and action. However we are all aware of the pressures the lockdown has brought on so many people, in particular the inability to gather together. 
 
‘The Holy Spirit does not come alone when he makes his dwelling place within us. The Father and the Son are inseparable from Him and together they bestow on the baptised their uncreated energies, their glory and their light. So real is this presence that it cannot remain undisclosed and totally hidden’ (Andrew Ryder SCJ). 
Friday 12th June 2020 
 
‘I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last’ (John 15:15-16). 
 
Today the Church celebrates Barnabas the Apostle. Barnabas was one of the very earliest followers of Jesus and a leader of the early church. Originally called Joseph, he was given his new name of Barnabas by those who knew him well. It means ‘son of encouragement’. His new name certainly fits what we know of his character and actions. We first hear of Barnabas in the New Testament due to his simple act of stewardship and sharing. He sold land he owned and donated the proceeds to the church to be used to support the poor. 
 
When Paul came to Jerusalem after his conversion, most of the Christians there wanted nothing to do with him for they had known him as a persecutor of the Church. But Barnabas, guided by God was willing to take a calculated risk on Paul. He sought Paul out, spoke with him, and having weighed him up, vouched for him. Later, Paul and Barnabas travelled far and wide, sharing the good news of God’s love. On one journey they took Mark with them. Part way, Mark turned back. When Paul and Barnabas were about to set out again, Barnabas suggested taking Mark along again. Paul was against it, saying that Mark was not dependable. Barnabas, though, wanted to give Mark a second chance - and so he and Mark went off on one journey, while Paul took Silas and went on another. 
 
Apparently Mark responded well to the trust given him by Barnabas, the “son of encouragement,” since we find that Paul recognises the change in Mark and later speaks of him as a valuable assistant. Barnabas was asked to help in the growth of a new congregation in Antioch. He didn’t arrive thinking he would impose his view on them. Instead we read, ‘he came and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast devotion’ (Acts 11:23). Barnabas called Paul over to help in this work at Antioch and there both he and Paul grew in their faith and ministry. And the Church grew too: a great many people became Christians - indeed it was here at Antioch that the followers of Jesus were first called ‘Christians’. Born in Cyprus, Barnabas also died there in AD 61 when he was martyred for his faith. He stayed faithful and willing to give everything right to the end. 
 
The collect for today: 
Bountiful God, giver of all gifts, 
who poured your Spirit upon your servant Barnabas 
and gave him grace to encourage others: 
help us, by his example, 
to be generous in our judgements 
and unselfish in our 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 for today we pray for those who are ill and their families. This is never an easy time, but it has been made much more difficult by the restrictions of the lockdown, especially where they have been unable to see one another. 
 
Today we remember another two people who have encouraged many others by their example and writing. On 12th June 1942 Anne Frank received a diary as a present for her 13th birthday. Also, on 12th June 1964 Nelson Mandela was sentenced to life imprisonment for plotting to overthrow the government. He served 27 years in jail, initially on Robben Island. 
 
‘No situation is without hope for those who accept God’s judgements and look for his mercy’ (Leo Stephens-Hodge). 
Thursday 11th June 2020 
 
‘I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh’ (John 6:51). 
 
Today (Thursday after Trinity Sunday) is the Day of Thanksgiving for Holy Communion - also known as Corpus Christi. This is a difficult one for us to celebrate at the moment - as we haven’t been able to gather for communion since March. We have missed worshipping together for three of the four great festivals of the Christian year - occasions when communion would have been at the heart of our worship. 
 
As I was reflecting on this, I returned to the guidance issued by the Church of England on Spiritual Communion shortly before Easter. This was when we realised the lockdown was likely to be in place for a while, and that we would be unable to celebrate Communion for some time: 
‘The term ‘Spiritual Communion’ has been used historically to describe the means of grace by which a person, prevented for some serious reason from sharing in a celebration of the Eucharist, nonetheless shares in the communion of Jesus Christ… The Book of Common Prayer instructs us that if we offer ourselves in penitence and faith, giving thanks for the redemption won by Christ crucified, we may truly ‘eat and drink the Body and Blood of our Saviour Christ’, although we cannot receive the sacrament physically in ourselves. Making a Spiritual Communion is particularly fitting for those who cannot receive the sacrament at the great feasts of the Church, and it fulfils the duty of receiving Holy Communion ‘regularly, and especially at the festivals of Christmas, Easter and Whitsun or Pentecost’ (Canon B 15). The Church of which we are members is not defined by the walls of a building but by the Body of Christ of which we are members. In making our communion spiritually, we are joining with Christians everywhere to be nourished by the one who tells us, ‘I am the Bread of Life’.’ (https://www.churchofengland.org/
 
The collect for today: 
Lord Jesus Christ, 
we thank you that in this wonderful sacrament 
you have given us the memorial of your passion: 
grant us so to reverence the sacred mysteries 
of your body and blood 
that we may know within ourselves 
and show forth in our lives 
the fruits of your redemption; 
for you are alive and reign with the Father 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
‘We will never fully understand the meaning of the sacramental signs of bread and wine when they do not make us realize that the whole of nature is a sacrament pointing to a reality far beyond itself. The presence of Christ in the Eucharist becomes a “special problem” only when we have lost our sense of His presence in all that is, grows, lives, and dies. What happens during a Sunday celebration can only be a real celebration when it reminds us in the fullest sense of what continually happens every day in the world which surrounds us. Bread is more than bread; wine is more than wine: it is God with us - not as an isolated event once a week but as the concentration of a mystery about which all of nature speaks day and night’ (Henri J.M. Nouwen). 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for all key workers. Of late we have begun to realise the many, often previously un-regarded members of the workforce, who are necessary for our society to function efficiently - or even at all. We give thanks for all their dedication and hard work, and ask God’s blessing upon them. 
 
On 11th June 1509 Henry VIII married his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. It was the refusal of Pope Clement VII to annul this marriage that triggered the break between Henry and Rome and precipitated the English Reformation. This led to the Church of England and then the Anglican Communion becoming a distinct expression of what it is to be Church. It is now the third largest Christian denomination in the world. At its best, we affirm the Anglican Church as both Catholic and Reformed - providing a bridge between Catholicism and Protestantism. 
Wednesday 10th June 2020 
 
'I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I keep the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body also rests secure. For you do not give me up to Sheol, or let your faithful one see the Pit. You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures for evermore’ (Psalm 16:7-11). 
 
From beginning to end Psalm 16 testifies to a life that finds its ultimate rest and purpose in God’s protective presence. It speaks against the notion that security and satisfaction come from material wealth or human accomplishments. Rather the Lord will ‘show me the path of life’. Indeed, it insists all that is good and all that is needed are found in the presence of God alone, the one whom we can claim as refuge. We too know that all that is worthwhile is to be found in God. ‘Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal’ (Matthew 6:20). Only in him do we find all that is of true lasting value. ‘Truly I tell you.. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away’ (Matthew 24:34-35). 
 
‘First in the global environmental crisis, and now in the events surrounding the spread of Covid-19, there is an important, if obvious message: what happens in one corner of the world affects people in another. There are challenges facing the whole of humanity, which we best address when we work together. Humanity is interconnected. It is easy to say this in theory. In reality, it is not always easy to open our hearts to people from other countries and cultures, let alone to our immediate neighbours. How can we become people who have room in their hearts for the whole world? Many religious figures have talked about the spiritual unity of humanity - this notwithstanding the obvious injustices and conflicts in the world. The idea, originating in the Jewish scriptures, that people are made in God’s image is an example of this. In most religious traditions, people are invited to pray about their personal needs; but they are also called to bring before God all of humanity - indeed, the whole created order. This seems particularly relevant when the world looks so fragile’ (Philip Boobbyer, Church Times 29 May 2020). 
 
Yesterday I conducted a funeral in the churchyard for Pearl Dorrington, a longstanding resident of our village. Surprisingly this is the first funeral I have taken since the lockdown began, though it was not connected to the pandemic. It went well and we were fortunate with the weather (rain was forecast). Even so it felt very strange - both because this was the first public service I have led in nearly three months, and in the simple act of putting on my robes, also for the first time since then. I was glad that it was cooler than it has been of late. 
 
The prayer after communion for this week: 
Almighty and eternal God, 
you have revealed yourself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, 
and live and reign in the perfect unity of love: 
hold us firm in this faith, 
that we may know you in all your ways 
and evermore rejoice in your eternal glory, 
who are three Persons yet one God, 
now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for the Trafalgar School at Downton, for those students in school and those distance learning. We remember especially those for whom this should be a significant year in terms of exams and moving on. 
 
I shall be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church at 10:30am. I shall ring the bell and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. 
 
‘There is a mystical encounter with the divine that can only be experienced but not explained. You can make statements about God, but the only way of verifying them is by encounter’ (T.A. Smail). 
Tuesday 9th June 2020 
 
'The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour’ (Isaiah 61:1-2). 
 
As Christians we also are anointed. John tells us ‘you have been anointed by the Holy One’ (1 John 2:20). In the New Testament sense, such an anointing has the idea of being filled with, and blessed by, the Holy Spirit. This is something that is the common property of all Christians, in order that we might fulfil our calling to live as followers of Jesus. Just as Jesus commissioned his disciples to go into all the world and preach the gospel, so too we are to bring the good news and God’s love to those in need - proclaiming the Lord’s favour. 
 
Today the Church remembers Columba (c. 521-597), abbot of Iona and missionary. Columba came of a noble Irish family and after being trained in Irish monasteries by St Finnian and others, himself founded several churches and monasteries in his country. About 563AD, impelled by missionary zeal, Columba left his home and established himself with twelve companions on the island of Iona. There he lived for thirty-four years evangelizing the mainland and establishing monasteries in the neighbouring islands. Although only in priest's orders, he was the chief ecclesiastical authority of the whole of this district. He succeeded in converting Brude, king of the Picts, and in 574AD the new king of the Scots of Dal Riada came to Iona to receive his consecration at Columba's hands. 
 
I remember many years ago seeing a play about Columba (Columba: A Play with Music). In it Columba confronts King Brude with the accusation that there is ‘a slavegirl at your court. She is the daughter of a King and she is treated cruelly'. When Brude protests he knows of no such girl, Columba tells him ‘This girl was ransomed by her King’s Son. He died for her freedom.. I am talking about a daughter of the High King of Heaven’. I don’t know if this is based on an accredited story, but it illustrates that we are all children of God - of the High King of Heaven. As such each one - however lowly in worldly terms - should be treated with respect and dignity. This is, of course, an issue very much in the news today. 
 
‘All who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ - if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him’ (Romans 8:14-17). In calling ourselves Christian, we identify ourselves as God’s own people, his beloved children. ‘Different men have different names, derived from their ancestors or their own pursuits and deeds. Our great concern, our great name, was to be Christians and be called Christians’ (Gregory Nazianzen). 
 
The collect for today: 
Almighty God, 
who filled the heart of Columba 
with the joy of the Holy Spirit 
and with deep love for those in his care: 
may your pilgrim people follow him, 
strong in faith, sustained by hope, 
and one in the love that binds us to you; 
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 for today we pray for all who have lost their jobs or are unable to find work. It has been suggested that the UK’s unemployment rate may well exceed 30% as a result of the pandemic. This is not just a statistic; this is countless ordinary people whose individual lives have been turned upside down by the pandemic. 
 
‘If we love, then we must express such love in specific acts and deeds. If we walk the pathway of love, then it will be costly in all sorts of ways. If we are to be a community of love then we must be a vulnerable people, open to ridicule, misunderstanding and misinterpretation. But God so loved the world that he gave... this generosity of God must be our inspiration as we share in that commitment to caring for the poor, the vulnerable the marginalised and the powerless’ (Bishop Roy Williamson). 
Monday 8th June 2020 
 
'I lift up my eyes to the hills - from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth… The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and for evermore’ (Psalm 121:1-2,8). 
 
This is a fitting psalm to follow on from our reflection yesterday on God who cares for us and holds us safe, while sending us out. This is our God who has called us to be his own and sends us out into his world to proclaim his word and works. Many readers of Psalm 121 have connected it with life’s journey - or at least with life’s journeys. When our world turns dark or our journey turns rugged, where do we turn for help? What is our source for the confidence we need to face the headwinds of life? This psalm encourages us in such times. It reminds us where our help comes from and infuses us with confidence: ‘My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth’. 
 
As we look out into our world, so often the images we see are those of discord and division, of fear and greed. Yet knowing that God is at work, we should ask for the grace to see signs of his kingdom bursting in and breaking through around us. As Jesus tells us, ‘the kingdom of God is among you’ (Luke 20:21). There are many indications of God’s goodness in the world - indeed there are examples all around us as communities pull together at this time - but they seldom make the news. 
 
It is good to see that the government has responded to the concerns of the Church, and it appears that places of worship will be able to open for private prayer from next week. However please do be patient as this is not as straightforward as it may sound. It will require some preparation and organising to ensure we can do this safely and within guidelines. At first probably, we will only be able open the Church for a few set hours during the week when someone can be available to welcome those who wish to come in. I will keep you informed. 
 
‘The Bishops have issued new guidance on how to conduct weddings, funerals, and baptisms safely when churches reopen and the Government eases its restrictions. The draft guidelines were released by the House of Bishops Covid-19 recovery group on Friday, to allow clerics to prepare for when occasional services and individual prayer can resume in church buildings. It is thought that such services will precede ordinary church worship. For all three types of service, the documents state, clergy should keep a safe distance from others, including during planning meetings and pastoral visits to families in their homes. They must observe strict personal hygiene, and avoid the use and exchange of items such as hymn or prayer books. Congregations will need to observe strict social distancing and avoid physical contact. For infant baptisms, the priest is advised not to take the child from its parents at any point. For weddings, it says, the priest does not have to touch the rings to bless them. Despite recent evidence to the contrary, the guidance also advises against singing’ (Church Times 5 June 2020). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Holy God, 
faithful and unchanging: 
enlarge our minds with the knowledge of your truth, 
and draw us more deeply into the mystery of your love, 
that we may truly worship you, 
Father, Son and Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for all those who care for loved ones at home. This is the beginning of Carers Week, an annual campaign to raise awareness of caring. This year many more people have taken on additional caring responsibilities for their relatives and friends who are disabled, ill or older and who need support. 
 
For those who receive these Reflections by email, I am aware that sometimes - for reasons known only to the gremlins of the internet - they fail to get through to some of you. If you do not receive one, please do let me know as I am not planning to stop them just yet. I send them out and they disappear off into the ether. Modern technology is a wonderful thing, but at times I suspect we all feel towards it like Basil Fawlty and his car - as he gives it a good thrashing! All the Reflections are available here on our Church website. 
Sunday 7th June 2020 - Trinity Sunday 
 
‘Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.’ (Isaiah 40:28). 
 
Today we celebrate Trinity Sunday - proclaiming the greatness of God as Holy Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. ‘Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure’ (Psalm 147:5). God as Trinity is at the heart of our faith and understanding of him. ‘You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God’ (1 Corinthians 6:11). We affirm this in many of our prayers which conclude with: ‘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’. 
 
In our Bible passage Isaiah describes the God whom both his works and word proclaim - reproving the people of God for their unbelief and distrust. We know from the history of the church; from the experience of faithful people; from our own knowledge and observation; from the Scriptures and the prophets that our God is a great and wonderful God. He is always with us, taking care of his church. We are guided by his hand and there is no searching of his understanding - it is infinite, it reaches to all persons and things, and therefore he cannot be at a loss to provide for his people; nor can our needs be unknown to him. 
As Paul writes to the Church in Rome ‘O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgements and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counsellor? Or who has given a gift to him, to receive a gift in return? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory for ever. Amen’ (Romans 11:33-36). This is our God: God whom we know, relate to and serve in his Church. Here is God - the Holy Trinity - who has called us to be his own and sends us out into his world to proclaim his word and works. 
 
Bishop Nicholas tells us: ‘The Archbishop of Canterbury and Cardinal Nicholls among others made the case to government last Friday for churches to open for private prayer earlier than the date currently being advised by government, the 4th July. Despite Cardinal Nichols’ excellent intervention in the media last weekend, my feeling is that our church buildings will remain closed other than as presently allowed until at least the 4th July.’ 
 
The collect for today: 
Almighty and everlasting God, 
you have given us your servants grace, 
by the confession of a true faith, 
to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity 
and in the power of the divine majesty to worship the Unity: 
keep us steadfast in this faith, 
that we may evermore be defended from all adversities; 
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 for today we pray for our Team Rector and family - thank you for your prayers, they are a great support. Please pray also for the other members of our Clergy Team, David and Veronica and their families - together with our retired clergy, especially Ron who lives here in Downton with his wife Creddy. Ron was due to take our early service today - and I attach his notes. 
 
There is a service for today from the church. There is also a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. Do listen out for the bell at half past ten when I ask that you join me in a time of worship and prayer. 
 
This is a day in the history of Downton. On 7th June 1832 the Reform Act came into effect that abolished ‘Rotten Boroughs’ - and so deprived Downton of its two MPs, which the borough had sent since Edward I summoned his first parliament in 1295. 
 
‘I am a man of hope, not for human reasons nor from any natural optimism, but because I believe the Holy Spirit is at work in the Church and in the World, even when His name remains unheard’ (Leon Joseph Suenens). 
Saturday 6th June 2020 
 
‘I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favourable or unfavourable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths’ (2 Timothy 4:1-4). 
 
Paul is writing this very intense and personal letter to his protégé Timothy (his “beloved son”), from his second imprisonment in Rome. He is concerned that all too often we would rather hear what we want to hear. Instead, as he has previously written to the Roman Church, he urges us: ‘Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good’ (Romans 12:9). 
 
We have become increasingly aware in recent years of how much the truth is perverted or even openly denied in public life. Politicians and leaders reject facts as ‘fake news’ and lie unashamedly - from being economical with the truth through to deliberate and blatant falsehood. Of course, sometimes the truth can be difficult to cope with or inconvenient or challenging to our worldview - and we can struggle with that. We are reminded of the line in the 1992 film A Few Good Men: ‘You can't handle the truth!’. Maybe we prefer the words of Michael Flanders: ‘The purpose of Satire, it has been rightly said, is to strip off the veneer of comforting illusion and cosy half-truth - and our job, as I see it, is to put it back again’. 
 
In the end it comes down to whether we look for evidence to inform our understanding - or simply to support our already existing views. If we are honest, probably we all do the latter at times, but our calling in Christ is always to strive for the former. God is doing something amazing in us. Left to ourselves, we would rather do it our way, but God is changing our hearts in wonderful ways, giving us a desire for him and his truth. 
 
The National Geographic magazine reports that ancient DNA offers clues to the physical origins of the Dead Sea Scrolls: ‘It is one of the world’s most daunting jigsaw puzzles: 25,000 pieces of ancient parchment comprising the famous Dead Sea Scrolls. Researchers have spent decades trying to laboriously piece together the 2,000-year-old fragments, most of which were discovered in the 1940s and 1950s in 11 caves near a site called Qumran on the shore of the Dead Sea. Now a team of Israeli, Swedish, and American researchers has applied advanced genetic testing to the material, a parchment made from animal skins… They also hint that Judeans of the period were less concerned with the precise wording of ancient religious texts than later Jews and Christians. But what excites scholars the most is the prospect of using ancient DNA to match the bewildering bits and pieces, some of which contain only a few letters. “There are many scrolls fragments that we don’t know how to connect, and if we connect wrong pieces together it can change dramatically the interpretation of any scroll,” said geneticist Oded Rechavi of Tel Aviv University, who led the effort.’ 
 
We pray: 
O God, the protector of all who trust in you, 
without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: 
increase and multiply upon us your mercy; 
that with you as our ruler and guide 
we may so pass through things temporal 
that we lose not our hold on things eternal; 
grant this, heavenly Father, 
for our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for all visitors to our Churches - pausing for a moment outside or joining us through our websites. We hope it will not be long before we can open our buildings again for private prayer and small services. 
 
Bishop Nicholas writes: ‘On Trinity Sunday we will affirm our faith in God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is God’s ordinary time, a gift of relationship in diversity and a strength in our extraordinary times as we bind ourselves to the triune God’. 
Friday 5th June 2020 
 
‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves’ (Luke 10:2-3). 
 
Today the Church remembers Saint Boniface (c. 675-754). An English missionary and reformer, he is often called the apostle of Germany for his role in bringing the faith to that country. Born near Crediton, his real name was Wynfrith, but he became known as Boniface (“good deeds”). In his letters and in the writings of his contemporaries, he appears as a man of purpose and dedication, an innovator with a powerful though wilful personality. At thirty, he was ordained and set out to preach in Friesland, from where he was soon expelled because of war between its heathen king and Charles Martel of France. 
 
Boniface went into Hesse and Bavaria, having secured the support of the Pope and of Charles Martel for his work there. According to legend he was the creator of the very first Christmas tree. In Hesse, in the presence of a large crowd of pagans, he cut down the Sacred Oak of Geismar, a tree of immense age and girth and sacred to the god Thor. It is said that after only a few blows of his axe, the tree tottered and crashed to the ground, breaking into four pieces and revealing itself to be rotted away within. As he did this he called to the pagans to see the power of his God over theirs. Then he either planted a fir tree in its place or one spontaneously grew. 
 
This was the beginning of a highly successful missionary effort, and the planting of a vigorous Christian church in Germany, where Boniface was eventually consecrated bishop. He asked the Christian Saxons of England to support his work among their kinsmen on the continent, and they responded with money, books, supplies, and above all, with a steady supply of monks to assist him in teaching and preaching. Boniface never forgot his initial failure in Friesland, and in old age he resigned his bishopric and returned to work there. He preached among them with considerable success. On 5th June 754, the eve of Pentecost, as he was preparing a group of Frisians for confirmation they were attacked and killed by heathen warriors. 
 
‘A Savanta ComRes opinion poll.. suggested that the public backed the early reopening of churches and chapels, provided they could maintain social distancing. Forty-six per cent of the adults polled supported reopening earlier than 4 July: a tentative date mentioned at the start of May. This figure rose to 66 per cent among respondents who attended regularly. The four most important purposes for reopened churches and chapels were listed in the survey responses: providing a place where those who had died as a result of coronavirus could be remembered; providing space for quiet reflection and private prayer; holding occasions such as wedding, funerals, and baptisms; and providing community services’ (Church Times 2 June 2020). 
 
The collect for today: 
God our redeemer, 
who called your servant Boniface 
to preach the gospel among the German people 
and to build up your Church in holiness: 
grant that we may preserve in our hearts 
that faith which he taught with his words and sealed with his blood, 
and profess it in lives dedicated to your Son 
Jesus Christ our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for Churches Together in Downton, as we remember that we all belong to God’s kingdom - and that is what matters. 
 
We can say with Paul: ‘I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Romans 8:38-39). 
Thursday 4th June 2020 
 
He asked him, ‘Which commandment is the first of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is this, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these’ (Mark 12:28-31). 
 
What the scribe is asking here is not which commandment is first of many, but rather which commandment defines the core of Torah law - stands at its centre, summarizes it. Is there one law that is the key to all the laws? A number of prophets and rabbis had tried to summarize the law: “What does Yahweh require of you, but to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8). “What you hate for yourself, do not to your neighbour. This is the whole law, the rest is commentary” (Hillel). “You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Akiba). Jesus says: the first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one” (v.29). The Jews refer to these words as the “Shema” which means, “to hear” and comes from Deuteronomy 6:4-5. The Shema is regularly recited in synagogue worship and daily prayers. In reciting the Shema, Jesus goes to the Torah - to the core of Jewish faith and practice, using it to introduce the commandment to love God. The Shema is not itself a commandment, but instead establishes the foundation for the commandment to love God. 
 
“In an open letter sent on Monday to MPs whose constituencies lie in his diocese, the Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, writes: “I hope that you would lobby for an urgent review of the continued closure of our church buildings to individuals who seek solace in such places [church buildings]... At a time when tensions run high, I believe that there is a deep thirst for access to churches and cathedrals as places of prayer for people of committed faith, or for anyone who is in search of space in which to find peace… We urgently need places and experience that build hope, trust, and endurance. The capacity of the Christian Church to engender those virtues through prayer and stillness in its buildings should not be underestimated.” 
In a series of tweets after Mr Jenrick’s briefing on Sunday, the Bishop of Worcester, Dr John Inge, suggested: “I think we should be arguing (a) that it is too soon to open other buildings; or (b) that our churches should be allowed to open alongside them. To suggest that our churches should remain closed while other ‘non-essential’ shops and buildings open is to condone secularism.” The benefits of prayer were “not generally of such direct economic benefit”, but that did not mean that they didn’t matter, he observed. “The risk to a person sitting quietly to pray in a church which is properly cleaned and supervised is surely not greater than a trip to the supermarket?” (Church Times 2 June 2020). 
 
Reflecting on the news from America this week, Archbishop John Sentamu said ‘Martin Luther King said violence causes as many problems as it solves … darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that; hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that’ (John Sentamu, Today, BBC Radio 4). We must allow God to open our eyes and see his living presence in all people - those like us and those who are different. ‘As we take the time to see, as we take time to welcome a child, or a stranger, or one another, we begin to learn what it means to welcome God. And as we welcome God, we begin to see differently, not distracted by rivalry or fear but able to see, to love and to act’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, Wednesday 3 June). 
 
The alternative collect for Pentecost: 
Holy Spirit, sent by the Father, 
ignite in us your holy fire; 
strengthen your children with the gift of faith, 
revive your Church with the breath of love, 
and renew the face of the earth, 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our Church School - both those children now in school and those who are still distance learning - that they may continue to grow in understanding and experience. Also we give thanks for the commitment, dedication and professionalism of the staff, and for all who support and work with them - and bear them in our prayers. 
 
For those unable to access our magazine through the website, there are now a few printed copies available (free) in the Co-op, Chemist and Woodfalls Post Office. Please let anyone know that you think may want one. 
 
On 4th June 1783 Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier launched an un-crewed hot-air balloon, the first public demonstration of the discovery that hot air in a large lightweight bag rises. Hot air, of course, is never in short supply. 
Wednesday 3rd June 2020 
 
‘I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him’ (2 Timothy 1:12). 
 
We have confidence in Jesus who dwells in us through the Holy Spirit. He is our Saviour, our Redeemer - the one to whom we have committed our lives and eternity. We think of what God has done for us, of all he has entrusted to us - and we entrust ourselves to him. ‘For I know that my Redeemer lives’ (Job 19:25); ‘The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?’ (Psalm 27:1). Secure in him we can pray (as below) ‘open our lips by your Spirit, that every tongue may tell of your glory’. 
 
