Daily reflections - older posts 
Sunday 30th May 2021 
 
‘In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said: Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory’ (Isaiah 6:1-3). 
 
Today is Trinity Sunday, as we declare our faith in God as the great Three in One: as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. At its very heart the Trinity is all about a relationship of love, the expression and embodiment of God’s love. So the Trinity is an important expression of our faith as God’s love is expressed here in and through his very being. ‘God is love, and those who live in love live in God and God lives in them’ (1 John 4.16). 
 
‘The Trinity is not a formula devised by ecclesiastics in incense-filled rooms, or theologians with time on their hands. ‘God-in-three-persons’ is simply an attempt to put into words what every Christian experiences in prayer, in worship, and in our daily life. And therefore God is not an object to be described, but One to whom we speak. We are not here to talk about him this morning, but to talk to him, and listen to his word for us’ (David H.C. Read). 
 
There is no recorded service for today from St Laurence. If you wish to join in with an online service from the Team you can find one at St Mary Redlynch or St Andrew Landford
 
At 10:30am we are having a service of Holy Communion in Church - and the church bells will be ringing from 10 o’clock. If you wish to come - and all are very welcome - please let either Jo Parsons or myself know, either by email or phone. It is important to do this each time even if you plan to come every week. We are hoping - weather permitting - that we can sing in the churchyard before the service. 
 
The June issue of Downton Parish News is now available free to view or download. For those unable to access our magazine through the website, there will be a few printed copies available (free) in the Co-op, Chemist and Woodfalls Post Office. Please can you let anyone know that you think may want one - or collect one for them. They and we would be most grateful. 
 
The collect for this week: 
Almighty and everlasting God, 
you have given us your servants grace, 
by the confession of a true faith, 
to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity 
and in the power of the divine majesty to worship the Unity: 
keep us steadfast in this faith, 
that we may evermore be defended from all adversities; 
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary today we pray for those in Residential and Nursing Homes. There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary on Monday we pray for volunteers helping others in their community. On Tuesday we pray for peace in the world. 
 
‘When I say something people agree with about how we do that, they say “Bravo, Archbishop, encore!” When I say something they don’t like, I’m told to “stick to religion, stop meddling, mind your own business”’ (Archbishop of Canterbury, Prospect, 4 May). 
 
On 30th May 1814 the first of the Treaties of Paris was signed, ending the Napoleonic Wars. After nearly a quarter century of war, the victorious allies (Austria, Great Britain, Prussia, Russia, Sweden, and Portugal) gave generous terms to France under the restored Bourbon dynasty. 
Friday 28th May 2021 
 
After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest’ (Luke 10:1-2). 
 
These verses are often used as the basis of a prayer for new ministries, that God may call people into the ministry of the Church. They are certainly good for that, and this is important. However they apply to all of us also. For we too are all called to be labourers in God’s harvest. 
 
‘The world’s self-generated theories about life, meaning and what it looks like to live well and purposefully - its best efforts at such philosophy - will be foolishness if made without reference to Christ. Look at the world around you: what is its proffered ‘wisdom’? What is its ‘best’ wisdom? What does the wisdom of God revealed in Christ say to the ‘wisdom’ of the age? What might it mean for you and your community to begin to unmask this false wisdom, and to offer the gospel’s alternative?’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 25 May 2021). 
 
‘Britain’s beloved daily cup of tea is under threat as climate change intensifies, affecting the world’s prime tea-growing regions, including Kenya and India, a new report from Christian Aid suggests. Not only will supplies of tea be reduced as a result of poor crop yields, says the report, Reading the Tea Leaves: Climate change and the British cuppa, but the flavour and health benefits of tea will reduce, too. Increased rainfall overwhelms plantations and produces poor-quality leaves. The result is tasteless tea, which is also lower in the anti-inflammatory compounds that provide health benefits to drinkers. Half of the tea drunk by people in Britain is imported from Kenya, where tea plantations are already under threat from erratic rainfall, rising temperatures, droughts, and plagues of insects’ (Church Times 18 May 2021). 
 
The prayer after communion for this week: 
Faithful God, 
who fulfilled the promises of Easter 
by sending us your Holy Spirit 
and opening to every race and nation 
the way of life eternal: 
open our lips by your Spirit, 
that every tongue may tell of your glory; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary today we pray for the Trafalgar School at Downton. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for those at University and College. 
 
On Sunday at 10:30am we are having a service of Holy Communion in Church. I remind you that if you wish to come - and you are welcome to do so - please let either Jo Parsons (parsons.jo@hotmail.co.uk, 01725 512738) or myself know. It is important to do this each time - even if you plan to come every week. As this Sunday is the fifth Sunday of the month, there will be no recorded service from St Laurence. If you wish to join in with an online service from the Team you can find one at St Mary Redlynch or St Andrew Landford
 
‘But the man who is not afraid to admit everything that he sees to be wrong with himself, and yet recognizes that he may be the object of God's love precisely because of his shortcomings, can begin to be sincere. His sincerity is based on confidence, not in his own illusions about himself, but in the endless, unfailing mercy of God’ (Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island). 
 
On 28th May 1937 the car company Volkswagen (VW) was founded. Meaning “People's Car” in German Volkswagen is one of the world's biggest car manufacturers, producing classics like the VW Golf and the VW Beetle. 
Wednesday 26th May 2021 
 
Jesus called them and said to them, ‘You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many’ (Mark 10:42-45). 
 
Jesus calls us to share his life and his values, and to live as he does. Holiness is judged on our closeness to God, not on our rank, our job or our vocation. As he came to serve, so also we are called to be his servants of faith and love in our world. This means that to lead as Jesus did is not to exercise power and control but is to appeal to the heart, to uncover where God is to be found. Being a servant or slave may seem repulsive to the modern mind, but how might we give quiet, unrecognised or unrewarded service to those around us, not announcing it or seeking recognition? 
 
It was a delight to hear the bells again on Sunday. The bellringers are now meeting again for practice on Thursdays and to ring before our Sunday service. As the bells ring out they are a joyous announcement that life here is returning to something like normal and our Church life is a part of that. 
 
Yesterday evening I was in Whiteparish for the licensing of Revd Jane Dunlop as Team Vicar. It was an uplifting service of celebration in the church where she has been an Associate Priest for eleven years. We bear Jane and the Clarendon Team in our prayers in this new stage in their ministry together. Bishop Andrew, who licensed her, inspired us by pointing to the overflowing and effervescent grace of God at work within us and amongst us and reminding us that our ministry depends not on ourselves and our imperfect abilities but on his renewing presence. 
 
‘The Archbishop of Canterbury is among faith leaders who on Monday joined the heads of the world’s largest health and humanitarian organisations to urge governments to choose between “vaccine nationalism or human solidarity”. A joint declaration, signed by Christian and other faith leaders around the world, says that “equitable vaccine distribution is a humanitarian imperative”, repeating the message: “No one is safe until everyone is safe.”.. Among the religious leaders are the grand imam of al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb; the Ecumenical Patriarchate, His Excellency Emmanuel of Chalcedon; the co-president of Religions for Peace, Rabbi David Rosen; and Roman Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran, and Reformed Churches. The declaration was made to coincide with the opening day of the World Health Assembly, the WHO’s decision-making body, which will focus on the Covid-19 pandemic’ (Church Times 24 May 2021). 
 
The collect for this week: 
O Lord, from whom all good things come: 
grant to us your humble servants, 
that by your holy inspiration 
we may think those things that are good, 
and by your merciful guiding may perform the same; 
through our Lord Jesus Christ, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
I shall be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church this morning. I shall ring the bell at 10:30am and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. The Church will open for private prayer from 11am to 12pm. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary today we pray for our community life. This past year has taught us anew how important the local is for us. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for those alone and depressed. 
 
On 26th May 1897 the Irish writer Bram Stoker published the Gothic horror classic Dracula. This became the basis for an entire genre of literature and films about vampires. However, during his lifetime Stoker was better known as the personal assistant of the actor Sir Henry Irving and business manager of the Lyceum Theatre, which Irving owned. 
Sunday 23rd May 2021 - Pentecost 
 
‘Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good… For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body - Jews or Greeks, slaves or free - and we were all made to drink of one Spirit’ (1 Corinthians 12:4-7,12-13). 
 
This is Pentecost, often referred to as the birthday of the Church. Today we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the Church, filling us, renewing us, empowering us and giving us all those gifts necessary to fulfil our calling and mission to be the Church. ‘In us is the Spirit who faithfully prays for us, nurturing us in the Christ who holds us eternally before our Father’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 22 May 2021). 
 
‘Without Pentecost the Christ-event - the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus - remains imprisoned in history as something to remember, think about and reflect on. The Spirit of Jesus comes to dwell within us, so that we can become living Christs here and now’ (Henri Nouwen). 
 
‘A flock of 18,000 paper doves have been strung together on 15.5 miles of ribbon for a new art installation in Liverpool Cathedral. The work, Peace Doves by the sculptor Peter Walker, is illuminated by a light show and accompanied by a soundtrack, “Ruah Qadeska”, composed by David Harper. Many of the doves carry prayers and messages of peace written by thousands of schoolchildren and others. The artwork was supposed to have gone on display a year ago, but was delayed by the lockdown’ (Church Times 22 May 2021). 
 
There is a recorded service for today from the church and a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. Also at 10:30am we are having a service of Holy Communion in Church. If you wish to come - and all are very welcome - please let either Jo Parsons or myself know, either by email or phone. It is important to do this each time even if you plan to come every week. We are hoping that we can sing in the churchyard before the service. 
 
The collect for this week: 
God, who as at this time 
taught the hearts of your faithful people 
by sending to them the light of your Holy Spirit: 
grant us by the same Spirit 
to have a right judgement in all things 
and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort; 
through the merits of Christ Jesus our Saviour, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary today we pray for those who produce our Parish magazine. It has been produced without fail every month since the pandemic started and we are very grateful to all who work so hard to achieve this. There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary on Monday we pray for our Lay Pastoral Assistants. On Tuesday we pray for all who minister to the sick. This is a calling of particular need at this time and we pray that they may know the full resources of the Spirit in their ministry. 
 
‘God will not be used as a convenience. Men or nations who think they can revive the Faith in order to make a good society might just as well think they can use the stairs of heaven as a shortcut to the nearest chemist's shop’ (C.S. Lewis). 
 
On 23rd May 1618 at an assembly of Protestants in Prague, imperial agents of the Habsburg emperor Ferdinand II were tried and found guilty of violating guarantees of religious liberty and were thrown from the windows of the council room of Hradčany (Prague Castle). Although inflicting no serious injury on the victims, that act, known as the Defenestration of Prague, was a signal for the beginning of a Bohemian revolt against the emperor, marking one of the opening phases of the Thirty Years’ War. 
Friday 21st May 2021 
 
‘Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits.. 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 (Psalm 103:1-2,11-12). 
 
Although we talk often about the love of God, for most of us it is hard truly to know and accept how all-encompassing it is. God loves us completely and without reserve for ourselves as we really are in all the messiness of our lives. So we praise and bless him for all his wonderful grace and goodness with which he surrounds us. 
 
‘Though we are incomplete, God loves us completely. Though we are imperfect, He loves us perfectly. Though we may feel lost and without compass, God's love encompasses us completely... He loves every one of us, even those who are flawed, rejected, awkward, sorrowful, or broken’ (Dieter F. Uchtdorf). ‘For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Romans 8:38-39). 
 
‘As we celebrate our Lord’s ascension , and look forward to the coming of the Spirit on the Church at Pentecost, we are summoned to awareness of the power in which we stand as God’s children. As we share the faith and respond to God as our Lord’s disciples, we stand in the flow of God’s grace to the world. We give freely because we only offer what we have received without merit, and we walk freely because, while we must faithfully witness to Christ, we are not finally responsible for the receptivity of those whom we meet on the road... The world resists the revelation that life is both all grace and all gift, because that means recognizing both dependence and the need to receive our life - and these come with a Lord’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 20 May 2021). 
 
‘The Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem, the Most Revd Hosam Naoum, has issued an urgent appeal for financial support for Al-Ahli Hospital, in Gaza City, which comes under the umbrella of the Episcopal diocese of Jerusalem… Archbishop Naoum said that the diocese was continuing its “Christian mission of bringing healing to the wounded, relief to those who have lost their homes and livelihoods, and comfort to those who mourn the loss of loved ones. Al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza has been on the frontlines of these relief efforts, becoming a beacon of hope to those trying to remain alive under such dire circumstances”’ (Church Times 19 May 2021). 
 
The prayer after communion for this week: 
Eternal God, giver of love and power, 
your Son Jesus Christ has sent us into all the world 
to preach the gospel of his kingdom: 
confirm us in this mission, 
and help us to live the good news we proclaim; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
Sunday is the Feast of Pentecost. One of the great festivals of the Church’s year. At 10:30am we are having a service of Holy Communion in Church. I remind you that if you wish to come - and you are welcome to do so - please let either Jo Parsons (parsons.jo@hotmail.co.uk, 01725 512738) or myself know. It is important to do this each time - even if you plan to come every week. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary today we pray for our Bishops and all Church Leaders. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for the bereaved. 
 
On 21st May 1932, Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly solo, non-stop across the Atlantic, landing in Donegal. Her destination was to be Paris but her flight was disrupted by a petrol leak which forced her to land in Ireland. According to the Irish Press Earhart landed “in a small field on the side of a hill overlooked by the Donegal Mountains, near Derry” at 2 pm on Saturday, May 21. The local newspapers at the time commented that as the people in the surrounding area rushed to see what the commotion was and to greet the pilot they said that Earhart did not look tired. 
Wednesday 19th May 2021 
 
‘I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth’ (John 17:15-19). 
 
Jesus’ prayer is not for God to remove Christians from the world where we might be safe from all its challenges and problems. Rather, he prays for the durability of our faith. We are his people, his witnesses in the world. He sends us out to demonstrate Christian truth in our own lives - that we might proclaim his living presence in the world and bring forth much fruit. 
 
‘The President of South Sudan, Salva Kiir, has dissolved parliament this week to make way for the appointment of lawmakers as part of an ongoing process to end the civil war in the country. The move has been welcomed by the acting general-secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), the Revd Professor Ioan Sauca, as “an important step in the long-awaited and repeatedly delayed implementation of the peace accords”. Dr Sauca expressed concern, however, about security in South Sudan, referring to the serious wounding of the RC Bishop-elect of Rumbek, Mgr Christian Carlassare, by unidentified gunmen (News, 30 April). Bishop Carlassare was taken to Nairobi for medical attention and is recovering’ (Church Times 14 May 2021). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Risen, ascended Lord, 
as we rejoice at your triumph, 
fill your Church on earth with power and compassion, 
that all who are estranged by sin 
may find forgiveness and know your peace, 
to the glory of God the Father. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary today we pray for peace in the World. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for the Barford Day Centre. 
 
I shall be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church this morning, together with our Roads to God prayers. I shall ring the bell at 10:30am and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. 
 
‘The 30-person limit on funeral attendance in places of worship has been scrapped as part of the latest easing of lockdown restrictions in England. And groups of six people from different households can now sit together during worship. As part of the third stage of the Government’s roadmap, which came into force on Monday, attendance at funerals is now limited to the Covid-safe capacity of the building, allowing many more people to pay their respects in person. Wakes and weddings of up to 30 guests are now permitted - up from six since the second stage of the roadmap began on 12 April… As before, the size of congregations for communal worship, including ordinations, baptisms, and confirmations remains limited to the capacity of the building and subject to a risk assessment. Mixing between households within places of worship, including for private prayer, follows national restrictions, mean that groups of six people from different households can now sit together. Social distancing rules still apply between separate groups. Face coverings are still mandatory in places of worship, and the distribution of the communion cup remains suspended. The use of water and full emersion during baptisms is permitted with social distancing guidelines and hygiene measures applied. Outdoors, congregations are unlimited as long as they are spaced “in multiple groups” of up to 30 people, allowing larger outdoor events to take place (News, 14 May). Congregational singing outdoors is also permitted. There has been no update on congregational singing inside churches, however, which is still not permitted due to the risk of droplet transmission (News, 4 June 2020)’ (Church Times 17 May 2021). 
 
‘I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else’ (C.S. Lewis). 
Sunday 16th May 2021 
 
‘If we receive human testimony, the testimony of God is greater; for this is the testimony of God that he has testified to his Son. Those who believe in the Son of God have the testimony in their hearts. Those who do not believe in God have made him a liar by not believing in the testimony that God has given concerning his Son. 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 5:9-12). 
 
This time between Ascension and Pentecost is one of waiting for Jesus’ promise to be fulfilled - his promise of the Holy Spirit. The last thing Jesus said to the Apostles was, “But you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). In Matthew’s Gospel, the last injunction is similar: ‘Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age’ (Matthew 28:19-20). As Christ ascends, so he gives us the task of proclaiming his kingdom with he promise of his Spirit to empower us. 
 
‘The hymn “Christ, be our light” by the Roman Catholic author-composer Bernardette Farrell was the most popular hymn downloaded for use in Protestant churches in Europe during the past year, a licence platform reported this week. It was published by Oregon Catholic Press in 1993. The chorus is: “Christ, be our light! Shine in our hearts. Shine through the darkness.” The other hymns topping the list, provided by One License, were: “All are welcome” by Marty Haugen; “Here I am, Lord” by Dan Schutte (two versions); and “Wait for the Lord” by Jacques Berthier, of the Taizé community, who holds five of the top 15 places. The list, comprising largely works by Roman Catholic composers, illustrates the popularity outside the Roman Catholic Church itself of hymns composed in the wake of the Vatican II liturgical reforms’ (Church Times 14 May 2021). 
 
There is a recorded service for today from the church on the website. There is a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. Also at 10:30am we are having a service of Morning Prayer in Church. If you wish to come - and all are very welcome - please let either Jo Parsons or myself know, either by email or phone. It is important to do this each time even if you plan to come every week. We were hoping that we could sing in the churchyard before the service - but looking at the weather this isn’t very likely! 
 
The collect for this week: 
O God the King of glory, 
you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ 
with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven: 
we beseech you, leave us not comfortless, 
but send your Holy Spirit to strengthen us 
and exalt us to the place where our Saviour Christ is gone before, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary today we pray for politicians and their advisors. There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary on Monday we pray for young people. On Tuesday we pray for all school governors. 
 
‘The sheer diversity of literature in the Bible is one of the secrets of its continuing popularity through the centuries. There is something for all moods and many different cultures. Its message is not buried in religious jargon only accessible to either believers or scholars, but reflects the issues that people struggle with in daily life’ (John Drane). 
 
On 16th May 1985 three scientists from the British Antarctic Survey announced their detection of abnormally low levels of ozone over the South Pole. Their discovery, commonly known as the Ozone Hole, became a palpable example of humanity's ability to damage the Earth's atmosphere as well as one of the most famous success stories in the history of climate activism. 
Friday 14th May 2021 
 
‘It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore 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 4:4-5). 
 
It can be very tempting to pass judgment on others, their behaviour, what they have or haven’t done or their expressed views. You could even say that it is a natural human trait. However, Paul reminds us that only God can do this, as only he sees the whole picture. Indeed, Jesus tells us ‘Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgement you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get’ (Matthew 7:1-2). 
 
Today the Church remembers St Matthias who was chosen as an Apostle after the resurrection to replace Judas Iscariot. ‘Acts reveals that Matthias accompanied Jesus and the Apostles from the time of the Lord’s Baptism to his Ascension and that, when it became time to replace Judas, the Apostles cast lots between Matthias and another candidate, St. Joseph Barsabbas.. Soon after his election, Matthias received the Holy Spirit with the other Apostles (Acts 2:1-4). He is not mentioned again in the New Testament. It is generally believed that Matthias ministered in Judaea and then carried out missions to foreign places. Greek tradition states that he Christianized Cappadocia, a mountainous district now in central Turkey, later journeying to the region about the Caspian Sea, where he was martyred by crucifixion’ (www.britannica.com). 
 
‘The journey has an end. In Christ, we are set free from sin and death, so that we might live in God’s presence. We walk the pilgrim way, by faith and not by sight, so that we might come to ‘the Jerusalem above’ (Galatians 4.26). We wait for the end, and yet we are also already touching it, and touched by it, for God in Christ, the anointed one, ‘has anointed us, by putting his seal on us and giving us his Spirit in our hearts as a first instalment’ (2 Corinthians 1.21-22), whose fruits we now enjoy’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 11 May 2021). 
 
‘We desperately need the conviction of religious belief to guide us in the way we live on, and use, the planet. We have got to learn to balance the economic and scientific realities against the religious demands for responsibility and consideration for the created world. It is not going to be easy, but I am sure that belief and conviction are very powerful motives to care for our planet with all its diversity’ (Prince Philip, on the Alliance of Religions and Conservation, 2002) 
 
On Sunday at 10:30am we will be having a service of Morning Prayer in Church. I remind you that if you wish to come - and you are welcome to do so - please let either Jo Parsons (parsons.jo@hotmail.co.uk, 01725 512738) or myself know. It is important to do this each time - even if you plan to come every week. 
 
The collect for today: 
Almighty God, 
who in the place of the traitor Judas 
chose your faithful servant Matthias 
to be of the number of the Twelve: 
preserve your Church from false apostles 
and, by the ministry of faithful pastors and teachers, 
keep us steadfast in your truth; 
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary today we pray that we may grow through God’s Word. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for those who are ill and their families. 
 
‘An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity’ (Martin Luther King, Jr). 
Wednesday 12th May 2021 
 
‘When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you’ (John 16:13-14). 
 
Tomorrow is Ascension Day, one of the four great feasts of the Christian year. We will be having our traditional outdoor celebration of Holy Communion at 7:30am - or inside if the weather is bad. 
 
The Ascension of Jesus brings us to the completion of the Easter story of his life, passion, death and resurrection. It is also the final step before the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Jesus’ work on earth is now complete, but the task of bearing witness to him and making disciples is never done. He goes before us, and we are to follow him - in life, in mission and finally to heaven. In the Ascension, the domain of God’s glory is opened to each one of us. Also it draws us forward towards that day, sometime - maybe very soon - when he will return and complete all that he has begun. 
 
‘The Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) has published a 250-page position paper providing ethical guidance for the digital world. “Because technologies have developed so rapidly in the past ten years, social norms for their use are inevitably lagging behind,” the chairman of the EKD, Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, said at a press conference on Thursday of last week. Digitalisation has permeated almost all areas of life, intensified by the pandemic; he sees it as the task of the Churches and religious communities to provide ethical guidance for social issues. “This makes it all the more urgent to focus more on the ethical consequences of digitalisation, and to come to an understanding on how to deal responsibly with the technologies,” the Bishop said. The paper Digital Freedom: The Ten Commandments in times of digital change is based on the Ten Commandments in both its structure and content’ (Church Times 30 April 2021). 
 
‘A giant trove of ancient coffins and mummies has been discovered at the vast Egyptian burial site of Saqqara… more than 100 intact wooden coffins with brightly painted scenes and hieroglyphs, and well-preserved mummies inside. The announcement comes after a string of recent discoveries at Saqqara.. The newly announced coffins were found nearby, at the bottom of three 12-meter shafts revealed when archaeologists led by Mostafa Waziry, head of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, were removing debris from the site. Other finds include funerary masks and more then 40 statues of the funerary deity Ptah-Sokar, all untouched for at least 2,000 years’ (Smithsonian Magazine). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Risen Christ, 
by the lakeside you renewed your call to your disciples: 
help your Church to obey your command 
and draw the nations to the fire of your love, 
to the glory of God the Father. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary today we pray for those made redundant or unable to find work. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be celebrating Christ as our King. 
 
I will be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church this morning. I shall ring the bell at 10:30am and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. The Church will open for private prayer from 11am to 12pm. 
 
‘There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations - these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendours. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously - no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption’ (C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory). 
Sunday 9th May 2021 
 
‘Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments’ (1 John 5:1-2). 
 
As we considered on Friday, the love of God flows through us into the world. We are both the objects and recipients of God’s love and bearers of it into and for the world. This chapter of St John’s letter emphasizes our ability as believers to ‘overcome’ the world through the power of Christ. These opening verses note that being ‘born of God’ is the result of faith in Christ. John goes on to remind his readers that love for God is inseparable from love for other people. 
 
‘The shooting of the Roman Catholic Bishop-elect of Rumbek, in South Sudan, Fr Christian Carlassare, on Sunday evening, will “send shockwaves” through all the country’s churches, the Secretary-General of the Anglican Communion, the Rt Revd Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, has said. Fr Carlassare, an Italian priest, was seriously injured after gunmen stormed the diocese’s offices and fired at least 13 bullets. “All diocesan officials and workers, including members of the clergy, are being investigated,” Vatican News reports. Dr Idowu-Fearon said on Wednesday: “In my visits to South Sudan, I have seen how close Catholic, Anglican, and other Christians are. The shooting of Bishop-Elect Christian Carlassare will have sent shockwaves through all the churches of South Sudan, as it has amongst Christian communities outside the country.” The Primate of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan, the Most Revd Justin Badi Arama, said: “We share in the pain of our brother, Bishop-elect Christian Carlassare, and we pray for his quick recovery and healing and that all involved find forgiveness and reconciliation to move forward and shine as an example of God in Rumbek Diocese and throughout South Sudan”’ (Church Times 30 April 2021). 
 
There is no recorded service for today from St Laurence. If you wish to join in with an online service from the Team you can find one at St Mary Redlynch or St Andrew Landford
 
At 10:30am we are having a service of Holy Communion in Church. If you wish to come - and all are very welcome - please let either Jo Parsons or myself know, either by email or phone. It is important to do this each time even if you plan to come every week. We are hoping - weather permitting - that we can sing in the churchyard before the service. 
 
The collect for this week: 
God our redeemer, 
you have delivered us from the power of darkness 
and brought us into the kingdom of your Son: 
grant, that as by his death he has recalled us to life, 
so by his continual presence in us he may raise us 
to eternal joy; 
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary today we pray for our Team Rector and family - thank you. There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary on Monday we pray for all key workers. On Tuesday we pray for charities struggling to continue their work. 
 
Om 10th May 1994 Nelson Mandela was sworn in as the first Black president of South Africa. In his inaugural address, Mandela, who spent 27 years of his life as a political prisoner of the South African government, declared that “the time for the healing of the wounds has come.” 
 
‘A fundamental concern for others in our individual and community lives would go a long way in making the world the better place we so passionately dreamt of’ (Nelson Mandela). 
Friday 7th May 2021 
 
‘You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another’ (John 15:16-17). 
 
This picks up on our passage from Wednesday (1 Peter 2:9). It follows on from Jesus telling his disciples that he is the true vine and they are the branches, that were to abide in the vine in order to be fruitful. We are appointed by Jesus to live a life of witness - to bear good and lasting fruit in his name - to the praise of God the Father. Here Jesus is echoing comments he has made earlier regarding fruit, abiding in him, and the way God answers prayer. Production of spiritual fruit is a primary sign that we are vitally connected to the ‘True Vine’. God's intent is that we abide in Christ, embracing and deeply engaging in the work to which he has called us. When the Word of God abides in us, and drives our thoughts and desires, it aligns our will with the will of God. We bear fruit because we love God and through God we love all those whom he loves - our neighbours and our world. 
 
‘For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them with food and clothing’ (Deuteronomy 10:17-18). 
 
On Sunday at 10:30am we are having a service of Holy Communion in Church. I remind you that if you wish to come - and you are welcome to do so - please let either Jo Parsons (parsons.jo@hotmail.co.uk, 01725 512738) or myself know. It is important to do this each time - even if you plan to come every week. There is no recorded service from St Laurence, but from the Team there are online services available each week from St Mary Redlynch and St Andrew Landford
 
‘Marriage registers, a legal requirement for churches since 1837, closed for ever on Tuesday, as new regulations came into force, replacing them with a single electronic register (News, 16 August 2019). Clergy will no longer have responsibility for registering marriages in church, but will be required to complete a marriage document and return it to the registrar, who will enter it on a digital database. Canon law dictates, however, that clergy must also continue to keep a physical register of marriages. Uncertainty about the new process was reflected in the 800 questions submitted to an online webinar run by Church House’s life-events team last week - not least about the potential for fines of clergy’ (Church Times 4 May 2021). 
 
The prayer after communion for this week: 
Eternal God, 
whose Son Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life: 
grant us to walk in his way, 
to rejoice in his truth, 
and to share his risen life; 
who is alive and reigns, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary today we pray for all medical staff: those in hospitals, GP surgeries, Care and Residential Homes, research laboratories and wherever they may be. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for our Parochial Church Council (PCC). 
 
At midnight on 8th May 1945, following Germany's unconditional surrender, World War II in Europe officially ended, although the war in the Pacific continued until the Japanese surrender in September. 
 
‘Our identity is in Christ and our membership of the Body of Christ. Candidates should represent that body without distinction and be credible representatives of the body as a whole’ (Aiden Hargreaves-Smith, presenting the report Responsible Representation to the General Synod). 
Wednesday 5th May 2021 
 
‘You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light’ (1 Peter 2:9). 
 
By grace we are saved by the love of God and not by anything we do. Yes, as Peter reminds us here, it is to a purpose - that we might proclaim God in our lives: to live, act and speak out in his name. We are to be those though whom God’s light and grace shine through - in other words, a royal priesthood. ‘So now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you? Only to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul’ (Deuteronomy 10:12). 
 
‘As President Biden was bringing his climate summit of world leaders to a close last week, a Quaker co-founder of Extinction Rebellion was being found not guilty of criminal damage to Shell’s headquarters, despite the judge’s directing the jury that he had no defence under law. Ian Bray, aged 53, and five other defendants had been charged in 2019 after pouring fake oil over the main entrance, glueing themselves to the doors, and painting the front of the building with the words “Shell Knew” to highlight the fact that the oil company had been aware for more than 40 years that their business was contributing to climate change. Had they been found guilty, they faced a prison term of up to five years and a maximum £10,000 fine. The six defendants had hoped to rely on the “necessity” defence - which provides a lawful excuse for a criminal act if intended to prevent a greater harm - and to argue that their actions were necessary to raise the alarm about the threat of climate change’ (Church Times 30 April 2021). 
 
I remind you that we are reducing the number of our Sunday recorded services to three a month, on the first, third and fourth Sundays in the month. This means that there will be no service online from St Laurence this week. Within the Team, there are online services available each week from St Mary Redlynch and St Andrew Landford. 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Risen Christ, 
your wounds declare your love for the world 
and the wonder of your risen life: 
give us compassion and courage 
to risk ourselves for those we serve, 
to the glory of God the Father. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary today we pray for Archbishop Justin Welby. He has the responsibility of speaking for the Church at the centre of our political life - and needs our prayers as he does so. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for our Churchwarden and Deputy Churchwardens, giving thanks for their continuing hard work and dedication. 
 
I shall be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church this morning. I shall ring the bell at 10:30am and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. The Church will open for private prayer from 11am to 12pm. 
 
On 5th May 1821 Napoleon Bonaparte died on the island of Saint Helena off the coast of Africa, where he had been exiled following the Battle of Waterloo. In 1840 his body was returned to Paris, where it was interred in the Hotel des Invalides. 
 
‘The more we let God take us over, the more truly ourselves we become - because He made us. He invented us. He invented all the different people that you and I were intended to be... It is when I turn to Christ, when I give up myself to His personality, that I first begin to have a real personality of my own’ (C.S. Lewis). 
Sunday 2nd May 2021 
 
'Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing' (John 15:4-5). 
 
Here Jesus makes clear that the key to fruitfulness in our faith is not effort, although effort will be necessary; it is not circumstance, though how we handle our circumstances is important; it is not our personal strength, charisma, or wisdom, though each of these abilities will be given to us to help make us more fruitful. The key to fruitfulness is for us to have our lives joined to the one, true, healthy vine - Jesus. As our lives are joined to his, as we 'remain' in him and he in us, then fruitfulness happens naturally. As branches, we derive our health and productivity from the vine. 
 
There is a recorded service for today from the church and a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. Also at 10:30am we are having a service of Holy Communion in Church. If you wish to come - and all are very welcome - please let Jo Parsons know by email (parsons.jo@hotmail.co.uk) or phone (01725 512738). It is important to do this each time even if you plan to come every week. We are hoping that we can sing in the churchyard before the service. 
 
'The Archbishop of Canterbury has drawn on his own experiences of conflict and suffering to create a short film series for individuals and church groups on "Faith in a conflicted world". In five short films, released on Tuesday, Archbishop Welby explores three habits based on the life and ministry of Jesus: be present, be curious, and reimagine. These habits form the central teaching of the Difference Course, which was created by the Archbishop's Reconciliation Ministry team earlier this year. The new videos - filmed at Lambeth Palace in October and totalling half an hour - are now part of this course' (Church Times 27 April 2021). 
 
'Church communities and their visitors are being urged to join a week-long survey this summer of the creatures and plants that inhabit their churchyards. Church land, which is often uncultivated or undeveloped for generations, is regarded by conservationists as a likely refuge for precious and endangered plants and other wildlife. Put together, it is estimated to cover an area similar to a small national park. The "Churches Count on Nature", between 5 and 13 June, is a citizen-science event in England and Wales in which people are asked to report the animals, birds, insects, or fungi they find. The data will then be collated on the National Biodiversity Network' (Church Times 22 April 2021). 
 
The collect for this week: 
Almighty God, 
who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ 
have overcome death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: 
grant that, as by your grace going before us 
you put into our minds good desires, 
so by your continual help 
we may bring them to good effect; 
through Jesus Christ our risen Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary today we pray for all who rely on food aid. As we have heard this is an increasing acute problem across the country. There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary on Monday we pray for our Church School. On Tuesday we pray for our witness to the faith. 
 
On 2nd May 1803 the United States purchased the Louisiana Territory from France at a rate of less than three cents per acre for 828,000 square miles (2,144,520 square km), which soon proved to be a tremendous bargain. The purchase doubled the size of the United States, greatly strengthened the country materially and strategically, provided a powerful impetus to westward expansion. 
 
'The Church is poorer and less equipped for its mission without the full gifts of all its people being present in its leadership' (Archbishops' Anti-racism Taskforce report, From Lament to Action, 22 April). 
Friday 30th April 2021 
 
Thomas said to him, 'Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?' Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me' (John 14:5-6). 
 
Jesus is the Presence and Power of God, the creative and eternal Word of God. He tells us that the only path to God is through him. This is not the same as saying that only certain kinds of believers can find God but that, whether we know Jesus or not, he is the way by which all people come to God. 'I am the Lord, and there is no other; besides me there is no god' (Isaiah 45:5). 
 
'The number of parcels given out by foodbanks in the year to the end of March grew by 33 per cent, the Trussell Trust reported on Thursday. During the year, the charity's foodbanks gave out more than 2.5 million emergency food parcels, 980,000 of them for children. The number is 128 per cent higher than five years ago. The figures come from the 1471 foodbanks affiliated to the Trussell Trust. The charity estimates that there are at least another 1034 independent foodbanks, and many other organisations, including churches, have distributed emergency food in a less systematic way. Each parcel typically contains three days' worth of food for one person. During the pandemic, many foodbanks have also been distributing parcels containing food for seven days. No distinction is made in the overall total announced by the charity, which is up from 1.9 million parcels in 2019-20' (Church Times 22 April 2021). 
 
As Jesus people we cannot simply ignore this situation. Our response lies at the heart of the Gospel challenge. 'Then the righteous will answer him, "Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?" And the king will answer them, "Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me"' (Matthew 25:37-40). Of course, we will always have to bear in mind the words of Dom Hélder Câmara "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." 
 
On Sunday at 10:30am we are having a service of Holy Communion in Church. I remind you that if you wish to come - and you are welcome to do so - please let Jo Parsons know, by email (parsons.jo@hotmail.co.uk) or phone (01725 512738). It is important to do this each time - even if you plan to come every week. 
 
The May issue of Downton Parish News is now available free to view or download. For those unable to access our magazine through the website, there will be a few printed copies available (free) in the Co-op, Chemist and Woodfalls Post Office. Please can you let anyone know that you think may want one - or collect one for them. They and we would be most grateful. 
 
The prayer after communion for this week: 
Merciful Father, 
you gave your Son Jesus Christ to be the good shepherd, 
and in his love for us to lay down his life and rise again: 
keep us always under his protection, 
and give us grace to follow in his steps; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary today we pray for our Lay Pastoral Assistants (LPAs). Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for those getting married this year. We have nine weddings booked in in Church this year, including four brides from our Church family. 
 
On 30th April 1859 Charles Dickens' "A Tale Of Two Cities" was first published in the literary periodical "All the Year Round" and thereafter in weekly instalments until 26th November. 
 
'We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade the presence of God. The world is crowded with Him. He walks everywhere incognito' (C.S. Lewis). 
Wednesday 28th April 2021 
 
Then Jesus cried aloud: ‘Whoever believes in me believes not in me but in him who sent me. And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in the darkness’ (John 12:44-46). 
 
By looking to Jesus, daily coming to him in prayer and seeking to walk in his light, more and more we are freed from the darkness of ignorance, error, sin, and misery. So we learn that the way of God our Saviour is everlasting life. The greatest knowledge of all is to have knowledge of God - that is knowledge of what God requires of us, the purpose of our creation, and how we may know God and have fellowship with him. 
 
We had our Annual Meeting on Sunday. Thank you to Ken Parsons for agreeing to stand again as Churchwarden and to those who have been elected to the PCC and Deanery Synod. If you have not read the Treasurer’s Report and Church Accounts I would urge you to do so. We are in a very difficult position. My Team Rector’s Report is also available on the website. 
 
As I announced at the Annual Meeting, we are reducing the number of our Sunday recorded services to three a month. This will mean that we have services on our website for the first, third and fourth Sundays in the month. Within the Team, there are also online services available each week from St Mary Redlynch and St Andrew Landford
 
‘The Archbishops of Canterbury and York are to set up a new commission to look at the crisis in the care system in the UK, it was announced on Tuesday. The object is to develop “a radical and inspiring vision, drawing on Christian theology and tradition, that reimagines care and support”, the announcement said. The Archbishop of York, the Most Revd Stephen Cottrell, said that, during the lockdown, “We have become more aware of gaps in our society: we have not sufficiently valued and loved many people in care and those living with a disability.” The 12-strong commission will be co-chaired by the Bishop of Carlisle, the Rt Revd John Newcome, the lead bishop on health and healing, and Dr Anna Dixon, chief executive of the Centre for Ageing Better, a former member of the advisory group to the Independent Review of Adult Social Care in Scotland, and director of strategy and chief analyst at the Department of Health, 2013-15’ (Church Times 20 April 2021). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Risen Christ, 
faithful shepherd of your Father’s sheep: 
teach us to hear your voice 
and to follow your command, 
that all your people may be gathered into one flock, 
to the glory of God the Father. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary today we pray for our Bishops. Here in our own diocese we pray for Bishops Nicholas, Andrew and Karen. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for all visitors to our Churches. 
 
I shall be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church this morning. I shall ring the bell at 10:30am and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. The Church will open for private prayer from 11am to 12pm. 
 
On 28th April 1789, Captain William Bligh of the ship Bounty and 18 of his men were set adrift by mutinous sailors led by the master’s mate Fletcher Christian. Bligh and his men were put into a 20-foot launch with some navigational instruments and five days’ food. They reached Timor on 14th June after a journey of 3,600 miles. 
 
‘But the gospel doesn’t need a coalition devoted to keeping the wrong people out. It needs a family of sinners, saved by grace, committed to tearing down the walls, throwing open the doors, and shouting, “Welcome! There’s bread and wine. Come eat with us and talk.” This isn’t a kingdom for the worthy; it’s a kingdom for the hungry’ (Rachel Held Evans). 
Sunday 25th April 2021 
 
‘Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him’ (1 John 3:18-22). 
 
There is a recorded service for today from the church and a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. Also at 10:30am we are having a service of Holy Communion in Church. If you wish to come - and all are very welcome - please let either Jo Parsons or myself know, either by email or phone. It is important to do this each time even if you plan to come every week. We are hoping that we can sing in the churchyard before the service. 
 
Following today’s service we will be having our Annual Meeting. Please pray for those who will be elected to serve as churchwarden, deputy churchwarden or on the PCC. We will be reflecting on the past year and - more importantly - will be looking forward and asking ourselves what God wants of us in the coming year. 
 
‘What a week in the lives of Black people. The US await the George Floyd verdict, the UK remembers Stephen Lawrence’s murder, institutional racism dismissed by the UK government & admitted by the Established Church, and black people testify to how racism impacts their daily lives’ (Rosemarie Mallett, Archdeacon of Croydon, 20 April). 
 
‘Society must learn the lessons of the pandemic “or suffer and even perish in our differences”, the Archbishop of Canterbury has written. In a new introduction to the second edition of his book Reimagining Britain.., published on Thursday, Archbishop Welby writes: “The impact of Covid 19 has been as dramatic as a tyre blowing out on a car travelling at speed. It demands urgent action and it reveals the need of essential and often equally urgent change. It has shown us in close-up of time and distance inequality, injustice and the capacity of nature to pose an existential threat beyond the power of any one country to face. If we do not learn the lessons and act on injustices of ethnic discrimination, lack of solidarity, neglect of the common good and most of all the even greater danger from human caused climate change then these already terrible results of Covid-19 will seem as little compared to what is to come. We must learn together or suffer and even perish in our differences.” The opportunity to reimagine society comes rarely, he writes, and “requires society-wide leadership and imagination to grasp it. It is not achieved by ample resources, but by a change of mood, a decision or a historic change. It cannot be forced but may be seized or missed”’ ((Church Times 15 April 2021). 
 
The collect for this week: 
Almighty God, 
whose Son Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life: 
raise us, who trust in him, 
from the death of sin to the life of righteousness, 
that we may seek those things which are above, 
where he reigns with you 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary today we pray for school governors. There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary on Monday we pray for our Church life and mission. On Tuesday we pray for our Forest & Avon Team. 
 
On 25th April 1859 the construction of the Suez Canal officially began and was completed 10 years later. The waterway connects the Mediterranean and Red Sea. 
Friday 23rd April 2021 
 
‘But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour’ (Isaiah 43:1-3). 
 
Today we remember St George. What, though, does St George really mean for us today? He is our patron saint, of course, which reminds us that our society and values are, at root, Christian. That is important to us, especially as we celebrate the joy of this Easter season. The cross on the flag reminds us that we follow Jesus. As the Church of England we fly the flag of St George, and this can remind us of all the good things England stands for: fair play, tolerance and helping others. 
 
I think it also matters that George was not English. He was from Asia Minor and probably Greek. If you look at our history, most of our forebears came from somewhere else. So we remember that while we may be English now, we come from and belong to the wider world. We are the people of Jesus who came for all the world, and our patron saint came from somewhere else too. We are part of the worldwide community of God in all its wonderful and amazing diversity. 
 
‘Churches in Myanmar are being targeted by security forces in the Buddhist-majority country in an attempt to crack down on opponents of the military coup in February (News, 5 February). The coup has been followed by mass protests and months of violence (News, 9 April). At least four Roman Catholic churches in villages in Pathein diocese were raided by police and soldiers last week in search of alleged illegal activities or anti-coup activists. Other churches in Kachin state, a Christian stronghold, were razed over the Easter weekend’ (Church Times 16 April 2021). 
 
On Sunday at 10:30am we are having a service of Holy Communion in Church. I remind you that if you wish to come - and you are welcome to do so - please let either Jo Parsons or myself know, by email or phone. It is important to do this each time - even if you plan to come every week. Following the service, we will be having our Annual Meeting and I encourage you to stay for this as we reflect and look forward. 
 
The collect for today: 
God of hosts, 
who so kindled the flame of love 
in the heart of your servant George 
that he bore witness to the risen Lord 
by his life and by his death: 
give us the same faith and power of love 
that we who rejoice in his triumphs 
may come to share with him the fullness of the resurrection; 
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary today we pray for young people worried about their exams. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for our Church School. 
 
On 23rd April 1516 Duke Wilhelm IV of Bavaria endorsed "The German Beer Purity Law" (Reinheitsgebot) and added to it standards for the sale of beer in Bavaria, ensuring beer is only brewed from three ingredients - water, malt and hops. This formed the basis of rules that spread slowly throughout Germany. 
Wednesday 21st April 2021 
 
‘For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God - not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life’ (Ephesians 2:8-10). 
 
God has saved us - called us out to be his own and one with him in his kingdom - not because we are special or anything we have done, but out of his great love for us. He calls us to respond in lives of faith and service to others. ‘So acknowledge today and take to heart that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other’ (Deuteronomy 4:39). 
 
We have our Annual Meeting in Church on Sunday at 11:15am following our service. If you wish to serve our Church - or propose someone else - on the PCC or as Churchwarden, please email Jo Parsons. This will be a good year to get involved as we find new ways of moving forward following the disruptions of the pandemic. The Church Accounts and Treasurer’s Report are available on the website. 
 
‘We find God compared to fire, flames that can warm or scorch, help make or destroy. There is no sense that God is a middleclass conscience or a tepid being under our control. Those who speak in his name, proclaim his laws and call people back to his dislocating truth cannot ever be the bland leading the bland. They are to be the thunder that clears the air, that sweeps the wind and spirit of God into human consciences, behaviours and strategies’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 17 April 2021, on Deuteronomy 4:32-40). 
 
‘An Assyrian Christian priest, Fr Sefer Bileçen, known as Fr Aho, has been sentenced to two years and one month in prison by a Turkish court this week, after being arrested in January 2020 and charged with joining a terrorist organisation, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) reports. He was reportedly accused of providing food and water to members of the People’s Defence Forces, the military wing of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which Turkey has designated a terrorist organisation. The founder president of CSW, Mervyn Thomas, said: “We call for an urgent review of the charges levelled against Father Aho, and for his lawyer to be allowed unhindered access to all documents and testimonies related to his case in order to facilitate due process. We also call on the international community to press the Turkish government to end all forms of discrimination against religious minorities”’ (Church Times 16 April 2021). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Risen Christ, 
you filled your disciples with boldness and fresh hope: 
strengthen us to proclaim your risen life 
and fill us with your peace, 
to the glory of God the Father. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary today we pray for those involved in manufacture, distribution, and sales of food. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for volunteers helping people in their community. 
 
I shall be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church this morning. I shall ring the bell at 10:30am and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. The Church will open for private prayer from 11am to 12pm. 
 
On 21st April 1986, in a much-hyped television special, American journalist Geraldo Rivera opened a vault that was found in the former headquarters of Chicago gangster Al Capone. However, he and an estimated 30 million TV viewers discovered that it was empty. 
 
‘God’s grace is amazing! We’re saved by grace - God's undeserved favour - and we live by grace, which is also God’s power in our lives to do what we could never do in our own strength. And it’s all because God is love, and he loves us unconditionally, constantly and completely’ (Joyce Meyer). 
Sunday 18th April 2021 
 
‘Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure’ (1 John 3:2-3). 
 
In Christ we are a new creation, one with him in his kingdom. We may not be able to know fully what this entails, but we do know that we have a glorious new hope in him. ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him’ (1 Corinthians 2:9). 
 
‘The Duke of Edinburgh was laid to rest in the royal vault in St George’s Chapel, Windsor, on Saturday afternoon. Before the Duke’s coffin was lowered into the vault, the Dean of Windsor, the Rt Revd David Conner, read the commendation: “Go forth upon thy journey from this world, O Christian soul, in the name of God the Father Almighty who created thee; in the name of Jesus Christ who suffered for thee; in the name of the Holy Spirit, who strengtheneth thee; may thy portion this day be in peace, and thy dwelling in the heavenly Jerusalem. Amen.” The funeral service was stripped to its basics, and not only because of the coronavirus restrictions, which meant that the Queen could be accompanied only by 29 members of her family and close friends. Prince Philip’s hand was apparent in the arrangements, not least in the absence of a sermon. It was, perhaps, his last act of kindness to his wife of 73 years, sparing her the ordeal of a long service’ (Church Times 17 April 2021). 
 
The collect for this week: 
Almighty Father, 
who in your great mercy gladdened the disciples 
with the sight of the risen Lord: 
give us such knowledge of his presence with us, 
that we may be strengthened and sustained by his risen life 
and serve you continually in righteousness and truth; 
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
There is a recorded service for today from the church and a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. Also at 10:30am we are having a service of Morning Prayer in Church. If you wish to come - and all are very welcome - please let either Jo Parsons or myself know, either by email or phone. It is important to do this each time even if you plan to come every week. We are hoping that we can sing in the churchyard before the service. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary today we pray for all ministers in the village. There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary on Monday we pray for those with financial worries, business owners who have had to close, and workers who have been laid off. On Tuesday we pray for those who produce our Parish magazine and have continued to do so over this past year. 
 
‘Faced with the prospect of maintaining a churchyard that extends over almost four acres, a parish has turned to animal power to keep the vegetation in check. A pair of alpacas, a breed originally from the slopes of the Andes, have joined the maintenance team at St Wilfrid’s, the 12th-century parish church of the village of Calverley, on the edge of Leeds. The churchyard contains about 3500 graves: most are in a closed Victorian cemetery and in a small area where burials continue today. There is also a wildlife meadow. “It needs a lot of looking after,” the church’s licensed lay minister, who is charge of the alpacas, John Corbin, said. “We can’t mow it, as the graves are too close together. If you look at pictures from 20 years ago, you cannot see the graves for the vegetation”’ (Church Times 16 April 2021). 
 
‘“Wait on the Lord” is a constant refrain in the Psalms, and it is a necessary word, for God often keeps us waiting. He is not in such a hurry as we are, and it is not his way to give more light on the future than we need for action in the present, or to guide us more than one step at a time. When in doubt, do nothing, but continue to wait on God. When action is needed, light will come’ (J.I. Packer, Knowing God). 
Friday 16th April 2021 
 
'A Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, respected by all the people.. said to them… ‘I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone; because if this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them - in that case you may even be found fighting against God!’ (Acts 5:34,38-39). 
 
We know that God has a wonderful purpose for us and a plan for his people. We are assured that he holds all things in his hand and is working his purpose out. Indeed we pray ‘Thy will be done’. So perhaps we ought to trust him in this, that indeed he will fulfil what he sets out to do. ‘So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it’ (Isaiah 55:11). So often we can see only the immediate bumps in the road, while he can see the bigger picture and the way ahead. 
 
‘Adult to group of children: “What do you think Jesus was doing while he was in hell for three days?” Child, after long pause: “I think he was looking everywhere for his friend Judas”’ (John Inge, Bishop of Worcester, 3 April). 
 
‘In his book The Shallows, first published in 2010, Nicholas Carr explored the impact of the internet on our behaviour. Carr was prompted to work in this area through noting what was happening in his own life, particularly his growing incapacity to read a book attentively. “Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.” The constantly changing, ephemeral nature of much of the increased communication of which we are part may be the cause for the diminution in our concentration. In his book Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman contended that the means of transmission was not a matter of indifference. About that he was right, but it may not be that we are amusing ourselves to death. Perhaps the problem is that we have lost both the art of listening and a capacity for discernment. We have all become broadcasters and writers. Even the least literate social-media user is mostly on transmit’ (Church Times 9 April 2021). 
 
The prayer after communion for this week: 
Lord God our Father, 
through our Saviour Jesus Christ 
you have assured your children of eternal life 
and in baptism have made us one with him: 
deliver us from the death of sin 
and raise us to new life in your love, 
in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, 
by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary today we pray for those at University and College. Their studies have been much disrupted over this past year and many are depressed or disillusioned. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for those in need in our village and those confined in their homes, especially those living alone. 
 
On Sunday at 10:30am we are having a service of Morning Prayer in Church. I remind you that if you wish to come - and you are welcome to do so - please let either Jo Parsons or myself know, by email or phone. It is important to do this each time - even if you plan to come every week. 
 
‘We need to give Christ a chance to make use of us, to be his word and his work, to share his food and his clothing in the world today. If we do not radiate the light of Christ around us, the sense of the darkness that prevails in the world will increase’ (Mother Teresa). 
Wednesday 14th April 2021 
 
‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him’ (John 3:16-17). 
 
This has long been celebrated as a powerful and succinct declaration of the gospel. It describes both the expression and the gift of God’s love. God’s love doesn’t just feel for the plight of a fallen world. God does something about it. He gives the most precious thing he has: his only Son. This would have been quite a radical and disturbing revelation at the time since it was believed that God loved only the chosen people. Do we need sometimes to be reminded that God loves all people equally, even those we find difficult or have a radically different world view than us? 
 
‘The Government’s promise to restore the UK aid budget to 0.7 per cent “has been broken and must be put right”, the Archbishops of Canterbury and Westminster have said… In a joint article published in the Evening Standard on Tuesday, Archbishop Welby and the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, write: “In the small print of the recent Integrated Review of defence, diplomacy, and development was a pledge to return the aid budget to 0.7 per cent of Gross National Income. This would honour the many promises made and deliver on the duty imposed by Parliament. But saying the Government will only do this ‘when the fiscal situation allows’ is deeply worrying, suggesting that it will act in contravention of its legally binding target. This promise, repeatedly made even during the pandemic, has been broken and must be put right”’ (Church Times 7 April 2021). 
 
‘God’s door is always open. The kettle is always on. The beers are in the fridge. The champagne on ice. And someone has been sent out with a very large order for curry. God is scanning the horizon for our return’ (Stephen Cottrell, Archbishop of York, Easter sermon, 4 April). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Risen Christ, 
for whom no door is locked, no entrance barred: 
open the doors of our hearts, 
that we may seek the good of others 
and walk the joyful road of sacrifice and peace, 
to the praise of God the Father. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
I shall be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church this morning, together with our Roads to God prayers. I shall ring the bell at 10:30am and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. The Church will open for private prayer from 11am to 12pm. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary today we pray for all medical staff: those in hospitals, GP surgeries, Care and Residential Homes, research laboratories and wherever they may be. They have done a most amazing job over the past year, worked very hard and are feeling the strain. We are immensely grateful as we hold them before God. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for young people in the Church. 
 
On 14th April 2004 Bartholomew I, ecumenical patriarch of the Eastern Orthodox Church, formally accepted the apology offered by Pope John Paul II in 2001 for the sacking of Constantinople (now Istanbul) by Crusader armies in the early 13th century. 
 
‘What did our Lord do by his Passion, Death, and Resurrection? He bridged that gulf which exists between God and man, a gulf which can only be bridged by him’ (Basil Hume). 
Sunday 11th April 2021 
 
‘We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life - this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us - we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all’ (1 John 1:1-5). 
 
Today our prayers are with the Queen and the Royal Family following the death of Prince Philip. Usually at such a time we would be having special arrangements in Church and a Condolence Book. However due to the coronavirus this is not possible. There is a Church of England Condolence book which can be signed online. The bells were tolled at midday yesterday and the flag is at half-mast on the Church. The Parish Council have said ‘If residents wish to lay floral tributes, the Council would be grateful if they could be laid around the Beacon on the corner of Moot Lane’. 
 
‘Tributes continue to pour in following the announcement of the death of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, aged 99.. Many have expressed respect for the way in which the Prince is acknowledged to have knuckled down to a role as the Queen’s consort which was distinctly unwelcome at the stage in life at which it came, and which cost him the naval career that he loved. There is respect and admiration for his rising above a childhood scarred by turbulence and family tragedies and spent largely in exile; and for his overcoming the hostility and suspicion of courtiers to a “foreign prince”’ (Church Times 9 April 2021). 
 
The collect for this week: 
Almighty Father, 
you have given your only Son to die for our sins 
and to rise again for our justification: 
grant us so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness 
that we may always serve you 
in pureness of living and truth; 
through the merits of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
There is a recorded service for today from the church and a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. Also at 10:30am we are having a service of Holy Communion in Church. If you wish to come - and all are very welcome - please let either Jo Parsons or myself know, either by email or phone. It is important to do this each time even if you plan to come every week. We are hoping that we can sing in the churchyard before the service. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary today we pray for our Churchwarden and Deputy Churchwardens. There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary on Monday we pray for our Team Rector and family. On Tuesday we pray for Churches Together in Downton. As we remember Prince Philip, we pray also for all who have lost loved ones recently. 
May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace and rise in glory. Amen. 
 
On 11th April 1814 Napoleon, facing an invasion of France by forces bent on his overthrow and pressed by his own officers, abdicated unconditionally at Fontainebleau. 
 
‘The most casual reader of the New Testament can scarcely fail to see the commanding position the resurrection of Christ holds in Christianity. It is the creator of its new and brighter hopes, of its richer and stronger faith, of its deeper and more exalted experience’ (Edward McKendree Bounds). 
Friday 9th April 2021 
 
‘So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we will also bear the image of the man of heaven’ (1 Corinthians 15:42,47-49). 
 
Easter is a time of renewed hope – not just for us as Christians, but also for all the world. It is a glorious hope of new life, abundant life, eternal resurrection life, a whole new beginning with God. ‘The resurrection completes the inauguration of God's kingdom.... It is the decisive event demonstrating that God's kingdom really has been launched on earth as it is in heaven. The message of Easter is that God's new world has been unveiled in Jesus Christ and that you're now invited to belong to it’ (N. T. Wright). 
 
‘Death is the “greatest and most devastating liar” when it claims to have the final word on life, the Archbishop of Canterbury said in his Easter Day sermon.. “the lie that the final breath is the end, there is nothing more; the lie that we will always be separated from those we have loved, ultimately losing those we love for ever... Of course death matters. It is brutal, terrible, and cruel. But it lies when it claims to be the final word.” 
“Easter”, he said, “calls time on the lie.” He continued: “If death is telling the truth, then we may as well live for ourselves. Then the last year is yet another cruel period of history taking from us those whom we loved, ending lives cruelly and tragically.” Individuals and the world could respond by recognising the “life and hope” of the crucified and risen Jesus Christ, he said. “The joy and purpose he gave to the disciples is exactly the same as is offered to us today. We are each and all invited to accept that new reality, welcoming the living dynamic presence of God into our lives.” This hope was not private, but public and worldwide, Archbishop Welby said. “That is why the Church gets involved with resisting injustice, treasuring our world, tending the needy - it’s why Christians throughout the centuries have lived with compassion and love for all who are excluded and marginalised. They breathed the oxygen of hope through the resurrection of the crucified God.” This was the gift of God and the Church - not to be wasted, he said. “The Church must go with that torrent of good news and love, transformed, celebrating, and declaring in word and deed the truth that death is a liar and that life is offered to all”’ (Church Times 4 April 2021). 
 
On Sunday at 10:30am we are having a service of Holy Communion in Church. I remind you that if you wish to come - and you are welcome to do so - please let either Jo Parsons or myself know, by email or phone. It is important to do this each time - even if you plan to come every week. 
 
The prayer after communion for this week: 
God of Life, 
who for our redemption gave your only-begotten Son 
to the death of the cross, 
and by his glorious resurrection 
have delivered us from the power of our enemy: 
grant us so to die daily to sin, 
that we may evermore live with him in the joy of his risen life; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary today we pray that we may grow through God’s Word. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for all key workers. After a year of extraordinary commitment, they are as in need of our prayers as ever. 
 
On 9th April 1865 General Robert E. Lee, commander of the Army of Northern Virginia of the Confederate States of America, signed a treaty of surrender at Appomattox Court House, effectively ending the American Civil War. 
 
‘All the things in this world are gifts of God, created for us, to be the means by which we can come to know him better, love him more surely, and serve him more faithfully’ (Ignatius of Loyola). 
Wednesday 7th April 2021 
 
‘Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ’ (1 Corinthians 15:20-22). 
 
Easter and resurrection lie at the very heart of our faith. This is where it all comes together and the point of the Good News. Jesus is risen, Jesus is alive - and through him we live too. Now we know eternal life, resurrection life, not just some time in the future but today, now. As Jesus tells us ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die’ (John 11:25-26) 
 
On the subject of Easter, Johann Sebastian Bach's St. John Passion was premiered on 7th April 1724. The sacred oratorio is the oldest extant Passion by the German composer. The highly popular work is a dramatization of the final days of Jesus Christ, according to the Gospel of John. 
 
‘Given the current circumstances, the Royal Maundy Service 2021 could not go ahead this year. Instead the Maundy money was blessed at the Chapel Royal, St James's Palace, before being posted to recipients alongside a letter from The Queen. This meant recipients could still receive their Maundy money and purses, and instead mark the special occasion from their homes’ (www.royal.uk/maundy-thursday). 
 
‘A ruling from the High Court in Malaysia, which says that Christians can use the word “Allah” to refer to God, is to be challenged by the government, prolonging a decades-long battle. The High Court earlier this month overturned a government ban on Christians’ using the word “Allah” to refer to God, in a case brought by a Christian, Jill Ireland Lawrence Bill, after her CDs were seized at an airport in 2008, as it was found that they contained the word. Although Malaysia is majority-Muslim, Christian communities are the third largest religious group in the country. They have argued that they have used the word “Allah” to refer to God for centuries, but challenges over their use of it have previously sparked violence and unrest.. Last week, the High Court in Kuala Lumpur ruled that she had the right not to face discrimination on the grounds of her faith. The judge, Justice Nor Bee, also ruled that other words of Arabic origin - Kaaba, Islam’s holiest shrine in Mecca; baitullah, which means House of God; and salat, which means prayer - could also be used by Christians. But, last week, the government confirmed that it was appealing against the ruling, after protests at the court’s decision by some Muslims’ (Church Times 26 March 2021). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
God of glory, 
by the raising of your Son 
you have broken the chains of death and hell: 
fill your Church with faith and hope; 
for a new day has dawned 
and the way to life stands open 
in our Saviour Jesus Christ. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
I shall be using a simple order for Morning Prayer at 10:30am. The bell will be rung and I ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary today we pray for those who are ill and their families. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for politicians and their advisors. 
 
‘Two thousand years ago, in the Middle East, an event occurred that permanently changed the world. Because of that event, history was split. Every time you write a date, you’re using the Resurrection of Jesus Christ as the focal point’ (Rick Warren). 
 
On 7th April 1948 the World Health Organization was formed by the United Nations. 
Sunday 4th April 2021 EASTER DAY 
 
‘We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear.. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead’ (Acts 10:39-42). 
 
Alleluia! Christ is Risen! 
 
Easter is a celebration of a present reality, namely, Christ’s risen life in us, here and now. The crowning achievement of the Passion is God restoring us to life, as he does first in Christ and then for all of us. We might have been satisfied if Christ’s death had washed away sin, and we were simply free to die in God’s peace. However, that would imply God’s love reaches some endpoint or some final satisfaction. There is no point at which God says to us, “I have loved you enough.” The love of God cannot be exhausted - even on the Cross. 
 
He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! 
 
At 10:30am we are having a service of Holy Communion in Church. If you wish to come - and all are very welcome - please let either Jo Parsons or myself know, either by email or phone. It is important to do this each time even if you plan to come every week. We are hoping that we can sing in the churchyard before the service. 
 
‘Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime’ (Martin Luther). 
 
‘Many churches and cathedrals that have remained closed throughout the recent lockdown are reopening in time for in-person worship during Holy Week and Easter - but online services and events remain at the heart of festivities… Indoor worship has been permitted in Covid-safe churches throughout the latest lockdown, but festivals and life events are now included, such as weddings of up to six people, previously permitted only in exceptional circumstances.. Funerals remain limited to 30 people. Children and support groups can continue to function indoors in church buildings. Face coverings remain mandatory, and congregations are still limited to the Covid-safe capacity of the building, allowing for social distancing. Singing, however, is now permitted in small groups, allowing church choirs to return in some form for Holy Week and Easter’ (Church Times 31 March 2021). 
 
‘Our first response to Jesus’s Passion must, therefore, be a recognition of our own need of redemption. He dies to free us, not simply from the guilt that comes from individual sins, but from the dominion of sin. This is reflected in the liturgy for baptism, when (after signing candidates with the cross) the minister says: “May almighty God deliver you from the powers of darkness, and lead you in the light and obedience of Christ”’ (Angus Ritchie, Church Times). 
 
The collect for this week: 
Lord of all life and power, 
who through the mighty resurrection of your Son 
overcame the old order of sin and death 
to make all things new in him: 
grant that we, being dead to sin 
and alive to you in Jesus Christ, 
may reign with him in glory; 
to whom with you and the Holy Spirit 
be praise and honour, glory and might, 
now and in all eternity. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we today give thanks for the Resurrection. There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary on Monday we pray for couples getting married this year, most of whom have postponed their wedding from last year. On Tuesday we pray for all who minister to the sick. 
 
‘The great gift of Easter is hope – Christian hope which makes us have that confidence in God, in his ultimate triumph, and in his goodness and love, which nothing can shake’ (Basil Hume). 
Friday 2nd April 2021 
 
‘Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need’ (Hebrews 4:14-16). 
 
Today is Good Friday, a day of great solemnity as we walk with Jesus through the final events of his Passion. We mark this in several ways: a leaflet with the Stations of the Cross is available as is a reading of the Passion Gospel. At 2:30pm we are having a short service of the Passion in the churchyard to which we have invited all the churches. As restrictions have now been lifted partially we are able to sing for this service - although not yet for services inside the Church. 
 
‘Jesus, who not so long ago had angrily cast out the moneylenders from the temple, now stands silent before Pilate and Herod. And as he does so, he demonstrates the extraordinary courage and conviction needed to take this stance. In his demeanour we don’t see weakness but rather a profound show of strength’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 1 April 2021). ‘God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us’ (Romans 5:8). 
 
‘We may recognise our own sins in the different characters of the Passion narrative: the callous pragmatism of Pilate, the violent rage of the crowd, and the cruelty of the soldiers. In particular, we may recognise, in Peter’s denial of Christ, an echo of our own weakness in the face of evil. When he tells his questioners that “I do not know the man,” Peter is not only denying his relationship with Jesus: he is also denying “all that he has seen, heard, and lived during those years with him. He is denying his own self and his experience” (Jean Vanier).. God does not come into this story of human cruelty and weakness as a wrathful judge: he is found standing among the scapegoats… “He was wounded for our transgressions, crushed by our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole” (Isaiah 53:5)’ (Angus Ritchie, Church Times). 
 
