Daily Reflections 
- keeping in touch 
Please see our Latest News and Services pages for details of church services and recorded services. 
 
We continue praying for everyone and providing as much support as we can during these difficult times. As part of that the Vicar, Rev Frank Gimson, is sharing Bible passages and some thoughts on a regular basis. These will be included here on the website, but if you would like to receive them in an email, please contact the Vicar either by email to fateamrector@outlook.com or by using the contact form. 
 
If you know anyone else who would like to receive them, please ask them to contact the Vicar as above. 
Wednesday 20th January 2021 
 
‘Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who live in it. Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills sing together for joy at the presence of the Lord, for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity’ (Psalm 98:7-9). 
 
Here we have a salutary reminder of God’s all-encompassing power and authority as we see and live through the consequences of living and acting as if the world is ours to do what we wish. ‘The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it’ (Psalm 24:1). 
 
‘The Pope has criticised those who have fled abroad to escape tough lockdowns in their own countries. Speaking in a video address earlier this month, he said that he had been “saddened” by newspaper reports of people escaping lockdown by flying abroad to go on holiday. “They didn’t think about those who were staying at home, of the economic problems of many people who have been hit hard by the lockdown, of the sick people. [They thought] only about going on holiday and having fun,” he said. The Vatican has been among the most prominent voices urging that vaccines be distributed equitably, and that poorer countries not be left behind’ (Church Times 15 January 2021). 
 
A Prayer for Christian Unity: 
Lord Jesus, who prayed that we might all be one, 
we pray to you for the unity of Christians, 
according to your will, 
according to your means. 
May your Spirit enable us 
to experience the suffering caused by division, 
to see our sin 
and to hope beyond all hope. Amen. 
 
‘Our Social Justice Manager Colin Brady led Staff Prayers this week. Praying with those of other traditions, sharing life and learning together, can bring true richness and be deeply moving. Resources uploaded to the Diocesan Staff Prayers page include a PowerPoint and a sample script’ (Diocese of Salisbury Grapevine 15 January 2021). 
 
I shall be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church this morning, together with our Roads to God prayers which you may wish to use along with it. I shall ring the bell at 10:30am and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. The Church will open for private prayer from 11am to 12pm. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for charities struggling to continue their work and fundraising. ‘Politicians have become more hostile to charity campaigning over the last twelve months, according to a survey conducted by the Sheila McKechnie Foundation. The foundation accused politicians of trying to “slam shut the doors of Whitehall” against charities, after 90% of campaigners said they believed their right to criticise government policies was under threat. A large majority of the campaigners surveyed also blamed negative media coverage for making lobbying harder’ (Civil Society News 15 January 2021). 
Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for peace in the world. 
 
Today we pray also for Joe Biden, as he is inaugurated as the new President of the United States. ‘And so the world watches America - the only great power in history made up of people of every race and faith and cultural practice - to see if our experiment in democracy can work... The jury’s still out’ (Barak Obama, preface to his autobiography A Promised Land, 2020). 
 
On 21st January 1793 Louis XVI, king of France, was executed by guillotine in Paris during the French Revolution. In 1972, Chinese premier Zhou Enlai is reported to have remarked “Too early to say” when asked about the impact of the French Revolution. However, in fact he may have been referring to the 1968 student uprising in Paris. 
Sunday 17th January 2021 
 
‘O Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, you know it completely. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it.’ (Psalm 139:1-6). 
 
Our readings at this time continue on the theme of the manifestation of Jesus in the world, that is to say Jesus being revealed for who he is to and for the world. Last week we had his baptism by John in the Jordan and today we see him start to gather his disciples around him. They are an eclectic bunch and probably not the ones we would have chosen. So Jesus reveals a vision far greater and higher than our earth-bound understanding - a vision encompassing nothing less than the salvation of the world. ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts’ (Isaiah 55:8-9). 
 
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity begins tomorrow. This is a time for us to remember and reflect on the fact that we are all members of the one true living Church. We may express this in different ways; have various emphases on what really matters and how we should do things; or find God’s strength and renewal in distinct ways - but ultimately what matters is that we all belong to Christ. ‘For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another’ (Romans 12:4-5). 
 