At this time in the Church’s year - following Pentecost - we focus on the first disciples and the early days of the Church. ‘We have different understandings of what it is to be human, and our whole way of thinking about human and divine experience is going to be totally different from the first century. We need to get our mind round that when we imagine the Early Church… The New Testament as a canonical collection emerged during the first three to four centuries; so the Early Church is the context in which this is happening. Fundamental questions were asked in this period, and answers formulated, and we live in the light of these.’ (Judith Lieu, Lady Margaret’s Professor of Divinity, Cambridge - Church Times 3 August 2018). 
 
More on when our churches can open: ‘The Government is continuing to review when it might be safe to ease restrictions on places of worship, the Communities Secretary, Robert Jenrick.. said. “I can understand how people of faith would consider it strange that shops, cafés, pubs, restaurants, many other settings might be open in the weeks and months ahead, but not somewhere as important as a place of worship”.. The first logical step was probably to open for individual or private prayer, which would then be “a springboard, hopefully, conditional on the rate of infection, obviously, to small weddings and then, in time, to services.. We certainly don’t want to see what we’ve seen in some countries, where large gatherings in places of worship - particularly because of the demographic in some faiths, because of singing hymns, and so on, which can lead to, sort of, exhalation - can create particular problems.” 
‘The Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, is a member of the (places-of-worship) task force. She said, after the Prime Minister’s announcement, that larger groups could gather outside from the start of this week, and that joy at being able to meet with friends and family once more was being tempered by the vital caution contained in the latest scientific advice. There was no doubt that a second wave of the virus could be devastating for our way of life. “Yet with shops reopening and some people appearing to be returning to a degree of normality, it is understandable that questions are being raised as to how and where the lockdown is being relaxed,” she said’ (Church Times 2 June 2020). 
 
The prayer after communion for Pentecost: 
Faithful God, 
who fulfilled the promises of Easter 
by sending us your Holy Spirit 
and opening to every race and nation 
the way of life eternal: 
open our lips by your Spirit, 
that every tongue may tell of your glory; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for the bereaved, remembering especially those who cannot have their loved ones with them in their last hours, and those relatives and friends unable to attend a funeral. The inability to say a proper goodbye or to share together in mourning and remembrance is an added pressure at an already difficult time. 
 
I shall be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church at 10:30am. I shall ring the bell and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. 
 
We have some welcome and much-needed rain this morning, refreshing the ground and the atmosphere. ‘I will give you your rains in their season, and the land shall yield its produce, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit’ (Leviticus 26:4). 
Tuesday 2nd June 2020 
 
Jesus said to them, ‘Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s’ (Mark 12:17). 
 
One of the main reasons the Romans had such a problem with Christians was that they refused to worship the Emperor. They had a higher allegiance - to God. ‘In the mid-second-century account of the martyrdom of Polycarp, officials begged Polycarp to say ‘Caesar is Lord’, and to offer incense, to save his life. He refused. Later, in the arena, he was asked by the governor to swear an oath by the ‘luck of Caesar’. He refused’ (BBC History). ‘In a letter to Emperor Trajan, Governor Pliny the Younger described his having executed a number of Christians on the grounds of their “obstinacy,” though he could prove no other crime they might have committed. Marcus Aurelius, the philosopher emperor of the second century who persecuted Christians to promote the Roman gods admired their willingness to suffer death but disdained them for having developed this nature out of “obstinacy” rather than reason’ (owlcation.com). 
 
Some would say that we face a similar, although more subtle and less overt problem today. Do we accept the norms and mores of contemporary culture, or adhere steadfastly to the Christian ethic: putting the demands and obligations of our faith before all else? This is seldom as clear-cut as we might wish. It is all too easy to make small compromises that can then lead to bigger ones. It is just as well that we have a loving, forgiving God! ‘Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin’ (Hebrews 4:14-15). 
 
We must always put God first and make his service our priority. In the Bible we have an example of this in the Book of Acts when Peter and John are before the Jewish Council: Peter and John answered them, ‘Whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; for we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard’ (Acts 4:19-20). Would we be so bold? 
 
When will we be allowed to open our churches for prayer and worship again? The government is facing mounting calls that we can reopen as lockdown restrictions ease. Churches, which have been closed for more than two months, are due to open under step three of the government’s recovery plan on 4th July at the earliest - along with hairdressers, cinemas and pubs! Cardinal Vincent Nichols said in his Pentecost homily “This week’s announcements by the prime minister that some indoor sales premises can open tomorrow and that most shops can open on 15 June, questions directly the reasons why our churches remain closed. We are told that these openings, which are to be carefully managed, are based on the need to encourage key activities to start up again. Why are churches excluded from this decision?” 
 
The collect during this week: 
O Lord, from whom all good things come: 
grant to us your humble servants, 
that by your holy inspiration 
we may think those things that are good, 
and by your merciful guiding may perform the same; 
through our Lord Jesus Christ, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our Churchwarden and Deputy Churchwardens. They work hard for our Church and we are most grateful for their ministry for and with us. 
 
The Met Office tells us that the UK has recorded the sunniest spring since records began in 1929. Also ‘Spring 2020 has been very dry, and May in parts of England has been exceptionally dry. As it stands up to May 27, for England, May 2020 is the driest May on record since 1896, with less than 10mm rain falling across England on average’ (Official blog of the Met Office news team). All this fine weather has certainly made the past couple of months much easier to bear, but what does it say about the climate? 
 
It was 67 years ago today, on 2nd June 1953, that the 27-year-old Elizabeth II was crowned queen at Westminster Abbey. These past nearly 70 years have been a time of great change and we are grateful for her faithful service and steadying presence. May God keep her and bless her. 
Monday 1st June 2020 
 
‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour’ (Luke 1:46-47). 
 
Today the Church celebrates the visit of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth shortly after Gabriel has told her that she is to bear God’s son. This commemoration is usually celebrated on 31st May but has been transferred to today as Pentecost took precedence. 
 
Why does Mary do it - traveling to a town probably some 80 to 100 miles away? Well, if we think about what has just happened: she’s been told that she is pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit. She has also learned that her cousin Elizabeth, believed to be too old to conceive, is expecting as well. Mary must have been bursting to talk to the one woman who could personally understand her excitement, her wonder, and probably her nervousness, too. 
 
One thing seems to unite these two women in the account. The first to speak, Elizabeth, is filled with the Holy Spirit and cries out in a loud voice, uttering words which we could only consider prophetic: “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb” (Luke 1:42). The other, Mary, responds to this word of prophecy with her own - saying in her song: “All generations will call me blessed” (Luke 1:48). 
 
Her song, which we call the Magnificat, sees the work of God in history with the eyes of faith. It is radical in its outlook and has inspired great numbers through the centuries. One theme is displacing the proud, mighty, and wealthy from their high estate, and in their place exalting the humble, the hungry, and poor. It sounds much like Jesus’ own mission, “to preach good news to the poor... to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed” (Luke 4:18, quoting Isaiah 61:1-2). The other theme is God’s faithfulness to those who trust him - or, in Old Testament language, “to those who fear him.” God’s salvation is an outworking of remembering and acting on his own promise to Abraham nearly two thousand years before - the faithful God showing mercy and salvation to those who trust him. 
 
It is a clearly a good visit. Elizabeth, who is about six months pregnant, tells Mary “as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy” (Luke 1:44). Mary stays for three months, presumably until John the Baptist is born. Upon returning home, Mary would be subject to cruel taunts and slander - here she is safe. Upon returning home, Mary would have to stand on her own spiritual feet, lonely, misunderstood and rejected. Here she is loved and accepted. We all need the opportunity to step back at times - whether that be a holiday, retreat or just a day out. We should remember those unable to do so, especially at this time. 
 
The collect for today: 
Mighty God, 
by whose grace Elizabeth rejoiced with Mary 
and greeted her as the mother of the Lord: 
look with favour on your lowly servants 
that, with Mary, we may magnify your holy name 
and rejoice to acclaim her Son our Saviour, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for peace in the world. In many parts of the world, the pandemic appears to have encouraged competing nationalist agendas. We pray that Christ, the Prince of Peace, may guide and encourage us to ‘seek peace, and pursue it’ (Psalm 34:14). 
 
The June issue of Downton Parish News is now available free to view or download on our website. However not everyone has access to the internet, and we are very conscious that some previous subscribers and others may be missing their printed copy of the magazine. So if you know of a friend or neighbour who might like to read the magazine but cannot access it for themselves, perhaps you could consider printing a copy - or part of one - for them so that they can continue to keep in touch. They and we would be most grateful. 
Sunday 31st May 2020 - Pentecost 
 
‘When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability’ (Acts 2:1-4). 
 
Today is the Feast of Pentecost - or Whitsun as traditionally it was called here. This probably an abbreviation of White Sunday from the white garments worn by catechumens, or alternatively from the Old English ‘wyt’ because the Holy Spirit brought ‘wyt and wysdome ynto all Cristes dyscyples’ (John Mirk c.1382-1414). In the Bible Pentecost is the Jewish Feast of Harvest or the Feast of Weeks. The word is Greek, meaning fifty, and reflects the fifty days since Passover - or for us, Easter. 
 
Pentecost celebrates the birthday of the church. The day when Jesus fulfils his promise of sending to his followers the Spirit of God to be with them and in them. This coming of God as the Holy Spirit is marked by the sounds and signs of God’s power - a power which enables them to carry out the task of taking the good news to the ends of the earth. God’s Spirit still empowers us today: to share and to show the love of God and bring people into his kingdom. 
 
When God makes a promise we can always be sure that he keeps it. ‘There comes a moment towards the end of an advert when the voiceover races so quickly through the script that one can barely keep up with what is being said. It’s a script that often ends with the ominous words ‘terms and conditions apply’. The promise of happiness has been made, but freedom is then briskly taken away’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, Friday 29 May). God is not like that. He has promised; he will deliver; his Spirit has come! 
 
I remind you about Together in Prayer today. The diocese is inviting us all to join in prayer during the day. “Come, Holy Spirit” is among the best prayers we can pray - and we are asked not simply to pray that friends and family, colleagues and neighbours might encounter the love of God in Christ, but that they would experience that love in action. 
 
The collect for today: 
God, who as at this time 
taught the hearts of your faithful people 
by sending to them the light of your Holy Spirit: 
grant us by the same Spirit 
to have a right judgement in all things 
and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort; 
through the merits of Christ Jesus our Saviour, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for volunteers helping others in their community. The numbers of people helping out and engaging with their neighbours, often for the first time, has been a real silver lining to the events of these past months. 
 
There is a service for today from the church. There is also a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. For some reason the sound drops and is rather quiet in the middle, so you may need to turn your volume up at that point. Do listen out for the bell at half past ten when I ask that you join me in a time of worship and prayer. 
 
‘He is called the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, the Mind of Christ, the Spirit of Adoption, of Truth, of Liberty, the Creator-Spirit, who by baptism and by resurrection creates anew’ (Gregory Nazianzen). 
Saturday 30th May 2020 
 
‘This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true. But there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written’ (John 21:24-25). 
 
We have here what may well have been the original end to the Gospel. They identify the writer with the disciple whom Jesus loved, who was an eyewitness to the events described and the words spoken. We are indebted to him for writing his gospel, for through it he is still testifying to those things of which he wrote. Like him we too are called to be witnesses to the good news of Jesus. ‘We know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life’ (1 John 5:20). 
 
These verses also underscore our continuing need to learn and grow as the Church in our understanding of the faith. There is so much more about Jesus and his message for us yet to discover. ‘When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come’ (John 16:13). 
 
All this envisages something far beyond that sought by those who want merely to find their way into the Kingdom of God. The Spirit works in and through us so that we might seek out and extend God’s Kingdom in the hearts and lives of all who might respond - an ever-expanding panorama of God’s renewing grace flowing out into the world. To use an analogy: ‘Gather a throng of people and pour them into a ferry... we may divide all the alert passengers into two classes - those who are interested in crossing the river and those who are merely interested in getting across’ (Max Eastman). 
 
A prayer for growth: 
God of mission, 
who alone brings growth to your Church: 
send your Holy Spirit 
to give vision to our planning, 
wisdom to our actions, 
and power to our witness. 
Help our church to grow in numbers, 
in spiritual commitment to you, 
and in service to our local community; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
 
I have been asked by the family of Pauline Turner to tell you that she has passed away at Ashley Grange. She was a long-standing member of our Church and will be much missed. The past few years have been difficult and she is now at peace. The plan is to have a service of Thanksgiving for her life on 5th December. Please bear her and the family (her husband Michael, and children Liz, Abby and Catherine) in your prayers. Donations to the Alzheimer’s Society and Stroke Association can be made via Chris White, funeral directors if people wish to do so. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for those in Residential and Nursing Homes. We thank God for the dedication and hard work of all the staff and ask God’s blessing and protection on them and all the residents. 
 
On 30th May 1431 Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in Rouen. Having led the French army in a momentous victory over England at Orléans during the Hundred Years' War, she was charged with heresy and witchcraft. Last year we visited the Historial Jeanne d’Arc in Rouen which has a very good - though perhaps overlong - multimedia presentation on the events around her trial. It also makes clear that the fault for what happened to her lies squarely with Les Anglais! 
 
‘God is alive and abroad in his world. At times his footsteps may appear faint or indistinct, but they are there. Those who have eyes to see him and the curiosity, if not the faith, to follow them, will catch glimpses of his glory and learn to stand in awe at the presence of God in the ordinary’ (Roy Williamson). 
Friday 29th May 2020 
 
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs’ (John 21:15). 
 
Jesus tells Peter to feed and guide his flock. Here Jesus is preparing Peter for his leadership of the nascent Church. Jesus repeats his instruction three times, prefacing it each time with the same question. It is a very important question. Jesus asks, “Simon, son of John do you love me?” Serving Jesus begins with love for him. As John was to write, ‘Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments’ (1 John 5:1-2). Love of God and loving service is at the very heart and foundation of our faith. It is also an essential part of leadership. 
 
From the Diocese of Salisbury’s Grapevine: ‘Together in Prayer. As part of Thy Kingdom Come.. we are inviting you to pray together with the rest of the Diocese. We want everyone to be Together in Prayer on Sunday 31st of May, Pentecost Sunday… This global wave of prayer that takes place every year in May is focussing this year on prayer and care in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic… We want to create a virtual Diocese-wide event and invite people to join us in prayer throughout the day. “Come, Holy Spirit” is among the best prayers we can pray - and… we will be encouraging everyone not simply to pray that friends and family, colleagues and neighbours might encounter the love of God in Christ, but that they would experience that love in action.’ 
 
And what about our worshipping together? ‘Online worship (is) expected to continue during slow reopening of churches. The prospect of having two separate tiers of worshippers - one present, the other remote but connected online - when places of worship reopen is exercising minds in the Church of England and elsewhere. Other faiths face a similar scenario. 
 
It was voiced by the Bishop of Hertford, Dr Michael Beasley, a former epidemiologist, who said..: “Even when we do get back into our buildings, not everybody is going to be able to be there. This is going to demand that we offer worship both in our buildings and online. “It would be dreadful if there was a sense that those in church were the proper stuff and everyone at home was demoted to being the passive recipients. The big question for us is: how are we going to be one body when we are running a two-track system? And how do people at home contribute into the worshipping life of churches just as much as those who are in the building?”… 
 
The building constraints arise from the continued need for social distancing and strict hygiene measures. The touching of common objects has to be reduced and potential points of transmission need to be identified. “So much of epidemiology comes down to door handles,” Dr Beasley said; he has worked with Ebola-virus infection control in the Congo. “It’s very tempting to think there’ll be a one-size-fits-all approach to this, and I don’t think that can be the case. So we need to equip everybody with the right understanding so that they can use their common sense to make all the reasonable adjustments to make churches as safe as they can be, while recognising that we can never eliminate all risk.”’ (Church Times 22 May 2020). 
 
We pray: 
Risen Christ, 
by the lakeside you renewed your call to your disciples: 
help your Church to obey your command 
and draw the nations to the fire of your love, 
to the glory of God the Father. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we. pray for those at University and College. This is a decisive time in their lives, but many will be studying remotely with only online contact with their course and fellow students. This can bring added pressure at an already anxious time. 
 
‘Without God, we cannot. Without us, God will not’ (St Augustine of Hippo). 
Thursday 28th May 2020 
 
‘I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I keep the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body also rests secure. You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures for evermore’ (Psalm 16:7-9,11). 
 
The psalmist assures us that God is not only our refuge and Lord, he is also our counsellor. More than that, the psalmist is assured that God will preserve me; I will not be shaken; I will not be moved; I will be kept, guarded and preserved. So he can rejoice because for God’s people there is happiness and a glory from our life commitment to God that we would not have known otherwise. As Jesus says ‘I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly’ (John 10:10). 
 
I see that a vicar had the chance to ask a question at the daily coronavirus update on Tuesday. Reverend Martin Poole, from Brighton, asked: “Will the Government review all penalty fines imposed on families travelling for childcare purposes during lockdown?” Leaving aside the prevailing thread of national debate, the pandemic lockdown has raised important ethical questions for us all - especially those of us who believe in a God who cares deeply for every one of his children. What is the right balance between what I need - or desire - and the needs and desires of others? Of course, we can say that the simple answer is ‘love your neighbour as yourself’, but what does this mean in practice? There is also the tricky question of where needs end and desires begin - on which advertisers play so effectively. 
 
Can we learn from the experience of others? ‘As Churches around the country look ahead to resuming public services from 4 July, places of worship across the Continent are now open again, subject to safety measures. In Italy, where shops and restaurants reopened on 10 May, public liturgies were allowed from Monday, after bitter exchanges between the country’s Roman Catholic bishops and Giuseppe Conte’s government; holy communion is now being administered by priests wearing face-masks and latex gloves’ (Church Times 22 May 2020). 
 
‘Ultimately the evidence for the credibility of the gospel in the eyes of the world must be a quality of life which the world cannot find elsewhere’ (Towards the Conversion of England). 
 
Bird song seems much more in evidence this year. Is there more - or is it simply that we are more aware of it? Yesterday I met a couple of men in Gravel Close doing a bird survey. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a proper opportunity to ask them any details. It would be good to know for whom they were conducting their survey and what the results are. 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Risen, ascended Lord, 
as we rejoice at your triumph, 
fill your Church on earth with power and compassion, 
that all who are estranged by sin 
may find forgiveness and know your peace, 
to the glory of God the Father. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for those involved in the manufacture, distribution, and sales of food. On the whole those early supply issues seem to have settled down. However, we have been reminded how vital they are and how fragile they can be. 
 
Looking at the wider picture: Amnesty International was founded on May 28th 1961. Amnesty seeks to publicize violations by governments and other entities of rights recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), especially freedom of speech and of conscience and the right against torture. Indications in the news are that this may become a much more pressing issue as the pandemic dies down. 
 
‘May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you’ (1 Thessalonians 3:12). 
Wednesday 27th May 2020 
 
‘Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth’ (John 17:17-19). 
 
Here we have part of Jesus’ prayer for his disciples on the night before his Passion - at the end of his Upper Room discourse. It is the prayer of Jesus for all of us that are his: that we may be made holy, one with him. We ‘do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world’ (John 17:14). We are set apart for the truth and sent out to proclaim that truth in the world. As someone has said: ‘Like Jesus, and with Jesus, we should live in the opposite direction of the world’. 
 
Of course, that would be quite impossible if it were simply down to us. We would be unable to do it. We need God to empower this - to be at work in us and through us if we are to live a Christ-like life in the world. As in the prayer below, we ask God to ‘confirm us in this mission, and help us to live the good news we proclaim’. This brings us back to Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit, whose coming we will celebrate at Pentecost on Sunday. With him in our lives all things become possible: ‘you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses’ (Acts 1:8). 
 
So we commit our lives to God: ‘Since God has shown to me a ray of his goodness, I cannot doubt him on the ground that someone has made up some new logical puzzles about him. It is too late in the day to tell me that God does not exist, the God with whom I have so long conversed, and whom I have seen active in several living men of real sanctity, not to mention the canonized saints. But there must be much in our teaching of Christianity and our living of it which is at fault, if good men react in total disbelief of it. So let us open our ears to what they say, and take the implied criticism to heart’ (Austin Farrer). 
 
With the Government’s decision to open schools where possible to Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 pupils from June 1st, our schools are working to prepare for this. I know that this will - and has already - involved our headteachers and staff in a great deal of hard work, and we must continue to bear them in our prayers. In a new departure for me, I have been asked to record a worship for the children - which will be a challenge. I know some of my colleagues have been doing this already. Well, this time has certainly been one of learning for all of us as we tackle the challenges of technology and virtual communications. 
 
Meanwhile: ‘Older people appear to be handling the psychological pressures of the pandemic better than those who are younger. Interim results from the survey launched a fortnight ago by the University of York St John and the Church Times suggest that those aged 50 or older report that they feel less exhausted, calmer, less stressed, and closer to God and the Church than do the people aged under 50 who have completed the questionnaire… One interesting find is that, against expectations, extraverts are coping better with the lockdown than introverts’ (Church Times 22 May 2020). 
 
The prayer after communion for this week: 
Eternal God, giver of love and power, 
your Son Jesus Christ has sent us into all the world 
to preach the gospel of his kingdom: 
confirm us in this mission, 
and help us to live the good news we proclaim; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
I shall be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church at 10:30am. I shall ring the bell and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for those alone and depressed. As we see above, some people have been managing this time of lockdown better than others. However, not everyone has access to the various electronic and support systems that have been so important to us recently and may have an increased feeling of dislocation. Also, of course, there are those who were already on their own and finding it difficult. 
Tuesday 26th May 2020 
 
He put before them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches’ (Matthew 13:31-32). 
 
Today the Church remembers Augustine, an early Christian missionary to England and the first Archbishop of Canterbury - the mustard seed, if you like, of the Anglo-Saxon Church. Augustine was sent here by Pope Gregory the Great - following an observation that Gregory supposedly made on being told that some fair-haired boys on sale as slaves in Rome were Angles: “Non Angli, sed angeli” (“They are not Angles, but angels”). This anecdote, which naturally has a prominent place in our English tradition, first appears in Bede's Ecclesiastical History. 
 
Augustine spent most of his life as a churchman in Italy. He was a monk, probably at the church of St Andrew on the Coelian Hill in Rome. It was in the late AD 590s that he was sent with a group of about 40 missionaries to the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Kent. ‘The missionaries arrived in Kent in 597 and were greeted by King Æthelberht. Æthelberht’s wife, Bertha, came from the region near Paris and she was already a Christian. In time, Æthelberht and his court were also converted to Christianity. Augustine and his associates may have influenced the creation of Æthelberht’s law-code, especially as related to its protection for churches. Augustine also constructed or adapted buildings to be used as churches, including one on the site of present-day current Canterbury Cathedral… Augustine of Canterbury should not be confused with the earlier, North African bishop, St Augustine of Hippo (died 430), who wrote the Confessions, the City of God and other hugely influential theological works’ (British Library). I must admit that it was many years before I realised that there are two St Augustines - which was very confusing! 
 
We have had a glorious Bank Holiday and been very blessed with the weather these past couple of months. It has helped, of course, that we live in a beautiful part of the country - for which we thank God. ‘Christian belief in God the creator does not deduce that because the world of nature is beautiful, it must have had an originator. Belief in creation is belief in purpose - a purpose for man in the world now, set in the context of God’s eternity. Man can know of this purpose only when he is enlightened by the Spirit of God, and in worship catches a glimpse of the majesty of the creator’ (J.W. Rogerson). 
 
The collect for today: 
Almighty God, 
whose servant Augustine was sent as the apostle of the English people: 
grant that as he laboured in the Spirit to preach Christ’s gospel in this land, 
so all who hear the good news 
may strive to make your truth known in all the world; 
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 for today we pray for our community life - especially groups that are unable to meet. We have discovered all sorts of ways to get together online, but it is not the same and many things we are unable to do. 
 
Let me share with you the prayer from Wilton with Netherhampton and Fugglestone in our Diocesan Cycle of Prayer: 
Please pray for all those due to marry this summer and whose plans have now been thrown into confusion and for those who minister to them and to the bereaved in difficult circumstances. Also for all Church-members attempting to keep a sense of fellowship and those able to assist vulnerable members of the community. 
 
On this day in 1521, the Edict of Worms banned the writings of Martin Luther - a German cleric whose efforts to change the church led to the Reformation - and declared him an outlaw and a heretic who was to be captured. 
 
Tomorrow is Wednesday and I will be in Church at 10:30am for a time of prayer. I will ring the bell and ask that you join your prayers with mine. I will attach a simple order of service to the morning reflection. 
Monday 25th May 2020 
 
‘Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength’ (1 Corinthians 1:22-25). 
 
Today the Church remembers the Venerable Bede, monk of Jarrow, scholar and historian. For anyone interested in the early history of our islands, the Venerable Bede is a name to conjure with. His history, though far from impartial, is a most important significant source. ‘St Bede - also known as the Venerable Bede - is widely regarded as the greatest of all the Anglo-Saxon scholars. He wrote around 40 books mainly dealing with theology and history. Bede was probably born in Monkton, Durham. Nothing is known of his family background. At the age of seven he was entrusted to the care of Benedict Biscop, who in 674 AD had founded the monastery of St Peter at Wearmouth. In 682 AD, Bede moved to the monastery at Jarrow, where he spent the rest of his life. By the age of 19 he had become a deacon and was ordained as priest at 30. His scholarship covered a huge range of subjects, including commentaries on the bible, observations of nature, music and poetry. His most famous work, which is a key source for the understanding of early British history and the arrival of Christianity, is 'Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum' or 'The Ecclesiastical History of the English People' which was completed in 731 AD. It is the first work of history in which the AD system of dating is used. Bede died in his cell at the monastery in May 735 AD’ (BBC History). 
 
Many argue that religion can’t be true because it cannot be proved. Signs and wonders are not produced to order, nor are there clear and unambiguous philosophical or scientific proofs - ‘Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom’. Of course there are wonders in creation every day, but they are so common that they are called ‘Nature’. While expecting philosophical or scientific proof simply avoids the fact that there is so much more to creation than just philosophy or science. Perhaps it’s like trying to look for 21st Century historical method in Bede’s Ecclesiastical History. We proclaim the reality of God present in and with us - ‘Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God’ - and God is not constrained by our limited understanding. 
 
Bishop Nicholas has written again to the clergy: ‘Jumping out of the tree of normality was comparatively easy; climbing back into it is a much more complex process. The government is finding it hard to provide the clarity of messaging that was possible when it was a simple ‘Stay at home’. Nevertheless, the dangers of Covid-19, to the over-70s and those with an underlying health condition in particular, are still very apparent. Although the number of deaths has been reducing, the dangers are still considerable… At the meeting of faith groups with the government… it was reported that the government want it to be possible for weddings to take place again, but it will not be before the 1st June and the numbers attending will be very limited… The government also want places of worship to be open for private prayer, but not before the 4th July. There is pressure for these arrangements to be brought forward and it is possible that the government’s position will be revised.’ 
 