On Sunday, Easter Day, at 10:30am we are having a service of Holy Communion in Church. I remind you that if you wish to come - and you are very welcome to do so - please let either Jo Parsons or myself know, either by email or phone. It is important to do this each time - even if you plan to come every week. We are hoping that we can sing in the churchyard before the service. 
 
The collect for today: 
Almighty Father, 
look with mercy on this your family 
for which our Lord Jesus Christ was content to be betrayed 
and given up into the hands of sinners 
and to suffer death upon the cross; 
who is alive and glorified with you and the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary today we pray for all who deny God. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for the bereaved. 
 
‘Fear emerges from the Church’s increasing marginalization. This is the fear of loss of influence, of irrelevance and eventual extinction. This kind of fear corrodes and creates the illusion that the future of the Church is dependent on us. In reality, the future is in God’s hands. Our calling, whatever our context, is to resist fear, be faithful in the knowledge of God’s constant presence, and to love without ceasing’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 23 March 2021). 
 
On 2nd April 1982 Argentina occupied the Falkland Islands. The invasion escalated a long-standing conflict between Argentina and the United Kingdom over the archipelago in the South Atlantic and triggered the Falklands War. 
 
O Saviour of the world, who by your Cross and precious Blood has redeemed us: Save us, and help us, we humbly beseech you, O Lord. Amen. 
Wednesday 31st March 2021 
 
‘Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God’ (Hebrews 12:1-2). 
 
This is Holy Week. Over these days we walk with Jesus on his path to the Cross. The Bible doesn't say what he did on the Wednesday. Scholars speculate that after two exhausting days in Jerusalem, Jesus and his disciples spent this day resting and praying in Bethany in anticipation of Passover and preparing for the trials ahead. ‘Fear, betrayal and conspiracy are themes that set the mood.. as we begin the journey through Holy Week. Jesus must have sensed that events were overtaking him, that things had moved to the point of no return and the final outcome was looking grim… What is so striking.. is that although people are closing in and Jesus appears to be at the mercy of others, he in fact remains in charge, totally in control, setting the agenda and the pace’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 29 March 2021). ‘But O my Friend, my Friend indeed, who at my need his life did spend’. 
 
‘St Peter’s Parkstone has filmed 4 dramatic monologues (5-10 minutes in length) for Holy Week, also known as Passiontide. Members of The Poole Passion have been collaborating.. to produce monologues from 4 of the main participants in the Passion of Christ which forms part of this year’s Holy Week within the parish. In the short presentations, the viewer will hear from Mary the mother of Christ, Judas, Pilate, and finally Jesus himself… The monologues will be shared via YouTube and Facebook from 8.00 am each day’ (Diocese of Salisbury Grapevine 26 March 2021). 
 
The April issue of Downton Parish News is now available free to view or download. For those unable to access our magazine through the website, there will be a few printed copies available (free) in the Co-op, Chemist and Woodfalls Post Office. Please can you let anyone know that you think may want one - or collect one for them. They and we would be most grateful. 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
True and humble king, 
hailed by the crowd as Messiah: 
grant us the faith to know you and love you, 
that we may be found beside you 
on the way of the cross, 
which is the path of glory. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
I will be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church this morning. I shall ring the bell at 10:30am and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. The Church will open for private prayer from 11am to 12pm. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary today we pray for local traders. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for those who are alone and depressed. 
 
Tomorrow is Maundy Thursday. This begins the Great Three Days, also known as the Triduum - the three days including Good Friday and Holy Saturday, leading up to the Sunday of the Resurrection (Easter Day). There will be no service in Church for Maundy Thursday, but there will be a Reflective Service on the website. For Good Friday on the website are the Stations of the Cross and a reading of the Passion. Also on Friday we will be having a short service of the Passion in the churchyard at 2:30pm to which we have invited all the churches. With the updated guidelines we can now sing at an outdoor service. 
 
On 31st March 1889 the 984-foot (300-metre) Eiffel Tower, a wrought iron technological masterpiece created by Gustave Eiffel to commemorate the centenary of the French Revolution, was officially inaugurated in Paris. This is also the birthday (in 1596) of the French mathematician, scientist, and philosopher René Descartes, widely considered the father of modern philosophy and perhaps best known for the famous phrase “I think, therefore I am”. 
 
‘Christ alone can save the world, but Christ cannot save the world alone’ (David Livingstone). 
Sunday 28th March 2021 
 
They brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!’ (Mark 11:7-10). 
 
Today we celebrate Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem as King. This also marks the beginning of Holy Week and Jesus’ Passion. We will be marking this on the website with a short Reflective service for Maundy Thursday and the Stations of the Cross and a reading of the Passion on Good Friday. Also on Good Friday we will be holding a short service in the churchyard at 2:30pm. 
 
There is a recorded service for today from the church and a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in, together with instructions of how make your own palm cross. There is also a service of Holy Communion in Church at 10:30am as we return to public worship again - another reason to celebrate! 
 
As we reflect on the events of Holy Week we recognise the challenge to ourselves. Today the crowds welcome Jesus as King - on Thursday public opinion has shifted and he is rejected. Religious and political authorities see only the challenge to their position and so close their ears to his message. How might we have responded had we been there in Jerusalem then? ‘In a compelling passage in Book XIII of his On the Trinity, St Augustine writes of the devil’s sin that: “The essential flaw of the devil’s perversion made him a lover of power and a deserter and assailant of justice, which means that men imitate him all the more thoroughly the more they neglect or even detest justice and studiously devote themselves to power... Not that power is to be shunned as something bad, but that the right order must be preserved which puts justice first”’ (Church Times 26 March 2021). 
 
‘The lifting of some Covid restrictions around worship means our congregations can sing again - providing they are outside. The Government's roadmap out of lockdown sees this new guidance for worship coming into force from this Sunday. The news that singing can once again take place has been greeted with joy across the Diocese… The guidance is in sharp contrast to last Easter when we were all in lockdown and church buildings were closed. According to the guidance, from the 28th of March (Palm Sunday) "when communal worship takes place in the grounds or the outside space of a place of worship, the congregation may join in with singing"’ (Diocese of Salisbury Grapevine 26 March 2021). 
 
‘There is much talk at present.. of how to safeguard the future of a shrinking Church. It is right and proper that we take seriously our calling to proclaim the faith fresh in each generation and pass it on to the next. But in the process there is a danger that we might just miss something profound about fruit coming only once the seed had died. It is a painful truth to contemplate, but what might we in our context need to allow to die in order that something new might blossom?’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 26 March 2021). 
 
The collect for this week: 
Almighty and everlasting God, 
who in your tender love towards the human race 
sent your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ 
to take upon him our flesh 
and to suffer death upon the cross: 
grant that we may follow the example of his patience and humility, 
and also be made partakers of his resurrection; 
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we today pray for those at University and College. There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary on Monday we pray for couples getting married this year. Many of them have delayed their wedding from last year due to the lockdown. On Tuesday we pray for all who minister to the sick. 
Friday 26th March 2021 
 
‘I love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised; so I shall be saved from my enemies’ (Psalm 18:1-3). 
 
At this time of year, as we stand at the foot of the Cross, we entrust ourselves to God. We are confident that he holds us safe and will bring us through the trials of this present time - our rock, our fortress, and our deliverer. 
 
‘The centenary of the partition of Ireland this year is an opportunity for the Church to “face its own failings” in peace and reconciliation, the leaders of the main denominations in Ireland have said in a St Patrick’s Day message… The message, also recorded in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh, says: “We have an opportunity, in marking these events from our past, to be intentional in creating the spaces for encounter with those who are different from us, and those who may feel marginalised in the narratives that have shaped our community identity. This will require us to face difficult truths about failings in our own leadership in the work of peace and reconciliation. As Christian churches we acknowledge and lament the times that we failed to bring to a fearful and divided society that message of the deeper connection that binds us”’ (Church Times 19 March 2021). 
 
We are having a service of Holy Communion on Sunday at 10:30am and palm crosses will be available in Church. If you wish to join us for this service, please contact myself or Jo Parsons (01725 512738), and don’t forget that the clocks go forward tomorrow night! 
 
If you are not able to be with us for the service on Sunday, you can join in with our recorded service on the website. There are also instructions on how to make your own palm cross, together with a demonstration, that I posted last year. 
 
The prayer after communion for this week: 
Lord Jesus Christ, 
you have taught us 
that what we do for the least of our brothers and sisters 
we do also for you: 
give us the will to be the servant of others 
as you were the servant of all, 
and gave up your life and died for us, 
but are alive and reign, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for our Lay Pastoral Assistants (LPAs). Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for our Bishops and all Church Leaders. Here in our own diocese we pray for Bishops Nicholas, Andrew and Karen. 
 
‘Technology from almost 2000 years ago has been harnessed to help to provide a modern eco-friendly heating system for Bath Abbey. Engineers.. switched on an underfloor network of pipes that take their heat from the great Roman drain that carries away hot spring water overflowing from the city’s famous baths. Each day, about 1.1 million litres of water, at a constant 40°C, rises into the baths before escaping down the culvert into the River Avon. Ten custom-built heat exchangers installed in the drain garner enough energy to heat the abbey, and Kingston Buildings, the adjacent row of Georgian cottages which house the abbey offices, song school, and volunteer facilities. The Rector, Canon Guy Bridgewater, said.. “One of the abbey’s guiding purposes is to help treasure, sustain, and renew God’s creation; and I rejoice that, by working together with the many funding, design, and engineering partners involved in our Footprint project, we can wonderfully reduce our carbon footprint and become more responsible stewards of the planet’s resources.”’ (Church Times 12 March 2021). 
 
On 26th March 2005, sixteen years after being cancelled, Doctor Who returned to television with a new episode, with Christopher Eccleston appearing in the title role. 
 
‘Apart from Jesus Christ, we do not know what is our life, nor our death, nor God, nor ourselves’ (Blaise Pascal). 
Wednesday 24th March 2021 
 
‘When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children’ (Galatians 4:4-5). 
 
As I wrote on Sunday, we are starting services again from this coming Sunday - Palm Sunday. If you wish to join us for this service, please contact myself or Jo Parsons (01725 512738). 
 
‘Some people see God in many places - in the dawn of a new day, a forgiving word, the birth of a child, an act of self-sacrifice or being in love. Others experience the very same things but see no evidence that God exists at all... In Jesus, the light of the world has come and is in plain sight. And yet many refuse to see’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 18 March 2021). 
 
‘A more joined-up approach across all the BBC platforms will have maximum impact and will better serve faith communities, the broadcaster’s chief content officer, Charlotte Moore, declared at the announcement on Wednesday of BBC Religion’s Faith and Hope for Spring 2021 programme. Religious programming had been well received over “an extraordinary year, which has demonstrated the importance of faith in people’s lives”, she said. The new approach would be very evident at Easter, with collaboration across BBC1, Radio 4, BBC local radio, the Church of England, and Canterbury Cathedral for a live Easter Day service at which the Archbishop of Canterbury would preside and preach. Conversations about faith and spirituality had come to the surface during the pandemic, when there had been higher than average listening and viewing figures from a wider range of people, the commissioning editor for radio and television, Daisy Scalchi, said. Songs of Praise viewers had increased by 29 per cent to 1.2 million weekly. One million people had watched Young Chorister of the Year. Nineteen BBC programmes are shortlisted for the Sandford St Martin Awards, which recognise excellence in broadcasting’ (Church Times 19 March 2021). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Gracious Father, 
you gave up your Son 
out of love for the world: 
lead us to ponder the mysteries of his passion, 
that we may know eternal peace 
through the shedding of our Saviour’s blood, 
Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
I will be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church this morning. I shall ring the bell at 10:30am and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. 
 
Today there is no period of private prayer in Church as we are having a funeral service for Jean Carroll. We bear her family in our prayers. 
 
Tomorrow the Church celebrates the Annunciation (Lady Day) when we remember the visit of the angel to Mary to announce that she is to give birth to Jesus - ‘you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end’ (Luke 1:31-33). 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary today we pray for new residents in our village. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for the Barford Day Centre. 
 
On 24th March 1989 one of the worst ever oil spills began when the supertanker Exxon Valdez, owned and operated by the Exxon Corporation, ran aground on a reef in Prince William Sound in southern Alaska. An estimated 11 million gallons of oil eventually spilled into the water. Attempts to contain the massive spill were unsuccessful, and wind and currents spread the oil more than 100 miles from its source, eventually polluting more than 700 miles of coastline. Hundreds of thousands of birds and animals were adversely affected by the environmental disaster. 
 
‘Some people feel guilty about their anxieties and regard them as a defect of faith but they are afflictions, not sins. Like all afflictions, they are, if we can so take them, our share in the passion of Christ’ (C. S. Lewis). 
Sunday 21st March 2021 
 
‘This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord’, for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more’ (Jeremiah 31:33-34). 
 
Today is Passion Sunday, beginning the two weeks of Passiontide - a period of time to focus more and more on the Passion and death of Jesus and so accompany him on his way to Calvary. Here we are drawn with Jesus to the Cross where his love is revealed in all its fulness and which paves the way for the glories of Easter. 
 
We are planning to resume our services in St Laurence. Services will start again on Palm Sunday (28th March), on the same basis to what we were doing in December. That is to say we would have a 10:30am service each Sunday - Holy Communion except on the third Sunday of the month when we would have Morning Prayer. As before, this would be entirely voluntary for those who feel ready to join us and according to the current guidelines. 
 
You may hear a bell tolling just after midday on Tuesday. This is to mark the National Day of Reflection. ‘The majority of mourners during the pandemic have been unable to say goodbye properly, and Church of England cathedrals and parishes are preparing to mark a National Day of Reflection on Tuesday 23rd March, the anniversary of the first Covid lockdown… Bishop Nicholas said: “This year has been exceptionally hard for the bereaved, while those in ministry in the Diocese have done a wonderful job being alongside those who have lost loved ones, they have also found it a great source of frustration and sadness when they have been unable to offer a Christian farewell that allows relatives and friends to gather and comfort each other. This National Day of Reflection will give us all the opportunity to stop and remember all those who have lost loved ones during this difficult time and what that has meant for them. It will also allow us to pray together for them allowing them to know just how much they are in our thoughts.” The National Day is being led by the Marie Curie charity, supported by organisations including the Church of England. Churches and cathedrals are being encouraged by the Central Council of Church Bellringers (CCCBR) to toll a bell at the end of the minute’s silence at midday on 23rd March’ (Diocese of Salisbury Grapevine 19 March 2021). 
 
The collect for this week: 
Most merciful God, 
who by the death and resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ 
delivered and saved the world: 
grant that by faith in him who suffered on the cross 
we may triumph in the power of his victory; 
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
There is a recorded service for today from the church and a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. There is no service in Church. I shall ring the bell in Church at 10:30am and ask that you join me in prayer at that time. The Church will open for private prayer from 11am to 12pm. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary today we pray for those who produce our Parish magazine. There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary on Monday we pray for all ministers in the village. On Tuesday we pray for our Forest and Avon Team. 
 
‘Let all your thoughts be with the Most High, and direct your humble prayers unceasingly to Christ. If you cannot contemplate high and heavenly things, take refuge in the Passion of Christ, and love to dwell within His Sacred Wounds. For if you devoutly seek the Wounds of Jesus and the precious marks of His Passion, you will find great strength in all troubles’ (Thomas à Kempis). 
 
On 21st March 1963 Alcatraz Prison in San Francisco's Bay, known for its harsh conditions and record for being inescapable, closed down and transferred its last prisoners. At its peak period of use in 1950s, “The Rock,” or “America’s Devil Island,” housed over 200 inmates at the maximum-security facility. 
Friday 19th March 2021 
 
‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins’ (Matthew 1:20-21). 
 
Today we remember Joseph of Nazareth. Everything we know about him comes from the Bible. He was a carpenter, a working man, for the sceptical Nazarenes ask about Jesus, “Is this not the carpenter's son?” (Matthew 13:55). He wasn't rich for when he took Jesus to the Temple to be circumcised he offers the poor man’s sacrifice of two turtledoves or a pair of pigeons (Luke 2:24). However Joseph came of royal lineage. Both Luke and Matthew mark his descent from David. Joseph was compassionate man, for when he discovers Mary is pregnant he resolves to send her away quietly to not expose her to shame. Then, when an angel comes to him in a dream, he takes Mary as his wife. (Matthew 1:19-25). When the angel comes again to tell him that his family is in danger, he immediately leaves everything and flees to a strange country with his young wife and baby. His one concern is for the safety of this child entrusted to him. He waits in Egypt without question until the angel tells him it is safe to go back (Matthew 2:13-23), but upon his return settles in the obscure town of Nazareth out of fear for Jesus’ life. We know also that Joseph treats Jesus as his own son for the people of Nazareth say of Jesus, “Is this not the son of Joseph?” (Luke 4:22). Since Joseph does not appear in Jesus' public life, at his death, or resurrection, most believe Joseph probably had died before Jesus entered public ministry. 
 
‘Clean For Good, described as a Christian ethical cleaning business, has launched a national poetry competition, Poetry for Good, to celebrate key workers. Submissions will be judged by the poets Rachel Long, Katherine Lockton, and Cecilia Knapp. The deadline for entries is 9 April in three categories: Written Word - written poems from those aged 16 or more; Spoken Word - spoken poetry from those aged 16 or more; and Growing Word - written poems for those aged 11-15. Clean for Good is majority-owned by the parish of St Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe, London; the Centre for Theology and Community; and the Church Mission Society’ (Church Times 12 March 2021). 
 
The collect for today: 
God our Father, 
who from the family of your servant David 
raised up Joseph the carpenter 
to be the guardian of your incarnate Son 
and husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary: 
give us grace to follow him 
in faithful obedience to your commands; 
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
At 12 o’clock today we are having the third of our virtual Lent lunches. If you would like to join us please contact me and I will send you the link. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for the Trafalgar School at Downton. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for Churches Together in Downton. 
 
‘“Wait on the Lord” is a constant refrain in the Psalms, and it is a necessary word, for God often keeps us waiting. He is not in such a hurry as we are, and it is not his way to give more light on the future than we need for action in the present, or to guide us more than one step at a time. When in doubt, do nothing, but continue to wait on God. When action is needed, light will come’ (J.I. Packer, Knowing God). 
Wednesday 17th March 2021 
 
'Listen to me, my people, and give heed to me, my nation; for a teaching will go out from me, and my justice for a light to the peoples. I will bring near my deliverance swiftly, my salvation has gone out and my arms will rule the peoples; the coastlands wait for me, and for my arm they hope’ (Isaiah 51:4-5). 
 
Today we celebrate Saint Patrick. ‘St. Patrick, (flourished 5th century, Britain and Ireland; feast day March 17), patron saint and national apostle of Ireland, credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland and probably responsible in part for the Christianization of the Picts and Anglo-Saxons. He is known only from two short works, the Confessio, a spiritual autobiography, and his Letter to Coroticus, a denunciation of British mistreatment of Irish Christians’ (www.britannica.com)
 
We remember in our prayers today all who live on the island of Ireland. We give thanks for their immense contribution to our Christian witness and heritage, and for the great strides they have made towards peace and stability over these past twenty years. We pray especially for them at this time of increased tension arising from the new border and customs arrangements. 
 
On Friday we are having our next virtual Lent lunch. If you would like to join in with us, please let me know. 
 
‘You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope’ (Thomas Merton). 
 
Tomorrow marks the anniversary of the first Daily Reflection I sent out. Little did we know how long and troublesome this pandemic would prove to be. However, as I wrote then, ‘At this time of quite unprecedented disruption to our normal pattern of life, it would be easy to feel that we are forgotten by God. However we know that this is not so. He loves us far more deeply than we can ever know - and asks us to share that love with all those around us’. As we are assured: ‘Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go’ (Joshua 1:9). 
 
The collect for today: 
Almighty God, 
who in your providence chose your servant Patrick 
to be the apostle of the Irish people: 
keep alive in us the fire of the faith he kindled 
and strengthen us in our pilgrimage 
towards the light of everlasting life; 
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
I will be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church this morning, together with our Roads to God prayers. I shall ring the bell at 10:30am and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. The Church will open for private prayer from 11am to 12pm. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for all school governors. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for peace in the world. 
 
‘Oh don’t you just love it when, hungry, weary and massively screened out, you record a whole session of a Lent course and then realise you never pressed, “Record.” AARGH! Time for dinner I think. . . [Later] Now that I’ve done it my computer is giving me the option “Stop converting” which would rather undermine the purpose of the Lent course’ (Philip North, Bishop of Burnley, 8 March). 
Sunday 14th March 2021 
 
‘When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears, and rescues them from all their troubles. The Lord is near to the broken-hearted, and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord rescues them from them all. He keeps all their bones; not one of them will be broken’ (Psalm 34:17-20). 
 
In a world where health and success are held up as the goal and measure of life, it is refreshing to remember that in the real world God stands with us where we are actually in all the pressures and difficulties and burdens we bear. 
 
Today is Mothering Sunday, a day to celebrate and honour our mothers and all mothers and which has been celebrated in the Britain and elsewhere in the English-speaking world on the fourth Sunday in Lent since the Middle Ages. However we do recognise that this can be a difficult day for many. Not all have happy experiences of their mother, or have lost or been unable to have children. We bear them all in our prayers today. It is also Refreshment Sunday - traditionally a day when the Lenten fast was allowed to be relaxed, hence its name. 
 
‘No announcement has yet been made whether - with the approach of Holy Week and Easter - there will be any revision to the Government’s current guidelines on singing in places of worship. Submissions from the Church of England Recovery Group to the Places of Worship Taskforce have included a draft roadmap from the Royal School of Church Music (RSCM) and the Cathedral Organists’ Association (COA) for the safe resumption of singing within the context of a gradual easing of the lockdown in the UK. It had received proper consideration, and the deliberations of the Recovery Group were informing government planning, the RSCM’s director, Hugh Morris, said on Tuesday. “Communication lines are good and open, and we have certainly been making sure that the message has been getting to the right places about music being a critical part in the marking and celebration of Holy Week and Easter.” No communal singing is permitted under the current guidance, which restricts “singing or chanting essential to an act of worship” to one person wherever possible. Up to three individuals may sing “where it is essential to the service”, observing strict social distancing. The limit of three - a figure acknowledged to have arisen from another faith tradition - has caused frustration, because much church music is written in four parts’ (Church Times 12 March 2021). 
 
The collect for Mothering Sunday: 
God of compassion, 
whose Son Jesus Christ, the child of Mary, 
shared the life of a home in Nazareth, 
and on the cross drew the whole human family to himself: 
strengthen us in our daily living 
that in joy and in sorrow 
we may know the power of your presence 
to bind together and to heal; 
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
There is a recorded service for today from the church and a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. There is no service in Church. I shall ring the bell in Church at 10:30am and ask that you join me in prayer at that time. The Church will open for private prayer from 11am to 12pm. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we today pray for all mothers, together with those who are unable to be mothers and all who are separated from their families for whatever reason. There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary on Monday we pray for our Church School, where the whole school community is doing a wonderful job ensuring our children continue to grow and learn in these difficult days. On Tuesday we pray for young people in the Church. 
 
On 14th March 1942, for the first time in history, a dying patient's life was saved by penicillin when she was successfully treated for streptococcal septicaemia in the United States. Although some claim that the pioneering trials at the Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford resulted in the first cures using penicillin, this is generally accepted as the first documented successful treatment. 
Friday 12th March 2021 
 
One of the scribes.. asked him, ‘Which commandment is the first of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength”’ (Mark 12:28-30). 
 
Here we have Jesus’ summary of the Law, getting right to the heart of the matter. Our relationship with God is not about keeping commandments or to the rules. It is not even a question of living up to a moral code, being a ‘good person’. It is all to do with love: love of God, love of others, and love of ourselves. ‘Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God’ (1 John 4:7). 
 
Having said that, so much of our public life today is rooted in self-justification and putting others down. ‘Even the briefest review of the tabloid press or social media shows that condemnation remains commonplace today.. The gospel is a protest against such ready condemnation. Are we able to rid ourselves of this deadly error?’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 9 March 2021, on John 8:1-11). 
 
‘Is there anybody who doesn’t think that it’s a scandal that there are so many homeless people on our streets? But we’ve learned to live with it. We’ve learned to accommodate things that we know are wrong, which it would be possible to do something about’ (Stephen Cottrell, Observer interview, 28 February). 
 
‘All of us are specialists in crucifying others to save ourselves. Jesus, instead, allowed himself to be crucified, to teach us not to shift evil on to others’ (Pope Francis, Lent reflection, 1 March). 
 
‘To have Faith in Christ means, of course, trying to do all that He says. There would be no sense in saying you trusted a person if you would not take his advice. Thus if you have really handed yourself over to Him, it must follow that you are trying to obey Him. But trying in a new way, a less worried way. Not doing these things in order to be saved, but because He has begun to save you already. Not hoping to get to Heaven as a reward for your actions, but inevitably wanting to act in a certain way because a first faint gleam of Heaven is already inside you’ (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity). 
 
The prayer after communion for this week: 
Merciful Lord, 
grant your people grace to withstand the temptations 
of the world, the flesh and the devil, 
and with pure hearts and minds to follow you, the only God; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for all those in Residential and Nursing Homes. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for charities struggling to continue their work and fundraising. 
 
On 12th March 1994, the first 32 women were ordained as Church of England priests. The service was officiated by Bishop Barry Rogerson in Bristol Cathedral. The women were ordained in alphabetical order, so Angela Berners-Wilson is considered the very first woman to be ordained. 
 
‘To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible’ (St. Thomas Aquinas). 
Wednesday 10th March 2021 
 
Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life’ (John 8:12). 
 
This is the second of Jesus' seven “I AM” statements in John’s Gospel, pointing to his unique divine identity and purpose. We walk in the light of Christ. He is a ‘is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path’ (Psalm 119:105). He shows us the way and draws us to himself. We pray that our eyes may be open to see his way and we may have the wisdom and the courage to follow it. 
 
‘Pope Francis arrived in Iraq on Friday, amid security concerns and rising Covid-19 infection rates, for a four-day visit intended to offer support to the dwindling number of Christians in the country.. During the flight, the Pope said that, despite the risks, he was “duty bound” to visit “a land that has been martyred for so many years”. In a video message before he boarded the plane, he said: “I am coming as a pilgrim, as a penitent pilgrim, to implore from the Lord forgiveness and reconciliation after years of war and terrorism, to beg from God the consolation of hearts and the healing of wounds.” It is the first papal visit to Iraq, and Pope Francis’s first overseas visit since the beginning of the pandemic. So far, at least 13,000 people have died from coronavirus in the country, which received its first batch of vaccines earlier this week. The Vatican’s ambassador to Iraq confirmed last week that he had tested positive. Pope Francis has been vaccinated against the disease’ (Church Times 5 March 2021). 
 
‘The Children's Society has issued an emergency charity appeal on behalf of at-risk or vulnerable children and young people. The charity says that children in this country are facing the worst crisis they have ever experienced, with many of the most vulnerable trapped at home, isolated and at risk of abuse and neglect. For some, their lives are in danger. Relationship Manager Gill Ford tells us: "Hope is what is needed for many vulnerable young people as their situation is even worse. The pandemic is the worst crisis that today’s young people have ever faced”’ ((Diocese of Salisbury Grapevine 6 March 2021). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Eternal God, 
give us insight 
to discern your will for us, 
to give up what harms us, 
and to seek the perfection we are promised 
in Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
I shall be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church this morning. I shall ring the bell at 10:30am and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. The Church will open for private prayer from 11am to 12pm. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for all key workers, giving thanks for all they have done for us over the past year. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for all medical staff: those in hospitals, GP surgeries, Care and Residential Homes, research laboratories and wherever they may be. They have done a most amazing job in very difficult circumstances and we are immensely grateful as we hold them before God. 
 
‘A well-known delaying tactic for any movement of change in the Church is the charge that we haven’t done the theology’ (Stephen Cottrell on Vision and Strategy work to General Synod members, 27 February). 
 
On 11th March 1990, following a vote in the parliament, Lithuania became the first Soviet republic to declare its independence from the U.S.S.R. Also it was on this date last year that the World Health Organization declared that the Covid-19 outbreak was a pandemic. 
Sunday 7th March 2021 
 
‘This is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that on the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God’ (Philippians 1:9-11). 
 
Love is at the heart of our faith, for God is love. We are called to love God, our neighbour and ourselves. Indeed, as St John tells us ‘God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them’ (1 John 4:16). Without love our faith is meaningless. This is a constant challenge for the Christian, as we ask what is the loving way to live and to respond to all that we meet in the world. This is not always as clear or as straightforward as first it seems - or as we would like. ‘Seek a relationship when you pray, not answers. You won't always find answers, but you will always find Jesus’ (Father Mike Schmitz). 
 
‘Nearly five million people volunteered for the first time in their lives last year, a wide-ranging report on community spirit in the UK has found. Of the estimated 12.4 million people who volunteered during the pandemic, 4.6 million people were volunteering for the first time. Of these, 770,000 were aged between 18 and 24 years old; 360,000 had a disability or long-term illness; and 740,000 lived in the poorest fifth of neighbourhoods in the UK - all groups of people who were previously less likely to volunteer, it says’ (Church Times 5 March 2021). 
 
The collect for this week: 
Almighty God, 
whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, 
and entered not into glory before he was crucified: 
mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, 
may find it none other than the way of life and peace; 
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
There is a recorded service for today from the church and a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. There is no service in Church. I shall ring the bell in Church at 10:30am and ask that you join me in prayer at that time. The Church will open for private prayer from 11am to 12pm. 
 
When I uploaded today’s service to YouTube, I got the message ‘Partially blocked. This video contains copyrighted material. As a result, it has been blocked in some countries and/or regions’. A subsequent email informed me that ‘your video has been blocked in some countries. This means that your video is still up on YouTube, but people in some countries may not be able to watch it’. It transpires that today’s hymn will be blocked in Cuba, Iran, North Korea and Syria. So my apologies to any worshippers we have in those countries. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary today we pray for those made redundant or unable to find work. There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary on Monday we pray for politicians and their advisors. On Tuesday we pray that we may grow through God’s Word. ‘Choose to view life through God's eyes. This will not be easy because it doesn't come naturally to us. We cannot do this on our own. We have to allow God to elevate our vantage point. Start by reading His Word, the Bible... Pray and ask God to transform your thinking. Let Him do what you cannot. Ask Him to give you an eternal, divine perspective’ (Charles R.Swindoll). 
 
On 7th March 1876 Alexander Graham Bell was granted a patent for the telephone, and three days later through a receiver connected by wire to a transmitting instrument located in another room, Watson heard Bell’s famous first telephone call, which Watson later recalled as “Mr. Watson - come here - I want you”. 
 
‘You were made by God and for God and until you understand that, life will never make sense’ (Rick Warren). 
Friday 5th March 2021 
 
‘Jesus answered them, ‘My teaching is not mine but his who sent me. Anyone who resolves to do the will of God will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own. Those who speak on their own seek their own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and there is nothing false in him’ (John 7:16-18). 
 
Jesus is the very image of God, his word is the word of God. He is our teacher, our guide and our one true example for life. We walk in his footsteps with him as our goal. He is ‘the way, and the truth, and the life’ (John 14:6). ‘Self-denial means knowing only Christ, and no longer oneself. It means seeing only Christ, who goes ahead of us, and no longer the path that is too difficult for us... Self-denial is saying only: He goes ahead of us; hold fast to him’ (Dietrich Bonhoeffer). 
 
Today is the World Day of Prayer which this year is led by Vanuatu on the theme “Building on a Strong Foundation”. If you wish to take part, you can find out more in this month’s Downton Parish News. Also today at 12 o’clock we are having the second of our virtual Lent lunches. There will be a short reflection and time for discussion and will last for forty minutes. If you would like to join us please have a word with Jo Parsons (01725 512738). 
 
‘There are no plans to dismantle the parish network. We are committed to our calling to be a Christian presence in every community... Yes, there are hard decisions currently being made across many dioceses. Overall some stipendiary posts will be lost. But that isn’t the same as making clergy redundant… The aim is to make each parish and each Christian community sustainable. If that doesn’t happen, there really will be no Church of England. And to do it requires generosity and sacrifice’ (Justin Welby, Stephen Cottrell, joint article in The Spectator, 11 February 2021). 
 
‘The Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I, has asked church leaders to meet in 2025 to mark the 17th centenary of the First Council of Nicaea, to “reflect on mistakes past and present” and steer a “more determined ecumenical course”. “This 1700th anniversary can serve as an occasion for Christian Churches to reflect on their journey,” he said. “That first ecumenical council at Nicaea stands as a symbol, a turning point in Christianity’s history, not just because it formulated the creed but also because it issued 20 canons. It thus offers a unique opportunity to re-source our common canonical heritage from the first millennium.” The 80-year-old church leader tabled his proposal as Russian Orthodox and Roman Catholic representatives marked the fifth anniversary of the February 2016 meeting in Havana between Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and Pope Francis (Church Times 19 February 2021). 
 
The prayer after communion for this week: 
Almighty God, 
you see that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves: 
keep us both outwardly in our bodies, 
and inwardly in our souls; 
that we may be defended from all adversities 
which may happen to the body, 
and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary today we pray for our Team Rector and family - thank you for your continuing prayers and support. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for our Churchwarden and Deputy Churchwardens, giving thanks for all they do to continue and build up the work of our Church. 
 
On 5th March 1946 Prime Minister Winston Churchill popularized the term “Iron Curtain”- describing the separation of the Soviet Union and its eastern and central European allies from Western nations - in a speech at Fulton, Missouri. 
 
‘Lent stimulates us to let the Word of God penetrate our life and in this way to know the fundamental truth: Who we are, where we come from, where we must go, what path we must take in life’ (Pope Benedict XVI). 
Wednesday 3rd March 2021 
 
Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, ‘Do you also wish to go away?’ Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God’ (John 6:66-69). 
 
For the Christian the situation is simple: there is no one else we can turn to but God himself. He is our salvation and our guide, and life itself. ‘The Gospel of John is a book of signs pointing to the recklessly loving grace of God. Like the Bible, life itself is to be read by us with attentiveness so we can read the love between the lines and find ourselves full of gratitude, which, when it comes, is not only a miracle in itself but allows us to see so many more’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 20 February 2021). 
 
Please continue to remember South Sudan in your prayers. Ron Hart has forwarded this news from there: ‘The UN Commission on Human Rights in Sudan reports to the UN Human Rights Council that, despite a diminution of hostilities at the national level, “unprecedented levels of ethnically based violence threaten to spiral out of control because of lack of justice and accountability.” The Commission said that more than 75% of South Sudan is experiencing “murderous violence” at the local level. It cited some of the most brutal attacks of the past seven years as occurring in the Central Equatoria, Warrap, Jonglei and the Greater Pibor Administrative Area, surpassing the level in 2013 when civil war broke out’. 
 
‘Nothing was being “decided centrally and kept under wraps” where the vision and strategy discussions were concerned, the Archbishop of York, the Most Revd Stephen Cottrell, assured General Synod members on Saturday. Press reports claiming so had been misleading, Archbishop Cottrell said in an informal Synod meeting held via Zoom. The ten-year plan for the C of E, unveiled at the November Synod (News, 26 November 2020), had “landed well and seemed to capture the spirit of the Church”; but it was still, he reiterated, a work in progress. “There has to be realism and humility,” he said. “It is my intention to be open and transparent about the full nature of the challenge. Many of us are exhausted. We don’t know what the Church is going to look like in the future, but we are very proud of what we have achieved as a Church” in the past year. The initiative Archbishop Cottrell outlined in November called for a simpler, humbler, bolder, and more diverse Church, in which the key performance-indicator, he had said, would be “the number of feet we wash, not the numbers attending our services, though we hope by faith both will grow”’ (Church Times 27 February 2021). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Almighty God, 
by the prayer and discipline of Lent 
may we enter into the mystery of Christ’s sufferings, 
and by following in his Way 
come to share in his glory; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
I shall be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church this morning. I shall ring the bell at 10:30am and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. The Church will open for private prayer from 11am to 12pm. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for all who rely on food aid. ‘This year has been an extraordinarily difficult one, with many more people across the country facing destitution as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Food banks carry on, working as tirelessly as ever, to support people in crisis through the unprecedented challenge the pandemic continues to pose’ (Emma Revie, Trussell Trust Chief Executive). Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for those at work worried about social distancing. 
 
‘Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at His disposition, and listening to His voice in the depth of our hearts’ (Mother Teresa). 
Sunday 28th February 2021 
 
‘In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus’ (Galatians 326-28). 
 
‘A new UK survey suggests that non-Christians’ view of churches has improved over the past three years, especially in their response to the pandemic. The study, by Savanta ComRes, found that the respondents were more likely to agree that the UK Church was making a positive difference in the world: 25 per cent today, compared with 19 per cent three years ago. More than one in three (36 per cent) agreed that Christian churches were making a positive difference in the world. The online poll of 2170 adults carried out from 12 to 14 February for YourNeighbour, and the charity World Vision UK, found that 42 per cent agreed that churches were making a positive difference in their communities, and 24 per cent disagreed. When asked which community needs the churches could provide, 24 per cent said events for the elderly, and homeless services, followed by shelter for the homeless (22 per cent), and the collection and distribution of food, clothes, and toys (20 per cent)’ (Church Times 26 February 2021). 
 
As I mentioned on Friday, this coming Friday is the World Day of Prayer. If you wish to take part, you can find out more in this month’s Downton Parish News. Also on Friday we are having the second of our virtual Lent lunches. If you would like to join in please have a word with Jo Parsons (01725 512738). 
 
The March issue of Downton Parish News is now available free to view or download on our website. For those unable to access our magazine through the website, there will be a few printed copies available (free) in the Co-op, Chemist and Woodfalls Post Office. Please can you let anyone know that you think may want one - or collect one for them. They and we would be most grateful. 
 
Our collect for today is rather like advice from our doctor: avoid those things that are bad for your health. Unfortunately all too aften these are the things we crave. We have to make a positive effort to look beyond the desires of today to the far greater joys yet to come. 
 
The collect for this week: 
Almighty God, 
you show to those who are in error the light of your truth, 
that they may return to the way of righteousness: 
grant to all those who are admitted 
into the fellowship of Christ’s religion, 
that they may reject those things 
that are contrary to their profession, 
and follow all such things as are agreeable to the same; 
through our Lord Jesus Christ, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we today pray for charities struggling to continue their work and fundraising. There is a real crisis amongst many charities as fund raising has been difficult, if not impossible, during the pandemic. They face an estimated £10bn shortfall in income. There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary on Monday we pray for all visitors to our Churches. On Tuesday we pray for our witness to the faith. 
 
‘On the fourth floor of the Museum of the Bible, a sweeping permanent exhibit tells the story of how the ancient scripture became the world’s most popular book. A warmly lit sanctum at the exhibit’s heart reveals some of the museum’s most prized possessions: fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls, ancient texts that include the oldest known surviving copies of the Hebrew Bible. But now, the Washington, D.C. museum has confirmed a bitter truth about the fragments’ authenticity.. Independent researchers funded by the Museum of the Bible announced that all 16 of the museum’s Dead Sea Scroll fragments are modern forgeries that duped external collectors, the museum’s founder, and some of the world’s leading biblical scholars. Officials unveiled the findings at an academic conference hosted by the museum. “The Museum of the Bible is trying to be as transparent as possible,” says CEO Harry Hargrave. “We’re victims - we’re victims of misrepresentation, we’re victims of fraud.” In a report spanning more than 200 pages, a team of researchers led by art fraud investigator Colette Loll found that while the pieces are probably made of ancient leather, they were inked in modern times and modified to resemble real Dead Sea Scrolls. “These fragments were manipulated with the intent to deceive,” Loll says’ (National Geographic). 
Friday 26th February 2021 
 
When they found him on the other side of the lake, they said to him, ‘Rabbi, when did you come here?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal’ (John 6:25-27). 
 
Why do we seek God? For most of us it is probably for a mixture of reasons, some of which we may not be entirely sure of ourselves. There is a need, a yearning deep within us. It is said that there is a void in our lives which we all try to fill somehow. However only God can truly and fully answer that need. 
 
All of a sudden everything is warmer and sunnier. The Spring bulbs are blooming and the days are brighter and longer, lifting our spirits. ‘Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures for ever’ (1 Chronicles 16:34). 
 
Tomorrow the Church remembers George Herbert, priest, pastor and poet. ‘George Herbert was born in 1593, a cousin of the Earl of Pembroke. His mother was a friend of the poet John Donne. George attended Trinity College, Cambridge.. In 1626 he was ordained, and became vicar and then rector of the parish of Bemerton and neighbouring Fugglestone, not far from Salisbury. He served faithfully as a parish priest, diligently visiting his parishioners and bringing them the sacraments when they were ill, and food and clothing when they were in want. He read Morning and Evening Prayer daily in the church, encouraging the congregation to join him when possible, and ringing the church bell before each service so that those who could not come might hear it and pause in their work to join their prayers with his.. His spontaneous generosity and good will won him the affection of his parishioners. Today, however, he is remembered chiefly for his book of poems, The Temple, which he sent shortly before his death to his friend Nicholas Ferrar, to publish if he thought them suitable… Several of them have been used as hymns, in particular “Teach me, my God and King,” and “Let all the world in every corner sing” (http://justus.anglican.org/resources/bio/110.html). 
 
‘It is said that the Church talks a lot about truth but finds honesty difficult. Maybe being truthful is one sure way of worshipping God and might be more acceptable to God than half-hearted pieties and self-proclaiming certainties?’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 18 February 2021). 
 
Next Friday is the World Day of Prayer. If you wish to take part, you can find out more and some resources on their webpage. Also next Friday at 12 o’clock we will be having another virtual Lent lunch. There will be a short reflection and the opportunity for discussion and it will last for 40 minutes. If you would like to join us please have a word with Jo Parsons (01725 512738). 
 
The collect for the commemoration of George Herbert: 
King of glory, king of peace, 
who called your servant George Herbert 
from the pursuit of worldly honours 
to be a priest in the temple of his God and king: 
grant us also the grace to offer ourselves 
with singleness of heart in humble obedience to your service; 
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for all ministers in the village. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for all who minister to the sick, both professionally and those who look after loved ones at home. 
 
‘Teach me, my God and King, in all things thee to see, and what I do in anything to do it as for thee’ (George Herbert). 
 
On 26th February 1909 a colour motion picture was shown to the general public for the first time. A series of 21 short Kinemacolor films were presented at the Palace Theatre in London. Whilst on this day in 1991 the world’s first web browser was demonstrated. The browser “WorldWideWeb” (later renamed “Nexus”) was developed by Tim Berners-Lee, a British computer scientist best known as the inventor of the internet. 
Wednesday 24th February 2021 
 
‘I will call to mind the deeds of the Lord; I will remember your wonders of old. I will meditate on all your work, and muse on your mighty deeds. Your way, O God, is holy. What god is so great as our God? You are the God who works wonders; you have displayed your might among the peoples. With your strong arm you redeemed your people’ (Psalm 77:11-15). 
 
When life is difficult or the outlook seemingly bleak, it can be hard sometimes to see the positives. Yet we can always look back at all that God has done in our lives, all the blessings and joys. We can take strength from that, and so find hope for the future. Then we remember that ‘Prayer is not overcoming God's reluctance. It is laying hold of His willingness’ (Martin Luther). 
 
‘Lent invites us to distil, reimagine and remember the fragile miracle of our own self.. Responsibilities distract us and tell us we’re too involved with the ‘real’ world to be concerned about the spiritual questions. But it is always spiritual questions that make the difference in the way we go about our public and day-to-day lives’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 17 February 2021). 
 
‘The privations of 2020 have prompted others to suggest that self-deprivation for Lent might not be the most appropriate counsel this year. Theatre Chaplaincy UK (TCUK) is offering “Words for the Wilderness (Soft Words for Hard Times)” every Wednesday during Lent, in a video on its YouTube channel. It features a series of well-known actors, including Samantha Bond, Giles Terera, and Rakie Ayola, reading a poem chosen to reflect the themes of Lent and also of the pandemic. These will then be the focus of a Thursday Late Night Lent on Facebook, and a Friday-afternoon discussion group on Zoom’ (Church Times 19 February 2021). 
 
‘It's Fairtrade Fortnight.. and you can 'Choose the world you want' by getting involved with this year's campaign, which will be an online festival. There are dozens of free festival events to dive into, coming from all corners of our global Fairtrade community. From quizzes and expert panel discussions to live music and Q&As with Fairtrade farmers, each event is a unique chance to explore climate, Fairtrade, and choices open to you. With international climate summits like COP26 coming to the UK this year, there is an unmissable opportunity to push world leaders to deliver urgently needed support for those already feeling the worst effects of the climate crisis- farmers and workers who are often behind familiar supermarket staples like bananas, chocolate and coffee. An unjust global trade system means many simply aren’t earning enough to adapt to a changing climate which - through increasingly extreme weather patterns, rising temperatures and more deadly plant diseases – poses an immediate threat to their livelihoods. Many farmers and workers do not earn enough for the basics like critical medical care, decent food and education for their children’ (Diocese of Salisbury Grapevine 18 February 2021). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Heavenly Father, 
your Son battled with the powers of darkness, 
and grew closer to you in the desert: 
help us to use these days to grow in wisdom and prayer 
that we may witness to your saving love 
in Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
I shall be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church this morning. I shall ring the bell at 10:30am and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. The Church will open for private prayer from 11am to 12pm. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for Churches Together in Downton. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for all medical staff, those in hospitals, GP surgeries, Care Homes and research laboratories. We give thanks for all their hard work and dedication, and bring them before God in all the stress, worry and exhaustion that has brought for many. 
 
On 24th February 1582 Pope Gregory XIII ordered the introduction of the Gregorian calendar. Luigi Lilio's reform of the Julian calendar was first introduced in some Catholic countries and is now the world's most widely used calendar. 
Sunday 21st February 2021 
 
'If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. The scripture says, ‘No one who believes in him will be put to shame’ (Romans 10:9-11). 
 
Lent is a time for reflection and self-examination before God - an opportunity to stand back, to pray, and for a renewal and deepening of our faith. It is, as it were, a sort of spiritual spring-clean perhaps (Lent is from an old English word meaning Spring). In the words of our collect, we are to ‘to discipline ourselves in obedience to your Spirit’. ‘Christianity is either fire or it is nothing at all’ (Mother Maria Skobtsova). 
 
‘“The church has - and should - fight against injustices, but I think we are failing on climate change.” That was the message 18 year-old Joe Brindle gave to Synod on Saturday, who also warned, “The church risks losing its next generation of members if it fails to speak up”. Joe, from Devizes, had been invited to speak to Synod to give a voice to the younger generation in our Diocese who are deeply concerned about the climate crisis and want the Church to do more to address it. Quoting Spider-Man in his talk to Synod members attending by Zoom, Joe said: “With great power comes great responsibility. The people who are being most affected by climate change, aren’t those who contribute to it. In fact there is almost an exact inverse correlation - richer countries like the UK cause way more emissions per capita, but suffer way less of the effects of climate change. And this is only getting worse.” Joe explained that he had grown up a Christian and had been “sparked into action” after he had watched a Tearfund video about a woman in Malawi who, due to droughts that had been worsened by climate change, was surviving on corn husks and orange juice sachets alone’ (Diocese of Salisbury Grapevine 18 February 2021). 
 
‘Nearly two-thirds of people in the UK believe that the Covid-19 vaccination should be rolled out equally around the world, and that poorer countries should be given equal access to the vaccines, a new survey suggests… Christian Aid has formed a partnership with the diocese of Gloucester to encourage people who have been vaccinated to “pay it forward” by donating to Christian Aid’s coronavirus appeal. A similar campaign, set up by the Rector of St Andrew’s, Curry Rivel, in Somerset, has raised more than £20,000. The “Twin my vaccine” campaign, set up on the donation site Just Giving by the Revd Scott Patterson, encourages those who have been given a free vaccine to donate towards one for people in the world’s poorest communities. It beat its initial target of £1000 and raised £20,000 in the first two weeks. The money raised will go to UNICEF’s Covid-19 appeal, to deliver vaccines around the world’ (Church Times 19 February). 
 
The collect for this week: 
Almighty God, 
whose Son Jesus Christ fasted forty days in the wilderness, 
and was tempted as we are, yet without sin: 
give us grace to discipline ourselves in obedience to your Spirit; 
and, as you know our weakness, 
so may we know your power to save; 
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
There is a recorded service for today from the church and a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. There is no service in Church. I shall ring the bell in Church at 10:30am and ask that you join me in prayer at that time. The Church will open for private prayer from 11am to 12pm. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we today pray for our Parochial Church Council (PCC) who have been continuing to meet online. There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary on Monday we pray for the Guides and Brownies on this their Thinking Day. On Tuesday we pray for our Forest & Avon Team. 
 
‘Let us never forget to pray. God lives. He is near. He is real. He is not only aware of us but cares for us. He is our Father. He is accessible to all who will seek Him’ (Gordon B. Hinckley). 
 
On 21st February 1958 the peace symbol was designed by Gerald Holtom. Commissioned by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) the symbol combines the semaphore symbols for the letters N and D - an abbreviation of “Nuclear Disarmament”. 
Wednesday 17th February 2021 
 
‘As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life’ (1 Timothy 6:17-19). 
 
We brought nothing into the world and will take nothing from it. So we should be working on those ‘treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal’ (Matthew 6:20). These are the things that will last. ‘The spiritual adventure of following Christ means trying to think critically but live faithfully. This means being open about our questions and scrutiny. Faith is not certainty. It is a relationship and it knows that our flickering communion with God so often deepens through things that unravel us and our securities. Faith works by questioning our answers as much as answering our questions’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 13 February 2021). 
 
Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. Now we turn our thoughts towards Christ’s Passion and Resurrection, and what that means for our own walk with God. There is a service for today from the church. There is a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. There is no Ashes Service in Church. 
 
I shall be using a simple order for Morning Prayerin Church this morning, together with our Roads to God prayers. I shall ring the bell at 10:30am and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. The Church will open for private prayer from 11am to 12pm. If you come to Church this morning during this time of private prayer, I will be available to sprinkle you with ashes as we mark the start of this season of penitence and reflection. 
 
‘It has been said that the heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart. Lent is time set aside each year to take this thought seriously… In the Gospels, the 40 days that Jesus spent in the beguiling wilderness immediately followed his baptism. Coming up out of the water, he had heard the unmistakable voice that matters, telling him he was cherished, wanted, and ready. He then goes into the heat, spending time with himself, hearing other voices that want him to live down to them; but he knows that his vocation can be lived only when he learns to live up to the one voice that he heard that day in the river, not down to the ones that want him to live some indifferent and submerged existence as a consumer of the world and not as a citizen of the Kingdom. We follow him. Where he goes, so do we. A wilderness Lent is needed more than ever to do some heart-repair and start becoming Christians again’ (Mark Oakley, Church Times 12 February 2021). 
 
The collect for today: 
Almighty and everlasting God, 
you hate nothing that you have made 
and forgive the sins of all those who are penitent: 
create and make in us new and contrite hearts 
that we, worthily lamenting our sins 
and acknowledging our wretchedness, 
may receive from you, the God of all mercy, 
perfect remission and forgiveness; 
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary today we pray for our good use of Lent. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for all key workers. 
 
‘Our prayers may be awkward. Our attempts may be feeble. But since the power of prayer is in the one who hears it and not in the one who says it, our prayers do make a difference’ (Max Lucado). 
Sunday 14th February 2021 
 
‘For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honour and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased’ (2 Peter 1:16-17). 
 
This last Sunday before we enter into Lent, we celebrate the Transfiguration of Christ - as he is revealed in his glory on the mountain and joined by Moses and Elijah. Peter, the author of our passage here, was one of the witnesses to this event: ‘He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth’ (John 19:35). So we know he speaks with authority. 
 
Happy St Valentine’s day. ‘The medieval English poet Geoffrey Chaucer often took liberties with history, placing his poetic characters into fictitious historical contexts that he represented as real. No record exists of romantic celebrations on Valentine’s Day prior to a poem Chaucer wrote around 1375. In his work “Parliament of Foules,” he links a tradition of courtly love with the celebration of St. Valentine’s feast day – an association that didn’t exist until after his poem received widespread attention. The poem refers to February 14 as the day birds (and humans) come together to find a mate. When Chaucer wrote, “For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne’s day / Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate,” he may have invented the holiday we know today’ (www.history.com/)
 
Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, when usually we would be having an Ashes Service at the Church of the Good Shepherd. Although we are unable to do that this year, there will be an opportunity to receive the ashes in Church on the morning. These will be sprinkled on our heads rather than imposed in a cross, in line with the current guidelines and regulations. 
 
I remind you that on Friday we will be having a virtual Lent Lunch. It will start at 12 noon and last for 40 minutes. There will be a short reflection and time for a chat. If there is a demand, we will continue this every other week. If you would like to take part, please have a word with Jo Parsons (01725 512738). 
 
The collect for this week: 
Almighty Father, 
whose Son was revealed in majesty 
before he suffered death upon the cross: 
give us grace to perceive his glory, 
that we may be strengthened to suffer with him 
and be changed into his likeness, from glory to glory; 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
There is a recorded service for today from the church - including a reflection from Bishop Nicholas. There is a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. There is no service in Church. I shall ring the bell in Church at 10:30am and ask that you join me in prayer at that time. The Church will open for private prayer from 11am to 12pm. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we today pray for the homeless and refugees. There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary on Monday we pray for those at work worried about social distancing. On Tuesday we pray for those who are alone and depressed. 
 
On 14th February 1946 the first general-purpose high-speed electronic digital computer, the ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer), was demonstrated to the public by its creators, J. Presper Eckert, Jr., and John W. Mauchly. Whilst on 14th February 1984 Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean won the gold medal for ice dancing at the Winter Olympics in Sarajevo with a perfect performance. 
 
‘Understand the creation if you wish to know the Creator…. For those who wish to know the great deep must first review the natural world’ (St Columbanus c. 543-615). 
Friday 12th February 2021 
 
'When the goodness and loving-kindness of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life' (Titus 3:4-7). 
 
Sometimes we put too much on ourselves - expect too much of ourselves. Yet it is not from any righteousness or goodness on our part that we are saved. Rather it is purely through God's love and all that Jesus has done. 'I think the reason we sometimes have the false sense that God is so far away is because that is where we have put him. We have kept him at a distance, and then when we are in need and call on him in prayer, we wonder where he is. He is exactly where we left him' (Ravi Zacharias). 
 
'The pandemic is giving countries in the West a taste of the insecurity experienced for decades by developing countries because of climate change, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said. "The Covid-19 pandemic has forced the world to look at how we have been living and operating, when so much of what was considered 'normal' was not possible," he said on Thursday. "We have been confronted by our behaviour: by our sin; our greed; our human fragility; our exploitation of the environment and encroachment on the natural world. "For many, this uncertainty is new. But many more around the world have been living with uncertainty for decades as the grim, real, and present consequence of climate change. To think it is a problem of the future rather than a scourge of the present is the blind perspective of the privileged." Archbishop Welby was addressing the first of a series of online meetings between global faith leaders in preparation for the COP26 climate-change conference in Glasgow in November... The pandemic had revealed humanity's capacity for change, hope, and interconnectedness, and the response to climate change must make use of this, he said. "Climate change is an issue in which greed, fragility, justice, and interconnectedness come together"' (Church Times 5 February 2021). 
 
'This we know, the Earth does not belong to us; we belong to the Earth. We did not weave the web of life; we are merely a strand in it. Whatever we do to the web we do to ourselves' (Chief Seattle). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Almighty God, 
give us reverence for all creation 
and respect for every person, 
that we may mirror your likeness 
in Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for the Barford Day Centre - 'Open 1 day per week to older & disabled residents of Downton & surrounding villages. providing transport, home cooked lunch, tea, coffee plus games, entertainment & outings, also advice & information, under supervision of trained organiser' (Charity Commission). Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for politicians and their advisors. 
 
'Creation is not a property, which we can rule over at will; or, even less, is the property of only a few: Creation is a gift, it is a wonderful gift that God has given us, so that we care for it and we use it for the benefit of all, always with great respect and gratitude' (Pope Francis). 
 
On 12th February 1709 Alexander Selkirk, the Scottish seaman whose adventures inspired the creation of Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, was taken off Juan Fernandez Island after more than four years of living there alone. While on this day in 1924, George Gershwin's ground-breaking symphonic jazz composition Rhapsody in Blue premieres with Gershwin himself playing the piano with Paul Whiteman's orchestra. 
Wednesday 10th February 2021 
 
‘O taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are those who take refuge in him. O fear the Lord, you his holy ones, for those who fear him have no want. The young lions suffer want and hunger, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing’ (Psalm 34:8-10). 
 
Today the Church remembers Scholastica, the twin sister of St Benedict. Scholastica, we are told, consecrated her life to God from her earliest youth. After her brother went to Monte Cassino, where he established his famous monastery, she took up her abode in the neighbourhood at Plombariola. Here she founded and governed a monastery of nuns, about five miles from that of St. Benedict who, it appears, also directed his sister and her nuns. Scholastica is the patron saint of nuns. 
 
‘An additional 1.2 million people in the UK will be driven to foodbanks if the £20 temporary uplift in Universal Credit is ended in April, the Trussell Trust, the leading foodbank network, has said. The Trust said that its own research had shown that almost a quarter of a million parents feared that they would have to cut back on food for their children this spring if the temporary £20 uplift was removed - as the Government plans. More than two million adults also said that they would be forced to cut back on food for themselves… The Trust forecasts the more people will turn to foodbanks for support if the cut goes ahead. Some 20 per cent, 1.2 million people, of those asked, said that they would have to turn to a foodbank. Demand for foodbanks rose last year, and more children than ever required emergency help. In the first six months of the pandemic, 2600 parcels were provided for children every day by the Trust’s network of foodbanks. Between March and September 2020, 1.2 million parcels were given out to clients’ (Church Times 5 February 2021). 
 
‘Fragments of an ancient fabric such as might have been worn by King David and his son Solomon have been discovered in southern Israel. The material is dyed purple, a colour associated with royalty because it was derived from snail shells in a complex process that made it worth more than gold. The Bible records David as wearing purple robes. Carbon dating of the woven fabric, a tassel, and loose fibres placed their creation to about 1000 BC. King David is believed to have reigned from 1010 to 970 BC, and his son Solomon from 970 to 931 BC. The find was made in the Timna Valley, at a site, Slaves’ Hill, about 20 miles north of the Red Sea port of Eilat. The valley is renown for copper mines dating from the fifth millennium BC, and was dubbed “King Solomon’s Mines” during early excavations in the 1930s’ (Church Times 5 February 2021). 
 
The collect for today: 
We pray, O Lord, that, following the example of Scholastica, 
we may serve you with pure love 
and happily receive what comes from loving you; 
through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, 
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, for ever and ever. Amen. 
 
I shall be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church this morning. I shall ring the bell at 10:30am and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. The Church will open for private prayer from 11am to 12pm. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray that we may grow through God's Word. ‘Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation’ (Articles of Religion). We are encouraged especially to spend time in Bible reading over Lent, and - equally important - reflect on how this should affect and direct our lives. 
Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for our Churchwarden and Deputy Churchwardens. 
 
On 11th February 1858 in Lourdes, 14-year-old Bernadette Soubirous, a miller's daughter, first had her visions of the Virgin Mary that were authenticated by Pope Pius IX in 1862, initiating the devotion of Our Lady of Lourdes. 
 
‘I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day’ (Abraham Lincoln). 
Sunday 7th February 2021 
 
‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?... But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well’ (Matthew 6:25-26,33). 
 
Once again our Bible passage directs us to consider our priorities. What comes first in our lives - worrying about what we have or striving for the kingdom of God. Of course, it is only natural to be concerned that we have a safe and secure basis for our lives. God, though, tells us to let him worry about that, while we concentrate on what he has called us to be and to do. 
 
‘Do we expect God to sit aside and smile wistfully at his errant offspring? ‘There, there. Just my people doing what they please. No matter to me.’ Judgement is an expression of the desire of God, rooted in love. A God who doesn’t judge, doesn’t care. Judgement is not the opposite of love; it is the expression of it’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 26 January 2021, on Hosea chapter 4). 
 
‘The UK Government should demonstrate global moral leadership on the triple emergencies of Covid-19, poverty, and climate change, says a new “Crack the Crises” coalition of organisations representing ten million people in the UK. It was launched on Monday after a YouGov/Save the Children poll showed that 83 per cent of respondents believed that the coronavirus outbreak was better dealt with by countries’ working together to find a solution. Eighty-six per cent and 61 per cent respectively believed that the same was true in relation to climate change and poverty. The coalition has been formed in advance of the UK’s hosting of the G7 nations in Cornwall in June, and the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, in November. It embraces international development agencies such as Christian Aid, Oxfam, CAFOD, Save the Children, and WaterAid; nature conservationists such as the Wildlife Trusts and the Marine Conservation Society; and others, including the National Union of Students, VSO, and 38 Degrees’ (Church Times 2 February 2021). 
 
‘Covid-19 has hit us hard. It has also revealed other shortcomings and challenges that were often unheeded. We are moving into new, uncharted territory. Therefore, there isn’t a map. We are finding our way. Many challenges await us. A deep renewal of our life in Christ, and a determination to shape our life around the things we see in Christ, will be the only way we find what sort of church God wants us to be. He is our compass’ (Stephen Cottrell, Archbishop of York). 
 
The collect for this week: 
Almighty God, 
you have created the heavens and the earth 
and made us in your own image: 
teach us to discern your hand in all your works 
and your likeness in all your children; 
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, 
who with you and the Holy Spirit reigns supreme over all things, 
now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
There is a recorded service for today from the church and a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. There is no service in Church. I shall ring the bell in Church at 10:30am and ask that you join me in prayer at that time. The Church will open for private prayer from 11am to 12pm. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray today for our Team Rector and family - thank you. There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary on Monday we pray for those made redundant or unable to find work. As we hear of yet more well-known companies going into administration, we pray for all those many individuals for whom this has a very direct and immediate impact on their lives. On Tuesday we pray for those in Residential and Nursing Homes, together with all the staff. 
 
‘There is no evidence that church buildings being closed for worship has led to a general feeling that they are not needed’ (Money, People and Buildings, discussion paper). 
Friday 5th February 2021 
 
‘Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’ So we can say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?’ Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever’ (Hebrews 13:5-8). 
 
Jesus is the same: this is both a source of great joy, comfort and hope, as his love and grace enfold us - and also a challenge in these days when all is considered comparative and merely a matter of opinion. We know that we serve and are held fast by the one eternal unchangeable God. Being content with what we have is also at odds with the values of today, when we are supposed always to be striving for more: ‘bigger, better, newer, smarter’ (Michael Flanders). 
 
‘If we take God seriously, we cannot divide the world into sacred and secular, excising God from public life as though God is somehow separate from politics, economics, social policy and cultural perspective, as though God neither sees nor cares. We cannot lock God up in a Victorian box pew and let him out for an hour on Sunday. It is imperative that the Church does not forget that God is active in the world. In societies that, at best, often banish God to the margins, the Church must be robust in praying for our politicians, civic leaders, military heads and business directors, praying into al! areas of public life - and allowing our intercessions to shape our subsequent actions. As the psalmist puts it: 'The earth is the Lord's and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it' (Psalm 24.1)’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 30 January 2021). 
 
As we continue to endure the lockdown, there are signs of hope appearing all around us - from the steady progress of the vaccine emerging from the dedication and hard work of so many, to the spring bulbs poking through the earth with their annual promise of renewal. All this reminds us that we live in God’s world and that he is at work among us. 
 
‘Prayer is never restricted to people of faith, the Archbishop of York, the Most Revd Stephen Cottrell, has said. He encouraged the whole nation to pray daily for all those who had died, those who were suffering and grieving, and those who were working to save and improve the lives of others during the pandemic. More than 100,000 people in the UK have died from Covid-19 since its outbreak last March. To mark this “terrible milestone” last week, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York invited the nation to pray and to “reflect on the enormity of this pandemic” on each day in February, beginning at 6 p.m. this evening (News, 26 January). The focus this week will be on schools and colleges, and children and young people. Archbishop Cottrell told BBC Radio 4’s Sunday programme this week: “It is a profound and simple thing; but it is the one thing that we can all do. . . I believe that by praying we can make a difference and we can begin to be that difference’ (Church Times 1 February 2021). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
God of our salvation, 
help us to turn away from those habits which harm our bodies 
and poison our minds 
and to choose again your gift of life, 
revealed to us in Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for the bereaved. At this time we remember especially the families of Dennis Johnson and Yvonne Livesey who both died last week. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for the Trafalgar School at Downton. 
 
‘Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul. It is daily admission of one's weakness. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart’ (Mahatma Gandhi). 
Monday 3rd February 2021 
 
‘Lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. Pursue peace with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord’ (Hebrews 12:12-14). 
 
Today the letter to the Hebrews has a very important lesson. It tells us how to look at the pains and sufferings that occur in our life. We should not be discouraged by such experiences nor should we take such things lightly. We may not be able to avoid pain coming into our own lives, but God is always with us in and through it all. Nor should we ever be the source of pain in the lives of other people. 
 
Bishop Nicholas has announced that he is retiring. ‘The Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam, will retire on the 3rd July 2021, a month short of his 67th birthday. He will have been Bishop of Salisbury for ten years. “Being the Bishop of Salisbury has been a privilege and a joy”, the Bishop said. “In present circumstances, the timing of my retirement has not been an easy decision but it feels right to me and to those I have consulted. The impact of the pandemic is going to be felt for a long time. The diocese is developing a Mission and Pastoral Plan and we have an agreed financial framework with which to face the future with confidence. We continue to be about Renewing Hope as we Pray, Serve and Grow.” 
 
