OCCASIONAL NEWSLETTER No.1 (22nd March 2020)

Dear Friends,

During this difficult period - in which, because of the coronavirus, we are unable to come together for worship or for anything else - it seems appropriate to send out a kind of weekly newsletter, which will allow us to keep in touch with one another and to reflect on the faith that we share. This newsletter idea was something that I was already thinking about when Jeremy recently contacted me to suggest something of the sort, and I was very amused by his version of what the first one might look like. (Those of you who know Jeremy well can perhaps imagine that his version was not the same as this one, being both extremely funny and unprintable.)

I have also recently heard from Richard, who says in his email to me that it is “a really strange feeling not being able to go anywhere, although the garden is getting a good workout.” He also mentions in his message a group that has just started up via Whatsapp. Within minutes of joining the group, he tells me, he “had 8 different offers of help from various people in the village.” (If, as they sometimes say, there is a silver lining to every cloud, then maybe, in the case of our present situation, these offers of help indicate what that silver lining may be: a new kind of solidarity and willingness to support others.) Richard is working, he goes on, not only on his garden but also on a musical project for our church that he began some time ago, providing choir music for some of the changeable parts of the service. He has already finished the Menaion - a project he started just before he handed the choir over to Cathie some years ago - and is now hard at work on the Octeochos. (For those of you who don’t know what those terms mean, don’t worry – there are lots of technical terms that only the clergy and those leading choirs need to understand. The important thing is that this understanding is what enables our wonderful tradition of worship to be put into practice for the benefit of all.)If any of you have news of the kind that Richard has sent me, and which you’d like to share with others via this newsletter, simply contact me via email (fatherxopher@gmail.com).We’ve always been the sort of parish in which news of one another’s lives has been of general interest, and my reporting of what you tell me will be one way of allowing the building up our common life to continue during a period in which our normal lives have been disrupted.

My own thoughts this week have been on a different aspect of our normal lives being disrupted. This is the way in which, in “normal” times, we often fail to appreciate things fully because we simply take them for granted. When we pray, we are aware that there are things to confess and situations that require intercession with God, but the aspect of prayer that focuses on thanksgiving to Him is often forgotten by us, or at least put on the back burner.And yet one of the terms we use of our Liturgy – the word Eucharist – is simply an Anglicized version of the Greek term for thanksgiving, and the central prayer of that service is quite explicitly a thanksgiving to God the Father, not only for what we have all received through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but also (as the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom puts it) for all the blessings we have received, whether “known or unknown,manifest or hidden.”In practice, many of the blessings we have received are indeed hidden from us. Much that was important for our development in childhood, for example, is hidden from us because it happened in the first couple of years of our lives - a time of which we have no memories.  

Moreover, much that has worked for good in our later lives may seem to us simply to have“happened,” so that, even though it is part of our memory, we fail to see the hand of God init. (The psychologist, C. G. Jung, used to speak of “meaningful coincidence” or“synchronicity” as part of our experience of life, but all too often, when things “just happen”in the way we need them to happen, we simply shrug our shoulders and fail to see their true origin.) There are, in addition, other things to give thanks for but which we tend to take for granted– everyday things like the beauty of  the natural world, which is always with us. In times like these, however, some of these everyday things become more obvious to us precisely because they have been withdrawn from us for a while. One of these things is our life as a parish and our ability – in normal times - to meet for worship, Sunday by Sunday. This everyday parish life has been possible for us, however, only because of something we should certainly give thanks for: the sacrificial giving – whether in time or money – of those who, more than 30 years ago, bought and converted our lovely church building. This parish life has been possible also, we should remember, because of the work and effort of people who - whether as clergy, readers, churchwardens, trustees, treasurers, or choir leaders - have “kept the showrunning” over the years. One of these people was Fr. Patrick Radley, who died almost 12 years ago, and whose anniversary occurs this coming Saturday (28th of this month.) Cathie and I will be singing a Panikhida at his grave in St. Peter’s churchyard at 10 a.m. on that day and – since this is outdoors – any of you who remember him and wish to join us there can doso without danger of infection. Fr. Patrick, as well as being a much-loved parish priest, was a poet, and it is with one of his poems of thanksgiving – The World is a Wedding - that I now finish this newsletter: 

There are mornings When, from the hill, 

We look down on mists, white and still, 

Where, below, are 

People and sheep 

Hidden, perhaps 

Even asleep.

But we, as if

On a new earth, 

A world breathless

At its re-birth,

Are surrounded 

By a brightness 

Of the first day In its freshness.

All now is at The beginning,

Still wet with dew,


Untouched the stones,

The bracken and 

The streams untouched.

The new-born land

Waits quietly 

To be licked dry

By the sunlight’s Intensity.In us is drawn

Up such gladness 

Within our hearts,

Such joyfulness

 Of thanks for the

 Eternal dance

And our holy Inheritance,

That our love is 

Thus made one in 

The marriage of Earth and heaven.

Man and woman,With renewed eyes

We enter here

Our paradise.

With love in Christ,

Father Christopher