The collect for today: 
God our maker, 
whose Son Jesus Christ gave to your servant Bede 
grace to drink in with joy 
the word that leads us to know you and to love you: 
in your goodness 
grant that we also may come at length to you, 
the source of all wisdom, 
and stand before your 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 for today we pray for all who minister to the sick: not only the medical professionals but all care workers, volunteers and family members. 
 
It’s strange: today really does not feel like a Bank Holiday. When one day is much like another, lived under the realities of lockdown, for most of us it’s just another day. 
Sunday 24th May 2020 
 
‘Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you’ (1 Peter 5:6-7). 
 
Today is the Seventh Sunday of Easter - or the Sunday after Ascension Day. We continue to reflect on Jesus’ ascension and what that means for us who seek to walk in his ways. He has empowered us, his Church, with the Spirit to continue his work of proclaiming and building the kingdom. Also he leaves us with a great hope that in time we too will ascend to be with him eternally. 
 
Being a fourth Sunday, we ask God’s blessing on our Roads to God programme. This month we are praying for all those who live or work in our village. In June we will be bringing before God: Barford Lane, Standlynch, West Wick, Clearbury View, Moot Close and Eastman Close. As always, if anyone would like specific prayer they can let me know. It will remain confidential. 
 
‘There can be few of us who try to pray regularly who have not found our pattern of prayer disturbed by the lockdown. This is partly owing to other changes in our daily rhythms, and partly by the burden of distress and confusion which we are all carrying at the moment. Our lives have been suspended, and, in spite of the cautious changes announced.. there is no “normal” in sight. Meanwhile, we worry - for ourselves, for ageing parents, for school-age children, for the furloughed and those unemployed, for the future.. We should not be too hard on ourselves if we find personal prayer difficult at this time. It is challenging enough to have our health threatened by a mindless microphysical entity. But the virus has also cast a shadow into our souls, creeping into our dreams and our daylight reveries, perhaps causing us to question the love of God. If prayer was once a safe stronghold, it may often now be a battleground. And yet, while my regular pattern sometimes seems meaningless, I find that the urge to pray comes suddenly in the dead of night, or in encountering the multiple, and often unknown, names on intercession lists, or when I watch the news’ (Angela Tilby, Church Times 15 May 2020). 
 
On 24 May 1738, John Wesley had an experience that changed everything. He described the event in his journal: “In the evening, I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation, and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death” (https://www.christianitytoday.com/)
 
There is a service for today from the church. There is also a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. You may hear the wind in the background as it blows around the building and bangs at the windows - moving like the Spirit through the Church. Do listen out for the bell at half past ten when I ask that you join me in a time of worship and prayer. 
 
We also have another contribution from Ron Hart, who was due to take our service in St Laurence today. Thank you Ron. 
 
The collect for this week: 
O God the king of glory 
you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ 
with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven: 
we beseech you, leave us not comfortless, 
but send your Holy Spirit to strengthen us 
and exalt us to the place 
where our Saviour Christ is gone before, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our Lay Pastoral Assistants (LPAs) who play an important role in the pastoral ministry of our Church, especially helping to keep us in touch. 
 
Also: in the Anglican Cycle of Prayer we are asked to pray for all members of the Anglican Communion around the world, for the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Justin Welby, and all primates and bishops. We pray for wisdom at this difficult time as they seek to lead the Church in godly ways. 
Saturday 23rd May 2020 
 
‘Now there came to Ephesus a Jew named Apollos.. an eloquent man, well-versed in the scriptures. He had been instructed in the Way of the Lord; and he spoke with burning enthusiasm and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue; but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained the Way of God to him more accurately’ (Acts 18:24-26). 
 
I like this story about Apollos because he is willing to listen and to learn. He is not the sort who would ‘take a position and staunchly never budge’ or refuse to admit he might have gaps in what he knows. Too often Church history - and indeed that of politics too - has been filled who those who, once they believe they understand what is right, have steadfastly closed their ears to all differing views. Worse still, all too many have sought to impose their version of truth on all around them. 
 
One such was Savonarola, whom I remember learning about in history at school. ‘Girolamo Savonarola, Dominican friar and puritan fanatic, became moral dictator of the city of Florence when the Medici were temporarily driven out in 1494. Sent to Florence originally a dozen years before, he made a reputation for austerity and learning, and became prior of the convent of St Mark (where his rooms can still be seen). A visionary, prophet and formidably effective hellfire preacher, obsessed with human wickedness and convinced that the wrath of God was about to fall upon the earth, he detested practically every form of pleasure and relaxation… he was executed on 23 May 1498’ (History Today, 5 May 1998). 
 
One of the big dangers for Church goers is that our thinking, our understanding of God, can become too rigid, ossified like some spiritual hardening of the arteries. God always has something new for us to discover and learn. On the other hand, we have to avoid going to the other extreme of being so open-minded that we lose any sense of rootedness in God. We need to hang on to Jesus’ promise ‘‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free" (John 8:31-32). We must be open to what God is telling us, while measuring that against what he has already revealed to his Church. 
 
‘The lust for certainty may be a sin.. God is constantly upsetting our certainties.. It is this constant breaking down of the idols.. that enables God to break through’ (Archbishop John Habgood). 
 
I’ve been reflecting on the Lord’s Prayer, especially the lines ‘thy kingdom come, thy will be done’ and ‘for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory’. When we find it hard to understand what is going on, or why, we need to remind ourselves that this is God’s world and he holds all things together. We may be unable see the bigger picture, but God is here at work within and around us. ‘A few years ago, Rowan Williams, then Archbishop of Canterbury, was asked where God was on 11 September 2001. “Where he always is, always in the centre of things, always in the acts of love and generosity that people give to one another in times of crisis,” said Lord Williams, who had been in New York on the day of the terrorist attacks. “People expect when they ask that question of where was God — they expect sometimes an answer in terms of a God who steps in and solves it all, stops it happening, or mops it up. But the way God works seems to be in the heart of it all, and through people.”’ (Church Times 18 May 2020). 
 
God is always there, whether we are aware of him or not; he is always at work in our world even if we do not see him - and he wants us to be a part of that. More than that, with the Ascension we know ‘we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous’ (1 John 21:1). 
 
We pray: 
God be in my head, and in my understanding; 
God be in my eyes, and in my looking; 
God be in my mouth, and in my speaking; 
God be in my heart, and in my thinking; 
God be at mine end, and at my departing. Amen. 
(Book of Hours, 1514) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for those who produce our Parish magazine. They have been doing a great job, working hard to keep us all in touch. 
Friday 22nd May 2020 
 
‘Clap your hands, all you peoples; shout to God with loud songs of joy. For the Lord, the Most High, is awesome, a great king over all the earth.. God has gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet. Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises’ (Psalm 47:1-2,5-6). 
 
Yesterday we watched with the disciples as they saw the Lord leave them and ascend into heaven. This is a time of bereavement for them, as they lose Jesus for the second time in six weeks. Afterwards, as they returned to Jerusalem, I wonder what was going on in their minds. Were they perhaps thinking of all those questions they hadn’t asked over the past forty days? If only we had said this.. or perhaps we should have asked that.. 
 
This is something most of us can empathise with, for who has not wished that we had spent a bit more time with a parent or a grandparent - seeking their guidance and wisdom, or asking about their life or memories or family history while they were still with us. Yet we are told, the disciples ‘returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God’ (Luke 24:52-53). Not only that, but soon they got down to the practical business of finding another apostle to replace Judas - trusting that God still had a role for them. 
 
‘Who has not sometimes thought: If I could see Jesus Christ as he was on this earth; if I could talk with him, if I could have certainty from those divine lips, and read assurance in those steady eyes, then I should lay hold of God. So we think, but not so he teaches. He is in the Supper Room, desiring in that last opportunity to enlighten his disciples’ minds and to assure their faith. But beyond a point he cannot. He cannot teach them as fully, he says, as the Holy Ghost will teach them hereafter. It is not so much the word of Jesus knocking at the mind’s door that secures his admittance; it is the God within drawing the bolts with invisible fingers. When your pride, he says, when your self-sufficiency has been shattered by the experience of my death, the Spirit will secure the admittance of all the truth you need to know. And so it is: after half an hour’s repentance before the cross of Christ, the Spirit shows us what years of study cannot discover, and what Christ present in the flesh might not avail to make us see’ (Austin Farrer). 
 
How has life under the lockdown been for you so far? How are you doing, and are you bearing up? After some two months, I suspect that for most of us it has been both good and bad - a mixture of positives and negatives, of ups and downs. In a national church survey ‘More than one third of respondents say that they are more exhausted, anxious, stressed, fatigued, or frustrated since the pandemic began. Yet more than 40 per cent feel more creative, more prayerful, more thankful, or closer to God. More than half feel more neighbourly, but more than 40 per cent feel further from church or further from others’ (Church Times 15 May 2020). It has been a strange and disruptive time for us all. When pressures seem to mount up, there is a line from the hymn ‘O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness’ that I find helpful: ‘Low at his feet lay your burden of carefulness’. 
 
The prayer after communion for this week: 
God our Father, 
whose Son Jesus Christ gives the water of eternal life: 
may we thirst for you, 
the spring of life and source of goodness, 
through him who is alive and reigns, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for the bereaved, remembering especially those who cannot be with their loved ones in their last hours, or are unable to attend their funeral. The inability to say a proper goodbye or to gather together in mourning and remembrance is an added pressure at an already difficult time. 
 
On this day in AD 337, Constantine the Great became the first Roman emperor to be baptized in the Christian church - while on his deathbed. Throughout his life, Constantine ascribed his success to his conversion to Christianity and the support of the Christian God. He made it the official religion of the Empire and ‘He not only initiated the evolution of the empire into a Christian state but also provided the impulse for a distinctively Christian culture that prepared the way for the growth of Byzantine and Western medieval culture’ (Encyclopædia Britannica). 
Thursday 21st May 2020 
 
‘You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight (Acts 1:8-9). 
 
Today is the Feast of the Ascension. It is a lovely morning and would have been ideal for our outside service. The Ascension is one of the four great festivals of the Church’s year - as we celebrate Jesus’ return into heaven. There he reigns now as our exalted Lord and King. ‘God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth’ (Philippians 2:9-10). As we reflected on Sunday, he says ‘I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you’ (John 16:7). 
 
As Jesus gathers his disciples together that day, they ask him if he is going to restore the kingdom of Israel at this time. He answers that it is not for them to understand the times and seasons the Father has ordained for such events. He then tells them that they will receive power when the Holy Spirit is given them to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. The message is clear: Jesus has left his followers with a task. ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age’ (Matthew 28:18-20). We are to continue to speak and act for him. 
 
After this he is lifted up and a cloud takes him out of their sight. ‘While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven’ (Luke 24:51). As his followers are gazing upwards, two men in robes ask them why they are doing this and then predict that Jesus will return. ‘He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end’ (The Nicene Creed). 
 
‘I will not leave you comfortless’ Jesus says (John 14:18). ‘The presence that matters is not mine (or ours), but God’s. Poets from the Psalmists onwards have regretted that this presence too often looks like absence. It is, however, all we have; and we might reflect that the root of our longing lies not in God’s having gone, but in God’s having been here… The author of Luke’s Gospel wrote for readers who found it difficult to forgive Jesus, having come, for leaving. The narrative of consolation which I find sustaining just now is the Good Samaritan. He does everything that can be done, but he must depart. So he entrusts the patient to the care of another stranger, one who - essentially - is present’ (Church Times 15 May 2020). 
 
The collect for today: 
Grant, we pray, almighty God, 
that as we believe your only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ 
to have ascended into the heavens, 
so we in heart and mind may also ascend 
and with him continually dwell; 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we remember Christ as our King: 
‘ Look back: see Christ dying for you 
Look upward: see Christ praying for you 
Look inward: see Christ living in you 
Look forward: see Christ coming for you!’ 
(Anglican Cycle of Prayer 1989). 
 
There a simple service of reflection for today. 
 
‘Christians should take courage both from the prospect of glory and from the assistance already given them by the Holy Spirit’ (C.K. Barrett). 
Wednesday 20th May 2020 
 
‘When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you’ (John 16:13-14). 
 
Jesus makes it clear that the Church is to continue growing in faith and understanding - always learning more of and from God. Scripture is central to our faith. However it is not so much the last word as the foundation on which our understanding is built. That is why we read from the Bible whenever we gather together for worship. In those wonderful words of our Bible Sunday collect: Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: help us so to hear them, to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them that, through patience, and the comfort of your holy word, we may embrace and for ever hold fast the hope of everlasting life. 
 
Jesus tells us that there is more, though. For as well as scripture, we have the Holy Spirit who ‘will guide you into all the truth’. We need the Spirit if we are to understand scripture; we need the Spirit to help us to delve deeper into scripture; and we need the Spirit to build on scripture and teach us new things of God. Thus the Church of England has always said that for a fully rounded faith there are three sources of authority, each rising from the other: scripture, tradition, and reason. So over the years amongst other things, the Holy Spirit has led God’s people to abolish slavery, to recognise the equal ministry of women and men, and to pursue respect for the environment. What new things is he trying to tell us today as we experience these strange times? 
 
‘God always gives us strength for one leg of the journey at a time. At each stage we are promised that he will continue to provide additional and greater strength as needed on our way into the future. The powers we receive each time somehow enable us to do the very things we had been incapable of doing so far. God does not distribute the full ration at once. He apportions it from one day to the next’ (A sermon by Karl Barth). 
 
As I take my daily walks, often walking alongside or across the A338, I have been aware of how much busier the roads are becoming. At the same time though, perhaps understandably, the buses are all but empty. So I wonder what our priorities will be as we begin to emerge from all this. 
 
Had you been hoping to visit the Chelsea Flower Show this year? You may like to know that ‘May 20 1913 saw the first show at Chelsea, known as the Great Spring Show. The first shows were three-day events held within a single marquee’ (The history of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Risen Christ, 
by the lakeside you renewed your call to your disciples: 
help your Church to obey your command 
and draw the nations to the fire of your love, 
to the glory of God the Father. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for all Church groups that are unable to meet and practice. Fellowship plays an important part in our Christian life, whether it is for study, worship, ministry, outreach - or simply socialising. We pray that as God leads us into new ways, we may be able to resume this shortly. 
 
I shall be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church at 10:30am today, together with our Roads to God prayers. I shall ring the bell and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. 
 
Also: tomorrow is Ascension Day when usually we would have held an early service outside in the churchyard. At 7:30am I will be in Church and will ring the bell - so long as I remember to get up early! There will be a service on the website. 
 
‘From the rising of the sun to its setting the name of the Lord is to be praised. The Lord is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens’ Psalm 113:3-4). 
Tuesday 19th May 2020 
 
‘Keep awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming… Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour’ (Matthew 24:42,44). 
 
Today the Church remembers St Dunstan (AD 909-988) who was Archbishop of Canterbury in Anglo-Saxon England. Dunstan was born in Baltonborough, Somerset the son of a West Saxon noble and received his early education from the Irish monks who had settled at Glastonbury. He actively supported the founding and restoration of monasteries in England and was influential with several kings of England. In addition he was a skilled artisan, proficient as a goldsmith and metal-worker particularly making church bells and organs. 
 
During the Viking invasions of the ninth century, monasteries had been favourite targets of the invaders, and by Dunstan's time English monasticism had been all but wiped out. Dunstan played the leading role in its restoration. Also he laboured with no small success to establish peace amongst the different peoples settled in England, pursuing a far-sighted policy of converting the Danes and drawing them into the life of the English church and nation. He delighted in teaching and encouraged the clergy to acquire knowledge that they might be the teachers of the nation. Dunstan's coronation ceremony for King Edgar in AD 673 still forms the basis for royal coronations today. 
 
I have been reflecting on the difference between leading worship from The Vicarage and from the Church. We know both intellectually and theologically that worship and prayer is just as valid wherever it happens. We don’t need to go somewhere special in order to encounter God. Indeed there is something profoundly symbolic about worshipping in our homes - where we engage in our ‘everyday’ lives. And yet it has to be said that to worship in the church building touches a deep need in us. There is an emotional difference. This is a holy place (holy means something set aside exclusively). Just as Jesus withdrew to pray, so too we need to move aside from our everyday spaces as we set time apart to spend with God. I have been very privileged to be allowed to do this in Church this past week - and pray for the time when it is open to all once again. 
 
‘“Justice and dignity” need to be at the centre of society’s attempts at rebuilding after the pandemic, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said in an interview on Channel 4... He said that the pain and cost must be borne by those with the broadest shoulders, not with another ten years of austerity. He also spoke of being moved by the time that he has spent as a volunteer chaplain visiting coronavirus patients at St Thomas’ Hospital, in Lambeth’ (Church Times 15 May 2020). 
 
The collect for today: 
Almighty God, 
who raised up Dunstan to be a true shepherd of the flock, 
a restorer of monastic life 
and a faithful counsellor to those in authority: 
give to all pastors the same gifts of your Holy Spirit 
that they may be true servants of Christ and of all his people; 
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 for today we pray for all medical staff: those in hospitals, GP surgeries, Care Homes, research laboratories and wherever they may be. 
 
Tomorrow I will be in Church at 10:30am for a time of prayer. I will ring the bell and ask that you join your prayers with mine. I will attach a simple order of service to the morning reflection. As it is the third Wednesday of the month, we are also praying for our Roads to God concerns. Although we are unable to deliver our prayer cards, we are still holding our village in prayer before God. I invite you to join your prayers with ours. If you wish prayer for yourself, or know of anyone we should be holding in prayer, please do let me know. Your request will be confidential and I shall pray for you - or them - tomorrow. 
Monday 18th May 2020 
 
‘We remained in this city (Philippi) for some days. On the sabbath day we went outside the gate by the river, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there’ (Acts 16:12-13). 
 
Paul and his companions have travelled to Macedonia following his vision, and on the sabbath they seek out fellow believers so that they might worship together. In much the same way we might go the local church on a Sunday. This is a big part of what we have been missing over the past couple of months, being together on a Sunday morning for worship. Unlike Paul we can at least gather remotely and that is a great blessing - but it is not the same. We look forward to when we all can come together in church again - but realise that it will not be soon. 
 
This is the season of Rogation, so called from the Latin ‘Rogare’ (to ask). Historically, the Rogation Days (the three days before Ascension Day) were a period of fasting and abstinence, asking for God’s blessing on the crops for a bountiful harvest. It follows Easter, the season of resurrection and so renewal and resurrection are underlying themes. Less of us today directly derive our livelihood from the production of food, yet it is good to be reminded of our dependence upon those who do and our responsibility for the environment - especially at this time. 
 
In the Western Church, processions to bless the crops and to include “beating the bounds”, developed from the old Roman rites of “Robigalia” (“robigo”: Latin for “rust” or “mould”), when prayers would be offered to the deity for crops to be spared from mildew. In the days before Ordnance Survey maps, there were not always clear lines of demarcation between the parishes. During the procession, boys were bumped on prominent marks and boundary stones, or rolled in briars and ditches, or thrown in the pond to ensure that they never forgot the boundaries. The Victorians made it more civilized by beating objects rather than people, in the context of a service and procession. 
 
These rogation themes of blessing the fields and beating the bounds were commended in the 1630s by the poet George Herbert, that epitome of English country parsons. He said that processions should be encouraged for four reasons: 
A Blessing of God for the fruits of the field. 
Justice in the preservation of bounds. 
Charity in loving, walking and neighbourly accompanying one another with reconciling of differences at the time if there be any. 
Mercie, in relieving the poor by a liberal distribution of largesse, which at the time is or ought to be used. 
 
Today the emphasis has shifted. A blessing on growing crops in fields and gardens, and on young lambs and calves remain. In addition contemporary concerns include: 
The enjoyment by all of, and access to, the countryside and the conservation of species not directly offering economic profit to the owner or occupier of the land where they flourish. 
An ecological insight into the inter-relatedness of the created order. 
Reflection on our relationship to the natural order. What does it mean to “have dominion” under God? Are the words ‘stewards’ or ‘managers’ appropriate to describe this role? 
The relief of the poor. Rogation Sunday often precedes Christian Aid week - as George Herbert reminds us there is always room for charity. 
 
A prayer for Rogationtide: 
Remember, Lord, your mercy and loving-kindness towards us. 
Bless this good earth, and make it fruitful. 
Bless our labour, and give us all things needed for our daily lives. 
Bless the homes of our parish and all who live within them. 
Bless our common life and our care for our neighbour. 
Hear us, good Lord. Amen. 
(https://www.cofe-worcester.org.uk/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our school governors who not only provide important strategic oversight for our schools but also support and encouragement to the whole school community - which is particularly needed at this time. 
 
‘When we take the fruits of our labor in our hands and stretch our arms to God in the deep belief that He hears us and accepts our gifts, then we know that all of our life is given, given to celebrate’ (Henri J.M. Nouwen). 
Sunday 17th May 2020 
 
‘I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you’ (John 14:16-17). 
 
This is the Sixth Sunday of Easter which means that in just a fortnight’s time we will celebrate the Feast of Pentecost. Here in Jesus’ words to his disciples on the night of the Last Supper, we have a prediction of this as he prepares to leave them. He promises that ‘I will not leave you comfortless’ (John 14:18) and ‘I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you’ (John 16:7). 
 
Our collect today reminds us that just as it is “by his death he has recalled us to life,” so his “continual presence in us” will “raise us to eternal joy”. This is the theme of our Gospel, where Jesus promises that his ascension into glory will not leave the disciples “orphaned”. In the coming of the Spirit, they will experience the presence of both the Son and the Father - and be caught up in the flow of love and delight within the heart of God. This promise is for us as much as it is for them. 
 
‘The Archbishop-designate of York, the Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell.. said in a piece for The Daily Telegraph on Monday that the Church would come out of the coronavirus “even stronger.” He defended the Church of England’s policy of closing churches, saying that it was “following government guidance”, but that the Church had not been absent. He drew attention to how the Church had been running foodbanks, working with asylum-seekers, and streaming virtual services; it would emerge from the crisis with an ever stronger spirit of service to the country’ (Church Times 15 May 2020). 
 
Looking forward: ‘There was a guarded response this week to the news that, under government guidelines for Step Three of the phased return to normal life, churches could open for worship as early as 4 July. The document that followed the Prime Minister’s announcement on Sunday linked places of worship with pubs, hairdressers, hospitality providers, and leisure facilities as free to open from that date, assuming that infection rates have not risen again and provided that they can meet the Covid-19 secure guidelines. The document concedes: “Some venues which are, by design, crowded . . . may still not be able to reopen safely at this point.” On Wednesday afternoon, the Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick, at the Downing Street briefing, went further. “I’ve been speaking to faith leaders, and will convene later this week a task force to establish when and how places of worship can open safely, for some of the practices where social distancing can take place, such as private prayer, potentially private prayer being able to be carried out earlier than July 4th.”’ (Church Times 15 May 2020). 
 
There is a recorded service for today. There is also a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. For the first time in nearly two months our service is from the church and we have a chance to sing a hymn together. Do listen out for the bell at 10 o’clock when I ask that you join me in a time of worship and prayer. 
 
Also we have another reflection for this Sunday from Ron Hart which I have attached. Thank you, Ron. 
 
The collect for this week: 
God our redeemer, 
you have delivered us from the power of darkness 
and brought us into the kingdom of your Son: 
grant, that as by his death he has recalled us to life, 
so by his continual presence in us he may raise us 
to eternal joy; 
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 for today we pray for young people, especially those worried by the cancellation of exams. There has been a lot in the papers this past week about schools going back - or possibly not. We pray for them all and their families in this time of uncertainty. 
Saturday 16th May 2020 
 
‘During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them’ (Acts 16:9-10). 
 
Most of us may not have visions like Paul. Even so, are we open to God’s promptings and direction - and willing to respond to them? This is a question both for each one of us individually and together as his church. We must constantly ask ourselves if what we are doing, or what we plan to do, is in fact guided by our own ideas or God’s instigation. We can find it too easy to follow the path of our own assumptions or ‘common sense’ when God seems to be asking something new or different of us. As Billy Graham said: ‘The first step in seeking God’s guidance is to be sure we actually want it. All too often we want God to bless our plans, instead of asking him what his plans are.’ 
 
The bottom line is: as the Church we are here to serve God. This returns us to St Peter’s declaration that we are ‘a royal priesthood’ (1 Peter 2:9). What does that actually mean, though? How are we to be a priesthood? Let’s not get caught up in those theological differences and tangles with which the Church has long grappled. In essence a priesthood is about ministering and mediating God as his representatives in the community - being the channels of his grace and love; acting as his agents in and on behalf of his world. 
 
The truly wonderful and amazing thing about God at work in the world is that he wants to do it in and through us. He doesn’t simply tell us to stand back and admire his great and marvellous acts. He uses us as his partners and agents in his redeeming work. As St Theresa puts it: ‘“Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.” 
 
This may seem to be all but impossible, but we are not expected to do this in and of ourselves. Indeed if we try to do so we are bound to fail. God himself provides the strength and the gifts we need - and we are as much recipients of his grace as its conduits. That’s what the upcoming feast of Pentecost (31st May) is all about. For God’s grace precedes our response, and before we are ministers or even disciples we are simply human beings who experience the kindness of our Lord through others. 
 
We pray: 
Heavenly Father, we come to you today asking for wisdom and support. 
May everything we do begin with your inspiration and continue with your help. 
We ask for guidance that all of our thoughts and actions would reflect your holy will. 
We ask you to grant us the grace to love you and our neighbours more perfectly, 
and to remind us that all we do is for the pursuit of truth for your greater glory. 
We ask all these things in your name. 
Amen. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for politicians and their advisors. As they make decisions that affect us all to a degree that we have never experienced before, we pray for true wisdom and a willingness to put the good of all before any personal benefit or ambition. 
 
‘Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit’ (Jeremiah 17:7-8). 
 
In a week when we remembered Florence Nightingale, today is noteworthy for two other significant women of history: in 1770 Marie-Antoinette married the future King Louis XVI of France, and just a century ago in 1920 Joan of Arc was canonized as a saint by Pope Benedict XV. 
Friday 15th May 2020 
 
‘You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last’ (John 15:16). 
 
Here we come back to Jesus’ injunction that we should bear fruit. So what are we talking about here? What is the fruit that we are called to bear? Primarily this fruit is the working out of the love of Christ in our lives for the nourishment and refreshment of others - that is to say we are to love God and others, as in Jesus’ summary of the law. As we know this is at the very heart of our Christian calling: ‘I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another’ (John 13:34-35). This is expanded upon in the letter to the Galatians: ‘the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things’ (Galatians 5:22-23). 
 