We are now looking ahead to Lent, which begins in a fortnight. To mark Ash Wednesday, there will be an opportunity to receive ashes during the time of private prayer at Church in the morning. I will give more details later. Also we will be having a virtual Lent Lunch. It will be on Friday 19th February and 12 noon for 40 minutes. There will be a short reflection and time for a chat. If there is a demand, we will continue this every other week. If you would like to take part, please have a word with Jo Parsons (01725 512738). 
 
‘God’s knowing is intimate and total. This knowing is deeply comforting - or profoundly threatening. For the humble of heart, to be known by God offers deep assurance. To reach out and receive forgiveness when we have slipped up in stupidity is the source of all solace. However, if we spurn God, the same fact of God’s knowledge is terrifying; hence the need to dig deep into resistance. Barricaded by pride, we entertain the illusion that all is fine. God is denied, ignored, or treated as just another player in the game, rather than the maker of all things’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 27 January 2021). 
 
The collect for this week: 
Almighty God, 
by whose grace alone we are accepted 
and called to your service: 
strengthen us by your Holy Spirit 
and make us worthy of our calling; 
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
I shall be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church this morning. I shall ring the bell at 10:30am and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. The Church will open for private prayer from 11am to 12pm. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray today for all who rely on food aid. Demand at the Salisbury Foodbank has been up week on week since August. As many have remarked, it is staggering that in a wealthy country such as ours so many should be unable to feed themselves and their families. We give thanks for the hard work of all the Foodbanks and those who work for and with them. 
Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for our Church School. Our schools have been doing an amazing job, but it has been extremely hard work. We bear the staff in our prayers and give thanks for their dedication and commitment. 
 
‘Politics does not have to be a raging fire destroying everything in its path. Every disagreement does not have to be a cause for total war. We must reject the culture in which facts themselves are manipulated and manufactured’ (Joe Biden, inauguration speech, 20 January). 
Sunday 31st January 2021 
 
‘They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes… They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching - with authority!”’ (Mark 1:21-22,27) 
 
The Presentation of Christ in the Temple forty days after his birth marks the end of the Christmas/Epiphany season. The actual date of the Feast of the Presentation is on Tuesday, but we are celebrating it today. For those still with your lights or decorations up, it is the time to take them down. If your crib is out, now we should put it away. 
 
Here we are reminded both of the incredible love and grace of God in coming among us as a weak and vulnerable baby - and his long-term perspective working across the ages to draw us all to himself. From today our focus shifts forward as we think about our own walk with God (in Lent) and begin looking towards Jesus’ Passion and the events of Easter. 
 
‘The second woman to be ordained priest in the Anglican Church of Kenya, Canon Emily Awino Onyango, has been appointed as an Assistant Bishop in the diocese of Bondo, the Anglican News Service reports. She will be the first female Anglican bishop anywhere in East Africa. Her appointment was unanimously approved by the diocesan synod last week. Canon Onyango was made deacon in 1984 and ordained priest in 1986. She is currently a senior lecturer at St Paul’s University, where she teaches church history in the Faculty of Theology. She chairs the Africa Centre for Biblical Equity and is a founder member of the Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians. She was appointed a Canon in Bondo diocese in 2018. As Bishop, she will focus on the training of clergy, women’s ministry within the Church, and gender issues, including the empowerment of boys and girls and tackling gender-based violence’ (Church Times 22 January 2021). 
 
The collect for today: 
Almighty and ever-living God, 
clothed in majesty, 
whose beloved Son was this day presented in the Temple, 
in substance of our flesh: 
grant that we may be presented to you 
with pure and clean hearts, 
by your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
There is a recorded service for today from the church - including a reflection from Bishop Andrew. There is a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. There is no service in Church. I shall ring the bell in Church at 10:30am and ask that you join me in prayer at that time. The Church will open for private prayer from 11am to 12pm. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we today pray for our mission and ministry as a Church. It has been difficult at times to know how we should respond to the current situation. Whatever happens, though, we continue to proclaim God’s love and saving grace in our midst and to pray for our village and community. 
There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary on Monday we pray for our Lay Pastoral Assistants (LPAs). On Tuesday we pray for peace in the world. 
 
The February issue of Downton Parish News is now available free to view or download. For those unable to access our magazine through the website, there will be a few printed copies available (free) in the Co-op, Chemist and Woodfalls Post Office. Please can you let anyone know that you think may want one - or collect one for them. They and we would be most grateful. 
 
On 31st January 1958 Explorer 1 was the first artificial space satellite orbited by the United States, marking the country's entry into the space race. While on this day in 1966 the Soviet Union launched Luna 9, the first spacecraft to make a soft landing on the Moon. 
Friday 29th January 2021 
 
He also said, ‘With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade’ (Mark 4:30-32). 
 
God achieves the most amazing things using the very smallest of beginnings. However tiny we may feel is our contribution to the Kingdom, God uses it to his glory. However weak and faltering our faith, God acts in us and through us, rejoicing in us and building us up, drawing us more fully to himself, and working for the salvation of all. 
 
‘God wants us. How easily we forget this. It’s as though we close the shades and huddle around a feeble fire of our own making, enormously proud of its weak warmth. God whispers, ‘Draw back the curtains and stand in my light.’ Do we opt for a dying heat source when God offers the sun? Paul presses on because he knows his purpose and direction, he understands the goal of his desires. ‘Christ Jesus has made me his own’’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 25 January 2021). 
 
‘The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have invited the British people to pause each evening from the start of next month to “reflect on the enormity of this pandemic”, and to pray. In an open letter to the nation, issued on Tuesday, the Archbishops write: “As we reach the terrible milestone of 100,000 deaths from Covid-19, we invite everyone in our nation to pause as we reflect on the enormity of this pandemic”… The Archbishops write: “100,000 isn’t just an abstract figure. Each number is a person: someone we loved and someone who loved us. We also believe that each of these people was known to God and cherished by God.” They encourage anyone “who is feeling scared, or lost, or isolated to cast their fears on God”’ (Church Times 26 January 2021). 
 
There are copies of the latest Christian Aid magazine available (free) in Church. There is also a copy of their Impact Report 2020. 
 
The prayer after communion for this week: 
Almighty Father, 
whose Son our Saviour Jesus Christ is the light of the world: 
may your people, 
illumined by your word and sacraments, 
shine with the radiance of his glory, 
that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed 
to the ends of the earth; 
for he is alive and reigns, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for our Archbishop, Justin Welby. What Archbishop Justin says and does - or does not do or say - can have a big impact on people’s perception of the Church. We pray for God’s wisdom, guidance and courage on him and his ministry. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for our Lay Pastoral Assistants (LPAs). 
 
Tomorrow the Church remembers Charles, King and Martyr. This is Charles I who was executed on 30th January 1649. Charles is regarded as a martyr because, it is said, he was offered his life if he would abandon the historic episcopacy (bishops) in the Church of England - but he refused. However, many would see Charles’ death primarily as part of the political struggle between King and Parliament rather than a religious matter. The Society of King Charles the Martyr campaigns for the restoration in England of the observance to the Book of Common Prayer. 
 
‘During the first lockdown, I had an encounter that I’ll never forget. As I was walking down the lane outside the church, a neighbour called Steve stopped me and asked whether or not it was true that we had been closed down for public masses. I replied that it was indeed true. Steve, with the characteristic frankness you would expect of a man who played several times for Millwall in the 1960s, shook his head sadly and said: “Either it matters or it don’t”’ (Jonathan Beswick, The Spectator, 16 January). 
 
On 29th January 1924 the first machine for rolling ice cream cones was patented by Carl Rutherford Taylor of Cleveland, Ohio. 
Wednesday 27th January 2021 
 
By a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us, for after saying, ‘This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds’, he also adds, ‘I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more’ (Hebrews 10:14-17). 
 
In Jesus we have a new relationship with God - one based on the Spirit not on a system of laws. This is a relationship of love – God's love for us and our response to that. So the Church is revealed as the Bride of Christ. ‘John the Baptist will shortly be describing Jesus as the bridegroom and himself as the best man. The wedding celebrations are ready to begin. Glory is revealed. The disciples believe. This is the marriage of heaven and earth. The world is a wedding and we are all invited’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 4 January 2021). 
 
‘Spirituality and solidarity are inseparably linked. Abiding in Christ, we receive the strength and wisdom to act against structures of injustice and oppression, to fully recognise ourselves as brothers and sisters in humanity, and to be creators of a new way of living, with respect for and communion with all of creation’ (Introduction to the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity booklet). 
 
‘Christians around the world have faced increased persecution as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, including the refusal of access to emergency aid and increased surveillance and violence, a watchdog has reported. The charity Open Doors compiles an annual World Watch List of countries in which Christians face persecution. This year, it calculates, one in eight Christians around the world have been subject to some form of persecution or discrimination as a result of their faith. The total, 340 million, is 30 million higher than in 2020. Covid-19 has exacerbated the persecution, researchers say. In countries in Asia, there are widespread reports that Christians are being denied Covid-related assistance. Some reported being told that “Your Church or your God should feed you” as they were refused help. In China, there has been a tightening surveillance of Christians. China has moved up into the top 20 on the list for the first time in decades’ (Church Times 22 January 2021). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
God of all mercy, 
your Son proclaimed good news to the poor, 
release to the captives, 
and freedom to the oppressed: 
anoint us with your Holy Spirit 
and set all your people free 
to praise you in Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
I shall be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church this morning. I shall ring the bell at 10:30am and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. The Church will open for private prayer from 11am to 12pm. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for those who are alone and lonely. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for the housebound. With lockdown and all its abundant restrictions, many of those who live alone are starved of human contact and the simple touch of a loved one. 
 
‘The Bishops are offering weekly video reflections in the form of a short homily/sermon that could be used in your Sunday online service.. They will then be published on YouTube at 1.00 pm on a Sunday, and therefore be available for a wider audience. The Bishops have also suggested that churches might also like to consider using the sermons throughout Lent’ (Diocese of Salisbury 21 January 2021). 
 
Today marks the birth, in 1756 of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Generally considered a musical genius, his music continues to delight, inspire and encourage us - brightened our days. 
 
On 28th January 1813 Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice was published anonymously and enjoyed immediate success, thanks in part to the popularity of the central character, Elizabeth Bennet, who was reportedly Austen's own favourite among all her heroines. 
Sunday 24th January 2021 
 
‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him… Those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God’ (John 3:16-17,21). 
 
Sometimes we need simply to return to the heart of the Gospel - that God in his great love for us sent Jesus as our Saviour. We have not earned this; we do not deserve it - but God has done it anyway. ‘In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins’ (1 John 4:10). So, as we wake up this morning to a light blanket of snow across the village, we are reminded that this is God’s world and we do not direct or control it. 
 
‘People caught in poverty are bearing the brunt of a serious housing crisis, made worse by the pandemic, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said. That eight million people in this country live in unaffordable, insecure, or unsustainable housing is an issue of justice that must be tackled now.. Archbishop Welby was speaking in advance of the publication next month of the report by the Archbishops’ Commission on Housing, Church and Community (ACHCC), which will advocate increased collaboration between churches, housing associations, and communities (News, 12 April 2019). 
The Commission has established five core values that it suggests will set a new standard for what good housing should look like, and ensure that everyone has a good home. First, houses should be safe - free from dangers like damp, fire, intruders or cold - and warm, “a place where we feel protected and at home.. Second, they should be stable - “Many people live in fear of the constant threat of eviction” - and affordable: “Places where individuals and families can settle and put down roots without the fear of disruption.” Third, they should be sustainable. “We need to create housing that that does not harm our planet but sustains the balance of the natural world we live in and depend on, for now and for future generations,” he explained. They must also be sociable, with “enough space inside and outside to socialise, exercise, interact, to get to know our neighbours, and be part of a community”. Finally, they should be satisfying, using efficient, innovative design and technology to create spaces that are comfortable, “a place where we truly belong”. 
Archbishop Welby continued: “Now more than ever, we are each and all called to respond to this crisis. If we adopt these values that the Housing Commission has suggested, we can make sure that no one faces the injustice of poor housing, that everyone has a good home”’ (Church Times 21 January 2021). 
 
The collect for this week: 
Almighty God, 
whose Son revealed in signs and miracles 
the wonder of your saving presence: 
renew your people with your heavenly grace, 
and in all our weakness 
sustain us by your mighty power; 
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
There is a recorded service for today from the church and a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. There is no service in Church. I shall ring the bell in Church at 10:30am and ask that you join me in prayer at that time. The Church will open for private prayer from 11am to 12pm. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we today pray for the homeless and all refugees. The weak, vulnerable and powerless are all too often left out or pushed to the back of the queue. Yet God is clear that they are close to his heart and his first priority. ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour’ (Luke 4:18-19). We pray also for all those for whom snow is not a delight to see but presents real and present difficulties. 
There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. On Monday the Church celebrates the Conversion of St Paul and in our Parish Prayer Diary we pray that we may share our faith. On Tuesday we pray for all who serve our community. 
Friday 22nd January 2021 
 
‘Even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth - as in fact there are many gods and many lords - yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist’ (1 Corinthians 8:5-6). 
 
What are our priorities and values, individually and as a society? This has been very much a live issue of late. Ultimately, though, the question that really matters for us is: Do we follow God’s true ways or gods of our own making and desires? We are challenged to look deep within ourselves, asking God to shine his light in the darkness. ‘What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it’ (John 1:3-5). 
 
‘The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.. brings together people around the world in a practice that predates the technological togetherness of Zoom: prayer. Prayer helps people to stay connected through the pandemic, even while physical contact is so limited, the interim deputy general secretary for the World Council of Churches (WCC), the Revd Dr Odair Pedroso Mateus, has said. The WCC organises the week with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, in Rome. “Prayer often involves a kind of self-isolation, focusing our minds and hearts on the love of Christ; but when we pray for unity, we enter into closer communion with our brothers and sisters in Christ,” Dr Mateus said. The theme for this year’s week of prayer is “Abide in my love, and you will bear much fruit”’ (Church Times 15 January 2021). 
 
‘More than half the 12,500 Anglican parishes in England have closed their churches to public worship, despite permission to remain open under current Covid-19 lockdown rules. Rising concern about the risk of spreading the virus has led many clergy and PCCs to suspend services, replacing them with online worship. Other clergy have ended public worship because they, too, are shielding. While standards of bio-security inside churches are generally good, many of the worries focus on the possible mingling before and after services. Some clergy have complained about having to make the decision themselves; but a C of E spokesman said: “The circumstances in each place will inform a local decision. While many churches have decided to offer digital services only for the time being, others are continuing to remain open in a Covid-secure way, for individual prayer and public worship. “We urge everyone to be exceptionally cautious, and, in particular, to do everything possible to prevent mingling outside of households and support bubbles. We acknowledge and share the sadness many are feeling at not being able to meet together as we would usually do at the moment, and prayerfully and confidently look forward to better times ahead’ (Church Times 20 January 2021). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Eternal Lord, 
our beginning and our end: 
bring us with the whole creation 
to your glory, hidden through past ages 
and made known 
in Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for the Barford Day Centre. For many of those who belong this has been a particularly difficult time of isolation and loneliness. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for our Bishops and all Church Leaders. We pray especially for wisdom and courage that they may speak God’s truth to the nation and those in authority. 
 
‘God knows we’re dealing with a bad situation with no perfect solution. All he asks is that we keep praying and do what we believe to be the loving thing. He’ll keep feeding us & making us holy when we ask him to, because he refuses to lose a single one of us’ (Emma Bourne @HolyCountenance, Twitter, 9 January) 
 
On 22nd January 1901 Queen Victoria - who reigned for more than 60 years, during which time the British Empire reached the apex of its power - died at the age of 81. She was succeeded by Edward VII, aged 59. 
Wednesday 20th January 2021 
 
‘Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who live in it. Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills sing together for joy at the presence of the Lord, for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity’ (Psalm 98:7-9). 
 
Here we have a salutary reminder of God’s all-encompassing power and authority as we see and live through the consequences of living and acting as if the world is ours to do what we wish. ‘The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it’ (Psalm 24:1). 
 
‘The Pope has criticised those who have fled abroad to escape tough lockdowns in their own countries. Speaking in a video address earlier this month, he said that he had been “saddened” by newspaper reports of people escaping lockdown by flying abroad to go on holiday. “They didn’t think about those who were staying at home, of the economic problems of many people who have been hit hard by the lockdown, of the sick people. [They thought] only about going on holiday and having fun,” he said. The Vatican has been among the most prominent voices urging that vaccines be distributed equitably, and that poorer countries not be left behind’ (Church Times 15 January 2021). 
 
A Prayer for Christian Unity: 
Lord Jesus, who prayed that we might all be one, 
we pray to you for the unity of Christians, 
according to your will, 
according to your means. 
May your Spirit enable us 
to experience the suffering caused by division, 
to see our sin 
and to hope beyond all hope. Amen. 
 
‘Our Social Justice Manager Colin Brady led Staff Prayers this week. Praying with those of other traditions, sharing life and learning together, can bring true richness and be deeply moving. Resources uploaded to the Diocesan Staff Prayers page include a PowerPoint and a sample script’ (Diocese of Salisbury Grapevine 15 January 2021). 
 
I shall be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church this morning, together with our Roads to God prayers which you may wish to use along with it. I shall ring the bell at 10:30am and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. The Church will open for private prayer from 11am to 12pm. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for charities struggling to continue their work and fundraising. ‘Politicians have become more hostile to charity campaigning over the last twelve months, according to a survey conducted by the Sheila McKechnie Foundation. The foundation accused politicians of trying to “slam shut the doors of Whitehall” against charities, after 90% of campaigners said they believed their right to criticise government policies was under threat. A large majority of the campaigners surveyed also blamed negative media coverage for making lobbying harder’ (Civil Society News 15 January 2021). 
Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for peace in the world. 
 
Today we pray also for Joe Biden, as he is inaugurated as the new President of the United States. ‘And so the world watches America - the only great power in history made up of people of every race and faith and cultural practice - to see if our experiment in democracy can work... The jury’s still out’ (Barak Obama, preface to his autobiography A Promised Land, 2020). 
 
On 21st January 1793 Louis XVI, king of France, was executed by guillotine in Paris during the French Revolution. In 1972, Chinese premier Zhou Enlai is reported to have remarked “Too early to say” when asked about the impact of the French Revolution. However, in fact he may have been referring to the 1968 student uprising in Paris. 
Sunday 17th January 2021 
 
‘O Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, you know it completely. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it.’ (Psalm 139:1-6). 
 
Our readings at this time continue on the theme of the manifestation of Jesus in the world, that is to say Jesus being revealed for who he is to and for the world. Last week we had his baptism by John in the Jordan and today we see him start to gather his disciples around him. They are an eclectic bunch and probably not the ones we would have chosen. So Jesus reveals a vision far greater and higher than our earth-bound understanding - a vision encompassing nothing less than the salvation of the world. ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts’ (Isaiah 55:8-9). 
 
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity begins tomorrow. This is a time for us to remember and reflect on the fact that we are all members of the one true living Church. We may express this in different ways; have various emphases on what really matters and how we should do things; or find God’s strength and renewal in distinct ways - but ultimately what matters is that we all belong to Christ. ‘For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another’ (Romans 12:4-5). 
 
‘Women may now serve canonically as lectors and acolytes in the Roman Catholic Church, after a change to canon law announced by Pope Francis on Monday. These lay ministries, which include reading biblical texts at mass, carrying the processional cross, presenting the Bible to the priest, bringing the bread and wine to the altar, and assisting at communion, had previously been described as open only to “suitable male faithful”, because they were considered preparatory to eventual admission to Holy Orders. Around the world, however, women were already doing these things, authorised by local bishops: something that the Vatican acknowledged as “nothing new” in its explanation of the move. “Now, in the wake of the discernment which has emerged from the last Synod of Bishops, Pope Francis wanted to formalise and institutionalise the presence of women at the altar,” it explained. The Pope makes a clear distinction in the letter between lay and ordained ministries’ (Church Times 15 January 2021). 
 
The collect for this week: 
Almighty God, 
in Christ you make all things new: 
transform the poverty of our nature by the riches of your grace, 
and in the renewal of our lives 
make known your heavenly glory; 
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
There is a recorded service for today from the church and a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. There is no service in Church. I shall ring the bell in Church at 10:30am and ask that you join me in prayer at that time. The Church will open for private prayer from 11am to 12pm. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we today pray for all key workers. Many of them are stressed and tired, and often the focus of other peoples’ frustration. There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary on Monday we pray for this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. On Tuesday we pray that we might work together for the Church. 
 
‘Washington has a choice to make - all of us have a choice to make: will we continue to divide, distract, and dishonour one another, or will we love our neighbours as we love ourselves?’ (Raphael Warnock, on winning a US Senate seat, 6 January). 
Friday 15th January 2021 
 
‘Do not pronounce judgement before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive commendation from God’ (1 Corinthians 4:5). 
 
It is too easy - and we all are inclined to do it - to look at another and imagine that we know their condition, what they need or deserve. However, none of us truly knows what is in someone else’s mind, or the hopes, fears, possibilities and constrictions of their life. Only God knows us as we really are. The utterly amazing thing is that, knowing us fully as he does, yet he loves us and wants to draw us to himself. 
 
‘The Church of England Pensions Board has welcomed pledges by eight of the world’s leading oil and gas producers on moving the energy industry away from fossil fuels. The companies - BP, Eni, Equinor, Galp, Occidental Petroleum Corporation, Repsol, Royal Dutch Shell, and Total - have jointly agreed to apply six Energy Transition Principles. They are to: support publicly the goals of the 2015 Paris agreement on climate change; work to reduce carbon emissions from their own operations and by customers and society; develop and promote approaches to reducing emissions; support and promote development of emissions sinks, such as carbon capture and utilisation and storage technology; provide disclosure related to climate-change risks and opportunities; and report information about their memberships of industry and trade associations and their alignment with the companies’ key climate-advocacy and -policy positions… Climate Action 100+ is an investors’ initiative launched in 2017 to put pressure on the world’s largest corporate greenhouse-gas emitters to take action in response to climate change. It is backed by more than 500 investors with more than £37.8 trillion in assets under management’ (Church Times 8 January 2021). 
 
Fairtrade Fortnight is approaching - 22 February to 7 March 2021. Learn more.. 
 
The prayer after communion for this week: 
Lord of all time and eternity, 
you opened the heavens and revealed yourself as Father 
in the baptism of Jesus your beloved Son: 
by the power of your Spirit 
complete the heavenly work of our rebirth 
through the waters of the new creation; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for the bereaved and all who mourn. We remember especially all who are unable to be with their loved one at the end or are unable to attend their funeral. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for all School Governors, giving thanks for the hard work so many put in to support our schools. 
 
On 15th January 1759 the British Museum opened to the public. ‘It was the first national museum to cover all fields of human knowledge, open to visitors from across the world… The Museum is driven by an insatiable curiosity for the world, a deep belief in objects as reliable witnesses and documents of human history, sound research, as well as the desire to expand and share knowledge’ (The British Museum story). 
 
‘A new year’s resolution? Can’t improve much on this - to live SIMPLER - happiness is not found in buying more stuff; HUMBLER - I am not the answer to the world’s problems; BOLDER - to speak more often of the one who is’ (Graham Tomlin, Bishop of Kensington, Twitter, 1 January) 
 
‘Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe’ (John 20:29). 
Wednesday 13th January 2021 
 
‘He had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested’ (Hebrews 2:17-18). 
 
The amazing, incredible story we have been celebrating these past weeks is that Jesus is God become human. He has taken on our mortal nature with all that this implies. Jesus is both fully God and fully human; he is one with us; he shares in all the joys and sorrows of our condition. ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him’ (John 3:16-17). 
 
Today the Church remembers Hilary of Poitiers (c. 300-368 AD). Also known as Hilarius, he was bishop of Poitiers in Gaul (today’s France) and an eminent doctor of the Western Christian Church. A sometimes persecuted champion against the theological movement of Arianism, he was known as the “Athanasius of the West.” Arius taught that although God the Son indeed pre-existed as a divine being before the creation of the Universe, he was not “co-eternal” with God the Father. The orthodox position, championed by Athanasius, held that the Father and Son existed together with the Holy Spirit from the beginning. Further disagreements involved the question of whether the Son and the Father were of the “same substance” and whether the Son was in any way subservient to the Father. 
 
‘Churches have been alerted to a potential increase in lead thefts, as four men who caused more than £2 million-worth of damage to 20 rural churches were sentenced. The men targeted churches from Dorset to Yorkshire between 2018 and 2020 (News, 4 October 2019). Many of the churches had little or no insurance cover for lead theft… Handing down long prison terms at Lincoln Crown Court last week, Judge Sjölin Knight described the four as “sophisticated, persistent, and organised”. She said: “Those losses fall on the parish. Small congregations struggle to pay the cost. These were very serious theft offences, not because of the lead you took but by the nature of the buildings targeted”’ (Church Times 8 January 2021). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Heavenly Father, 
at the Jordan you revealed Jesus as your Son: 
may we recognize him as our Lord 
and know ourselves to be your beloved children; 
through Jesus Christ our Saviour. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
I will be using simple order for Morning Prayer in Church this morning and I shall ring the bell at 10:30am and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. The Church will open for private prayer from 11am to 12pm. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for those at work worried about social distancing. Many people have no option but to work, often in very difficult circumstances. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for all visitors to our Churches. They may have been unable to go in, but may have stood outside, paused in the churchyard or visited us online. 
 
‘Many more churches and cathedrals have closed their buildings to communal worship, in the light of the dangerously increasing Covid-19 infection rate. Direct requests to do so have come from local authorities. There is also widespread unease within faith communities about the government exemption which allows places of worship to remain open during national lockdown (News, 4 January). Churches had been faced with an “impossible, unfair and unsustainable dilemma”, and critical public-health decisions had, in effect, been outsourced to local churches, the Bishop of Burnley, the Rt Revd Philip North, said on Monday’ (Church Times 11 January 2021). 
Sunday 10th January 2021 
 
‘Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be crushed until he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his teaching’ (Isaiah 42:1-4). 
 
Here is our Saviour, the Messiah, Christ. He is our King who gives himself for us, even to death. Our hope, our future, is in him - and he will hold it and us secure in his love. ‘God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins’ (1 John 4:9-10). 
 
So, as we seek to maintain our Church life without meeting together, we remind ourselves that our faith is rooted in God himself and held safe in his hands. We are his children and members of his eternal kingdom. ‘For whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith. Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?’ (1 John 5:4-5) - ‘for thine be the kingdom, the power and the glory for ever and ever’. 
 
The collect for this week: 
Eternal Father, 
who at the baptism of Jesus 
revealed him to be your Son, 
anointing him with the Holy Spirit: 
grant to us, who are born again by water and the Spirit, 
that we may be faithful to our calling as your adopted children; 
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray today for politicians and their advisors. There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary on Monday we pray for those in financial difficulties. On Tuesday we pray for all medical staff: those in hospitals, GP surgeries, Care and Residential Homes, research laboratories and wherever they may be. We remember especially those tasked with administering the vaccine on top of all their other responsibilities. 
 
There is a recorded service for today from the church and copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. There is no service in Church as we have decided to suspend worship for the time being due to the current situation. I shall ring the bell in Church at 10:30am and ask that you join me in prayer at that time. The Church will be open for private prayer from 11am until 12noon. 
 
‘The Greek Orthodox Church refused to close its buildings this week, defying an order from Greek government to close places of worship amid rising coronavirus cases. The Holy Synod issued a statement on Monday saying that it did “not consent to the Government’s measures” and that its churches would remain open to celebrate Epiphany, including ceremonies of blessing of the waters. It said that the Church had not been consulted about the new tighter restrictions, which came into force on Saturday. A government response on Monday said: “The law cannot be applied at whim, so that whoever disagrees with it can just ignore it”’ (Church Times 8 January 2021). 
 
We have a contribution from Ron Hart, who was due to take our service in St Laurence today. Thank you, Ron. 
 
On 10th January 1863 London Underground began operations, when the Metropolitan Railway opened its 3.75-mile line to the public using gas-lit wooden carriages hauled by steam locomotives. 
Friday 8th January 2021 
 
‘This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one that testifies, for the Spirit is the truth… And this is the testimony: God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life’ (1 John 5:6,11-12). 
 
While most of us took down our decorations on Wednesday, we hear that some people are keeping them up. In these dark winter days we need the light of hope, the message of Christmas, to shine more brightly. ‘Leave up Christmas decorations and keep the halls decked with boughs of holly until February to bring cheer in the dark winter months, English Heritage has said. The charity is appealing to the public to follow the traditions of their medieval ancestors and leave festive decorations up until Candlemas on February 2’ (Salisbury Journal 5 January 2021). 
 
‘The Government’s exemption of public worship in the new lockdown, which started on Wednesday, is meeting resistance from clergy in areas where the number of coronavirus infections is highest… Shortly after Boris Johnson’s announcement, the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, who chairs the Church of England’s Covid-19 recovery group, stated: “Some may feel that it is currently better not to attend in person, and there will be parishes which decide to offer only digital services for the time being. Clergy who have concerns, or others who are shielding, should take particular care and stay at home”’ (Church Times 6 January 2021). 
 
Having taken the decision to suspend our public worship, it is important that we continue to proclaim that even so the Church is still open and praying. So ‘let us.. lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith’ (Hebrews 12:1-2). 
 
‘People in the Roman Empire often regarded Christianity as a religion fit only for slaves, and that, of course, is exactly what it was: it was a religion that in principle turned the world upside down, which (as the Magnificat puts it) “cast down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted the humble and meek”… If we recognise Jesus as humanity’s Messiah, we are accepting that these values are to be our values, and that we will work to try to see them implemented in our world. That involves personal dedication, and it may also require political action. But in no way may we seek to implement these values by methods that contradict the values themselves; for that is to drop back into the kind of activity from which Jesus came to set the human race free… He provides the guiding thread with which we can trace the hand of God in all that went before him, giving us knowledge of the real questions to which we need God’s answers’ (Professor John Barton, Church Times). 
 
‘Jesus knew how deadly the pursuit of unredeemed ‘greatness’ really is. He knew the brutality of a society preoccupied with power, hierarchy and influence where greatness, significance and status are only sustained by oppressing the least. And this explains his fierce judgement on the abuse of the most vulnerable by the powerful. Then, and now, his words are designed to shock his disciples and to provoke a deep, penitent reappraisal of the priorities and goals we live by’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 28 December 2020 - Holy Innocents). 
 
The prayer after communion for this week: 
Lord God, 
the bright splendour whom the nations seek: 
may we who with the wise men have been drawn by your light 
discern the glory of your presence in your Son, 
the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for those at University and College. This is a particularly difficult time for them as their education is disrupted once again. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for all those in Residential and Nursing Homes. 
 
‘The greatest crisis in any age - and its greatest hope - is always God’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 6 January 2021). 
Wednesday 6th January 2021 
 
'May all kings fall down before him, all nations give him service. For he delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper. He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy. From oppression and violence he redeems their life; and precious is their blood in his sight’ (Psalm 72:11-14). 
 
Today is the Feast of the Epiphany, the twelfth day of Christmas, which focuses on the Magi and the star. Epiphany means “manifestation” or “appearance” as we celebrate the manifestation of Christ in the world - our Saviour King. The three gifts from the Magi led to the tradition that there were three wise men - although the text does not give a number. Traditionally this is when our trees and decorations come down. However the Crib will remain until 2nd February, reminding us that the full Christmas season is 40 days - leading up to Jesus’ Presentation in the Temple. 
 
So, once again we are in full national lockdown - almost as it all began last year. However now at least we have the hope of a vaccine, although full rollout may take a while, and public worship in Church is permitted. 
 
However, we have taken the decision not to continue with services here for the time being. This was not an easy decision to make, but it would appear that Downton and Morgan's Vale are currently a Covid-19 hotspot (according to the Salisbury Journal there are 39 cases; +29 on the previous week). So this would seem a sensible precaution. This means that there will be no service at St Laurence on Sunday and until further notice. A similar decision has been made across our Team. This is in line with permission given by Bishop Nicholas, and I have informed him of our decision. We will continue, though, with Private Prayer in Church on a Wednesday morning at least for the time being. We place ourselves in God’s hands, for ‘we walk by faith, not by sight’ (2 Corinthians 5:7). 
 
‘Parish giving in the Church of England has slumped by about £40 million during the pandemic. The latest figures presented to the Archbishops’ Council for the first ten months of 2020 are said to show a 7.8-per-cent fall in income compared with the same period the previous year… Part of the fall can be attributed to church closures, loss of fees for services such as weddings, and reduced congregations because of social distancing or a fear of becoming infected in or on the way to church. Parishes that have relied on cash or cheques in the collection plate have suffered greater losses than those that have successfully promoted giving by standing order or direct debit. Another factor is the loss of income from the hire of church buildings for outside events. Parishes that earn much of their revenue from rent - for community groups and businesses - have also suffered loss of income’ (Church Times 1 January 2021). 
 
We pray: 
Almighty and eternal God, 
Brightness of faithful souls, 
you brought the Gentiles to your light, 
and made known to them him who is the true Light, 
and the bright and morning Star. 
Fill the world with your glory, 
and show yourself by the radiance of your light to all nations; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 
(from the Gregorian Sacramentary) 
 
I will be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church this morning. I shall ring the bell at 10:30am and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray that we may reveal Jesus in the world in our words and in our lives. Now more than ever we need to share the Good News that he is present in our midst, caring for us, walking with us - a light in the darkness, giving us hope. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for our Churchwarden and Deputy Churchwardens. 
 
During January 1610, Italian astronomer Galileo made the earth-shaking discoveries that four moons revolve around Jupiter and that the telescope reveals many more stars than are visible to the naked eye. God’s creation is ever more wonderful than we can ever know. 
Sunday 3rd January 2021 
 
‘Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high, who looks far down on the heavens and the earth? He raises the poor from the dust, and lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes, with the princes of his people’ (Psalm 113:5-8). 
 
Those who are considered important or highly exalted are generally unapproachable: they tend to be proud and overbearing, or so surrounded with hangers-on, sycophants and security, that the poor have no access to them. However God, although infinitely exalted, who ‘dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see’ (1 Timothy 6:16) - he humbles himself in his love and commitment to us. He loves his creatures so much that he rejoices over even the very meanest of his people and works for our good. 
 
Today we are celebrating the Epiphany, although the actual feast day is on Wednesday. This commemorates the visit of the Magi to the infant Jesus. It shows how Jesus came for us all, whoever we are, whatever our background, ethnicity or place in society. God is not restricted to the good or the holy or those with special knowledge. ‘In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus’ (Galatians 3:26-28). 
 
‘Despite the “tremendous pain and sadness” of 2020, there is hope in the New Year ahead, the Archbishop of Canterbury says in his New Year’s message… In the Bible, he says, “God rejoices in.. small acts of love - because they reveal who we truly are: human beings made in God’s image, deeply connected to one another. Such gestures speak to me of Jesus - the one who shows us what God’s love looks like. And for this reason, we can have hope for each and every month ahead”… Pope Francis, in his New Year message, spoke of the Covid-19 crisis as “a global phenomenon cutting across boundaries, aggravating deeply interrelated crises like those of the climate, food, the economy, and migration, and causing great suffering and hardship… These and other events that marked humanity’s path this past year have taught us how important it is to care for one another and for creation in our efforts to build a more fraternal society.” and he advocated “a culture of care as a way to combat the culture of indifference, waste, and confrontation so prevalent in our time”’ (Church Times 1 January 2021). 
 
The collect for today: 
O God, 
who by the leading of a star 
manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth: 
mercifully grant that we, 
who know you now by faith, 
may at last behold your glory face to face; 
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for our Team Rector and family - thank you for your prayers and support. There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary on Monday we pray for those made redundant or unable to find work. On Tuesday we pray for our Church School and indeed all schools as they seek the right way forward at this difficult time. 
 
There is a recorded service for today from the church and a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. Also today at 10:30am we are having a short service of Holy Communion in Church. 
 
‘The Archbishop of York, the Most Revd Stephen Cottrell, is releasing a series of short reflections, prayers, and poems throughout January on a similar theme: “Our Hope is Found”… In his first reflection, released on New Year’s Day, Archbishop Cottrell considers the Old Testament story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who refused to worship the king’s golden idol instead of their God. “We can trust in God whether times are good or bad”’ (Church Times 1 January 2021). 
Friday 1st January 2021 
 
‘After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb’ (Luke 2:21). 
 
Happy new year. We all hope and pray that it will be better than the one just past - and we commend it, and ourselves, into God’s hands. We know we are not out of the woods yet and it is clear that the effects will be with us for a very long time yet. So how do we want 2021 to be defined in our lives, our community and society at large? 
 
‘And I said to the man 
who stood at the gate of the year: 
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.” 
And he replied: 
“Go out into the darkness 
and put your hand into the hand of God. 
That shall be to you better than light, 
and safer than a known way’. (Mary Louise Haskins) 
 
Today the Church celebrates the Naming and Circumcision of Jesus. The Bible tells us that this baby was born of a woman as a Jew, born under the law, a child of the covenant and circumcised on the eighth day. Today’s observance of the naming of Jesus reminds us of Jesus’s full humanity and, in his first 30 years of life, of his place within the Jewish community as he lived and worked with his family. 
 
From the Sudan ‘Archbishop Ezekiel says, “Please do not grow tired of praying for Sudan” Even before the independence of South Sudan in 2011, Sudan was a predominantly Muslim country. Although there were Christian churches throughout the land, they were chiefly in the South. Then came the referendum, and the south became the independent nation of South Sudan. Most of the Sudanese Christians found themselves in South Sudan. No wonder those who remained in Sudan felt bereft!’ 
 
‘A 2021 Calendar of Hope. The Bible Society says: "We know lots of our supporters have been encouraged by this year’s Story of the Bible calendar. Our new 2021 Calendar of Hope features 12 Scriptures focused on the living hope we have in Jesus, and it can be yours for free – our gift of encouragement to you." Read more... 
 
We are having a service of Holy Communion in Church on Sunday at 10:30am. I remind you that if you wish to come - and you are welcome to do so - you must let either Jo Parsons or myself know, either by email or phone please. It is important to do this each time - even if you plan to come every week. 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
God in Trinity, 
eternal unity of perfect love: 
gather the nations to be one family, 
and draw us into your holy life 
through the birth of Emmanuel, 
our Lord Jesus Christ. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for our resolutions for the new year. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for all who rely on food aid - an increasing number in these difficult times. 
 
The January issue of Downton Parish News is now available free to view or download. For those unable to access our magazine through the website, there are a few printed copies available (free) in the Co-op, Chemist and Woodfalls Post Office. Please can you let anyone know that you think may want one - or collect one for them. They and we would be most grateful. 
 
On 1st January 1863 President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation that freed the slaves of the Confederate states in rebellion against the Union. Lincoln later stated that the Emancipation Proclamation was “the central act of my administration, and the greatest event of the nineteenth century”. 
Wednesday 30th December 2020 
 
‘He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers - all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross’ (Colossians 1:15-20). 
 
Many believe that this is an early Christian hymn which Paul is quoting here, much as we might use well-known hymns to illustrate our message today. Be that as it may, this is a truly powerful piece of writing, asserting in wonderfully exalted language the supremacy of Christ in creation and redemption. It links beautifully with the beginning of John’s gospel ‘In the beginning was the Word…’ and has been used as an early example of the idea of the Trinity. ‘From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace’ (John 1:16). 
 
As we prepare to say goodbye to the old year, I wonder how many do so with any regret? It has certainly been an unusual one. It was on 31st December last year that the World Health Organization first learned of “viral pneumonia” cases in Wuhan, China - the disease later determined to be COVID-19. So much has happened since then, that is difficult to reflect on the year other than through the lens of lockdown, restrictions and unfulfilled hopes and promises. Our pattern of life has changed, perhaps permanently. There have been many positives, though, as we have seen an increase in care and concern for neighbours and those who are vulnerable, and an awareness of the interconnectedness of everything. 
 
‘For all the loss and difficulty, we should not let this year be defined by pain. Throughout this pandemic, we have also seen the best of humanity. At the beginning of the pandemic, 750,000 people signed up to volunteer to support our NHS. Now, many of those volunteers are signing up to be trained to deliver the Covid-19 vaccine. Our religious institutions and local communities have banded together for the common good, showing us the very best of Britain. People have supported neighbours by donating to foodbanks, delivering items, or simply picking up the phone to those self-isolating. Many businesses, despite struggling themselves with the economic impact of the pandemic, started manufacturing PPE and sanitiser, or made up food parcels for hungry schoolchildren during the holidays’ (Church Times 18 December 2020). 
 
‘In what has been a very difficult year, thanks be to God and thanks also to you that the response of the Church in the Diocese of Salisbury to the pandemic has been near miraculous. Indeed, a big thank you to everyone involved’ (The Bishops of Salisbury, Sherborne and Ramsbury). 
 
The collect for this week: 
Almighty God, 
who wonderfully created us in your own image 
and yet more wonderfully restored us 
through your Son Jesus Christ: 
grant that, as he came to share in our humanity, 
so we may share the life of his divinity; 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
I shall be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church this morning. I shall ring the bell at 10:30am and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for our Lay Pastoral Assistants (LPAs) as they continue their ministry in these unusual times. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for all who have been baptized this year. There have not been many baptisms, as most have been postponed due to the pandemic. So we pray also for those families. 
 
‘Lo, we have the infant Christ, let us grow with Him’ (St Augustine). 
Sunday 27th December 2020 
 
‘But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God’ (Galatians 4:4-7). 
 
Today the Church celebrates St John - the Apostle, Evangelist and Writer. He is the younger brother of St James, both of the group of twelve disciples called to follow Jesus, and sons of Zebedee, a Galilean fisherman. John has traditionally been identified as the New Testament author of the Gospel of John, the epistles 1 John, 2 John and 3 John, and the Book of the Revelation. Early Church tradition held that he settled in the city of Ephesus where he died at the age of ninety-four, the only one of the Apostles known positively not to have been martyred. We cannot be sure of any of this, but it does seem clear John was a faithful and true witness to the presence and power of God. 
 
John wrote those wonderful words ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’ (John 1:1). So he helps us to see Jesus, who’s birth we are celebrating, in his proper context. This is Jesus, of whom Paul wrote ‘God.. gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father’ (Philippians 2:9-11). 
 
‘The coming of the light of Christ provides hope at the end of a dark and difficult year, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have said in their Christmas Day sermons. The Queen, too, has spoken about the teachings of Christ as her “inner light”. In a sermon preached on Christmas Day morning.. Archbishop Justin Welby said that 2020 had been characterised by “the darkness of Covid, of economic crisis, of climate emergency, evils of racism, of war, genocide, and persecution. For billions around the world, 2020 has been a year walking through the valley of the shadow of death.” There had been “gifts of good news, of hope” in recent weeks, however, including the vaccine and “the capacity of governments to find a way forward in relations after Brexit”. He continued: “But above and beyond all these there is the simple history, the reality that the light came into the world and the darkness has not overcome it. Not because we feel it or believe it or it works for us, but because the light of the birth of Jesus reveals God as God is. Jesus Christ reveals God leaning into the darkness and defeating it through embracing every aspect of our sufferings and struggles, anxieties and fears.”… In her televised Christmas message, the Queen said that Christians, for whom Jesus is “the light of the world", had not been able to celebrate his birth “in quite the usual way”, and she listed other faiths’ celebrations that had been similarly affected in the year’ (Church Times 26 December 2020). 
 
On a personal note, I found the Queen’s Christmas message possibly the most moving I have heard. 
 
The collect for this week: 
Merciful Lord, 
cast your bright beams of light upon the Church: 
that, being enlightened by the teaching 
of your blessed apostle and evangelist Saint John, 
we may so walk in the light of your truth 
that we may at last attain to the light of everlasting life; 
through Jesus Christ, 
your incarnate Son our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
There is a recorded service for today from the church and a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. There is no service in Church today. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for our witness as a Church, particularly in these difficult times. There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary on Monday, as we remember the Holy Innocents, we pray for all victims of violence. On Tuesday we pray for all who deny God. ‘They promise.. freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption; for people are slaves to whatever masters them’ (2 Peter 2:19). 
 
On 28th December 1065 the original Westminster Abbey was consecrated and opened by Edward the Confessor. Less than a year later, on Christmas Day 1066, William the Conqueror was crowned there. Every coronation since then has been held at Westminster Abbey. 
Friday 25th December 2020 
 
‘The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness - on them light has shined. For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace’ (Isaiah 9:2,6). 
 
Happy Christmas to you all! 
 
As we celebrate Jesus’ birth, I pray that today you can know the joy of this occasion wherever you are and whomever you are able to be with. Truly this year it is a strange one - but perhaps, as we mark the day and rejoice in it, we can reflect on what it genuinely means for us. Here is God Almighty among us, putting himself in our hands as a helpless babe, ‘Mild he lays his glory by, born that we no more may die, born to raise us from the earth, born to give us second birth’. Jesus himself tells us of his mission: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour’ (Luke 4:18-19). 
 
As we welcome Jesus into our hearts and homes, so we think also of those for whom this was never going to be a day of celebration - and all for whom today is overshadowed by sickness, pain and loss. “Christmas is going to be different and difficult for so many. My prayers are with all those who are sad, afraid and suffering. But the message of Christmas remains the same: God is with us. Let’s do everything we can to share that love with others, even if we can’t be together” (Archbishop Justin Welby). 
 
‘Although they might be hurting and fearful themselves, Christians must be bearers of joy to the world this year, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States, the Most Revd Michael Curry, said in his Christmas message. While it could be very difficult, particularly for those in mourning, to proclaim joy, it was essential work for Christians: he quoted the carol “Joy to the world”. In his video message, he said: “While we may not feel joyful this year, as the pandemic of disease continues to bring sickness and death, when fear and mistrust - a darkness - threaten to overcome the light, we, as followers of Jesus Christ, must bear joy to this aching world. We must shine light into the darkness.” Though much had changed this year, God’s call remained the same: “Feed those who are hungry; welcome the stranger; clothe those who are naked; heal those who are sick; visit the prisoner. Love God. Love your neighbour. Sing joy into this old world. Prepare him room”… He told The Washington Post that he had been wrestling with what to write in Christmas cards this year. His Christmas message was inspired by the message from St John’s Gospel that “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it,” he said. “We don’t pretend the darkness isn’t real. People are dead, people are sick, we are fragmented and polarised. But the lightness shines in the darkness. That is a message of Christmas. The truth of Christmas may be more profoundly true for us because everything else has been stripped away. We are not helpless. We are not alone. There’s a God that cares enough to come into this world”’ (Church Times 18 December 2020). 
 
The collect for today: 
Lord Jesus Christ, 
your birth at Bethlehem 
draws us to kneel in wonder at heaven touching earth: 
accept our heartfelt praise 
as we worship you, 
our Saviour and our eternal God. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for those who are alone and lonely, especially today. We remember also all those who, for whatever reason, find today hard to bear. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for all those persecuted for their faith. Many religious minorities around the world - Christian and others - are subjected to increasing persecution today. 
 
There is a recorded service for today from the church together with a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. Also today at 10:30am we are having a short service of Holy Communion in Church. On Sunday there will be no service in Church, but there will be one on the website. 
 
‘Having been made a sharer of our mortality, he has made us a sharer of his divinity’ (St Augustine). 
Wednesday 23rd December 2020 
 
‘For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honour and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’ We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven, while we were with him on the holy mountain’ (2 Peter 1:16-18). 
 
It is worth restating in this runup to Christmas that our faith is based solidly on historical events recorded for us by eyewitnesses. Here we have Peter’s account of Jesus on the mountain - an occasion where Peter hardly covered himself in glory and yet one that clearly made a big impression on him. As I was saying last week, all Jesus asks of us is that we go and tell what we have seen and heard. ‘Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth’ (Isaiah 40:28). 
 
This is a time of waiting in prayer and expectation, in silent faithfulness. While many of the signs of Christmas are around us, we are not quite there yet. There is a strange tension here - but one that can be fruitful and rewarding. We have observed Advent with its focus not simply on Christmas but on the return of Christ in glory as Lord and King. We conclude our prayers with ‘who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever’. We proclaim Jesus as active in our lives and in the world. Yet on Friday we will greet him as the new-born babe. At the heart of all this, though, the true essence of our celebration is the incredible, awesome mystery of the incarnation - of Emmanuel, God with us in human form, God becoming human that we might be reconciled and made one with him. 
 
‘No one is obliged to go to church on Christmas Day.. the Archbishop of Canterbury told The Andrew Marr Show on BBC1 on Sunday, the morning that tier 4 restrictions came into force. But Christmas was not cancelled, he said. “The celebrations are cancelled. We will come to those again. This is very different to what we hoped for and longed for, and it is the most intense pain for a lot of people. We protest, we lament. And in our prayers and in our services we will be doing that. But it’s not cancelled, because at the heart of Christmas is Jesus coming into the world, God coming into the world... This is a moment of God saying: ‘I am with you in the mess and I have overcome the darkness. There is hope”’ (Church Times 21 December 2020). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Eternal God, 
as Mary waited for the birth of your Son, 
so we wait for his coming in glory; 
bring us through the birth pangs of this present age 
to see, with her, our great salvation 
in Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
I shall be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church this morning. I shall ring the bell at 10:30am and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our Bishops and all Church Leaders. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary as we remember Mary and Joseph seeking somewhere to stay and their flight in Egypt after Jesus’ birth, we will be praying for the homeless and refugees. 
 
There will be A Service of Reflection for the Night before Christmas on the website and also one for Christmas Day together with a copy of the service sheet. Also on Christmas Day at 10:30am we are having a service of Holy Communion in Church - and I remind you that if you wish to come you must let either Jo Parsons or myself know, either by email or phone please. There will be no service in Church on Sunday, but there will be one from the church on the website. 
 
On 24th December 1955 NORAD (the North American Aerospace Defense Command) started its tradition of tracking Santa Claus as he travels around the world delivering presents to children. The event began after a printing error in a Sears catalog asking children to call Santa Claus. The number that was printed was the number of Colorado Springs' Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) Center. 
Sunday 20th December 2020 
 
‘Sing and rejoice, O daughter Zion! For lo, I will come and dwell in your midst, says the Lord. Many nations shall join themselves to the Lord on that day, and shall be my people; and I will dwell in your midst. And you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you’ (Zechariah 2:10-11). 
 
Today we remember especially Mary, mother of our Lord, without whose joyful obedience there would have been no Christmas. As we prepare for the coming of our Saviour, so we give thanks for her part in bringing this about ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word’ (Luke 1:38). We rejoice in Emmanuel, God with us - God himself coming among us in human form to redeem us all. We celebrate not simply our own salvation but his renewal of all creation. ‘For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God’ (Romans 8:19-21). 
 
So the government have decided: to all intents and purposes we are going back into lockdown after all. While it appears that we remain in Tier 2 here, many of us have family and friends in the new Tier 4. So whatever decisions we had come to over meeting up for Christmas are now superseded. Let us hold in our prayers those for who this will make life especially difficult, have had their plans suddenly disrupted, or had pinned their hopes on this one allowable bit of contact. May we continue to reach out to all who are in need at this time and remember those for whom this will now mean Christmas on their own. 
 
This Christmas is likely to be a particularly difficult one for many people. So throughout this time, we continue to remember those most in need through our annual appeal for Crisis as we raise money to support them - usually we suggest giving the price of a Christmas dinner. 
 
‘The “Great Conjunction” of Jupiter and Saturn taking place this month - dubbed the “Christmas Star” - is a pretty sight, but it is impossible to know for sure if it has any connection to the Star of Bethlehem, a Vatican astronomer said. On Dec. 21, the planets Jupiter and Saturn will appear a tenth of a degree apart in the night sky, something called a “Great Conjunction.” This conjunction happens approximately every 20 years, but this year the two planets will appear the closest they have been in almost 400 years. To the naked eye, they will look like one, bright star, thus earning the nickname the “Christmas Star”’ (www.catholicworldreport.com/
 
There is a recorded service for today from the church together with a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. Also today at 10:30am we are having a short service of Morning Prayer in Church. 
 
The collect for this week: 
God our redeemer, 
who prepared the Blessed Virgin Mary 
to be the mother of your Son: 
grant that, as she looked for his coming as our saviour, 
so we may be ready to greet him 
when he comes again as our judge; 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
On Friday (Christmas Day) we will be having a service of Holy Communion at 10:30am. I remind you that if you wish to come to this service - and you are welcome to do so - you must let either Jo Parsons or myself know, either by email or phone please, as soon as possible. We expect to be fuller than usual and need to know who wants to come. Also on the website there will a short Reflective Service for the Night before Christmas and a service for Christmas Day itself. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for all charities struggling to continue their work and fundraising. There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray on Monday for peace in the world. On Tuesday we pray for those who have been bereaved this year. 
 
This year’s winter solstice - the point where the sun is lowest in the sky and the shortest day of the year - takes place tomorrow. Solstice comes from the Latin word solstitium which means ‘sun stands still’ “because the apparent movement of the sun’s path north or south stops before changing direction,” (rmg.co.uk). 
Friday 18th December 2020 
 
‘An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins”’ (Matthew 1:20-21). 
 
So often in the Christmas story Joseph is portrayed simply as a strong silent figure in the background. The focus is on Mary and the baby. However, without his willingness to turn aside from reasonable expectation - to defy convention and stick with Mary at this difficult time - who knows what would have happened. Joseph reminds us that for all those in the limelight, there are so many others who offer faithful and quiet service, going the extra mile over these past months and supporting others as Christmas approaches. 
 
It is now just one week before Christmas, and I am sure many of us still have things to do. Preparing for these few days - sending cards, buying and wrapping presents, together with the festivities of the day itself - these can all take a lot of work. Of far greater concern this year, though, has been those difficult decisions of to what extent we can see or be with those we love. The guidance and advice has been confusing - both do and don’t. We want to see them but also for them to be safe. This is especially acute for those who have been unable to be together over this past year, and fear that this may be their last opportunity. We hold them fast in our prayers. 
 
We are having a service of Morning Prayer in Church on Sunday at 10:30am. Also next Friday (Christmas Day) we will be having a service of Holy Communion at 10:30am. I remind you that if you wish to come to either of these services - and you are welcome to do so - you must let either Jo Parsons or myself know, either by email or phone please. It is important to do this each time - even if you plan to come every week. 
 
‘Creation has its own truth, its own integrity, and if, as we believe, it is the expression of the will of God, then taking to heart the truth and integrity of the created order, absorbing its rhythms and relationships and learning to live by them, is part and parcel of “dwelling in the truth”, to use John the Elder’s phrase. The most fundamental aspect of our hope for truth today is for the truth and integrity of the creation to be safeguarded, and for effective action to reverse the damage done to it through global warming, environmental pollution, and the decline of species. The way in which our ideas about creation and the natural environment have changed over recent decades illustrates well the way that truth is apprehended through making a journey. Empirical research has been an important part of that journey, both occasioning its start and directing its course, but at the heart has been an inner change in perception of the relationship of humanity to the rest of creation. It has been nothing less than a profound spiritual awakening, a consecrating by the truth, although it is not usually described in that way. As it is so basic to the hope for truth, it is helpful to consider it further’ Peter Sills, Church Times). 
 
We pray: 
Lord Jesus, 
Master of both the light and the darkness, 
send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas. 
We who have so much to do and seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day, 
We who are anxious over many things look forward to your coming among us. 
We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of your kingdom. 
We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence. 
We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light. 
To you we say, "Come Lord Jesus!' Amen. 
(Henri J.M. Nouwen) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for School Governors as they work hard to support our schools at this difficult time. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for our working together for the Church. 
Wednesday 16th December 2020 
 
‘John summoned two of his disciples and sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?”… And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard”’ (Luke 17:18-19,23). 
 
For all that is written about it, this is at the heart of what it means to share our faith. All Jesus asks of us is that we go and tell what we have seen and heard. It is as simple as that. It doesn’t require special skills, extensive training or qualifications. It is just about sharing our own experience of God with others. As Paul reminds us ‘how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him?’ (Romans 10:14). 
 
‘Charities are counting the cost of the pandemic at a time when the demand for their services is greater than ever, but when limited opportunities for fund-raising are predicted to result in a £10-billion shortfall. Those that receive much of their income at Christmas are particularly hard hit. Christingle services have generated about £1.3 million for the Children’s Society in recent years: roughly six per cent of its annual fund-raising income. Thousands of people came together in 2019 for more than 4670 local Christingle events around the country. The director of engagement and income-generation, Joe Jenkins, said that it had been a difficult year for the charity, as there had been a drastic fall in fund-raising because of the coronavirus crisis. “At the same time, lockdown and restrictions have left many children trapped at home, isolated from family and friends, and, in some cases, increasing the risks of abuse, neglect, exploitation, and loneliness,” he said. “These risks may have been hidden from the view of professionals like teachers and social workers who might normally spot the warning signs. Fund-raising events like Christingle are vital in enabling us to support these children and give them hope of a brighter future. We certainly hope that people will use Christingle to fund-raise for us this Christmas; so that we can continue our work to provide support for children and young people through the darkest of times”’ (Church Times 10 December 2020). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
God for whom we watch and wait, 
you sent John the Baptist to prepare the way of your Son: 
give us courage to speak the truth, 
to hunger for justice, 
and to suffer for the cause of right, 
with Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
I will be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church this morning, together with our Roads to God prayers. I shall ring the bell at 10:30am and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for Churches Together in Downton, our common witness to the presence of Jesus in our midst - especially at this season. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for our preparation for Christmas, as we make ourselves ready for the coming of our infant Saviour and reflect on what this really means for us and how best to celebrate it. 
 
‘Help me out here, Twitter. Are these (unsurprisingly unnamed) critics suggesting a public broadcaster should be impartial between racism and anti-racism? Or between black lives mattering and not?’ (David Walker, Bishop of Manchester, responding to a story in the Daily Mail). 
 
On 16th December 1773, in what is known as the Boston Tea Party, American colonists disguised as Mohawk Indians threw 342 chests of tea belonging to the British East India Company into Boston Harbour to protest a tax on tea. Whilst on 17th December 1903 near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright made the first successful sustained flights in an airplane - Orville first, gliding 120 feet (36.6 metres) through the air in 12 seconds. 
Sunday 13th December 2020 
 
‘Surely God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid, for the Lord God is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation.. Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known his deeds among the nations; proclaim that his name is exalted. Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously; let this be known in all the earth. Shout aloud and sing for joy, O royal Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel’ (Isaiah 12:1-2,4-6). 
 
This is a good time of year to praise God, to proclaim him and rejoice in all the wonderous things he has done; to ‘shout aloud and sing for joy’! As we announce the coming of Jesus both at Christmas and the end of time, we ‘call on his name; make known his deeds among the nations’. Praise the Lord. 
 
There is a recorded service for today from the church and a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. Also today at 10:30am we are having a short service of Holy Communion in Church. Regrettably there are no bells as our bellringers are not allowed to ring while we are in Tier 2 as it is a confined space. 
 
We also now have our Carol Service on the website. It includes contributions from both our Primary School and Downton Community Choir and plenty of carols we can sing along with. Do watch and join in - and tell others that it is there. 
 
Looking ahead to Christmas: we would have loved to do what we normally do over the Christmas period, but have come regretfully to the conclusion that we cannot. So, we will have just the one service, Holy Communion at 10:30am on Christmas Day itself. We expect that we will have quite a number who may wish to join us, so it is important we know who wishes to come to ensure we can fit everyone in. On the Sunday after Christmas, there will be no service in Church but there will be one online. 
 
‘Almost 500 church leaders have signed an open letter to the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, asking him to work with communities, churches, charities, and creditors to create a comprehensive and just solution to lockdown debt. The leaders write: “Our ambition must go beyond delay or avoidance of eviction. This Christmas is a time to give families burdened by debt a fresh start and a more hopeful future.” The letter came at the same time as a video, broadcast last weekend by BBC News and showing desperate and starving people in Burnley, Lancashire, went viral. It featured scenes of the Vicar of St Matthew’s, the Revd Alex Frost, and a Street Pastor, Mick Fleming, being driven to tears of distress as they tried to support their poor and isolated community. It sparked an immediate response: more than £90,000 was donated in three days, from all over the world. The letter to Mr Sunak is signed by representatives of the Church of England, the Methodist Church, the United Reformed Church, the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Salvation Army, and the Roman Catholic Church’ (Church Times 11 December 2020). 
 
The collect for this week: 
O Lord Jesus Christ, 
who at your first coming sent your messenger 
to prepare your way before you: 
grant that the ministers and stewards of your mysteries 
may likewise so prepare and make ready your way 
by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, 
that at your second coming to judge the world 
we may be found an acceptable people in your sight; 
for you are alive and reign with the Father 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for those at work worried about social distancing. There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray on Monday for all visitors to our Churches. On Tuesday we pray for Trafalgar School at Downton. 
 
On 13th December 1545 the Council of Trent, the 19th ecumenical council of the Roman Catholic Church, which helped revitalize the church in many parts of Europe after the Protestant Reformation, opened in Trent, Italy. 
Friday 11th December 2020 
 
‘Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers; but their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law they meditate day and night. They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper’ (Psalm 1:1-3). 
 
These opening verses of the Book of Psalms take us to the heart and foundation of our faith - our delight in the ways of God. For while we may no longer be required to follow strict laws, we are followers of Jesus who embodies the Spirit of the Law. It also sets the tone for the rest of this book: setting before us a choice between following God or living just for ourselves, that we may take the right way which leads to happiness and avoid that which will certainly end in our misery and ruin. 
 
‘The key performance indicator will be the number of feet we wash, not the numbers attending our services, though we hope by faith both will grow’ (Stephen Cottrell, Archbishop of York). 
 
We are having a service of Holy Communion in Church on Sunday at 10:30am. I remind you that if you wish to come - and you are welcome to do so - you must let either Jo Parsons or myself know, either by email or phone please. It is important to do this each time - even if you plan to come every week. 
 
‘For thousands of families who have lost loved ones during this pandemic, there will be an empty chair at Christmas, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said. Speaking from his own experience of grief, he advised anyone bereaved this year to “be honest about your grief and your loss - that you miss them.” Archbishop Welby was speaking next to the Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, in a BBC video filmed in the grounds of Lambeth Palace to mark National Grief Awareness Week, which ended on Tuesday. A two-minute silence was held during evensong at St Paul’s Cathedral, London, on Tuesday, in memory of everyone who had died during this pandemic year, and the dome was lit up, also’ (Church Times 8 December 2020). 
 
The prayer after communion for this week: 
Father in heaven, 
who sent your Son to redeem the world 
and will send him again to be our judge: 
give us grace so to imitate him 
in the humility and purity of his first coming 
that, when he comes again, 
we may be ready to greet him 
with joyful love and firm faith; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for those in financial difficulties. The statistics we hear in the news are grim and getting worse - and we know that every one is an individual struggling to cope and provide for themselves, partners, parents and children. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for medical staff: those in hospitals, GP surgeries, Care and Residential Homes, research laboratories and wherever they may be. We give thanks for all their hard work, dedication and professionalism - and we pray that they won’t be forgotten again when this crisis is passed. 
 
‘The first African-American cardinal was one of 13 installed by Pope Francis in St Peter’s Basilica, Rome, on Saturday. The new cardinal, the Most Revd Wilton Gregory, the Archbishop of Washington, D.C., was the only American present at the ceremony, which was attended by the first members of the College of Cardinals from Rwanda and Brunei. Archbishop Gregory had criticised President Trump’s decision in June to remove protesters with tear gas and rubber bullets so that he could pose in front of a church in Washington while holding a Bible (News, 5 June). Archbishop Gregory said last month that he wanted to work with President-Elect Joe Biden on “things that we can do together for the betterment of the American community”’ (Church Times 4 December 2020). 
 
On 11th December 1946 UNICEF - a United Nations programme devoted to improving the health, nutrition, education, and general welfare of children - was established. 
Wednesday 9th December 2020 
 
‘The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love… For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his steadfast love towards those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far he removes our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion for his children, so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him’ (Psalm 103:8,11-13). 
 
As we prepare ourselves through this time of Advent for the coming of Christ, we reflect on God’s enduring love for us and his assurance that ‘all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose’ (Romans 8:28). We know that he has a great and glorious future held out for us, even if at times we have to hang on to our faith in that. ‘God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord’ (1 Corinthians 1:9). 
 
‘I’m privileged, but only because that was God’s will. God made me play well. He gave me the ability at birth. That’s why I make the sign of the cross every time I enter the pitch. If I didn’t do it I’d be betraying him’ (Diego Maradona). 
 
‘Restrictions on religious freedom reached their highest levels in more than a decade in 2018, findings released by the Pew Research Center at the end of November have shown. The report is the 11th from the Washington-based organisation measuring global restrictions on religious freedom. The data was gathered from 198 countries, whose changes in attitudes to religion and religious groups were ranked according to two ten-point indexes: the Government Restrictions Index (GRI), based on 20 different indicators; and the Social Hostilities Index (SHI), based on 13 indicators. The indicators used in the GRI include questions on whether a country’s constitution guarantees a level of religious freedom, whether the government interferes with worship and other religious practices, and whether religious broadcasting and the spread of religious literature are restricted. The indicators used in the SHI involve questions such as whether acts of violence from groups or individuals are motivated by religious bias, and whether organised groups use force or coercion to impose their perspective on religion on to public life’ (Church Times 4 December 2020). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Almighty God, 
purify our hearts and minds, 
that when your Son Jesus Christ comes again as 
judge and saviour 
we may be ready to receive him, 
who is our Lord and our God. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
I shall be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church this morning and I shall ring the bell at 10:30am and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for all those in Residential and Nursing Homes. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for politicians and their advisors. 
 
In this year which has been so dominated by the pandemic, it is worth noting that on 9th December 1979, some 10 years after the World Health Organization began a global vaccination program against smallpox, the disease was officially declared eradicated. Smallpox, which carries around a 30 percent chance of death for those who contract it, is the only infectious disease afflicting humans that has officially been eradicated. 
 
‘If every human being possesses an inalienable dignity, if all people are my brothers and sisters, and if the world truly belongs to everyone, then it matters little whether my neighbour was born in my country or elsewhere’ (Pope Francis, Fratelli Tutti). 
Sunday 6th December 2020 
 
‘Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Romans 15:4-6). 
 