‘Women may now serve canonically as lectors and acolytes in the Roman Catholic Church, after a change to canon law announced by Pope Francis on Monday. These lay ministries, which include reading biblical texts at mass, carrying the processional cross, presenting the Bible to the priest, bringing the bread and wine to the altar, and assisting at communion, had previously been described as open only to “suitable male faithful”, because they were considered preparatory to eventual admission to Holy Orders. Around the world, however, women were already doing these things, authorised by local bishops: something that the Vatican acknowledged as “nothing new” in its explanation of the move. “Now, in the wake of the discernment which has emerged from the last Synod of Bishops, Pope Francis wanted to formalise and institutionalise the presence of women at the altar,” it explained. The Pope makes a clear distinction in the letter between lay and ordained ministries’ (Church Times 15 January 2021). 
 
The collect for this week: 
Almighty God, 
in Christ you make all things new: 
transform the poverty of our nature by the riches of your grace, 
and in the renewal of our lives 
make known your heavenly glory; 
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
There is a recorded service for today from the church and a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. There is no service in Church. I shall ring the bell in Church at 10:30am and ask that you join me in prayer at that time. The Church will open for private prayer from 11am to 12pm. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we today pray for all key workers. Many of them are stressed and tired, and often the focus of other peoples’ frustration. There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary on Monday we pray for this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. On Tuesday we pray that we might work together for the Church. 
 
‘Washington has a choice to make - all of us have a choice to make: will we continue to divide, distract, and dishonour one another, or will we love our neighbours as we love ourselves?’ (Raphael Warnock, on winning a US Senate seat, 6 January). 
Friday 15th January 2021 
 
‘Do not pronounce judgement before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive commendation from God’ (1 Corinthians 4:5). 
 
It is too easy - and we all are inclined to do it - to look at another and imagine that we know their condition, what they need or deserve. However, none of us truly knows what is in someone else’s mind, or the hopes, fears, possibilities and constrictions of their life. Only God knows us as we really are. The utterly amazing thing is that, knowing us fully as he does, yet he loves us and wants to draw us to himself. 
 
‘The Church of England Pensions Board has welcomed pledges by eight of the world’s leading oil and gas producers on moving the energy industry away from fossil fuels. The companies - BP, Eni, Equinor, Galp, Occidental Petroleum Corporation, Repsol, Royal Dutch Shell, and Total - have jointly agreed to apply six Energy Transition Principles. They are to: support publicly the goals of the 2015 Paris agreement on climate change; work to reduce carbon emissions from their own operations and by customers and society; develop and promote approaches to reducing emissions; support and promote development of emissions sinks, such as carbon capture and utilisation and storage technology; provide disclosure related to climate-change risks and opportunities; and report information about their memberships of industry and trade associations and their alignment with the companies’ key climate-advocacy and -policy positions… Climate Action 100+ is an investors’ initiative launched in 2017 to put pressure on the world’s largest corporate greenhouse-gas emitters to take action in response to climate change. It is backed by more than 500 investors with more than £37.8 trillion in assets under management’ (Church Times 8 January 2021). 
 
Fairtrade Fortnight is approaching - 22 February to 7 March 2021. Learn more.. 
 
The prayer after communion for this week: 
Lord of all time and eternity, 
you opened the heavens and revealed yourself as Father 
in the baptism of Jesus your beloved Son: 
by the power of your Spirit 
complete the heavenly work of our rebirth 
through the waters of the new creation; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for the bereaved and all who mourn. We remember especially all who are unable to be with their loved one at the end or are unable to attend their funeral. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for all School Governors, giving thanks for the hard work so many put in to support our schools. 
 
On 15th January 1759 the British Museum opened to the public. ‘It was the first national museum to cover all fields of human knowledge, open to visitors from across the world… The Museum is driven by an insatiable curiosity for the world, a deep belief in objects as reliable witnesses and documents of human history, sound research, as well as the desire to expand and share knowledge’ (The British Museum story). 
 