‘The tree is known by its fruit’ Jesus tells us (Matthew 12:33). ‘Similarly, those who profess to be Christ's will be recognized by their actions. For what matters is not a momentary act of professing, but being persistently motivated by faith’ (Ignatius of Antioch). So Paul can write: ‘We have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God’ (Colossians 1:9-10). 
 
We have been given more detail on how the church is affected in the current state of the lockdown: 
‘The Government has lumped churches with pubs, cinemas, and hairdressers as premises that must stay closed at least until 4 July. A detailed document released on Monday, after the Prime Minister’s broadcast statement on Sunday night, speaks of churches as part of “Step Three” in the journey back to normal life while the coronavirus remains a threat… The document states that no change will be made to the instructions for funerals, which allow a few family members and friends to attend services in crematoria or at outdoor burials. There is, however, a hint that weddings might be allowed in three weeks’ time. The document states: “We understand the frustration couples planning a wedding must be feeling, so we have set out our intention to enable small wedding ceremonies from 1 June. As with all coronavirus restrictions on places of worship, venues and social distancing, we will look to ease them as soon as it is safe to do so.”… The Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, who has been leading the C of E’s response to the crisis, responded to the statement by recognising that it was still right to restrict public worship. “We note from the Government’s Covid-19 Recovery Strategy that churches could be open from July as part of the conditional and phased plan to begin lifting the lockdown. We look forward to the time when we are able to gather again in our church buildings. “We are examining what steps we will need to take to do so safely and are actively planning ahead in preparation”’ (Church Times 11 May 2020). 
 
We pray: 
Almighty and everlasting God, 
by whose Spirit the whole body of the Church 
is governed and sanctified: 
hear our prayer which we offer for all your faithful people, 
that in their vocation and ministry 
they may serve you in holiness and truth 
to the glory of your name; 
through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for those who are ill and for their families. We remember both those affected by Corvid-19 and all who are ill of other conditions. We pray for those unable to be with their loved one in hospital or elsewhere - and who must watch and wait from afar. We bring before God the worry, the fear and the love. 
Thursday 14th May 2020 
 
They prayed and said, ‘Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.’ And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles (Acts 1:24-26). 
 
Today is the feast of St Matthias the Apostle. Following the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, the disciples realise that all is not lost. Indeed our Lord now has a new and greater mission for them. As such they feel the need to fill the gap left by Judas Iscariot, by finding a new apostle to bring the number back up to twelve. 
 
Two possible candidates are produced from among the hundred and twenty members of the nascent church. The qualifications required of them are that they ‘bore us company all the while we had the Lord Jesus with us', and that they were ‘a witness to his resurrection' (Acts 1:21-22). These two candidates are Matthias and Joseph, called Barsabbas. Both are qualified to bear witness to the life of Jesus Christ, his death and resurrection. The decision, though, is not to be the disciples' but the Lord's - and it is made by the drawing of lots. I wonder what this says about decision making in today’s church, and what we should learn from it? 
 
The lot falls on Matthias, and so he joins the company of the apostles, and is with them in receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2). Otherwise very little is known for sure about him. Tradition has it that the first part of his ministry was spent in Judea, and that there he was arrested and tried for being a Christian. When the judge wished to give him time to consider renouncing his faith, he vehemently declared his adherence to Christ alone. ‘God forbid that I should repent of the truth that I have truly found and become an apostate' (The Golden Legend Lives of the Saints, Jacobus de Voragine, Archbishop of Genoa 1275). After this he was stoned and beheaded at Jerusalem. However, an alternative account holds that he preached in Cappadocia and along the coast of the Caspian Sea, suffering great hardship and ill-usage, and was finally crucified at Colchis. 
 
Yesterday it was a joy for me to be praying in Church again. I had a real sense of our Church community praying with me, as we shared our time together in a place hallowed by centuries of faithful worship. I lit the candle in the Votive Candle Stand and then said Morning Prayer in the sanctuary. The Church was as it always has been - and yet at the same time fresh and new in the morning light. The birds were singing outside and the sun shining through the windows. 
 
The collect for today: 
Almighty God, 
who in the place of the traitor Judas 
chose your faithful servant Matthias 
to be of the number of the Twelve: 
preserve your Church from false apostles 
and, by the ministry of faithful pastors and teachers, 
keep us steadfast in your 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/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray that we may grow through God’s Word. We have a God-given opportunity at the moment to spend more time with the scriptures. Let us pray that we will use it well. ‘Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path’ (Psalm 119:105). 
 
In the light of the present search to find a vaccine for Covid-19, it’s worth noting that today in 1796 Edward Jenner administered the first vaccination against smallpox. 
Wednesday 13th May 2020 
 
‘I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing’ (John 15:5). 
 
Of the many pictures of the relationship between God and his people, the vine and branch picture emphasises our complete dependence on Jesus and the need for constant connection. Together we form the one tree and possess one common life. Only in and from him can we derive the living power for bearing fruit. The branch depends on the vine even more than the sheep depends on the shepherd or the child depends on the father. Jesus is there for us, our source of life and nourishment - and here as he is about to depart from his disciples, he gives this is important word of encouragement. He would remain united to them and they to him, just as truly as branches are connected to the main vine. 
 
As branches of his vine, so we work with him in God’s re-creation of the world. Jesus did not come to make us better people or to give us a better life. He came so that we could become new and live a new life in close relationship with him, bearing his fruit, empowered by his Spirit! ‘If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!’ (2 Corinthians 5:17). 
 
Yesterday I took advantage of the new permission to go for a longer ramble. The sun was shining and it was good to be out. Again I marvel at all the blessings we enjoy here. ‘The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness’ (Lamentations 3:22-23). 
 
I followed the Avon Valley Path out of the village and then turned on up into Woodfalls, emerging by Hale Newsagents - before taking a roundabout route along the roads west of The Ridge as I headed back. I enjoy walking through the streets. It is an opportunity to meet (at a properly observed distance, of course) and talk with a number of people I’ve not seen for some time, while silently bearing the wider community in prayer. 
 
We are coming to the end of the spring bulbs. Spring is definitely one of the best times in our garden. Now, though, all the snowdrops and tête-à-tête are long gone; the rest of the daffodils are over; and the bluebells are finally fading. We are left simply with swathes of green leaves turning yellow across the grass as they gather the goodness back into their bulbs ready to burst forth again next year. 
 
We pray together: 
Eternal God, 
who longs for us to know all good things 
and to walk along a peaceful path, 
open the eyes of our hearts that we may see the way to life, 
open our ears that we may hear the truth, 
and open our lips that we may praise you, 
this day and all our days, 
in Jesus’ name. 
(United Reformed Church) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for Bishop Nicholas - that God may strengthen and sustain him, and give him the wisdom he needs at this time. 
 
I attach a simple order for Morning Prayer that I shall be using in Church at 10 o’clock. I shall ring the bell and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. Our prayer and praises are not restricted to Sunday worship! In the words of George Herbert ‘Seven whole days, not one in seven, I will praise thee’. 
 
‘Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long’ (Psalm 25:4-5). 
Tuesday 12th May 2020 
 
‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid’ (John 14:27)
 
The immediate context for this verse is Jesus’ leave-taking of his disciples. It is natural therefore to understand these words in the tradition of the common Oriental formulas of leave-taking. In his day they said to each other when they met and parted, ‘Shalom! Shalom!’ (Peace! Peace!) - just as you might hear ‘Salaam! Salaam!’ across the Middle East today. 
 
What Jesus is doing, though, is to leave his disciples the gift of peace - Shalom - as a legacy. This peace is more than just a ritual parting. He repeats it with the emphatic ‘My,’ and speaks of it as an actual possession which he imparts to them. ‘Peace on earth’ is the angels’ message when they announce his birth; ‘peace to you’ is his own greeting when he returns victorious from the grave. ‘He is our peace’ (Ephesians 2:14), and this peace is his farewell gift to the disciples as he sends them out. 
 
‘Shalom’ for Jesus refers to the aim of his work on earth: to restore the equilibrium and richness of humanity’s relationship with God. ‘Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Romans 5:1). Nothing in the world can offer such a gift. Jesus’ shalom not only brings an end to the brokenness caused by sin, but it is the fruit of the Spirit given when he departs. Thus when Jesus meets the disciples following his resurrection and gives them the Spirit, shalom is what he brings. ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you’ (John 20:21). 
 
As St Paul writes: ‘Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 4:6-7). 
 
Today is international Nurses Day, marking the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth - in Florence. At this time when we are celebrating the work of the NHS, it is especially fitting to remember the lady who founded trained nursing as a profession for women. 
 
Prayer after communion for this week: 
Eternal God, 
whose Son Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life: 
grant us to walk in his way, 
to rejoice in his truth, 
and to share his risen life; 
who is alive and reigns, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for those made redundant or unable to find work. As the debate between public safety and wellbeing and restarting the economy intensifies, many people have already lost their jobs or are unable to return to their workplace. The Bank of England has warned that the British economy could shrink by 14% this year and unemployment more than double as the coronavirus causes the deepest recession in modern history. 
 
On a lighter note: today is also the birthday of Edward Lear, a landscape painter whose true genius is apparent in his nonsense poems. He wrote of himself: 
How pleasant to know Mr. Lear, 
Who has written such volumes of stuff. 
Some think him ill-tempered and queer, 
But a few find him pleasant enough. 
 
Tomorrow I will be in Church at 10 o’clock for a time of prayer. I will ring the bell and ask that you join your prayers with mine.  
Monday 11th May 2020 
 
‘They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them’ (John 14:21). 
 
Jesus links love and obedience. It is tempting to talk about God’s love without mentioning our duty to obey. However Jesus makes it clear that our obedience is a sign of our love. In John’s Gospel, faithfulness to Jesus’ words is a defining mark of discipleship. ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free’ (John 8:31-32). His commandments for us to love and to believe are open-ended, in contrast to most religious laws which are very specific. It is easy to judge whether we have been faithful to the commandment prohibiting stealing, but how can we know whether we have fulfilled the demands of love or the demands of faith? In a fundamental way Jesus’ commandments require us to allow him to reshape our lives. 
 
The agape love that Jesus commands is not a sentimental feeling, which cannot be commanded - but loving action, which can be. ‘This is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us’ (1 John 3:23). 
 
Yesterday’s service was, I trust, the last one to be recorded from The Vicarage. It was especially good to have two members of our School staff reading for us on this occasion, and we are most grateful to them. This emphasises for us the close links between St Laurence Church and Downton CE Primary School. Next week we have two more of our staff lined up for the readings. Of course we do not know what the next few months will bring, but being able to record services in Church is a sign of hope. It is also an opportunity to reflect on what it has meant for us to be worshipping together in this way. 
 
Many of us having been reading more over these past couple of months. So this may strike a chord for you: ‘One of my greatest sources of consolation and inspiration has always has been stories. Stories offer us another world to inhabit - a world in which we can immerse ourselves, see things from a different perspective, or through another’s eyes, and, in doing so, untangle knots of anxiety or uncertainty within us. Stories - both long and short - offer us a brief respite from the present. In the company of their characters, they help us to lift our vision, offer comfort for our souls, and the strength to return to our own lives once more, renewed and refreshed. At times like this, when we can’t travel bodily to a new place, we can travel in our imagination to new places, with new people, and new worlds’ (Church Times 8 May 2020). 
 
Let me share with you the prayer for Stonehenge Deanery in the Diocesan Cycle of Prayer last week: 
In an ever changing landscape, that we remain centred in our journey with Christ, in prayerful obedience, and joyful service. That we may continue to engage with new ways of being church and sharing ministry. 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Risen Christ, 
your wounds declare your love for the world 
and the wonder of your risen life: 
give us compassion and courage 
to risk ourselves for those we serve, 
to the glory of God the Father. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for Charities struggling to continue their work and fundraising. Nearly all of them have been badly hit, and that can make a big difference especially to the smaller ones. 
Sunday 10th May 2020 
 
Jesus said, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’ (John 14:6). 
 
This statement by Jesus is a promise, a word of comfort to his disciples. Jesus himself is all that they require; there is no need to panic; all is in hand. This is from of Jesus’ farewell discourse at his last supper with his disciples. It contains promises which many have found profoundly comforting in the face of the death of a loved one. However the main point of this passage is very much to do with life here and now – because Jesus is entrusting his mission to his disciples. 
 
We need to look beyond this verse’s association with funerals. The challenge is to understand that this text is not only about life after death but has everything to do with our calling to live as disciples in the world. Jesus is not merely the way to the Father, he is also our example for holy living. He is not merely a prophet, pointing us to the way of salvation, but he is the way of salvation itself by his obedience and sacrifice. He is not only true, but he is truth itself and a guiding light to be followed in our daily lives. He is the giver of life: not just of life eternal but the way of abundant life now. ‘I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly’ (John 10:10). 
 
Also in our readings today we remember Stephen, the first Christian martyr. His story can seem far removed from us who are far more likely to meet indifference or ridicule for our faith rather than outright opposition or violence. It is worth asking though: what does that say about the clarity and energy of the message we proclaim and the impact of that abundant life we are called to live? 
 
Today is the Fifth Sunday of Easter. There is a recorded service for today from here in The Vicarage. There is also a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. Next Sunday, God willing, our service will be from the Church. Regrettably it will still be some time yet before we can have public services again, but this is certainly a step in the right direction. 
 
I have been reflecting on the impact that the pandemic has had on our life together as the Church. There is an observable pattern in Christian life of God using difficult times - wilderness times, if you like - to prepare his people for a fresh task; a new ministry. Is this such a time? Is God using this period of lockdown, of solitude and exile from our buildings, to prepare us for something new - a new focus to our ministry, a fresh vision of his will and purpose for us? Are we taking advantage of this time to draw closer to him in prayer and openness - listening to his Word and meditating on it; waiting on him; asking for insight and guidance? 
 
Recently I have found myself pondering some words from the hymn ‘God of grace and God of glory’ in particular the lines ‘Grant us wisdom, grant us courage for the facing of this hour’ (Harry Emerson Fosdick). They have resonated for me as I have been contemplating what we can learn living through and from these strange times. 
 
The collect for this week: 
Almighty God, 
who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ 
have overcome death and opened to us 
the gate of everlasting life: 
grant that, as by your grace going before us 
you put into our minds good desires, 
so by your continual help we may bring them to good effect; 
through Jesus Christ our risen Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for all key workers. We are all aware how important they are to us both in keeping us healthy and enabling our society to function properly - and the price many of them have and are paying to do this. 
Saturday 9th May 2020 
 
‘Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come into his presence with singing. Know that the Lord is God. It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him, bless his name. For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures for ever, and his faithfulness to all generations’ (Psalm 100). 
 
We do not know who wrote Psalm 100 or when. Perhaps it was when they built the Temple again 80 years after the Babylonians destroyed it. The psalm is simply titled A Psalm of Thanksgiving, and it is the only one to bear this title. It speaks of an invitation to the whole earth to know and to worship God. “It is jubilant with confidence for the whole earth, as it contemplates the glory of that earth, when all its people are submitted to the reign of Jehovah.” (G. Campbell Morgan). 
 
The sixteenth century hymn writer William Kethe prepared twenty-five psalm versifications for the Anglo-Genevan Psalter of 1561, which were also adopted into the Scottish Psalter of 1565. His version of Psalm 100 remains popular to this day and is the only one that found its way into modern psalmody. It is sung to the tune Old Hundredth: 
 
All people that on earth do dwell, 
sing to the Lord with cheerful voice. 
Serve him with joy, his praises tell, 
come now before him and rejoice! 
 
We have something for which to give thanks. Following the news earlier this week from the House of Bishops, regarding how we may use our Church, Bishop Nicholas has written to all the clergy. He informs us that clergy will be able to pray in church again starting next week and we can announce this by ringing a bell. However ‘We are not yet open to a wider range of people entering our church buildings… In other parts of the world, some church buildings and places of worship have been epicentres of infection. As we prepare to open up, the regular cleaning of church buildings and hygiene arrangements will be very important. Guidance will be provided when we get to that stage’. 
 
So, from next week I will be going into St Laurence for prayer. In particular I shall do this on Wednesdays and Sundays at 10am, when I shall ring the bell. Do listen out and I ask you to share your prayers with mine at that time. It is a great joy for me to be able to pray in Church again and, with you all, I look forward to that day when we can fling open the doors again and invite everyone in. 
 
According to the Met Office ‘It was the sunniest April on record for the UK, according to a provisional analysis of the month’s climate statistics.. beating the previous record set in 2015’. I’m sure that has helped us cope with the lockdown, but I wonder what this means for the environment. 
 
We pray: 
Almighty God, 
who sent your Holy Spirit 
to be the life and light of your Church: 
open our hearts to the riches of your grace, 
that we may bring forth the fruit of the Spirit 
in love and joy 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/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our Team Rector and family. Please pray also for the other members of our Clergy Team, David and Veronica and their families. 
Friday 8th May 2020 
 
‘Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end... now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love’ (1 Corinthians 13:8-10,13). 
 
Today the Church remembers Dame Julian of Norwich, a fourteenth century anchoress. It is also the anniversary of my installation here at Downton - which means I’ve been your Vicar now for 18 years! 
 
In addition, as we know, today is the 75th anniversary of VE Day, marking the end of the war in Europe. How are we to commemorate today? We remember the sacrifice of so many; and we give thanks for the end of the violence and destruction; for peace (more or less) in Europe; for a growing understanding and openness to difference and diversity; and for the realisation that we are a community of nations that need to work together to preserve peace. As we observe the two minutes silence at 11am, we pray that we may seek true peace, reconciliation and a breaking down of barriers - recognising that all are God’s beloved children. 
 
So what about Dame Julian? At least four people are known to have left money in their wills for the support of an anchoress - one who lived the solitary life, though cared for by a servant - at the Church of St Julian in Cornisford at Norwich. She inhabited a cell which adjoined the parish church opposite a house of Augustinian Friars. Apart from that, almost all that is known of Julian (a name by which she has become known - her own is not recorded) comes from what she wrote about her various visions. She refers to these as revelations, and she received them on 8 May 1373. In bed and believing that she was dying, Julian experienced a series of visions whilst in a state of ecstasy. When she recovered she knew she had to write down her "Revelations of Divine Love". 
 
She finally compiled them into a book some twenty years later, incorporating the fruits of her meditations on the original experience - which chiefly comprised visions of the Passion and the Holy Trinity. The account of these visions is embedded in her reflections on the mysteries of the faith, on prayer - and most especially on the love of God, wherein lies the clue to all problems of existence. Julian saw a hand holding a walnut and she likens this to God and his world. She draws these conclusions: ‘God made it, God loves it, God keeps it'. Perhaps the most famous phrase from her "Revelations" is that which now hangs as a tapestry in St Paul's Cathedral: ‘All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well'. 
 
During her lifetime (she was still alive in 1416) many people, including Margery Kempe, came to Julian for spiritual advice. Since then her book has become widely known and many thousands have gained much help from her. She remains an inspiration for us all. 
 
I remember Bishop Peter’s sermon at my installation was based on those words of Dame Julian ‘All shall be well’ - and my experience overall is that it has been true. 
 
The collect for Dame Julian: 
Most holy God, the ground of our beseeching, 
who through your servant Julian 
revealed the wonders of your love: 
grant that as we are created in your nature and restored by your grace, 
our wills may be so made one with yours 
that we may come to see you face to face 
and gaze on you for ever; 
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 for today we pray for our Parochial Church Council (PCC). The members are the trustees of our Church. ‘St Laurence’s Parochial Church Council (PCC) has the responsibility of co-operating with the Team Rector, the Revd Frank Gimson, in promoting the whole mission of the Church - pastoral, evangelistic, social and ecumenical - in the ecclesiastical parish’ (Annual Report). 
Thursday 7th May 2020 
 
'I will sing of your steadfast love, O Lord, for ever; with my mouth I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations. I declare that your steadfast love is established for ever; your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens’ (Psalm 89:1-2). 
 
This is a psalm written in a time of great trouble. The lectionary selection focuses solely on the celebratory portion of the psalm - but the celebration turns into anguish and despair, as the psalmist laments a stunning defeat and pleads for God to remember his faithfulness and promises. However the presence of trouble doesn’t silence the psalmist’s praise. He sings of God’s mercies. “We have not one, but many mercies to rejoice in, and should therefore multiply the expressions of our thankfulness… We think when we are in trouble we get ease by complaining; but we do more, we get joy, by praising. Let our complaints therefore be turned into thanksgiving.” (Charles Spurgeon). We know something of how good God is, so it is fitting that others also know, and the psalmist was determined to tell them - particularly how God’s mercy was manifested in his promises. 
 
We have some hopeful news from the Church Times: ‘The House of Bishops decided on Tuesday that the guidance banning clergy from entering their churches may be modified by individual dioceses. On Tuesday evening, each diocesan bishop received a note advising him or her to consult within the diocese about whether it would be safe to allow clergy to return to church for private prayer and to live-stream worship. It is expected that different policies will be pursued around the country, depending on the prevalence of the coronavirus in each region. 
The guidance that churches “must” close completely was given on 23 March in response to the coronavirus outbreak (News, 24 March). It has been reviewed “on an ongoing basis”, a church spokeswoman said on Monday, as the Bishops acted “within government advice and in line with best public-health practice”. The policy has attracted continued protests, including in a letter to The Times on Monday, signed by more than 600 clergy and laity. 
The House of Bishops, meeting via Zoom on Tuesday, concluded that the trajectory of infection encouraged them to modify their guidance. The drop in confirmed Covid-19 deaths in the UK - 288 deaths were reported on Monday - seems to indicate a sustained pattern. There is still evidence of coronavirus hotspots, however, and these are expected to influence what individual bishops advise their diocesan clergy. 
There is still no question of lifting the suspension of public services any time soon, as was seen in Germany last weekend. The government ban on large gatherings is still in force. But the Government never ordered the closure of churches, and many clergy have argued that they could live-stream from within their church without putting anyone at risk’ (Church Times 5 May 2020). 
 
As has frequently been said over the past few weeks, during this period of lockdown one of the great boons we have - which wouldn’t have been available had it happened just ten or twenty years ago - is our range of electronic devices. From smartphones to tablets, laptops and computers we have a whole host of ways to keep in touch with one another both socially and for work – and have been using them to keep in touch, to share together, and to worship together. These devices do have their downsides though. This past week I have had my computer rebuilt, after it was getting forever slower and more frustrating to use. It is now much better but the process of restoring everything has been a challenging one. Anyway, from now on hopefully I will be ‘ahead of the curve’. 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Risen Christ, 
faithful shepherd of your Father’s sheep: 
teach us to hear your voice 
and to follow your command, 
that all your people may be gathered into one flock, 
to the glory of God the Father. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for Peace in the World. At this time more than ever we need to work together across our world both in fighting the pandemic and seeking to minimise, or even better reverse, the conditions that have caused it. 
Wednesday 6th May 2020 
 
Jesus cried aloud: ‘I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in the darkness. I do not judge anyone who hears my words and does not keep them, for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world’ (John 12:44,46-47). 
 
Jesus is our Lord and Saviour. He shows us the way, a clear way so we need not stumble. He is our light revealing the path to God. ‘Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path’ (Psalm 119:105). As he does this ‘I do not judge’. ‘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 3:17). Like that image of the Good Shepherd, Jesus is our constant guide and companion. ‘Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me’ (Psalm 23:4). This brings us back those ‘I am’ sayings of Jesus: ‘‘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). 
 
All this assures us of God’s loving purposes for us. He calls us to be his: his children, his servants and fellow workers in the world. ‘Thus says the Lord.. Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine’ (Isaiah 43:1). 
 
‘New archaeological evidence from Nazareth suggests that the town in which Jesus grew up was very conservative religiously, and probably very anti-Roman. An archaeological investigation, directed by a British archaeologist, Dr Ken Dark, of the University of Reading, and funded by the Palestine Exploration Fund, indicates that Nazareth was substantially bigger than previously thought, with up to 1000 inhabitants… Dr Dark’s investigation shed light on Jesus’s home town and the influences that might have helped shape his religious outlook. The Gospels suggest that his views were not accepted in Nazareth. It is conceivable, then, that the ultra-strict character of the town pushed Jesus towards a less strict and more liberal observance of his faith’ Church Times, 1 May 2020). 
 
Bishop Nicholas writes: People keep saying that, when we go back, we will not be the same but it is not yet obvious how we will be. Our questions are beginning to form and we need to be working with them. At recent meetings online of Rural Deans and Lay Chairs and at.. Bishop’s Council a few people were asked to address these: 
• What aspects of our Churches’ future have been brought into the present by the current crisis? 
• Will ‘normal’ have changed? What might remain and what might default back afterwards? 
• While normal service is suspended and we are viewing things differently, what do you foresee for the Church of 2030? 
• Should we ‘seize the day’ and make any changes now to prepare ourselves for this? 
If those questions help you, please use them in your own context and see what we are learning in this strange time in which we need to go deeper and to be curious with one another in the presence of God. 
 
A prayer from St Teresa of Avila: 
Let nothing disturb you, 
let nothing frighten you, 
all things are passing away: 
God never changes. 
Patience obtains all things, 
whoever has God lacks nothing; 
God alone suffices. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our Churchwarden and Deputy Churchwardens. They have had their term of office extended because of the lockdown. They work hard for our Church and we are most grateful for their ministry for and with us. 
 
For the philatelists among us, today marks the 180th anniversary of the Penny Black stamp going into circulation. Sending messages has certainly come a long way since then. 
Tuesday 5th May 2020 
 
‘My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one’ (John 10:27-30). 
 
Today we continue to reflect on Jesus as the Good Shepherd. As he says ‘I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me’ (John 10:14). We belong to him; we know his voice and follow him; he protects us and keeps us safe. Our home, our support, our purpose are now in him. ‘Come to him, a living stone.. and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood’ (1 Peter 2:4-5). We are to trust him fully as our sure foundation and only way. There may be pain in that but there is also great blessing. 
 
Bishop Nicholas writes: ‘In this period of exile from our church buildings it has made me think about what we are missing from them, about what they are and do for us.  Not having access is a real deprivation for us and our communities. Being unable to allow the bells to be rung to show our community’s support for key workers on Thursday evenings or to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day affects those beyond our worshipping communities.  lt is uncomfortable but it is in line with the national Church’s guidance’. 
 