Now we are out of lockdown and into Tier 2, what real difference is that making for us? As we look ahead to Christmas many of us have some difficult decisions to make. We are torn between what we will be allowed to do and what we think is sensible and wise. We long to be with our families at this special time, but are concerned that we do not compromise them at all. As the Church too we are giving careful consideration as to how we can celebrate this feast most appropriately - not just for ourselves but opening up to our community. May we find the right way to rejoice in, share and proclaim the coming of Emmanuel, God with us, in these very unusual circumstances. 
 
There is a recorded service for today from the church and a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. Also today at 10:30am we are having a short service of Holy Communion in Church - and the church bells will be ringing from 10 o’clock. 
 
‘Bishop Nicholas has spoken out against the government’s decision to cut Overseas Aid. Speaking shortly after Rishi Sunak’s announcement that came as part of government's spending plans for the next year, Bishop Nicholas said: “Have we not learned that this pandemic needs a global response from us? "As a country we had made a commendable commitment to invest 0.7% of GNI* to support the world’s poorest people. This commitment was enshrined in law by a Conservative government. Less than a year ago the Conservative Party’s highly successful election manifesto pledged to “proudly maintain our commitment to 0.7% of GNI on development and do more to help countries receiving aid to become more self-sufficient. Even the temporary cut in overseas aid to 0.5% of GNI is a major moral failure, particularly in a time of global pandemic. It is also a political failure as it is against our national self-interest because it reduces our influence in the exercise of ‘soft power’”’ (Diocese of Salisbury). 
 
‘A British archaeologist has said that he has identified the site of the childhood home of Jesus in Nazareth. The archaeologist, Dr Ken Dark, Professor of Archaeology and History at Reading University, believes that a first-century dwelling now beneath a convent in the city in northern Israel is where Christ spent his early years. It was first promoted as the likely house of Joseph and Mary after excavations below the fifth-century convent in the 1880s, but, by the 1930s, experts had dismissed the claim. Professor Dark, however, who has spent 14 years studying the site, says that there is a strong case that the well-preserved house was, indeed, Christ’s home. It was a significant structure, partly cut into a limestone hillside and incorporating a natural cave. It probably included several living and storage rooms around a courtyard, a roof terrace, and a rock-cut staircase that still survives... Professor Dark also found a fourth-century cave church decorated with mosaics built in the hillside adjacent to the house, and believes that a fifth-century church built over them both was the largest church in Nazareth, and probably its cathedral. That building, elaborately decorated with marble and mosaics, matched a seventh-century description of the Byzantine church said to have stood on the site of Jesus’s home’ (Church Times 27 November 2020). 
 
The collect for this week: 
O Lord, raise up, we pray, your power 
and come among us, 
and with great might succour us; 
that whereas, through our sins and wickedness 
we are grievously hindered 
in running the race that is set before us, 
your bountiful grace and mercy 
may speedily help and deliver us; 
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, 
to whom with you and the Holy Spirit, 
be honour and glory, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for our Churchwarden and Deputy Churchwardens. There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray on Monday for all key workers. On Tuesday we pray for those at University and College, especially as they seek to return home for Christmas. 
Friday 4th December 2020 
 
'Remember these things, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are my servant; I formed you, you are my servant; O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me. I have swept away your transgressions like a cloud, and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you. Sing, O heavens, for the Lord has done it; shout, O depths of the earth; break forth into singing, O mountains, O forest, and every tree in it! For the Lord has redeemed Jacob, and will be glorified in Israel' (Isaiah 44:21-23). 
 
Even when life is difficult, the outlook seems dark and God appears far away, he has not forgotten us. He is near even when we cannot see or feel him. He hears our prayers and watches over us. We remember all that he has done for us in the past - and hang on to that in trust, in faith and in hope. 
 
We are having a service of Holy Communion in Church on Sunday at 10:30am. I remind you that if you wish to come - and you are welcome to do so - you must let either Jo Parsons or myself know, either by email or phone please. It is important to do this each time - even if you plan to come every week. 
 
Bishop Nicholas writes: 'I wonder what Christmas this year looks like from God's perspective? Christmas always marks the story of God come among us in the birth of Jesus Christ. This year's enforced limitations have got us all thinking about the different ways it has been celebrated over 2,000 years and around the world. For us, this year there is an opportunity to do things differently. It might fit well with the sort of strategic vision for the C of E articulated at General Synod by the Archbishop of York that we should be Christ-centred and Jesus-shaped, focussed by the Five Marks of Mission, but humbler, simpler, and bolder. 
There is a considerable challenge to ensure that the Gospel is proclaimed and Christmas celebrated beyond the Church. I am sure we will all look to celebrate, show, tell and live the story of God come among us in Jesus Christ. Caring for others is going to be very significant this year as we prepare ourselves and our communities for Christmas. 
The Church of England's Christmas theme of Comfort and Joy has the potential to help us land this well. Comfort literally means 'with strength'. We need to do all we can to strengthen individuals and communities and to emphasise the simplicity of love come among us in the Christ-child' (Ad Clerum 27 November 2020). 
 
'The Archbishop of Canterbury has urged people to go to church and pray this Christmas, saying that church is "one of the safest places to be". He was speaking on Tuesday after the Government announced that small groups from up to three households would be able to worship together at Christmas if they form an exclusive "bubble"... Archbishop Welby later told BBC's Newsnight that families would have to consider both the safety of relatives vulnerable to the virus, and the benefit of "a sense of belonging" that "tackles the really dangerous epidemic of isolation, of poor mental health which is also very, very serious". Ultimately, he said, "If you really love people, you will see them in a way that is safe, and it is possible."' (Church Times 24 November 2020). 
 
The prayer after communion for this week: 
O Lord our God, 
make us watchful and keep us faithful 
as we await the coming of your Son our Lord; 
that, when he shall appear, 
he may not find us sleeping in sin 
but active in his service 
and joyful in his praise; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for those made redundant or unable to find work. This is a growing concern, and particularly difficult for those affected at this time of year. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for our Church School. The staff have been working extraordinarily hard this year to ensure the education and safety of our children. 
 
On 5th December 1872 the American brigantine Mary Celeste was found abandoned some 400 nautical miles (740 km) from the Azores, Portugal; the fate of the 10 people aboard remains a mystery. 
Wednesday 2nd December 2020 
 
‘Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. The wild animals will honour me, the jackals and the ostriches; for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself so that they might declare my praise’ (Isaiah 43:18-21). 
 
‘We are invited with Israel to believe that God can act freshly in the world, because we can look back and see what he has done before. We too have a story of salvation that enables us to believe in God’s eternal power to save’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 26 November 2020). 
 
On Sunday we resume our worship together in Church, for which we praise God. From this week there will a service each Sunday morning at 10:30am. This coming Sunday and next week (13th December) it will be Holy Communion. On Sunday 20th December it will be Morning Prayer. Thereafter, restrictions allowing, we will have a service of Holy Communion every week except for the third Sunday of each month when it will be Morning Prayer. For arrangements over Christmas, please see the website - and I will let you know more nearer the time. 
 
‘Advent has begun. In very different circumstances from a year ago, we embark on the season of looking back and looking forward: reflecting on Christ’s first coming in great humility and his second coming in glorious majesty. Yet our perspective lies between the two, here and now ‘in the time of this mortal life’ as the Advent Collect says... What if we are called to lay aside old comfortable understandings of Jesus, that have become too small or old or dry, so that we can receive Jesus in new ways, more deeply, more fully, in a fresh Advent coming? Let’s be open to letting go, and letting him reveal himself to us in renewed personal encounter, in whatever ways he desires. May our prayer this Advent be a radical requesting, ‘We want to see you, Jesus’’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 30 November 2020). 
 
‘“It’s not a great headline, is it: ‘Archbishop says Church must follow Christ,’” the Archbishop of York, the Most Revd Stephen Cottrell, acknowledged on Tuesday. He was speaking in an online interview after calling on the Church of England to be simpler, humbler, bolder, and more diverse. The key performance indicator of the emerging Vision and Strategy initiative would be “the number of feet we wash, not the numbers attending our services, though we hope by faith both will grow”, he told the General Synod’ (Church Times 26 November 2020). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Almighty God, 
as your kingdom dawns, 
turn us from the darkness of sin to the 
light of holiness, 
that we may be ready to meet you 
in our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
I shall be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church this morning. I shall ring the bell at 10:30am and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for the bereaved and all who mourn. This is a particularly difficult time for all of us who have lost friends and loved ones this year. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for our Team Rector and family. As always we are deeply grateful that you hold us in your prayers. Please also remember the other members of our Team, David Bacon and Veronica Batchelor and their families. 
 
The Archbishops’ call to prayer for the nation - the prayer for this week: 
Loving God, 
your Son Jesus Christ came that we might have life and have it abundantly; 
pour out your blessing upon our nation; 
where there is illness, 
bring your healing touch; 
where there is fear, 
strengthen us with the knowledge of your presence; 
where there is uncertainty, 
build us up in faith; 
where there is dishonesty, 
lead us into truth; 
where there is discord, 
may we know the harmony of your love; 
this we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
On 2nd December 1697 St Paul's Cathedral, designed by Sir Christopher Wren was consecrated for use - over 30 years after the Great Fire destroyed Old St Paul's. While from the sublime... on this day in 1901 King C. Gillette began selling his safety razor blades. 
Sunday 29th November 2020 
 
‘Know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour’ (Luke 12:39-40). 
 
With so much of the focus at this time of year being on Christmas, we can overlook the great and glorious theme of Advent - the coming of Christ as King. Today we look to his coming not as a helpless baby but in power and glory at the end of time. This is our great hope that indeed Christ will come again. We are looking not backward at that wonderful miracle that happened two thousand years ago, but forward to the glorious culmination he has promised us. The question is: are we ready? 
 
I have had a number of discussions recently about what we are learning from this past year and how we will use that as we seek to move forward. In many ways, of course, this is still unknown. However it is clear that we need to reappraise our thinking of what really matters and what we are about . This is true both as a society, where so many of the old assumptions have been challenged by the realities laid bare by the pandemic - and also as the Church as we consider how best we can fulfil our main purpose of proclaiming the living God present and active in the world. ‘At this particularly dark time, God among us remains the source of light and hope. We can help to encourage each other with the stories of God at work among us’ (Bishop Nicholas). 
 
Tomorrow is the Feast of St Andrew the Apostle. Andrew was Simon Peter’s brother and together with other early disciples, they were called from their fishing by Jesus to follow him promising he would make them “fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). According to John’s Gospel, Andrew was originally a disciple of John the Baptist and when John tells him and another ‘Look, here is the Lamb of God!’, Andrew ‘first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah”’ (John 1:36,41). He is the patron saint of Scotland and Russia. 
 
The collect for this week: 
Almighty God, 
give us grace to cast away the works of darkness 
and to put on the armour of light, 
now in the time of this mortal life, 
in which your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility; 
that on the last day, 
when he shall come again in his glorious majesty 
to judge the living and the dead, 
we may rise to the life immortal; 
through him who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
There is a recorded service for today from the church and a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. There is no service in Church under the current lockdown rules, but the Church does remain open for private prayer from 11am and I will ring the bell so we can pray together at 10:30am. Church services will resume next Sunday. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for our Lay Pastoral Assistants (LPAs) as they continue their ministry at this time. There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray on Monday that, following the example of Andrew, we may proclaim the Good News. On Tuesday we pray for all who rely on food aid, especially with winter and Christmas coming. 
 
Don’t forget the Advent Calendar with reflections for each day. Each of us can find something that will help us reflect as we pause and consider, ponder and take hope. 
 
‘Turning to science does not mean turning away from the God who speaks in the Bible or through the Christian tradition’ (Church of England Report: Living in Love and Faith). 
Friday 27th November 2020 
 
‘Then he told them a parable: Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near’ (Luke 21:29-31). 
 
We have a whole host of commentators who interpret the news according to their views - but we are to interpret the times in the light of God’s Word. How much of what is happening today is the result of how we live and treat God’s creation? This is not saying that all that is happening is some punishment from God. However we cannot expect our treatment of his world, and the enormous disparity between those who benefit from its resources and those with very little, to be without very real consequences. It is as much a practical response as well as a moral and theological one that says we have to change our ways. 
 
‘”Inequalities of wealth and opportunity, poor housing, poor nutrition, prejudice, and xenophobia that have surfaced during the pandemic are “a scourge and a disgrace”, the Archbishop of York, the Most Revd Stephen Cottrell, has said. He was introducing a debate on the Church’s response to Covid-19, during a formal meeting of the General Synod, held for the first time via Zoom.. The Synod later carried his amended motion to: care for the bereaved and suffering, including disabled people; thank the NHS; lobby to eradicate social inequalities; preserve the foreign aid budget; and support the role of churches in maintaining mental and spiritual health. 
Archbishop Cottrell said that several lessons had been learned by the Church and nation throughout the pandemic. First, “the NHS is deeply loved. We have also learned that it is the ideas behind the health service that are important and precious.” These ideas were not self-evidently true, he said, and were derived from the Christian faith. Secondly, the pandemic had revealed terrible inequalities. “The mortality rates from Covid-19 from the most deprived areas in the country are more than double those in the least deprived... This is scandalous”… Third, he said, “We have rediscovered the vital link between worship, spirituality, pastoral care, and evangelism. These should never have been separated.” In this second lockdown, church leaders had had to “push back to the Government to demonstrate that we, too, are an essential service”; that worship was not an “optional add on” but “iron rations for the Christian journey and the service we offer”’ (Church Times 24 November 2020). 
 
I recommend an Advent Calendar with reflections for each day which has been launched by a group of clergy. This is part of a library of Advent online resources created for individual Christians and churches to help deal with the impact of Covid-19 during Advent. ‘The website has a whole load of sharable content. The hope is that for each day of Advent, an individual Christian could go to each page and find something that will help them reflect... Resources on the website range from pop-up icons of the Virgin Mary and Jesus made from plasticine, and videos of artists creating “doodle meditations” on the themes of hope, joy, and peace, to antiphons. “You wouldn’t normally put such a diverse range of things together,” said the Revd Dr Sara Batts-Neale, Chaplain to the University of Essex, who has overseen the project’s social-media activity. “Certain ideas are feasible online that wouldn’t be in person, which is a slightly less-awful aspect of life being so hard at the moment”’ (Church Times 19 November 2020). 
 
The post communion prayer for this week: 
Stir up, O Lord, 
the wills of your faithful people; 
that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, 
may by you be plenteously rewarded; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our PCC. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for peace in the world. 
 
The Nobel Prizes were established on 27th November 1895. Having read a premature obituary which condemned him for profiting from the sales of arms, Alfred Bernhard Nobel - the Swedish chemist, engineer, and industrialist who invented dynamite and other, more powerful explosives - bequeathed his fortune to the Nobel Prize institution. 
 
‘I mustn’t speak ill of Arsenal. I do believe in bringing people together, and in Christ there is no Spurs or Arsenal. Believe it or not, we are one’ (Stephen Cottrell, Archbishop of York on Radio 5). 
Wednesday 25th November 2020 
 
‘Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint’ (Isaiah 40:28-31). 
 
When our burdens feel more than we can bear, we can forget how great and powerful God is - that he is the first and the last. Here Isaiah is telling us that in our brokenness, God comes in and saves us. He lifts our heads, he pulls us up out of our mess, and he gives us the strength to keep going. This is a message we need to hear in these times. 
 
‘Almost 200 British humanitarian, development, and domestic charities have called on the Prime Minister not to cut the UK’s foreign aid budget… Leaders of 185 organisations, from the National Federation of Women’s Institutes to Save the Children, Christian Aid, and Friends of the Earth, have signed an open letter in which they say that any cut in the £15-billion UK aid spend would be “a significant threat” to development, and could “seriously jeopardise” the UK’s long-term global Covid-19 response… In their letter, the signatories say: “We understand the challenges and difficulties the UK public faces. Covid-19 has cost more than a million lives and has strained economies around the world, including in the UK. However, at a time when 115 million people look set to be pushed back into extreme poverty, now is the time for an international, collaborative response to Covid-19”’ (Church Times 20 November 2020). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Heavenly Lord, 
you long for the world’s salvation: 
stir us from apathy, 
restrain us from excess 
and revive in us new hope 
that all creation will one day be healed 
in Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
I will be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church this morning. I shall ring the bell at 10:30am and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our Forest & Avon Team. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for the Trafalgar School at Downton. 
 
There is good news regarding Church services: ‘Churches are to reopen for public worship when the lockdown ends on 2 December, the Prime Minister has confirmed… The Covid-19 Winter Plan.. allows places of worship to open for congregations in all tiers. In tier one, the rules say: “Open, but cannot interact with more than six people.” For tiers two and three, the rules are identical: “Open, but cannot interact with anyone outside household or support bubble”’ (Church Times 23 November 2020). 
 
The Archbishops’ call to prayer for the nation - the prayer for this week: 
Lord Jesus Christ, 
in these dark and difficult days, we turn our hearts to you. 
In ages past, you have delivered our nation from disaster. 
Do it again, we pray. 
Give wisdom beyond human wisdom to our leaders, 
Give strength beyond human strength to the NHS and all our frontline workers. 
Give comfort beyond human comfort to the elderly and all who grieve. 
Lord Jesus Christ, 
in these dark and difficult days, 
turn your face towards us, 
have mercy upon us, 
and heal our land, we pray. Amen. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
On 25th November 1952 “The Mousetrap,” a murder-mystery written by Agatha Christie, opened at the Ambassadors Theatre in London. It would go on to become the longest continuously running play in history. 
Sunday 22nd November 2020 
 
‘For thus says the Lord God: I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep… I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them; I, the Lord, have spoken’ (Ezekiel 34:11-12,23-24). 
 
The image of God as our shepherd is a very powerful one. He cares for us, protects us, leads us and guides us. ‘The Lord is my shepherd,’ the Psalmist writes, ‘I shall not want’ (Psalm 23:1). While Jesus tells us ‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep’ (John 10:11). 
 
Today we celebrate Christ as King of All. He is the Lord of all creation who will return in glory at the end of time - bringing all under his just and gentle rule.. Christ’s kingship stands in contradiction to this world’s conceptions of status and power. It reminds us that Jesus is King of Kings over all earthly authorities - and we are called to worship, to serve and to obey him. 
 
A survey ‘Coronavirus, Church and You’ has concluded that ‘the writing is on the wall. These statistics show that the fragile-church hypothesis is well established in the countryside, but also experienced more widely by one in five clergy across the Church of England. Too many parish churches are running out of money, running out of people, and now running out of time. Covid-19 has hastened the urgency with which the problem needs to be addressed. Perhaps now is the time to engineer a second Reformation in England’s green and pleasant land. 
But, before the management model steps in to close these fragile churches, it is sensible to pause to reflect on how these churches may continue to speak to a new generation, and whether there is something fundamentally different between how churches work in society and how sects work in society… The new post Covid-19 Reformation may well decide that the time has come to abandon the parish churches and to find a sectarian future. This should offer a good short-term solution. What is so unfortunate, however, is that the lessons of history remind us that the Church at large survives largely because parish churches endlessly reinvent themselves as they resist pressures that would see them vanish with the morning mist’ (Church Times 20 November 2020). 
 
The collect for this week: 
Eternal Father, 
whose Son Jesus Christ ascended to the throne of heaven 
that he might rule over all things as Lord and King: 
keep the Church in the unity of the Spirit 
and in the bond of peace, 
and bring the whole created order to worship at his feet; 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
There is a service for today from the church and a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. There is no service in Church under the current lockdown rules, but the Church does remain open for private prayer from 11am and I will ring the bell so we can pray together at 10:30am. 
 
If today were not a Sunday, we would be remembering St Cecilia, the patron of music and musicians. In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for those who produce our Parish magazine, helping us to stay in touch. There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray on Monday for our bishops: Bishop Nicholas, our diocesan bishop, and Bishops Andrew and Karen, our suffragan bishops. On Tuesday we pray for politicians and their advisors. 
 
‘God uses the words of the Bible as a school of righteousness, of justice, and of love... Our reading shapes our desires, our imaginations, our emotions, our habits, our ideas, our relationships, our institutions, the structures of our society, and our cultures. It shapes all the physical stuff of the lives we live ... together in the world. All of life is caught up in the curriculum of this school’ (Church of England Report: Living in Love and Faith). 
Friday 20th November 2020 
 
‘All deeds are right in the sight of the doer, but the Lord weighs the heart. To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice’ (Proverbs 21:2-3). 
 
It is all too human to find reasons for doing what we want to do anyway, and then seeking excuses - or even scripture - to justify our prejudices or selfishness. God, though, sees through into our innermost being. He understands our true motives and our self-centredness. In his love he leads us gently to see the truth more clearly and to walk in his ways. ‘What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?’ (Micah 6:8). 
 
Today the Church commemorates Edmund King of the East Angles - and the first patron saint of England. Born on Christmas Day 841AD, Edmund succeeded to the throne of East Anglia in 856. Brought up as a Christian, he fought alongside King Alfred of Wessex against the pagan Viking and Norse invaders (the Great Heathen Army) until 869/70 when his forces were defeated and Edmund was captured. He was ordered by the Vikings to renounce his faith and share power with the pagan invaders, but he refused. According to the 10th century account of the saint’s life by Abbo of Fleury, who quotes St Dunstan as his source, Edmund was then bound to a tree, shot through by arrows and beheaded when he refused to rule as a Viking underking. 
 
There has been an exciting change at the Salisbury Foodbank. On 1st November it became an independent charity, no longer run by the Trussell Trust. In future if you wish to give a monetary donation, you will have to decide whether you wish to donate to the Salisbury Foodbank, The Trussell Trust - or perhaps both! For more details see the December copy of the Downton Parish News. 
 
The collect for today: 
Eternal God, 
whose servant Edmund kept faith to the end, 
both with you and with his people, 
and glorified you by his death: 
grant us such steadfastness of faith 
that, with the noble army of martyrs, 
we may come to enjoy the fullness of the resurrection life; 
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for charities struggling to continue their work and fundraising. Many are finding it very difficult to continue with their core purpose as their income plummets. 
 
Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for all ministers in our village. Please pray that we may know the wisdom to speak God’s word into our current situation. 
 
‘This year, how about saving Christmas by keeping Advent? Look for safe ways to buy the presents and order the food. Give some time to writing some personal cards or messages. Then, dust down your Bible and look up the stories for yourself. Light a candle for each Sunday. And enjoy the peace - peace now, as you give Christmas the best chance it can have of going off well; and the promise of a peace that passes our understanding that can surround us, come what may’ (Dr David Thomson, Church Times 13 November 2020). 
 
‘God’s creation is a dazzling explosion of diversity which speaks of the unutterable beauty, unfathomable grandeur, and infinite creativity of the Creator. And so when God made human beings, they too reflected this dazzling diversity’ (Church of England Report: Living in Love and Faith). 
Wednesday 18th November 2020 
 
‘Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty firmament! Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his surpassing greatness!.. Let everything that breathes praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!’ (Psalm 150:1-2,6). 
 
Here at the end of the Book of Psalms everything is summed up in praise. We praise God for all that he is, all that he has done, all his blessings in our lives: our creation, salvation and the love that keeps and sustains us in every moment. Everything and everyone is called upon to praise our God! 
 
‘As our parishes and schools adjust again in changing times, returning to lockdown patterns and seeking to involve those with and without technology, new forms of church gathering, worship and working are emerging. Where do we go from here? In this Diocese, we have fostered traditional church while recognising the need for forms of church that respond to the people, communities and cultures around us that are less ‘churched’. We are now seeing churches with magazine-style services streamed on social media, phone networks, person-to-person messaging, and international reach, alongside traditional prayers and liturgy, playing of pre-recorded hymns, and lighting of candles. Can these new forms be ‘Church’?’ (The Diocese of Salisbury 13 November 2020). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Heavenly Lord, 
you long for the world’s salvation: 
stir us from apathy, 
restrain us from excess 
and revive in us new hope 
that all creation will one day be healed 
in Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
I will be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church this morning, together with our Roads to God prayers. I shall ring the bell at 10:30am and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for School Governors, giving thanks for all the time, energy and commitment they give to our schools. 
 
Tomorrow there is no Reflection. The Church remembers Hilda, abbess of Whitby, who was recognised for the wisdom that drew even kings to her for advice. At the Synod of Whitby (664AD) she was instrumental in bringing resolution between the Celtic and Roman traditions in the Anglo-Saxon Church. So in our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying that we may work together for the Church. 
 
The Archbishops’ call to prayer for the nation - the prayer for this week: 
Loving Father God, 
be with us in our distress; 
be with our families, friends, and neighbours, 
our country and our world. 
Give health to the sick, 
hope to the fearful, 
and comfort to mourners. 
Give wisdom to our frontline and key workers, 
insight to our Government, 
and patience to us all. 
Overcome disease with the power of your new life, 
through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
On 18th November 1477 William Caxton published Dictes and Sayenges of the Phylosophers, the first dated book printed in England. Also on 18th November 1959 the film Ben-Hur, arguably the best of Hollywood’s biblical epics, had its world premiere; it later won an unprecedented 11 Academy Awards. 
Sunday 15th November 2020 
 
‘For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing’ (1 Thessalonians 5:9-11). 
 
We have a great future and destiny stored up for us by God. We are to live with our eyes fixed firmly on that. We have the joy of living in the light of Christ. We have the hope of expectation that one day we will live forever with him in God’s kingdom. We are an expectant people - we have a lot to look forward to! 
 
‘Church leaders continue to press the Government on the importance of worship and prayer on the spiritual and mental health of the nation, but have conceded that places of worship are unlikely to reopen before the second lockdown ends on 2 December… A spokesperson for Church House explained on Tuesday: “We are stating the importance of public worship for spiritual and mental health, and as the heart of the Church’s mission and ministry. We are also stating the measures introduced since March to make church buildings as safe as they possibly can be. We expect public worship to resume once lockdown is over. We are focusing on the positive steps we can encourage, including the month of prayer in November [News, 6 November], and forward to ensuring churches are ready for Christmas in different circumstances”’ (Church Times 12 November 2020). 
 
From the diocese: ‘Our parishes have been told their Share request will remain the same for 2021. With a few exceptional cases, our parishes will be asked to raise no more in Share than they were asked to pay in 2020. Writing to Parish Treasurers, the Chair of our Diocesan Board of Finance, Nigel Salisbury recognised we are living in exceptional times, saying that his letter “comes at a time of continuing difficulty and renewed uncertainty for all our parishes and communities.” With the possibility that restrictions may still be in place well into next year, Nigel also asked our parishes: “Whatever your particular circumstances as a parish, please pay us what you can, when you can both for the remaining weeks of 2020 and in the year ahead”’ (The Diocese of Salisbury 13 November 2020). 
 
The collect for this week: 
Heavenly Father, 
whose blessed Son was revealed 
to destroy the works of the devil 
and to make us the children of God and heirs of eternal life: 
grant that we, having this hope, 
may purify ourselves even as he is pure; 
that when he shall appear in power and great glory 
we may be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom; 
where he is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
There is a recorded service for today from the church and a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. You may notice the large plastic sheeting to one side of the picture - this is protecting the organ while vital remedial work is being done to the west wall and in the south transept. 
There is no service in Church under the current lockdown rules. However the Church is open for private prayer from 11am and I will ring the bell so we can pray together at 10:30am. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our witness as a Church. At a time when life is far from normal and many assumptions in society are under pressure, we stand for a God who is eternal, creator and Lord of the world - who holds all history in his hands. Public worship may have been banned but the Church is still here and, arguably, more important than ever. 
 
There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray on Monday for Churches Together in Downton. On Tuesday we pray for all who rely on food aid which has become an increasingly serious problem. 
 
On 15th November 1859 the final instalment of Charles Dickens’ serialized novel “A Tale of Two Cities” was published. In contrast, it was on this day in 2001 that Microsoft released Xbox, the video game console system. 
Friday 13th November 2020 
 
‘Happy are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord. Happy are those who keep his decrees, who seek him with their whole heart, who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways’ (Psalm 119:1-3). 
 
We are God’s people called according to his purpose. Only in following him and living according to his love can we find our true fulfilment, happiness and peace. The one who walks in God’s word knows the true blessedness of living and enjoying an undefiled life wholeheartedly - not trying to ‘serve two masters’ (Matthew 6:24). 
 
There was a ‘socially distanced Armistice Day service at Westminster Abbey, marking the centenary to the day of the burial of the Unknown Warrior there, started at 10.30 a.m. on Wednesday. At 11 a.m. there was two minutes’ silence. Attendance was by invitation only, but the service was streamed live by the BBC… Archbishop Welby said: “We pay tribute to the men and women who died on so many battlefields, unnamed and unclaimed except by God. Sacrifice not only comes in times of war... It is the virtue that smooths the rough roads over which our societies travel. This year people have put aside all they hold dear. We may not know what they have suffered or given up. They may be anonymous, but their actions are glorious. From their lives comes fruit. From the life of this Unknown Warrior comes the fruit of Remembrance and hope. When we face deep uncertainties and difficulties, we do not just look after ourselves - we make a stand. We know that none of us are safe until all are safe”’ (Church Times 11 November 2020). 
 
‘Part of being human is to be imperfect. We are all imperfect in different ways and impatient with other people’s imperfections and sometimes with our own.. Jesus demonstrates both patience and realism about his team and his friends. Jesus acknowledges that ministry and service will be very difficult for.. his companions. There will be opposition that is both seen and unseen. The disciples must anticipate this.. in our inevitable weakness and failure, we become better ministers and servants through the times when we stumble and fall and fail’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 28 July 2020). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
God, our refuge and strength, 
bring near the day when wars shall cease 
and poverty and pain shall end, 
that earth may know the peace of heaven 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for those at work worried about social distancing. 
 
Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for all visitors to our Churches. We are grateful that although we are unable to hold services at the moment, at least our churches do not have to be closed to private prayer. 
 
‘During the lockdown, the UK Government has again banned corporate worship (News, 6 November). They have done so without giving evidence that such a ban, with its human costs, would be an effective means of fighting the coronavirus. Permission has, quite rightly, been given for churches to be used for “essential voluntary and public services”, for private prayer, and for services to be broadcast online, but not for the services for which churches were originally built. The Government has simply not grasped the reality that communal worship, especially the eucharist, feeds those who hunger for it just as foodbanks feed those in need. Worship is not a leisure activity, but, alongside mission, is at the heart of what it means to be Christian. Indeed, worship and mission are two sides of the same coin. Worship feeds and motivates mission; mission poses penetrating questions about worship (The Rt Revd Dr Brian Castle, Church Times 10 November 2020). 
 
On 13th November 1862 Lewis Carroll wrote in his diary, “Began writing the fairy-tale of Alice - I hope to finish it by Christmas”. Also on this day in 1940 Walt Disney released “Fantasia” an experiment in animation and classical music. Unlike his first two animated movies Fantasia was not a commercial success but is now considered a classic. 
Wednesday 11th November 2020 
 
‘When the goodness and loving-kindness of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life’ (Titus 3:4-7). 
 
Today is Remembrance Day, although there will be no act of remembrance at the Borough Cross and we must remember quietly at home. It is also the day when the Church remembers Martin, Bishop of Tours. This is a happy coincidence, perhaps, as Martin was himself a soldier. 
 
Martin was born early in the 4th century in what is now Hungary where his father was a high-ranking officer in the Roman Imperial Horse Guard. At the age of fifteen, Martin was required to follow his father into the cavalry. By the time he was 18, Martin is believed to have served in Gaul, and also eventually Milan and Treves - and scholars think he served as part of the emperor's guard. About the age of 20, Martin made clear to his superiors that he would no longer fight, following his Christian conscience - “I am Christ’s soldier: I am not allowed to fight”. Martin travelled to Tours where he began studying under Hilary of Poitiers. Here Martin established a monastery and became the father of monasticism in Gaul, and the first great leader of Western monasticism. Then in 371AD he was made bishop of the city despite not wanting the job. He died in 397AD and was one of the first non-martyrs to be publicly venerated as a saint. 
 
‘Martin’s worry about cooperation with evil reminds us that almost nothing is either all black or all white. The saints are not creatures of another world: They face the same perplexing decisions that we do. Any decision of conscience always involves some risk. If we choose to go north, we may never know what would have happened had we gone east, west, or south. A hyper-cautious withdrawal from all perplexing situations is not the virtue of prudence; it is in fact, a bad decision, for “not to decide is to decide”’ (www.franciscanmedia.org/). 
 
From the Archbishops’ letter to the nation: ‘Soon it will be Christmas. At his birth Jesus was also called Emmanuel. It’s a word that appears in lots of carols. It means ‘God is with us’. And this is the message of Christmas: in Jesus, God is with us, sharing our darkness and our struggles, bringing comfort and joy. It is the source of our hope. As the Bible says: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:5) Let us shine in the darkness of this winter’. 
 
The collect for today: 
God all powerful, 
who called Martin from the armies of this world 
to be a faithful soldier of Christ: 
give us grace to follow him 
in his love and compassion for the needy, 
and enable your Church to claim for all people 
their inheritance as children of God; 
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
I will be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church at 10:30am. I will ring the bell and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for all who suffer through war. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for all medical staff in hospitals, GP surgeries, Care homes and research laboratories. 
 
The Archbishops’ call to prayer for the nation - the prayer for this week: 
Loving God, 
at this time of crisis 
when so many are suffering, 
we pray for our nation and our world. 
Give our leaders wisdom, 
our Health Service strength, 
our people hope. 
Lead us through these parched and difficult days 
to the fresh springs of joy and comfort 
that we find in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 
Sunday 8th November 2020 
 
‘I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings should be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth’ (1 Timothy 2:1-4). 
 
We should give thanks and pray for those who are in authority, says Paul, because God has ordained government in society to keep order. For all its faults and the failings of those who rule, we need government. In his Apology, Tertullian referenced this verse when saying that he prayed for emperors and the empire, for courageous armies, for a faithful senate and virtuous people, and for peace. “All who are in authority” would include officials of foreign nations - even enemy nations. Jesus told us to love our enemies and to pray for those who mistreat and persecute us, so “that you may be children of your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:43-45). 
 
Paul’s words are especially remarkable given that Nero, who instituted a terrible persecution of Christians, was emperor during Paul’s ministry. Paul doesn’t specify the contents of our prayers for these officials. Should we pray that their hearts be turned towards God? Yes! Should we pray that they be given wisdom and integrity? Certainly! Should we pray that they act wisely and justly? Most assuredly! 
 
Today is Remembrance Sunday. There is a recorded service from the church - together with members of our local Royal British Legion. The service includes a time of Remembering, with the Exhortation, Last Post, two minutes Silence and Reveille. There is a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. The main tenor bell from the tower will be rung for remembrance at 11am. 
 
Our 10:30am service of Holy Communion in Church has been cancelled under current lockdown rules, but the Church is open for private prayer from 11am and I will ring the bell so we can pray together at 10:30am. Rev. Ron Hart was due to lead this service, and I attach his notes. Thank you, Ron. 
 
The collect for this week: 
Almighty Father, 
whose will is to restore all things 
in your beloved Son, the King of all: 
govern the hearts and minds of those in authority, 
and bring the families of the nations, 
divided and torn apart by the ravages of sin, 
to be subject to his just and gentle rule; 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for those at University and College. We pray especially for those suffering from the mental stress of lockdown and those worried about seeing their families at Christmas. There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray on Monday for those in Residential and Nursing Homes - lifting them, their families and all who care for them to God. On Tuesday we pray for our bellringers, thankful that we can still hear them as they ring out. 
 
From our service today: 
If there is to be peace in the world, 
There must be peace in the nations. 
If there is to be peace in the nations, 
There must be peace in the cities. 
If there is to be peace in the cities, 
There must be peace between neighbours. 
If there is to be peace between neighbours, 
There must be peace in the home. 
If there is to be peace in the home, 
There must be peace in the heart. 
(Lao-Tzu, 6th century BC) 
Friday 6th November 2020 
 
‘Our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humiliation so that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself’ (Philippians 3:20-21). 
 
At times we can get so caught up with the problems and trials of the world and our worries about life that we forget that our true home is in heaven. Our time here is one where we learn to follow in the ways of God and his service - an apprenticeship as it were. We have a most wonderful and glorious future in store for us. 
 
As of this week, we are unable to worship together in Church - but will continue to have midweek prayers and a recorded Sunday service. However the Church will be open for private prayer. This will now be on Sundays as well as Wednesdays. You are welcome to come and spend some quiet time from 11am to 12:30pm. 
 
‘The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have appealed to the British people to be calm, courageous, and compassionate, the day before the second lockdown comes into force. In a rare letter to the nation, published on Wednesday, and addressed “Dear friends”, the Archbishops refer to the story of Jesus calming the storm. They write: “This year, too, we have been caught in a storm which often feels overwhelming. And yet we can look to Jesus, in the boat with us, who calms the storm and comforts us in fear.” 
They continue: “We are writing to share our belief that whoever you are, and whatever you happen to believe, you are loved by God. Beyond measure. We also want you to know that we are praying for you, particularly asking that Christ’s love will comfort us, calm our fears, and lead our nation and our world through this terrible pandemic.” 
They invite people to join churches in prayer every day at 6 p.m., and encourage three responses in particular. First, they ask people to be calm… Second, they call on people to be courageous… Third, they ask people to be compassionate’ (Church Times 4 November 2020). The full text of the letter can be found here
 
‘The Archbishops are encouraging daily prayer for the nation throughout the month. We are encouraged to pray daily for a specific area of national concern culminating in a collective moment of prayer at 6.00pm each evening, with cathedrals and churches across the country invited to ring a bell at this time. There is a simple seven-day prayer cycle, praying for a specific area each day including the NHS and frontline workers, the bereaved, and those struggling with physical and mental ill-health, and for children and young people’ (Bishop Nicholas). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
God of glory, 
touch our lips with the fire of your Spirit, 
that we with all creation 
may rejoice to sing your praise; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our Churchwarden and Deputy Churchwardens who continue to work hard for our Church family. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for all key workers who contribute so much to our health and welfare, especially at this time. 
 
This Sunday is Remembrance Sunday. There will not be a formal Remembrance Parade or service but our recorded service - available on the website - will include remembrance with the Exhortation, Last Post, Silence and Reveille. 
 
For music lovers: Antoine-Joseph ”Adolphe” Sax, who invented the saxophone was born on 6th November 1814, while forty years later on 6th November 1854 the American bandmaster John Philip Sousa, who composed 136 military marches, was born. 
Wednesday 2nd November 2020 
 
‘Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure’ (Philippians 2:12-13). 
 
It is not in our own strength but God’s that we follow and serve him; it is not by our own efforts but by allowing God to work in and through us. This is particularly important to remember and understand in these difficult and worrying days. This is not to say that our part is unimportant, for we are to ‘work out your own salvation’. However we do this with God sustaining, strengthening and supporting us. He holds us in his hands, sets us on his paths and guides us with his Spirit. 
 
As I write and send these words to you, I am very aware of the perils in what I say. ‘It’s very tempting to judge success in the Church today by the number of Twitter followers a preacher has, or by the size of congregation a pastor draws, or by the book sales an author produces. All these things are of course done in the cause of the gospel, and when you do an internet search for the preacher/pastor/author’s name, somewhere in the results Jesus does get a mention. Yet, today, there remains across the globe a mighty army of faithful Christians called.. to follow Jesus, whose names are known only to God. Without monument or applause, they too know the truth of Isaiah’s words: ‘Only in the Lord... are righteousness and strength’. And.. in the power of the Spirit they are seeing Jesus change the world’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 28 October 2020). 
 
Tomorrow we enter a second period of lockdown. It has been announced that ‘Places of Worship will be closed, unless they are being used for: Funerals, To broadcast acts of worship, Individual prayer’ (www.gov.uk). However ‘Senior church leaders were not consulted about the suspension of public worship, which was announced on Sunday as part of a second national lockdown which comes into force on Thursday. They were due to meet the Government on Monday to seek an explanation for “why certain exemptions were made and not others”. In an ad clerum sent to C of E clergy on Monday, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and the Bishop of London write that they are grateful that churches will be allowed to remain open for private prayer and online broadcasts. “We were cautious about these issues during the first lockdown - perhaps overly so - but in this second lockdown we want to encourage church buildings to remain open for private prayer wherever possible, making sure that their buildings are Covid-secure in the ways that we have learned in recent months, and to broadcast services from their church buildings”’ (Church Times 3 November 2020). 
We wait to hear the detail of the rules. 
 
The collect for this week: 
Almighty and eternal God, 
you have kindled the flame of love 
in the hearts of the saints: 
grant to us the same faith and power of love, 
that, as we rejoice in their triumphs, 
we may be sustained by their example and fellowship; 
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
I will be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church at 10:30am. The bell will be rung and I ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for all those made redundant or unable to find work. We know that all too many people have already lost their jobs or are unable to return to their workplace and are in need not only of practical help but our prayers. We pray also for the American people at this time. 
 
Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for our Church School, which is doing a wonderful job ensuring our children continue to grow and learn in these difficult days. 
Sunday 1st November 2020 
 
‘After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!”’ (Revelation 7:9-10). 
 
Today is All Saints Day. We are reminded that we are all saints - the people of God. As Paul writes to the Christians in Rome: ‘To all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints’ (Romans 1:7). We recall also the witness of all those who have gone before and have encouraged and inspired us. Like stained glass windows, the saints are those who allow the light of God to shine through them. We rejoice that in God’s good time we will all stand together around his throne as one of the multitudes of the heavenly host. 
 
There is a recorded service for today from the church and a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. Also today at 10:30am we are having a short service of Holy Communion in Church - and the church bells will be ringing from 10 o’clock. 
 
Also this afternoon we have our All Souls service when we remember those whom we have loved and stand already in God’s presence. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace and rise in glory. 
 
‘When we commemorate during a liturgical celebration those who have gone before us, we do much more than direct a pious thought to our own deceased family and friends; we recognize that we stand in the midst of history and that the affirmation of our present condition is grounded in the recognition that we were brought to where we are now by the innumerable people who lived their lives before we were given the chance to live ours’ (Henri J.M. Nouwen). 
 
So we will be going into lockdown again this week - not, I think, any real surprise. We don’t know yet what this will mean for our services and Church life. I will let you know when I have more information but please watch the website. Whatever happens we intend to continue our recorded services. 
 
The November issue of Downton Parish News is now available free to view or download. For those unable to access our magazine through the website, there are a few printed copies available (free) in the Co-op, Chemist and Woodfalls Post Office. Please let anyone know that you think may want one - or collect one for them. They and we would be most grateful. 
 
The collect for today: 
God, you have knit together your elect 
in one communion and fellowship 
in the mystical Almighty body of your Son Christ our Lord: 
grant us grace so to follow your blessed saints 
in all virtuous and godly living 
that we may come to those inexpressible joys 
that you have prepared for those who truly love you; 
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray that we may reflect God in our lives, living as his saints in the world. ‘Saints are not men who store goodness in themselves, they are just men who do not delay to repent, and whose repentances are honourable’ (Austin Farrer). There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray on Monday for the bereaved and all who mourn. On Tuesday we pray for our Team Rector and family. 
 
On 3rd November 1534 the Act of Supremacy was passed confirming that Henry VIII was the head of the Church of England. From this has evolved our particular expression of what it means to be Church - and the worldwide Anglican Communion, now the third largest denomination of about 85 million Christians worldwide. 
Friday 30th October 2020 
 
‘All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord, and all your faithful shall bless you. They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom, and tell of your power, to make known to all people your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendour of your kingdom. Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations’ (Psalm 145:10-13). 
 
In these difficult and uncertain times, it is good to know that the one enduring and steadfast reality is God and his kingdom. We are God’s own people, and in Jesus we are the heirs of his kingdom which will last forever. In the words of the angel to Mary: ‘He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end’ (Luke 1:32-33). We are safe in his hands and set aside in his service. So we are to proclaim his kingdom - reflecting God in our lives and making him known in the world. ‘To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen’ (Revelation 1:5-6). 
 
‘When we see social relationships controlled everywhere by the principles which Jesus illustrated in life - trust, love, mercy, and altruism - then we shall know that the kingdom of God is here’ (Martin Luther King, Jr.). 
 
‘Churches in Switzerland have backed legislation to penalise multinationals that abuse human rights and damage the environment, and have urging that their country’s neutral and humanitarian traditions be deployed to encourage similar steps internationally. “Human rights provide a protective shield for everyone against inhuman treatment by a third party - this requires companies to respect human rights abroad as well,” the Evangelical Reformed Church said in a joint statement with Switzerland’s Roman Catholic Bishops’ Conference. “It makes it all the more important that international enterprises headquartered in Switzerland actively contribute to protecting human rights where they cannot be guaranteed because of precarious political and legal conditions.” The statement was issued in support of a Corporate Responsibility Initiative, which threatens sanctions against companies that fail to uphold environmental and human-rights standards, and is to be put to a national referendum on 29 November’ (Church Times 23 October 2020). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Merciful God, 
teach us to be faithful in change and uncertainty, 
that trusting in your word 
and obeying your will 
we may enter the unfailing joy of Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
We had our Annual Meeting last Sunday. It was a small affair under the present restrictions, but important to the life of our Church. Thank you to all who produced reports - they are still up in Church if you wish to read them. I gave my Team Rector’s report which is now available to be read. 
 
This coming Sunday afternoon at 4pm we will be holding our All Souls service when we remember our loved ones. This year we have been giving priority to those who have been bereaved recently to attend. There are, though, a few extra spaces available. If you wish to come, please contact me. If you are unable to come, please pause for a moments prayer at that time. 
 
According to tradition, it was on 31st October 1517 that Martin Luther posted on a church door in Wittenberg, Germany, his Ninety-five Theses. His manifesto turned a protest about an indulgence scandal into the Protestant Reformation - “Here I stand, I can do no other, God help me. Amen!”. 
 
‘Live in the kingdom of God in such a way that it provokes questions for which the gospel is the answer’ (Lesslie Newbigin). 
Wednesday 28th October 2020 
 
‘So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God’ (Ephesians 2:19-22). 
 
Today the Church celebrates the apostles Simon and Jude. Apart from their names in the Gospel, there is very little we know for definite about these two Apostles. Simon is called the Zealot (Luke 6:15). ‘Zealot’ here may indicate membership of a strict Jewish sect. There was also a party called Zealots famous in the war of the Jews against their Roman occupiers but there is no evidence they existed in Jesus’ lifetime. Jude, or Judas son of James (Luke 6:16), was also called Thaddaeus - presumably to distinguish him from Judas Iscariot. “Judas” in New Testament contexts corresponds to “Judah” in the Old Testament. He is also believed to be the author of the Letter in the New Testament bearing his name. After the Last Supper we read: Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, ‘Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them’ (John 14:22-23). Some ancient Christian writers say that Simon and Jude went together as missionaries to Persia and were martyred there. If this is true, it explains, to some extent, our lack of historical information on them and also why they are usually put together. 
 
‘Unless the church stops being defined as the building, the ministry of lay people will not flourish, a new report suggests. The report.. offers an in-depth examination of the part played by the laity, historically and in scripture, and asks why a succession of church reports over more than half a century have failed to correct the Church’s leaning towards clericalism. “Why has the culture proved so difficult to shift when there is no obvious argument being put forward in favour of the status quo?” the report asks… 
“The risk is that the strength of association between church and place makes it easy to hear such language as making a distinction between being gathered into the church and being sent out from the church - with the clear implication that it is in gathering that the church is most truly at home and most truly itself.” This misunderstanding has been promoted by secularists and individualists, the report suggests, seeking to define the church only as what goes on in the building, or, at most, private piety or work of a social nature. Consequently, those who order life in the building - predominantly the clergy - achieve an elevated status, and clericalism continues to thrive. 
In contrast, the report says: “The church as gathered by and in God is not defined by geographical or social boundaries; while the church as sent by God always travels in divine company and never moves away from its divine origin”… Lay ministry cannot simply be that which the Church turns to because it can no longer afford enough professional, ordained ministers, or when not enough people come forward to train as priests. Congregations that are not, instead, being regularly asked what ministerial vocation each member is called to are “failing in a fundamental duty”. “The calling of God’s people as a whole is a kingdom calling: called to be sign, instrument and foretaste of the kingdom, which extends over all creation”’ (Church Times 22 October 2020). 
 
The collect for today: 
Almighty God, 
who built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, 
with Jesus Christ himself as the chief cornerstone: 
so join us together in unity of spirit by their doctrine, 
that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; 
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for all who rely on food aid. Clearly this is a very topical story at the moment. In the words of the Trussell Trust ‘No-one should face going hungry’. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for School Governors. 
 
I will be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church at 10:30am. I shall ring the bell and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. 
Sunday 25th October 2020 
 
‘Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him’ (Colossians 3:16-17). 
 
Today we celebrate the received word of God that we have in and through the Scriptures (the Bible) - the great gift of God to us in his holy word, to inspire, teach and guide us. ‘All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work’ (2 Timothy 3:16-17). 
 
‘Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation’ (Articles of the Church of England, VI). 
 
‘Post-pandemic stimulus packages are at risk of increasing global inequality and jeopardising efforts to reduce climate change, Christian Aid has warned. In a report released today, Whose Green Recovery?, the charity said that governments’ economic stimulus plans designed to aid reconstruction after Covid-19 were often just “rhetoric” that did little to help the most vulnerable. Christian Aid says that that half a trillion dollars globally have gone towards supporting carbon-intensive industries, and that 70 per cent more aid has been given to businesses related to fossil fuels, such as airlines, than to their green alternatives. In the UK alone, more than £5 billion has been awarded to the oil, gas, and transport sectors without requiring a future commitment to becoming more sustainable. Christian Aid said that recovery plans publicised as “green” made little provision for poorer countries that were trying to recover from the economic fallout. The danger inherent in this, the charity has said, was of poorer nations’ being left with only cheap fossil fuels to support post-pandemic recovery efforts. Any climate gains already made are under threat, as well as the status of the Paris agreement and the 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), scheduled to take place in Glasgow in November next year (News, 5 September), the charity says’ (Church Times 23 October 2020). 
 
The collect for this week: 
Blessed Lord, 
who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: 
help us so to hear them, 
to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them 
that, through patience, and the comfort of your holy word, 
we may embrace and for ever hold fast 
the hope of everlasting life, 
which you have given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
There is a recorded service for today from the church and a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. Also today at 10:30am we are having a short service of Holy Communion in Church - and the church bells will be ringing from 10 o’clock. This will be followed by our Annual Meeting. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray that we might grow through God’s Word. Scripture reveals God to us and helps us to understand him and his call. Jesus said ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free’ (John 8:31-32). 
 
There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray on Monday for the Trafalgar School at Downton. On Tuesday we pray for those in Residential and Nursing Homes. 
 
Today two significant battles in our history are remembered: Agincourt in 1415 and the Battle of Balaclava (which included the Charge of the Light Brigade in 1854. While both of these were remarkable encounters, it is perhaps an open question as to what we have learnt from them. 
Friday 23rd October 2020 
 
‘There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all’ (Ephesians 4:4-6). 
 
As the Church we need to remind ourselves constantly that we belong to the one Body of Christ. All our hopes, all our plans and ambitions for the Church should be contained in the one goal - the proclamation and building up of the Kingdom of God. That is our call, our purpose and our true joy, and the Church to which we belong is simply an instrument to help us as we seek to achieve that. 
 
‘The proverbial Someone Else, much beloved and terribly elusive, won’t fill in for us. I am the only person occupying my particular space in life with my opportunities and gifts and friendships. I am the only one who can witness to the kingdom of God, and work for it, in my particular setting. So it’s over to me, and you. Not as burden and duty but as privilege and joy. Not with my strength but with the light touch of the Spirit. Not with my ideas but with the nudge of God’s genius’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 17 October 2020). 
 
‘Politics must not be reduced to “raw majority power unleashed” that normalises law-breaking, the Archbishop of Canterbury has warned. The UK “will suffer great harm” and peace between the home nations will be compromised, he told the House of Lords on Monday. Archbishop Welby was contributing to a debate on the Internal Markets Bill which was given its second reading in the Lords. The Bill, which sets up internal arrangements for trading after the Brexit transition period ends, has been heavily criticised for breaking international law, something that the Government has admitted, and reversing the devolution of power in the UK. “What we are above all called to do in this country, deeply embedded in our Christian culture and history, is to act justly and honestly,” the Archbishop told peers. “We cannot do so if we openly speak of breaking a treaty under international law reached at properly on which peace in part of the UK relies”’ (Church Times 20 October 2020). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Faithful Lord, 
whose steadfast love never ceases 
and whose mercies never come to an end: 
grant us the grace to trust you 
and to receive the gifts of your love, 
new every morning, 
in Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for all who assist with our services. The format and delivery of our services may have had to change over this year, but we still gather together to worship God in whatever way we can and as best we can. 
 
Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for politicians and their advisors. There appears to be increasing division as the effects of the pandemic are felt unevenly across the country. We pray for a true spirit of generosity and a desire to ensure that all are treated with equal respect and value. 
 
The world was created on Sunday 23rd October 4004 BC at 9 a.m. This was the conclusion of the 17th century divine James Ussher, Archbishop of Armagh. He calculated this from key events recorded in the Bible. This date was widely accepted in the Western world until the 19th century. 
 
Finally: I remind you that the clocks go back on Saturday night as British summer time comes to an end – so we all get any extra hour in bed! 
Wednesday 21st October 2020 
 
'Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God's grace that was given to me by the working of his power. Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places' (Ephesians 3:7-10). 
 
We have the privilege of sharing the good news - the boundless riches of Christ. Paul here calls himself a diakonos, a minister according to the gift of the grace of God. It is possible that the word has its origin in a similar Greek word, diakonis, which means "running through dust." In the Roman world, servants would run errands for their masters through the dusty streets. We too are servants of the gospel called to run through the dust 'so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known'. 
 
'The Archbishop of York, newly enthroned in York Minster, has spoken of the "hope, relief, and practical help" that the Church has brought to communities affected by the coronavirus. In the sermon during his enthronement service on Sunday, he referred to the uncertainty and fear felt by many, especially those in the north, and paid tribute to the work carried out by the National Health Service. He put this in the context of one of his predecessors. "This is a time of huge challenge, uncertainty, and fearfulness in our world. I am conscious that I'm standing in the shoes of some very great forebears, not least a man like William Temple, who, during the darkest hours of the Second World War, with others, dreamed of what the peace may look like, and how literally devastated cities would be rebuilt; but also a moral vision for the rebuilding of a nation. "He was one of the architects of that post-war consensus that gave birth to a welfare state, and to that NHS that we stood out on the streets and clapped every Thursday evening during the hardest days of lockdown," he said' (Church Times 19 October 2020). 
 
The collect for this week: 
O God, forasmuch as without you 
we are not able to please you; 
mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit 
may in all things direct and rule our hearts; 
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
I will be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church this morning, together with our Roads to God prayers. I shall ring the bell and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for all ministers in the village. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for all visitors to our Churches. 
 
'What the Church brings, its USP, is all the kind of weird stuff. If you regard Jesus as just an enlightened teacher, then, ultimately, he's no different to philosophers, teachers from other periods of history... But if what the Gospels, the New Testament, the Church teaches is true, then the strangeness is so strange that it must surely animate everything that Christians say about the figure of Jesus' (Tom Holland, Church Times podcast) 
 
On 21st October 1805 a fleet of 33 ships (18 French and 15 Spanish) under Admiral Pierre-Charles-Jean-Baptiste-Silvestre de Villeneuve fought and was defeated by a British fleet of 27 ships under Admiral Horatio Nelson in the Battle of Trafalgar (combat was waged west of Cape Trafalgar, Spain). So, as we approach Remembrance Day in a couple of weeks, we pray for all those who have lost loved ones or been injured through war - especially at sea. 
Sunday 18th October 2020 
 
‘Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake their way, and the unrighteous their thoughts; let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts’ (Isaiah 55:6-9). 
 
We need to listen attentively to God. We should seek to know him and to learn what is good. However as our understanding grows we must beware the temptation to think that we know better. ‘God took a huge risk in making a world that is other than himself, and we live with the resultant questions of who causes what. The answer probably doesn’t lie in philosophical argument or any form of human wisdom, but in flesh and blood, both Jesus’ and ours. It’s in our own experience that we know both God’s ways and our ways are honoured, both God’s freedom and ours are fully in play’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 15 October 2020). 
 
Today we remember St Luke - gospel writer, doctor and missionary - and so bring before God our own witness and the healing ministry of the Church. He was the author of Luke’s Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles, a companion of St Paul, and the most literary of the New Testament writers. We know little about his life expect from Paul’s letters from which we learn that he was a physician and a Gentile and that he accompanied Paul on several missionary journeys. Luke's gospel shows a special sensitivity to evangelizing Gentiles. It is only in his gospel that we hear the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus praising the faith of Gentiles, and the story of the one grateful leper who is a Samaritan. 
 
‘Episcopalians in the United States have been urged by their Presiding Bishop, the Most Revd Michael Curry, to “shine a light against the darkness” of the increasing coronavirus cases and the divisions over race and the presidency. The Church’s Executive Council met via Zoom this week.. In an opening address that referred to the divisions of race as well as politics, Bishop Curry said: “We are meeting in the midst of some pretty difficult times. Now is not the time to hide this light under the bushel. Now is the time to lift up this light... this light that we’ve gotten from Jesus, and let it shine - even, and in spite of, whatever may happen around us”’ (Church Times 16 October 2020). 
 
The Revd Canon Jane Charman is being inducted today as Rector of the Cockermouth Area Team. We pray for her, together with the Revd Canon Bill Rogers, Matilda and Trelawny in their new home and as they start this new time in their lives and ministry. 
 
The collect for today: 
Almighty God, 
you called Luke the physician, 
whose praise is in the gospel, 
to be an evangelist and physician of the soul: 
by the grace of the Spirit 
and through the wholesome medicine of the gospel, 
give your Church the same love and power to heal; 
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
There is a recorded service for today from the church and a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. Also today at 10:30am we are having a short service of Holy Communion in Church - and the church bells will be ringing from 10 o’clock. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for all who minister to the sick. There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray on Monday for Bishop Nicholas. On Tuesday we pray for peace in the world. 
Friday 16th October 2020 
 
‘Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God’s sight. But even the hairs of your head are all counted. Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows’ (Luke 12:6-7). 
 
It is good to remember in these difficult times that God loves and cares for us. In our complex and often confusing world it is all too easy to think that our lives, hopes, fear and aspirations are of little consequence or interest to those who make the decisions. Yet to God we are, each one of us, very important and greatly loved. We matter to him for ourselves - that individual, unique person that we are - rather than simply for what we might become or in our economic contribution to society. 
 
We respond in faith and love. ‘Something attracted us to move from nominal faith, or being outside faith altogether, to being serious about it.. So are we being faithful to that original heavenly vision that we were given, or have we let it drift into conventional religiosity? Discipleship has been defined as ‘long obedience in the same direction’. The precise nature of the heavenly vision will vary from person to person, but the overall direction is always the same - it’s towards Jesus Christ’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 12 October 2020). 
 
This is the Week of Prayer for World Peace. ‘This interfaith event has taken place each October since 1974. It began with 'A Call to Prayer for World Peace' which was signed by many Faith Leaders, including Lord George Macleod, Trevor Huddleston, Kenneth Slack and Bishop Wilfrid Westall. They wrote: 'Believing that God is calling us to pray with new purpose and deeper understanding for peace and justice among all people, we invite our fellow believers of all faiths to join in a Week of Prayer for World Peace.' (Churches Together in England). 
 
As the new wave of COVID-19 begins to make itself felt, there appear to be indications that there may be a greater incidence of it locally than earlier in the year (I have heard of more than one instance recently, including that at The Goat). We hold our whole community in prayer before God and seek to help one another to keep safe and in practical ways. As yet there is no indication that this will affect our worship, but we must be careful and prepared. I will continue to keep you informed as best I can. 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
God, our judge and saviour, 
teach us to be open to your truth 
and to trust in your love, 
that we may live each day 
with confidence in the salvation which is given 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for the bereaved, remembering especially those who cannot have their loved ones with them in their last hours, and those relatives and friends who are unable to attend a funeral. 
 
Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for charities struggling to continue their work and fundraising. Many are battling to survive and nearly all are struggling to find the funds they need for their work. This affects not only those unable to receive their help but the jobs of their employees. 
 
On 16th October 1555 during the reign of Queen Mary Tudor, the Reformation Bishops Latimer and Ridley were burned at the stake for refusing to recant their faith. Latimer immortalized himself by exhorting Ridley with the words “we shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England as I trust shall never be put out.” 
 
There was another fire on 16th October 1834 when the Houses of Parliament burnt down. This wasn’t the action of enraged constituents but probably started by porters burning used tally sticks. 
 
‘No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it’ (1 Corinthians 10:13). 
Wednesday 14th October 2020 
 
‘The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things’ (Galatians 5:22-23). 
 
This wonderfully complements the passage from the letter to the Philippians we had on Sunday. The way we live should reflect the Spirit at work within us. If we allow God to rule in our lives, then his fruit will develop and grow within us. As Jesus tells us ‘every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit’ (Matthew 7:17-18). 
 
Our Annual Parochial Church Meeting, which was postponed in April due to the lockdown, will be held in church on Sunday 25th October following the morning service. The AGM reports are now up in Church in the south aisle for us to read. You can do this while the church is open on a Wednesday morning, or after the service on Sunday. 
 
‘The Church of England’s Advent and Christmas campaign for 2020, Comfort and Joy, has been launched with a special purpose to console people who are suffering because of the pandemic and may not be in the mood for “jubilation”. The C of E website says: “Comfort and Joy holds together the hope that Christmas will bring joy and celebration after a uniquely difficult year with an acknowledgement that — for those who have lost loved ones or livelihoods, or who are potentially still not able to be together with loved ones — it may be the Church’s role, both nationally and locally, to provide consolation, rather than assume everyone will be ready to join in jubilation. We also have to anticipate there may be further spikes.” It asks the Church to draw on St Paul’s words in Romans 12.15: “Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.” It continues: “We will aim to celebrate where we can together in one place - but also embrace a wider community that wants to join in the celebration but may not be physically able - or emotionally ready - to do so. We hope that Comfort and Joy will enable us to build a campaign that both enables us to reconnect with the rich and joyous traditions of the past and to offer God’s consoling love in the present.”’ (Church Times 9 October 2020). 
 
Let me share with you the prayer from Branksome St Aldhelm in our Diocesan Cycle of Prayer: 
We give thanks for the open doors of our awesome church building; 
we pray for open minds in all who enter those doors; 
and we pray that all of us be more and more open to God 
and to his generous possibilities for us and for our world. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for Churches Together in Downton - for our shared witness as God’s people here. 
 
I shall be using simple order for Morning Prayer in Church at 10:30am. I shall ring the bell and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. 
 
Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for those at work worried about social distancing. Many people have no choice about how they work and must accept the hazards of their workplace in order to pay for the necessities of life. 
Also tomorrow the Church remembers St. Teresa of Ávila, who in a time of great change and upheaval pointed the way from outer turmoil to inner peace. ‘St. Teresa of Ávila, also called Saint Teresa of Jesus, original name Teresa de Cepeda y Ahumada, (born March 28, 1515, Ávila, Spain - died October 4, 1582, Alba de Tormes; canonized 1622; feast day October 15), Spanish nun, one of the great mystics and religious women of the Roman Catholic Church, and author of spiritual classics. She was the originator of the Carmelite Reform, which restored and emphasized the austerity and contemplative character of primitive Carmelite life. St. Teresa was elevated to doctor of the church in 1970 by Pope Paul VI, the first woman to be so honoured’ (https://www.britannica.com/)
 
On a lighter note: 14th October 1926 marked the literary debut of Winnie-the-Pooh, when he first appeared in a collection of short stories by A.A. Milne. The book followed his adventures in the forest with his friends Piglet, Owl, Rabbit, and Eeyore. 
Sunday 11th October 2020 
 
‘Whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things’ (Philippians 4:8). 
 
Here in his letter to the Christians in Philippi, Paul gives us a wonderful checklist against which we can measure our own actions and intent - by focussing our thoughts firmly on Godly values. He is not talking here about the power of positive thinking, but rather exhorts us always to seek that which is right and good and true. If these are at the forefront of our minds then Godly living should follow. 
 
‘Pope Francis has reaffirmed a link between religious faith and human dignity in his new encyclical, Fratelli Tutti: On fraternity and social friendship, and confirmed his Church’s unconditional rejection of war, capital punishment, and excessive wealth. He calls on Christians to back policies that promote justice and the common good. “For decades, it seemed the world had learned a lesson from its many wars and disasters, and was slowly moving towards various forms of integration,” the encyclical observes. “Our own days, however, seem to be showing signs of a certain regression. Ancient conflicts thought long buried are breaking out anew, while instances of a myopic, extremist, resentful and aggressive nationalism are on the rise.” The 40,000-word letter was signed in Assisi and published last weekend. Pope Francis’s third encyclical, it claims inspiration from the “fraternal openness” espoused by St Francis, who died in 1226. It says that faith in God has “concrete consequences” for the ways in which people take decisions and treat one another’ (Church Times 9 October 2020). 
If you wish to read the full encyclical, you can find it here
 
The collect for this week: 
Almighty and everlasting God, 
increase in us your gift of faith 
that, forsaking what lies behind 
and reaching out to that which is before, 
we may run the way of your commandments 
and win the crown of everlasting joy; 
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
There is a recorded service for today from the church and a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. Also today at 10:30am we are having a short service of Holy Communion in Church - and the church bells will be ringing from 10 o’clock. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our Parochial Church Council (PCC). Together we are responsible for guiding our church and making decisions on behalf of all - and we value your prayerful support as we seek to do this. 
 
There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray on Monday for the Barford Day Centre. On Tuesday we pray for our Church School, which as just appointed a new Deputy Head. 
 