‘A new year’s resolution? Can’t improve much on this - to live SIMPLER - happiness is not found in buying more stuff; HUMBLER - I am not the answer to the world’s problems; BOLDER - to speak more often of the one who is’ (Graham Tomlin, Bishop of Kensington, Twitter, 1 January) 
 
‘Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe’ (John 20:29). 
Wednesday 13th January 2021 
 
‘He had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested’ (Hebrews 2:17-18). 
 
The amazing, incredible story we have been celebrating these past weeks is that Jesus is God become human. He has taken on our mortal nature with all that this implies. Jesus is both fully God and fully human; he is one with us; he shares in all the joys and sorrows of our condition. ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him’ (John 3:16-17). 
 
Today the Church remembers Hilary of Poitiers (c. 300-368 AD). Also known as Hilarius, he was bishop of Poitiers in Gaul (today’s France) and an eminent doctor of the Western Christian Church. A sometimes persecuted champion against the theological movement of Arianism, he was known as the “Athanasius of the West.” Arius taught that although God the Son indeed pre-existed as a divine being before the creation of the Universe, he was not “co-eternal” with God the Father. The orthodox position, championed by Athanasius, held that the Father and Son existed together with the Holy Spirit from the beginning. Further disagreements involved the question of whether the Son and the Father were of the “same substance” and whether the Son was in any way subservient to the Father. 
 
‘Churches have been alerted to a potential increase in lead thefts, as four men who caused more than £2 million-worth of damage to 20 rural churches were sentenced. The men targeted churches from Dorset to Yorkshire between 2018 and 2020 (News, 4 October 2019). Many of the churches had little or no insurance cover for lead theft… Handing down long prison terms at Lincoln Crown Court last week, Judge Sjölin Knight described the four as “sophisticated, persistent, and organised”. She said: “Those losses fall on the parish. Small congregations struggle to pay the cost. These were very serious theft offences, not because of the lead you took but by the nature of the buildings targeted”’ (Church Times 8 January 2021). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Heavenly Father, 
at the Jordan you revealed Jesus as your Son: 
may we recognize him as our Lord 
and know ourselves to be your beloved children; 
through Jesus Christ our Saviour. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
I will be using simple order for Morning Prayer in Church this morning and I shall ring the bell at 10:30am and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. The Church will open for private prayer from 11am to 12pm. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for those at work worried about social distancing. Many people have no option but to work, often in very difficult circumstances. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for all visitors to our Churches. They may have been unable to go in, but may have stood outside, paused in the churchyard or visited us online. 
 
‘Many more churches and cathedrals have closed their buildings to communal worship, in the light of the dangerously increasing Covid-19 infection rate. Direct requests to do so have come from local authorities. There is also widespread unease within faith communities about the government exemption which allows places of worship to remain open during national lockdown (News, 4 January). Churches had been faced with an “impossible, unfair and unsustainable dilemma”, and critical public-health decisions had, in effect, been outsourced to local churches, the Bishop of Burnley, the Rt Revd Philip North, said on Monday’ (Church Times 11 January 2021). 
Sunday 10th January 2021 
 
‘Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be crushed until he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his teaching’ (Isaiah 42:1-4). 
 
Here is our Saviour, the Messiah, Christ. He is our King who gives himself for us, even to death. Our hope, our future, is in him - and he will hold it and us secure in his love. ‘God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins’ (1 John 4:9-10). 
 
So, as we seek to maintain our Church life without meeting together, we remind ourselves that our faith is rooted in God himself and held safe in his hands. We are his children and members of his eternal kingdom. ‘For whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith. Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?’ (1 John 5:4-5) - ‘for thine be the kingdom, the power and the glory for ever and ever’. 
 
The collect for this week: 
Eternal Father, 
who at the baptism of Jesus 
revealed him to be your Son, 
anointing him with the Holy Spirit: 
grant to us, who are born again by water and the Spirit, 
that we may be faithful to our calling as your adopted children; 
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray today for politicians and their advisors. There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary on Monday we pray for those in financial difficulties. On Tuesday we pray for all medical staff: those in hospitals, GP surgeries, Care and Residential Homes, research laboratories and wherever they may be. We remember especially those tasked with administering the vaccine on top of all their other responsibilities. 
 