Are you wondering how we should mark VE Day on Friday? How about the Big Picnic for Hope? ‘Besides remembering the events of VE Day, the theme of the Big Picnic for Hope will be the efforts of key workers during the coronavirus pandemic, including NHS workers, carers, those delivering groceries, and public-transport workers. Using the hashtag #feed5000 on social media, the event is also designed to raise £5000 for the Trussell Trust, which organises foodbanks. The Dean of Lichfield, the Very Revd Adrian Dorber, said:.. “It seems really appropriate to use the date to remember the experience of World War II, and to think about the humanity and care we have seen right now. The aim of the Big Picnic for Hope is to have a shared occasion when, whether sitting at home or in your garden, by sharing a meal and a conversation we can swap our stories, memories, and experiences. We hope people right across the country will be taking part, talking about what’s moved them, inspired them, made them grateful, or got them thinking new kinds of things. People from the past and people in the present spark our hope for the future. It will be good to name those people and hopes on 8 May.”.. Participants in the Big Picnic for Hope are encouraged to show others photos of food that they have made for their picnics and to discuss memories of their loved ones, using the hashtag #bigpicnicforhope. People will also be encouraged to donate online on the Just Giving page for the event’ (Church Times, 1 May 2020). 
 
Yesterday I had to drive into Salisbury to get my computer repaired. As I did so, I realised that I have not driven a car for several weeks - and it felt extremely odd, indeed rather unsettling. Something that has been so normal that I barely thought about it, was now strange and unusual. I was also aware of how curiously quiet the city centre is - although with long queues for the supermarkets. 
 
The prayer after communion for this week: 
Merciful Father, 
you gave your Son Jesus Christ to be the good shepherd, 
and in his love for us to lay down his life and rise again: 
keep us always under his protection, 
and give us grace to follow in his steps; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for Archbishop Justin Welby as he seeks to offer godly and wise advice and leadership to the Church at this time. May he know God’s strength and direction. ‘God alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall never be shaken.’ (Psalm 62:2). 
 
Also today in the Diocesan Cycle of Prayer we pray for our own Forest & Avon Team: 
Pray as we seek to adjust our patterns of ministry both to the strange new circumstances and to the gifts and resources we have available - ensuring that we focus on outreach and spreading the good news within our communities. 
Morgan's Vale and Woodfalls Academy 
The New Forest CE VA Primary School at Landford Nomansland & Hamptworth 
Downton CE VA Primary School 
Monday 4th May 2020 
 
‘As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God?’ (Psalm 42:1-2). 
 
God renews us, he refreshes us. He is always there, with us, guiding us, sustaining us. After six weeks of lockdown, we need to hold on to this. There are times when we can feel cut off and adrift, that we are no longer in control of our lives. ‘The Revd Hilary Ison, who has just completed a three-year study on the effects of trauma and tragedy on Christian congregations, said: “One of the key elements of trauma is being rendered helpless or powerless and not being able to fight or flee”’ (Church Times, 1 May 2020). Whatever happens, though, we know that God holds us in his loving hand. ‘Surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope’ (Jeremiah 29:11). As we remembered yesterday, Jesus is the Good Shepherd - and he tells us ‘to the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life’ (Revelation 21:6). 
 
So for some good news: ‘One in 20 adults have started to pray during the lockdown, despite not praying before, a new survey published by the charity Tearfund suggests… Five per cent of respondents said that they had started to pray during the lockdown, having not prayed before. The survey also found that five per cent of respondents who said that they had watched or listened to a religious service since the lockdown began had never attended a church service before’ (Church Times, 1 May 2020). 
 
Also we have had a thank you from the Trussell Trust: ‘The outpouring of support food banks have seen during the current crisis has been incredible - thank you! Together, we're making a real impact. Your support has never been more vital as food banks report their busiest ever fortnight. That’s over 6,250 emergency food parcels provided to people in crisis each day, with close to 3,000 for children every single day during that fortnight! We're hugely proud that food banks are continuing to meet this need despite some of the most challenging circumstances, and this would not been possible without your support. You have helped us achieve a great deal in the last few weeks, and we're incredibly grateful that you are standing alongside us, food banks, and people in financial crisis.’ 
 
As we reflect on all that is happening, we are aware that the mystery of God’s much deeper agenda is rooted in God’s saving works. As we pray ‘thy kingdom come; thy will be done... For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory’. It is a challenge for us not to be too focused on ourselves so that we fail to see God’s bigger picture. ‘Sometimes it seems as if the Christian community is so busy with its projects and plans that there is neither the time nor the mood to pray’ (Henri Nouwen, Reaching Out). 
 
This prayer was submitted to the diocesan Cycle of Prayer by St Francis Salisbury: 
Heavenly Father, 
we thank you for the breadth of worship we enjoy 
as your people meet in such different places and encounter you in different ways. 
May your Spirit rest on every time of praise, 
every space for prayer, 
every opening of your word, 
each sharing of faith in our community, 
and every act of random kindness done in the name of Jesus. Amen. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our witness to the faith. In these difficult times this is as, if not more, important as ever. 
 
Also this week in the Diocesan Cycle of Prayer, we are praying for our Alderbury Deanery: 
Please pray for the congregations across the deanery as we seek to "be church" in a very different way. We rejoice in the outpouring of community spirit and in the new ways that we are discovering of being the Body of Christ in these difficult and isolating times. 
 
And finally, for Star Wars aficionados: May the fourth be with you. 
Sunday 3rd May 2020 
 
Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. (John 10:7-9). 
 
Today is the Fourth Sunday of Easter when we focus on Jesus as the Good Shepherd. He tells us ‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep’ (John 10:11). There are seven of these “I am” declarations of Jesus recorded only in John’s Gospel. Earlier he has said ‘Truly, truly I say to you, before Abraham was, I am’” (John 8:58) and clearly he is taking the Divine name for himself. He is the Good Shepherd. He knows each one of us by name, caring for us, watching out for us and keeping us safe - even when we doggedly go our own way, ignore him and insist on getting lost. ‘The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want’ (Psalm 23:1). 
 
So we have another Sunday of worship in our homes, physically apart. Not only does this mean that we are unable to gather together in our Church building, but we cannot receive communion. ‘Not receiving communion is hard to bear at this difficult time, but perhaps we are learning afresh what a sacrament is. The pandemic has questioned our understanding of the space between and around us. The pollution of air and water, our travel habits, and our disregard for other creatures have all produced conditions that have enabled the virus to take hold. Now that we are unable to be close to one another, we are all potential betrayers of one another’s well-being. Spiritually, this means that we need to recognise anew that our human freedom has limits. At the same time, we are more than ever cast on the presence of God, who is unconfined and everywhere’ (Angela Tilby, Church Times 24 April 2020). 
 
In recent weeks, as a society we have grown closer to understanding the impact of sickness and suffering in our lives, families and communities. We know that each person who is ill or lost to the Covid-19 virus is not a statistic but an individual person, much loved and missed by family and friends. In addition, we may well have had our own experiences of sickness and sadness other than the tragedy of the virus. As Christians, we know with assurance that Jesus brings resurrection despite our despair. It is natural to experience struggle in our human fragility through terrible affliction, and it is important to acknowledge our own grief and pain. 
 
We need each other’s encouragement. When we pray with others, we bring our authentic selves, the strong and fragile, faithful and lacking sides together - fixing our eyes on Jesus who is our Good Shepherd. We are used by him for the restoration of health and wholeness. Paradoxically our human weakness qualifies us to be used as channels for God’s healing. The cost of coming alongside others, even at a distance, can ‘take it out of us’. We therefore have a serious responsibility to look after our health - physically, psychologically and spiritually - and to set aside time for God’s Spirit to renew and replenish us. ‘Where the Church is, there is the Spirit; where the Spirit is, there is the Church’ (Andrew Ryder SCJ). 
 
The collect for this week: 
Almighty God, 
whose Son Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life: 
raise us, who trust in him, 
from the death of sin to the life of righteousness, 
that we may seek those things which are above, 
where he reigns with you 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we continue pray for our Church School: for children distance learning that they may continue to grow in understanding and experience; for the commitment, dedication and professionalism of the staff; and for all who support and work with them them. 
 
We have a service for today. There is also service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. 
Saturday 2nd May 2020 
 
‘May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light’ (Colossians 1:11-12). 
 
Today the Church remembers Athanasius, a fourth century bishop of Alexandria. Athanasius was a champion of Christian orthodoxy and had plenty of enemies. Indeed, he was exiled five times by four Roman emperors, spending 17 of the 45 years he served as bishop in exile. The cause of all this was his struggle against Arianism which was popular among a number of influential people at the time. Arius argued that the Father alone was truly God and that the Son was the first and greatest creature made by the Father. The Council of Nicaea (325 AD) was intended to settle the matter, dismissing the idea that the Son was a creature, and stating that the Son was ‘begotten, not made, of one being with the Father’ (giving us the Nicene Creed). In the end, Athanasius’ theological enemies were "exiled" from the church's teaching, and it is his writings that shaped the future of orthodox church teaching. 
 
When I was at Theological College - a while ago now - we were joined by an Egyptian lecturer who made a big impact on us all. Amongst many other things, he ensured that we all knew about Athanasius - and how his name should be pronounced. Our Church History lecturer then complained: it used to be that when I mentioned Athanasius students would look blank. Now when I say Athanasius, they all reply Ath-an-ar-sius! 
 
In the Book of Common Prayer we have the Creed of St Athanasius, known here as the Quicunque Vult, which was supposed to be said at Morning Prayer at various times. It’s quite long and if you would like to read it, you can find it at: https://www.churchofengland.org/prayer-and-worship/worship-texts-and-resources/book-common-prayer/creed-s-athanasius 
 
As we know, today should have been the Cuckoo Fair. This has long been a most important day for the village. For us it is an opportunity to meet a great number of people and raise the profile of the Church. It has also meant a very long and extremely busy day, starting early. Also it has been for us, as for so many charities in the village, by far our biggest fund raiser of the year. Without St Laurence’s Larder today and the Church Fete at the end of June there is going to be a big hole in our finances which will be very difficult to fill. 
 
That said, as always we know that we are in God’s hands and he will provide what is required for what he is asking us to do. ‘The power of God is capable of finding hope where hope no longer exists, and a way where the way is impossible’ (Gregory of Nyssa). 
 
This week marks the 800th anniversary of the founding of the new cathedral in Salisbury. Bishop Nicholas tells us ‘This Sunday‘s Sunday Worship on BBC Radio 4 at 8.10am will mark the 800th anniversary. It has been beautifully prepared by our colleagues at the cathedral, so do listen either live or when you can’. 
 
This is an extract from a letter by the bishop to all the clergy, and I will share more from it during the coming week. 
 
The collect for today: 
Ever-living God, 
whose servant Athanasius testified to the mystery of the Word made flesh for our salvation: 
help us, with all your saints, 
to contend for the truth 
and to grow into the likeness 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/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for those affected by the cancellation of the Cuckoo Fair and all the consequences of that. 
Friday 1st May 2020 
 
‘Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it’ (John 14:12-14). 
 
Today is traditionally a celebration of the return of spring and is marked by dancing around a Maypole, as we would have seen tomorrow if the Cuckoo Fair had been going ahead (the earliest records of maypole celebrations date to the 14th century). It is also the feast of Saint Philip and Saint James. 
 
These two apostles, Philip and James the son of Alphaeus, share a day in the calendar possibly because so little is known for sure about either of them. Philip is one of the very earliest disciples of Jesus. In fact he probably joined him after first following John the Baptist. Having done so, his commitment is whole-hearted, for he promptly persuades Nathanael also to follow Jesus. He is not afraid to say what he feels. At the feeding of the 5,000 it is Philip who remarks that two hundred pennyworth of bread would not be sufficient for each person to have even a little. Later, when some Greeks want to meet Jesus, they approach Philip first. And at the Last Supper, Philip’s request to Jesus to show them the Father elicits the reply ‘He that sees me, sees the Father’ (John 14:9). 
 
About James we know very little. He is referred to as “the Less”, to distinguish him from James the brother of John. He is often, but not certainly, identified with the James whose mother stood by Jesus on the cross. Also he may be James, the ‘brother of the Lord’, who saw the risen Christ and is often called the first bishop of Jerusalem. In addition, he is sometimes equated with the author of the Epistle of James. If none of these identifications is correct, then we know practically nothing about him. He is believed to have been stoned after being sentenced to death by the Sanhedrin in 62 AD. 
 
So what are we to learn from that? ‘Christians have always stressed the need for holy living. When it comes to the problem of expressing what that means, Christian teachers have always resorted to stories of saintly people whose example is to be followed. Supremely the imitation of Christ is commended to us’ (P.H. Vaughan). 
 
As well as both the above, today is International Workers’ Day. First observed as a labour holiday on this day in 1889, May Day was designated as such by the International Socialist Congress. Celebrated as a national holiday in many countries, the United Kingdom has taken the more pragmatic step of moving it to the first Monday in May - although this year it has been replaced by the VE remembrance next Friday. 1st May 1707 was the day the Act of Union came into effect, joining England and Scotland to form the Kingdom of Great Britain. Of course it is a matter of conjecture as to how long that will last. 
 
The collect for today: 
Almighty Father, 
whom truly to know is eternal life: 
teach us to know your Son Jesus Christ 
as the way, the truth and the life; 
that we may follow the steps 
of your holy apostles Philip and James, 
and walk steadfastly in the way that leads to your 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/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for all hoping to get married this year. Their plans are on hold, which is extremely difficult for them and their families both emotionally and in terms of the resources they have already committed. At this point we do not know if it will be possible to have large gatherings, or even when we will be allowed to hold any services. 
Thursday 30th April 2020 
 
‘I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh’ (John 6:51). 
 
This passage comes shortly after the feeding of the five thousand. Naturally, of course, we link this verse with the Eucharist, but also with his death on the Cross. it goes beyond that, though. We have life in Jesus because we believe in him. He feeds us; he sustains us; he is our living bread assimilated in faith - not just in the Eucharist but in our prayer and praise and in the presence of his Spirit within us. Jesus tells the crowd ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty’ (John 6:35). So we are brought to eternal life, abundant life, a life of sanctification - which is begun here, and will be perfected hereafter in a life of glory which will never end. 
 
Once again Jesus reminds us that our destiny, our purpose and our goal lie beyond the material things of this world. We are called to fulness of life in and with him. That is not to say that this world doesn’t matter. It matters greatly - because this is God’s world where we are created; where he is at work to perfect and renew; and where he calls us to work with and for him. However we are assured that this is not all that there is. Our true home lies beyond this and is far more than we can imagine. So we are called to set aside anything that would impede us or hold us back in our service to him - with his promise that he will sustain and feed us along the way. 
 
‘Jesus knows the price of his life in his Father’s eyes. He knows better than anyone how precious it is. That is why he can lead his life in thankfulness, even through violence, exclusion, and injustice - things which would normally lead to defensiveness... Let us see and sing out this gift. It is up to us to let our own lives be nourished by it and to communicate it to others. The Risen Christ continually opens doors for us to give ourselves, calling us: “Let whoever wants to find their life, give their life following my example"’ (Bible Meditation from Taizé, Sunday 6th April). 
 
‘The only limit to God’s power to give is our willingness to receive. That is why the hungry are blessed, and the rich (those with no sense of need) sent empty away’ (Canon Masterman). 
 
The May issue of Downton Parish News is now available free to view or download on our website. However not everyone has access to the internet, and we are very conscious that some previous subscribers and others may be missing their printed copy of the magazine. So if you know of a friend or neighbour who might like to read the magazine but cannot access it themselves, perhaps you could consider printing a copy - or part of one - for them so that they can continue to keep in touch. They and we would be most grateful. 
 
A prayer by Brother Alois of Taizé: 
God of love, look upon your family. 
Come to the help of our humanity stricken by so much suffering. 
Comfort those who are weeping, 
support those who are boldly taking up the challenge of solidarity. 
Through the resurrection of Christ, you open up for us a horizon as yet uncharted, where a new light is appearing. 
And so, just like on Easter morning, we can find hope again and say with our lives: “Christ is risen!” - “Yes, he is risen indeed!” 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our Lay Pastoral Assistants (LPAs) as they continue to exercise their ministry at this time, and we give thanks for their dedication. 
 
‘The Lord could do without our intercession and our praise. Yet it is the mystery of God, that he should require us, his co-workers, to keep on praying and never lose heart’ (The Rule of Taizé). 
Wednesday 29th April 2020 
 
Jesus looked up to heaven and said, ‘I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me’ (John 17:1,20-21). 
 
Today the Church remembers Catherine of Siena. Born in 1347, Catherine was the youngest of twenty-five children born to a prosperous Sienese dyer. A forceful young lady, despite strong but intermittent parental opposition she refused to consider marriage. Instead at the age of 16 she joined the Third Order of St. Dominic, giving herself over to contemplation and the service of the sick and poor and the conversion of sinners. 
 
Catherine’s great sanctity won her a large band of followers, from all walks of life and including many of noble rank. They accompanied Catherine on her journeys calling for repentance and reform, in a renewal of total love of God. Her influence was not confined to spiritual affairs. In 1376 Catherine travelled to Avignon, where the Papal Court then resided. She went both in order to intercede with Gregory XI on behalf of Florence (in alliance against the Holy See), and also to persuade the Pope to return to Rome. Gregory's death in 1378 resulted in the Great Schism. Urban VI was elected pope in Rome and a rival in Avignon. Catherine became most active in support of Urban, urging cardinals and monarchs to return to his obedience. 
 
Catherine tried to express her ideals in her Dialogue and her letters, which were dictated by her, as she never learnt to write. Her personal holiness, enhanced rather than diminished by frequent and strong criticism, together with these writings, made her a very influential spiritual leader of the late Middle Ages. Catherine suffered a stroke on 21 April 1380 and died eight days later. She was canonized in 1461. 
 
Probably St Catherine’s most famous saying is from one of her letters: ‘Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire’; and from another letter ‘God alone is worthy of himself, and he can render us worthy by his own worthiness, which never diminishes'. 
 
Yesterday I was passing the Esso Garage on the main road where they have started construction work again. I was aware of just how intrusive the noise is. We have become used to a quieter world recently and appreciate it. So are we simply going to revert to how it all was when this is over? 
 
As it happens, I was due to have a haircut yesterday. Of course, that never happened. I’m alright, for the while at least - not actually shaggy yet. This is another sign, though, of how things have changed. It is an inconvenience for me - but vital to those, like our village hairdressers, who depend on small businesses or piecework - many of whom are not covered by any government scheme. We remember those who have been unable to work or have been laid off and have no income at this time. 
 
The collect for St Catherine: 
God of compassion, 
who gave your servant Catherine of Siena 
a wondrous love of the passion of Christ: 
grant that your people may be united to him in his majesty 
and rejoice for ever in the revelation of his 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/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for all visitors to our Churches, both those who stop for a while in the churchyard and all who visit us online. 
 
For jazz lovers, Duke Ellington - the American composer, bandleader, pianist and among the most significant figures in jazz history - was born on this day in 1899. 
Tuesday 28th April 2020 
 
Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty’’ (John 6:35). 
 
This morning at 11am we have a minute’s silence to commemorate those many key workers who have died from coronavirus through their working in and for the community. We also continue to bear in our prayers all those who continue to serve in this way even when they are without adequate protection. 
 
I hope you feel reinvigorated after last night’s restoring rain - due to last for most of today! Certainly the garden is looking happier for it and we can all do with refreshment. Over the weekend I was thinking about how much my Sundays have changed since the lockdown began. With us no longer able to worship in Church, I have been recording and producing a service each week online. So for me Saturday is in effect now my Sunday, which means that Sunday has become more of a sabbath for me - a day of holy refreshment. 
 
From last week’s Church Times: ‘Those old enough to remember Sundays when shops, restaurants, and cinemas were closed, pubs’ opening hours were curtailed, and sport was frowned on will sympathise with those who are now complaining of boredom. Compulsory restrictions are never as agreeable as voluntary restraint, and a well-stocked mind is almost as important for survival as a well-stocked supermarket. The purpose of the Lord’s Day, though, is to stop long enough to appreciate the goodness of the gifts that God has given us - gifts that, people now realise, have far less to do with material possessions than they had come to believe. Amid all the speculation about life after the lockdown, this is the chief lesson that needs to be learned. Then those who have borne the heaviest cost will know that something, at least, has been gained’ (Church Times, 24 April 2020). 
 
As you may have seen in the news: ‘The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has launched a free national phone line as a simple new way to bring worship and prayer into people’s homes while church buildings are closed because of the coronavirus. Daily Hope.. offers music, prayers and reflections as well as full worship services from the Church of England at the end of a telephone line. The line – which is available 24 hours a day on 0800 804 8044 – has been set up particularly with those unable to join online church services during the period of restrictions in mind’ (https://www.churchofengland.org/). Please do pass this on to anyone you think might benefit or like to know. 
 
In other Church news: The Bishop of Manchester, Dr David Walker, has joined other faith leaders in the city in a statement released on Wednesday, the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day. It says: “We urge governments and businesses to promote radical yet just change to decrease carbon emissions, restore ecosystems and promote healthy environments on a universal scale. At the same time, we recognise that each and every one of us has the opportunity and the duty to make small but significant adjustments to our daily lives.” (Church Times, 24 April 2020). 
 
Also: in a sign of how the lockdown is affecting Church finances, as with so many other organisations, some curates from across the diocese of Liverpool are starting a four-week period of furlough - and in our own diocese the budgeted clergy stipend increase has been postponed. 
 
The prayer after communion for this week: 
Living God, 
your Son made himself known to his disciples 
in the breaking of bread: 
open the eyes of our faith, 
that we may see him in all his redeeming work; 
who is alive and reigns, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our Bishops: Bishop Nicholas, our diocesan bishop, and Bishops Andrew and Karen, our suffragan bishops. They continue to work hard to hold everything together, supporting and encouraging the wider Church and us in the parishes. 
 
It has been suggested that some of us might appreciate a virtual get together. I know that many of us have Zoom, so if you wish I will set up a gathering that way. 
Monday 27th April 2020 
 
Jesus said ‘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.’ Then they said to him, ‘What must we do to perform the works of God?’ Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent’ (John 6:27-29). 
 
On the board behind my desk I have a quotation from Corrie Ten Boom (an amazing Dutch lady who survived the concentration camps): ‘Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God’. Perhaps one thing that has become clearer for many over these past weeks is that so much of what we have taken for granted, of what we thought of as normal life, lacks true permanence. Who would have thought only a couple of months ago that we would be where we are now? So we are rediscovering that real life is not in what we do but in what and who we are - in being more fully ourselves, the person we were created to be, one made in the image of God. 
 
The future is by definition unknown, but we are in God’s hands. We are children of God, each one set on the path that leads inexorably to him. We are on a journey from birth to our eternal destination with him. As the writer of the letter to the Ephesians puts it: ‘I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power’ (Ephesians 1:17-19). 
 
Of late things that we have been told are important, vital even, have been put more clearly into perspective. It reminds me rather of something from the book The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: ‘This planet has - or rather had - a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movement of small green pieces of paper, which was odd because on the whole it wasn't the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy’ (Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy). ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent’ (John 6:29). 
 
The things of this world are transitory. ‘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 8:6). Everything we have here is only ours for a while, but everything we will be is eternal. As Paul tells Timothy ‘I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him’ (2 Timothy 1:12). 
 
As this hiatus continues, there is a definite sense of more traffic on the roads. Is this a sign that the lockdown beginning to fray or being eased perhaps; that people are beginning to get fed up or cannot cope with it; or simply that more feel they simply must get out to work to pay the rent and put food on the table? 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Risen Christ, 
you filled your disciples with boldness and fresh hope: 
strengthen us to proclaim your risen life 
and fill us with your peace, 
to the glory of God the Father. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our Forest and Avon Team as we seek to continue serving God in mission and ministry across our six parishes. 
 
Let us leave the last word with St Paul: ‘I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Romans 8:38-39). 
Sunday 26th April 2020 
 
Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him’ (Acts 2:38-39). 
 
This is the Third Sunday of Easter as we continue to reflect on the resurrection of Jesus and Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost and how it affects us today. We celebrate another Sunday of virtual Church, knowing that what truly matters is that we are being Church no matter our circumstances. Physically apart, perhaps we may be, but we are together as one in Christ. The important thing is that the mission and ministry of the Church continues. 
 
The use of virtual services, email and other forms of electronic communication has seen numbers engaging with our worship, reflection and prayers increasing dramatically. ‘These virtual services, prayers and daily reflections are attracting not just regular church goers, but the occasional church goers, the curious and those simply seeking spirituality and meaning at this unprecedented time. The Church threshold that has proved a barrier for some is not a problem, and clergy and services are now being streamed into living rooms, kitchens and gardens. Church has become relevant and relational on a different level’ (www.salisbury.anglican.org/news/). 
 
This is good news and we give thanks to God as he blesses us and uses us in new ways at this time. We must not forget, though, that not everyone has access to, or is able to use, all these new forms of communication. So together we must ensure that those who are not connected in this manner do not miss out. 
 
Being a fourth Sunday, usually we would ask God’s blessing on our Roads to God programme in our service. In May we will be praying for the whole of our parish, bringing before God all those who live or work in our village. As always, if anyone would like specific prayer they can let me know. It will remain confidential. 
 
After our main service today we were due to have our Annual Meeting. Obviously this has had to be postponed. In fact the deadline has been moved now to 31st October. So our Church Officers and PCC remain in post until then. Let us continue to hold each one of them in prayer. I know that the reports for the meeting have been written, and give a big thank you to those who have done so. 
 
Generally we are doing well in the circumstances, although challenges remain. There are two important matters we were going to discuss, though. One is our service pattern - which will have to be adjusted to take account of the ministry resources we have now in the Team. The other is that we have no one standing to be Churchwarden. Ken Parsons made it quite clear last April that he was standing again just for the one more year. He has done a great job, for which we are extremely grateful, and will be standing down. In the absence of a Churchwarden the responsibilities devolve on me as your incumbent - and frankly I have neither the time nor the resources to take this on. I ask you to give this matter your most prayerful consideration. God is giving us an opportunity here to grow as his Church, but we need to function properly if we are to take full advantage of that. 
 
The collect for today: 
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/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our Church life and mission. ‘You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light’ (1Peter 2:9). 
 
We have a service for today and there is a service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. 
Saturday 25th April 2020 
 
Jesus began to say to them, ‘Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, “I am he!” and they will lead many astray. When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. (Mark 13:5-7). 
 
Today is the Feast of St Mark the Evangelist, the writer of the shortest of the four Gospels, which today is generally considered to be the earliest. There is a freshness to Mark’s Gospel and he uses a vivid present, while Matthew and Luke use a more literary style. Mark also retains various Aramaic words of Jesus: ‘He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”)’ (Mark 5:41); ‘He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means, “Be opened!”)’ (Mark 7:34); ‘And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” - which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”‘ (Mark 15:34). 
 