On 11th October 1962 Pope John XXIII convened an ecumenical council of the Roman Catholic Church - the first in 92 years. In summoning the ecumenical council (Vatican II - a general meeting of the bishops of the church) the pope hoped to bring spiritual rebirth to Catholicism and cultivate greater unity with the other branches of Christianity. 
 
‘Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened’ (Winston S. Churchill). 
Friday 9th October 2020 
 
‘The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy. They are established for ever and ever, to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness. He sent redemption to his people; he has commanded his covenant for ever. Holy and awesome is his name. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practise it have a good understanding. His praise endures for ever’ (Psalm 111:7-10). 
 
The fear - or rather respect, reverence and awe - of the Lord is the true beginning of wisdom. Wisdom is rather underrated today, it would seem. Cleverness looks to be valued more highly now. Yet true wisdom looks beyond that to what is good and right further than the concerns of the moment. ‘Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself’ (Rumi). 
 
‘A Chinese textbook teaching ethics has used a story from the Gospels - but changed the ending. The Roman Catholic news agency UCA News reports that the government-run University of Electronic Science and Technology Press has produced a textbook for secondary vocational schools on the subject of “professional ethics and law”. The book uses the story of the woman caught in adultery who is presented to Christ by the crowd, from chapter 8 of St John’s Gospel. “The crowd wanted to stone the woman to death as per their law. But Jesus said, ‘Let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone.’ Hearing this, they slipped away one by one.” In St John’s Gospel, the story concludes: “When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, ‘Woman, where are those thine accusers? Hath no man condemned thee?’ She said, ‘No man, Lord.’ And Jesus said unto her, ‘Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.’” The textbook version, however, states: “When the crowd disappeared, Jesus stoned the sinner to death saying, ‘I, too, am a sinner. But if the law could only be executed by men without blemish, the law would be dead.’” (Church Times 1 October 2020). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Gracious God, 
you call us to fullness of life: 
deliver us from unbelief 
and banish our anxieties 
with the liberating love of Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for those who produce our Parish magazine. Through their work they continue helping us to keep in touch. It involves a lot of work, and we are most grateful to them. 
 
Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for all for medical staff: those in hospitals, GP surgeries, Care and Residential Homes, research laboratories and wherever they may be. We give thanks for all their hard work, dedication and professionalism - and we pray that they won’t be forgotten again when this crisis is passed. 
 
‘It was almost inevitable that the coronavirus would be treated by statisticians like a war, in which fatalities are logged but injuries are overlooked. But long-term Covid “injuries” are changing perceptions of the virus yet again. There is now clear evidence of persistent and often debilitating symptoms among those who have contracted Covid-19, including those who thought that they had escaped lightly. Breathlessness, fatigue, and loss of cognition are common, to be added to the range of severe disabilities caused to sufferers who emerged, scathed, from intensive care. As citizens in the UK, on the Continent, and elsewhere return to stricter regulations in attempts to flatten a second wave, it might encourage compliance if more people were aware of long Covid’ (Church Times 1 October 2020). 
 
‘For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding’ (Proverbs 2:6). 
Wednesday 5th October 2020 
 
'Praise the Lord, all you nations! Extol him, all you peoples! For great is his steadfast love towards us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures for ever. Praise the Lord!' (Psalm 117). 
 
This, the shortest of all the psalms, is a universal call to worship. It calls on us all to praise the name of the Lord. In all probability it was frequently used as a brief hymn suitable for almost every occasion, and especially when the time for worship was short. Perhaps it was also sung at the commencement or at the close of other Psalms, just as we now use the doxology. 'Martin Luther devoted thirty-six pages to this psalm, expounding it in four important categories: (1) prophecy (the Gentiles will participate in gospel blessings), (2) revelation (the kingdom of Christ is not earthly and temporal but rather heavenly and eternal), (3) instruction (we are saved by faith alone and not by works, wisdom, or holiness), and (4) admonition (we should praise God for such a great salvation)' (James Montgomery Boice). 
 
Yesterday the Church remembered William Tyndale whose work translating the Bible inspired much of the wonderful phrasing we have in the Authorised Version (the King James Bible). Tyndale believed that the scriptures should be made available to the English people in their own language, but the church authorities in England prevented him from translating the Bible. So in 1524 he went to Germany, receiving financial support from wealthy London merchants. His New Testament translation was completed in July 1525 and printed at Cologne, the first copies reaching England in 1526. Tyndale then began work on an Old Testament translation. However he was captured in Antwerp before it was completed and was executed at Vilvoorde in 1536. 
 
'Whether the translation is more functional or formal in its equivalence to the original text, the task of the translator has always been to strike the balance of communicating the message of the original language clearly while allowing the target reader to follow literary devices through the text, an important goal to ensure that the written Word of God is able to speak clearly to cultures around the world' (Mark L. Strauss). 
 
As you may have gathered, I had a problem with my emails on Sunday. It began as I was sending out the Daily Reflection. I was still receiving emails - but those I was sending were not being delivered, despite their appearing sent from my end. Nothing I could do or find in my searches provided me with an answer. Then twelve hours later the problem simply disappeared and the sent emails popped up at their destinations. As in so many areas of modern life, we work with systems and forces about which we understand little and often can affect even less. 
 
The collect for this week: 
 
Almighty God, 
you have made us for yourself, 
and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you: 
pour your love into our hearts and draw us to yourself, 
and so bring us at last to your heavenly city 
where we shall see you face to face; 
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our Team Rector and family. As always we are deeply grateful that you hold us in your prayers. Please also remember the other members of our Team, David Bacon and Veronica Batchelor and their families. 
 
I will be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church at 10:30am. I shall ring the bell and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. 
 
Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for our children and young people. We hold them in our thoughts and prayers as the pandemic continues to impact their education. We pray also for our schools as they work hard to support them. 
Sunday 4th October 2020 
 
‘You visit the earth and water it, you greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water; you provide the people with grain, for so you have prepared it. You water its furrows abundantly, settling its ridges, softening it with showers, and blessing its growth. You crown the year with your bounty; your wagon tracks overflow with richness. The pastures of the wilderness overflow, the hills gird themselves with joy, the meadows clothe themselves with flocks, the valleys deck themselves with grain, they shout and sing together for joy’ (Psalm 65:9-13). 
 
Today we celebrate Harvest, it being the first Sunday in October. This has been a mixed year for our farmers, and we hold them in our prayers. We thank God for his abundant provision (apples seem to be particularly plentiful this year). There is more than enough for all and we pray for the grace and wisdom to share it with open and generous hearts. We are reminded also of our call to care for God’s creation - not simply as part of our Christian vocation but out of necessity for our survival. 
 
We offer our grateful thanks to God for all the fruits of the earth, the down-coming of the rains (particularly abundant these past few days!), the ripening warmth of the sun and the seeds and produce of every year. We pray that we may always walk gently upon the earth, in a right relationship with God and all his creation, ever seeking his way. ‘As the gathering of first fruits and presenting them is a pledge that the whole harvest shall be reaped, so the resurrection of Christ is a pledge of the resurrection of the human race (cf. 1 Cor 15:22)’ (F.J. Taylor). 
 
The collect for Harvest: 
Almighty and everlasting God 
we offer you our hearty thanks 
for your fatherly goodness and care 
in giving us the fruits of the earth in their seasons. 
Give us grace to use them rightly, 
to your glory, 
for our own well-being, 
and for the relief of those in need; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
There is a recorded service for today from the church and a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. Also today at 10:30am we are having a short service of Holy Communion for Harvest in Church - and the church bells will be ringing from 10 o’clock. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we give thanks for all God’s goodness. Usually on 4th October we would remember Francis of Assisi. However as this is a Sunday he has been transferred to tomorrow. St. Francis is the patron saint of animals and the environment, as his devotion to God was expressed through his love for all of God's creation. So as we thank God for his great and abundant goodness to us, we ask for the grace and wisdom to preserve the integrity of his creation and use it for the good of all. 
 
There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary on Monday we pray that we may grow through God’s Word. On Tuesday we pray for those made redundant or unable to find work - a particularly pertinent prayer at this time. The biggest rise in unemployment recently has been among young people. The Office for National Statistics says that this is because young people are more likely to be employed in areas such as hotels, restaurants and tourism. 
 
On 4th October 1535 the first complete English Bible, the work of Miles Coverdale, came off the press either in Zürich (Switzerland) or in Cologne (Germany) - an important step in making the scriptures available to all. While on this day in 1957 the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite, which orbited Earth until 1958 inaugurating the space age. 
Friday 2nd October 2020 
 
‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest’ (Matthew 9:37-38). 
 
We are reminded here of Jesus’ words immediately before he ascended: ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age’ (Matthew 28:19-20). In a similar vein, Peter tells us ‘you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light’ (1 Peter 2:9). We are God’s labourers, called out by him not simply to follow but to ‘proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness’ and to ‘make disciples’. 
 
On Sunday we will be celebrating Harvest Festival. Clearly we cannot do this as we would normally, collecting in offerings of food during our service and then selling the fresh produce to raise money for the Trussell Trust. However the need this year is likely to be even greater as the financial impact of the coronavirus continues to affect jobs and lives on an individual level. So instead we will be taking a special collection for the Trussell Trust: through a retiring collection on Sunday or through donations delivered to The Vicarage. Alternatively, of course, you can make a contribution directly to the Trussell Trust. 
 
‘What do the Bishop of Oxford, Dr Krish Kandiah, Annie Lennox, and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream all have in common? They’re all really chilled, I hear you say? Not quite — but they do all want to keep our world cooler. Today, the Climate Coalition, the UK’s largest group dedicated to action on climate change, has launched a declaration which urges the Prime Minister to lead the UK towards a healthier, greener, fairer future as we tackle the coronavirus. High-profile signatories come from across society and include Ellie Goulding, David Gyasi, Liam Gallagher, Gillian Burke, businesses such as Tesco and Selfridges, and Christian leaders such as Pete Greig and the Revd John and Anne Coles. NGOs signed up include Tearfund, Islamic Relief, and the Women’s Institute, as well as community groups, MPs, and more. Members of the public are being urged to join this rallying call to show the strength of support for action on climate change. The Climate Coalition aims to get one million signatures before the UN climate talks in Glasgow in November 2021’ (Church Times 30 September 2020). 
 
The prayer after communion for this week: 
Almighty God, 
you have taught us through your Son 
that love is the fulfilling of the law: 
grant that we may love you with our whole heart 
and our neighbours as ourselves; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our Forest and Avon Team as we seek to continue serving God in mission and ministry across our six parishes at this time. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for all key workers. We give thanks for all their dedication and hard work, pray that they may have the resources they need, and ask God’s blessing upon them. 
 
The October issue of Downton Parish News is now available free to view or download. For those unable to access our magazine through the website, there are a few printed copies available (free) in the Co-op, Chemist and Woodfalls Post Office. Please let anyone know that you think may want one - or collect one for them. They and we would be most grateful. 
 
On a lighter note, you may like to know that on 2nd October 1950 Charles M. Schulz's comic strip, Peanuts, was printed for the first time in 9 newspapers around the U.S. 
Wednesday 30th September 2020 
 
‘Your hands have made and fashioned me; give me understanding that I may learn your commandments. Those who fear you shall see me and rejoice, because I have hoped in your word’ (Psalm 119:73-74). 
 
We are each one special and unique. God made us all for a very particular purpose. Each and every one of us has been created lovingly and individually. Before we were even born, he knew us, loved us and had a vision for our lives. ‘O Lord, you have searched me and known me… For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made’ (Psalm 139:1,13-14). We each have a very specific place in God’s plan for his kingdom and we seek understanding of his will for us, the path he has set before us. 
 
‘More than 150 Anglican clergy have joined with ministers of other denominations to urge the Government not to recommend the suspension of public worship again for fear of causing “serious damage” to the mental, physical, and spiritual well-being of the nation. In an open letter sent to MPs on Thursday of last week and published over the weekend, the five lead authors, while supporting “proportionate measures” to protect the vulnerable from the coronavirus, oppose the severity of recent restrictions (News, 25 September). “We are troubled by policies which prioritise bare existence at the expense of those things that give quality, meaning and purpose to life,” they write. “Increasingly severe restrictions are having a powerful dehumanising effect on people’s lives, resulting in a growing wave of loneliness, anxiety, and damaged mental health. This particularly affects the disadvantaged and vulnerable in our society, even as it erodes precious freedoms for all. In our churches, many have been working tirelessly to provide help to those most affected.” The letter has accrued more than 780 signatures’ (Church Times 28 September 2020). 
 
Thank you to Ron Hart for sharing this uplifting video from the Mary Help Association in South Sudan 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Lord of creation, 
whose glory is around and within us: 
open our eyes to your wonders, 
that we may serve you with reverence 
and know your peace at our lives’ end, 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
‘The diocese of Blackburn has released a prayer asking for “wisdom and stamina” among teachers and “good judgement” from school leaders to keep pupils safe in “challenging times”’ (Church Times 25 September 2020): 
Lord God, we ask you to pour your blessing on the schools of our nation. Give joy and curiosity to our children: that they may discover their gifts, grow in knowledge and learn to live well. Give wisdom and stamina to our teachers: that they may delight to inspire young minds and find contentment in their work. Give vision and good judgement to our head teachers, school leaders and governors: that they may guide our schools well and keep them safe in challenging times. Give courage and compassion to the people of our land: Protect us from fear and help us to act with calmness and kindness. Your Son Jesus Christ taught his disciples to follow in his Way. Inspire us by his example and strengthen us by his presence, for we make our prayer in his holy name. Amen. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our Lay Pastoral Assistants (LPAs) and all who ensure that our pastoral care continues in this trying time. 
 
I shall be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church at 10:30am. I shall ring the bell and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. 
 
Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for our Churchwarden and Deputy Churchwardens, thanking God for their ministry and asking that he will ever watch over them and keep them. 
Sunday 27th September 2020 
 
‘Listen to me, O Jacob, and Israel, whom I called: I am He; I am the first, and I am the last.. Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: I am the Lord your God, who teaches you for your own good, who leads you in the way you should go’ (Isaiah 48:12,17). 
 
God himself is our teacher. He knows us and understands us far better than we can ever know and understand ourselves. He gently guides and directs our way according to his plans for our salvation and purposes for our life. He watches over us constantly for our good and promises to provide us with everything we need for what he is calling us to do. 
 
Yesterday 8 priests and 14 deacons were ordained and 4 LLMs were licensed across the diocese (https://www.salisbury.anglican.org/news). We pray for them all as they enter this new stage in their ministry and we give thanks to God for raising up new ministers to serve in his Church, especially at this time. May God grant them wisdom, strength and a renewed vision. 
 
‘A survey into local and global community showed that 43% of adults across the South West of England had an increased sense of community spirit in their neighbourhood since the start of lockdown, Christian Aid has revealed. In the survey by Savanta ComRes*, commissioned by the aid and development charity, a further 28% of adults across the South West said they felt more part of a global community than before the virus outbreak began. The survey results are launched as Christian Aid is encouraging people this autumn to come together within their local communities, in line with restrictions, to help those worldwide who have been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic. Half (50%) of all Christian adults questioned in the poll across the UK said they felt there had been an increase in community spirit in their neighbourhood and 31% reported feeling more part of a global community’ (Diocese of Salisbury Grapevine, 25 September 2020). 
 
The collect for this week: 
O Lord, we beseech you mercifully to hear the prayers 
of your people who call upon you; 
and grant that they may both perceive and know 
what things they ought to do, 
and also may have grace and power faithfully to fulfil them; 
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
There is a recorded service for today from the church and a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. Also today at 10:30am we are having a short service of Holy Communion in Church - and the church bells will be ringing from 10 o’clock. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for those in Residential and Nursing Homes Our local care homes are continuing to do great job. However many staff and residents are feeling the strain as the pandemic continues to hold us in its grip. We continue to hold them all in our prayers. 
 
There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary on Monday we pray for all who rely on food aid. All the indications are that this number will rise in the coming months. Also we offer our practical support through the Trussell Trust - to whom financial donations are probably most helpful at this time. Tuesday is the Feast of St Michael and All Angels (Michaelmas) and we pray for our passing on of God’s message - that we too might be heralds of the Kingdom. 
 
‘We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts. How can God entrust great things to one who will not thankfully receive from Him the little things?’ (Dietrich Bonhoeffer). 
Friday 25th September 2020 
 
'O Lord, what are human beings that you regard them, or mortals that you think of them? They are like a breath; their days are like a passing shadow' (Psalm 144:3-4). 
 
It is indeed a most wonderful mystery that Almighty God, the creator and sustainer of all, should care for us - that indeed he should love us, even to extent of being born in human form and dying on the cross for us: 
 
'Tis mystery all! The Immortal dies! 
Who can explore His strange design? 
In vain the firstborn seraph tries 
To sound the depths of love Divine! (Charles Wesley) 
 
It would appear that we are heading back into lockdown. At this time we think most especially of those who find isolation and distancing particularly stressful or difficult. We pray for them and also all residents of care homes and their families who are unable to visit with one another properly. 'Our language has wisely sensed the two sides of being alone. It has created the word "loneliness" to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word "solitude" to express the glory of being alone' (Paul Johannes Tillich). 
 
'Divisions are deeper now - on the brink of a second wave of coronavirus infections - than they were six months ago when the nation first went into lockdown, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have warned in a joint letter to all bishops on Wednesday. The letter speaks of the inevitability of further national and local restrictions as the winter months approach, and the responsibility of the Church to "avoid mistakes" and respond in the right way to a more complex situation than before. In March, the Church was criticised for going beyond the government advice at the time and ordering church buildings to close, even to clergy (News, 24 March). "We will need to be more critical in our response to restrictions that are above and beyond government regulations," the Archbishops write, "helping the Church at the local level, in parish and diocese, steer a course that is marked by responsible action towards each other, care for the most vulnerable, and witness for the poor and disadvantaged who are suffering disproportionately."' (Church Times 23 September 2020). 
 
Tomorrow we were due to hold our Goose Fair in Church. This has been always an enjoyable event with plenty of opportunity to meet people and for fellowship - and perhaps even an opportunity to buy an early Christmas present. We will miss it. Also, of course, it is one of our major fund-raising events of the year. Along with many other charitable organisations, our finances have been very hard hit by our need to cancel all our big social events. 
 
The prayer after communion for this week: 
Keep, O Lord, your Church, with your perpetual mercy; 
and, because without you our human frailty cannot but fall, 
keep us ever by your help from all things hurtful, 
and lead us to all things profitable to our salvation; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for school governors. They are volunteers who work hard to support our schools and we are greatly blessed by their dedication. Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for Trafalgar School at Downton. 'While one is young is the time to investigate, to experiment with everything. The school should help its young people to discover their vocations and responsibilities, and not merely cram their minds with facts and technical knowledge; it should be the soil in which they can grow without fear, happily and integrally' (Jiddu Krishnamurti). 
 
'Thieves who targeted a church roof in Wales took lead worth just £35, but caused damage that will cost 100 times more to repair. The crooks struck over the August Bank Holiday weekend at All Saints', Newport, taking out the flashing from a gully between two roofs. "It was a very small amount of lead," the Hon. Priest-in-Charge, the Revd Christopher Watkins, said. "It has a scrap value of about £35, but the repair estimates are around the £3500 mark. It is really galling. The irony of it all is that, if it was taken because the people are hard up, we would have given them the money if they had come to us. They did try to take more, but the roof is very steep, and it has moss on it; so it is quite difficult to climb. The police don't hold up much hope of finding anybody." He said that the bill was so high because the new lead had to be beaten into the correct shape, and that there was considerable damage to slates, batons, and underfelt to be repaired. There are also labour costs' (Church Times 11 September 2020). 
Wednesday 23rd September 2020 
 
‘Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, or else he will rebuke you, and you will be found a liar’ (Proverbs 30:5-6). 
 
We have the word of God himself. God is in his word, God is his promise, we can put our trust in him. That is sufficient, and therefore we are warned that we must not add to it - a warning we find also right at the end of the Bible in the Book of Revelation. Throughout the history of the Church there has always been the temptation to add new restrictions or requirements to the faith, or claims to possess a unique and unassailable knowledge of God’s will. However we have God’s own word, available to all - a tremendous and living blessing. Alongside that we must remember Jesus' promise that ‘when the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come’ (John 16:13). 
 
Yesterday I was walking through the village against the flow of pupils coming out of school. It is heartening to see that, whatever else may happening, our schools are all back and working hard for our children and young people. Sometimes we forget that when we are young we have just the one chance at schooling. We give thanks for the dedication and commitment of all our school staff. 
 
‘A chalice made of lead, dating from the sixth century, is being hailed as one of the most important finds of a Christian artefact in Western Europe. It was discovered in the remains of an early church built inside the Roman fort at Vindolanda, near Hexham, close to Hadrian’s Wall. Broken into 14 pieces, the cup, which is about the size of a modern cereal bowl, is covered with religious grafitti. The director of Vindolanda excavations, Dr Andrew Birley, said that discovering the church was an important find, but finding the inscribed chalice was “quite incredible”. “This artefact sheds a bright light into a time that used to be known as the Dark Ages,” he said. The marks inside and outside the cup appear to be by the same hand. They are difficult to see with the naked eye, but specialist photography revealed symbols including crosses, chi-rhos, a whale, fish, flags, angels, a smiling priestly figure holding a crook, ears of wheat, and a boat with a cross-shaped mast, believed to represent the Church as a vessel to take Christians to their eternal destination. “It’s just remarkable” Dr Birley said. “Nothing in North-Western Europe comes close from the period.”’ (Church Times 18 September 2020). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Lord God, 
defend your Church from all false teaching 
and give to your people knowledge of your truth, 
that we may enjoy eternal life 
in Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
I attach a simple order for Morning Prayer that I shall be using in Church at 10:30am. I shall ring the bell and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for all who assist with our services. While our services at the moment may appear to be more simple, preparation for them has to be more careful. Tomorrow there is no Reflection and in our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for politicians and their advisors. As we come to the party conference season we listen to their programmes and their claims, while remembering that God tells us: ‘I am the one who searches minds and hearts, and I will give to each of you as your works deserve’ (Revelation 2:23). 
 
‘The 1662 Book of Common Prayer has arrived on Amazon smart speakers, helping users to say morning and evening prayer and to learn more about its history. On Thursday, Cambridge University Press, which publishes the Prayer Book, announced that Alexa smart speakers would now be programmed with a new “skill” - one of the voice-driven apps - called the Cambridge Prayer Book. The idea is to help people to pray and worship at home during the pandemic. Users can now ask Alexa to: “Say morning prayer”; “Say evening prayer”; “Pray the Lord’s Prayer”; “Give me the Apostles’ Creed”; and “Recite the Grace”. The services are read by clergy from St John the Evangelist, Cambridge, close to the publisher’s headquarters. In place of a congregation, responses are said by members of the Cambridge University Press choir. There is also a small selection of Bible readings’ (Church Times 17 September 2020). 
 
As we rely on even more our computers and other devices during the pandemic, you may like to know that on 23rd September 1884 the American Herman Hollerith patented his mechanical tabulating machine - the beginning of data processing. And the rest, they say… 
Sunday 20th September 2020 
 
O give thanks to the Lord, call on his name, make known his deeds among the peoples. Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wonderful works. Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually. Remember the wonderful works he has done, his miracles, and the judgements he has uttered’ (Psalm 105:1-5). 
 
Here we have an exhortation to praise God for all his dealings with his people. Indeed Psalm 105 is sometimes called a “Hallelujah psalm,” since it ends with that phrase. However it reminds us that true praise is more than just a joyful expression of worship. We are to remember all that God has done for us, and we are to share that with those around us. So our praise leads naturally to our witness to all that God is at work in the world. 
 
As I return from a refreshing break (thank you to all who’ve asked: we had a good time away) to these Daily Reflections, autumn is approaching and our thoughts turn naturally to our usual activities in this period. Earlier hopes that things might be better by now are fading - and so we continue to look for new ways to live out our mission as God’s people in the world. Perhaps he is calling us to be Church in quite a new way? 
 
The collect for this week: 
God, who in generous mercy sent the Holy Spirit 
upon your Church in the burning fire of your love: 
grant that your people may be fervent 
in the fellowship of the gospel 
that, always abiding in you, 
they may be found steadfast in faith and active in service; 
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
There is a recorded service for today from the church and a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. Also today at 10:30am we are having a short service of Holy Communion in Church - and the church bells will be ringing from 10 o’clock. 
 
‘Places of worship have been granted additional exemptions to the ban on social gatherings of more than six people, which came into force on Monday (News, 11 September). When it announced the “rule of six” last week, the Government was clear that public worship would be exempt. Updated guidance, published on the Church of England website on Thursday says, however, that this “is not a blanket exemption”. Worshippers must not form groups of more than six in church, unless they are from the same household or support bubble… 
The C of E guidance does not address socialising after services, but Government guidance says that, once a worship service has ended, “participants should be encouraged to move on promptly, to minimise the risk of contact and spread of infection... “Worshippers should limit their interactions with anyone they are not attending your Place of Worship with, i.e. if they are attending a communal service with one other household, wherever possible they should try not to engage in conversation with anyone outside of this group.”‘ (Church Times 17 September 2020). 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for peace in the world. At this time more than ever we need to work together across our world both in fighting the pandemic and seeking to minimise, or even better reverse, the conditions that have caused it. 
 
The is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. On Monday we celebrate St Matthew the Apostle who gave up being a tax collector to follow Jesus, and became one of the four gospel writers. In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray that we may use our gifts in God’s service. On Tuesday we pray for all visitors to our Churches. 
 
On 20th September 1519 the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan departed from Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Spain, with five ships on a quest to circumnavigate the globe. Although Magellan died during the voyage, the expedition achieved its goal when the surviving ship, the Victoria, returned to Spain on 6th September 1522 to become the first ship to circumnavigate the globe - opening up new vistas and possibilities. 
Wednesday 2nd September 2020 
 
‘Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God, and steadfast love belongs to you, O Lord. For you repay to all according to their work’ (Psalm 62:11-12). 
 
As we look around the world today, all that is going on, it is always good to remember where true power and authority lie - and hold fast to that. God is the Creator and Sustainer of all; all things are in his hands; he is Almighty God. As we proclaim each time we say the Lord’s Prayer: ‘Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory’! All things are for the glory of God. This driving passion was the very heartbeat of Jesus’ ministry, the highest aim he sought and the loftiest goal he pursued. All things in life and ministry, Jesus taught, are to be solely for the glory of God. We hold fast to him, and he holds us firmly in his hands. 
 
As we adapt to our new ways of worship, how about this from the Church in California: ‘Clergy in the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Sante Fe have been warned that they may face “possible suspension of the faculty to preach” if they continue to breach the five-minute time limit for homilies. The Vicar General, the Very Revd Glennon Jones, said that the rules were in place to limit people’s exposure to the coronavirus, as well as to avoid putting them off attending mass. Since May, priests have been permitted to celebrate mass under strict guidelines; attendance has been limited to ten per cent of each church building’s capacity, and singing has been prohibited. In a memo on 31 July, clergy were instructed to keep homilies “very brief”. The warning came after mass-goers had been informed of the archdiocesan protocols and had expressed concerns’ (Church Times 28 August 2020). 
 
From tomorrow I am taking a break for a couple of weeks. So the next Daily Reflection will be on Sunday 20th September. The Church will still be open on Wednesdays for Private Prayer from 11:00am and there will be a service of Holy Communion at 10:30am on each Sunday, when the Church bells will be rung. There will also be services on the website each Sunday. 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
God of constant mercy, 
who sent your Son to save us: 
remind us of your goodness, 
increase your grace within us, 
that our thankfulness may grow, 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for those starting at a new School or College. This is a particularly difficult time for all in education and we continue to bear them in our prayers. ‘Upon the subject of education… I can only say that I view it as the most important subject which we as a people may be engaged in’ (Abraham Lincoln). 
 
I shall be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church at 10:30am. I shall ring the bell and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. Although we continue to find it difficult to come all together in worship and prayer, we are together even as we pray physically apart. 
 
The Parish Prayer Diary for each day in September can be found in Downton Parish News
 
On Sunday 2nd September 1666 the Great Fire of London began accidentally in the house of the king’s baker in Pudding Lane near London Bridge. The worst fire in London’s history, it destroyed two thirds of the City of London - including most of the civic buildings, old St. Paul’s Cathedral, 87 parish churches, and about 13,000 houses. A violent east wind encouraged the flames, which raged during the whole of Monday and part of Tuesday. 
Sunday 30th August 2020 
 
‘Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me. To the one who conquers I will give a place with me on my throne, just as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne’ (Revelation 3:20-21). 
 
This is the passage that inspired the artist William Holman Hunt to paint his famous picture The Light of the World. In the early 20th Century this “sermon in a frame” became the most travelled artwork in history. It depicts Jesus, carrying a lantern, knocking at a door with no handle on the outside. The door is overgrown with weeds, and the nails and hinges are rusted, implying that the door has never been opened. The message: it is up to the person on the other side of the door to let Jesus in. Jesus never forces his way in where he is not wanted. We have to invite him in to share our lives. 
 
‘A short film in which a priest describes “the extremes of emotion” which he experiences in his ministry has been watched more than 30,000 times on social media. In the film, the Vicar of St Silas the Martyr, Kentish Town, in north London, Prebendary Graeme Rowlands, says: “I am what I do, and I do what I am. And so I can’t define when I’m doing my work as a priest, and when I’m not.” He continues: “There is no such thing as an average day. The hardest part, I suppose, is coping with the extremes of emotion, not just in other people but in me — because I will go immediately from a graveside, back into school, and then on to a visit, which is quite hard going. My life is so ordinary and uninteresting; there’s nothing interesting to say. But, on the other level, my life is absolutely full.” His message about vocation is uncomplicated: “Of course, if God wants you to be ordained, then you will; and, if he doesn’t, then you won’t. I can’t imagine being anywhere else or doing anything else.”.. Since the film was posted on Twitter, on 14 August, it has been viewed more than 33,000 times. The Twitter message promoting the video has had more than 8000 “engagements” (the number of times people have interacted with the tweet), and nearly 500 “likes”. It was not possible to ascertain the exact location of viewers, because the video was posted from a personal, not a business, account. Mr Haddock said that he was surprised by the reaction. “A few hours after posting, I’d had very kind messages from quite a few people, from as far away as the US and Kenya.”’ (Church Times 28 August 2020). 
 
The collect for this week: 
Almighty and everlasting God, 
you are always more ready to hear than we to pray 
and to give more than either we desire or deserve: 
pour down upon us the abundance of your mercy, 
forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid 
and giving us those good things 
which we are not worthy to ask 
but through the merits and mediation 
of Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
There is a recorded service for today from the church together with a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. Also today at 10:30am we are having a short service of Holy Communion in Church - and the church bells will be ringing from 10 o’clock. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our Parochial Church Council (PCC). As the trustees for St Laurence, we have the responsibility for our Church’s life, ministry and mission and decisions on how we worship together. 
 
There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray on Monday for charities struggling to continue their work and fundraising. On Tuesday we pray for our Churchwarden and Deputy Churchwardens. 
Friday 28th August 2020 
 
‘Happy are those who live in your house, ever singing your praise. Happy are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are set on the pilgrim’s way’ (Psalm 84:4-5)
 
Today the Church remembers St Augustine, a foremost theologian and teacher of the faith and bishop of Hippo in North Africa from 396AD to 430AD. 
‘Augustine is remarkable for what he did and extraordinary for what he wrote. If none of his written works had survived, he would still have been a figure to be reckoned with, but his stature would have been more nearly that of some of his contemporaries. However, more than five million words of his writings survive, virtually all displaying the strength and sharpness of his mind (and some limitations of range and learning) and some possessing the rare power to attract and hold the attention of readers in both his day and ours. His distinctive theological style shaped Latin Christianity in a way surpassed only by Scripture itself’ (https://www.britannica.com/)
 
We hold in our thoughts and prayers our schools and all children and young people as they prepare to return for a new term. ‘Bishops have praised the resilience of students and the “unstinting work” of school leaders, after a week of anxiety and anger surrounding A-Level and GCSE results… In a statement to coincide with GCSE results day on Thursday, the Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler, who is the lead bishop for education, said that the continued row should not distract schools from the task of preparing to reopen next month, however. “Today’s GCSE results day is an important moment of celebration for many, and for others it is a time of uncertainty over next steps and future direction. Students have shown immense resilience and character in unprecedented circumstances. The unstinting work of teachers, school leaders, and governors throughout this whole period has been absolutely inspirational”’ (Church Times 20 August 2020). 
 
The collect for today: 
Merciful Lord, 
who turned Augustine from his sins 
to be a faithful bishop and teacher: 
grant that we may follow him in penitence and discipline 
till our restless hearts find their rest in you; 
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for volunteers helping others in their community. We give thanks for all who have reached out to their neighbours at this time, and pray that such acts of care and generosity may continue into the future. 
 
Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for all who rely on food aid. We are all aware of the need and that the pandemic has exacerbated existing problems. ‘The charity Child Poverty Action Group has warned of a “significant deterioration” in living conditions for low-income families caused by the coronavirus. The warning comes in a report, Poverty in the Pandemic: The impact of coronavirus on low-income families and children, published on Tuesday, and co-authored by the Church of England’s Mission and Public Affairs Council. The research was based on a survey of 285 families on low incomes whose children are eligible for free school meals, backed up by interviews with 21 families. The report’s key finding is that eight out of ten of the families say that they are in a worse position because of the pandemic. In addition, nearly half (48 per cent) reported having a debt problem that was new or worse than before’ (Church Times 25 August 2020). 
 
On 28th August 1963 Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech before a crowd of some 250,000 people during the 1963 March on Washington. A call for equality and freedom, it became one of the defining moments of the civil rights movement and remains one of the most famous speeches in history. Weaving in references to the country’s Founding Fathers and the Bible, King used universal themes to depict the struggles of African Americans before closing with an improvised riff on his dreams of equality. 
Wednesday 26th August 2020 
 
‘You who live in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty, will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust’ (Psalm 91:1-2). 
 
There are many Christians who seem to know very little of the shelter of the Most High or what it is to abide under his shadow. Many seem to regard this as only a thing for mystics or the super-spiritual. Yet David, if he wrote this, was a warrior and man well acquainted with the realities of life. It is true that the life of the spirit seems to come more easily for some than for others, but there is an aspect of this that is for us all. We don’t have to be a mystic or super-spiritual - God is present with each one of us and all who put their trust their trust in him live in his loving shelter. 
 
‘Without a sound theology the Orthodox fear that prayer could become a personal experience deprived of any certainty, an illusion. But, even more importantly, without a basis in prayer, theological speculation would easily remain isolated from life. Theology is not an end in itself, but rather a means, a way to union with God’ Andrew Ryder SCJ). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
God of glory, 
the end of our searching, 
help us to lay aside 
all that prevents us from seeking your kingdom, 
and to give all that we have 
to gain the pearl beyond all price, 
through our Saviour Jesus Christ. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
As we draw towards the end of the traditional wedding season, we think about those who had been hoping to be married this year: ‘“I’ve grieved for my wedding,” Ruth Lumbers, a 37-year-old nurse living in Bradford, says. “I know it was only a day, but I actually had to grieve for it.” This sense of loss - for dresses unworn and speeches unread - has been widespread in a summer overshadowed by Covid-19. Even as restrictions slowly ease, this pandemic is certain to change how weddings are celebrated for years to come. But, long before a downsized wedding was even possible, many betrothed couples were stuck in limbo at the start of the pandemic… This stress is not uncommon. A survey of 34,000 brides by the financial app Dreams found that one in ten couples considered calling off their engagement owing to the emotional and mental strain of planning a wedding during a pandemic’ (Church Times 21 August 2020). 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our Lay Pastoral Assistants (LPAs) who continue to play an important role in the pastoral work of our Church, keeping us in touch and connected. We give thanks for their ministry and dedication. 
 
I shall be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church at 10:30am. I shall ring the bell and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. 
 
Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for our bishops: Bishop Nicholas, our diocesan bishop, and Bishops Andrew and Karen, our suffragan bishops. 
 
On 26th August 1883 the Indonesian island of Krakatoa erupted in the largest explosion recorded in history, heard 2,200 miles away in Madagascar. The resulting destruction sent volcanic ash up 50 miles into the atmosphere and killed almost 36,000 people - both on the island itself and from the resulting 131-foot tidal waves that obliterated 163 villages on the shores of nearby Java and Sumatra. Ash fell as far away as 3,775 miles away and barographs around the globe documented that the shock waves in the atmosphere circled the planet at least seven times. The atmospheric effects made for spectacular sunsets all over Europe and average global temperatures were as much as 1.2 degrees cooler for the next five years. 
 
Let me share with you the prayer from Hazelbury Bryan & the Hillside Parishes in our Diocesan Cycle of Prayer: 
Please pray for our communities and congregations in a time of change; instil in us all a sense of hope and expectation as we look to the future. A hope grounded in God’s faithfulness and an expectation held firm in the promise of the Holy Spirit who works through us and intercedes for us. 
Sunday 23rd August 2020 
 
Jesus said to them, ‘Who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God’ (Matthew 16:15-16). 
 
Who is Jesus? Is he a great teacher, prophet, spiritual leader? The Christian faith holds that he is none other than God himself in human form - incarnate. ‘I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic - on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg - or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse’ (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity). 
 
‘Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death - even death on a cross’ (Philippians 2:5-8). 
 
From St Mary’s Church, Beverley in East Yorkshire: ‘This year, as part of the restoration of the north nave clerestory, 14 new carvings of characters from The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis are being made especially for St Mary’s. These new carvings are being made with kind permission from The CS Lewis Company Ltd... On 17th August 2020, all fourteen of the carvings were blessed by the Bishop of Hull in the presence of the stonemasons who created them and who are restoring the church’s stonework. Bishop Alison described the ceremony as “one of the most joyful things that I have been invited to do as a bishop”. It was the last chance to bless the carvings before they are fixed high up on the church’s walls in the coming weeks’ (https://stmarysbeverley.org/heritage/narnia/). 
 
The collect for this week: 
O God, you declare your almighty power 
most chiefly in showing mercy and pity: 
mercifully grant to us such a measure of your grace, 
that we, running the way of your commandments, 
may receive your gracious promises, 
and be made partakers of your heavenly treasure; 
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
There is a recorded service for today from the church and a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. Also today at 10:30am we are having a short service of Holy Communion in Church - and the church bells will be ringing from 10 o’clock. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for young people - especially those worried about their future. After all the confusion over exam results recently, many young people have had their plans thrown into confusion. We must remember always that these are - each one - individual people who matter for themselves, not just percentages and statistics. We pray also for all those preparing for a new stage in life. 
 
There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. Tomorrow we remember St Bartholomew the Apostle (who may also be the Nathanael introduced to Jesus by the apostle Philip in John’s Gospel). Tradition has it that he preached in India and Greater Armenia, where he converted King Polymius. In our Parish Prayer Diary tomorrow we pray for all who suffer for their faith. On Tuesday we pray for politicians and their advisors. 
 
On 24th August 79AD, Mount Vesuvius erupted, destroying the ancient cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. The excavations of these sites in the mid-18th century led to the modern science of archaeology. 
Friday 21st August 2020 
 
'A lawyer asked him a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets’ (Matthew 22:35-40). 
 
Jesus’ summary of the Law neatly encapsulates what it means to live a Christian life. Here we have the very heart of the old covenant as it is transformed through Jesus into the new. Jesus said ‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfil. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished’ (Matthew 5:17-18). Ours is a faith of relationships: our relationship with God and through him with one another. It is a relationship of love, worked out in love. 
 
‘Some choirs made a prompt and joyful return to church services on Sunday, after changes to government guidelines on the performing arts were announced on Friday. These were reviewed and then endorsed by the Church of England in new guidance issued on Monday. 
It is not yet clear which of the scientific studies of droplet transmission commissioned by the Department for Digital, Media, Culture and Sport gave the Government confidence to “reconsider appropriate mitigations”. Results are eagerly awaited from Declan Costello, an ear, nose, and throat surgeon and choral singer, who has been conducting stringent trials. Lay vicars from Salisbury Cathedral have also taken part in experiments (News, 10 July). 
Crucially, it is now permissible for both professional and non-professional singers and musicians to perform individually or in small groups inside and outside of buildings, in line with the recommendations for physical distancing and hygiene set out by the Government in its performing-arts guidance. 
The C of E guidance makes it clear: “This includes those who regularly volunteer to do music and singing, as part of a choir, for example, to perform as a part of worship.” 
Congregations are not yet permitted to sing. Wherever possible, the guidance says, people should continue to distance physically from those with whom they do not live; venues, performers, and audiences should be matched to ensure that two-metre distancing applies; and the number of performers should be limited’ (Church Times 18 August 2020). 
 
This does prompt one to ask: what is the difference between the singing of a physically distanced choir and that of a congregation? 
 
The prayer after communion for this week: 
God of our pilgrimage, 
you have willed that the gate of mercy 
should stand open for those who trust in you: 
look upon us with your favour 
that we who follow the path of your will 
may never wander from the way of life; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for all for medical staff: those in hospitals, GP surgeries, Care and Residential Homes, research laboratories and wherever they may be. We give thanks for all their hard work, dedication and professionalism - and we pray that they won’t be forgotten again when this crisis is passed. 
 
Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for those in Residential and Nursing Homes, both residents and staff. 
 
‘The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them’ (Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island). 
Wednesday 19th August 2020 
 
‘I will call to mind the deeds of the Lord; I will remember your wonders of old. I will meditate on all your work, and muse on your mighty deeds’ (Psalm 77:11-12). 
 
In these days when everything is considered relative and a matter of opinion, it is always good to remember who God is and all that he has done for us. He is our rock and our life - almighty God who has called us into his eternal truth, is working his purposes out in the world, and is drawing all things to himself. Today we are told that there is no absolute right or wrong but merely differing points of view and that ‘one man’s gospel truth is another man’s blasphemous lie’. We know, though, that there is ultimate truth - which is found in God alone. As Jesus tells us ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free’ (John 8:31-32). 
 
‘The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it’ (Flannery O’Connor). 
 
‘The Anglican Communion Office has had the clever idea of building a course in Christian doctrine on the back of ecumenical statements. The project, What do Anglicans Believe?, has the whole global Communion in mind. Like most of those statements, the document is freely available online, to make the project accessible where books are hard to come by. Those agreements are themselves helpfully international, hammered out between global rather than local bodies. The resource is available in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese. It is offered for use in “home groups, study programmes, seminaries and theological colleges”. The method in What do Anglicans Believe? is “See - Judge - Act”. First, see: observe your context and ask how a particular theological topic currently plays out there. Then, judge: turn to sources with recognised authority and ask how they speak into that situation. Finally, act: ask how deepened theological understanding might lead to at least one change of life or action’ (Church Times 14 August 2020). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Lord of heaven and earth, 
as Jesus taught his disciples to be persistent in prayer, 
give us patience and courage never to lose hope, 
but always to bring our prayers before you; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for Archbishop Justin Welby. We pray for true godly wisdom at this difficult time as he and all the bishops seek to lead the Church in God’s ways. 
 
I shall be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church this morning, together with our Roads to God prayers. I shall ring the bell and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. 
 
Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for those alone and depressed. There have always been those who have struggled with isolation for whatever reason, and for many the pandemic has made this worse. On the other hand, this time has also encouraged others to reach out to their neighbours who live alone. 
 
‘The name of Jesus is not a magic password admitting us to eternal life; rather, it is the only way of knowing what being saved, being whole, being human, actually is - the surrendering of life in order to find life, following the pattern of Jesus. Salvation is Jesus-shaped’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 18 August 2020). 
 
As the temperatures begin to ease, we have been remembering the blisteringly hot summer of 2003. We were on holiday in Normandy where temperatures were over 35˚ - exceeding the seasonal norm by 11˚ to 12°C - on nine consecutive days. They called it the Canicule, and we found the best place to be was in the air-conditioned supermarkets! 
Sunday 16th August 2020 
 
‘May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known upon earth, your saving power among all nations. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you’ (Psalm 67:1-3) 
 
We have much to be thankful for, and so we offer our praises to God. He has blessed us in so many wonderful ways and is always there for us, sustaining us and keeping us. God watches over us, guides us and leads us. We have his promise ‘Be strong and bold.. because it is the Lord your God who goes with you; he will not fail you or forsake you’ (Deuteronomy 31:6). As we live in his presence as his people, so his ‘way may be known upon earth, (his) saving power among all nations’. 
 
We know that not everyone is ready, or able, yet to attend Church and receive communion. You may be interested in this response to a question in the Church Times about this: ‘The spiritual grace that one person receives does not injure another. Many people are, for various reasons, excluded from participating in communion as often as others, even under ordinary circumstances. As we make our way to the altar, we should be mindful of them, bringing them with us into the Lord’s presence. Communion is never about us alone: it is about the salvation of the world’. 
 
The collect for this week: 
Let your merciful ears, O Lord, 
be open to the prayers of your humble servants; 
and that they may obtain their petitions 
make them to ask such things as shall please you; 
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
There is a recorded service for today from the church and a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. Also today at 10:30am we are having a short service of Holy Communion in Church - and the church bells will be ringing from 10 o’clock. 
 
‘Congregations forced out of their churches by the coronavirus have been taking advantage of warm summer days to worship outdoors. For some, the experiment could become permanent, even after the weather turns autumnal. Gatherings for services have ranged from small groups assembled in the corner of a field to scores of cars in a supermarket car park for a socially distanced drive-in… There are still some restrictions, including social distancing, no singing, and holy communion is administered in one kind only. Chairs are provided, but people are advised to bring an umbrella - for shade as well as protection from the rain’ (Church Times 14 August 2020). 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for those at work worried about social distancing. As we know the government is encouraging everyone back to work, but it can be very difficult sometimes to keep safely apart in many places. 
 
The is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray on Monday for all who minister to the sick. On Tuesday we pray for those who produce our Parish magazine. 
 
‘Everything about the life of the Church, its mission and ministry, its organization and worship, flows from who Jesus is and what God is doing through him’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 13 August 2020). 
 
On 16th August 1896 gold was discovered near the Klondike River in the Yukon Territory of Canada, sparking a gold rush. As so often in history the real winners were those who supplied (exploited?) the miners rather than those actually searching for the gold. 
Friday 14th August 2020 
 
Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him’ (Acts 2:38-39). 
 
The good news is really quite simple. If we turn to God in repentance and accept Jesus as our Lord, he will take us to himself and bring us to eternal new life. It is not about who or what we know; it is not to do with being worthy or good enough; it is not even dependant on us belonging to the Church. It is quite simply about faith and acceptance. That is why on Wednesday we had Jesus talking about being like a child: it is that simplicity of openness, trust and belief. 
 
Of course, once we do accept - are ‘saved’ - then joining with others in the life of the Church, and seeking to live a God-centred way of life rather than following our own desires, should follow - because that is what we now want to do. However these are not prerequisites. ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved’ (Romans 10:13). 
 
‘Knowledge, without common sense,’ says Lee, is ‘folly; without method, it is waste; without kindness, it is fanaticism; without religion, it is death.’ But with common sense, it is wisdom with method, it is power; with charity, it is beneficence; with religion, it is virtue, and life, and peace’ (Austin Farrer). 
 
It was good to have the rain yesterday. I wouldn’t say exactly that it feels fresh now, but it does seem to have washed some of the heaviness and mugginess out of the air. Certainly the ground needed the water as well. Apparently we can still expect more of the same: heat and downpours! 
 
Tomorrow marks VJ Day as Japan publicly announced its surrender on 15th August 1945. So we remember the final end to a terrible war, bring before God all the loss and the pain, and pray for peace and reconciliation. ‘With the end of the war in Asia and the Pacific, over a million servicemen and women from Britain and across the Commonwealth had to be demobilised and transported home. Soldiers from Wales to The Gambia and from Karachi to Cairns would need to be shipped from one side of the world to another, with some service personnel and POWs only finally returning home in 1946’ (Royal British Legion). 
 
We pray: 
Father, give us courage to change what must be altered, 
serenity to accept what cannot be helped, 
and the insight to know the one from the other. 
(Reinhold Niebuhr) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray that we might grow through God’s Word. Scripture reveals God to us and helps us to understand him and his call. Jesus said ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free’ (John 8:31-32). 
 
Tomorrow there is no Reflection. It is the feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray that we would listen to God - as, indeed, Mary does when visited by an angel. 
 
‘In August 1959, an unmanned satellite called Explorer 6 took the first photos of Earth from space, on a mission that marked the first steps towards the mission to the Moon. The spacecraft, which was shaped like a ball with large wing-like solar panels, was sent into space to monitor radiation in the Earth’s atmosphere. While nearly 17,000 miles above Mexico, the craft captured the first ever photo taken by a satellite. The image, which was taken on 14 August 1959, is very basic by today’s standards. It shows a sunlit area of the Central Pacific Ocean and cloud cover in the area. The image was beamed back to a station in Hawaii and took 40 minutes to send’ (https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/
Wednesday 12th August 2020 
 
The disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me’ (Matthew 18:1-5). 
 
Jesus tells us that only if we have the openness of a child can we enter the Kingdom of Heaven. True greatness lies in being receptive to God in innocence and a willingness to be taught. Personal ambition, prestige, or profit are motives which can find no place in the life of the Christian. The Christian is the one who forgets self in our devotion to Jesus and in his service. 
 
We pray for the people of Lebanon at this time. ‘The Beirut explosion is a “devastating tragedy”, a statement from the Anglican diocese of Jerusalem says. In a joint statement, the Archbishop, the Most Revd Suheil Dawani, and the Bishop, the Very Revd Hosam Naoum, said last week that the people of Beirut were still “shocked and stunned” while “trying to understand what has really happened”… The altar of the Greek Orthodox Church of St Dimitrios, in the Achrafieh area of Beirut.. survived the blast. It was less than a kilometre away from the explosion, was ruined, but iconostasis protected the sanctuary, and a sanctuary lamp continued to burn there. The Bishop of Truro, the Rt Revd Philip Mounstephen, appealed last week for donations to a Church Mission Society Fund for those affected by the blast. “We know that thousands of people have been injured, and the hospitals that were already stretched to breaking point by Covid-19 on top of significant financial challenges are struggling to give the care that people need. Hundreds of thousands have lost their homes - the problems are almost beyond comprehension,” he said… The director of Christian Aid’s partner organisation Basmeh and Zeitooneh (The Smile and the Olive), Fadi Hallisso, said: “The last few days I have been having so many mixed emotions, some anger and frustration over the evil of negligence and corruption that permitted such a catastrophe to happen; but at the same time I had a great feeling that the solidarity of people can overcome this; the solidarity of youth on the streets, but also the solidarity we are seeing from abroad, people from all over the world calling to check on us as to how they can help make things easier”’ (Church Times 10 August 2020). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Gracious Father, 
revive your Church in our day, 
and make her holy, strong and faithful, 
for your glory’s sake 
in Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for those who are ill and their families. Although some restrictions are eased it is still difficult to see one another, particularly if they are shielding. This can be very distressing both to those who are alone or suffering and family members who want to be with them in their time of need. 
 
I shall be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church at 10:30am. I shall ring the bell and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. 
 
Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for our community life, especially groups unable to meet. We are all aware of the pressures the lockdown has brought on so many people, the stresses and the strains - in particular the inability to gather together in larger groups and the worries about doing so at all. 
 
How are you managing in this heat? I know some people really enjoy hot weather, but I am just melting. There is a point about the middle of the afternoon when my study becomes quite unbearable and I simply have to find somewhere else. 
 
‘Christ has entrusted us with the ministry of reconciliation, and this demands keeping very closely in touch with the world and with God’ (David Watson). 
Sunday 9th August 2020 
 
‘If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame”’ (Romans 10:9-11). 
 
Tomorrow the Church celebrates St Laurence, our patron saint here. “These are the treasures of the Church” - so, reputedly, Laurence said to the prefect of Rome when he was commanded to hand over the riches of the Church to the authorities. In fact, he was referring to the poor of the city whom he had assembled together. He had asked for three days to gather the Church's wealth, during which time he worked swiftly to distribute it to the poor of the city to prevent it being seized. This act of defiance led to Laurence's martyrdom on 10th August 258 AD. The traditional account of his death says that he was roasted on a gridiron - which we see him holding on our church banner. During his torture he is supposed to have cried out “I am already roasted on one side and, if you would have me well cooked, it is time to turn me on the other.” 
 
Laurence was one of the seven deacons of Rome who assisted the Bishop of Rome (the Pope). He is often depicted wearing a dalmatic, the distinctive robe of a deacon, and coloured red to signify his martyrdom. He was appointed as deacon by Pope Sixtus II in the year 257 AD and placed in charge of the administration of Church goods and care for the poor (this probably explains the circumstances leading up to his death). For undertaking this duty, Laurence is regarded as one of the first archivists of the Church and is the patron saint of librarians. 
 
The famous comment of St Laurence about the “treasures of the Church” surely reminds us all in this materialistic age that the true treasures of the Church and the world are indeed its people, all made in the image of God, and not jewels, gold and silver, which are really of no lasting value. 
 
As we return tentatively to Church worship, I was struck by this concluding paragraph of a comment piece in the Church Times: ‘At parish level, while there are bishops who make no secret of the fact that they would like to wind down the parish system in favour of church-plants and mega-churches, it turns out that venues in which large numbers bob about to worship songs in close proximity to one another are about as unsafe as it gets. Crumbling but spacious parish churches with ten to 20 quietly scattered worshippers are relatively safe, however. You can’t help wondering whether the virus has theological preferences’ (Angela Tilby, Church Times 7 August 2020). 
 
The collect for this week: 
Almighty God, 
who sent your Holy Spirit 
to be the life and light of your Church: 
open our hearts to the riches of your grace, 
that we may bring forth the fruit of the Spirit 
in love and joy and peace; 
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
There is a recorded service for today from the church and a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. Also today at 10:30am we are having a short service of Holy Communion in Church - and the church bells will be ringing from 10 o’clock. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for all who have lost their jobs or are unable to find work. Every week we hear of more businesses laying off workers or going into administration, while even the simplest of jobs are attracting hundreds of applications. We pray for them and their families as they struggle to survive. 
 
There is no Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray on Monday (our patronal festival) for our witness as the Church. On Tuesday we pray for all key workers. 
 
“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking” (Albert Einstein). 
Friday 7th August 2020 
 
‘Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?”’ (Matthew 16:24-26). 
 
Jesus challenges us to look beyond ourselves if we want to be his followers. If we are too focused on our own needs and desires then we will fail to see all the riches that he holds out for us; if we concern ourselves with the things of this world, we will fail to recognise the treasures of heaven. We need to look up, see the abundance he offers, to let go of all that holds us back - and follow him. 
 
‘Jesus invites his followers to cut the cord that binds us to what is not truly life giving. When we try to hang on to things, people, status, personal ambitions and agenda, following Jesus is constant compromise and struggle. Let it go’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 27 June 2020). 
 
‘There is new Church of England guidance on face coverings in places of worship, which will be mandatory for congregations from Saturday but not for those officiating at a service. The move comes after the announcement last Friday by the Prime Minister that, from Saturday 8 August, the requirement to wear a face covering would be extended to “other indoor settings where you’re likely to come into contact with people you do not normally meet, such as museums, galleries, cinemas, and places of worship”. 
Church of England guidance, issued on Wednesday, says, however, that there will be exemptions for those “who are leading services or events in a place of worship, and those who assist them (for instance by reading, preaching, or leading prayer)”. Other worshippers will be required to wear masks. The exemptions will also cover the bride and bridegroom at a wedding and those “officiating/leading”. They do not apply to “those observing the wedding, who should wear face coverings consistent with the requirements for any other public space”. In line with government advice, children under 11 and people with disabilities or certain health conditions are also exempt’ (Church Times 5 August 2020). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Lord God, 
your Son left the riches of heaven 
and became poor for our sake: 
when we prosper save us from pride, 
when we are needy save us from despair, 
that we may trust in you alone; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our Team Rector and family. As always we are deeply grateful that you hold us in your prayers. Please also remember the other members of our Team, David Bacon and Veronica Batchelor and their families. 
 
Tomorrow there is no Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray for those who care for loved ones at home. This year many more people have taken on additional caring responsibilities for their relatives and friends who are disabled, ill or older and who need support. 
 
On 7th August 1947 the Kon-Tiki expedition headed by Thor Heyerdahl, which had carried a six-man crew aboard a balsa wood raft from Peru 3,770 nautical miles across the Pacific Ocean, crashed into a reef in at Raroia in the Tuamotu Islands on a Polynesian archipelago after being at sea for 101 days since 28th April. Thor Heyerdahl believed that people from South America could have reached Polynesia during pre-Columbian times. His aim in mounting the Kon-Tiki expedition was to show, by using only the materials and technologies available to those people at the time, that there were no technical reasons to prevent them from having done so. 
Wednesday 5th August 2020 
 
'I lift up my eyes to the mountains - where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth... The Lord will keep you from all harm - he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore' (Psalm 121:1-2,7-8). 
 
We are God's Church. We exist to serve him and proclaim him in the world. He guides us and leads us in his way, and we seek to grow as his people in his image. 'As many of our churches are able to unlock again, we are looking beyond the present at how church might look in the future. For many who worship and serve in our parishes, there is a desire to ensure that we enter this "new normal" as Eco Churches. And a number of churches have been using lockdown to do what they can to help us achieve a 'net zero' future' (Diocese of Salisbury Grapevine, 31 July 2020). 
 
'Choral and organ scholars from cathedrals across the country have come together to produce a virtual evensong to raise money for the Cathedral Choirs Emergency Fund and to raise the profile of the English choral tradition. A survey by the Church Music Trust (CMT) showed how many foundations would struggle without additional funds once lockdown restrictions were eased. Choral and organ scholars from Bristol, Worcester, Exeter, Truro, Gloucester, Wells, Hereford, and Tewkesbury Abbey have been involved in complex logistics that required six weeks of individual rehearsal to backing tracks created at Truro. Three weeks of audio and video editing have followed. "It's been a sizeable task," a tenor choral scholar at Exeter, Daniel Maw, said. "We are so fortunate to have great support from the Cathedral Music Trust, as well as individual composers who were kind enough to commission music for this service. Paul Mealor has written a beautiful introit, set to the text 'Lead me, Lord', while Roxanna Panufnik has arranged a truly epic setting of 'Let all the world', a much loved and familiar hymn text"... The scholars' evensong was streamed on YouTube on Tuesday. Lessons were read by the former chorister and TV presenter Alexander Armstrong and Katie Derham, who presents the BBC Proms. "Helping to bring together a bunch of incredible singers to raise funds for something so close to our hearts is an incredible honour," Harry Hoyland, a Truro choral scholar, said. "We are extremely pleased with the results"' (Church Times 31 July 2020). 
 
Tomorrow the Church celebrates the Transfiguration of Our Lord. All three synoptic Gospels - Mark, Matthew, and Luke - give us an account of the Transfiguration of Jesus on top of Mount Tabor. This follows Peter's confession of faith in Jesus as the Messiah, the One sent by God to redeem mankind, and Jesus's prediction of his own passion and death. Jesus, together with three of his disciples - Peter, James and John - went up the mountain. Matthew says Jesus 'was transfigured before them. His face shone as the sun: his garments became white as snow'. Two other figures appeared with Him: Moses and Elijah. Christ thus stood between the two prominent figures in the Old Testament. Then, a voice was heard from above saying, 'This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!' (Matthew 17:1-6). 
 
The collect for the Transfiguration: 
Father in heaven, 
whose Son Jesus Christ was wonderfully transfigured 
before chosen witnesses upon the holy mountain, 
and spoke of the exodus he would accomplish at Jerusalem: 
give us strength so to hear his voice and bear our cross 
that in the world to come we may see him as he is; 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for Churches Together in Downton, as we remember that we all belong to God's kingdom and have the one gospel to proclaim - and that is what matters. 
 
Tomorrow there is no Daily Reflection. In our Parish Prayer Diary we will be praying for all visitors to our Churches. They may have come in for private prayer, stood outside, paused in the churchyard or visited us online. 
Sunday 2nd August 2020 
 
‘Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (2 Peter 1:5-8). 
 
God has given us everything we need but we are responsible in using what he has given us. God expects us to make our own contribution by growing our faith in response to what he has done for us. He has made all things possible for us; but they are not yet complete, and we must labour diligently to realise the glorious possibilities opened out for us. Here Peter is enumerating some things that we ourselves must add to what God has already done. God does his part, we do ours. These virtues we “provide at our own expense” - that is the thrust of the Greek word. Of course, in this we are aided by the Holy Spirit, but we, too, must “make every effort.” You could say that these qualities of Christian character and maturity are like the rungs of a ladder - except that we don’t achieve them sequentially but work on them all at the same time. 
 
The government announced on Friday that face coverings are now to be mandatory in churches from 8th August. ‘The Government had previously stated that from 24 July face coverings were only to be “encouraged” in places of worship (News, 17 July). Guidance from the C of E, updated on Friday afternoon, said: “We will study detailed government regulations and guidance once they are available and will update our guidance accordingly. “In the meantime, we continue to strongly advise that face coverings should be worn by all those attending a place of worship, including ministers, worshippers, staff, volunteers, contractors and visitors, where there may be other people present; remembering that they are mainly intended to protect other people, not the wearer, from coronavirus and that they are not a replacement for physical distancing and regular hand washing”’ (Church Times 31 July 2020). 
 
The collect for this week: 
Almighty Lord and everlasting God, 
we beseech you to direct, sanctify and govern 
both our hearts and bodies 
in the ways of your laws 
and the works of your commandments; 
that through your most mighty protection, both here and ever, 
we may be preserved in body and soul; 
through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our Churchwarden and Deputy Churchwardens. They work hard for our Church and their ministry is particularly important now as we begin to open the Church up again for worship and prayer. 
 
There will be no Daily Reflection on Monday and Tuesday. In our Parish Prayer Diary we pray on Monday for the bereaved. Then on Tuesday we pray for our Church School: staff and pupils that this may be a time of refreshment for them. 
 
‘We must pray, for prayer is neither more nor less than living with God... Prayer is just living with God: looking at him, regarding his will, reaching out our hands for the blessings he is so eager to give, bringing our action into his’ (Austin Farrer). 
 
On 3rd August 1492, hoping to find a westward route to India, Christopher Columbus set sail on his first transatlantic voyage, departing from Palos, Spain, with three small ships - the Niña, Pinta, and Santa María. 
Friday 31st July 2020 
 
'The priests and the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speaking these words in the house of the Lord. And when Jeremiah had finished speaking all that the Lord had commanded him to speak to all the people, then the priests and the prophets and all the people laid hold of him, saying, ‘You shall die! Why have you prophesied in the name of the Lord, saying, “This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate, without inhabitant”?’ (Jeremiah 26:7-9). 
 
How do we respond to criticism, especially when it’s our faith or way of life that is being criticised? What happens when we are told we have missed the point, or we are wrong? It is only natural to be defensive, to shut out the reproach. Part of being human is to be imperfect. We are all imperfect in different ways and impatient with other people’s imperfections and sometimes with our own. ‘We need very strong ears to hear ourselves judged frankly, and because there are few who can endure frank criticism without being stung by it, those who venture to criticize us perform a remarkable act of friendship, for to undertake to wound or offend a man for his own good is to have a healthy love for him’ (Michel de Montaigne). 
 
‘The Central Readers’ Council (CRC) has launched its first online module - for Online Worship - under its Transforming Ministry programme: a three-year project to provide free resources for lay people. The new module, which is accessible via the new Transforming Ministry website, consists of three one-hour sections. It has been written by the Revd Norman Ivison, a former BBC producer in the area of religion and ethics. He says: “If you are struggling to produce online worship, or doing it but know you can do better, then this is the course for you.”’ (Church Times 24 July 2020). 
 
‘Christ shows us again and again that the mind of God is a complete reversal of human values and pretensions, and that it is only through this reversal that man can really progress’ (K.W. Stevenson). 
 
I remind you that from the beginning of August (tomorrow), I will be reducing these reflections to three days a week: Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. This means there will not be a Daily Reflection tomorrow but there will be one on Sunday. Then the following one will be on Wednesday, and so on. 
 
We pray: 
Open my eyes, God. 
Help me to perceive what I have ignored, 
to uncover what I have forgotten, 
to find what I have been searching for. 
Remind me that I don't have to journey far 
to discover something new, 
for miracles surround me, 
blessings and holiness abound. 
And you are near. 
(Naomi Levy) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for charities struggling to continue their work and fundraising. Most charities have been very badly hit as their usual fundraising has been curtailed or cancelled. This can make a big difference especially to the smaller ones. At the same time, on the whole, those of us who have retained our work and incomes have been spending less. 
 
Also: in our Parish Prayer Diary tomorrow we pray for peace in the World. True peace comes from peace in ourselves and with God. This is Shalom - a Hebrew word meaning peace, harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, welfare and tranquillity. 
 
‘In view of the coming reign of God, the moral and religious distinctions among men are broken down; this is shown in Jesus’ own actions. He eats with tax-collectors and sinners, and dares to announce to men the forgiveness of sins. His authority must be acknowledged or rejected’ (David Hill). 
Thursday 30th July 2020 
 
‘For in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus’ (Galatians 3:26-28). 
 
Our relationship with God results in a new relationship with one another. All racial, economic and gender barriers and all other inequalities are removed in Christ. The equality and unity of all in Christ are not an addition, a tangent or an optional application of the gospel. They are at the very heart of the good news. The equality of us all before God must be demonstrated in social relationships within and beyond the Church if the truth of the gospel is to be expressed. As Jesus proclaims at the beginning of his ministry: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour” (Luke 4:18-19). 
 