There is a recorded service for today from the church and copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. There is no service in Church as we have decided to suspend worship for the time being due to the current situation. I shall ring the bell in Church at 10:30am and ask that you join me in prayer at that time. The Church will be open for private prayer from 11am until 12noon. 
 
‘The Greek Orthodox Church refused to close its buildings this week, defying an order from Greek government to close places of worship amid rising coronavirus cases. The Holy Synod issued a statement on Monday saying that it did “not consent to the Government’s measures” and that its churches would remain open to celebrate Epiphany, including ceremonies of blessing of the waters. It said that the Church had not been consulted about the new tighter restrictions, which came into force on Saturday. A government response on Monday said: “The law cannot be applied at whim, so that whoever disagrees with it can just ignore it”’ (Church Times 8 January 2021). 
 
We have a contribution from Ron Hart, who was due to take our service in St Laurence today. Thank you, Ron. 
 
On 10th January 1863 London Underground began operations, when the Metropolitan Railway opened its 3.75-mile line to the public using gas-lit wooden carriages hauled by steam locomotives. 
Friday 8th January 2021 
 
‘This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one that testifies, for the Spirit is the truth… And this is the testimony: God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life’ (1 John 5:6,11-12). 
 
While most of us took down our decorations on Wednesday, we hear that some people are keeping them up. In these dark winter days we need the light of hope, the message of Christmas, to shine more brightly. ‘Leave up Christmas decorations and keep the halls decked with boughs of holly until February to bring cheer in the dark winter months, English Heritage has said. The charity is appealing to the public to follow the traditions of their medieval ancestors and leave festive decorations up until Candlemas on February 2’ (Salisbury Journal 5 January 2021). 
 
‘The Government’s exemption of public worship in the new lockdown, which started on Wednesday, is meeting resistance from clergy in areas where the number of coronavirus infections is highest… Shortly after Boris Johnson’s announcement, the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, who chairs the Church of England’s Covid-19 recovery group, stated: “Some may feel that it is currently better not to attend in person, and there will be parishes which decide to offer only digital services for the time being. Clergy who have concerns, or others who are shielding, should take particular care and stay at home”’ (Church Times 6 January 2021). 
 
Having taken the decision to suspend our public worship, it is important that we continue to proclaim that even so the Church is still open and praying. So ‘let us.. lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith’ (Hebrews 12:1-2). 
 
‘People in the Roman Empire often regarded Christianity as a religion fit only for slaves, and that, of course, is exactly what it was: it was a religion that in principle turned the world upside down, which (as the Magnificat puts it) “cast down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted the humble and meek”… If we recognise Jesus as humanity’s Messiah, we are accepting that these values are to be our values, and that we will work to try to see them implemented in our world. That involves personal dedication, and it may also require political action. But in no way may we seek to implement these values by methods that contradict the values themselves; for that is to drop back into the kind of activity from which Jesus came to set the human race free… He provides the guiding thread with which we can trace the hand of God in all that went before him, giving us knowledge of the real questions to which we need God’s answers’ (Professor John Barton, Church Times). 
 
‘Jesus knew how deadly the pursuit of unredeemed ‘greatness’ really is. He knew the brutality of a society preoccupied with power, hierarchy and influence where greatness, significance and status are only sustained by oppressing the least. And this explains his fierce judgement on the abuse of the most vulnerable by the powerful. Then, and now, his words are designed to shock his disciples and to provoke a deep, penitent reappraisal of the priorities and goals we live by’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 28 December 2020 - Holy Innocents). 
 
The prayer after communion for this week: 
Lord God, 
the bright splendour whom the nations seek: 
may we who with the wise men have been drawn by your light 
discern the glory of your presence in your Son, 
the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for those at University and College. This is a particularly difficult time for them as their education is disrupted once again. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for all those in Residential and Nursing Homes. 
 
‘The greatest crisis in any age - and its greatest hope - is always God’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 6 January 2021). 
Wednesday 6th January 2021 
 
'May all kings fall down before him, all nations give him service. For he delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper. He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy. From oppression and violence he redeems their life; and precious is their blood in his sight’ (Psalm 72:11-14). 
 