So who is this Saint Mark? Some believe Mark is probably speaking of himself when he writes of Jesus' arrest in Gethsemane. ‘A certain young man was following him, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked’ (Mark 14:51-52). He is believed also to be the 'John Mark' referred to in the Acts of the Apostles who travelled with Barnabas and Paul on many missionary journeys, during which he is reputed to have founded the Church of Alexandria. 
 
Mark was the cause of a disagreement between Paul and Barnabas - and Paul refused to take Mark on their second journey. ‘Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. But Paul decided not to take with them one who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not accompanied them in the work. The disagreement became so sharp that they parted company; Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus. But Paul chose Silas and set out’ (Acts 15:37-40). So in the end there were two missionary journeys! 
 
Paul later asks Mark to visit him in prison, ‘Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful in my ministry’ (2 Timothy 4:11). So presumably the trouble did not last long. ‘Aristarchus my fellow-prisoner greets you, as does Mark the cousin of Barnabas’ (Colossians 4:10). 
 
According to tradition, Mark had a close relationship with St Peter, who referred to him has 'his son' in his letter addressed to churches in Asia Minor (1 Peter 5:13). Clement of Alexandria, Irenaeus and Papias all indicate that Mark was an interpreter for Peter. So it is reasonable to assume that Peter was one of Mark’s primary sources. Indeed a first century figure called John the Presbyter wrote ‘Mark, having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately, though not in order, whatsoever he remembered of the things said or done by Christ’. 
 
Venice, famous for the Piazza San Marco, claims Mark as its patron saint. The large basilica there is believed to contain his remains which were stolen from Alexandria in 828 AD by Venetian merchants who snuck them past the (Muslim) guards by hiding them under layers of pork in barrels! 
 
As we reflect on Mark today, then, we have a picture of God using fallible human beings who are fearful, get things wrong and fall out with one another. That is surely a real encouragement for us all as we seek to hold true to God’s word and his will for us. 
 
The collect for St Mark; 
Almighty God, who enlightened your holy Church 
through the inspired witness of your evangelist Saint Mark: 
grant that we, being firmly grounded 
in the truth of the gospel, 
may be faithful to its teaching both in word and deed; 
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 for today we pray for School Governors who have a very important role to play supporting the school, especially at this time. 
Friday 24th April 2020 
 
'A Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, respected by all the people, stood up and said… ‘ 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). 
 
What are we to make of Gamaliel’s words? They hold an important truth for us - that we are called to work with God in his way, not simply expect him to support us in ours! ‘Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain. Unless the Lord guards the city, the guard keeps watch in vain’ (Psalm 127:1). 
 
Gamaliel here also reminds us that the Pharisees, for all the bad press they receive in the Gospels, include many people who were honourable, reflective and genuinely anxious to further the will of God. Perhaps there is a message here for us: we need to look beyond our immediate reaction to the public image given or deliberately portrayed by those in the news to the real person behind that. We are all children of God, even though we may sometimes allow baser motives to obscure his work. 
 
Gamaliel came from a great rabbinic family, ‘the House of Hillel’, who were leaders in the Jewish community over several centuries. He counsels caution, patience rather than premature judgement. He reminds us that true religion often contains ambiguities. We need to be open to what God is doing now. We need discernment, acknowledging that we are often unsure of God’s will for us - especially in these strange times. When we are uncertain the advice always is to pray, to be patient, to seek the wisdom of others, and to test. ‘For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength’ (1 Corinthians 1:25). 
 
The little that is known of Gamaliel seems to indicate just such a man as would be likely to have given the advice here. His was a character which, on its good side and by its admirers, would be described as prudent, wise, cautious and calm, tolerant, opposed to fanaticism and violence. His position as president of the Sanhedrin, his long experience, his Rabbinical training, his old age, and his knowledge that the national liberty depended on keeping things quiet, would be very likely to exaggerate such tendencies into what his enemies would describe as worldly shrewdness without a trace of enthusiasm, indifference to truth, and the like. 
 
We are called on to combine faith and trust in God with wisdom in how we apply that in the world. As Jesus tells us we should ‘be wise as serpents and innocent as doves’ (Matthew 10:16). 
 
We pray: 
O God, whose beauty is beyond our imagining 
and whose power we cannot comprehend: 
show us your glory as far as we can grasp it, 
and shield us from knowing more than we can bear 
until we may look upon you without fear; 
through Jesus Christ our Saviour. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our Church School and for those children who are distance learning. As the novelty of this wears off, we remember them and their families as they seek to maintain a proper rhythm of study. We pray also for the whole school staff in all they are doing to support them at this time. 
 
It was heartening yesterday evening to see so many outside our homes clapping. There is a real sense here of a growing community caring and togetherness. May we ‘Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen’ (2 Peter 3:18). 
 
You may like to know that it was on 24th April 1792 that a French army officer, Claude-Joseph Rouget de Lisle, composed La Marseillaise - the French national anthem. 
Thursday 23rd April 2020 
 
‘When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then it was said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them.’ The Lord has done great things for us, and we rejoiced’ (Psalm 126:1-3). 
 
Today is St George’s Day, the patron saint of England - although quite why this should be is a bit of a mystery. There are plenty of more likely candidates - such as Alban, the first British martyr; or Augustine of Canterbury; to say nothing of the Celtic saints of northern England. There have even been doubts as to whether George really existed. Although generally now he is accepted as having lived in the Middle East, some time in the early fourth century. Even so, very little is known about either his life or his death. He was probably a soldier, and it seems most likely that he suffered martyrdom near Lydda in Palestine at the time of persecutions by the Emperors Diocletian and Maximian. 
 
The circumstances by which he became linked with England are obscure. We owe him probably to knights returning from the Crusades - Richard I (“the Lion-heart”) placed himself and his army under George’s protection. In 1222, St George’s Day was made a lesser holiday at the Synod of Oxford - and from the fourteenth century, the red cross on a white background (“St George’s Arms”) developed into a kind of uniform for soldiers and sailors. 
 
His rank as patron of England (replacing Edward the Confessor) probably dates from the reign of Edward III (1327-1377), who founded the Order of the Garter under George’s patronage. In 1415 his feast day was made one of the chief holy days of the year - after the Battle of Agincourt, when Henry V’s famous speech invoked St George as England’s patron ‘Cry God for Harry, England, and Saint George!’ (Henry V, Act III). George is the patron saint of many other countries and organizations, including the Scout Movement - who have celebrated St George’s Day on April 23rd since its inception. 
 
So what does it mean for us to have a patron saint on whose protection and intercession we can call? A saint has been described as one through whom God’s light shines. Perhaps then he is an example for us, revealing something of God to us or embodying Christian virtues or ideals? In practice, today George is more often equated with national pride or patriotism. There is nothing wrong with that, so long as we bear in mind ‘The difference between patriotism and nationalism is that the patriot is proud of his country for what it does, and the nationalist is proud of his country no matter what it does’ (Sydney J. Harris). We have a proud history - but are far from perfect! 
 
The collect for St George: 
God of hosts, 
who so kindled the flame of love 
in the heart of your servant George 
that he bore witness to the risen Lord 
by his life and by his death: 
give us the same faith and power of love 
that we who rejoice in his triumphs 
may come to share with him the fullness of the 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 for today we pray for young people worried by the cancellation of their exams. Our society requires us to have qualifications and without them often we cannot progress. There are fears that some year groups may have to repeat this year’s learning. 
Wednesday 22nd April 2020 
 
‘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 is probably one of the best-known verses of scripture, and with good reason. Here is the core of the Good News: God loves us and was willing even to suffer and die for us - ‘being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death - even death on a cross’ (Philippians 2:7-8). 
 
John’s Gospel is one that reveals God’s abundance. He gives us the miracle at the wedding in Cana and the feeding of the five thousand. There is no limit to God’s 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’ (1 John 4:9). The whole truth is in Jesus; he is light and life; he is God’s supreme revelation and gift. ‘God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us’ (Romans 5:8). 
 
God’s purpose in sending his Son was not judgement but our salvation, our redemption. That is the great Good News. Now we are people of the light - we have found the truth of Jesus and are to live by it. The light shines through God’s people as a revelation of God, his witness in the world. ‘You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven’ (Matthew 5:14-16). 
 
As we walk around the village chatting to those we pass, from a safe distance of course, we have been reflecting once again on how fortunate we are to be living here. We can get out and into the countryside if we wish, and we are part of a true, caring community. More than that, we see nature restoring itself as our activity is reduced: the skies are clear, the air is fresh, as spring bursts out around us. We rejoice in the wonders and abundance of God’s creation. It is Earth Day today, so we hope and pray that the reduction in pollution brought about by this pandemic is not simply reversed when all this is over. 
 
‘What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else?’ (Romans 8:31-32). 
 
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 for today we pray for volunteers helping people in their community. One of the real positives that has come out of our present situation is an increase in concern and care for our neighbours, for those among whom and with whom we live. ‘Mutual aid is an old idea whose time has come’ as someone has written recently. 
 
To return to Paul’s letter to the Christians in Philippi, ‘Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things’ (Philippians 4:8). 
Tuesday 21st April 2020 
 
‘Who can learn the counsel of God? Or who can discern what the Lord wills? Who has learned your counsel, unless you have given wisdom and sent your holy spirit from on high? And thus the paths of those on earth were set right, and people were taught what pleases you, and were saved by wisdom’ (Wisdom 9:13,17-18). 
 
Today we remember Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1093 to 1109. He was an Italian Benedictine monk, abbot, philosopher and teacher of the faith. In fact he played a key role in the development of western theology. Anselm's motto was “faith seeking understanding” (fides quaerens intellectum). This is a worthy aim for us all, I think. Ours is not a blind faith. God gave us minds and expects us to use them. For the basis of Anglican theology is Scripture, reason, and tradition. We need to understand, to explore the riches of God’s created order and his purpose for us, to work things out. This contrasts with the caricature of our faith, the White Queen from Alice in Wonderland who says “sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast". 
 
Anselm had an original mind which he employed with intellectual rigour. ‘Come on now little man, get away from your worldly occupations for a while, escape from your tumultuous thoughts. Lay aside your burdensome cares and put off your laborious exertions. Give yourself over to God for a little while, and rest for a while in Him. Enter into the cell of your mind, shut out everything except God and whatever helps you to seek Him once the door is shut. Speak now, my heart, and say to God, "I seek your face; your face, Lord, I seek"’ (https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/source/anselm.asp)
 
A Song of Anselm (used as a canticle in Common Worship Daily Prayer): 
Jesus, like a mother you gather your people to you; 
you are gentle with us as a mother with her children. 
Often you weep over our sins and our pride, 
tenderly you draw us from hatred and judgement. 
You comfort us in sorrow and bind up our wounds, 
in sickness you nurse us, and with pure milk you feed us. 
Jesus, by your dying we are born to new life; 
by your anguish and labour we come forth in joy. 
Despair turns to hope through your sweet goodness; 
through your gentleness we find comfort in fear. 
Your warmth gives life to the dead, 
your touch makes sinners righteous. 
Lord Jesus, in your mercy heal us; 
in your love and tenderness remake us. 
In your compassion bring grace and forgiveness, 
for the beauty of heaven may your love prepare us. 
(copyright © The Archbishops' Council 2005 and published by Church House Publishing) 
 
The collect for St Anselm: 
Eternal God, 
who gave great gifts to your servant Anselm 
as a pastor and teacher: 
grant that we, like him, may desire you with our whole heart 
and, so desiring, may seek you 
and, seeking, may find you; 
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 medieval days this time was known as Hocktide. Hock tide or Hoke Day was the term used to denote the Monday and Tuesday in the second week after Easter, possibly from the German Hoch, and means "a high day". Together with Whitsuntide and the twelve days of Yuletide, this week marked the only holidays of the villein’s (feudal tenant of a lord) year when, during slack times he could cease work on his lord's land, and probably his own as well. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for those involved in manufacture, distribution, and sales of food. We have become increasing aware recently how important it is that enough food reaches us. We pray as Jesus taught us, ‘give us this day our daily bread’. 
Monday 20th April 2020 
 
Jesus answered, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, “You must be born from above” (John 3:5-7). 
 
To be a Christian means living an entirely new life: moving from being self-centred to God-centred. In Jesus’ words, it’s as if we are reborn. For some this was a sudden moment of insight; for most of us I suspect it has been a much more gradual process. Either way, as Jesus says ‘whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also’ (John 12:26); ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me’ (Mark 8:34). This is not a one-off action, it is a journey of faith. Life in Jesus is one of active participation, walking with him and joining in the work of the Kingdom. 
 
I was walking along Moot Lane in the rain a few days ago and was reminded of Good Friday a couple of years ago. Our Procession of Witness, starting at the southern end, was through a veritable downpour. What mattered, though, was the taking part. As the Chinese proverb has it: ‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step’ (Dao De Jing, ascribed to Laozi). That said, after the rather colder wet weather of last week, the return of sunshine and warmth raises our spirits – even as we recognise that we do need the rain. 
 
It is the direction of travel that matters, and a willingness to stick with it. I know for myself that I have a long way to go yet, but am confident that God will see me safely along the way. In the words of St Paul ‘Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own’ (Philippians 3:12). 
 
This is the pearl of great price, that true treasure ‘in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal’ (Matthew 6:20). There are many things advertised that promise the earth, but only the earth - and yield only dust and ashes. We are promised spiritual freedom that is both more subtle and infinitely more precious. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu said, ‘I pray each day. I talk to Jesus, I live with Jesus, I walk with Jesus, I want to be like Jesus, I want to learn from Jesus. Jesus and me are always together’. 
 
So we look forward in faith and hope. As we do, I share this from anonymous religious in Milan writing on La Speranza (the Hope) looking to when all this is over: ‘Then we will say, as St Francis did: “Blessed are you, O Lord, for Brother Coronavirus who has taught us to be humble once again and to value life and fellowship.” Take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16.33)’ (Translated by Bobbie Ann Cole – courtesy of the Church Times). 
 
The alternative prayer 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/) 
 
The new school term starts today and we remember the hard work, professionalism and dedication of our teachers and all school staff. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for those who produce our Parish magazine. They have been learning new skills to ensure we are still able to publish even without a print edition. 
Sunday 19th April 2020 
 
‘Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name’ (John 20:30-31). 
 
Here John encapsulates what the Resurrection is all about, what Easter is all about! Jesus is risen; in him is eternal life; we confess him as our Lord and our God - and he sends us out to proclaim his Kingdom. 
 
If we had been able to have an 8am service in St Laurence, Ron Hart would have led it. I attach his prepared words. So this morning we have two for the price of one! 
 
Our main service today would have been our café-style Church for Everyone. We were planning to look at the story of the Road to Emmaus where, on the day of the Resurrection, two disciples walk unknowingly with Jesus (Luke 24:13-35). They are going along the road deep in solemn and serious discussion, when Jesus joins them. They do not recognize Jesus and he lets them tell of their anxieties and fears following the crucifixion, after which ‘he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself’. When the three travellers reach Emmaus, they share a meal. During the blessing, the two disciples realise that this is none other than Jesus whom God has raised from the dead. In that moment of recognition, Jesus disappears from their presence. 
 
As we ponder this story, perhaps the question for us is how would we recognise Jesus if we met him? Do we need to look with fresh eyes at familiar passages of Scripture? What is Jesus trying to tell us now, to help us understand what we see in a new light? 
 
This is the Second Sunday of Easter. The cycle of the year and celebrating the seasons is important to us. This has made the current restrictions on us difficult to bear at times, both in our private lives and as a Church. Last week Archbishop Justin was asked whether closing churches for public worship had been a step too far. 
The Archbishop emphasised that the decision had been taken by all the bishops “with much pain and much thought and much prayer, and after much discussion; so it’s not just a single person making up their mind on the spur of the moment.” He continued: “There are some people who are very unhappy — I’m unhappy with it. I would love to be in Canterbury Cathedral, with the great congregation as we usually have on Easter Sunday. It would be much better… But the reality is we’re here to set an example, to share in the deprivation of the things we like doing, to care for others. It’s not about us; it’s about being the Church for England, not just the Church of England… The church buildings are closed, and I love the church buildings, but the Church is emphatically not closed - it’s probably busier than it’s ever been” (Archbishop Justin Welby on Andrew Marr Show, Easter Day). 
 
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/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for those with financial worries: business owners who have had to close, workers who have been laid off, all having trouble making ends meet at this time. 
 
We have a service for today. There is also a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. 
Saturday 18th April 2020 
 
Peter and John answered them, ‘Whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; for we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard’ (Acts 4:19-20). 
 
Peter and John’s words remind me of my Theological College motto ‘Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!’ (1 Corinthians 9:16). Actually it was in Greek, but then languages have never been my strong point. Our resurrection faith impels us to share the good news of God’s love and our salvation. The question is always, of course, how we do that. We live in a restless world when actively doing something is a virtue - encouraging busyness - and where silence is a threat. Yet busyness can shut God out and obscure his message, while silence helps us to listen to what he wants us to do. We are to be his Church and reflect the light of his living presence. 
 
God wants us to be his witnesses, but he is already at work. We join in with his Spirit moving in the world. Let me share this story from the York Courses, which we sometimes follow in Lent: 
‘It was the 1960s and the Anglican Bishop of Southwark, Mervyn Stockwood, was in Moscow over the Easter season. He went to the hair salon of his hotel for a shave because his electric razor had broken. The hairdresser saw his episcopal cross and ring and asked him if he was a bishop. He agreed that he was. The hairdresser took his cross and kissed it and did the same with his ring. She then held the razor aloft with the bishop’s beard still on it, and called out, ‘Christ is risen!’ whereupon the other customers joyfully responded, ‘He is risen indeed. Alleluia!’ Mervyn Stockwood thought to himself, ‘Poor old Brezhnev [then Soviet President]: 60 years of atheism and still the Galilean conquers!’ Such is the effect of the resurrection. Its implications are extraordinary and the resurrection continues to ricochet around the world’ (York Courses). 
 
I have been sending out these Reflections now for a month. There seems to be little more clarity to our situation now than there was when I started. With no general testing going on in the community, we don’t know if any of us have been affected. It is as if life has been put on hold, simply marking time. It can be frustrating. 
 
Nevertheless, as I have mentioned before, one area that does remain active and is very much in need of our help is the Trussell Trust. Donations of food are down and so any support for the food bank that you are able to give would be very grateful received. 
Donations can be made in the following ways: 
there is a basket in the porch here at The Vicarage in Barford Lane (please ring the bell just to alert us that you have left a donation so that it can be brought inside promptly). 
there are food collection points at various supermarkets including The Co-op in Downton. 
if you are self-isolating or cannot get to the collection points but would still like to make a food donation please contact The Vicarage (01725 510326) as we may be able to arrange to collect this from you, in an appropriate social-distancing way. 
if you prefer, you can make a financial donation through the Salisbury Foodbank website or by putting it in a clearly labelled envelope and posting it through The Vicarage door (please don’t leave any money in the collection basket). 
Thank you for your support in these challenging times for everyone. 
 
We pray: 
God of glory, the end of our searching, 
help us to lay aside all that prevents us from seeking your kingdom, 
and to give all that we have 
to gain the pearl beyond all price, 
through our Saviour Jesus Christ. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for all ministers in the village. 
Friday 17th April 2020 
 
‘This Jesus is “the stone that was rejected by you, the builders; it has become the cornerstone.” There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved’ (Acts 4:11-12). 
 
Salvation in Jesus: this is the truth that sets us free, the very cornerstone of our faith. In the words of Martin Luther King ‘Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!’ 
 
The fact that Jesus is raised into new life stands forever at the height of the Easter story, waiting for us to respond, giving us a chance to say something. And one way or another, we are always saying something, whether we’re compelled to embrace the gospel or disregard it. Even the refusal to comment is, of course, a kind of comment nonetheless. ‘There was that essential belief that my soul lay in the hands of God and couldn’t be taken by others’ (Terry Waite, talking about his years in captivity). 
 
The early leaders of the church grasped this implication. The sincere fears that made them cower behind closed doors on Friday and Saturday began to disappear when they realized Jesus was alive. His living presence revitalised them. Easter proclaims Jesus alive in the world, calling us to follow him, to be his people, to work for him in the world. 
 
‘Christian faith is a personal trust in Jesus Christ. But for what do we trust him? We do not trust him, as men have trusted human sages, to show them the way round a stable and enduring universe. We trust him to draw us into a new creation, and therein to renew and immortalize our being’ (Austin Farrer, The Brink of Mystery). 
 
As life adjusts to a different rhythm, so we have the opportunity to rejoice in this new creation; to rediscover God in the world, to appreciate and value his creation. The other day I took advantage of the quieter roads to go out on my bicycle. To be honest, I was somewhat nervous as I haven’t cycled very far for several years, as the traffic has grown so busy of late. However I set myself a simple goal, to go as far as Woodgreen, and actually had a very pleasant round trip. There was some traffic on the A338 as I headed south but not a lot. While for my return along the back road I was able to marvel at how very quiet it was. I could hear the insects around me and the birds in the distance, all the while enjoying the sun on my back. In the scramble and hectic pace that life requires in our modern world, too often we have lost God’s greater gifts and blessings. 
 
We pray: 
Almighty God, 
who called your Church to bear witness 
that you were in Christ reconciling the world to yourself: 
help us to proclaim the good news of your love, 
that all who hear it may be drawn to you; 
through him who was lifted up on the cross, 
and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for those in need in our village: those confined in their homes, especially those living alone. Loneliness and isolation are by their very nature hidden. With them we remember the vulnerable and elderly members of our society. In particular we pray for those in Care and Nursing Homes and those who staff them. Also we think of those unable to isolate because of the close proximity in which they live. 
Thursday 16th April 2020 
 
‘He opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things’ (Luke 24:45-48). 
 
The scriptures are important to us. They are a vital record of God’s teaching and dealings with his people. As St Paul tells his protégé Timothy: ‘All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work’ (2 Timothy 3:16). The scriptures reveal God’s consistent message to his people while retaining the flavour of the many authors that spoke and wrote the words. They are our witness to the events of Holy Week, Easter and all that followed. That is why they are always central to our worship. 
 
We are now the witnesses, passing on the message of scripture. ‘Your life may be the only Bible someone reads. You are the Fifth Gospel’ (Mark Russell, Chief Executive of the Church Army). We share it with those around us, so each can respond in their own way. Individual response matters - not because one is better than another but because God loves each one of us individually and wants us all to know him for ourselves. It is how we relate to God and how we want others to recognise him. It’s not about being part of a crowd, somewhere at the back, but each one of us face to face with our loving Saviour. When we see others just as an amorphous mass it is hard to care, but we can relate to individuals and those in need touch us to the heart. That is how God made us. 
 
We continue in our service to God even in our present circumstances. As the Archbishop has said: ‘I think we’re learning a huge number of lessons, and we’re learning that the Church is, at its heart, the people. We’re relearning that, which was the lesson of the first three centuries. . . It’s [the Church is] not a building. The buildings are a gift, a treasure, but they are not the Church’ (Archbishop Justin Welby on Andrew Marr Show, Easter Day). 
 
Whilst so many of us are confined to our homes, we know there are many who carry on working tirelessly on our behalf. We continue give thanks for the dedication, skill and care of all our NHS and other caring staff, holding in our prayers most especially those who have to choose between looking after others and their own personal protection. There are also those key workers in the often overlooked mundane tasks that keep our society functioning and healthy. We are grateful, for instance, that our rubbish and recycling is still being collected. 
 
The collect for Bible Sunday: 
Blessed Lord, 
who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: 
help us so to hear them, 
to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them 
that, through patience, and the comfort of your holy word, 
we may embrace and for ever hold fast 
the hope of everlasting life, 
which you have given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for those at University and College. They are facing an uncertain time, and many will have important deadlines and exams coming up. 
Wednesday 15th April 2020 
 
‘O give thanks to the Lord, call on his name, make known his deeds among the peoples. Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wonderful works’ (Psalm 105:1-2). 
 
We know that God is the author and giver of all that is good and wonderful, all the joy and marvellous things around and within us. So it is natural that we should give him thanks and praise. As we wonder at the magnificent craftsmanship he has lavished on creation, his miracles of subtlety and beauty and all the glorious complexity of the world that surrounds us, we give him the glory. ‘O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures for ever’ (Psalm 107:1). 
 
Now at Easter he gives us life in all its fulness and his unstinting love. Jesus says ‘I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly’ (John 10:10). It is our mission to share that, to declare his blessings and proclaim him in the world. ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations’ (Matthew 28:19) Jesus tells us. While St Paul asks ‘How are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him?’ (Romans 10:14). 
 
You might think that this would be more difficult to achieve at the moment as we maintain our lockdown and social distancing. However we have so many ways to communicate today and the evidence seems to be that more people are attending our virtual services – national and local – than were coming before. When life is uncertain and we lose our sense of security and stability, then the deeper issues come more to the fore, become more important. We recall that in Matthew, Jesus goes on to say ‘teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age’ (Matthew 28:20). 
 
With no sign of the end of the lockdown in sight, here as a rural community we are aware that our farmers are in a very difficult situation at the moment. We rely on them for the absolute basics. We need to support them and hold them in our prayers. 
 
As I mentioned yesterday, our Roads to God group will be praying (from our homes) at 10am. I ask you to spend some time with us at 10 o’clock in prayer for the village, especially for those in our Roads to God schedule and of course any in particular need. I attach the form of prayers that we use. 
 
We pray: 
Lord Jesus Christ, you are the Way, the Truth and the Life. 
Through the prayer and loving service of your Church, 
may we and all in this community draw closer to you, 
and so find Roads to God in this place. 
We ask this in your name and for your sake. Amen. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for young people in the Church. We may not always see much of them but they are very much part of our Church family. 
 
We continue to pray for our schools. It may be technically the school holidays, but our teachers are still working hard for our children. With no apparent end yet to the lockdown, they are preparing for another term of distance learning. This forthcoming term is a very important one for many as they prepare for transition from one stage to the next. 
Tuesday 14th April 2020 
 
‘Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified’ (Acts 2:36). 
 
Here we have the core of the Christian message and of our life together: Jesus is Lord. What we celebrate at this time is a life-changing, world-changing event. Whatever our response, we cannot avoid its impact. This goes far beyond our own private life of prayer. It challenges us in all aspects of our life and being: in our attitudes; in who we are and how we see the world; in how we respond to whatever comes our way. Properly used these strange days of Easter lockdown can be for us a time of growth, renewal and recommitment in our faith. 
 
I was particularly struck by the Archbishop’s sermon and Pope Francis’ Urbi et Orbi blessing on Easter Sunday. The Archbishop said ‘This was a vision of the Kingdom of God come on earth, where death would not be the end. Which brings us back to ambitious imagination and unreasonable hope. In the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we have a hope that is surer than stone; than any architecture. There needs to be a resurrection of our common life, something that links to the old, but is different and more beautiful’. While Pope Francis said ‘For many, remaining at home has been an opportunity to reflect, to withdraw from the frenetic pace of life, stay with loved ones and enjoy their company. For many, though, this is also a time of worry about an uncertain future, about jobs that are at risk and about other consequences of the current crisis’. 
 
As the lockdown continues we become more aware of its effects both on our national life and our own daily lives. it is getting harder to keep track of what day it is or develop a sense of rhythm or pattern. We need to retain our sense of purpose as God’s people. While I’m certainly busy, I have no appointments or meetings as such, no regular places where I ought to be. For me this was not helped last week when I spent half a day when I had planned to do something else arranging to get a problem fixed on my computer. 
 
This week we are thinking particularly about our Roads to God programme. While we may have been unable to deliver our prayer cards, we are still holding our village in prayer before God. Indeed, I think this is more important than ever. This month we are praying for all those who live or work in Downton Business Centre & Industrial Estate, Long Close, Elizabeth Close and Hyde Lane. 
 
The Roads to God group will be praying (from our homes) tomorrow at 10am. I invite you to join your prayers with ours. If you wish prayer for yourself, or know of anyone we should be holding in prayer, please let me know. Your request will be confidential and I shall pray for you - or them - tomorrow. 
 
The alternative prayer 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/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for all medical staff: those in hospitals, GP surgeries, Care homes, research labs, working from home or wherever they are. 
Monday 13th April 2020 
 
‘After the priests had assembled with the elders, they devised a plan to give a large sum of money to the soldiers, telling them, ‘You must say, “His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.” If this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble’ (Matthew 28:12-14). 
 
One recurring aspect of the Easter story is the tendency of those in authority to insist that what they want to be the truth must indeed be true. Jesus cannot have been who he said he was - therefore he cannot have risen from the dead. This is the counterpoint to the crowds on Palm Sunday insisting that Jesus is the kind of Messiah they want. 
I am reminded of the logic used in the opera The Mikado: ‘It's like this: when your Majesty says, "Let a thing be done", it's as good as done. Practically, it is done because your Majesty's will is law. Your Majesty says "Kill a gentleman", and a gentleman is told off to be killed. Consequently, that gentleman is as good as dead. Practically he is dead and if he is dead, why not say so?’ 
 
We are seeing this sort of thing clearly in the reaction of some leaders and celebrities to the current pandemic. What they say must be true - even if it is wishful thinking rather than anything supported by the facts. However Jesus says ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free’ (John 8:31-32). 
 
Today is Easter Monday. In more usual times on this day, weather permitting, there would be the Easter egg hunt in the Moot. It is always a joyful occasion with hundreds of children searching through the grass for the tiny eggs. They are celebrating new life, though they may not be aware of it, with the glories of our world all around us - the magnificent craftsmanship God has lavished on creation. 
 
The resurrection is evidence of the one certainty we have: that God is at work in the world for our good. What we have been promised at the end of time is already ours. In everyday life, this realised promise makes itself known in a sense that we are living fully in the present, now, but live also with a strong sense of ‘not yet’; that there is more, more than we can imagine or explain. We are taking part actively in the kingdom of God, although the kingdom will not reach its full expression until sometime in the future. We are “already” in the kingdom, but we do “not yet” see it in its glory. 
 
This is new life in Christ. God, despite being somehow reachable and recognizable in Jesus of Nazareth, is at the same time utterly other from us, strange and awesome. Yet Easter tells us how much he loves us; in Jesus he has lived and died for us; we belong to him as his children. In the words of the Archbishop yesterday ‘In the new life of the resurrection of Jesus, we dare to have faith in life before death. We hope, because of the resurrection’. 
 
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 for today we pray for Churches Together in Downton, as we remember that we all belong to God’s kingdom - and that is what matters. 
Sunday 12th April 2020 - EASTER DAY 
 
‘Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said’ (Matthew 28:5-6). 
 
Alleluia. Christ is risen. 
He is risen indeed. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia. 
 
‘Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive’  
(1 Corinthians 15:20-22). 
 
Today we celebrate Jesus’ Resurrection, his victory over death. His resurrection symbolises God’s gift of eternal life to his people. ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ (1 Corinthians 15:54-55). 
 
Don’t worry if you can’t keep up with complex Christian theology. Resurrection is our gift from God. Easter is a new life feast – that’s where the eggs fit in (in the second century Christians began using eggs as a symbol of Christ's resurrection). Everybody can enjoy the spring without understanding climate patterns. Resurrection is for all. Life is for all. 
 
This year Easter comes as we are confined to our homes. However the hope we have in our risen Saviour doesn’t falter or fade in the midst of the pandemic. Easter promises that what God does in the resurrection of Jesus is God's intention for the entire creation - “Behold, I make all things new” (Revelation 21:5). ‘Jesus did not come to make God's love possible, but to make God's love visible’ (Author Unknown). 
The collect for today: 
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/) 
Thank you to Janet who created this Easter Garden and sent us a picture. 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we give thanks for the resurrection, and the new eternal life Jesus has won for us. 
 
We have an Easter Day service on our services page. There is also a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. 
 
I wish you all a very joyous Easter, even if it is a rather different one from what we would have expected. 
 
‘Now may the God of peace, who brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, make you complete in everything good so that you may do his will, working among us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen’ (Hebrews 13:20-21). 
Saturday 11th April 2020 
 
The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, ‘Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, “After three days I will rise again.” Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, “He has been raised from the dead”, and the last deception would be worse than the first’ (Matthew 27:62-64) 
 
This is Holy Saturday: we approach the end of a difficult week of faith. If we find it difficult, how much more did the disciples, who were to become apostles? Holy Week poses more questions than answers, and even the answer we will soon celebrate comes as much with the Ascension as it does with Easter. His followers feel abandoned and bereft. Where is God in all of this? What does he wants of us? 
 
So today reflects uncertainty. What is God doing; what does Jesus on the Cross mean for us? Jesus has, it appears, been made a scapegoat for the people of Jerusalem ‘Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins, putting them on the head of the goat, and sending it away into the wilderness’ (Leviticus 16:21). God, though, has a more perfect plan. As St Paul tells us ‘love is the fulfilling of the law’ (Romans 13:10). 
 
In St Albans Abbey, which I attended when I was young, there is a medieval wall painting of Jesus on the Cross with the words: 
I am on the cross for thee 
Thou that sinnest cease for me 
Cease I pardon 
Fight I help 
Conquer I crown 
 
Traditionally this is a day of quiet and meditation. We wait in anticipation. The tumultuous events of the past few days are past, but Easter is not yet upon us. As St Paul charges us ‘Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer’ (Romans 12:12). 
 
At the same time, the sun is shining and the weather is glorious. We have been out walking through the Millennium Green or beyond the village into the farmland. Families are enjoying themselves together and the birds are busy singing. There is less background noise, so they haven’t got so much competition this year. At this time families are together more than usual. So we must remember those unable to see their families because of the lockdown, especially those whose children are with their other parent or a loved one is in a care home. 
 
The collect for today: 
Grant, Lord, 
that we who are baptized into the death of your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ 
may continually put to death our evil desires and be buried with him; 
and that through the grave and gate of death 
we may pass to our joyful resurrection; 
through his merits, 
who died and was buried and rose again for us, 
your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
We may not have an Easter Garden in Church this year, but here is one from a previous year. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for the bereaved, remembering especially those who cannot be with their loved ones in their last hours, or are unable to attend their funeral. 
 
‘May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit’ (Romans 15:13). 
 
God bless. 
Easter garden
Friday 10th April 2020 - Good Friday 
 
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest’ (Psalm 22:1-2). 
 
Today is Good Friday. This is the day when we remember Jesus on the Cross and his death at Calvary. The 'Good' in Good Friday comes from old English when Good meant Holy. So you could call today 'Holy Friday'. 
 
Our focus today is very much upon Jesus on the Cross. ‘They took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha’ (John 19:16-17). It is a time for prayerful meditation, as in our hearts and imaginations we seek to walk with him in his Passion. 
 
Traditionally it would be a busy day for us, starting with the Stations of the Cross and afterwards the workshop where the children make an Easter Garden. Of course, we shouldn’t forget those hot cross buns that are brought for us to share! 
Bishop Nicholas has shared this prayer by Alan Amos, a retired priest in the diocese: 
 
Ah my dear Lord, the church is locked 
but let my heart be open to your presence: 
there let us make, you and I, 
your Easter garden; 
plant it with flowers, 
and let the heavy stone be rolled away. 
 
In the afternoon we would move on to the Procession of Witness, carrying the cross through the village. Then we have a service in one of the churches remembering the Last Hour, watching and waiting with Jesus in readings and prayer. These all help us to centre us on the story of our Lord’s Passion. For me the most evocative words here are those from the Book of Lamentations, especially when set to Stainer’s music ‘Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by?’ (Lamentations 1:12). 
 
Silence is a significant part of our observance of Good Friday. Just as Jesus stands silent at the heart of today’s events, so we are called to wait silently with him – as we walk with him in the way of the Cross, secure in the love and purpose of the Father. 
 
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 for today we pray for all who deny God. This is not in judgement but in the prayerful hope that their eyes might be opened to love of Jesus, on the Cross for us. ‘God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us’ (Romans 5:8). 
 
Let me finish today with the Acclamation that comes towards the end of the service for the Celebration of our Lord’s Passion: 
We glory in your cross, O Lord, 
and praise you for your mighty resurrection; 
for by virtue of your cross joy has come into our world. 
 
God be gracious to us and bless us: 
and make his face shine upon us, 
Let your ways be made known on earth: 
your liberating power among all nations. 
 
Let the peoples praise you, O God: 
let all the peoples praise you. 
 
Thursday 9th April 2020 - Maundy Thursday 
 
When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. He said to them, ‘I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.’ (Luke 22:14-16) 
 
This is Maundy Thursday, when we remember Jesus in the upper room with his disciples as they share the Passover meal. He knows what is coming ‘Father, if this cup may not pass from me, but I must drink it, your will be done’ (Matthew 26:42). The joy with which he had been received just days earlier has evaporated and the darkness is closing in. What Jesus wants most of all at this time is to gather his friends together around him. 
 
Here we see the love of Jesus in the humility with which he washes his disciples’ feet, even washing the feet of Judas whom he knew was about to betray him. What love is this? Amazing love! Sacrificial love! Selfless love! Redeeming love! This is the love for which we give thanks this week, the love that surpasses all knowledge, the love that never falters, the love that pays the price, the love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice. 
 
Here we see also the inauguration of our community celebration as God’s people: Holy Communion. ‘For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: the Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes’ (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). 
 
We are so used to these words they are in danger of becoming almost commonplace. If we pause, though, and reflect, they are of immense moment. Here we celebrate our oneness with Jesus, with God; our faith is fed; our life is renewed. As the Church we too are a community gathering around Jesus, with Communion at our heart. In more usual times we would gather together around the table to celebrate this tonight, while this morning the bishop would gather all the clergy and those lay ministers who can make it in the cathedral for our Renewal of Ordination vows. Both these are symbolic sacramental acts that underpin our common life together. 
 
I have put a Maundy Thursday Service of Reflection on the website. There is no order of service for this. I invite you simply to join me in reflecting on the events of the day. There is also a reading of the Gospel of the Watch, which traditionally we read before a time of silent prayer in the evening. In addition there is a Passion reading for Good Friday and a copy of our Stations of the Cross service. 
 
The collect for today: 
God our Father, 
you have invited us to share in the supper 
which your Son gave to his Church 
to proclaim his death until he comes: 
may he nourish us by his presence, 
and unite us in his love; 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for those alone and depressed. This is of particular importance at this difficult time. As many are finding, it is one thing to choose solitude, it is quite another to have it thrust upon you. 
 
Thank you to all who have been donating to our Trussell Trust collection here at The Vicarage. We took another consignment to them yesterday. Please do keep them coming. 
Wednesday 8th April 2020 
 
Jesus said, “Now is the Son of man glorified, and in him God is glorified; if God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come’ (John 13:31-33). 
 
This is a particularly confusing time for Jesus’ friends. They have been following him for years, listening to him, watching him, living with him. They believe in him; they have put their trust in him. When others find Jesus too challenging and leave, Peter speaks for the twelve when he says: ‘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 6:68). Later he goes even further, declaring ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God’ (Matthew 16:16). 
 
With Palm Sunday they think they know what Jesus is up to, where everything is headed. Jesus has made a great and unequivocal statement of his kingship. In first-century Palestine expectations were of a Messiah who would be a political revolutionary. They are looking for a king who will come in and release the nation from Roman domination. Indeed the demand for the release of Barabbas, a political zealot, on Friday instead of Jesus shows they want a political saviour (Matthew 27:15–23). 
 
Yet it seems that the disciples are mistaken once again. Indeed, they are forever getting it wrong or missing the point. This is one of the recurring themes of the gospels. 
 
It is easy for us, from our perspective. We know what is going to happen. Would we have done any better, though, knowing what they knew? It is only after the resurrection that the penny finally drops and, as we said last week, it is the resurrection that makes the point. 
 
For one of them it’s too much, as Judas betrays Jesus to the Sanhedrin. There are many theories as to why he does this. Could it be that he thinks that Jesus needs just that little extra nudge to proclaim himself as king and lead the uprising? 
 
As for Jesus’ other friends, they find that when the chips are down their courage fails them. When he is arrested ‘all the disciples deserted him and fled’ (Matthew 26:56); Peter denies him; and only ‘the beloved disciple’ is present at the crucifixion (John 19:26). 
 
Throughout it all, though, what matters is that despite their failings and weaknesses they remain Jesus’ friends. They are the ones he will, in due time, call to be the Church, his people - to live for him, to proclaim him and serve him in the world. 
 
Today we are Jesus’ friends, called out to be his. Like those first disciples we too are often confused, especially perhaps now - unsure of our way, inclined to get it wrong or simply uncertain about what he is doing or what he wants of us. What matters is that we hold fast to him, listen to his word, and wait on him. 
 
The prayer after communion for this week: 
Lord Jesus Christ, 
you humbled yourself in taking the form of a servant, 
and in obedience died on the cross for our salvation: 
give us the mind to follow you 
and to proclaim you as Lord and King, 
to the glory of God the Father. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for all politicians and their advisors - for integrity, for wisdom and a willingness to put the good of all before personal desire or ambition. We pray particularly for the Prime Minister and all those who are ill or in isolation at this time. 
Tuesday 7th April 2020 
 
Thus says the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One, to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nations, the servant of rulers: “Kings shall see and arise; princes, and they shall prostrate themselves; because of the Lord, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you” (Isaiah 49:7). 
 
Following his entry into Jerusalem, Jesus faces the combined religious and political leadership ranged against him, given encouragement by the whipped-up fickleness of the crowd. These authorities have an important role in Jerusalem, of course, ensuring that Temple worship continues efficiently and everything works smoothly. However they fail to see the bigger picture. They are too busy dealing with what they see as an immediate threat to understand that there are greater issues here. 
 
‘When he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, ‘By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?’ (Matthew 21:23). The authorities are jealous of the risk Jesus poses to their power and influence and are concerned about how his actions might be seen by the Romans. There is a delicate balancing act here that they know can be upset all too easily at any moment with terrible consequences. 
 
‘Every day he was teaching in the temple. The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people kept looking for a way to kill him; but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were spellbound by what they heard; (Luke 19:47-48). They are searching for an opportunity and one will soon present itself. 
 
At the same time, Jesus is also preparing himself for what is to come. “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify thy name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again” (John 12:27-28). The pieces are falling into place as God’s great act of salvation moves to a head. 
 
We continue to remember those most in need of our prayers at this difficult time. Rev Ron Hart has passed on this message he received last week from Bishop Bernard in Torit, South Sudan (Salisbury Diocese is linked with the Episcopal Church of Sudan and South Sudan): 
Dear brother Rev Canon John Wood. 
I hope all of you are fine as the worries of the Corona Virus spread around. 
WE are fine but are living in fear of the spread of the virus from Uganda to South Sudan. 
We have no medical facilities here and only rely on God. Borders are closed and our only source of food is Uganda. Cost of Food items have risen to the extent that only God can save us should the situation continue for another one month 
Pray for us as we also pray for you. 
Regards, 
++Bernard 
 
A Prayer for Sudan (a copy of this prayer is kept in every church in the Diocese): 
God our Father, whose son Jesus Christ wept over your people who knew not the way of peace, and were as sheep without a shepherd, hear our prayer for the people of the Sudan. 
Turn the hearts of their leaders to reconciliation and peace. 
Bless their Archbishop and clergy, that they may be true shepherds of your flock. 
Strengthen those who heal the wounded and feed the hungry. 
Hasten the time when all nations will own your just and gentle rule and receive your gift of peace 
in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 
(https://www.salisbury.anglican.org/mission/the-sudan-link/prayer) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for all those who are ill and their families, together with the bereaved. They are very much on our hearts and minds at this time, and we lift them up before God. 
Monday 6th April 2020 
 
‘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’ (Isaiah 42:1) 
 
This is Holy Week. As we walk with Jesus on the path to Calvary over these days, so we reflect on all that is happening; what has brought Jesus here to this point; and the actions and motives of those around him who are caught up in this story. We can also bring ourselves before Jesus asking for renewed guidance and a deepening of faith. I’m sure we can all identify with the man in the gospels who cried ‘‘I believe; help my unbelief!’ (Mark 9:24). 
 
Let us start today with the people of Jerusalem. Yesterday they welcomed Jesus joyfully. What were they looking for - excitement? something new and different? a charismatic leader? a simple answer to the problems of their world? We can infer but do not know. What is clear is that by the end of the week they have lost faith in Jesus. He has failed to live up to their expectations and has gone from hero to villain overnight. 
 
For now all the excitement of yesterday is past. It is the time to move on from promises to action. What is Jesus going to do? How is he going to capitalise on the fervour he has whipped up? Apparently he is doing nothing except sit in the Temple and teach. The crowd soon loses patience and turns against him. 
 
We need to ask ourselves: are we looking for Jesus to lead us where we want to go, or are we truly open to being led where he wants to take us? This week is a good time for us to read the Bible and engage with it. We have not only the story of the Passion in the four gospels, but the epistles that refer back to it, and the Old Testament prophecies that prefigure it. 
 
For the first time for most of us, we will be observing Holy Week at home. Perhaps this is an opportunity to look beyond the ‘doing’ of Holy Week to its deeper meaning; to immerse ourselves in it through prayer and reading and waiting on God. As the Queen said last night, we ‘are discovering that it presents an opportunity to slow down, pause and reflect, in prayer or meditation’. 
 
Alongside that, these days are bringing with them a renewed appreciation of the world around us, as we take our daily exercise and spend more time in our gardens – those of us who have them. Over the weekend I dug my bean trenches. It is one of those jobs you want to get done, but not necessarily to do. The fresh air and exercise was good of course, but so was the chance to be part of the rhythm of a nature quite unperturbed by our concerns and worries. 
 
The alternative collect prayer 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/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray our Bellringers. They are accustomed to ringing out in moments of celebration and solemn remembrance. We look forward to the time when their peals across the village can gladden our hearts again. 
 
There is now a service of Compline (Night Prayer) available, together with an order of service. You may like to use this during this week. 
Sunday 5th April 2020 - Palm Sunday 
 
The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!’ (Matthew 21:9) 
 
Today is Palm Sunday, when we remember Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. ‘They took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord — the King of Israel!’ (John 12:13). Whatever may happen in the days to come, here the crowds proclaim an important truth. Jesus is indeed King and Son of David. ‘Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth’ (Revelation 1:5). 
 
So he enters the city, dismissing the concerns of the authorities and heading straight for the Temple. ‘Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who were selling and buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold doves. He said to them, ‘It is written, “My house shall be called a house of prayer”; but you are making it a den of robbers’ (Matthew 21:12-13). 
 
We can imagine the scene. The crowd is going wild, greeting Jesus as their king and liberator. There’s a party atmosphere; the air is filled with excitement and expectation. The revolution has begun; freedom from the Romans is in their grasp; he is going to fulfil all their dreams. What a strange paradox: the King is coming, the people rejoice, singing ‘Hosanna in the highest!’ Yet they fail to understand that this King whom they welcome is the Servant King; the King who washes his disciples’ feet; the King who comes not with an army but a weapon so powerful that not even death can resist, the sacrificial love of God laid out upon a Cross. 
 
What about us? What do we expect of Jesus; what do we want from him; what do we want him to do? Is it what he has come to offer and to give? Do we need to raise our eyes and expectations to the greater glory he brings? For ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever’ (Hebrews 13:8). 
 
There is a service for today on our website. It is in three parts: the first part leads up to the Passion Gospel. As this is extremely long I have recorded it separately, or you may prefer to read it by yourself (Matthew 26:14 – 27:end). Finally there is the concluding part of the service. Also the website has a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. 
 
The collect for Palm Sunday: 
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/) 
 
I remind you that there are also virtual services streamed each Sunday on the Church of England website
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our witness to the faith. We are the people of God, called to live for him and proclaim him in our lives: ‘Hosanna in the highest heaven!’. We ask God’s grace to be and do that ever more effectively. 
Saturday 4th April 2020 
 
Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves. They were looking for Jesus and were asking one another as they stood in the temple, ‘What do you think? Surely he will not come to the festival, will he?’ (John 11:55-56). 
 
It is the run-up to the Passover in Jerusalem. Everyone is excited, hoping Jesus will turn up and no doubt relishing the chance for a bit of excitement. The trouble is they can’t see him anywhere. That’s because he is at Bethany, moving at his own pace, to be ready at the right time. Sometimes we talk about not finding God or that he’s not there for us. Yet God is always there ‘God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble’ (Psalm 46:1), but he won’t adhere to our agenda or timetable. He moves in his own way, telling us ‘Those who love me, I will deliver; I will protect those who know my name. When they call to me, I will answer them; I will be with them in trouble, I will rescue them and honour them’ (Psalm 91:14-15). 
 
In much the same way, we can talk of God not answering prayer. The truth is that he is always there; he always answers our prayers, showing us the way. Perhaps the problem can be that we are not ready to hear him; he is not giving us the answer we would like. We have to learn to listen and to accept that he will act in the right way and at the right time. ‘But it is for you, O Lord, that I wait; it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer’ (Psalm 38:15). 
 
Tomorrow is Palm Sunday, when Jesus does finally appear in Jerusalem in a very clear and dramatic way. This marks the beginning of Holy Week. There are a number of resources available to help us observe this week. The Church of England website has services of Daily Prayer. Here at St Laurence we will put more pieces on our website over the next few days. 
 
Palm Sunday is a day when normally we would gather together in celebration and worship. Tomorrow we will be doing this as a Church from our own homes. In preparation here are details of how to make a palm cross at home. There will also be a Palm Sunday service with a service sheet you can download. I will record the Passion Gospel separately as it is extremely long. 
 
Especially on a day such as Palm Sunday we miss gathering together for the Eucharist. I share this prayer, which comes from the Oxford Movement Centenary Prayer Book (Church Literature Association, 1933) courtesy of the Church Times: 
 
O Lord Jesus Christ, since I cannot now 
receive Thee sacramentally, I humbly pray 
Thee that Thou wouldest come spiritually to my soul. 
Come, Lord Jesus, come and cleanse me, 
heal me, strengthen me, and unite me to 
Thyself, now and for evermore. Amen. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today I ask you to pray for myself as Team Rector and my family. I greatly appreciate your prayers at this time. Thank you. 
Friday 3rd April 2020 
 
‘Here we have no lasting city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. Through Jesus, then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God’ (Hebrews 13:14-16). 
 
The most fundamental aspect of Jesus’s ministry is that it only makes full sense in the context of resurrection hope. Everything flows from that. At this time, more than ever, it is crucial to get our theology the right way around. “Resurrection life” is not an edifying spiritual metaphor for the way Christians should live in the “here and now”. Christian life in the “here and now” is a Spirit-filled anticipation of a Kingdom yet to come. 
 
As we approach Holy Week and the story of Jesus’ Passion, we can face the darkness because we know the far greater light that lies beyond. We can walk the way of the Cross with him because of the hope we have. We know ‘for you who revere my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings’ (Malachi 4:2). The hope of resurrection beckons as we hold fast to our faith and our God. ‘The promise of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all who take refuge in him’ (Psalm 18:30). As St Peter tells us, ‘Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you’ (1 Peter 5:7). 
 
So ‘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). 
 
My diary tells me that today in St Laurence we should be holding an end of term service for the school. Like the Church the school is a community. Although it has been scattered physically over these past two weeks, it is kept together through the wonder of modern communications. We continue to pray for their safety and growth. 
 
Let me share with you something from the Bible reading notes I follow: ‘Learning more about God, about ourselves, about the depth of love and forgiveness of which we are capable, is most acutely open to us in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, whose true character.. is the cosmic Christ in whom we place our faith and trust’ (Church of England Reflections for Daily Prayer, Wednesday 01 April 2020). 
 
We pray: 
God of Promise and God of Hope, 
who through your great mercy 
have granted us new birth 
through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, 
we praise your wonderful name! 
God of Glory and God of Might 
who through your great power 
have granted us new strength 
to endure all things through faith in Christ our risen King, 
we praise your wonderful name! 
(https://www.faithandworship.com/prayers_Easter.htm) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our Churchwarden and Deputy Churchwardens. They have an important role in ensuring the Church works well and are a great support to me as Team Rector. 
 
Bishop Nicholas tells us: ‘You might already have discovered that Salisbury Cathedral are posting 10 minute reflections every day at 5.00pm… The cathedral is preparing worship to go online for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday’. 
Thursday 2nd April 2020 
 
Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am’ (John 8:58). 
 
Jesus is making an extraordinary claim here. He is claiming divinity. ‘I am’ is the name God calls himself when talking with Moses. ‘God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ He said further, ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites, “I AM has sent me to you”’ (Exodus 3:14). Is it any wonder that those around him felt challenged? It can be challenging for us sometimes to realise that this man of whom we read in the gospels is none other than God himself. It is also a great source of strength and comfort – especially at this time – to know that God became one of us and even died for us. ‘Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows’ (Isaiah 53:4). 
 
As we approach the time of Jesus’ Passion, this is a reminder of just who he is and what is at stake. In the words of that iconic Christmas gospel reading: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. 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 1:1-5). It goes on to say: ‘to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God’ (John 1:12). 
 
‘I am the light of the world,’ says Jesus. ‘Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.’ (John 8:12). We are called to be this light in a dark and uncertain world: ‘‘You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven’ (Matthew 5:14). 
 
In the words of the writer of the letter to the Hebrews, we look ‘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 12:2). 
 
The prayer for Advent Sunday: 
Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness 
and to put on the armour of light, 
now in the time of this mortal life, 
in which your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility; 
that on the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty 
to judge the living and the dead, 
we may rise to the life immortal; 
through him who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for family life - especially for children at home, distance learning. I have met some of them in my walks around the village and they appear to be doing well and relishing the novelty of it all. I enjoy my daily walks and the conversations I have. Yesterday on my way back along The Borough, I stopped to buy food in the Co-Op. There was no queue and not many shoppers. Is this a sign that at least the panic buying is past? I hope and pray so. 
 
In preparation for Sunday, we have a link to some instructions for making your own palm cross at home. In place of a palm leaf, you can do this using either a long strip of paper (2 strips of A4 stuck together works well) or a perhaps long leaf from the garden. There is also a video of me making one. Arts and crafts were never my strong point, so if I can do it anyone can! My apologies for the dark glasses, sunny days do that to them. 
Wednesday 1st April 2020 
 
‘Blessed are you, O Lord, God of our ancestors, and worthy of praise; and glorious is your name for ever! For you are just in all you have done; all your works are true and your ways right, and all your judgements are true’ (Prayer of Azariah 3-4). 
 
This passage is from the canticle that is set for today. It is called the Benedicite in the Book of Common Prayer. The Prayer of Azariah is an apocryphal insertion of 22 verses into the biblical book of Daniel in the Septuagint (an ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament). There are no Hebrew manuscripts that contain the prayer. 
Azariah is one of those three friends of Daniel most commonly known as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, names they were given in Babylon. However, their Hebrew names were Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Thus, Azariah is Abednego, one of the three who were thrown into the fiery furnace. This hymn of thanksgiving is said by all three of the men after God has saved them. 
 
These times of uncertainty bring home to us that we are not as in control of our lives as we may have thought. Forces and events beyond our influence dictate what we can do. The world is not as subject to our command as perhaps we had imagined. In Robert Burns’ famous words: ‘The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men…’ 
 
Our response as the people of God is one of praise as well as prayer. Our great hope is in God alone, who holds all things in his hands. When things are difficult, that is the time when we hold more closely to God, acknowledging his presence and proclaiming his power. We praise him for his greatness, his authority, his glory and his majesty. As the psalmist declares ‘You who live in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty, will say to the Lord, My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust’ (Psalm 91:1-2). While in the great vision of Revelation we have ‘Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory’ (Revelation 19:6-7). 
 
In just over a week we will be celebrating God’s great act of salvation. He has a wonderful future for us. ‘What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us?’ (Romans 8:31). 
 
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/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray that we may continue to grow through God’s Word. In the spirit of Paul’s words to his protégé Timothy ‘All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work’ (2 Timothy 3:16-17). 
 
Thank you to all those who brought donations to The Vicarage for the Trussell Trust. We took them to the warehouse yesterday morning, and they were greatly appreciated. Please keep them coming, and we will continue take them in when we have enough. 
 
I mentioned yesterday that the magazine is now available online. This is not intended to be in place of a printed version, although we are unable to produce that while the present situation continues. However, we do intend to distribute printed copies again as soon as we can. 
Tuesday 31st March 2020 
 
Jesus said, ‘When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own, but I speak these things as the Father instructed me. And the one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to him’ (John 8:28-29). 
 
Today the Church remembers John Donne. ‘John Donne was the greatest non-dramatic poet of his time, and its most admired preacher. He was born in 1571, a Londoner and the son of Catholic parents… In 1615 he joined the Anglican Church, and in 1621 became Dean of St Paul’s’ (https://poetryarchive.org/poet/john-donne/). He died on this day in 1631. 
 
Possibly John Donne’s best-known poem is the one that begins ‘No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main’ (John Donne, MEDITATION XVII Devotions upon Emergent Occasions). This is something that has become very clear for us recently. With so much of the world in shock or denial about the coronavirus, and barriers going up and recriminations flying, we must remember that we are a global community. We also remember our local neighbours around us. We are all in this together and we depend upon one another. 
 
It was only a week ago that I was walking around the village taking down posters saying that the Church is open, and replacing them with ones saying the Church is now locked but we are continuing to pray. Yet already it feels as if we have been in lockdown for much longer than that. The new normal is already developing its own natural rhythms. What hasn’t changed is the need for that to be lived in the presence of God and undergirded with prayer. We can continue to pray for and with one another in our homes. We are not alone: ‘fear not, for I am with you, be not dismayed, for I am your God’ (Isaiah 41:10). 
 
Prayer after John Donne (1631): 
Bring us, O Lord God, at our last awakening 
into the house and gate of heaven, 
to enter that gate and dwell in that house, 
where there shall be no darkness nor dazzling, 
but one equal light; 
no noise nor silence, but one equal music; 
no fears nor hopes, but one equal possession; 
no ends or beginnings, but one equal eternity; 
in the habitations of your glory and dominion, 
world without end. 
(Eric Milner-White (1963) - https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our local traders. We give thanks for all they are doing to bring us what we need, but also remember those unable to trade because of the lockdown. 
 
The April edition of our parish magazine, Downton Parish News, is now available on the Parish News page of the website It is free to view or download. Please do let others know. 
Coincidentally we had intended already to make it free to all, as a service to the village. As so often there is a sense that God was already leading us where we needed to go. ‘He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake’ (Psalm 23:3). 
Monday 30th March 2020 
 
‘The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake’ (Psalm 23:1-3). 
 
The words of this wonderful psalm are among the best known in the Bible. They tell of God’s care for us. Here we have imagery of comfort, vigilance and protection, of loving renewal and right guidance. God is in control; he knows what he is doing; and he will bring us to safe lodging in and with him. 
We are also reminded that Jesus is himself the Good Shepherd. ‘I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep’ (John 10:14-15). Here we have not only the promise of protection and guidance we find in Psalm 23, but also reference to the Cross on which we will be reflecting next week. 
 
It is now a week since the schools were closed. Let us remember all our teachers and the wonderful work they are doing with distance learning and teaching the children of key workers. They are doing a truly wonderful job, working harder than ever and putting our children before all else. 
 
We don’t know when this will end and there is even talk of more stringent restrictions. We must continue to bear in our prayers those who are doing so much for us in so many ways to keep going. This includes charities whose work for the vulnerable is under threat at this time. They are really struggling to make ends meet, with their shops shut and no one out to collect contributions. We may be in lockdown, but we can continue to support them. 
 
Tomorrow we are planning to take donated food to the Trussell Trust. So if you have anything donate, please could you bring it to the Vicarage today. There is a collection basket in the front porch. Alternatively they would always welcome a financial gift. 
 
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 for today we remember all who minister to the sick. As we know, they are particularly important at this time and need our prayers. 
Sunday 29th March 2020 
 
‘I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act, says the Lord’ (Ezekiel 37:14). 
 
Jesus is the embodiment of that great promise to Ezekiel, God the Word actively at work in the world. Now he calls on us to follow him and to work with him: ‘Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father’ (John 14:12). As St Paul writes: ‘Jesus died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them (2 Corinthians 5:15). 
 
Today, the Fifth Sunday of Lent, is known as Passion Sunday. It is also the day our clocks go forward, encouraging us onward into Spring (from the Old English of which we get our word Lent) and its promise of abundant new life. The longer, brighter days speak of hope and a sense of exuberant vitality – God’s promise of better days to come. 
 
Sunday is the day for us to gather together as God’s people in worship. We may not be able to do this physically in our Church building, but we can certainly do it spiritually as the Church. I have posted a service of Morning Worship recorded for today on our website - see our Latest News page - together with a separate recording of the gospel reading. In addition, the website has a copy of the service sheet so you can join in. 
 
Nationally the Archbishop of York has recorded a 'front room' service at Bishopthorpe Palace which you can find at https://www.churchofengland.org/more/media-centre/church-online from 9am. 
 
Our Bible readings start now to focus on Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem – his path to the cross and beyond: God’s great act of salvation. This is preceded by today’s Gospel reading, the story of the raising of Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-45). Paradoxically, Lazarus’ death and his return to life, a fore-shadowing of his master’s future and a witness to his power, sets in motion the determined plot to destroy both men. Plans are being laid in Jerusalem which will lead inexorably to Calvary and to a death which gives us all life. The High Priest Caiaphas, that astute politician and advocate of expediency, will shortly utter those sardonic yet prophetic words ‘it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed.’ (John 11:50). 
 
The prayer for this Sunday: 
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 our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we also remember those getting married this year. This has been a very difficult time for many of them with some very hard decisions to be made. 
Saturday 28th March 2020 
 
Jesus said, ‘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). 
 
Jesus follows his statement with a question: “Do you believe this?” He asks this question of each of us. Life can be hard and sometimes we need reminders of the assurance we have in Christ, and that with God all things are possible. We hear Jesus calling us to believe in him and to trust him, as he tells us personally “I am the resurrection and the life”. 
 
Life seems quite topsy-turvy just now. Every morning my diary tells me of my appointments and commitments for the day – each one an important notice. They are not real, though, because they have all had to be cancelled. Instead my life now is a pattern of email and telephone communication, recording services to post on the St Laurence website and preparing these reflections and other material. Then there is my daily constitutional, a delight in this fine weather – giving me the opportunity to walk around the village, greeting those I pass and perhaps having a chat with them. 
 
We have been rediscovering the traditional British art of queuing, all at a polite two metres apart. Yesterday I waited my turn outside the Co-Op – not for too long, I have to say – and when I got inside there was more available than I found a week ago. The atmosphere was calm and friendly and afterwards I got some of the 60%-proof hand sanitizer which Downton Distillery are producing and offering us all for a donation. 
 
It is amazing how quickly we are settling into the new realities of life. For the Christian this comes from that security and trust we have in God. From God comes all that is – he who is the very source of all creation and of life itself. ‘Our steps are made firm by the Lord, when he delights in our way; though we stumble, we shall not fall headlong, for the Lord holds us by the hand (Psalm 37:23-24). 
 
The Archbishops wrote yesterday: Not being able to use our church buildings is, of course, a huge loss to us all… it shows that we are facing up to the same restrictions… and doing all that we can to take a lead in encouraging people to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives. Moreover, to pray from and in the home may help us to show that the church is, as we all know, us, the people of God, not our buildings. 
 
So let us hold fast to God’s words through the prophet Isaiah: ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine’ (Isaiah 43:1). 
 
We pray: 
Almighty God, 
whose Son Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life: 
raise us, who trust in him, 
from the death of sin to the life of righteousness, 
that we may seek those things which are above, 
where he reigns with you 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we also remember those at University and College whose studies have been made so much more difficult suddenly. 
Friday 27th March 2020 
 
‘Do not, therefore, abandon that confidence of yours; it brings a great reward. For you need endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised’ (Hebrews 10:35-36). 
 
At this time of enforced isolation, we could be tempted to turn our back on the world around us, to try and lose ourselves in books or television or our gardens. These all help, of course. They are a great comfort and support and we are very fortunate to have them. Indeed I have always found gardening a good way to be restored and at peace, and was digging my vegetable patch yesterday. It brings to mind the poem ‘One is nearer God's Heart in a garden Than anywhere else on earth’ (Dorothy Frances Gurney). I don’t think that’s true but it certainly does come close. 
 
So what should be our own response as followers of Christ? The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews is clear. He reminds us that we need endurance and that we do not abandon our confidence in the will of God. As St Paul tells us: ‘endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us’ (Romans 5:4-5). In the words of the prayer after communion this week, we ask God to ‘give us grace to endure the sufferings of this present time with sure confidence in the glory that shall be revealed’ (https://www.churchofengland.org/). 
 
We know that God holds us in his heart and guides us in his way. ‘It is by God’s will that we have been sanctified’ (Hebrews 10:10). He has chosen something very special for each one of us. He has called us out to a particular service, but it is up to us to carry it out. God has assured us that we will receive what he has promised us, even in the midst of painful trials. He wants us to share that with those around us, bringing his life and hope - like yeast in the world. The clapping last night for the NHS was a sign of this and of our community coming together. 
 
On Wednesday I was privileged to assist in an act of great generosity. I met Richard who had a very large amount of milk and bread from a Greggs distribution centre that has had to close under the new government directives. Rather than throw it away, he wanted to find someone who could make good use of it. I was able to direct him to Alabare in Salisbury who were very glad to take it. Our thanks to Richard, and for all other acts of generosity this week. 
 
St. Ignatius’ wonderful prayer for generosity: 
Lord, teach me to be generous, 
to serve you as you deserve, 
to give and not to count the cost, 
to fight and not to heed the wounds, 
to toil and not to seek for rest, 
to labour and not to look for any reward, 
save that of knowing that I do your holy will. 
(https://www.ignatianspirituality.com/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we also remember our Bishops and all Church Leaders. Theirs is an unenviable task as they seek to lead and encourage us all in the Church at this time. 
Thursday 26th March 2020 
 
‘The works that the Father has given me to complete, the very works that I am doing, testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself testified on my behalf’ (John 5:36-37). 
 
Actions speak louder than words, and at the heart of our faith is a God that acts. God came and lived among us as one of us in Jesus. As we hear (especially at Christmas) Jesus is Emmanuel – ‘God with us’. We have a God who identifies with us and is not afraid to ‘get his hands dirty’. This is not about some high philosophical principle, but effective action summed up in a life of practical love. God knows what it is like to live as one of us. He has himself experienced the joys, the trials and temptations, the highs and the lows. We can trust that he is working for our good, even when we may not understand how. 
 
We may be restricted to our homes, but thankfully the weather is glorious and we can rejoice in the beauty of the earth and of all God’s creation – and we can at least get outside and enjoy it. That said, as I went for my one-allowed constitutional yesterday the streets were oddly quiet and empty. I did have some conversations (at a distance, of course) but there were really very few people about. 
 
This idea of keeping our distance sits uncomfortably with us. We are social beings, designed to interact with one another. I was struck by a letter to a newspaper last week from a Vicar in the Midlands: ‘A new phrase has come into our vocabulary, “social distancing”. This is inappropriate. What is required is physical distancing. Let us strive to maintain social togetherness and support through the myriad methods of electronic communication we have. Let’s start talking to each other on the phone again, and use social media and emails to encourage each other, keep our spirits up and maintain levels of mental health. For those who are physically isolated, such connections may be life-saving’ (Rev C Mary Austin, Tibberton, Worcestershire). 
 
Today we are asked to remember especially all who work in the NHS who are doing a most amazing job. The organisers of Clap for our Carers are urging us to applaud NHS staff this evening in a mass display of support and solidarity for frontline medical workers tackling the coronavirus pandemic. We are encouraged to clap from our front doors, gardens, balconies or windows at 8pm on Thursday 26 March (while maintaining a safe distance from our neighbours) to show our appreciation for all the doctors, nurses, GPs, emergency workers and pharmacists involved in helping care for those affected by Covid-19 and other sick patients “during these unprecedented times”. 
 
We pray: 
Gracious God, 
give skill, sympathy and resilience 
to all who are caring for the sick, 
and your wisdom to those searching for a cure. 
Strengthen them with your Spirit, 
that through their work many will be restored to health; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we also remember our Lay Pastoral Assistants, who give valuable support to those who need it – especially the lonely and vulnerable. 
 
God bless. 
Wednesday 25th March 2020 
 
Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her (Luke 1:38). 
 
Today we remember the visit of the angel to Mary, nine months before Christmas. Whatever our perspective, Mary was a quite extraordinary young lady. Her response and willingness to offer herself in service is an example for us all, and a sign that God works out his great plan for us by working with and through his people. Her song of praise ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,’ (Luke 1:46-47) has inspired generations; and she knew the pain that such self-offering could bring ‘a sword will pierce your own soul too’ (Luke 2:35). 
 
Yesterday I, along with all the clergy in the Church of England, received a letter from the Archbishops confirming the new guidelines and instructing us that all churches were to be closed. They say ‘Our church buildings must now be closed not only for public worship, but for private prayer as well and this includes the priest or lay person offering prayer in church on their own’. It was a sad moment and felt very poignant as I went over to St Laurence to put up the notice. A place that has known and sustained countless generations of prayer is now shut up and locked. 
 
It can be hard to know what God intends for us in this increasing strange and difficult time. What we do know, though, is that he wants us always to be a loving, prayerful community. Bishop Nicholas tells us, ‘We are now a Church that says our prayers at home. The Pope has asked the Archbishop of Canterbury to join him and other Christian leaders in saying the Lord’s Prayer at 11.00am (12 noon in Rome) tomorrow, the Feast of the Annunciation. Let’s all do it!’. 
 
Although we can no longer have our building open, even so as the Church our prayer and service for our community continues across the village. There are a number of national online resources we can use to help us in this (https://www.churchofengland.org/more/media-centre/church-online) including weekly streamed services and daily audio. Also there is additional worship provision on the BBC, and more is on its way. 
 
We should also continue to remember the Trussell Trust, where the need is greater than ever. The Archbishops write ‘Foodbanks should continue where possible.. If you can do consider making a financial contribution to your nearest foodbank’. If you have food you want to donate, there will be a box in The Vicarage porch where it can be left. 
 
The collect for The Annunciation of Our Lord: 
We beseech you, O Lord, 
pour your grace into our hearts, 
that as we have known the incarnation of your Son Jesus Christ 
by the message of an angel, 
so by his cross and passion 
we may be brought to the glory 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 for today we also pray for our Flower Arrangers. They are a reminder of the glories of Spring bursting up around us at this time. 
Tuesday 24th March 2020 
 
‘God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult’ (Psalm 46:1-3). 
 
It is just a week since all Church services and gatherings were suspended and we were advised to keep our distance from one another. Now we are told that we can no longer even open the Church for private prayer. It can seem rather as if the world is indeed shaking as we come to terms with a whole new pattern of daily life. it is very unsettling for us all. However we are the Church; we remain a people of prayer, and the Archbishops have called on us to “continue to pray, to love, to care for the vulnerable”. 
 
I am reminded of the words of the hymn: 
the voice of prayer is never silent 
nor dies the strain of praise away. 
 
At this difficult time, we are extremely grateful for all those working so hard to keep our public services – most especially the NHS - functioning as effectively as possible, those distributing vital supplies and all who are trying to maintain our common life in as normal a way as possible. 
 
All this is particularly hard for the vulnerable and alone in our midst who rely on the services and care of others. It has been most encouraging to see the many acts of thoughtfulness and kindness that have sprung up across our village. 
 
This is a time when community in its truest sense has come to the fore. As the Archbishop reminded us in the service broadcast on Sunday, place is a most important part of who we are. This is that special place we think of as home, gives us our sense of belonging, of identity, safety and security. The current situation has caught many people far from home, adding a particular layer of anxiety for them and their loved ones. We remember and pray for them and reach out to the those in our midst who find themselves in this predicament. 
 
So it is perhaps particularly relevant that our Parish Prayer Diary for today (Downton Parish News, page 4) suggests that today we pray for new residents in our village. 
 
We pray (from the Archbishop’s broadcast service): 
God of love and kindness, 
you taught us to love our neighbour, 
and to care for those in need as if we were caring for you. 
In this time of anxiety, give us strength 
to comfort the fearful, to tend the sick, 
and to assure the isolated of our love, and your love. Amen. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
Monday 23rd March 2020 
 
‘For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice for ever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight’ (Isaiah 65:17-18). 
 
Yesterday evening candles were lit in windows all across the village. Here in The Vicarage, as we lit our own candle we used the words from yesterday: 
We light this candle to remind us 
that Jesus is the light of the world, 
and is always with us 
to show us the way. 
 
And the Lord’s Prayer: 
Our Father, who art in heaven, 
hallowed be thy name; 
thy kingdom come; 
thy will be done; 
on earth as it is in heaven. 
Give us this day our daily bread. 
And forgive us our trespasses, 
as we forgive those who trespass against us. 
And lead us not into temptation; 
but deliver us from evil. 
For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, 
for ever and ever. Amen. 
We lit these candles as a sign of solidarity and hope in the light of Christ that can never be extinguished. Also, though, they declare our faith that there is something - someone who is far greater than anything this world can do. God’s plans for us are good. Whatever may be our present experience. 
 
Jesus tell us ‘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), and ‘No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house’ (Matthew 5:15). As we say in the Baptism Service, we are called to ‘Shine as a light in the world to the glory of God the Father’. 
 
We pray: 
Lord, true light and source of all light, 
listen to our prayer. 
Turn our thoughts to what is holy 
and may we ever live in the light of your love. 
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, 
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, 
one God, for ever and ever. Amen. 
 
Sunday 22nd March 2020 
 
‘Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him’ (Colossians 3:14-17). 
 
Today we celebrate Mothering Sunday, a day when we express our love for mothers. We give thanks for all those who have been responsible for looking after us, and those we ourselves have nurtured and cared for. 
We also think of our ‘mother’ church. Always remember we are each one of us beloved children of God; and the Church is the Bride of Christ. This means he will not forsake us. We are not adrift and alone. God is with us; he watching over us; he cares for us. 
 
When we hold our Mothering Sunday service each year, we always light our Paschal Candle with the words: 
We light this candle to remind us 
that Jesus is the light of the world, 
and is always with us 
to show us the way. 
 
Whatever else may have changed God’s presence with us and his deep love for us remain always constant. In the words of the writer of the letter to the Hebrews: ‘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?.. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever’ (Hebrews 13:5-8). 
 
Yesterday we recorded a service of Holy Communion in St Laurence for today. If you wish to view it/join in with it, you can find it by clicking here
 
If you hear the bell being rung in church this is a reminder that the prayerful and sacramental life of the church continues and that even though public worship is not taking place the whole community is being prayed for. 
 
A Prayer for Mothering Sunday: 
God of love, 
passionate and strong, 
tender and careful: 
watch over us and hold us 
all the days of our life; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 
 
A reminder that there are services today: from 8.00am - 8.30am the Archbishop of Canterbury will be taking a service in Lambeth Palace chapel broadcast across the country on BBC local radio; BBC Radio 4 Sunday Worship from 8.10am - 8.45am; and Songs of Praise at 1:15pm on BBC1. 
Please also remember to light a candle at 7.00pm and put it in your window as a sign of solidarity and hope in the light of Christ that can never be extinguished. 
Saturday 21st March 2020 
 
‘Let us know, let us press on to know the Lord; his appearing is as sure as the dawn; he will come to us like the showers, like the spring rains that water the earth’ (Hosea 6:3). 
 
We are called to trust, to love and to serve in Christ. The Archbishops write: ‘by our service, and by our love, Jesus Christ will be made known, and the hope of the gospel – a hope that will counter fear and isolation - will spread across our land.’ 
Today I will be meeting with the couples whose weddings are planned in St Laurence for this year. This is a worrying time for them, as for so many of our community whose lives and plans have been put on hold. 
 
Bishop Nicholas tells us: tomorrow (Sunday) the Archbishops have called for a National Day of Prayer and Action. From 8.00am - 8.30am the Archbishop of Canterbury will be taking a service in Lambeth Palace chapel broadcast across the country on local radio. Do join him, though there is a small conflict in that BBC Radio 4’s Sunday Worship from 8.10am - 8.45am is themed on the Archbishop’s Lent book, Saying Yes to Life, and the speaker there will be Ruth Valerio. 
Please also light a candle at 7.00pm and put it in your window as a sign of solidarity and hope in the light of Christ that can never be extinguished. 
 
If we can get the technology right, then later today or tomorrow we will be posting on our website (https://www.stlaurencedownton.co.uk/) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/stlaurencedownton) a service recorded for Mothering Sunday in St Laurence. 
 
We pray for our common life in Christ: 
We are not people of fear: 
we are people of courage. 
We are not people who protect our own safety: 
we are people who protect our neighbours’ safety. 
We are not people of greed: 
we are people of generosity. 
We are your people God, 
giving and loving, 
wherever we are, 
whatever it costs 
For as long as it takes 
wherever you call us. 
Friday 20th March 2020 
 
One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, ‘Which commandment is the first of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is this, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’ (Mark12:28-31) 
 
Today Jesus reminds us that at the very heart of our relationship with God is to love him, to love our neighbours and love ourselves. 
We remember those on their own at this time - working from home, those self-isolating for whatever reason, and those who live alone. Let us bear them in our prayers but also, more practically, keep in regular contact by telephone. 
 
The Archbishops write: ‘We have called, along with our fellow church leaders, for a day of prayer and action this coming Sunday - Mothering Sunday (22nd March). Mothering Sunday has always been both a day of celebration for many and a sensitive and emotional day for some. Wherever you are this Sunday please do join in this day of prayer and action and remember especially those who are sick or anxious, and all involved in our Health Service. As one action, we are calling on everyone to place a lighted candle in their window at 7.00 p.m. as a sign of solidarity and hope in the light of Christ that can never be extinguished.’ 
 
We pray: 
Lord Jesus Christ, 
you taught us to love our neighbour, 
and to care for those in need 
as if we were caring for you. 
In this time of anxiety, give us strength 
to comfort the fearful, to tend the sick, 
and to assure the isolated 
of our love, and your love, 
for your name’s sake. Amen. 
Thursday 19th March 2020 
 
‘Praise the Lord! Happy are those who fear the Lord, who greatly delight in his commandments. 
They have distributed freely, they have given to the poor; their righteousness endures for ever; their horn is exalted in honour’ (Psalm 112:1,9). 
 
Today we remember St Joseph, a man who listened to God and quietly got on with what God asked of him. He is an example for us of unassuming service and trust that God would work out all things. 
The Archbishops, in their letter to the clergy this week, write ‘We, the Church of Jesus Christ, with our sisters and brothers from other Christian churches, must be in the forefront of providing practical care and support for the most poor and the most vulnerable, and we offer our services to all those who are beginning to think through how best to provide for those in need.’ 
 
With the news that schools are to close from tomorrow, we especially hold in our prayers all teachers and parents as they organise distance learning. 
 
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. 
Wednesday 18th March 2020 
 
From today’s readings: ‘Do not forsake me, O Lord; O my God, do not be far from me; make haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation’ (Psalm 38:21-22). 
 
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 you may have heard, the Archbishops have advised that all public services be suspended until further notice. While our services are suspended I intend to share Bible passages and some thoughts with you by email. If you wish to receive these please let me know. If you know anyone else who would like to receive them, please ask them to pass on their email address. 
 
From the Church of England website: 
Keep us, good Lord, 
under the shadow of your mercy. 
Sustain and support the anxious, 
be with those who care for the sick, 
and lift up all who are brought low; 
that we may find comfort 
knowing that nothing can separate us from your love 
in Christ Jesus our Lord. 
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