Today the Church remembers William Wilberforce, famous for his role in the abolition of slavery. By the late 1700s, the economics of slavery were so entrenched that only a handful of people thought anything could be done about it. That handful included William Wilberforce. This would have surprised those who knew Wilberforce as a young man, as he grew up surrounded by wealth. He graduated from university in Cambridge with the intention of following a political career and became Member of Parliament for Hull in 1780, aged 21. Four years later he became MP for the whole of Yorkshire and began to work for the abolition of the slave trade. 
Wilberforce was a deeply religious man and later became an Evangelical Christian. He wrote “So enormous, so dreadful, so irremediable did the [slave] trade’s wickedness appear that my own mind was completely made up for abolition. Let the consequences be what they would: I from this time determined that I would never rest until I had effected its abolition.” 
He was a popular figure and was known to be charming and witty and a great public speaker. He campaigned for a number of causes: for legislation to improve the lives of the poor; education; prison reforms; ending child labour; and he was one of the founders of the Royal Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA). 
Wilberforce attempted several times to bring private members’ bills before Parliament to end Britain’s involvement in the slave trade. After many years of defeats, he finally achieved his goal on 25 March, 1807. But this did not completely prevent British people from engaging in the slave trade. 
He retired from politics in 1825 due to ill health but continued to campaign for the abolition of slavery. Finally, on 26 July 1833, as Wilberforce lay on his deathbed, he was told that the Slavery Abolition Bill, granting freedom to all slaves within the British Empire, had been passed by Parliament. Wilberforce died three days later. 
 
We have become increasingly aware recently that slavery has not disappeared. It is estimated that 40 million people are trapped in modern slavery worldwide. ‘Modern slavery is the severe exploitation of other people for personal or commercial gain. Modern slavery is all around us, but often just out of sight. People can become entrapped making our clothes, serving our food, picking our crops, working in factories, or working in houses as cooks, cleaners or nannies’ (https://www.antislavery.org/slavery-today/). 
 
The collect for today: 
God our deliverer, 
who sent your Son Jesus Christ 
to set your people free from the slavery of sin: 
grant that, as your servant William Wilberforce 
toiled against the sin of slavery, 
so we may bring compassion to all 
and work for the freedom of all the children of God; 
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our Parochial Church Council (PCC). As the trustees for St Laurence, we have the responsibility for our Church’s life, ministry and mission and decisions on how we worship together. 
Wednesday 29th July 2020 
 
‘It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters, saying, “I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters, in the midst of the congregation I will praise you”’ (Hebrews 2:10-12). 
 
The letter to the Hebrews uses a collage of images to show who Jesus is and what it means to follow him. Jesus did not come into this world to gain status or political power, but to suffer and die so that we could have eternal life. In this Jesus is the pioneer of our salvation - the one who makes a way forward for others. ‘He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy’ (Colossians 1:17-18). 
 
Also Jesus proclaims himself as our brother. Most of us have little difficulty recognising that it is best if people do not look too closely at us. Scrutiny will show that Jesus might have any number of good reasons to be ashamed about who we are. So if Jesus calls us his brothers and sisters, it is not because we are so impressive. Being called one of his brothers or sisters is an act of grace. It offers us a sense of dignity and fellowship in the family. 
 
Apparently (I can’t find the source for this) Martin Luther said that if he could understand the first two words of the Lord's Prayer as Christ did, the rest of his life in Christ would fall into place. 
 
How we see the world - and so what we believe is happening - depends to a large extent on the newspapers or online services we use. This is especially important at times like this. But how do we know what is true? As Pilate asks: ‘What is truth?’ (John 18:38). ‘It is easy to decide that we are each powerless in the face of the onslaught of post-truth, fake news, and disinformation. What can I do against the pervasive and often negative impact of social media, the algorithms of big tech serving me up information that confirms my inbuilt biases, or the politicians who bend facts with slogans that lose sight of the truth?... Post-truth, fake news, and disinformation together pose a serious threat to societies around the world. Citizens can feel powerless in the face of their demoralising and demotivating effects. But Christians can play their part in bringing truth and integrity back into the centre of public life. This might call for concerted action over many years. It will need co-operation from local churches with national structures, and the voice of the Church in Parliament, Whitehall, and in the media. We will need to work with partners and people of good will across the political spectrum. But, given the negative impact of post-truth on our society, we need to be acting now’ (Church Times 24 July 2020). 
 
We pray: 
Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised, 
there is no end to his greatness. 
One generation shall praise your works to another 
and shall declare your power. 
All your works praise you, Lord, 
and your faithful servants bless you. 
They make known the glory of your kingdom 
and speak of your power. 
My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord: 
let all flesh bless his holy name for ever and ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for all who rely on food aid. ‘The Trussell Trust and its network of food banks are here to help anyone who needs support at this time. Together, we can get through this crisis - please remember that you’re not alone’ (https://www.trusselltrust.org/). 
 
I shall be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church at 10:30am. I shall ring the bell and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. 
 
On 29th July 1588, the Spanish Armada, the great fleet sent by King Philip II of Spain to invade England, was first sighted by the English off Lizard Point, Cornwall. 
Tuesday 28th July 2020 
 
‘O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens… When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?’ (Psalm 8:1,3-4). 
 
We proclaim the majesty and sovereignty of God - and his loving grace to us. God is our Lord and ruler of all: ‘Know that the Lord is God. It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture’ (Psalm 100:3). In the words of the Te Deum canticle: 
We praise you, O God, we acclaim you as the Lord; 
all creation worships you, the Father everlasting. 
To you all angels, all the powers of heaven, 
the cherubim and seraphim, sing in endless praise: 
Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might, 
heaven and earth are full of your glory. 
The glorious company of apostles praise you. 
The noble fellowship of prophets praise you. 
The white-robed army of martyrs praise you. 
Throughout the world the holy Church acclaims you: 
Father, of majesty unbounded, 
your true and only Son, worthy of all praise, 
the Holy Spirit, advocate and guide. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
‘The Archbishop of Canterbury has asked the Government what it is doing to prevent the use of social-media platforms to incite hatred. During a virtual sitting of the House of Lords, on Thursday of last week, the Archbishop asked a follow-up question to Lord Holmes of Richmond, who had asked the Government “What assessment they have made of the impact of digital platforms on the functioning of democracy”. The Archbishop said: “The minister will be aware that, although social media has immense power for good, some social-media platforms are used to incite hatred, stirring up social disruption and even extreme violence in some parts of the world. . . What steps are Her Majesty’s Government looking at to motivate and encourage responsibility to be taken by such platforms to prevent their use in everything from hate speech to genocide?”.. Archbishop Welby said last year that social media gave a “voice to the voiceless”, but that their lack of accountability encouraged “vicious” behaviour (News, 15 May 2019)’ (Church Times 24 July 2020). 
 
We pray: 
God of time and space, 
We are awed by the majesty of your creation, 
and become increasingly aware of its marvellous inter-connection, 
in the midst of which we find our place. 
Ground us in the knowledge 
that our actions affect both those around us and the natural world, 
and give us wisdom to do only those things 
which bring light and love and wholeness to the world; 
for all people everywhere are our sisters and brothers, 
and the Earth is our common home. Amen. 
(https://www.churchinwales.org.uk/en/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for volunteers helping others in their community. We hear many stories of people helping out and engaging with their neighbours. This has been an opportunity to build new relationships and develop gifts of service. 
 
On 28th July 1914, using the assassination of the Austrian archduke Francis Ferdinand as a pretext to present Serbia with an unacceptable ultimatum, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia - sparking World War I. As it happens, it was 28th July 2005 when the IRA announced that it had ended its armed campaign and instead would pursue only peaceful means to achieve its objectives. 
Monday 27th July 2020 
 
He said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves’ (Luke 22:25-27). 
 
We hear a lot today about the need for respect - or indeed the lack of it. Those in leadership roles all too often want simply to exercise the authority of their status over others; while those without such positions feel that they are not being heard. The Christian perspective is clear: authority is given in order to serve, to minister (attend to the needs of). Standing on worldly importance has no place in the Kingdom of God. In the words of Mary’s song (the Magnificat): ‘He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty’ (Luke 1:51-53). 
 
‘In Jesus the service of God and the service of the least of the brethren were one’ (Dietrich Bonhoeffer). 
 
We had another good service in St Laurence yesterday and it was a true joy to worship together again, even with the necessary restrictions in place. However, we are always very aware that those who can attend physically are only a part of our church family. As we gather on a Sunday morning, we are one together in Christ wherever we may be in body. As one in spirit we come before God as his Church - as we celebrate online, in the church building or quietly in the stillness of our hearts. 
 
‘We are now more than half-way through our Emergency Appeal for the Sudans and we need your help to reach our £50,000 target. We launched the Appeal at the start of the month after receiving this shocking statement from Archbishop Ezekiel Kondo in Khartoum: “They would rather die of Covid-19 than hunger.” While inflation and starvation is reaching record levels in Sudan, poor sanitation in the refugee camps means the coronavirus is able to spread freely among a weakened population. 
Meanwhile, lockdown means that the healthy are unable to work and what wages they receive cannot begin to cover the inflated prices for even basic foodstuffs. Many are hungry. Many cannot feed their families. Many fear contracting a virus in a country where there are less than 10 ventilators available for the whole population. That's why our Appeal is for FOOD and SOAP. Your money can provide food for our brothers and sisters in the Sudans who are starving. It can provide the same things we have to keep us safe from the virus. It can buy materials so their Mothers' Union members can make 20,000 masks and help to buy other PPE. It can pay for lifesaving sanitisers and basic hand washing facilities. 
Please give what you can, even the smallest donation could save a life. Donate at https://bit.ly/sudansemergency’ (Diocese of Salisbury Grapevine, 24 July 2020). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Generous God, 
you give us gifts and make them grow: 
though our faith is small as mustard seed, 
make it grow to your glory 
and the flourishing of your kingdom; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our Bishops: Bishop Nicholas, our diocesan bishop, and Bishops Andrew and Karen, our suffragan bishops. They continue to work hard providing leadership and pastoral support in the diocese while offering guidance and encouragement to the wider Church and us in the parishes. 
 
‘If we believe that God’s future kingdom will have justice and peace as features of its life, it is a powerful argument to work with all our strength to bring those features into action now’ (Bishop David Sheppard). 
Sunday 26th July 2020 
 
‘We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified’ (Romans 8:28-30). 
 
In today’s world all to often we are just a cog in the system: a consumer, a worker, a pensioner, a taxpayer - or perhaps just a ‘sponger’. We are statistics to be quantified and counted; known by our NI number or NHS number. To God, though, we are each a much-loved individual, created in his image and called to be fully ourselves as members of his Kingdom. From the very beginning of time, God has been working to a plan - a plan to draw us to himself that we might be completely the special person he has created us to be. ‘For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Romans 8:38-30). 
 
‘A God who reverses nature, a God who undoes death, that those in whom the likeness of his glory has faintly and fitfully shone may be drawn everlastingly into the heart of light, and know him as he is: this is a God indeed, a God Almighty, a God to be trusted, loved, adored. The end of man is endless Godhead endlessly possessed, but that end flows back in glory on our mortal days, and gives a hope and meaning to whatever Christians do for love of God or love of one another. For we are all heirs of everlastingness, and whatever we do or are furnishes material to the hands which out of perishing stuff create eternal joy’ (Austin Farrer). 
 
Guidance on face coverings and outdoor worship for churches has been updated by the Government: We are ‘now being "strongly advised" to wear a face mask in church. The House of Bishops Recovery Group has published advice on face coverings which reflects Government guidance encouraging the wearing of face masks "in enclosed public spaces where there are people they do not normally meet". The advice, published on the Church of England website states: “We strongly advise that face coverings should be worn by all those attending a place of worship, including ministers, worshippers, staff, volunteers, contractors and visitors, where there may be other people present; remembering that they are mainly intended to protect other people, not the wearer, from coronavirus Covid-19 and that they are not a replacement for physical distancing and regular hand washing.”’ (Diocese of Salisbury Grapevine, 25 July 2020). 
 
The collect for this week: 
Lord of all power and might, 
the author and giver of all good things: 
graft in our hearts the love of your name, 
increase in us true religion, 
nourish us with all goodness, 
and of your great mercy keep us in the same; 
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our Lay Pastoral Assistants (LPAs) who continue to play an important role in the pastoral work of our Church, keeping us in touch and connected. We give thanks for their ministry and dedication. 
 
There is a service for today from the church and a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. Also today at 10:30am we are having a short service of Holy Communion in Church - and the church bells will be ringing from 10 o’clock. 
 
‘The Gospel needs to proclaim the need and the possibility for God both to change people from inside out and to change the course of events to set people free to make such choices’ (Bishop David Sheppard). 
Saturday 25th July 2020 
 
‘Just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture - ‘I believed, and so I spoke’ - we also believe, and so we speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence’ (2 Corinthians 4:13-14). 
 
We believe, and so we too are called upon to speak. Sharing the good news is fundamental to our calling as Christians. ‘Always be ready to make your defence to anyone who demands from you an account of the hope that is in you’ (1 Peter 3:15). ‘But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’’ (Romans 10:14-15). 
 
Today the Church celebrates St James the Great - so called to distinguish him from the younger apostle of the same name. He was the son of Zebedee and Salome, and the brother of St John the Evangelist. He was also cousin to our Lord. He was a fisherman, and with his brother and his partners Peter and Andrew, left his fishing at the summons of Jesus. 
 
Our Lord calls James and John ‘Boanerges’, which means ‘Sons of Thunder’ - presumably on account of their fire and energy. They are both present at the raising of Jairus’ daughter, at the Transfiguration, and in Gethsemane at the beginning of our Lord’s passion. It is not known where James preached after the Ascension, but there is a tradition in Spain that he spread the Gospel there, and according to St Jerome he preached to dispersed Jewish communities. 
 
About fourteen years after the Crucifixion James was arrested with Peter during the persecution of Herod Agrippa I - and was beheaded. Eusebius relates that the accuser of James was so moved by the constancy and courage which he showed at his trial that he too became a Christian and was condemned to be beheaded. As they went together to the place of execution he begged forgiveness from James. After a little consideration, the apostle embraced him, and they died together. James was buried at Jerusalem, but the Spanish tradition claims that his remains were translated to Galicia, and later to Santiago de Compostela where his shrine became a famous place of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages. 
 
I have been giving some thought to these Daily Reflections. They have been coming to you now for over four months. As we begin, cautiously, to emerge from lockdown and arrive at the traditional time for a summer break, I believe the time has come for a review. So, from the beginning of August, I intend to reduce these Reflections to three days a week: Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. This means there will not be a Reflection next Saturday, 1st August, but will be one on Sunday 2nd. Then the following one will be on Wednesday 5th August, and so on. I will keep this pattern under review as we continue. 
 
The collect for today: 
Merciful God, 
whose holy apostle Saint James, 
leaving his father and all that he had, 
was obedient to the calling of your Son Jesus Christ 
and followed him even to death: 
help us, forsaking the false attractions of the world, 
to be ready at all times to answer your call without delay; 
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for politicians and their advisors. As they make decisions that affect us all to a degree that we have never experienced before, we pray for true wisdom and a willingness to put the good of all before any personal benefit or ambition. 
 
On 25th July 306 AD Constantine, the first Roman emperor to claim conversion to Christianity, was proclaimed Roman Emperor by his troops. 
Friday 24th July 2020 
 
‘The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake’ (Psalm 23:1-3). 
 
Millions of people have memorised this psalm, even those who have learned few other Scripture portions. The image of God as our shepherd is a very powerful one. God is the one who protects and guides us. The idea begins as early as the Book of Genesis, where Moses calls the Lord the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel. There are other references to this analogy between the deity and his followers in ancient Middle Eastern cultures. “In all Eastern thought, and very definitely in Biblical literature, a king is a shepherd” (Morgan). A shepherd is all things good to a sheep: its protector, guide, healer, comforter, provider of food and safety. Sheep are very fearful of running water; it would saturate their wool and carry them away to drown if they fell in a flowing stream. They have no fear of a quiet pool; they can safely drink from the edge or wade in for a drink and wade back out. A quiet pool beside a green pasture in the presence of its shepherd would mean the shepherd had instilled in the sheep peace, trust, confidence of his safety and the assurance that the one looking over him loves him, will not desert him, but will remain nearby to protect him. A sheep with a good shepherd has nothing to fear. 
 
Ron Hart has asked that we bear South Africa in our prayers. He has received a letter from the Rector of St John’s, Port Elizabeth, where they stayed 2 years ago. Here is an extract: ‘Grace, mercy and peace! Thank you for your enquiry as to how we are and for your continued prayers – especially after our beloved city received some infamy after being broadcast on BBC and Sky last week as they look for the next big Covid story. The virus is certainly getting closer and closer and we are all aware of someone who has contracted it – many of us in our own families – and of course the churches have been closed for more than 100 days except for funerals and from last month the odd wedding (no more than 5 pax). Our bishop and chapter have taken the decision not to open any churches yet as we will only peak in September/October – and don’t want to risk infecting anyone.’ 
 
‘O God, to those that have hunger give bread, and to us who have bread give the hunger for justice’ (Latin American Prayer). 
 
We pray: 
O Lord our God, 
source of all goodness and love, 
accept the fervent prayers of your people; 
in the multitude of your mercies look with compassion 
upon all who turn to you for help; 
for you are gracious, O lover of souls, 
and to you we give glory, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, 
now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for those who are alone and depressed. As we know, some people have been managing this time of lockdown better than others and there is evidence that many people have suffered from mental health effects. There are those who were already on their own and finding it difficult; families who have been juggling homeworking with parental responsibilities; those who face an unknown future at work. Also not everyone has access to the internet and other forms of modern communication. 
 
‘Every happening, great and small, is a parable whereby God speaks to us, and the art of life is to get the message’ (Malcolm Muggeridge). 
Thursday 23rd July 2020 
 
‘Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your judgements are like the great deep; you save humans and animals alike, O Lord. How precious is your steadfast love, O God! All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings’ (Psalm 36:5-7). 
 
We need to lift up our eyes and fix them always on God and his Kingdom - remembering his love, his faithfulness and his grace. The deep divisions that have become so evident in our society since the referendum have encouraged a defensiveness and a building up of barriers. We need to listen more to Jesus who ‘rejects the dualisms (Luke 20:20-26, whether to pay taxes to Caesar)… He won’t be forced into an ‘either/or’ answer to a question designed to entrap. Jesus won’t collude with the state and neither is he advocating the revolution espoused by the Jewish zealots. The earth, Jesus is saying, belongs to God. Whatever belongs to Caesar also belongs to God. Christians are called to participate in the world, rendering dues to the State while always acknowledging the limitations of Caesar’s rights. 
Much of our current public discourse is similarly hostile, polarized and dualistic. We may find this even in our other relationships and conversations. Faced with opposition, Jesus speaks wisdom that challenges partisan thinking and reveals the kingdom of God. How might we do likewise in the actual conditions we find ourselves?’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 17 July 2020). 
 
‘The light of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ reveals the image of God everywhere; for this gospel is able to relate everything to Jesus Christ. He who has seen Christ can see the Christ in all men’ (Austin Farrer). 
 
On top of all the obvious health risks caused by the pandemic, we are all too aware that it has exasperated other problems - especially for those least able to cope, the poor and powerless. Whatever we may think of the response to the situation here, in other places they have had far fewer resources to combat it: ‘Donations of £5 million were made in one day to the coronavirus appeal launched on Tuesday by the Disasters and Emergency Committee (DEC), on which the main Christian relief organisations are represented. Monies will be used to help vulnerable people fleeing conflict and instability, as well as the threat of Covid-19, in countries including Yemen, Syria, Somalia, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and South Sudan. The appeal is supported by Christian Aid, Tearfund, and World Vision UK. The first donations, up to £5 million, will benefit from the UK Aid Match Scheme, in which individual donations are matched by the Department for International Development. 
Campaigners have raised concerns that the humanitarian situation brought about by the pandemic has become critical in several countries. In Yemen, where half the health services have been destroyed by conflict, one in four people who contract the virus is dying, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In Afghanistan, 24 million people are living in crowded temporary accommodation, while, in the Rohingya refugee camps of Bangladesh, the population density is one and a half times that of New York City, but its inhabitants have little access to health facilities or sanitation’ (Church Times 17 July 2020). 
 
We pray: 
O God, under your wing you gather the whole of creation: 
praise and glory to you! 
Help us to follow your will, to gather up all things in Christ. 
Open our eyes to see the riches of your grace, 
so that we may open our mouths to proclaim the hope for the world which lies in you. 
Help us to work for a world where people of different religions and cultures can live together in peace; 
for a just world where rich and poor share their resources. 
Help us to use the gifts of your creation according to your wisdom, to the praise of your glory. 
(Diocese of Saskatoon) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for young people - especially those worried about their future. This should be a time for looking forward in hope and excitement, but for too many it is one of deep concern and apprehension. 
 
‘Don’t walk in front of me, I might not follow you. Don’t walk behind me, I cannot see you. Walk by my side - and be my friend’ (Old Persian proverb). 
Wednesday 22nd July 2020 
 
Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”’ Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her (John 20:16-18). 
 
Today the Church celebrates Mary Magdalene. Her name means literally Mary of Magdala, which presumably refers to a town on the west coast of the sea of Galilee. This would place her home in the same general area as that of the first disciples, and of Jesus’ first miracle - that of turning water into wine during the marriage feast at Cana. Alternatively her name could translate as “Mary the Tower”, being a name given to her by Jesus to refer to her strength or dependability. 
 
Mary is first mentioned in the gospels by Luke, who tells us that: ‘with [Jesus] were the Twelve and a number of women who had been set free from evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, known as Mary of Magdala, from whom seven devils had come out...’ (Luke 8:2). From early times Mary has been identified both with Mary the sister of Martha of Bethany, and with the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet in the house of Simon the leper. However the gospels give no real support for either identification. 
 
What is certain is that Mary was one of a band of women who accompanied Jesus during his earthly ministry, and put their possessions at his disposal. She was a witness to his crucifixion and took note of where he was buried intending to return after the Sabbath in order to anoint his body. According to John, Mary Magdalene was the first person to be met by the risen Christ (John 20:10-18). That he should do so is particularly significant, bearing in mind the status of women in first century Palestine. In western tradition, a very popular but quite unfounded legend had arisen by the 9th century that Mary, together with Martha and Lazarus, came to the south of France by sea. In the Middle Ages her supposed tomb was venerated at Aix-en-Provence. 
 
‘That woman, who is the first to encounter Jesus... now has become an apostle of the new and greatest hope… He knows us by name, he watches over us, he waits for us, he forgives us, he is patient with us’ (Pope Francis). 
 
The collect for today: 
Almighty God, 
whose Son restored Mary Magdalene 
to health of mind and body 
and called her to be a witness to his resurrection: 
forgive our sins and heal us by your grace, 
that we may serve you in the power of his risen life; 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray that we may learn God’s forgiveness. Forgiveness is the story of our salvation, at the very heart of the Good News. Yet sometimes we find that hard to accept. However God is lavish and wasteful. God loves to excess, even when that love is not wanted or merited. ‘If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness’ (1 John 1:9). 
 
I shall be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church at 10:30am. I shall ring the bell and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. 
 
It has been said that today with ever more television channels there is even less worth watching. Well, 22nd July 1959 saw the premiere of the film ‘Plan 9 From Outer Space’, called one of the worst films ever! 
Tuesday 21st July 2020 
 
'Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of your possession? He does not retain his anger for ever, because he delights in showing clemency. He will again have compassion upon us; he will tread our iniquities under foot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea' (Micah 7:18-19). 
 
Micah concludes his prophecies with a burst of enthusiastic homage to the God of gods. God knows us in our weaknesses and failures - but loves us even so and is always ready to forgive and renew us. It is his nature to delight in pardoning the penitent, and giving blessings: 'let the wicked forsake their way, and the unrighteous their thoughts; let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon (Isaiah 55:7). 
 
'In love, O Lord, all your works have begun; by love you sustain them and in your love our life is everlasting. So let the beginning and ending of all our loving be to see you O God, for ever and ever. Amen' (Julian of Norwich). 
 
'Life after the pandemic should not return to the "normal" that existed before it struck, the Bishop of Truro, the Rt Revd Philip Mounstephen, has said... "I suggest that we must ditch any temptation to believe that the past we came out of, into the Covid-19 crisis, was somehow 'normal'," Bishop Mounstephen writes. "I don't think it was 'normal' at all. It was not 'normal' that we should have been living on this earth in a way that was increasingly unsustainable, with global warming becoming a growing reality and threat to human flourishing... Nor was it normal that we were living with such dramatic and growing inequalities of wealth in our society. That too is inimical to human flourishing and harmonious communities. And we should not accept as normal the fact that, relative to the rest of the UK, Cornwall itself was increasingly becoming poorer." Bishop Mounstephen expresses hope that the pandemic is teaching people "to value things differently". "In particular we have learned to give new value and dignity to some of the people who are least well rewarded financially in our society"' (Church Times 18 July 2020). 
 
The prayer after communion for this week: 
God of our pilgrimage, 
you have led us to the living water: 
refresh and sustain us 
as we go forward on our journey, 
in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray all for medical staff: those in hospitals, GP surgeries, Care Homes, research laboratories and wherever they may be. We give thanks for all their hard work, dedication and professionalism and pray that they won't be forgotten again when this crisis is passed. 
 
We will be holding another Holy Communion service on Sunday at 10:30am. If you wish to come - and you are welcome to do so - it would be helpful if you could let either Jo Parsons or myself know. Then we can have some idea of numbers and make the necessary arrangements so there is somewhere for everyone to sit. 
 
As we enjoy this sunny weather, you may like to know that on 21st July 1983 the world's lowest recorded temperature, −128.6°F (−89.2°C), was measured at Vostok Station, Antarctica. 
 
'For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God - not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life' (Ephesians 2:8-10). 
Monday 20th July 2020 
 
'With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high?... He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?' (Micah 6:6,8). 
 
This is the key question that we must ask ourselves: what does God require of us? Here in a nutshell is the essence of Christian living, what it means to live a godly life. What Micah is stressing is that ritual worship alone is not enough - what we need is a change of heart. Here "humbly" is used not in the sense of self-abasement, rather the opposite of walking proudly or walking self-righteously. In the same way when Jesus calls us to love our neighbour, the word "love" is not an emotional feeling but an action verb. Religion is for God's sake. The human side of religion, its creeds, rituals and institutions, is a way rather than the goal. The goal is 'to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.' When the human side of religion becomes the goal, then injustice becomes a way. 
 
We have a similar emphasis in the Letter of James. He tells us that it is no good professing our belief if we don't act on it, live it out: 'What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you?' (James 2:14). 
 
'Obeying God is listening to God, having an open heart to follow the path that God points out to us' (Pope Francis). 
 
Yesterday's service in Church was most uplifting. There was a real sense of joy - and indeed relief - at being able to come together in worship again. Over two dozen of us shared a short service of Holy Communion. It was different to what we are used to, but heartening all the same. 
 
'If God is limited by those things that limit us - most particularly death - then perhaps the Sadducees (when they question Jesus - Luke 20.27-40) would have a point. But God is not limited. Jesus points to an eternal life, a new heaven and new earth, which is not merely a continuation of this life. The Sadducees understand this world to be the only one in which God would act to keep his promises; Jesus is joined by the Pharisees in proclaiming that God will keep his promises and enact justice beyond even the boundaries of this world. These are hopeful words for Luke's early readers.. and they are hopeful words for us today. God is not bound by what we know or understand; his redemptive purposes are always expanding beyond the limits of our imagination' (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 18 July 2020). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Creator God, 
you made us all in your image: 
may we discern you in all that we see, 
and serve you in all that we do; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for school governors. Schools have to prepare for a full return of all pupils in September - which has been causing them a great deal of extra work to ensure that happens safely. Governors are responsible for strategic direction but, more importantly, are there to support, encourage and help the staff and whole school community. 
 
On 20th July 1969, the Eagle lunar landing module, carrying U.S. astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin ("Buzz") Aldrin, landed on the Moon, and several hours later Armstrong became the first person to set foot on its surface. Going to the Moon also emphasised how we all live on one small planet, and our need to look after it. 
Sunday 19th July 2020 
 
'Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god. Who is like me? Let them proclaim it, let them declare and set it forth before me. Who has announced from of old the things to come? Let them tell us what is yet to be. Do not fear, or be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? You are my witnesses Is there any god besides me? There is no other rock; I know not one' (Isaiah 44:6-8). 
 
'I am the first, and I am the last': God is the first cause and last end of all things in nature, and providence, and grace; all things are of him, through him, and from him; all things were made by him in creation, and for his pleasure they are and were created; and all things are disposed of in his providence for his own glory; and he is the first in reconciliation, justification, and salvation, and all are to the glory of his grace. He is from everlasting to everlasting, without beginning or end, the Alpha and Omega. 
 
In short: he is God. Yet people have other gods in their lives. These gods do not always take a physical form; they can be anything people worship, trust, or serve. The origin of the English word "worship" is "worth-ship." Worship is ascribing value to people or things. Perhaps it is more things - more money, more exotic holidays, more pleasure and excitement, more activities, more of everything. Maybe it is more nebulous - more freedom, health, or approval and affirmation. Then, of course there is putting ourselves at the centre of our lives in place of God. We pray for God's grace to put him first and to worship only him. 
 
'Remember this. When people choose to withdraw far from a fire, the fire continues to give warmth, but they grow cold. When people choose to withdraw far from light, the light continues to be bright in itself but they are in darkness. This is also the case when people withdraw from God' (Saint Augustine). 
 
The collect for this week: 
Merciful God, 
you have prepared for those who love you 
such good things as pass our understanding: 
pour into our hearts such love toward you 
that we, loving you in all things and above all things, 
may obtain your promises, 
which exceed all that we can desire; 
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our witness as a Church. In these strange times this is as, if not more, important as ever. 
 
There is a recorded service for today from the church and a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. Also today at 10:30am we are having our first service of Holy Communion in Church since March - and the church bells will be ringing from 10 o'clock. It will be good to hear them again. 
 
On July 19th 1545, during the Battle of the Solent, Henry VIII's flagship the Mary Rose sank in a strait of the English Channel. According to an eyewitness account, after firing at the French fleet, the Mary Rose was attempting to turn when it was blown onto its side by a gust of wind. The cannon openings had not been closed, causing the ship to fill with water and sink. She was raised in 1982 and can now be seen at the Historic Dockyards in Portsmouth. 
 
'Christianity preaches the infinite worth of that which is seemingly worthless and the infinite worthlessness of that which is seemingly so valued' (Dietrich Bonhoeffer). 
Saturday 18th July 2020 
 
‘Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations’ (Isaiah 42:1). 
 
This is one of the Old Testament prophecies that was fulfilled by Jesus (see Matthew 12:18). The life and Good News of Jesus is not a break from the Old Testament but rather its accomplishment. Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah of prophecy. The tragedy was that ‘With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that says: “You will indeed listen, but never understand, and you will indeed look, but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; so that they might not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and understand with their heart and turn—and I would heal them.”’ (Matthew 13:14-15). 
 
As we read this can be tempted to complacency. For we are the ones who have seen in Jesus God’s own Son. We acknowledge him as Lord; we listen to his words; we follow his way. Nevertheless, we too are in danger of allowing our religious arteries to harden; get set in our ways and our thinking - so that we ‘listen, but never understand’. A hoped-for side effect - indeed, a prayed-for consequence - of this present situation is that it will help us to see things afresh and awaken within us a desire to be more attentive to what God is saying to us now - rather than just what he said to our forebears. We must pray always to be open to God’s promptings, guidance, and direction in our lives. 
 
‘Prayer is first of all listening to God. It's openness. God is always speaking; he's always doing something. Prayer is to enter into that activity... Convert your thoughts into prayer. As we are involved in unceasing thinking, so we are called to unceasing prayer. The difference is not that prayer is thinking about other things, but that prayer is thinking in dialogue,... a conversation with God’ (Henri Nouwen). 
 
‘The Christian disability charity CBM has launched a campaign to raise awareness of the voices of those living with disabilities during the pandemic. Coronavirus: My Story features eight videos made by women and men from Bangladesh, Indonesia, Nepal, and Zimbabwe, in which they speak about their experiences during the pandemic. CBM said that the stories “show the wide range of challenges that women and men with disabilities are facing including loss of income, lack of access to health care, and difficulties accessing personal care and support”. But they also show, CBM said, “how people with disabilities and their representative organisations are playing a valuable role in responding to the crisis”’ (Church Times 17 July 2020). 
 
We pray: 
O gracious and holy Father, 
give us wisdom to perceive you, 
diligence to seek you, 
patience to wait for you, 
eyes to behold you, 
a heart to meditate upon you, 
and a life to proclaim you, 
through the power of the Spirit 
of Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for those who produce our Parish magazine. Through their work they continue helping us to keep in touch - both online and now with a few printed copies. It involves a lot of work, and we are most grateful to them. 
 
18th July is Listening Day, put on every year by the World Listening Project “devoted to understanding the world and its natural environment, societies and cultures through the practice of listening and field recording.” In today’s world more listening must surely be a good thing. 
Friday 17th July 2020 
 
‘I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. But if you had known what this means, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice”, you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the sabbath’ (Matthew 12:6-8). 
 
It seems to be a perverse part of our nature that all too often we are stricter on ourselves, and on others, than God would have us be. In the words of the hymn There’s a wideness in God’s mercy: ‘But we make his love too narrow by false limits of our own; And we magnify his strictness with a zeal he will not own’. We remember that ours is a faith based on a loving relationship with God, not a religion of rules. 
 
That said, of course, if we follow Jesus that must surely affect how we live; how we relate to others; and how we use all that God has given us. As Paul writes: ‘What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life’ (Romans 6:1-4). 
 
‘It is in knowing increasingly the reality of Christ that we come to know our true selves - that which we have it in us to become’ (Gordon Jeff). 
 
Today is the last day of school for our Year 6 pupils (those moving on to secondary school in September). I will be going into our two local Primary Schools this morning for the first time since March - in order to present each of our leavers with a Bible from the Church. We hold them all in our prayers as they make this important transition in such unusual circumstances. Also the staff continue to need our prayerful support as they work hard to prepare our schools for a full return of all pupils next term. 
 
‘Involving religious leaders in international aid organisations’ responses to humanitarian disasters makes the responses more effective and helps the organisations to reach more people in need, the report on a new project suggests. A pilot “bridge-builders” programme in South Sudan brought together Christian and Muslim leaders with international aid agencies, as part of the working out of a United Nations vision that aid should be as “local as possible, as international as necessary”. 
The programme included coaching on WhatsApp, and involved Tearfund, Islamic Relief, the Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities, and the University of Leeds. South Sudan was chosen for the pilot programme because of the reliance of half of its population on aid, after years of conflict and natural disasters’ (Church Times 10 July 2020). 
 
The prayer after communion for this week: 
Grant, O Lord, we beseech you, 
that the course of this world may be so peaceably ordered 
by your governance, 
that your Church may joyfully serve you in all godly quietness; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for all who minister to the sick: not only the medical professionals and care workers, but all volunteers, friends and family members. This has been a difficult and stressful time for many of them and they continue to worry about what is yet to come. 
 
Today is World Day for International Justice or International Justice Day, as 17th July is the date of the adoption of the treaty that created the International Criminal Court. 
 
‘Christ does not save us by acting a parable of divine love; he acts the parable of divine love by saving us. That is the Christian faith’ (Austin Farrer). 
Thursday 16th July 2020 
 
‘Praise the Lord! Praise, O servants of the Lord; praise the name of the Lord. Blessed be the name of the Lord from this time on and for evermore. From the rising of the sun to its setting the name of the Lord is to be praised. The Lord is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens’ (Psalm 113:1-4). 
 
In the words of a song we sing sometimes in school: Our God is a great big God. He is integral to life and the world. He is creator and sustainer of all – and Jesus ‘is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together’ (Colossians 1:15-17). ‘For whatever be the knowledge which we are able to obtain of God, either by perception or reflection, we must of necessity believe that He is by many degrees far better than what we perceive Him to be’ (Origen). 
 
Today the Church remembers Osmund. According to a 15th century document, Osmund was the nephew of William the Conqueror. Certainly he came to England with the Normans. He was William’s chaplain and one of the compilers of Domesday Book. He became chancellor of England (c.1072–78) and then the first bishop of Salisbury (1078–99) which absorbed the Saxon bishoprics of Sherborne and Ramsbury. Osmund was responsible for the building of the cathedral which was consecrated on 5th April 1092. This was at Old Sarum, the then site of the city - which William of Malmesbury describes as a fortress rather than a city, placed on a high hill, surrounded by a massive wall. Peter of Blois later referred to the castle and church as “the ark of God shut up in the temple of Baal”. 
His liturgical reforms became the basis for the later “Old Sarum” liturgy used throughout the British Isles. After Osmund was canonized, his remains were transferred from Old Sarum to Salisbury Cathedral. 
 
‘Church musicians have welcomed the Government’s initiation of targeted scientific research into the droplet transmission produced by singers (News, 5 June), as the debate continues on how choirs can return safely to singing together physically. On Thursday, the Government updated its guidance on singing. From 11 July, one individual may sing or chant indoors when other worshippers are present. The guidance suggests that churches consider the use of a plexi-glass screen to further prevent transmission. Group singing is still banned. 
Also from 11 July, “small groups of professional singers” will be able to sing in front of worshippers out of doors. “Singing in groups should be limited to professional singers only and should be limited to a small set group of people. Both the singers and the worshippers should be outdoors.” The guidance gives no specific number, nor explains why permission is given only to professional singers. 
The guidance continues to instruct congregations to avoid “singing, shouting, raising voices and/or playing music at a volume that makes normal conversation difficult or that may encourage shouting . . . even if social distancing is being observed or face coverings are used.”’ (Church Times 9 July 2020). 
 
The collect for today: 
O God, our heavenly Father, 
who raised up your faithful servant Osmund 
to be a bishop and pastor in your Church and to feed your flock: 
Give abundantly to all pastors the gifts of your Holy Spirit, 
that they may minister in your household 
as true servants of Christ and stewards of your divine mysteries; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord, 
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, 
one God, for ever and ever. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for those at work worried about social distancing. As more are encouraged to return to work where they can and new places reopening people are naturally worried. Those who have to work alongside others are particularly vulnerable. 
 
‘The Bible is now available in 250 languages and dialects. But translating it is no simple task. One wrong letter in an Eskimo tongue turned “nation shall rise up against nation” into “a pair of snowshoes shall rise up against a pair of snowshoes”’ (National Geographic School Bulletin). 
Wednesday 15th July 2020 
 
‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be a healing for your flesh and a refreshment for your body’ (Proverbs 3:5-8). 
 
Sometime the hardest thing of all is just to listen to God’s word. We want to be doing, to work out our own answers and plans - and then to ask God’s blessing on them. Instead we are called to listen to God, to trust in him, and follow his ways. ‘For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength’ (1 Corinthians 1:25). 
 
Today the Church remembers St Swithun. Swithun was born in Winchester around 800, became counsellor to the Saxon kings Egbert and Ethelwulf. He was Bishop of Winchester for the last 10 years of his life. The life of St Swithun is rich in legend. A century after his death in 863, he was chosen as patron saint for Winchester Cathedral’s Benedictine monastery. His bones, housed in a splendid reliquary, became famed for their healing powers. His cult lasted until the Reformation, when all traces of his shrine were swept away. One source claims that when Swithun died, he asked to be buried out of doors ‘where the feet of ordinary men could pass over him.’ This, and a possible mistranslation of a medieval text, may have given rise to the story that when the saint’s bones were moved inside the Old Minster on his feast day, on 15th July 971, a terrible storm broke out, lasting for 40 days and nights. This is the basis of the popular belief that if it rains on 15th July, it will rain for 40 days. Sadly it seems, this claim has no basis in fact. 
 
‘Talking about mental health is going to be essential as the country emerges from lockdown, the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, has said this week. The coronavirus remained a killer, and understanding the risks had helped everyone to stay alert in a time of real danger, the Bishop said in an article for ViaMedia. Many people had also faced “fearful burdens” on top of the virus: the shielding elderly, those whose loneliness had been exacerbated, those facing financial hardship and uncertainty, and those trapped with abusers. 
“But the general climate of fear that has been so successfully inculcated in us leaves us with a conundrum,” she said. “How do we encourage one another wisely to emerge from lockdown? How do we begin to navigate this brave new world of face masks and social distancing?” The challenge to churches was “to continue to have a culture in which everyone feels safe to share their struggles and feel able to speak openly . . . to talk to each other, to make it integral to our ministry life, whatever context we find ourselves in, for mental health to be a subject for prayer in public as well as in private. In this way, we can find the comfort and support we need.”’ (Church Times 10 July 2020). 
 
The collect for today: 
Almighty God, 
by whose grace we celebrate again 
the feast of your servant Swithun: 
grant that, as he governed with gentleness 
the people committed to his care, 
so we, rejoicing in our Christian inheritance, 
may always seek to build up your Church in unity and love; 
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for those in Residential and Nursing Homes. Our local care homes have done a great job in keeping the virus at bay - but many staff and residents are feeling the strain, especially as visits are curtailed. We continue to hold them all in our prayers. 
 
I shall be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church at 10:30am today, together with our Roads to God prayers. I shall ring the bell and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. 
 
On 15th July 1799 the Rosetta Stone is found in the Egyptian village of Rosetta by French Captain Pierre-François Bouchard during Napoleon's Egyptian Campaign. The Rosetta Stone is one of the most important objects in the British Museum as it holds the key to understanding Egyptian hieroglyphs - a script made up of small pictures that was used originally in ancient Egypt for religious texts. 
Tuesday 14th July 2020 
 
‘May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Romans 15:5-6). 
 
Today the Church remembers John Keble, Anglican priest, theologian, and poet. Keble originated and helped to lead the Oxford Movement, which sought to revive the High Church ideals of the later 17th century in the Church of England. This was known as Tractarianism after its series of publications, the Tracts for the Times, published from 1833 to 1841. ‘Keble, who served as a country vicar at Hursley from 1836 until his death, is remembered as much for his lyrics as for his Tractarian role. Among his books of verse are included The Psalter or Psalms of David (1839) and the poems for childhood, Lyra Innocentium (1846); he also wrote numerous hymn lyrics, including “O God of mercy, God of might.” In 1869 Keble College, Oxford, was founded in his honour’ (www.britannica.com/). 
 
On a personal note: we got married in John Keble Church, Mill Hill - 30 years ago next month. Completed in 1936 to a modernist design, it is the only church dedicated to John Keble. 
 
We are starting Sunday services in Church again - at least for a trial period. There will be a service of Holy Communion on Sunday (19th July) at 10:30am. It will be a short and simple service without hymns. We will maintain proper physical distancing and hygiene procedures will be observed, especially during the administration of communion which will be wafers only. If you wish to come - and you are welcome to do so - it would be helpful if you could let either Ken Parsons or myself know. Then we can have some idea of numbers and make the necessary arrangements. 
 
We recognise also that many of you are not ready yet to return to public worship - and do understand and respect that. This is a decision each of us must make for ourselves and is an opportunity not a requirement. The service in Church is in addition to the recorded services for each Sunday which I will continue to make and will be available as usual on the website. 
 
The collect for today: 
Father of the eternal Word, 
in whose encompassing love 
all things in peace and order move: 
grant that, as your servant John Keble 
adored you in all creation, 
so we may have a humble heart of love 
for the mysteries of your Church 
and know your love to be new every morning, 
in Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for growing through God’s Word. Scripture reveals God to us and helps us to understand him and his call. ‘For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.’ (Romans 15:4). 
 
‘As much as Paradise exceeded all the places of the earth, doe the Scriptures of God exceed Paradise. 
In the midst of Paradise grew the Tree of knowledge, and the Tree of life: 
in this Paradise, the Scripture, every word is both these Trees; 
there is Life and Knowledge in every Word of God’ (John Donne). 
 
Today is Bastille Day, commemorating the storming of the Bastille, a symbol of the despotism of the ruling Bourbon monarchy, by an armed mob of Parisians on 14th July 1989 - in the opening days of the French Revolution. More properly in France it is the Fête nationale and commonly and legally le 14 juillet. 
Monday 13th July 2020 
 
‘Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High. Call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me’ (Psalm 50:14-15). 
 
Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that this is God’s world and that he is Lord of All. The spirit of this age insists that we are in charge and masters of our own destiny - and, being part of this world and living our lives in it, that message has taken root deep within us. God is our creator and sustainer and we know we can trust him: ‘the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and the dry land, which his hands have formed’ (Psalm 95:3-5). ‘We praise you, O God, we acclaim you as the Lord; all creation worships you, the Father everlasting… Throughout the world the holy Church acclaims you: Father, of majesty unbounded’ (Te Deum). 
 
‘Foodbanks and charities working with the homeless are fearful of a “huge storm” of demand this autumn, as the effect of redundancies are felt and hunger mounts. Already, volunteers are looking ahead with “fear and trepidation at what is coming down the road at us”, one foodbank manager reported. Charities fear that, as government support tails off in the autumn, the demands on charities will increase to unsustainable levels, and that a new wave of homelessness will be unleashed. Those most at risk of destitution are those already vulnerable, including migrants who are have no access to government support… 
“We are looking at a significant increase as redundancies continue, and we expect there to be a storm on the horizon.” In preparation for the autumn and winter, the foodbank has taken on more storage space to prepare for the demand. “We are concerned not just about the numbers of people coming to us for help, but that people who have donated will not be able to donate, because they will face hard times themselves ahead. We don’t know what is on the horizon, but we’re waiting with fear and trepidation of what is coming down the road at us.” 
Cathy Howard, from Oxford Food Bank, told Radio 4 this week: “A lot of people suspect it is going to get a lot worse. It is terrifying for a lot of charities, because the burden is going to fall on us.”’ (Church Times 10 July 2020). 
 
‘What good does it do me if Christ was born in Bethlehem once if he is not born again in my heart through faith?’ (Origen). 
 
We have a PCC meeting (via Zoom) this morning to discuss if/how we might open for Sunday worship. Please pray for us that we might be guided by the Spirit and know God’s wisdom and grace in this - and his will for us. 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Almighty God, 
send down upon your Church 
the riches of your Spirit, 
and kindle in all who minister the gospel 
your countless gifts of grace; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our community life, especially groups unable to meet. There has been a wonderful outpouring of community care and action over these past months. However we are all aware of the pressures the lockdown has brought on so many people, the stresses and the strains - in particular the inability to gather together. 
 
On 13th July 1985 the benefit concert Live Aid was held simultaneously at Wembley Stadium in London and JFK Stadium in Philadelphia; the event drew an estimated 1.5 billion television viewers and raised millions of pounds for famine relief in Ethiopia. 
 
‘Our culture has been confident, during the past two centuries, that it could change the world. Perhaps we may now have to insist that the point is to understand it’ (Lesslie Newbigin). 
Sunday 12th July 2020 
 
‘Hear then the parable of the sower… as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty’ (Matthew 13:18,23). 
 
This parable of the sower is one of only three that appear in all four gospels. Although it is often known as the parable of the sower and the seed, it can also be said this is a parable about the soil. For it is how the seed is received that matters here. All four types of soil are essentially the same dirt but are in different conditions and respond in different ways to cultivation. So what makes one soil more responsive and the other less? This presents a challenge for us. Everyone receives seed, the Word of God. Everyone has potential for the harvest, living a fruitful life, but the ones who will produce the most fruit will be the ones most open to his cultivation. How receptive are we? 
 
This story is illustrative of not only Jesus’ mission but also of the evangelistic work of his followers: they are all to “sow” the message of God’s kingdom. Jesus intends this parable to encourage disciples in their proclamation of the Gospel - they must be sowers too. We who have received the seed and proclaim the Gospel today are also sowers. There is an abundance of seed and the implication is that we should sow it liberally. Much of it may not fall on good soil, but that which does will yield a fruitful harvest. 
 
‘But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’ (Romans 10:14-15). 
 
The collect for this week: 
Almighty and everlasting God, 
by whose Spirit the whole body of the Church 
is governed and sanctified: 
hear our prayer which we offer for all your faithful people, 
that in their vocation and ministry 
they may serve you in holiness and truth 
to the glory of your name; 
through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
‘Ministry means the ongoing attempt to put one’s own search for God, with all the moments of pain and joy, despair and hope, at the disposal of those who want to join this search but do not know how’ (Henri J.M. Nouwen). 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for those who are ill and their families. Although restrictions are being eased it can still be difficult to see one another, particularly if they are shielding. This can be very distressing both to those who suffer and family members who want to be with them in their time of need. 
 
Today, it appears, is National Simplicity Day - observed every year on 12th July to honour the life, work and philosophies of poet, author and leading transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau. Thoreau was an advocate of living a simple life and wrote a number of books around the subject. Perhaps it is particularly appropriate this year when we have had to focus on what is really important to us. 
 
There is a service for today from the church. There is also a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. Do listen out for the bell at half past ten when I ask that you join me in a time of worship and prayer. 
 
Let me share with you the prayer from the Savernake Benefice in our Diocesan Cycle of Prayer: 
We ask special prayers for the school cohorts most affected by lockdown. We pray for all of those who care so well for our children. We pray especially for all the staff as they cope marvellously with a new and unexpected set of priorities. 
Saturday 11th July 2020 
 
‘My child, if you accept my words and treasure up my commandments within you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; if you indeed cry out for insight, and raise your voice for understanding; if you seek it like silver, and search for it as for hidden treasures - then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God’ (Proverbs 2:1-5). 
 
Today the Church remembers Benedict, founder of the Benedictine order and known as the Patriarch of Western Monasticism. Born at Nursia in central Italy about 480 AD, Benedict went to Rome as a young man to finish his education. However he was horrified by the licentious behaviour of the city and left before completing his studies. Instead he decided to withdraw from the world, and eventually made his home in an almost impenetrable cave near Subiaco. He lived there as a hermit for some years, but gradually a community of disciples grew up around him. So he established twelve wooden-built monasteries, of twelve monks each, which he ruled from Subiaco. 
 
Local jealously forced Benedict to leave Subiaco, and about 525 AD he moved with a small band of monks to Monte Cassino. There paganism was still practiced. However Benedict's preaching and example made many converts and, on the site of the former temple of Apollo whose idol he overthrew, he built two chapels. At Monte Cassino Benedict elaborated his plans for the reform of monasticism and composed his Rule. What he achieved was to produce an integrated, orderly and workable way of monastic life. Indeed his Rule was to become the basis for almost all Western monastic life in the Middle Ages, whose light helped to dissipate the gloomy chaos of the dark ages. 
 
Benedict died at Monte Cassino in about 550 AD. He was buried in the same grave as his sister, St. Scholastica. Over time a great monastery was built there, and this became the home of the Benedictine order. 
 
There are a number of Benedictine communities in this country today – both Catholic and Anglican. I have found the pattern of prayer still followed by them is a great help when I have been on retreat. It provides a simple framework to a day centred on God and which everyone can join in. 
 
We have a wedding in Church today at 12 o’clock for Jude and Rhob. Do please bear them in your prayers. ‘Since the lockdown was first imposed in March owing to the coronavirus, an estimated 73,400 marriages have been postponed in the country, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported at the weekend. Although some weddings took place with only the couple, the priest, and two witnesses present before the closure of churches on 23 March, few weddings have been able to take place since. 
Last week, however, as part of a wider easing of the lockdown, the Prime Minister announced that churches could reopen for public worship from 4 July, provided that physical distancing was observed (News, 26 June). Guidelines released later stated that 30 people would be permitted to attend weddings, funerals, and other “life-cycle” services, such as baptisms, regardless of the size of the building, unless the service took place during routine communal worship (News, 3 July). The total includes the couple, witnesses, and officiant, as well as guests. 
Although wedding receptions are still not permitted, many couples took advantage of the changes to marry this weekend’ (Church Times 6 July 2020). 
 
From the wedding service: 
God of wonder and of joy: 
grace comes from you, 
and you alone are the source of life and love. 
Without you, we cannot please you; 
without your love, our deeds are worth nothing. 
Send your Holy Spirit, and pour into our hearts 
that most excellent gift of love, 
that we may worship you now with thankful hearts 
and serve you always with willing minds; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for all key workers. We recognise the many, often previously un-regarded members of the workforce, who are necessary for our society to function efficiently - or even at all. We give thanks for all their dedication and hard work, and ask God’s blessing upon them. 
 
‘Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may he bring us all together to everlasting life’ (Rule of Benedict). 
Friday 10th July 2020 
 
‘When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you’ (Matthew 10:19-20). 
 
Matthew collects together a number of related sayings of Jesus having to do with committed discipleship in the face of conflict. It is important here to notice what Jesus actually commands. The command is to not be anxious. The issue is one of confidence and trust. It is a reminder to the disciples of where their authority and power comes from, and a call to rely upon the Spirit to communicate effectively. 
 
Jesus recognizes that fear will also cause the failure of discipleship. Jesus’ disciples courageously leave the security of their homes and families to follow him as they proclaim the advent of God’s reign, but they, too, will know and ultimately bow before the power of fear. Faithful proclamation and practice of the gospel inevitably puts disciples on a collision course with the powers of this world. So, as Jesus prepares his disciples for their mission to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel,” he is starkly realistic about the threats they will face. At the same time he builds the case for why they should not let this fear master them or hinder their witness. This message is for us as well. 
 
From Archbishop Justin: ‘Unprecedented destruction calls for unprecedented cooperation. The creation of the United Nations in the rubble of the Second World War is a prime example. Yet, as we face another global crisis, the UN will not be enough to steer us through. We need new cooperation, within and outside the UN, to serve humanity and save lives. 
This week saw a remarkable glimmer of hope. After months of division, the United Nations Security Council agreed a resolution which demands immediate ceasefires in conflicts across the world. These will allow relief to reach the most vulnerable - in countries already ravaged by armed conflict and crippled by humanitarian crises - potentially sparing them the worst effects of Covid. It shows the Security Council recognising its responsibility to model courageous leadership in the interests of peace… 
This is a time for us all to be courageous, to reach across chasms of difference, and emerge into a post-Covid world with relationships, systems, and institutions that serve humanity. We must not, in this country or internationally, establish identity by making enemies of others or renewing old hatred and rivalries. Let us do the opposite: valuing diversity, disagreeing passionately, but with respect and care. In the words of St Paul in the Epistle to the Romans 14.19: “Let us pursue what makes for peace and mutual upbuilding,” working together during this crisis for more than our own safety’ (The Most Revd Justin Welby, Church Times 3 July 2020). 
 
We pray: 
Creator God, 
may every breath we take be for your glory, 
may every footstep show you as our way, 
that, trusting in your presence in this world, 
we may, beyond this life, still be with you 
where you are alive and reign 
for ever and ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for the Trafalgar School at Downton. This month many 16-year olds will be leaving for an uncertain future, while in September new Year 7 pupils will arrive after a disruptive end to their primary education. Pupils and staff are bearing up well on the whole but continue to need our prayer. 
Thursday 9th July 2020 
 
‘O give thanks to the Lord, call on his name, make known his deeds among the peoples. Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wonderful works. Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice’ (Psalm 105:1-3). 
 
There is much to give thanks to God for even in the midst of these strange times. We thank him for all the blessings we know living in this beautiful - and so far relatively unaffected - part of the country; for family, friends and neighbours, and the increase in neighbourliness and community helpfulness; for our health professionals and the tireless work of so many others to ensure our essential services continue smoothly; for the dedication and commitment of our school staff; and for so very much more. 
 
Above all we thank God for his living presence amongst us and in our hearts and lives. ‘John Robinson, in his book The New Reformation?, has this to say: ‘We have got to relearn that “the house of God” is primarily the world in which God lives, not the contractor’s hut set up in the grounds’. We are to pray for the coming of the kingdom. It shall eventually be on earth as it is in heaven. Meanwhile, the kingdom is already breaking forth. It is among us. Or rather, we are always in the midst of the kingdom God is building in the world. We are to be faithful to the calling of the kingdom first: ‘strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness’ (Matthew 6.33). Churches may grow then, or they may decline. But faithfulness always matters more than success. Meanwhile, we are to be agents of God’s kingdom. God is at work through people, times, places - contexts and cultures - reconciling the world to himself through love and mercy. We are asked to join in that work, and foster it’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 6 July 2020). 
 
A General Thanksgiving 
Almighty God, Father of all mercies, 
we your unworthy servants give you most humble and hearty thanks 
for all your goodness and loving kindness. 
We bless you for our creation, preservation, 
and all the blessings of this life; 
but above all for your immeasurable love 
in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ, 
for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory. 
And give us, we pray, such a sense of all your mercies 
that our hearts may be unfeignedly thankful, 
and that we show forth your praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, 
by giving up ourselves to your service, 
and by walking before you in holiness and righteousness all our days; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord, 
to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, 
be all honour and glory, for ever and ever. Amen. 
(adapted from The Book of Common Prayer https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for all who have lost their jobs or are unable to find work. For many the outlook is bleak as the furlough scheme draws towards an end and we hear of more businesses laying off workers or going into administration. 
 
‘Love cannot be an unchanging system of rules... Jesus Christ is not frozen in the first century... He is part of an infinite variety of human experiences, which alter from age to age. To imitate him will be to find out what the contemporary age is like, and how love is best expressed in it. This imitation of Christ our contemporary is of course a more complex and challenging business than the obeying of ancient precepts’ (Archbishop Robert Runcie). 
 
Today is the 9th anniversary of South Sudan declaring its independence after a referendum to secede from Sudan was passed overwhelmingly. This was the outcome of a 2005 agreement that ended Africa’s longest-running civil war. Previously the 10 southern-most states of Sudan, South Sudan is one of the most diverse countries in Africa and two-thirds the size of the whole of Europe. It is also one of the world's most underdeveloped economies with endemic poverty. 
Wednesday 8th July 2020 
 
‘Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you’ (Hosea 10:12). 
 
The actions and deeds of our lives are like seeds scattered abroad. They have a negative or positive effect on those around us. If we sow in righteousness, we will reap in mercy. However some hearts have become hardened to God, like ground that is hard and stubborn, resistant to the seed. It does little good to sow seed on fallow ground; it must be broken up first. Only when we are receptive can God’s seed grow in our hearts and we can produce a harvest for God. To ‘rain righteousness’ is the same image as the psalmist uses of Christ; ‘May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass, like showers that water the earth’ (Psalm 72:6), and Isaiah, ‘Shower, O heavens, from above, and let the skies rain down righteousness; let the earth open, that salvation may spring up, and let it cause righteousness to sprout up also; I the Lord have created it’ (Isaiah 45:8). 
 
‘Our confidence is that God’s faithfulness will prevail over our faithlessness, that he will recall us, that he will not let us go. Our broken resolutions witness against us, but he renews to us daily the miracle of his forgiveness, because he is faithful to his friends’ (Austin Farrer). 
 
This was supposed to be the annual Clergy Day for the diocese. This is an opportunity for all the clergy to gather together, far from the paces of our daily ministry, for fellowship and mutual encouragement. We have had some very good speakers over the years. I have to say that my favourite was the Director of the British Museum, Neil MacGregor who has made some excellent podcasts - such as A History of the World in 100 Objects - which I would highly recommend. 
 
‘"They would rather die of Covid-19 than hunger” is the really distressing plea delivered by Archbishop Ezekiel Kondo in Khartoum, Sudan. This shocking statement and appeals for help from church leaders throughout the Sudans has led Bishop Nicholas to launch an Emergency Appeal for the Sudans. He is asking our Diocese to give generously for this desperate need and help him raise over £50,000 in a month. Launching the Appeal with a video and a letter, Bishop Nicholas said: “Our own problems with Covid-19 in this country are significant, but our brothers and sisters in South Sudan and Sudan face even greater problems with even less resources. “The pandemic has added another frightening aspect to lives in the Sudans where ‘normal’ includes hunger and the threat of disease. “I hope and pray we will be generous.”’ (Diocese of Salisbury Grapevine, 6 July 2020). 
 
We pray: 
O Lord our God, 
grant us grace to desire you with our whole heart; 
that so desiring, we may seek and find you; 
and so finding, may love you; 
and so loving, may hate those sins from which 
you have delivered us; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for all those who care for loved ones at home. This year many more people have taken on additional caring responsibilities for their relatives and friends who are disabled, ill or older and who need support. 
 
I will be saying a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church at 10:30am. I shall ring the bell and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. 
 
‘I will make them and the region around my hill a blessing; and I will send down the showers in their season; they shall be showers of blessing. The trees of the field shall yield their fruit, and the earth shall yield its increase. They shall be secure on their soil; and they shall know that I am the Lord, when I break the bars of their yoke, and save them from the hands of those who enslaved them’ (Ezekiel 34:26-27). 
Tuesday 7th July 2020 
 
When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest’ (Matthew 9:36-38). 
 
As Jesus sees the needs around him, he is filled with pity and love. He is working for the healing of the nation as much as of those people who are physically or mentally ill. That involves him in a confrontation with the authorities as well as looking to the needs of individuals. True shepherds must be found, proper leaders who will guide the country in Godly ways, caring for the weak, the powerless and the vulnerable - as well as shepherds who will seek to grow the Church. ‘He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?’ (Micah 6:8). 
 
‘We can be encouraged by Jesus’ realism: the task is overwhelming…. But statistics and quantities are not ultimate realities. The only reality worth taking with ultimate seriousness is the Living God’ (Frederick Bruner). 
 
‘The changes in guidelines that will allow many of our churches to unlock doesn’t mean our new ways of ‘doing church’ online will stop. With the worship in our churches set to feel very different to pre-virus days, and many people finding they are enjoying the many ways you can pray and worship online, ministry teams throughout our Diocese are in the process of finding the right blend of the new and the old ‘normal’ together. And with social distancing meaning some activities still can’t move offline, online video conferencing is still proving a great way to keep ministry and mission going in our communities’ (Diocese of Salisbury Grapevine, 3 July 2020). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Gracious Father, 
by the obedience of Jesus 
you brought salvation to our wayward world: 
draw us into harmony with your will, 
that we may find all things restored in him, 
our Saviour Jesus Christ. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our Team Rector and family - thank you for your prayers, they are a great support particularly at this time. Please pray also for the other members of our Clergy Team, David and Veronica and their families - together with our retired clergy, especially Ron who lives here in Downton with his wife Creddy. 
 
Today we have the funeral for Judy’s mother, Joan. In line with current restrictions, this will be for family only, most of whom are coming some distance. I ask that you bear us in your prayers. This will be the first service in our church since the lockdown began. So in many ways there is a sense that we are venturing into something new. We hope that the weather is fine so that those who are travelling are able to have a picnic before returning home. 
 
Apparently books and films about apocalyptic events have become increasing popular recently. In the Bible, of course, we have the story of the flood. So, I thought this might be of interest: 
‘We all know the story of Noah’s Ark. Ever since George Smith’s 1872 translation of Babylonian texts similar to the Biblical Deluge (see “George Smith’s Other Find” below), we’ve also known about echoes of the Genesis narrative in pre-Biblical Mesopotamian texts. A recently translated Old Babylonian (c. 1900–1700 B.C.E.) tablet has literally reshaped our vision of the Babylonian vessel used to weather the storm and builds bridges across the floodwaters dividing the Biblical and Mesopotamian accounts of the flood… The text describes the construction of a coracle or gufa, a traditional basket-like boat that would have been familiar to Mesopotamian audiences. Of course, this is no average coracle—Atrahasis is to build a boat with a diameter of close to 230 feet across and 20-foot-high walls. The boat is made out of a massive quantity of palm-fiber rope, sealed with bitumen. This isn’t exactly the same ark that Noah built’ (https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/). 
Monday 6th July 2020 
 
‘O Lord, who may abide in your tent? Who may dwell on your holy hill? Those who walk blamelessly, and do what is right, and speak the truth from their heart; who do not slander with their tongue, and do no evil to their friends, nor take up a reproach against their neighbours’ (Psalm 15:1-3). 
 
The question here is equivalent to asking: who is qualified to dwell with God? His holy hill is regarded as the dwelling-place of God, the type of heaven, the eternal abode of the Most High. In other words, what kind of person does God want me to be? The Hebrew of the phrase ‘who may dwell’ does not suggest ‘living in,’ but rather ‘visiting with’ - that is to say, being acceptable to come into God’s presence. So the psalm has at least an equally strong present tense application as it does a future one. It is interesting to note that while Christians usually choose Psalm 23 as their favourite psalm, Jews often choose Psalm 15. 
 
Today the Church remembers Sir Thomas More. ‘More was an English lawyer, scholar, writer, member of parliament and chancellor in the reign of Henry VIII. He was executed for refusing to recognise Henry VIII’s divorce and the English church’s break with Rome… More took the post of lord chancellor in 1529, just as Henry had become determined to obtain a divorce from Catherine of Aragon. The previous chancellor, Lord Wolsey, had failed to achieve this objective. Henry was close to breaking with the Church of Rome, and the so-called ‘Reformation parliament’ was about to convene. When Henry declared himself ‘supreme head of the Church in England’ - thus establishing the Anglican Church and allowing him to end his marriage - More resigned the chancellorship. He continued to argue against the king’s divorce and the split with Rome, and in 1534 was arrested after refusing to swear an oath of succession repudiating the pope and accepting the annulment of Henry’s marriage. He was tried for treason at Westminster and on 6 July 1535 was executed on Tower Hill’ (http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/). He is recognized as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church. 
 
In the words of the 1960 play, and then film, about Thomas More, he was A Man for All Seasons - the title taken from a description of him by a contemporary, Robert Whittington. Although perhaps another way of seeing him is through the phrase coined by Bertrand Russell ‘I am firm, you are obstinate, he is a pig-headed fool’. 
 
Thomas More’s time was one of great religious conflict. We are inclined look askance at all the violence and - as we would see it - bigotry. Perhaps we do better to see this as a time when passions ran high because people took their faith and its implications in deadly earnest. It was a most serious matter with eternal consequences and so it was incredibly important to get it right. Maybe the challenge they have for us today is: do we take our religion seriously enough? 
 
A Prayer by Thomas More 
Good Lord, give us Your grace 
not to read or hear this Gospel of Your bitter Passion 
with our eyes and our ears in manner of a pastime, 
but that it may with compassion so sink into our hearts 
that it may stretch to the everlasting profit of our souls. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for all visitors to our Churches. They may have come in for private prayer, stood outside, paused in the churchyard or visited us online. We hope it will not be long before we can open our buildings again for small services and those who simply want to look round. 
 