Today is the Feast of the Epiphany, the twelfth day of Christmas, which focuses on the Magi and the star. Epiphany means “manifestation” or “appearance” as we celebrate the manifestation of Christ in the world - our Saviour King. The three gifts from the Magi led to the tradition that there were three wise men - although the text does not give a number. Traditionally this is when our trees and decorations come down. However the Crib will remain until 2nd February, reminding us that the full Christmas season is 40 days - leading up to Jesus’ Presentation in the Temple. 
 
So, once again we are in full national lockdown - almost as it all began last year. However now at least we have the hope of a vaccine, although full rollout may take a while, and public worship in Church is permitted. 
 
However, we have taken the decision not to continue with services here for the time being. This was not an easy decision to make, but it would appear that Downton and Morgan's Vale are currently a Covid-19 hotspot (according to the Salisbury Journal there are 39 cases; +29 on the previous week). So this would seem a sensible precaution. This means that there will be no service at St Laurence on Sunday and until further notice. A similar decision has been made across our Team. This is in line with permission given by Bishop Nicholas, and I have informed him of our decision. We will continue, though, with Private Prayer in Church on a Wednesday morning at least for the time being. We place ourselves in God’s hands, for ‘we walk by faith, not by sight’ (2 Corinthians 5:7). 
 
‘Parish giving in the Church of England has slumped by about £40 million during the pandemic. The latest figures presented to the Archbishops’ Council for the first ten months of 2020 are said to show a 7.8-per-cent fall in income compared with the same period the previous year… Part of the fall can be attributed to church closures, loss of fees for services such as weddings, and reduced congregations because of social distancing or a fear of becoming infected in or on the way to church. Parishes that have relied on cash or cheques in the collection plate have suffered greater losses than those that have successfully promoted giving by standing order or direct debit. Another factor is the loss of income from the hire of church buildings for outside events. Parishes that earn much of their revenue from rent - for community groups and businesses - have also suffered loss of income’ (Church Times 1 January 2021). 
 
We pray: 
Almighty and eternal God, 
Brightness of faithful souls, 
you brought the Gentiles to your light, 
and made known to them him who is the true Light, 
and the bright and morning Star. 
Fill the world with your glory, 
and show yourself by the radiance of your light to all nations; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 
(from the Gregorian Sacramentary) 
 
I will be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church this morning. I shall ring the bell at 10:30am and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray that we may reveal Jesus in the world in our words and in our lives. Now more than ever we need to share the Good News that he is present in our midst, caring for us, walking with us - a light in the darkness, giving us hope. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for our Churchwarden and Deputy Churchwardens. 
 
During January 1610, Italian astronomer Galileo made the earth-shaking discoveries that four moons revolve around Jupiter and that the telescope reveals many more stars than are visible to the naked eye. God’s creation is ever more wonderful than we can ever know. 
Sunday 3rd January 2021 
 
‘Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high, who looks far down on the heavens and the earth? He raises the poor from the dust, and lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes, with the princes of his people’ (Psalm 113:5-8). 
 
Those who are considered important or highly exalted are generally unapproachable: they tend to be proud and overbearing, or so surrounded with hangers-on, sycophants and security, that the poor have no access to them. However God, although infinitely exalted, who ‘dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see’ (1 Timothy 6:16) - he humbles himself in his love and commitment to us. He loves his creatures so much that he rejoices over even the very meanest of his people and works for our good. 
 
Today we are celebrating the Epiphany, although the actual feast day is on Wednesday. This commemorates the visit of the Magi to the infant Jesus. It shows how Jesus came for us all, whoever we are, whatever our background, ethnicity or place in society. God is not restricted to the good or the holy or those with special knowledge. ‘In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus’ (Galatians 3:26-28). 
 