There has been much in the news about the economic impact of the pandemic. So it’s good to hear something positive: ‘The Church Commissioners have survived the worst of the economic turmoil brought about by the coronavirus: their £8.7-billion fund is mostly back to where it stood before the pandemic hit… Because the Commissioners’ stocks are diversified and include fewer publicly listed equities than the average fund, they did not drop as precipitously as the wider market did. A spokesman for the Commissioners explained on Tuesday that their fund was, by nature, more diversified, and better protected from stock-market crashes’ (Church Times 3 July 2020). 
Sunday 5th July 2020 
 
‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light’ (Matthew 11:28-30). 
 
Here Jesus summarizes the invitation to discipleship that characterised his earthly ministry. Jesus had called Peter and Andrew with a similar expression (Matthew 4:19), but there it was “Come after me,” while here it is “Come to me.” He is addressing the people around him who were burdened and weighed down with the externalism and the legal do’s and don’ts of the Pharisees, and with the consequences of that - the guilt, frustration, and dissatisfaction. They are like the crowds earlier whom Jesus said are harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36). 
 
Jesus is our shepherd - the Good Shepherd - and our faith goes beyond the law to the purpose and spirit of the law, which is love. We are to learn from him: ‘my yoke is easy,’ he tells us, ‘and my burden is light’. He won’t weigh us down with impossible demands. If we trust in him and follow him, he will teach us and sustain us. ‘Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ’ (1 Peter 2:4-5). 
 
Some churches, mainly cathedrals and other larger buildings, will be holding their first public services for over three months today. This is an important moment for them and in the life of the Church in this country - and we hold them in our prayers. We have not yet made a decision when we will resume services here but hope that we will be able to do so soon. ‘Where it is safe and they are able, our churches are unlocking for worship, weddings and funerals. Following closely behind the unlocking for private prayer, for many it will be the first time they have been back in church for many months. While for some, it will be the first time. Introduced to online worship during the lockdown, many of those in our new online congregations will now find a warm welcome waiting inside our buildings’ (Diocese of Salisbury Grapevine, 3 July 2020). 
 
The collect for this week: 
O God, the protector of all who trust in you, 
without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: 
increase and multiply upon us your mercy; 
that with you as our ruler and guide 
we may so pass through things temporal 
that we lose not our hold on things eternal; 
grant this, heavenly Father, 
for our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for Churches Together in Downton, as we remember that we all belong to God’s kingdom and have the one gospel to proclaim - and that is what matters. 
 
There is a service for today from the church and also a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. Do listen out for the bell at half past ten when I ask that you join me in a time of worship and prayer. We also have another contribution from Ron Hart, who was due to take our service in St Laurence today. It is attached. Thank you, Ron. 
 
‘The Lord could do without our intercession and our praise. Yet it is the mystery of God, that he should require us, his co-workers, to keep on praying and never lose heart’ (The Rule of Taizé). 
Saturday 4th July 2020 
 
‘Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts. Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land. Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other. Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky’ (Psalm 85:8-11). 
 
This psalm is a prayer at a time of real difficulty for the ancient faith community. They prayed for joy, joy that can come from God's presence in the midst of the community. This proclamation of salvation is a strong word of encouragement and assurance in a community crisis. It is a word of hope, and the worship setting seeks to call the community to trust and faithfulness in the God who will bring about this salvation. 
 
At this time, we too look to God for reassurance and hope. We live in difficult times and consider our response as the Church both now and in the future. God is faithful and just; he has called us to follow his ways. What should be the prophetic word and the character of his Church today? What is he calling us to be today; how are we offering his love and hope in our community? 
 
‘The choir at Salisbury Cathedral have teamed up with the Government's secretive science labs to find a way to start singing safely again. Scientists have attended a choir rehearsal at Salisbury Cathedral to test the reach of spray and spittle from the choirs. The choirs professional singers will perform a series of tests in the government science facility at nearby Porton Down to establish how close the choir can stand to each other. Services at the cathedral had moved online during the pandemic but as lockdown measures ease, the famous cathedral choir hopes to start singing under that famous spire again. And once the labs determine the minimum social distance, Salisbury can exult in hearing music to sooth the soul again, in a city which has been through so much in recent years’ (itv.com). 
 
On Wednesday I met with a couple, Jude and Rhob, who are eager to get married in Church at the first available opportunity. We have arranged their service for 11th July. It won’t be the same for them without all their family and friends to witness this important moment in their lives and to be a part of it. However what matters most will be there - the two of them coming before God to join together as one and commit themselves to each other. Please bear them in your prayers at this time. 
 
We pray: 
Eternal Father of my soul, 
let my first thought today be of thee, 
let my first impulse be to worship thee, 
let my first speech be thy name, 
let my first action be to kneel before thee in prayer. 
(John Baillie) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our Church School - both those children now in school and those who are still distance learning - that they may continue to grow in understanding and experience. Also we give thanks for the commitment, dedication and professionalism of the staff, and for all who support and work with them - and bear them in our prayers. We bring before God their preparations for September and the hopes and fears attendant on that. 
 
‘Ours is a Creator who from the first has been lovingly involved in his creation. The God who took pleasure in the creation in those first days has never stopped loving it and nurturing it. He has never left it, and he guards it as it moves towards its fulfilment. Our convictions about the Creator’s involvement are most plainly seen when the Creative Word itself became flesh in the person of Jesus’ (Christopher P. Burkett). 
Friday 3rd July 2020 
 
Jesus said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe’ (John 20:27-29). 
 
Today the Church celebrates Thomas. Thomas was one of the twelve apostles, and his main characteristic seems to have been that of a questioner. He was a man who wanted to see, to understand, before he was willing to commit himself whole-heartedly. He is often rather unfairly held up as lacking in faith because of that. 
 
Perhaps it would be more true to say that Thomas was honest. He did not pretend to a level of understanding, or of faith, which he did not have. He knew what it was to doubt, and he faced up to that. He didn't simply fall into line with accepted belief or allow himself to be carried along by it. In addition, Thomas was willing to voice his doubts, to be open about his lack of comprehension. This took courage. When the other disciples hold back, it is Thomas who tells our Lord that he doesn't understand. Such an admission often prompted Jesus into further teaching, which continues to benefit us today. 
 
Thomas had a questioning faith, which proved also to be a more mature one. Of all the disciples, he is the one who declares “My Lord, and my God” (John 20:28) - accepting and acknowledging Jesus's divinity for the first time. Having worked it through for himself, Thomas's faith was all the more secure - enabling him to move forward and to grow. In this he is an example for us all. For our faith to truly flourish we must face up to our doubts and work through towards a true acceptance and understanding. ‘Faith is not a terminus but a starting point from which understanding can begin. This model is offered for acceptance by faith as the way to understanding. Its motto is “Credo ut intelligam” I believe in order that I may understand’ (Lesslie Newbigin). 
 
In his later life, Thomas’ mature faith and courage are shown as he takes the Gospel to India. The Syrian Christians of Malabar have a tradition that they were evangelized by Thomas - and continue to call themselves the `Christians of St Thomas'. Thomas was eventually martyred and buried at Mylapore, near Madras. 
 
The collect for today: 
Almighty and eternal God, 
who, for the firmer foundation of our faith, 
allowed your holy apostle Thomas 
to doubt the resurrection of your Son 
till word and sight convinced him: 
grant to us, who have not seen, that we also may believe 
and so confess Christ as our Lord and our God; 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for the bereaved, remembering especially those who cannot have their loved ones with them in their last hours, and those relatives and friends unable to attend a funeral. The inability to say a proper goodbye or to share together in mourning and remembrance is an added pressure at an already difficult time. We give thanks that we can now hold funerals in Church for a limited number. 
 
In our Diocesan Cycle of Prayer today we pray for our bishops, Nicholas, Andrew and Karen. They ask us: Please pray for wisdom and good judgement in the oversight of the diocese as we come out of ‘lockdown’. May we all learn lessons from what is new and has gone well and we want to keep; and what is old and we value deeply and we want to retain. 
 
Yesterday we drove 290 miles to Chelmsford and back so that I could officiate at my aunt’s funeral. I was very glad to do so, but it is by far the furthest we have travelled since the lockdown began - and, to be honest, we were somewhat nervous. It didn’t help that at times we were driving through absolutely torrential rain. Unlike previous such occasions, we were unable to stay overnight, nor was there a proper opportunity fully to socialise afterwards. Even so, it was a good and blessed time. 
 
‘Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase’ (Martin Luther King, Jr.). 
Thursday 2nd July 2020 
 
Amos answered Amaziah, ‘I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees, and the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, “Go, prophesy to my people Israel”’ (Amos 7:14-15). 
 
The prophets of the Old Testament were called to bring the hard truth to God’s chosen people, so that they would be forced to take an honest look at themselves and realize their need for reconciliation with God. As we see from our brief glimpse of him in this passage, Amos was all about hard truths. This was a time of economic boom with luxurious living, moral corruption and rampant idolatry. Wealth and security had led the people to forget God’s ways. They needed to hear his word anew. 
 
For Amos prophesy was not a job but a calling from God to speak out. That is true for all Christians. We are all called to be prophets: proclaiming the truth. Speaking God’s word to the world is not just the job of the ‘professionals’. It is what each one of us called to do. Many people believe that our faith should remain a private matter and its social implications should never be mentioned in the public arena. Se we need a balance of courage and discretion in facing such issues today. Too often we ask “Why doesn’t the Church speak out?” We are the Church – so our question should be “Why are we not speaking out?”. 
 
‘A joint letter calling for Safe Passage for child refugees has now been signed by over 250 faith leaders. Our Bishops added their signatures to last week's Safe Passage open letters that call upon our Prime Minister to offer sanctuary to unaccompanied children stranded in Europe. The letters sent by Safe Passage in Wiltshire, signed by Bishop Nicholas and Bishop Andrew - and Safe Passage in Dorset, signed by Bishop Karen - explain more than 1,600 unaccompanied children remain stuck on the Greek islands. The letter comes as the UNHCR published their Global Trends Report, which has stated that an unprecedented 79.5 MILLION PEOPLE were displaced as of the end of 2019, with nearly half of the those forcibly displaced being children’ (Diocese of Salisbury Grapevine, 27 June 2020). 
 
‘Is it heartless to take issue with most diocesan mission statements? After all, they are the work of many hands. Committees and bishops’ leadership teams have sweated over them for days in conference centres and retreat houses, agonising over every word, poring over phrases, and satisfying competing interests and points of view. But few mission statements really focus on the imperatives of the gospel. They do not tell us much about how the Church should reflect on its identity and values, or how to respond to many of today’s pressing issues, such as the racism embedded in our nation’s culture and history. When Jesus preached at Nazareth (Luke 4.16-30), he quoted words from Isaiah 61.1-2. His message, he said, was “good news to the poor”. It is good news for the outcasts, the misfits, the ill and the dying, the disadvantaged, and the marginalised. The poor to whom Jesus refers are not only those who are poor in a literal sense: those without the money and opportunity to feed and clothe themselves. He also includes those who face illness, hardship, neglect, prejudice, exclusion, loss, and disability. He means the people who are deprived of what the healthy, the happy, and the advantaged take for granted’ (Anthony Bash, Church Times 26 June 2020). 
 
The prayer after communion for this week: 
O God, whose beauty is beyond our imagining 
and whose power we cannot comprehend: 
show us your glory as far as we can grasp it, 
and shield us from knowing more than we can bear 
until we may look upon you without fear; 
through Jesus Christ our Saviour. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our Churchwarden and Deputy Churchwardens. They work hard for our Church and their ministry is particularly important now as we begin to open the Church up again. 
 
‘Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are’ (St Augustine). 
Wednesday 1st July 2020 
 
‘I will call to mind the deeds of the Lord; I will remember your wonders of old. I will meditate on all your work, and muse on your mighty deeds. Your way, O God, is holy. What god is so great as our God? You are the God who works wonders; you have displayed your might among the peoples’ (Psalm 77:11-14). 
 
The writer of Psalm 77 wrestles with his faith at a difficult time. Perhaps he has got God wrong? Does he limit God because he sees him through too narrow a focus? How about us? What are we asking God to be? Is he a troubleshooter - God who is good to have around when I’m in trouble; a distant authority figure - God gives us laws but isn’t really concerned about the ordinary parts of my life; a grandparent - God gives me what I want? God is so very much more than these. He is involved in every aspect of our lives: the good and the bad, the highs and the lows, when faith is easy and when it is hard. He loves us and he is there for us. 
 
We can say with Paul ‘I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Romans 8:38-39). 
 
As we look to economic recovery beyond the pandemic, the Vatican has recommended disinvestment from fossil fuels: ‘The Vatican has published a document aimed at Roman Catholics and other Christians on how to relate to God’s creation. It marks the fifth anniversary of Pope Francis’s environmental encyclical Laudato Si’: On care for our common home (News, 26 June 2015). The document, Journeying for the Care of the Common Home, urges Christians to disinvest from fossil-fuel companies, build a circular zero-waste economy; and advocate forms of low-carbon development, such as reforestation. Released on Thursday of last week, the document was compiled before the pandemic by several Vatican dicasteries that have been working on “integral ecology” in association with other RC bodies since 2015. An English-language version has not yet been published, but Vatican News summarises the central argument that “everything is connected”. “Each particular crisis forms part of a single, complex socio-environmental crisis that requires a true ecological conversion.”‘ (Church Times 26 June 2020 - a dicastery is a department of the Roman Curia). 
 
On 1st July 1535 Sir Thomas More went on trial in Westminster Hall for treason for refusing to accept King Henry VIII as head of the Church of England. On the charge of opposing the Henry’s marriage, Sir Thomas freely admitted that he had, “according to the dictates of my conscience,” told the King his true opinion. To do otherwise, he said, would have “basely flattered” his Majesty and made him “a wicked subject” and “a traitor to God.” 
 
A prayer by Sir Thomas More 
And give me, good Lord, 
an humble, lowly, quiet, 
peaceable, patient, charitable, 
kind and filial and tender mind, 
every shade, in fact, of charity, 
with all my words and all my works, 
and all my thoughts, 
to have a taste of thy holy blessed Spirit. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for peace in the world. As nations compete for scarce resources during the pandemic (in the news today we hear that the US has bought up the entire world stock of key Covid-19 drug remdesivir), or use this opportunity to increase their power and influence in the world - so we pray that God will lead us into his paths of peace and understanding. ‘By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace’ (Luke 1:78-79). 
 
I shall be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church at 10:30am. I shall ring the bell and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. 
Tuesday 30th June 2020 
 
Jesus said to them, ‘Why are you afraid, you of little faith?’ Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a dead calm. They were amazed, saying, ‘What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?’ (Matthew 8:26-27). 
 
Although the disciples had some faith in Jesus, there was a great deal of fear and unbelief too. In Luke, the phrase is, “where is your faith?” what is become of it? You professed but just now to believe in me, is your faith gone already? In Mark it is, “how is it that you have no faith?” That is, in their exercise of it, their faith was only small. Clearly they did have faith - but they are finding it difficult to trust it, to accept its implications. 
 
How often does that apply to us too when things are hard? We are like the father of a boy just before Jesus heals him ‘I believe; help my unbelief!’ (Mark 9:24). ‘We may have crossed the boundary from unbelief to faith, but we have not fully explored the new country’ (John Fenton). 
 
We have been discussing when and how we can start services in St Laurence again. Of course, we don’t know how many would wish to come in the present circumstances. Opening up the Church is not as straightforward as it may seem. We have to ensure that proper procedures are in place to protect - as far as is practicable - all who come to worship. There is physical distancing to observe, orders of service to consider and arrangements for administering communion. In addition to all this, we must keep those areas of the building and anything people may touch as clean as we can. This requires both careful preparation and continuing vigilance - whilst not losing sight of the purpose for which we are here. 
 
Guidance from the government on public worship was finally published yesterday: ‘No maximum number is specified for people attending for general worship, which includes led prayers, devotions, or meditations. The guidance confirms, however, that a maximum of 30 people are permitted to attend weddings, funerals, and other “life-cycle” services, such as baptisms, regardless of the size of the building… The guidance advises that all services should be completed in the “shortest reasonable time”, and the building emptied promptly.’ We are also encouraged to continue recording services (as we intend to do anyway): ‘It is recommended that, where possible, places of worship continue to stream worship or other events to avoid large gatherings and to continue to reach those individuals who are self-isolating or particularly vulnerable to Covid-19’ (Church Times 29 June 2020). 
 
The July issue of Downton Parish News is now available free to view or download. For those unable to access our magazine through the website, there are a few printed copies available (free) in the Co-op, Chemist and Woodfalls Post Office. Please let anyone know that you think may want one. They and we would be most grateful. 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
God our saviour, 
look on this wounded world 
in pity and in power; 
hold us fast to your promises of peace 
won for us by your Son, 
our Saviour Jesus Christ. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our Parochial Church Council (PCC). As the trustees for St Laurence, the members have the responsibility for the risk assessments that need to be prepared for the Church and decisions on how and when we can start worship again. 
 
On 30th June 1908 a large and powerful explosion occurred in the stratosphere above the remote taiga near the Podkamennaya Tunguska River in central Siberia. The blast, caused by the explosion of an incoming comet or meteorite above the site, levelled about 2,000 square miles (5,200 square kilometres) of pine forest. The force of the explosion was estimated to be roughly 1,000 times the power of the atomic blast that destroyed Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945. We can thank God it didn’t happen somewhere more densely populated. 
 
‘Faith which does not doubt is dead faith’ (Miguel de Unamuno). 
Monday 29th June 2020 
 
‘I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven’ (Matthew 16:18-19). 
 
Today the Church celebrates the Apostle Peter. Peter was a fisherman from Bethsaida, a village near Lake Tiberias. He was one of the first disciples to be called by Jesus, along with his brother Andrew. The gospels portray him as a blunt and direct man, rather inclined to leap in with both feet. At first sight Peter was not the man that we might have picked out as a leader. However, he it is who generally takes the lead among the twelve and is the spokesman for the apostles. He also appears as ardent and humble with a passionate love of Christ. 
 
It is Peter who first professes the belief that Jesus is the Christ: ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ (Matthew 16:16). It is after this that our Lord says: `I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church’ (Matthew 16:18). It is on this passage that the claims of the Popes are made, and its interpretation has caused much controversy. After Jesus’ arrest, we have that poignant story of Peter’s denial of Jesus three times, and his subsequent repentance, and later restoration by the risen Jesus with the triple command to feed his sheep. 
 
Following the Ascension, Peter begins to flourish. He takes the lead immediately and is seen clearly as the leader of the first church. Peter is the one who speaks on the day of Pentecost; he is the first to perform a miracle in the name of Jesus; together with John he performs what amounts to the first confirmations (in Samaria); and he is the first to baptize Gentiles into the Church. 
 
The tradition connecting Peter with Rome is well supported. St Jerome records that Peter was bishop there for 25 years before suffering martyrdom. He probably died during the reign of Nero, in the persecution of 64 AD. The old legend that Peter was fleeing from Rome when he met Christ along the Appian Way, is recorded in the book Quo Vadis by Henryk Sienkiewicz (and the 1951 film). 
 
You will have seen in the news that Churches can begin opening up again for worship from next weekend. We have not yet made a decision on how we are going to respond to that. We will keep you informed. Whatever we do, I shall continue recording Sunday services and posting them on our website, at least for the time being. 
 
‘In today’s digital age whilst Zoom, social media and online church services are keeping many connected during the coronavirus lockdown, those self-isolating without internet access can be left feeling forgotten. Daily Hope, a free phone line, was set up to address that - and since it was launched by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby on 26 April, more than 150,000 calls have been received, totalling more than 1.7 million minutes of listen time’ (Diocese of Salisbury Grapevine 27 June 2020). 
 
The prayer for today: 
Almighty God, 
who inspired your apostle Saint Peter 
to confess Jesus as Christ and Son of the living God: 
build up your Church upon this rock, 
that in unity and peace it may proclaim one truth 
and follow one Lord, your Son our Saviour Christ, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for those due to be ordained this year. In addition to those who were due to be priested on Saturday, there are the many new curates across the country who are waiting to be made deacon. Here in Salisbury Diocese, they are being appointed as lay workers – and, as with the new priests, will be ordained now on 26th September (the priests at 11am and the deacons at 5pm). 
 
‘What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like’ (St Augustine). 
Sunday 28th June 2020 
 
‘Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me’ (Matthew 10:40). 
 
Jesus is sending his disciples out to share the good news. They are his ambassadors. They go in his name and with his authority, proclaiming the Kingdom of God. So it is with us ‘we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us’ says St Paul (2 Corinthians 5:20). An ambassador of Jesus Christ is any person who is a follower of Jesus and is thus sent out to live and work to his praise and glory in daily life. This is about people living out their Christian discipleship among all the people and places of their week. Paul precedes his declaration with ‘God.. reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us’ ((2 Corinthians 5:20). 
 
The Church Times this week is devoted to an ‘attempt to stimulate debate within the Church about how life might be once the threat of the coronavirus pandemic has receded’. Here is part of just one contribution: 
‘Crises reveal truth. They lay bare weaknesses, they expose dysfunctionality, they magnify pre-existing problems, and they show up the holes in systems and structures. You cannot lie to a crisis, and you cannot hide away from it. So, what is the coronavirus crisis telling us? 
First, it is revealing something about our national life, and any attempt to rethink the ministry of the Church of England must begin with an attentive listening to the culture that it is our task to transform in Christ. I believe that we are seeing the unpicking of the lie that people today are not interested in the gospel. We have, instead, a nation relearning how to pray, looking to us for answers to the big questions, and accessing church life through online means in a way that we could not have imagined possible six months ago. Some studies reckon that one in three of the population have attended online worship since lockdown began. One Sunday, the Christians crashed Zoom. 
At the same time, we are called to serve a nation on the brink of the most serious economic catastrophe in peacetime. Foodbank use has spiralled, unemployment is likely to reach levels unknown since the early 1980s, and the closure of schools is having a profound impact on the well-being and prospects of the most vulnerable children. The hollowing out of local government and the voluntary sector through ten years of austerity gives churches a huge responsibility to serve the neediest. 
We are at a point in history when the nation is crying out for the ministry of the Church. But are we ready? Are our patterns of ministry robust enough to grasp hold of the biggest evangelistic opportunity that any of us will ever know?’ (Rt Revd Philip North, Church Times 26 June 2020). 
 
The collect for this week: 
Almighty God, 
you have broken the tyranny of sin 
and have sent the Spirit of your Son into our hearts 
whereby we call you Father: 
give us grace to dedicate our freedom to your service, 
that we and all creation may be brought 
to the glorious liberty of the children of God; 
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
There is a service for today and a service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. Do listen out for the bell at half past ten when I ask that you join me in a time of worship and prayer. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for volunteers helping others in their community. Behind the headline stories of selfishness, there are greater numbers of people helping out and engaging with their neighbours. We are discovering new ways of being community, and this has been a real silver lining to the events of these past months. 
 
On this day in 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and his consort, Sophie, were assassinated by Gavrilo Princip in Sarajevo, Bosnia, precipitating the outbreak of World War I. Five years later, on 28th June 1919, the Treaty of Versailles was signed at the Palace of Versailles in France, signifying the end of World War I. 
Saturday 27th June 2020 
 
‘Salt is good; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure heap; they throw it away. Let anyone with ears to hear listen!’ (Luke 14:34-35). 
 
Salt is good as long as it is salty. If not, it is thrown away. Salt in the ancient world was used in several ways: as a catalyst for a fire, as seasoning, as a preservative and as fertilizer. In each case the presence of salt facilitated some function. But once salt ceases to perform its role, then it is good for nothing. Similarly, Jesus says, the disciple who loses “saltiness” can become useless to God. Discipleship is serious business to Jesus. We need to count the cost and be committed - and successful discipleship requires that we put God first. 
 
We are called to be the salt, the leaven of our culture and of our time. Jesus’ point in talking about salt is this: If we lose our basic nature, our God-given usefulness, then we are unhelpful to the Kingdom and God’s work in the world. His message is a harsh one, but one we need to hear. 
 
‘The kind of lifestyle God expects from his people means unquestioning loyalty to the one God, a loyalty which will find practical expression in a caring society. Only if that call is heeded can the people lay claim - as they are only too anxious to do - to the promises of God’ (Robert Davidson). 
 
Bishop Nicholas writes ‘The prospect of churches being able to re-open for worship is a relief and will be a great joy for many. There is also likely to be some anxiety about whether reopening is possible in local circumstances and some may be wondering whether the easing of lockdown is wise. As I write, I have not seen the statutory instrument that relaxes the current prohibition nor the government’s detailed guidance on how the relaxation is to be effected. Equally, the national Church’s guidance is provisional until those documents are available. I understand that the government guidance may not be available until the end of the week and so the national Church’s guidance will follow on from that.’ 
 
Today we were due to have our Church Fete. Being unable to hold it means we miss out on the fellowship as we come together to put it on as the Church community. Also we cannot offer this occasion to our neighbours; we miss an opportunity to share the faith and raise the profile of St Laurence in the village; and we miss out on much needed income. It is perhaps some small consolation that it is raining this morning and more is forecast. We really need the rain, so we can’t complain if the Lord takes this opportunity to give us some! 
 
Also today eight deacons in the diocese were due to be ordained priest. This has been rearranged now for 26th September. We hold them in our prayers at this time. 
 
We pray: 
Lord, you have called us to be the salt of the earth. 
Sprinkle us across our village, 
across our world, 
to bring the flavour of your Kingdom wherever we go. 
Lord, you have called us to be the light of the world. 
Uncover the radiance that is within us, 
to shine the truth of your love wherever we go. 
Lord, may our light shine before others 
that everyone we meet 
may see our lives of worship 
and glorify you, our Father in heaven. 
(based on a benediction by Sam Hargreaves) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our Bishops: Bishop Nicholas, our diocesan bishop, and Bishops Andrew and Karen, our suffragan bishops. They continue to work hard to hold everything together and to offer us guidance, supporting and encouraging the wider Church and us in the parishes. 
 
‘God’s people witness to his truth from within their life in the world. They share a vision of mankind united and at peace; they build on the insights already vouchsafed to men, but move beyond them by giving glory to God alone’ (J.B. Muddiman). 
Friday 26th June 2020 
 
Gideon said to God, ‘In order to see whether you will deliver Israel by my hand, as you have said, I am going to lay a fleece of wool on the threshing-floor; if there is dew on the fleece alone, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that you will deliver Israel by my hand, as you have said.’ And it was so. (Judges 6:36-38). 
 
I have a lot of sympathy with Gideon. Who hasn’t at times longed for some assurance that we are making the right decision? How do we know? What if we’ve got it wrong? I have found that making a choice and then sleeping on it can often help, but that doesn’t always work. So here God gives Gideon a sign - but even that is not enough. He needs another sign before he is willing to do what God asks of him. 
 
In today’s world (and probably it has always been so) there are those who will criticise whatever we do - and perhaps at times we are too ready to criticise others. Who is not wise after the event, when it is too late or when we are not the ones making the decision? I am reminded of something said by one of our lecturers at theological college about when we spoke up in chapel. He told us that yes, there would be those who would criticise, but the other 95% were right behind you, supporting you. That is not to say that we shouldn’t hold others to account. As has been said, the role of the Church in society is to hold up a mirror so we many see the true consequences of our actions. 
 
As we begin to open up our buildings for private prayer and - we pray - soon for services, we ask for God’s guidance and direction. We pray for the wisdom to use St Laurence, and all the buildings in our Team, to advance God’s Kingdom - that we might be ready witnesses to the hope that is within us. ‘Always be ready to make your defence to anyone who demands from you an account of the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence’ (1 Peter 3:15-16). 
 
Yesterday I quoted the Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, saying that this is ‘the first period without public worship and the sacraments in England in more than 800 years’. She was referring to the time when, during the reign of King John, Pope Innocent III placed the kingdom of England under an interdict for six years between March 1208 and May 1213. So we can be thankful that our lockdown looks like being somewhat shorter! 
 
We pray: 
We are not people of fear: 
we are people of courage. 
We are not people who protect our own safety: 
we are people who protect our neighbours’ safety. 
We are not people of greed: 
we are people of generosity. 
We are your people God, 
giving and loving, 
wherever we are, 
whatever it costs 
For as long as it takes 
wherever you call us. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our Lay Pastoral Assistants (LPAs) who play an important role in the pastoral ministry of our Church, as they continue to exercise their ministry at this time, and we give thanks for their dedication. 
 
On 26th June 1945 the Charter of the United Nations was signed in San Francisco. Also on 26th June 1483 Richard Plantagenet, Duke of Gloucester, began his reign as Richard III after usurping power from his nephew, Edward V. We continue to live with this tension between the need to cooperate together as the basis for any stable community and the pressures of individual greed and ambition. 
 
‘We must put our confidence in truth. But that doesn’t mean sitting back, and waiting for the truth to shine from above, as one might sit back and wait for the day to break. It means following with devoted obedience the truth we have seen as true, with an entire confidence in God, that he will correct, clear and redirect our vision, to the perception of a freer and a deeper truth. Go with the truth you have, and let it carry you into collision with the hard rocks of fact, and then you’ll learn something’ (Austin Farrer). 
Thursday 25th June 2020 
 
‘When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes’ (Matthew 7:28-29). 
 
These verses complete Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, the first of five great discourses by Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel. Here Jesus is seen to be speaking with real authority. He is not just another itinerant preacher. The impression is given that those present hear his words as trustworthy, to be relied on. Then, as now, people could tell the difference between that and those whose words did not ring true - who only want something for themselves or are simply spouting the ‘party line’. As in the parable that immediately precedes these verses, the wise person takes his words and builds on them - they are a rock that provides a solid foundation for life. We can have confidence in Jesus’ words because they are authentic - overshadowed by the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Truth - taking us as it were into God's very presence. 
 
‘I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world… Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth’ (John 17:6,17-19). 
 
As we hear that the lockdown is being eased from next month, we await advice from the national Church as to what this can mean for us in practical terms of opening up and holding services. That will be dependant on the detail of the Government guidance once it is published. We remember particularly those couples who have been waiting simply to get married in Church - even if this means forgoing a big celebration. 
 
Whatever the guidance is, we will be following a careful and cautious approach. ‘The Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, who leads the Church of England’s Recovery Group, said: "The last three months have been an extraordinary time - the first period without public worship and the sacraments in England in more than 800 years. There will be real joy as we begin to come together again - if even at a physical distance - but I also know that many will be understandably cautious at this news. We will not be returning to normality overnight - this is the next step on a journey. We’ve been planning carefully, making detailed advice available for parishes to enable them to prepare to hold services when it is safe and practical to do so. It is important to say that the change in Government guidance is permissive, not prescriptive”’ (https://www.churchofengland.org/). 
 
‘God is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord”’ (1 Corinthians 1:30-31). 
 
We pray: 
Lord, help me see with eyes that are wise, 
not eyes blurred with overwhelming emotions. 
Help me act out of a heart that follows you, 
not a heart heavy with worry. 
Help me think with a holy perspective, 
not a mindset based on my own opinions or feelings. 
Give me wisdom and discernment, 
and the ability to recognize and follow wise instruction when I receive it. 
(www.crosswalk.com/) 
 
I realise that this is my 100th Daily Reflection. Who would ever have thought when all this began that it would continue for so long. It seems clear that we are still in for the long haul - and that will impact different people in various ways. We must continue to hold those most affected in our prayers. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for politicians and their advisors. As they make decisions that affect us all to a degree that we have never experienced before, we pray for true wisdom and a willingness to put the good of all before any personal benefit or ambition. 
 
‘To be wise, you must have reverence for the Lord. To understand, you must turn from evil’ (Job 28:28). 
Wednesday 24th June 2020 
 
‘Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. Her neighbours and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her… Fear came over all their neighbours, and all these things were talked about throughout the entire hill country of Judea. All who heard them pondered them and said, ‘What then will this child become?’ For, indeed, the hand of the Lord was with him’ (Luke 1:57-58,65-66). 
 
Today we celebrate the Birth of John the Baptist. In the early days of the Christian Church, many of the old festivals were Christianised. So the Midwinter festival was used to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and became Christmas. But what of the Midsummer festival? Since according to the Bible story, John the Baptist was six months older than Jesus, and as it’s six months before Christmas – so it was decided that 24th June should be the festival of the Nativity of John the Baptist! 
 
John is the link between the old and the new covenants. He is a prophet in Israel in the old tradition and was popularly regarded as such in his time. Yet also he is the forerunner of the Christ, the Messiah. We find the story of his birth and upbringing only in St Luke’s gospel. However all four evangelists report his activities, as he proclaims the imminence of the Kingdom of God. Indeed, it is clear that several of our Lord’s disciples had followed John first. Some of them appear even to have gone out to the Jewish communities beyond Palestine on his behalf, to preach John’s message of repentance and the coming of the Kingdom of God. 
 
John baptised Jesus in the river Jordan, despite insisting that he was unworthy to do this. Shortly after this he was imprisoned by the Tetrarch Herod, for rebuking him over his affair with his brother’s wife, Herodias. John was beheaded on Herod’s orders - but shortly before his death John sends a message to Jesus which seems to reveal some nagging doubt in John’s mind about our Lord, despite his earlier witness to him. John said of Jesus, `He must increase, and I must decrease’. And that is what the sun does at the time of their respective festivals. It begins to increase in strength after Midwinter and to decrease after Midsummer. 
 
‘No greater person has appeared... on the stage of human history than John the Baptist, because he stood on the very threshold of the Kingdom. Yet the least disciple who, through following Jesus, already participates in the reality of the Kingdom... is greater than John. Although this assessment of the Baptist could be attributed to the editor of the Gospel, it could also be understood on the lips of Jesus, for whom the greatness of any person is measured with reference to his participation in the Kingdom of God’ (David Hill). 
 
The collect for today: 
Almighty God, 
by whose providence your servant John the Baptist was wonderfully born, 
and sent to prepare the way of your Son our Saviour 
by the preaching of repentance: 
lead us to repent according to his preaching 
and, after his example, 
constantly to speak the truth, boldly to rebuke vice, 
and patiently to suffer for the truth’s sake; 
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for those alone and depressed. As we know, some people have been managing this time of lockdown better than others. Not everyone has access to the various electronic and support systems that have been so important to us recently and may have an increased feeling of dislocation. Also, of course, there are those who were already on their own and finding it difficult. 
 
I shall be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church at 10:30am. I shall ring the bell and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. 
 
On 24th June 1497 John Cabot, a Venetian explorer and navigator born Giovanni Caboto, became the first European to set foot in North America since the Vikings. Commissioned by Henry VII, his is the earliest known European exploration of coastal North America since the Norse visits to Vinland in the eleventh century. 
Tuesday 23rd June 2020 
 
Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it’ (Matthew 7:13-14). 
 
In the diocese of Bradford (where I was ordained) there was a Retreat House up in the Yorkshire Dales where we gathered for our ordination retreat. It was a wonderful place for reflection and refreshment. In the house was a nineteenth century depiction of the wide and narrow ways. I remember it because on the wide way that leads to destruction were deaconesses - and we had five ladies preparing for ordination as deaconesses in our group (this was before the Church of England ordained women as deacons and priests)! 
 
What this illustrates, I think, is that we have to be careful that we don’t copy our own prejudices and cultural assumptions back on to God. When we do well in life and the world is good to us, it can seem natural to assume that this is how God intends things to be. Sometimes, though, we need to look beyond our own situation to see those for whom life is not so good. Then we can challenge ourselves with the deeper questions of whether this is what God intends for them - and for us. What marks the narrow road that leads to life - and are we looking for God’s way markers? 
 
There is a tendency today that ‘we can be so concerned not to do what is wrong that we neglect to do what is right. We can be so committed not to be tainted by the sins of others that we remain untouched by the pain and struggles of others - or indeed their joys… what opportunities to love and act justly have been lost because, through pride or anxiety, we fear making mistakes or getting tangled in the mess of the world? Does your faith enable others to find God or do we, however unintentionally, end up being a barrier to others seeing and discovering the liberating love of God?’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 13 June 2020). 
 
‘Eastern Orthodox leaders have urged the Turkish government to abandon plans to turn the ancient basilica Hagia Sophia, now a museum, in Istanbul, into a mosque, if approved by the country’s highest court in early July. “This is a masterpiece of architectural genius, globally renowned as a pre-eminent Christian cultural monument whose value remains universal,” the Greek Orthodox Church’s Holy Synod said in a statement. “Any change will provoke strong protest and frustration among Christians worldwide, as well as harming Turkey itself.” The Synod was reacting to calls by the President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and senior government officials, to change the landmark’s status. Meanwhile, a senior Russian Orthodox official also spoke out against the move, and called on Turkey to maintain “open access to everyone”. “For millions of Christians around the world, especially Orthodox Christians, this temple is a symbol of Byzantium and Orthodoxy,” the Russian Church’s foreign- relations director, Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, told Rossija-24 TV. “Any attempt to change the current status of Hagia Sophia will violate a fragile interfaith and interreligious balance.” The basilica, founded by Emperor Justinian (527-565), became the world’s largest at its dedication in 537, but was used as a mosque after the Ottoman capture of Constantinople in 1453, and was turned into a museum in 1935 by the secularising founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’ (Church Times 19 June 2020). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Faithful Creator, 
whose mercy never fails: 
deepen our faithfulness to you 
and to your living Word, 
Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for young people, especially those worried by the cancellation of their exams. There has been a lot in the papers this past week about how and when school will be going back fully. We pray for them all and their families in this time of uncertainty. 
 
‘The more seriously we take the future promise of God’s Kingdom, the more unbearable will be the contradictions of that promise which we meet in the present’ (Jurgen Moltmann). 
Monday 22nd June 2020 
 
‘Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit… Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour’ (John 12:24,26). 
 
Today the Church remembers St Alban - whose fruit continues to flourish many centuries after his death. Having grown up in the city dedicated to his name and attended the Abbey that contains his shrine, I have always had a special interest in St Alban. 
 
Alban was a citizen of Verulamium, the first city of Roman Britain. Legend has it that he was a soldier, possibly during the early fourth century - although some scholars would place him fifty, or even a hundred, years earlier. Whichever date we choose, this was one of those times of sporadic persecution for the church. In this case the persecution was instigated directly by the Emperor himself (Diocletian, if we accept the 4th century date). Alban gave shelter to a fugitive priest, traditionally named Amphibalus. While this man stayed with him, Alban was converted and baptized. When soldiers were sent by the governor to search the house, Alban disguised himself in the priest’s cloak, enabling Amphibalus to escape. So he was arrested, and after refusing to offer sacrifice to pagan gods, was condemned to death. He was executed on the hillside outside the city - on the site of his present-day shrine in the Abbey which was founded on that spot. 
 
Amphibalus is said to have been captured a few days later in Redbourn and have been stoned to death. So it might be said that Alban’s martyrdom was in vain. However he is a fine example for us that once we have found Christ, and received new life in him, then all else in worthless by comparison - even our own lives if it comes to that. Alban was the first recorded Christian martyr in Britain. As such, you could say he has a very good claim to be our national patron saint. ‘So among the roses of the martyrs, brightly shines St Alban’ (acclamation at the St Alban’s Rose Service). 
 
‘Leaders from three international NGOs - the United Nations, the World Health Organization and WWF International - teamed up to issue a stark warning that pandemics like the coronavirus are a direct result of the destruction of nature caused by humans.. Top figures from each organization argued that the wildlife trade, coupled with the destruction of forests and other habitats for wildlife, is causing a large number of animal diseases to migrate to human hosts... In their call to action ahead of the UN biodiversity summit in September, the three senior representatives cited examples from prior incidents of environmental destruction that triggered new viruses in humans. "We have seen many diseases emerge over the years — such as Zika, AIDS, SARS and Ebola — and although they are quite different at first glance, they all originated from animal populations under conditions of severe environmental pressures," they wrote, adding those examples "all illustrate that our destructive behavior toward nature is endangering our own health."’ (www.ecowatch.com/) 
 
The collect for today: 
Eternal Father, 
when the gospel of Christ first came to our land 
you gloriously confirmed the faith of Alban 
by making him the first to win a martyr’s crown: 
grant that, following his example, 
in the fellowship of the saints 
we may worship you, the living God, 
and give true witness to Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for Charities struggling to continue their work and fundraising. Nearly all of them have been very badly hit, and that can make a big difference especially to the smaller ones. 
 
‘For a man of faith no meeting is accidental’ (Henri J.M. Nouwen). 
Sunday 21st June 2020 
 
‘Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground unperceived by your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows’ (Matthew 10:29-31). 
 
Jesus tells us we are of far more worth and value to God than sparrows. Sparrows were the cheapest commodity sold in the markets (as food for the poor); the penny here is one-sixteenth of a denarius, thus equivalent to less than an hour's wage. Yet as worthless as sparrows were to people, God cares for and watches over them. God knows us so well that he knows each hair on our head. Who truly cares about every hair on our head? But if God knows even about our hair then how much more does he know of our thoughts, feelings, trials, fears, hopes, dreams, desires and all the rest. All this intimate knowledge our Heavenly Father has for us is just one of the many demonstrations of height and depth and breadth of God’s love and care for us. We are greatly blessed. 
 
Today is the Second Sunday after Trinity - and also, of course, Father’s Day. This is the day that the Lord has made - another beautiful God-given day, filled with his grace. I hope it is a good and blessed day for you. For those who wish to pray in Church, it will be open from 11:00am to 12:30pm for private prayer. 
 
Will we be able to sing together when services return to church? ‘As the latest Government guidance set out steps for reopening of church buildings for individual private prayer, and also for organ practice which is now permitted, the Church of England together with the Royal School of Church Music has encouraged the Government to be proactive in ensuring music-making can resume in church buildings, once it is safe to do so. 
The latest guidance shows that the Government is still reviewing scientific evidence on how music and particularly singing can be resumed safely. Royal School of Church Music Director, Hugh Morris said: "This news will be of great encouragement to organists. We know from the work we have been doing to support church musicians up and down the land that they are longing to express themselves in music making; and we endorse the encouragement to the Government to be alert to the importance of allowing a safe return of choirs and singing to all our churches. The ministry of music is such a vital part of the life of the church, and choral music is a rich part of the tapestry of worship."’ (Diocese of Salisbury Grapevine, 19 June 2020). 
 
The collect for this week: 
Lord, you have taught us 
that all our doings without love are nothing worth: 
send your Holy Spirit 
and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of love, 
the true bond of peace and of all virtues, 
without which whoever lives is counted dead before you. 
Grant this for your only Son Jesus Christ’s sake, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for all medical staff: those in hospitals, GP surgeries, Care Homes, research laboratories and wherever they may be. 
 
There is a service for today and a service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. Do listen out for the bell at half past ten when I ask that you join me in a time of worship and prayer. We also have another contribution from Ron Hart, who was due to take our service in St Laurence today. Thank you Ron. 
 
‘For the first time since 1985, when women were first ordained to the diaconate, more women than men are being ordained in the Church of England. But the Church is a long way off from reaching its ethnic-diversity goals, new figures suggest. The latest mission statistics, published on Wednesday, show that more than half (51 per cent) of the 570 people who were ordained deacons in 2019 were women (290); this was compared with 47 per cent of the 500 people who were ordained in 2018 (235 women). Of the 550 people who began ordination training in 2019, more than half (54 per cent) were women - similar to the past two years’ (Church Times 17 June 2020). 
Saturday 20th June 2020 
 
‘Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these… But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well’ (Matthew 6:28-29,33). 
 
‘These oft-quoted words invite me to remember God’s generous, faithful provision. When all seems well, it is natural to notice the intricacy of flowers or the extraordinary colour of wings. I glory in the sun catching the plumage of a buzzard from below or an unexpected butterfly in December sunshine. Simple, earthly reminders of creativity and care evoke trust and thanks. Yet … life is not straightforward and sometimes our worries are very real. Anxiety can be all-consuming and make us feel isolated and frightened. In the midst of fears, whether real or imaginary, telling ourselves we ‘should’ be able to trust does not always help much… The invitation of Jesus is to be with the lilies, to gaze upon them, to be captivated by them with all my senses of sight and sense and shape and fragrance. To consider the lilies is to pray, simply by being present to creation.’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, 17 June 2020). 
 
Today is the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, marking the beginning of summer - helping us to rejoice in God’s good creation. After some of the weather that we’ve been having recently, we might be forgiven for thinking that summer has been with us for a while - and the birds in our garden were out celebrating from a very early hour this morning. The summer solstice falls between the traditional times for the planting and harvesting of crops, which enabled those who work the land time to relax. So traditionally June became the month for weddings. Indeed we should have had a number in Church this year, and we remember those couples in prayer. Today signals the moment the sun reaches its highest and northernmost points in the sky - and so this is the start of days becoming steadily shorter as the slow march towards winter begins. 
 
Jesus always asks us to examine ourselves rather than judge another. This is challenging, yet also hopeful, because Jesus is always inviting us to see things differently. ‘The dust of old hurts and resentments accumulates and clings to my feet like a solid layer of mud, until it finally prevents me from moving on at all. To shake it off is to set myself free, as well as those who caused the hurting’ (Margaret Silf). 
 
From the Prayer of St Patrick: 
I bind unto myself today 
the strong Name of the Trinity, 
by invocation of the same, 
the Three in One and One in Three. 
Christ be with me, Christ within me, 
Christ behind me, Christ before me, 
Christ beside me, Christ to win me, 
Christ to comfort and restore me. 
Christ beneath me, Christ above me, 
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger, 
Christ in hearts of all that love me, 
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for all school governors. Schools have been asked to make some difficult decisions over the past few weeks, which have also involved them in a great deal of additional work. Governors provide strategic direction but also support, encourage and help the staff and whole school community. 
 
‘The Government asked schools to open for more pupils at the start of June, but without issuing any statutory guidance for schools to rely on. Statutory guidance would have provided greater clarity for schools about their legal responsibilities… It is uncertainty about where the liabilities rest in these challenging times which will also be worrying school leaders, governors, and trustees. They are the bodies with overall responsibility for running schools as educational institutions, and, for voluntary aided and foundation schools and academies, they also employ the staff. Neither the Department for Education guidance nor any legislation relieves them from full liability (corporately, and perhaps, in some circumstances, individually) for all the consequences of their decisions’ (Church Times 19 June 2020). 
Friday 19th June 2020 
 
‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also’ (Matthew 6:19-21). 
 
These past few months have helped us to focus more on what is important in our lives. It is not in the things we store up, that we are encouraged to go out and buy - and then hang on to until either we throw it away or pass it on to a charity shop. What matters more is our relationships with others and with God. These are our real, lasting treasures. Jesus asks us to examine ourselves and to see things differently, ‘so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power’ (Ephesians 1:18-19). 
 
In the cycle of the Church’s year, we are now in ‘Ordinary Time’. This is our opportunity to explore those aspects of our faith that do not fall neatly into one of the particular seasons. As we do this, it is a good time to open up questions about God, faith and the Christian life that we don’t always get around to discussing. 
 
So: if there are such questions that you would like to look at further, please send them to me. Then either I could include them in one of these daily reflections, or I could use them as the basis for one of my Sunday talks in the recorded service. However this should not just be me giving answers to your questions - rather it would be part of a continuing dialogue as we work through things together. I await your responses with interest. 
 
The Downton and Woodfalls Mask Tree group are planning to hold their last Pop-Up tree this Sunday (21st) from 11am. They are a small group of volunteers sewing cloth masks (non-medical) to raise money for Naomi House and Jacksplace. They write: 
‘Thanks to The Borough Dental Practice offering to house our mask tree, we are popping up for the last time in Downton this Sunday morning from 11am (We will be there for at least an hour and a half). We will have a good selection of homemade masks (please see the additional information on cloth mask coverings). However, it is being completely run by volunteers using their own or donated supplies so if we run out or don't have your size please don't be upset. There is also the possibility that you may need to queue as it is essential, we keep to social distancing guidelines. You will also be asked to use your own/our hand sanitiser before touching the tree. All donations will go to Naomi House and Jacksplace. Please note, we are only accepting cash donations (no change). 
As a result of having a limited number of masks, we have had to impose one per person in order for us to reach as many people as possible. However, we are aware that some are shielding and we are happy to let carers, family members or neighbours to attend the tree on your behalf and pick up a mask for those who are unable to attend. 
Unfortunately, we are unable to take individual orders due to the time this takes and you might be interested to know that other mask trees can be found on the Community Mask Tree Map (which may help you get a mask earlier). 
 
We pray: 
Spirit of Peace, 
you know the things 
which unnecessarily disturb us 
because we have not yet learned 
to put ourselves into the hands of God; 
stay with us we pray, 
that the little space which we have made for you may grow, 
until we are fully possessed of that peace 
which passes human understanding. 
(Pentecostal Prayers, All Year Round 1998) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our witness as a Church. In these difficult times this is as, if not more, important as ever. 
Thursday 18th June 2020 
 
‘I will recount the gracious deeds of the Lord, the praiseworthy acts of the Lord, because of all that the Lord has done for us, and the great favour to the house of Israel that he has shown them according to his mercy, according to the abundance of his steadfast love’ (Isaiah 63:7). 
 
As with yesterday’s passage, this verse from Isaiah reminds us of God’s goodness to us and all his blessings poured out upon us. As with the ancient Israelites, we know that life does not always go smoothly. We have our ups and downs, our crosses to carry and pains to endure. For many at the moment this includes the effects of the lockdown on our mental wellbeing. Yet throughout it all, God has our backs. He is there with us; he is there for us - watching over us and helping to bear the load. 
 
Many of us have been fortunate enough to spend time in our gardens over these past three months. Indeed the little yellow flowers in what is supposed to be our lawn are flourishing at the moment! The Chaplain of Queens’ College, Cambridge writes: ‘In the fury of a Twitter storm, or amid the anger and angst stirred by the sharing of another inflammatory article on Facebook, I like to leave my laptop and phone in the flat and head out into the garden in search of peace and stability. The college gardens have, for me, been a place of great refuge and solace during the past few months. I take exercise in them, rest, read, chat to the gardeners, and pray. I know that I am deeply fortunate to have such a haven. I feel for people who do not have access to gardens, and I fear for a world in which their value is commodified. 
I’m blessed to live in a community which values its gardens. I have long associated this sanctuary with our other holy places. The vaulted ceilings of bark and lichen are breathtaking, canopies of leaves like stained glass stream green light on to the nave below, as a chorus of birds chant in their elevated quire. Gardens are places where I feel like I can commune with God in a natural, easy way… Anyone who wants a garden to be “oven-ready” has missed the point of gardening. Only a fool expects a new garden to be instantly mature. Perhaps that is why God started with a garden: to be patient with it, to let it grow in its own time, and to watch it happen. Just because you have to work at something, doesn’t mean it isn’t perfect. When Adam ate of that forbidden fruit, he lacked trust and humility, but he also lacked that quality of keen patience, which any gardener must know’’ (Max Bayliss, Church Times 15 June 2020). 
 
‘Nature makes us aware of the preciousness of life. Nature tells us that life is precious not only because it is, but also because it does not have to be’ (Henri J.M. Nouwen). 
 
We pray: 
We thank you, Lord of all creation 
for the wonder of the world in which we live: 
for the earth and all that springs from it; 
and for the mystery of life and growth. 
We pray that our gratitude may be shown by our care 
to conserve the powers of the soil, 
by our readiness to learn from scientific research, 
and by our concern 
for a fair distribution of the earth’s resources. 
We ask these things in the name of Christ our Lord. 
(Basil Naylor) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for those who produce our Parish magazine. They continue to do a great job, working hard to keep us all in touch –- both online and now with a few printed copies. 
 
June 18th marks two significant days in our history. In 1815 at the Battle of Waterloo British forces under Wellington and Prussian troops under von Blücher defeated Napoleon; and in 1940 Winston Churchill made his “this was their finest hour” speech to the House of Commons. Today thankfully we no longer fear war with our European neighbours. Rather we recognise the richness of diversity among our different peoples and seek new ways to share and grow together. 
Wednesday 17th June 2020 
 
‘Love the Lord, all you his saints. The Lord preserves the faithful, but abundantly repays the one who acts haughtily. Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord’ (Psalm 31:23-24). 
 
The psalmist knows that loving God is the best thing we can do and is at the very heart of our relationship with him. Loving God is the focus through which we live our lives. ‘Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.’ (1 John 4:7). When we love God, we will truly love others. When we love God, then we will obey his commandments. God is faithful and does not fail us. ‘Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go’ (Joshua 1:9). 
 
Today, for the first time since the lockdown began, we are opening the Church for private prayer - from 11:00am to 12:30pm. We take this step in faith, to provide this holy space at the heart of our community where we can find the consolation of God’s enduring love for us all. We have no idea who will come or how well it may work: that is in God’s hands. Please hold in your prayers all who seek this opportunity and support today for God’s grace and refreshment. 
 
How have you been coping in your own prayer life over this time? ‘As Churches report a boom in people joining online services, and search engines record a huge increase in the numbers searching for prayer support online, many retreat houses have been adapting to the lockdown by going online. But, although there are early signs that new audiences are engaging with meditations and retreats, such as the Zoom meditation offered by the Jesuits in Britain, retreat houses and leaders believe that the lockdown experience will also encourage renewed interest in traditional retreats when they become possible again… 
Early evidence is showing that lockdown has encouraged many to look deeper into themselves and embrace some new ways of living. The Revd Barry Preece, who chairs the Association for Promoting Retreats, says: “People have been discovering space and silence and stillness in a way that perhaps they couldn’t before, because these things were crowded out. Some are also discovering nature more: making the most of going out on their exercise each day and [enjoying] nature. When all you can do is experience a walk, then the walk itself becomes the focus, not the destination, and that, in itself, is a kind of pilgrimage, a discipline”’ (Church Times 12 June 2020). 
 
We pray: 
Spirit of Love 
who seeks and finds that which may be loved 
in each and every one of us, 
help us in our turn 
to recognise lovingly 
the true worth 
and the real needs 
of our family and friends, 
and to behave caringly 
towards all whom we shall meet this day. 
(Pentecostal Prayers, All Year Round 1998) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for all who minister to the sick: not only the medical professionals but all care workers, volunteers and family members. 
 
I shall be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church at 10:30am, together with our Roads to God prayers. I shall ring the bell and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. 
 
‘Our relation with God being inescapable, since we draw our very existence from him, it is not something we are free to let alone if we choose. We violate his will if we do not follow it, we are starved of our supreme good if we do not embrace it. Alienation from God is a positive misfunctioning, a frustration of our total aim. If we are not reconciled to God, we are spoiling the music, we are not just letting the music alone’ (Austin Farrer). 
Tuesday 16th June 2020 
 
‘Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ’ (1 Corinthians 15:20-22). 
 
These verses form part of the canticle for Easter Day: the Easter Anthems. They celebrate that great hope of our faith, the resurrection. Christ is risen - and we, too, will rise with him on the last day. The wonderful future God holds out for us puts all else into perspective. Alleluia! 
 
Today the Church remembers Richard of Chichester (1197-1253), or Richard de Wych. He wrote the prayer: ‘Thanks be to thee, my Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits thou hast given me, for all the pains and insults thou hast borne for me. O most merciful redeemer, friend and brother, may I know thee more clearly, love thee more dearly and follow thee more nearly, day by day’. As bishop of Chichester, Richard was seen as a model bishop - travelling around his diocese on foot, visiting and caring for his clergy and people, and being accessible to all who needed him. His private life displayed rigid frugality and temperance. Richard was an ascetic who wore a hair-shirt and refused to eat off silver. He kept his diet simple and rigorously excluded animal flesh, having been a vegetarian since his days at Oxford. While Richard was merciless to usurers, corrupt clergy and priests who mumbled the Mass, he was also a stickler for clerical privilege. 
 
The PCC met yesterday to discuss the opening of the Church for private prayer, in accordance with the current guidelines. We have agreed that the Church will be open on Wednesdays and Sundays (which gives us 72 hours between openings) from 11:00am to 12:30pm - starting tomorrow. A member of the Church will be present at all times as a steward, and everyone will be asked to maintain physical distancing and to leave their contact details, should they be necessary. I attach a poster which - if you are able to do so - I ask you to print and display. Thank you. 
 
As the Black Lives Matter protests continue, let me share this from a comment piece in the Church Times. ‘I know that some white people sometimes clench at talk of white privilege. They just don’t see themselves as privileged, and feel that they are being unfairly got at. But privilege is not only having obvious advantages: it is also not having to put up with being seen as different, whether that difference is construed as amusing or threatening. It is the constant micro-aggressions, as they are tellingly called, which wear people down. At least, today, we are a bit more aware of the problem’ (Angela Tilby, Church Times 12 June 2020). 
 
The collect for today: 
Most merciful redeemer, 
who gave to your bishop Richard a love of learning, 
a zeal for souls and a devotion to the poor: 
grant that, encouraged by his example, 
we may know you more clearly, 
love you more dearly, 
and follow you more nearly, 
day by day, 
who with the Father and the Holy Spirit are alive and reign, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for those at work worried about social distancing. As more are encouraged to return to work and with conflicting advice on what is safe, those who have to work alongside others are particularly vulnerable. 
 
Tomorrow is the third Wednesday of the month, so we will be praying for our Roads to God concerns during Morning Prayer - when I will be in Church and will ring the bell at 10:30am. Although we are unable to deliver our prayer cards, we are still holding our village in prayer before God. I invite you to join your prayers with ours. If you wish prayer for yourself, or you know of anyone we should be holding in prayer, please do let me know. Your request will be confidential and I shall pray for you - or them - tomorrow. 
Monday 15th June 2020 
 
‘You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you’ (Matthew 5:38-42). 
 
We can really struggle with these words of Jesus. They feel unrealistic - too difficult for us. Jesus is inviting us to leave our places of assurance for a remarkable style of life as he shows us how to live in God’s world. It is lifestyle capable of surprising the world. It does not fit in with normal expectations. People usually stand on their rights as a safety net but - Jesus tells us - there is another way, a better way. The invitation to discover this comes from the one who himself showed the power of the unexpected response. He calls us to model a life based on self-giving and loving relationships - whereas the world wants us to be good producers and consumers. ‘What we are in relation to God is to be reflected in what we are in relation to others’ (R.S. Good). 
 
‘The director of a coalition of 1300 churches in Britain has warned the Government that relaxing the laws on Sunday trading for a year, to stimulate the UK economy in the wake of coronavirus, would “not be good for the spiritual and mental health of the nation”. In response to reports at the weekend that the Government was considering easing Sunday-trading laws, which would also help to meet demand for round-the-clock goods and services, the director of Affinity, an Evangelical network of churches, agencies, and individuals, Graham Nicholls, spoke of “serious concerns”… The Church of England’s Director of Mission and Public Affairs, Canon Malcolm Brown, said: “We believe that a day of rest, enjoyed in common by the majority of the population, is essential for well-balanced lives and flourishing communities: extending Sunday trading would deny this to numerous workers in retail and associated occupations’ (Church Times 12 June 2020). 
 
Looking ahead to when we might gather for worship again: ‘New scientific evidence from Germany has cast doubt on the claim that singing constitutes a high-risk activity in the transmission of Covid-19. This and other evidence suggests that, with adequate risk assessment and social distancing, singing could be restored in some contexts as part of church life in the UK… A professional musician, Ed Ballard, has studied.. the most commonly available scientific material online… “There’s no question that, for the foreseeable future, we are going to have to do things differently,” he said on Tuesday. “But that’s a very different proposition from singing itself occupying some unique status as a dangerous activity.”’ (Church Times 4 June 2020). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
God of truth, 
help us to keep your law of love 
and to walk in ways of wisdom, 
that we may find true life 
in Jesus Christ your Son. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for those in Residential and Nursing Homes. Most care homes locally appear to have done a great job in keeping the virus at bay, and we continue to hold them and the residents in our prayers. 
 
It is with great sadness that I have to let you know of the death of Judy’s mother, Joan Ungar, who came to live here in the village in 2004. She passed away peacefully yesterday morning in Braemar Lodge where she has been living for the last three years. We are all very grateful for your support and prayers at this time. 
 
On 15th June 1215 Magna Carta (“The Great Charter of the Liberties”) was agreed between King John and a council of 25 leading barons of England. In the 17th century, Sir Edward Coke used Magna Carta to challenge Charles I and the doctrine of “The Divine Right of Kings”, thus raising Parliamentary rule above that of the monarchy. Magna Carta also influenced the American Constitution of 1789. The best preserved of only four surviving original copies is held in Salisbury Cathedral. Having signed Magna Carta, John then promptly ignored his obligations under the charter and civil war broke out again. Nothing much changes it seems. 
 
‘The gospel is all about lavishing scarce resources on the uneconomic’ (Roy Williamson). 
Sunday 14th June 2020 
 
‘God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us’ (Romans 5:8). 
 
This is one of the most loved verses in the Bible. God’s love goes beyond anything we might deserve or expect, irrespective of whether we merit it or not. God is supremely willing to demonstrate his love, so much so that he has given Jesus, his Son for us so that all can see it. This is the proof of his amazing love for us. It is patently clear that there is no qualification in God’s love and he leaves no one out of his love. 
 
So too we are called to respond in love. As St John writes: ‘In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us’ (1 John 4:10-12). 
 
As I wrote on Monday, soon we will be able to open again for private prayer. ‘Churches in England will be able to open their doors again on Saturday for private prayer and funeral services.. The Government initially announced that places of worship would be permitted to open for private prayer from 15 June. Guidance updated on Friday, however, said that the date was 13 June… The Ministry defined individual prayer in a place of worship “as a person or household entering the venue to pray on their own and not as part of a group, led prayer or communal act. They should be socially distanced from other individuals or households.” Public worship, streamed or otherwise, is not permitted while visitors are in the building. And on Tuesday, the House of Bishops agreed that funerals could take place again inside churches from 15 June. The decision was prompted by the continued reduction in death rates linked to Covid-19 and the pastoral needs of the bereaved… Bishop Mullally said that it “recognises that the buildings themselves are important sacred spaces for people... We look forward to when it is safe for our church buildings once again to become meeting places for worship, prayer, and all they do to serve and bless their communities”’ (Church Times 12 June 2020). 
 
Tomorrow our PCC will be meeting (via Zoom, of course) to discuss the practicalities of how this might be arranged. Please pray that we might be led by God’s guidance, love and wisdom as we seek the right response to this. 
 
The collect for this week: 
O God, 
the strength of all those who put their trust in you, 
mercifully accept our prayers 
and, because through the weakness of our mortal nature 
we can do no good thing without you, 
grant us the help of your grace, 
that in the keeping of your commandments 
we may please you both in will and deed; 
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray that we might grow through God’s Word. This is foundational to our understanding of God and our relationship with him. ‘All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work’ (2 Timothy 3:16-17). 
 
There is a recorded service for today and a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. Do listen out for the bell at half past ten when I ask that you join me in a time of worship and prayer. Ron Hart was due to take our service today - and I attach his notes. Thank you Ron. 
 
‘What God promises us for the future is great, but what we recall as already done for us is much greater. When Christ died for the wicked, where were they or what were they? Who can doubt that he will give the saints his life, since he has already given them his death? Why is human weakness slow to believe that men will one day live with God? A much more incredible thing has already happened: God died for men’ (St Augustine). 
Saturday 13th June 2020 
 
‘The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage. I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me’ (Psalm 16:5-7). 
 
We have a loving heavenly Father who keeps us, watches over us and sanctifies us. If we but allow it he will pour out his blessings upon us: ‘Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened’ (Luke 11:9-10). If we seek God, we will find him for he is always there; if we open our hearts to him, he will enter - filling us and renewing us with his Spirit. ‘If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!’ (Matthew 7:11). 
 
God does not promise that life will be easy, or without pain - but that with him it will be a ‘goodly heritage’: his love and joy and strength to bear what we must, knowing he is with us. Then, as we strive to fulfil his commandment to love, so we see that love rebound on us. ‘Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back’ (Luke 6:37-38). 
 
These past few months have brought into focus the importance of our environment and our effect on it. ‘A coalition of churches and charities has launched a campaign, Climate Sunday, as part of a call for action on climate change. Starting from 6 September, churches will be encouraged to have a Sunday devoted to the theme of climate change at any time during the following 12 months. The scheme was announced last Friday, to mark World Environment Day, by Churches Together in Britain and Ireland. It supported charities which include CAFOD, Christian Aid, Operation Noah, and Tearfund’ (Church Times 12 June 2020). 
 
‘Thus says the Lord: Do not let the wise boast in their wisdom, do not let the mighty boast in their might, do not let the wealthy boast in their wealth; but let those who boast boast in this, that they understand and know me, that I am the Lord; I act with steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth, for in these things I delight, says the Lord’ (Jeremiah 9:23-24). 
 
We pray: 
Merciful God, 
you have prepared for those who love you 
such good things as pass our understanding: 
pour into our hearts such love toward you 
that we, loving you in all things and above all things, 
may obtain your promises, 
which exceed all that we can desire; 
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our community life, especially groups unable to meet. There has been a wonderful outpouring of community care and action. However we are all aware of the pressures the lockdown has brought on so many people, in particular the inability to gather together. 
 
‘The Holy Spirit does not come alone when he makes his dwelling place within us. The Father and the Son are inseparable from Him and together they bestow on the baptised their uncreated energies, their glory and their light. So real is this presence that it cannot remain undisclosed and totally hidden’ (Andrew Ryder SCJ). 
Friday 12th June 2020 
 
‘I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last’ (John 15:15-16). 
 
Today the Church celebrates Barnabas the Apostle. Barnabas was one of the very earliest followers of Jesus and a leader of the early church. Originally called Joseph, he was given his new name of Barnabas by those who knew him well. It means ‘son of encouragement’. His new name certainly fits what we know of his character and actions. We first hear of Barnabas in the New Testament due to his simple act of stewardship and sharing. He sold land he owned and donated the proceeds to the church to be used to support the poor. 
 