‘Despite the “tremendous pain and sadness” of 2020, there is hope in the New Year ahead, the Archbishop of Canterbury says in his New Year’s message… In the Bible, he says, “God rejoices in.. small acts of love - because they reveal who we truly are: human beings made in God’s image, deeply connected to one another. Such gestures speak to me of Jesus - the one who shows us what God’s love looks like. And for this reason, we can have hope for each and every month ahead”… Pope Francis, in his New Year message, spoke of the Covid-19 crisis as “a global phenomenon cutting across boundaries, aggravating deeply interrelated crises like those of the climate, food, the economy, and migration, and causing great suffering and hardship… These and other events that marked humanity’s path this past year have taught us how important it is to care for one another and for creation in our efforts to build a more fraternal society.” and he advocated “a culture of care as a way to combat the culture of indifference, waste, and confrontation so prevalent in our time”’ (Church Times 1 January 2021). 
 
The collect for today: 
O God, 
who by the leading of a star 
manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth: 
mercifully grant that we, 
who know you now by faith, 
may at last behold your glory face to face; 
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for our Team Rector and family - thank you for your prayers and support. There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary on Monday we pray for those made redundant or unable to find work. On Tuesday we pray for our Church School and indeed all schools as they seek the right way forward at this difficult time. 
 
There is a recorded service for today from the church and a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. Also today at 10:30am we are having a short service of Holy Communion in Church. 
 
‘The Archbishop of York, the Most Revd Stephen Cottrell, is releasing a series of short reflections, prayers, and poems throughout January on a similar theme: “Our Hope is Found”… In his first reflection, released on New Year’s Day, Archbishop Cottrell considers the Old Testament story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who refused to worship the king’s golden idol instead of their God. “We can trust in God whether times are good or bad”’ (Church Times 1 January 2021). 
Friday 1st January 2021 
 
‘After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb’ (Luke 2:21). 
 
Happy new year. We all hope and pray that it will be better than the one just past - and we commend it, and ourselves, into God’s hands. We know we are not out of the woods yet and it is clear that the effects will be with us for a very long time yet. So how do we want 2021 to be defined in our lives, our community and society at large? 
 
‘And I said to the man 
who stood at the gate of the year: 
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.” 
And he replied: 
“Go out into the darkness 
and put your hand into the hand of God. 
That shall be to you better than light, 
and safer than a known way’. (Mary Louise Haskins) 
 
Today the Church celebrates the Naming and Circumcision of Jesus. The Bible tells us that this baby was born of a woman as a Jew, born under the law, a child of the covenant and circumcised on the eighth day. Today’s observance of the naming of Jesus reminds us of Jesus’s full humanity and, in his first 30 years of life, of his place within the Jewish community as he lived and worked with his family. 
 
From the Sudan ‘Archbishop Ezekiel says, “Please do not grow tired of praying for Sudan” Even before the independence of South Sudan in 2011, Sudan was a predominantly Muslim country. Although there were Christian churches throughout the land, they were chiefly in the South. Then came the referendum, and the south became the independent nation of South Sudan. Most of the Sudanese Christians found themselves in South Sudan. No wonder those who remained in Sudan felt bereft!’ 
 
‘A 2021 Calendar of Hope. The Bible Society says: "We know lots of our supporters have been encouraged by this year’s Story of the Bible calendar. Our new 2021 Calendar of Hope features 12 Scriptures focused on the living hope we have in Jesus, and it can be yours for free – our gift of encouragement to you." Read more... 
 
We are having a service of Holy Communion in Church on Sunday at 10:30am. I remind you that if you wish to come - and you are welcome to do so - you must let either Jo Parsons or myself know, either by email or phone please. It is important to do this each time - even if you plan to come every week. 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
God in Trinity, 
eternal unity of perfect love: 
gather the nations to be one family, 
and draw us into your holy life 
through the birth of Emmanuel, 
our Lord Jesus Christ. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for our resolutions for the new year. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for all who rely on food aid - an increasing number in these difficult times. 
 
The January issue of Downton Parish News is now available free to view or download. For those unable to access our magazine through the website, there are a few printed copies available (free) in the Co-op, Chemist and Woodfalls Post Office. Please can you let anyone know that you think may want one - or collect one for them. They and we would be most grateful. 
 
On 1st January 1863 President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation that freed the slaves of the Confederate states in rebellion against the Union. Lincoln later stated that the Emancipation Proclamation was “the central act of my administration, and the greatest event of the nineteenth century”. 
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). 
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