When Paul came to Jerusalem after his conversion, most of the Christians there wanted nothing to do with him for they had known him as a persecutor of the Church. But Barnabas, guided by God was willing to take a calculated risk on Paul. He sought Paul out, spoke with him, and having weighed him up, vouched for him. Later, Paul and Barnabas travelled far and wide, sharing the good news of God’s love. On one journey they took Mark with them. Part way, Mark turned back. When Paul and Barnabas were about to set out again, Barnabas suggested taking Mark along again. Paul was against it, saying that Mark was not dependable. Barnabas, though, wanted to give Mark a second chance - and so he and Mark went off on one journey, while Paul took Silas and went on another. 
 
Apparently Mark responded well to the trust given him by Barnabas, the “son of encouragement,” since we find that Paul recognises the change in Mark and later speaks of him as a valuable assistant. Barnabas was asked to help in the growth of a new congregation in Antioch. He didn’t arrive thinking he would impose his view on them. Instead we read, ‘he came and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast devotion’ (Acts 11:23). Barnabas called Paul over to help in this work at Antioch and there both he and Paul grew in their faith and ministry. And the Church grew too: a great many people became Christians - indeed it was here at Antioch that the followers of Jesus were first called ‘Christians’. Born in Cyprus, Barnabas also died there in AD 61 when he was martyred for his faith. He stayed faithful and willing to give everything right to the end. 
 
The collect for today: 
Bountiful God, giver of all gifts, 
who poured your Spirit upon your servant Barnabas 
and gave him grace to encourage others: 
help us, by his example, 
to be generous in our judgements 
and unselfish in our service; 
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for those who are ill and their families. This is never an easy time, but it has been made much more difficult by the restrictions of the lockdown, especially where they have been unable to see one another. 
 
Today we remember another two people who have encouraged many others by their example and writing. On 12th June 1942 Anne Frank received a diary as a present for her 13th birthday. Also, on 12th June 1964 Nelson Mandela was sentenced to life imprisonment for plotting to overthrow the government. He served 27 years in jail, initially on Robben Island. 
 
‘No situation is without hope for those who accept God’s judgements and look for his mercy’ (Leo Stephens-Hodge). 
Thursday 11th June 2020 
 
‘I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh’ (John 6:51). 
 
Today (Thursday after Trinity Sunday) is the Day of Thanksgiving for Holy Communion - also known as Corpus Christi. This is a difficult one for us to celebrate at the moment - as we haven’t been able to gather for communion since March. We have missed worshipping together for three of the four great festivals of the Christian year - occasions when communion would have been at the heart of our worship. 
 
As I was reflecting on this, I returned to the guidance issued by the Church of England on Spiritual Communion shortly before Easter. This was when we realised the lockdown was likely to be in place for a while, and that we would be unable to celebrate Communion for some time: 
‘The term ‘Spiritual Communion’ has been used historically to describe the means of grace by which a person, prevented for some serious reason from sharing in a celebration of the Eucharist, nonetheless shares in the communion of Jesus Christ… The Book of Common Prayer instructs us that if we offer ourselves in penitence and faith, giving thanks for the redemption won by Christ crucified, we may truly ‘eat and drink the Body and Blood of our Saviour Christ’, although we cannot receive the sacrament physically in ourselves. Making a Spiritual Communion is particularly fitting for those who cannot receive the sacrament at the great feasts of the Church, and it fulfils the duty of receiving Holy Communion ‘regularly, and especially at the festivals of Christmas, Easter and Whitsun or Pentecost’ (Canon B 15). The Church of which we are members is not defined by the walls of a building but by the Body of Christ of which we are members. In making our communion spiritually, we are joining with Christians everywhere to be nourished by the one who tells us, ‘I am the Bread of Life’.’ (https://www.churchofengland.org/
 
The collect for today: 
Lord Jesus Christ, 
we thank you that in this wonderful sacrament 
you have given us the memorial of your passion: 
grant us so to reverence the sacred mysteries 
of your body and blood 
that we may know within ourselves 
and show forth in our lives 
the fruits of your redemption; 
for you are alive and reign with the Father 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
‘We will never fully understand the meaning of the sacramental signs of bread and wine when they do not make us realize that the whole of nature is a sacrament pointing to a reality far beyond itself. The presence of Christ in the Eucharist becomes a “special problem” only when we have lost our sense of His presence in all that is, grows, lives, and dies. What happens during a Sunday celebration can only be a real celebration when it reminds us in the fullest sense of what continually happens every day in the world which surrounds us. Bread is more than bread; wine is more than wine: it is God with us - not as an isolated event once a week but as the concentration of a mystery about which all of nature speaks day and night’ (Henri J.M. Nouwen). 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for all key workers. Of late we have begun to realise the many, often previously un-regarded members of the workforce, who are necessary for our society to function efficiently - or even at all. We give thanks for all their dedication and hard work, and ask God’s blessing upon them. 
 
On 11th June 1509 Henry VIII married his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. It was the refusal of Pope Clement VII to annul this marriage that triggered the break between Henry and Rome and precipitated the English Reformation. This led to the Church of England and then the Anglican Communion becoming a distinct expression of what it is to be Church. It is now the third largest Christian denomination in the world. At its best, we affirm the Anglican Church as both Catholic and Reformed - providing a bridge between Catholicism and Protestantism. 
Wednesday 10th June 2020 
 
'I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I keep the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body also rests secure. For you do not give me up to Sheol, or let your faithful one see the Pit. You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures for evermore’ (Psalm 16:7-11). 
 
From beginning to end Psalm 16 testifies to a life that finds its ultimate rest and purpose in God’s protective presence. It speaks against the notion that security and satisfaction come from material wealth or human accomplishments. Rather the Lord will ‘show me the path of life’. Indeed, it insists all that is good and all that is needed are found in the presence of God alone, the one whom we can claim as refuge. We too know that all that is worthwhile is to be found in God. ‘Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal’ (Matthew 6:20). Only in him do we find all that is of true lasting value. ‘Truly I tell you.. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away’ (Matthew 24:34-35). 
 
‘First in the global environmental crisis, and now in the events surrounding the spread of Covid-19, there is an important, if obvious message: what happens in one corner of the world affects people in another. There are challenges facing the whole of humanity, which we best address when we work together. Humanity is interconnected. It is easy to say this in theory. In reality, it is not always easy to open our hearts to people from other countries and cultures, let alone to our immediate neighbours. How can we become people who have room in their hearts for the whole world? Many religious figures have talked about the spiritual unity of humanity - this notwithstanding the obvious injustices and conflicts in the world. The idea, originating in the Jewish scriptures, that people are made in God’s image is an example of this. In most religious traditions, people are invited to pray about their personal needs; but they are also called to bring before God all of humanity - indeed, the whole created order. This seems particularly relevant when the world looks so fragile’ (Philip Boobbyer, Church Times 29 May 2020). 
 
Yesterday I conducted a funeral in the churchyard for Pearl Dorrington, a longstanding resident of our village. Surprisingly this is the first funeral I have taken since the lockdown began, though it was not connected to the pandemic. It went well and we were fortunate with the weather (rain was forecast). Even so it felt very strange - both because this was the first public service I have led in nearly three months, and in the simple act of putting on my robes, also for the first time since then. I was glad that it was cooler than it has been of late. 
 
The prayer after communion for this week: 
Almighty and eternal God, 
you have revealed yourself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, 
and live and reign in the perfect unity of love: 
hold us firm in this faith, 
that we may know you in all your ways 
and evermore rejoice in your eternal glory, 
who are three Persons yet one God, 
now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for the Trafalgar School at Downton, for those students in school and those distance learning. We remember especially those for whom this should be a significant year in terms of exams and moving on. 
 
I shall be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church at 10:30am. I shall ring the bell and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. 
 
‘There is a mystical encounter with the divine that can only be experienced but not explained. You can make statements about God, but the only way of verifying them is by encounter’ (T.A. Smail). 
Tuesday 9th June 2020 
 
'The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour’ (Isaiah 61:1-2). 
 
As Christians we also are anointed. John tells us ‘you have been anointed by the Holy One’ (1 John 2:20). In the New Testament sense, such an anointing has the idea of being filled with, and blessed by, the Holy Spirit. This is something that is the common property of all Christians, in order that we might fulfil our calling to live as followers of Jesus. Just as Jesus commissioned his disciples to go into all the world and preach the gospel, so too we are to bring the good news and God’s love to those in need - proclaiming the Lord’s favour. 
 
Today the Church remembers Columba (c. 521-597), abbot of Iona and missionary. Columba came of a noble Irish family and after being trained in Irish monasteries by St Finnian and others, himself founded several churches and monasteries in his country. About 563AD, impelled by missionary zeal, Columba left his home and established himself with twelve companions on the island of Iona. There he lived for thirty-four years evangelizing the mainland and establishing monasteries in the neighbouring islands. Although only in priest's orders, he was the chief ecclesiastical authority of the whole of this district. He succeeded in converting Brude, king of the Picts, and in 574AD the new king of the Scots of Dal Riada came to Iona to receive his consecration at Columba's hands. 
 
I remember many years ago seeing a play about Columba (Columba: A Play with Music). In it Columba confronts King Brude with the accusation that there is ‘a slavegirl at your court. She is the daughter of a King and she is treated cruelly'. When Brude protests he knows of no such girl, Columba tells him ‘This girl was ransomed by her King’s Son. He died for her freedom.. I am talking about a daughter of the High King of Heaven’. I don’t know if this is based on an accredited story, but it illustrates that we are all children of God - of the High King of Heaven. As such each one - however lowly in worldly terms - should be treated with respect and dignity. This is, of course, an issue very much in the news today. 
 
‘All who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ - if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him’ (Romans 8:14-17). In calling ourselves Christian, we identify ourselves as God’s own people, his beloved children. ‘Different men have different names, derived from their ancestors or their own pursuits and deeds. Our great concern, our great name, was to be Christians and be called Christians’ (Gregory Nazianzen). 
 
The collect for today: 
Almighty God, 
who filled the heart of Columba 
with the joy of the Holy Spirit 
and with deep love for those in his care: 
may your pilgrim people follow him, 
strong in faith, sustained by hope, 
and one in the love that binds us to you; 
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for all who have lost their jobs or are unable to find work. It has been suggested that the UK’s unemployment rate may well exceed 30% as a result of the pandemic. This is not just a statistic; this is countless ordinary people whose individual lives have been turned upside down by the pandemic. 
 
‘If we love, then we must express such love in specific acts and deeds. If we walk the pathway of love, then it will be costly in all sorts of ways. If we are to be a community of love then we must be a vulnerable people, open to ridicule, misunderstanding and misinterpretation. But God so loved the world that he gave... this generosity of God must be our inspiration as we share in that commitment to caring for the poor, the vulnerable the marginalised and the powerless’ (Bishop Roy Williamson). 
Monday 8th June 2020 
 
'I lift up my eyes to the hills - from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth… The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and for evermore’ (Psalm 121:1-2,8). 
 
This is a fitting psalm to follow on from our reflection yesterday on God who cares for us and holds us safe, while sending us out. This is our God who has called us to be his own and sends us out into his world to proclaim his word and works. Many readers of Psalm 121 have connected it with life’s journey - or at least with life’s journeys. When our world turns dark or our journey turns rugged, where do we turn for help? What is our source for the confidence we need to face the headwinds of life? This psalm encourages us in such times. It reminds us where our help comes from and infuses us with confidence: ‘My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth’. 
 
As we look out into our world, so often the images we see are those of discord and division, of fear and greed. Yet knowing that God is at work, we should ask for the grace to see signs of his kingdom bursting in and breaking through around us. As Jesus tells us, ‘the kingdom of God is among you’ (Luke 20:21). There are many indications of God’s goodness in the world - indeed there are examples all around us as communities pull together at this time - but they seldom make the news. 
 
It is good to see that the government has responded to the concerns of the Church, and it appears that places of worship will be able to open for private prayer from next week. However please do be patient as this is not as straightforward as it may sound. It will require some preparation and organising to ensure we can do this safely and within guidelines. At first probably, we will only be able open the Church for a few set hours during the week when someone can be available to welcome those who wish to come in. I will keep you informed. 
 
‘The Bishops have issued new guidance on how to conduct weddings, funerals, and baptisms safely when churches reopen and the Government eases its restrictions. The draft guidelines were released by the House of Bishops Covid-19 recovery group on Friday, to allow clerics to prepare for when occasional services and individual prayer can resume in church buildings. It is thought that such services will precede ordinary church worship. For all three types of service, the documents state, clergy should keep a safe distance from others, including during planning meetings and pastoral visits to families in their homes. They must observe strict personal hygiene, and avoid the use and exchange of items such as hymn or prayer books. Congregations will need to observe strict social distancing and avoid physical contact. For infant baptisms, the priest is advised not to take the child from its parents at any point. For weddings, it says, the priest does not have to touch the rings to bless them. Despite recent evidence to the contrary, the guidance also advises against singing’ (Church Times 5 June 2020). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Holy God, 
faithful and unchanging: 
enlarge our minds with the knowledge of your truth, 
and draw us more deeply into the mystery of your love, 
that we may truly worship you, 
Father, Son and Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for all those who care for loved ones at home. This is the beginning of Carers Week, an annual campaign to raise awareness of caring. This year many more people have taken on additional caring responsibilities for their relatives and friends who are disabled, ill or older and who need support. 
 
For those who receive these Reflections by email, I am aware that sometimes - for reasons known only to the gremlins of the internet - they fail to get through to some of you. If you do not receive one, please do let me know as I am not planning to stop them just yet. I send them out and they disappear off into the ether. Modern technology is a wonderful thing, but at times I suspect we all feel towards it like Basil Fawlty and his car - as he gives it a good thrashing! All the Reflections are available here on our Church website. 
Sunday 7th June 2020 - Trinity Sunday 
 
‘Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.’ (Isaiah 40:28). 
 
Today we celebrate Trinity Sunday - proclaiming the greatness of God as Holy Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. ‘Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure’ (Psalm 147:5). God as Trinity is at the heart of our faith and understanding of him. ‘You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God’ (1 Corinthians 6:11). We affirm this in many of our prayers which conclude with: ‘through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever’. 
 
In our Bible passage Isaiah describes the God whom both his works and word proclaim - reproving the people of God for their unbelief and distrust. We know from the history of the church; from the experience of faithful people; from our own knowledge and observation; from the Scriptures and the prophets that our God is a great and wonderful God. He is always with us, taking care of his church. We are guided by his hand and there is no searching of his understanding - it is infinite, it reaches to all persons and things, and therefore he cannot be at a loss to provide for his people; nor can our needs be unknown to him. 
As Paul writes to the Church in Rome ‘O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgements and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counsellor? Or who has given a gift to him, to receive a gift in return? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory for ever. Amen’ (Romans 11:33-36). This is our God: God whom we know, relate to and serve in his Church. Here is God - the Holy Trinity - who has called us to be his own and sends us out into his world to proclaim his word and works. 
 
Bishop Nicholas tells us: ‘The Archbishop of Canterbury and Cardinal Nicholls among others made the case to government last Friday for churches to open for private prayer earlier than the date currently being advised by government, the 4th July. Despite Cardinal Nichols’ excellent intervention in the media last weekend, my feeling is that our church buildings will remain closed other than as presently allowed until at least the 4th July.’ 
 
The collect for today: 
Almighty and everlasting God, 
you have given us your servants grace, 
by the confession of a true faith, 
to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity 
and in the power of the divine majesty to worship the Unity: 
keep us steadfast in this faith, 
that we may evermore be defended from all adversities; 
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our Team Rector and family - thank you for your prayers, they are a great support. Please pray also for the other members of our Clergy Team, David and Veronica and their families - together with our retired clergy, especially Ron who lives here in Downton with his wife Creddy. Ron was due to take our early service today - and I attach his notes. 
 
There is a service for today from the church. There is also a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. Do listen out for the bell at half past ten when I ask that you join me in a time of worship and prayer. 
 
This is a day in the history of Downton. On 7th June 1832 the Reform Act came into effect that abolished ‘Rotten Boroughs’ - and so deprived Downton of its two MPs, which the borough had sent since Edward I summoned his first parliament in 1295. 
 
‘I am a man of hope, not for human reasons nor from any natural optimism, but because I believe the Holy Spirit is at work in the Church and in the World, even when His name remains unheard’ (Leon Joseph Suenens). 
Saturday 6th June 2020 
 
‘I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favourable or unfavourable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths’ (2 Timothy 4:1-4). 
 
Paul is writing this very intense and personal letter to his protégé Timothy (his “beloved son”), from his second imprisonment in Rome. He is concerned that all too often we would rather hear what we want to hear. Instead, as he has previously written to the Roman Church, he urges us: ‘Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good’ (Romans 12:9). 
 
We have become increasingly aware in recent years of how much the truth is perverted or even openly denied in public life. Politicians and leaders reject facts as ‘fake news’ and lie unashamedly - from being economical with the truth through to deliberate and blatant falsehood. Of course, sometimes the truth can be difficult to cope with or inconvenient or challenging to our worldview - and we can struggle with that. We are reminded of the line in the 1992 film A Few Good Men: ‘You can't handle the truth!’. Maybe we prefer the words of Michael Flanders: ‘The purpose of Satire, it has been rightly said, is to strip off the veneer of comforting illusion and cosy half-truth - and our job, as I see it, is to put it back again’. 
 
In the end it comes down to whether we look for evidence to inform our understanding - or simply to support our already existing views. If we are honest, probably we all do the latter at times, but our calling in Christ is always to strive for the former. God is doing something amazing in us. Left to ourselves, we would rather do it our way, but God is changing our hearts in wonderful ways, giving us a desire for him and his truth. 
 
The National Geographic magazine reports that ancient DNA offers clues to the physical origins of the Dead Sea Scrolls: ‘It is one of the world’s most daunting jigsaw puzzles: 25,000 pieces of ancient parchment comprising the famous Dead Sea Scrolls. Researchers have spent decades trying to laboriously piece together the 2,000-year-old fragments, most of which were discovered in the 1940s and 1950s in 11 caves near a site called Qumran on the shore of the Dead Sea. Now a team of Israeli, Swedish, and American researchers has applied advanced genetic testing to the material, a parchment made from animal skins… They also hint that Judeans of the period were less concerned with the precise wording of ancient religious texts than later Jews and Christians. But what excites scholars the most is the prospect of using ancient DNA to match the bewildering bits and pieces, some of which contain only a few letters. “There are many scrolls fragments that we don’t know how to connect, and if we connect wrong pieces together it can change dramatically the interpretation of any scroll,” said geneticist Oded Rechavi of Tel Aviv University, who led the effort.’ 
 
We pray: 
O God, the protector of all who trust in you, 
without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: 
increase and multiply upon us your mercy; 
that with you as our ruler and guide 
we may so pass through things temporal 
that we lose not our hold on things eternal; 
grant this, heavenly Father, 
for our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for all visitors to our Churches - pausing for a moment outside or joining us through our websites. We hope it will not be long before we can open our buildings again for private prayer and small services. 
 
Bishop Nicholas writes: ‘On Trinity Sunday we will affirm our faith in God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is God’s ordinary time, a gift of relationship in diversity and a strength in our extraordinary times as we bind ourselves to the triune God’. 
Friday 5th June 2020 
 
‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves’ (Luke 10:2-3). 
 
Today the Church remembers Saint Boniface (c. 675-754). An English missionary and reformer, he is often called the apostle of Germany for his role in bringing the faith to that country. Born near Crediton, his real name was Wynfrith, but he became known as Boniface (“good deeds”). In his letters and in the writings of his contemporaries, he appears as a man of purpose and dedication, an innovator with a powerful though wilful personality. At thirty, he was ordained and set out to preach in Friesland, from where he was soon expelled because of war between its heathen king and Charles Martel of France. 
 
Boniface went into Hesse and Bavaria, having secured the support of the Pope and of Charles Martel for his work there. According to legend he was the creator of the very first Christmas tree. In Hesse, in the presence of a large crowd of pagans, he cut down the Sacred Oak of Geismar, a tree of immense age and girth and sacred to the god Thor. It is said that after only a few blows of his axe, the tree tottered and crashed to the ground, breaking into four pieces and revealing itself to be rotted away within. As he did this he called to the pagans to see the power of his God over theirs. Then he either planted a fir tree in its place or one spontaneously grew. 
 
This was the beginning of a highly successful missionary effort, and the planting of a vigorous Christian church in Germany, where Boniface was eventually consecrated bishop. He asked the Christian Saxons of England to support his work among their kinsmen on the continent, and they responded with money, books, supplies, and above all, with a steady supply of monks to assist him in teaching and preaching. Boniface never forgot his initial failure in Friesland, and in old age he resigned his bishopric and returned to work there. He preached among them with considerable success. On 5th June 754, the eve of Pentecost, as he was preparing a group of Frisians for confirmation they were attacked and killed by heathen warriors. 
 
‘A Savanta ComRes opinion poll.. suggested that the public backed the early reopening of churches and chapels, provided they could maintain social distancing. Forty-six per cent of the adults polled supported reopening earlier than 4 July: a tentative date mentioned at the start of May. This figure rose to 66 per cent among respondents who attended regularly. The four most important purposes for reopened churches and chapels were listed in the survey responses: providing a place where those who had died as a result of coronavirus could be remembered; providing space for quiet reflection and private prayer; holding occasions such as wedding, funerals, and baptisms; and providing community services’ (Church Times 2 June 2020). 
 
The collect for today: 
God our redeemer, 
who called your servant Boniface 
to preach the gospel among the German people 
and to build up your Church in holiness: 
grant that we may preserve in our hearts 
that faith which he taught with his words and sealed with his blood, 
and profess it in lives dedicated to your Son 
Jesus Christ our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for Churches Together in Downton, as we remember that we all belong to God’s kingdom - and that is what matters. 
 
We can say with Paul: ‘I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Romans 8:38-39). 
Thursday 4th June 2020 
 
He asked him, ‘Which commandment is the first of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is this, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these’ (Mark 12:28-31). 
 
What the scribe is asking here is not which commandment is first of many, but rather which commandment defines the core of Torah law - stands at its centre, summarizes it. Is there one law that is the key to all the laws? A number of prophets and rabbis had tried to summarize the law: “What does Yahweh require of you, but to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8). “What you hate for yourself, do not to your neighbour. This is the whole law, the rest is commentary” (Hillel). “You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Akiba). Jesus says: the first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one” (v.29). The Jews refer to these words as the “Shema” which means, “to hear” and comes from Deuteronomy 6:4-5. The Shema is regularly recited in synagogue worship and daily prayers. In reciting the Shema, Jesus goes to the Torah - to the core of Jewish faith and practice, using it to introduce the commandment to love God. The Shema is not itself a commandment, but instead establishes the foundation for the commandment to love God. 
 
“In an open letter sent on Monday to MPs whose constituencies lie in his diocese, the Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, writes: “I hope that you would lobby for an urgent review of the continued closure of our church buildings to individuals who seek solace in such places [church buildings]... At a time when tensions run high, I believe that there is a deep thirst for access to churches and cathedrals as places of prayer for people of committed faith, or for anyone who is in search of space in which to find peace… We urgently need places and experience that build hope, trust, and endurance. The capacity of the Christian Church to engender those virtues through prayer and stillness in its buildings should not be underestimated.” 
In a series of tweets after Mr Jenrick’s briefing on Sunday, the Bishop of Worcester, Dr John Inge, suggested: “I think we should be arguing (a) that it is too soon to open other buildings; or (b) that our churches should be allowed to open alongside them. To suggest that our churches should remain closed while other ‘non-essential’ shops and buildings open is to condone secularism.” The benefits of prayer were “not generally of such direct economic benefit”, but that did not mean that they didn’t matter, he observed. “The risk to a person sitting quietly to pray in a church which is properly cleaned and supervised is surely not greater than a trip to the supermarket?” (Church Times 2 June 2020). 
 
Reflecting on the news from America this week, Archbishop John Sentamu said ‘Martin Luther King said violence causes as many problems as it solves … darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that; hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that’ (John Sentamu, Today, BBC Radio 4). We must allow God to open our eyes and see his living presence in all people - those like us and those who are different. ‘As we take the time to see, as we take time to welcome a child, or a stranger, or one another, we begin to learn what it means to welcome God. And as we welcome God, we begin to see differently, not distracted by rivalry or fear but able to see, to love and to act’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, Wednesday 3 June). 
 
The alternative collect for Pentecost: 
Holy Spirit, sent by the Father, 
ignite in us your holy fire; 
strengthen your children with the gift of faith, 
revive your Church with the breath of love, 
and renew the face of the earth, 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our Church School - both those children now in school and those who are still distance learning - that they may continue to grow in understanding and experience. Also we give thanks for the commitment, dedication and professionalism of the staff, and for all who support and work with them - and bear them in our prayers. 
 
For those unable to access our magazine through the website, there are now a few printed copies available (free) in the Co-op, Chemist and Woodfalls Post Office. Please let anyone know that you think may want one. 
 
On 4th June 1783 Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier launched an un-crewed hot-air balloon, the first public demonstration of the discovery that hot air in a large lightweight bag rises. Hot air, of course, is never in short supply. 
Wednesday 3rd June 2020 
 
‘I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him’ (2 Timothy 1:12). 
 
We have confidence in Jesus who dwells in us through the Holy Spirit. He is our Saviour, our Redeemer - the one to whom we have committed our lives and eternity. We think of what God has done for us, of all he has entrusted to us - and we entrust ourselves to him. ‘For I know that my Redeemer lives’ (Job 19:25); ‘The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?’ (Psalm 27:1). Secure in him we can pray (as below) ‘open our lips by your Spirit, that every tongue may tell of your glory’. 
 
At this time in the Church’s year - following Pentecost - we focus on the first disciples and the early days of the Church. ‘We have different understandings of what it is to be human, and our whole way of thinking about human and divine experience is going to be totally different from the first century. We need to get our mind round that when we imagine the Early Church… The New Testament as a canonical collection emerged during the first three to four centuries; so the Early Church is the context in which this is happening. Fundamental questions were asked in this period, and answers formulated, and we live in the light of these.’ (Judith Lieu, Lady Margaret’s Professor of Divinity, Cambridge - Church Times 3 August 2018). 
 
More on when our churches can open: ‘The Government is continuing to review when it might be safe to ease restrictions on places of worship, the Communities Secretary, Robert Jenrick.. said. “I can understand how people of faith would consider it strange that shops, cafés, pubs, restaurants, many other settings might be open in the weeks and months ahead, but not somewhere as important as a place of worship”.. The first logical step was probably to open for individual or private prayer, which would then be “a springboard, hopefully, conditional on the rate of infection, obviously, to small weddings and then, in time, to services.. We certainly don’t want to see what we’ve seen in some countries, where large gatherings in places of worship - particularly because of the demographic in some faiths, because of singing hymns, and so on, which can lead to, sort of, exhalation - can create particular problems.” 
‘The Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, is a member of the (places-of-worship) task force. She said, after the Prime Minister’s announcement, that larger groups could gather outside from the start of this week, and that joy at being able to meet with friends and family once more was being tempered by the vital caution contained in the latest scientific advice. There was no doubt that a second wave of the virus could be devastating for our way of life. “Yet with shops reopening and some people appearing to be returning to a degree of normality, it is understandable that questions are being raised as to how and where the lockdown is being relaxed,” she said’ (Church Times 2 June 2020). 
 
The prayer after communion for Pentecost: 
Faithful God, 
who fulfilled the promises of Easter 
by sending us your Holy Spirit 
and opening to every race and nation 
the way of life eternal: 
open our lips by your Spirit, 
that every tongue may tell of your glory; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for the bereaved, remembering especially those who cannot have their loved ones with them in their last hours, and those relatives and friends unable to attend a funeral. The inability to say a proper goodbye or to share together in mourning and remembrance is an added pressure at an already difficult time. 
 
I shall be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church at 10:30am. I shall ring the bell and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. 
 
We have some welcome and much-needed rain this morning, refreshing the ground and the atmosphere. ‘I will give you your rains in their season, and the land shall yield its produce, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit’ (Leviticus 26:4). 
Tuesday 2nd June 2020 
 
Jesus said to them, ‘Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s’ (Mark 12:17). 
 
One of the main reasons the Romans had such a problem with Christians was that they refused to worship the Emperor. They had a higher allegiance - to God. ‘In the mid-second-century account of the martyrdom of Polycarp, officials begged Polycarp to say ‘Caesar is Lord’, and to offer incense, to save his life. He refused. Later, in the arena, he was asked by the governor to swear an oath by the ‘luck of Caesar’. He refused’ (BBC History). ‘In a letter to Emperor Trajan, Governor Pliny the Younger described his having executed a number of Christians on the grounds of their “obstinacy,” though he could prove no other crime they might have committed. Marcus Aurelius, the philosopher emperor of the second century who persecuted Christians to promote the Roman gods admired their willingness to suffer death but disdained them for having developed this nature out of “obstinacy” rather than reason’ (owlcation.com). 
 
Some would say that we face a similar, although more subtle and less overt problem today. Do we accept the norms and mores of contemporary culture, or adhere steadfastly to the Christian ethic: putting the demands and obligations of our faith before all else? This is seldom as clear-cut as we might wish. It is all too easy to make small compromises that can then lead to bigger ones. It is just as well that we have a loving, forgiving God! ‘Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin’ (Hebrews 4:14-15). 
 
We must always put God first and make his service our priority. In the Bible we have an example of this in the Book of Acts when Peter and John are before the Jewish Council: Peter and John answered them, ‘Whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; for we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard’ (Acts 4:19-20). Would we be so bold? 
 
When will we be allowed to open our churches for prayer and worship again? The government is facing mounting calls that we can reopen as lockdown restrictions ease. Churches, which have been closed for more than two months, are due to open under step three of the government’s recovery plan on 4th July at the earliest - along with hairdressers, cinemas and pubs! Cardinal Vincent Nichols said in his Pentecost homily “This week’s announcements by the prime minister that some indoor sales premises can open tomorrow and that most shops can open on 15 June, questions directly the reasons why our churches remain closed. We are told that these openings, which are to be carefully managed, are based on the need to encourage key activities to start up again. Why are churches excluded from this decision?” 
 
The collect during this week: 
O Lord, from whom all good things come: 
grant to us your humble servants, 
that by your holy inspiration 
we may think those things that are good, 
and by your merciful guiding may perform the same; 
through our Lord Jesus Christ, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our Churchwarden and Deputy Churchwardens. They work hard for our Church and we are most grateful for their ministry for and with us. 
 
The Met Office tells us that the UK has recorded the sunniest spring since records began in 1929. Also ‘Spring 2020 has been very dry, and May in parts of England has been exceptionally dry. As it stands up to May 27, for England, May 2020 is the driest May on record since 1896, with less than 10mm rain falling across England on average’ (Official blog of the Met Office news team). All this fine weather has certainly made the past couple of months much easier to bear, but what does it say about the climate? 
 
It was 67 years ago today, on 2nd June 1953, that the 27-year-old Elizabeth II was crowned queen at Westminster Abbey. These past nearly 70 years have been a time of great change and we are grateful for her faithful service and steadying presence. May God keep her and bless her. 
Monday 1st June 2020 
 
‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour’ (Luke 1:46-47). 
 
Today the Church celebrates the visit of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth shortly after Gabriel has told her that she is to bear God’s son. This commemoration is usually celebrated on 31st May but has been transferred to today as Pentecost took precedence. 
 
Why does Mary do it - traveling to a town probably some 80 to 100 miles away? Well, if we think about what has just happened: she’s been told that she is pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit. She has also learned that her cousin Elizabeth, believed to be too old to conceive, is expecting as well. Mary must have been bursting to talk to the one woman who could personally understand her excitement, her wonder, and probably her nervousness, too. 
 
One thing seems to unite these two women in the account. The first to speak, Elizabeth, is filled with the Holy Spirit and cries out in a loud voice, uttering words which we could only consider prophetic: “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb” (Luke 1:42). The other, Mary, responds to this word of prophecy with her own - saying in her song: “All generations will call me blessed” (Luke 1:48). 
 
Her song, which we call the Magnificat, sees the work of God in history with the eyes of faith. It is radical in its outlook and has inspired great numbers through the centuries. One theme is displacing the proud, mighty, and wealthy from their high estate, and in their place exalting the humble, the hungry, and poor. It sounds much like Jesus’ own mission, “to preach good news to the poor... to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed” (Luke 4:18, quoting Isaiah 61:1-2). The other theme is God’s faithfulness to those who trust him - or, in Old Testament language, “to those who fear him.” God’s salvation is an outworking of remembering and acting on his own promise to Abraham nearly two thousand years before - the faithful God showing mercy and salvation to those who trust him. 
 
It is a clearly a good visit. Elizabeth, who is about six months pregnant, tells Mary “as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy” (Luke 1:44). Mary stays for three months, presumably until John the Baptist is born. Upon returning home, Mary would be subject to cruel taunts and slander - here she is safe. Upon returning home, Mary would have to stand on her own spiritual feet, lonely, misunderstood and rejected. Here she is loved and accepted. We all need the opportunity to step back at times - whether that be a holiday, retreat or just a day out. We should remember those unable to do so, especially at this time. 
 
The collect for today: 
Mighty God, 
by whose grace Elizabeth rejoiced with Mary 
and greeted her as the mother of the Lord: 
look with favour on your lowly servants 
that, with Mary, we may magnify your holy name 
and rejoice to acclaim her Son our Saviour, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for peace in the world. In many parts of the world, the pandemic appears to have encouraged competing nationalist agendas. We pray that Christ, the Prince of Peace, may guide and encourage us to ‘seek peace, and pursue it’ (Psalm 34:14). 
 
The June issue of Downton Parish News is now available free to view or download on our website. However not everyone has access to the internet, and we are very conscious that some previous subscribers and others may be missing their printed copy of the magazine. So if you know of a friend or neighbour who might like to read the magazine but cannot access it for themselves, perhaps you could consider printing a copy - or part of one - for them so that they can continue to keep in touch. They and we would be most grateful. 
Sunday 31st May 2020 - Pentecost 
 
‘When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability’ (Acts 2:1-4). 
 
Today is the Feast of Pentecost - or Whitsun as traditionally it was called here. This probably an abbreviation of White Sunday from the white garments worn by catechumens, or alternatively from the Old English ‘wyt’ because the Holy Spirit brought ‘wyt and wysdome ynto all Cristes dyscyples’ (John Mirk c.1382-1414). In the Bible Pentecost is the Jewish Feast of Harvest or the Feast of Weeks. The word is Greek, meaning fifty, and reflects the fifty days since Passover - or for us, Easter. 
 
Pentecost celebrates the birthday of the church. The day when Jesus fulfils his promise of sending to his followers the Spirit of God to be with them and in them. This coming of God as the Holy Spirit is marked by the sounds and signs of God’s power - a power which enables them to carry out the task of taking the good news to the ends of the earth. God’s Spirit still empowers us today: to share and to show the love of God and bring people into his kingdom. 
 
When God makes a promise we can always be sure that he keeps it. ‘There comes a moment towards the end of an advert when the voiceover races so quickly through the script that one can barely keep up with what is being said. It’s a script that often ends with the ominous words ‘terms and conditions apply’. The promise of happiness has been made, but freedom is then briskly taken away’ (Reflections for Daily Prayer, Friday 29 May). God is not like that. He has promised; he will deliver; his Spirit has come! 
 
I remind you about Together in Prayer today. The diocese is inviting us all to join in prayer during the day. “Come, Holy Spirit” is among the best prayers we can pray - and we are asked not simply to pray that friends and family, colleagues and neighbours might encounter the love of God in Christ, but that they would experience that love in action. 
 
The collect for today: 
God, who as at this time 
taught the hearts of your faithful people 
by sending to them the light of your Holy Spirit: 
grant us by the same Spirit 
to have a right judgement in all things 
and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort; 
through the merits of Christ Jesus our Saviour, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for volunteers helping others in their community. The numbers of people helping out and engaging with their neighbours, often for the first time, has been a real silver lining to the events of these past months. 
 
There is a service for today from the church. There is also a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. For some reason the sound drops and is rather quiet in the middle, so you may need to turn your volume up at that point. Do listen out for the bell at half past ten when I ask that you join me in a time of worship and prayer. 
 
‘He is called the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, the Mind of Christ, the Spirit of Adoption, of Truth, of Liberty, the Creator-Spirit, who by baptism and by resurrection creates anew’ (Gregory Nazianzen). 
Saturday 30th May 2020 
 
‘This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true. But there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written’ (John 21:24-25). 
 
We have here what may well have been the original end to the Gospel. They identify the writer with the disciple whom Jesus loved, who was an eyewitness to the events described and the words spoken. We are indebted to him for writing his gospel, for through it he is still testifying to those things of which he wrote. Like him we too are called to be witnesses to the good news of Jesus. ‘We know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life’ (1 John 5:20). 
 
These verses also underscore our continuing need to learn and grow as the Church in our understanding of the faith. There is so much more about Jesus and his message for us yet to discover. ‘When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come’ (John 16:13). 
 
All this envisages something far beyond that sought by those who want merely to find their way into the Kingdom of God. The Spirit works in and through us so that we might seek out and extend God’s Kingdom in the hearts and lives of all who might respond - an ever-expanding panorama of God’s renewing grace flowing out into the world. To use an analogy: ‘Gather a throng of people and pour them into a ferry... we may divide all the alert passengers into two classes - those who are interested in crossing the river and those who are merely interested in getting across’ (Max Eastman). 
 
A prayer for growth: 
God of mission, 
who alone brings growth to your Church: 
send your Holy Spirit 
to give vision to our planning, 
wisdom to our actions, 
and power to our witness. 
Help our church to grow in numbers, 
in spiritual commitment to you, 
and in service to our local community; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
 
I have been asked by the family of Pauline Turner to tell you that she has passed away at Ashley Grange. She was a long-standing member of our Church and will be much missed. The past few years have been difficult and she is now at peace. The plan is to have a service of Thanksgiving for her life on 5th December. Please bear her and the family (her husband Michael, and children Liz, Abby and Catherine) in your prayers. Donations to the Alzheimer’s Society and Stroke Association can be made via Chris White, funeral directors if people wish to do so. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for those in Residential and Nursing Homes. We thank God for the dedication and hard work of all the staff and ask God’s blessing and protection on them and all the residents. 
 
On 30th May 1431 Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in Rouen. Having led the French army in a momentous victory over England at Orléans during the Hundred Years' War, she was charged with heresy and witchcraft. Last year we visited the Historial Jeanne d’Arc in Rouen which has a very good - though perhaps overlong - multimedia presentation on the events around her trial. It also makes clear that the fault for what happened to her lies squarely with Les Anglais! 
 
‘God is alive and abroad in his world. At times his footsteps may appear faint or indistinct, but they are there. Those who have eyes to see him and the curiosity, if not the faith, to follow them, will catch glimpses of his glory and learn to stand in awe at the presence of God in the ordinary’ (Roy Williamson). 
Friday 29th May 2020 
 
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs’ (John 21:15). 
 
Jesus tells Peter to feed and guide his flock. Here Jesus is preparing Peter for his leadership of the nascent Church. Jesus repeats his instruction three times, prefacing it each time with the same question. It is a very important question. Jesus asks, “Simon, son of John do you love me?” Serving Jesus begins with love for him. As John was to write, ‘Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments’ (1 John 5:1-2). Love of God and loving service is at the very heart and foundation of our faith. It is also an essential part of leadership. 
 
From the Diocese of Salisbury’s Grapevine: ‘Together in Prayer. As part of Thy Kingdom Come.. we are inviting you to pray together with the rest of the Diocese. We want everyone to be Together in Prayer on Sunday 31st of May, Pentecost Sunday… This global wave of prayer that takes place every year in May is focussing this year on prayer and care in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic… We want to create a virtual Diocese-wide event and invite people to join us in prayer throughout the day. “Come, Holy Spirit” is among the best prayers we can pray - and… we will be encouraging everyone not simply to pray that friends and family, colleagues and neighbours might encounter the love of God in Christ, but that they would experience that love in action.’ 
 
And what about our worshipping together? ‘Online worship (is) expected to continue during slow reopening of churches. The prospect of having two separate tiers of worshippers - one present, the other remote but connected online - when places of worship reopen is exercising minds in the Church of England and elsewhere. Other faiths face a similar scenario. 
 
It was voiced by the Bishop of Hertford, Dr Michael Beasley, a former epidemiologist, who said..: “Even when we do get back into our buildings, not everybody is going to be able to be there. This is going to demand that we offer worship both in our buildings and online. “It would be dreadful if there was a sense that those in church were the proper stuff and everyone at home was demoted to being the passive recipients. The big question for us is: how are we going to be one body when we are running a two-track system? And how do people at home contribute into the worshipping life of churches just as much as those who are in the building?”… 
 
The building constraints arise from the continued need for social distancing and strict hygiene measures. The touching of common objects has to be reduced and potential points of transmission need to be identified. “So much of epidemiology comes down to door handles,” Dr Beasley said; he has worked with Ebola-virus infection control in the Congo. “It’s very tempting to think there’ll be a one-size-fits-all approach to this, and I don’t think that can be the case. So we need to equip everybody with the right understanding so that they can use their common sense to make all the reasonable adjustments to make churches as safe as they can be, while recognising that we can never eliminate all risk.”’ (Church Times 22 May 2020). 
 
We pray: 
Risen Christ, 
by the lakeside you renewed your call to your disciples: 
help your Church to obey your command 
and draw the nations to the fire of your love, 
to the glory of God the Father. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we. pray for those at University and College. This is a decisive time in their lives, but many will be studying remotely with only online contact with their course and fellow students. This can bring added pressure at an already anxious time. 
 
‘Without God, we cannot. Without us, God will not’ (St Augustine of Hippo). 
Thursday 28th May 2020 
 
‘I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I keep the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body also rests secure. You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures for evermore’ (Psalm 16:7-9,11). 
 
The psalmist assures us that God is not only our refuge and Lord, he is also our counsellor. More than that, the psalmist is assured that God will preserve me; I will not be shaken; I will not be moved; I will be kept, guarded and preserved. So he can rejoice because for God’s people there is happiness and a glory from our life commitment to God that we would not have known otherwise. As Jesus says ‘I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly’ (John 10:10). 
 
I see that a vicar had the chance to ask a question at the daily coronavirus update on Tuesday. Reverend Martin Poole, from Brighton, asked: “Will the Government review all penalty fines imposed on families travelling for childcare purposes during lockdown?” Leaving aside the prevailing thread of national debate, the pandemic lockdown has raised important ethical questions for us all - especially those of us who believe in a God who cares deeply for every one of his children. What is the right balance between what I need - or desire - and the needs and desires of others? Of course, we can say that the simple answer is ‘love your neighbour as yourself’, but what does this mean in practice? There is also the tricky question of where needs end and desires begin - on which advertisers play so effectively. 
 
Can we learn from the experience of others? ‘As Churches around the country look ahead to resuming public services from 4 July, places of worship across the Continent are now open again, subject to safety measures. In Italy, where shops and restaurants reopened on 10 May, public liturgies were allowed from Monday, after bitter exchanges between the country’s Roman Catholic bishops and Giuseppe Conte’s government; holy communion is now being administered by priests wearing face-masks and latex gloves’ (Church Times 22 May 2020). 
 
‘Ultimately the evidence for the credibility of the gospel in the eyes of the world must be a quality of life which the world cannot find elsewhere’ (Towards the Conversion of England). 
 
Bird song seems much more in evidence this year. Is there more - or is it simply that we are more aware of it? Yesterday I met a couple of men in Gravel Close doing a bird survey. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a proper opportunity to ask them any details. It would be good to know for whom they were conducting their survey and what the results are. 
 
The alternative collect for this week: 
Risen, ascended Lord, 
as we rejoice at your triumph, 
fill your Church on earth with power and compassion, 
that all who are estranged by sin 
may find forgiveness and know your peace, 
to the glory of God the Father. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for those involved in the manufacture, distribution, and sales of food. On the whole those early supply issues seem to have settled down. However, we have been reminded how vital they are and how fragile they can be. 
 
Looking at the wider picture: Amnesty International was founded on May 28th 1961. Amnesty seeks to publicize violations by governments and other entities of rights recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), especially freedom of speech and of conscience and the right against torture. Indications in the news are that this may become a much more pressing issue as the pandemic dies down. 
 
‘May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you’ (1 Thessalonians 3:12). 
Wednesday 27th May 2020 
 
‘Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth’ (John 17:17-19). 
 
Here we have part of Jesus’ prayer for his disciples on the night before his Passion - at the end of his Upper Room discourse. It is the prayer of Jesus for all of us that are his: that we may be made holy, one with him. We ‘do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world’ (John 17:14). We are set apart for the truth and sent out to proclaim that truth in the world. As someone has said: ‘Like Jesus, and with Jesus, we should live in the opposite direction of the world’. 
 
Of course, that would be quite impossible if it were simply down to us. We would be unable to do it. We need God to empower this - to be at work in us and through us if we are to live a Christ-like life in the world. As in the prayer below, we ask God to ‘confirm us in this mission, and help us to live the good news we proclaim’. This brings us back to Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit, whose coming we will celebrate at Pentecost on Sunday. With him in our lives all things become possible: ‘you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses’ (Acts 1:8). 
 
So we commit our lives to God: ‘Since God has shown to me a ray of his goodness, I cannot doubt him on the ground that someone has made up some new logical puzzles about him. It is too late in the day to tell me that God does not exist, the God with whom I have so long conversed, and whom I have seen active in several living men of real sanctity, not to mention the canonized saints. But there must be much in our teaching of Christianity and our living of it which is at fault, if good men react in total disbelief of it. So let us open our ears to what they say, and take the implied criticism to heart’ (Austin Farrer). 
 
With the Government’s decision to open schools where possible to Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 pupils from June 1st, our schools are working to prepare for this. I know that this will - and has already - involved our headteachers and staff in a great deal of hard work, and we must continue to bear them in our prayers. In a new departure for me, I have been asked to record a worship for the children - which will be a challenge. I know some of my colleagues have been doing this already. Well, this time has certainly been one of learning for all of us as we tackle the challenges of technology and virtual communications. 
 
Meanwhile: ‘Older people appear to be handling the psychological pressures of the pandemic better than those who are younger. Interim results from the survey launched a fortnight ago by the University of York St John and the Church Times suggest that those aged 50 or older report that they feel less exhausted, calmer, less stressed, and closer to God and the Church than do the people aged under 50 who have completed the questionnaire… One interesting find is that, against expectations, extraverts are coping better with the lockdown than introverts’ (Church Times 22 May 2020). 
 
The prayer after communion for this week: 
Eternal God, giver of love and power, 
your Son Jesus Christ has sent us into all the world 
to preach the gospel of his kingdom: 
confirm us in this mission, 
and help us to live the good news we proclaim; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
I shall be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church at 10:30am. I shall ring the bell and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes. 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for those alone and depressed. As we see above, some people have been managing this time of lockdown better than others. However, not everyone has access to the various electronic and support systems that have been so important to us recently and may have an increased feeling of dislocation. Also, of course, there are those who were already on their own and finding it difficult. 
Tuesday 26th May 2020 
 
He put before them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches’ (Matthew 13:31-32). 
 
Today the Church remembers Augustine, an early Christian missionary to England and the first Archbishop of Canterbury - the mustard seed, if you like, of the Anglo-Saxon Church. Augustine was sent here by Pope Gregory the Great - following an observation that Gregory supposedly made on being told that some fair-haired boys on sale as slaves in Rome were Angles: “Non Angli, sed angeli” (“They are not Angles, but angels”). This anecdote, which naturally has a prominent place in our English tradition, first appears in Bede's Ecclesiastical History. 
 
Augustine spent most of his life as a churchman in Italy. He was a monk, probably at the church of St Andrew on the Coelian Hill in Rome. It was in the late AD 590s that he was sent with a group of about 40 missionaries to the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Kent. ‘The missionaries arrived in Kent in 597 and were greeted by King Æthelberht. Æthelberht’s wife, Bertha, came from the region near Paris and she was already a Christian. In time, Æthelberht and his court were also converted to Christianity. Augustine and his associates may have influenced the creation of Æthelberht’s law-code, especially as related to its protection for churches. Augustine also constructed or adapted buildings to be used as churches, including one on the site of present-day current Canterbury Cathedral… Augustine of Canterbury should not be confused with the earlier, North African bishop, St Augustine of Hippo (died 430), who wrote the Confessions, the City of God and other hugely influential theological works’ (British Library). I must admit that it was many years before I realised that there are two St Augustines - which was very confusing! 
 
We have had a glorious Bank Holiday and been very blessed with the weather these past couple of months. It has helped, of course, that we live in a beautiful part of the country - for which we thank God. ‘Christian belief in God the creator does not deduce that because the world of nature is beautiful, it must have had an originator. Belief in creation is belief in purpose - a purpose for man in the world now, set in the context of God’s eternity. Man can know of this purpose only when he is enlightened by the Spirit of God, and in worship catches a glimpse of the majesty of the creator’ (J.W. Rogerson). 
 
The collect for today: 
Almighty God, 
whose servant Augustine was sent as the apostle of the English people: 
grant that as he laboured in the Spirit to preach Christ’s gospel in this land, 
so all who hear the good news 
may strive to make your truth known in all the world; 
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our community life - especially groups that are unable to meet. We have discovered all sorts of ways to get together online, but it is not the same and many things we are unable to do. 
 
Let me share with you the prayer from Wilton with Netherhampton and Fugglestone in our Diocesan Cycle of Prayer: 
Please pray for all those due to marry this summer and whose plans have now been thrown into confusion and for those who minister to them and to the bereaved in difficult circumstances. Also for all Church-members attempting to keep a sense of fellowship and those able to assist vulnerable members of the community. 
 
On this day in 1521, the Edict of Worms banned the writings of Martin Luther - a German cleric whose efforts to change the church led to the Reformation - and declared him an outlaw and a heretic who was to be captured. 
 
Tomorrow is Wednesday and I will be in Church at 10:30am for a time of prayer. I will ring the bell and ask that you join your prayers with mine. I will attach a simple order of service to the morning reflection. 
Monday 25th May 2020 
 
‘Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength’ (1 Corinthians 1:22-25). 
 
Today the Church remembers the Venerable Bede, monk of Jarrow, scholar and historian. For anyone interested in the early history of our islands, the Venerable Bede is a name to conjure with. His history, though far from impartial, is a most important significant source. ‘St Bede - also known as the Venerable Bede - is widely regarded as the greatest of all the Anglo-Saxon scholars. He wrote around 40 books mainly dealing with theology and history. Bede was probably born in Monkton, Durham. Nothing is known of his family background. At the age of seven he was entrusted to the care of Benedict Biscop, who in 674 AD had founded the monastery of St Peter at Wearmouth. In 682 AD, Bede moved to the monastery at Jarrow, where he spent the rest of his life. By the age of 19 he had become a deacon and was ordained as priest at 30. His scholarship covered a huge range of subjects, including commentaries on the bible, observations of nature, music and poetry. His most famous work, which is a key source for the understanding of early British history and the arrival of Christianity, is 'Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum' or 'The Ecclesiastical History of the English People' which was completed in 731 AD. It is the first work of history in which the AD system of dating is used. Bede died in his cell at the monastery in May 735 AD’ (BBC History). 
 
Many argue that religion can’t be true because it cannot be proved. Signs and wonders are not produced to order, nor are there clear and unambiguous philosophical or scientific proofs - ‘Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom’. Of course there are wonders in creation every day, but they are so common that they are called ‘Nature’. While expecting philosophical or scientific proof simply avoids the fact that there is so much more to creation than just philosophy or science. Perhaps it’s like trying to look for 21st Century historical method in Bede’s Ecclesiastical History. We proclaim the reality of God present in and with us - ‘Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God’ - and God is not constrained by our limited understanding. 
 
Bishop Nicholas has written again to the clergy: ‘Jumping out of the tree of normality was comparatively easy; climbing back into it is a much more complex process. The government is finding it hard to provide the clarity of messaging that was possible when it was a simple ‘Stay at home’. Nevertheless, the dangers of Covid-19, to the over-70s and those with an underlying health condition in particular, are still very apparent. Although the number of deaths has been reducing, the dangers are still considerable… At the meeting of faith groups with the government… it was reported that the government want it to be possible for weddings to take place again, but it will not be before the 1st June and the numbers attending will be very limited… The government also want places of worship to be open for private prayer, but not before the 4th July. There is pressure for these arrangements to be brought forward and it is possible that the government’s position will be revised.’ 
 
The collect for today: 
God our maker, 
whose Son Jesus Christ gave to your servant Bede 
grace to drink in with joy 
the word that leads us to know you and to love you: 
in your goodness 
grant that we also may come at length to you, 
the source of all wisdom, 
and stand before your face; 
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for all who minister to the sick: not only the medical professionals but all care workers, volunteers and family members. 
 
It’s strange: today really does not feel like a Bank Holiday. When one day is much like another, lived under the realities of lockdown, for most of us it’s just another day. 
Sunday 24th May 2020 
 
‘Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you’ (1 Peter 5:6-7). 
 
Today is the Seventh Sunday of Easter - or the Sunday after Ascension Day. We continue to reflect on Jesus’ ascension and what that means for us who seek to walk in his ways. He has empowered us, his Church, with the Spirit to continue his work of proclaiming and building the kingdom. Also he leaves us with a great hope that in time we too will ascend to be with him eternally. 
 
Being a fourth Sunday, we ask God’s blessing on our Roads to God programme. This month we are praying for all those who live or work in our village. In June we will be bringing before God: Barford Lane, Standlynch, West Wick, Clearbury View, Moot Close and Eastman Close. As always, if anyone would like specific prayer they can let me know. It will remain confidential. 
 
‘There can be few of us who try to pray regularly who have not found our pattern of prayer disturbed by the lockdown. This is partly owing to other changes in our daily rhythms, and partly by the burden of distress and confusion which we are all carrying at the moment. Our lives have been suspended, and, in spite of the cautious changes announced.. there is no “normal” in sight. Meanwhile, we worry - for ourselves, for ageing parents, for school-age children, for the furloughed and those unemployed, for the future.. We should not be too hard on ourselves if we find personal prayer difficult at this time. It is challenging enough to have our health threatened by a mindless microphysical entity. But the virus has also cast a shadow into our souls, creeping into our dreams and our daylight reveries, perhaps causing us to question the love of God. If prayer was once a safe stronghold, it may often now be a battleground. And yet, while my regular pattern sometimes seems meaningless, I find that the urge to pray comes suddenly in the dead of night, or in encountering the multiple, and often unknown, names on intercession lists, or when I watch the news’ (Angela Tilby, Church Times 15 May 2020). 
 
On 24 May 1738, John Wesley had an experience that changed everything. He described the event in his journal: “In the evening, I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation, and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death” (https://www.christianitytoday.com/)
 
There is a service for today from the church. There is also a copy of the service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. You may hear the wind in the background as it blows around the building and bangs at the windows - moving like the Spirit through the Church. Do listen out for the bell at half past ten when I ask that you join me in a time of worship and prayer. 
 
We also have another contribution from Ron Hart, who was due to take our service in St Laurence today. Thank you Ron. 
 
The collect for this week: 
O God the king of glory 
you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ 
with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven: 
we beseech you, leave us not comfortless, 
but send your Holy Spirit to strengthen us 
and exalt us to the place 
where our Saviour Christ is gone before, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our Lay Pastoral Assistants (LPAs) who play an important role in the pastoral ministry of our Church, especially helping to keep us in touch. 
 
Also: in the Anglican Cycle of Prayer we are asked to pray for all members of the Anglican Communion around the world, for the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Justin Welby, and all primates and bishops. We pray for wisdom at this difficult time as they seek to lead the Church in godly ways. 
Saturday 23rd May 2020 
 
‘Now there came to Ephesus a Jew named Apollos.. an eloquent man, well-versed in the scriptures. He had been instructed in the Way of the Lord; and he spoke with burning enthusiasm and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue; but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained the Way of God to him more accurately’ (Acts 18:24-26). 
 
I like this story about Apollos because he is willing to listen and to learn. He is not the sort who would ‘take a position and staunchly never budge’ or refuse to admit he might have gaps in what he knows. Too often Church history - and indeed that of politics too - has been filled who those who, once they believe they understand what is right, have steadfastly closed their ears to all differing views. Worse still, all too many have sought to impose their version of truth on all around them. 
 
One such was Savonarola, whom I remember learning about in history at school. ‘Girolamo Savonarola, Dominican friar and puritan fanatic, became moral dictator of the city of Florence when the Medici were temporarily driven out in 1494. Sent to Florence originally a dozen years before, he made a reputation for austerity and learning, and became prior of the convent of St Mark (where his rooms can still be seen). A visionary, prophet and formidably effective hellfire preacher, obsessed with human wickedness and convinced that the wrath of God was about to fall upon the earth, he detested practically every form of pleasure and relaxation… he was executed on 23 May 1498’ (History Today, 5 May 1998). 
 
One of the big dangers for Church goers is that our thinking, our understanding of God, can become too rigid, ossified like some spiritual hardening of the arteries. God always has something new for us to discover and learn. On the other hand, we have to avoid going to the other extreme of being so open-minded that we lose any sense of rootedness in God. We need to hang on to Jesus’ promise ‘‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free" (John 8:31-32). We must be open to what God is telling us, while measuring that against what he has already revealed to his Church. 
 
‘The lust for certainty may be a sin.. God is constantly upsetting our certainties.. It is this constant breaking down of the idols.. that enables God to break through’ (Archbishop John Habgood). 
 
I’ve been reflecting on the Lord’s Prayer, especially the lines ‘thy kingdom come, thy will be done’ and ‘for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory’. When we find it hard to understand what is going on, or why, we need to remind ourselves that this is God’s world and he holds all things together. We may be unable see the bigger picture, but God is here at work within and around us. ‘A few years ago, Rowan Williams, then Archbishop of Canterbury, was asked where God was on 11 September 2001. “Where he always is, always in the centre of things, always in the acts of love and generosity that people give to one another in times of crisis,” said Lord Williams, who had been in New York on the day of the terrorist attacks. “People expect when they ask that question of where was God — they expect sometimes an answer in terms of a God who steps in and solves it all, stops it happening, or mops it up. But the way God works seems to be in the heart of it all, and through people.”’ (Church Times 18 May 2020). 
 
God is always there, whether we are aware of him or not; he is always at work in our world even if we do not see him - and he wants us to be a part of that. More than that, with the Ascension we know ‘we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous’ (1 John 21:1). 
 
We pray: 
God be in my head, and in my understanding; 
God be in my eyes, and in my looking; 
God be in my mouth, and in my speaking; 
God be in my heart, and in my thinking; 
God be at mine end, and at my departing. Amen. 
(Book of Hours, 1514) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for those who produce our Parish magazine. They have been doing a great job, working hard to keep us all in touch. 
Friday 22nd May 2020 
 
‘Clap your hands, all you peoples; shout to God with loud songs of joy. For the Lord, the Most High, is awesome, a great king over all the earth.. God has gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet. Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises’ (Psalm 47:1-2,5-6). 
 
Yesterday we watched with the disciples as they saw the Lord leave them and ascend into heaven. This is a time of bereavement for them, as they lose Jesus for the second time in six weeks. Afterwards, as they returned to Jerusalem, I wonder what was going on in their minds. Were they perhaps thinking of all those questions they hadn’t asked over the past forty days? If only we had said this.. or perhaps we should have asked that.. 
 
This is something most of us can empathise with, for who has not wished that we had spent a bit more time with a parent or a grandparent - seeking their guidance and wisdom, or asking about their life or memories or family history while they were still with us. Yet we are told, the disciples ‘returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God’ (Luke 24:52-53). Not only that, but soon they got down to the practical business of finding another apostle to replace Judas - trusting that God still had a role for them. 
 
‘Who has not sometimes thought: If I could see Jesus Christ as he was on this earth; if I could talk with him, if I could have certainty from those divine lips, and read assurance in those steady eyes, then I should lay hold of God. So we think, but not so he teaches. He is in the Supper Room, desiring in that last opportunity to enlighten his disciples’ minds and to assure their faith. But beyond a point he cannot. He cannot teach them as fully, he says, as the Holy Ghost will teach them hereafter. It is not so much the word of Jesus knocking at the mind’s door that secures his admittance; it is the God within drawing the bolts with invisible fingers. When your pride, he says, when your self-sufficiency has been shattered by the experience of my death, the Spirit will secure the admittance of all the truth you need to know. And so it is: after half an hour’s repentance before the cross of Christ, the Spirit shows us what years of study cannot discover, and what Christ present in the flesh might not avail to make us see’ (Austin Farrer). 
 
How has life under the lockdown been for you so far? How are you doing, and are you bearing up? After some two months, I suspect that for most of us it has been both good and bad - a mixture of positives and negatives, of ups and downs. In a national church survey ‘More than one third of respondents say that they are more exhausted, anxious, stressed, fatigued, or frustrated since the pandemic began. Yet more than 40 per cent feel more creative, more prayerful, more thankful, or closer to God. More than half feel more neighbourly, but more than 40 per cent feel further from church or further from others’ (Church Times 15 May 2020). It has been a strange and disruptive time for us all. When pressures seem to mount up, there is a line from the hymn ‘O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness’ that I find helpful: ‘Low at his feet lay your burden of carefulness’. 
 
The prayer after communion for this week: 
God our Father, 
whose Son Jesus Christ gives the water of eternal life: 
may we thirst for you, 
the spring of life and source of goodness, 
through him who is alive and reigns, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for the bereaved, remembering especially those who cannot be with their loved ones in their last hours, or are unable to attend their funeral. The inability to say a proper goodbye or to gather together in mourning and remembrance is an added pressure at an already difficult time. 
 
On this day in AD 337, Constantine the Great became the first Roman emperor to be baptized in the Christian church - while on his deathbed. Throughout his life, Constantine ascribed his success to his conversion to Christianity and the support of the Christian God. He made it the official religion of the Empire and ‘He not only initiated the evolution of the empire into a Christian state but also provided the impulse for a distinctively Christian culture that prepared the way for the growth of Byzantine and Western medieval culture’ (Encyclopædia Britannica). 
Thursday 21st May 2020 
 
‘You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight (Acts 1:8-9). 
 
Today is the Feast of the Ascension. It is a lovely morning and would have been ideal for our outside service. The Ascension is one of the four great festivals of the Church’s year - as we celebrate Jesus’ return into heaven. There he reigns now as our exalted Lord and King. ‘God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth’ (Philippians 2:9-10). As we reflected on Sunday, he says ‘I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you’ (John 16:7). 
 
As Jesus gathers his disciples together that day, they ask him if he is going to restore the kingdom of Israel at this time. He answers that it is not for them to understand the times and seasons the Father has ordained for such events. He then tells them that they will receive power when the Holy Spirit is given them to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. The message is clear: Jesus has left his followers with a task. ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age’ (Matthew 28:18-20). We are to continue to speak and act for him. 
 
After this he is lifted up and a cloud takes him out of their sight. ‘While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven’ (Luke 24:51). As his followers are gazing upwards, two men in robes ask them why they are doing this and then predict that Jesus will return. ‘He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end’ (The Nicene Creed). 
 
‘I will not leave you comfortless’ Jesus says (John 14:18). ‘The presence that matters is not mine (or ours), but God’s. Poets from the Psalmists onwards have regretted that this presence too often looks like absence. It is, however, all we have; and we might reflect that the root of our longing lies not in God’s having gone, but in God’s having been here… The author of Luke’s Gospel wrote for readers who found it difficult to forgive Jesus, having come, for leaving. The narrative of consolation which I find sustaining just now is the Good Samaritan. He does everything that can be done, but he must depart. So he entrusts the patient to the care of another stranger, one who - essentially - is present’ (Church Times 15 May 2020). 
 
The collect for today: 
Grant, we pray, almighty God, 
that as we believe your only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ 
to have ascended into the heavens, 
so we in heart and mind may also ascend 
and with him continually dwell; 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
(https://www.churchofengland.org/) 
 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we remember Christ as our King: 
‘ Look back: see Christ dying for you 
Look upward: see Christ praying for you 
Look inward: see Christ living in you 
Look forward: see Christ coming for you!’ 
(Anglican Cycle of Prayer 1989). 
 
There a simple service of reflection for today. 
 
‘Christians should take courage both from the prospect of glory and from the assistance already given them by the Holy Spirit’ (C.K. Barrett). 
Wednesday 20th May 2020 
 
‘When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you’ (John 16:13-14). 
 
Jesus makes it clear that the Church is to continue growing in faith and understanding - always learning more of and from God. Scripture is central to our faith. However it is not so much the last word as the foundation on which our understanding is built. That is why we read from the Bible whenever we gather together for worship. In those wonderful words of our Bible Sunday collect: Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: help us so to hear them, to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them that, through patience, and the comfort of your holy word, we may embrace and for ever hold fast the hope of everlasting life. 
 
Jesus tells us that there is more, though. For as well as scripture, we have the Holy Spirit who ‘will guide you into all the truth’. We need the Spirit if we are to understand scripture; we need the Spirit to help us to delve deeper into scripture; and we need the Spirit to build on scripture and teach us new things of God. Thus the Church of England has always said that for a fully rounded faith there are three sources of authority, each rising from the other: scripture, tradition, and reason. So over the years amongst other things, the Holy Spirit has led God’s people to abolish slavery, to recognise the equal ministry of women and men, and to pursue respect for the environment. What new things is he trying to tell us today as we experience these strange times? 
 
‘God always gives us strength for one leg of the journey at a time. At each stage we are promised that he will continue to provide additional and greater strength as needed on our way into the future. The powers we receive each time somehow enable us to do the very things we had been incapable of doing so far. God does not distribute the full ration at once. He apportions it from one day to the next’ (A sermon by Karl Barth). 
 
As I take my daily walks, often walking alongside or across the A338, I have been aware of how much busier the roads are becoming. At the same time though, perhaps understandably, the buses are all but empty. So I wonder what our priorities will be as we begin to emerge from all this. 
 
Had you been hoping to visit the Chelsea Flower Show this year? You may like to know that ‘May 20 1913 saw the first show at Chelsea, known as the Great Spring Show. The first shows were three-day events held within a single marquee’ (The history of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show). 
 
The alternative collect for this week: